Archive for January, 2015

Kinkaid stops 26 shots as Devils beat Panthers 3-1 (The Associated Press)

By at 31 January, 2015, 10:05 pm

The win was a treat for Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid came close, surrendering a lone goal with 1:29 remaining as New Jersey beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 on Saturday night. It was in the back of my mind,” Kinkaid said. ”It was upset…

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Mason stops 30 shots in Flyers’ 1-0 win over Maple Leafs (The Associated Press)

By at 31 January, 2015, 9:02 pm

Steve Mason stopped all 30 shots and Michael Del Zotto scored to help the Philadelphia Flyers beat Toronto 1-0 on Saturday night and send the Maple Leafs to their ninth straight loss. The Flyers won their first 1-0 game since Nov. 2, 2013. The Flyers…

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Tatar, Nyquist score on power play, Red Wings beat Islanders (The Associated Press)

By at 31 January, 2015, 5:53 pm

Outshot, the Detroit Red Wings did the most with what they got. Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist scored power-play goals Saturday and the Red Wings beat the New York Islanders 4-1. The Red Wings won for the seventh time in eight games. Backup goalie P…

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Hurricanes-Rangers Preview (The Associated Press)

By at 30 January, 2015, 9:52 pm

(AP) — – Henrik Lundqvist can do only so much to help the New York Rangers. With the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner likely in net, the Rangers will try to avoid matching their longest slide of the season by continuing their dominance of the Carolina Hurr…

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Kings-Bruins Preview (The Associated Press)

By at 30 January, 2015, 6:01 pm

After a subpar first half of the season, the Boston Bruins hope to have finally regained their championship form. They can serve as a model to the Los Angeles Kings. Boston (26-16-7) was the 2011 Stanley Cup champion and won a third division title in…

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Islanders-Red Wings Preview (The Associated Press)

By at 30 January, 2015, 3:09 pm

The success the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings have experienced can be partly attributed to their ability to put a loss in the past and focus on the bigger picture. Each club is looking to do just that heading into Saturday night’s matchup a…

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Rangers hit scoring slump, drop 2 straight after break (The Associated Press)

By at 30 January, 2015, 2:47 pm

Henrik Lundqvist can do only so much to help the New York Rangers. During a recent surge that began in early December, the Rangers won 13 of 14 and scored at least three goals in 11 of those games, and four or more seven times. The seven-day shutdown…

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Top Two Centers (Rotoworld)

By at 30 January, 2015, 11:19 am

Michael Finewax looks at the top two centers on each team and their original draft positions in The Week Ahead.

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Sad truth about NHL playoff bubble teams (Trending Topics) (Puck Daddy)

By at 30 January, 2015, 8:54 am

With the trade deadline a little more than a month away and many teams already starting to make roster moves that will impact their competitiveness down the stretch (if they had any to begin with, that is), much of the attention in the league turns to who is and is not in playoff contention.  These “bubble teams” may be within, say, four, six, eight points of a postseason spot with 30-something games to go. That often leads to both fans and team officials feeling as though they are very much in the race for that final position, and want to push all-in to pursue that end. If that includes trading picks and prospects so they can win the final seed in their divisional playoff group, or a wild card, then so be it. That’s the price of doing business when the goal is to make the playoffs. And leaving aside the absurdity of the egalitarian dream that “once you make the playoffs, anything can happen” — while big underdogs do occasionally PDO their way to a Cup final or even a title, the end result of the playoffs far more often than not is one of a handful of elite teams actually walking away with the trophy — one has to wonder whether this is, necessarily, a good idea. We know from research done a few years ago by Elliotte Friedman that if you’re as little as four or five points out of a playoff spot as early in the season as Nov. 1, your season is essentially over; from the point at which the shootout was introduced (that is, the introduction of the three-point game) only three of 32 teams by 2011-12 that were at least four points out of a playoff spot ended up making it. That’s a 9.4 percent chance, and it’s not very good at all. The three teams that did it at the time of that study: Calgary in 2006-07, Buffalo in 2010-11, and Boston in 2011-12. Since then, you can also add in last year’s Philadelphia — which was was six points back on Nov. 1 and needed a 39-21-10 record to get in — and Dallas — also six points back, and went 35-25-9 — but you have to assume the latter was helped significantly by the new playoff system and divisional alignment that put fewer teams in the West. Those five teams averaged winning percentages of about .624 over the final 70 or so games of the season. So this week — prompted by an angry email in which I declared one reader’s team “out of it” already despite their only being a handful of points back from the last playoff spot in its conference — I found myself wondering: If you only have a 9.4 percent chance if you’re that far back at the end of October, because you have to go .640 for five and a half months, at what point can we officially declare a team’s playoff hopes dead at the start of February? I looked at all the playoff teams in the salary cap era as well as their positions in the standings as of Feb. 1 in those years. I also ignored the lockout-shortened 2013 season because teams in playoff positions wouldn’t have had enough time to build safer leads that you’d see going through an 82-game schedule. February seemed a reasonable cut-off for me because that’s when things get “serious” and most teams have about 30 games left on the schedule. And in that time, 19 teams that were out of playoff spots when January ended wound up sneaking into the postseason by hook or by crook. In all, 112 teams have missed the playoffs in those eight seasons, so the fact that 19 forced someone ahead of them out gives you a success rate of about 17 percent. That is, you have a roughly 1 in 6 chance of making the playoffs if you’re not in that position on Feb. 1. But that’s also a little more than two teams per season, so you’re not necessarily looking at the worst odds in the world, and no fewer than two teams in playoff positions have faltered and ended up missing in any given season. Heading in, I assumed the cutoff for teams getting into the playoffs would be about three points: Those farther back would find it almost insanely difficult to make up the ground if four points was such an insurmountable deficit as early as Nov. 1. Turns out that this was, for the most part, true. The teams that made the cut are as follows: Season Team Pts. out (Feb. 1) 2005-06 Montreal Canadiens 3 2005-06 San Jose Sharks 7 2005-06 Anaheim Ducks 4 2006-07 New York Rangers 4 2006-07 New York Islanders 4 2007-08 Washington Capitals 3 2007-08 Nashville Predators 1 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins 2 2008-09 Vancouver Canucks 1 2008-09 St. Louis Blues 9 2009-10 Boston Bruins 2 2009-10 Montreal Canadiens 1 2009-10 Detroit Red Wings 0* 2010-11 Buffalo Sabres 6 2010-11 Los Angeles Kings 2 2011-12 Washington Capitals 1 2011-12 Phoenix Coyotes 3 2013-14 Detroit Red Wings 1 2013-14 Dallas Stars 4 *tied with Calgary at 62, but with one win fewer It turns out the average deficit overcome during that time was indeed 3.05 points, and as you can see the vast majority of those teams (12 of 19, about 63 percent) were within that range. But that still leaves us seven teams in the last eight seasons that overcame deficits larger than that. Of those, four were back just four points, not appreciably more than the previously assumed cutoff of three. Include those in the “nominally capable of making up the lost ground” group, and 16 of 19 are within two wins. I think, then, that this is a pretty reasonable cutoff. It’s also worth looking at the three teams that were farther back than that: the 2005-06 Sharks (minus-7), the 2008-09 Blues (minus-9), and 2010-11 Sabres (minus-6).  In 2005-06, two teams fell out of the playoff spots they held: Vancouver and Los Angeles, both of which were solidly middle of the pack. San Jose and Anaheim just leapfrogged Colorado and Edmonton to claim their now-division rivals’ No. 5 and 6 spots, respectively. Anaheim was only four points out so it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility. But San Jose — having only somewhat recently traded for Joe Thornton and being much deeper than that — needed a run, and they got it: they went 20-8-4 down the stretch (.688), using games in hand and a ton of lucky bounces to get there. In that final 32 games, they shot 11 percent at ES, scored 37 power play goals, and won in overtime five times out of nine. In 2008-09, the Blues were in dead last in the West on Feb. 1, with just 44 points from 48 games. They went 21-7-6 (.706), because they basically stopped allowing goals. Opponents scored only 17 power play goals in those 34 games after they netted 41 in 48 prior to that date. This was still a pretty big fluke, though: Goaltending in all situations came in at a sixth-in-the-league .917 despite the fact that their possession numbers were 20th in that time (47.5 percent). They also went to overtime nine times, and won three of those.  Finally, there’s the 2010-11 Sabres, and I probably don’t need to tell you at this point that they just got mega-lucky to clear the six-point hole they faced on Feb. 1, 2011. Their record after that point was 20-8-5 (.682). They were very slightly outpossessed in those final 33 games (49.9 percent) and the team shot 9 percent at evens while Ryan Miller and Co. went .926 — fifth and 13th in the league, respectively. And hey wouldn’t you know it, they started shooting the lights out on the power play (15.9 percent, third in the NHL) and no one could score on them shorthanded (.911, fourth). No surprise here, either, that Buffalo went to OT or the shootout 11 times and won six of them. So that, I guess, is the formula. There were three teams out of 68 — 4.4 percent, a little better than 1 in 23 — to make the playoffs after being more than four points out on Feb 1, and they all had four things in common: 1. Games in hand. 2. Insane special teams success in terms of either killing penalties, making the other team pay for them, or both. 3. One of the biggest PDOs in the league. 4. The ability to get to overtime in close to 1 in every 3 games. That’s it. And hey, that’s how bad teams make the playoffs all the time (except for No. 4, which is just crazy). So basically, the point is, if you’re not in a playoff position on Feb. 1, the odds are that you won’t be when the season ends. And if you’re more than four points out, it’s nearly impossible. But then again, you might be the ’06 Sharks, ’09 Blues, or ’11 Sabres. Actually, there’s one more thing those three teams have in common: They didn’t . get . close to winning the Stanley Cup. Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here . MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

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Oliver Ekman-Larsson scores from his own blueline on Jonathan Bernier as Coyotes down Maple Leafs 3-1 (Eh Game)

By at 30 January, 2015, 1:59 am

Move over Vesa Toskala , you have company on the YouTube playlist for worst goals ever allowed by a Toronto Maple Leafs netminder. On Thursday night in a game between two struggling squads, the Arizona Coyotes downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 at Air Canada Centre and they got their offensive mojo started in the strangest of ways with a record setting goal 5 seconds into the third period. Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s arcing rainbow shot on goal from his own blueline, 114 feet away from the Maple Leafs net, skipped under goalie Jonathan Bernier’s glove to tie the game at 1. It was the fastest shorthanded goal to start a period in NHL History and the most unique the 23-year-old has ever scored at any level he has played. “There is a first time for everything,” said the smiling blue-chip Coyotes defenseman. “I had a couple of chances in the first period but (they) didn’t go in, but then you get a chance like that, (where) you just threw it on net and it bounced in, I got lucky there.” Call it what you will, but it was goal No. 13 on the season for Ekman-Larsson and you have to believe Bernier felt cursed in some way on the play. He had stopped all 32 shots he faced through 40 minutes and thought he was “playing pretty good,” until the gaffe, which prompted the ire of the crowd.  Less than four minutes later, Martin Hanzel scored the eventual game winner on a stoppable shot from the side of the net. “I didn’t see it, I lost it in the stands and it just dipped in front of me,” Bernier said of Ekman-Larsson’s goal. “I can’t give up two bad goals and hope to win.” Bernier has faced the 9 th most shots of any goalie in the league this season and has a 16-15-4 record, with 2.71 GAA, a .915 SV% and 2 shutouts.  The 26-year-old has struggled in January with a record of 1-7-1 record, 2.90 GAA, and a .896 SV%. You can’t say it was the type of goal anyone would expect but it was a fitting highlight for a game between two teams rapidly sinking in the standings. Entering play Thursday, No two teams in the league had a worse run over their previous 10 games. The Maple Leafs (1-8-1) had just one regulation win while the Coytoes (2-6-2) had earned just six of 20 potential points. Meanwhile Ekman-Larsson’s goal will now live in Maple Leafs’ infamy online alongside Vesa Toskala’s misplay on the 197-foot shot by New York Islanders’ defenceman Rob Davison in 2008.   As for other Maple Leafs goalies getting burnt by the long puck, there were two other notable examples that came to mind Thursday evening but no YouTube evidence is known to exist as of yet. Leafs fans of a certain age may remember Sergio Momesso’s pivotal OT goal on Allan Bester in Game 3 of the St. Louis Blues first round series against Toronto in the 1990 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His marker, scored from outside the Maple Leafs blueline gave the Blues a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven series which they won in five games. The Blues struck again against the Maple Leafs in November 1997 when Al MacInnis broke a 2-2 tie from the redline with two seconds remaining in regulation.  This time the victim was goalie Felix Potvin. Toronto Star writer Paul Hunter later cited the play as the turning point in Potvin’s career as a Maple Leaf.  “…the MacInnis slapper skipped once and then floated over Potvin’s catching glove. Game over. Reputation irreparably damaged. Potvin was never again viewed in the same positive light. Not by management. Not by the fans. And, most important, not by himself. Even when he played strongly – brilliantly some nights – during the stretch drive last season there was always a sense of foreboding when he stood between the pipes. He had already authored his own inevitable exit. “Then things started to change, ” Potvin told The Star’s Rosie DiManno last summer, as he recalled the ripple effects of The Shot. “Whenever I gave up a weak goal, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even while the game was going on. And I never used to be that way.” (Paul Hunter / Toronto Star / 01/10/99) For his part Bernier, acknowledged Larsson’s goal rattled him and that he had to be “stronger mentally”.  The focus now is on what lies ahead. “It’s gonna happen, it happend to Marty (Brodeur) this year and (other) great goalies but it’s how you bounce back from it.” Maple Leafs’ interim head coach Peter Horachek was of a similar mind. “He’s gotta’ have that and I’m sure he wishes he had it back and usually he does (have it), so you gotta roll with that and move on.” They seemed to have put it behind them – the fans should follow suit.   Follow Neil Acharya on Twitter: @Neil_Acharya             

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