Archive for March, 2015

Points harder to come by for NHL’s top scorers this season (The Associated Press)

By at 31 March, 2015, 6:02 pm

Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby is in line to win the scoring title with what can be projected to be about 85 points. Still, the NHL’s top players aren’t racking up the points with as much regularity this season, even though scoring around the league…

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What We Learned: Should the NY Rangers actually scare anyone? (Puck Daddy)

By at 30 March, 2015, 6:09 am

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.) Henrik Lundqvist returned to the lineup on Saturday for the first time since Feb. 2, meaning he missed more than a month and a half. On Feb. 2, the Rangers earned their 62nd point of the season in just their 48th game, which is a pretty good rate (a pace for almost 106 points for the season) but only good enough for third in the division and a tie for seventh in the conference. Losing Lundqvist was supposed to have been a disaster of near-biblical proportions. Lundqvist is  perhaps the single most important player in the league in terms of what he brings to his team every night, in the form of reliably all-time-great goaltending; the last time he was south of .920 for the season, a rate touched only 134 times in league history, Barack Obama had been in office for three months. Thus, losing him for any length of time could have proved disastrous. A month and a half might have been a death sentence. And in previous years, maybe it would have been. But Alain Vigneault has done such a good job coaching, and Cam Talbot such a good job in Lundqvist’s relief, that the Rangers instead racked up another 39 points in his absence, this time in just 25 games. It’s a pace for about 128 points over 82 games. This is an impossible accomplishment. To go 18-4-3 without one of the four or five greatest goalies of all time, especially given how good the top of the East has been this season, is remarkable. The Rangers catapulted from the middle of the East to the top of the league without Henrik Lundqvist. Not even the most indefatigable optimist could have seen this coming. A lot of this, of course, is down to the play of Cam Talbot, who proved himself probably the best backup in the league during this stretch. I often find it difficult to determine whether a No. 2 goaltender is actually good; it’s just so hard to judge. They only play once every few weeks in a lot of cases, and often against the teams that aren’t very good, the ones for which coaches think to themselves that they could put just about anyone out there and still wring at least a point from the contest. Being a backup is challenging in its own way, sure, but for Talbot to do this over more than a six-week stretch was unforeseeable. Playing 33 games in a season is not something you often ask of your backups, and you never expect their performance to surpass that of the guy in front of you. And look, the guy was .941 in 21 appearances last season, so it’s not like anyone thought he was bad, but that goes back to his competition: The Oilers twice, the Wild twice, the Islanders twice, the Leafs twice, etc. For the most part he wasn’t drawing the difficult assignments. What he’s had to deal with since the Lundqvist injury is a lot tougher; 13 of his 23 starts were against current playoff teams, and 12 were on the road. His .929 over that stretch (stopping 653 of 703) would be almost slam-dunk Vezina worthy if carried over an entire season. Looking at this chart of save percentage in all situations, it isn’t too hard to guess when Talbot took over the job:

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NHL Three Stars: In which Tyler Bozak tallies a hat trick vs. Ottawa (Puck Daddy)

By at 28 March, 2015, 11:10 pm

No. 1 Star: Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs   Oh, you know, just a Tyler Bozak four-point night against a team in desperate need of points on the playoff bubble. Bozak scored a third-period hat trick and had the primary helper on Eric Brewer’s overtime game-winner in the Leafs’ 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. No wonder Connor McDavid wants to be him! No. 2 Star: Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings The Red Wings goalie made things interesting between the pipes as Detroit pushes towards the playoffs, shutting out the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-0. He made 23 saves. No. 3 Star: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins Crosby, who is totally having an off year, increased his hold on the Art Ross by scoring a goal and assisting on two others in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Honorable Mention: Filip Forsberg trolled the Washington Capitals with a goal and two assists as the Nashville Predators clinched a playoff spot with a 4-3 win. Troy Brouwer had two goals for the Caps. … Milan Lucic scored two first-period goals, one of them controversial, as the Boston Bruins earned a 4-2 win over Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. … Kyle Palmieri and Andrew Cogliano scored second-period goals as the Anaheim Ducks defeated the New York Islanders, 3-2. Frederik Andersen made 29 saves. … Melker Karlsson and Brent Burns had power-play goals in the San Jose Sharks’ 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Joe Pavelski scored goal No. 36. … Max Pacioretty’s overtime goal gave the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers, clinching a playoff spot. … Aleksander Barkov scored two goals. … Rookie John Klingberg scored in OT to give the Dallas Stars a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks, who earned a charity point with a late Radim Vrbata goal. The Carolina Hurricanes topped the New Jersey Devils, 3-1, as Justin Faulk and Eric Staal had goals. … The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the St. Louis Blues, 4-2, thanks to a Boone Jenner second-period goal. … Nino Niederreiter scored two goals and Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves to improve to 35-11-3 on the season as the Minnesota Wild defeated the LA Kings, 4-1. … Matt Duchene had a goal and two assists and Jarome Iginla had three assists in the Colorado Avalanche’s 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Andrej Meszaros had two goals. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk had three assists each. …    Did You Know? Iginla had three assists, giving him 1,222 NHL points to pass Jean Beliveau into 40th place all time. Dishonorable Mention: On the Bruin’s first goal, the rebound of a Patrice Bergeron shot went off Lucic’s skate and past Lundqvist. No goal on the ice, good goal in video review. … Tuukka Rask left the Bruins’ game with dehydration 10 seconds into the second period. … Victor Hedman was a minus-3. … The Lightning lost defenseman Jason Garrison with an upper-body injury, and center Cedric Paquette was helped off the after sliding into the goal post. … Andy Greene was a minus-3. … Jonathan Quick was pulled at the start of the second period. … Kris Letang was taken to the hospital because “Shane Doan was running around like an idiot.”

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Ducks-Devils Preview (The Associated Press)

By at 28 March, 2015, 9:41 pm

Clinching a playoff berth doesn’t exactly excite the Anaheim Ducks, whose regular-season success the previous two years hasn’t carried over into the postseason. They’ll look to close out a five-game trip with a third consecutive victory Sunday night w…

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Red Wings-Islanders Preview (The Associated Press)

By at 28 March, 2015, 7:49 pm

It wasn’t long ago that the New York Islanders were vying for the best record in the Eastern Conference with a playoff spot seemingly a foregone conclusion. The reeling Islanders try to avoid an eighth straight home loss Sunday, while the Detroit Red …

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Sharks-Penguins Preview (The Associated Press)

By at 28 March, 2015, 7:44 pm

Just after welcoming two of their leading scorers back, the tough-luck Pittsburgh Penguins suffered another big loss – this time on the defensive side – as they hobble toward the postseason. With Kris Letang likely to be sidelined, the host Penguins s…

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Penguins score 3 goals in third period, beat Coyotes 3-2 (The Associated Press)

By at 28 March, 2015, 4:36 pm

The Pittsburgh Penguins struggled the past two weeks while playing without two of their leading scorers. The Penguins took a step in the right direction on Saturday, welcoming Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist back to the lineup, but they later lost …

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Ducks hold off Islanders, clinch playoff berth (The Associated Press)

By at 28 March, 2015, 3:13 pm

The Anaheim Ducks had no idea their latest win put them into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Frederik Andersen made 29 saves, and the NHL-leading Ducks used a two-goal second period to beat the struggling New York Islanders 3-2 on Saturday. I’m serious,” …

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Ducks-Islanders Preview (The Associated Press)

By at 28 March, 2015, 9:57 am

John Tavares has led the New York Islanders toward the top of the Eastern Conference with one of the best seasons of his career, but as his scoring has slowed so has his team’s success. The Anaheim Ducks failed to stop Tavares in their only matchup wi…

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Kings-Wild Preview (The Associated Press)

By at 27 March, 2015, 10:48 pm

Thanks to the Minnesota Wild, the Los Angeles Kings have an opportunity to pull further ahead for the Pacific Division’s final guaranteed playoff spot. Visiting Los Angeles looks to snap Minnesota’s four-game winning streak and sweep the season series…

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