Lightning give Stamkos the 'A'

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stamkos.jpgI’ve heard of sophomore slumps, but what happens when a disappointing rookie year gives way to an outstanding second season? Is it a sophomore bump?

Regardless, Steven Stamkos is the poster child for such a season. He posted a new Tampa Bay Lightning record when he scored at least one point in 18 straight games. His 42 goals ranks third in the NHL, only behind Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

The honors don’t stop there, though, because Stamkos recently became an alternate captain for the Lightning (even if it’s only temporary). Brian Landman of the St. Petersburg Times has more on the decision.

… Stamkos has proven not to be your usual youngster. He entered the game against the Capitals tied with St. Louis for the team lead in scoring (82 points). He set a franchise a record for consecutive games with a point (18) this month.

“It’s a little unusual, but I do think that with his overall growth and leadership, he deserves it,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “He’s done the right things, especially the last two months, to earn it -playing hurt; doing all the right things that leaders do.”

Tampa Bay’s choice continues a recent trend of young players taking symbolic leadership roles. Sidney Crosby became the youngest captain to hoist the Stanley Cup last summer. Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin are more than just figureheads on their teams.

Really, though, this isn’t exactly rocket science. With the obstruction era in the dust, younger players are once again able to show their elite talents. We can talk all we want about “character” but ultimately a team’s best talent usually ends up “leading” them.

So the real story (to me at least) is that the learning curve for young forwards keeps getting smaller. That has to be good news for the Islanders, Oilers and other lottery teams. Toronto? Not so much.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.