Shutouts are the story of tonight's big games

niemi.jpgAll three of the games I targeted as “the best games of the night” ended up in some hard-fought shutouts. Two of them came from Finnish goalies and all of them came from guys who may have been expected to be backups (but are looking likely to usurp their “superiors”) this season.

  • For the Chicago Blackhawks, the shutout showed that the Western Conference may indeed have a true favorite. They pulled a point ahead of San Jose (who finally broke their dry spell against Minnesota tonight) and temporarily deflated Phoenix’s Cinderella run. Antti Niemi hasn’t put up amazing stats (at least from a save percentage standpoint) but it’s hard to argue with his 19-5-3 mark in Chicago. Could Niemi be the Blackhawks’ answer in net right now?
  • If you ask me, the other Finnish once-expected backup (Tuukka Rask in Boston) is the answer for the Bruins. He earned a goose egg for the team as they dominated ninth-seed Atlanta 4-0 tonight. The Bruins have won two huge games against the two most likely threats to their playoff lives and Rask has allowed one goal on 51 shots in the last two games. Might want to wait until next year to revive your career, Tim Thomas.
  • Ottawa affirmed their status as a rugged playoff team after a contentious game against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. It was a brutal bout at times, with Anton Volcenkov figuring into much of the violence. Brian Elliott was supposed to backup the more expensive (but free-falling) Pascal Leclaire, but he’s often been the more stable goalie of the two.

The Bruins and Senators lack the breathing room to “test the water” to see which goalie they prefer but it might be true that the Blackhawks should also go with the “hot hand” in net. Either way, all three teams won some big games while keeping their opponents off the scoreboard. We’ll have more on the playoff implications of these wins tomorrow.

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    Habs grab rare back-to-back wins this weekend

    Montreal Canadiens goalie Ben Scrivens falls after making a save while facing the Carolina Hurricanes during first-period NHL hockey game action, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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    The Montreal Canadiens were a bit like Ben Scrivens (in his near-ideal state) this weekend: not always pretty, but they got the job done.

    A day after Scrivens thwarted his former team in the Edmonton Oilers in a 5-1 win, the journeyed goalie was integral in Montreal scraping out a 2-1 shootout win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Now, it’s easy to scoff at two wins against two teams who are – let’s be honest – pretty unremarkable.

    The Canadiens aren’t really in a position to laugh off any victory, however. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that this is their first set of consecutive wins since late November.

    Even through all this frustration, certain top Canadiens stand out as keeping the team afloat. Andrei Markov hit an impressive milestone:

    … While Max Pacioretty scored his 20th goal in emphatic fashion:

    As P.K. Subban‘s numbers argue, Montreal’s biggest problem has been getting results from more under-the-radar players. In Sunday’s case, Scrivens delivered.

    Montreal still faces an uphill battle, but perhaps a weekend like this might serve as a catalyst for a nice climb?

    Malcolm Subban in stable condition, suffered fractured larynx

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    The Boston Bruins updated Malcolm Subban‘s condition a day after the goaltending prospect was hospitalized after being struck in the throat with a puck.

    “Malcolm Subban was struck in the throat with a puck Saturday night during pregame warmups. He was transported to Maine Medical Center and was diagnosed with a fractured larynx. He stayed overnight at Maine Medical Center and was transported to Mass General Hospital on Sunday for further evaluation. He is in stable condition and will be sidelined indefinitely. The team will provide additional details when they become available.”

    Awful news, although at least he’s in stable condition.

    PHT will stay tuned for further updates regarding the 22-year-old.

    Subban did tweet a thanks for support:

    A little context makes that a little sad, too.

    P.K. Subban seems confident his brother will bounce back.

    Fight video: Zack Kassian racks up penalty minutes, faces Brian Strait

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    Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”

    The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.

    Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.

    It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.

    Could there be more?

    Update: The game ended on a muted note. The Isles ultimately won 8-1.

    Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

    Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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    There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

    Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

    He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

    Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

    As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.