Tuesday night seemed like a day in which “the establishment” put down a few puck-based insurgencies. The Boston Bruins won their second game a row against their biggest bubble threat, the Ottawa Senators widened what was once a shrinking lead for fifth place in the East and the San Jose Sharks seemed to reestablish reason by taking back the Pacific.
First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference scenario (apologies for my lack of technical grace):
Boston 4, Atlanta 0
The bad news for Atlanta and the other East underdogs is that Boston keeps moving away from that pack. The Thrashers might actually want to cast their net wider, now, because Philadelphia or Montreal might end up being easier targets than the Bruins. Could one of Boston, Montreal or Philadelphia falter enough to allow the Thrashers to sneak into the post-season?
Ottawa 2, Philadelphia 0
The Senators outlasted the Flyers in a notably rugged affair last night. So far Ottawa looks like they are in the driver’s seat to take the fifth spot, which is essentially turning into the right to play whomever turns up second in the Atlantic division. (Then again, I might prefer to test my luck against Buffalo than take on either Pittsburgh or New Jersey. That’s just me, though.)
New Jersey 6, Columbus 3
The Devils are once again positioned nicely for an Atlantic division title. They simply keep doing things their way. It might not always be sexy, but it works exceptionally well.
Western Conference scenario
Chicago 2, Phoenix 0
The Blackhawks grabbed a nice hold of first place in the Conference while Phoenix relinquished their Pacific division lead to the Sharks. Some might wonder if Antti Niemi is “the answer” in net for Chicago after a performance like this.
San Jose 4, Minnesota 1
The Sharks took advantage of lowly Minnesota to re-gain their lead in the division. Can they hold off the hungry Coyotes?
Calgary 3, Anaheim 1
The Flames’ playoff hopes are dwindling right now, but they’re still making things stressful for Detroit by keeping up a steady pace. They need to finish the season strong to make the playoffs, though, there’s no doubt about that.
Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.
The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.
Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”
You can watch the play by clicking here.
Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.
The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.
Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.
His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.
It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.
He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.
His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.
“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”
The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.
On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.
The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.
“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.
“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”
Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.
When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.
His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.
It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.