Many hockey fans will barely bat an eye at the general rule of last night’s games: the West teams with big games came through while the East teams suffered some disappointing defeats. The Philadelphia Flyers, in particular, must feel some serious April Fools Day shame after losing to the New York Islanders in a game that was a lot worse than the 6-4 final score would indicate.
First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference standings.
So it seems like the Washington Capitals are the only team in the East that gets it done. They beat the Atlanta Thrashers 2-1 in a tight game in DC last night. Perhaps I should stop writing “interesting trend” type articles because a day after saying that the Sabres are quietly becoming the hottest Eastern Conference team they lost to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Bruins weren’t able to gain more ground on the Thrashers because they were shutout by the Florida Panthers 1-0 last night. Then again, the Thrashers and Bruins can at least take solace in the fact that the Flyers failed to win against a weak Islanders team.
Ottawa clinched a playoff berth on the strength of of a come-from-behind shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Now, let’s move on to the Western Conference.
The Red Wings continued their hot streak, taking their seventh straight win over the Columbus Blue Jackets while the Predators kept pace with Detroit by winning a challenging game against the St. Louis Blues.
In what was supposed to be the best game of the night, the Los Angeles Kings crushed the Vancouver Canucks 8-3. It’s surprising that Roberto Luongo wasn’t pulled from the game. Should Vancouver be worried about their goalie, who was supposed to be the team’s biggest strength?
There are some big games tonight, with Philadelphia-Montreal and Colorado-Calgary having the most immediate playoff impacts. More on that later today.
Panthers lament slow start versus Sens, as debate over controversial Gallant firing continues
Don Cherry weighed in on it Saturday. As you might expect, he wasn’t in favor of the decision. Meanwhile, the Panthers lost 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators in a game that completely swung in favor of the hosts in the span of just 19 seconds.
Erik Karlsson and Derick Brassard scored early in the first period, giving Ottawa a two-goal lead and that was the only scoring of the evening.
On taking over from Gallant, interim coach Tom Rowe said, per the Sun Sentinel: “This isn’t a knock on Gerard, because he did a great job.
“I just thought some guys weren’t bringing it the way they’re capable of bringing it every single night. A little too much inconsistency. They’d come out one period and play great. Another period they just sit back a little bit too tentative.”
That second paragraph is interesting.
Against the Senators, the Panthers had a slow start, illustrated by their 19-second lapse leading to the Ottawa goals. The Panthers found their game in the second period but tested Mike Condon with only 24 shots on goal by the end of the night.
They also couldn’t capitalize on a five-on-three power play in the second period.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” said Keith Yandle, per the Miami Herald. “They had a good start, and sometimes you have to weather the storm throughout courses of games, and they did a good job in the first 10 or 12 minutes. If you look at the second period we were better.”
There were anxious moments for the Panthers, as defenseman Aaron Ekblad took a puck to the face in the second period. He missed about two minutes of game time, but did require stitches, according to Rowe.
Avs’ D-man Johnson suffers broken fibula, out six to eight weeks
It’s obviously devastating news for Colorado, which recently had its effort ripped by coach Jared Bednar. Issues with consistency and work ethic have been around since Patrick Roy was in charge.
The Avalanche have struggled since the beginning of the season after a late-summer coaching change, but they now occupy last place in the Western Conference with five straight losses.
Johnson has 11 points, which ties him with Tyson Barrie for the team lead among defenseman in that category.
In addition to playing 22 minutes a night, which is a substantial loss because he plays on both the penalty kill and power play, he’s also one of only two blue liners with the Avalanche to have even-strength puck possession numbers greater than 50 per cent.
The difficult times for the Avalanche continue.
Video: Caggiula (finally) scores his first NHL goal
Drake Caggiula had to wait to make his NHL debut because of a hip injury suffered in pre-season. He had to wait even longer for his first NHL goal.
On Saturday, the wait for the latter ended.
Playing in just his eighth career NHL game, the North Dakota product and NCAA Frozen Four MOP — pursued by at least half a dozen teams as a college free agent — ripped home a wrist shot from the slot on the power play for career goal No. 1 in the big league.
That goal gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead over the visiting Anaheim Ducks.
Trotz wasn’t happy with Capitals top line for penalty trouble versus Lightning
Naturally, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz would prefer his top line, which includes star Alex Ovechkin, score goals instead of glide to the penalty box.
On Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ovechkin took two minor penalties, while Nicklas Backstrom had another.
Tampa Bay’s power play struck once in three opportunities, as the Lightning prevailed 2-1 in the shootout.
The Capitals did manage to score — a power play goal from Backstrom — to end their recent goal drought. But the issue of penalties — Ovechkin has a team-leading 10 minor penalties — is something Trotz plans to address.
“I wasn’t happy with that. Our top line took three of the penalties today. They needed to score a power play for us,” he told reporters. “They’ve got to stay out of the box. I need them on the ice. So yeah, we’ll talk about it for sure.”
The Capitals have now lost three in a row.
They sit in the first Wild Card spot in the East, alongside the Lightning, while the Philadelphia Flyers are right there, too.
“From my standpoint, we’ll take a good point on the road. Obviously we’re disappointed we didn’t get two. But the effort and the mindset was correct,” said Trotz.
“When you’re not winning, it doesn’t do anything for your confidence.”