Quick hits: Tanking, icing and bonuses

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Here are a few mini-stories from around the league, newspapers and blogosphere today.

Versus beefs up coverage

Great news for hockey fans gearing up for the stretch run as Versus added a bunch of games for the next week. Here’s the lowdown from Puck Daddy.

Exclusive regularly scheduled games:
April 5: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals, 7:00 p.m.
April 6: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7:30 p.m.

Bonus games:
April 6: Colorado Avalanche at Vancouver Canucks, 10:00 p.m.
April 7: Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Rangers, 7:00 p.m.
April 8: Buffalo Sabres at Boston Bruins, 7:00 p.m.
April 8: Montreal Canadiens at Carolina Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m. (airs only in Buffalo and Boston)
April 8: Vancouver Canucks at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m.
April 9: TBD, 7:00 p.m.
April 9: TBD, 7:00 p.m. (game to air in TBD markets of above game)
April 9: Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche (Joined in progress following TBD 7:00 p.m. game)

To Tank or not to Tank?

I’ve been mulling over this point for quite some time myself. From the Rink asks the question: should a bubble team try to make the playoffs and therefore face a tough match against a top seed or improve their future with a better draft pick? It’s hard to say; while most teams end up like the New York Islanders in the Rick Dipietro healthy era (in other words, just barely making the playoffs before bailing out), every once in a while an underdog makes a run. Just look at the Chris Pronger Oilers, the Ducks a few times and the Flames during Kipper’s first year.

Icing on the Cake

Behind the Net has some interesting analysis of icing, something I rarely see in statistics anywhere. If you want to try to attribute a huge correlation between icing and winning, this post won’t help you; apparently the Edmonton Oilers commit the infraction the least.

Teams who ice the puck the least

  1. Edmonton
  2. Pittsburgh
  3. Buffalo
  4. Ottawa
  5. Toronto

Perhaps most interesting is the players who are sent out the most often to take a post-icing faceoff. Obviously, the guilty team is forced to use the group of guys who were already on the ice while the opposing coaching staff can throw out anyone they want.

Players who are sent out the most often to take faceoffs after icing

  1. Sidney Crosby
  2. Mikko Koivu
  3. Antoine Vermette
  4. Jonathan Toews
  5. Henrik Sedin

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”