Who's more valuable, Sidney Crosby or Jaroslav Halak?

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HalakCrosby.jpgI know the majority of you read this headline and either scratched
your head in confusion or slammed your keyboard in anger. “How could
this even be a debate,” you ask. “They don’t even play the same position
and aren’t even on the same team.”

Stay with me on this one.

Headed
into tonight’s Game 1 between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh
Penguins, I started to think of the keys to victory for each team. Based
on first round performance, my thoughts would turn to Sidney Crosby for
the Penguins and Jaroslav Halak for the Canadiens. There’s no doubt
that each player was instrumental in their semifinals success, but which
player is more important to their team at this very moment in this
series.

It’s a tough debate, especially considering that they play
different positions, figuring which team can least afford their player to
stumble.

Despite the incredible numbers put up in Vancouver and
Detroit, there’s no doubt in my mind that Crosby was the best player in
the first round. When the Penguins looked as if they would continue
their inconsistent ways against the Senators, Crosby took over each game
and became the leader of his team en route to a convincing series win.

Can
the Penguins afford Crosby to stop producing, if for some reason he
slows down against the Habs? The Canadiens showed they know how to shut
down the best players in the NHL if given the chance. With Crosby, the
Penguins also have a number of players capable of stepping up in Evgeni
Malkin and Alexei Ponikarovsky (among others), but we’ve seen this
season that the Penguins go as Crosby goes.

Obviously, if
Halak starts to stumble the Canadiens will falter. The Habs relied on
his out of this world goaltending to surprise the Capitals in the first
round, but they also proved they have the team defense, shot blocking
skills and opportunistic offense to be able to take down the best teams
in the NHL. So if Halak is unable to continue his incredible run of
stellar play in the past three games, do the Habs even have a chance at
winning? The last three games of the series were won based on incredible
goaltending, and some great defense.

For me, you’d have to think
that the Habs would suffer most if Halak started to fall apart, rather
than the Penguins if Crosby fell to earth. I know it’s tough to compare
the two, but the Canadiens feed off the play of Halak in goal, and now
all eyes are on him to perform. The Penguins know what it takes to win,
they’ve been there; if Crosby were to stumble you have to think there
are players on that team that know when and how to step it up.

Halak
or Crosby, who’s most valuable? You have to go with Halak in this one.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.