Jonathan Toews shining, on defense and offense

When the 2010 Selke Trophy  finalists were announced — Pavel
Datsyuk, Jordan Staal and Ryan Kesler — many felt that the one player
who was shorted the most was Jonathan Toews. A lot of the focus on the
Blackhawks is on their stellar blue line and their high-powered offense,
but one big key to their success this past season has been the
incredible defensive play of Toews.

Now that the three finalists are out of the playoffs — not that it
matters in the voting — we’re are truly getting a good taste for just
how important Toews is to this team. Not only has he put up incredible
numbers (7-16-23 in 14 games) but he’s riding a 11-game point streak,
which has tied a franchise record. Toews says that it’s great to be
productive, but scoring isn’t exactly his focus.

“I don’t even really think about scoring, getting on the board going
into some of these games,” Toews said after being named the number one
star of the game. “You know, you want to kill penalties, you want to
play with energy and create as much as you can in the offensive zone
when that happens to be your role.”

“I’ve gone into some of these games, focused on working hard. A lot
of offense has just clicked. Buff has been great on our line with
Patrick and I since he’s been playing with us. Whether it’s on the
power-play or five-on-five, we’re working hard.”

The key words above are “working hard”, something that the Blackhawks
have done almost to perfection so far in the playoffs. They’ve done a
great job of doing exactly what is needed to really throw a goaltender
off his game and what worked against Roberto Luongo is working against
Evgeni Nabokov as well. Toews talked about how he and Dustin Byfuglien
have been able to create chaos in front of the net.

“It’s great. Buff is a big body. You know, it’s nice to go to the
net, have that success when he’s creating, you know, a lot of traffic
and good screens in front of the goaltender.”

“Kane is out in the
open ice dangling around while we’re in front picking up the garbage
(smiles). It’s nice. We’ll take them any way we can. Tonight we got a
couple ugly ones in front of the net.”

You have to love a
reference to The Mighty Ducks during the 2010 NHL Conference finals.

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    Lindholm’s first goal of 2016-17 was a big one for Ducks

    ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks avoids Micheal Haley #38 of the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center on December 4, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) If the goals aren’t going to come in bunches, best make them timely.

    At least, that’s what worked for Hampus Lindholm on Friday night.

    Lindholm got his first goal of the season with 5:38 remaining, helping the Anaheim Ducks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 after blowing a two-goal lead.

    Nick Ritchie found Lindholm alone on the opposite circle and fired a sharp pass that Lindholm slapped in over goalie Martin Jones‘ left shoulder.

    “I came in on the left side and they just kind of lost him,” Ritchie said. “He was wide open and slapped it in there.”

    Goals by Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc brought San Jose back after Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette scored in the first period for Anaheim.

    Anaheim is 5-1-1 in its past seven games, including two wins over San Jose.

    The 22-year-old Lindholm held out this season before signing a six-year contract extension in late October. He didn’t play his first game until Nov. 9 and got his first goal in 15 contests.

    “I don’t think it was pretty tonight, but we got the win,” Lindholm said.

    It was the third time the teams had met this season, and all three games have been decided by one goal.

    “We battled back and I thought the game could have gone either way,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’re just finding our way to lose right now instead of win.”

    It was a big game for Anaheim goalie Jonathan Bernier. In his last start, he gave up eight goals to Calgary, but Friday, he had 22 saves and withstood a frantic final attack after San Jose pulled its goalie with 2 minutes left.

    “He played well the last time we were in San Jose and got us the win,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “Berny was looking for some kind of opportunity after the game in Calgary and I felt we owed him that.”

    Jones stopped 29 shots for the Sharks.

    San Jose tied it early in the second period when Labanc slipped a shot under Bernier’s left leg. It was the 20-year-old’s third goal of the season.

    “We had some good looks,” Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. “We have to start putting them in the net.”

    The Ducks nearly completed a dominant first period with a 2-0 lead, but Burns got his 12th goal of the season with 6 seconds left by slapping a shot past Bernier.

    Anaheim opened the scoring 4:44 in after Shea Theodore fired a shot from just beyond the midpoint of the two circles. Jones deflected the shot, but Rakell snagged the rebound and wrapped it around and behind Jones.

    Rakell, another late signing, has 11 goals in his 17 games since joining the Ducks.

    “He’s a really good weapon,” Lindholm said. “He knows where to put (the puck). It’s fun to watch. He’s really a skilled guy.”

    The Ducks went up 2-0 after Theodore came streaking down the right side and fired a perfect pass to Vermette, who snapped it past Jones for his fifth of the season.

    NOTES: The Ducks are 60-59-11 against the rival Sharks. … Anaheim’s Joseph Cramarossa fought San Jose’s Tommy Wingels about five minutes into the first period.

    UP NEXT

    Sharks: Host Carolina on Saturday.

    Ducks: Host Ottawa on Saturday.

    Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

    VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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    If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

    Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

    Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

    1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
    2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
    3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
    4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
    5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

    Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

    Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

    Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

    Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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    As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

    For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

    They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

    Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

    Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

    1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
    2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
    3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
    4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
    5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

    That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

    ***

    For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

    Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

    On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

    It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

    This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

    That’s impressive stuff.

    This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

    The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

    Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.