If there were two “Cinderella” teams in the NHL last season, my votes would go to the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. Both teams were nearly-universal picks for the Western Conference basement, with little in name recognition and new coaches behind the bench.
While the Coyotes saw big losses (defenseman Zbynek Michalek) and significant additions (veteran playmaker Ray Whitney), the Avs have been pretty quiet. They at least maintained some of their highly touted young core, though, signing power forward in the making Chris Stewart to a two-year, $5.75 million contract according to Adrian Dater. Each year will amount to a $2.875 million cap hit and will bring the team’s total payroll to a bit under $41 million for the 2010-11 season.
That’s a solid deal for Stewart, at least considering the mediocre market this summer. The Avalanche provided a little more info on the gritty forward in a press release. Here are a few snippets.
Stewart, 22, led Colorado with 28 goals and finished second on the team in scoring with 64 points in 77 games last season. Stewart, who scored 25 of his 28 goals at even strength, also paced the Avalanche in both game-winning goals (5) and shots (221). The Toronto native was +4 for the season and added 100 hits and 73 penalty minutes. Stewart went on to lead the Avalanche with three goals (3g/0a) in six playoff games.
Colorado’s first-round pick (18th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Stewart made his NHL debut with the Avs in 2008-09, finishing as the club’s top rookie scorer with 11 goals and 19 points in 53 games. The 6-foot-2, 228-pound winger played three seasons of junior hockey with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League and also spent a season-and-a-half with Colorado’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Avalanche experience a little bit of a letdown next season, much like the better-than-expected St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets regressed after surprise playoff runs. Still, Colorado has a nice, young nucleus with forwards including Stewart, Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and T.J. Galiardi. Keeping Stewart in the fold will help them build the kind of core group that could gradually move them from scrappy upstarts to genuine contenders.
It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.
As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?
If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.
Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.
Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.
The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.
On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.
Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.
The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.
You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.
At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.
Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.
(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)
As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.
Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.
Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.
Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.
Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:
That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.
Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.
For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.
Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.
Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:
Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.
Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.
The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.