Washington Capitals v Boston Bruins

Nightly recap: Thursday, October 21st

A busy night tonight with 11 games, so we’ll keep things easy like Sunday morning for you.

Boston 4 – Washington 1

Tim Thomas got the start again and was once again outstanding stopping 38 shots. Goalie controversy time in Boston? No way, just a dominating tandem. Zdeno Chara, Jordan Caron, Nathan Horton, and Michael Ryder scored for Boston. Jason Chimera had Washington’s lone goal while Semyon Varlamov took the loss.

NY Rangers 2 – Toronto 1

Martin Biron did his job getting the start for the Rangers stopping 24 shots in the win. Meanwhile, Ruslan Fedotenko and Artem Anisimov scored for New York. There was no “payback” in the game for the Leafs taking out Marian Gaborik in their previous meeting. Sorry all fans of revenge out there. Jonas Gustavsson looked strong for Toronto stopping 30 shots in the loss.

Anaheim 3 – Philadelphia 2

This is one the Flyers would like to have back. The Ducks started without Cam Fowler and Curtis McElhinney made his first start of the season and was sensational stopping 40 shots in the win. Sergei Bobrovsky was a bit more shaky in this one stopping just 19 shots. Ryan Getzlaf had the night’s game-winning goal late in the third for the Ducks.

Detroit 4 – Calgary 2

After a sleepy first period, the Wings got their act together. Mikael Backlund had both Calgary goals in the first period, but after that it was all Wings. Henrik Zetterberg had his first goal of the year, meanwhile Nick Lidstrom, Johan Franzen, and former Flame Todd Bertuzzi also added goals for the Wings.

New Jersey 3 – Montreal 0

The Canadiens are probably going to start hoping they can get Martin Brodeur stopped at the border when the Devils come to town. Brodeur is on his best when he’s back in Montreal and tonight was no different as the future hall of fame goalie stopped 29 shots in earning the shutout. Zach Parise, Jason Arnott, and Matt Taormina all scored for New Jersey. Carey Price stopped 17 shots in the loss.

NY Islanders 3 – Tampa Bay 2 (F/OT)

While the game may have ended controversially with Matt Moulson’s OT winner needing eight minutes of review time to decide if the puck went across the goal line, what’s lost in that is a pretty solid performance from Rick DiPietro. DiPietro stopped 28 shots in the win and looked strong in goal for the game.

Dallas 4 – Florida 1

It was Jamie Benn’s first game back after a concussion sat him down for about a week, but it was Tom Wandell who stole the show for Dallas scoring twice. Kari Lehtonen was solid stopping 27 shots, allowing only a late goal to Stephen Weiss to keep him from getting a shutout. Tomas Vokoun didn’t fare well, giving up all four goals before being relieved by Scott Clemmensen to start the third period. Vokoun was likely overdue for a break anyway but he didn’t look strong tonight after being outstanding of late.

Pittsburgh 4 – Nashville 3 (F/OT)

Pittsburgh’s big guns came out to play tonight. Sidney Crosby had two goals, Evgeni Malkin had another goal and Kris Letang scored the game-winner in overtime all while Marc-Andre Fleury picked up the win in goal. It may not have been a stellar game for Fleury (he made just 21 saves), but a win is a win and he needed the confidence boost. Pekka Rinne stopped 34 in the loss, while David Legwand, Cody Franson, and Patric Hornqvist all had a goal a piece.

San Jose 4 – Colorado 2

Joe Pavelski was a man on a mission tonight scoring two goals in the second period to provide the difference maker for San Jose. Logan Couture and Scott Nichol added a goal each, meanwhile Antero Niittymaki was solid in goal stopping 29 shots. Milan Hejduk and Kyle Cumiskey scored for Colorado while Craig Anderson saved 30 shots in the loss.

Minnesota 4 – Edmonton 2

Despite the Wild playing one of the sloppier games of the year, they came away winners of the youthful Oilers. Kyle Brodziak had two goals for Minnesota, meanwhile Niklas Backstrom was outstanding stopping 34 shots in the win. Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff had the goals for Edmonton and rookie Taylor Hall, while not getting on the score sheet played a brilliant game. He may be poised to awaken and start showing he’s the #1 overall pick now.

Phoenix 4 – Los Angeles 2

While the severe lack of attendance tonight is going to get a lot of attention, Lee Stempniak getting his first career hat trick should be noticed as well. Stempniak’s efforts all night long held strong as Wayne Simmonds of the Kings tried to single-handedly get them back in the game, scoring both Los Angeles goals. Andrew Ebbett, who is filling in for Shane Doan while he’s suspended, had a short-handed goal, meanwhile Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 28 shots in the win.

 

Senators, Panthers fail to gain in Eastern playoff races

OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Jay Harrison #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his game winning overtime goal with team mate Jeff Skinner #53, during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on February 7, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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PHT already touched on the Florida Panthers falling to the Calgary Flames on Friday, but in tandem with the Ottawa Senators losing to the Carolina Hurricanes, it makes for a night of teams failing to gain valuable points out East.

With the Montreal Canadiens failing lately, the Senators had a chance to take first place in the Atlantic by tying the Habs in points while holding games in hand. Instead, they’ll need to wait.

For the sake of simplicity, here are the Atlantic rankings, with emphasis on the top five.

1. Canadiens – 72 points in 61 games played
2. Senators – 70 in 59
3. Maple Leafs – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Sabres and Lightning have 62 in 60, Red Wings have 58 in 60

You can see the Panthers hanging around the perimeter of the top three; a point or two would have made them a bigger threat to Toronto and Boston. Alas, even with a heavier slate of home games lately, Florida has lost two straight at home.

Here’s an updated look at the wild card races after the Panthers failed to make up some ground:

1. Blue Jackets – 79 in 58, more concerned with Metro races
2. Islanders – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Flyers – 63 in 60

Tiebreaker situations would have meant that the Panthers would have ended tonight technically outside of the playoffs anyway, but a win or even a “charity point” congests an already snug situation. Instead, they stayed put and wasted a game.

Ottawa’s still in a solid situation to overtake Montreal or at least maintain a round of home-ice advantage as the second seed in the Atlantic. So while both teams are kicking themselves for their losses, the Panthers have more to be upset about.

Ultimately, some of the biggest winners in the East were teams that didn’t play or that have a lot less to play for.

(Perhaps the Hurricanes feel a little more optimistic, by the way, as 58 points in 57 games played means they could at least theoretically fight their way back into the discussion.)

Road warriors: Flames move to first West wild card spot with win vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Troy Brouwer #36 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his second period goal against the Florida Panthers with Lance Bouma #17 and Matt Stajan #18 at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The road has been doing both the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers quite a bit of good lately.

Calgary moved to the first wild card spot on Friday after beating the Panthers in Florida by a score of 4-2. So far, they’ve grabbed at least a point in every game during a road trip that ends in Carolina on Sunday:

Feb. 18: 2-1 OT loss at Vancouver
Feb. 21: 6-5 OT win at Nashville
Feb. 23: 3-2 win at Tampa Bay
Tonight: 4-2 win at Florida

You can’t totally blame the Panthers if they almost miss their road trip.

They rattled off five straight wins through what seemed like a brutal road haul on paper, but now they’ve lost back-to-back home games in regulation. With five of six and six of seven slated in Sunrise, the Panthers need to make the most of these opportunities. So far … not so good.

Here’s how the West wild card situations look now:

1. Flames – 68 points in 62 GP
2. Predators – 67 points in 60 GP

Kings – 62 in 60 GP
Jets – 62 in 63 GP

(The Blues could easily slip below the Predators into the wild card spot, as they also have 67 points in 60 games but hold wins and ROW tiebreaker advantages.)

So, Calgary might not manage to maintain its hold over the first wild card spot, but this streak makes a playoff berth look far more likely.

Capitals could make home-ice advantage a serious edge in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Brett Connolly #10 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal with teammates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Look, there’s no escaping the naysayers who will dismiss just about any Washington Capitals accomplishments with snark about past playoff letdowns.

All the Capitals can do is march forward and lock down as many edges as they can.

With 89 standings points after a tight 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, the Capitals look increasingly likely to have home-ice advantage either through the East (seven-point edge on the Penguins or the entire playoffs (five-point edge on idle Wild, who only hold a game in hand on the Caps).

Now, it’s fair to argue that home-ice (or home-court) advantage matters less in hockey than some other sports. Sure, you can line-match more often with the last change, among other advantages. Still, the biggest edges might be mental.

That said … those small edges might be enough for a team as loaded – and with as much urgency – as this rendition of the Capitals.

Heeding the call at the Verizon Center

They’ve now won 13 games in a row at the Verizon Center, improving their overall home record to 25-5-1.

The Capitals are still a strong team on the road (16-7-6), yet that home record is lofty. It also could come in awfully handy, particularly if they face off against the Penguins again. Pittsburgh’s 24-4-3 home mark contrasts sharply with a more modest 13-10-5 road record.

Perhaps this talk is all small potatoes. Still, when you consider how close things have been – in this age of parity, and in the extremely competitive Metropolitian Division specifically – it could be quite the edge.

In short, the Capitals are a pretty scary group possibly with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. At least as of right now.

As far as the Oilers go, they’re locked in a tight race for second in the Pacific, as the Ducks currently hold the ROW tiebreaker. Grabbing at least a standings point in this one would have helped … but that’s a tall order against the Caps in their own backyard.

It wasn’t all good news for Washington, tonight:

Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.