Ilya Kovalchuk, Jhonas Enroth

Riding the Zamboni – Wednesday, November 10th

With so many goalies locking down shutouts this season, you may have been worried that goal scoring was on a severe decline. Don’t worry fans, the Blue Jackets and Bruins singlehandedly attempted to restore your faith that offense is alive and well in the NHL.

Buffalo 5 – New Jersey 4 (F/SO)

Two backup goalies do battle in a game between teams that have had issues scoring and, hey look, scoring! Oddly enough, in this battle between teams that have yet to win at home, the home team managed to still lose which was good news for the equally struggling Sabres. Of course, for the Devils, it wasn’t just that they lost but it also that Ilya Kovalchuk lost the puck on his shootout attempt that could’ve kept the Devils alive. Tyler Myers had a goal and two assists for Buffalo while Jhonas Enroth picked up his second straight shootout win. Johan Hedberg was the hard luck loser after stopping 38 shots on the night.

Boston 7 – Pittsburgh 4

Looking at the final score, you wouldn’t know that the Penguins had this game under control at all at any point in the night. The Bruins came back from being down 4-2 to rattle off five unanswered goals in the third period to kick the Penguins around in Pittsburgh. Shawn Thornton scored the backbreaker in the third dekeing and ripping a shot over Brent Johnson’s shoulder to put the Bruins up for good. Mark Recchi had a goal and two assists to lead the way for Boston. Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists while Evgeni Malkin had two assists to do their part for Pittsburgh.

Columbus 8 – St. Louis 1

The Blues and Jaroslav Halak were due to have an off night eventually and boy did the Blue Jackets give them one. Chris Clark and Jakub Voracek each had two goals while Halak saw all of 23:15 of the game before allowing four goals and being chased from the game. Things didn’t go any better for Ty Conklin in relief as he too allowed four goals. As if losing by seven to Columbus wasn’t bad enough, the Blues lost T.J. Oshie to a broken ankle suffered in a late-game frustration scrum. Oshie was the Blues leading scorer. The eight goals were a franchise record for the Blue Jackets.

Florida 4 – Toronto 1

You know your team is struggling when you can look at a 4-1 loss and say, “Well at least they scored a goal.” Times are bad with the Leafs and the Panthers were more than happy to pile on. Four different Panthers, including Michal Frolik, scored goals while Tomas Vokoun stopped 32 shots in the win. Mikhail Grabovsky got Toronto’s lone goal while Jonas Gustavsson stopped 24 shots in the loss. This makes seven straight losses for the offensively-challenged Leafs and without any consistent goal scoring showing up, things look worse as the days go by.

Phoenix 2 – Chicago 1

Speaking of teams that are struggling, hey it’s the Blackhawks. The Hawks got on the board first thanks to Bryan Bickell and could get things going any easier through the game. Once the second period rolled around, goals by Kyle Turris and Eric Belanger just 35 seconds apart would provide the difference for the Coyotes. Phoenix backup goalie Jason LaBarbera was outstanding in goal stopping 35 shots in the win. Marty Turco had a quiet night in goal in a losing effort stopping just 20 shots. Chicago’s frustration is starting to show through as captain Jonathan Toews said tonight’s game, “felt like a cheap loss.”

Anaheim 1 – NY Islanders 0

The Ducks got off just 14 shots on goal and managed to steal a win over the hapless Islanders. Saku Koivu’s third period goal stood up as the only marker in a game that saw the Islanders get off 27 shots only to see backup goalie Curtis McElhinney stop all of them en route to his first career NHL shutout. The loss marks the Islanders’ eighth straight loss and they’ve done so poorly that even the Devils have finally caught up to them in the standings.

Alex Ovechkin tweets about tying the knot with Nastya Shubskaya

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via Alex Ovechkin's Twitter page
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Alex Ovechkin shared the news via his official Twitter feed that he married Nastya Shubskaya.

His message includes a caption that translates to “This is happiness,” according to NHL.com.

Washington Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks indicated that the two got married during a small, private ceremony, so it might have actually happened a week or so ago.

Here’s the Ovechkin tweet from Sunday:

This continues a run of big news for Capitals players, with a life-changing event for Ovechkin’s partner-in-crime Nicklas Backstrom as well:

There were some fun jokes on Twitter about the happy news, with this one possibly taking the cake:

This summer figures to be a busy one from a hockey standpoint for Ovie, as he’s been part of various activities and will represent Russia at the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

In case you’re wondering, Ovechkin will soon turn 31.

Martin Jones is still pretty ‘new’ to this

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06:  Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks stands in goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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You’d have to be an awfully harsh critic not to be impressed with what Martin Jones did last season.

He “didn’t flinch” under the pressure of a run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer described his efforts as some of the best championship round work of “all-time.”

His signing really made the Sharks look smart. With a strong .919 career save percentage in the regular season and a fantastic .923 playoff save percentage, the 26-year-old has succeeded more or less whenever called upon.

That brings us to the interesting part, though: there’s not a lot of tape, so to speak, on Jones as an NHL goalie.

Small sample

The 2015-16 season was just his third of NHL action, and he’s now at just 99 regular season appearances. That fantastic run of 24 playoff games makes up a significant chunk of his overall experience at the top level.

Jones has excelled when tested, but if you have any concern with him, it’s just that he’s relatively inexperienced at carrying that No. 1 workload.

He started in 65 games during the 2015-16 season, towering over his work as a Kings backup (15 appearances in 2014-15, 19 in 2013-14).

On the bright side, the Sharks have additional evidence that he’s not just a flash in the pan.

Strong numbers at each level

Looking at his AHL stats and even going as far back as his WHL days, his numbers have almost always been good to downright impressive.

It all continues the pattern of Jones looking like the real deal, but next season presents the latest test for the promising goalie.

So far, he’s passed all of them with flying colors.

What will Brent Burns’ new contract look like?

SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 29:  Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at SAP Center on February 29, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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This is part of Sharks day at PHT…

There’s only one Brent Burns, that much is clear. Both on and off the ice, there’s no one like him.

So, what do you pay a guy that’s always imitated, never duplicated?

That’s the dilemma the San Jose Sharks will be faced with in the coming weeks/months.

If you were impressed with Bruns’ 17 goals and 60 points in 2014-15, then his 27 goals and 75 points in 2015-16 was out of this world.

Over the last three seasons, not many forwards have produced as much as Burns, let alone defensemen.

Since being acquired by San Jose in 2011, Burns has hit double digit goals in all but one year (he scored nine in 30 games in 2012-13).

“You know how we feel about Brent. Phenomenal year,” GM Doug Wilson said back in June. “When we acquired him it was a big piece to acquire. There’s no doubt he’s important to us. We want him. I think he loves being here. Those conversations will take place shortly.”

Time to talk numbers…

It sounds like Burns enjoy playing in San Jose, so him taking a bit of a discount is possible. But if we look at the closest comparable…

Dustin Byfuglien, who is 31-years-old like Burns, signed a five-year $38 million contract with the Jets this winter. That comes out to an AAV of $7.6 million.

Both are big, physically imposing and have put up some great numbers in the last few years.

Over the last three seasons, Byfuglien has scored 19, 18 and 20 goals for a total of 57. Burns has scored 27, 17 and 22 for a total of 66.

That’s not a huge difference over three years, but Byfuglien wasn’t coming off a 27-goal season and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final when he signed his contract.

Although we haven’t really heard much regarding Burns’ contract demands, it wouldn’t be shocking for the final cap number to be in the 8 or 9 million range.

Poll: Will the Sharks make it back to the Stanley Cup Final?

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 25:  Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presents the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to Joe Pavelski #8 and the San Jose Sharks after their 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game Six of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 25, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Not many people expected San Jose to be in the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16, but with expectations at an all-time low, they did it.

San Jose has put together some talented teams and before last season, they weren’t able to get over the hump. But now that they’ve gotten over the hump, expectations are back up.

How realistic are these expectations though?

On paper, the Sharks are still loaded. They didn’t lose much this off-season and managed to add speedster Mikkel Boedker in free agency.

Still, when you’re dealing with a number of veterans, you never know when their production will start to dip.

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski are all over 30. Marleau and Thornton are 36 and 37-years-old and they’re entering the final year of their contracts.

The Stanley Cup hangover is real. Although the Sharks didn’t win it, those veterans went four rounds and played in some grueling games along the way. Will they be in tip-top shape come October?

On a more positive note, those veterans are surrounded by some good young players. Logan Couture has developed into a go-to guy, Tomas Hertl proved to be a difference maker at times last year, Joonas Donskoi scored some big goals in the playoffs and prospects like Mirco Mueller, Nikolay Goldobin and Timo Meier are on their way.

The team also has some remarkable depth on defense, as Burns is joined by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Paul Martin, Justin Braun and a few other key contributors.

Between the pipes, Martin Jones‘ first season as a starting goaltender went pretty well.

“A special group,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said after losing in the Stanley Cup Final, per the team’s website . “But only one team can win. That doesn’t take anything away from what those guys accomplished. I don’t think anyone should ever question the leadership or the character or the will of the group of men in there. I think it’s been misplaced for a decade.

“I would hope they answered some questions. Let’s be honest. Not many people had us making the playoffs. Not many people had us beating [the Los Angeles Kings in the first round]. On an on. I thought a lot of questions were answered by that group.”

It won’t be easy for them to make it back to the final. They’ll have some stiff competition in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville and any other team that might surprise.

So, can this “special group” do it all over again next season?

Time to vote!