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Video: Marc Staal crushes Matt Stajan but does it violate Rule 48?

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Expect the debates over the NHL’s Rule 48 about blindside shots and blows to the head to be fired up tonight.

During the third period of tonight’s Rangers-Flames game in Madison Square Garden, Calgary’s Matt Stajan carried the puck across the blue line and passed to a teammate as he entered the Rangers zone. While watching to see where his pass was headed, Stajan was annihilated by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Stajan hit the ice in a heap and needed assistance to get back to the bench. Staal was not penalized for the hit but Calgary was certainly upset by it and attempted to take out their frustrations on Staal throughout the remainder of the game to no avail. The Rangers won the game 3-2. As for the hit itself, judge for yourself to see what your instant reaction is.

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Our thought on the hit is simple. It’s a clean, very hard, and punishing hit. It’s not a blindside hit because Staal is approaching Stajan from the front. Just because Stajan has his head turned doesn’t absolve him from being able to skate unaware of his surroundings. Had Staal hit him from the side we’d be having a different discussion, but Staal came at him from the front. Staal’s elbows are in and it’s a punishing blow delivered from the shoulders. Stajan put himself at most risk for not keeping his eyes forward after making the pass. It’s not as if Staal came out of nowhere to make the hit, it’s just bad fortune for Stajan that Staal is a huge player that skates fast. The lesson here, as always, should be to keep your head up.

While Staal wasn’t penalized on the play, that certainly doesn’t mean the league can’t touch him if they feel he violated Rule 48. We’ve seen other players already get stung this year for hits that didn’t earn them penalties. While Staal could be punished, the NHL would be setting a bad example if they punish Staal for this hit. After all, if you take hits like this out of hockey, you’re not exactly playing hockey anymore.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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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.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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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.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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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.

Video: Mika Zibanejad’s check to Tyler Bozak’s head

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Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).

The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.

You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.

It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.

Update: It didn’t get much better going forward; the Senators beat the Maple Leafs 6-1.