St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs

Around the rink – Tuesday, January 11th

With ten games tonight and lots of All-Star Game snubs to discuss for the next week, we’re guessing the NHL wanted to keep people talking about games and putting a lot of them on our plate tonight. Sadly for them there’s not really any particular game that grabs your attention, but lots of eyes will be on New York tonight and not just at Madison Square Garden for Wojtek Wolski’s Rangers debut. All times listed are Eastern.

7:00 p.m.

Montreal @ NY Rangers

All eyes turn here because we’ll get to see if Wojtek Wolski can once again find his motivation to play strong, offensive hockey and give the Rangers the offensive boost they’re dying to have. There’s also the side possibility of having coach John Tortorella crack the whip on Wolski for being lazy on the other side of the puck as well. Montreal comes in winners of three of their last four and will send Alex Auld out to give Carey Price a much needed rest.

Vancouver @ NY Islanders

This games wasn’t really one to take notice of before… That is until we found out this morning that referee Stephane Auger was assigned to it. This marks the first time since last year that Canucks forward Alex Burrows will be on the ice for a game that Auger works. Last season, Burrows alleged that Auger told him he’d be out to get him in the game. Think we’ll see any favorable officiating going the Islanders way in this one? The Isles could use all the help they can get against the powerful Canucks who look to bounce back after losing to Detroit on Saturday snapping an eight game win streak.

Ottawa @ Boston

It’s an important game for the Bruins to prove that their win against Pittsburgh last night wasn’t just a one-off positive night. Building momentum off that win is key for the B’s. Getting to deal with a struggling Ottawa team should help them out, but playing back-to-back nights is rough and the Senators will be doing their part to take advantage of that to snap their five-game losing streak.

Calgary @ Carolina

Riding high off the All-Star announcements today, the Hurricanes will hope to keep the good mojo working and extend their win streak to three games. With Calgary kicking off a four game road trip in Raleigh looking to snap a three game skid, expect things to get feisty. The Hurricanes will hope to put the game out of reach though. Three of their last four games have gone to overtime with the Canes losing two of those.

Phoenix @ Columbus

Phoenix is riding high after beating St. Louis last night and the Blue Jackets are about as low as it can get these days as people are talking about blowing it all up after what’s been over a month of miserable hockey. Sounds like the makings of a trap game for the Coyotes, doesn’t it? Phoenix has won three of their last four while the Jackets have lost four in a row.

7:30 p.m.

Philadelphia @ Buffalo

A pair of teams on a relative roll clash in Buffalo. The Flyers are winners of three in a row and four of their last five while the Sabres have won two in a row. The Sabres are hoping to get back into the thick of the playoff hunt and have to hope Ryan Miller’s great play of late continues to make it happen. The Flyers, meanwhile, want to put some space between themselves and the Penguins in the Atlantic Division. Guy to look out for in this one is former Sabres stud and current Flyers goal leader Daniel Briere. The fans in Buffalo love to hate him.

Washington @ Florida

After playing a tough one with Florida the other night, highlighted by a great goal from Alex Ovechkin, the Caps will look to keep good things going in Sunrise. The Caps have won four of their last five games and have been on a roll since before Christmas winning six of eight. The Panthers, meanwhile, will be looking to snap a three game skid. Getting one over on the Caps would be well received in the Panthers locker room.

8:00 p.m.

Minnesota @ Nashville

Minnesota will be looking to get back to winning while the Preds are hoping to keep a good thing rolling as they’ve been on fire of late. Expect the goalies to take center stage in this one as Pekka Rinne and Jose Theodore have been on fire of late. The Preds are playing great hockey and have lifetime Predator David Legwand to thank for it. Since returning from injury he’s got a goal and three assists in five games. That may not sound like much, but the stability he brings up the middle has been huge for the injury-riddled Preds.

8:30 p.m.

Edmonton @ Dallas

Remember when this rivalry was nasty and these teams went at each others throats? The only guy on the ice that recalls those days is Jamie Langenbrunner so here’s to hoping he starts having flashbacks to those nasty, gnarly days. The Stars will be looking to keep the good times rolling as they’ve gotten points in four straight games (3-0-1). Edmonton has lost eight of their last nine games and have seen their offense dry up and their goaltending go down the toilet. This isn’t shaping up too well for the Oilers tonight.

10:30 p.m.

Toronto @ San Jose

The red hot Maple Leafs roll into San Jose winners of three in a row. That might not sound like a big deal to you, but for the Leafs it’s their longest win streak since starting the season 4-0-0. Mikhail Grabovsky and James Reimer have been the leaders for them on the ice and getting help from AHL call-ups Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb has been especially useful. The Sharks are desperate for a win but doing that against a team beaming with confidence might prove difficult. You can’t help but feel the Sharks are on the precipice of a huge offensive breakout soon, the Leafs are hoping they can keep it from happening for one more game.

Scott Darling may have earned himself some extra playing time

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05: Scott Darling #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks follows the action against the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on April 5, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Coyotes 6-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

When the Chicago Blackhawks’ run of three Stanley Cups in six seasons started back in the 2009-10 season, goaltending was pretty consistently their biggest question mark over the first three or four years of that run. Today, as the Blackhawks continue to sit near the top of the Western Conference standings, it might be one of their greatest strengths.

At this point it is not just because of Corey Crawford‘s development into one of the league’s best, most consistent starters.

They are also getting excellent play from his backup, Scott Darling, and it continued on Friday night when he received the start against the Boston Bruins — only his second start in January — and responded with a 30-save shutout.

Darling’s play has improved significantly this season in the Blackhawks’ net, and after Friday’s game he is carrying a .928 save percentage in his 21 appearances this season, including a pair of shutouts.

Together the duo has the fourth best overall save percentage in the NHL (.920) and the second best even-strength save percentage (.937), trailing only the Washington Capitals.

It is a positive development for both the Blackhawks and Darling himself.

From a Blackhawks perspective, his play has given them a reliable backup that was not only able to successfully fill in for Crawford when he missed nearly a month due to an appendectomy earlier this season, but it has also made it so they can potentially manage his minutes a little more and keep him fresh for the playoffs without having to run him into the ground during the regular season. With Crawford going through a bit of a slump recently, allowing it least three goals in eight of his past 11 starts, it might even leave the door open for Darling to get another start on Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

When asked about that possibility after Friday’s game coach Joel Quenneville would only say, “Their play a lot of time makes our decision for us.”

Of course, we probably should not make too much of this. Crawford is still going to be the guy in Chicago, and even though he has hit a bit of a rough patch lately he is still one of the top goalies in the league and you have to think he will eventually work his way out this recent funk. It’s just that Darling might be worthy of getting an additional start or two at the moment until that happens.

For Darling, it has been a big season as he plays through the final year of his contract and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season. Looking at the UFA market for goalies, you have Ryan Miller, who will be 36 years old and not really represent much of a long-term solution for anybody, and Ben Bishop and Steve Mason, who are both going through disappointing seasons. After that it is a bunch of a question marks. If Darling can continue to take advantage of the opportunities he gets in Chicago the way he has so far this season, he might end up earning himself an even bigger one in the summer.

Video: Julien won’t discuss job security with Bruins

2 Comments

The job security of Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien remains a hot topic of discussion, particularly these past few days and that isn’t likely to change following Friday’s defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite carrying the play, especially through the first two periods, the Bruins were unable to score and were shut out once again, losing the game on a goal from Marian Hossa with 1:26 remaining in regulation. For the Bruins, that’s a heartbreaker.

It seems Julien’s job in Boston is always up for discussion during at least some point in a season, but the chatter now seems especially bleak, even if one could find plenty of faults with Boston’s roster, which falls on management.

Addressing reporters after Friday’s loss, Julien liked how his team played versus the Blackhawks, but admitted there are “growing pains” and there were costly mistakes made at points in the game.

When asked about job security, Julien didn’t wish to discuss the subject.

“I’m not into shock journalism,” he said, “so I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

Major victory: Habs power play erupts to defeat Devils

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 15: Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens fires a slapshot during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on October 15, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The toughest thing Montreal Canadiens goalie Al Montoya had to do against the New Jersey Devils was stay awake.

The Canadiens limited the Devils to a season-low 17 shots, and Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty each scored a power-play goal during a major penalty early in the third period of Montreal’s 3-1 victory Friday night.

“I’d take this any night,” Montoya said after the Canadiens snapped a two-game skid. “Your team is playing fantastic in front of you. Halfway through the game it’s 1-1 and all I’m really focused on is making that next save. These guys did a phenomenal job and I just wanted to make that next save, and the power play was terrific. The guys were mainly terrific all night.”

Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and two assists, and Alexander Radulov had three assists as Montreal ended the Devils’ three-game winning streak.

The difference in this one was the power play. The Canadiens were 3 for 7 with the extra man and they converted twice with Devils defenseman Karl Stollery in the box for a boarding major.

The call was iffy. Stollery hit Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu in the corner in the Devils end, but the question was whether it was a major or minor penalty.

“It happened quick,” Stollery said. “The guy is coming in and I am going in to finish the play and he turns up. I probably would like to let up a little bit more if it happened again. It’s one of those things that happens quick.”

Devils coach John Hynes screamed at the officials.

“All I got was they felt it was a dangerous hit,” Hynes said. “At that point they are not going to explain it too much. They were defensive. They made the call. It is what it is. At that point we have to try to find a way to kill it better than we did.”

The first two minutes of the major were played 4-on-4, but the Canadiens capitalized after that.

Weber scored his 11th of the season on a drive from the blue line at 3:01 that was set up by Radulov. Pacioretty got his 21st at 4:23 with a shot that deflected off the skate of Devils forward Adam Henrique.

“It was huge,” Weber said. “Obviously, special teams mean so much coming down the stretch and heading into playoffs, so trying to get some chemistry going and help the team win games, it’s obviously a big thing.”

Rookie defenseman Steven Santini gave the Devils an early 1-0 lead, but the Canadiens dominated after that, firing 26 shots at Keith Kinkaid.

Montoya had nothing to do for long stretches. New Jersey was held without a shot for more than 12 minutes after Santini scored, and it needed 13 minutes to get one in the second period.

Santini put New Jersey ahead when he flipped a shot from just inside the blue line that floated into the top corner of the net.

Galchenyuk tied the game 74 seconds later with a shot from the left circle with Devils forward Miles Wood in the penalty box for slashing. The tally came 28 seconds after the penalty and on Montreal’s first shot with the man advantage.

Video: Henrik Sedin records 1,000th career point

Leave a comment

Henrik Sedin has become the 85th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career points.

Sedin, the Canucks captain, hit the milestone Friday against the Florida Panthers and his former teammate Roberto Luongo. As you might imagine, twin brother Daniel Sedin also factored into the goal.

Daniel fed Henrik with a perfect pass off the rush, and Henrik finished the play off, sliding the puck through the legs of Luongo to tie the game 1-1 in the second period. It was another beauty, another example of what has made those two players so special for many years in Vancouver.

Henrik Sedin is the first player in Canucks history to reach 1,000 points. He also becomes just the fourth player from Sweden to hit that number, joining Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Daniel should also reach the mark, although he may have to wait until next season. He entered Friday’s game with 967 career points.

Great touch of class, too, from Luongo, who quickly embraced his former teammate as Sedin skated back to the bench following the on-ice celebration.