Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings

Kings Wayne Simmonds hurts knee in silly post-hit scrum

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In last night’s game between the Oilers and Kings, L.A.’s Drew Doughty delivered one of the biggest hits of the season on Oilers rookie Taylor Hall. As per the norm in the league of late, a scrum erupted after the hit because the Oilers were upset about their guy getting hit.

That foolish on-ice eruption led to Kings forward Wayne Simmonds getting pulled down from behind by Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky and coming away from the fracas as the only player to be injured.

Simmonds appeared to injure his knee and he’ll be out for at least the next two games for L.A. If you think it sounds colossally stupid that a player that had nothing to do with the hit that started everything came away as the only player injured because players freak out after any big hit, then Kings coach Terry Murray would say you’re on his side of the argument as he went into a tirade over the whole thing.

Rich Hammond of Kings Insider gets the rant from the Kings bench boss:

“These things are ridiculous. This whole scrum thing is so wrong. That’s a great hit by Doughty. This happens around the league now. This is prevalent everywhere. To me, this is an issue that somebody needs to address. You’ve got Simmonds getting jumped from behind and pulled backwards, and we’ve now lost a player, for certainly these two games.

I’ve seen this around the league. It’s a good hockey hit, and now everybody responds to a hockey hit. We’re going to end up taking hits right out of the game, the way things are going right now. It’s a concern for me. There has to be more (punishment), to me, out of that than just a two-minute minor.

Something has to be done to stop this kind of a reaction by the teams. The reaction by the teams, it doesn’t make any sense to me. You’re just playing the game of hockey, and it’s a clean hit. It’s one thing if a guy gets run from behind into the boards, and all that, but this is out of control, almost, at times.”

Murray is understandably angry over losing a player for at least a couple of games, but his anger is more than justified at what’s become a bad trend in the NHL. We’ve seen it happen more often than not when a big hit happens, a big scrum erupts and then some piddling penalties are handed out to both teams.

It’s ridiculous that these things happen but Murray has a good idea to dish out penalties to teams that start these unnecessary battles because they’re mad over a teammate taking a hit. In a lot of situations, the hit happens because the player getting dinged is either playing recklessly or trudges ahead completely unaware of their surroundings. In this case last night in Los Angeles, Dustin Penner is first man on the scene and looking to stir things up to “stick up” for his teammate.

Taking hits out of the game is not going to happen but taking stupid scrums can happen if you toss a guy in the box for instigating a situation after a big body check. More penalties in the game isn’t generally a good way to solve problems like this, but in cases like these it’d be a great way to keep teams from needlessly freaking out after a big hit.

The problem here is making a judgment call on when it’s “justifiable” to go out of your mind and go after someone for a hit. Bringing a moral code to the ice is a dicey thing to dare try to do and it’s doubtful the NHL would even consider giving it a shot. As it is, we’ll have to hope that teams can get smarter about these things all around. I’d also love to find a bag filled with money on the street.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.