It makes sense that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are squaring off on Super Bowl Sunday, because the two heated rivals are playing a game of inches right now. This is the hockey equivalent of a football game in which two teams grind out three yard rushes over and over again, waiting for the other side to give in.
The Penguins blinked first, as Brooks Laich scored a rebound goal to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead.
Despite the fact that Pittsburgh trails going into the first intermission, the pace and style benefits Dan Bylsma’s star-starved Penguins, who must prefer the game’s current North-South attitude. The first period featured precious few second chances and moments of sustained pressure for either side, as both teams are moving the puck out of their zones with dizzying speed. That being said, the Capitals might be able to exploit some opportunities from the point, as they did on the game’s only goal.
While that mode of play lacks for creativity, the pace of the game has been impressive for an unusual afternoon start time.
The period ended tensely, as Mike Green was bloodied when a Brooks Orpik shot hit him in the ear or the side of the head. Green was able to leave the ice under his own power; we’ll let you know if he sustains a serious injury from that errant puck.
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There’s been a lot of movement between Montreal and Saint John’s lately and that continued on Sunday.
This time, it’s forward Daniel Carr who’ll be getting a stint with the big club.
Carr has no prior NHL experience.
The 24-year-old spent four years at Union College before joining the Canadiens organization as an undrafted free agent.
In his first season as a pro, Carr scored 24 goals (led the team) and 39 points in 76 AHL games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15.
This year, Carr has seven goals and 15 points in 20 games.
Montreal is without forwards Torrey Mitchell, Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Semin.
Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.
It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.
Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.
The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.
Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.
They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.
You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.
With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.
Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).
In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:
Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.
Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.
So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.
The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.
No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.
He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.