Toronto is busy in-fighting with Phil Kessel and Ron Wilson squabbling while the Thrashers come into town in desperate need of a win. Which ends up being more disfunctional, the Leafs on the ice or the Thrashers defense? If Phil Kessel comes out motivated tonight, life could be made miserable for the Thrashers.
NY Rangers @ Detroit
Can the Red Wings avoid a third straight shutout? They hope so and they’ll have Pavel Datsyuk back in the lineup for the first time since December 22 to help them out. Meanwhile, the Rangers might be rolling with Martin Biron again in goal tonight. That would make for an odd way of going about things while the team has lost four in a row. One thing the Rangers could use is Marian Gaborik to find the net again. The superstar winger is struggling and frustrated with his lack of output. There’s a big game in his future and going up against the slumping Wings defense and goaltending might be the thing he needs to snap out of it. With Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen back for him to play with, Gaborik’s running out of reasons why he can’t score.
Edmonton @ Nashville
The Predators hope to keep pressure on the Red Wings and getting by the Oilers would seem like an easy thing to do to make it happen. The Oilers have lost four in a row and nine of their last ten games. The Predators snapped a four game slide of their own beating Detroit on Saturday. Keeping the momentum going would be huge for the Predators while the Red Wings have stumbled of late.
Chicago @ Calgary
Calgary looks to get back on the winning side of things after having their six-game win streak snapped on Saturday night against the Kings. Chicago is coming off a tough loss to Vancouver on Saturday, a game that saw them go 0-fer on the power play while allowing the Canucks to boss them around late in the game. If the Flames were serious about getting back in the playoff mix beating Chicago would send the message. Whether that six game run was a last gasp for a team that played uninterested hockey for most of the season remains to be seen.
Phoenix @ Colorado
Now that Foppa watch is over with and the Avalanche await his on-ice return, they’ll look to show some disciplined and motivated play from their other players against the Coyotes. The Avs have lost five of their last six games and their defense and goaltending must get better if they’re going to hang in there in the West. Say, does Forsberg play either of those positions? The Coyotes have won just three of their last nine games but are looking to build off their 1-0 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
Ottawa @ Vancouver
I don’t suppose we could get two teams going in opposite directions any faster than these two on tonight’s schedule. Ottawa is on a rocket ship for the basement of the Eastern Conference while the Canucks sit on top of the West like kings of the world. It helps that Vancouver is playing a mentally tougher brand of hockey than past teams have. They don’t get down when a team scores what should be a momentum-wrecking goal. Instead they fight back and keep at it to stay on top or to fight back in a game. In other words, they do everything that Ottawa doesn’t do. Ottawa is hoping that a trip to the west coast will help them snap their nine-game losing streak. Good luck with that.
To the chagrin of the coaches and goalies, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are keeping things hectic during the second period of Game 7.
Kasperi Kapanen seems like he’s perpetually battling for a permanent/more prominent spot with the Maple Leafs, but it’s not for a lack of trying or moxie. He’s been hitting posts on some near-misses lately, but saved some magic for tonight.
You can see that in a 4-3 goal that currently stands as the Maple Leafs’ lead. Kapanen overpowers Brad Marchand and then outwaits Tuukka Rask for an absolutely tremendous shorthanded goal.
(Check out that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)
Impressive, especially considering who that came against. At one point, the Maple Leafs had converted on both of their shots on goal early in the second period to go from being down 3-2 to up 4-3. As mentioned after that wild first period, you have to wonder about both goalies’ confidence, but that’s especially true of Rask right now.
The two teams are also accruing some bumps and bruises, which must be to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s liking.
In the most dramatic instance, Brad Marchand ducked a high Zdeno Chara shot, leaving an unsuspecting Morgan Rielly to take a puck to the face. It’s a scary moment, although the good news is that Rielly was able to return for the beginning of the second period.
Chara also seemed stung by a blocked shot during the first period, as he took a puck to his ankle/foot area. He didn’t appear to miss any time, and it would be tough to imagine him not fighting through it during a Game 7, yet you wonder if the hulking defenseman’s mobility might be hindered after that.
The Bruins and Leafs already put on a show through 20 minutes. We’ll see who’s left standing to face the Bolts, whether this game ends in regulation or hits sudden death in a Game 7.
Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche, Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins and Gerard Gallant of the Vegas Golden Knights have been named as the three finalists for the 2017-18 Jack Adams Award. The winner of the award, voted on by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association and given to the the head coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success,” will be announced during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.
The Case for Jared Bednar: With a full summer to work with compared to 2016-17, Bednar helped guide the Avalanche to a 47-point improvement and a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2014. The production of their youth was key in the resurgence, with Bednar using 11 rookies throughout the season, tied for the most in the NHL. Led by Alex Kerfloot (43 points), J.T. Compher (23 points) and Tyson Jost (22 points), Colorado rookies played an NHL-high 419 games. The offense also posted its best numbers since 2006-07 with the number of goals scored (shootout excluded) increasing from 165 last season to 255 in 2017-18.
The Case for Bruce Cassidy: During his first full season in Boston, Cassidy led the team to 50 wins and 112 points, the Bruins’ fourth-highest total in 40 years. Like Colorado, the Bruins received contributions from their kids with an NHL-best 58 goals from rookies in 2017-18. Cassidy’s impact extends back to when he took over for Claude Julien over a year ago. The Bruins went 18-8-1 in final 27 games of last season to help return to the playoffs following a two-year absence. This season, Boston cruised through the regular season and was in contention until the final few days for not only the top spot in the Eastern Conference but also the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Case for Gerard Gallant: What else can you say about the job Gallant, an Adams finalist for the second time, and the Golden Knights did during an historic inaugural season? Vegas finished with 51 wins and 109 points to become the first modern-era expansion team from any of the four major North American professional sports leagues to win its division. After a hot start, the Golden Knights saw their goaltenders hit with injury, which included losing Marc-Andre Fleury to a concussion for two months. They would use four netminders to stay afloat and set an NHL record on Feb. 1 with their 34th win, most by a team in its first season.