Around the rink – February 13; Sabres look to keep rolling, Pacific Division races heat up

12:30 p.m.

Boston @ Detroit

It’s NBC’s Game of the Week and the Bruins are looking to get one back after being humbled by Detroit on Friday night 6-1. Detroit’s offensive breakout was as much of a surprise as Boston getting lit up as the B’s have been one of the stingiest teams in the league this year. One thing working in Boston’s favor is that Detroit has been inconsistent the last month and a half so getting it back today might happen. Of course, Detroit’s getting healthier and have virtually their entire normal starting forward corps back on the ice.

3:00 p.m.

NY Islanders @ Buffalo

Well, well, well… Looks who’s back in the mix for the playoffs. The Sabres are just three points behind Carolina and Atlanta who are tied for the eighth spot in the East and with a win today their climb back into the mix will be legitimate. They’ve gone 9-2-0 in their last 11 games and when you go on a tear like that in the East, all things are possible. Sadly for the Sabres, they were so down and out of it before that that run only gets them back into the discussion for the playoffs. The Islanders will be looking to save some face after their embarrassing win over Pittsburgh on Friday which saw them collectively lose their minds and saw them have two players receive lengthy suspensions. We’re figuring the fisticuffs will be put away for this one, but the Sabres of late have found ways to get under everyone’s skin.

Pittsburgh @ NY Rangers

The Penguins hellish trip into New York this weekend that’s seen them get jumped by the Islanders to the tune of 346 penalty minutes and then end up in a bus accident yesterday winds up with a game against a Rangers team they haven’t seen eye-to-eye with at all this year. The fun never ends it seems and they’ll deal with a desperate Rangers team that’s seen their losing streak reach six games in a row. Apparently the Rangers were a team better off without all of their starters on offense as the returns of Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Vinny Prospal have netted them nothing. Things will turn around eventually, but after New York’s gutbusting loss on Friday to Atlanta, heads are down and wondering for the Rangers.

Columbus @ Dallas

The Stars are treading water of late and they’re holding on to the slimmest of leads in the Pacific Division. They’ve got the Sharks, Ducks, and Coyotes nipping at their heels and for the Stars, the problems have been on defense. Losing six of their last eight games, they’ve allowed 34 goals in those eight games. Giving up just over four per game isn’t going to win you much in the league aside from the approval of your opponents. Columbus has won three of their last four games, a run that has inched them closer to the pack trying to find a spot in the playoffs. Steve Mason has played better of late and getting consistent goaltending out of him is just what the Jackets need. Their forward groups have played better of late and getting better goaltending serves to be a rallying point.

Los Angeles @ Philadelphia

The Flyers are hot. They’ve gone 13-3-0 in their last 16 games and have won five of their last six games. Dealing with a Kings team coming fresh off a sound 4-1 beating of the Capitals should give them a healthy test as the Kings are loaded with tough players worthy of bringing it at any time. Just ask the Caps what happens when you go into a game ill prepared with L.A. The Kings are in the middle of their 10 game road trip which they’ve gone 3-0-2 on to this point. Earning points in each game on a season-long road swing is quite the accomplishment but continuing that run against the East’s best team won’t be easy.

5:00 p.m.

Carolina @ Atlanta

A huge game in February? You better believe it. These two teams are tied for the eighth spot in the East and for Atlanta they’re looking to keep the good mojo going. Their comeback win over the Rangers on Friday might serve to be the rallying point they’ve been looking for. It’s no coincidence that they pulled out a win in the game they got Tobias Enstrom back in the lineup either as the puck-moving defenseman is key to their success this year. The Hurricanes’ youth has shown its colors of late with the team having lost five of their last six. Bouts of inconsistency are bound to happen, but for Carolina it has come at a bad time as the team could’ve taken control of the eighth spot with Atlanta floundering of late. Of course, without that mutual mess-making we wouldn’t have what sets up to be a great and desperate tilt today.

San Jose @ Florida

The Sharks will be hoping to put their frustrating loss to New Jersey behind them going up against a similarly tough Panthers squad in Sunrise. Florida may not win every game, but they’ve got the nasty habit of making everyone they play against earn it. It’s a yeoman effort for the Panthers to pull this off and their trading of Michal Frolik means that each game will be a bit tougher physically. San Jose though continues to press and put the heat on the Stars to stay ahead of them in the Pacific Division and going 9-1-1 in their last 11 games will do that. Coincidentally enough, the Panthers have lost nine of their last 11 games and their defense and goaltending has been mediocre at the very least.

8:00 p.m.

Anaheim @ Edmonton

We’re not going to say it’ll be an easy game for the Ducks, but considering the Oilers are coming off a disturbing loss to the fellow cellar-dwelling Senators yesterday, the minds of the Oilers are collectively about as low as they can go. When you have four wins in your last 24 games, being down about life will happen. For Anaheim, they’ve won seven of their last nine and are coming off an incredible comeback victory against Calgary on Friday night.

The Buzzer: Benn vs. Benn, poor get poorer

Getty
1 Comment

Line of the Night: The St. Louis Blues’ superb top trio.

Seemingly every night, at least one of the NHL’s best scoring lines seems to make its case as the best. It’s getting to the point where any off night is surprising, which seems almost impossible in a league where it’s still (allegedly?) tough to score on a nightly basis.

In Tuesday’s case, the Blues’ red-hot trio of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Oilers’ profound miseries by triggering an 8-3 stomping.

Schwartz scored one goal and three assists, while both Schenn and Tarasenko enjoyed ridiculous two-goal, two-assists nights. Schwartz and Schenn both are at 30 points in 2017-18, while “The Tank” is rolling with 26. Tarasenko almost had a hat trick today, but settled for the Gordie Howe:

Highlight of the Night: Jamie Benn vs. Jordie Benn, just in time for American Thanksgiving.

(They’re Canadians, but still.)

Shared sadness: The Canadiens lost a hard-fought game to the Stars as the 3-1 margin of defeat was inflated by an empty-netter, while the Oilers were just humiliated, yet both teams really needed wins and neither even got a standings point for their efforts. Times are getting tense for two Canadian franchises that came into 2017-18 with high hopes.

Brendan Gallagher‘s reaction to the empty-netter says it all:

Factoid of the Night: Clearly, it’s totally Connor McDavid‘s fault.

Scores

Canucks 5, Flyers 2

Blues 8, Oilers 3

Stars 3, Canadiens 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

On fire vs. fireable: Blues humiliate Oilers

9 Comments

If you judge a person or sports team by how they react to their backs being up against the wall, then the Edmonton Oilers were complete failures on Tuesday.

Whether you place most of the blame on Connor McDavid (bad) or management (fair), the bottom line is that a response was needed, as people are already doing the math to wonder if the Oilers can dig themselves out of an early hole with a huge rally.

Instead, we saw the same story tonight, only it was sadder and more dramatic. The St. Louis Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers by a score of 8-3, and that deficit wasn’t an unfair depiction of what happened on the ice. The red-hot Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers, seemingly scoring at will.

Just check Paul Stastny‘s body language after this beautiful goal; it almost seemed like the veteran forward felt squeamish about the carnage going on in Edmonton’s zone.

Again, it was the same story with McDavid straining to create quite a few chances, even while dealing with an unspecified sickness (note: sickness not a joke about the poor team around him, this time).

It seems fitting that the same few Oilers contributed at least something to the cause, as McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were involved in Edmonton’s three scores.

This loss encapsulated a lot of the themes of this season for Edmonton: not enough support, a cratering structure, and goaltending Cam Talbot having a miserable night.

Morale in Edmonton is, uh, low.

Now, none of this should take away from the West-leading Blues’ side, as they flexed their muscles once again. Really, the main debates surrounded if the Blues were the best in the West by a large or merely a slim margin.

It was a banner night for one of the best lines in the league in Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Tarasenko almost had a hat trick, but will settle for the Gordie Howe variety, as he dropped the gloves with Matt Benning.

Fittingly, the Oilers didn’t even win that battle, either.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fight video: Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Matthew Benning

1 Comment

Vladimir Tarasenko earns the nickname “Tank” because he’s a big, hoss-like scorer and because it matches up well with his name.

He showed a different kind of firepower on Tuesday, though, as he took exception to a Matthew Benning hit and decided to fight the Edmonton Oilers defenseman. The bout happened even as the Oilers seemed like they were getting a precious scoring chance, but the crowd in St. Louis was riled up mainly to see the superstar drop the gloves.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the first battle for “The Tank.” According to Hockey Fights’ listings, Tarasenko fought once in 2015-16 and another time in 2014-15, while also dropping the gloves once in the KHL.

(This is his first fight against someone not named Ryan, as he exchanged fisticuffs with Ryan Kesler and Ryan Ellis in his other NHL fights. I mean, unless Matthew Benning’s middle name is Ryan?)

So far, the Oilers haven’t been showing as much fight as Tarasenko, as the Blues currently hold a 3-0 lead and chased Cam Talbot. Read more about what’s been a tough night for goalies so far here.

Tuesday has not been kind to goalies

Getty
1 Comment

There are three games on Tuesday, yet we’ve already seen two goalies benched for poor play.

If variety is important to you … hey, at least the two situations were different, albeit with some regrettable moments of pucks going into nets.

The most depressing probably came during Tuesday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, which you can watch on NBCSN right now.

Now, you can justifiably hang a lot of the Oilers’ struggles on poor management from GM Peter Chiarelli, yet it’s also true that teams/coaches/general managers often see their reputations rise and fall with the play of their goalies. Cam Talbot has already been struggling in 2017-18 after playing outstanding hockey – and a ton of games – last season, but tonight serves as one of his shortest and most troubling efforts.

(And Talbot gets whatever is the opposite of bonus points for languishing while angst is nearing a fever pitch in Edmonton.)

Talbot made it through just 7:35 of ice time on Tuesday, allowing two goals on just three shots before Todd McLellan understandably pulled the plug. This Dmitrij Jaskin goal was a real soul-crusher for the reeling Oilers:

Credit Laurent Brossoit for playing very well in relief of Talbot, at least as of this writing. But this isn’t what the Oilers wanted to see. (Brossoit just allowed a goal, but he has been sturdy overall with a lot of time left in this game).

Negative night for Neuvirth

Compared to Talbot, Michal Neuvirth had a long night for the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, it was a long night in more ways than one, as Neuvirth struggled against the unexpectedly potent Vancouver Canucks.

Neuvirth got the hook after giving up four goals on 22 shots over 34:26 of game time. Some of that’s on the defense in front of him, as Philly can’t be happy to give up so many chances against a Vancouver team that still has something to prove.

So, this leaves one burning question: will any other goalies get benched tonight? As it is, two out of three is quite bad. Sorry Meatloaf.