Boston trades Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik

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Boston wasn’t done today after acquiring Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, they were busy elsewhere helping to change things up to chase the Flyers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston swung a deal with the Atlanta Thrashers involving  forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart going to Atlanta in exchange for forward Rich Peverley and defenseman Boris Valabik.

Boston is able to get a playmaking center they miss with Marc Savard out for the season with a concussion. Peverley’s ability to set plays up and help others get the puck is something the Bruins were severely lacking without Savard. Peverley’s been a bit disappointing this year for Atlanta though. With 14 goals and 20 assists his offense will be welcome in Boston, but his -16 rating is a bit jarring to see. If there’s anyone that can help coach a guy into being a bit better defensively it’s Bruins coach Claude Julien. Don’t expect to see Peverley’s minus ways continue.

As forValabik, he’s likely to wind up in Providence in the AHL as he was in the minors with Atlanta. If the B’s are in need of another large, physical presence on defense though, they’ll have to put Valabik through waivers to call him up. At 6’7″ the thought of him teaming up with his idol Zdeno Chara is immensely terrifying.

For the Thrashers, it’s a decidedly big change for them in adding Wheeler and Stuart. The fun part here for Atlanta is that they’re two guys that coach Craig Ramsay is very familiar with after working as a Bruins assistant coach before coming to Atlanta. Wheeler is a big guy teeming over with talent that hasn’t quite put it all together. At 6’5″ 205 he’s a load to handle but offensively he’s struggled this year with 11 goals and 16 assists. If Ramsay can get through to him and help him break out, the deal is a huge winner for the Thrashers.

Adding Stuart to their blue line gives them a solid defensive presence and a guy who thrives on playing hard in the defensive end. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but being in Atlanta will give him a chance to show off what he can do there to win a new deal. Coach Ramsay is a big fan and he’ll be happy to have to a more defensive-minded guy there.

A lot of Atlanta’s success in this deal depends on what comes of Wheeler. If he can break out and thrive with the Thrashers and help lead them to the playoffs, the deal is a huge success for them. For Boston, getting Peverley in town is a solid pickup and should help their offense out a bit with Peverley’s ability to control the puck and make passes for his wingers. The Bruins should be all done with dealing now and getting done before the deadline crush on the 28th is smart for them.  The last thing a contending team needs to do is make a panic deal. Getting everything set ahead of the blitz just makes good sense.

Of course, if things break well for both teams there’s a possibility they meet up with each other in the playoffs. Mark that down for a future storyline just in case.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?