There’s no doubt that things have been dire for the Dallas Stars, but the team won two straight games against quality Central Division opponents to keep their playoff hopes alive. It naturally begs the question that must be asked, even if it might wear down some Stars fans: could this two-game streak help the team keep Brad Richards?
Obviously, the stakes are huge in this situation. Sure, the team earned victories in these two games without their top center and scorer, but he’s the straw that stirs the drink. In two days, Joe Nieuwendyk will have to decide to either move Richards to avoid losing him for nothing or press his luck by trying to re-sign the talented passer.
Personally, I cannot help but lean toward the riskier second option because Richards is such an outstanding catalyst (especially since the team could have new owners in place by July), but it’s a complicated situation that will depend on Richards’ health and the offers that come rolling in.
In the mean time, let’s get back to this afternoon’s game.
Dallas 3, Nashville 2
Alex Goligoski is making a great early impression, as he tied the game up with a third period goal and also had an assist on Loui Eriksson’s game-winner on the power play. Goalie Kari Lehtonen proved why he is the Stars’ other crucial cog, making 25 saves to earn his 25th win of the season. Colin Wilson had a nice effort in a losing cause, scoring a goal and and assist for struggling Nashville.
The Stars leapfrogged the Calgary Flames in the West, moving into a virtual three-way tie with the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild for fifth place in the conference with 72 points. The loss hurts the Predators dearly, as they’re now tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for ninth with 70 points.
Dallas won’t play another game before the trade deadline expires on Monday, but at least they showed they might have the moxie to make it to the playoffs. We’ll wait and see if that statement was profound enough to keep Richards, even if it’s obviously a lot more complicated than that.
It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.
But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”
Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.
Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.
Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.
In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.
After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.
Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.
Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.
Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.
While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.
Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.
Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.
Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.
In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.
Some of the more choice quotes:
“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”
“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon Draisaitl–Taylor Hall line] that provides that.”
It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.
They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.
Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.
“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”
The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.
After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.
You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:
“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.
“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”
There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.
His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.
Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.
Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.