Could we consider this “hump day” to be something of a collective exhale around the league? Maybe to a point, as the trade deadline expired on Monday and then 10 mostly important games made for a busy start to this week. Of course, today’s five games aren’t exactly pushovers, either.
Let’s take a glance around the rink, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).
Tampa Bay @ New Jersey
This is the Eastern Conference’s biggest game of the day, at least in that both teams have plenty to play for. The Lightning need to bolster their lead (currently three points) in the Southeast Division while the Devils must keep their distant playoff hopes alive. It should be a tightly matched game.
Pittsburgh @ Toronto
The Penguins’ last game came on Saturday, when they lost to the Maple Leafs in Toronto in a surprisingly high-scoring 6-5 shootout. Meanwhile, Brian Burke’s bunch needs a win badly, as the Sabres and Hurricanes keep pulling away.
Minnesota @ NY Islanders
Who’s the biggest winners of the Craig Anderson trade? The Senators are first if they retain the underrated goalie, but the Islanders might be second if the team could slip back behind Ottawa for a better lottery pick opportunity. Minnesota is coming off a tough loss to the Blackhawks, as they remain two points out of a tie for a playoff spot.
Calgary @ Chicago
While Lightning-Devils is the biggest contest in the East, the Flames-Blackhawks game is the most important collective game for the West. Calgary is in fifth with 75 points, but they hold two less games than most of the bubble teams who they lead ever so slightly. Teams like Chicago, who sits in a tie for sixth place with 74. The Hawks have been hot lately, but so have the Flames, so this should be an intriguing test for both squads.
Detroit @ Anaheim
The Red Wings continue their Pacific Division road trip, having flattened the Kings on Monday. The Ducks need this one more than the Wings, as they need to make up some ground at 71 points. We’ll see if Detroit can win another away game, as they’re currently on a six-game winning streak.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
–The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)
–Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)
–When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)
–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)
–A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)
–Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)
—Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)
The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.
San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.
The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.
Here’s the goal:
Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.
Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.
Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.
Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.
The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.
Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.
The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.
It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.
After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.
In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.
You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.
It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:
Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:
You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.
After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.
“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.
“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”
After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.
“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”
And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.
—Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta