Riding the Zamboni – Friday, March 4

New Jersey 2, Pittsburgh 1 (OT)

The Devils improved their record to 19-2-2 in their last 23 games as they continue to cling to their slim playoff hopes. Ilya Kovalchuk with yet another game-winning goal; for those keeping track at home, that’s 6 GWGs in the Devils last 12 games. In addition to Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac was able to shine bright with a goal and a fight. New Jersey followed the same script they’ve been using for two months—great defense, good goaltending, and timely goal scoring.

NY Rangers 4, Ottawa 1

A trip to Kanata, ON was just what the Rangers needed to cure their 3-game losing streak. The Blueshirts used a two goal in 12 seconds explosion to blow the game wide open against the last place Senators. In fact, they jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the Sens broke up the shutout effort—but the result was never really in doubt. Henrik Lundqvist will just have to settle for 28 out of 29 saves.

Craig Anderson was less than spectacular in what turned out to be his worst game as a Senator. Anderson had a 1.16 goals against average in 6 games with his new team going into the game, but never looked like that goaltender as he was shaky throughout. Hey, at least Sergei Gonchar scored!

Chicago 5, Carolina 2

All of the signs were there for the Hurricanes. They were coming off an emotional overtime victory. They were playing the second game of a back-to-back. They were using a back-up goaltender that hadn’t started in 25 games. Would they be able to overcome all of that and beat the defending Stanley Cup champs? Absolutely not.
Whenever a team gives up 3 goals in four and half minutes, it’s going to tough to climb back into the game. The three goals by the Hawks pushed a 2-1 lead to an insurmountable 5-1 lead. They got balanced scoring that looked a lot like the team that lifted the Cup last season. Not a bad way to start the first of five straight games against the Eastern Conference.

Calgary 4, Columbus 3

Not many games feature two penalty shots by the same team—and even rarer to see a team fail on both opportunities. It was the first time in 25 years that a team missed two penalty shots in the same game. They probably should have just stopped there and realized it wasn’t going to be their night. They are now 0-for-4 on penalty shots in their last 5 games. Not surprisingly, they’re also riding a 4 game losing streak during the most important time of the season.

The folks up in Calgary summed up the win like this: Kipper > Mason; Calgary special teams > Columbus special teams. It’s hard to argue when Kiprusoff faces 40 shots, the power play scored twice on a 4-minute power play, and the penalty kill survived 3 shorthanded situations. All of that added up to a win that moved the Flames up to the 5th spot in the West. Of course, things change every few hours in the West—so don’t pay too much attention.

Anaheim 4, Dallas 3 (OT)

Lubomir Visnovsky scored his first hat trick in Ducks history, including a power play goal with 3.8 seconds left in overtime, to give Anaheim an important two points. The win helped the Ducks inch closer and tied them with both the Predators and Stars with 75 points. They’ve picked a perfect time for a 3-game winning streak during a 7-game homestand against six Western Conference opponents.

Even though the Stars earned a point in the OT loss, they’ll be disappointed that they blew a 3-1 lead in the 3rd period and let the Ducks get two points. Kari Lehtonen was great in the 1st period and played well, but it didn’t matter as the Ducks scored on two power plays and a beautiful passing play in the last 25 minutes. No rest for the weary though—they turn around and play against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. Good luck with that.

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    Malkin on ‘workaholic’ Crosby, Penguins’ chances for three Cups in a row

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    Evgeni Malkin shared some interesting observations with Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko this weekend, including that he believes that the Pittsburgh Penguins “have all the tools” to win a third Stanley Cup in a row.

    Quite reasonably, Malkin notes that the team kept its core intact.

    Of course, Malkin and Sidney Crosby are still the catalysts for the Penguins, so it’s always fun to come across the latest observations from the Russian star.

    Good stuff.

    It’s not surprising to see Malkin praise Crosby and pump up the Penguins’ chances. Last year, he showed confidence in Pittsburgh’s repeat chances and professed an interest in being on the same team with Crosby for the next “10 years.”

    This summer’s been a great one for Geno, with plenty of team honors mixing with some great individual feats. For example:

    Habs’ Byron got to skate(board) with Tony Hawk

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    Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron is so speedy on the ice, his skating can sometimes be intimidating, particularly when he’s on the penalty kill.

    Every now and then, we’ll see, say, a floppy-haired snowboarder also show some serious skateboarding acumen, and skateboarding seems to blend well with surfing to boot. So what about ice skating and skateboarding?

    Well, Byron apparently got to meet Tony Hawk – along with his kids – and at least made a solid impression, as the Canadiens website notes.

    “Paul can hold his own. I bet he’d do better on my board,” Hawk said. “It wouldn’t be so wobbly.”

    The only bummer is that it doesn’t seem like footage of Byron skateboarding is available. There is some cute footage of Hawk with Byron’s kids, though:

    Little B's turn💙

    A post shared by Sarah Byron (@sarahannbyron) on

    There’s also Hawk skateboarding in a Canadiens sweater. Fun stuff.

    (H/T to Sportsnet.)

    Taylor Hall’s remarkable run of bad luck

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    This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

    Taylor Hall deserves credit for that great “lottery ball specialist” tweet when the New Jersey Devils landed the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, but you could picture the star winger making such a joke while gritting his teeth.

    You see, as much as Hall seems to be a luck rabbit’s foot for a team when it comes to landing the top pick of a draft – just consider his Edmonton Oilers days on top of this last bit – but that good fortune hasn’t always come from an individual standpoint.

    In hopes that we may some day see Hall in, say, a playoff game, let’s recount some of his unluckiest moments. Keep in mind that he’s still just 25.

    Injuries

    He became the first pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, which means he’ll be compared to Tyler Seguin (though that discussion mercifully doesn’t come up that often).

    Hall’s rookie season was limited to 65 regular-season games thanks to the ill-advised decision to fight Derek Dorsett. His first NHL bout ended his 2010-11 campaign; Hall received criticism for the choice, which sometimes overshadowed debuting with 22 goals.

    It was reckless to fight, especially with someone like Dorsett, but we’ve seen plenty of players get through skirmishes without anything major happening. Jarome Iginla endeared himself to hockey fans, in some ways, by doing just that … but Hall wasn’t so lucky.

    Even if you chalk that first bit up to poor decisions, Hall’s injury luck has often been poor. He was limited to 61 games in his sophomore season, 53 in 2014-15 and missed significant pieces of 2013-14 and last season, too.

    Some of the injuries were just downright-freakish.

    Click here if you want to remember the time he caught a skate in the head during warm-ups, which left him with a disgusting “Frankenstein” wound and … it’s just gross. If you haven’t seen it, you’re lucky.

    While his speedy, courageous style might leave him susceptible to issues, it seems like Hall catches an unusually high number of bad breaks.

    Terrible team to bad team

    Taylor Hall has been a productive player, keeping his head up even as he’s played for some miserably bad teams.

    The Oilers have been pretty clueless for virtually the entirety of Hall’s career; this National Post article provides a handy rundown of their mishaps in rarely finding decent defensemen.

    Those struggles likely inspired the team to trade Hall for Adam Larsson, a steady Swedish blueliner.

    It says a lot that Oilers fans voted massively in favor of the Oilers winning that trade in at least one poll, as most hockey people agree that the Devils ended up with the upper hand.

    Team success can skew the views of certain players, something Hall knows too well as a frequent scapegoat in Edmonton. If you want to roll your eyes, peruse some of the “not captain material”-type takes that Hall likely became all-too-familiar with.

    He didn’t even get to truly benefit from Connor McDavid‘s presence, as Hall’s bad injury luck seemed to transition to McDavid for a brief spell; as you recall, McDavid’s season was greatly limited by an lucky fall that came from the same sort of driving style you’d expect to see from Hall.

    Who could blame Hall for being jealous of the Oilers’ success now that he’s gone?

    New Jersey is making some nice strides toward being a more competitive team, and Hall’s a big part of that sunnier outlook. It has to sting to take all those steps back to the painfully familiar rebuilding stages after suffering through all of those with the Oilers.

    ***

    Look, Hall is nicely compensated for his play. He also was the top pick of a draft, so it’s not like he’s totally anonymous.

    Still, it’s difficult not to root for the guy to soak in the accolades that come with greater team success, as Hall has been a fantastic power forward in some not-so-fantastic situations.

    In other words, here’s hoping a little more luck goes his way … on the ice rather than in the carousel.

    Poll: Nico Hischier vs. Nolan Patrick

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    This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

    To some extent, the New Jersey Devils probably don’t care that much if Nolan Patrick ends up being slightly more effective, overall, than Nico Hischier.

    As Taylor Hall can attest, the Devils lucked into the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, so GM Ray Shero was probably delighted that he would be able to pick between the two prospects. Rather than choosing Patrick or finding a trade, he made Hischier the first Swiss-born number one pick in NHL history.

    Sports are about competition and comparisons, so it should be fun to measure the two forwards’ accomplishments and development as time goes along.

    We might as well take hockey fans’ temperature now, though. Before we do, a quick “tale of the tape” – and an apology to the other prospects in the 2017 NHL Draft. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be keeping this poll to Hischier vs. Patrick. Feel free to make a case for Miro Heiskanen (pictured, chosen third by Dallas) or any number of other candidates in the comments, though.

    Hischier (draft profile): Scored 86 points in 57 games for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads in 2016-17. Broadly speaking, Hischier seems to rate as the most creative player and has already impressed the Devils with his skating ability.

    Apparently his favorite movie is “Happy Gilmore.”

    Patrick (draft profile): The Winnipeg native was on the radar a bit longer than Hischier, in part because he managed 102 points in 71 games in the WHL in 2015-16. Last season hurt his stock quite a bit; while he was able to score well over a point-per-game (46 in 33), injuries limited him in 2016-17. Those issues might have limited more than people even realized, as it turns out he needed two hernia surgeries instead of one.

    Generally speaking, Patrick is praised for his two-way play, which could help him be a quick fit for Philly. Both forwards are listed as centers.

    Oh yeah, and Reid Duke gave him the nickname “Doctor Pat.”

    ***

    OK, so with all of that information, let’s get after it: did the Devils make the right call or should they have selected Patrick at No. 1 instead?