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Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, March 10

Philadelphia 3, Toronto 2

For most of the year, the Flyers were at/near the top of the hockey world while the Maple Leafs were struggling to find their game. Over the last couple of weeks though, their roles have been reversed. The Leafs had been playing well with points in 14 of 16 games after the All-Star break while the Flyers suffered a season long 4-game losing streak. Well, hope you enjoyed it while it lasted because it looks like things are getting back to normal. The Flyers win was their 2nd in a row; the Leafs loss was their 3rd in a row.

The tone was set early when Mike Komisarek leveled Dan Carcillo with a boarding hit that put the Leafs on a 5-minute PK to start the game. A goal and multiple chances later and the tone had been set. The Flyers eventually jumped out to a 3-1 lead and the Leafs were unable to make the comeback.

Buffalo 4, Boston 3 (OT)

The Bruins are 31-0-3 when leading by two or more goals at any point in the game. But here’s an interesting tidbit: the Sabres represent the 3 losses in extra time. Including the win in Boston, the Sabres have ridden a 6-1-2 streak to the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference. Overtime game-winning goal scorer Brad Boyes is proving to be quite the deadline pickup for the Sabres. He now has 3 goals and 3 assists in only 6 games since coming over from St. Louis.

Zdeno Chara was able to put the Max Pacioretty incident behind him with a 2 assist effort; but the rest of the team had a more difficult time bouncing back from the emotional game in Montreal—not even Tim Thomas’ 41 saves were enough for the B’s. The OT loss means that the Bruins have now dropped 3 in a row.

Ottawa 2, Florida 1

It was only 2 seasons ago that Craig Anderson was making a name for himself as Tomas Vokoun’s capable back-up in Florida. For those people who forgot about him in South Florida, he served up quite a reminder as the Senators rode yet another strong performance to their 6th win in Anderson’s 9th start for the Sens. He now has a 1.44 goals against average in Ottawa with a fantastic .956 save percentage. If he keeps this up, he’s going to mess up the Sens draft pick.

St. Louis 4, Montreal 1

The game was supposed to be the big Jaroslav Halak vs. Carey Price matchup—but turned out to be a hangover game after their teammate Max Pacioretty was carried off the ice in Montreal on Tuesday. Price played well, but the rest of the team looked sluggish and never really gave their goaltender a chance to win.

Andy McDonald had a goal and two assists while the Blues continued to claw their way towards the 8th spot in the West. The win against the Habs was their 3rd straight; they’ll need to continue that kind of play if they want to have a chance to sneak into the top 8.

Nashville 4, Minnesota 0

In an important game for both teams, the Predators jumped all over the Wild at home by scoring 3 goals in the first 13 minutes of the game. The win vaults the Predators to the 9th place spot in the West, only 1 point behind the 8th place Kings. The effort from the Nashville players and crowd were exactly what you’d expect for a team battling for their playoff lives.

The Minnesota Wild’s performance was something different altogether. The Wild failed to show up and never really had any pushback once they fell behind. Worse yet, the game is the first of a back-to-back as they play in Dallas tomorrow and were kicking off a 4-game road trip with the game in Nashville.

Phoenix 3, Calgary 0

The Coyotes haven’t been playing their best hockey of late but they were able to beat the streaking Flames to win their 2nd game in their last 8. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 39 shots he saw to earn his 6th shutout of the season in front of the home crowd in Glendale. The huge win moves the Coyotes ahead of the Flames for the 4th spot in the ever-changing West.

The Flames played much better than the score reflects. All but two players had at least one shot on goal—but it was just one of those nights. If they play like this every night, they’ll win far more games than they’ll lose.

Vancouver 5, San Jose 4 (SO)

Easily the game of the night, the Canucks jumped out to a 2-0 lead only to see the Sharks repeatedly come back to tie the score. The Sharks and Canucks traded goals at the end of the 3rd period before the game went to overtime. Despite outshooting Vancouver 9-0 in OT, the Sharks were unable to get a puck past Cory Schneider—eventually losing in shootout. Even though Schneider gave up 4 goals, the 44 shots he kept out of the net made him Vancouver’s MVP for the night.

Ryane Clowe did his best to keep the Sharks in it as he flirted with a hat-trick, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. The good news for fans in San Jose is they went toe-to-toe with the best in the West and deserved to win. The bad news is that Alex Burrows didn’t let that happen in the shootout.

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    Why the Clutterbuck signing is a bad gamble for the Islanders

    UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 25: Jaroslav Halak #41 and Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the New York Islanders celebrate a 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 25, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Capitals 3-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The New York Islanders made a pretty significant move on Friday when they committed a long-term contract to energy guy Cal Clutterbuck, signing him to a five-year, $17.5 million contract extension.

    As far as depth players go, it was an eye-opening contract because it is a big investment in a player that is going to be 30 years old when the contract begins, has topped 30 points in a season only one time (seven years ago), and is similar to the long-term contract the team signed Casey Cizikas — a very similar player — to just a few months earlier.

    When the two contracts are added up, that means the Islanders are going to be committing nearly $7 million in cap space through the 2020-21 season to players that — at best — project to be third-liners, and most likely, fourth liners.

    That is a big chunk of change going to the bottom of your lineup.

    Not every contract is going to be perfectly fair for team and player. Sometimes teams are going to overpay. Sometimes a player is going to outperform his deal. It is a reality of professional sports.

    But where this becomes a big gamble for the Islanders is they, like all NHL teams, have a set amount of money they can spend to construct their roster under the league salary cap. Every dollar spent comes with an opportunity cost, because that is a dollar that can’t go to somebody else. In this case, the Islanders seem to be prioritizing their bottom-six over the top of their lineup. This is after all a team that already lost Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen over the summer, both of whom will cost less over the next five years than the Clutterbuck-Cizikas duo. By keeping the latter, you’re essentially choosing quantity over quality.

    There is also the fact that the Islanders are one year away from having to deal with the potential unrestricted free agency of John Tavares.

    His next contract is not going to be the $5.5 million steal (at least compared to other top players in the NHL) that it is now. When Tavares is eligible for free agency, the Islanders are already going to have more than $32 million committed to only eight players. And again, a significant chunk of that money ($7 million) will be going to two players that are skating in their bottom-six. That could be a problem.

    But that’s not even the biggest part of the gamble for the Islanders when it comes to the Clutterbuck deal.

    The biggest gamble is the fact that players like him do not tend to age well into their mid-30s (and Clutterbuck will be signed through his age 34 season).

    Using the Hockey-Reference database I went back over the past 20 years to find players that resembled Clutterbuck’s career to see how they did after turning 30.

    What I was looking for:

    • Players that played in at least 500 games between the ages of 20-29 (Clutterbuck has played 595)
    • Players that averaged less than 0.35 points per game during that stretch (Clutterbuck has averaged 0.31)
    • How many games, and seasons, they played after turning 30 and what their production looked like

    This is some of what I found.

    • There were 27 previous players during that time period whose careers compared to Clutterbuck
    • Only 10 of them played in more than 200 games (the equivalent of 2.5 seasons) after their 30th birthday
    • Only six of them played a single game in the NHL after their 33rd birthday
    • 11 of them were out of the NHL entirely before they turned 32
    • There are still five players, other than Clutterbuck, that are still active in the league: Chris Neil at age 37, Jay McClemment at 33, Brad Richardson at 31, Daniel Winnik at 31, and Jared Boll at 30. How far their their careers go remains to be seen.

    The defense for signing a player like Clutterbuck to a long-term deal like this is that they bring more to the team than just scoring. And that is fair. Not everybody is going to be a goal scorer or produce points. He seems like a great teammate. People like him. That is all fine.

    But forget production here, we are talking about a type of player that generally does not stick long in the NHL after they hit 30. Plus, when it comes to Clutterbuck, this is player that has spent nearly a decade in the NHL playing a grueling style of hockey that is almost certain to wear a player down physically.

    Every player in the league, no matter how good they are, starts to slide and lose a step once they get on the other side of 30 because father time is still, and will continue to be, undefeated. The players at the top of the league are still able to remain productive because they had so much skill and so much production at their peak. Even if they start to lose a step, or lose some of their production, they are still able to contribute something. But the guys at the bottom of your lineup that have spent years grinding their way through the league do not really have that step to lose. If they lose a step, they lose everything. If they lose even a little bit of their production, there is not much left.

    The reality of a salary cap league is you can not keep everybody you want.

    Every team has had to experience this at some point over the past decade. Teams like the Blackhawks and Penguins have decided to keep the players at the top of their lineup no matter the cost and sacrifice around the edges.

    The Islanders, by letting players like Okposo and Nielsen leave, and committing to their bottom-six, seem to be trying to build from the bottom up.

    It is a gamble. Let’s see how it works.

    Lindholm’s first goal of 2016-17 was a big one for Ducks

    ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks avoids Micheal Haley #38 of the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center on December 4, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) If the goals aren’t going to come in bunches, best make them timely.

    At least, that’s what worked for Hampus Lindholm on Friday night.

    Lindholm got his first goal of the season with 5:38 remaining, helping the Anaheim Ducks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 after blowing a two-goal lead.

    Nick Ritchie found Lindholm alone on the opposite circle and fired a sharp pass that Lindholm slapped in over goalie Martin Jones‘ left shoulder.

    “I came in on the left side and they just kind of lost him,” Ritchie said. “He was wide open and slapped it in there.”

    Goals by Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc brought San Jose back after Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette scored in the first period for Anaheim.

    Anaheim is 5-1-1 in its past seven games, including two wins over San Jose.

    The 22-year-old Lindholm held out this season before signing a six-year contract extension in late October. He didn’t play his first game until Nov. 9 and got his first goal in 15 contests.

    “I don’t think it was pretty tonight, but we got the win,” Lindholm said.

    It was the third time the teams had met this season, and all three games have been decided by one goal.

    “We battled back and I thought the game could have gone either way,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’re just finding our way to lose right now instead of win.”

    It was a big game for Anaheim goalie Jonathan Bernier. In his last start, he gave up eight goals to Calgary, but Friday, he had 22 saves and withstood a frantic final attack after San Jose pulled its goalie with 2 minutes left.

    “He played well the last time we were in San Jose and got us the win,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “Berny was looking for some kind of opportunity after the game in Calgary and I felt we owed him that.”

    Jones stopped 29 shots for the Sharks.

    San Jose tied it early in the second period when Labanc slipped a shot under Bernier’s left leg. It was the 20-year-old’s third goal of the season.

    “We had some good looks,” Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. “We have to start putting them in the net.”

    The Ducks nearly completed a dominant first period with a 2-0 lead, but Burns got his 12th goal of the season with 6 seconds left by slapping a shot past Bernier.

    Anaheim opened the scoring 4:44 in after Shea Theodore fired a shot from just beyond the midpoint of the two circles. Jones deflected the shot, but Rakell snagged the rebound and wrapped it around and behind Jones.

    Rakell, another late signing, has 11 goals in his 17 games since joining the Ducks.

    “He’s a really good weapon,” Lindholm said. “He knows where to put (the puck). It’s fun to watch. He’s really a skilled guy.”

    The Ducks went up 2-0 after Theodore came streaking down the right side and fired a perfect pass to Vermette, who snapped it past Jones for his fifth of the season.

    NOTES: The Ducks are 60-59-11 against the rival Sharks. … Anaheim’s Joseph Cramarossa fought San Jose’s Tommy Wingels about five minutes into the first period.

    UP NEXT

    Sharks: Host Carolina on Saturday.

    Ducks: Host Ottawa on Saturday.

    Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

    VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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    If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

    Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

    Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

    1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
    2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
    3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
    4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
    5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

    Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

    Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

    Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

    Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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    As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

    For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

    They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

    Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

    Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

    1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
    2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
    3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
    4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
    5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

    That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

    ***

    For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles: