Scott Gomez, Zdeno Chara

Northeast Division Watch (March 17)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northeast Division outlook (March 17 -March 24th)

1. Boston Bruins (39-21-10 for 88 pts; 70 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Away vs. Toronto (Saturday), home vs. New Jersey (Tuesday) and home vs. Montreal (Thursday).

Thoughts: Eight of the Bruins’ last 12 games are on the road, so their chances of winning the Northeast Division are pretty good. They’re going to face some desperate teams this week, including a big – maybe bloody? – game against the Canadiens.

2. Montreal Canadiens (39-25-7 for 85 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away vs. Rangers (Fri), @ Minnesota (Sun), home vs. Buffalo (Tues) and @ Boston (Thurs).

Thoughts: While Boston only has four road games left, the Canadiens only have four home games remaining. If Montreal manages to come back and win the Northeast, it would be one impressive feat.

3. Buffalo Sabres (34-28-8 for 76 pts; 70 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Atlanta (Sat), home vs. Nashville (Sun) and @ Montreal (Tues).

Thoughts: If the Sabres manage to make it to the playoffs – and there’s a good chance they will – they could be a dangerous team to face. That’s because they are remarkably better on the road (19-12-5) than they are at home (15-16-3).

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (31-31-10 for 72 pts; 72 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Boston (Sat), @ Minnesota (Tues) and @ Colorado (Thurs).

Thoughts: The Maple Leafs aren’t dead by any means, but for them to make the playoffs, they’ll need to play outstanding hockey (and get really lucky). If they don’t manage to get four out of a possible six points this coming week, it will be tough to imagine them making it.

And even then, it’s no guarantee.

5. Ottawa Senators (26-36-9 for 61 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Home vs. Tampa Bay (Sat), @ Carolina (Tues) and @ Rangers (Thurs).

Thoughts: The Senators might as well embrace their role as spoilers, because the next six games on their schedule provide ample party pooping opportunities. Consider it a win-win situation, as they’ll either be a thorn in the side of playoff teams if they win or they’ll improve their chances of getting a top draft pick if they lose.

Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

Ovi scores 30th as Caps beat Flyers for third straight victory

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Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.

Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.

The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.

It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).

But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.

Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:

Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.

Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.

The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.

 

Jets’ Stafford to have disciplinary hearing after high-sticking Holden

Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden (2) hits Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.

There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.

Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.

 

 

Video: Holtby robs Streit with massive splits save

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Braden Holtby continued his Vezina-worthy campaign on Super Bowl Sunday with an outrageous pad stop on Flyers d-man Mark Streit, midway through the Washington-Flyers game on NBC.

Pretty impressive effort from “Holt-beast,” who currently sits first in the NHL in wins, with 32.