While the Boston Bruins are clearly still in the driver’s seat for the Northeast Division title, the Montreal Canadiens could take a slim lead if things work out for them tonight. Let’s take a look at their scenarios today.
1. Boston Bruins (39-22-10 for 88 pts; 71 Games Played)
Tuesday game: Home vs. the New Jersey Devils.
2. Montreal Canadiens (40-26-7 for 87 pts; 73 GP)
Tuesday game: Home vs. the Buffalo Sabres.
As you can see, both the Bruins and Canadiens host teams who need the points more than they do. Boston faces the desperate Devils while the Habs take on the streaking Sabres.
If Montreal wins and Boston loses during regulation, the Canadiens would briefly gain a lead in the division. As you can see, they have the win advantage (40 to 39) while the Bruins boast the priceless distinction of holding two more games in hand.
The big picture outlook:
While the Bruins’ lead is obviously a big part of why they should be the odds-on favorite to win the Northeast, their remaining schedule is the other major reason. They play six of their next seven games at home and eight of their last 11 in Boston overall. One of those home games is their final match with Montreal on Thursday, by the way.
The Habs, meanwhile, play four home and five away games in their final nine contests. That’s not a brutal last few games, but they definitely don’t have the same golden opportunity that the Bruins stare at right now.
So overall, the smart money is on Boston, but you really never know. It should be a fun race to watch.
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