Logan Couture

Riding the Zamboni – March 26; Predators, Sharks, and Flames keep winning

San Jose 4 – Phoenix 1

In a battle between the top two teams in the Pacific, San Jose showed why they’re on top. Logan Couture scored two goals and added an assist while Antti Niemi stopped 26 shots to get the win. Ryan Clowe had the Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, two assists, and a fight and Joe Pavelski also added a goal. The win evens the Sharks with Detroit for points in the West while Detroit came out on top against Toronto and holds the temporary tiebreaker on San Jose. For Phoenix it’s a lost opportunity to get closer with San Jose in the Pacific. They’ll have two more games against the Sharks this year, however.

Nashville 4 – Dallas 2

Dallas continues to fail to keep up with the playoff teams in the West as the Predators continue to roll onward and upward in the conference. David Legwand and Mike Fisher each scored two goals while Pekka Rinne stopped 28 shots to get the win. Nashville was able to keep pace with L.A. in the West and draw to within one point of Phoenix for fourth place in the conference. The Western Conference is fun like this eh? Dallas is now two points behind Chicago for eighth place in the West. While each loss seems devastating it can all be turned around in a moments notice. Don’t get too emo yet Dallas fans. Meanwhile, Nashville is sitting quite well for the time being especially with L.A. being in huge trouble with Anze Kopitar out for the next six weeks with a broken ankle.

Calgary 5 – Edmonton 4 (F/SO)

It’s barely a glimmer of hope, but it’s a glimmer nonetheless. Calgary headed into the third period against Edmonton down 3-1 and were down 4-1 early in the third thanks to Ryan Jones’ goal but somehow, someway came away winners in the shootout over rival Edmonton. Jarome Iginla, Curtis Glencross, and Steve Staios each scored third period goals to tie things up while Alex Tanguay won it in the shootout for the Flames. Giving up a loser point to Edmonton doesn’t mean much, but Calgary very desperately needed two points tonight to keep hope alive of making the playoffs. They’ll now sweat things out until Wednesday while others in the west play it out as the Flames get some time off. How those teams do will determine whether or not they’ve still got something to fight for.

Anaheim 2 – Chicago 1

Tampa Bay 4 – Carolina 2

Both teams needed a win badly in this one and Tampa Bay found a way to get revenge on the Hurricanes for last night’s defeat and deal Carolina a crushing blow for their playoff hopes. Simon Gagne had a pair of goals while Mike Smith (remember him?) stopped 33 shots to earn the win. Martin St. Louis scored his 27th goal of the year for Tampa Bay while Eric Staal scored his 31st of the year for Carolina. The Hurricanes are now five points behind Buffalo for eighth in the Eastern Conference and hurting more for it as Buffalo is playing well. Tampa Bay was able to fend off Montreal, the Rangers and Buffalo from closing in on them a bit more with the season dwindling down and hold a four point lead on Montreal and New York for fifth in the East.

Buffalo 2 – New Jersey 0

Say “good night” New Jersey. Ryan Miller’s fifth shutout of the year teamed up with goals from Nathan Gerbe and Thomas Vanek helped essentially put the Devils playoffs away for good. The win moved eighth place Buffalo ahead of New Jersey by 12 points with just seven games left to play. There’s a slight flicker of hope left for the Devils, but the ride is essentially over now. For Buffalo, the win helped strengthen their lead over Carolina for the final spot in the East while helping them stay in striking distance of both New York and Montreal. They might be in eighth for now, but they might end up higher than that before it’s all said and done.

Los Angeles 4 – Colorado 1

Washington 2 – Montreal 0

A key win for the Caps to keep pace with Philly for the top spot in the East and for Montreal, it marks the third straight game they’ve been shutout in, stretching their scoreless streak to 185:55. Not good. For Washington, it was Braden Holtby’s second shutout of the year while Marco Sturm scored his first goal as a Capital and  Alex Semin added another.

Philadelphia 4 – NY Islanders 1

James van Riemsdyk notched a hat trick and kept the Flyers rolling along in the East while dealing the Islanders yet another loss. Sergei Bobrovsky earned his 27th win of the year stopping 36 shots. The Flyers stay two points ahead of Washington for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with the win.

Detroit 4 – Toronto 2

St. Louis 6 – Minnesota 2

David Backes had a goal and an assist while six different Blues player scored to put away the hapless Wild as they close out their season without any fire at all. Ty Conklin stopped all of 13 shots to earn the win while Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom was hung out to dry stopping 41 shots in the loss. Alex Pietrangelo also had a goal and an assist for St. Louis while Antti Miettinen scored twice for the Wild.

NY Rangers 1 – Boston 0

Is Brayden Schenn’s star turn for real?

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For years, hockey nerds and/or experts were waiting for Brayden Schenn to make “the leap.” Eventually, people gave up on that, to the point that the 26-year-old’s trade to the St. Louis Blues seemed more like a curious swap than a tide-turner.

Now, sure, Schenn found a solid niche with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it was in more of a specialist role. Many believed that he was dependent upon a plum gig on the team’s lethal power play and would possibly slip in St. Louis.

Considering that 17 of his 25 goals came on the power play last season, it wasn’t that outrageous to wonder if he might be just “a guy” in St. Louis.

As it turns out, he’s bordering on the guy with the Blues, and it’s been a truly wondrous thing to behold. Wondrous and baffling, to be honest.

On Saturday, it seemed like his hot streak would come to an end … until overtime. In what was very much a solo effort, Schenn beguiled the Vancouver Canucks to secure a 4-3 OT win for his Blues.

Nice. Now, it’s true that Schenn wasn’t the overall star of the night for St. Louis, as that probably goes to Paul Stastny, who piled up three assists. Still, Schenn’s third game-winning goal of the season extended his point streak to seven games, and it’s not like he’s just eking out production, either:

Wow. Overall, Schenn now has 8 goals and 26 points in 21 games during his debut season with the Blues. He’s on a pace to absolutely smash the best work of his career, which came in previous seasons where he collected 55 and 59 points.

So, naturally, the question is: with about a quarter of the season over, how much of this is real and how much of this is a lucky little mirage?

Under normal circumstances, one would lean toward luck, especially with a guy who’s already 26. That doesn’t sound old, and it’s certainly in a scorer’s prime range, but it also strikes as a bit unexpected.

To some extent, this is luck. Frankly, it’s not realistic to expect Schenn to average 1.25 points per game; consider that Sidney Crosby‘s career mark is 1.30, and you realize it’s wise to dial back expectations for a guy whose previous career-high was .74.

That aside, there are some reasons to believe that Schenn could very well remain a bigger scorer with the Blues than he did with the Flyers. Allow me to break it down.

Firing away

Whenever you’re trying to do some hockey myth-busting, shooting percentage is a great place to start. If one-third of the pucks a guy sends toward the net beats a goalie, then ‘ol gravity might not be very kind.

According to NHL.com, Schenn has now connected on 14 percent of his shots on goal this season (eight of 57). That might be a little high, but his career average is 12.5.

Now, assists are a big part of his totals, and that’s where things should cool down. Schenn’s most common linemates have been Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, by quite a margin according to Natural Stat Trick.

So, you can deduce that some of Schenn’s numbers are inflated by those two, especially with Schwartz connecting on 22.2 percent of his SOG so far in 2017-18.

Nurtured

And that’s where things could slide quite a bit. If the Blues get some talent back from that wave of summer injuries, perhaps Mike Yeo might move Schenn away from one or both of Tarasenko and Schwartz?

The overall setup definitely gooses Schenn’s numbers, but it’s not just linemates.

He’s getting way more ice time, in general. Schenn is averaging just under 20 minutes per night after logging almost 18 per evening last season, via Hockey Reference. While Schenn enjoyed fairly cushy zone starts before, it’s even more pronounced now; the 26-year-old’s began a career-high 63 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone entering tonight’s game.

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So, long story short, you can expect some of this success to subside. The Blues, as a team, are on a roll that is likely cool down.

The more interesting queries revolve around how much the Blues and Schenn might slip from these hot streaks. It should be some, but will the slide be as extreme as some expect? It should be fun to find out.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Chance the Rapper plays clueless hockey reporter on ‘SNL’ (Video)

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Chance the Rapper hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night and in skit he played Lazlo Holmes, a New York Knicks reporter for Madison Square Garden network filling in for the usual New York Rangers reporter who’s on paternity leave.

Holmes quickly discovers that the temperature for hockey is a tad different than that of a hoops game, and that some of the names in the sport are pretty tough to say for an outsider, like Brady Skjei, for example.

It’s not quite Tim “Little Hockey” Meadows bemoaning the 1994 NHL lockout, but it was good for some chuckles.

Hopefully next time NBC has a coach mic’d up for a pre-game speech, he lets fly with “let’s do that hockey!”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

USHL goaltender scores goal, makes most of celebration (Video)

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It was a pretty eventful night Saturday in Sioux Falls as the USHL’s Stampede beat the Muskegon Lumberjacks 7-4 to sweep a weekend series.

After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Stampede scored five unanswered times en route to the win. Along the way, their first goal started the teddy bear tossing and the game’s final tally came off the stick of goaltender Mikhail Berdin. Not only did the kid make history by becoming the first goalie in franchise history to ever score, he followed it up with an impressive celebration.

Berdin, a 19-year-old sixth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2016, went with the bench fly-by, did some fist pumps, saluted the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center crowd and ended it with a Vince McMahon strut. That kid knows how to celebrate.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Monahan the man, torrid Tavares

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Choice PHT Cuts:

Canadiens, Maple Leafs did NOT play nice.

If you didn’t think Alex Ovechkin was tough …

*Rubs eyes* A winning streak … for the Coyotes?

Connor McDavid and Oilers are sad pandas.

Players of the Night

  • Anthony Duclair‘s hat trick is well-covered here, so check that out. Duclair gets one edge on Sean Monahan in that Duclair scored all of his team’s goals on Saturday, but Monahan combined his first career hat trick with an assist, helping his Flames win in OT much like Duclair did for Arizona.

Monahan slightly upstaged Johnny Gaudreau (one goal, two assists) who was pumped to play in front of a crowd in Philly.

  • Paul Stastny collected three assists to help the Blues beat the Canucks in overtime. Check PHT on Sunday morning for an in-depth look at Brayden Schenn, who kept his hot streak going with the OT-clincher.
  • John Tavares just continues to ride high with a goal and two assists. The real stars might be the Islanders as a whole, however, as they beat the Lightning and kept Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov pointless in a 5-3 Isles win.
  • Frederik Andersen has achieved back-to-back shutouts, helping the Leafs make the Habs extra-miserable. He made 33 saves, so you could argue Montreal deserved better than a 6-0 fate.

Heel of the Night?

While Connor McDavid absorbed an odd portion of the Oilers’ blame in defeat despite a three-point night, Antoine Roussel really played up his villain cred. He collected three points of his own and did this:

Highlight of the Night

Going off script a bit here, let’s go with Alex Ovechkin bouncing back from this:

And Corey Crawford being OK despite this bump from Evgeni Malkin.

Both players helped their teams seal up wins as a bonus. (Feel free to share your favorite highlights from tonight, even if they don’t involve near-injuries.)

Factoid of the Night

Congrats, Antti Niemi. Kind of.

Here’s a free joke regarding that situation.

Scores

Flames 5, Flyers 4 (OT)
Stars 6, Oilers 3
Coyotes 3, Senators 2 (OT)
Jets 5, Devils 2
Kings 4, Panthers 0
Hurricanes 3, Sabres 1
Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 0
Islanders 5, Lightning 3
Blackhawks 2, Penguins 1
Capitals 3, Wild 1
Predators 5, Avalanche 2
Blues 4, Canucks 3 (OT)
Bruins 3, Sharks 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.