St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews scores OT-winner to give Chicago a crucial victory

A night after taking the penalty that allowed Montreal to beat his team, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored a bombastic overtime game-winning goal to give his team a crucial two points. Toews and the Blackhawks came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the St. Louis Blues, an eliminated team that nonetheless would have loved nothing more than to hurt their division rivals’ playoff chances.

Instead, they received an empty charity point while bolstering Toews’ Hart Trophy argument. This win doesn’t clinch a playoff spot, but it does give them some space in front of the 10th-place Dallas Stars while eliminating the Calgary Flames from the playoff picture.

Chicago 4, St. Louis 3 (OT)

The 2-0 game was turned on its head when officials allowed a controversial Marian Hossa goal to stand. Hossa kicked the puck toward the net, but it was a tough call to say whether or not he touched the puck before it (seemingly?) crossed the red line. The Stars were able to survive against the Anaheim Ducks thanks to disallowed goals, so it would be interesting if they die by the video review too.

David Backes and T.J. Oshie (who also had an assist) started the scoring off for St. Louis, but that Hossa goal ignited Chicago. Tomas Kopecky and Nick Leddy (also with an assist in the game) ended up scoring in the second period as well.

The Blues wouldn’t just roll over, though, as Chris Stewart scored a highlight reel goal by powering through the Hawks’ defense to send the game to OT. Toews wouldn’t be denied on his breakaway goal, though.

The race between the Blackhawks and Stars isn’t over yet, although Chicago is now in seventh place with 95 points and two games left. Still, this win was a big one for the defending Stanley Cup champions and it shouldn’t be surprising that Toews ended up being the hero.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado