If you looked at the standings this morning and caught a glimpse of who was leading the Northeast and Northwest Divisions, you might be caught off guard. There you’d see tonight’s combatants on Versus in the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Colorado Avalanche (7 p.m. ET). All right, sure, it’s early in the year and things get wacky – that’s fine but there’s a lot to like in what both teams are doing right off the bat.
The Leafs are seeing Phil Kessel take control as an offensive dynamo and making people think that he might not get picked last at the All-Star Game if he keeps up his torrid play (eight points in three games including five goals). We’re sure the jokes about Leafs fans planning the parade have been beaten into the ground already, but this time around their hot start doesn’t have the players thinking too big.
James Reimer’s play in goal also has the Leafs faithful thinking positively as he’s picked up where he left off last season when he took the starting job from Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Curiously enough, Giguere will be in goal for Colorado tonight hoping to cool off the Leafs. Money on the board, anyone? Giguere won’t be the only guy with money on the board as Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles gets his first crack at his old team as well.
If you want to keep an eye out on anyone on Colorado, 18 year-old rookie Gabriel Landeskog is about as good as it gets. Landeskog has been playing on the third line and looking like a first liner while doing it. Getting the second overall pick in the draft usually means good things. Having a former third overall pick in Matt Duchene (2009) and former first overall pick in Erik Johnson (2006) can make it easier to get turned around too.
Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.
His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.
From the Detroit Free Press:
“He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”
Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.
At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.
He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.
The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.
Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.
But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.
“I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.
“I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”
The San Jose Sharks won a back-and-forth Game 5 to take back the lead in a back-and-forth Western Conference Final, moving one victory away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.
After scoring the tying goal late in the second period, Joe Pavelski notched his 12th of the playoffs to give San Jose the lead for good just 16 seconds into the third period.
The Sharks earned a 6-3 victory on the road, in a bounce-back effort from Saturday.
Twice, the Blues grabbed the lead. Troy Brouwer gave them the advantage in the first period, showing off his baseball skills by batting the puck into the net on a rebound. Robby Fabbri gave them another lead in the second period, making Roman Polak pay for snapping on Dmitrij Jaskin along the boards.
But the Blues couldn’t hold on. The Sharks scored twice on three power play opportunities and can now clinch the Western Conference on home ice in Wednesday’s Game 6.
As for the Blues, will Ken Hitchcock change up his starting goaltender again? It’s certainly an aspect of this series that will once again be up for debate leading up to Wednesday’s game.
After Brian Elliott had backstopped the Blues through the first two rounds and started the first three games of this series, Hitchcock decided to start Jake Allen in Game 4.
Allen recorded the win Saturday, and was called upon again in Game 5 as expected, but gave up four goals on 25 shots Monday.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak took serious issue with St. Louis Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin during the second period, as the two eventually threw off the gloves off in a fight in the corner.
In the process, Polak let his emotions get the better of him — he snapped — by also taking a roughing minor to give the Blues a power play.
The Blues made him — and the Sharks — pay on a blast from Robby Fabbri, who was a game-time decision for Monday’s contest.
The Sharks tied the game at 3-3 before the end of the second period on Joe Pavelski‘s 11th of the playoffs. Pavelski struck again in the third period, giving San Jose the 4-3 lead.