Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Saku Koivu

How long before Anaheim’s power play becomes lethal again?

Randy Youngman of the Orange County Register notes that, while it’s still early in the season, Anaheim can’t be happy with its power play.

“The Ducks’ power play, which has ranked among the league’s best in the past few seasons, has produced three goals in 25 chances (12 percent) with a manpower advantage,” Youngman writes. “That’s not acceptable for a team whose first power-play unit features the firepower of Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Lubomir Visnovsky.”

It’s a good point. Anaheim ranks 24th with the man advantage after finishing third, fifth and fifth over the last three years. And while things appear to be improving — the Ducks have scored on the PP in three straight games — there’s still a problem with wasted opportunities.

Having read that, you’re probably thinking “it’s only six games in…relax.” Which is fair, but not our fault. We’re very stressed people. Blogging is tough.

But there might actually be the slightest cause for concern. In the Youngman piece is another interesting point — Ducks coach Randy Carlyle thinks it could take 100 points to make the playoffs in the West this year. Chicago snuck in with 97 last season and the sixth place team, Phoenix, had 99. As such, teams are more and more concerned about slow starts (here’s looking at you, Columbus) as points lost in October are costlier than ever.

“Obviously for us, we lost our last game last year, and that’s why we didn’t make the playoffs,” Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas told Youngman after Dallas snapped the Ducks’ four-game winning streak on Friday. “So every point that we can get is huge. … It’s a very tough division; there’s a lot of parity.”

Robidas’ right — the Pacific division is a minefield. Dallas and Los Angeles are the top two teams in the Western Conference while San Jose’s won two straight after getting off to a slow start. Phoenix is in the basement, but has been a playoff team in consecutive seasons.

Speaking of the Coyotes, they’ll face Anaheim tonight in Sunday’s lone NHL game. It’ll be interesting to see how Phoenix handles the Anaheim PP as the ‘Yotes have the league’s 20th-ranked road penalty kill (81.2 percent).

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP
1 Comment

It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
AP
2 Comments

Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
AP
6 Comments

Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP
3 Comments

For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.