I have a quick, informal poll for you. What’s more surprising: the fact that the Edmonton Oilers just beat the Chicago Blackhawks by a ridiculous score of 9-2 or that the Minnesota Wild are now slightly ahead* of the Blackhawks for the best record in the NHL?
Oilers burn Chicago
No doubt about it, both situations are stunning. Ray Emery was pulled from the game against the Oilers only to find himself back in after Corey Crawford also got shelled by Edmonton. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins compiled a ludicrous five assists while Taylor Hall avenged a questionable hit by Duncan Keith (stay tuned for video of that check from behind) by notching a hat trick. Overall, the Blackhawks were outscored 14-4 in their trip through Western Canada, with their other loss coming to the struggling Calgary Flames.
Minnesota’s stealth surge
Again, that’s bewildering stuff. But few would have predicted that the Wild would find themselves in first place overall more than a month into the season. Minnesota, which defeated St. Louis in a shootout, earned wins in nine of their last 11 games as Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have been trading off victories.
They’re doing it with that aforementioned goaltending, timely scoring (they’ve only scored five goals once and four goals in one other game during that 11-game stretch) and an outstanding penalty kill that stopped 39 of 43 chances.
Yeo deserves praise
Quite a few coaches have received praise for greatly exceeding expectations in 2011-12 already, so let’s give rookie bench boss Mike Yeo some credit. He’s making it work so far in his first season with the big club, even if those efforts are going largely unnoticed by the mainstream. If Minnesota keeps it up, it won’t be easy for the Wild to slip under the radar much longer.
Forgive the Blackhawks if they feel a little more worried about themselves instead, though.
* Both teams have 27 points but Minnesota is 12-5-3 while Chicago is 12-6-3, so they get the “tie-breaker” at the moment.
These are not the best of times for Florida.
Just weeks removed from the controversial firing of head coach Gerard Gallant — and having sputtered to a 1-1-2 record under new bench boss Tom Rowe — the Panthers got more bad news on Tuesday, as Rowe ruled out d-man Keith Yandle “for a while,” after Yandle suffered a lower-body injury in Boston on Monday night (per ESPN).
Yandle, the prized piece of an offseason blueline rebuild, has played a significant role for the Panthers this year.
He sits second on the team in ice time — trailing only Aaron Ekblad — and his offensive production has been vital. The 30-year-old sits second on the team in assists, with 11, and is the top point-getter among Florida’s defensemen.
By missing tonight’s game in Philly, Yandle also loses out on a personal milestone.
He had played the previous 577 games — the 10th-longest ironman streak in NHL history — and was within spitting distance of becoming one of just nine players to have appeared in 600 consecutive contests.
With Yandle out, Florida could bring Dylan McIlrath into the blueline mix. He’s only appeared in one game for the Panthers since being acquired from the Rangers — a 6-1 loss to Toronto back in mid-November.
And the Yandle injury isn’t the only one Florida’s currently dealing with. Jonathan Marchessault missed the B’s game with a lower-body ailment, and d-man Alex Petrovic is out after undergoing ankle surgery. The Panthers, of course, are also without star forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who hasn’t played at all this year due to a lacerated Achilles.
It hasn’t been the easiest year for Senators forward Curtis Lazar.
After sticking in the NHL for his first two pro seasons, Lazar began the 2016-17 campaign in the minors. That’s a pretty big step back for the former 17th overall pick in 2013.
The 21-year-old managed to earn a call up back in November, but there’s now some more adversity for him to face.
Lazar suffered a an upper-body injury in last night’s 8-5 loss to the Penguins and although we don’t know how long he’ll be out, we do know he’ll miss some time, as he’s out indefinitely.
He appeared to be injured after being on the receiving end of a hit by Pens defenseman Brian Dumoulin. It was a hit that Sens play-by-play announcer described as being “from behind”.
With Craig Anderson also leaving the team to head back to Ottawa, the Sens were forced to recall forward Phil Varone and goalie Andrew Hammond from the minors.
Ottawa has three games remaining on their four-game road trip. They’ll take on the Sharks on Wednesday, the Kings on Saturday and the Ducks on Sunday.
With Corey Crawford now on the shelf, the ‘Hawks will turn to Scott Darling as their starter. But new backup goalie Lars Johansson is a bit of an unknown. This is the 29-year-old’s first year in North America and he could get his first taste of NHL action. “If something were to happen (to Darling), absolutely I would be nervous, as excited for any new thing in my career,” Johansson said. (Chicago Tribune)
–Paul Maurice had some interesting comments about his former goalies Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft. Maurice said that those goalies didn’t give him a very good shot to win in the shootout. (Sportsnet)
–How has the goalie position changed over the years? The Hockey News sat down with current and former NHL goalies, as well as some goalie coaches. “If I still played the way I did back in the day, I wouldn’t be in the NHL anymore. You have to evolve with the time and the position and the new techniques that come out every year,” said Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo. (The Hockey News)
–The New York Post looks back at former Rangers captain Vic Hadfield’s famous smile at the Spectrum in 1974. Hadfield explained that he wasn’t actually happy at the time because his team was on the verge of being eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers. (NY Post)
–Tyler Murovich of the Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL) was suspended 12 games for this reckless hit on Anthony Calabrese of the Norfolk Admirals. (Yahoo)
–This youth hockey player had an emotional celebration after he scored during the intermission of the Caps game on Monday:
The Boston Bruins are expected to be without forward Matt Beleskey for the next six weeks because of a right knee injury.
That update came from the Bruins on Monday. Boston was victorious over the Florida Panthers in overtime, but Beleskey wasn’t in the lineup.
The Bruins have now won three in a row and four of their last five games.
Beleskey suffered the injury in a collision in the neutral zone with Taylor Fedun during Saturday’s game. He left the game and didn’t return, after his knee drove into the hip of Fedun as the Sabres defenseman pivoted.
In 24 games with the Bruins this season, Beleskey has two goals and five points.