NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday night, as the Detroit Red Wings host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.
Since dropping seven of eight games at the start of the month, the Flyers have won back-to-back games over the Hurricanes and Capitals. The good news for them, is that they’ll finish the week with a pair of contests against non-playoff teams like the Wings and Rangers.
Tonight’s clash against the Red Wings will be the first time that Petr Mrazek plays against his former team.
“It’s gonna be nice to be back in the town where I spent my first five or six years in the NHL, but now it’s the opposite [side],” Mrazek said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s gonna be fun.
“We are going there to get some good results, and we have to build from there.”
And the Flyers certainly need a good result. They’re currently sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but the Blue Jackets, who are in the first Wild Card spot, are tied with them for 85 points. The Devils, who own the second Wild Card spot, are just three points back of Philadelphia.
As for the Red Wings, this season got away from them in a hurry. They’re in a battle of their own, but it’s not for a playoff spot, it’s for lottery positioning.
“This isn’t supposed to be easy, this is the National Hockey League,” Jeff Blashill said, per Detroit News. “Sports aren’t supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be hard. That’s why it feels so good when you win. So we have to find a way to keep fighting here.
“Our guys have done an excellent job of staying with it. Our competitiveness has been great. We have to make sure we’re fighting through that frustration at the end of the game. We can’t have that.”
On Monday night, Carey Price made his return to the Canadiens lineup after he missed 13 games with a concussion. Price didn’t play in last night’s game against the Panthers, but the fact that he dressed as the backup means it’s just a matter of time before he ends up back between the pipes.
Under normal circumstances, this would be great news for the Habs, but most fans don’t want to see him suit up again this season. With nine games to go and the team way out of playoff contention, some don’t understand why Montreal would risk playing him in meaningless games.
It’s important to remember that Price has had his share on injuries over the last few seasons. Still, that won’t stop Claude Julien from using his franchise goaltender down the stretch.
“I don’t think that’s the right approach or the right example to set for players,” Julien said of shutting Price down for the season.
“He’s healthy, he wants to play. He’s not coming back at 90 percent, he’s 100 percent healthy right now. You can’t hold a player back, especially a player like Carey, and tell him you’ll miss the next 10 games. I don’t think that’s the right message to send.”
Shutting Price down for the rest of the season certainly makes sense in theory. His eight-year, $84 million extension kicks in at the start of next season and the Canadiens don’t have anything to gain by letting him play this year. On the flip side, it’s easy to understand why Price would want to play.
First, he’s a competitor. Most athletes would prefer to play if they’re fully healthy. They clearly don’t approach these situations the same way fans do. They’re professionals, they want to win and sitting on the sidelines as a precaution is unnatural to them.
Second, he may not want to go an entire offseason wondering how his head will respond to a live game. If he comes back, plays a couple of games, stays healthy and plays well, there will be nothing to wonder about over the summer months.
Third, like his team, he’s had a pretty bad year. He owns a 15-22-6 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .904 save percentage. Some of that is on the play of the players in front of him, but don’t get it twisted, he’s been mediocre, too.
So, we’ve gone through the reasons why he should play. Now, we’ll look at the obvious risk of allowing him to see game action.
Anytime any NHL player steps on the ice, there’s a risk that he could get injured. For Price, those concerns have to be magnified. The 30-year-old is just two years removed from a knee injury that cost him several months and he’s been sidelined on two different occasions this season (10 games for a lower-body injury, 13 games with a concussion).
If the Canadiens were in the chase for a playoff spot, there would be no argument here. Everyone would want him back as soon as possible. Unfortunately for Montreal, they’re 18 points behind New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East. So in other words, it ain’t happening.
There are legitimate points on both sides of the argument. It’s easy to see why some people aren’t interested in having him play out the season. The reasons for him to get back in action are also simple.
In the end, none of this will matter…unless he gets hurt.
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at email@example.com.
• Two Ontario minor hockey league teams paid tribute to goaltender Roy Pejcinovski who was murdered a few days ago. Both teams wore the letter “R” on their jerseys in the youngster’s honor. (Toronto Star)
• Larry Kwong, who was the first player of Asian descent to play in the NHL, passed away at the age of 94 on Monday. (CTV News)
• TSN.ca’s Travis Yost takes a deeper look at which teams have been truly unpredictable throughout this season. Believe it or not, three of the four teams at the top of the board in this category are in the playoffs. (TSN.ca)
• The NWHL final is set. The third championship in league history will feature the Metropolitan Riveters and the defending champs, the Buffalo Beauts. (NWHL.Zone)
• The Golden Knights’ play has dipped over the last couple of weeks. Some of that might have to do with injuries, but it’s also possible that they were so far ahead of everyone else that they lost their focus. (Sinbin.Vegas)
• The St. Louis Blues have never won a Stanley Cup title in their history. A lot of that has to do with them not getting good luck at the right times. Whether it’s players succeeding elsewhere, trades and draft picks going wrong, or even facing quality opponents all the time, the Blues haven’t really had many breaks. (St. Louis Game Time)
• The Montreal Canadiens aren’t going to make the playoffs, which has some people wondering if they should just opt to tank over the final few weeks of the season. (Montreal Gazette)
• Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis had nothing but good things to say about his former assistant coach, Phil Housley, who is now behind the Buffalo Sabres’ bench. “He was more of almost a friend than a coach. That goes a long way with the length of the season and every year, year in and year out.” (Buffalo Hockey Beat)
• Up top, check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild.
Players of the Night
Cam Atkinson and Thomas Vanek, Columbus Blue Jackets: The Columbus Blue Jackets are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now and extended their current winning streak to eight games in a row on Monday night with a thrilling come-from-behind win against the Boston Bruins, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to win 5-4 in overtime. It was Cam Atkinson that scored the winner in overtime to get them the win.
Meanwhile, Thomas Vanek had a big night for the Blue Jackets with a goal and an assist in the win.
Columbus is now just two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second spot in the Metropolitan Division and just four points back of the Washington Capitals for first place.
The Blue Jackets go for their ninth consecutive win on Tuesday night when they visit the New York Rangers.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: For the longest time it seemed like Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy was going to run away with the Vezina Trophy this season, but right now it is looking like it might be becoming Pekka Rinne’s to lose. He recorded his league-leading eighth shutout of the season on Monday night by stopping all 35 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres. He is now 40-9-4 on the season and has a .931 save percentage that is tops among all goalies that have appeared in at least 40 games.
He has been especially dominant since Jan. 1. Since the start of the new calendar year Rinne is 21-2-1 with a .939 save percentage that is also tops in the league. During that stretch only two goalies that have appeared in at least 20 games since then have a save percentage higher than .930.
Ryan Donato, Boston Bruins: His team ended up losing in overtime, but we have to give him some credit for scoring a goal in his NHL debut and adding two more assists. He also finished with six shots on goal, the second highest total in the game behind only the eight that his teammate, Brad Marchand, recorded. You can watch his first goal here.
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers: After dropping some recent games to teams out of playoff contention the Florida Panthers needed to come through on Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They did that with a 2-0 win that saw Roberto Luongo record his third shutout of the season by stopping all 28 shots he faced. It was also the 76th shutout of his career.
Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings: Jeff Carter continued his strong play since returning to the lineup with a pair of goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to help lift the Kings to a huge win over the Minnesota Wild. Read about it here.
Max Domi and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes: The Arizona Coyotes are playing much better over the past few weeks and playing spoiler. They picked up another win on Monday night with a 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames thanks to a pair of goals from teammates Max Domi and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson ended up getting the game-winning goal late in the third period. It was also the 100th goal of his career.
The Canadiens are officially eliminated, and the Flames are in trouble
Not that the Montreal Canadiens were going to make the playoffs at this point, but it became official on Monday night with their 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers that they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
It was also a brutal night for the Calgary Flames as they lost to the Arizona Coyotes (who continue their improved play late in the season) and continued their late season slide. They remain six points out of a wild card spot with three teams ahead of them. With only eight games remaining on their schedule, while every team ahead of them still has games in hand, it is looking like their playoff hopes are disappearing.
Highlight of the Night
Aaron Ekblad had a big night for the Florida Panthers, getting into a fight in the first period and then scoring this slick goal to give them a 1-0 lead.
That is Ekblad’s 15th goal of the season.
Factoid of the Night
More Pekka Rinne information! His 40th win of the season puts him into some pretty elite company among all-time goaltenders. Yes, he played in the shootout era and certainly benefitted from that but it is still an impressive number, even in the shootout era.
Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Boston Bruins 4
Nashville Predators 4, Buffalo Sabres 0
Florida Panthers 2, Montreal Canadiens 0
Los Angeles Kings 4, Minnesota Wild 3
Arizona Coyotes 5, Calgary Flames 2