Blue Jackets

The Big Question: Which team is the biggest disappointment?

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The Big Question will be a weekly feature on PHT where we ask a question, provide some background and ask you, the reader, to weigh in with your opinions.

Today’s question: Which NHL team is the biggest disappointment at this point in the season?

Three candidates to get things started:

Buffalo Sabres (16-15-3, 11th in the Eastern Conference) – Committed a ton of owner Terry Pegula’s money over the summer, acquiring Robyn Regehr from Calgary and adding free agents like Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino. So far the investment hasn’t paid off. Besides Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, it’s hard to find a Sabre that’s played particularly well. A lack of team toughness and inconsistent goaltending from Ryan Miller are two subjects that have been much talked about.

Washington Capitals (17-14-2, 10th in the East) – Started out with seven straight victories, went in the tank, saw their coach get fired, and now just seem to be treading water. Like the Sabres, the Caps made a number of moves in the offseason, adding gritty forwards Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik, and goalie Tomas Vokoun. Of course, much of the payroll remains tied up in Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin, two ultra-talented forwards that aren’t producing like they should. Making matter worse, the team’s top defenseman, Mike Green, has missed most of the season with injuries.

Columbus Blue Jackets (9-21-4, last place in the NHL) – Another team that jacked up payroll over the summer, the Jackets traded for sniper Jeff Carter and signed offensive defenseman James Wisniewski. The one area GM Scott Howson didn’t address was goaltending, deciding to roll the dice with Steve Mason. Unfortunately for Howson, the gamble was a poor one. It took nine games for Columbus to get its first win, and at that point the team’s confidence was already crushed. No group has suffered more heartbreaking losses than the Jackets in 2011-12. Their latest debacle came Thursday when they blew a 4-1 lead in Nashville, losing 6-5 on a Predators goal with nine seconds left in regulation.

Other “most disappointing team” candidates include Los Angeles, Anaheim, Tampa Bay and Montreal.

I’d have to go with the Blue Jackets, if only because there was so much optimism before the season started. Now their playoff hopes are all but over, and it’s not even January. That’s sad.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.