When we tell you that tonight’s game between Dallas and St. Louis from the Scottrade Center (7:30 p.m. ET) is a battle between teams looking to climb to the top of the Western Conference, you’re probably checking your calendar to see what year it is.
Not helping matters there is that Ken Hitchcock is behind the bench for one of the teams, only this time it’s for the resurgent St. Louis Blues. With a 14-3-4 record since taking over, there’s no reason to think that Hitchcock won’t wind up a Jack Adams Award finalist at season’s end.
You could argue about who the guy is that’s benefited the most from Hitchcock’s arrival. Goalie Brian Elliott has had a Vezina-worthy season for the Blues while T.J. Oshie has taken his game to a new level, leading the team in scoring along with Alex Steen. (Update 11:53 a.m.: It’s fitting then that Jaroslav Halak gets the start tonight just to spite our story-building. Thanks, Hitch.)
Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars aren’t doing so badly themselves. We’ve gotten a healthy dose of them lately on Versus and by now we know all about how well Glen Gulutzan has done as their coach. We’ve also gotten to see rookie sensation Richard Bachman carry them in goal since Kari Lehtonen went down with a groin injury. They’ll need him to be sharp tonight, giving up even one goal to the Blues could prove to be enough to win.
It’ll be up to Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson to do their part and make sure the Stars don’t get blanked by the defensively tougher Blues. If nothing else, Hitchcock’s arrival to St. Louis has helped them stop being pushed around. Steve Ott and company will look to make things really uncomfortable tonight.
Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins.
It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.
Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).
There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.
Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.
The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.
The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)
For more on the three finalists, click here.
It’s a feel-good story, especially if you can look beyond questions of officiating.
Clarke MacArthur could have very well never played another NHL game considering his lengthy battles with concussion symptoms. Instead, he drew a penalty on the Boston Bruins in overtime of Game 6 and then managed to score the series-clinching goal.
Now, this isn’t to say that MacArthur didn’t rightfully draw a penalty; it most clearly was. And, in the bigger picture, it’s one of those stories that almost makes you wonder if real-life sports actually do follow Hollywood scripts.
People just wonder about some other decisions during that overtime, in particular, making it frustrating for some Bruins fans to see the season end in such a way.
Whether they like it or not, that is the case, though.
The Senators took Game 6 by a score of 3-2 (OT), winning their series 4-2. They can breathe a sigh of relief in avoiding a Game 7, an especially valuable bonus since Erik Karlsson had been pushed hard lately, logging more than 40 minutes in a recent game.
Ottawa avoids a do-or-die contest. Instead, they’ll face the New York Rangers in the next round while the Bruins enter the summer following an up-and-down campaign.
Every game in this Senators – Bruins series has been decided by one goal, so why not send Game 6 to overtime?
Oh, and speaking of overtime, this contest going beyond regulation makes it 17 OT games, tying an NHL record for the most in a single round.
Ottawa appeared to take a “lazy change” with a 2-1 lead, and Patrice Bergeron made the Senators pay, putting in a rebound to collect the goal that eventually sent this contest to overtime.