New York Islanders v Minnesota Wild

Renovation Watch: Reality checks

Every now and then, PHT will glance at the teams who changed the most during the 2011 off-season in Renovation Watch.

With 2012 rapidly approaching, let’s take another look at how the NHL’s most radically changed teams have fared since the last edition on Dec. 17.

Minnesota Wild

Record last time: 20-8-4 for 44 points
Current record: 20-12-6 for 46 points

Last time we checked, the Wild were on top of the NHL with those 44 points. There were signs of trouble, though, as Mikko Koivu just got injured. They’re 0-4-2 since the last update and have lost eight games in a row overall. Now they’re in second place in the Northwest Division, although they only trail the Vancouver Canucks by two points.

Philadelphia Flyers

Record last time: 20-7-3 for 43 points
Current record: 21-10-4 for 46 points

Philly has stumbled a bit too, going 1-3-1 in the five games since we last took a look at their situation. Claude Giroux is already back in action, but perhaps they’re starting to miss Chris Pronger. Either way, they’re now in second place in the Atlantic behind the surging New York Rangers.

Florida Panthers

Record last time: 17-9-6 for 40 points
Current record: 19-11-7 for 45 points

Some believe that the Panthers are starting to run out of steam a bit. That might be the case, as they’ve gone 2-2-1 in their last five games. Still, they’re fighting through a tough schedule and remain atop the Southeast Division at the moment. The important thing is that they’re still in a good position to break their playoff slump.

Buffalo Sabres

Record last time: 16-12-3 for 35 points
Current record: 17-16-3 for 37 points

Things just keep getting worse in Buffalo, it seems. They’ve gone 1-4-0 in their last five games and haven’t won consecutive contests since Milan Lucic clobbered Ryan Miller in November. Buffalo currently ranks fourth in the Northeast Division and 11th in the East, so they have a long way to go.

Columbus collapses, then crawls

Record last time: 9-18-4 for 22 points
Current record: 9-22-5 for 23 points

Things were going better for the Blue Jackets – relatively speaking – last time we checked in. Since then they’ve gone 0-4-1 to affirm the fact that they are the worst team in the league. It doesn’t help that Curtis Sanford is banged up, but it only seemed like a matter of time before he wouldn’t be able to save the team.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.