Early on in the season, it seemed like some tough playoff moments might have broken Roberto Luongo’s psyche. The Vancouver Canucks didn’t seem so hot, either, beyond the clockwork reliability of the Sedin twins.
Much like their fellow 2011 Stanley Cup finalists in Boston, the Canucks have straightened things out to the point that they’re back alongside the league’s elites. Vancouver widened their Northwest Division lead over the Minnesota Wild by five points thanks to Luongo’s 3-0 shutout and rose to the No. 1 spot in the NHL’s standings in the process.
Naturally, the standings can be deceiving given imbalanced amounts of games played at this point. Here’s a quick-and-dirty look at the league’s top five teams based on points:
Vancouver: 25-13-3 for 53 points (41 games played)
Rangers: 24-9-4 for 52 points (37 GP)
Chicago: 24-11-4 for 52 points (39 GP)
Boston: 25-10-1 for 51 points (36 GP)
Detroit: 25-13-1 for 51 points (39 GP)
As you can see, the four teams “below” the Canucks have at least two games to vault over them. At this point in the season, it’s doubtful that these teams are doing much scoreboard watching, although the Blackhawks and Red Wings might be the exception since they’re in the same Central Division.
The big picture takeaway is still very positive for the Canucks, though. Luongo is playing well enough to (temporarily) silence his critics and support players are easing some of the scoring burden on the Sedins.
After those early hiccups, it seems likely that the Canucks are going to be fixtures once the playoffs roll around.
As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.
Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.
Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.
Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:
Things could get ugly in Game 3:
One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:
Also, lateness of the check:
The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.
The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.
Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:
That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)
Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.
Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:
Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.
Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.
PHT will make note if there are any swerves.
Ever since the NHL kept obstruction in check and thus placed a greater emphasis on speed and skill, we’ve seen some fascinating Calder Trophy debates. This 2015-16 season may present the toughest call in recent memory.
The league named the three finalists on Monday, and even that couldn’t have been easy. They are Edmonton Oilers wunderkind Connor McDavid, breakout Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and high-scoring Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin.
(The NHL made it official here.)
All three make for fantastic debates.
Do you go with McDavid, easily the youngest of the bunch, who produced gaudy per-game numbers but missed almost half of the season?
Perhaps you lean toward Gostisbehere, who also scored at an impressive clip per-game for a defenseman while playing a huge role in the Flyers’ surprising run to a playoff spot?
Or, do you go with Panarin, the guy who easily leads rookies in total points (77, 21 more than Jack Eichel‘s second-place finish) and was so effective that his bonuses will really put the Blackhawks in a bad way? Or do you penalize Panarin for being a little older and for the undeniable benefits he received from riding shotgun with Patrick Kane?
Then again, plenty will merely spend their time griping about “snubs,” as the likes of Jack Eichel and John Gibson were not in the final three despite outstanding work.
Yep, this should be fun … just be nice during your debates.
There’s only one game on the docket tonight, but it’s a marquee matchup.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals split their games in DC and now switch to Pittsburgh for Game 3. We’ve seen great work from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom and maybe especially Braden Holtby so far … not to mention a considerable cast of supporting characters.
Which team will take a 2-1 lead in this captivating series?
We’ll find out on NBCSN. You can stream the game live via the link below as well:
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE