Colorado Avalanche v Boston Bruins

Hey, look: the Avs are red-hot now

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To some extent, it makes perfect sense that the Colorado Avalanche have become one of the NHL’s streakiest teams in the last few years.

They hold the pulse-quickening blueprint of an up-an-down team as they boast an unusually aggressive scheme, unpredictable goaltending and a young but raw core of talent.

Still, the Avs have a way of sneaking up on you, so it might be a surprise that their 4-0 triumph against the Chicago Blackhawks was their fourth victory in a row and ninth “W” in 10 games. If the playoffs began right now, they’d grab the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

For those of you who haven’t been following those cardiac Colorado kids, I thought I’d examine that 10-game streak to figure out what elements are working so well.

Extra time excellence: Four of those 10 wins came in extra time, with three of those bonus points coming via shootout successes.

Great goaltending: At first, it seemed like Jean-Sebastien Giguere might steal the team’s starting job after he won four games in a row. Semyon Varlamov opened the door back up when Jiggy stumbled once, so now they’re both on the top of their games.

Limiting shots: That goaltending duo has enjoyed some better defense, especially in the last six games. The Avs have allowed less than 30 shots in five out of those six contests, which I’d say is a pretty good goal in the post-lockout era.

Excellent penalty killing: Colorado’s only allowed three power-play goals in that 10-game run and the PK has been perfect during their current four-game winning streak.

Consistent scoring: As you can see from the previous points, it’s been almost all about defense. That being said, they’ve scored at least two goals in all but one game – their only loss.

So can they keep this up?

I’d hate to rain on their parade, but it won’t be easy. The Avalanche will end this four-game road trip with what should be a tough visit to face the Blues in St. Louis. They’ll only have three home games in all of January. The toughest stretch comes from Jan. 12 to Jan. 22:

Jan. 12: at Nashville
Jan. 14: at Dallas
Jan. 16: at Phoenix
Jan. 18: vs. Florida
Jan 21. at Los Angeles
Jan. 22: at Anaheim

Still, the Avs are succeeding in surprising ways already. Few expected them to handle the Chicago by the tune of 4-0 tonight, for one thing.

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OK, so you’ve endured my skeptical schedule analysis, but what do you think about the Avalanche’s chances? Should they aim a solid playoff seed, merely settle for any spot at all or will they come crashing back down to earth? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”