When the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild square off tonight in St. Paul (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) it’s a match-up that sees one team getting hot and rising in the West while the other is trying not to fall out of relevancy in the playoff hunt.
The Ducks come into tonight’s game winners of nine of their last 13 games going 9-2-2 in that stretch. With a hot streak like that and teams ahead of them stumbling, it’s got people in Southern California talking about the playoffs. After the miserable start to their season that saw them change coaches getting rid of Randy Carlyle in favor of Bruce Boudreau, it’s nothing short of a miracle that the Ducks can even talk about the playoffs.
Making all that talk possible is the stronger play of Jonas Hiller in goal and the steady incredible production from future Hall Of Fame winger Teemu Selanne. Hiller was lights out in January going 7-2-1 and giving up just 16 goals in 13 games. February is off to a bit of a rocky start, but the Ducks are still pulling down points and sit 10 points back of eighth place Phoenix.
Selanne meanwhile leads the team in points with 51. He along with the team’s leading goal scorer Corey Perry (26 goals) are holding things down offensively while Bobby Ryan is also scoring in bunches with 21 goals himself.
Those kinds of offensive numbers would be a welcome revelation for the low-scoring Wild. Minnesota is second to last in goals this season and while Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu are trying to do their part to keep the team afloat, Heatley’s 18 goals is best on the team.
With just five players in double figures in goals, the Wild have needed their goaltending to be perfect to win games. For the first few months of the season it was close to perfect. Since mid-December however, things have fallen off hard and Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, and Matt Hackett haven’t been able to hold it down.
With the Wild now five points back of Phoenix for eighth in the West and falling, the Wild just want to slam on the brakes of their free fall.
Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.
Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.
Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.
Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:
From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.
Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?
The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.
That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.
If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.
The New York Rangers got a big divisional win on Saturday afternoon, but it came at a price.
Captain Ryan McDonagh was knocked out of the game after he took a sucker-punch from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.
McDonagh wasn’t innocent here. He delivered a cross-check to Simmonds’ head moments before the punch.
To watch the entire sequence, click here.
Getting back to the game…
With the Flyers leading 2-1 in the dying moments of the game, defenseman Keith Yandle beat Steve Mason to force overtime.
Philadelphia’s struggles continued in the shootout.
They missed on both their attempts (Sam Gagner and Claude Giroux) while the Rangers converted on both their attempts (Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan).
After the game, both sides addressed the Simmonds/McDonagh incident.
It’ll be interesting to see how the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handles this situation. Both McDonagh and Simmonds are at fault here, but Simmonds’ action caused an injury.
The shootout loss puts an end to Philadelphia’s three-game winning streak. The Flyers are three points behind the Red Wings for the final Wild Card spot in the East.
The 2015-16 Washington Capitals always seem to find a way to get the job done.
That’s exactly what they did in Saturday’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils.
The Capitals opened the scoring when Andrei Burakovsky beat Cory Schneider in the second period, but the Devils answered with back-to-back goals by Joseph Blandisi and Adam Henrique.
Washington got the game-tying goal from an unlikely source as Paul Carey scored his first career goal with under six minutes remaining in regulation.
In overtime, Ovechkin dished out this huge hit:
And in typical Ovechkin fashion, he finished the game off in the shootout (top of the page).
The Caps have now won back-to-back games and they remain 15 points ahead of the Rangers, who beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a shootout this afternoon, with two games in hand.
For the Devils, the loser point allows them to move ahead of the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan division, but New York still has four games in hand.
Here’s an updated look at the division standings:
Some rough stuff in Saturday’s matinee between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.
Wayne Simmonds was thrown out of the game after he punched Ryan McDonagh.
As you can see from the video at the top of the page, McDonagh nails Simmonds with a cross-check to the head before the Flyers forward went after him.
McDonagh left the game with a possible concussion.
Here’s how the referees handed out the penalties:
Simmonds received a five-minute major and was tossed from the game while McDonagh received two separate two-minute penalties.
The Rangers were unable to score on the ensuing power play, and that’s when more weird stuff happened.
Here’s how the New York Daily News described the moments after the penalty expired:
The Rangers were already upset with Simmonds’ sucker punch, but then Alain Vigneault lost his mind all over again at the end of the Rangers’ unsuccessful power play: The Flyers had forgotten to put a player in the penalty box, with Simmonds having been sent off.
Illegally, during the flow of play, forward Jake Voracek just jumped off Philly’s bench as the power play expired and was sprung on a breakaway. Lundqvist made the save but the Rangers were flabbergasted at the officials’ lack of control or apparent knowledge of the rule book, which would require the Flyers in that situation to wait until a whistle to put their fifth man back on the ice.
By the way, the referees for this game are Dave Lewis and Kelly Sutherland.