NHLPA poll tells us that the players love Pavel Datsyuk

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Seeing the results from a players poll on what they think about other players and points of contention around the league is fascinating. The NHLPA along with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada released the results of their annual poll today and if you think fans around the league love Pavel Datsyuk, the players have you beat by a long stretch.

The NHLPA and Hockey Night in Canada polled 250 players and found that Datsyuk was the top answer in six categories. Datsyuk was voted the smartest player, most difficult to play against, the hardest to take the puck away from, the player goalies found most difficult to stop from scoring, the toughest forward to play against, and the cleanest player to play against by the players.

Phew. That’s a lot of superlatives but it would be pretty hard to argue with the players on this one.

The Boston Bruins were well represented in the poll thanks to Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. Chara was obviously voted as having the hardest shot and being the toughest defender in the league. Lucic was voted the toughest player in the league while Bergeron was voted most underrated.

Other curious results:

  • Henrik Lundqvist ranking out as the toughest goalie to score against.
  • Marian Gaborik rating as both the fastest and best skater in the league.
  • Dan Bylsma as the coach most guys would love to play for while John Tortorella is the most demanding.
  • The Vancouver Canucks being voted the most overrated team. Hey, who let all the Bruins vote for this?
  • St. Louis being named as the most underrated team.
  • Paul Devorski was voted as the best referee.
  • Best ice? Edmonton. Worst ice? Florida.

As for whether the league should get rid of the instigator penalty, 53-percent of the respondents said they would rather the rule stay how it is. That’s a drop of 13-percent from last year’s poll that saw two-thirds of the players say they wanted it to stick around. That’s a sizable shift of opinion and makes you wonder if the players are of the same mind as Leafs GM Brian Burke and are sick of seeing the “rats” take over the game.

Lightning give Vasilevskiy the (brief) hook after very rare Jurco goal

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By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

Here’s the Jurco goal:

Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by Ondrej Palat:

Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.

Coach Q thinks Anisimov will be back by playoffs for Blackhawks

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The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.

The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:

The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.

Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.

Ducks demote Enroth, so Gibson’s close to a return

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The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.

(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)

While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.

Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?

Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.

He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.

(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.

While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.

With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.