Pavel Datsyuk

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.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.