Erik Karlsson might not have the defensive acumen to please people who cringe at the points-centric Norris Trophy voting, but his scoring ability is making the Ottawa Senators an intriguing sleeper in the East.
Well, either that or their promising backup goalie won a significant duel with Tim Thomas. Nope, it wasn’t recently acquired netminder Ben Bishop; instead, Robin Lehner made a compelling argument for his NHL-readiness by stopping all 32 Bruins shots. Thomas was brilliant in making 37 out of 38 saves, but Ottawa beat the B’s in Boston to make a statement.
Either that, or they raised some questions.
1. Circling back to Karlsson, is his resounding offensive production reason enough to make him deserve the Norris? Normally I’m in that embittered hockey nerd group in regard to that trophy’s voting, but one could argue that he’s essentially the most valuable defenseman in the NHL because of his offense.*
2. Does Ottawa have a decent chance to steal the Northeast title from Boston?
Rather than going too deep on this question, I’ll merely present you with some crucial points.
The Bruins are currently ahead of the Senators points-wise 77-76.
Boston also has a fairly massive games in hand advantage, with four more games remaining (21 to 17) than Ottawa.
On the other hand, the Senators are streaking up (two wins in a row; 7-2-1 in their last 10) while the Bruins are bumbling a bit (4-5-1 in last 10).
The Bruins have 10 home games and 11 road games left.
The Senators have nine home games and eight road games remaining.
Both teams actually possess remarkably balanced win-loss records on the road vs. at home, which means that games remaining and streaks are probably the biggest factors.
Well, except for tie-breaker considerations, perhaps. The Bruins have 37 wins to Ottawa’s 34 and 30 regulation/OT wins to the Senators’ 29.
Looking at that information, it would take a serious run (and/or significant Boston struggles) for Ottawa to shock the hockey world by winning its division. Still, it’s pretty amazing that such a question would need to be examined with March just a breath away.
* – The Norris Trophy isn’t defined as the MVP of the blueliners, but the point must be made.
Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.
(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)
Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.
As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.
Dave Tippett does not think Mike Smith will be ready for home game vs. Colorado on Oct. 29, but he is not far from getting back on the ice.
Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.
Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:
Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.
So, who is Shane Harper?
For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.
His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.
You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone: