With a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday, the St. Louis Blues became the first NHL team to 100 points and to clinch the playoffs. They no doubt have higher ambitions on their minds, but for a team that ranked 11th in the Western Conference last season, it’s a more than just noteworthy accomplishment.
Once again, a blend of defense and superb goaltending propelled them forward. 50-goal scorer Steven Stamkos was held pointless, and as a team the Lightning never managed more than nine shots on goal in a single period. St. Louis netminder Jaroslav Halak also did his part to earn his ninth win in his last 10 contests and his 25th victory of the season. Halak has now allowed just two or fewer goals in 11 of his last 12 starts.
With Andy McDonald sidelined due to a shoulder injury, 2010 first round draft pick Jaden Schwartz made his NHL debut. Schwartz made an immediate impact, scoring the game-winning goal on a power play in the first period.
David Perron and Patrik Berglund accounted for the Blues other two goals. The two have each recorded six points in their last six games.
Tampa Bay’s Brendan Mikkelson ended Jaroslav Halak’s shutout bid with just 4:11 remaining in regulation time. It was Mikkelson’s first goal in 116 career NHL games.
The St. Louis Blues have all-but secured the top spot in the Western Conference and can gradually start to shift their focus to preparing for the playoffs. That being said, it is still mathematically possible for them to surpass their franchise record of 114 points in a single season, set back in 1999-2000.
With this loss, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s situation has gone from bad to almost hopeless. Although they haven’t technically been eliminated from the playoffs, it’s hard to see how they can make up the seven-point gap between them and the Washington Capitals in the final three weeks of the season.
Even with all the young players that have been healthy scratches this season, don’t expect the NHL to change its waiver rules.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told PHT in an email that it’s not something that’s “ever been considered.”
“For better or worse that’s what waiver rules are there for,” Daly wrote. “They force Clubs to make tough decisions.”
Today, Montreal defenseman Jarred Tinordi became the latest waiver-eligible youngster to be sent to the AHL on a two-week conditioning loan.
Tinordi, 23, has yet to play a single game for the Habs this season. If he were still exempt from waivers, he’d have undoubtedly been sent to the AHL long before he had to watch so many NHL games from the press box.
In light of situations like Tinordi’s, some have suggested the NHL change the rules. Currently, the only risk-free way for waiver-eligible players to get playing time in the AHL is via conditioning stint, and, as mentioned, those are limited to 14 days in length.
So the Habs will, indeed, need to make a “tough decision” when Tinordi’s conditioning stint is up. Do they put him in the lineup? Do they keep him in the press box and wait for an injury or some other circumstance to create an opportunity for him to play? Do they risk losing him to waivers by attempting to send him to the AHL? Do they trade him?
Your call, Marc Bergevin.
Related: Stanislav Galiev is stuck in the NHL
Joni Ortio has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Stockton, the Calgary Flames announced today.
The 24-year-old goalie was always likely to clear, what with his dreadful numbers this season (0-2-1, .868),
But we suppose there was always the chance he’d get picked up, so it’s a relief for the Flames all the same. With a little more time to hone his game in the AHL, Ortio could still turn out to be a quality NHL netminder.
In a related move, veteran goalie Jonas Hiller has been activated from injured reserve. Hiller and Karri Ramo are the only goalies on the Flames’ active roster now.
Two injury updates in one post.
First, the situation with Montreal goalie Carey Price, who was hurt last night versus the Rangers.
According to Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, Price has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. That means he’ll be out at least a week, though no exact timeline was provided.
“We don’t know how long Carey will be out, but for us it’s business as usual,” said Therrien.
Mike Condon will get the start tomorrow in New Jersey.
As for Oilers forward Nail Yakupov, he’ll be out 2-4 weeks after spraining his ankle last night in Carolina while getting tangled up with a linesman.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t impressed with at least two things last night in Arizona:
1. His team’s performance in a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes.
2. The atmosphere inside Gila River Arena, where the announced attendance was just 11,578.
“It’s hard. When you come into a building … it’s dead,” Getzlaf told the O.C. Register. “Nothing against the fans. It’s hard to fill a big building like this and have the amount of people in it to build your energy. So you have to do it yourself. You have to be ready when you step on the ice. I thought we came out flat.”
Anaheim’s record fell to 8-11-4 with the defeat.
The Coyotes’ average attendance also fell, to 13,144 in eight games.