Over at ESPN, Craig Custance continued his preview series of playoff-bound teams with an interesting piece on the New York Rangers — specifically, the analysis of defenseman Marc Staal.
From ESPN (Insider):
Depth on defense is a bit of a concern for the Rangers, and there’s a big difference if Staal is playing like a bottom-pair defenseman rather than a guy capable of playing on the top pair. “He’s gone, for me, from a Norris trophy candidate to a guy playing in the five- or six-hole, and he looks like it,” one coach said. “If he can get anywhere near that level, it’d change things … but I haven’t seen signs he’s getting better.”
Our scout isn’t quite as concerned. “He’s not great but certainly plays well within reason. He’s better than most at operating at 80 percent,” he said. “I think he’ll be able to take his game to a very good level. I’m not so much worried about him as I would be injuries [on defense] in general.”
By the numbers, Staal’s a fourth defenseman rather than a fifth/sixth — he’s fourth amongst all Rangers blueliners in time on ice per game (19:44), shifts per game (23.5) and shorthanded minutes per game (1:37).
Regardless, it’s a far cry from his role of last season, when he averaged over 25 minutes a game in the regular season before getting bumped to 28:01 per night in a five-game playoff loss to the Capitals.
As for this year, Staal missed the first 36 games dealing with the effects of a concussion suffered last February. While he has seen more ice time recently — there were three games in March where Staal played over 24 minutes — one wonders if he’s still out of sorts after missing what amounted to half the regular season.
One final note: Come playoff time, it’ll be interesting to see if Tortorella ever goes back to last year’s dynamic shutdown pairing of Staal and Dan Girardi. The two were often used to neutralize the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby but, with Girardi averaging over 26 minutes and night and now flourishing with partner Ryan McDonagh, it would be hard for Staal to get back in that mix.
‘If he was in Toronto, there’d be no Carey Price, media-wise’ – Boudreau on Dubnyk
While his 11-6-3 record won’t blow anyone’s mind, his 1.65 GAA and .946 save percentage are jaw-dropping. With Dubnyk doing special things, Bruce Boudreau felt the need to say weird things* after Dubnyk helped the Wild beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday.
“If he was in Toronto, there would be no Carey Price … I’m just saying media-wise,” Boudreau said after the game, as you can see in this video:
Even if Dubnyk was in a bigger market, there’d probably be room in our hockey thoughts for Dubnyk and the consensus best goalie in the world, but Boudreau’s larger point is taken: Dubnyk has been right there with the best early on this season.
And, let’s be honest, we shouldn’t be too hard on Boudreau or he might stop saying … well, things like this:
Boudreau: "I told the guys, 'It may not look it, but my insides are really happy right now.'" #mnwild
It’s difficult to tell just how big of a headache this might be, but SBNation‘s Mary Clarke uncovered quite the eyebrow-raiser on Wednesday: the Vegas Golden Knights’ trademark request was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
You can read the 164-page document here (if you’re weird), but the gist is that “registration of the applied-for mark is refused because of a likelihood of confusion with the mark” used by the College of Saint Rose Golden Knights.
Clarke summarized it simply enough:
Essentially, the logos and stylizations are too similar. It’s baffling the NHL and Vegas didn’t go through the trademark process before announcing the name and logo last month. Yet, all is not lost. Later down, the document states the Black Knight Sports and Entertainment group “may respond to the refusal by submitting evidence and arguments in support of registration.”
Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt received this release from the Vegas Golden Knights, which indicated that they will respond to the refusal (and also noted how teams like the Boston Bruins and UCLA Bruins share names without issues).
It wasn’t pretty, and they might have lost key defenseman Matt Niskanento injury, but at least the Washington Capitals managed a win against the Boston Bruins.
For a while, it was looking pretty ugly.
After going up 3-0, the Capitals went more than a period’s worth of time without even managing a shot on goal. Whether you lean more toward giving the Bruins credit for fighting back or beating up the Capitals for “sitting on a lead,” it’s staggering that such a dangerous offense could be held in check for so long.
Luckily for Washington, Nicklas Backstrom salvaged the night with an overtime goal to give the Capitals a 4-3 overtime win.
Both teams have had a knack for extending games beyond regulation lately, by the way:
Capitals over the last three games:
Shootout loss to the Lightning
Overtime win against the Sabres
Overtime win tonight against the Bruins
Bruins over the last five games:
Shootout loss against Flyers
Shootout win against Hurricanes
Regulation win against Sabres
Overtime win against Panthers
Overtime loss to the Capitals
Maybe that’s what gets it done in 2016-17: finding ways to carve out wins and shake out rough patches, like the Caps did tonight.
Matt Niskanen injured by Patrice Bergeron boarding hit
The Capitals consider Niskanen “probable” to return to Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins with what they’re calling an upper-body injury. Bergeron received a two-minute boarding penalty for the infraction.
(Check out video of the hit above.)
The Capitals’ Twitter acknowledged the brewing bad feelings.