The bad news for the Phoenix Coyotes? Mike Smith fell short of the franchise record shutout streak.
The good news? They’re one win away from making history.
Smith stopped 31 of 32 shots and Radim Vrbata scored the winning goal — his 34th of the season — as Phoenix beat St. Louis 4-1 on Friday night. With the win, the Coyotes moved within one win of clinching their first-ever Pacific Division title.
— With the win, the ‘Yotes hit the 95 point plateau, jumping a point ahead of Los Angeles in San Jose for Pacific bragging rights. Most importantly, the Coyotes are now just one victory (regulation or otherwise) away from winning their first division crown ever; they haven’t finished atop a division since entering the league as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979.
— Phoenix will play Minnesota tomorrow while the Sharks and Kings will do battle in San Jose.
— If the Coyotes do finish with the No. 3 seed, it’s possible they’ll face the Detroit Red Wings in the first round…for the third consecutive year. If Chicago beats Detroit in regulation on Saturday, they’ll jump into the No. 5 spot, dropping the Wings to No. 6 and into another date with Phoenix.
— The loss killed any chance St. Louis had of winning the Presidents’ Trophy. The Blues, winless in four straight (0-2-2) for the first time all season, can still finish first in the West, but will need a win at Dallas along with a Vancouver loss to Edmonton.
— Smith’s shutout streak ended 14 minutes into the first period when Patrik Berglund scored his 19th goal of the year. The tally also ended Smith’s of 161 consecutive saves, but he was still named the game’s first star and continues to play outstanding hockey as the ‘Yotes surge.
— Oh yeah, Smith has now allowed one goal on his last 166 shots faced. Pretty good…
Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia on Saturday night against Canada in their World Cup semifinal game.
Datsyuk has been bothered by a lower body injury that also kept him out of their first round game against Finland. He had been a game-time decision leading up to the game, but did not take the ice for pre-game warmups.
It’s a big loss for Russia because Datsyuk is still their top-line center and had been skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko before the injury. He recorded two assists in his two games for Russia.
If Russia does not beat Canada on Saturday we could have very likely seen the last of Datsyuk on a North American hockey rink. Datsyuk decided to leave the NHL to return to Russia after spending 14 years with the Detroit Red Wings during a career that saw him win two Stanley Cups and score 314 goals. He was one of the best two-way players in the NHL during his career and one of the best ever
The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Team Europe semifinal in a best of three championship series.
Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury
The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.
On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.
“Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com. “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”
It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.
The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.
Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.
Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.
After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.
Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take
Unfortunately for the Bruins they will have to wait a few months before he gets an opportunity to make an impact.
The team announced on Saturday that Vatrano is going to require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and is expected to miss at least three months.
General manager Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was injured in his training in preparation for the team’s training camp.
Vatrano appeared in 39 games for the Bruins in 2015-16 season and scored eight goals, including a hat trick in an early season win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the rest of his season playing for Providence of the American Hockey League where he scored a league leading 36 goals in only 36 games. Just for some perspective on that goal total, only one other player in the league scored 30 goals for the entire season, and that was Chris Bourque who scored 30 in 72 games.