When it became clear that injuries to Washington Capitals goalies Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth would open the door for unproven youngster Braden Holtby, most chalked up a huge advantage for Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins. Aside from looking relatively human in Game 3, the shoe’s been on the other foot: Holtby has been the best netminder on the ice most nights – and he had to be in a 2-1 win on Thursday.
That was particularly true in the first and third periods.
The Bruins generated a ridiculous 14-3 shot advantage to start things off but Holtby was a brick wall, allowing the Capitals to gasp into the first intermission with a 1-1 tie. Boston then nearly duplicated that effort with a 13-3 edge in the final frame, but this time Holtby was perfect while Alexander Semin scored a blazing game-winner.
Overall, Holtby’s numbers were dazzling: 44 out of 45 shots stopped for his second playoff win. (Boston’s shot advantage wasn’t as lopsided in the second period, but the Bruins still fired a staggering 18 pucks on Holtby without beating him once.)
Even beyond his mostly-sterling numbers in three of four games, it’s Holtby’s attitude and body language that seems to scream “the right kind of cocky.”More than one Twitter observer remarked about his swaggery glove saves, which are often a sign of a netminder who has the right kind of confidence going.
With the series knotted up 2-2, it’s easy to get carried away. (Like, say, calling him a star in a headline.)
Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.
Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.
McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).
The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.
They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.
Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.
The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.
The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.
Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.