Bolts’ Filppula: ‘I couldn’t produce the points that I wanted’ last year

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Valtteri Filppula admits he didn’t perform as well as he’d hoped last season.

“You always want to do better in every aspect of the game,” Filppula told the Tampa Bay Lightning website. “Last year I couldn’t produce the points that I wanted to and I hope I can do better next year.

“That’s going to be a big focus.”

Filppula, 29, had a disappointing 2013 campaign, scoring just 17 points in 41 games (and six in 14 playoff appearances) — but reasons for the drop off in production were many.

He suffered a knee sprain while playing for SM-liiga’s Jokerit during the lockout, an injury that shelved him for nearly two months and lingered into the start of the NHL season.

Filppula then missed seven games with a shoulder injury (prior to the ailment, he had 10 points in 19 games) and, to top things off, suffered a high ankle sprain in Detroit’s Game 7 overtime elimination against Chicago.

It was a disappointing year, to say the least.

That’s a far cry from Filppula’s 2011-12 campaign, when he appeared in a career-high 81 games while notching a career-high 66 points, playing primarily on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler.

(Yet another possible reason for Filppula’s downswing in 2013 — Hudler left to sign in Calgary, and Zetterberg moved units. Filppula never really clicked with his linemates last season.)

That ’11-’12 breakout season was a big reason why clubs were lined up to secure his services this summer — Filppula agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal with Tampa Bay after receiving interest from a number of clubs, most notably the St. Louis Blues.

Filppula said he’s ready to embrace a larger workload with the Bolts than he had with the Wings. In Tampa, he’ll likely replace ex-captain Vincent Lecavalier as the team’s second-line center.

“It’s always the goal to have a bigger role wherever you play,” he said.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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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).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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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

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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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.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.