Above are the bottom 11 NHL teams in terms of regulation/overtime wins. Some of them, like Calgary and Florida, were expected to be there. But two of them, both of which made the playoffs last season, have been pretty major disappointments so far this season:
— The Islanders, with just five R/OT wins. Only the Sabres have fewer. What a letdown New York has been. I tweeted last night during the Isles’ 3-2 loss to Winnipeg that Jack Capuano “has absolutely rocketed to the top of the Next Coach Fired Power Rankings.” That’s pure speculation on my part, but how much longer can general manager Garth Snow watch his team slide? The Isles have now lost nine of their last 11 in regulation. They showed a bit of life in coming back to make it close against the Jets, but plays like this…
…have become all too common this season.
— Washington, with just seven R/OT wins. Today, Caps fans are thankful for family…friends…good health…but most of all, the shootout. What they’re not thankful for? Realignment. Last season, Washington went 15-3-0 versus a weak Southeast Division and 12-15-3 versus everyone else. Let’s face it: this is not a good team, let alone a Stanley Cup contender. Alex Ovechkin is a great goal-scorer and he puts people in the seats — from a business perspective, he’s earned his contract — but he’s not a 200-foot player, and recent history shows the importance of those types come playoff time. This is not a new question, but it still needs to be asked: Who’s going to be the Jonathan Toews/Patrice Bergeron/Anze Kopitar for the Caps? Because sorry, I don’t think it’s going to be Nicklas Backstrom, Mikhail Grabovski or Brooks Laich. And that’s not even mentioning the blue line.
Related: Capitals coach vents as tough times continue in Washington
These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.
Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.
It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).
The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.
Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.
It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.
His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.
Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.
He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.
And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.
Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:
As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.
Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?
It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.
Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).
There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.
Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.
The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.
The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)
For more on the three finalists, click here.