It was less than two weeks ago that the New Jersey Devils decided to make Damien Brunner a healthy scratch against the Red Wings. He made his NHL debut with Detroit last season, but after a streaky campaign, they balked at his asking price.
That had to make being forced to sit out hurt all the more because it suggested that Detroit’s decision was the right one. Perhaps that’s what sparked him.
“Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you come back up,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer told the Star-Ledger. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that being out against Detroit here was probably rock bottom for him. Not something we wanted to do, but to his credit he hasn’t felt sorry for himself. He picked himself up and he’s playing the best hockey since he’s been here.”
Brunner has four goals and six points in his last four games, including an impressive effort that paid off late in the second period of last night’s game against Ottawa.
He fought Senators defenseman Jared Cowen for the puck and the blueliner lost his stick in the process. That opened up a one-on-one between him and goaltender Robin Lehner, as you can see below:
It was a controversial marker, as some argued that Brunner slashed Cowen.
“I saw the replay. From the one angle when you see his back turned it looks like a slash. But from the other side you see he lets his stick go pretty easy,” Brunner offered in his defense.
Either way, he feels he wouldn’t have even gotten himself into that situation a couple weeks ago. He lacked confidence then. That’s not an issue now.
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.
John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.
Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.
Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?
For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting upJohn Tavares.
The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.
Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd
This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)
On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.
William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.