NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday, as the St. Louis Blues host the Boston Bruins at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.
The Boston Bruins are coming off an overtime loss to the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night. Sure, the Bruins would liked to have collected two points, but the fact that they managed to force overtime without Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Rick Nash in their lineup is still pretty impressive.
One of the players that stepped into the lineup on Monday was rookie Ryan Donato, who the team signed on Sunday night. The former second-rounder made an instant impact offensively, as he recorded a goal and two assists in the defeat.
Funny enough, Donato skipped Bruins practice on Tuesday to attend a class at Harvard.
“I plan on finishing this semester academically,” Donato said on Monday, per WEEI. “Obviously it’s gonna be difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. Obviously I’m putting that off a little bit, but for me I need to finish this semester to have that opportunity and not put it off an extra couple years.”
Donato will play in tonight’s game.
Although their playoff spot is all but secure, the Bruins still have plenty to play for. With Tampa Bay beating Toronto on Tuesday, Boston is now five points out of top spot in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand.
Heading into this clash against the Bruins, St. Louis finds themselves just three points out of a Wild Card spot with a game in hand.
Unfortunately for them, they’ll likely have to take care of business without Vladimir Tarasenko, who is expected to miss tonight’s contest with an upper-body injury. Alexander Steen will take Tarasenko’s spot on the top line with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn.
“Obviously we’d love to have him in the lineup,” head coach Mike Yeo said of Tarasenko, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We know what he is and what he means for our team so it’s no question, it’s a significant loss, but we don’t have the opportunity or even the possibility for our team to sit around and think about what could be right now. We have to look at the group we have and we believe we still have a capable group.”
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• Not only has Marc-Andre Fleury been an important figure on the ice for the Vegas Golden Knights, he’s also emerged as a key leader on an expansion team that has exceeded expectations. (Associated Press)
• After scoring a goal and two assists in his NHL debut, Boston Bruins froward Ryan Donato skipped practice to attend class at Harvard. (WEEI)
• Ellen Show executive producer Andy Lassner is a huge Los Angeles Kings fan. He’s also been able to forge a relationship with a few of the team’s players. (NHL.com/Kings)
• The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team will be looking for a new head coach for the first time in a long time, as Don Lucia called it quits after 19 years on the job. (Pioneer Press)
• New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero went out and got Patrick Maroon from Edmonton on deadline day. The trade has worked out relatively well for him team. Even though he isn’t as fast as some of the other players on the roster, Maroon has been a useful asset. (All About the Jersey)
• The Carolina Hurricanes won’t be making the playoffs this season, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had players step up in 2017-18. Here are their top five MVPs from this season. (Cardiac Cane)
• Former Minnesota Wild prospect Brett Bulmer is finding his game in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades. (The Sin Bin)
• Up top, check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Flyers and Red Wings. Petr Mrazek‘s return to Detroit didn’t exactly go as planned.
Let’s hope that Tuesday presents dodged bullets instead of long-lasting injuries.
- You can read more about Patrik Laine not returning to the Jets’ eventual overtime win against the Kings here. The early word is that it “isn’t sinister,” whatever that means.
Here is video of the unfortunate moment:
- The Vegas Golden Knights must hold their breath again with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. “MAF” took a shot off of his mask and did not return to Vegas’ eventual win against Vancouver. Considering his struggles with concussion issues, this is a big concern.
For what it’s worth, the team provided no official update, yet similarly to the Jets with Laine, the Golden Knights appear optimistic about Fleury avoided something serious. Either way, it puts a damper on this milestone.
For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Chicago Blackhawks won’t participate in the playoffs.
Chicago joins the Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, and Buffalo Sabres as teams with the dreaded “e-” next to their names. The Red Wings postponed that fate by beating Philly. Edmonton delayed their own, too; they match the Blackhawks’ 69 standings points but hold a game in hand.
So, expect more names to get officially crossed off the list very soon. The Canadiens and Senators also see their days numbered.
Players of the Night
- Artemi Panarin is a key figure in the Blue Jackets’ nine-game winning streak (read about how they’ve congested the Metro races in this post). Tuesday served as one of his best nights yet with Columbus, as “The Bread Man” collected a hat trick and also generated an assist. With 68 points on the season, it looks like he’ll hit 70+ points for his third season in a row, meaning he’s done so every year in the NHL. Perhaps he doesn’t need Patrick Kane to produce points, after all?
- Leon Draisaitl collected a goal and three assists in the Oilers’ surprisingly bombastic 7-3 win against the Hurricanes, which didn’t really require Connor McDavid to dominate (he finished with one assist). Draisaitl’s quietly been showing that, while his contract is expensive, he’s probably the last of the Oilers’ worries.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
Matt Benning was basically enjoying batting practice during that Oilers win:
Tremendous pass from Thomas Vanek, who now has eight points in 11 games with Columbus.
Nathan MacKinnon continues to tear up the NHL, as he’s second in league scoring with 91 points in just 65 games after collecting two assists on Tuesday. It really feels like he’s adding to his Hart Trophy argument every single game.
- The Winnipeg Jets set a new Thrashers/Jets record with 43 wins. Tired or not, Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s 41 wins represents a new all-time season record for the Lightning.
Islanders 4, Penguins 1
Blue Jackets 5, Rangers 3
Capitals 4, Stars 3
Oilers 7, Hurricanes 3
Panthers 7, Senators 2
Red Wings 5, Flyers 4 (SO)
Lightning 4, Maple Leafs 3
Jets 2, Kings 1 (OT)
Avalanche 5, Blackhawks 1
Golden Knights 4, Canucks 1
Sharks 6, Devils 2
The Flyers rallied from deficits of 3-1 and 4-3 to grab a standings point in this one, with a memorable 4-4 tally coming when Travis Konecny notched his 20th of 2017-18 in an odd way. The Flyers ended up falling in the shootout as the Red Wings’ 5-4 SO win ended a lengthy skid, but that single point ended up being huge on a busy night in the Metropolitan Division.
Consider some of the other developments around a division that’s felt up for grabs for a while:
- In slipping by the Dallas Stars 4-3 in regulation, the Capitals might make the division title a little bit less than “up for grabs.” They now lead the Metro by four points with 91 in 73 games played. Alex Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season in this one, moving all alone to 19th all-time in goals, as that was the 602nd of his career.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins squandered an opportunity to stay within striking distance of the Capitals for first place, and also a chance to create separation between themselves and the hard-charging Blue Jackets and tenacious Flyers. The Islanders handed the Penguins a 4-1 loss.
- Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets must be considered a serious threat to the Penguins’ second seed, and at least a dark horse candidate to win the Metro.
In defeating the Rangers 5-3, the Blue Jackets are now on a ridiculous nine-game winning streak. Artemi Panarin‘s quietly impressive 2017-18 season was a little tougher to ignore tonight, as he combined a hat trick with an assist.
This win and the Penguins’ loss locks the two teams at 87 points. Pittsburgh has a game in hand (73 GP) on Columbus (74) and some other edges, but that race is now very close.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
- Columbus pushed Philadelphia down into the first wild-card spot thanks to Tuesday’s proceedings, but again, getting a point was still huge for Philly. They now have 86 points in 74 games played. That could be crucial in holding off the Devils and Panthers to at least secure a playoff spot. They’re also conceivably a hot streak away from pushing back into the Metro top three, and possibly grabbing a round of home-ice advantage if things go really well.
Need a visual look at the races? Here’s a rundown:
METRO 1: Capitals, 91 points, 73 GP, 39 ROW
METRO 2: Penguins, 87 points, 73 GP, 39 ROW
METRO 3: CBJ, 87 points, 74 GP, 35 ROW
WILD1: Flyers, 86 points, 74 GP, 35 ROW
WILD2: Devils, 82 points, 72 GP, 32 ROW
Ninth place: Panthers, 7-2 win against the Senators tonight, 81 points, 71 GP, 34 ROW
As you can see, the races for the second and third Metro spots, along with jostling for the two wild-card seeds, makes for a congested group. The Panthers hold three games in hand on the Flyers and the Devils have two on Philly, so the current buffer could plummet.
Sure, winning the game would have been better for the Flyers, especially if they could have done it in regulation or during overtime. Considering how glum things looked heading into the second intermission, grabbing a point against Detroit was still important.