Onlookers bicker endlessly about whether the Toronto Maple Leafs are a legitimate playoff team or not, but there seems to be at least two things people should agree upon: they’re rarely boring or predictable. Maybe it’s fitting that equally up-and-down Dallas Stars ended Toronto’s winning streak by an emphatic 7-1 margin on Thursday, then.
The Stars came into the second period with a 2-1 lead, which is when things really unraveled for Toronto. The Stars bumped their lead from 2-1 to 6-1 with four goals in about nine minutes, makng it a miserable night for Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer.
Valeri Nichushkin also got the last laugh considering that pair of collisions with Sergei Gonchar, as the Russian Olympian scored two goals and one assist. Jamie Benn was the true standout, however, as he collected four points (one goal, three assists).
The one bit of bad news for Dallas is that Cody Eakin suffered an upper-body injury during the contest, although Stars Inside Edge’s Mark Stepneski reports that Lindy Ruff believes the forward is OK.
The Maple Leafs have been about as streaky as you can get in the last couple months. Just soak in their highs and lows since Nov. 25:
Nov. 25 – Dec. 3: Five straight losses
Dec. 5 – 14: Two wins, three losses and then one win.
Dec. 16 – 23: Losses in four of five.
Dec. 27 – Jan.1: Three straight victories.
Jan. 4 – 10: Four losses in a row
Jan. 12 – 21: Six wins in a row
And then they lost today.
At this point, the only thing we can safely know is their record: 27-21-5 for 59 points in 53 games played, which keeps them in the thick of the playoff hunt, whether they’re genuine contenders or just lucky.
If you’re looking at that headline regarding the Carolina Hurricanes nabbing Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks in a state of awe, don’t feel too bad.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that even Darling’s representatives didn’t see it coming.
But it did indeed happen, as the Hurricanes sent a third-round pick in 2017 to Chicago for Darling. It sounds like the Blackhawks were going to part ways with Darling one way or another, so they get a decent pick for their trouble.
Darling is scheduled to be a UFA this summer, so the Hurricanes must believe that they can sign a goalie Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman described as “always reliable.”
The Hurricanes could have chosen to keep Darling in their organization, but apparently he didn’t make a huge first impression during this opportunity:
“Reliable” might honestly be selling Darling, 28, a little short. In 75 regular season games, he generated a fantastic .923 save percentage and even excelled when called upon in the playoffs.
With the Hurricanes’ mess in net in mind, you have to credit GM Ron Francis & Co. for being proactive … assuming they can sign Darling to a reasonable deal.
Carolina and Chicago seem comfortable as trade partners, as the two teams also made the Teuvo Teravainen/Bryan Bickell deal fairly recently.
P.K. Subban certainly made his presence felt to begin the Predators’ series vs. the Blues. Leon Draisaitl stole the spotlight in helping the Oilers beat the Ducks in their Game 1. Who will step up in Game 2 of each series? We’ll find out soon.
Here’s what you need to know:
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (Preds lead 1-0)
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Check out the highlights from Nashville’s 4-3 win in Game 1.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks (Oilers lead 1-0)
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Check out the highlights from Edmonton’s 5-3 win in Game 1.
Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.
Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.
It’s easy to see why.
He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.
“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.
On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.
Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.
From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.
In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.
And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.
During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.
Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.
“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”