Antoine Vermette

In praise of Antoine Vermette

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In terms of well-rounded seasons, few are having better ones than Antoine Vermette.

The Phoenix center, who leads the team with 21 goals this year, is putting together the kind of campaign that pushed ‘Yotes GM Don Maloney to offer the highest of praise.

“I don’t think anyone would argue if I said Antoine has been our most valuable player this season,” Maloney told Fox Sports Arizona. “He does everything for us and he does it all well.”

Consider the following:

— Vermette leads the team in faceoff winning percentage (55.9), ninth-best in the NHL.

— Vermette leads the team in shorthanded goals (three), tied for second in the NHL.

— Vermette leads all Coyotes forwards in PK time, is fifth in PP time and is one of only two forwards to average at least 19 minutes per game.

The 31-year-old is also enjoying an unprecedented offensive streak. Vermette scored an unassisted goal on Tuesday against Dallas to extend his point streak to eight games, marking a career-high for while matching Shane Doan for the longest Phoenix point streak this season.

What’s more, it’s also the NHL’s longest active point streak.

Vermette has been scoring in bunches lately — a hat trick in Vancouver two Sundays ago, two points in a 3-0 win over L.A. last week — and is on pace for 31 goals, which would be a career best and the most he’s scored since netting 27 for Columbus during the 2009-10 campaign.

But, as head coach Dave Tippett pointed out, Vermette’s success isn’t just about putting pucks in the net.

“Even when he wasn’t scoring, his work ethic remained the same,” Tippett said, per NHL.com. “He’s been very opportunistic and two hat tricks [Vermette also had one in December against Ottawa] will move your numbers up fast. Plus he’s on a line with (Lauri Korpikoski and Mikkel Boedker) that really likes playing with each other and they’ve been a real effective group.”

It’ll be interesting how Vermette’s future plays out. He’s in the penultimate season of a five-year, $18.75 million deal that expires at the end of the 2014-15 campaign and, assuming he continues to produce, would likely garner a raise on his $3.75 million annual cap hit with his next contract.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.