Certainly nobody can deny that Nathan MacKinnon is enjoying an excellent rookie season for the Colorado Avalanche. However, you’ll recall there were those who believed strongly that the Avs should have used their first overall draft pick on defenseman Seth Jones, who’s enjoying his own fine rookie campaign in Nashville.
Just looking at Colorado’s roster — specifically, the defensive corps — there are probably those who still believe that.
Even the club’s executive VP of hockey operations, Joe Sakic, admits he had concerns about his defense during the summer. Although those concerns seem to have been alleviated somewhat.
“Going into the season, was it a question mark? Yes, we’re not going to lie about that,” Sakic told ESPN.com. “But the guys have played well. [Erik Johnson] has stepped it up and has become the player we all expected, and he’s expected of himself, he’s had a tremendous year. Tyson [Barrie] has picked it up, Nick Holden has played well … really, our blue line as a unit has done a tremendous job this year. Now, if people are looking at our blue line, I believe our blue line as a unit has earned the respect of being a pretty good group.”
Maybe so, but there’s a risk in assigning too much credit to the defense when a team gets the kind of goaltending the Avs have received this season. Per Extra Skater, no team has had better netminding than the Avs at even strength when the score is close. Last season, that honor belonged to Ottawa. The season before? Florida. And we know what happened to both those teams when the goaltending fell off.
Anyway, MacKinnon is showing that he has superstar potential, so it’s hard to say he was the wrong pick. Sakic may still need to upgrade the blue line, though.
The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.
“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.
“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”
More on the statue from the Devils:
The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.
The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.
Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.
The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.
Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.
“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”
“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.
“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”
The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.
In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.
After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.
The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.
— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.
— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.
— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.
He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.
Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.
The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.
The Islanders also have a game in hand.
The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.
As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.
Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.
In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.