Time will tell if the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings can gut their way to the postseason by the close of 2013-14, but they played a playoff-caliber game on Sunday and both improved their chances in the end.
Widened lead for Wild
The Wild redeemed themselves with a 4-3 OT win after losing in regulation 3-2 on Saturday. They didn’t let two Gustav Nyquist first-period goals fluster them enough to let this one slip away.
Matt Moulson was credited with the overtime game-winner, giving him 21 goals (four of them game-winners) this season. The 30-year-old has 46 points in 65 games played … pretty nice work for someone who’s been traded twice in 2013-14.
The Wild had lost four of their last five and only won two of nine games (though they collected points in four of those contests thanks to OT or shootouts) coming into this one, but now they have a beefier lead over the rest of the pack for the West’s top wild card spot. Their 85 standings points in 72 games played give them a comfortable cushion in front of Phoenix, Dallas and the rest vying for positioning.
Far from settled East
Even with this overtime defeat, the Red Wings should probably feel pretty solid about this weekend, taking three of a possible four points against a challenging opponent in the Wild. It continues to be the Jimmy Howard and Nyquist show, it seems:
Detroit can also feel nice about the fact that they jumped from the second to first wild card spot out East because they reached 80 points in two fewer games than the wilting Toronto Maple Leafs.
Take a look at the updated East standings with Saturday’s Red Wings – Maple Leafs in Toronto looming pretty large:
Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.
It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.
Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.
The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.
Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.
They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.
You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.
With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.
Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).
In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:
Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.
Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.
So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.
The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.
No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.
He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.
There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.
So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.
Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.
(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)