From the look of things, the Western Conference’s wild card race won’t be as crowded as the erratic East, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a compelling tug-of-war for the final spot.
The Phoenix Coyotes pulled things in their direction on Tuesday by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 while the Dallas Stars lost 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks. With that, the ‘Yotes now have a three-point lead for that eighth spot out West, although there are a few reasons why that margin is even slimmer than it sounds.
As you may notice, the Stars have a game in hand, so they could come within two points with a shootout/overtime loss and one point with a win. Most importantly – and most intriguingly – the two teams also will finish off their regular season schedules with a game in Phoenix on April 13.
(If you don’t have a horse in that race, that has to be the situation to root for from a drama standpoint, right?)
The highlight of the Phoenix win was also the game-winning goal, as Mikkel Boedker scored this wicked one:
Andrew Shaw’s 19th goal of the season didn’t clinch it for Chicago, yet it’s worth watching in its own right:
The Coyotes finish their three-game Metropolitan Division road trip against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Stars host the Nashville Predators before embarking on what could be a make-or-break five-game road trip that begins in St. Louis and then switches to four teams that once played in the now-defunct Southeast Division (Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida).
While the Vancouver Canucks have an outside chance at making this a three-team race, it seems likely that the final spot may come down to a seesaw battle between the Stars and Coyotes. Phoenix won this round, then.
1The list of questionable Radko Gudas hits — some of which he’s been suspended for and others he has escaped discipline — has grown again, prompting Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol to apparently have a chat with the 25-year-old defenseman.
There was no hearing for Gudas from his latest infraction, a major penalty for charging called against him for a hit on Buffalo Sabres rookie Daniel Catenacci on Thursday.
Catenacci has since been put on injured reserve, after he went through concussion protocol, as per John Vogl of the Buffalo News.
The NHL didn’t hand out supplemental discipline in this case, but the Flyers brass held a meeting of their own with Gudas, because hits like this could end costing Philadelphia results and precious points in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Flyers are four points out of a playoff spot.
“There’s a big picture to all of it in terms of our main concern,” Hakstol told CSN Philadelphia. “Our main goal right now is to do all the little things necessary to win hockey games.
“In keeping with that, how individually does everybody do their part to help us win games. That’s the basis of my conversation with Radko.”
In December, Gudas was suspended three games for a head shot on Mika Zibanejad. Earlier this month, he was given a major penalty and game misconduct for clipping in a game against the Habs, but escaped discipline for that, as well.
Gudas, who didn’t want to comment on the hit on Catenacci, also spoke with Flyers GM Ron Hextall about this latest incident.
Asked about that conversation, Gudas told reporters, “Just making sure I pay attention and not get suspended again and make a good hockey play or make a good hit.”
These are pretty decent times for the Blue Jackets.
The team is 7-3-2 in its last 12, recently re-upped with Ryan Murray on a two-year deal and, on Friday, announced that blueliner David Savard has been activated from IR after missing the last 11 games to an oblique strain.
Savard, 25, was a pretty integral part of John Tortorella’s defense when healthy. He averaged over 24 minutes per night and had 15 points through 39 games prior to being sidelined by the ailment.
He’ll presumably draw back into the lineup when the Jackets take on Ottawa on Saturday. No word yet on a corresponding roster move.
Recently, the Washington Capitals went five whole games without scoring a power-play goal.
It was a real nightmare for those guys.
Despite the fact Washington went 3-1-1 over those five games, one headline called it a “troubling power-play drought” — which tells you how few “troubling” things the Caps have had to deal with this season.
Overall, special teams have been a boon for Washington, which ranks first on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill.
Compare that to, say, Calgary, which ranks 29th and 29th, respectively. Now that’s troubling.
Anyway, here’s how all 30 teams rank when their special teams are combined:
Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between good special teams and winning hockey games.
In the left column, 12 of the 15 teams are currently in a playoff spot. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal are the exceptions.
On the right, only four teams — Colorado, Detroit, Nashville and the Rangers — are in a playoff spot.
John Scott’s had enough time off following his All-Star Game MVP award.
Now, he wants to get back to work.
Scott, who made major headlines at the end of January thanks to his unforgettable All-Star performance in Nashville, will return to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s this weekend, as the IceCaps play a pair of games against the Toronto Marlies.
“It’ll be nice to [be] back playing hockey and doing my thing. I’m actually really excited for it,” Scott said, per ESPN. “This has been the longest break I’ve had, ever. But I play like 7-8 minutes, I won’t be too out of shape, I’ll be able to keep up.”
Scott, 33, hasn’t played since his Pacific Division team won the annual ASG 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 31. Following that whirlwind weekend, the Montreal organization allowed him to take a leave to be with his wife, Danielle, who gave birth to twin girls on Feb. 5.
Scott only appeared in four games for St. John’s prior to the All-Star Game, going pointless with six penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.
The John Scott story, coming to a theater near you?
Therrien on Habs recalling Scott: ‘You never know’