Montreal will be icing a decidedly different-looking lineup in Chicago on Wednesday — at least compared to what it’s had the last few weeks.
The big news, first and foremost, is that rugged defenseman Josh Gorges will return from a 15-game absence due to a hand injury to take on the ‘Hawks, his first action since early March.
The other news — mostly for poolies and those that like to wager — is that Montreal will be without starting goalie Carey Price and two of its top defensemen in Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin. The Habs will also be without Douglas Murray (suspended) as well as injured forwards Travis Moen and Brandon Prust.
These moves aren’t that surprising, given Montreal’s clinched a playoff spot and has dealt with a myriad of injuries this season. It’s also not surprising to see the club rest Markov — the oft-injured 35-year-old’s played a ton of hockey by his standards this year, appearing in all 79 games — or Emelin, who got a late start to this season after undergoing major knee surgery during the summer.
That said, there’s still the matter of first-round home ice advantage.
Montreal and Tampa Bay are all but guaranteed to meet in the opening round (that scenario can be clinched tonight, in fact) and the Bolts can still catch Montreal for second in the Atlantic. Tampa heads into tonight’s action four points back of the Canadiens, but with a game in hand.
You’d think the reaction to taking a skate to the face would be something like “Not coming back to that game, getting some ice and maybe do some soul-searching.”
Nope, not in the NHL, at least.
In this league, the real reaction is almost always to come back to the same game … and barely miss a beat.
Ottawa Senators Mark Stone provides the latest example of hockey toughness, as he bounced back almost immediately from this.
What did he do? He scored a nice goal in the Senators’ 6-1 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.
As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?
If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.
Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.
Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.
The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.
On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.
Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.
The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.
You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.
At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.
Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.
(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)
As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.
Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.
Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.
Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.
Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:
That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.
Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.