Despite being forced to deal with numerous injuries to star players, the Detroit Red Wings will participate in the playoffs for the 23rd straight time.
Today, coach Mike Babcock spoke about that accomplishment, and what it means going forward.
“What you’ve done it set yourself up with an opportunity,” Babcock said, per MLive.com. “The great thing about the playoffs in our league, you win one game of the two on the road when you’re the lower seed now you have home-ice advantage and everything you’ve done all year is all go. To me that’s what it’s about. It’s about putting pressure on the higher seed, finding a way to grind out wins. We’re going to need good goaltending out of [Jimmy Howard]. If we get good goaltending, we’re going to have an opportunity.”
That last part is worth expanding on. Because while Howard has been solid lately — he’s won his last four games with a combined save percentage of .929 — his overall save percentage of .910 ranks just 34th out of the NHL’s 49 regular goalies.
Now 30 years old, Howard earned a good deal of respect with his play last year. But it’s only fair to say he hasn’t played like an elite goalie this season. In fact, only Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec has played more minutes than Howard while stopping a lower percentage of shots.
Which is to say, Wings fans will be hoping it’s Howard’s most recent form that he brings into the playoffs, where Detroit will first face either Boston or Pittsburgh, two of the highest-scoring teams in the league.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.
Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.
The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.
According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:
The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: