The San Jose Sharks have taken a page out of the Vancouver Canucks’ goaltending playbook.
(The playoff edition, not the one on how to handle having two No. 1s. That one was terrible.)
In a move eerily similar to Vancouver’s three years ago, the Sharks will give Antti Niemi the start tonight, at home, in Game 7, after he was parked for Game 6 and watched the opposition rally from an 0-3 deficit to even the series at three.
Niemi, held out of Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Kings in favor of Alex Stalock, will now return to the goal much like Roberto Luongo did in the opening round of the ’11 playoffs. Like the current-day Sharks, those Canucks raced out to a 3-0 series lead on Chicago, only to lose three straight — with Luongo getting benched in favor of Cory Schneider in Game 6.
If there’s a bright spot in the narrative for San Jose, it’s this: Luongo stopped 31 of 32 shots in Game 7 as the Canucks beat the ‘Hawks in OT.
The Sharks will need Niemi to put up a similar performance tonight if they hope to avoid the biggest postseason collapse in franchise history. Only three teams in NHL history have rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win the series — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers — and based on how the L.A. offense has been clicking lately, the Kings carry all the momentum into tonight.
Los Angeles has scored 13 goals in the last three games and caught fire on the power play, scoring five times with the man advantage in the last four games. That offensive explosion is a big reason why Niemi goes into Game 7 with very mediocre numbers — a 3.90 GAA and .882 save percentage.
The only goalie with weaker numbers these playoffs? Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback, who was yanked twice in a four-game sweep against Montreal.
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.)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.
After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:
Record at the end of October: 5-5-2
Record at the end of November: 11-11-3
As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.
The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?
Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.
They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.
The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?
Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.
Sometimes a suspension will shame a player, or at least inspire him to change the way he plays.
That apparently won’t happen regarding Brandon Dubinsky‘s one-game timeout session for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.
Dubinsky told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he won’t alter his style, whether it’s against Crosby or someone else.
“Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”
In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.
One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.
Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?
Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).