The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild put forth a spectacular show tonight. In a game that featured big controversies, shows of perseverance, major injuries, and stunning clutch goals, the Wild managed to eliminate the Avalanche with a 5-4 victory in overtime.
There were so many players worthy of mention in this game, but there’s no question that 21-year-old Wild forward Nino Niederreiter was the hero tonight. He had two goals and an assist, including the game-winning goal in overtime. That’s quite an accomplishment for a player that wasn’t able to establish himself with the team that originally drafted him, the New York Islanders, and was given a chance at a fresh start this season with Minnesota.
Speaking of redemption, 33-year-old forward Dany Heatley has seen his production steeply decline in recent years, to the point where he started this series in the press box. He came up big tonight with a goal and two assists.
Mikko Koivu also found the back of the net for the first time in this series while Charlie Coyle inspired the Wild by returning to the game after being struck in the face by the puck.
The news wasn’t all good for Minnesota though. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has previously dealt with concussion problems, was hit in the head midway through the third period and left the contest. Ilya Bryzgalov replaced him and, after losing the first two games of this series, was credited as the Game 7 winner.
This has to be a bittersweet end for the Avalanche. There’s no question that they wanted to do better, especially after coming so close to winning the series, but they also exceeded most people’s preseason expectations for them. Rookie Nathan MacKinnon stepped up in the playoffs to get Avalanche fans excited about their future, even if he finished Game 7 with no points and a minus-three rating.
For the Wild, it will only get harder from here as their next opponent is the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
After losing the services of Dmitry Kulikov (back), Zach Bogosian (knee), Josh Gorges (broken foot) and Taylor Fedun (undisclosed), Buffalo was in desperate need of depth on the back end.
So, on Monday, the club set about fixing that by recalling Erik Burgdoerfer from AHL Rochester.
Burgdoerfer, 27, is a pretty good story. Undrafted out of R.P.I, he spent parts of five seasons in the East Coast league before becoming an AHL regular in ’14. He spent two years in Hershey before catching on with the Sabres this past July, signing a one-year, two-way deal and then starting the season with the Amerks.
Through 22 games this year, Burgdoerfer has seven points and 24 PIM.
Buffalo takes on the Caps tonight and while Burgdoerfer’s debut could be a neat narrative, it doesn’t take the sting away from another injury wave that’s swept over the club. The Sabres project to roll a six-man defensive unit of Burgdoerfer, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Brendan Guhle, Cody Franson and Justin Falk tonight, which is pretty thin.
And this is a Sabres club, don’t forget, that’s already lost forwards Jack Eichel and Evander Kane for significant lengths of time this season.
Back in October, they had a new coach, a new system, and a new goalie that wasn’t stopping the puck.
But it’s a different story today for the Calgary Flames. They’re one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and they just blasted the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 8-3.
Of course, the big story yesterday was that Johnny Gaudreau was back. He returned from injury ahead of schedule, then scored just 2:09 into last night’s game.
But the Flames were already on a roll without Johnny Hockey, thanks in large part to the goalie who was supposed to be the backup, Chad Johnson, and also to a system that seems to have become more comfortable to play.
“It’s just experience,” said Johnson, per the Flames’ website. “New group. New systems. I said from Day One we were going to have some struggles the first month.”
Read more: The Flames are still learning their new system, and it shows
Credit to new coach Glen Gulutzan for getting his charges to believe. They started 5-9-1 in their first 15. They’re now 13-13-2, just barely out of a playoff spot after three straight home wins.
“You don’t get too many games in the NHL where you can breathe,” Gulutzan told reporters after last night’s blowout victory. “When it was 6-1 at the end of the second when you’re like, ‘OK. As long as we play good and solid … we can breathe a little bit.’ It was nice. I thought eight-different goal scorers is good for the whole morale. Good for the whole group.”
Earlier this season, the Montreal Canadiens dropped a 10-0 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Habs head coach Michel Therrien left Al Montoya in for all 10 goals against.
His refusal to pull Montoya made waves around the hockey world. The topic sparked a debate about unwritten rules in hockey.
On Sunday, it seemed as though the Ducks would reignite that debate, as they left Jonathan Bernier in the game for all eight goals in an 8-3 loss to the Calgary Flames.
But in his post-game press conference, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle explained why he decided against putting John Gibson in the net.
Here’s an excerpt from the OC Register:
The situation might have called for Carlyle to pull (Bernier) but Gibson, who played Saturday in Edmonton, was suffering from stomach flu and diarrhea. Had Gibson been in condition to play, Carlyle said he would have pulled Bernier after the fourth Calgary goal.
“We kind of left him hanging high and dry,” Carlyle said. “We wouldn’t normally have never done that to him. In these situations, you can’t put people that are sick into the net. You’ve got to think big picture. Big picture is this game we couldn’t change (the score).”
Well, that sounds like a pretty good reason not to put the backup goalie in.
If you haven’t seen all eight goals the Ducks gave up tonight, here they are:
The Ducks have two days off before they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. Gibson should be fine by then.
–The Oilers decided to keep Jesse Puljujarvi on their roster this season, but is that the right decision? He’s been a healthy scratch in three straight games, and even though he’s burned the first year of his entry-level contract, there’s still reasons to send him down to the AHL or Europe. (Edmonton Journal)
–The NHL season is almost two months old, but there are still some players that aren’t producing as much as we expected. The Hockey News looks at five players that aren’t living up to expectations right now. (The Hockey News)
–When we think of this year’s top rookies, we think of guys like Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Mitch Marner, but Carolina’s Sebastian Aho tends to fly under the radar. “He’s got a lot of skill, and he’s pretty smart and shifty. It’s not easy to come into this league and play well, and I think he’s done a pretty good job. Coming in and being able to handle the NHL at that age is impressive,” ‘Canes defenseman Justin Faulk said of Aho. (Sports Illustrated)
–Canadiens forwards Michael McCarron and Artturi Lehkonen go head-to-head in a “cookie race”. The first player to get a cookie from their forehead to their mouth (without using their hands) wins. (Top)
–You probably don’t think of Alabama-Huntsville as a hockey factory, but they’ve produced an NHLer and their program is improving. “Not too many people can believe the route that I took, but I wouldn’t change it. I hope that anything that I’ve been doing at this level is helping out that program,” said Oilers goalie Cam Talbot. (New York Times)
–On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1991 Stanley Cup victory. It was a big deal. Unfortunately, Jaromir Jagr couldn’t attend the event, but he had a pretty good reason. (NHL)