If you wanted to blame Nashville’s failure to make the playoffs in 2013-14 on a single aspect of the game, the skills competition would be a good candidate.
The Predators had more regulation plus overtime wins of any other non-playoff team (36), but they were just 2-9 in shootouts. It’s not hard to figure out why that was. They had a severe lack of skilled forwards last season and their shootout struggles were a reflection of that.
How bad was it? Well, defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis accounted for five of their nine shootout goals. None of their forwards netted more than one goal in the skills competition.
The silver lining is that help is on the way. Although he’s coming off a rough season, Mike Ribeiro is traditionally effective in the skills competition (22 goals on 63 chances), and fellow newcomers Olli Jokinen (21 for 59), James Neal (14 for 38), and Derek Roy (11 for 33) are solid options as well.
If Pekka Rinne stays healthy, then that will help too. He has a 23-23 record in shootouts with a .709 save percentage.
None of that is likely to make the Predators a dominant shootout team, but if they are even able to hold their own in that category, then that could add three or four points to their final record. That has the potential to be a big difference in their battle to squeeze into the playoffs in the tough Central Division.
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.
John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.
Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.
Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?
For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting upJohn Tavares.
The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.
Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd
This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)
On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.
William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.