— Up top, an interview with Vegas GM George McPhee, who’s attending the NHL general managers meetings in Florida. McPhee expects to be plenty busy ahead of the expansion draft, but the craziness won’t really begin until seasons start ending for the other 30 teams.
— Another good piece from The Players’ Tribune. This one’s about Brent Sopel and his undiagnosed learning disorder that he believes “led directly” to alcoholism. The former NHL defenseman credits going to rehab for saving his life. He writes: “I’m not the same person I was before I went, and I never will be. Rehab helped me to understand what my life is now. I learned how to meditate, how to find peace. But there was one lesson that resonated with me more than any other. To some, accepting yourself for who you are may sounds like words, but it’s a mindset. It’s a way of life.” (The Players’ Tribune)
— Former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is convinced that Henrik Zetterberg‘s leadership and competitiveness will have a positive effect on youngsters like Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. “They watch it. They see him train and understand how competitive he is when the game is on the line. And the other thing is, when things go bad in a game, he goes and makes a play. So it’s not what you say, it’s what you do in big moments. And that’s why he’s got a Cup and a Conn Smythe.” (Detroit Free Press)
— To increase scoring, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma thinks players should have to serve the full two minutes of their penalties, regardless of whether a goal is scored on the power play. “If we had more power plays and the guy had to sit in [the penalty box] no matter what for two minutes, kind of like a five-minute major, you’d give the power play more opportunities and you’d have more goals. I’m all for having more goals in the game.” (WGR 550)
— Andrei Vasilevskiy has been excellent for the Lightning since Ben Bishop was traded to Los Angeles, and the 22-year-old netminder knows the Bolts have granted him a big responsibility. “I don’t want to say, ‘Bish is gone, I’m 100 percent No. 1,’ I’m not going to (mess) around. I will work even more and show everybody that I deserve to be here and deserve to be the starting goalie.” (Tampa Bay Times)
— A Q&A with Flames GM Brad Treliving, whose team has won seven games in a row. “I really believed in our group. Chemistry and mix often get overlooked. I think those are real critical things. It’s a group that gets along and it’s a group that likes each other. So that’s No. 1.” (NHL.com)
Enjoy the games!
–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)
—Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)
–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)
–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.
–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)
–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)
–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?
Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.
McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.
With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:
1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP
As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.
Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.
The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.
Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.
Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.
Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.
McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).
The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.
They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.
Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.
The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.
The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.