The collapse continues.
It was back in October the Montreal Canadiens were going for a record-breaking start to their season, before eventually settling for a 9-1-0 record after 10 games. That seems so long ago now. They’ve been in a free-fall for months, going from the top of the Atlantic Division to well out of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
They’re five points back of Pittsburgh for that spot. They would also have to leapfrog five teams to qualify for the playoffs, so yes, they’re in a difficult spot.
The Habs resumed their schedule out of the break with a loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday. How did they fare the following night against the Buffalo Sabres? They took a lead into the third period, before giving up three unanswered goals in the final 13 minutes in a 4-2 loss to Buffalo.
It’s gotten this bad:
That’s four losses in a row for Montreal, a team that is without its back bone — injured goalie Carey Price — and at last check, the recovery process was going “slower than expected.” That’s seven straight games the Habs have been held to two goals or less in regulation.
(They did hit the three-mark versus Toronto back on Jan. 23, but that third goal was from the shootout.)
Tempers flared briefly between Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist and Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov during the second period of Wednesday’s game.
Nyquist was bumped into Bolts goalie Ben Bishop, before knocking him over entirely with a follow through on the right arm as they both felt to the ice.
That’s when Nesterov stepped in, grabbing Nyquist with his left arm before officials intervened.
A quick glance at the NHL standings illustrates how tight the playoff race is in this league of parity.
Eight teams from each conference — three from each division, plus two wild card teams in each conference — qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament under the current alignment. But could a possible change or addition to the playoff format be on the way?
Hockey insider Bob McKenzie explained on NBCSN that, given how difficult it is to actually make the playoffs, 16 of 30 general managers recently polled would be in favor of a playoff play-in game. Two didn’t respond, one was “undecided” and 11 said ‘No.’
However, five of those 11 GMs who weren’t in favor of a playoff play-in game — similar to baseball — actually wanted a best-of-three series for all four of the Wild Card positions, according to McKenzie.
The New Jersey Devils will be without their leading point producer against the New York Rangers on Tuesday, as both teams resume their schedules following the All-Star break.
Mike Cammalleri, who has a team-best 38 points in 42 games, has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 26 with what that club called an upper-body injury, the Devils announced Monday.
However, according to Tom Gulitti of The Record, Cammalleri is dealing with a right hand injury and it remains unclear as to how long the 33-year-old forward will be out of the lineup.
“It started acting up on him again, so we’ve got to shut him down here for a little bit and give him a little bit of time and see how quickly he can get back,” said Devils head coach John Hynes, as per the Fire & Ice blog.
That’s difficult timing for the Devils, who are in the thick of the Wild Card race in the East. They’re tied in points (55) with Pittsburgh, but the Penguins have two games in hand.
The New York Rangers will emerge from the All-Star break with a match-up versus the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and it appears they’ll do so without Rick Nash in their lineup.
As per the Rangers, he’s still dealing with a bone bruise on his left leg, despite a week off. According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the injury occurred when Nash lost an edge and went hard into the boards during a game against the Hurricanes on Jan. 22.
Nash’s goal totals are down this season, but he had been on a three-game point streak prior to the injury.
From the Rangers:
Head coach Alain Vigneault explained that Nash underwent another CT scan Monday morning, which did not reveal any more serious damage to the leg than the original diagnosis if a bone bruise.
“It’s a bad bone bruise and it’s taken longer our medical crew thought it would,” stated Vigneault. “He’s still feeling pain and he’s having a tough time walking.”
The Rangers have three games on their schedule this week. They’ll play the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, so it remains to be seen exactly when Nash might return to the lineup.
In 45 games, Nash has 12 goals and 33 points. The Rangers are currently second in the Metropolitan Division and three points ahead of the New York Islanders.
The Islanders do have two games in hand.