James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Tuukka Rask isn’t that far behind Carey Price right now

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If you’re talking about the hottest goalies in the NHL right now, Carey Price is likely the first name to come to mind. Don’t forget about Tuukka Rask, though.

Rask improved to 10-1-0 while grabbing his third shutout of the season as the Boston Bruins beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 on Sunday.*

Carey Price? He’s sitting at 10-0-0 with two shutouts and impeccable individual stats. So far, Rask and Price are both enjoying rebound seasons – one from inconsistency, the other from injury – and their teams clearly see the difference when they’re not around.

The Bruins are 10-1-0 with Rask in net and 0-5-0 without him. It’s not too shocking that Claude Julien elected to have Rask start back-to-back games this weekend, a gamble that paid off handsomely. He was perfect tonight and only allowed one goal against the Coyotes on Saturday.

Much like Price, Rask is making early-season franchise history for his team.

Want a quick side-by-side look at two of the top goalies in 2016-17 so far? Here you go:

Rask: 10-1-0, 308 shots faced, .945 save percentage, 1.54 GAA, three shutouts
Price: 10-0-0, 323 shots faced, .957 save percentage, 1.40 GAA, two shutouts

Tough to find two better starts than those, right?

***

Rask and the Bruins now get a break … their next game isn’t until Thursday.

Maybe there’s a slight concern that Rask will cool off a bit with such a breather, but considering his potential workload, he could probably use the break.

And maybe it will give more people time to realize how special his play has been so far.

* – Semyon Varlamov was superb on Sunday, by the way, making 45 out of 46 saves while Rask only needed 20 stops for a shutout. Sometimes hockey is cruel, especially when a goalie like Rask or Price is in the other net.

Blackhawks beat Canadiens in clash of conference leaders

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In a match between the top team in the East and the top team in the West, the Chicago Blackhawks edged the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Sunday.

Of course, it’s early. And the deck was stacked against the Habs to some extent.

Chicago needed this more

If you’re going to beat the Canadiens (now 13-2-1) this season, you’re going to do it with the Habs on the road and Al Montoya in net. Those factors were in the Blackhawks’ favor on Sunday, as was rest: Chicago last played on Friday while Montreal throttled Detroit 5-0 on Saturday.

So, yeah, the Blackhawks “should” have won this game.

This was also far more crucial to the Blackhawks, and not for deep psychological reasons.

The Blackhawks begin a seven-game road trip (and will play eight of nine away from the United Center) on Tuesday while the Canadiens hope to keep their robust home-ice advantage going with four of their next five in Montreal.

Two hot teams

This isn’t to take too much away from the Blackhawks, of course.

They’ve been fantastic lately, as they’re now on an 11-game point streak (9-0-2). After starting with two regulation losses, they’ve generated a point in all but one of their last 14 contests (11-1-2).

That probably counts as “almost as hot as the Canadiens,” and now they have the bragging rights against the young upstarts.

We’ll have to wait until March 14 to see these two teams play again. If they’re once more on top of their respective conferences, it could be an even bigger treat than this early appetizer ended up being.

And it was pretty sweet:

Patrick Kane’s sprawling goal is a sight to behold (Video)

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Patrick Kane scored the sort of goal that reminds you never to give up. And that might be a nice message for Al Montoya, the Montreal Canadiens goalie who gave up said goal.

Kane went sprawling yet somehow found a way to beat Montoya, who’s trying to shake off the dismay of being on the wrong end of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ shocking 10-0 win.

It’s the sixth goal of the season for Kane, and a solid candidate for goal of the week. It’s also one of those highlights that seem to get better every time you watch it:

Kane isn’t the only player who’s on fire in this game. Marian Hossa scored his ninth goal of 2016-17 and Shea Weber continues his tear with his seventh. Kane’s goal ended up being the game-winner as Chicago won 3-2.

(Oh, and Max Pacioretty shook off a puck to the face, too.)

Video: Max Pacioretty shakes off puck to face (because he’s Max Pacioretty)

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With a goal and an assist on Saturday, it seemed like the puck might finally be bouncing Max Pacioretty. On Sunday, that point was taken a bit too literally.

The Montreal Canadiens could at least utter a sigh of relief* that Pacioretty continues to live up to his “Wolverine” nickname after quickly recovering from a puck to the face during tonight’s contest against the Chicago Blackhawks.

You can see video of that bit of bad luck above this post’s headline. The Blackhawks ended up beating the Canadiens 3-2 on Sunday. (Click here for more on that game.)

* – Though it’s worth mentioning that sometimes players end up feeling ill effects after the fact.

No Kreider, Buchnevich for Rangers tonight; Raanta starts

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The New York Rangers have been scoring at a blistering pace in part because of their offensive depth. They’ll be a little thinner on Sunday night, however.

The team announced that Chris Kreider will miss tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers because of an upper-body injury.

(It could be related to back spasms, according to the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson.)

The Rangers didn’t give much of an indication regarding Kreider’s injury beyond tonight, saying that he’ll be “evaluated.”

Also noteworthy for the Rangers: Antti Raanta will start in net instead of Henrik Lundqvist. That’s not an outrageous move after Lundqvist had a busy Saturday in victory. (Also, Raanta is quietly putting together quite a resume as an effective backup.)

Update: The Rangers will also be without Pavel Buchnevich, who is for sure dealing with back spasms. Adam Clendening is taking his spot.