I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
Coaches do their best to convince players not to get too high or too low due to nights – and really weeks – like these.
To varying degrees, the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers came into Thursday with momentum. Their respective opponents flipped the script, however, leaving each Eastern Conference playoff hopeful with zero standings points.
You could probably argue that the Flyers’ loss was especially egregious. A night after blanking the potent Pittsburgh Penguins, Philly suffered a numbing 6-2 defeat to a New Jersey Devils team with little to fight for. Such a poor performance drew at least some derision for the Flyers’ head coach Dave Hakstol, with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi wondering if the team “quit” on him.
Steve Mason‘s body language captured the mood:
While the Islanders’ opponent had more on the line – the Winnipeg Jets are technically still in the West hunt, though their odds aren’t that different from the Flyers’ out East – but the result was just as problematic. Winnipeg beat the Islanders 4-2 on Thursday.
It was another rough night for Thomas Greiss & Co.
At the moment, the Tampa Bay Lightning look like they’ll be able to empathize with the Islanders and Flyers, as the Maple Leafs hold a big lead in that significant game.
Overall, it’s a pretty significant swing in mood on a night that both the Islanders and Flyers may regret.
(The Florida Panthers also put themselves in an increasingly dire situation with a regulation loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.)
Remember how just about everything went against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday? Well, if current trends hold up, Thursday could end up being the exact opposite.
If nothing else, the Maple Leafs are holding up their end of the bargain so far against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As great as Andrei Vasilevskiy has been for the Bolts since Ben Bishop was traded, the Maple Leafs got to him tonight, chasing him after scoring four goals on 15 shots. The video above shows the low point of the evening, as Matt Martin and Morgan Rielly scored goals just 15 seconds apart.
Connor Brown then scored a little less than four minutes later to make it 4-0, ending Vasilevskiy’s night early. James van Riemsdyk has since beaten Peter Budaj to give Toronto a commanding 5-0 lead.
If the stats weren’t bad enough, the night saw rare goals for Martin and Roman Polak.
Again, things could still swing, but so far so good for the Maple Leafs.
Assign as much or as little credit to Bruce Boudreau as you’d like, but either way, the Minnesota Wild have enjoyed quite the surge this season.
Much has been made of Eric Staal‘s revitalization, but Mikko Koivu‘s gone back to being that quietly outstanding forward who was once prominent on many an underrated players list. Meanwhile, after years of people wondering when flashes of brilliance would finally formulate into full-time dominance, Mikael Granlund is enjoying a breakthrough season.
In a connection between old (Koivu) and new (Granlund), you can see a sublime bit of skill as the two combined for a sweet shorthanded goal against the Hurricanes on Thursday.
The Pittsburgh Penguins tweeted out some really interesting tidbits about two driving forces for their success: 1) the bond between Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and 2) Mike Sullivan’s drive to get results.
Pens Inside Scoop has the story, mostly from Malkin’s perspective, of two players who’ve known each other from their early-teens … and if Malkin has anything to say about it, two players who will remain teammates for their entire careers.
“I hope we play our whole lives here,” Malkin said. “I don’t want to move to a different city …”
Crosby provided similar thoughts, but Geno really illustrated the bromance most beautifully in that piece.
Speaking of beautiful, consider the lengths Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan goes to “take notes,” via this in-depth Boston University profile:
It’s a mind that never seems to stop, as seen in the coffee table in the TV room in Sullivan’s Duxbury, Mass., home—the top is a whiteboard, festooned with the blue lines, face-off circles, and goal creases of an ice rink. When a game is on, Sullivan is likely to pull out a dry-erase marker and diagram a defenseman’s mistake or a winger’s poor breakout execution. “He’s constantly analyzing with Xs and Os,” says his younger brother, Brian Sullivan, a former college hockey player, for Northeastern University. “He eats it and sleeps it.”
Having a coffee table designed for note-taking? Yeah, that’s about as close as you can get to actually eating and sleeping hockey. Someone needs to get photographic evidence of that bad boy.
… Now, as far as getting your own? Maybe that wouldn’t be the healthiest approach.
Both Jonathan Bernier and Jake Allen have enjoyed resounding turnarounds after serious struggles earlier this season. On Wednesday, it was Bernier who came up on top.
The red-hot Anaheim Ducks goalie stopped 26 out of 27 shots as the Ducks beat the Blues 2-1, clearly grabbing the second spot in the Pacific with 84 standings points.
Bernier extended his own winning streak to four games, ending the Blues five-game run in the process. Bernier’s also won five of his last six.
Now, Bernier wasn’t the only Ducks player who deserves the spotlight for this win. Ryan Getzlaf factored into both Anaheim goals, grabbing an assist and scoring this nice game-winner shorthanded:
The loss parks the Blues at 77 points, thwarting an attempt to take the Central’s third spot from Nashville. It also keeps St. Louis from increasing its lead for the West’s final wild card spot.