Author: James O'Brien

Detroit Red Wings v Buffalo Sabres

Mrazek stifles Avs as Red Wings remain hot


If you just look at the score, you’d think it was a relatively easy 3-0 win for the Detroit Red Wings, but the Colorado Avalanche pushed them a lot more than that.

Patrick Roy’s polarizing decision to pull Semyon Varlamov with about three minutes left backfired on Thursday night. The aggressive move inflated the Red Wings’ lead as they scored two goals into an empty net.

Really, the true difference was Justin Abdelkader’s power-play goal and the stellar work of Red Wings interim starter Petr Mrazek, who pitched a 28-save shutout.

Gabriel Landeskog’s would-be 1-0 goal was waved off in the first period:

(It turns out Patrick Roy was OK with the call, after all.)

Mrazek made a strong argument that he deserves to continue to get reps as Detroit’s other goalies get healthier.

Whether you look at the Red Wings when Jimmy Howard was dominant or when Mrazek was thrust into the net, they’ve been on fire since late December.

More recently, they’ve won two in a row and and eight of their last nine. Stretching back to Dec. 23, the Red Wings are 13-4-0.

About the only bit of bad news is that the road ahead seems challenging, with an emphasis on the word road; they play eight of their next 10 games away from Joe Louis Arena.

Granted, that’s certainly an easier situation to stomach than that of Colorado, a team that wasted another strong performance from Varlamov. The Avalanche have now gone seven straight games without a power-play tally while allowing at least one in six straight games. Every pointless contest hurts a team that’s still casing Vancouver and Winnipeg for one of the two West wild card spots.

Again, this game was a lot closer than it seems, but the NHL is a league of small margins. Detroit has been doing a great job of turning those small breaks in its favor while Colorado struggles to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke.

Blues, Islanders made some franchise history tonight

St Louis Blues v Buffalo Sabres

The New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues earned some noteworthy wins on Thursday, especially relative to what previous Islanders and Blues teams have done.

The Blues set the best point streak of their long franchise history when they beat the Buffalo Sabres tonight, as they’re 12-0-1 in their last 13 games. They’ve also won seven straight.

That win prompted head coach Ken Hitchcock to set a fake record for taking the most circuitous route to describing a player as “clutch” when he praised Vladimir Tarasenko (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford):

So, basically he’s clutch.

Anyway, the Islanders broke a three-game losing streak and ended the Philadelphia Flyers’ four-game winning run via a shootout victory tonight. They also tied their best start in 51 games played as they’ve won 33 times, tying a mark they set during the beginning of their golden era in 1978-79.

It seems like both teams are the best their franchises have seen in quite some time.

Garrison is the latest Lightning defenseman to get injured

Jason Garrison, Alex Ovechkin

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to look like one of the East’s better teams, but that status could be threatened if they continue to see defensemen go down with injuries.

Jason Garrison is the latest to suffer an ailment, as Bryan Burns of the Lightning’s website reports that he won’t return after suffering a lower-body injury against the Dallas Stars tonight.

It’s unclear how bad the issue might be overall, but the Bolts must hope that it’s minor, as Radko Gudas and Matt Carle are also on the shelf.

Burns points out that towering center Brian Boyle was taking a shift or two on defense, which actually brought about early returns as he was involved in a 4-3 goal for Tampa Bay:

The bright side for the Lightning is that it looks like they’ll win 5-3. In a tense battle for Atlantic Division supremacy, these mounting injuries could really smart.

Also, this happened:

Kings’ collapse continues as Panthers pull away late

Los Angeles Kings v Florida Panthers

The Los Angeles Kings are well beyond the point of needing a “wake-up call” and could very well be in a full-blown crisis.

Marian Gaborik gave the Kings a 2-1 lead 2:19 into the third period on Thursday, yet they didn’t even earn a standings point. Instead, the Panthers scored two goals to win 3-2, giving Florida two straight wins and the Kings a third consecutive defeat.

Things get way uglier if you zoom out and check out the big picture for Los Angeles.

Since 2015 rolled around, the Kings only have three wins. Since Dec. 29, they’re 3-6-4.

They haven’t generated a single point in the first three games of a five-game road trip that continues in Tampa Bay on Saturday and ends in Columbus on Monday.

Yeah, there are a lot of bad ways to frame it beyond those meat-and-potatoes numbers:

The Kings are seated at 54 standings points in 51 games with more road contests than home games remaining (not great for a team that’s now 5-12-6 away from the Staples Center).

Check out this video of PHT’s Jason Brough and Mike Halford breaking down the Kings’ woes for more on the embattled defending champs:

Video: A rare fight for Nathan MacKinnon

Jonathan Ericsson, Nathan MacKinnon

Attribute to the rivalry at large or more personal beefs, but either way, Thursday saw a first as Colorado Avalanche sophomore star Nathan MacKinnon engaged in his first NHL fight.

It happened just 44 seconds in against Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. One can almost imagine Avalanche fans and execs holding their breath as the younger star seems to fight out of his weight class a bit:

Hey, as next wunderkind Connor McDavid would attest, sometimes even star players need to drop the mitts.