Author: James O'Brien

Minnesota Wild v Arizona Coyotes

Better effort, same result: Coyotes lose ninth straight at home


The Arizona Coyotes lost their ninth home game in a row on Saturday, falling to the mumps-depleted Minnesota Wild via a 4-3 shootout score.

At least head coach Dave Tippett seemed fairly upbeat after the team fell to 0-6-3 in its last nine contests in Glendale, as Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan reports.

“If we play like that night in night out we’ll get better results,” Tippett said.

Tippett might want to put Devan Dubnyk in net for better results, to be honest. His overtime save on Mikko Koivu was borderline obscene:

The Coyotes are now 4-8-3 at home in 2014-15. For a franchise that probably tops out as a bubble team at this point, it’s the kind of run that could prove fatal.

Carlyle says 9-2 meltdown vs. Preds ‘changed’ the Leafs

Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s the sort of thing that usually gets edited out of a Hollywood script, but a disastrous loss may have just been the spark the Toronto Maple Leafs needed.

At least, that’s what head coach Randy Carlyle thinks about his Buds as Saturday’s 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings pushes Toronto to 8-1-1 since a humiliating 9-2 home loss against the Nashville Predators. He said as much to TSN’s Jonas Siegel.

“That’s changed our group since then,” Carlyle said.

Siegel reports that Jonathan Bernier deemed it “one of our best games of the year.”

One of the best parts about this win – at least for the more skeptical members of the Maple Leafs’ fan base – is that it wasn’t merely about leaning heavily on Bernier or James Reimer to bail them out (as has often been the case). Toronto generated a 41-28 shot advantage and the puck possession follows that trend:


(Chart via Natural Stat Trick)

We’ve seen this Carlyle-powered Leafs team experience some dramatic highs and lows, yet if they can play like they did on Saturday more often than not, that 8-1-1 run may indeed be a sign of things to come.

Then again, the downright cynical Leafs fans might just spout the “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in …” line from “The Godfather III.”

Blue Jackets take sixth in a row in thriller vs. Pens

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets

Things haven’t gone the Columbus Blue Jackets’ way very often this season – to say the least – but a thriller against their 2014 playoff opponents conjured memories of last year’s dangerous team.

The Blue Jackets won their sixth consecutive game via a 4-3 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a contest that was as electric as the Columbus crowd.

As usual for Columbus, it wasn’t easy.

Kris Letang was in vintage form on Saturday, scoring a 2-1 goal and the game-tying tally with about 11 seconds left. The Blue Jackets just seemed like they wouldn’t be denied, especially when Boone Jenner scored on a dramatic penalty shot:

Again, the Blue Jackets looked a lot like the 2013-14 squad that really came on late in the season, generating a relentless attack. Head coach Todd Richards didn’t deny the resemblance.

“That was our M.O. last year: our resiliency and finding a way,” Richards said. “Our guys stuck with it.”

Cam Atkinson’s take was simpler: “That was a lot of fun.”

It certainly was a lot of fun to watch; it was the sort of contest that likely made fans of the sport pine for a playoff rematch. At 12-15-2, it would take an epic run for Columbus to make that happen … but would you really want to question their scrappy outlook?

Isles ‘outwork’ Blackhawks, end Chicago’s eight-game run


If you look at the box score, the story of the New York Islanders beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 was all about the Isles scoring two goals in less than one minute.

The Blackhawks view it as a matter of work ethic, though.

Both Jonathan Toews and Dan Carcillo emphasized as much after the loss, which saw the end of Chicago’s eight-game winning streak. Toews praised Scott Darling, but not the team effort, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

“We just didn’t work for pucks, we didn’t generate chances, we didn’t really make them do things they didn’t want to do,” Toews said.

Carcillo echoed those thoughts:

Still, that two-goal burst also made a big difference, even surpassing a sublime Patrick Kane goal. Here’s video of that duo of goals:

One can argue that the Islanders needed this one the most, as they ended a three-game skid with this win.

The Blackhawks don’t seem too broken up about it, really.

Rare Backstrom hat trick powers Caps’ win against Bolts

during an NHL game at Verizon Center on December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC.

To some, Nicklas Backstrom is basically the Swedish Joe Thornton, as he piles up assists while rarely scoring many goals.

Let’s hope he doesn’t ponder the same sort of celebrations that “Jumbo Joe” mentioned regarding Tomas Hertl’s four-goal night, however, as Backstrom showed he’s not a total slouch in the goals department tonight.

His first career regular-season hat trick powered the Washington Capitals’ 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

Here’s video of Backstrom’s trio, which included two Alex Ovechkin assists:

Speaking of unusual events, the hat haul apparently included a Santa cap:

Apparently Backstrom’s scored a hat trick in his NHL career, just not in the regular season, as Mike Vogl of the team’s website notes that he collected one against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of that tide-turning 2010 playoff series: