Author: James O'Brien

Toronto Maple Leafs play the Washington Capitals

Leafs wallop Washington, critique Ovechkin’s hit on Komarov


All of a sudden, the Toronto Maple Leafs are handing out demoralizing defeats rather than absorbing them.

They’re now 3-0-1 since they fell 9-2 to the Nashville Predators, including tonight’s 6-2 salute to the Washington Capitals.

The easiest way to summarize Washington’s lousy night? Justin Peters was cashed from the Capitals’ net only to return later in the game to relieve Braden Holtby, and the moves weren’t injury-related. Peters allowed three goals on 11 shots in two periods of work while Holtby gave up three on 12 shots in 20 minutes of play … so yeah, they were pretty much a disaster for Washington.

Goaltending wasn’t the only thing that was ugly for the Capitals, as this Alex Ovechkin hit forced Leo Komarov out of the game:

Fan 590’s Megan Robinson reports that Ovechkin tried to mend any hard feelings after the game:

It doesn’t sound like Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle is buying it, however:

Regardless, for all the negative ink spilled about the Leafs and positive thoughts about Barry Trotz’s work in Washington, the Maple Leafs have a three-point standings edge on the Capitals and would be the team that would make the playoffs if the postseason began today.

Don’t look now, but the Sabres are red-hot

Buffalo Sabres v Washington Capitals

The Buffalo Sabres are blazing hot right now, and it doesn’t appear as though they’ve stepped out of a time machine.

In 48 hours, they beat the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens twice, including tonight’s 4-3 shootout win.

The Sabres have now won five of their last six games, improving their record to 8-14-2. It’s not as if they’re merely beating sad sack teams, either:

Nov. 15: 6-2 win against Toronto
Nov. 18: 4-1 vs. San Jose
Nov. 22: 2-1 win against Washington
Wednesday: 2-1 loss against Winnipeg
Friday: 2-1 win against Montreal
Saturday: 4-3 shootout win against Montreal

(Yes, some/all of these teams have their issues, but they’re all in pretty reasonable playoff contention, too.)

Not bad for a Sabres squad that, quite frankly, looks like it’s easily the worst team in the NHL by plenty of objective measures.

The common denominator in this run is the great play by Jhonas Enroth (pictured).

The 26-year-old’s appeared in Buffalo’s last five games, allowing eight goals. He was brilliant against the Canadiens tonight, stopping 41 out of 44 shots and all five of Montreal’s shootout attempts.

If Enroth & Co. keep this up, opponents truly won’t be able to chalk up the Sabres as “a gimme.”

Chris Stewart’s goal also seems worth noting:

Video: Blues, Wild engage in physical game

St. Louis Blues v Boston Bruins

On the same night that Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella landed a contract extension, he might land in hot water.

The NHL might have something to say about this hit on St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie, who looked dazed upon leaving the ice:

On the bright side, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Michael Russo points out that Oshie returned in the second period. The hit drew a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal hit to the head.

Scandella hasn’t been suspended so far in his young NHL career.

Update: This was far from the only hit that drew some controversy. Ryan Reaves delivered a hit on Erik Haula that drew some controversy, but not a penalty. Kevin Shattenkirk received a game misconduct for this check on Ryan Carter:

Remarkably, all three recipients of big hits managed to return to Saturday’s game.

Gaborik’s out for Kings, but they say it isn’t serious

Marian Gaborik

Los Angeles Kings winger Marian Gaborik isn’t playing against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. That much we know.

What, exactly, is bothering him isn’t totally clear.

GM Dean Lombardi apparently told the OC Register’s Rich Hammond that he might be sick. Meanwhile someone in hockey operations told LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen that it’s a minor injury.

The good news – maybe the only really clear news – is that it doesn’t sound like a significant issue.

Let’s be honest, though, really. The Kings probably could have gotten away with announcing “Marian Gaborik is out with being Marian Gaborik” and most people would understand.

Update: The verdict seems to be an upper-body injury:

Isles’ Halak foils Devils, wins ninth in a row

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders

In the beginning of the 2014-15 season, it seemed like the New York Islanders would live and die by high-scoring games. Jaroslav Halak’s made that a distant memory.

He stopped 34 out of 35 shots in a 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils tonight, giving him nine straight wins. If Halak isn’t the hottest goalie in the NHL, he’s certainly on the short list right now.

The difference between his play in October versus November is pretty stark. Halak went 3-3-0 with some abysmal numbers (.889 save percentage) in October. He only allowed 14 goals in 10 starts this month, however, recording three shutouts and a 9-1-0 record.

New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple describes this win as a game they wouldn’t have nabbed last season:

Maybe that’s because they didn’t have Halak in net?