Author: James O'Brien


Blue Jackets get Bobrovsky, Anisimov back tonight

Sure, they’re still enduring setbacks, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are getting some key players back tonight and could see more return soon. The team announced that top goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artem Anisimov will play against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

Head coach Todd Richards announced that Anisimov is expected to center a like with Alexander Wennberg and Adam Cracknell.

Columbus could crawl even closer to full strength (or at least “normal health for an NHL team enduring the rigors of an 82-game season”) on Tuesday. Richards said that Jack Skille and Matt Calvert at least have a chance to play then. Brandon Dubinsky remains day-to-day, so things seem at least a little brighter for the brittle Blue Jackets.

Fittingly, it’s not all solid-to-good news, as Fedor Tyutin won’t play tonight and his longer term status is still unclear:

Overall, Columbus still has a ways to go, but at least the Blue Jackets are starting to look healthier and put that mammoth losing streak behind them.

Palat says he’s good to go for Lightning

Ondrej Palat
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Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat gave the impression that he’s better than a game-time decision for tonight’s game against the New York Islanders, as the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith reports:

Palat, 23, missed Friday’s practice with a lower-body injury, but it doesn’t sound like it’s significant enough to force him to sit out any game time. Of course, there’s always the chance that head coach Jon Cooper/the Lightning’s training staff might disagree with Palat’s prognosis, yet one can otherwise assume he’ll play against the Isles.

Palat’s been effective for the Lightning so far this season, collecting 11 points in 17 games while averaging a little more than 18 minutes per contest. His possession stats are pretty nice, as well.

Considering the Islanders’ high-octane offense, the Bolts may need every bit of firepower they can manage, and Palat’s certainly one of their better young forwards.

Parise is ‘progressing well,’ could play for Wild on Sunday

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The still-mumps-plagued Minnesota Wild won’t get Zach Parise back against the Dallas Stars on Saturday, but he could return as early as Sunday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

Wild head coach Mike Yeo said that Parise, 30, is “progressing well” in his recovery from concussion issues that have sidelined him since Nov. 4. Minnesota has one win in four games without Parise, with that victory coming against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.

With illness and injuries being an obvious issue, Parise’s status isn’t the only thing the Star-Tribune updated.

Players and staff are getting vaccinated for the mumps while there have been some tweaks. Christian Folin was demoted to the AHL in exchange for fellow defenseman Justin Falk.

The Wild attempt to improve upon a 1-14-5 record in Dallas since March 21, 2003 (nice stat via the Star-Tribune). They face the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow.

Haggerty: Bruins are going soft

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens

One can throw around a lot of different words to describe the Boston Bruins’ bumpy start to the season.’s Joe Haggerty uses perhaps the most provocative one: soft.

The word appears in his column six different times.

Haggerty writes that “you can call the Bruins a mostly soft hockey team and you wouldn’t be wrong on most nights.” He calls out the play of specific combinations like the Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Reilly Smith line and even has this to say about Boston’s defense:

Their defense is almost the Black and Gold version of a Twinkie: looks pretty good on the outside but has a soft, cream filling in the middle that’s pretty unhealthy.

Here’s video from Haggerty and

Many will point out that hits are a stat that aren’t always compiled consistently, yet it’s interesting to note that the Bruins have delivered 389 hits and received 443 so far this season, the eighth worst “hit percentage” so far in 2014-15. The Bruins were in the middle of the pack in this somewhat random stat in 2013-14.

That could be a troubling sign … or it could indicate that the Bruins have possessed the puck more often than not, opening the door to receive more hits (they’re ranked ninth in Fenwick stats, for what it’s worth).

Is this perceived drop in physicality something the Bruins should be concerned about? Milan Lucic told that they could probably increase the intensity a bit.

“We’re a team that thrives on playing with emotion, and maybe we needed to play with a little more emotion, and a little more bang,” Lucic said. “It wasn’t there [against Montreal]. You can talk about scoring only two goals in two games, but the reason we’ve only scored two goals is because we’re not taking care of things in the defensive zone.”

The Bruins get a chance to assert themselves in a home game against the Carolina Hurricanes this afternoon.

Caps’ Trotz on protecting leads: ‘Sometimes safe is death’

Nick Foligno, Braden Holtby

The Washington Capitals are currently on a three-game winning streak, yet they’re not that far removed from a disturbing run of blown leads. Barry Trotz told the Washington Post that his team needs to drop the urge to play things too close to the vest.

“I think continue to play north, the north game,” Trotz said. “But with a good conscious effort to make sure we’re making good decisions with the puck and not backing up, playing on your toes, not your heels. If you have that mentality, we’re going to be on our toes offensively and defensively, then we should be fine, rather than let’s play on our heels, a safe game. Sometimes safe is death.”

When stats-leaning observers speak of “score effects,” they refer to teams easing off the gas when they have leads.

It’s almost inevitable to do so – the Washington Post points out that only two NHL teams have avoided possession declines with leads so far this season – but Washington has experienced the second-worst drop-off when they get ahead.

Japers Rink dives deep into this issue, including these interesting observations:

So, while the Capitals are doing a very impressive job limiting shot attempts, it’s coming at a high cost. The drop-off in attempt generation is staggering, especially when you recall that Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Green all see a larger percentage of ice time when the team is leading than when the game is tied and the Caps are getting all of those offensive zone starts.

Thanks to a piece that Matt Pffefer wrote for Hockey Prospectus we know that teams shoot at a higher percentage when they are leading, and the Caps are putting their top offensive players on the ice… but they need to take shots in order to score (a little luck wouldn’t hurt either – the Caps are in the bottom-third in up-one shooting percentage). Up to this point in the season the Capitals have fallen into an extremely defensive posture when leading (and have had plenty of practice doing it), and doing so has cost them. It’s now up to the coaching staff to identify that a change in tactics is necessary in order to help this team secure better outcomes.

Coaching might be the most interesting part of all of this.

Considering his “safe is death” comments, it seems like Trotz at least understands that it’s not wise to go into “turtle mode” when you have a lead. One cannot help but read into phrases like “making good decisions with the puck” a little bit and wonder if Caps players might be so over-thinking things, however. Whether that can be attributed to old habits dying hard or Trotz’s influence, it’s a trend that needs to end.

Naturally, it’s still early in the season and the sample size isn’t large; the Capitals could improve at protecting leads if goaltending improves and bounces go their way.

Even so, it’s something the team needs to work on, and possibly an instance in which Trotz must practice what he preaches.