<span class="vcard">James O'Brien</span>

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs recall Kozun, Komarov still feeling effects of Ovechkin hit

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The Toronto Maple Leafs recalled Brandon Kozun from a conditioning stint on Saturday, but it’s not all good news as Leo Komarov remains sidelined, TSN’s Mark Masters reports.

Komarov (pictured) will miss his third consecutive game with a concussion suffered from a questionable hit by Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin. The 27-year-old seemed to be progressing earlier this week, but had a setback lately.

Komarov’s health isn’t the only concern for Toronto as the Maple Leafs face the Vancouver Canucks; Phil Kessel admitted that he’s not exactly 100 percent to Masters.

Toronto must suck it up, however, as this is an important time for the Buds to soak up standings points. They play five of their next six at home, yet things get bumpy after that. They only play five home games from Dec. 18 through Feb. 6.

Isles’ Boychuk, Hamonic won’t play ‘for a while’

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
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Word surfaced that New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic joined Johnny Boychuk (pictured) on IR, and it doesn’t sound like it will be a short stay, either.

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano provided a vague-yet-pessimistic update on Hamonic and Boychuk, as he told New York Newsday that Hamonic and Boychuk won’t “be playing for a while here.”

(Unfortunately, there’s no slide rule for coach speak, so we’ll just have to keep an eye out for future updates.)

As yesterday’s post noted, fellow injured reserve defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky’s outlook seems more positive, while the team called up Ryan Pulock to adjust to the mounting injuries. First-rounder Griffin Reinhart also was elevated recently due to all of the sidelined blueliners, although he’s made more waves so far denying trade rumors off the ice than generating results on it.

This upheaval among the Islanders’ blueline corps could provide quite the test, especially as they host the St. Louis Blues in an afternoon game today. Jaroslav Halak’s work has already been impressive, but if he can keep it up with so many injuries pile up, then watch out.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Parise says fans should stop booing the Wild power play

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Zach Parise totally understands booing the Minnesota Wild’s power play.

Still, he also reminded fans about something in an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: such jeering isn’t improving anything.

“It doesn’t help,” Parise said.

” … They’re frustrated, and I understand that. And they have a right to be frustrated. We’re frustrated, and then when we get booed, we get more frustrated, and then it snowballs.”

Parise, 30, showed a sense of humor regarding the struggling special teams unit, joking that they sometimes feel like booing themselves.

A quick look at the Wild power play

Power plays often ebb and flow, something the Star-Tribune points out. Even so, it’s tough not to be worried about a power play that has only produced seven goals and converted on nine percent of its chances, with only a Buffalo Sabres unit of potentially historic poorness* being less effective.

The more important question is: how much of this is based on bad luck?

To break that down, let’s consider chances more than results. (Stats via War on Ice).

The Wild have generated 133 shots for on the power play, tying them with the Islanders and Maple Leafs for seventh in the NHL. If you change the dynamics of the experiment a bit and look at averages (shots for per 60 minutes), they slip a bit to 14th (53.03 per 60). The point is that they seem to be producing a decent number of chances.

More bounces to come?

Sure, not all shots are created equal, yet the low shooting percentages of certain Wild forwards inspire visions of a better future. Thomas Vanek has only scored on 5.1 percent of his shots. Jason Pominville’s success rate is just 5.9 (and, unlike Vanek, he’s shooting as much as ever). Mikko Koivu’s been even less lucky with a 4.5 percentage.

Those are three key Wild forwards who should see more puck luck over the long haul, and Minnesota’s power play might reap the benefits.

***

Not that long ago, the word “regression” made Wild fans queasy. In the case of the 2014-15 team’s power play, it actually argues for better days, even if the unit only upgrades to merely average.

In other words, Wild fans should give Parise & Co. a break.

* Buffalo only has five power-play goals, good for a 6.8 percent success rate. The Sabres allowed three shorthanded goals, which means their PP’s a pathetic +2. Yikes.

Tanguay: Avs ‘keep finding ways to lose’

Colorado Avalanche v Philadelphia Flyers
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Alex Tanguay’s highlight reel goal turned some heads on Thursday, but that wasn’t the replay on the minds of the Colorado Avalanche.

Instead, more than a few Avalanche members were unhappy about a disallowed Daniel Briere power-play goal in what ultimately became a 5-4 loss to the Calgary Flames, as the Denver Post reports.

“Apparently Sportsnet has an angle … the angle we had it was impossible whether it touched the glove or not,” Patrick Roy said.

Here’s video of the disallowed tally:

The NHL laid out its explanation in its Situation Room Blog:

At 3:49 of the second period in the Colorado Avalanche/Calgary Flames game, video review determined that Avalanche forward Daniel Briere used his left hand to bat the puck into the Flames net. According to Rule 67.6 “a goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who bats or directs the puck with his hand into the net”. No goal Colorado.

Ultimately, it counts as a loss. A disenfranchised Tanguay told the Denver Post that “we are finding ways to lose” while Jarome Iginla lamented the team’s many close losses.

A few bits to consider, then:

  • They have a .444 winning percentage when scoring first, tying them with the Edmonton Oilers for third-worst in the NHL. Their .822 mark in 2013-14 tied Montreal for the fourth-best percentage.
  • Conversely, they were the third-best at coming back from behind (40.5 percent) in 2013-14, but they’re middle of-the-pack in that area now.
  • They’ve only won a third of the one-goal games they’ve been in so far. Last season, they were the best in the league, winning 70 percent of their one-goal games.

Some might think it’s too simplistic, yet it really does seem like the Avalanche are rarely getting the bounces they enjoyed to an almost ridiculous extent last season. The team needs to find a way to force their luck to improve or their many critics will feel vindicated.

One key to Chicago’s success: finishing strong

Colorado Avalanche versus the Chicago Blackhwaks
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To some extent, it’s business as usual for the Chicago Blackhawks, who are currently on a four-game winning streak.

They’re a dominant possession team with a mix of high-end offensive talent and impressive depth. Their defense probably doesn’t get enough credit in some quarters and their goaltending is generally solid, even among injuries.

CSNChicago.com points out one thing that might be different: they’re finishing games on a strong note, with a 29-12 goal differential in third periods.

Patrick Kane isn’t so sure what the difference is, yet Andrew Shaw seems to argue it’s a point of emphasis.

“Last year in the playoffs we had a lot of two-goal leads that we ended up blowing, so we’re really focusing on going into third periods ending games early and keeping that momentum moving forward,” Shaw said. “We’re just trying to find ways to close out games.”

Here’s one extra bit of context from CSNChicago.com:

The 29 third-period goals certainly catch the attention. Part of that is the Blackhawks’ recent production, which has taken off since mid-November. In their last seven victories, the Blackhawks have recorded 12 third-period goals. In some cases, those goals have broken ties. In more instances, however, it’s added to a lead the Blackhawks already had and made those final third-period minutes that less stressful.

This pivots to an interesting side question: who’s been the best at closing games out? NHL.com has handy period-by-period guides for goals for and against, so here’s a look at the best and worst in the final frame (not including overtime):

Team GP 3rd P Diff Goals For: 1st Pd 2nd Pd 3rd Pd OT Tot Goals Agnst: 1st Pd 2nd Pd 3rd Pd OT Tot
CALGARY 27 24 15 27 39 3 84 22 30 15 1 68
CHICAGO 25 17 30 15 29 1 75 17 19 12 1 49
TAMPA BAY 27 13 30 31 33 2 96 17 29 20 0 66
VANCOUVER 26 12 14 34 30 2 80 20 30 18 0 68
MONTREAL 27 11 8 24 33 1 66 23 21 22 1 67
NASHVILLE 25 7 16 22 27 1 66 15 14 20 1 50
LOS ANGELES 26 7 24 27 18 1 70 22 19 11 2 54
COLORADO 26 5 19 22 26 1 68 26 30 21 4 81
DETROIT 26 4 22 28 29 2 81 15 22 25 2 64
TORONTO 25 3 19 37 27 1 84 27 23 24 2 76
NY RANGERS 24 3 22 20 26 2 70 19 24 23 0 66
NY ISLANDERS 26 2 27 24 23 3 77 22 25 21 0 68
OTTAWA 25 1 17 20 24 1 62 16 24 23 3 66
ANAHEIM 27 1 19 29 23 1 72 18 27 22 2 69
FLORIDA 24 1 12 22 17 1 52 16 23 16 3 58
SAN JOSE 27 -2 22 28 25 0 75 18 26 27 0 71
ST LOUIS 26 -2 19 21 25 2 67 14 16 27 0 57
CAROLINA 25 -2 18 18 20 1 57 26 20 22 1 69
BOSTON 27 -2 20 23 19 3 65 18 30 21 1 70
PITTSBURGH 25 -2 33 28 17 2 80 18 19 19 1 57
EDMONTON 26 -3 13 22 23 0 58 28 31 26 4 89
MINNESOTA 24 -4 19 27 18 2 66 11 22 22 0 55
WINNIPEG 26 -4 20 19 12 2 53 17 21 16 2 56
WASHINGTON 25 -5 23 27 17 2 69 21 23 22 2 68
NEW JERSEY 26 -6 20 19 22 1 62 15 28 28 1 72
PHILADELPHIA 25 -10 19 24 21 2 66 22 24 31 0 77
BUFFALO 26 -15 9 13 19 0 41 18 28 34 1 81
ARIZONA 27 -15 20 23 17 2 62 25 25 32 2 84
DALLAS 26 -18 24 31 19 0 74 24 28 37 4 93
COLUMBUS 25 -21 20 22 15 0 57 23 26 36 1 86

Interesting stuff, huh? It’s especially notable that the Calgary Flames have almost as many goals in third periods (39) as they do in the opening four minutes combined (42). This could be a fun thing to revisit later on in the 2014-15 season; any theories on why some teams are so strong or weak late in games?