Jason Brough


Sorry about the jinx, Winnipeg Jets


Ah, the classic PHT jinx. We write a glowing post about some team or another, and they respond by completely falling apart.

Since last week’s homage to the Winnipeg Jets, the Jets have:

— Lost 5-2 in Philadelphia, where Connor Hellebuyck allowed four goals on just 21 shots
— Lost 4-1 in Boston, where the Jets managed just 12 shots against 38 for the Bruins
— Lost 3-1 in Carolina, where the Jets were outshot 40-29
— Lost 3-1 in Minnesota, where they were held to 16 shots against 26 for the Wild

Add it up, and ever since we sang their praises, the Jets have been outscored 15-5 and outshot 126-89. And just to throw some advanced stats into the mix, when it comes to score-adjusted Corsi, no team in the NHL has been worse than Winnipeg in its last four games (41.3).

At the very least, there were signs of improvement against the Wild.

“It was the way the game went,” head coach Paul Maurice told reporters after the loss. “We tipped their second goal in and it was a perfect tip and we were about an inch shy on everything we did. The margin for error was real small. It’s going to look like that for us right now. We’ve got to be prepared to play those type of (tight) games and get comfortable in them.”

To be fair to the Jets, they still have a long list of injured players, including veterans Tyler Myers and Bryan Little. They’ve also played a lot of games in a short time — last night’s was their 12th in 21 days.

But there’s no rest for the weary. A big Central Division clash awaits Friday in Nashville, where the Predators (9-7-3) are starting to gain some momentum after a slow start.

In the last week alone, the Jets (9-11-2) have slid right out of a playoff spot. They’re now one point back of the Preds for the final wild-card spot, with Nashville holding three games in hand.

Mike Smith had an ‘awful’ night for the Coyotes


Mike Smith made only his fifth start of the season last night for the Arizona Coyotes, and things did not go well.

The Coyotes lost, 4-1, to the visitors from Vancouver. Afterwards, Smith delivered a frank assessment of his performance.

“It was awful,” he told reporters. “It was sleeping right from the first goal, and right through on. It was not even close. We did a lot of good things, I thought, in front of me and didn’t get rewarded for it tonight. But a lot of that comes solely on my shoulders tonight.”

The first goal Smith surrendered came off a careless turnover by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, pounced on by Bo Horvat, who quickly fed Sven Baertschi for the tap-in:

“Instead of making a big save there, you let one in that you were sleeping on a little bit,” said Smith. “From there on in, it was obvious that I wasn’t feeling it tonight. It’s no excuse. You have to get the job done.”

The Coyotes ended up outshooting the Canucks, 36-27, but the real difference was goaltending. In Vancouver’s net was Ryan Miller, who turned in his finest performance of the month and was named the game’s third star.

As for Smith, well, this was the fourth and final goal he allowed, right before he got the hook:

With the loss, the 34-year-old Smith fell to 2-1-1 with a .904 save percentage.

The Coyotes host Connor McDavid and the Oilers tomorrow. Louis Domingue is the other Arizona goalie. He’s 4-8-0 with the same .904 save percentage as Smith’s.

Pick your poison, Dave Tippett.

Related: For better or worse, the Coyotes are ‘married’ to Smith

Kevan Miller a game-time decision for Chara-less Bruins


The Boston Bruins will be without Zdeno Chara tonight in Ottawa, but they could get Kevan Miller back.

Head coach Claude Julien said this morning that Miller will be a game-time decision. The 29-year-old defenseman has yet to make his 2016-17 debut. He had hand surgery on Oct. 11, two days before the Bruins opened their season.

If Miller does play, it will likely mean another game in the press box for Colin Miller. The 24-year-old has been a healthy scratch the past four games. He has one goal and one assist in 15 games, with a minus-6 rating.

As for Kevan Miller, tonight could mark his first game for the Bruins since signing a four-year, $10 million extension. Last season, the 29-year-old set career highs in NHL games played (71), goals (5), assists (13), and average ice time (19:04).

It was not all roses for the undrafted University of Vermont product. That Miller had to play such a large role became emblematic of the Bruins’ issues on the right side of their defense, and he heard it from the fans at times. In the end, among Boston d-men, only Chara and Torey Krug logged more ice time than Miller.

This season, the surprising play of rookie Brandon Carlo has alleviated some of the concerns about the right side. But Carlo will be tested tonight without Chara as his partner. The 19-year-old will likely skate with veteran John-Michael Liles, while Krug is expected to pair with Adam McQuaid, and Joe Morrow will be with one of the Millers, probably Kevan.

Suddenly, some holes are showing in the Rangers’ game


The New York Rangers fell woefully short last night at MSG, losing 6-1 to the visitors from Pittsburgh while getting outshot 38-17.

It was by far the worst performance of the Rangers’ mostly excellent season, and it left head coach Alain Vigneault perplexed.

“I can’t explain to you at this time exactly what happened,” Vigneault told reporters. “Obviously I’m disappointed. The players are disappointed in our game. I know our fans are disappointed.”

Now, granted, every team has a few stinkers over an 82-game season. The Rangers are still a very respectable 14-6-1, with a plus-29 goal differential. Only Montreal (14-4-2) has more points in the overall standings, and nobody has a better goal differential.

The question with these Rangers is a matter of sustainability — just like it was last season, when they started 16-3-2, only to play .500 hockey the rest of the way before getting tossed aside by the Penguins in the playoffs.

This year’s Rangers, unlike last year’s, have not been riding the goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. In fact, Lundqvist (9-6-1, .911) has been outplayed by his backup, Antti Raanta (5-0-0, .934). Those two combined, the Blueshirts have been getting around league-average goaltending.

What hasn’t been average is the Rangers’ shooting percentage, currently at an NHL-high 13.5. The next highest percentage belongs to Columbus, at 11.2, then Montreal, at 10.8. Last season, only one team finished with a shooting percentage over 10, and that was Dallas (10.1). The Rangers finished second, at 9.95.

You look at the Rangers’ top scorers and almost all of them have been shooting the lights out:


History suggests that it’s not if the Rangers shooting percentage regresses, it’s by how much, and whether they can make up for it in other areas, like goaltending or increased puck possession.

Speaking of puck possession, in the Rangers’ last 10 games, their score-adjusted Corsi ranks 29th out of 30 teams, with only the Islanders below them. On the season, they rank 22nd, just below Buffalo and just above Vancouver. Which isn’t the greatest company to be keeping.

We do not mean to pour cold water on what’s been a very encouraging start to the Rangers’ season. GM Jeff Gorton still deserves much praise for adding the likes of Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, and Brandon Pirri in free agency. And let’s not forget that Mika Zibanejad just got hurt, and that may help explain last night’s stinker.

Read more: The new-look Rangers are dangerous on every line

This is simply something we’ll be monitoring, whether the Rangers maintain their winning ways or they don’t. That’s the problem with getting off to such a great start. Everyone starts poking holes, wondering how long it can last.

The Rangers take on the Flyers in Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon. The game can be seen on NBC, starting at 1 p.m. ET.

Rinne holds the fort as Preds beat Stars


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Pekka Rinne doesn’t want November to end.

Filip Forsberg, James Neal and Ryan Johansen each had a goal and an assist to lead the Nashville Predators over the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rinne made 33 saves for Nashville, improving to 7-1-2 this November. After he made eight saves in the first, Dallas put 22 on the Finn in the second, and he denied them all. He stopped 3 of 5 in the third.

“They came hard that period, they shot the puck a lot,” Rinne said of the second. “For the most part, I was able to see it. I felt good all night, and that was a busy period. Obviously now looking back, that was a big period just being able to defend that.”

Mike Fisher and Craig Smith also scored for Nashville, winners of three of four.

Patrick Sharp and Brett Ritchie scored and Kari Lehtonen made 16 saves for the Stars, who have lost two of three.

“There was a lot of good stuff in the game,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. “Our energy was good. I thought the second period on, our breakouts coming out of our own end were good.”

Forsberg scored the game’s first goal with 5:08 left in the opening period. With the puck above the right faceoff circle, P.K. Subban sent a pass to Forsberg in the lower part of the left circle. There, Forsberg squeezed the puck in between Lehtonen’s right skate and the right post.

“It was a really nice play by Subby to find me back door and I just tried to hit the net,” Forsberg said.

It was Forsberg’s second goal of the season. In 2015-16, Forsberg matched a franchise record with 33 goals.

Subban has points in four consecutive games.

Fisher doubled the lead with 3:54 left in the second. His initial attempt from the left side was blocked by Jason Spezza, but Fisher regained control of the puck, skated behind the net and beat Lehtonen with a backhanded wraparound.

A lengthy video review determined the puck had completely crossed the goal line, giving the Nashville captain his fourth goal of the season.

Sharp got Dallas on the scoreboard at 5:32 of the third with a short-handed goal. It was the first of the season for Sharp, who missed 14 games with concussion-like symptoms before returning Nov. 17.

“Yeah, disappointing third period,” Sharp said. “We kind of put ourselves in a good spot there on the road trailing by one against a tough team. It’s not a bad spot to be in, but a couple of mistakes ended up being the difference in the game.”

Johansen answered 41 seconds later with a power-play goal. Neal sent a pass from the left circle in front to Johansen, who had a tap-in for his second of the season.

“That was a really big goal,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “At that point, they had fired a lot of shots, a lot of attempts. We were on the power play and there’s a chance to really blow it open, and we give one back the other way. I don’t think there was much time left in the power play, maybe 25 seconds or so and to go out there, get it in and get it to the net, and score a goal and take back the two goals at that point I think was really important.”

The assist was the 200th of Neal’s career.

Smith scored with 8:51 left off Forsberg’s pass.

Ritchie scored his sixth of the season with 1:16 left, but Neal answered a minute later with an empty-net goal.