Jason Brough

Last in the Pacific, Ducks begin road trip with ‘sense of urgency’


It’s been almost two weeks since the Anaheim Ducks last earned a point in the standings.

That’s not entirely their fault. They’ve only played once since beating Pittsburgh on Dec. 6.

But they did blow that one opportunity, dropping a 5-1 decision at home to Carolina on Dec. 11.

Tonight in Buffalo, they kick off a four-game road trip, with further stops in Newark, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, followed by the Christmas break.

“When you don’t get any points in (10) days, a lot of teams pass you and go by you,” coach Bruce Boudreau told the O.C. Register. “So the sense of urgency to get points is a little bit more. I think everybody knows the importance of this week.”

Picked by many to win the Stanley Cup, the Ducks (11-13-5) will begin their trip in last place in the worst division in the league, three points back of four teams.

On the bright side, they’re only four points out of second in said Pacific Division, with at least a game in hand on every team they’re chasing.

Looking ahead, the Ducks play seven of their next eight on the road, then get an eight-game home stand from Jan. 3-20. While it’s possible they could tread water during that stretch and still stay in the playoff race, this is not a roster that was built to tread water. Considering expectations, GM Bob Murray probably won’t stay patient forever.

“The ball’s in our court,” said forward Chris Stewart. “It’s just up to us.”

Related: Ryan Getzlaf is hearing the criticism

Less ‘running around’ has been key for Bruins

Dennis Seidenberg, Patric Hornqvist, \b40

The Boston Bruins’ goals-against average has been doing a good impression of the Canadian dollar.

It’s been plummeting.

Last night’s shutout of the Penguins brought it down to 2.63. Still not among the NHL’s best — the official rank is 18th — but for Tuukka Rask, the improvement in front of him has been obvious.

“When we play our system it’s very helpful for a goalie,” Rask told reporters. “It’s so much more coordinated in our own zone now. Guys are not running around.”

Rask has also been better himself, according to coach Claude Julien.

“He’s been the goaltender we all know he can be,” said Julien. “That’s how we felt about him at the beginning (of the season) when he struggled.”

Rask has allowed just two goals in his last four starts. His save percentage has climbed to .917, creeping above the league average .916.

Granted, as a team, the Bruins still aren’t dominating games the way they did when they were considered among the NHL’s elite. They gave up 34 shots to the Penguins last night. They spent much of the game in their own end, especially after taking a 2-0 lead.

That being said, not all shots are created equal, and Rask has liked how the Bruins have been keeping their opponents mostly to the outside.

“They’re going to get shots,” he said. “It’s just a matter of what kind of shots they’re going to get.”

The Bruins’ next game is Friday in Pittsburgh.

Sullivan jumbles the lines, hoping to ‘stumble on’ a solution


Keep an eye on the Penguins’ line combinations tonight in Boston, because new head coach Mike Sullivan has been doing some experimenting.

For instance, yesterday at practice, winger Phil Kessel found himself skating on the third line with Daniel Sprong and Eric Fehr. This morning, however, Kessel was back in the top six on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Plotnikov.

Patric Hornqvist, meanwhile, was dropped all the way to the bottom three:

If you’re wondering where Nick Bonino was, he’s not feeling well and may or may not play tonight. Just another variable in all this.

“I’m just trying to explore a little bit and see what we might stumble on,” Sullivan said, per The Beaver County Times. “We have a lot of options, a lot of pieces up front that we can interchange. We have to find a way to generate more offense, score more goals, maybe create more balance.”

Sullivan is obviously aware that his team needs to start scoring more. That’s why he’s in charge now.

Also obvious, Sidney Crosby has been the most glaring under-performer, with just six goals and 13 assists in 29 games. His 19 points are still good enough for second in team scoring, but his production is well below his regular pace of at least a point per game.

Oh, and lest anyone think Crosby is simply experiencing a run of bad shooting luck, his possession stats suggest it’s more than that. Without getting too much into the numbers, he has a negative relative Corsi. That’s just not something that we’re used to seeing.

One thing Sullivan could always try? Putting Crosby and Malkin together. That’s not ideal for various reasons, but then, neither is status quo. At this point, all options should be on the table.

At five-on-five this season, Crosby has spent the most time with veteran wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, the latter of whom has been forced to end his career due to blood clots.

Related: Penguins focused on cleaner breakouts

The Canucks picked the wrong day to wish their fans happy holidays

Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller

The Vancouver Canucks picked an interesting day to send out season’s greetings — along with some rosy spin — to their fans.

“We are all learning together as we push for a playoff spot and build for the future,” wrote president of hockey operations Trevor Linden in a letter to the fans. “Our coaches and leadership group have been strong as always and I look forward to an exciting winter and spring at Rogers Arena.”

A few reasons why that was interesting, if not downright tone deaf:

— Last night, the Canucks put forth arguably their worst effort of the season. They lost, 6-2, in Minnesota, and probably deserved to lose by more.

Daniel Sedin called the performance “unacceptable,” his remark coming just 10 days after his brother, Henrik, had said, “I would love to play against us right now.”

— This morning, the local sports radio station held a poll — should coach Willie Desjardins be fired? Almost half the respondents said yes.

— There are rumblings that youngster Jake Virtanen will be headed back to the WHL after representing Canada at the World Juniors.

— Meanwhile, 20-year-old center Bo Horvat continues to look totally in over his head defensively:

— As for 19-year-old center Jared McCann, well, he’s been losing sleep over his lack of production.

— And just to top it off, 22-year-old defenseman Frank Corrado received good reviews in his Toronto debut last night. You’ll recall the Canucks lost Corrado to waivers in October. They’ve since been decimated by injuries to their blue line. There was an easy way for Vancouver to keep Corrado, but for whatever reason, management decided to expose him to waivers.

So yeah, not the best timing on those season’s greetings. Could’ve maybe held off until tomorrow.

The Canucks’ next game is tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Here are the combined OT/shootout records of all 30 teams

Anze Kopitar, Linus Ullmark

The NHL gives the same value to a 3-on-3 overtime victory as it does to one that came in regulation. Some people think that’s fine, some don’t. We’re not here to argue that in this post. (Though we have in a previous video!)

Regardless of where you stand on that issue, we thought you may be curious to see all 30 teams’ combined overtime and shootout records. The standings at NHL.com don’t show that. They only separate shootout records.

So, sorted by most combined OT/shootout wins to fewest…

Calgary Flames: 9-2
Los Angeles Kings: 7-2
New Jersey Devils: 7-4
Edmonton Oilers: 7-2
Detroit Red Wings: 7-6
Philadelphia Flyers: 7-6
Ottawa Senators: 6-5
New York Islanders: 5-5
Chicago Blackhawks: 5-4
Florida Panthers: 4-4
Washington Capitals: 4-2
Dallas Stars: 4-2
Tampa Bay Lightning: 4-3
Pittsburgh Penguins: 4-3
Carolina Hurricanes: 4-5
Toronto Maple Leafs: 3-6
St. Louis Blues: 3-4
San Jose Sharks: 3-1
Buffalo Sabres: 3-3
Arizona Coyotes: 3-2
Nashville Predators: 2-6
Montreal Canadiens: 2-3
New York Rangers: 2-4
Boston Bruins: 2-4
Anaheim Ducks: 1-5
Vancouver Canucks: 1-8
Minnesota Wild: 1-6
Colorado Avalanche: 1-1
Winnipeg Jets: 1-2
Columbus Blue Jackets: 1-3


— We wrote earlier today about the Calgary Flames. They won again in overtime last night. The Flames (14-14-2) have the most overtime/shootout victories in the NHL, and the fewest regulation victories (five). It’s pretty crazy.

— Crazier still? The two Alberta teams have won 16 combined games in overtime or the shootout. They’ve won 12 combined in regulation.

— The Kings (7-2) missed the playoffs last year, in large part due to a combined OT/shootout record of 3-15.

— The Canucks (1-8) made the playoffs last year, in large part due to a combined OT/shootout record of 12-5.

— Only four teams have more regulation wins than Minnesota (15). The Wild are 1-6 in overtime. They’ve yet to reach a shootout.

— Similar story for Nashville. Last night’s loss to Calgary dropped the Preds’ overtime record to 0-5.

— The Avs went to overtime 24 times last year, tied for fourth most in the league. They’ve only been twice this year.

— The Jets also went 24 times last year. They’ve only been three times this year.