Say what you want the Kings’ new head coach, but one thing that Darryl Sutter has certainly been is successful. The Kings are unbeaten in regulation since the Sutter took over five games ago; and they’re 4-0-2 overall in their last six games as they continue to work towards a playoff spot. Despite the victories lately, the problem that the followed the team continues to hinder the club: scoring.
Sutter would like to tell you that those stats don’t matter. Who cares if they have the 25th ranked power play in the league? Who cares if they’re the worst scoring team in entire NHL (by a large margin)? Despite the persistent troubles with the man-advantage, Sutter likes what he sees from his new team.
“Our power play is awesome, other than the 5-on-3, in the two games we just played,” Sutter said after Saturday’s morning skate. “…I know, if I’m watching upstairs or I’m covering, I’m saying, `Oh, the power play,’ because it’s 14 percent or whatever, but you have to give them — especially the young players on the power play — you have to give them the ability to use their ability.”
Just to review, the Kings “awesome” power play has only scored twice in their last 42 opportunities. The 5-on-3 opportunity Sutter spoke about was nearly a full two minute, two-man advantage during the Kings 1-0 loss in Winnipeg. Having a strong power play is important for any team, but it’s even more important for a team that is struggling to score goals at even strength.
Los Angeles will get to show what they learned tonight against the Canucks in their final game of 2011. At this point, fans at Staples Center may want a power play that is a little less awesome, and settle for one that is a little more productive.
His first period goal on the man-advantage was his first power play goal at home in almost 10 months. It’s hard to believe that Ovechkin hasn’t scored a power play goal at the Phone Booth since the beginning of March. The sellout crowd at the Verizon Center even brought back the “O-Vie” chant. Looks like they’re ready to party like it’s 2009.
Despite Ovechkin’s slower start this season, he now has five goals in his last seven games. He’s still leading the high-powered Capitals in goals (14) and he’s second on the team in points. Does that say more about the lofty expectations fans have for Ovechkin or the underwhelming offensive performances of the rest of the team? Probably both.
Think about how dangerous the Capitals could be if their superstar sniper can start finding the net with some regularity like we had come to expect from him. Head coach Dale Hunter reunited the Nicklas Backstrom/Alexander Semin/Alex Ovechkin trio and it immediately paid dividends. The trio had five points against the Rangers on Wednesday and followed it up with six points against the Sabres on Friday.
“Goals we make are pretty plays but they were simple plays,” Ovechkin said about his new line combination. “We just have to continue what we do right now,” Ovechkin said. “It’s nice when you make some pretty plays and you score the goals, especially when the team needs it. It’s kind of good.”
It should come as no surprise that both games were impressive victories for the Caps. In fact, the Caps have posted a decent 4-2-1 record over a seven game stretch—the same seven game stretch that has featured a reemerging Ovechkin. It may not be the best run in the league thus far, but a few more 4-2-1 runs would at least have the Caps in a playoff spot.
Funny how a little goal scoring can make a coach look so much smarter.
PHT Morning Skate: Patrick Kane is ready for Lidstrom to retire
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
What could be the greatest compliment for Nicklas Lidstrom? Patrick Kane telling the world that he’s sick of playing him and wish he would just retire because he’s so good. (mlive.com)
Remember the ridiculous Bruins/Stars fight fest in Boston last year? The Razor boy remembers and has a hypothesis why it all went down. The rematch is tonight. (Dallas Morning News)
J.S. Giguere prepares to return to Anaheim to play for the first time since he was traded from the Ducks almost two years ago. “This game has been on my mind all year.” (Avalanche Official)
After missing six straight games with back spasms, the New Jersey Devils will get Henrik Tallinder back for their New Year’s Eve tilt against the Pens. (Star-Ledger)
More good news on the injury front: Andy McDonald is practicing with the Blues again. We all know that concussions take a while, but at least he’s out there with the “no contact” jersey. Baby steps. (Post-Dispatch)
This morning’s history lesson: Rangers fans can thank their own ownership for the formation of the Flyers. (NHL.com)
Coming into the World Junior Championships, Team USA expected to lean on Minnesota Wild prospect Charlie Coyle. So why was he stapled to the bench in a must win game against the Czech Republic? Apparently it’s rather difficult to play with the flu. (Coming Down The Pipe)
The Avalanche prepare for life without Matt Duchene. (Denver Post)
John Tortorella says that sometimes there’s “no honor” in the game; yet when his player pummels an unwilling opponent, it’s just a case of someone who “got what he deserved.” (NY Daily News)
Finally, Daniel Alfredsson shows everyone how to score a 400th goal in style. Yep, an OT game-winner will do just fine. (NHL)
Ehrhoff will miss “probably weeks” with upper body injury
The Buffalo Sabres 3-1 loss in Washington was more costly than the average midseason loss to a conference foe. After the game, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff cryptically said that talented defenseman Christian Ehrhoff will “miss some time… probably weeks.” Ruff did not give any details on the type of injury Ehrhoff sustained, nor did he elaborate on the play that caused the injury. All we know is that it’s an “upper body” injury and he’ll be out awhile.
Even though the Sabres haven’t confirmed, there’s been speculation that the injury occurred in the middle of a scrap with Troy Brouwer at the end of the first period. He seemed to have no problem skating to the bench after the short-lived fisticuffs and headed to the locker room for the intermission. Unfortunately for the Sabres, the 7:23 of first period ice time would be all action Ehrhoff would see against the Caps when he was unable to return to the ice for the rest of the game.
Ehrhoff and the Sabres made plenty of news this offseason when the organization signed him to a heavily front-loaded contract worth $40 million over the next 10 years (including $10 million this season). Through 37 games, he’s scored three goals while posting an ugly minus 11 plus/minus rating.
The German blueliner is only the latest in a long line of Sabres to be bitten by the injury bug lately. Fellow defenseman Tyler Myers has been out for over a month with a wrist injury and still has no timetable for a return. Up front, the Sabres have watched the likes of Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, and Ville Leino all drop like flies as the team freefalls down the Eastern Conference standings. They’ve only won six of their last 20 games and haven’t won consecutive games since November 11.
This probably isn’t what Terry Pegula had in mind when he opened the vault this offseason.
Starting a fight in the final five minutes is a big no-no in the NHL. That’s the lesson Tomas Kopecky should have learned when he received a match penalty for his punch to Michael Del Zotto’s face with only seven seconds left in New York’s 4-1 win over Florida on Friday night. It’s a lesson that should have been reinforced when Mike Rupp took exception and returned the favor with his fists to Kopecky’s face afterwards. It’s a lesson that may conclude with a call from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. His attendance for Saturday night’s game against Montreal hangs in the balance.
Right now, Rangers fans are probably convinced that the “A” on the front of Kopecky’s sweater doesn’t stand for “alternate captain.”