Author: Ryan Dadoun

Nyquist goal

Video: Zetterberg’s sweet pass helps Detroit strike first

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The Detroit Red Wings entered Thursday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 2-1 series lead and they came out strong again in Game 4.

Goaltender Petr Mrazek, who shutout the Lightning in Game 3, has been very effective again tonight. At the other end of the ice, Ben Bishop had a solid start too, but Detroit managed to get one by him thanks to a hard fought series of maneuvers that was highlighted by a great pass through traffic from Henrik Zetterberg:

That was Gustav Nyquist’s first goal of the series. He broke out in 2013-14 with 28 goals and 48 points in 57 contests, but was quiet in the Red Wings’ subsequent playoff run. He hasn’t been a major producer yet in the 2015 playoffs either, but perhaps this will spark the 25-year-old.

Video: Isles’ Lee fights Caps’ Wilson after days of verbal sparring

Lee-Wilson fight

The Islanders went into this game upset at Washington’s Tom Wilson for his big hit on Lubomir Visnovsky that has left the New York blueliner on sidelined with what might be a concussion.

Kyle Okposo called Wilson “an idiot” while John Tavares described Wilson’s actions as targeting a defenseless player.

It didn’t take long for that anger to manifest itself in the form of a fight between Wilson and Islanders forward Anders Lee in Game 5 on Thursday. You can watch that exchange below:

That sparring match seemed to inspire the Islanders as Josh Bailey found the back of the net just 26 seconds later:

Unfortunately for the Islanders, Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov responded with a goal of his own and the two sides consequently went into the intermission tied.

Poll: Who would get your vote for the Calder Trophy?

Filip Forsberg

This year’s Calder Trophy race was close enough that there’s no one right answer to the question of who was this year’s Rookie of the Year. We now know that Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, and Ottawa’s Mark Stone are the finalists, but an argument could be made that Filip Forsberg with the Nashville Predators or John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars were also worthy of being on that list.

Then there’s St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen and Winnipeg Jets netminder Michael Hutchinson. They both played important roles for their respective clubs this season in a critical position. Should either of them have been given more consideration?

You can vote for your pick for the Calder Trophy below:

Of course, there’s one major first year player that’s gone unmentioned. Ottawa Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond wasn’t eligible for Calder Trophy consideration because the 27-year-old was too old. Even if he was eligible, it’s hard to say if he would have been a finalist. On the one hand he had a dominant 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, but he only played in 24 contest.

So as a bonus, would you have considered Hammond as worthy of winning the Calder Trophy if he was eligible?

For a more detailed rundown of what each rookie did: Tight Calder Trophy race down to Ekblad, Gaudreau, Stone

Tight Calder Trophy race down to Ekblad, Gaudreau, Stone

Johnny Gaudreau

This year featured a tight race for the Calder Trophy with several candidates worthy of being called the Rookie of the Year. However, only one can win and tonight we learned that the three candidates are Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, and Ottawa’s Mark Stone.

At this point it’s not surprising to see Gaudreau’s name on the list of Calder Trophy finalists, but going into the season there was a lot of skepticism about him. He was the 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner after scoring an incredible 80 points in 40 NCAA contests with Boston College, so obviously he had potential offensively, but there were concerns about the 5-foot-9 forward’s ability to adjust to the NHL given his size. Aware of that perception, he reached out to other undersized forwards like Martin St. Louis before the start of the season to get their advice.

“I’ve just got to make sure I follow in their footsteps and do what they’ve been doing,” Gaudreau said back in July. He’s taken a great first step by scoring 24 goals and 64 points in 80 contests with the Calgary Flames.

Out of all the rookies that stepped up this season, Mark Stone was perhaps the biggest surprise. Originally taken in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Stone had to hone his game in the minors before being able to earn a regular spot with Ottawa. He got off to a solid start this season, but it wasn’t until Dave Cameron took over as the team’s bench boss that his playing time grew substantially. He repaid Cameron’s trust by scoring 15 goals and 38 points in 36 contests after the All-Star break. No other rookie even came close to matching Stone’s pace during that stretch and if the NHL season was just a few weeks longer, he might have been regarded as the undisputed favorite for this year’s rookie honors.

As it is Stone still ended up tying Gaudreau for first place in the scoring race.

Unlike Stone or Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad managed to jump straight into the NHL after being drafted. While that’s pretty much the standard for a first overall selection, it is still very rare to see a defenseman be this effective as a teenager. He had 12 goals and 39 points in 81 contests while also leading the Panthers with a plus-12 rating. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him though is the level of trust he earned with the Panthers, as evidenced by his average of 21:48 minutes per contest.

Of course in a year with this many strong rookie seasons, there’s bound to be snubs and Filip Forsberg arguably tops that list.

The Nashville Predators have been hurting for a top-end skilled forward for a while and their search seems to be over. Although Forsberg needed to spend the 2013-14 campaign adjusting to North America hockey after playing predominantly in Sweden prior to that, he hit the ground running this season with 14 goals and 35 points in 36 contests by New Year’s Day. At one point he looked like the heavy favorite to win this year’s Calder Trophy, but he slowed down somewhat in the second half and consequently finished a close third in the scoring race with 63 points in 82 contests.

John Klingberg is another big snub. He didn’t make his NHL debut until Nov. 11, but he still led all rookie defensemen in scoring. The 22-year-old had 11 goals and 40 points in 65 contests while making the transition from Sweden. Stars GM Jim Nill was so impressed by Klingberg that he handed the blueliner a seven-year, $29.75 million contract despite the relatively small sample size. So while he won’t get the Calder, his efforts were far from unrecognized.

Garrison returns, Drouin makes playoff debut in Lightning Game 4 tweaks

Jason Garrison

After getting shutout by Detroit in Game 3 on Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning are entering Thursday’s contest with a bit of a different look.

Defenseman Jason Garrison is ready to return from an upper-body injury that’s kept him on the sidelines for nearly a month now. He had four goals and 30 points in 70 contests with the Lightning this season. He’ll probably be paired up with Braydon Coburn. Rather than scratch a blueliner to make room with him, the Lightning are dressing seven defensemen.

Rookie Jonathan Drouin is also being inserted into the lineup for what will be his career playoffs debut. The 20-year-old had four goals and 32 points in 70 contests during the regular season.

He’ll likely play alongside J.T. Brown and Brian Boyle on the fourth line. To make room, 36-year-old Brenden Morrow has been taken out of the lineup. The veteran of 991 regular season contests and an additional 97 playoff games was limited to eight points in 2014-15.