Jarome Iginla

Avs back to scoring goals and ‘having fun,’ says MacKinnon

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Colorado has been on a nice offensive run lately — 15 goals in its last four games — and last year’s Calder Trophy winner thinks he knows why.

“We’ve been getting back to having fun,” Nathan MacKinnon said, per LA Kings Insider. “We’re a little bit looser, I think. We’re starting to generate some chemistry, obviously.

“It’s been a rough year in terms of goalscoring, but we’re trying to get some wins here.”

Putting pucks in the net has been a major issue this year for the Avs, who finished fourth in the NHL in goals per game (2.99) last season. The club currently sits 24th overall in offense, and there’s no shortage of culprits:

— Ryan O’Reilly, who led the team with 28 goals a year ago, has 10.

— Gabriel Landeskog, who scored a career-high 65 points last year, is on pace for 49.

— MacKinnon and Matt Duchene combined for 47 goals in ’13-14. This year, they have 24.

While advanced metrics predicted Colorado wouldn’t be able to sustain last year’s scoring clip — the Avs didn’t generate enough shots, weren’t a good possession team and had a high shooting percentage — this was still a talented squad that added a seasoned goalscorer in Jarome Iginla (who has been a terrific pickup, leading the team with 18 goals and 40 points thus far.)

Lately, the Avs have done a better job of firing pucks on goal.

Colorado has registered 30 shots or more in each of its last two games, no small feat for a team that averages the sixth-fewest in the NHL. They’ll need to keep that up tonight against Los Angeles, as the Kings only allow 27.2 per night (L.A. ranks second in the league in fewest shots allowed.)

Oh, one other thing worth mentioning about the Avs-Kings matchup — this is the first time the two have met this season. Considering how close they are in the standings (the Avs are five points back of the Kings heading into tonight’s action) and the fact they play each other two more times after tonight, this could end up being a series to watch in terms of playoff jockeying.

Bruins decline has columnists weighing merits of trading Chara


The Boston Bruins, just two years removed from their last trip to the Stanley Cup Final, are in position to make the playoffs for the eighth straight campaign. And yet, the situation isn’t nearly as good as that statement makes it sound.

Boston has struggled to stay afloat this season and now have just a two-point edge on the Florida Panthers in the Wild Card race. Even if the Bruins manage to squeak into the postseason, there will still be serious questions about their ability to contend, both in the playoffs and down the road.

Faced with a situation that they’ve become unaccustomed to in recent years, is it time for the Bruins to make a bold move by trading captain Zdeno Chara before the 37-year-old (38 on March 18) slips further from his prime?

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector felt the idea has merit even if it’s not likely:

Zdeno Chara turns 38 in March, and has become to the Bruins what Jarome Iginla was to the Calgary Flames: that ageing superstar whom the Bruins need to make the playoffs for the next couple of seasons, but whose value will then slip to the point where any trade return on him is negligible.

History shows that the Calgary Flames should have dealt Iginla two years before they did. Instead, the Flames missed the playoffs in both of Iginla’s final two seasons in Calgary, then settled on two middling prospects — Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino — and a first round pick (Morgan Klimchuk) in a trade from Pittsburgh.

Of course, Chiarelli’s dilemma runs deep. There isn’t a GM in hockey — and he’s one of the best, IMO — who would submit to this obvious trend and deal Chara now. Not with a playoff spot still a very real possibility.

But the decline has begun, and here’s why we are mighty sure that the Bruins are not Detroit, a team that has bucked the trend: Look at the Bruins drafting record since 2007, and you’ll find the answer to why their opponent tonight has fallen on such hard times. It’s why Calgary is rebuilding. It’s why the Canucks are no longer an elite contender. And it’s why the Maple Leafs are as bad as they are.

There’s also a substantial cap component to consider. Chara comes with a roughly $6.9 million annual hit through the 2017-18, so moving him would provide the Bruins with the kind of flexibility they’ve been hurting for in recent years. The length of that deal might lead to Boston getting less desirable offers for his services, but there would still be plenty of interest in the big defenseman given his superb resume and the fact that he can still log top minutes.

CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty recently brought that up while arguing that Boston should deal Chara on the Great American Hockey Show:

At the end of the day, it would be very surprising to see Boston deal its captain at this time or even in the summer. Still, the fact that the topic is even being discussed is a reflection of just how poorly this season has gone for the Bruins.

NHL on NBCSN: Kings look to continue surge against Colorado


Wednesday’s Rivalry Night coverage on NBCSN will feature a doubleheader. The second half will see the Colorado Avalanche host the Los Angeles Kings at Pepsi Center at 10:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

With five straight victories, the Kings are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, but that’s after they dug themselves into a sizable hole. They’re still on the outside looking in when it comes to the Wild Card race and if they slip now, it won’t be long before the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars pass them.

So every game remains critical for the Kings as they look to extend their winning streak tonight. If this game is important to Los Angeles though, it’s vital for Colorado.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $50,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The Avalanche are seven points back in the fight for a playoff spot and also trail hopefuls Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Dallas. That’s a ton of ground for the Avalanche to make up with less than two months left in the 2014-15 campaign. To put that into context, the Avalanche have just a 4% chance of making the playoffs at this point, per Sports Club Stats. That falls to 2.1% if they lose to the Kings in regulation time tonight.

“Every day we come to the rink, we’re focused on that next two,” Avalanche center Matt Duchene told the Denver Post. “We’ve played pretty well recently. Even that New York game, I thought we played pretty well and could have had two points there. We’ll continue to press forward.”

Like Los Angeles, Colorado has indeed played well lately. The squad earned decisive victories against Dallas and Arizona on Saturday and Monday respectively. The Avalanche even managed to prevent the Coyotes from recording a single shot on goal for an entire period, which is a rare feat to say the least.

Jarome Iginla has also stepped up with two goals and seven points in his last four contests. He’ll be countered by Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter and Dwight King, who have each registered seven points in their last four games.

This is the first meeting between these two squads in 2014-15, but they’re also scheduled to play on March 10 and April 4. The Avalanche were 1-1-1 against the Kings in 2013-14 and under the circumstances, they likely need a better showing this time around. First things first though; both squads will compete for tonight’s key points.

Coyotes don’t get a single shot in second period, fall to Avs


Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov earned his 16th victory tonight as Colorado topped Arizona 5-2. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to say this one was easier than his previous 15 wins.

Arizona only recorded five shots on goal in the first period and they weren’t credited with a single shot in the second frame. That’s the first time in nearly 12 years that Arizona has gone an entire period without a shot and just the third time it’s happened in franchise history, per the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan. Colorado had a 5-1 lead through 40 minutes, which means that the Avalanche wouldn’t have been losing the contest at that point even if Varlamov had failed to make even a single save.

Remarkably the Coyotes managed to avoid setting a new single game franchise low as they recorded 12 shots in the third period. Varlamov wasn’t around for that though as Avalanche coach Patrick Roy decided to let him rest after he faced just five shots over 40 minutes. Reto Berra stepped in and made 11 saves.

Nick Holden netted the game-winning goal for Colorado. Jarome Iginla recorded two assists to put him ahead of Vincent Damphousse in the NHL’s all-time points list. Iginla has 1,207 points, which is just two shy of 44th place and Bernie Nicholls.

Colorado also beat Dallas on Saturday, giving the Avalanche a 24-22-11 record this season. At this point their chances of advancing to the postseason are slim.

Struggling St. Louis admits he’s not playing with confidence


New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis had a strong first half to the 2014-15 campaign, but he’s been on the decline lately. The 39-year-old hasn’t found the back of the net since Jan. 10 and has just one assist in his last nine games.

“I’m not playing with a lot of confidence right now,” St. Louis conceded, per the New York Post. “I’ve gone through stretches like this before, and it’s not a fun place to be, but fortunately the team is winning.

“Sometimes the game gets hard. Sometimes life gets hard. There’s only one way to get through it, and that’s by keeping your head up and continuing to work.”

St. Louis hasn’t just struggled offensively lately, he also made a key mistake that resulted in a goal from Jarome Iginla last night:

The Colorado Avalanche tied the game at 3-3 shortly after that goal, but the Rangers still went on to win 6-3. However, St. Louis was barely used after that mistake.

“I’m very disappointed with that mistake. You never want to make a mistake that leads to a goal,” St. Louis said. “But I’m going to do whatever it takes to try and get it together.

“The team is winning, so that helps you buy time to find your game.”

He still ranks third on the team with 37 points in 53 contests.