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The Buzzer: Sheary leads Penguins to Metro summit; Monahan notches 30th

Players of the Night:

Conor Sheary, Pittsburgh Penguins: Sheary scored twice to help Penguins come from a 2-1 deficit to win 5-2 and move atop the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins have won three straight, Evgeni Malkin moved into a tie for second in goal scoring with his 38th, and Sidney Crosby recorded his 1,100th NHL point.

Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames: Boring Sean scored his 30th goal of the season (which you will see below), the second time in his career that he’s hit the mark. Monahan is now four points shy of matching his career-best 63 points. Barring injury or a massive slump, it looks like Monahan will set a new career high in goals and points.

Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes: Each had a goal and an assist in the game. Stepan scored with 58 seconds left in regulation to secure a 2-1 win for the Coyotes, who are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games. The Coyotes are tied with the Buffalo Sabres in the race for the worst record in the NHL this season.

Highlights of the Night:

Tic, tac, goal:

Crosby’s 1,100th point came off an awkward, and impressive, one-timer from Sheary:

Johnny Hockey to Boring Sean:

Factoids of the Night:

Make it 49 games:

News of the Night:

The Carolina Hurricanes removed GM Ron Francis from his job, promoted him to the president of hockey operations, and then said that the new GM would bypass Francis and report directly to owner Tom Dundon.

Mike Babcock and Toronto Maple Leafs fans may think it needs to change now, but NHL insider Darren Dreger says the goaltender interference rule is likely not going anywhere before the playoffs, no matter how loud Babcock whines:

Scores:

Flames 5, Buffalo 1

Penguins 5, Flyers 2

Coyotes 2, Canucks 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Laying it on the lines: Maple Leafs rolling after adjustments

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

It’s kind of crazy how a little tinkering can completely change the complexion of an offense.

On Jan. 23, the Toronto Maple Leafs were stuck in a rut. For the better part of the past month-and-a-half, dating back to Dec. 12, they’d essentially spun their tires.

With a 6-7-3 record during that 16-game span, something needed to change, even if they were still sitting comfortably in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Still, limping into the playoffs wouldn’t be ideal for Mike Babcock, so he did what he’s done best over his long tenure as an NHL bench boss: he adjusted.

Gone were the lines that weren’t working and in came something to experiment with.

Mitch Marner moved up to the second line. Leo Komarov dropped down to the fourth. Gone was Frederik Gauthier, who went from the fourth line to the minors. Matt Martin took a seat in the press box. And the Leafs brought up 21-year-old prospect Kasperi Kapanen, who put up good numbers in the American Hockey League.

The result looked like this:

Zach HymanAuston MatthewsWilliam Nylander

Patrick MarleauNazem Kadri – Mitchell Marner

James van RiemsdykTyler BozakConnor Brown

Leo Komarov – Dominic Moore – Kasperi Kapanen

Babcock must be quite the alchemist. His concoction has proven effective. Really effective.

Kadri and Marner have benefitted most. The former had two points in his previous 20 games before welcoming Marner on his right wing. Kadri, during the team’s 9-1-0 run as of late, now has seven goals and 15 points (including a hat trick and a five-point night on Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-3 win).

Marner had just one goal in his previous 11 games before linking up with Kadri and Marleau. Since then, he has seven goals and 13 points.

Even Kapanen is getting in on the fun. He’s got two goals and three assists in that span playing a less offensive role on the team’s fourth line.

Babcock wanted balance, and he got it.

The Leafs, for all their offensive successes during this stretch — they’ve scored 43 goals during their past 10 games — could give Frederik Andersen a bit of a break.

Andersen is seeing a lot of rubber. In Wednesday’s win, Andersen saw 19 shots come his way in the first period and another 22 in the second. The barrage continued in the third with a further 16. Yes, the quick math says 57 total shots. The man made 54 saves.

Wednesday’s result could have been much different if not for Andersen’s heroics.

In four of the past 10 games, the Leafs have surrendered 40 or more shots.

As good as Andersen has been for the Leafs, that isn’t sustainable.

The good news for the Leafs and their fans is that Andersen is in the top-five among starters (minimum 1,500 minutes played) when it comes to goals saved above average, one of the better goalie metrics to judge how good a puck-stopper is.

Andersen is also sixth in adjusted save percentage, which takes into account shot location when determining a goalie’s save percentage, taking the traditional metric one step further.

It’s all working right now for Toronto. And within their reach is the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs are just four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Bergeron’s at it again, Nash’s resurgence continues

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Players of the Night:

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: Bergeron did it again. The perennial Selke contender showed off his scoring prowess (again), scoring his second hat trick in 12 days. He now has nine goals and five assists in his past eight games. The Bruins have run up a 15-game point streak (11-0-4).

Rick Nash, New York Rangers: Nash scored twice for the second consecutive game in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Nash now has four goals in this past two games after putting up a goose egg in his previous 12.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: MacKinnon’s successes this season have been well documented, and he kept that narrative going with two more goals — his 21st and 22nd — and an assist in the Avs 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks.

Highlights of the Night:

Bergeron’s hat trick came after some trickery by Brad Marchand:

A Double Dustin:

Robin Lehner made this dandy of a save. Unfortunately, he allowed a goal moments later. Still, this save.

Bonehead play of the Night:

Dustin Brown strikes again. This time in the wrong category. Someone’s getting suspended.

Factoids of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Devils 4, Capitals 3 (OT)

Bruins 5, Islanders 2

Blue Jackets 2, Stars 1 (SO)

Rangers 4, Sabres 3

Blues 4, Senators 1

Golden Knights 4, Lightning 1

Flyers 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)

Predators 3, Coyotes 2 (SO)

Avalanche 5, Sharks 3

Penguins 3, Kings 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sheahan on playing for Blashill: ‘Guys will be a little bit more confident’

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Riley Sheahan believes his teammates’ familiarity with Jeff Blashill will help ease the transition for the rookie head coach in Detroit this season.

Sheahan is one of a number of players on the current Red Wings’ roster that played under Blashill with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.

“You can see the job that he’s done in Grand Rapids and so many of us have played there and played with him, especially the Calder Cup team,” Sheahan told the team’s website. “He’s had so much success everywhere that he’s gone, so I think all of the guys are pretty happy.

“The guys that played with him before know how he reacts to different situations and knows what he expects. I think in that way some guys will be a little bit more confident, which always helps. It’s definitely a good thing.”

Blashill was named the 27th head coach in Wings’ history back in June. The 41-year-old led the Griffins to a 134-71-23 record in three seasons winning a Calder Cup in 2013.

Sheahan, who scored 13 goals and 36 points in 79 games in his first full season with the Wings last year, doesn’t expect much to change systems-wise with Blashill taking over from Mike Babcock.

“I actually thought they were really similar,” Sheahan said. “The system is pretty similar, there are a few tweaks here and there, but I think obviously, Babs leaving that’s tough to deal (with). He’s such a good coach, but Blash coming in, I think there’s a lot of positivity and a lot of happiness with the guys.”

Related: Under Pressure: Jeff Blashill

Under Pressure: Jeff Blashill

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Here’s an understatement for you: Mike Babcock is a tough act to follow.

In the hearts and minds of Red Wings fans, Jeff Blashill may very well face an impossible task in trying to supplant the scowl of Babs. It cannot be easy to jump from the AHL to replacing one of the most respected bench bosses in recent history.

That said, for all the well-earned hero worship Babcock often inspires, there’s an argument that Detroit needed a breath of fresh air.

The Red Wings were as dominant as ever from 2006-07 to 2008-09, making three conference finals, two Stanley Cup Final rounds and winning one ring. They’ve been solid-yet-mostly-unspectacular since then, however:

  • Just one division title (in 2010-11).
  • Three first-round exits in their last six postseason berths, including two straight years of one-and-done. The Red Wings haven’t made it beyond the second round in that span, either.
  • They struggled to make the playoffs more than ever in recent years.

This is likely a case of oversimplifying, yet some may look at this situation in one of two ways:

A) Babcock squeezed every standings point possible out of a fading team.

B) Conversely, the franchise was begging for a jolt of energy.

It’s worth noting that the Red Wings remain a quality possession squad, although their exact rankings vary based on which specific metrics you use. The bottom line is that there’s a solid chance that Blashill has a decent group to work with, even if this obviously isn’t the stupidly dominant group many long associated with the Red Wings brand.

When your team is currently on a record 24-season playoff streak, expectations are inevitable, and Blashill faces a tall task. For all we know, setting the bar so high might not be such a bad thing.