West update: Wild card teams stay alive (for now)

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While the East playoff picture only grows more complicated, the West seems primed to be rather straightforward. Even so, lower conference contenders avoided mathematical elimination for at least one day. Here’s a quick look at how everything shakes out after Saturday’s action:

  • Much like current second-ranked wild card team Dallas, the Minnesota Wild strengthened their lead on one of the final two wild card spots by winning. In their case, they soundly beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0.
  • The idle Phoenix Coyotes are almost certainly the only credible threat to usurp the Stars as they’re only one point behind.
  • Still, the Nashville Predators are now on a three-game winning streak, with victories against the Capitals, Ducks and Sharks. That included a 3-0 win against San Jose on Saturday. They’re also 6-1-1 in their last eight games. At minimum, they don’t seem interested in tanking, which is interesting because their next to games come against Dallas (Tuesday) and Phoenix (Thursday).
  • The Vancouver Canucks have been sagging by comparison, but they managed a tough 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings to stay alive for at least another day. The Predators own tiebreaker advantages for 10th place in the West, however.
  • Out in the Central Division, the Colorado Avalanche defeated the St. Louis Blues to give themselves a three-point advantage over the Chicago Blackhawks for second place in the division. Pacific Division teams in action struggled on Saturday, as the San Jose Sharks failed to hop over the idle Anaheim Ducks for first in the Pacific while the Kings lost that game against Vancouver.

Here is how it all looks in the West after Saturday:

source:

Kings hold closed-door meeting after latest embarrassing loss

Associated Press
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This isn’t quite the start the Los Angeles Kings were hoping for.

A crummy record out the gate (2-5-1) was exacerbated further by an embarrassing 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres in their own backyard on Saturday — their fourth straight loss.

Seemingly a breaking point, the Kings held a 20-minute closed-door meeting after the game (general manager Rob Blake included) to try and get a handle on why they’ve been so lousy.

The problems in L.A.? Well, they run deep.

Ilya Kovalchuk‘s addition to the lineup over the summer and the return of Jeff Carter after missing most of last season hasn’t translated into higher numbers on the Kings’ side of the jumbotron so far.

L.A. sits 29th in the league in goals-for with 15, keeping company with fellow Pacific Division misfits in the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes, who sit below them.

Stopping pucks has been an issue, too. The Kings have allowed 28 goals in eight games so far, fourth-most in the league. Jonathan Quick‘s layoff due to injury didn’t help matters, but consider that the Kings allowed the fewest goals of any of the 31 NHL teams last season.

You can add in the fact that Los Angeles is in the bottom third in the league in terms of power play (10.7 percent) and penalty kill (71.4 percent).

It’s not good enough.

“We’ve accepted being OK and it’s not OK . It’s not working,” defenseman Jake Muzzin told the Los Angeles Times. “It would be a long year, and guys would be moved if this continues. It’s not what we want, so we’ve got to take a look in the mirror and turn this ship around.”

If the Kings were losing to top teams, that would be one thing (and they played the Toronto Maple Leafs and lost that game, so there’s that). But some of their losses have come against teams that were supposed to be disasters this season.

– 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators
– 7-2 loss to the New York Islanders
– 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres

That’s four goals in three games against opponents they should, at the very least, put up a fight against.

Add in the 4-1 loss against Toronto and they’ve been outscored 21-5 during their losing streak.

Kings head coach John Stevens doesn’t have the answers, either.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t have an answer at this second,” Stevens said after the game. “I thought after the way we played the other night we’d have come and ripped the doors off the hinges tonight. We have great fans here, and guys love playing at home because of the support we get at home here. I don’t have an answer right now.”

Where’s the fight back?

“It’s missing,” Stevens said.

Stevens might want to sort that out soon. His job could be on the line. But while he has a job to do, so do the guys on the ice.

Anze Kopitar had 92 points last season. He has two goals in seven games thus far.

Adrian Kempe has a single goal.

Tanner Pearson has an assist.

Quick has a .793 and .840 save percentage in his two games since returning from injury, respectively.

Score more, defend better and stop more pucks — the Kings simply need to be better.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule


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

Charles Wang, former New York Islanders owner, dies at 74

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OYSTER BAY, N.Y. (AP) — Charles Wang, a technology company founder and former owner of the New York Islanders hockey team, died Sunday. He was 74.

Wang died in Oyster Bay, New York, said his attorney John McEntee in an emailed statement. A cause of death was not disclosed.

Wang ”was an entrepreneur, visionary, author, and philanthropist but will be remembered most affectionately by those who knew him for his love of life, family, and friends,” McEntee said in his statement.

He bought the Islanders in 2000 along with Sanjay Kumar, then the president of Computer Associates International, which Wang founded in 1976. He later bought out Kumar’s stake in 2004. Kumar pleaded guilty in an accounting fraud scandal at the company in 2006 and served a prison term.

At the time of the Islanders purchase, Wang told The New York Times, ”We want to make the New York Islanders the world-class sports franchise that our community deserves, wants and needs.”

Wang had attended only one hockey game before buying the team for almost $190 million, McEntee said.

But in 2009, he told Newsday he regretted buying the money-losing team, saying, ”If I had the chance, I wouldn’t do it again.”

Wang announced in 2014 that he was selling the team to a group of investors, and it took effect in 2016. Since then, he had been a minority co-owner.

The team left Long Island in 2015 and played in Brooklyn. It will begin splitting games between the two locales later this season.

”Charles Wang was a great man,” Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said in an online statement. ”He always spoke of his love for the Long Island community and the passionate fan base. Long Island would not have a team if it were not for Charles.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman issued a statement praising Wang for his efforts to expand hockey in China. Wang created Project Hope, an international program that took ice hockey to China.

”As the NHL embarks on a journey to grow hockey in China, we do so with the appreciation and knowledge that it was Charles who was the vision and driving force at the forefront of developing the game in his native country,” Bettman said.

Wang was born in Shanghai and moved to the United States with his family as a child.

He founded Computer Associates, now called CA Technologies, and was chairman and CEO until 2000. A 2007 report by the company’s board blamed Wang in connection to the accounting fraud scandal, but Wang called the report ”fallacious” and blamed Kumar. He was never charged in the scandal.

Survivors include his wife, children, mother and brothers.

The Buzzer: Red Wings win; Laviolette lost a bet

Tennessean
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Three Stars

1. Mark Stone

The fantastic two-way winger performed at a high level for Ottawa, generating two goals (including the impressive overtime game-winner) and an assist while logging a busy 20:53 time on ice.

On a night where stone generated a +2 rating, the 26-year-old fired four shots on goal, delivered two hits, and blocked two shots. Stone was probably the biggest reason the Senators won a battle of not-as-dour-as-expected teams.

(See his booming OTGWG in the highlights section.)

2. Nathan MacKinnon

Gabriel Landeskog‘s two goals (and five goals in two games) grabs your attention, but MacKinnon actually had the better overall game.

MacKinnon scored one goal, already his eighth of 2017-18, and also generated two assists. They were primary helpers on both of Landeskog’s goals.

It was an all-around effort for the speedster, as MacKinnon finished +2, generated five SOG, and also delivered a hit and a blocked shot. About the only thing you’d ask for is more success on draws.

Philipp Grubauer was crucial to Colorado’s success, too, stopping 42 out of 43 shots.

(For more on MacKinnon’s rise to stardom, click here.)

3. Jeff Skinner

You could point out plenty of other three-point games from Saturday; perhaps you’d highlight Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakub Voracek, or Patrick Kane instead?

Regardless, Skinner’s starting to heat up for Buffalo, with all six of his points coming during the Sabres’ last four games. Skinner’s hat-trick goal itself was an empty-netter, but his Saturday was still sterling; he scored on all three of his SOG and sported a +4 as Buffalo added to the Kings’ miseries. Jack Eichel was fantastic in his own right, collecting three assists.

This sort of result really has to be heartening for the up-and-down Sabres.

Highlights

When in doubt, go with overtime game-winners. There were a few to choose from on a busy Saturday around the NHL, but let’s go with Stone’s authoritative shot:

And Gustav Nyquist taking advantage of a nice play by Dylan Larkin to earn Detroit’s first win of the season:

In what might have been the real highlight of the night, Peter Laviolette lost a bet, and well, this happened:

Factoids

Not bad, Marc-Andre Fleury.

This is quite the zany group of former Senators:

What was that line? Living well is the best revenge?

Scores

Flyers 5, Devils 2
Avalanche 3, Hurricanes 1
Sabres 5, Kings 1
Jets 5, Coyotes 3
Blues 4, Maple Leafs 1
Senators 4, Canadiens 3 (OT)
Red Wings 4, Panthers 3 (OT)
Blackhawks 4, Blue Jackets 1
Wild 5, Lightning 4 (OT)
Canucks 2, Bruins 1 (OT)
Golden Knights 3, Ducks 1
Predators 3, Oilers 0
Sharks 4, Islanders 1

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blackhawks saw ‘vintage’ Crawford in win vs. Columbus

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“Vintage Crow.” That’s how Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville described Corey Crawford‘s first win of 2018-19, as he stopped 37 out of 38 shots as Chicago beat Columbus 4-1 on Saturday.

This marks Crawford’s second game back from concussion issues that put his season – if not career – on the line, and he’s been thrown right in the deep end. The veteran goalie has faced at least 30 shots in each of his two appearances, so Chicago hasn’t exactly been able to make it an easy return.

“Yeah, we gotta play better in front of him, no doubt,” Patrick Kane said, according to the Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. “It’s one of those things where we played pretty well the first five games, then all of a sudden he comes back and maybe you’re just expecting him to bail you out — which he has the past two games.”

Perhaps the clearest moment of Crawford bailing his team out came on this save, as Artemi Panarin made things happen very quickly in setting up this scoring chance for Pierre Luc-Dubois:

Following the 4-1 win, Crawford said that he felt like he was reading plays well, and the numbers back that up. The Blue Jackets fired 11 shots on goal on their four power-play opportunities, but Crawford shut the door on all of them.

With this victory, the Blackhawks continued their generally strong start to the season, improving their record to 4-1-2, giving them 10 standings points from seven games.

Before Crawford came back, Chicago was largely winning despite its goaltending, as Cam Ward looked shaky at best through five games. You could state that perhaps Crawford returned at the perfect time, but either way, this is a promising start for the goalie and his team.

It doesn’t guarantee that Crawford won’t suffer health-related setbacks as the season progresses, but so far, so good.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.