Get your game notes: Red Wings at Blackhawks

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

MATCHUP/TOP STORYLINES

• Both 3rd in their respective divisions…CHI has 2 more points this season but has played 2 more games.

• Top PP (DET) vs. top PK (CHI)…1st meeting of season: DET 0-3 on PP (4-1 home win on Nov. 14)

• Last game: On Monday night, DET lost to MTL, 2-0…On Sunday afternoon, CHI beat PIT, 2-1 (SO).

• Tonight DET-CHI meet for the 729th time in the reg.-season – tying BOS-MTL for most in NHL history.

• Before DET was relocated to the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 season, DET and CHI were in the same division for 31 consecutive seasons, most recently together in the Central Division from 1993-2013.

• DET minor slump only sees a tougher road ahead…1 week ago the Wings were considered one of, if not the, hottest team in the league having won 9 of 10…since last Wednesday however:

• DET: 3-game losing streak (0-2-1)

• Worst stretch since dropping 6 straight in mid-December (0-2-4).

• DET last lost consecutive games in regulation back on Mar. 25 & 27, 2014.

• Despite the slump, the Wings are still well positioned in the Atlantic but face a brutal upcoming schedule:

• Detroit is through 3 games of a 12-game stretch in which it faces 10 teams currently in a playoff position, including 3 of the top 5 teams in the NHL (NSH, MTL, ANA).

• Tonight’s game is the start of a 6-game road trip (ties a season high) where DET will leave the Midwest and head west (@ DAL next on Saturday) before a California trip through ANA, LA & SJ, and then close out the stretch at league-leading NSH…DET is not home again until Mar. 4 vs. NYR.

• Who is in net for DET?…Last Wednesday, All-Star selection Jimmy Howard returned for the Wings, after injuring his groin back on Jan. 10 (missed 10 games), when he played the 3rd period at PIT for Petr Mrazek, who was pulled (4 GA). Howard has started DET’s 2 games since and fared much better in his 2nd start: vs. WPG on Sat.: 4 GA on 38 shots (5-4 SO loss) vs. MTL on Mon.: 1 GA on 28 shots (2-0 loss)

• Mrazek, who started all of Detroit’s games while Howard was out, has been sent back down to Grand Rapids (AHL) after going 8-2-0 with a 2.78 GAA since Jan. 13.

• Hawks 2-0-2 so far on the home stand: Tonight CHI plays its 5th gm of a season-high (and long; 16-day) 8-gm home stand…CHI got off to a poor start with consecutive losses, though both in extra time (to AZ & VAN), but has won 2 straight & looks for its first 3-gm win streak since running off 8 straight wins from Nov. 26 – Dec. 11.

• Central Division scope: Though the Hawks have points in 6 straight games (4-0-2 record), reaching 1st place in the Central is looking increasingly less likely.

DETROIT TEAM/PLAYER NOTE

• DET ranks first in the league on the power-play at 26.0%. The Wings PP goal streak of 5-games was snapped vs. MTL but they are still 7-for-their-last-20 (35.0%) over the last 6 games.

• Tomas Tatar has 7 points (2G-5A) over his last 6 games.

• Tatar has 41 points in 55 GP this season (23G-18A) establishing new career highs in goals & points.

• Henrik Zetterberg has 51 points (19G-32A) in 53 career games vs. CHI

• No active player has ever scored more goals in a Red Wings uniform against CHI than Zetterberg.

• His 51 points are the 3rd-most among active players vs. CHI (D. Legwand – 62, R. Nash – 52)

• Pavel Datsyuk has 7 pts (2G-5A) in his last 7 games including a 3-point performance (2G-1A) vs. WPG on Sat.

• Datsyuk is in the top-3 on the team in goals, assists & points despite playing just 44 of the team’s 55 games.

CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Chicago has the league’s best penalty kill at 87.9%. The team is 14-for-15 on the PK (93.3%) in the last 8 games.

• Patrick Kane has 7 points (2G-5A) in his last 6 games and ranks 1st in the NHL in scoring with 63 points.

• No American has ever won the Art Ross Trophy, and only one American (Billy Burch from Yonkers, NY in 1925 playing for the Hamilton Tigers) has won the Hart Trophy as league MVP (Kane is from Buffalo, NY)

• Stan Mikita in 1968-69 was the last Blackhawk to lead the league in scoring.

• Marian Hossa was held without a point vs. PIT snapping a 4-game goal/point streak in which he had 8 points (7 goals) including 3 straight 2-goal games to begin the stretch.

• Hossa became the 6th Blackhawk all-time with a multi-goal game in 3 straight team games of one season.

• Hossa’s performance last week earned him the NHL’s first star of the week.

• Back in 2008-09, Hossa had 71 points (40G-31A) as a member of the Red Wings. Hossa signed with DET as a free agent, lost to PIT in the SCF that season, then signed a 12-year deal with Chicago, where he has been ever since.

• Career vs. DET: 27 points (11G-16A) in 33 games.

• 19 points (5G-14A) in 22 games vs. DET since 2009-10.

• Jonathan Toews has 5 points (1G-4A) during a 4-game point streak after going the 4 previous games without a point.

• Career vs. DET: 25 points (11G-14A) in 34 games.

• Brandon Saad has 4 points (1G-3A) during a 3-game point streak and 7 points (2G-5A) in his last 6 games.

• Saad needs 2 goals to tie his career high of 19 set last season.

• Patrick Sharp, last season’s team leader in goals (34) & points (78), has been quiet lately (0 points in last 5 games) but has 35 career points (16G-19A) vs. DET (46 GP)…Sharp scored the shootout winner vs. PIT after Toews & Kane made their attempts.

• Since returning from a foot injury which kept him out for 3 weeks (occurred Dec. 1), Corey Crawford has finally gotten back on track:

The Playoff Buzzer: Stars dump Predators; Hurricanes push Caps to Game 7

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  • The Stars eliminated the Predators from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, thus Dallas will move on to face the Blues as the first official Round 2 matchup. It wasn’t easy for Dallas in Game 6, though.
  • A back-and-forth game ended with some controversy, but however you feel about a disallowed goal, the Hurricanes beat the Capitals, thus forcing the third and final Game 7 of Round 1.

Hurricanes 5, Capitals 2 (Series tied 3-3, Game 7 Airs on NBCSN; Stream here)

From the score, you might not believe that this was a close game, one that ended in some controversy. It was, though, as the Capitals saw a would-be 3-3 goal disallowed. Not long after that, Justin Williams scored a 4-2 insurance tally, and an empty-netter made it 5-2. This was a well-played contest overall, with Carolina fighting back from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to eventually win. Alex Ovechkin was prominently involved, including doing a chicken taunt, and then getting kicked out late in the contest while he was enraged about the nongoal.

Stars 2, Predators 1 [OT] (Dallas wins series 4-2, will face St. Louis Blues in Round 2.)

For much of that Round 1 series, the two teams were keeping scoring chances down, and the goalies were stopping almost everything — with a few hiccups. Game 6 was different, as this was a hectic, exciting game with plenty of scoring chances. There were plenty of near-misses, and eventually the Stars got the best of the Predators when John Klingberg scored the OT game-winner. The Central Division champion is out, and now it will be Stars vs. Blues.

By the standards of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, this really isn’t an upset … maybe it would be during a normal postseason, though?

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Ben Bishop

Both goalies were sharp in what should have been a high-scoring Game 6 between the Stars and Predators, where both netminders needed to make their fair share of point-blank saves. Bishop was tested several times in high-difficulty, high-danger situations, with only Austin Watson‘s goal getting through.

Overall, Bishop finished Game 6 stopping 47 out of 48 shots to help the Stars advance.

Bishop set a high standard for himself during the 2018-19 regular season, particularly down the stretch. Remarkably, he’s performed at that same level during most of the postseason so far, setting the stage for what could be an unexpected goalie duel against Jordan Binnington.

2. Jordan Staal

The Hurricanes needed a team effort to hang with the Capitals and force a Game 7. Justin Williams continues to be a great big-game performer, delivering big hits (including one accidental collision with his own goalie, Petr Mrazek, unfortunately), a key insurance goal, and also a would-be goal that didn’t count because he batted the puck down with a high stick. Dougie Hamilton enjoyed some retribution with an assist and an empty-net goal.

But Staal had arguably the biggest impact. He scored the game-winner on a high-effort play, and Staal also collected an assist on Williams’ important 4-2 tally to make a Capitals comeback unlikely. Staal finished the game +2 and with five hits, so it was a busy night for the underrated two-way center.

3. Pekka Rinne

It probably won’t provide much solace for Rinne, but he enjoyed a strong final performance of 2018-19.

Rinne stopped 49 out of 51 shots on goal in Game 6, giving the Predators a chance to win. Game 6 could have been a monster output for Jamie Benn, what with the power forward firing eight shots on goal, but he finished with zero points largely because of how strong Rinne was. Honestly, Nashville’s defense really failed to find answers for Dallas’ top line other than “Let Pekka make the saves,” and that worked about as well as it could have. It didn’t work well enough for the Predators to force a Game 7, however, so now they must ponder how to remain contenders after another painful playoff finish.

Factoids

  • Justin Williams cringes at “Mr. Game 7,” so maybe we should call him “The Eliminator?” With a goal in Game 6, Williams now has 27 points in 23 games where his teams have faced elimination. His 1.17 points-per-game in those situations ranks as the second-best among active players, behind Patrick Kane‘s 1.26 average.
  • Jordan Staal’s eventual game-winner ranks as the first lead change of the Hurricanes – Capitals series.
  • Hockey fans are spoiled: this is the first time we’ve had three Game 7 matchups in the first round since 2014, according to Sportsnet.

Two Game 7’s on Tuesday!

Game 7: Maple Leafs at Bruins (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, live stream)
Game 7: Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream)

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.

Stars eliminate Predators in overtime thriller

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The Dallas Stars eliminated the Nashville Predators, and thus, we have the first official Round 2 match of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Stars will take on the St. Louis Blues. The Stars moved on to Round 2 by beating the Predators 2-1 in an OT thriller, winning the series 4-2.

For much of 2018-19 (heck, even much of the off-season), it seemed like the Predators and Winnipeg Jets were headed for another series. Nope. Instead, the two lower seeds in the Central Division will square off, and the remarkable thing is that both the Stars and Blues earned it.

Much like other series in this surprising summer of playoff series, the underdogs didn’t win based on goaltending alone. The Stars were impressive in most facets of the game in Round 1, and the stage is set for what could be quite the fascinating bout with the Blues.

But first, the clincher

Game 6 was a low-scoring affair, and while some of that came down to sharp work from Ben Bishop and Pekka Rinne, this wasn’t the slow, plodding contest. The Stars and Predators came so close on plenty of chances, whether it was Kyle Turris barely missing the net on a 2-on-1 opportunity, or Esa Lindell‘s attempt catching a post.

Bishop finished with 47 saves, and Rinne made 49. John Klingberg ended up scoring the overtime-winner as the Stars pressed their territorial advantage in OT.

Just about every team that loses a playoff series faces “What if?” questions, and soul-searching about what to fix. For Nashville, the power play is the elephant in the room, and it came trudging in during a pivotal moment of what would be their final game of 2018-19.

In a moment that almost seemed to be scripted out of Hollywood, the pathetically putrid Predators power play received an opportunity to win Game 6 with a man advantage opportunity with 1:53 remaining in regulation. The Predators failed to convert, pushing Nashville to 0-for-4 in Game 6, and 0-for-15 during this series. They wouldn’t end up getting another chance, and you’d have to think the Predators will enter the off-season hoping to address these issues — whether it means changing coaches, personnel, or both.

The Stars and Predators put on a show, but ultimately Dallas came out on top. Hockey fans will have to settle for three Game 7’s to close out Round 1, rather than four.

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.

Controversy swirls as Hurricanes force Game 7 vs. Capitals

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After Game 5, people wondered what Dougie Hamilton was thinking. Game 6 involved a similar question, but this time the hockey world questioned what the officials were thinking.

The Carolina Hurricanes did a tremendous job battling back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in Game 6, ultimately winning 5-2. But, no doubt about it, a disallowed 3-3 goal for the Washington Capitals will hover over this game.

Moments after a 3-3 tie instead moved back to a 3-2 lead for the Hurricanes, Justin Williams put the contest out of reach with a 4-2 goal, then Dougie Hamilton got the next laugh with an empty-netter. The two teams will meet in a Game 7 to decide which team will move on to face the New York Islanders.

Judge that call for yourself, even if it ultimately didn’t stand:

One interesting element is the league’s explanation for the non-goal. Many wondered if this was an “intent to blow” the whistle situation where an official lost sight of the puck, yet the NHL’s Situation Room explained that it was determined that Alex Ovechkin interfered with Petr Mrazek‘s attempt to make a stop.

Ovechkin went from mocking Hamilton with a “chicken” gesture to being tossed from Game 6 after losing his cool (and giving it to the officials) late in the contest.

However you feel about the debated would-be 3-3 goal, it’s possible that the Hurricanes might have forced a Game 7, anyway. Overall, it was an exciting, well-played Game 6, with the teams following scripts we expected going into Round 1. Carolina generally dominated “quantity” in scoring chances and shot attempts, yet the Capitals sometimes had the edge from a “quality” standpoint.

Carolina kept fighting back in Game 6, as the Hurricanes have during this series, and Jordan Staal‘s eventual game-winner captured that scrappy spirit.

While this series has been a mix of nail-biters and blowouts, it just feels right that this one’s going to Game 7, even if the Capitals probably aren’t happy with how it got there.

Hurricanes – Capitals Game 7 takes place at Capital One Arena on Wednesday. (Stream here)

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.

Ovechkin mocks Hamilton, Hurricanes with chicken gesture

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Did Dougie Hamilton “bail out” on a would-be Alex Ovechkin check, thus letting Ovechkin retrieve the puck for a dagger 3-0 goal in Game 5? Was it a mental mistake by Hamilton, which would still be a gaffe, but not bring into questions of “toughness?”

Whatever the true answer might be, that moment reverberated through the Capitals – Hurricanes Round 1 series, and was referenced early in Game 6 on Monday (currently airing on NBCSN; Stream here). After Ovechkin missed a check on Hamilton, Ovechkin did a “chicken flapping its wings” motion at Hamilton and/or the Hurricanes bench.

You can watch the mocking gesture in the video above this post’s headline, and judge for yourself on that 3-0 goal from the Capitals’ eventual 6-0 win in Game 5 in this clip. Jeremy Roenick provided his take, too.

(Personally, I think Hamilton was confused, not frightened, but perhaps we’ll never truly know.)

Ovechkin’s not shy about trash talk, including in the playoffs – you may remember him jawing at Henrik Lundqvist in 2015 – and the Hurricanes must respond on the scoreboard. Alex Ovechkin let his play do some talking along with that taunting, as he scored a 2-1 goal for a Capitals lead moments after Petr Mrazek was bumped hard in an accidental collision by his own teammate, Justin Williams.

Tune into Game 6 on NBCSN and/or stream it here to see the taunting, heavy-hitting, and tense action.

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.