NHL Rink Wrap: Kings keep winning; Torts on McDavid

mcdavid
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Top players from Thursday in the NHL

Mackenzie Blackwood, Devils

Later on in this post, we’ll expand upon how the Devils have performed reasonably well considering some losses.

Let’s start with one thing that hasn’t been there every night: reliable goaltending. MacKenzie Blackwood merely played his third game of the 2021-22 NHL season on Thursday. If anyone needed a reminder of his potential impact: Blackwood pitched a 42-save shutout. The Devils haven’t gone pointless in Blackwood start yet (2-0-1).

Blackwood wasn’t the only NHL goalie with a notable shutout on Thursday. Jonathan Quick kept the Kings hot with his 34-save goose egg. Zach Fucale only needed 21 saves for his. But Blackwood stood out by often standing on his head.

Highlights from the NHL on Thursday

Making his NHL debut after 200 games professionally in the AHL and ECHL, Zach Fucale posted a shutout against the Red Wings.

Welcome to the NHL, Cotter? *Cough* Anyway, really nice first goal from Paul Cotter of the Golden Knights:

Crafty goal from Nick Suzuki, especially since he tried to bank a puck off of Jacob Markstrom just a bit before this worked:

Thursday’s NHL takeaways

Sorry Torts, McDavid already does more than just provide offense

Few opinions are quite as dusty as blaming a team’s best player when they don’t win a Stanley Cup. An unkempt cousin of such a take is to assume that a high-scoring player isn’t playing enough defense.

Overall, John Tortorella’s argument about Connor McDavid is weathered, and tired.

Following a 2019-20 season when Connor McDavid impressively managed 97 points in 64 games, that criticism was actually reasonable. Granted, McDavid was still a considerable “net positive” then, but you could see that his defensive game was wanting.

Since 2020-21, it sure looks like McDavid’s tightened up his all-around game. Hockey Viz’s 5-on-5 isolated impacts provide visual clues to an impressive transformation:

Overall, you could spin a few stories.

  • In 2018-19 and 2019-20, Connor McDavid tried to do too much. After fielding criticism for his defense, he’s shown signs of “playing within himself.” That shows the maturity you’d hope for from a superstar and leader.
  • Maybe McDavid improved over that 2020 offseason? Sidney Crosby improving at faceoffs feels like an archetype at this point. One can almost picture that perfect faceoff circle somewhere in a cave.

Shouldn’t we give McDavid credit for massively improving on defense? It’s astounding, really, that he’s scoring at this rate while getting better all-around.

Truly, the Oilers’ nightmare scenario would be for McDavid to try to overcorrect, and miss out on game-changing offense.

Look, Tortorella’s accomplished a lot in his career. That doesn’t mean he’s always found the right offense – defense balance. Perhaps Torts would still be installed with the Blue Jackets if, say, he got the most out of players like Anthony Duclair? Either way, that’s a tepid Torts take.

(By the way, McDavid and the Oilers beat the Bruins on Thursday. Leon Draisaitl was especially impressive, scoring two goals and an assist.)

Seven wins in a row for the Kings

Remember when the Kings were languishing at 1-5-1? The Kings pushed their winning streak to seven games on Thursday, the longest active run in the NHL.

Now, sure, this latest win came against the Senators. The Kings’ streak also includes two wins against the Canadiens, and one vs. the Sabres. So, feel free to say the Kings haven’t been dominating against hockey royalty.

Still, they’re one win away from sweeping their four-game Canadian road trip. From there, the Kings play seven games in a row at home, and nine of 11. Quite an opportunity for a team hungry to compete again.

Devils in the Metro mix

Beyond the division-leading Hurricanes, there’s not much separation between teams in the Metropolitan Division. Maybe none are undeniably great — yet? — but just about every Metro team has some reason to dream about a playoff berth.

Take the Devils, for instance.

After beating the Islanders 4-0, the Devils are now on a three-game winning streak. Even their previous losing streak wasn’t so bad, as they squeezed two points out of three losses (0-1-2).

At 7-3-2, the Devils aren’t on fire, but it’s tempting to picture bigger things. After all, Jack Hughes has only played two games, and Dougie Hamilton just returned to action after an extended absence.

A fully healthy Devils team might not be a contender, but may not be a pushover, either.

Friday’s big story

Blue Jackets get a chance to prove it vs. Capitals

Speaking of Metro teams hanging in there, the Blue Jackets are on a three-game winning streak of their own. Early on in the post-Torts era, the Blue Jackets are a respectable 7-3-0.

Coming off of a win against the Red Wings, the Capitals will be less rested than the Blue Jackets on Friday. This a game the Blue Jackets should win, if they’re more than just a curiosity.

Thursday’s NHL scores

Oilers 5, Bruins 3
Canadiens 4, Flames 2
Kings 2, Senators 0
Devils 4, Islanders 0
Penguins 3, Panthers 2 (SO)
Capitals 2, Red Wings 0
Predators 4, Blues 3 (OT)
Jets 4, Sharks 1
Avalanche 7, Canucks 1
Golden Knights 3, Wild 2
Ducks 7, Kraken 4

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.

Scroll Down For:

    Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

    The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

    They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

    Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

    Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

    flyers wild
    Len Redkoles/Getty Images
    1 Comment

    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.

    “No.”

    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”

    UP NEXT

    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”

    BEDNAR’S DEAL

    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”

    AROUND THE RINK

    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.

    UP NEXT

    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.

    Report: Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed jerseys

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s Pride Night game against Vancouver because of security concerns involving a Russian law that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country.

    The decision was made by the NHL organization following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.

    The Blackhawks have worn Pride warmup jerseys previously and donned special warmup jerseys on some other themed nights this season. There had been ongoing conversations about a Pride jersey with the players, according to the person who talked to the AP, but the organization made the decision to hold Pride Night without the jerseys this year.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that significantly expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country.

    The decision by the Blackhawks comes after San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys. The New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Pride-themed jerseys for the Sharks on Saturday.

    While Chicago will go without Pride warmup jerseys this year, the team has planned a variety of activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus also is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.