NHL Rink Wrap: Rangers, Maple Leafs clinch; Denver wins NCAA title

NHL Rink Wrap: Rangers, Maple Leafs clinch; Denver wins NCAA title
Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Saturday’s top NHL players

Jack Roslovic, Blue Jackets

Jack Roslovic is one of those players many of us forget a bit about until he enjoys the occasional explosive game.

That fits the current situation. Over the previous six games, Roslovic went pointless, generating a meager five shots on goal. Then, all of a sudden, Roslovic earned the NHL player of the night nod for Saturday. He got there with a hat trick plus an assist.

To put a cherry on top, Roslovic completed his hat trick by scoring the overtime game-winner. Overall, he generated six SOG, registered a +4 rating, and delivered a hit. (Zach Werenski performed well for the CBJ, too, collecting three assists.)

With that four-point outburst, Jack Roslovic set a new career-high with 36 points in 72 games. To some, that might still be a mild letdown, though. Last season Roslovic scored 34 points in just 48 games (the equivalent of a 58-point season).

Ultimately, Roslovic appears to be more than just a throw-in from the Patrik LainePierre-Luc Dubois trade. Still, it would behoove the Blue Jackets to think long and hard about how much Roslovic is worth, as he’s a pending RFA. What’s decent (sometimes hot-and-cold) production worth for a player who’s a pretty average play-driver?

Unclear. More nights like these could really jack Jack’s price up, though.

Saturday NHL highlights

Check out that Roslovic OT goal, and hat trick in general:

Trevor Zegras takes a break from creating offense you can’t even replicate in video games (yet?) to pull off an extremely, extremely cool spin move + assist that feels like something you’d do in games that were less realistic.

In other words, he’s very good and fun.

Enjoy Auston Matthews getting to 50 goals in a 50-game span, and then adding a nice one for 51. Also there’s a Cole Caufield goal to really get your clicking’s worth.

Red Wings fans craving reasons for optimism beyond rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond? Try picturing Jakub Vrana if he can stay healthy for a full season.

Saturday NHL Takeaways

Auston Matthews reaches 50+ goals in 50 games; Rangers and Maple Leafs clinch playoff spots

Actually, with two goals during the NHL action on Saturday, Auston Matthews scored 51 goals in his past 50 games. Read about that accolade here, and also check out Auston Matthews’ chances of piling up awards (Richard, Selke, Hart?) in this post.

On Saturday, both Matthews’ Maple Leafs and Chris Kreider‘s Rangers clinched NHL playoff spots. Chris Kreider gets the mention because, while he’s not scoring quite like Matthews, he’s close. Like Matthews, Kreider scored two goals in his latest game. That gives Kreider 49 goals on the season, already 21 more than his previous career-high of 28. Stunning that Kreider could score 50+ goals this season after never scoring 30 during any other campaign.

While the Maple Leafs keep strengthening their chances to get a round of home-ice advantage, the Panthers seem nearly certain to win the Atlantic Division. The Panthers pushed their winning streak to seven games, leaving them at 108 standings points.

Denver beats Minnesota State for ninth national title to wrap up Frozen Four

Honestly, it’s still a little stunning that Michigan and its slew of high first-rounders didn’t just fail to win the NCAA title; Denver saw to it that they didn’t even get through the first “round” of the Frozen Four.

After beating Michigan, Denver beat Minnesota State 5-1 to win the national championship. It’s Denver’s ninth such championship:

Could be quite the year for hockey in the state if the Colorado Avalanche end up winning a Stanley Cup.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here’s the all-tournament team:

Just about everything goes right for the Golden Knights

Naturally, the Golden Knights’ best course to make the playoffs is to win as many games as they can. Realistically, they’re at the point where they’ll probably need some help. To clarify: they need their competitors to stumble here and there. (Especially after a 5-1 defeat to the Canucks on Wednesday.)

Just about every relevant bit of NHL action went the Golden Knights’ way on Saturday:

  • You simply cannot lose to the Coyotes. The Golden Knights took care of business in that regard, beating Arizona 6-1.
  • The most likely route to a playoff spot likely involves outlasting the Dallas Stars. Saturday presented quite the gift in that regard. The Jack Hughes-less Devils beat the Stars, and did so during regulation. Not exactly one you’d pencil-in for Vegas.
  • No shame in losing to the Panthers, but the Golden Knights must be elated that the Predators fell to Florida during regulation.
  • Look, it’s a stretch to include the Oilers (90 points in 73 games played) in this mix. If they’re relevant, note that the Oilers gained a point, but lost to the Avalanche in OT.
  • The Kings were idle on Saturday; they’ve lost their last two games in regulation.

With all that, the Golden Knights still have a lot of work to do. But they couldn’t have asked for much more from a single day. Here’s how the races for the last few West playoff spots look after the NHL games ended on Saturday:

Kings (third place in the Pacific): 86 points in 73 games played (34 regulation/overtime wins)

Predators (first wild-card spot): 86 points in 71 GP (39 ROW)
Stars (second wild-card spot): 84 points in 71 GP (36 ROW)

Golden Knights (ranked highest outside the West playoff picture): 84 points in 73 GP (36 ROW)
Canucks (faint chance): 80 points in 73 GP (32 ROW)

Considering all of the three-point games in the NHL, a two-point lead is more valuable than some may contemplate, so the Kings still have a respectable cushion. The Stars’ two games in hand are impossible to ignore.

All of that aside, the Golden Knights’ chances rose, at least for one day.

NHL suspends Casey Cizikas one game for boarding Brendan Smith

Watch the Department of Player Safety’s explanation for the one-game suspension Casey Cizikas (Islanders) received for boarding Brendan Smith (Hurricanes).

 

Sunday’s big story

Crucial games for the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings

The Stars really need to make sure that a disappointing Saturday doesn’t devolve into a weak weekend. Losing to the Devils already hurts. If they dropped another game to a team that’s already been mathematically eliminated (the Blackhawks) on Sunday, that would really, really hurt.

While another loss wouldn’t totally negate the Stars’ game in hand advantage over the Golden Knights, Dallas needs to stay on track. After facing the Blackhawks on Sunday, they host two much tougher teams (the Lightning and Wild) at home in their next couple of games.

The Kings begin a three-game road trip against the Wild on Sunday. They also play four of their next five on the road. Much like the Stars, the Kings generally need to take care of business against non-playoff teams. The Kings face the Blackhawks twice, the Ducks twice, and face Columbus and Seattle once.

If both the Stars (vs. the Blackhawks) and the Kings (vs. the Wild) lose on Sunday, their playoff chances go from reasonably firm to increasingly delicate.

Saturday NHL scores

Devils 3, Stars 1
Capitals 6, Penguins 3
Panthers 4, Predators 1
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2
Blue Jackets 5, Red Wings 4 (OT)
Rangers 5, Senators 1
Flames 4, Kraken 1
Ducks 5, Flyers 3
Blues 6, Islanders 1
Avalanche 2, Oilers 1 (SO)
Canucks 4, Sharks 2
Golden Knights 6, Coyotes 1

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.

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