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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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.