Andrei Vasilevskiy

Bruins’ Rask leaves game after taking hit to head (Video)

Leave a comment

Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask had to exit their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night after taking a hit to the head from Emil Bemstrom.

Rask was clearly shaken up on the play and immediately removed from the game. The Bruins ruled him out with what they are calling an “upper-body injury.”

The incident happened just one minute into the game and you can see it in the video above. As Bemstrom skated through the goal crease, he caught Rask in the head with his left arm.

Rask missed time a year ago with a concussion, so seeing him have to leave a game after a hit to the head has to be a concern for the Bruins.

Entering play on Tuesday, Rask had a .925 save percentage in 27 starts this season and was named to the Atlantic Division All-Star roster. On Monday he announced that he would be skipping the game. He was replaced by Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Bruins ended dropping a 3-0 decision to the Blue Jackets.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL All-Star Game: Vasilevskiy replaces Rask; Letang named Metro captain

NHL All-Star Game
Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is having himself a pretty good Monday.

Along with being named the NHL’s first star of the week, he is also being added to the Atlantic Division All-Star team where he will replace Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

This will be the third consecutive season that Vasilevskiy will appear in the NHL All-Star Game.

In 33 appearances this season he has a 22-9-2 record to go with a .915 save percentage.

While his overall numbers are down a bit for the season, he has started to get on a roll in recent weeks and has been nearly unbeatable since the start of December. He has been one of the players driving Tampa Bay’s climb back up the standings — including their recent 10-game winning streak — as they once again start to look like a Stanley Cup contender and one of the league’s elite teams.

By removing himself from the game, Rask will have to sit out one Bruins game immediately before or after the All-Star break.

Kris Letang named captain of Metropolitan Division team

The other piece of All-Star Game news on Monday is that Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang has been named captain of the Metropolitan Division team.

Alex Ovechkin had previously been captain of team, but decided to withdraw from the weekend festivities to rest and prepare himself for the second half of the regular season.

Letang was added to the game as a replacement for Pittsburgh teammate Jake Guentzel who is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury. This is Letang’s sixth All-Star game appearance. In 37 games so far this season he has 10 goals and 28 total points.

The NHL All-Star weekend will take place on January 24-25 in St. Louis.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

The Buzzer: Big night for Sharks; Tkachuk vs. Kassian; McDavid does it again

Sharks big night Pavelski return Marleau milestone buzzer
Getty Images
1 Comment

Big night for Sharks, Pavelski, Marleau

The struggling Sharks beating the surging Stars would have been noteworthy in its own right. After all, the Stars entered Saturday on a six-game winning streak.

Stories revolving around the Sharks’ 2-1 win ended up being a bigger deal.

Joe Pavelski returning to San Jose was very big out of any context, and the Sharks let him know how much his time was valued. They shared a tremendous ode to his long run with the team, and did so before the game, not during it:

If that didn’t jampack people with feelings, consider that Patrick Marleau became just the fifth player in NHL history to reach 1,700 regular-season games played. (I specify regular season because the dude also has 191 playoff games under his belt.)

So, does Marleau just loaf around? Nope, he scored the game-winner, folks.

Sharks fans cannot be blamed for feeling nostalgic. Especially since, unfortunately, the present isn’t looking quite as bright as the past at this moment.

Three Stars

1. James Reimer, Carolina Hurricanes

Saturday provided slim pickings when it came to gargantuan offensive performances. Goalies enjoyed some of the better nights, and Reimer stood as likely the best.

The Kings remain a quietly pesky team in controlling shot volume, in a strange way flipping the script on Carolina. Either way, Reimer was game to the task, pitching a 41-save shutout. He now has 10 wins and three shutouts on the season, with an improved .917 save percentage. Maybe all of those goals allowed in Florida weren’t all Reimer’s fault?

*Looks at Sergei Bobrovsky‘s 2019-20 stats and cringes.*

2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Ilya Kovalchuk stole the show by scoring his first Habs goal in overtime. Montreal needed Price to get there, though, as the veteran goalie stopped 41 of the 42 shots he faced. Price’s 17-16-4 record looks more impressive when you realize that Kovalchuk’s OTGWG snapped an eight-game losing streak for the Habs.

3. Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames

Saturday provided quite the logjam at two goals, and even larger traffic nightmare for two-point nights. So, feel free to replace Lindholm with another player who enjoyed a strong Saturday, such as Brock Boeser and his two goals via eight shots on goal.

Lindholm works pretty well. For one thing, his second of two goals ended up being a game-winner. Not only that, but the game-winner connects to the controversy of Saturday, as Lindholm scored during a power play drawn thanks to Matthew Tkachuk making Zack Kassian lose his mind. If you even mildly enjoy trash talk, head to this post.

Oh, and Lindholm also went 13-7 on faceoffs, which is pretty strong considering that he has only been back at center on something of a temporary basis.

Highlight of the Night

Yes, this got lost in the shuffle. Still, don’t totally allow Connor McDavid being shot out of a cannon — or as many jokes, hit the turbo button in a video game — for a conclusively absurd goal. In typical McDavid on Oilers fashion, it wasn’t enough to win, but it did manage to amaze.

Chaos between Tkachuk and Kassian

To save you a click (but you should go here and here anyway, because you’d otherwise miss a lot), here is the moment of eruptive violence:

Factoids

  • Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins generated his first career shutout in … well, where would you guess? At least, knowing that Memphis doesn’t have a team, and that the Predators would count as cheating? Of course he generated his first shutout against the Vegas Golden Knights, silly.
  • The Lightning tied their franchise record with their 10th consecutive win on Saturday. The Bolts became the fourth team to author at least two 10+ win streaks in consecutive seasons. The most recent team to join them stings, recent (2016-17 and 2017-18) renditions of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Via NHL PR) Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched two shutouts in a row, pushing a shutout streak to 145:55.
  • NHL PR notes Marleau hitting 1,700 games, and points out Gordie Howe’s record of 1,767, as if to mutter “just saying …” Sportsnet Stats notes that Marleau is the only one of those five players to score a goal in said 1,700th game, which means he’s also the only one to manage a GWG.
  • Kovalchuk scored his 16th regular-season overtime goal. That total ties Kovalchuk with Patrik Elias and Daniel Sedin for third all-time, according to NHL PR.

Scores

VAN 6 – BUF 3
MTL 2 – OTT 1 OT
BOS 3 – NYI 2 OT
TBL 1 – PHI 0
NJD 5 – WSH 1
CAR 2 – LAK 0
STL 5 – NYR 2
CHI 4 – ANA 2
CGY 4 – EDM 3
CBJ 3 – VGK 0
SJS 2 – DAL 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.

Lightning ground Flyers to push winning streak to 10

Lightning winning streak at 10 Vasilevskiy shutout
Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning keep making it clear: they’re back. During much of what is now a 10-game winning streak, the Lightning blared that message with lopsided beatdowns. In Saturday’s case, it was more of a suffocating affair, as the Lightning clogged things up to shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0.

Lightning show versatility in pushing winning streak to 10 games

Remember when Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t exactly looking like a goalie worthy of an eight-year, $76 million extension? Well, Vasi is looking like 9.5 million bucks (per year) lately, as he’s now authored consecutive shutouts for a streak of 145:55. The Bolts are showing that they can win in different ways, with recent victories revolving around strong goaltending and stingy defense.

The Lightning also tied their franchise record with this 10-game winning streak.

And, hey, when you win this many games, you probably get a few bounces here or there. Patrick Maroon took advantage of such a bounce for Saturday’s only goal:

Unfortunately, Maroon’s other big bounce involved a scary bump into the boards:

The Flyers deserve credit for carving out such a close game against the Lightning, particularly with injury losses mounting. After all, Tampa Bay trounced its last three opponents by an intimidating combined score of 16-3.

Upcoming threats to Lightning streak

So, what are the most likely end points for the Lightning’s run?

“Any night” ranks as the fairest response in the parity-packed NHL, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Looking at the Lightning’s schedule, they play seven of their next eight games on the road. That stretch includes Sunday’s game in New Jersey where both the Bolts and the Devils close off back-to-back sets. Pondering it on-paper, some of the toughest matchups include a Jan. 16 date at the Wild, and a Jan. 27 road game against the almost-as-hot Stars.

(Again, though, the Devils could easily end it on Sunday … because hockey.)

Lindblom receives a warm welcome

Flyers fans gave Oskar Lindblom a standing ovation in one of the best moments of the night:

Lindblom brought some “sunshine” to a recent Flyers practice, too. Alain Vigneault beamed about the visit, which you can learn more about at NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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.

Lightning, Canadiens continue to head in different directions

Lightning
Getty

Right now the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens are two runaway freight trains heading in very different directions.

They continued their current streaks on Thursday night as we continue to get some clarity in what was once a jumbled and surprising Atlantic Division playoff race.

The Lightning, thanks to their 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes, extended their current winning streak to nine games on, while the Canadiens let an early two-goal lead slip away in a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It is the Canadiens’ eighth loss in a row.

Let’s take a quick look at what is happening with each team at the moment.

The Lightning are back

It is not just the fact they have won nine games in a row that matters. Or even the fact they have the second-best record in the league (14-4-1) since the start of December.

It is the way they are collecting those wins.

They are starting to steamroll teams much the same way they did during the entire 2018-19 season and are finally starting to shake off the early season rust that pushed them down the standings. Over the past three games alone they have outscored the Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes (all teams currently in a playoff position) by a combined margin of 17-3. They are starting to tilt the ice in their favor and dominate teams in the shot attempt and scoring chance numbers. They are pushing the play in every game, they are dictating the pace, and they are playing on their terms. And no one is really able to match up with them.

Their superstars are also starting to get rolling.

Steven Stamkos (24), Nikita Kucherov (21), Alex Killorn (20), Brayden Point (20), and Victor Hedman (18) all have at least 18 points in the 19 games since the start of December, while Andrei Vasilevskiy has a .922 save percentage in net.

Add in strong contributions from players like Ondrej Palat, Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, and Tyler Johnson and they are just unstoppable right now.

Thanks to Thursday’s win they are now up to second place in the Atlantic Division and still have two games in hand on Boston (first place) and Toronto (third place).

They look to win their 10th game in a row on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Canadiens might be out of it

Canadiens fans have seen this story play out before.

Strong start to the season that is followed by a complete meltdown that eventually takes them out of playoff contention.

After turning a 2-0 lead into a 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Thursday, the Canadiens have now lost eight games in a row and are just 6-15-4 in their past 25 games.

That stretch includes two different eight-game losing streaks. All of that comes after an 11-5-3 start to the regular season.

In the end it all comes down to a lack of high end, impact talent at forward. The injuries this to players like Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, and Joel Armia have simply been too much to overcome. This was never a particularly deep team to begin with, and when you take some of their top forwards out of the lineup for any stretch of time it is going to hurt in a big way. Add in the fact that Carey Price has not been able to bail them out like he has so many times in the past and you have a perfect recipe for the mess that is currently playing out in Montreal.

They are now nine points out of a Wild Card spot with five teams ahead of them.

Without some sort of a drastic change that deficit seems almost impossible for them to overcome the way things are going.

They have a chance to snap their losing streak on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.