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The Buzzer: Moves like Bobby Orr

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Clinching playoffs

  • The Jets clinched a playoff spot, and in doing so, greatly improved their chances of winning the Central Division.
  • The Bruins became the second team in the East to stamp their ticket, and it sure looks like they’ll have home-ice advantage against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Saturday was very kind to the Bruins.

The latest Hurricanes celebration

For people with no sense of humor, this is just madness.

Three Stars

1. Kyle Connor, and the Jets, really

You could probably give three stars to three different Winnipeg Jets and call it a night, but that would be a disservice to a busy day in the NHL. So let’s consolidate their great performances into the number category, starting with Connor.

The soon-to-be-rich winger generated a hat trick and an assist on Saturday, helping Winnipeg dominate the Predators. Connor hit a new career-high with 32 goals thanks to this game, while his 61 points also represent a career-high. He’s now a two-time 30+ goal scorer, and pretty much two-for-two in that regard, as he only played 20 games in 2016-17.

Kevin Hayes was the other Jets player who generated four points during this game, in his case getting there with one goal and three assists. Hayes now has 52 points in 2018-19, the first time he’s crossed the 50-point barrier during his already-solid NHL career. He now has 10 points in 13 games with Winnipeg, and while he’s different stylistically from Paul Stastny, it’s possible – and scary for the rest of the NHL – that the Jets once again made a big upgrade at 2C via the trade deadline.

Hayes would jostle with Connor Hellebuyck for second star consideration, if I hadn’t copped out made the decision to consolidate the Jets into one star position.

Hellebuyck pitched a 33-save shutout against the Predators on Saturday. If you exclude a relief appearance on March 21 (where he allowed two goals on 20 shots on goal, and didn’t get a win or loss), he’s won four games in a row, and has two shutouts in consecutive starts. This hasn’t been the easiest season for Hellebuyck, yet with a .932 save percentage in March, it seems like he’s heating up at the perfect time.

2. Brendan Gallagher

Of course, by opening things up, it now means splitting hairs between other players who enjoyed great nights.

Gallagher feels like a nice catch-all, Kyle Connor-style, for the Canadiens who scored seven goals to help them earn a big win against the Minnesota Wild. Gallagher generated two goals and one assist, while both Tomas Tatar and Max Domi enjoyed one-goal, two-assist nights.

Another player who generated a noteworthy one-goal, two-assist night was Teuvo Teravainen, who helped the Hurricanes win against the Wild. thus opening up the opportunity for Carolina to roll out its “March Madness” victory celebration.

Gallagher gets the edge against those other three-pointers by managing such a volume of hard work (nine SOG) and getting the game-winning goal.

3. Alexandar Georgiev

For the second time this season, Georgiev won against the Maple Leafs while making at least 40 saves. On Feb. 10, he stopped 55 shots and only allowed one goal to beat Toronto. On Saturday. Georgiev turned aside 44 of 45 shots as the Rangers beat Toronto in overtime.

With tensions high for many regarding the Maple Leafs, losing to the Rangers will only add to the strain. But, really, the Maple Leafs played well enough. Sometimes you run into a goalie who has your number, which is maybe the case with Georgiev and the Buds.

Highlights

There were a lot of great moments during Saturday’s games, even by the standards of what is typically the busiest night of the hockey week. For the sake of your browsers, here are three that stood out, whether by being great clips or just plain fun.

To start, a fun one: Blake Coleman did something of a Bobby Orr “impression” in scoring in a shootout. The stakes were obviously monumentally lower than a Stanley Cup-deciding goal, but hey, the Coyotes would argue that it was significant, as this deals a blow to Arizona’s playoff hopes.

(Artturi Lehkonen scored a great diving goal, too.)

From a great Connor goal (the one where he faked-out P.K. Subban and beat Pekka Rinne) to some fantastic saves by Rinne, Jets versus Predators provided enough highlights to be worthy of plunking the whole thing down.

With apologies to this great dish from Dylan Larkin to Anthony Mantha for an overtime-winner, this Jared McCann goal was the most unusual of the going-backward and/or no-look moments from Saturday, and it actually had more competition from Brayden Schenn.

Ugh, both the Schenn and Mantha goals were so good, it’s tough not to have second thoughts.

Factoids

Scores

NJD 2 – ARI 1 (SO)
NYI 4 – PHI 2
COL 4 – CHI 2
OTT 4 – EDM 3 (OT)
NYR 2 – TOR 1 (OT)
MTL 7 – BUF 4
BOS 7 – FLA 3
CAR 5 – MIN 1
WPG 5 – NSH 0
STL 4 – TBL 3
PIT – DAL 2
CGY 3 – VAN 1
DET 3 – VGK 2 (OT)
LAK 4 – ANA 3 (SO)

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.

Oilers squander opportunity to gain ground in wildcard race

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When trying to make the playoffs, losing to a team that’s a loss away from elimination (and lost in embarrassing fashion the night before) is not the post-season recipe.

The Edmonton Oilers could have (and should have) climbed to within four points of the final wildcard in the Western Conference on Wednesday Night Hockey. Instead, they allowed the lowly New Jersey Devils (who would have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss) to walk over them in a 6-3 win on NBCSN

The Oilers trailed early, scored twice to take a 2-1 lead, and then proceeded to give up four unanswered.

Mikko Koskinen, who was given many dollars to stop pucks at this pivotal time of the year, was woeful, allowing four goals on 18 shots before he was yanked in favor of Anthony Stolarz.

NBCSN’s Ray Ferraro had the perfect four words for the goal that ended Koskinen’s night:

Despite the disaster on Tuesday, the Devils regrouped and found a way to snap their ugly seven-game losing streak.

The team needed a couple of their youngsters to show up — they make up something like half their team at the moment given all the injuries — and John Quenneville, who scored his first of the season, and Kevin Rooney, answered the call, both tallying for the Devils. Blake Coleman drove the final nail into the coffin when he scored to make it 6-3 shorthanded.

Cory Schneider stood tall, stopping 36 shots for his fifth win of the season.

There was one positive for the Oilers: Connor McDavid hit the 100-point mark for the third straight season.

Here’s the century-mark point:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bruins’ Backes suspended three games for illegal check to head

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The Boston Bruins are dealing with more injuries this weekend, but that will not be the only thing leaving them shorthanded.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Friday evening that forward David Backes has been suspended three games for an illegal check to the head of New Jersey Devils forward Blake Coleman on Thursday night.

Here is the NHL’s explanation, as well as the play. It happened late in the third period of the Bruins’ 5-2 loss.

Because Backes has been suspended before and is a repeat offender, his suspension was harsher than it would have been for a player with no prior history and will also result in him losing more than $219,000 in salary.

He will miss Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as the Bruins’ Jan. 3 game against the Calgary Flames.

He will be eligible to return to the lineup on Jan. 5 when the Bruins host the Sabres.

The Bruins are already expected to be without Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand on Saturday night due to injuries.

In 33 games this season Backes has three goals and seven assists for the Bruins.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Backes to have hearing for hit on Devils’ Coleman

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Bruins forward David Backes is in hot water, again.

The 34-year-old will have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head on Devils forward Blake Coleman on Thursday night. It’s a silly thing for anybody to do, but Backes should know better considering he’s battled concussions over the last few seasons.

Keep in mind that Backes was suspended three games in March for delivering a shoulder to the head of Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen. The fact that he’s been disciplined over the last 18 months means that he’ll be considered a repeat offender. So it’s possible that the Bruins will be without their veteran forward for a while.

Not only did Coleman stay in the game, he also managed to find the back of the net twice in the Devils’ 5-2 victory. Backes received a two-minute penalty on the play.

That sure looks like a hit that deserves a multi-game suspension.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Dustin Byfuglien looked like man against boys vs. Devils

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When Dustin Byfuglien is at his best (and scariest), he physically dominates in ways that make you think of:

  • A man among boys.
  • A bowling bowl clobbering pins.
  • A hot knife through butter.
  • The windshield that bugs are flying off as a car barrels down a highway.

(OK, that last one might just be me, but still.)

Sunday presented some examples of Byfuglien’s frightening prowess.

Early on in a game that the Winnipeg Jets are currently running away with, Byfuglien shed New Jersey Devils forward Blake Coleman in a domineering moment of puck possession, basically shrugging him off.

It turns out that wasn’t even the most dominant moment for Byfuglien. Instead, it came when he delivered a vicious hit on Devils forward Brian Boyle, another forward who brings robust size to a league where beefier players are becoming less abundant. On that check, Boyle looked downright undersized.

Moments later, Ben Lovejoy tried to send a message to Byfuglien, who replied by knocking Lovejoy to the ice.

Again, there are times when you need to accept the inevitable: death, taxes, and Byfuglien being too much for you to contain.

As far as chatter about supplementary discipline might go, note that Byfuglien didn’t receive a match penalty. According to NHL.com’s box score, he was whistled for charging and unsportsmanlike conduct for that boisterous stretch.

Should there be more? Two different observers provided conflicting responses moments apart, including PHT’s Scott Billeck:

Paul Maurice had an interesting take on Byfuglien being penalized.

“It was a car wreck, right. Somebody had to go to jail,” Maurice said, via Billeck. “Just two enormous men coming together. And something bad had to have happened.”

One way or another, it’s best to avoid any collisions with Byfuglien, whether you believe they’re dirty or squeaky clean. Byfuglien’s beast mode seems to translate to morphing into Godzilla.

UPDATE The Jets ended up beating the Devils 5-2. Byfuglien generated an assist in Winnipeg’s win.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.