Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:59 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 1:00 am
By: Adam Gretz
There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Perhaps we gave up on the Tampa Bay Lightning too soon, because after their 4-3 overtime win against the New York Rangers on Friday night they now find themselves in the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference, just four points out of the final playoff spot with two games in hand on the Winnipeg Jets.
Hope is still alive, and, heck, they're even within striking distance of the first place Florida Panthers, trailing them by six points. And with the way that division has played out this season, especially over the past couple of months, anything appears to be possible, no matter how whacky or unbelievable it might seem.
Steven Stamkos also added to his league-leading goal total by scoring his 45th of the season.
[Related: Lightning 4, Rangers 3 -- Playoff Race -- Can Stamkos score 60 this season?]
Zach Parise and the Devils: A little bit of good news, and a little bit of bad news for Zach Parise and the New Jersey Devils on Friday. The good news is that Parise netted a hat trick in a 5-0 dismantling of the Capitals. The bad news, at least as it appeared to be initially, is that he was shaken up after he was sandwiched in a collission involving Brooks Laich and Matt Hendricks.
The Devils say that he's fine, but it still looked bad when it happened.
The win moves them ahead of the Ottawa Senators and into a tie with the Philadelphia Flyers for the No. 5 spot in the east.
[Related: Devils 5, Capitals 0]
Chicago Blackhawks: Perhaps the Blackhawks 2-1 win over the Senators can be the start of another streak. It's certainly been their theme over the past month, winning three, then losing nine, then winning four, then losing three and now winning two. Big challenge on Sunday against the Red Wings, though, but Friday's game was a big two points for a team that's fallen dangerously close to the playoff bubble.
[Related: Blackhawks 2, Senators 1]
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf broke a 2-2 tie with less than a minute to play in the third period to give the Ducks a huge 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. The Ducks still didn't gain any ground, points-wise, when it comes to catching up to a playoff spot (Dallas, the current team in the No. 8 spot, also won on Friday) but they were able to move ahead of at least one team for the time being, pulling ahead of Minnesota.
[Related Ducks 3, Flames 2]
Minnesota Wild offense: After having the best record in the NHL after 30 games the Wild have been one of the worst teams in the league ever since, and they looked every bit that bad on Friday night during a 6-0 loss in Detroit.
For most of the night it appeared as if there was some sort of invisible force field around the Red Wings end of the ice, preventing Minnesota from entering the zone and establishing any sort of attack time. For the night, the Wild generated just 19 shots on goal, and by my count, only four of them can be considered to be quality scoring chances.
Four of their shots came from beyond the blue line. That's not going to create goals.
By comparison, I have the Red Wings with 17 quality scoring chances. Tough night for the Wild.
[Related: Red Wings 6, Wild 0]
Washington Capitals: As mentinoed above, the Capitals were pretty much crushed in a game they needed -- which can be said for all of their remaining games, most likely -- and at home. And with Tampa Bay's win, the Capitals now have even more company in the playoff race.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 13, 2012 10:58 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 1:27 pm
WASHINGTON -- This season began with such promise for the Washington Capitals. They beefed up in an attempt to finally get over the Eastern Conference semifinal hump and hopes were high that this was the team.
It is starting to head toward an end of such despair.
Now granted, there is still time -- and a trade deadline to go -- but this team just isn't the contender so many saw. If you want, blame it on the injuries. It's tough for a team to play without its No. 1 center (Nicklas Backstrom) and No. 1 defenseman (Mike Green). But they aren't the only team dealing with injuries. That's not going to garner much sympathy.
But fact of the matter is they are slipping and are running out of games to pick it up. Depending on what happens with the Panthers take on the Senators on Wednesday night, the Caps could find themselves down by as many as six points in the Southeast Division. Adam Gretz already explained pretty well that that's obviously the worst division in hockey. So being six points back of the worst division leader isn't a good sign.
They have been tough to beat at home. Not for the San Jose Sharks, they weren't. Not on Monday night. The Sharks came in after a tough loss in St. Louis 24 hours ago and beat the Caps down, walking away with a 5-3 win (Caps scored a couple late to make it closer). It was Washington's third loss in a row, second at Verizon Center.
"I don't think we are frustrated," Alex Ovechkin said. "One [game] we have to win, but we didn't win. Everybody's trying. I can't say nobody's trying, nobody's playing 100 percent."
This is why things are hitting critical mass. They have been good at home for almost all of the season and pretty dang bad on the road. Washington's next four are on the road starting with Friday's massive game against the Panthers in Florida. That will follow with dates in Tampa Bay, Carolina and Ottawa too. Not exactly Murder's Row but for a team that struggles on the road, anything is tough.
It's not a stretch to say that they probably need six out of the eight points on that trip. They can't afford to fall any further behind Florida or the rest of their Eastern counterparts.
The good news? There is some. Ottawa is falling harder than the Caps right now, not making the bottom of the East out of reach.
It's pretty safe to say that the Caps need to do something at the trade deadline. They will be active no doubt. Tonight in Washington 12 scouts were on hand including two from the Blue Jackets, ex-Ducks coach Randy Carlyle (now a scout for Anaheim) and Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier. It's worth noting that this weekend in Columbus two Caps scouts were present.
"The determination is there -- I think -- in this room,” Matt Hendricks said. “I think the focus is there. The execution just isn't there right now."
This coming road trip is a crucial a stretch as any this season. It really could be the season for the Capitals after their recent swoon.
More from Eye on Hockey
Posted on: January 31, 2012 8:34 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 8:56 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Of all the players on the Washington Capitals roster, Matt Hendricks probably isn't the one you would expect to score a highlight reel goal.
But in the first period Tuesday's game in Tampa Bay, after he fanned on his initial shot attempt on a 2-on-1 rush and nearly lost possesion of the puck, he ended up scoring one of the prettiest goals of the season to this point, spinning around and firing what was basically a no-look, spin-o-rama backhand from just inside the faceoff circle.
Have a look:
Just the way the Capitals drew it up on the whiteboard, I'm sure.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 6:41 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 6:54 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has been suspended three games for a hit delivered on Sunday afternoon, the NHL announced on Monday evening.
The hit occurred early in the second period, with the Capitals trailing 2-0, and as he and Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek went into the corner for a loose puck Ovechkin delivered a hit to the head along the boards. There was no penalty called on the play.
"Ovechkin has Michalek lined up for what could and should be a clean, hard body check," said Shanahan on his latest suspension video. "However, he launches himself to deliver the hit on Michalek.
"Although Michalek's shoulder might be the initial point of contact for this hit, the act of launching causes contact to Michalek's head. Often on big hits or collisions a player's feet will come off the ice slightly as a result of the impact. This however is not one of those occassions. Ovechkin drives up, launching and recklessly making contact with Michalek's head."
Shanahan also added that he accepts that Ovechkin did not intend to hit Michalek in the head, but said "the moment Ovechkin launches himself in the air prior to the hit, he becomes responsible for any contact to the head."
Ovechkin's prior history was also taken into account, as he has been suspended twice and fined twice previously in his career. Back in 2009 he received a two-game ban for a knee-on-knee hit to Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason. He also suspended that season for a boarding incident involving Brian Campbell.
He will miss Washington's upcoming games with Boston, Tampa Bay and Florida. Obviously that game against the Panthers, which will take place on Feb. 1, is a big one as the Capitals and Panthers are currently in a back-and-forth fight for the top spot in the Southeast Division. He will be eligible to return to the Capitals lineup on Feb. 4 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Even though he's currently suspended, he will be eligible to play in next weekend's All-Star game in Ottawa.
His absence also adds to the current problems facing the Capitals as the team is already playing without center Nicklas Backstrom and top defenseman Mike Green. Washington is starving for offense right now, and this won't help.
Even though Michalek was on the receiving end of the hit from Ovechkin, he also had a disciplinary hearing with Shanahan on Monday for a hit he delivered in the same game on Capitals forward Matt Hendricks (you can watch it right here). While Ovechkin was suspended for three games, Michalek will not be disciplined for his hit, which will only add more fuel to the fire when it comes to (the lack of) consistency and NHL discipline.
More NHL Discipline news here
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 22, 2012 4:46 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2012 11:59 pm
Alex Ovechkin is known for his scoring. Since he was selected first overall in the 2004 draft, he's reminded everybody why.
But it shouldn't be forgotten that Ovechkin is also a power forward. He is a big body who will lay the wood. Big hits from Ovechkin aren't uncommon at all.
That hit on the Penguins' Zbynek Michalek drew no penalty call from the officials in the game. Seeing it on replay, it no doubt deserved one, his skates clearly came off the ice to deliver the check to Michalek.
It's close to being a situation where the principal point of contact is the head as well. But it does appear that the first contact comes on Michalek's shoulder before going through to his head.
I wouldn't be surprised if this draws a phone call from Brendan Shanahan. Right now I'd think there's no suspension coming Ovechkin's way but he could get a warning, something Shanahan has done with other players this season. It's certainly within the realm of possibility he could be punished for the hit, but my premonition is that it won't get a suspension. However I've been wrong -- many times -- before when it comes to suspensions this season.
At the least, it was a penalty that was missed in the game. And it was also a reminder about the bad blood that exists in the Pens-Caps rivalry. It's about more than Sid vs. Ovi (that's a big part of what built the rivalry).
It must be mentioned that Michalek had his own questionable hit later in the game. That one did lead to a penalty after he boarded Matt Hendricks in the corner. What goes around comes around I guess.
As is the case with Ovechkin's hit, it will garner a harder look from Shanahan. Any time a player is hit in or near the head, the league will look hard at it.
Now I'll let you make the calls.
UPDATE: Turns out each player could, in fact, be in line for a suspension as the NHL announced on Sunday that night that each player has a discipline hearing slated for Monday.
H/t to Pro Hockey Talk for second video
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 11:30 am
I wonder how Taylor Hall feels this morning? Saturday was a banner night for two of the past three No. 1 overall draft picks. But at least Hall had a good view for half of it.
First, it was John Tavares. the No. 1 selection in the 2009 draft is scorching hot at the moment for the Islanders. Tavares had a hat trick as the Isles took down the Rangers in a New York showdown. For J.T., it marked his second consecutive four-point game that included five goals.
At this rate, maybe Tavares should do the negotiating for a new arena on Long Island. Right now, he can't miss.
Now step over here for the latest showing in Premature Theater: are the Islanders the best of the New York-area teams? Since losing on opening night to the Florida Panthers 2-0 with some boo birds in attendance, it's been mostly smooth sailing for the young bunch.
They have won three in a row, beating the Wild, Lightning and Rangers. They're goaltending has been surprisingly solid with Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov. We saw surprising simply because this team was carrying three goalies on the active roster as of a few days ago and not many foresaw Montoya being the No. 1. The offense is showing the promise many people see; largely Tavares can be a superstar and he has some good players around him.
This is the point where we remind ourselves it's only the second weekend of the year. Of course Tavares won't score four points every night. But the Islanders have been taking steps the last two seasons and the signs were there for a breakout, just nobody could see how it happened in a division with the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers and Devils. So far so good.
Not to be outdone
On to the other star of the night. That would be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers. I'm starting to think maybe the scouting reports had him all wrong. I'm not talking about the knocks on his size, either, but the fact that he is a play-maker. I'd say he's making plays right now, goal-scoring plays.
The Nuge as some have already come to call him, netted his first hat trick of his career in the Oilers' 4-3 loss to the Canucks. So yea, in only his third career game, Nugent-Hopkins wrangled up a hat trick against Roberto Luongo and the defending Western Conference champions. This comes after his game-tying goal in the final minutes against the Penguins in his NHL debut helped Edmonton to a season-opening two points.
But Hall isn't feeling too bad. After all, he had a solid rookie campaign himself last season and he's enjoying the spoils of Nugent-Hopkins' great start by playing on the same line. He has assisted on three of Nugent-Hopkins' four goals this season.
That giddy giggling you hear is coming out of Edmonton, where visions of sugarplums dance in their heads at the idea of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins playing on the same line for years to come. Throw in a healthy Ales Hemsky and you have as exciting and talented a young line as you'll find in hockey.
It's still going to take some time, but this might be the season where the Oilers begin to show that improvement. Of course if they don't, I can't imagine Edmonton would feel too bad with a shot at top draft prospect Nail Yakupov.
Oh, and this Phil Kessel fella is pretty good too. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NHL with a 3-0-0 record (the Capitals and Red Wings the others) and Phil Kessel has been a monster in that start.
Maybe that trade isn't looking that awful anymore.
What's that feeling in Toronto? Optimism? Nice to meet you again.
If a tree falls in the woods ...
The Dallas Stars are 4-1, but not many people in the Metroplex have been around to see it. In their home win on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the announced attendance was 8,305. That followed up attendance numbers of 6,306 vs. the Coyotes and 7,949 against the Blues.
Now I understand full well that there is a certain other team that is stealing the spotlight in Dallas right now in the Texas Rangers. A World Series run is not easy to compete against. But those numbers are still awfully low, especially this early in the season with a team playing so well.
I'll give Dallas a pass for another week or so until the Rangers' run is done, but with young stars like Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, I have no doubt the Stars can surprise a lot of people this year and keep that up.
It was like an awkward family reunion when the Coyotes hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. And it was only fitting that Shane Doan did damage against his "old team" with two assists on the night.
But the intriguing part was the dynamic in the stands. Among the crowd were plenty of Jets fans to see the long-lost brothers battle on the ice. However, Phoenix did a pretty darn good job of keeping them quiet.
"Everybody always talks about we have games when there's a lot of visiting fans in there," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "But what it does is really feed on the emotion of the building because you get some visiting fans in there cheering that really puts a burr in your fans' butt. I thought our fans did a great job tonight. Believe me, I had visions of hearing 'Let's go Jets' a lot more than we heard tonight."
As for Winnipeg, you start to wonder what it will take to win a game. Maybe it's adjusting to life in Winnipeg now, a sense of entitlement as coach Claude Noel hinted at ("It looks like our team thinks we have a free pass to fail."), or none of the above. Either way, there is lots of work to be done.
Hangover Part II
The last two Stanley Cup champions danced in Chicago on Saturday night, and it was the defending champs getting the best of the battle.
Maybe this can be the smelling salts that wakes Horton and the Bruins from their slow start to the season.
Dirty or not?
We could make this a daily feature with the microscope that is being put on his in the NHL these days.
Here's a clip of a hit from the Capitals' Matt Hendricks on the Senators' Colin Greening. This one drew a good amount of attention on Saturday as people were wondering if this would lead to Brendan Shanahan's first in-season suspesion for a hit to the heads that didn't include a stick.
To me it seems Hendricks comes at the hit high, but doesn't specifically target the head. However the high follow through with the elbow going sky high doesn't help make the hit look good. In the end, I would think this doesn't get any more attention and is instead categorized a good hit.
Have a look for yourself (from Washington Times, Japer's Rink)
Photos: Getty Images
Tags: Al Monotya, Ales Hemsky, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Noel, Colin Greening, Dallas Stars, Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers, Evgeni Nabokov, Jamie Benn, John Tavares, Loui Erikkson, Matt Hendricks, Mike Ribiero, Nathan Horton, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Phil Kessel, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Saturday Story, Shanaban, Shane Doan, Taylor Hall, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets