Posted on: March 3, 2012 10:20 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 10:28 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Southeast Division has officially gone from completely unpredictable to absolutely unbelieable, and is suddenly a four team free-for-all as we head into the stretch run of the regular season. The only team that appears to be out of it is the Hurricanes.
With their 4-3 overtime win in Carolina on Saturday night, combined with the Panthers 3-1 loss to Nashville, the Tampa Bay Lightning are now just two points out of a playoff spot, and only four points behind Florida for the top spot in the Division and what would be a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference. This is a team that was thought to be finished just two weeks ago, and had traded a number of players prior to the trade deadline, according Pavel Kubina, Steve Downie and Dominic Moore.
The Lightning have now won four in a row and seven of their past nine, and their schedule the rest of the way seems to work in their favor with 10 of their final 17 games at home -- including one stretch with seven in a row -- where they have a 20-9-2 record for the year.
They still have a game in hand on the Jets, the team they're chasing for the No. 8 spot, and they still have four games remaining with Winnipeg and Washington.
Steven Stamkos is doing most of the damage for the Lightning, and he added two more goals on Saturday night, including the game-winning goal in overtime as he continues his incredible goal-scoring pace, giving him 47 on the season.
You know, maybe 60 goals isn't out of the question for him this season.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 27, 2012 11:55 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 12:31 am
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.
This isn't the trade deadline winners & losers (those are right here!) but from the winners & losers from the actual games that were played.
1. Colorado Avalanche
They are the one and only team that gets to land on the winner's side tonight. They were the only team who really needed it that scored a big win, taking down the Ducks in Colorado. And just in case there were any hopes left, probably ending Anaheim's playoff hopes in the process.
That deal that the Avs swung for Steve Downie has paid some nice dividends early. In the now four games he's played with his new team, Downie has himself two goals and five assists after notching two helpers on Monday night. Not so bad for a guy not exactly known for his scoring prowess.
With the win the Avs are back on the streaking side as they moved into a tie with the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They hold the ninth spot based on playing one more game than Dallas thus far, but with the rest of the West contenders for that last spot falling on Monday night, it's a very big two points.
[Related: Avalanche 4, Ducks 1]
2. Jason Arnott
With the win the Blues actually climbed back to .500 on the road this season. They've been very good at home and not near as much on the road, but they just rattled off their third road win in a row, perhaps taking care of one of the remaining questions about their ability to win in the postseason.
Perhaps more importantly is the fact that Arnott donned the Weenie Hat for his postgame interview with the media.
Like a lot of teams, the Blues have a postgame award that they hand out to the player of the game. The Rangers have the Broadway Hat, the Blackhawks have the championship belt, etc. The Blues did have a hard hat in exchange for the Weenie Hat.
NHL locker rooms really are fun places after wins.
3. Matt Duchene
The Avs already made the list on the winner side, but I had to include Duchene here.
Duchene gets the award for goal of the night by swatting in the bouncing puck saucered his way by Paul Stastny to give the Avs the insurance goal.
I'm going to take a guess and say Duchene played some baseball growing up. Great hand-eye coordination to finish that one off.
1. Viewers of Rangers and Devils
Lundqvist pitched a shutout, but the Devils only managed a measly 13 shots. In the entire game. The Rangers meanwhile only had 15. And one of those came on Ryan Callahan's empty-net goal.
Not even the hatred between the two teams could really make up for the general lack of excitement with the game itself being played. Things were just a little clogged up. Not that I blame either team for the way they play, it's just when their two styles come together it doesn't make for incredibly exciting hockey. This game had twice as many goals as their previous meeting.
2. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets are in the middle of a long homestand that has allowed them to get back in the Southeast Division race. They've been great on home ice all season in front of their rabid fan base.
That's why it hurts so much to lose to the Edmonton Oilers at home. Having played more games than anybody in the NHL, that's a perfect example of the game they have to win if they want to make the playoffs. Instead, they gave up four consecutive goals to Edmonton in the third period, the second worst team in the NHL record wise.
As a result, they remain two points back of Florida in the Southeast despite having played four more games than the Panthers. They do hold on to the eighth spot in the East but that too is very tenuous.
[Related: Oilers 5, Jets 3]
3. Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames
Each team is on the outside looking in for the last playoff spot in the West and both came up empty on Monday night.
Granted, each was playing one of the monsters of the Central Division, but the end result is the failure to get points out of the games.
It's particularly painful for Calgary, which lost another game at home, falling to the Blues. General manager Jay Feaster guaranteed to TSN earlier this week that his team will make the playoffs. Well if they're going to do that they need to win these games at home, of which they have a lot down the stretch run.
The Kings meanwhile were only able to muster one goal, and it came in the closing minutes. It's been the story for them all season, one which the acquisition of Jeff Carter is supposed to take care of, or at least help. But again, we'll grant them the stiff competition in the Predators and particularly Pekka Rinne. He's been pretty good lately.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:29 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 11:23 pm
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.
Their 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night was just the fourth win in 11 games during the month of February for the Washington Capitals, and only the fourth time they've scored more than two goals over that same stretch. And it couldn't have come at a better time for the Capitals as they still managed to pull to within two points of regaining the top spot in the always comical Southeast Division, despite what has been a month of less-than-stellar play.
Alex Ovechkin returned to the Washington lineup in the win and blasted a one-timer past Carey Price for his 25th goal of the season, giving him at least 25 goals in each of the first seven years of his career.
Some of the NHL's other winners and losers for Friday night…
1. Colorado Avalanche: Big win for the Avalanche on Friday night as they keep pace in the Western Conference playoff push with a 5-0 dismantling of the Columbus Blue Jackets. David Jones scored a pair of goals, Semyon Varlamov stopped all 28 shots he faced and the newest Avalanche player, Steve Downie, scored his first goal for the club.
[Related: Avalanche 5, Blue Jackets 0]
2. Dallas Stars: The Stars took over sole possession of the No. 8 playoff spot in the West with a 4-1 win over Minnesota. Dallas raced out to an early 3-0 lead in the second period, chasing Niklas Backstrom after only 23 minutes. Eric Nystrom, a member of the Wild at the start of the season, scored his 16th goal of the year while Tom Wandell added a pair to give him six on the year.
[Related: Stars 4, Wild 1]
3. Chuck Fletcher, Minnesota Wild general manager: Whether or not any of the players or draft picks Chuck Fletcher received in the trade that sent Marek Zidlicky to New Jersey on Friday is pretty irrelevant at this point. He managed to gain three players and two draft picks for a player that no longer wanted to be in Minnesota (and was playing like it) while team itself had little leverage when it came to trading him.
Oh, and he also cleared a few million in salary cap space for next season. That's a win for the organization, even though the team lost on the ice.
[Related: Zidlicky traded to New Jersey]
1. Montreal Canadiens: The only positive development to come out of their loss in Washington on Friday night was the fact that Rene Bourque scored a shorthanded goal. Why is this so meaningful? Or even a little meaningful? Because until Bourque scored that goal, the Canadiens had gone more than 12 periods of hockey without scoring a goal against the Capitals, dating back to last season. In their past four games against Washington Montreal has been outscored 11-1. Since the start of last season they've been shutout by the Capitals four times.
2. Calgary Flames social media: I appreciate the rivalry between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. It's one of the great ones in the NHL, and it reached a new level on Friday when an anonymous member of the Flames social media team accidentally sent out a Tweet mocking the proposed contract terms for Oilers forward Ales Hemsky. The Flames acknowledged it, said it was a mistake, don't condone it, and will handle it internally. That's great, but it's not like the Flames don't have their own contracts that would draw a few chuckles from other teams around the league.
[Related: Flames official Twitter mocks Hemsky contract talk -- Oilers re-sign Hemsky]
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 22, 2012 9:38 am
Edited on: February 22, 2012 9:47 am
The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.
There are only three games on the schedule for Wednesday night and who'd a thunk that the Bruins visiting the Blues would be the least interesting of the three in terms of the playoff picture? These two are both fighting hard for positioning in their respective conferences and in the case of the Bruins, actually for the division lead as hard as that might be to believe. But more on that a little further down.
7 ET, Washington at Ottawa: The Capitals have become everybody's favorite trainwreck to watch. For some reason I have never quite understood, fans around the league just love to watch the Caps fail and this season is shaping up to be a whole heaping of fail. It's to the point where they are ready to point fingers and find the biggest offenders of them all.
But here's the miraculous thing: The Capitals have gone 0-5-1 in their last six games against teams not named the Florida Panthers. Yet they go into Ottawa to finish up a four-game roadtrip only two points behind the Panthers -- and Winnipeg Jets -- for first place in the Southeast. They are the same distance from the eighth spot in the East. So yes, by deduction, the Southeast leader is good enough to be seventh best in the conference, not third.
Point is, getting two points tonight is massively important for the Caps. Not only does it forge ties for a playoff berth but sends them back home with a 2-2-0 roadtrip which isn't so bad when you consider it included an embarrassing loss in Carolina.
From the Senators perspective, the rest of the East has mostly caught up in terms of games play and they're still comfortably inside the playoff picture, five points clear of eighth. But now they can actually turn their sights on the Northeast Division lead. They enter Wednesday night only two points behind Boston, although the Bruins are one team who hasn't caught up in games played yet as they have four games in hand.
9 ET, Los Angeles at Colorado Talk about two teams fighting for their playoff lives. Each of them can see their postseason hopes fading away, so the good news is that at least one of them is going to get points tonight and stay in the race for that final spot out West.
Despite a complete inability to score goals (Tuesday night not withstanding) the Kings are clinging to that last spot right now, one point ahead of Calgary, two ahead of Dallas. At four back is the Avalanche who made it clear on Tuesday that they're still trying to make a push for the playoffs by acquiring Steve Downie from the Lightning.
Especially considering the game is in Pepsi Center, it's a crucial game for the Avs. They really can't afford to fall six points back of the eighth spot. With so many teams in the mix for it, that's a lot of ground to make up being made more difficult by the number of teams to pass. When you're playing a team struggling as much as L.A., you can't miss the opportunity.
And yes, L.A. is struggling. It is 2-5-2 in its last nine games. But at least they showed some life in Phoenix, even if they did blow a three-goal first-period lead. Much like the Caps in the West, it's pretty hard to believe the Kings are only three points out of the division lead shared by the Sharks and Coyotes.
Your promised miscellany
• Lastly, relive the greatest moment in American hockey history, the Miracle on Ice. That happened 32 years ago today in the medal round against the U.S.S.R.
Posted on: February 21, 2012 4:31 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 5:06 pm
There's one team that's ready for the trade deadline, and that's the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After making two deals already this month, the Lightning made two more on Tuesday in rapid succession. They began by dealing Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Kyle Quincey. The Bolts then turned around and flipped Quincey to the Red Wings for a first-round draft pick and prospect Sebastien Piche. Both moves were first reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie.
Oh, this is rich. The Red Wings and Avalanche may not have the burning hatred for each other that they once did, but that rivalry still burns, particularly for Avs fans. So to see them get played by a former Wing to help out the Wings? That can't be fun to see.
But when you sum it all up, it makes Bolts GM Steve Yzerman look like a genius. The sum of the two moves from Tampa Bay's perspective is that Steve Downie was just traded for a first-round draft pick plus more. So a guy who might score 20 goals a season -- might -- while racking up a lot of penalty minutes turns into a first-round pick and a prospect. Not a bad day at the office, I'd say.
Although there is a little irony here in that Downie was originally drafted by the Flyers with the 29th pick overall in the draft. With the season the Wings are having, that's certainly a potential spot for their pick to come in at. But at this point in his career, getting a first-round pick for Downie seems like a pretty good deal to me.
Combine it with getting a second-round pick for Dominic Moore earlier this week and a couple picks as well for Pavel Kubina, the Lightning are loading up for a major farm system influx to come. They now hold two first-round picks, three-second picks with the possibility of a fourth in next year's draft. The possibility hinges on Florida's conditional pick for Kris Versteeg, just deciding whether the pick is in 2012 or 2013.
For Detroit it gets some defensive support. A weak spot coming into the season, this helps shore up a defensive corps that they are hoping can bring Lord Stanley's Cup back to Detroit. It's a moderately expensive price to pay for Quincey, particularly when you consider he was drafted by the Red Wings and got away on waivers back in 2008. But he's a good, puck-moving defenseman who will shoot and can carry a little scoring load.
The good news too is that Quincey is a restricted free agent, so this isn't a rental situation for Detroit. It makes the first-round pick asking price a little easier to swallow.
Meanwhile, there is Colorado. They get Downie in the deal, a scrappy and physical player that everybody loves to hate. He has some skill for a guy who fills that role, he might get you 20 goals in a good season. He brings the Avs a little more toughness as they try and chase down a playoff spot in the West. They enter Tuesday three points back of the eighth spot.
I can't help but feel like Colorado is the loser in all of this. Even though Quincey was expendable for them and they had been considering trading him with a full stable of young defensemen, it burns a little to see a guy they traded away turn into a first-round pick.
That's not to say they come out awful here, they don't. Moving Quincey out isn't the biggest thing in the world considering he has a salary of more than $3 million and does tend to turn the puck over. It just comes across not looking all that favorable for the Avs to me.
To the other GMs in the league, take note of Yzerman: This is how you sell at the trading deadline.
Posted on: February 12, 2012 11:13 pm
The Tampa Bay Lightning franchise isn't that old, so franchise records aren't always the most impressive at this point. The storied history isn't exactly storied.
But two goals from one player in 11 seconds? That's good for any franchise.
Downie is known more for his pest-like ways and fighting, but he's not completely new to the scoring thing. He does have 11 on the season after Sunday's outburst.
Of course, Johnson was pretty tough the other 59:49 of the game, not allowing a goal all that time.
The previous franchise record for Tampa Bay was 16 seconds, pulled off by Jason Weimer back in 1997.
Posted on: December 12, 2011 3:16 pm
The Lightning's Steve Downie managed to avoid a suspension for his role in a skirmish last week in a game against the Rangers where it appeared as though Downie illegally left the bench to take part. If that were the case, it would have been an automatic suspension.
Instead, Downie told the media on Monday that he was fined by the NHL, not suspended. While he didn't say how much he was fined, the largest possible fine he could receive is $2,500. It's likely that's what he was docked.
For a refresher on what happened, Artem Anisimov of the Rangers scored short-handed and then decided to celebrate by using his stick like a gun and firing at the Lightning net and Mathieu Garon. Here's the video.
The question with regards to Downie became was he on the ice because of a legal line change? Despite not technically being on the ice when the fight began, the league came to the conclusion that it was a legal line change and Downie had a right to be in the game. He was replacing the dinged up Brett Connolly.
Still, the way he was slow to get in the game then react suddenly and go flying across the rink to join the fracas didn't look too good for him, especially considering Downie's less-than stellar reputation.
"It's what I expected," Downie said. "It is what it is. You've got to respect the decision. It's not my call but I expect what he did and what he said."
Sure could have been a lot worse. Judging by past situations with guys hopping off the bench illegally, it was a possibility that Downie could face a severe suspension.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:35 pm
In the second period of their game in Madison Square Garden, there was a really interesting sequence that unfolded. While on the power play, a Lightning slap shot took down Brett Connolly in front of the Rangers crease, leading to a breakout the other direction. The rush was finished off by Artem Anisimov scoring a goal. The place was excited.
Then all hell broke loose. Relatively speaking, of course.
Obviously pleased with his effort and the go-ahead goal, Anisimov felt like celebrating. That's all fine and dandy, until he decided to pretend his stick is a gun and aim right for Mathieu Garon and the Lightning net. Vincent Lecavalier wasn't happy as you might expect.
The ensuing scrum resulted in four minutes of roughing for Marc-Andre Bergeron, two for roughing on Steven Stamkos, two minutes for roughing on Downie and a 10-minute misconduct, four minutes for Brandon Dubinsky on roughing, two minutes to Anisimov for unsportsmanlike conduct, four for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. Phew!
"It's wrong, we all know that," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's the wrong thing to do. He's a solid, solid guy who made a mistake. He's not an idiot."
"I guess I'm in a protective mode because he deserves to be protected."
Tortorella went on to say that Anisimov apologized for his celebration and that he'll be available to the media on Friday. Nor did Tortorella blame his former team, the Lightning, for their reaction, admitting that Anisimov crossed a line."Artie's not doing it to do anything against their team," Brad Richards added. "Artie won't do that again. He wasn't trying to embarrass anybody."
That would have been the end of and the sportsmanship of Anisimov would have been the only remaining talking point for the next few days.
That's until you see the replay again and wonder, where did Downie come from to join that scrum? That's right, the bench. That means an automatic suspension is coming his way -- if it's determined it wasn't a line change. That could be the one thing that saves Downie if they decide he was coming onto the ice for the next shift after goal, but it sure doesn't look that way.
Eric Godard learned the suspension lesson last year with the Penguins. Making it worse, Downie doesn't have a pristine reputation. Brendan Shanahan might add more games on to what could be a long suspension.
In the end, it was the Lightning getting the last laugh, winning in a shootout after a late comeback to end their five-game losing streak.
But back to the original celebration. Are you OK with Anisimov going gunny on the Lightning?