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Tag:Detroit Red Wings
Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 1:04 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Last year's winner Corey Perry poses with the Hart Trophy. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Rankings. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

The Hart Trophy is the king of trophies, the biggest and best (outside of the Stanley Cup and playoff awards, of course) in the game. It goes to the league's most valuable player.

And here's the thing about it this season: It is going to be one heck of a race to the finish to determine it. The top of the points leaderboards are scrunched. So are the playoff pictures. That means the Hart race is in the same squished mode too.

The difference between a lot of guys right now in the Hart race is like differentiating between a Lamborghini or Ferrari, you really won't go wrong either way. Then you have Mercedes Benzs, Audis and Lexuses in the conversation too. So many great choices, so few winners. Just one, in fact. We aren't Jay Leno here and buying them all.

These rankings are reflective of where they stand now. They are certainly subject to change. For example, Steven Stamkos didn't crack the list here, but if the Lightning actually overcome their five-point hole and grab a playoff spot despite selling seemingly half their team, he'd have to be in consideration without a doubt.

Keep in mind the Hart race is incredibly tight with a ton of contenders at this point. There is an argument to be made for a lot of other players as well as for the order here to be changed. I'm sure you'll make those arguments below. This is just one man's opinion.

The Hart starts with a guy who hasn't won it yet despite some awesome seasons recently. But he was hindered by another spectacularly awesome teammate who hasn't been there much to help this season.

We also look at the Vezina, which isn't anywhere near as tight as the Hart race at the top but the fighting for the finalists is fierce.

Award watch
Hart Vezina
Evgeni Malkin The Penguins have had to deal with more injury loss this season than any other team, including two of their top three centers. The third is Malkin. He leads the league in points and is second in goals. He's been the best player in the league. But this race is very tight and has a long way to go. Henrik Lundqvist The Rangers are arguably the top team in the league and Lundqvist is a massive reason why. He is tops in the league in save percentage at a whopping .940 and has a goals against of 1.78. He's separated himself from the field ... and the Rangers from the East field as well.
Henrik Lundqvist Yes, I think he's been good enough to be seriously in this conversation. He's incredibly valuable to the Rangers, that's not a question for anybody. With scoring down so much in the NHL, this is a perfect year for a goaltender to win the Hart again. Jonathan Quick He means as much to the Kings as Lundqvist does to the Rangers and I'm not going to penalize a goaltender for his offense's lack of production. His 1.96 goals against and .931 save percentage are very good. He's the only reason Los Angeles is still fighting for a playoff berth.
Claude Giroux He was asked to carry a lot more of the load in Philadelphia this season and he has. Despite missing a few games with a concussion, the 24-year-old Giroux is set to pass his career highs very soon with 23 goals and 47 assists already despite playing just 55 games. He's had to with Philly's defense. Jimmy Howard Despite recently missing three weeks in February with a broken finger, Howard is still second in the league in wins with 32 (one behind Pekka Rinne). He is having a career season with a 2.03 goals against average and .924 save percentage and is a big reason why the Wings have returned to the top of the West.
Radim Vrbata Why not? He has 30 goals and counting on the season for the Coyotes, a team that otherwise relies on defense. That's 12 more than anybody else on the team. Aside from Ray Whitney, everybody on the team is at least 16 points behind Vrbata. For a team expected to be in the basement, he deserves a lot of credit. Brian Elliott The only thing keeping Elliott this far down the list is the fact that he splits almost 50/50 in St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak. But his 1.65 goals against average and .937 save percentage are obscene. However he'll be hurt by Halak's success as well as the Ken Hitchcock argument ... he makes all goalies look good.
Jason Spezza The assumption before the season was that the Senators were going to be in the running for the best lottery position, not the Northeast Division crown with the Bruins. But here they are and Spezza's 27 goals and 39 assists are a massive reason why. So is Erik Karlsson, but he'll show up elsewhere. Tim Thomas Last year's runaway with the Vezina, Thomas isn't having the season he did a year ago. But in his defense, nobody ever had before him either. He's still excellent with his .929 save percentage and 2.21 goals against. For now he barely beats out Mike Smith and Pekka Rinne in this race for me.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom.

Calder: Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Read.

Jack Adams: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews

Top GM: Dale Tallon, Glen Sather, Don Maloney.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:30 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 11:07 am
 

Red Wings re-sign Bertuzzi for two seasons

By Brian Stubits

The Detroit Red Wings have re-signed veteran forward Todd Bertuzzi to a two-year contract. The team made the official announcement on Thursday.

The Wings released the terms on the two-year deal, calling for it to pay Bertuzzi $2.25 million per season.

Bertuzzi has fit in well with the Wings, developing his game to be more of a two-way player in Detroit, something that's more or less required if you're going to play there.

“We’re very happy to keep Todd in Detroit for another two years," GM Ken Holland said. "He [Bertuzzi] fits in really well with our group, both on the ice and in the locker room.”

But where Bertuzzi remains exceptional is in the shootout. For my money, there is no better player in the game right now than Bertuzzi in the skills challenge. He's as creative as it gets, flashing some awesome moves that are normally reserved for All-Star weekend.

But more than his outstanding shootout ability, Bertuzzi will forever be linked with Steve Moore and Bertuzzi's move that ended Moore's career when he was with the Canucks and Moore a member of the Avalanche.

With the news of a new contract and Bertuzzi playing next season, that means the long-awaited civil trial between Moore and Bertuzzi is expected to begin next year. From the CBC in September of last year:

The target date for the Ontario Superior Court trial to begin if necessary is Sept. 24, 2012 if Bertuzzi is still an active player, and Oct. 22 if he's not, according to court documents viewed by CBC.

Court-ordered mediation between the sides has failed to lead to a settlement.

Moore, now 33, has never played again since getting hit from behind in a March 8, 2004 game by Bertuzzi, who was on the Canucks. Moore was in his first full season with the Colorado Avalanche.

Bertuzzi, now 36, is entering his 16th NHL season.

Bertuzzi offered a tearful apology at a press conference a few days after the incident, and would ultimately serve a 20-game suspension. He has gone on to play 445 regular season and playoff games with Vancouver, Florida, Anaheim, Calgary, and his current team, the Detroit Red Wings.

Criminal charges filed against Bertuzzi in Vancouver resulted in a guilty plea and a sentence of one year's probation plus 80 hours of community service.

Like it or not, that will be as much of Bertuzzi's legacy as anything.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:01 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 10:40 am
 

Morning Skate: Playoff ramifications galore


By Brian Stubits

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.

In this day and age with only two teams -- two! -- in the entire NHL being more than 10 points out of a playoff spot, it's hard to find a game on the schedule that isn't carrying a huge impact on the playoff picture. Save for Edmonton playing Columbus, they all have an impact.

That holds even if you have two teams hanging on by life support. Which is just what is on the schedule on Thursday night.

7 ET, Anaheim at Carolina: This is pretty much hockey's equivalent of a loser leave town match. The Hurricanes are eight points back of a playoff position, the Ducks are six back. So, you know, you can't lose this game if you want to stay in the conversation.

To be sure, both face very long odds. More specifically, the 'Canes have a 2.94 percent chance of seeing the postseason according to sportsclubstats.com while the Ducks have a 5.52 percentage.

For Anaheim it brings an end to one hellacious road trip that has been going since what feels like the All-Star break. And they've done very well on it until their last momentum-killing game, a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And Carolina? Well they are actually starting to brim with confidence. They just smacked down the Capitals 5-0 -- then again, who isn't these days? -- and are finally getting the expected production from Eric Staal.

So we have two teams near (or at, in Carolina's case in the East) the bottom of the standings playing some of the best hockey in the league. The game is make or break for both. Should be fun.

7 ET, San Jose at Toronto: The Maple Leafs are still in the thick of the futility battle that is the race for eighth in the East/the Southeast Division. It's like everybody has hit a slump together, giving hope to teams that once appeared on the outs. Toronto is no different.

The goaltending was looking good not long ago. Now Leafs fans are begging for help. They are 1-5-1 in the last seven games. In the last six games -- one OT win in there -- they have yielded 27 goals. That's 4.5 per game. They need to take advantage of the home games they have left, starting tonight.

The Sharks, meanwhile, find themselves actually in a battle for the Pacific Division crown. As of now, they are tied with the surging Coyotes. Now the Sharks do have two games in hand on Phoenix, but those do you no good if you don't win them.

On their own whirlwind road trip, the Sharks are riding a four-game losing streak, three in a row without points. Apparently they think the race for eighth looks so interesting they thought they might play their way into it. As of now, they are only three points up on that eighth spot, but again, have games in hand.

7:30 ET, Vancouver at Detroit: Here's the game of the night without a doubt. Neither team is fighting for their playoff lives, instead they are fighting each other for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Oh, and there is something about a 23-game home winning streak being on the line for the Red Wings? I suppose that might garner some interest here too.

But in reality this game is massive on many levels. In addition to the two-point discrepancy between the teams in the standings, it would do the Canucks a world of good to knock off Detroit at the Joe, prove to themselves that they can do it in case it comes up again at playoff time.

Unfortunately for the Wings -- and fans -- Pavel Datsyuk won't be in the lineup for the Wings, sitting out a couple weeks after having his knee scoped.

9 ET, Phoenix at Calgary: This is the West battle being waged in Calgary right here. The Coyotes have been on fire, winning eight of their last nine games and shooting into not only seventh place in the West but in a tie with the Sharks in the Pacific. And they just added Antoine Vermette.

If Phoenix takes two points tonight, you start to wonder if they can prepare for some playoff games in the desert again. Of course that's no guarantee, but they'd be in one good position for it.

But don't sleep on the Flames. They enter the day in ninth place, one back of the Kings and this will be their one game in hand. Here's what makes the Flames a real threat for a playoff berth, if you can believe that. They have 22 games remaining, 14 of them come at home. That's as favorable as any playoff hopeful down the stretch run.

Also worth watching: The Panthers host the Wild with Florida still clinging to the Southeast lead and Minnesota still clinging to their playoff hopes.

The Blues and Predators renew acquaintances in their continued battle for that crucial fourth seed in the West. The Preds have just owned the Blues this season.

The Stars visit the Blackhawks where Chicago has reeled off four in a row after the nine-game losing streak. Dallas is another team that's hanging within striking distance in the West.

The Lightning visit the Jets with Winnipeg entering in a tie for both the Southeast lead and the eighth spot in the East. They need to win these games since they've played more than any team. But the Lightning are still clawing, hanging five points back of the playoffs.

Your promised miscellany

  • Capitals coach Dale Hunter was hard on goaltender Tomas Vokoun after Washington's second big loss in a row on Wednesday. Of course, without Vokoun, there's no telling how low the Caps would be this season. He's been good for them the majority of the season. (Washington Times)
  • Here's a good read from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun about the always interesting P.K. Subban of the Canadiens. (ESPN.com)
  • Now this is entertaining. Check out Maxime Talbot of the Flyers taking on a fan in a Just Dance 3 challenge at the team's recent fair. (Puck Daddy)
  • While Milan Michalek scored one very pretty goal against the Capitals, Mathieu Perreault had one ugly goal that tried to make him ugly (the puck went in off his face). Guess what? They both counted as one score.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 21, 2012 4:31 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 5:06 pm
 

Avs' Quincey goes to Wings in 3-way deal with TB

By Brian Stubits

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.

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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.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 21, 2012 12:55 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 8:43 am
 

Datsyuk to miss two weeks after knee surgery

Datsyuk leads Detroit with 59 points (16-43=59). (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Red Wings were able to withstand the loss of All-Star goaltender Jimmy Howard just fine. But now they'll really be put to the test as superstar forward Pavel Datsyuk is going to miss the next two weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery.

Datsyuk, who was recently lauded by his fellow players in the NHLPA poll in six different categories, is certainly as critical a component as anybody to the Wings. Some argue that he's the world's best player. The good news, though, is that he's not expected to be out long. The two weeks sounds like a solid time frame after hearing coach Mike Babcock on Tuesday.

"Datsyuk had minor arthroscopic knee surgery this morning," Babcock said before Tuesday's game against Chicago. "Everything is real good."

With that two-week timeframe -- three to be safe -- that brings Datsyuk back in the latter half of March, giving up a couple of weeks to get back up to full speed before the playoffs. So that's why they decided to take care of it now.

"This way we have an opportunity to get [Datsyuk] going 100 percent before playoff time," Babcock said.

That is a luxury Detroit has right now, holding a big enough cushion to withstand the loss of Datsyuk for a little while and still keeping their playoff position. What it might do is open the door for the Vancouver Canucks to overtake them and move into the West's top spot.

The good news for Detroit at least is that Howard will be making his return against the Blackhawks. He has missed the past few weeks with a broken finger but Detroit just kept on winning, taking the last six games without Howard in the lineup.

On the other side of the ice in Chicago tonight the Blackhawks will be missing their top forward as well. The 'Hawks announced Jonathan Toews is going to miss the game too with an upper-body injury. So at least it's an even trade in players being out for the always entertaining Chicago-Detroit battle.

The absences take away a bit of the juice that was shaping up to be about Howard's return.

More from Eye on Hockey

NHLPA poll really likes Datsyuk
Datsyuk dramatically extends Wings' streak

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 20, 2012 9:19 pm
 

Wings prospect arrested on sexual assault charge

By Brian Stubits

For the second time this season, a Boston University hockey player was arrested on sexual assault charges. The most recent case involved Sunday's arrest of defenseman Max Nicastro, a third-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2008.

Here is the story from the Associated Press:

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston University says Max Nicastro, a defenseman on its men's hockey team, has been arrested on a sexual assault charge.

University police arrested Nicastro on Sunday on the Charles River Campus. BU Police Chief Thomas Robbins says his department and the Suffolk County district attorney's office are investigating.

The university says a female student accused Nicastro of sexually assaulting her. Robbins says the encountered happened on campus. Few other details were released.

Nicastro, a junior from Thousand Oaks, Calif., is being held on $25,000 cash bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Brighton District Court.

Athletic director Michael Lynch says Nicastro has been suspended from the hockey team pending the outcome of the investigation.

A university spokesman says he does not know if Nicastro has a lawyer.

Corey Trivino was the first player arrested back in December. The team's leading scorer, Trivino was thrown off the team after the allegations. He is a prospect of the Islanders.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:39 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 12:53 pm
 

Red Wings waive Conklin, keep MacDonald

ConklinBy: Adam Gretz

For much of the season the Red Wings backup goalie position appeared to be a major area of weakness, as veteran Ty Conklin struggled when given starts in place of Jimmy Howard, resulting in Howard having to carry almost all of the load in net.

With Howard sidelined due to injury in recent weeks, the Red Wings were forced to bring up Joey MacDonald to fill out the roster, and when given an opporutnity to play, he did everything he could on the ice to convince Detroit management to keep him around when Howard returned. And that's exactly what's going to happen as the Red Wings placed Conklin on waivers on Monday afternoon, which means MacDonald will be sticking around as Howard's new backup.

The 32-year-old veteran, who has played for four teams in his NHL career, has appeared in eight games for the Red Wings this season and allowed just 13 goals on 196 shots for a .934 save percentage. He's been the man between the pipes in each of Detroit's past seven games, six of which they've won, with all of them coming on home ice to extend their NHL record home winning streak to 23 games (and still counting).

Conklin was just never able to find any sort of consistency for Detroit this season and was having one of the worst years of his career, posting a .878 save percentage in his 11 appearances. His last appearance for the Red Wings came on Feb. 4 against the Edmonton Oilers when he was lifted after giving up three goals on nine shots in the first period of what would be a 5-4 shootout loss.

MacDonald came into finish the game, his first appearance with the Red Wings this season. He's played every minute since.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:38 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 8:48 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: No hating on Wings now

The weekend saw Detroit's home streak go from 21 in a row to 23. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

I took a lot of heat for suggesting last week that the Red Wings' home win streak, as impressive as it is, might be deserving of a little side not in the history books thanks to the shootout.

But even I'll concede now you can forget that. I said if the Wings continued to push out the streak it becomes a non-issue and you are just left in too much awe of what Detroit has done. They've done exactly that.

After failing in their last five regular-season games against the San Jose Sharks, the Wings instead finished off a six-game homestand with another win, a hard-fought 3-2 victory at the Joe. For those counting at home, and I'm sure that's most all of you, that's 23 consecutive home wins, three more than the previous record.

It all underscores a bigger point. Sure, the NHL record is great and all, but that's nothing more than a nice stat to go in the history books. Otherwise it means nothing. However it will mean something if the Red Wings earn the Presidents' Trophy, or at least the top seed in the Western Conference.

You look hard to find holes on this team. At one point you might have said it was the backup goaltending, then Jimmy Howard got hurt, Joey MacDonald was called up and he has proven he is capable of replacing Ty Conklin. More than capable, in fact.

Before the season the hole was glaring on the defense. That's why they brought in some players to help in that regard, although none seemed to be all that significant at the time, at least to me. Oops.

While one of those additions, Mike Commodore, has been sparingly used, you can't say the same for Ian White. Despite pretty solid career numbers, I wasn't too crazy about a guy who played on three different teams last season (Calgary, Carolina and San Jose). Apparently that was a silly worry.

He has been as solid a plug into their blueline group as anybody out there. He chews up more than 23 minutes per game, he contributes some offensively and is on pace to smash his career best plus/minus mark (currently he is plus-29). I know, I know, plus/minus doesn't mean much, but you'd rather have a player who is that far above zero than below it, wouldn't you?

Moreover, they have scoring depth. Who'd a thunk that Drew Miller -- no longer just the brother of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller -- would be on his way to 15 or so goals? He is one of the 10 Red Wings players who are in double digits in goals this season. That means there is little reprieve at any point in a game against the Wings.

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Obviously you're a good team when you win 23 in a row at home. Clearly no slouch is going to get that done. But the biggest thing about this home streak for me is that it will contribute to them playing a lot more at home. Ironic, I know. But what really matters will be the home games beyond the guaranteed 41.

Philly's problem

This week the Flyers made not one but two trades to get help on the defensive corps. While the help was definitely needed, not a lot is going to get better if the goaltending duo doesn't improve.

A sight that has become all too familiar this season, Ilya Bryzgalov was yanked mid-game after Matt Cooke scored the all-too rare 3-on-5 goal. Sergei Bobrovsky came in and din't perform any better. Eventually it ended in a 6-4 loss for the Flyers to the intrastate rival Penguins.

But evidenced by the downpour of boos from the Wells Fargo Center faithful, this has been a season-long issue for Philadelphia. Heck, it's been a lot longer than this season, but it was supposed to be resolved when they brought in Bryzgalov.

His save percentage has been floating around .900 all season. Right now it's sitting square on that mark, the lowest of his career. His goals against average is up to 2.79. His only worse season was in 2008-09 when he gave up 2.98 per game with the Coyotes.

Needless to say this isn't what the Flyers invested so much into him for. You have to think that with the success the team has had despite the goaltending woes, if either one of the goalies could get it going and start playing up to an acceptable level at minimum, they could make some serious noise in the playoffs.

You just wonder if that's possible at this point, if it's in either goalie with the current situation, from the defense in front of them to the coaching. It's a conversation that continues to linger around the Flyers.

Just check out what the Flyers had to say, including Bryzgalov after Saturday's loss.

Hockey Day in America

So among all the American players playing on Sunday, who'd a thunk that Paul Gaustad would be the first to score on Sunday's Hockey Day in America?

Assuming you don't count Canadian-born Jason Pominville even though he does play for the American natonal team as a dual-citizen, it was his Sabres teammate that scored the first goal by an American. He barely beat Drew Miller in Detroit for that honor.

It was part of a rare breakout for the Sabres. It's been a big struggle for them this season in Buffalo, but they brought out the scoring sticks and pounded the Penguins 6-2. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't do much for Buffalo who is too far out of the playoff picture, but it was perhaps a nice audition for Gaustad in this month of the trade deadline.

He's not going to be as sought after as a lot of the other players, but some team seeking grit and toughness with a side of skill, Gaustad could fit somewhere. Just go back and watch his work on Evgeni Malkin on Sunday to get a sense of that.

Unlucky break of the weekend

Speaking of Hockey Day in America, one of the other big games of the day was the St. Louis Blues visiting the Chicago Blackhawks. It was also a big matchup in the Central Division as well.

As is the case with every Blues game, it was a low-scoring affair that turned with one bad break. This one going against the Blues.

The game-winning goal for the Blackhawks technically went to Dave Bolland, but if they could, it should have gone to the Blues' David Backes, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The centering pass shot off of Backes and he couldn't stop the puck from going in the net in time. The 'Hawks eventually potted an empty-netter for their third straight win after the nine-game skid.

Vancouver love

This year's NHLPA players poll voted the Vancouver Canucks as the league's most overrated team. Don't think I'd agree at all in calling them overrated. They were one game from winning the Cup last season and as we all know, only one team can win the Cup each season. I mean the Canucks have won the games to put them in the positions they've been in each postseason, it's not like it's a fabrication, they earned those points.

In fact, I'd say that this team doesn't get enough credit, at least in the States. They seem to be in the news a bit, but not often for their play. Yet all they do is win as DJ Khaled so eloquently said. This is the team that could take away from that Red Wings home-ice advantage in the West this postseason.

That's because they extended their points streak to 12 games after beating down the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2 on Saturday in Vancouver. They are 9-0-3 in that time. They became the second team behind the Wings to reach the 80-point plateau.

Perhaps that overrated label has come from the fact that we expect this now. It might also explain why they are winning so quietly. Or maybe it has been the large amount of overtime and shootout wins, especially lately. But no matter the reason, people should probably pay attention.

Just can't Capitalize

Every time you think the Washington Capitals are going to get it going after a big and impressive win, they fall flat. It happened again this weekend.

They took two points from the division-leading Panthers on Friday night in a dominating effort, outshooting Florida by a wide margin. So how'd they follow that up? By looking like the Caps we've seen for the most of Dale Hunter's tenure ... being outshot and outchanced for the majority of the game and losing a low-scoring affair to the Lightning 2-1.

It seems every step they take forward they take one step back. It's why the Panthers are still sitting in first place in the Southeast with just 65 points. That's the seventh most in the Eastern Conference yet best in the division.

At some point if the Caps are going to make the playoffs they need to start stringing together a couple of these wins in a row instead of missing these chances.

Quote of the weekend

“I haven’t been on a vacation for 15 days,” Boudreau said. ”This is ridiculous. The East has no idea how lucky they are. And I think every team in the West should start with 10 points before the season starts.

“Eight games and 15 days. And I’m sure Pittsburgh goes through it, too. But when you have a four-game road trip in seven days, you’re coming home exhausted. We’re at seven days right now and this is just the halfway point in our trip.

“For a guy that’s played in the East or coach in the East as well, I don’t know how they do it,” he said. ”I really don’t. It’s quite a testament to every team in the West’s character for not griping as much as I’m doing right now about it.

“You don’t even know what hotel room you’re getting into. You forget the hotel rooms and everything during the course of the day on this trip. It’s pretty Wild. But it is what it is. You can’t use it as an excuse and you’ve got to keep going.”

-- Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on the travelling for his Anaheim team. It was technically said on Thursday, but hey, it's worth pointing out, particularly as the Ducks went from New Jersey on Thursday to Carolina on Friday and Florida on Sunday evening.

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