My latest collection of thoughts and opinion on recent events in the hockey world (tied together, of course, by less-than-nothing). In short, a little of this, a little of that and maybe even some of the other…
Three-Pointers Risk Diminished Integrity of the Standings
As the NHL GMs meet this week in Boca Raton, much of their agenda will focus on player safety – and rightfully so. Headshots, blindside hits and concussions will dominate their discussions.
But something not on the agenda this week that has been eating at the integrity of the standings in each conference since the lockout is the existence of the “loser point” in the all-too common three-point game – and, frankly, it’s beyond time to reconsider the way team standings are configured once again.
I won’t go railroading against the shootout again today. There seems no point in that anymore anyway, as it is here to stay, the way I understand things. The more valid argument instead is far simpler: The return of two points – and only two – on the line for each and every regular season game. The way things are now, which essentially rewards mediocrity and runs the risk of skewing the standings in such a way that deserving teams might be penalized through no fault of their own, is unacceptable.
Filed in: Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
Hurricanes at Capitals
Washington’s lead over Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division remains at two points as the Caps host another division rival in the Carolina Hurricanes tonight, looking for their seventh straight victory.
A 5-0 blanking of the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday gave Washington their sixth win in a row and ninth in their last 11 games. Goaltender Braden Holtby, who starred in relief against Tampa Bay on Monday, earned his first career shutout against Edmonton with a 22-save performance.
With Semyon Varlamov on the mend, Michael Neuvirth steady in his place and Holtby shining of late, as The Washington Post’s Gene Wang writes, the Caps will have some tough choices ahead, in terms of who will start in goal on a nightly basis.
Three Southeast tilts on tap for this evening, all with playoff implications. The Thrashers and Hurricanes, each still aiming for a post-season berth, square off against each other in Raleigh, while the Capitals and Lightning, fresh off head-to-head battle of their own on Monday night that culminated in a 2-1 shootout win and a two-point lead in the division for Washington, each host Western Conference opponents this evening in Edmonton and Chicago, respectively.
Thrashers at Hurricanes
Atlanta bested Florida in overtime on Saturday but had dropped seven of eight and 16 of 19 overall prior to that, leaving them seven points behind the playoff cut line, presently, with 16 games to go. With Carolina a point behind eighth place Buffalo, tonight’s game is crucial for any late-season playoff rally for the Thrashers.
The Blackhawks dropped the Hurricanes in Chicago on Friday in a 5-2 final, putting an end to Carolina’s mini two-game win streak and paving the way for the Sabres to take advantage of some games in hand and overtake the ‘Canes in race for the East’s final playoff spot. Carolina and Buffalo still meet twice more down the stretch but the Hurricanes would be doing themselves a huge service in shutting down any Atlanta push from behind before it really starts.
With this game and another remaining to close out the season series, Carolina is 4-0-0 against Atlanta this season, with just one of those victories coming in regulation.
Filed in: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
American Hockey League teams were required to submit their Clear Day lists as of yesterday, designating a maximum of 22 players that are eligible to compete in the rest of the AHL regular season as well as the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs (unless emergency situations occur, such as NHL recalls, injuries or suspensions).
Junior players and players on amateur tryout contracts can still be added once their junior or college season has been completed.
The complete set of Clear Day lists can be found here.
Here are this year’s Clear Day lists for the five Southeast Division AHL affiliates:
A few quick thoughts today on last night’s huge Southeast Division matchup here in Tampa that ended with a 2-1 shootout win for the Washington Capitals.
First, it’s pretty clear now that Vincent Lecavalier’s disallowed goal early in the third period should have counted. In the video below, Martin St. Louis doesn’t appear to ever make direct contact with Washington goaltender Braden Holtby and was probably tripped to begin with:
But let’s get past that because it was a split-second decision on the part of referee Tom Kowal and mistakes happen. The Lightning would be better served bemoaning their failure to extend the lead to 2-0 at any other time in the game because they certainly had the chances to do so and there’s no sense complaining about something completely out of their control, cheated as they may feel.
Skipped our AHL stats pack update last week on account of trade deadline madness and my distinct inability to catch up. Ah, well… Onward and upward.
To get us as up-to-date as possible, we’ll take it back to last Monday and account for everything on the AHL slate for the Southeast affiliates through yesterday.
Click for individual box scores
Tuesday, 3/1/11: Peoria Rivermen 6, Chicago Wolves 5 (OT)
Chicago goal-scorers: Darren Haydar (23), Andre Deveaux (18), Kip Brennan (1), Arturs Kulda (3), Noah Welch (2)
Chicago goaltenders (saves/shots): Chris Carrozzi (21/27)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Ian Cole, PEO; 2 – Mark Cundari, PEO; 3 – Brett Sonne, PEO
Wednesday, 3/2/11: Norfolk Admirals 6, Hershey Bears 1
Norfolk goal-scorers: Mattias Ritola 2 (2), Blair Jones 2 (20), Marc-Antoine Pouliot (18), Chris Durno (15)
Hershey goal-scorers: Steve Pinizzotto (16)
Norfolk goaltenders (saves/shots): Dustin Tokarski (28/29)
Hershey goaltenders (saves/shots): Jared DeMichiel (19/24), Shane Owen (9/10)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Blair Jones, NOR; 2 – Marc-Antoine Pouliot, NOR; 3 – Mattias Ritola, NOR
In an early evening engagement with the host Florida Panthers later today, the Washington Capitals have a chance to take over first place in the Southeast Division for the first time in the calendar year of 2011.
Amazing, really, considering the countless “What’s wrong with Washington?” stories that have been written this season, coupled with about as many accounts of how surprisingly powerful the Tampa Bay Lightning have been from the start.
After all, weren’t the Caps supposed to have packed it in by now?
Weren’t they supposed to have conceded that their window of opportunity with this group of players and this particular head coach has closed?
Weren’t we all supposed to have accepted that this supremely talented bunch just didn’t have that “it” that any team aspiring for significant achievement is supposed to have?
So much for foregone conclusions.
Sound the alarms.
For the first time all season, the #StamkosMath calculator projects a sub 100-point finish for Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos at season’s end.
99.9375, to be exact.
The silly little Twitter trend (that once had something like a 91-goal campaign for #91 in its sights) has been a joke all season, of course, but there’s no joking about Stamkos’ struggles of late. Actually, let’s be fair and call them mini-struggles. After all, it is just a three-game scoreless streak and, hell, the kid is human.
The Lightning offense has indeed gone dry, though, with just six tallies in their last four games in total and Stamkos has just produced just one goal in his last 10 – three since the All-Star break.
It happens though, right? To everyone, no?
But what you’ll hear so frequently from hockey folks when the points just aren’t coming, “I may not be scoring but at least I’m getting my chances,” can’t be used here to comfort Stamkos during this downturn.
Direct playoff implications are at hand for three of the five Southeast Division clubs in action tonight and, for another, their post-season chances hang more and more in the balance with each passing day.
In rapid-fire fashion today, here’s a quick look at what’s on tap:
Lightning at Bruins
After a frustrating 2-1 loss in New Jersey last night, the Tampa Bay Lightning suddenly find themselves tied for the second seed in the East with tonight’s opponent, the Boston Bruins. Technically, Boston holds the tiebreaker over Tampa Bay with an even amount of games played (63) and fewer shootout wins on their record.
The Lightning face the stiff challenge of having to rebound tonight without the services of captain Vincent Lecavalier, who has been outstanding since the all-star break, thanks to a mid-body injury that will keep him out at least for this game and possibly longer. Lecavalier reportedly suffered the injury late last night against the Devils while checking center David Steckel.
Just one Southeast team scheduled to lace ‘em up this evening as Tampa Bay’s road swing continues tonight in New Jersey.
Lightning at Devils
Tampa Bay hits the ice for the first time since the trade deadline exactly as they were before, with general manager Steve Yzerman opting not to make a move on Monday – a move signaling both supreme confidence in the group he has in place already and an unwillingness to pay what was said to be a lofty price for any addition of considerable impact.
The bottom line being, the Lightning didn’t have to do anything and held firm. Composure and discipline from the top permeates throughout an organization and exactly that has been in place since day one under the new regime.
On the ice, Tampa Bay maintains a lead in the Southeast Division over second place Washington, though the Capitals shrunk the gap to just three points last night with some last-minute heroics (and a classic overtime winner from Alex Ovechkin) against the New York Islanders. Still, the Bolts are firmly planted in the driver’s seat, with two games in hand on their Washington rivals, winners of three straight and having earned at least a point in 13 of their last 16 outings.