10 milestones and records to watch in the second half of the season

Roberto Luongo (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

On Thursday night, with his win over the Vancouver Canucks, Roberto Luongo officially registered a win over every single team in the NHL and it was the 389th victory of his career.

The second number is the big one, as the win puts him into a tie with Dominik Hasek for the 11th most wins by a goaltender in NHL history. With 40 games remaining and the Panthers a serious threat to contend for a playoff spot, there’s a chance Luongo could find himself in the top 10 by season’s end. It’s not just Luongo, however. Here are several other milestones for both teams and players to watch in the back half of 2014-15. Read more

Varlamov’s 54 saves one of the 10 best goalie performances this season

Semyon Varlamov

The way Semyon Varlamov played on Tuesday night, you’d have to think the puck looked like a beach ball to the Colorado Avalanche netminder.

With 54 saves in a shutout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, Varlamov not only posted one of the best performances of this season, he posted one of the best in Avalanche history. He became only the fourth Avs goalie to ever make 50 stops in a game, and one of only four netminders with 54-plus saves in a shutout victory since 1995.

The incredible feat of puck stopping isn’t enough to take top spot on this list of the 10 greatest mid-season goaltending performances, however. That spot goes to a very special game that a certain San Jose Sharks netminder will never forget. Read more

Wilting Bruins need shakeup to stop freefall to fringes of playoff race

Adam Proteau
Zdeno Chara (Getty images)

The Boston Bruins needed 16:55 of the first period to register their first shot on net against the dreadful Carolina Hurricanes Sunday. Yes, the same Boston Bruins that were the NHL’s top regular season team in 2013-14 are now looking like every championship boxer does sooner or later: tentative, ineffective, and corroded by self-doubt and/or delusion. The injury-related absence of captain Zdeno Chara for 19 games is sufficient excuse on its own for some of their struggles, and they’re by no means out of the playoff race – but one game removed from the current campaign’s halfway point, they are on a three-game losing skid, have gone 6-7-6 since Nov. 21 and are one standings point behind the Eastern Conference’s final wild card team.

Colorado’s change in fortunes this year have have surprised some, but at least some people (most notably, the advanced stats community) had an inkling that was coming. But the Bruins? Miss the playoffs? In the Eastern Conference? Nobody predicted that was a genuine possibility. And the way things are headed for the Bruins, that’s now a genuine possibility. Forget about the teams they have to overtake to grab a playoff spot – Boston is in danger of being leapfrogged by the Florida Panthers (who have one fewer point and three games in hand) for ninth place in the East. Another injury here or there, another two-or-three week team slump between now and April, and they could indeed wind up out of the post-season for the first time since 2006-07 – and with the amount of talent and experience on the roster, Boston missing the playoffs would be the biggest shock of the NHL season. Read more

Rumor Roundup: O’Reilly’s future with Avalanche in question

Lyle Richardson
Ryan O'Reilly (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

As the Colorado Avalanche struggle near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, they are becoming the subject of trade chatter among pundits and bloggers. The Avalanche are once again among the NHL’s worst defensive teams, fuelling speculation they could move one of their young forwards for blueline help.

In recent days center Ryan O’Reilly’s name has surfaced as a possible trade candidate. Former Denver Post columnist Adrian Dater claims the 23-year-old is being offered around for a defenseman, citing Florida, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal as pondering the possibility. Read more

Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon dazzles with beautiful shootout goal

Jared Clinton
Nathan-MacKinnon-COL2

Whether you’re a fan of the shootout or not, no one can deny it lends itself to some good highlight material. On Sunday night, Nathan MacKinnon scored a shootout beauty that’s going to be on reels all season.

The 19-year-old Colorado Avalanche winger scored on the shootout’s first attempt, using a slow, methodical approach before going upstairs past Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek: Read more

As Thornton passes Beliveau, five milestones to watch for this season

Roberto Luongo (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

On Thursday night, with two assists, Joe Thornton passed Jean Beliveau on the all-time scoring list. His 1220 points are one more than the legendary Beliveau, and bump ‘Jumbo’ inside the top-40.

While passing an all-time great is an incredible feat, there are several other NHLers who are well on their way to reaching some outstanding milestones this season. Below you can find the top-5 milestones that can be hit by season’s end.

Honorable mention goes to Scott Gomez, who is seven games from 1000 played in his career, Carey Price, who sits six wins from 200, and Henrik Sedin, who is a mere 32 points from reaching the 900-point plateau. Read more

Jets’ Ladd and Avs’ Landeskog throw down in slugfest between captains

Jared Clinton
ladd

If this fight between Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd and Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is any indication, there may be a new rivalry budding in the Central Division.

During Thursday night’s contest, with the score tied at one apiece midway through the second period, you could see Landeskog and Ladd talking to each other a bit as they made their way to the faceoff circle to the left of Avalanche goaltender Calvin Pickard. As soon as the puck was dropped, the mitts were off, and the two leaders threw bombs trying to spark their respective teams: Read more

The NHL’s biggest pleasant surprises and letdowns after one-quarter of the season

Boychuk, Okposo and Tavares

With December closing in, the NHL has completed one-quarter of its regular season. (And as my colleague Ken Campbell points out, do not call this the quarter pole.) These points in the campaign always provide an opportunity to take stock of what we’ve seen so far and identify the teams that have stood out for the right and wrong reasons. With that in mind, here are the league’s three biggest pleasant surprises and bitter letdowns to this point:

Biggest pleasant surprises

NEW YORK ISLANDERS. When the Islanders started the season 6-4-0 in the month of October, fans and media were intrigued, if not bowled over; they’d seen the franchise do well in short bursts before, but it never lasted during the reign of GM Garth Snow. But in November, the Isles have been an orange-and-blue steamroller, losing only twice in 12 games since Oct. 30 and beating quality opponents – including Anaheim, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh (in both games of a home-and-home series last week). They’re currently riding a five-game win streak, and although there’s a chance they could fall back, as long as their key players can stay healthy, the Islanders should contend for a top-four seed in the playoffs. A big reason for that is Snow’s off-season acquisitions of Jaroslav Halak, Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, who couldn’t have worked out better thus far.

CALGARY FLAMES. Expectations for the Flames were about as low as could be entering the season, but under coach Bob Hartley, this young team has drastically exceeded them thanks to an impressive work ethic and some good fortune in the shooting percentage department. Many continue to expect Calgary will at some point take a step backward, but even if it all falls apart from here, what they’ve shown so far – thanks in large part to brilliant young talents such as rookie Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and the veteran calm of captain Mark Giordano – has earned them a special spot in the hearts of Flames fans. Read more