Bill Guerin scored and Manny Legace and Curtis Sanford combined to stop 23 shots for St. Louis and shut out Detroit for the first time in 176 games in the Blues' 1-0 victory Thursday night. "We needed them to come up big and they did," Murray said. "I was a spectator. I enjoyed the ride like everybody else in the building."
The Red Wings were last shut out Jan. 7, 2004, in a 3-0 loss to Boston - a string of 175 games. Calgary holds the NHL record for consecutive games without being shutout - 264 from Nov. 12, 1981 to Jan. 9, 1985.
"A blind dog finds a bone once in a while," Babcock said. "I mean, everything happens once in a while. Give them full credit. They worked hard. They had a game plan, they stuck to it."
It was Detroit's third game in four days and the Blues wanted to work them in the first period to sap their energy. St. Louis outshot the Red Wings 16-3 in the first 20 minutes.
"We got off to such a slow start and on back-to-back nights you can't get off to a slow start and give them more life," Babcock said.
Murray had his own perspective.
"They're not tired coming in unless you make them play tired," he said. "We got after them. We were fairly relentless with our forecheck."
Legace, who stopped 10 shots, was crunched by Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom in a collision in front of the goal with 15:47 left in the second period. Holmstrom was sent flying into Legace by Bryce Salvador.
Play was stopped as a trainer looked at Legace. The goalie stayed in briefly and then left the game with 16:26 and was replaced by Sanford.
"The puck was really blurry," said Legace, who said he was experiencing neck pain as well. "I decided it's not good to face this. Against these guys, if you're a second too slow, the puck will beat you. I thought it was better for the team to get me out of the net."
Sanford had not played in two weeks.
"I'm just doing my job," Sanford said. "I'm glad I got a chance to play and do something good for the team."
Murray absolved Holmstrom on the play.
"My feeling is that one of our defenceman was crowding Holmstrom," Murray said. "I don't think he would intend to run a goalie over. If I feel differently, I'll tell you tomorrow.
"What I always say about goalies is they picked the life. They could have been forwards or defencemen. They wanted to be goalies so that's what they have to live with."
The loss ended a five-game winning streak for the Red Wings, who are 3-3-1 against St. Louis this season. The Blues entered the game having lost four of their last five games.
Backup goalie Joey MacDonald started his fifth game of the season for the Red Wings, who gave Dominik Hasek the night off. MacDonald last started Jan. 20 in a 3-1 loss to Colorado and has yet to win in the NHL.
The Blues' goal came at 5:01 of the second period. Guerin hit a shot from the right faceoff circle and it bounced in off Detroit defenceman Chris Chelios.
"It's one of those things you can't do anything about," MacDonald said. "You know the game was going to be either won or lost on a bounce like that."
With the season all but lost and interim coach Doug Weight navigating through troubled waters, the Isles have an opportunity to put their kids to the test
Doug Weight got his first win as interim coach of the New York Islanders last night, as his charges took out their disappointing Western cousins, the Dallas Stars. Even with the win, New York finds itself mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. True, the team has games in hand over many squads, but they are still close to dead in the playoff race, with only Buffalo behind them in the East.
Here at THN, we had higher hopes for the Islanders heading into the season. Our pre-season predictions had them third in the Metropolitan Division, but clearly the loss of Frans Nielsen was greater than expected and the substitution of Kyle Okposo with Andrew Ladd did not quite work out. It happens.
So what do the Islanders do for the rest of the season? I would suggest they find out what they really have in their organization. New York has been criticized for not playing its young guys enough and while you can get into a pretty good circular argument about whether results come from ice time or ice time comes from results, this may be a golden opportunity to find some answers.
Ryan Strome has been the poster boy for the Islanders' development problems and for what it's worth, he was one of the team's best 5-on-5 possession players against Dallas. His 71 percent Corsi For percentage was much better than his season average of 44 percent. And sure; it's one game, the smallest of all sample sizes. But Strome also had more ice time than his season average (16:18 vs. 14:27, though he's been trending upward), so that's a positive sign. Rookie Anthony Beauvillier was also an even possession player and although he played just 11:28, I'm not as concerned with him, since he's still a teenager. In Strome, there are big questions about his future with the organization and I'm not going to come down on either side of the fence here, because I believe giving the youngster bigger, harder minutes (he already gets plenty of power play time) would be the perfect acid test. If he passes, then fired coach Jack Capuano may have been the problem. If he fails, then you trade him away to a team that believes Strome just needs a change of scenery. Get an asset in return – like the Isles did when they dealt Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton for picks, one of which became Matt Barzal – and move on.
And perhaps the Islanders call a couple kids up, just to see what they can do at the NHL level. Defenseman Devon Toews will be playing at the AHL All-Star Classic in his rookie pro season, so why not give him a look later in the campaign? Similarly, Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang are two of the bigger names in the pipeline, but we haven't seen either in the NHL yet. Admittedly, I've only watched Bridgeport once this season, but I don't think that giving them a couple of games in The Show would foment a sense of entitlement – think of it as motivation. A call-up in 2016-17 is no guarantee of a roster spot in 2017-18.
If the Islanders can find takers for some of their veterans at the trade deadline, perhaps these kiddie call-ups happen organically anyway. But for an organization that has a lot of money and roster spots tied up in a mediocre bunch, the Islanders need to figure out the next step. And this lost season is the perfect time to do it.
Clarke MacArthur won’t be able to return to the Senators’ the lineup this season after suffering his fourth concussion in 18 months. MacArthur was injured during a training camp scrimmage and last suited up on Oct. 14, 2015.
For the second straight season, a concussion has cost Clarke MacArthur a year of his career.
MacArthur had been skating off and on with the club over the past couple of months in an attempt to get back onto the ice for game action in what has now been more than 15 months. MacArthur was last able to play in an Oct. 14, 2015 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but after skating only 6:05 in that outing, MacArthur hit the shelf and he’s yet to return.
The major concussion issues started during the 2015-16 campaign when MacArthur suffered two head injuries in less than a month spanning across the pre-season and into the early days of the regular season. Those two concussions left MacArthur questioning whether he’d be able to return to the game, which made his comeback to the Senators to start the campaign so great to see. However, only days into training camp, MacArthur was injured again, suffering a concussion on a dangerous hit from teammate Patrick Sieloff in a training camp scrimmage.
Shortly after suffering that concussion, MacArthur took to Instagram to announce that he was “encouraged by how my body has reacted in the days since the injury” and said that he had intended to return this season. Unfortunately, per Dorion’s announcement Friday, that won’t be the case.
In December, MacArthur acknowledged that returning to action following four concussions in roughly 18 months didn’t come without any uncertainties, but said he felt it was something he needed to do in order to fulfill some of the five-year, $23.25-million deal that kicked in to start the 2015-16 season.
“It’s a risk,” MacArthur told Garrioch in early December. “For sure it’s a risk but it’s my risk, but I feel I’ve completely come around full circle…I haven’t been able to fulfil anything in this contract I’ve signed, and that’s a kind of cloud over top of me.”
Dorion said this isn’t necessarily the end of the line for MacArthur, however. According to Garrioch, MacArthur will continue to work out and his aim is to return tot he lineup at some point in the future.
The usual suspects -- Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews -- appear to be out of the discussion for the Selke Trophy. Here are five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
When it comes to handing out hardware at the NHL Awards, the Selke hasn't been all that tough to figure out in recent seasons. For the last five years, the same three players have dominated the voting. Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have accounted for all five wins, as well as eleven of the fifteen finalist spots.
But this year is shaping up like it could be different, with all three players slumping offensively. Maybe that shouldn't matter, since the Selke is supposed to be a defensive award. But over the years, it's morphed into a trophy that recognizes two-way play, which means you need to be scoring to get much consideration. If you pro-rate the lockout year, nobody has won the Selke with fewer than 55 points in the salary cap era. None of the Big Three are on pace to get there this year.
With half a season left to play, that could still change. And it's always possible that in the absence of a slam dunk candidate emerging somewhere else, voters could opt to play it safe and go back to one of the old familiars. But for the first time in years, the Selke really does seem up for grabs.
So who has a shot? Assuming that Bergeron, Toews or Kopitar don't take the trophy home this time, here are the five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
Ryan Kesler, Ducks
The case for: The veteran is having his best season since 2011, and is on pace for about 65 points while playing tough minutes for a first-place Ducks team. His advanced stats won't blow anyone away, but they're good enough that the analytics guys shouldn't push back too hard, and everyone loves a good comeback narrative.
The case against: While it wouldn't be held against him by voters, Kesler doesn't really fit our "new blood" theme; he was the last player to win the award before the Bergeron/Toews/Kopitar trinity took over, and he finished third in the voting last year.
More importantly, there's at least an argument to be made that linemate Andrew Cogliano deserves the award, too. If that line of thinking catches on, the two could end up splitting votes and knocking each other out of the running.
Mikko Koivu, Wild
The case for: While it's meant as a single-season award, voters tend to like to treat the Selke as more of a career achievement; it's rare for somebody to win the award without having built up a resume over the years. That works in Koivu's favor, as he's been considered a strong defensive forward for a decade now, finishing as high as fourth in the Selke voting back in 2009. He hasn't come especially close since, but he's had votes every year.
New coach Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on Koivu in the defensive zone, and his ability to handle the duties has been a big part of Minnesota's unexpected success. With the Wild emerging as one of the one of the year's best surprises, voters will be paying attention.
The case against: Koivu's all-around numbers are good but not great, and he's benefitting from a sky-high on-ice save percentage and PDO that's unlikely to continue. With Devan Dubnyk looking like the Vezina favorite and Boudreau having a shot at the Jack Adams, voters might figure that their ballots are already getting crowded with Wild names.
The case for: Backlund seems to have emerged as a trendy dark horse pick in recent weeks. It's well-deserved: his numbers are excellent, and he's posting them in tough minutes for a young Flames team that asks a lot of him. His offensive numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he's leading the team in scoring, and that should be enough to satisfy those "two-way" demands if he can keep it up.
The case against: While Backlund's been an underrated defensive player for a while now, he's never received a Selke vote. Again, you can argue that that shouldn't matter, but history has shown that it does. That could make it tough for him to get enough votes to win outright.
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The case for: At 21, Barkov would fit the new blood narrative perfectly. And he's already on voters' radars after finishing sixth in last year's balloting. He checks most of the boxes that voters tend to look for, posting solid offensive stats and strong possession numbers. And in a season where the biggest story has been the emergence of the next generation of star players, you could see the voters turning to one of the best young two-way forwards in the game.
The case against: Barkov is hurt right now and has already missed two weeks, so if he's not back soon he probably falls out of the running. He's also been playing a more offensive role this year under new coach Tom Rowe, which may be good for the Panthers, but probably not for his Selke chances. And given how things are turning out in Florida this year, voters may not be interested in having many Panther names on their ballot.
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The case for: If building up enough support to win the award is a long-term process, this could be your guy. Backstrom generated plenty of Selke buzz last year, but finished just outside the top ten for the second straight year. It helps that he's putting up the sort of big offensive number that voters like to see. And after years of largely playing in Alex Ovechkin's shadow, he seems to be settling in as one of those guys that everyone in the hockey world decides has been underrated for too long. What better way to make it up to him than with some awards ballot love?
The case against: In terms of pure numbers, you could make a good case that Backstrom's defensive game was better last year than it is now. That won't necessarily hurt him with voters who feel like he's finally due, but it could keep him from getting the kind of widespread groundswell of support that would help push him past a strong candidate like Kesler.
Honorable mentions (and why they won't win):
- Brad Marchand (Bruins): He's getting some buzz, and has earned votes in the past. But has he really become a better option than Bergeron right now? And if not, how can you win the Selke when you're not the best defensive forward on your own team?
- Nazem Kadri (Maple Leafs): He's a relatively new candidate who'll face the same uphill climb as Backlund, with the added disadvantage that plenty of people don't seem to like him.
- Sidney Crosby (Penguins): He's been underrated in his own end for years, and you could see him getting some consolation ballots if voters decided to break for Connor McDavid for the Hart. But right now, the Crosby focus is still on the MVP race.
- Joe Thornton (Sharks): He gets votes every year and finally had his first top five finish last season, so the timing seems right. But his offensive numbers are down this year.
- Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres): He's been in the mix before. But the Sabres' disappointing season may doom him; there's never been a first-time Selke winner from a team that didn't make the playoffs.
- Jordan Staal (Hurricanes): He'd face the same hurdle as O'Reilly if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, although these days that seem less and less likely. He may have the best case of anyone in this section.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
The Avalanche are on pace to have one of the worst seasons of any team post-lockout, but embracing failure can be the recipe for future success that Colorado needs.
There was a moment in Tuesday’s game between the Avalanche and Blackhawks where it appeared Colorado was going to pull off what would have been one of their most significant wins of what has been a troubling season. A three-goal second period had the Avalanche ahead 4-3 with an 18-14 shot advantage over one of the Western Conference’s best teams.
Then the wheels fell off. In the third, the Avalanche were outshot 12-5, Blackhawks rookie Vinnie Hinostroza potted two goals in three minutes before the midway mark of the frame and the game was capped off with an empty-netter from Chicago’s Tanner Kero. A once-promising one-goal lead was washed away. Colorado left the ice having suffered it’s 28th defeat in 42 games.
But was anyone all that surprised? This season’s Avalanche bunch has been arguably one of the worst teams the league has seen in the post-lockout era, and that’s not the least bit hyperbolic.
In the decade-plus since the lost 2004-05 campaign, the NHL record for most regulation losses by a team in a season in 51, which the Buffalo Sabres did back-to-back in 2013-14 and 2014-15. By comparison, the Avalanche are on pace to lose 55 games in regulation. The worst points percentage came when the 2013-14 Sabres picked up only 52 of a possible 164 points. As of Wednesday, the Avalanche are on pace to finish with a .321 points percentage, the second-worst post-lockout mark. That would give Colorado a grand total of 53 points, and that’s rounding up.
Then there’s the Avalanche’s sixth-worst post-lockout goals for per game of 2.05, 14th-worst goals against per game of 3.38 and the kicker — and the reason it could have been expected that the Colorado would blow the one-goal lead against Chicago — an 11th-worst win percentage when leading after two periods. For every three games the Avalanche have led after 40 minutes this season, they’ve lost two. That’s not a recipe for success.
With the Avalanche mired in the league’s basement, five points back of the Arizona Coyotes, there’s no hope of saving this season. It’s gone. It’s over. The only thing left is playing out the year, because the post-season is an impossible goal and climbing the standings doesn’t really serve to help Colorado all that much, aside from maybe selling an extra ticket here or there. Instead, the Avalanche should be using the remainder of this season to chart the course forward.
One of the best things that will happen when the season ends is the opportunity for Jared Bednar to have an entire off-season to work with his staff. Thrust into the coaching position only weeks before the start of the campaign as a result of former coach Patrick Roy’s abrupt decision to resign, Bednar was thrown to the wolves as a first-time NHL bench boss. That said, some improvements, albeit minor, can already be seen. For instance, the Avalanche have seen their league-worst possession rate in 2015-16 increase by nearly 2.5 percent. It’s a small step, but an important one with what we know about the impact of possession on positive results.
But the biggest step for Colorado has to be a fundamental change in mindset. Visions of the 2013-14 Presidents’ Trophy season continue to linger, but the truth is this team is nowhere near ready to compete and there’s not a trade or two that is going to change that fact. The Avalanche are a basement team with holes up front and on the back end. The best thing Colorado can do is accept that they’re a near-historically bad team in this era of incredible parity.
Lucky thing is the Avalanche have the ability to jumpstart a rebuild. Unlike other teams who have had to start anew, such as the Sabres and Coyotes, the Avalanche have the benefit of a trio of young stars in Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog who could potentially fetch a solid return.
MacKinnon has been rumored to be an untouchable in Colorado and with good reason as the 21-year-old has game-changing ability. He is undoubtedly the star you build around, a 20-goal, 50-point player who's still years removed from his prime. His combination of speed and skill was made for today's game and it doesn't hurt that he's being mentored, at least in part, by Sidney Crosby, who he trains with in the off-season. Though MacKinnon has yet to match his 24-goal, 63-point rookie output, that level of production doesn't seem all that unattainable moving forward. And there's the little things MacKinnon does well, too, like win faceoffs, drive play and play big minutes up front as the team's top-line center.
With MacKinnon as the centrepiece, though, it's time for the Avalanche to part ways with one or both of Duchene and Landeskog.
At 26, Duchene has been mentioned from time to time in the rumor mill, but the time appears to be right for him to move on. He has two years remaining on his deal after this season with a $6-million cap hit, but coming off of a 30-goal, 59-point season and again in line to near the 30-goal plateau, that might not be too difficult to move. His value has never been higher, he’s in the prime of his career and, if dealt, he could fetch a considerable package in return. And while Landeskog, 24, won’t command quite the same return, a consistent 20-goal scorer with some fire to his game would draw some interest at the right price.
There also has to be consideration given to dealing away other current contributors. Tyson Barrie, for instance, would draw interest if he was on the block. Colorado doesn’t look to be in any position to compete during what could be some of the best years of his career and, in terms of a return, now might be the time to get the most out of Barrie. Regardless of who goes, though, the most important thing for the Avalanche to recoup would be a few picks and a prospect or two who has potential to be an NHL contributor in a couple seasons’ time.
One of the biggest problems the Avalanche have had over the past several years comes in building a supporting cast for their trio of young stars, and a big part of that has been the inability to hit on any of their draft picks. Since the 2009 draft, where the Avalanche landed Duchene, Barrie and Ryan O’Reilly, only three draftees have become NHL regulars. That’s MacKinnon, Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, who is the team’s top prospect and likely the only other untouchable on the current roster.
Loading up on draft picks and prospects is a tried-and-true method, too, and the more picks the Avalanche can compile, the more shots they have to hit come draft day. Look at this season’s Maple Leafs, for instance. Toronto had good fortune in landing the first-overall pick and an incredible talent in Auston Matthews, but even without Matthews, the grouping of William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly and Connor Brown is proof positive that targeting the draft and prospects is the way to turn things around in today’s NHL. With MacKinnon as the Avalanche’s central star — their Matthews, if you will — and a cast of other youngsters acquired over the next few seasons, there’s no reason Colorado couldn’t start to right the ship in two or three years’ time in the same way Toronto appears to be climbing.
Avalanche fans may scoff at the idea of blowing everything up, but there’s nothing left to lose aside from more games. And, realistically, things won’t get all that much worse. When you’re nearing 60-loss territory, a 50-loss season just so happens to be a step in the right direction, and a younger team could allow the Avalanche to find some diamonds in the rough while netting high draft picks to stock the cupboard. If one or two hit, it can change the organization in a hurry.
The truth is there’s no quick fix for what ails the Avalanche at this point, and things aren’t going to get back on track in a hurry. There will need to be fewer notable signings, no attempts to win now and more focus on a draft-and-develop mentality. If that means a few more lean years, so be it, because it’s likely one of the only ways for the organization to take a real step forward.