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Tag:Adam Gretz
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:07 am
Edited on: March 9, 2012 12:10 am
 

Winners & Losers: Stars steal one from Sharks



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.

Winners

Tomas Vincour and the Dallas Stars: Dallas went into Thursday's game against San Jose holding a three-point lead in the Pacific Division over the suddenly slumping -- and fading -- Sharks. The one thing the Sharks had going for them was the fact that they had games in hand, as wel as three remaining meetings with the Stars. All of that only matters, of course, if the Sharks find a way to get into the win column again, and they fell short of that once again as the Stars found a way to scratch and claw out another win, beating San Jose in a shootout, 4-3.

It was probably the game of the night in terms of entertainment, and after San Jose took the lead, 3-2, with less than four minutes to play in regulation, Tomas Vincour scored the game-tying goal for the Stars on a goal that cleared the goal line behind Antti Niemi by, oh, let's say about an inch, sending the game to overtime.

The Stars had to kill off a 4-on-3 power play in the extra period, and ended up picking up the extra point in the standings thanks to Vincour's goal -- the only one in the shootout -- in the fifth-round.

With the win, the Stars now hold a four-point lead in the Division race. The two teams will meet two more times this season and the Sharks still have two games in hand, but again, sooner or later they have to start winning some of these games.

[Related: Stars 4, Sharks 3]

Washington Capitals: Say this for the Capitals -- they certainly make it interesting, and for the second time in a week they needed a late third period goal to force overtime, taking advantage of an Eric Brewer turnover, and then receiving a game-winning goal in the extra period from their captain, Alex Ovechkin, to pick up a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The win, combined with Florida's embarrassing loss to Philadelphia, moves the Capitals back to within two points of the top spot in the Southeast division.

Unfortunately, the Capitals may have to be without defenseman Mike Green for a game (or more) if the NHL decides to suspended him for his elbow to the head of Lightning forward Brett Connolly in the second period.

[Related: Capitals 3, Lightning 2 -- Video: Green elbows Connolly]

Boston Bruins: If nothing else, Boston's 3-1 win over the Sabres on Thursday night was big because it gave the Bruins consecutive wins for the first time since January 10-12. It also allowed them to maintain their three-point lead over the Ottawa Senators in the surprisingly tight Northeast Division race.

[Related: Bruins 3, Sabres: 1]

Losers

Florida Panthers: Yeah, they're still in first place, but you have to wonder how much longer they can go on like this. With their 5-0 loss to the Flyers, combined with the Capitals win, gives them just a two point lead in the division, and for the season they've now been outscored by 26 goals.

How bad is that? The only teams that have been outscored by more goals this season are the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets.

That's not the type of company you want to be keeping at this point in the season.

[Related: Flyers 5, Panthers 0]

Another slow start for the Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes are making it difficult on themselves. On Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild they found themselves in a 2-0 hole for the fifth consecutive game, and it shouldn't be much of a surprise that for the fifth straight game they ended up in the loss column. Granted, this one came in a shootout, 4-3, giving them a point in the standings, but they can't keep falling behind by two goals early in games.

It's hard enough to win that way in the NHL for any team, especially one that isn't really built to play from behind.

[Related: Wild 3, Coyotes 2]

Anaheim Ducks: Bad night all around for the Ducks and their playoff chances. Not only did they lose to a Blues team that took over sole possession of the top spot in the NHL, a number of the teams they're chasing in the standings (Dallas, Phoenix, San Jose) gained a point. They're now back to being seven points out of the No. 8 seed.

[Related: Blues 3, Ducks 1 -- Blues take over top spot in NHL]

Los Angeles Kings: The Columbus Blue Jackets continued their spoiler role on Thursday with a 3-1 win over a Los Angeles Kings that couldn't afford to drop a game to the worst team in the league, on the same night the Blue Jackets did their part to erase the memories of Jeff Carter's brief stay in central Ohio by replacing his nameplates on fan jerseys with Jack Johnson nameplates.

And speaking of Johnson, and adding insult to injury for the Kings, he managed to get some revenge on the team that trade him (for Carter) by scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal. The Blue Jackets have now won four consecutive games, something they had not done since November. Of 2010.

[Related: Blue Jackets, 3 Kings 1 -- Blue Jackets will fix your Carter jersey]

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 8, 2012 10:43 pm
 

Blues take over top spot in NHL

BluesBy: Adam Gretz

One of the most incredible stories of the NHL has seen has been the rapid development of the St. Louis Blues, especially since Ken Hitchcock took over for Davis Payne behind the bench earlier in the year.

Thanks to their 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night, combined with the New York Rangers 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Blues took over sole possession of the top spot in the NHL standings with 93 points, and it's not a stretch to say that nobody saw them coming at any point this season.

Entering this season there weren't many expectations for the Blues, and they had made the playoffs just once in the previous six years, getting swept in the first round of the 2008-09 season by the Vancouver Canucks. And now they're in a position to be contending for the Presidents Trophy (which goes to the team with the best record at the end of the regular season), something they've won just one other team in their existence, taking it during the 1999-00 season.

In recent years the Blues have had a pretty strong collection of young talent, and this season everything has come together for them and they've been, by far, the best defensive team in the NHL, allowing fewer than two goals per game. Entering Thursday's game the Blues had allowed just 1.88 goals per game on the season. Since the start of the 2000-01 season, no team has finished a full season allowing fewer than two goals per game.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 8, 2012 9:01 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2012 12:28 am
 

Video: Mike Green elbows Brett Connolly in head

By: Adam Gretz

There haven't been many suspensions in the NHL over the past couple of months, but Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green may have given Brendan Shanahan a reason to fire up another one of his (now rare) disciplinary videos.

Late in the second period of Thursday's game against Tampa Bay, a pretty important game in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Green delivered an elbow to the head of Lightning forward Brett Connolly (as he was being held up by Dmitry Orlov), dropping him to the ice.



There was no penalty called on the play, but Green has been suspended previously in his NHL career, missing three games for elbowing Michael Frolik in the head last season.

After the game Connolly said that it was a hockey play by Green and that he put himself in a bad position. Lightning coach Guy Boucher, however, said that he feels the NHL needs to look at it.

"The league has to look at that. It's right at the head, the head's targeted. For me it's clear.

"The ref didn't see it. But you know, the refs are on the ice, they can't see everything. It happens so fast there's people beside them so I don't blame the refs. To me it could have been a five [minute major] and the head was targeted, it's clear. We just watched it on the video."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 8, 2012 4:24 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 4:27 pm
 

Blue Jackets offer to fix your Jeff Carter jersey

CBJBy: Adam Gretz

The biggest drawback to purchasing a jersey with a player name on the back is the inevitable fact that one day that player, for one reason or another, will no longer play for your favorite team. Trades, free agency, cuts, or any other sort of roster move will result in you owning a jersey with a name and number that is no longer relevant to the current team on the ice (or field, or court, depending on the sport).

That's kind of what Columbus Blue Jackets fans that bought into the Jeff Carter excitement over the summer are feeling right now after he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings prior to the trade deadline in exchange for Jack Johnson.

But good news! The Blue Jackets announced on Thursday, ahead of their home game against the Kings, that fans can take their Jeff Carter No. 7 jersey to the team store at Nationwide arena before the end of the first period on Thursday (yes, it's a one night deal) and have the name plate changed to add Jack Johnson's name (who wears the same No. 7 that Carter wore in Columbus) free of charge. And that is a pretty cool gesture on their part.

BlueJackets

So there you go, Jackets fans. Your No. 7 jersey will now have the proper name on the back ... until the day comes that Jack Johnson no longer plays for them.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:11 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:15 pm
 

Injuries starting to build for the Maple Leafs

MapleLeafsBy: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are losing ground in the playoff race, and they're also starting to lose bodies on the ice.

Just one night after losing forwards Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong, Toronto lost two more players on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh when defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Brown went down on their first shifts of the night and did not return during a 3-2 loss to the Penguins, a game that saw the Maple Leafs blow a two-goal lead, losing for the 11th time in their past 13 games.

Franson did not return after getting hit in the eye with a stick, and Brown left with what was described as a lower body injury.

"We showed signs of enthusiasm and kind of stuck with our game plan," said Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle, coaching his third game with the team after replacing Ron Wilson last week. "I thought we were better from a defensive standpoint in the critical areas. I thought our work ethic was stronger, but we ran out of bodies. We lost two bodies in the first ten minutes tonight and taxes it everybody else. Then it showed on some of the ... I would call them questionable decisions. When to pinch, when not to pinch, turnovers, position versus the regroup, all that kind of stuff. It's the little things that are costing us in these situations."

It wasn't hard to see how outmanned the Leafs were on Wednesday night, spending much of the night tied up in their own end of the ice. For the most part, goaltender Jonas Gustavsson did everything he could to keep his team in the game, only allowing two goals, one of which was deflected right in front of him on its way into the net, before giving up what can only be described as a soft goal to Pascal Dupuis early in the third period for the eventual game-winner.

Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf did not want to use the injuries, including the one to Lupul and Armstrong, as an excuse as it should give other players an opportunity to make an impact in the lineup.

"It's an opportunity for guys to step up," said Phaneuf. It gives guys a little more opportunity, but when you lose a guy like [Lupul] and you lose Army in the same game, and we lose two more guys tonight, guys have to step up. Injuries are a part of the game and you can't use it as an excuse.

"Guys have to adapt to it. Every team goes through injury problems. Look over there [at Pittsburgh]. They have one of the top players in the world, if not the top player out, and they're winning hockey games. You've got to adapt, you've got to have guys step up, and guys did step up, but we just made more mistakes than they did tonight."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:49 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Pominville keeps Sabres in race



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.

Winners

Buffalo Sabres: Thanks to Jason Pominville's overtime goal (as seen above) the Buffalo Sabres managed to gain a little more ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Wednesday night.

Their 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes pulled them to within two points of a playoff spot in the East, and they've now won seven of their past nine games, with one of the losses coming in overtime (meaning they still gained a point in the standings). There isn't going to be much time to celebrate this one, however, as they have to get right back into it just 24 hours later when they visit the Boston Bruins.

The Sabres controlled much of the game and after falling behind 1-0 early in the first period, they stormed out in the second period and received a pair of goals from Thomas Vanek and Nathan Gerbe less than two minutes into the period.

Ryan Miller, one of the biggest reasons for the late season turnaround, stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced.

[Related: Sabres 3, Hurricanes 2]

Brad Thiessen and the Penguins: Rookie goaltender Brad Thiessen was a surprise starter for the Penguins on Wednesday night and he ended up playing a heck of a game, stopping 22 of 24 shots and holding down the fort in Pittsburgh as his teammates erased a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-2, come-from-behind win against the Maple Leafs.

His biggest save of the night came late in the third period, with Toronto on a power play, when he slid across his goal crease and made a fantastic pad save on a Phil Kessel one-timer, preserving what was a one-goal lead for the Penguins one-goal.

The Penguins have only won five games that Marc-Andre Fleury did start this season, and two of them have gone to the rookie Thiessen, his only two starts of the year.

[Related: Penguins 3, Maple Leafs 2 -- Letang: the missing piece]

Losers

Toronto Maple Leafs: On a night where one of the teams they're chasing in the playoff race -- the Sabres -- picked up two points, the Maple Leafs letting a two-goal lead against the Penguins slip away, the second time they've done so in as many trips to Pittsburgh, is not what they were looking for.

Especially as they suffered even more injuries, losing defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Brown within the first 10 minutes of the game, just one night after losing forwards Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong.

Toronto is falling fast in the standings, and with injuries starting to mount the season seems as if it's on the verge of slipping away.

[Related: Playoff race]

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 7, 2012 2:53 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 3:18 pm
 

Kris Letang: the missing piece for the Penguins



By: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the importance of Kris Letang to the Penguins' postseason chances.

When it was announced on Tuesday afternoon that Sidney Crosby has been cleared for contact, the next major step in his latest attempt return to the lineup, it sent a wave of excitement and optimism through the Penguins fan base.

It's not hard to see why. He is, after all, their captain, their best player, and the best player in the league when he's healthy.  With him in the lineup the Penguins should go from being a Stanley Cup contender to, perhaps, one of the top two or three favorites -- if not the favorite -- in the NHL ... if their lineup remains intact.

His return, whenever it happens (it apparently won't be before Sunday's game against Boston) will certainly have a significant impact on their chances. But, and as crazy as this may sound, there is still another player they are currently without that may be even more important for any sort of Stanley Cup run in Pittsburgh -- defenseman Kris Letang, who is currently out of the lineup after being hit by Eric Nystrom of the Dallas Stars at the end of February.

It's the second time this year he's missed time with a head injury, missing over 20 games with a concussion earlier this season after he was hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty.

The Penguins have been without Crosby, minus the eight games he played earlier this season, since the beginning of last January, which is over a full calendar year and nearly a season-and-a-half worth of games, and they have still managed to be one of the top teams in the NHL.

In 65 games this season they are the third-highest scoring team in the league (in terms of goals per game) and have the second most points in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers. It's a testament to the depth they've acquired over the years and the 1-2 punch they still have down the middle at center with Evgeni Malkin (arguably the best player in hockey right now) and Jordan Staal, a duo that few teams in the NHL can match up with.

Even without Crosby they still have another No. 1 center, a darn good No. 2 center, and a pretty potent offense overall. One of the best in the league.

What they don't have without Letang is another No. 1 defenseman, and that's a pretty glaring weakness to have on a potential Stanley Cup team. Their blue line takes on an entirely different look without him, and it simply isn't anywhere near as effective. Just looking at the raw numbers this season: with Letang in the lineup the Penguins are 25-10-5, average over 3.2 goals per game, only allow 2.4 and have a total goal-differential of plus-31.

Without him those numbers drop down to a 14-11-0 record, 2.68 goals for per game, 2.56 against and a total goal differential of just plus-3.

Is Letang by himself worth that entire difference? Well, not exactly, because the Penguins have had other players out of the lineup at various times, but his absence is still huge given the number of roles he's asked to play, and the way he's able to perform within them.

He plays over 25 minutes a night, he is their power play quarterback, a regular on the penalty kill, and during even-strength situations he takes on some of toughest assignments on the Penguins defense, as the scatterplot below, which uses Corsi Relative Quality of Competition and Offensive Zone starts, helps to illustrate. The closer to the top left (meaning tougher opponents and fewer offensive zone starts) the more difficult the assignments, and the closer to the bottom right the "softer" the assignments.

PenguinsDefense

As you can see, the Penguins have a pretty set group of top-four defensemen that stand out from the pack when it comes to their 5-on-5 assignments with Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek. Everybody else that's played on their blue line this season has been relatively protected. And when Letang is out of the lineup, as he's been for 25 games and counting this season, one of those other players has to step into a top-four role, and the results aren't always pretty.

Letang not only draws some of the toughest assignments on their blue line, he also outperforms everybody else. He has a positive Relative Corsi rating (a sign that when he's on the ice the Penguins are controlling the puck far more than they are when he's not on the ice) and he is by far their leading scorer on the blue line despite appearing in just 40 games. Orpik is a great physical presence on the blue line, and Martin hasn't been anywhere near as bad as his many critics in Pittsburgh want you to believe that he's been, but none of them are as valuable to the Penguins blue line as Letang.

His ability to get the puck out of danger, lead the rush and control the game is unmatched by any other player on their defense.

Crosby's return will be huge news, and it will give the Penguins pretty obscene depth down the middle. But the return of Letang is what would potentially put the the Penguins over the top, on paper anyway.

I'm still convinced they could win without Crosby due to the presence of Malkin and Staal at center. I'm not convinced they can win without Letang (even with Crosby) because they have nobody else that can fill his skates on defense.

(Corsi, Quality of Competition and Zone Start Data all via BehindtheNet.ca)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:51 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 12:54 am
 

Winners & Losers: Big night for Kings offense

KingsAdam 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.

Winners

Los Angeles Kings: Entering Tuesday's game in Nashville it had been nearly three full months since the Los Angeles Kings scored five goals in a single game, and they managed to do it for the first time since January 9 in a 5-4 win against the Predators thanks in part to a pair of first period goals from Justin Williams.

The Kings offense, which has been the worst in the league for much of the season, is finally starting to show some signs of life in recent weeks and they have now scored 16 goals over their past five games.

Regression to the mean works both ways, and perhaps it was only a matter of time until things started to improve. A team with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty never should be one of the worst offensive teams in recent NHL history, as the Kings have been this season.

[Related Kings 5, Predators 4]

Boston Bruins: It wasn't necessarily pretty, but after losing back-to-back games over the weekend the Bruins were able to get back in the win column on Tuesday night with a 5-4 win in Toronto. The Bruins were led offensively by Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron, each scoring a pair of goals, and the win allows them to maintain their three-point lead over the Ottawa Senators, 7-3 winners in Tampa Bay, in the Northeast Division race.

The next step for the Bruins is trying to figure out how to do something they haven't done in almost two months … win consecutive games.

They have another chance on Thursday night against Buffalo.

[Related: Bruins 5, Maple Leafs 4]

Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers: For the second straight game Ilya Bryzgalov came up big for the Flyers, stopping 37 of the 39 shots he faced in a 3-2 win over the Red Wings. Max Talbot continued his career year for the Flyers scoring his 18th goal of the season. The only downside of the night for the Flyers was the hit forward Jakub Voracek received from Niklas Kronwall.

[Related: Flyers 3, Red Wings 2 -- Voracek crushed by Kronwall -- Grossmann's name change]

Dallas Stars: The Stars took over sole possession of first place on Tuesday night with an impressive 5-2 win in Vancouver, and in the process completed a perfect three-game road trip through western Canada, a road trip that saw them outscore the Flames, Oilers and Canucks by a 10-5 margin. Thanks to the Coyotes loss in Columbus (more on that below) the Stars now have a two-point lead over Phoenix in the Pacific Division race.

Mike Ribeiro had a three-point night (two goals, assist) in the win and also won over 50 percent of his faceoffs, while Richard Bachman 29 of 31 shots.

Losers

Phoenix Coyotes: After putting together an 11-0-1 run in February some regression had to be expected for the Coyotes at some point. They weren't going to keep winning forever, and even though they entered Tuesday's game riding a three-game losing streak, they showed some signs of busting out of their mini-slump on Monday night.

But that was all erased on Tuesday in Columbus where they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Blue Jackets, losing to the 30th ranked team in the NHL for the second time in less than a week. Those are points you can not let slip away, and the last thing the Coyotes can afford right now is to have this turn into a five or six game losing streak.

[Related: Blue Jackets 3, Coyotes 2 -- For Coyotes, playoffs have already started]

Toronto Maple Leafs: What started as a positive day with the re-signing of forward Mikhail Grabovski ended with not only a loss on the scoreboard to the Bruins, their fifth in a row this season, but also included injuries to forwards Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong, neither of which is expected to play Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Not good.

[Related: Leafs re-sign Grabovski]

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com