So... The league has shut it’s doors and this time not because the players and owners couldn’t get along. This time, they likely all agreed on this decision to pause the season and... figure it out later.
With things likely only going to get worse as the virus spreads throughout North America, there is no end in sight as of now for the postponement. There are many different scenarios that could determine how to crown a winner this season, but that will figure itself out in due time. There’s no sense in speculation or checking on Twitter for an answer right now. The answer will present itself if/when there is one. This is unprecedented in modern day sports, and it’s a wait-and-see endeavor.
So until then, this may be your last recap of 2019-20. I sure hope not, but thanks for stopping by each week and looking forward to seeing how this one ends.
The Penguins had a busy week on the docket last week, and managed to play in two games before the league made its decision to pause play. The Penguins hosted the Hurricanes in Pittsburgh last Sunday after hosting the Capitals the previous day.
The Penguins started out great with Patrick Marleau’s first goal with the Penguins followed by Evgeni Malkin’s 23rd of the year on the power play. The Hurricanes sandwiched a goal between those Pens’ goals, and the Pens led 2-1 after 20 minutes.
That was the end of the good times for the Penguins as the Pens couldn’t manage another goal the remainder of the game and watched as the Canes scored two in the 2nd and three in the 3rd to blow out the Penguins by a 6-2 final score.
Fortunately for the Penguins, there was one more game in before the break in play and it had a much different result than the Hurricanes game.
The Devils hosted the Penguins in Newark on Tuesday night. Evan Rodrigues got his first for the Pens, and sixth of the year, 8:29 into the 1st period, but the Devils responded with a power play goal before the 1st ended leaving the teams tied at one after 20 minutes.
Justin Schultz got his third of the year for the Penguins to put them up 2-1 after 40 minutes, and Evgeni Malkin stole the show in the 3rd period. Malkin put the Penguins ahead by two seven minutes into the 3rd period before the Devils added another goal to make it 3-2.
Malkin then scored his 25th of the year minutes later to put the Penguins back ahead by two and Kris Letang scored an empty netter from nearly the other end of the ice and the Penguins skated away with a 5-2 victory in what turned out to possibly be the last game of the regular season for Pittsburgh.
If the NHL does manage to finish the regular season, the Penguins will have 13 games to make up a four point deficit behind the Capitals and three point deficit behind the Flyers for the Metropolitan crown.
If the league decides there won’t be enough time to finish the season and make the decision to jump straight into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins and Flyers would meet in the first round.
There’s still lots left to be decided and nearly no way of knowing until a decision has been made league-wide. So until then folks, be nice, be smart and wash your hands!
The Capitals were in Buffalo to begin last week, and it ended with pretty favorable results for the Caps. The Sabres got the only goals of the 1st and 2nd period and led 2-0 going into the 3rd period.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 48th of the year 3:33 into the 3rd period and then Dmitry Orlov scored his fourth goal of the year with seven minutes left in the game to even the score at two apiece.
The Sabres appeared to score the go ahead goal with little time left in the 3rd period, but the call was immediately waved off by the referees. Upon further review, Jeff Skinner had cut through the front of the crease just as the shot was coming towards the net, as literally two Capitals players were hooking Skinner, one of the Caps player’s stick struck Holtby in the mask and Skinner clipped Holtby’s skate - thus nullifying the goal. It was an iffy call to me because if both Capitals players weren’t literally committing a penalty, there likely wouldn’t have been any contact with Holtby and the goal would have counted. (That’s probably the best part about the league not playing currently - there’s no calls from the zebras to debate.)
Instead the goal was waved off and the game went to overtime, giving the Capitals the pity point at the least. Neither team would score in overtime and the game headed to a shooutout.
Neither team scored in the first three rounds and then Rasmus Dahlin scored to put the Sabres up. Evgeny Kuznetsov answered that with a goal for Washington and the skills competition went into a seventh round when former Pen Dominik Kahun scored for Buffalo. Richard Panik was stopped on his shot and the Capitals fell 3-2 in the shootout but still came away with the loser point, which turned out to be massive.
That loser point broke the tie with the Flyers and put the Capitals ahead in the Metro by one point. There’s still much to be decided, but as it sits now, the Capitals are your Metropolitan Division leaders.
I’ve been saying all along this year that the Flyers are the definition of a roller coaster team with so many ups and downs this year. They were riding that train to nine straight victories heading into their game against Boston on Tuesday last week. However, the train was heading up the biggest hill when the ride broke down until further notice last week.
The Bruins came into Philadelphia last week as the best team in the NHL squaring off against the hottest team in the NHL. This game didn’t feature the offense of the two best teams in the league, but it showcased each team’s dedication to teamwork and coaching strategy.
It took nearly 40 minutes for the game to get its first goal, and it came from the stick of a Bruin on the power play with just over one minute left in the 2nd period as the B’s took a 1-0 lead into the 3rd period.
Boston scored once again with just over five minutes remaining to make it 2-0, and Tuukka Rask sopped all 12 he saw in the 3rd period to go alone with the other 12 he saw in the 1st and 2nd and totaled 36 saves in his fifth shutout this season and 50th of his career.
That win stopped the Flyers from the outright Metro lead, but they currently sit in second place only one point behind the Capitals. If the season were to end today, the Penguins and Flyers would meet in the first round. We’ll just have to wait and see if that’s the case going forward. The Flyers were just now starting to peak, and unfortunately for them, the league decided to close its doors just as they were hitting their stride.
The Hurricanes were just beginning a very symmetrical month of March with games every Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday for the remainder of the month beginning last week. They were on the road for the first five games and managed to play two games last week before the league pressed pause.
The first game was in Pittsburgh last Sunday. It turned into one of their best games of the year. The Penguins held the advantage after one with two goals, but Morgan Geekie suited up for his first game with Carolina and got the Canes on the board midway through the 1st period, but the Pens led 2-1 after 20 minutes.
It was all Geekie and Carolina from then on, however, The Canes scored two goals from their blue line in the 2nd with Jaccob Slavin’s sixth of the year followed by Jake Gardiner’s fourth of the year on the power play to give the Canes a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. Geekie assisted on the Slavin goal, giving him his first career assist at that point as well.
The 3rd period only got better for Carolina as Justin Williams scored two goals to bring his total to seven this year and Geekie added one more to highlight his first career NHL game with two goals and an assist in the Canes’ 6-2 beat down of the Penguins to begin last week.
The Canes were in Detroit two days later, and it was more of the same in this one. Geekie got the scoring started with his third goal in two games but that was answered by the Red Wings before the end of the 1st period and the score was tied at one after the 1st period.
Once again the two teams traded goals in the 2nd period. Nino Niederreiter scored his 11th of the year on the power play midway through the 2nd and the Wings scored with less than five minutes left in the 2nd to make it 2-2 going into the 3rd period.
The Hurricanes special teams took this one over as Justin Williams got his eighth on the power play to break the tie, then Sebastian Aho scored while shorthanded and once again with the man advantage to bring his goal total to 38 on the year and the Hurricanes put down the Wings 5-2 in their last game before the break in action.
Those two wins could be monumental for the Hurricanes if/when the season resumes. If the league forgoes the regular season, the Hurricanes are currently safely in a Wild Card spot no matter how the NHL decides to move forward. The Hurricanes are in a much better position today than they were last week.
The Blue Jackets had wrapped up a western Canada swing and were preparing to return home to Ohio to play in front of an empty arena this week. But the league of course made it’s decision before that game took place.
The Blue Jackets dropped their game in Edmonton last Saturday and wrapped up their trip out west in Vancouver last Sunday. This game was going just as head coach John Tortorella had envisioned as it took nearly half the game for either team to get on the board.
Emil Bemstrom got his 10th of the season seven minutes into the 2nd period and Eric Robinson added his seventh of the year for the Jackets with less than 30 seconds remaining in the 2nd period to give Columbus a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.
The Canucks stepped up their game in the 3rd, but the Jackets didn’t go into a shell and continued to bring the offensive pressure as well. The Canucks broke the ice eight minutes into the 3rd to make it 2-1, but Elvis Merlzikins and the Jackets stoned the Canucks the rest of the way and held on for the 2-1 win in regulation.
That win put the Jackets into a Wild Card spot with 81 points, but, if the season were to not be completed, the Islanders would likely get the playoff position based off points percentage as the Islanders have played two less games than Columbus and are behind by only one point. That would be a tough pill to swallow if/when that happens, but this year is definitely going down as one of the weirdest ever in the history of sports.
The Islanders had just begun a road trip through western Canada as the news fell about the postponement of games. But they did manage to get a game in against Vancouver on Tuesday night, hoping to end their six game losing streak.
The 1st period started with some fireworks with the two teams trading three goals in the first 161 seconds. Andrew Ladd got it started at 1:36 but the Canucks scored one 21 seconds later and then once again only 2:41 into the game to make it 2-1 before the foam disappeared on people’s beers. The scoring dried up somewhat after that but Jordan Eberle added his 16th of the year in the last minute of the 1st period to even the score at two.
Vancouver jumped ahead two minutes into the 2nd period and then the two teams traded goals 51 seconds apart near the end of the 2nd period and the Canucks led 4-3 going into the 3rd period.
Brock Nelson scored his 26th goal of the year less than five minutes into the 3rd period to tie it at four, and neither team would score again for the remainder of regulation and overtime and the game headed to a shootout to give the fans their moneys worth.
J.T. Miller scored the only goal on Vancouver’s second attempt and Andrew Ladd missed the net as the final shooter for the Islanders and the Canucks came away with the 5-4 shootout win, making it seven straight losses for the Islanders (0-3-4.)
That losing streak couldn’t have come at a worse time for New York. The Islanders are currently one point behind the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets for the final Wild Card spot. However, if the season were to end with the standings as-is, the Islanders would sneak in over the Blue Jackets by the thinnest of margins in points percentage. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.
The most disappointing thing about the NHL coming to an abrupt end was not seeing how Mika Zibanejad was going to finish the season. Granted, the league could possibly finish with all 82 games being completed, but that’s very much in the air right now.
Zibanejad went into the break in play with 23 goals in his last 22 games. Even with five of them coming in one game, he’s scored a goal in all but four of those 22 games. That’s right, he’s scored a goal in 18 out of the last 22 games he played in, including 12 out of the last 13 as the league goes on hold. That’s some pretty incredible consistency.
The Rangers were on the road and managed to squeeze in two games before the league made the decision to end games on Thursday. The Rangers were in Dallas on Tuesday first last week.
Adam Fox scored his eighth goal of the year only 19 seconds into the game and Zibanejad scored his obligatory goal midway through the 1st period, his 40th of the season. Kaapo Kakko scored his 9th and 10th goals of the year ten minutes apart in the 2nd period to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead going into the final frame.
The Stars struck early on the power play and once again with eight minutes left, but that was it for the scoring as Igor Shesterkin played in his second game back after the car accident he was involved in and stopped 31/33 shots to improve his record to 10-2 in his rookie campaign.
The Rangers were in Denver the next night to take on the Avalanche and Zibanejad got his obligatory goal in early in this one with the first of the game less than seven minutes in. The Avs would answer on the power play before the period ended and former Ranger Vladislav Namestnikov added another goal on the power play in the 2nd period to give the Avalanche the 2-1 advantage heading to the 3rd period.
The Rangers tried valiantly to come back in the 3rd period against a good Avs team at home while the Rangers were on the back end of a back-to-back. And with 12 seconds remaining in the game, Pavel Buchnevich scored his 16th of the year to tie the game at two and give the Rangers one point with a chance for two.
But J.T. Compher had made it only one point for the Rangers when he scored 2:50 into overtime to give the Avalanche the 3-2 win despite allowing the Rangers to tie it in the final seconds of regulation.
The Rangers were expected to improve from last year that saw them end up with the 2nd overall pick in the draft, but maybe not to the level they are right now. They added high price winger Artemi Panarin and he was worth every penny in his first season with 95 points and the possibility of hitting 100 if/when the season resumes.
The 79 points the Rangers have in 70 games is good for 7th in the Metropolitan, but would be fourth in the Atlantic and only two points behind the third place Maple Leafs. It’ll be very disappointing if the season is cut short as the Rangers had a very slim chance to make it, but stranger things have happened...
New Jersey played on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, and it was ugly for New Jersey this game. The Devils allowed the Penguins to score eight minutes in but did answer with Nikita Gusev’s thirteenth of the year on the power play in the first twenty minutes.
But the Penguins took over after that. Pittsburgh scored one more in the 2nd period before Evgeni Malkin scored two more in the 3rd period and an empty net goal made it a 5-2. Miles Wood did score his 11th of the year midway through the 3rd to make it 3-2, but that was as close as they got and fell the Penguins and the league took a pause before the Devils played again.
The Devils did turn up their game the last few weeks, which is disappointing for their fans since they haven’t had a lot to cheer for to begin this season. If the season were to end as-is, the Devils and Sabres would be tied for 25th in the NHL with 68 points in 69 games each. The Sabres have 30 wins to the Devils 28, which would put the Devils with a higher chance in the draft lottery.
40-23-6; 86 pts; 224 Goals For (13th in the NHL; 13th last week); 196 Goals Against (T-10th; T-6th)
1-1 record last week
Revenge of the Geek(ie). Pens crushed by Carolina 6-2
Evgeni Malkin’s pair of third period goals lift the Pens to a win
- 12/29/19, LW Jake Guentzel - IR; Shoulder surgery
- 2/15/20, LW Zach Aston-Reese - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
- 2/28/20, RW Dominik Simon - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
- 3/2/20, RW Anthony Angello - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
- 3/9/20, C Nick Bjugstad - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
Goals: 27, Bryan Rust
Points: 74, Evgeni Malkin
Goalie Wins: 20, Tristan Jarry, Matt Murray
Goalie Sv%: .921, Jarry
GAA: 2.43, Jarry
41-20-8, 90 pts; 240 GF (2nd); 215 GA (T-15th; 18th)
0-0-1 record last week
BUF: 3 SO
Goals: 48, Alex Ovechkin
Points: 75, John Carlson
Goalie Wins: 25, Braden Holtby
Goalie Sv%: .913, Ilya Samsonov
GAA: 2.55, Samsonov
41-21-7, 89 pts; 232 GF (6th; 4th); 196 GA (T-10th; 11th)
0-1 record last week
- 9/12/19, C Nolan Patrick - IR; Migraine disorder
- 11/6/19, D Samuel Morin - IR; Torn right ACL
- 12/10/19, LW Oscar Lindblom - IR; Illness
- 3/3/20, LW James van Riemsdyk - IR; Fractured hand
- 3/8/20, D Philippe Myers - Day-to-day; Fractured patella
- 3/10/20, C Nate Thompson - Day-to-day; Sprained knee
Goals: 24, Travis Konecny
Points: 61, Konecny
Goalie Wins: 24, Carter Hart
Goalie Sv%: .914, Hart
GAA: 2.42, Hart
38-25-5, 81 pts; 222 GF (14th; T-15th); 193 GA (T-6th; T-9th)
2-0 record last week
It’ll always be the Morgan Geekie Game
Canes Fly Past Wings 5-2
- 1/15/20, D Dougie Hamilton - IR; Fractured fibula
- 2/2/20, D Sami Vatanen - IR; Leg
- 2/21/20, G James Reimer - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
- 2/21/20, D Brett Pesce - IR; Shoulder
- 3/7/20, LW Ryan Dzingel - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
Goals: 38, Sebastian Aho
Points: 66, Aho
Goalie Wins: 21, Petr Mrazek
Goalie Sv%: .914, James Reimer
GAA: 2.66, Reimer
33-22-15, 81 pts; 180 GF (T-28th; T-26th); 187 GA (T-3rd; 5th)
1-0 record last week
Blue Jackets hold on, beat Canucks on road trip
- 9/24/19, C Brandon Dubinsky - IR; Wrist
- 12/13/19, RW Josh Anderson - IR; Shoulder
- 12/31/19, C Alexandre Texier - IR; Lumbar stress fracture
- 1/2/20, D Dean Kukan - IR; Torn meniscus
- 2/9/20, RW Cam Atkinson - IR; Sprained ankle
- 2/9/20, D Seth Jones - IR; Fractured ankle
- 2/20/20, RW Oliver Bjorkstrand - Day-to-day; Fractured ankle
- 2/29/20, LW Nathan Gerbe - Day-to-day; Groin
Goals: 21, Oliver Bjorkstrand
Points: 49, Pierre-Luc Dubois
Goalie Wins: 19, Joonas Korpisalo
Goalie Sv%: .923, Elvis Merzlikins
GAA: 2.35, Merzlikins
35-23-10, 80 pts; 192 GF (23rd); 193 GA (T-6th)
0-0-1 record last week
VAN: 5 SO
Everything but the result
- 1/1/20 - D Adam Pelech - IR; Achilles
- 2/10/20, C Casey Cizikas - IR: Leg laceration
- 3/2/20, D Johnny Boychuk - Day-to-day; Facial injury
- 3/4/20, RW Tom Kuhnhackl - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
- 3/9/20, RW Josh Bailey - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
Goals: 26, Brock Nelson
Points: 60, Mathew Barzal
Goalie Wins: 19, Semyon Varlamov
Goalie Sv%: .914, Varlamov
GAA: 2.62, Varlamov
37-28-5, 79 pts; 234 GF (5th; 7th); 222 GA (24th; T-25th)
1-0-1 record last week
Rangers Tie Game Late, But Fall 3-2 in Overtime to Colorado
COL: 3 OT
- 2/7/20, LW Michael Haley - IR; Bilateral core muscle
- 2/27/20, LW Chris Kreider - Day-to-day; Fractured foot
- 3/9/20, C Filip Chytil - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
Goals: 41, Mika Zibanejad
Points: 95, Artemi Panarin
Goalie Wins: 17, Alexandar Georgiev
Goalie Sv%: .932, Igor Shesterkin
GAA: 2.52, Shesterkin
28-29-12, 68 pts; 189 GF (25th; T-24th); 230 GA (29th; 27th)
0-1 record last week
No Pretending: Devils Uninspiring in 5-2 Loss to Penguins
- 9/30/19, D Brian Strait - IR; Concussion
- 2/17/20, D Will Butcher, Day-to-day; Ruptured thumb ligaments
- 3/8/20, D Frederik Claesson - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
- 3/9/20, C Michael McLeod - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
Goals: 25, Kyle Palmieri
Points: 45, Palmieri
Goalie Wins: 22, Mackenzie Blackwood
Goalie Sv%: .915, Blackwood
GAA: 2.77, Blackwood