Believe it or not, the Toronto Maple Leafs could have actually clinched a playoff spot last night with a victory over Washington and a Winnipeg Jets loss in regulation. Neither happened, however, and the Leafs, who were playing the second of a back-to-back, were thoroughly dismantled by the Caps 5-1.

 

Toronto got Joffrey Lupul back after missing five games with a concussion and he looked a little sluggish. He went minus-1 and was held without a point. Perhaps holding him out another couple of days would have made sense, but then again, I'm sure Carlyle wants to get any rust out before the playoffs.

 

It will be interesting to see how Jake Gardiner is used come the post-season. The young defenseman is still walking that fine line between being confident and just far too casual with the puck. He had a couple of bad giveaways tonight and a few shifts that were quite lengthy.

 

The Capitals have now won eight straight and are quickly becoming the team you don't want to see in the first round of the playoffs. Alexander Ovechkin had a goal and an assist, and now has 14 points during this Capitals win streak. Mike Green also chipped in with two helpers and is starting to show some glimpses of the player he was in 2009-10.

 

Staying with Washington, if you are looking for a defenseman on the waiver wire to add to your roster late in the season, look no further than Jack Hillen. He's posted six points and gone plus-7 in his last five games.

*

The Islanders picked up a big two points with a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Mark Streit had a goal and an assist, while Michael Grabner found the back of the net twice. Streit is a UFA at season's end and with the Islanders looking like they are turning a corner here, not being able to re-sign him would be a huge loss.

 

Tomas Fleischmann has had a solid year and with two helpers last night he is now up to 30 points on the campaign. He has picked up 10 points in his last nine games and has been one of the only bright spots for the Panthers this season.

*

Steve Mason appears to be enjoying a change of scenery with the Philadelphia Flyers. Although he picked up his first win last night with his new team, he has played great in three prior appearances. The Rangers threw 40 shots his way and Mason turned away 38 of them in the 4-2 victory.

 

Kimmo Timonen had a goal and an assist in the win to go along with a team leading four shots. That's now four points in his last two games and Timonen is up to fourth among defenseman in NHL scoring. Norris Trophy candidate?

 

The Rangers are having an up and down year and appear to be doing their best not to make the playoffs, but Derek Stepan is enjoying a nice stretch. He now has 10 points in his last eight contests and sports a plus-17 rating on the season. If only he could improve that face-off percentage slightly.

*

Jared Cowen played his first game this season for the Senators in their 3-2 win over the Hurricanes. After delivering a legal hit on Jeff Skinner, Cowen was forced to fight twice because of it. Skinner left the game and has a history of concussions, so hopefully the injury isn't serious. I understand Carolina standing up for their player, but as someone who doesn't think fighting has a place in the game, these fights tend to annoy me more than the staged ones. The fact that you can't throw a clean hit anymore is frustrating.

 

How about the play of Patrick Wiercioch and Sergei Gonchar? The two combined for three points and a plus-6 rating last night and have done a great job picking up some of the slack in Erik Karlsson's absence.

*

The Blues beat the Canucks 2-1 in a game that set hockey back about 20 years as Ken Hitchcock continues to do his best Jacques Lemaire impersonation. With that being said, if you have Brian Elliott on your fantasy squad you will gladly take boring hockey all day. In his last five starts Elliott has a .975 save percentage and has only allowed three goals.

 

St. Louis did manage to get 36 shots on Cory Schneider, who stopped all but one. He has only lost twice in regulation over his last 13 starts.

*

With a 4-3 win over the Lightning, the Jets pulled into a tie for eighth in the East with the Rangers. Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd combined for six points in the victory and are on five and four game point streaks respectively. The strong play from both recently is the main reason for this late season push by Winnipeg.

 

Despite the loss, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are now tied for second in league scoring with 53 points. Neither are probably going to get much consideration for the Hart Trophy because of the team they are on, and that's a real shame.

*

It appears Kevin Lowe's rant did little to spark the Oilers as they fell 5-3 to the Wild. An interesting note did come through at the end of that press conference though. After refusing to wear a helmet as player, Craig MacTavish noted he will become the first general manager to put one on. Obviously worried about a fan backlash if he doesn't get things turned around quickly.

 

You know things are going bad for Edmonton when you give up two goals to Kyle Brodziak. He hadn't scored in his previous 11 games.

 

Niklas Backstrom has quietly had a solid campaign for the Wild. He all of a sudden leads the NHL with 22 victories.

*

The Sharks got the better of the Kings 3-2 in one of those dreaded three point games. This could be a potential first-round matchup and the lost point for the Kings could be crucial as it relates to home-ice advantage.

 

Brent Burns had a solid all around fantasy game for San Jose with a goal and an assist, to go along with a plus-2 rating, a whopping seven shots, and three hits.

*

Jimmy Howard received a six-year contract extension from the Red Wings on Tuesday. Smart move by Detroit as Howard has been a rock for them and with an aging/changing roster, they need a strong presence in the net now more than ever.

*

Tough break for the Blues as T.J. Oshie had to have surgery on his already injured ankle.

*

Matt Greene has resumed skating after having back surgery earlier in the year. That would be a nice boost to the Kings' blueline come playoff time.

*

Nothing ruins the significance or luster of the Winter Classic by adding a bunch of outdoor games to the schedule. Good job of forward thinking NHL.

*

Nice piece here from Cam Charron on the success of the Nashville Predators in recent years. It's hard to believe they have had the same coach (Barry Trotz) and general manager (David Poile) throughout their entire existence. That has to have something to do with it.

 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike


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Comments (30)add comment

Michael Amato said:

April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

Michael Amato said:

Michael Amato
... All well thought out and interesting points. I appreciate you guys for sharing. The last thing I will say on the comparisons is look at football, arguably one of, if not the most aggressive sport there is. And if you so much as throw a punch you get ejected from the game. Not trying to compare the two sports, but from a testostorone standpoint they are similar.

I am not on a crusade to end fighting, nor will I use this forum to rant on it. There are many who do like it, and many who don't. And that's cool. I was just sharing my opinion. What would be sports be without a little healthy debate every know and then?
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

shingy said:

shingy
Fighting
@Hendsbee

Thanks for that. I totally overlooked that aspect of it. Couldn't agree more.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

Ken Shultz said:

kshultz
There's Always Next Year Condolences to all the Carey Price owners in their H2H league finals.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

Hendsbee said:

Hendsbee
Another Proteau I do appreciate the balls it took to reveal your opinion on fighting in hockey, but I do not agree in the least and I hope you don't use this site as a pulpit like the lame ass Proteau on THN. You'll lose me as a guest and member. Just as you think fighting has no place in hockey, your opinion on fighting in hockey has no place in the ramblings.
April 17, 2013
Votes: -3

shingy said:

shingy
Comparisons
Hockey and baseball couldn't be more different. The tempo and pace are complete opposites. 8-10 guys flying around a rink at top speed with sticks, and some of these players are little instigators who would stick you all day long if they can get away with it. Anyway, comparing sports doesn't work. Thankfully, your ramblings definitely do work.

I'm thinking that people who wish fighting was out of the sport just don't understand the aggression that some of these guys experience. You can't cage that up in this sport, it'll do more harm than good. The Sedins will likely go the rest of their careers without ever fighting, and that's fine for them, but we can't ask guys like Ryane Clowe, Steve Downie and David Clarkson to just keep their hands in their pockets no matter what. Not gonna work with these testosterone saturated beasts.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

4horsemen said:

4horsemen
... I will agree with you that I'll watch just as much hockey if fighting is eliminated so we can find some common ground there.

The fact that you would argue that the majority of sports are momentum driven is completely tangential my point that fighting in hockey can be a game changing event.
I'd love to know how many bench brawls there are in baseball a year just so I could throw the stat out there but so far this year I've watched a meltdown between Canada and Mexico and I've watched Greinke break his collar bone after being charged by Quentin. There is fighting in almost all major sports, the difference is that some actually sanction it.

Why should hockey have to conform to some pacifist notion held by so few of it's actual fans or players? The argument that many other sports don't allow fighting is no better than saying to leave it in because of historical precedent.

There's a wide spectrum of violence levels in sport and for those in the tiny minority who find the whole spectacle of a hockey fight too much to handle. May I suggest ping pong? Billiards? Shuffleboard? Track and Field?

April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

Michael Amato said:

Michael Amato
... I am not suggesting I know better than those associated with the game. I'm just stating my opinion, as are you. I was making a different point about goons than the Skinner situation from last night. However, I wouldn't lose any sleep or watch any less hockey if all fighting was eliminated.

I would argue that the majority of sports are momentum driven, and every other one (outside of UFC and Boxing) survive just fine without coming to blows.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

4horsemen said:

4horsemen
... So you're suggesting that you know what's better for the game than the fans, the owners, the GM's and players? What a Nanny State sort of argument...gag. Please explain to me why it is that you feel you know what's better for them? What you're suggesting is that the GM's are all just a bunch of Luddites who haven't woken up to the fact that fighting does nothing to help their teams win. The assumption follows that fighting is nothing more than a barbaric activity that in no way shape or form affects the outcome of a hockey game (you'd rather have a shootout specialist). I will argue this with you until I'm blue in the face. Fighting DOES affect the outcome of hockey games! Not all fighting is useful or necessary but it often is. Hockey is a momentum driven sport where confidence can be all that separates you from winning or losing, fighting can swing momentum by building confidence and getting the adrenaline pumping.

Here's the really funny part. These goons you hate in the game who are only there to fight, didn't even factor into the Skinner situation. Larose was the 1st player in. Does he meet your definition of a goon? Don't confuse the argument to eliminate goons with the argument to eliminate fighting.
April 17, 2013
Votes: -2

Michael Amato said:

Michael Amato
... Thanks for reading everyone. I understand fans and players like fighting, but that doesn't mean it makes sense or is good for the game. If I were a GM I would replace fighters with a shootout specialist, even if they didn't have the actual game skill to play much more than a few shifts. Those extra points at the end of games are much more valuable than a fight.

I always try to imagine if other sports had fighting in their game. Like picture if in baseball there was a fight everytime a base runner slid into second cleanly to try and break up a double play. It just seems ludicrous. I think we just keep accepting it in hockey because it has always been there, which doesn't make it right. There was a time where goalie's didn't wear masks and that seemed normal. Now that would just be ridiculous.

Just my opinion. Opposing viewpoints are always welcome.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +1

Dean Youngblood said:

Dean Youngblood
Jimmy Howard Good ramblings Michael...although, totally disagree with Jimmy Howard being a "rock". This is a signing I totally disagree with. In my opinion, Howard is one of the worst starting goaltenders in the league (honestly, from a talent perspective, I cannot think of a worse one). It's clear that the Wings should have extended him but this is too long of a contract as I feel he is replaceable.

He's a goaltender that has been hiding behind a solid defensive system. This team could continue on a path but i feel the Wings are going to go through some growing pains over the next few seasons

Just my two sense.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

angus said:

angus
... St. Louis plays garbage hockey - it works for their roster, though. They are big and strong. They don't give up odd man rushes, but they don't generate any, either.

If they get average to good goaltending, they win a lot. If they get below average goaltending, they lose a lot.

It's deadpuck hockey at its finest.

I love how Ottawa plays. Aggressive on the forecheck, active defensemen, and this is with a much of young guys and AHLers playing on the back end.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

Dicks said:

Dicks
Scoring race Glad to see that Nabokov finally caught Erik Johnson in the scoring race - four assists a piece. My money is on Nabokov to take this one.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +2

shingy said:

shingy
Fighting
@4horsemen

Sound's like the voice of reason to me.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

4horsemen said:

4horsemen
Ya lost me..... ...at 'fighting doesn't have a place in the game'. Not sure which game you watch but the hockey I watch has ALWAYS included fighting and the players are in almost unanimous support of leaving it as is. Cowan didn't have to hit Skinner the way he did (although I have no problem with what he did) but the fact of the matter is that when a star player gets levelled in a HUGE size mismatch on open ice then he's going to have to pay the piper. Cowan had no problem doing what he had to do, the fans loved it, where's the problem?

Hey, lets just remove hitting also and start playing with a soft puck. Maybe on grass.....lets call it Ringette!!!
April 17, 2013
Votes: -1

SeaDawg said:

SeaDawg
@27Blue The Blues do forecheck; I mean, all teams do for the most part, but the style of play between the Blues and Ottawa is very different. The Blues defense is not nearly as active in terms of joining the rush and generating offense as Ottawa's. The Blues speed isn't a puck possession game through the neutral zone. It is more about dump and chase and a strong forecheck. Ottawa's forwards carry the puck through the neutral zone and drive to the net, creating all kinds of odd-man rushes.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

27Blue said:

27Blue
... SeaDawg:

...that uses speed through the neutral zone and solid forechecking to generate offense, and their defensemen are very active in the offense.

you just described the blues.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

SeaDawg said:

SeaDawg
... Big Ev is right. Although Ottawa is a solid team defensively, they don't play the same style as the other teams mentioned. They are an exciting team that uses speed through the neutral zone and solid forechecking to generate offense, and their defensemen are very active in the offense (not just Karlsson either). They are one of the most exciting teams to watch and I wish more teams emulated their style of play. They remind me of Chicago in that both teams play good defense with a puck possession and speed game.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... @hunterschoot_

no it was not a hit to injure, it was a hit to hurt. Big difference. You take that hit out of the game, might as well get rid of contact altogether.

@27Blue

Ottawa does not play a defensive system, at all.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

hunterscott_ said:

hunterscott_
... While a clean hit by Cowan, any time you clearly attack a vulnerable player and try to hurt him, you are going to have to answer the bell. Period. The hit was vicious and a clear attempt to injure, clean or not.
April 17, 2013
Votes: -1

angus said:

angus
... Good stuff Amato.

I understand how the NHL adding five or six more outdoor games may water down the Winter Classic a bit... but these games generate a ton in the way of revenues, and the NHL is a business at the end of the day.

April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

angus said:

angus
... Good stuff Amato.

I understand how the NHL adding five or six more outdoor games may water down the Winter Classic a bit... but these games generate a ton in the way of revenues, and the NHL is a business at the end of the day.

April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

shingy said:

shingy
Ramblings
@Seadog. I agree with your ramblings suggestion. The in-house talent is excellent and brings great energy to the ramblings.

April 17, 2013
Votes: +1

jtr101 said:

jtr101
... "The fact that you can't throw a clean hit anymore is frustrating."

Teh most hated part of hockey for me these days!
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

SeaDawg said:

SeaDawg
@27Blue People who don't like Hitchcock's style of play (and you know I'm one of them) don't disagree that other teams, including some of the most successful teams, use a defense-first system. But this is a fantasy hockey website and all we care about are points. There is a reason I personally avoid players from Phoenix, Nashville, and now St. Louis. With the systems they play, the players aren't going to score many points. They will win more than they lose, which is good for the team's fans, but not good for us fantasy players. I also avoid LA, New Jersey, and Boston players, apart from the real superstars (Kovalchuk, Kopitar, Seguin, etc.) because the real superstars will score points no matter the system. That said, even Kovalchuk and Kopitar would score more point if they were in a different system. Anyway, no one means to offend fans of the Blues nor of Hitchcock when they complain about the boring style of hockey the Blues are playing of late. It is nothing personal. Most of the time, the complainers are merely disgruntled owners of Blues players who aren't living up to our expectations.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

SeaDawg said:

SeaDawg
love these ramblings excellent ramblings. Dobber should get you to do the Sunday morning edition and put Wilson on Mondays or Tuesdays.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

27Blue said:

27Blue
... if you think hitch is the only coach who preaches responsible defence than you obviously don't watch much hockey....

look at the final four teams from the west in last years playoffs:
- LA
-Phoenix
-Nashville
-Blues

you could add the New York and the New Jersey from the east's final four...

how about the bruins, the senators...

defensive hockey never left the game and your comment lacks sound reasoning.

OTHERWISE, TERRIFIC JOB!
April 17, 2013
Votes: +1

UKflames said:

UKflames
Ramblings Thanks for the ramblings, some useful information.

Just a quick question, no news on whether Oshie's surgery was succesful or not smilies/cheesy.gif
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

shingy said:

shingy
...
Thought you were Laidlaw, my bad. Lots of great writing talent in the system here.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +0

shingy said:

shingy
Ramblings
Great work, thanks again.

Not a fighting fan though, eh? C'mon, guy?

The vast majority of players support leaving the game the way it is and support fighting in hockey. The biggest driver behind eliminating fighting in hockey is the federal government. Never a good sign. If it were up to our government, every kid would be stuck indoors playing video games with full gear on.

As far as the Cowen fights, that's ridiculous. I couldn't agree more. Fighting after a clean hit is moronic and doesn't make sense. The players who do that shit should be slapped publicly.

Again, thanks for the ramblings, great to see you back so soon. I like this format as opposed to the more recently adopted one by the crew.
April 17, 2013
Votes: +1
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