The fantasy spin on Fleury’s contract, Parenteau back on the top line and why he belongs there and more.
If I told you that the first period between the Habs and Sabres ended 0-0 would you be surprised? You shouldn't be. These are two of the slowest starters in the NHL having scored a combined seven first period goals, which is as many as the 24th-place Blues.
The Sabres owned that period though, outworking the Canadiens up and down the ice. Heck, they even had PK Subban taking shots on his own net. Thank goodness (for the Canadiens) that Dustin Tokarski was on his game as he has been all season. It also helps that the Sabres have no finishers.
The Canadiens were able to flip things and gain momentum in the second period. I'm not saying that it was necessarily because PA Parenteau was moved back up onto the top line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty but look at the results. Parenteau scored the lone Canadiens goal and Pacioretty was able to really get loose firing eight SOG.
Some of that was simply because the Sabres were porous defensively but you'll never be able to talk me out of Parenteau's fit on the line. He's a right-handed shot and he has the skills and hockey sense to keep up with these two. How Parenteau ever wound up on the third line is beyond me.
Having said all that, the best line for the Canadiens was Alex Galchenyuk–Tomas Plekanec–Brendan Gallagher. Gallagher was a whirling dervish of forechecking awesomeness. He's a perpetual motion machine, continually churning his legs, bouncing off checks, spinning off defenders, carving, carving, carving his way in a dogged pursuit of the puck. I could watch him all day. It was hilarious watching Gallagher outwork defensemen a full head taller than him of which the Sabres have approximately 100.
All three members of that line managed three SOG and while none of them recorded a point they had a number of near misses.
Again, this was against the Sabres but Canadiens fans surely aren't discriminating. Any progress for this team is a good sign, especially after getting outworked by said Sabres in the first period.
Jiri Sekac had a nice game in his return to the lineup but he took a bad boarding penalty late in the third, which allowed the Sabres to score a tying goal and force this game to overtime. It ultimately went to the shootout thanks to some stout goaltending from Michal Neuvirth. Both goaltenders were awesome in this one really.
The lone Sabre goal was scored by Drew Stafford. It marks just the second power-play marker of the season for Buffalo and yes, Stafford does have both of them. If you are going to own a Sabre, it better be him or Tyler Ennis who assisted on the goal. Ennis has four points in his last four as he perhaps is gaining some steam. I remain unconvinced.
O… M… G. That Wings-Rangers game. WOW! That was fun.
It's probably not a good sign for the team defense of either squad that there was so much end-to-end action with relentless scoring chances. I'm sure Alain Vigneault and Mike Babcock added a few grey hairs watching that one. But as a fan, it doesn't get any better than that. I just want to watch games like that on an endless loop. Either that or stick a probe in the pleasure centers of my brain. The result would be the same.
Rick Nash was the single best player in this game. He was his usual beastly self, driving possession for the Rangers at a high level and drawing penalties. He wound up firing six SOG. Ironically enough, his lone goal came on a shot he didn't even take. Instead, he simply had a Derick Brassard shot bank off his sizable rear end past Jonas Gustavsson. When you're hot, you're hot. But don't worry, Gustavsson got his revenge:
It's time to pay attention to Matt Hunwick. I disregarded the first couple of games of his recent offensive explosion as random chance but it's hard to ignore the ice time he is seeing with all these blueline injuries. He skated over 20 minutes in his third straight game and was second in defenseman power play time with 1:44. He notched two assists to give him five in his last four games. Those are also his only points of the season but if you are in a pinch you could do worse than Hunwick.
He's not a long-term solution though. Once Dan Boyle returns and eventually Ryan McDonagh, Hunwick will get back to healthy scratches and third pairing minutes. But check out this stretch pass to Martin St. Louis. He has some desirable traits.
That has more to do with St. Louis slick abilities than Hunwick's passing but still, take notice.
Mats Zuccarello made his return to the Ranger lineup but he looked a bit slow. Clearly his injury was still lingering.
Gustavsson went down on the OT-winner and struggled to get back up. Apparently he injured his shoulder and will be out for a while. Here comes Petr Mrazek.
Spirited effort by the Wings to claw a point of the game last night. They got hosed in the first period and weren't that much better in the second even though they were able to tie the game up at 2-2 before the third. They needed a desperation goal late in the game to send things to overtime but full credit to Mike Babcock for forcing the issue and helping the Wings generate that tying goal.
It all started when he pulled his goalie down one with nearly three minutes left in the game. That led to a number of chances and ultimately a late power play, which only served to increase the number of chances. Eventually, Tomas Tatar knocked home the tying goal with eight seconds left but I will always give full marks to a coach that yanks his goalie early.
Jakub Kindl clearly has not developed into the offensive defenseman we hoped he would. That's fine but he did show some flashes generating a couple of points on the second power play unit. The first was his first goal of the season and the second came on that late tying goal. He has just three points so far this season and it remains a question whether or not Kindl will even make it to the 20-point mark, which he has thus far failed to do.
Both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf sat out last night's contest due to illness and it sure showed in the early going. The Ducks got owned by the Islanders early on going down 2-0. They mounted a comeback midway through the second period, narrowing a 19-5 shot differential to 22-20 before period's end and knotting the game up 2-2.
They'd play a competitive third period but overtime was required where a Sami Vatanen penalty would ultimately cost the team.
Matt Beleskey stepped up in the absence of the big forwards scoring a goal and firing five SOG.
Patrick Maroon had a scary moment crashing into the wall funny and hurting the knee he had previously injured. Fortunately he was able to return and doesn't appear that he'll miss any time.
Jason LaBarbera got another start with John Gibson out for the next six weeks and Freddie Andersen still a bit banged up. The team also called up Igor Bobkov but Andersen ultimately dressed as the backup. I think Andersen gets the next start.
John Tavares had a nice game skating with Nikolai Kulemin and Kyle Okposo. He scored the opening goal of the game and added the game winner, squirting a shot through both Ryan Kesler and LaBarbera.
Travis Hamonic has been back for a couple of games now and has been reunited with Calvin de Haan. I love this pairing and think it's the Islanders' best. They both notched assists on Tavares' first goal. Neither one offer much fantasy upside because they simply aren't used in that fashion. Johnny Boychuk, Lubomir Visnovsky and Nick Leddy all are ahead of them for power play responsibilities and offensive zone usage but these two are young, can move the puck and play a hardnosed shutdown game.
It was nice to see Jaroslav Halak get himself back on track after four straight losses. It helped he didn't have to face Getzlaf or Perry who surely would have had their way with the Islanders but consider this a confidence booster.
True to his word, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford officially committed to Marc-Andre Fleury, signing his starting goaltender to a four-year contract extension worth $23 million. That's not much of a raise on what he makes now, which is something of a coup for the Penguins considering some of the extensions that have been handed out to goaltenders in the past year or so.