The Montreal Canadiens have lost three straight, i.e. every game Thomas Vanek’s played for them since his trade deadline acquisition. They’re 5-4-1 overall in their last 10 games, falling to a wild card spot with 77 points and suddenly sniffing the Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils lingering near the bubble.
They’ve scored two goals or less in four of the six games they’ve played this month; which, again, is a little frustrating after you’ve landed the biggest offensive fish in the trade ocean and he’s managed a single assist in a blowout loss to the Boston Bruins.
From Sean Gordon of the Globe & Mail, Coach Michel Therrien on Vanek’s “adjustments” to his new lineup:
As Therrien strives over the final 15 regular-season games to create a balanced, three-line scoring attack – the key to making noise in the postseason – he has limited his experimentation regarding Vanek to playing him with either Pacioretty and Desharnais (where he’ll start on his off-wing Saturday against the Ottawa Senators) or with the defence-first pair of Plekanec and Gionta.
“[Vanek’s] got to make some adjustments to his game. I understand that he’s confident on the left side, he’s been playing there most of his career, but at times you’ve got to adjust with the players that you’ve got and put together lines that you think that you’ll have success as a team,” Therrien said after a 90 minute team practice during which injured goalie Carey Price complete his longest workout since the Olympics (he’s still listed as day-to-day).
Gordon makes the point that Therrien might need to think radically in reshaping the lines to juice the offense and find a comfort zone. Would it make more sense, for example, to try Vanek with Alex Galchenyuk rather than reunite Galchenyuk with his EGG Liners Brendan Gallagher and Lars “1 point in 24 games” Eller, as is the plan for Ottawa on Saturday?
It’s the risk you run when added a significant piece to your lineup at the deadline: Where, and how, that piece fits. There’s enough time before the postseason for the Habs to figure that out … provided, of course, that their wild card lead is significant enough to provide time to tinker without the threat of missing the postseason.
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No. 1 Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
Playing in only his third game for the Washington Capitals, the long-awaited rookie scored his first NHL point, and had his first NHL multi-point game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kuznetsov assisted on three goals, including this beautiful pass to Tom Wilson for the goal:
No. 2 Star: Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
Josi is one of the hidden gems of the NHL; probably because he's usually paired with some guy named Shea Weber. On Friday, Josi provided assists on all three of Nashville's goals against the defending champ Blackhawks; Preds won the game 3-2 . On the GWG, Josi hit Ryan Ellis with a pass right as he stepped out of the penalty box:
No. 3 Star: Carl Hagelin, New York Rangers
Congrats go out to Hagelin on scoring his first NHL hat-trick in the Rangers 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Kevin Klein assisted on two of Hagelin's three goals.
Honorable mention: Vancouver overcame a two-goal deficit to the Caps in the third period to tie it up; Mike Green scored the eventual 4-3 game winner ... (sigh) another one-time torpedo of a power play goal from Alex Ovechkin ...
... Sharks remain tied with Ducks for the Pacific Division lead after beating the Islanders 4-3 for their fifth-straight win ... Frans Nielsen brought the Isle within a goal with 22 seconds left in the game ... San Jose put on a passing clinic on this Jason Demers goal (Leahy tweeted the Harlem Globe Trotters theme song should have been playing) ...
... The Avs and Ducks combined for 9 goals in the SECOND PERIOD; part of which included all of Anaheim's 6 goals in their 6-4 win ... People thought there might be fireworks between Patrick Roy and Bruce Boudreau. Corey Perry made sure the glass dividing the two benches was secure ... Detroit's Riley Sheahan and Edmonton's Ryan Smyth each scored a goal and the score remained tied after OT. The Red Wings beat the Oil 2-1 (SO) on this slick goal by Tomas Tatar:
... In the Battle of the Escaped (?) Canucks, Cory Schneider started strong against Roberto Luongo and then struggled to find his rhythm ... The Devils were up 3-1 over Florida midway through the second period, and then Florida scored four unanswered goals to win 5-3 ... Brian Campbell and Tom Gilbert were both plus-4 for the Cats ... Jonathan Toews is a robot or the Predators are REALLY crappy at face-offs; Toews won 19 draws and lost 4 ... And this goal he scored is just stupid amazing:
... Rich Peverley was on hand to cheer on his teammates against the Calgary Flames. He and the entire Stars medical staff got a very much deserved ovation from the crowd ... Alex Chiasson was back in the lineup ... The Stars were up by two goals in the third when the Flames Paul Byron and Mike Cammalleri tied the score. In the shoot-out, Jordie Benn scored for Dallas and Sean Monahan and Corban Knight scored for Calgary. The Flames win it 4-3 (SO) .
Did you know?
Kuznetsov also first NHL player to record three assists in one of his first three NHL games since LA's Anze Kopitar on 10/7/06 #Caps
— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) March 15, 2014
Dishonorable mention: Cam Fowler did not return to the game after the first period due to a lower-body injury ... Erik Johnson and Matthieu Perreault got into a bit of a controversial scrum. Perreault cross-checks Johnson and Johnson returns the favor to Perreault's face. Shanaban forthcoming? You be the judge ... Semyon Varlamov was pulled after giving up 5 goals on 24 shots to the Ducks ... This Avs goal was signaled 'no goal' on the ice and confirmed by The Situation Room in Toronto . Did they make the right call?
Devils collapsed under vets: Marek Zidlicky (minus-4), Travis Zajac (minus-3), Jaromir Jagr (minus-3), and not a vet, John Merrill (minus-3) ... Hey, at least Bryce Salvador scored his first goal of the season (bright side?) ...
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A quick look at the NHL's overall standings tells you that there's nothing at all for the Anaheim Ducks to worry about. After all, they're second in the entire NHL with 93 points from 66 games, having played in a division consisting of San Jose and Los Angeles, both of which are likewise in the league's top-8.
That is, on a number of levels, outright domination. So too is their plus-43 goal differential, which is sixth in the league, and that also goes for their 41 regulation or overtime wins from those 66 games, which is one back of the league lead held by the powerful Boston Bruins (both teams having won just two shootouts, and one of the Bruins' was actually against the Ducks).
And so while this current four-game losing streak on which they find themselves is uncomfortable — even to the point of having been massacred like livestock by the lowly Calgary Flames — it is, perhaps, understandable. Every good team goes through a rough stretch here and there over 82 games, and this is really only their second of the season; they lost five straight from Nov. 11 to 20, as four of those games were on the road. Doesn't erase the eight-game winning streak on which they forayed in the early part of the new year, nor the 10-gamer that all but closed it out. These were separated only by a single 3-1 road loss to the Sharks, which is understandable because San Jose has conceded 12 points in 33 home games this season, and that's the best home record in the league.
Yes, the Ducks actually went through a stretch in which they won 18 of 19 games, running from early December to mid-January, during which time they outscored their opponents 76-40 (or 4.05-2.11 per game). That really helps to get you a long way toward No. 2 in the league, because that's 36 of a possible 38 points, or fully 39 percent of their total from just 23 percent of their games.
So no, they can't be, at this point, particularly concerned about losing four straight, even if they were to Montreal, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Calgary, only one of which is any good at all. But what they should be very concerned with is how they've done not in the last week, but in the last month. Since their Stadium Series game, which they won 3-0 despite being dramatically outplayed by the Kings, they've won just four of 12. And this is something that's been coming down the river for quite some time.
In a lot of ways, you could say the game at Dodger Stadium was a microcosm of everything that had gone right for the Ducks up until that point.
Not that they were really being outpossessed most nights, because they weren't — and in fact still aren't for the balance of the season — but their numbers in this regard had been steadily trending downward from about 55 percent in early November, which you'll notice is quite a long time ago, to just 50.4 percent through the Calgary blitz. It's important to note here that a decent team is usually right around 50 percent in this regard, as you might expect, and elite ones are typically in the 55 percent range. On a 10-game rolling basis, the Ducks have spent a pretty hefty chunk of the season below 50 percent. The Stadium Series game was, perhaps, the logical conclusion to come against their far superior local rival.
So the question becomes one of how they kept winning to that point. The answer is “luck.”
Let's put it this way: Any team that wins 18 out of 19 games at any point in the season is by definition extremely lucky to have done so. It is so incredibly rare to win that much in that short a time that it's nearly impossible; by way of comparison, you would also have to say that the Chicago Blackhawks of last season were lucky to have taken points from 24 games in a row, let alone to have those games be the first two dozen of the season.
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