You know, it’s easy to rail on a team for “failing to tank” when you’re sitting there in a dirty T-shirt, screaming at your TV.
(Not judging on the T-shirt part in particular; my current T-shirt’s passable AT BEST.)
It’s tougher to actually imagine going to the rink and just laying an egg on purpose. Or, worse, being the GM who politely asks his coach to lay down in the middle of the road as if they’re enacting a scene from “The Program.”
For the players themselves? Of course they want to play well … or at least avoid injuries.
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WILD 4, BLACKHAWKS 1
-- The Wild seem to have Chicago's number this season. With the win Tuesday night, Minnesota not only won its season-best sixth straight contest, but also swept the five game season series with the Blackhawks. They widened their lead over the Colorado Avalanche in the process; with five games remaining, they now lead the Avs by five points for the final wild card spot.
-- Chicago was without its two top defensemen. Brent Seabrook sat out because of an illness and Duncan Keith received a match penalty for intent to injury during the first period when the Norris-winner swung his stick at Charlie Coyle.
The early indication is that Keith will be suspended for one game on top of the ejection, yet it might end up being more.
-- The lone goal for Chicago came from Marian Hossa who picked up his 499th career tally. What a career for Hossa, who certainly seemed to make the right choice when he jumped on the Blackhawks’ bandwagon.
BLUES 3, AVALANCHE 1
-- The Avalanche were probably the biggest losers of Tuesday, as their odds indeed look so long after losing this game.
Sure, Mikhail Grigorenko's sixth goal of 2015-16 was the first that beat a Blues goalie in about 258 minutes.
-- It was also the only goal that Brian Elliott allowed on Tuesday, extending the Blues' winning streak to five games. St. Louis has also won 11 of 13 games.
Speaking of Steen, he has two straight multi-point games ... but that second-most recent game was on Feb. 20.
-- Don't get too excited about the Blues getting healthy again, though, at least in a sweeping way. Robby Fabbri fell awkwardly during the game and might be hurt, so keep an eye open for updates.
-- Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 36th goal of 2015-16, leaving him one tally short of tying last season's career-high of 37. He'll need to hustle to match last season's 73 points at 66 right now, but it's not totally outside the realm of possibility.
STARS 5, PREDATORS 2
-- The Fabbri injury isn't the only "Yeah, but ..." for the Blues, as the Stars remain at No. 1 in the Central Division by winning in their own right. Dallas and St. Louis have identical records, but the Stars have the ROW advantage over the Blues at 44-41.
-- Jamie Benn scored two goals to push his career-high total to 39 on the season. He's also two points short of the 87 he scored to win the Art Ross in 2014-15.
Benn's second goal was an ENG, giving the Stars an apparent record 22 ENGs.
-- Jason Spezza scored the 30th goal of 2015-16. That's the best mark he's generated since scoring 34 in 2011-12, and he only has two 30+ goal seasons since 2009-10.
-- Kari Lehtonen remains pretty hot, with wins in four of five games. His save percentage is still bad at .906, but many fantasy owners are likely happy with his 23-10-2 record.
LEAFS 5, PANTHERS 2
-- The Maple Leafs seem to keep finding ways to win late in the season, jeopardizing their chances at the first overall pick in June. One can understand the urge to spoil, though, and this definitely hurt Florida’s chances of winning the Atlantic Division.
-- Special teams really came through for Toronto. The Maple Leafs scored a shorthanded goal and three power play goals (the Leafs went 3 for 4 on the man advantage).
-- Nazem Kadri generated a hat trick for Toronto. Kadri scored two second period goals, both on the power play. He picked up the hat trick with an empty net goal late in the third period.
-- It’s perfectly reasonable to wait, but I’d be mulling over a decision to drop Vincent Trocheck. He’s had a breakthrough season, yet now the break might just come from fracturing a bone in his foot blocking a shot. He’s getting an MRI, so maybe there’s good news … although most of the talk seems hopeful that he could be back by the playoffs.
-- Connor Brown racked up three assists. He has all of his NHL points (six with five coming on assists) in the past five games after going his first two games without a goal or an assist.
CANADIENS 4, RED WINGS 3
-- The Red Wings only needed a point to move into playoff position, but the Habs did their part to keep Detroit farther away from a playoff berth. Tuesday ended up being a fantastic day for the Philadelphia Flyers, who didn’t even play. As you can see, both the Red Wings and Bruins lost in regulation, greatly benefiting Philly’s playoff cause.
-- Max Pacioretty scored twice for Montreal.
There are aspects of his season that are a BIT off - he'll need to hustle to be in line with 37 and 39 goals from the past two seasons at 27, and his minus 13 rating is a disappointment for a guy with a +34 mark for his career - but Pacioretty is clearly not to blame for Montreal's struggles.
-- Rumor has it that Carey Price might travel with the Habs during their two-game road trip. I understand the draw to “just play” and maybe shake off some rust, yet I feel like the Canadiens would look really dumb if they trotted Price out during games they’d be better off losing.
-- Petr Mrazek was pulled for the second straight contest. He allowed two goals on seven shots midway through the first period. Jimmy Howard may very well be the workhorse with just a few games remaining.
DEVILS 2, BRUINS 1
-- The Bruins lost their sixth in seven games, and this one likely ranks as one of the most frustrating.
The Bruins generated a staggering 40-15 SOG advantage, but Keith Kinkaid of all goalies absolutely built a wall in the Devils' net.
-- Special teams made the difference for the Devils, as New Jersey went 2-for-5 (all their goals) while the Bruins failed on their two chances.
Travis Zajac scored a goal and an assist, and so did Reid Boucher. Boucher scored his eighth goal in 35 games, with 19 points overall. His shooting percentage (11.9) is at a forward's level, so I wouldn't rush to draft him ... but he's worth monitoring going forward.
-- Tuukka Rask fell to 29-22-7 with a .918 save percentage and four shutouts. Those are perfectly fine numbers, really, but Rask may still draw some criticism if the Bruins fail to make the playoffs.
PENGUINS 5, SABRES 4 (SO)
-- Buffalo built up a 3-0 lead to end the first period but could not hold off the firepower of a Penguins team that scored four goals in the middle frame. This obviously wasn’t pretty, yet the Penguins were one of the few teams to avoid spoilage.
-- Both Buffalo and the Penguins scored shorthanded goals for their respective clubs. Ryan O'Reilly picked up his 18th goal of the season and Tom Kuhnhackl (still love that name) picked up his fourth goal of the campaign.
Kuhnhackl also added an assist for the Penguins.
-- Chad Johnson made 42 saves for Buffalo. So don’t blame it on Ocho-Cinco.
-- Matt Murray, meanwhile, managed his third straight win. The victories are spread apart quite a bit, yet it's promising for an interesting goaltending prospect. If Marc-Andre Fleury stumbles in the playoffs, the Penguins have their best backup plan in some time.
ISLANDERS 2, HURRICANES 1 (SO)
-- Thomas Greiss snapped a four-game losing streak with the win over Carolina. From the Dept. of the Obvious: the Islanders need that guy feeling confident down the stretch. The Isles aren’t too far behind the Penguins for the Metro’s third place spot and they’re pretty comfortable as the first wild card if that doesn’t work out.
-- Kyle Okposo scored in the shootout for the Islanders. He also complained about the ice at the Barclays Center, the latest knock against the Brooklyn locale. Another shaky sign about free agency, if you ask me.
-- Anders Lee scored for the Islanders in regulation and Derek Ryan put the Hurricanes up 1-0 late in the second period. Lee has 13 goals in 2015-16, a drop-off from last season's 25, but he's not too far behind points wise (34 this season, 41 in 2014-15).
SHARKS 4, CANUCKS 1
-- For the first time in his NHL career, Logan Couture generated a hat trick. His 2015-16 season is a disappointment, yet he deserves at least a partial mulligan for being hurt.
Couture has 22 points in his past 29 games, which is likely a better idea of what to expect from him in the future. He may be a nice bargain in certain drafts next summer.
-- Reimer won again, continuing his impressive (though not shocking) start as a member of the Sharks. Reimer is now 4-2-0 with two shutouts and a nice .926 save percentage with San Jose.
(He was 11-12-7 with Toronto, yet his .918 save percentage emboldened arguments in his favor.)
-- Conscious or not, the Canucks are maybe the most zealous tankers. They've lost nine straight games, with only one point (a shootout loss to Nashville). It may go longer, too, as their next three games come against the mighty California teams.
-- Brent Burns didn't score a goal (that bum) on Tuesday, yet the burly one generated two assists.
Actually, he hasn't scored a goal in quite some time, but he has a four-game assist streak going (six assists).
This is easily the best season of his career, with highs in goals (26), assists (45) and obviously points in 71. He also ads a healthy 53 PIM and generally fills all the stat categories.