We’re definitely in the meat of the “must-win” mode at this point in the season.
OK, maybe only for a few teams, while the others are in “It would behoove us greatly to succeed” mode, but c’mon … don’t be a killjoy FOR ONCE, imaginary skeptical reader.
(Everyone knows that typical Dose readers are totally cool, nice, good-looking, wealthy, above the fray, etc. etc. good things.)
The playoff races are exciting, while the drive to tank becomes a fascinating experiment where succeeding is failing and the grass is blue and not in that music kind of way and …
Well, I think you catch my drift. Let’s recap the bucket-o-games from Thursday, shall we?
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PANTHERS 4, BRUINS 1
-- A big game in Boston, and this time Roberto Luongo shines (AND gets the win). Bobby Lou stopped 34 shots and now has 30 wins on the season. This is Luongo's first 30+ win season since 2011-12.
The Panthers took at least a brief Atlantic Division lead with this win.
-- Tough night as Claude Julien celebrates his Bruins all-time wins honor. The Bruins got a bum deal on a goal review and now find themselves on a five-game skid.
Trocheck has 23 points in 24 games between February and March. Remarkable stuff.
-- How concerned should we be about Brad Marchand? He was pointless with a -3 rating on Thursday, and only has an assist in his past seven games. This slump leaves him tied for his career-high at 55 points.
DEVILS 3, PENGUINS 0
-- Scott Wedgewood (whose nickname MUST, MUST be "Wedgie," right?) continues his red-hot start. After stopping 27 of 28 shots to win his first game, he really set a new benchmark for himself with a 39-save shutout. That's the first of his NHL career.
-- Wedgewood was the main reason the Devils ended the Penguins’ six-game winning streak (and kept their somewhat feeble playoff hopes alive), but not the only reason.
Kyle Palmieri was the other standout, scoring both of New Jersey's first-period goals, pushing him to 29 tallies on the season (with four of those being GWG).
Of all the Devils who've generated bigger than expected points this season, Palmieri seems most likely to be a factor going forward.
He has solid pedigree (26th pick of the 2009 Draft), and he was sneaky-solid at times in Anaheim. (Sure, his 29 goals match his points total from last season, but he was limited to 57 GP with the Ducks in 2014-15).
With a 14.9 shooting percentage in mind, he might dip a little, but Palmieri could end up being worth the two picks and more for NJ. It will be interesting to see what kind of deal he garners as an RFA this summer.
-- Adam Henrique was the Devils' other scorer, collecting his 27th of the season. His current deal ($4M cap hit through 2018-19) could be a real steal even if he just sticks around this level through it.
-- This marks the first time Sidney Crosby didn't generate a point since Feb. 27, a 12-game point streak (finishing with six goals and 14 assists for 20 points during that span). It wasn't for a lack of effort from Crosby, who was strong in the dot and fired four SOG.
HURRICANES 3, BLUE JACKETS 2
-- Carolina wins the Clash of the Semi-Dangerous Spoilers here thanks in large part to Eddie Lack, a weirdo goalie who stopped 42 out of 44 shots to go back to .500 (12-12-5) on the season.
-- Boone Jenner continues to eye the 30-goal plateau with his 27th of the season in a losing cause. He's been close to an everyday scorer lately: 15 points in his past 16 games.
He strikes me as a nice second or third-tier power forward who may slip under the radar a bit in drafts next season. (Either that or he gets projected TOO high ... we'll just have to see. Either way, his name makes me think of frontier America, so that's sort of cool right?)
LEAFS 6, DUCKS 5 (OT)
-- You know, this was really the only way the Ducks could clinch a playoff spot: everyone gave up on them (on Thursday/early this season) only to see them roar back (into the game/into the playoffs).
Of course, the Ducks have to hope that the parallels don't end with a loss.
Speaking of Kadri, he had a heck of a game, scoring two goals and two assists. That includes the OTGWG, so he definitely got the last laugh/slash in this one.
-- Tyler Bozak was explosive in his return, scoring two goals and nearly earning a hat trick. He did this, including racking up five SOG, despite getting a scant 12:42 TOI.
-- Both teams generated a lot of offense on the PP. The Ducks went 2-for-4 while the Maple Leafs managed a 3-for-5 success rate.
RED WINGS 4, CANADIENS 3
-- This was a big win for the Red Wings, even if they only kept the seat warm for the Flyers as far as the wild card spot goes.
They fired 40 SOG, which proved to be JUST enough to beat Ben Scrivens and the Canadiens, who nearly came back in this game (4-0 lead dropped to 4-3, but a win's a win).
Speaking of wins and losses, Montreal's under .500 at 34-35-6. Yikes.
-- Anthony Mantha scored his first NHL goal in front of his grandpa and other family members. His grandpa thought that was kewl and tried to use a tablet to celebrate.
-- Riley Sheehan scored two goals, giving him four points in his past five games. His five games before this mini-run? Zero points.
-- Petr Mrazek grabbed the win, thin or not, for Detroit. He's now 27-15-6 with a .922 save percentage.
FLYERS 4, AVALANCHE 2
-- John Mitchell gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead 6:13 into the third period, but the Flyers stormed back. Even with a late ENG inflating the difference, it's quite the turnaround for Philly in a needed game. (They also were down 1-0.)
-- Radko Gudas scored the tying goal and also had an assist. Four of the big lug's 14 points have come in the past five games. While he has a little scoring punch to his game, it's tough to imagine this trend continuing, but considering his other qualities (bringing 108 PIM to the table, most obviously), little waves are offense are enough to keep him afloat on quite a few rosters.
-- Some are a little worried about the health of Steve Mason, but Mason wants ALL THE STARTS.
Hopefully that pans out to a lot of W's for Mason owners rather than an injury that derails his season (and likely that of the Flyers with Michal Neuvirth also on the mend).
-- As much as this win worries the Red Wings, I wonder how worried the Islanders are in all of this? Not exactly an ideal time to be taking on water.
PREDATORS 3, CANUCKS 2 (SO)
-- Just like that, the Predators are just two standings points behind the Blackhawks, though Chicago holds significant tiebreaker advantages (so maybe call it three, really).
Either way, Nashville is hot, with a nine-game point streak at home.
-- Pekka Rinne's a big part of those winning ways, even if many nights he's asked merely to be "dependable" rather than dynamic.
During his current four-game winning streak, Rinne's allowed two goals each night. The Predators can easily stomach results like that going forward, especially with their offense humming along solidly enough.
-- The Canucks broke their franchise-record scoring drought when Bo Horvat scored, then Henrik Sedin passed Maurice Richard for 88th all-time in NHL scoring during the first period. Vancouver coughed up a 2-0 lead to lose, but hey, baby steps.
WILD 6, FLAMES 2
-- Zach Parise provided Niklas Backstrom with a rather rude welcome back in the form of a first-period hat trick, his second hat trick of 2015-16. Parise now has 22 goals and 25 assists after he also nabbed a helper on Jared Spurgeon's ninth goal of the season.
-- Spurgeon scored two goals in a row, so he now has 10 tallies in 2015-16. This is the first time he's hit double digits in goals, as he came up one short with nine (albeit in 66 games) last season.
-- After beating the Canadiens in his return, Backstrom allowed six goals (half by Parise!) in this awkward reunion with the Minnesota Wild. I'm guessing he won't play well through the rest of this season, although his career could be on the line, so at least there's serious motivation here.
-- Thanks in part to Thursday's results, the Wild are three points ahead of the Avalanche for the final wild card, although Colorado does hold a game in hand and the wins/ROW edges. Significant shift, but not a knockout punch.
JETS 4, KINGS 1
-- Ondrej Pavelec is unintentional comedy in big goofy goalie pads.
Just when the Jets would really benefit from him being ... well, him, Pavelec starts to catch fire. He grabbed a 28-save shutout on Tuesday and stopped 33 out of 34 shots to help Winnipeg upset Los Angeles.
I imagine many Jets fans wonder if they're simply not being specific enough with their wishing well requests i.e. Pavs.
-- I feel like Anze Kopitar will score about 75 points every season, regardless of the rules. Like, if everything goes '80s, he'd somehow be awesome yet still just get 70-80 points in that format. Alternatively, Kopitar could be in a coach's dream of scoring oppression and still pump out 25 goals and 45 assists.
-- Dustin Byfuglien's been pretty quiet scoring-wise, but Thursday he scored his 17th goal of the season. This follows a four-game pointless streak and a span in which he only managed two assists in eight games.
As much as I adore "Buffy the Hamburger Slayer," it always feels like he's vaguely disappointing yet still puts up useful numbers. His skill level and Brent Burns' explosion makes 45 points a vague letdown, yet how many defensemen can regularly pot 17 goals and 100 PIM (he's at 99 right now).
I mean, can I really gripe about 227 SOG, five GWG ...?
COYOTES 3, STARS 1
-- The Coyotes are just about virtually assured of seeing their season end at game 82, yet they're still pesky.
Granted, they've generally picked on weak teams. Sure, they have five wins in seven games, but two of those victories came against Edmonton and one against Calgary. I'd still be a little worried if I were the Flyers on Saturday and the Stars next Thursday.
-- With three points in his last three games, Ales Hemsky now has more points this season (33) than he generated in 2014-15). He's not the worst asset in the world for Dallas, but he's also not impervious to injury-related "What ifs?," even at 32.
-- Martin Hanzal might just end 2015-16 on a tear. After scoring a goal and an assist against the Oilers, the towering pivot collected two tallies, including the GWG, against the Stars.
He's experienced a strange if "Very Hanzal" season, but he's two points away from his 2013-14 peak of 40 points with 38 in 2015-16.
OILERS 6, SHARKS 3
-- Give Edmonton some credit for probably putting a little smile on Todd McLellan’s face, even if only on rare occasions.
They’ve played the Sharks pretty tough this
Dec. 9: 4-3 OT win
Jan. 14: 2-1 SO loss
March 8: 3-0 loss
Thursday: 6-3 win
Imagine if the Sharks fall just short of the Pacific crown because of the Oil?
-- After winning the first two games of this six-game homestand, the Sharks dropped two straight in regulation. It won't be easy to make this a successful stay: the last two games of their homestand are against the Stars on Saturday and Kings on Monday.
-- Patrick Maroon scored a goal and two assists, also enjoying a +3 rating, two PIM and five SOG in 17:20 TOI.
Maroon has been hot and cold, but with nine points in 11 games with the Oilers (after 13 in 56 games with Anaheim), it's plausible that he'll be an electron orbiting that nucleus of Connor McDavid and ... whoever else survives the summer.
-- Speaking of surviving, the Oilers will earn the label of Big 'Ol Dummies* if they don't shut Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the season.
Honestly, the little guy is fragile enough that he might get an invite to the Marian Gaborik Society of Guys Who Might Not Be Worth the Headaches.
* - Dense scientific term, I know, I know.