NHL Rink Wrap: Bruins beat Lightning; Don’t sleep on the Blues
Friday’s top NHL players
Nikolaj Ehlers/Mark Scheifele, Jets
While we keep seeing mammoth games, Friday presented a less explosive night of NHL scoring.
Although the Jets ended up losing in overtime, Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele topped the nights scores, recording two goals and one assist apiece.
With that, Ehlers is now on a five-game point streak (4G, 4A). Overall, Ehlers has scored 45 points in 52 games this season. It’s not quite falling one point short of a point-per-game like last season (46 points in 47 games), but Ehlers continues to establish himself as a go-to player on a Jets team that can’t seem to surround some quality players with enough help to get back into playoff contention.
Mark Scheifele’s been on a tear of his own. With that three-point game, Scheifele has now generated at least one point in four straight (3G, 4A). This pushes Scheifele to a strong 69 points in 66 games, and with 29 goals, he’s closing in on his third-career 30+ goal season. His career high is 38.
If you want a Friday NHL player of the night from a winning team, consider Nathan MacKinnon. He finished with a goal and an assist, including a helper on Cale Makar’s OT game-winner. But it’s his resounding 11 shots on goal that put him in the running.
Friday NHL highlights
Look, maybe the Panthers would rather not need a last-minute goal to beat the Sabres in regulation. Sometimes, you’re not going to win pretty, though. Pretty or ugly or messy-fun, the Panthers remain hot; they extended their winning streak to six games during the NHL action on Friday. Sam Bennett scored his 27th goal of the season to win it:
Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk have been heating up lately for the Bruins, and both scored in a tight OT win over the Lightning, with Coyle notching the OT-winner:
Cale Makar made the difference for the Avalanche against the Jets, also in OT:
Eighteen seconds into the third period, the Wild enlarged their lead to 3-1 against the Blues. St. Louis answered back with two goals in regulation, then Robert Thomas scored yet another OT goal during the Friday NHL action:
Friday NHL Takeaways
Bruins grind out overtime win against Lightning, increase odds of matchup vs. Maple Leafs
Did you want a taste of the wide array of close, OT games the star-studded Atlantic Division can provide? This week had you covered.
First, there was the action-packed, often-outrageous overtime thriller between the Panthers and Maple Leafs, with Florida winning a game that featured 13 combined goals. During the NHL games on Friday, the Bruins and Lightning combined for three goals in a contest Boston won in OT.
Being that the Lightning managed a standings point, the Bruins’ gains were modest, but they’re now ranked ahead of the Bolts by more than a mere tiebreaker. Check out the updated Atlantic Division standings from spots 2-4 (the Panthers are way ahead with 106 points in 71 games played).
Maple Leafs: 98 points in 71 games played, 44 regulation/OT wins
Bruins: 95 points in 71 GP, 43 ROW
Lightning: 94 points in 71 GP, 41 ROW
In his past five games, Jake DeBrusk’s collected eight points. Overtime hero Charlie Coyle’s up to 15 points in his past 18 contests.
[Bruins keep climbing PHT’s Power Rankings]
If DeBrusk and Coyle can remain productive, the Bruins may just enjoy the sort of diverse offensive attack they’ve sometimes lacked as a “top-heavy team.” Lately, Coyle’s been finding nice chemistry with Craig Smith, while DeBrusk is flourishing with stars Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. That also gives the Bruins room to send out David Pastrnak with Taylor Hall (and generally Erik Haula).
Naturally, the Bruins’ defense deserves the most credit, as that mix of underrated blueliners and sharp two-way forwards held the Lightning to limited high-danger chances and a single goal. You need to create some offense to put together a run like this, though, and Boston’s finding combinations that work at the perfect time. They may just slide into that third Atlantic Division spot, with at least a slight chance to gain home-ice advantage.
You know, not that facing the Maple Leafs is as easy as some might expect.
Don’t sleep on Robert Thomas and the Blues -- especially if you’re the Wild
It seems like the major Central Division teams keep getting their “close up,” while the Blues slip a bit under the radar. The Avalanche ... they’re the Avalanche. The Predators shocked just about everyone with their peaking play. And the Wild keep raising the bar for what we expect of them. (Even the Stars look like they could pull away from the Golden Knights and solidify the West’s wild-card picture.)
Don’t forget about the St. Louis Blues.
By rallying to beat the Wild in overtime, the Blues gave themselves a chance to eventually snatch home-ice advantage from Minnesota. Here’s how they look in the battle for home-ice advantage:
Wild: 92 points in 70 games played, 38 regulation/OT wins
Blues: 92 points in 71 GP, 39 ROW.
For whatever it’s worth, the Blues boast an impressive +52 goal differential, comfortably ahead of the Wild’s (still-quite-nice) +38 mark.
Depth may prove to be one of the Blues’ strengths, as people may still not be aware of the rise of younger scorers like Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Thomas extended his point streak to eight games with that OT goal and an assist, giving him six multi-point games during that span. The incredibly smooth passer has 45 assists to go with 17 goals for 62 points in 61 games played. That leaves him just a stride behind Kyrou, who leads the Blues with 63 points. Vladimir Tarasenko’s tied with Thomas at 62 points, but has played a few extra games.
At the moment, the Blues boast six players above 50 points this season, with David Perron (49) and Ryan O’Reilly (47) ready to join the club. Seven different Blues players have already scored 20 goals.
No, the Blues don’t scare you in the same way that Avs might, but they clearly need to be taken seriously. Especially if you’re their likely first-round opponent, the Wild.
Owen Power signs with Sabres, other Michigan prospects NHL-bound
That disappointment presents a silver lining, though: it looks like we’ll see Owen Power and possibly others play before this NHL season closes. Power (to the Sabres), Kent Johnson (to the Blue Jackets), and other prospects have already left Michigan to sign NHL contracts. Others (such as Matty Beniers, the Kraken’s first-ever pick at No. 2), could follow.
By the way, it sure seems like Owen Power grew his game during this year with Michigan:
Saturday’s big story
Golden Knights really can’t lose a game like this, if it isn’t already too late
Every loss -- especially in regulation -- feels like it’s pushing the Golden Knights’ trembling playoff hopes closer to that cliff. If the Golden Knights beat the lowly Coyotes, it would only change so much. But if they lose? Oof.
There are other interesting NHL games on Saturday.
- The Capitals don’t have much of a chance to pull Pittsburgh down to the wild-card, but beating the Penguins in regulation would at least increase those odds.
- In a matchup of beasts who’ve ended up better than many expected, the Panthers square off against the Predators.
- With the Oilers heating up recently, Saturday’s test against the Avalanche is intriguing. (And Edmonton gets the rest advantage, limiting excuses if the Oilers leak chances vs. the Avs.)
Realistically (sorry Canucks, Islanders), the Golden Knights are the team with shaky odds that can still improve their situation. They’ll need to finish hot, maybe enjoy some luck, and beat teams like Arizona.
Friday NHL scores
Bruins 2, Lightning 1 (OT)
Panthers 4, Sabres 3
Islanders 2, Hurricanes 1
Blues 4, Wild 3 (OT)
Avalanche 5, Jets 4 (OT)