From a pure intrigue standpoint, the Carolina Hurricanes’ 5-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens was probably the best game of Monday night. I’ll certainly get to it, too, but forgive me for having a case of the shoulder-shrugs when it comes to one pretty-much-hopeless team losing to some nearly-mathematically-eliminated team. (Granted, I know that context only matters so much for fantasy hockey, but still … *yawns*)
With that – and a low scoring third game – in mind, the highlight of Feb. 13 was the San Jose Sharks’ pasting of the up-and-down (but mostly just smack dab in the middle) Washington Capitals. Sure, the score was identical to that aforementioned CAR-MTL game, but San Jose really won it by more; the Caps just tacked on a couple garbage goals while San Jose was spacing out.
There are a few interesting things to take from that game:
DANGER AT LONG DISTANCE
First things first, if you’re a skater, you might as well just send the puck toward the net from random places. Joe Pavelski scored a cringe-inducing goal from right around center ice that befuddled Braden Holtby for the game’s first tally. Dmitri Orlov scored a goal that probably won’t go on Thomas Greiss’ highlight reel, either. It makes you wonder if it’s a weird mini-trend or if players are getting inspired by the small rash of those types of goals. When you think about it, it’s almost surprising that it doesn’t happen more often; a goalie might lose track of a shot or just not see it coming as well if the release point is beyond his vision. Just saying.
Speaking of Pavelski, he scored two goals and two assists for a dazzling four-point night. Pavelski is just three goals short of his career-high for a season (which is 25). What might be more interesting is his race for his career-high of 66 points, which he set last season. He'll need 22 points, which is sort of neat and cool since he currently has 22 goals and 22 assists.
THORNTON RISES AGAIN
The rise of San Jose’s younger center Pavelski and All-Star Logan Couture have made Joe Thornton fade to the background a bit, but don’t be shocked if he finishes up the stretch run with a pace that rivals is earlier elite work.
It's easy to forget that Thornton is just 32 years old because he has a lot of mileage on his body with around 1,050 career regular season games. His season totals of 50 points in 58 games are promising, but it's his recent run that should turn a couple heads. Thornton notched three assists against the Capitals and only has one pointless game in February (against the steel curtain St. Louis defense). Before that Sunday struggle, Thornton had an impressive four goals and nine points in five games.
About the only beef I can muster is that he'll likely never be the PIM guy he was with the Boston Bruins, but that's a small price to pay for his valuable assists and power-play points - especially since he likely came at a much cheaper price in drafts this time around.
BACKUPS SLIP UP
Braden Holtby is something of a low-level cult hero in Washington, but last night’s semi-debacle might rain on the 14-game small sample parade a bit. That Pavelski goal was embarrassing and he generally looked like a guy who was only putting up so-so numbers in the AHL on Monday night. He got the chance because Tomas Vokoun is ill and Michal Neuvirth game has been sickly lately. It’s probably pretty safe to say that the Capitals are hoping Vokoun gets some Emergen-C or antibiotics and gets back on the horse soon because their other two options aren't looking too hot.
Now let’s move on to the other news and bits.
It might not be a shocker, but “Mr. Hillary Duff” decided to hang up his skates for good because of recurring hip problems. He had his moments in the sun, but I get the feeling that many will file him in the “What could have been?” category.
SUSPENSIONS AND FINES
Zac Rinaldo received a two-game suspension for a charging hit on Jonathan Ericsson. Meanwhile, the Rangers have been griping so much about the non-suspension on Dominic Moore that Brendan Shanahan has explained the reasoning via something like three different mediums (maybe more). Jeez, take it easy, you’re the top team in the East.
ERIC STAAL’S BIG NIGHT
Speaking of suspension chatter, Eric Staal turned some heads last night. It started off in a literal sense as he elbowed Tomas Plekanec, although Mike Milbury will be quick to point out a significant amount of embellishment. Staal then turned heads in a figurative way by scoring two goals – including one highlight reel beauty – to turn the tide of the game and help Carolina win 5-3. Staal also added an assist in a very much welcomed three-point night. It was a significant missed opportunity for Montreal, who seemed to be inching back to moderate playoff contending credibility.
Mike Smith was the No. 1 star of the week and then watched his backup lose to the Vancouver Canucks … The Edmonton Oilers re-signed Andy Sutton because, uh, look over there. (Throws smoke bomb.) … Ray Emery will get a chance to break the Blackhawks eight-game losing streak … The Red Wings could stand alone with the all-time record for consecutive home wins if they beat the Dallas Stars tonight … Mike Knuble must be on the trading block after being a healthy scratch for three consecutive games … Patrick Kane for Ryan Miller? That’s among the most ridiculous things I’ve heard, too … Joel Quenneville got the vote of confidence from the Chicago Blackhawks. Take that as you will.
Mikael Backlund could be out 4-6 weeks with an arm injury … The word still seems to be that Jimmy Howard is shooting for a Friday return … Mike Green skated for about an hour Monday. That’s promising but who knows how far he’s along … Matt Gilroy is day-to-day with an upper-body injury … Carl Gunnarsson is banged up after a collision in practice … Hard-shooting Panthers defenseman John Garrison is dealing with a foot injury … Matt Duchene might still be a few strides short of action, but he’ll travel with the Colorado Avalanche … Cal Clutterbuck is day-to-day with a charley horse. (Click here for the full injury list.)