By the numbers
In their first 38 home games, number of regulation losses for the St. Louis Blues, the primary reason they are the NHL’s top team.
Shutouts for Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, eclipsing a franchise record of eight that the legendary Rogie Vachon set in the 1976-77 season.
They said it
“In the summer, whatever happens is going to happen. I’m going to sit back and clear my mind, and we’ll see what is next.”
~Rick Nash, The Columbus star reflects on what could be his final days in a Blue Jackets uniform.
“You never know when you assemble something this quickly how it’s going to work out, but we’re getting greedy now. It’s good for our franchise to be in this playoff fight.”
The Florida Panthers general manager turned over virtually his entire roster in the offseason and looks as though he’ll be rewarded with a playoff berth for the first time in 11 years.
Tweet of the week
Doesn’t matter if it’s a hot girl driving next to you or a homeless guy asking for change, you get caught picking your nose = day ruined.
(@ryanwhitney6) ~ Words of wisdom from Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney
Around the rinks
Playing to win
Good on the Anaheim Ducks’ Bruce Boudreau for uttering words that you don’t usually hear from an NHL coach at this time of year – or ever. Words about integrity and competition and the obligation of every NHL team to try to win every game down the stretch, even if your team is mathematically eliminated from playoff competition and you might think that now is a good time to audition half your farm team. With the races so close, and every team in the Pacific Division except Anaheim separated by a couple of points, Boudreau’s words bear repeating: “Would it be fair to L.A. if we all of a sudden put 12 call-ups in to play San Jose or go into Phoenix and start resting guys? Or go on the Canadian trip and rest guys while other teams have battled all year to get into that position? I don’t think it’s right. I wouldn’t want them to do it to us, if we were in that situation.” That wasn’t just empty rhetoric, either. That same night, the Ducks knocked off the Sharks, dropping San Jose to eighth from third in the conference standing. If the Sharks miss the playoffs, they can trace their failings back to an inability to beat Anaheim, which won five out of six games in the season series.
Anaheim’s dream defence
The Ducks hit two home runs in the 2008 entry draft, landing Jake Gardiner with the 17th overall pick and Justin Schultz at No. 43. Both are considered the bluest of blue-chip defensive prospects, and in fact, it was Schultz’s presence in the organization that convinced the Ducks that they could give up Gardiner to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the François Beauchemin deal in February, 2011. Now, it looks as though they won’t be able to sign Schultz after all. Weeks ago, they made a pitch to get him to leave the University of Wisconsin once he’d completed his junior year on March 11, after losing to Denver in the NCAA playoffs. But Schultz can become an unrestricted free agent this summer and it looks as though that’s the route he’ll take. Favourites to land the native of Kelowna: The Vancouver Canucks, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Detroit Red Wings and one longish shot – the Edmonton Oilers, who need a skilled puck-moving defenceman to fill in the largest-remaining gap on their Generation Next roster. Can you imagine how good Anaheim’s defence could potentially have been if it had Gardiner, Schultz, Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler as mainstays for the next decade or so?
Blues buck goalie trend
Two-goalie platoons were largely eliminated years ago by salary escalation in the NHL. Most teams adopted the same operating philosophy, thinking if they were required to pay $6-million or more for a No. 1 goalie anyway, he may as well play 65 to 70 games and then a minimum-wage backup could spell him a limited number of times. The St. Louis Blues bucked that trend this season, essentially dividing time between Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak, but there was always the underlying sense that Halak would be the starter once playoffs rolled around just because of his great run with the Montreal Canadiens two years ago. But with a week to go in the regular season, Elliott is both statistically the NHL’s No. 1 goalie and appears to be holding the hotter hand. What is a coach to do? The best guess: Halak starts, but coach Ken Hitchcock reserves the right to make a mid-playoff switch if the Blues need a jump-start. Worked in the regular season, might work in the playoffs. The Blues, closing in on the President’s Trophy, are starting to get healthy again too, with Matt D’Agostini the latest forward to come back off injured reserve. D’Agostini missed 25 games with a concussion.