With one exception, Friday night's hockey was either too close to call (three games going to a shootout) or no-contest (one game decided by five goals, two decided by six.) Thanks a lot, Florida-Carolina, for ruining the trend.
--What got into the Toronto Maple Leafs? Two goals each by Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur led to a 9-3 destruction of Atlanta. Kulemin had four points and Grabovski and MacArthur three each. Tomas Kaberle posted four helpers and Kris Versteeg had a goal and two assists as Toronto scored six times in the last eight minutes of the second period. James Reimer made 41 saves. Toronto's power play was 5-for-7.
--Ryan Kesler's hat trick and six points by Danrik Sedin pushed Vancouver to a 6-1 romp of Edmonton. Daniel Sedin had two goals and Henrik had three assists. Cory Schneider made 23 saves.
--Two goals each by Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan supported Jonas Hiller's 27-save shutout in Anaheim's easy 6-0 win over Columbus.
--Chicago conceded a tying goal with 1:25 left in regulation but recovered to defeat Ottawa, 3-2, behind shootout goals by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Kane also scored in regulation. Corey Crawford made 24 saves.
--The Rangers got a shorthanded goal and power play goal, both times canceling out one-goal deficits, en route to a 3-2 win over Dallas. Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves and Mats Zuccarello had the only shootout goal.
--Jimmy Howard kinda sucked again but his 35 saves and Brian Rafalski's two goals, the second tying the game in the third period, helped Detroit get past Calgary, 5-4. Todd Bertuzzi had the shootout winner. Curtis Glencross (two goals) and Anton Babchuk (one) both had three points for the Flames.
The black sheep
Jeff Skinner extended his points lead among rookie skaters with two goals and an assist to lead Carolina over Florida, 5-3. Erik Cole scored twice, Tuomo Ruutu tallied three assists and Justin Peters stopped 32 shots for the Hurricanes. Marty Reasoner led the Panthers with two goals.
--Are Red Wings fans concerned about Jimmy Howard/the defense or is it just me, a disgruntled dual-Jimmy Howard fantasy owner?
--I think we finally eliminated a horse from the Western Conference playoff race. Maybe next year, Edmonton.
--The Blue Jackets? Not far behind at this rate.
--I didn't see the goal but I listened to it as it happened, and the shorthanded goal to Ruslan Fedotenko given up by Kari Lehtonen in the New York-Dallas game reinforces my notion that I just don't trust that goalie when it'll come crunch-time. The Stars are talented enough to get to the playoffs but I wouldn't feel too good about it once there.
--So, is anyone scarier than Vancouver right now? Eight wins in a row now. First in goals per game, fifth in goals against, first in power play, third in penalty killing.
--I guess it can be argued their schedule hasn't been the strongest lately. Of the Canucks' 12 wins in the last 13 games, only four are against a team currently in the playoffs. Three of the wins are against the Oilers, two against the Blue Jackets, one each against the Maple Leafs and Flames. The one loss was to Detroit. They also lost to Tampa Bay 14 games ago (i.e. before that stretch of 13 games I cited.)
--The games that stand out are a 6-2 win over Philadelphia and a 4-1 win over Dallas. Those are impressive.
--Still. Eight in a row and 12 of 13 isn't easy to do, otherwise everyone would be doing it. Got to beat up the teams you're supposed to.