Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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NHL Rewind: Avalanche, Oilers provide potential Western Conference Finals preview

Another week of NHL action is in the books, and now is the time to really soak it in with the regular season nearing its end. There was a lot going on, but we have you covered with the weekly NHL Rewind.

On Saturday night, the Colorado Avalanche visited the Edmonton Oilers for a meeting of two Western Conference juggernauts. They didn’t disappoint with the game being decided in the final second of overtime.

Elsewhere, the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference remains beautifully ugly. Plus, Mike Modano was immortalized in Dallas.

Let’s take a look at the biggest stories and best highlights from the week that was in the NHL.

Goal of the week: Morgan Frost goes between the wickets

The Philadelphia Flyers are playing with a lot of confidence this season, and Morgan Frost took that to another level in Saturday’s game against the Bruins. In a somewhat surprising shootout between the two old rivals, Frost really earned some style points.

Late in the third period, with the Flyers down 5-3, Frost entered the Boston zone with linemate Owen Tippet. The two executed a gorgeous give-and-go with Tippett taking a drop pass from Frost and giving it right back to him in front of the net.

In tight on Vezina Trophy candidate Jeremy Swayman, Frost fooled him by going between his legs and flipping the puck top shelf.

Frost, a 24-year-old former first-round pick, has shown some real flashes of high-end skill. That goal, his 11th of the season, was just another example. Philly can only hope to get that type of brilliance out of him more often moving forward.

Robbery of the week: Skinner halts Ovi’s pursuit of Gretzky

Last Wednesday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals was a weird one. The Oilers came out on fire, but goaltender Stuart Skinner allowed goals on the first two shots against him.

Apparently, all Skinner needed to get into the zone was a glorious chance from perhaps the best pure goal-scorer in hockey history. Late in the opening frame, Caps defenseman John Carlson found Alex Ovechkin all alone on the backdoor with no Oiler within five miles of him.

With the puck on his stick and a wide open net staring him in the face, it looked like Ovi was going to get one goal closer to Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record. Unfortunately for him — and fortunately for Gretzky — Skinner came diving across to make a jaw-dropping stick save.

After that, Skinner didn’t allow another goal, and Edmonton cruised to a 7-2 victory. If the Oilers are going to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup, Skinner is going to need to make a few more saves like that between now and June.

Avalanche top Oilers in possible WCF preview

Saturday night, there was an excellent showcase for the game of hockey in Edmonton. Two Western Conference contenders faced off, and they delivered on the hype with maybe the best game of the season. The Avs and Oilers played a thriller that came down to the literal final second of overtime.

Sean Walker, acquired by Colorado ahead of the trade deadline, scored his first goal as a member of the Avalanche in the second period. That lead held into the third period, and that is when the fireworks really began.

Just shy of six minutes into the third, Warren Foegle deflected an Evan Bouchard shot to level the score at 1-1.

That goal ignited the Rogers Place crowd, and they only had to wait a few more minutes for another reason to leave their seats. Sam Carrick, whom the Oilers added from the Ducks just a couple weeks earlier, planted himself in front of Alexandar Georgiev and was rewarded with a rebound goal.

With just 2:30 remaining in the third, the Avalanche managed to answer, and it was Walker again. This time, Walker cruised right down main street, took a pass from the also-newly-acquired Casey Mittelstadt and buried a one-timer to tie the game.

Fittingly, the game between these two Cup contenders went to overtime, and it nearly got to a shootout. Deciding this game in a shootout would have been a high crime, but luckily Nathan MacKinnon was able to work some magic in the final second of overtime.

MacKinnon beat Bouchard to a loose puck in the corner, spun, and threw a pass to Artturi Lehkonen in front of the net. Lehkonen got enough on his shot to push it past Stuart Skinner and win the game with just 0.5 seconds left in the overtime period.

After a showdown like that, it’s a cliche to say, “Give me seven games of that.” Cliche or not, that’s exactly what I want. When Edmonton and Colorado are exchanging haymakers, hockey doesn’t get much more entertaining.

Battle for the East’s final wild card spot intensifies

We go from two teams hellbent on winning the Stanley Cup to a few teams who seem like they’d rather do anything but qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Unfortunately for them, at least one of them has to do it.

The New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals are locked in one of the ugliest playoff races of the last few years, and I cannot look away. This past weekend, that race kicked up a notch in intensity, setting up a dogfight for the last 15 or so games.

Let’s start from the Islanders, a team that was red hot just a week or two ago. That heat has all but escaped Barclays Center, and the Isles are now fumbling opportunities left and right. After getting embarrassed by the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, the Islanders mounted a last-second comeback against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday to tie the game at 3-3 with under a minute remaining.

Unfortunately, Bo Horvat went from hero to goat in almost no time. He took a penalty in overtime, and that allowed Brady Tkachuk to win the game for Ottawa (and score a hat trick in the process).

The next day, the Islanders tried to get back on the horse for a huge game against the rival New York Rangers. That didn’t go so well either. Late in the second period, the Isles surrendered a goal to Jonny Brodzinski to fall behind, 3-2.

The Islanders mustered next to no offense in the third, and the Rangers earned a decisive 5-2 win. Patrick Roy’s group went from looking like it might roll to the playoffs to being on the outside looking in.

From the Islanders, we turn to the coldest team in the NHL, the Red Wings. The good news for Detroit is that it snapped a seven-game losing streak with a win over the Sabres on Saturday. Patrick Kane got the game-winner, and the Wings were feeling some good vibes for the first time in weeks.

Those good vibes lasted maybe 24 hours. One day after beating the Sabres, the Red Wings went to Pittsburgh for a game against a Penguins team that’s limping to the finish line. In a must-win game against a beleaguered opponent, Detroit laid an egg again.

Sidney Crosby notched a goal and an assist, leading the Penguins to a decisive 6-3 win over the Red Wings.

The Red Wings were kind of a house of cards all season long, but I didn’t anticipate this team collapsing in such dramatic fashion. Still, the Red Wings are in the thick of the playoff race, so all it will take is another burst of solid results to get back into the postseason.

Now, we turn our attention to the third team in this race, the Capitals. They are the weirdest of the trio, and they are the ones currently sitting in that second wild card spot.

Following a 7-2 throttling at the hands of the Oilers on Wednesday, the Capitals went into Seattle and notched an ugly 2-1 win over the Kraken. Connor McMichael broke free in the third period for the game-winner in that one.

Two nights later, Washington won another slog of a hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks. Once again, the score was 2-1. I will say, the game-winner in that one was awfully pretty with Alex Ovechkin finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play.

On Monday night, the Capitals’ western road trip continued with a trip to Calgary. They managed to earn their third win in a row, but they had more breathing room this time around. Ovechkin notched a couple more goals as Washington bowled over the Flames, 5-2.

The crazy thing about the Capitals possibly taking this wild card spot is the fact that they could have one of the worst goal differentials for a playoff team in NHL history. The current record for the lowest is minus-24. Washington is currently sitting at minus-27.

This race is fascinating. It consists of a few teams alternating between picking up massive wins and stepping on rakes. The battle for that final spot in the East is about to be can’t-miss stuff down the stretch.

Stars unveil Mike Modano statue

As a young American hockey fan with a Fathead of Mike Modano on his wall growing up, seeing him get a statue outside American Airlines Center on Saturday was awesome. One of the greatest Americans to lace up a pair of skates, Modano was immortalized in Dallas on Saturday.

Prior to the Stars’ game against the Los Angeles Kings, the team held a ceremony outside the arena where an emotional Modano spoke about what the team and city has meant to him.

Modano also posed with his new statue, which featured some pops of Stars green on the jersey and socks.

A Michigan native, Modano went on to total 561 goals, 813 assists and 1,359 points in 1,499 career games with the Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings. In 1999, Modano helped lead the Stars to their first Stanley Cup despite breaking his wrist in Game 2 of the Final against the Buffalo Sabres.

Once the ceremony was over, the Stars took the ice, and they must have been motivated with a franchise legend in the building. Dallas rolled to a 4-1 win over Los Angeles, and it held a 4-0 lead just 22:30 into the contest.

Appointment viewing this week

Lightning at Golden Knights | Tuesday, March 19: Not only are these the last two Stanley Cup winners, but they are also fighting for playoff spots in their respective conferences. This should be an intense tilt between two proud and desperate teams.

Wild at Kings | Wednesday, March 20: If the Wild are going to make the playoffs, they need to do more winning while other teams fall back toward them. Minnesota could kill two birds with one stone Wednesday. Things could get very interesting if the Wild beat the Kings here.

Islanders at Red Wings | Thursday, March 21: We’ve already talked about the race for the second wild card spot in the East. On Thursday, we’ll find out who wants it least when the Islanders and Red Wings face off. Expect playoff energy in March from these two clubs.

Oilers at Maple Leafs | Saturday, March 22: Auston Matthews. Connor McDavid. Those two being on the ice together is enough of a selling point on its own. Then you remember that the last game between the Oilers and Leafs was a barn burner and it really becomes appointment viewing.

Panthers at Rangers | Saturday, March 23: If you want a possible Eastern Conference Finals preview this weekend, this is the game for you. The Rangers and Panthers are easily the two best East teams since Jan. 1, and they will meet for a marquee matchup on Saturday night.

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