Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said his team's historic come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win Monday against the Winnipeg Jets reminds him of Game 4 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
"We were down [3-0] in Game 4 to the Rangers in New York," said Boudreau, who was Capitals coach from 2007-2011. "We scored three in the third, [Jason] Chimera scored in [double] overtime, and we won."
Who do you think will end up winning the Pacific Division? -- @davismada
If you had asked me this question during the second period of the Anaheim Ducks' game Monday against the Winnipeg Jets, I'd have told you the San Jose Sharks will win the Pacific Division. Then the Ducks went and scored five unanswered goals to win the game and take a three-point lead over the Sharks heading into play Tuesday. In addition, Anaheim has two games in hand on the Sharks, and two of its seven games left are against the Edmonton Oilers. The Ducks will finish first in the Pacific Division.
No. And here are three reasons why I am saying no:
1) It was a clean hit. It was deemed that way on the ice, and subsequently by the NHL's Department of Player Safety. Players should not have to answer for hits they deliver cleanly, no matter who they're hitting, how violent the hit is, or the injurious result that comes from it.
Orpik's feet do not come off the ice until after he makes contact, so it's not charging. Toews' head is neither picked nor is it the main point of contact, so it's not an illegal check to the head.
Toews had just moved the puck, so the hit wasn't late by NHL standards. Therefore, it's not interference.
It was a hard hit, but a clean hit.
2) Going after Orpik at that point in the game, with Pittsburgh leading 2-1 and 26-plus minutes remaining, wouldn't have done anything for Chicago's chances of winning the game. If anything, the Blackhawks might have given the Penguins' power play, No. 1 in the NHL by the way, an opportunity. Why do that?
3) Orpik isn't a fighter. He hasn't fought in four years. The Blackhawks aren't a fighting team either. They get revenge or retribution -- whatever word you may think fits here -- by playing fast, holding onto the puck, and scoring goals. The best way for them to defend Toews' honor would have been by coming back in the game by playing their style, the style that made them two-time Stanley Cup champions.
Going after Orpik might have made them feel good for a few seconds, but it wouldn't have really mattered in the long run. It's not like the Blackhawks have identity or chemistry problems. They know who they are; going after Orpik wouldn't have proven anything.
Are the [Detroit] Red Wings going to make the playoffs? If so, how far do they go? What type of salary is Gustav Nyquist going to demand when he becomes a RFA? -- @mhaase14
I'm going to say yes, the Red Wings will make the playoffs for a 23rd straight season. And that's quite amazing considering all the injuries they've dealt with and how this was already going to be a transition season with so many players from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League expected to contribute in Detroit.
Detroit's remaining schedule is difficult, with two sets of back-to-backs, but the front end of each of those sets features a game against the Buffalo Sabres. That should be four points in the bag. At least it better be.
The game against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday will be difficult, as will their road games against the Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues. However, if the Red Wings can get four out of eight points in games against Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, I think they should be in good shape, provided they take care of business against the Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes. That would give them at least 94 points, which is usually good enough to make the playoffs.
As for Nyquist, he won't be a restricted free agent until after next season, so let's see what he does in a full season before thinking about what he'll earn in his next contract. He makes $950,000 per season, according to CapGeek.com, on his entry-level contract. He's obviously a bargain this season.
On Monday, the Ducks trailed 4-0 before Nick Bonino scored with 2:16 remaining in the second period. Anaheim scored three times in the third, including Corey Perry's game-tying goal with 22.7 seconds left, to force overtime. Stephane Robidas' goal 16 seconds into overtime capped the Ducks' largest comeback victory in franchise history.
Boudreau said his wife, Crystal, reminded him of the comeback at Madison Square Garden on April 20, 2011, when he got home Monday night. He said they looked it up to recall the details, and that's when the memories started rushing back.
"It was quite a big deal," Boudreau said.
That comeback win came two days after Boudreau gave a radio interview to a local Washington station claiming the reputation of Madison Square Garden "is far better than the actual building." He said the locker rooms and benches were "horrible," and that Washington's home rink, Verizon Center, was louder.
The Garden has since gone through a $1 billion renovation. On Monday, Boudreau said he never thought his comments would go viral the way they did, but obviously it was a lesson learned.
"It was the game they were yelling, 'Can you hear me? Boudreau [stinks],'" he recalled. "It was cool because the crowd in MSG was the loudest I had ever heard it. It was deafening. They were having so much fun when they were up [3-0]. I thought it was a very neat comeback."
But what does Anaheim's historic win mean going forward?
This is the question Boudreau is asking himself.
The Ducks improved to 4-0-1 in their past five games despite being at their worst for the first 35 minutes Monday. Their five-game point streak comes on the heels of a 9-10-2 stretch, which followed an 18-1-0 run.
Anaheim leads the Pacific Division and plays the last-place Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
"You can take this both ways," Boudreau said of the game Monday. "You can think that it reminds me I've gotta be on them all the time to play the right way, and when they put their mind to it, they're a good team if they play the way they're capable of playing. The first 35 minutes was a combination of: A) Being as bad as we can play; and B) Boy, was Winnipeg skating? They were really good, quite frankly. The last 25 minutes was: A) When we're physical, look at how much better we are; and B) When we don't turn pucks over, look at how much better we are. That was basically the tale of the tape."
Boudreau said the Ducks played the final 25-plus minutes against the Jets the way they played during their 18-1-0 stretch from Dec. 6 through Jan. 15, when they beat the Vancouver Canucks 9-1.
"We were big. We were strong. We were physical," he said. "It was very similar to [when we play] St. Louis. That's why the St. Louis games with us have been great games. Both teams are just pounding each other. We got away from that. Hopefully, this was a wake-up call for us. We've gotta get better for the playoffs. The success rate hasn't been great in the playoffs, and we've gotta be ready for it."
One of Boudreau's concerns is that the Ducks have had to come from behind in two of their past three wins. They also trailed the Calgary Flames 2-1 after the second period March 26, but got goals from Mathieu Perreault and Andrew Cogliano in the third to win it.
Anaheim is 37-1-2 when leading after the second period and 4-14-1 when trailing entering the third period.
"It's a great feeling getting two goals in the third and beating Calgary, and getting the goals against Winnipeg, but we're 37-1-2 when we have the lead going into the third," Boudreau said. "There's our ticket to playing: Scoring early and defending leads. That's when we're good."
Balance in the desert
The Phoenix Coyotes' leading scorer, defenseman Keith Yandle, is 69th in the NHL with 51 points on eight goals and 43 assists. But you'll find six more Coyotes with 40-plus points among the League's top-125 scorers, and Martin Hanzal is at No. 138 with his 40.
Phoenix may not have an elite scorer, but it leads the NHL in 40-point players with eight, including Radim Vrbata (49 points), Mikkel Boedker (48), Mike Ribeiro (45), Antoine Vermette (45), Shane Doan (44), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (41) and Martin Hanzal (40).
"We don't have any 60s, so we better have some 40s," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
The Coyotes' eight 40-plus players have accounted for 363 points. Granted, Phoenix is 18th in the NHL in scoring at 2.64 goals per game, but for a team that prides itself on winning low-scoring, tight games, having the kind of balance that the Coyotes have is an essential ingredient for success.
Phoenix and the Dallas Stars are even at 85 points, but the Stars hold the final wild-card spot by virtue of having played one fewer game entering Wednesday.
"That's just kind of who we are," Tippett said. "We've always been a team that relies on score-by-committee. Our power-play stats are pretty spread out on two groups. We really don't have one A group and one B group; we have two groups that have done pretty well, and that's kind of spread things out. But it's all about our team concept and what we have to do to be successful. We rely on everybody to chip in.
"A couple of those 70s wouldn't hurt, but everybody else can still chip in when you've got 70s too."
The same eight 40-plus players have at least 13 points on the power play, with Yandle leading the way with 30. The Coyotes are the only team in the NHL to have as many as eight players with 13 or more points on the power play this season.
With that balance it's not surprising that the Coyotes' power play is on pace to finish above 20 percent for the first time since the team moved to the desert from Winnipeg in 1996. It is fifth in the NHL at 20.5 percent.
"Bringing in a guy like [assistant coach] Newell Brown, he's helped change that," Yandle said of Brown, a longtime NHL assistant coach who is in his first season with the Coyotes. "We also have a lot of lines that can do everything. That's one thing we take pride in is having everybody be able to contribute."
DeBoer likes what he has in Ruutu
"He's a forecheck player," DeBoer said. "He finishes all his hits. He plays a hard, aggressive game. He fits for [our] type of game."
Ruutu agrees, and that's why he doesn't feel the transition from the Hurricanes to the Devils has been difficult. He was with the Hurricanes since the Chicago Blackhawks traded him to Carolina on Feb. 26, 2008.
New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer on his team trailing in the playoff race despite having a top-10 power play and the NHL's No. 1 penalty kill:
"That should be a formula for success. Why isn't it? We've had some other areas where we haven't been as good. Five-on-5 scoring is one that jumps out at you, and shootouts. The good teams are solid everywhere. That's been the story."
Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on how Nick Bonino's goal late in the second period Monday changed the complexion of the game against the Winnipeg Jets:
"He gave us a chance. At 4-0, you're sitting there thinking, 'Yeah, let's get through this game.' At 4-1, I'm telling them in between periods, 'Listen, score one early and then you never know.' That's what happened. I think the crowd too, when you're at home, they're dead because it's 4-0 for the other team. There is no reason for them to be cheering. But once you score one and two, they start to feel something. Once they're getting it, you're riding off their adrenaline, and hey, something funny and special can happen."
"When I came into this league, my coaches were saying that I have to play a way that I'm tough to play against," Ruutu said. "Every time I played against the Devils, they were really tough to play against, so I feel I fit into the team really well. They got me, so they know what they're going to get from me."
After scoring a goal Tuesday night in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Ruutu has six points in 13 games with New Jersey. He had an assist in the Devils' 6-3 win against the Florida Panthers on Monday, snapping a streak of eight straight games without a point. However, DeBoer hasn't given Ruutu a power-play role yet (52 seconds in 12 games). He averaged nearly two minutes per game on the power play in Carolina. He's also playing less than 30 seconds per game on the penalty kill.
"We haven't worked him into special teams yet, but I think that's the next step, whether it's penalty killing or on the power play," DeBoer said. "We've juggled the lines based on how we've played and the chemistry of the group we had that night, and I think he's handled that well."
Bruins in March: By the numbers
The Boston Bruins lost March 1 to the Capitals, but won 15 of their next 16 games to finish the month with a 15-1-1 record. They set an NHL record for points in a calendar month with 31, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and catapulted into the top spot in the NHL standings with 110 points.
Here are some of the numbers that illustrate how the Bruins had such a successful March:
100 -- Goalie Tuukka Rask reached the 100-win milestone in his career by going 9-1-1. After giving up four goals on 31 shots to the Capitals to open March, Rask went 9-0-1 with two shutouts, a 1.46 goals-against average and .951 save percentage in his next 10 starts.
16 -- Boston extended its road point streak to a team-record 16 games (13-0-3) by going 9-0-0 on the road. The nine straight road wins are also a franchise record.
13 -- Forward Jarome Iginla scored 13 goals in 17 games, the most he's scored in a calendar month since November 2009, when he scored 13 in 14 games for the Flames. Iginla scored twice against Washington on March 29 to reach the 30-goal mark for the 12th time in his career. He was named the NHL's First Star of the Month.
12 -- Boston had a 12-game winning streak from March 2-22. It was the Bruins' longest winning streak since 1970-71 and fell two shy of the team record. They had a plus-29 goal differential (46-17) during the win streak and won 11 of the 12 games in regulation.
7 -- Center Patrice Bergeron extended his career-high (and still current) goal-scoring streak to seven games in a 4-3 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Bergeron is the first Bruins player to score in seven consecutive games since Cam Neely did it in eight straight during the 1990-91 season.
3 -- The Bruins went 13-0-0 when scoring three or more goals in a game. They are 44-4-1 when scoring three or more goals in a game this season.
Gelinas has been a forward before
Devils rookie defenseman Eric Gelinas felt out of place, but not totally lost, when DeBoer put him on a forward line in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 23. Gelinas, 22, was a forward until he was 14 years old.
"So it's not that unfamiliar," he said. "It's back there in my mind somewhere."
Gelinas said he switched positions as a teenager and became a defenseman out of necessity.
"Some of the other kids were hurt and got surgery, so they missed the entire season. So they asked if someone wanted to fill up as a defenseman," Gelinas said. "I said, 'I'll play defense for the rest of the season.' That was the first time I played it. The year after that, the coach switched me to defense knowing that I played it before. That's how I ended up as a defenseman."
Gelinas hasn't been asked to play forward since that game against Toronto because the Devils have needed him on defense with captain Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov out of the lineup with injuries. He wants to develop into an elite defenseman, but admitted the diversion to playing up front was fun and interesting.
"You see the play differently," he said. "The play is in front of you. It develops in front of you. I think I'm a pretty good passer, so it's pretty nice to see the play in front of you. You can read differently. I actually enjoyed it.
"You get to be the first guy on their defensemen, so it's a little different. I took it in a positive way."
SOG: 183 | +/-: -6
* With 21 goals, Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber is on pace to become the first defenseman in NHL history to finish the season as his team's outright leader in goals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In 2008-09, defenseman Sheldon Souray, then with the Oilers, tied with Ales Hemsky for the team lead in goals with 23. Weber has one more goal than forward Craig Smith. Nashville has six games remaining.
* Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson is the first defensemen since Brian Leetch in 2000-01 to have at least 20 goals and 50 assists in the same season. Leetch had 21 goals and 58 assists in 82 games with the Rangers in '00-01. Karlsson has 20 and 50 with seven games to play.
* Minnesota Wild forward Dany Heatley played 861 NHL games before a coach made him a healthy scratch. Wild coach Mike Yeo has done it in each of the past two games, and Minnesota won both. Heatley, who is in the final year of a contract that carries a $7.5 million salary-cap charge, has 12 goals and 27 points in 74 games this season.
* Minnesota's 3-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday was Yeo's 100th career NHL coaching victory, all with the Wild.
* The Kings had 11 wins in March, tying a franchise record for most wins in a calendar month (January 2002).