Amateur Hour: How Harvard could (but probably won’t) win the Beanpot

One of these years it’s going to happen. Either Harvard or Northeastern is going to win the Beanpot.

The last 24 Beanpots have gone to either Boston University or Boston College, the silver chalice not leaving Commonwealth Avenue since 1993, the last time Harvard took home the trophy. Northeastern hasn’t won since 1988.

We were guaranteed at least a 50 percent chance of the title returning to Harvard Square or Huntington Avenue, as Harvard and Northeastern faced off in the Beanpot semifinal on Monday night. The Crimson won, 4-3, and will represent the two historic have-nots of the tournament, which combine for just 14 of the 64 titles and carry a collective 53-year Beanpot drought. Harvard will play for the title for the first time since 2008 against BU, which has an event-high 30 titles but has won just once since 2009. The Terriers punched their ticket with a 3-1 win over BC in Monday’s nightcap.

While neither Harvard or Northeastern have won in generations, the two schools have been knocking on the door for years. One of the two schools have appeared in the final in six of the last nine years, with three of those title games going to overtime. Both schools have been fairly competitive over that span, in and out of the national rankings, winning conference championships, and making appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

This Harvard squad has the goods to bring the Beanpot across the Charles River to Cambridge for the 11th time in the tournament’s history. The Crimson run four solid forward lines, with two exceptional top trios of Ryan Donato-Alex Kerfoot-Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Luke Esposito-Sean Malone-Tyler Moy. On the back end, Adam Fox has been one of the top rookies in the nation, his 26 points fourth among defensemen in the country.

The Crimson play a strong north-south game, with a good deal of speed and skill up and down the lineup. They’re strong on possession, with a 54 percent even strength Corsi-for, according to collegehockeynews.com, with the fourth-best powerplay nationally, at 26.5 percent.

Of course, it’s no secret what Harvard is up against. BU is the most talented team in the country. The Terriers are also the youngest, at 20.5. That’s a full year younger than the Crimson, whose roster averages out at 21.5.

The BU roster is highlighted by four players selected in the first round of the NHL Draft in Kieffer Bellows, Dante Fabbro, Clayton Keller, and Charlie McAvoy. Netminder Jake Oettinger could be a fifth this June, a favorite to be among the first 31 names called in the upcoming draft in Chicago. Eleven players of whom are property of NHL teams dot the roster.

This Terriers team isn’t unlike any other of years past. The team plays an up-tempo style. Defensemen like to hop into the rush. Up front, there’s plenty of playmakers, led by Keller, an Arizona prospect that might be the team’s best player. Oettinger has been among the standard bearers of goaltending – a position BU has always taken seriously – with a .937 save percentage, 1.75 GAA, and four shutouts in his rookie campaign.

BU has an upper-hand in the season series with Harvard this season, with a 5-3 win on November 22nd. The Crimson haven’t beaten BU since November 2014, the Terriers winning the last three of the meetings, including a double-overtime win in the Beanpot semifinal two years ago.

Three of the last four meetings have been decided by one goal, two have gone to overtime. Given the Beanpot’s history of one-goal games and extra sessions, there’s a good chance we’ll see another one of these affairs between the two teams.

And we might even witness something that hasn’t been done in nearly a quarter-century.

Other tidbits..

*Lacrosse numbers are being put up in Erie. Alex DeBrincat has 23 points in a nine-game points streak, in which he’s scored eight goals and 18 points over his last five. He has points in 39 of 45 games. Dylan Strome has points in 16 of 17 games. He has 17 points in his last five games, and 41 overall in 17 contests.

*Charlottetown Islander Filip Chlapik scored his 200th QMJHL point with a five-point weekend, including a hat trick in a 13-2 smackdown of Moncton.

*10 goals in 13 games out of the holiday break for Flint Firebird Nicholas Caamano, with four two-goal games in that span.

*Third overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft Pierre-Luc Dubois had four points on Saturday and has 21 points in 12 games since being traded to Blainville-Boisbriand.

*Atte Tolvanen stopped all 75 shots he faced in Northern Michigan’s weekend sweep of Bowling Green, upping his shutout streak to three games. He’s gone 215:49 without allowing a goal.

*Trent Frederic has 23 points in 18 games for surging Wisconsin, which is up to 17th in this week’s USCHO.com poll. He’s second on the Badgers in scoring behind Luke Kunin (26 points).

*As for the Badgers, they’ve won five in a row and are tied with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten, with 8-2 record in conference play. Wisconsin hasn’t lost in regulation since December 11th.

*In the Nolan-Nico sweepstakes: Nolan Patrick had four assists on Friday night and has points in six of eight games since returning to the ice. He has 23 points in 14 games overall for Brandon. Hischier had five points in a 7-2 Halifax win over Moncton on Sunday. He has point in eight consecutive games and has 14 goals and 28 points in 12 games since returning from World Juniors.

*Minnesota-Duluth retained the top spot in the USCHO.com men’s poll while Denver and BU were second and third, respectively, for the second straight week. Minnesota moved up two spots to No. 5 while Penn State dropped from six to 10. Air Force broke into the poll at No. 20.

*On the women’s side, Wisconsin is the top-ranked team once again, while Minnesota-Duluth follows at No. 2.

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Thoughts are my own: Henrik Lundqvist finally wins at The Joe

Thoughts are the countdown to the Super Bowl begins:

*First off, on a non-hockey note, how about the Atlanta-New England Super Bowl? Matt Ryan vs. Tom Brady in what should be a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. Here’s hoping the Patriots get the win and Roger Goodell has to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft and Co. in the aftermath of the Deflategate saga.

*OK, now to hockey.

*Talk about a game Henrik Lundqvist needed. The Rangers netminder gets the shutout win in Detroit, stopping all 21 shots he faced in the Blueshirts 1-0 overtime win. Lundqvist is coming off what is probably the worst stretch of his career. In 18 games prior to Sunday going back to November 23rd, the 34-year-old had allowed 55 goals while posting a .890 save percentage. Lundqvist had allowed four-plus goals in nine of those 18 games, including a stretch of four in a row.

*Something I find shocking: Lundqvist had never won at The Joe prior to Sunday.

*The prayers of the Hockey Needs More Offense crowd are being answered. A 7-6 final in Ottawa as the Blue Jackets take down the Senators in overtime.

*My personal thoughts on the issue of offense in the game: I have zero qualms with a 2-1 game. I also don’t believe low-scoring necessarily means lack of offense. There’s nothing more thrilling than a great game of goalie. With that said, goal scoring certainly doesn’t hurt, and I don’t particularly hate the high-scoring games.

*On another note: Cam Atkinson is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the league. He’s up to 23 tallies after a two-goal effort on Sunday, including the winner for Columbus in overtime.

*Love these ‘One More Shift’ ceremonies the Blackhawks have been holding. Sunday night it was Jeremy Roenick’s turn, not only one of the greatest to wear the Chicago sweater but one of the greatest American-born players in the history of the game. As great a player as he was, he was – and still is – one of hockey’s premier personalities and a great ambassador for the sport.

*Pair of Blackhawks milestones on Sunday night, a 4-2 win over Vancouver. Brian Campbell notched his 500th career point while Corey Crawford picked up his 200th career win. Crawford joins Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall, and Ed Belfour on the list of goalies to record 200 wins in Chicago. No small company.

*Crawford might be one of the most overlooked players of his generation. Going back to the start of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he’s won 135 games to go along with a 2.28 GAA, .922 save percentage, and 16 shutouts. Oh, and he’s won two Stanley Cups. Give this man more love.

*Speaking of overlooking and underlooking and ranking and overrating and underrating (OK, you get the point), Larry Brooks breaks down the NHL’s Greatest 100 list.

*Another ‘L’ for the Boston Bruins on Sunday, falling to a far-superior Pittsburgh team that may never lose again on home ice. The Bruins have won just eight of 24 going back to December 7th.

*The madness surrounding Claude Julien’s job security is all noise, in my opinion. Had the Bruins decided part ways with Julien, they’d have done it already.

*Bottom line is Julien is in the elite class of NHL coaches, and the Bruins front office believes that. This is a bridge year for Boston. Reinforcements will come in the next few years as blue-chip prospects Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zach Senyshyn, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and Jake DeBrusk begin breaking into the league.

*Not so much a watch out for, rather more of a be vigilant of – the Islanders. New York is on a four-game point streak, John Tavares has come alive in the past few weeks, and hey, the Isles even scored a powerplay goal in a nice 4-2 win over the Kings on Saturday. While five teams stand between them and current eighth-seed Philadelphia, who beat the Isles, 3-2 in overtime on Sunday, the five-point difference between the Islanders and Flyers is no chasm.

*Philadelphia has a special talent on its hands in Ivan Provorov.

*Really good read by Michael Russo of the Star Tribune on former interim coach John Torchetti and how he’s handled the fallout of being passed over in favor of Bruce Boudreau last summer.

*The Lightning have more regulation losses than wins, in last place in the Eastern Conference at 21-22-5.

*The Oilers are not only winning the Battle of Alberta, they’re running away with it. Having Connor McDavid gives you a slight leg-up.

*Meanwhile in Ontario, another battle is brewing.

*Penn State’s first weekend as the No. 1 team in the nation was one to forget, coming out of a weekend series at home against Ohio State winless. While the Nittany Lions salvaged the tie on Friday night, the Buckeyes came out Saturday and won, 6-3.

*As for the new No. 1, expect Minnesota-Duluth to reclaim the top spot after a weekend sweep at North Dakota. BU, winners of eight straight and 10-1-1 in its last 12, loaded with NHL talent that appears to coming together, could take the top spot as well.

*Owen Sound upped its winning streak to 14 games on Saturday with a 6-2 win over Barrie. The Attack have Barrie again Thursday night before the big showdown with OHL Midwest leader and defending Memorial Cup champion London on Saturday.

Three Stars From the Weekend: Spencer Watson Gives Mississauga Boost

Expectations were high for Mississauga coming into the OHL campaign.

The Steelheads were coming off a 71-point season; a 18-point improvement from the year before and the franchise’s best since 2011-12, when Mississauga finished with 73. With a strong returning core led by Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian (both of whom were selected by New Jersey in this past June’s draft) along with McLeod’s younger brother, Ryan (who will likely follow in his brother’s footsteps and be a first-round pick in 2018), Nicolas Hague, and Owen Tippett, the Steelheads were expected to rise to the top of a relatively weak OHL Central Division.

That has not happened.

Mississauga has underachieved for much of the 2016-17 OHL campaign. The Steelheads had a 7-14-3-3 record as of last week, their 20 points tied with Barrie for last place in the Central. Mississauga sat 10 points out of first place, a perch held down by North Bay.

The Steelheads were able to make up some ground, however, this past weekend, sweeping the slate of games that included Kitchener, London, and Niagara to move into third place as the rest of the division slumped its way to a 2-7-1 weekend. Mississauga made up four points on North Bay, whom it now sits six behind. The Steelheads are two-points behind second-place Sudbury.

It should come as no coincidence that the trio of wins came along with Spencer Watson’s addition to the lineup.

Watson, who was voted the best overage player in the pre-season OHL coaches poll, was acquired from Kingston in early November for the sole purpose he served the weekend, where he made his Mississauga debut after recovering from offseason wrist surgery, to provide a boost to the struggling young club.

He did so to the tune of seven points in three games, registering hat tricks in the latter two. The first three-goal performance came in a 7-3 win over defending Memorial Cup champion London; the second a crucial divisional match with Niagara as the Steelheads spotted the IceDogs a 2-0 lead before Watson scored twice to force overtime, punctuating his weekend performance with a third 31 seconds into overtime.

Watson, a seventh round pick by the Kings in 2014, is in his fifth OHL season. He spent the previous four in Kingston, putting up 43-46=89 totals last season in 64 games for the Fronteacs.

We’ll see if Mississauga can turn it around with Watson in the lineup. If anything, his addition certainly has them moving in the right direction.

Other CHL stars

Michael DiPietro, Windsor: The 2017 draft prospect registered back-to-back-to-back shutouts for the Spitfires over the weekend, stopping all 64 shots that came his way. After allowing 23 goals over a seven-game stretch from November 6-27, he’s allowed just three in five games since.

Jayden Halbgewächs, Moose Jaw: The 19-year-old center had five goals and 10 points over the weekend to extend his point streak to nine games. Over that stretch, he had 14 goals and 24 points to catapult himself to the top of the WHL points leaders list. Only Regina Pats Sam Steel and Adam Brooks, with 48 points apiece, have more points than Halbgewachs’s 47.

AHL

Jake Guentzel, Wilkes-Barre Scranton: The forward – at this point a 4-A player who soon should be in Pittsburgh’s lineup put up six points in three games this weekend for the Penguins.

Oskar Sundqvist: Like Guentzel, a guy who will rove between being a Pittsburgh bottom-sixer and Wilkes-Barre top liner for the time being, Sundqvist had four goals in a Pens victory on Saturday. The Swede has 11 goals and 21 points in 22 games in the AHL.

Zach Sanford: The rookie had three goals and six points in three games for Hershey this weekend. He’s got seven points in six games.

NCAA

Max Veronneau, Princeton: Veronneau had six points in the weekend sweep of Quinnipiac. The sophomore had 18 points to lead the Tigers, who are rolling with five wins in six games, a stretch that also includes a sweep of then-No. 10 Bemidji State. He has 14 points over that span.

Spencer Foo, Union: A four-goal weekend for Foo, three of which came in a 5-3 win over Yale on Saturday. Foo now has 30 points in 17 games, joining teammate and NCAA leading scorer Mike Vecchione (35) and UNH’s Tyler Kelleher (31) in the 30-point club.

Chase Pearson, Maine: Five goals and six points in a two-game sweep of American International in Orono.

NCAA Women

Emily Clark, Wisconsin: A seven-point weekend for Clark in a two-game sweep of Ohio State, including five on Friday.

Ann-Renee Desbiens, Wisconsin: Didn’t necessarily have to stand on her head facing just 25 shots overall on the weekend, but she stopped every single puck that came her way. She leads the nation with eight shutouts and a 0.75 GAA. Her .957 save percentage is highest among goalies that have played double-digit games.

Megan Hinze, Minnesota State: A pair of third period goals for Hinze led Minnesota State past third-ranked Minnesota-Duluth.

Three Stars of the Weekend: Carter Hart Continues Strong Season in WHL

Carter Hart was the first goaltender taken in the 2016 NHL Draft, selected by Philadelphia with 48th overall pick.

If he’s a success, Hart will be the answer to the generations-long problem that is the Flyers goaltending; a large reason the Stanley Cup hasn’t paraded down Broad Street since 1975. If he’s the latest to come up short in the Philly crease, he’ll be further proof of why goalies aren’t worth the risk atop the draft (Ilya Samsonov, taken 22nd overall in 2015 by Washington, is the only goalie to go in the first round in the last four drafts).

Of course, the jury remains out on the type of netminder Hart will be, and will remain that way for a long time. But if his first year of hockey as property of an NHL organization is any indication, the Flyers have something to look forward to in net.

In 20 games for Everett, the 18-year-old is 13-3-3, with a 1.67 GAA and .937 save percentage, both WHL highs. He has a shutout streak of two-plus games, having not allowed a goal since a 2-1 loss to Lethbridge on November 19, when Tyler Wong beat Hart with 8:25 left in regulation.

He followed up the loss with a pair of shutouts; 37 saves in a 3-0 win over Seattle on Wednesday before stopping 26 of 26 in a 3-0 win over Prince George on Friday.

In 115 games since making his WHL debut in February 2014, the 6-2, 180-pound Hart has 66 wins, a 2.12 GAA and .920 save percentage. His clean sheet on Friday was his third of the season and 13th in major junior.

Other CHL Stars

Alexandre Goulet, Victoriaville: The 20-year-old had a pair of four-point games this weekend to extend his point streak to five games. His 38 points lead the Tigres, and is fourth in the Quebec League.

Keanu Yamamoto, Spokane: Yamamoto had six assists in the Chiefs 10-1 thrashing of Vancouver on Friday. He has 14 points in his last nine games and is third on Spokane with 26 overall. Keanu’s brother, Kailer, leads the team with 31.

AHL

Teemu Pulkkinen, Iowa: The right winger had three goals and five points over the weekend for the Wild. He has points in 10 of his last 11 games.

Kyle Wood, Tucson: The rookie had two goals and six points over the weekend. His 16 points leads all AHL rookie defensemen. Only Jake Guentzel (7-10=17) has more points among all rookies in the American League.

Dan DeSalvo, Manitoba: DeSalvo had four points on the weekend, including his third multi-point night of the season on Saturday, with three points in a 4-3 overtime win against Milwaukee. He has five goals and 10 points in the eight games.

NCAA

Stefanos Lekkas, Vermont: The freshman goaltender stopped 73 of 76 shots over the weekend at the Friendship Four in Belfast, Ireland, including 40 of 41 in a 5-1 Catamounts win over Quinnipiac in the championship game. He’s ranked fourth in the nation in both save percentage (.940) and GAA (1.72). He’s allowed nine goals in his five games, stopping 165 of 174 shots that have come his way.

Dylan Sikura, Northeastern: The junior forward had three goals and an assist on Friday night as the Huskies beat 11th-ranked Minnesota, 6-4. He’s tied with teammate Zach Aston-Reese for fourth in the nation with 22 points. Northeastern has three players in the top 10 for points.

Alex Kerfoot, Harvard: The senior had four assists in the Crimson’s lone game this weekend, a 5-2 win over Bentley.

USHL

Gabriel Mollot-Hill, Bloomington: The Providence recruit stopped all 32 shots that came his way in Bloomington’s 2-0 win over Green Bay on Saturday. He has a .932 save percentage and 1.91 GAA for the Thunder this season.

Jacob Hamacher, Dubuque: The RIT recruit had three goals and five points on the weekend as the Fighting Saints picked up a pair of wins.

Reggie Lutz, Chicago: Lutz, committed to Minnesota State, had two goals and four points over the weekend. He’s 13th in the USHL with 18 points.

Women’s NCAA

Cassidy MacPherson, Providence: Had four assists for the Friars on Sunday, assisting on all three goals Blair Parent scored, as PC took the Mayor’s Cup against crosstown rival Brown.

Heather Schwarz, Syracuse: The junior had two goals and an assist on Friday as the Orange shutout seventh-ranked North Dakota.

Kelly Pannek, Minnesota: Pannek had two goals and four points on the weekend for the second-ranked Gophers. She leads the nation in points (32) and assists (24).

Thoughts Are My Own: Prayers For Craig Cunningham

Some thoughts as the short week begins:

*The hockey world was shaken to a halt on Saturday night with the news of Craig Cunningham collapsing during pregame warmups prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game against the Manitoba Moose. The game was postponed and reports on Cunningham’s condition have been mum beyond that he ‘suffered a medical emergency.’ Thoughts and prayers for Cunningham and his family. No worse time for something like this to happen (cliche, I know).

*The outpouring of tweets and well-wishes from players and people around the game speak to the type of guy Cunningham is, and the reputation he’s built for himself.

*Meanwhile..back to hockey. The Arizona Coyotes decided to send Dylan Strome back to juniors, where he’ll play for Erie. Strome, the third overall pick in 2015, had just an assist in seven games with the Coyotes while averaging 13:41 per night. He’ll play on an Otters team that features the OHL’s top two scorers in Taylor Raddysh (20-28–48) and Alex DeBrincat (20-21–41), in a league Strome has put up 250 points in 124 games over the last two seasons. It won’t hurt him. The consensus in many circles is that Strome has highest ceiling among the crop of young talent Arizona has.

*Big blow for the Rangers losing Mika Zibanejad f0r 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula. Zibanejad, traded to New York from Ottawa in the offseason, had five goals and 15 points in 19 games. His fifth goal came in Sunday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to Florida, in which Zibanejad was injured crashing into the end boards and hitting his leg at a weird angle, something seen far too often in hockey.

*Zibanejad was a valuable piece for the Rangers in the early goings. He was third among forwards behind Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello in ice-time among forwards at 16:40 per game. He centered the go-to powerplay unit with Chris Kreider and Zuccarello. At the faceoff dot, Zibanejad has been the Blueshirts best on the draw. Of the three players (Zibanejad, Stepan, Kevin Hayes) that have taken nearly 80 percent of the Rangers 1,075 faceoffs, according to puckbase.com, Zibanejad is the only one winning more draws than he loses, at a success rate of 52.4 percent. He’s taken a team-high 37 percent of offensive zone draws, winning 59.8 percent. The 23-year-old has taken 27 percent of defensive zone draws (third on Rangers), winning 51.9 percent.

*RANGERS DOWNFALL WATCH: The Rangers have four goals in their last two games while peppering 59 shots on net. That equates to a shooting percentage of 6.7 percent.

*Four straight wins for the Hurricanes. Has the trendy surprise team among preseason forecasters arrived?

*Great read in the Boston Globe on the post-hockey life of Marc Savard. He was rated ‘suicidal’ by a psychologist at Mass General, but says he never harbored suicidal thoughts. He’s back in the game, coaching the AAA Minor Bantam team his son plays for. It’s good to see he has his life back on track.

*Regina finally lost a game, falling to Victoria on Saturday in game No. 19 for the Pats. They rebounded Sunday with an 8-3 win over Vancouver. The Pats, first in the CHL rankings, set the standard in major junior for offense, with 115 goals. Defending WHL scoring champ Adam Brooks, a Toronto prospect, has eight goals and 32 points in 14 games, his 2.29-per-game output up from 1.67 last season, when he had 120 in 72. Sam Steel, who was selected 30th overall by Anaheim in this past draft, leads the Pats with a WHL-high 41 points in 18 games.

*How about Miami? The young RedHawks went into Denver for a weekend doubleheader with the top-ranked Pioneers, and came away with two ties. Freshman goaltender Ryan Larkin was plenty busy, stopping 84 of 87 pucks that came his way on the weekend. He made 49 saves on Saturday night.

*That likely means Minnesota-Duluth will take back to the top spot in the poll, going into Omaha and coming out with four points.

Game to Watch Monday Night

New York at Pittsburgh: Rare Monday night of NHL action, and lots of pretty good games at that. But this is likely the best one. Put aside the rivalry, the divisional matchup, and the fact these teams played each other in the playoffs last season. It’ll be interesting to see what the Rangers look like minus Zibanejad, if they continue to show signs of falling back to earth offensively, as the Rangers have suggested in the past few games. The Penguins are 7-1-1 at home this season.

Hat Trick Pick

Artemi Panarin: Just two goals in his last eight games. He’ll be playing Connor McDavid, whom many claim would have won the Calder Trophy over Panarin last season had he not broken his collarbone early in the season (full disclosure: not an unreasonable claim).

Thoughts Are My Own: Lots of Highlight-Reel Stuff

Thoughts as we sit exactly one week away from Black Friday:

*He didn’t get much help, but James Reimer turned in what will likely be one of the more putrid goaltending performances of the year. Sometimes it’s just about making that save. He made none of them.

*On the other hand, great night for Steve Mason in the Flyers 5-2 win over Winnipeg. Thirty-save effort, his stoning of Nikolaj Ehlers midway through the second period was game-changing.

*A nice goal by Sean Couturier got things going for the Flyers, as Couturier walked right in after puck-carrying Mark Scheifele lost his feet, leading to the turnover. It looked like Jakub Voracek got away with a trip on the play.

*The Flyers have won six straight against the Jets. Winnipeg hasn’t won in Philly since January 2012, a 2-1 shootout win.

*A play you missed gazing over Mitch Marner’s highlight-reel goal: Matt Read’s diving pass to set up a Michael Raffl goal. Read, in a puck battle with Winnipeg defenseman Josh Morrissey, makes a great read (no pun intended) on the play, seeing Raffl streaking down the middle of the ice, left alone after Morrissey gave chase to the puck after Dustin Byfuglien made a bad pinch that led to the two-on-one. Read’s dive shuffled the pass over to Raffl, who went in and beat Connor Hellebuyck for the easy score.

*Nice gesture by the Senators to acknowledge Mike Fisher’s 1,000th career game (which he did this past March, to clarify). The Predators captain played 675 of those games in Ottawa, from 1999 to 2011. Fisher was a key piece in those great Senators teams of the 2000s, and was integral in Ottawa’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2007.

*Nashville is 5-1-2 in its last eight. Pierre LeBrun wrote earlier this week the Preds appear to be hitting their stride. It would seem that way.

*Devan Dubnyk might be the best player in the NHL nobody talks about. Dubnyk’s league-leading fourth shutout of the season in Minnesota’s 1-0 win over Boston was his 14th since joining the Wild. He has a .952 save percentage and 1.47 GAA this season.

*Another play you missed gazing over Mitch Marner’s highlight-reel goal: Ben Bishop makes a diving save on a Kyle Okposo shot that looked like a no-doubter goal. That said, it was Bishop who threw the puck out into the big ice from behind the net, which met the tape of Okposo. It’s like he wanted the Sabre to score.

*Predators top goaltending prospect Juuse Saros made 35 saves in Milwaukee’s 1-0 win over Cleveland on Thursday night. Saros had a 1.74 GAA in eight games for the Admirals, which trails only Michael Leighton (1.62) in the AHL. His .940 save percentage is bested only Wilkes-Barre/Scranton netminder Casey DeSmith, who has a .963 save percentage but has played only four games.

*A big win for No. 6 UMass-Lowell, who went out to visit ninth-ranked Notre Dame and came out with a 4-1 win. The River Hawks are on the back end of a two-weekend stretch that includes trips to Orono and Indiana.

Mitch Marner’s Goal

As nice a goal as you’ll see. He does a good job getting a step on Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson as he gets the pass from James van Reimsdyk breaking out of the zone. From there, he’s able to create space for himself while outmuscling the big, strong Matheson as broke for the net, dancing around James Reimer and burying the puck.

Game to watch Friday night

N.Y. Rangers at Columbus: A pair of teams that account for two of the three-highest goal differentials so far this season; the Rangers leading at plus-34 while the Blue Jackets are third at plus-14. The Blueshirts do it by scoring (league-high 72 goals) while the Jackets play good defense (Eastern Conference-low 33 goals allowed).

Hat Trick Pick

Sidney Crosby: Sid has 96 points in 55 games against the Islanders, the Penguins opponent on Friday night. Crosby’s 30 goals against the Isles are second only to the Flyers (35). He has 10 goals through 10 games, the closest he’s ever come to a goal-per-game in his NHL career was in 2010-11, when he had 32 goals in 41 games.

Arizona Hockey Boom Coming to Light with Plans for Coyotes East Valley Move

If the never-ending relocation rumors surrounding the Arizona Coyotes – which have gone on so long that when it started, the franchise was known as the ‘Phoenix’ Coyotes – have caused you to lose your faith in the future of the game of hockey in Arizona, nobody blames you.

But you might need to reconsider given recent information.

All signs point to a hockey boom in the desert, if it hasn’t started already. The Coyotes, while they haven’t made the playoffs since 2012, have as bright a future as any team across the NHL with a loaded stable of young talent. Arizona State went online as a varsity program last year. The AHL sent a team to the desert last spring, when the Coyotes AHL affiliate moved to Tucson from Springfield, Mass. You may have heard by now of Auston Matthews, the pride of Scottsdale selected first overall in this past NHL Draft, and wasted no time making waves with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So you get the point. The sport has slowly grown in the state since the NHL went there in 1996 and is now proving to be an antithesis of the ‘NHL won’t work in warm weather cities’ argument.

The latest development in the process of growing the sport in Arizona came on Monday when plans were unveiled on a joint venture between the Coyotes and ASU to build a hockey complex in Tempe that would house the NHL franchise and NCAA program. The complex would feature a 16,000-seat arena abutted by a 4,000-seat rink.

The Coyotes, marred for years by poor attendance playing in hard-to-get-to Glendale, have been reported to be looking to move to the East Valley, where much of its fanbase resides. There had been many reports in recent months of the franchise exploring options in and around Scottsdale.

Should the latest reported plan come to fruition – and there’s plenty of hurdles to clear for that to happen, the biggest of which being city and state support, as outlined by the Arizona Republic, the complex would be the de facto hockey capital of Arizona.

By the time it opens – early estimates are fall of 2019 – the Coyotes should be closer to contention if not there already. Led by an exciting, young core that includes Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dylan Strome, Anthony Duclair, Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, Clayton Keller, and Jakob Chychrun, the ‘Yotes should be one of funner teams to watch in the NHL. Arizona State will be farther into its quest to become a top-line Division 1 program.

To put the two programs – the Coyotes and Sun Devils – into one complex amidst of the pulse of Arizona can only help the growth of the game in the state, which has only been enhanced with the Coyotes run to the Western Conference finals in 2012, the addition of a NCAA Division 1 program, and the emergence of one its finest sons in Matthews.

And let us not forget the AHL franchise in Tucson, as well as the possibility of the University of Arizona following in the footsteps of ASU and going online as a varsity hockey team, as has been tossed around from time to time while nothing concrete has ever come of it.

What does appear to be concrete is the Coyotes move to the East Valley, which seems all but imminent at this point, a matter of when as opposed to if.

Meanwhile, you can go ahead and put the odds of a hockey boom in Arizona right up there with the probability of Matthews making his home state proud by reaching stardom in the NHL.