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.

Thoughts are my own: Penguins-Capitals game one of the best in recent years

Some thoughts as you recover from the long weekend:

*Penguins-Capitals on Monday night was the game of the year, one of the best regular season games over the past few years. Can’t put into words how badly I want these teams to face each other in the spring.

*Great weekend for the BC-BU rivalry, one that usually doesn’t fail to live up to expectations. BU won both games, its first weekend sweep of BC in 15 years.

*Sixty-six saves on 67 shots for BU netminder and potential first round pick in the upcoming draft, Jake Oettinger. Monday was his fourth shutout, tying him with three other goalies for the national lead. Oettinger has a .937 save percentage to go along with a 1.78 GAA.

*Timo Meier adding to the list of names to make an impact in the Year of the Rookie. Goal and an assist in the Sharks 5-2 win on Monday, he’s been impressive since making his NHL debut last month.

*Put Anthony Mantha right there alongside Dylan Larkin among Red Wings future stars. Unfortunately, there seems to be a big drop-off after those two.

*Penn State hockey ranked first overall in the USCHO.com poll released Monday, the first time the Nittany Lions have been ranked the top team in the nation.

*Let me be the first to tell you that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be in the playoffs. This is a team that has quickly developed into a really good, well-balanced team that plays a real exciting brand of hockey. The concern, of course, is younger guys hitting the wall, but I think they have enough to get in. And obviously the million-dollar question is can they finish ahead Boston and/or Tampa Bay (assuming the Lightning make the expected late-season surge). I would say yes (by a 51-49 margin, mind you). With that said, the Wildcard is in play with Philadelphia crashing back down to Earth after its 10-game winning streak. Toronto (third in the Atlantic, so not in Wildcard discussion at the moment) is just two points behind the Flyers and a point behind first-team-out Carolina. Ottawa and Florida have 48 points, the same number the Leafs have accrued to date.

*I really like the Curtis McElhinney pickup for Toronto. The Leafs are a serious playoff contender now and while Frederik Andersen has recovered from a rough start to emerge among the five or six best goalies in the league, quality backup goaltending is so crucial, and so few teams seem to have it.

*Great job by the Oilers and Flames, honoring Hayley Wickenheiser prior to the latest installment of the Battle of Alberta on Saturday night. The 38-year-old, who is from Saskatchewan but lives in Calgary and is a lifelong Oilers fan, announced her retirement on Friday. She is Canada’s all-time leading female scorer, and helped her native country to four Olympic gold medals. Quite the career.

*Something that will, and should gain steam: the case for Jeff Carter in the Hart Trophy race.

*Andreas Athanasiou with the goal goal the weekend.

*Interesting piece over the weekend by Josh Cooper looking into the potential implications of an NFL franchise settling in Las Vegas, where the NHL will be setting up shop next season.

Tidbits

*Filip Forsberg has nine goals in his last 16 games.

*Shawn Thornton’s first goal of the season on Saturday night was his 100th career point.

*Highest-scoring player between BC and BU is Matthew Gaudreau (23 points), which is tied for 33rd in the NCAA.

*With a 4-0 victory on Monday against the Bruins, the Islanders notched its first shutout in Boston in franchise history.

Penn State ranked first in nation for first time ever

Happy Valley is quickly turning into a hockey valley.

Within five years of going online as a NCAA Division 1 program, Penn State has quickly emerged as a top-flight program competitive in the Big Ten, a young-but-strong conference with five other storied programs in Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State joining the Nittany Lions.

On Monday, Penn State was officially deemed the best in the nation, the Lions being named the No. 1 team in the nation in the latest USCHO.com poll on the heels of a 16-2-1 start to the season. Its lone blemishes came via an early season loss to St. Lawrence along with a setback against Ohio State on January 6th.

The Nittany Lions have a national-high 4.58 goals per game while allowing just two goals per game, which is tied with Army for third in the nation. Penn State has plenty of balance, as leading scorer Denis Smirnov’s 29 points is tied for 12th in the country. The Nittany Lions have 10 players with double-figure goal scoring.

The Lions supplant Denver atop the poll, as Pioneers split with Western Michigan over the weekend. To add injury to insult, leading scorer and Team USA World Juniors hero Troy Terry is out indefinitely after suffering an upper-body injury on Friday.

Boston University jumped to third from fifth, the Terriers highest ranking since October 10th, the second poll of the season, when BU was ranked second to reigning national champion North Dakota.

Omaha entered the poll, checking in at No. 19.

Thoughts are my own: Milestone Night on Monday

Thoughts as you digest that amazing ending to the college football title game:

*Alex Ovechkin ties Maurice Richard with his 544th career goal in the Capitals 4-1 win in Montreal. Another milestone in the career of what might be the greatest goal scorer in NHL history when it’s all said and done.

*What a unbelievable goal. Coming right out of Ovechkin’s office around the high left circle, he took an off-balance shot that to the naked eye looked like was just lazily throwing it at the net. A closer look showed it was a laser that went high-cheese. Amazing.

*Also amazing to think that Richard is about to be 30th on the all-time goal scoring list.

*Next for Ovechkin is 1,000 points. With three points on Monday night, he now sits at 999.

*That’s not all for milestones. Roberto Luongo recorded his 73rd career shutout in his 448th career win, moving past Terry Sawchuk to move into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time wins list. Next-up is Curtis Joseph at 454.

*How far can Luongo go? Ed Belfour (484) should be attainable. Patrick Roy (551) in second place all depends on what Father Time’s plans are. I don’t envision Martin Brodeur – who leads the pack at 691 – to be losing any sleep.

*I bet you thought we were done with the milestones. Well, Barry Trotz became the ninth coach in NHL history to coach 1,400 games and with the Washington win, won his 684th game to move into seventh place on the all-time coaching wins list with the late Pat Quinn, who interestingly enough coached exactly 1,400 games.

*I like what I’ve seen from this Montreal team in the face of some of the adversity it has faced over the past month or so, but games like Monday against Washington is going to be par for the course for this team, at least until the Habs get closer to full strength. Montreal will struggle with the NHL’s elite, but will have plenty success against the middle-to-bottom of the league’s pack. It helps to have Carey Price as well, of course, a luxury this team didn’t have last year when it went on a free fall over the final few months.

*Big pickup by Windsor, acquiring Jeremy Bracco from Kitchener as the Spitfires load up for a run at the Memorial Cup, which they will be hosting this spring. Bracco brings a much-needed offensive boost up front, a unit led by veteran Aaron Luchuk’s 32 points. The unit was already projecting better as June draft hopeful Gabriel Vilardi continued to come into his own and Logan Brown made his way back from an early-season wrist injury. Bracco can make them dangerous.

*In an arms race in the OHL Midwest, where London, Erie, and Owen Sound are duking it out, Mitchell Stephens and Mitchell Vande Sompel went to the Knights while Cameron Lizotte and Anthony Cirelli went to the Otters. The Attack picked up James Cordell.

Tidbits

*There are currently five active players within 50 points of 1,000 career points: Alex Ovechkin (999), Henrik Sedin (996), Sidney Crosby (982), Daniel Sedin (965), and Shane Doan (956).

*When Maurice Richard retired in 1960, he did so as the goal scoring king with his 544 tallies. Next-highest at the time? Gordie Howe with 446. Of course, Howe passed him a few years later and retired with a then-record 801 goals, which was shattered in due time by Wayne Gretzky.

*Roberto Luongo now has 73 career shutouts, three shy of breaking into the top 10, where Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito are tied with 76 clean sheets. After those two, there’s five bunched between 81 and 84, in Glenn Hall (84) and Jacques Plante (82), along with Alec Connell, Tiny Thompson, and Dominik Hasek, all at 81. Martin Brodeur is the standard setter at 125 while Terry Sawchuk (103) and George Hainsworth (94) trail in second and third.

*The Panthers 3-0 win in New Jersey was its second straight win in Newark, which had followed a six-game losing streak at the Prudential Center that had gone back to 2013.

*The Flames were held without a powerplay goal for the second straight game, the first time that’s happened since Calgary failed to score on the man-advantage in back-to-back games on November 28th and 30th. Calgary is 1-for-8 on the powerplay over the last three games. With that said, they’ve also killed off eight of nine penalties in those three games, and have killed off 76 of 84 (90.4 percent) going back to November 23rd.

*Since allowing a pair of powerplay goals in the third period of its 6-4 win over Tampa Bay last Tuesday, the Jets have killed off 11 straight penalties.

Links

*Gerard Gallant doesn’t feel his firing was because he didn’t adapt to the analytical culture of the Panthers.

*Mitchell Tierney touches upon how the Canadiens are relying upon depth as Montreal tries to weather the storm that has come with the injury bug. Personal opinion: having the best goalie in the world has helped, too.

*Craig Button’s monthly draft prospect rankings came out on Monday. He believes Brandon Wheat Kings pivot Nolan Patrick will still be the first overall pick despite being limited to six games this season because of a groin injury. Meanwhile, Nico Hischier’s stock rose after carry Switzerland at World Juniors, hopping into second place and supplanting Swedish defenseman Timothy Liljegren. Chances are better than not that Patrick goes first overall – especially given he’s expected to return to the ice very soon – but don’t count out Hischier.

*Speaking of Hischier, here’s a good piece on the Swiss forward out of Halifax, where Hischier is currently starring for the QMJHL’s Mooseheads.

*Mark Spector write the Oilers are now acting like contenders. Playing like it, too, I must add.

Storylines for Tuesday

*David Backes makes his return to St. Louis on Tuesday night.

*The Red Wings travel to the Blackhawks as the two former Central Division archrivals faceoff as strangers in an interconference tilt.

*The OHL and WHL trade deadlines come on Tuesday. Neither should be short on action throughout the day.

*Some more Frozen Fenway was the BC takes on Harvard in a NCAA women’s hockey showdown between two Beanpot rivals.

*Team USA takes on Canada at the IIHF U18 women’s championships in the Czech Republic. Both teams head into the matchup 2-0, the Yanks have outscored opponents 10-1 through two games while Canada has outscored the opposition, 9-3.

 

Thoughts Are My Own: Don’t Sleep on Toronto

Some thoughts as you begin yet another long, cold, winter week:

*I love the way Mitch Marner plays the game. Blazing speed, unbelievable vision. Just another great, young talent all around. Toronto was set up well before Auston Matthews came along, and Marner had much to do with it.

*Connor McDavid has just 10 points in his last 13 games. That said, he’s still the best player on the ice, he’s still getting the opportunities. No cause for concern. He’s on a 94-point pace. He’ll still reach 100.

*I go back and forth on what to make of John Klingberg and where he projects. But this is what I do know, for sure: there’s few players in the league on the back end as skilled as he is.

*Brent Burns is appointment viewing. One of the top-five hockey players in the world right now. Watching him probably mean staying up past bedtime on the East Coast, but you’ll be glad you did.

*Bo Horvat is emerging as one of the NHL’s better players.

*Here’s something out of the old baseball cliche ‘nothing matters before Memorial Day’, aka don’t overplay early-season happenings: the Calgary Flames were in tatters after the first month, but now look like the contending team many expected prior to the season. The Flames 17-8-1 record since November 15 has them in possession of the first Wildcard spot in the Western Conference. I’d be surprised if we’re talking about Calgary missing the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons come spring.

*Michigan Tech has seven losses in regulation this year, but none to an unranked team. The Huskies got what may have been its biggest win of the season on Saturday against Notre Dame. Expect Tech to be ranked this week.

*Frozen Fenway never fails to be a spectacle. And it was perfect conditions for it in Boston on Sunday, temperatures hovering in the 20s with snow on the ground. As is usually the case, it was the two Commonwealth Ave powerhouses; BU and BC, emerging victorious. The Terriers beat UMass, 5-3, in the early game before the Eagles beat Providence, 3-1, in the nightcap.

*Huge two points for Columbus on Sunday, with a 2-1 overtime win over Philadelphia, avoiding the three-game losing streak after winning 16 in a row.

*Sebastian Aho will be a NHL star in short order.

Tidbits

*Max Pacioretty has 14 goals in his last 16 games.

*The Oilers are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, seven of which have come on the road.

*Owen Sound has now won 10 straight games in the OHL.

*The good times continue for Minnesota prospects. Dmitry Sokolov scored his 30th goal of the season for Sudbury on Sunday night. He matches his same total from last season, which he assembled over 68 games. He got there in 36 this year.

*Mississauga’s Owen Tippett moved into the OHL goal scoring lead with his 33rd goal on Sunday. Tippett has 15 goals and 24 points in his last 13 games.

*UNH’s Tyler Kelleher had five assists in Sunday’s 7-4 win over Brown to take the national lead in points, eclipsing Union forward Mike Vecchione. The senior won the race to 40 points, reaching the total in 20 games. His scoring line is 14-26=40.

Storylines for Monday

*With 543 career goals, Alex Ovechkin is one tally shy of Maurice Richard for 29th on the all-time goal scoring list. The Captials will be playing in Montreal on Monday.

*Roberto Luongo needs a win to take sole possession of fifth place on the all-time wins list. He’s tied with Terry Sawchuk, with 447.

*Patrik Laine and Matthew Tkachuk faceoff against one another when the Flames visit the Jets.

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).

Three Stars from the Weekend: Cam Johnson Posts Back-to-Back Shutouts

It was a show-me weekend for North Dakota.

After roaring out to a 6-0 start in its national title defense to the season, the Fighting Hawks suddenly found themselves on a winless skid of a similar length in a tough three-weekend stretch that featured double-headers with Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota, and Denver. All of a sudden North Dakota was ranked eighth in the national poll, going into another challenging weekend with 12th-ranked St. Cloud State.

The Fighting Hawks answered with a weekend sweep, winning 4-0 and 3-0 in dispatching the Huskies.

It all began with Cam Johnson in net, who posted back-to-back shutouts on the weekend, stopping all 62 shots he faced on the weekend. He made 36 saves for NoDak on Saturday night in leading the visitors to a 3-0 win.

Johnson, who was sensational between the pipes last year in leading North Dakota to its first national title since 2000, has a 2.07 GAA and .915 GAA. The shutouts were numbers two and three of the year for the netminder.

Other NCAA stars

Adam Huska, UConn- Another big-time goaltending performance, this time from the Huskies netminder, who made 37 saves in a 4-0 shutout win over BU on Saturday. Mike Cavanaugh is the envy of many with Huska and Robbie Nichols on his roster. UConn is tied with BU for ninth in the country with a .921 team save percentage.

Mike Marnell, St. Lawrence: Marnell had four goals for the Saints on Saturday, a 7-2 win over Brown.

CHL

Alexis D’Aoust, Shawinigan: The 20-year-old forward had six goals on the weekend, five on which came on Friday night, a 6-2 win over Gatineau.

Alexander Katerinakis, Blainville-Boisbriand: Katerinakis went into the weekend with a goal and eight points in 14 games. He left with five and 15 in 16, as he put up four goals and seven points in two games over the weekend.

Reid Duke, Brandon: Duke had five goals in two games for the Wheat Kings, four coming in Friday’s 8-1 win over Saskatoon. The Minnesota prospect has 12 points in his last six games, picking up the slack in the absence of Brandon ace centerman and presumptive 2017 first overall pick Nolan Patrick, who has been limited to six games with an injury.

 

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.