Second Look: Sabres complete third-period comeback against San Jose

The misfortunes in Buffalo continued on Tuesday night for the San Jose Sharks, blowing a 4-1 third period to lose in overtime.

The loss marked 17 losses in 19 games for San Jose in Buffalo. The Sabres scored three times in a 2:28 span, beginning with Ryan O’Reilly’s powerplay goal with 10:57 to play. Evander Kane and Kyle Okposo followed the next two scores to tie the game before Kane scored again in overtime on a feed from Jack Eichel.

The third period has been a weakness for the Sharks this season. San Jose is a minus-six in the third this season, compared with a plus-one in the second and a plus-24 in the first. The Sharks 55 goals allowed in the third period is tied for seventh-most in the NHL with Calgary.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are plus-two in the final 20 minutes of regulation in addition to being 6-5 in overtime. Buffalo has seized the extra point in four of its last five overtimes.

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Thoughts are my own: Claude Julien in control of his destiny

Some thoughts as Claude Julien weighs his options over a morning cup of coffee:

*First thought, an opinion of the story of the day: The Boston Bruins firing Claude Julien was a mistake. He was not the problem, and never was. Was he given a poor roster? Absolutely. But it was also a roster that was in transition, moving out of the early prime years of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Tuukka Rask that included a Stanley Cup (in which Rask was the backup) and another appearance in the Cup final (in which Rask was the star) to the back-of-the-prime years of those players, which includes David Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and Jeremy Lauzon. Julien deserved a chance to bring that next group along. Now he’ll get a chance to bring along another group somewhere else.

*Plenty of reaction to the Julien firing, which includes a good rundown of the fiasco that has been Julien’s job security in Boston inside Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column for this week. Mike Halford took a look at what could be next for the now-former Bruins coach. Of course, there’s the Vegas speculation surrounding Julien, an idea not outlandish and one George McPhee should – and probably will – pursue.

*There was also an emergency RoenickLife Podcast, where JR and Jaffe discussed what was the biggest firing of the NHL season to date. ESPN Hockey Today also talked about the dismissal in an episode aptly named ‘Shipping Out From Boston’.

*In more positive coaching news, Alain Vigneault won his 600th game with the Rangers 4-1 win over Anaheim on Tuesday night. He’s the second-fastest coach to reach the mark behind Scotty Bowman.

*How ironic it is that Vigneault reaches that milestone the same day Julien gets axed. Fired by Vancouver in 2013 after what had been arguably the best seven-year run in Canucks history, he’s proof positive good coaches always land on their feet. The direction Vancouver has gone in since his departure is a cautionary tale as to what can happen when you bid adieu to a good coach.

*Pretty much what this Tweet says. Forget the nice finish by Micheal Ferland, how about the stick on Sidney Crosby?

*The more you watch Washington the more of a sense you get that this is their year, and that they feel that way.

*The Sharks have now lost 17 of 19 all-time in Buffalo, with one regulation win, after blowing three-goal third period lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres on Tuesday.

*St. Louis has now won three of four under Mike Yeo. And who said the Blues have goaltending issues? Two nights, two shutouts, as St. Louis followed up Monday’s 2-0 win over Philadelphia with a 6-0 trouncing of Ottawa. Carter Hutton got the shutout Monday before Jake Allen got a clean sheet of his own on Tuesday.

*Seth Jones has absolute cannon for shot. He’s shooting up the charts among the game’s premier defensemen.

*Here come the Avalanche all of a sudden, 4-0 win over Montreal to give themselves back-to-back wins for the first time since November. Mikko Rantanen gets the hat trick. He has five goals in his last six games.

 

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.

Claude Julien out as Bruins coach

It’s a move that been anticipated, debated, and argued back and forth for what seems to be years.

At last, it has happened.

Claude Julien has been fired as the head coach of the Boston Bruins.

The firing comes as no surprise. A coaching change had been discussed as being on the horizon since the Bruins missed the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, which ended a run of seven straight postseason appearances. Now the Bruins are on the verge of missing the playoffs three years in a row for the first time in a half-century, when the B’s missed the postseason eight straight years from 1960-67.

The Bruins front office clearly believed a new voice was needed. That voice (at least for the time-being) will be Bruce Cassidy, elevated to interim head coach. His NHL head coaching experience includes 107 games behind the bench for Washington from 2002-03. He coached the AHL Providence Bruins for five years from 2011-16 before being elevated to assistant coach this past May.

Is Cassidy the right fit? That will ultimately be determined by management this summer. He’s certainly not in a terrible position, with a number of blue-chip prospects in Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jesse Gabrielle, and Jakub Zboril. With that said, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are on the back end of their primes, No. 1 defenseman Zdeno Chara is at the end of the road while David Backes appears over the hill with four years remaining on his contract after this season. Tuukka Rask, while capable of being a world-class goaltender, has been inconsistent over the last three seasons.

The Bruins were knocked out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture on Monday night, passed by Toronto – which lost to the Islanders in overtime – for third place in the Atlantic Division. Boston and Toronto each have 58 points, but the Leafs have four games in hand. Virtually everyone competing with the Bruins in the standings have games in hand on the B’s, including Ottawa (five), N.Y. Islanders (four), Florida (three), Philadelphia (one), and New Jersey (one).

Few will argue that Julien was the problem. He’s been given a team that has been highly-flawed, with holes up and down the lineup in recent seasons. This season has been no different.

At the same time, not many coaches last a decade. He’s one of just three coaches in Bruins history to coach 700 games. Sometimes you need a change, a new voice. It appears to be the case in Boston.

Mark Scheifele starting to get his due among best of NHL

Mark Scheifele has been among the five or 10 best players in the NHL over the past year-plus. And now people are beginning to notice.

The Jets forward extended his streak with multiple points to three on Thursday night with a pair of goals in Winnipeg’s 4-3 win over Dallas, an ‘all-out assault on opposing goalies‘, as Rotowire coined Scheifele’s performance. He has four goals in that three-game span to go along with seven points. He now has seven multi-point games since the start of the new year, and is sixth overall in the NHL with 53 points in 51 games, tied with Alex Ovechkin for third with 25 goals.

Scheifele has been the nucleus of what has been one of the best forward lines in the NHL this season, flanked by super-rookie Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, the former top-10 pick in the draft that is having a breakout year in his second NHL season, with 47 points in 54 games.  Without that trio, which accounts for 33.7 percent of Winnipeg’s scoring, the Jets would be nowhere near their current standing of trailing St. Louis by one point for eighth place in the Western Conference playoff picture.

This is nothing new. It’s something Scheifele has been up to for quite some time now. Scheifele has 42 goals and 90 points in 84 games over the past calendar year, as TSN analytics guru Scott Cullen points out in Friday’s installment of his daily Statistically Speaking column. Only Sidney Crosby (100) and Connor McDavid (95) have more points over that span, his 42 goals third behind Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, who share the top spot at 47.

If you go back to the start of December 2015, Scheifele has 101 points in 97 games, which trails only Crosby (126), Patrick Kane (120), and Brent Burns (110) on the leaderboard. He’s tied with Joe Pavelski and Nicklas Backstrom for fourth place, but has played nine fewer games than Backstrom and 14 less than Pavelski during that time. Of the 10 players to hit triple-digits in points over that span, he’s the only one to do it in fewer than 100 games.

Scheifele is one of the best players in the NHL, which is why the Jets gave the former seventh overall pick (2011) an eight-year, $49 million deal this past summer, when the 23-year-old was a restricted free agent. It’s also what makes it mind-boggling that he wasn’t among the six forwards representing the Central Division at last weekend’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, as Jared Clinton of the The Hockey News pointed out in his piece on Tuesday, where he makes the case for Scheifele among the NHL’s best scorers.

Under team control at $6.125 million through the 2022-23 season, according to cap-friendly.com, the Jets have one of the most team-friendly contracts in the NHL, a cap hit Scheifele will almost certainly out-play. In fact, he already is, as his $115,566 value on cap-friendly’s cost-per-point index is the lowest among players making $6 million per season.

And he only appears to be getting better.

 

Thoughts are my own: 500 for Patrick Marleau

*500 goals for Patrick Marleau, clinching the milestone on Thursday night in Vancouver, coming on a powerplay goal in the first period of the Sharks 4-1 win. He’s the 45th player in NHL history to reach the mark.

*Marleau is the first player to score 500 goals in a Sharks uniform. He has a healthy 217-goal lead on Joe Pavelski, who is second on the franchise goal scoring list, at 283. Joe Thornton (211) and Owen Nolan (206) round out the group of four players to score 200 career goals for San Jose.

*Mark Scheifele is tied with Alex Ovechkin for third in the NHL with 25 goals, trailing only Sidney Crosby (28) and Jeff Carter (26). Jared Clinton of the Hockey News believes its time to start giving the Jets forward his due among the league’s elite scorers.

*The Mike Yeo era in St. Louis is out to a good start as the Blues beat a good Maple Leafs team, 5-1, on Thursday.

*It was classic Pekka Rinne in Nashville as he earned the shutout win against the Oilers, making 31 saves in an effort that wasn’t justified even by the modest number of shots faced. Rinne is now 7-3-1 in his last 11 games, holding opponents to two or fewer goals in eight of those starts, allowing just 21 goals to go along with a .939 save percentage.

*Another major contributing factor to Nashville’s emergence has been the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson finally getting things together. The three were on the ice for both Predators goals on Thursday.

*John Klingberg should play Winnipeg more often. The Stars defenseman has five goals and 16 points in 13 career games against the Jets.

*26 straight starts for Mike Condon in Ottawa. That’s a franchise record.

*The Patrick Kane-Artem Anisimov-Artemi Panarin line is the best in the NHL. The one line that you can say can really put the puck in the net any given time it’s on the ice.

*The wheels seem to have completely fallen off in Tampa Bay, which fell to 3-9-2 in its last 13 with the 5-2 loss to Ottawa on Thursday. The Bolts were held to 21 shots on net for the second straight game.

*Up in the CHL, Adam Ruzicka is now on a four-game point streak after scoring two goals in Sarnia’s 7-4 loss to North Bay on Thursday. He has nine points in 11 games coming out of the holiday break. Ruzicka, draft eligible in June, is a compelling prospect. The Slovakian forward has first-round size (6-4, 202 pounds) and talent, but will probably stick on the board until the second or third round.

*Jeremy Bracco had points in 26 of 27 games in a Kitchener Rangers uniform this season. In 11 games since being traded to Windsor, he’s been held off the scoresheet four times, while putting up nine points in 11 games. Still impressive numbers for the Maple Leafs prospect, but a drop-off from the 1.89 points per game he was putting up in Kitchener.

*Michael DiPietro posted his OHL-high sixth shutout with 22 saves for the Spitfires on Thursday. Carter Hart, who also has six clean sheets, is the only netminder in the CHL to match DiPietro’s total this season.

*Emil Rasanen assisted on three goals Thursday for Kingston and has 15 points in his last 16 games.

*Felix Lauzon has goals in five of seven games for Victoriaville. He’s got 10 points overall in that stretch.

*Five assists for Frederic Allard in Chicoutimi’s 6-2 win over Rouyn-Noranda. He has points in five straight.

*Some good podcasts if you’re trying to waste away the Friday before the Super Bowl or sitting in traffic amidst the commute to kick off the weekend…

*Spittin’ Chiclets had Jeff Marek on this week, and the NHL Top 100 list was discussed. A very big omission that was brought up, which somehow slipped my mind: Mark Recchi. Played 23 years in the league, his 1,533 points are 12th all-time, his 577 goals 20th, and 956 assists are 15th. He played the fifth-most games ever, at 1,652, which has to mean something. Oh – and he won three Cups. It’s worth pointing out he’s been a glaring omission when it comes to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Someone doesn’t seem to be happy with him.

*Really good listen on the RoenickLife Podcast this week, as JR and Jaffe welcomed Tie Domi onto the show.

*ESPN’s Hockey Today recapped the All-Star Game and forecasted the second half of the NHL season.

 

Wild calls up Alex Tuch

Less than 12 hours removed from a 5-1 beating in Calgary, the Minnesota Wild have called up big winger Alex Tuch, who can make his NHL debut on Saturday night when the Wild visits Vancouver.

In what has been Tuch’s first professional season following two seasons at Boston College, the 6-4, 217-pound forward has 22 points in 34 games for AHL Iowa, tied with Pat Cannone for second on the team and trailing only Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen, who has 28 points in 36 games. Tuch had been on a four-game point streak with Iowa prior to his call-up, and had six goals and nine points in his last nine games.

A big, strong playmaking winger cut from the mold of past BC standouts Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and Brian Boyle, Tuch had 62 points in 77 games over his two years at BC. He led the Eagles in scoring as a freshman with 28 points in 34 games, the only rookie to lead the team in scoring since 1973.

Tuch is part of a wave of promising young players who should be making an impact in Minnesota in the coming seasons. He joins Joel Eriksson-Ek and Mike Reilly, both of whom have made their NHL debuts. Also awaiting in the pipeline is Jordan Greenway, another big, physical winger (6-6, 226 pounds), as well as Luke Kunin, the captain of Team USA at the 2017 World Juniors, and Russian prospect Kirill Kaprizov.