Just A Thought
@ESPN_Burnside: Well Thursday night's game is one that'll help Vancouver Canucks fans forget Roberto Luongo. Or not. The Canucks continue to spiral out of playoff contention after another lackluster performance in a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. The beatdown at the hands of the Stars gives the Canucks a 1-10-1 record in their last 12 games. What's worse, it comes two days after the trade of franchise netminder Roberto Luongo to Florida, with the Canucks looking disorganized defensively and soft in goal. Eddie Lack, given the controversial start in last Sunday's Heritage Classic that in part led to the Luongo trade, allowed five goals on 17 shots through two periods. Ouch. Jacob Markstrom, who came to Vancouver in the deal with Florida, allowed one forgettable goal, too, a sharp angle shot by Tyler Seguin, who had three on the night for a Stars team that currently holds down the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Vancouver? They're now four points back of the last wild card with three teams to climb over and fewer games in which to do it.
@CraigCustance: Forget just making the playoffs, which seemed like a bit of a longshot for the Colorado Avalanche at the start of the season. This team has re-calibrated its goals. "We're so determined to win this division," said Matt Duchene following Thursday's 3-2 overtime win in Detroit, their fourth in a row. "We're not coasting into the playoffs at this point. We have our foot down on the gas and we're pressing forward." The teams they're chasing? Only the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and one of the league's other top contenders in the St. Louis Blues. The challenge didn't seem to bother Duchene. "We're not the old Avs anymore," he said. "We're not that team we've been the last four years that tries not to lose. We're the team that tries to win and always goes for it no matter what. It's so fun right now." We've been waiting for the defense to show signs of cracking. Or for Semyon Varlamov to regress from his .925 save percentage this season to something closer to his career .916 mark. But spend a few minutes with Duchene and you start getting convinced that just might not happen this season.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Well, that was a fun game to watch. Talk about entertaining. The San Jose Sharks rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 (including an empty-netter) Thursday night in a battle of Cup contenders. It avenged a 5-1 loss in Pittsburgh earlier this season. What struck me the most was how physical the Sharks were against the Penguins, Brent Burns and Raffi Torres in particular. The win pushed the Sharks seven points above the hard-charging Kings, winners of six straight, with the California clubs seemingly destined to play each other in the first round of the playoffs. Home ice is no small thing between those two, with the home team winning all seven games in their terrific second-round playoff series last spring. Mind you, the Sharks haven't given up trying to catch first-place Anaheim, either, with just five points separating them from the Ducks and to games remaining between the teams.
@KatieStrangESPN: After being blanked by the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, the Washington Capitals have now dropped two straight as they struggle to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Caps, 0-2-1 in their past three games, are still only one point back of the Detroit Red Wings for the last wild card spot, though the Wings have two games in hand. The Caps' post-Olympic hiccup has allowed teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils to inch closer as well. What's going on with the Caps? Well, a season-low 16 shots last night didn't help last night, especially considering the Bruins almost tripled them up with 43 shots of their own while Boston netminder Tuukka Rask recorded his sixth shutout of the season. Lack of offense hasn't been a problem for the Caps as of late -- they entered Thursday's action with 17 goals in the previous four games -- so they have to hope their recent blanking was simply a one-off.
Quote Me On That
"I'm pretty (upset) that I didn't get the shutout, but that's hockey, I guess."
-- Sabres G Jhonas Enroth after allowing one goal on 43 shots against Tampa Bay
"It was hard, it was dirty, it was everything. I think both teams played great games, and we came out on top. It was just one of those games they are just great to play. You love playing those games, and I'm sure it was great to watch, too."
-- Sharks D Jason Demers on a win over Pittsburgh
• Avalanche: Won four straight; 14-5-0 in last 19 games.
• Sabres: Won four of five games since Olympic break.
• Bruins: Won three in a row; improve to 30-5-1 when scoring first.
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