The best pure goal scorer for every NHL team

It is hockey’s most valuable skill and the one that is most difficult to consistently do well — goal scoring. Some players are great at it because they have a great shot, a lightning quick release or just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Every team needs a great goal scorer to win, and here we take a look at the best pure goal scorer on every team in the NHL. Some you know well, but others may not get the recognition they fully deserve.  1 of 31

Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell

With Corey Perry now playing in Dallas, and Ryan Getzlaf getting older, the Ducks’ best goal scorer is the 26-year-old Rakell. His production slumped a bit this past season, but before that he scored 97 goals in the three previous seasons, including a pair of seasons with at least 33 goals. He does not get a lot of attention around the league, mainly because the team around him has not been great, but he is an outstanding player.  2 of 31

Arizona Coyotes: Phil Kessel

The Coyotes have not had a player like Kessel in more than a decade. He may be getting older and have his share of flaws away from the puck, but he can also still be one of the NHL’s best offensive player. Arizona needed an impact player who could be the focal point of the offense, and he provides exactly that.  3 of 31

Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak

The Bruins have the NHL’s best line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak. Bergeron and Marchand are the superstars, and Pastrnak is set to join them. He has topped the 30-goal mark in three straight seasons and had he not missed nearly 20 games due to injury a year ago, he would have been a near lock for 40 goals. If you wanted a sleeper pick for the NHL’s goal scoring crown this year, he would be a good choice given his talent and the quality of the players around him.  4 of 31

Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner

After being a top goal scorer without the luxury of playing next to a legitimate No. 1 center in Carolina, Skinner arrived in Buffalo at the start of the 2018-19 season and found an instant chemistry alongside Jack Eichel. Playing next to one of the league’s best young players helped him produce his first-ever 40-goal season and landed him a huge long-term contract to stay in Buffalo. He may not score 40 every year, but with combination of his quick shot and Eichel’s playmaking, he should always have a chance to do it.  5 of 31

Calgary Flames: Matthew Tkachuk

Just three years into his career, and Tkachuk is already an impact player in every possible way. He scores goals, he makes plays, he agitates opponents and he plays on the edge of the line. He is basically the Western Conference version of Brad Marchand. He is going to be a 35-40 goal winger for a long time. 

Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho

In just a couple of years the answer to this question will be Andrei Svechnikov, but for now Aho still gets the edge because he has done it consistently over three years in the league. He may not be a challenger for the league lead, but he is going to score 25-30 goals every year throughout his prime. Add in his playmaking and two-way game, and you have a great franchise player.  7 of 31

Chicago Blackhawks: Alex DeBrincat

Is it a bold call to choose DeBrincat over, say, Patrick Kane? Probably, and maybe Blackhawks fans disagree, but DeBrincat is just now entering his third year in the league and already has 70 goals in 168 games, including a 41-goal performance in his second year. He is going to be the foundation of the next chapter in the Blackhawks franchisee. He is also one of the latest examples that teams should not be afraid to take smaller, undersized players. Talent wins.  8 of 31

Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon

After bursting onto the scene as an impact rookie at the age of 18, MacKinnon’s career kind of leveled off for a few years. Then he blossomed into a mega star and one of the league’s best players. He is the cornerstone piece of a team that should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future and has scored 80 goals over the past two full seasons.  9 of 31

Columbus Blue Jackets: Cam Atkinson

It is a good bet that Cam Atkinson is a lot better than you realize. One of the most overlooked players in the league, Atkinson has scored 35, 24 (in only 65 games), and 41 goals the past three seasons, respectively. With Artemi Panarin now in New York playing for the Rangers, Atkinson is going to have to be one of the go-to players in the Blue Jackets lineup.  10 of 31

Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski

Pavelski was the Stars’ big offseason acquisition this summer, as they hoped he could be one of the missing pieces in their lineup. They needed secondary scoring, and Pavelski has been one of the league’s best goal scorers for the past six years. A late bloomer when it comes to being an impact player, Pavelski is coming off a 38-goal season for the Sharks, the fifth 30-goal season of his career. 

Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin

One of the league’s fastest players, Larkin finally had a big breakout goal-scoring year during the 2018-19 season and recorded his first 30-goal season. Even though it seems like he has been around forever, he is still only 23 years old and is one of the bright spots on a rebuilding Red Wings team. He figures to be a huge part of their future.  12 of 31

Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid

He already has a pair of 40-goal seasons on his resume, and it is only a matter of time until he hits 50. Combined with his game-breaking speed and precision passing, he is the most complete offensive player in the sport and seems like a lock to finish near the top in every major offensive category every year as long as he stays healthy. He has already won two scoring titles, and there is almost certainly a goal scoring crown in his future.  13 of 31

Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov

He is one of the league’s best all-around players and is an absolute steal under the salary cap. Along with his great defensive play and superb playmaking, he also has scored at a 30-goal pace the couple of years. He is only 24 years old and might still have his best days ahead of him.  14 of 31

Los Angeles Kings: Ilya Kovalchuk

Maybe this is a testament to how far the Kings have fallen the past few years, but Kovalchuk probably really is the answer. At his peak he was one of the most dominant forwards in the league and was the league’s best goal scorer before Alex Ovechkin arrived. He spent a large chunk of his career playing in the KHL only to return this past season. The Kings coaching staff a year ago never seemed to trust him (or want him), but he should be poised for a bounce back year under Todd McLellan.  15 of 31

Minnesota Wild: Eric Staal

This was a toss-up between Staal and Zach Parise. But with Parise slowing down and Staal being the best goal scorer on the team in recent years, we are going with him. A few years ago Staal looked like his career was about ready to come to an end, but joining the Wild seemed to spark something for him and he has been a completely different player, even hitting the 40-goal mark once.

Montreal Canadiens: Brendan Gallagher

Gallagher has really evolved over the years, going from a depth player whose biggest intention seemed to be rattling the cages of his opponents to a legit top-line player who can score 30 goals. He has hit the 30-goal mark in each of the past two seasons and has become one of the Canadiens’ best and most important players.  17 of 31

Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg

Predators general manager David Poile has assembled his team over the years through a series of major trades. The best of them all was getting Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat. Erat was a flop with the Capitals, while Forsberg has blossomed into one of the league’s best players and an outstanding goal scorer. Since joining the Predators, he has averaged more than 30 goals per 82 games.  18 of 31

New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall

When healthy, Hall has been everything the Devils wanted him to be when they acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers for Adam Larsson. The big question for the Devils is whether they can convince him to re-sign with the team, especially as they are off to a brutal start of the 2019-20 season.  19 of 31

New York Islanders: Anders Lee

A sixth-round draft pick and at one time an afterthought in the Islanders organization, Lee has transformed into one of the best net-front players in the league and the best goal scorer on the team. With 28 goals a year ago, he showed that his production was not just the result of playing alongside John Tavares and that, yes, he can score on his own and help drive the offense.  20 of 31

New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin

From the moment he arrived in the NHL, Panarin has been one of the league’s most impactful offensive players. He is an outstanding playmaker who makes his linemates better, but he is also an outstanding goal scorer who is going to push the 30-goal mark every year. The Rangers signed him to a massive contract in free agency to be a significant part of their rebuild. 

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Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk

It is slim pickings on this Senators team for goal scoring talent. About 10 years ago the answer would have easily been Bobby Ryan, but he has not been that player for some time now. Brady Tkachuk is in only his second year in the league but has already shown a goal scoring touch and is one of the few bright spots that this team has to build around long term.  22 of 31

Philadelphia Flyers: James van Riemsdyk

Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier are the best players on the Flyers, but none of them has ever been a truly great goal scorer. Their brilliance is in their passing (Giroux, Voracek) and defensive play (Couturier). It is van Riemsdyk who has been one of the more overlooked goal scorers in the league and a truly good one. In his first year back with the Flyers in 2018-19, he scored 27 goals in only 66 games.  23 of 31

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby

Crosby is known more for his passing and “200-foot game,” but one of the most overlooked parts of his career is that he has two Rocket Richard Trophies on his resume. He makes the wingers around him better goal scorers, yet he is still the best goal scorer on his team — one of the best players ever.  24 of 31

San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture

With Joe Pavelski now in Dallas and Patrick Marleau at the age of 40, the Sharks do not really have a great pure goal scorer on their roster. They have a lot of great all-around players and impact offensive performers but nobody who has really established himself as a great goal scorer every year. The closest is probably Couture, the team’s best forward. In a good year he will challenge the 35 mark but is usually a good bet to score close to 30 for the Sharks.  25 of 31

St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko

He is probably the one player on the Blues’ 2018-19 Stanley Cup winning team who has a shot at the Hall of Fame. He is lock to score at least 30 goals every season and can carry the team’s offense on his back when he is at his best. He also proved to be a big-time performer in the playoffs with 33 goals in 70 career postseason games, including 11 during the team’s championship run. 

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Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos

The second best goal scorer of his era, trailing only the great Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Stamkos has five 40-goal seasons on his resume, including a pair of 50-goal campaigns (and one 60-goal season!). The disappointing thing is that his career could look even better had it not been for a run of serious injuries (plus a half-season lockout) between the ages of 23 and 26 that robbed him of a significant portion of his peak years. Even with that, he is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in hockey.  27 of 31

Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares

There is a convincing case to be made for Auston Matthews to get this call for the Maple Leafs (he has scored at a 40-goal pace over the first three seasons of his career), but Tavares is coming off a 47-goal season and has been scoring at an elite rate in the NHL for more than a decade now. That is worth something. A lot, actually. He came to Toronto, his hometown, with huge expectations and a massive free agent contract and not only never seemed phased by the pressure, but he actually had the best season of his career.  28 of 31

Vancouver Canucks: Brock Boeser

It would be tempting to put Elias Pettersson here after the rookie season he had, and he is certainly the Canucks’ most impactful player. But a lot of his rookie goal scoring total came off a hot stretch in the first month of the season that he may not be able to duplicate. Boeser, on the other hand, has shown over two full seasons that he can regularly put the puck in the net. The only thing that has slowed him down is injury. If he can ever play 82 games, he might have a 40-goal season in his future.  29 of 31

Vegas Golden Knights: Max Pacioretty

Mark Stone is the best all-around player on this team, but Pacioretty still gets the slight edge when it comes to pure goal scoring. He may not be the 40-goal threat he was a couple of years ago when he was at his peak in Montreal, but as long as he stays healthy enough to play a full season he should be good for 30-35 goals.  30 of 31

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin

I mean, come on. Who else was this going to be? There is a convincing argument to be made that Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer who has ever played in the NHL, and he has a legitimate shot to break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record. Even if he does not, the fact he is going to seriously challenge it in this era of defensive, structured hockey with goaltending at the best level it has ever been is an incredible accomplishment. 

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Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine

Laine has already proved to be such a great goal scorer that when he scored 30 goals during the 2018-19 season (only his third season in the league) it was viewed as a down year for him. He has scored at least 30 goals every year he has been in the league and seems destined to have a couple of 50-goal seasons in his future. The Jets being positioned to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 was one of the biggest turning points for the franchise.

By: Adam Gretz

Grading the offseason for every NHL team

With NHL training camps starting to get under way and the start of the 2019-20 NHL season less than a month away, it is time to look back at the offseason and see what every team did to improve. We assign a grade for all 31 NHL teams. See which teams received a passing mark and which teams did not make the grade.  1 of 31

Anaheim Ducks: D

This could be another long season for the Ducks. Their big move this summer was buying out Corey Perry’s contract, and they really didn’t add anything to a team that was one of the worst in the NHL last. year. Ryan Kesler won’t play, Ryan Getzlaf is a year older, and it is going to be up to John Gibson and Ryan Miller in net to carry this team to respectability. They are a great goalie duo, but they may not be great enough to do the impossible.   2 of 31

Arizona Coyotes: B

Acquiring Phil Kessel has given the organization a much-needed boost at the box office and has the potential to do the same on the ice. The Coyotes have not had an impact offensive player like this in more than a decade. His addition, the under-the-radar pickup of Carl Soderberg and what will hopefully be some better health luck might be just enough to get this young, exciting team over the hump and back to the playoffs. They also committed to another part of their young core by signing Clayton Keller to a huge long-term contract extension.  3 of 31

Boston Bruins: C

Not much here to evaluate. The Bruins lost a couple of depth players to free agency but are mostly returning the same team that was one game away from winning the Stanley cup. They might take a step back just because it is difficult to go through that postseason gauntlet two years in a row, but they are still going to be a contender. They just have not really added much this offseason. 4 of 31

Buffalo Sabres: B

They paid a huge price to re-sign Jeff Skinner, but he seems to work really well with Jack Eichel.  Marcus Johansson, Colin Miller and Jimmy Vesey are nice complementary additions to the core of Eichel, Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin. It was a good offseason and they should be a better team, but I am not sure they added enough to close the gap between them and the top teams in the Atlantic Division or the top wild-card teams in the Eastern Conference.   5 of 31

Calgary Flames: D

The Flames were outstanding a year ago, but a lot of things went right to help them climb to the top of the Western Conference standings. Will all of that happen again? Their big offseason moves were bringing in Cam Talbot to replace Mike Smith in net and trading James Neal for Milan Lucic. Hardly the type of moves that should excite fans and convince them that the team can take the next step this season.  6 of 31

Carolina Hurricanes: A

They will be without some important players from last year’s team (Justin Williams, Curtis McElhinney, and Micheal Ferland) but they did find some solid replacements in Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel and James Reimer. They also added to an already stacked defense by signing Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract in early September. Their biggest offseason win, though, was the Montreal Canadiens signing Sebastian Aho to a restricted free agent offer sheet they were easily able to match, helping them avoid a summer of painful contract negotiations and getting their franchise player locked in on a team-friendly contract.  7 of 31

Chicago Blackhawks: B

The Blackhawks are banking heavily on their core still being good enough to win.  Instead of making big changes and going for a rebuild, they worked to improve their defense with Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan and the addition of goaltender Robin Lehner. The Blackhawks were one of the worst defensive teams in the league a year ago and are hoping these additions can help them improve enough to complement their offense.   8 of 31

Colorado Avalanche: A

The Avalanche are beginning to emerge as a power in the Western Conference with their young core of superstars led by Nathan  MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. They added to that this summer with the additions of Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi and Nazem Kadri to bolster their   forward depth. Combined with a young defense that will feature Cale Makar, Sam Girard, and eventually Bowen Byram (No. 4 overall pick this summer), they should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future.   9 of 31

Columbus Blue Jackets: D

This is a tough one. Gustav Nyquist was a strong free agent addition, but this team was gutted in the offseason with Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene all moving on. They still have a strong core of young players, especially on defense with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, but goaltending is going to be a huge question mark. 10 of 31

Dallas Stars: B

The Stars were the most top-heavy team in the NHL last season and needed to do something to address the lack of depth. They hopefully did that with the additions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry. Their impact will ultimately depend on how much both players have left in their tanks in their late 30s, but they at least tried to address their biggest shortcoming from a year ago.  11 of 31

Detroit Red Wings: C

This is only so high because they managed to get Steve Yzerman to return to Detroit and oversee this rebuild. He is one of the league’s top general managers and should give Red Wings fans reason for long-term hope. In the short-term? This is almost the exact same team that has been one of the league’s worst for three years now. Yzerman has a full cupboard of draft picks and some intriguing young talent in the system, but the NHL roster is as weak as it has been in years.  12 of 31

Edmonton Oilers: D

Ken Holland has his hands full with this rebuild. The team made a couple of OK depth signings and took a chance on James Neal rebounding from a down year in Calgary (dumping Milan Lucic’s albatross contract in the process), but Edmonton needs a lot more than that. The roster around Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is as weak as it has been over the past two years and there is little reason to think the results on the ice are going to be any different. This looks like another wasted year of McDavid’s prime. 13 of 31

Florida Panthers: B

There are real questions about how long Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract will be a good value, but in the short term he satisfies Florida’s biggest need. This team is good enough to make the playoffs this season with competent goaltending, and Bobrovsky should be able to provide that. Along with a franchise goalie, the Panthers also lured Hall of Fame coach Joel Quenneville to Florida and made a couple of solid depth signings with Brett Connolly and Anton Stralman. With Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau back, anything short of the playoffs would be a disappointment. 14 of 31

Los Angeles Kings: F

Other than hiring Todd McLellan as head coach, the Kings did nothing to fix what was one of the NHL’s worst teams a year ago. They have been stale for more than four years now and have been badly in need of a rebuild. That process still has not started. They are banking heavily on bounce back years from Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, and while all three should be better than they were, improvements from them alone will not be enough to get them back in the playoffs. 15 of 31

Minnesota Wild: D

Mats Zuccarello is a decent enough signing, but he is another big-money player on the wrong side of 30, something the team already has too many of. The Wild also fired general manager Paul Fenton after just one miserable season, making the organization look like it is kind of directionless. Fenton was replaced by Bill Guerin. Guerin is obviously an unknown, but he is going to have a lot of work to do in cleaning up the mess Fenton left behind.  16 of 31

Montreal Canadiens: D

want to give them credit for being bold and signing Carolina’s Sebastian Aho to a restricted free agent offer sheet, but it was such a lame effort that was so easy for the Hurricanes to match that I can’t even give them credit for that. In fact, it makes me actually lower their grade. As if that wasn’t enough, they also made a run at free agent Jake Gardiner only to have him turn them down to sign with, you guessed it, Carolina. Their big addition was Ben Chiarot. Jesperi Kotkaniemi could be ready for a breakout season, but there might be some regression from Max Domi and Tomas Tatar.  17 of 31

Nashville Predators: C

Matt Duchene is a big addition and gives the Predators another top-line forward and hopefully someone who can help fix their awful power play. But to get him they had to dump P.K. Subban’s entire contract, which meant they received almost nothing for him. They have plenty of depth on defense, and they did need forward help. I just don’t know if they are a significantly better team today than they were before that sequence of transactions.  18 of 31

New Jersey Devils: A

By: Adam Gretz

NHL Power Rankings: Standout rookies for all 31 teams

Youth continues to be served in the NHL, as almost every team has a first-year player making an impact. For this week’s ESPN NHL Power Rankings — voted on as always by ESPN’s panel of experts — we take a look at some of its best freshmen (or, in some cases, middle schoolers waiting to get the call-up to the big school) of the 2018-19 season thus far.

1. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 1

Eeli Tolvanen. There was a time when this talented Finnish winger was being chatted up as a potential Calder Trophy contender, before being demoted to the AHL in the preseason. So far, he has eight points in 14 games with Milwaukee, with four of his seven assists coming on the power play.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 2

Anthony Cirelli. The Lightning forward has four points in 15 games, skating 13:50 per night, with a minus-4 goal differential at 5-on-5.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 5

Igor Ozhiganov. The 25-year-old KHL import doesn’t have a point in 12 games while skating 13:50 per night. As Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star wrote: “He hasn’t done anything particularly noteworthy — no big goals, or memorable passes. But he hasn’t done anything wrong, and that in itself is often praise-worthy of a defenseman.” So, congrats on not being noteworthy, Igor.

4. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 3

Vladislav Kamenev. Acquired from the Predators as part of the Matt Duchene trade, Kamenev had his arm broken by defenseman Brooks Orpik last season, limiting him to just three games. He’s played nine games this season with a goal and an assist, skating just 9:05 per game as a fourth-line center.

5. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 6

Antti Suomela. The 24-year-old Finnish center has two goals and three assists in 14 games. His 1.91 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is third best on the Sharks this season.

6. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 7

Ryan Donato. One of the most surprising demotions of the season thus far. Donato had one goal in 11 games and was sent down to AHL Providence to work on his offensive game. That’s after his incredible nine points in 12 games debut for the Bruins in 2017-18.

7. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 8

Brendan Lemieux. The most notable accomplishment for the spawn of Claude Lemieux this season has been a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vincent Trocheck. Otherwise, he’s averaged 5:32 per game and is a minus-17 in shot attempts at 5-on-5.

8. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 10

Travis Boyd. The depth forward, 25, was injured in the preseason and returned on Nov. 5 with two assists against the Oilers.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 4

Juuso Riikola. Injuries on defense for the Penguins gave the 24-year-old Finn some early-season chances. He’s been a bit overwhelmed, to the tune of minus-39 in shot attempts, worst among Pittsburgh defensemen. Yes, including Jack Johnson.

10. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 9

Jordan Greenway. The promising winger was sent down to the AHL after a rough start, playing a couple of games for Iowa. He returned with a rediscovered confidence, and has a goal and two assists in his last four games.

11. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 15

Juuso Valimaki. Another Finn! Valimaki, a first-rounder for the Flames in 2017, is skating 14:46 per game. He’s on the plus side of possession but has a minus-5 in goal differential.

12. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 24

Elias Pettersson. The Canucks star rookie became the first player to record 16-plus points through his first 10 career NHL games since 1992-93, when Dimitri Kvartalnov and Nikolai Borschevsky accomplished the feat. You heard it here first: Elias Pettersson, the new Nikolai Borschevsky.

13. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 16

Josh Ho-Sang. As usual, interesting things are happening around Josh Ho-Sang. He was on fire for the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, including a 12 points in 12 games run. At the same time, he had to apologize for comments he gave to the New York Post about his lack of premium ice time.

14. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 14

Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He’s 18 years old, the No. 3 overall pick in June, and has seven points in his first 15 NHL games for the resurgent Habs.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 17

Calvin Thurkauf. He’s missed a bit with an undisclosed injury, but the former Swiss world junior team captain had 24 points in 75 games with Cleveland last season. He’s got some upside, and the Jackets will have an eye on the AHL to see what the winger does in his second pro season.

Full List

By: Greg Wyshynski

Blues Hanging On To Dear Life Down 3-1

Written by Jeremy Rutherford at St.Louis Dispatch

A crowd 19,721 strong — the largest at Scottrade Center this season — was in their seats early chanting “Let’s Go Blues!” A video message from Arianna Dougan, the 11-year-old cancer patient who recently attended a Blues’ road trip as the guest of Vladimir Tarasenko, played on the Jumbo-tron. “Go Blues!” she shrieked. The puck dropped and they had a chance to sweep a playoff series for the first time since 2001.

The Blues had more motivation than perhaps needed going into Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series against Minnesota on Wednesday night and somehow it wasn’t enough.

The Blues came out flat and their emotions showed up too late, allowing the Wild to prevail 2-0 on goals by Charlie Coyle and Martin Hanzal and a 28-save shutout by goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The Blues now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 as it heads back to Minnesota for Game 5 Saturday at 2 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.

“That’s what you’re dealing with this time of year, the emotions,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “Whether it’s lack of desperation or nerves, we were on our heels. We let them dictate and not a good recipe.”

Minnesota was just more desperate Wednesday, and that was evident when Wild coach Bruce Boudreau pulled a maneuver rarely seen in the NHL. He insisted Wednesday morning that despite having an offense with just three goals in the three games of the series, he was keeping his lines the same. He even went to the extreme of having his players skate their old combinations during the pre-game warmups, and then switch to the new ones at the start of the game.

“We’re down 3-0, you’ve got to try everything you can try,” Boudreau said. “Down 3-0, all the tricks are out of the bag.”

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Blues About To Sweep Wild

Written by Joe Bouley at Hockey

Early goals in this series have been killer. That same trend held true Minnesota’s 3-1 loss to the Blues in Game 3. St. Louis got on the board early and then they let Jake Allen take over.

And he did everything.

Outside of not stopping a Charlie Coyle shot, Allen thwarted the Wild’s insistence to dump-n-chase by acting like a third defenseman back in his zone. Oh, and he also made saves – a bunch of them. He turned away 40 shots in the win, while Devan Dubnyk at the other end allowed three goals on 31 shots. So much was made about Minnesota getting to the front of the net, but even when they do, Allen has just been too good to beat.

The first period was really the only period you needed to know how the rest of the game was going to go. Minnesota, a team that needed to be on the scoreboard first, was betrayed by their goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Colton Parayko’s shot at the top of the circles found twine over Dubnyk’s glove not even 4 minutes into the game. Ryan Suter wasn’t good on his gap. He wouldn’t be able to get away with that kind of gap on Tarasenko, and it should forgiven for giving that much up against a defenseman.

But the Wild were clearly rattled after the softy. Suter was forced into a hooking minor when he (hardy) put his stick on something called Zach Sanford. The following penalty kill was a mess. It was a lot of running around, few clears, and lots of good looks for the Blues, including a shot off the post. That said, Minnesota did kill the penalty.

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Jake Allen Stood On His Head Against Minnesota

Written by Pete Blackburn at

The St. Louis Blues stole Game 1 of their opening round series with an overtime win on the road against the Wild on Wednesday night. Jake Allen’s ridiculous performance between the pipes was a big reason why.

The 26-year-old Blues goalie brought his A-game for the series opener, making a career-high 51 saves against the league’s second-best offense in Minnesota. The Wild outplayed St. Louis and led in a bunch of statistical categories — including shots, possession, face-offs, and hits. Minnesota actually doubled the Blues’ shot output 52-26, but Allen stifled the Wild and kept them off the board nearly all night long.

Allen had an up-and-down year in St. Louis. After a rough start to the season in which he went 17-13-3 with an ugly .895 save-percentage, he turned it around following the firing of head coach Ken Hitchcock on February 1st. After Hitchcock’s dismissal, Allen went 16-7-2 with a .938 save-percentage and three shutouts under Mike Yeo. The Blues had the league’s lowest goals-against-average during that time.

But heading into Game 1, doubters — including myself — wondered if that stretch was possibly just a fluke. Allen’s career playoff numbers before Wednesday hadn’t been great. He had a .902 save-percentage in 12 career postseason appearances, so it was fair to wonder whether he’d be the same goalie that we saw in the second half of the regular season.

Then he went and had 51 saves in a playoff game. Whoops.

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Capitals, Wild, Are Coaches Choices For Stanley Cup

Written by Greg Wyshynski at

TSN released its annual midseason coach’s poll featuring “responses from 25 of the league’s 30 head coaches.”

(Our guess: John Tortorella, Darryl Sutter, Doug Weight, Randy Carlyle and Lindy Ruff were the stragglers. But that’s just a wild, completely grounded in logic, guess.)

What did the coaches reveal? Well, that Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is the best player of the season, and Brent Burns is the best defenseman of the season, andAuston Matthews is the best rookie of the season. Duh.

But what was interesting were their team picks.

In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals (15) and Pittsburgh Penguins (8) were the only teams picked to win the conference championship.

In the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild (11) were the clear favorite to win the conference championship over the Chicago Blackhawks (4), San Jose Sharks (4), Anaheim Ducks (3) and Nashville Predators (1), who literally just got back into the divisional playoff seeds.

For the Stanley Cup, it’s Washington (10) then Pittsburgh (8), followed by Minnesota (3) and Chicago (2).

A couple of thoughts:

1 – That the majority of NHL coaches thinking the Minnesota Wild are going to play for, and win, a championship shows an interesting divide in the confidence they have in Bruce Boudreau to win a Game 7 and that of the rest of the hockey world.

2 – Not a single bit of love for the Montreal Canadiens as a team, although Shea Weber was second to Burns and Carey Price was third among goalies over Braden Holtby, which is an interesting set of alternative facts.

3 – Nicklas Backstrom got a player of the year nomination, which was nice of Barry Trotz and/or Bruce Boudreau.

4 – John Tortorella was named as coach of the year on 15 of the 25 ballots, with Bruce Boudreau second (6).

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Wild Lose While Parise Scores 300th Goal.

Written by Dane Mizutani at

First-year Wild coach Bruce Boudreau plans to use backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper more this season than former coaches Mike Yeo and John Torchetti used him last season.

It’s clear Kuemper is going to have to show Boudreau a little more over his next couple of showings, though.

On a night in which Zach Parise netted the 300th goal of his career, any thoughts of celebration were spoiled as the Wild fell 6-3 in an ugly loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday night at the Barclays Center.

Though Parise was the best player on the ice during his milestone performance, he couldn’t make up for a rough night for a number of Wild players, starting with Kuemper.

“Not to throw him under the bus,” Boudreau said. “I mean, we plan on playing him a few more games than we’ve played him in the past. So sometimes we need that superb goaltending job.”

It wasn’t so superb against the Islanders.

After Parise scored No. 300 on a pretty wrist shot to give the Wild an early lead, the Islanders flipped a switch, making sure the celebration wouldn’t last long. They scored three goals in a little more than three minutes to turn a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead.

Islanders captain John Tavares got the scoring started, followed by goals from Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk. Kuemper had no chance on the goal from Tavares, though the same couldn’t be said about the later goals.

While Boudreau said “nobody” would’ve stopped the Tavares goal, he thought the second and third goals were “stoppable pucks” for Kuemper.

“It puts us behind the eight-ball,” Boudreau said.

Still, as Boudreau mentioned, goaltending wasn’t the only problem.

While Kuemper struggled to see pucks through traffic, fourth-line wingers Teemu Pulkinnen and Chris Stewart both finished minus-3, as the Islanders poured it on late.

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Minnesota Wild go Wild on Stars

Written by Allan Muir at

For five minutes, it looked like the Dallas Stars were going to blow the Minnesota Wild out of their own barn.

And then, out of nowhere, the Wild rediscovered their legs, their forecheck and their scoring touch, ending a seven-game losing streak with a 5–3 win in Game 3.

Patrick Sharp scored twice in a span of four minutes to stake the visitors to an early lead, but Minnesota changed its fortunes with a pair of last-minute goals. Chris Porter clicked on a pretty re-direct with 49.5 seconds left in the first period to cut the deficit to 2–1. Then, with 46.3 ticks remaining in the second, Jason Pominville buried a Nino Niederreiter rebound to give the Wild a 3–2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

For a team that had scored just three goals in its previous five games, the offensive outburst was unexpected but well earned. The Wild’s season hung on this contest, and after that slow start they played like it. They out-worked and out-executed the Stars in virtually every facet of the game.

The victory cuts Dallas’ series lead to 2–1. Game 4 is on Wednesday night in Minnesota.

Here are three thoughts on Monday’s game:

Biggest guns firing

Prior to Game 3, Minnesota coach John Torchetti challenged his best players to actually be his best players. They delivered.

Captain Mikko Koivu was a constant threat, using his size and determination to make his presence felt down low. He showed incredible patience on the game-winner, stickhandling a rebound in tight and waiting just long enough for Kari Lehtonen to commit before burying the shot. Pominville chipped in two goals, three points and a team-high five shots. Erik Haula and Niederreiter kept Dallas’s defenders on their heels with their blistering speed and combined for a goal and four points.

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Stars, Wild, Have Crazy Game, Stars Take 2-0 Lead

Written by Pat Iversen at

The Dallas Stars rode the weirdest goal in recent playoff memory to a 2-0 series lead over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

Antoine Roussel’s first career playoff goal was the highlight as the Stars earned a 2-1 win on home ice. The series heads back to Minnesota for Game 3 on Monday night.

Both goalies were generally as solid as they were in Game 1. Devan Dubnyk put up 26 saves on 28 shots against in the loss while Kari Lehtonen won his eighth game in his last nine starts. Tyler Seguin returned to the Dallas lineup from an Achilles injury for the first time in a month but only registered one shot on goal with limited ice time.

Minnesota had two prime power play opportunities in the first period, but the Stars killed off both of them. The Wild are now 1-for-20 on the man advantage in their last ten periods. Missing injured top forwards Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek probably has something to do with that.

Dallas finally got on the board in the second period, but it was the strangest score of the playoffs so far. The puck came to Antoine Roussel behind the Wild net, and he seemed to kick it over the net and onto Dubnyk’s shoulder. It then slipped in the net as Dubnyk pushed the net off its moorings, trying to keep it out.

Dallas rode the momentum of that goal through the third period, when two Wild defensemen pinched and let Jamie Benn skate away with a breakaway goal and a 2-0 lead.

The Wild were headed to their first consecutive playoff shutout losses since 2003 until Marco Scandella scored their first goal of the series at 12:42 of the third.

Minnesota hurt themselves with a penalty late in the third, and the Stars used the delayed penalty to kill off about a minute of the clock.

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