Leafs lose seventh straight, updates on Carey Price and Ben Chiarot, plus the latest on the Canucks, Senators, Flames and Oilers.
TORONTO SUN: The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their seventh-straight game falling 2-1 in a shootout to the New Jersey Devils. The loss was also the Leafs tenth in their last 11 games. James van Riemsdyk tallied the lone Leaf goal. Adam Larsson scored the game-tying goal for the Devils, setting the stage for Patrik Elias’ shootout winner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That game highlighted just how lousy the Leafs and Devils are. It was not entertaining hockey.
LA PRESSE: The prowess of goaltender Carey Price is offsetting the imperfections in the play of the Montreal Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Without Price, the Canadiens would be struggling for a playoff berth. He’s the main reason the Habs are among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Price’s performance should make him a finalist for this season’s Vezina Trophy.
WINNIPEG SUN: Rookie defenseman Ben Chiarot has played very well for the Jets since his call-up on December 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chiarot’s among the reasons the Jets were able to overcome losing Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart through December into early-January to injuries.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks must improve their grit, blueline scoring and power play if they hope to secure a playoff berth this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Easier said than done. They weren’t a particularly physical team to begin with, Kevin Bieksa’s production was down this season prior to his recent injury, which was a contributing factor in their shaky power-play performance.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators upcoming home stretch (nine of their 11 games are on home ice) will determine if they’re buyers or sellers at the March 2 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators are 10 points out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. If they don’t win at least six of those 11 games I doubt they’ll have a reasonable shot of making it. They’ll also need the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers to struggle over that stretch if they’re to gain ground. Right now, I consider them sellers.
CALGARY SUN: Be it Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo or Joni Ortio, it’s time for the Flames goalies to step up if they hope to clinch a playoff berth.
EDMONTON SUN: The Oilers players take umbrage over suggestions they’re tanking the season to improve the club’s chances of winning the 2015 NHL draft lottery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers aren’t tanking the season. They’re just a lousy team. Even when they’re playing their best, it’s just not good enough against most of their NHL opponents, many of which are better managed and have ownership that actually gives a damn about them.