Helene Elliott's NHL pluses and minuses

Washington's Alexander Ovechkin is on way to becoming the NHL's top goal scorer for third season in row

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the last week:

+ Washington's Alexander Ovechkin is closing on his third consecutive Maurice Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer. Through Sunday, he had 52 goals, 10 ahead of Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos and New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash. Ovechkin also is vying for the scoring title. With 80 points he trailed Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby by one through Sunday.

+ The Columbus Blue Jackets' franchise-record nine-game winning streak raised many "ifs." If they hadn't been so ravaged by injuries would they be headed toward a playoff spot instead of good memories to build on? If they can beat playoff teams Pittsburgh, New York Islanders, St. Louis, Chicago, the Ducks and Vancouver and borderline-playoff team Calgary, could they be dangerous next season if they stay healthy?

+ R.I.P Elmer Lach, who centered Toe Blake and Maurice Richard on the Montreal Canadiens' "Punch Line" and was the first winner of the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's scoring champion in 1948. He was the oldest living former NHL player when he died Saturday at 97 in Montreal. A three-time Stanley Cup champion and 1945 MVP, he was skillful and tough when toughness was taken for granted. The oldest living former NHL player now is Milt Schmidt, who turned 97 on March 5.

- What's wrong with Pittsburgh? Yes, the Penguins have had injuries, including a recent concussion suffered by defenseman Kris Letang, but that doesn't explain a 3-8-1 slump that has put them in danger of sliding out of an East playoff spot. They've been outscored, 37-19, during their struggles.

- So much for Mike Richards redeeming himself when the Kings rescued him from exile in the American Hockey League. He played five games, had no points and was minus-four defensively, foiling the Kings' hopes his experience would compensate for Jarret Stoll's absence. Stoll is back and Richards is a healthy scratch, as deserved.

- Dustin Byfuglien's suspension for a cross-check to the head of the Rangers' J.T. Miller took him out of the Winnipeg Jets' lineup for four crucial games. He's eligible to return for Winnipeg's season finale Saturday against Calgary. "So what Dustin Byfuglien owes this team is for that Calgary game to be the best game that he can possibly play," Coach Paul Maurice said.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
60°