What we learned in NHL last week: Bad habits are resurfacing with Kings and Ducks; bullish behavior bodes well for Predators
What we learned from the last week of play in the NHL:
Deja vu all over again
The Kings have lost four straight games and the Ducks have lost two in a row, in part because both teams have picked up some bad, old tendencies. The Kings scored only five goals in those four losses while giving up 21 and general manager Rob Blake, in a rare speech after their 5-1 loss to Buffalo on Saturday, told players they’d better get their collective act together soon. He will give them time to regroup and time for Dustin Brown to return from a finger injury but Blake’s patience isn’t endless. The Ducks have been terrible in their own zone. They’ve subjected goaltenders John Gibson and Ryan Miller to an average of 37.9 shots on goal per game, the highest in the NHL through games on Sunday. That’s too much pressure.
The Red Wings won’t go winless
The Red Wings ended an 0-5-2 streak — their longest-ever winless stretch to start a season — when Gustav Nyquist scored in overtime to give them a 4-3 victory Saturday over the host Florida Panthers. They were the last NHL team to earn a victory this season, and they did it by erasing a two-goal deficit. “The Red Wings a week ago would have drooped down on the bench and the energy would have been terrible on our bench,” forward Dylan Larkin told the Detroit Free Press. “It wasn’t like that. We battled. Power play came up huge. It was good to see us gut one out.” The Red Wings are still rebuilding after two straight non-playoff finishes, and the road will be a long one.
Coach is bullish on Predators
It’s not every day an NHL coach attends a postgame news conference wearing a massive bull mask, but a bet is a bet to Nashville’s Peter Laviolette. “Making good on a deal with the players that I had,” he said when asked why he wore the mask after the Predators’ 3-0 victory at Edmonton on Saturday. “We had a challenge to come into Western Canada against two good hockey teams, take four points, and this is the back end of the challenge. It was going to be a tough trip. We threw it out to the players,” as to what his end of the deal would be. It’s related to a bull named Bushwacker, a three-time Professional Bull Riders world champion, and his record of 42 straight buckoffs. Really. In any case, the Predators (7-1-0) have won five straight games, the NHL’s longest active win streak, despite losing goaltender Pekka Rinne to an undisclosed injury Friday. Juuse Saros finished that game and had a 31-save shutout the next day at Edmonton, helping Nashville became the first team to hold Oilers forward Connor McDavid scoreless this season.
The Sabres are making progress
It has been a bleak few years — OK, a bleak decade — for the Buffalo Sabres, who have missed the playoffs seven straight seasons, but they’re stirring. After starting a trip of three games in four days with a loss at San Jose, they bounced back to dominate the Kings in a 5-1 win Saturday and followed that with a resilient 4-2 victory over the Ducks at Anaheim on Sunday. The Sabres fell behind 2-0 early in the second period Sunday but felt they’d been playing well and resisted the temptation to change their game, believing they’d eventually be rewarded. They were. “We knew that we were controlling the play. We had the edge,” forward Kyle Okposo said. “We just kept going.”
The Golden Knights are shining again
After reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their first season, it figured that the Vegas Golden Knights had nowhere to go but down. And when they won only one of their first five games this season, their feel-good story appeared to be over. But as they proved during their remarkable debut season, they have the depth, speed, goaltending and pride to succeed. They’ve built a three-game winning streak by shutting out Philadelphia and allowing one goal each to Buffalo and to the Ducks, getting contributions from fourth-liners and top-tier players in much the same way they did last season. In addition, the Golden Knights (4-4-0) took another step to keep their young core together by signing winger Alex Tuch to a seven-year extension worth $33.25 million. Other teams have tried to replicate their speed and roll-four-lines strategy but Vegas is still doing it well.
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