- Last month I asked whether the Penguins should shut down Sidney Crosby. The team hoped he would return by March, but it looks like he is no closer to playing than back in early February. It’s getting to a point where you wonder, if he cannot come back by the end of the month, is it even worth it to bring him back at all this season?
Even if Crosby comes back for the playoffs, there is no guarantee that the Penguins would get past the first round. You simply don’t know what kind of player he will be after what is suspected to be a ‘double-concussion’. And bringing him back in an intense playoff series would be risky.
Crosby, who has not been on the ice since Jan. 5, is so valuable not only to the Penguins organization, but the NHL as well. With each passing day/week, it’s becoming more evident that he may not return this season. You have to think about the future with Crosby, and letting him heal 100 percent over the off-season may be the best thing to do.
- I got a chance to see the Tampa Bay Lightning up close this week for the first time this season. My impressions of the team are that they are fun to watch (especially Martin St. Louis), but have a first-round playoff exit written all over them.
I saw them play the Capitals and Blackhawks, and the defense had a tough time slowing down their respective attacks. The Lightning sat on their heels for the last 30 minutes of each of those games, forcing Dwayne Roloson to make a lot of pressure saves. Both went to the shootout, where they came away with a split.
The Bolts are just 7-7-4 since the All-Star break (1-4-2 in March), losing possession of their division lead and losing some head-scratchers. If they keep this up, they will back into the playoffs as the 5th or 6th seed.
- As for the experience in Tampa Bay, it was great. St. Pete Times Forum is a beautiful arena that is very fan-friendly. There’s not a bad seat in the house, the in-game presentation is well done, and the arena itself is in a great location. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and if I get the chance to go back, I will.
- The Hockey News’ Future Watch magazine arrived in my mailbox yesterday. It’s always a great and informative read, so pick it up if you can. Their top 10 prospects go like this:
1. Brayden Schenn, LA
2. Ryan Johansen, CBJ
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, WSH
4. Erik Gudbranson, FLA
5. Vladimir Tarasenko, STL
6. Nino Niederreiter, NYI
7. Ryan Ellis, NSH
8. Jacob Markstrom, FLA
9. Mikkel Boedker, PHX
10. Jack Campbell, DAL
Los Angeles looks to have the deepest pool of prospects, with five ranked in the top 54 (including No. 1 Schenn). On the other end of the spectrum, Philadelphia doesn’t have one player ranked in the top 75.
- A quietly-growing debate is prospective Hart Trophy nominees that are goaltenders. Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne and Carey Price – three of the top contenders for the Vezina – have been mentioned in the Hart race in recent days/weeks.
Thomas’ case for MVP has lost some luster, but Rinne and Price have carried their teams at times this season and are playing exceptionally well of late. Rinne is ranked right behind Thomas in both save percentage and goals-against average, while Price has Montreal in the thick of it for the division (single-handedly, some would argue).
Something to remember when it comes to the Hart and goaltenders, though, is that it doesn’t happen often. Only seven goalies have ever won the MVP; Jose Theodore (2002) was the last to do so. Ryan Miller absolutely deserved to be nominated for the Hart last season, but finished a distant fourth.
- Dan Ellis has been a great steal by GM Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks. With Jonas Hiller out indefinitely, Ellis has held the fort in net. He’s making clutch saves and keeping the Ducks in games. Ellis is 5-1-1 with his new team going into a huge tilt on Sunday, boasting a 2.22 GAA and .913 save percentage. I previously thought the Ducks had a very slim chance to make the playoffs without Hiller. But with Ellis playing well, along with their dynamic offense, it’s looking a bit more realistic.
- With their current five-game winning streak, Vancouver seems to have the Presidents’ Trophy all wrapped up (barring a late-season slip). They were awfully impressive on their road trip in which they won all five games. Daniel Sedin has 10 points in that time. The Canucks have a chance to extend this win streak on home-ice next week.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.