Coach Barry Trotz has seen enough of his underachieving Capitals, who face a lesson game against the hard-working Flames; Vladimir Tarasenko of the Blues scores a highlight reel goal; more NHL notes.
What to watch tonight
Surprising Calgary epitomizes the virtue of hard work on a game-in, game-out basis. Floundering Washington? Not so much. And coach Barry Trotz has seen just about enough from his underperforming charges. “That behavior has to change or we have to change people,” Trotz said in the wake of Saturday's embarrassing 6–5 loss to the offensively-challenged Coyotes. “To me it’s absolutely unacceptable. They have to fix it. It’s my job to fix the behavior. If they’re not going to fix it internally, then I’ll make sure I fix it.”
Trotz isn’t the first to try, that’s for sure. A lot of the problems that have cropped up during the Capitals’ current skid would be familiar to any of his recent predecessors: selfish penalties, soft coverage and a bare-minimum level of commitment. Playing the Flames might be the best thing for this club. Even if Washington, a team of considerable skill, loses, it will get a first-hand glimpse at a team that has figured out how to maximize its talent. If the Caps can change course and make the most out of what they have, they might do some damage in the East.
I'm not sure where these two clubs will wind up when SI.com's new NHL Power Rankings are revealed later today, but it's a good bet that they'll both be situated in the top five, possibly even the top three. Both will have earned their spots by winning in unexpected ways.
Pittsburgh is still scoring (a league-high 4.1 goals per game, led by top scorer Sidney Crosby) but has been making its biggest statement in its own end. The Penguins have allowed just three goals during their current four-game winning streak, thanks in large part to the play of Marc-Andre Fleury. The veteran keeper, who has faced more than his share of slings and arrows in recent years, has stopped 95 of 98 shots during the run, and has shut out the Sabres, the Kings and the Predators. Special teams have been key for Pittsburgh, as well. The penalty kill has iced the last 26 chances it has faced, moving it past the 85% success rate, while the power play, which scored on three of five chances against Buffalo on Saturday, remains the best in the NHL.
Minnesota is still the league’s stingiest team (1.80 goals-against), but has also been lighting the lamp at a blistering pace (3.4 goals per game, third in the NHL). Zach Parise leads the offensive parade with 10 points, but almost everyone else is also chipping in (except you, Thomas Vanek). The balance makes the Wild a much tougher team to defend—anyone can be a hero on any given night.
Maple Leafs at Coyotes (9:00 EST SNO, FS-A PLUS)
Toronto comes into this game playing its best hockey of the season. The Leafs have won four of their past five—going 3-0-1 on the road during the run—and seem to be finding some offensive chemistry. The return of Stuart Percy should help keep them rolling. The puck-moving blueliner (three NHL assists this season) was recalled on Monday after a brief stint in the minors.
Arizona, meanwhile, returns home buoyant after its best offensive performance of the season, a 6–5 come-from-behind win over Washington. But that six-goal outburst matched the Coyotes’ scoring total from in their previous five games, four of which were losses, so no one's assuming that the West’s worst team has turned the corner just yet. Keep an eye on rookie Tobias Rieder, who made his NHL debut on Saturday alongside Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette. He made a strong impression on embattled coach Dave Tippett, earning another shot on Arizona's top line. “In his first NHL game, he drew two penalties [and] scored a goal,” Tippett said. “[He] wasn’t intimidated by the situation one bit. That’s what we saw in training camp. He is a good, young player who plays a smart game [and] plays with good tempo and I thought he was a really nice fit on that line.”
Rest of the schedule: Panthers at Bruins (7 p.m. ET, TVA, FS-F, NESN); Oilers at Flyers (7 p.m. ET; SNOL, CSN-PH); Hurricanes at Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, FS-O); Blues at Devils (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN); Blackhawks at Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CH; RDS, SNE); Red Wings at Senators (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS2, TSN5); Predators at Jets (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, TSN3); Kings at Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-W; FS-SW); Canucks at Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; SNP, ALT)
The numbers game
• With their win over the Rangers on Monday night, the Blues improved their record at Madison Square Garden to 8-0-1 since Oct. 12, 1998. Prior to that streak, they'd gone 6-44-6 on Broadway.
• The Wild are league's only team that has yet to lose on home ice. Minnesota has outscored its opponents 21-6 at Xcel Energy Center.
• Home ice has been kind to the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, who are 6-1-0 at Staples Center. The road is another matter. Los Angeles is still seeking its first win of the season on enemy ice, where the Kings have been outscored 17-8 while going 0-3-2.
• Jeff Gordon explains how Vladimir Tarasenko has become the NHL's next big thing.
• Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke says the Buds are on the verge of playing second fiddle to the NBA's Raptors in Toronto. Silly Tim Leiweke.
• The AHL has to come down hard on David Leggio after the goaltender did this during a recent game. This isn't simply breaking the rules. This is flaunting them in the most unsportsmanlike fashion possible.
• Can you imagine crossing the ocean to give your child a better chance to pursue his athletic dreams when he's in second grade? That's exactly what the parents of one 2015 draft hopeful did 10 years ago.
What you missed last night
• Winger Vladimir Tarasenko offered this entry into the goal of the year competition.
• Meanwhile, Tarasenko's Blues rolled to their fifth straight win with a shootout victory over the Rangers.
• Rangers back-up goalie Cam Talbot unveiled his sweet new mask.
• Tanner Pearson of the Kings was named the NHL's rookie of the month for October.