Mitch's Sports Report: Bruins Clinch Playoff Berth Despite Overtime Loss; See Crosby's Dazzling Goal
The number of key players out with injury now at seven, the Boston Bruins have got to feel good about taking away at least one point from last night's tilt against the Blues in St. Louis, even if they ultimately lost the game.
Ryan Donato scored his second goal in just his second NHL game, but it was Jaden Schwartz who stole the show, netting both goals for the Blues including a highlight reel overtime end-to-end game winner that gave St. Louis a 2-1 win.
Skating 3 on 3 in the overtime period Schwartz collected the puck behind his own net, built up a head of steam crossing into the Bruins zone and split the defense to blast a puck behind Anton Khudobin for the deciding goal.
But the one point for the regulation tie clinches the Bruins a playoff spot as they join the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators as the only teams to have guaranteed a post-season slot with about a month left to to play in the regular season.
The emergence of Donato, albeit with too small a sample size to get too excited, has got to be encouraging for a Bruins squad still piling up injuries the way the Big Bad Bruins of the 1970's used to pile up goals and penalty minutes.
Defenseman Torey Krug was the latest to get an injury scratch, a group on the shelf that includes Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash, David Backes, and Charlie McAvoy. The good news is that Bergeron has been skating again in practices as he recovers from a fracture in his foot, but the Bruins are in no rush to bring him back before he's ready, especially now that they're a playoff lock, and the hope is that the injuries to the rest are also not so serious that the entire group would miss the upcoming post-season games. NHL teams are notorious about their non-specific descriptions of player ailments, choosing to say either upper body or lower body injury and leaving the rest to the public's imagination.
One detail we do know is that the Bruins best young defenseman, Charlie McAvoy, is recovering from a sprained MCL and will be re-evaluated in about two weeks to see if he's ready to get back to action. Meanwhile the Bruins continue their four game road trip with a game against the Stars in Dallas Friday night within four points of Tampa Bay for first place in the eastern conference with two more games still against the Lightning and a game in hand.
A lot of people who don't cheer for the Pittsburgh Penguins really despise Sidney Crosby, but anyone watching the highlights of the game last night between the Penguins and Montreal Canadiens would have to grudgingly admit to Crosby's brilliance while still muttering expletives attached to his name under their breath.
Crosby scored a goal in the Penguins' 5-3 win over Montreal last night that arguably only he could have put in the net. Skating across the crease in front of Habs goalie Carey Price, Crosby collected an aerial pass, tipped it to himself while it was still suspended in mid-air, directing it forward so he could get a better whack at it, and then knocked it a second time from the air into the net behind Price. It happened so quickly in real time you can't actually appreciate the extraordinary hand-eye coordination that went into the play, but slow motion replays break it down perfectly and you do sometimes just have to marvel at an athlete like Crosby who does things on the ice that seem to defy the laws of physics. So, marvel away:
In any event the goal was part of a comeback win for Pittsburgh that ruined a brief comeback the Canadiens themselves had forged after trailing by two to take a 3-2 lead. It was the first game Price had played in net for Montreal since struggling to recover from concussion symptoms that kept him out more than a month, and he knew there was nothing he could have done to prevent Crosby's ridiculous game-tying goal after Montreal took the lead.
The Penguins struggled a lot this season but they're almost certainly playoff bound now, and being winners of the last two Stanley Cups back to back, they may well be the team to beat in the tournament this year, in so small part because they have number 87 on their side.
In the NBA you may have heard me use the term double double a number of times to reflect a player who scores in double digits in at least two categories, points for example, along with rebounds or assists. Well, last night in Brooklyn, Dwight Howard of the Charlotte Hornets recorded the kind of double double that hadn't been seen in eight years, and only the second in the league since 1981. The big center scored 32 points and pulled down an astonishing 30 rebounds in Charlotte's 111-105 victory over the Nets. The last player to record a 30/30 double double was Kevin Love who did it in 2010 with Minnesota.