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NHL: pluses and minuses around the league

Vancouver goalies Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider spoof their rivalry, and Nashville's Pekka Rinne has a couple subpar nights after posting shutouts in two of three games.

March 17, 2013|By Helene Elliott

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

PLUSES

+ Kudos to Vancouver Canucks goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider for appearing in a four-minute video that spoofed their much-hyped rivalry for the No. 1 job. Produced by Canada's TSN, the skit is funny and clever as it portrays the two trying to top each other while pretending to be friends. They turned a controversy into a comedy and did it well.

+ The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to nine Sunday with a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins, vaulting past Montreal for the East lead, though the Canadiens have two games in hand. The Penguins' success is impressive because they've been without defending scoring champion and most valuable player Evgeni Malkin (upper-body injury) for the last five games and have allowed only five goals in that span. But Sunday's triumph might have been costly: defenseman Kris Letang, who's having a Norris Trophy-caliber season, left the game with an apparent leg injury. His status is unclear.

+ The injury-depleted Columbus Blue Jackets have assembled a franchise-record points streak that hit 6-0-4 after their 1-0 shootout victory over Phoenix on Saturday. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who hasn't given up more than two goals in any of his eight March appearances, has been the key to the team's surge out of the West basement. He has stopped 239 of 245 shots in his last eight games (.976 save percentage), including two shutouts in his last five.

MINUSES

- Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne had recorded two shutouts in three games before he faced Vancouver on Thursday but gave up four goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Chris Mason in a 7-4 loss. Matters only got worse for Rinne on Friday, when he yielded two goals on two Calgary shots before being pulled from an eventual 6-3 loss. Both performances were unusual for him and the defensively conscientious Predators.

- New York Rangers Coach John Tortorella wasn't his usual combative self after a 3-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday, the Rangers' third straight defeat. "We're just not playing well enough," he said. "We haven't gotten to our identity consistent enough." They'd better find that identity soon: on Monday they start a stretch of three games in four days against Carolina, New Jersey and Florida.

- Is the shortened season making for shorter tempers? Fighting is up about 10% this season compared with a year ago. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there was an average of 1.07 fighting majors per game in the 416 games played through Saturday. Through the first 416 games last season the average was 0.86 fighting majors per game. And although Brian Burke left Toronto, his truculence remains: through Saturday's games the Maple Leafs led the NHL with 29 fighting majors, three more than Columbus.

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