Elias Says: March 31, 2017

Bulls sweep slumping Cavaliers

The Bulls defeated the Cavaliers on Thursday night to complete a four-game sweep of their season series. It’s the third time in the last 10 seasons that a team went 4–0 or better against the defending NBA champion. The Lakers did that in 2011-12 (4–0 versus the Mavericks), as did the Nets in 2013-14 (a four-game sweep of the Heat).

Cleveland’s loss dropped its record to 6–10 since March 1. It is only the second time in this century that a defending NBA champion lost 10 games in a calendar month. The Spurs had an 8–10 record in December 2014, after winning the league title in June of that year.

Pistons edge Nets for fifth one-point win

The Pistons edged the Nets, 90–89, for their fifth one-point victory this season. That ties them with the Kings for the most such wins this season and it’s the highest total for Detroit since its 1986-87 team––led by Isiah Thomas, Adrian Dantley, Bill Laimbeer and Joe Dumars––won six games by the minimum margin.

Rubio, Towns and Wiggins too much for the Lakers

Ricky Rubio (33 points), Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and Andrew Wiggins (27) led the Timberwolves to a 119–104 triumph over the Lakers. It was Minnesota’s first victory in more than 13 years in which three of its players scored at least 25 points. The Timberwolves’ previous win of that kind came in January 2004, when Latrell Sprewell (30), Kevin Garnett (26) and Sam Cassell (26) turned that hat trick, coincidentally also at home versus the Lakers.

Back-to-backs no problem for Griffin and Paul

The Clippers defeated the Wizards on Wednesday and the Suns on Thursday. Blake Griffin scored 26 points versus Washington and 31 against Phoenix, while Chris Paul tallied 27 and 29 points, respectively, in those games. The only other NBA teammates this season to score more than 25 points in each of back-to-back wins over consecutive days were LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in December during a home-and-home set with the Bucks.

McDavid is first to 90 points

Connor McDavid became the first NHL player to reach the 90-point mark this season when he notched an assist on the Oilers’ first goal in their 3–2 win against the Sharks. (He also scored Edmonton’s second goal in Thursday’s game.) McDavid, the first overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft, tallied 48 points for the Oilers in 2015–16 when an injury limited him to only 45 games in his debut season. He’s only the sixth active player to register 90 or more points in one (or both) of his first two seasons in the NHL. The others are Sidney Crosby (first and second seasons), Alex Ovechkin (first and second), Eric Staal (second), Evgeni Malkin (second) and Steven Stamkos (second).

Red Wings swept by Lightning

The Lightning completed a sweep of their five-game season series versus the Red Wings with a 5–3 win in Tampa on Thursday. (The only point that Detroit earned from the five games was the one they got for an overtime loss at Joe Louis Arena last Friday.) This is only the fourth time in the 90-year history of the Red Wings franchise that an opposing team played at least five games versus Detroit in one season and won them all. The other teams to do that were the 1929–30 Bruins (with six wins against a team then known as the Detroit Cougars), 1970–71 Black Hawks (six wins) and 1973–74 Flyers (six wins).

Another game-winner for Matthews

Rookie Auston Matthews scored his seventh game-winning goal of the season in the Maple Leafs’ 3–1 victory against the Predators in Nashville. Over the last 10 years only two other rookies scored at least seven game-winning goals in one NHL season: Logan Couture for the Sharks in 2010–11 (eight) and Artemi Panarin for the Blackhawks in 2015–16 (seven). Matthews is one shy of the Maple Leafs record for game-winning goals by a rookie in one season (eight), a mark which Howie Meeker has held since 1946–47.

Skinner ties career high for goals in month

Jeff Skinner matched his career high for goals in one month when he scored the tying goal for the Hurricanes in the third period of their game against the Blue Jackets, which Carolina won in overtime, 2–1. Skinner will finish with a total of 12 goals in 16 games in March, equaling the goal total he posted for Carolina in December 2013. Since the Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997, the only player besides Skinner to score at least a dozen goals in one calendar month for the Hurricanes is Jeff O’Neill when he tallied 14 goals in January 2001.

Couturier produces three points in first period

Sean Couturier tallied one goal and two assists for the Flyers when they outscored the Islanders, 5–0, in the first period of their game in Philadelphia. This was only the fourth time in the last five seasons that a Flyers player produced three points in the first 20 minutes of a game. The other Flyers with three-point first periods since 2012–13 are Kimmo Timonen (March 7, 2013 vs. Pittsburgh), Wayne Simmonds (March 16, 2014 at Pittsburgh) and Mark Streit (Feb. 27, 2016 vs. Arizona).

Rask’s seventh shutout

Tuukka Rask made 27 saves as he posted a 2–0 win against the Stars in Boston. It was Rask’s seventh shutout this season, tying the career high set with the Bruins in 2013–14. Rask is only the third goaltender in Bruins history to produce multiple seasons of seven or more shutouts for the club. The others are Tiny Thompson, who had six such seasons for Boston in the 1920s and 1930s, and “Sugar Jim” Henry with three in the early 1950s.

Gallagher’s four points help Canadiens clinch

Brendan Gallagher recorded the first four-point game of his NHL career by scoring one goal and assisting on three as the Canadiens clinched a playoff spot with a 6–2 win over the Panthers. Gallagher, an Edmonton native, is only the second Canadian-born player to score four points or more in one game for the Canadiens over the last seven seasons. The other one is P.K. Subban, who had one four-point game for Montreal in March 2011 and another in January 2014.

Niederreiter ends drought with two-goal game

Nino Niederreiter ended his season-worst 16-game goal drought by scoring twice in the Wild’s 5–1 win against the Senators. It was Niederreiter’s fifth multiple-goal game this season, tying Eric Staal for the Minnesota team lead this season and matching the number of multi-goal games that Niederreiter produced in his previous five seasons in the NHL combined.

Scheifele joins teammate with 30-goal season

Mark Scheifele became a 30-goal scorer for the first time in his NHL career when he scored the overtime goal that gave the Jets a 4–3 victory against the Ducks. Schiefele and his teammate, rookie Patrik Laine (34 goals), are the first pair of players to each score 30 or more goals in the same season for this franchise since 2008–09, when Ilya Kovalchuk (43 goals) and Bryan Little (31) did so for the Atlanta Thrashers.