Which is the best division? – The Pacific division is one of only two divisions with every team to have at least 50 points. They also boast the NHL’s top team in the Sharks. Dallas and Anaheim have also won the cup in the past decade. On the opposite side the Atlantic division boasts all teams over 50 points plus recent cup winners Pittsburgh and multiple cup winner, this past decade, in the Devils. Those two are my top picks for best division. Both divisions have a great shot at getting four teams into the playoffs. A close third is the Northwest division. Other than Edmonton everyone is playing well and it should come down to the wire for the division crown. Colorado has also won a cup this decade. The Central division is next, boasting multiple cup winner Detroit and the resurgent Blackhawks. Next to last would be the Northeast. Despite the storied histories of Boston, Toronto and Montreal this Division and those clubs have fallen on hard times as of late. It also looks like Boston’s resurgence last year was more of a mirage. No cups in almost 20 years and Toronto has been rebuilding for what seems like forever. I think it’s easy to pick the worst division other than the Capitals, every team is at 50 points or below in the Southeast. No team seems likely to make the playoffs other than the Capitals, a shame I had high hopes for Tampa Bay this year. They do however, surprisingly, boast two recent cup winners in Tampa Bay and Carolina. Imagine that, more cups for the Sun Belt teams than all of the Canadian teams the past 15 years.

Goalie Spotlight

Jimmy Howard – Detroit Red Wings

Who is that in net for Detroit? You ask, that would be Jimmy Howard. With Hasek retired and Chris Osgood riding the bench, the goalie duties have fallen to Jimmy Howard. Not a bad move by Detroit either. It’s been a strange year for Hockeytown and why not get a look at Howard, 25, who is much younger than Osgood, 36, which gives him much more of an upside.

Born in Syracuse New York, Howard started playing for the U.S National team development program under 17 and under 18 teams. In 2002 he led the USA to gold in the IIHF World Championships where he was named USA goalie of the year. Howard next went to the University of Maine where he played for three seasons. He holds both single season and career school records in GAA, shutouts and SV%. He also holds NCAA records for GAA and SV% for the 03-04 season. He was drafted in the second round by Detroit in 2003.

Howard played for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL. His first year was successful as he was named to the AHL’s all-rookie team and was apart of the Griffins franchise’s longest winning streak. In the four seasons prior to this season Howard started in 6 games. He only won one of those and while he posted a respectable 2.76 GAA his SV% was a paltry .896. Howard was expected to compete with Ty Conklin for Osgood’s back up job this season, however the Red Wings elected not to offer Conklin a new contract. So Howard ended up receiving the role. Osgood struggled this season and after starting the first 20 games the Red Wings deciding to give Howard the starting job. Howard has responding by posting the best numbers of his very brief NHL career. He posted his first NHL shutout against the Lightning and he currently boasts a GAA of 2.18 and a SV% .928. Howard is hoping a strong showing this year will solidify him as the top netminder in Detroit for a long time to come. Detroit hopes that as well, as they continue to seek their 19th consecutive playoff berth.

Fights of the Week

Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.

Kris Versteeg vs. Patrick Eaves

The NBC game of week had a pretty good fight. Kind of dumb that NBC starts showing hockey during football playoffs so I didn’t even watch this game.

Josh Gorges vs. Sean Avery

Avery has been kind of quiet this year, I think this is the first highlighted fight for him from me. It’s not the greatest but its slim pickings in fights this week.

Eric Nystrom vs. Kyle Chipchura

Okay fight, Chipchura gets busted open pretty bad.

Goat of the Week

NBC

Well like I mentioned above, I didn’t watch NBC’s Sunday game of the week but apparently NBC’s coverage of the game was pretty pathetic.  Between explaining basic hockey rules and actually missing a live goal because they ran a promo and then recapped the previous action. Thank goodness for replay huh NBC? Of course you shouldn’t expect much with NBC these days with the way they handle the late night shows. Yes I’m with Coco.

Things I like

1. Despite refs hating him, Alex Burrows has been on a roll as of late. He has a 7 game point streak going currently. He is currently on pace to score way more points than he ever has in his career.

2. Patrick Kane has put all of that cabbie mess behind him and is currently the leading scorer on the Blackhawks. He is also 5th overall in the league in scoring and he should set a career high in all categories.

3. Anaheim’s recent winning ways and home dominance. The Ducks have won 8 in a row at the Honda Center, it will always be the Pond in my book, and 7 of their last 8 games overall. They have now crept back into playoff contention similarly to what they did last year.

Things I don’t

1. Because of the Olympic break there won’t be an All-Star game. It’s not that big of a deal but the game is fun to watch and good for marketing. Plus we can’t watch Pittsburgh and Detroit fans stuff the online voting.

2. The Oilers only bright spot Dustin Penner has points in only 3 out of the past 12 games and a -7 overall. Despite he recently lack of scoring he still leads the team in goals and points by a comfortable margin. Just another reason the Oilers aren’t winning.

3. How bout them Rangers? Talk about inconsistency. The Rangers scored one goal in their previous three games before scoring a combined 14 goals in the next two games. They’ve pretty much been everywhere in the standings this year too, from 1st all the way down to 12th and everywhere in between.

Stat Line of the Week

01/15/10  Washington 6 vs. Toronto 1

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

A. Ovechkin

17:50

1

4

+3

2

0

Ovechkin had another one of those games, amassing 5 points in just under 18 minutes of ice time. Amazingly he is 2nd in scoring so far and he has played, in most cases, 10 games less than the players around him.

Did You Know?

That Mario Lemieux is the only player to lead the league in scoring while missing more than 20 games in the last 30 years. Lemieux led the league in scoring in the 1992-93 season, with 160 points in only 60 games played. Not too shabby.

Numbers, Numbers

8 – The number of games Alex Ovechkin doesn’t have a point this season, out of 41 games played.

7 – Ovechkin’s current point streak, his highest of the season so far.

2 – Number of games Henrik Sedin doesn’t have at least 1 point, out of his last 22 games.

-9 – Brad Richards’ plus/minus number, the only player in the top 10 in points with a minus.

This Week in Hockey History

Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.

January 14, 1997 Martin Brodeur became the second goalie in Devils’ franchise history to record 100 victories. The milestone came in a 4-2 win over Boston. It was the start of a 14 game unbeaten streak (8-0-6) for Brodeur.

January 15, 1997 Edmonton goalie Curtis Joseph stopped 40 shots for his team-record 5th shutout of the season (breaking Grant Fuhr’s 1987-88 mark) in the Oilers’ 4-0 win over the visiting Florida Panthers. It was Joseph’s 10th career shutout.

January 16, 1974 Bruins’ captain Johnny Bucyk became the eighth player in NHL history to score 450 career goals, as Boston tied 5-5 at Chicago.

January 17, 1943 Trailing 2-0 with two minutes to play and 15,000 Chicago fans filing out, the Red Wings scored twice, with Sid Abel getting the tying goal with :01 remaining in the game, as the Wings and Black Hawks settled for a 2-2 tie.

January 18, 1958 Boston’s Harry Lumley set an NHL record when his first shutout of the season (a 3-0 win over Montreal) gave him one (or more) shutouts in 14 straight seasons. He broke the record of 13 straight seasons set by John Roach (1922-23 thru 1934-35).

January 19, 1971 Gordie Howe appeared in a record 14th consecutive All-Star game, and in his 22nd in 23 NHL seasons. The 14 straight games eclipsed the mark of 13 straight set by Maurice Richard. The West beat the East, 2-1 in Boston.

Rankings

The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.

Top 5

1. Buffalo
2. Chicago
3. San Jose
4. Anaheim
5. NY Islanders

Bottom 5

30. Edmonton
29. Toronto
28. Columbus
27. Calgary
26. Dallas

Anaheim Ducks Watch

The Ducks played the Bruins at home in one of the more amazing games I’ve seen in quite some time. It had everything you could ask for too. A couple of fights, amazing goalie saves, injuries, big goals by key guys, ties and lead changes. The Ducks prevailed by getting balanced scoring, 4-3, but unfortunately lost their future hall of famer again. It really sucks to watch Teemu Selanne break his jaw when he just came back from a broken hand. Sometimes you just have no luck and it seems like that is the case with Selanne these days.

Next was a huge divisional game against the cross-town rival Kings. Unfortunately the Ducks must have missed the memo that the game was the day after the Bruins game because they just didn’t bother to show up. Not sure why the Ducks haven’t been playing Giguere, there isn’t any reason why Hiller should have to play back to back games when Giguere was named to the all-decade second team, I mean honestly. In the 3rd period the Ducks just lost it with all those penalties and Bobby Ryan with his stupid hit and game misconduct at the end. This is one of those games you’d like to forget but it happens to every team every now and then.

Against the Flames Brian Hayward actually said “coast to coast like buttered toast” on Evgeny Artyukhin’s goal, I have to admit I’ve never heard that before. It doesn’t really make that much sense either. I did however dig his reference to this game to the kind of games the Oiler teams of the 80’s played. Between the four NFL playoff games and this game, I watched way too many games this weekend. Anyway the Ducks shows some grit in this game. After being behind 1 goal the Ducks scored 3 unanswered goals only to have the Flames score three unanswered goals themselves. The Ducks rallied back in the 3rd scoring the last 2 goals to take the win 5-4.

Next up was the Sabres game I saw in person. The game had sentimental reasons for me as it’ll probably be the last game I attend for the foreseeable future as I make my move to the Pacific Northwest. Ryan Miller didn’t get the start which surprised me and I was annoyed and happy about that. I was annoyed because I wanted to see one of the top goalies play but happy because that gives the Ducks a better chance to win. It was an exciting game and Getzlaf scored a mere 19 seconds into the game with a pretty rebound goal. After about 10 minutes into the 1st period, it was 4-0 Ducks and life was good. The Sabres pulled Lalime for Miller, so I knew goals would not come as easily. Two goals were also waved off in the game one for the Ducks and one for the Sabres, I thought both were good calls. But then Anaheim started their collapse a little earlier than normal and before you knew it the score was 4-3 after two periods. Ryan Getzlef was also hit right above the eye with a puck and left the game with a trail of blood. This seemed eerily similar to what happened to Teemu Selanne. Luckily Getzlaf was able to return later. Troy Bodie, of all people, scored the game winner off a turnover. The Sabres were able to mange one more goal after they pulled Miller but the Ducks prevailed 5-4. All in all a great game, no fights though, boo.

Alex Mueller

Author: Alex Mueller

Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.

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Which is the best division? – The Pacific division is one of only two divisions with every team to have at least 50 points. They also boast the NHL’s top team in the Sharks. Dallas and Anaheim have also won the cup in the past decade. On the opposite...