Between the Pipes – NHL Recap Week 25
And down the stretch they come – Can’t you just hear the Kentucky Derby announcer now? I know what you’re thinking, great another blogger to tell me about the NHL standings that I can’t just look at myself. The teams are basically now set, we just don’t know where. The only thing not decided is which one of the four in the East won’t get in, Rangers, Bruins, Canadiens or Flyers but it’s almost a given the Rangers won’t.
1. z-Washington 80 118 +83
2. x-New Jersey 79 99 +25
3. y-Buffalo 79 98 +28
4. x-Pittsburgh 79 97 +16
5. x-Ottawa 80 93 -9
6. Montreal 80 87 -2
7. Philadelphia 80 86 +11
8. Boston 79 85 +1
1. y-San Jose 80 109 +46
2. y-Chicago 79 107 +59
3. y-Vancouver 80 101 +48
4. x-Phoenix 79 102 +20
5. x-Nashville 80 98 +2
6. x-Los Angeles 79 97 +23
7. x-Detroit 79 96 +10
8. x-Colorado 79 93 +16
I won’t do match-ups this week since we still have a week to go but some things jump out at me.
Not that GA/GF is the, be all end all of everything but I think it’s an important stat. In the West you can pretty much see who the weakest link is, Nashville. I can’t imagine them getting past the 1st round, everybody else will be tough and it’s totally up for grabs. If you go by the +25 cut off point, if you don’t know what I’m talking about read last weeks column, it’s still just San Jose, Chicago, and Vancouver. Los Angeles has a shot to make the cut-off point mostly thanks to the +5 they had on Bobby Lu (more on him below) and the Canucks. If you would have told me that Phoenix would make the playoffs at the start of the season I wouldn’t have believed you. If you would have told me they would get over 100 points, I would have laughed in your face for 30 minutes. But here we are. Colorado ended up around where I thought they would. I thought Los Angeles was a year away from making the playoffs but here they are anyway.
In the East I think it’s telling how bad the conference is when the 9th place Western team would be in 6th place in the East and probably hold the advantage. Not to mention the 5th place Senators have a -9. In the East it’s the same three teams over +25, Washington, Buffalo and New Jersey. Even though Pittsburgh will probably finish in 4th like last year, New Jersey has the tiebreaker; I think it’s safe to say they lost their mojo. Of course Malkin has only played in two of the past ten games and he is a huge part of what makes that team go. The most interesting thing about the East is if there are no upsets, which doesn’t seem likely but isn’t there always at least one, and the top 4 stay as they are Pittsburgh would meet Washington in the 2nd round, again, despite the NHL’s wishes. I’d have to admit I was hoping they would meet in the conference finals this year as well. Washington seems to have Pittsburgh’s number too. It would also setup a 2nd round of Miller vs. Brodeur and won’t that be fun. This would be a rematch of the Team USA vs. Team Canada gold medal game goalies… o wait nevermind.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Darcy Hordichuk vs. George Parros
The 4th fight this season and 10th overall between these two. Short but lots of good punched and probably one of the better Parros fights.
Jason Strudwick vs. Brian Sutherby
Good rights by Strudwick and good lefts by Sutherby. It’s a shame it didn’t last longer.
Goat of the Week
Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo had what some may say a bad night at the office when he gave up eight goals against the Kings. Some were fairly bad but the eighth goal pretty much summed up his night. It probably had him longing for the day when he received his gold medal. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault on why he didn’t pull Luongo, “I’ve got a plan, and I’m going to stick to the plan.” Translation: Luongo sucking wasn’t part of the plan.
And because we love Luongo so much, here’s another one from against the Avalanche. He tried to cover with his blocker hand, don’t you see the problem with that already, and butted it in with his stick. Not sure if it was over the line yet but while he was busy not covering the puck the Avalanche stormed and knocked it in.
Things I like
1. Jaroslav Halak started to heat up in March which included, among other things, a six game win streak. Now he has boiled over and recorded two straight shutouts in crucial games for Montreal’s playoffs chances. Perhaps this will finally put an end to the misery that is the Carey Price experiment in Montreal. Not to totally rag on Price but he’s had a rough go of it in Montreal. especially with the media. I think he’s someone who would benefit from a change in scenery.
2. A home and home series of the Philadelphia Flyers vs. the New York Rangers in the final two games of the regular season. Talk about scheduling prowess but I like that the teams competing for a spot have to face each other. That’s the way it should be, although I realize it rarely happens. Of course since the Rangers just lost to Buffalo, it doesn’t really matter anymore. O well.
3. Since being inserted as the starting goalie since Huet melted down, Antti Niemi has played well enough to justify being a starter in his own right and not just simply the lesser of two evils option. In the past four games he has only allowed four goals.
4. I just love the points race between Henrik Sedin and Alex Ovechkin. Ditto the goals race between Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. I also loved Ovie’s empty net goal with about one second left in the game against the Penguins, just priceless.
Things I don’t
1. Hey buddy can I buy a goal? That’s what Boston Bruin players and fans must be saying. They have now dropped into the lowest scoring team in the NHL. Hard to imagine they were the 2nd highest scoring team last year. I wonder if they regret trading Phil Kessel, no wait I know the answer to that. Amazingly they did score five on Calgary the other week and four on Atlanta. They have now mustered up five goals in their last four games.
2. The plucky Atlanta Thrashers had their luck finally run out. With the Rangers winning and the Thrashers only able to muster up three points in the last five games their run for the playoffs has come to an end. Hard to root against a team who seems to shed one superstar a season but then you realize they play in Atlanta and have the second lowest attendance on top of only Phoenix, who has their attendance problems well documented, so then you don’t feel too bad.
Stat Line of the Week
04/03/10 Vancouver 5 vs. Anaheim 4
In his first NHL season the former 1st round pick Michael “Grabby” Grabner had his first career hat trick. Not to shabby in only twelve minutes of play. He should be one to watch next year in what will likely be an increased role.
Did You Know?
That the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks have never made the playoffs in the same season. Sadly that is the case this year as the Ducks won’t make the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04 or the lockout year if you want to be technical, though nobody made it then. They have both missed it in the same season though.
13 – Number of 25 goal seasons for Teemu Selanne
801 – Number of career assists for the 39 year old Mike Modano
4 – Number of goals in 54 games for Peter Mueller with the Phoenix Coyotes
9 – Number of goals in 15 games for Peter Mueller with the Colorado Avalanche
0 – Number of wins by the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins over the Washington capitals this season in four games
600 – Number of wins by Martin Brodeur, win 600 was a shutout fittingly
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
April 01, 1990 Luc Robitaille scored his 100th point of the season (for the second time in his career), as the Kings lost 8-4 to the Flames at Calgary.
April 02, 1927 New York Rangers’ Lorne Chabot became the first rookie goalie in NHL history to get a shutout in his first playoff game, when he and Bruins’ Hal Winkler traded shutouts in a scoreless tie, in Game One of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals.
April 03, 1966 In the final game of the 1965-66 season, Chicago’s Bobby Hull picked up an assist (during a 4-2 loss at Boston) to give him 97 points, the most ever by a player in one season. Hull broke Dickie Moore’s NHL record of 96 points set in 1958-59.
April 04, 1976 Chicago’s Tony Esposito became the first goaltender in NHL history to record 30 (or more) wins for seven straight seasons, when the Blackhawks had a 7-2 win over the visiting St. Louis Blues.
April 05, 1995 Montreal Canadiens obtained Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov from the New York Islanders, in exchange for Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider and Craig Darby.
April 06, 1974 Rookie Denis Potvin scored a goal and three assists in the final game of the season, to give him NHL records for most goals (17), assists (54), and points (71) by a rookie defenseman. Islanders won 4-2 over the Minnesota North Stars in New York.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
30. Tampa Bay
Anaheim Ducks Watch
In the last five games, up until the last kings game, the Ducks have garnered nine points, only one short of the maximum possible. Not to shabby especially when you consider they are doing it without Ryan Getzlaf and Jonas Hiller.
Anaheim played Colorado at Colorado in a game they must have otherwise they would pretty much be out of it. They delivered especially the Selanne, Blake, Koivu line. This was the first game the line played exceptionally well and the start of their current streak. In fact Selanne, Koivu with Niedermayer and Eminger all had +5 for the game. Blake had a +4. Selanne had a goal number 601 in which he tied his boyhood idol and fellow Fin Jari Kurri.
Next was Vancouver at home in a rematch of a game where the Ducks didn’t really show up in Vancouver the week before. Ever hear of Michael Grabner? Well I haven’t but the Canucks felt highly enough of him to draft him 14th overall in the 2006 draft. He showed why as he recorded his 1st career hat trick. This was a highly entertaining game. For the Ducks Selanne and Koivu each recorded two clutch goals a piece. Selanne’s goals came on the power-play as he officially passed Kurri on the goals list. Koivu’s second goal came on the power-play with the goalie pulled and tied the game in the final two minutes to force overtime. Overtime was just as exciting as the regular game but no one scored. In overtime and towards the end of the 3rd period there were some questionable no calls on both sides. I like that they let them play though and they were somewhat consistent with the officiating. In the shootout Mr. Reliable Selanne was not reliable and even though Curtis McElhinney was great in the game he was not very good in the shootout. Canucks win in the shutout but the Ducks get that all important point.
Next were the Kings in a “road” game in Los Angeles. The Kings got a weird bounce goal to take a 1-0 lead at the end of the 1st. Lots of chances the rest of the game in another entertaining game. This game also had some questionable no calls. Nobody scored gain to the end of the 3rd until Koivu ties the game in the final two minutes with a power-play goal with the goalie pulled. Hmm… where have I seen that before? Koivu’s new nickname is Mr. Clutch. In the shootout McElhinney was much better than he was in the shootout against the Canucks. Nobody scored in the shootout except for, guess who, Saku Koivu.
Next was another game against Los Angeles this time at home. The Ducks tried to keep their playoff hopes alive and jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Selanne scored two goals and Bobby Ryan finally snapped his eight game goalless drought. Ryan did it off a Vancouver miscue into a wide open net. But alas the Kings stormed back and forced overtime. The Ducks needed to win the shootout to stay alive but since the Avalanche beat the Canucks in their own shootout right before it didn’t really matter. It’s just as well since Los Angeles ended up beating the Ducks in the shootout anyway.
Anaheim started to put it all together these last few weeks but it was too late in the end. I was most impressed with how hot Selanne and Koivu were these past few weeks. But of course that is what was envisioned when they were put together at the beginning of the year but it never materialized. That coupled with injuries (Getzlaf, Selanne, Wisniewski, Lupul), Hiller starting slow and Whitney not really fitting in doomed the Ducks. Visnovsky ended up fitting in really well after the trade but again something that didn’t happened until it was too late. If Niedermayer and Selanne come back next year I think this will be a dangerous team if they stay healthy, since most of the chemistry issues have been worked out.
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.