We are halfway done this exciting yet shortened NHL season. We’ve learned that Sidney Crosby is still the best player in the league, Steven Stamkos is still the best goal scorer, The Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks have retooled from their Stanley Cup winning teams with the same core but with deeper teams, The Los Angeles Kings will defend their crown in the postseason and Craig Anderson and Corey Crawford have shown flashes of brilliance before but are now the top goalies in the league.
In the Western Conference things are so tight that there’s only a 6 point difference between last place and 3rd. Technically it’s 7 as the 4th seed has more points currently. If you are wondering this is pretty much how close it is normally in a regular season… but in December. The Northwest division champion will almost automatically be 3rd. It will probably come down to Vancouver and Minnesota but don’t discount the other teams. Even though Minnesota just beat Vancouver last night, I think the Canucks will prevail. The other big question in the West is who will take the top spot? With Chicago Blackhawks actually losing the Anaheim Ducks have a great chance and taking the top spot.
In the Eastern Conference the dogfight between Montreal and Boston should come down to the wire. The winner will probably get the top spot and the loser will likely slide all the way down to 4th. The Southeast winner will get 3rd even though pointwise they will probably end up in 7th. The new realignment will change that but it’s the playoffs seeding I take exception to below. All of the eight seeds will come down to the final games which should make for a fun rest of the way.
Things I like
1. The Winnipeg Jets are 7-4 in their last 11 games after coming off a shootout loss to the Devils. The best part about the streak and the fact that they are knocking on a playoff’s spot door is that they actually have a better road record (8-5-2) than home record (4-6-0). Which strangely means they enjoy long road trips over playing at home to packed crowds in a small arena. It also meas that they don’t really have much of an advantage when their opponents travel a great distance. Very strange indeed.
2. Jeff Carter has been really hot lately. While the Flyers may not miss him because of the headaches he caused (though I’m sure they do) Columbus is probably kicking themselves that it didn’t work out. He’s currently on a 4 game goal scoring streak and he has just one goose egg game sandwiched between that and a 5 game goal scoring streak. During that streak the Kings played against the Blues in which Jaroslav Halak just looked like he was lost. It’s been a tough season for the William Jennings winning duo this year in St. Louis. Lastly the Kings throwback uniforms are beyond hideous.
3. Speaking of Columbus the Blue Jackets have now won five in a row (you don’t say) including two straight over the Red Wings (you really don’t say). Led by a cast of Vinny Prospal, Fedor Tyutin and Derick Brassard…. umm who are these people? I will say that they do have some good off casts. Anchoring the D is James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson. They also have Mark Letestu and Sergei Bobrovsky. I thought Letestu filled in great for Malkin and Corsby when they were injured. He needed a chance to develop more which wouldn’t have happened in Pittsburgh. He may never be a star but he is definitely a serviceable center. Bobrosvky started out with the Flyers but eventually hit the wall. Either way playing goalie for the Flyers is probably one of the worst jobs you could ever have, even if you don’t speak English. It’s nice to see he has rebounded nicely.
Things I don’t
1. The Devils without Martin Brodeur have 5 losses in the last six games. Though they just beat the Jets last night. Some of this could be blamed on Johan Hedberg but in reality the blame goes to the Devils management for not having a backup plan for Brodeur. He can’t play forever and the Devils need to realize that. Drafting someone and grooming them would be the best course of action. I mean Hedberg is almost 40 himself. If you are going to lose games you might as well have someone young gaining experience. You aren’t gaining anything by having Hedberg in there.
2. Well it looks like the NHPLA has approved NHL realignment only to say they will reevaluate it in during the 2014-15 season. Okay so if you don’t like it then don’t approve it. The biggest problem I still have with it is the way the playoff seeding goes. Three teams get in from each division, okay not that bad, and then the remaining spots get in by whoever has the best record, also not that bad. The problem is that it becomes a divisional playoff until the championship round. So for instance you would never have Boston play Pittsburgh until the conference championship and you would only have Montreal play Boston in the first or second round. I suppose you could have Montreal get one of the wildcard spots and end up in the the other divisional playoffs and if the advanced they could play Boston in the championship round but just reading all that sounds absurd.
3. The Blackhawks streak finally ended against the Avalanche. Kudos to the Avalanche for seemingly wanting to end the streak more than anyone else. After coming up a little short on the road they jumped out to an early lead at home and never looked back. The Blackhawks now find themselves on another streak, a two game losing streak. It will be interesting to see how they respond now that things aren’t going their way. They’ve also given up 12 goals now in two games. That’s not good since great goaltending was one of the things that propelled them during the streak.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Mark Fraser vs Adam McQuaid
A good fight that gets better as it goes
Mike Brown vs Rich Clune
This is more of a wrestling match than a fight but it’s something different
Zac Rinaldo vs Shawn Thornton
Some nice uppercuts by Thornton
Goal of the Week
Eric Fehr – Washington Capitals
One of the best goals of the season so far, Fehr splits the defense and nets the game winner in overtime.
Stat Line of the Week
03/08/13 Colorado 6 vs. Chicago 2
Former 3rd overall pick in 2009, Matt Duchene hasn’t exactly lived up to his potential. But this might be the breakout game the Avalanche have been hoping for. Duchene produced a point on the first two goals against the Blackhawks in a big win for the team and for the first time in his career he is producing over a point per game.
7 – Game point streak for Sidney Crosby currently
-1 – Hard to imagine the leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos has a minus but he finished with a -2 when he had 51 goals in 2009-10
5 – Five of the top 6 goal scorers currently have a minus, only Chris Kunitz does not
0 – Shutouts for Anders Lindback and Jose Theodore the only two goalies with at least 10 games started and no shutouts
0 – Teams with a negative goal differential in the Pacific Division the only division with that distinction
0 – Teams with a positive goal differential in the Northwest Division the only division with that distinction
11 – Home game win streak for the Ducks
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 04, 1978 Toronto rookie Ron Wilson scored the first goal of his NHL career and added an assist (in his first two shifts) in a 4-3 Maple Leafs win against the visiting Vancouver Canucks.
March 05, 2001 Anaheim Mighty Ducks traded Teemu Selanne to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forward Jeff Friesen, goaltender Steve Shields and future considerations.
March 06, 1995 Los Angeles’ Jari Kurri scored his 561st NHL goal to pass Guy Lafleur into eighth place on the all-time scoring list. Kings lost 8-2, at Dallas.
March 07, 1991 Joe Sakic scored twice to give him 100 goals in his NHL career, and added an assist to lead the Nordiques to a 4-2 win over the Rangers, in Quebec City.
March 08, 1995 Montreal’s Mark Recchi became the first NHL player to take penalty shots for 2 different NHL teams in one season, when he missed against Dominik Hasek in a 2-2 tie against the Sabres, a month after he missed on a shot with the Flyers vs Ottawa.
March 09, 1994 Goaltender Ed Belfour recorded his second shutout in two days as the Blackhawks won 4-0 over the Kings at Los Angeles. It was the 23rd career shutout for Belfour.
March 10, 1948 Harry Lumley became the first goaltender in Detroit Red Wings history to win 30 games in one season. The milestone 30th victory of the year was a 7-2 win against the visiting Chicago Black Hawks.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
3. Los Angeles
30. Tampa Bay
29. New Jersey