The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the reset button the other day when they fired their coach Guy Boucher. While this season has been a disappointment I don’t really think it’s his fault. The problem stems from the fact that two seasons ago they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and forced a game 7. However that showing looks a lot stronger than it actually was. They beat a injured Pittsburgh Penguins team in 7 games in the first round they swept the always underachieving Capitals in the 2nd round and then they lost to the eventual champion Bruins in 7 games in the Conference Finals. Now I’m not saying that wasn’t a great season because it was but if the Penguins weren’t injured and the Capitals didn’t choke in the postseason like usual they probably wouldn’t have made it that far. Key playoff contributors like Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim went elsewhere. A nice way to reward their playoff heroics. On the goaltending side they rode Dwayne Roloson through that postseason only to find out that was in fact a magical season and he is in fact too old to play well. They have since rotated through goalies like nobody’s business in a position where you really need stability. They traded for Anders Lindback who hasn’t been terrible but isn’t great either. Personally I blame more of this on GM Steve Yzerman than the coach. Yzerman isn’t delivering what they need to compete. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier aren’t getting any younger and soon it will just be Steven Stamkos, alone, wasting away his best years in Tamp Bay.
Things I like
1. Well after 7 seasons of missing the playoffs it looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs will appear in the post season again. I think it’s a great thing for hockey that Canada’s most populous city will be a part of the postseason again. Coach Randy Carlyle has shown he can really blend the talent together something he grew out of being able to do in Anaheim. For a team he seemed to impatient to not want to build through the draft…, yes they are that dumb, 1st round pick Nazem Kadri is now in the top 10 in scoring and showing why you keep your 1st round draft picks. Picking up James van Riemsdyk in a trade with the Flyers has also been huge. Imagine if they had both Tyler Seguin and Nazem Kadri, they’d be set for the next decade… o well Phil Kessel is a nice consolation prize. James Reimer is the biggest question mark with that team. How he does this postseason will really determine if he is the right guy in net for them.
2. The Blackhawks and Ducks had another great battle of the top two NHL teams. The Ducks once again edged the Blackhawks but this time in regulation. This was great news for Ducks fans and the team who have been mostly overlooked because of the Blackhawks great season so far. This probably would have done great ratings if it was televised on NBC Sports Channel (see below). With the win the Ducks were even in the lost column with the Blackhawks. Unfortunately, the Ducks lost their last two games against the Red Wings, at home, snapping their home win streak and their point streak. This is troubling for two reasons. 1) They basically have no shot of catching the Blackhawks now and 2) as the 2nd seed in the West they have a good chance of playing the Red Wings in the 1st round which means, that after an amazing season, they could easily go out in the 1st round.
3. It took them a while to get going by the Minnesota Wild are now more of the team some people envisioned when they added Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the offseason. The Wild have finally come together and are now 8-2 in their last 10 games. Parise and Suter along with Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi form a stellar core along with Niklas Backstrom. They are now in a dogfight down the stretch with the Canucks for the Northwest division crown. They recently beat the Canucks twice in the last few games but they will not face them again the rest of the way. The schedules for both teams down the stretch are about the same with the Canucks maybe having a slightly harder schedule. It should be a fun sprint to the finish.
Things I don’t
1. NBC always picks the same teams and now the crappy game picking has transferred over to the NBC Sports Network. On Wednesday night you had the epic barn-burner of the Flyers vs the Lightning, two teams destined to not make the playoffs this season. The Lightning are so disappointing they fired their coach a few days later. This was on the same night the two best teams, Blackhawks vs Ducks, faced off against each other. If this was football that game would have been flexed in over the Flyers and Lighting. Sure the Blackhawks vs Ducks game was later but you could have moved it up an hour or even left it at that time and aired d it. In their defense the NHL network was broadcasting the game but how many people get that channel? I don’t get it and I’m sure many others don’t as well.
2. The Nashville Predators had been quietly building momentum. The made the playoffs the last 3 seasons and 7 of the last 8 seasons. They also made it out of the 1st round two times in a row. But now they almost are a lock not to make the playoffs and at one point lost eight of their last ten games. It’s possible they’ll sneak in as the 8th seed but I doubt it. They were always an offensively challenged team only get a few players with over 50 points in a full season. Now after Ryan Suter left, taking his tied for 1st in assists (39) on the team with him, they are even more offensively challenged. Only a few teams have scored last than the Predators. When the top two scoring players on your team are a defenseman and someone who has been injured the last two weeks, you know you have issues.
3. The Devils welcomed back Martin Brodeur only to see Ilya Kovalchuk injured in against the boards. For a team currently in 7th fighting to hang on to a playoff spot this doesn’t look good. But then again this are the Devils who always seem to defy expectations. Look for Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique and a new face to step up. I still expect them to be in 7th when the dust settles.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Steve Oleksy vs James Wright
Two guys who don’t fight very often. Wright had a hard time keeping his balance the first half of the fight it seems.
Chris Stewart vs Zack Kassian
These two guys do fight a lot. A great fight where Kassian gets bumped by his own teammate and the sticks on the ground right before it starts.
Goat of the Week
Jordan Staal – Carolina Hurricanes
In beginning of the 1st period against the Devils the Hurricanes were attacking which led to a penalty against the Devils so the Hurricanes pulled their goalie. So what could go wrong? That would be Jordan Staal who hit a bad pass that ended up ricocheting off the boards and down into the Hurricanes empty net. Martin Brodeur was credited for the 3rd goal of his career since he was the last Devil to touch it. After that is was all downhill for the Hurricanes.
Stat Line of the Week
03/22/13 Detroit 5 vs. Anaheim 1
Justin Abdelkader netted his first career hat trick and an assist against the Ducks or half of his goal and point total for the season so far. He was a key cog in snapping the Ducks home winning and point streak in a game the Ducks didn’t really show up in. But don’t expect this to be the start of an offensive breakout for him.
12 – The current Penguins winning streak
13 – Shots on goal for the Canucks in a 1-0 win against the Kings
13 – The Duck’s home winning streak which was snapped by the Red Wings
-15 – The worst +/- of any of the playoff teams owned by the Winnipeg Jets
34 – Points by Mike Riberio tied for 8th in the league, leading the Capitals in scoring and averaging over a point per game for only the 2nd time in his career
.286 – Shooing percentage of Patrick Berglund tops in the NHL
0 – Number of shutouts for Henrik Lundqvist so far this season
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 18, 2003 Rookie Jason Spezza scored twice as the Senators became the first team to reach 100 points in 2003-03, with a 6-5 win against the Hurricanes at Carolina.
March 19, 1944 Ray Getleffe scored two goals and two assists as Montreal beat the Rangers 6-1 in New York to finish the 1943-44 regular season 25 points ahead of second-place Detroit, a new NHL record.
March 20, 1995 Philadelphia’s Eric Lindros scored his second consecutive hat trick as the Flyers won 8-4 over the visiting Montreal Canadiens. Lindros became the second player in Flyers’ history to score three or more goals in back-to-back games.
March 21, 1989 Calgary’s Joe Nieuwendyk scored his 50th goal of the season as the Flames beat the Islanders, 4-1. Nieuwendyk became the third player in NHL history (with Gretzky and Bossy) to score 50 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons.
March 22, 1955 Goaltenders Jacques Plante and Charlie Hodge shared the shutout, and Bernie Geoffrion scored a goal and an assist as the Canadiens won 2-0 over the Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals, at the Forum.
March 23, 1996 Edmonton goaltender Curtis Joseph recorded his 150th career NHL victory, with a 6-5 Oilers’ win at Montreal.
March 24, 1979 Montreal’s Guy Lafleur became the 7th player in franchise history to score 350 goals as a member of the Canadiens. The milestone came in a 3-1 win over the visiting Washington Capitals.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
26. San Jose