And down the stretch they come. It’s almost time for the best time of year but, before we get there, we have to finish the rest of the season first. The most interesting race is the almost four way tie for the last two wild cards in the Eastern Conference between the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. Detroit has their streak pride going for them and the most points of the four teams. Besides the two games against the Buffalo Sabres, the Red Wings have a really tough schedule. But I think Detroit and Columbus will prevail for the final two spots. Washington and Toronto are just not playing well when it matters most. Columbus has the most games left which benefits them greatly, since they already occupy the final playoff spot. None of the teams have any games against each other left, which is quite unfortunate. Any way you look at it, it will be a great final month of the season in the NHL as all teams jockey for positioning.

Things I Like

1. Good playoff like intensity games the last week. Montreal versus Boston is always good but you could just feel the intensity and the crowd was really in it. It helped that the Canadiens stopped the Bruins winning streak, which the Canadiens really wanted to do, but the Bruins still got points and then just kept right on rolling. San Jose vs Colorado, Detroit vs Montreal, Pittsburgh vs Los Angeles and Washington vs Los Angeles were other notable and important games.

2. The Calgary Flames may be headed to the lottery again but they’ve done a real great job of hanging in there. They have been in the most one goal games this year. Going 22-16-7 for a total of 45 one goal games. If they could have just found a way to win half of those losses they would be in the wild card race. I realize the same could be said for a lot of teams but if most teams converted half of their one goals losses it wouldn’t make as a big a difference as it does for the Flames. Certainly something to build on for next year. Winnipeg had the 2nd most one goal games with a 19-14-9 record.

3. Shootouts aren’t my favorite things in the world but there’s nothing like a really long shootout every now and then. We had 13 rounds of shootout between the Islanders and Lightning on Thursday. The shootouts really start to get more suspenseful as the rounds escalate. I’d love to see a shootout go so long that players need to go a second time.

Things I Don’t

1. Poor Toronto. First they had to suffer through that Game 7 collapse and now they are suffering through a second half collapse of missing the playoffs. Toronto is 1-9 in their last ten games, even worse than Buffalo in their last ten. It’s unfortunate that they will, more than likely, be unable to redeem their game 7 loss last year or build on their 1st playoff appearance in some time. Worse Toronto has played two more games than the rest of the teams vying for the wild card spots. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think much of Coach Randy Carlyle. It’s seeming more and more likely that he’s really not the best fit for the team. You can seem some of the Maple Leafs’ wonderful play as of late highlighted in the Goats of the Week section below.

2. We had a lot of injuries to key players as of late. Way more than I remember any other year at this point of the season. Key notables include: Cam Fowler, Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Zetterberg, John Tavares, Bobby Ryan, Mike Smith, Matt Duchene and Henrik Sedin. You could field an Olympic team with that roster. And in fact each of those players have been Olympians for their respective countries before. Almost all of these players should be back during their playoffs, if their respective teams make it that is. The latest to go down was Jonathan Toews from a big hit by Brooks Orpik. Speaking of Orpik…

3. The hit wasn’t really dirty at all except that Orpik left his feet a little bit at the end. Although with his track record, one doesn’t know if it was meant to be just a hit or something more. What was surprising though is that the Blackhawks did nothing to retaliate in defense of their captain and one of their best players. It’s safe to say the Blackhawks won’t be repeating this year a they just look off on many levels. This is instance is just the latest example of it. I’d love to see Orpik try that stuff against the Bruins in the inevitable Eastern Conference Finals between the Penguins and them.

Fights of the Week

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

Brandon Bollig vs Chris Neil

A few good pops in this one, mostly by Neil.

Travis Moen vs Kevan Miller

Moen tries to stick up for his teammate but doesn’t fare to well.

Tom Sestito vs Patrick Bordeleau

Bordeleau mulls Sestito.

Goats of the Week

The Boston Bruins on the ice and Tuukka Rask – Boston Bruins

Follow the bouncing puck. The Bruins took some unsuccessful swipes at it. The worst was Tuuka Rask who overplayed the puck, seem to get caught by his own teammates and then made no effort to hussle back to cover the gaping open net he left unattended.

Sami Vatanen – Anaheim Ducks

Vatanen casually passes the puck up center middle and then watches Andrew Ference blasts home the game winner in overtime. Way to go.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rather than type out everyone’s mistakes, you can see for yourself how bad everyone in Toronto is playing right now. Here are two instances from their game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Stat Line of the Week

03/20/14 Los Angeles 5 vs. Washington 4

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

Hits

A. Ovechkin

20:27

2

1

0

7

2

2

Even though the Capitals lost in the shootout, Ovechkin played an integral part in this game. He was involved in three of the four Capitals’ goals with two powerplay goals and a shorthanded assist. He has taken a beating in the press lately with his NHL worst +/-. And rightfully so, as his defense could use a lot of work. But he still contributes when his team really needs him and he does a lot of his best work on special teams, where +/- does not get counted. Still if the Capitals ever hope to do anything significant, Ovechkin will need to develop into a better all around player.

Numbers, Numbers

51 – Shots by the Ducks against Ben Scrivens of the Oilers who had 48 saves
49 – Shots by the Sharks against Semyon Varlamov of the Avalanche who had 47 saves
-80 – Goal differential for the Buffalo Sabres
82 – Goal differential for the 1st overall in the NHL Boston Bruins
12 – 30 goal season in a row for Jarome Iginla, if you toss out the strike shortened season
10 – Goals in the last eight games for Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings, who has been on fire as of late
3 – Goals by David Backes of the Blues against the Maple Leafs for his first hat trick of the 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 24, 1990 Chicago’s Denis Savard became the third player in franchise history to score 350 goals as a member of the Blackhawks. The milestone came in a 5-3 loss, at Detroit.

March 25, 2004 Florida’s Roberto Luongo made 42 saves, to give him an NHL-record 2,219 saves for the season (breaking the record of 2,214 set by Toronto’s Felix Potvin in 1996-97) as the Panthers lost 3-2 to the Hurricanes at Carolina.

March 26, 2002 Brian Rolston broke a 27-year-old Boston Bruins’ team record, with his eighth shorthanded goal of the year, in a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes, in Raleigh, N.C. Rolston broke the mark of seven shared by four former-Bruins.

March 27, 2004 Brad Richards became the Tampa Bay Lightning all-time leader in assists, when he picked up his 190th with the team; he broke the mark of 189 set by Brian Bradley, and also added a goal in a 4-1 win over the visiting Washington Capitals.

March 28, 1993 Alexei Zhamnov scored a goal to make the Winnipeg Jets the first team in NHL history with four 20-goal rookies. Zhamnov joined Teemu Selanne, Evgeny Davydov and Keith Tkachuk. Jets tied 3-3 with the visiting Los Angeles Kings.

March 29, 2001 Felix Potvin became the 5th goaltender in NHL history to win 10 or more games with two teams in one season, when the Kings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0. Potvin had previously won 14 games with Vancouver before being traded to the Kings.

March 30, 1988 Jimmy Carson had four goals and two assists as the Kings won 9-7 over Calgary. His 55th goal and 106th point were the most ever by an American player. He also became the first U.S. born player to score 50 goals and 50 assists in a season.

Rankings

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

Top 5
1. Boston
2. Los Angeles
3. Montreal
4. Tampa Bay
5. Philadelphia

Bottom 5
30. Toronto
29. Buffalo
28. Florida
27. Winnipeg
26. Ottawa

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.

http://hockeyrecaps.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Brooks-Orpik-1024x623.jpghttp://hockeyrecaps.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Brooks-Orpik-150x150.jpgAlex MuellerWeekly RecapsAlex Ovechkin,Anaheim Ducks,Ben Scrivens,Bobby Ryan,Boston Bruins,Brad Richards,Brandon Bollig,Brooks Orpik,Buffalo Sabres,Calgary Flames,Cam Fowler,Chris Neil,Columbus Blue Jackets,David Backes,Detroit Red Wings,Evgeni Malkin,Felix Potvin,Henrik Sedin,Jarome Iginla,John Tavares,Jonathan Toews,Keith Tkachuk,Kevan Miller,Los Angeles Kings,Matt Duchene,Mike Smith,Montreal Canadiens,Patrick Bordeleau,Patrick Kane,Philadelphia Flyers,Randy Carlyle,Recap,Roberto Luongo,Sami Vatanen,Semyon Varlamov,Tom Sestito,Toronto Maple Leafs,Travis Moen,Tuukka Rask,Washington Capitals
And down the stretch they come. It's almost time for the best time of year but, before we get there, we have to finish the rest of the season first. The most interesting race is the almost four way tie for the last two wild cards in the Eastern...