NHL 2014-15 Recap Week 4 – Flames and Canucks Hot, Jake Allen getting hot, Mike Smith is not or is he? Fleury’s Contract
When you look at the NHL standings you’ll notice only six teams in the Eastern Conference and four teams in the Western Conference are at .500 or below. Of course you ask how is that possible? That would be because of overtime losses being it’s own column. That also tells you how competitive the NHL is today. My big concern is in the Western Conference however. Other than Edmonton, really, there aren’t really any bad teams. Dallas and Colorado are the next worst teams recordwise but they both made the playoffs last year and we know they aren’t as bad as their record indicates.
So what does this mean? Two good teams out west won’t make the playoff cut and several good teams will be eliminated in the 1st round. As it stands you could have the Anaheim Ducks playing the Los Angeles Kings in the 1st round, which is way to early for that match-up. Of course it;s still really early and the Kings are only a few points back but the point remains that the Western Conference is very competitive. It also means that my preseason prediction of having all the same teams repeat in making the playoffs, more than likely, wrong.
Things I like
1. If the playoffs started today, the Calgary Flames would be in the playoffs. How many of you had that before the season started? The funny thing is the Flames are 2-2-2 at home but 7-3 on the road. Jonas Hiller has played exceptionally well but that’s not surprising to me. I am surprised he’s playing well on the Flames though, considering how porous their defense was the past few seasons. It’s also surprising that no other team made Hiller a better offer. At any rate, Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Jiri Hudler are on pace for career years. More importantly, though, is Sean Monahan is progressing well. It’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain this level of play.
2. Just like the Flames, the Vancouver Canucks are also a bit of a surprise. Nick Bonino, acquired from the Ryan Kesler trade, has fit in nicely and is fourth on the team in scoring. Bonino is younger than Kesler and has more points so far, so the Canucks will end up getting the better end of the deal. After a rocky start, Ryan Miller has rebounded nicely and has played his way to the number one goalie spot. The Sedin (twinkie) twins have shown they still got it as well. Not bad for a team on their third coach in as many seasons. But anything was better than the John Tortorella debacle. I’m surprised the Flames and Canucks are ahead of the King and Sharks.
3. Jake Allen is 4-1 with a .944 SV% in what will likely be is first full season. Which begs the question, can the Blues stick anyone in net and have them play well? It sure seems like it with their defense but Ryan Miller seemed to regress so perhaps not. But you can’t help but feel for Brian Elliott who can’t seem to catch a break. He’s playing well but back in a goalie rotation. The Blues had reeled off seven wins in a row, to catapult themselves to first in the division, and Allen had two shutouts during the streak. They lost to the Predators on Saturday though.
Things I don’t
1. Marc-Andre Fleury got a shiny new four year contract worth $23 million. Uh okay. While the almost 6 million is sort of a lot for his level, it’s not that bad. The problem isn’t the amount but the contract itself. Although Fleury played a lot better this past postseason, than the two previous ones, one has to wonder why not wait and see how he does this postseason. It’s not like people are lining up to sign him. If he does well sign him, if not adios. Personally, I think the Penguins should have signed Jonas Hiller. Capwise I know it would have been hard, unless they got rid of Fleury at the same time. O well, too late now.
2. For a brief period Mike Smith was good on the Coyotes, from out of nowhere, and he was surprisingly picked as the third goalie for Team USA. Now he’s having his worst year ever and he’s one of the reasons the Coyotes find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference. But he did bounce back with an exceptional win against the Ducks on Friday night. However, he was the main reason the Coyotes got the shootout win. And he also played well the previous game against the Maple Leafs. It’ll be interesting to see if he can sustain his new level of high play again.
3. For the first time in a long time nobody on the Chicago Blackhawks is in the top 50 in scoring. It’s quite strange, and early, but the Blackhawks are towards the bottom of the league in scoring. However, the Blackhawks have scored five goals in three of their last six games. They might be starting to find their offensive mojo again. Even Trevor van Riemsdyk recorded his first point on Sunday night. The only Blackhawk to play in every game and not have a point.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Deryk Engelland vs Liam O’Brien
Lots of simultaneous punching, which is my favorite kind of fight. Just wasn’t long enough.
Ryan Reaves vs Dylan McIlrath
A fairly decent long fight with a weird flow to it. Part of what made it so weird was no commentary during it.
Robert Bortuzzo vs Blake Wheeler
A decent short scrap.
Goat of the Week
Jake Gardiner – Toronto Maple Leafs
This turnover ranks right up there with some of the worst of all time. I’m really not sure what Gardiner was doing. I’m assuming he wanted to pass behind the net but he passed it right to the Coyotes. Which lead to momentum for the Coyotes and the first goal of the game, an important goal in what ended up being a tight game.
Stat Line of the Week
11/08/14 Pittsburgh 6 vs. Buffalo 1
As you might have guessed, this game wasn’t very close. But Sidney Crosby assisted on the first five goals of the game which is worthy of a mention. And he did it with only 15 minutes of ice time. Not too shabby. Crosby is just under a 2 points per game scoring average. He’s definitely feels at home with the new coaching staff and his new linemate Patric Hornqvist.
22 – Points for Jakub Voracek 2nd in the NHL and the first time he’s been over a point per game pace
65.5 – Penalty kill percentage for the New Jersey Devils, last in the NHL
1.11 – The whopping goals for average for the Buffalo Sabres, you guess it, last in the NHL
12 – Teams that scored at least four goals on Saturday’s slate of games
6 – Teams that scored at least five goals during that slate of games
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
November 03, 1948 Detroit’s Gordie Howe made the first of his NHL record 23 All-Star appearances, helping the All Stars to a 3-1 win over the Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs, in Chicago.
November 04, 1998 Adam Oates recorded his 800th career NHL assist, in the Capitals’ 5-2 loss to the Lightning.
November 05, 2002 Alexander Mogilny scored his 16th career hat trick (his first as a Maple Leaf) as Toronto won 4-3 against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
November 06, 1997 Florida Panthers claimed Ray Whitney off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. Whitney went on to score 32 goals and 29 assists for the Panthers during the 1997-98 season.
November 07, 1981 Defenseman John Van Boxmeer scored a natural hat trick (his first career hat trick) and added two assists as the Sabres beat the Islanders 6-2, at Long Island. Van Boxmeer set a club record with five points in one game by a defenseman.
November 08, 1997 Teemu Selanne scored a goal in his 10th straight game, as Anaheim won 3-2 at Vancouver.
November 09, 1990 New Jersey Devils’ Kirk Muller picked up an assist to become the All-Time leading scorer in franchise history (470 points) as New Jersey lost 3-2 to the New York Rangers.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. St. Louis
3. Tampa Bay
27. New Jersey
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.