Don’t look now but here comes the Detroit Red Wings. Or as I like to call them, the Evil Empire. Despite barely making the playoffs last season, Coach Mike Babcock says that this season’s team is the best since the Red Wings made the finals back to back in 2009. Yikes, scary thought. It’s well known that Babcock is one of the best coaches in the league but on a closer look the talent is still there as well.

The old stalwarts Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwallare still there getting it done and look refreshed. Throw in rising stars Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist and you have a nice blend on the top two lines. Defensively they aren’t the same as when Nicklas Lidstrom was there but they are still decent. Niklas Kronwall is still getting it down and Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincy are serviceable. The key for this team is to not get injured. Datsyuk and Zetterberg were both injured last season an will need to stay healthy for the Red Wings to continue playing at this level. But the key to how far the Red Wings will go is Jimmy Howard. He’s played decent in the playoffs but not anything great. Goalies need to raise their game in the playoffs. It also depends on what seed they get. They could get anywhere from 1st to 3rd in their division. (More on that below.)

Things I like

1. Don’t look now, part two, but Michael Hutchinson is taking the NHL by storm. Hutchinson is in his rookie season was leading the NHL in GAA and SV% to go with his 6-1-2 record. Of course all good things must come to end as Hutchinson faced the Ducks, lost and gave up three goals. Of course no shame in losing to the best team in the NHL recordwise. But all in all not to shabby for a guy who was undrafted. He should give Ondrej Pavelec a run for his money.

2. We have two really tight division races at the top and they should remain that way the rest of the way. The Eastern Division race with Tampa Bay, Detroit and Montreal and the Central Division race with Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis. Each of those division have three teams separated by a sole point, which is about as tight as it gets. My pick for the Eastern is Tampa Bay but Montreal has surprised with their offensive abilities so far and Detroit, while not predicted to be this good, has a great blend of talent on their team. In the Central my pick is Chicago. I don’t believe Nashville can sustain this level of play all season and St. Louis, well we all so what happened last season.

3. The New York Islanders had a huge win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. Huge for a few reasons. The crowd was way hot, the Islanders defeated the hottest team in the league and they did it from behind, twice. See below in the goat of the week section for how they got one of them. The Islanders are also defying logic as they are the only team with low team SV% that is winning. Halak will need to play better if the Islanders will go anywhere. But he played well in the 3rd period in the win as did the Islanders, as a whole, defensively.

Things I don’t

1. We are a little over a third of the way done the season and if the playoffs started today the Los Angeles Kings would not make the playoffs. With how tight and competitive the Western Conference, and the Pacific Division, is I’m not so sure the Kings can just turn it on. Anze Kopitar has struggled mightily this season and Marian Gaborik has struggled and been injured. It’s entirely possible they don’t even make the playoffs this season, which is something I don’t think I would have ever said at the beginning of the season.

2. Speaking of other supposed Stanley Cup contender that are struggling, the Bruins have now fallen behind the Panthers in the standings, yikes. In fact they wouldn’t even make the playoffs if they started today. It’s not a good sign when you miss a 37 year old defenseman that much. Even worse, Zdeno Chara came back and they didn’t win either of those games. They have the talent but it’s just not happening. That game 7 loss to the Canadiens was more demoralizing than anyone thought. They’ll bounce back after this lost season though. The Maple Leafs took a whole season to recover from the Bruins game 7 loss as well.

Fights of the Week

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

Andrew Shaw vs Chris Kelly

A good brawl that happens about a minute into the clip.

Andrew Ladd vs Gabriel Landeskog

A good fight nonetheless but mostly notable because it had two captains going at it.

Goat of the Week

Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks

Eh….. I don’t know what to say on this play so I’ll just let the video speak for itself. No bueno Mr. Keith. It tied the game for the Islanders six seconds after the Blackhawks scored first. As you know already, the Islanders won by a goal.

Stat Line of the Week

12/11/14 Buffalo 4 vs Calgary 3

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

Hits

M. Moulson

18:47

2

0

2

4

0

0

Not a lot has gone right for the Sabres this season but lately things have. The Sabres have won seven of their last ten and three in a row as they begin their ascent out of the basement of the Atlantic division. Matt Moulson scored the first goal of the game and the game winner. Tyler Ennis also chipped in with three assists and leads the team in scoring.

Numbers, Numbers

2 – Goals on 46 shots for the Kings against the Canadiens
6 – Goals on 20 shots for the Canadiens against the Kings
9 – Consecutive home losses for the Coyotes
4 – Teams below a team SV% of .900 (lslanders, Coyotes, Stars, Oilers)
7.1 – Percentage of the Sabres powerplay, the only team below 10%

This Week in Hockey History

Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.

December 08, 1966 Doug Mohns scored his first career NHL hat trick and added an assist, and Stan Mikita had a goal and three assists as the Black Hawks won 10-2 at Boston.

December 09, 2003 Markus Naslund scored his 4th goal of the game 24 seconds into overtime as the Canucks won 4-3 against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. It was Naslund’s 10th career hat trick.

December 10, 1944 Detroit’s Mud Bruneteau scored twice and added two assists in the Red Wings’ 7-6 win against the visiting Boston Bruins.

December 11, 1985 Brian Bellows scored four goals, including his 1st NHL career hat trick, Scott Bjugstad also collected his first career hat trick and an assist, and Keith Acton added two goals and two assists in the Minnesota North Stars’ 10-2 win at Detroit.

December 12, 1925 Montreal Maroons forward Harry “Punch” Broadbent scored the 100th goal of his NHL career, in a 5-2 win over the visiting Ottawa Senators.

December 13, 2001 Patrick Lalime became the Ottawa Senators all-time leader in career shutouts, with his 14th as a member of the team, a 6-0 win against Phoenix. Lalime broke the mark of 13 held by Ron Tugnutt. Martin Havlat a hat trick for the Sens.

December 14, 1929 Montreal’s Pit Lepine scored five goals (including his second career hat trick), and added an assist, to lead the Canadiens to a 6-4 win against Ottawa.

Rankings

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

Top 5
1. Chicago
2. Anaheim
3. St. Louis
4. Nashville
5. Detroit

Bottom 5
30. Edmonton
29. Arizona
28. Carolina
27. Ottawa
26. New Jersey

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.

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Don't look now but here comes the Detroit Red Wings. Or as I like to call them, the Evil Empire. Despite barely making the playoffs last season, Coach Mike Babcock says that this season's team is the best since the Red Wings made the finals back to back in...