NHL 2014-15 Recap Week 13 – Halfway point of the season, whose playoff bound? Carlyle out of Toronto, Rangers Still Hot, Teemu Selanne Night in Anahiem
We’ve reached the half way point of the NHL season more or less. Let’s take a look at the standings and see what we can expect down the stretch. The top three teams in each division are:
Atlantic Metro Central Pacific
Tampa Bay NY Islanders Nashville Anaheim
Montreal Pittsburgh Chicago Vancouver
Detroit NY Rangers St. Louis San Jose
In the Atlantic, Tampa Bay or Montreal will take it. Tampa Bay should. In the Metro, either Pittsburgh or the Islanders will. Pittsburgh should. In the Central, Nashville has a lot more talent than I gave them credit for when I said they had no chance of making the playoffs. I’ve should have realized that. With that said, I don’t think they can maintain the top spot for the whole the season. Chicago and St. Louis have chances but neither are very consistent. I’m going to give the edge to Chicago, simply because I trust them to play better during the final month of the season. In the Pacific nobody will dethrone Anaheim. They are pretty much the only lock at this point.
For the wild cards in the East, Detroit and the Rangers should maintain their 3rd place positions which leaves Boston, Florida, Toronto and Washington to fight over the final two spots. As mentioned last week, Florida isn’t ready yet. Boston and Toronto have more talent than Washington but neither have been able to get it together. If I had to bet, I’m not confident in any of the teams. Going to lean towards Boston and Toronto. Columbus might get hot down the stretch but will ultimately fall just short.
Out West for the wild cards, isn’t any better. The current op three in the Central are all in and I’m leaning towards the same in the Pacific. Los Angeles will play well done the stretch and will get in. Which leaves Calgary, Winnipeg, Dallas, Colorado and Minnesota for the final spot. Winnipeg has the edge and will likely take it. Colorado and Minnesota are just disappointing in a lot of ways. Calgary is overachieving but much improved. Dallas is the dark horse. I wouldn’t count them out. They might steal the last spot from Winnipeg.
Things I like
1. Well Toronto finally canned Randy Carlyle. Frankly, I’m surprised he lasted this long. He’s not the greatest coach and his old school message doesn’t resonate with a mostly younger team. Sure he won a Stanley Cup but when you have two hall of famers on defense playing together (Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer), and for almost half the game, it’s not hard to win a Stanley Cup. A pairing like that doesn’t happen very often. Interim coach Peter Horachek takes over for half the season. Expect a new coach in the off season. The Maple Leafs need to get more out of Nazem Kadri and figure out their goalie situation. If Joffrey Lupul could stay healthy that would help too. Top line needs to play better defensively. Can’t have negatives for plus/minus on your top line and expect to win. The talent is there, they just need someone to put it together.
2. The New York Rangers are showing that last years run to the Stanley Cup finals was no accident. I don’t expect them to win the East again but they aren’t going down easy. They are 12-1 in their last 13 games. They went out west and beat the Ducks, Kings and Sharks in a west coast sweep, which is not always an easy feat for an East coast team. They’ve scored 21 goals in their last five games, not too shabby, and they’ve been getting great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot as usual. The Penguins and the Islanders would be wise to try really hard to win the division to avoid playing them in the 1st round.
3. It’s still too early to tell but the goalie of the future in New Jersey maybe Keith Kinkaid and not Cory Schneider. Though he hasn’t played much, Kinkaid has a better SV% and GAA than Schneider. Of course, that doesn’t mean everything. But Kinkaid has kept the Devils in every game that he’s played in. Of his five loses, all were one goal and three were in overtime. But Schneider has also played well lately. In any case, while the rest of the Devils are a mess, their goaltending situation is not.
4. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Anaheim Ducks retired Teemu Selanne’s number 8 to the rafters on Sunday Night against his first team, the Winnipeg Jets. Teemu was always a class act, on and off the ice, and will be sorely missed. He’ll still be around in one way or another but it won’t be the same. It was fun to watch his banner get raised, watch him give some more interviews, watch some career highlights and listen to teammates talk about him on and off the ice. Even the commissioner stopped by and of course got booed. As for the game, what a game. Had about everything you could ever imagine. Might have been the best game I’ve seen so far this season. Unfortunately, most of the fans in Anaheim didn’t see the 3rd period and overtime as most of them left early, which is quite lame. The Ducks won in the shootout.
Things I don’t
1. On Thursday Night, the Stars and Predators played a tight game. In the 3rd period interfered with Stars goalie . The ref initially called it a goal. After huddling with the other officials, he reversed the call and called incidental contact. It was and it shouldn’t have counted. However, these kinds of things are judgment calls. Craig Smith was pushed into goalie Kari Lehtonen by Jason Demers but Smith didn’t really make any effort to untangle himself from Lehtonen. Demers came over, to presumably, get Smith off but he didn’t really help. He possibly made things worse. You basically have to determine if Craig Smith made enough effort to get away from Lehtonen and whether Lehtonen made enough effort to get back or just pretend he couldn’t. They were pretty tangled initially and calls where you need to determine things are never good. What the NHL should do when a goal is scored with goalie interference, that isn’t obvious, is to take away the goal but give the team who scored the goal a penalty shot. That would be the fairest way to settle it and also make things more exciting to boot.
2. For the most part I don’t have a problem with the All-Stars selected and I know it’s hard because they want to have at least one player from every team. My biggest gripe is with the goalies. Jimmy Howard shouldn’t have been one of them but since they didn’t pick any other Red Wings, surprisingly, I guess I can let it slide. But Sergei Bobrovsky? If this was based on last year then okay but it’s not. Otherwise Tuukka Rask would be on the team. Based on this season, there’s no way he should have made it. He’s 19th in SV% for crying out loud. And there’s already two other Blue Jackets on the team so you can’t give me that excuse. If I was Marc-Andre Fleury and Craig Anderson I’d be pretty annoyed. Michael Hutchinson and Brian Elliott would have a case too, if they had played more games.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a lot easier to do.
Chris Stewart vs Mark Fraser
A really good fight with lots of haymakers thrown. Stewart lands a really good one.
Colin Greening vs Wayne Simmonds
A fairly interesting fight.
Goats of the Week
John Klingberg – Dallas Stars
Adam Larsson – New Jersey Devils
We have a twofer for you this week, both involving overtime games.
Rookie John Klingberg was having problems in his own end at the start of overtime and the Predators made him pay. Wasn’t all Klingberg’s fault though, as the Stars just poorly communicated.
Adam Larsson was stumbling and fumbling in his own end and John Tavares was more than happy to help him out with it. Stealing the puck, making a nifty move and netting the overtime game winner.
Stat Line of the Week
1/07/15 Boston 3 vs Pittsburgh 2
All-Star Patrice Bergeron scored two big goals, including the game winner in overtime, to give the Bruins a much needed win against the Penguins. He also excelled in winning face-offs as usual. The Bruins are now 6-1-3 in their last ten. More importantly, they picked up points in nine of ten. They now sit in the final wild card spot.
14 – Shots on goal for the Devils against the Bruins, none went in
54 – Saves for Semyon Varlamov against the Blackhawks for the shutout
0 – Shorthanded goals for the Red Wings and Panthers, the only two teams without one
0 – Shorthanded goals against the Bruins, the only team with none against
424 – Takeaways for Toronto 1st in the NHL, surprising
191 – Takeaways for Buffalo last in the NHL, not surprising
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
January 05, 1974 Boston’s John Bucyk scored 4 goals, including his 9th career hat trick, and Phil Esposito added a goal and 3 assists, when the Bruins won 6-2 over the Islanders, at Long Island. At age 38 Bucyk became the oldest player to get 4 goals in a game.
January 06, 1974 New York’s Vic Hadfield became the 5th player in franchise history to score 250 goals as a member of the Rangers. The milestone came in a 5-2 win over the visiting Atlanta Flames.
January 07, 1981 Winnipeg rookie Doug Smail scored twice and added two assists as the Jets ended their team-record 18 game road winless streak (0-16-2) with an 8-2 win at Toronto.
January 08, 1984 Washington’s Bengt Gustafsson scored five goals on five shots, in a 7-1 Caps’ win at Philadelphia. Gustafsson became the first Caps’ player to score five goals in one game. It was the second (and final) career hat trick for Gustafsson.
January 09, 1990 Detroit’s Shawn Burr scored his 2nd career hat trick including 2 shorthanded goals in the second period to lead the Red Wings to a 9-0 win over the Minnesota North Stars, at Joe Louis Arena. Glen Hanlon got his 13th (and final) career shutout.
January 10, 1935 Maroons’ goaltender Alex Connell became the second goaltender in NHL history to record 75 career shutouts, as Montreal won 4-0 over the visiting Chicago Black Hawks.
January 11, 2003 Washington’s Jaromir Jagr scored his 10th career hat trick and added four assists to record his 1,200th NHL point in a 12-2 win against the visiting Florida Panthers. The three goals gave Jagr 20+ goals in each of his 13 NHL seasons.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. NY Rangers
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.