Welcome to the final third of the NHL season also known as helter skelter. It tends to feel like the playoffs have already started when we get into February. Two teams, whose seasons ended in heartbreak last playoffs, that started their seasons out slow are now rolling. They would be the Lightning and the Ducks. Both are now sitting comfortably in a top three division spot. For the Atlantic, I imagine the to four teams (Panthers, Lightning, Bruins, Red Wings) staying the same in some fashion. Don’t expect a Canadiens comeback. In the Metro, the Capitals are running away with it. The Penguins and Sidney Crosby are red hot. I like the Rangers and Islanders to round out that division. But the Devils, Hurricanes and Flyers remain in the hunt. I don’t think they have the talent to sustain but stranger things have happened. More on Crosby below in State Line of the Week.

In the Central, Blackhawks, Stars and Blues are locks. At one point it looked like the Central would send five again but that’s no longer the case. I think it will be four and four. Who that fourth team is, remains to be seen. The Wild have fallen off a cliff so it seems likely it will be either the Predators or Avalanche. Whoever gets it will lose in the 1st round so it doesn’t really matter. In the Pacific, I think we can pencil in the California trio (Kings, Ducks, Sharks) again. I think the Coyotes will continue their tailspin. Surprisingly, I think the Flames or Oilers have the best shot to sneak in. It should be a fun stretch run regardless.

Things I like

1. With the return of Connor McDavid the Edmonton Oilers put up 12 goals in two games before getting steamrolled by a slumping Canadiens team which was a surprising result. Then they followed it up by getting steamrolled by the Islanders. But young teams will play uneven. Still McDavid’s moves that resulted in goals, and even no goals, just remind you of what a special talent he is. I honestly believe he’ll be at Gretzky level. He had six points in his first four games back.

2. Well there’s a few things buzzing about the Winter Classic. One choice I get to below the other choice I’ll mention here. The Blues are probably going to host the next Winter Classic. Not a bad choice since they haven’t been in any outdoor games and we get away from the more traditional northeast teams. It’s actually cold in January too, although whether it will snow or not is another thing. The opponent would probably be the Blackhawks which makes sense, even though they’ve been in these games already. But they’ve actually won Stanley Cups lately, so it’s okay.

Things I don’t

1. It’s looking more and more likely that there won’t be a single Canadian team in the NHL Playoffs. This is so rare because the last time it happened was in 1970. Montreal and Ottawa looked like they would both get in at one time but that seem highly unlikely now. And Toronto is Toronto so yeah. Out west, Winnipeg has no chance and Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton stack from the bottom of the Pacific division. It’s possible that Calgary and Edmonton get hot but I think there’s too many teams to overcome at this point.

2. Flyers vs Penguins outdoors next season. YEAH!!! Note sarcasm. We’ve all seen these teams way too many times already. If ends up being a Winter Classic it will be the 3rd appearance by both teams. The saddest part is that neither team will probably make the playoffs this season, and maybe not next season either. It’s time to cycle in some new teams. I get my Stars game in Jerryworld in Dallas isn’t ideal because there’s no snow but there’s plenty of teams in the northeast to choose from. How about the Islanders, since they are finally relevant, somewhere? I realize they are limited to football stadiums mostly but I’m sure there’s a college stadium that would work. It worked in Michigan.

3. Well in the 1st meeting between the Blackhawks and Stars, I wrote that the Stars totally dominated the Blackhawks. In the 2nd meeting, well that was reversed. The Blackhawks made adjustments like they do so well to flip the script. They looked like the better team that was seemingly always in the right place and out-hustling the Stars. They meet again in Chicago in a few days. I bet the Stars will make adjustments as well. I just hope the next game isn’t lopsided. Also concerned with how uneven their 2nd round playoff series might be. Nothing worse than watching blowout playoff games.

Fights of the Week

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

Darnell Nurse vs Max McCormick

Nurse’s 2nd NHL fight went pretty well for him.

Eric Gryba vs Zack Smith

Also from the same game, this was more like a bear hug wrestling match than a fight but still fun to watch.

Goat of the Week

No video because the NHL site is having problems. What a surprise.

Anders Lindback – Phoenix Coyotes

Lindback goes to play the puck behind his net, waits forever and then, when he finally decides to do something, fans on the puck and picks it off for the easy goal. Better to play it quickly or not at all. It’s hard stickhandling as a goalie.

Rasmus Ristolainen – Buffalo Sabres

Not sure what Ristolainen was doing. There wasn’t a lane to tap back to his defensive partner and Brad Marchand intercepts it which leads to a penalty shot being called which Marchand nets.

Stat Line of the Week

2/02/16 Pittsburgh 6 vs. Carolina 5

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PPP

S. Crosby

21:33

3

1

2

8

2

In a wild game in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby had a game up to his lofty standards. He had a natural hat trick for the first time in five years, an assist and two powerplay goals. He currently has a ten game point streak, has almost erased his plus/minus minus and is back to about a point per game pace. Crosby followed it up with a two goals and an assist against the Panthers. The goal was the game tying goal and the second assist was from the game winner in overtime. I think he might officially be back.

Numbers, Numbers

300 – Career assists for Chirs Kunitz
1 – Game winner each for Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews in their first games back from their All-Star injury suspension
173 – Blocked shots for Francois Beauchemin, tops in the NHL by just a bit. Since the NHL started tracking blocked shots, he has never lead the league in it. But he just might at 35.
10 – Shorthanded goals for the Senators, tops in the NHL
0 – Shorthanded goals for the Detroit Red Wings, last in the NHL
902 – Career points for Sidney Crosby

Rankings

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

Top 5
1. Tampa Bay
2. Anaheim
3. San Jose
4. Washington
5. Chicago

Bottom 5
30. Minnesota
29. Montreal
28. Winnipeg
27. Arizona
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 currently plays goalie in ice hockey at San Diego Ice Arena.

NHL 2015-16 Recap Week 17 – Crosby getting hot, So are the Lightning and Ducks, No Canadian teams playoff bound, Another Blackhawks vs Stars mismatchhttp://hockeyrecaps.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/sidney-crosby-1024x557.jpghttp://hockeyrecaps.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/sidney-crosby-150x150.jpgAlex MuellerWeekly Recaps
Welcome to the final third of the NHL season also known as helter skelter. It tends to feel like the playoffs have already started when we get into February. Two teams, whose seasons ended in heartbreak last playoffs, that started their seasons out slow are now rolling. They would...