NHL 2015-16 Recap Week 21 – Does any NHL team have momentum?, Avalanche and Wild battle for last playoff spot, Bruins transitioning well, Lundqvist gets screwed, Bobby Ryan gets screwed again
Momentum is a funny thing. Sometimes you get some after a big win and sometimes you just think you do but then sobering crash of reality hits you. Case in point, this season. One of the strangest NHL seasons ever. Two of the teams that made the final four last season, Lighting and the Ducks, started out so abysmally one wonder if they would even make the playoffs. Ironically, they are now both streaking and they might even win their respective divisions but it wasn’t easy. Then there are the favorites, there aren’t any really. Sure one could bet on the Blackhawks and Kings, since they have won the five of the past six Stanley Cups, as safe choices and, odds are, one of them will win it. I’d bet on one of them to win it too but I’m not as sure now as I was, say, six months ago.
This week is one of those weeks that illustrates my point perfectly. The Blackhawks clobber the Red Wings and then get clobbered by the Bruins. The Penguins clobber the Coyotes lose a squeaker to the Capitals and then get back to clobbering against the Rangers who turn around and beat the Capitals, without their starting goalie, in a squeaker. Even the Oilers clobbered the Flyers only to get clobbered themselves by the Blue Jackets the next night. And I bet you could guess what happened next. That’s right, the Flyers then clobbered the Blue Jackets because that makes perfect sense.
So does any of this mean anything come playoff time? Probably not but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a lot of six and seven game series and series with a lot of blowouts that go either way. You just never know. But I tell you what I do know, Tampa Bay, Boston, Florida, Detroit, Washington, New York, New York and Pittsburgh are in for the Eastern Conference. That’s not a bad grouping either. But other than Washington, they are all pretty close in the standings and skillwise. I don’t think any of the wild cards will be an easy out. We could have a potential all Florida second round. Who would have thunk that?
In the Western Conference, mark down Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis. Nashville, Los Angeles Anaheim, San Jose and… let’s say Minnesota. More on why below. Once again the Central division sends five teams to the playoffs. Funny how that happens every season. I’m a little surprised Calgary has regressed so much. Only six more weeks of the NHL regular season left.
Things I like
1. Although I like the Avalanche and the Wild battling it for the final wild card spot, I don’t like the Avalanche’s chances of winning said battle. That’s because the Wild have played the Avalanche four times so far and have points in all of those games including three regulation wins, one of which just happened this past Tuesday. They play one final time in three weeks in Colorado. Minnesota has also won even of ten while the Predators just beat the Avalanche. If you think the Wild aren’t going to get a point in that game, you’re nuts. Currently the Wild are two points up and have a game in hand. This is really your only playoff bubble drama so you’ll have to make the most of it.
2. Despite what some people say (Let’s face it, it’s a Puck Daddy article so accuracy isn’t its strong suit) http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/boston-bruins-at-the-end-of-an-empire–trending-topics-145903208.html the Boston Bruins are doing well in their transition season. Sure they won’t go all the way, they weren’t supposed to, but they are moving in the right direction. Despite trading Tyler Seguin (no I’ll never let it go) and Milan Lucic the Bruins have many bright spots. They will be in the playoffs this season after not making it last season. Currently only six teams have a better goal differential than the Bruins. The young core of Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak and Torey Krug are coming along nicely and contributing down the stretch. They’ve also gotten more out of Matt Belesky than Anaheim was able to do. All in all things aren’t looking so bad in Beantown.
Things I don’t
1. Henrik Lundqvist’s delay of game penalty for trying to get the ref’s attention. If he’s injured and needs a break, he’s entitled to it. It’s almost the same thing as when the goalie’s mask comes off. The ref immediately blows the whistle then. If he’s hunched over after a collision he should get a whistle as well. Braden Holtby also agreed. Now why he kept playing in the game, after that, is a mystery. He should have been taken out of the game, at that point, especially since he hasn’t played since.
2. Why Team USA keeps leaving Bobby Ryan off their roster with their announcement of the World Cup roster. This isn’t Team Canada, it’s USA. Only Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski have more goals than Ryan this season. For a country that didn’t medal at all in the Olympics, and couldn’t score many goals, it’s mind boggling. Sure they still have a few rosters spots left but I’m pretty confident he won’t be getting any of those spots. He has 9 points in 14 international games. Just absurd.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Jamie Benn vs Paul Gaustad
For some reason, Jamie Benn wanted to fight. And fight he did. He smoked Gaustad with a couple of good ones.
Nick Ritchie vs Jarred Tinordi
The fight was unorthodox but it was decent.
Rickard Rakell vs Kris Versteeg and Kevin Bieksa vs Andy Andreoff
It’s a 2fer. Rakell and Versetteg is the main fight but you also have, in the background, Bieksa and Andreoff.
Goat of the Week
Martin Marincin – Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s the kind of season the Maple Leafs are having. Two minutes left in the game, tie score, at home and Marincin gets the puck in his own end and instead of holding on to it and going behind the net or hitting it off the boards, he attempts to clear it diagonally up the middle. The Senators snag it and make the easy pass for the game winning goal.
Stat Line of the Week
3/05/16 Nashville 3 vs. Toronto 2
Scheifele was the Jets 7th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He didn’t play much the first three seasons and played his first full season last year, notching 49 points. I wouldn’t call this season a breakout but, lately, he’s been pretty hot. Against Montreal he record his first career hat trick. He opened the scoring with an unassisted goal, then had the game winning goal and the empty net goal, for good measure. In his last six games he has 11 points. Hopefully, this will lead to even better things for him and the Jets next season.
Connor McDavid Calder Watch
McDavid turned things around this week. With five points in three games. He had points in four straight games and the Oilers won three of those. Although he was pointless against the Jets Sunday night. But still a pretty productive week. McDavid should/will be fourth in rookie scoring in about another week, which means Calder nomination.
11 – Straight wins for the Ducks, a franchise record
9 – Straight wins for the Lightning, a franchise record
0 – Faceoffs taken by Alex Ovechkin, strange because he’s always had at least a couple a season
2 – Players in the top 50 in scoring without at least 10 goals, Ryan Getzlaf and P.K Subban
4 –Empty net goals in two games this week for the Avalanche. O Patrick Roy.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
2. Tampa Bay
5. NY Islanders
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.