NHL 2016-17 Recap Week 15 – Penguins and Capitals have the game of the season, John Tavares marches on, Jake Allen and Henrik Lundqvist struggle and more
The high scoring continue this week with a couple of weird 7-6 games featuring the Dallas Stars vs the New York Rangers and the Columbus Blue Jackets vs the Ottawa Senators. The Stars won their game, featuring sloppy plays from both teams and six players on both teams having at least two points. The Blue Jackets won their seesaw affair in overtime.
But the jewel of the week was the Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals game on Monday night. It was the best game I’ve seen since the Los Angeles Kings vs Chicago Blackhawks Western Conference final a few years ago. This game had everything, including every goal you could think of. Power-play goal, short-handed goal, deflected goal, hustle goal, goalie interference goal etc.
The Capitals brought their nine game win streak to Pittsburgh and jumped out to a 3-0 win. Holtby looked phenomenal and it looked like an easy win. But that’s why these games have three periods. After the Capitals early goal in the 2nd period, the Penguins reeled off five consecutive goals in six minutes. Holtby no longer looked invincible and out he went. The Capitals rebounded nicely with two quick goals before the Penguins scored one of their own. All in ll we had nine goals in the 2nd period. Then three more in the 3rd which of course forced overtime, which was only fitting. The only thing is the overtime didn’t last long. I expected the Penguins to win because they scored a few goals when it was 4 on 4. But 34 seconds in was a little quick. Never a fan of short overtimes but it can’t take a way from a stupendous game. High scoring games are always fun and even with a lot of goals scored, you can have great saves by the goalies. Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick, Sidney Crosby had four points and, surprisingly, Alex Ovechkin had no goals but had two assists.
It’s a shame these two can’t meet in the Stanley Cup Finals but what’s even worse, is they could meet in the 1st round. I haven’t been a fan of the new playoff format since its inception. The two divisions are fine, the seeding is not. Right now, the top three teams in the Eastern Conference are all in the same division. Which mean the 2nd and 3rd best records in the conference will face each other in the 1st round. Not only is that grossly unfair to those teams, it rewards the inferior teams as well by not having to play a better team in the 1st round. They should give the top two seeds to the division winners and then seed the other teams by conference not division. Basically the same way it was before, just with one less division. You can even keep the top three teams from each division and the two wild card system. But this division only bracket stuff has got to go.
Things I like
1. John Tavares has been on fire as of late. Up until the Flyers game on Sunday, he had eight goals in his last five games. The only game he had no goals in, the Islanders won 4-0. He’s still a little off his a point per game pace but he seems to be turning the corner. This includes three goals scored in two games after coach Jack Capuano was fired. Which is an interesting decision given that it’s the middle of the season. I think it’s dumb to fire a coach in the middle of the season. It only works for the Penguins because they have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. If they are struggling, they get a new coach to help turn them around. But most teams don’t have two of the top twenty players in the NHL on their team. Plus Capuano just lead the team to it’s first playoff series win in decades. It’s true they have taken a step back this year but they are playing in the toughest division and they lost more quality players than they added. So this is not on him. This is really on the general manager Garth Snow. He’s probably next on the chopping block but he really should have been first.
Things I don’t
1. Speaking of coaches being fired, the constant chatter on Bruins’ coach Claude Julian is annoying. This has been going on a for few years now. This is a coach who lead them two Stanley Cup finals and won one of them. Not many active coaches can say that. Sure he missed the playoffs the last two seasons but it wasn’t by much either time. Their slides at the ends of those season doesn’t happen but it wasn’t all his fault. Right now he has them in a playoff spot. But it’s hard to focus as a team when you have a circus going on around you. It reminds me of the constant Bobby Ryan trade rumors. Sometimes it’s just too much. Either do it or don’t. I would just shut up about it. If they don’t make the playoffs for the third straight time, then you can get rid of him. But that all happens after the season is over.
2. One move that hasn’t worked out for either team is Brian Elliott going to the Flames. Jake Allen has been pretty dismal for the Blues, likewise Elliott has been dismal for the Flames. So much so, that Elliott isn’t even really their starter anymore. Flames couldn’t have foreseen this but the Blues should have. Allen had good numbers last season splitting time with the Blues but so did Elliott. And Elliott’s were slightly better. But the postseason is where Elliott was much better. Quite frankly, Elliott was always the Blues best goalie but they never saw it that way. Now Allen is mired in a huge slump, getting pulled twice in games and the Blues are sliding down the standings. His SV% in his last seven games is .840 and if you take away his one good game against the Blackhawks it’s .816. If the Blues make the playoffs, it’s suffice to say they won’t win a series.
3. Speaking of struggling goalies, you can add Henrik Lundqvist to the list. In the aforementioned Stars game, Lundqvist was really shaky and made some strange plays on the puck. Almost like he lacked confidence. He did pitch a shutout against the Red Wings Sunday but some of his other most recent games were more like the Stars game. In his last 10 games he has had SV% of .741, .773, .852, .790 and .692. For the Rangers sake, I hope the Red Wings game was the start of the old Lundqvist. Because the Rangers have no chance to get out of the 1st round, in a tough Metropolitan division, if he struggles.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a lot easier to do.
Lawson Crouse vs Chris Stewart
Not a bad fight but pretty lopsided in Stewart’s favor.
Chris Neil vs Ryan Reaves
Not many times you see someone get the better of Neil.
Tom Wilson vs Brett Ritchie
A couple of big boys in this one.
Goats of the Week
Cedric Paquette and Ben Bishop – Tampa Bay Lightning
This is a terrible goal for so many reasons and indicative of the Lightning’s poor season. Paquette passes the puck right to Getzlaf and then Bishop is not even close to being set. Instead he’s trying to get the refs attention. The Lightning would lose in overtime.
Nick Holden – New York Rangers
Holden overskates the puck, which easily allows the Stars to take advantage. In a 7-6 game, you can’t give up those kinds of goals.
Stat Line of the Week
1/21/17 Arizona 5 vs. Tampa Bay 3
To say the Phoenix Coyotes are having a rough season, is putting it mildly. They’ve had a few tough losses recently but they jumped out to a huge 5-1 lead in this game, thanks to Radim Vrbata. Vrbata has nine points in his last six games and leads the team in points with 33. He entered the league in the 2001-02 season and is still getting it done.
1000 – Career Points for Henrik Sedin and it came against Roberto Luongo, o the irony.
104 – Career points for Connor McDavid, honestly thought he’d get to 100 faster.
118 – Blocked shots, 2nd in the NHL, for Erik Karlsson. Very decent for a guy who also scores well.
24 – Goals scored by the Penguins in their four games this week.
11.5 – Power-play percentage for the Detroit Red Wings. The lowest since 2013-14.
1.14 – Points per game average this season for Connor McDavid
1.30 – Points per game average this season for Sidney Crosby
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
January 16, 1977 Gerry Desjardins recorded the 12th (and final) shutout of his NHL career, as the Sabres beat the Colorado Rockies 5-0 at Memorial Auditorium.
January 17, 1988 Stan Smyl scored twice to become the first player in Vancouver Canucks history to score 250 career goals. They came in a 6-5 win against the Jets, at Winnipeg.
January 18, 1975 St. Louis goalie Ed Johnston recorded his 200th NHL career victory as the Blues won 5-4 over the visiting Minnesota North Stars. Johnston became the 16th goaltender in the NHL to get 200 wins.
January 19, 2004 Pavol Demitra scored two goals, including the game winner 48 seconds into overtime, as the Blues won 2-1 over the Panthers at Florida. The two goals gave Demitra 500 points in his 525 game NHL career.
January 20, 1982 Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky became the first player in NHL history to get 12 career hat tricks before age 21, when he scored 3 times (and added 2 assists) in an 8-6 win over the visiting St. Louis Blues. It was Gretzky’s 6th hat trick of the season.
January 21, 1989 Bernie Nicholls scored his 100th point of the season for the second time in his career, when he picked up an assist for the Kings in a 5-4 loss to the Whalers, at Hartford.
January 22, 2000 Pavel Bure scored twice, including the overtime winner at 1:31 and added an assist in the Panthers 4-3 win against the visiting Boston Bruins. Bure’s first goal was the 300th of his NHL career, the 7th fastest 300 goals in league history.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
27. Tampa Bay
26. St. Louis
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.