NHL 2016-17 Recap Week 18 – Islanders and Leafs are legit, Bruins finally fire Julian, Matt Murray’s mask and much more
And down the stretch they come. The final two months of the NHL season is upon us. 30 to 25 games, depending, will be played by each team. We all know the “Division of Death” and how they are sending at least four teams. Those top four are all locks. The Flyers or a resurgent Islanders team could nab the last spot. I actually give the edge to the Islanders because they are hotter, have a couple of games in hand and they have a better goal differential. It’s likely the Capitals win the division and the Rangers nab fourth.
It’s also possible, although unlikely, the Atlantic division could send four teams too. None of these spots are locks though. The Canadiens should get in but they aren’t a lock to win the division. They don’t have as big of a lead as they used to. I think the Senators should get in, only because they have games in hand. The Maple Leafs have the advantage over the Bruins because they have a few games in hand. It’s likely the Bruins could miss the playoffs just barely for the third season in a row. I still think the Senators may just slide out entirely. But the Maple Leafs will be in, one way or another.
The Blackhawks and Wild are sitting comfortably in the Central. The rest of this division is just blah. The Wild should win the division though. Not that it matters because we are getting Blackhawks vs Wild in the second round again. The Predators and Blues are more than likely in. If the Stars epically awful stretch is behind them, they could make a move for a wild card. But they may just be toast at this point.
The Sharks, Oilers and Ducks are in. They will probably remain in that order. Fourth is where it gets tricky. The Kings will more than likely get the last playoff spot. The Flames will probably come up short. Although they could take a spot away from the Central. But It really wouldn’t surprise me if all of the teams in the Western Conference stay in the exact same spot as they currently are in.
And yes I did predict a Tampa Bay Lightning vs Dallas Stars Stanley Cup final. And neither will probably even make the playoffs. Never been so off before.
Things I like
1. After a few gems last week, we were treated to a marvelous game between the Islanders and Maple Leafs on Monday. The Islanders showed how much better they have been playing as of late. A rare occurrence of when a coaching change worked mid-season. We had eleven goals in total. With three goals in five minutes at the end of the first period and at the end of third period. A save of the year candidate by Fredrik Andersse\on on John Tavares, at the end of the third period. And an overtime winner by Brock Nelson. Auston Matthews had one goal but, surprisingly, John Tavares had no points. Both these teams are for real though.
Things I don’t
1. Another week, another firing. The firing of Claude Julian took place in the mist of a parade in Boston for the Patriots. The Bruins got a lot of slack for the timing of the firing and deservedly so. As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of firing coaches in the middle of the season, unless it’s the Penguins. Julian led them to two Stanley Cup Finals and one cup win, he deserves better. This has been brewing for awhile so I was surprised they brought him back this year. But once you make that choice, see it through to the end. This team isn’t really going to be any different with or without him at this point. He’ll get a new job next season if he wants one. Yes, the Bruins are hot. But I’d like to think they’d be that way regardless if Julian was there or not. I will say that interim coach Bruce Cassidy does like playing younger players something Julian didn’t always want to do.
2. In the game against the Flames, Matt Murray broke one of his straps and promptly threw off his mask for a whistle. The problem is, the Flames scored about two seconds later. But of course it was waved off because of the mask. I have a problem with the goal being disallowed. I realize that his strap breaking is a problem and he wants to get the refs attention. But the mask did not fall off on its own. Murray threw it off. He stopped playing on the play, even though he still could, the Flames did not. This should be called the same way an injured player stoppage is. The play isn’t blown dead until the team with the injured player has puck possession. So play should have continued. If Murray decides to throw his mask off anyway, while the Flames have control, the ref should make a judgment call on whether to stop play or not. Basically if he thinks the goalie will be in danger or not. If he blows it dead, the Penguins should get a delay of game penalty. That’s the best way to solve this problem. If the mask falls off on its own, then play is stopped automatically regardless of puck possession. The Flames ended up winning in the shootout.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a lot easier to do.
Jamie Benn vs Dion Phaneuf
Benn faced off against Phaneuf in a fairly decent fight.
Vinnie Hinostroza vs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
First fight for Hinostroza and the third fight for Nugent-Hopkins and it wasn’t that bad.
Goat of the Week
Jiri Hudler – Dallas Stars
I don’t mean to put the Stars here ever week but here we are again. You’ve probably already since this clip but it’s worth repeating here. Hudler doesn’t want to take on two players so he just flips the puck behind him. Now while you don’t want to lose control of the puck on a delayed penalty, you need to be aware that the goalie is pulled so you can’t just casually flip it down the middle. Looknig first or off the boards would have been better. This put the stars in an 0-2 hole. They ended up tying the game but then lost by a goal. The story of their season.
Stat Line of the Week
2/09/17 Montreal 5 vs. Phoenix 4
Max Pacioretty is having himself a really great year. He has f50 points and 28 goals, 3rd best in the NHL. He took a ridiculously high ten shots in this game and figured into all of the Canadiens goals against a tougher than they look Coyotes team. Of course none of this matters if he disappears in the playoffs, again.
315 – Games with a shot by Alex Ovehkin, until it broke against the Red Wings
400 – Career wins for Henri Lundqvist, only good for 12th all time though
0 – Shorthanded goals against for the Blue Jackets, the only team left to not give up one
9 – Shorthanded goals against the Stars, worst in the NHL
1- Hat trick for Viktor Arvidsson, the 1st of his career, in a losing effort against the Panthers
1.08 – Points per game average this season for Connor McDavid
1.25 – 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.
February 06, 1972 Goaltender Tony Esposito recorded his 30th career shutout in the Black Hawks’ 5-0 win over the Minnesota North Stars, at Chicago Stadium. Pat Stapleton had four assists to lead the scoring.
February 07, 1876 The first documented use of the work “puck” was mentioned in a story in the Montreal Gazette.
February 08, 1983 Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky set an All Star Game record with four goals (all in the third period), as the Campbell Conference All Stars won over the Wales 9-3 at Nassau Coliseum. Gretzky won the MVP honors.
February 09, 1966 Toronto’s Terry Sawchuk got his 98th career shutout as the Maple Leafs beat the Rangers 3-0 at Maple Leaf Gardens. Sawchuk also extended his NHL record, as his first shutout of the season gave him one (or more) shutouts in 17 straight years.
February 10, 1992 Denis Savard became the 37th NHL player to score 400 career goals when he had three goals and an assist in the Canadiens’ 8-3 win over Vancouver, at the Forum. It was Savard’s 12th career hat trick (his only one with Montreal).
February 11, 2001 Joe Nieuwendyk scored to give him 20 goals for the year, for the 12th time in his NHL career. The milestone came in a 3-3 tie against the visiting St. Louis Blues.
February 12, 1991 San Jose Sharks showed off their new official team colors of teal, gray, black and white, as the team’s team’s home and road jerseys were unveiled by owner George Gund and hockey legend Gordie Howe.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
2. NY Rangers
5. 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.