NHL 2016-17 Recap Week 22 – Flames are red hot, Playoff races get tighter, Ducks playing well and much more
Is it time to break up the Calgary Flames? Something you wouldn’t have even mildly though about a few months ago, the Flames are now red hot having won nine straight games. And they’ve gotten hot at the right time. At this point they are pretty much a lock for at least a wild card. But their rapid ascension has put them ahead of both the Ducks, until the Ducks just won, and Oilers. This will be a three team race in the Pacific Division worth watching down the stretch.
The Flames don’t wow you offensively. They don’t have any point a game players. Only Johnny Gaudreau is somewhat close. Sean Monahan will never be a superstar but he is consistent. Matthew Tkachuk is in his first season and there is a lot to like. A major catalyst for them playing better is the return to form of Brian Elliott. Elliott started off his season in Calgary terribly and then was surpassed by Chad Johnson. But he’s hit a groove lately. His lowest SV% in his last five games was .943 and his last two games have been shutouts. Not too shabby. As an added bonus, he generally plays well in the playoffs.
This Flames teams surprised some two season ago, when they made it to the second round of the payoffs. They regressed the next season. This team has a potential to make it to the conference finals. But the road through the Pacific will be tough. But they are streaking at the same time the Ducks and Kings each did a few seasons ago. The Ducks lost in the first round but the Kings ended up winning the Stanley Cup.
Things I like
1. Speaking of the Anaheim Ducks, can they finally win it all again? This hasn’t been the greatest season for the Ducks in many respects. They rank 20th in goal scoring, which is pretty bad for a playoff team. However, there are a few positives. The off seasons of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are actually a good thing. The two have been absent from a lot of games this season. But they usually never show up in a Game 7 and then the Ducks are screwed. The fact that they aren’t showing up now, enabled the Ducks to find other ways to win games. This will be beneficial to them come playoff time. Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg are have great seasons. Rakell especially has excelled in his third season, leading the team in goals. Their stellar defensemen core, in addition to Jonathan Bernier and John Gibson, are their biggest strengths. Bernier has especially been on as of late. But what’s more impressive are the wins they had lately. A 4-3 comeback shootout win against the Predators. A team they’ve always lost to in the playoffs. A 1-0 grind out win against a great Blackhawks team that heavily out shot them. And a dominating win against the Capitals in which both Perry and Getzlaf showed up. They will be a tough out in the playoffs but they will play a tough out themselves in the first round. Who knows, they just might win it again on the ten year anniversary of their first Stanley Cup.
2. Don’t look now but the Ottawa Senators were in first place for a day. They are actually the second hottest team in the NHL behind the Flames. For the most part, the first place team in each divisions has stayed the same the whole entire season. The Canadiens in the Atlantic, the Capitals in the Metropolitan, the Wild in the Central and Sharks in the Pacific. There was a few moments were the Blue Jackets and Penguins were on top in the Metropolitan. To be fair, the Blackhawks have split it with the Wild but, for the most part, it’s been pretty boring at the top. But now for the first time since switching to the new playoff format we have drama everywhere. And I love it. The Sharks winning the Pacific is probably the only thing you might be able to be sure about it. But everything else is up for grabs in all the other divisions. Even the Capitals, who have been pretty much the best team in hockey all season long recordwise, could fall all the way down to a wild card. It’s going to be a phenomenal sprint to the finish.
Things I don’t
1. There’s going to be a pretty decent team or two left out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this season. There’s 10 playoffworthy teams and only eight spots. On the outside at the moment are the Islanders and Lighting. Both who made epic turnarounds to their season but it will probably end up being too little too late. The Eastern Conference is so tight that four of the top five teams in the Atlantic have won at least seven games in their last ten. After being shut out last season, Canada should get all its Eastern Conference teams in.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to http://hockeyfights.com for making this section a lot easier to do.
Tom Sestito vs Chris Thorburn
A good long old fashioned brawl.
Austin Watson vs Kevin Bieksa
A fast moving fight against the boards.
Tanner Glass vs Luke Witkowski
Lots of punches in this one.
Goat of the Week
Brandon Manning – Philadelphia Flyers
Although Manning meant well, when there’s only a few seconds left in the game, your goalie is well positioned, there’s no one in front of him and you aren’t playing a man; it’s best to just not touch the puck and let your goalie stop it. Manning tried to stop it and instead scored the game winner for the Bruins with five seconds left.
Stat Line of the Week
3/09/17 Ottawa 3 vs. Arizona 2
Erik Karlsson will have to settle for being just the second highest scoring defenseman this season but he can still bring it when needed. Karlsson figured into all of the Senators goals as they eeked out a win against the Coyotes. He assisted on the first goal, tied the game in the third period and then had the overtime winner on a breakaway. He also logged the most time in the game.
1001 – Career assists for Joe Thornton
3 – Shutouts in a row for Sergei Bobrovsky
3 – Times the Bruins have scored six goals in a game since changing coaches
10 – Losses, in one form or another, in a row for the Devils
1.12 – Points per game average this season for Connor McDavid
1.18 – Points per game average this season for Sidney Crosby
1.18 – Points per game average this season for Evgeni Malkin
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 06, 1996 Chris Osgood became the third goalie in NHL history to score a goal, as the Red Wings won 4-2 against the Whalers at Hartford. It was Detroit’s 48th win of the year, a team record. And Osgood set a team record with his 10th straight victory.
March 07, 1989 Calgary’s Lanny McDonald scored two goals in the Flames’ 9-5 win over the Winnipeg Jets to give him 1,001 career NHL points. He became the 23rd player in NHL history to get 1,000 career points.
March 08, 2001 Philadelphia’s Keith Primeau scored his first career hat trick (in his 683rd career NHL game) and added an assist in the Flyers 5-2 win against the visiting Calgary Flames.
March 09, 1957 Gordie Howe scored twice to become the first player in franchise history to score 350 goals as a member of the Red Wings. The milestone came in a 4-2 Detroit loss at Boston.
March 10, 1974 Minnesota’s Bill Goldsworthy scored his 7th career hat trick for the 200th goal of his NHL career as the North Stars won 8-1 against the visiting St. Louis Blues.
March 11, 1979 Butch Goring became the first player in franchise history to score 250 goals as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. The milestone came in a 6-3 loss at Philadelphia.
March 12, 1991 Winnipeg Jets’ Phil Housley scored his 200th career NHL goal, in a 5-3 loss at Calgary. It was his 22nd of the season, tying him for the club record for goals in a season by a defenseman, set by Dave Ellett in 1988-89.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
30. 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.