NHL 2016-17 Recap Week 24 – Pacific Division up for grabs, Metro top spot race heats up, Bruins stumbling late again, Crosby has eventful week and much more
The Pacific Division is the most muddled mess coming down the stretch. Only five points separate first from fourth place. The Ducks and Oilers are now tied with the Sharks for first place on Sunday morning, until the Ducks just won, something that seemed inconceivable a few weeks ago. But the Sharks have now lost six in a row. Anyone can win this division and, the best part about it is, most of these teams play each other in the final few games. The Ducks have the Flames twice and the Oilers once. The Flames have the Ducks twice and the Sharks twice. The Sharks have the Oilers twice and the Flames twice. The Oilers have the Sharks twice and the Ducks once.
The Ducks seem to be the favorites, as they tend to have late season surges. But history shows having home ice does nothing for them. It might actually be in their benefit to just tank. The Flames are the longest shot, since they have the fewest points. However, if they win all four games in regulation against the Ducks and Sharks, they will probably catapult themselves to first. I think the order will end up being Ducks, Sharks, Oilers and then Flames. With them all ending up tied or with just a point or two separating each of them.
Things I like
1. The next best race in the NHL, is the the race for the number one seed in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers are the big winners, by virtue of being in the fourth place spot, as they won’t have to play any of the best teams until the Conference Finals. Which pretty much shows you how unfair the seeding is with the current division seeding format. The Rangers get rewarded for being fourth and whoever finishes second and third gets screwed big time. The Capitals only play the Blue Jackets once. Then half the remaining games are against playoff teams and half aren’t. The Penguins get the Blue Jackets once and then, of course, the Blue Jackets play the Capitals and Penguins both once. The Blue Jackets have more control over their fate if they can win both those games.
Things I don’t
1. The Boston Bruins find themselves in all too familiar territory heading into the final two weeks of the season. This will now be the third season in a row in which they were somewhat comfortably in a playoff spot only to seem themselves slide right out, as hotter teams passed them. Proving that a coaching change made no difference. Just like the last few seasons, they played the teams that they were competing with and lost. They lost to the Maple Leafs on Monday and the Lightning on Thursday. On Saturday, they played much better in a tough win over the Islanders. Lots of wide open nets missed by both teams though. The Bruins prevailed anyway 2-1. They actually scored three goals but had one taken away due to non-existent goalie interference. Thomas Greiss was down and out and the goal was scored up high. Even if David Backes wasn’t in the crease, there’s no way he would have saved that goal. The talent is there for the Bruins so at this point it’s clearly a mental hurdle. They have had this issue since they were eliminated by their arch rival Canadiens in seven games in the second round, after being up 3-2. We’ll see if the big Islanders win helps them or not.
2. Sidney Crosby is having a phenomenal season. He is leading the NHL in goals and, if he had been healthy, points. However, he’s also been up to his old tricks of slashing and hitting people in the crotch. Crosby speared Ryan O’Reilly from behind in the groin and then ended up paying for it by losing his teeth on a high stick to the face by Evander Kane. Then Crosby bloodied the fingers of Marc Methot of the Senators. Which made their owner livid. Crosby wasn’t suspended for any of his extracurricular activities. It’ll be interesting to see how the teams play the Penguins in the playoffs. When teams like the Flyers were able to get under the Penguins skin, particularly Crosby, the Penguins would lose. I’m willing to bet that strategy would work well this time around too.
3. The Islanders out the blame of most of their poor season on Jaroslav Halak and sent him to the AHL. Now they have recalled him, hoping he can work his late season magic to get them into the playoffs and beyond. This is basically the definition of a dick move. If it bothered Halak, he didn’t show it. As he played well against the Penguins in his first game back with 37 saves in a shootout win. It’ll be interesting to see what happens here, especially if the Islanders make the playoffs.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to http://hockeyfights.com for making this section a lot easier to do.
Jarome Iginla vs Patrick Maroon
A good long fight between two guys that can score.
Devils vs Rangers
A good old fashioned line brawl after a hit.
Micheal Haley vs Chris Stewart
This was an interesting fight.
Goat of the Week
Andrew MacDonald – Philadelphia Flyers
This was the only goal scored in the game, off a turnover. Granted MacDonald didn’t have many options but going up the middle wasn’t the best option, clearly.
Stat Line of the Week
3/26/17 Ducks 6 vs. Rangers 3
Ryan Getzlaf had two takeaways and four assists to help lead the Ducks over the Rangers and sole possession of first place for the first time all season. Getzlaf’s goal production is down this year but he’s actually only scored more than 25 goals in a season once. So it’s not down that much. But his assists are right where they usually are and he’s been hot lately. He now has 17 points in his last 10 games.
63 – Seconds for the Sharks and Wild to score four goals, two goals a piece
3 – Wins this week by the Canadiens over the Senators, who are still only three points behind
0 – Regulation losses for the Hurricanes the past 10 games
9 – Goals for Jeff Skinner in the past five games
1.17 – Points per game average this season for Connor McDavid
1.20 – 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.
March 20, 1988 New York Islanders’ Billy Smith recorded his 300th NHL victory, a 6-0 shutout against the Jets, at Winnipeg. Smith became the ninth goalie in NHL history to win 300 career games. It was also Smith’s 22nd (and final) career shutout.
March 21, 1990 Brett Hull became the sixth player in NHL history to score 70 goals in a season, as the Blues lost 8-6 at Edmonton.
March 22, 1989 Pittsburgh Penguins scored their 112th power play goal of the 1988-89 season, to break the NHL record of 111 set by the NY Rangers in 1987-88. (Penguins lost the game 5-4 to Washington).
March 23, 1991 March 23, 1991 Toronto’s Dave Reid scored his 8th shorthanded goal of the season, tying him with Dave Keon’s team record set in 1970-71. Maple Leafs won 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings.
March 24, 1973 Goaltender Tony Esposito recorded his 36th career shutout to lead the Black Hawks to a 7-0 win over the Atlanta Flames at Chicago Stadium. Jim Pappin scored a goal and set a team record with four second period assists.
March 25, 1930 Archie Wilcox became the first rookie defenseman in NHL history to score a playoff overtime goal, when he connected at 6:27 of the second overtime as the Maroons took a 1-0 win at Boston, in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals.
March 26, 1997 The NHL announced that the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Vancouver Canucks would open the 1997-98 season with two games in Japan, the first regular-season games in league history played outside North America.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
2. St. Louis
30. New Jersey
29. San Jose
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.