NHL 2017-18 Recap Week 13 – Lightning and Golden Knights on collision course, Stars and Avalanche heat up, Tight Metropolitan
We have reached the halfway point of the NHL season and the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights look to be on a collision course. Of course, that rarely holds up but it might this time. So far, this has definitely been one of the odder and tighter seasons ever in the NHL. But the only two constants have been the Lightning and Golden Knights. However, only once has the top two seeds met in the Stanley Cup Finals. That was in 2001 when the Colorado Avalanche defeated the New Jersey Devils. We’ll have to wait and see if it happens again.
The Lightning are experienced, have top scorers and a great coach. I predicted them to make the finals last season but then half the team became injured. I was a year off. There aren’t any other teams in the Eastern Conference that scare me. There are some good teams but none of them are great. I’ve also written off the Capitals at this point. However, if the Penguins don’t make the playoffs, maybe this is the season the Capitals finally break through. But I’m not counting on it and I can see the Lightning beating them.
I have to admit when I’m wrong and I was wrong about hockey in Vegas. The Golden Knights are the talk of the town and they are always sold out. Even their practices are jam packed. So I’ll eat my words that it was going to be a complete disaster. Of course this begs the question, Why did it work in Vegas but not in Phoenix? But that’s a topic for another day. The Golden Knights are in, mostly, uncharted territory for an expansion team. Considering all they have endured with the local shooting and losing all their goalies to injuries, it’s a testament to the team that they’ve overcome all the adversity and are still in first place. They’re also great at home so if they can secure the top seed, they have a great chance of making the finals.
Things I like
1. I love how only nine points separate eight teams from last to first in the Metropolitan division. It means a five game losing streak can take you from first place all the way down to last place. The Capitals and Devils have been pretty consistent so they should both be locks but the rest of the division is anyone’s guess. Both the wild cards will come from this division so you’ll have six teams battling for three spots. I never would have guessed the Penguins would be in last place but they were before their win over the Bruins. I like the Penguins and Hurricanes chances the least and the Flyers and Islanders chances the best of the teams not currently in a playoff spot. I also think the Rangers will just miss. The Islanders and Flyers just seem to have their offenses clicking right now and I think it will continue.
2. The Dallas Stars, finally, and the Colorado Avalanche have started to heat up. The Stars are finally rebounding from last season’s disaster. Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg, as well as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, have found their scoring touch. The Stars have won six of eight with 27 goals in those wins. Ben Bishop seems to be getting more comfortable in Dallas, posting two shutouts in his last eight games. This is a team I wouldn’t want to play down the stretch. As for the Avs, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen have been red hot. MacKinnon has always shows promise but this looks like it will finally be his break out season. This will be the first time in his five year career he will average over a point per game. Mikko Rantanen is in his second season and is also averaging a point per game for the first time. The Avalanche have never recovered after they surprisingly won the division and then imploded the next season. I still think they are a year away though. They need more depth and I’m not sure Semyon Varlamov is the answer in net. But they’ve won five in a row and seven of their last ten anyway.
Things I don’t
1. It’s sad to see Jaromir Jagr NHL career end like it appears to be doing now as the Flames have parted ways with him. Jagr is too slow for the game today and he also has too many injuries to battle through. But what a career. 1,733 games, 766 goals, 1,155 assists and 1,921 points. Good for second all time in points. He also played for nine NHL franchises which is also impressive. Even journeymen usually don’t do that. Here’s hoping he plays in the Olympics one last time but he appears to be too banged up to do that, which is a shame.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Derek Grant vs Garnet Hathaway and Josh Manson vs Sam Bennett
It’s a twofer but not quite a full line brawl.
Brenden Dillon vs Matt Hendricks
Some real heavyweights going back and forth.
Josh Bailey vs Sean Couturier
A pretty decent back and forth, just a little short.
Goat of the Week
Frederik Andersen – Toronto Maple Leafs
I usually focus on only one goal games but Andersen misplayed the puck twice this week, behind his own net, that led to easy goals. One game they won and one game they lost. This was the game they lost. Andersen doesn’t communicate with his defenseman and he doesn’t really play the puck either. The Lightning capitalized and the Maple Leafs lost by two.
Stat Line of the Week
1/07/18 Pittsburgh 6 vs. Boston 5
In an epically wild and crazy game, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby delivered strong performance, which they will need to do for the Penguins to have a chance of making the playoffs. Malkin scored a key goal when he was left wide open to draw the Penguins within one. It’s hard to imagine how four Bruins could all move to one side and leave Malkin open, even on a power-play. Malkin then scored the game winner in overtime when the exhausted Bruins all went for a change on a clearing attempt that didn’t do deep in enough into the Penguins end to warrant such a change. Malkin took advantage of the odd man rush.
4 – Goals for Patrice Bergeron in the Bruins rout of the Hurricanes
4 – Unanswered goals by the Senators in their 6-5 comeback win against the Sharks
1 – Piece of beard pulled by Nazem Kadri from Joe Thornton’s face in their fight
1 – Goal this season for Dustin Byfuglien, he’s on pace to have less than he did in the strike shortened season
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
January 01, 1976 Butch Goring scored his 6th career hat trick and added an assist as the Kings beat the Sabres 9-6 at Buffalo.
January 02, 1997 Joe Sakic picked up two assists to give him 500 career assists and 800 NHL points, when the Avalanche won 3-2 over the visiting Calgary Flames.
January 03, 1973 Eddie Giacomin became the NY Rangers’ all time leader in career shutouts, when he beat the Kings 3-0, for his 41st career shutout. He broke the team record of 40 set by Dave Kerr.
January 04, 1944 Bill Cowley picked up two assists to become the NHL’s all time leader in career assists, in a 6-4 Bruins win over the Black Hawks, at Chicago Stadium. The two assists gave Cowley 258 in his career, two more than Frank Boucher.
January 05, 1984 Nordiques’ Michel Goulet extended his team-record goal scoring streak to 9 straight games as Quebec won 8-3 at Boston. Goulet scored 10 goals during the 9 game streak.
January 06, 1996 Vancouver’s Alexander Mogilny scored his third hat trick of the season (and the 13th of his career), and Cliff Ronning picked up four assists as the Canucks won 9-2 over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
January 07, 1984 Goaltender Gilles Meloche recorded his 20th (and final) career shutout as the North Stars won 2-0 over Vancouver in Minnesota.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
27. NY Islanders
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.