NHL 2018-19 Recap Week 15 – Islanders on top, Flames still hot, Maple Leafs up and down, Avalanche even more up and down
After proclaiming the NHL playoff races over last week, things have become a little more interesting. In the Eastern Conference, the Islanders (more on them below) have ascended out of wild card land and the Penguins have fallen down. The Canadiens have taken over the Sabres spot, as they have fallen out. It looks like we have a nine team race now, with potentially the Hurricanes making it ten.
In the Western Conference, it’s now even tighter mostly due to the Avalanche’s (more on them below) recent tailspin. It seems likely that they and the Stars will get in but that still leaves several teams battling for the last wild card. The Wild still seem like the team best positioned to get it. The west is much more condensed at the bottom, giving everyone but the Kings and Blackhawks a shot at it.
Things I like
1. I had a weird hunch that if John Tavares left, the New York Islanders would actually become better. But I never thought they would end up first in the standings. Having a great coach like Barry Trotz obviously helps tremendously. There are no superstars on the team but it is a very deep and well rounded bunch. Usually teams have deep drops between players but the largest the Islanders has is eight. Mathew Barzal is the closest they have to a star and he is on pace for about the same numbers as last season. And who ever would have thought the best goaltending duo in the NHL would be Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss? The duo is currently giving up the fewest goals in the NHL. It’s unlikely they will stay in first but it’s a nice story either way.
2. The Calgary Flames are in a class of their own right now. It’s not because they have the best record in the Western Conference or because they are second in the NHL in scoring. It’s because they have five players with over 50 points. A couple of teams have three but nobody but Calgary has more. Johnny Gaudreau is currently on an 11 game scoring streak with 22 points during it. I do worry about their defense and more specifically their goaltending. Mike Smith has been great at times but other times he looks like an average goalie, which he mostly is. Calgary is definitely the most surprising team thus far but it’ll be interesting to see how well they do in the playoffs. I think they will lose in the second round.
Things I don’t
1. The Toronto Maple Leafs had another one of their up and down weeks. In a highly entertaining game, the Maple Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. The game had everything you could ask for including several forwards on both teams, who are not known for their defense, making great stops or takeaways. There was also three goals scored in a span of under two minutes. After their big win against the Lightning, the Maple Leafs had a huge letdown game against the Panthers. After losing to the Panthers they came home and lost to the Coyotes. Not a good sign for a young team. They are going to have to get much better at handling big wins if they hope to do anything in the playoffs. They also had a poor showing against the Avalanche which is covered more below.
2. The Colorado Avalanche are the most inconsistent team besides the Philadelphia Flyers. This month they had a 6-1 win over the Rangers only to lose to the Canadiens 3-0 then they beat the Maple Leafs 6-3, then they lost to the Senators 5-2 before beating the Kings 7-1. They also had losses against the Jets and Flames but they were fairly close losses against good teams. Both their lopsided wins came at home while all their losses were on the road. Their win against the Maple Leafs was at Toronto.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Nicolas Deslauriers vs Kevan Miller
A slow back and forth before a twirl and then fists of fury from both.
Goat of the Week
Toronto Maple Leafs – Too many to mention
The Maple Leafs had a pretty sloppy game against the Avalanche after they built a 2-0 lead. The first goal, the Maple Leafs missed two chances to clear the puck and the Avalanche, or just Mikko Rantanen, capitalized on it. On the second goal, Carl Soderberg outplays two Maple Leafs to notch a short handed goal. Just overall poor effort by the Maple Leafs.
Stat Line of the Week
1/20/19 Chicago 8 vs Washington 5
Patrick Kane continued his strong play of late with five points in a wild game against the Capitals. In his current eight game scoring streak, Kane has a whopping 20 points. He’s on his way to only his second 100 point season in his career. It’s hard to imagine with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews having great seasons and after putting up eight goals against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Blackhawks could be having such a poor season.
200 – Career goals by Jordan Eberle of the Islanders
4 – Breakaways by the Golden Knights with zero goals against the Penguins
446 – Career wins for Henrik Lundqvist passing Terry Sawchuk for 6th all time
5 – Place in goals for and against for the Maple Leafs, the only team in the top five in both categories
28.3 – Shooting percentage for Alex Chiasson, it pays to be on a line with Connor McDavid
27.8 – Shooting percentage for rookie Elias Pettersson in second place
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
January 14, 1998 San Jose’s Jeff Friesen scored twice (in a 4-2 loss to the visiting L.A. Kings) to become the Sharks’ all-time leader in career points. His 163rd point as a Shark moved him one ahead of Pat Falloon.
January 15, 1987 Philadelphia Flyers picked up the 800th all-time victory in team history in a 6-3 victory over the Canadiens at the Spectrum. The win gave the Flyers an all time record of 800-481-261.
January 16, 1984 Pierre Larouche scored twice, including his 300th career NHL goal and added three assists, and rookie Peter Sundstrom had his first career hat trick along with an assist as the Rangers beat Detroit 8-5 at MSG.
January 17, 2000 Toronto’s Steve Thomas scored twice, including the overtime winner at 4:55 in the Maple Leafs 5-4 win at Vancouver. It was Thomas’ 11th career OT game winner, extending his NHL record.
January 18, 2000 Detroit’s Steve Yzerman scored his 614th career goal, to become the highest goal scorer in NHL history among players who spent their entire careers with one team. He broke Mario Lemieux’s record of 613 as the Red Wings lost 6-1 at Calgary.
January 19, 1978 New York Islanders improved their all-time record to over .500 for the first time in the team’s six year history, when Billy Smith’s 10th career shutout gave them a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues.
January 20, 1981 Clark Gillies scored his 200th career NHL goal and added two assists, and Glenn Resch recorded his 25th career shutout as the Islanders won 5-0 over the visiting Calgary Flames. Gillies became the 3rd player to score 200 goals with the Islanders.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
2. NY Islanders
3. Tampa Bay
30. New Jersey