NHL 2018-19 Recap Week 18 – Western Conference wild card spots a free-for-all, Blues surging, Canadiens find offense, Ducks hit rock bottom
The Western Conference has something happening right now that’s very rare. They have teams that are simultaneously in contention for a lottery pick and the last wild card spot. Just eight points separate last place from a wild card spot. The Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks all find themselves in this position as they chase the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. Although all the teams can just see what happens, that’s not really in their best interest. You’re either in one of three groups. A team that could potentially win it all, a team that isn’t very good and heading for the lottery or a team battling for one of the bottom playoff spots. Battling for a bottom playoff spot isn’t where you want to be because it most likely means a first round exit. There’s been a few upsets over the years but it’s unlikely. If you aren’t contending, I’d rather try to get a lottery pick to draft someone who can contribute right away. For many of these teams, netting a lottery pick would benefit them greatly in the long run. It’s hard to purposely tell teams to just not win but the alternative of finishing ninth is worse. With how bad the Blackhawks and Kings started the season and how bad the Ducks have been, it’s hard to imagine any one of them could make the playoffs.
Things I like
1.The most surprising team this season is probably the Montreal Canadiens. I certainly didn’t have them pegged as a playoff team. Mostly because they seemed like they would be the same offensively inept team they’ve always been. But not so fast. Jonathan Drouin is playing much better now than in his first season in Montreal and the pickup this season of Max Domi has worked out wonderfully. Of course this just means the Canadiens don’t draft well. But not so fast. Jesperi Kotkaniemi was their top pick last draft and he has been red hot as of late. He started out slow but now he has four goals in his last five games. He’ll probably end up being a star. This all means we are heading for a first round playoff match-up between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs. And boy won’t that be fun.
2.One of the hottest teams south of the Flyers is the St. Louis Blues. Something I didn’t see coming. But the Blues have won six in a row. One of those reasons has been the play of Jordan Binnington. Binnington is giving starting goalie Jake Allen a run for his money, something that is much needed. In 11 starts, he has nine wins and two shutouts. If the Blues make the playoffs, it’ll be interesting to see which goal gets the starting nod. I imagine it will be Allen but that’s not the way I would go. More on the Blues below.
Things I don’t
1.The Anaheim Ducks are like a runaway train speeding off of a cliff. There’s no way to stop it but you can’t avert your eyes either. It’s hard to imagine a team could lose 19 of it’s last 21 games. But they have. Lately, it seems to just be getting worse. In their last five games, the Ducks have been outscored 29-7. They’ve been getting off to some brutal starts in those games too. But even when they take 45 shots on goal, like they did against the Senators, they still get shutout. Their overall goal differential is now a whopping -55. The Ducks are in a tough spot because they don’t want to promote any AHL players to this losing environment. But it’s clear it’s finally time to move on from the last remaining players and coach that led them to a Stanley Cup. And then on Sunday it was announced coach Randy Carlyle was fired. General manager Bob Murray will coach the team the rest of the season. It’s rumored that San Diego Gulls, the Ducks AHL affiliate, coach Dallas Eakins will get the job next season. But, again, they want to wait and not bring new people into this disaster.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Patrick Maroon vs Cody McLeod
A good old fashioned back and forth brawl.
Tom Wilson vs Ian Cole
Wilson just pummels Cole.
Goat of the Week
Dallas Stars – All of them on the ice
The Coyotes did a really great job of pressuring the Stars here but this play just sums up why the Stars are where they are. At one point in the frame you can see five Stars and two Coyotes. Yet the Coyotes managed to take advantage of their sloppy play, steal the puck and score a goal. This put the Stars into a 0-3 hole. They battled back to score two but it wasn’t enough. If they had done this play better, they would have at least received a point.
Stat Line of the Week
2/10/19 St. Louis 5 vs Nashville 4
In a big game against the Predators, the Blues jumped out to a big 3-1 lead before giving it all back in the third period. But after scoring in the second period and the lone Blues goal in the third, Vladimir Tarasenko scored the game winner in overtime. Tarasenko might end up having his worst season statistically and his game winning goals are down but he’s still a major threat.
1000 – Career NHL games for Patrice Bergeron
9 – Seasons in a row with a shorthanded goal by Brad Marchand, just the 20th player to do so
.933 – SV% for Jack Campbell, leading the NHL in that category in his short tenure with the Kings despite having a losing record
1 – Play by Sidney Crosby repeatedly pushing Tyler Johnson’s head into the ice when he was down, never change Sid
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
February 04, 1983 Winnipeg’s Dale Hawerchuk scored three goals and added two assists as the Jets won 6-4 over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the 4th hat trick of Hawerchuk’s NHL career.
February 05, 1995 Bernie Nicholls scored four goals on four shots (his 16th career hat trick and his first with Chicago), and added two assists as the Blackhawks won 9-4, at Vancouver.
February 06, 1918 Montreal’s Joe Malone extended his goal scoring streak to 14 straight games (which began at the start of the NHL’s first season two months earlier) with his 35th goal of the season in a 6-3 Canadiens loss at Ottawa.
February 07, 1933 Canadiens’ George Hainsworth recorded his 71st career shutout, in a 2-0 win over Toronto, in Montreal, to move past Alex Connell as the NHL’s all-time leader in career shutouts.
February 08, 1969 Phil Esposito had three assists to set a club record for most points by a center with 85, and Boston scored four goals in a 2:30 span of the first period in a 6-5 win over Philadelphia, at Boston Garden.
February 09, 1991 Boston’s Ray Bourque netted his 900th NHL point with a goal, in a 5-3 Bruins’ win over Chicago. Bourque became just the fifth defenseman in NHL history to notch 900 career points.
February 10, 1993 Calgary’s Theoren Fleury posted +/- rating of +9 rating in a 13-1 Flames’ win against San Jose. Fleury scored a goal and added five assists in the game.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
2. NY Islanders
4. San Jose
5. St. Louis
28. New Jersey