NHL 2018-19 Recap Week 25 – Final playoff spots up for grabs, Hurricanes celebrations, Looming playoff questions
As we head into the last week of the season, we reflect on the banner year it was for offense in the NHL. We had multiple scorers over 100 points. Two teammates (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) over 100 points for the first time in a decade. Three players over 40 goals on one team (Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, is just one goal short, of the Lightning). Six teams had a trio of players score at least 30 goals. Alex Ovechkin scored 50 goals for the eighth time in his career. Goals a game ticked up to 2.82, continuing the slow uptick from last season. The Tampa Bay Lightning were the first team to score over 300 goals in almost a decade.
But it’s not all great news as we have the top two teams in both conferences in the same division (Atlantic and Pacific). Meaning they will more than likely meet in the second round. Undoubtedly they would meet eventually but you always prefer it happens as late as possible. Gary Bettman has always stated no changes would happen. But when players like Steven Stamkos start to question it, it might hopefully get the needle moving a bit toward a discussion and ultimately a change.
Things I like
1. We still have a few things up for grabs in the final week of the NHL season. It’s hard to fathom, based on the way the first half of the season unfolded, the St. Louis Blues have a chance to actually win the Central Division. But here they are, only two points back. None of them have that hard of schedule left. But the Winnipeg Jets and Blues both play the Avalanche and they both have a game in hand over the Nashville Predators. The Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes battle for the final wild card spot out west. I still think the Avalanche will get it. The have a one point lead and a game in hand. Both schedules are about the same. The final wild card spots in the east are still down to the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens. The Blue Jackets have been on a roll lately and have moved into the first wild card spot. I still think the Canadiens will be the team that doesn’t get in but it definitely is very tight. The Canadiens still have the toughest schedule and are currently behind in points.
2. I hadn’t mentioned it before but I actually like the post game celebrations by the Carolina Hurricanes at home. Don Cherry can call it whatever he likes but it definitely is fun. Fun for the fans, fun for the team and fun for the NHL. A lot of ESPN shows have shown clips of it which is something the NHL needs. More publicity. Of course it’s still sad the clips that get shown most of the NHL are not of the actual game. Mostly just fights and celebrations. But you take what you can get. The Hurricanes need the publicity too, since they are almost dead last in attendance. I don’t think it’s disrespectful either. The other team has left the ice. Truth be told, they should probably do it after a loss but I can see how the environment wouldn’t be the same. But it’s good of them to ditch it for the playoffs. The playoffs are a serious time and you don’t want to rub the team you’ll play the next game the wrong way.
Things I don’t
1. There’s a lot of question marks hanging over a lot of playoff teams. Seemingly more than usual. Are the Tampa Bay Lightning too overconfident? Are the Toronto Maple Leafs mentally prepared? Can the Vegas Golden Knights win a playoff series without Marc-Andre Fleury? Are the St. Louis Blues or New York Islanders actually any good? Can the Winnipeg Jets or Nashville Predators be even remotely consistently? Can the Calgary Flames overcome their inexperience? Can the San Jose Sharks overcome their slump and injuries? Can the Washington Capitals repeat? Do the Pittsburgh Penguins have another run in them? Can the Carolina Hurricanes sell out a home playoff game? Find out only in the NHL playoffs.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Erik Cernak vs Tom Wilson
A pretty decent back and forth fight until Wilson gets him at the end.
Goat of the Week
Joakim Ryan – San Jose Sharks
One of the reasons the Sharks are mired in a losing streak recently is because they are doing stupid stuff like this. Directly skating into the other team and turning it over, even though they have several other options available to them. The Sharks lost by a goal.
Stat Line of the Week
3/25/19 Toronto 7 vs Florida 5
John Tavares has received a lot of flak, mostly in New York, about going to Toronto but you can’t deny he has delivered. He scored the middle four goals for the Maple Leafs in this game to give him 45 on the season. He has now set a career season high in goals and points in his tenth season. But it’s not just his scoring that has improved. He’s also set career season highs in plus minis, hits, blocked shots and face-off percentage. Proving he has developed into a better all around player. Maybe going to Toronto was exactly what he needed.
30 – Goals scored by the Red Wings Andreas Athanasiou, the quietest 30 ever scored
5 – Points by David Pastrnak in the Bruins win over the Rangers
151 – Penalty minutes for Evander Kane, way above everyone else
203 – Blocked shots by Andy Greene, the only player above 200
4 – Calgary Flames in the top six in plus minus
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 25, 1990 Pittsburgh’s Paul Coffey reached 100 point mark for the second consecutive season and 5th time in his career (one short of Bobby Orr’s record for 100 point seasons by a defenseman). The mark came in a 4-2 loss to the Whalers, at Hartford.
March 26, 1994 Mario Lemieux became the 21st player in NHL history to hit the 1,200 point plateau when he had a goal and an assist in the Penguins’ 5-3 loss to Calgary.
March 27, 1994 San Jose’s Sergei Markarov set a new Sharks’ scoring record, with his 27th goal of the season in a 4-3 win at St. Louis. It was also the Sharks’ first ever win over the Blues, after 10 losses in three seasons.
March 28, 1976 Pete Mahovlich picked up two assists, including his 100th point of the season (for the second straight year) in the Canadiens’ 2-2 tie at Boston.
March 29, 1973 Flyers’ Bobby Clarke became the first player from a post-67 team (and 9th in NHL history) to score 100 points in a season. His 100th point was a goal that led the Flyers over the Atlanta Flames, 4-2 at the Spectrum.
March 30, 1925 Victoria Cougars of WCHL beat the Canadiens 6-1 to become the last non-NHL team to win the Stanley Cup. Victoria won the best of five series 3-1 over Montreal.
March 31, 1991 Detroit’s Steve Yzerman scored a goal for the 800th point of his NHL career. It came in a 5-1 Red Wings’ loss at Chicago. Yzerman became the 67th player, and third Red Wing, to score 800 NHL points.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. Tampa Bay
27. NY Rangers
26. San Jose