NHL 2020-21 Recap Week 9 – Sabres fire coach, Mika Zibanejad and Avalanche Hot, playoff races tighten
The Sabres fired their coach Ralph Krueger after losing twelve straight games. Predictability, they lost their thirteenth game anyway because it’s hard to win when you don’t possess any talent. Something the general manager is supposed to provide the coach with but let’s blame the coach. It’s easier. Although it’s true the few players they do have aren’t do anything. That is partially the coach’s fault. The same coach Taylor Hall came to Buffalo to play for because he played for him on the Oilers. Hall has a whopping two goals in 29 games. The same player who won the Hart Trophy when he scored 39. Only two players on the entire team have scored more than five goals. Their starting goalie and best player are injured. Kyle Okposo, apparently still on the team, has only one goal. That’s a 6 million dollar goal. Suffice it to say, the team sucks. I bet teams are thinking it’s not fair only a handful of teams get to play the Sabres. They want an easy win too. Luckily, Hall just signed a one-year deal. He can leave this mess soon. As for the Sabres, don’t expect it to turn around anytime soon. The team is owned by the Pegula’s, who also own the previously inept Buffalo Bills. The Bills only recently turned it around, and that had nothing to do with them.
Things I like
1. It’s starting to get a little tight down the stretch. A few weeks ago, all the top dogs in the Atlantic Division were leading their new divisions. Now, not so much. The Boston Bruins have tumbled to fourth. The Toronto Maple Leafs are tied, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are almost in a three-way tie. I had the five teams right in the East, but I thought Pittsburgh and Washington would battle for the final playoff spot. Instead, it will be Boston and Philadelphia. Both teams are either phenomenal or putrid. They don’t seem to have a middle ground. They have three games left against each other next month that might decide it. Boston also has six games left against Buffalo. Philly only has three. For the Maple Leafs, their little rough patch of six losses in seven games will be good for them in the long run. Running away with the division wouldn’t have done them any favors in the playoffs but learning to deal with losing will.
2. Two teams to keep an eye on are the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks. Neither is currently in a playoff spot, but I believe both will be when the season is finished. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks are tied for the final playoff spot in the Central. But the Stars have six games in hand. They also have a plus six goal differential while the other two are -17 and -11, respectively. They also aren’t healthy yet. The Canucks are banged up as well and have also played more games than the teams they are chasing. But they’re starting to get hot, and so is Thatcher Demko. They also have some quality wins lately.
3.The now healthy Colorado Avalanche are starting to roll. After beginning March with a 2-3 record, they’ve now won six straight. Even more impressive is their goal output. In their last four games, they’ve scored four, eight, five, and six goals. The Avalanche are a very deep team, their big three are on fire, and a very important depth guy, Nazem Kadri, is having his best NHL season ever. The Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights seem like the two most complete teams. The Golden Knights have twelve players in double digits in points. The Avalanche have eleven. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning are first with 14. Both teams are in the top three in goals against. It’ll be a dog fight for the division title. They have four games left against each other, and two are next week.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Mathieu Olivier vs Patrick Maroon
More of a grapplefest than a fight. But still entertaining.
Jujhar Khaira vs Brett Ritchie
Mostly one-sided but still decent.
Goat of the Week
Keith Kinkaid – New York Rangers
Kinkaid makes a bad pass, although Artemi Panarin (back from his sabbatical) really didn’t make any effort to move closer, and then heavily commits to a fake by Jakub Voracek. This was the overtime winner.
Stat Line of the Week
03/17/21 Philadelphia 9 vs. NY Rangers 0
Mika Zibanejad is having a fantastic week. On Wednesday night, the entire Rangers coaching staff had to miss the game due to COVID protocols, so the AHL staff filled in. The Rangers weren’t phased by this and racked up nine goals against the woefully inept Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers scored seven goals in the second period, including a natural hat trick by Zibanejad. Right before that, Zibanejad had a natural hat trick of assists. He figured into six goals in a row. But he wasn’t done. Two games later, against the Washington Capitals, he assisted on the game’s first goal and then scored a spectacular game-winner when he creates a takeaway on Brendan Dillon.
720 – Career goals by Alex Ovechkin, now sixth all-time
60 – Points by Connor McDavid in 34 games, first in the NHL
50 – Points by Leon Draisaitl in 34 games, second in the NHL
1 – Empty net goal scored by the Senators and Sabres
32 – Goals given up by the Philadelphia Flyers in their last six games
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 15, 2003 Ilya Kovalchuk set an Atlanta Thrashers record with his 33rd goal of the season, in a 5-3 victory against the visiting Buffalo Sabres. It was also the Thrashers’ 24th victory of the season, breaking the team record set two seasons earlier.
March 16, 1941 Turk Broda had his 26th career shutout in a 3-0 Toronto win over Chicago. Hawks’ Paul Thompson became the first NHL coach to pull the goalie for an extra skater, but nothing came of the strategy, even though Toronto had a man in the penalty box.
March 17, 1998 Steve Yzerman scored his 557th career goal, moving him ahead of John Bucyk for 13th place on the NHL list, and Norm Maracle got a win in his first NHL start as the Red Wings won 4-3 against the Edmonton Oilers, at Joe Louis Arena.
March 18, 1979 Philadelphia’s Rick MacLeish became the second player in franchise history to score 250 goals as a member of the Flyers. The milestone goal (along with an assist) came in a 5-3 win against the visiting St. Louis Blues.
March 19, 1929 Tiny Thompson became the second rookie goalie to get a shutout in his first NHL playoff game, in a 1-0 Bruins’ win over Montreal. Cooney Weiland scored the goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals, the first playoff game in Boston Garden.
March 20, 1982 Rookie Bernie Nicholls became the first player in Kings history to score hat tricks in consecutive games, with his second straight three goal game in a 7-5 win against the Penguins.
March 21, 1982 Mike Bossy broke Guy Lafleur’s NHL record of 136 points by a right wing in one season by scoring his 58th goal and 137th point of the season, in a 3-2 Islanders’ win at Washington.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
28. San Jose