NHL 2018-19 Recap Week 22 – Playoff races tighten, Whalers reappear, NHL still can’t schedule games correctly
If you would have told me the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens would all be fighting for something at the end of the season, I never would have believed you. But here we are in March and they are all fighting each other for the final playoff spots in the east. The Penguins and Blue Jackets recently played each other and each won their home game. It seems more and more likely the Canadiens will end up being the odd team out. They are currently out, they’ve been creamed 13-4 in their last two games and their last five games (Blue Jackets, Jets, Lightning, Capitals, Maple Leafs) are simply brutal. It’s likely they won’t win any of them. Only the Lightning will probably have anything locked up to rest their starters.
Let’s look at how many times each of those teams play each other. The Canadiens play the Blue Jackets and the Hurricanes. The Blue Jackets play the Canadiens and Hurricanes. The Penguins play the Hurricanes twice. That means the Hurricanes play the Blue Jackets, Canadiens and Penguins twice. The Hurricanes control their own destiny the most. If they can win all those games, they will definitely get in.
Things I like
1. The other interesting races are all at the top of Western Conference. Rarely do you have such competitive races at the top this late in the season. The Predators and Jets have been leapfrogging each other all season so this is a very fitting way to end it. The Jets are currently leading by a point with two games in hand. The teams only have one game left against each other. Both teams have been wildly inconsistent so there really isn’t a favorite. In the other divisional race, the Flames have been practically running away with the division all season. But they’ve stumbled a bit recently and the Sharks have kicked it up a gear and are now only a point behind. The Flames and Sharks only play each other one more time. It’s hard to fathom how the Flames could blow the division but their big four have cooled considerably. On the positive side, the Flames probably have the easiest remaining schedule. Although the Sharks schedule isn’t all that difficult either. It may just come down to whoever wins the game against each other.
2. The Whalers made a comeback, however brief it was. It was weird but also awesome to see the Hurricanes dressed in the old Hartford Whalers jerseys. Especially against their closest ex-rival. Throwback jerseys, especially ones to their former teams, is something the NHL should do more often. The actual game was great too. But the Bruins kept doing what they do best lately, winning. They beat the Whalers Hurricanes in overtime. They followed that win with a win over the Panthers where they scored two goals in a thirty second span in the final minute. But all good things must come to an end as the Penguins snapped the Bruins franchise record 19 game point streak. But this Bruins team is having a magical like regular season. The kind of thing that usually translates to a magical postseason run.
Things I don’t
1. I’ve probably complained about this before but the way the NHL schedules games is simply maddening. This week they had two games on Monday. One early game, which was great, and one later game, which was a blowout. But if you still wanted to watch hockey, you had to just watch the blowout. But on Tuesday we had ten games, seven of which were one goal games. The first four games all went into overtime. But it’s a bit difficult to watch four games at once. Even if you have two TV’s side by side or picture in picture. I mean how am I supposed to do that NHL? The NHL doesn’t stack the start time of the games either, which makes it even worse. It seems unlikely this will change, since they’ve been doing this for years maybe even decades. But it really should. I feel like Gary Bettman is scheduling the NHL like the NBA. But watching the last few minutes of a hockey game is very different than watching the last few minutes of a basketball game. Fix it Bettman.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Garrett Wilson vs Nick Foligno
This was the only decent fight this week. Assuming you like them with a spinning interlude.
Goals of the Week
The goat of the week will be back next week. Instead, let’s look at a few great goals.
Jake Guentzel – Pittsburgh Penguins
Guentzel shows off some great stick-handling on a breakaway game winner in overtime.
David Krejci but really Jake DeBrusk – Boston Bruins
This was just an outstanding effort by DeBrusk to steal the puck and then setup the game winner in overtime. You also get to look at the Whalers jerseys.
Stat Line of the Week
3/10/19 Calgary 6 vs Vegas 3
Matthew Tkachuk scored his first career hat trick in a huge win for the Flames over the Golden Knights, their potential first round opponent. This was a big win because the Flames had lost four games in a row and with the Sharks breathing down your neck, you don’t want to get into a tailspin. This was also a much needed game for Tkachuk who only had two goals in his previous 20 games. There was a bit of controversy on one of the goals Tkachuk didn’t score when Mikael Backlund hit Malcolm Subban’s glove. They ruled it a good goal because Subban was out of the crease and initiated the contact. Subban wasn’t happy and nearly bumped the ref on his way to intermission. Luckily for him he was only given a two minute penalty. Given their recent history, this would make a fantastic first round match-up.
801 – Wins by Islander’s coach Barry Trotz
8 – Goals scored by both the Ducks and Jets in their wins on Friday night
5 – Assists by Aleksander Barkov, a franchise record for a game, in the Panthers win over the Wild
1203 – Career NHL points for Sidney Crosby
-20 – Plus/minus for Patrik Laine, by far the worst on the team and just really bad overall. Not the best season by Laine.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 04, 1967 Terry Sawchuk became the first NHL goaltender to record 100 career shutouts, when Toronto beat Chicago 3-0 at Maple Leaf Gardens.
March 05, 1985 New York’s Mike Bossy became the first NHL player to get 8 straight 50-goal seasons, in a 5-4 Islanders’ loss to the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.
March 06, 1982 Boston’s veteran goaltender Rogie Vachon recorded his 355th (and final) NHL career victory as the Bruins won 4-0 over the visiting L.A. Kings. It was also the 51st and final career shutout for Vachon.
March 07, 1991 Blues’ Brett Hull scored three goals and picked up an assist as St. Louis tied 5-5 at Boston. It was the 10th hat trick of Hull’s NHL career.
March 08, 1979 Marcel Dionne scored his 100th point of the season (for the third time in his career) when he picked up a goal in a Kings’ 6-4 loss at Buffalo.
March 09, 1948 NHL President Clarence Campbell expelled NY’s Billy Taylor and suspended Boston’s Don Gallinger because of their gambling associations. They were alleged to have bet on hockey games, though none were “fixed”. Taylor was reinstated in 1970.
March 10, 1988 Pittsburgh’s Paul Coffey recorded his 500th career NHL assist as the Penguins lost 6-4 at St. Louis.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
3. Tampa Bay
29. Los Angeles
28. New Jersey