NHL 2018-19 Recap Week 24 – Golden Knights peaking, Bruins rising, last playoff spots up for grabs
One team I would not want to play right now is the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights started off slow, but that’s common when you lose the Stanley Cup, and now they are peaking at just the right team. They pretty much crushed the Sharks and Jets recently. Two of their biggest challengers. They did lose to the Red Wings in overtime but that was basically a trap game and they might have won it if it wasn’t for Reilly Smith (see below). The Golden Knights are one of the most balanced teams in the NHL. By the time the season is over, six players should have 20 or more goals. There’s a good chance 13 players will have 10 or more. They also have Marc-Andre Fleury the NHL leader in shutouts. The loser in all of this is the San Jose Sharks. The team that looked like they might overtake the Calgary Flames for first in the division a couple of weeks ago, now look like they might drop all the way to third place and lose home ice in the first round. But even if they stay in second, they would still have to play the Golden Knights. Something I wouldn’t want to do right now.
Things I like
1. If I were the Tampa Bay Lightning, the one team I’d be worried about facing is the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are tough, experienced, balanced and have great goaltending. The third and fourth lines have really been coming on strong lately. And we all know about their skill at the top. These two will more than likely meet up in the second round which is good for us. And yes that means I don’t really give the Maple Leafs much of a chance to beat the Bruins. They’ll just have to wait another year, again. Oh yeah, the Bruins and Lightning play each other this Monday.
2. It’s nice that we still have a lot up for grabs with less than 10 games to play. There’s probably only about three to six teams that can’t change much. All the teams in the Atlantic are basically set. The only other division that might be set is the Pacific division, depending on how much of a chance you want to give to any of those teams moving up or down. But those spots have had the same exact teams in them since the All-Star break. The Montreal Canadiens have moved ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets but I still don’t expect that to stick. This Thursday, the Blue Jackets and Canadiens face each other in a game that just might decide it. The Canadiens need the win more. If the Blue Jackets win, they’re probably done. The rest of the Metropolitan division is tight and four teams can either win it or grab one of the other spots. But expect the Washington Capitals to hold on to first. The Jets just beat the Predators in what will more than likely propel them to winning the division. Oddly enough, the Blues have a chance to pass the Predators. The Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild will all battle it out for the final two wild card spots. But I expect the Stars and Avalanche will more than likely hold them.
Things I don’t
1. This is apparently the year where a lot of front office personnel say really dumb things. The latest example is Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson. The one who blamed the Oilers not making the playoffs on a third/fourth line player I honestly didn’t even know was on the team. Really? It’s not good that Tobias Rieder doesn’t have any goals but it’s not like he’s an integral part of the team. There’s always plenty of people and things that can be improved when things don’t go well. But if you were to blame someone, it would be the scouts and Peter Chiarelli. The general manger that was just fired because he basically ruined the team. And the guy who hired him? Bob Nicholson. Bob you have no one to blame but yourself. I will give him some credit as he admitted hiring Chiarelli was a mistake in February. But I guess it’s easier to forget and blame someone else instead. If you can’t learn from your mistakes, resign.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Patrick Maroon vs Zack Kassian
Long but broken up too early. Kassian got the better of it.
Zdeno Chara vs Matt Martin
If you want to watch a 6’ 3” player get manhandled, this is the fight for you.
J.T. Brown vs Matt Calvert
My favorite kind of fight. The one where they just throw them as quickly as possible.
Goat of the Week
Reilly Smith – Vegas Golden Knights
It’s hard to imagine what Smith was thinking here. I can’t even wager a guess. As long as the Golden Knights don’t so stuff like this in the playoffs, they should be fine. This was the game winner in overtime.
Stat Line of the Week
3/23/19 Winnipeg 5 vs Nashville 0
In a big game against the Predators, Kyle Connor notched his first career hat trick and had an assist. Connor has been on a bit of a mini tear lately with eight points in his last four games. If you think it was an odd such an important game was lopsided, it’s not. The Predators and Jets did this in the second round of the playoffs last season. And you can bet they will do it again this playoffs when the inevitably meet again. In fact, in the game right before this one, the Jets lost 5-0 themselves to the Golden Knights. Consistency is not the strong point of either the Jets or the Predators. It’s why neither of them will beat whoever comes out of the Pacific Division bracket in the playoffs.
99 – Goal differential by the President’s trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning
120 – Points by Nikita Kucherov, the first to go over 120 since Sidney Crosby in 2006-07
12 – Points Connor McDavid is behind Kucherov but he’s played in 5 less games
.932 – SV% for Ben Bishop, the only one over .930
1.84 – GAA for Jordan Binnington, the only goalie under 2
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 18, 1930 Boston’s Cooney Weiland scored a hat trick to give him an NHL-record 73 points in 44 games, and Boston set NHL records with their 38th win and 179th goal of the season in a 9-2 win over the Rangers, in their 22nd straight victory in Boston Garden.
March 19, 2003 Paul Kariya scored his 25th goal of the season for the 7th time in his career and added two assists in the Mighty Ducks 4-3 win against the Blackhawks at Chicago. The goal was also the 300th of his NHL career.
March 20, 1984 Islanders’ Bryan Trottier scored twice to become the second player in franchise history to score 350 goals. The milestone goals (along with an assist) came in a 5-2 New York win over the visiting New Jersey Devils.
March 21, 1982 Ilkka Sinisalo scored the 4,000th goal in Philadelphia Flyers’ history, during a 5-3 win over the Hartford Whalers, at the Spectrum.
March 22, 1989 Pittsburgh Penguins scored their 112th power play goal of the 1988-89 season, to break the NHL record of 111 set by the NY Rangers in 1987-88. (Penguins lost the game 5-4 to Washington).
March 23, 1994 New York’s Adam Graves set a club record with his 50th and 51st goals as the Rangers won 5-3 over the Oilers at Edmonton. Graves broke Vic Hadfield’s team record of 50 goals, set in the 1971-72 season.
March 24, 2002 Tommy Salo became the Oilers’ all-time leader in career shutouts when he picked up his 15th with Edmonton in a 2-0 win over the Canucks at Vancouver. Salo broke the mark of 14 held by Curtis Joseph.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. Tampa Bay
5. St. Louis
29. NY Rangers
27. New Jersey
26. Los Angeles