Happy Monday everyone, and if you missed out on hockey this past week, due to partying, dealing with partiers, or work, here is where you’ll be filled in.
Just when you thought the Penguins were slipping up, they rip off a 4 win week, beating Carolina and Boston, and then sweeping a home and home with new rival Columbus. Led in scoring by Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin, they’ve steadily outscored opponents, lightening the load for Marc-Andre Fleury in net. Elsewhere, the Islanders remain in second after enjoying a 2-1-0 first week with Thomas Vanek, who has his first 3 points for the team in those 3 games. The Rangers are heating up after finally getting to play in the refurbished Madison Square Garden, winning their last 3 games against the Isles, Sabres and Hurricanes. Washington had demolished Philadelphia 7-0, but overall have been treading water. Columbus and Carolina seem to be stagnant in the division, as is Philadelphia, who’s been disappointing, but have been picking it up. New Jersey started the week looking promising against Tampa, but seem to hit another wall where nothing goes their way, losing to the Flyers and Wild without scoring a goal, thus the Devils remain the most enigmatic team in the league.
The Lightning have remained atop the division, with wins over Carolina and St. Louis. Their offense remains strong and potent, and their goaltending has been a pleasant surprise, with Ben Bishop starting to show some promise. Elsewhere, it started to look like the Maple Leafs would sweep straight through western Canada, beating both Alberta teams, but then losing badly to the Canucks. The Red Wings, meanwhile, did pull the feat off this week, beating the aforementioned Flames, Oilers and Canucks, and have quietly been making their playoff case. Boston and Montreal, rounding out the current playoff picture, have had average at best weeks, with neither winning more than they lost. Ottawa lost goalie Craig Anderson this week to injury, when Dallas’ Valeri Nichuskhin ran into him accidentally, and is beginning to join Florida, Buffalo, and the Titanic near the bottom of the Atlantic, with each team losing at least their last 4 games.
I’m beginning to think that the Avalanche are the single hardest team to beat. Despite the new controversy surrounding netminder Semyon Varlamov and his arrest, the Avs won both of their games this week, bringing the win streak to 6 games. At 12-1-0, they have the best record in the NHL. That hasn’t deterred Chicago, however, going 3-0-1 this week while scoring 18 goals in those 4 games. The Hawks remain right on Colorado’s tail, and it will be interesting from here on out, to see how the two continue, with one team on the rise and the other being defending Cup champs. Minnesota and St. Louis aren’t too far behind either, each going 2-1-0 this week, and remain just behind Colorado and Chicago. Nashville is playing solid hockey lately, but remain behind 4 very strong teams in the Central, and Dallas and Winnipeg have even further to the top as they continue to slip further out of contention.
San Jose has just completed their first winless week in the still young season, but got points in both games. However, both of those games were divisional games, against the Kings and Coyotes. They remain on top, but not by much. Hot on their trail are the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks, who got 5 out of 6 possible points this week, and remain just slightly behind the Sharks in the division. The Coyotes have been one of the most surprising team in the league, and this week winning all 3 games, and 4 in a row. Along with Vancouver, the top 4 teams in the Pacific are separated by 2 points. The Kings are also right there, but it will be tough to crack that top 4 until someone hits a real lull. The Flames seem to be holding their own, but will have a very hard time taking it to the top 5 in the division, and the Oilers continue to disappoint, losing both games this week without scoring a single goal.
1) Colorado Avalanche: Until someone figures this team out, and I’m not talking about the Denver police, this team remains on top of the mountain (pun not intended).
2) Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: Now tied atop the Pacific cluster with the Sharks, they remain a hard team to beat. It remains to be seen if they can complete the pass this week.
3) Chicago Blackhawks: They scored 18 goals this week, and got 7 out of 8 potential points to keep them right behind Colorado. The math speaks for itself, but we all know this team’s for real.
4) Phoenix Coyotes: Here’s a team that no one can believe is for real. Mike Smith still has more goals than a few top skaters, notably Claude Giroux and Martin Erat.
But his team has been heating up without those teeth.
In the box this week:
Flyers goalie Ray Emery was absolutely embarrassed on Saturday, giving up 7 to division rival Washington, and on the 7th goal, he was run into by Caps’ Joel Ward. Off the insuing faceoff, a line brawl started:
Ray Emery has his team to protect him from such events, but he skated across the ice, took matters into his own hands, and dragged Washington’s Braden Holtby (who was pitching a shutout) into the fight, when Holtby didn’t really want to go. He then proceeded to whale away at Holtby until the ref got in and stopped the mugging. No supplemental punishment for Emery, but he certainly won’t get brownie points for that.
Tune in this week for a discussion about the current realignment situation, and happy hockey everyone!