This week in the NHL brought some interesting developments in the standings. Some new teams are heating up for the first time this season, while other teams are coming back to earth. Let’s see what happened last week, and how it will impact the league going forward.
It seems like for the time being, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will be jostling for the top spot, but with the Caps getting just 1 point this week in 3 games, including a 4-0 loss to the Penguins on Rivalry Night, the Pens have a small cushion for first. They also took 3 games out of 4 this week to help their cause. Another dog fight between rivals is now for the third place spot in the Metro, between the New York Rangers, and the New Jersey Devils. Both teams went 2-1-0 this week, with the Rangers starting a road swing, and the Devils nearly sweeping through California. During the second game of that trip, Devils’ Jaromir Jagr tied Mario Lemieux for 9th overall in goals with 690. Carolina had a tough 1-2-1 week, but the Hurricanes got Cam Ward back, and he already dazzled, with an epic save on Ottawa’s Colin Greening. The Philadelphia Flyers are continuing their charge back, winning all 3 of their games this week, trying to prove that their lull to start the season was a fluke, now just 2 back of the 3rd place team in the division. Columbus continues to struggle, putting up a 7-0 stinkfest in Edmonton against the lowly Oilers. The New York Islanders are now in the cellar, losing all 3 this week, and have struggled mightily since that Vanek trade. With 4 points separating 2nd and 6th in the division, expect a war from here on out.
The Boston Bruins are starting to establish themselves as a mainstay atop the Atlantic, getting 7 of 8 possible points this week. Tuukka Rask continues to hold the line behind one of the strongest defensive corps in the game. Toronto took 2 of 3 games, and are now in second place, after passing the free falling Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the Leafs’ only regulation win was against the Islanders, and didn’t look too strong in their other two games. The Lightning had a trip to California, and took 1 point from the Golden State, leaving in 3rd place, and scoring 3 goals in 3 games shows how much they miss Steven Stamkos. The Detroit Red Wings are having a tough go at it, going 2-2-0 this week, but haven’t been winning a ton of games lately. They lead the league with 7 OT losses, though, which is keeping them in the race until they get back on track. They are just a point ahead of Montreal, who had 3 big wins against surging teams this week, beating the Wild, Capitals, and Penguins, and are making their case for joining the B’s and Leafs near the top. Ottawa is struggling to keep pace, winning 1 of 4, and are sliding out of contention quickly, curiously not as stout on defense as they were last year. Florida continues to be the Tim Thomas swan song, seemingly stuck in 7th. Buffalo, like the Islanders, seem like they got the worse end of the Vanek deal, but the draft picks may prove valuable, as the Sabres are making a lottery run. In other Sabres’ news, they finally unleashed the “Turd-Burger jersey” on Sunday, while the rest of the league shielded their eyes. The division is tight, but with struggles of a couple of the higher seeds are making it very fun to watch, as teams will start shuffling between places.
The Chicago Blackhawks got slapped in a showdown with division rival Colorado, 5-1, but won their other 2 games to keep the top spot in the Central. They showed that they can blow teams out, with a 6-3 win in Winnipeg, and win the tight games, with a 2-1 win in Vancouver. The defending champs did not suffer a hangover, and continue to be the top dog in the tough Central. Right behind them is the St. Louis Blues, who won all 3 games this week and are showing us that they are a top team in the league. The Blues, with a 6-1 win against the Stars, took over top goal differential in the league, now with +29. Colorado found their winning touch back, taking all 3 this week, including a blowout of the Blackhawks. They are tied with the Minnesota Wild, who took 2 out of 3 this week on the road, 2 back of Chicago. The Wild have had a tough swing, and it ends tonight with another huge game in St. Louis. Dallas lost both their games this week, and are now mired in a 3 way tie at the bottom of the central with Nashville and Winnipeg, 10 back of Colorado and Minnesota. Nashville had a couple of wins this week against Atlantic teams, and Winnipeg lost all 3 games, picking up 2 shootout points along the way. This division has an interesting dichotomy of contenders and non-contenders, and it will take a mighty fall and a massive streak for that to change.
The Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks finally returned home to the Pond after a 9 game road trip, and their first game back was their first loss, a 4-3 OT loss to New Jersey. After that, they won 2 games to remain at the top of the division. One of those games included handing the Phoenix Coyotes their first home loss of the season. Those Coyotes have dropped to 4th in the division, only playing twice this week, and taking 1 point from them. The San Jose Sharks also had two games, but both were wins, bludgeoning the Lightning and squeaking by the Devils, and remain tied with the Blues for the least amount of regulation losses. The L.A. Kings also crushed the Bolts, but then lost the next 2 in OT, in tough luck losses to New Jersey and Colorado. Vancouver had a 1-1-1 week, but will have a tough time cracking the top 4 of this division unless one team starts to struggle heavily. Calgary took 2 of their 3 OT games this week, but remain hopelessly behind Vancouver for the top trailer in the division. Edmonton finally showed up at home, with two blowout wins against struggling teams. The top 4 teams in the division continued to shuffle, and barring a huge turn of events, will probably keep shuffling around for the next while as things take shape from here on out.
1) St. Louis Blues – I know they aren’t in first, but it’s been since October 25th that they lost consecutive games. That counts for quite the something.
2) Colorado Avalanche – They are right back on this list after an off week, and showed that they are no joke, especially with that 5-1 win against the Hawks.
3) San Jose Sharks – The Sharks aren’t getting tons of love, but they should be, because they have points in all but 3 of their games this year.
4) Minnesota Wild – Like the Blues, they haven’t lost consecutive games since October. Their entire next week is a litmus test, playing the Blues, Coyotes, and a potentially epic home and home with Colorado.
5) Boston Bruins – No recognition of the East last week, the Bruins and their brick wall defense are making their case to be part of the recognized elite.
In the box this week
Cam Fowler of the [Mighty] Ducks. Friday night at the Pond in Anaheim, the Lightning and Ducks were tied 0-0 in the early stages of the third period, when Cam Fowler was primed for a line change. He was straddling the bench when the puck came by. Then the hilarity ensued:
Teammate Hampus Lindholm got a good chuckle out of watching Fowler channel his inner flightless bird (maybe a duck?) and take a tumble. Now, Cam gets a different kind of 2 minutes for tripping.
Next week is a big one, as teams have big divisional matchups, and more convolution within divisions. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hannukah, puck-heads!