Posts Tagged ‘Hurricanes’

Last week, we reviewed the top 10 free agent signings and how they are doing halfway through their first season with their new teams. This week, we’ll take a look at the 10 biggest trades, and see who won each deal.

Los Angeles Kings trade G Jonathan Bernier to Toronto Maple Leafs for G Ben Scrivens, F Matt Frattin, and 2014/15 2nd round pick: The first big trade of the offseason led to a big goalie swap between the Kings and Leafs. The Leafs got Bernier, who came in and took over the starting job from James Reimer, and has performed well at times, with a 15-14-4 record, and a GAA of 2.58. He also looked spectacular in the Winter Classic. Meanwhile, Scrivens has far fewer games played this year, thanks to Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones, and has a 7-5-4 record, but a GAA of just 1.97. His numbers are slightly better on average, but hasn’t played much because he’s not the number 1 guy like Bernier. Frattin hasn’t added much to this deal, not playing particularly well in Los Angeles, and the Kings do get a pick out of this. But overall, the trade got Bernier a starting job, and the Kings could have gotten more out of Bernier. Winner: Toronto

Vancouver Canucks trade G Cory Schneider to New Jersey Devils for 2013 1st round pick (Bo Horvat): This trade turned boos for Commish Gary Bettman at the Prudential Center on draft day into cheers. It also shocked everyone in the hockey world, especially Schneider and the Devils. Schneider immediately became the heir-apparent to living legend Martin Brodeur, who may retire this offseason (or never). Schneider and Brodeur have split the load so far, and Schneider has a 7-9-6 record, and 1.96 GAA. He’s been impressive for the Devils, and a bright spot for the future, should he sign an extension with the team. Bo Horvat was picked with the 9th overall pick by Vancouver, and still is in the CHL, but has a bright future ahead of him. We can’t tell now how he’ll be, but Hockey’s Future rates him as a 7.5 prospect (take it how you like). But Vancouver could have gotten way more out of Schneider. Winner: New Jersey.

New York Islanders trade F Nino Niederreiter to Minnesota Wild for F Cal Clutterbuck and 2013 3rd round pick (Eamon McAdam): Nino never quite fit in the Islanders’ system, always wondering when he’d get his chance with the big club. He never did. With Minnesota, he’s stepped up his game and performed well, with 9 goals and 16 assists, and a decent +/- of +9. He’s been part of the lead pack with the team, who is suffering from injuries to Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu up front. Clutterbuck, however, hasn’t quite found his groove, seemingly. in 42 games, he just has 8 points, and a +/- of -7, and even though those stats are just under par for his career, he needs to show he has more value. Winner: Minnesota

Buffalo Sabres trade D Andrej Sekera to Carolina Hurricanes for D Jamie McBain and 2013 2nd round pick (J.T. Compher): The Hurricanes weren’t very deep in defensemen, and still aren’t. But they felt the need to upgrade, and did. Sekera is having a good season so far, with 7 goals and 17 assists from the blue line, which is tops for Canes’ d-men. He’s proven valuable, while McBain has been struggling a bit. Though he is with Buffalo, his numbers are far worse, with just 3 goals and 6 assists. J.T. Compher remains in college, but the Sabres hope for big things down the road. Winner: Carolina

Boston Bruins trade F Tyler Seguin, F Rich Peverly, and D Ryan Button to Dallas Stars for F Loui Eriksson, D Joseph Morrow, F Reilly Smith, and F Matt Fraser: The Stars got the top guy in this deal by far, a 21 year old point per game player in Seguin. He’s leading the way alongside Jamie Benn, with 42 points in 44 games, and has been playing unreal since the trade. Peverly has been serviceable, just 21 points in 45 games, but has been doing what the team needs to succeed. Will the B’s regret this trade? Doubtful. Though Eriksson has had trouble staying on the ice, just 26 games, he’s been decent in those games played, with a +/- of +9, and 15 points. Reilly Smith has been a pleasant surprise, at 22 years old, and with 33 points so far in his first full season, he’s a bright spot for the Bruins’ future. The other pieces in the trade are just barely getting NHL action, but immediately, this trade benefits both sides. Winner: Dallas

Edmonton Oilers trade F Shawn Horcoff to Dallas for D Philip Larsen and a 2016 7th round pick: This is a pretty minor deal, but the significance is that the Oilers traded one of their longtime guys for another young, unproven defenseman. Horcoff has been okay for the Stars, just 13 points in 45 games. But he’s 35 and obviously won’t put up numbers like he used to. Edmonton got Larsen, who hasn’t shown he’s got the goods yet, but still has upside at age 24. Winner: Edmonton, I guess

Anaheim Ducks trade F Bobby Ryan to Ottawa Senators for F Jakob Silfverberg, F Stefan Noesen and a 2014 1st round pick: People had a feeling Bobby Ryan would be unloaded from the Ducks, for cap reasons, and it happened this summer. Ryan this year for Ottawa, has 37 points in 47 games, and is second on the team in that stat. He’s the top go-to guy for  the Sens on offense, alongside Kyle Turris. But the cost for him was huge. Silfverberg is one of the top up and comers in the league, and despite an injury early in the year, he’s been valuable to the Ducks, with 12 points in the 26 games he’s played. The Ducks also picked up a prospect and the Sens’ first rounder next year, which would probably be between 10 and 20. This trade was huge, but came at big costs for both sides. Winner: Anaheim

St. Louis Blues trade F David Perron to Edmonton Oilers for F Magnus Paajarvi and 2014 2nd round pick: Perron was part of the future with the Blues, with good upside, but the Blues didn’t have room for him, and shipped him to Edmonton. He’s had a great year so far, with 34 points in 45 games, and has been valuable to the team’s offense. Paajarvi, however, has just 5 points in 26 games, and has been hampered with injuries. It’s not like the Blues are depending on him, but they could have kept Perron and had much more value, despite the upside Paajarvi brings. Winner: Edmonton

Buffalo Sabres trade F Thomas Vanek to New York Islanders for F Matt Moulson, 2014 1st round pick and 2015 2nd round pick: The Islanders began the year in win now mode, but seem to have hit a wall when G Evgeni Nabakov went down. Vanek is having another point per game campaign, though, and has started to gel with John Tavares, which is dangerous for anyone. Lately, the Isles have been picking it up, so they might not be out of it yet. Buffalo is out of it, but building toward the future. Moulson on his own wouldn’t be worth it. He’s played well, 28 points in 43 games with both the Isles and Sabres, but the picks to Buffalo are the kicker in this trade. Both will be free agents next season, so the picks tell the winner, with both likely leaving for greener pastures. Winner: Buffalo

Philadelphia Flyers trade F Maxime Talbot to Colorado Avalanche for F Steve Downie: The last trade we are looking at involves two rugged grinders switching teams. Downie is more of a playmaker, with just 3 goals and 16 assists, while Talbot has the more well-rounded game. Downie is a bit younger, but has has injuries in the past, playing in just 2 games last season for the Avs. Winner: Push

Jonas Hiller

This week in hockey, goalies get hot, some teams are not, and a coach was fired for the first time in a team’s short history. A-Rod asks for his case to be heard, in this week’s Week in Review

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks (3-0-0) – Jonas Hiller has now won 14 straight starts. The record, for you curious few, is 17 by Gilles Gilbert of the Boston Bruins in 1975-76. Also, the Ducks are approaching the record for points in consecutive home games to start the year.

Boston Bruins (1-2-0) – This week was the California swing for the B’s, taking just the game against the Sharks, a 1-0 affair. They became the only team this season to keep the Sharks from scoring at the Tank.

Buffalo Sabres (1-0-1) – Mikhail Grigerenko is refusing to go back to his junior team, after being demoted by the Sabres. Buffalo isn’t getting that year back on his entry-level contract, thus making this another thing that went wrong for the Sabres.

Calgary Flames (1-3-0) – They scored 5 goals this week. 4 of them came in one game, against the Avalanche. Guess which game they won.

Carolina Hurricanes (1-1-0) – Skinner-mania is back, to stay. Since December, he’s been more than a point-per-game player. He’s also one of two Canes near point-per-game status. They need secondary scoring bad.

Chicago Blackhawks (1-1-1) – Chalk this up as a pedestrian week for the reigning champs, who are now looking over their shoulder at the Blues, who are right behind them.

Colorado Avalanche (2-1-1) – They seemed to have played to the level of their competition this week, losing to Calgary and the Islanders, but beating the heating-up Senators and Wild. Seems to make sense.

Columbus Blue Jackets (3-0-0) – Don’t count the Jackets out of anything. 7th place in the Metro, but 5 points out of 2nd. That’s gonna get interesting in March.

Dallas Stars (0-4-0) – They laid a goose egg in their New York swing, and just when they thought they had seen enough of those 3, they lose to the Islanders again. So much for that surge…

Detroit Red Wings (1-2-0) – Tomas Tatar scored a goal the day after his father’s passing Saturday night in Los Angeles. I send some love out to him and his family.

Edmonton Oilers (1-2-0) – It’s not for a lack of offense that they aren’t winning. It’s goaltending woes. Right Bryz?

Florida Panthers (1-1-1) – Man, that game in New Jersey had a breakneck pace to it. Very exciting to watch firewagon hockey like that. Now imagine if they had actually spent more to be competitive…

Los Angeles Kings (1-1-1) – All of the sudden, the Kings’ offense isn’t tearing it up anymore. Quick gets back, and now you rely on the poor guy to win every game? Man they are spoiled in Lala-land.

Minnesota Wild (3-1-0) – 3 wins this week takes good advantage of Dallas hating New York teams. Too bad their only loss was to a team they are chasing, in Colorado.

Montreal Canadiens (2-1-0) – The losing team in each Habs game this week scored exactly 1 goal. Can’t win if you don’t score, I suppose.

Nashville Predators (1-2-1) – Busy week for the Preds, and it included hopping over the Jets, leaving them in the Central cellar. No wonder Claude Noel is out of a job.

New Jersey Devils (2-0-2) – The Ryder-Henrique-Clowe line is heating up, just as the Zajac-Jagr-Zubrus line is cooling down. Also, Schneider is stepping up as Brodeur is winding it down. Why can’t everything work at the same time for these guys?

New York Islanders (4-0-0) – Hold the phone. The Islanders are 7 points back from a playoff spot. Talk about playing inspired.

New York Rangers (3-0-0) – This concludes the first week in forever that none of the 3 New York teams recorded 0 regulation losses. No one thought this would happen ever this year.

Ottawa Senators (1-0-1) – They were ahead of the Leafs entering action on Sunday night. Man this race is getting packed with everyone.

Philadelphia Flyers (2-2-0) – Just when you thought they were the team to beat, they put up 2 duds against Tampa and the Rangers. This proves that they too are just as ready for a playoff spot as any team in this wide open race.

Phoenix Coyotes (1-2-0) – So the Avs’ play to the level of competition, the ‘Yotes don’t. They beat up on the Flames and lost to the Wild and Ducks. I guess they are that team that people play as expected against.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-1) – This just in: The Penguins have (pretty much) clinched the Metropolitan division.

San Jose Sharks (1-2-0) – The only team with fewer home regulation losses, happens to be the only team ahead of the Sharks in the Pacific. Coincidence?

St. Louis Blues (2-1-0) – They finally lost a game, 2-1 in Vancouver. They can score with Chicago and be as stingy as Boston. They are a scary team.

Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0) – 5 goals on just 17 shots against Flyers goalie Steve Mason. That says something about the Bolts’ offense or the Flyers’ chronic goaltending issues.

Toronto Maple Leafs (1-3-0) – Coach Randy Carlyle was given a vote of confidence by GM Dave Nonis. The countdown begins.

Vancouver Canucks (1-0-1) – A win against the Blues is a big thing these days, because they are hard to come by. Now they can try and catch the Kings again.

Washington Capitals (2-0-1) – They reclaimed their spot in 2nd in the Metro, but that could change at any given moment, given the team we have in it.

Winnipeg Jets (0-2-0) – Paul Maurice is the new head coach in the ‘Peg after Claude Noel had his term as first Jets coach terminated. It may help, but the Jets are likely still a few moves away from looking any better.

Goal of the Week: Fast-forward to the 1:32 mark of this video to see a beauty by [Mighty] Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf:

 

In the box this week: Bruins’ Dougie Hamilton was actually exiting the box Thursday night in Los Angeles, when he played the puck from inside the penalty box. Take a look:

The ref said, “If you want to play from inside the box, then you can sit there another 2 minutes.” The Kings scored on the ensuing power play.

That is all for this week. Tune in next week for some more hockey. Till then, puck-heads!

winter classic 2014

Greetings, hockey fans! This week, we changed calendars, and witnessed a shining example of hockey’s beauty. More suspension talk and some massive standings shake-ups are included, in this week’s Week in Review.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks (3-0-0) – Winners of 9 of their last 10 games, the Ducks are arguably the hottest team in the NHL, and still have yet to be beaten in regulation on the Pond. In case you are wondering the record, it’s 26 games set by the 79-80 Flyers.

Boston Bruins (2-1-0) – A rough loss to the Islanders puts a small mark on this otherwise smooth-sailing week for the B’s.

Buffalo Sabres (1-2-0) – Tyler Myers is getting a hearing from NHL Dept. of Player Safety about his hit on Devils’ Dainius Zubrus, yet it only cost his team a minor penalty. How do you explain that?

Calgary Flames (0-2-0) – They have 1 goal in their last 4 games. That’s bordering on pathetic.

Carolina Hurricanes (4-0-0) – Just when you think you can count them out, they win 4 in a row. That’s the story of the Metropolitan this year.

Chicago Blackhawks (2-0-2) – Patrick Sharp seems to pull hat-tricks out of anywhere. That makes 2 in the last month. Of course he plays for Chicago.

Colorado Avalanche (3-0-0) – 6 points behind the Blues, 7 ahead of the Wild, I think the Avalanche are now safely in third in the Central. But who knows what could happen here on out?

Columbus Blue Jackets (1-2-0) – Nathan Horton returned and scored the first goal of the game in Phoenix, and it was a game-winner. The next game? They lose 6-2 to the Blues.

Dallas Stars (1-2-0) – They may have cooled a bit, thanks to Montreal’s PK Subban, but with 3 games at hand on the streaky Wild, they should feel just fine.

Detroit Red Wings (1-1-1) – The Winter Classic was awesome, yes, but the game itself was crappy and cold. And now they have to travel a ton. Yay for scheduling snafus!

Edmonton Oilers (1-2-1) – I think I might take every Oilers’ post in Week in Reviews from here on out just to make fun of Ilya Bryzgalov. Until they fire sale, at least.

Florida Panthers (1-0-1) – Splitting 2 shootouts this week. Splitting head-aches for upper management this season. Coincidence?

Los Angeles Kings (1-3-0) – They are thanking their lucky celebrity stars that Jonathan Quick is back. First game, lets in just 1 in a win against Vancouver. Them and the USOC.

Minnesota Wild (2-1-0) – 5 goals on 11 shots vs. Washington, including 3 goals on 3 power play shots. Braden Holtby was either in net or somewhere else, we couldn’t tell.

Montreal Canadiens (1-0-2) – A bat made it’s way into the Bell Centre without a ticket. Either it snuck in, or the Habs were trying to scare their opponent. Or they signed Dracula. Or [insert joke here].

Nashville Predators (1-1-2) – Still ways away from seeing Pekka Rinne in net. Also ways away from a chance at the playoffs. Coincidence?

New Jersey Devils (1-2-0) – After an emotional win against the Penguins, they let the Blackhawks be the Blackhawks for about 5 minutes, costing them the game, and had an ugly loss to the Sabres (which New Jersey is blaming on the referees).

New York Islanders (2-1-0) – They managed to beat Chicago. Maybe there is life in this team.

New York Rangers (2-1-0) – They forgot to show up against the Penguins, then blasted the Leafs, and traded for tough guy Dan Carcillo. Why can’t this team make up their minds?

Ottawa Senators (3-0-0) – They are heating up, and now just 2 points back of the Leafs. Sure, why not throw another contender into the Eastern wild-card mess?

Philadelphia Flyers (3-1-0) – They unseeded Washington as the #2 team in the Metropolitan. Remember when they were a joke?

Phoenix Coyotes (1-2-0) – Winning just 2 of their last 10 will not help them in the standings or on their bottom line. That 5th year opt out clause on the ownership contract is looking tasty right now.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-0) – For some reason, they have a very difficult time with winning in the Prudential Center. They don’t play them again this year, and are very thankful for it.

San Jose Sharks (2-2-0) – Alex Stalock looked great in a shootout win in Chicago. That’s a good sign for the future, considering everyone saying their window is closing soon.

St. Louis Blues (3-0-0) – They smacked the Kings 5-0 and the Jackets 6-2. Still have the fewest losses in the league too. Why is no one else lauding their regular season dominance? Oh right, the playoffs count too.

Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0) – Who would have thought that their only loss in Western Canada was to Ilya Bryzgalov and the Oilers? Yeah, I joke about Bryz with other teams too.

Toronto Maple Leafs (1-1-0) – After a win on the big stage in the Big House, they triumphantly return home, and gut-checked by the Rangers, 7-1. They might just fall behind Ottawa this week.

Vancouver Canucks (0-2-2) – So much for Roberto Luongo coming back. They can still trade him, right?

Washington Capitals (0-2-1) – They got passed by Philadelphia this week. Ovechkin can’t do it on his own, people. Looking your way, Braden Holtby (see Minnesota Wild).

Winnipeg Jets (1-3-0) – They held the lead in Pittsburgh, which isn’t something many teams can say. But did they win? Hahahaha no.

Goal of the Week: Thomas Tatar of the Detroit Red Wings cut through the Stars like a hot knife through butter:

 

In the box this week: Some dumb Red Wings fan tried to video-bomb a field reporter by the Winter Classic:

Ice – 1. Red Wings fan – 0. Karma – 1,000,000.

Next week, we will have some more fun in the NHL. Happy hockey, puck-heads!

Phoenix Coyotes v Buffalo Sabres

This week in the hockey world, we had a 3 day break with no games, but that doesn’t mean we had a slow week. We still had quite the amount of action to fill you guys in on, so here we go, in this week’s Week in Review.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks (2-1-0) – With a couple of key division wins, these guys are now tied for the lead in the President’s Trophy race with the Blackhawks. That was a gorgeous 10-game winning streak that just was halted against Phoenix.

Boston Bruins (2-1-0) – Their two wins this week combined for a score of Bruins 11, Nashville/Ottawa 2. If their offense gets rolling like that, I don’t see anyone stopping them. However, Dennis Seidenberg is now ruled out for the season with a torn ACL/MCL. Ouch.

Buffalo Sabres (2-0-1) – #Buttgoal.

Calgary Flames (1-2-0) – Beating the Blues is no easy task, but neither is getting shut out by the Oilers. It takes skill just to not score on them.

Carolina Hurricanes (0-2-1) – Their slide increases to 5 games without a win, and don’t look now, but the Islanders are right behind them.

Chicago Blackhawks (2-0-1) – Amazing game vs. the Blues, despite taking the SO loss. Crushing the Devils and Avalanche make up for that loss. Can anyone stop them from scoring 5 goals per game? They average just under 4 goals per game, which is unheard of.

Colorado Avalanche (0-1-2) – Tough losses against San Jose and Winnipeg, but everyone will have fresh in their mind that pounding from the Hawks.

Columbus Blue Jackets (2-1-0) – Key divisional wins against New Jersey and Carolina are the kind of thing that will keep them alive in this logjam for 3rd in the Metro.

Dallas Stars (2-0-1) – The Stars became the first team to beat phenom Kings’ goalie Martin Jones, and 5 goals tells me that it wasn’t a fluke loss. Also, they caught the Wild and passed them for 4th in the Central. Tale of two teams trending in opposite directions.

Detroit Red Wings (1-1-0) – Their 3-0 loss to the Islanders is a fine example of how the Wings have been playing lately. In other news, Jimmy Howard has gotten many get well sooner cards.

Edmonton Oilers (2-0-1) – Claude Giroux’s shootout winner against the Oilers Saturday night was funny, because Giroux simply skated up and calmly put it through Ilya Bryzgalov’s 5-hole. As if he knew somehow Bryz’s one weakness…

Florida Panthers (1-2-0) – A new shiny scoreboard will put fans in the seats, right? They have to be able to see it, duh.

Los Angeles Kings (0-2-0) – Martin Jones is human, again. The Kings fell behind the Sharks, again. Coincidence?

Minnesota Wild (0-3-0) – They have successfully blown a double digit point lead. According to sportsclubstats.com, their chances to make the playoffs dipped a bit, from over 80% to now 7.2%. I know it’s early still, but where’s that panic button?

Montreal Canadiens (1-1-0) – They are probably going to be jockeying with the Lightning between 2nd and 3rd in the Atlantic for the rest of the year. Funny part of that is, is that if that’s true, they are first round opponents.

Nashville Predators (1-2-0) – What a win for them against the Kings on Saturday. Giving up the tying goal with 35 seconds left, then scoring to take back the lead just 10 seconds later. Wow.

New Jersey Devils (1-1-1) – Travis Zajac’s game winning goal on the Island was off his face. Way to use your head!…*cricket noises*.

New York Islanders (2-1-0) – Evgeni Nabakov returns, and all of the sudden the Islanders re-learn how to play hockey. They must be related…

New York Rangers (2-1-0) – Captain Ryan Callahan is getting there, but for the Rangers to succeed, they need him on the ice, not in rehab.

Ottawa Senators (2-1-0) – After spanking the Penguins 5-0, they get the favor returned by the Bruins by the same score. Funny how hockey can work.

Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-0) – They are becoming just as pesky as they were before they decided to stink for the first month of the year. Just ask the Oilers.

Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-3) – Ownership apparently isn’t happy with how attendance is going so far this year. Did they know how long it took to find a buyer who would invest in the team?

Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-0) – Losing Pascal Dupuis to a torn ACL is bad news for the Pens. The injury bug seems to like it in Pittsburgh.

San Jose Sharks (3-0-0) – 3 wins against 3 tough opponents tells us that the Sharks are primed for a good bounce back. They still won’t have their Teenage Mutant Ninja Hertl for the season, though.

St. Louis Blues (2-0-1) – Crazy comeback against the Hawks with 2 goals in the final 4 minutes. Those are the games that make the NHL so much fun to watch. The question is, can they do that without top goal-getter Alex Steen for a while?

Tampa Bay Lightning (1-1-1) – Who would have thought they’d be in second in the division after Stamkos went down a month and a half ago? Their offense seems to be doing just fine, putting up a 6 spot on the Panthers in Sunrise.

Toronto Maple Leafs (2-0-1) – They gave up a goal to John Scott. Really?

Vancouver Canucks (1-0-0) – A very restful week for the Nucks, playing one game in Calgary. They need the rest, because they have 4 games next week.

Washington Capitals (1-1-1) – As long as the Caps tread water, they get whoever wins the race in the Metro among the many teams in it. Not a bad spot, actually.

Winnipeg Jets (2-1-0) – They took their opportunity to beat up on some recently struggling teams, and got 2 much needed wins. They are still 4 points out of that 4th spot in the Central, despite having played 3 more games than Dallas.

Goal of the Week

Corey Tropp of the Columbus Blue Jackets delivers this stunner of a goal against the Penguins;

In the box this week

Rochester Americans’ Frederick Roy. In case you didn’t know, this is the son of Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, who has had a history of temper problems (goalies are so weird). Frederick was ejected from a game in Switzerland, during the Spangler Cup, and didn’t quite like the call. Here’s what he did (some NSFW language, consider yourself warned):

Well, like father like son. Doesn’t excuse him from doing that though. He later apologized after getting sent to the corner to think about what he did.

That wraps up another active week in the NHL. Tune in next week for the Winter Classic. See you then, puck-heads!

So far, the NHL season has had it’s fair share of plot twists and surprises. From the trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the Islanders, to Steven Stamkos breaking his leg on a goalpost. From Shawn Thornton receiving a 15 game ban for mugging Brooks Orpik, to a drunk Blackhawks fan stealing Adam Pardy’s helmet. Much has happened so far, and here are some predictions of how it will lay out in the end.

Metropolitan Division

Obviously, the Penguins are a playoff team. We’re also fairly certain of the Capitals being there. Since the Atlantic is much stronger, they will likely have both wild card spots from the East. That leaves one spot for the rest of the division to fight for. Let’s look at each of the contenders:

Philadelphia Flyers – After a tumultuous start, where they lost their coach and top scorer Claude Giroux took 15 games to score a goal, they seem to be piecing it together. Steve Mason has been solid in net for them, and a little bit of stability in net goes a long way for these guys. However, the lack of discipline these guys can have could easily be an Achilles’ Heel. They take 17.2 penalty minutes on average per game, which is most in the league, and 3 more than the next highest team, the Blues. Their 12th ranked penalty kill has done well, but continual overworking of them will wear them down and hurt them later on.

New York Rangers – They just extended goalie Henrik Lundqvist for 7 more years, and already he’s been put under the microscope. His numbers this year are well below his career averages so far, and has received some very ill criticism from Rangers fans and the media. The truth is, it isn’t all his fault. No one’s sure that the team in front of him will show up on any given night. They’ve had games where they picked apart the Minnesota Wild, and games where they rolled over to the New York Islanders. They have to stick to one trend if they want to see continued success, and not just wavering between one or the other.

New Jersey Devils – In my honest and unbiased opinion (despite me being a Devils fan), I honestly think that the Devils have the best of the rest potential in this division. They have tremendous discipline, taking the fewest penalties per game with just 7.8, and have the 6th best penalty kill when they do get penalized. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone, on average taking the fewest shots per game, but they give up the least shots against per game. Here’s where they beat other teams, and that’s chemistry. Their record is skewed somewhat toward the beginning, where they started 0-4-3, but since then, they’ve made some key call-ups (Eric Gelinas, for example), and have grown together to create a team that is strong defensively. They do have games where they can’t outscore their mistakes, but if they keep playing their game, discipline and defense, they will be tough to beat.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Recently, they’ve been heating up, but with a horrid stretch, winning just 4 of 17 games between 10/27 and 12/1, they remain on the outside looking in. Marian Gaborik was just starting to heat up, when he broke his collarbone, and is likely out a couple of months. Nathan Horton is still on his way back, and they need him, because only one Jacket has more than 10 goals, being Ryan Johansen. They need offensive depth, because goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is not playing like he did last year, and it’s hard to trust a backup, despite Curtis McElhinney giving his all. It probably doesn’t add up to a playoff berth this season for them.

Carolina Hurricanes – They’ve been up and down this season so far, bouncing between 2nd and 7th in the Metro. They have serious offensive issues, having one skater with double digit goals, in Jeff Skinner, who’s been hurt part of the time. Goalies Justin Peters and Cam Ward can’t handle the game every night, and because of those reasons, it’s clear to me that this isn’t a playoff team.

Final standings: PIT, WAS, NJ, PHI, NYR, CBJ, CAR, NYI.

Atlantic Division

It’s clear that at the very least, 4 of these teams are serious playoff threats. The only real questions are, can anyone catch the Bruins, and do the Leafs have what it takes to hold on?

The Bruins have one of the stingiest and biggest defensive corps in the NHL, led by 6’9″ mountain Zdeno Chara, and sometimes a brick-wall-lookalike in net Tuukka Rask. Their offense is known for being grind-it-out tough and hard to play against. They also have the know-how, being the defending Eastern Conference champions. Can anyone top them? I don’t think so. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a scary offense once Steven Stamkos gets back, and goalie Ben Bishop has been very strong in net. However, I don’t see them skating circles around the Bruins. The Montreal Canadiens have a very talented team, but they are on average one of the smallest teams in the NHL. As I said before, I really like how they play the game, but it’s hard for them to get around the big defensive line for the B’s. These are the top 3 in the Atlantic, but the Bruins are the best of the bunch.

Now, the Leafs. They made a couple of moves over the offseason, and they aren’t quite panning out like they wanted. David Clarkson already has 12 games of suspension under his belt, and only 8 points in those 27 games he did play. Dave Bolland, the Cup hero, has been out with ankle surgery since early November. While Jonathan Bernier has been playing solidly in net, he’s not there the whole time, and can’t help in the games he’s not in, as James Reimer hasn’t been playing like he did last year. Mason Raymond has been the best of the lot, also the quietest move, as he’s been playing some of the best hockey in his career. But with the potential these Leafs have, they easily could hold on to that spot, but it’s becoming tougher each day that they don’t perform to expectations. With the Devils and Flyers heating up in the Metro, it gets closer in Toronto’s rearview mirror by the day. In the end, it’s tough for me to say if they are holding on to this spot. If I had to predict right now, I’d say the Devils and Flyers would make it over the Leafs.

Final standings: BOS, MON, TB, DET, TOR, OTT, FLA, BUF.

Central Division

The only real question here, is do the Stars have enough to catch the Wild. The Blackhawks, Blues, and Avalanche have been proving time and again that they belong where they are, and it doesn’t matter who gets what seed, because I think they are all interchangeable.

Dallas has been one of the hot teams under the radar in recent weeks. They made massive strides in shrinking their deficit from double digits at one point, to now just 3 points. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn lead the way offensively, and have been remarkably good the whole season, in terms of point getting and playing well. Also on the rise are young guns Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin, both excellent for secondary scoring and depth. Defensively, they aren’t spectacular, but goalie Kari Lehtonen has been great when healthy, keeping this team afloat. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild have been tapering off, more specifically on the road. They do have good scoring depth, with Miko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Jason Pominville shouldering the load, but their defensive play has not been amazing. Also, the goaltending tandem has been Jekkyl and Hyde this year. Josh Harding has been the story of the year, with a record of 18-5-3, with a goals against average of just 1.51, and a save percentage of .939. Meanwhile, Nick Backstrom (not to be confused with Caps center of the same name) has been awful, with a 2-8-2 record, GAA of 3.18, and a save percentage of .896. They can’t rely on Backstrom, and can’t play Harding every night. They need consistency in net above all. Do the Stars catch the Wild? My answer, is yes. The Wild won the first meeting 5-1, but 3 remain, and anything can happen.

Final standings: CHI, STL, COL, DAL, MIN, WPG, NAS.

Pacific Division

I think it’s a safe bet that the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks and L.A. Kings are locks for the playoffs, but 3 teams remain in the hunt. Only 2 wild card slots are left, and the Avalanche have a stranglehold on one. Here are the 3 contenders from the Pacific:

San Jose Sharks – Their scoring depth is among tops in the league, and Antti Niemi has been playing well when called upon. The only qualm about this team, is losing Tomas Hertl for the season. He recently was involved with a knee on knee collision with Kings’ Dustin Brown, and is now likely out for the year. Can they make up his scoring? I think so. Tommy Wingels is the guy to look at to step up in his spot. Tough as nails and a nose for the net, he can play up a line and help the Sharks secure a playoff spot.

Vancouver Canucks – Of course, you have the Sedin twins leading the way, but the surprising emergence of Mike Santorelli and Chris Higgins returning to form have been great developments for the ‘Nucks. Their goaltending also has been strong with Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack keeping the peace, and no real doubts about this team either. They likely will secure a ticket to the playoffs as well

Phoenix Coyotes – They’ve had decent scoring across the board, but not one guy stands out for them. Among Shane Doan, Mike Ribeiro, Martin Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker, and Radim Vrbata, the scoring depth is there. However, they depend on goalie Mike Smith a little too much. 33.2 shots against per game is 5th most in the league, and Smith is only human. They simply can’t depend on the goalie for everything, and must step their defensive game up, or it may be too much of a climb to reach the playoffs.

It’s clear here, that the teams to beat are the Sharks and Canucks, and the Coyotes are on the outside looking in.

Final Standings: ANA, LA, SJ, VAN, PHX, CAL, EDM.

That’s what I have for you, puck-heads. See you next week, and happy hockey!

Welcome back, puckheads! Finals week is over, and now you can concentrate even more on sports, more specifically hockey. We’ve had half a season so far, roughly, and in case you missed a lot of it studying or working, here’s how everyone did. We are giving each team a semester grade, and later in the week we will have predictions on what will happen next.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: Most points in the league as of today, with super strong play by top guys like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, as well as the less known guys like Hampus Lindholm and Nick Bonino. It seems like it’s no longer a possibility for them to lose at the Pond, so far 13-0-2 on home ice. Grade: A

Boston Bruins: Despite a couple of setbacks, and a policing issue, the Bruins seem to be doing fine for themselves. The defense-wins-championships mantra holds very true with the B’s, having let up the 2nd fewest goals in the league, and it adds up to 2nd in the Eastern conference. Grade: A-

Buffalo Sabres: They managed to get great value out of the Thomas Vanek deal, being Matt Moulson (doubt he’s staying) and 2 top draft picks. That’s where the good part stops. Now the only team not to have won a 10th game, and are 19 goals behind 2nd to last in scoring, the Sabres seem like they are investing in ping pong balls for the lottery. Grade: F

Calgary Flames: Young gun Sean Monahan has been a pleasant surprise, with 16 points in 29 games, despite a minor injury. However, they really miss Miikka Kiprusoff in net, having to depend on a couple of guys only hockey experts and Flames fans know, in Reto Berra and Karri Ramo. Their best move, however, was firing GM Jay Feaster. Now, they might actually progress. Grade: C-

Carolina Hurricanes: Mired in the Metropolitan mess, the Canes have quietly had a better season than what people originally predicted. Despite injuries to Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner, they have a NHL .500 record, and are alive and kicking in the playoff race. It won’t be easy, but the Staals have been there before. Grade: C+

Chicago Blackhawks: The defending champs aren’t joking around with the fabled “Cup hangover”. They have far and away the top offense in the league, and if they can keep outscoring any mistakes they make, it will be difficult to beat them on any given night. Grade: A

Colorado Avalanche: The surprise team of the season has to be the Avs. Led by rookie head coach Patrick Roy, and a multi-headed attack of young dynamic stars, this team has a bright future. Despite trouble with the law, goalie Semyon Varlamov has been solid enough to help the team succeed in the elite Central. Grade: A-

Columbus Blue Jackets: Marian Gaborik was a fantastic pickup, but a broken collarbone will shut him down for a couple of months. Nathan Horton is on his way back, however, and the Metropolitan factor means they are still very much alive in the race. Who would have thought that the 3-7 seeds in that division are 3 points apart? Grade: C

Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin has more than a point per game, and the guy he was traded for seems to have a target on his back for cheap shots. Also emerging are Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin, giving the Stars a bright future. Grade: B-

Detroit Red Wings: For whatever reason, the old Red Wings can’t play so well in their old barn, just 6-9-6 at the Joe, while 11-3-3 away from home. At least they are getting point in nearly half the games they lose. Grade: B

Edmonton Oilers: I had high hopes for this team coming into this season, predicting them to be a dark horse team in the playoff run. Now, they have Ilya Bryzgalov on their NHL roster. How the possibly mighty have fallen…Grade: F

Florida Panthers: The biggest news out of this team is that Tim Thomas is back, though not quite to his form from his Boston years. Maybe it’s because the Panthers’ D-men aren’t guys like Zdeno Chara. However, the Cats have been playing spoiler the entire season, as everyone thought they would. Grade: C

Los Angeles Kings: Who would have thought that the Kings would be better after Jonathan Quick went down with an injury? Martin Jones, tying an NHL record with winning his first 8 starts, has been the talk of the league since his call-up. Ben Scrivens has been good too, and the Kings have the stingiest defense in the league to boot. This makes for an interesting question; two’s company, but three’s a crowd. Will one of them be traded? Who knows? Grade: A-

Minnesota Wild: At home, they are stellar, 14-3-2. Once they hit the road, they seem to lose their flair, with a paltry 6-10-3 record away from the X. Josh Harding has been excellent for them this season, and a hero to everyone regardless of his record. But we know the Wild aren’t going to get home ice in the playoffs, so they have to solve their road woes in order to succeed. Grade: B+

Montreal Canadiens: A solid hot streak has put them in a good race for tops in the Atlantic, with young guys like Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and PK Subban leading the way. The team has a good mix of young and older, and can be dangerous later in the season. Grade: A-

Nashville Predators: They miss Pekka Rinne, but the guys backing him up seem to be doing alright. Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton combined have a 12-12-3 record, but in a division like the Central, .500 will get you nowhere. All the Seth Jones hype seemed to have died down also. Grade: C

New Jersey Devils: The Devils’ injury problems seemed to be a blessing in disguise, when some of their future emerged and started playing well. Reid Boucher and Jon Merrill have been good, but the real story is Eric Gelinas, who is quickly making a name for himself, having one of the hardest slap shots around. Can’t hurt that the golden oldies like Jaromir Jagr are there to show them the way. Grade: B-

New York Islanders: Between November 12 and December 20, they had a grand total of 2 wins, and neither of them were in regulation or overtime. It’s safe to say that something’s gotta change, because their promising future took a massive hit. Grade: D-

New York Rangers: Probably the most inconsistent team in the NHL. There are nights where everything goes right, and nights where they lose to the Islanders. Henrik Lundqvist seems to be fielding a good chunk of the blame, but that’s because he fields a good chunk of the payroll. The lack of a defense-first coaching scheme should get part of it too. Grade: C+

Ottawa Senators: Their great defense from last year seems to have dissipated. The only team to have given up more goals are the Islanders, and the Sens have their regular goalies in net. The fact that they have top defenseman Erik Karlsson says something about the rest of the blue line crew for them. Grade: C-

Philadelphia Flyers: They made a great bounce back after an atrocious start to the season. It’s still a surprise to the hockey world that Steve Mason has a .922 save percentage, as well as a winning record. Claude Giroux also has regained form after a 15 game goal drought to start the year. The Metro division is very convoluted, and the Flyers are right in the middle of it. Grade: C+

Phoenix Coyotes: They had a great start to the year, made a little bit of noise, and then quieted down some. Still a playoff contender, despite a decent difference between them and the 4th place Canucks. It’s still way better than most people in Arizona thought it would be (ehem Seattle). Grade: B

Pittsburgh Penguins: Crosby yadda yadda yadda, Fleury regular season blah blah, Malkin when he’s healthy, yeah that too. It’s the same story for the Penguins as it’s been the last few years. Not that that’s a bad thing. Grade: A

San Jose Sharks: A single regulation loss in the Shark Tank confirms that this team is deadly at home. However, they are vulnerable on the road, at 10-7-3. Tomas Hertl has been phenominal so far, but a nasty knee injury could sideline him for the season. If that’s the case, someone else has to step up. Grade: B+

St. Louis Blues: By the numbers, the Blues have the fewest losses (7 regulation, 4 overtime/shootout), best goal differential (+44), in fewer games than almost everyone in the league. Alex Steen became yet another weapon for this team, who is primed for a cup run after years of dreams dying in the playoffs. Grade: A

Tampa Bay Lightning: It was on everyone’s mind, how the Bolts would do after Stamkos got hurt. They have a 10-6-3 record since the injury, and he’s still a couple of months away from returning. They seem to be doing just fine, and just wait until he returns. The question remains, if Ben Bishop can continue playing lights out like he has been. Grade: A-

Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite still holding a playoff spot, the Buds aren’t nearly as impressive as last year. Fresh off the free-agent market, David Clarkson has been a massive bust, with just 6 points so far this season. Despite some bright spots, it’s been more of the same for the Leafs, and their fans sure let them hear about itGrade: C

Vancouver Canucks: They are slowly returning to form, despite a sluggish start. Despite still being tied with the Sharks for 3rd in the Pacific, they seem to be holding their own nicely, and are for sure happy about that coaching swap with the Rangers. Grade: B+

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin has been the story, now with 30 goals in 34 games. Many say he might break the 50 in 50 barrier, which has been done by 5 players before (Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Brett Hull), but I have my doubts. Meanwhile, the team is in cruise control for a spot in the Metro playoffs. Grade: B+

Winnipeg Jets: This group can be better, but they just haven’t been playing to their potential. The home ice advantage they seemed to have in their inaugural year seems to have slipped as well. It’s a shame, too, because everyone wants to see a true Winnipeg White-out. Grade: C-

Well, there you have it. This week, we will have predictions for the rest of the year, including some bold ones. Until next time, puck-heads!

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This past week in hockey had some significant developments in the standings, as well as some controversial events. The standings are ever-changing, in this week’s Week in Review.

Metropolitan Division

The division leading Pittsburgh Penguins had an up-and-down week, crushing the San Jose Sharks 5-1, but losing to the Boston Bruins in a bitter rivalry turned dirty game 3-2. In the process, defensive stalwart Brooks Orpik was carted off the ice, and James Neal is awaiting a suspension in a similar event, but more on that later in the post. The Washington Capitals remained just 7 points back, also taking a 2-1-0 week by thrashing the Nashville Predators and the New York Rangers. Speaking of the Blue-shirts, the Rangers had a tough week, taking 3 points out of 4 games, losing division matchups to the Devils and Capitals, and only beating the bottom-feeding Sabres. They are now tied with the Carolina Hurricanes, who have set up a nice 3 game win streak, with strong play from Cam Ward and rookie Elias Lindholm. 1 point behind those two are the New Jersey Devils, who still have random outbursts as well as random lulls. The Devils lost the first 3 games of the week, taking 1 point out of 2 games against surging Montreal, then coming from behind to beat the Rangers in OT. The Devils have needed to dig into their AHL roster, and have seen success in them so far. The Philadelphia Flyers are hanging around, and are even more baffling than the Devils, crushing one night, then looking hopeless the next. They  remain 1 point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have started to win a few big games recently. The Islanders haven’t won since Nam, with their streak extended to 9 games without a win, and continue to be one of the league’s biggest busts. Seeds 2-7 in the Metro are separated by just 7 points, and the shuffle continues from here on out.

Atlantic Division

The Boston Bruins have lost most of their division lead this week, and it had nothing to do with their play. They won 2 of their 3 games, against decent opponents in Pittsburgh and Toronto. But their one loss came against the bleu-blanc-et-rouge hot team, the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs, winners of 4 this week and 5 straight, swept the Devils in a home-and-home, and beat the Bruins in a showdown Thursday night 2-1, climbing within 1 point of the lead in the Atlantic. Both of those teams are trying to pull away from teams like pesky Detroit. The Red Wings went 1-2-0 this week, beating the Devils, but losing to the Flyers and Panthers, teams they should beat, and are now 4 back of Montreal and 5 from Boston. Tampa continues to fall through the standings, only winning 1 of 3 games this week, but received good news from Steven Stamkos, who plans a return soon after the Olympic break. The Lightning just have to hold on until he gets back in order to contend for the playoffs. Another team that’s been falling have been the Maple Leafs, who took 2 of 4 this week, but remain far from the top, and have not played well against better sides. They do remain in the second wild card, 4 points ahead of Carolina/New York Rangers, however. Ottawa is stopping the flailing, but they haven’t been winning enough games to get back in the hunt, now 8 points back of Toronto after a tough week. The Florida Panthers seem to win random games, with no rhyme or reason behind it, and remain way behind most teams. The Sabres played twice and lost twice, what else is new? The Canadiens caught fire, but can it continue into the next few games? We shall see coming up soon.

Central Division

The Blackhawks actually lost 3 in a row this week (gasp!) before pommeling the Panthers Sunday night, and remain well ahead of anyone in the division. Their 21 wins and 47 points both still lead the league. The St. Louis Blues, however, have played 4 fewer games than Chicago. The Blues took just 1 of 3 games this week, and missed a golden opportunity to gain ground on the ‘Hawks, but still are within range. The Minnesota Wild are now tied with the Blues, after 3 home wins and a road loss this week. The Wild are nearly unstoppable at their home rink, and have passed the Avalanche, who took 1 of 3 this week in Western Canada, including an embarrassing 8-2 loss to the Oilers. The Avalanche seem to be coming back down to earth after an unreal start to the season, having one of the best records at the quarterpole, while the Wild are heating up again, and starting to prove that they have the team to compete this year. The Dallas Stars have been creeping up, taking 5 of 6 possible points this week in big wins against Chicago and Philadelphia, and are now just 7 back of the Avalanche. The Winnipeg Jets also remain somewhat alive, taking 2 of 3 this week, but have a bigger hill to climb, having played more games. The Nashville Predators lost all 3 this week, and are becoming destined for another lottery pick. This division has been tightening up, and will get more interesting with the current trends as the season continues.

Pacific Division

The division lead continues to be switching between the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks every week. This week, it belongs in So-Cal. The [Mighty] Ducks got 5 of 6 points, beating Chicago and St. Louis in big games, while the Sharks hit another soft spot, losing 3 straight after beating Toronto, including losses to Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Minnesota. It wouldn’t shock anyone if the [Mighty] Ducks continue to win, and the Sharks continue to struggle, or if they again swap positions by this time next week. The Los Angeles Kings have something to say on the matter,  winning 3 this week and getting points in 9 of their previous 10 games to pull within a point of the Sharks, further changing the scope of things. Vancouver also won all 3 of their games this week, making 4 straight, and are pulling back into contention. The Canucks are now just 6 behind Anaheim, and took the 4 spot in the division away from the plummeting Phoenix Coyotes, who took 1 of 3 in Western Canada to fall back to 5th place, 2 behind Vancouver. They have been struggling recently, but look to get back into the swing of things when they return home to the desert. The Calgary Flames had 2 wins this week, and it seems like a while since they’ve done that. The Edmonton Oilers have gotten crushed and also crushed this week, showing that their offense is potent, but their defense is still a huge question mark. It seems this division turns to whoever is playing on home ice for the time, as the top 5 teams are a combined 46-12-11 at their respective home rink.

Top 5

1) Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks – Though it took a shootout, they beat the Blackhawks this week. They are still without regulation loss at the Pond, also. Tops for me this week.

2) Chicago Blackhawks – I know they hit a 3 game slide this week, but that says more for them because they still lead the President’s Trophy race.

3) Los Angeles Kings – Ben Scrivens has stepped up big time in the absence of Jonathan Quick. This gives the Kings time to make sure their top guy is ready to come back at 100%.

4) Montreal Canadiens – Red hot play from everyone lately, and the group of Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, P.K. Subban, and others are looking to overthrow the Bruins in the Atlantic.

5) Minnnesota Wild – The Xcel Energy Center has been a safe haven for them so far, but their road woes continue to question their stability. I see it getting fixed soon.

In the Box this week:

Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo and Bruins’ Shawn Thornton. Friday night, the Flyers were in Dallas to face the Stars. Rinaldo and Stars’ forward Antoine Roussel were chasing the puck down the ice, when Rinaldo surprised Roussel with a mugging. Here’s how it looked:

Rinaldo got 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting, 10 minute misconduct and a game misconduct. It led to a 7 minute power play for Dallas. At least Roussel got up from that one. In our other case, a series of cheap shots exchanged Saturday night in Boston led to a small scrum between the Penguins and Bruins. Shawn Thornton took exception to a hit Brooks Orpik landed on poor Loui Eriksson, and gave him the business. This time, though, it ended worse.

Thornton slew-footed Orpik, followed by a couple of punches to the head. Orpik was out cold, and was subsequently stretchered off the ice. Thornton does have a bit of a history, but this one involves injury. He has a hearing coming up, and a well deserved suspension soon there after.

Stay tuned this week for some more action on the ice. See you then, puck-heads!

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Before the 2004-5 season was cancelled due to a lockout, the standings system was a little different then what we have today. If a game reached the end of overtime without a goal being scored, the game ended in a tie. The NHL decided during that lockout, that all games should have a winning side and losing side, and thus the penalty shot shootout was born.

October 5th, 2005, the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs played to what would have been a tie before the lockout, setting the stage for the first ever penalty shot shootout in NHL history. The Senators won 2-0. The rest is history.

The way that it works in the standings, is that the winning team gets 2 points, and the losing team gets 1, as if the game had ended by an overtime goal. It differs, however, in terms of tie-breakers in the standings, where the team with more non-shootout victories gets precedence.

This may seem to skew standings a little bit toward those teams good at the shootout, right?

Take this example: This year’s Washington Capitals are in second place currently in the Metropolitan, with a record of 14-12-2, adding up to 30 points in the standings. Their shootout record is 6-2, and adding that into their standings as if games ended in overtime at a draw instead of a decisive shootout, their record would be 8-12-8-0 (wins-losses-ties-OT losses), adding up to just 24 points, which would put them in second…to last in the division.

Yes, it does inflate teams records, but let’s be real here, the Sabres (6-20-2, 3-0 in SO) would like it better if their record didn’t look like 3-20-3-2, because it seems to take goals that nearly defy logic for them to win games in regulation or overtime.

So it seems to pay to have guys on your team who are good at shootouts, right?

The all-time shootout records show that it really doesn’t make a difference. Take a look for yourself.  In the top 5, you can make the case for 3 of those 5 teams to have a decent level of success since the shootout’s inception, those being the Penguins, Devils, and Kings (who weren’t always that great in the post-lockout era). In the bottom 5, you have 3 Stanley Cup appearances, with the Flyers, Hurricanes, and Senators. Heck, the Detroit Red Wings (who have an absolute wizard of the shootout in the NHL in Pavel Datsyuk) are in 24th on this list, and they have 2 consecutive Cup Finals appearances (2007-8, winning in 07), along with a million straight playoff appearances (last miss was the 1989-90 season).

It has become an event for the fans, however. I know personal anecdote isn’t fuel for a fire when backing up a statement, but I’ve been to many shootouts in my day, and the fans all stand up and cheer on their teams during the shootout, more intense than during the game itself. No one likes the inconclusive feeling they get, leaving the arena after the game ends in a stalemate. Fans want to see some fun, some craziness, things that would never be tried during a game. The prime example for this would be the last shooter from the longest shootout in NHL history. Marek Malik, a defenseman for the Rangers at the time, who maxed out at 23 points in a season, pulled off one of the best moves in the history of the shootout. If you Google his name, the first hit is his page on Wikipedia, and the second is that goal. The fans loved it.

It goes on and on and on. The players have lots of fun with it, and the fans love it. Sure, it messes with the standings a bit, making teams look better than they are (we’re on to you Buffalo!). But in the end, hockey is in the business of getting fans to the games, and watching a shootout is one of the more exciting events in regular season hockey. It was a great move by the NHL to institute it, and they should keep it, despite the talk to remove it. If the fans love it, there is no reason to fix what isn’t broken.

 

Detroit Red Wings v Ottawa Senators

Thanksgiving is over, Chanukah is still going strong, and hockey is getting more interesting by the day. This week, teams were tested, big games were played, and a hero returned to his old team. Let’s dive in:

Metropolitan Division

The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the more streaky teams in the league, and they are on a good streak lately. They picked up 7 points in 4 games this week, with varying levels of competition. They lost in OT to the Bruins, took to a shootout to beat the Leafs, then blew out the Lightning and Panthers. They now lead the division by 7 to the Washington Capitals, who had an average week, going 1-1-1 against teams they probably should have beaten. The Penguins are being given the opportunity to run away from them and the other teams in contention. One of those teams is the always confusing New York Rangers. When they lose, they lose big, but when they win, they play well. This week, they went 2-2-0, but had no consistency in their game whatsoever, getting shutout 5-0 against Tampa, but crushing Vancouver 5-2. They currently sit one point ahead of the up-and-down New Jersey Devils, who this week also went 2-2-0, but snapped a 3 game losing streak with their win in Carolina to split a home-and-home. Their game has been inconsistent as well, but for lumps of games at a time, and all of the inconsistency points to their offense. Right behind the Devils are the streaking Philadelphia Flyers, who went 2-2-0 this week, but should have been able to win every game with the level of teams they played. They sit one point ahead of the Hurricanes, who split a home-and-home with the Devils and then lost at home to the Canucks. The Blue Jackets alternated between good wins and bad losses, landing them 5 points back of the third place Rangers, and the Islanders continue to plummet, losing all 3 this week, one in OT, and will be hitting rock bottom any day now. The division has been convoluted with inconsistency, and will continue to be very fun yet frustrating for all teams involved.

Atlantic Division

Despite the 6-1 loss to the Red Wings, the Boston Bruins are sitting pretty atop the Atlantic, winning their other 3 games this week, including two showdowns with Pittsburgh and the Rangers. Their defense has been stout for the most part, and has been carrying the team to the top of the division. Those Red Wings, however, have been catching up to them, moving into second place with a fantastic 3-0 week, outscoring opponents 15-3. Their offense has certainly picked it up, and their defense has been solid to boot, even though they only had one quality opponent. The Wings passed the Lightning for second place, but Tampa has been doing well in their own right. The Bolts had 2 quality wins over the Rangers and Flyers, but lost to the Penguins, which was enough to drop them into third. They have been doing well without Steven Stamkos, but who are we kidding, they really want him back soon. The Montreal Canadiens have been picking their game up lately, having a 2-0-1 week, and are now tied with Tampa for third. The Habs’ strong overall game helps from their young core mixed with veteran help to make a team no one should sleep on. They overtook the lately-sour Maple Leafs, who’ve picked up 2 points in 4 losses this week, in a year where they need to prove that they are for real. Ottawa had a good win against Washington, but two losses since have them 7 back of those Leafs, and they are losing their chances more per day. Saturday night featured the return of longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was met with a standing ovation and a scoreboard tribute, which will just about be as newsworthy as the Senators will get for the next little while. Florida will be playing spoiler for the rest of the season, with their occasional good wins against good teams, like their Monday night win against the Flyers, but don’t count on it every game. Buffalo took what seemed like a record 3 points in a week, and are the first team to hit 20 losses in regulation on the season. This division has been shuffling constantly, with teams dropping and rising seemingly every night, and will continue to shuffle for the rest of the season.

Central Division

Raise your hand if you can beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Since I know none of you did, as well as none of the rest of the NHL, we can safely say that the Hawks are the best team in the league, harboring a 6 game winning streak, all 6 being road games, 4 of which this week. Their offense has been outstanding, and their defense has been good enough to boot, as these guys boast a 5 point lead on the next team up in the powerful Central. That team is the St. Louis Blues, who went 2-1-0 this week against very strong opponents, Minnesota, Colorado, and (losing in) San Jose. They still have one of the top cores and systems in the league, and despite them being so far back from the almighty Blackhawks, they can’t be discounted as one of the top teams in the league. Also in that conversation is the Colorado Avalanche, who lost to the aforementioned Blues before sweeping a home-and-home with division rival Minnesota. The Avs have had the best turnaround by miles this season, and continue to show that they are indeed for real, with strong wins and few losses to separate them. The Minnesota Wild had a gauntlet this week, managing just 1 point in 4 games against the Blues, Coyotes and Avalanche. This week and next are a huge test for the Wild, who are still trying to confirm their spot among the league’s elite, but losing all 4 games this week can’t help their cause. The Nashville Predators had an up and down 2-1-1 week, but remain somewhat in the hunt. Dallas had a huge win against the [Mighty] Ducks, 6-3, but followed it up with 2 shootout losses. They have to be able to build on those wins to have a chance in this crazy strong division. Winnipeg had 2 wins in 3 games this week also, but have the furthest climb out of the 3 bottom teams in the Central, should one of the mighty’s slip and fall. That being said, this division is relatively clear cut as to who will make the playoffs, but no one can be counted out yet, especially in this era of the NHL.

Pacific Division

The San Jose Sharks have the least amount of regulation losses, and are sitting happily on top of the Pacific, with 3 quality wins this week. They have been incredibly difficult to play against, with a young/old mix for the ages, and a win-now perspective. They passed the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks for that top spot, who lost big in Big D before losing to the Sharks in a shootout, to flank a solid win in Calgary. The Ducks are still a dangerous team to play against, with two of the top scorers in the league, and an unprecedented three options in net. The Phoenix Coyotes had a 1-2-0 week, and fell to fourth behind the Los Angeles Kings, who went 1-1-1 this week. Both of those teams have been playing average hockey lately, but well enough to continue to hold off the Vancouver Canucks, who went 2-1-1 this week. With their latest surge, the Canucks have made it a 5 team race for the 4 spots from the Pacific, that remains tightly contested. The Calgary Flames had a win against the Kings, but lost the other two, and are fading into the dark, but giving their young players time to warm to the league. The Oilers, like the Panthers, have the team to be able to play spoiler to some teams, but remain wildly out of contention. The Pacific has been knotting up, with the Canucks surging back into contention, but it remains tough to crack the top 4. If one team has a big skid, it might be too much to get back in.

Top 5:

1) Chicago Blackhawks – Winning 6 consecutive road games is one thing, but when those games are all in a row, it’s something unheard of. No contest for the top spot.

2) San Jose Sharks – The ultimate regular season franchise has been keeping to their name this season, and are back atop the Pacific.

3) Boston Bruins – Lately, this team has been very hard to play against. If their offense continues to improve, they will become nearly impossible to beat.

4) St. Louis Blues – Tough schedule recently, but they are still doing just fine, and are not a team to look forward to on the calendar.

5) Colorado Avalanche – Despite a lull in the middle of last month, they have been very good and hard to play against. If they get one trustworthy goalie in net as opposed to two solid ones, they will be an elite team.

In the box this week

Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa and New York Rangers’ Brian Boyle. In the closing seconds of the Rangers’ 5-2 win at the Garden, Bieksa went after Boyle, clearly frustrated from the game. After a scuffle and wrestling match, Bieksa went after Boyle’s helmet, much like a certain fan of a certain ice hockey team, known as…daaaa Hawks. Here’s what he did after he grabbed it:

Rather childishly, Bieksa drop-kicked Boyle’s helmet, clearly frustrated. Boyle joins him in the box because he responds by kicking Bieksa’s helmet. Helmet soccer isn’t very mature, and both players deserved some finger-wagging as they go to the corner and think about what they just did.

Tune in next week for some more. Happy Chanukah puckheads!

New Jersey Devils v Los Angeles Kings

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.

Metropolitan Division

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.

Atlantic Division

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.

Central Division

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.

Pacific Division

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.

Top 5

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!