Week 18 schedule analysis
*B2B (Back-to-Back) occurrences in boldFlush
The following seven teams will provide you with the most pack for your punch, as they have four games on the docket.
On the surface, it appears as though Boston (at NYI, FLA, MTL, EDM) has one of the easiest schedules on paper this week. Forgetting their combined 0-3 record against the Isles and Canadiens, the Bruins also have eight games over the final two weeks prior to the Olympic break. Jordan Caron (back), Dougie Hamilton (concussion), Jarome Iginla and Zdeno Chara all returned in their own ways on Saturday.
You don’t need a quick glance at Buffalo’s (at PIT, WAS, at PHX, at COL) schedule to know it’s too late for the team to turn things around in time for a playoff push. However, that’s not going to stop the Sabres from breaking a lot of hearts, fantasy or otherwise. Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Ennis are picking up the pace, while Cody Hodgson is the only constant. Ville Leino (upper body) and Drew Stafford (upper body) left Saturday’s game ... shocker.
Columbus (at CAR, OTT, WAS, FLA) is fully aware of Buffalo’s heart-breaking abilities. On paper, we like the Jackets’ chances of starting a new winning streak. Sergei Bobrovsky was one of six starting goalies pulled Saturday night; perhaps it’s an isolated incident. Mark Letestu and Derek MacKenzie continued their production despite the loss.
Los Angeles (at SJS, at PHX, PIT, PHI) starts the week with b2b games on the road before heading home for contests against two teams on a west coast swing. The Kings’ offense is really letting Jonathan Quick (3-4-2,2.11 GAA) down since he returned from the IR on January 4.
Montreal (CAR, at BOS, TBL, WIN) has two winnable tilts at the beginning and end of the week and three of four from home to boot. Despite their four-game losing streak, the Canadiens are unbeaten (combined 3-0-2) in regulation against this week’s opponents. Carey Price was one of the shamed on Saturday night, and it’s becoming a bit of a habit, having been pulled in two of his last three outings. Price has given up 48 goals (3.42 GAA) in his last 14 starts.
San Jose (LOS, at EDM, at CGY, CHI) has the inside-out version of Montreal’s schedule, with its easiest (5-0 against the Oilers and Flames) two games in the middle of the week on a b2b Alberta swing. While Tommy Wingels has a goal and three assists in his last four games, it’s Joe Pavelski (seven goals, three assists in his last five games) who is truly driving the Sharks’ latest winning streak.
Washington (at BUF, at CBJ, at DET, DET) has been some sort of strange fantasy experiment. Additionally, the Caps will battle the even stranger Red Wings in a non-traditional home-and-home slate to end the week. Mikhail Grabovski (leg) did not play on Saturday, while Alexander Ovechkin (groin) did. Niklas Backstrom is cold, but could Martin Erat’s inevitable exit (we expect this week) finally shake this team up? Apparently Braden Holtby took the reins last week, not Michal Neuvirth . Casey Wellman (23 points in 37 games with AHL Hershey) was recalled in light of the injuries to Ovi and Grabovski.
While the Rangers (at NYI, NYI) organization is surrounded by excitement in light of the Stadium Series, the team is not only strapped with the dreaded two-game slate this week, but a mere three games next week. For what it’s worth, the Rangers are a combined 5-15 on the power play in three games (1-2) against the Islanders this season.
Three of a Kind
No, none of this week’s Three of a Kind candidates were yanked on Saturday night. Despite having just three tilts scheduled this week, these teams will have b2b occurrences and no trend is in sight.
Carolina (CBJ, at MTL, STL) has two games in the first two nights this week, then takes off until Friday. Anton Khudobin has yet to yield more than three goals in a game this season. However, he’s played on b2b occurrences twice this month and won’t likely do again this week. Justin Peters should get a start.
Chicago (at CGY, at VAN, SJS) plays on b2b nights starting Tuesday. Corey Crawford hasn’t played since January 22, and his career GAA (2.83) against the Flames suggests Antti Raanta will play in Calgary, with Crawford drawing the Canucks.
New Jersey (at STL, at DAL, at NSHdoes the southern swing on b2b nights beginning Thursday. Cory Schneider has certainly been coming on strong (eight goals allowed in seven games) since the turn of the calendar. One of those performances includes a 1-0 shutout over the Stars. Considering Schneider has allowed three goals in just 20 career minutes of ice time against the Preds, we like Martin Brodeur in Nashville.
Nashville (at WIN, NJD, at STL) will play just once until Friday, then host the Devils and travel to St. Louis on b2b nights. Carter Hutton is quietly on a four-game winning streak, while Devan Dubnyk has given up nine goals in two games with Nashville. Expect to see Dubnyk against the Devils and Hutton in St. Louis.
St. Louis (NJD, at CAR, NSH) won’t have much of an upper-hand against the Preds, as they’ll be on the back-half of a b2b occurrence as well. Despite a 7-1 loss to New Jersey this past Tuesday, Jaroslav Halak has been solid (5-1) in January, while Brian Elliott is winless in his last three games after winning 12 of his 14 previous starts. Look for Elliott against Carolina and Halak (1.71 career GAA against the Predators) against Nashville.