Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:52 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:55 am
By: Adam Gretz
There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.
1. Phoenix Coyotes: A 3-0 deficit against Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings seems like like it might be impossible to overcome with the way this season has progressed. Not the case for the Coyotes on Tuesday night as they continued their winning ways with a come-from-behind, 5-4 shootout win. It was their eighth win in the past nine games, and their ninth straight game with at least a point in the standings. It also moves them into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division with the San Jose Sharks, a team that had their lunches handed to them by our next winner, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: In what has become a lost, disappointing season, the Blue Jackets had their most complete and impressive performance of the year on Tuesday night with a 6-3 win over the Sharks. R.J. Umberger completed his first career Gordie Howe Trick scoring a goal, assisting on another and dropping the gloves … all in the first period. And it took him just 4:11 of ice-time to accomplish it. Talk about efficiency.
3. Another high-scoring Jets-Flyers game: Somehow, the Winnipeg Jets had a chance to move into the top spot in the Southeast Division (and the third spot in the Eastern Conference) with a regulation win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
They didn't win, but they still managed to gain a point with a 5-4 overtime loss and move into a tie with the Panthers, which is still pretty amazing. Are the Jets buyers? Sellers? A team that does nothing? Who knows at this point, but they're still in it thanks to the collective mediocrity that is the Southeast Division. But the most entertaining thing here is the Jets and Flyers played another high-scoring, back-and-forth game. In their four-game season series this year the two teams combined for 38 goals. That's an average of 9.5 goals per game in a league where the average game features just 5.46.
It's like 1985 all over again when these two teams get together, and as of now, a first-round playoff matchup isn't entirely out of the question.
We can only hope.
1. The Anaheim Ducks playoff chances: Much had been made of the fact the Anaheim Ducks were only five points out of a playoff spot entering Tuesday night, but here is why it's going to be next to impossible for them to catch up: Even with one of the best stretches in the NHL they're still back to being six points out and are still in 13th after Tuesday. Their best two-month stretch of the season has seen them gain four points and move up one spot in the standings since early December. Those points are just too hard to make up, and a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay doesn't help. They have no margin for error, and losing to a team that's in selling off players every other team and makes the hole they're in even deeper.
2. Calgary Flames: There was one team on the ice on Tuesday night that looked like it was fighting for its playoff lives, and it wasn't the Calgary Flames in a 6-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. These are the points that the Flames need if they're going to earn one of the top eight spots in the West, and this one was a clunker.
3. The New Islanders slow starts: Scoring first is a big deal in the NHL, and no team seems to get off to slower starts on a nightly basis than the New York Islanders. They were down 2-0 just three minutes into Monday's game, and then on Tuesday against Buffalo they fell behind just 1:12 into the first period of their 2-1 loss to the Sabres. It's tough to win games when you're spotting the other team a one-goal lead almost right off the opening faceoff every night.
Goal of the Night: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins.
New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella said this goal by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, his 33rd of the season, was the result of "a dumb play by Michael Del Zotto." His turnover may have led to it, but it's still a big-time move on a play that involved two of the NHL's MVP favorites going one-on-one.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Tags: Adam Gretz, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter, John Tortorella, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, Michael Del Zotto, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, R.J. Umberger, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winners & Losers, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:38 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 8:48 pm
But even I'll concede now you can forget that. I said if the Wings continued to push out the streak it becomes a non-issue and you are just left in too much awe of what Detroit has done. They've done exactly that.
After failing in their last five regular-season games against the San Jose Sharks, the Wings instead finished off a six-game homestand with another win, a hard-fought 3-2 victory at the Joe. For those counting at home, and I'm sure that's most all of you, that's 23 consecutive home wins, three more than the previous record.
It all underscores a bigger point. Sure, the NHL record is great and all, but that's nothing more than a nice stat to go in the history books. Otherwise it means nothing. However it will mean something if the Red Wings earn the Presidents' Trophy, or at least the top seed in the Western Conference.
You look hard to find holes on this team. At one point you might have said it was the backup goaltending, then Jimmy Howard got hurt, Joey MacDonald was called up and he has proven he is capable of replacing Ty Conklin. More than capable, in fact.
Before the season the hole was glaring on the defense. That's why they brought in some players to help in that regard, although none seemed to be all that significant at the time, at least to me. Oops.
While one of those additions, Mike Commodore, has been sparingly used, you can't say the same for Ian White. Despite pretty solid career numbers, I wasn't too crazy about a guy who played on three different teams last season (Calgary, Carolina and San Jose). Apparently that was a silly worry.
He has been as solid a plug into their blueline group as anybody out there. He chews up more than 23 minutes per game, he contributes some offensively and is on pace to smash his career best plus/minus mark (currently he is plus-29). I know, I know, plus/minus doesn't mean much, but you'd rather have a player who is that far above zero than below it, wouldn't you?
Moreover, they have scoring depth. Who'd a thunk that Drew Miller -- no longer just the brother of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller -- would be on his way to 15 or so goals? He is one of the 10 Red Wings players who are in double digits in goals this season. That means there is little reprieve at any point in a game against the Wings.
Obviously you're a good team when you win 23 in a row at home. Clearly no slouch is going to get that done. But the biggest thing about this home streak for me is that it will contribute to them playing a lot more at home. Ironic, I know. But what really matters will be the home games beyond the guaranteed 41.
This week the Flyers made not one but two trades to get help on the defensive corps. While the help was definitely needed, not a lot is going to get better if the goaltending duo doesn't improve.
A sight that has become all too familiar this season, Ilya Bryzgalov was yanked mid-game after Matt Cooke scored the all-too rare 3-on-5 goal. Sergei Bobrovsky came in and din't perform any better. Eventually it ended in a 6-4 loss for the Flyers to the intrastate rival Penguins.
But evidenced by the downpour of boos from the Wells Fargo Center faithful, this has been a season-long issue for Philadelphia. Heck, it's been a lot longer than this season, but it was supposed to be resolved when they brought in Bryzgalov.
His save percentage has been floating around .900 all season. Right now it's sitting square on that mark, the lowest of his career. His goals against average is up to 2.79. His only worse season was in 2008-09 when he gave up 2.98 per game with the Coyotes.
Needless to say this isn't what the Flyers invested so much into him for. You have to think that with the success the team has had despite the goaltending woes, if either one of the goalies could get it going and start playing up to an acceptable level at minimum, they could make some serious noise in the playoffs.
You just wonder if that's possible at this point, if it's in either goalie with the current situation, from the defense in front of them to the coaching. It's a conversation that continues to linger around the Flyers.
Just check out what the Flyers had to say, including Bryzgalov after Saturday's loss.
Hockey Day in America
So among all the American players playing on Sunday, who'd a thunk that Paul Gaustad would be the first to score on Sunday's Hockey Day in America?
Assuming you don't count Canadian-born Jason Pominville even though he does play for the American natonal team as a dual-citizen, it was his Sabres teammate that scored the first goal by an American. He barely beat Drew Miller in Detroit for that honor.
It was part of a rare breakout for the Sabres. It's been a big struggle for them this season in Buffalo, but they brought out the scoring sticks and pounded the Penguins 6-2. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't do much for Buffalo who is too far out of the playoff picture, but it was perhaps a nice audition for Gaustad in this month of the trade deadline.
He's not going to be as sought after as a lot of the other players, but some team seeking grit and toughness with a side of skill, Gaustad could fit somewhere. Just go back and watch his work on Evgeni Malkin on Sunday to get a sense of that.
Unlucky break of the weekend
As is the case with every Blues game, it was a low-scoring affair that turned with one bad break. This one going against the Blues.
The game-winning goal for the Blackhawks technically went to Dave Bolland, but if they could, it should have gone to the Blues' David Backes, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The centering pass shot off of Backes and he couldn't stop the puck from going in the net in time. The 'Hawks eventually potted an empty-netter for their third straight win after the nine-game skid.
This year's NHLPA players poll voted the Vancouver Canucks as the league's most overrated team. Don't think I'd agree at all in calling them overrated. They were one game from winning the Cup last season and as we all know, only one team can win the Cup each season. I mean the Canucks have won the games to put them in the positions they've been in each postseason, it's not like it's a fabrication, they earned those points.
In fact, I'd say that this team doesn't get enough credit, at least in the States. They seem to be in the news a bit, but not often for their play. Yet all they do is win as DJ Khaled so eloquently said. This is the team that could take away from that Red Wings home-ice advantage in the West this postseason.
That's because they extended their points streak to 12 games after beating down the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2 on Saturday in Vancouver. They are 9-0-3 in that time. They became the second team behind the Wings to reach the 80-point plateau.
Perhaps that overrated label has come from the fact that we expect this now. It might also explain why they are winning so quietly. Or maybe it has been the large amount of overtime and shootout wins, especially lately. But no matter the reason, people should probably pay attention.
Just can't Capitalize
Every time you think the Washington Capitals are going to get it going after a big and impressive win, they fall flat. It happened again this weekend.
They took two points from the division-leading Panthers on Friday night in a dominating effort, outshooting Florida by a wide margin. So how'd they follow that up? By looking like the Caps we've seen for the most of Dale Hunter's tenure ... being outshot and outchanced for the majority of the game and losing a low-scoring affair to the Lightning 2-1.
It seems every step they take forward they take one step back. It's why the Panthers are still sitting in first place in the Southeast with just 65 points. That's the seventh most in the Eastern Conference yet best in the division.
At some point if the Caps are going to make the playoffs they need to start stringing together a couple of these wins in a row instead of missing these chances.
Quote of the weekend
“I haven’t been on a vacation for 15 days,” Boudreau said. ”This is ridiculous. The East has no idea how lucky they are. And I think every team in the West should start with 10 points before the season starts.
“Eight games and 15 days. And I’m sure Pittsburgh goes through it, too. But when you have a four-game road trip in seven days, you’re coming home exhausted. We’re at seven days right now and this is just the halfway point in our trip.
“For a guy that’s played in the East or coach in the East as well, I don’t know how they do it,” he said. ”I really don’t. It’s quite a testament to every team in the West’s character for not griping as much as I’m doing right now about it.
“You don’t even know what hotel room you’re getting into. You forget the hotel rooms and everything during the course of the day on this trip. It’s pretty Wild. But it is what it is. You can’t use it as an excuse and you’ve got to keep going.”
-- Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on the travelling for his Anaheim team. It was technically said on Thursday, but hey, it's worth pointing out, particularly as the Ducks went from New Jersey on Thursday to Carolina on Friday and Florida on Sunday evening.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Brian Stubits, Bruce Boudreau, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Dave Bolland, David Backes, Detroit Red Wings, Drew Miller, Evgeni Malkin, Florida Panthers, Ian White, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jimmy Howard, Joey MacDonald, Matt Cooke, Mike Commodore, Paul Gaustad, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Miller, San Jose Sharks, Sergei Bobrovsky, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ty Conklin, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Weekend Wrap
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:01 pm
In case you didn't know -- and chances are you didn't -- this weekend is Hockey Weekend in America. Mostly it's a name attached to a normal weekend of games, but dammit it's Patriotic and I'll be a son of a gun if Old Glory doesn't get me pumped up for anything.
The weekend showcase will be the triple-header early Sunday in what has become the spotlight game of the week now that football is in hibernation until the end of summer. Your choices -- OK, NBC's choices to show you based on where you live -- are Sharks at Red Wings (yes please!), Blues at Blackhawks (I'll take that) and Penguins at Sabres (hey, it looked good at the start of the season). It wraps with a game at 3 ET on NBC Sports Network as the Bruins visit the Wild.
With no slight to that Blues-Blackhawks game back in Chicago (home sweet home, eh 'Hawks?) the Sharks-Wings battle is the one to really watch. For if the Red Wings are still riding their record win streak into Sunday -- a mighty big "if" with the Predators visiting the Joe on Friday night -- then this will be the biggest threat to date.
There aren't many teams that can say this, but the Sharks have had Detroit's number recently. They are one of the few teams who have won in Detroit this season, doing so way back before Halloween. Go back to the beginning of last season and the Sharks are 9-4 vs. the Wings, including the playoffs. That includes five consecutive wins in regular-season matchups.
Must be coach Todd McLellan still knowing a secret or two to beating his old squad.
So while the bout in Motown might be the best from an action standpoint and as far as NHL history is concerned, I argue the more meaningful game is the one in the Windy City.
It was such a massive relief for the Blackhawks to finally end their losing streak that had peaked at nine games. Against the Rangers, no less. That's not like ending the skid against the Blue Jackets -- their final stop on this massive road trip Saturday -- it's the type of win that can really signify that things are alright. Taking down the best team in the league in their barn? Talk about a slumpbuster.
A return to home ice will be nice. Think about how you feel when you walk back in your front door after a vacation. Now think of how great that feeling is when you've had about the worst vacation you can imagine.
Then again, it's not so great when you have a house guest like St. Louis sitting on your porch awaiting for you to let them in. The good news is they aren't the type of guest who trashes your place, they're respectful that way. They are just 10-12-3 away from Scottrade Center.
Extended metaphor aside, there's no better time than now for the Blackhawks to regain their footing. That would put an end to the ridiculously stupid Patrick Kane trade suggestions and allow them to safely put space between them and the playoff chasers in the West.
One thing to consider: Face-off will be at 11:30 local time to accommodate NBC's time slot. That's an awfully early wakeup call after so long away from home.
Southeast showdown Part V
The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals will square off for the fifth time this season Friday night in Florida. Strangely enough, it's going to be the first time that Tomas Vokoun has started a game back in Sunrise, his former stomping grounds, and the first start against the Capitals period for Jose Theodore this season. It's a bit odd that the No. 1 goalies have only received two of the eight starts in this series so far this season.
It makes sense both starters get the nod on Friday. It's another massive night for these teams. If the Panthers can do what they have done twice already this season and beat the Caps at home, they'll move six points up on Washington in the division. That's a nice cushion when we're getting down to 25 games or fewer left this season. Not insurmountable, but nice.
This is the third time these two have met this month. The last meeting was a 4-0 whitewashing by the Capitals in D.C. Coach Dale Hunter referred to that as a playoff game before it began and the Caps make it look as such. Since? They're 1-3-1. By my count, that'd have them eliminated (from the mythical Feb. playoffs, folks).
The good news is that Mike Green might return for the Caps against the Panthers. He's stopped and started so many times this season you'd think he was driving on the Washington Beltway during morning rush hour.
There will be a lot of interesting things to watch for in the game, but one for me will be the intensity of the Caps. In their last visit to Florida, Karl Alzner explained away their poor start by the lack of energy in the building. A pretty soft excuse in a pivotal division matchup.
They can't afford to start slow again. The Panthers have been doing that a lot lately themselves and coach Kevin Dineen is determined to make that stop in such an important game.
Desert streaking dogs
Holy Coyotes that team is hot right now.
Perhaps it's been a push to help garner interest to keep them in Phoenix, I don't know, but the Coyotes have caught fire. Just when you were ready to bury them in the desert sand, they spring off a run like this. "This" would be six wins in the last seven games to get into the playoff seedings at the moment.
To further their standing in the, um, standings, they get their own pivotal matchup. The Dallas Stars, one of the plethora of teams on their heels outside of the playoff picture at the moment, come to the desert on Saturday night.
It's a classic "four-point game" for the teams battling in the West and Pacific Division. Here's hoping there's a better than normal crowd to watch it, should be close to a playoff atmosphere.
Keystone clash rekindled
The Flyers and Penguins will renew acquaintances again this weekend. It's the start of a stretch with a lot of meetings for the intrastate rivals.
It will be the first of four meetings for the teams from now until April 7, the final day of the season. No wonder the chirping between the fan bases has been mostly quiet this season, they have hardly met.
The importance here should be pretty clear. As of now they are jockeying back and forth -- and with New Jersey -- for that all-important fourth spot in the East, the only home-ice award that goes to a non-division winner. It's very possible that these four tilts, starting with the Saturday matinee, will decide that race.
Plus it's about that time of the season where the Flyers could really stand for Ilya Bryzgalov to heat up and carry some momentum into the postseason. He's back in action now after an illness and this is the type of game where it would be so big if he came up humangous big for the Flyers but unfortunately the kind we've come to expect a few bad goals this season.
Sibling rivalry renewed
Brothers Brent and Darryl Sutter this time get the undercard billing with another battle of teams at the bottom of the playoff picture out West.
After their own long road trip, you'd think coming home might be enough to jolt that putrid 2.07 goals per game number for the Kings. Well they were shut out by the Coyotes on Thursday night at Staples Center, so you can probably shoot that theory down. Fact is they haven't been able to score much anywhere, no matter if it's at home or not.
The way it stands going into the weekend, L.A. is clinging to the eighth spot out West and Calgary is right behind them. Pretty astonishing I think, but the Flames are still right there.
So you see, this one is about a lot more than a sibling rivalry.
We're going streaking!
Here are the streaks -- both good and bad -- headed into the weekend.
Red Wings: Considering they've been playing a lot at home recently and they have an NHL record win streak going, it's no surprise they've won four straight. Two toughies this weekend with Nashville and San Jose visiting.
Sabres: It keeps getting worse and worse. After seven unanswered goals against on Thursday, they now have a three-game skid. They have the Canadiens on Friday and Penguins on Sunday.
Capitals: Needing to go on a tear late like they have in recent seasons, the Caps are instead sputtering. They do the Florida double-header this weekend entering with a three-game slide.
Wild: Six-game skid ... and likely counting. A back-to-back at the Blues and vs. the Bruins doesn't figure to be the remedy. This weekend could all but officially bury their once promising playoff hopes.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Brent Sutter, Brian Stubits, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Dale Hunter, Dallas Stars, Darryl Sutter, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jose Theodore, Karl Alzner, Kevin Dineen, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Green, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Todd McLellan, Tomas Vokoun, Washington Capitals, Weekend Preview
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:26 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 2:32 pm
This is shaping up just like a Disney movie. They could call this one The Mighty Ducks. Oh, wait ...
Go back about two months and you'd find the Anaheim Ducks left for dead. They were playing the Columbus Blue Jackets with the loser taking the lead in the Fail for Nail (Yukupov, top draft prospect this year) race. That's how far in the dumps they were.
A look at the standings today after their 2-1 win in Pittsburgh Wednesday night reveals the Ducks are only six measly points out of a playoff position with 25 games to go. Meanwhile, they are now 17 points up on the Jackets, having passed six other teams on the way up.
It has people wondering if they can do the unthinkable, pull of a remarkable comeback and sneak into the playoffs. In looking at the bubble teams earlier this week, colleague Adam Gretz estimated the Ducks will roughly have to finish the season 20-6-0. That could possibly come down. Perhaps an 18-7-1 record could be enough. Those three fewer points make it seem a lot less daunting, don't they?
The point is, the odds are still long. But are they too long for the Ducks?
Remember how they finished last season, on a tear that took them to the playoffs and Corey Perry to the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Anaheim closed out the season going 15-5-0. Considering it's mostly the same group of guys just with their No. 1 goaltender actually on the ice this time, why couldn't they put together a similar record this year?
I don't have a good reason for you other than it would mean stretching this strong run out for much longer and the odds of a team staying that hot for that long aren't good. Then again, they did stay so cold for so long earlier this season.
With Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and the rest of the crew scoring goals again -- something they weren't doing earlier this season -- it's possible. When they are on, that's one of the most talented group of players you'll find in the game.
You'd think the road-heavy schedule might be the big obstacle, and it well could be. But right now they are halfway through an eight-game road trip and have picked up seven of the eight possible points so far.
If it happens that the Ducks do find themselves sneaking into the playoffs, I can't imagine there will be a team that would want that first-round matchup. Also, you can anticipate hearing some calls for Bruce Boudreau to win the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach. A turnaround like that would put him in the conversation with Ken Hitchcock, John Tortorella, Kevin Dineen and more. Imagine that, a coach winning the Jack Adams in the same season he was fired.
Personally, I wouldn't say Boudreau would be deserving of the Adams. No, I'd vote Bob Murray for general manager of the year over Florida's Dale Tallon. Remember, it wasn't the hiring of Boudreau that was the impetus for this surge, it was Murray threatening to trade everybody but Selanne and Saku Koivu. Talk about a kick in the pants.
I'm going to go out on the limb and say I think the Ducks will get it done and make the playoffs. Unfathomable two months ago, I'm going to say I'm one of the believers now. What's your call?
More from Eye on Hockey
Posted on: February 15, 2012 12:08 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 12:20 pm
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the playoff bubble and what the teams on it need to do to make the postseason
By: Adam Gretz
Recent hot streaks by the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning have sparked some playoff hope for their respective fan bases. On the other side, a recent slump that's come in the form of a 9-game losing streak has left some wondering if the Chicago Blackhawks could, amazingly, find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture when the regular season comes to a close.
Anything is possible, but even though there appears to be a large number of teams that are still "in" the playoff race, the harsh reality is that even a two or three-game deficit (four or six points in the standings) is a lot to overcome. It doesn't seem like it should be, but it is.
A couple of months ago I looked at how a slow start is extremely damaging to a teams playoff chances sooner than you might realize, and as the days of the regular season start to fall away those deficits become even more daunting. I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week that since the start of the '05-06 season there have only been two teams that managed to overcome a 5-point deficit this late in the season (the '06-07 Rangers and the '08-09 Blues) to qualify for the playoffs.
Ninety-five points is usually a safe bet to get your team into the playoffs, so with that in mind, let's take one more look at what each of the bubble teams will need to do over their remaining games to reach that level. Of course, it is possible for a team to make the playoffs with fewer than 95 points, and that may in fact happen this season, especially in the East, but I'm simply going with the number that tends to be a near automatic playoff berth.
Let's start with the Eastern Conference...
Incredibly, Washington and Winnipeg still have an outside shot (at this point, a very outside shot) at winning the Southeast Division, which speaks more to the quality (or lack of it) of the division than anything else, but that hope of a Division title gets smaller with each loss. Once you get past Washington in the No. 9 spot the remaining teams have almost no margin for error.
The Canadiens? Better start praying. The Islanders, for example, have been playing some pretty great hockey recently, especially veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, but does anybody believe they have a 17-4-5 finish in them?
Even if it only took 90 points to reach the playoffs, they would still need a 15-7-4 finish.
Now, a look at the Western Conference...
When you look at in terms of how many games these teams need to win the rest of the way, the playoff races may not be as deep as they appear to be. When you get right down to it, there might only be four teams (Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Calgary) in the West fighting for three playoff spots.
Minnesota would need to play almost as well as it did in October through December to get back into the top-eight, which shows just how far that team fell over the past month-and-a-half. After 30 games the Wild had the best record in the league. Just 26 games later they're going to need to play like the best team in hockey for the remainder of the season just to have a chance to make the playoffs.
Bruce Boudreau has certainly helped get Anaheim going back in the right direction, but he's going to need to turn water into wine to get Anaheim, as well as its played in recent weeks, into the playofs this season.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Tags: Adam Gretz, Anaheim Ducks, Bruce Boudreau, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Evgeni Nabokov, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, Pucks And Numbers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: February 13, 2012 10:04 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 10:08 am
By: Adam Gretz
Another potential trade target appears to have come off the market, as the Edmonton Oilers announced that the team and defenseman Andy Sutton have agreed to terms on a new contract. The contract is a one-year deal worth $1.5 million deal (with additional games played bonuses) according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, and will keep Sutton in Edmonton for another season.
He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and that status, as well as Edmonton's place near the bottom of the Western Conference standings led to the inevitable trade speculation.
In 33 games this season the 6-foot-6 defenseman has scored three goals to go with six assists, and is playing for his fourth team in the past three years, having also spent time with the Islanders, Senators and Ducks in recent seasons.
A physical presence on the blue line for Edmonton, Sutton has sometimes taken it a bit too far this season and has been suspended on two separate occassions for a total of 13 games. He received a five-game banishment back in October for elbowing Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, and then missed eight games in December for charging Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Sutton is currently in the final year of a two-year contract that pays him $2.12 million per season.
Sutton's re-signing with the Oilers comes just a couple of weeks after Carolina locked up Tim Gleason with a four-year deal.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 11:49 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 12:34 am
By: Adam Gretz
It didn't get quite as much attention as the goal-scoring drought that Montreal's Scott Gomez was riding, going a full calendar year without scoring, but Anaheim's George Parros entered Friday's game in Detroit without a goal since December 1 ... of 2010. Because Parros isn't one of the highest paid players in the league and playing in the hockey madhouse that is Montreal, his run of 84 regular season games (89 games if you include the playoffs) without a goal kind of slipped under the radar.
Also because he's known more for using his fists (and for having what is perhaps the best mustache in the league) than he is for scoring goals.
Still, that's a long time between goals and on Friday during Anaheim's 2-1 shootout loss to the Red Wings (a game that saw the Red Wings extend their home winning streak to 19 games) Parros finally found the back of the net, using his skate to re-direct a pass from Rod Pelley past Joey MacDonald. The play had to be reviewed to confirm that it wasn't a kicking motion (and it wasn't).
The role Parros plays for the Ducks is pretty easy to see when looking at his career numbers, and since his last goal he only played about six or seven minutes per night and had been involved in over 15 fights, racking up 170 penalty minutes while recording just 26 shots on goal.
His goal on Friday was the 17th of his career.
Also at Eye On Hockey
Gomez finally ends his goal drought
Gomez: by the numbers
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Posted on: February 10, 2012 1:30 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 3:43 pm
WASHINGTON -- Here we are in mid-February and the Winnipeg Jets are still lingering right there in the playoff picture, just outside the East's top eight (even closer to the Southeast Division lead). That's how crucial Thursday night's Houdini act was in Washington, to take two points from a game that was seemingly lost.
The next question becomes how they can follow that up?
Winnipeg finishes off a travel-heavy stretch this Saturday in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. It will be their eight road game in their last nine overall, a crucial stretch in their season that many thought would bury their playoff hopes. I admit, myself included.
Instead, they were given a golden opportunity with a lucky bounce to pick up some serious steam for a playoff push.
"We have a big game in Pittsburgh," forward Bryan Little said on Thursday after the 3-2 win in D.C. "If we get a couple points there it would be a great road trip for us."
And it would bring them some strong momentum into a home-heavy stretch they are about to hit.
"We've been playing well at home all season, so we'd be really pumped with that," Little said.
That's why the game against the Pens is so big. It would more or less signify that the win in Washington was a springboard to launch them into their homestand. But any sort of momentum gained from it is for the most part lost with a flat showing in the 'Burgh.
"We've won two in a row now," said Evander Kane, who has played two games since returning from a concussion. "We have to be able to put together strings together and long winning streaks because that's how you're going to make the playoffs."
That's the goal, obviously, bring the playoffs back to the 'Peg. Maybe the White out too. So what better way to head into a stretch where nine of their next 10 are at the friendly confines of MTS Centre than a win in Pittsburgh?
They'll be taking on a Penguins team that will get a lift courtesy of a returning player. No, not Sidney Crosby, but instead Jordan Staal. Coach Dan Bylsma announced on Friday that Staal will be back in the lineup after dealing with a nagging knee issue.
So it's up to you Jets, make that win in Washington really count.
What the Devil has gotten into them?
The New Jersey Devils aren't just hanging around in the playoff race like the Jets, they are climbing into the conversation for home-ice advantage in the first round.
In a rarity, the Devils actually lost in a shootout on Thursday night to the St. Louis Blues. It brought an end to New Jersey's five-game winning streak but extended their points streak to eight games.
The catalyst in the run has been not only the stellar play of Ilya Kovalchuk, but Zach Parise's outburst. With his name being talked about as a possibility in trade discussions, Parise has only shown why teams would love to have him -- including the Devils, of course. In the last six games he has six goals and two assists. Not too shabby.
In case you haven't checked the standings in a while -- here's our nifty Playoff Race -- the Devils have jumped over the Penguins for the time being in the Atlantic Division race and are just three points behind the Flyers.
You have to like the odds of their points streak being extended to nine on Saturday. That's when they'll play the Florida Panthers at the Rock, the fourth and final meeting between coach Peter DeBoer and his former team from Florida. Seeing how the Devils have looked strong in winning two of the three from the Cats and would have taken the other if not for a complete meltdown in the third period, it doesn't seem like this is the time they will be stopped in their tracks.
Add in Florida being 1-6-4 in its last 11 road games and, well, you can see where this is going.
It's high time the Blackhawks find themselves again. They are mired in a stretch that could be too difficult to overcome when it comes time for seeding in the Western Conference, especially if it continues.
In the midst of a nine-game road trip that still has five more stops to go, the Blackhawks are reeling. They've lost six in a row, picking up a point in only one of those losses. You wouldn't figure the next four games being in San Jose, at Phoenix, in Nashville then at the Rangers will make it much easier, particularly with the Sharks and Coyotes coming back-to-back this weekend.
It seems preposterous, but a couple more games and all of a sudden the Blackhawks are going to find themselves in a serious fight for a playoff spot period, let alone the seeding.
As big as the one Friday night in San Jose is, that game in Phoenix will be particularly big as the Coyotes have made a little surge in recent days and have climbed into the eighth spot in the West. It could pull Phoenix to within three points of Chicago if their skid continues.
Fifth time's the charm?
The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers will have their fifth of six meetings this season on Saturday in Philly, a little matinee.
Despite it being their fifth game of the series, it's actually the first that will be played at Wells Fargo Center. So maybe that will be what the Flyers need to get off the Rangers schneid. They have been on the losing end of all four games so far.
There likely won't be any Ilya Bryzgalov in net again, though. And that's not because he's being benched, enjoying some nice tea in his thermos. Instead, he's enjoying some tea in his thermos because he's ill and, you know, people suggest you drink tea.
Obviously it hasn't mattered who has been in net for the Flyers this season, they haven't been able to figure out the Rangers yet. A game like Saturday's is huge for confidence, if not the standings.
Oh, and if you like fights, this might be your game. Last weekend's matchup broke out into an MMA show.
It feels like we've had a lot of players hitting the 1,000 game milestone this season, doesn't it? On Thursday night Chris Neil of Ottawa celebrated entering four-digit territory. On Friday night it will be Tomas Holmstrom's turn.
The longtime Swedish Red Wings forward has obviously seen some good times in Detroit throughout his career. That tends to happen if you stay in a Wings uniform long enough. He'll be honored for that when the Ducks visit the Joe.
On the ice, this is actually quite the matchup. The Wings are still riding this ridiculous home winning streak, up to 18 games now. The Ducks, meanwhile, have come flying up from the basement and are now within eight points of a playoff spot in the West, still a long way to go but better than before. They are 11-2-2 in the last 15.
So don't be surprised if this is the team that's finally able to upset Detroit in Detroit and spoil the fun of Holmstrom's night.
We're going streaking!
Here is a look at the streaks -- both good and bad -- heading into the weekend.
Montreal Canadiens: Yes, that's right, the Habs are on a winning streak. They take a three-game run to their rivals in Toronto.
Vancouver Canucks: Remember when they were behind Minnesota in the Northwest? Me neither. They have a 15-point lead and carry a three-game win streak into Calgary on Saturday.
Coyotes: I said they've been on a run lately and that means they have a league-high four straight wins. Only Chicago awaits this weekend.
Blackhawks: See entry above: Six straight losses. Will they keep counting? Trips to San Jose and Phoenix on the docket.
Minnesota Wild: They have slipped out of the top eight in the West now having lost three consecutive games. A visit from Columbus is next on Saturday.
Ryan Miller: OK, I never put players on here, but Miller deserves a spot. The Sabres goalie has been much-maligned but he has turned a corner of late. He's on the run of his career. No, really. From Mike Harrington at the Buffalo News.
"Ryan Miller's 0.95 GAA and .969 save percentage over the last five games are the best in his career for any five-game stretch."
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Brian Stubits, Bryan Little, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Dan Bylsma, Detroit Red Wings, Evander Kane, Florida Panthers, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jordan Staal, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Peter DeBoer, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Miller, San Jose Sharks, Sergei Bobrovsky, Tomas Holmstrom, Vancouver Canucks, Weekend Preview, Winnipeg Jets, Zach Parise