Tag:Chicago Blackhawks
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:01 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Hockey Weekend in America

Hossa and the 'Hawks are about ready to return home. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Weekend schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

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

Unlike the last time the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings met, this one won't be about the coaches. Very much, at least.

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.

Anaheim Ducks: In the midst of an eight-game road trip, the Ducks have run off three in a row. They head to the Southeast now and face the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers.

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.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 15, 2012 6:53 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 6:54 pm
 

Roenick OK if Blackhawks trade Kane for goalie

Kane is a three-time All-Star at age 23. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Chicago Blackhawks are in one serious tailspin. They have lost nine games in a row. Heck, coach Joel Quenneville and the goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery just got a vote of confidence. That's never a good sign. If a GM has to do that, then you know things aren't going well.

It has people thinking that the Blackhawks need to go out at the trade deadline and find some help for their defense or possibly even the goaltending.

Former Blackhawks star and current NHL analyst Jeremy Roenick is in the group that sees a serious need to upgrade the goaltending. Seriously upgrade the goaltending, as in somebody that would be worth trading Patrick Kane. Seriously.

Check out what J.R. had to say to ESPN Chicago.

"Everybody knows I am a huge Patrick Kane fan, but when you're talking something of this nature, is Patrick Kane dealable? As much as I don't want to say it, they can afford to get rid of Patrick Kane," Roenick said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "They can afford to -- with the season he's having -- maybe with his off-ice reputation, maybe with the skill they have on their team -- it's doable.

"Do I like it? No, because I love Patrick Kane. He is one of the most talented and one of the best players in the NHL. But if you really want a top-end goaltender you're going to have to give up somebody."

OK, playing along for a minute here, let's pretend that the Blackhawks do consider trading Kane for goaltending. We'll just have some fun here. Who could they get? First team that jumps to mind for me is Vancouver and Cory Schneider, but I just can't see those two teams making a swap like that with their animosity.

In the East the Bruins have two goalies but with Tim Thomas' age, you wouldn't think they'd be keen on getting rid of Tuukka Rask.

What about a favorite trading partner of Chicago lately, the Florida Panthers? They have who many call the best goaltending prospect in the league in Jacob Markstrom and some stellar young defensemen in the organization. Of course Panthers GM Dale Tallon knows Kane well and he is certainly young enough to fit into Tallon's long-term visions.

Even still, from Florida's perspective, I don't know if even Kane would be enough to part with Markstrom.

But that's all suspending our disbelief. It was fun for a few paragraphs but back in reality there's no way the Blackhawks are trading Kane for goaltending right now.

This slump right now in Chicago is bad, but it's not THAT bad.

More from Eye On Hockey

Quenneville, goalies get vote of confidence
Updating NHL Trade Deadline Rumor Mill

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 15, 2012 12:08 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 12:20 pm
 

A look at the NHL playoff bubble

Can the Islanders pull off a miracle run? (Getty Images)

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...

Eastern Conference Playoff Race
Seed Team Games Remaining Pts Needed Record Needed
7 Ottawa Senators 23 29 13-7-3
8 Toronto Maple Leafs 25 33 15-7-3
9 Washington Capitals 26 34 15-7-4
10 Winnipeg Jets 25 37 17-5-3
11 New York Islanders 26 39 17-4-5
12 Montreal Canadiens 25 40 18-3-4
13 Tampa Bay Lightning 26 41 18-3-5
14 Buffalo Sabres 26 41 18-3-5

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...

Western Conference Playoff Race
Seed Team Games Remaining Pts Needed Record Needed
6 Chicago Blackhawks 25 30 15-10-0
7 Los Angeles Kings 25 30 15-10-0
8 Phoenix Coyotes 25 32 15-8-2
9 Calgary Flames 25 33 15-7-3
10 Colorado Avalanche 25 35 16-6-3
11 Dallas Stars 26 36 17-7-2
12 Minnesota Wild 26 37 17-6-3
13 Anaheim Ducks 26 40 20-6-0

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.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 10:11 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 10:41 pm
 

Wings set new record with 21 straight home wins

RedWingsBy: Adam Gretz

With their 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night the Detroit Red Wings made NHL history, setting a new mark (and one that looks like it will continue to grow based on the way they're playing) by winning their 21st consecutive home game, breaking the record that had previously been owned by the 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers and 1929-30 Boston Bruins.

It's an incredible streak, and shows just how much the Red Wings have dominated their opponents at Joe Louis Arena this season, pushing their home record to 24-2-1. They haven't lost a home game since dropping a 4-1 decision to the Calgary Flames on November 3. The only other losses at home this season were against  Minnesota (a 2-1 shootout loss on November 1) and San Jose (a 4-2 loss on October 28).

What makes it so amazing isn't just the number of wins, but also the manner in which many of them have been achieved.



Some quick facts on the current streak:

-- The Red Wings have outscored the 21 teams they've knocked off by a total margin (as of Tuesday) of 87-31.

-- 10 of the wins have been by a margin of three goals or more. Three of the wins have been shutouts, five involved the Red Wings giving up just one goal, and only two saw them give up more than two. No team has scored more than three goals against them.

-- In typical Red Wings fashion, they have completely controlled puck possession and have out-shot their opponents by an average margin of 32.8 to 25.4 on a nightly basis.

-- And, finally, yes, three of the wins did come by way of the shootout.

My Eye On Hockey colleague, Brian Stubits, rattled a few cages by pointing this fact out on Sunday night when the Red Wings tied the record with a win over the Flyers.

You can put whatever level of significance on that fact that you choose (you can put an asterisk next to it, or you can ignore it, it doesn't really matter), but there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing it out, and it doesn't mean that by doing so that you can still can't marvel at the record -- because it is darn impressive, and worthy of being celebrated.

But these events from one era to another don't take place in a vacuum. The league that the 2011-12 Red Wings play in is vastly different from the league that the 1975-76 Flyers played in, for a number of reasons. It might as well not even be the same sport when compared to the league that the 1929-30 Bruins played (In 1929, for example, there were still limitations on when you could advance the puck with a forward pass). You wouldn't look at a 30-goal scorer in today's NHL the same way that you look at a 30-goal scorer in, say, the 1980s, because it's a completely different era with different rules and a different style of play.

None of this makes one streak better or worse than the other as all three teams had advantages and disadvantges when compared to the others, but it's still worth mentioning the differences. You have to (well, you should, anyway) take everything into account when comparing teams and players from different eras.

No matter how you look at the streak, the Red Wings are setting themselves up to be the favorites to take the Western Conference. After Tuesday's game they sit on top of the West (and the NHL, for that matter) with 80 points, and still have seven of their next 10 games on home ice where, again, they've only lost three games this season, and only two in regulation.

The schedule does get a bit tougher as they have upcoming games with Nashville, San Jose, Vancouver and Chicago at home, but that hasn't really mattered much this season, as nearly every team that's entered Joe Louis Arena has left in defeat, regardless of record.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 13, 2012 6:06 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 6:58 pm
 

Blackhawks coach, goalies get vote of confidence

Quenneville led the 'Hawks to the Stanley Cup two seasons ago. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

Times have gotten rough for the Chicago Blackhawks, real rough. Like no wins in their last eight games rough.

It has led to some speculation that head coach Joel Quenneville's job could be in jeopardy. Imagine that, a team that's still in playoff position firing its coach not even two years after winning a Stanley Cup? Hey, sports are a "what have you done for me lately" business and lately Quenneville's team hasn't done much for anybody other than give opponents points.

Well GM Stan Bowman is trying to put an end to it. He came out with that ol' vote of confidence on Monday, from CSN Chicago.

"That's not the concern for me at all. I'm very confident in Joel's ability, our coaching staff's ability. Our players - the effort is there. They're as frustrated as anybody, you can watch it on the ice. It's not working. There's no disputing that, but I don't buy that assertion (that Quenneville's message is lost) at all. These players are on board with us. They believe in this group (of coaches). We're not far. We need to get this turned around, but we're not far from making it work."

When I asked if Joel's "the guy," Bowman responded, "Absolutely."

So, is Quenneville's heat hotter than Hades now? We know how often that vote of confidence goes well for the person they are confident in.

Call me crazy, but this is one of those times where I actually do believe Bowman. Unless the Blackhawks go eight more games without winning, I have a hunch that Quenneville has a job through this season, at the least.

So who should be feeling the heat for this skid, the goaltenders? After all, Ray Emery has a 2.81 goals against average and .901 save percentage ... and his numbers beat starter Corey Crawford (2.99, .898).

Nope, they are safe too, according to Bowman.

"We're not focused on goaltending. We're really not," Bowman said. "I know there's a lot of talk about that, but internally, we have to focus on the guys we have, and turning it around from within."

Does that mean the Blackhawks will be a completely stand pat team at the deadline at the end of this month? Are there no moves for them to make?

Well, it's still likely that they will look to upgrade the defensive corps. It's been an issue all season long and they could use some reinforcements back there. Of course, there are a lot of teams who want to find some quality defensemen and not a whole of them to be found, especially after Andy Sutton just re-signed with the Oilers.

More from Eye on Hockey

Trade deadline rumor mill

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 12, 2012 3:35 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2012 6:32 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Callahan, Rangers keep rolling

Callahan had four goals in the Blueshirts' two weekend wins. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

At this point I'm wondering what the New York Rangers have to do to convince everybody they are this good. I'm already there but I still find a lot of skeptics.

They do everything well enough. Some things they do exceptionally well, like stop pucks from going in the net. You can thank Henrik Lundqvist for that largely, but it's a team effort. There might not be a tougher team to get shots through the defensemen than the Rangers. They are physical, evidenced by their league high fighting majors. Now they are scoring just enough to support Lundqvist.

And they have passed pretty much every test thrown at them this season, including this weekend. Back-to-back against the Flyers and Capitals? No problem. They took all four points possible, including a fifth win in five chances against Philly on Saturday, 5-2 at Wells Fargo Center. That featured a Ryan Callahan hat trick.

Captain Cally kept it up with the first goal of the Blueshirts' 3-1 win on Sunday over the Caps. Go back to Thursday night win over the Lightning and that's five goals for Callahan in his last three games.

To give it a little more significance with a much larger sample size, Dave Lozo of NHL.com did some quick math today: using Callahan's last 113 games, he has averaged 32 goals per 82 games, a full season's worth. Not bad for a guy who has a career high of 23 set last season (which he is one away from breaking this season).

That doesn't even factor in the shots that he blocks. He is the epitome of John Tortorella's Rangers: hard-nosed, two-way player who will throw his body in front of anything and give the team all he has. Basically he has all the intangibles you love in a player while actually possessing many of the tangibles, too.

If you have any doubt, check out the goal he scored on Sunday. It was ugly but beautiful all at the same time.

At this point, the Rangers are atop the NHL standings in points (depending on Sunday's result in Detroit). Even if they aren't there at the end of the day, their points percentage is tops in the league. They have 77 points in 54 games, the Wings have played two more games (three more by the end of the night.

New York is actually pulling away from the rest of the East in the race for home-ice throughout the conference playoffs. They are up seven points now on the Boston Bruins.

The thing that gets me was on display this weekend. They have been just as good on the road as they have been at Madison Square Garden. They won both games this weekend despite one being in Philadelphia. Overall, they are 18-6-2 at MSG, 18-7-3 away from it. That's pretty remarkable. Winning on the road is crucial, especially when it comes to postseason success.

It all has people dreaming of the summer of 1994 again, another summer parade down Broadway.

Personally, I've run out of reasons to think it can't happen.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories
More Eye on Hockey

Blackhawks (falling) down

While they aren't pressing it yet, I get the sense that a lot of Blackhawks fans are digging through their things looking for that big red button. No, I don't mean the tchotchke Staples easy button.

With a sweep on their weekend visits to San Jose and Phoenix, including a 3-0 blanking by the Coyotes on Saturday night, the Blackhawks have lost eight consecutive games. Eight! They have earned just one of the last 16 points available.

Their place in the Central Division race is all but gone. They trail the division-leading Red Wings by 11 points. With two teams in between them (the Blues and Predators) the hope of winning the division is all but gone, especially with the Wings not leaving Detroit often for the rest of the season.

More importantly, they have to watch their playoff spot. With the loss to Phoenix, the 'Hawks are only three points up on eighth place, five ahead of ninth-place Calgary. And that could diminish further as the Blackhawks still have three more games on this extended road trip.

Playing a little game I'll call fun with Twitter, the Eye on Hockey account (follow it here!) asked if this was the bottom for the Blackhawks, if they had really hit the floor yet. One fan -- @therudeinshrewd -- didn't think so. "No, something tells me the #blackhawks haven't bottomed out yet. i think the road trip will be winless. THAT will be bottom."

It's gotten to the point that Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times is wondering if coach Joel Quenneville's seat isn't hot. The defense has some serious issues, coming in 27th in the league in goals against per game with an even 3.00. Their goal differential is down to plus-3 thanks to their high goals for (174 to 171).

This can't be too far from the bottom you'd figure with a team that has this type of talent, but it's getting close to desperate in Chicago.

Just give him the Hart

Evgeni Malkin has been absurd -- in a good way -- for the Pittsburgh Penguins, especially in the past two months.

For the third time since Dec. 17, Geno had himself a five-point game this weekend in Pittsburgh's 8 -5 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. Unlike the previous two five-pointers, this one didn't come with a hat trick. He was in a much more giving mood this time scoring a goal with four assists.

The outburst gave him a little separation from the points pack as he moved five up on Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux with 67.

But considering the injuries the Penguins are dealing with again this season and their position of still being solidly in the East's playoff picture, Malkin is separating himself from the rest of the Hart candidates, too. Barring injury, it seems a safe bet that he'll take the "MVP" award home -- unless the aforementioned Lundqvist doesn't take it.

While we're at it ...

Might as well just hand Stamkos the Richard Trophy now too.

Scoring is down in the NHL, colleague Adam Gretz explained that in his most recent edition of Pucks & Numbers (a must-read weekly piece, hockey fans), yet Stamkos isn't stopping.

The 22-year-old is now up to 37 on the season after potting one in a 2-1 Lightning win in Buffalo on Saturday. That puts him seven ahead of Malkin and Phil Kessel in the goals department, a very comfortable lead with less than 30 games to go.

Like Malkin and the Hart, it's really hard to imagine at this point that Stamkos won't win the Richard barring injury.

Goals not so plentiful here

The Los Angeles Kings might be solely responsible for bringing down the league's scoring total mentioned above. Even with the coaching change from Terry Murray to Darryl Sutter, the Kings are still at the bottom of the league in that category, averaging just 2.07 goals per game.

That ineptitude was on display at the Islanders on Saturday. For the second straight game on their current road trip the Kings scored only one goal. The good news for them is that the Islanders only scored one goal in the first 60 minutes too before winning it in OT. So at least the Kings got a point.

But when you are fighting hard for a playoff berth in the Western Conference, scoring one goal in games isn't going to help you get to your end. The Kings are right now holding onto the seventh spot in the West after their league-high (tied with Florida and Carolina) 11th OT loss this season. Those extra points will be awfully important at season's end.

You have to think the Kings will be one of the more aggressive teams in the hunt for that elusive scoring forward at the trade deadline.

Quote of the weekend

For the visually/audio impaired ...

"I'm a little disappointed at the effort, the emotional level, a top team in the conference and league and to be honest. We got half the guys going and half not.

"That was my opinion. You might see differently, but that is what I saw. It’s a big game for us and I was expecting more. It was tight game, they got three power play goals, we didn’t score any.

"They play the same way every night. There's no surprises and if there is a breakdown their goalie makes the save and they block a ton of shots. Somehow they get the job done. They work hard. They play the same system every night and their goal plays really well every night.

"You have to bring it every night. I don't care who you are ... Every game matters. You have to bring it!"

-- Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen (from CSN Philly) on Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Rangers.

Sounds like those five losses to the Rangers this season (seven in a row) are really starting to take their toll.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 10, 2012 1:30 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 3:43 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Jets look to carry 'mo' to Pitt

Winnipeg is only three points behind Florida and Washington in the Southeast. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

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.

Chicago blues

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.

Mr. 1,000

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."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 9, 2012 11:30 am
 

Ranking the Winter Classic venues

By Brian Stubits

The next edition of the Winter Classic will be held at one of college football's most iconic sites, the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. It's the first time the Classic will be held on a college campus. Previously, three have been held at baseball stadiums and two at NFL stadiums (but to be fair, a college team is a tenant at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field).

The annual outdoor game has seen some of the best sites to host a game in just a short existence. Here's this author's humble ranking of the venues the NHL has picked so far.

Heinz had a prime time look. (Getty Images)

6. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh (2011)

The weather was uncooperative as it was rainy and mild. While it did add a neat effect, the game had to be delayed to the night time as well.

But Heinz Field just doesn't have a whole lot going for it on the appearance side. It's just another nice football stadium, really. Not much to create a setting.

I would have loved to see the game at the Pirates' PNC Park, with downtown Pittsburgh just across the river in the background including the Roberto Clemente Bridge. That is one of if not the best view in baseball from a stadium.

Citizen's Bank Park was rocking in Philly. (Getty Images)

5. Citizen's Bank Park, Philadelphia (2012)

Some lamented that Citizen's Bank was just another cookie-cutter baseball stadium for the game, it doesn't have a ton that makes it unique or characteristic. It doesn't have a true flavor.

Still, after delaying the game a couple of hours the weather played along. There was even snow. Although it only came during an intermission, it was a great site to see.

The stadium does have a little visual appeal going for it in that downtown Philly is beyond the centerfield wall, but it's so far away it doesn't feel like you can reach out and touch it like you could in, say, PNC Park.

Buffalo put on the inaugural American outdoor show. (Getty Images)

4. Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo (2008)

The best thing the Bills' stadium had going for it was the snow globe effect. The wind was whipping and the flurries falling, making for a pretty awesome site.

But much like Heinz, there isn't a whole lot that is visually appealing about the stadium itself. It gets a little extra credit for being the first stadium and in a truly cold city like Buffalo.

I think if it weren't the first game and not snowing the way it was, it would be the most forgettable.

The Big House will have a record crowd. (Getty Images)

3. Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor (2013)

Maybe it's just because I like college football too, but the Big House makes for a pretty great setting.

There isn't anything you can see from the stadium. It's just a massive bowl that is completely enclosed. But I expect the pageantry of college football and the stadium itself will come out. The college campus just adds a cool element to me.

With that said, I can't imagine it will be good for the fans at the game. The seats go up slowly in the bowl, they aren't steep. I can't imagine there will be many good seats for seeing the action.

The Green Monster had a monster presence. (Getty Images)

2. Fenway Park, Boston (2010)

The Green Monster? The Pesky Pole? A relatively small and history-laden stadium? Those are all some great ingredients.

Plus, you know, they got to blast Neil Diamond and sing along. I don't ever really see how that can be a problem.

Boston was a good host and Fenway is a great stadium to take in a game, of any sport. You could just see Carlton Fisk still willing that ball fair while the players sported the eye black. I just loved the shots like the one above with the Monster in the background.

Wrigley's charm was impossible to escape. (Getty Images)

1. Wrigley Field, Chicago (2009)

Was there any doubt? This was as good as it will probably ever get, I think. What can really top it?

Wrigley is as classic as the game of baseball. The ivy on the outfield walls the signature sign, but the rooftop bleachers and city of Chicago in the distance? Just a perfect setting.

While it's cheating a little, the jerseys they were wearing added to the appeal of the game for me. They were by far the best sweaters to appear in a Winter Classic so far.

The stadium on the North Side of Chicago had everything to make for a great Classic.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com