We’ve reached the one-quarter pole in the NHL’s regular season with just two of Canada’s six teams in a playoff position.
The good: Calgary’s Jarome Iginla(notes) finds his scoring touch in a big way. Montreal’s Carey Price(notes) adds another shutout to his league-best total. And Ottawa’s Alexei Kovalev makes history as a rare Russian to record 1,000 points.
The ugly: Vancouver wanted to make a statement against Chicago, but instead had their lunch handed to them.
Here’s a look at how the NHL’s Canadian teams fared last week – and a look ahead to what’s in store on the weekend.
The Week That Was: A prairie rose between two thorns. Or in Calgary’s case, a satisfying 7-2 thrashing of the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks squeezed between a pair of three-game losing streaks. First, the good news: Jarome Iginla is scoring again. The Flames’ power forward had a hat trick against Chicago, followed up with two goals and an assist in a 5-4 overtime loss to Detroit and then provided Calgary’s lone tally in a 2-1 defeat in New York against the Rangers. Defenceman Anton Babchuk(notes) and winger Tom Kostopoulos(notes), obtained from Carolina in the Ian White(notes) trade, made their Flames debut against Chicago. The bad news: Calgary let Detroit tie the game with three seconds remaining, and watched Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) deke Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) less than two minutes into the extra frame, erasing any good feelings left over from the win over Chicago. A 2-1 shootout loss at New Jersey capped the week, but at least it included the silver lining of a stellar performance by backup goalie Henrik Karlsson(notes). Olli Jokinen(notes) returned from a three-game suspension – for cross-checking Phoenix’s Wojtek Wolski(notes) in the back of the head – against the Devils.
The Weekend That Will Be: The Flames are in Quaker country with a Friday afternoon tilt at Philadelphia and a Saturday night game at Pittsburgh.
The Week That Was:Two wins in three games is about as hot as it gets in Edmonton these days, so the Oilers will take it. A 4-3 shootout loss against Phoenix last Friday was a low point; the Oilers led 3-0 midway through the game only to see the Coyotes tie it up with 35 seconds remaining. The end result was a sixth consecutive loss. But backup goalie Devan Dubnyk(notes), getting some regular starts with No. 1 Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) on the shelf (groin), made 38 saves as Edmonton downed Anaheim 4-2 on Sunday. A 5-0 loss in Phoenix on Tuesday was described by coach Tom Renney thusly: “It’s a joke. An absolute travesty.” The Oilers bench boss had to be happier after Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Colorado, a game in which Taylor Hall(notes) scored the game-winner with 31 seconds remaining. It was Hall’s second goal in three games and fifth on the season.
The Weekend That Will Be: The Oilers host the Sharks on Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday evening. Edmonton is looking for its first two-game winning streak since winning its first two contests of the season.
The Week That Was: The Canadiens continue to chug along, winning at a Northeast Division-best pace. Carey Price made 30 saves in a 2-0 shutout of the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday for his fourth whitewash of the season. Not bad, especially considering that price didn’t register a single shutout last season. The game against Toronto began with an emotional tribute to Pat Burns, the former coach of both the Habs and Leafs, who succumbed to cancer last Friday. Montreal blew a 2-0 lead in Philadelphia on Monday – Maxim Lapierre(notes) had both goals – in a 3-2 defeat that didn’t sit well with coach Jacques Martin. Montreal rebounded with a convincing 4-1 victory over visiting Los Angeles on Wednesday. Lars Eller(notes), obtained in the Jaroslav Halak(notes) trade, scored his first NHL goal against the Kings, while Price recorded his 13th win of the season – the same number of victories he had in all of 2009-10.
The Weekend That Will Be: The Habs visit Atlanta on Friday night and host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday..
The Week That Was:Three goals against in 86 seconds versus St. Louis last Friday led to a third consecutive loss for the Senators. Ottawa pulled out of the tailspin with a 3-2 win over visiting Los Angeles on Monday, as Alex Kovalev(notes) scored a power-play marker for his 1,000th career NHL point. Kovalev is the 76th player to record 1,000 points – and the third Russian to achieve the feat, following in the footsteps of comrades Sergei Fedorov(notes) and Alex Mogilny. Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson(notes) hit the 1,000-point plateau a month ago. Goalie Pascal Leclaire(notes), on the sidelines for nearly two weeks nursing a sore groin, returned to action against the Kings, making 28 saves for the win. Leclaire caused a scare when he was hurt in practice on Tuesday, but he was back in net for Wednesday’s game versus Dallas, making 24 stops in a 2-1 loss.
The Weekend That Will Be: Ottawa faced off against Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon, and then hosts the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The Week That Was: The Leafs split a pair of games last week, giving Toronto three wins in its past four outings. A good effort went for naught in a 2-0 loss at Montreal last Saturday; backup Jonas Gustavsson(notes) made 36 saves, but was only the second-best goalie in the game after Montreal’s Carey Price. Leafs starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere (groin) remains sidelined, but could be back in action early next week. In other injury news, captain Dion Phaneuf (cut leg) could return to practice next week. Nikolai Kulemin(notes) scored a pair of goals against Dallas on Monday – Kulemin’s only other two-goal game came against the Stars last season – and rookie Nazem Kadri(notes) picked up another assists, his fourth in five games since being recalled from the AHL.
The Weekend That Will Be: The Leafs hit the road for a pair of divisional games, visiting Buffalo on Friday and Ottawa on Saturday.
The Week That Was:Despite returning home after a five-game road trip, the week began on a bad note when the visiting Blackhawks – the Canucks’ biggest rival after consecutive playoff showdowns in 2008 and ’09 – blew out Vancouver 7-1 on Saturday night. Roberto Luongo(notes) was yanked after giving up four goals on 10 shots in the second period, and the Canucks trailed 7-0 until Mikael Samuelsson’s(notes) late power-play goal in the third period. It wasn’t pretty, and definitely wasn’t the kind of showing Vancouver wanted against their arch-nemesis in the West. Vancouver dropped its fourth in a row when ex-Canuck Taylor Pyatt(notes) scored twice for Phoenix in a 3-2 decision on Sunday. The Canucks got back on track with a 4-2 win over Colorado on Wednesday as Ryan Kesler’s(notes) 100th career goal stood up as the game-winner.
The Weekend That Will Be: Vancouver hosts San Jose on Saturday night.