You’ve got to like what you’re seeing if you cheer for the Montreal Canadiens or Vancouver Canucks, while Maple Leafs fans suffer through another bout of oh-no-here-we-go-again. Ottawa is finding its stride, while the roller-coaster ride continues in Calgary. And Edmonton? Well, the Oilers are back in last place, but at least there’s hope in northern Alberta this year.
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: The Flames lost their fourth in a row when they fell 2-1 in Minnesota last Friday; the game against the Wild kicked off a nine-of-11-games-on-the-road stretch that is vital if Calgary wants to hang around the playoff race in the West. A 4-2 victory in Colorado on Tuesday – David Moss(notes) snapped a 2-2 tie late in the third period with his first goal of the season – stabilizes things for the moment, but is it the start of something good or just a blip in the schedule? Whatever the case, the Flames need Jarome Iginla(notes) to find his comfort zone. Calgary’s captain has had slow starts before, but Iginla is really struggling right now; he hasn’t scored in six games and has just two goals in 14 outings this season.
The Weekend That Will Be: Back-to-back road games – in Phoenix on Friday and at San Jose on Saturday – means it won’t come easy for Calgary.
The Week That Was: It’s getting cold in Edmonton. The last-place Oilers lost 3-1 to visiting Detroit on Friday for Edmonton’s eighth loss in nine games. A 2-1 win at Chicago on Sunday – to begin a five-game road trip – came as welcome relief, with Kurtis Foster(notes) and Sam Gagner(notes) scoring 14 seconds apart in the third period to provide the margin of victory. But the good vibes didn’t last very long, as the Oilers skated into Carolina on Tuesday and fell behind 2-0 before the game was barely a minute old. Edmonton trailed 4-0 after 20 minutes in an eventual 7-1 drubbing against the team that beat the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup final (which just happens to be the last time Edmonton saw the postseason). Rookies Taylor Hall(notes) and Jordan Eberle(notes), who represent the lion’s share of the team’s future, were benched in the third period. It didn’t get any better in Detroit on Thursday, with the Wings stomping the Oilers 6-2 as center Shawn Horcoff(notes) missed his second consecutive game due to injury.
The Weekend That Will Be: It’s the “Battle for the Basement” as Edmonton visits New Jersey on Friday in a tilt between the East’s and West’s worst. The Oilers conclude the weekend with a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
The Week That Was: They’re not booing Carey Price(notes) in Montreal anymore. They’re cheering him – and with good reason. Price won three of four starts last week to help the Habs secure their first-place standing in the Northeast Division, stopping 126 of 132 shots in the process. The Canadiens beat the slumping Sabres 3-2 in Buffalo last Friday, lost to visiting Ottawa 3-2 on Saturday, blanked the streaking Canucks 2-0 on Tuesday and dumped rival Boston 3-1 on Thursday. Defenseman Andrei Markov(notes) collected his first goal of the season against Vancouver, while rookie blueliner PK Subban(notes) scored his first career goal against the Bruins. But back to Price’s six goals against on 132 shots; remember that Jaroslav Halak(notes) guy? He was yanked out of the Blues’ net on Wednesday after giving up four goals on 15 shots. Perhaps the Habs were correct after all: Price is right.
The Weekend That Will Be: The Canadiens go for their third consecutive victory when they host the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
The Week That Was: The Senators ran their winning streak to four games before getting run over themselves, 6-2 by the visiting Canucks on Thursday. Previously, Ottawa nipped Montreal 3-2 last Saturday, led by ex-Hab Alexei Kovalev’s two-goal effort, and followed up with a 5-2 win over Atlanta on Tuesday as Jason Spezza(notes) scored twice and added an assist. Brian Elliott(notes) made his 11th consecutive start in the game against the Thrashers – and maybe he should’ve started a dirty dozen. Pascal Leclaire(notes), making his first start in four weeks after pulling his groin on Oct. 14, surrendered all six goals against Vancouver. The silver lining against the Canucks was Kovalev collecting point No. 998.
The Week That Was:Seven straight losses. One win in their past 11 games. A boisterous, confident captain who’s sidelined for a month. (Of course, the cynics might say that’s good news after Dion Phaneuf’s(notes) play started to fall off.) A sniper who suddenly can’t score. Heck, a whole team who suddenly can’t score. That 4-0-0 start seems like a lifetime ago for Leafs fans, some of whom got what they were asking for when Toronto called up top prospect Nazem Kadri(notes) from the minors on Friday. The heartbreaker was a 3-2 shootout loss to Buffalo last Friday; the Sabres’ Tyler Ennis(notes) tied the game with 13 seconds left, and scored the post-OT winner. The Leafs had a thoroughly unsatisfying swing through Florida, losing 4-0 to Tampa Bay on Tuesday – falling behind 3-0 in the first period – and 4-1 to the Panthers on Wednesday. Phil Kessel(notes) hasn’t recorded a point in seven games and the Leafs’ power play is 3-for-40 in the past 10 games.
The Weekend That Will Be: The good news is, the Leafs have some winnable games on the horizon. OK, maybe not this Saturday’s contest against the visiting Canucks, but Toronto gets a crack at Nashville and New Jersey next week. Hold on, Leafs fans, hold on.
The Week That Was: And with a 6-4 win over Detroit last Saturday, the Canucks stretched their winning streak to six games. Manny Malhotra(notes), signed in the summer for his defense and two-way play, had two goals and an assist, while the contest marked the return of Rick Rypien(notes) from a six-game suspension for grabbing a Wild fan by the jersey a couple weeks ago. Vancouver began a five-game road trip by being blanked 2-0 by Price’s Habs on Tuesday, but rebounded with a big 6-2 win in Ottawa on Thursday. The victory over the Sens was the 300th of coach Alain Vigneault’s career, a win that was aided by Alex Burrows’ first goal of the season as well as a two-goal night by breakout underwear model Ryan Kesler. Rypien, meanwhile, dropped the gloves twice in the second period, fighting Ottawa’s Matt Carkner(notes) and Chris Neil(notes). That’s gonna leave a mark.
The Weekend That Will Be: Vancouver visits Toronto on Saturday in a matchup of two teams on opposite ends of the NHL spectrum.