January 10, 2011
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire
season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to
one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to
complain about it.
At this point it's getting a little ridiculous.
Today is Jan. 10 and the Vancouver Canucks haven't lost a game in regulation since Dec. 5. Since that time, they've only lost three games, one of which was in a shootout. For a team that started the year taking six points from their first seven games, that's an incredible turnaround.
This is a team that's lost five games in regulation since the end of October, and three of those came in a row. They're on pace to pick up 120 points this year, and no one's gotten that many since Detroit in 2005-06.
So you might think that the Red Wings are uniquely positioned to stop them from winning the President's Trophy. They're only one point back of the Canucks (though they've played an extra game). They've picked up 100-plus points in each of the last 10 seasons and will almost certainly do it again.
But here's why the Wings, like the rest of the conference, can't catch the Canucks in the end.
(Coming Up: Sidney needs to stop complaining; Pierre McGuire could take over the Senators; Zdeno Chara's(notes) leadership lapse; Rick DiPietro's(notes) injury getting a little more dire; vintage Ovechkin; more crying about Rick Nash's(notes) non-calls; the Blackhawks struggle on the kill; in praise of Pacioretty; Dustin Byfuglien's(notes) gonna get paid; Panthers may keep Tomas Vokoun(notes); Brodeur starts; crazy Devils/Rangers/Penguins trade; and a new feature on WWL: This weekend's worst NHL Guardian superhero.)
Some might say the real stumbling block between Vancouver and a breezy jaunt to the best record through 82 games is its Downy-soft strength of schedule. To date, it's had the second-easiest set of games out of anyone in the West (oddly, behind Edmonton, which should tell you everything you need to know about how bad that team is).
As of Sunday, teams in the bottom half of the league had 47 points or fewer. Vancouver has played teams fitting this description 27 times in 41 games, piling up 19 of its 27 wins and 41 of its 60 points. That, of course, means that in the other 14 games, against teams in the top half of the league, the Canucks have gone just 8-3-3. That's a somewhat significant dropoff in points earned per game, from 1.52 to 1.36.
Not that 1.36 is bad at all, it's just not surefire President's Trophy stuff. And even that figure is buoyed by the Canucks' 4-0 record against Colorado (48 points), which also gets to play all the terrible Northwest teams.
It should also be noted that in the 12 games it's played against Northwest Division opponents, Vancouver has lost just once, and outscored those teams 45-24, a large part of the reason it's got the No. 1 goal differential in the league at plus-44 in 41 games. Tops in power play percentage and goals for per game. Fourth on the PK and in goals allowed per game. All very impressive. All anchored by playing in a division that is absolute garbage.
Problem is, no division in the West as bad as is the Northwest, and the Canucks have a lot of games left against those teams. Four each against Calgary and Minnesota, two each against Colorado and Edmonton. You can count on them picking up at least 16 points from that set. They can win 10 without even facing much resistance.
But the real reason the Canucks are going to win the League this year is that their remaining 41 games feature another 24 games against bottom-half teams.
Of those teams they've already played, they've taken 30 points from 21 games.
Luongo will still get great stats. The Sedins will still pile up points. Vigneault will continue to look like a genius. The back half of the season will likely feature more losses for Vancouver, but not many, and frankly, the final standings are still going to look like an absolute massacre.
Then the playoffs will start, every team will be good, and it'll be a whole different ballgame.
What We Learned
Boston Bruins: Know what a good captain does after a tough OT loss to his team's top rival, with the division lead on the line, and in which he was on the ice for all three goals against and got a 10-minute misconduct after it ended? Not talk to the media. Good work, Zdeno Chara. That's leadership.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are slowly improving, and they couldn't be happier. "It's huge, not only to cap off our first big road trip, and also we're back at .500 here," said Drew Stafford(notes), who is unaware that being 18-18-5 makes you five games under .500.
Calgary Flames: The Flames' senior players are aware of the possibility they may get traded in the near future as the team considers a rebuild, but you can probably bet no one even remotely good gets shipped outta town this season, because they're still operating under the laughable belief that they can make the playoffs.
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs scored twice in the opening 1:47 against the Islanders on Saturday, but then gave up three unanswered (all on the power play) before scoring with four seconds to go in regulation, then losing in overtime. Said Craig Anderson(notes) of the game-winner: "From what (backup goalie Peter Budaj(notes)) said, it hit our guy, off the crossbar and in. Not much you can do about that." No word yet on what you can do about the other three.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Break out the tissues for Scott Arniell again. "Boooooo hooooo Rick Nash gets so many penalties that go uncalled this is the worst league. *stamps feet, crosses arms* They need to give him star treatment too this is sooooo unfair ughhh." This is at least the 400th time this season he's given that exact speech.
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings like where they're at through 41 games. "We had a lot of people not picking us to do well," Todd Bertuzzi(notes) said, "and I think that's motivation for this team." Fun fact: Exactly one moron on the Puck Daddy staff (coughJustinBournecough) picked someone other than Detroit to win the division or finish outside the top 3 in the West. What is Bert talking about? Hell, what was BOURNE talking about?
Los Angeles Kings: Now that Jack Johnson(notes) is locked up for seven years at ridiculous money, Drew Doughty's(notes) gonna get bags of money dropped on his house from those planes that put out forest fires.
It was Montreal's first win of the year when they entered the third period with a deficit.
New Jersey Devils: Marty Brodeur got his first start in eight days yesterday. Jacques Lemaire said he was on the right track. That's because, by not playing, he could not continue to allow his GAA to balloon past 4.00.
New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro didn't play this weekend because he was in New York being evaluated by doctors. Shockingly, they now think his groin injury is somewhat serious. If you can believe it.
New York Rangers: The Rangers won a shootout against Dallas on Friday, and it let me find out a wonderful stat.
Ottawa Senators: A rumor I very, very badly hope is true: Pierre McGuire could be the next Sens GM. Not only would it be hilarious from an organizational standpoint, but it would also get him off TSN for a while. Win-win. Unless you're a Sens fan.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sid Crosby is doing nothing to dispel the notion that he will whine at the slightest provocation. Still bitching about the Steckel and Hedman hits. He shutting it down until he's symptom-free.
Oh he's on the Sharks? Ohhhh.
Tampa Bay Lightning: When Steve Yzerman took over as GM, he said fans could expect a slow but steady rebuild. Instead, the Bolts are 2nd in the Eastern Conference. So what gives? "There are nights where I go home and think, "You know, we've got a real good team here,'" Yzerman says. "And then you lose 8-1 and you wonder, 'Are you sure you know what you're doing?'"
Washington Capitals: Beauty, vintage Ovechkin goal.
He's gonna be doing a lot more of that in the near future, I figure.
Gold Star Award
Jack Johnson picked up three helpers and $30 mil this weekend. Gotta be happy with that, eh?
Minus of the Weekend
How's this for goaltender management:
Scott Craig Ramsay gives Ondrej
Pavelec(notes) the hook on Friday after about 33 minutes, then Chris Mason(notes) went in,
only to get pulled after five minutes or so. Then Pavelec played less than a
minute before being yanked in favor of Mason, who closed out the game. They
combined to allow nine goals on 34 shots.
That's a bit poor.
Play of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
This one from user "bernmeister" was tough to figure out, but I think I got it.
A top line for the Pens of Kovalchuk-Crosby-Gaborik? Love it.
This Weekend's, Worst NHL Guardian
(A new short-lived feature, obviously.)
This does make me wonder: if the Guardian is a wolf that stole like two-thirds of Iron Man's suit (it sure looks like one, yeah?), is the Wild's primary logo also a wolf? If so, why does it look like a bear? If the logo is a bear, then why is the Guardian a wolf?
This is so stupid.
Hello, Mr. Kerns. Me want money bad. Me sick.