March 22, 2010
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.
It's been a wacky couple of days at the top of the Western Conference.
San Jose can't stop giving up goals and has lost five straight. Chicago's in the same boat, conceding 22 goals in their last seven games and losing five of those.
Meanwhile, the league-subsidized Coyotes have stormed up the standings with nine straight wins. After last night's shootout victory over Dallas, they're a point up on San Jose (albeit with an extra game played) and tied with Chicago at the top of the conference with two extra games played. Many have tried to explain it away as San Jose getting their annual chokejob done early, or the Blackhawks' questionable goaltending situation finally catching up with them.
But I see now what it really is.
No one wants to play the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs.
(Coming Up: Selanne's 600th goal; Brent Sutter's bad call; the Thrashers' push for the playoffs; Bryzgalov's Vezina creds; Patrik Berlund gets dumped; Patrice Bergeron(notes), Boston Enforcer; Freddy's nightmarish hit; Mike Smith's(notes) robbery; the Kovalchuk Rental era through the first 15 games; Ovechkin's triumphant return; and how the Rangers can acquire both Lecavalier and Stamkos.)
At the same time the top three teams in the West have jockeyed for position, Detroit has been solidifying its playoff chances with eight wins from its last 11 games and Calgary, the only other competition for the eight-seed, doing everything possible to give the last playoff spot away.
But it's not just that the Wings have been winning, it's how they've been winning. In a March Madness weekend full of upsets and last-second shots, the Red Wings have been netting a couple buzzer-beaters of their own. Brian Rafalski's(notes) tying goal with 0.4 seconds to go in regulation stole a point in Edmonton on Friday, and Henrik Zetterberg's(notes) game-winner the next night in Vancouver came with 0.3 to go in overtime.
The way this team is stealing points, it looks like they're finally back to Unstoppable Red Wings Mode. Zetterberg has 12 points in the10 games since the end of the Olympic break. Pavel Datsyuk(notes) has 11. Tomas Holmstrom(notes) has nine. Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) both have eight. Valtteri Filppula(notes) has seven.
In other words, the guys that have been around for a while are finally healthy and pulling their weight. And keep this in mind as well: they're in Unstoppable Red Wings Mode with competent goaltending.
Who knows how high they can climb now? Sixth doesn't seem out of reach for these guys. The way things are going, I'd be looking to clear out of the top three spots in the West altogether if I could, so I applaud the Sharks for doing just that with this run of meek performances that includes last night's 5-1 loss to Edmonton.
This is a brilliant move by the Sharks and Chicago. It takes real veteran playoff experience to recognize a matchup problem several weeks before the playoffs even start.
Let the Coyotes win the West. They won't know what hit ‘em.
What We Learned
No one else playing right now is going to reach that number for a good long time.
Boston Bruins: Mark Stuart(notes) got absolutely clobbered from behind by Vinny Prospal(notes), but one thing is refreshing: Patrice Bergeron took off after Prospal immediately and he was pissed off. Good to see someone cares.
Chicago Blackhawks: Brent Sopel(notes) didn't have such a good game against the Coyotes on Saturday. Fifth Feather explains: "Sopel was on the ice for three of the four Coyotes' goals in regulation, and was sitting in the box for the other." Ouch.
Columbus Blue Jackets: When the only team below you in the conference standings is the Oilers, I guess you gotta take your victories where you can get ‘em. Said Claude Noel: "The players made a huge statement to themselves and each other. It had the feel of a playoff game and we dug down and played right up with them. It was our second game in two nights, but it looked like it was Nashville's." Oh yeah they lost 1-0 in OT.
Dallas Stars: Goals like this one from Mike Ribeiro(notes) don't usually make highlight packages but I think they're swell. Good hard work on the forecheck and a nice little pass-and-finish to get the goal.
Detroit Red Wings: Another reason to avoid the Red Wings: they scored twice in five seconds against the Canucks on Saturday.
Edmonton Oilers: After Devan Dubnyk(notes) lost, I think, the first 410 games of his career, he's now won two in a row with those wins coming against the Red Wings in a shootout and then the Sharks last night. Quipped Double-D: "I don't remember what was so hard about it."
Los Angeles Kings: LA beat the Isles 1-0 on Saturday. It was their 36th one-goal game of the season. They've won 22 of those. Last year they won 20 of 43. The difference there is reflected in the standings.
Minnesota Wild: Gotta hand it to the Wild. They may not be good at hockey, but they are some tough hombres. An abridged injury report shows Greg Zanon(notes) has a broken ankle, Chuck Kobasew(notes) has a sprained ACL and MCL and Josh Harding(notes) has a hip injury. They all played Sunday against Calgary.
New Jersey Devils: Here's an in-depth analysis of the Kovalchuk Rental era through the first 15 games. Basically, it's a lot of very interesting and thoughtful words saying he's been good but not great.
New York Rangers: Man I'd hate to be a Ranger fan after that mailed-in game against Boston yesterday afternoon. Between the Rangers and Bruins, I'd say neither team wants or deserves to make the playoffs.
Philadelphia Flyers: "I don't know if we just thought that since it's the Atlanta Thrashers it was going to be an easy game," said Mike Richards(notes) after his team lost back-to-back games against the Thrashers and conceded eight goals, scored three and pretty much looked like garbage.
San Jose Sharks: Well hey, sure you lost to Edmonton by four goals, but at least Scott Nichol(notes) didn't end up getting knocked on his ass in a fight against Mike Comrie(notes)-Duff. Oh he did? Ouch.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Even if the Leafs aren't going to make the playoffs, at least they're getting better as the season goes on, which is a good sign for a young team. And with all those high draft picks coming in it'll... ohhh right. Sorry.
Play of the Weekend
Gold Star Award
Teemu Selanne is pretty good at hockey.
Minus of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
Okay so user "NYRfan11" has a good trade that he thinks works out just fine.
It is a rock, though. Should beat everything.