Hockey Roundup: THE NHL IS BACK! What to Watch For Down the Stretch

Your daily shot of hockey to go with your coffee
February 26th, 2014

The NHL is BACK! After an Olympic Break that saw Canada take Gold, we return to the Pros with about 22-25 games left on each team’s schedule. Last night, the Hurricanes and the Sabres played the first post-Olympic game with Ryan Miller suiting up a little over 24 hours after returning from Sochi himself. Miller was able to pull out the win on 36 saves and picking up 2 assists in a 3-2 win. The more concerning stat was Carolina’s goalie Cam Ward’s play: 15 saves on 18 shots. Both Miller and Ward have been in trade talks. Miller’s play boosts his value, especially playing for Buffalo, but Ward’s play depreciates his value. The trade deadline is Tuesday.

The deadline is of the main things to watch for in the final quarter of the season. A lot of rumors have been flying around all over the place. For me to provide you links to all of these rumors would take days. Anyhow, the NHL trade deadline is usually one of the less exciting deadlines of the major four sports but this year could be the busiest we’ve seen in a long time. Other stuff to watch for:

-The Eastern Conference’s Wild Card Race: The divisional races are all but wrapped up, especially in the Metropolitan, but the wild card race is hot right now. The 2-3-4 spots in both divisions can flip-flop at anytime and extend that to spots 2 through 7 in the Met.
-Phil Kessel: Yes, I could easily say T.J. Oshie will be the most-watched player by the general hockey fan and his play down the stretch on the Blues will be crucial. Here’s the thing about the USA’s leading scorer in Sochi: Kessel is second in the NHL in goals right now. He has 31 to Ovi’s 40 but Alex the Great went on a serious cold snap for the month before and during the Olympics. Kessel is one of many keys to the Leafs making the playoffs (currently in 4th) and could possibly overtake Ovechkin in the goals race. America.
-Marc-Andre Fleury: The Pens goalie is 31-13-2 with a 91.9 save percentage currently. While Pittsburgh is 9-2-1 without him, showing he isn’t the keystone of their defense, his play will be the key to a deep run in the playoffs, especially if they run into a defensive like the Bruins again. Also, as much as it pains me to say it, his helmet in Saturday’s Stadium Series Game in Chicago is pretty cool
-Thomas Vanek’s trade destination: John Tavares’ injury pretty much sealed the already assumed rumors. Round and round Vanek goes, where he stops, nobody knows… yet.

GAMES TONIGHT:

Four games tonight as seven more teams return to action: Bruins @ Sabres at 7:30, Red Wings @ Canadiens at 7:30, Kings @ Avalanche at 10, Blues @ Canucks at 10:30. I’m 67-63 on the season right now, let’s see how I do down the stretch. Bruins over Sabres: It’s tough to see Buffalo win two in a row, especially when one of those games is against the Bruins. Canadiens over Red Wings: Carey Price continues to be hot. The Wings will have a tough time adjusting to being without their captain. Kings over Avs: the Kings aren’t good on the road and the Avs are good at home. The Kings want to stop any possibility of the Coyotes catching up to them in the Pacific’s automatic births. LA went 2-8 in the 10 games before the break so the turnaround begins NOW. Blues over Canucks: T.J. Oshie made you realize the Blues have some good players, now the team (maybe the closest “team” in the league) will show you how good they are. Vancouver doesn’t have the offensive firepower to match the Western Conference’s best defense.

One thought on “Hockey Roundup: THE NHL IS BACK! What to Watch For Down the Stretch

  1. Pingback: Hockey Roundup: The First Full Night of Action Around the League | The THUNDERBLOG

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