Your weekly shot of hockey to go with your coffee
Missed last week thanks to a busy week at work. Mondays can be the most up and down day but you already knew that. We’ve had some movers both upwards and downwards in the past two weeks. I have some thoughts about a few of those teams. Let’s get it to it.
Hottest Team: Columbus Blue Jackets (22 Pts, #4 Metropolitan, 8-1-1 in Last 10 Games)
CBJ is actually 10-2-2 since starting 0-2 and it seemed like John Tortorella was doomed as the head coach of the Blue Jackets. Since then, Columbus has beaten some the NHL’s best very convincingly. CBJ demolished the Habs 10-0 at the beginning of the month, 8-4 over the Blues last Saturday and have taken down the Caps twice and the Rangers in their last three games. Sergei Bobrovski has been electric in net while the offense has now moved into the second highest goals per game in the league. The only question is how long will it last? The East is full of tough teams so it’s hard to think CBJ will keep this up for the rest of the season.
Runner Up: Chicago Blackhawks (28 Pts) — The other redhot team in the league, the Blackhawks are five points up on the Blues as the rest of the Central is falling to .500.
Other Runner Up: Tampa Bay Lightning (25 Pts) — The Lightning’s offense is starting to launch; they’re third in the league in total goals scored behind the Rangers and the Flyers with a better-on-paper defense than NYR (and way better than the Flyers’ defense).
STREAKING PLAYERS: Andrei Vasielevskiy (G, TB), Mark Scheifele & Patrik Laine (F, WPG), Sidney Crosby (F, PIT)
Coldest Start: Detroit Red Wings (17 Pts, #7 Atlantic, 2-7-1 in Last 10 Games)
Detroit was the runner-up here after losing five-straight games, they’re now on a four-game losing streak. Jimmy Howard is still playing well for Detroit but he can’t get any scoring help which never gets the job done.
Runner Up: Edmonton Oilers (21 Pts) — For those new to the Roundup, I usually try to include a contender in the “Cold” section and a pretender in the “Hot” section just to mix things up. Edmonton actually won last night thanks to a Connor McDavid hat-trick (first of his career!) but worth noting that the Oilers 3-6-1 over their last ten games are now tied with LA and Anaheim for first in the Pacific.
Other Runner Up: San Jose Sharks (19 Pts) — Similar to Edmonton, San Jose is only two points off of first in the division but the sudden cool off is something to be aware of. We see a lot of good teams drop off in the late-November/early-December period of the season and some don’t pull themselves out of this hole. Last year’s runner-ups better be aware before it’s too late. San Jose plays their next five games at home so let’s see how that goes.
The League announced changes to All Star voting in regards to the John Scott incident last year. Effectively, the rule change states that if a player has been sent down to the AHL anytime between now and January 26th or wasn’t on an NHL roster on November 1st, then that player is not eligible to be voted as a division captain, which is what happened to Scott. I think fan votes should be done away with, especially given the four-team 3-on-3 format. The fans voting only four spots makes it possible for ridiculous stuff like John Scott happening. Even with this rule making it so an NHL/AHL swing man isn’t voted in, fans could find some way to ridicule the process. The more important news of the week: The Las Vegas Hockey Team will be unveiling their name and logo tomorrow! It’ll be a big moment not just for hockey’s 31st franchise, but the league as well. As the first major sports league to enter the Las Vegas market, the NHL will likely do a lot to make sure the team thrives. Tomorrow should be an exciting day!
What to Watch For This Week:
Tonight has three fantastic matchups: Rangers at Penguins, Lightning at Predators, Blackhawks at Oilers. All three feature marquee players and are matchups that no one would mind watching a full seven-game playoff series of. The Preds and Lightning were some experts’ Finals pick so it’ll be a game to keep your eye on. The Rangers and Penguins will likely be the second round series in the Metropolitan (“The Metropolitan Division Finals” if you will). The Rangers have a red-hot offense while the Penguins defense has been great in front a fantastic sophomore goaltender in Matt Murray. The Blackhawks are have been a perennial Western Conference Finals contender for years while the Oilers look like they could enter a
nother dynasty of their own in the years to come. Wednesday takes most of the scheduling load this week thanks to Thanksgiving but we’ll see the Rangers and Pens complete the head-and-home in New York as well as Blackhawks at Sharks. Friday sees a heavy loading of day games because of Black Friday and most people having a day off. Once again, the Rangers and Flyers play in NBC’s Thanksgiving Showdown at 1pm. I’ve gone to this in the past when the Flyers would host the Capitals, it’s a fun hockey game to be at mainly due to the Wells Fargo Center crew taking the festivities so seriously. Saturday features two intriguing matchups: Caps at Maple Leafs and Ducks at Sharks. Ovi versus Auston Matthews is something any hockey fan would want to indulge in without much introduction. The Ducks and Sharks are both in interesting spots in another weird year for the Pacific division. Anaheim is a poor road team while San Jose is great at the Sharktank, but as I mentioned above, they’ve been struggling as of late.
I said this numerous times last season: “The 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers will leave me with a heart attack by the time this season ends.” Well it is time to start saying it again. The team has scored the second-most goals in the league but has allowed the most. No lead is safe. I joked about that with my friends on Thursday at the Jets game but I was still legitimately worried when the Flyers were up 2-0. Mason hasn’t been too well and Neuvirth was non-existent before he got hurt but the defensemen have been very spotty. The D-Core is dynamic on the offense side of the ice but can struggle on defense and the forwards get stretched out to the point that Mason has almost zero help. The good news is that a shaky November/December isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Flyers and sitting at 8-8-3 though nearly 20 games isn’t an impossible hole to dig out of. My hope is the offense can keep it going, Voracek and WayneTrain have returned to leading the team’s goal-scoring, but the defense gets its act together. Most likely, we’ll see the high scoring on both sides die down a bit but Mason has looked better recently and Anthony Stolarz will likely make his debut this week after being called up with a 6-2 record and .927 save percentage at Lehigh Valley. Given all of this, hopefully the goal differential turns green. The Flyers hit the road before Thanksgiving for a quick Florida swing as they’re in Miami Tuesday night against the Panthers and in Tampa Bay Wednesday night on NBCSN. Friday is the Thanksgiving Showdown at home against the Rangers while Sunday features a rare Sunday night home game against Calgary.
Disagree? Let me know in the comments
(cover photo via)