Your weekly shot of hockey to go with your coffee
First of all, welcome to the NHL: Vegas Golden Knights! Excited to see how a 31st team affects both scheduling and the landscape of the league. The expansion draft may be in “must-watch TV” territory. Making this a quick one this week as I’m in the midst of an extremely busy day. We may have seen a reversal in trends for some teams as we hit the first quarter mark. Let’s get it to it.
Hottest Team: Ottawa Senators (29 Pts, #2 Atlantic, 7-2-1 in Last 10 Games)
Ottawa sits at an even goal differential on the season coming into today: 51 goals for, 51 goals against. That makes the Sens one of the worst offenses and one of the best defenses in hockey. The brick wall approach has worked very, very well for Ottawa as they are emerging as a legit threat in the Atlantic Division.
Runner Up: Nashville Predators (23 Pts) — The Preds have made Nashville “Smashville” again as they’re 8-1-1 at home. This could be a high point for the Preds, however, as they are terrible on the road.
Other Runner Up: The Pacific Division — Last week, I had both the Oilers and Sharks in the Cold Teams section. San Jose won three games last week and Edmonton gained five points. LA and Anaheim are both playing above .500 puck right now as well.
Coldest Team: New York Islanders (16 Pts, #8 Metropolitan, 2-4-4 in Last 10 Games)
The Isles could have been a darkhorse contender for an Eastern Conference Wild Card spot but things are unraveling quickly in Brooklyn, primarily steaming from a nearly non-existent offense.
Runner Up: Buffalo Sabres (19 Pts) — The worst offense in the NHL. The Sabres are really missing former #2 pick Jack Eichel. Rumor has it, he may be returning this week. The hole for last may be pretty deep for Buffalo, but Eichel makes the team watchable.
Other Runner Up: Boston Bruins (24 Pts) — Not necessarily one of the coldest teams, but Boston is an intriguing case. Tuukka Rask is having a great season in net for the Bruins but the offense isn’t there to support him. For you baseball fans, think David Price in his final couple seasons with the Rays. Rask is doing everything to stop the puck and is putting up nearly league-leading numbers, just no goal-support.
What to Watch For This Week:
At least one interesting matchup each night this week. Tonight features the Stars visiting the Blues in a potential playoff matchup although Dallas needs to right the ship to make that happen. Tuesday sees the Canadiens in Anaheim in a darkhorse Stanley Cup Final preview. Carey Price will have his work cut out for him against the Ducks’ deep forwards-group. The late game on NBCSN is actually a rivalry as the Sharks head south to faceoff with the Kings. Both teams are heating up as they begin the second quarter of the season and if you can stay up for it, this game shouldn’t disappoint. Tampa Bay will be in St. Louis for the Blues’ second home game of the week. Both teams feature explosive offenses and great goaltending so this could be high-scoring. The Habs’ West Coast swing continues Friday night in San Jose. Carey Price at the Shark is a must-watch matchup. Finally Saturday features two great showdowns: Washington at Tampa Bay as well as Anaheim at Edmonton. Both games will be great previews for probable playoff matchups.
A 2-2 week is to be expected out of the last week’s schedule. Frankly, I was surprised the Flyers almost pulled off the comeback against the Rangers on Black Friday. Congrats to Anthony Stolarz on his first NHL win last night in his first NHL game against the Flames. The Flyers have looked solid but still have issues with the front of the net; they leave the goalie all alone. It really surprises me because the Flyers score a lot of those garbage-collecting rebounds but can’t do it on their defensive end. This week should be intriguing as the Flyers host Boston Tuesday night, travel to Ottawa Thursday, host Chicago Saturday afternoon, and finally travel to Nashville on Sunday.
Disagree? Let me know in the comments
(cover photo via)