Remember how last week I wrote about Toronto’s 6-game losing streak? Well, about that; it’s now a 10-game losing streak. The highlight of their past 10 games was that their loss to the Devils this past week was in overtime, so they at least got one point. The other nine games were all in regulation. If I were the mayor of Toronto, I’d invest in a vigorous mental health campaign for the city. Aside from the woeful Maple Leafs, there’s been action at the top of both conferences, so let’s discuss:
The Eastern Conference
The east is led by a Tampa Bay team that had won 5 of 6 going into St. Louis and lost a tough overtime game to the admittedly excellent Blues. The Lightning, along with the Habs and Red Wings, make up the top 3 teams in the Atlantic and all have better records than the top 3 in the Metropolitan. This can be credited to two factors: the insanity that is Detroit right now, having won 10 of 12; and the collapsing New York Islanders, who have been outscored 13-5 in their last three games, all of which were losses.
The Bruins have helped shore up their playoff foothold and are making a play to escape 8th having won 8 of 10, including registering key wins against the Rangers, Islanders and Lightning. The Penguins and Capitals have both had a rough stretch, going 4-4-2 in their past 10, of which the Penguins seem worse off; in Pittsburgh’s last three games, they’ve been outscored 10-1 including two different 4-0 shutouts.
There’s little else to note in the East, except for the first win the Buffalo Sabers have gotten since December 27th, which came against the 2nd place Habs. If I didn’t despise the Habs with every fiber of my being, I might feel sorry for them.
The Western Conference
In the Preds-Maple Leafs game this week, Carter Hutton of the Preds- the replacement for Pekka Rinne- made what many analysts are calling the best save of the year. Watch it here and watch it now.
The Predators did well to shut out the Penguins 4-0 and have moved into the top spot in the Central, also holding the best win percentage in the NHL. They received some help though; the Blackhawks are a painful 4-6-0 in their last 10 games and the Jets punctuated last week’s 5-game win streak with this week’s 5-game losing streak. The result is a 2-point spread between 5th and 8th in the Western Conference. Expect movement up and down the ladder.
In terms of upward mobility, however, nobody can touch the white-hot Blues. St. Louis won 5 in a row to start the new year, lost one in overtime, then won 6 more, which is their current streak. I’ll restate that: the Blues have 23 points in 12 games. As a hockey fan, those numbers shock and confuse me. I didn’t think hockey teams were allowed to be that good. Their sudden rise has taken them into a 70-point second place in the Central Division.
The Pacific Division is almost as boring as the Metropolitan. The Anaheim Ducks lead it with their 72 points, tied with Nashville for the league most, and then there’s an 11-point drop-off to San Jose. Either the division stinks, which is why Anaheim has such a great record, or the division has to play Anaheim, which is why the division isn’t doing very well.
Games to watch
Anaheim plays at Nashville tonight at 8, which will determine the leader in the West and is a de facto battle for the “strongest team in the NHL” moniker. I think if Hutton holds his form, then the Preds will eke out a win.
Also interesting is this upcoming Sunday’s Habs-Bruins matchup, which always seems to be good fun. The Habs have lost 2 in a row, and the Bruins have won 2 in a row. Given that the match is in Boston, I think the Bruins win and with it, escape 8th place. Montreal will suffer in the standings for the loss as Detroit attempts to squeeze past them.
That’s all the hockey I’ve got for you this week. You stay classy, Georgetown.
Photo Credit- Bruce Fedyck – USA TODAY Sports