Many hockey bloggers, fans and writers are aware of the fact that there’s a considerable gulf between the Western Conference and the East. Simply put, the West is a sturdier group even though they have to deal with more travel and other hurdles.
Still, I noticed something interesting when I was peering at each conference’s standings today: there is a clear division between the top four teams and the rest of the pack in both the West and the East. Let’s take a look at the seedings in a simplistic way to illustrate my point.
West top four: 1. Chicago (97 points); 2. Phoenix (97); 3. Vancouver (92); 4. San Jose (96). Next team(s): 5. Nashville (89); 6. Los Angeles (87).
East top four: 1. Washington (106); 2. Pittsburgh (98); 3. Buffalo (88); 4. New Jersey (88). Next team(s): Ottawa, Philadelphia and Montreal (79)
There are times when I feel like at least one of the top three in a conference gets there simply because they have a weak division to milk. That doesn’t really seem that way this year, even if Buffalo and Vancouver might be slightly less impressive than the fourth seeds in New Jersey and San Jose.
It could be that this scenario changes and there’s more playoff parity, but it’s been a while since there was a good chance that every single team with home ice advantage might also be the odds-on winner. Perhaps the “smart” teams are beginning to distance themselves from the herd now that the league has had a few years to adapt to the salary cap?
Feel free to share your feedback on this finding.
The Carolina Hurricanes probably can save a few ice buckets tonight, as the New York Islanders will be without winger Cal Clutterbuck.
The Isles announced that Clutterbuck won’t play on Saturday because of an illness. Their next game is against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, and then they don’t suit up again until Thursday, so Clutterbuck’s sickness may not be too much of a nuisance.
According to Yahoo’s numbers, the amusingly named forward has delivered 55 hits in 14 career games against the Canes (not to mention a solid five points).
Matt Martin‘s among the most frequent hitters in the league, too, so it’s not like the Hurricanes will leave tonight’s game totally unscathed.
Here are the Islanders’ tweaked forward lines:
If the Minnesota Wild want to make a coaching change, it sounds like Mike Yeo won’t make it easy for them by stepping down.
“I’m not freaking quitting here,” Yeo said to reporters including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.
It also sounds like Yeo realizes that Minnesota’s morbid losing streak – now at a worrisome eight games – may very well cost him his job.
The scene sounded pretty somber after today’s loss to the Boston Bruins, and not in your usual way.
Firing Yeo would be a big step for the Wild, even more than usual, as he began his coaching stint in 2011. GM Chuck Fletcher was hired in 2009, so the two have been attached at the hip since then.
(And they got to know each other well in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.)
Will one or both be gone, possibly in the near future? Even Yeo admits big changes can happen.
Wild players, meanwhile, just seem beaten down … and maybe ambivalent about Yeo?
Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for the Wild, they hit a new low.
Minnesota dropped an eighth straight decision in Saturday’s matinee against the Boston Bruins.
The Wild got behind the eight ball early.
Brad Marchand opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal at the 6:18 mark of the first period.
Thomas Vanek ended a 10-game goal drought to tie the game at two in the second period.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Bruins answered with goals by David Krejci, Loui Eriksson and Zdeno Chara.
Minnesota drops to 0-4 since GM Cliff Fletcher announced that coach Mike Yeo and his staff were safe.
Even the captain acknowledged that today’s effort wasn’t good enough:
The numbers aren’t pretty:
If they were to lose next Sunday’s Stadium Series game against Chicago, they would establish a new franchise record with their ninth straight loss on ice.
As bad as the Wild have been, they’re still in the thick of the playoff race.
Minnesota is three points behind Nashville for the final Wild Card spot in the West.
Laurent Brossoit will make his second career start in Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Brossoit will be between the pipes because starter Cam Talbot is ill and missed the morning skate.
The Oilers are hoping Brossoit isn’t as busy this time as he was in his first career start last year when he turned aside 49 shots in a 3-1 loss to San Jose.
“I’m a big believer in Brossoit,” said teammate Brandon Davidson, per the team’s website. “He’s done a great job. I played with him in the minors and he competes like no other. He’s tremendously athletic and he did a great job last year when he got the game too. He’s ready and I think he’ll show that tonight.”
The Jets will go with Ondrej Pavelec, who hasn’t played since Nov. 21 because of a knee injury.
–The Leafs have yet to announce their start. The Canucks haven’t named one either, but expect them to go with Ryan Miller.
—Craig Anderson will be between the pipes for Ottawa. The Blue Jackets will counter with Joonas Korpisalo.
–Like the Leafs and Canucks, the Islanders and Hurricanes have yet to announce their starting goaltenders. It could be Jaroslav Halak against Eddie Lack.
–Expect Pekka Rinne to get the start against the Panthers. Roberto Luongo, who was pulled on Friday, will be between the pipes for Florida.
—Braden Holtby will put his five-game winning streak on the line when Washington takes on Dallas. Kari Lehtonen will look to extend his winning streak to three games.
–The Ducks have yet to announce their start. The ‘Hawks will turn to Vezina Trophy candidate Corey Crawford.
—Louis Domingue will look to win his second straight game. Martin Jones will get the start for San Jose.