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.
Goalie issues continue in Boston.
With both starting netminder Tuukka Rask and back-up Anton Khudobin both out of the lineup due to injury, Malcolm Subban was recalled from the AHL and given the start Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild.
But Subban, making his second career NHL start, allowed three goals on 16 shots and was pulled from the crease, giving way to his AHL teammate and fellow emergency recall Zane McIntyre.
Minnesota scored three times in the span of 5:29, which resulted in an early exit for Subban, the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Subban’s lone NHL start didn’t go well, either. He gave up three goals on six shots in 31 minutes.
For those Maple Leafs fans who once hoped Steven Stamkos would go to free agency and sign in Toronto, what transpired Tuesday will probably sting for a bit.
Playing in Toronto for the first time since he re-signed with the Lightning, opting not to test the open market and potentially signing with what is essentially his hometown team, Stamkos scored 1:19 into the contest, after getting sent in alone and beating goalie Frederik Andersen.
That one might hurt.
There was even a smattering of boos directed at Stamkos, who has never played a game for the Leafs, when he first touched the puck during Tuesday’s contest.
You’ll recall that last season, the Stamkos-to-Toronto speculation dominated headlines at times. A bit of a “circus,” indeed.
There were even ‘Sign Stamkos’ signs being handed out to fans prior to a game between the Lightning and Maple Leafs last season.
All signs pointed to it happening earlier in the day, but it is now official: Sidney Crosby is making his 2016-17 debut on Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Florida Panthers.
Crosby, the captain of the Penguins and the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, missed the first six games of the season due to a concussion. He was injured during practice following the World Cup of Hockey where he led Canada to a championship. Given how much time he missed a few years ago with a concussion only missing six games a positive development for both him and the Penguins.
Crosby will open the game skating on the Penguins’ top line alongside wingers Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson.
Along with Crosby return to the lineup, goaltender Matt Murray is also in uniform for the Penguins for the first time this season and will serve as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup.
Murray, who took over the starting job in the playoffs last year when Fleury was sidelined at the start of the first round, was injured at the World Cup while playing for Team North America and has been sidelined since.
Even with the return of Crosby and Murray on Tuesday the Penguins are still missing a pretty significant player as defenseman Kris Letang remains sidelined with an upper body injury.
The Buffalo Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. This match-up features two teams off to slow starts and looking to work their way up the standings in their respective divisions.
You can check out the action on NBCSN or the NBC Sports’ Live Extra (7:30 pm ET).
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR
NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks
Bylsma: ‘We need to get more’ out of Reinhart