The outlook for the 'rest' of the West

redwingsthrash.jpgEarlier this evening I discussed the five Eastern Conference teams who are battling for the last three playoff spots. The Western Conference has a similar situation in its bottom playoff ranks, although those teams are notably stronger. (Also, Calgary is the only squad with a realistic chance to make the four Western underdogs sweat for a playoff spot)

Much like that last post, I’ll break down each team’s advantages, upcoming schedule and how well they’ve been playing lately. Just to be friendly, I’ll even throw in the long shot Flames for good measure. The teams are listed in order of current (9:50 pm ET) playoff position.

Nashville

Notes: The Predators have the most wins among the five teams (43). They have played 76 games, though, so they may risk being leapfrogged by Detroit and Los Angeles. Current points: 92

Thoughts on their schedule: They have a fairly reasonable schedule: three games at home and three on the road with one back-to-back set of games. They will also have one game against Detroit and one against Los Angeles, so they can “control their destiny” to some point.

Streak: Hot. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and even had a six game winning streak recently. The team just won’t take “snore” for an answer.

Detroit

Notes: Have you ever seen that moment in “The Thing” (the awesome ’80s version that is) in which everyone is having their blood tested to see who isn’t human? I think that Chicago, San Jose and Vancouver are encountering similar emotions when considering the possibility of a first round tilt with Detroit. Then again, I guess losing in the first round of the playoffs isn’t as bad as dealing with … this (warning: ridiculous horror movie gore in that video).

Current points: 91

Thoughts on their schedule: The Red Wings face a relatively easy schedule, with two games against Columbus, one against Edmonton and four out of seven at home.

Streak: Red Hot. Since March 11, the Red Wings collected a staggering 17 out of 18 possible points. They are currently on 5 game winning streak.

The rest on the other West lower seed hopefuls can be found after the jump.


avskings.jpgLos Angeles

Notes: The Kings are sliding quite a bit right now, but they have a fairly safe lead over the Flames. We’ll have to wait and see if they can keep the seventh seed from Colorado; who knows, though, they’re not that far behind Nashville and Detroit either. Current points: 90

Thoughts on their schedule: The Kings have four out of eight games on the road with two back-to-backs. They play once in Nashville and once in Colorado. Despite some tough patches, they get two games against Anaheim (not a cakewalk but the Ducks are struggling), one against Edmonton and one against Minnesota. I’d say that is a nice amount of “winnable” games.

Streak: Cold. They’ve lost three in a row and have generally been looking a little out of sorts lately. You have to wonder if they’re wearing Jonathan Quick out since he rarely gets more than one game off per month.

Colorado

Notes: The Avalanche are running into their own issues of possibly over-extending a starting goalie. They’ve leaned heavily on Craig Anderson all year and you have to wonder if the first-time No. 1 can handle such a huge workload. He’s played all but one game since January 9, 2009.

Current points: 89

Thoughts on their schedule: It’s a mixed bag. The good news is that they are playing five of their last seven games in Colorado. The bad news is that they will play against powerhouse teams like San Jose, Vancouver and Chicago.

Streak: Lukewarm. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and lost four of their last five.

Calgary

Notes: The Flames’ playoff hopes are on life support right now. They only have six games left this year and are four points behind eighth-seed Colorado.

Thoughts on their schedule: While the road/home split is even at 3 of six for both, they play 5 playoff caliber teams plus Minnesota to finish the year. That’s not good at all.

Streak: Their last ten games’ record is 5-5. That record might be a microcosm for Calgary’s entire season; it’s just been a series of frustrations for the Flames. 

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    Lightning will retire Vincent Lecavalier’s number on February 10

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Monday morning that they will be retiring Vincent Lecavalier’s No. 4 this season, making sure that no other player will ever wear it for the franchise.

    His jersey will be lifted to the rafters on Feb. 10 when the Lightning host the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings were one of three teams Lecavalier played for in his career, along with the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “It is a great honor to have my number retired and I’d like to thank the Lightning organization and Jeff Vinik for recognizing me with this achievement,” Lecavalier said in a team statement. “The Tampa Bay community and our fans have treated me and my family so amazingly that this honor is extra special to share it with everyone. My family and I are very excited for February 10 when we can share so many memories.”

    Lecavalier was the No. 1 overall pick by the Lightning in 19xx and spent 14 of his 17 seasons in the NHL with the team.

    He is currently the franchise’s all-time leader in games played and goals and the second-leading point producer. He will be the second player to have his number retired by the team, joining Martin St. Louis.

    Lecavalier and St. Louis helped lead the Lightning to a Stanley Cup during the 2003-04 season. His best individual season was probably the 2006-07 season when he finished with a league-leading 52 goals.

    The Rocket’s slowest assist: Maurice Richard gets point 72 years later

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    MONTREAL (AP) Montreal Canadiens great Maurice “Rocket” Richard is getting an assist added to his career totals.

    Six years of poring over scoresheets and summaries of games between 1917 and 1987 by an NHL statistics team has found and fixed more than 6,000 bits of information that were overlooked or miscounted in the league’s early eras.

    Among the finds was an assist on Toe Blake’s goal at 10:15 of the second period of the Canadiens’ 6-5 loss to the Boston Bruins on Nov. 4, 1945, during a time when the Punch Line of Richard, Blake and Elmer Lach was dominant.

    The scoresheet that night, scratched out in handwriting, correctly had Richard with the lone assist. But when it was transcribed into the league’s official ledger, it was mistakenly given to Emile Bouchard.

    The restored assist gives Richard 422 in an 18-year career that ended in 1960, and his points total climbs to 966. For the 1945-46 season, one year after he made history as the first to score 50 goals in a season, he now has 27 goals and 22 assists. The new totals are already entered in Richard’s stats on NHL.com.

    It’s a good thing it wasn’t a goal, because Richard’s then-record career total of 544 has become an iconic number. A big deal is often made when an NHL star scores his 544th, such as when Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin did it at Montreal on Jan. 10.

    In the early 1960s, Richard owned a bar called the 544/9 Tavern, a reference to his goals total and retired jersey number.

    Since 1999, the league awards the Richard Trophy to the season’s leading goal-scorer.

    Finding little gems of information like the Richard assist was one product of a massive undertaking to update and modernize the league database, which is to be re-launched this week.

    NHL head statistician Benny Ercolani said fact-checking alone, such as adding one more game played to Ron Stackhouse’s total, took 2 1/2 years.

    “Six thousand little corrections isn’t that high when you consider how many games were entered,” he said. “It sounds like a big number, but it’s from 1917-18 to 1986-87.”

    Sometimes power-play or short-handed goals weren’t registered as such. Rules changes added to the muddle. In the league’s earliest days, minor penalties lasted 3 minutes instead of 2. There were years when up to four assists were awarded on a goal.

    “In the old days, they didn’t keep descriptions of penalties – now that’s in there,” Ercolani said.

    He said the new website statistics will allow users to find full information from the league’s entire 100-year history, and access them in new ways.

    “This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There’s a lot of other stuff coming.

    “Now that we’ve got the data, we can do a lot with it.”

    Kraft Hockeyville: Blues beat Penguins in tune-up for season-opener

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    Much like Sunday night, the St. Louis Blues will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for a game in Pennsylvania on Oct. 4. With that in mind, the more heated moments from tonight’s Kraft Hockeyville preseason match might be fresh on the minds of both teams when the games start to count.

    In this case, the Blues carried the play from a variety of perspectives, including the final score of 4-1.

    The Penguins got the first goal when Jake Guentzel finished a nice one-timer sequence set by Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary, yet St. Louis was able to leverage its possession advantages to goals that beat Matt Murray up high.

    The first one came from a familiar face in Vladimir Tarasenko, who aims for a Maurice Richard Trophy in 2017-18.

    The game-winner was from 19-year-old Jordan Kyrou:

    Paul Stastny then iced the game with a 3-1 empty-netter with a little less than 30 seconds remaining. Dmitrij Jaskin then made it 4-1 with a nice, patient score with Murray sprawling on the ice.

    Carter Hutton deserves credit for a sharp win, but the final score didn’t do Murray’s alert evening justice, as the Blues fired 45 shots on him. This was probably the save of the contest:

    While the Blues and Penguins wanted to be alert in this one, the stuff they might remember came down to rougher moments. Things started to escalate when Crosby mixed it up with Alex Pietrangelo.

    As a preseason contest, some of this will likely be forgotten by veteran Penguins and Blues, but the people of Cranberry, Pa. and Belle Vernon, Pa. won’t soon forget the Kraft Hockeyville experience.

    WATCH LIVE: Kraft Hockeyville featuring Penguins vs. Blues

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to host the St. Louis Blues to celebrate the latest edition of Kraft Hockeyville USA, with the game beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

    You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Find out more about Kraft Hockeyville winner Belle Vernon, Pa. in the video above this post’s headline (and also in this post). The game itself is taking place at UPMC Lemieux Sports complex in Cranberry, Pa.

    NHL.com captures some of the spectacle, as about 2,000 fans showed up and players signed autographs during what sounded like a very fun event.

    Speaking of very fun, all signs point to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being among those players suiting up for the game itself.