It’s reasonable to say that there won’t be a day in 2011 in which more people were hungover worldwide (except maybe March 9th, July 5th, May 6th or December 26th*). Yet in the puck world, the huge shadow created by the annual Winter Classic game leaves a hockey hangover itself.
But much like a hard worker fighting down a plate full of eggs shortly after hugging porcelain, the show must go on. Let’s take a look at today’s games, which include some unusual start times, which are all Eastern Standard Time (ET).
* – Get it, because those are the mornings after Mardi Gras, the Fourth of July, Cinco de Mayo and Christmas? Perhaps this is an observation that only can come from someone who lives in the Southwest, by for my money, Cinco de Mayo is possibly the most underrated holiday around.
Atlanta @ Montreal
It’s a match between two unexpectedly successful teams who rode some hot streaks by two unexpectedly successful goalies (Ondrej Pavelec and Carey Price respectively) who are now starting to slip back to the pack. The Thrashers are in seventh place with a 3-4-3 mark in their last 10 while the Habs are in eighth place in the East with a 3-7-0 mark in their last 10. Maybe one of these teams can start the new year off right with a solid win?
Philadelphia @ Detroit
These two teams are coping with the injuries of (arguably?) their best players, with Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk out for quite some time. Each club also faces a slightly more challenging road going forward than they experienced to start off 2010-11, so building momentum could start this afternoon.
NY Rangers @ Florida
Both of these teams are admirably scrappy, only the Rangers are producing the kind of work that gives them a great chance of making the playoffs. Don’t sleep on the Panthers altogether, though.
Columbus @ Nashville
Put this matchup high on the list of games that aren’t likely to headline the next Winter Classic. I cannot help but yawn just thinking about it. (Did that make you yawn? Sorry.)
Phoenix @ Minnesota
Then again, at least the prior game would feature Rick Nash and (restricted free agent contract permitting) Shea Weber. This match wouldn’t even have that going for it.
Dallas @ St. Louis
The Blues might be on the quietest hot streak in the NHL, as they’re on a five game winning streak and have the chance to go five for five in their homestand by beating the slumping Stars tonight. Give St. Louis plenty of credit for muscling through a ton of injury worries, although they’re not out of the woods just yet despite moving into fifth in the West.
Chicago @ Anaheim
This is an important game because a Blackhawks regulation win would boot Chicago back into the top eight and probably knock the Ducks out. I write probably because the middle quarter of the West is so clogged and convoluted that its better just to watch the action and report afterward instead of attempting to make sense of it from a day-to-day perspective.
Vancouver @ Colorado
I made a big deal out of how high-scoring the Avalanche offense is (131 goals), but the problem is that they allow almost as many tallies as they score (123 allowed). The Canucks are almost as productive (125 goals in two less games played) but also boast the least goals allowed of any Western Conference team with 91. Could it be that Vancouver is the best out West?