Let’s take a look at today’s six games. As always, we’ll use Eastern Standard Time (ET).
Detroit @ Columbus
Logical people will blame the Blue Jackets’ struggles on a top-heavy roster that relies too much on the admitted brilliance of Rick Nash and the questionable talents of Steve Mason. Yet a zanier (and more fun) person might wonder if the Red Wings’ dominance of the team during a home-and-home series crushed the fragile spirits of the Columbus kids. Either way, Detroit hopes to continue the Central Division of their kid brothers tonight.
Vancouver @ Washington
The Capitals are struggling a bit, but considering the talent on both sides of the ice, it’s not crazy to wonder if this could be a Stanley Cup finals preview. Vancouver is coming off a 1-0 loss to the Rangers, so Washington has that added advantage. Add the fact that the Caps are still pretty dominant at the Phone Booth (15-4-5) and this game could be awfully interesting.
Calgary @ Ottawa
Hey, look: it’s Struggling and Semi-Hopeless Canadian Team West visiting Struggling and Semi-Hopeless Canadian Team East. The Senators (Hopeless Canadian Team East) just broke a six game losing streak while the Flames have lost four games in a row. Try hyping this one up, ticket scalpers in Ottawa.
New Jersey @ Tampa Bay
The Devils upset the Lightning the last time these two teams met, so Tampa Bay needs to win this one. (Especially considering the fact that they might be able to widen their Southeast Division lead as second-ranked Washington faces the NHL’s best team.)
Philadelphia @ Atlanta
These two teams share some kindred threads, at least in the way they are built to be tough. The Flyers carry that Broad Street Bullies reputation while Thrashers GM Rick Dudley hopes to create a similar vision in Atlanta. Philadelphia might be a little worn out after a tough loss against Boston, but the Thrashers should get a taste of an angry team tonight. Philly doesn’t want to drop another 1-2 points while Pittsburgh plays without Sidney Crosby for who knows how long.
Colorado @ Minnesota
The difference between these two teams is almost comical; the Avs scored 144 goals so far this season while the Wild only have 108 to their credit. Minnesota head coach Todd Richards might bristle at trap talk, but this game might cast the Wild as dour and the Avalanche as young and fun if these two teams follow their trends this season. Sounds like this game will alternate between entertaining and watching grass grow, but we shall see.
When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.
With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).
As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.
Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.
You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.
Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.
“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?
Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.
Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.
It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.
Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.
On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?
It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?
* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.