Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon, Jarome Iginla, Matt Stajan

Northwest Division Watch (March 4)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northwest Division outlook (March 4 -March 10th)

1. Vancouver Canucks (40-16-9 for 89 pts; 65 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Four away games – vs. Los Angeles (Saturday), Anaheim (Sunday), Phoenix (Tuesday) and San Jose (Thursday).

Thoughts: The Canucks’ are comfortably in control of first place in the Northwest, but their hold on the top spot in the West might be a bit tenuous. That’s because they’re facing a tough March. They play four road games against hungry Pacific teams plus another away game against equally anxious Calgary next week, then get three homes games before four more games in a row on the road. If they start April on top of the West, there shouldn’t be much doubt about their power.

2. Calgary Flames (33-24-9 for 75 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Columbus (Fri), home vs. Nashville (Sun), @ Dallas (Wed) and @ Phoenix (Thurs).

Thoughts: There are two ways to look at the upcoming week of games for the Flames. A negative person would point out that they must face teams as desperate as they are in all four contests. A positive one would say that Calgary “controls their own destiny.” Really, both sides are right.

3. Minnesota Wild (34-25-6 for 74 pts; 65 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Home vs. Buffalo (Sun), home vs. Colorado (Tues), @ Nashville (Thurs).

Thoughts: While Minnesota would be wise to store some points by winning those two home games, it’s not like they need to panic about a tough four game road stretch that begins in Nashville. After all, the Wild are 18-12-3 away from Minnesota, a trend that might come in handy if they make the playoffs as a low seed.

4. Colorado Avalanche (26-30-8 for 60 pts; 64 GP)

Current streak: Four straight losses.

Week ahead: Home vs. Edmonton (Sat), @ Minnesota (Tues), home vs. Anaheim (Fri).

Thoughts: The Avs have just one win in their last 15 games. At this point, the team might as well go about losing so they can get almost as many lottery balls as their division mates in Edmonton. It’s sad to see a young, attacking team dissolve like this as the threat of widespread trapping grows, but there’s no denying this team is just a mess right now.

5. Edmonton Oilers (22-35-8 for 52 pts; 65 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Colorado (Sat), Philadelphia (Tues) and Washington (Wed).

Thoughts: I understand that it’s important to build character and confidence by winning at least a bit, but the Oilers must be eye-balling the draft lottery more than anything else right now. Playing five straight road games and seven of their last nine away from home should help them retain the highest odds for another No. 1 pick.

Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record

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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.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


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.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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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.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

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.