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Northwest Division Watch (March 11)

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 11 -March 18th)

1. Vancouver Canucks (44-16-9 for 97 pts; 69 Games Played)

Current streak: Four straight wins.

Week ahead: @ Calgary (Sat), home vs. Minnesota (Mon), home vs. Colorado (Wed), and home vs. Phoenix (Fri).

Thoughts: The Canucks have taken the last week to remind the entire Western Conference that they’re the team to beat this year. After a lackluster effort against the Predators at home, they came back with a couple dominating performances in southern California, a win in Phoenix, and a spectacular shootout victory in San Jose. Anyone who thought they had peaked too soon might want to take a step back. Right now they’re the best in the West and are at the top of their game.

2. Calgary Flames (36-25-9 for 81 pts; 70 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Vancouver (Sat), home vs. Phoenix (Tues), home vs. Colorado (Thurs).
Thoughts: Ever since Christmas, the story has been the same. The Flames win and win often. They’ll have a huge showdown with the rival Canucks over the weekend and then a rematch of the 1-0 defeat against the Coyotes on Tuesday. Jay Feaster and Brent Sutter told the team they wanted to win 2 out of every 3 games—they might need to keep up that pace just to make the playoffs.

3. Minnesota Wild (35-26-7 for 77 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Three road games: @ Dallas (Fri), @ Vancouver (Mon), @ San Jose (Thurs).
Thoughts: The good news for the Wild is they are only 2 points out of a playoff spot and would win the tie-breaker with every relevant team with 33 regulation/OT wins. The bad news is they are still in 11th place and in the time they should be making a push, they’re 4-4-2. Falling flat on their face in a big game against Nashville was not the way they wanted to start their final push.

4. Colorado Avalanche (26-32-8 for 60 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: Lost two in a row.

Week ahead: Home vs. Anaheim (Fri), @ Nashville (Sat), @ Vancouver (Wed), @ Calgary (Thurs).
Thoughts: It seems like only a couple of months ago when people were talking about the Avs as one of the young, exciting teams in the league. Unfortunately, anything that could go wrong has gone wrong and golfing season can’t come soon enough. The best news for fans in Colorado? They’re currently looking at the 3rd overall pick in June’s draft.

5. Edmonton Oilers (23-37-8 for 54 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: Two losses.

Week ahead: @ Detroit (Fri), @ Pittsburgh (Sun), home vs. Phoenix (Thurs).

Thoughts: As if the Oilers needed a reminder where they stand right now, they recently traveled to Philadelphia and Washington and lost by a combined score of 9-1. In 10 days, they’ve lost their top 4 scorers (3 injured, Penner via trade). Forget throwing in the towel—the Oilers might want to just forfeit the rest of their games to avoid any potential problems for next year.

Measure of revenge? Red Wings bottle Lightning

Justin Abdelkader
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In some ways, it really felt like their first-round series.

For all the talent on both ends of the rink with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, each squad can really smother opponents defensively when things go that way.

Through two periods, the two teams were very quiet. Things really picked up when Justin Abdelkader unleashed a big hit, a moment that injected enough life into the proceedings for the Red Wings to eventually build a 3-1 win.

Maybe they’re slipping under the radar a bit compared to previous iterations of the team, but it’s interesting that the Red Wings are now undefeated in three games.

They’ve been impressive at times, too, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 11-4.

Call it a refreshing time after Mike Babcock or merely carryover from a subtly solid run last season, but either way, the Red Wings may just be able to keep up their end of a brewing rivalry.

Hands of gold: Connor McDavid scores his first NHL goal

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Taking three games to score your first NHL goal isn’t a big deal, unless you’re someone like Connor McDavid.

The mega-hyped wunderkind must feel relieved to finally find the net, as he tied tonight’s Edmonton Oilers – Dallas Stars skirmish with a 2-2 deflection goal, which you can watch above this post’s headline.

To no surprise, there were plenty of reactions, including Pierre LeBrun’s tweet (which inspired part of this headline).

Of course, there were the inevitable Wayne Gretzky comparisons:

Interesting thing you might not consider: Stars fans will have to stomach this one even more frequently than that time Patrik Stefan biffed that empty-netter (also against the Oilers):

McDavid may have also delivered his first questionable check, too: