Wednesday night features a showdown between the two best teams in the Western Conference. The Canucks have but runaway with the President’s Trophy this season with the Red Wings the closest team to them in the West. Anytime they faceoff against one another, it’s a great measuring stick to see where each team stands. Usually that is the case anyway. On Wednesday night, we’ll see how the Canucks matchup with a team consisting of Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins as four of Detroit’s best players will be out of the lineup. So much for the “Duel in Detroit.”
Mike Babcock confirmed at practice that Todd Bertuzzi, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Jiri Hudler will all miss Wednesday’s game due to injury. Just for a point of reference, that means four of the Red Wings top ten scorers this season will be out for the game. The missing players have accounted for 71 goals and 108 assists for 179 points this season. On top of that, defenseman Ruslan Salei will be trying to re-acclimate himself to the lineup and Chris Osgood is questionable to back up Jimmy Howard. All the sudden, the Canucks missing Manny Malhotra and Mikael Samuelsson doesn’t seem as daunting.
Ignoring the injuries, it’s still a battle between two divisional leaders who very well could be on a collision course in the playoffs and possibly even the Western Conference Finals. Easily forgotten, the Red Wings had appeared in two straight Stanley Cup finals before injuries completely derailed their season last year. Despite their fair share of injures again, they’re sitting in 2nd place in the Western Conference and 4th overall this season.
On the other side of the rink, the Vancouver Canucks are the odds on favorite to make it out of the West and to the Cup Finals for the first time since 1994. They have three of the best forwards in the game (Sedins and Kesler), a deep defensive corps, and a Gold Medal winning goaltender. Yet for all of their talent, they’ve melted down the last two seasons when they faced the equally talented Chicago Blackhawks. There are plenty of people who will continue to doubt the Canucks until they can prove they can win in the playoffs.
Like the Red Wings.
Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)
Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.
Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.
McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).
The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.
They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.
Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.
The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.
The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.
Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.