When most people discuss the race for the Atlantic Division title, it’s often seen as a two-horse race between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The New York Rangers seemingly appeared satisfied with fighting their way to one of the East’s lower seeds the last few seasons, but 2011-12 might just be different. John Tortorella & Co. improved to the best record in the Eastern Conference* with a 3-0 win against the New York Islanders.
The (now second place) Boston Bruins have been the hottest team in the NHL since November, but the Rangers aren’t far behind in that category. Here’s what their streaks have looked like, including an Oct. 31 win:
Oct. 31-Nov. 15: 8-0-0
Nov. 19-23: 0-2-0
Nov. 25-Dec. 3: 5-0-0
Dec. 5-Dec. 8: 0-1-1
Dec. 10-Dec.15: 2-2-0
Dec. 17-Dec. 26: 5-0-0
Overall, the Rangers are an astounding 20-5-1 in their last 26 games.
Considering this hot run of games, it’s time to consider the Rangers a serious contender for the Atlantic Division title and perhaps the No. 1 seed in the East. They have arguably the best goalie in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist, who registered a 28-save shutout. The Rangers play a hard-working style, perhaps best embodied by their heart-and-soul captain Ryan Callahan. The biggest difference might just be that they now have a truly elite scoring duo in Brad Richards and a revived Marian Gaborik, though.
Are the Rangers the best team in the Atlantic or even the East, then? Share your thoughts in the comments.
* – The Rangers now have 48 points (22-8-4), putting them one ahead of the idle Boston Bruins (23-9-1 for 47 points). New York is technically in front of the Chicago Blackhawks for first overall, but it looks like the ‘Hawks will re-gain that Presidents Trophy lead if they hang on against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
The Nashville Predators have been on a roll lately, and keeping Peter Laviolette around seems like it keeps things going in a positive direction.
The team announced a two-year contract extension for Laviolette during Saturday’s State of the Union event.
During his first two seasons behind the bench in Nashville, the Predators have managed two playoff berths, beating the Anaheim Ducks in the first round during this last postseason trip. The Predators have managed to stay competitive in the Central Division, which is no small task.
With P.K. Subban added to the mix, it makes great sense to retain Laviolette’s surfaces. You never know how a situation will work until it plays out, yet on paper, his system seems like a seamless fit for the star defender.
Nashville’s shown some promise already under Laviolette’s watch, particularly in quietly putting up some promising possession stats. At this moment in time, the future looks even brighter.
It can’t hurt that the guy has a Stanley Cup on his resume, either.
As difficult as it is to believe, it’s October already. You know what that means*; hockey season is rapidly approaching.
Along with stories about guys who might still be a little injured claiming they’re “100 percent” and teams carrying in optimism that will eventually look foolish, we also get fun stuff like new goalie masks.
We’d already seen Petr Mrazek pay tribute to Joe Louis Arena a month ago, but with the preseason in high gear, we’re seeing more masks.
While there will likely be some other fun entries before the games start to count in 2016-17, PHT is kindly saving your delicate fingers a few extra clicks by collecting a few choice masks in one post.
To start things off, Michal Neuvirth paid tribute to late Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider:
This Miami Herald video shares Roberto Luongo‘s very-cool concept: the old Panthers cat on one side, the new one on the other. Here’s a shot from George Richards:
(Anyone else get a little John Vanbiesbrouck nostalgia from that lid?)
Thankfully, no birds were harmed in the making of Louis Domingue‘s mask, which features Arizona sports figures from Randy Johnson to more obvious Coyotes choices:
Nitpick: Steve Nash’s hair could have been floppier. Just saying.
Finally, hockey and Seinfeld once again mix better than a black-and-white cookie in Scott Wedgewood’s mask, which features a Puddy reference:
If you want more goalie masks, DaveArt.com’s list should keep you entertained for some time.
* – Barring all-too-frequent lockouts.
Evgeni Malkin is back in Penguins training camp after a stint with Team Russia at the World Cup.
Malkin and his team reached the tournament’s semifinal before being knocked out by the eventual champions, Team Canada.
The Pens forward collected three points in four games, but he wasn’t satisfied by his overall performance.
“I need to start now,” Malkin said on Saturday, per the Tribune. “I’m not playing great. I’m not happy with my game at the World Cup. I will play better here and now.”
When he’s at his best, Malkin is fully capable of taking over games. That’s easier said than done in a best-on-best tournament, but those are the standards he’s set for himself.
So, what does he have to do to get back to that elite level?
“Play more with the puck. That’s my game always, if I have the puck and I spend more time with the puck. The last four, five games in the World Cup, I tried to use my partners, but my confidence when I play with the puck.”
The 30-year-old dealt with some injuries last year, but still managed to produce 58 points in 57 games during the regular season and 18 points in 23 games during Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup playoff run.
KHL hockey is still relatively new in China and it showed prior to Kunlun Red Star’s game against Lada Togliatti earlier this week.
Prior to the game, the team organized a ceremonial puck drop, which ended up being a little awkward to say the least.
You can watch the entire thing by clicking the video at the top of the page.
That’s pretty funny!
The awkward look the two captains gave each other was priceless too.