Weekly News Wednesdays is back after a short hiatus due to troubling computer problems. The playoffs are almost 2 weeks away, and the excitement is building. The New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues have already clinched a playoff berth and Columbus has been eliminated from playoff contention (statistically this could’ve been determined in October). The teams that are on the bubble and that I think still have a legitimate chance of making it into the top 8 in their conference include: Buffalo Sabres, Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and the Calgary Flames. In the East the Caps are currently in 8th place, but the Sabres are 2 points behind them, and Winnipeg is 4 points back (with a game in hand as well). In the West Colorado holds the 8th spot (Phoenix has the same amount of points but they have played one less game than Colorado), but the Kings and Sharks are only a point behind them (with 2 games in hand), and the Flames are 2 points behind them (with a game in hand).
Looking at the last 10 games played for these teams:
The Coyotes are 3-5-2, The Avalanche are 6-3-1, the Kings are 7-3-0, the Sharks are 3-4-3, and the Flames are 6-2-2. Prediction: The Avalanche will fall out with lack of defensive support. The Sharks will miss the playoffs with poor goaltending, and they have shown a lack of effort in the past few weeks. The Yotes will rebound and hang onto their playoff berth. The reason they have struggled of late is largely due to Smith having to start nearly every single game. He is starting to show signs of fatigue. Los Angeles has a really good shot at making the top 8, but I’m not sure they can do it. Their next games include San Jose, St. Louis, Boston, and Vancouver. If they can survive those next few games, they get rewarded with easy wins against Edmonton (twice), Minnesota, and San Jose (twice). I think the Coyotes will end up in 7th and the Flames will end up in 8th.
The Washington Sleeping Ovechkins, I mean Capitals, are a mediocre 5-4-1 in their last 10, and they have given up 10 more goals than they have scored. Ovie has been quiet this season, and Backstrom has been injured. With Boudreau fired, Dale Hunter is certainly not getting the job done. The Buffalo Sabres are 6-2-2 and are 2 points behind the Caps. Winnipeg is 10th with 76 points (4 points behind the Caps). Buffalo has the worst goals for/goals against differential at -11 (WSH: -10, WPG: -11). Prediction: The Capitals will drop out of the top 8 (or lose in the 1st round). The Sabres and Jets will make a strong push for 8th, and I think Winnipeg will make the playoffs. Buffalo does have a great shot however, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sabres in 8th either.
Rad-ical Predators (ok I’ll stop trying to predict future NHL.com headlines): Alexander Radulov has returned to the NHL after spending a long period of time playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. His team – Salavat Yulaev Ufa – failed to make the playoffs this season, and he is technically still under contract with the Nashville Predators (though he hasn’t played a game with the team since the 2007-2008 campaign. This is a very rare occasion, so don’t expect a similar situation to occur any time soon. What will Radulov bring to the Preds? Goals, goals, and more goals, oh and some assists too. Last season, Alex won the KHL scoring championship by scoring 20 goals and 60 assists for 80 points in 54 games played. This new post-trade deadline Predators team is looking very dangerous. Expect them to give it all they’ve got in the playoffs.
Crosby’s Return: Sidney Crosby returned to action this past week, and he has already made up for lost time, recording 5 points in 3 games (all assists), all while only playing an average of 16 minutes in those games. The Pittsburgh Penguins were doing great even without Crosby, and now that he’s back, look out for the Pens. They are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games played and they have enough firepower and goaltending to make a deep playoff run and they can possibly win the Cup this year if everyone stays healthy.
Blowout in Beantown: The Boston Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 6th and final time this season. In front of a sellout crowd at TD Garden, the Bruins trounced the Leafs by a lopsided score of 8-0. Toronto goalie James Reimer gave up 8 goals on 9 shots (.566 SP) and Jonas Gustavsson gave up 4 goals on 15 shots (.733). The look on new coach Randy Carlyle’s face said it all. The Bruins outshot the Leafs 24-13. The B’s have won 2 straight now and are hanging onto the Northeast Division lead with Ottawa 3 points behind them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajTnAmK3nX8
Beatdown on Broadway: From the drop of the puck to open the game last night, the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers were exchanging words. When the puck touched the ice a line brawl commenced (you can watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MFRpipkQu8). The matchups included Boulton vs. Rupp, Carter vs. Bickel, Janssen vs. Prust. A total of 48 PIM were handed out in the first period, including 6 fighting majors and a 10 minute misconduct. It made for an entertaining game, and the perfect matchup for a Monday night televised game. The Blueshirts won the game by a final score of 4-2. Maybe if the Maple Leafs would use a similar strategy, then the fans would put away their Blackberrys and actually watch a game for once.
Tippett Gets Milestone Win: Phoenix Coyotes’ head coach Dave Tippett earned his 400th win behind the bench against the Edmonton Oilers. The Yotes are tied with the Stars for the Pacific Division lead, so every game is a must win for his team.
Not So Red-Hot Wings: The injuries continue for the Red Wings. Jimmy Howard came back, then reinjured his groin. Backup goaltender Joey MacDonald is also on injured reserve. There is some good news however. Pavel Datsyuk is back, and Nicklas Lidstrom is set to return possibly later this week. Ty Conklin was called up from AHL Grand Rapids.
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