Essential Hockey: Putting the Current Standings into Perspective

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Updated: January 30, 2013
Patrick Marleau

So, we are still really enjoying the sweet, sweet nectar of hockey as the NHL rolls into week three. The fans have zero gripe and zero dollars left as we dump our green monies unto anything hockey related with zero guilt and zero hesitation. We are addicted to this phenomenal game and there is nothing we can do about it. Yours truly has recently purchased tickets to six games and I am really excited to go see every single one of them. The prices were relatively reasonable as well – thank you, Devils. As we, the fans, flock back to the seats inside the arenas wearing our favorite team’s colors, some of us are blessed with some spectacular display of skill, while others are seeing a bit less of it. Call it bad luck or good luck, but some teams are still playing like a it “Ain’t nothin’ but a G thang, baby” (Tampa Bay is a scoring machine) and some teams are playing like a wounded duck skipping over a lake trying to take flight (Florida Panthers).

We also see some streaks come to an end.  The Washington Capitals decided to finally get a win in their tilt with the Buffalo Sabres, with Ovechkin scoring his first goal of the season. A game wining goal by Ovie on the Power Play and all seemed to be turning in the right direction for the struggling franchise. Yet, when it came to running with it, this team, just cant seem to stay on its feet. A two-goal lead vanished in the third period against Ottawa and was capped off with a Power Play boom shot by Sergei Gonchar, who still got it by the way, for a come-from-behind win by the Senators.

Hey, one of my friends is an Islander fan (I don’t know why either), and while for the most part he gets to be the punching bag of most hockey jokes that come his way, recently he has been getting a little smug about his team. To be honest, he is in the right seeing as how his new and improved Islanders have signed big names like Brad Boyes and Keith Aucoin, and are comfortably sitting in second spot in the Atlantic with 7 points. That’s right, the Isles are second in the Atlantic. They are coming off a big win versus the Penguins where they absolutely shellacked them back down to earth, and are building momentum on their way to Atlantic Division supremacy. Maybe, well not just maybe, I am getting ahead of myself, but the red-headed stepchild of the Tri-state area is not a push over any longer. With some decent goaltending and fairly potent offense (4th in the league with 3.7 goals per game) you have a very pesky team. Their secret weapon though is speed. This team is probably one of the fastest teams in the league and what they lack in skill they make up in effort and grit. Look for Devils vs Islanders this Thursday night for the battle for the top of the Atlantic, so yeah, please find me a bloke who would have predicted that scenario.

So while some things change, Philly has only two wins in 7 games, proving some other things stay the same. Through the first six games, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves planted at the bottom of the Northeast division – yes, that would make them below the Toronto Maple Leafs. Why? Well, maybe because out of the 16 goals scored so far this season, 9 came from the top line of Vanek, Pominville, and Hodgson. It gets worse than that. Vanek and Pominville have 19 points combined and that equals 6 next scorers’ point totals combined. Secondary scoring isn’t in premium in Buffalo and Ryan Miller has not exactly been a wall. The soft short side goal he gave up with one second left to Leaf’s Frattin comes to mind. Something needs to change here – dare I say Ville Leino needs to come back? Hmmmpphh..

While there are tons of overachievers and underachievers in the East, the West is all according to the book right?

Not exactly. You have some big time “whoa” things going on right now. One of them is how good the Blackhawks look and the second one is how hot Patrick Marleau is right now. Let me just focus in on this Patrick fella. He is torching up the league right now and it seems like that first line (Pavelski, Marleau, and Thornton) can score at will. Marleau has 9 goals after 6 games, while in comparison the entire Florida Panthers franchise has just 10 goals in that span (Colorado Avalanche have 10 goals too). It is an amazing story for this guy and this team, the Sharks are still looking to find someone who can beat them, because they have not only been winning, but rather dominant in ever single game. Only in their last game against the Anaheim Ducks did they look human, yet still they found a way to win. I can see them stretching out this streak of not losing to a few more games (Oilers, Nashville, and Ducks are next) until they battle the other team without a loss as of today, Chicago Blackhawks.

Besides the Hawks and Sharks making the West seem like their own playground, we have had some interesting story lines developing. We have St.Louis quietly churning out win after win and are getting fairly good at scoring goals – clearly not a good sign for other teams since they are also very good at not letting goals into their own net. Already with one of the leagues best +11 in goal differential, look for them to get better as the season goes on, despite injuries that have plagued this team recently.

The Northwest seems to be a hot mess right now. You have the Minnesota Wild sitting pretty in first, despite a mediocre record of 3-2 and all its offense coming from the first line or PP.  Certainly there could be issues down the stretch. Edmonton is the only team right now that has a positive (+1) in goal differential and is sitting tied for second place with Vancouver. The young lads had an awesome game vs Colorado for a huge two points after having a so-so defensive game against Calgary. It seems that the season will go that way for Edmonton, if Dubyuk can steal a few this team might smell the playoffs, but facing over 30 shots a game is a tough gig. Vancouver on the other hand, might benefit from playing in the Northeast the most as it should win this division, thought some weaknesses have been exposed. Currently 1-2 in shootout games already, those are precious points given away that are THAT much more significant during the shortened season. Having anyone but Daniel Sedin leading your team in goals could either be problematic or a good thing – the jury is still not out on that one.

The rookies are on fire, fire, fire!  We have the 5’8” speedster who found home in Tampa Bay, Cory Conacher, leading the pack with 9 points. Right behind him is the next great number 91, Vladimir Tarasenko, who has 8 points. The interesting fact is that both players are currently running away with the Calder trophy race and this may have to do something with their age. Both players are over 21 years of age, which has no doubt helped them build up a bit more confidence and develop the NHL-ready body strength. Being strong is one thing, but having NHL caliber players grind you down during the game can be a surprise for most young kids. These two seem to have no trouble with finding teammates and the back of the net. Conacher is playing with a bit unrealistic shooting percentage of 30 percent and that will certainly curb down to around 10 percent. Tarasenko may have enough talent to keep his going at around 15 percent as he is currently slightly above that with 19 percent. Both rookies are playing on very talented teams and have been given the best chance to prosper. Yakupov and Huberdeau may need to step it up a bit before they get completely left behind in the Calder race.

Lot’s of big games coming up for all of the teams till the end of the week and through the weekend. Here are some highlights that you should tune in for:

Thursday, January 31

NY Islanders at New Jersey   7:00 PM

Pittsburgh at NY Rangers   7:00 PM

Friday, February 1

Philadelphia at Washington7:00 PM

Chicago at Vancouver10:00 PM

 

Saturday, February 2

New Jersey at Pittsburgh1:00 PM

Buffalo at Montreal2:00 PM

Los Angeles at Anaheim10:00 PM

Sunday, February 3

Pittsburgh at Washington12:30 PM

New Jersey at NY Islanders3:00 PM

Top 10 goals of the week:

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photo credit: Misty3129 via photopin cc

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