The great part about the National Hockey League is how quickly things change from week to week.
Toronto has created some separation in the North, moving five points ahead of Montreal, while Edmonton and Calgary also won three games to keep pace with Toronto and move closer to Montreal and Winnipeg respectively. Vancouver’s losing streak extended from three games to six — it has yet to win a game in February.
The East didn’t have many games. Buffalo and New Jersey didn’t play one game as both teams still have numerous players on COVID protocol.
Washington lost its only game. Pittsburgh and Philly went 1-1, The Rangers went 0-1-1, Boston 2-0 and the Islanders went 2-0-1 and jumped from last in the division to fourth.
In the West, Minnesota and Colorado didn’t play any games, while Arizona went 2-0, Vegas and Anaheim went 2-1, San Jose and LA went 1-1-1 and St.Louis went 0-1-1. All eight teams are within six points. But the craziest aspect of the week, and something I’m fairly confident we will never see in the history of the NHL again, is that Arizona and St.Louis are in the midst of playing seven consecutive games against each other.
They played February 2nd and 4th, the 6th and the 8th. Arizona was scheduled to play Minnesota on the 6th and 7th, while St.Louis was supposed to play Colorado those two days as well, but all games were postponed due to Colorado and Minnesota players having COVID. So the NHL quickly re-scheduled Arizona and St.Louis to play each other on the 6th and the 8th. St.Louis won the first of the four games, but Arizona has won the last three.
Now they play each other in their regularly scheduled games tonight, tomorrow and Monday. It is like they are playing a seven game series, but in the regular season. Amazing.
The Central got back to playing regularly, after Dallas, Florida and Carolina missed games earlier in the year. Tampa, Florida, Columbus, Chicago and Carolina all went 2-1, while Nashville and Detroit were 1-2 and Dallas went 0-1-2.
Florida defeated Tampa last night and they are now 8-1-2, while Tampa is 9-1-2. Nashville is in a similar spot as Vancouver, in that it’s already six points behind second place, and if it doesn’t start winning soon, it could be in too deep of a hole to climb out of in a short season.
The offence is starting to even out a bit across the divisions. Of the 15 teams who are averaging over three goals/game, each division has four, except the East, which has three.
Last week the North had five teams in the top-12: Montreal was first at 4.18, Toronto fourth at 3.64, Winnipeg sixth at 3.55, Edmonton eighth at 3.50 and Vancouver is 12th at 3.36.
Now Toronto is first in the NHL at 3.71 goals/game, Montreal is fourth at 3.57, Winnipeg is still sixth at 3.54 and Edmonton remains eighth at 3.44.
Ottawa and Vancouver are still the two worst teams in the NHL in goals against, allowing 4.20 and 3.88 respectively. Edmonton is slowly improving moving from 29th to 22nd, dropping their GAA from 3.58 last Friday to 3.25 today.
Offensively, the North still has five teams with powerplays at 20% or better: Toronto (fourth at 34.9%), Edmonton (10th at 24.6%), Calgary (14th at 23.1%), Winnipeg (15th at 22.7) and Montreal (17th at 20.8).
Washington (37%), Florida (36.7%) and Chicago (36.2%) are the top three in the league.
Once again, no Canadian teams are top-10 in PK. Vancouver is 11th at 81.4%, while Ottawa is the lowest, sitting 25th at 74.1%.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl still sit 1-2 in NHL standings, with 28 and 26 points, but by their standards they had a slower week, producing four points in four games. But the Oilers went 3-1. Jujhar Khaira led them in scoring tallying 2-2-4. And he was +6, while linemates Josh Archibald and Tyler Ennis were +5 and +4. It might have been the best week of Khaira’s NHL career in how well he played at both ends of the ice.
Brayden Point scored 2-5-7 this week, while 14 players were tied with three goals, including Darnell Nurse. Jack Roslovic is loving playing in his hometown of Columbus as he tallied 3-2-5. If he continues to play well, the Roslovic and Patrik Laine for Pierre-Luc Dubois trade could turn out to be a major win for Columbus.
The forwards with the most shots on goal, but still looking for their first goals include:
Anthony Duclair: 26 shots in 10 games.
Liam Foudy: 25 shots in 12 games.
Phillip Di Giuseppe: 25 shots in 11 games.
Jeff Skinner: 24 shots in 10 games. He has a $9m cap hit.
Nikita Gusev: 24 shots in 9 games.
So far ten forwards have eight or more goals, and eight of them play in the Canadian division.
Auston Matthews leads with 11
Brock Boeser has 10
McDavid, Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli and Nikolaj Ehlers have 9.
Leon Draisaitl, Johnny Gaudreau, Joe Pavelski and Brad Marchand have 8.
Six defenceman have 12 points and four of them are in the Canadian division.
Quinn Hughes leads with 17.
Jeff Petry and Viktor Hedman have 14.
Darnell Nurse, Tyson Barrie and Cale Makar have 12.
Semyon Varlamov has three shutouts in nine games for the New York Islanders, while John Gibson has three in 12 games with Anaheim.
Mike Smith led the NHL this week with a .985Sv% in two starts. And last night he became the 45th goalie in NHL history to have 40 career shutouts.
Active goalies who have more include:
Brian Elliott and Craig Anderson (41), Ryan Miller, Carey Price (48), Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak (50), Jonathon Quick (52), Pekka Rinne (58) and Marc-Andre Fleury (62).
Smith is also now 54th in career wins with 264. If he stays healthy he should pass Felix Potvin (266), Don Beaupre (268), Gilles Meloche (270), Kelly Hrudey and Bernie Parent (271) and Marty Turco (275). If Smith wins 12 more games this season he will be 48th in wins.
This week Patrick Marleau moved into third in career games played with 1,735, as he passed Jaromir Jagr (1,733) and Ron Francis (1,731). If he remains healthy he will pass Mark Messier (1,756) and Gordie Howe (1,767) later this season. Amazing.
This week Connor McDavid can become the 493rd player in NHL history to reach 500 points. If he scores three points in his next two games he will tie Sidney Crosby as the eighth fastest to reach 500 points. Crosby did it in 369 games.
One last point: How much of a fun sponge do you need to be to point out that Nurse’s goal scoring pace and Mike Smith’s .985sv% are unsustainable? Nurse has six goals in his first 16 games, and the last Oilers D-man to do that was Hall of Famer Paul Coffey. Of course Nurse isn’t going to score six goals every 16 games. That would be 30 goals in an full season.
That has only happened 17 times in NHL history and only eight D-man have done it.
Bobby Orr did it five times, Coffey four, Denis Potvin three and Doug Wilson, Ray Bourque, Phil Housley, Kevin Hatcher and Mike Green did it once. Green was the last player to do it when he scored 31 goals with Washington in 2009. Prior to him, Hatcher did it in 1993.
Of course Nurse’s goal production will slow down. I’m sorry, but there is no more annoying person that someone who feels the need to point out that a crazy hot start is unsustainable. Sports are supposed to be fun. Maybe it is fun to find negatives and point out obvious hot streaks, but from my perspective it feels more like a fun sponge.
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