Greetings, Internet traveller! You’re just in time to join us on a sporadic journey through central and eastern North America (nobody said this was going to be an energy-efficient journey). We’ve enlisted the help of local tour guides for every stop, equipped with all the information you need to know about what’s new and exciting in every area of our trip. So without further ado, let’s fire up those engines and fasten your seatbelts…we’re going for a ride.
(NOTE: These pieces were submitted Friday so they do not reflect on last night’s games.)
Part 2 of 2 (Check out Part 1)
By Andrew Thompson, Editor of Causeway Crowd
At the moment, the Boston Bruins (14-6-2) stand atop the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division with 30 points. Normally, I’d be 100 per cent psyched by this information, but I’m still a little uneasy. While the David Krejci line is firing on all cylinders and the Chris Kelly line is doing better than predicted, the Patrice Bergeron line has been severely curtailed when it comes to point production. Bergeron isn’t playing a full game, and I have no idea why Brad Marchand is so low among the team’s scoring leaders. The coaches are really going to have to start handing out a few healthy scratches in order to get people’s heads back into the game.
The blue-line situation is also a mixed bag. With Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg hurt, we’ve been forced to rely on a lot of young defensemen. Torey Krug has done well, as has Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski. They’re young and they do make those occasional mistakes that have led to bad penalties and costly goals. The learning curve is unforgiving at the NHL level, and they’re keeping their heads above water.
Thankfully, we have Tuukka Rask. That Finn has been an all-out godsend for Boston. He has a 1.62 goals-against average and a solid .945 save percentage and is the early leader among Vezina Trophy candidates. There have been nights, especially in the recent Rangers game, where Rask was the only Bruin on his game (that crazy fluke goal that led to the shootout loss last night notwithstanding).
The Bruins are in first, and I am happy for that. However, I look at the Western Conference, and see eight teams with points higher than the Bruins and I shudder a little. The Bruins lost in the Stanley Cup Final because the Blackhawks played truer to their system than we did. The amount of points tallied by those Western teams shows that a lot of them are playing to their identity, something the Eastern Conference teams have found lacking.
By Patrick McGrath, Editor of The Rat Trick
The Florida Panthers may be near the bottom of the standings, but things are starting to look up in South Florida. As you may have heard, the Panthers have already fired their head coach Kevin Dineen and kicked off what looks to be another fire sale by trading Kris Versteeg to the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite all the turmoil, the Panthers have played well under interim head coach Peter Horachek.
The Panthers have won three of their last five games beating a trio of strong Western Conference teams: the Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks. A 4-1 loss last night in Edmonton dampened some of the excitement but at the very least, the Panthers look like they will be competitive which is really all we can ask for right now.
By John Evans, Staff Writer at Octopus Thrower
The Detroit Red Wings are leading the league right now…in overtime losses.
Yes, as Pavel Datsyuk pointed out, the team that a couple seasons ago set a record by winning 23 straight home games has lost seven in a row at Joe Louis Arena this year. The Wings snapped a seven-game skid Thursday night against the notoriously difficult Carolina Hurricanes. Their 27 points make them good for fifth in the East, also known as ninth in the West. By Red Wings fans’ standards, these are dark times. Fan reaction has varied from “Fire the coach”, which is dumb, to “Relax, we’re falling upward”, which is also kinda dumb.
The Wings have been the closest team to the salary cap all year thanks to the re-signing that almost didn’t happen with Dan Cleary. Fortunately, the Wings have made some moves in the past two weeks or so to give themselves some breathing room. Unfortunately, this came at the expense of a couple of fan favorites. Jordin Tootoo, a noted grinder and fighter, was put on waivers last week and ended up being sent to the AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. Patrick Eaves, a fourth liner with excellent penalty-killing skills, followed him on Friday. Fans have been hoping that Gustav Nyquist will be called up to take advantage of this newfound cap space and they’ve been quite vocal about it.
This wasn’t supposed to be possible until mid-January, but that changed when Dan DeKeyser suffered an injury against the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. This really puts Detroit’s cap crunch in perspective considering DeKeyser is on an entry-level deal and putting him on long-term injured reserve is what gave the Wings enough cap room to call up Nyquist.
By Jared Crozier, Editor of SenShot
The Senators are in a downward spiral following losses in four of their last five games. Their attention to detail in the defensive zone seems to be lacking, and they are not getting timely saves like they did last season from Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner. It’s not about the number of saves they make, it’s when they make them, and it is not getting done.
Goaltending isn’t the only issue facing the Senators, as they need to find a way to balance the offense. Jason Spezza‘s linemates have struggled and he is on an island. Plans are to put Mika Zibanejad with him on Saturday, and the young forward has earned a shot to get an extended look riding shotgun with Spezza.
The blue-line has been inconsistent, and although Erik Karlsson is putting up a point per game at the offensive end, his struggles defensively have people remembering his early days in the NHL.
All in all, as bad as the Senators have been, they are still only a two- or three-game winning streak from jumping back into playoff contention, but more than 20 games into the season we still don’t know who the real Ottawa Senators are.