Friday, December 10, 2010

Pacific Division a mess; How bout them Panthers?

Mixed bag of results creates wackiness in Pacific
So, does anyone want to win the Pacific Division? We pretty much know who the best one or two teams are in every other division but this one. Allow me to explain.

--Three points each by Paul Gaustad and Cody McCormick boosted Buffalo over San Jose, 6-3. The final is a little misleading; Gaustad scored an empty net goal in the final half-minute then Thomas Vanek netted his second of the game with nine seconds to play to create a larger margin of victory. Ryan Miller made 26 saves to get the win.

--Phoenix made things a little interesting late, but Andrew Brunette's second goal of the game held up as the winner in support of Niklas Backstrom's 33 saves to give Minnesota a 3-2 win over the Coyotes. Mittens and Mikko Koivu each had two assists.

--A rather lifeless display through two periods turned into a late charge by Calgary, but despite giving up its first power play goal at home, Los Angeles held on to defeat the Flames, 2-1. Jonathan Quick made 26 saves, including 14 in the third period. Anze Kopitar and Kyle Clifford scored for the Kings.

What that leaves us with in the Pacific is all five teams are separated by two points. Leader Dallas has 34 and the other four teams each have 32. In a way, we can rule out Anaheim as a contender; the Ducks have played at least three more games than anyone else. The Kings have played the fewest so they have a chance to regain superiority. But that race looks like it's going down to the wire. At least at the moment it does.

Vokoun, penalty killers shut down Washington
Maybe the Capitals learned a lesson last season: Don't peak too early. Maybe they're waiting until playoff time to crank up their potent offense. How else can you explain Washington's current slump?

Tomas Vokoun made 36 saves - 18 in the first period - and Florida successfully killed all eight Washington power plays to earn a shocking 3-0 road victory over the Capitals. Washington has lost four straight games - three at home - and has scored just six goals in those games, with four coming in a shootout loss to Toronto.

Michael Frolik, Steve Bernier and Mike Santorelli scored for the Panthers. Stephen effing Weiss had two assists. Frolik's goal came with one second left in the second period.

No surprises here
--Tuukka Rask made 33 saves and Boston scored twice into an empty net to seal a 5-2 victory over the hapless Islanders. New York failed to score on the power play for the franchise-tying 12th game in a row and has lost four straight overall. Milan Lucic scored twice.
--Danny Briere had two goals and an assist and Brian Boucher made 31 saves as Philadelphia handled Toronto, 4-1.

Getting there...almost
Ottawa scored multiple goals for just the second time in its last six games but it wasn't enough as the Rangers earned a 5-3 victory. New York had five different goal scorers, including an empty netter by Brandon Dubinsky, who picked up a loose puck after high-priced free agent Sergei Gonchar inexplicably fell down at center ice for Ottawa. Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves.

Tale of two teams
St. Louis converted all three of its power play opportunities and Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves en route to a 4-1 Blues victory over Columbus. St. Louis has a very clear picture of who it wants for its goalie. For the Blue Jackets, who started Mathieu Garon, their goaltending is growing murkier by the day. Garon has been very beatable lately and Steve Mason is just as likely to give up four goals as he is to give up none.

David Backes had an empty net goal and two assists for the Blues.

Friday's games

Montreal (18-8-2) at Detroit (17-6-3), 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network - We don't have far to go for our game of the night. Don't want to take anything away from the Canadiens but this game could say a lot about their team.

New Jersey (8-17-2) at Ottawa (12-16-2), 7:30 p.m. - $100 million gets you five goals, 11 points, a minus-17, nine hits and no blocked shots. Basically, Ilya Kovalchuk isn't doing ANYTHING to help the Devils win games. At least Martin Brodeur might start this game.

Colorado (13-10-4) at Atlanta (15-10-3), 7:30 p.m. - Very disappointed we miss out on another Stewart-vs.-Stewart game. Chances are Anthony's Atlanta team (8-2-0 last 10) takes this meeting same as the first one.

Carolina (11-12-3) at Dallas (16-9-2), 8:30 p.m. - If it seems like it's been a while since we saw Carolina play, it's because it's true. This is the Hurricanes' first game since Saturday, so they've had a while to stew over a 5-2 loss. Dallas had little problem defeating Carolina a week and a half ago.

Tampa Bay (15-10-3) at Edmonton (10-12-5), 9 p.m. - Raise your hand if you thought the Oilers (four wins in the last five) would be playing better than the Lightning (four losses in the last six.) Paging Mr. Stamkos, paging Mr. Stamkos.

Calgary (12-15-2) at Anaheim (14-13-4), 10 p.m. - Anaheim has blown two third-period leads in the last two games and was blanked in the two games before those. I'm beginning to think the Ducks aren't good. The Flames have alternated results over the last nine games. The trend says they win this one.

Detroit 3, Montreal 2
Ottawa 2, New Jersey 1
Atlanta 4, Colorado 2
Dallas 4, Carolina 3
Tampa Bay 4, Edmonton 2
Calgary 2, Anaheim 1

No comments: