Thursday, December 16, 2010

Western Conference = wacky competition

Remember when teams like Nashville and Anaheim were losing badly and, well, sucked? Well, guess who's in the top six in the West now? Yup, the Ducks and Predators. Chicago, Phoenix, San Jose? You'd be out of luck if the playoffs began today. Of course, the playoffs don't start today. But the Western Conference appears like it'll go down to the final day.

Getzlaf, Hiller push Ducks past Caps
We'll start with Anaheim.

Ryan Getzlaf's goal late in overtime gave the Ducks a 2-1 win over Washington, Anaheim's fourth win in the last five games and the Capitals' seventh straight loss. Jonas Hiller made 31 saves. Joffrey Lupul also scored for Anaheim.

The Ducks' problem is, although they have 38 points and sit sixth in the West, Anaheim has played more games than anyone else. Only one other team in the West - Chicago - has played more than 31 games; Anaheim has played 34.

Nashville comeback stuns San Jose
Have I mentioned something about how the Predators won't die? If I have, allow me to repeat myself. If I haven't, consider it mentioned.

Nashville scored two goals in 44 seconds in the game's final three minutes and stunned San Jose, 3-2. Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson scored the key goals to turn a 2-1 Predators deficit into the winning score.

The Predators have won four straight games and seven out of eight. Anders Lindback made 25 saves.

Detroit adds to St. Louis' slide
The Blues have certainly fallen on hard times.

Nicklas Lidstrom registered a hat trick and four points to lead Detroit over St. Louis, 5-2, handing the Blues their second straight loss, seventh in the last nine games and 12th in the last 17. St. Louis has freefallen to 12th in the West but is just two points behind Nos. 7 and 8.

Daniel Cleary had a goal and two assists and Henrik Zetterberg notched four assists. Jimmy Howard made 19 saves.

More hat tricks
--Tomas Fleischmann has certainly found his groove in Colorado. He scored three goals in the third period to lead the Avalanche over Chicago, 4-3. Greg Mauldin also scored, Matt Duchene had two assists and Craig Anderson made 35 saves for Colorado.
--Ryan Kesler's third goal of the game came on the power play in overtime and gave Vancouver a 3-2 win over Columbus. Roberto Luongo made 28 saves.
--Drew Stafford completed his hat trick with two goals in the third period, turning a 2-1 Buffalo deficit into a 3-2 victory over Boston. His second goal came 32 seconds after Michael Ryder gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Derek Roy had three assists and Ryan Miller made 32 saves.

Old flashes
Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice - his first two-goal game as a Devil - and Martin Brodeur made 29 saves to lead New Jersey over Phoenix, 3-0. Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac each had two assists.

Deja vu
Pittsburgh's last loss prior to its 12-game winning streak was a home defeat to the Rangers. Maybe the Penguins can win another 12 after losing another home game to New York, which struck four times in the third period in another poor defensive collapse for a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh. Alexander Frolov and Brian Boyle had a goal and assist each and Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves.

Sidney Crosby assisted on Evgeni Malkin's goal to extend his points streak to a career-high 20 games.

Still rolling
Sergei Bobrovsky's 38 saves led Philadelphia to a 5-3 win over Montreal. James van Riemsdyk scored twice and Jeff Carter had a goal and two assists.

Southeast results
--Carolina gave up three goals in the game's first 5:16 but recovered in part on Tuomo Ruutu's two third-period goals to defeat Florida, 4-3.
--Mike Smith made 27 saves and Victor Hedman's shootout goal in round four gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 win over Atlanta.

--I hate hockey.

--The Penguins need Jordan Staal back ASAP. Arron Asham, Max Talbot and Matt Cooke cannot continue to be a line, not when there's already two grind lines.

--I hate all of you who failed to advise me with fantasy hockey decisions, resulting directly in me benching Brodeur and playing Tuukka "Two U's, two K's, too sucky" Rask. It's your fault! Figures the one time I get brave enough to bench that aging, washed-up has-been is the night he gets a shutout.

--If there are any Devils fans out there, don't get mad at me about the above comment on Brodeur, I'm just kidding.

--I could make a big deal about the penalty to Cooke that led to New York's goal that tied the game at 1-1 or the disallowed Penguins goal that would've tied the score at 2-2, but the Penguins didn't play very well. Defensively they did through two periods but then they kind of stopped in the third period. The pendulum has swung the other direction. They were so good for so long and now they've been pretty bad the last two games. Take care of business earlier and don't let the result come down to one or two plays.

--The Flyers have no weaknesses.

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