Friday, November 14, 2008

Winners and Losers

Streaking, while it can be fun sometimes, can just as equally be embarrassing. It all depends on which way the wind is blowing.

No, we're not talking about threadless jaunts through the crisp, evening air, we're discussing the league's current hot streaks, and frostbitten cold streaks. While its still early in the season, and a lot can happen before the postseaon, there are teams that are raising some eyebrows, and others that are making you slam your head through a wall, or laughing at the guy who just bloodied his noggin. Depending on which side of the fence you're on.

We'll start with the hot teams, and move from right to left and begin with the Eastern Conference. And we might as well start with arguably the hottest team in the league right now, the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have developed an "old school" kind of chemistry, hitting one another with tape to tape passes, playing with a vicious tenacity, and brawling like someone insulted one of their drinking buddies. You get the feeling from that these guys are really having a good time with one another on and off the ice. In the last 9 games they've gone an 8-1-0, but they started that breakout with three straight losses, and have now managed to put together a five game winning streak. The real breakout game for the B's was the late afternoon delight in Beantown against the imploding Dallas Stars, which I'll get to later in the "Ice Cube Tray." Now the Stars are definetely in a tailspin, but it wasn't as obvious until that game against Boston, where the Bruins took all the crap from Avery and Ott in the first two periods, built a comfortable lead, and then just let those two jackasses have it. Marco Sturm chipped in two, one on the PP, and Bergeron added an unassisted wrap-around in the second for 5 to 1 throttling of Big D. Last night reinforced the Bruins dominance of late with a 6 to 1 thrashing of early Stanley Cup favorite, and heated division rival Montreal Canadiens. Going in to the game there was a lot at stake with a divisional lead, and overall bragging rights for a series this season that's now tied at one for each with wins at home. Hell, even Manny Hernandez looked he still had the form that he and Roloson shared in Minny, in what seems like ages ago now that Nik Backstrom has taken the posts for the Wild. I would like to see a little more production from Ryder, who I predicted to have a bounceback season this year, lined up with Bergeron and Axelsson. They'll face the Atlantic Division leader New York Rangers tomorrow in yet another test to prove their mettle.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are proof that no lead going into the third period is safe with three straight come from behind victories, and a five game win streak. The Isles held a one goal lead in the final frame, when Tyler Kennedy nipped the hard luck franchise once again with less than 3 minutes to go. The Penguins took the shootout victory in that one, as well as their game last night against inter-state rival Philadelphia. The Flyers chased Fleury after a four goal second period, giving up a three goal lead to go down by one. But Crosby came up with his second goal of the night, with again, less than 3 minutes to go in the 3rd to send it to overtime, and an eventual shootout. Its worth noting that Dany Sabourin did a fine job of clean up stopping 11 shots, and seven of Philly's best in the shootout to keep the net free of rubber during his tenure. The highlight reel stop on Mike Richards where Sabourin was clearly beat, leaving a yawning net for Richards, but giving an extreme second effort to put the stick down and sweep it away from the goal line was worth the price of admission alone. But the Pens most impressive effort in this stretch came against the defending Champs, and instantaneous cross-Conference rival Detroit Red Wings. Now I'll admit I only saw the third period, but something tells me that was the only one to watch if you had to pick one. The Wings went up 5 -2 just over 5 minutes into the third on a Power Play goal by Zetterberg, and I think everyone watching, Pens fans or not thought, "Okay, that's the end of it," with Detroit's disciplined puck control able to crunch the remaining minutes off the clock. Shortly after, Pittsburgh goes on the PP and Malkin banks one off the steel, and less than a minute and a half later Jordan Staal scores his first of the night to put the Pens within one. "Okay, never say never," was echoed throughout the hockey watching land, which in the end, couldn't have been more true. Then Hudler puts one in to bring back a two goal lead to the Wings and everyone came back to their original thought. Even Babcock stated in the post game that he thought the game was over at that point. But little did he realize how pissed the Pens nation, not to mention Jordan Staal, was at not only losing Marian Hossa, but also that silver trophy they give away in May. With just over four minutes left to go, the pesky Staal added his second goal to the stat sheet, but he wasn't done, oh no. With Fleury pulled and the waining seconds approaching, Therien sent Staal out to get his natural hat trick, and send the game into overtime, with 23 seconds left. In overtime, Staal, again, stole the puck from Datsyuk on a quick backcheck just heading into the neutral zone, turned back into Detroit's defensive zone, saw that he had help with Fedotenko on his right, dished a perfect pass over to him, and Fedotenko scored probably his sweetest goal all year. A couple notes for this game... Obviously, Staal immediately up'd his value, and is going to force Shero to bring out the slide rule and put some numbers together to keep him in Pittsburgh, or evaluate what he can get for him in the open market. Goligoski played an amazing game, showing poise and patience on the blueline, not to mention logging a ton of minutes (28:12), second only to Lidstrom on totals for both teams. And finally, this team still has the chemistry, grit, and tenacity that brought them to the finals last year, even with the departure of Hossa, Laraque, and Malone, respectively.

And the San Jose Sharks. Well they're off to a hot start, but like everyone says it won't matter until the post. Thornton is making incredible no look passes, like usual, Marleau is finding the back of the net, and Boyle is everything that Campbell wasn't.


Well the Stars go without saying, anyone respectable on that team is scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get the team going. The rest of them are happy to collect their check on Friday. Turco has hit a real bad patch, and Avery and Ott are embarrassing class acts like Mike Modano. Fun Fact - Los Angeles is three points ahead of Dallas for basement dweller status in the Pacific.

Ottawa has been brutal, losing to other bottom feeder teams like the Panthers, Bolts, and the Isles. Mark my words, heads will roll. After to the loss to Isles at home this week, Craig Hartsburg was asked if this was a wake up call to the team. A sleepy Hartsburg responded with, "No, I don't think this was a wake up call. I think it should be a wake up call," but I'm pretty tired, and these guys don't seem to give a shit so neither did I. I'm paraphrasing of course. I would say Hartsburg gets bagged before Christmas, if the current trend continues. Especially if they drop two in a row to the Isles, in a home and home. Ottawa, four points behind the Leafs for the cellar spot in the Northeast.

Speaking of heads rolling, Barry Melrose's return to coaching has been brought to a screetching halt when Brian Lawton announced the shitcanning of the Mullet after 16 games. It was pretty obvious from the get go that Barry didn't have a good grasp of coaching in the new NHL, but I think everyone gave him the benefit of the doubt to figure it out somewhere along the way. Somewhere after 40 games. Poker buddy Rick Tocchet will take over the dry erase board, which will mark either a dramatic rags to riches success story, or his encore to a gambling indictment in Jersey.

Lots of "strands crawlin' around in the old Duder's head, lotta in's, lotta out's" in the weeks ahead, stay tuned...

No comments: