NHL Week in Review (Oct. 23-29)

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This week in the NHL saw a flashback to the 1980s when the Philadelphia Flyers and the Winnipeg Jets faced off. The two teams came together on opposite ends of the spectrum in the NHL. The Winnipeg Jets are a major story in the NHL, especially in Canada, as the new team on the block and the 8th Canadian team in the league. The Jets have a very loyal and very big following but they have not performed up to what most would like them to. Winning only 2 games before they had played the Flyers many fans have been disappointed. Meanwhile the Flyers have been on a roll in large part thanks to the resurgence of Jaromir Jagr. The Flyers are also leaning heavily on Ilya Bryzgalov to fix their goaltending issues that have forced them out of the playoffs for years. With the signing of Bryzgalov the Flyers and many of the experts thought that the Flyers had finally solved their biggest issue and could make a run at the playoffs. On Thursday these two teams faced off in what became an instant throwback to the 1980s. The 1980s was a different time in hockey with goalies at a massive disadvantage and nowhere close to the technique of some goalies today. This was the time when offence exploded for 10 goals a game but that began to change as the defence caught up during the Trap years of the 1990s. The recent changes in the NHL rules have tried to increase offence to bring in the 1980s level of scoring. The Flyers and Jets game was just this with 17 goals combined between the two teams. In a very back and forth game the Flyers opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game when Scott Hartnell scored his third of the year. Then Winnipeg went on a run scoring three unanswered goals by Randy Jones, Jim Slater, and Kyle Wellwood. With a 3-1 lead in the second the Jets went at it again scoring two more goals to go up 5-1. The Flyers then got a goal by Claude Giroux that was essentially erased by another Winnipeg goal by Evander Kane. Then the Flyers mounted their comeback scoring 5 unanswered goals in the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd. The score was 7-6 for the Flyers after their goal run but the lead was gone as quickly as it came after Winnipeg scored another two goals to go ahead 8-7. Near the end of the game Philadelphia scored another goal to tie the game up with just about 3 minutes left in the game. Then the Jets finished off the game with almost 1 minute left in the game when Andrew Ladd scored his 3rd goal of the year for the 9-8 win. Throughout the offensive explosion the fans saw 4 goalies play as Sergei Brobrovsky and Chris Mason were pulled midway through the game for the two starting goalies in Bryzgalov and Ondrej Pavelec who did not fare much better. For the Jets the win showed the potential of the team as a good offensive team with questionable goaltending. For the Flyers this game was more worrisome as they began to question if they had actually found a goalie that can take them to the Stanley Cup. The comments made by Bryzgalov after the game did not help matters as he said that he was terrible and that he couldn’t stop the puck. The biggest issue with this is that being a goalie is a very mental position and having a goalie that has been broken mentally is a risky proposal unless they can have a great game that turns everything around.  This wild game has created some questions with both teams as many ask if the Jets are actually a good team that is beginning to turn it around and asking whether or not Bryzgalov is the solution to the Flyer goalie problem.

AS these questions are thought there are also a number of other questions that are beginning to surface in the NHL. This includes the questions over teams that are supposed to be the top of the NHL but so far have shown the opposite. First the Montreal Canadiens are supposed to be much improved adding some bigger tougher players to their roster as a way to balance a team that has relied on its skilled players over the past years. This year started not so well for the Canadiens as they dropped their season opener to their rivals from Ontario the Maple Leafs. They recovered for a win against the Winnipeg Jets but then went on a 6-game losing streak that launched them to the bottom of the league with a 1-6 record to start the year. Luckily for the Habs fans the Canadiens seemed to have made their adjustments and began this with a win over the Flyers and then taking two games against another struggling team the Boston Bruins. The Canadiens are currently on a three game winning streak but the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the Canadiens can sustain this streak and play up to their potential or if they will be a streaky team that may be fighting for a playoff spot. Meanwhile there are two teams that seem to both be suffering from the Stanley Cup Hangover. The Champion Boston Bruins have struggled out of the gate with a 3-7 record and are currently on a 3-game losing streak. Their opponents in the Finals last year is doing a bit better with a 5-5 record but have been up and down with their top goalie Roberto Luongo coming under fire. Many fans are asking for Cory Schneider to take over the starting role from Luongo who has struggled to start the year. All three of these teams will be trying to turn everything around and there is plenty of time as they are only through their first month of the season with over 5 months to go in the season.

 

Standings

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (18)

2. Philadelphia Flyers (13)

3. New York Rangers (9)

4. New Jersey Devils (9)

5. New York Islanders (8)

Northeast Division:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (15)

2. Buffalo Sabres (12)

3. Ottawa Senators (12)

4. Montreal Canadiens (10)

5. Boston Bruins (6)

Southeast Division:

1. Washington Capitals (14)

2. Florida Panthers (12)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (12)

4. Carolina Hurricanes (11)

5. Winnipeg Jets (7)

 

Western Conference

 Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks (14)

2. Nashville Predators (11)

3. Detroit Red Wings (10)

4. St. Louis Blues (10)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (3)

Northwest Division:

1. Edmonton Oilers (14)

2. Colorado Avalanche (12)

3. Minnesota Wild (11)

4. Vancouver Canucks (11)

5. Calgary Flames (9)

Pacific Division:

1. Dallas Stars (16)

2. Los Angeles Kings (14)

3. San Jose Sharks (12)

4. Phoenix Coyotes (12)

5. Anaheim Ducks (11)

 

Three Stars:

 

1. Carey Price, G (Montreal)

3-0-0

1.33 GAA

.950 SV%

0 SO

 

2. Nikolai Khabibulin, G (Edmonton)

3-0-0

1.67 GAA

.951 SV%

0 SO

 

3. Jaromir Jagr, RW (Philadelphia)

5 G

2 A

7 pts

4 +/-

 

Key Scores:

Edmonton Oilers 3 – 2 Vancouver Canucks

– The matchup of last year’s worst and best teams in the NHL from last year saw the Canucks continue their bad start against the young Oilers

 

Montreal Canadiens 2 – 1 Boston Bruins

– One of the oldest rivalries in the NHL got underway again this year with the Canadiens taking the first game between the original six teams

 

Winnipeg Jets 9 – 8 Philadelphia Flyers

– The explosion of offence saw the lead change multiple times and 17 goals scored with four different goalies in net

 

Toronto Maple Leafs 4 – 3 Pittsburgh Penguins

– Hockey Night in Canada saw the best team in the NHL take on the streaking Maple Leafs and in the back and forth game the Leafs came out on top

 

Key Games Next Week:

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators (October 30th; 7:00 pm)

– The Battle of Ontario enters their first game this year with both teams on a tear early in the season

 

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames (November 1st; 9:30 pm)

– The Canucks and Flames will face off in the Northwest Division matchup as the Canucks try to get above .500 and the Flames look to do the same

 

New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers (November 3rd; 7:00 pm)

– The battle of the Jersey Turnpike kicks off with the Flyers’ goalies looking to recover from a beatdown and the Devils trying to get their season on track

 

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins (November 5th; 7:00 pm)

– Hockey night in Canada will feature two of the original six teams as the Bruins look to beat their longtime rivals to get their season back and the Leafs look to continue a strong start

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