NHL Week in Review (Nov. 27-Dec. 2)

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So it starts as 2 months into the NHL the coaching carousel kicked into gear with multiple firings and hiring’s.  This time was a little different though as the coaching carousel did not just begin with a firing one day and a new hiring. Instead the carousel featured two firings within two hours on the same day and a hiring so quick that it was almost unbelievable. It all started when on Monday the Washington Capitals made a bit of a surprising move firing head coach Bruce Boudreau. The Capitals were struggling this year and a large part of that was the lack of production out of their superstar Alexander Ovechkin. Of course it was not all OV’s fault as the rest of the team failed to produce as well. It was not expected that this slow start would result in any major changes with the Caps sure to figure it out before they are eliminated from the playoffs. Instead of the status quo the Capitals pulled the trigger before anyone could predict it as they fired Bruce Boudreau 7 days after becoming the fastest coach to reach 200 wins. Boudreau became the first casualty of the coaching carousel but it wasn’t over for him this week. A big reason for this was apparently the rumour that Boudreau had lost his team as the bad performance was a result of the lack of respect for the coach. The Caps would try to remedy this as they hired Dale Hunter from the London Knights. Since hiring Hunter the Caps have gone 1-2 and are looking to turn around their season but they are not the only ones. The Carolina Hurricanes did not waste any time following suit with the Capitals. 90 minutes after the Boudreau firing the Hurricanes decided to fire their head coach Paul Maurice for the second time in franchise history. The Canes have not been a very good team for a while and Paul Maurice was the first thing to change in the organization that may see some bigger changes throughout the season. It will not be the first time that the Canes have decided to make a midseason change and it paid off the first time. They will replace Maurice with Kirk Muller who will move from the AHL as the head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals to the NHL. Since hiring Muller the Hurricanes have gone 0-3 but will look to adjust to their new coach and save the season. It wasn’t over there though as in a very unexpected twist the Anaheim Ducks fired head coach Randy Carlyle after a poor start to the season and after two days of unemployment hired Bruce Boudreau as the new head coach. In possibly one of the shortest turnovers in coaching history Boudreau moved from Washington to Anaheim all within the span of three days. With the wild week in coaching finished there promises to be more changes in the NHL as teams look to make some changes in order to get back into the running before the first half of the season is over. The coaches may be safe however as the only places that may change behind the bench are the Montreal Canadiens and the Columbus Blue Jackets but these changes are not very likely midseason. The biggest changes may come with early trades as teams begin to look ahead to improve their team before the trade deadline. This attempt to be active before the deadline could see a few big name players move to new teams. The biggest names circulating are Bobby Ryan and Jerome Iginla. Iginla has been a stalwart in the Flames lineup for years and the rumours swirling around his trade are generally media driven. The Flames themselves have stated that he is not on the market and will not be traded while the media insists that the trade needs to happen to rebuild the team. The Flames are adamant that they do not trade their captain but if they are still struggling near the Trade Deadline Iginla continues to request trades, as he reportedly did this week, who knows what they might want to do. The most realistic option is Bobby Ryan who is being considered by many clubs as the Anaheim Ducks have begun shopping him around. This may be a little deceiving though as they are shopping him around but will need a lot to let go of him. They could be looking but the price may be too high unless they get to a point at the trade deadline where they need to make a change. With two months gone in the season the teams are looking to keep up with the top teams and to do this they make changes. Whether it is the coach or a key player teams in the NHL will try to do whatever they can to get into the race before it is too late and they are focusing on the draft.

In more big news this week one of the more recent rivalries took place with the matchup ratcheted up thanks to the return of Crosby. The Washington/Pittsburgh rivalry came to be because of one simple thing and that was the competition of Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Since both of these players began their careers the debate has raged on as to which one of the players was the best in the NHL. Recently the debate has cooled though as Crosby has continued to play at the highest level while Ovechkin has started to drop. Crosby is now considered the best player in the NHL leaving Ovechkin behind, but the big question remains why has Ovechkin not been able to keep his level of play up? Ovechkin was a very dangerous player in his first few years but since then he has started to falter. Part of this has been his physical play that is starting to catch up to him as he has been injured more often in the past few years. Another issue is that Ovechkin has become very predictable in the way he plays and where he tries to find his goals. For the first few years he would regularly skate to the top of the left circle and shoot through the defenseman’s legs and would score on that shot a lot. This move has been figured out leaving Ovechkin to become more creative. This is not the only reason though as he has become less creative and more defensive, partly because of Bruce Boudreau’s old system. With this change in the way he plays Ovechkin has become less of an offensive threat and more of a two-way forward but he is still not good enough defensively to be considered a two-way forward. It seems as though the debate is over about Crosby and Ovechkin and with Ovechkin changing the way he plays the debate may never start-up again. The biggest issue is the fact that without Ovechkin playing the way he can the Capitals are clearly not the same team. If the Caps ever hope to get to the Stanley Cup and win the Cup they will need Ovechkin to return to his former self and with a new coach this may happen but there is still a long way to go.

 

Standings:

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (36)

2. New York Rangers (33)

3. Philadelphia Flyers (31)

4. New Jersey Devils (25)

5. New York Islanders (19)

Northeast Division:

1. Boston Bruins (33)

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (30)

3. Buffalo Sabres (27)

4. Montreal Canadiens (27)

5. Ottawa Senators (26)

Southeast Division:

1. Florida Panthers (30)

2. Washington Capitals (25)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (24)

4. Winnipeg Jets (24)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (20)

 

Western Conference

Central Division:

1. Detroit Red Wings (33)

2. Chicago Blackhawks (33)

3. St. Louis Blues (31)

4. Nashville Predators (28)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (17)

Northwest Division:

1. Minnesota Wild (35)

2. Vancouver Canucks (29)

3. Edmonton Oilers (29)

4. Colorado Avalanche (25)

5. Calgary Flames (22)

Pacific:

1. Dallas Stars (31)

2. Los Angeles Kings (30)

3. San Jose Sharks (29)

4. Phoenix Coyotes (29)

5. Anaheim Ducks (19)

 

Three Stars:

1. Matt Moulson, LW (New York Islanders)

6 G

1 A

7 P

+2 +/-

 

2. Ryan O’Reilly, C (Colorado Avalanche)

4 G

3 A

7 P

+6 +/-

 

3. Jonathan Quick, G (Los Angeles Kings)

2-0-0

0.50 GAA

.986 SV%

1 SO

 

Key Scores:

Los Angeles Kings 2 – 0 San Jose Sharks

– The Battle of California saw the San Jose Sharks fall to their rivals in the Kings that allowed the Kings to continue their climb into the top of the division

 

Pittsburgh Penguins 2 – 1 Washington Capitals

– The first matchup this year between the two men who created this rivalry as Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby with Crosby coming out on top but both players could not manage any points

 

Winnipeg Jets 1 – 0 Phoenix Coyotes

– The New Jets hosted the old Jets for the first time in Winnipeg with the Coyotes receiving boos every time they touched the puck and the Jets came out on top after a Bryan Little goal

 

Calgary Flames 5 – 3 Edmonton Oilers

– The Battle of Alberta moved to the CBC for the Hockey Night in Canada late game as the Flames were able to shut down the surprising Oilers for the win with the Flames gaining some ground in the Northwest

 

Key Games Next Week:

Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche (December 4th; 8:00 pm)

– This rivalry has lost most of its fire in recent years but there is still something left with both teams still remembering the glory days of this intense Western Conference rivalry

 

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers (December 5th; 7:00 pm)

– The matchup of the two highest grossing teams and two of the most legendary teams will see a good game next week as both teams continue to put together good seasons

 

Washington Capitals vs. Ottawa Senators (December 7th; 7:00 pm)

– The Battle of the Nation Capitals will take place next week as the Canadian Capital in Ottawa will host the US Capital of Washington in a true test of Canada against the USA

 

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (December 8th; 7:00 pm)

– The Battle of Pennsylvania will have some fire with Crosby back and both teams continuing to play well in the first two months of the season with Philly looking to gain some ground in the division race

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