NHL Week in Review (Jan. 29 – Feb. 4)

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The unofficial halfway point of the season and original Winter Classic was much of the same thing we had all seen before. The NHL All-Star game was a display of offence as it usually is with the defences taking a break for the game. This year the two teams earned a following as well with the NHL All-Star draft creating an obvious separation. Team Alfredsson was led by the hometown favorite Daniel Alfredsson and the captain kept his loyalties straight drafting all of his Ottawa teammates and refusing to take any Toronto Maple Leafs. Meanwhile Team Chara was the enemy with Joffrey Lupul from the Leafs as the assistant captain. This made Chara take all of the Leafs players especially since Chara refused to take any Vancouver Canucks. With the battle lines drawn the hometown crowd of Ottawa had their team and their rival giving the environment of the game a bit more bite to it. Of course some things never change as the goalies were left out to dry by the nonexistent defence and the lack of hitting. The type of game was the usual but also displayed the skill in the NHL with players able to showcase what they can do without much threat of being hit hard or being hurt by a desperation play. From the very start of the game the skill was on display as Team Chara got out to an early 3-0 lead. They did this behind two goals by Marian Gaborik and another goal by Evgeni Malkin. Gaborik was a man on a mission in the first period as he took on his teammate and Team Alfredsson assistant captain Henrik Lundqvist who did not pick him in the draft. Team Alfredsson finally got on the board in the first when Dan Girardi put one in from the point. Girardi’s goal gave his team the momentum as they used it to get back into the game scoring another two goals to tie up the game at three goals apiece. In the second period Team Chara began the period like they began the first period as they got on the board early scoring two more goals to go ahead 5-3. Team Alfredsson did not allow them to get too far ahead though as they got one goal back to reduce the lead. Then Team Alfredsson sent the crowd into an uproar as Daniel Alfredsson went through both defenceman for a goal to tie the game and added another to give them their first lead in the game. Before the period ended Team Chara was able to tie the game up while the goalies prevented Team Cahra from going down even more flashing some leather. The third period saw the Leafs line add yet another goal for Team Chara but the game became a lot more even with both teams exchanging goals rapidly. The Leafs line continued to roll though as they added more goals allowing Team Chara to pull away. Eventually Team Chara was able to take the win with a total of 12-9 as Marian Gaborik earned a hat trick with Joffrey Lupul earning two goals and the Leafs line, that including Lupul, scoring 4 goals. The game was not unusual for an All-Star game as both teams lacked defence, although the goalies did show some great moves, but the offence was spectacular with a lot of highlight reel goals. To the disappointment of the home crowd Daniel Alfredsson and the rest of the Sens did not take the win although Daniel Aflredsson had two goals while Jason Spezza put one in the net. They also could not prevent their bitter rivals from having good games as Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul played well in front of the booing crowd. All in all the All Star game was a hit as Ottawa did a great job hosting and the fans looked to be getting used to the draft format that entered its second year. With the All-Star game finished the second half of the season began as teams came back together and prepared for the last push before the playoffs.

The NHL got back to normal this week with meaningful games continuing after the All-Star festivities. It did not take long for the action to heat up either as the NHL teams picked up where they left off playing some great games. The players also picked up where they left off as they continued to lead their teams towards the playoffs. Of course some players did not continue as they had been before the all-star break with certain players beginning to struggle. Not all players fell off though as some players began showing some signs of life in this second half including Sam Gagner. The Thursday after the All-Star break saw something that has only been seen 11 times before in the long history of the NHL and Gagner was at the centre of it all. That night the Edmonton Oilers were looking to have a good first half after their first half of the year looked too familiar with little success. They would try to do this against a much better team in the Chicago Blackhawks that had been playing some good hockey in the first half but began to falter going into the break. Many believed that the game would be easily won by the Blackhawks but that was not the case as the Oilers were able to dismantle the Blackhawks winning 8-2. More amazing than the great score is that one player was involved in all 8 goals for the Oilers. Sam Gagner had the performance of a lifetime as he scored 4 goals and had 4 assists as he entered a level that few have seen. Only 11 players had ever earned 8 points in a single game and the names that populate this list also populate the plaques at the Hockey Hall of Fame. These players include Wayne Gretzky who completed this feat, he also had 10 points in a game, in a Oilers jersey. Gagner only had 22 points up to that night and with one performance reached 30 this year and will hope that the 8 point night Is a great omen for the rest of the season. It takes something special to do what Gagner did this past week and if it is any indication of the rest of the season to come all hockey fans should be excited with more sure to come as the NHL prepares for the playoffs.

 

NHL Standings:

 

Eastern Conference:

Atlantic Division:

1. New York Rangers (69)

2. Philadelphia Flyers (66)

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (64)

4. New Jersey Devils (61)

5. New York Islanders (50)

Northeast Division:

1. Boston Bruins (66)

2. Ottawa Senators (61)

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (60)

4. Buffalo Sabres (50)

5. Montreal Canadiens (47)

Southeast Division:

1. Florida Panthers (59)

2. Washington Capitals (58)

3. Winnipeg Jets (54)

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (51)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (49)

 

Western Conference

Central Division:

1. Detroit Red Wings (72)

2. Nashville Predators (68)

3. St. Louis Blues (67)

4. Chicago Blackhawks (65)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (34)

Northwest Division:

1. Vancouver Canucks (69)

2. Minnesota Wild (58)

3. Colorado Avalanche (55)

4. Calgary Flames (54)

5. Edmonton Oilers (47)

Pacific Division:

1. San Jose Sharks (64)

2. Los Angeles Kings (60)

3. Dallas Stars (56)

4. Phoenix Coyotes (54)

5. Anaheim Ducks (46)

 

Key Scores:

 

NHL All-Star Game:

Team Chara 12 – 9 Team Alfredsson

– Marian Gaborik had 3 goals while the Maple Leafs line had 4 goals with boos coming from everywhere in the stadium but the Senators did not disappoint with Daniel Alfredsson scoring twice and Jason Spezza adding another but it was not enough as Team Chara took the win

 

Boston Bruins 4 – 3 Ottawa Senators

– In the first game back from the all-star break the two all-star captains faced off as Daniel Alfredsson led the Sens against Zdeno Chara and the Bruins but only Chara would be involved opening the scoring and helping his team to the win

 

Edmonton Oilers 8 – 2 Chicago Blackhawks

– The Oilers surprised everyone as they beat the Blackhawks convincingly but more amazing was the four goals and four assists by Sam Gagner who became the 8th player to earn 8 points in a single game

 

Toronto Maple Leafs 5 – 0 Ottawa Senators

– The Senators continued their midseason struggles into the second half as they fell to their bitter rivals in the battle of Ontario and took a hit in their grip of 2nd place in the Northeastern Division

 

Next Week:

Detroit Red Wings vs. Phoenix Coyotes (February 6th; 8:00 pm)

– In a rematch of the playoffs last year the Detroit Red Wings will be looking to continue their success this year as they have entered a battle for the President’s Trophy but the Coyotes will be looking to stop the Wings’ run and begin to climb back into the playoffs

 

St. Louis Blues vs. Ottawa Senators (February 7th; 7:30 pm)

– The Senators continue to struggle after some great success earlier in the season and they will try to get back on track but will be in tough against the Blues who have surprised everybody with their performance and will be trying to keep up with the Detroit Red Wings

 

Los Angeles Kings vs. Florida Panthers (February 9th; 7:30 pm)

– Two teams that are rarely talked about will face off with both teams near the top of their respective divisions with the Panthers standing at the top of the Southeast and the Kings in second place in the Pacific

 

Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (February 11th; 7:00 pm)

– The Canadiens vs. Leafs is one of the oldest and most bitter rivalries in the NHL and they will face off again with the Canadiens struggling to keep pace and the Leafs looking to break a 7 year playoff drought

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