NHL Week in Review (February 8-14)

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The NHL is set to begin the most important part of the regular season as the trade deadline approaches and marks the true beginning of the playoff race. It is the most exciting time in the regular season as teams look for their shot at the Stanley Cup. The competition is that much more when the playoff race begins as everyone knows the stakes have been raised. With the race coming close February becomes a positioning race as teams look to make improvements and get themselves in the right position before they start the playoff race already out of contention. For some teams the trade deadline is the key as they look to make those last moves to finally get the pieces they have been missing. There are only a few teams that are out of contention at this point in the year and so there are a lot of teams looking to get those last pieces of the puzzle. For some the March 2nd deadline is the final day to officially announce whether they are ready for a playoff run or not. The teams that add pieces are set to begin their run as they look for the last few players that can push them over the hump. Teams that start to trade away their players generally try to build for the future and hope that they can find the players they need for the next few years. For a lot of teams March 2nd is just too late though as they need to get started on a playoff run now before they end the season outside of the playoff race. These teams are sitting lower than most and are struggling to find their way into the playoff hunt. So they pull the trigger on a trade early trying to get in on a big trade before everyone else and get their season back before the playoff race. The Buffalo Sabres took on that role this year when they started the trade deadline early making some big moves before the trade deadline. It started with a big move with the Winnipeg Jets but it was one that might not have a big impact this year. The Jets had been looking to trade Evander Kane for the better part of the last month but the hopes of trading what was their best player took a hit when he hit the injured reserve. The season is over for Kane as he elected to undergo surgery to repair his injured shoulder and will miss the rest of the season. With his off-ice issues there was no question that the Jets wanted to get rid of Kane but it was much more likely to happen in the off-season. Then the Sabres came calling and Kane was off to the East, although they won’t see him until 2015-16. The Sabres sent Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and a conditional 1st round draft pick in 2015 to the Jets. In return the Sabres receive the injured Kane along with Zach Bogosian, and the rights to Jason Kasdrof. The trade was one of those trades that officially announced that the Sabres are fighting for Connor McDavid rather than the Stanley Cup. They traded away some solid players for one player who might help them this year, negotiating rights for another player, and a player than can’t help them until next season. They continued to show everyone that the plan was in place to give up on the season when they traded away starting goalie Jhonas Enroth to the Dallas Stars for back-up goaltender Anders Lindback. It was another step towards the top pick in the NHL draft as they sit at the bottom of the league with the closest team six points away. Trading away some of their top players mainly for someone who won’t play this year while getting rid of their top goaltenders for a good back-up has made it clear that the Sabres aren’t ready to play for the playoffs this year. They will look to finish out the season respectively but in the end are probably secretly hoping that they can get a shot at Connor McDavid, the assumed top pick in the draft, or potential Jake Eichel, the only other prospect that could take the #1 spot. The Sabres have done what many teams will continue to do as the March 2nd deadline approaches as they announced where they stand on the spectrum of contenders before the playoff race begins.

(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

The Blowup is Coming
The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a bad 2015 as they had a franchise worst 11 game losing streak and fell further out of the race and so Brendan Shanahan seems prepared to make changes and the Leafs brass agrees as a blowup seems to be headed Toronto’s way

Canada Celebrates their sport
Hockey Day in Canada was once again the focus on Saturday as the country that created the sport celebrated the thing that makes them Canadian as they continued to celebrate the sport that is in the blood of all Canadians

Las Vegas Halfway There
With Vegas starting a season ticket campaign to convince the NHL that they belong in Sin City and with just over a week gone in the campaign they are halfway to their goal showing that Vegas may be a better option than many think


Key Scores:
Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 2 St. Louis Blues
– The division rivalry continued as the Blues and Blackahwks sit inside the top three of the division and again fight for positioning in a back and forth battle that was eventually won by the Blachawks

New York Rangers 5 – 4 Toronto Maple Leafs
– The Leafs may have broken their franchise long losing streak but the winning did not last long as they went against the Rangers and took another loss in what has been a disastrous new year for league’s most valuable team

Vancouver Canucks 5 – 4 Chicago Blackhawks (OT)
– Any time that these two teams face-off it seems to be a close battle and one that often determines a lot in the season as both once again faced off in a tight game that was forced to overtime and eventually was taken by the Canucks

Montreal Canadiens 2 – 1 Toronto Maple Leafs (OT)
– To end the celebration of hockey throughout Canada the oldest rivalry in the sport got underway again and while the Leafs continue to have a bad start to the new year they were able to push their long-time rivals to overtime and pick up a point

Next Week:
New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders (Monday February 16th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The battle of New York is becoming a very important series in the Metropolitan Division as both teams are fighting to remain in the top three with the Islanders trying to stay on top of the division and the Rangers just trying to stay out of the wild card

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Tuesday February 17th; 7:00 pm ET)
– One of the league’s newest rivalries is once again in focus as the battle of Crosby and Ovechkin will never get old especially when they are both sitting near the top of their division and looking to stay in playoff contention

Anaheim Ducks vs. Calgary Flames (Friday February 20th; 9:00 pm ET)
– The Calgary Flames are in the midst of their most exciting season in recent memory as they continue to fight for a playoff spot and look to be in a tight battle for the rest of the season as they take on the top team in the division

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks (Saturday February 21st; 10:00 pm ET)
– The Kings are not having the season they were hoping for a year after winning the Cup as they continue to fall down the standings while they take on the sharks hoping to climb back into the playoff hunt

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