This life-long Los Angeles Kings fan must admit the hated Anaheim Ducks are the best team in hockey.
An incredible 19-0-2 record at home ranks among the best starts in NHL history, yet where is the acclaim that the Chicago Blackhawks were offered just a year ago? (Oh, yeah, the East Coast bias).
Those Ducks will battle the Kings in an important Pacific Division showdown on Saturday in the first warm-weather, outdoor game at Dodger Stadium (6:30 p.m. PT faceoff).
A New Year’s Eve triumph over San Jose ignited an 8-game win streak, yet Anaheim has pieced together long victory strings all season. And with only one game outside the state of California until Mar. 12, the Ducks could easily capture the President’s Trophy as the top team in the regular season.
Six power play goals in last week’s 9-1 thumping of Vancouver are crazy numbers, especially for a team in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
In a line-up loaded with top-flight talent – Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and the seemingly immortal Teemu Selanne, among others – the current leader is third-line forward Andrew Cogliano with seven goals in an 11-game stretch.
On Sunday, the Stadium Series switches to Yankee Stadium, when the Rangers host New Jersey. Three days later, NYR hosts the N.Y. Islanders on a Wednesday night NBCSN Rivalry Night showcase.
What took so long? For those who believed hooliganism was eliminated from the NHL, say hello to Saturday’s Calgary-Vancouver encounter, when Flames coach Bob Hartley elected to start his fourth line against a Canucks side, which elected to go physical in their recent 3-game road trip (all losses).
It only took two seconds (the timekeeper was slow in stopping the clock) before 10 skaters began earning time in the box after getting tossed. (Poor rookie Kellan Lain in his NHL debut in front of his parents broke the old “record” of 12 seconds in 1963.)
The best part was a Hockey Night in Canada camera capturing Vancouver coach John Tortorella attempting to charge the Flames’ dressing room between periods in “search” of Hartley, who simply attempted to beat the Canucks to the punch (so to speak).
The fallout should prove to be amusing for Tortorella, the winningest U.S. born coach in NHL history, who once tried an identical “strategy” against New Jersey.
Hey, “Torts,” don’t be a hypocrite and enjoy a brief suspension.
Meanwhile, Calgary’s Kevin Wesgarth is now 0-1 in his career taking faceoffs.
Bet on BJ’s: Following four seasons with the Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL), goalie Sergei Bobrovsky survived a brief stay with the Philadelphia Flyers to capture last year’s Vezina Award as the NHL’s best backstop.
Still, many major media outlets forget or choose to ignore the small-market Columbus Blue Jackets, directing attention at the “improved” or “turnaround” seasons with other Metropolitan Division teams such as the Flyers, Rangers and Capitals.
Two members of this scrap-heap of a division will meet in the first round of the playoffs, with the winner surely getting eliminated by the eventual Metro champion Pittsburgh Penguins one week later.
With respects to the rising Rangers from injuries – Rick Nash is on a roll – Columbus is proving to be the under-the-radar team for bettors to jump on.
Since Bobrovsky returned after five weeks on the shelf (groin pull – a familiar tune this season), the Jackets have won six straight, with the native of Russia posting a 5-0-0 mark. Among the victims: those Rangers and Capitals, plus highly-respected Tampa Bay.
Three of the victories came as mild 125 favorites, while two other wins came as dogs.(+135 vs. NYR). In other words, ignore major media outlets.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has already played eight on the road in January, going 6-2-0 ATS. Credit Olympic snub Ben Bishop in goal with the rise.
Included was a franchise record 48 saves in Sunday’s win over Carolina, allowing the Lightning to share the Atlantic Division lead with powerful Boston at 63 points entering the week. (Milestone: Congrats to Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who moved into third place on the NHL Victories list).
New Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said he had “a message” for the team. The Jets then raced past slumping Phoenix, 5-1. The Coyotes, once 14-4-4, are 9-12-5 (9-17 ATS) since the fast start.
Last laugh: To the haters who believe I am not analytical enough when it comes to utilizing statistics (of course I do, yet not exclusively), I offer the following story from Saturday’s CBC coverage of Hockey Day in Canada.
HNIC host Don MacLean was doing a story on Katie Starke, Miss Canada International 2010, who finished third at Miss Universe 2010. During the story, MacLean reported how Stark used health and nutrition – not starving herself – to become a top contestant after her skating career faltered playing right wing.
Attempting to note she is more than simply good looks, MacLean said, “With so many people trying to use numbers to pick winners, it reminds me about a bikini: it reveals a lot, but not everything.”
Contact Nick at [email protected].