There’s a fraudulent team currently residing in first-place – the Florida Panthers – which suddenly became the surprise leaders of the Atlantic Division.
Despite a pair of nice road wins in Dallas and Nashville earlier this season, Florida has enjoyed a light schedule against the Western Conference, which stood at 8-6-1 following Sunday’s triumph in Edmonton.
However, many of these games featured matchups with the opponent’s No. 2 goalie – you need to save your No. 1 goalie for those important 4-point games within the division – giving the Panthers a break. With Florida now on top of the table, expect fewer easy victories and a drop to the middle of the division, fighting with the rest for a playoff berth.
One specialty number often mentioned in this column is “ROW” or the number of Regulation and Overtime Wins. The Panthers have 21, as do Detroit and Montreal, yet Florida has more wins in shootouts – the current difference between first and third place. When the Red Wings and Canadiens start winning again – and soon – Florida goes bye-bye in this critical tiebreaker.
The Panthers are the lukewarm hot team among the eight in the division, but I’ll look elsewhere for my actions.
The same could be said for the Toronto Maple Leafs, which went more than 100 minutes before allowing a goal on its recent Southern California trip.
Alas, the Leafs left Cali with a 7-0 pasting from San Jose, making Toronto another team you can’t trust – at least for now. For the moment, we will be waiting on the sidelines to make a move on Mike Babcock’s squad, who noted that “trust” among teammates has been a major factor to turnaround an awful October.
The Chicago Blackhawks, upon winning the 2010 Stanley Cup, needed to unload valuable talent to remain under the salary cap. They needed to do this also following Cup wins in 2012 and 2015.
This time, the rebuilding process is much quicker, as Chicago has captured seven straight games, moving the Hawks (58 points) within four of Dallas for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Chris Chelios, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the lone player to match Gordie Howe’s record by playing in 26 NHL seasons, has a son who should soon be elevated and follow in his father’s footsteps. Jake Chelios, 24, a defenseman for the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) is in line to receive a call-up to Carolina.
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