This week in the NHL has been one that has seen star players collide, and rivalries renewed. In an original six matchup last night, Montreal and Boston played each other for the first time this season, and it was Carey Price who would be the one to outduel last year’s phenom Tuukka Rask to drive the Canadiens to a four point lead atop the Northeast division. Whether Montreal will win the division is a question that obviously cannot be answered yet, however it is clear that last night’s matchup was a showcase of the two best teams in their own division, and also two of the hottest recently in the Eastern Conference. It had that playoff feel. Though if you want to talk about too hot to handle, especially this week, then you have to talk about the Washington Capitals…
On Wednesday the Boston Bruins renewed a rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins that began last season following Matt Cooke’s brutal elbow on Marc Savard, who is still out indefinately. The Bruins didn’t do much following that game to match up to the high anticipation around the league, dropping a 3-0 result at home, however against the Penguins this time they put in an effort Savard would be smiling at. The game turned whilst the B’s were down 4-2, when Nathan Horton showed some nice control to unleash a stinger of a wrist shot past Brent Johnson, who saw his good numbers so far this season damaged after that game. Horton is certainly proving his fantasy worth with 7 goals and 13 points putting him on a point per game pace. Zdeno Chara scored the tying goal following a relatively slow start, but with another unstoppable marker against Montreal yesterday, he looks to be moving towards more what people would expect an elite defensemen to contribute to a fantasy team. He is really stepping into the puck, and also letting out that mean streak a little more, that will also help add to penalty minutes. That eventual win in Pittsburgh moved Tim Thomas to an incredible 8-0, while Tuukka Rask fell to 0-4-1 following the Habs 3-1 win last night.
Montreal’s management will be hugely relieved by Carey Price’s performances this season, and another huge one came yesterday, in which Price’s rebound control was something else, he made 34 saves moving to 9 total wins. Only Michael Neuvirth has more. P.K Subban scored his first NHL goal last night ( if you are not counting his goal in the playoffs ), and Scott Gomez finally got above a ratio of a point every 5 games, with his second of the season.
In the highly anticipated matchup between Steven Stamkos and Alexander Ovechkin, it was Alexander Semin who completely stole the show. Stamkos and Ovechkin both scored, but Semin exploded for a hat-trick and five points. As long as Semin keeps his work-ethic up throughout the season, it looks like he could creep toward 90 points. It is clear as day though that anyone who has Stamkos ( 14G, 26pts ), Ovechkin ( 9G, 23pts ), or Semin ( 12G, 21pts ) on their fantasy team, is feeling pretty satisfied right now. Especially how Stamkos hasn’t slowed down at all, when maybe some people were skeptical as to whether he could maintain the pace of last season. No doubt he will have been one of the most valuable keeper picks so far, and tonight he will face-off against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, who are looking for answers to their poor home form which has left them out of the playoff spots. There is always the Winter Classic Part 2 I guess…
In the Western Conference Edmonton continued to lose ground this week, as Nikolai Khabibulin isn’t inspiring any kind of confidence in those in front of him, and it is definately going to be extremely difficult for anyone on the team including youngters Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle to have a even plus-minus ratio by the end of the season. It was just a mishmash last night against a strong Detroit Red Wings team who are 8-2-0 in their last 10 to take control of the Central. Pavel Datsyuk looks to have bounced back from a recession in points last season, and he currently has a 10-game point streak, while goals are coming from unlikely secondary sources like Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom, who has 6 goals each on the year.
Meanwhile the Blackhawks continue to struggle somewhat offensively, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews going two games without a goal, whilst old friends Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd continue to put up numbers in Atlanta. Though it surely won’t be as long a goal drought as that of Ilya Kovalchuk’s, which stretched to seven games this week, and I would know because he is on my team. Then embarassment of losing control of the puck on the shootout in front of the home fans was just the icing on a very very bitter cake, as the Devils look up at everyone around them in the conference.
Meanwhile it is the Anaheim Ducks who are the ones making true progress in the West, behind the strong play of Jonas Hiller, who now has 4 straight wins. Curtis McElhinney also posted a shutout this week. The Blues Jaroslav Halak is going in the opposite direction, after an unstoppable start to the season. Halak was pulled after leaking four against Columbus, and then lost a shootout decision to Nashville yesterday. With T.J Oshie now needing surgery, St.Louis will be looking for big-time contributions from David Backes and David Perron to stay in the playoff hunt.
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