This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

 

If I told you in September…

  • that Milan Lucic and Matt Moulson would both have more goals on March 5th than Phil Kessel
  • that after a 15 month break Alexander Ovechkin would return to Twitter to post the picture of Phil Kessel sitting alone as the last player to be picked at the All-Star draft?
  • that only two players in the top 100 goal scorers, Radim Vrbata and David Booth , would have a lower shooting percentage than Alex Ovechkin
  • That of center Stamkos and winger Ovechkin, the latter would have more assists
  • Dany Heatley would be just one point ahead of Patrice Bergeron
  • the Washington Capitals would fall out of last years top spot for goal scoring all the way to the 2o’s, and go from 16th in goals against up to 7th
  • the NHL’s best penalty kill would belong to the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • the #7 offense would belong to a team, Tampa Bay, with only one short handed goal
  • the Colorado Avalanche who have allowed the most goals per game would have the second best Sv% in the shootout in the NHL
  • the Edmonton Oilers would own a better winning percentage when trailing after two periods than; the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins,  Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes, and Calgary Flames all of which are in the top 8 in their conference as of today
  • that with Malkin out since 02/04 and Crosby out since 01/05 that the Penguins would not only still be in the playoffs, but still have home ice advantage for the first round
  • that for the first time since 2003-04 Joe Thornton would be less than a point per game player
  • of Los Angeles Kings defensemen; Rob Scuderi, Jack Johnson, Alec Martinex and Matt Greene that Scuderi would have the most game winning goals.
  • that despite having the third worst +/- in the NHL, the Florida Panthers would still be able to unload Denis Wideman on deadline day
  • former Bruins Phil Kessel and Denis Wideman would be a combined -45
  • Patrick Sharp would lead all players in goals against division opponents

would you have believed a single word?

 

These two teams come as billed. They have the best and second best goal differential, the third best road record against the best home record. Two top teams for goals against, and two top scoring teams. The only real edge on paper aside from the home record was special teams. But as we all know, hockey is played on the ice and not on paper and that’s where the Bruins had a special player as their ace in the skates. Milan Lucic. The man who may one day be both myth and legend.

The first period was mostly subtle fencing as two teams who know they were up against opponents who could eviscerate them with the flick of a wrist felt each other out. Marchand’s ill advised holding the stick penalty was killed off by a the Bruins who took being on the home ice of the NHL’s top powerplay team as a challenge. Late in the period after Kaberle coughed up the puck, and a Vancouver player bulldozed Tim Thomas, the Bruins would give up a goal to a team that had proven nearly invincible when scoring first.

In the second another Marchand penalty, another penalty killed. Kaberle bobbled the puck a few times and was  less of a defensive and physical presence than Michael Ryder (who looked damn good even though he didn’t make the score sheet) and the Bruins bench was shortened to five defensemen as Andrew Ference did not return to the game. Marchand and Burrows moved their jaws at an impressive rate of speed in each others directions that may even have eclipsed their skating speed.  Kaberle applied some reputation bondo by getting a pass through to the net front where Vancouver Giant alumnus Milan Lucic tapped a pass to the former Oshawa General Nathan Horton who tapped home his own rebound to tie the game.

The middle of the third saw Greg Campbell get an impressively bad holding call. For all the evidence I saw I think he may have been penalized for holding his own hockey stick. Disgusted, but undeterred the Bruins again shut down a the NHL’s most potent powerplay, and kept charging forward. On a break up the ice that was notable for Chara being tied up below the Bruins goal line with a member of the Canucks, David Krejci skated through and around the heart of the Vancouver roster while Lucic was being interfered with. Sliding wide he wrapped around the net, he shared the puck with a wide open Seidenberg who passed it to the local boy. Milan Lucic wasted no time and effort doing what he’d been dreaming of since long before he was drafted by the Boston Bruins and got a roar out of the home town crowd even while wearing the wrong uniform.

With just a few minutes left the game got tighter, passes were picked off and space was more available on the bench than the ice. When it came down to the final moments of the game, my first tweet of the showdown proved to be prophetic:

Lucic Chara & Bergeron vs Sedin Sedin & Kesler. Depth Grit & Balance vs Telepathy Polish & Speed.

Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara were on the ice to defend Tim Thomas while Luongo retreated to the bench. Together with newcomer Chris Kelly, they dug the puck out and just after center ice Lucic passed the puck to Bergeron who feathered in the empty netter. On the night with all goals coming at even strength the Bruins trio was +4, their opposite number -5.

Next up for the Bruins the Edmonton Oilers in what some might call a trap game. With an effort like tonight’s the Bruins can just call it two points.

The last several weeks have seen quite an improvement in the hundred million dollar man, and his team. They are the hottest team in hockey right now and he’s having a respectable season all of a sudden.  Kovalchuck enters the day with a line of 21-21-41 -20. The last the biggest area of improvement.

On the blueline we find Kevin Shattenkirk with a new zip code and tied for points with Cam Fowler. Just behind the two in points andahead of them in +/- is das wundermouth PK Subban. Not to be overlooked is the Washington Capitals John Carlson. The  breakdown:

  • Shattenkirk, is playing as much as 2:30 minutes less a night than the three guys immediately behind him in scoring, has also played five less games than Fowler who has the same number of points, and seven less than Subban.
  • Fowler, while his -22 is startling, it should be noted over 55% of his points have come on the powerplay. May or may not be living up to his reputation for softeness with just 16 penalty minutes. A lot of people would call that disciplined.
  • Subban, with more than 50 more shots on goal than the second active shooter among rookie defensemen it appears Subban swings his stick almost as often as his jaw. Unlike Fowler and Shattenkirk, Subban also sees significant penalty kill time with over 2 minutes a night on average.
  • Carlson is clearly the most complete player of all the rookie defensemen. He plays in all situations, has a team leading +/- and is second to only the Bruins defensive stalwart Adam McQuaid in +/- for rookie blueliners. Useless fact: While he’s got less points on the road, his +/- is better away from home.

Forwards are an increasingly more interesting story. Some guys have bounced in and out of the statistical leaders, some have fought their way in, and one or two have been at or near the top all season. Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks and Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes look to take the race for the top of the heap from coast to coast. Michael Grabner, Brad Marchand, and Taylor Hall have worked their way to the top of the pile, while Derek Stepen and Tyler Ennis have bounced in and out of the top tier.

  • Ennis has earned his minutes on a weak Sabres squad with lots of speed and a willingness to shoot the puck.
  • Stepan is very, very quietly third in scoring on his team. That might be a more impressive stat if his team, the New York Rangers wasn’t 22nd in goals for. Their 25th ranked powerplay isn’t helping his stats either.
  • Hall hit the middle of the season and hit his stride, while third in scoring he is also playing more minutes than any other rookie forward.
  • Grabner is the sleeper for post season recognition. His speed is absurd, and the All Star weekend was something of a coming out party for him. On a team with a collective -32 his +9 is eye opening. Of his 25 goals, 17 have come since 1/1. Is second to Marchand in rookie shorthanded goals.
  • Couture, lots of goals from lots of shots on goals, with lots of time on ice would be less impressive if he weren’t maintaining a high +/- on a team in the bottom half of the NHL for goal differential.
  • Marchand, leads all rookies in shorthanded goals and points, leads all rookies in +/-, leads all the scoring leaders in short handed time on ice, has more hits than any of the top scorers is the most complete player of all the rookie forwards.
  • Skinner. Mr Consistent, has been the scoring leader for most of the season, is producing more points per minute than other top rookies. Has an impressive take away to turnover ratio.

Once clear as day, the rookie goalie landscape has been turned over several times.  Injuries, trades, the retrn of other goalies and cold spells have made this an interesting position to watch, but assured us the Calder Trophy winner won’t be coming from the crease unless something extraordinary happens over the next twenty games.

  • James Riemer hasn’t been in the NHL long, but he’s making it damned hard to ignore him. In just 17 games played he’s 1 win short of  team leader J.S. Giguere’s win total, and has a 2.24 GAA and .931 Sv% on a team that’s not worth much.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky, is still hanging around the top of the pack despite being shuffled into the background in Flyer country.  With more wins than any other rookie a 2.46 GAA and a .918 Sv% you can’t complain about much of his game and not sound like a moron.
  • Corey Crawford is the show stopper though, he’s just a couple wins behind Bobrovsky, with a slightly better Sv% at .923 and a much better GAA at 2.11, he leads rookies in both and does it behind a much weaker defense than Bobrovsky. He might just manage to drag his team into the playoffs too.

In no particular order the five best rookies are:

Crawford, Skinner, Marchand, Carlson, and Subban.

The five most interesting stories to watch from now until the the trade deadline.

  • How far will the dismantlement of the Colorado Avalanche go? I was shocked to see Calder Trophy candidate Kevin Shattenkirk shipped out.  Stuffed into the wagon along with him was 23 year old power-forward Chris Stewart, and a conditional pick. Going the other was was Erik Johnson a defensemen with a great pedigree, who has lost his luster.  Paul Statsny is rumored to be available,
  • What will the NHL’s newest owner do with his team? He stated on NHLLive today he was more likely to make future moves than put band-aids on this season, but with players like Statsny, Brad Richards, and who knows who else coming or potentially coming on the market, will he say I want that one! Brad Richards, Ed Jovonovski, and others could contribute to the team for a while.
  • Who blinks first? The Western conference is so tight you can probably get almost anything from those who are determined to succeed now. We’ve see the Avalanche run up the white flag while the Kings have been really quiet. With Carolina having played two more games than the Sabres they have to be looking over their shoulders. If they decide to keep restocking via the draft Cole, Samsanov, Pitkanen, and Jokienen could fetch some decent picks or prospects.
  • What Will Lou Do? The New Jersey Devils general manager has perhaps the hardest calls to make this silly season. He’s got a team that’s playing world beating hockey and is following teams down dark alleys and going through their pockets for loose points, but the odds of getting to the playoffs are really stacked against them. Purely from the cap management point of view, shaking the team loose of Rolston’s contract or one of the other larger contracts on the books for next year could keep them from being an embarrassment to the NHL again next year as they were when they were icing understrength rosters thanks to injuries and cap issues.
  • Hands down the most interesting issue of the off season is what happens to the big name UFAs. As we saw with Bouwmesster recently they are the players that will have reverberations on and off the ice for years to come no matter what call is made. Brad Richards, Shea Weber, Ilya Bryzgalov, Simon Gagne, are all the type of player that when healthy can push an organization from bubble to playoff team and playoff team to contender or cup favorite. If not signed, all four of these guys will be free to sign anywhere they please July 1st. There are lost of people who think Richards would look great in a Sabre’s uniform so would Weber for that matter either of the two when added to Miller, Vanek and Myers gives you a hell of core. The Predators and Lightning are pretty firmly in the playoffs, but an offer too good to refuse is always possible.

Bonus story: How many more times will someone at Versus make the histerical statement that the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have the hottest rivalry in the NHL?

The eastern conference is deeper than the west this year, and I can’t really see any of the top six in the east falling out. Carolina and Atlanta may have a dog fight until game 82 is in the books, and the New York Rangers just need to stay healthy. The new wild card will be the Pittsburgh Penguins, with Malkin likely out for six month they could buy, sell, or do nothing. Any of the three could set off an avalanche of movement.

Carolina Hurricanes, they have a bit of a history of movement around the deadline. With the most goals allowed of any team currently in the eastern conferences top 8, it’s a no brainier what they should add. Where they are going to add a solid blueliner is a mystery, but one they probably need to solve. With Staal, Skinner, and Ward pulling the train they are unlikely to to get embarrassed in the playoffs. With less than a handful of others making an impact it’s hard to see them getting to the promised land.  Sending off one or two of their forward prospects for an NHL roster defenseman might be the best way to tighten up the back end and provide a mentor for Jamie Mcbain.

Atlanta Thrashers, despite their improvements on defense, their defense is still worrisome with 178 goals allowed, only the last place Edmonton Oilers have allowed more goals. It is highly unlikely they can somehow morph into the best defense in the league through any possible combination of trades and promotions between now and the playoffs. The good news is that with the tenth best offense in the NHL they probably don’t need to. With even a slight upgrade and the firm ministrations of coach Craig Ramsay, a better defense is more than just possible it’s highly likely.  The other area the team is lacking is in commitment. People just aren’t in it to win it. This can probably be traced back to a game against the Bruins in which they had their mojo broken over their heads. They need to get it fixed or see if they order some on Amazon or Ebay.

Despite the disappointing year for Ryan Miller and company they are just five points out of 8th place, and have four games in hand on Atlanta, and two on Carolina.  With new ownership, a ton of cap space and a great goaltender anything is possible. Trading Connolly to say Pittsburgh or Calgary or another team needing a center for the post season might be a good thing long term. If it could bring them back a solid pick, if a trade and sign deal could be worked a deal that exchanged him for Ottawa’s Karlsson might serve both teams well. This may just be the most interesting team to watch over the next three and a half weeks. Tweaking either their offense or defense a little probably gets them over the hump and in but not very deep, so it becomes a question of long term vs short term strategy.

I bet you didn’t know the Florida Panthers were 11th best in goals against right now. If you did, see the man at the door for a gold star. Sadly they are also 19th in goals for. The question of what this team does is anyone’s guess. Dale Tallon has shown a willingness to make moves that could lead just about anywhere. Maybe he swings a deal to send Vokoun out west to the San Jose Sharks, or goes digging for some former BlackHawks in Atlanta or Toronto. It’s even conceivable a team with enough injuries might decide they need Denis Wideman.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs in a very long time and was conversely widely criticized for holding on to Bouwmeester too long when his contract was ready to expire just a short time back. With little to offer but prospects and depth forwards, trades might be pretty hard to come by.  A little judicious movement could see the team slide back into the lottery where they could land next years Jeff Skinner or Kevin Shattenkirk.

New York Rangers need only stay and get healthy to stay in a nice spot. The with Fedetenko set to be back before the deadline, and Christensen having just climbed off the IR, they could be movers at the dead line upgrading here and there. With 3 million and cap space and a few movable assets, the blue shirts are in a position at least a dozen NHL teams would like to be occupy. With the part-time demotion of Michael Del Zotto to the AHL, one can’t help but wondering if he’d be available to teams shopping for a mobile blueliner.

At each and every level of sports, from the smallest childrens league to the seniors tour on the PGA, there is no single word or concept that contributes more to the success and growth that league or the individuals within it like rivalry. About the only thing you can get the most rabid homers of the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens to agree on is that either team is far better than the Toronto Maple Leafs. The “I don’t break for Yankees Fans” bumper sticker was seen more often on the cars of Red Sox fans for years than snow tires in February. In basketball the pure and undiluted hatred between fans of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics has nearly transcended the sport and elevated many of them into knowledgeable basketball fans and not merely boosters of the hometown colors. In football the rivalries are wide and varied, the Dallas Cowboys, Redskins, and 49ers were always out for blood, the Patriots and Colts have rivalries up and down their rosters starting with their franchise cornerstones Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

With rivalries comes passion, and with passion comes attention, fans and revenue. In the first season out of the lockout the Boston Bruins averaged about 3000 more fans per game than the Carolina Hurricanes, despite having a wretched season where they finished 26th in the league. The Bruins renewed their rivalries with the Leafs, and the Canadiens. The entire Southeast division was still new enough to squeak, and still has yet to develop the bone deep hatred on the part of fan-bases and the instant intensity that typifies the Battle of Alberta, or the unlove between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.

Anyone who’s has ever been to a game where two rivals are playing knows the difference in the stands, on the ice and even in the press box between that just another game.  We’ve just seen some of the first Californian players brought into the NHL, and other southern markets are making their attack. But in order for the sport to not just survive but flourish I think it’s time for the NHL to move away from the current balanced schedule to something that places a higher emphasis on divisional and conference play.  I eat, drink and sleep hockey and could watch six or seven games a day without getting tired of it, but lets face it, the games between two teams who only see each other once or twice a year and have never met in the playoffs are a bit less interesting.

Despite the excitement and drama of last nights Bruins vs Stars game or the Stanley Cup rematches with the Flyers and BlackHawks, inter-division games are generally low spirited games with little to recommend them. Watching the Islanders and Coyotes square off even if you can name twelve members of each roster without slowing down is nowhere near as entertaining as a Devils – Islanders or Coyotes – Kings tilt would be. Part of that rivalry is familiarity, and knowing the skills and skulduggery you’ll see on the ice. Devils fans look forward to games against the Rangers in part because they know Sean Avery will be in the lineup and up to his usual antics. A decade ago Bruins fans were continually frustrated by games against Hasek and the Sabres, but couldn’t not tune in because they knew the game would be intense and no matter how many times the good guys were stymied, the level of skill on display would be awesome.

Need further proof? Take a walk outside the Boston Garden on a Bruins game day, go look at the vendors on the street.  You’ll find all sorts of gear lauding Bruins past and present. Everything you can imagine from PJ Stock, Rick Middleton and Bobby Orr to Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic. The things touting the local boys are only half the story. You’ll also find scores of masterpieces and lesser works that target the oppositions fans and players. A favorite of fans across the region last year was the Bruins own sign outside the Boston Garden that said “Never date a Flyers Fan, even if she shaves her mustache.” a t-shirt that reads “Habs suck and Carey swallows.” was so popular the vendor selling them blew through his entire inventory before well before the game started. I doubt its much different in any major market with a true rival. What you won’t find outside the Garden is single item that makes any reference to even despised players like Steve Ott from other conferences, nor will you find anything about superstars Lidstorm, Thornton or Sedin(s) because in the end unless it is a playoff meeting those teams and players just don’t matter.

For it’s long term growth the best thing the NHL could do would be to ditch the current schedule format. I love good hockey, but I don’t need to see the Bruins faceoff with the Kings in January or October. Seeing Vancouver and Florida cross swords is even less of a priority. Would I tune into a Calgary vs Edmonton game? Absolutely, even as rarely seen as those two teams are if there’s no short of passion in that rivalry, and if I can’t watch my home team, like any other sports fan I wanna know both teams are going to go after it with a will and a passion.

It’s time once again for a look at how the best and most interesting of the NHL’s rookies match up against the 2,971,249,619.63 Ruble man.

Starting at the backend with the goalies, the once clear leader in this position has come back to the pack a little, but bursting onto the scene is James Reimer who has the dubious distinction of being the Toronto Maple Leafs newest rookie goalie.  In just eight games he’s become the teams leader in GAA and Sv%. With about one fourth as many starts at Giguere or Gustavsson he’s just two wins short of “The Monster”. Among rookies with more games, only Corey Crawford has a better GAA than Reimer’s 2.24, and no rookie net minder who has played more has a better Sv%.

The names to know:

  • Segei Bobrovsky with a .920 Sv% and 2.42 GAA “Bob” is what the rookie goaltending situation is like. With 21 wins in just 32 games for the Philadelphia Flyers the Russian is 11 in wins for NHL goaltenders and tied with Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundquist, but just 4 wins behind the league leader Jonas Hiller.
  • Corey Crawford of Chicago owns the GAA lead among rookies with at least fifteen starts and is .23 ahead of Bobrovsky, while only .001% behind Bobrovsky in Sv%.

If defense wins championships here are some future household names:

  • John Carlson of the Washington Capitals is leading all rookie defensemen in blocked shots and takeaways. He’s also third in scoring among freshmen blueliners.  Carlson is the leader among his class of defensemen in shorthanded tie on ice, leading the next comparable player PK Subban by 28 seconds per game.
  • Cam Fowler heard the Ducks call at the draft back in July having slid all the way down to twelfth after most scouts had him neck and neck with Hall and Seguin. Today, he sits atop the rookie defensemens scoring race, also taking top honors among the same group for powerplay points. Among all rookies he’s seventh in scoring.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk in 9 less games is just one point behind Fowler in scoring for the Colorado Avalanche, and has a +/- that is 8 better.

Among forwards, the race has been altered by the team dynamics. Brad Marchand of the Bruins is playing on a line with the Bruins leading scorer Patrice Bergeron and is having a blazing hot stretch that has seen him pocket 12 of his 23 points since January first, including a 4 point game in Colorado. Taylor Hall has seen his team winnowed by injuries and been moved from wing to center.

  • Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks is perhaps the only bright spot for a team that has spent quite a bit of time in the division basement and is outside the playoffs heading into the All Star break. He leads all rookies in goals, and is second in scoring. On the Sharks he is one of just 8 players with a positive +/- and leads the team with a +11, a five count ahead of his next nearest teammate.
  • Jeff Skinner leads all rookies in scoring, and is a +3 on a team whose total goal differential is -3 and is baying at the heels of the Atlanta Thrashers for the final playoff spot in the east. If the Hurricanes do indeed make it into the playoffs, win lose or draw this man needs to get a serious percentage of the votes for Calder.
  • Taylor Hall has scrambled his way into third in rookie scoring despite a lack of quality on his team for support. Third in goals, third in points, he leads his team in goals and is just one point off the team lead.
  • Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins has played more shorthanded time per game than any of the six forwards who have scored more with 1:33 of time per game with a man in the sin bin. He is tied for all NHL short handed points with five and leas the entire NHL in shorthanded goals. For rookies he’s seventh in hits, second in shooting percentage, first in +/-, all in a package (generously) listed at 5’9.

Assuming I were voting on the Calder Trophy race and it was due today my top five would be: 5th Bobrovsky 4th Couture 3) Marchand 2) Carlson 1) Skinner

Ilya Kovalchuk has a line of 14-15-29 -29 in 48 GP. This would make him 4th in rookie scoring. His -29 is worst in the NHL, 44.8% of his points have come on the powerplay.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.
If I told you in September…

  • in All Star week, that Evgani Malkin would not only be not in the top ten league scorers, or on the All Star team, but behind Patrice Bergeron, rookie sensation Jeff Skinner, Dustin Byfugelien, Brandon Dubinski and Mikko Koivu… while sitting at #50
  • the Boston Bruins would have a rookie with a shot at catching Taylor Hall who’s name was not Maxime Suave, Joe Colborne, Jordan Caron, Jared Knight, Tyler Seguin, or Ryan Spooner, but Brad Marchand…
  • that the same rookie would lead the entire NHL in shorthanded goals ahead of players like Mike Richards, Pavel Datsyuk, and and other well known penalty kill game breakers.
  • the Boston Bruins would be #5 in goals for, with little help from Marc Savard.
  • the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres would all have better powerplay percentages on 1/24 than the Washington Capitals.
  • that Michael Ryder (7) and Mark Recchi (6) would combine for as many powerplay goals as Alexander Semin (6), Mike Green (5), and Alexander Ovechkin (2) at the end of January.
  • Kari Lehtonen and UFA to be Brad Richards would be leading their team to the second largest division lead in the NHL (5 points)…
  • the LA Kings would be staring down the barrel of the trade deadline with the third stingiest defense in the Western Conference, a goal differential of +13, and still sit four points out of the playoffs and nineteen points out of the division lead to a team with a goal differential of -7
  • that Ilya Kovalchuk would have the most goals on the New Jersey Devils, and the worst plus minus with 14 and -27.
  • that Peter Budja, Johan Hedberg, and Maple Leafs rookie James Riemer would have more wins than Tukka Rask
  • the Dallas Stars division lead, and +14 goal differential would be in spite of having the lowest ranked penalty kill of any playoff team.

If I told you all these things in September, how many would you believe?

Lights. Camera. Action!

Some of the teams in the NHL would have you believe they star of their own summer action adventure flick. In some cases they’ve even been mowing down the opposition with a Rambo like pace. Despite what history says about teams who are in playoff position in December, being in the playoffs in, some teams are going to fall down the ladder, and some will fall out entirely.

Anaheim: They currently sit just five points behind the division leading Dallas Stars.  Seventh place in the west isn’t always a bad place to be, right now it shows how much they are over achieving, and how weak the conference is as a whole. The Ducks are 21st in both goals for and goals against, and their penalty kill is a dismal 24th.  About the only strength of the team is their ninth ranked power play. With all those weaknesses, its not surprising with the most games played in the NHL, as many as six more than other teams that they currently lead a few other teams.

Montreal: Yes, I am a Bruins fan, yes I think Price is at best the fourth best goalie in the division, but take at look at who they Habs have played and a few other stats, and you will be as unsurprised as I am to see them significantly lower in the standings than they are today when April rolls over the NHL. Almost half of their wins are within their division.  A 9-3-0 record in your division doesn’t do bad things for your points total, but when the division only has two teams worth naming this season, it can do bad things for your view of how talented you are. While they are scoring some wins, scoring is hardly their strength. At 18th in the league and seven spots behind the other team worth talking about this year in their division.  While Price is playing the best hockey of his career, its doubtful he can keep up quite this good for the 65-75 starts he’s likely to get at the current pace he’s on. His previous high is 52 games.

Tampa Bay: With Stamkos cooling off, and a goaltending tandem that is the worst in the NHL its awe-inspiring to see them in playoff position right now.  They are the highest ranked team in the NHL with a negative plus/minus.  To put it another way, they are currently tied with the 26th place Edmonton Oilers for most goals allowed. The Boston Bruins currently have the best goals against with 65 goals allowed, Stamkos, St Louis and the rest have allowed 108 goals. They are clearly rebuilding the right way, and the type of offense they have now, will probably be attractive to free agents this summer.