Do you like drama, intrigue, and excitement? Then welcome to the race for the final spots in the Western Conference. Whose in the playoffs changes daily. Six points separate eight teams (Minnesota Wild, Vegas Golden Knights, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks) battling it out for five spots. You could include the Winnipeg Jets, but I won't. The Predators, Stars, and Wild can get in through the Wild Card spot or the final central spot. The other teams can get through the second and third pacific spots or the wild card.
So what will happen? I don't know. Normally, I have a pretty good clue, but these teams are so strange. The Ducks and Canucks seem the most likely to be out. The Ducks were comfortably in a top spot for most of the season before their late slide. The Kings, Predators, Wild, and Golden Knights seem most likely to get in since I can't remember when they were last out. The Golden Knights worry me, though. That means two of the most talented teams, the Stars and Oilers, will battle it out for one spot. It's a shame because I would love to see both get in.
The Vancouver Canucks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a highly entertaining game. The Canucks are very fun to watch when they aren't sucking. I'm glad they turned it around. The Stars had a massive win against the Wild in which Jason Robertson had a hat trick for back-to-back hat tricks. More on the first one below. The Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche played a gem of a game. Both are in the playoffs but it’s worth mentioning.
Things I like
The Boston Bruins took a while, but man, do they look good. Winners of six of their last seven, they've thumped some pretty good teams. They beat the Avalanche 5-1, the Kings 7-0, the Golden Knights 5-2. Their 7-0 win was the first time in 10 years they scored that many goals in a shutout. The Golden Knight's win was more like 4-0 as the Bruins added an empty net, and the Golden Knight's goals were from a breakaway off a turnover and a pulled goalie. I thought their season would hinge on Jeremy Swayman, and he's made the difference. He's posted two shutouts and a .966 SV% in his last seven games. Jake DeBrusk has been much better with 10 points in his last eight games, including a natural hat trick against the Kings despite asking for a trade. Although moving to the top line also helps, he'll be a significant loss if he leaves.
I guess we should talk about the Montreal Canadiens being 7-1 since Martin St. Louis became the coach. Except it doesn't matter. There's no way they are making the playoffs. Typically, you could say they'll build momentum for next season, but they didn't get any momentum from making the Stanley Cup finals last season. In most cases, the loser of the finals struggles to make the playoffs the following season, but they never struggle this much. You could say they found a coach, but even if St. Louis wins out, it won't mean anything. The last coach lasted about a year, even with that Stanley Cup appearance. You can say they don't look dreadful but could very well be back to that next season. Welcome to the soap opera that is this franchise.
Things I don't
The New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche played an entertaining game, and the Islanders looked like they took the lead in the third period. However, the referees ruled the puck did not cross the goal line. Watching the replay, I'm fairly confident the puck rolling on its side did. I mentioned this before. They really need to put sensors in the puck, and then tracking software can tell you if it did. They put lights on the puck for the all-star game festivities. It was a crucial call because the Avalanche scored right after and won.
Speaking of refs, Jon Cooper was thrown out of the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins game for abuse of officials. Please. I don't know what he said but sticking up for his players and trying to correct a call he thinks is wrong is not abuse. The play in question was Corey Perry slashing Mark Friedman, who punched Perry in return. The Penguins ended up with a power-play when there should have been an instigator penalty on Friedman. Of course, they called Perry's slash a rough, so who knows what they're looking at unless they didn't call the slash and called something else. Cooper never received an explanation, but the Penguins did. I feel the Lightning would need it more since they were short-handed. Cooper is the first coach to be ejected since Peter DeBoer in 2018.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Trent Frederic vs Brendan Lemieux
Nothing connects, but it was fun to watch.
Kris Letang vs Brayden Point
These two rarely fight, but it was a good bout.
Milan Lucic vs Kurtis MacDermid
A really good fight by a couple of heavyweights.
Nathan MacKinnon vs Dysin Mayo
Mostly here because MacKinnon rarely fights, and he got the advantage courtesy of the linesman trying to break it up.
Goat of the Week
Brenden Dillon - Winnipeg Jets
Despite his partner being open on the other side and two Dallas Stars players being along his nearest boards, Dillon, I guess, tried passing it along the boards but passed it directly to the Stars. Dillon doesn't make much of a defensive effort to correct his mistake. Jason Robertson scores here and in overtime for the hat trick and the win.
Stat Line of the Week
03/05/21 Coyotes 8 vs. Senators 5
Skater TOI G A +/- S PPG N.Schmaltz 20:19 2 5 5 5 1
In his sixth season, Nick Schmaltz has had one good one. But he's having another good one this season. With his whopping seven-point effort against the Ottawa Senators, he's scored 14 points in his last seven games. He had a power-play goal, an unassisted goal, and an assist on three of the first four goals. After the Coyotes jumped out to a 4-0 lead, the Senators scored four in a row to tie it. Then Schmaltz assisted on the next four Coyote goals. He's the first person to score this many points since Sam Gagner in 2012.
501 – NHL wins for coach Peter DeBoer 1000 – NHL games played by Mark Giordano 902 – Career points for Joe Pavelski, with his 900th coming on the Robertson goal above 1 – Win by the NHL worst Arizona Coyotes over the NHL best Colorado Avalanche 14 – Points in nine games for Cole Caufield
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
- NY Rangers
- Tampa Bay
- San Jose