One of my favorite stats is plus/minus. The team with the most players in the top six almost always wins during the playoffs. In the regular season, that's not always the case. Sometimes the teams with the most end up winning it all. Other times they lose in the finals, while others aren't anywhere in the top ten or have only one player. Even though it's mostly meaningless, it doesn't make it less interesting to me. This season is particularly intriguing because we have a mixture of players from only four teams in the top fourteen, the New Jersey Devils (3), Seattle Kraken (3), Boston Bruins (4), and Dallas Stars (4). That's never really happened before. In fact, the top 28 has only those four teams and the Toronto Maple Leafs, which add four. Very unusual.
The Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs were my preseason favorites, and I'm sticking with them. But the other three teams are surprising. I expected the Bruins to make the playoffs but being this dominant is surprising because they've rolled out this same team for years, except for the goalies. The Devils, I thought, might make a wild card, and the Kraken, I didn't expect anything. But there are always surprises.
What's more irritating is the bracket of doom will now really live up to its name. Three of the top six teams, the Bruins, Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning, will be in the same playoff bracket. What's the point of a regular season if you're just going to lump all the best teams together? The regular season must mean something, or you shouldn't bother having it. They desperately need to go back to conference seeding. The Maple Leafs and Lightning will have to beat the other and face the Bruins as their reward.
Things I like
- Brayden Point has 17 goals in his last 21 games and is on pace for season highs in goals and points. Teammate Steven Stamkos passed 500 career NHL goals in style with a hat trick against the Vancouver Canucks. He's the 47th player to do so, and one of three active players, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are the others. Evgeni Malkin is next up, 40 away. But I don't recall any memorable Steven Stamkos goals, and the Lightning won their first Stanley Cup without him. He's had a great career, but it's probably the least notable hall-of-fame career ever.
- The fans voted in the last few All-Star participants, and despite providing the link here, I forgot to vote for the first time. It's been one of those years. But it's an indictment of the way things work when the fans have to vote in the players with the second, David Pastrnak, and third, Mikko Rantanen, most goals and second, Leon Draisaitl, most points in the NHL. Isn't that the point of this game? To see those players? Meanwhile, the best goalie in the NHL, Jake Oettinger, did not make the cut. The NHL should allow more players to make the team or eliminate every team needing a representative. No other sport does that. If your team sucks, you probably don't have any All-Stars.
Things I don't
- No team has had a weirder last four seasons than the Vancouver Canucks. After a five-year rebuild, they came within a game of making the Western Conference finals chock-full of young talent. Only the last two seasons were ho-hum, and this one isn't any better. What's puzzling is that young talent is still there. Their choice to fire their coach and replace him with Bruce Boudreau was even more puzzling. We all knew that wasn't the long-term answer, and the rumor is Rick Tocchet will replace him. Uh okay. There's nothing about Tocchet's coaching career that screams this is the guy. He did upset the Nashville Predators while coaching the Arizona Coyotes two years ago in the COVID qualifying round. That's about it. Considering how much time they've had to search for a coach, you'd think they could find someone better. As of Sunday, it's now official. Good luck, coach Tocchet. I don’t see why they couldn’t have wait until the season ended. You also have fans now chanting for them to tank. Since they aren't making the playoffs, losing would be more beneficial in hopes of drafting Connor Bedard. I'd really like to see this team turn it around. There's too much talent wasting away currently. I just hope the reason they hired him wasn't that they liked his TNT analysis.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Ryan Lomberg vs Michael Pezzetta
A long grapplefest.
Sam Carrick vs Mathieu Olivier
Fists of fury.
Goats of the Week
Cam Talbot - Ottawa Senators
The Senators and Talbot are having a disappointing season, and neither helps themselves here. Talbot whiffs on the puck, and Noel Acciari scores the eventual game-winning goal. Goalies, don't try and one-time the puck. I've done something similar, and it never works.
Dominik Kubalik - Detroit Red Wings
Kubalik does a no-look pass back to Travis Konency, who passes it to Noah Cates for the game-winning goal. Either Kubalik thought a teammate was there, or he had enough strength to get it around. Not a good play.
Stat Line of the Week
1/18/23 Ottawa 5 vs. Pittsburgh 4
Brady Tkachuk is on pace for season highs in goals, assists, and points. Against the Penguins, he notched three power-play assists and scored the overtime winner. The Senators are clearly having a disappointing season, but Tkachuk's continued development is vital.
100 – Career NHL wins for Linus Ullmark, who only has two losses this season
2 – Achilles tendon injuries in five months for Max Pacioretty, it might be time to retire
2 – Shutouts for Jake Oettinger in his last three games
17 – Penalty minutes for Givani Smith against the Montreal Canadiens
15 – Points for Nathan MacKinnon during his seven-game point streak
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
- New Jersey
- San Jose