Into the Boards: Will the Detroit Red Wings Historic Playoff Streak Finally Come to an End?
Suhhhhhh, hockey nerds! I (Vin) am writing you from the road. Tooth is on the way to the homeland (O’ Canada) tonight after our show in Ohio. It’s been awesome to get a chance to hit up so many awesome hockey cities on this run and meet so many puck fans along the way.
The past week has brought us some killer moments from historic rivalries, some big upsets and the emergence of the underdog. This week’s Into the Boards dives into the depth of the Penguins, Detroit’s ice cold goalscorers, dominance from Chicago and the Avalanche sucking wind. Let’s get going with this badboy!
The Old and The New
When someone becomes successful or is truly great at what they do, more often than not there are haters filled with jealousy and disappointment in their own shortcomings. For many NHL fans, the one team they love to hate on is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hate them and talk shit all you want, but at the end of the day you have to respect their talent and their ability to build winning teams.
The Pens continue to impress by staying on top of the competitive Metropolitan Division and capped off the week with their seventh straight win. While a majority of their success comes from their superstar veteran forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, we are seeing an emergence of talent from the likes of Justin Schultz, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Ian Cole. In the last 15 days, these four players have a combined for 12 goals, 12 assists and a +27 rating. With talent this deep on the roster, the Pens continue to look scary good. With the trade deadline approaching, look for Pittsburgh to make a depth move or two to keep their foot on the gas and gun for a second straight Stanley Cup. A repeat would make Pittsburgh the first team to do so since Detroit captured the 1997 and 1998 Cups.
Cold In The D
As a member of the “Original 6,” the Red Wings are a historic franchise and are almost always a contender for the playoff race in the East, having made the postseason dance every year for the past quarter century. But for most of the 2016 season, the Wings have been hovering in the middle to lower ranking of the Atlantic Division. Detroit hasn’t been that terrible this year, though, and despite injuries to starting netminder Jimmy Howard and forwards Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Tyler Bertuzzi, the Wings have hung in there with halfway decent defensive play.
The trouble with Detroit is consistent offensive production and not taking advantage of their powerplay opportunities. Even with the acquisition of veteran goalscorers Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek (whose early season success has since dried up), they’re still having trouble finding the back of the net. Even players like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are ice cold and haven’t scored in any of their last 10 games. Forward Dylan Larkin leads the team with a meager nine goals, and the powerplay unit has scored only one time in its last twenty opportunities. I won’t count Detroit out just yet because the season can turn around if any/all of these players heat up, but this could very well be the season when their incredible playoff streak ends. They say defense wins championships, but you can’t win hockey games without any goals scored.
Hopped up Hawks
The Chicago Blackhawks are arguably the strongest hockey team on earth in the last decade (or more). The 2015-16 season ended in disappointing fashion for Hawks fans as they were eliminated in the first round after a devastating loss to the St. Louis Blues to end one hell of a series. There was no reason for panic, though, as that series required an excellent hockey team to be eliminated, regardless of the victor. The newfound tradition of winning in Chicago called for a bounceback season that would put the hometown Hawks right back in the mix of things, and fans have certainly gotten that.
As week ten of the season closes, Chicago sits atop the Central Division and in third place in the NHL with 42 points. They went 2-1-0 on the week, but the real story here is in the scores of those games. In two games against the dynamically offensive New York Rangers, the Hawks allowed just two goals. Splitting the Big Apple games was a tilt against the Dallas Stars, another team who’s had problems everywhere but on offense. All of this is being done without starting netminder Corey Crawford, giving Scott Darling the opportunity to again prove that he is more than capable. Through 13 games, Darling has posted a 2.02 GAA and a solid .933 save percentage and it’s this depth from the net out that has made Chicago so successful in recent years. Oh, and Jonathan Toews is back. That will certainly help.
Careening Down the Mountain
Time to paint yet another dismal picture of a team I (Scott) quite like. The post-lockout era (the 2004-05 lockout) has been tough for the Colorado Avalanche. Bleak endings to a few seasons gave the Avs good enough draft positioning to acquire Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, and all of a sudden things seemed to be on their way as they completely overachieved in 2013-14 with a 112 point season and a Central Division title. But it’s been all downhill since then.
The organization turned heads in the hockey world that year when they hired legendary Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy as head coach, but the experiment soon proved to be a failure. After one great season, it became obvious that Roy was in over his head with an old-time coaching style that is simply not conducive to today’s NHL. The romantic reunion of Roy and the Avalanche certainly was a better idea in our hearts than it was on the ice as the team missed the playoffs two years in a row after Roy’s initial success. The disconnect between Roy and the front office became more obvious with his decision to leave the team very late in the offseason, leaving general manager Joe Sakic scrambling to find a bench boss.
The identity crisis in Colorado is making the 2016-17 campaign a hell of a dud as they currently sit in dead last in the NHL. With Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Semyon Varlamov on board, there is certainly a core to be worked with here, but the question is whether or not these players are willing to wait for the right talent to either be brought in or homegrown.
This Week’s Top Dawgs
Vin: Derek Ryan…. who? Yup, Derek Ryan, a centerman of the Carolina Hurricanes. This is the first time I’m hearing about this guy, too, but Ryan went off this week with three goals, four assists, +1, three powerplay points, a short handed point, and a game-winning goal. The 29-year old is late to the NHL party, having played most of his professional career in Europe, but he seems to be making quite an impact in Carolina. He’s only owned in 2% of fantasy leagues, so he should be worth a pickup in deeper fantasy leagues if he stays hot.
Scott: Brayden Schenn of the red hot Flyers. Schenn hadn’t scored in 13 games before notching a hat trick against Dallas this past weekend. He added one in Detroit and one in Colorado for five goals in his last three games. With confidence running high in Philly on the strength of a 10-game winning streak, look for a couple other Flyers forwards to get going.
Top Plays Of The Week
V: Nasty Nate MacKinnon takes a high stick to the face, then continues to dangle through multiple Maple Leafs and snipe goaltender Antoine Bibeau.
S: My lord and savior, John Tavares. I was lucky enough to be at the Barclays Center to witness this magic in person. Watch here as JT ties up Jay Bouwmeester in the neutral zone, keeping his forward momentum the entire time. He shrugs off the coverage, twirls his stick behind his back to regain control of the puck, and stops up to back off the entire Blues defense and rip a nasty spin-around shot high blocker side. One of a kind.