By Garrett Perry and Josh Elliott
It’s a busy night on the NHL schedule, but THN gets you set with our five things to watch, from a Red Wings-Ducks rematch, to Coach Q’s run on the record books.
With a victory in Nashville tonight, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville can take sole possession of fourth place on the NHL’s all-time coaching wins list. “Coach Q,” as he is known by fans and players, is currently tied with Pat Quinn for fourth with 684 wins. He remains just eight wins shy of tying Dick Irvin for third and 98 away from Al Arbour, the long-time Islanders bench boss, for second. The great Scotty Bowman stands alone in first with 1,244 wins, a record that may stand the test of time like Wayne Gretzky’s career points record (2,857). Last year, Quenneville was a finalist for the Jack Adams award, after leading his Blackhawks to their second Stanley Cup championship in four seasons. And this year his team hasn’t lost a step, leading the league with 53 points heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Predators. Bowman, Arbour and Irvin have all been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, which begs the question: is Joel Quenneville a lock to be headed there as well?
You been ducking me, bro?
A lot has happened since the Detroit Red Wings upset the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last spring. The Wings have moved East, the Ducks have rocketed back up the standings in the West and we’ve all seen Daniel Alfredsson carry a Christmas tree with his kids, thanks to HBO’s 24/7. The Ducks are riding a five-game win streak into their first rematch with Detroit, while the Wings own a less-than-stellar five-game streak of their own - they haven’t won since Dec. 6. If that first HBO episode was lacking in Red Wings drama, this game could more than make up for it.
It’s getting ugly on Long Island. The New York Islanders have lost a staggering 17 of their past 20 games and a game against the East’s fourth-best team in the Lightning is not what they need right now. The Islanders have gone a tepid 5-16-3 since acquiring supposed savior Tomas Vanek Oct. 29 from the Buffalo Sabres, and they now sit in the second-best draft lottery spot behind – you guessed it – the Sabres, who own the Isles’ first round pick this year. The good news? The Islanders are 5-6-6 at home compared to 4-13-0 on the road, so home ice may help tonight.
Tonight’s tilt between the Phoenix Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens will pit two Olympic goaltending hopefuls against each other in Mike Smith and Carey Price. No two Canadian goalies have faced more pucks than Smith (3878 shots) and Price (3748) since the 2011-12 season. Price’s 2.00 goal-against average and .935 save percentage are better than Smith’s (2.98 GAA, .911 save percentage) but both will be in the conversation leading up to the Jan. 7 Olympic roster submission deadline. Price is coming off a 21-save shutout against the Islanders on Saturday, while Smith has just three wins in his past 10 games.
December: the month of winning in Vancouver
While the city of Vancouver might have lost a fan in Milan Lucic over the weekend, the Canucks jolly play of late has been spreading the holiday cheer. The Canucks are undefeated in December, reeling off seven consecutive wins - a welcome sight for fans after the team struggled through the month of November, winning only four of 13 games. Coach John Tortorella has the team playing defense-first hockey, as the team has only allowed eight goals in seven games. Their special teams have also been brilliant, killing off all 20 power plays this month and improving their league-best mark to 90.2 percent. And with both Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo playing great between the pipes, including back-to-back shutouts last week, there is reason for optimism. The Canucks are just three points behind third place St. Louis in the Western Conference standings and an eighth-straight win tonight in Minnesota would further cement their footing in the tight standings.
Also, as a bonus, it’s a Canucks Christmas! The team launched a website for fans, recording members of the Canucks wishing holiday greetings in ugly Christmas sweaters.