Had another lazy weekend cruising around the hockey world via my television set, so I thought I’d share some random revelations about the league with y’all.
Montreal…Yes, the Canadiens have a rich tradition of hockey excellence and their uniforms have been some of the best in the history of sport. That being said, the 1912-13 throwbacks they trotted out against the Bruins Sunday were some of the worst pajamas I’ve seen since Wild Wing crashed upwards through Anaheim’s third jersey in the late 1990s.
Not only were the tight red, white and blue stripes so thin that I began to see secret images in them when I stared too long, but the blue helmets with white maple leafs on them looked suspiciously like…Toronto’s helmet! Your most hated rival! What were you thinking? You can’t even call the buckets throwback, because they didn’t wear helmets back then. Mercy.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Habs once again were stymied by those fashionable Cup contenders from Boston, who killed off a string of 5-on-3 opportunities when the game was still in question. With injuries mounting and the B’s standing in their way, this is looking less and less like a centennial of glory for the Canadiens.
Pittsburgh…Earlier in the week, the Penguins seemed to be getting back on track by employing trap-style defensive posturing and opportunistic scoring – especially from defenseman Kris Letang, who had an awesome two-goal outing against the flagging Rangers, but bombed against Toronto on Saturday.
If there’s one thing the Leafs can be counted on for this season, it’s showing up better teams on Hockey Night in Canada, but if Pens coach Michel Therrien is serious about defense, he can’t tolerate giving up five goals to a non-playoff team, especially when his team currently sits in that position themselves.
Chicago…Last week I blogged about teams that could be counted on as dark horses in the playoffs and others who needed to prove they could beat contenders. The Hawks were in the latter category, but a big win over San Jose certainly helped their standing. The timing couldn’t have been better, either: Chicago hadn’t beaten the Sharks in 13 previous attempts. Next mission for the Hawks: finally slay the Red Wings in the last challenge at the end of the season.
Washington…I watched the Caps play back-to-back afternoon games this weekend and they came away with wins in both; one against elite Detroit, the second against also-ran Ottawa. While Washington is playing a puck-possession game, it’s not in the same way that the Red Wings play it. The Capitals’ defense still isn’t the most mindful of groups, yet the team manages to largely stay out of trouble by dominating on offense and using that puck possession technique. While the Wings seem to win with smarts, Washington does it with enthusiasm and pep. The other main difference between the Caps and Wings is physicality: The Caps love to bang on the boards and it shows.
If Washington can seriously be considered a Cup contender – and the recent results certainly put them in the running – the penalty-kill will be the thing to work on. Stanley Cup teams generally have at least top-10 results in both power play and penalty-kill rankings and the Capitals currently sit 24th in the latter.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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