Monday's game will be the 41st game of the season so the All-Star game provided a nice point to split the season, just ignore that the first half was played over 121 days and the last 40 games are scheduled over 82 games. The first half provided many challenges, COVID, injuries, long breaks between games. Lots of games remain on the schedule though and with the second easiest schedule in the league. The remaining schedule includes 10 games against the top quartet of teams in points percentage, and another 14 are against teams in the bottom quartet. This week will help further skew the numbers to an easy finish with 2 games against elite teams and one against a team will begin the debate on tanking vs internal improvement.
Monday February 7th, 7:00 vs New Jersey
Season record: 15-25-5, 8th in Atlantic, 29th in point percentage
Last 10: 1-9
Previous meetings this season: Dec 6th away, 3-2 SOL
- Dougie Hamilton, Jaw, IR
- Jack Hughes, COVID Protocols, expected back Feb 10
- Michael McLeod, Undisclosed, IR
- Miles Wood, Hip, IR
- Mackenzie Blackwood, Heel ,IR
- Jonathan Bernier, Hip, IR
- Tyce Thompsom, Shoulder, IR
Turns out we're not the only team dealing with the injury bug as the Devils are missing their top center, top defenceman and top 2 goalies. Missing all those pieces Having lost their last 6 games and only scoring more than 2 goals in one of those defeats. The struggles aren't just a recent issue as the team ove rthe last 2 months has gone 6-19-1. Taking a look at the team stats where they rank 29th in GA/GP and have the 2nd worst SV% might make you think having their 2 starters injured is either the reason for poor stats or might mean a young goalie is getting a chance to shine but nope. The Devils have started 6 goalies this season including 2 rookies and none have looked good, I'll be honest and say I haven't watched many of their games but something tells me the defence is the bigger issue. Bernier in 8 starts had a .902 SV% and 3.06 GAA which was the best of the bunch.
Injuries haven't affected the defensive groupings much as 5 of the 6 have played 37 of 45 games. WIth only PK Subban, yeah he's still playing and is definetly overpaid but with 15 points I'd bet on him getting a multiyear contract from someone at a relatively small price for 3rd pairing minutes, outside the age range of 24-28 among that group this is in theory a group that should be in their peak range.
With a young top 6 including 2 of the last top picks in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier plus under 25 top picks in Dawson Mercer, Pavel Zacha and others youngsters such as Jesper Bratt, Nathan Bastian and Yegor Sharangovich you might expect some offence. Instead you have a team that could possibly only end up with one 20 goal scorer as only Bratt is on pace while Hughes and Bratt are the only guys close to a point per game but even then Hughes as missed almost a third of the season.with a shoulder injury.
When these teams played earlier this year it was a fairly quiet game with the shots ending 24-23 and the teams combining for 1 powerplay which was 53 seconds into the game. The game was already 1-0 at that point before a trio of 2nd period goals resulted in free hockey as both Batherson and Tkachuk had a goal and an assist. With no Blackwood and New Jersey playing poorly I'd expect a chance for the Sens to get into a nice groove for the "stretch".
Tuesday February 7th, 7:00 vs Carolina
Season record: 31-9-2, 1st in Atlantic, 2nd in point percentage
Last 10: 7-2-1
Previous meetings this season: Dec 2nd away, 3-2 win, Jan 27th home, 3-2 SOL
- Teuvo Teravainen, Lower Body, Day to Day
- Jesper Kotkaniemi, COVID protocols, expected back Feb 8
- Jake Gardiner, Hip, IR
The cream of the crop in the east, lowest goals against, best penalty kill, top 5 scoring offence, top 8 powerplay, 2nd in save percentage, 8th in shooting percentage. The Hurricanes have been good for a few years know and while getting Fredrick Andersen was seen as a questionable move after the season's Alex Nedelikovic and Petr Mrazek had last season the move has paid off. Andersen is having a career year and dare I say it might win the Vezina a year after leaving Toronto, yeah I like to mock Leaf fans whenever I get a chance, as Andersen has posted a league best 2.01 GAA and the second best SV% with a .929 through 29 starts.
Helping the Danish netminder is what still might be the league's most underrated D core in Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei who have done just fine without Dougie Hamilton. Slavin hasn't finished top 10 in Norris voting and something tells me most fans don't care about who wins the Lady Byng but any defenceman playing over 20 minutes a night for 7 seasons and only has 34 penalties must be doing something right. Maybe hitting 40 points for the first time in his career will make people look closer at him for "elite" consideration but honestly, by the time a player reaches that club he's probably been elite for a few seasons already.
The biggest current threat on their team is Andrei Svechnikov who has 12 points in his last 8 games before the break. Carolina also signed an RFA to an offer sheet this summer, it was quiet news but Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed a big 1 year contract and started cold with 3 points in 15 games but since then has 17 in 27 and is 9th on the team in points. I'm not sure it would be fair to talk Carolina without mentioing their 3rd leading scorer is non other than Tony DeAngelo, I have nothing to add than he has a terrible track record perosnally but is a really good hockey player with 33 points on the season, do with that what you will.
The 2 previous meetings have ended with one team dominating shots, only to end up losing with Ottawa scoring 3 on 20 shots against Antti Ratta while Carolina put up 49 shots. The second game resulted in Andersen making 37 saves on 39 shots to steal a win, in both games the powerplay's went a combined 1-11 so expect a low scoring game with one team feeling like they got robbed.
Thursday Feb 10th, 7:00 vs Pittsburgh
Season record: 27-11-8, 3rd in Atlantic, 8th in point percentage
Last 10: 6-1-3
Previous meetings this season: Nov 13th home, 6-3 win, Jan 20th away, 6-4 loss
- Jason Zucker, Lower Body, IR
- Teddy Blueger, Jaw, IR
- Danton Heinen, Upper Body, Day to Day
Turns out adding Sidney Crosby, Evegni Malkin to a team with a defensive unit that has improved thanks to continuity as the main group has only missed 19 games combined all season might be a recipe for success. A quick glance at recent games shows a team that has lost 4 in a row but in 3 of those they got a loser point and won their 6 straight just before that. Trisitian Jarry has bounced back after being "exposed" by the Islanders in the playoffs last year and has allowed 3 or less goals in all but 8 of his 35 starts and has matched his career high with 3 shutouts.
A pair of forwards are having career years in Jake Guentzel, not totally unexpected, and Evan Rodrigues, much moreout of nowhere. Rodrigues was centering the 2nd line with Malkin out and was more than holding his own with 30 points in his first 33 games. With the return of Malin recently Rodrigues was forced down to the 3rd line and has struggled with 2 points, both against the AHL team in Arizona, in his last 13 games.
The previous meetings this season have resulted in the goal horn operators getting a workout as both home teams jumped out to big leads before allowing a comeback. Ottawa took a 5-0 lead to the midpoint of the 3rd before Rodrigues scored twice and picked up an assist on another to make the game close. In the steel city the Penguins took a 5-1 advantage into the 3rd before Stutzle and Norris scored 3 goals in 6:17 to make it a one goal game but that's when Pittsburgh shut it down and held on for the win. Hopefully this game provides lots of goals and excitement to make it easier to stay up and watch whatever is on the Olympic schedule that night.