It’s time to recap what went on in the NHL this week — including déjà vu in the desert, dominance in Florida, Marc-Andre Fleury reclaiming the throne in Vegas and an amazing comeback in Toronto.
Déjà vu in the desert…
Heading into the season, it was very clear this would be an unusual year. So far there have been no shortage of schedule changes due to safety protocols, with many teams suspending operations for short stints. There is no better example of this than in the desert of Arizona, where the Coyotes defeated the St. Louis Blues on Monday night in what was the seventh straight meeting between the clubs over the past two weeks.
This came on the heels of the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche both having to postpone their games because of safety protocols. Regardless, it is unheard of for two teams in the regular season to play each other seven times, nevertheless in a row. The Coyotes went 4-2-1 during the games and are sitting at third in the West as of Monday. A more accurate reading would place them between third place and seventh place in the division. With the current discrepancy in games played, it’s almost impossible to place any team at the moment.
The seven-game do-si-do leaves the Blues with some questions. They went 3-3-1, which was acceptable considering the injuries to forwards Robert Thomas and Jaden Schwartz, with defenseman Torey Krug also now listed as day-to-day. They have cooled off from a hot start and now sit at a total record of 9-5-2.
Winning in Florida…
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been a top team in the league for years, so seeing them at the top of the Central division standings is no surprise. What is surprising, however, is the fact that the Florida Panthers sit within striking distance, thanks to a superb start to the season.
The Panthers are 9-2-2 in their first 13 games of the season, including two wins over the Lightning in their three matchups. They are getting contributions from many players and are getting excellent play out of backup goalie Chris Driedger. Defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle are producing offensively, with a combined six goals and 17 points. Without goalie Sergei Bobrovsky playing up to expectations, I am doubtful the team can continue to win at the same rate, but make no mistake Florida means business this year.
Marc-Andre Fleury reclaims the throne…
Many eyebrows were raised when the Vegas Golden Knights traded for goaltender Robin Lehner last season as they geared up for a playoff run. This acquisition created an impending goalie dilemma with two starting-caliber goalies vying for the leading role. In the playoffs, the Knights seemed to choose Lehner, starting him in 16 out of their 20 games. In the offseason, Vegas doubled down on Lehner with a five year, $25 million dollar contract. Many thought that this meant the end of Marc-Andre Fleury’s tenure in Vegas, but with the condensed schedule this year, having two starting goalies is more useful than ever.
Lehner and Fleury currently share the crease in Vegas, but Fleury has made a case for himself as the superior player this year, with a 7-1-0 record in eight starts and two shutouts. Lehner has worse numbers, but still sports an impressive record of 3-1-1 in five starts. It will be interesting to see how this plays out down the stretch, especially in the playoffs. I can’t imagine a 25 million dollar goalie not starting at least half of the games, but if Fleury keeps this up, then the Golden Knights will have to make some tough decisions.
Stealing defeat from the jaws of victory…
On Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs surrendered a 5-1 lead in the second period to the Ottawa Senators, who went on to complete the comeback by a total score of 6-5 in overtime.
The volatility of the North division is startling; it seems every game features six goals or more. This might explain why seven of the top eight point-getters in the league reside in Canada. Another reason to tune into the games in the North.
Peter’s Power Rankings: The Top 10 Teams Right Now.
Last week’s ranking in parentheses.
- Vegas Golden Knights (4)
- Boston Bruins (1)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (2)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (3)
- Carolina Hurricanes (7)
- Florida Panthers (Not ranked)
- Philadelphia Flyers (6)
- Montréal Canadiens (5)
- Colorado Avalanche (8)
- St. Louis Blues (Not ranked)
What to watch this week…
This weekend the NHL goes outdoors at Lake Tahoe with two great games.
Golden Knights at Avalanche: Saturday, Feb. 20 at 12 p.m. PT
Flyers at Bruins: Sunday, Feb. 21 at 12 p.m. PT