Eastern Conference Recap:
This week’s Eastern Conference wrap-up reads like a list of who is naughty and nice. The Bruins Max Talbot landed on the naughty list for his actions, the Islanders Jaroslav Halak is asking what he did to end up on this list as he battles an injury.
On the flip side, Montreal’s Brenden Gallagher has been added to the nice list as he recovers from a hand fracture, and teammate P.K. Subban ensures that he stays there permanently with his latest charity work.
We begin in Boston, where the Bruins’ Max Talbot ended up on the League’s naughty list. Talbot was suspended for two games for his hit on the New Jersey Devils’ Jiri Tlusty. Talbot, who has been in the league for 11 years, has never been suspended or fined. With that said, the league felt that Talbot delivered a “late, violent hit”and took action accordingly.
We shift now to Brooklyn where the Islanders (and former Capitals) starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak is struggling with what the team is calling an “upper body injury”, and will not be playing in Sunday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. No further information has been provided by the team as of the writing of this article.
While the Bruins and the Islanders landed on the naughty list this week, the Montreal Canadiens have two good reasons to be on the nice list.
Firstly, Brenden Gallagher is getting closer to returning after fracturing two fingers while blocking a shot in a November 22nd game against the New York Islanders. While Gallagher isn’t ready to return as of yet, and will not be joining the team on the three games leading up to the Winter Classic. However, he is pushing to return before the team plays against arch-rival Boston in this year’s Winter Classic.
Staying with Montreal, P.K. Subban is ensuring he stays on the nice list for the rest of his days. In this year’s off season, Subban donated $10 million to Montreal Children’s Hospital. This is the largest donation ever made by a sports figure in Canadian history. As if that wasn’t enough, Subban followed up a few days ago, with the help of Air Canada, put on a magical Christmas party for sick children in Montreal.
Western Conference Recap:
Let’s begin with some news out of the State of Hockey. On Monday, the Minnesota Wild announced a four-year, $20.75 million contract extension for defenseman Jared Spurgeon. Spurgeon, 26, is an Edmonton, AB native. He was drafted by the NY Islanders in the 6th round of the 2008 NHL Draft. Spurgeon logs some major icetime for the Wild, so this was a good contract for his prime years.
The Arizona Coyotes appear to have a very bright future ahead. With the 2016 World Junior Championship starting on December 26 in Helsinki, Arizona will have 7 players represented in the tournament. These World Junior tournaments are always very exciting. Hockey fans get to see the future NHL stars play for their respective countries.
With the Christmas break, it has been a light news week. The NHL is almost at the halfway point in the regular season. The Western Conference has been as competitive as it has ever been.
Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane is leading the way in the NHL points race. He has 50 points in 36 games. Dallas Stars forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are right behind Kane in the race. They both have 46 points in 35 games. I am pretty confident that these three players could all come down to the wire and to the last game in the points race. Last season, Jamie Benn clinched the NHL’s Art Ross Trophy for most points in the final Stars game with a 4-point performance. Will Kane be able to hold his lead, or will one of the two Stars forwards catch up and take over?
The hottest goaltender in the Western Conference in the last couple of weeks has been Corey Crawford of Chicago. He is 2nd in the NHL in wins (18) and he is one of the league’s top goalies in shutouts (5). Crawford is keeping the Blackhawks around in the highly competitive Central Division.
The Central Division looks like it is miles ahead of the Pacific Division right now. In the Central, teams that are in spots 2-5 are only separated by 6 points. In the Pacific, the Los Angeles Kings are leading the way, but they only have a 6-point cushion on arch rival San Jose. Vancouver would be in the 3rd playoff spot in the Pacific, but not because they deserve it. Vancouver has pity-pointed their way with overtimes and shootouts in the first-half of the season.
It is amazing to see that if the playoffs began today, 3 Western Conference playoff teams from last year would not be in the playoffs today (Anaheim, Winnipeg, Calgary).
Speaking of Anaheim, Ducks GM Bob Murray spoke out earlier this week in regards to his team. He made some interesting comments about his team’s conditioning. Murray stated:
“Let’s be clear on one thing, putting all the blame on the incoming players would be totally unfair,” the GM said. “We had far too many returning players who decided training for this season was optional, thus a poor start.”
It is not clear who Murray could be referencing here, but several of their high-priced players have had horrible starts to their respective seasons. Captain Ryan Getzlaf has 1 goal in 29 games, Ryan Kesler has 4 goals in 33 games, and Jakob Silfverberg has 3 goals in 33 games.
The Ducks have been patient, and they have made a few tweaks to their roster. But this core group is still the same. Is Head Coach Bruce Boudreau on the hot seat? How do the Ducks go from a Stanley Cup contender to bottom-feeding NHL team within 1 season?
By George Foussekis and Andrea Sobolik