Article Written By: Adam Wible
This past week has been an interesting one for the Western Conference. The California streak has come to a halt, but the Anaheim Ducks continue to fly high on a 5 game winning streak.
The Eastern Conference, on the other hand has been one dominated by Pittsburgh and Boston. Though there are teams still in the hunt for the top stop in the Atlantic Division, Pittsburgh has been in command for quite some time in the Metropolitan Division.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (53pts)- Without starting goalie Corey Crawford, back up Antti Raanta has been world class. Going 6-1-1 in his last 8 games, Rannta has proven he can compete with the best of the best. With Kane, Toews, Hossa, and Sharp, it will be hard to stop this solid team. (@NSH, VAN)
2. Anaheim Ducks (51pts)- The mighty ducks are on a roll as of late, going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. The Ducks are just simply playing team hockey, and dominating every aspect of the game this past week. They’ll have their hands full this week, as they continue their trek east on this long road trip. (@DET, @NJD, @NYI)
3. Los Angeles Kings (48pts)- Back from their East Coast road trip, the Kings finished their last 10 games at a 7-2-1 mark. Goalie Ben Scrivens has led the charge to keep pace with the Conference leading Blackhawks. He leads the NHL in save percentage (.941) and is second behind the Wild’s Josh Harding in Goals Against Average (1.66). Back home this week, I look for the Kings to get back on a winning streak and close the gap with the Hawks. (EDM, SJS, COL)
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (47pts)- Finally an Eastern Conference team. The Penguins continue to dominate the majority of the Eastern Conference. Everything is going right for the Penguins right now. Sydney Crosby and Evgani Malkin are atop almost every statistical category, making things easy on their goaltending. Speaking of, Marc Andre-Fleury leads the NHL in wins (18), Shootout wins (3), and is in the top 10 in every other category. They should at least break .500 this week, if they can’t pull every game out. (TOR, @NYR, MIN, @CGY)
5. Boston Bruins (46pts)- The Bruins are looking like the team that has the best chance at taking down the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston is 7-3 in their last 10, falling their previous game to the Sharks. Playing the league worst Buffalo Sabres twice this week, they should be able to right the ship and stack up some points. (CGY, @BUF, BUF)
6. St. Louis Blues (47pts)- St. Louis is doing everything it can to keep pace with Division leading Chicago. Boasting one of the best home records in hockey (13-2-2) the Blues are proving this is a team game. With no one on this team in the top 5 in any statistical category, St. Louis has still found a way to get the job done. They have a weird week ahead of them, facing two of Canada’s worst teams, all while facing the red hot Canadians and Sharks. (@OTT, SJS, MTL, @EDM)
7. Vancouver Canucks (45pts)- This is truly the hottest team in the NHL. On a 7 game winning streak and going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, is there a team that can stop them this week? If Roberto Luongo and the Sedine brothers have anything to say, it won’t. This streak should stay intact until they travel to Chicago Friday night. That has the making to be the game of the week. (MIN, @DAL, @CHI, WPG)
8. San Jose Sharks (46pts)- Antti Niemi continues to do everything he can to keep the Sharks in contention, in the powerful Western Conference. The Sharks, boasting one of the most high powered/tempo offense in the NHL, look to get back on the winning train this week. It will be a challenging week, with games scheduled in St. Louis and Los Angeles. If there’s a team that keeps pace, don’t swim with the Sharks. (@STL, @LAK, DAL)
9. Montreal Canadians (43pts)- Coming off a tough loss at home last night against the Florida Panthers, Montreal should be furious. They need to rebound fast, as they have one home game, before heading on the road. They do have a bright spot, only giving up 2.06 goals per game on average. Goalie Carey Price is doing everything in his power to keep the pride of Quebec in the playoff hunt. (PHX, @STL, @NSH)
10. Colorado Avalanche (41pts)- Rounding out the top 10,watch out for the Avalanche. With the schedule they having coming up, there’s no reason for the Avalanche to not cause problems out west. Rookie coach, Patrick Roy, has his team playing well in the Mile High City. Between Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson, there has not been a lack of scoring in Colorado. It helps to have solid goaltending as well. Semyon Varlamov has been solid as of late, giving up one goal in their last game, a win against Minnesota. Let’s see if Colorado can get hot and cause an Avalanche. (DAL, @DAL, EDM, @LAK)
My picks for tonight.
Pittsburgh 4-2, Columbus 4-3, St. Louis 3-1, and Colorado 4-1