The National Hockey League is back and the painfully long off-season lockout seems like ancient history. Although this season will only feature 48 games, it is proving to be worth the 119 day wait. The Blackhawks have earned a point in 28 straight games dating back to last season, making them tied for the second longest streak in league history. The Los Angeles Kings are playing very well recently, and Coach Darryl Sutter will have his team ready to defend Lord Stanley’s Cup. On the other side of the country, the fans in Pittsburgh are ecstatic to have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin healthy and playing together again. These exciting storylines and record setting performances are crucial for the league to retain its integrity after an ugly offseason. Here is a review of some of the hottest teams and best players so far.
Just when it looked like the Blackhawks were finally going to lose in regulation this season, Patrick Kane netted a goal with 2:02 left in the final period of last Sunday’s game against the Red Wings. Then, Kane carried his team to a victory in an overtime shootout when he beat Detroit’s goaltender Jimmy Howard with a multiple-deke move.
Kane is leading the team in goals, assists and overall points with 11, 15 and 26, respectively. If the Blackhawks continue their dominance and Kane keeps up this type of performance, he will be a strong contender for MVP.
On the defensive side, goaltender Corey Crawford leads the league in average goals allowed with a stingy 1.41 per game. The Blackhawks also boast the best goal differential in the league at +29 and have allowed the fewest goals overall (41). Chicago plays will round out this week with two games against the Avalanche and one against the Oilers on Sunday.
After missing the playoffs last season, the Ducks have played much better hockey so far this season. They are second in the entire league with 33 points and are 7-2-1 in their last ten games.
They do not have a dominant offensive scorer, but they can pass the puck. Six players have eleven or more assists, and ten players have five or more goals. Captain Ryan Getzlaf leads the team in goals(8), assists(17), and overall points(25).
As for the men tending the goal, Viktor Fasth is 9-1 with an average of 2.08 goals allowed per game. Also, veteran Jonas Hiller is averaging a surprisingly high 3.24 goals allowed per game. The Ducks have lost consecutive games to the Coyotes, 5-4 in shootouts. Their next three games will be at home against the Coyotes, Flames and Blues.
Los Angeles Kings
The defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings got off to a rough 3-7 start this season. However, Anze Kopitar and the rest of the Kings have won eight of their last ten games.
Kopitar leads the team in points with 18, while fellow center Jeff Carter is first on the team and tied for second in the league with 14 goals. In the Kings 5-1 win over the Predators on Monday, Carter completed his fifth career hat trick with two goals within a 19 second span in the final period.
After putting together one of the greatest post season performances ever last season, goaltender Jonathan Quick has struggled this season. He is a meager 6-6 this season and is allowing an average of 2.54 goals per game. Recently the Kings have been mixing in Jonathan Bernier between the pipes. Bernier is 5-1 this season as the goaltender and is allowing an average of 1.53 goals per game. The Kings have three more games on this homestand and then travel to play the Coyotes and Sharks.
As mentioned above, the Penguins have their superstars healthy and scoring the puck. As a team, they are second in the Eastern Conference and lead the league in average goals per game with 3.48.
Sidney Crosby is leading the league in points with 36, and assists with 25. Right behind him is the Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz, who is second in the league with 28 points and first in plus-minus with 17. In addition to Kunitz and Crosby, they have seven other players with ten or more points this season. Left wing James Neal is tied for second in the league with 14 goals and Malkin is tied for fourth in the league with 18 assists.
Their goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, is tied for the lead league in wins with 11 and is allowing an average of 2.44 goals per game. The Penguins are 7-3 in their last ten games and if their defense improves they will be a tough out in the playoffs.
The Canadiens are in first place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points. They are 7-3 in their last ten games and are allowing the fifth least amount of goals per game with 2.32.
Goaltender Carey Price is tied for second in the league with 11 wins and tied for second in shutouts with two. After finishing in 28th place last season, the Canadiens have turned the page and are firing on all cylinders. In their game against the fourth place Bruins on Sunday, Montreal took advantage of the penalty on Boston’s key defender, Zdeno Chara, to take the lead for good in the third period.
On the offensive side of the ice, the Canadiens are led by left wing Max Pacioretty, and centers David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec. They have combined for a total of 49 points this season and are distributing the puck nicely. After yesterday’s game against the Islanders, Montreal will travel to the Hurricanes, Lightning and Panthers this week.
League Leaders (as of March 4)
17 – Steven Stamkos, Center, Tampa Bay Lightning
14 – James Neal, Left Wing, Pittsburgh Penguins
14 – Jeff Carter, Center, Los Angeles Kings
25 – Sidney Crosby, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
23 – Martin St. Louis, Right Wing, Tampa Bay Lightning
19 – Henrik Zetterberg, Left Wing, Detroit Red Wings
36 – Sidney Crosby, Center Pittsburg Penguins
34 – Steven Stamkos, Center, Tampa Bay Lightning
28 – Chris Kunitz, Left Wing, Pittsburg Penguins
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of March 6th, 2013’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Artwork by Anna Xu of the Daily Nexus.