Hockey In Its Most Natural State – NHL Week 6 Report

Ethan Yarbro

We’re Heeeerrreee. After being closed off from the internet last week due to the State of Texas’ winter storm and the issues that followed along with it (Glad that the Ted Cruz got some needed off-time and that the state was prepared (obvious sarcasm)), I am back with another weekly report for the NHL and we’ve got some great stuff to discuss, especially with the Lake Tahoe games on Saturday and Sunday. As Week 7 begins, the teams of the NHL are showing who is gonna be the real frontrunners for the chance of a date with Lord Stanley’s Cup and who is gonna be sitting on their couch as they watch their friends play in the playoffs. With all this and more, let’s discuss the happenings of Week 6.

Kings Of The North

It is insane to think how strong of a competitor the Toronto Maple Leafs are as they sit atop the North division and the NHL as well with the most wins, the least amount of losses, and the most points as well. Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are playing amazing hockey and are killing it with Marner holding the most assists and points on the team and with Matthews having the most goals on the team and in the league as well. Both sit on the NHL’s scoring leaders list, with Marner in third and Matthews in fourth. Toronto is one of the scariest teams in the league now, especially with offensive threats like William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and John Tavares all contributing and putting up some great numbers for the season. The presence on defense is astounding as well as Frederik Andersen is sitting in the number one spot for goalies in the league with a .905 save percentage and a 2.69 goals against average. The Leafs will play at home against the slow burning Calgary Flames tonight and on Wednesday, and then will roll into Edmonton on Saturday to play the Oilers on enemy turf. The Leafs are looking to closeout February on a strong note with some key wins over important teams in their division. With the most points in the division, up by six points over the Oilers, and in the NHL, up by five over the Hurricanes, unless someone can find their weakness and crack the Maple Leafs, expect them to stay in front of the NHL for as they want to.

Working their way to the top, the Edmonton Oilers now sit in second in the North, only behind Toronto by six points. After going 3-1 last week against the Winnipeg Jets and the Calgary Flames, Edmonton sits in a viable second with Winnipeg nipping on their heels. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl still lead the team, as McDavid posts the second most goals, the most assists, and the most points in the league. McDavid has a vice grip of the top spot on the scoring leaders list, and Draisaitl is trying to remain in second by the threats from Marner and Matthews are growing more with each week. It isn’t surprising that McDavid and Draisaitl are big reasons why Edmonton is in the position that they are in, but it does help when you have some help. With players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Tyson Barrie all having more than 15 points, whether that be Barrie’s 13 assists or Nugent-Hopkins equal spread of 9 goals and 9 assists, and with Nurse being the two-way defenseman he is, the Oilers are trying their best to help out their top two players. However, besides the five mentioned players, no else on the Oilers has more than 10 points, and no one out those players has more than 5 goals. Edmonton will need help from everyone if they want to overthrow Toronto and claim the King of The North for themselves. The Oilers will roll into Vancouver to play the Canucks on Tuesday and Thursday and will return home to defend against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. Edmonton will need all players to step up and play some great hockey this week if they want to surpass Toronto for the crown.

The Winnipeg Jets sit in third in the North as they come off of Week 6 with a 3-1 record. The Jets are still finding their footing without Patrik Laine and are trying to get Pierre Luc-Dubois to start throwing out some magic on the ice. Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers are helping the team stay ahead of the others in the division that are behind them in the standings. Scheifele sits with the most goals, assists and points on the Jets’ roster and is working his way up the NHL’s scoring leaders list as he sits in fifth behind the top players from the top two teams in their division. Ehlers finds himself on the list as well in the 14th spot as he finally cracks the top 15 in the league in points. With players like Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, and Neal Pionk contributing on offense with assists and goals, Winnipeg is slowly starting work their way back up the ladder. Also, with Connor Hellebuyck sitting in the top four of the top goalies in the NHL and posting a .916 save percentage and a 2.64 goals against average, the net seems a little smaller for the opposing teams and the Jets’ defense isn’t so terrified of their net minder’s mistakes. Winnipeg will close out February with two games against the Montreal Canadiens at home on Thursday and Saturday, in which Montreal is only two points behind Winnipeg in the standings. Winnipeg will need to close out the month and Week 7 strong with some points earned if they want to keep on pushing towards the crown of the North.

The Montreal Canadiens close out the top four in the North with only two less points than the Jets. After losing both games last week, Montreal will end the second month of the year with three games all on the road; One on Tuesday at the Senators and two on Thursday and Saturday at Winnipeg. Montreal will need to gain some points if they want to remain in the top four and keep Vancouver from sweeping out their legs like in that karate movie from the 80s. Montreal’s top 5 players are all sitting at 16 points or lower, and their top players, Tyler Toffol and Jeff Petry are leading the team in goals, assists, and points. What was a hot team a few weeks ago, has slowed down and lost their footing while they slipped down the standings. The Canadiens will need to put up some stronger numbers on the stats sheet if they want to stay in the top four and even have a chance of moving up the standings.

While the top four is relatively close, besides Toronto having 7 points or more over the Jets and the Canadiens, the rest of the league sits at a disadvantage. The Canucks sit three points behind the Canadiens in fourth but have two wins out of their past seven games and are looking to defend their rink against the second place Oilers, who have been on a hot streak and are looking to grab points on their way up the standings. The Canucks will need to play tight and solid hockey if they want to make it out of February with a chance at the top four. Calgary sits four points behind the Canadiens but have only three wins out of the last seven games and are playing against the Kings of The North in Toronto and then onto Ottawa, who is looking to climb their way out of the pits and towards the light of the top four. Calgary will need to create some chances while on offense and will need to play smart hockey while on defense, especially with high caliber scores being on both teams they play this week. Lastly, the Senators are a whopping 10 points behind the fourth placed Canadiens and have only won four out of the last eleven games this month. Ottawa will look to defend their homeland as Montreal and Calgary look to grab some points over the dead-last Senators. Ottawa will need their top players to step up and help on both sides of the ice, looking and scrapping for any chance they can get to grab some points while playing at home. The Canadian division is getting locked down already with only two months down in the season. The bottom three teams are going to have to play scrappy and vicious hockey if they want to stay alive in this high stakes division.

Divisional Standings:

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs – 14-3-2, 30 Pts
  2. Edmonton Oilers – 12-8-0, 24 Pts
  3. Winnipeg Jets – 11-6-1, 23 Pts
  4. Montreal Canadiens – 9-5-3, 21 Pts
  5. Vancouver Canucks – 8-12-2, 18 Pts
  6. Calgary Flames – 8-9-1, 17 Pts
  7. Ottawa Senators – 5-14-1, 11 Pts

(Wins-Losses-Overtime/Shootout Losses, Points)

Rulers Of The West

The Musical Notes of St Louis standing atop the West division with their 22 points, only ahead of Vegas by one point. The Blues are coming off of two losses out of three games in Week 6 and if they want to remain the top team in the West, they will need to pick up some points against the Los Angeles Kings at home tonight and Wednesday as well as on the road against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. The top player for the Blues would be their top 5 goalie Jordan Binnington as he has played rather well and is showing a .913 save percentage and a 2.53 goals against average while having an 8-4-2 record through the 14 games he has played. The top players on the Blues would be David Perron, who has the most assists and points on the team, Jordan Kyrou, Brayden Schenn, who has the most goals on the team, and Captain O’Reilly. The Blues will need to put some more pucks on net and create some chances in front of the net if they want to grab some wins before the end of the month and remain the top team in the West.

The Golden Knights of Vegas are now in second place in the West, only behind a point from the top team and only two points ahead of the third place Colorado Avalanche. The Golden Knights are looking to close out February on a strong note as they have won five games out of the eight they have played this month. Vegas will be hitting the road this week to try and win against the Colorado Avalanche tonight, the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, and the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Mark Stone leads the team in assists and points while Max Pacioretty leads the team in goals. Of course, Marc-Andre Fluery sits in the top 10 goalies in the league, as he sits at eighth with a 7-3 record and posts a .935 save percentage and a 1.71 goals against average; which are some of the best stats in the league. With Robin Lehner also playing well, posting a .890 save percentage and a 2.96 goals against average on a 3-1-1 record, the Golden Knights aren’t too worried about pucks making it past their net minders and the Golden Knights are more focused on putting pucks on the net of the opposition while creating havoc in the neutral zone and the opponent’s defensive end. However, with only one player above 16 points, the Golden Knights will need to be more creative while on the forecheck, so that they may be able to outplay the opposition and squeak in some wildly goals. I would expect the Golden Knights to finish the month in first once again, as long as they don’t let the loss in Lake Tahoe get to them.

Speaking of Lake Tahoe, the winners of the game on Saturday, the Colorado Avalanche, sit in third in the West, only behind the Knights in second by 2 points and behind the Blues in first by 3 points. The Avalanche, along with a few teams in the West, have had some games postponed due to Covid and it’s a big reason why the West is so behind in games played and, therefore, in points. The Avalanche have only played four games this month and they have won three of those four games. Colorado will play four games this week to end the month, and they will be playing some teams who are hungry for points. The Avalanche play tonight at home against the Golden Knights, who lost on Saturday to the Avalanche and are wanting to stay ahead of Colorado in the standings. Colorado will play one more home game against the Wild, who have slipped to sixth place, but with the lack of point differentials in the division, a just a hop, skip, and jump from reaching past the Avalanche. The last two games will be against the Arizona Coyotes, who sit tied with the fourth placed Los Angeles Kings and are only 2 points behind the Avalanche. Each game will be important for Colorado to win in order for them to try and climb the standings while getting the teams on their tails off. With Nathan MacKinnon leading the team in assists and points, and with Mikko Rantanen leading in goals, the Avalanche are depending on their top players to spread the puck around and notch some goals in order to pick up some key wins. Colorado’s net minder Philipp Grubauer sits second in the league’s top goalies and is posting one of the highest save percentage and the lowest goals against average amongst starting goalies. The Avalanche have not only one of the best players in the NHL on the team, but also probably the best goalie in the league as well. Colorado is a threat to the West and to the rest of the league if they can make it into the playoffs.

On a four game win streak, the Los Angeles Kings have made their way into the top four in the West. Even with their recent red hot play, including their captain Anze Kopitar cracking the NHL’s scoring leaders list and finding himself in eleventh with 4 goals, 17 assists, and 21 points,  the Kings sit tied with the Arizona Coyotes and only two points ahead of the last place Anaheim Ducks. However, the Kings sit in a very interesting position in the West division, as they will play in St Louis tonight and on Wednesday and in Minnesota on Friday and Saturday. Winning the majority of these games, if not all of them, could shoot the Kings up the standings, especially since they play the top West division team in the Blues in a two game series during Week 7. The Kings top players all have a good amount of assists racked up, so it seems the strong point for the Kings would be their puck movement and spreading the puck around the ice. The Kings will need to capitalize on the amount chances they seem to be getting while on the forecheck and they will need to help Jonathan Quick on the backcheck to cut down on the opponent’s chances on getting pucks on the net.

The West division has been affected by Covid, and so teams are a lot closer in the standings, giving the opportunity to any team who wants it bad enough. Arizona sits tied with the fourth place LA Kings, while Minnesota and San Jose sit a point behind them, and Anaheim is only two points behind the Coyotes. With all of these having at least three games this week, with Minnesota and Arizona both having four, they will want to grab some points in Week 7 if they want to climb higher in the standings. If any of these teams have a shot of making it into the top four when the season is over, I would expect Minnesota to be a key player on the cusp of the playoffs, along with the Kings and possibly Arizona.

Divisional Standings:

  1. St Louis Blues – 10-6-2, 22 Pts
  2. Vegas Golden Knights – 10-4-1, 21 Pts
  3. Colorado Avalanche – 9-4-1, 19 Pts
  4. Los Angeles Kings – 7-6-3, 17 Pts
  5. Arizona Coyotes – 7-7-3, 17 Pts
  6. Minnesota Wild – 8-6, 16 Pts
  7. San Jose Sharks – 7-7-2, 16 Pts
  8. Anaheim Ducks – 6-9-3, 15 Pts

Controller Of The Central

The Carolina Hurricanes have become a terrifying team to play. The Hurricanes have only lost three games this month, out of the ten that they have already played. The Hurricanes are playing the Tampa Lighting tonight, as well as on Wednesday and Thursday in Tampa Bay, and then travel to visit the Panthers on Saturday. The Hurricanes’ top players in Vincent Trocheck, Andrei Svenchnikov, Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, and Nino Niederreiter show the prowess of this team’s forecheck. The movement of the puck while on offense is amazing to watch as they stack points with goals and assists left and right. Their goalies Petr Mrazek, who posts a .955 save percentage and a .99 goals against average across his four games, Alex Nedeljkovic, who posts a .911 save percentage and a 2.44 goals against average in his four games played, and James Reimer, who posts a .896 save percentage and a 3.08 goals against average in his nine games and sits in seventh in the top NHL goalies, all have been lights out between the pipes when needed. Unless someone finds the way to beat them, the Hurricanes will control the division like they have been.

The Florida Panthers are also finding their footing in the Central division as well, as they only sit a point behind the Hurricanes. Florida comes off a strong Week 6 as they won three of the four games last week. The Panthers turn their sights to playing Dallas at home, starting tonight and continuing on Wednesday and Thursday, and then will finish the week against the red hot Hurricanes on Saturday. The Panthers’ top players are putting up impressive numbers, as Jonathan Huberdeau finds himself in the ninth spot on the NHL’s scoring leaders list with 7 goals, 15 assists, and 22 points. With players like Huberdeau, along with Aleksander Barkov, Patric Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe, and Keith Yandle, the Panthers’ forecheck and backcheck have deadly. Along with their goalie Chris Driedger cracking the top 15 goalies in the NHL with a .926 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average across his eight games played, Florida is looking to be a top tier team that will make it out of the Central and into the playoffs.

The Chicago Blackhawks have made their way into the the top three teams, as they are only two points behind the Panthers and three points behind the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks won two of their three games last week, as their second game with Carolina was postponed. They look to Columbus for games on Tuesday and Thursday with the Blue Jackets and then head back home to play the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks have seem to get their goalie problems under control, as Kevin Lankinen sits in ninth amongst the top NHL goalies with a .927 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average. With the pipes under steady watch, the Blackhawks skaters are moving the puck around and scoring on their chances when they can. With their defense in check, their forecheck gets better with every game. Chicago will remain a problem for any team in the Central as long as their net minders control the pucks on net.

The defending Stanley Cup champions sit in fourth, only a few points behind each team in the top four. The Lighting have won six out of their last nine games this month, and are showing why they are the defending champs. They play Carolina tonight, Wednesday and Thursday, and look to play Dallas for the first rematch since the Stanley Cup Finals. Of course not much has changed with the Lighting, as their top players are the Big 3: Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman. Andrei Vasilevskiy has also kept the net in check as he posts a .930 save percentage and a 2.01 goals against average while remaining the third best goalie in the league. Unless teams can make Vasilevskiy sweat more in the net and shut down the attacks from the depth of the Lighting at the same time, then the Lighting will remain a powerhouse in the Central.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the only other team close to tampering with the top four standings, as the Stars and the Predators both sit at 14 points along with the Red Wings’ 13 points, and the Blue Jackets only sit a point behind the fourth place Lighting. For teams like the Stars, Predators, and Red Wings, things will have to change. All three teams have looked weak around their own net and have let stupid mistakes beat them. All three teams will need to close out February on a strong note if they want to remain in the conversation of playoff talks in the Central. With the Blue Jackets, they will need to turn neutral zone mistakes by the opponent into chances for them while on the forecheck. The Central is a fun division to watch, as the top four teams are all dangerous to any team who makes it into the playoffs.

Divisional Standings:

  1. Carolina Hurricanes – 12-3-1, 25 Pts
  2. Florida Panthers – 11-3-2, 24 Pts
  3. Chicago Blackhawks – 9-6-4, 22 Pts
  4. Tampa Bay Lighting – 10-4-1, 21 Pts
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets – 8-7-4, 20 Pts
  6. Dallas Stars – 5-3-4, 14 Pts
  7. Nashville Predators – 7-10, 14 Pts
  8. Detroit Red Wings – 5-10-3, 13 Pts

Eminences Of The East

The Boston Bruins picked up the win in the outdoor rink this past Sunday and are also in control of the East division. Boston has won six out of the last eight games this month and have racked up points along the way. They look to close out February with a game against each New York teams on Thursday and Friday in New York. Boston’s Tuukka Rask finally cracks the top 15 goalies in the NHL with a .901 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average. Brad Marchand, who leads the team in points, sits in thirteenth on the scoring leaders list, along with Patrice Bergeron sitting in fifteenth. Both players, David Pastrnak, Nick Ritchie, and Charlie McAvoy have helped be offensive threats for the Bruins. The Bruins will more than likely remain in the top teams, as they are formidable as the season goes on.

The Washington Capitals sit in second in the East, as they are three points behind the Bruins. The Capitals have had a rough month as they have only won three games out of the eight. They look to take on the Penguins on Tuesday and Thursday at home, and then hit the road to take on the Devils in New Jersey on Saturday and Sunday. Nicklas Bäckström leads the charge with the most goals, most assists, and most points on the team. Along with Vitek Vanecek sitting at eleventh in the top goalies in the NHL with a .907 save percentage and a 2.92 goals against average. The Capitals sit in a viable spot as the teams in the third, fourth and fifth spot in the East all sit at 19 points. As long as the Capitals keep up the pace on the forecheck while providing enough help for Vanecek on the backcheck, the Capitals will coast along while picking up points along the way.

The Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the New York Islanders all sit at 19 points. All three teams will look towards this week on gaining a foothold in the division. Each team will need to play their type of hockey to end on strong notes to close out the month. The rest of the division sits points behind the other three by at least four points, the closest being the Rangers with 15 points. The Rangers may see a decline as Atermi Panarin has left the team due to personal conflicts. This could be an opportunity for the Devils and the Sabres. I’ve said that the East division is the most competitive in the league, and it seems like it could come down to a fist fight at the end of the season.

Divisional Standings:

  1. Boston Bruins – 11-3-2, 24 Pts
  2. Washington Capitals – 9-5-3, 21 Pts
  3. Philadelphia Flyers – 8-4-3, 19 Pts
  4. Pittsburgh Penguins – 9-6-1, 19 Pts
  5. New York Islanders – 8-6-3, 19 Pts
  6. New York Rangers – 6-7-3, 15 Pts
  7. New Jersey Devils – 6-5-2, 14 Pts
  8. Buffalo Sabres – 5-7-2, 12 Pts

NHL’s Scoring Leaders

  1. Connor McDavid, EDM – 12 G, 25 A, 35 P
  2. Leon Draisaitl, EDM – 10 G, 20 A, 30 P
  3. Mitchell Marner, TOR – 9 G, 21 A, 30 P
  4. Auston Matthews, TOR – 18 G, 11 A, 29 P
  5. Mark Scheifele, WPG – 10 G, 16 A, 26 P
  6. Patrick Kane, CHI – 8 G, 18 A, 26 P
  7. Brock Boeser, VAN – 12 G, 10 A, 22 P
  8. Nicklas Bäckström, WSH – 8 G, 14 A, 22 P
  9. Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA – 7 G, 15 A, 22 P
  10. James van Riemsdyk, PHI – 8 G, 13 A, 21 P
  11. Anze Kopitar, LAK – 4 G, 17 A, 21 P
  12. Quinton Hughes, VAN – 2 G, 19 A, 21 P
  13. Brad Marchand, BOS – 9 G, 11 A, 20 P
  14. Nikolaj Ehlers, WPG – 10 G, 9 A, 19 P
  15. Patrice Bergeron, BOS – 7 G, 12 A, 19 P

NHL’s Top Goalies

  1. Frederik Andersen, TOR – 11-3-2, .905 SV%, 2.69 GAA
  2. Philipp Grubauer, COL – 9-3, .936 SV%, 1.67 GAA
  3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL – 9-3-1, .930 SV%, 2.01 GAA
  4. Connor Hellebuyck, WPG – 8-5-1, .916 SV%, 2.64 GAA
  5. Jordan Binnington, STL – 8-4-2, .913 SV%, 2.53 GAA
  6. Jacob Markstrom, CGY – 8-6-1, .909 SV%, 2.87 GAA
  7. James Reimer, CAR – 8-1, .896 SV%, 3.08 GAA
  8. Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK – 7-3, .935 SV%, 1.71 GAA
  9. Kevin Lankinen, CHI – 7-3-3, .927 SV%, 2.43 GAA
  10. Semyon Varlamov, NYI – 7-4-2, .925 SV%, 2.07 GAA
  11. Vitek Vanecek, WSH – 7-4-2, .907 SV%, 2.92 GAA
  12. Mikko Koskinen, EDM – 7-8, .901 SV%, 3.26 GAA
  13. Tuukka Rask, BOS – 7-2-1, .901 SV%, 2.56 GAA
  14. Chris Dreidger, FLA – 6-1-1, .926 SV%, 2.34 GAA
  15. Martin Jones, SJS – 6-4-1, .882 SV%, 3.66 GAA

ODR Hockey At Its Finest

This past Saturday and Sunday, we got to see some outdoor rink hockey being played amongst some of the top teams in their respective divisions. In the Saturday game, we got to see the Colorado Avalanche take on the Vegas Golden Knights, both fitted in their Retro Reverse jerseys as well. Colorado ended up taking the win on Saturday, winning 3-2. I also believe Colorado won the jersey face-off as well, as the Nordiques-era jersey went nicely with the Avalanche colors, something I can’t say about the red on the Golden Knights’ jerseys. The game was a nice close game, unlike the Sunday game.

On Sunday, we got to see the Boston Bruins take on their divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams fitted in their Retro Reverses, the Flyers and the Bruins took to the ice for an absolute thrill of a game. It seem like it would be close early on, but as the second period rolled on, so did the Bruins. Pastrnak would notch a hat trick in the game as the Bruins would win 7-3. I also thought that the Bruins had a better uni than the Flyers, as it was a battle of the White Sleeves, a design I don’t understand about either jersey.

Both games were awesome to watch, and hats off to the NHL for getting done in a little amount of time. There were some hiccups, mostly the ice being a problem with the sun beaming down on it, but nevertheless, the teams played great, they looked great, and the ODR games were awesome to see. I think Colorado took the cake with the jerseys, but the Bruins definitely walked out of the ODR games looking and playing the best with the 80s neon flair. I hope we get to see something along the lines of these ODR games again sometime in the near future.

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A few more for your enjoyment.#NHLBruins | #NHLOutdoors pic.twitter.com/bFmYTIft4t

Photo Creds:@Avalanche  / Twitter.com / https://twitter.com/Avalanche/status/1363377346300944384/photo/1

2020-2021 NHL Scoring Leaders / QuantHockey.com / https://www.quanthockey.com/nhl/seasons/2020-21-nhl-players-stats.html

NHL Hockey Standings / NHL.com / https://www.nhl.com/standings/2020/division

NHL Stats – Goalies / NHL.com / http://www.nhl.com/stats/goalies

 

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