This has been an interesting week for hockey, and it’s not even a full moon. From surprise wins to surprise firings, the NHL action keeps rolling as teams get serious about their run on the Stanley Cup, including the Avalanche. Just over two months stand between now and the finals, and late adjustments are seen as the key to a last-minute effort to pull out some wins.
Colorado Avalanche Keep Rolling On
One of the few teams not needing to make any changes is the Colorado Avalanche. They’re tied for third in scoring in the NHL and, despite some tight competition, continue to rack up the victories. The Avalanche are on a seven-game winning streak, after taking out the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, and face the Anaheim Ducks tonight. The Ducks are on the tail end of a back-to-back, so they might be a little worse for wear. Besides, the Avalanche already beat them this year. The Avalanche are now the first team to make it to 40 wins in the Western Conference this season, and a victory against the Ducks puts them in better position to see the Stanley Cup.
The Ottawa Senators are in need of a new CEO. The upper office let Jim Little go after just under two months on the job. The only reason they would give is that the firing was “a result of conduct inconsistent with the core values of the Ottawa Senators and the National Hockey League.” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was a little more vocal, but not much, and explained, “It’s not what you think, or what would be suggested,” Bettman said. “I generally don’t comment on club personnel decisions, but it’s not one of the things we were discussing at the board meeting in December [after Flames coach Bill Peters resigned following admission to using racial slurs]. It has more to do with internal operations.”
The San Jose Sharks are on the hunt for some fresh meat and they apparently smell blood in the water. The team has now won three in a row, the first time its accomplished this since last November, and actually managed to take out the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, 5-2. Sharks are resilient creatures, and the team, despite ranking toward the bottom of the Pacific Division, cannot be written off yet.
The team’s Evander Kane, who scored two goals against the Leafs, said after the latest win, “We obviously haven’t had the type of success we wanted this year for whatever reason. You look at us on paper, even with some of the guys that are gone, we’re a pretty darned good team on paper. We just have to put it together. … We just want to finish the year off on a strong note and put a little reminder out there that we’re still the San Jose Sharks. We’re going to be tough to beat.”
The Vegas Golden Knights may have tripped last year, but they’re back in full form in the new season. They sit at the top of the Pacific Division with 37 wins and 23 losses (and eight ties), and just added to their run with a win over the New Jersey Devils. Golden Knights’ golden goalie, Robin Lehner, appears to be worth every penny the team paid for him when they brought him on last month. He stopped 27 shots as he played in his 300th career game, and recorded his first shutout in the 3-0 victory.
It’s almost shocking that this doesn’t happen more often. Hockey skates have surprisingly sharp blades. With all the fighting, tripping and falling that goes on, the amount of serious injuries from blade mishaps is relatively low. Johnny Boychuk of the New York Islanders tipped the scales a little last night in a game against the Montreal Canadiens, though, and was forced to receive 90 stitches to close a gash around his eyelid. He caught a skate worn by the Canadiens’ Artturi Lehonen and, fortunately, did not suffer any damage to his eye.
New NHL Salary Cap for 2020
The NHL has decided on a new salary cap goal for next year. It’s only a goal because the final number has yet to be determined; however, the upper limit for pay is going to most likely be somewhere between $84 million and $88.2 million, an increase from the $81.5 million from the current season. The cap will become effective as of July 1, the start of NHL free agency.