NHL Notebook – April
The Top 4 in the Western Conference are putting together play-off runs that would make the Eastern Conference leaders drool. The Blues continue to ride the league’s hottest goalie to stay atop the division. The Red Wings face an uphill battle to catch the Blues, while the Bourque acquisition is looking better and better for Colorado. Who are we forgetting, oh, yes, the defending Stanley Cup Champs.
St. Louis Blues
78GP, 49W, 18L, 0OTL, 11T, 109 PTS
If a hot goalie is the key to happiness in the playoffs, then color the Blues tickled pink. Roman Turek, 7-1-3 in March, posted a miserly 1.34 GAA and .940 save percentage. And if the Detroit Red Wings don’t have enough problems trying to catch the West-leading Blues, St. Louis finishes its season against Calgary and Chicago (twice).
77GP, 43W, 26L, 5OTL, 8T, 99 PTS
The defending Cup champs have 99 points with five games to play – and not a chance of winning the Conference. Like all the rest of the West leaders, the Stars understand that the way to approach the playoffs is to win games, and they have gone 7-2-1 in their past 10. Mike Modano has had the hot hand, posting a 25% shooting average, good for 12P (8G, 11A) in the month of March.
All Bourqued-up for the playoffs
78GP, 38W, 29L, 1OTL, 11T, 88 PTS
Since acquiring D Raymond Bourque, Colorado has gone 8-2-1, with their key addition adding 12P (7G, 5A) to the equation. And they may still need all the help they can get. Of the Western leaders, Colorado is the only one facing a challenge for a top tournament berth. After 78 games, the Edmonton Oilers were just four points behind Colorado, with games left against San Jose, the Avs, Vancouver, and Calgary.
Go figure, Part II
Detroit Red Wings
79GP, 47W, 22L, 2TL, 10T, 106 PTS
What kind of world is it where a team can put up 106-plus points – and finish FOURTH?. The Wings have a mathematical chance of catching St. Louis, but somebody with more points than Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders combined will finish fourth. If they are going to catch the Blues, they will have to beat Montreal (fighting for their playoff lives), Washington (the team that will win the East), and Colorado (who may have to win the last game of the season to stay in the Top 4).
Can’t nobody here play this game? Except for the Washington Capitals, who appear to be the only team intent on hitting the playoffs on roll, the rest of the Conference leaders are wallowing in mediocrity. Mogilny continues to thrive, but the Devils continue to stink. If Toronto could figure out a way to beat the bottom feeders, they’d be atop the conference. Watch Philly, though. They have the easiest finish in the NHL.
The Mogilny Watch
New Jersey Devils
78GP, 43W, 27l 5OTL, 8T, 99PTS
Alexander Mogilny continues his torrid pace under new Coach Larry Robinson. The speedy RW, acquired on Trade Day to rescue the slumping Devils, potted two in a losing effort against Pittsburgh, giving him 6P (3G/3A) in 7GP with Jersey and vindicating hockey’s establishment press. The team, still is still in full panic mode, going just 1-2 since Robinson took over.
Olie on a rollie
78GP, 42W, 25L, 2OTL, 11T, 97PTS
The Caps are hot, as in the hottest team in hockey. The club is 7-3 over their last 10 games, and have a legitimate shot to overtake the Devils for No. 1 seed in the East. The schedule favors the Devils in the last week of the season, but Washington G Olaf Kolzig (10-2-1, 2.21 GAA, .929 SVP in March) is having the kind of finish a team can ride all the way to the parade.
Get a clue, fellas
Toronto Maple Leafs
78GP, 43W, 28L, 3OTL, 7T, 96PTS
This game was invented in Canada, right? As the only Canadian team presently in the Top 8, shouldn’t the Leafs have it figured it out by now – Win the games you’re supposed to win! Over a 10-game stretch at the end of March, Toronto beat Ottawa, Detroit, the Devils, St. Louis, and Washington – all play-off teams. But they lost to Atlanta, Chicago (twice!), the Islanders, and Ottawa. Add the eight points they should have got against the bottom feeders, and the Leafs are atop the conference.
Who wants to be a Conference leader?
77GP, 41W, 24L, 3OTL, 12T, 97PTS With D Eric DesJardins wearing the “C” and with former captain Eric Lindros out-of-sight/out-of-mind, the Flyers are trying to get organized for a run at the Devils and Caps. The club seems to have learned to win without Lindros, going 5-3-1 since #88 was put out of action with a concussion, and the Hockey Gods have blessed them with an unbelievably easy final week: Carolina, Atlanta (twice!), Boston, and the New York Rangers.