Hello everybody! Welcome back to Sticks and Stones Report as we approach the end of Week 14 of the NHL’s 2021-22 season. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Both Florida teams are buzzing! Huberdeau is one of the best players in the league this year and the Panthers are electric behind this exciting squad. Bobrovsky is staying strong with 20 wins in his rebound year from a down 20-21 season. It’s still a 2-point battle at the top between Tampa Bay and Florida. These vikings are back on their war path with the generals Palat, Hedman, Point, Kucherov, Stamkos just tearing through teams. Andrei Vasilevsky with 23 wins in net which is currently the leagues best for goalies. Lightning are locked and loaded, hammering the stat sheet every night with an unreal lineup.
Boston is surging still behind a hot Marchand and Ullmark in net that looks pretty, pretty solid. Pastrnak with Taylor Hall are still buzzing after Bruce broke the perfection line up with Pasta, Bergy, and Marchand. Detroit is EXCITING! This team can fight and can be exciting in the next 1-2 years to make some playoff noise. Larkin up front with Bertuzzi and youngster Moritz Seider on the back is dynamic every night, just need some better goalie play from former Carolina Hurricane Alex Nedeljkovic and we are looking at a no doubt wild card contender.
Buffalo are still spiraling out of any playoff contention, almost spiraling to the bottom of the board. Okposo is hurt again, no goalie in net is good consistently, and the team just can’t find that magic early in this season. I would highly doubt they ship anybody for anything, almost looking like they are just a slow sinking ship on its last journey. Ottawa on the other hand, are recovering and creating some noise. Batherson has been a delight up front, providing points while Brady Tkachuk tries to establish a consistent game with Thomas Chabot.
Senators need both these guys getting points every game to be competitive. At the bottom and with no bright light because of injuries plaguing this roster, are the Montreal Canadians. Who knows if Carey Price is going to come back or even if he should this season as I don’t see a bright situation in Montreal for him. This team needs a reset button that I don’t think it can even try to hit until the offseason.
Carolina Hurricanes behind Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho are barely holding off Pittsburgh and New York as top dog in the Metro. Frederick Anderson has built a great campaign so far and continues to look strong in net. Minimal injuries and COVID issues all season has helped this team as well, so I expect them to stay towards the top 3 as they keep battling every game. Sid the Kid is back, and the Penguins are winning and dominating. Jarry is performing as well as key players like Letang, Guentzel, and now Malkin is back getting better and better. Not the prettiest team but Sullivan is a hell of a coach for keeping this team together and performing very well while key players have been hurt/underperforming. They need to decide what to do for backup goalie if they want to make a run this post-season.
The New York Rangers are lethal but if one if their first round picks can find the next gear, then this team can surge to another level of offense. Kreider and Mika are having an incredible campaign, while Adam Fox plugs up the defense while being an extreme threat on offense. Defense will come later but consistent offense from all 4 lines must be addressed if this team wants to make a strong post-season push.
Speaking of all 4 lines, Washington Capitals are getting John Carlson back and Backstrom is getting reps with the second team as the bird gang continue to be pests. Vitek Vanecek hasn’t been the goalie that they wanted him to be. Hurting on the backup goalie play and lower pairing is costing this team most games. Of course we are only at the halfway point of the season and Capitals always tend to go to playoffs in great form. Ovechkin will make sure of it. Columbus is a flip of a coin most nights as to what team you’re going to get. Elvis is playing some solid hockey but this defense looks flat and the offense is far too sporadic. I couldn’t even begin what to do with this team or how to even get them determined for a strong post season push.
New York Islanders are trying to build offense anyway it can at this point. Seems like every night they are scratching for goals, barely able to get 2 consistently. Hopefully Barzal and the boys can channel some of that magic before we get closer to the playoffs otherwise it’s not looking good for them Island Boys. New Jersey Devils need Dougie Hamilton back as his injury has created a massive void on defense. Transition, puck movement, everything just seems a step behind without their stud defenseman back. Looks like they don’t have to wait too long as he should be back by next week. Jack Hughes and Nico are still electric and exciting every night, couple young hogs just holding it down still. Last and certainly at a tough point with 13 losses in a row are the Philadelphia Flyers. This historically bad season got a bright spot as Keith Yandle passed the all time games played record, becoming NHL’s official Iron man. Incredible career and story for this guy and wish him a couple more victories before this season ends. Giroux is in every trade conversation it seems and Carter Hart is still showing slim signs of progress behind this horrid defense.
Not only are they averaging 3+ goals a game comfortably but out of the past 20 games, they’ve only lost 3 times. Pretty good amirite? Mackinnon-Rantannen-Landeskog aka the All Name line is continuing to feast upon teams and with the powerplay clicking, they are getting on the scoresheet one way or another. Pavel Francouz is 6-1 so far and Avalanche will continue to build of great team performances from him and Darcy Kuemper. If the Minnesota Wild can fix their special teams which ranks in the lower half of the league, then we are looking at a champion caliber team like the Avalanche. Kyril Kaprizov and the boys are getting Talbot back in net sometime this week which is huge because before his injury he was doing very well. They continue to have some of the best 5 on 5 play.
St. Louis Blues have a goalie controversy once again as Ville Husso strings together some great wins and performances while Bennington has been alright. Even Charlie Lindgren is 5-0 in 5 starts with the big club. Jordan Kyrou is a young phenom just tearing this league up. Tarasenko is playing some of his best hockey this season, Krug and Faulk on the defense are slinging the puck everywhere which accelerates this teams’ speed and skill. Perron, Scheen, Buchnevich are all solid talents that still play the gritty game. Nashville Predators are 1 trade away from being Tampa Bay level. I don’t know the cap situation at all right now but Saros is already 36 games played out of 45 so a backup or some defensive help would be crucial. Filip Forsberg is an incredible player who is back in the lineup and buzzing after a brief injury. If Eeli Tolvanen can stay healthy with Dante Fabbro, this team is hot on ice and paper. If you combine all of the defenseman points besides Roman Josi’s 43, you get 55 combined points from 9 other Predators defenseman That’s incredible!
Dallas Stars John Klingberg looks like he wants to stay but be the #1 guy in all aspects. Miro Heskianen is amazing and if they can work and stay together, then this team will compete with the rest of the division let alone conference. I mean Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson getting a point per night, while Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Jamie Benn shore up the 2nd and 3rd pairing. Not bad just hopefully the team can stay healthy and then bazinga you have some serious noise. Winnipeg is still a story to be told if they make the playoffs or not. On paper, you would think this squad can string together some tough games but it seems that only means at home as they struggle to win on the road. This is one of those I have no clue what you can do to improve this team from hiring/promoting a coach to shipping some people out and changing the scenery. With Paul Stastny and Mark Scheifele up front, you can build on a deadly combo with Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers on the outside, boy oh boy this is good hockey.
Chicago Blackhawks are all show and no grit at this point as the team finds itself slowly edgeing out of playoff conversation. Yes Alex Debrincat is smashing goals in and Patrick Kane is still buzzing with his unreal forearms but this defense and inconsistent goalie play just isn’t cutting it. Plenty of time to turn it around of course and maybe acquire some meat to this lineup but there has to be a clear intent from management on that or develop next year maybe. This team is 3 years away to being Buffalo Sabres or they are 1-2 years away from maybe being the Penguins-like, channeling youth with the old for a playoff push.
Arizona have at least stepped out of first gear and begun hauling ass on the racetrack in points terms. Too little and too dull as a lineup, unless Clayton Keller can go 2 points per game and Jakob Chychrun can channel Victor Hedman’s secret stuff, this team is done halfway through. Try as they can but the goalie combo of Scott Wedgewood and Karel Vejmelka just isn’t cutting it at all with this slow inconsistent defensive corps. Fingers cross they get a rink deal done and some solidity to the future of this franchise, otherwise we might see vultures, other teams, pick up players from this desperate and struggling Coyote squad.
With Vegas stars being consistently healthy, the wheels are spinning on the Golden Knights bus as they top the league still and look to have some fun with the crown. Lehner is a workhorse in net while Shea Theodore is putting together a nice campaign for himself.
The Ducks are still buzzing and with Getzlaf getting points again, the team seems to win comfortably behind their captain. Ever since that Brendan Lemieux incident awhile back, this team seems to have gelled and found another competitive gear. No longer are the blowouts and disappointing offensive spurts. Calgary Flames are HOT…..AGAIN! Scraping its way to the top with fiery offense led by Johnny Hockey himself.
San Jose is a revolving door on when they can combine offense, defense, and goalie play. Edmonton is almost in the fight or flight mode as the playoffs dwindle behind some poor form in the past 10 games. Please Gretzky, bless this squad to come back and be a top threat that it can be with two of the best hockey players to ever play In McDavid and Draisaitl.
Vancouver is having COVID issues AGAIN! Pettersson looks like he has found his game a bit and the offense is clicking again for this team. Still lacking the overall grit and grind of a playoff team. Seattle is gone but not forgotten at this point. Pretty evident that they don’t have what it takes for a Cinderella cup run but they are competitive most nights still.