The majority of the teams have now reached the 60 game mark and again the pattern of wins and losses changed from the second quarter. Mostly it reverted back to what occurred in the first quarter: Two steps forward, one back, two steps back, one forward, etc. Gone was the dramatic long winning streaks that marked the second quarter. Some teams like Chicago, New York Rangers, St. Louis, and Washington managed to put together modest winning streaks of 5-6 games. What else was notable during the third part of the current season?
Namely coaches’ blood. Jack Capuano of the New York Islanders, Ken Hitchcock (who was going to retire from coaching anyway at the end of this season) of the St. Louis Blues, Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins, and Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens joined Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers who was fired in the first quarter of the season on the unemployed list. But the Canadiens immediately gave Julien his old coaching job back after ten years in Boston.
Out Of The Picture
Probably it can be safely said that the Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, and Detroit Redwings have joined the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes as being out of the playoff picture for this season unless they start one of those dramatic long winning streaks that occurred in the second quarter.
1. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers had a ten game winning streak in the second quarter and seemed comfortably assured of a playoff spot in the middle of the Eastern Conference. But they played so badly during the third quarter that they have tumbled out of a playoff position.
2. Montreal Canadiens
Montreal played so well during the first quarter that they were comfortably ranked as one of the “big 5″ teams in the Eastern Conference, along with Washington, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, and Columbus. But they have played so poorly since then that they fired their coach and tumbled down to one of the bottom four playoff positions. If they do not rally around new coach Claude Julien, and some of their pursuers get hot during the last quarter, incredibly they could miss the playoffs again just like last year.
Ottawa is still holding a playoff position in spite of the long absence of number one goaltender Craig Anderson, and the Los Angeles Kings are just out of a playoff spot and now have number one goaltender Jonathan Quick back.
On The Rebound
At one time the New York Islanders looked like the first Eastern Conference team to be declared out of the playoff picture. But they have played so well since their poor start that they now have a real chance to make the playoffs. The Islanders also got some good news when star forward John Tavares declared that he wanted to remain an Islander. Now if only they could get some good news about a new, larger arena being constructed in Queens, so that they can get out of the tiny Barclay’s Center, the only NHL arena that has obstructed view seats…
Speaking About Arenas
Those loveable Arizona Coyotes announced that host suburb Glendale was so sick of them that they would rather have an arena without a team than see a Coyote uniform for much longer. So the Coyotes tried to move across Phoenix town to the suburb of Tempe into a projected new third-smallest arena in the NHL. But the joyful news of this “progress” was terminated when Tempe decided that they did not want the Coyotes either. So now the Coyotes are unwanted on both the east and west side of Phoenix. Since then they have denied that they were seen flirting with both Seattle and Portland. Stay tuned for the next episode.
On a less hilarious note, Detroit will be getting a new arena next year and there is talk of building new arenas in Calgary and Ottawa.
If you see a happy hockey player with a smile who is no longer playing with a bag over his head, it is P. K. Subban of the Nashville Predators. Subban had been singled out by Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin as the main culprit for the collapse of Montreal last year when Carey Price got hurt and traded Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber. By the end of the second quarter of this season, Montreal was at the top of the Eastern Conference, Weber was thriving, Subban got hurt, and there was a real chance that Nashville might not even make the playoffs. But since then Montreal tumbled down the charts while Nashville rose. Incredibly Subban may get the last laugh, something nobody would have dreamed of only two months ago.
The Detroit Redwings have lost their greatest player Gordie Howe, and owner Mike Ilitch who played a key role in the rebirth of good hockey in Detroit in less than one year. Boston Bruins lost legendary star Milt Schmidt and fired the coach who had the most victories in Bruin history, Claude Julien.
All Quiet On The Quebec City Front...
There is still no news about whether Commissioner Gary Bettman has found a suitable owner for a new Quebec City team instead of the unwanted Pierre Karl Peladeau.
And The Olympics
The NHL has still not decided about participating in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. Several NHL players have declared that they will play there anyway whether the NHL participates or not.
The Great Trade Deadline and the home stretch.