These are some of observations on the season which is drawing to a close in three weeks. Unless your team is making the playoffs, then this is about what I’ve seen. Some random thoughts:
1.The Hart race remains a hotly debated topic. With leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin battling it out for the Art Ross, Nathan MacKinnon has climbed into the scoring race with a sizzling hot streak. He’s trying to carry the Avalanche into the postseason. Something nobody thought was remotely possible. He has been on such a good run that he now has almost caught up to the elite Russians who have been 1-2 for a while. At this point, it looks like Taylor Hall will be left out despite his impressive run. He is just as valuable to the Devils as MacKinnon is to Colorado. If you define most valuable, then those two are what the award personifies. But my feeling is it’ll come down to Kucherov, Malkin and MacKinnon. MacKinnon has 11 game-winners and has been a beast. I would vote for him. The other two are on much better teams.
2.Recently, Alexander Ovechkin became the fourth fastest player in NHL history to reach 600 career goals. Ovi has been unbelievable since he entered the league with Sidney Crosby in ’05-06. There’s no better finisher than the electrifying Russian with the cannon from the left circle that pulverizes goalies. They know it’s coming and he’s still terrorizing opponents. Tied with super soph Patrik Laine for the league lead with 43 goals, The Great Eight shows no signs of slowing down. In a game where it’s harder to score, he makes it look easy. A few more productive years and he could approach 800 goals. Who would’ve ever believed it? Whether he wins a Cup or not, he doesn’t need it to justify his career.
3.Henrik Lundqvist has taken a back seat to rookie Alexandar Georgiev. The 22-year old Bulgarian has played well winning three of his last four starts. He is very poised in net and hasn’t let the volume of shots bother him. It looks like the Rangers scouting staff did a good job signing the undrafted goalie who seems unflappable. A real positive that can aid the Rangers for ’18-19.
4.You watch the way the Bruins play without Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and even Zdeno Chara and they still handle the Lightning. They could overtake Tampa for tops in the East and earn home ice advantage which would change the dynamic of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. It looked like a foregone conclusion that Boston would play Toronto in a first round. Not anymore. What if it’s the Bolts and Leafs while the Bruins draw whoever the final wildcard is. Probably the Devils unless the Panthers can recover from a awful home loss to lowly Edmonton. Don’t forget. Third place is up for grabs with the Flyers hanging onto that spot. There’s still enough time for Columbus to move up. They’ve been playing much better since adding Thomas Vanek and Ian Cole. Cam Atkinson is scoring again recently recording a hat trick in a home win. The offense has picked up.
5.It looks like another wasted year for the Islanders. A very disappointing season given the superb rookie season Mathew Barzal has had. The certain Calder winner leads the team in scoring with captain John Tavares a close second. The question is what will Tavares decide this summer. Is he truly loyal to the organization or will another missed postseason result in possibly testing the market. Would the Islanders be open to a sign and trade just in case so they don’t lose their captain for nothing? The thing is Garth Snow did re-sign Tavares favorite Josh Bailey to a good deal worth an average of $5 million. Anders Lee needs five goals for 40. For most of the year, he and Bailey have been perfect linemates for Tavares.
6.What is beleaguered coach Doug Weight thinking shifting Tavares to the wing on a line with Barzal? It’s a organization in dysfunction. Would you keep Snow around along with Weight for another year? How can they improve a weak blueline that’s struggled without Calvin de Haan? At some point, there needs to be a change in philosophy. Especially with Jaro Halak unable to handle the workload due to the league’s worst defense. Even Christopher Gibson can’t. Who can?
7.It would be nice if NHL refs knew what to call. Whether it be on goaltender interference or lengthy reviews along with offside challenges, it remains confusing. The same for fans who are equally frustrated with the process.
8.Top goalie is between Andrei Vasilevskiy and Pekka Rinne. It says here that it’s time for Rinne to win the Vezina. Vasilevskiy should have plenty of more chances.