This weekend, Hockey Night in Canada on CBC featured the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks playing in two separate games. The early game, which came from San Jose, featured the Leafs squaring off against the Sharks. The late game, which came from Vancouver, featured the Canucks hosting Tampa Bay.
Toronto entered their game against the Sharks with all kinds of momentum. Recently the Leafs barged their way out of last place in the Atlantic Division. They did so behind a solid 6-3-1 record in their last ten prior games.
Toronto even caught the attention of Dan Rosen, a featured writer at NHL.com. Writing on Friday, Rosen headlined the Leafs as an improving team in his “Super 16” article. In advising readers not to “judge by the standings,” Rosen depicted Toronto to be a team worth taking note of. The Leafs still have a lot of work to do to get back into playoff consideration, but Mike Babcock definitely have them headed in the right direction.
Enter Saturday night’s result against San Jose, which saw the Sharks destroy Toronto 7-0. You could watch five hundred games in the NHL without seeing a seven-goal spread and so it looks like the Leafs really hit a roadblock in the Bay area. We’ll see how they bounce back later this week when they play Columbus.
Vancouver headed into Saturday night’s game on CBC as one of the teams caught in the Pacific Division log jam. In Tampa Bay, the Canucks drew a team making a trip through western Canada – one that has been fairly fruitful for some other teams of late. On that note, the Lightning shocked Edmonton on Friday with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory that left the fans in Rexall Place stunned. The Lightning posted the same score against Vancouver, winning 3-2 in overtime.
Looking around the league, the biggest team news has to be what the Florida Panthers have accomplished lately. They have won a remarkable eleven straight to open up a five-point lead in their division. The Panthers will be looking for their own success in western Canada soon as Jaromir Jagr and all head up to Edmonton on Sunday for a game against the Oilers (9:30 pm ET).
In the Central Division, the Dallas Stars are seeing a challenge to their placement on top of their division. Dallas still have a six-point lead over the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Stars lost three straight recently for the first time in the current season. Meanwhile Chicago, who were the preseason Stanley Cup favorites, are starting to hit their stride. The ‘hawks, behind six straight wins, have supplanted the St. Louis Blues for second place in the Central.
The NHL season still has three months to the day left in it. April 9th marks the end of the regular season, but it’s the trade deadline that is starting to spark moves and gossip. That deadline is February 29th, and Steve Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning has featured in a lot of talk.
On that note, how TB does in the next little while could be interesting. Right now they are a middle of the pack team and their drifting or rising will likely affect which direction they head with their current star.
The Canucks will be back in action on Monday as they host the Panthers. Toronto will have some time to lick their wounds before they play again on Wednesday. For the rare fan in the USA that actually likes hockey more than NFL football, Ottawa and Washington will meet Sunday night at 7 pm ET.