The Montreal Canadiens have continued their dominant form, and remain atop the conferential standings, with a 2-point buffer ahead of, an increasingly logjammed number of contending teams. Most recently, they hammered the Colorado Avalanche 10-1, to regain momentum with 2 games won in a row. The goals started early in that dominant win, with a 6-1 score after just the 1st period, with left Winger Max Pacioretty, registering 4 goals. The only joy for the Avalanche came early, with a goal from Blake Comeau, but that was surely little consolation. The hottest team of the chasing pack is clearly the Philadelphia Flyers who have now won 9-straight games, although the teams above them all have at least 2 games in hand. Their most recent victory came in a thriller against Detroit, winning 1-0, thanks to an OT goal from Brayden Schenn. The MVP was the Flyers Goalkeeper though, as he recorded an outstanding 28 saves, to keep his sheet clean.
The Rangers and the Penguins are also in the logjam, on 39 points just 2 behind the leading Montreal franchise, and indeed both are playing a very attractive style of hockey at the moment. The same is definitely true for the Columbus Bluejackets who are just 1 point behind these teams on 38, and the Washington Capitals who sit on 37. Columbus and the Rangers actually have better differentials than the Canadiens, albeit just a couple of goals, leaving this conference very hard to predict, as the season continues. All of these teams have active streaks going also, with Columbus having won their last 6, the Penguins 5, the Nationals 4 and the Rangers 2.
Behind these 6, a host of other teams cannot be ruled out as the season is still young, though many of them have turned in ordinary performances of late, and suffered losses. None of the Eastern Conference teams can be written off yet, as even Buffalo who sit in last are just 4 wins behind the top group of teams. Other notable recent results, include a 6-2 victory for the Bluejackets over the New York Islanders, and a decisive 4-1 win for Toronto Mapleleafs against the Boston Bruins.
The fixtures continue to come at a rapid rate through the festive season, meaning teams will have plenty of roster management to control, as fatigue sets in. Some highlights of upcoming fixtures include, San Jose @ Ottawa on Wednesday the 14th and a grudge match between St Louis and Chicago on Saturday the 17th.
The Chicago Blackhawks have seen their lead dwindle and positions at the top cram as things tighten up in the West, due to an ordinary 4 wins from their last 10. They do still hold a 1-win advantage at the top though, despite teams such as St Louis, Anaheim, Minnesota and Calgary all playing much better at the moment. Indeed Calgary, have racked up 6 straight wins, astoundingly thought their differential is still in the red at -5. It does not look like that will be the case for long though, in their last game they beat the Jets 6-2, with Dougie Hamilton scoring twice. Minnesota of all the teams in the West have the best differential, and are just 4-points back from the leading Blackhawks. They recorded a vital 3-1 win against St Louis to narrow the gap in their latest action, with Goalkeeper Devan Dubnyk shining, with 22 saves, and now leads the NHL with 4 shutouts. Minnesota now has a 4-game winning streak active, while the Ducks have won their last 3.
San Jose and Edmonton also cannot be ruled out of contention as they are both playing very well also, having recorded tight wins in the latest fixtures. There is a 3-point gap between Edmonton and the Los Angeles Kings, but that is of little concern at this early stage in the season. Though at this early stage in the season, the Avalanche and the Coyotes do look to be up against it and highly unlikely to figure in any postseason action, after poor runs. The NHL action does not stop in the coming weeks, leaving plenty of attention towards the fixtures, and form alike.
Other noteworthy recent results from the West include, a big 3-2 win for the Minnesota Wild against the Edmonton Oilers, after a scoreless overtime period sent the game to a 12-attempt shootout, before it ended with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missing. Arizona hampered Nashville’s recent run of decent form, by handing them a surprising 4-1 thumping, with 4 different goal-scorers and an epic 44 saves from veteran Goalkeeper, Mike Smith. Anaheim was also superb in defeating the Ottawa Senators 5-1, in a game that had a big build-up, leaving the Ducks primed and ready to win.