Monday, January 30, 2012

Gainer's Top NHL Games of the Week

Alright, Gainer here with a week 3 preview of upcoming NHL action.  After a short week last week due to the All-Star Game festivities, we are back in action with games Tuesday through Sunday.  Today is the final off day for the All-Stars.  Also, it's going to be February this week...crazy

Here's a look at the updated standings post All-Star break:

Tuesday 1/31

  • Ottawa @ Boston 7pm
    • Team Alfredsson vs. Team Chara literally 2 days after the ASG.  A Northeast Division clash with the 2 teams only 4 points apart.  This game will mean a lot to both teams as they hope to start the 2nd half of the season strong.  I doubt we'll see as much "happy-go-lucky" attitude as we saw this weekend...
  • NY Rangers @ New Jersey 7pm
    • Devils are clinging to a final playoff spot in a loaded Atlantic Division (right now the Devils would be the 4th team out of the 5 in the playoffs).  The Rangers (with ASG MVP Gaborik) are looking to keep pace for the President's Trophy (best record in the NHL).  Should be a good one!
  • Toronto @ Pittsburgh 7pm
    • Toronto is sitting tied with the Devils for that final spot in the East.  Canadian teams suck to play against.  Pens have literally won 7 in a row and hope that a week off hasn't doused their momentum.  Both teams should be well rested and it may take a period to get warmed up but this one will be physical.
  • Nashville @ Minnesota 8pm
    • The Wild have really struggled since their hot start (at one point, 1st in the NHL and the West).  They are clinging to the final playoff spot.  They are offensively inept and go against one of the best defensive teams in the league.  Look for this one to be low scoring, grind it out kind of game.
  • Chicago @ Vancouver 10pm
    • No secret this game is a rivalry game.  Having met 2 years ago in the West finals, these 2 are perennial juggernauts of the West.  Both are tied at 64 points currently.  If you want to stay up late, make sure to check this one.  Should be a good offensive type game!

Wednesday 2/1

  • Pittsburgh @ Toronto 7:30pm
    • In one of the weird scheduling scenarios of the NHL season, the Pens and Leafs not only play back-to-back nights but at each other's home arenas.  It will be interesting to see how the travel affects both teams and which goalies they turn to within 24 hours.  Playing in Toronto is one of the toughest challenges in sports.

Thursday 2/2

  • Minnesota @ Colorado 9pm
    • These 2 teams sit 8-9 in the West.  Every point matters.  Enough said.
  • Detroit @ Vancouver 10pm
    • The top 2 ranked teams in the West.  Their records are nearly identical as well as their goals for and goals against totals.  It will be playoff like atmosphere and look for the Canucks to have a slight advantage only because they are at home.  Detroit is playing arguably the best hockey in the NHL right now though.

Friday 2/3

  • Los Angeles @ St. Louis 8pm
    • Again, two teams who struggle scoring goals.  Not exactly a great game to watch on TV.  However, you have to wonder if the Blues are really as good as their record or are they about to fade in the second half of the season.  The Kings are still trying to find themselves.  Perhaps it starts this week...

Saturday 2/4

  • Pittsburgh @ Boston 1pm NHL Network
    • Two beasts of the East.  This one should be fun.  The NHL's leading scorer, Pens' Evgeni Malkin, takes on on arguably the greatest goaltender of the past 5 years in Tim Thomas.  All-Stars abound in this match-up.  Should be a great game as both teams want to show they are the best.
  • New Jersey @ Philadelphia 1pm
    • The Flyers have a dominant first line in Giroux, Jagr, and Hartnell.  They hope to continue their studly ways against Parise, Kovalchuk, and Marty.  The Devils, again, in a tough division game hoping to gain some traction in their playoff march.
  • Vancouver @ Colorado 3pm
    • If the Avs want to stay anywhere near the playoff race, a good start would be beating their division leader.  If the Canucks want to show their supremacy, they need to handle this road game.  Battle of wills here.
  • Toronto @ Ottawa 7pm
    • As evidenced this past weekend at the ASG.  These 2 fanbases DO NOT like each other.  Both teams are looking to get back into the playoffs.  There will be much hatred in the stands and on the ice.  Neither has a a stand out goalie at this point.  Who wants it more?
  • St. Louis @ Nashville 8pm
    • HUGE Central Division game.  Only 1 point apart separates these 2 defensive oriented teams.  Look for the great match up of goalies in this one.  Blues' Brian Elliot (arguably the best in the first half of the season) takes on the Preds' Pekka Rinne (last season's Vezina finalist for top goaltender).  Should be a low scoring affair.

Sunday 2/5

  • Boston @ Washington 12:30pm NBC Sports Network
    • NBC's Game of the Week (on Sports Network because of Super Bowl coverage) features the Bruins and the underachieving Capitals.  Ovechkin and the gang really need to a pick me up to start the 2nd half of the season.  This could be the game that gets them going.
  • Pittsburgh @ New Jersey 1pm
    • My Pens play one of those tough back-to-back 1pm games over this weekend against top Eastern teams.  The Devils have quite the first week back with another division foe.  The Devils are either coming in on fire or reeling quickly.  Here's hoping the Pens douse their attitude either way.
  • Philadelphia @ NY Rangers 1pm
    • Finally, a real game between these two that isn't outside!  The two Winter Classic teams look to re-energize their rivalry in early February.  Battling for a top Eastern Conference spot, this game, like the Classic, features plenty of stars and will come down to who's goaltender is better.  Personally, I like NYR right meow.

As you can see, lots of great games this week!!  February begins the grind it out month of the NHL season as teams are looking ahead to the final month of the season and the trade deadline on February 27th.  Good teams will be looking to fill some patches and bad teams will be selling those patches.  We'll find out this month what teams will actually be those buyers and sellers.  For me, it looks like the Pens will be buyers and the lowly Blue Jackets will most certainly be sellers...Enjoy puck heads!