It’s the final week before the All-Star Break that features all 31 teams in action!
Let’s take a look at the schedule:
|NHL SCHEDULE: January 14-20|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, January 14|
|7 p.m.||Chicago||New Jersey||5-8|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Washington||4-1|
|7:30 p.m.||Montréal Canadiens||Boston Bruins||3-2 (OT)|
|Tuesday, January 15|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis Blues||New York Islanders||1-2 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Carolina Hurricanes||New York Rangers||2-6|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Columbus||1-4|
|8 p.m.||Los Angeles||Minnesota||2-3 (SO)|
|8:30 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Dallas||2-0|
|10 p.m.||Pittsburgh||San Jose||2-5|
|Wednesday, January 16|
|9:30 p.m.||Buffalo||Calgary||4-3 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||Edmonton||Vancouver||3-2 (SO)|
|10 p.m.||San Jose||Arizona||3-6|
|Thursday, January 17|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Boston||2-5|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey Devils||New York Islanders||1-4|
|7 p.m.||Chicago Blackhawks||New York Rangers||3-4|
|7:30 p.m.||Toronto||Tampa Bay||4-2|
|8:30 p.m.||Los Angeles||Dallas||2-1|
|Friday, January 18|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Islanders||Washington Capitals||2-0|
|9 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Arizona||3-2 (OT)|
|Saturday, January 19|
|1 p.m.||Anaheim||New Jersey||SN|
|3 p.m.||Los Angeles||Colorado|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa||St. Louis||CITY|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Boston Bruins||NHLN|
|7 p.m.||Philadelphia||Montréal||CBC, ESPN+, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Tampa Bay|
|10 p.m.||Calgary Flames||Edmonton Oilers||CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360|
|Sunday, January 20|
|12:30 p.m.||Washington||Chicago||NBC, TVAS|
|3 p.m.||Anaheim Ducks||New York Islanders||SN1|
|7 p.m.||Arizona||Toronto||NHLN, SN|
|9:30 p.m.||Carolina||Edmonton||SN1, SN360|
If rivalries are your jam, you’ve loved this week’s schedule since there’s at least one rivalry being played every day except Sunday. Monday saw the Habs make a trip to the Hub, followed the next day by the Ducks in Detroit (once a rivalry, always a rivalry). The Bruins were back at it Wednesday in the City of Brotherly Love, while another Original Six tilt took place Thursday with the Blackhawks visiting the Broadway Blueshirts. Speaking of New York, the Islanders headed to D.C. yesterday to take on the Caps, while two sets of arch-rivals square off this evening: the frequently-featured Rangers and Bruins wage war at 7 p.m., followed by the Battle of Alberta at 10.
If playoff rematches are more your speed, you preferred Winnipeg’s schedule. The Jets hosted Vegas Tuesday, followed two days later by a trip to Nashville.
Finally, there’s more than a few major homecomings happening this week, the biggest of which is 10-year veteran D Adam McQuaid‘s first game in Boston wearing a crest other than the Spoked B when the Rangers come to town tonight.
Also making returns were W Magnus Paajarvi (now a Senator, he called St. Louis home for five seasons), David Quinn (the Rangers hired him from Boston University where he’d been the head coach for five seasons) and Barry Trotz (after winning the Stanley Cup in his fourth year at Washington’s helm, Trotz signed with the Islanders this offseason).
While many of these tilts are exciting, the game that really sticks out to me involves two of the top teams in their respective conferences that were Stanley Cup favorites entering the campaign.
If not for Wednesday’s 6-3 loss in Glendale to the Coyotes, the 28-14-7 Sharks would be considered the hottest team in the NHL. They entered that tilt riding a seven game winning streak and have posted a dominant 9-2-2 mark in their last 13 outings.
There’s no doubt that Tampa Bay (tonight’s opponent) and division-rival Calgary boast two of the NHL’s best offenses. However, San Jose’s 3.57 goals per game for the entire 2018-19 season ranks third best in the league, and that attack only looks stronger when we focus on this 13 game run. Since December 22, the Sharks have averaged a whopping 4.31 goals per game, which ties the Flames for tops in the league.
Spearheading that onslaught of offense is none other than D Erik Karlsson, the man supposedly suffering a down season. His personal goal count may not be as high as he’d like (he’s registered only three through 47 outings this season), but struggles are otherwise few and far between nowadays considering he’s posted 1-18-19 totals in his past 11 games.
Of course, Karlsson isn’t San Jose’s only blue liner that likes to get involved in the offensive zone. D Brent Burns – a favorite for the Norris Trophy at the midway point of the season – is only a point behind Karlsson since December 22, posting 5-13-18 marks.
I’m of the opinion that the primary responsibility of a team’s defensive efforts is to limit opposing shots on goal, so – in a way – this dominant offense that maintains extended possessions is also performing marvelously well for 22-8-4 G Martin Jones. The Sharks have allowed only 28.31 shots against per game since December 22, the fourth-best mark in the NHL in that stretch.
As for actual defensive efforts, it’s hard not to have been impressed by Burns (team-leading 19 takeaways) and Kane (2.9 hits per game) during this run.
Of course, no matter how well the Sharks have been playing lately, there’s few that would argue that tonight’s hosts, the 36-10-2 Tampa Bay Lightning, are the best team the National Hockey League has to offer. The Bolts have a seven-point advantage in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, and they haven’t lost back-to-back games since November 10 and 13.
The reason that’s an important note is due to Tampa Bay’s 4-2 home loss at the hands of the Maple Leafs Thursday night, dropping their record since November 15 to 24-5-1.
During that dominant run, the Bolts have boasted the league’s top offense, averaging a whopping 4.23 goals per game – many of which have involved Art Ross-leader RW Nikita Kucherov. In Tampa’s last 30 games, Kucherov has notched dominant 15-43-58 totals – five points better than the NHL’s second-best player in that time.
Another player worth mentioning is surely 19-6-2 G Andrei Vasilevskiy, tonight’s likely starter considering this is Tampa’s last game until January 30’s tilt against Pittsburgh. In his past 14 starts, Vasilevskiy has managed an outstanding .922 save percentage and 2.65 GAA, a slight decline from his season marks of .925 and 2.48 due to the defense in front of him allowing 32.73 shots against per game since November 15, the seventh-worst mark in the NHL in that time.
There’s no doubt these offenses are capable of taking a game over, but both of them playing in the same game will certainly be either club’s greatest challenge they’ve faced in a while.
In my opinion, this game boils down to the opposing goaltenders. If that is the case, the Lightning have a clear advantage, as Jones’ .903 season save percentage and corresponding 2.72 GAA pale in comparison to Vasilevskiy’s.
As a result, I think the Bolts can come away from tonight’s tilt with a two or three-goal victory to further cement themselves as the league’s best club.