Boston Dominates the East; Pierre Luc-Dubois Out; Toronto for Real; Colorado and Las Vegas Make Up Lost Ground; and Games to Watch
2020-21 NHL Season News and Notes-Week 5: The NHL at the Quarter Pole Mark
Most NHL teams have hit the quarter mark for the regular season. While looking at what's happening around the league, lets also look at some of the storylines that are most compelling this week.
In Week 1 notes, I mentioned Pierre Luc-Dubois and possible trades happening for this young centerman. He was traded to Winnipeg for Patrick Laine and Jack Roslovic. Dubois had to quarantine for two weeks and Laine was delayed for visa issues, but they both have adjusted to their new teams. Laine has boosted the scoring for Columbus but got in a little trouble with the coaching staff. Roslovic has looked like he is productive and happy in his new surroundings. Dubois has not really found the scoresheet, but Winnipeg had a well-rounded team in place. Dubois would add depth and get settled in, so I expect to see him start to shoot more, pass more, in the offensive zone while matching up against the opponent’s top lines. Both teams have gained, in the short term, so we may not see who wins this trade for another few months.
Look for Winnipeg to have some trouble with Montreal next week, and an easy time with Vancouver this weekend. Columbus really needs to step up in the next week, playing Nashville and Chicago. Both teams are winnable games and should skate away with points.
Looking out West, Colorado and Las Vegas will have to make up some of the games missed due to COVID protocols. Both teams have two more games coming up soon, finishing off a four-game series. The first two games have been entertaining so if you are looking for high level action, tune in to the last two games coming up. Meanwhile, the Blues and Coyotes had to play each other SEVEN times in the last 11 days, also due to COVID protocols. While jokes of Groundhog’s Day circulated, the teams basically broke even on the series. The Blues have expectations of a deep playoff run, while Coyotes were looking to gain some momentum for the last playoff spot. Their playing seven games highlighted both teams needs: St. Louis buckling down and finishing off tough teams; Coyotes looked that they might need a piece to really compete. Both teams may target same players around deadline time.
Up North, Toronto and Montreal still have the teams that everyone is chasing in that division. Montreal is closer to the middle of the pack (Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Calgary). I mentioned earlier that “Goaltending Matters” in this league, and it is just as important in this division. Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Calgary have interesting questions in net: who starts, who rests, who needs to add depth, etc. Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg) and Jacob Markstrom (Calgary) are starting workhorses for their teams, which may be an issue later in the season. Both goalies are racking up minutes and may need to rest later in the season. Ottawa and Vancouver may see these teams’ backups in later matchups, so be on the lookout for shifting money lines and O/U.
Finally, the East has one dominant team: Boston Bruins. They look like they have not missed a beat, with key departures and questions from last year. The rest of the division has questions in their respective teams, but Boston has chugged along. I do not expect them to stop winning and racking up the points. They should be favorites in most games they play going forward. I would keep a look out for injuries. As for the rest of the division, New Jersey and Buffalo had promising starts but have lost steam. Both teams had COVID outbreaks and needed to take some time off, so they are now getting back on the ice. Both teams did not impress me returning, and I expect both teams to be sellers soon. Philadelphia and Washington are right behind Boston, and Pittsburgh is still doing its best with its new GM and Hockey Ops President.
Games to Watch:
Thursday, Feb. 18th- Predators @ Blue Jackets
Blue Jackets need points and both teams are gritty, with some strong defense. Scoring might be at a premium.
Friday, Feb. 19th- Blackhawks @ Hurricanes
Chicago has found a goalie and had some big wins. They are in playoff contention, and if they want to keep it up, they need points. Carolina is in same boat with a better team, and most saw these games as easy wins. Now, that is up for debate.
Saturday, Feb. 20th- Lightning @ Stars, Golden Knights @ Avalanche, Maple Leafs @ Canadians, Flames @ Oilers
The Las Vegas/Colorado game is a Lake Tahoe outdoor game, with both skilled teams starting around noon, local time. Dallas and Tampa Bay are rematches from last years Finals, with Dallas struggling a little and having more off time due to weather concerns this week. The two Canadian games are tough matchups and have valuable points up for grabs. Toronto and Montreal should have more skill, while Edmonton and Calgary might have more hitting and physical play. Do not sleep on Oilers dynamic duo of McDavid and Draisaitl, they can score at will.
Sunday, Feb. 21st- Flyers @Bruins, Jets @Canucks
Philadelphia and Boston will be the second outdoor game, also at Tahoe. Both teams are leaders in the East, should be a good afternoon tilt. As for Winnipeg/Vancouver game, its is the latest game on the slab, so good for some late-night action before starting the week.
Look for more insights and notes in the weeks and months to come here at POINTSPREADS.CA!
READ PATRICK DAY'S LATEST ARTICLE AT THE HOCKEY WRITERS HERE.
-- Writer Patrick Day can be reached at: email@example.com
-- Follow Patrick Day on Twitter: @Pokersuit30