Tap of the Stick/Drop of the Gloves

Tap of the stick: Central division

In perhaps one of the greatest turnarounds for an entire division in the history of the National Hockey League, the Central Division is near to qualifying each of their five teams for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Since the lock-out, only the Red Wings and Predators have made the playoffs every year. In 2006, the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, and Blues finished dead last in the conference. The Blues were the closest of those three out of the playoffs in 2007 at 15 points back. Finally, the Blackhawks closed the gap last year, missing the playoffs by three points.

Nowadays, Detroit still leads the division, followed by Chicago in fourth, Columbus sixth, St. Louis eighth, and Nashville in ninth. The only team not in the Central keeping all five getting in the playoffs is the streaky Anaheim Ducks.

Anaheim has the same point total as St. Louis (88), which is good enough for a two point lead over the Nashville Predators.

Drop of the gloves: Ryan Whitney

Yes, I think it’s time for a check on our old frie… acquaintance Ryan Whitney. Since his stay in Anaheim, he’s been stinking it up just as much.

Whitney left Pittsburgh as a -15, the team low. In Anaheim, only Rob Neidermayer (-18) is lower than Whitney. But how has he faired since departing the Steel City?

Whitney is a stellar -12.

He’s gone from ruining Pittsburgh’s playoff chances to doing it in Anaheim. While Anaheim has re-surfaced in the Western Conference standings, they don’t have their newest defenseman to thank for it. Whitney has zero goals and eight assists in his eighteen games played for the Ducks.

As I mentioned above, the Ducks are clinging to a playoff spot by two points over Nashville.

Tap of the stick: Petr Sykora

Ending a dry spell of scoring last night, Petr Sykora recorded his 300th career goal scored. A hearty tap o’ the stick to Petr.

Head-to-head

…to head

This one is an update on the three teams left in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

Leading the way are the Montreal Canadiens in seventh with 92 points. Montreal has games remaining in Boston and at home against Pittsburgh. The Habs have suffered losses in their last two games. They dropped games to both Ottawa and the New York Rangers. Not only did they lose the games, but they also lost Andre Markov and Matthew Schneider to injury in the game against Ottawa. If Montreal wants to make the post season in their centennial celebration, they better get a move on.

The Rangers, too, are in a pickle. Their two remaining games are home-and-home’s with Philadelphia, a physical team who does not want to help the Rangers in any way.

But perhaps in the biggest jam are the Florida Panthers. Florida sits in ninth place, two points back from the Rangers. They can’t afford to lose their final two games: at Atlanta and at home against Washington.

Nonetheless, the final days of the season should be interesting as always.

Killer Whale

Don Van Massenhoven

Now this one is based purely on observation. But I am curious to see how everyone else thinks. When I hear Don Van Massenhoven being announced as the referee, I shield my eyes in horror. To my recollection, Van Massenhoven has brought nothing but misfortunes to the Penguins. This was the case again on Sunday when the Penguins played Florida. Again, I’d like to see what others have to say about Massey.

In other news, I apologize in advance for the abbreviated columns (such as today’s). Workloads are beginning to pile up this time of year for me, but I’ll be doing everything I can to bring our faithful readers all that I can.

That being said, I’ll be back next week: same time, same place.