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One drought slaked, another looming for Habs

by John Kreiser

Montreal Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau holds up the Prince of Wales Trophy as a player in 1993, the last time the Habs won the Stanley Cup.
Canadiens-Sabres highlights 
With the longest first-place drought in team history a thing of the past, the Montreal Canadiens' next goal is to end the longest Stanley Cup drought in franchise history as well.

Montreal wrapped up the Northeast Division title Tuesday with a 4-0 victory at Ottawa. It's the Habs' first division crown in 15 seasons, since they captured the Adams Division title in 1991-92. That's the longest such drought in franchise history; the Canadiens had never gone more than eight seasons (1919-20 through 1926-27 and 1947-48 through 1954-55) without finishing in first place.

Now the goal is to win the Cup for the first time since 1992-93, a 14-season drought that's an unwanted team record. The longest previous drought was 12 seasons, from 1931-32 through 1942-43

March (and April) of the Penguins -- For the first time since 1994, someone other than the New Jersey Devils or Philadelphia Flyers has won the Atlantic Division. Pittsburgh clinched the Atlantic title for the first time since joining the division in 1998 by beating the Flyers 4-2 on Wednesday night. The New York Rangers won the Atlantic in its first season; the Devils (seven times, including each of the past two seasons) or Flyers (five times, last in 2003-04) have won the title in the other 12 seasons.

It's the sixth division title in Pens' history, but the first since they won the Northeast in 1997-98.

Ownership -- In contrast to Pittsburgh, the Detroit Red Wings practically own the Central Division. The Wings have already clinched their seventh consecutive Central title -- as well as their record-tying eighth consecutive 100-point season.

Detroit is one short of the NHL record for most consecutive times winning the same division -- Montreal finished first in the Norris Division in eight straight seasons, from 1974-75 through 1981-82. Colorado has the record with nine consecutive titles, but the Avalanche did it in three divisions: They won the 1994-95 Northeast title as the Quebec Nordiques, captured three straight Pacific Division crowns after moving to Denver and won the Northwest title for five consecutive seasons, ending in 2002-03.

Detroit has finished first seven times in a row once before: The Wings topped the six-team NHL from 1948-49 through 1954-55 -- the longest streak in the pre-expansion era.

Right place, right time -- One reason for the Wings' success was the March heroics of Johan Franzen, who scored 14 goals last month — more than he had scored from October through February combined. Franzen also broke the team mark for game-winning goals in a month when he got his sixth Sunday -- appropriately, the day the Wings celebrated the 80th birthday of Gordie Howe, who held the Wings' mark of five (along with Henrik Zetterberg).

And then there was one -- Minnesota's Marian Gaborik became the first 40-goal scorer in the franchise's seven-year history when he got the overtime winner in Sunday's 3-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche (He had Nos. 41 and 42 in Thursday's 3-1 win against Minnesota).

That leaves the Nashville Predators as the only one of the 30 franchises that has yet to produce a 40-goal man. The Preds don't even have a 35-goal scorer -- the 31 goals scored by Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan in 2005-06 is the most by a Nashville player in one season. Only four franchises -- Nashville, Minnesota, Columbus and New Jersey -- have failed to produce a 50-goal scorer.

Gaborik also set a team record that night with his 80th point, one more than Brian Rolston compiled in 2005-06. Minnesota is one of five teams (Columbus, Nashville, Florida and New Jersey are the others) that have yet to produce a 100-point scorer. The lowest team point total for a leading scorer is 76, held by Columbus' Rick Nash.

Seven up -- A big part of the Los Angeles Kings' problems this season have come between the pipes. The Kings have tied an NHL record this season by using seven goaltenders -- Daniel Taylor became No. 7 when he played the third period of last Saturday's 7-2 blowout loss to Dallas. The Kings tied the mark set by the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques and matched by the 2002-03 St. Louis Blues. No other team in either of the past two seasons has used more than four goalies.

The Kings do stand alone in one other regard: They've used 11 goaltenders in the past two seasons, something no other franchise has ever done. Boston is next in the past two seasons with eight.

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin is setting all kinds of offensive records this season.
Rare double -- Alex Ovechkin is not only the NHL's first 60-goal scorer in 12 years, he's quietly become one of the NHL's busiest hitters. “Alexander The Great” leads the NHL in goals and points, but he's also 10th in the NHL in hits with 217, a career high.

Ovechkin also has another double going. He's No. 1 in shots on goal with 436 shots, the second-highest total in NHL history, he's tops in shots taken and missed -- he's missed the net 196 times.

In addition, Ovechkin leads the NHL with 11 game-winners among his 65  goals. No. 11 came Thursday night against Tampa Bay and broke a tie with San Jose's Jeremy Roenick, who's had 10 game-winners while scoring just 14 goals.

Goose eggs again -- Calgary's David Hale and the Islanders' Bruno Gervais have a distinction all to themselves: They are the only two players to play more than 50 games in each of the past two seasons without scoring a goal. Hale played 54 games in 2006-07 and 57 this season without scoring, while Gervais played 54 last season and 60 in 2007-08 without turning on the red light.

Gervais, likely out for the season with a concussion, is miles ahead of Hale in points -- he had six assists last season and 13 this season, while Hale had just one in 2006-07 and has matched that total this season.

The top scorer among this season's no-goal men is Carolina defenseman Frantisek Kaberle, who has 22 assists in 79 games. The Islanders' Radek Martinek is next with 14.

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