Trending: Ovi's moves, Crosby's status, Wild in lead
A superstar that has to adjust, another one that has the hockey world worried, a team at the top, a disappointment in the Bay, and a coach and a kid that seem to be very much on the same page. It's all trending, or at least should be trending, in the NHL this week.
We've all seen the move hundreds of times -- Alex Ovechkin rushing down the left wing, puck on his stick, the wisps of hair bleeding out of his helmet getting blown back. He bursts through for a powerful shot that can be low to the stick side, high to the glove side -- anywhere in between.
We've all seen the move work so many times, but has anyone seen it happen lately?
The Capitals captain picked up a goal in Wednesday's win, but it doesn't erase the fact that he has been going through a scoring crisis this season. Ovechkin's goal against Ottawa was only his ninth of the season and his first in seven games. Everybody seems to be confused as to why No. 8 isn't so great anymore.
Ovechkin needs a new move.
Defensemen, especially the good stay-at-home types like Dan Girardi and Brooks Orpik, have figured him out. Stand him up at the blue line, don't give an inch, keep your stick down, stay strong -- Ovechkin will try to power through, but more times than not he's going to lose the puck, or get cut down enough that he won't be coming with enough speed or power to get off a good shot.
Why not dump it in and chase it down in the corners? He can still use his speed and power, but now he won't be worrying about carrying the puck as well. Why not do what he did Wednesday night on a more consistent basis? Instead of powering to the middle, he went wide, curled around the net, got to the right-wing half-wall, stopped on a dime, turned, and had enough room to set up a good shot.
Ovechkin still has all the talent and desire; he just needs a couple of new tricks.
EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst 2012-13 NHL Realignment, the red-hot Bruins and Wings' captain Nick Lidstrom share the spotlight. READ MORE ›
The news came late Wednesday afternoon and it quickly rippled through the NHL. Sidney Crosby would not be accompanying the Penguins on their two-game road trip to Philadelphia and Long Island because, according to GM Ray Shero, "he wasn't feeling 100 percent" after taking a hit in Monday's game against Boston and the team wanted to hold him out of two games as a precautionary measure.
Crosby felt jarred enough that he visited with Dr. Michael Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center on Tuesday and took a baseline concussion test, which he passed.
While it's fair to call the news on Crosby worrisome, it's also important to remember he was on the ice for a full-contact practice Wednesday and could very well return to the Penguins' lineup next Tuesday against the Red Wings. Let's all hope he does.
With 39 points through 28 games, Minnesota leads the race for the Presidents' Trophy. Until now, the Wild had never led either the Western Conference or the entire NHL in points this late into the season.
How are they doing it? Well, in a lot of measurable ways.
The Wild have won nine straight one-goal games. They're 8-3-2 away from Xcel Energy Center, and they just tied a franchise record Tuesday with their fifth straight road win. They have only one player with more than 20 points (Mikko Koivu) and nobody has more than 8 goals, but they're allowing only 2.14 goals per game with a penalty kill that has an 84.6-percent success rate.
Steven Stamkos is on an eight-game point-scoring streak, but the Lightning have won only twice during the span. Yes, there should be concern in Tampa because the problems don't appear to be going away. The Lightning are allowing far too many goals, and they're not generating enough offense outside of Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
It is unacceptable that the Lightning were basically a non-competitive team after scoring the first goal Tuesday against the New York Islanders. Guy Boucher had every right to use the word "horrible" after the 5-1 loss.
Oilers rookie center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to show remarkable speed on the edges and an incredibly savvy hockey sense. It's why he continues to pile up the points at an eye-opening rate (30 points in 28 games) for an 18-year-old center with plenty to learn on the defensive side and in the faceoff circle, and plenty of muscle to add to his slender frame.
But, as much as you want to admire Nugent-Hopkins' play, you have to admire the work that Oilers coach Tom Renney is doing to put the kid in positions to succeed. Renney is letting the Nugent-Hopkins be himself without putting him in too many dangerous situations.
For instance, the Edmonton Journal had a stat recently that said Nugent-Hopkins takes 70 percent of his faceoffs in the offensive zone. His 11 power-play assists are already more than any Oiler had last season. He's also had had far more success in 15 home games (22 points) than in 13 road games (8 points), which speaks to Renney's ability to control his ice time better at Rexall Place, where the Oilers have the last change.
A highly-anticipated debut, the return of a contender, an important center on the mend, a team that can indeed fly, and catching Kessel -- look for it all to be trending by this time next week. Here's the why …
By the time this column returns next week, HBO will have rolled out the first episode of the new "24/7" series featuring the Flyers and the Rangers. It airs next Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET with an encore at 11.
This hash tag should be trending right now as the Canucks, coming off a 6-0 drubbing of the Avalanche, have won seven of eight to keep within range of the streaking first-place Wild in the Northwest Division. But still, a lot of the chatter coming out of Vancouver is about the goalies, Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, the latter of whom injured himself in the game against Colorado.
As long as the Canucks continue to win, the storyline about the goaltenders won't matter. They head on the road for five straight starting Thursday in Montreal, but as daunting as the trip is, it includes stops in La Belle Province, Ottawa, Columbus, Carolina and Toronto. Only the Leafs currently find themselves in a playoff position. #ZajacBackSoon
Travis Zajac returned to Devils practice on Wednesday and coach Pete DeBoer expects the center to play before Christmas. The question facing DeBoer when Zajac is ready to play: Does he separate Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk?
The answer should be yes.
Zajac and Parise have played together for years, so it makes sense for DeBoer to put them together, with Parise on the left. But, it would also make sense for him to move Kovalchuk, also a left wing, to Patrik Elias' line to give the Devils dangerous combinations on each of their top two lines while slotting the stars back into places where they are most comfortable and most effective.
Surprising rookie Adam Henrique could move to the wing to stay in the top six, or DeBoer could turn him into a third-line center, giving the Devils the depth they need to have three dangerous scoring lines.
Tuesday night's win put Winnipeg in the NHL spotlight because it was the first time a team had beaten the Bruins in regulation since Oct. 29. However, judging by the way the Jets have played over their last 10 games, they should be turning far more heads across the NHL than they are.
The Jets have won three in a row and are 7-2-1 since a five-game winless streak (0-3-2) from Nov. 5-12. They have moved into 10th place in the Eastern Conference, but just point shy of eighth. Evander Kane has 9 goals in the last 10 games.
Maybe beating Boston is exactly what Winnipeg needed to start getting the national media to take notice. Games next week against Minnesota and Detroit will help.
Not too long ago the hockey world was abuzz over Phil Kessel, talking about how he was running away with both the Art Ross and Rocket Richard races in the NHL. Well, look today and Claude Giroux, thanks to his 4 points in Wednesday's win over Buffalo, has passed Kessel in the points race while Jonathan Toews and Milan Michalek have matched him in the goals race.
We'll be sure to look at the numbers next week to see if Kessel can put on another burn like he did in the first quarter of the season, or if his run at the top will indeed be short-lived.