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TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

Jan 17, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

Ben Bishop, Kyle Okposo AP

Saturday: San Jose at Tampa Bay (2 p.m. ET)

If I had a vote for the Vezina Trophy, and I had to vote right now, I’d vote for Ben Bishop. And I’d do it with very little hemming and/or hawing, because this guy has been unbelievable. After 34 starts, he’s 23-5-4 with a .938 save percentage and 1.80 goals-against average. Sure, I’d have to consider Josh Harding, Semyon Varlamov, Tuukka Rask and Carey Price. And if there was one little thing that might make me think twice, it would be total minutes played, since I think there’s a lot to be said for a goalie’s workload, and Bishop only ranks 11th in that category. But Bishop has been so good, and his play has been so important to his team with Steven Stamkos out, I just couldn’t pick anyone else.

Saturday: Montreal at Toronto (4 p.m. ET)

It’s Hockey Day In Canada this Saturday, with all seven Cup-less-since-1993 squads in action. I feel like we haven’t written much about the Habs this year, so here’s something to chew on: Montreal is one of those rare teams with a defenseman, PK Subban, as its leading scorer. There are two ways to look at this. On the bright side, it’s great to have a d-man with the ability to lead an NHL team in points. But on the other hand, it doesn’t say much about the forward corps, currently led by Tomas Plekanec and his 30 points in 48 games. I fully expect general manager Marc Bergevin to try and address this, perhaps not before the trade deadline, but in the offseason.

Saturday: Anaheim at St. Louis (8 p.m. ET)

I’m not sure there’s a team I’m more curious to see in the playoffs than Anaheim. Despite all the success the Ducks have had this regular season, I get the sense potential opponents (or at least the fans of those potential opponents) would rather face the Ducks than the Blackhawks, Blues, Kings, or Sharks. Maybe my senses are wrong there, but if they’re right, I think it has a lot to do with guys like Nick Bonino, Andrew Cogliano and Cam Fowler playing such big roles for Anaheim. Even though Fowler was highly touted going into the 2010 draft and will play for the United States at the Olympics, people may still look at Anaheim’s roster and think, “Look at these guys. We can beat these guys.” The Ducks haven’t been past the first round of the playoffs since 2009, which may also have something to do with it.

Sunday: Boston at Chicago (12:30 p.m. ET)

On NBC. Streaming live, too. The first meeting between the ‘Hawks and Bruins since Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Neither club has been winning as much as it would like lately, but if I had to pick one that should be concerned, I’d pick the Bruins. The loss of Dennis Seidenberg for the season can’t be overlooked, and I think general manager Peter Chiarelli needs to address it before the trade deadline. Zdeno Chara will be 37 by the time the playoffs start. Everyone knows he’s in fantastic shape, but how many more runs at the Cup will the B’s have with him as a truly elite defender? Even Nicklas Lidstrom couldn’t play forever, and he sure didn’t play the same way as Chara.

Sunday: Washington at NY Rangers (7:30 p.m. ET)

On NBCSN. Streaming live, too. Caps fans may not like hearing this (or they may love hearing this, based on some of my previous predictions), but I think there’s a good chance Washington misses the playoffs this year. Here’s how the standings look today:

source:

Note the far-right column containing regulation/overtime wins. Now note how many more ROWs that teams below the Caps in the standings have in comparison. That says something. Washington also ranks in the bottom 10 of the NHL in possession stats, which, unlike a team’s record in the shootout, are strongly correlated with the overall quality of a team.

  1. skr213 - Jan 17, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    Not Ducks vs. Hawks?? Or is Friday not considered the weekend? ‘Cause Friday night is definitely considered weekend in my book.

    • Jason Brough - Jan 17, 2014 at 4:46 PM

      Only Saturday and Sunday. It’s the most controversial aspect of TGIF, really.

    • sanclementeacupuncture - Jan 18, 2014 at 8:48 PM

      It is hard to believe how good the Ducks are mainly because of Disney and only being 20 years old. It is even harder to believe guys as young as Fowler and lindholm can be such good Defense men being so young. They are that good for now anyhow. I would give a lot of credit to Scott Neidemyer being on the coaching staff. He was a pretty good player who used speed and vision to make a lot of tough hombres look silly. These kids are listening. We shall see, there is lots of regular season hockey left and the Olympic break really sucks the life out of some teams.

  2. bleedrangerblue - Jan 17, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Rangers are playing better. Lookout!

  3. csilojohnson - Jan 17, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    Im going to say the fact that half the standings are not viewable on app is more controversal. More so when you direct your readers to this lost portion of standings.

  4. imleftcoast - Jan 17, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    Bruins and Hawks first meeting since Game 6? That was a pretty exciting 18 seconds in which the Bruins choked in spectacular fashion.

  5. cspsrbums - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    Caps are falling like a rock unless we make some moves there is no way this team makes the playoffs. They need to move some veterans that have been here for the past playoff collapses. Green Laich Brouwer, Erskins time to start the process.

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