The Canucks host the Blackhawks, the Senators head to the Joe to take on Detroit, the Canadiens face the powerful Penguins, and the Maple Leafs put up the Washington Capitals in Toronto…
So here are five things you should be watching tonight, in no particular order…
1. Mason Raymond’s Hot
Raymond enters Saturday’s contest against Washington on a five-game point streak, during which he’s scored six points. There’s been a bit made of Raymond’s “steal” status in 2013 with Toronto – they grabbed him for only a $1 million after Vancouver let him walk. That bit of news has gotten almost as much attention as Raymond’s last status in Vancouver – that of “disappointment”.
But, despite the feeling of many that Mason never quite panned out in Vancouver, he actually never really regressed. The forward’s one truly strong offensive season in Vancouver was four seasons ago, when he put up 53 points in 82 games. He kept his points up after… he was just wasn’t Alex Burrows. And now, not even Alex Burrows is Alex Burrows.
So far this year, Raymond has 17 points in 22 games as the Leafs keep pace with the rest of the Eastern Conference, and it’s not like his points streak is in jeopardy against the Washington defence that couldn’t stop a bird from getting in the house.
2. Roberto Luongo and Corey Crawford
Sure, these teams hated each other… in 2011. But things have changed.
Roberto Luongo went to hell and back only to wind up a starter with the Canucks yet again, and Corey Crawford – who didn’t arrive until the rivalry with Vancouver was in its denouement – is now a Stanley Cup champion. They could also both be on Team Canada come February.
It’s been three seasons since Vancouver and Chicago faced each other in the playoffs, and the cast of both camps has certainly changed. They shouldn’t really be thinking about each other. At all. But you know they are.
And you know the discussion will start and finish with the goalies.
3. Kyle Turris. Period.
Forget Daniel Alfredsson. He’s old and he chose to leave. You’ve just gotta let him go, Ottawa.
But Kyle Turris… there’s your future. The guy has turned out to be the sniper the Phoenix Coyotes hoped he’d be, and the Senators will need him to lead an underachieving cast of hopefuls against the Red Wings in the Joe on Saturday.
And why not against Detroit? Turris could learn a lot in the middle when he lines up across from Henrik Zetterberg and/or Pavel Datsyuk.
But, if you even get whatever fringe version of CBC might show Ottawa on a night Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver all play, you may as well watch to see if Clarke MacArthur and Turris can do this again:
4. The Penguins Powerplay
I have no idea if Pittsburgh has been impressive or underwhelming in 2013. I don’t get to watch them enough, at least not for a full 60 minutes at once.
But I have seen the highlights of the Penguins’ powerplay lately, and they look like this:
And Crosby can fire wrist shots while moving the other way like this…
5. Daniel, Henrik, Toews, Kane, Sharp, and Kesler…
Chicago and Vancouver have the firepower to win, maybe, any game.
But while the Canucks also get their scoring from the occasional Chris Higgins chip-in, Alex Burrows clapper, or Zack Kassian power move, they really depend on the Twins and Kesler. And while the Hawks can deploy Marian Hossa (out for tonight) or Brandon Saad, the team’s gameplan still comes down to Toews, Kane, and Patrick Sharp.
When the six of them go right at each other, blow for blow… well, that’s when hockey’s fun to watch.