Bullet points from the rink, Dec. 13–14, 2014…
- The jury is still very much out on these Vancouver Canucks. Despite a pretty solid 18-10-2 record, the Orcas are stuck in a four-game losing streak and it’s terrifyingly reminiscent of last year’s collapse – that one occurred half a month later, post-New Year’s, but the Sedins stopped scoring, the goaltending dropped off into erratic, Eddie Lack was applied like crazy glue to an open wound, and I’d honestly be surprised if you told me the Canucks even won one game in the year’s final four months.
- Patrick Kane is either the most dangerous or more exciting player in the NHL. And in highlights like this, he’s both…
- Who can figure out the San Jose Sharks? While the Kings are doing their annual ‘rode-a-dope until April’ thing and the Ducks are cruising along atop the Western Conference, the Sharks are either thrashing around in their own crease or they’re shutting out a for-real Predators team. And Antti Niemi’s bipolar-ness is off the charts, again.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone from scraping sweaters off their home ice to a five-game winning streak, which includes impressive wins over impressive Western teams like Vancouver, Calgary, and Los Angeles, plus familiar Eastern foe Detroit (twice). So, who wants their jersey back?
- Chris Johnston is correct – the NHL and its clubs have sort of dropped the ball on taking mumps seriously. But it’s funny that nobody else took it seriously until Sidney Crosby got it, isn’t it? Sort of like how nobody cared about Liberia’s Ebola outbreak until it hit Dallas.
- Canada has trimmed its World Junior camp by five players, some of them you might actually know – and the most surprising is Chris Bigras, who was on the U20 team last year (when the red and white finished fourth for the second straight year). Highly touted defenceman Travis Sanheim and Calgary Flames first-rounder Morgan Klimchuk were also given a plane ticket home. These aren’t insignificant cuts, and it’s good to see… not that you want any of these teenagers to fail, but because Hockey Canada is quite obviously taking the 2015 tournament desperately serious.
- Every day, Tyler Seguin scores. It seems, anyway. The former second-overall pick has 23 goals through 29 games, which means he’s on pace to score 65 this year. He probably won’t get there, but just the fact that he’s gone from a Boston reject to the NHL’s goals and points (38) leader in 16 months is damn impressive, if not inspiring.
- Finally, the Calder Trophy race is a legitimate one to watch for the first time in a while. It’s normally either a blowout (last year, with Nathan MacKinnon) or it’s a battle between several default picks. But this season, Filip Forsberg is a star with 29 points through 29 games, Johnny Gaudreau has wowed with limited ice time, and Aaron Ekblad has been every bit the player the Panthers thought he’d become when they drafted him No. 1 in June. Toss in a couple goalies – Jake Allen in St. Louis and Michael Hutchinson, who’s keeping Winnipeg alive with a 93.7% save percentage – and it’s not a race to the middle, but one where candidates are rising to fight atop the mountain.