There’s no doubt that there have been a few surprises so far in this shortened NHL season. The Blackhawks are still undefeated in regulation as I write this (17-0-3), the Canadiens are first in the Eastern Conference (13-4-3), and on the negative side of the coin, is the last place team in the East, the Washington Capitals (7-11-1).
As we head into another jam-packed weekend, here’s a few things to ‘Watch For’, as we jump into March, and the halfway point of the 2013 campaign.
Penguins at Habs
This Saturday, the very surprising Canadiens will play host to the powerful Penguins. As mentioned above, Montreal currently leads the entire Eastern Conference with 29 points. They are dominant at home (8-3-1), and are getting incredible goaltending from Carey Price (11-3-2), 1.90 GAA, .924 SV%. The Penguins are good on the road (8-4-0), but limp into Montreal on a two-game losing skid. This of course is no coincidence, as Pittsburgh has been without reigning MVP, Evgeni Malkin, with a concussion. The good news is that Malkin has been skating and is feeling better, but there is still no time-line for his return. Sidney Crosby is in fine form, and is tied for the NHL points lead with 31 (Stamkos also has 31). This will be a dog-fight for sure at the Bell Centre, and no better way to spend a Saturday evening!
Prediction: Pens to win on the road.
Habs at Bruins
To keep with the Montreal theme, this Sunday, the Canadiens travel to Beantown, for what will be a nasty affair. We all know that these two clubs do not like each other! It’s one of the most heated games on the calendar, and always one to watch.
Both teams will be tired for this one though. As above, Montreal will have the Pens Saturday, and the B’s will host the Bolts. Despite the back-to-back scenario, this one will be a beauty! Montreal and Boston always get up to play each other. The B’s, as I write, are 5-1-1 on home ice. They are also on a five-game win streak, that could be six games depending on Saturday’s Tampa Bay tilt. The Habs are very good on the road (5-1-2), and depending on what happens versus Pittsburgh Saturday, will be motivated to not lose their position atop the Eastern Conference. I haven’t even mentioned the physical nature of this rivalry! Expect Milan Lucic to be in the mix all game, and don’t forget big Zdeno Chara. As a side note, former Cup Champion Ex-Bruin Michael Ryder is back with the Canadiens, and he’ll want to play well against his former teammates.
Prediction: Bruins to win at home.
This is just a taste of some of the most intriguing match-ups that we are blessed with this weekend! Can the Blackhawks keep their streak alive? Can the Kings continue to shake off their Stanley Cup hangover? And, can Steve Stamkos keep scoring at his torrid pace? All of these questions and more will be answered on your hockey radar over the next three days. Drop me a note with what games entertained you the most, in the mailbag section. Enjoy the action wherever you are watching!
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