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The Week Ahead

Scoring isn't down in 2014-15

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals on Thursday to take the Art Ross Trophy lead with 73 points in 71 contests.  Unless one of the league's top players finishes the season on a very strong note, we're going to end up without a 90-point player for the first time since 1967-68 (not counting the lockout shortened 1995 and 2013 campaigns).  A lot of people will look at the top of the scoring leaderboard and extrapolate that scoring has been down this season, but that's actually not the case.

 

In terms of goals per game, the NHL has been largely flat for the last four years.  The average team has scored 2.73 goals per contest in 2014-15 compared to 2.74, 2.72, and 2.73 over the previous three campaigns.  That's also still way up from 2003-04 when teams were scoring 2.57 goals per game.

 

Keep that in mind the next time you see someone say that scoring in the NHL has declined this season.  It's certainly been more balanced, but there hasn't been a significant drop off compared to the last few years.

 

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @mfinewaxhockey on Twitter.

 

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Now to The Week Ahead.

 

WEEK OF MARCH 23-29

 

4 Games – Anaheim, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Winnipeg

 

3 Games – Arizona, Boston, Buffalo, Columbus Edmonton, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington

 

2 Games – Philadelphia, St. Louis

 

Anaheim, Florida, Los Angeles and San Jose play all four games on the road.

 

Carolina and the New York Islanders play all four games at home.

 

Detroit, Edmonton, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver play three games at home.

 

Arizona, Chicago, Colorado and Dallas play three games on the road.

 

INJURIES

 

Ryan Miller (knee) has been ruled out for the remainder of the regular season.  Henrik Lundqvist (neck) might be able to return next week though after being sidelined since Feb. 2.

 

 (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

 

Note: A tired team is one that has played the day or night before and is going against a team that did not play the previous day or night. The reverse is true for a rested team.

 

ANAHEIM

 

Games this week

@ Columbus, @ Boston, @ New York Islanders, @ New Jersey

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Ducks have play all four on the road including three games in four nights so look for Frederik Andersen and John Gibson to share the net.  The offseason acquisition of Ryan Kesler has paid off nicely for Anaheim, especially when it comes to games against their main rival, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.  Kesler has five goals and seven points in five contests against Los Angeles in 2014-15.  Patrick Maroon was a healthy scratch on March 13, but he's bounced back with a goal and three points in his last two contests.

 

ARIZONA

 

Games this week

@ Detroit, @ Buffalo, @ Pittsburgh

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Goaltender Mike Smith's save percentage has reached .900, which normally wouldn't mean much, but is quite the accomplishment given how horribly he did out of the gate this season.  He has a 2.75 GAA and .917 save percentage in 21 games since the All-Star break and a .938 save percentage in six March contests.  Arizona's shutout loss on Monday was the 10th time the club's been silenced this season.  That's franchise record for the Coyotes, although if you include their time in Winnipeg, then the record is 13 shutouts against set in 1979-80.

 

BOSTON

 

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, vs. New York Rangers, @ Carolina

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Bruins play three games in four days this week, so look for Tuukka Rask to play twice with Niklas Svedberg possibly getting a start. Carl Soderberg ended a 24-game goal scoring drought on Thursday.  With 38 points in 71 contests, Soderberg is likely to fall short of his rookie total of 48 points. 

 

BUFFALO

 

Games this week

@ Dallas, vs. Arizona, @ Colorado

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Anders Lindback has a 2.41 GAA and .934 save percentage in seven contests since being acquired by the Sabres.  That's a remarkable turnaround after his disastrous tenure with Dallas, but there are a lot of Sabres fans that might not appreciate it.  Lindback's superb play might push Buffalo out of 30th place and make the dream of drafting Connor McDavid that much more difficult.

 

 

CALGARY

 

Games this week

vs. Colorado, vs. Dallas, @ Minnesota, @ Nashville  

 

Rested Team: @ Nashville (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Flames play four times this week so Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller will likely split the net.  Calgary inked NCAA defenseman Kenney Morrison to a two-year, entry-level contract.  It kicks in with the 2015-16 campaign, so for now he'll join AHL Adirondack on a tryout basis.  He had five goals and 15 points in 37 contests with Western Michigan University in 2014-15.  Meanwhile, fellow Flames prospect Jon Gillies was picked as the top goaltender of Hockey East.  He had a 1.95 GAA and .931 save percentage in 35 NCAA games with Providence College this season.

 

CAROLINA

 

Games this week

vs. Chicago, @ Pittsburgh, vs. New Jersey, vs. Boston

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Hurricanes play three games in four nights as part of their four game week so look for Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin to share the net.  Danny Biega made his NHL debut on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens.  He had three hits and two blocked shots, but he also finished with a minus-two rating in Carolina's 4-0 loss.  Andrej Nestrasil, 24, has been a solid addition for Carolina since he was claimed from Detroit off of waivers.  He has six goals and 17 points in 29 games with the Hurricanes.

 

CHICAGO

 

Games this week

@ Carolina, @ Philadelphia, vs. Columbus, @ Winnipeg

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Chicago is one of a few teams this week that play four times (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) but don’t play back-to-back at all. Look for Corey Crawford to play three times with Scott Darling getting the other start.  Antoine Vermette is enjoying his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he realizes that Chicago's in a "tricky position" when it comes to negotiating a new contract.  The Blackhawks will be in a very difficult cap position this summer, so providing Vermette with an extension after acquiring him from Arizona is a luxury that Chicago likely can't afford.

 

COLORADO

 

Games this week

@ Calgary, @ Edmonton, @ Vancouver, vs. Buffalo

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Vancouver (Thursday)

 

Notes

The Avalanche play three games in Western Canada before coming home to play the Sabres on Saturday. Semyon Varlamov should play three games with Reto Berra likely getting one start.  Realistically, Colorado has been out of the playoff race for a while, but the Avalanche refuse to quit.  Colorado has won six of its last seven games, including key victories against Minnesota and Calgary.  The Avalanche need to stay nearly perfect for the rest of the way to make the postseason though as they're still seven points back in the Wild Card race with 12 contests left on their schedule.

 

 

COLUMBUS

 

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, @ Chicago, @ St. Louis

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ St. Louis (Saturday)

 

Notes

Nick Foligno has already far exceeded expectations this season and it looks like he'll finish on a high note despite the fact that the Blue Jackets have long since lost any hope of making the playoffs.  He has two goals and eight points in nine March games, giving him 63 points in 68 contests in 2014-15.  Ryan Murray missed Thursday's contest due to a lower-body injury.  The 21-year-old defenseman just can't seem to catch a break from a health perspective.

 

 

DALLAS

 

Games this week

vs. Buffalo, @ Calgary, @ Edmonton, @ Vancouver

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Vancouver (Saturday)

 

Notes

The Stars play the same four teams as Colorado this week (including the one home game against Buffalo). Kari Lehtonen will likely see action in three games with Jhonas Enroth playing once.  Speaking of Lehtonen, he's been much better lately as he's earned four wins over his last five starts while allowing just nine goals over that span.  Unfortunately for the Stars, which entered the 2014-15 campaign with serious playoff aspirations, this has been a down year overall for Lehtonen.  On a more positive note, Shawn Horcoff has received praise for his leadership lately.  The 36-year-old has gotten ice time with 24-year-old Curtis McKenzie and 21-year-old Brett Ritchie,

 

DETROIT

 

Games this week

vs. Arizona, vs. San Jose, vs. Tampa Bay, @ New York Islanders

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Red Wings play three games in four nights so Petr Mrazek, who replaced the possibly concussed Jonas Gustavsson, could play once for Jimmy Howard.  Pavel Datsyuk hasn't been traveling with the Red Wings due to a lower-body injury, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock thinks it's a blessing in disguise as it will give the superstar forward a chance to "freshen up."  Detroit has some interest in re-signing Marek Zidlicky, which isn't surprising given how well he's worked out since being acquired from New Jersey.  He has three goals and seven points in eight contests with the Red Wings.

 

EDMONTON

 

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, vs. Colorado, vs. Dallas

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes    

The Oilers are at home for all three games for the second week in a row.  Nail Yakupov is riding a five-game point streak.  He still has just 28 points in 70 contests in 2014-15, but he's been great since mid-February, adding to the possibility that next season could be his breakout campaign.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has also been hot lately and that streak included his 20th goal of the 2014-15 campaign.  Scoring 20 goals was a personal goal of his going into this season and achieving it has allowed him to feel good about this year despite the Oilers' continued struggles.

 

FLORIDA

 

Games this week

@ Tampa Bay, @ Toronto, @Montreal, @ Ottawa

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Panthers play four games including three in four nights so expect Roberto Luongo to play the majority of the games with Dan Ellis playing once.  Jaromir Jagr scored his 718th career goal on Thursday to surpass Phil Esposito and claim sole possession of fifth place on the NHL's all-time goals list.  Jagr's next target is Marcel Dionne, who scored 731 goals.  Keep in mind that Jagr, despite being 43 years old, might play in 2015-16.

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Games this week

@ New Jersey, @ New York Rangers, @ New York Islanders, @ Minnesota  

 

Rested Team: @ Minnesota (Saturday)

Tired Team: @ New York Rangers (Tuesday)

 

Notes

The Kings are on the road for all four games this week and they play three in four nights but all are in the New York area (I’m including Newark in there). Jonathan Quick will get three starts barring any injury and Martin Jones should get a rare start.  Alec Martinez (concussion) has started to participate in battle drills as he edges closer towards his return.  Meanwhile, fellow defenseman Drew Doughty is still getting an unreal amount of ice time.  He logged 29:56 minutes on Wednesday and also recorded his 40th point of the 2014-15 campaign in that contest.  This is the first time he's reached the 40-point mark since 2010-11.

 

MINNESOTA

 

Games this week

@ Toronto, @ New York Islanders, vs. Calgary, vs. Los Angeles

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ New York Islanders (Tuesday) vs. Los Angeles (Saturday)

 

Notes

The Wild have cooled off lately with a 3-3-0 record starting with their loss to Colorado on March 8.  They turned their season around after acquiring Devan Dubnyk from Arizona, but just because Minnesota is showing signs of leveling off doesn't mean that Dubnyk is personally slowing down.  He has held the competition to two or fewer goals in four of those six starts and one of the exceptions was Thursday when he was beaten twice by the always dangerous Alex Ovechkin in a 3-2 loss to Washington.

 

 

   

MONTREAL

           

Games this week

@ Nashville, @ Winnipeg, vs. Florida

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

P.K. Subban has the unwanted distinction of leading the league in embellishment charges.  The league issued out its lately punishment to Subban on Friday in the form of a $3,000 fine.  On a more positive note, goaltender Carey Price strengthened his bid for the Hart Trophy with a 31-save shutout on Thursday.  Price leads the league in GAA (1.89), save percentage (.937), and wins (39) in 58 games.  He has also matched his career high with eight shutouts.  

 

 

 NASHVILLE

 

Games this week

vs. Montreal, @ Tampa Bay, @ Washington, vs. Calgary

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: vs. Calgary (Sunday)

 

Notes

The Predators play three games in four nights as part of a four game week so expect Pekka Rinne to start three games with Carter Hutton seeing the start in one.  The Nashville Predators have been in a freefall lately with a 2-8-1 record since their victory on Feb. 24.  They're in no real danger of losing their playoff spot entirely, but they've already slipped below the St. Louis Blues in the battle for the Central Division title and the Chicago Blackhawks are just behind them.  In other words, if the Predators don't break out of this funk soon, they'll go from being a serious contender for the Presidents' Trophy to a team that won't even have the home-ice advantage in their first round series.

 

NEW JERSEY

 

Games this week

vs. Los Angeles, @ Washington, @ Carolina, vs. Anaheim

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Devils see action four times this week including three games in four nights so look for Keith Kinkaid to play once for Cory SchneiderMartin Havlat is still stuck in the press box, but Patrik Elias' back spasms have led to Michael Ryder reentering the Devils' lineup.  Devils GM and interim coach Lou Lamoriello has been happy with Ryder's performance, but it remains to be seen if that's enough to keep Ryder playing once Elias is ready to return.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

Games this week

vs. Minnesota, vs. Los Angeles, vs. Anaheim, vs. Detroit

 

Rested Team: vs. Minnesota (Tuesday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Islanders play four games this week including three in four nights. Michal Neuvirth will likely get one start with Jaroslav Halak getting the start in the other three games.  The Islanders have lost four straight games, but reinforcements are on the way.  Jaroslav Halak (lower body) is ready to return, as enforced by the decision to return Kevin Poulin to the minors, and Nick Leddy might also be back on Saturday.  Meanwhile Lubomir Visnovsky (lower body) and Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) might both return next week.

 

NEW YORK RANGERS

 

Games this week

vs. Los Angeles, @ Ottawa, @ Boston, vs. Washington

 

Rested Team: vs. Los Angeles (Tuesday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Rangers hope to get Henrik Lundqvist back but if he is unavailable, then Cam Talbot will play three times with Mackenzie Skapski playing once. If Lundqvist is back, don’t be surprised if he and Talbot split the four games.  After all, Talbot has been superb in place of Lundqvist and has a 2.15 GAA and .928 save percentage in 30 games this season.  While Lundqvist is still clearly the Rangers' top goaltender, Talbot should have solidified himself at this point as more than your average backup.

 

OTTAWA     

 

Games this week

vs. San Jose, vs. New York Rangers, @  Toronto, vs. Florida

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Senators play three games in four nights as part of a four game week so it will be interesting to see how Ottawa handles its goaltending situation.  Andrew Hammond has been phenomenal even after factoring in his at times shaky performance against the Bruins in Ottawa's 6-4 win on Thursday.  That being said, does coach Dave Cameron feel comfortable using Hammond three times over the span of four games?  Unless Robin Lehner (concussion) or Craig Anderson (hand) defy expectations and return before the end of next week, the only alternative would be to allow 20-year-old Chris Driedger to make his NHL debut.

 

PHILADELPHIA

 

Games this week

vs. Chicago, vs. San Jose

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

As a team the Philadelphia Flyers might not have much left to play for, but Jakub Voracek should be able to find a personal source of motivation.  After recording his 70th point of the campaign on Thursday, he's just three points behind in the Art Ross Trophy race.  He's slowed down in recent months after a hot start to the 2014-15 campaign, but there's still enough time for him to solidify his place in hockey history by getting hot over the final weeks of the season.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

 

Games this week

vs. St. Louis, @ Carolina, vs. Arizona, vs. San Jose

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Penguins play four times this week (boy there are a lot of teams playing four games) including three in four nights so look for Thomas Greiss to get one start with Marc-Andre Fleury getting the remainder. Chris Kunitz has just one goal in his last 22 games and hasn't recorded a point in seven straight contests.  His slump has been amplified by the fact that Pittsburgh has lost four straight games and has scored just two goals over that span.  The Penguins might bounce back, but it will be very difficult for Kunitz to salvage the 2014-15 campaign given that he has just 39 points in 63 contests after recording 68 points last season.

 

ST. LOUIS

 

Games this week

@ Pittsburgh, vs. Columbus

 

Rested Team: vs. Columbus (Saturday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Brian Elliott earned two shutouts over the span of three games from March 12-17, which allowed him to tie and then surpass the Blues' franchise record.  With 21 career shutouts with St. Louis, Elliott is now one ahead of his former teammate, Jaroslav Halak.  Elliott's new goaltending counterpart, Jake Allen, also earned a shutout on Sunday, which means that the Blues have silenced their competition in three of their last five games.

 

 

SAN JOSE

 

Games this week

@ Ottawa, @ Detroit, @ Philadelphia, @ Pittsburgh

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Sharks end a seven game road trip this week. Antti Niemi should get three of the four starts as San Jose also plays three in four nights.  Joe Thornton became the 19th player in NHL history to reach the 900 assist mark on Thursday.  The 35-year-old forward has 62 points in 67 games, putting him on pace to reach the 70-point mark for the 11th straight season, not counting the lockout shortened 2013 campaign.

 

TAMPA BAY

 

Games this week

vs. Florida, vs. Nashville, @ Detroit

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

One of Tampa Bay's biggest weaknesses last season was its penalty kill, which ranked 23rd in the league with a 80.7%.  The Lightning have been far better in that regard this season with a 83.2% success rate, which is good for ninth place in the league.  Ondrej Palat, who is known for his offensive contributions but also contributes an average of 1:44 minutes per game in shorthanded situations, is expected to return from a lower-body injury on Friday.

 

 

TORONTO

 

Games this week

vs. Minnesota, vs. Florida, vs. Ottawa

 

Rested team:  None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

This season can't end fast enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  While there are still a few teams with a worse record than them in 2014-15, no other squad seems more demoralized.  Goaltender Jonathan Bernier compared their 4-1 loss to San Jose on Thursday as "a junior team playing against an NHL team" while Phil Kessel recently said that this was "an all-time low in hockey."  Speaking of Kessel, he doesn't seem to see eye-to-eye with coach Peter Horachek when it comes to the team's effort level.  Horachek criticized the squad's "lack of effort" on Friday while Kessel argued that they're "giving full effort."

 

 

VANCOUVER

 

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, vs. Colorado, vs. Dallas

 

Rested Team: vs. Winnipeg (Tuesday) vs. Colorado (Thursday), vs. Dallas (Saturday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Canucks are the rested team in all three home games this week.  Vancouver also has no more games against Eastern Conference teams left on its schedule.  That's potentially problematic given that the Canucks are 20-10-1 vs. the East in 2014-15 compared to 19-16-3 versus the opposition within their own conference.

 

WASHINGTON

 

Games this week

vs. New Jersey, vs. Nashville, @ New York Rangers

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

With two goals on Thursday, Alex Ovechkin is just three markers away from reaching the 50-goal milestone for the sixth time in 10 seasons.  At the age of 29, he's already just 31 goals shy of 500.  Meanwhile, 22-year-old rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov has hit his stride recently with three goals in his last four contests.  He has 30 points this season, which is something of a disappointment when measured against the high expectations that were thrust upon him going into his rookie campaign, but he has a bright future ahead of him.

 

 

WINNIPEG

 

Games this week

@ Edmonton, @ Vancouver, vs. Montreal, vs. Chicago

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ Vancouver (Tuesday)

 

Notes

The Jets play four games including three in four nights. They have been going to Ondrej Pavelec of late so look for him to play three of four contests with Michael Hutchinson playing once.  Speaking of Pavelec, his solid performances against the Lightning, Sharks, and Blues recently have been invaluable to Winnipeg.  They've needed that three-game winning streak to keep them ahead in the tight Wild Card race.  As it is, the Jets still only have a two-point edge over Los Angeles, although the third seed in the Pacific Division might ultimately prove to be more obtainable for the Kings than the Jets' second Wild Card seed.


Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 16th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.