Posted: Thursday January 03, 2002 6:15 PM
Updated: Friday January 04, 2002 2:36 AM
By Jamie MacDonald, CNNSI.com
Interesting week if you're into the agate type. We had some happy returns, an unhappy return, a newsworthy exit and a couple of career milestones along the way. But some things don't change in these parts. The Wings are -- yawn -- still No. 1, and the Thrashers still can't wriggle free from that big cannon ball cuffed to their ankles.
We dub thee, the Mood Swings. In the days following Boxing Day, Detroit received four gift games. To give being better than to receive, however, the Wings took only two. Then it was October, 2001, all over again Wednesday night against the Ducks: Robitaille, Fedorov and Shanahan score, and Detroit allows a subpar team back into a game it should have won 3-1.
The previous absence, and aforementioned unhappy return of Steve Thomas (he came back from a broken ankle only to break it again in his first game back), most certainly must be soothed by the season Eric Daze is having. On Tuesday night, Daze scored two in the third and the game winner in OT to extend Chicago's four-game undefeated streak.
Maybe Robbie Ftorek and Pat Quinn should shed the ties, just drop the gloves and straighten out this All-Star game thing like gentlemen. In this corner ... Ftorek, with 293 goals, 457 assists and 627 PIMS in 707 games between the NHL (334) and WHA.
After dancing up the charts for a month -- a 12-1-2-0 streak will do that for a club -- Colorado is suddenly winless in three. We doubt the wheels are coming off here, but a 4-4 tie in Nashville is no way to ring in the new year.
Unfortunately this is an incomplete grade, as we'd like to see how they fare against New Jersey and Philadelphia over the weekend. A decent test, the second and third of three at home. In the first, on Wednesday night, the Bruins ran away from them early.
Yes, there was a stumble Wednesday night against this week's No. 9 team, but Philadelphia had been on the road since Christmas. And they've still won seven of their previous 10 games. As of Jan. 3, only the Blackhawks had won more games in their previous two handfuls' worth.
Mike Modano might be our first choice among active players to take a pass from across the ice and bury a one-timer from 10 feet. Yes, before Brett Hull. Of course, No. 400 was a gimme for Modano, but it doesn't change the fact that he can do more with less, more quickly than most players in the game.
Some small truths extend to almost allegorically profound commentary. We'll let you draw your own conclusion after we observe that Eric Lindros' Hart Trophy was awarded for his performance during the lockout-shortened season. These are hard words to type, but long-term success of this tale is difficult to imagine.
In an ABC spot, Michael Peca wishes happy holidays to all. Then, as only an NHL player asked to "act" could, he pauses to rule out the Rangers. And the Devils. And the Flyers, too. Given the Isles 18-game winless streak against Washington -- extended Tuesday night -- perhaps he would like to add one more team.
Look out Theo Fleury and Mike York. There is a new teeny tandem in town. Brian Gionta has joined Scott Gomez in New Jersey. More news out of Jersey: The A-Line has been reunited. In their first game back, Fred Brathwaite was nice enough to allow a semi-softy from Patrik Elias, who has three goals in his previous 19 games. (Earlier this season Elias scored four in six games.)
Can't blame the goaltending, which has allowed the fewest goals (88) in the Western Conference. And on the surface, 103 goals would seem sufficient, but the Blues have a way of running up scores. In their last five wins, they've outscored opponents 18-2. Their losses usually come in 2-1, 3-1 or OTL form. Feel free to discuss this phenomenon amongst your selves.
If you look at the standings, they're in a midseason playoff dogfight (yes, an overblown oxymoron) with Calgary. Each team has won 17 of 40 games and scored 100 goals, and the Flames have allowed two more, but they went 3-0 last week against Philadelphia, San Jose and the Rangers ...
We'll see how this lucky seven experiment goes. According to the Washington Post, Ron Wilson, goaded into the idea by injuries, is dressing an extra defenseman and only 11 forwards. Instead of using three-man combinations at forward, Wilson has focused on two-man forward pairings with a floating third player.
The good news about their Dec. 29 game against the Islanders? Their five goals were more than they had scored in any one game in a month. Bad news? Well, they lost in overtime. Still, the Habs are only two points out of a playoff spot.
This is about the point in our program where we need a floodlight to see the silver linings. And here it is: Although they've allowed more goals than any other team in the Western Conference, the Wild trail only legitimate playoff contenders at this point.
Vancouver, with a run, and there is still much time for same, could get back into the mix, too. Though the Canucks still trail Minnesota by five games in the loss column, after having played two more games.
First the sky fell in Buffalo, now a star is coming down. Slava Kozlov is out two months after having his Achilles' tendon almost completely severed. In his place, Chris Gratton auditions -- yet again -- as a No. 1 center.
Part of the Mike Keenan magic is foster a sense of accountability among teammates who want to play for one another. And what better way to do that than make life an us-against-them proposition? Stroke of genius, then, for him to bash the schedule as an affront to his club.
Since Dec. 15, the Preds are 3-1-2-0 at home. In their only road game since that date, St. Louis hung them with a 7-2 loss, dropping their road record to 4-11-2-0. There is a lesson here, one Nashville might learn during their four-game road trip through New Jersey, Minnesota, Columbus and Toronto.
If only the bizarro Eastern Conference standings also produced a mirror-like effect on the Penguins' record. If they were 17-14-5-2, like the Devils, instead of 14-17-5-2, Pittsburgh would be tied for the No. 8 spot. And if Mario Lemieux ... OK, enough ifs.
The good news for teams this low in our standings is that there ain't far to fall. Winless in four (although they salvaged a point with three power play goals against Boston), the Lightning falls only one spot.
When the dust settled after a New Year's Eve showdown to avoid the penultimate spot on our list, Columbus beat Anaheim 3-1. Granted, this road game was bookended by road games in Chicago and Detroit, but we thought it was noteworthy nonetheless.