Any doubters of the Florida Panthers and their playoff hopes must have been impressed with the 6-2 thumping they gave Washington in D.C. The last time the Cats made the postseason was in 2000, led by the "Russian Rocket," Pavel Bure.
Of course, the trade deadline is a little more than two days away. Where will Jay Bouwmeester go, and what will GM Jacques Martin receive in return?
Just one of the many questions that will be answered in a short time.
It was as if he never left. Martin Brodeur won his first three games since returning from a 50-game absence, and posted two shutouts in the process.
Now he's just four wins away from tying Patrick Roy's all-time record off 551, and three shutouts away from Terry Sawchuk's mark of 103. A normal goaltender would not stand a chance with such little time. For Brodeur, it may very well be all he needs.
He's back and well rested for the upcoming playoffs. There are 15 other teams who are shaking at the thought.
Giving Ilya Kovalchuk the captaincy in Atlanta may have just fueled his engine. He wasn't struggling prior to being captain, but now he's just playing like a man possessed. Kovalchuk had eight points this week, including a five-point effort which erased a 3-1 deficit against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Nashville is that team that's never quite out of the playoff picture. Led by Pekka Rinne in net, the Predators may just squeeze into it again. The Finn has won his last four starts, posted two shutouts, and allowed a combined four goals.
Nobody had a better week offensively than Calgary's Jarome Iginla. The Flames captain totaled 10 points, nine of which came in two contests. Last night, Iginla racked up five points to surpass Theoren Fleury as the team's all-time leading scorer. Tampa Bay would spoil his moment, however, coming out 8-6 winners.
Anton Babchuk has already set a career-high with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) for Carolina this year. The Ukrainian has always been known as a slow starter, but has come around with goals in three straight and points in the last four games. Keep your eye on him because he was, after all, a first-round draft pick in 2002.
His 80-foot overtime winner in Boston made quite the headline. Alexander Semin was leading the NHL in points at one time before going down with an injury. When healthy, he hasn't disappointed. The six points this week indicate why he doesn't fight very often.
Last week, we requested more offense from Bryan McCabe and he answered the call. The St. Catharines native has six points in the last three games, and his four-point effort in Washington yesterday led the Panthers to a confidence-building victory.
Players look to make an impression prior to the trade deadline. No doubt, Pavel Kubina has been one of the biggest attention-grabbers lately. The Leafs defender (for now anyway) dished out assists two weeks ago and scored goals last week. He tied the game late in the third period against Ottawa Saturday night. Why stop there? In overtime, he would strike again to give Toronto its fourth straight win.
The encouraging factor with Zach Parise is that he's outdone himself in every scoring category the following season, from a 32-point rookie effort to the 77 points that have him ranked No. 4 among all forwards this year. Parise scored three times and handed out four assists this week for the Devils. Only Alexander Ovechkin has more goals. Could he catch him?
Lucky seven for Mark Recchi in the number of assists he piled up over the last seven days. He's 41 years old and still going strong after 20 years in the league. It's breathtaking to think about the fact that he made his debut right around the day I was born.
Allowing one goal in each of his past five starts, Chris Mason and the St. Louis Blues aren't quitting on their postseason hopes. Originally a New Jersey draft pick, Mason has gone 4-0-1 during that time, with at least a .955 save percentage in every match.
David Krejci virtually came out of nowhere this year, and had a stretch where it seemed like he was never going to have a pointless night. However, he has just one assist in his last five games for the Boston Bruins. Krejci has already set new highs across the board with 20 goals and 40 assists. With 19 games remaining on the schedule, I'm sure he won't want to stop there.
You could arguably pick on the entire Buffalo Sabres team with their recent play. Jochen Hecht is the target this time around because he's been cold throughout the entire season. Hecht scored 22 goals last year, but has just 19 points through 51 games. Lindy Ruff may have to introduce him to the dog house in the near future.
Detroit did win two of three, but their lone loss was 8-0 in Nashville. Nicklas Lidstrom went pointless, but to his credit remained even in the plus-minus category that night against the Predators.
Watch out for the Minnesota Wild and what they do Wednesday. Marian Gaborik may be shipped off and Nicklas Backstrom could possibly join him. The Wild play a defense-first system, but it's a struggling way if your goalie has one win in his last five starts.
Dallas has been and up and down for the better part of 2008-09. Down is where they've been lately as Marty Turco has been between the pipes for four consecutive losses. The 33-year-old has allowed 11 goals during that span.
Off-ice rumors never assist a player's mindset, and Ilya Bryzgalov has lost four of five. His save percentage during that time has been relatively good, but the Coyotes need wins above all else. At the very least, some overtime losses would do.
Florida may make the postseason, but David Booth finding his scoring edge would certainly help the situation. Booth has one goal in his last six games, and the Panthers will need more to ensure their place in April.
So much for Ottawa's late playoff push. The Senators have gone back to their losing ways, and Bryan Elliott has been beaten 12 times in his last four outings. The season is all but finished for this group.
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