Winners and Losers from Week 13 of the 2013 NHL Season
It was a momentous week in the NHL, with ceremonies of remembrance in Boston and in arenas around the league honoring those killed and injured in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Sports does not have the ability to heal those who have gone through tragedy; it does have the unique ability to bring a community together to mourn and celebrate at the same time.
When the Boston Bruins took to the ice to play the Buffalo Sabres April 17, it marked a temporary return to normalcy in the Bruins' home city. When the Bruins met the Penguins yesterday and the Boston Red Sox did the same with the Kansas City Royals a few miles away, the relief was palpable.
The unique stick salute by the Bruins and Sabres after their game was a memorable show of support for a beleaguered city.
On the ice, there were reasons to celebrate in Toronto and Washington, and significant problems in Detroit and Montreal.
Here's a look a the winners and losers from Week 13.
Winner: Toronto Maple Leafs
There's a certain joy that Toronto Maple Leafs fans feel merely by looking at the agate section of their newspaper.
When they take a look at the current standings, they see that the Leafs are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind the Boston Bruins and four points behind the Montreal Canadiens.
That's good news for the Leafs, but the jump-for-joy circumstance is the small "x" in front of the team's name in the standings.
That "x" means the Leafs have clinched a spot in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. It is, of course, the Leafs first playoff appearance since the 2004 postseason.
Toronto earned that much-desired designation with a 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators Saturday night.
Goalie James Reimer stopped 49 of 50 shots while James van Riemsdyk scored two goals to lead the Leafs to their momentous win.
The celebration in Toronto will only get louder and more raucous if the Leafs continue to win in the final week of the regular season.
Loser: Anaheim Ducks Offense
The Anaheim Ducks have had an excellent regular season. They have chased the Chicago Blackhawks most of the season and put together an impressive 3-0 record against them.
However, with just one week to go in the regular season, the Ducks are hitting the wall. They have lost four consecutive games and have scored just five goals in their last four games.
The offense had been producing solid and consistent numbers throughout the majority of the season behind Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. However, the Ducks are suddenly having big problems finding the back of the net.
The Ducks are big, strong and skilled. If self-doubt starts to creep in, the Ducks regular-season rise will give way to an early exit from the playoffs.
Winner: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Another week, and another honor for Alex Ovechkin.
He continues to surge in the second half of the season and he now has 30 goals for the season, leading Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning by three goals for the league lead.
Ovechkin scored four goals and three assists in his last four games, but it was his big hit on Jay McClement of the Toronto Maple Leafs April 16 that brought Ovechkin the most attention (video above). McClement hammered Washington's Nicklas Backstrom into the boards and Ovechkin came to his teammate's defense by pounding McClement.
The turnaround has been remarkable for Ovechkin, who is now a prime candidate for the Hart Trophy.
Loser: Derek Roy, Vancouver Canucks
There has never been much doubt about Derek Roy's talent or skill set.
He can carry the puck, pass it with accuracy and move quickly in the offensive zone to score goals of his own.
The problem with Roy has been his level of engagement. The Buffalo Sabres grew tired of his inconsistency and traded him to the Dallas Stars. The Stars didn't see what they had hoped for and moved him to the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline.
The Canucks are always a major playoff factor, but Roy still seems to be a "once-in-a-while" player. Since coming to the Canucks, Roy has two goals and three assists in nine games.
Both his production and his effort have been ordinary.
Roy may care deeply about his game and his team, but it does not show every night.
Winner: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues appeared poised to make a run at the Western Conference title this season.
However, after finishing second in the Western Conference last year, they have been somewhat disappointing this year. They have been forced to battle for a playoff spot that many thought would be securely in their possession midway through the season.
While they have struggled overall, the Blues come into the final week of the regular season on a roll. They have won eight of their last 10 games and they were particularly good last week, winning all three of their games.
Goalie Brian Elliott was the architect of all three 2-1 victories. Two of those wins came in shootouts as Elliott has been sharp, quick and confident.
Loser: Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings come into the most critical week of the year on a down note.
Here's what the Red Wings must accept as they understand their current position in the NHL. They are in ninth place in the Western Conference, one point behind the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets.
There is only one week to go for the Red Wings, the NHL's version of hockey royalty, to right their season and earn a playoff spot. The Red Wings have not missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season.
The Red Wings started the week with an impressive 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators.
However, Detroit fell flat in a 3-2 loss at Calgary—Calgary—before dropping a 2-1 shootout at Vancouver.
The Red Wings have four games remaining and they may need to win three of them to avoid the humiliation of missing the playoffs.
Winner: New York Rangers
Could the New York Rangers be rounding into shape at just the right moment?
After a season of missteps and halting offense, the Rangers have won four of their last five games and have a one-point lead (and a game in hand) over the Winnipeg Jets for eighth place and the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Rangers won two of three games last week. After dropping an uninspired 4-2 decision at Philadelphia, the Rangers scored 14 goals in consecutive wins over the Florida Panthers and the Buffalo Sabres.
In the 8-4 win at Buffalo April 19, the habitually low-scoring Rangers scored five goals in a 2:58 span bridging the first and second periods.
The Rangers go into the final week of the season with more offensive momentum than John Tortorella's team has had at any point this season. Much of the credit must go to Rick Nash, who leads the team with 19 goals and 21 assists.
Loser: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens have gone into a notable slump since clinching their playoff spot two weeks ago.
Instead of playing the sharp, explosive and strong defensive game that marked their rise to the No. 2 position in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens have been soft and yielding.
Goalie Carey Price has been shaky. The Canadiens have lost four of their last five games. Price gave up six goals in an April 15 loss to Philadelphia and five goals in a loss to Washington five days later. He was also in goal for a loss to Pittsburgh and a win against Tampa Bay.
Price's defense is not helping him, but he does not appear to have the confidence to stop crucial shots at key moments.
The mood in Montreal is one of high anxiety with the playoffs around the corner.