THE HAT TRICK: What To Watch This Week In Hockey

Matt SitkoffCorrespondent INovember 2, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 24:  Goaltender Craig Anderson #41 of the Colorado Avalanche defends the goal against the Detroit Red Wings during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on October 24, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Anderson had 48 saves as the Avalanche defeated the Red Wings 3-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween, while in hockey there were some treats this week as the Sharks have run off 5 straight victories to regain their rightful place near the top of the NHL standings.  There also were some tricks as the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals last season, has now lost an astonishing 9 straight games.  As the calendar falls back lets fall back into the Pucking Awesome Hat Trick, or the top three things I am watching for this week.


1.)     Watch Out For The Avalanche:   I am starting to believe that this team could actually compete for a playoff spot this season. Craig Anderson has broken out of the South Florida sunshine and proven so far that he can be a number one goalie coming into Monday, he leads the league in wins (10) and save percentage (.936).  Also the key to being a good team is special teams and both the penalty kill (second in the league) and power play  (13th in the league) units are playing extremely well.  Yes I know they are coming off two tough losses to two teams (Sharks and Canucks) that were supposed to be ahead of them at this juncture of the season but as long as their scorers (Hejduk, Stastny, Wolski) stay relatively healthy this team will be a surprise playoff team when all is said and done. 


2.)    First Firing? By this time last year there was already the first coach firing (October 16, 2008 of Denis Savard by the Blackhawks), and in total there were seven in season changes behind the bench.  Which makes me feel like the first clipboard to fall is coming soon.  I feel the hottest seat is that of John Stevens of Philadelphia, since the team is still struggling with discipline issues that plagued them last season.  Could the Hurricanes give up on the Paul Maurice reunion so soon?  Could the Predators can the only coach they have ever had in Barry Trotz? Has the glimmer of the 2007 Stanley Cup victory worn off of Randy Carle in Anaheim?  I am interested to see which of those seats will start to burn as we get farther into the season.


3.)    Game of The Week: Penguins vs The West Coast—The defending champions run through the west coast this week but I am very interested in not only their game on Saturday vs the Sharks but also the game Thursday vs the Kings.  The game against the Kings will showcase the talented scorer Anze Kopitar, who outside of hockey enthusiast does not realize how good this kid is.  This game matches up two teams that have scored 44 goals in their first 14 games, so should be an exciting back and forth game.  Saturday will match up two teams that are favored to play for the Stanley Cup this season, and the Sharks are playing their best hockey and getting scoring from a lot of different sources.  These games and the Tuesday game vs the Ducks are all going to be worth staying up late this week.