The Hat Trick: What To Watch This Week in the NHL

Matt SitkoffCorrespondent INovember 9, 2009

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 21: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks awaits the start of play against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 14, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Canucks defeated the Blackhawks 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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On this Veterans Day, I first want to send a thank you to all those serving to defend our country. There has been some major defending of nets this season, but not the usual suspects. The Top Three in GAA are Canucks Andrew Raycroft, Sabres Ryan Miller, and Lightning Antero Nittymaki, and we can’t forgot how good Craig Anderson has been for the Avalanche. Now let’s delve into the Pucking Awesome Hat Trick, or the Top Three things I am watching for this week.

1.)  Atlantic Division Dominance  

The Atlantic Division has had four playoff teams for three straight seasons, can they have five this postseason? The defending champion Penguins don’t look like they have a Stanley Cup hangover, and are performing well without Malkin, and Gonchar. The Flyers have finally found a scoring grove as they are near the top of the league in goals per game, and power play percentage. 

The Devils are playing Jaques Lemaire hockey, and get back top-scorer Patrik Elias. The Rangers look rejuvenated with Gaborik, Prospal, and the young defensemen, and by the way they still have, Henrik Lundqvist. Watch out for the Islanders also, after a tough start to the season the Youngblood line (Tavares, Okposo, and Moulson) have combined for 32 points in first 16 games. I will be watching this tough division all season, and predict at least four will be playing in the second season.

2.)  Hall Opens Up  

On Monday, the Hockey Hall of Fame opens the door to five more members. Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille, and Steve Yzerman are elected in the player category, and Lou Lamoriello elected in the builders category. A great class for sure, with two pillars of American hockey, all having over 1,000 points, three having over 600-goals, and of course the architect of a dynasty. 

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Congrats to those players, and their families, and I am looking forward to the debate of the class of 2010, which will involve the controversial discussion of Eric Lindros, and his place in the Hall.

3.)  Game of the Week

Roberto Luongo returns: Roberto Luongo is set to return this week from a rib injury, he was slated to come back versus the Blues in the Canucks first game this week Tuesday in St Louis, but the flu has disrupted that plan. Whenever the all-world goalie reappears, it will be a big day for Vancouver.  Andre Raycroft has done a solid job with a 4-1 record, a 1.71 GAA ,and 0.935 save percentage in the five games starting in place of Luongo, but the Stanley Cup chances hinge on Bobby Lou being healthy.    


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