We won't go as far as comparing it to the largesse of a Giants-Patriots Super Bowl but the Rangers and Bruins have established themselves as the class of the Eastern Conference and a Conference final showdown between the two would be a NHL PR dream.
Never expected the Rangers to go 5 for 5 against Philadelphia but the Blueshirts have owned Philadelphia 24/7 this season including a 5-2 victory on Saturday afternoon.
A couple of personal memories stood out while reflecting on Mats Sundin's distinguished career which was honoured Saturday night in Toronto. Unfortunately, one is an early memory of Nordiques coach Pierre Page melting down behind Sundin on the bench late in Game 6 of a memorable first round matchup against the Canadiens in 1993. The Nordiques won the opening two games of the emotionally charged series and led Game 3 2-0 before the Habs started their first round comeback and eventual Stanley Cup run. Sundin was hardly the reason the Nordiques lost the series but Page made him an unfortunate and very public scapegoat. The verbal thrashing would have broken most young players but not Sundin, who proved to be made of much stronger stuff. A more positive memory is having called his 1000th point in Edmonton 10 years later. It was a shame that the current Maple Leafs played like the Leafs of Sundin's latter years in Toronto on the night they honoured his jersey at the ACC. Next stop is the Hockey Hall of Fame after finishing his career 21st all-time in goals with 564 and 27th in points at 1,349.
Earlier in the week, Sundin's old Nordique teammate Owen Nolan announced his retirement in San Jose. The power forward scored 422 goals finished 100th in all-time league scoring, played 1200 robust games. and remarkably never lost a tooth playing as physically as any forward of his era.
Interesting to see if Jeremy Roenick does become a partner in a new ownership group in Phoenix. If JR has the money to be involved now, its unlikely he will within a year or two of owning the Coyotes.
Just another year of excellence in Detroit where the Wings extended their home ice win streak to 20 last night, tied for longest in NHL history with the '29-'30 Bruins and the '75-'6 Flyers. The Red Wings haven't lost at the Joe since Nov 3/11 against Calgary. Next up a shot at the all-time record of 21 straight against Dallas Tuesday night.
In the Wings shootout victory Friday against Anaheim there was a rare stretch of 3 on 3 overtime. There are many proponents of 3 on 3 to help decided more games before the shootout. A Corey Perry penalty ended the 3 on 3 session Friday night but not before Cam Fowler was sprung on a breakaway and was a goal post away from ending the Wings home winning streak. It was a brief, but tantalizing moment, the NHL should consider implementing as a 2 minute addition to the current 5 minute OT.
Also Friday night, Tomas Holmstrom played in his 1000th NHL game. His teammates gave him a snowmobile which he can use to get to next year's Winter Classic in Ann Arbor. Last night, Nick Lidstrom passed Alex Delvecchio for most games played as a Wing at 1550 and with it the most by a player with one team in NHL history.
Speaking of success at home the Blues are 15-0-3 in their last 18 and no opposing team will enjoy a first round place matchup against St. Louis. The Blues have stayed within reach of the Wings, 3 points back with 2 in hand, but their schedule isn't favourable. St. Louis has 7 more road games than the Red Wings down the stretch.
The Devils were rolling until a lacklustre effort against the Florida Panthers Saturday. Nevertheless, Peter DeBoer's team is emerging as a potential playoff spoiler. But, in a dramatic departure from the Devils years of glory, the lingering question marks in New Jersey are on defence and in goal.
In that loss to the Panthers, Steve Bernier scored his first goal in a year and a day, matching former Scott Gomez's lengthy dry spell, if not the attention that accompanied the Montreal forward's drought.
The Predators have cooled down since All Star break but will still be major factors in the Western Conference playoffs. Last week the Preds managed a point in shootout losses in both Vancouver and Boston. Every time I watch them I can't help but wonder how much better they'd be with Alexander Radulov in their lineup. The exiled Russian star is the game breaker Nashville lacks and who could put them over the top.
Amazing stat regarding the goal starved Los Angeles Kings. In Jonathan Quick's 24 losses this season the Kings have scored only 29 goals.
The Hawks free fall has been stunning and somewhat bewildering. It was interesting to hear Hawks excellent play by play man Pat Foley speculate on something being amiss regarding captain Jonathan Toews. Captain Serious has registered only 2 assists in the past 7 games. More unusual, his faceoff success over that time is 45.7, even after going 11-5 against the Coyotes Saturday night. That's a far cry from the 60 % plus that had Toews atop the NHL in faceoff success until recently. No Pat, I am not a doctor either, but you are probably onto something when you wondered aloud if Toews is playing hurt.
It was funny to hear Olli Jokinen tell TSN's Jermain Franklin that he went to McDonald's before ending a 15 game scoring drought ten days ago. Apparently, its been nothing but Happy Meals since as Jokinen has 5 goals in the last 5 games and leads the Flames in scoring with 46 points, on pace for 66 points and his best season since leaving Florida. Jokinen is much maligned but with a 3 million salary has been a bargain this year. If the Flames were sellers at the deadline the big Finn would be an intriguing pickup. Otherwise, he'll be a more expensive free agent July 1st.
Good to see Edmonton's Magnus Paajarvi finally score his first of the season in Ottawa. The Oilers sophomore is remains a high end talent who is an important piece in the Oilers rebuild. But, as one hockey man told me after the 2009 draft, Paajarvi will be a very good NHLer but won't be much more than a 20 goal scorer.
In the morning skate last week in San Jose, Joe Thornton lined up 3 pucks and fired 3 lasers by Thomas Greiss into the net. The Sharks are pleading with Joe to use that shot more. Todd McLellan believes the back pressure in the game is so good now that Thornton's pass first mentality of looking for the late man isn't available as frequently anymore. "Sometime the best play is a shot into the pads to create a rebound," said McLellan. Even Joe's father, Wayne implored his son to shoot more during a recent visit. Dad must have got Jumbo's attention because Thornton has 19 shots in the last 5 games.
Speaking of the Sharks, they embark this week on a nine game 16 day road trip to make way for a pro tennis tournament at the HP Pavilion. San Jose also has a franchise high 17 games in March. Coach McLellan acknowledges, that unlike previous years, the Sharks won't be able to fall asleep down the stretch. The jury is split on whether this stretch drive will make the Sharks more playoff ready or be overextended before the postseason begins.
Some great matchups ahead this week; Rangers at Bruins Tuesday night, Boston-Montreal on TSN Wednesday, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Saturday, and San Jose at Detroit Sunday among the highlight games of the next 7 days.