What we learned from the last week of play in the NHL:
The Ducks have forgotten how to score
Just when it seemed the Ducks had gotten their act together by winning 11 of 13 games, they fell apart. They were outscored 9-2 in losing to the New York Rangers, Boston and Buffalo, and they will be at San Jose on Thursday for the last of six straight road games. Which team are they?
“Everyone wants to put a label on everything all the time. Last week we were the No. 1 team in the league and everyone asked if this was the team I thought we would be and if this was a Cup team and all that kind of stuff,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf told reporters in Buffalo. “You have peaks and valleys throughout the year. It’s about maintaining a style of play. The last two games I didn’t think we maintained that style of play.”
One consolation for the Ducks: Four of their prospects will represent their respective homelands in the World Junior Championships, which start Wednesday and run through Jan. 5 in Vancouver and Victoria, Canada. Olle Eriksson Ek and Isac Lundestrom will play for Sweden, Lukas Dostal will play for the Czech Republic and Max Comtois will play for Canada. The NHL Network will televise the tournament, which provides a great peek at future stars.
Tampa Bay is the class of the NHL
The Lightning rolled into the Christmas break with wins over Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, improving their December record to 10-0-1 and solidifying their hold on the points lead with 58 (28-7-2). Overall, the Lightning have a 12-game point streak (11-0-1). Right wing Nikita Kucherov led Tampa Bay past Edmonton with the first five-point performance of his career (a goal and four assists), and he scored nine points in his last three games.
With 16 goals and 57 points he’s closing in on league scoring leader Mikko Rantanen of Colorado (16 goals, 59 points). Tampa Bay is averaging a league-high 4.08 goals per game but is keeping goals out of its net too: Goaltender Andre Vasilevsky ranks second in save percentage at .928 and seventh in goals-against average at 2.39. Their power play ranks first with a 28.9% success rate. They’re well-rounded and deep and will continue to be a force.
The Wild is more like the Meek
Minnesota has always been one of those teams with more talent than success. The Wild won two playoff series in nine seasons under general manager Chuck Fletcher, who was let go in the spring and was replaced by Paul Fenton, and their four-game losing streak doesn’t bode well for making the playoffs this season. It won’t help that mobile and productive defenseman Matt Dumba will be out long-term because of an upper-body injury that’s expected to require surgery.
“There’s no doubt he was coming into his own as a young player maturing into becoming one of the better offensive defensemen in the league. So it’s a blow, but we have to get over it and not feel sorry for ourselves,” coach Bruce Boudreau told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
They also have to find ways to score: They’ve produced three goals in their last four games.
Hail the Whale
The Carolina Hurricanes paid tribute to their past Sunday by wearing replicas of their old Hartford Whalers jerseys. The vivid green gear was wonderful, and each Hurricanes goal was celebrated with a chorus of “Brass Bonanza,” the song so strongly identified with the Whalers.
Powered by the whale tail, the Hurricanes ended the Boston Bruins’ three-game winning streak with a 5-3 victory. The Hurricanes should wear those Whalers uniforms more often.
The Golden Knights aren’t living the dream anymore
Everything seemed to go right for Vegas in its storybook debut season, which ended in June with a loss to Washington in the Stanley Cup Final. All those things are going wrong for them now. The Golden Knights (20-15-4) went into the Christmas break with overtime losses to Montreal and the Kings and were 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. They’ve had a lot of injuries but they’ve also had a lot of disjointed performances.
“It's Christmastime and it just seemed like the last two games we had no jump, no energy and probably a lot of family in town,” coach Gerard Gallant said after his team’s loss to the Kings on Sunday. “And you’ve got to be focused to play in the NHL and play well every night, and to me it didn't look like we were focused enough.”
Vegas was 23-9-2 at the Christmas break last season and was 27-10-2 after 39 games.
“It seems like we have been slipping assignments a little bit and they have cost us,” forward Reilly Smith said.