NHL: Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins all take to the rink
The regular NHL season is heading into the final stages and there’s still lots to play for with the Stanley Cup play-offs on the horizon. This week’s biggest games are the Montreal Canadiens v Winnipeg Jets, and Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins, so let’s break them down.
Montreal Canadiens back on track after recent dip
The Canadiens are well-placed to reach the playoffs, as at the time of writing, they are fourth in the Scotia North with a 21-17-9 record. However, they came unstuck against the Calgary Flames when they lost back-to-back games. They responded well earlier this week when they overcame the same side 2-1 so there’s no need to press the panic button just yet
There are six points between the Canadiens and the Flames, and goaltender Jake Allen made 21 saves for the Canadiens en route to victory. Also, at the time of writing, the Canadiens have a game in hand over their fellow play-off hopefuls.
Winnipeg Jets desperate for response after heavy defeat against Edmonton Oilers
For large chunks of the campaign, the Jets have been superb and entertaining. However, like Friday evening’s opponents the Canadiens, the Jets have seen their form nosedive. There have been some heavy defeats, including the 6-1 mauling at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers earlier this week, and this will need to be addressed quickly.
Jets suffer untimely Nikolaj Ehlers blow
For a side harbouring hopes of lifting the Stanley Cup, the Jets were dealt an untimely blow. They learned Nikolaj Ehlers will be sidelined for the rest of the season with an upper-body injury. Ehlers has been superb this term, firing 21 goals and supplying 25 assists in 47 games. It remains to be seen whether Ehlers will play some part in the post season games.
Washington Capitals in good shape ahead of Pittsburgh Penguin series
The Washington Capitals still lead the MassMutual East as we enter the final stretch of the regular campaign, having amassed 68 points from 49 games. They warmed up for their back-to-back games with Pittsburgh Penguins by clinching a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders earlier this week.
Washington Capitals continue to monitor Alex Ovechkin ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins clash
From a Capitals perspective, the injuries are beginning to mount up. Alex Ovechkin sat out practice earlier this week, and he missed the win over the Islanders. Capitals coach Peter Laviolette confirmed that Ovechkin has been nursing a lower-body injury, and it is unclear yet whether he will be passed fit for Saturday evening’s encounter against the Penguins.
Similarly, defenceman Justin Schultz missed the victory over the Islanders with a lower-body injury. Ovechkin, however, is arguably a bigger blow. His contribution must not be understated, as he has scored 24 goals for the Capitals this term. If the Capitals can get past the Penguins unscathed, then they will relish the following games which take in the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Despite falling to a 3-1 defeat to the Boston Bruins earlier this week, the Penguins are still in the play-off picture. They are right on the coattails of the Washington Capitals, and the top-of-the-table clash this weekend has all the ingredients to be a classic!
Las Vegas Golden Knights won’t hold up in sprint for the finish line
Although the Las Vegas Golden Knights have a four-point cushion at the top of the Honda West, they won’t allow complacency to creep in. They have been scoring goals for fun as of late, and earlier this week they dismantled the Anaheim Ducks with ease as they romped to a 5-1 win.
Similarly, Minnesota Wild have been in a rich vein of form. They have racked up six wins on the trot, and earlier this week, they stormed to a 6-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. The Wild will also be boosted by their record against the Golden Knights. Of the 14 clashes, the Wild have won 10 of these.
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