The NHL season is in the midst of its bye week period. The Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, and Montréal Canadiens all had the week off last week and returned to action Saturday. The other five teams in the division are currently on their breaks this week. The Ottawa Senators seven day break is the longest in the league. All teams will be back to normal come this Saturday.
Though it was somewhat of a quiet week, hockey was still played. Let’s dive in and see what went on.
Battle at the Bell Centre
The Boston Bruins and Montréal Canadiens took to the ice in Montréal in their first games back after their bye week. It was their first of four regular-season games they will play against each other this year. Going into the game, the Bruins were 13 points ahead of the Habs in the standings.
The teams traded goals in the first period as veterans Max Pacioretty and Brad Marchand both found the back of the net. Boston was the first to strike in the second when rookie, Jake DeBrusk roofed one over the shoulder of Carey Price on a breakaway. The Canadiens answered just minutes later. The teams again swapped goals later on in the period. After a scoreless third period, the teams went overtime tied at three. Five minutes of 3v3 yielded no winner, so it was up to a shootout to decide who was taking home two points.
Bruce Cassidy elected to go with a lineup that had been seen before. DeBrusk shot first, followed by David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy. This type of move builds confidence in young players. DeBrusk answered Paul Byron’s successful first round attempt. Tuukka Rask stopped Montréal’s next two attempts but both Pastrnak and McAvoy were unsuccessful as well. Brad Marchand finally ended it with a five hole goal after Alex Galchenyuk failed to capitalize in sudden death.
This win improved the Bruins point streak to 12 games. An overtime loss to the Dallas Stars yesterday pushed that streak to 13 games, going 9-0-4 in that stretch. They now sit in second place, three points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with three games in hand.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings were the other team that had their bye week began and end last week. They were welcomed back with back-to-back road games over the weekend against Pittsburgh and Chicago. On Saturday in Pittsburgh, the Red Wings lost 4-1 after Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel combined for nine points. Detroit bounced back on Sunday though, with a 4-0 showing against the Blackhawks. It was goaltender Petr Mrazek’s second shutout of the year, after he stopped all 27 shots he faced. Tyler Bertuzzi found the back of the net and what is his first career goal.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The mandatory break for the Lightning started on Friday, but it began on a somber note. On Thursday, in a 5-1 loss to the Calgary Flames, All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman left the game with a knee injury and is expected to be sidelined three – six weeks. When they return to action Thursday, things won’t be easy. They have a home game against the Vegas Golden Knights, then began an eight game road trip. Luckily for them, the All-Star weekend takes place the weekend of the 28th and will give players a few days off before finishing that road trip.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs return to action tonight when they take on the St. Louis Blues. Prior to the break, the Maple Leafs had struggled a little bit, only capturing six points in seven games. During the same time, the Boston Bruins were playing some of the best hockey in the league and leapfrogged Toronto in the standings. The Leafs now sit in third place, three points behind the Bruins with three more games played. The remaining two games the Leafs have against the Bruins are now crucial and could decide who gets to home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
The Florida Panthers season picks back up again on Friday, when they host the Vegas Golden Knights. As it stands now, the Panthers are eight points out of the final wild-card spot that the New York Islanders hold. However, the Panthers have two games in hand on the Islanders that could put them only four points out. Led by the young offensive talent they have, the Panthers will have a shot down the stretch to make things interesting.
Quick Notes –
– The Ottawa Senators have the longest mandated break in the league. They will return to play on Friday, against the St. Louis Blues, after seven days off. There break might have come at the perfect time though. In the week leading up to their time off, they lost Bobby Ryan, Nate Thompson, and Johnny Oduya to injury. Although Nate Thompson isn’t due back until after the All-Star break, the weeklong break will give Ryan and Oduya a chance to heal. If the Senators are going to pull off the crazy second half upset, everyone is going to need to be healthy.
– The Buffalo Sabres finally got their first win of the new year in their last game before their bye week. They return to action on Thursday, when they take on the New York Rangers. With the season so far out of reach, it’s going to come down to them and the Arizona Coyotes for the top pick in this year’s NHL entry draft. Currently, the Sabres are just four points of head of the Coyotes as the second half of the season gets underway.