Northwest Notes: At the Olympic break
A snapshot of the Northwest Division
Olympians -- Paul Stastny (U.S.), Peter Budaj (Slovakia), Ruslan Salei (Belarus)
Gold: Joe Sacco. Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL's top coach in his rookie year? He's certainly a contender.
Silver: Craig Anderson. Avalanche's best goalie since Patrick Roy.
Bronze: Matt Duchene. Will be a 20-goal scorer -- and he just turned 19.
Better luck next time -- David Jones. Was emerging as another in the Avalanche's galaxy of young stars until suffering a serious knee injury.
After the break -- Anything could happen. The Avs could win the Northwest Division. They could miss the playoffs. Eleven of the final 21 games are at home. There are two three-game home stands. No road trip is longer than two games.
Olympians -- Ryan Kesler (U.S.), Roberto Luongo (Canada), Sami Salo (Finland), Daniel Sedin (Sweden), Henrik Sedin (Sweden), Pavol Demitra (Slovakia), Christian Ehrhoff (Germany)
Gold: Henrik Sedin. Even if he doesn't win a gold with Sweden, he is the Canucks' clear gold-medal winner.
Silver: Christian Ehrhoff. Former Shark has been an impact player on the blue line and doesn't get nearly enough recognition.
Bronze: Roberto Luongo. It's a good sign for the Canucks that he only gets the bronze. In past years, he has run away with the gold.
Better luck next time -- Daniel Sedin. He's been a medal-worthy performer when healthy, but he missed a bunch of games. The twins have never been better.
After the break -- The Canucks will play the final six games of their record-setting 14 game road trip. They don't return home until March 13, but when they do, they play there five times in eight days. After that, they have 10 games left -- five at home, five on the road. If they survive the road trip, they should be in great shape to win the division.
Olympians -- Jarome Iginla (Canada), Miikka Kiprusoff (Finland), Niklas Hagman (Finland)
Gold: Miikka Kiprusoff. The Flames are the weakest team offensively that is currently in a playoff spot. They can thank their goalie if they squeak into the postseason.
Silver: Mark Giordano. His career season is making up -- somewhat -- for the goal-scoring woes of Jay Bouwmeester.
Bronze: Jarome Iginla. Hey, his numbers aren't what we've become accustomed to, but he hasn't had a whole lot of help.
Better luck next time -- Somehow we think the Flames expected more from Jay Bouwmeester than two goals at this point in the season.
After the break -- Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter got busy two weeks before the Olympic break. Who knows what else he might have up his sleeve? The Flames will have only nine of 20 games at home after the break. That could be a good thing, considering they've been better on the road than at home. But in late March and early April, they have a six-game stretch in which five games will be on the road -- at the Islanders, Bruins, Capitals, Avalanche and Blackhawks. The lone home game in that sequence is against Phoenix. The stretch could decide the Flames' fate.
Olympians -- Denis Grebeshkov (Russia), Lubomir Visnovsky (Slovakia)
Gold: Oilers fans. What did they do to deserve this season?
Silver: Dany Heatley. Looks like he knew what he was doing when he rejected that trade.
Bronze: Dustin Penner. Not only is he having his best year as an Oiler, he's a plus player, a remarkable achievement given the team's poor record.
Better luck next time -- Devan Dubnyk is 0-6 with a goals-against average above 4.00 and a save percentage below 87 percent. One of these days, he's bound to get his first NHL win -- isn't he?
After the break -- Twelve of the final 20 games are on the road. The Oilers already are looking ahead to next season. They've got a lot of work to do.
Olympians -- Niklas Backstrom (Finland), Mikko Koivu (Finland), Antti Miettinen (Finland), Marek Zidlicky (Czech Republic), Martin Havlat (Czech Republic)
Gold: Mikko Koivu. The Wild's first fulltime captain appears headed to his career high in points.
Silver: Cal Clutterbuck. Though only 5-foot-10, 196 pounds, he's leading the NHL in hits.
Bronze: Guillaume Latendresse. A change of scenery early in the season has made a big difference for the former Canadien and has been a boost for the Wild, too.
Better luck next time -- Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The playmaking center suffered a concussion in the season opener and has not played since. Best wishes for full health and a return to the ice as soon as possible.
After the break -- The Wild are going to have to get very hot down the stretch to make the playoffs. A poor start has left them chasing all season long. What's that about how a team can't make the playoffs in the first month of the season but it can miss the playoffs in the first month of the season? Ten of the last 21 games are at home, and no road trip down the stretch is longer than three games. The Wild have been abysmal away from home.
Author: Roger Phillips