Last week we took a look at some ongoing trends around the NHL. Oh, what a difference a week makes.
Well, maybe for some teams. The New Jersey Devils (still winning all of their games) and Boston Bruins (who remain undefeated at home) are cruising. The Vegas Golden Knights regressed slightly during the week, but are still on top of the Western Conference standings.
All 32 teams are off on Thanksgiving Day. Many teams have a lot for which to be thankful, as you'll see in the five things I'm interested in this week.
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The Thanksgiving standings
What Thanksgiving symbolizes, other than the 30% off sales on electronics and furniture the day after, is the significance of teams that are in playoff positions come "Turkey Day." From 2005-06 through 2018-19 (the last season not impacted by COVID), 76% of teams in playoff position on Thanksgiving have gone on to make the playoffs, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
Basically, there's a great chance you get in if you're in this Thursday.
This is terrific news for teams like the Devils, New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, Winnipeg Jets, Golden Knights, and Seattle Kraken; all of those teams missed the playoffs last season and are (at least as of Sunday) in playoff position. That also means that a big batch of teams who made it last season are currently on the outside looking in (including the reigning Presidents' Trophy winning Florida Panthers, who are two points out of a wild-card spot).
Since maximum chaos brings maximum entertainment in hockey, bring on the madness!
Can the Devils keep the streak going?
I love to see records broken. The NHL record for consecutive wins is 17, set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins. After their 12th straight win -- Saturday against the Ottawa Senators -- the Devils are one away from their franchise win streak record of 13, set in 2000-01.
This won't be an easy week to extend the streak, though. Monday is a game against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, Wednesday is Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs, then possible trap games against the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals.
The record-tying game would be Monday, Nov. 28 ... at Madison Square Garden against the rival New York Rangers. Who wouldn't want to see that?
If they get past their archrivals at the "World's Most Famous Arena," the Devils could make history on Dec. 1 at home against the Nashville Predators.
How about a regulation win for Anaheim?
The Anaheim Ducks have played 18 NHL games this season, and have won five of them.
The Anaheim Ducks have won exactly zero of those games in regulation.
The next three games are critical: The Ducks play the Blues, Rangers and Senators. If they fail to capture a regulation win any of those games, they will set the NHL record for most games to start a season without one. The current titleholders are the 2017-18 Arizona Coyotes, who needed 20 games to get a regulation W.
The Ducks could also use a lead going into the third period. Anaheim has not held a lead going into the final frame of any game this season. That's the fourth-longest streak in NHL history, and four more games would see them surpass the 2021-22 Coyotes for the record.
New York vs. Los Angeles
There's something special about the two biggest cities in the country facing off. We're always there for Knicks-Lakers, Dodgers-Yankees, even Shake Shack vs. In-N-Out. (In our opinion, In-N-Out is the better value and fries, while Shake Shack is the better quality burger.)
Sometimes there's no more explanation needed than a good old-fashioned East vs. West battle. Such is the case with the Rangers vs. the Kings, who play in L.A. on Tuesday. The best part is that both teams are quite good. Two points separate them in the standings, both are in playoff position and there are superstars on both rosters.
The rivalry has good history, including the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. But because they are in different conferences, we don't see this matchup all too much. It always feels fresh enough every time the two square off.
The anniversary of 'Blades of Steel'
This week in 1988, one of the most celebrated hockey home video games of all time was released in multiple parts of the world, including Europe and Japan. "Blades of Steel" was a staple of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the '80s console that ignited the video game industry. The big debate among '80s kids and retro game enthusiasts is which NES hockey game is better: "Blades of Steel" or "Ice Hockey"?
In "Ice Hockey," you could choose the size of your four-player team, from among big, medium and small players. The big player was slow but tough to get off the puck and had a hard shot; the little player was tall and lanky, easy to hit but skated fast, and medium was ... well, in the middle.
Meanwhile, "Blades of Steel" had essentially the same player attributes for everyone on the ice, but the game played smooth, with a better manual goalie system and even some commentary -- and a unique penalty shot system.
"Ice Hockey" had team fights that looked like if Pigpen from Peanuts just ran in a circle really fast as players got tossed out and skated back in, while "Blades of Steel' had a great fighting mechanic where you basically controlled a boxing match. Both games had perhaps the greatest rule change from normal hockey ever: if you lost the fight, you got a penalty. Amazing. Talk about going to the box and feeling double the shame.
As a kid I was an "Ice Hockey" fan, but as I've gotten older, "Blades of Steel" simply holds up better.