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NHL: pluses and minuses around the league

The Blackhawks' streak was remarkable and Jeff Carter has rebuilt his reputation. The Flyers' Chris Pronger is still having concussion issues and the Lightning better get ready for long plane trips.

March 11, 2013|By Helene Elliott
  • Chicago Blackhawks right wing Michael Frolik (67) skates back to the bench as members of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate a goal.
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Michael Frolik (67) skates back to the bench… (David Zalubowski / Associated…)

Pluses

The Chicago Blackhawks' point streak from the start of the season, which ended Friday at 21-0-3, was extraordinary for many reasons. Thirteen players had at least one game-winning goal and Patrick Kane scored a team-leading 27 points. The most goals the Hawks gave up was four, to Phoenix on Jan. 20, and they scored five or more five times. They gave up only nine power-play goals and yielded two in a game only once, to the Kings on Feb. 17. Before losing to Colorado, the Blackhawks had won a franchise-record 11 straight games — and their franchise entered the NHL in 1926. They'll have to be careful now to avoid an emotional letdown.

The Montreal Canadiens have been a big surprise in the Eastern Conference, winning on the strength of an ensemble effort supported by Carey Price's strong goaltending. Coach Michel Therrien has done a good job but now will go at least 10 days without gritty winger Brandon Prust, who suffered a shoulder separation on Saturday.

Forward Jeff Carter arrived in Los Angeles with a tarnished reputation. His party-boy reputation led the Philadelphia Flyers to trade him to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he was criticized for pouting his way out of Columbus in a trade for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round draft pick. Carter has redeemed himself, scoring eight goals and 13 points in the Kings' Stanley Cup drive and 17 goals this season, tied for second in the NHL to Steven Stamkos' 19 for Tampa Bay.

Minuses

Sad to hear that Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger still lacks peripheral vision and can't tolerate loud noises or bright lights after suffering head injuries in two incidents early in the 2011-12 season. He last played on Nov. 19, 2011. "At times I can be disoriented. I can lose my train of thought," he said during a news conference last week in Philadelphia. "My cognitive skills are a little suspect at times. It comes and goes on certain days."

No team has had a better chance to build through the draft than the Edmonton Oilers, who chose Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov with three consecutive No. 1 picks. But the team is stuck at or near the bottom of the West, with a chance at another No. 1 pick. Management must examine why its rebuilding hasn't produced better results.

Realignment will hurt the Tampa Bay Lightning, which will be in a division with Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Its shortest trip after Florida is 984 miles to Detroit, and it will have more time-consuming border crossings. But General Manager Steve Yzerman will go along with it. "The commissioner has to do what he feels is right for the entire league and I respect that," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. I understand the reasons it's done and accept that."

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