This week we said goodbye to a hockey legend as Pat Burns finally lost his battle to cancer at the age of 58.
The three-time NHL coach of the year and Stanley Cup winner with the Devils in 2003 touched the lives of many owners, coaches and players of today.
He will be missed by everyone, and a special hats off in this week’s Pucking Awesome Hat Trick for Coach Burns.
NOT SO STRONG ISLAND
The mess on Long Island has gone from bad to worse. Last week we had the inaugural NHL firing, as Scott Gordon was sent packing and Jack Capuano was named interim head coach. But that did not stop the bleeding, as the Islanders keep losing; 12 in a row now, and even their announcers do not want to watch them play.
So if the guy paid to watch them does not want to do that, how can Charles Wang expect fans to want to pay to see this club? Surprisingly, they have the second worst attendance, averaging 11,058 fans in their seven early home games. They can thank Phoenix and their ownership problems for not having the worst attendance; the Coyotes have averaged 10,265 fans in their eight early games.
You can look at the early injuries to top defenseman Mark Streit and scoring forward Kyle Okposo as signs that this season was going to be a tough one. Now the attention shifts to Capuano and whether this team can win a game.
I will be watching their games this week on Wednesday vs. the surprise Blue Jackets and Friday vs. the also struggling Devils and look for them to stop this extended and embarrassing losing streak.
WE ARE GOING STREAKING THE OTHER WAY
As the Islanders are going streaking backwards, their brethren at the bottom of the attendance rankings, the Phoenix Coyotes, have won six in a row. They have taken down the Blackhawks, Flames, Blues, Flames again, Oilers in a shootout and the Canucks.
They have made the streak interesting, as four of the games have been one-goal games. Ilya Bryzgalov has been standing tall for the Yotes, as he has five of those wins and a .924 save percentage during this streak.
Offensively, they have been winning without captain Shane Doan, who just returned Sunday from his lower body injury. Their big offseason acquisition Ray Whitney has been on fire with nine points during the streak.
With home games this week vs. the lowly Oilers on Tuesday and Friday with the Ducks, I will not only be looking to see if the Coyotes can keep this winning streak going, but I will also be looking to see if anyone will show up. This team proved the impossible last year as they fought for a playoff berth and will continue to do the same this year. Let’s just hope people in Glendale start caring.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
We have not gotten to do this feature in the Hat Trick yet this season because there has been so much to talk about, but this week we have a home series that I will be paying attention to. The Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings face the surprise Columbus Blue Jackets Friday in Columbus and then Sunday in the Motor City.
The Red Wings offense has been sizzling this year, as they lead the NHL with 3.67 goals per game. The Wings are being paced by the regulars of Pavel Datsyuk (22 points) and Henrik Zetterberg (20 points), but also some surprises like Dan Cleary’s nine goals and the good health of Johan Franzen (13 points in 17 games).
The hottest player in the NHL and this week’s NHL First Star of the Week is the Blue Jackets’ Rick Nash. The power forward had six goals this week, including two game-winning goals as Columbus won three straight on the West Coast. They gave the Kings their first home loss of the season and swept a three-game Pacific Coast road trip for the first time in franchise history.
I am sure these two hot teams and division opponents will produce two much-anticipated games this week. The Red Wings have dominated the series, winning 45 games, including five wins in six games last season, but with Columbus playing some of their best hockey, I will be watching to see if they can reverse that trend.