Originally written on The Victory Formation  |  Last updated 11/30/11

After a Thanksgiving hiatus, the one-three-one returns to you this week as your hockey roundup of sorts. Some changes were made on benches in the league this week but it appears we have one constant source of electricity in the NHL and it plays in an arena that is supposedly the Mecca of basketball. Instead of just one goal this week, we bring you the top 3 since there was a little break in this feature. We begin today with the short little fella on our right though.

The Washington Capitals were one of the hottest teams in the NHL to start the season. They jumped out to a huge point lead in the Southeast division and claimed the spot they’d been in for the last 5 seasons running. In the last 3 weeks though the Caps have seen themselves capture just 7 of 22 points. They now sit five points behind the Florida Panthers (we’ll get to them later). On Monday, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis decided it was time for a change and fired Bruce Boudreau. Dale Hunter, a former captain of the Capitals squad, has come into replace him and his first task will be to locate Alex Ovechkin as he’s gone missing over that awful stretch for the Capitals.

Now, this is still a very talented hockey team with deep playoff run aspirations. The year the Penguins won the Stanley Cup they fired Michel Therrien mid-season and hired Dan Bylsma. This is just the kick in the pants the Capitals need to get out of their current rut. Sometimes it’s just a new voice that’s needed in the locker room. However, if the game I attended last week in DC is any indication, there’s a couple thousand new voices needed in the Verizon Center because unless the Capitals score, that place is a morgue.

We move to where this feature originally started two weeks ago… the absolutely blazin’ New York Rangers. Now, there are some out there that might tell you that this team just doesn’t have the peripheral numbers to sustain this kind of success. They don’t get enough shots on net. Don’t worry, Torts has that covered. They don’t have solid special teams. Hank Lundqvist is doing just fine at the .897 league average on the kill, no worries about regression there. But… but… No. No more buts. This team is legit and they’ve ripped off 8 of their last 10. They sit just three points behind the Penguins with four games in hand.

Last year we were told that Tim Thomas couldn’t sustain such a sparkling stat line. This year it’s Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers are fine with you telling them what they can’t do and are focusing on what they can do.

Puttering around .500 over the last couple weeks are the Chicago Blackhawks. This was a team that came out and captured 18 of its first 26 possible points. Since then, it’s been a struggle. The Hawks are still leading the Central division but find St. Louis and Detroit much closer than they were before in the rearview. It’s been an assortment of problems. From goaltending, to forechecking, to the once strong penalty kill that’s been traded in for an upgraded powerplay it seems. Consistency is escaping the Hawks and that points to one thing.

The bench.

Joel Quenneville sometimes hits all 7s when he pulls his slot machine line generator. It’s been showing up with whammies for the most part as they struggle to find the correct combinations on lines. You can’t give players talent as a coach, but you can demand effort. If Chicago doesn’t start showing more consistent efforts game in and game out, the best mustache in sports could find himself in hot water while his team struggles to come to a boil.

The Florida Black Panthers on the other hand have been showing consistent effort every game. They’re not going to blow people away defensively nor are they notching seven goals a night. Still, they’ve got the Southeast division lead and the rest of the division is floundering. I certainly didn’t have them tabbed as a playoff contender this season without Tomas Vokoun. Now? They’re very much in the discussion for making the tournament in the East. Let’s see where they stand come January though. Lots of cap room to make a deal.

This week’s final creamy middle resides in New Jersey. The Devils are almost impossible to figure out. Some nights they’re world beaters. Others, they require a shootout to get past the lowly Blue Jackets. Their division does them no favors with the Penguins, aforementioned Rangers and Flyers all playing well right now. Ilya Kovalchuk would probably fit well in an Indian Head as he’s got the same consistency problems. Martin Brodeur didn’t fully throw him under the bus last week, but he did make sure to let him know that he can’t stand on his head every game. It’d be nice if the Devils captain could move off that 12 point mark he’s been stuck on as well. Patrik Elias has been the only forward with consistent production.

Hart Trophy Leaderboard

  1. Phil Kessel
  2. Claude Giroux
  3. Henrik Lundqvist
  4. Kris Versteeg
  5. Sidney Crosby (yes, really)
Top three sniper shots since we last did this feature:

Jordan Staal undresses Cam Ward. Seems to be a common theme these days for Carolina who just fired Paul Maurice.

Steve Montador not only saved a goal in his own end, but joined the play on a nice pass from Patrick Kane.

Evgeni Malkin is now just the 2nd most dangerous scoring threat in Pittsburgh. After watching this, that’s scary.

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