The Atlanta Thrashers will have plenty of chances to play spoiler over their last eight games of the season. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Season of the Dagger is upon us, folks, so what better way to prepare for the final stretch of the regular season than to identify those holding a proverbial Sword of Damocles in their arsenal.
Breaking off the medieval references before I am ostracized (I like beards and axes because I’m into heavy metal, not World of Warcraft), there are some fantastic spoiler scenarios coming up in the NHL schedule and a couple teams more than happy to play the role.
In the East, the heartbreakers are Toronto and Atlanta. The Leafs get the added bonus of giving several division rivals a rough ride the rest of the way out and will likely find their best opportunities for Schadenfreude on Saturday nights.
As has become lore in Hogtown this season, the Buds are uncannily good for the Hockey Night in Canada crowd, most recently knocking off the flailing Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. In fact, that marked the third time this season that Toronto came out on top of the Habs on the weekend’s best evening, matching the troika of triumphs the Leafs have hung on Pittsburgh in primetime play. Calgary, Philly and the Rangers have also found themselves slumming in the basement when they should have been shredding the boys in blue.
And guess who the Canadiens will be facing two Saturdays from now? Chances are that game will still matter in the standings for the Montreal side, but I’m sure the Toronto bunch will be more than happy to show up with upsets on their minds once again.
Similarly, the Atlanta Thrashers have become just hot enough lately to throw a wrench in the works of all teams in their path, without damaging their draft lottery odds too much in the process.
Center Todd White has been bending opponents to his will, as has fellow unlikely hero Rich Peverley, and the Dirty Birds will have plenty of spoiler opportunities from here on out. Of course, stubbing their toes Tuesday night against the Canadiens (a sloppy 6-3 loss) isn’t a great way to strike fear into the hearts of other playoff bubble teams, but ATL still has several chances to ruin fun from here on out.
As March becomes April, the Thrashers play Ottawa, Buffalo and Florida in succession. Given the Sens’ slim playoff hopes to begin with, a regulation loss to the Birds would spell certain doom. Similarly, Buffalo and Florida are also duking it out for the final seed in the East and the Panthers will actually take on Atlanta twice before the season ends.
Four tickets and four combo meals on Chick-Fil-A family night – $89. Spiking a divisional rival at the end of your season? Priceless.
THE GR8 HATE
Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin was visibly angry at TSN’s James Cybulski for asking him about his “muted” goal celebration after popping No. 51 on the season against the Leafs Tuesday night.
And with good reason.
The Ovie celebration story was four days old already and had nothing to do with the game. Goal No. 51 is not significant – Goal No. 50 is. Not only that, but Ovechkin had already faced a barrage of scrum reporters asking him the same tired questions about his 50th earlier in the day.
If anything is going to suck the life out of the exuberant Ovechkin as years go by, it’s dim members of the media hammering him with the same stupid questions over and over again, trying to suck one more story out of an overblown issue.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.