The Anaheim Ducks could effectively end the race for first place in the Pacific Division when they visit the San Jose Sharks Saturday night.
Should the Ducks defeat the Sharks, it would give Anaheim 58 points and a 12-point lead on San Jose with the Sharks having only one game in hand. The Sharks could have narrowed the gap, but lost Thursday night to the Los Angeles Kings. Had they won, they would have gone into Saturday's matchup eight points in arrears of the Ducks with a game in hand.
Of course, if the Ducks keep playing the way they have through the first 34 games, they'll make a mockery of the race regardless of how the Sharks play. With just three regulation losses in 34 games, the Ducks are on pace for just seven defeats, which would be one fewer than the benchmark established by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.
And despite the extra points awarded with overtime and the shootout, this is one record that would stand up remarkably well against the others. First, the Canadiens played only 80 games that season, compared to the 82 the Ducks will play this season. And even though the Ducks have a total of six losses in overtime and shootouts, those games would have gone down as ties when compared to the Canadiens' record.
The Ducks are on pace for 135 points, which would be three more than that same Canadiens' team recorded to establish the NHL benchmark. But of their 56 points so far, four of them have been picked up in overtime/shootout victories.
GET YOUR TICKETS: Forget about Alex Ovechkin going against Ilya Kovalchuk. The Atlanta Thrashers thought of a much more novel way to promote their game against the Washington Capitals Friday night.
On their website, they show highlights of the fight-filled game between the two teams last month along with the words: Â“10 fighting majorsÂ…7 game misconductsÂ…3 suspensions. Be there for the rematch.Â”
Once the geniuses with the Thrashers' marketing department finished putting it together, they got up and went home, dragging their knuckles the entire way.
WHAT HAPPENED IN PHILLY?: While we're on the topic of record-setting teams, the Philadelphia Flyers go into their game against the Washington Capitals on pace for just 53 points this season, which would be a mind-boggling freefall of 48 points from last season.
That would also be an NHL record. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the most precipitous drop in points from one season to the next was experienced by the Detroit Red Wings, who went from 95 points in 1969-70 to 55 in 1970-71 (a 40-point drop).
The Flyers would actually make an interesting case study for other teams around the NHL. They would do well to take note of how a team that surpassed 100 points one season could keep its roster virtually intact and then become one of the worst teams in the league in the space of several months.
Ken Campbell's Cuts appears regularly only on The Hockey News.com. Want to get the inside edge from Ken himself? You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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