New York Rangers hit the jackpot with Michael Grabner

With 30-year-old Austrian winger Michael Grabner being eligible for free agency in July, there's a good chance the New York Rangers will deal him by the Feb. 26th trade deadline. If they do, Grabner should fetch a fine return since he's been red hot on Broadway over the past two seasons. The Rangers signed him to a two-year contract as a free agent prior to the 2016/17 season at just $1.65 million a year. The club has already gotten its money's worth out of the speedster and this could be greatly compounded if he's traded by the deadline.

After scoring just nine goals and nine assists in 80 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015/16, Grabner's signing in New York was seen as nothing more than a minor deal. However, his career's now back on track after lighting up the lamp on a regular basis. The right winger was originally drafted 14th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2006. He scored 11 points for the Canucks in 20 games in 2009/10 and also racked up 120 points in 180 appearances for the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. Yet for some reason Vancouver traded him to the Florida Panthers in June of 2010.

In another odd move, Florida then placed Grabner on waivers at the start of the 2010/11 season and unsurprisingly he was taken quickly by the New York Islanders. Grabner's 34 goals and 52 points that season proved the Islanders had made a shrewd move by picking him up. He scored the eighth-most goals and even-strength markers in the NHL and was named to the All-Rookie Team. Grabner's goal production dipped steadily after his first season on the island though as he scored 20, 16, 12 and eight times over the next four campaigns before being traded to Toronto.

Things didn't improve with the Leafs either, but he suddenly caught fire when he signed with the Rangers. Grabner's first season back in the Big Apple resulted in 27 goals and 13 assists in 76 contests and a plus-22 ranking. Twenty-six of his goals and 37 of his 40 points came with his team at even strength and he added four goals and six points in a dozen playoff outings. Grabner's kept up the pace this season with 25 goals and six assists in his first 59 games, which ranked him 16th in goals scored. He's also a plus-11 on the struggling team and has been a standout once again at even strength with all but one of his goals coming five-on-five.

This places Grabner in the top five for even-strength goals over the past two seasons as he placed ninth last year and is currently ranked third this season. His shooting percentage was 16.7 last season to rank sixth-best in the league and it's improved to 19.1 this year, which is fourth-best for all players with at least 15 goals. With his explosive speed, Grabner is a breakaway threat every time he's on the ice and he's also become an excellent penalty killer because of it. He's also a streak scorer as he's been top 10 in the league three times for hat tricks in a season. In addition, he's been top-five in shorthanded goals on two occasions.

It's likely the Rangers will deal Grabner by the trade deadline since the club looks set to miss the playoffs and plans on entering a rebuilding stage. He should be worth quite a bit on the trade market due to his performance over the past two years, his age and his salary. When free agency rolls around next summer there's a good chance Grabner's fine play since 2016 will result in a considerable pay raise. And although he hasn't picked up many assists with the Rangers, his goal tally has been quite impressive.  

Sidney Crosby passes 400 NHL-goal plateau

After going 10 games without a goal, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby finally broke his slump on Feb. 11th with a pair of them in a 4-1 road win over the S. Louis Blues. They were just his fourth and fifth markers in the past 23 games, but were milestone tallies as they were the centre's 400th and 401st goals of his illustrious career. Crosby notched his 400th at the 3:31 mark of the second period and then added another at the 17:12 mark of the third with an empty netter to seal the victory. With the goals, Crosby became the 95th player to score at least 400 times in NHL history and he's also the seventh active player to reach the milestone.

Crosby said he was just happy to finally score a goal after his 10-game drought and it was a bonus since it was a milestone marker and his father was in the stands to witness it. He added that it seemed like he hadn't scored forever and he was relieved when he saw the puck trickle over the goal line. Crosby now has 18 goals on the season and will undoubtedly reach the 20-goal mark again. He scored at least 20 times in 10 of his first 12 NHL campaigns, but his output is down considerably this year considering he led the league last season with 44 goals. His best goal-scoring output in the NHL has been 51 goals in the 2009/10 season.

As far as the other current 400-goal scorers go, Jaromir Jagr is leading the way for active players with 766. However, he recently left the Calgary Flames to join HC Kladno in his native Czech Republic. Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is next with 591 followed by Patrick Marleau of the Toronto Maple Leafs who has 526. The Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa has 525 goals, but is sitting out this season due to a skin condition. Rick Nash of the New York Rangers has netted 433 goals while Marian Gaborik of the Los Angeles Kings is the other active 400-goal scorer at 403.

Crosby's 400th goal came in his 839th regular-season game. He now has 401 goals along with 688 assists for 1,089 points. However, he's still quite a way behind Mario Lemieux as the franchise's all-time leading scorer as Lemieux racked up 1,723 points during his career. Crosby was drafted first overall by Pittsburgh in 2005 and it's interesting to note that he's 190 goals behind Ovechkin, who was the top draft pick a year earlier. Ovechkin has 1,095 career points in 976 games, so he's scores at a lower point-per-game rate and is yet to win a Stanley Cup while Crosby has three of them under his belt.

Still, both Crosby and Ovechkin have been a credit to the game and are surefire Hall of Famer's as soon as they're eligible. Crosby currently ranked sixth in scoring for active players as of Feb. 12Th, 2018 as Jagr was tops with 1,921 points followed by the injured Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks with 1,427. Hossa was next at 1,134 followed by Marleau with 1,111 and Ovechkin at 1,095.

Bruins' Zdeno Chara plays 1,400th NHL game:

Boston Bruins' captain Zdeno Chara reached another impressive milestone in his illustrious NHL career on February 3rd when he appeared in his 1,400th regular-season NHL contest. The big blue liner from Slovakia made it count too as Boston downed Atlantic Division rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at home. And although he's going to turn 41 on his next birthday, Chara says he has no intention of retiring and would like to extend his career by a few more years if possible. The win against the Leafs proved Chara still has what it takes to be a leader in the NHL as he was on the ice for 24 minutes, finished the game a plus 2 and killed off five minutes worth of penalties. He also helped shut down the Leafs' speedy forwards such as Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Auston Matthews.

The future Hall of Famer finished the game tied for first place in the league with a Plus 27 mark on the season, the same as forward William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights. Chara has been playing the same way ever since he broke into the league with the New York Islanders in 1997/98 when he was drafted 56th overall in 1996. He was then traded to the Ottawa Senators in 2001/02 and finally ending up with the Bruins in 2006/07 when he signed as a free agent. He's played 870 of his 1,400 games with the Bruins and helped them win a Stanley Cup in the 2010/11 campaign. Chara has four goals and 10 assists this season with 192 goals and 426 assists for 618 points in his career. He's a plus 245 in his 1,400 games and has added 59 points in 147 playoff outings. Fans should also remember he's a seven-time All Star and won the Norris Trophy in 2008/09.

Chara said his longevity is due to the support he received from his parents when he was growing up as well as his wife and children in the past few years. He admitted that the milestone game was a special moment in his career and he also owes a lot to his current and former teammates as well as all of the coaches he's played for and of course the fans. Currently, the 6-foot-9-inch defender ranks fourth on the all-time games played list for active players and ranks 39th in history. The only current players who have appeared in more contests than Chara are Jaromir Jagr at 1,733), Patrick Marleau with 1,547 Joe Thornton at 1,493 and Matt Cullen with 1,416 games under his belt.

Chara may soon find himself at number three on the current list though since it looks like Jagr and the Calgary Flames will be parting ways and his NHL career may finally be coming to an end. He said he still enjoys playing the game, competing and working hard on the ice every night and still believes he can improve and learn new things even at his age. He added that as long as he still feels great and can be an effective player then he won't be thinking about hanging up his skates. Chara will turn 41 before the NHL season ends and the ways he's performing it's expected that the Bruins will try to re-sign him for another year or two once his contract expires in June.

All Star festivities over: NHL enters stretch run

With the NHL All Star weekend over the league now enters the stretch run with most teams having a busy time of it until the end of the regular season. With each club having a Christmas break, a five-day bye and another break for the All-Star Game it's no wonder the NHL campaign is a marathon affair. The playoff drive starts in earnest now with the majority of teams still having a chance at making the postseason. However, a few of the stragglers such as the Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes will need a minor miracle to play more than 82 games this year.

The 31 teams all have between 31 and 35 games remaining in the 82-game schedule with 10 weeks to go before the postseason. Those who have playoff ambitions may attempt to fine-tune their rosters between now and trade deadline day which falls upon us on February 26th. Just before things start to heat up later this week, we'll take a look back at the All-Star weekend at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Florida and review the games and skills competitions in case you happened to miss them.

As for the games themselves, which continue to use the three-on-three format, the Pacific Division won the $1 million prize by downing the Atlantic Division 5-2. It was the second time the Pacific has won the All-Star event since the format was changed three years ago and the third time they've reached the final. Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks was the scoring hero in the final game with a pair of goals to his name, which were the first and last of the contest. Other Pacific goals came courtesy of Vancouver Canucks' rookie right winger Brock Boeser, Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau and Los Angeles Kings blueliner Drew Doughty.

Boeser was named the Most Valuable Player of the event with a pair of goals and an assist in the Pacific's two victories as he helped his team crush the Central Division 5-2 in their opener. The 20-year-old scored the game winner against the Central and then added a goal and assists in the final. Boeser was awarded a 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid for being named MVP. Mario Lemieux was the only other rookie to take home the MVP award in the game's history as he achieved the feat back in the 1984/85 event. The Atlantic Division reached the final by downing the Metropolitan Division 7-4 in their first game. Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov was the scoring hero of that outing with a hat trick under his belt.

The All-Star Game took place on Sunday afternoon, while the players put their skills to the test in a series of six competitions the night before. The fastest skater award went to Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers for the second year in a row with a time of 13.454 seconds for a lap around the rink. He was followed by Brayden Point of Tampa Bay at 13.579 seconds with Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres placing third out of the eight participants at 13.828 seconds. The passing challenge was won by
defenceman Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues at 46.610 seconds. Eric Staal of the Minnesota Wild was second at 54.679 seconds and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins was third at 1:00.015.

The save streak competition gave the goalies a chance to shine and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights took first place with 14 straight saves. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators had a streak of 13 straight stops to place second while Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers came third with a five-save streak. When it came to the puck control relay, Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames won it with a time of 24.650 seconds. John Tavares of the New York Islanders was second at 28.242 seconds with Connor McDavid coming in third at 29.220 seconds.

The hardest shot contest was won by Russian sniper and future Hall of Famer Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals at 101.3 miles-per-hour. He also had the second-hardest shot in the event at 98.8 mph while defenceman P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators had the third-hardest shot at 98.7 mph. The accuracy shooting competition was topped by rookie Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks with a time of 11.136 seconds. Veteran forward Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils was second best at 11.626 seconds and he was followed by another veteran forward as James Neal of the Vegas Golden Knights posted a time of 14.262 seconds.

Boston Bruins streaking to the top of the NHL

With a current 16-game point streak of 12-0-4 the Boston Bruins are suddenly a legitimate contender for the President's Trophy, which will be handed out to the NHL's top team at the end of the regular season. As of Jan. 22nd the Bruins were sitting at 62 points with a record of 27-10-8. They were in second place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, just three points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning with a game in hand. In fact, the Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights were the only two squads ahead of the Bruins in the 31-team league with Tampa being the only club to have a better goal difference than Boston's plus 38.

The last time Boston tasted defeat in regulation time came back on December 14th when they were edged 5-3 at home by the Washington Capitals. In the meantime, they've outscored their opponents to the tune of 64-19 during their 16-game streak. Team-wise, the Bruins have the eighth-best power play in the league (21.1%), the sixth-best penalty killing (83.5%), the fifth-most goals per game (3.27) and the second-ranked goals-against average at 2.44 goals-per-game. However, while it's been a total team effort, there's no denying the club has been led by the red-hot line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

They've been getting good secondary-scoring support from Ryan Spooner, David Backes, David Krejci and Danton Heinen while Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy have been providing offence from the blue line. Boston has quite a bit of depth and this enables head coach Bruce Cassidy to roll four solid and effective forward lines each and every game without worrying about matching lines against the opposition on a regular basis. The play of goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin has been solid if not spectacular and 40-year-old veteran defenceman and team captain Zdeno Chara has been exceptional at killing penalties and is still playing well over 20 minutes a game.

But while the veterans are all contributing, this Bruins team still features up to half a dozen rookies in the lineup each night such as McAvoy, Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly and Matt Grzelcyk. Things are looking pretty good for Boston right now, but that could all change once the dog days of the schedule come around in March when the team has a busy 16 games on the schedule. It'll be interesting to see how the youngsters handle the workload once the final playoff push arrives and to see if Pastrnak, Bergeron and Marchand can keep up their production.

The line's 200-foot success may have taken some fans by surprise considering that Marchand was the only one of the trio to be sitting in the league's top-25 scorers by Jan. 21st. He had  48 points from 20 goals and 28 assists in 37 games which saw him ranked 17th in the scoring race. But the driving force behind this team may very well be Bergeron with his timely goals and overall veteran leadership qualities. He's been as reliable as ever in both ends of the rink and could very well become the first NHL player to win four Frank Selke Trophies as the league's top defensive forward. He's currently tied with former Montreal Canadiens great and Hall of Famer Bob Gainey at four apiece.

With an 18-point lead over the fourth-place team in their division, the current streak has basically wrapped up a playoff spot for the Bruins unless they totally collapse in their final 37 games. They might as well shoot for the moon now though as first place in the league is well withing their grasp.  

Dallas Stars' John Klingberg quietly becoming elite NHL defenceman

Most NHL teams don't expect to get an elite NHL defenceman with a fifth round draft pick (131st overall) and the Dallas Stars were no exception when they took John Klingberg out of Sweden  in 2010. However, the 25-year-old from Gothenburg has been a pleasant surprise for the club. At just 5-feet-11-inches tall and 165 lbs as a junior in his homeland, Klingberg has grown to a solid 6-foot-2 and 180 lbs. and is now one of the Star's alternate captains. He's also a bargain for the team at the moment with a salary of $3.5 million per year.

Klingberg's game improved after being drafted as he more or less remained in Europe until the 2014/15 season when he dressed in a 10 games for the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League (AHL). Between 2010 and 2014, the young defenceman's skills, stamina, and skating were noticed by Swedish hockey officials and he was suddenly found himself playing for the country's national team. Klingberg racked up four goals and eight assists in his 10-game stint with the Stars' AHL team and it was no surprise when he got the call up to the NHL.

He proved he wasn't just a flash in the pan as he was one of the league's top rookies in 2014/15 with 11 goals and 29 assists for 40 points in just 65 games and was a plus-5. He led rookie defencemen in scoring and came in sixth in Calder Trophy voting for rookie of the year and was named to the league's All Rookie Team as a reward for his fine play. The blueliner didn't suffer from the sophomore jinx as he racked up 10 goals and 48 assists for 58 points in his second season with a mark of plus-22 in 76 games. He also led the league as he was on the ice for 132 goals for. His production dropped off slightly last season with 49 points from 13 goals and 36 assists in 80 games while going plus-2. However, he's back on track again this campaign with six goals and 34 assists and is plus-9 as of Jan. 15th.

Overall, Klingberg's played in 264 regular-season games and has chipped in with 40 goals and 146 assists for 186 points and is plus-41. Twelve of his 40 career goals have been game-winners and he leads all NHL defenceman in assists and scoring this season and is tied for 31st in overall scoring. Therefore, being named to the All-Star Game in Tampa, Florida on the Jan. 27/28th weekend shouldn't have come as a surprise to NHL fans. John isn't the first member of his family to play in the NHL, but he's the first to play in an All Star Game. His older brother Carl Klingberg played a dozen times between 2010 and 2015 with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise.

But while Klingberg treats Dallas fans to his exceptional skills game after game, he's rarely mentioned in conversations regarding the James Norris Trophy. However, he did come in sixth in voting for the Norris Trophy for the 2015/16 season. This is a bit of a surprise considering the right-handed defenceman's arguably just as good as Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, PK Subban of the Nashville Predators and the Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson. But considering his age, Klingberg will almost certainly improve his game even more as he learns the ins and outs of playing defence in the world's top hockey league.

Jonathan Marchessault hits the jackpot with new contract in Vegas

By signing a new $30 million contract over six years with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, forward Jonathan Marchessault has earned himself a 667 per cent raise. The 27-year-old from Quebec City will be cashing in $5 million worth of paycheques per year over the next half a dozen seasons after making just $750,000 a campaign on his current two-year deal, which is just $100,000 over the league minimum. The centre signed his present contract with the Florida Panthers and was taken by the Knights during the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.

Marchessault made it to the NHL as an undrafted player by signing a three-year entry-level contract as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2012/13. He played the first year of the deal in the AHL with the Springfield Falcons and led the club in scoring with 21 goals and 46 assists while making the league's First All Star Team. Marchessault was sent to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline in 2013/14 and racked up another 53 points in the AHL. He spent the 2014/15 campaign with the Syracuse Crunch with 67 points in 68 games and finally cracked the Lightning lineup as a regular the following season.

Marchessault contributed eight goals and 11 assists in  47 games for Tampa Bay and added an assist in five appearances in the 2015/16 playoffs. However, he left Tampa and signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2016. Marchessault proved he belongs in the NHL as he broke out that season by leading the Panthers in scoring with 30 goals in 75 games and added 21 assists for 51 points. He was the first Florida player to reach the 30-goal plateau since David Booth achieved the feat with 31 goals back in 2008/09. 

For some strange reason the Panthers didn't protect Marchessault in last year's expansion draft and it was no surprise when Vegas snapped him up. The 5-foot-9-inch Marchessault has lived up to his billing with the Golden Knights and as of January 8th was leading the team in scoring with 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points in 38 games and was also a plus-17. Marchessault's excellent play has helped Vegas become the surprise of the season so far in the NHL as the expansion franchise had a 29-10-2 record for 60 points to lead the Western Conference and sit second in the league's overall standings.

By signing Marchessault to a long-term contract along with locking up defenceman Brayden McNabb to a new four-year deal, the Knights realize they already have a possible Stanley Cup contending team on their hands and want to keep it together. Marchessault would have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1st and could have been moved at the trade deadline on February 26th, but general manager George McPhee has made a smart move by signing him until the end of the 2023/24 season at a reasonable price.

McPhee praised Marchessault by saying he works hard in all 200 feet of the rink and is an exceptional offensive player. He's currently playing on a line with Reilly Smith and William Karlsson with the trio being one of the best and most effective units in the league. McPhee also believes Marchessault is just entering his prime and will continue to produce for the team for the next five seasons.

Chris Neil era ends with Ottawa Senators after 15 years

The Chris Neil era has ended in Ottawa as the Senators' forward officially announced he was hanging up his skates on December 15th after 15 years with the NHL team. The 38-year-old from Flesherton. Ontario was originally drafted by the club back in 1998 when the Senators chose him in the sixth round with the 161st overall selection. The 6-foot-1-inch right winger was taken from the North Bay Centennials of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) after scoring 72 points in 66 games in his final junior season on 26 goals and 46 assists.

Neil was drafted due to his work ethic and toughness and spent his first two pro seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. He didn't disappoint the team as he racked up more than 300 minutes in penalties in each of his two seasons there and chipped in with 24 goals and 31 assists for 55 points. Neil cracked the Ottawa lineup at the beginning of the next season and showed the club he wouldn't back down from anyone while contributing 17 points and 231 minutes in penalties as a rookie.

Neil was seen by most fans as the Senators' enforcer during his career and he led the club in penalty minutes most seasons. He did manage to score 10 or more goals on five occasions with his best showing being 16 goals and 17 assists in the 2005/06 campaign. Neil ended up playing 1,026 regular-season games with Ottawa which ranks the third-most all-time for the franchise. The only players to appear in more games with the club were Chris Phillips at 1,179 and Daniel Alfredsson at 1,178. He also managed to chip in with 112 goals along with 138 assists for 250 points.

Neil served 2,522 minutes in the penalty box for Ottawa, which ranks number one for the club and 20th all-time in the NHL. He also appeared in 95 playoff games with nine goals and 10 assists to his name along with another 204 penalty minutes. Neil is just one of two players in NHL history to play in over 1,000 regular-season games and serve over 2,500 minutes in penalties while playing their whole career with just one club. The other player to achieve the feat was former New Jersey Devils blueliner
Ken Daneyko.

Along with serving the Senators for 15 seasons, Neil also contributed to the local community and he'll be honoured for this on Jan 25th in a pregame ceremony when the Boston Bruins visit the Senators. Pierre Dorion, the general manager of the Senators, told the media that Neil is one of the club's all-time greatest players due to his leadership qualities, toughness and fearlessness and the fact he was always there to stand up for his teammates.

It was revealed that several other teams were interested in his services before the 2017/18 season began, but Neil didn't think it would be right to leave Ottawa. One of the teams that was interested in him was the Montreal Canadiens and their head coach Claude Julien. However, the Habs were only willing to offer him a Professional Tryout Contract and Neil promptly turned the Senators' rivals down. Neil then signed a one-year extension with Ottawa, but didn't appear in a regular-season game this campaign.  

Leafs' goalie Frederik Andersen rebounds from another slow start

The Toronto Maple Leafs believed goaltender Frederik Andersen's slow start to the 2016/17 NHL season was due to an injury suffered prior to training camp. However, they became concerned when he struggled out of the gate at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign as well. It took the 28-year-old native of Denmark a while to get going last year as he adjusted to a new team and city after being acquired in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks. He finished the season well with a 33-16 record along with a 2.67 goals-against average, a 91.8 save percentage and  four shutouts. His play was one of the main reasons the Leafs returned to the playoffs for the first time since the shortened 2012/13 season.

Andersen's regular-season stats were about the same in last year's playoffs, but the Leafs fell in six games to the Washington Capitals, with five of the contests going into overtime. When the current season faced off, the Leafs' organization and fans expected Andersen to get off to a quick start since he was healthy and didn't miss any time in training camp like the year before. They were wrong though as he had trouble early on and his goals-against average rose while his save percentage plummeted. That all seems to be in the past now however as he's in top form and appears to be leading the club to its second straight playoff appearance.

As of December 11th, Andersen's record was 17-8-1 with three shutouts in 26 outings and he was 5-1 in his past six starts. Ironically, he seems to thrive when he doesn't get much help from the Leafs' defence as he was 4-0-1 in games in which he faced 40 or more shots. In fact, he's been the busiest goalie in the NHL so far this season by facing the most shots at 896 and making the most saves with 826 of them. He's also played the most minutes of any goalie, ranks second in the league in wins with 17, is ranked ninth in save percentage at 92.2 and is tied for second in shutouts with three. Andersen's goals-against average is 16th-best in the league at 2.67 and has been improving each week after it was above 3.00 earlier in the year.

Toronto has won five of their past six games and when Andersen does get a rare night off in back-to-back game situations, backup netminder Curtis McElhinney has been steady. McElhinney has played just five games, but has a goals-against average of 2.44 with a 92.5 save percentage, a shutout and a record of 3-2. With Andersen leading the way and getting a helping hand from McElhinney, the Leafs record as of Dec. 11 was 20-10-1 for 41 points, which was the fourth-most in the league. Consistency has been a huge factor in the team's success so far this season as the longest they've gone without earning a point has been two games. And this has happened on just three occasions. If Andersen could eliminate his slow starts to the season, there's no telling how good this Leafs team could be. 

Montreal Canadiens back on the right track

It's amazing how a five-game winning streak can turn around an NHL team's season. Just ask the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs had been struggling since the campaign faced off with seven losses in their first eight game. They were well out of a playoff spot, couldn't score and possessed a leaky defence. And to make matters worse, there were hundreds of fans dressed up as empty seats for just about every one of their home games in October and November. Their on-ice fortunes have suddenly turned around though with consecutive victories over Buffalo, Columbus, Ottawa and a pair over Detroit, including a 10-1 thumping in Montreal on December 2nd.

After the destruction over the Red Wings, the Canadiens record stood at 13-12-3 with 78 goals scored and 86 against. They had 29 points, were in third place in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference, and were right in the thick of things as far as a postseason spot is concerned. The return of top goaltender Carey Price has surely been the main reason the Habs are now back on the right track. He struggled early in the season and then missed several games due to injury. Price returned to the lineup and shutout the Sabres 3-0 to snap a five-game losing skid and the team hasn't lost since.

Their current streak obviously won't last forever, but with Price back between the posts the chances of Montreal making the playoffs have greatly increased. The Habs haven't won the Stanley Cup since the 1992/93 campaign and it looked like some fans had given up on them last month. The Canadiens started a sellout streak at home at the Bell Centre back on Jan. 8, 2004, but there were noticeably plenty of empty seats at several of their home games earlier this season. The seats may have been sold originally, but third-party ticket sellers such as StubHub were then stuck with them.

This led to the hundreds of empty seats as well as the sale of tickets well below face value, even as low as $30. In addition, the organization reduced the price of tickets for some games that had originally cost more as they were deemed optimum-priced contests. Since there were plenty of empty seats and hundreds available at ticket-reselling agencies the club reduced the price on a few optimum games and charged the “regular” price for the seats. But not only were many Habs' fans staying away from the games, those who did show up often ended up booing their heroes earlier in the season for their inept play.

With the Canadiens getting it together on the ice recently, the supply and demand of seats for their home games is certainly to improve for the club as well as ticket re-sellers. In an ironic twist, when Montreal drilled Detroit 10-1 at home on December 2nd it came exactly 22 years after the Red Wings beat them 11-1 in Montreal, to hand tie the club's worst-ever defeat. What fans may remember about that beating the most though, was that it was Patrick Roy's final game in a Habs' uniform. He was yanked during the game by head coach Mario Tremblay and traded to Colorado shortly after.