- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009



After months of speculation and daily updates from the Canadian media, Mats Sundin finally chose a rental home Dec. 18 when he signed with the Vancouver Canucks. For those who had tired of the ongoing saga, having Sundin wait nearly three weeks before making his debut with the team probably only made things worse.

Now that Sundin has played a few games with the Canucks and has scored his first goal, maybe everyone can get back to focusing on the other big stories around the NHL. To this point, Sundin’s impact - one goal and three penalties in three games - has not been profound, and the team has won just three of its last 10 contests.

Sundin is a great player, and he probably will be a first-ballot entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame. But he also has been the best player on a bad team for a long time. That the team he played for was in Toronto and not, say, Phoenix or Atlanta does have an effect on his status with fans (and the media) from the United States’ neighbors to the north.

Maybe he will be the missing piece the Canucks, who with more than one scoring line could go deep in the NHL playoffs. It is more likely that even with Sundin the team doesn’t have enough to compete with Detroit or San Jose, but the Canucks will receive as much as or more media coverage than both.


Colorado Avalanche

Even before the Avalanche lost their best players, Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic, they were not a team expected to contend for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Regardless, the Avalanche won three straight games last week and held the No. 8 spot in the conference after Sunday’s games.

One player who has helped make up for the missing offense is Wojtek Wolski, who was named the NHL’s first star of the week after scoring six points in three games. The real hero might be goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who has won his past seven starts. The former Calder Memorial Trophy winner has allowed only 15 goals in those seven games.


1. Detroit Red Wings (63 points)

The goaltending isn’t great every night, but the champs are still the team to beat.

2. San Jose Sharks (67)

San Jose is the best home team in the league, but it’s hard to shake a 6-0 loss at Detroit.

3. Boston Bruins (66)

A strong case for No. 1 - no team has scored more goals or allowed less.

4. Montreal Canadiens (56)

They are starting to get hot even without Carey Price in net.

5. Washington Capitals (57)

A bad weekend aside, the Caps have been rolling despite being a M.A.S.H. unit.

6. Calgary Flames (54)

The surging Flames have opened a five-point lead in the typically tight Northwest.

7. Philadelphia Flyers (55)

They survived a long road trip and could be close to getting Danny Briere back.

8. Chicago Blackhawks (53)

The Red Wings proved they’re still a class above with wins at home and at Wrigley Field.

9. New Jersey Devils (51)

Anyone remember when the Devils had to make a trade after Martin Brodeur got hurt?

10. Anaheim Ducks (49)

Bobby Ryan has injected life into the offense. Now if Corey Perry could keep his elbows to himself…



1. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals: Honestly, he has a sizeable lead on the rest of the pack right now.

2. Jarome Iginla, Flames: He’s in the same spot as last year - a great season but overshadowed by guys in Washington and Pittsburgh.

3. Marc Savard, Bruins: Sure, they have lots of great forwards, but he is making everyone around him better.


1. Todd McLellan, Sharks: It’s hard to argue with the start for the first-year coach, but his team will be judged by its postseason success.

2. Brent Sutter, Devils: He finally has to start getting some of the credit he deserves with Martin Brodeur out, right?

3. Bruce Boudreau, Capitals: No Cinderella this year, but he might be doing a better job considering the injuries.


1. Steve Mason, Blue Jackets: Think the guys on the Capitals might cast their votes for this guy?

2. Drew Doughty, Kings: He might have slowed down a bit, but 18-year-old defensemen don’t play 24 minutes a night in the NHL.

3. Patrik Berglund, Blues: He’s coming on strong with 15 points since the beginning of December.


Now showing: Nikita Filatov, Blue Jackets

He’s the next big thing from Russia, and he was one of the top forwards at the world junior championship. Now it is just a matter of Ken Hitchcock, well-known for his trust issues with young players, giving Filatov the opportunity to prove he is ready at this level.

Coming soon: Erik Karlsson, Senators

He was a bit of a surprise as the No. 15 pick in June’s draft by the host team, Ottawa, but he was back in his future home at the world junior championship and was a standout for Sweden. The defenseman had two goals and nine points in the tournament and was named the best player at his position.

Show’s over: Marco Sturm, Bruins

Sturm could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. While he hasn’t been at the center of Boston’s amazing showing, the team’s elite forward depth is being challenged with injuries to Sturm and Patrice Bergeron.

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