As the NHL heads into its brief two-day holiday break at the conclusion of Friday's busy slate, here's a look around the league at some news and notes to consider when the action resumes on December 26th.
Having a Devil of a time
After an incredible start to the season, the New Jersey Devils have more than just cooled off, losing six of their last seven games overall. They did manage to post a victory over the Panthers in Florida two nights ago but their schedule only gets tougher from here with a two-game home set against the best team in the league, the Boston Bruins, followed by a trip to Pittsburgh and a home date with Carolina. Bouncing back could prove difficult as they've gone a woeful 14-35 after losing four of their last five games over the last three seasons, entering Friday's action.
This was expected to be another rebuilding year for the Montreal Canadiens and that has proven to be the case. Some Habs fans would actually suggest that the team isn't losing enough as it tries to improve its Draft positioning in what promises to be a terrific draft class. Scoring woes continue to plague the Canadiens as they've found the back of the net two times or less in six of their last seven contests. They're in the midst of a seven-game road trip that will take them through the start of the New Year. Interestingly, the Habs are 0-11 when coming off a game that totalled three goals or less over the last two seasons, which is the situation in play on Friday in Dallas.
Trade winds blowing in the Windy City
The Chicago Blackhawks are mired in a dismal campaign, having won only seven of 31 games to date. It's only a matter of time before management starts looking to unload assets in an effort to kickstart what has been a slow-developing rebuild in recent years. The Madhouse on Madison hasn't exactly lived up to its billing with Chicago entering Friday's clash with the Columbus Blue Jackets sporting an ugly 4-14 home record. Note that the 'Hawks have gone a miserable 1-15 when coming off a loss by two or more goals this season, outscored by 2.3 goals on average in that spot (which sets up Friday against Columbus).
Ready for take-off
The case can be made for the Winnipeg Jets being the most underrated team in the NHL this season. They've lost consecutive games on only two occasions and have yet to drop three straight contests. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck continues to make a strong case for the Vezina Trophy (it's early, I know) having posted a .928 save percentage in 25 games. They'll look to rebound from a 3-2 loss in Boston as they make a quick stop in Washington on Friday before returning home to play five of their next six games in Winnipeg following the holiday break. While Jets bettors have been stacking cash, the 'under' has been a highly-profitable play as well with only 11 of Winnipeg's first 33 games this season going 'over' the total.