NHL Weekend Preview

I should really stop looking at the NHL schedule because I find myself wanting to scream louder each time I see what looks like complete incompetence on the part of the league hierarchy. Now if you ran a league  that was starving some attention, and were in a situation where the NBA was on its All-Star break, thereby freeing  up Friday night in the eyes of sports fans who might otherwise watch a hoops doubleheader on ESPN, wouldn’t you seize the moment and put some good games on that day? Or even allowing that it’s tough to predict that far in advance what will be a good game, at least put a full schedule and maximize your chances? Or at least put one bleepin’ game on TV  on your own network!?!! I swear, I’ve got to be in the wrong line of work, because if Gary Bettman is making the kind of dough he’s pulling down for running a league this incompetently, then I must have missed my moment somewhere.

Even if the NHL Network is nowhere to be found tonight, Vancouver-New Jersey is a good game, with the Canucks closing to within a point of the #1 spot in the West after ending Detroit’s record-home winning streak in a shootout last night. New Jersey’s the hottest team going right now, so this promises to be a good one, so long as Vancouver isn’t on a hangover.

Saturday’s card is pretty good, even if the Tampa-Pittsburgh game angled its way onto the NHL Network at 1 PM ET. But the hot Southeast Division race has changed hands again. With Florida and Washington vying to see who could backpedal faster, Winnipeg finally stepped up and nudged into the lead. The Jets (who just moved from Atlanta, lest anyone think the NCAA is in charge of geographic alignment here) host St. Louis, Florida goes to Carolina and Washington has a prime-time game with a good Toronto team at 7 PM ET on the NHL Network. And in a huge battle in the Northeast Division, Ottawa continues its quest to chase down slumping Boston when they host the Bruins. We might have two new division leaders in the East by the time Saturday is done.

The card on Sunday is again tame, although with the Daytona 500 by day and the NBA All-Star game by night, I won’t go off on the league again. Anaheim somehow again managed to wangle a NBCSN TV slot against Chicago at 7 PM ET (does the ownership of the last-place Ducks have blackmail material on someone at the networks that they keep getting on TV?). The game is part of a back-to-back tour of SoCal for the Blackhawks, who play a key game in Los Angeles on Saturday, with both teams lurking near the bottom of the Western Conference playoff ladder.