NHL pluses and minuses: Canadiens, Flyers rising in the Eastern Conference

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the previous week.

+ Consecutive victories over Minnesota, Washington and Pittsburgh have fueled the Montreal Canadiens' 5-1-1 surge. Tomas Plekanec won 14 of 19 faceoffs he took against the Penguins' Sidney Crosby on Saturday and 16 of 21 overall; Crosby was credited with one offensive-zone faceoff win of the 10 he took. Winger Max Pacioretty, a Connecticut native, scored three times against the Wild and twice against the Penguins, boosting his candidacy for the U.S. Olympic team.

+ The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks haven't gone two games without earning a standings point this season, reflecting their resilience and depth. Patrick Kane has cracked the top 10 in the scoring race with a 10-game scoring streak through Sunday's games. He had five goals and 14 points in that span.

+ A 6-0-1 streak through Sunday's games put the Philadelphia Flyers back into the thick of things in the East after a 1-7 start. They swept a three-game homestand and they've continued to get good goaltending from Steve Mason. They seem to be responding well to new Coach Craig Berube, who replaced Peter Laviolette after the team opened the season with three straight losses.

- Warmups have become hazardous to goaltenders. On consecutive nights last week, Viktor Fasth of the Ducks and Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild were injured during warmups and couldn't make their scheduled starts. Fasth has a lower-body muscle inflammation and will miss three to four weeks; Harding also sustained a lower-body injury. An MRI exam showed no structural damage but his status was day to day.

- Three coaches were fired in the first quarter of the season. Who's next? Claude Noel reportedly is on the hot seat in Winnipeg, and although rumors have put Columbus' Todd Richards' name in the next-fired pool it's likely he will get more time.

- Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, last season's Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie, is unlikely to be a repeat winner. Through Sunday's games he was 7-10-2 with a 2.95 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. Some of that reflects the Blue Jackets' struggles, not just his.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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