Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the previous week:
+ Chicago wing Patrick Kane is giving Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby a good challenge for the scoring title. Kane's assist Sunday in the Blackhawks' 3-1 victory over the Kings extended his point streak to nine games and 21 of his last 22. Through Sunday's games he had 19 goals and 45 points, one point behind Crosby.
+ The Vancouver Canucks seem to have grasped Coach John Tortorella's defensive intensity. They've won seven straight games, each without giving up more than two goals. And kudos to them for participating in a hilarious video/photo shoot featuring players wearing incredibly ugly holiday sweaters. The sweaters were put up for auction to benefit a charity.
+ Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle's simple wave to a little boy during pregame warmups is a reminder of how a small gesture can mean so much. The video of his wave — and the child's disbelieving, joyful reaction — has gone viral. It's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
- Home cooking isn't helping the New York Rangers much these days. They lost the first four games of a nine-game homestand before they rallied for a shootout victory over Calgary on Sunday. They also lost forward Ryan Callahan for four to six weeks because of a knee sprain. Double ouch.
- It was horrifying to see Montreal Canadiens enforcer George Parros, recently back from a concussion, wobbly and needing help after a fight with Eric Boulton of the New York Islanders on Saturday. It might be time for Parros to consider how much longer he can — or should — continue playing.
- Winnipeg fans were so happy to have an NHL team again they ignored the Jets' faults. The honeymoon is over, hitting a new sour note during a 0-3-3 home streak. "What I say doesn't matter. It's what you do out on the ice," forward Blake Wheeler told reporters after a 6-4 loss to Dallas on Saturday. "You can blow smoke as much as you want out in the media; we've been blowing smoke for three years."