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Columbus Blue Jackets, owners of a franchise-record nine-game winning streak, are the NHL’s hottest team

Columbus Blue Jackets' Boone Jenner, center, celebrates his goal with teammates David Savard, left, and Cam Atkinson during the first period against the Calgary Flames on Friday.
(Jeff McIntosh / Associated Press)

What we learned from the last week of play in the NHL.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the NHL’s hottest team

They’ll take a franchise-record nine-game winning streak into their game against the Kings on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena. They earned six of those nine victories on the road, including the last three at Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Coach John Tortorella, supposedly kinder and gentler than in his previous incarnations, earned his 500th NHL coaching victory Sunday, the first American-born coach to reach the milestone.

Minnesota is going Wild

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The Wild’s winning streak has hit seven, two short of the franchise record. They outscored their opponents, 17-5, in the last four games but their backbone has been the excellent goaltending of Devan Dubnyk. He leads the NHL in goals-against average at 1.62 and save percentage at .947 and is tied for the league lead in shutouts with four. Backup Darcy Kuemper got in on the fun and helped extend the streak by making 27 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Who’s in charge here?

In the case of the Florida Panthers, it might be Dale Tallon. Then again, it might not.

The Panthers, who bumped Tallon “up” from general manager to president of hockey operations last summer and gave more daily decision-making power to Tom Rowe, reportedly gave Tallon back his old powers. Or did they? Darren Dreger, a well-connected reporter for Canada’s TSN network, reported last week that Tallon had been given back his old role. But Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet quoted team owner Vinny Viola as saying that nothing has changed and that Tallon “has always had final say over hockey decisions.” That’s fishy, because it’s difficult to imagine Tallon coming up with or approving some of the team’s last trades, or agreeing to fire Coach Gerard Gallant late last month.

The Blackhawks are rolling. Again.

Their latest winning streak is at five after a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. Youngsters Vinnie Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman scored goals Sunday, as did a guy named Patrick Kane. Remember, the Blackhawks have been without goalie Corey Crawford since Dec. 2, when he underwent an appendectomy. He’s skating again and might return this weekend.

It’s possible to forge a labor deal without a lockout

Hockey fans probably can’t believe peace can exist between a league and players after seeing the NHL impose lockouts in 1994, 2004 and 2012, but yes, it can happen. The NBA and National Basketball Players’ Assn. last week came to terms on a collective bargaining agreement that will run through the 2023-24 season, recognizing they have too good a thing going to interrupt it for labor strife. It’s difficult to imagine the same happening between the NHL and NHL Players’ Assn., whose current deal runs through the 2021-22 season but includes an opt-out clause either side can invoke after the 2019-20 season. Many players chose big signing bonuses and low salaries in the 2020-21 season to protect themselves against a shortened or canceled season.


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