Nov 252005
 

The NHL season is just over a quarter done so it is time to point out some surprises, dissapointments and general notes so far. I am sure I left several out so feel free to add your surprises and dissapointments or general thoughts on the season so far in the comments section. Also, I apologize if there is a slight east-coast bias. I am a Leaf fan living in Ottawa and as a result watch more eastern division games. In no particular order, here are my surprises,dissapointments and thoughts on the season so far.

Carolina Hurricanes – Even the most optimistic of people only predicted the Hurricanes to possibly compete for a playoff spot. But not only are they competing for a playoff spot, but they are leading their division and one of the better teams in the East so far. Two players can be thanks for that. Eric Staal who is on pace for 59 goals, 129 points and Martin Gerber who has a 2.29 gaa and .926 save percentage.

New York Rangers – The Rangers were probably thought to be even worse off than the Hurricanes before the season began but like the Hurricanes they have surprised most people. And like the Hurricanse, the Rangers success can largely be attributed to two players. Jaromir Jagr on offense and star rookie Henrik Lundqvist in net. Jagr has probably benefitted the most from the year off and the new rules which has seen him return to being an elite offensive forward. And Lundqvist has been nothing short of outstanding posting a 2.08 goals against average (3rd best in the NHL) and an equally outstanding .929 save % (also third best).

Boston Bruins – If the Hurricanes and Rangers are a positive surprises, the Bruins have to be the negative surprise of the year. With an 8-10-5 record they sit last in the northeast division and several points out of a playoff spot. Injuries on defense have been a significant reason for their woes but they haven’t played very consistantly either. I expect better things over the rest of the year.

Martin Brodeur – For years Brodeur was thought of as one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the world. He’s won stanley cups, olympic gold medals, and finally a Vezina in 2003-04. This year he is sporting a very weak 3.36 goals against average and an equally poor .886 save %. Sure, some of that can be attributed to the teams poor play in front of him, but not all of that. He isn’t the only goalie struggling this year but is certainly the highest profile.

Youth Movement – There is a dramatic youth movment in the NHL where future stars are being showcased and playing great to boot. This is particularly true in the eastern conference. Staal in Carolina. Crosby in Pittsburgh. Ovechkin in Washington. Spezza in Ottawa. Phaneuf has been excellent on defense in Calgary. Although a bit more experienced, Frolov is having a breakout year in Los Angeles, Heatley has been awesome in Ottawa and Kovalchuk is his usual self in Atlanta. These are the stars of the future and most are proving to be stars of today as well. The only one missing is Nash in Columbus who has been injured most of the year.

Chris Neil – Everyone knew that the Ottawa Senators would score a ton of goals this season but I don’t think anyone thought so many would come from Chris Neil (8 so far). On this American Thanksgiving weekend Chris has many people to thank for this. First, Chris McGratton. I always though Chris Neil was a reluctant tough guy who only fought because he felt he needed to. With McGratton around he doesn’t need to and can focus more on just playing hockey. Second Bryan Murray for not playing a defense-first system allowing Neil to take the odd chance. Third, Vaclav Varada for getting injured and opening up playing time for him. And most of all, the new rules comittee which now will allow Neil to stand in front of the opposing teams net looking for tip ins and rebounds without getting hacked, slashed, hooked or otherwise mauled. Most of Neils goals have come from tip ins and rebounds.

Bryan McCabe – Like Chris Neil, Bryan McCabe has to thank the rules committee for his success so far. Some people thought the new rules would hurt him, and maybe they have a tad in the defensive zone, but not in the offensive zone. With an additional four feet between the goal line and the blue line it is making it tougher for opposing teams to pressure the point man which has allowed McCabe to take full advantage of his hard, accurate shot.

Pierre Turgeon – I think a lot of people thought Turgeon’s time in the NHL was drawing to a close after a couple medocre years in Dallas. But not so. Apparently he can still skate a little and still has the offensive touch. Despite losing Peter Forsberg, maybe the NHLs best offesive forward, the Avalanche have somehow still managed to produced the third best offense in the game. A large reason for that has been Turgeon who has 8 goals and 23 points in 21 games so far (Marek Svatos has been another reason). In his previous three years he has had 47, 42 and 40 points so he had turned it around in a big way this year.

Nov 252005
 

Thanks to the American Thanksgiving holiday weekend for giving us a full slate of games today. In total there are 11 games, many of them should be quite interesting. Here are a few worth noting.

Ottawa/NY Islanders – Ottawa will be playing without Redden, Havlat and Chris Neil so if there was a game they could lose, this could be it. It’s an afternoon game too so you never know how players will react to having their regular game day schedule altered. I still think the Senators will win but it would not shock me if this is one they lose.

Toronto/Carolina – This is a battle between two of the better teams in the east and these teams have split the 2 games they have already played against each other. I am sure it will be a close game that could go either way. With Rod Brind’amour and Ray Whitney both doubtful for this game, this is a game that could go different than the prediction below. Plus I am sure the Leafs will want to come out strong after a pretty dismal game Wednesday in Boston. Being a Leaf fan I may be biased but I think this one could go the Leafs way.

Tampa/New Jersey – These two teams I can’t figure out. Tampa has won 5 of 6 games but they seem to struggle against teams they should beat. For example, the one loss in those 6 games was against Washington and Wednesday win over Washington is one they had to battle back from an early 3-0 deficit to win in a shootout. But they beat Philadelphia twice and Carolina once in those 6 games. New Jersey has to be the most inconsistant team this season. Mostly they have looked pretty mediocre but then they will go and have an outstanding game where Brodeur plays well and you start thinking that maybe they are returning to pre-lockout form. But then the next game they look mediocre again. In the end, I have no idea who will win this game but give the home team Tampa a slight advantage.

Florida-Pittsburgh – This is an interesting battle between a team that can’t score goals (Florida) and a team that can’t stop giving up goals (Pittsburgh). And also a team that can score goals (Pittsburgh) and a goalie that is just awesome (Luongo). Again, this is another difficult game to predict. My mathematical prediction gives a slight advantage to Florida but I kind of like the Penguins in this one.

Buffalo-Montreal – This is the only pick-em game of the night. After a couple weeks of poor play the Sabres have played better recently winning 4 of 5 with the loss being an overtime loss. Montreal on the other hand has lossed 4 of 6 defeating only Atlanta and Florida while losing to Pittsburgh, Toronto, New Jersey and Washington. It seems they might be missing Kovalev a fair bit. As a result, I’m picking Buffalo to win this game.

Calgary-Edmonton – I agree with the prediction below that Calgary has to be the slight favourite in this game. I am only hi-lighting this game because these Battle of Alberta games are almost always very entertaining and if you get a chance to watch some of it, definitely do. It should be good.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Boston Philadelphia Philadelphia Some
NY Islanders Ottawa Ottawa Good
Minnesota St. Louis Minnesota Strong
Anaheim Detroit Detroit Some
Carolina Toronto Carolina Good
Columbus Colorado Colorado Good
Tampa Bay New Jersey Tampa Bay Some
Florida Pittsburgh Florida Some
Buffalo Montreal Pick N/A
Dallas Phoenix Dallas Good
Calgary Edmonton Calgary Some
Nov 242005
 

Just three games on the schedule tonight which is pretty light for a Thursday. The American Thanksgiving must be the reason for that. They should be three fairly interesting games though. The Atlanta-NY Rangers game should be particularly interesting because both teams are capable of scoring goals in bunches. In the pick-em game between Los Angeles and Nashville I’m going to pick Los Angeles to win. Not only are they rested after having last night off while Nashville played, I think they are the better team and should be able to pull out the win. In the final game of the night, Vancouver should be able to beat the struggling San Jose team who have now lost 7 games in a row. But just as Boston defeated the Leafs last night, the Sharks could beat the Canucks tonight should the Canucks not come out prepared. The Sharks will be hungry for a win and the Canucks need to be too.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Atlanta NY Rangers NY Rangers Some
Nashville Los Angeles Pick N/A
Vancouver San Jose Vancouver Strong
Nov 232005
 

Here are the NHL Power Rankings for November 23rd. Big movers on the week were Los Angeles who moved from 7th to 2nd, Dallas who jumped from 6th into 3rd, Tampa Bay who rose 4 spots into 18th and Chicago who climbed to 21st spot from 24th. Big droppers included Detoit who dropped from 2nd to 6th, Philadelphia who dropped 6 spots to 10th from 4th, and San Jose who droped into 22nd spot from 18.

For comparison sake, here are links to several other power rankings. If you know of others feel free to post them in the comments.

TSN.ca
Sports Illustrated
ESPN.com
Fox Sports
CBS Sportsline

Rank Last Week Team Win-Loss Power Rank
1 1 Ottawa 16- 3 15.0
2 7 Los Angeles 15- 7 12.4
3 6 Dallas 13- 7 12.2
4 3 Carolina 14- 7 12.2
5 5 Montreal 14- 8 11.9
6 2 Detroit 15- 7 11.7
7 9 Vancouver 14- 8 11.6
8 10 Toronto 12- 9 11.6
9 8 Nashville 12- 6 11.4
10 4 Philadelphia 12- 8 11.2
11 11 Colorado 11-10 11.2
12 12 Calgary 13-10 11.0
13 14 NY Rangers 14-10 10.7
14 13 Buffalo 11-10 10.7
15 16 Edmonton 12-11 10.2
16 15 NY Islanders 11-10 9.7
17 17 Phoenix 11-13 9.7
18 22 Tampa Bay 11-12 9.5
19 19 New Jersey 9-11 9.4
20 20 Minnesota 9-11 9.2
21 24 Chicago 9-12 8.8
22 18 San Jose 8-12 8.6
23 23 Anaheim 8-14 8.4
24 21 Washington 8-13 8.2
25 26 Atlanta 8-13 8.2
26 25 Boston 7-15 7.9
27 29 Pittsburgh 7-15 7.5
28 27 Florida 6-15 7.3
29 28 Columbus 5-16 6.7
30 30 St. Louis 4-16 6.5
Nov 232005
 

Here are tonights NHL game predictions. Of the 5 games for which predictions were able to be made I can’t see any upsets happening aside from Detroit depending on how they react to the Fischer incident. In the four pick-em games I like the rested Islanders at home over Buffalo, Tampa over Washington because the Lightning look to be getting back into 2003-04 form, Florida will finally break their losing streak on home ice against a struggling Devils team and Minnesota and their good goaltending should be able to shut down Edmonton.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
NY Islanders Buffalo Pick N/A
Washington Tampa Bay Pick N/A
Florida New Jersey Pick N/A
Columbus Nashville Nashville Good
Toronto Boston Toronto Strong
Detroit Colorado Detroit Some
Minnesota Edmonton Pick N/A
Dallas Anaheim Dallas Strong
Calgary San Jose Calgary Good
Nov 222005
 

Tonights games features the first head to head matchup of this years prize rookie crop as Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals visit Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. With 15 goals I think Ovechkin has been the better player so far this year and unlike Crosby he doesn’t have Lemieux, Recchi, Palffy and other talented offensive players to play with. My computer prediction model calls the game a pick-em and for good reason. Both teams have shown flashes of being OK but for the most part both teams have been pretty bad but given the choice I’ll take the Penguins at home over the Caps.

The Chicago Blackhawks are finally showing that all the moves they made in the off season isn’t going to waste as they have won 3 in a row and 5 of six. But Vancouver is better than most of the teams they beat so I think they will be in tough tonight. I’m still choosing Vancouver to win but might be viewed as a statement game for the Blackhawks players and as such will play hard for the win.

The other interesting game is Ottawa at Carolina. I am sure Ottawa will be up for this game as 2 of Ottawa’s 3 losses have come to the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes also have some injuries. Glem Wesley and Vasicek are out for sure as might Rod Brind’amour and Erik Cole. If those two can’t play this will be an easy win for Ottawa.

Finally, Atlanta visits the Montreal Canadiens. I really like Atlanta as a team but due to goaltending injuries they have struggled significantly this season. If they can get any kind of goaltending this evening they will defeat Montreal.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Buffalo NY Rangers Buffalo Some
Philadelphia Tampa Bay Philadelphia Good
Carolina Ottawa Ottawa Some
Montreal Atlanta Montreal Strong
Pittsburgh Washington Pick N/A
St. Louis Los Angeles Los Angeles Strong
Phoenix Anaheim Phoenix Good
Vancouver Chicago Vancouver Good
Nov 212005
 

Here are the predictions for tonights NHL games.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Detroit Nashville Detroit Some
Colorado Calgary Colorado Some
Edmonton San Jose Edmonton Good
Nov 202005
 

Here are the game predictions for today’s NHL games.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Anaheim Vancouver Vancouver Good
NY Rangers Boston NY Rangers Good
Carolina Tampa Bay Carolina Good
Phoenix Columbus Phoenix Some
Nov 192005
 

Here are the game predictions for Saturday’s NHL games.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
NY Rangers Carolina Carolina Some
Boston Buffalo Buffalo Some
Toronto Atlanta Toronto Strong
Montreal Washington Montreal Good
Ottawa New Jersey Ottawa Strong
Pittsburgh Philadelphia Pick N/A
Florida NY Islanders Pick N/A
Detroit St. Louis Detroit Strong
Minnesota Nashville Nashville Some
Edmonton Chicago Edmonton Good
Los Angeles Colorado Los Angeles Good
San Jose Phoenix San Jose Some
Nov 182005
 

Not a lot of close games tonight with a lot of the better teams playing some of the weaker teams. Philadelphia, Dallas and Calgary *should* have fairly easy games against weaker opponents in Atlanta, Columbus and Chicago. But in Calgary’s case you have to be concerned with complacency setting in when playing a weaker team in the midst of a lengthy winning streak.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Philadelphia Atlanta Philadelphia Strong
New Jersey Montreal Montreal Good
Dallas Columbus Dallas Strong
Calgary Chicago Calgary Good
Anaheim Colorado Colorado Good