Apr 032007
 

Tuesday’s results:
Islanders 3, Rangers 2 (SO)
Leafs 3, Flyers 2 (OT)
Tampa 3, Carolina 2
Montreal 2, Boston 0

Updated Standings:
6. NY Rangers (92) – vsMTL, atPIT
7. Tampa Bay (92) – vsFLA, atATL
8. Montreal (90) – atNYR, atTOR
9. Toronto (89) – atNYI, vsMTL
10. NY Islanders (86) – vsTOR, atPHI, atNJ
11. Carolina (86) – vsATL, vsFLA (eliminated)

To Get In:
NY Rangers: A Rangers win or a Leafs loss (in regulation or OT)
Tampa: A Tampa win or an OT loss, or a loss by the leafs (in regulation or OT)
Montreal: Getting a point against the Leafs on Saturday (win or OT/SO loss), or beating Rangers Thursday with the Leafs losing to Islanders.
Toronto: These combinations will get the Leafs in the playoffs:

  • Winning both games in regulation. One of Tampa, Montreal or the Rangers would be eliminated pending other results
  • Leafs win both games but one or both of them in OT and either Tampa loses both in regulation or Rangers lose both with at least one of the two losses in regulation.
  • Lose to Isles Thursday, Rangers defeat Canadiens in regulation and Leafs defeat Canadiens in regulation Saturday. Result: Leafs in, Montreal out.

Islanders: Must win all 3 games with Montreal getting no more than one point or go 2-0-1 including beating the Leafs in regulation and Montreal losing both their games in regulation.
Carolina: Eliminated.

I think those are all the scenarios. If I missed anything let me know.

The other eastern conference race is the battle for tops in the Atlantic division between Pittsburgh and New Jersey and the battle for home ice advantage in the 4 vs 5 seed matchup between Ottawa and either Pittsburgh and New Jersey. The standings currently are:

New Jersey (104) – at Phi, vs NYI
Ottawa (103) – vs Pit, at Bos
Pittsburgh (101) – at Ott, vs NYR

New Jersey clinches top spot in the Atlantic and second seed bu picking up a point against either the Flyers or Islanders. That should happen so the battle is between Pittsburgh and Ottawa for home ice in the first round. For Pittsburgh to gain home ice they need to beat Ottawa Thursday, and then do one point better against the Rangers than whatever Ottawa does against the Bruins. i.e. Ottawa loses, Pittsburgh just needs an OTL. Ottawa gets an OTL, then Pittsburgh must win. That is unless Ottawa get an OTL vs Pittsburgh on Thursday. In that case the Penguins need to beat the Rangers with the Bruins beating the Senators.

Apr 012007
 

With the Rangers and Carolina winning tonight here is how the playoff race in the east looks right now and their games remaining.

6. NY Rangers (91) – atNYI, vsPTL, atPIT
7. Tampa Bay (90) – vsCAR, vsFLA, atATL
8. Montreal (88) – vsBOS, atNYR, atTOR
9. Toronto (87) – vsPHI, atNYI, vsMTL
10. Carolina (86) – atTB, vsATL, vsFLA
11. NY Islanders (84) – vsNYR, vsTOR, atPHI, atNJ

With so many teams still in the race and so games being played against each other and with the crazy 3 point games there are far too many scenarios to figure out how each of these teams can make or miss the playoffs but here are some of what each team needs to do to make the playoffs or what can happen for them to miss.

To get in the playoffs:

Rangers: One more win and they are in.
Tampa: 1-0-1 guarantees a playoff spot. 1-2-0 gets them a spot so long as Montreal doesn’t go 2-0-1 and Toronto goes 3-0-0.
Montreal: 2-0-1 and they are in.
Toronto: 3-0-0 and they are in so long as they defeat Montreal in regulation.
Carolina: Need to go 3-0-0 and get some help. Specifically, no more than 2 of the following can occur:
-Rangers get a win
-Tampa gets a win
-Montreal gets 2 wins
-Leafs go 3-0-0
Islanders: Need to go 4-0-0 and get some help. Specifically, no more than 2 of the following can occur:
-Rangers get a win
-Tampa gets a win
-Montreal gets 4 points
-Toronto goes 2-0-1 with the OTL in the game against the Islanders.

Teams will be out if:

Islanders: Lose any 2 games.
Carolina: Lose any 2 games or lose a single game with Montreal winning a game or Toronto winning 2 games or the Islanders going 3-0-1.
Toronto: Go winless or just win a single game with Montreal getting a single point.
Montreal: Go 0-3-0.
Tampa: Go 0-3-0 and 2 of the following occur:
-Montreal gets 3 points
-Toronto gets 4 points
-Carolina gets 5 points
-NY Islanders go 3-0-1
Rangers: Need to lose all 3 games and three of the following to occur:
-Tampa gets a point
-Montreal gets 3 points
-Toronto goes 2-0-1
-Carolina goes 3-0-0
-Islanders go 3-0-1

Aug 092006
 

Some people credit the NY Rangers resurgence in the NHL last year to the dominating play of Jaromir Jagr or the stellar goaltending by rookie Henruk Lundqvist and while both of those players were significant factors I think they are over looking another key player. Marek Malik.

Most people don’t really know much about Malik other than that amazing goal he scored last year in the longest shootout of the year. But he provided the Rangers much more than that. Malik is very underrated defenseman because shootout goals aside he is predominantly a defensive defenseman. He has developed into one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL but doesn’t get recognized as such.

The +/- statistic isn’t the best statistic in the world because it is very dependent on ones teammates but it can be helpful in getting an idea of how good a player is defensively. This is especially true if trends can be seen from year to year. In the case of Malik this is true. Last year Malik posted a very respectable +28 good for 15th in the NHL while his defense partner Michal Roszival let the league with a +35. In 2003-04 with Vancouver Malik led the entire NHL with a +35 and in 2002-03, also with Vancouver, he was a more than respectable +20 which was good for 29th in the NHL.

Last year Malik was the Rangers top penalty killer in terms of ice time as he played 3:38 short handed per game and Malik was a big reason the Rangers PK improved from 29th in the NHL in 2003-04 to 11th in 2005-06. It is also probably no coincidence that the Rangers improved from 22nd in shots allowed in 2003-04 to 8th last year while Vancouver dropped from 12th to 16th.

All these statistics point to one thing: Malik is one of the better defensive defensemen in the NHL and was a vital component of the NY Rangers turnaround season last year.

Apr 202006
 

Here are my eastern conference predictions. I really hate taking all the favourites but aside from an outside chance of Montreal upsetting Carolina I just can’t see any of the other underdogs winning barring unexpected key injuries.

Just a note: The predictions are my predictions, not my algorithms. I am retiring the algorithm for the season as I don’t think it makes sense to use in the playoffs. I also likely won’t be making predictions on every game since it is really the series that matters. I may post some comments each day on the previous nights results and that nights games but it will depend on how busy I am with other stuff.

Ottawa vs Tampa

Season Series:
October 21: Ottawa 4 at Tampa 1
November 3: Tampa 2 at Ottawa 4
March 6: Ottawa 4 at Tampa 0
March 14: Tampa 3 at Ottawa 4

Ottawa swept the season series and that might be a good indication of what might happen in this playoff series. This is the dream match up for Ottawa as I think Montreal would have given them a much bigger challenge. For both teams the key to the series is goaltending. If Tampa wants any change of winning they need to have Grahame or Burke come up with a several excellent games. Unfortunately for Tampa that hasn’t happened with a whole lot of consistency this year. Grahame has 5 shut outs this year which shows he can be a good goalie but while he can shut out a team one night he can give up 6 goals the next. The key for Ottawa is getting good goaltending from Ray Emery. In March they got excellent goaltending from Emery but in April he was mostly horrible. He apparently has a bit of a hip injury that might be taking away some of this quickness so if I am Tampa I pepper him with as many shots as I can. That will be their only hope to win this series. Prediction: Ottawa in 5.

Carolina vs Montreal

Season Series:
December 31: Montreal 3 at Carolina 5
January 23: Montreal 3 at Carolina 7
January 31: Carolina 8 at Montreal 2
March 15: Carolina 5 at Montreal 1

This is one of those series which I think could definitely end up in an upset despite the fact that Carolina went completely nuts vs Montreal in the regular season out scoring the Canadiens by a 25-9 score in their 4 games. The first 3 of those games has the departed and struggling Jose Theodore in net and the last had David Aebischer. Huet has been the much better goalie and should be the Habs main goalie in the playoffs so that should help. Huet’s outstanding goaltending got the Canadiens into the playoffs and they will only go as far as Huet takes them in the playoffs. For the Hurricanes they key their success will be how Doug Weight and Mark Recchi play. These two guys were traded for to add some depth to the Hurricanes offense, particularly after Erik Cole went down, but they haven’t produced a whole lot up until now. These two veterans need to take some pressure off of Eric Staal to produce all the offense. If they can do that the Hurricanes could go deep into the playoffs. Prediction: Hurricanes in 7

New Jersey vs New York Rangers

Season Series:
October 8: NY Rangers 2 at New Jersey 3 (OT)
October 13: New Jersey 1 at NY Rangers 4
November 3: NY Rangers 4 at New Jersey 2
November 5: New Jersey 2 at NY Rangers 3 (OT)
December 20: New Jersey 3 at NY Rangers 1
January 22: New Jersey 1 at NY Rangers 3
March 4: NY Rangers 1 at New Jersey 2
April 9: NY Rangers 2 at New Jersey 3

This is the only battle amongst division rivals in the first round of the playoffs and it should be fun series to watch. Both teams have good goalies. Both teams have pretty good defences despite not having a bunch of big name players. And both teams have a top line that can score in bunches. In my mind the key to this series will be who can shut down the opposing teams top line the best. Can the Devils keep Jagr to no more than a point a game? Can the Rangers shut down the trio of Gionta, Gomez and Elias all of whom have been awesome in the push for the playoffs? Those are the keys to this series. Prediction: Devils in 6

Buffalo Sabres vs Philadelphia Flyers

Season Series:
December 19: Buffalo 2 at Philadelphia 1 (SO)
February 2: Philadelphia 2 at Buffalo 4
March 11: Buffalo 6 at Philadelphia 5
April 7: Philadelphia 4 at Buffalo 2

I really like Buffalo to win this series. I just think they are a better all round team and I think Buffalo’s speed will give the Flyers defence fits. The only concern one might have for the Sabres is goaltending. Generally Ryan Miller has had a very good rookie season but he struggled a bit in late March and early April. He picked his game up in his last 3 starts of the season so he should have his confidence back. If Miller can give they Sabres good goaltending Buffalo will be a very tough team to beat in the playoffs. There are two keys to the Flyers success. The first is Forsberg’s health. If Forsberg isn’t healthy and playing at his top level the Flyers will struggle to get the offence needed to win. The other key to the Flyers is goaltending. Of course this is nothing new as the Flyers haven’t had top quality goaltending for years and it has never been adequately addressed by GM Bobby Clarke. Goaltending is key in the NHL and if you don’t have it you won’t win and I just don’t think Esche and Niittymaki are good enough to take a team deep into the playoffs though anyone can get hot for a short period of time and win a series.. Prediciton: Buffalo in 6.

Mar 082006
 

A couple more trades have occurred over the last couple hours:

1. Luke Richardson to Toronto for 5th round pick and conditional 4th round pick

2. Sharks get Nieminen from Rangers for a 3rd round pick.

3. Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel to L.A. Kings for Denis Grebeshkov and Jeff Tambellini and conditional 3rd round pick

4. Montreal trades Jose Theodore to Colorado for David Aebischer

At this point in his career Luke Richardson isn’t much more than a 5th/6th or depth defenseman but what this deal might be is a precursor to another in which Klee, Berg or Khavanov get moved with Klee being the most likely.

Nieminen is a role player and a 3rd line type of guy. He’s nothing special but every team needs guys like this for depth and penalty killing. This might be a precursor to the trading of Alyn MacAuley who is rumoured to be on the block because he is the Sharks only soon to be UFA. MacAuley provides more offense than Nieminen but plays a similar 2-way, penalty killing role.

The Islanders picked up a couple of pretty good prospects in Grebeshkov and Tambellini but it cost them two pretty good players off of their roster and that is going to hurt and chance they had of getting back in the playoff race. Parrish is a goal scorer with 24 goals and 41 points so far this year and will add some much needed offense to the Kings lineup which was too dependent on Demitra who was severely missed when injured. Parrish is unrestricted free agent at seasons end. Brent Sopel is a solid defenseman as well and will certainly help the Kings especially on the power play with his good shot. Sopel is signed through next season so it gives the Kings some stability on defense going forward. This trade should help the Kings maintain a playoff position but I am still not sold on their goaltending. But you never know, maybe this too is a precursor to another deal. There were rumours of the Kings going after Luongo. Maybe this deal allows them to include a Sopel, Tim Gleason or Joe Corvo in a package for Luongo.

I don’t like the Theodore trade from a Colorado point of view, especially for this season. Theodore just hasn’t been very good this year and is currently injured. He also has a pretty hefty contract taking away some salary cap flexibility for several more years. That said, if Theodore can return to form of a few years ago this could work out well. They have had some luck with former Montreal goalies in the past so who knows. Maybe the change of scenery will do Theodore good. As for Montreal Theodore had worn out his welcome and as good as Huet has been he just isn’t going to cut it. Aebischer has suffered some inconsistancy issues but he is still relatively young with this being only his second season in the NHL as a starter. Most importantly for Montreal is they rid themselves of a hefty contract on a guy who had become a bit of a side show and a distraction for the team.

Feb 102006
 

I’ve done a lot of complaining about the referees throughout the season so far but what I have seen tonight just blows me away. In the second period of the Leafs-Rangers game there was a penalty called on Darcy Tucker. Before the Leafs touched the puck again the Rangers took it down the ice into the Leafs zone and after a bit of play McCabe was able to touch the puck and the whistle blew on the delayed penalty call. But, McCabe instead of just touching the puck slapped it down the ice and for doing so was given a 2 minute unsportsmanlike penalty. Now I don’t like it when players do what McCabe did. I think it is childish and yes, unsportsmanlike. But, that sort of thing happens all the time, several times a game, and no penalties ever get called. I don’t think I have ever seen a penalty called when players do that and I just don’t understand what went through the referees mind to decide that now is when he is going to call that penalty. Maybe he is just having a bad day but he shouldn’t let that affect his calling of the game.

Nov 262005
 

It took 15 shooters but the Rangers finally won the shootout on a goal by Marek Malik. And what a beauty goal it was. The shootout was actually becoming somewhat comical watching 4th liners and defensemen try to score on the shootout. That was until Washington’s Bryan Muir scored to give the Caps a 3-2 shootout lead. But then Jason Strudwick came right back and tied it up again for the Rangers. That’s when Matt Bradley made his attempt and failed which set it up for Marek Malik to win the game for the Rangers. Not only did he win the game, he did in on a between the legs shot which fooled Olaf Kolzig. It was so good I quickly got the VCR going so I could capture it and show you all. If you haven’t seen the goal you can download it here. It is approximately 1MB long so those on dialup it might take a bit to download but trust me, it is worth it.

Personalized Letters from Santa



Sep 292005
 

On Sunday, former first-round draft pick Dan Blackburn announced his retirement at the tender age of 22. Selected 10th overall by the New York Rangers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, he was projected as their future starter and the heir apparent to Mike Richter. Then, in October of 2003, Blackburn suffered an injury to his left shoulder which resulted in nerve damage and left him unable to play for the following season. When he did return in 2004-05, it was with the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL, and he sported two blockers, as his injury prevented him from being able to close a catcher. Blackburn then reinjured himself at the Rangers training camp this year, leading to his retirement. Yet, with his injuries, it’s easy to forget exactly how good Blackburn was. To put it in perspective, he’s three years younger now then Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who has yet to cement an NHL job. While it’s difficult to find any recent statistical comparisons to a goaltender who joined the NHL from the WHL at 18, here are a few other players who have all been considered number one goaltender material at some point in their career (please note, the OHL numbers are skewed compared to WHL numbers):

Player 16 yrs old 17 yrs old 18 yrs old 19 yrs old 20 yrs old
Dan Blackburn WHL
34-8-7
2.52gaa
.912%
WHL
33-14-2
2.77
.907%
AHL
2-1-1
2.70
.905%
NHL
12-16-0
3.28
.898%
NHL
8-16-4
3.17
.890%
Injured
Player 1 HS
14-0-1
0.95gaa
WHL
17-11-2
3.29gaa
WHL
33-19-2
3.41
WHL
10-24-5
3.69
.899%
AHL
16-12-3
3.19
.888%
Player 2 SMHL
2.43gaa
WHL
27-13-1
2.38gaa
.906%
WHL
18-24-13
2.75
.914%
WHL
25-25-5
2.42
.923
AHL
21-16-3
2.01
.930%
Player 3 OJHL
2.87gaa
OHL
3-9-1
4.98
OHL
24-28-1
4.54
OHL
20-28-1
4.31
.891%
AHL
14-15-7
3.19
.899%
Player 3 MTJHL
3.94
OHL
8-16-5
4.16
.890%
OHL
17-22-5
4.11
.897%
OHL
33-20-5
3.43
.918%
AHL
8-14-4
3.37
.891%
NHL
4-6-0
2.96
.890%

As you can see, none of them really compare to Blackburn, with only Player 4 having reached the NHL by age 20. Player 1 is Brian Boucher, famous for guiding the Flyers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and currently languishing in Phoenix, a victim of his own inconsistency. Player 2 is Minnesota prospect Josh Harding, who actually compares well to Blackburn, if with slower development, and who is projected as a future starting netminder. Player 3 is Brent Johnson, former starter in St. Louis and current third-stringer in Vancouver. Finally, Player 4 is Boston Bruins netminder Andrew Raycroft, whose statistics as a 20 year old are inferior to Blackburn as an 18 year old, despite the fact that Blackburn played for an inferior team. How though, does Blackburn compare against other phenom netminders? Here’s a look at two current stars, who unfortunately played in wildly different leagues at young ages, making it difficult to compare them to Blackburn. Here are their first NHL seasons, both with the New York Islanders:

Roberto Luongo (20 years old)
AHL- 10-12-4 2.93 GAA .908%
NHL- 7-14-1 3.25 GAA .904%

Rick DiPietro (19 years old)
IHL- 4-5-2 3.39 GAA .880%
NHL- 3-15-1 3.49 GAA .878%

Dan Blackburn (18 years old)
AHL- 2-1-1 2.70 GAA .905%
NHL- 12-16-0 3.28 GAA .898%

Blackburn again compares well, boasting superior numbers to DiPietro, and similar numbers to Luongo. With these statistics in mind, it isn’t difficult to see how Blackburn might have developed into one of the top netminders in the league.

 Posted by at 12:14 am
Sep 132005
 

(Also posted at The Devils Advocate)

Let me start off by saying that it’s great to join HockeyAnalysis.com. Over the next week or so, I will be taking a look at the Atlantic Division. The first team up is the New York Rangers.

What they lost: A ton of stars and payroll. Bobby Holik, Eric Lindros, and Mike Dunham have all been lost since the Broadway Blueshirts last took the ice, and even more were shipped out before last season’s trading deadline. The biggest blow to the Rags could be the loss of captain Mark Messier, the most recent future Hall of Famer to retire after the long layoff. They also lost their chance to bring back Brian Leetch, who signed in Boston. The Rangers have been somewhat of a running joke around the NHL for their high payroll and low output, so they’re switching to a youth movement in hopes of rebuilding and changing their fortunes.

What they gained: Finishing several consecutive seasons low in the standings does have its benefits. The Rangers now have a stockpile of young talent led by Fedor Tyutin. Their future in net looks bright with Henrik Lundqvist and Al Montoya battling for the #2 spot behind Kevin Weekes. As far as veteran additions, the Rangers picked up Steve Rucchin, Ville Nieminen, Martin Rucinsky, Jason Ward, Marek Malik, and Martin Straka. None of these guys are mega-superstars, but that’s exactly what the Rangers need. These could be the character players they’ve needed for the past eight years.

Staying at home: The Rangers did not do to Darius Kasparaitis what they did to Bobby Holik, and now he is the backbone of their defense. Jaromir Jagr will be expected to provide the offensive spark for this team, and justifiably so. He is arguably the most talented played in the NHL (I’d argue on his behalf), and if his heart is in the game, no one can stop him. Other notable returnees are Tom Poti and Michael “Born to Play for the Islanders” Nylander.

Bottom line: This is not the year the Rangers make a triumphant return to the playoffs. Make no mistake about it, this is a rebuilding season, and their final standings will be a reflection of it. Four or five years down the road, the Rags may be contenders once again, but not this year… not with this team. They’ll finish dead last in the Atlantic.

 Posted by at 10:41 am