Aug 162008
 

The Hockey News’ Rankings in the Yearly Yearbook were released, and for the West they’re as follows:

1 Detroit Red Wings
2 San Jose Sharks
3 Minnesota Wild
4 Dallas Stars
5 Anaheim Ducks
6 Edmonton Oilers
7 Chicago Blackhawks
8 Calgary Flames
9 Nashville Predators
10 Phoenix Coyotes
11 Vancouver Canucks
12 Columbus Blue Jackets
13 Los Angeles Kings
14 Colorado Avalanche
15 St. Louis Blues

Detroit at the top is an absolute no-brainer. They won the Cup and somehow got better by adding Marian Hossa. They’ve got Pavel Datsyuk locked up for awhile, and it’s hard to see Henrik Zetterberg not follow suit. Niklas Kronwall, and to a lesser extent, Jonathan Ericsson, look to take over Nicklas Lidstrom‘s mantle when he retires. They’re going to remain a powerhouse for years to come.

I have a hard time believing Minnesota will finish atop the Northwest Division. They lost key offensive pieces in Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston, and replaced them with two aging veterans (Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette) and a mid-level winger in Antti Miettinen. Their biggest acquisition is Marek Zidlicky, but the Flames have improved more – Calgary’s the early division favourite.

I don’t think the Oilers will finish that high. Adding Lubomir Visnovsky was huge, but they will miss Jarret Stoll‘s shot on the PP. Erik Cole was also another nice add, but I don’t think Visnovsky and Cole makes them better than the Coyotes. Their biggest question mark remains in net, and with some quality goaltending in the West that might be their downfall.

The Coyotes to me are a playoff team – they’ve got a talented forwards, a responsible captain, a respectable defense highlighted by a rejuvenated Ed Jovanovski, and good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. The dogs have tons going for them, and with Kyle Turris expected to make the squad out of training camp the team will be loaded with offense, led by the newly-acquired Olli Jokinen, who might get his first taste of playoff hockey this season.

How the Kings are ahead of the Avs and Blues is beyond me. Technically, they don’t even exist in the NHL because they’ve yet to reach the salary floor. Even with they do be re-signing all their RFAs, their team is laughable at best, and just might win the Calder Cup. This team needs at least two more season to grow before they’re even a playoff contender – it looks like they’re going for the John Tavares sweepstakes and rebuilding Pittsburgh-style.

The Avs, even without Joe Sakic for most of the season, remained competitive until the late stages of the season. Should Sakic retire, they don’t have a player to take over as captain or offensive dynamo yet, although Paul Stastny comes close. A healthy Ryan Smyth and having Adam Foote for a whole season, with some of Darcy Tucker‘s toughness, will make them a respectable squad, but like the Oilers, their biggest question mark remains in net.

Stay tuned for the East.

Aug 132008
 

As Canada’s #1 sports network, and hockey obviously at the forefront, I’m a little disappointed and frustrated at times by their hockey coverage, especially those of their staff writers. They’ve recently coughed up a short article on the Canucks. (The Leafs and Habs have also been covered). You’d think that for a sports network as large as theirs they’d take a little more prudence when writing these things, but they don’t.

In the Canucks article, they noted that Jason Jaffray as a potential “youngster” that could be thrust into a scoring role should Mats Sundin not sign, but Jaffray is 27 years old – hardly considered a “youngster,” unless by “youngster,” they mean “inexperienced,” in which Jaffray has only 19 NHL games under his belt, all of them coming last year. Another thing that really bugs me is their lineup projections. Now these lines are based on personal opinion, but how can you misspell “Ryan Kesler?” Vancouver’s arguably most prized forward must deserve at least a spell-check. It’s not like we’re asking them to spell “Schwarzenegger.” I also think sitting Darcy Hordichuk in favour of Jeff Cowan is a little ridiculous.

These short articles are for die-hard hockey fans like us to pass a little time, but you’d think they’d take a little more prudence and give a little more thought to, or even proofread, what they write.

Aug 132008
 

Despite the fact that the Lightning defense still seems a little suspect, boasting little veteran presence or even a big name, Oren Koules maintains that he is satisfied with his current defensive corps. The Lightning still have to get under the cap enough to ensure that they can accommodate Steven Stamkos‘ cap hit, which would be 3.75 should he reach all performance bonuses. Remember that this upcoming season is the last year of the current CBA agreement, and that there will be no performance cushions. Nashville, as noted in the article, remains a very enticing trading partner, with 13 draft picks in 2009 and a plethora of young talent on their blueline. A trade makes sense for both teams, as JP Dumont has voiced his opinion that the Preds need more bite. Jussi Jokinen, who will be replaced by Vaclav Prospal on the top line, Michel Ouellet, and Jason Ward remain their biggest trading chips. The Lightning enter next season as a Southeast Division contender once again, although it remains to be seen if a young defensive corps and Mike Smith will hold up. David has a more in-depth look at the Lightning’s roster here.

Mark Parrish apparently is the Canucks’ answer should they fail to land Mats Sundin. Folks at TSN are calling it Mike Gillis‘ “Plan B,” although it should be more like “Plan D,” considering the discrepancy between Parrish and Sundin. As the Sundin saga dragged along (it’s now rumoured that he is leaning towards retirement, if only anyone knows what means nowadays), it was clear that the Canucks had no answer should Sundin not sign. Gillis maintains that he has been talking trade with several teams regarding one or two defenseman on his team, but I would think that he would like to keep his defense intact. When Parrish was bought out, he was immediately linked to Vancouver and Nashville, two western teams that have had plenty of looks at the big forward. Both teams were in similar situations and needed to get bigger and better offensively. A lot of fans in Vancouver aren’t very happy with how things have gone this summer, after all, Gillis had promised sweeping changes and a drastically different team with offense as its number one priority. So far, the only sweeping changes have come upstairs and the team remains arguably as potent offensively as it was last year, which is to say, still not very potent. Should Parrish find himself in Vancouver he will get looks on the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, but for now Steve Bernier seems to be the favourite going into camp. It’s tough to gauge what sort of money Parrish will get, but I would be very surprised if it is anything over a year.

Feb 262008
 

Here are a few of my thoughts about the trade deadline action.

Short Term Winners

Pittsburgh Penguins – Adding Hossa, Dupuis and Gill has the potential to make them a really scary team. Think about it. In recent weeks the top line of Malkin, Sykora and Malone have been one of the best lines in the NHL and over the next week or two you will add Crosby and Hossa to fill out a 1A line. Losing Armstrong and Christensen will hurt the third line but with a top 2 lines that good they may not need a third line. In Hal Gill they add a very big, physical, defense first defenseman that will make life for opposing forwards much less pleasant. If Conklin continues his stellar play it isn’t hard to conceive that the Penguins are now easily the best team in the East.

San Jose Sharks – Brian Campbell is exactly what the Sharks needed. They have the talent up front and they have some solid defensive defensemen but what they didn’t have was that top tier puck moving defensemen and PP quarterback. Campbell is that guy. They still need some of their other players to step up their games if they want to be true Cup contenders but the Sharks should be a lot better today than they were yesterday.

Long Term Winners

Atlanta Thrashers – We knew they were going to trade Hossa but by getting two very solid young and cheap 3rd line players, a good prospect and a first round pick they got more than I thought they would. They now have some young depth role players that they very much needed and if they can add a nice centerman in the off season with the money they saved from Hossa they will have the makings of a nice core of players.

Losers

Montreal Canadiens – If you think you have a chance to make a run in the playoffs I don’t understand the thought process of trading your top and only established goalie for a second round pick. The Canadiens are now rushing Price to the NHL and while he has looked great at times he has looked mediocre at times too. Rushing goalies to the NHL is never a good thing. Just look at Marc-Andre Fleury as evidence. This move puts Price’s confidence and development at risk. On top of that GM Bob Gainey was talking for a couple weeks about wanting a big name player to add to the team but he came up empty here too. He wasn’t even able to add some needed size to the line up. Overall the Canadiens are not as good a team after this evening as they were this morning.

Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks aren’t losers because they made a bad trade but they are losers because they weren’t able to make a trade they desperately needed. That is to add some much needed offense to the lineup. With a bit more offensive punch they could have been a threat in the playoffs. Instead they may not make the playoffs.

Undetermined

Dallas Stars – I am partly surprised that they didn’t have to give up more to get Richards but Richards with his huge contract is also a significant long term risk. No doubt that Richards will help the Stars but will he help them to the tune of $7.8 million salary? Last year Richards got 70 points and he is on about the same pace this year. That’s not bad but that’s not $7.8 million value. People will say that it is largely due to the fact doesn’t play regularly with top level players which is partly true (he does play on the top PP unit) but he also plays in the horrific defensive southeast division. Richards has 28 points in 23 games against southeast division opponents and 29 points in 39 games against the rest of the league. That is 60 point pace against non-southeast opponents and I can assure you he isn’t going to a team in Dallas that is loaded with offensive players. Maybe this trade will invigorate Richards and he will return to his 90 point form but that is far from a certainty and until we see what Richards does we don’t know if Dallas does well in this trade or not.

Ottawa Senators – If you go by acquisition cost, Martin Lapointe’s value is somewhere between Wade Belak and Rob Davison. That would indicate that Lapointe won’t mean a whole lot to the Senators and he probably won’t. But the Senators have the talent to make a run in the playoffs regardless of what they did today but they are also in a downward spiral and if they can’t turn it around and they exit the playoffs early I am sure we will all look back at this trade deadline and say they should have done more.

Sep 262007
 

Calgary Flames
Strengths:
-Excellent depth at forward and defense
-Top tier goaltending with Kipprusoff
-Excellent size and physical play
Weaknesses:
-No true #1 center
-No proven backup goalie if anything happens to Kipprusoff
Question Marks:
-How will the players get along with new hard-nosed coach Mike Keenan
-Can Huselius repeat his stellar season last year which was well beyond the typical Huselius season.
Outlook:
-The Flames have an excellent mix of skill and toughness, forwards and defense, experience and youth and in my mind should be one of the best teams in the NHL. That didn’t quite work out last year but one has to believe things might be different under a new and extremely experienced head coach in Mike Keenan. The key will be weather the players buy into Keenan’s antics. I suspect they will because they Keenan isn’t likely to be all that different than former coach and now GM Darryl Sutter. The Flames should make the playoffs and be a force in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.

Colorado Avalanche
Strengths:
-A lot of skill on their top 2 lines and should score a lot of goals.
-Leadership ability in Sakic and Smyth
-An underrated defence that is deep
Weaknesses:
-Budaj had a decent year last year but is still not proven as a top starter in the NHL.
Question Marks:
-Can Budaj take his game to the next level?
-Can last years rookies Stastny and Wolski repeat or improve on their seasons?
-Can Svatos return to his rookie year performance.
Outlook:
-The Avalanche made a great late season run at the playoffs last year and nearly made it but in the end just missed. This year should be different as they come back with pretty much the same team but have added 30+ goal scorer Ryan Smyth and defensive defenseman Scott Hannan. They should be a lock for a playoff spot this year and if Budaj pick up his game a little and last years rookies repeat the Avalanche should challenge for the Stanley Cup.

Edmonton Oilers
Strengths:
-Souray, Pitkanen and Tarnstrom give them some PP quarterbacks that they didn’t have last year.
-Dustin Penner should replace most of Smyth’s offensive production.
-Alex Cogliano and Sam Gagner could bring some youthful talent and enthusiasm into the lineup.
Weaknesses:
-With Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith gone they lost a lot of leadership for the young forwards and defensemen respectively.
-Lack a true offensive star up front.
-Questionable defensive defensively.
Question Marks:
-Can one of their forwards step up and take the team under his wings much like Smyth did for all those years.
-Will Pitkanen finally develop into a star defenseman like everyone has expected.
-Can Gagner and/or Cogliano make a big impact with the Oilers this year.
Outlook:
-The Oilers should be a much improved team this year with the additions of Pitkanen, Souray, Tarnstrom and Penner. The improvement will largely come in the areas of offence where the skilled defence trio of Pitkanen, Souray and Tarnstrom should help with the transition game and the power play. Also, Matheiu Garon gives the Oilers the best goalie tandem they have had in several years. If the Oilers were in the eastern conference I would suggest that they might contend for a playoff spot. Problem is, the Oilers play in the better/deeper western conference and more importantly the best division in the NHL. That is going to leave them on the outside come playoff time but I think Oilers fans are going to see some improvement and positive signs for the future of the franchise.

Minnesota Wild
Strengths:
-Excellent coaching and proven defensive system the players buy into.
-Gaborik and Koivu are just entering their prime
-Brian Rolston is one of the most underrated players in the NHL
-A deep defence with experience.
Weaknesses:
-Goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have combined for just 48 games experience.
-Not a lot of secondary scoring.
-Lack a true #1 defenseman
Question Marks:
-Can Nicklas Backstrom repeat last seasons success over 65 games this year?
-Can Marian Gaborik remain healthy?
-Can Kim Johnsson rebound after a weak season (especially offensively).
Outlook:
-If Nicklas Backstrom can repeat his excellent year last year over 65+ games this season the Minnesota Wild’s playoff chances look good. The Wild would definitely be a top 8 teams in terms of talent and ability but if their inexperienced goalies struggle at all then they may fall back into a tight playoff race with teams like Nashville and/or St. Louis who play in a much easier division. Unfortunately for the Wild there may not be a lot of room for error in such a tough division.

Vancouver Canucks
Strengths:
-They have the best goalie in the NHL
-When healthy they have a pretty good group of 6 defensemen
Weaknesses:
-They don’t have much offensive punch after the Sedin’s
-Sami Salo is starting the season injured with a fractured wrist.
Question Marks:
-Can the Sedin’s continue to improve or have the reached their career potential?
-Will the downward trend of Markus Naslund’s career continue or can he turn it around?
-Can Bieksa repeat what was a stellar season in 2006-07?
-Can Taylor Pyatt score 20+ goals again?
Outlook:
-Let’s be honest here. The Canucks are very similar to the Dallas Stars and depend significantly on defence and goaltending to win games. That isn’t necessarily a bad thin as New Jersey has had a lot of success doing that over the past dozen years but it does mean the margin for error is slim as the Canucks will probably win a ton of one goal games. If Luongo or either of the Sedin’s suffer a long term injury the Canucks playoffs hopes could fizzle away. But if their big guys stay healthy and perform as expected the Canucks should make the playoffs relatively easily and once there almost any team can ride a hot goalie to the Stanley Cup.

Sep 112007
 

I was going to write up team by team reports, and I may still do that for some teams, but I decided to first post some numerical evaluations of each team in nice and easily readable table format. I have divided each team up into Forwards, Defense and Goaltending and then divided each of those groups into Talent, Depth and Experience/Leadership and ranked each of those nine categories based on a score out of 10. I then summed up all 9 categories to get an overall team score. Below are my results for the western conference. Let me know what you all think. For the most part I am happy with them but if you can provide a good arguement I may consider making slight modifications.

Note: I made the assumption that Niedermayer will not play for the Ducks and I also factored in a few long term injuries (i.e. Steve Sullivan is expected to miss 3 months due to back surgery).

Update:While working on the eastern conference (and in conjunction with Triumph’s comment) I have decided to tweak the overall formula. The new forumula will weight experience significantly less and also give more weight to #1 goalie and less to depth (Vancouver, Calgary, New Jersey, etc. hardly need a backup goalie). This is the new updated table.

Forwards Defense Goaltending Total
Talent Depth Exp. Talent Depth Exp. #1 goalie Depth Exp. Score
Detroit 8 5 7 10 8 8 8 6 10 54.3
Vancouver 7 6 6 7 8 6 10 7 6 52.5
Anaheim 7 7 6 9 6 8 8 7 8 51.8
Dallas 6 7 7 7 7 8 8 8 7 50.3
Calgary 7 6 7 8 7 6 9 4 7 50.2
San Jose 9 7 7 6 7 5 8 5 7 49.8
Minnesota 8 6 7 6 8 7 7 6 4 47.5
Colorado 8 7 7 7 7 6 6 6 5 47.0
Edmonton 6 6 5 7 7 6 7 7 7 46.0
St. Louis 7 6 7 6 7 6 7 6 6 45.8
Nashville 6 7 6 7 7 6 7 4 5 45.2
Los Angeles 6 7 6 7 7 7 5 5 5 43.0
Chicago 7 5 5 5 5 4 7 6 7 40.8
Columbus 6 6 6 5 5 5 6 6 6 39.7
Phoenix 4 5 5 7 7 7 5 6 5 39.2
Apr 242007
 

Time for the second round predictions. Like the first round, the second round features some intriguing matchups and also like the first round, none of those match ups are divisional rivals.

  1. NY Rangers at Buffalo

    NY Rangers (road) Buffalo (home)
    Predicted Winner Buffalo (Good)
    Fair Odds +135 -155
    Overall Record 42-30-10 53-22-7
    Home/Road Record 21-15-5 28-10-3
    Last 10 Games 7-2-1 7-3-0
    Past Games
    • 2006/10/14: NY Rangers 4 at Buffalo 7
    • 2006/11/05: Buffalo 4 at NY Rangers 3 (OT)
    • 2006/11/26: Buffalo 3 at NY Rangers 2 (OT)
    • 2006/12/01: NY Rangers 3 at Buffalo 4 (SO)

    My Opinion: Buffalo has been my pick to win the east before the season and they are still my pick though I think the Rangers could give them a challenge. With Jagr, Straka, Nylander and Shanahan the Rangers have 4 legitimate threats offensively, Sean Avery has given them a valuable boost in the ultra-pest category and he has also played great hockey too. The Rangers also have a servicable group of defensemen that are more of the stay at home defensvie minded variety which is probably better against a deep and talented offensive team in Buffalo. And most importantly what the Rangers have is some of the best goaltending in the NHL over the past 2-3 months.. With Buffalo having a deeper set of forwards and a better group of defensemen the Rangers are going to need Lundqvist to substantially out play Ryan Miller if they are to win. Problem is Miller is a very good goalie too so I think Buffalo will win this series. My Prediction: Buffalo in 7

  2. Ottawa at New Jersey

    Ottawa (road) New Jersey (home)
    Predicted Winner New Jersey (Some)
    Fair Odds +110 -111
    Overall Record 48-25-9 49-24-9
    Home/Road Record 23-12-6 25-10-6
    Last 10 Games 6-2-2 6-3-1
    Past Games
    • 2006/10/21: New Jersey 1 at Ottawa 8
    • 2006/11/17: Ottawa 2 at New Jersey 3
    • 2007/01/06: New Jersey 3 at Ottawa 2
    • 2007/04/03: Ottawa 1 at New Jersey 2 (SO)

    My OpinionOttawa looked very good in defeating Pittsburgh relatively easily but I think the Senators are going to be in tough now against New Jersey. The defense first, rely on exceptional goaltending style of play the the Devils play seems to be a challenge for Ottawa to overcome. In the first game of the season series Ottawa trounced the Devils 8-1 but only mustered 5 goals in the final 3 games. Ottawa has also struggled to generate offense against other defense-first, top goaltending teams losing 1-2 to Calgary and 2-1 to Vancouver. As for the Devils they looked off their game early in the Tampa series but rounded into form late in the series winning 3 straight games to take the series in 6 games. Ottawa has a lot more secondary scoring than Tampa did so that should be a bigger challenge for the Devils but Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley didn’t have good series against the Penguins either. That has to change if the Senators are to have any chance against the Devils. The Devils also have two lines producing goals which bodes well because you know that Volchenkov and Phillips will do a good job at shutting down one of them. Getting that second line scoring will be key and if the Devils get that they should win this series. My Prediction: Devils in 6

  3. San Jose at Detroit

    San Jose (road) Detroit (home)
    Predicted Winner Detroit (Some)
    Fair Odds +120 -125
    Overall Record 51-26-5 50-19-13
    Home/Road Record 26-14-1 29-4-8
    Last 10 Games 7-1-2 5-1-4
    Past Games
    • 2006/10/19: Detroit 1 at San Jose 5
    • 2006/10/25: San Jose 1 at Detroit 2
    • 2006/12/02: San Jose 3 at Detroit 2
    • 2007/01/04: Detroit 4 at San Jose 9

    My Opinion: I was not sold on the Red Wings going into the playoffs but the way they dominated the Flames at both ends of the rink was very impressive. If it weren’t for Kipprusoff it could have been a sweep for the Wings. But San Jose looked very good against a strong Nashville team as well so I think this might be a dandy of a series. San Jose will provide more of an offensive threat than the Flames did, but their goaltending isn’t near as good. The Wings are better defensively than the Predators and more experienced but may not have the raw talent than Nashville had. But I don’t beleive that raw talent is what wins in the playoffs. Smart team play, hard work, dedication, depth and experience is what wins in the playoffs and I think the Wings have a bit more of that than the Sharks. My Prediction: Wings in 7

  4. Vancouver at Anaheim

    Vancouver (road) Anaheim (home)
    Predicted Winner Anaheim (Some)
    Fair Odds +117 -120
    Overall Record 49-26-7 48-20-14
    Home/Road Record 23-15-3 26-6-9
    Last 10 Games 6-3-1 5-3-2
    Past Games
    • 2006/11/09: Anaheim 6 at Vancouver 0
    • 2006/11/30: Anaheim 2 at Vancouver 1
    • 2007/02/20: Vancouver 3 at Anaheim 2 (OT)
    • 2007/03/11: Vancouver 2 at Anaheim 4
  5. My Opinion: I am still not sold on Anaheim being a typical Stanley Cup winning team as I think they lack depth on defense and have a lot of young and relatively inexperienced forwards. But, they fairly easily defeated Minnesota and I think should relatively easily defeat the Canucks. The reason is, those two teams are ideal match ups for the Ducks. With a high dependence on just a few defensemen I think they are better suited to play against one line teams like the Wild and Canucks than deep, talented teams like Nashville, San Jose or Detroit. As we saw in the Dallas series, if you can shut down the Sedin line you go a long way to completely shutting down Vancouver’s offense. I think the Ducks can mostly do that just like they shut down the Wild’s offense. The Ducks should be able to generate more offense against Luongo than the Stars did so I think this is the end of the line for the Canucks. My Prediction: Ducks in 5

Apr 102007
 

Here are my first round predictions for the western conference. My eastern conference predictions will come later today. What is interesting about the western conference matchups is that the the home team has won every single game of each of the regular season series except for the final game of the San Jose-Nashville series in which Nashville won the game on the road in a shootout. That might lead you to believe that the home teams should win these series, but I wouldn’t be too eager to jump that that conclusion. For the most part, all the games were close and so should these series.

Calgary at Detroit

Calgary (road) Detroit (home)
Predicted Winner Detroit (Good)
Fair Odds +127 -137
Overall Record 43-29-10 50-19-13
Home/Road Record 13-20-8 29-4-8
Last 10 Games 6-4-0 5-1-4
Past Games
  • 2006/11/01: Calgary 2 at Detroit 3
  • 2006/11/17: Detroit 1 at Calgary 4
  • 2007/02/11: Calgary 4 at Detroit 7
  • 2007/03/20: Detroit 1 at Calgary 2

There are a lot of series that are really difficult to predict this year and this is certainly one of them. Detroit has played pretty consistently good hockey all year while Calgary started off horribly, then played significantly better, and then sputtered a bit down the final stretch of the season losing its last 4 games as well as having a 1-4-1 stretch in March. That said, I have always believed that Calgary has the best combination of offense, defense, goaltending, skill, toughness, experience and depth of any team in the NHL. The key for the Flames in this series might be that toughness as Detroit is generally a soft team and tough, tenacious play can beat them, kind of like what the Oilers did last season. If they play hard physical hockey on guys like Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Lang I think they have a chance of shutting down Detroit’s offense. The key for the Red Wings might be their deadline pickup of Todd Bertuzzi (and to a lesser extend Kyle Calder) as he can play that physical game and certainly won’t be intimidated by it. But is he healthy enough to play that style of game against a very physical team for a full 7 games series? I am not sure about that.
My prediction: Flames in 6

Minnesota at Anaheim

Minnesota (road) Anaheim (home)
Predicted Winner Anaheim (Some)
Fair Odds +120 -125
Overall Record 48-26-8 48-20-14
Home/Road Record 19-19-3 26-6-9
Last 10 Games 7-2-1 5-3-2
Past Games
  • 2006/10/20: Minnesota 1 at Anaheim 2
  • 2006/10/27: Anaheim 2 at Minnesota 3 (SO)
  • 2006/11/12: Minnesota 2 at Anaheim 3
  • 2006/12/31: Anaheim 3 at Minnesota 4

This is another difficult series to predict as I believe both teams have serious flaws though both teams have also looked extremely dominant at times. For Anaheim they have the stellar 2 defensemen but lack much depth on defense as their 5 and 6 guys, whoever they are, don’t scare anyone. That might cost them more down the road as the grind of the playoffs takes their toll or against a very physical team but whether Minnesota can expose that in the first round is another question. Anaheim also has a lot of youth and inexperience up front in guys like Penner, Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz and others. For Minnesota, their defense is really unspectacular and could be the achilles heel for them. That said, they play great team defense so it will be more difficult for other teams to expose that flaw. The other question mark for Minnesota is whether rookie Niklas Backstrom is ready to handle the pressure in the playoffs. It certianly isn’t un heard of for young goalies to lead their team deep into the playoffs (see Cam Ward last season) but it has to be a bit of a concern not at least having a healthy Manny Fernandez there if needed.
My Prediction Anaheim in 7

Dallas at Vancouver

Dallas (road) Vancouver (home)
Predicted Winner Vancouver (Some)
Fair Odds +122 -129
Overall Record 50-25-7 49-26-7
Home/Road Record 22-14-5 26-11-4
Last 10 Games 7-1-2 6-3-1
Past Games
  • 2006/10/23: Vancouver 1 at Dallas 2
  • 2006/11/06: Dallas 1 at Vancouver 2
  • 2007/01/03: Dallas 1 at Vancouver 2 (SO)
  • 2007/02/25: Vancouver 1 at Dallas 2 (OT)

Yawn. Sorry, but I have a hard time getting up for this series. If you like offense and goals do not watch this series. In 4 games this year these two teams combined for just 11 goals (not counting the shootout). I don’t see much different now that the playoffs are here. I think the best two offensive players in this series are both named Sedin and both play for Vancouver and I think Vancouver has the better goalie as well so all that is good news for the Canucks. The only thing that I think can save the stars is if Modano gets on fire and becomes a dominant player, something he hasn’t done much of this season. Unfortunately I think he is past his prime and the Canucks will win this series fairly easily by having that slight edge to win the close games.
My Prediction: Vancouver in 5

San Jose at Nashville

San Jose (road) Nashville (home)
Predicted Winner Nashville (Some)
Fair Odds +117 -121
Overall Record 51-26-5 51-23-8
Home/Road Record 26-14-1 28-8-5
Last 10 Games 7-1-2 5-3-2
Past Games
  • 2006/10/26: San Jose 3 at Nashville 4
  • 2006/12/09: Nashville 1 at San Jose 3
  • 2007/02/14: San Jose 0 at Nashville 5
  • 2007/02/28: Nashville 4 at San Jose 3 (SO)

This is another tough series to predict because while I think Nashville is the better regular season team, I am not convinced they are built to win in the playoffs for some of the same reasons Detroit might struggle. They have a lot of small forwards and defensemen that I think can be exposed, especially by a team like the Sharks which has size up front. It worked for San Jose when they bounced the Predators out of the playoffs in the first round last year and it could certainly happen again. Nashville has tried to address the size issue by adding Arnott and Vishnevski but is that enough? Another key for Nashville will be the health of Peter Forsberg and whether he can be a leader for the team both on the ice, on the scoreboard, and in the dressing room. If he can, then the Predtors have a chance to beat anyone but that is a huge if based on what he has done in the regular season for both the Flyers and Nashville. For the Sharks, I question their experience on defense as they will depend a lot on rookies Vlasic and Carle and you just never know how they will react to the pressure of playoff hockey. In the end I think the Sharks size will over power the Predators.
My Prediction: San Jose in 7

Jun 242006
 

So I got home late last night and checked the sports news to be shocked that Luongo had been traded. The deal is:

Luongo and Lukas Krajicek to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld

My initial reaction was this trade is a steal for the Canucks. After sleeping on it overnight I think more or less think the same. What Vancouver gets in this deal is two fold. First, they get the high-calibre goalie they have never had. Second, they save some money they despertely needed to in order to try to re-sign the Sedins as well as try and keep Jovanovski and Anson Carter. It is also all but certain that they will dump Dan Cloutier’s salary to the first team willing to take it off their hands. The big question mark on the deal is, will they be able to ink Luongo to a long term deal. If they can then this trade is a steal for the Canucks. If not and they lose Luongo next summer it will not be so great but it is not like they gave up a lot as Bertuzzi is a UFA next summer to.

For the Panthers they get two Mike Keenan type players (big, physical players) and a youngish goalie with still some potential improvement for a goalie they apparently didn’t think they could sign long-term, or weren’t willing to pay what it would take to sign him long-term. If it is true that Luongo was not going to re-sign with the Panthers and he had to be traded then this is a respectable return but I am a bit surprised they couldn’t get more. People are saying that Todd Bertuzzi had a bit of an off year last year and hasn’t fully rebounded from ‘the incident’ mentally. But he had 25 goals and 71 points and only twice in his 11 year career has he posted better numbers. I think that in reality might be what Bertuzzi is. A 25-30 goal scorer and 70-80 point producer. His 2001-02 (36g, 85pts) and 2002-03 (46g, 97pts) are probably the exception and not the rule. But that combined with his phyical play still makes Bertuzzi a very valuable player to have on any team and he will certainly help the Panthers. And Bryan Allen will do the same on defense. Talk is the Panthers might go hard after Jovanovski too and if they sign him (or another quality defenseman) this will be a mighty fine team. That is, if Auld provides them with quality goaltending. And that is where the Panthers might get slapped in the face with this deal. Without consistant quality goaltending, you don’t win. Just ask the Canucks.

Dec 102005
 

Which of these numbers stands out from the rest?

17
13
6
6
9
12
9
9
13
11
7
22

I even made it easy for you. I put it last. Yes, the number 22 is substantially higher than any of the other numbers listed above. Those numbers above are the total number of power plays in games played on Thursday and Friday and the 22 represents the number of power plays in the Ottawa-Vancouver game. In what was one of the most anticipated games of this NHL season we saw the referees ruin the flow of the game by calling way too many penalties. It was a disgrace and what could have been an amazingly entertaining game turned out to be good, but nothing spectacular.

One could argue that all of the penalties call were legit and I would tend to agree, if you use the strictest rulebook around. But was it necessary to call so many penalties when half of them had no significant impact on the play (220 pound guys should be able to shake off a love tap on the hip). I could possibly accept it if every game was called that strict, but none are. No other game in the past week featured more than 18 power plays. Was this game that much worse than every other game this past week? Certainly not. The last time there were 20+ power plays in the game was a November 26th Dallas-Nashville game with 21 power plays. Congrats referees, you managed to ruin what could have been one of the best games of the season.

As for the game itself, the better, more energetic and enthused team won so at least the penalties didn’t ruin that. But what is with Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley? They were absent from the score sheet once again. In Ottawa’s last 5 games Alfredsson and Spezza have both been held pointless in 3 of them and Heatley in 2 of them. In games against Florida and Vancouver Spezza has had 0 points, 0 shots on goal and is a -2. Heatley has 1 assist, 2 shots on goal and is also a -2. Ottawa has been held to 27 or fewer shots just 5 times this year, 4 of those in their last 5 games. The lack of production from Alfredsson-Spezza-Heatley has been the main reasonf or that. Have teams figured out how to play them? I think so. Vancouver just didn’t give them any open space to roam or make plays within 20 feet from the goal and. The Spezza cross ice pass to Heatley for a one-timer slapshot, usually into an open net, that was so deadly for most of the first 20 games of the season has been pretty much taken away in recent games. We’ll have to see if they can make the adjustment and start shooting from further out rather than try to make the fancy play in close all the time. If they do it should draw the defenders out and once again open up space close in to make the fancy plays. If they don’t, well, they will likely continue to struggle.