Category Archives: NHL

eastplayoffs

NHL Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference Matchups

I love NHL playoff hockey. Best teams versus the best teams. Teams going all out because all the chips are down. Players leaving it all on the ice. Shooting, hitting, saves, scoring, blood, sweat, tears, emotion. And the Eastern Conference is wide open this year.

Even better this year is that I do not think you can positively say that any team that loses in the first round would be the victim of an “upset”. Every team in every division is so close it almost is not fair to you gambling folk out there.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

So to prepare for the best two months of NHL hockey, why not make predictions? I mean, no one gets these right. Ever. TSN used to have a monkey spin a wheel and it nailed more correct outcomes than the “experts.” And I’m not an expert, nor am I a monkey which leaves me in between somewhere so obviously I know more than people who get paid.

New York Rangers (1st in Metropolitan)
vs
Pittsburgh Penguins (Wildcard 2)

Any playoff series with Sidney Crosby in it will be the highest profile one in the NHL. Are the Rangers smoke and mirrors propped up by elite goaltending? Sorta. Are the Penguins any good? Sorta.

Why New York can win: They have speed to kill. They’re like the epitome of an Eastern Conference team; they don’t play heavy hockey to beat you up, they just play fast hockey to tire you out. Rick Nash is having his best season in years. Their top two centers in Derek’s Stepan and Brassard have fully emerged as top level players. The defence has it’s warts, but Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein and Marc Staal are solid. They’re also playing in front of one of the best goaltenders of a generation in Henrik Lundqvist.

Why Pittsburgh can win: When you have the two best centers in the series, and two of the very best on the planet, you’re never really out of it. They’ll get Christian Ehrhoff back to start the series. David Perron, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Hornqvist and Blake Comeau have all shown they can be effective scorers. Despite the slide at the end, the playoffs are a chance at a clean slate and on paper the Penguins are still as good as anyone in the conference.

Pick: Rangers in 5 games
Pittsburgh isn’t bad. Not at all. They’re just leveled by injuries on defence and basically anyone who isn’t their top pairing or on their top line gets absolutely buried by the other team when on the ice. That isn’t the case for the Rangers. They can actually roll more than 2 lines.

To see the full picks, including the Canadiens and Senators series, click here to head on over to Talking Baws

westplayoffs

NHL Playoff Preview: Western Conference Matchups

I love NHL playoff hockey. Best teams versus the best teams. Teams going all out because all the chips are down. Players leaving it all on the ice. Shooting, hitting, saves, scoring, blood, sweat, tears, emotion. And the Western Conference is going to be absolutely brutal this year.

Even better is that I do not think you can positively say that any team that loses in the first round would be the victim of an “upset”. Every team in every division is so close it almost is not fair to you gambling folk out there.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

So to prepare for the best two months of NHL hockey, why not make predictions? I mean, no one gets these right. Ever. TSN used to have a monkey spin a wheel and it nailed more correct outcomes than the “experts.” And I’m not an expert, nor am I a monkey which leaves me in between somewhere so obviously I know more than people who get paid.

Anaheim Ducks (1st in Pacific)
vs
Winnipeg Jets (Wildcard 2)

Poor Anaheim. You bust your butt all season to win the division to clinch home ice for at least 2 rounds, assuming you make it, and you have to fly all the way to Winnipeg for your first round match up. #travelwoes

Why Anaheim can win: They were the best team in the Pacific this year and it wasn’t necessarily close. They also made a number of smart improvements to their team at the trade deadline with James Wisniewski, Simon Despres, Jiri Sekac and Tomas Fleischmann. Those additions allowed for a whole lot of increased depth to a team that was relying maybe a little too heavily on youth. They play some of the best “big boy” hockey in the NHL and have some of the best center depth among western playoff teams. Winnipeg cannot match their top two centers, Ryans of Getzlaf and Kesler, in terms of ability.

Why Winnipeg can win: There are very few teams in the NHL that can match up and play big boy hockey with the Ducks, but the Jets are one of them. Dustin Byfuglien has the ability to take over a game and a series, and the rest of the Jets’ defence is also filled with behemoths like Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba. Offensively they are quite deep with 6 different forwards scoring more than 41 points this season. Hot goaltending goes a long way and Ondrej Pavelec closed the year with three straight shutouts. Also, Anaheim’s goal differential was only +7 this year and they were 33-1-7 in one goal games. That makes the Ducks look vulnerable.

Pick: Jets in 7 games
This is the only real “upset” I can see this year. The Jets match up well in terms of size and depth. The only thing holding the Jets back may be goaltending. A lot has been made about the Jets’ disciplinary issues, but since when do they call penalties in the playoffs? It’s going to be that series what has four games go into overtime. The ‘Peg will go absolutely nuts. That’s fun.

To see the full picks, including the Canucks and Flames series, click here to head on over to Talking Baws

predictions

Checking Up On Predictions: Player Surprises

It is the first NHL night post All Star Break which marks the unofficial halfway point of the NHL season. The most opportune time to look back on preseason predictions! Which players have had the best bounce back campaigns? What about the players who I predicted to have taken steps back? How are the “change of scenery” players doing? And has my list of break out players been accurate?

I have a lot to get through so I’ll keep it brief.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde
As originally seen on Talking Baws

Bounce Back

HM: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alex Burrows
sedins

The Twins are still magic, just not PPG magic. Burrows is on pace for 20+ goals and is the only thing driving the offence on a non-Sedin line. They aren’t quite the 2011 versions of themselves, but they aren’t the players from last season at all.

5. Alex Tanguay, LW, Colorado Avalanche
He leads the Avalanche in scoring. That is code for you can be he bounced back. It also means the regular top guys in Denver just aren’t playing well.

4. Loui Eriksson, LW, Boston Bruins
Yes-ish. He isn’t Dallas version anymore, but he’s been better than last season and is providing the Bruins with some offense they desperately needed.

3. Michael Grabner, RW, New York Islanders
Injuries have forced Grabner to appear in only a few games this season. Unfortunate, because the Islanders have a deadly attack and he would only add to it.

2. Tomas Fleischmann, C, Florida Panthers
Really did not think he’d continue to fall off a cliff as hard as he has. He might be traded at the deadline and could add a little powerplay punch to a team in need of it, but it may be close to the end of the road for him.

1. Eric Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes
He’s having a strong year, but he just doesn’t seem to quite have the mojo he did as recently as 2013. Probably won’t quite ever get back to that elite level but he’s still a top line player.

Step Back
varlamov

Honourable Mention: Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla
Both players have been okay. Jagr leads the Devils in scoring again, but at a far less impressive pace than last season. Iginla is near the top on the Avalanche, but only at 30 points and may fail to hit 30 goals for the first time in a full season since 2001 and maybe even fall short of 25 goals for the first time since 1998.

5. Ryan Johansen, C, Columbus Blue Jackets
He’s only built off last season. Really thought he’d at least fall off pace a bit but he’s as good as he was last year. He’s not generating shots at the same rate as last season and has actually seen his shooting percentage go up. Brings up a little cause for concern in the future but he’s still scoring right now.

4. Ben Bishop, G, Tampa Bay Lightning
He’s not having anywhere near a Vezina season and for the most part has only been “good enough” for Tampa to win games. You’d hope for a bit more out of a guy making .

3. Gustav Nyquist, RW, Detroit Red Wings
He’s fallen off his last years pace but will still pot 30 goals, just not 40+ like some people were projecting. He’s a big cog in the Wings offence but I wish I could find some reliable numbers on how Zetterberg/Datsyuk dependent the relationship is.

2. Semyon Varlamov, G, Colorado Avalanche
He’s come down to just above league average which was forseeable. However, even with another monster season like last year, I don’t think Colorado could make the playoffs with so little scoring.

1. Joe Pavelski, C, San Jose Sharks
He looks like he’s going to repeat-ish last season. He’s been the best shooter on the Sharks and has seemingly taken over the role that a lot of people saw for Logan Couture for the time being.

Change of Scenery
hemsky

Honourable Mention: Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro – Nashville Predators, Centers
Riberio, great. Jokinen, good depth center. Roy, played poorly, got traded, and has done pretty well through short stint in Edmonton

5. Radim Vrbata, RW, Vancouver Canucks
On pace for his best season in Vancouver and made his first All Star Game. He really helped diversify the Canucks attack, especially on the powerplay, and has fit like a glove on that team.

4. P.A. Paranteau, RW, Montreal Canadiens
He’s been okay, and is holding pace to last season’s possession numbers but has battled injury. Sort of like this seasons version of 2014 Loui Eriksson.

3. Martin Havlat, RW, New Jersey Devils
He got injured and has missed big time. Who could have foreseen that?! I should have.

2. Dany Heatley, LW, Anaheim Ducks
The wheels have completely fallen off. He couldn’t play at a speed that kept him on the roster and was demoted to the AHL. he’ll likely retire or go to Europe next season.

1. Ales Hemsky, RW, Dallas Stars
Had a very bad first 15 games with only 1 point. IN the last 28 he has potted 17 points. You’d hope he can score at that rate the rest of the season. Dallas needs it.

Break Out Players
backlund

Honourable Mention: Nail Yakupov, Emerson Etem, Ryan Strome
Yakupov, no. Like any winger on the Oilers, who didn’t get to play with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he hasn’t been able to score playing with sub-NHL centers all season. Since the Roy trade, he’s looked much better but just can’t get a bounce.

Etem, no. He hasn’t been able to translate his raw scoring ability into the NHL. Part of me wonders if he will considering a lot of it was based purely on speed and you can’t rely on that in the NHL ala Mason Raymond.

Strome, yes. He’s been fantastic for the Islanders and is a huge reason why they’re one of the best teams in the NHL.

5. Zack Kassian, RW, Vancouver Canucks
Depending who you talk to, he’s either been playing great but saddled with poor linemates, or is garbage who can’t play hockey. For whatever reason, Linden Vey and Derek Dorsett get played over Kassian in the top six and the powerplay. Some of the most dangerous PP formations the Canucks have had have Kassian on them. Maybe he should’ve played for Medicine Hat and he could get favoured like Dorsett and Vey.

4. Mika Zibanejad, C, Ottawa Senators
Still suffering some growing pains, but he’s putting up solid numbers as the second line center in Ottawa. His production is a little more dependent on his wingers like Scheifele last season.

3. Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets
Not quite the 50+ point pace you want, but is providing relatively regular secondary scoring and continues to make steps on a Jets team that looks like the real deal.

2. Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary Flames
When healthy, he’s been dynamite and gives Calgary a real #1 center. His ability to play strongly against top competition frees up guys like Monahan and Stajan to move down a spot in the lineup and play better for it.

1. Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Dallas Stars
He’s only played 4 games this season before going down with injury. If he can come back in time for the stretch drive he could help provide an attacker that Dallas could use to secure a playoff spot.

bettman

NHL Announces World Cup; What Is It?

This morning the NHL announced the long anticipated sort-of revival type thing for the Canada Cup/World Cup. Or I think that is the intention. I don’t really know because no one knows. Not even sure if the guys at the NHL office know. Formatting details are relatively sparse.

What I do know is that the NHL expects to pocket $100 million on the downside with an upside of closer to $150 million.

Basically this is what they plan to do in non-Olympic years, starting in 2016.

  • 8 team tournament every September: Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, USA, Czech Republic, European All Stars, Team North American Young Stars
  • Round robin tournament that ends in a playoff bracket
  • Yes I said “Young Stars”
  • Three game final to determine the winner
  • I’m not kidding, “Young Stars” is real

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde
As originally seen on Talking Baws

There are four big issues that people seem to be up in arms about.

  1. That this is more hockey. Weird right? Well it comes down to making the NHL season even longer than it is, in a round-a-bout way. This is three extra weeks of wear and tear on the NHL’s top players. What I’d honestly love to see is this shortening the NHL season by about 2-3 weeks. Bring it down to 76 games, and cut exhibition in half. Players already seem to fight cases of burnout come March.
  2. That this is the NHL’s way of replacing the Olympics. This is what the primary motivation behind this is according to many people that know the big-wigs up top. Puke. Its pretty well known that the NHL hates the IIHF. So screw the World Championship I guess, but the Olympics is the greatest celebration of athleticism on earth. You cannot replace that. Especially not with a tournament that includes Team World and the Young Guns.
  3. Some people are bothered by the idea of the European All Star team, Ryder Cup team World style. I’m totally okay with this actually. Makes it more competitive and when players like Anze Kopitar and Marion Gaborik were asked earlier this season, they were on board as well. Mark Streit, not so much.
  4. The North American Young Guns Under-23 Team. This sucks for a bunch of reasons that I will get into in a separate post. Mainly though, the gimmicky nature of it combined with the NHL’s awkward push of all things gimmicky and awful. Like the out of touch parent buying clothes for himself/herself to feel young.

“Woah, look how super radical these purple and neon green uniforms are dude!”

It kinda sucks to job out Slovakia and Switzerland like that, but neither has the ability to put together a team of 23 solely NHL players. Team World looks pretty good though.

LW C R
Vanek Kopitar Gaborik
Zuccarello Grabovksi Hossa
Boedker Nielsen Tatar
Raffl Girgensons Jurco
Hansen Eller
D D G
Chara Ehrhoff Andersen
Seidenberg Sekera Halak
Streit Josi Hiller
Viznovsky Marincin

All that said, I’d really rather just play a seven team tournament: Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Euro All Stars.

  • Cut the Young Guns.
  • Every team plays each other once for a total of 6 games in the round robin.
  • First place gets a quarter final bye, seed two through seven normally like you would for a playoff (2 v 7, 3 v 6, 4 v 5). Continue a one game playoff until the finals.
  • Then cap it with the best-of-three series for the trophy. This would make for a maximum of a 11 game tournament.

But I’m just a guy on the internet and not a stuffy old guy NHL owner/board member who likes to cry about “integrity of hockey” and then approves something that undermines the integrity of best-on-best international hockey.

leafssweater

Maple Leaf Fan Kills Chivalry: Throws His Wife’s Jersey On The Ice

During Monday’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, where the Toronto Maple Leafs got embarrassed on home ice, one fan decided he has had enough of the putrid display of hockey and took to throwing a sweater on the ice, during play, to make a statement.

If you were unaware, the latest and hottest way to protest your favourite team being bad is to throw a sweater of theirs on the ice, unless you’re an Oilers fan in which you do that and then go take out dueling newspaper ads praising or poo-pooing the team.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

Originally posted on Talking Baws

The funny part of this ordeal is that the Leaf fan in question threw his wife’s sweater onto the ice instead of his own, because his Wendel Clark sweater is nicer. Did I mention that it was his wife’s first NHL game? You can read more on the story here on CBS Sports.

You go, man. Way to make a statement.

I have two thoughts on the idea personally:

1. For the fan, I understand it. You could have easily spent $600 on this evening to get a terrible product that everyone on earth can see is incompetent but those with the power to directly affect change. I get it, but I feel like you probably have already replaced said sweater with a brand new one with lettering and numbering and everything to total it up at $270-$300. Kinda defeats the purpose of your protest.

2. For the team and players that defend the sanctity of such an action, shut up.

That basically sums it up. “The logo is sacred. That is why we change it all the time so we can sell new merchandise every time and rake in all the dollars. That pair of branded Oilers boxers covered in the sacred logo you stuffed your sweaty junk and butt into? Sacred and never disrespect it.”

pacific1

Checking Up With Predictions: Pacific Division

We’re getting closer and closer to the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus. That means it is as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. Goes to show that I’m just about as good at this kind of thing as all the fancy people making big money in the mainstream media.

Actually, I’m a bit better because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong instead of throwing a temper tantrum and blocking 100 people on Twitter every time I’m wrong.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Pacific shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Calgary Flames
flames
Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 5 (47 points, no wildcard)

What I said then:

You can’t punch pucks into the net no matter how well Bob Hartley coaches and deploys this group of players.

What I say now:

Well they’ve been less scrappy and punchy than I had anticipated and all the better for it. Goes to show just how much a hot start can do for you. They banked enough points to be in the playoff conversation for a decent chunk of the year, though I doubt they have the guns to make it into a wildcard spot.

Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau has been dynamite. He’s been the best Flames player at making something out of nothing. Glad to see he isn’t having the creativity stifled out of him. When a player is that talented you have to accept the mistakes and turnovers or you won’t get the gamebreaking plays. When healthy, Mikael Backlund has been great and Sean Monahan is taking steps. Jiri Hudler continues to be one of the best scoring wingers that people don’t know exist.

TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano are a dynamite duo on defence and even Dennis Wideman has been able to contribute offensively, although he cannot do much else reliably. Kris Russell has continued to play well but the third pairing of, generally, Deryck Engelland and Ladislav Smid is a gong show. There is “tough to play against”, but you must have the ability to play for that to matter. Those two are just bad. The Flames are being outscored by about three-to-one when they’re on the ice. That is AHL level.

Goaltending has been solid for the Flames. Kari Ramo isn’t anything to write home about, but Jonas Hiller has been admirable. Although they aren’t really winning any games on the backs of their netminders.

The possession numbers aren’t kind to the Flames at all, but it isn’t so much from a shots-against stand point (8th in the NHL) as much as the teams inability to generate offence outside of a few players (27th in shots-for per game). That can make it hard to win those one goal games and even harder to continue those miraculous third period comebacks that have disappeared as of late.

Arizona Coyotes
coyotes
Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 6 (36 points)

What I said then:

They weren’t good enough last year, and they aren’t really any better this year. They really need everything to go right to have a shot.

What I say now:

For a team that made its identity on defensive hockey, they’re not so great at it this year. You can just see when you’re watching the games that the positioning and systems have fallen off a bit amongst the forwards and defenceman. Its uncertain why this is happening exactly. The personnel is largely the same.

Usually a strong veteran forward core lends itself to strong systems but it isn’t working, much the same as it isn’t working in New Jersey this year.

The root of the problem lies in goaltending, but is it a bit of a chicken and the egg argument? Are the systems falling apart because the players are forced to overcompensate for goaltending, or is the goaltending exposed because the systems are falling apart. I don’t think a lot of people like to credit how deeply connected the two facets of hockey are interconnected.

My vote goes to the goaltending letting the team down though. Mike Smith has proven to be the goaltender he was for much of his career and not the guy with a great season and two okay ones. When, the now traded, Devan Dubnyk was in net he put up starting goaltender numbers and the team was able to go 9-5-2.

Looks as if this team is going to be entering wholeheartedly into the McEichel sweepstakes as they just traded Dubnyk and are exploring trade options with two-way center Antione Vermette and offensive defenceman Keith Yandle, among others.

Edmonton Oilers
oilers
Pre-season ranking: 5 (no wildcard)
Current ranking: 7 (29 points)

What I said then:

Getting better but that center ice is paper-thin now, let alone once Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello blow out a shoulder to become a true Oiler.

What I say now:

Good news: Neither Arcobello or Draisaitl blew out a shoulder.

Bad news: I have managed to run a blog post fittingly titled “This Guy Scored” where I track all the times the Oilers forgot what they were doing. Lets take a looksy at some stuff I posted after a loss to the Flames…

tgsflamestgsflames2tgsflames3

Yeah that basically sums up the season. It happens every gameBelieve me. If you want to read something more in-depth you have this article.

Vancouver Canucks
canucks
Pre-season ranking: 4 (no wildcard)
Current ranking: 4 (49 points, wildcard)

What I said then:

They might be able to do it, and there is some uncertainty in Anaheim as well as some of the teams that may compete for a wild card. They may have a young kid or two surprise. Ultimately, the offence isn’t enough.

What I say now:

They are what everyone thought they were. A team that is pretty average that doesn’t have the depth to really be more than average. The offence comes and goes and goes and goes and goes with 1.6 goals per game from December 1 to January 14.

Up front, the forwards are kind of messy. The talent is there to be good but streaky good. The first line is always going to produce because the Sedins and whoever is with them are wizards. The third line has been a bright spot for most of the season with Shawn Matthias, Brad Richardson and Linden Vey/Zack Kassian at least breaking even. The fourth line is a bit of a disaster at times but can usually hold its own.

The second line is just a black hole though. Alex Burrows is still a good hockey player. When he’s on the ice, the puck typically is going towards the opposing net and he’s good at winning board battles and creating havoc in front of the net. But Chris Higgins and Nick Bonino are not second line players. Currently, they’re fighting it out for the David Booth “Where Offence Goes To Die” Memorial Trophy. If the Canucks can ever get that line figured out, they might actually be able to win a round.

The defence has been pretty average as a group. Alex Edler and Chris Tanev are dynamite as a pairing, but Kevin Bieksa without Dan Hamhuis (groin injury) is a disaster and the third pairing of Luca Sbisa and Yannick Weber is equivalent to two random fans getting to play defence in an NHL game. The biggest issue though is the lack of any player possessing rushing ability to help diversify the breakout and create offence from the back-end.

The biggest issue for the Canucks may actually be goaltending. Ryan Miller has not been good and for $6 million a year you would hope he would be. He hasn’t been awful either, but he has been coming off at times as selfish and a bit moody. By all accounts, he gets to pick his starts and seems to avoid the top teams in the NHL and feast on the poor teams. Not sure how well that bodes for playoff success.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

central1

Checking Up On Predictions: NHL Central Division

We’re just over a week away from the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus. That makes it is as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. I’m actually better than a lot of people who get paid. Funny how far a little research can go a long way.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Central shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Winnipeg Jets
WinnipegJets
Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 4 (52 points, wildcard)

What I said then:

They’re in a deep division and an equally deep conference. They’d need a godsend of a goaltending performance to make the playoffs. Almost by default they’ll find themselves in the McEichel sweepstakes.

What I say now:

I’ll admit it. I whiffed here. The Jets are playing pretty good hockey right now. The biggest thing I missed on here is that Hutchinson would take over the goaltending job from the terrible Ondrej Pavalec. There is a saying that goes something like “Show me a good coach and I’ll show you an even better goaltender” and that’s the case here. If Hutchinson can keep it up, Maurice will probably be up for coach of the year.

Maurice hasn’t been totally undeserving though. The Jets played a stretch of about 2 weeks where they were missing their entire starting top-four on defence and still won games and controlled play. That is no easy task and that’s where strong coaching can come into play when you’re forced to adapt.

The forwards are doing their thing. Andrew Ladd continues to be one of the best wingers in the NHL that no one seems to talk about. Dustin Byfuglien is having another strong year. After a slow start, Mathieu Perrault has come alive with 25 points in his last 24 games. Mark Scheifele is also coming along nicely. I do wonder a bit about the 4th line of the forward group being good enough but that should be an easy problem to solve with a smart waiver pickup or two.

I’m really looking forward to playoff hockey in Winnipeg.

Colorado Avalanche
avalanche
Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 6 (45 points)

What I said then:

I don’t predict doom, but I just don’t see them getting a career performance again in net. They wildly overperformed last year and won’t come close to repeating.

What I say now:

I need to stop being right so often or it is going to go to my head. Who could tell that a team that got grossly out-possessed, had the best record in one goal games in the NHL, and rode career years in goaltending would be unable to replicate that success again.

The goaltending has been okay this year. Reto Berra has been awful but anyone with two eyes and a heartbeat could have told you that after his time in Calgary. Semyon Varlamov has been better since returning from injury and Calvin Pickard has been great since being called up from the AHL. If they can ride those two they should be able to compete for a wildcard spot.

I guess Brad Stuart has been okay for him… but he’s still Brad Stuart. Luckily they’re getting a career year out of Erik Johnson who has really been terrific. Now whether this is a sign of things to come or an aberration, I’m not sure, but its good for the Avs nonetheless.

The forwards have been littered with disappointments, as far as scoring goes, and that might be the biggest issue for this team finding themselves on the outside looking in once again. Alex Tanguay has been great since returning from injury last year to the tune of 29 points in 42 games. Unfortunately, that leads the team. He’s tied with Jarome Iginla who also has 29 points. The players you’d expect to be leading the offence just aren’t. Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly all have shooting percentages in the mid single digits which is absurd for their talent level.

I have a bit of a soft spot for the Avs because I can’t hate them anymore like I used to and Iggy 4 eva. I just wish they were better.

Minnesota Wild
nhl-stanley-cup-playoffs-minnesota-wild-colorado-avalanche
Pre-season ranking: 5
Current ranking: 7 (41 points)

What I said then:

They’re a good club, even if they have a game of musical chairs for a goaltending situation. Playing in the toughest division isn’t helping matters though. They’ll have an easier time scoring with Vanek and they were one of last season’s best second half teams.

What I say now:

If there is one franchise I was glad to be wrong about, it was the Wild. From the segment of obnoxious fans that “deserve” an outdoor game to display the teams putrid play-style to their crook owner to Matt Cooke and those gross contracts they handed out to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise then Thomas Vanek.

The forwards are doing fine. Parise and Jason Pominville are playing well enough, but Vanek has only 7 goals on the season. Jason Zucker leads the team in scoring with 15 goals and Nino Neiderretier is right behind him with 14. You’d hope to get some more production out of Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund but they’re not exactly under-producing.

Suter is not having a great season on defence but he’s kind of the story of the entire defence. He’s playing almost 30 minutes a night. Now is he playing 30 minutes a night because he’s that good? Close but not quite. Is he playing 30 minutes a night because the rest of the defence sucks that bad? Not quite. The defence as a whole just isn’t good enough and Suter’s play is a part of that. Would he be better off playing less? Probably, but there isn’t really anyone else to shoulder the load. Or at least no one coach Mike Yeo trusts.

The goaltending just blows though. Darcy Kuemper has not had a good season. Nicklas Backstrom can’t use that bloated contract to buy a save. Josh Harding got suspended by the team to start the year and has only played in 2 AHL games due to health complications with his MS. Hopefully Devan Dubnyk can come in and at least be stable.

This team could be in a lot of trouble this season and the jobs of coach Yeo and GM Cliff Fletcher are/should be on the hot seat.

Nashville Predators
predators-web
Pre-season ranking: 4 (wildcard)
Current ranking: 1 (62 points)

What I said then:

They’ve got the deepest set of offensive players since the days of Paul Kariya. The only issue is how quickly it takes the team to adapt to a new coach and system.

What I say now:

I really underestimated this team. Raise you hand if you had the Preds as the top team in the NHL? You’re a liar. I had people calling me out to lunch just saying I think they’d take a wild card spot.

We all knew the goaltending was going to be drastically improved with Pekka Rinne returning to health for most of the season. Unfortunately, he’s just gone down with a knee injury for the next 3-5 weeks. If he isn’t out too long, he can probably take home the Vezina trophy in a landslide as he’s proven not to just be a product of a strong defensive system under former coach Barry Trotz.

We all knew the defence was going to be good and tough with Shea Weber running the show back there. Roman Josi has had a great season. But the real breakout player for the Preds has been Ryan Ellis on defence. If there was such a thing as the Most Improved Player award, he’d be in the running to take it home this season.

The offence has been the real shocker though. I can’t remember any time in recent memory when the Predators boasted such a potent batch of scorers. Filip Forsberg is doing everything he can to be the best rookie in the NHL and has 39 points in 42 games. Mike Ribeiro has always been a talented scorer and is having a bounce back campaign. Colin Wilson is starting to score like a player deserving of his high draft position. Mike Fisher and Craig Smith are both having strong seasons. If James Neal can recover his goal scoring touch that he showed early in the season ( 6 goals in his first 7 games, 7 goals since in 29 games) then this team could challenge the Blackhawks in the playoffs.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

Atlantic

Checking Up On Predictions: NHL Atlantic Division

We’re getting closer and closer to the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus. That means it is as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. Goes to show that I’m just about as good at this kind of thing as all the fancy people making big money in the mainstream media.

Actually, I’m a bit better because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong instead of throwing a temper tantrum and blocking 100 people on Twitter every time I’m wrong.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Atlantic shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Buffalo Sabres
sabres

Pre-season ranking: 8
Current ranking: 8 (31 points)

What I said then:

This team sucks. They have some marginal improvements, but they’re really counting on a whole bunch of recent draft picks to complete the roster. That isn’t a recipe for success – at least not this season.

What I say now:

This team is somehow worse than I anticipated, yet still not the last place team in the NHL. Go figure.

Cody Hodgson has been an unmitigated disaster this season. He never had #1 center potential, but he looked like he could become a solid, if unspectacular, second liner. You know, like a 60-ish point center who can anchor the secondary attack. This should have been his season to prove he belongs as an offensive producer in the NHL. Instead, he’s been awful. I understand the team is bad, but they have enough pieces to masquerade as a top line.

This team really can give the Oilers a run for their money on hopelessness.

Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Sens

Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 6 (42 points)

What I said then:

They have little high-end talent, and a lot of complimentary talent. That can keep them in the conversation, but I see them ultimately falling short. The team is lacking quality depth players.

What I say now:

I was pretty on point. The top talent has been top. Erik Karlsson is still one of the best defenceman in the NHL and continues to impress as a one-man breakout machine. Bobby Ryan has played well and Kyle Turris has taken over as the top center well enough.

The secondary players like Clarke MacArthur and Mika Zibanejad have played well. They’re getting strong rookie seasons out of Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone. Alex Chaisson is doing his thing as a middle roster winger. The goaltender has been steady and Craig Anderson is having another strong year.

But that is about it for this team. Robin Lehner’s had his ups and downs when Anderson isn’t playing. The defence outside of Karlsson is disaster movie quality. Milan Michalek and David Legwand have both been pretty big wastes of space, but its not like many other forwards are exactly out playing them.

When I look at this team I see a roster like Edmonton or Calgary. The perfect kind of roster to combine with another half-good team to get one really good team. Unforunately, that is total fantasy.

Florida Panthers
panthers

Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 5 (49 points, no wildcard)

What I said then:

They have actual NHL level goaltending. Thats important. If their younger players can continue development and Gallant doesn’t play big minutes to all the bad players he was given, maybe they aren’t completely hopeless. But they look pretty hopeless.

What I say now:

I feel a strong sense of vindication with Roberto Luongo. For years in Vancouver you would hear east coast media “experts” talk about how he’s barely a good goaltender anymore and that he is a terrible human being basically.

Then he’s no longer and Canuck and is single-handedly dragging a terrible Florida hockey team to playoff contention. None of the other big additions this team has made are doing anything but being bad, except Jussi Jokinen who is being solid. But Luongo is playing great and should get a Vezina nomination this season.

Aaron Ekblad has been unbelievable for an 18 year old rookie as he’s second in team scoring. But beyond that, he’s legitimately playing good hockey. He is buoyed by strong veteran defence partners a bit, like Willie Mitchell and Brian Campbell, but he’s still holding his own.

If Alexander Barkov can start getting bounces and the rest of the offence holds pace this team could squeak into a wildcard spot. I sure hope they do, but it’ll be tough.

Toronto Maple Leafs
TorontoMapleleafs

Pre-season ranking: 5 (no wildcard)
Current ranking: 6 (47 points)

What I said then:

If they can bring in a coach that is good to replace their bad one then they stand a solid chance at the playoffs. The pieces are there, but they need someone who knows how to use them.

What I say now:

What do you know. They fired their bad coach who was bad. I never saw so much “it wasn’t the coaches fault” spiel for a coach that was this bad. His entire defensive strategy was “hope the goalie makes 40 saves a game.” That isn’t conducive to winning.

The Leafs still stand a chance at making the playoffs but it isn’t going to be easy. It’s hard to evaluate just how good this team is going to play under a new coach, Peter Horachek, but the early results are promising. They haven’t quite gotten the wins yet, but they aren’t getting disgustingly outshot anymore and have been able to hang in against some of the better teams in the NHL lately and not look out-of-place.

If Horachek can play around with the lines and ease some of the burden on players like Kessel and Phaneuf, they should be more effective down the stretch. The less he plays Tyler Bozak the better.

With the Metropolitan division only looking to send 4 teams to the playoffs this year and the Bruins unable to really play anything resembling dominant hockey for a long stretch, and the feeling that Detroit is only a bad week away from injury trouble, the door is still open for the Leafs.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

asgjers

NHL Announces All Star Game Roster; Who Got Snubbed?

The NHL announced the full list of players that have been selected to the NHL All Star Game this January in glorious Columbus, Ohio (which actually has a pretty killer downtown near the arena. If you ever, for some reason, find yourself going through Columbus spend an evening there).

Due to the rule that “every team must be represented” we have a few picks out of left field. And we have a few others that are out of right field as well.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde
Originally written at Talking Baws

Sure enough some players, especially older ones, are likely to come down with a mysterious injury over that weekend, so lets just pick apart who is up for the player fantasy draft as it stands now.

(See the full roster at Talking Baws)

I find the fan vote to be a bit of a screwover on these things as a number of more deserving players get left out. I feel like the NHL should cap it at the top two fan voted players per franchise are eligible. That would’ve let Toews and Kane in, but left spots open on defence and in net for other players to get in. Off the top of my head, those spots could have gone towards P.K. Subban, Erik Karlsson and Henrik Lundqvist.

Surprises
ryan

As for other surprises, Ryan is a bit of a surprise considering his season this year. But he is the highest scoring forward on Ottawa with 12 goals and 28 points. Vrbata is another name that is a bit of a shocker considering he’s probably the 4th most deserving Canuck forward to be named to the team behind Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler.

Foligno is having a heck of a season, but it is still weird to see his name in that group of stars. But good for him and since the game is in Columbus, he’ll be a nice “home town” pick.

On defence, Shattenkirk caught me off guard, then I saw he has 37 points on the season to lead all blueliners. Brent Burns hit me the same way, but then I saw 34 points on the season.

Bobrovsky is a bit of a surprise when you see his pedestrian stats on the year. Then again, he’s been pretty lights out since December and its in Columbus, so home town pick again.

Snubs
pavelski

There are some obvious omissions off the top of my head that include Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg of Detroit, Joe Thornton of San Jose, and Sedins of Vancouver. However, when I took a second to pause and think it over, I realized that all these players were 33-35 years old and probably wanted a few extra days off so they politely declined before the announcement.

I feel the same thing led to Jaromir Jagr not getting a spot and the barely younger Elias getting into the game for him.

Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks in goals this year with 21, and only four players have more goals than him this season.

After that it came to the lack of Subban and Karlsson for me. They’re both top scorers with huge talent and the kind of personalities and playstyles that fit perfectly into the All Star weekend. I’m assuming the amount of time missed to injury keeps Victor Hedman from attending.

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington, was another player left out who has been having a great season with 41 points in 41 games so far.

The argument could be made for Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins as he’s boasting a .926 SP with a 2.16 GAA on the season which has him in the Vezina conversation through the midway.

Other thoughts and an excuse to use this picture
kessel

I was a little surprised to see Jonathan Drouin named as a rookie member considering he hasn’t blown the doors off like some expected, but it appears they’ve selected the top 6 scoring rookies. After him it was players like Linden Vey up for selection.

However, there is usually 4-5 players that are added between now and the game for legitimate injuries and “oh no I’m hurt and need to go see a specialist in Cabo” so there is plenty of time for internet outrage!

What do you guys think of the rosters? Good? Bad? Who cares because the uniforms are awesome? Who cares because the uniforms are terrible? Let me know!

gary-bettman-5

NHL Week 5 Panic Rankings

It’s week 5 of the NHL season. You know what that means, 10 more reasons to panic. But which is the most panicking panic? Is the the Oilers (making their fifth appearance)? Is it butt goals? What about Sean Avery temper tantrums or the NHL making huge mistakes and ruining good things? Find out below!

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

10. Ben Scrivens’ Helmet

Its a pretty passive-aggressive way to lash out at your team for not being very good.

(But in all honesty its actually a totally great, awesome thing he’s doing to help raise awareness/funding for mental health issues. You can read about it here. I’m gonna continue giving the ten-spot to something actually non-panicky and totally awesome)

9. The Canucks

The California road trip was supposed to prove if this team could play with the big boys or not. And well, the answer is “I don’t think so.”

They beat the #Shorks, but didn’t look very good in doing so. They got stomped by a shorthanded Kings team in pretty embarrassing fashion. Managed to beat the Ducks, without Corey Perry, in a shootout.

Conclusion: Well, if they get all-world goaltending they have a chance, otherwise they look good enough to not be horrible but not really good. But hey, banking points is always a good thing unless you’re gonna Buffalo.

8. Department OPlayer Safety

We’re up to 8, excluding Slava Voynov, out of nowhere, and a handful of “probably should have been suspended but whatever I guess”.

It is encouraging to see that there are no more 1 game suspensions for flagrantly dirty hits. The going rate seems to be 2-3 games now, which is a good thing. A lot of these dumbass plays should start at 3 and probably be up to 6 or 7 games.

Guys might actually think twice before putting their elbow through someones skull, or letting up before they paralyze someone into the boards.

Click here to see where Sean Avery, butts, and the NHL being a greedy money whore rank!