Saturday, September 29, 2007

Eklund's Predictions?

Recently, HockeyBuzz blogger, Eklund, humored us with his predictions for the upcoming season.

Under his strict scrutiny, the Eastern Conference will finish:

EASTERN CONFERENCE 1. Buffalo 2. Pittsburgh 3. Washington 4. Ottawa 5. Philadelphia 6. Toronto 7. NY Rangers 8. Montreal 9. Boston 10. Florida 11. Tampa 12. NY Islanders 13. Carolina 14. New Jersey 15. Atlanta

The first red flag starts with No. 1- Buffalo???

Sure, Lindy Ruff's squad made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but less we forget, they had Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. The Sabres made deadly mistakes in letting both Briere and Drury leave.

Last week, Buffalo was dealt more bad news when defenseman Teppo Numminen underwent heart surgery to replace a faulty valve.

That leaves the team without: Briere, Drury and Numminen.

The Sabres also let late-season acquisition Dainus Zubrus sign with New Jersey.

The Sabres will be a decent team this year, but not the power house of the East.

On a side note, there is no way Buffalo can win the division when they have to play Ottawa eight times.

No. 2- Pittsburgh!!!

I will agree that Eklund hasn't gone completely mad. I'm a huge fan of Sidney and Co. These guys are young, fast and have the potential to score at will. Malkin, Staal, Sykora, Gonchar, Sydor and Fleury? Yeah....Pretty sick.

I would have to put the Pens at No. 1 in the East and possibly the entire NHL.

No. 3- Washington??

Eklund must have a lot of faith in Ovechkin or he doesn't watch enough Southeastern Division hockey.

Rookie Nicklas Backstrom will be the top-line pivot for "Ovie," but he's only one man.

Kolzig is another year older, and the team hasn't really improved much. Glen Hanlon's team is pretty bland, and probably won't make the playoffs this season.

The next red flag is at No. 6- Toronto?

Maybe it's bias, maybe Eklund's magic eight ball told him to pick Toronto?

The Leafs added Vesa Toskala, Mark Bell and Jason Blake. All very solid acquisitions. Toskala will add to the goaltending depth, Bell will provide a huge body in front of the net (especially on the power play) and Jason Blake should contribute 30+ goals.

Here are my qualms with the Leafs:

1) Mats Sundin. It's time for a change. Mats has been a solid player for many years, but for his salary, why not try to lure free agent Dany Heatley next year? Sundin isn't putting up the points his salary demends.

2) Antropov. Steen. Stajan.

While these players are young, they continue to underperform each year. I keep waiting for a breakout year from just one of them, but sadly, each year I find myself disappointed.

3) 1967.

Enough said.

No. 8- Montreal.

I'll agree with Eklund. For the past decade, the Habs have annually shown their consistancy by remaining around the playoff bubble. I'm sure cardiologists do well in Montreal with all the anxiety and high-blood pressure cases around late March.

The only other red flag I see in at No. 15- Atlanta???

In fact, this isn't a red flag, but a Black Flag.

Under what basis can a team go from winning their division to dead last in their conference?

Let's look at the subractions from last year's playoff roster:

Keith Tkachuk- Returned to St. Louis
Scott Mellanby- Retired
Greg de Vries- Signed with Nashville
Andy Sutton- Signed with New York Islanders
Jon Sim- Signed with New York Islanders
Shane Hnidy- Signed with Anaheim
Eric Belanger- Signed with Minnesota
J.P. Vigier- Signed with Swiss Team


Eric Perrin- Free Agent
Todd White- Free Agent
Ken Klee- Free Agent
Chris Thorburn- Trade w/ Pit
Bryan Little- '06 Draft (1st Rd., 12th Overall)
Brett Sterling- '03 (5th Rd., 145th Overall)
Tobias Enstrom- '03 (8th Rd., 239th Overall)
Mark Popovic- In the System

This may not look like the 1976-1977 Montreal Canadiens line up, but the newly revised roster has the potential to be more dangerous than last year's.

The Thrashers increased in speed with Perrin, White, Little, Sterling and Enstrom.

General Manager Don Waddell finally found a center for Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. As of now, White will take on these responsibilities, but if rookie Bryan Little is up to the task, don't be surprised to see #44 on the top line with Kovalchuk.

Last year's AHL Rookie of the Year and top goal scorer, Brett Sterling will add his heavy shot to the Thrashers roster. His presence should make up for the loss of Jon Sim's 17 goals last season. If Sterling can register more than 20 goals, it would be considered a great year for the rookie.

While Atlanta does have several question marks surrounding their line up, they should still be ranked in the top eight. I would put them slightly ahead of Montreal as of now with the potential to repeat as Southeast Division Champions.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

For those who didn't watch Tuesday night's tilt between Ottawa and Philadelphia, missed the thunderous hit Steve Downie laid out Dean McAmmond.

Downie received a match penalty for his hit while McAmmond regained consciousness with a concussion.

I'm going to raise several questions about this:

1- Did the hit deserve a match penalty?

2- Does Dean McAmmond always skated with his head down?

First off, this play did not deserve a match penalty. Sure, McAmmond was unconscious, but was there an intent to injure? No. Downie recalls the play, stating:

"My game's to hit and to finish the check. I'm just trying to earn a spot on the roster. It's part of my game and I apologize for him getting hurt. I thought I got him clean."
The play should have been either a two or five minute charging penalty. Under the NHL rules, charging is stated as "Skating, jumping or charging violently into an opposing player." As the video results indicated, yes, Downie skated and jumped violently into McAmmond.
Despite the lack of evidence as to this play warranting a match, I will stipulate as to why the officials decided on their ruling. If Downie is given a two or five minute penalty, he is eligible to return to the ice when his sentence is over. This would cause the Senators to take liberties with Downie until the end of the game.
Senators forward, Chris McGratton said "[Downie] will get what's coming to him next time we play him, that's for sure" in his post-game interview.
The refs were obligated to call a match to save Downie from a melee.
While Downie is taking heat from the media for being a cheap shot artist, I'm going to praise his physical game. How often do you see hits this vicious (especially since Scott Stevens retired)?
They are few and far between. The fact is a 20-year-old prospect is playing as hard as he can to make the Flyers' roster and a veteran is skating behind the net with his head down. What do you think is going to happen?
Also, this isn't McAmmond's first time getting caught with his head down. In the Stanley Cup Finals last season, he had a close encounter with Chris Pronger's left elbow after taking a shot with his head down.
I'm not condoning Pronger's elbow, but if McAmmond's head is up, the hit would never have occured.
Either way, hopefully McAmmond saw the liscense plate of the truck that ran him over. Well, in case you didn't, Dean, it was number 27, Steve Downie.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NHL.Com Predictions

If you get a chance, check out Brian Compton's article on Eastern Conference predictions and players to watch. However, I disagree with the players he thought would be more important to watch for Boston and Pittsburgh.

Compton highlighted Phil Kessel and Jordan Staal, respectively. While I'll stipulate that their sophomore seasons will probably feature more production than their rookie campaign, these aren't the players who I would focus on.

For Boston, the spotlight shines on defenseman Zdeno Chara. Practically, the only shut-down defenseman in the Eastern Conference, the 6-9, 250-pound goliath is practically a brick wall on the blue line. Chara had a dismal 2006-07 season with a career low, minus-21 rating. While Boston's offense is lacking, their defensive corp needs to keep a few more pucks out of the net to give the 219 goals scored last year a chance to win a few more games.

While Jordan Staal lead the league in short-handed goals in his rookie season, the attention should be focused on Evgeni Malkin. Sure, Jordan Staal will always be a nice attention to the power play and penalty kill, but if Malkin can register more points than his 85 (33,52), it will make an incredibly lethal Penguins offense. This would force the opposition to choose who to defend against. Sidney? or Evgeni?

Either way, stopping these two dymanic players will be a challenge (even for Anaheim's defense).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blueland Blog

Please check out my friend, Ben Wright's, blog. He knows his Thrashers hockey.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Predictions...Part One

As the season opens in 12 days, let's take this time to analyze the NHL Awards and who has the best chance to claim them in June.

Art Ross Trophy: (Awarded to the player who registers the most points)

Last year Sidney Crosby took home the award in his sophomore campaign, notching 120 points (36 goals, 84 assists). The Cole Harbour native should only improve during the third season of the "Crosby Show." As the Penguins reloaded with veterans, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal comprise the sophomores on the team looking to add onto their impressive rookie seasons. With veteran presence and Crosby's line mates a year older, look for him to post 125 points (34 goals, 91 assists).

Two years removed from hoisting the Art Ross and after last year's disappointment in the playoffs, look for Joe Thornton to post monster numbers. He will have Rocket Richard winner, Jonathan Cheechoo, on his right flank, but the big question mark is, who will be on his left side? Can sophomore Ryane Clowe contribute to an already stacked line? Depending on who Head Coach Ron Wilson places on Big Joe's left side, his point total might varying between 105-130 points. I'm gonna say the 6-4, 235-pound center notches 122 points (22 goals, 100 assists).

Just north of Sidney Crosby, is a place where women flow like the salmon of Capistraino...Ok, bad example...but Jaromir Jagr and company look to win more than a Tony Award for their performance on Broadway this year. The New York Rangers added incredible fire power during the off season by landing free agents Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. As of now, Glen Sather will probably pair Gomez, who is a pass-first type player, with scoring leviathan, Jagr. It will be an adjustment for Jagr who has been center by Swedish-native Michael Nylander who plays a slower game compared to Gomez. I don't see Jagr being affected with his new partner anytime soon. The power play the Rangers will field this year will look like Montreal's power play of 1976-77. Yeah...sick. Thus, I predict Jagr will record 132 points (54 goals, 78 assists).

Winner: Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers

Hart Trophy: (League Most Valuable Player)

Again, Sidney Crosby. If you need reasons, see above.

Jaromir Jagr, see above.

Dany Heatley. Yes, I said it. While I believe "Heater" is a dark-horse candidate for this award, he is entering the final year of his contract, and after going Casper in the Stanley Cup Finals, look for the 6-3, 215-pound forward to lash back at his media critics by scoring 115 points (60 goals, 55 assists). Heatley is the only player to post back-to-back 50 goal seasons. He'll be paired with Spezza again as well as Mike Fisher on the left side. This line has grit, speed, and size to tear it up, especially in a conference where exceptional defensemen are rare. If Heatley doesn't win the Hart, look for him to take home the Rocket Richard Trophy instead. Either way, he'll finish top-five in points and top-three in goals scored.

Winner: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Calder Memorial Trophy: (Rookie of the Year)

Too many to pick just one right now, plus I don't want to sound like Lee Corso when he proclaims how important the Heisman is.

In my mind, two names stick out: Jack Johnson (No, not the banana pancakes singing "musician") and Erik Johnson. Basically, this add is brought to you by "Johnson & Johnson."

However, history has proven rookie defensemen usually don't win this award. Only nine blueliners have captured the award in the 73 years it has been given out. Typically, there is a huge learning curve when it comes to defensemen.

Denis Potvin, a defenseman who won the Calder in 1974, recently said, "In Florida, Jay Bouwmeester has been [there] almost five years and we're just now starting to say, 'He's almost there.' "

Despite the fact the odds are against these two incredibly talented defensemen, I'm putting all my stock on these two.

Winner: "Johnson or Johnson"

I'll continue my predictions when I return from Tuscaloosa.

Here are the pre-season games on-tap for the weekend:


Cls @ Buf
Nsh @ Car
Pit @ Det
NYI @ Mon
Min @ Chi
Ana @ SJ


Stl @ Atl
Tor @ Bos
Phi @ NYR
Ott @ Mon
Det @ Pit
Wsh @ TB
Car @ Nsh
Edm @ Cal
Col @ LA
Dal @ Phx
Van @ SJ

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

First Post

In the coming weeks, I will be updating this site on news, events, rumors and more from the NHL! Check back soon!