Tagged with "Flyers"
NCAA Men's Tourney Talk - Thursday Action
Category: NCAA
Tags: NCAATournament HarvardCrimson DaytonFlyers NorthDakotaStateBison

In the men's NCAA tournament on Thursday, there was a bunch of exciting games and results throughout the entire day.

In the South region, Florida struggled with Albany but came away with a 12 point win. The funniest thing was the post game interview where Gator coach Billy Donovan told the sideline reporter, "I have no idea what's going on with my team."

Pittsburgh slaughtered Colorado and launched more than a few columns about the seeding process. This despite the fact that it was an 8-9 game and anything can happen in those games.

Dayton was the first team to pull off an upset on Thursday when they kicked Ohio State out the tourney 60-59. Syracuse won their first round game going away over Western Michigan.

In the East region, Villanova won easily over Milwaukee. UConn trailed St. Joseph's but came back and won in overtime.

My lack of faith in Harvard for bracket picking purposes didn't pay off because the Crimson beat fifth seeded Cincinnati 61-57. Despite messing up my bracket a little, I was still happy for Harvard. 

I watched the second half of the Michigan State game and despite a valiant effort from Delaware, the Spartans exerted their dominance to win handily.

In the West Region, San Diego State (a Final Four pick of my buddy Brian) beat New Mexico State in a tight game. Oregon easily beat BYU.

When Wisconsin was down 7 points to American, I saw a Badgers fan complaining about Wisconsin's defense. I wonder how that fan felt after Bo Ryan's team turned things around and waxed their opponent by 40 points.

I saw the end of the North Dakota State - Oklahoma game. And was very happy as I picked the Bison to upset the Sooners.

In the Midwest, Michigan handled Wofford easily. Texas beat Arizona State by 2 points. Louisville got by Manhattan by 7 points in a tough game.

I watched the Saint Louis - NC State game and was disgusted by the finish by the Wolfpack. They were up by 16 points and then managed to lose in overtime because they forgot a basic tenet of the game. "Free throws win ball games".

Overall, I went 13-3 on Day 1 of the official part of the tournament.

Monday Moaning...On Tuesday
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NHL NCAA Notre Dame Flyers Ray Emery The Beeze Avery Rule Philly Sucks Northwestern Philly Sucks Fantasy Hockey Boba Fett

Yeah, I'm late to posting...Shit happens...So why the sexy Boba Fett?  Because Boba Fett is my Fantasy Hockey team's mascot, and my team came through with big win last week to jump my squad up top second in the division...The slow start is turning around....Ain't it Jeff!?!

Saturday started early for me, as I head to drive my oldest daughter about 40 minutes away for a Christmas Honor Band rehearsal...She was in the Summer Honor Band and really enjoyed it...It a group of kids from all over, they do a couple concerts, have them professionally recorded and get CD's...It's a cool experience, except for getting up at 7:00 AM on a Saturday...After that we hit the grocery store...

Then there was full family house cleaning, before I sat on my ass and watched the Fighting Irish take on Navy...Always a tough game for the Irish...Every year Navy gives them all they've got, and they did again this year...

The Irish come away with the win, but lost another Linebacker...Before the season Danny Spond retired for health reasons...Jarred Grace is out for the year with a broken leg...Ishaq Williams suffered a sprained ACL against Air Force...And now Ben Councell suffered a season ending knee injury...The injuries throughout the defense are piling up, but the LB depth has been devastated...Hopefully the rest of the crew can stay healthy and play strong...

Next, Hockey...Fucking Flyers...This past weekend they Flyers were getting throttled by Washington...At this point, it's late in the game and Washington is up 7-0...Holtby has got a shutout going...Good honest fight breaks out between Simmons and Wilson, then asshole goalie Ray Emery goes after Holtby...Anyone who knows hockey knows Emery is a boxer in pads...Take a look...

You are never going to hear me talking about getting rid of fighting in Hockey...But this right here was garbage...Just some bush-league shit that looks like a scene from "Slap Shot"...And of course, those animals in Philly loved every bit of it....Watch this video taken by a fan...

Of course these shit-dicks loved it...Their team sucks...They fired their head coach after 3 maybe 4 games, and made Craig Berube the new head coach...Berube who was a shit player, but knew how to throw around the knuckles...Well, way to go Flyers...Way to celebrate the fights, and Emery's bullshit move...That's fine, read the scoreboard...You fuck-tards still lost 7-0, you dumb fucking, inbred, assholes!  Rocky was just a movie character you fucking dolts!

What bothers me even more, is Emery wasn't suspended...The NHL keeps talking about player safety, and has added instigator penalties, but a goalie skating the length of the ice, unprovoked, and then starting the fight is okay?  Watch that fight again...Holtby didn't want it...He didn't have a chance and knew it...And all Emery wanted to do was beat on him...There is a point where Holtby is going down, again, and Emery lifts him up, so he can keep beating on him...Now the NHL is saying they're looking into a rule change for next year, where if a goalie leaves his zone for a fight he'll get 10 games, possibly less, just as the rule is for a player leaving the bench for a fight...

And where is that asshole Mike Milbury screaming that Emery and Berube should be out of hockey, like he did a couple weeks ago when Buffalo's John Scott drilled Loui Eriksson?  Fucking asshole gasbag!

This all pisses me off because this is the same league that wrote the "Avery Rule" and put it into effect just days after this happened...

I love Hockey, but the NHL is so full of bullshit...Sean Avery is a dick, so he's not allowed to get into a goalies kitchen!   But a thug, half-assed goalie like Emery is allowed to jump Holtby  because he's pitching a shutout, while Emery and Mason gave up 7 goals...Bullshit!

I love the movie "Slap Shot" because it's a movie...If every hockey game was like that movie, I would have tapped out years ago...

The last thing I want to talk about is Northwestern's special uniforms....I'm all for being patriotic, and rocking the Red, White, and Blue...But giving it a blood splattered look seems over the top, and classless to me...

What do you think?

Have a week....

The Beeze.

The Beeze's Friday Finger Pop (NHL Off-Season Madness)
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: NHL New York Islanders New york Rangers Flyers Rick DiPietro Penguins Kris Letang Tuuka Rask

Well, it looks like a couple people are ready for some finger poppin' good times...Here we are, day after the 4th of July...Do you still have all your fingers? I hope every one had fun celebrating the 4th...That said, if your city/town is one of those shit-dick places that did fireworks on July 3rd, or 5th, fuck off...You celebrate on the 4th...Do the firewworks on the 4th...You see this more an more...Just like those asshole places that have their Halloween trick-or-treat on the Saturday before...Fuck you...You trick-or-treat on Halloween!

You don't ever see anyone or anywhere celebrate New Years on December 29th or January 3rd...Why? Because there is onlt one fucking New Years, just like there is one Halloween, and one 4th of July...Come on America, lets get our shit together...

Next up in the Finger Pop...NHL teams are all trying to find salary cap space, while holding onto key players, and landing quality and high profile free agents...There is a hot term now in the NHL...The "Compliance Buyout." This lets teams string out a percentage of a players contract, when waiving him, and it not killing their cap number...

In Philadelphia the Flyers dropped big money, $28 million to buyout the contracts of Ilya Bryzgalov and Daniel Briere...Then what did they do...Get themsleves another big contract on the books, signing 33 year old Vincent Lecavalier to a 5 year, $22.5 million contract....I think 5 years for a 33 year old who has spent a lot of time injured the last couple years is dumb, but good for Vinny...He's going to be sitting pretty making his $4.5 million a year from Philly...But on top of that is his buyout from Tampa Bay, who wanted/needed to get him off the books...From the Lightning he'll get $2.3 million a year for the next 14 seasons...WOW!

And and Flyers fans don't get too excited...Your team still has some holes to fill...Which should be fun to see since Lecavalier's contract just took them $300,000 over the salary cap!

While that buy out mess, and signing made me laugh...And sick...My favorite so far, and I doubt it will be topped is the New York Islanders buying out Goalie Rick DiPietro...Seven years ago GM Garth Snow thought it would be a good idea to give this average goalie a 15 year, $67.5 million contract...Since then DiPietro has either sucked, been injured, or both...Well, the Islanders have decided to finally rid themselves of this douche...To do so, they used the Compliance Buyout...DiPietro will be given $1.5 million annually for the next 16 years....

Yeah, Lecavalier will be earning more, but at least he put together a really good career so far...DiPietro has just blown...And I love that Snow had to finally admit he made a huge mistake...If I was teh owner I'd make him hold a press conference stating that he is sorry, and that he is a fucking idiot....They have to pay a guy $1.5 million a year, for 16 years, to go the fuck away!

How I wouldn't love a job that I could suck at, and the boss just finally breaks down and says, 'You're fucking killing us...Here, I'll pay you $1.5 million a year for, lets say 16 years...All you have to do is go the fuck away!'

Where the fuck do I sign!?!

Surprisingly, the New York Rangers didn't use the Compliance Buyout on Brad Richards, as many expected...GM Glen Sather says he expects Richards (33 yrs. old) to bounce back...So the Rangers will take the $9 million cap hit this season...Many Rangers fans, myself included, don't like this move, because it is giving the Rangers very little room to hold onto key players, and make any splash in free agency...

The Pittsburgh Pengins signed 26 year old defenseman Kris Letang to an eight year $58 million extension...It's not a horrible signing, but I'm just not a fan of going that long with anyone...But there is another reason this deal is risky...With this extension, the Penguins will have nearly half of their salary cap space locked up in 4 players...Letang, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal...Those 4 fuckers better stay healthy and produce or your team is gonna be in trouble...

Then comes the Boston Bruins who were talking to teams during the draft about moving 21 year old and former #2 overall pick, Tyler Seguin...Well, Thursday the Bruins sent Seguin, Rich Peverley, and minor-leaguer Ryan Button to Dallas for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith (22), 23 year old Matt Fraser, and Joe Morrow (20), the key piece Dallas got from Pittsburgh when they traded Brenden Morrow...Eriksson(27) gives the Bruins an elite left-handed winger who can play either side, and knows how to shoot...He's posted 70 points in each of the last 3 seasons...He has 3 years left on his $25.5 million, 6 year deal, which will be a smaller cap hit what Seguin would have been...The Bruins added a lot of youth and potential, and a proven player...

They also rid themselves of what they felt could be a major problem...According to "sources around the team," the Bruins had to have a sit down with Seguin during their playoff series with Toronto...They questioned his commitment to the team, and wanted him to start acting like a "Professional"...One report says Seguin showed up to the Air Canada Centre wearing the same close for 3 straight days...The 21 year old has earned quite the rep for partying since his 19 year old rookie season when he helped the Bruins win the Cup...and the rep isn't that good, based on this tweet from the Cask 'N Flagon...

"The Boston nightclub scene will be a better place without #tylerseguin demanding entry.#TradeSeguin"

The Bruins have another pressing issue to get to as well....

The contract extension people are waiting to see done in Boston, is goalie Tuuka Rask...The speculation is saying the 26 year old could be looking at a deal in the area of $56 million over 8 years...Smart moving taking that 1 year deal last season and proving yourself...Rask and the Bruins both gambled in those negotiations, and it looks like Rask won...

 

Have a good weekend!

The Beeze

Storminnorman's Sports Views
Category: User Showcase
Tags: NHL Red Wings Bruins Flyers

I know that I said I was going on vacation, but I decided to post one more blog before I take my break. I found some rather interesting reading today in my local newspaper the Flint Journal on the record the Wings will break tonight if they defeat the Dallas Stars at Joe Louis tonight. It was a rather revealing interview by Ansar Khan who writes for Mlive.com.

I found it rather amazing that one of the quotes from Mike Babcock goes like this: "This group has surpassed what I thought we were. We're a better team than I thought we were, and so we reset your bar and you keep pushing to be better." Hell if he  wants to know the  truth, they have already surpassed how good I really thought they was going to be this year with all the changes that they have made due to retirement and the death of Ruslin Salei in the tragic plane crash last fall. Also for the record, they absolutely stunk during the month of October when they could have been beaten by any team in the world during that month then something happened, Mike Babcock called them out......

 

This team has always taken pride in defending their home ice, because in order to be a successful team you have to win there and break even on the road. Here are some stats from the current streak. last season they 21-14-6 at home with a 3.10GAA; this season they have already surpassed their win total from a year ago, and are allowing 1.73 goals against which is second only to St.Louis' 1.61 at home. The Red Wings have outscored their opponents 81-30 during this streak, and I would like to thank Tim's Rangers for continuing to push the Wings for the President's Cup this year by remaining consistent with 77 points to the Wings 78. Without this motivation, I believe the streak may have ended a while ago.

 

Even though this is a sign of a real good team, the Wings need to get a little better on the road, even though they only have a few games left on the road this season. You have to be able to win a few on the road during the playoffs in order to win playoff series, good teams cannot rely on home dominance in order to win Lord Stanley's Cup.

 

ScottJax reminded me in a response to my Sunday blog, that Pitchers and Catchers report this week to Spring Training. So in turn, I thought I would share this information with you......

Using a formula combines statistical analytics and scouting,MLB Network named Detroit's Miguel Cabrera the top third baseman heading into 2012 season. The choice is likely to raise a few eyebrows of those who are unsure of what kind of defensive player Cabrera will be with the move back across the diamond. Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria, Boston's Kevin Youkilis, Texas' Adrian Beltre and Washington's Ryan Zimmerman followed Cabrera on the list. Mlive.com

 

I know this is going to raise the ire of some of you guys here on the gab, but remember when the Marlin's drafted Cabrera he was drafted as a third baseman. He only moved to first base when he was traded to Detroit, so he should be comfortable with the position again by Opening Day when Boston comes to Comerica Park.

 

Now its time to say good bye, its Valentine's Day and time to take my wife to lunch. I wish all you gabber's or your wives and girlfriends a Happy Valentine's Day. This time I will say for real, I am starting my break. I will still be popping in to view your blogs and respond to them like I always do, just won't be blogging as much or doing my Sunday thing with Hotchnuts......

 

Until I speak again, everyone have a great week and thanks for reading my post.......

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Conference Preview
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: Sabres Bruins Senators Leafs Canadiens Islanders Devils Rangers Flyers Penguins Capitals Panthers Hurricanes LIghtning

Eastern Conference

 

Final Standings:

  1. Washington Capitals
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins
  3. Buffalo Sabres
  4. Boston Bruins
  5. Philadelphia Flyers
  6. New York Rangers
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning
  8. Carolina Hurricanes
  9. Montreal Canadiens
  10. New Jersey Devils
  11. Toronto Maple Leafs
  12. Florida Panthers
  13. Winnipeg Jets
  14. New York Islanders
  15. Ottawa Senators 

Atlantic Division:

  

1.     Pittsburgh Penguins

One question that has been beat into our heads and has remained unanswered this offseason is how long will Crosby be out?  Pens fans shouldn’t really be that concerned in looking for an answer to that question.  The Pens played the last 41 games of the season without Crosby, and still managed a 4thplace finish in the conference.  It would be smart to allow Crosby to take his time and make sure that when he returns to the game, he will be 100%.  Ray Shero made a smart move in the off season, bringing in C Steve Sullivan.  Sullivan should be good for about 45 points on the season.  As well, if Malkin can come back healthy, the Penguins are going to be one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference.  Backup goalie Brent Johnson will not be a liability when he has the chance to give Fleury a rest.  The Pens also stacked up a couple of key players on their back end, adding Martin and Michalek.  Pittsburgh could be frightfully good on their back end this season.  However, one question that may haunt the Penguins this year is depth.  In the event of a couple key injuries, do the Pens have enough scoring to carry them through?  That is where the late season trade for James Neal comes in.  6 points in 20 games isn’t going to cut it, especially after scoring 39 in 59 games for Dallas.  Neal is a good young player, and he will be the player to watch for the Pens this season.

2.     Philadelphia Flyers

Ever since the departure of Hextall, the Flyers haven’t had a solid number one goaltender.  The net has been a constant carousel of goalies, each trying to earn the job full time.  Names such as Cechmanek, Snow, Vanbiesbrouk, Boucher, Emery, Hackett, Froese, Soderstrom…I could go on forever.  However, this year, as well as every other year, the Flyers believe that they have found their guy.  Bryzgalov will be a consistent performer for the Flyers this season, but we will see how he can deal with the legendary Flyer fan animosity if he starts a string of bad games.  We’ll see how he deals with getting his first trailer hitch thrown at him.  Fans in Philly are a little more “passionate” than the average fan in Phoenix.  Philly had to move some important stock in order to land Bryzgalov, and that involved moving key players such as Carter and Richards.  That is going to be a lot of points that will need to be spread out amongst the rest of the team.  Players such as Giroux, Van Riemsdyk and Simmonds are going to be leaned on heavily this season.  However, the addition of Jagr will help them out, but one shouldn’t expect record setting numbers from Jagr.  Voracek will be a helpful addition as well, and even though the Flyers lost 2 of their top 4 scorers, they won’t feel the pinch.  Their back end is as solid as ever, with grey bushes Pronger and Timonen leading the show; that is, if Pronger can remain healthy.  The Flyers have one of the better D-Cores in the Eastern Conference this season, and with no major changes, more will be expected.  Were the GAA last year indicative of average goaltending or because of inconsistency on the back end?  This year will tell us.

3.     New York Rangers

The Rangers are well on their way of developing their younger players and moving forward.  The addition of Brad Richards will help the Rangers see that they are not blowing as many third period leads this season.  More responsibility is being placed on the Rangers younger players, and forwards such as Dubinsky and Callahan are going to asked to shoulder the majority of the workload this season.  Gaborik is always consistent, but that is only when he is healthy.  Gaborik missed 20 games last season, but this season he will need to be much better.  Support from Stepan and Boyle will help the Rangers take the next step, but they are still a fairly young team.  On their back end, players such as Staal, Girardi and McDonagh will be playing together for a few more years yet, and they will continue to improve as the season develops.  If only Del Zotto can shake off a forgettable sophomore year, he will emerge and help round out one of the best top 4’s in the East.  How are the Rangers going to be in the nets this year?  One word…Lundqvist.  Quite simply, one of the best in the game and he can carry this team through many games this season, just like he has in the past.  With Biron as a backup, he is capable of playing huge minutes in relief of Hank, but honestly, can anyone see him taking a stretch of games off?  Henrik played over 4000 minutes last season, and was just shy of the numbers that would qualify a Vezina nomination.  The player to watch this season on the Rangers will be newcomer Mats Zuccarello.  Zuccarello will be seeing more ice time this season, and lets see what kind of numbers he can put up in a full NHL season.  Bottom line for the Rangers is this…getting knocked out by the Caps in the playoffs could be the best thing to happen to this young team.

4.     New Jersey Devils

Entering this season, there are 2 major questions that need to be answered; can the Devils rebound from a simply horrific start to the 2010-2011 season, and is it time for the Devils to start thinking about life without Brodeur?  There were lots of factors that could be blamed for the Devils poor start.  How much of the blame can be placed on the injuries to Parise and Brodeur?  How much can be placed on the teams lack of response to head coach John MacLean?  And finally, if Kovalchuk stumbles out of the gate once again, will the same pattern be repeated?  However, in light of all of these occurrences, the Devils still turned it around and were in playoff contention in mid March.  What the Devils accomplished in the second half was pretty remarkable, and that deserves some accolades.  However, one fact remains true; the Devils have only won 1 playoff round in the last 5 seasons.  Unlike Brodeur, Kovalchuk is going to be around for much longer.  Why Jersey would allow a player such as Parise to go to arbitration is beyond me.  Parise is one of their premier players and Lamoriello needs to ensure that he is around long term.  Hopefully the arbitration process didn’t shake Parise’s faith in the organization too dramatically.  Unlike the division rival Rangers, the Devils are an aging group and time is running out on this group to win it all together.  The Devils will need to score more than 174 goals this season, which was the lowest goal scored total in the league last season.  Elias can still be counted on to be a regular contributor, but players such as Zubrus and Zajac will have to do better than their 44 and 30 point seasons respectively.  A healthy Parise will add to the goals scored total, but at the same time, they will need to improve on a 14.4% power play goals as well, which garnered them 28thplace in the league last season.  Aside from a solid top 2 d-men in Tallinder and Volchenkov, there isn’t much depth on their back end as they need.  Sure they only allowed 209 goals last season, but this may be the opportunity that Adam Larsson needs to crack the lineup and be a full time Devil

5.     New York Islanders

Believe it or not, things are starting to shape up on the Island.  The Islanders will be better this season, and GM Snow has slowly and quietly been putting together a solid core of young players.  Sure, drafting a player of Tavares’ talent makes it much easier to build a team, but Snow has done a fairly remarkable job.  For the Isles, the tough part of the rebuild may be completed.  Now, it is time to build on last year and show steady gains year to year.  Players such as Grabner, Moulson and Tavares may be three of the most talented young players on one team.  There, I said it.  Throw in players such as Parenteau, Nielson, Bailey and Comeau, and the future is starting to look bright on the Island.  The Isles have also quietly built up their farm system, and have drafted some prospects that could make the Islanders forwards an elite group within 5 or 6 years.  If Snow can keep this current group of forwards together, they may be reminiscent of another group of young forwards that remained together in the 80’s until Bruce McNall got involved.  And no, I am not alluding that any member of the Islanders is close to being of 99 status.  It is just a reference to an extremely talented young group.  One thing that has plagued the Isles year after year is the health of DiPietro.  However, when DiPietro does get injured (and he will), it will be up to Al Montoya to carry the bulk of the workload.  Once upon a time, there were two amazing US Born Goalie Prospects named Montoya and Dipietro.  Montoya worked hard every day and even did his evil step-brothers chores, but no matter how hard he worked, he always remained in the shadows of his charismatic and fragile step-brother.  Sounds like a fairy tale, but the whole concept of an oft-injured DiPietro is a nightmare for the majority of the Isles fans.  One thing that the fans can count on though, is that Montoya will be a more than suitable replacement for DiPietro.  Throw in the possibility of Nabakov being in the mix, and an injury to DiPietro may be the best thing to happen for the Islanders goalies.  On the back end, they were hit with numerous injuries that allowed quite a few depth players to see some ice.  For such a young team, dealing with the news that they would miss Streit for last season, was quite the blow.  If Streit can return at 100%, there is still a hodgepodge of d men back there.  Players such as Hamonic, Eaton and Mottau are going to be counted on to provide some much needed stability and security.  The Islanders are moving forward ever so slightly, but they have a number of shining stars in their future.

 

Northeast Division:

  1. Buffalo Sabres

With a new ownership that has loosened off the purse strings, the Sabres have to be considered a legitimate threat this season.  The Sabres were the hottest team going into the playoffs this past spring, winning 16 of its final 24 games to enter the playoffs with the number 7 seed.  The Sabres were always a piece or two short of completing the puzzle, and after trading for Regehr and signing Ehrhoff long term, the Sabres have one of the strongest blue lines in the Conference.  Tyler Myers is going to be counted on to improve on last years numbers, and he will have lots of opportunity to see the ice this season.  Finally, the Sabres have an ownership that is willing to go out and spend money on players.  Last season, Stafford and Ennis made strides in becoming pivotal pieces in the future of the Sabres.  In 2010-11, only three teams in the Eastern Conference scored more goals than the Sabres, and let’s remember that they did that even while missing Derek Roy for the majority of the season.  With a healthy core group of forwards, the Sabres have a balanced and legitimate attack with skaters such as Hecht, Pominville, Boyes, Vanek and others.  In nets, Ryan Miller is capable of stealing multiple games this season.  Remember, Miller is only one season removed from a Vezina winning campaign.  Jhonas Enroth will get a chance to start some games, but not very many.  With Miller starting in 65 games last year, Enroth still found time to win 9 games for Buffalo.  With Lindy Ruff at the helm again this year, this Sabres team is going to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch this season.  Count on Ruff to ensure that the Sabres do not underachieve.

2.     Boston Bruins

One can only watch in amazement when Thomas is working between the pipes.  Thomas has been oft-criticized for being an unorthodox goalie by numerous analysts, but he has done what many of them couldn’t; win a Stanley Cup and multiple Vezinas.  The Bruins managed to maintain their core group of young players, and aside from Recchi retiring and Ryder renting a U-Haul bound for Texas, the Bruins are still the same team.  With Savard regrettably on the shelf for the duration of this season, it puts a hole in the Bruins that can easily be filled.  Last season, Krejci and Bergeron filled in admirably in his absence, and Krejci will be leaned upon lots this year.  Seguin will continue to develop, and playing on this Bruins team will help him immensely.  Just remember, that head coach Claude Julien will continue to expose Seguin to different situations slowly.  There will be some questions about Horton after his concussion in the post season, but if he can come back healthy, he will be relied on to provide some additional scoring to help plug the hole left by Recchi.  Big things are going to be expected from the little sparkplug that is Brad Marchand.  Marchand was pivotal in the Bruins championship run last spring, and he will be expected to pick up where he left off.  On their back end, any d-core that is led by Chara is going to be strong and steady.  Other d-men such as McQuaid, Boychuk, Ference, Corvo and Seidenberg will round out a very strong back end.  For being the best goalie in the world right now, Thomas reminds me of someone you’d bump into in line for a beer.  Thomas posted record numbers last season, and he isn’t showing any intention of slowing down.  Rask will get the opportunity to play in plenty of games this season, and head coach Claude Julien has already stated that the Bruins are entering the season with 2 number 1 goalies.  Adam McQuaid finished a remarkable +30 last season, and with an increase in ice time possible, he will improve on last seasons numbers.

3.     Montreal Canadiens

The Habs definitely have some speed to burn up front, but it’ll take more than speed to make this a contending team.  One would have a hard time stomaching the high priced contracts handed out to the likes of Gionta, Gomez, and Cammalleri.  The Habs did not get their moneys worth from their highest paid players. The addition of Erik Cole will help with secondary scoring, but the majority of the Habs wins this season are going to come from low scoring games.  Last season, Montreal finished with 44 wins, but they only scored 216 goals.  Players such as Gomez need to score more, simply put.  Young players such as Lars Eller is ready to be the offensive contributor that Gauthier thought he was trading for when Halak was moved.  On the back end, the Habs felt the pinch when Gorges and Markov both went down with injuries.  Subban was able to step up and fill in when needed, and now that the Habs have seen what he may be capable of; the expectations will be considerably higher this year.  Montréal’s d-core should be fairly solid this year, with Weber and Yemelin chomping at the bit for more ice time.  If Montreal can make it through this season relatively injury free, they may be in the position to move some assets to help their scoring, or lack of as it will be.  In the nets, Price will be a workhorse once again.  After starting in 70 games last season, he set career numbers in GAA and SV%.  Peter Budaj will continue to be the reliable backup that he has been throughout his career, but realistically he shouldn’t be expecting to get a lot of work.

4.     Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto is developing and acquiring some talented young players.  Grabovski is coming off career highs in every important category, but will he improve again this year?  There has been a fair bit of pressure placed on youngsters Bozak and Kadri to develop and produce right away, but the emergence of MacArthur and Kulemin provided the Leafs the chance to ease off on Kadri and Bozak.  The Leafs hope that Connolly will be the center that Kessel needs, but as always, his health is an issue.  On defense, Phaneuf will be the workhorse on the blue line, with Schenn and Aulie slowly emerging as a legitimate threats.  The bottom line is that the d-core needs to be better and improve on their 251 goals allowed last season.  The acquisitions of Liles and Franson will help them on their back end, but their goals against would have been much worse if it wasn’t for the emergence of James Reimer.  Reimer is going into this season as the number one goalie for the Leafs.  After starting in 35 games last season, Reimer is going to shoulder the workload this year.  However, if he starts to slip, the Leafs will not have much of a choice but to turn to Gustavsson, who has been hampered by a heart condition the last couple of seasons.  If Gustavsson is unable to go or performs subpar, the Leafs are going to have to go to the well that is the Marlies for a call up.

5.     Ottawa Senators

As an outsider looking in, I watch in amazement and wonder how Bryan Murray has been able to keep his job.  Numerous quality coaches have been sent down the river in years past, and the next man in the breach is Paul MacLean.  MacLean will have a fairly young team to work with this year, with players such as Fisher, Kelly, Ruutu, Kovalev and Elliot gone.  After using 6 goalies (Brodeur, McElhinney, Leclaire, Elliot, Lehner, and Anderson) during the 2010-11 season, the Sens are hoping that they finally have their man in Craig Anderson.  As well, the only players that can tell people that they had a good year and keep a straight face were Karlsson and Spezza.  The Sens have a fairly young team this season, and Paul MacLean is hopefully the right man for the job.  Alfredsson needs to come back at 100% after his injury, and prove his worth to the Sens this year.  A young team will need his veteran presence in the locker room.  Young players such as Bobby Butler and Nick Foligno need to improve on last seasons numbers, and they are going to have plenty of opportunity to do just that.  Last year, the Senators allowed 250 goals against.  That is simply horrific, and the Senators only had 2 of the d-men that they used all season finish on the right side of the +/- category.  Defensemen such as Phillips (-35) and Kuba (-26) simply need to be better.  This is going to be a long season for the Sens, but if certain players continue to develop and improve on seasons past, many Senator players will reach career highs. 

 

Southeast Division

1.     Washington Capitals

Life is good in Washington.  They have a great team, a supportive and rabid fan base, and a couple of the most exciting players in the game today.  Regardless of regular season achievements, until the Capitals do something, they are on the same page as the Sharks; playoff pretenders.  Washington has drafted extremely well over the years, and they are going to continue to reap the benefits for quite a few years.  Players such as John Carlson (yes, I’m still upset over his amazing goal in the WJHC), Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perrault are going to continue to develop at the NHL level.  McPhee made a couple of moves in the off season, bringing in Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer.  The Capitals will recover from a low scoring 224 goal (by their standards) season and will continue to improve defensively.  Players such as Backstrom and Semin (especially after he was criticized in the press for his unambitious play) need to increase their offensive production.  With Green missing significant time last season, Carlson emerged as a player capable of handling the minutes.  Washington further bolstered their blue line by adding Wideman and signing Hamrlik to a d-core that already had Green, Poti, Alzner, Erskine and Schultz.  With the off season moves that the Caps made in their nets, Vokoun will handle the workload nicely and should be expected to play between 50 and 60 games this year.  If Vokoun begins to struggle, Neuvirth has shown that he is more than capable of stepping in.

2.     Tampa Bay Lightning

By making it into the third round of the playoffs last season, the Lightning grew in leaps and bounds.  Key younger players such as Stamkos and Purcell had an extra long drink at the post season fountain.  Let’s remember that this was the team that came back against the Crosby-less Penguins and then sweep the Capitals last season.  Guy Boucher had his team motivated and ready for success last season and new GM Steve Yzerman put some key elements in place.  Any team that can put players of the caliber of Lecavalier, St Louis and Stamkos together has to be considered a serious threat.  Throw in some secondary scoring support from Moore, Downie, Purcell and Thompson, and the Lightning can be extremely offensive.  If Gilroy can become the type of player that Yzerman thought he was when he went after him as a free agent and if Hedman continues to develop, the Lightning can have a very strong defensive team as well.  Throw in Brewer, Kubina, Ohlund and Clark, it would appear that the Lightning are very deep in their own end.  Roloson enters the season as the number one goalie, but if he starts to show his age, look for Garon to start to take the majority of the starts away.  The Lightning have many of the pieces in place to compete in the playoffs.

3.     Carolina Hurricanes

Eric Staal is arguably one of the best centers in the league, and he is barely 27 years old.  After missing out on the post season in their last game of the season, the Hurricanes should be expected to make the cut this year.  One thing that may have hurt the Hurricanes last year was depth.  Carolina simply lacked secondary scoring that was effective enough to guarantee a post season berth.  Staal and Skinner are a very competent combination, and Skinner has developed faster than many thought he was going to.  Players such as Boychuk, Jokinen, Larose, Ponikarovsky and Sutter are going to have to pick up the slack and provide some much needed secondary scoring this season.  As well, the current group of forwards on the Hurricanes needs to be more active in their own end, and they need to be more efficient back checkers.  The d-core will be anchored by Gleason and Pitkanen, and the additions of Allen and Kaberle will help out dramatically.  Going into this season, Cam Ward will continue to eat up starts for the Canes, and Brian Boucher will be relegated to opening the gate for the majority of this season.  Boucher can expect to get about 10 starts this season, barring any injury to Ward. 

4.     Florida Panthers

Heading into this season with a new head coach in Kevin Dineen, the learning curve is going to be quick in Florida this season.  During the regular season, GM Dale Tallon was active (as usual) and was ready to make moves to improve his club.  Tallon moved the majority of the veteran talent out of town, and quickly stocked up on draft picks and young prospects.  As a result, Dineen is taking over a younger team, and essentially, a chunk of clay for him to mold.  Last season, Florida’s leading goal scorer only had 23, and the team leader for points was 49, you would think that there is a lot of room for improvement.  Players such as Santorelli and Bradley will be leaned upon to produce, and the addition of Bergenheim should help.  On the back end, it doesn’t look much better for Florida.  Kulikov, Campbell, Weaver and Jovonovski (yup…he’s still playing) on their back end, there is a lot of opportunity for Gudbranson and Ellerby to eat up some minutes.  In the nets this season, Jose Theodore may emerge as the number one tender going into this season.  His leash may be a little shorter this season, and if he starts to struggle, Kevin Dineen may give Markstrom an extra long look.  Markstrom will be the Panthers tender of the future, but they need to be careful that they don’t burn him out early in his career.

5.     Winnipeg Jets

A new home is not enough to improve the Atlanta Thrashers.  Sure, the players will get to experience a circus like atmosphere with their games, which may be a new feeling for many of them that have been in Atlanta long term.  Even though the Jets are a fairly young team, they are still a very talented team.  Offensively, the team has Ladd, Kane, Antropov, Little, and Wheeler.  Forwards such as Burmistrov, Cormier and Glass are going to be expected to contribute more offensively, while players such as Byfuglien and Enstrom will add to their offensive totals.  On the back end, Byfuglien and Enstrom will be anchoring the d-core with Bogosian and Oduya providing additional support.  However, last season the Thrashers finished 29thin the NHL with 269 goals against.  That number is going to have to decrease dramatically before the Jets can be considered a legitimate threat for the playoffs.  The Thrashers were also 20thin the league for goals scored, another stat that is going to have to improve before they can be taken seriously as a playoff threat.  In the nets, the combination of Pavelec and Mason will provide to be an adequate goaltending tandem, but their numbers will have to be better.

As always, these types of prognostications always come with opinions of varying degree.  Let me have it if I am right the fuck out to lunch.  

And now, your hockey fight of the week.  A great fight between Brian McGratton and Cam Janssen.  Two great competitors.

Thanks for stopping by.

Hotchnuts

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