Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Your First Trade Is Always The Worst

I am excited to see Brian Campbell head out west, I think his skills on the power play and his leadership on the ice will be a huge value add in the Sharks organization. I don't know how it felt for Brian when he was notified that he was just traded, but if I were to equate the feeling it would be like knowing a lay-off is coming, knowing that your department is being cut, and finding out at 4pm on Friday that today is your last day (all the while asking your boss "just tell me if I am going"). Brian's emotional interview was touching, as you could tell he was extremely upset, and at the same time, had to be positive about going to the Sharks.

His interview later in the day, once the Sharks PR department got in touch with him, had a completely different tone. He had time to put his thoughts together and had time to chat with the Sharks organization on things to discuss.

Brian Campbell has become a better hockey player - not on the ice, but through this process. Your first is always the toughest, he survived, he will head west to San Jose and he will still be a rock star on the ice. I cannot imagine how he felt ... being drafted by the Sabres in 1997, he has played with then since and went to his first All-Star game as a Sabre last year, and then again this past year in Atlanta. Buffalo is what he knows, Buffalo is where his heart is. He even said "I have finally allowed my teammates to call me "soup!""

Brian is coming to San Jose at a great time - Campbell brings his elite skills, including his super speed and ability as a power-play quarterback, to the Sharks, a team that desperately needed a "pick-me-up" in their bid to become a major contender in the Western Conference. San Jose is fifth in the West with 74 points, leading Minnesota by one and Vancouver and Nashville by two. It is third in the Pacific Division, trailing first-place Dallas by nine points and second-place Anaheim by five. Campbell had five goals and 38 assists this season for the Sabres. His 43 points led all Sabres defensemen and is seventh among NHL defensemen.

When asked Sharks GM Doug Wilson said "We have been looking for this component for our hockey team for quite a while, I'm very familiar with Brian Campbell's game. I think he's one of the top puck-moving defenseman in the game. We think he'll fit in tremendous for our hockey team. He'll certainly improve our power play and our puck possession game. He's a world class skater. He can move the puck. He can play defense. He's a multidimensional player, and he's had success. He's the type of guy that will fit into the dressing room here."

Good Luck Brian - and Welcome to The Tank!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Montreal Canadiens Mistake

Hockey is essentially about goaltending and no team can win the cup without it. In fact, you can't win a cup without amazing goaltending, average goaltending just won't get it done. So Bob Gainey, the GM for the Habs who'd publicly announced his intent to acquire an "impact player," thought that it would be a good idea to send out Cristobal Huet, a veteran goaltender who'd been leading the team much of the year, for nothing but a draft pick and thrust the 20-year old phenom, Carey Price, into the starting role for the stretch run and the playoffs.

For me, this was easily the weirdest and most illogical trade of the day. If he was getting real value for Huet then maybe I could understand, but all he added was a draft pick and not even a first rounder and not even for the upcoming draft. What the Habs received was a 2nd round pick in 2009. This means that Toronto received more compensation for Hal Gill than Montreal did for Huet. I truly feel for Montreal fans who must have knots the size of bowling balls in their stomachs today. Carey Price is obviously going to be a number one guy, but this may be a little soon and while he's show some brilliance this season, he hasn't shown the consistency it takes to win a cup. So instead of securing Hossa, Havlat, Jokinen or any other big name "impact players" they send out a goaltender for a draft pick and then call it a day. If Price stumbles in the playoffs, Montreal may have a full scale riot on its hands and I, for one, wouldn't blame them one bit.

For once, I'm Speechless

Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from the Boston Bruins for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a first round draft pick.

So now that it's had some time to settle in I figured I'd provide a few thoughts on the blockbuster of the day. Frankly, I'm concerned. I think this is a big hit to chemistry overall, especially with the loss of Army, and it seems like an awful lot to pay for what will most likely turn out to be a rental player. If the Pens can re-sign him, then maybe the deal is okay but do the Pens have enough money to sign him, Malkin, Fleury and Staal? I'm not certain that they do.

Christensen I'm okay with losing and Esposito, while he may end up being a star, is an acceptable loss as well but losing the toughness of Armstrong is, well, tough. This is where I think the Penguins struggle the most and while they added a concrete pylon to their defensive corp in Hal Gil, they still tend to be a little soft and were very much so in the playoffs last year. I'm just surprised to see this sudden eruption of "win now" mentality coming out of a team that has the brightest future of any team in the league.

Hossa is a beast, don't get me wrong, but he's never done much in the playoffs and will most likely not be with the Pens next season so was it worth it to give up that much for him? I think I would have rather gotten Tuomo Ruutu, someone the Pens pursued but lost out on to the Hurricanes, and paid a lesser price. I'm truly concerned that a young team who's played with tremendous heart and determination, who's overcome odds and have found new leadership in the midst of injuries to Fleury and Crosby, may suffer from this trade. It remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, the Penguins are unequivocally the best show in town.....for now.

Amazing Goals - Nash and Toews

Saw a comparison the other day and would like to see the reaction here. Leave a comment if you would - let me know which goal you like better. I love both of them ... but for pure talent, I have to give it up to Toews. Being a rookie this year and making those D-men stand there holding their lunch like that was awesome! I am looking forward to the next few years to watch Jonathan grow up and mature into a strong leader in the NHL!

Jonathan Toews

Rick Nash

Monday, February 25, 2008

Third Verse Same as the First in Buffalo

Buffalo Sabres fans have taken a beating over the last 12 months. They watched the Sabres stumble in the playoffs and then waived good to their top pivot Daniel Briere before watching their heart and soul leader Chris Drury follow suit. Now, it appears that fans will be on the verge of a mutiny as they will have to suffer through another loss. It appears to be almost certain that Brian Campbell, an extremely talented smooth skating defenseman who has been the leader of the defensive corps for the last few seasons, will be finding a new home after failing to reach a new deal with the Sabres. Campbell stands to become an unrestricted free agent in the off-season and at 28 he's in the prime of his career and exactly the kind of defenseman that teams cherish in the "new NHL." Campbell is on pace for a career year as he has 43 points through 62 games and Buffalo didn't appear to want to pay him his due. Now, I have no access to the inner-workings of a deal like this but I can't imagine how any of the leaders in Buffalo could allow this to happen yet again. They've truly struggled without Briere and Drury, Thomas Vanek has been a shadow of himself without them, and now they're willing to lose the kind of defenseman that every team wants. Campbell was reportedly willing to accept a hometown discount to stay in Buffalo, but they could not come to terms and if there's one thing that powers-that-be have learned in Buffalo, it's that allowing a top player to walk for nothing in return is equally as foolish as failing to retain them in the first place.

UPDATE: Sabres trade Brian Campbell to the San Jose Sharks for a 1st round draft pick and Steve Bernier. Buffalo fans, my apologies and your GM deserves to be fired. San Jose Sharks AGAIN benefit from an incredibly timed trade.

Rob Blake, the Definitive Rental Agrees to Be Rented

Rob Blake earlier refused to waive his no-trade clause but he has apparently changed his mind and is willing to move on to a contender for the playoff run. He's coming off a fractured ankle but should be healthy in time for the playoffs. I'm not convinced he's got much left in the tank, but an injury depleted Detroit will most certainly make a bid. Rob Blake will most certainly return to the LA Kings, his home town and home team, in the off-season.

Dan Boyle Re-signs Sending Brad Richards Out the Door

The Lightning re-signed Dan Boyle, a 31 year old puck-moving defenseman coming off a career year last season with 20 goals and 63 assists, to a 6-year deal worth $40 million. Boyle has suffered through a variety of injuries this season including a freak accident where his skate fell from his locker and severed a number of tendons in his wrist costing him 36 games. He's been healthy for less than a month and it didn't take long for the rumor mill to get rolling. Tampa's ownership questions left everything in the wind but apparently the new owners wanted Boyle to stay. So much so that they signed him to a deal that pretty much guarantees that one of the "big three," which is Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St Louis, will be moved by tomorrow's deadline. Lecavalier is a Lightning for life, if they have any sense at all, and St Louis is most likely staying put leaving Richards and his $7 million a year the odd man out. My guess would be that he'll take his league worst plus/minus rating of -25 to Vancouver who is desperate for offense. At 27, Richards is in the prime of his career and, having only played for Tampa Bay in his entire career, he know has an opportunity to take his Stanley Cup ring and try to add to it in the heart of hockey country.

Tanguay to Stay

After weeks of speculation and even public acknowledgment of said speculation, the Flames have announced that they do not intend to trade the suddenly surging Alex Tanguay. The Flames need to free up some cap space to re-sign key free agents so most assumed that they would do that by sending Tanguay and his $5 million + salary out the door but it appears that is not the case which is smart on Darryl Sutter's part. Tanguay has a year left on his three year deal which includes a no-trade clause so any deal would have had to have 28 year old winger's stamp of approval. The question now is, will they trade Kristian Huselius, who's mired in a lengthy goal scoring slump, instead?

Foppa Returns

So I write this relatively lengthy entry about how great Forsberg is and how sad I am that we'll most likely never see him play again and today it was announced that not only is he back, he's gone back to play for his original team the Colorado Avalanche. No details on the length of the contract, but he is officially back. While I'm quite excited to see the man known as Foppa back on the ice and hopefully embarrassing people like Ryan Whitney (read my previous post), I'm surprised to see him go back to a team that is struggling to even make the playoffs much less compete for the Cup. While I know Colorado is his home team, they currently sit in 10th place, suffer through inconsistent goaltending and have a number of quality teams ahead of them in the race. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that he signed a one-year deal with a team that has, at best, a 50-50 shot at making the playoffs. If I had to make a guess it's that Peter doesn't want injuries to determine when he retires, something he's always stated publicly, and by coming back and playing the rest of the year he'll be proving to himself that injuries didn't "force" him to retire. I would assume that he figures going back to the place where he had most of his success was the best way to close his career. It'll be interesting to see, but at least we get to watch him one more time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sundin Trades a Cup Run for Class

Mats Sundin, a Canadian golden boy and perennial hockey leader, has informed Leafs GM, Cliff Fletcher, that he will not waive his no trade clause. Sundin, who's spent 13 of his roughly 17 years in the league with the Leafs, will be an unrestricted free agent in the off-season and Fletcher was hoping to rent him out to a cup favorite in order to aid in the rebuilding process in Toronto and give Mats a chance at his first Cup. At age 37, Sundin has few years left to win his first cup but despite having his pick of nearly every playoff-bound team, Mats declined saying,

"I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL Club at this time. I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June. I hope everyone will understand and respect my decision."

Many players have come before him and have left their home team in order to chase the dream temporarily with a cup favorite but Mats decided it was not the way he wanted to win. To me, this speaks volumes about his class and leadership and illustrates exactly why so many teams were lined up for a shot at his services. Sundin deserves a cup, but with Toronto clearly embarking on an intensive, and much needed, re-build he may never get it. Many will accuse Mats of hurting that rebuilding effort and claim that he should have allowed Fletcher to get some value for him and then just re-signed with Toronto in the off-season. Regardless of one's perspective on that, Mats decision is actually a refreshing one as he will be a leaf until the end and that's something to be celebrated.

Ryan Whitney is the Most Dangerous Pittsburgh Penguin

Now, I know what you might think when you see the title of this blog. What about Malkin....Crosby...or even Gonchar!?!? Well, allow me to clarify. Ryan Whitney is the most dangerous Penguin to the Pittsburgh Penguins and their Stanley Cup hopes. It's important to admit that I wrote the first part of this post, including the title, at the end of the 2nd period between the Pens and the Sharks so this was even before Cheechoo made Whitney his bitch which put the Sharks up 1-0.

Ryan Whitney plays 20+ minutes a night, toping 25 minutes against the Senators, and is absolutely awful. I HATE watching him play. He's as soft as they come, doesn't stick up for teammates, he's easy to play against and, the worst part, he turns the puck over enough in his own zone to be tried for treason. There is no other player on any time in the league more likely to cost the Pittsburgh Penguins a game than their own Ryan Whitney. Luckily, for Whitney, he was bailed out today through the first two periods as Conklin played incredibly well and was, again, bailed out by Christensen who scored to tie the game about half way through the third but I can't help but wonder what everyone sees in Whitney. He was absolutely awful in the playoffs last year, costing them at least one game if not more, and has been absolutely awful most of this year. He does have an offensive upside but with 33 points on the season it's not enough to make up for what he costs his team night in and night out. Therrien, Pittsburgh's coach, was upset with Whitney's play about a week ago and berated him in a post-game interview. Whitney has apparently forgotten about that and has slid back into playing like a scared little girl and returned to his regularly scheduled program of costing the Penguins' games. It'll never happen, but I'd love to see him out of Pittsburgh at the deadline for anything and anyone. Ryan Whitney for Derrian Hatcher, who has no cartilage left in his knees? Sure. Ryan Whitney for a player to be named later? Sure. Ryan Whitney for a player to be named never? Absolutely. Unfortunately, he's signed to a lengthy deal so Penguins' fans will be stuck watching him bumble around in the defensive zone and get embarrassed by average players for a long time to come. Frankly, Pittsburgh can't win a cup, or maybe even a playoff series, if Whitney is playing 20+ minutes. It's pathetic. The best thing that could happen to the Penguins would be to have Whitney go down for the rest of the season.

Western Conference Playoff Spots

If you look at the spread in the West ... ONLY 8 points separate 13th and 5th. Top that off with the teams in 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th are all tied with 72 points (this is including the San Jose Sharks)!!! Am I worried - absolutely. It would be a crying shame for the Sharks to miss the playoffs this year. I am looking at hotels in the Nashville area in the event they meet up with the Predators soon.

All said - these last 20 or so games are going to be intense, gritty and down right brutal when it comes to Western division and conference rivals scratching for these last few points. What is also making this an amazing season is with only 2 more days left before the trade deadline hits - we are still waiting patiently for those flood gates to crash open so we can witness the shuffle of players by coaches and GM's in the hopes of securing one of the births come April!

There are a TON of rumors flying around the league and not much action, which tells me that come Monday and Tuesday ... the NHL corporate offices will be in utter pandemonium trying to facilitate trade calls between teams, players, agents and the NHLPA. The next 72 hours are not going to provide much sleep if you are an NHL executive in NY.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Media and Sound Bites

Great quotes are easy to come by in the NHL … Coaches and GM’s have been around and seen enough of this league that their sense of humor has to be in tune or this sport will drive anyone in a leadership role to drinking! There are motivational quotes like the one from John Tortorella, when talking about the Lightnings game play, where he said “Safety is death.”

Then there are the ones that show how much respect this league commands – when Barry Trotz was talking about Peter Forsberg, “Some of the things he's done, they write books about. Babe Ruth-type stuff. But he doesn't bring an intimidating personality. He's a genuine, solid guy and any team that gets him is getting a great talent and a good person." You don’t find respect like that in other leagues, sure you’ll hear someone say good things about a player, but in regards to honor and respect, I think the NHL is the bar every sport franchise should aspire to reach.

You can also find them with players after a game, these guys just poured their souls out in front of millions and they have to remain positive. Win or lose, they cannot say what’s really on their minds … I have seen a few times after a game when the media is talking to a player before he goes into the locker room and they are hitting him with 30 different questions in 7.8 seconds. Like when they caught the Flyers RW R.J. Umberger … you know he wanted to say something other than “A week-and-a-half, maybe 2 weeks ago, we thought we were going to contend for the top spot in the East, and things turned the wrong way. We lost a couple of games, we've had some injuries and we need to find a way to stop it right now." You know he had something more to say about that situation, and I am sure in the locker room he was a little more candid – Now there is a sound bite!

What about players who talk about other players … the ones who surprise even their teammates when they take the ice. Like with the Oilers Mathieu Roy, when he was talking about his teammate Zack Stortini and said “Maybe when he puts on his helmet a couple of wires touch each other or something, because off the ice he's a really nice guy. On the ice, he's nuts."

And to wrap this up – a couple I got a chuckle out of when reading. The Ducks GM was quoted "You guys (the media) aren't going to let a guy sit there for three or four years and not do much with the deadline and go out in the first round and say; 'Well, he's husbanding his assets wisely. He's marshalling his assets wisely. This is a sharp guy.' You're all going to say; 'Put him on a rail and throw some tar on him and get him out of town.'" When asked about his plans for the trade deadline. Or when questioned about Trade rumors Flames GM Darryl Sutter says "I don't pay attention to it. It's like listening to a magpie in the morning-as long as it doesn't wake the kids up, it don't bother me."

If You Listen Closely

You'll be able to hear the quiet buzz going around the NHL. *insert sarcastic snicker here*! This trade deadline dash is as loud as a train. Everyone is trying to get the scoop on who is going where and when. What is going to happen is you'll see small trades here and there until POW - someone big moves and that will open the flood gates. I would equate this moment with the time right before the bell rings and the horses take off out of the gates. Its the calm before the storm.

I found this information on TSN ... here is a list from a bunch of different news sources and what they are writing about. So many rumors going around its like lunch time in an 8th grade cafeteria.

- Many reports from Tampa note that Lightning D Dan Boyle could be among the most attractive options at the deadline, with the New York Post reporting that the Rangers are hotly pursuing Boyle, with the Flyers and Sharks also hovering. The St. Petersburg Times joins TSN in reporting that the word around the GM Meetings had the Lightning looking to see what they could get in return for C Brad Richards.

- According to the Edmonton Journal, the Oilers aren't likely to make too many moves because of injuries and a roster of young talent that they want to build upon, but would consider a young scoring winger in exchange for C Jarret Stoll, who will be a restricted free agent. The paper goes on to say that if a team wants to make a push for D Joni Pitkanen, it would take a winger like Alexander Frolov to make a deal work.

- If the Bruins are going to get in the bidding for Marian Hossa, the price could be Phil Kessel and Mark Stuart, according to the Boston Globe, while the Ottawa Sun suggests that Glen Murray would be part of the package. According to the Ottawa Sun, the Habs, Bruins, Senators, Rangers, Sharks, Ducks, Wings and Stars have all made their pitch for Hossa. The Ottawa Sun says that the Sharks turned up the Heat in their pursuit of Hossa, offering C Patrick Marleau. The New York Post adds Sharks D Matt Carle and Thrashers C Bobby Holik to that trade mix.

- Reports out of South Florida and Minnesota both indicate that the Wild are angling for Panthers C Olli Jokinen, seeing him as a legitimate No. 1 centre for Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik.

- The Boston Globe lists Alex Tanguay, Vaclav Prospal and Jarret Stoll as potential top-six forwards of interest to the Bruins.

- According to the Columbus Dispatch, Adam Foote is the only pending unrestricted free agent that the Blue Jackets are talking contract with. That means Sergei Fedorov, David Vyborny, Michael Peca, Jan Hejda and Ron Hainsey are all considered trade fodder approaching the deadline.

- The Bergen Record notes that there were rumours of Bobby Holik being dealt from the Thrashers to the Rangers, but Atlanta's surge into Southeast contention makes it less likely.

- The New York Post initially had the Devils getting interested in Chicago's Robert Lang or Martin Havlat, then saying that the Devils are more likely to get involved in a rental player acquisition. The Ottawa Sun suggests that if the Montreal Canadiens get Marian Hossa, they might make a push for Havlat as well.

- The Columbus Dispatch says that the Senators would be willing to move Antoine Vermette or Chris Kelly for a power play quarterback. The Ottawa Sun suggests that, instead of dealing Vermette, the Senators consider moving D Andrej Meszaros.

- The Denver Post, noting that Toronto, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, New Jersey, Vancouver and Nashville had scouts at a recent Avalanche game, noted that one scout said he was in Colorado to evaluate Avalanche LW Andrew Brunette.

- The Belleville News-Democrat suggests that both Barret Jackman and Bryce Salvador are possible trade bait since they are heading for unrestricted free agency and the Blues have spent quite a bit of money on the blueline already.

- While the numerous Leafs with no-trade clauses are still waiting for word on possible deals, the Toronto Sun notes that Matt Stajan is finding his name in more trade talks. The Toronto Star reports that the Leafs might need to include younger players -- like Nik Antropov or Alexei Ponikarovsky -- in trade talks since they would both fetch a good return.

- According to the New York Post, the Rangers could be interested in Blues LW Martin Rucinsky, and may send D Marek Malik to St. Louis in such a deal.

- Reports indicate that Maple Leafs D Tomas Kaberle did not waive his no-trade clause for a deal to Philadelphia. The Ottawa Sun reports that the Flyers had offered C Jeff Carter and draft pick.

- Oilers G Dwayne Roloson, with one year at $3-million remaining on his contract, could get moved out of Edmonton if he gets his way. Roloson is naturally not thrilled with playing backup to newly-established starter Mathieu Garon.

- According to the Boston Globe, the Lightning have interest in Avalanche G Jose Theodore and Roloson.

- The Globe and Mail revives the long-rumoured Alex Tanguay-for-Michael Ryder trade rumours.

- The Columbus Dispatch has the Devils interested in Blue Jackets C Manny Malhotra.

- Both the Boston Globe and Toronto Sun suggest that Maple Leafs D Hal Gill could be moved out before the deadline.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Colin Cambell...Tonight's Your Night

When Chris Simon, a 6'4 235 lb repeat offender, stomped on Jarko Ruutu's leg earlier in the season many were calling for his outright banishment from the league. Video:

Many see playing hockey as a privilege and believe that those who endanger the careers' of others, over and over again no less, shouldn't be allowed to play especially when the league is trying to establish some mainstream appeal. I whole heartedly agree with them and Colin Campbell had an opportunity to make a bold and public statement. The opportunity seemed quite easy considering Simon was 36 years old and at the end of his hardly noteworthy career anyways. Campbell, instead, continued his career of inconsistent suspensions and poor management by levying a somewhat hefty 30 game suspension on the troubled forward.

After the event,Simon, along with the Islanders staff, "decided" it would be best for him "to take some time away from the team" and seek off-ice counseling. It was the eight suspension of Simon's career and set a new personal record for him, replacing his previous 25 game suspension which he received for swinging his stick like a baseball bat at Ryan Hollweg's face last season. Video:

The suspension was only 10 games more than he handed out to Steve Downie when Downie threw a monster check on an unsuspecting McAmmond in the preseason. Video:

The hit was only "dirty" since Downie left his feet. Had he not left his feet, I don't see how he could have been suspended at all. The real kicker was that McAmmond suffered a concussion and Campbell clearly punished the result and not the act. If McAmmond doesn't get hurt on that play, Downie gets no punishment whatsoever. But apparently, according to Campbell, Simon only deserved 10 games more for stomping on a downed player's leg and only 5 games more for attacking someone in the face with a stick Marty McSorley style. Colin Campbell should be president.

Well, the suspension has come to an end and Simon is ready to return as he will be in the Islanders' lineup tonight. Frankly, the NHL should be embarrassed. I wonder how long it'll take for him to do something stupid and get himself suspended yet again? Maybe this time he can paralyze someone or gouge someone's eyes out or take off his skate on the bench and cut a skaterby. If he does, Colin Campbell should absolutely be fired and banned himself since he's damaged the perception of the sport with his inconsistency and weakness.

By the way, a classic comic regarding Chris Simon by Ken Henderson.

His site,, is definitely worth checking out as there are some great NHL comics.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Tough Get Tougher, The Weakened Get Weaker

According to TSN, always first to break trades, the Flyers have made Jim Vandermeer's stay in Philadelphia a short one today as they traded him to the Calgary Flames for a 3rd round pick in 2009. Vandermeer, a young and tough defenseman with 7 1penalty minutes in 54 games this season, only spent roughly 2 months with the Flyers who acquired him in December from the Blackhawks in exchange for Ben Eager.

Yesterday the Flyers, mired in a seven-game skid at the worst possible time, also traded for veteran defenseman, and consistent journeyman, Jaroslav Modry sending a 3rd round pick to the Kings in exchange. I think I'd rather have Vandermeer for the playoffs, but it appears that the Flyers may be up to something as they've struggled mightily over the last few weeks and have subsequently tumbled from first in their division and second in the East to fourth in their division and the eight and final spot in the conference. Now that the Forsberg sweeps appears to have been put to rest, though reports are saying there is still a slim chance of a return regardless of what was announced earlier this week, the Flyers may have placed their sights on a new target.

It seems the Flyers can't catch a break as Simon Gagne will miss the rest of the season after suffering his third concussion of the year. This frees up some salary for the Flyers who will most certainly be looking to add some scoring at the deadline. Of course, they'll have to stand in line with every other playoff-bound team.

A Boy Becomes a Man and a Night of Comebacks

When Evgeni Malkin started his much anticipated career he did so with a a bucket of drama after defecting from his home nation of Russia and being snuck into the country and then with a bang ultimately setting the record for number of consecutive games with a goal to start a career (6 games). He would ultimately go on to win the Calder Trophy over Peter Stastny with 33 goals and 52 assists in 78 games. While he showed tremendous skill and scored a number of highlight reel goals, he also displayed his youth. He frequently failed to show the level of tenacity that his Russian counterpart Alexander Ovechkin displays in battling for the puck and producing opportunities. He wasn't able to use his size particularly well, often tried to do too much and usually failed to show the physical side of his game that made him a legend in Russia. Overall, he generally remained in the shadow of his teammate Sidney Crosby in most places other than Pittsburgh. Everyone saw the potential, it was only a matter of time before we'd see what he could really do.

Now, as the end of the season draws near and the deadline is less than a week away, Evgeni Malkin has the Pittsburgh Penguins in position to be buyers at pending free agent market. He's also done so without the help of Sidney Crosby. The Penguins have had to battle adversity this year after losing their starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to a dreaded high ankle sprain, from which he still has not returned but is on the verge, and then Sidney Crosby to that same injury. Many expected the Penguins to fall apart but Ty Conklin came off the bench and has been absolutely outstanding. So much so that I can't imagine he'll immediately go back to the bench once Fleury does return. The other reason that the Penguins have thrived in the absence of two key players is the development and maturity of Evgeni Malkin. Since Crosby's injury Malkin has 27 points in 14 games and has only failed to register a point in one of those 14 games. As a result, the Pens are 8-4-2. Last night, was no different as Evgeni Malkin lead his team to a 3rd period comeback that showed just how far he's come. Malkin got the primary assist on the first goal just 5 minutes into the final stanza as he found Colby Armstrong in the slot for a wrister over Vokoun's shoulder. Malkin later took a penalty that produced a 4 on 4 situation but was bailed out by his team and he re-paid them in full. Malkin came out of the box looking like a man possessed as he refused to give up the puck and almost singlehandedly turned the tide of the game. as he came out of the box flying. With about 4 minutes minutes left in the 3rd, Malkin collected the puck on the left wing, created space and made a beautiful cross-ice pass to the opposite point. Vokoun was able to fight off the shot, but Malkin swept in from behind the net, recollected the puck, dangled his way around the defender and made a nearly identical, and equally beautiful pass, back to the other side of the ice to Ryan Whitney who fired a wrister off of the suddenly streaking Ryan Malone and into the net. The game had a feeling of destiny to it as it just seemed like there was no way Pittsburgh wasn't going to tie the game. Not only did they tie it, but Malkin was able to draw a call by using his speed and put the Penguins on the powerplay with just over a minute left in the game. With only 23 seconds left Ryan Malone swept in along the right wing, protected the puck with his body, dragged it around the defender and forced his way to the front of the goal, tapping the puck in between Vokoun's legs before getting nailed and landing on top of the sprawling goaltender. Pittsburgh had completed the comeback and Ryan Malone scored two goals in just under three minutes for a hard fought victory, but Malkin was involved in every goal and his two assists pushed him ahead of Alexander Ovechkin for the league-lead in points with 79. Right now, Sidney Crosby is practicing and nearing a return, but it's Malkin's team at the moment and Crosby may have to share those reins as they both prepare to lead the Penguins into the playoffs.

While one team sores, any team stumbles as the New York Rangers were involved in a historic game last night with Montreal, but it's not the kind of history a team wants to make. The Rangers were up 5 to nothing about half way through the game before the walls came tumbling down. The Rangers would allow 2 goals in the second and 3 in the third, including two within a span of 9 seconds, to force overtime and eventually a shootout where they lost on a goal by Saky Koivu. The Rangers spent some coin during free agency in the off-season adding Drury and Gomez, but it all seems for naught as this team has shown no consistency and is in danger of missing the playoffs.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Drama Comes to an End and Foppa Says Goodbye

With nearly every playoff bound team vying for the services of one Peter "the Great" Forsberg it appeared very likely that we would most certainly see him once again this year in the NHL. Now it appears that we're stuck with only imagining a wonderful swan song for a player who dominated for much of his career, won 2 Stanley Cups and, at his peak, was one of the best players in the world. His individual successes and awards are numerous, including being depicted on a stamp in his native homeland of Sweden in honor of his remarkable shootout game winning goal in the final round of the 94 Olympics securing the Gold for Sweden.

Peter has dealt with a lot of injuries since then and has been plagued by them for the later portion of his career. While he's always remained effective, it's been difficult for him to remain in the lineup consistently and he chose to take most of this year off to have surgery on his problematic foot. It was expected that he would come back just before the trade deadline but his agent has informed all interested parties that Peter's confidence in his surgically repaired foot is not high enough for him to feel comfortable committing to playing in the NHL this season. While this doesn't guarantee he won't return this season, barring some kind of miracle in the next 10 days it appears that this season is over for him before it ever began. He has originally intended to not only finish out this season, but play next season as well since he was searching for a multi-year deal.

However, I can't help but feel like we will never see Peter back on the ice and it's a real shame. If Peter has played his last game, he'll finish his career as the second highest scoring Swede in the history of the NHL with 871 points, including 248 goals in 697 NHL games. Those numbers on top of his 189 points in 185 games in the Swedish leagues make him an iron lock Hall of Famer worldwide and one of the best to ever lace up a pair of skates.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Injuries And Underdogs

I think we are beginning to see the unofficial start of Playoff Hockey folks! Some teams are kicking into their power push early this year ... with playoff slots within so many teams reach, it is going to be a free for all out on the ice ... every game! Nashville, Chicago, Washington, Florida ... all looking very sharp.

10 points separate 6th spot from 14th spot in both East and West Conference - with 20+ games left to play anyone can theoretically make it to the Post Season. Of course teams like LA, Tampa, Toronto will have to believe in miracles (thanks Al Michaels) ... however it is not out of the question. These will be the teams to watch as the trade deadline approaches. There is some strong talent on the NHL trade roster, I am excited to see who goes where.

My pics for the night before I head out to celebrate Valentine's Day with my wife ...

Sharks -
Result: Lost to the Oilers! Not to often are you handed 10 power plays, gift wrapped and tied with a bow. I am going to give this game to Garon, he was on fire! Sharks head out on a nice road trip - maybe they just need to get out of the bay area for a bit. Good Luck Sharks!

Wild -
Result: It took a shoot out ... but a win is a win! With as many lead changes in this game ... it could have been anyones. Vancouver played hard, but the Wild took what they needed. Minn sits now at 24-0-1 for the season (and 50-1-1 over the past 2 seasons) for winning when leading after 2. Impressive ... to say the least.

Stars -
Result: Phoenix had one thing on their mind ... dont let Dallas win - and they made their wish come true. If you have Vrbata on your Fantasy Team (like I do), PLAY HIM!!! If Phoenix is going to make a playoff run this year it will be because of this Winger.

Penguins -
Result: Carolina has been showing some grit as of late - with the loss of their leading scorer to a torn ligament, it will be even harder for them. But with Whitney getting a goal and 2 assists ... along with Cole and Staal snaping their pointless streak the Canes might just have what it takes.

Islanders -
Result: Here was an underdog that was going up against a deflated Toronto team. NYI was sitting on a 7 game losing streak and Toronto bringing up the rear of the Eastern Conference was relying on a hope and prayer last night. NYI snapped that losing streak and are now 4 points out of 8th place in the Conference.

Lets see how I do ... I have taken a short break from my picks just because, well I suck! ha ha

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Future of Youth and Cash

It looks like the Rangers have finally locked up their young goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to a long-term deal that reflects the new breed of contracts in the NHL. TSN is reporting that the deal is worth around $6.5 million per year for 6 years. In terms of money, this makes him a top-tier goaltender. I'm not convinced his played well enough to deserve it as of late, but he's certainly a great goaltender.

It's natural to immediately react to the length and size of that deal, but it's important to remember something about these types of contracts. In four years, Lundqvist could be considered a bargain. If profits continue to rise, so shall the salary cap dragging the big contracts along with it. Currently, the maximum a player can be paid is 20% of his team's salary cap. Lundqvist is actually nowhere near this max, though Ovechkin is and deserves to be. Currently, this deal makes Lundqvist a very well paid goalie in the NHL, but what about in four years when salaries have gone up? If you look at Ovechkin, in 8 years he may be grossly underpaid considering his value to the team. What happens if a player who doesn't produce as well as Ovechkin comes along and gets paid more due to a higher salary cap at the time of his contract? Will we see NFL situations where players hold out?

Regardless, these new deals are a way for teams to pay players handsomely up front in hopes that in a few years those players will actually be considered cheap when compared to other similar players. For the player, they get the security and confidence of a long-term deal that assures their place. Does this mean it's a win-win for everyone? It can be, but I'm guessing not forever. The team is certainly taking a risk as a lot can change in a few years. An effective goalie can lose his edge and a scoring forward can struggle to find the net but with guys like Ovechkin and Crosby it's a no-brainer. A guy like Mike Richards, however, who signed a 12 year $69 million deal about mid-way through his breakout and first successful best season I can't help but feel like the contract is more favorable to Richards than Philly. I do, however, like the idea of teams looking into the future and trying to lock-up their young talent in a way that will allow them to compete not only now but in later years as the contract numbers shift. But when you're dealing with a player's association, one player's deal sets a precedence for another and that Richards deal sets a bit of a scary one for me. So if Lundqvist gets that deal, what is Kiprusoff, a playoff-tested veteran, worth?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Making Sense Of The Trade Deadline

Here is a simple overview of how teams trade and what happens during the process. Over the next 14 days the NHL offices will be abuzz with calls and deals - would be fun to get a camera crew in there to document that one year. Anyway - here is an easy to understand breakdown of the trade process. (Source -

As the trade deadline of 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, February 26 approaches, the National Hockey League has prepared the following:

How is a trade made?
After two clubs have come to an agreement on a trade, the clubs must advise the League office, either by telephone or by FAX, of the terms of the trade. The League office then schedules a conference call with the two teams to review the transaction and give final approval for the deal. Prior to the trade call, the League office will ensure that the team has the appropriate salary cap space to make the deal; if draft choices are involved, that the club has the available choices; and that the team has available space on its reserve list to add the player(s). It should be noted that the 23-man roster restriction is no longer in force from February 27 on.

On the trade call, the League will a) review the terms of the player contracts and ensure that teams are aware of their respective obligations to the player(s) involved; b) ensure that, should a player have a no-trade clause, that the player has waived that right; and c) ensure that any conditions to consummation of the transaction have been clearly defined and agreed upon.
The trade becomes official after the trade call has taken place.

What if a player involved in a transaction has a "no trade" clause?
No trade clauses can vary from player to player. For example, a player may have a list of teams that he has agreed to be traded to. The League requires written documentation from the player that he has waived his no trade clause. If applicable, the documentation must also stipulate which teams the player has agreed it is permissible for him to be traded to.

Can a trade take place after the 3:00 P.M. ET deadline on February 26, 2007?
Trade calls may take place after the 3:00 p.m. deadline but the League must have been advised of any and all transactions, including the specific details, prior to 3:00 p.m. It is not unusual that a number of trades are agreed to between the clubs just before 3:00 p.m. However, due to the volume of trades occurring just prior to the deadline, the League may not be able to conduct the actual trade call until after 3:00 p.m. There are four League officials that conduct trade calls and calls may last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the complexity of the deal.

How is a player's salary charged against a team's salary cap when a trade is made at the deadline?
The salary that is charged against a team's cap is the pro rated amount remaining of the player's average yearly salary. For example, if a player has an average yearly salary of $2 million, the amount charged against the acquiring team's cap is the pro-rated amount remaining of $2 million.

This is calculated by dividing $2 million by the number of days in the season (187). The amount ($10,695) is then multiplied by the number of days remaining in the season from the day the trade is made (41 days if trade is on deadline day) to ascertain the amount charged against the team's cap ($438,502).

Monday, February 11, 2008

And so the drama begins

It appears that after a both great and horrifying weekend in hockey, the first move in the dramatic spectacle that is the trade deadline. Best wishes to both Richard Zednik and Pat Dappuzzo who both suffered horrific injuries this weekend. Richard Zednik had an artery severed in his neck when his teammate's skate accidentally came up and clipped him while Dappuzzo, a veteran linesman, was struck in the face with a skate when Steve Downie was hit along the boards. Speedy recovery to both.

On to other hockey related matters, the first significant trade of the season has occured. According to TSN, the Ottawa Senators have sent 23 year old Patrick Eaves, a young player with tremendous potential, and Joe Corvo, an offensive defensemen, to the Carolina Hurricanses for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore. Stillman had a tremendous start to the year but cooled off recently and now has 46 points in 55 games, including 21 goals. Mike Commodore is the prototypical stay-at-home, in-your-face defenseman that every playoff team needs. In fact, he was one of the unsung heroes in Carolina's run to the cup. Does this mean that Carolina is already throwing in the towel? I'm not really certain. Stillman is a good player and he's better, right now, than Eaves though Eaves' upside is significantly higher considering his age. The Sens add second line scoring, something they desperately need, and a physical presence that is crucial. Corvo can move the puck well, but often costs his team defensively but the Canes lack a defenseman of Corvo's style so he may be a good fit. Corvo has two years left on his deal that pays $2.75 million per year and Eaves will be a restricted free agent this off-season after making $942,000 this year. Commodore makes $1.3 million this season while Stillman is a bargain at $1.75 million, though both will be unrestricted free agents in the off-season.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Clutch Time

Washington takes over the lead in their division last night and Montreal has an opportunity to take over the lead in there's, subsequently putting them in the top spot in the East, tonight against the lowly and rumor-ridden Leafs. The Ducks look for their second win in eight games in Madison Square Garden and Dallas faces a tough matchup in Minnesota. Quite a few games tonight worth watching and here are my picks:

Ducks -110 at Rangers -110 - Over 5 +105

The Ducks look to be back on track and I think this will not only be the most exciting, and physical, game of the night but I think the Ducks will get their second win in a row.

Result: Perry and Getzlaf get back on track and Selanne gets his second assist in as many games to lead the Ducks to a 4-1 victory on only 19 shots. The Rangers had 33 shots but Giguere continued his hot streak, though his shutout of 7 consecutive shutout periods of hockey was broken early in the second.

Canucks Even at Thrashers -115

The Canucks played well the other night and this will be another close game, but ultimately I have to give the nod to Luongo.

Result: This one turned out to be a close game but Vancouver was able to narrowly edge the Thrashers 2-1.

Maple Leafs +160 at Canadiens -180

This is my big upset pick of the night simply because Carey Price returns to the net after a relatively lengthy stint in the AHL. The Canadiens have a lot to play for, but the Leafs would love to spoil their fun and the rookie's first start in quite some time.

Result: My big upset prediction turned out to be true as the Leafs jumped out to a 3-1 lead and never looked back, eventually winning 4-2 despite being outshot 36-27.

Dallas +135 at Minnesota -155

Minnesota is a great team, as is Dallas so I'm inclined to take Dallas just because they are underdogs. However, Turco will not be starting for Dallas as he is out with a sore neck which gives Minnesota even more of an advantage. Historically, the Stars have had trouble in their former hometown as well so I pick the Wild.

Result: Well well well, Mike Smith steps in for the slightly injured Turco and earns his team a 1-0 shutout.

Columbus +125 at Phoenix -145

Another deceptive line as I initially would want to go with Columbus and take the odds since the game should be pretty even. However, Columbus' number one goaltender Leclaire is out with a sore neck and I don't think Norrena will be able to hold off the surging Coyotes.

Result: Phoenix was outplayed and outshot in this one, including a 12-5 shot differential in the first, but Bryzgalov kept them close but eventualy Phoenix fell 2-1.

One Thing I Am Not Giving Up For Lent

What do we have on tap for tonight … there are some evenly matched line ups. Seems like the Ducks/Ranger game does not have a favored team so I am going to stay away from that one (however, I will be secretly hoping the Rangers take the W away from Anaheim – probably wont happen … but a boy needs dreams right?) OK … so tonight I am going big – picking a bunch to try to catch up with Clint for the time being. I am sure he will have his massive list up here soon.

Tonight does have a couple games that stand out we’ll start with Detroit and Los Angeles … Here is the best team in the NHL playing the worst, the only way to get your money’s worth (and entertainment value) is to take Detroit and the over (5 1/2) … yes, I know I said I never take the over/under, however, Detroit at -320 is ridiculous and IF they play the way they have been playing ALL YEAR it will be a high scoring game. Now, I will go on the record to say that since I have said it here, LA will hold Detroit to ONE goal!!! We shall see.

Result: Babcock said it the best after this game "Every once in a while you need to be reminded" - Goliath just got his ass kicked by David last night in Detroit!!! I got the over right ... just wrong team. 4 goals in the 4th for LA ... congrats.

Stars / Wild … Both teams are on an upswing and the odds are in the Wilds camp for 2 reasons. 1. Home Ice and 2. Turco sitting this game out. Gaborik was pointless Tuesday night so he may be looking to prove something, especially after scoring 3 goals in 2 games previously. I am going to go with Dallas as the underdog, lets see what they can dish out.

Result: Mike Smith has something to be proud of today - he and the Stars shut out the Wild. It was an underdog night last night and the Stars came out to shine! (wow - was that cheesy?)

Calgary is playing Chicago and Columbus is in Phoenix … down and dirty … Flames and Coyotes!!!

Result: NO and NO ... huh ... both wrong? Did anyone tell Columbus and Phoenix that they were the favored teams??? Thank god I have a day job!

Tampa in Nashville … Nashville is hot, Tampa is pulling it together. This game is going to come down to puck control. I am taking Nashville only because they are on fire at home right now.

Result: I guess home ice doesnt mean much these days - Tampa was able to hold off the Predators and keep them tied going into OT. Prospal scored 58 seconds later to help the NHL's worst road team look like the best!

Florida in Ottawa – now here is a team on the way up playing a team on the way down. Ottawa is struggling and has given up a lot of ground lately losing 8 of 11 games. Florida is on an upswing and has 4 points to go if they want a spot in the playoffs. They know it, Ottawa knows it and well, now you know it! Ha – this will be a fun game to watch … Going with Florida!

Result: They fought the good fight - Florida is looking better and better ... having Heatly back was Ottawa's saving grace. Looks like I get to notch another in the L column!

Pittsburgh / Islanders – Penguins without Crosby, NYI trying not to lose the 6th straight. With Pittsburgh giving up and allowing New Jersey to walk away with a win, I think Mr Therrien has taken them to task by letting them know “It’s unacceptable to lose a hockey game like this.” We’ll see what the Penguins bring to the ice tonight. I am going with Pittsburgh.

Result: NY's coach summed it up the best - "It was a game of mistakes and we made one to many" ... on the other bench, Mike Therrien, who 3 days ago blamed the Pens loss on Ryan Whitney's weak showing on the ice, said that Ryan upgraded his game not only offensively, but defensively he was sharp. Its always good to hear your coach saying those things when your playing well. Good job Pittsburgh!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sliding In Sideways

Just made it home from an all day - no laptop meeting! Whew ... just in time to lay it down!

Washington, Edmonton and San Jose!

Result: Win, Win, Loss -
Washington from worst to first! Congrats AO on your league leading 46th goal! Just makes you wonder where the Caps would be if Bruce Boudreau started the season as the coach. They are becoming a fun team to watch again.

Edmonton - Chicago is now on a 5 game slide and Edmonton has found some passion. Looks like they have found the right mix to make a run at a playoff spot!

San Jose - Colorado was technical and came out of that battle unscathed! The Sharks tried everything they had and Theodore just would not budge ... he looked pretty shart coming off of his injury and the Sharks tested his skills time and time again - sometimes, your gonna lose!

Looks like I did pretty well the other night ... 2 for 2! I called it with Ottawa though ... when your playing the #1 in the league on the power play ... you dont visit the penalty box! Lets see what tonight brings.

My brain hurts ... have been thinking to much today!

Quick Ones

Only a small handful of games to choose from tonight but I

Caps +150 at Flyers -170 - Over 6 -115

Game of the night by far. Two of the hottest teams in the NHL square off in what hopefully will be a sneak preview of a playoff matchup to come. I take the under dog just because it seems nuts to take the Flyers at -170 in this matchup. Over 6 seems plausible as well.

Result: Caps nearly blow a 4-1 lead but ultimately come out on top of the Flyers 4-3.

Blackhawks +105 at Oilers -125

Oilers are coming off a big win against the Flames and while losing Horcoff, their leading scorer, is difficult to overcome they seem to be finding a bit of a stride. They should win at home.

Result: Oilers allow 41 shots on goal by the Blackhawks, but Garon handles all but one of them and leads Edmonton to a steal of a victory, 4-1.

Devils -115 at Sabres -105

The Sabres should be securely in the playoffs but a 10-game slide mid-season has them on the outside looking in and I think they'll have to keep looking after the Devils beat them on their home ice tonight.

Result: New Jersey ties the game 2-2 early in the third period and the game would stay that way until Buffalo was able to break out of their shootout funk and win 3-2.

A Day Late But Certainly Not a Dollar Short

According to TSN, Dion Phaneuf has finally inked his new contract with the Calgary Flames to tune of $6.5 million per year for 6 years. Great deal for the Flames and Dion who is one of, if not, the most promising and productive young defensemen in the game. In 3 years time, he'll be underpaid which is obviously the advantage to these long term deals.

Let the Sweepstakes Begin

According to TSN, Forsberg has narrowed down the number of teams for which he'll consider playing to what is sounding like a pretty small number. Nashville, Dallas, Detroit and Calgary have all let it be known that Forsberg turned them down which essentially leaves Vancouver, Ottawa, Anaheim, Philadelphia, New York and maybe one or two others. My guess is he'll be a Flyer in the next week which boosts an already hot team. I'm not certain it's the best fit since they already have so many talented centers, but if Forsberg is healthy and effective he'll be a good addition. Apparently his lack of interest in cup-favorite Detroit stems from the classic battles that raged between the Avalanche and the Red Wings pre-lockout. You have to love a player that remembers those games and still refuses to play for the rival even if that rival is easily the best team in hockey.

TSN link:

UPDATE: Apparently Pittsburgh and San Jose have also been informed that they will not be considered.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Come On Ride This Train

So - back to reality! Just spent a well deserved 3 days in Southern California enjoying the freezing weather and the Superbowl. Funny thing - I hit 11 out of 13 wagers ... it was, as Clint says, "REDICULOUS!" - and I would whole heartedly agree!!! Of course I chose the Giants with the generous 11 1/2 points that came with them ... along with the coin toss, who won the coin toss, who made the first penalty, if the first score would be a TD or a field goal ... silly prop bets like that ... and I hit 11 out of 13!!! AMAZING ... or Rediculous ... You be the judge!

So - plenty of choices on tap for tonight. I have 4 teams I am focused on ...

I am going out on an underdog limb tonight with the exception of Philly @ -130 ... Philly is 11-0-1 since December 2003 when playing the Thrashers. They are putting Antero Nittymaki in the net tonight to A. Give Biron a rest and B. To see if he can improve his 7-0-0 record against Atlanta (and thats at a 1.58 GAA)

Philly -130 Result: WIN ... very nice!

Heading North to Vancouver I am going to take Florida @ +125 ... Florida is looking for their 3rd in a row and get this ... they are 4th in the Southeast ... but 3 points away from 1st in the division and 3rd in the CONFERENCE!!! Florida's coach knows this and knows to get a berth in the playoffs ... they gotta win games. Vokun has shown some of his worth lately also ... should be interesting to see what Vancouver brings tonight (seeing how I have Luongo on my Fantasy Hockey team)!

Florida +125 Result: To call this a win is an understatement ... good job Florida!

The call of the week will be the Wild @ +120 ... its not a large underdog ... and with the way the Wild are playing and tonight they host Detroit. At a +120 its a pretty good risk ... even if I lose, I am positive this will be a powerful and physical game.

Wild +120 Result: This was painful to watch ... so close ... 1:45 left in the game ... wrister from the right and an overtime loss. The Wild gave them a good run!

To finish up my 4 some I am looking toward Ottawa @ +110 ... 1st place against 2nd place, 4 point swing in the balance. It will take a calm and cool Senator team to win this. Montreal is the top team in power plays, I think it will come down to Ottawa not taking penalties.

Ottawa +110 Result: Loss ... giving up 6 penalties allowed Motreal to convert 3 goals! Thats what did it.

It's About Time

Anyone who knows me knows how mad I was last year watching the Senators play the Penguins in the playoffs. The Penguins got exposed for being a soft team and an easy team to play against in terms of physical play. Also, I don't believe that having a guy like Laraque on the team makes you truly tough. Yes, he's a perennial heavy weight and a beast in all respects, but team toughness is what matters in the playoffs. If you look at what the Ducks did in the playoffs last year they proved that team toughness is about having players that play more than 10 minutes a game that are willing to get to work in the corners and thrive on making the lives of their opponents hell. Well, Ryan Whitney, who received a fat long term deal, was the number one guy I was truly upset with in the playoffs. I thought he was positively awful. I under the need for offensive defenseman especially in today's hockey where a transition game is absolutely crucial. However, having a guy like Whitney who can play the offensive side of hockey but lacks the stones and the heart to play the tough-nosed defensive side is a liability, especially when he's on the ice for 20+ minutes a night. I was surprised that no one was bashing Whitney after that performance, and after a slow start to the current season even offensively, but apparently Michele Therrien, Penguin's coach, finally saw something in Whitney he didn't like last night. After blowing a 2 goal lead with 10 minutes left in the game to eventually fall in overtime to division rival New Jersey Devils, Therrien had this to say about his young defenseman, "It's unacceptable to lose a hockey game like this. Unacceptable. A guy like Ryan Whitney, he's going to have to be more aggressive around the net. He's not aggressive at all. It cost us the game."

He cost you at least a game if not multiple games in the playoffs as well there Michele. Frankly, the same could be said about much of the defensive core of the Penguins. It's way too easy and comfortable to play against the Penguins, especially in the corners and in front of their net. You don't need 6 defensemen that can put up 40+ points unless most of them can do what Pronger, Phaneuf and the other great defensemen do which is aid the transition game while punishing the other team. The Penguins need a true, stay-at-home tough nosed defenseman if they intend to go anywhere beyond the first round. Penguins have called up AHL all star Alex Goligoski and hopefully this means that Ryan Whitney may finally get the punishment he deserves, a brief stint riding the pine.

Speaking of toughness, Ethan Moreau defines tough with this play. He takes a stick to the mouth and not only does he stay on the ice, he continues with the play and even gets a shot on goal despite the fact that he has so much blood in his mouth it's tough to breathe. This is one of the many things that separates hockey players from others.

A Reversal of Fortunes?

Perhaps last night was the beginning of a turnaround for my luck. I started off strong and have struggled in the last few outings but tonight offers a variety of interesting lines. I've decided to make a large amount of picks that will either bring me back from the negatives in roaring fashion or kick me down the rest of the hill.

Caps +105 at Blue Jackets -120 - Over 5.5 EVEN

Caps have been very good lately and this a huge game for them. While the Blue Jackets have been okay, they've looked a bit shaky in goal as of late so I would expect Ovechkin and Backstrom to have some success tonight. Caps win and over 5.5 seems relatively certain given the nature of these teams lately.

Result: The Blue Jackets lose their third straight to the streaking Caps though it took overtime to get it done. Ovechkin continued his torrid pace scoring two goals, including the game winner in overtime, on 10 shots. He now leads the league in goals and total points and is easily the league MVP right now.

Florida +125 at Maple Leafs -145

I can't help but take a + against the Leafs, especially after Florida has given better teams trouble lately. Florida

Result: The lowly Leafs continue to be players in the Stamkos sweepstakes as they get absolutely destroyed by the Panthers 8-0. Sundin will wear another team's colors by the end of the season, but will most likely be re-signed by the Leafs in the off-season. Of course, most of us said the same thing about Smyth in Edmonton.

Carolina +125 at Predators -145

This should be a great game but Carolina is trying to hold off the Caps so even on the road, I'll still take em.

Result: It tooks a little over 2 and a half periods to get the first goal of the game, which turned out to be the only goal with Nashville coming out on top. Nashville played a better third period than the Hurricanes, but ultimately the shots were an even 34 for Nashville and 31 for Carolina.

Phoenix +145 at Calgary -165

Calgary is coming off the worst game I've ever seen them play and while I expect a better effort, I think Phoenix will surprise them. Phoenix.

Result: Well, this game looked to be completely in hand before a monumental collapse by the Yotes in the third period. They carried a 3-0 lead into the third but allowed 3 goals in that period, including one to Iginla with 9 seconds left, allowing Calgary to force overtime and eventually win in the shootout. Phoenix was essentially outplayed for most of the night, however, and Bryzgalov held them and almost stole the outright victory making 35 saves on 38 shots.

Kings +185 at Rangers -225 - Over 5.5 +105

It's easy to take the Rangers in this one, but I can't imagine the game not having 6 goals. Rangers and the over.

Result: The Kings have surprised a few people lately and they most certainly surprised the Rangers last night. Frolov had one of his best games of the season logging over 23 minutes and finishing with a goal and a assist as the Kings rolled over the Ranger 4-2.

Red Wings -140 at Wild +120 - Over 5 -135

This is the game of the night between the best team in the league and one of the hottest right now. However, I expect the Wings to win a close one and most likely win it 3-2 so I'll take the over just for that empty netter at the end.

Result: A great game as advertised as the Red Wings use a stellar second period performance from the Dominator to position themselve for a game tying goal with less than 2 minutes left. Zetterberg would find Lebda sneaking in fromt the point only 1:37 into overtime for the game winner. Final score was as predicted, 3-2.

Flyers -130 at Thrashers +110

While Atlanta has been better lately, I expect them to get smashed.

Result: The Trashers gave the Flyers a run for the money but a late 3rd period goal by super-pest Steve Downie gives the Flyers a 3-2 victory.

The Finnish Flash

Teemu has returned to the Ducks and according to TSN, he may return to the lineup tonight against the Islanders after announcing himself ready for the game. "You've got to ask the coach," Selanne said. "I'm ready to go. It's totally in his court...I'm excited. Very excited." - LA Times

Recently Burke, Anaheim's GM, had said that it was up to Teemu when he would return to the lineup so it appears that 37 year old future hall of famer will officially make his comeback tonight in New York. If you were fortunate enough to pick him up in fantasy leagues, you might consider activating him though I've chosen to hold off and see which line he ends up on and how many minutes he plays in his first week of actual competition. He can practice all he wants, but until he competes in an actual game we won't know what he's got. However, my guess would be that he's still got plenty especially if he ends up with Getzlaf.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Picks Picks Picks

By the way, while I'm not an Eli Manning fan and I think that any players who refuses to play for the team that drafted him deserves to get kicked about the head and neck the Super Bowl last night as maybe the best I've seen in years. I'm sure the suit wearing, glad-handing, corporate dillholes would disagree considering the low scoring nature of the game, but for me it was as intense as they come. I also like to see the Patriots lose, it warms my iron heart. Now on to tonight's games. Only 3 games on tap tonight so I have very little to choose from but luckily there are two "underdogs" I like tonight that could get me back on track...or they could continue to stomp on my face, either way here they are:

Pittsburgh +165 at Devils -190

The Penguins beat the Devils last Tuesday and while New Jersey will be eager for revenge, I have to take the Penguins just because -190 in this situation seems nuts. Pittsburgh

Result: Penguins owned the game until about the midway mark of the third period where suddenly New Jersey started outworking them and were able to score the kinds of dirty, hard-working goals that are necessary if you want to win a division and a championship. Despite outshooting New Jersey 34 to 25, Penguins fall in overtime after coughing up a 3-1 lead.

Phoenix +130 at Colorado -150

I don't believe in Colorado without Sakic, Smyth and a consistent goaltender. I do believe in Bryzgalov. Phoenix

Result: Despite Bryzgalov sitting for the night, most likely to get some rest before playing the second game of a back-to-back series, Phoenix is able to finish Colorado in overtime.

Calgary at Edmonton

Couldn't get the lines but it doesn't matter. Cujo makes his season debut in another round of the Battle of Alberta and I don't see it going in his favor. Edmonton beats Calgary

Result: Cujo looked out of shape and out of place, allowing 5 goals on 28 shots while Garon secures a 24 shot shutout. However, it's important to point out that many of the goals scored on Cujo were rebounds or due to poor defensive coverage. In fact, it's one of the worst games I've ever seen the Flames play. Flames' tough guy Godard received his third game misconduct, after an undiscinplined play in which he ran into Garon, punched Joni Pitkanen and then suckered Gilbert within a span of about 5 seconds before Garon came to his teammates' aid, and is automatically suspended as a result.

It's a New Dawn, It's a New Day

Well, after what can only be described as a brutal week of picks we embark on a huge week in the NHL. The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and names like Hossa and Sundin are flying everywhere with so many teams on the verge of a playoff berth and it even looks like the great Foppa should be returning soon and apparently for more than just this year. This week provides some immediate interest as well with Selanne (FINALLY) making his 07-08 debut on Tuesday or Thursday for the reigning champs who seem to be struggling all of the sudden. A couple of quick notes:

Shawn Horcoff, on a career pace this season for the Oilers, will apparently miss the rest of the season as he has elected to have his shoulder surgically repaired. It's a shame since Horcoff was having such a great year for the young Oilers who are already without key player Raffi Torres and Sheldon Souray.

Georges Laraque wasn't suspended for cross checking Flyers super-pest Steve Downie from behind into the boards, so will Ryan Hollweg receive a just punishment for his nasty hit from behind in Sunday's only game? We should know by the end of today.

Marc-Andre Fleury participated in his first full practice Friday since suffering a high ankle sprain but with the solid play of Ty Conklin I wouldn't expect to see Fluery back at least for another month.

The NHL is back on NBC and has a great re-match of the Western Conference finals on Sunday as the Ducks face the Redwings in about as close to primetime as hockey gets nowadays.

The Rangers have returned to early season form after winning 4 of their last 5 against teams like Philadelphia and New Jersey. The Rangers were down in Sunday's game against Montreal but rallied back behind their big free agent signings. They have four games this week and currently sit in 7th place in the East only 3 points behind the division leading Flyers which would equate to second in the East overall. The Atlantic Division (Penguins, Flyers, Devils, Rangers, Islanders) is one of the most competitive in the NHL right now.

Minnesota, off a 7-2-1 record over their last 10 games, has jumped over Calgary to take over the lead in their division by 3 points which puts them in 3rd out West. Could they pick up a scoring winger to push them over the top?

San Jose has 4 games in hand over the division leading Stars and the Anaheim Ducks and is only 2 points out of the division lead as is. Never before has winning a division been so necessary for so many good teams.

Nashville, having only failed to get points in 2 out of their last 10 games, has moved up to the 8th and final spot in the West. However, only 4 points separates them from the 12th position.

Atlanta is one of the most talked about teams in regards to the trade deadline and yet they are no tied for the lead in their division with Carolina. In fact, the teams have identical records as they both are 26-25-4. The similarities go even further as their home and road records are nearly the same. However, Washington and Florida are only 3 points behind them and the Caps have 2 games in hand while the Panthers have 1.

Montreal...who would have known? Montreal is quietly the most dangerous team in the East right now behind the incredible play of Cristobal Huet and a group of young forwards. they are now only 3 points behind the Eastern Conference leading Ottawa Senators and have been a much better team than the Sens as of late. This makes their game against the Senators tomorrow night one of the biggest this week and definitely one to follow. Rumors are also swirling that have the Canadiens and Thrashers talking trade, reportedly for Marian Hossa. An acquisition like that could make Montreal the team to beat in the East.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Just In the Nick of Time

While my picks are coming in after one game has started, luckily I'm not bold enough to make a prediction on that one. Here are my picks for the night:

Canucks +105 at Panthers -125.
I think the Canucks are a good hockey team, though they need Naslund to get going, and with Luongo shaking off the cobwebs of last night's loss to the lowly Lightning I expect them to come out and play a better game. Canucks win.

Result: The Canucks were ultimately outplayed but in typical Luongo fashion, the Canucks goaltender stood on his proverbial head to keep them in the game. Vancouver took the lead early in the 3rd but allowed Florida to tie it with a little over 6 minutes left in the game and would ultimatley fall in a shootout. Luongo stoped 40 or 43 shots.

Colorado +250 at Detroit -300. Over 5.5 +105
While I'd love to take Colorado just in case I got lucky, I can't help but go with the over here. I think the Red Wings will eat Budaj up in net. Over.

Result: Detroit handled Colorado but you never would have known it by the final score. Detroit would only beat Colorado 2-0 despite outshooting them 35 to 15. In fact, through 2 periods the shots were 23-4 Detroit but Budaj only allowed one goal in the outing and looked less like a struggling demoted goaltender and more like the goalie that stole the starting role last year.