Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
- Before the Predators took on the Philadelphia Flyers, there was the matter of raising a banner to rafters, with former captain Mike Fisher and current captain Roman Josi meeting at the banner to help raise it.
- Josi was scratched from the game due to injury, meaning Samuel Girard was making his NHL debut.
- The much maligned power play, at least to start the season, gets off the schneid for the Predators, as Craig Smith was able to put one away. He will need to return to 20-goal status if the Preds hope for something more than just a Conference title this season.
- Smith's goal was all the scoring in the first period, and he also took a two minute minor for slashing late in the period.
- The Predators look like they're going to pull away, as Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino score to make it 3-0 midway through the second period.
- No, it isn't going to be a blowout, as before Yannick Weber's penalty gets killed off, the Flyers get on the board thanks to Andrew MacDonald.
- Nolan Patrick follows it up with his first NHL goal to cut the lead to one. I like Nolan Patrick and think he another great player from the Brandon Wheat Kings system.
- PK Subban goes to the box for two, but the Preds kill it off. Unfortunately, they're caught for having too many men on the ice, and have to kill that off, too. Valtteri Filppula ties it up, and with that, it is game on after two periods, with the teams tied at 3.
- Travis Konecny speeds down the ice and puts the Flyers ahead.
- A questionable Hartnell penalty leads to another Filppula goal to make it 5-3 Flyers.
- Don't look now, but the Predators just woke up, as Filip Forsberg scored to make it 5-4 Flyers.
- Dale Weise and MacDonald get two minutes each, making it a 5 on 3 power play for Nashville. Hartnell takes full advantage, and ties it up, or does he?
- The Flyers challenge that the play was offside, but get victimized by the Mike Sullivan Rule, and not only have the goal count, thus tying the game at 5, but also have to deal with the indignity of taking a 2 minute delay of game penalty. It's still 5 on 3, though one of the original penalties gets taken off because of the goal.
- Forsberg plays hero, as he nets the final tally of the game, as Nashville caps off a momentous evening with a 6-5 win.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
- I thought it would happen last year, and it didn't, but I am going to go with it once again and say Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will get traded. The Oilers are on the verge of salary cap hell, and Nugent-Hopkins' contract is the most logical one to get moved. Carolina has the prospects to offer and would appear to be the most logical choice. Nashville could be kicking the tires here, too, as their search for another center could lead them here. Plus, Nugent-Hopkins is under team control for four more years.
- Matt Duchene will remain in Colorado this season. The Avalanche have overplayed their hand on what they could get for Duchene and are more likely to either trade him after this season or watch him walk after next season. Either way, this is something that could make a bad situation in Colorado even worse. Oh, and Colorado still hasn't fixed their Titanic-sized holes on the blue line.
- Despite having the likes of Vancouver, Colorado, and Vegas breaking their fall in the standings, the Detroit Red Wings will win the draft lottery and like their baseball cousins in the Tigers, be able to expedite their rebuild with the first overall pick.
- Charlie McAvoy will win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. He's in a good spot with the Bruins having a still serviceable Zdeno Chara leading the way and an emerging Brandon Carlo taking the pressure off of McAvoy. His playoff cameo showed promise, and that promise will turn to production by season's end, particularly when Adam McQuaid goes down to his annual injury.
- Carolina will finally end the league's longest current playoff drought this season. They've been building a solid blue line and their offense is starting to show, with Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho being viable options. Scott Darling will likely struggle a little, but he will find his footing eventually and be the answer in goal that they've needed.
- The Philadelphia Flyers will be the first team to fire their head coach during the season, as Dave Hakstol was put on notice when the Flyers plucked Kris Knoblauch from Erie of the OHL to be an assistant coach. The Flyers have a lot of talent on paper, but far too few actually doing anything on the ice, namely Jakub Voracek and Cladue Giroux. That must change.
- The New York Rangers are the most likely team that made the playoffs last year to miss the playoffs, as other than Kevin Shattenkirk, they did very little to change their roster. Now, they're planning on having 2017 first round pick Filip Chytil start the season with the team. That will not go over well. Remember how the Rangers almost screwed up Manny Malhotra's career by playing him before he was ready?
- Nashville will be a far better team this season, as last year was about figuring out who to pair PK Subban with plus dealing with injuries. This year, they will still have injuries to deal with, but they are better prepared this time around with the depth having had playoff experience. Don't underestimate the importance of the Alexei Emelin trade, as he will be a presence in his own end.
- This is going to be the Blackhawks' last stand, as they prepare to enter their own version of cap hell. Anything short of a deep playoff run, and Joel Quennville is most likely walking away instead of being fired.
- The Stanley Cup Final will be the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers, and Edmonton takes home the Stanley Cup, with Connor McDavid being named the Conn Smythe winner.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
So, what can be taken from this game? For the Blues, fixing the power play saw some fruit with Schenn and Tarasenko together, the blue line is going to need some time to gel, particularly if either or both Jake Walman and Vince Dunn get time in the NHL due to injuries, Jake Allen is in mid-season form, and despite getting power play time, Tage Thompson is better served starting in the AHL. For the Wild, Mike Reilly is still not ready for NHL duty, as he had some lapses in his own end, Kunin impressed by going to the net on the first two goals despite being credited for just one of the two, and Devan Dubnyk may be needed to bail out the team once again, as they mostly had trouble getting the puck past Allen and Hutton.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
2016-17 record: 40-35-7 (87 points)
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Blake Wheeler
It seems that no matter what the Winnipeg Jets try to do, there's always something that undermines their chances at making the playoffs. This time, it was goaltending. For all of the scoring that the Jets did, it almost always seemed that they needed all of it just to offset the goals that were being given up. With a new starter and improved blue line depth, they hope that the problem is solved on some level.
Offensively, Patrik Laine was exactly what the Jets hoped for and more, as he led the team in goals and helped elevate the numbers of Mark Schiefele and Nikolaj Ehlers. Though injuries wreaked havoc with Bryan Little and Matthieu Perreault, both put up decent numbers alongside Blake Wheeler. Bottom forward depth could be improved, but if Kyle Connor can stick with the NHL team, then it may take care of itself. The blue line has decent depth, but it was tested last season when Tyler Myers was in and out of the lineup for various reasons. Adding Dmitry Kulikov should help, as should an emerging Josh Morrissey. Dustin Byfuglien remains the top offensive option from the blue line. Goaltending was a major problem, as Connor Hellebuyck was not ready for the full-time starting job, and neither Michael Hutchinson nor Ondrej Pavelec were viable backup options. Now, Steve Mason assumes the starting job, and while he also has something to prove, he should push Hellebuyck to be better. The season before, both special teams units were horrible. Last season, the power play improved to the middle of the pack, a byproduct of the team's improved offense. However, the penalty kill was almost as bad as it was the season before, and as was the case before, staying out of the box might be a good idea, as the Jets were one of the most short-handed teams in the league.
Prediction: 6th in the Central Division
Once again, the Jets have a lineup that can compete with any team on most nights. However, the same problems are rearing their ugly heads, as they not only play in a tough Central Division, but also have questions about their penalty kill and it remains to be seen if Mason can in fact, improve the team's abysmal goaltending.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
2016-17 record: 55-19-8 (118 points)
Lost (yet again) to Pittsburgh (again) in the Conference semi-finals (again)
Captain: Alexander Ovechkin
The Washington Capitals were hoping to at some point in the last three years hoist a Stanley Cup. However, as it's almost always been in their existence, they once again failed to make it out of the second round. This time, it was another President's Trophy winning season that was followed by another loss to Pittsburgh. Now, they have the indignity of having to replace several key parts while dealing with a salary cap that threatens to be the noose on their chances of winning a Stanley Cup in the near future.
The Capitals still have a formidable core up front, with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin leading the way. However, Ovechkin slumped to 33 goals, far below what is normally expected of him, and like most Capitals, wasn't much of a factor in the playoffs. The problem is that 48 goals went out the door in the off-season, as Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson both were victims of the Capitals' cap problems. That didn't stop the Capitals from signing both TJ Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov to long term deals, deals that the Capitals could be getting buyer's remorse from in a few years, particularly with Oshie. Secondary scoring has the potential to be a problem, which is why Andre Burakovsky will need to step up this season. If the forwards have the potential to be a problem, then the blue line is already knee deep in it. Three players are signed beyond this season, and unfortunately, one of them is Brooks Orpik. They were forced to let Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk walk while they saw Vegas take Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft. John Carlson could be on his way out after the season if the Capitals don't get creative with salary cap maneuvering. As for composition, it's Orpik, Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen, and whoever can claim a spot on the third pairing, as that is likely to become youth being served here. In goal, this is surprisingly the most stable part of the team, as Braden Holtby mans the net as a starter. He was fairly ordinary in the playoffs, but the team in front of him deserves just as much blame here. Phillipp Grubauer returns as a backup. The exodus in Washington is most likely going to be affecting the special teams, as Alzner and Williams were significant players on the penalty kill and power play, respectively.
Prediction: 2nd in the Metropolitan Division
For all of the team's inability to manage the salary cap and keep certain key players, the Capitals are still in decent shape as far as making the playoffs. They may need to rely more on a pipeline that is soon to be tapped out during the season, which could lead to yet another season of failure in the playoffs.
Monday, September 25, 2017
Soon, the curtain will lift on the inaugural season of the Vegas Golden Knights, and like many a team in their first year before them, there will be struggles. However, there will be no shortage of excitement, as they are given the standard grace period for expansion teams. Yes, this will be one experiment to watch.
For being an expansion team, it isn't everyday that former 30-goal scorers are made available in the expansion draft, but that is exactly what happened for the Golden Knights, as Jonathan Marchessault scored 30 last year and James Neal has done it before in his career. Beyond that, it's largely a gamble that Vadim Shipachyov can translate his game from the KHL to the NHL while every other forward is either no better than the second line or is unproven. On defense, they have a lot of bodies, but very little in the way of an actual top pairing. Jason Garrison is the best of a fairly mediocre lot, but it could be Shea Theodore that could emerge as a top guy. Don't be surprised if Nate Schmidt solidifies himself as an everyday NHLer, as his playoff performance in Washington attracted the attention of current Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee. Beyond those three, depth isn't bad, but they're all interchangeable at this point. In goal, this is where they are set. Marc-Andre Fleury was the prize, and he will be out to show that he has something left after having to pass the torch to Matt Murray in Pittsburgh. Calvin Pickard is also getting a fresh start after playing behind an awful defense in Colorado the past couple of seasons. The special teams are an unknown at this point, but there is no question that goaltending is going to be important here.
Prediction: 7th in the Pacific Division
Despite having a big name or two, the Golden Knights are going to field what can be best described as a team of mismatched parts. The good news is that they have a plan and it showed in their Entry Draft strategy. That fruit may be borne in a few years, but it will scarcely help in the immediate future.