Wednesday, April 29, 2009

First round analysis(by order of series finishing)

Vancouver defeats St.Louis in 4 games:
Contrary to the fact that it was a four game sweep, the St.Louis Blues came out and played hard in this series, they just got beat by a far more veteran team. The Canucks power play was effective when they needed it and the completely shut down a previously potent Blues power play. Roberto Luongo stole game one and came up large right when they needed him and while Chris Mason played well he didn't play well enough obviously. The Canucks are a team that was built to win this year with the Swedish core (the Sedins, Sundin and Ohlund) are all up for UFA status and All World goaltender Roberto Luongo will be a free agent after next season while the Blues are a team that is deep with young talent that is building towards possibly something special. Right now I'm looking for the Canucks to at the very least make it to the Western Final because I believe they'll beat the Chicago Blackhawks in round #2

Detorit defeats Columbus in 4 games:
Much like the Vancouver/St.Louis series this was men against boys. The Detroit Red Wings machine claimed another victim in the Blue Jackets in this round. Chris Osgood's stats went from below zero temperatures to boiling hot once the puck dropped for the playoffs after a brutal regular season and once again their high powered, all-star laden roster (Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Hossa, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, etc.) rolled through an inferior opponent. Naturally the Red Wings aren't leaving the spotlight any time soon even with Hossa probably leaving as a UFA . The Blue Jackets, much like the Blues, are a very young team that is building towards the future into a potential power team and now it appears that they finally have a goaltender in Steve Mason, although the Wings taught him a thing or two. One source of concern for the Jackets is that their star player and the face of the franchise/captain Rick Nash will be eligible to become a free agent after next season so you can bet they will be putting all their efforts into re-signing him.

Boston defeats Montreal in 4 games:
This series was a shitkicking and a half. For a Habs fan this was outragously painful to watch. The Bruins were better in every facet of the game. They were bigger, meaner, more skilled and far more determined. Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Micheal Ryder, Phil Kessel and Marc Savard ran the Habs show in this series. They have a nice blend of veteran and youth players but much like a few teams they are going to be in cap trouble over the next couple of years with major RFA's (Kessel, Krejci, Lucic and Wideman) and UFA's (Chara, Axelsson, Ward, Fernandez) and the cap will be flatlining and then going down. The centenial version of the Montreal Canadiens are a disaster and I have a feeling that they aren't going to be good for a few years now. They have 10 UFA players and 5 RFA's and you can bet that a large number of them won't be back, including Mike Komisarek and Saku Koivu who I'm betting won't be back. The young players on the team have a reputation of loving a night out on the town rather then taking their jobs seriously and the man who was supposed to be the future of the franchise, Carey Price, has major maturity and work ethic issues. This is going to be a very important offseason for the direction of the Habs.

Pittsburgh defeats Philadelphia in 6 games:
Plain and simple, Malkin and Crosby showed up and the Flyers defense beyond Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn on a good day is a big bunch of nothing. Matt Carle has regressed beyond belief since he entered the league with a bang in San Jose, Luca Sbisa and Ryan Parent are rookies who are a little ways away from becoming impact players and the rest of them are pluggers. The Flyers are set up front with young stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while Scottie Hartnell, Dany Briere when healthy, Claude Giroux, and at times Joffrey Lupul but with a porous defence, Mike Knuble as a UFA and no goaltenders signed the Flyers are in serious cap hell. The Penguins are good and will be for awhile for obvious reasons of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Gonchar.

Chicago defeats Calgary in 6 games:
Simply put the Flames top two defensemen (Regher and the overrated Phaneuf) were either injured or ineffective in this series and there's nothing on the backend beyond them and the forwards (even with Langkow, Iginla, Cammalleri, Bertuzzi, Jokinen, and Bourque) couldn't score if their lives depended on it most of the time. The Flames are in deep cap trouble and obviously have other problems as per the fact they haven't made it out of the first round since their 2004 cup run. The Hawks young stars came through in this series, Nik Khabibulin stood on his head and their defence was solid. The Blackhawks are going to be good for a very long time with young stars Toews, Kane, Sharp, Bolland, Versteeg, Keith, Barker and Seabrook.

Anaheim defeats San Jose in 6 games:
The Sharks are officially the Indianapolis Colts pre-super bowl, the biggest chokers maybe their respective sport has ever seen. The Sharks finished the season with a franchise record 117 points and a President’s trophy award. A loaded offense (Thornton, Marleau, Setoguchi, Michalek, Clowe), a Stanley Cup defence (Boyle, Blake, Lukowich, Vlasic) and an All-Star goaltender in Evgeni Nabakov were supposed to finally pull through in the playoffs this year and as usual they folded. Once again the Sharks big guns up front, especially Thornton, did nothing and when the going got tough they got to gliding but the biggest problem with the Sharks is Nabakov. Besides Roman Turek I’ve never seen a goalie who’s performance so drastically diminishes come playoff time. Whenever his team needs a save he never gives it to them. The Anaheim Ducks just keep rolling. They dump some unneeded veterans at the trade deadline and the young players step up. The Getzlaf/Perry/Ryan line is going to be dominant for years to come, they still have that All-Universe defence and a suddenly out of nowhere great goaltender Jonas Hiller.

Carolina defeats New Jersey in 7 games:
One half of my Stanley Cup prediction went up in smoke in this series including who I thought was going to win the whole shebang but I won’t be making that mistake for one reason: Martin Brodeur has proven to me once and fore all that he cannot carry a team by himself to a Stanley Cup championship. Without Stevens, Neidermayer and Rafalski he simply cannot get the job done. The ‘Canes did a nice job shutting down the Parise/Zajac/Elias line after the first couple of games and the secondary scoring for the Devils dried up as well. The Hurricanes are going to give the Bruins a nasty shock if they think that this series is going to be as easy as their last one. They have the hottest goaltender in the league right now in Cam Ward, a very effective puck moving defence and the best line in the playoffs with Whitney/Staal/Cole and the Brind’Amour/Ruutu line has been providing excellent secondary scoring. The Bruins/Hurricanes series is going to be a doozy.

Washington defeats NYR in 7 games
Their were two pivotal events in this series: 1) The Washington Capitals replace Jose Theodore with Simeon Varlamov and 2) John Tortorella benches Sean Avery in game 5 for a lack of discipline and then goes and get’s himself suspended for throwing a water bottle into the crowd in Washington. These two things helped the Washington Capitals come back from a 3-1 series deficit to score their first playoff round win in 11 years. Basically the only reason the Rangers were even in this series was Henrik Lundqvist. “The King” was dominant at the start of the series and stole the 3 games that the Rangers did win as once again Slats’s high price talent failed to produce as it’s looking more and more like I was right to think that Wade Redden, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Markus Naslund were going to be busts relative to the money they were going to make. With nothing coming up the pipe in the minors any time soon Ranger fans should get used to teams that win only when Lundqvist and of all people Sean Avery play well. Alex Ovechkin still looks like he’s trying to figure out the playoffs because he still plays like he would in the regular season which is why he hasn’t been as effective. It’s not that he’s not trying but he’s still trying to do everything himself and doesn’t use his teammates to great effect which is something he’ll have to learn to do. They have great secondary scoring with Nik Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green, a solid defence and a hot goaltender. The NHL has it’s dream playoff matchup with Ovechkin vs. Crosby and it should be good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Random thoughts and observations

Due to final exams I haven't really had the time to come up with an article but here are some thoughts on the end of the seasons and beginning of the playoffs:

-The Northwest division is in for some changes for next season with the Oilers and Wild needing new coach's, the Wild and Avalanche needing new GM's and if Calgary goes out in the first round then I think they along with Colorado will also be looking for new coach's.

-Brian Burke is back to opening his big mouth saying that he's going to try and trade up to #1 overall in the draft, but he really doesn't have what it would take to do so. This is basically just trying to drum up excitement and make it seem like he's trying.

-With 9 UFA's, constant benchings of young players and a potential franchise goalie with work ethic and maturity issues and an ass kicking in the first round at the hands of the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens are in need of a serious rebuild and I'm not sure that Gainey will stick around as GM to do it. I have a feeling that he may well step away from the GM's position and take up a presidential position. If I'm the Habs I'm making a package to trade way up into the top 10 in the draft (which is being held in Montreal) and get the rebuild started now.

-The Islanders and Coyotes are in serious financial peril and Gary Bettman may only be able to hold out for one more year before seriously looking into moving those franchises. NYI owner Charles Wang has already stated that he will be moving his team to Kansas City if the Long Island government does not approve the 2 Billion dollar Lighthouse project which would give him a massive new arena (the current arena is a dump). If it is indeed approved the Islanders stand a good chance at becoming relevant in their market again like the Penguins with John Tavares taken first overall (which will give them a couple of pieces up front along with Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau and Kyle Okposo) but they still need Rick DiPietro to finally be healthy and some major prospect infusion on the back end. The Coyotes are in deep shit financially and I don't see them is Phoenix in 5 years.

-With the salary cap flatlining this offseason after years of constent growth and rumored to be plummeting after next season, teams such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Edmonton, Boston, NYR, Washington and Chicago are going to be in major cap hell and may ver well need to move some good players just to get under the cap after next season and none of them will be improving via Free Agency for next year.

-The Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings (at least in the 1st series) look like the two teams that'll be meeting up in the West final and that should be a great series.

-The NHL seems very keen on cutting down on incidents during the last few minutes of games by suspending players who commit major penalties or who look like they're trying to send a message.

-The Central Division with the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Blues and on the outside the Predators who always seem to be there at the end, is going to be a warzone next year with the 'Hawks, Blue Jackets and Blues all with up and coming young powerful teams looking to lay claim to the Red Wings throne.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stanley Cup Final Combatents aka. The Crapshoot

The calender changed from March to April and the smell of spring has entered the air and along with that comes the smell of another season: The Post Season. There are a few things that come with this season: if you're a fan of a team that didn't make it to the dance then you either pick a new one to cheer for or go hit the links at the same time as your team, if your team does make it to the playoffs then it has a 1 in 16 chance of actually winning the cup and so the odds are quite good that they won't make it that far but your blind devotion forces you to believe otherwise. UFA players know that other teams will be watching so if they want to get as much money as possible then they better step up with a strong playoff. New heroes and villians are born seemingly with every play and with the Olympics coming up next year you can bet that spots may be opened or closed to borderline players who need to make an impression. And then of course there's one of my favorite parts, which is trying to accurately predict just who is going to walk away with Lord Stanley's mug. So here I'm going to give you my two favorite's, one in each conference, to win that coveted trophy that is handed to the winning team's captain every June.
Western Conference winner is: the Vancouver Canucks
Probably the hottest team heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. They've got 2 great scoring lines that are currently doing what they're supposed to do, a quality checking line that does a decent job shutting down the other teams top guys and an energetic, big and bruising fourth line that can dole out some punishment along with handling themselves with their fists. As long as the Sundin/Demitra/Kesler line continues to score it will help take the attention off of the Sedins/Burrows line. However if they hit a cold streak and teams can then focus in on the Sedins, they've proved that they will dissapear if you are able to put a full court press on them. The Canucks defense is very solid from 1 through 6 and they've got a couple of guys in Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and to a lesser extent Alex Edler and Mattias Ohlund can all put up points if need be so their powerplay should be solid throughout. And of course nothing helps more in the playoffs then goaltending and the Vancouver Canucks have one of the best three goaltenders in the game today. Roberto Luongo, while at times inconsistent during the regular season, always steps up for important games (ie. World Cup in 2004 and Canucks series win vs. Dallas two years ago) and this year will be no different. The Western Conference playoffs will be an absolute grind and any team that comes out of their deserves to be commended. But the San Jose Sharks will have to prove to me that they won't choke again, the Red Wings have severe goaltending issues, the Flames are folding like a cheap suit right now, the Blackhawks like the Penguins two years are just to young and inexperienced right now and will probably be bounced in the first round, ditto for the Blue Jackets although I have more faith in their goaltending then Chicago's, my darkhorse in the Anaheim Ducks cause they seem to be putting it together at the right time and with their phenomenal first line and two first rate defensemen on the back end they could be the Cinderella story, and finally the Blues or Predators will just be happy to be a young team that made it. But right now my choice to represent the West in the Stanley Cup final are the Vancouver Canucks.

Eastern Conference winners: the New Jersey Devils
Much like the Red Wings they are the franchise that just keeps winning and winning and winning. As long as Martin Brodeur is manning the crease in New Jersey this will not change. The Devils have arguably one of the top lines in the league with Parise/Zajac/Langenbrunner putting up massive numbers this season and I don't expect that to change in the playoffs. They are deadly 5 on 5 and almost unstoppably in the PP. Elias/Zubrus/Gionta as a second line is a great combo for a second line, a big two way centre with two highly skilled wingers flanking him and Elias has had arguably the second best season of his career. Shanahan/Madden/Rolston is an absolute lexury as a third line as not only can they put up big points on any given night but they're phenomenal in their own end and Shanny along with Rolston are particularly effective PP players and their fourth line is chalk full of experience. All of their forward lines have Stanley Cup rings on them and that could prove to be huge. The one place where the Devils may be exposed is on their back end where they have a host of nobody's as it's not a very impressive group but they get bailed out of their most glaring mistakes by the best goaltender in the game today in Marty Brodeur. Brodeur's resume is lengthy and unmatched among active goalies and given the fact that he's missed most of the season with an elbow injury will mean that unlike the past few years he won't be as tired as he was. The Bruins historically choke in the playoffs much like San Jose, Washington has no goaltending, Philadelphia's goaltending is also very questionable and their defence leaves something to be desired, Pittsburgh's defence is not that impressive and while thBoldey arguably are the hottest team and offence heading into the playoffs I don't expect Marc-Andre Fleury to continue his hot play but if he does they are my dark horse team in the east, The Carolina Hurricanes are just to soft and their goaltending is too streaky, The Montreal Canadiens might win a round but a lack of secondary scoring, a suddenly porous defence and inconsistent goaltending will do them in, and either the Rangers or the Panthers will probably either get killed in the first round or upset Boston and then get killed in the second round. So right now my eastern favorites are the New Jersey Devils.

Stanley Cup winner: the New Jersey Devils.
Martin Brodeur will prove prevailent over the younger goaltending star in seven games, much like Patrick Roy did to him 8 years ago. This is my crapshoot, my choice for the Stanley Cup final. Are the odds on my side? No, but I sure hope that I am cause I think it would be a great series.