It’s been months since the last drinking game here at PuckSage, I’m sure your liver transplant went well.

Disclaimer: Even if your participation in this game is limited to drinking water something stupid is likely to happen.  No one actually cares what that stupid is since it will be your own damn fault, but if it should happen to get 500 or more votes on one of our favorite sites definitely send us a link, if it involves some hotties send pics too.

Take One Drink:

As soon as the season or all time record between the two is mentioned.

When Chara is mentioned as having captained an All Star Team.

When Alfredsson is mentioned as having captained an All Star Team.

If someone expresses amazement at Chara’s slapshot.

Take Two Drinks:

If Milan Michalek fails to be mentioned as an All Star.

When the word “Swede” is used in any form

When the word “Slovak” is used in any form.

If Naoko Funayama appears to be nearly as tall as any player other than Brad Marchand.

All the members of either the Bruins or the Senators landing on the same team is mentioned.

Take Three Drinks:

Whenever All Star footage is shown.

If it is noted Seguin had to wait longer than any other member of the Senators or Bruins to be drafted all star weekend.

If any NHL or NHL All Star record is mentioned.

When the division standings are mentioned.

Take Four Drinks:

If Erik Karlsson goes two shifts without someone mentioning he leads all NHL defensemen in scoring.

A coach is shown shaking his head after a blown call.

Someone asks someone not at the all star weekend about the break.

An interview occurs without a cliche.

Skip a drink:

If an incredibly stupid rumor is addressed.

You can’t tell which of the two glasses in front of you is yours.

You feel the urge to block a Zdeno Chara slapshot.

For variety we recommend having two drinks to participate with, if nothing else you’ll know it’s quitting time when you can’t tell the difference between your Patrone and Ketle One. No one is responsible for your idiotic actions under the influence of rum, vodka, tequila or your own genetic inferiority except you. Don’t blame me, don’t blame the NHL or the players, given the musical selections of most sporting events you won’t even be able to say gansta rap made me do it.  However I’m sure both I and Tosh.O will greatly appreciate the opportunity to see your internet video on Youtube or elsewhere.

 

Tonight the Boston Bruins throwdown with the Ottawa Senators. Just days ago Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara faced Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Ottawa Captain Daniel Alfredsson in the All Star game and skills competition. Tonight the goals count for more than bragging rights, the win will either provide separation or leave the division rivals in a points tie at the top of the Northeast division.

Tonight is the third of six games between the clubs this season. Thus far the magic number is “5′. The Bruins have scored five goals in each of the first two games. The Senators have scored a total of five goals in those two games. Boston Will be without Nathan Horton who continues to recover from his second concussion in a year, this suffered on an unpenalized hit against the Flyers. The Senators are missing Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin, both out indefinitely since December 21st.

Horton’s concussion, has fueled trade speculation with desired club acquisitions including the New York Islanders Kyle Okposo and the Phoenix Coyotes Ray Whitney. Zach Parise who can of course be had for a pair of 3rd year AHL nobody’s is also on the radar. Any of the three is as likely as the other at this point, but one name I think bears thinking about is one that was linked to the Bruins for three or four straight years. The biggest holdup on Carter escaping the host city for next years All Star extravaganza isn’t his desire to get out, unhappiness with the city or even his play. Players like Steve Montador, Joffery Lupul, Kris Versteeg and other frequent travelers not to mention every goalie who isn’t in the top five or six prove most organizations believe they can fix any problems with a player. Magical coaching is a belief held as commonly as not stepping on the logo on the locker room floors, even if no one is willing to admit it.

I think the tide has turned on the forever contracts. The ten years left on his contract will carry him past his 37th birthday. While he’s probably worth the slightly more than five million dollar cap hit he’s on the books for, it is hard to imagine dedicating that much cap space, regardless of actual salary to a 34 or 35 year old s fraught with tension for any general manager.  A cap hit as high as Carter’s would make him the highest paid forward in a lot of cities, while unquestionably talented it remains to be seen if he has the ability to be the type of impact player generally associated with being the top paid player at a position.

Later this week, the Bruins will host the Carolina Hurricanes including much rumored blueline reinforcement Gleason has just signed a contract that should have Boychuk and Corvo’s agents laughing themselves silly. The Hurricanes sit 15th in the east and 27th overall, but have taken the previous meetings this season with the Bruins. Saturday the Pittsburgh Penguins skate in for a matinee. The potentially Crosbyfied Penguins will arrive in Boston with days rest off of a back to back home and home set against the Toronto Maple Leafs where Brian Burke (@LeafsBB20) will probably kvetch about Don Cherry some more.

Across the month of February the Bruins play 13 games in 28 days including three back to backs sets. Five of this months games are against teams not currently in playoff position.  Six games are against teams currently in the top five in their conference including two games against the Senators, games against the Penguins and Rangers, and a tilt with the Predators.

The All Star break is over, real hockey is ready to return. Coming over the boards in the Second City will be some familiar faces. Jonathan Toews will be back from injury just in time to face the Vancouver Canucks. Patrick Kane (@88PKane) who has been a little distanced from his usual prowess look to have gotten his swagger back at over the All Star weekend. Patrick Sharp who has missed eight games this season is standing on the horizon poised to retake the ice, and help push the Blackhawks back to being the most prolific offense in the west. Worse still for the competition, is they have added a center that will free up Kane, Hossa and Sharp to stay at wing full time and chase after the dominance they had in the run up to the Stanley Cup two springs ago.

With their first game out of the break against perhaps their most bitter rivals the Vancouver Canuck it’s doubtful any of the BlackHawks will fail to check-in for the game. Many fans will feel cheated that team is deprived of Roberto Luongo, the NHL’s premier big game goalie who some in Chicago (and elsewhere) have come to regard as their lawful prey. Brendan Morrison (@7bmo) who played with the Canucks for seven seasons will have plenty of reasons to get excited for his first game in Chicago uniform, including renewing the chase for next years contract.

A look at the standings at the start of the playoff stretch shows the Blackhawks in sixth place in the west. Three of the teams ahead of them are also in the airtight Central Division. The Detroit Red Wings sit at the top of the food chain with an equal number of games played and a staggering home win streak to their credit. Chicago needs to gain  four points on Detroit to win the division. Their remaining schedule of 32 games includes 11 games against teams not currently in playoff position. When it’s all said and done that could be the difference between first in the division, and possibly the conference and being forced to open the playoffs on the road.

The west is a little less difficult to parse than the east. In the east there are three clear groups of teams currently in playoff position or just outside it. In the west there are just two groups. Those with a viable shot at the Cup, and those who have a shot at playing past the second week of April. The first group comes down to Vancouver, Detroit and maybe San Jose, the other group is the everyone else.

Detroit Red Wings: Buy. A solid backup goaltender is a must. Not as much for the playoffs as for the rest of the season. Jimmy Howard is on pace for 74 games at this point. That is eleven more regular season games than either of his first two seasons. It’s also an incredible workload for any goalie. Given how long most playoff series go, that could translate to a 100 games played for a goalie if things go the way the team would like. Getting a few more games off before the post season can’t hurt, and a viable backup in case things go wrong in the post season is it’s own reward.

Vancouver Canucks: Swap. Attitude is needed, as is a tweak or two on the blueline.

San Jose Sharks: Swap/Buy. If they can shift Nittymaki elsewhere for a bit off offensive punch that’s ideal, if not they may have to expend a few assets. Getting Havlat will aid the effort, but this could be the last disco for Thornton, Marleau and Boyle.

St Louis Blues: Buy. Offense is a must. As good as Elliott and Halak have been all season, getting around some of the top teams in the west on two goals against in the playoffs is going to be all but impossible.

Nashville Predators: Stand. They have the goods to get the job done, as long as they stay healthy they have no excuse for not playing in at least the second round. If they decide they can’t resign one or both of Suter and Weber they need to bring back an oil fields worth of income.

Chicago Blackhawks: Buy. Anything on the backend will help. The goaltenders are both outside the top 30 in save percentage, but I can’t hold out much hope for defense that has both O’Donnell and Montador on it. Getting someone to help out their 27th ranked penalty kill might just be something to look into at the same time.

Los Angeles Kings: Swap. Send a prospect or defenseman out for a top six offensive minded forward. They backend is impressive, but Kopitar, Richards, Brown are outnumbered trying to carry an offense all by themselves. As good as Quick has been this season it would be a crime not to get enough offense to make a run.

Minnesota Wild: Swap. They have enough viable defensemen tor trade to bring in all the offense they need without having to sacrifice a single draft pick, juniors or college prospect. Even with all the injuries they have had they’ve shown the mental toughness to stay afloat which will do them good in the playoffs. A touch more offense on the roster might even push them back to being a team that sells out every game again.

Colorado Avalanche: Sell. A fundamentally flawed team. A number of physically and mentally fragile players in key positions. Turn out the front office and start over.

Dallas Stars: Stand. They’ve got a solid, if oddly unknown team, unless they can get big names for a reasonable price they are a bit too average to go deep but will be better next year if Benn, Eriksson and Bachman continue to develop.

Calgary Flames: Sell. Yes they’ve just pulled off two trades, one with Chicago, one with Montreal that have made them nominally more talented, but short of adding one of the leagues top ten centers, and a good middle pairing defenseman, they’d be lucky to make the playoffs and see seven games in the first round.

A look at the east.

The NHL All Star Game is a lot of things. Chief among them is predicatable. There will be lots of shots on goal, lots of goals,pretty passing, and no more than four minutes between goals. Here are a few of the things you won’t see:

10: Perfectly delivered hip checks.

9: 100+ mph slapshots

8: A goalie MVP

7: Three penalties in the same period.

6: Battles along the boards.

5: A double digit blocked shot total

4: 35 minutes from any defenseman (or as they’re properly termed in this event the fourth and fifth forwards).

3: Creases being cleared out.

2: An opportunity for the announcers to say “what a hit by…”

1: Line brawls.

I’d guess that at least half of the people writing about sports have their dissection of their sports All Star game half written or more before it pulls over the event horizon. Which is fine. They are awful. They don’t resemble anything like the real sport. They fuel the pinkhats to ever more ludicrous criticisms of the regular season and even post season game. Sponsors give tickets to people who can only (sorta) name the three or four most marketed players. Big names who are injured or have a “sick” grandmother don’t take part in the event. The list of things wrong with the All Star concept is longer than what is right with them.

But that’s probably for the best. This NHL All Star weekend features enough payroll to get about six teams over the cap floor. Either team could mow down any team in the NHL with a week of practice and without having to wear themselves out. But that is the point, these are the cream of the crop. By definition if you are at the All Star weekend, you are one of the two or three most important players (or most marketable, which are sometimes the same thing) for your team. Never heard of Jamie Benn before he was added to the roster? That’s ok, The Dallas Stars fans love him. John Tavares is on a team that sucks? Big deal, he’s still an absurdly talented player. You live in the southeast and have never even seen the Calgary Flames play? Jarome Iginla’s a future hall of fame inductee, get on the phone with your TV provider and pickup the Center Ice package, he’s a treat to watch. Logan Couture went last, he can’t be any good can he? Yes, yes he can. He was 2nd in voting for best rookie last season.

While the deepest teams in the league can get by without one or two studs that’s maybe five or six teams. There is also the not so subtle difference between “get by” and “thrive”. Not many people could make the argument that the Philadelphia Flyers would be a worse team with Chris Pronger int he lineup with a straight face. Even fewer would actually believe it. Chicago has been without Patrick Sharp for several weeks, and had been in first when he went out with an injury. Both are teams at the top of the depth and quality charts. But take Jamie Benn or Jarome Iginla off their teams for a month and there’s no joy in Mudville. Brian Campbell and the Florida Panthers have had a hell of a ride this season, but if he were to miss ten games with a groin injury suffered in this meaningless marketing event the chances of Sunrise hosting even the minimum two home games is dramatically reduced, and with it the team can wave goodbye to millions in revenue.

Another important aspect of the All Star weekend is that because it is meaningless, except for the goalies and other crazies who can’t turn off their competitive nature ever it’s fun first to last. Patrick Kane’s Superman shootout routine was superb. Carey Price goaltending backwards was absolutely hilarious. Scott Hartnell taking questions about and even promising to contribute to HartnellDown is just a great thing. For me as a dedicated fan, this has been one of the most enjoyable weekends in a longtime. Without the two stars the media has embraced most, we get to see more of the stars of the other twenty eight teams in both conferences and all six divisions. Luke Adam (@LukeJAdam) of the Sabres. Shea Weber of the Predators both got more face-time with the media and potentially sponsors who might want to do regional advertising than they would have had the guy from Pittsburgh and the guy from D.C. been on site. Hell, Craig Smith could become the first star of the historically faceless Nashville Predators forward group while Justin Faulk (@JustinFaulk27) provided looks at a guy other than the one who has been the face of the Carolina Hurricanes franchise for the last decade.

If anything should convince you of how dangerous the game could be with the pressure of some sort of standings impact or season impacting value its probably the hardest shot competition. We saw three different players shooting over 100mph , with the highest hitting 108.8 (175 kph) there are a number of guys who sport huge bruises off shots in the 80s, and Ryan Callahan, and Chuck Kobasew can both tell you that Chara’s shot will break bones if it hits you in the wrong spot. The game is meaningless, and as long as you don’t try and think of it as real hockey it can be fun, more importantly the players who don’t mind the media let loose and give a fun interview or two and go home healthy.

The top teams in the east can be split into three groups. The first is the smallest, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins who are clearly the elite of the conference. The teams nipping at their heels, the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers who are all but locks for the playoffs and might need one or two tweaks. And the third is the group that in order to be considered a serious threat to represent the east in the Stanley Cup finals, need two to three pieces.

New York Rangers: Buy. While they currently have the fewest goals allowed in the NHL, only two teams in the top 8 of the east have scored fewer goals. Adding some depth scoring gives them a better shot at getting through a series with Boston or Washington who have good goaltending.

Boston Bruins: Swap. The defending champions are four points up on their nearest division rival with five games in hand. The rest don’t even bear thinking about. What they should and probably will do is add a depth defenseman, possibly moving Corvo for a better fit, and possibly a steady forward with some playoff experience.

Washington Capitals: Swap. Assuming a taker can be had for Alex Semin or a similar superfluous part a shutdown defenseman who can  lend Alzner and Carlson a hand on the blueline and shutdown opposing forwards in the second round and later.

Philadelphia Flyers: Swap. Defense. Please someone find this team a solid defenseman or three. Yes the goaltending needs to be (a lot) better but defensemen not named Timonen who aren’t pylons would be a benefit. They have plenty of offense, but only the Senators are allowing more goals per game of teams currently in playoff position.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Provisional Sell. The team has iced a lot of players this year, and is in pretty good shape to go past the first round. If Crosby and Staal can get back into the lineup, they can move some of the prospects who they don’t expect to use next year or extend new contracts to for cap space to go after one or two of the big name free agents in the off season.

Ottawa All Stars Senators: Stand. While undoubtedly Alfredsson could could bring a solid price if shipped out, he and the chance at some success in the playoffs after the postseason drought the team has experienced of late are probably more valuable to the team. If they could pick up a good defenseman without bankrupting themselves it would help but with so young a crew I’m not sure they go too deep even if they add Weber or Suter.

Florida Panthers: Buy. Offensive depth is needed. This team is pretty damn scrappy and solidly talented as it is and major overhauls are not needed. If they can find someone to sell them a top six forward, perhaps the Dallas Stars can be talked into parting with Morrow as is rumored. Who knows, the Sunrise air could revive him as it has a couple others on the roster.

New Jersey Devils: Sell. First to an owner who can afford the team, then work on acquiring a fuller roster in the off season. What happens with Parise is paramount, with the goaltending this team is getting and a serious lack of depth there’s not much the team can do to still be playing in the second round.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Swap. With some of the pending UFA’s they won’t be able to keep, getting a 3rd center or top four defenseman would be helpful, getting a couple good penalty killers might be wiser, especially since they’re more likely to be able to keep a mid or low tier salary. Drafting 30th is a good sign, entering the playoffs with the 30th ranked penalty kill makes it unlikely you’ll get that far.

Winnipeg Jets: Swap: If a prospect or two can be pried loose to add something to either the offense or defense they’d be better off than they are now. Utterly average in both offense and defense is not going to do much to push you into the playoff.

Montreal Canadiens. Sell. Locals can complain about the defense all they want. They’ve allowed the twelfth fewest goals, and that’s with a bunch of rookies and second year players eating most of the minutes. Selling off some of the depth that’s (in theory) been well evaluated thanks to all the injuries could let them draft some impact forwards over the next year or two, or possibly land a few as other cities blow their team up this off season.

This is a (highly irregular) feature that will run whenever it amuses me featuring some of the more fantastically insane things I run across on the internet.

Today’s Learnin':

You can tell someone is racist by the names of their kids and the color of their hockey helmet.

 

As a black hockey fan, I find myself filled with gratitude that I had the opportunity to learn this. Truly, if it weren’t for this I would never, ever have certainty in my life. Now all I have to do is spend a few minutes smacking info into Google and wait for it to tell me the complete and unbiased truth. Well, assuming someone on twitter doesn’t tell me first. I will be forwarding this wondrous knowledge to my fellow darkies everywhere so they too can be safe and avoid getting hurt, persecuted by, cheated or a made fun of.  I am one hundred percent certain this will become the most read item on my blog and reference inserted into sociology textbooks across the globe.

Since there’s no actual hockey to talk about until real hockey resumes Tuesday at 7pm et.

Zdeno Chara picked Jarome Iginla as part of an plot to get him into a Bruins uniform. With the trade deadline approaching and the Calgary Flames sitting on the outside looking in, this might just be part of the savvy Slovaks attempts to make his team the first to repeat in the salary cap era.

Marian Gaborik was clearly snubbing his countryman Zdeno Chara by walking to the wrong side of the stage. Is it hostility left over from the increasing rivalry between the Rangers and Bruins, or something even more personal?

Daniel Alfredsson picked all the Canucks, the first time All Star Scott Hartnell, and not one but two members of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Senators are currently in playoff position, all of those teams have to be considered stronger, was this his plan to get to know those locker rooms before asking for a trade?

The obvious reluctance shown to draft Milan Michalek and Tyler Seguin is indicative of rifts in both the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins teams that leave both captains wanting their younger teammates moved elsewhere.

Did Carey Price threaten to revisit his famous slobber knocker with Tim Tomas if they weren’t on the same team this year?

Was there collusion between the captains before the draft? There is clearly a split in the players that didn’t just occur accidentally. No one will ever get me to believe the near equal dispersal of redheads was just coincidence.

Alfredssons drafting of Daniel ahead of Henrik Sedin has sparked a three cornered feud between the two by reversing their NHL draft order and snubbing the center for the winger. Evidence of this can be seen by watching the replay where the brothers are never seen speaking to each other, even the other players commented on this.

The streams were crossed.