#1 Vs #8

The Chicago Blackhawks seemingly have everything going this season. They have two goalies putting up top flight numbers. they have an upgraded defense that has allowed Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to reclaim the form that helped the team win the Cup a few years back. Better still, they have arguably the best forward group in the NHL; Toews, Kane, Hossa, Saad and Sharp.

The Minnesota Wild are that new kid in playoff town no one knows quite what to make of. On paper the Wild have every tool they need to be dangerous, and even contend. In reality, they lack playoff experience, especially with Pominville and Heatley on the shelf. Add that to five of six blueliners who have never seen the NHL playoffs, and you have a recipe for a dicey playoff series.

Players to watch:

For the Wild, don’t be surprised if rookie Charlie Coyle comes up big in spots, Setogouchi is a threat, and Mikko Koivu is never to be underestimated.

On the other side of the puck for the Blackhawks, Kane, Hossa and Toews can all take over games individually.


Chicago, it isn’t purely the quality that they lead in, it is the playoff experience, particularly on the blueline that will decide this series.

#2 vs. #7

Anaheim Ducks have almost no pressure this year. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are drawing an inexplicable amount of attention, and Chicago was start to finish the best team in the NHL. The Ducks simply have to get on the ice and execute. They have savvy older veterans in Koivu and Selanne. They have high quality younger veterans still in their prime in Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry. They also have a surprisingly strong backend in net and on the blueline. They don’t have any dominant or elite players there, but they do have several really good ones.

The Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs again keeping their two decade long streak intact. They have Jimmy Howard who again very quietly put up impressive numbers, they have Datsyuk, and Zetterberg. These are not your Dad’s Red Wing’s though, they just don’t have even one elite talent on their blueline, much less two or three as they have had in years past.

Players to watch:

If the Wings don’t have Howard playing top notch goaltending, they don’t have anything, For them to win,  guys like Tootoo, Smith, and other role players will have to elevate their game.

The Ducks need to have their defense continue to smother their opponents, and have at least one of their goaltenders show up and never take their eyes off of Zetterberg and Datsyuk.


Wings can’t win this if the Ducks show up and execute. It’s just that simple.

#3 vs. #6

Vancouver Canucks, it is put up or shutup time in Vancouver. They drama in their net has covered up the fact that this isn’t as good a team as it was in years past. They only won their division by four points, by comparison the Washington Capitals won by 6, and of the six division winners this is the team that scored the least this season. The Sedin twins combined for less goals than Jiri Tlusty. They put up the mediocre season numbers with three of the bottom four teams in their conference playing in their division.

San Jose Sharks are also at the point where if they don’t win the Cup it is tie to break up the band. Marleau, Boyle, and Thornton don’t have many more years left in them and behind them there isn’t much to write home about. What gives this squad a bit of believability is that Niemi, who was part of the Chicago cup run, has turned in the best regular season of his career and played in 43 of the teams 48 games.

Players to watch:

Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa are two guys you should never ever count out, for the Canucks to do well, these two will likely be the biggest impact players.

Joe Thornton appears to have learned how to play big in the playoffs, and Raffi Torres (when he plays clean) is a surprisingly good playoff player.


This series is almost a push, but I give the edge to San Jose, Thornton, Marleau, Couture are are better right now than any three forwards you can name for the Sharks, and with Schneider’s injury and the general chaos in British Columbia I don’t like the Canucks chances.

#4 vs. #5

The Saint Louis Blues boast some damn fine players no one talks about because the team is too far south. David Backes is a game changer, Pietrangelo is one of the best defensemen in the game, and Chris Stewart turned in more points in 48 games this year than he did in 79 last year. Goaltending is clearly this teams weakness, but with Oshie coming back the team gains immediately in two way play.

The reigning champions the Los Angeles Kings have to get scoring from more people than just Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown, if for no other reason than Jonathan Quick is not as good this year as last. They’ve gotten a slight refresh adding Regehr and injecting Muzzin into the lineup, but the roster is really almost identical. You have to question the teams hunger a little.

Players to watch:

Drew Doughty emerged as an elite two way defenseman during last year playoffs establishing his bona fides in his own end in addition to the offensive ability he’s always displayed, he and Mike Richards who is frequently overlooked on this team will be crucial to this team going anywhere.

For the Blues, Vladimir Sobotka just finds an extra gear in the playoffs and he can tilt the ice, but he won’t be enough, Bouwmeester, Oshie, and Perron will have to show up and put in work.


This is a push, the Blues I think have the edge in hunger, the Kings have the edge in knowing how to win in the post season.

Total Wins by eliminated teams this round; 9


This is probably the most asked, least answered question in Boston sports. The answer is complex, and involves more than a few moving pieces.


The Bruins have certainly had less than average amounts of injuries, and unfortunately the two most prominent injuries have been to their top scorer, and their most important skater. Brad Marchand’s speed, ability to agitate, and his zero delay shot release are game changing. He is at this point one of the two or three best forwards in the division. Patrice Bergeron is the teams most important player. Not only is he the most skilled faceoff man in the NHL, he’s stunningly reliable, the number of non injury bad games he’s had in his career can be counted without exhausting one’s fingers, possibly without reaching a second hand. When both are out, the team is missing speed, scoring, puck control, leadership, and winning attitude. Chris Kelly’s  loss was crucial to the galloping inefficiency and creeping malaise, but that’s is something that has its real impact in the next section.


When the Bruins won the Cup, they rolled four solid line, and had a defensive unit they could rely on. They were very much a Top 9 team with a fourth line capable of contributing at a level that many teams struggled to get their third line to impact the game at. This year they are very, very much a Top 6 – Bottom 6 team, and they have a similar issue with their bottom six to the year after Chicago won their Cup. Some pieces that are the same, but not having career years all at once, and some players who are either playing way under their expected level or who were out for an extended period.

When Chris Kelly went down, the already anemic third line flatlined. Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo, Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner, Kaspars Daugavins, and Jamie Tardiff all trooped in and out of the line. Part of the problem is that when Peverley slid over to center he started trying to do too much in a year where he was already struggling. Part of it the problem is that the most promising players weren’t given legitimate opportunities. And part of the problem is just how many moving parts have been involved, especially as the lines were frequently shuffled trying to get players like Sequin, Lucic, Horton, and Krejci going as well.

Defensively, the team rushed Dougie Hamilton to the NHL before he was ready, this is a management failure, but speaks to a dearth of passable defenseman available in the off season. Hamilton certainly hasn’t been a disaster, but he’s experienced the peaks and valley’s of a rookie, and despite his size has been overpowered and beaten one on one for pucks. The question of if this would have been less serious in full season with more games and travel versus the current high compression is unanswerable, but either way another year of physical growth would have ameliorated some of the valleys in his play and freed up other defensemen from keeping an eye on him in addition to playing their own game. With McQuaid’s injury, Aaron Johnson was pulled into the lineup. While he’s possibly more skilled and a better puck handler than Mcquaid, he doesn’t have the raw aggression of McQuaid, and that means opposing players don’t slow up and look for support going to his corner.


When your top paid forward, David Krejci, has the same number of goals as a guy getting six minutes less of even strength time on ice a night and plays most games on the fourth line you have a genuine problem. There’s no doubt you have an issue. Nine goals isn’t a bad total for the season thus far but either of them is in the top four on the team.

Milan Lucic has gotten the most attention for scoring decline, and deserves it. He doesn’t look like himself most nights. But this dip in his scoring isn’t nearly alarming as Johnny Boychuk year over year decline since he spent his first full season in the NHL. In thirty nine games he has one more point than Shawn Thornton who has played less than half as many minutes. Part of the issue is that he’s just not shooting the puck much, Boychuck has just 64 shots to date, Thornton in the same number of games, and significantly less shifts has 46.

And yes, the powerplay is unenviable at just under 15%, but they haven’t been good at that in years.


Claude Julien has earned the right to a very, very long leash in his coaching tenure. But his fetish or veterans over rookies or young players is again strangling the teams creativity, and energy. Jay Pandalfo’s heart and professionalism are unquestionable. The rest of his body is not really fit for NHL action any more; and yet 18 times he has gotten the call to play over a younger, fitter, more skilled player who likely figures into the teams long term future. In those 18 games he is scoreless, based on his career total of 226 points in 899 NHL games, the expectations certainly were not high. Ryan Spooner, Jordan Caron, or Jamie Tardiff could just as easily have filled those games, and likely out performed him, Spooner and Tardiff were having very respectable years in the AHL at the time of their recall. For that matter when Chris Bourque was sent down his 19 game stint produced points, just four of them, but combined with his speed there was at least a going concern each shift for opposing defense to deal with.

And even on the veteran front, just as Corvo and Wideman and Ryder deserved to be scratched in favor of other players in the past, so too have several players this season. For all that he’s slowly starting to rebound in his own end, Ference could have used a breather, Boychuck likewise, and with so many healthy bodies circling the ice and the cap space the entire Krejci, Lucic, Horton line could and probably should have been sent to the pressbox more than once this season as there were more than a few nights all three were on the ice but not in the game.


One of the biggest issues with this team is complacency. This starts at the top. Players who know training camp is jut a formality and they can go on with the drudgery of the regular season don’t star the season in right state o mind. It isn’t just about having nothing to win with a good effort in training camp, and the off season leading to it, it is that the having nothing to lose in either time period.

This goes way beyond just this season. Part of it is a drafting tendency. The team has too many nice guys, and maybe two intermittent fire eaters. Regardless of what you think about his politics, you only had to watch one period of Tim Thomas playing to know he was one thousand percent in the game. It didn’t matter if it was policing his own crease, smashing his stick on a shot even he had no chance on, or skating out to check an opponent taking liberties with one of his team mates, he was all in from warmup until the game was in the books.

Who can you look at on the team and say that about? Which of the prospects likely to hit the roster in the next year or two does that describe? Does that describe Redden or Jagr? The same answer applies to all those questions; No and no one. This has been true for years, the last palyer to say anything not in the mold of generic athlete mutterings, or whatever the front office was saying was Steve Kampfer, and he was deported about as fast as the Brain Trust could find a dance partner.

Where’s this teams Wayne Simmonds or David Backes? Apparently the front office is either blind to that need of the teams, or doesn’t want it.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.



  • on April 17th the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets would have a better chance of making the playoffs than last years eastern conference champions the New Jersey Devils.
  • the Los Angeles Kings would have a better offense than the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, or Philadelphia Flyers.
  • only three of the top five powerplays would belong to playoff teams while five of five penalty kills would belong to playoff teams.
  • the Montreal Canadiens, and the Ottawa Senators would have more penalties per game than the Anaheim Ducks.
  • only two of the bottom five faceoff teams would be in playoff position, while all of the top five faceoff teams would be in.
  • zero of last years eastern conference division winners, The Panthers, The Rangers, and the Bruins would be in that position today.
  • zero of last years bottom five years teams would be there right now.


  • despite missing games with a concussion, Brad Marchand would still be tied for a top 20 position in goal scoring.
  • Alex Ovechkin would not only be the only player in double digits in powerplay goals, but also have a six goal cushion on those tied for second.
  • half of Adam Henrique’s ten goals would come on special teams, two short handed, and three on the powerplay.
  • the league leader in short handed assists would have three, and be Lee Stempniak.
  • the only defenseman in the NHL with more than one short handed assist would be, Jay Bouwmeester.
  • heading into the last handful of games of the season, Daniel Alfredsson would have almost twice the PIMS of Raffi Torres.
  • seven of the top ten defensemen in assists would be left handed shots, Mark Streit, Duncan Keith, Niklas Kronwall, Alex Goligoski, Sergei Gonchar, Kimmo Timonen, Ryan Suter, but two of the top three would be right handed, Kris Letang and P.K. Subban.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky would be the only goaltender in the top five for sv% and the top five for shootout wins.
  • the top ten goalies by save percentage would combine for a cap hit o $23,875,000 with over a quarter of it belonging to Henrik Lundqvist, who’s team has the lowest point total.

The Edmonton Oilers made a very surprising change in leadership today. Here’s why.

10: Learning new names is hard.
9: Hiring people already familiar with Edmonton traffic will allow them to concentrate more on their  jobs and less on the commute.
8: Katz hates to have his expectations brought up and then have reality fall short.
7: Hiring people already familiar with Edmonton traffic will allow them to concentrate more on their jobs and less on the commute.
6: All the people who might be good at the job laughed when they heard Kevin Lowe was staying.
5: The move was part of the organizations green initiative, they even still had the nameplates, business cards, and parking signs from the last tour of duty for Mactavish and Howe’s names on them. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
5: Learning new names is hard.
4: They want a level playing field for the Battle Of Alberta going forward.
3: Making she Rick Nash didn’t end up in their lineup was the number one priority.
2: When they eventually trade Eberle and Hall they want to be sure fans don’t recognize any of the players they get back without extensive research.
2: All the people who might be good at the job laughed when they heard Kevin Lowe was staying.
1: Team leadership wanted to keep their commitment to making a splash at playoff time.

Hockey fans and worse the media who cover the NHL tend to focus entirely too much on a small handful of players, and in a league with six hundred or so high end athletes that’s just a shame. Here’s today’s list of players you should take the time to watch.

Jiri  Tlusty:

You’d think that on a team with Semin, E. Staal, J. Staal, that if someone were going to be in the top ten in the NHL in goals, it’d be one of those three, in about that order. Nope Jiri Tlusty has 19 goals this season, Perhaps more interesting is that on a team with a good shot at winning the draft lottery, whose scoring is upside down by 24 goals is a plus 14.  At 18 minutes a night, and playing in all situations, Tlusty will give you plenty of opportunities to watch and appreciate.


Vladimir Sobotka

Best known for the type of physical game that you might expect from a guy six inches and forty pounds heavier, the Trebic, Czech Republic native is putting up his offensive season to date. A 2005 draft pick in the 4th round he’s 19th overall in games played in his draft class has always played a smart two way game and can be counted on for an aggressive penalty kill.

Sergei Bobrovsky

A .932sv% across 32 games would be impressive in any NHL goalie. For a guy to rebound from an .899Sv% last season to that is simply staggering. The only guy ahead of Bobrovsky in save percentage is Craig Anderson, who has played half as many games. Arguments for a more important goalie in the NHL, or one who has played better are really tough to make, and even tougher to believe. If you don’t believe in goalie as MVP’s, it might be time to change that belief.

John Tavares

This man is literally more valuable to his team than Malkin or Crosby are to the Penguins, than Toews is to the Blackhawks, or either Sedin is to the Canucks. He might not have the complete game of Toews, or the pull with the referees of Crosby. There is simply no argument that can be made for the Islanders being in playoff position without Tavares playing like Tavares. If you pull him from the lineup for any five game stretch this year they are a lottery team.

Alex Goligoski

When the NHL’s top defensemen are named this guy somehow never comes up. People look at the trade for James Neal he was a part of and dismiss him. This is a bad, bad thing to do. Take a look at who he’s skating with in points among defensemen, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Francois Beauchemin, Kevin Shattenkirk, and then look at how much more efficient he is. Some of those men play with much better forward corps, and almost all of them play several more minutes a night.


Q: Will the New York Islanders hold onto a playoff spot?

A: Yes, the Atlantic division is highly dysfunctional, and the ISlanders are both better than many people think, and many people think, and better at being dysfunctional.


Q: Will he San Jose Sharks escape the first round?

A: Maybe, I can’t see the Kings falling to San Jose, however if Vancouver holds on to the 3rds seed in the west, I think they have a better shot.



Q: Which two current division leaders are the most vulnerable to a first round upset?

A: Easily Vancouver and Washington. The Canucks haven’t had an identity since the end of the Stanley Cup finals and you can’t win if you don’t know who you are. Adam Oates hasn’t fully crafted his vision of the Washington Capitals team, and their goaltending has been so-so.


Q: What team entering the playoffs in the bottom half of the bracket is most dangerous?

A: The Senators. This isn’t even close, both St Louis and Minnesota can bloody someones nose, but Senators are used to punching out of their weight class and simply can’t be intimidated. On top of the Senators are playing in the toughest division in the NHL this season.


Q: Which General Manager’s off season moves likely saved their job?

A: Chuck Fletcher, his Wild were in a bad, bad place for several years, and while trades for Heatley, Coyle, and others in the past two season were good, signing both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise slotted so many players into the right slot for their capabilities.


Q: Which general manager did a better job selling off assets, Darcy Regier or Jay Feaster?

A: Darcy Regier, handily. He may not be able to build a winning team, but he easily got more for Jason Pominville than Feaster got for Iginla and Bouwmeester combined.


Q: Who is the most intriguing goaltender going into the off season and free agency?

A: Mike Smith. At 31 he’s shown what he’s capable of, and a look at his numbers shows he plays his best when he plays the most, he might get a really good offer this of season. He might not get $5-6 million, but don’t be surprised when he pulls down $3.5million or more.


Q: Are the Devils better off making the playoffs or tanking the rest of the season?

A: Financially and short term they should push for the post season. For hockey long term, especially as the post-Brodeur era approaches the better picks the Devil’s can make, the better the team will be over the next five to seven years


Q: Who’s your MVP shortlist?

A: Nazim Kadri for being the fulcrum that is pushing the Toronto Maple Leafs into the playoffs for the first time in a long time.  Ryan Suter for very quietly pushing the Wild into the playoffs for the first time in a long time while breaking in a talented rookie partner. Sergei Bobrovsky for making redemption real in his second NHL stop.


Q: Will the buyout talks around Ilya Bryzgalov stop before July 1?

A: Probably not. There are three ways I see them ending; 1) Bryzgalov announces his retirement. 2: Bryzgalov goes on an incredible run to end the season. 3: Flyers ownership or upper management comes and definitively states one way or the other if they will buy him out.


Q: Who is your pick for the Jack Adams Award?

A: No brainer: Paul MacLean. Not only has he lost high end players and Erik Karlsson to frequent injuries, he’s managed to stay firmly in playoff position throughout. It’d be a fist class disgrace if anyone else goes home with it.


Q: What will you think of any team that drafts first and fails to select Seth Jones?

A: Unless he shows up at the draft weighing two hundred and sixty pounds with a crackpipe in his mouth, and an underage hooker on his arm there’s just no reason to pass on him, and the team needs to fire the entire front office.


Q: Which team should be blown up this off season, the San Jose Sharks or the Detroit Red Wings?

A: Both, the teams are both old and mediocre, but some of the parts are valuable to teams trying to build a contender into a champion.


Q: What’s the most exciting thing to watch from now until the playoffs start?

A: Other than who makes it into the 7 and 8th slot in each conference, the race for the Norris will be won and lost in the next two and a half weeks.


Q: Ok, why is the Norris race so fascinating?

A: Because there’s no clearcut winner this year. Chara is the only name getting any attention who has won before, Karlsson and Letang both had their hopes dive like, well like they do, when they were injured. Suter, Ekman-Larsson, Subban, Beauchemin and anyone else you can name this year aren’t well known across the league, and for Subban his reputation might work against him, and Suter is laboring under the reputation the Wild have for being a trap team.


Q: If you were starting a franchise tomorrow, what NHL player under 25 would you want to build your team around?

A: Tossup. P.K. Subban makes the short list, but is edged out by Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo. Doughty has the Cup winning chops, but he’s also played on the better built teams his whole career. Both play a pretty complete game with Doughty being better known for his offense, but I think Peitrangelo is probably better defensively.


Q: Who are the five players every NHL fan should get to know better?

A: Alex Pietrangelo, see above. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tomas Plekanec, Mikko Koivu, and Justin Faulk.


Q: Who should the finalists in each conference be?

A: Anaheim, Chicago, Boston, Montreal are the most complete and balanced teams in the league. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the goaltending to make it, and Minnessota lacks the playoff experience to run that deep.


Q: What two North American cities would you add NHL teams to?

A: If we’re picking US cities, I think the NorthWest either Seattle or Portland make sense, Kansas City and Houston also have their virtues. For Canadian cities, Quebec City and somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area make sense, but Saskatoon has pushed for a team, and if they can get enough corporate support and good ownership that could work. Also, there hasn’t been an NHL team in Calgary in years.


Q: If you could take over as head of hockey operations any team that won’t make the playoffs this year, what would it be?

A: Good question, the Flyers are obviously deep enough in cash that I’d be able to spend, and the fans are energetic. Buffalo could really work well if Pegula commits to a full reset, and Edmonton is highly fixable with the right leadership. And San Jose’s ownership is at least patient and loyal to their players. Ideally I could have be pretty sure of low ownership interference, Buffalo or Edmonton, I think the problems run too deep in some other cities that aren’t named here.

The Buffalo Sabre’s declared themselves sellers. Not trading for change, sellers. Today Darcy Regier might have moved a couple pens across his desk, but players? Not so much. Moving Jason Pominville is a start, and they got solidly rated prospects back, but this is a sellers market.  This is a team that should be blown up, they have talent to get pieces that fit together, they have an owner committed to winning, and they have a fan base who is getting really, really sick of losing.

The Calgary Flames certainly shipped out a lot of talent, but there wasn’t so much an earth shattering kaboom as a muddy plop, or at least a sound involving fluid and darkly hued stuff. The return on Bouwmeester and Iginla doesn’t appear to be worth the cost of the trade call to NHL HQ.

The Florida Panthers are excused, nearly everyone who was or should have been on their NHL roster opening night, is injured. They could still have shipped out a few people.

The Washington Capitals, did nothing. The team is certainly playing better now than at the beginning of the season, but that said they are still an incredibly mediocre team on the ice. Sure on paper with Ovechkin, Carlson, Backstrom, Alzner, as part of the long term core, the rest of the team is of a lot less value, and not built to win. For some reason, today they chose to add an aging Erat with two years left on his contract, and a guy who racks up penalties, for top prospect Forsberg.

The Colorado Avalanche are just pathetic. The team isn’t good at much.  They’re 26th in goals for, 28th in goals against, 23rd on the powerplay, 22nd on the penalty kill. There is no reason to hold on to anyone, for any reason if the price is solid. If someone offers a big enough return, even Gabriel Landeskog could and should be moved. Only eight players are in double digits in points, and the drop off between the second highest scorer Matt Duchene, and the third Paul Stastny is 14 points.  When you have Matt Hunwick lead your team in time on ice per game, you’re doing not a little wrong.

The Philadelphia Flyers had so many injuries it is tough to say what the could have done, but they deserve a public shaming for trading for Steve Mason.

With the addition of future first ballot hall of fame inducted Jaromir Jagr, the Bruins field Marshall Julien has some thinking to do. He can slide Jagr into a line, but with the roster 100% intact it means someone is going to be demoted to a lower line and or removed from the ice.

Here’s a couple looks at what the lines could be L-C-R depending on how things shake out.




















Of course whatever lines are decided with Chris Kelly expected back, things are only going to get messy again. Peverley and Seguin may have more speed than Kelly, but neither is as good at faceoffs, and Kelly is more than sound defensively. Depending on the opponent, and who is in the lineup and healthy on defense, I can see the Merlot line getting spelled out for a mix of Pandolfo, Caron, Daugavins, and various AHL call ups.

Jaromir Jagr and his still impressive hair and high speed release fly into Boston just a day after the Bruins engage in the sixth annual Cuts For a Cause (coincidence?) and on a day that might make him miss the Texas warmth. Jagr is a quirky, (we can call him that because he produces), driven, experienced, skilled as hell player who will be among the three or four most driven players on a team that includes the ever consistent, possibly soon to be two time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron, and the under awarded Zdeno Chara who had to be locked out of the gym when he younger. Jagr departs the Stars the season’s leading scorer. But, for the sake of perspective it needs to be remembered he is 41. He’s missed time with a groin strain this year, the same injury that plagued him last season. On top of his 33 games with the Star’s this season, he played 34 in Europe and had to deal with the compressed NHL schedule and the western conference travel.

The Dallas Stars, per Bob McKenzie will receive;

Lane MacDermid is a solid and very reliable bottom six forward who has killed penalties and can provide the sort of physicality that left with Krys Barch.

Cody Payne is a lanky, Floridian picked in the fifth round by the Bruins last year who has an explosive upturn in production in the OHL this year for the Plymouth Whalers, and gotten a taste of the playoffs.

With two guys over 200lbs being added to the mix, and both of them solid skaters, the Stars future looks a bit black and blue, at least for their opponents.