The New York Rangers have to get better performances out of some of their key players if they are going to even make a series of it much less win. Lots of players haven’t shown up. Lots of players have failed to execute, but there are three players who are crucial to the success of the team who haven’t executed at the level they should.
Will the real Dan Girardi please show up? Game two against the Boston Bruins as possibly the worst game of his playoff career, in game two. Yes he picked up an assist in game two, but that isn’t why Girardi is in the NHL. Dan Girardi, the draft leftover is the best damn shutdown defenseman no one talks about. He needs to revert to his normal excellence or he’s going to be golfing with the rest of the team in less tan a week.
He was the leading scorer in on the Rangers in the regular season, and yet in his last five games he’s put up just one point. In that his last three games he’s had faceoff percentages over 50% just once, with the other two being 25.32% and 30%. There isn’t much more to say about Stepan, he proved he can be their best player for almost 50 games in the regular season, and in the last five he’s been invisible.
Henrik Lundqvist has been shaky at best and Marc-Andre Fleury like the rest. Yes some of the goals he’s let in there were screens, but at least four of the eight goals he’s allowed this series have been soft. Even when he’s making saves, he’s bobbling pucks. This isn’t the King Henrik that Rangers fans, and NHL observers are used to seeing. He doesn’t look confident. He may not be healthy in the post season (again), if he isn’t that’s partly his fault, and partly the Torts for playing him too much in the regular season (again). What ever it is right now he needs to help his team find a way to win four of the next five games.
Welcome to the Second Season, unlike most years, the second season for the best teams will run nearly half the length of the regular season.
#1 vs. #8
The Pittsburgh Penguins marched determinedly through the regular season, attempting to keep pace with the western powers. Malkin, Crosby, Letang and other key players all missed games due to injury. Crosby is out least for game one, and Jarome Iginla will be playing in the post season for the first time in almost half a decade.
The Islanders haven’t seen the post season in so long you have to wonder how many members of the staff at Nassau had vaction plans this week and next. Sixteen players will be making their playoff debut, including nearly all of their key forwards, and several of their battered blueliners. From the blueline, only three gentlemen appeared in all 48 games this season; Mark Streit age 35, Andrew MacDonald, and 22 year old Travis Hamonic who’s in his third season for the Islanders.
Players to watch:
With Crosby out, the cameras may actually grace other Penguins, Neal is a human highlight reel, Brandon Sutter is finally making himself comfortable in the NHL, and Chris Kunitz quietly led the team in goals in the regular season.
For the Islanders if you aren’t already a member of the United Temple of Taveres; get familiar. The 2009 #1 overall has outpaced his class across the board, he’s got 20 more goals than the second place goal scorer from his class, and almost three times as many as 4th place. On the backend Vishnovsky and Streit are more than capable of being momemtum changers in any zone.
The Penguins should win this series. But that depends on Marc Andre Fleury turning in a useful playoff performence. In the last three years his sv% has been awful, despite reasonable regular season numbers, .834, .899, .891 are useful but only for making sure your team gets plenty of sun. The Islanders have a chance if Nabokov can out duel The Flower.
#2 vs. #7
The Montreal Canadiens had a wretched season last year, and reaped the draft rewards, American rookie Alex Galchenyuk made an instant impact, Vancouver Giants alumni Brendan Gallagher did as well. They’ve had a small downturn since Alexi Emelin injured himself, but they still held on to win the last Northeast division title.
The Ottawa Senators are probably glad they don’t have to make room on the plane for medical records. Overcoming injuries have defined this team this season. Jason Spezza is still out, Erik Karlsson is just back, and the list of who didn’t play all or most games is much longer than the list of those who did.
Players to watch:
P.K. Subban is the most electrifying player in this series, and possibly on all of the Canadian teams, Lars Eller has shown a willingness to get his nose dirty, and Michael Ryder still has one of the fastest releases in the NHL.
For the Senators, Alfredsson isn’t a player you should ever take your eyes off of, Kyle Turris led the team in goals and points, and Gonchar is still a consistent threat.
Offensively the difference between these teams is night and day, the Canadiens had the fifth best offense in the regular season, and the Senators the fourth worst. On the other hand the Senators finished second in goals against, while the Canadiens were a pedestrian 14th. Craig Anderson has better post season numbers, and should be able to snatch a game or two, but the Habs should win it.
#3 vs. #6
When it comes to winning the Southeast Division, the Washington Capitals have had that locked down for most of its existance, it seems only fitting they should finish its last season on top. Unfortunately, that’s all they seem to be able to win. Maybe this year with a rejuvinated Ovechkin, a mature Carlson and Alzner, and most miraculously a healthy Green they can turn in a good performence.
Last year the New York Rangers went to the Eastern Conference finals, and but for the skill of Adam Henrique, might have gone further. Some might consider it a problem when their 12th best paid forward leads the team in scoring, especially when that player makes roughly 10% of their highest paid forward, for the Rangers, that’s just the way things are.
Players to watch:
The Caps bost a potent offense, and a bit more grit than they are given credit for, Troy Brouwer was second in goals this season, Chimera had a big season last year, and Backstrom has finally started to round back into All Star form.
While Stepan led the Rangers in scoring, Richards, Nash and Callahan have got to be due for an offensive explosion at some point, right?
#4 vs. #5
The Boston Bruins had a heap of distractions towards the end of the season with bombings, blizzards and forever long pregame ceremonies, which might excuse their poor play if it hadn’t been a season long occurance. The positives for the Bruins are that they are pretty healthy physically. The negative is that no one knows where their collective head is.
The Maple Leafs are making their return to the playoffs. Lots of this team hasn’t played in the playoffs at all, and some who have aren’t all that good in the second season. Lupul and Van Riemsdyk have the most playoff experience, Kessel is a point per game player in the playoffs, but he’ll have to get over his ineffectiveness against Chara and Boston in a hurry to keep that going.
Players to watch:
For the Bruins, everyone is waiting on Soderberg to make his impact felt, but he may well sit, watch Bergeron per usual, and see if Ference and Lucic can keep up their snarl.
The Maple Leafs have woefully underused Grabovski this season, and he might just be the key to winning this series, Kadri and Gunnarsson should also be in your crosshairs.
The Bruins played poorly down the stretch, but the Leafs are new as a team to the playoffs, and have a bug in their heads about the Bruins. Expect a lot of physical play and for the team that wants it more to win.
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.
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.
This season the Buffalo Sabres were expected by many to challenge for the very last Northeast Division title. The Boston Bruins were expected by most to fight like hell to win the division again. So far the Sabres have fired a head coach, declared open season on their roster, and wallowed around the bottom of the division and conference. The Bruins have missed out on acquiring future hall of fame inductee Jarome Iginla, traded away a world class goaltender the front office alienated, and had the decided displeasure of a rear view on the Montreal Canadien’s for much of the season.
You can seriously injury yourself, destroy property, or even die even if your participation in this drinking game is nothing more than water. If you should happen to do something incredibly idiotic and entertaining during this drinking game that makes it to Youtube, TextsFromLastNight or other fun sites; do send a link. It won’t make your life better, but I’ll get a laugh too. No one is responsible for the stupid you commit but you. Enjoy!
Take 1 Drink Whenever:
Lindy Ruff is mentioned
Jordan Leopold or other former members of the Sabres are mentioned.
The word “lethargic” is applied to either team.
The size of Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers, Nathan Gerbe, or Tyler Ennis is mentioned.
Take 2 Drinks Whenever:
Sidney Crosby is mentioned.
Jarome Iginla is mentioned.
An announcer uses “shakeup” in discussing either teams problems.
The Lucic/Miller collision is mentioned.
Someone says they don’t like an officials call.
Take 3 Drinks Whenever:
Someone mentions players needing to wear visors or full cages.
Ryan Clowe is mentioned on tv, twitter or radio in connection with the Bruins.
Someone says “fire sale”, “wholesale changes”, or “rebuild” about the Sabres.
John Scott skates more than 2:25 seconds in a period.
Take 4 Drinks Whenever:
Game of Thrones is mentioned or alluded to.
Someone makes a trade deadline prediction.
Peter Chiarelli or Darcy Regier are mentioned or shown on tv.
There is a mention of any teams scouts.
Whenever Mike Milbury makes the least sense in an intermission.
Whenever Doc goes more than four minutes of game play without using; knife, stab, or pitchfork.
If Patrick Kaleta, Andrew Ference, John Scott or Shawn Thornton score a goal.
Skip a drink;
You start to have faith the Sabres will make the playoffs.
You think the Bruins will fall out of the playoffs.
With the deadline looming, and about a bakers dozen games left for many team, it is time to take a look at what we know about all the teams in the NHL.
Pittsburgh: We know Ray Shero likes to make deadline trades, we know health is sorta returning for this team. We also know that with a current cumulative cap hit higher than next years cap, and Morrow’s decline and questionable health that this is likely a one shot deal for the guys currently in uniform.
Montreal: It’s kinda hard to figure out why more people aren’t excited about his team. They are fifth in goals for, ninth in goals against, there only real bad component is their penalty kill. While we’re at it, Tomas Plekanec deserves way more attention than he gets, if he could drag the penalty kill into respectability, or even just score a shorthanded goal or two he’d be on my Selke shortlist.
Winnipeg; We know this team needs desperately to buy quality defense at the deadline. Adding offense wouldn’t hurt at all, but the backend needs to come first they are one of just two top eight teams in the east to allow triple digit goals already.
Boston: This team needs an attitude adjustment. They do not have the raw focus or hunger they did in their Cup winning year, what body they add isn’t the solution, the size of the fight in that dog is.
Ottawa; Clearly this is a team made up of undercover superheros, or at least the guys left on the ice. They might not go to far this year, but oh man this team has some good young talent and might even lead the conference if they were healthy. A cheap rental forward who can add to the scoring would be nice, but this team could easily produce an upset or two.
Toronto: The fact that no real changes have been made to this team since Brian Burke was fired, and it has just about locked up a playoff spot means he shouldn’t have too much trouble landing his next GM job, and probably trading for Kadri, Gardiner, and Grabovski or pennies on the dollar.
New Jersey: The Devils have spent all season proving last season wasn’t a fluke. How they’ve done this is anyones guess. They are winning right now even without Kovalchuk, It would not surprise me if they became sellers at the deadline, but in a very limited sense.
New York Rangers: We know this is either the Eastern Conference’s best bad team or worst good team. We know time is running out on the current off ice leadership for this team. We know in order to get this level of under-performance elsewhere in sports you’d have to threaten professional cycling with accurate testing and jail time for violators. We know that if the Islanders and Devils make the playoffs and the Rangers don’t the angst in Blue Shirt nation will be legendary
New York Islanders: We know John Tavares should be getting way more attention than he does, he is after all over a point per game, second in goals, and seventh in points. If the Islanders make the playoffs, he has to be on the Hart shortlist. We know that Brad Boyes would be a frickin’ idiot to sign anywhere else next season given that he has more points in 34 games this season, than in 65 last year.
Carolina: With several games in hand their current 10th place position is deceiving, we know however they need to win those games. We know that Cam Ward isn’t nearly as irreplaceable as the faithful would have you believe. We know that Jeff Skinner (signed to a big endorsement deal by Dewey, Slewfoot and Diver) will probably not like the attention he receives night after night from top defenses.
Washington: We know that Adam Oates deserves a boatload of capital for turning the ship around on the fly without the benefit of a training camp, stable goaltending, or a team with any confidence in itself. He’s also got Ovechkin back to a point per game by using that weird thing called logic and letting him play more minutes. We also know that this team still isn’t built right and that problem still resides at a higher level than Oates.
Tampa Bay: We know that Yzerman is just as good at constructing a defense as he was at fighting.
We know he needs to fix that if he’s going to make it to his fourth year as general manager. He’s clearly good at identifying offensive talent, so swapping some of the current stable to rebuilding or needy teams for a veteran defenseman or two shouldn’t be completely impossible.
Buffalo: We know Terry Pegula can’t be pleased with the state of his hockey team. We know that with next years realignment no one with an ounce of hockey sense would pencil this team into next years standings about sixth place without major changes. We know if they blow up the team right they could have a pretty good chance at drafty both Seth Jones and Connor Mcdavid.
Philadelphia: We know the keep defenseman healthy the same way The Real World finds the mentally unbalanced to film every season. We know that no to long ago the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals, and have regressed further and further every year. WE know this is another team that’s due for some administrative housekeeping even if the health problems make things look worse than they are.
Florida: We know that last year despite an absurd amount of injuries the team went toe to toe with the eventual Eastern Conference champions. We know that this year, another absurd amount of injuries and dramatically poorer goaltending from the guys not named Markstrom have lead not to the Southeast division title but once again to the eastern conference basement. We know they have a couple more solid prospects in the pipeline. We know there is tons and tons for Dale Tallon and company to do.
If there’s anything more prone to producing hysteria and hysterical behavior in the hockey universe than the humongous big trade deadline, I’ve never seen it. This is the time of year when my follow list and the blogs I read have the most turnover. Why?
Well, you get things like this:
Just thinking out loud, the Kings trade Bernier+ for Iginla. Turn around and then trade Kiprusoff to the Leafs for Joe Colborne+? #NHL
That get taken seriously, grow legs, and inspire flame wars and silly amounts of swagger.
That’s the part most people hate.
For me, it is amusing. But, the really fun part is finding out what people know about the systems of various teams, and of course what general managers think of various players and prospects in their systems.
Or his Boston counter part Peter Chiarelli on a 19 year old prospect:
I’m not trading Malcolm Subban
Which when you consider how rarely Chiarelli, a former lawyer, makes definitive statements, this is a landmark statement. If he does go ahead and trade Subban, players who are told “we won’t trade you” but we can’t give you a NTC are going to have their entire world into question, but that’s not the point of this post. We now know for sure, that Subban looms large in Bruins plans, and arguably is the top prospect in the minds of the Bruins front office. Lombardi has effectively said the same thing.
The Duluth Bulldog’s loss is the Boston Bruins gain. Chris Casto a solidly built, right shooting, stay at home defenseman. Casto has completed two years at Duluth in addition to a year playing in the USHL for the Lincoln Stars. For his year in Lincoln he was in the top third of the team’s point race, 3rd in +/-. The undrafted Minnesotan spent two years at the Bruins development camp learning along side Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, Tommy Cross, Malcolm Subban and other top prospects.
I lean towards his starting in Providence, with a chance at a one or two game stint similar to Torey Krug’s last season in the NHL. When you add in the mystery recall of Adam Morrison (also a free agent, also a development camper) it looks more and more like the Bruins will be making a move at the deadline, but don’t be surprised if the Bulldog turned Bruin is around for years to come.