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

Teams:

  • that the Vegas Golden Knights would lead their division with games in hand after Thanksgiving…
  • the Detroit Red Wings would hold a playoff spot and the Montreal Canadien’s who won the division last year would not…
  • at the quarter pole the best record in the NHL would belong to a healthy Tampa Bay Lightning would lead the NHL in points, wins, home wins, and goal differential…
  • the Pittsburgh Penguins would have the fifth lowest goals per game in the NHL..
  • the New York Islander’s would have the 2nd highest goals for per game and be barely 8th in the overall NHL standings after all their off season forward turnover.
  • the Saint Louis Blues would have lost the third most man games to injury and still be the best team in the west after Thanksgiving
  • after going to the second round in the spring the Edmonton Oilers would be back to their seemingly traditional position in the bottom five in the NHL.

Players:

  • the goalie controversy in Boston wouldn’t be who was going to be backing up Tuukka Rask this year, but when he would be allowed to take the net again
  • we would have two players over 1.5 goals per game (Steven Stamkos & Nikita Kucherov) who are not named Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, or even McDavid.
  • none of the last five Norris Trophy awardees (Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Duncan Keith, P.K. Subban) would be in the top 3 in scoring among defensemen.
  • that Mike Green who has only passed the 40 point mark once since the 2009-10  season would be among the top 10 defensemen in scoring.
  • the NHL’s highest scoring rookie would be Brock Boeser of Vancouver Canucks and he’d have a line of 11-10-21 through 19 games with three game winning goals
  • at the quarter point of the season 553 players would have scored at least one goal versus 774 total last year to do the same

This years playoffs have so many interesting matchups it is going to be hard to call a best series even if you see every minute of ever game.

The Chicago Blackhawks vs the Nashville Predators

This is the western conference’s David versus Goliath matchup. While the Blackhawks aren’t quite as formidable as they were when Kane, Toews, Seabrook, and Keith first hoisted the Cup, they are still one of the strongest, best balanced teams in the NHL. If the Predators do win this matchup it will be because the team refused to be intimidated, and everyone grabbed the rope and leaned. The Preds do have the players to be dangerous, Subban, Ellis, Arvidsson, and Forsberg are more than a handful themselves.

Biggest Strength

  • Blackhawks: Explosiveness
  • Predators: Special teams

Biggest Weakness

  • Blackhawks: Special teams
  • Predators: Discipline

Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins

This is a first. The Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins have never met in the playoffs. The Sens have been in the NHL 26 years, and they and the Bruins have never gone eye to eye. The Senators ran the tables on the Bruins in the regular season. Both teams will enter the second season with banged up bluelines. Both coaches are relatively new to their posts. Each team has some very gifted players. Marchand, Bergeron, and Chara will need to shoulder the load for the Bruins to have a hope. Karlsson, O’Reilly, and Anderson can just be themselves so long as the rest of the squad shows up. This could be the best series to watch from an “x’s” and “o’s” point of view. This matchup probably has the highest regular season PIM total.

Biggest Strengths:

  • Senators: The ability to triple the gravity in the neutral zone
  • Bruin: Team defense and penalty kill

Biggest Weakness

  • Senators: Special teams
  • Bruins: Wildly inconsistent goaltending

 

Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Everything versus nothing. That is this series in three words. The Toronto Maple Leafs are at least two years ahead of projections. The Washington Capitals should have had at least one Cup in the last five years. Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen are all years from being able to drink (legally) in the US. Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, and Nicklas Backstrom are all well into their second half of a decade or more chasing the last win of the season and not even coming close.

Biggest Strengths

  • Caps:  Total package
  • Leafs: Special teams

Biggest Weakness

  • Caps: Mental composure
  • Leafs: Defense

 

Predictions:

Boom or bust players are the players who’s performance have the ability to tilt the series.

Hawks vs Preds

For the Predators to win they need to stay out of the box they were penalized almost 50% more than the Blackhawks, for Chicago its pretty much a case of stay calm and be the Blackhawks. – Chicago in 6

Boom or Bust player of the series: Ryan Johansen

Caps vs Leafs

The Caps have more playoff experience, at least as good a coach, better performance at almost every measure. – Caps in 5

Boom or Bust player of the series: Alex Ovechkin

Ducks vs Flames

Goaltending wins championships, and the difference between Gibson’s season and either Johnson or Elliot is noticeable, but the Flames are not going to go down easy. – Ducks in 7

Boom or Bust player of the series. – Johnny Gaudreau

Penguins vs Jackets

Repeating is tough, if I were ever going to pick a team to do it, this might just be it. Jackets in 6

Boom or Bus player of the series. – Cam Atkinson

Oilers vs Sharks

This Oilers team is pretty compelling. How the defense of the Sharks is matched with McDavid and company will decide the series. – Oilers in 7

Boom or Bust player of the series. Milan Lucic

Wild vs Blues

This series is not as even as some people would have you believe. Wild in 5

Boom or Bust player of the series. Alex Peitrangelo

Habs vs Rangers

These teams have recent history, but one team is on the rise, and one of them has crested. Canadiens in 6

Boom or Bust player of the series. Derek Stepan

Sens vs Bs

This series will come down to how consistently the coaches can impose their will on their team and get them to execute the system. Sens in 6

 

Some quick impressions on free agency so far:

  1. Major, obvious mistakes don’t seem to be as common as three or four years ago.
  2. Even though the Coyotes got Goligoski, I expected their aggressive young general manager to do more today.
  3. Did anyone tell Columbus what day it was?
  4. Marc Bergevin seems dead set on proving that the most important part of being the Canadiens General Manager is to speak French because I can’t see how his moves would match up with his stated opinions on players, attitude, and the rest.
  5. The Sharks made a shrewd move in picking up Mikkel Boedker that adds much needed fleetness of foot and a guy who stands and delivers in the post season. Kudos!
  6. My instant winner for worst move for worst move of the day would have been Vanek getting two or more years of term, but the Red Wings short circuited that by getting him inked for one year.
  7. Familiarity breeds good deal? Lucic signed with his former general manager, Eriksson signed to play with his international linemates, Khudobin signed in a city he played in before, Campbell went home to Chicago and Radulov was reunited with Shea Weber in Montreal.
  8. If Connor McDavid really does end up playing with Milan Lucic he should enjoy the hell out of it, Marc Savard enjoyed the hell out of it, David Kreci road him to a Stanley Cup, and playing with a living breathing bulldozer with a 30 goal, Stanley cup pedigree can’t hurt his career at all.
  9. While there have been some really interesting trades lately, and the UFA class had a good number of middle tier players, the RFA class this year is probably where the value is.
  10. Kyle Okposo has traded playing second fiddle to John Tavares to doing the same for Jack Eichel. arguably he falls behind Evander Kane, and Ryan O’Reily too. I’m not convinced he went to a better team now or in three years.
  11. The Oilers are clearly happy to spend money, one wonders however if the current General Manager will be any more successful there than the last half dozen.
  12. Speaking of RFA’s, does anyone else have the sneaking suspicion Monahan and Gaudreau to end up playing with the gritty, big bodied Troy Brouwer?
  13. Unless he stopped answering his agent’s phone calls, Kris Versteeg may just have run out of places to sign.
  14. Yannick Weber signing in Nashville probably spawned a ton of snarky tweets, posts, and headlines… and I have declined to look for them.
  15. New Jersey Devils fans who got all tingly over the trade for Taylor Hall can return to hating their ownership and management as the sexiest signing of the day was Devante Smith-Pelly.
  16. Jonathan Marchessault is clearly a warm weather boy having traded his Bolt in for a Panther.
  17. The twitter poll says Jason Demers is the best available free agent, and he is arguably the best defenseman available, I’m not sure he gets to the $6m plateau he is rumored to want.
  18. I don’t think I understand the goaltending choices made today. Zatkoff was a good get for the Kings, and another familiar face in a familiar place, but Montoya signed while Enroth waits? And Reimer going to play the role of Schnieder in the two goalie mess the Panther’s crease has become as Luongo reprises his waning years in Vancouver. What gives?
  19. Jimmy Vesey is likely to be the bludgeon teams use to negotiate deals with young RFA’s for the next six weeks, but he might just be best off signing in Nashville after all.

The Atlantic Division is probably the easiest of the four divisions to break down. The three teams that highlighted the division last year are all back with little to no change. The rest of the teams are not greatly changed either. If you missed the other previews just click the division name Metropolitan Central Pacific.

Top Shelf

Tampa Bay Lightning

This team is legitimate. Victor Hedman has emerged as a top level defenseman and the rest of the defensive group is solid. Ben Bishop is a high end goaltender. Up front is Steven Stamkos, the other forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and more proved themselves formidable last year as well. The addition of Stralman to the roster just makes the team even better. When the playoffs start this season don’t be surprised when this team is in the top three, don’t even be surprised if they are at the top of the division.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs put up a hell of a fight last spring even after Carey Price went down. Since then they brought in P.A. Parenteau and removed some older, slower players. The blueline is likely to be younger than last year as well. Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi are with the organization, Douglas Murray and Francis Bullion are not currently signed by the Canadiens (or anyone else). You can still ask “who’s going to score”, but recent history has shown that it mostly doesn’t matter if Price is playing well.

Boston Bruins

They lost future hall of fame inductee Jarome Iginla and at this point most of the team is waiting for the trade ax to fall. Even with the losses of emotional catalyst Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla the team isn’t a lot worse off than it was last year. The biggest question mark on for this team hovers over the real health durability, and game readiness of Seidenberg, Eriksson, Kelly, and McQuaid. Eriksson started to look better as the reason wound down, but the other three are still complete unknowns.

Wild Cards

Detroit Red Wings

In order for this team to be in the playoffs they have to get consistent star level contributions from players like Tatar, Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and more as their top level players just don’t cut it anymore. Datsyuk has already suffered an injury, Zetterberg is always just one more hit (or maybe a stack of #Pennercakes ) from a month of rehab. While I honestly expect the team to be on the outside looking in when the season ends, the brain trust in Detroit keeps surprising me.

Toronto Maple Leafs

This team should not be as bad as they were last year. I don’t think they can win the division, but in addition to a healthy David Clarkson (we hope), they made smart additions with Mike Santorelli and Roman Polack. Also of note is the return of Leo Komorov. If all are playing near peak, those four players alone are nearly enough to get the squad back into the playoffs even without David Booth who to no ones surprise is again injured. It is pretty likely that if this team isn’t in playoff position around the trade deadline they are not going to look very similar next fall.

The Rest

Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators can hope for better health this season, it was a factor in last seasons finish.  With the departure of Jason Spezza, they have lost raw talent. There is however an enormous amount of room for young players to prove themselves. Mika Zibanejad, Eric Gryba, Codi Ceci, Alex Chaisson and the rest can finally go out on the ice a prove to the world where they truly stand in the NHL and hockey world. There isn’t much ahead of them on the depth chart, and who knows if they, Jared Cowen and the rest all have healthy productive seasons they might just get to bonus hockey. If you see that happening, I’d advise you not to bet the rent money, or even the tip on a mocha latte.

The Buffalo Sabres

When your first line center is horse raise between Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, and Cody Hodgson, that tells you about where your season is headed. When fans show up to a USA hockey event with McDavid Sabres jerseys, its a sign fans know it too. Unquestionably the best unit of this team is the defense. Tyler Myers is the best known member of the group, but Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros have been through the wars and know their way around the NHL, Jake McCabe has an excellent amateur pedigree and I expect him to develop well. Last year they have 21 wins, I’d bet on them being within no more than six either way of that this year.

The Florida Panthers

The Cats might just surprise people a time or two this season. Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, and Jonathan Huberdeau have all had a tour of duty in the NHL, and won’t be wide eyed rookies this year. Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland will help thicken up the top six, and Derek McKenzie and Shawn Thornton will play important bottom six minutes. Roberto Luongo on the backend makes a big difference in net. Don’t expect them to win the division (or even more than they lose) but expecting them in the NHL’s bottom five in April might not be realistic.

Joe Sakic is on the record as having said the Avalanche will not take defenseman Seth Jones, who grew up an Avalanche fan with the number one pick. Instead a team with multiple top five picks at forward will take another forward at the first pick.

10.3: The Avalanche have decided to use the Edmonton Oilers as their model for rebuilding a franchise.

9.3: As Sakic can tell you from personal experience the game is played today exactly the way it was in 1995 and having top flight mobile, two way defenseman has never won anyone a championship.

8.3: A secret cabal of owners led by the shadowy and diabolical Jeremy Jacobs have intimidated the Kroenke brothers into keeping the Avalanche a bubble team forever.

7.3: Sakic bets they will easily be able to successfully sign all of Calgary’s RFA defenseman to offer sheets.

6.3: Seth Jones didn’t have the good sense to be born a Canadian so they don’t want him.

5.3: Smooth skating, big bodied, right shooting defensemen have almost no value in the NHL.

4.3: Jones won’t be old enough to go to Vegas with the boys for a couple years and there is no sense in disrupting a locker room that produces so well on the ice.

3.3: Matt Hunwick has threatened to sit out if his status as time on ice leader for the team is threatened.

 

time on ice stats for the 2012-13 Avalanche defense

2012-13 TOI stats

3: Patrick Roy only agreed to coach the team if they drafted exclusively from the QMJHL.

2: The UFA market featuring franchise cornerstones like Mathieu Roy, Cam Barker, and Jordie Benn will more than suffice to push them into the Stanley Cup Finals next season.

1: The plan with a little luck and no improvements on defense this year is to be able to draft Connor McDavid first in 2015.