Via Renaud Lavoie Jarome Iginla will or would waive his no movement clause for the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Chicago Blackhawks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. A quick look at the offenses of the teams has Pittsburgh at the top of the NHL, the Blackhawks a close second, while the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins are treading water in 12th and 13th place in goals per game.  Chicago is ranked as having the deepest prospect pool by Hockey’s Future, while the Flames system is weak overall on depth, particularly at right wing.

Another coach firing on a teach with an ECHL roster lightly-speckled with NHL talent. When the Tampa Bay Lightning went to the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago, two things got them there, one was Dwayne Roloson, the other was Guy Boucher. Both of them are gone, and both were highly under rated for the jobs they did. If a dispersal draft were done on Lightning today, its an open question how many of their players would be picked and retained both other teams. It 31 games into the season and they have just one player to score more than 10 goals, and that player also has the second worst +/- on the team. Career backup Garon has the teams best sv%, depth center Nate Thompson is arguably the best defensive player on the whole roster, and none of the decisions that got them onto the clubs payroll happen at the coaches level. Guy Boucher goes out the door, in another time and place Steve Yzerman would be tossed out a window.

The CHL playoffs are under way and Fang Faction has taken a look a Predators prospects in the playoffs.

David Krejci is drawing heat is the Boston Bruins continue to tread water in fourth place in the east.

The North American Hockey League is producing some Division One NCAA, the Brookings Blizzard announced there’s Aidan Cavallini and you can get the rest of the leagues commitments right here.

And as we roll closer and closer to that most wonderful day of the year Draft day, a look at the US National Development Team is looking toward its own future of smiling eyes and wide smiles.

Some teams you just can’t tell how the moves will work out. In some cases it is because the player is inexperienced, or going from a really good team to a bottom feeder and the adjust might period might be rocky. In some cases it is a question of the player fitting the system. In still others the chemistry of players left behind can be damaged.

The Vancouver Canucks took a big, big gamble on deadline day. Not only did they give up skill and experience. Zach Kassians physicality is a huge element to add to the team. Marc Andre Grangnani is also a skilled defenseman I’m pretty high on. But Cody Hodgson is not just skilled, he’s canny. He’s displayed the ability to be a game changer. Alexander Sultzer is a more defensive minded defenseman than Gragnani as well. The relative skill difference doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the age and attitude differences. Sultzer is 27 and broke into the NHL in 2008-9, Kassian just turned 21, and Gragnani is 24. While Sultzer didn’t play a huge role for the Canucks, I’m curious as to how the Sedins, Salo, Bieksa and the other older players are going to deal with being told, implicitly or explicitly, that they need to take their emotional cues from guys that young who have never even seen a conference final in Gragnani’s case or a single NHL playoff game in Kassian’s.

Even more you have to wonder if, should the team make it that far, if Kassian will have enough skill to be impacting on the ice or if he’ll just be setting things up for other players to take lumps for him. We saw last year in their series against the Bruins and in the earlier rounds that the bulk of this roster is not able to play ferociously and focused at the same time. I’m not sure Bitz and Kassian can impart that trick to the rest of the roster and shaking up a teams identity is rarely a good thing unless it is changed entirely from the top down.

The Winnipeg Jets didn’t do much. This is probably for the best given some of the prices we saw and that were reported. They did pick up defensemen Grant Clitsome (@GClitsome) off waivers and then shipped out Johnny Oduya to Chicago for two draft picks. They are still a bubble team and entered Monday’s play in 8th place, but given how desperate Claude Noel was for offensive help, its curious that there wasn’t even a token trade. A team that’s been as erratic as this one has could have used the vote of confidence implied by bringing in a little help, as it is they essentially stood still. This might rally the dressing room or deflate it.

The Boston Bruins gambled and gambled big. Their biggest question marks are offensive production and forward depth. Adding Greg Zanon, Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau does little to address that. With Rich Peverley out with a knee injury, Nathan Horton not even skating yet with his second concussion in a year, and now Boychuk out they added no one who has displayed an offensive gift of late. Mike Mattau hasn’t scored a regular season NHL goal since March 13th 2010. Since breaking into the NHL Greg Zanon has never had more than four goals in his seven seasons of NHL play. Brian Rolston is not the player some Bruins fans remember, not only has his shooting percentage dropped every year since 2004, he only hasn’t broken 40 points since the 07-08.

Tampa Bay Lightning had an interesting two or three weeks heading up to the deadline.  Steve Downie was packed off, as was Dominic Moore, Aulie, Lee, a second round pick and a 1st round pick were the major fruits of the trades. Neither Aulie nor Lee have managed to be impacting players to date in their careers. The two picks are from teams who will almost certainly be in the playoffs meaning they first can’t be any higher than 17th and the 2nd will at best be 47th. Given the deficiencies of the defense and goaltending this season that seems an odd way to address them even if you lay the blame at the feet of injuries to key players and father time catching up with Roloson.

The Minnesota Wild rolled the dice by trying to add by substitution. Bringing in Steve Kampfer for Greg Zanon is a clear attempt to get younger and better offensively. Erik Christensen coming over from the New York Rangers earlier in the year was also a clear attempt to add offense. Gilbert for Shultz was again a swap up in offense. The problem with all of these trades is that the total goal difference is probably on the order of 7-8 goals a year. That is unlikely to be what separates a tenth place finish from a sixth or third place finish. If they had ten more goals to date this season it would move them from 29th in goals for to 27th, hardly inspiring. These may prove to be helpful moves, but you have to wonder how long even “The State of Hockey” will put up with a mediocre team that can’t score and doesn’t often stand up for itself.

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

Players:

  • that Evgani Malkin would lead the league in points while playing 7 games less than Stamkos who was second, and 8 less than Henrik Sedin
  • Patrice Bergeron would be out producing Joe Thornton, and neither would be an All Star
  • Ilya Kovalchuk would average 9 seconds less time on ice per game than Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty
  • Michael Del Zotto who spent half of last season in the AHL would have more PPTOI than Sidney Crosby’s total ice time
  • Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, Dwayne Roloson and Martin Broduer would all be 40th or lower on the save percentage leader board
  • Scott Hartnell who’s previous high for powerplay goals is 10 would be second in the NHL in them with 11 through 46 games
  • rookie Adam Henrique would lead the NHL in shorthanded goals
  • Brandon Sutter would have more shorthanded goals than Patrick Kane has powerplay goals

Teams/League:

  • The Northwest Division would have four teams with negative goal differentials but the division leader would be sixth in points
  • Chicago and Los Angeles would be the last two teams not to allow an empty net goal
  • Ottawa and Chicago would both be among the five most scored against five on five and both would be within two points of their division lead
  • three division leaders; The Rangers, the Panthers, the Red Wings would not lead their division in goals for
  • despite the leagues best efforts at parity, the 12 teams with an even or positive goal differential (301) would have a cumulative goal differential essentially equal to the 18 team with a negative differential (302) .
  • despite all the jabbering about one conferences being stronger than the other, in goal differential they would have an equal split
  • only the Edmonton Oilers would have a losing record when leading after one period
  • the secret to beating the Toronto Maple Leafs would be letting them outshoot you: their winning percentage is  .350
  • the “dirty” Boston Bruins would have the exact same number of misconducts as the “clean” Vancouver Canucks

While I don’t see the Bruins trading Rask any time in the near future, the possibility does exist that with all the key contracts up this off season the Bruins will need to move someone to make it work. He’s an RFA to be with arbitration rights, and he’s put in some impressive numbers in limited play. There are several teams who need a goalie either right now or soon. The Bruins could go for either a short term deal that let them fill in for a long term injury or was a move designed to put the team over the top. A long term deal would almost have to include tow or three pieces coming to Boston that fit into the three year plus plans, it could be draft picks, highly regarded prospects, roster players or some mix.

One of the more interesting bits of speculation going around is a Tuukka Rask for Zach Parise deal. This one has floated around for a good two years, maybe longer. The fact that the Broduer Era is essentially over, and their current backup is even older than he is just provides more fuel for it. Take the Devils inability to sign Parise to a long term deal, and you’ve got all that is needed for an unkillable discussion. Parise is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and arguably the biggest fish in the sea. For the Bruins pulling the trade off in season not only gives them the best left wing depth in the NHL, if he fits in, the team is just short of a lock to become the first back to back cup winner in the salary cap era. Getting an inside track on negotiations before he hits the open market July 1st is just icing on the cake.  For New Jersey they get arguably the best backup in hockey, who is also young enough to still be in his prime as Larsson, Henrique and other youngsters peak.

The Florida Panthers may not need goaltending now, but Jose Theodore has highly variable seasons, Scott Clemmensen has never started even half the games in a season, despite playing his first NHL game in the 01-02 season. Worse from their prospective is that Clemmensen is signed only through the end of this year, and Theodore through the end of next year.  Both have played well so far, but neither is exactly young. They do have Markstrom who his young, and played his first NHL games this season, but clearly they don’t think he’s ready. The team has surprised a lot of people, and maybe in win real soon mode, but you can’t help but wonder what Dale Tallon’s long term plan is. Swapping Rask for Markstrom and Garrison. or Markstrom and draft picks is something that works both ways.  Markstrom would get to develop behind a completely different style goaltender and wouldn’t face the same pressure as Rask will in stepping into Thomas’s shoes, Rask get’s to take over the reigns on a team that is clearly on the way up now.

The Minnesota Wild have to be considered the biggest positive surprise in the whole western conference this year. Everyone knew the Oilers had the offensive goods to beat up teams who weren’t wary, but I’d be willing to bet not many people had the Wild in the Northwest division drivers seat, nor leading the NHL a day before Thanksgiving. They are a team more in need of goalscoring today than they are goaltending, but they have two UFA to be goaltenders. One is the 33 year old Backstrom, the other the 27 year old Harding. It’s likely that Backstrom is retained, but he’s played a shrinking number of games over the last three years from a high of 71 to just 51 last year due to injuries. Harding has grown into his responsibilities, and has pretty solid regular season numbers with just one playoff game to his credit. Assuming the Wild are giving up Harding, for Rask, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bruins wanted a long term project like Charlie Coyle and a 2nd round pick in the deal.

The Tampa Bay Lightning thought they had a solution in Dwayne Roloson. Not so. The offensively gifted team has been let down by a goalie who time has caught up to.  Their backup is career journeyman. They could stand to beef up their defensive depth, but priority one is finding an answer in the crease.  Enter Tuukka Rask. With him they’d arguably have the best goaltender in the division, certainly the best young goaltender in the Southeast Division. While reuniting Tim Thomas with St Louis as the return for Rask is certainly fit to make Bruins and University of Vermont followers have a fangasm, he is 38 years old with a largeish contract for three more years. Ryan Malone is another intriguing forward the Bolts might move, he does currently have an NMC, but climate aside, I can’t see him complaining about the chance to play in Boston. They don’t have a great deal of prospect depth,  but shoring up one position has to make it easier to focus on the rest.

I can’t see the Bruins trading Rask within the division, but the crease in Toronto eclipses even the Islanders for chaos, and is significantly lower in talent. Not even the Columbus Blue Jackets have given up more goals than the Leafs. What would the Bruins get in return? Good question. The defense is as faulty as the goaltending, and the forward crew seems to only work there. The number of guys who have been discarded by other teams with cause is amazing. I don’t think a straight Rask for draft picks is a good investment, but Burke has been a willing trade partner.

The other divisional team that might be clamoring for a goalie is the Senators. I don’t think they’ve had an elite goaltender in their history. They have a surprising amount of depth in skaters, but an NHL ready goaltender is one thing they don’t have. The potential returns range from prospects like Rundblad and Cowen or Zibenajad to an NHL veteran like Alfredsson. If the return is picks, and not yet NHL ready prospects, maybe the talented but oft injured Milan Michalek is worth taking a gamble on.

This series will cover all thirty teams and go over the most important player, and player who’s performance most needs to improve to help the team succeed.

Who could have predicted last seasons New Jersey Devils results? Not me. Just about everyone had them listed as a top five team in the NHL. This season is the expected redemption. I’m not sure how I’ll replace my ilya Vs the Rookies campaign if they come out swinging this season but I’m sure some other team will have a slow, painful public death and possibly it won’t be an attempt at Steve Jobs like martyrdom.

 

High Card:

Entering last season you could have your choice of who to put here, Kovalchuk, Brodeur, Parise, Volchenkov it almost didn’t matter.  This year Zach Parise has to provide the drive to turn the page on last season. It won’t be easy given the amount of turnover on the team and the lingering questions about the clubs future in the owners box, the goal crease and on the blueline but he’s the captain, the fan favoite and one of the few players free from the shame of last seasons dismal performence.

Wild Card:

When you’re a sure first ballot hall of famer a bad season is a surprise, a massive disappointment, and unlikely to cost you your job, even if it turns into a second season. Even factoring in injuries, unfamiliar bodies on the blueline and the fatigue of having played in the Olympics the previous year the question of how much of Brodeur’s wilting last season was simply age. He enters this season at thirty-nine with 1132 regular season and 181 post season NHL games under his belt. For comparison Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson between them have 978 combined regular and post season games.  If he comes back next season will depend on a lot of factors, and that’s another one of the questions surrounding the guy who has spent nearly 80,000 minutes between the pipes for the New Jersey Devils.

This could be the night. The dreams of one team can come true, the dreams of one team can be put on hold for the other. The Boston Bruins can advance tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning have two choices, win or go home. With two goal tenders the caliber of Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson the deciding goal is unlikely to be a fluke. With superstars like Chara, St Louis and Lecavalier the atmosphere will be charged hours before puck drop.

Keys to the game for the Bruins:

  • Tim Thomas mustremain an enigma.
  • The centers must be dominant in the faceoff circle. The team that has won this battle has won each game.
  • Top players must be top players. Krejci, Lucic, Horton, must remain in the limelight they claimed in game five.
  • Focus, drive and control have to be hallmarks of Marchand, Seguin, Ryder and Kelly.
  • Players like Campbell, Recchi, Boychuck, Kaberle who have been quiet this series must step up.
  • Each and every player, each and every shift must remain dedicated to ending the series tonight.

Without a doubt the highlight of game three for an large portion of hockey fans on social media was the Guy Boucher angry face. Within minutes, I saw at least a dozen photo shop efforts, and who knows how many quips. For Bruins fans it was the win. The Lightning had to content themselves with either the knowledge that Roloson’s performance against Krejci on the opening goal wasn’t in fact a seizure, or what was undoubtedly the finest (and possibly only) hit by Marc-Andre Bergeron. @Cowhead simply made up more lies about staying up late to answer every tweet.

For game four, we can no doubt wonder at the utility of having a game when we know the Rapture will be around the same time the players get back to their hotels and homes.  On the ice, the questions abound. The first two games were fairly wide open and were unable to feature defensive breakdowns as it looked like the entirety of the bluelines of both teams converted to forward for the game. Game three was a seeming reversal of this trend. But, as I’ve said of Phil Kessel’s forecheck, once a month is an aberration not a commitment.  So which teams will we see?

  • How many rapture jokes will be made during the game?
  • Will the defense of either team play like they did in game three, or in the opening games?
  • How many goals will be errantly assigned to Tyler Seguin?
  • Will either Patrice Bergeron who played more than 19 minutes or David Krejci who had the wind knocked out of him show any ill effects this game?
  • If Rich Peverley is spoon fed another goal mouth pass with a prone goaltender can he actually bury it?
  • Will we get to see Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) take some pretty hilarious swipes at other members of the media post game?
  • Will Brad Marchand finally get Steve Downie to do something only Steve Downie would do?
  • Will the big guns finally lock, load and light the lamp? Lucic, Lecavalier, St Louis are all at lower than expected goal totals even with high end goalies in each net.

 

The effort tonight was undeniably better than in game one. More than two guys showed up, the faceoff circle was a good place to be, and the team showed a ton of drive and desire.

Despite not scoring Lucic had a pretty good game, 2 hits, five shots on goal and solid positional play. Thomas Kaberle was nearly invisible, which probably means he’s played his best game in a month, and picked up two assists, he did also have two giveaways.  Chara was uncharacteristically exposed on a the Stamkos goal when he was stripped by Hall at center ice, and Stamkos made Boychuck look bush league in beating both the defender and Thomas. Overall, you couldn’t want anything more offensively of the team, they chased Dwayne Roloson and were twice successful on the powerplay. Defensively the game is in the most generous terms I can muster a great learning opportunity.

While Tyler Seguin unquestionably had an enormous game that was exciting to watch, critical to the teams success and the the type of play we were all hoping for even before he was drafted, there are factors that play into it that should cause you to curb your enthusiasm. First and most obvious is that Seguin is the best rested player on either team save for Tukka Rask. He hasn’t played a game in several weeks. That means bruises, sprains and strains are at a minimum and energy is at its peak. Next up is the quality of opposition. While Roloson is a top shelf goalie, he doesn’t play in a vacuum. The defensive unit in front of him is subpar. Even with Roloson having a couple shutouts after being traded south, the Tampa Bay Lightning were 21st in the league for goals allowed. By comparison the Flyers were eleventh, and the Canadiens were 8th. They are also not nearly as physical as the Flyers or Canadiens. While the hits stat is flawed, on the regular season the Flyers finished 10th, and even the Habs who lost most of their physicality to injuries finished above the Lightning. I think the idea he could have been doing the same thing in the first two rounds, is generously speaking suspect.

All that said, if Patrice Bergeron is ready to go next game, I wouldn’t sit Seguin, he doesn’t deserve it. I’d put either Paille who played less time than any other forward this game, or Peverley who is a -3 with just one shot on goal this series on the shelf. With the number of minutes Krejci played tonight I wouldn’t be surprised to see his minutes below average in the next game if Bergeron is back.

Thursday night in Tampa Bay, watch or waste three hours, your call.

This being the Eastern Conference Finals, we’ll be taking the drinking game to a new level, have your stomach pumps on standby.

Take One Drink When:

The layoff between games is mentioned.

That either or both teams swept last round.

Each time Jeremy Roenick says “wow” more than twice in the answer to any question.

 

Take Two Drinks When:

The word “concussion” is uttered.

Jeremy Roenick talks about someone in the series he played with or against.

Someone mentions how long its been since Tyler Seguin played.

Someone mentions Simon Gagne as a “Bruins Killer”.

 

Take Three Drinks When:

If Emerick goes more than five minute of game time without using the words: knife, stab, slice.

The special teams graphic is displayed at any time other than when there is special teams play.

 

Take Four Drinks When:

The age of Tim Thomas, Martin St Louis, Dwayne Rolison or Mark Recchi are mentioned.

Someone mentions how many games someone has missed because of a concussion.

Someone compares Tyler Seguin to Phil Kessel

The trade of any of the guys acquired around the deadline is mentioned as a big reason for the teams success.

 

Take Five Drinks When

A pink hat who has watched the first two rounds asks about a shootout when a game goes to overtime.

A hockey player makes a ridiculous tweet, who isn’t @BizNasty2point0.

There is a “history will be made ad” made between one game and the next.

 

Skip a drink if:

It takes you more than ten minutes to explain icing, offsides or puck over the boards delay of game even to the dumbest pink hat you know.

You fail to cringed when someone asks you how many more rounds before the Stanley Cup Finals.

You don’t have the urge to cross check someone who spends an entire powerplay screaming “shoot” at the tv.

You start to think the Versus/NBC broadcast is doing a good job showing scuffles and replays.