This is a playoff pairing we haven’t seen much of. Neither team has been all that impressive over the last half decade. In the first meeting between the two back in 2003, the Wild prevailed in the first round meeting. In the more recent meeting in 2008, the Avalanche prevailed. Not many players are left from either squad. The Avalanche were the surprise of the season. Wild were plagued by injury at all the worst possible times, to all the worst possible players. The Avs chased down the division title, and the Wild fended off the Stars and Coyotes, which brings us here.

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche surprised everyone this year with new head coach Patrick Roy getting superb offense and adequate defense out of a rather lopsided roster. In the previous season the defense was woeful, and the offense only pretty good. Led in scoring by Matt Duchene and in goals by Ryan O’Reilly, two even younger players in Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon were key in their success contributing 50 goals good for second and fourth in team scoring.

Best Players:

Semyon Varlamov has spent the last three seasons reminding his former team simply by playing what they gave up. No more so than this year when his .927 sv% brought the Avs to the playoffs while the goalie brigade in Washington brought them to the golf course early. Landeskog and Duchene are two guys who are going to be household names for a good long time up front.

X-Factor

We’re now in the playoffs, and this is still a very, very young team Duchene, Landeskog, O’Reilly, Mackinnon were the top four scorer’s for this team and their average age is about 21 and enough time to recover from an epic hangover. If their offense can’t get going, their defense isn’t up to saving them in a best of seven series.

Minnesota Wild

The Wild are a very odd team to quantify, they only had two player hit twenty goals this season. But they were 7th in goals against despite a brigade passing through the goalie crease as Darcy Kuemper, Ilya Bryzgalov and John Curry all spent time in net in place of Josh Harding (multiple sclerosis) and Niklas Backstrom (he’s Niklas Backstrom) spent significant time sidelined. They do have Matt Moulson and a few others that might be dangerous if played well by Yeo, but not many teams are going to be intimidated by the offense the Wild have historically put on the ice.

Best Players:

Ryan Suter is probably leaving Las Vegas with the Norris trophy. If he doesn’t, there should be damn good story around it. Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville both need to watched carefully, and Marco Scandella’s days of flying under the radar are overdue to come to an end.

X-Factor

Mike Yeo doesn’t have much experience as an NHL head coach. This is his third season, and second playoff trip. He should know his players (most of them) better than his opposite number knows the Avalanche. If he can push the right buttons a the right time, the Wild do have a chance at the second round.

Goalie may be the most important position in all of sports. In hockey they are not only the last line of defense, playing more minutes a year than any skater, they are often the spark plug for offensive breakouts. Some teams have impressive goaltenders who not have played well in the past, but have done so in their system.

Philadelphia Flyers

The last half dozen years have served as a great example of why this team needs solid goaltenders who can play that way in their system. Ilya Bryzgalov was great in Phoenix. In Philadelphia he was bought out two years into a forever contract. When they squared off with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals a few years back they used three different goalies in one post season. It isn’t hard to make the case that a goalie better than Michael Leighton, Brian Boucher or Johan Backlund might have had them hoisting the Cup and not Chicago. This year we will see if their cursed crease can bring down the resurgent Ray Emery, and Columbus Blue Jackets discard Steve Mason. I doubt either goaltender gets taken in first five rounds of any fantasy hockey draft.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The serial meltdowns of Marc-Andre Fleury are too much for all but the willfully blind to ignore. If once is chance, twice is coincidence, and three times is a certainty, four consecutive playoff flame-outs should be enough for anyone. In the last four seasons his save percentages are .891 following the Stanley Cup win, .899, .834, and most recent .883. Those numbers won’t keep you employed in the regular season. Last year Fleury forfeited the crease to the 36 year old Vokoun who’s first playoff appearance came the year Fleury was drafted, turned in a Sv% of .933 behind the exact same defense, Vokoun is now out recovering from a blood clot.

Calgary Flames

When most of your fans can’t name your goaltenders you’ve either found the new sexy netminder or you found someone willing to get peppered for a pay check. Joey MacDonald is career backup who since entering the NHL in the 2006-7 season has only played in 122 games. Forty-nine of them were in 2008-9 for the New York Islanders. He has a career save % of .903. The likely starter broke into the NHL the same season. He then spent three seasons on the shuttle between the AHL and NHL before fleeing to Europe. While in the KHL Karri Romo never topped 45 games. In the KHL playoffs, all but one post season his Sv% dropped from the regular season. To make it worse, Romo and MacDonald are playing behind a defense that just isn’t good. You could as accurately name the player best in their own end with stats as by picking a name from a hat.

Florida Panthers

New owners, old owners the story has been the same in Sunrise for years: not much quality. If the aim is to improve, at minimum a quality, healthy backup for Jacob Markstrom is needed. Last year Markstrom split 56 games between the AHL and NHL, and tacked on three more world cup games for good measure. The other goalie under NHL contract is Scott Clemmensen the less said about his play last season the better. They’ve brought in Tim Thomas on a professional tryout, but however good he has played in the past hasn’t been signed, and hasn’t played in a year.

Some o these teams are doomed from the start, for others their weakness won’t be exposed until the post season, all of these teams have some form of crease crisis.

The NHL has surprises here and there, injuries unexpected firings, and ridiculous hirings. But the for the most part, NHL observers can expect exactly the train-wrecks and triumphs that are written in the stars just waiting to be read.

7:  Jarome Iginla & Brendan Morrow

Both Morrow and Iginla ended up as part of the augmentation of talent for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they made a run towards the Cup. The team fell short, and what came next, should surprise 0.0% of hockey fans. Brendan Morrow who’s offense has fallen off the cliff since the 2010-11 season is without a contract. He performed like a third line rookie in the playoffs, and his skating was not impressive. Iginla on the other hand is signed to a contender having put up nearly a point per game despite the Pittsburgh Penguins season ending a lot like David Carradine, only without the consent or fun.

6: Nathan Horton Bolting Boston

When players who spend a lot of their career in very laid back markets without a strong (and occasionally vicious) media presence suddenly get dropped into the crucible of a major hockey market, the result is often less than pretty. Players have flamed out in Toronto, Montreal, New York and Boston. For Horton who spent most of his career in Florida where on an average day the training staff outnumber the media contingent Boston was destined to be uncomfortable. Add in six seasons of never getting to the playoffs and then suddenly winning the Cup, and he literally had no reason to stay. Columbus is about as close to southern Ontario as Boston, a quieter town, and as much as the team has improved, it will be a playoff team most of the next seven years so he wasn’t giving up much.

5: Bryzgalov goes Bye-Bye

Speaking of guys going from small markets to major hockey markets, witness the rise and fall of one Ilya Bryzgalov. Was all of his disastrous stay in Philadelphia his fault? No. Are the Philadelphia Flyers the kiss of death for goalie talent? Yes. Did everyone outside the Philadelphia Flyers front office see this coming? All the way across the humongous big universe. The buyout of Bryzgalov was both needed and inevitable. Sadly, he and his contract were not the biggest issues with Flyers, otherwise know as the home of things that make you go hmmm.

4: Russians Mute On Anti-Gay Laws

Whatever they think, Russian players in North America aren’t going to speak up about their government’s further encoding homophobia into the nations culture. If they agree with their home nations laws, they risk ostracizing here.  If they publicly disagree with the laws, the risk legal censure at home and possibly even being barred from the Sochi Olympic and other international competition. Here groups like You Can Play would keep them busy defending themselves, and well, National Geographic has convinced me I don’t ever want to see a Russian prison.

 3: RFA Contract Disputes Dragging On

The swallows return to Capistrano, and NHL teams drag their heels and try and sweat young players. Both happen with enough regularity that they cease to be amazing. Last year P.K. Subban’s contract negotiations dragged into camp, the year before it was Drew Doughty, this year it is Alex Pietrangelo. All of them are great young defenseman who any team should be happy to have and want to keep happy. But, these are NHL teams we’re dealing with.

2: Unsupportable Ranking of Sidney Crosby in NHL Fantasy Column
The NHL marketing department, which seems to have a super majority of the brain trust in league HQ, simply can not help itself, or the league. No matter what happens they keep beating the same drum over, and over in the same pattern. In the last three season Sidney Crosby has missed (113) more games than he’s played (99). His injury history should lead no one to think he’ll be healthy the majority of the season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic who was taken 34 picks after Crosby and started his NHL career a year later has played 49 more NHL games, Patrick Kane who was drafted two full years later and has suffered his own injuries has played just 36 games less. Alex Ovechkin, Andrej Meszaros, Andrew Ladd, Johan Franzen, Mark Streit and Travis Zajac several of whom have had serious injuries entered the league the same year or later have all played more games as well. Yes that includes 9th round pick Mark Streit, who missed an entire season.  So why is Sidney Crosby the #1 ranked Fantasy Hockey property? Because it sells jerseys.

1: Big, Dumb Contracts

Leaves fall from trees, cats chase mice, Matt Cooke is surprised when he is sent to the penalty box, all are slightly less predictable than a general manager in the NHL handing out incredibly dumb contracts sometime in the first two weeks of July. This year immediately after he was bought out Vincent Lecavalier was able to make it big (again) thanks to the generosity of Paul Holmgren Philadelphia Flyers General Manager. But Holmgren couldn’t help himself, he also made sure Mark Streit didn’t starve in the streets. Between the two he tied up $10,000,000.00 in cap space, Streit’s is a +35 contract and Lecavalier has a full no movement clause.

But Holmgren is hardly alone there. The Boston Bruins joined in by signing a goaltender who has never one a championship, not in World Juniors, World Championship, Olympics, AHL, ECHL, CHL or any place else to a contract they gave him $8,000,000.00 a year despite the lack of success and injury trouble. Tuukka Rask can thank Peter Chiarelli and Can Neely for buying a nice bill of goods.

Not to be outdone, Ray Shero’s golden handshake with Kris Letang was arguably the worst contract given to a defenseman since Dennis Wideman signed in Calgary. Letang’s playoff performance this year makes it doubtful to many people that he’s a $5m defenseman. Shero clearly believes that Letang is a $7,250,000.00 defenseman.

The City of Brotherly Love played host to three of the four horseman of the Apocalypse last season, or at least the Flyers locker room did. Players that weren’t injured were often ill, and despair cloaked the stands and fanbase days into the season. Four different goaltenders saw action during the season, and only one of those four, Steve Mason, is with the organization today. Ilya Bryzgalov was bought out as the end point of a debacle, the other two just went away.  Thirty-five skaters played for the team last year.  Thirteen of those skaters were defensemen and none of those played in every game. Of the 22 forwards, five were goalless, seven managed not even an assist. If you’re just tuning into hockey, it will not surprise you to learn the Philadelphia Flyers did not make the playoffs.

The off season saw Bryzgalov bought out, and also the wizrd of playoff points Daniel Briere. Thanks to a cap situation that looks like Medusa, the list of players signed in the off season reads like a who’s who of has beens and almost weres. Vincent Lecavalier was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning and yet it only took the Flyers days to decide he needed a five year contract with a no movement clause big enough to make him their second highest paid forward. In the 11 years since Kris Newbury was signed he has totaled no more than 11 games in the NHL in any season. Jay Rosehill possesses no qualities that don’t exist elsewhere on the roster, and where they do exist they come with more skill. While Mark Streit isn’t a bad player, he’s a +35 contract for four years at more than five million a year. This is a guy who is going to be 36 before the winter holidays, and owns very little playoff experience.

The first five games for the Flyers season aren’t all that bad as schedules go. They start the season at home hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs before jetting north to face the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are the first half of a back to back that ends in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes. Then the Broad Street Bullies head home for games against the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes.

Number of days 1-5: 10

Number of cities: 3

Best opponent: Montreal Canadiens

Weakest opponent: Florida Panthers

Home games: 3

Projected points : 3+

Players like Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell, and the often injured Claude Giroux mean the Flyers have a chance to win any game on the strength of their offense. The depth of the defense, the adaptability of their coach Peter Laviolette, and the quality of play of netminders Ray Emery and Steve Mason will be the key points of the season. Youngsters like Scott Laughton, Nick Cousisns and Mark Alt will take aim at the heavens, but for this team to succeed they need good health and veteran contributions in their own zone.

Some of the biggest cities are really tight to the cap, the Bruins, Flyers, and Lightning could all use a touch more cap space to deal with. Both the Bruins and Flyers are likely to lose pieces to free agency. The Canadiens are in danger of losing Ryder and Armstrong. Boston is supposedly getting attention on Seguin, and the Lecavalier to Montreal rumors won’t die until he’s retired or the Canadiens move, unless of course he does sign there.

What We Know

(By New Divisions)

Division C

Boston: After a run to the finals with lots of injuries, and some key contracts that are due, the Bruins could be in for a bigger offseason makeover than expected. With Horton headed to free agency, questions about Seguin and a previous lack of depth at that position, the right wing position is an area of need.

Buffalo: Miller rumors persist, as do rumors of trading nearly everyone. With the eighth and sixteenth picks overall, the Sabres should be able to get at least one more building block that enters the lineup and contributes within two seasons. It is an open question if that time frame is enough to keep Regier in the general managers office.

Detroit: Moving back into the eastern conference might be an advantage in start times and travel for the Red Wings, but they are no better than the third best team in their new division. They are fortunate enough to have a solid goalie, and two stars at forward, not much else is worth noting about the team with the longest active playoff streak.

Florida: The Panthers have just about declared the starting job for Markstrom by putting Scott Clemmenson on the market. Taking home a 2nd round draft pick or solid NHL player for that trade would be great. With the 2nd pick they ought to be able to solidify one position on their team. Tallon has shown he isn’t afraid to spend on free agent so don’t be surprised by surprises in Sunrise.

Montreal: Having returned to the playoffs last year after an embarrassing hiatus they need to take a long hard look at who they expect to be the core of the team going forward. There are some clashes between players that are visible on TV, they may or may not be short-lived events. But, building around a hollow center isn’t the best of ideas. It may feel wrong to do it, but making a move to ship out a good soldier or two for more cap space, less conflict and younger picks or prospects might be the best thing to do. The Norris trophy winner also has just one year left on his contract.

Ottawa: The first two questions the Senators leadership should be asking about any player they want to sign or draft are: can they stay healthy, and are we sure about that? From there fitting them into the roster or the farm system is the next step. With a bit more health the Senators might just have knocked off the Penguins. Adding a veteran playoff competitor like Briere, or Horton might push this team to the next level.

Tampa Bay: With the expiration of the Southeast division, the Lightning find themselves more in need than ever of improving a threadbare defense. In the last three seasons they’ve finished 28th, 30th, and 21st. They’ll be drafting in the lottery forever at that rate. Swapping for defense with a team deep at the position like St Louis or adding veteran Andrew Ference would be a step in the right direction.

Toronto: They made one of the more interesting moves of the offseason by picking up Bernier. Some say there was no need and Reimer was good enough, neither Nonis nor I agree. They have a clutch of offensively gifted defenseman, a lot of roster space, and decisions to be made on Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and most the defense they iced last year. They are in a position of great flexibility but also a lot of vulnerability. The next two weeks will likely tell us how long it will be before the Maple Leafs next playoff appearance.

Division D

Carolina: With the Staal brother, Semin, Skinner, and Tlusty offense won’t be an issue for this team so long as Faulk and his henchmen can get the puck out of their own zone and away from the triage unit that served as goalies last season. Improving the defense could come at the cost of Ruutu or several draft picks. For the first time in recent memory the Hurricanes don’t have a huge amount of cap space either. With the new divisions configuration, they need to act and act smart.

Columbus: The Blue Jackets came within 2 points of getting into the playoffs last year. The most important thing they can do is to sign their goaltender Bobrovsky, after that getting some scoring and puck distributing touch up front will make them a much better team. With three first round picks 14, 19, and 27 as well as their own 44th pick, via trade or draft this should be a productive weekend for ‘Lumbus. If Lecavalier could be landed at a reasonable cap hit together with Dubinsky the team team could have a very strong 1-2 punch at center.

New Jersey: The Devils are rumored to have two suitors interested in buying the “financially stable” team. Its unknown what impact that will have on team activity over the next week to ten days, but the team has enough holes almost anything is a good move. A slick passing center to maximize Kovalchuk’s shot, an aggressive defender or two to keep Broduer from having to work to hard, a future goaltender so the team doesn’t experience its own Flyers like run of disasters in net going for stop gap after stop gap. It might just be a good idea to resign Henrique and Clarkson before to long too.

New York Islanders: The  Islanders really should reup with Hamonic, and if at all possible swing a deal for another blueliner with playoff experience. It also might not hurt to have an NHL worthy goaltender under contract. It is likely the empty forward roster spots will be filled with the return of some combination of Boyes, Bailey, Aucoin and prospects.  Hickey was a solid find too, his contract is up as well.

New York Rangers: A new coach is coming, and no one knows what he’ll bring to the roster. It is hoped he can perform some necromancy on the powerplay and get it to shamble along. Brad Richards is being given one more chance after playing less minutes and posting less points against the Bruins than their enforcer Shawn Thornton. Former coach John Torterella said the team wasn’t “stiff” enough. With most key position filled, the Rangers can afford to be picky with free agents, but might want to get a head start on locking up core players. Only one defenseman is signed beyond next season,  neither goalie is, and there are just three forwards who are.

Philadelphia: The bloodletting began with the Bryzgalov and Briere being bought out. It is unlikely to end any time soon as this team is a disaster cap wise and not much better on the ice. To make matters worse Coburn is one of the names most active on the rumor mill and their defense is not pretty even with him.

Pittsburgh: Kris Letang has the gratitude of Penguins scribes for giving them something to write about. He’s rejected long term huge money deals. I’ll be shocked if he’s a Penguin on opening night and even more shocked if he’s still there after the trade deadline. The Penguins still need to come to terms with the issues with Fleury, and there is something wrong with the mental makeup of this team when the playoffs arrive. They’ve lost composure and the ability to play at both ends of the ice in the same game over the last three post seasons. Maybe they should reacquire Gill and Scuderi?

Washington:  Oates had done solid work rehabilitating this team, but he can only work with what he’s given. A big roster shakeup is overdue for this team. Regardless of what they say to the media, there is too big a gap between their regular season scoring and their post season scoring for this team to believe in itself. Without that swagger you just can’t win in May or June.

This is an occasional feature that will take a look at multiple issues, each in 100 words or less.

Team USA Management  Announced:

Dan Bylsma will coach, and David Polie will be the GM. Only one of those is hope inducing. Here’s a look at potential players. Given who performed in the playoffs, are Paul Martin and Torey Krug now on the shortlist?

Naoko Funyama Is Gone:

News hit that Naoko would not be returning to Bruins broadcasts this fall. Since then everyone has checked in keeping her name a trending topic through the night, even with the NBA draft, and she’s gotten support from coworkers, other professionals, players like Tyler Seguin, and fans. Will NESN revisit the idea?

Kris Letang

 

The Penguins have reportedly offered Letang north of $7.5 million a year. Somehow he didn’t take this offer and personally get the contract certified by the NHL before the Penguins could come to their senses. Rossi takes a look at the situation. Over $7.5m would have him in the top 3 NHL defenseman, and he’s just not that good.

The Buyout Boys

Of the seven NHL players to receive compliance buyouts, two may have played their last NHL games. Steve Montador and  Ilya Bryzgalov. Montador is 33 years old, and didn’t play a single game for the Blackhawks last season after stops in five other NHL cites. Bryzgalov has melted down completely in goal since landing in Philadelphia going from two straight years of .920%+ to just 900sv% last year.

Alfie Not Giving Up The Throne

So with Alfredsson coming back another year, the old guys club of the NHL is waiting on on Selanne, and Jagr to give NHL coaches someone they don’t feel the urge to cut their meat for.

The Philadelphia Flyers have made no secret of their ability to spend money. They’ve made free with the funds for years. This year they are the top spending team, next year they are the top spending team. This is a problem because with 19 players signed for next season, and the cap set to decline sharply, they will have $2,225,119.00 to sign the needed bodies. As things stand, they will need to add two forwards and a netminder. Of course if if you can get all three for league minimum of $550,000 each, you can rest easy with three fourths of a million left over. Well, you can rest easy if there’s no injuries in an 82 game season, no one misses a game due to illness or personal issues and of course everyone gives their all skillfully everynight and no one needs the motivation provided by the view from the press box.

So what is the problem? They overpaid their goaltender. A guy who has won nothing, has a spotty playoff record, and who had never played in the more skilled Eastern Conference.  Yet they signed him to a nine year contract with a cap hit higher than the two most recent Vezina trophy winners at the time it was signed. To make matters worse they gave him a full no movement clause.

Chris Pronger’s contract is not only a 35+ contract, it has a full no movement clause. Sure, Chris Pronger was a top 15 defenseman at the time he was signed, but he’d had several injuries even then. His injuries include time off the ice due to; knees, wrists, ankles, shoulders. Those are pretty important parts of the body to any player. To a defenseman who relies on hard hits and bad attitude to patrol the ice, they are doubly important. Add to that his suspension history, and the fact he was over 35 at the time and you have to wonder what exactly Holmgren thought he was doing when signing Pronger to a seven year contract to a guy over 35.

Kimmo Timonen is a favorite of a lot of NHL fans and proud son of Finland. He’s been there and done that in his time in the NHL. Unfortunately Timonen will be 38 years old in less than three weeks. His goal scoring has already slowed down. And guess what? Even without Pronger and with a real and desperate need for defensive prowess, Timonen’s ice time is down year over year every year. Not surprisingly his goal production is down. Because I have such bright readers I’m sure you will have figured out that yes he to has a full no movement clause.

As Frank Seravalli let us know, Danny Briere has no interest in waiving his no movement clause. This despite interest from two teams with much better chances of winning the Stanley Cup in the next two years than the aggressively mediocre Flyers. Briere unlike Pronger who isn’t playing at all, or Timonen who is declining could contribute to another team and get a good return. With just two years left on his contract if he stays healthy he could be back in Philly in two years when whatever return he nets the city where his heart is cold be contributing to the lineup.

These four players all have or had at least the potential to be in the top 10 or 15% of the of players at their position in the league. If they were the only ones who could put the kibosh on a trade I wouldn’t be writing this post. Unfortunately Brayden Coburn who is overpaid by about 30% has a no trade clause. Grossmann who is overpaid by about the same amount also has a no trade clause, and he’s barely fourth in TOI/G for Flyers defensemen. Scott Hartnell who has highly variable contributions year to year has a no trade clause, Ruslan Fedetenko does as well. All of these add up to a staggering $37,385,714.00 in cap space this season. It does not take an astrophysicist to understand that’s over 50% of this years cap space in contracts that are either impossible to move or can only be moved by going back on your word.

Not only does this stratospheric stack of handicaps make the team harder to improve through trades for roster players, because of who doesn’t have no trade or no movement clauses you can either shuffle third and fourth line players and 6-8th defenseman, or deal important roster players like Giroux or Simmonds who you might not want to move, but who you might not have any choice but to part with. With the current roster configuration the team can’t even afford to call up players on entry level contracts to fill in. Ones things for sure, someone in the Flyers power structure is going to spend the next three or four years cursing these deals as they will almost certainly be left with two equally unpalatable choices; sit idly by and let time solve some of the problems, or trade away talent for pennies on the dollar and hope against hope the farm system can fill the voids.

The trades in the first round were not hugely surprising, but added to the mystique. i can’t think of any of them even as bad trades. There were however two moves that just made me scratch my head.

The Edmonton Oilers are clearly still using the franchises last successful model. For those scoring at home, the last cup winning team for the Oilers was 1990. The sloppy fast math on that means 21 seasons have passed since the last time they hoisted Lord Stanley. Twenty one failures in a row with one model would indicate to most people that something needs to change. Clearly the Oilers organization is made of stern enough stuff to shrug off such mortal and pedestrian concerns.

In the last decades worth of drafts their scouting methods appear to be about as sound as blindfolding oneself at last call in a particularly seedy nightspot and expecting to leave with a ten. Sure it might happen, but the most successful defenseman they have drafted in that last decade is Matt Greene who played 151 games in an Oilers uniform. He’s won a Stanley Cup just a couple days back with the Los Angeles Kings.  Theo Peckham, taken in the second round of 2005 has played 156 games and recorded 17 points. Those are the two most successful defensemen drafted by the Oilers out of their last 33 defensemen drafted.

How is drafting another forward, however talented acceptable? The clearest possible needs were for quality defensemen who can get the puck out of their zone.

***

The next big surprise was that Rick Nash didn’t move. With all the quality players floating about and all the teams with two plus in the top sixty, it almost seemed like a missed opportunity for the Columbus Blue Jackets to retool.

***

When the Philadelphia Flyers were called to the podium, their team being booed loudly wasn’t a surprise. It was however a surprise with team with the most injury (and age) riddled defensive corps in the league mysteriously drafted a forward. Scott Laughton is likely to be quite good in the NHL. However for a team that may never get another shift from future hall of famer Chris Pronger, the 35 year old Kubina, the 37 year old Timonen, the soon to be 37 Lilja, certainly aren’t going to replace themselves. So what gives? Matt Finn, Olli Maatta, Jordan Schmaltz, a number of other quality defensive prospects were still on the board. Do they think Laughton will be the best bastion to protect the fragile and flighty Bryzgalov? Are they going to convert him to defense? Maybe in the future they’ll just skate forwards in all five skater positions? Your guess is as good as mine.

The most surprising series in the NHL playoffs this series is the LA Kings vs the St Louis Blues. Not only is the series more high scoring than anyone expected but one team is up 3-0. Game one should be highlighted and underlined on every hockey lovers list of games where depth players make the difference. Slava Voynov was on some people’s Calder worthy list throughout the season, but it’s unlikely many people outside Orange County and Chelyabinsk Russia knew who he was  before he popped open the Kings scoring seven minutes after what proved to be the Blues only goal. Dustin ( @DustinPenner25 ) Penner would pick up a goal and an assist, while Matt Greene picked up a shorthanded goal. Since then the Kings have won two games outscoring the St Louis Blues 9-4 in a physical, grinding series. With no Halak to step out and shake up the vibe for the Blues, each player is going to step up or play golf.

The New York Rangers have only needed to score four goals to win two of their first three games against the Washington Capitals. The last game the two teams played was long enough the teams might as well have played two games. Some of the defensemen were approaching sixty minutes of ice time and forwards were in all up in to the 30 and 40 minute range. There’s a lot of people who expected this series to be interesting, but I don’t think anyone expected the Rangers and Capitals to combine for the lowest goal total this round.

Phoenix Coyotes have been impressive against the team many expected to represent the west in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Nashville Predators have perhaps for the first time in their history made headlines for players behaving badly. The goaltending has been worth watching, some gaffes, but two exciting guys in grills to watch. The teams play solidly, but they haven’t created as much on ice drama as some of the other series.

The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers have danced the fandango up and down the ice and in both buildings. The New Jersey Devils have picked up the second and third games of the series after dropping the opener. The formula for winning has been pretty simple: 4 by 30. Four goals scored on Bryzgalov in each of the last two games. Parise, Kovalchuk and company have done the job, Giroux, Bryzgalov and company have not. The Flyers are clearly suffering Rival Elimination Syndrome and need to get over it posthaste or figure out where they are vacationing this summer. I’d be surprised if this one was over in five, but I think this series goes to the team whose goalie plays better.