There are a lot of people who should be happy in the wake of the latest “best on best” tourney. The players, coaches, and fans of  Canada shouldn’t lead any well drawn list, especially as they were outplayed for both final games.

The Columbus Blue Jackets should be very happy to see Bobrovsky healthy and looking to be near his peak.

The New York Islanders should be thrilled to get Seidenberg at a good rate, who even if he never plays a shift will be a steadying impact in a locker room that saw a lot of turnover.

The Boston Bruins, most obviously for the performances of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but also for their captain Zdeno Chara who while he didn’t look ten years younger, was still skating, passing, and shooting better than the first three months of last season. If that translates to just three additional wins over that same time they can make the post season.

Fans, coaches, players, and management of the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and Edmonton Oilers who saw their players; Nino Niederreiter, Tobias Rieder, and Leon Draisaitl go through a complete playoff like run with multiple Stanley Cup champion team mates like Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and more and see how they prepare before a game and compose themselves through the good and the bad in game.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, because Milan Michalek had himself a great tournament turning in a point per game over the three games. If the young players are going to make the leap into the playoffs and winning once they get there they need veterans who know how its done.

It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how the various players respond to their World Cup performance. The American players will hopefully return to the ice upset, focused, and maybe a little bit ticked off. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a vexed Patrick Kane. Last season saw him rack up 46 goals if he comes in a bit hot under the collar can number 88 hit sixty goals? Can Dustin Byfugelin and hit 30 goals or turn himself into the juggernaut defensively he is offensively? Can newly minted captain Blake Wheeler pilot the Jets back to the post season?

What about those Finns? Teuvo Teravainen has had a double header of dejection, first he was exiled from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Carolina Blackhawks, and then they washout of the Cup. The Canes finished ten points out of the playoffs last year, and it can be argued the Red Wings and Flyers aren’t as good as they were last year, is Teravainen enough to raise the Carolina Hurricanes back to a real threat?

With the number of Minnesota Wild players at the World Cup, why aren’t they better?

This irregular feature will run when I get bored. It will ask one scintillating question about each NHL team.

 

Anaheim Ducks: Can this team take advantage of its abundance of youth to compliment its savvy and skilled veteran core?

Boston Bruins: Is there a single hockey observer anywhere who doesn’t think the team is dangling Matt Bartkowski for trade?

Buffalo Sabres: So ah, how about those Buffalo Bills?

Calgary Flames: Are you the one non Flames fan or executive who expected the team to start the season 2-0?

Carolina Hurricanes: Isn’t it great that the Canes put in a great effort for their goaltender Cam Ward opening night and only allowed 38 shots on goal?

Chicago Blackhawks: If the media doesn’t have Patrick Kane’s off ice antics to talk about, will they actually cover the team now?

Colorado Avalanche: We all know the limited shelf life of firey over the top NHL coaches like Guy Boucher and Patrick Roy right?

Columbus Blue Jackets: Do we blame Bobrovksy’s four goal opener on moving east, a lack of defenders who play defense, or just a fat pay day?

Dallas Stars: Will Alex Goligoski ever get recognized as top defenseman?

Detroit Red Wings: Is there a player in the system 30 or under who can emerge as the next “face of the franchise”?

Edmonton Oilers: Can prodigal son and eco-warrior Andrew Ference lead his band of merry man-children to liberate a playoff spot from and deliver it to their poor fans?

Florida Panthers: With new ownership and oodles of cap space this year, how wide with the tap be opened for established NHL talent in the future?

Los Angeles Kings: Without a proven backup will Quick get overworked in the regular season?

Minnesota Wild: Will the Wild faithful stay true if the team underperforms this season?

Montreal Canadiens: With the soon to be 35 year old Brian Gionta’s star waning and an expiring contract, will the Habs relocate the C to another jersey possibly before moving him?

Nashville Predators: Barry Trotz entered the season the NHL’s longest tenured head coach, will he end the season in his current position?

New Jersey Devils: With the leagues oldest team, and all but one of the free agents brought in this season over 30, does this franchise have a path to the future?

New York Islanders: The Islanders took a big step forward last year climbing into the playoffs and battling Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, can Tavares and Hamonic make themselves household names this year?

New York Rangers: How long will it take Marc Staal, Brad Richards and the rest of the blueshirts to adapt to Alain Vigneault’s system?

Ottawa Senators: Captain Spezza, with Bobby Ryan, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen and Craig Anderson are more than enough to get this team to the second round of the playoffs right?

Philadelphia Flyers: Who will lead the Flyers in the three categories that have defined the team in recent seasons: missed games, PIMS and suspensions?

Phoenix Coyotes: Is Mike Ribeiro the right centerpiece for the teams offense or just another free agent that will do just ok and move on?

Pittsburgh Penguins: This is the year that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are both healthy right? Right?

San Jose Sharks: Will Bruan, Vlasic, and Hertl emerge to form the new core of this team with Logan Couture?

Saint Louis Blues: Does this team have enough scoring talent and the right coach to take advantage of it?

Tampa Bay Lightning: Does Steve Yzerman who wants fighting out of the game have a punchers chance of seeing his team in the playoffs any time soon?

Toronto Maple Leafs: When the Olympic break rolls around will we be asking where they will find a center, or marveling at Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri as a one two punch?

Vancouver Canucks: With a new coach and system in John Tortorella and a general manager Mike Gillis, who has to be fighting for his own job, how much of the current roster will still be in place after the trade deadline?

Washington Capitals: We can all agree that Alex Ovechkin is good for 50+ goals this season, and Mikhail Grabovski will set a personal high in at least one offensive category right?

Winnipeg Jets: With Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, and more in full stride, the biggest question about this team is once again in the crease isn’t it?

If you think Matt Cooke intentionally injured Erik Karlsson or not, is entirely immaterial. there are a couple possibilities as to where things go from here. Before this latest injury to an already depleted squad they were treading water. In sixth place, but with two more games played than seventh and eight place. also on the shelf are Latendresse, Regin, Spezza a lot of talent and money are out of reach of the head coach.

In such a short season, calling it in the rest of the way wouldn’t be hard, and with prizes Seth Jones this year, and McDavid in 2015, moving out some players in exchange for probably high picks, and in theory pushing the team closer to the lottery could be very, very favorable long term. If for example Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson are found new homes that’d clear up nine million in salary space this year, and four and a third next year. I can’t see trading them out for any package that doesn’t include at least one first round pick. Both players are the type that can push a middling team from bubble to firm playoff position.

If they decide to stock up, there are certainly teams that are in need of turning over their roster. They can look due south to the other capital city in the NHL. Mike Green has a six million dollar a year contract, and is very similar to Karlsson in playing style. The Capitals aren’t doing anything even with his returned health and 26 minutes a night. The Columbus Blue Jackets have a new sheriff in town and both Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski might find themselves redundant in the Jarmo world order, as might former Philadelphia Flyer R.J. Umberger, the highest paid forward on the Columbus roster.

Even without blowing up their roster, the Colorado Avalanche could happily unload Ryan O’Reilly for the right price to fill the Spezza roster spot for the nonce. There race for the playoffs is going to be rough and brutal between the compressed schedule and the arms war for complimentary parts as teams like the San Jose Sharks make what could be the last play for the current core at a Cup, the Dallas Stars vie for a return to the playoffs, and the Nashville Predators hope to woo fans turned off by the loss of Suter. And lest we forget, their plight, career right wing Jarome Iginla is probably the teams best faceoff man, meaning Zack Smith could return some nice assets if fired off before his next birthday, indeed a strong faceoff man for the top two lines for the Flames has more value now than later because more puck possession will give them time to climb back into the playoff picture.

Tonight the Boston Bruins throwdown with the Ottawa Senators. Just days ago Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara faced Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Ottawa Captain Daniel Alfredsson in the All Star game and skills competition. Tonight the goals count for more than bragging rights, the win will either provide separation or leave the division rivals in a points tie at the top of the Northeast division.

Tonight is the third of six games between the clubs this season. Thus far the magic number is “5′. The Bruins have scored five goals in each of the first two games. The Senators have scored a total of five goals in those two games. Boston Will be without Nathan Horton who continues to recover from his second concussion in a year, this suffered on an unpenalized hit against the Flyers. The Senators are missing Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin, both out indefinitely since December 21st.

Horton’s concussion, has fueled trade speculation with desired club acquisitions including the New York Islanders Kyle Okposo and the Phoenix Coyotes Ray Whitney. Zach Parise who can of course be had for a pair of 3rd year AHL nobody’s is also on the radar. Any of the three is as likely as the other at this point, but one name I think bears thinking about is one that was linked to the Bruins for three or four straight years. The biggest holdup on Carter escaping the host city for next years All Star extravaganza isn’t his desire to get out, unhappiness with the city or even his play. Players like Steve Montador, Joffery Lupul, Kris Versteeg and other frequent travelers not to mention every goalie who isn’t in the top five or six prove most organizations believe they can fix any problems with a player. Magical coaching is a belief held as commonly as not stepping on the logo on the locker room floors, even if no one is willing to admit it.

I think the tide has turned on the forever contracts. The ten years left on his contract will carry him past his 37th birthday. While he’s probably worth the slightly more than five million dollar cap hit he’s on the books for, it is hard to imagine dedicating that much cap space, regardless of actual salary to a 34 or 35 year old s fraught with tension for any general manager.  A cap hit as high as Carter’s would make him the highest paid forward in a lot of cities, while unquestionably talented it remains to be seen if he has the ability to be the type of impact player generally associated with being the top paid player at a position.

Later this week, the Bruins will host the Carolina Hurricanes including much rumored blueline reinforcement Gleason has just signed a contract that should have Boychuk and Corvo’s agents laughing themselves silly. The Hurricanes sit 15th in the east and 27th overall, but have taken the previous meetings this season with the Bruins. Saturday the Pittsburgh Penguins skate in for a matinee. The potentially Crosbyfied Penguins will arrive in Boston with days rest off of a back to back home and home set against the Toronto Maple Leafs where Brian Burke (@LeafsBB20) will probably kvetch about Don Cherry some more.

Across the month of February the Bruins play 13 games in 28 days including three back to backs sets. Five of this months games are against teams not currently in playoff position.  Six games are against teams currently in the top five in their conference including two games against the Senators, games against the Penguins and Rangers, and a tilt with the Predators.

Every NHL season has its shocks. No matter how well you research, no matter what history says each season is its own mind searing, jumbled, chaotic, riveting orchestra of excitement. The biggest surprises are sometimes whole teams, other times single player and in other cases its a whole division.

5: Goalie madness. Not a single person predicted that the three hottest net minders of the first quarter would be the well traveled Mike Smith, seasoned number two man Brian Elliot and elder statesman Nikolia Khabibulin. None of the three has a save % under .936, with Elliot leading the NHL with a .947% on the equilibrium challenged, already made a coaching change St Louis Blues.

4: QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! The once mighty Ducks of Anaheim are looking more fit for orange sauce than great deeds. They are led in scoring by a guy who was drafted before most of his teammates were allowed to cross the street by themselves. The man drafted by Brian Burke who quipped that this guy was still there at #2 has points in just six games, maybe just maybe if he were less busy reviewing movies he’d stop playing like #2.

3: Unfamiliar Faces. Who would have predicted Erik Karlsson the skinny, smooth skating blue liner from Canada’s capital city team would be tied for the NHL lead in assists? Not Joe Thornton, no Steven Stamkos in sight, just a guy who showed up at the All Star draft last year and no one outside the few that haunted the Senators barn last season had a clue about him. I suspect when he goes this year, he’ll be a bit better known. James Neal, Phil Kessel and Milan Michalek atop the goal scoring chart? Not one or two but fifteen players ahead of Alex Ovechkin in shots taken? Insanity.

2: Black gold in blue and orange. There are some really, high skilled forwards on he Edmonton Oilers. Some of those talented forwards can not only drink (legally) in the US of A, but can even get decent car insurance rates. But anyone one outside the Oilers pay structure who said that on November 20th they’d have scored more than the Detroit Red Wings, and be fifth in the entire NHL in goals against with a 2.26 would have been laughed out of hockey.

1: Occupy Youth failure. With the NHL, and its adjacent medias general love fest for young players it’s more than a bit shocking that some of the newest lights in the constellation aren’t getting more attention. Sure Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and some of the other picks in this years draft got a bunch of attention in the first two weeks of the season. But where’s the love for Craig Smith, Jared Cohen, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Luke Adam, Roman Horak, Adam Henrique and the rest?

In two months the division standings will tell you which teams are good, which are bad and which are bubble teams. With the Bruins, Sabres and Canadiens picked preseason to make the playoffs, right now all the division standings tell us is which teams are off to a  poor start.

Senators:

  • The Senators have a surprisingly bright future for a team with such a dismal roster. Yes Alfredsson and Spezza are capable of amazing hockey play, but take the two out and you’d be hard pressed to be a good ECHL team.  Eleven of the teams 20 goals through seven games have been scored by Spezza, Alfredsson or Michalek. Butler and Filatov, two of their most highly skilled prospects have only played two games each, Filatov as a +1 with an assist in nearly fifteen minutes against the still undefeated Detroit Red Wings.  At 2-5-0 they are unlikely to get higher in the standings than they are now.

Canadiens:

  • If you ask some hockey fans they might say the injury bug has developed an unnatural love for the boys of the Bell Centre, others might say its years of karma over diving, faking injuries and encouraging malicious prosecution coming home to roost. Either way, the Habs have been dinged and damned from the word go. Markov is out, Gomez left the game the other night for an MRI, their leading goal scorer from last year missed time with a skate cut, P.K. Subban’s ability to produce points is broken, and on and on. The bright spots in Habsville arepretty limited, but Max Pacioretty has emerged to climb within one goal of the total he had in two of his previous three seasons with the team, and Yannick Weber who is playing more minutes in all situations this year is currently leading the team in +/- at +3, an impressive number when you realize the team has given up 19 goals and only scored 13 through six games.

Maple Leafs

  • Until the teams visit to Boston in which he was held to just one shot and no points, Phil Kessel had to feel like he was on top of the world. He was the leader in points and goals, the team was undefeated and the Bruins were to put it mildly, struggling mightily. Then the game started. The Leafs were not only routed, Tyler Seguin, the first return on the three draft picks Toronto gave up to get him had a three point night. The Thank You Kessel chants reigned down and the Leafs bench had no answer. The Leafs faceoff with the Canadiens tonight for the second time this season and have a chance at regaining the division lead.

Sabres

  • If there is a more popular man in Buffalo right now than Terry Pegula you’re gonna have to point them out to me. Unless that is, it’s Ryan Miller. Through five games teams biggest star and arguably the worlds best goalie has a GAA of 1.61 and a Sv% of .950 which helps explain why the team leads the division. The other end of the ice isn’t anything to complain about either. In the teams six games they’ve scored twenty goals, all of this without Boyes, Leino or Ennis showing any signs of life. Anyone who is surprised if this team is still playing in May just isn’t paying attention.

Bruins

  • The bad news is what with Krejci, Mcquaid, and Kampfer all missing time already the team has had to ice some players for whom the value has yet to be determined. This has been part of a sluggish start has them looking up at both the powerhouse Sabres and the unproven Leafs. The good news is that Kampfer and Krejci have both made returns and contributed in them. The team finally found both its focus and emotion, sadly not in that order and managed to derail the spunky Toronto team. The question of how well they can and will play in front of Tuukka Rask has yet to be answered in a satisfactory way, leading many fans to question if the players know something about the backup goalie the rest of us don’t.

Today’s schedule:

The Boston Bruins host 1997 number one draft pick Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks.

The Montreal Canadiens will look to even up the season series against the visiting Maple Leafs.

The Ottawa Senators are hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets in what is probably the only game of the month in which the odds makers will favor Daniel Alfredssons team.

The Buffalo Sabres will charge into Lightning territory tonight where for the first time in a long time Lecavalier is making fantasy hockey owners are just as happy to have him on their team as Stephen Stamkos.