Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
For the next couple days, you're going to be seeing a lot of pundits, some with actual credibility, making their predictions and prognostications for the upcoming NHL postseason. If you accept that the trade deadline is Hockey Christmas, or you're a blog that likes beating the hell out of incompetent media types, this is definitely Hockey Thanksgiving: When there's so much idiocy out there that you can make a veritable feast of all the silly comments that will soon be made.
With this in mind, I will attempt to approximate three different kinds of opinions you will surely run across in the next few days as a public service to you, the reader.
Western Conference Series
The safe call: These teams just plain don't like each other and that's going to make this a long, difficult series, but San Jose had the best record in hockey for a reason. Sharks in 6.
The contrarian: The Sharks might have been unbeatable for most of the year, but they've looked pretty average lately. With good goaltending and timely scoring, Anaheim could steal this series. Ducks in 7.
The off-the-charts-stupid: This series will be played with consummate sportsmanship and grace by Corey Perry(notes) and Chris Pronger(notes) and the Ducks will prevail because everyone likes them so much. Ducks in 5.
(Coming Up: Reviews of all 30 teams from the weekend; the comedic stylings of Steve Ott(notes); the Flyers as an episode of "Lost"; Malkin's Hart chances; the Red Wings' chances of signing Hossa; and some outstanding individual efforts from the final few games of the regular season ... including a controversial one from Selanne.)
The safe call: The Red Wings are a frighteningly good hockey team when they want to be and Columbus is woefully inexperienced. Wings in 6.
The off-the-charts-stupid: Detroit will get solid goaltending because Chris Osgood has been here before. Wings in 4.
The safe call: Vancouver has played some of the best hockey in the league since the trade deadline and St. Louis is still ravaged with injuries. Canucks in 7.
The safe call: Chicago dominated Calgary in the regular season and that was when the Flames weren't chock full of injuries. Also Calgary has been garbage since the deadline. 'Hawks in 4.
The contrarian: Chicago is a young team with very little playoff experience as a unit and could struggle against a Calgary team that has had its core together for years, but will ultimately prevail. ‘Hawks in 6.
The off-the-charts-stupid: The Flames have even the slightest chance of winning a game in this series. 'Hawks in anything more than 4.
Eastern Conference Series
The safe call: Boston is by far the best team in the East and has been since the start of the season. Bruins in 5.
The contrarian: Montreal has played very well over the past week and a half and almost beat Boston the other day. They're getting close! Habs in 8.6.
The off-the-charts stupid: Montreal hasn't lost a playoff series to Boston since 1642 and they've won the last 432 meetings overall. Habs in 0.
The safe call: Washington has the best player alive, a good supporting cast and the probable Norris winner. Even with weak goaltending, they should win against a weak Ranger offense. Caps in 6.
The safe call: New Jersey was finally able to compliment its outstanding defensive system with a strong offense. And they still have the best goalie in the world. Devs in 5.
The safe call: Pittsburgh might have played well for the last little while, but the Flyers overcame a terrible start and have an incredible offense, defense and special teams unit. Flyers in 7.
The contrarian: The Penguins
may be the lower seed, but they've[have] been almost unbeatable since Dan Bylsma came aboard. With two of the best players in the world, they can win this series easily. Pens in 5.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: I'm not sure if this is illegal or not (I don't think the puck fully stops, so probably not), but Teemu Selanne(notes) deserves to have this shootout goal count against Marty Turco(notes) just because Turco couldn't have made a stupider play short of just skating out of the crease and letting Selanne shoot at an empty net.
Point 1: The Thrashers have a lot to about which to be optimistic next season. Good young core, Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), all that. And they had the one of the best records in the East after the deadline.
Point 2: Then there's this:
Red Wings scout Glenn Merkosky had a seat in the press box Saturday night. Now, the Thrashers and the Lightning aren't in the playoffs, so who was he looking at? Kari Lehtonen(notes), perhaps. Remember, the Red Wings were rumored to be interested in Lehtonen at the trade deadline. The Thrashers have a goalie surplus. And Lehtonen was playing for the first time this month.
Boston Bruins: This Bruins-Habs series is easily the one for which I'm most excited, even more so than my own favorite team's upcoming sweep at the hands of the Blackhawks. Wanna know why? Check out these highlights from Thursday's Boston-Montreal game.
Now add in the fact that it's the playoffs, and it's up to seven games in a row. Oh man is this gonna be killer.
We'll see what happens, but Ruff has been the least of their problems. All year, Ruff has been forced to explain away the season while most of his players went into hiding. Their lack of leaders and abundance of followers should have been addressed two years ago, when ownership caused a vacuum that sucked the heart and soul from this team.
Thing is this though: It's on Darcy Regier to put together a decent roster, and he hasn't done that in years. Somehow, he keeps his job. Great organization they've got up there.
Calgary Flames: George Johnson put it better than anyone else could have in yesterday's Calgary Herald:
Since demolishing the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 on March 5 right in Philly, they've done more stumbling than Foster Brooks at a Dean Martin roast, going 7-11 to send a city of a million hockey-mad citizens into alternating spasms of despair and disbelief.
In point of fact, the debate for first in the Northwest never should've gotten to this point; Calgary had the divisional title locked and deadbolted weeks ago.
Good teams don't customarily piddle away 13-point advantages to win a division. Contending teams snap windpipes with steel-heeled jack-boots, they don't summon up all the killer instinct of Bambi left alone in the forest after his mother's been shot.
Brutal. And 100 percent correct. The four/five series in the West is going to be a hideous bloodbath.
Carolina Hurricanes: This week's Life-Affirming Hurricane Thought: Okay sure, the Hurricanes, after going absolutely crazy up until about a week ago, have lost two straight, and the second of those was against the team they'll face in the first round. But have no fear, 'Canes fans! Eric Staal knows they can win! I think confidence actually counts for a bonus win.
I'm going to say that by the letter of the law it probably was, but it almost certainly had no effect on the play. Neither team, I'm sure, cares at this point.
"I'll give coaching a shot, for sure," Laperriere said Friday. "Hopefully, I've made enough friends in this game that somebody's going to give me a chance. I'll pay my dues, and I'm not expecting to be a head coach in the NHL right away.
"It's something I've been thinking about the last couple of years. When you hit your 30s, you start thinking about that stuff. You know you won't be able to play this game forever, unfortunately."
Maybe the Avs could use him next year.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Potential great news for the Jackets: Derick Brassard might be good to go for the playoffs.
"If everything goes well I will be on a plane (Thursday) and joining the team wherever they are," Brassard said.
The Jackets will play their first playoff game either Wednesday or Thursday. Brassard, 21, said he would need at minimum two or three full-contact practices and could not return unless he was "100 percent."
Brassard, you'll recall, was looking like a Calder candidate before he injured his shoulder in early January. Line of 10-15-25 in 31 games and a gritty game to boot. Getting him back would be huge for the Jackets.
Dallas Stars: I think I've made it perfectly clear that I dislike Steve Ott a great deal and I think guys like him are bad for the sport, but this video I found on Andrew's Stars Page is fall-down hilarious.
What a jerk.
They have the following players signed for next year (with their cap hit): Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) ($7.45m), Pavel Datsyuk(notes) ($6.7m), Henrik Zetterberg(notes) ($6.08m), Brian Rafalski(notes) ($6.0m), Brad Stuart(notes) ($3.75m), Niklas Kronwall(notes) ($3.0m) Valtteri Filppula(notes) ($3.0m), Dan Cleary ($2.8m), Tomas Holmstrom(notes) ($2.25) Kris Draper(notes) ($1.58m), Chris Osgood ($1.42), Andreas Lilja(notes) ($1.25m), Kirk Maltby(notes) ($0.88m), Brett Lebda(notes) ($0.65m), and Derek Meech(notes) ($0.48m)
All that plus Franzen ($3.91m) is a whopping $52.25 million on 16 players, and they still have to re-sign Jiri Hudler(notes), who's a free agent. And then keep in mind that the cap is going to decrease next year. So forget about Hossa, basically. Ken Holland has this team set up to get dismantled pretty good come two years from now.
Edmonton Oilers: By not making the playoffs this year, the Edmonton Oilers obviously took a serious hit, finance-wise. Of course, they're still making money hand over fist in a hockey-mad city like Edmonton, but that doesn't keep the organization from crying poverty over the decline of the Loonie.
However, the drop in the value of the loonie took about a $6-million chunk out of the revenue stream, says Oilers president Patrick LaForge.
"That really bites into what you have for other things," says LaForge. "We've had to make adjustments on expenses elsewhere when we could."
Oh no, the Oilers only made $15 million US dollars this year! Whatever are they to do? Oh right, go to the city and beg for some cash for a new arena. Of course.
Florida Panthers: Know who's gonna get paid this winter? Puck Daddy favorite and RFA-to-be David Booth(notes). His five-point night against the Caps on Saturday gave him a 31-29-60 line. Litter Box Cats doesn't care what he costs, they want him locked up.
I am, by the way, thoroughly disappointed that the Rangers and Habs beat out the Panthers for that last playoff spot. Should've traded Bouwmeester.
Los Angeles Kings: Over at the always-informative Inside the Kings, Rich Hammond posts the entirety of his season wrap-up interview with Dean Lombardi. Lots of "Kings need a left wing" talk, a topic with which Lombo doesn't seem especially happy.
"So, unfortunately, the answer you got from two of my best young players was not what I'm looking for. The critique should be, 'I've got to get better. And if I get better and Doughty gets better and Brown gets better and Purcell gets better and Drewiske gets better and Quincey gets better, and if we all do our job, and if Dean can get us a left wing, that would be really good.' That's the answer."
It's interesting to note the impact a completely healthy Gaborik had on the Minnesota offense. After he came back, they scored 39 goals in 11 games (3.55 per) and went 7-3-1. Prior to those games, the Wild had scored just 180 in 71 games (2.54 per) and went 33-30-8. Overall, the Wild won 11 of the 17 games Gaborik played this year. They need to back a dump truck full of money up to his house.
Montreal Canadiens: Did you know that the Bruins and Canadiens have a long and storied rivalry? It's true! For those that were unaware, there's a great post, compete with old-timey pictures, on it at Habs Eyes on the Prize to get you all caught up.
Nashville Predators: Barry Trotz and Jason Arnott(notes) had some pretty candid interviews about the team falling just short after the Preds were bounced from the playoffs. Arnott was even more candid about what needs to be done in the offseason: re-sign Steve Sullivan(notes).
New Jersey Devils: Interesting note on that Carolina/Jersey series: The teams have met in the playoffs three times, and each time the winner has gone on to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals. The way both teams have played, I wouldn't be shocked to see that happen again.
There are several reasons, but two stand above all. In ascending order of importance:
2. The Islanders would be giving themselves an extra 72 days - during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no less - for the world to know John Tavares(notes) will wear an Islanders uniform when the season opens in October.
1. If you're going to ask Tavares to spend at least the next 15 years on your team and in your community, illustrate your commitment on Tuesday. Let him know you didn't even spend a second thinking about anyone else. He deserves that.[/quote]
They do it in the NFL all the time (maybe not that far in advance), so why wouldn't they do it in the NHL? What's protocol in the NBA? Did the Rockets ever say they'd draft Yao Ming first overall a month in advance?
New York Rangers: Bring on Ovechkin?! I don't get that mentality. The Rangers beat the Caps once. In a shootout. Now, as Greg pointed out yesterday, the idea of Sean Avery(notes) trying to get in the head of either Alex Ovechkin or Jose Theodore(notes) could be awesome from the standpoint of watching his master plan, but I've got a feeling Ovie is psyche-out proof. Plus Theodore's a head case, so he's going to be so psyched out that he's in the playoffs to begin with that nothing Avery can do is going to affect him one way or another.
Well, that does it for what was a regrettable season. I think we should strike it from the record books.
Philadelphia Flyers: A parallel you don't often seen drawn (outside of a bottom-of-the-barrel Bill Simmons column) is between the Flyers and an episode of Lost.
The Flyers are like a Lost episode - entertaining but confusing. Lost got away from basics and turned off millions of viewers, the Nielsen ratings show, when it added its difficult-to-follow time-travel madness.
Like the once-great show, it's hard to get a handle on the Flyers.
In actual fact, the Flyers' playoff hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of Martin Biron(notes), who seems to swing wildly from bad to good to terrible to outstanding as though he were The Island, moving uncontrollably on its linear timeline and giving Philly fans nose bleeds that will eventually kill them, depending upon how long they have supported the Flyers. (And for the record, the time travel episodes are amazing and if you don't like them, you're an idiot.)
He stayed with that puck on the post for far longer than he probably should have been able to. Good for him.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Pensburgh has a really interesting look at how close Ovechkin came to winning the Art Ross that now belongs to Evgeni Malkin(notes). Ovie finished three points back of Malkin despite missing three games. The games he missed were against Nashville, Buffalo and Toronto.
In one game against the Preds Ovechkin picked up an assist. In three games against the Sabres he tallied 2G, 2A. In three games against the Leafs, 3G, 1A.
Take Ocho's average point total against each team, add it together and you get roughly 3.6 points.
So in stats alone, yes - but just barely. Keep in mind he was also held scoreless in one game against the Leafs and Sabres as well so really it could have swayed in either direction.
On a related and inflammatory note: I don't know how anyone can talk about Malkin deserving MVP over Oveckin with a straight face.
San Jose Sharks: I think Todd McLellan doesn't understand what "backing in" means.
"Fifty-three wins, I don't think, is backing in," said first-year coach Todd McLellan, citing the Sharks' franchise-record for victories in a season. "Boston had its opportunity to win today and they didn't get it done. We didn't back in."
No, no, Todd, your team finished the season with a shootout win over Colorado and losses to both Phoenix and Los Angeles and gave up eight goals in the last two. You backed in. That's, like, the definition of "backing in."
St. Louis Blues: I am immensely happy that the Blues made the playoffs. A fanbase like that, long-suffering and with no real reason to have hope for this season coming in, deserves this. Attendance at the Scottrade, notes Puck Money, has climbed 32.54 percent in the past two years.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The other day, the Lightning called up two defensemen, Kevin Quick(notes) and Geoff Kinrade(notes). Kinrade was the 50th player to play for the Lightning this year, and the 22nd defenseman. He was playing at Michigan State until March 20, which tells you more than a little bit about how thin the Bolts are on defense. Maybe Hedman will stabilize the situation a bit, eh?
He really hates Ron Wilson. "He's an American comin' up here tellin' us about hockey." Oh man that's great. If he was one of those beautiful Canadian boys, Cherry would be fine with him.
They seem like weird guys.
Washington Capitals: A great look at the numbers for the upcoming Caps/Rangers series from (where else?) Japers'. Makes it look like Caps in a walk. They scored 3.5 goals a game, allowed 2.5, had a power play that ran at 20 percent and a PK that ran at 92.9. New York's save percentage in those games was just .888 and Henrik Lundqvist was in net for three of them.
Play of the Weekend
Gold Star Award
The Terriers scored two goals with the goalie pulled, the second set up by Gilroy on a gorgeous pass to Nick Bonino (:45 in). Inside of a minute to go. In the national title game. Gilroy, who I'm sure you've heard is a free agent, made himself a TON of extra money with this massive weekend. Gotta pay your parents back for that tuition money somehow.
Minus of the Weekend
His team needed a win to stay in playoff contention. And Pekka Rinne(notes), who had been good down the stretch, gave up six goals on 35 shots to the Wild. The Wild, for those unaware, are not typically known as a team that could ever six goals under any circumstance.
Next week's game I'm totally going to watch on Center Ice if I'm home
Every second of Boston vs. Montreal. Boy oh boy.
Event that should replace the shootout and would be just as relevant to hockey skill
Movie of the Week
With all due respect to their other dramatic masterpieces, I think the Coen Brothers will find it difficult to top 1991's "Barton Fink" in terms of absolute artistry in everything from script writing to direction to acting. It's sweaty and claustrophobic for just about the entire film, and John Goodman should have won 14 Academy Awards for his performance.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User Steven93 busts out this gem:
This is a remarkably bad proposal, even by HFBoards' low, low standards. I assume Steven93 is attempting to make this some sort of a Candid Camera show.