Mon Nov 23 09:40am EST
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.
Prior to the start of the season, everyone was just brimming with optimism. Hockey was, after what felt like a painfully long summer, almost back. The glee was palpable.
As so many pundits do, I made what I called 20 bold predictions (where "bold" usually either meant "sarcastic" or "painfully obvious" but occasionally bordered on "somewhat daring").
Now that every team in the league has played at least 20 games and we're more than a quarter of the way through the season, I figure it's as good a time as any to see how those predictions are coming along.
My guess: Not well. Feel free to hold me accountable.
[Coming up: Your ol' pal Lambert looks at his miserable failures, Anaheim needs to hire new doctors, Kyle Okposo(notes) loves him some mediocre AHL players, the best ever fight between two French Canadians, St. Louis will keep but maybe not keep Alex Pietrangelo(notes) (I swear), Rick Nash(notes) goes on a European Vacation, the top 10 reasons it hurts to watch the Avs, and Evgeni Nabokov(notes) doesn't like your line of questioning.]
I got chirped on Twitter for this prediction a week or so ago. The kid is by far the Isles' best player and has 19 points from 23 games. Great call, stupid.
2. The Coyotes will make the playoffs but the Ducks won't.
The Ducks are 15th in the West, the Coyotes are tied for sixth, and just two points out of third. Lookin' good on this one.
His line is 3.82/.869. Enough said.
They got in a shouting match last week, so it counts!
7. The Lightning will still be really bad.
If the season ended today, they'd have a playoff spot, and that's with Vinny Lecavalier being genuinely bad for most of the season. D'oh.
He leads defensemen in points and he's not a minus-12 or something. Chris Pronger(notes) has probably been the best defenseman in the league (18 points, plus-13, dragging Matt Carle(notes) kicking and screaming along with him), so count this as a loss, I guess? You tell me.
9. Marian Gaborik will miss at least half the season (I didn't say it had to be a shocking prediction).
He's only missed two of 22. That's not half, but I still have time here. Too early to tell but a loss for now.
10. Patrick Kane(notes) will beat up an airline pilot, a train conductor and ship captain and help the Blackhawks win the division. Meanwhile Jonathan Toews(notes) will make a series of hilarious faces.
Patty's been on his best behavior, but I present this in defense of my Toews predication:
Also the Blackhawks are killing it. Good call by me.
11. The Flyers will set a franchise low in match penalties (with 128).
I looked at all their box scores and I didn't see any yet this year. Crazy!
Looks like this isn't going to happen. Sissy.
13. Dany Heatley will lead the league in power play goals and make the Sharks power play hum along at 26 percent.
He's got a two-goal lead over Gaborik (9 to 7) to pace the NHL, and the Sharks' power play is currently at 25.5 percent. I'm very proud of myself for this ultra-specific guess.
14. Regardless of how well the season finishes, Red Wings fans will be aggrieved by some perceived slight.
15. Bob Gainey will get the ol' heave-ho.
Hasn't happened yet but it's looking possible. I feel good about this one certainly, but it's a push for now.
Comrie had eight points in 16 games (so on pace for 41 then), but now he has mono and will probably miss significant time as a result. Oops.
17. Buffalo will miss the playoffs and both Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier will be fired. No, I'm kidding, of course they won't be fired.
Buffalo doesn't look especially likely to miss the playoffs, no.
Geno's not exactly swimming in points (19 in 16 games), but Crosby's on pace for less than 80. Push.
Dallas isn't bad or anything (though they are currently out of the playoffs on a tiebreaker), and Turco's only playing so-so hockey. Wanna call this one a push?
20. The Central will be the best division in hockey.
The Atlantic, Northeast, Pacific and Central all have three teams in the playoffs, so I guess not. And the Atlantic is the only one without a team in the bottom five. Make of that what you will.
Anyway, I counted it all up and I'm considering myself 8-8-4. I'll take .500.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: So Ryan Carter(notes) missed four games with a bruised foot and didn't seem to be getting better. They ran a second x-ray and found out the foot was broken. He's out another month. But it begs the question: How the hell did the first x-ray miss a fracture?
Atlanta Thrashers: After Matt Cooke(notes) clearly slew-footed (sleeeeeeeew) Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) on Saturday, the two fought, but Kovalchuk was given the instigator penalty and the gate. He picked up 19 penalty minutes on the play. The Thrashers got a late goal, but they ended up losing 3-2.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres got pretty well trounced by the Senators on Saturday, sure. But things aren't so bad, at least not now. This is the first time they've had a three-game losing streak this season, and one of those was in OT. It's not all doom and gloom just yet is my point.
Calgary Flames: I'm not sure what's more amazing. That Jarome Iginla has 12 goals in his last nine games and is two off the league lead after a sluggish, ineffectual start, or that the Flames are 7-1-2 on the road despite being utter dross at home.
Carolina Hurricanes: What'd I tell you last week? The Canes have either won or gotten a loser point in four straight. Oh yeah, it's all turning around.
Chicago Blackhawks: I'm saying it right now -- This is the best team in the league. They've won their last seven games, scoring 27 goals and allowing just 11. Their wins over both Calgary and Edmonton Thursday and Saturday were effortless. Effortless I say!
Colorado Avalanche: This list of the top 10 reasons the Avs game was brutal to watch made me laugh. "7. Chris Stewart(notes): 0 shots in the last 4 games. That's an average of roughly zero per game." Perfect.
Dallas Stars: Stephane Robidas(notes) had some kinda night Saturday. Two goals, two assists. That's a career high for points in a game. He also had eight hits(!) and two blocked shots. Brad Richards(notes), meanwhile, only had four assists. What a bum.
Detroit Red Wings: Remember how people thought Pavel Datsyuk(notes) was having a bit of an off season and had a slow start and all that? Yeah, he has 16 points in his last 14 games, including a goal and a shootout winner on Saturday.
Edmonton Oilers: Here's how bad it got in Edmonton Saturday night -- Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers gave up three goals on the first six shots he faced, and some were actually wondering if he'd get the hook. Why that's strange: The Oilers were without Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) and had to call up Torrie Jung, a goalie from the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings. Jung's stats? He's 5-11 with a 3.29 GAA and a .903 save percentage.
Florida Panthers: How's this for a turnaround? Florida won two of its first 10 games, and is now on a hot streak, winning eight of 11, including beating the Red Wings, Sabres and Rangers to get above .500.
Los Angeles Kings: Speaking of turnarounds, the Kings went from pretty damn good to losing five of eight in a hurry. Terry Murray's solution to this problem is a long, hard practice. No days off if you're playing like garbage, I guess.
Minnesota Wild: It's very strange that Andrew Ebbett(notes) gets put on waivers so often. Granted he has jut one point this season, but the Wild are Ebbett's third team this season already. He scored 32 in 48 with Anaheim last year, he's defensively responsible and he's a center. What's not to like about the guy?
New Jersey Devils: So decimated by injuries are the Devs (I can think of five off the top of my head) that defenseman Matt Corrente got his first game in the NHL on Saturday, but not on defense. The Devils dressed seven defensemen in the game, which is why Corrente got a go at right wing.
New York Islanders: It's not every day that a sensational young forward like Kyle Okposo goes far out of his way to praise a 36-year-old career AHL journeyman, but the kid falls all over himself to praise Mark Wotton of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Sounds like the guy made a hell of an impact on Okposo in just half a season. Great to have guys like that in the organization.
New York Rangers: It says here that the Rangers lose all the time because they lack passion. If true, that's on John Tortorella, who should be able to pump the boys up more than, say, a Tom Renney did.
Ottawa Senators: Gotta wonder how long Pascal Leclaire(notes) will be out after getting hurt in the second period on Saturday. They say he's "sore" but they said that about Alex Ovechkin too, so who knows? If he misses even a week, that's not going to be very helpful to the Sens.
Philadelphia Flyers: What a heavyweight tilt on Friday night. Briere. Vlasic. Should've headlined UFC106.
Phoenix Coyotes: Dave Tippett likes rewarding good play with additional ice time. This is apparently some sort of novel approach to hockey.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens' new arena is coming along swimmingly.
San Jose Sharks: Someone was dumb enough to ask Evgeni Nabokov if beating the Ducks on Saturday made it any easier to swallow losing to them in the first round after winning the Presidents Trophy. "Thanks for the reminder. So what does it mean?" Nabokov said. "Honestly, I don't like those questions." Noooooo kidding.
St. Louis Blues: "Alex Pietrangelo is here to stay, but it's not guaranteed he will stay." That is one confusing lede that basically means the Blues will keep him around so that his rookie clock starts after he plays his 10th game. But they might send him back to juniors at any point. Or something. I dunno.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Said Rick Tocchet of Zenon Konopka(notes), who hasn't score a goal in three seasons and is without a point this season but has apparently been positioning himself well and just not finding the net: "I don't think he's a natural goal scorer." That's why he gets big money.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Some Leafs fans are wondering just when, exactly, Brian Burke is going to start calling up some kids to get them time in the NHL. Y'know, since they're not going to make the playoffs anyway.
Washington Capitals: Bruce Boudreau admitted Alex Ovechkin came back from his shoulder injury too early, and said Ovie would play better come the Ottawa game tonight. Well, I'd hope so.
Play of the Weekend
You saw it yesterday. You'll see it again at the end of the season. So why not watch it once more before then?
Gold Star Award
Minus of the Weekend
What's going on with the Caps? Losses to Montreal and freaking Toronto? Only three goals in those games? That's not how you win a division. I wouldn't have guessed playing without Alex Semin would hurt that badly.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
Dubinsky, Sanguinetti, a 1st round pick (say it's around 10th overall)
This is contingent on the Rangers finding someone to take Michal Roszival off their hands. Good luck with that.Signoff
Start with the misdemeanors and then we're gonna push right on through to the lighter treasons.