Week 7 of the NHL brings both talent and luck to the top of the Conference standings. Shots on goal, staking claim on the blue line and goaltending has contributed to the unpredictable rankings as we move past the first quarter of the season.
The Washington Capitals top the Eastern Conference despite having lost Alex Ovechkin for a brief stint. Enter Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Brendan Morrison, among the few who had an opportunity to keep their team afloat.
Goaltending has been a round robin with Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov netting the top jobs, but thirdster Michal Neuvirth stepped into a game this week against Montreal. Neuvirth’s opportunity fell short with a loss of 2-3.
My prediction preseason comments:
Washington Capitals- Alexander Ovechkin rocks, we all know that, but I’ll be watching to see if the young goalie, Semyon Varlamov can hold it together. Critics doubt the strength of this goaltender for the full-season impact, but what I saw last year in the unraveling of the New York Rangers was impressive. And, Don Cherry loves to rip on Ovechkin for his grandstanding. How ironic.
When you talk about the New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur gets the high five, but the Devils have a strong base and have climbed up in the Eastern Conference because of good play. The depth of players such as David Clarkson has proven a wise investment with 7 goals, 8 assists and 33 PIMs. Zajac and Parise have held a stake in the play, but new faces have emerged as pickups in the fantasy world due to productivity. Right-winger Niclas Bergfors has 5 goals and 9 assists. Defenseman Andy Greene nabbed 3 goals, 6 assists, not the highest stats, but a name that is popping up more frequently in commentary during the game.
Goaltending by Martin Brodeur has been consistent and spot on with a 12-5-1 record. With a 98% ownership in Yahoo leagues, he’s expected to be great and it’s showing.
New Jersey Devils– So I’m more of a fan of those New York teams, but I have to give it up for the Devils. Despite Brodeur, I like most of the players. Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and David Clarkson have all caught my attention like no other New Jersey team in the past. I’ll be watching and drafting from this team.
The Buffalo Sabres should have won the Stanley Cup in 1999, and I still have issues with that, therefore I am elated to see the Sabres sopping it up in the Eastern conference sitting in third. Players like Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville have provided a base, with Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford being picked up in fantasy leagues more frequently.
Ex-Michigan State Spartan Ryan Miller has been stellar for the Sabres. His play has put the team where they are. His record stands at 12-3-2 with a GAA of 1.97 and two shutouts.
Didn’t see the Sabres as contenders but were interested in the team on my own accord. My recommendations for Buffalo revolved around the D in Craig Rivet and Steve Mantador who have proven to keep the lanes clear for scoring. Talent hidden in the depths of Buffalo
Pittsburgh Penguins sits in 4th carrying a ton of injuries. Sidney Crosby has done his best, but one man cannot carry it all. There are some lucky charms being utilized. Actually it’s amazing that they are holding on, but expect the Penguins to rise as soon as everyone is healthy. Fleury could step it up a bit as his stats state 11-7-0 and a shaky GAA of 2.67.
My New York teams sit in 9th and 10th. The NY Rangers were expected to perform better, but their talent is not delivering. One exception for the Garden is Michael Del Zotto with an impressive debut showing 4 goals, 11 assists, and14 PIMs. The NY Islanders put a great deal of hope in rookie John Tavares and that has proven to keep the team as swimmers, not bottom feeders so far.
In the Western Conference many fans out west would like to see the San Jose Sharks break their bad playoff karma once and for all. This year may be it by the hardcore play and dedication towards the playoff run. That is said every year, but acquiring winger Dany Heatley was a gamble that has paid with 17 goals, 9 assists and 18 PIMs. Center Patrick Marleau has 14 goals and 12 assists, then you have veteran Joe Thornton with 30 points. This type of scoring creates star power. Plus, add great depth players in Manny Malhotra, Joe Pavelski, and a strong blue line headed by Dan Boyle co-starring Jason Demers and M-E Vlasic wins games.
Evgeni Nabokov gets respect because he can complete the task in net. So far he’s achieved 13-3-4 but needs to gain ground in his 2.2 GAA. Not bad, but could do better.
This was my scope for the Sharks preaseason:
The San Jose Sharks-Because who won’t be watching? Now that Dany Heatley is in, and ineffectual Jonathan Cheechoo is out, the team may have a chance. Players like M-C Vlasic, Ryan Clowe, and of course, Joe Thornton will try to gain back the fierceness in the Shark Tank. All hope is on Heatley. But that may not be enough. I’m watching from afar. I’ll be keeping track of Dan Boyle‘s stats.
Now that everyone is using the title of young guns for the Colorado Avalanche, seems the team is losing some ammo power slipping to second place. Much hype has revolved around the new overhaul and future accomplishments of the new and improved Avalanche. Panic attack or another victim of injuries? J-M Liles was on rotating IR for a few weeks, T.J. Galiardi was out, Adam Foote was out, and so on. The Avs reportedly have the one of the lowest SOG and GAA stats. Good defense and goaltending has helped keep the Avs in place. And they’ve gotten some lucky shots due to Matt Duchene’s accuracy. Fantasy owners were warned about picking up Wojtek Wolski , but lucky owners have benefited with 9 goals and 11 assists.
Peter Budaj was out with the flu, but did that really matter? The star of the Avs is Craig Anderson who hit a 12-6-3 record, but a 2.52 GAA, which has slipped.
No one can dispute the Colorado Avalanche are performing well, but so many would like to see them fall down. Is it that unbelievable that a better mix of players and management can make that much difference? If you can get the right chemistry, there’s no telling what you can do.
Chicago is a great town and an awesome sports town, so it’s a plus to see one of the Original Six teams doing well. In 3rd for the race, the past is the past and the Chicago Blackhawks are here in the now. Though Marian Hossa is out, the Hawks have the train rolling. Great players and I’m a fan.
My thoughts on the team preseason:
Chicago Blackhawks– Take no prisoners. Out for blood. Now that the Hawks have Marian Hossa the team should be amazing. Right? Let’s hope so after all the hoopla surrounding the team or Toews, Kane and Keith and some other good players that don’t get noticed as much: Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Seabrook. Deep dish pizzazz or digging deeper into a cheesy situation.
Fourth place goes to the Los Angeles Kings who I enjoy seeing kicking the sand in everyone’s face. A beach team has caught my eye with players like Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll, veteran Ryan Smyth and numerous guys I had never seen but introduced to by their notable play: Michal Handzus, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds. Goalie Jon Quick is holding up with a 12-7-2 record, but will need to turn up the heat on his 2.62 GAA.
The St. Louis Blues got lost on their way to practice and sit in 13thplace. David Backes has been a late bloomer and goaltending problems have been a shock to everyone.
Surprises? The Detroit Red Wings rank 8th, while the Phoenix Coyotes are ahead in 7th.
Luck can be an amazing helper for teams with mounting injuries and sloppy shooters, but all teams have lucky games. True skill and talent lie within all teams but don’t produce if the alignment is off or non-existent. One top scorer can carry a team, but it’s the teams with depth taking it to the playoff run.