Tag Archives: Boston Bruins

Fighting Ends with NHL Lockout

The Ontario Hockey League(OHL) refuses to justify fighting and won’t allow it, and they’re fighting back. The NHL is listening and may follow the call.

“For years, Campbell and his staff in Toronto have chewed on the subject. The Rangers-Devils game last season, where three staged fights broke at the drop of the puck, was a black eye for the league and certainly caused some in-house deliberation at the NHL office.”

The influential intolerance of violence is trending as the NHL lockout lingers. Fighting is a problem in hockey, but just how much fighting is really happening?

Brandon Prust and Shawn Thornton are the two grinders who have racked up the most majors in the league. Prust, formerly of the New York Rangers, accrued 156 penalty minutes. Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins racked 154 minutes of bad behaviour. Not all penalty minutes are for fighting, rather diving, tripping, misconduct, slashing, boarding, and high-sticking (which can rip open a lip, eye or nose).

Is this the death of the doomed fighting controvrsy to make way for a kinder, gentler hockey agenda? The lockout may be a contributing factor for initiatives to curb relentless fighting in the NHL. Players do not make a habit of fighting and the enforcer role has diminshed on every roster. With the NHL work stoppage, fans may expect to see a stoppage of the bloodbaths on the ice when the season returns.

Can hockey survive a cultural shift so great to adapt to the new culture?

Fans have many options to watch hockey for less expense and travel time. This may be good for hockey overall to take us back to our roots in local ice arenas. The mention of the delapedated concrete building that house large ice rinks and skates, brings joy. It’s the environment where every hockey fan got the itch. It’s the same traits that bring fans to other arenas. It’s a hockey culture where your neighbors are enchanted with the scraping of skates, the whoosh of the ice, the cold, and the fortitude to watch every last minute.

A large part of that willingness, for hockey fans like myself, was the promise of a scrap or two. That culture is dying for the sake of a new breed of hockey player. They’re faster, analytical, and avoid roadblocks like a Prust or Thornton. The new skater must be keen and lean.

Growing up with the Detroit Red Wings, you knew that the Wings represented wth wheels of speed and innovation. Players like Steve Yzerman modeled the quiet, calm leader with the intelligence to create. The Wings moved like a machine. The story of the  tragedy and triumph of the Wings was your story too.

Now, living in New York, the glory of the New York Rangers is quickly falling. Talented players are exiting to play the game they love, and who can blame them? While most fans realize these players enjoy their job, they are men who have families to support. An energized city, an energized Madison Square Garden has dimmed for the Rangers fans this October.

The NHL has shut down neighborhoods.  Hockey fans are resourceful enough to know how to handle their hockey fix. “Run for the exits” is what the NHL has done to the fans.

I really don’t want to start a fight, so perhaps we will see you in the near future. I’m working on locating a KHL channel.

 

On the Road to the Stanley Cup

Heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s a little for everyone. From traditional old-school matchups like the Pens and Flyers, to irksome bumps a team must get over like the pressure Nashville faces with Detroit. An interesting pairing in the West puts the Kings and Canucks in a must-see series.

The season starts here and now with a clean slate heading towards the coveted Stanley Cup. Whatever the ranking,the odds, the previous wins, teams have this chance once no matter what happened a few days ago. It’s now or never. The honor of making it to the playoffs can change the course of any team’s season.

East:

(4)Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5)Philadelphia Flyers– One of the best series to follow. The battle of Pennsylvania is always a regular season blowout. The Flyers have the talent in Claude Giroux and the moxy of Scott Hartnell to take on the challenge. With Sidney Crosby back for the Pens, Pittsburgh has the extra power-forward to take the points. Goaltending seems balanced in both nets. Pittsburgh can’t lose with Crosby. Pens win in 5.

(6)New Jersey Devils vs. (3)Florida Panthers The Devils have done a tremendous job this season rounding out their talent and finding ways to win. Though Brodeur was shaky in net early on, goaltending looks fixed for now. The Panthers have the momentum and the spirit to clinch this series. Panthers in 4.

(8)Ottawa Senators vs. (1)New York Rangers– New York clinched the East, so that would make this an easy series win…..not so fast. The Senators have had an upswing that could have them be the upset team. The Rangers may have some concerns and could take this for granted. Henrik Lundqvist wants this and has the tools to finish it. Rangers in 5.

(7)Washington Capitals vs. (2)Boston Bruins– Ovechkin and crew made it by an inch. Boston knows the path and with the depth, even top players for the Caps can’t get it done. Bruins in 4.

West:

(4)Nashville Predators vs. (5)Detroit Red Wings– Nashville always comes to face the Wings in the playoffs at some point. Detroit is the Preds’ brick wall. This year, with home-ice advantage, Nashville have the opportunity to swing it their way. Don’t underestimate the Wings performance this season. Hockeytown finds a way to win. Wings in 7.

(8)Los Angeles Kings vs. (1)Vancouver Canucks- Winner of the President’s Trophy, Vancouver is on a journey to win their destiny. Last season, the Canucks  lost in game 7 releasing chaos into the streets of Vancouver. Canucks can’t afford to lose again. The Kings have made an impressive run and will be formidable opponents. Quick can beat Luongo. Carter, Richards and Kopitar can beat Kesler, Burrows and at least one Sedin. The Canucks will take the series, but not without a fight in 6.

(7)San Jose Sharks vs. (2)St. Louis Blues– St. Louis will win. That’s all I can say. The Sharks have been a disappointment in many areas. The Blues have been an amazing team this season. Blues sweep.

(6)Chicago Blackhawks vs. (3) Phoenix Coyotes– Tight fight. The Coyotes just seem to find a way to win, but mostly goaltender Mike Smith has found a way to win and a nod for the Vezina. Chicago may not have it. The momentum going in to the series will determine the outcome. Coyotes in 7.

With the Western Conference team surge, the competition is fierce. The Eastern Conference has been the victim of sharp criticism for the sagging efforts of the traditionally winning side. New York serves as a good measurement of the talents of the Eastern teams. The West is growing in strength and the race was tight. The East brings the skill and sharpshooters,  while the West brings the intensity and passion play. What a great season it has been! Good luck to your playoff team and enjoy the games.

March Madness- Eastern Conference

The NHL’s month of March creates madness for fans cheering for their respective teams to make the playoffs. Glued to the TV, blogs and any news have the hockey community in a frenzy, including this blogger. The Red Wings have slumped and then some losing six straight, Franzen out with back spasms, and Jimmy Howard and backup out has Detroit down; thank goodness for the 23-home game winning streak. The Wings will make it, but other cusp teams may not get the break. Even if the team with the best record makes it, all signs depend on if they can withstand the playoff series. Travel and injuries can stall a playoff run, but many of the teams in good standing have depth to carry through.

Beasts of the East:

New York Rangers-
Just a few seasons ago, the Rangers made the playoffs but stank in the clutch. This years, goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a solid backup in Martin Biron. But not all has gone so well for the Rangers who have only one point on the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin make a great front line with a supporting cast that is truly worthy of playing on Broadway. Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto to name a few create a winning team that are projected to win, yet the loss of their seemingly firm grip on the Eastern Conference has many wondering if they can hang on to the lead again this season.

Boston Bruins-
Boston has pulled some punches this season, but not as far ahead as the Rangers or Penguins. Boston’s division hasn’t gained the expected returns hoped for in the Northeast. Not betting on Boston to get to the finals with the stirrings within the club. Goalie Tim Thomas made political news with few jumping on board. Debates on if Thomas’ actions hurt the team’s dynamic grew and speculation on if Boston was a Cup contending team became a concern. The Bruins are hockey professionals and certainly Thomas knew his actions were newsworthy, but not splitting. Expect the Bruins to do well, but not all the way.

Florida Panthers-
A point behind the Bruins, the Panthers have nothing to lose and that attitude will give the team momentum. Low expectations and a beach-league team have the critics intrigued. Veteran talent will steer the team, while young talent will ignite. The team spreads the scoring duties and should make for some interesting games down the stretch. Expect surprises. Buy some flip flops.

Pittsburgh Penguins-
It wasn’t looking good for the Pens with Crosby out for so long, but the team filled the gap and maintained a presence that has put them in the game confidently and quite comfortably. Crosby’s scoring could boost the Pens over the competition. Evgeni Malkin took the role of leader and has led the troops to the battle. James Neal, Kris Letang, Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, and the other boys who have won before, are ready to support goalie Fleury in winning the Cup. They’ve done it before and can do it again

Philadelphia Flyers-
Tenacious. Stocked with talent in Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Matt Read, and an outstanding year for Scott Hartnell caps the goaltending of Bryzgalov for a team built for speed. The Flyers have been to the Cup celebration recently and the plan was to build for another Cup run. They’re so ready and could do it this year as they are four points from Pittsburgh and five from the Rangers.

New Jersey Devils-
What a great time to have relocated to the Jersey Shore with access to Rangers, Flyers, and Devils dominating the Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Devils are the super surprise this year, despite bad press on the team’s bankruptcy and the free-agency this summer of Zach Parise. As the recently named captain of the Devils, Parise was a maybe next season due to the lack of Cup playoffs. If that doesn’t give the Devils the drive to win, I don’t know what else to say about Parise’s quest for a winning team. The question will be the measurement of their bid and Parise’s desire to stay.

Squeezed in down the standing sits the Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators. Buffalo has a great chance of making it with Ryan Miller’s revival in net. The entire team has woken up from a bad dream and is alert.

The Western Conference run down will appear in the next week or two, so check back for the Los Angeles Kings climb, The Red Wings injury woes, and the sensational team in St. Louis making believers out of Blues fans.

NHL realignment winners and losers

The NHL Board of Governors will meet in Pebble Beach next week to discuss realigning the NHL to better serve the long hours of travel teams must face. Since the Atlanta Thrashers folded giving birth to the second resurrection of the Winnipeg Jets, the League has  been  bouncing around a few scenarios they hope to decide upon while taking in a few rounds of golf. Is this really that big of an issue? It is for the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There has been some grumbling from the Nashville Predators who would like a piece of something in all this meandering, and then there is the Dallas Stars who for some reason think they should be the helm of a new division.

But it gets better like a hint of juicy gossip that really isn’t that great as much as the  anticipation. Supposedly, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promised the Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch that the Red Wings would join the Eastern Conference among the modern-day dynasties like the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and even the New York Islanders. Detroit would fit right in.

Football and hockey are united in the Michigan/Ohio battle. As anyone raised in Michigan knows, at some point Ohio sticks its nose into Michigan’s business, just as the Columbus Blue Jackets are making a case for their own Eastern Conference  bid. Worried Red Wings fans? Teams like the Rangers and Bruins would prefer the ailing Jackets because they are easy prey. Detroit is serious competition.

Border Wars

The complicated plan of realignment represent this type of promising and not delivering; the easy plan swaps the Wings for the Jets. Steve Yzerman would than face his former team and who wouldn’t want to see that in Hockeytown?

Then there are the Western Conference teams who don’t want to see the Red Wings leave due to revenue stream. Hey, how about pumping up the Vancouver Canucks or the Colorado Avalanche for some money-making ventures.  The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks feed the celebrity machine which should be raising some type of cash flow or call on the Edmonton Oilers with their dynamic duo of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.

That's a goal!

Both Conferences see Detroit as the excellence in the League like fighting over the driving a hot car: it would be cool to drive, but the dangers of that much power could get you pulled over.

Don’t forget your Enforcers

Matt Cooke, Todd Bertuzzi and all of those tough guys with bad reputations are turning a new leaf; they have to or face public outcry and discipline. New NHL disciplinarian and ex-Red Wing Brendan Shanahan will make it so. If an illegal hit surmounts to a suspension, the league will release a video of the play, then break it down to formulate a proper decision.

Pittsburgh Penguins pesky winger has been the target of resentment from fans everywhere for his hit on Boston Bruins Marc Savard, who is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms. Bertuzzi has toned down his sock’em robot imitation after the Steve Moore incident, and touted his skills in Detroit significantly scoring last season.

Cooke has been a consistent 30 points scoring for the past few seasons with the Pens, but his reputation needed some TLC. Last season his penalty minutes climbed as his suspensions and poor public profile contributed to his need to reiterate that he was not a nasty guy rather a caring family man. As Sidney Crosby’s health has been disruptive to the Pens and its fans, Cooke still may drop the gloves or take a hit but his role as enforcer must tame for the success of the team. Giving up penalties won’t help Pittsburgh, particularly if Crosby sits out most of the upcoming season. Don’t shy away from Cooke, but give it time for his new face to form.

For Detroit Red Wings fans, the signing of Bertuzzi was a surprise and caused some grumbling. Bertuzzi put up a solid 40-plus point and often scored the game changer. As a fantasy league option, the winger was a hot pick mid-season. His numbers are expected to be fair for the 2011-12 season, yet the 36-year old may be running low.

Bertuzzi and Cooke will meet as the Red Wings travel to Pittsburgh Sept. 21 for a preseason game.

The unfortunate passing of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien has brought a lot of attention to enforcer forefront. Though fighting and hits were not the cause of death for either player, it is a reminder to all hockey followers that these tough guys have a purpose and a place on the team. As the New York Rangers rebuild from the tragedy and acquire a tenacious team, both Sean Avery and Brandon Prust are ones to keep an eye on.

Avery has always been the Rangers bad boy
. From his “sloppy seconds” comment creating a surge of bad PR, Avery has rebounded to support same-sex marriage publicly and was recently redeemed from an interaction in Hollywood. Having a tough guy reputation attracts more trouble than these guys stir up. As a scorer, Avery had a great start to the 2010-11 season. His charisma boosts the Rangers to turn up the heat.

Brandon Prust excelled last year. Prust was Boogaard’s roommate on the road, so this season his play will be dedicated to the loss. Prust sat on my roster and produced with 29 pts., 160 PIMS, and 161 hits. If you play in a league that doesn’t reward for hits or penalty minutes, find a new league.

In Philly, your best bet is Scott Hartnell, who also snapped to it early in the season. New Flyers to take a look at include Max Talbot with 66 PIMS and 154 hits; Wayne Simmonds with 75 PIMS and 125 hits; and don’t forget your Chris Pronger who is capable of some enforcement.

In New Jersey, the Devil you may look at is David Clarkson. Though Clarkson tamed his temper last season, he still acquired 116 PIMS and 170 hits.

If you are still on the New York Islanders float, consider Travis Hamonic with 103 PIMs and 118 hits. Hamonic was a late addition to my team and he made the difference in those categories.

If you hold grudges and cannot get over Matt Cooke’s issues, then take Kris Letang as you Penguins pick. The defenseman posted 101 PIMS and 167 hits last season.

Defenders can supply your team with assists and goals, so don’t forget to support your local enforcers.

Summer Hockey Hype

It’s only August and the hype has begun. After the woozying trades and trash, this summer read like more like a gossip column. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were expelled from Philly for bad behavior, LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi  was irked when he was traded damaged goods by Edmonton, and just recently Sean Avery was busted by the cops in Hollywood for shoving an officer.  

If you are sitting by the pool, then you have plenty of time to begin building your fantasy team. Whether you play in a competitive keeper league or drafting an entirely new team, consider the teams who have revamped their lines. However, buyer beware that not all top players perform as well as expected. Duncan Keith’s award-winning 2009-10 season did not carry the same weight in 2010-11. Sidney Crosby’s health is tenuous- one big hit and he could blowout.

Eastern Conference best bets:

New York Rangers- resigning Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan were crucial. Both players have developed their game and are the workhorses of the team. With Brad Richards joining the mix, the Rangers will be a fun team to watch and get behind. With Avery and Brandon Prust, expect some tough guy presence stopping any intruders near Henrik Lundqvist‘s crease.

Philadelphia Flyers– sign Jaromir Jagr. Who knows what to expect? He could be great or gruesome, but you don’t want to be left behind on this one. He snubbed other teams to join the Flyers because of their Cup contention coup. Max Talbot, Claude Giroux and a roster full of hot taletn can be yours if you do your bidding carefully.

Buffalo Sabres- coach Lindy Ruff is still calling the shots on ice, and with newly acquired talents look out. In net, Ryan Miller is one of the best in the NHL. Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr will lend the blueline some direction helping Tyler Myers this season.

Carolina HurricanesJeff Skinner and Anthony Stewart are just two young players to watch in Carolina. Skinner, who won the Calder for rookie of the year, is first line, Stewart 3rd or 4th. Other young talent, Jamie McBain and Chad LaRose need to go on a watch list.

Tampa Bay Lightning– re-signing Steven Stamkos was a necessary requirement before GM Steve Yzerman could go golfing. With Stamkos secured, the Bolts will be out for blood this year. Vinnie Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis may be already drafted, so consider Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell for a stong support system.

Pittsburgh Penguins- with or without Sidney Crosby, the Pens put the pedal to the metal. All energy, all the time. Kris Letang should be on your list. Tyler Kennedy rocked last year and must be a consideration, same for Chris Kunitz and James Neal.

Boston Bruins– I’d sweep up Dennis Seidenberg. Tim Thomas is an obvious choice, but secured by keeper leagues. If the Stanley Cup win was it, then don’t go overboard with the Bruins. However, there are some good bets here in Rich Peverley, Patrice Bergeron, don’t forget Brad Marchand. I’ve found Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ferrence to be good for fights and scruffy play. Milan Lucic and David Krejci have inconsistent seasons but make good trade fodder.

Western Conference best bets:

Los Angeles Kings-  has a great building process in Hockeywood.  Anze Kopitar will be ready come ice time, and with Mike Richards as the extra kick, look out! Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty are key defensemen. Jonathan Quick in goal is a great pick. Captain Dustin Brown didn’t let me down. Justin Williams was the sought after Kings player in our league rightly so.

Detroit Red Wings– always on the list due to the talent they foster. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom are tops on any list if you can get them. Goaltender Jimmy Howard may be a task to acquire but worth if you can make a trade after the season starts- sell low. Johan Franzen and defensemen Niklas Kronwall should be noted for scoring and hits.

Vancouver Canucks– they just couldn’t wrap it up, but that has been their issue. Lessons learned may help Ryan Kesler and the Sedins in creative ways to win. Consider Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa and don’t be wary of goalie Roberto Luongo if you can get him.

Edmonton Oilers– I say this because the whole world will be watching the Taylor Hall/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dynamic. Grab either player and be patient. Hall took some time to warm up and was passed all over fantasy leagues as owners became restless with his growing pains.

Chicago Blackhawks “Car Bomb”Carcillo  will explode in Chicago enforcing the Hawks second revival. This is a tough team who wants the Cup badly. Patrick Sharp is signed and you should do the same. He’s a quiet player who has his ups and downs, but delivers overall. If you can acquire Patrick Kane of Jonathan Toews, then work your magic. Andrew Brunette is a watch list candidate to see if he can generate something.

St. Louis Blues– I pick them every year due to the talent that passes through. Chris Stewart stands out for the Blues. David Backes is a sturdy candidate but can be unpredictable. Kevin Shattenkirk,Alex Steen and Andy McDonald did well last season and are good choices in the second to third-round. Remember to put Alex Pietrangelo on your list as a stellar young defenseman, and keep an eye on Matt D’Agostini.

Don’t see your team? Oh, well, take a look at some of the choice picks to find your best bet:

Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks)– The Sharks can beat the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs, but can’t seem to get further than that. Couture was nominated for the rookie of the year and deservedly so. Grab him before someone else does. Usually a second-round pick now that he’s on the radar.

Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)– Benn broke out last year and was quite dutiful to fantasy owners. If he lands in your queue, consider if you need a productive 3rd liner.

Devin Setoguchi (Minnesota Wild) – great during the playoffs with the Sharks. Minnesota has been on everyone’s radar to be big but remains in the middle. Perhaps Setoguchi can spark some oomph.

Your dream team is in your hands. Not all goes as according to plan and your backup choices can make the difference in all areas from trades to suspensions of a key player. Study the new and improved rosters if you haven’t been keeping up with the transactions this summer.

How hot is it in Hockeytown?

It’s officially summer,  yet I’m writing hockey. I remember reading former Islanders PR guy Chris Nichols’ blog last summer and he was scolding readers about not being on the beach. He wasn’t sifting sand between his toes either. Plenty of time for beach and hockey since the NHL truly cranks year-round. You may get lucky and find some lag in the league in late July and August to enjoy ice in your drink, not on the rink.

The Canucks didn’t bring the cup home to Canada due to the scrappy Bruins outsmarting Vanouver in Game 7 of a phonemonal Stanley Cup series. Kudos to the Bruins for fighting through some tough obstacles to hoist the most prized award in all of sports. Still not as much on a Sedin bandwagon, but Ryan Kesler beating out Pavel Datsyuk for the Selke was an impressive feat. The unfavorable light of the reaction of the fans to the loss was sad. The Vancouver Canucks deserved a better reception than that for making the 2011 finals one of the highest ranking in years. Detroit has won championships but don’t burn the town down and we’re known for that in the Motor City.

Red Wings fans are aware that when Datsyuk is in tip-top form, the Wings will always be in contention. My focus of summer is how Detroit will rebound from Brian Rafalski’s retirement and rally for the inspired perserverace of Nicklas Lidstrom, who returns to Joe Louis Arena for a 20th season. The blueline will mantain strong leadership with Lidstrom and should be able to attract top talent if needed. The upcoming draft will also tell the future of the franchise. Detroit picks the starts only after the maturation period has peaked and the skill is ripe for the picking. Look for future Wings updates on the draft, signings and sightings as the summer dwindles.

I’ll say a few words about the Colorado Avalanche who got lucky with the No. 2 and No. 11 slot in the first round entry draft. Swedish winger Garbriel Landeskog will become a power forward the likes of what Chris Stewart brought to the team. Defenseman Duncan Siemens went as the No. 11 pick of the Avs. The Avalanche will be an interesting team to watch in a few years with Stefan Elliott, Ryan Stoa and Joey Hishon coming up through the ranks.

Joe Sakic has joined the front office and an Avs alumni group will be present for the Avs opener Oct. 8 when the Red Wings swoop in. The nice guy image of the Avalanche will prevail with Sakic as the vetern helmsman that Patrick Roy didn’t want to be. I’m ready for a team that isn’t so nice on the ice. C’mon, the Avs most feared fighter is Cody McLeod-a nice guy at heart who could double for Raggedy Andy. Blueliner, J-M Liles moves to Toronoto for a 2012 draft pick. My time writing about the Avs has been fun but will be tapering with this post as I prepare to move across the country to Rangers and Devils territory.

Great things are happening in New Jersey with prospects Jon Merrill from Michigan and the 2011 most NHL- ready draftee, Adam Larsson. The Flyers will hold interest for DU’s Matt Carle, and their spunk. I’ve been a Western Conference hockey fan most of my life so the Eastern Conference will be exciting. I’ll be near the city that never sleeps, and I will be losing sleep staying up for the Kings games.

Canucks’ luck or Bruins’s ruin?

The Vancouver Canucks’s Kevin Bieksa took a lucky shot and won a trip to the Stanley Cup final. Some say they were lucky and not deserving of the win. Hello, the Canucks won the President’s Trophy. Another view hoisted the Canucks as ruining the NHL market in the US….Americans have a long way to go before they are “in love” with hockey like the Canadians.

So do the Canucks just have luck or are they really all that talented? This hockey freak picked them to win it all. Vancouver will win in 5. Game 6 tops if Boston gets lucky with a skilled driller by Horton or Krecji.

Vancouver’s ability to close the deal has gelled. The Canucks top line, Sedin-Sedin-Burrows, have combined for more points in the playoffs than any other line. Throw in Ryan Kesler and it’s the cherry on top. The newbies, Chris Higgins and Cody Hodgson are call-ups who have stood up to the task. Defense from Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff , Dan Hamhuis and Aaron Rome will give the Bruins a run.

But really it’s about the goaltending between two Vezina Trophy finalist- Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas. Luongo has won an Olympic gold medal on home ice and has the feel for Rogers Arena. He has hit some slumps, but is usually consistent. Thomas flailed a bit early in the year but convalesced into the oompa loompa he is in net. I give this battle to Luongo. And the Vezina.

Vancouver has fluidity, while Boston can look clunky. Boston’s dangerous weapons are to be feared and revered by the Canucks if they want to win. David Krecji is one of those quiet underrated players who shouldn’t be considered in that manner. Nathan Horton has been a remarkable gift from the Florida Panthers. Not only does Horton score, but he strategizes with pizzazz carrying seven points in the series with Tampa Bay along with Krecji.

You can’t talk about the Bruins without mentioning their captain, the road block that is Zdeno Chara. He’s received some heat this season for not playing like a top defenseman and the embroiled Paciorety incident, yet he still has been nominated for the Norris. Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference have made a difference on the blue line to the net for Boston’s defense. Ference gets in there like a ferret.

The Stanley Cup this year will return to the Western Conference and to Canada.

Summer is here

Red Wings fans have sobered up now that the Wings are gearing up for summer in Michigan. Time to get the boat out, head for the lake and fondly reminisce about what could have been. Next season for sure!

Lidstrom will surely retire after this season at age 41, six Norris Trophy wins and 4-time Stanley Cup winner. He’s won the Viking Award twice, which is given to the best Swedish player in North America. While Lidstrom may be bound for Sweden to retire, the Red Wings will be losing Mike Modano and Chris Osgood as well. The 2011-12 NHL season in Detroit will look different with new additions from Grand Rapids moving in.

Fine wine ages, and so must the Wings fledglings. This new flock will have their growing pains, but overall will maintain quality hockey for the fans and in the Western Conference. Detroit will not be in danger of sitting last in the race next year to make the playoffs.

Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar are just a few who have had some ice time in Detroit. Notable Griffins not ready for prime time include Gustav Nyquist from Maine and Brandon Straub from Colorado College.

We still will have Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen but how long will it be before Rafalski leaves? A few more productive years in Detroit, then he could be done or NHL rumors have focused on Rafalski as a trade option.

The new team will work under Babcock and Holland. Change is good so look forward to getting to know the 2011-12 team and think fondly of the 2010-11 Wings. Somewhat like the transition from Steve Yzerman heading to Tampa Bay, the triumph comes with perseverance. Detroit fans will not be denied a good game of hockey.

The playoffs continue with Tampa vs. Boston and the Canucks vs. the Sharks.

Boston is a Bunyan of a team with Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara, and then some. Tim Thomas in net creates the beast within the Boston Bruins. I expect gritty games with incredible puck-in-glove action from Thomas. Boston bets: Marchand, Peverley, Recchi.

Tampa Bay boasts Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Vinny LeCavalier and in net, Dwayne Roloson, who has been on will-call for a Stanley Cup trip. Other names you need to know: Purcell, Malone, Bergenheim.  Tampa won the Cup in 2004, then the lockout derailed the NHL for years. The experience on the Lightning is just enough to take out Boston.

Tampa Bay takes the series because they shut down Ovechkin to get here.

Vancouver Canucks stands for Canada. Ryan Keler will also take out anyone who gets in his way of this Cup. He was gyped out of the Gold, so now he must conquer the Cup. The Sedin twins are expected to get the job done as well. Roberto Luongo is a proven winner in net and so is his opponent. Gentlemen’s duel. Canucks who can make the plays: Bieksa, Burrows, Torres.

The Sharks have carried some playoff baggage that needs to get tossed. With Logan Couture, Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Clowe, the Sharks look tough to beat. Clowe will clock Kesler I’m betting on that one. The Sharks have Joe Thornton. Plus, Dan Boyle has won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.

Vancouver Canucks will move on, despite both teams having difficulty closing the deal.

Down in Detroit

Red Wings fans are in mourning. It’s not just a hockey game; it’s out existence. Detroit isn’t really known for our football, a tad for our baseball, but moreover the depressive state of our city. Detroit was named the murder capital for numerous years, but that had been replaced with the title of Stanley Cup champs. So now what do we do?

If you’ve never been to Detroit, you’ll be taken aback by the ghostly streets and boarded up buildings. When you walk from the Ren Cen to Joe Louis Arena, it reminds you of a movie set.  Some great horror and actions films could be filmed there immediately. Detroit’s own Mitch Albom, Jeff Daniels and others have talked about refurbishing the city into Hollywood East.

Detroit has one of the best art museums, some great Greek and Middle Eastern food, and Canada just over the border. But what the Red Wings fans will do now is go boating, hit one of the many beaches and sing Kid Rock songs all summer long.

The series between San Jose and most likely Chicago will be a good one, but I’m looking to the Eastern Conference. If I can’t see the Canucks move on, I’m supporting my Boston Bruins friends. I’m also supporting Zdeno Chara. Boston has done a remarkable job making the playoffs and taking control over the Flyers.

Pittsburgh was always one of my favorite teams, until last year when the Pens snubbed the Wings at the Stanley Cup celebration. Good sportsmanship is still one aspect I admire in a team. I can make a case for the Canadiens, who are the Cinderella team in the playoffs, but my Boston friends will not have that.

The good news for the Wings is that Jiri Hudler will return, there are plans for a new arena, and Jimmy Howard will be an attack dog next year. I’m watching hockey for the love of the game and the playoff run.