Tag Archives: Datsyuk

National Hockey Lockout

Award for lameness. The lockout will have reverberations in varied degrees depending on its duration. If players are bailing immediately, the fans are sure to follow. Maintaining a billion dollar industry with no provider and no customer won’t hold back a backlash.

NCAA and AHL hockey will see a profit, and those neighbordhood junior leagues will benefit from new spectators. The fans want hockey. The game of hockey is why fans pay to see the game,  not to buy a pretzel and a key chain. Going to a game, supporting your team is tradition for most recalling classic memories. If food and trinkets call you to the game, then you really are not a hockey fan.

This work stoppage has sent Evgeny Malkin and Sergei Gonchar packing for home signing deals with Mettalurg of the Kontinental Hockey League. The Pittsburgh Penguins roster got lighter as Sidney Crosby’s agent made an inquiry to the KHL so Sid the Kid won’t hit a skid this season. Yannick Weber and Mark Streit sign in Switzerland, Christian Ehrhoff heads to Germany, so who will next to send a message to the NHL?  Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin, that’s who. Patrick Berglund will play for free in Sweden and the exodus continues.

Shane Doan’s contract was wrapped up with a 4-year deal in Phoenix as the Coyotes arena deal looked positive and possible. Now, that’s all gone for those few fans who eagerly anticipated the return of their desert dogs.

The owners are the only people who really want this lockout. They lose money but hope to gain. This tactic is a way to keep the lid on grandstanding in the future with ludicrous multi-year contracts that escalate as the player deflates. Even NHL players are expendable. Perhaps this is a passive technique to rid the tough guy world of whiners and embellish-makers.

It’s a bittersweet farewell to NHL veterans Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson who will not get a grand farewell if the season isn’t salvaged.

We’ll all laugh about this went the lockout gives way by November, right? We’ll all be cautious and snagging some of those promotional tickets the NHL teams will have to fork over to win back the loyal.

The lockout is lame because it’s the same issue in any workplace- administration vs. staff. Rarely do the two sides ever see the same problem or the same solution. Negotiation must end on a win-win, and that is not happening soon at any percentage rate.

Gary Bettman and Bill Daly will forego salaries this season, and the NHL employees will go to a 4-day work week to save money. The Florida Panthers let go of their mascot and the damages to the profits continue. What was the point of all of this again?

Remember these great moments?

or this great moment for the Rangers/Devils fans?


National Hockey Lame. Positives in all of this: no Paulina Gretzky and Nickelback.

Relax, it’s Summer…Let the GMs do the Work

Hockey fanatics everywhere can’t let go just yet. Too many deals, trades and speculations are in works that leave the hockey community a little uneasy. The NHL Entry Draft, the July 1 free agent scurry, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement looming have descended upon backyard barbeques and the beach.

Relax, enjoy the summer and let the GMS, agents and players worry about the outlook for the 2012-13 season.

If you are a New York Rangers fan, then you have plenty to talk about as the Rick Nash acquisition conjures up “what could’ve been and what could be” talk. Scoring is needed for New York to move past their demons, but at what cost? Fans may have to bid adieu to Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, rookie Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto if they want the big name to save the day. Get ready to rock New York, because the shift is coming. New York has too many solid players and potential to go unnoticed.

In Detroit, it feels like when Steve Yzerman left the organization. with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, Hockeytown is without another legend. A new arena and a new captain will recharge the Wings for years to come. The Red Wings will always be a constant influence in the hockey community, but now will have to rebuild mentally and physically.

If any fans are breathing a sigh of relief, it’s the Los Angeles Kings fans who are sitting at the beach. Congrats to a job well done. The Kings have been proactive in bringing their story and talent to the forefront. GM Dean Lombardi turned a dream into a reality. Jonathan Quick as MVP brought home the contributions of the goaltender back in vogue.

Dreams in New Jersey are still alive. Next up for GM Lou Lamoriello is to secure Zach Parise for another Cup run, if Parise isn’t snatched away. Parise has registered for many as a better deal than Rick Nash. As an unrestricted fee agent this summer, Parise will be able to pick his destination.

And then there is Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf who are in the mix. Around, around, nobody knows, where any one of these will go. Keep your hockey news source close at hand on the boat, at the barbeque, at the beach or at the ballpark. This summer will be a hot one.

Horrors in Hockeytown smoldering

It’s a tradition in Detroit to set the town ablaze during the Halloween weekend yet this year the only thing smoldering appears to be the slumping Red Wings. Ironically, fires over the weekend were down 50% just as the Wings have dropped their record. Now 5-4-0, the Red Wings signed defenseman Niklas Kronwall to a 7-year $33.25 million contract to keep the hits coming.

Kronwall

Kronwalled

Kronwall,30, is the heir apparent to seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom. At the start of this seson, the Wings named Kronwall as an alternate captain emphasizing that Detroit’s blueline will remain tough as nails.

Detroit’s woes are too early to create hysteria when all the pieces of the puzzle are still intact. Jimmy Howard’s latest performances have been horrific for fantasy owners the past week, but he’s still the mask to fear at Joe Louis Arena. Danny Cleary has been a ghost on the ice with only two assists and a minus-4 rating. Hank Zetterberg has only tallied three points, while Pavel Datsyuk has seven points and a minus-5 rating. Detroit fans are patient and waiting for their tricks to turn to treats.

Don’t believer the hype that the Wings are crashing and burning or going down in flames. The scariest encounter in Detroit will be the pain inflicted by being Kronwalled.

 

Happy Halloween Hockey Fans!

Goons be gone

Fighting…it isn’t cool anymore. It won’t change the game, but maybe hockey fans need to change their perception of fighting. Very few hockey players earn the position of Enforcer. The tragic deaths of Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard have raised serious questions on depression, drug abuse and violence. The focus needs to be on the individual certainly, but as a hockey culture the promotion of violence sells.

Columbus defender James Wisniewski has been suspended four times since March 2008. He’s a repeat offender because his job description implies this. The regular season hasn’t started, yet Wisniewski will sit out the rest of the preseason and eight regular-season games for his hit to the head of Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck. Clearly, James needs a performance review. His job is defender not retaliator. But how far apart are those two skills really?

Minnesota Wild forward Brad Staubitz was suspended for the rest of the preseason and three regular-season games for a hit from behind on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cody Bass. His intention is as follows:

“I was on the forecheck, and it’s obviously not the outcome I wanted from the hit. I say I play hard but not dirty. … You’ve just got to be conscious all the time of what you’re doing. It’s tough. You’ve got to play hard, especially in the role that I’m in. It’s a narrow line.”

The Enforcers are the emotion of the team, raw emotion. These guys didn’t have character flaws as most read in tributes for Rypien, Boogaard and Belak. Their roles were to carry and defend the burden of the team’s angst. Being a defender isn’t being the emotional misfit of the team who can’t cope, rather they are the guys who go out every night watching the other guy’s back.

Rypien, Belak and Boogaard were the “burito” on the team. Teaching in urban Denver, I befriended many gang members who sat in my classes. These were not stupid guys, rather appeased at what their role was in society. “Burito” is the man in the gang who cleans up and does the dirty work, always involving someone who crossed the gang or a gang member’s family. That’s a “team” in North Denver who face poverty, murder and gun violence.

What about the team at the Pepsi Center? Cody McLeod is the goon for the Avs, and if you’ve ever seen him smile you’d doubt he’d pop a fist at all. The Colorado Avalanche are in no danger on the ice with poverty, murder or guns. Let Cody play his game, if he has one. Enforcers have a tough time breaking out of that role partly because their other skills on the ice don’t ring to the same tune as a Pavel Datsyuk or a Ryan Kesler. Both Kesler and Datsyuk have thrown down despite their excellent puck skills.  

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Kesler

Once the fighting is gone, then the NHL will be healed, right?  Apparently, not so. Preseason hockey has left a few tough guys out of the first week of regular play via suspension for blindside hits. It all evolves from the same defensive job.

There are always the guys who have to do the dirty work. Belak said he was okay being the fighter because that was his place on the team. How many men and women in the military prefer the raw combat? Tough as nails ones do. How many cops are eager to patrol the beat in Bayonne? If it’s a spot on the force, then they do it willingly knowing it will harden them. Rookies in the NHL do not succumbed to the enforcement pact. Only experienced goons take the slugs. Rookies make hits, which leads to more hits.

Police, soldiers, and hockey players all play an emotional game. Each career choice asks them to hand over their heart and dedicate it for the team. The NHL needs to protect the Enforcers to save their lives, is the nature of this beast. Bear hugging has been the alternate for hits and to a brawl taking the NHL from pissed to polite. Good sportsmanship never gets old.

The NHL wants to monitor the physical and mental health of its employees; other companies could benefit from joining this bandwagon. Corporate values have always been about the money, and if you don’t think the NHL is a corporation then you haven’t heard: our society has moved to care about money, not people. In today’s workplace you are replaceable if you are mentally or physically not tough enough, so goes it on the ice.

Blood, sweat and tears.

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.

Netminder or Nevermind in Hockeytown

It’s the end of July and hockey topics are thin at best. Numbers crunch, save percentages waged and other pertinent stats hit the street to make light of some hockey news, any hockey news at all. Thus we come to the new debate formulated by those stat geeks who can’t stop picking at the numbers. I like the stat geeks. I enjoy their mathematical brain and revel in their statistical evaluation of key players and future Hall of Famers. Apparently, Detroit’s Chris Osgood is the most recent target of the fame or lame game.

Chris Osgood has expressed his interest in hanging out at Tigers games, and he will get his wish retiring from the NHL this month. Osgood played only 11 games last season for Detroit being sidelined after undergoing sports hernia surgery in January. Osgood has 401 wins in his career which is the 10th best in the league ever. Osgood’s netminding spanned 14 seasons, and he earned three Stanley Cups. Not bad. The issue is his clutch, particularly in the crucial Game 7s where Osgood’s record is 2-4 in six games, and his save percentage just .901. “Ozzie” is being passed off as an average goaltender hiding behind one of the best teams in the league. So. Most Hockeytown nuts are aware of that. He’s being considered because it is not an easy job to mind the pipes for the Wings. They win, so does the goaltender.

A few articles have expressed dismay at the Ozzie hype and his Hall of Fame candidacy. When Ozzie was in net, the Wings delivered a .629 win percentage and an improved .640 when he was not in goal. It doesn’t matter. Osgood stood in goal and backed the Wings through playoffs and Stanley Cup victories. He’s worthy of being looked at because he was the goaltender for one of the best teams in the league. This is a consideration and there has been no guarantee made for Osgood to make the Hall of Fame.

Netminder needs keep Joey MacDonald at Joe Louis Arena in the No. 3 spot. Not so spectacular, but it will have to do. The likelihood of McDonald seeing ice time will be minimal. The Red Wings turn out phenomenal talent, but are the goaltenders hiding behind the team? Could the weakest link of the Wings be behind the mask?

Detroit signed Howard to a two-year deal in February and will stay put for now. At least the deal was limited and not an extensive contract like that of Roberto Luongo’s 12-year, $64 million deal. Jimmy Howard has become legend in fantasy hockey leagues, yet many Wings fans are ambivalent on his work ethic and his abilities in general.

Ty Conklin signed a 1-year deal as backup for Howard. Conklin is no stranger to the Wings playing in 2008-09, going 25-11-2 with a 2.51 GAA. Conklin had 37 starts and 40 games with Detroit three seasons ago, which were both career highs. He has only appeared in two career playoff games, neither as a starter.

Goaltending hasn’t been a huge priority for the Red Wings because the emphasis has always been the blueline and production line. Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen will again step into the powerhouse roles, and Jimmy Howard will dazzle or dwindle.

Let the Octopi Fly

The Detroit Red Wings were the first to advance to  the second-round of NHL playoffs. Energized, the Wings swept the Coyotes with the depth in player skill the Wings are known for. The break means rest, which is essential for the Wings as Zetterberg and Franzen will make a return. The Red Wings do it every year and will continue to do so with the type of managment and care for their players. Red Wings fans are happy fans:Lidstrom was nominated for the Norris Trophy and Pavel Datsyuk nominated for a Selke. Jimmy Howard is holding his own and can keep the Sharks out of net to win.

San Jose has been enjoyable to watch, but the LA Kings stalled the Sharks.With Anze Kopitar out, the nimble netminder Quick is just one piece of the puzzle that fits so well in Los Angeles. This team continues to display the type of fan base and talent base to become an elite league leader. Going toe-to-toe with the Sharks was a bit unexpected. The Sharsk are tired, but pumped they made in through to the next round. Sharks defeated the Wings in three of the four games played during the regular season. The Sharks also eliminated the Wings last year in five games. Watch out for Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture as a powerful force on the Sharks.

The Sharks-Wings series will begin Friday in San Jose, with Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Vancouver looked solid and on their way to annihalate the defending champs, but the Hawks found out how to play Luongo for a chance to defedng their turf. Fighting for a first round advancement, Alex Burrows buried the winning puck in net to grab the Canucks the series win, for the second year in a row. Ryan Kesler was also nominated for a Selke for his awesome season. Just like the Sharks, the Canucks got their workout but are propelled by adrenaline.

Nashville holds on to finally seek a Round 2 in the NHL playoffs. Anaheim was a tough hump to bump this season but give credit to Pekke Rinne who look unfazed most nights. Watch Rinne play against any team and the stun gun comes out as his stance rarely flusters. Barry Trotz, one heck of a coach, will see how his team rides the next curve with hometown boy and Hobey Baker winner, Blake Geoffrion. Smashville has smashed on through. This team is building a strong house.

The Vancouver-Nashville series is expected to start Thursday with a 9 p.m. game in Vancouver.

Western Conference final prediction: Detroit vs. Vancouver

I’m taking the Red Wings, because I always do. Vancouver deserves to battle it out with the best.

Ovechkin in, Pens out

Buffalo proved that goaltending does make a difference, but couldn’t surpass the fire of the Flyers. Miller had two shutouts in the series, but the tandem of Boucher and Leighton is brotherly love in true form. This has been a great series with higher scoring numbers. The Flyers wanted it more.

Boston and Montreal had quite a battle, but Boston moves on. Tim Thomas is a stable goaltender who will give the Philly boys a challenge. Boston is a good team, but the Flyers are scrappier.

The Philadelphi Flyers will face the Boston Bruins. The series will start Saturday afternoon at 3 EST. Classic east coast matchup.

Tampa Bay wouldn’t go away. With am 8-2 victory in Game 5 of the Pens-Lightning series, Tampa refused the exodus. That game was the turning point to rid the Pittsburgh Penguins a chance for the Cup. Sidney Crosby will recoup over the summer for a hopeful return in September. Tampa Bay’s victory is good news for the Southeast division and the growing hockey fandom down south. It’s also good for new GM Steve Yzerman. Goalie Dwayne Roloson was a great catch for Yzerman’s Lightining and will square off with the Caps rookie Neuvirth in goal. Tampa didn’t get the break as the Caps did.

Washington took back their spark beating the Rangers convincingly. This season, goalie Neuvirth illustrated his skill as former Calder Cup MVP. And he did it against Lundqvist who is the backbone of the Rangers. With Ryan Callahan out, the Rangers were down a man but the toughness expected of New York sputtered after two OT losses. Washington got a rest before the new clash in the East with their divisional rivals, the Lightining. Caps won 4 of 6 games during the regular season. This is a difficult series to predict.

Tampa will head to Washington on Friday to begin the series at 7 EST.

Eastern Conference final prediction: Tampa Bay vs. Philly

I’m riding the Lightining with their solid cast of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Roloson. While Washington is good, the playoffs cause the Caps to fumble.

Blue Line Benefits

I love the blueline.  Good seats for sure, and that’s where the battle begins. If a team loses the battle on the blueline, it will be devastating take a look at the Colorado Avalanche, who traded suffering goaltender Craig Andersen for a top D-guy, Erik Johnson. Rookie Kevin Shattenkirk couldn’t quite hang on to his great start to the season, but held value for a considerable trade with fellow Avalanche player, Chris Stewart, for power-forward Jay McClement. With Alex Pietrangelo creating a buzz on the blueline in St.Louis, The blues felt their defense was solid, so they also traded defenseman Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay. The Lightning are shuffling to secure their spot in the East. Those teams are on to the benefits of the tight defense that it takes to secure a playoff spot.

Last week, I was consoling an Avs fan on the ailments of the team. We both agreed the downward spiral of Andersen was only one area at fault. The blueline seriously lacked any effort. What happened to Liles’ scoring streak? Foote has been out with an injury, and the rest of the crowd are off in lala land as the pucks pass the point of no return. Shaking up a team is good, but for the St. Louis Blues the shaking could rile some excitement. Stewart has slumped since a broken hand, and no one knows what Shattenkirk’s lack was all about, so it’s a new start for both. And the trade did just that. Stewart rocked his debut with two goals, Shattenkirk, an assist. One game of excellence is not a mandate on the potential impact to the team, but kick in the pants type of debut the Avs guys needed. The Avalanche are desperate.  Erik Johnson is solid, but if he’s not surrounded by an equal force, the numbers stall. Hunwick is a good catch if the blueliners can gel in Denver. The debut of the new trades were not enough to gain Denver a win. Better luck next time.

The Flyers have had their share of goaltending concerns, but defensmen like Chris Pronger and Matt Carle control their zone to lead in the East. Close behind, the Lightning can gain more momentum with Brewer, Victor Hedman, and Pavel Kubina. With awesome blue power, Boston carries Captain Zdeno Chara steering the boat into dock. Now adding Tomas Kaberle to a new crew of Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg anything is possible. Ericsson, Rafalski, Kronwall, and Lidstrom top the Wings blueliners and it shows. With mounted injuries, the Wings were able to remain in contention for the top seed in the West. Vancouver just lost Kevin Bieksa for a few weeks, but expect the goaltending to be the blueline for now with only Ehrhoff, and Hamhuis to draw the line. Phoenix is howling sitting at No. 3 and is a shock to most. The hot potato team’s defense racked up some stellar talent in Keith Yandle. Roszival tops an assorted list of newbies that seem to have it all under control. Gone but not forgotten, Jovanovski took another trip to IR, so injuries have taken its toll on the Yots.  Veteran Aucoin can prop up some points- I’ve seen him do it.

Look out for Montreal’s P.K. Subban and Roman Hamrlik who are making an impact for the Canadiens. In New York, the Rangers are throwing themselves into the game standing in a comfortable place in the East, but looking for a climb. Stocked with Staal, Gilroy, Giradi, Del Zotto to name a few, the boys of Broadway are notable in the hunt. Nashville has Shea Weber and Ryan Suter but the Preds struggle in the playoffs. I love the D in Los Angeles: Doughty, Johnson, and Scuderi impress with some suspect if they can hold on to the last spot in the West. The fans in LA are pumped for their team.

Goaltenders are out, the blueline is in. Netminders have been repeatedly shown up in the playoffs- they are not a guarantee of a win or a chance to move forward. It’s all about keeping the puck out of the net and not allowed past the blueline. Hockey 101-basic stuff, but a turn in trend. So much hype on the goaltenders, that the defensive core was downgraded to penalty minutes. The teams with the best defense will make it further. In Vancouver, the top scorers are hanging on despite the depletion of the defenseman. Offensive-defensive players like Ryan Kesler and Pavel Datsyuk are the benefits of the wandering blue line. If the Canucks and Wings can hang on in the West with a merry-go-round of injuries,they will dominate in the playoff run. On the flip side, I’ll take the Flyers and the Bruins in the East as Cup contenders.

Wings open season with Hockeytown style

The Red Wings will not go away despite the hope of many teams, including the Anaehim Ducks. Brawls came often to the crowd’s content, because no one comes into Joe Louis Arena without a fight. Too bad dungeon master Abdelkader is out with injuries. He would have loved this game.

Wings wowed the crowd in the first few minute of the season opener against the Anaheim Ducks. Johan Franzen and Mike Modano led the Wings early. Johan Franzen’s goal came from a set up from Filppula and Bertuzzi. Modano’s goal seemed effortless and slid the game to a scruff between Ryan Getzlaf and Tomas Holmstrom. The Captain of the Anaheim Ducks continued talk after reaching the bench, and winger Holmstrom was happy to talk back.

With the lead, the Wings continued to play nabbing another goal in the second by Pavel Datsyuk with an assist from Henrik Zetterberg. Praise the Red Wings. Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller got shot down by the Wings momentum. Holmstrom received a 10-minute misconduct as did Corey Perry. Roughing dominating the middle of the game as it should be to gain advantage the Hockeytown way. Datsyuk even threw some punches but no punishment. In a late period goal review, Cleary was able to get a season-opener to start the year from an assist from Datsyuk.

Up 4-0, the Wings hit it hard with Datsyuk getting some good punches in with Corey Perry.  Overall, the game tallied 30 minuts of misconduct calls,15 for fighting and 10 for roughing. Teams, don’t come to the Joe without your boxing gloves. Wings win with a Jimmy Howard shutout.

Packing up and heading to the Windy City, The Wings were the guests for the Hawks opening night. The game had quite a quiet first, until The Red Wings got things going with a nice combo by Bertuzzi, Franzen and Filppula, rousing a few boos from the Hawks crowd as Detroit scored first. Hossa had to spoil the fun and stuck it to the Wings with one in net to tie.

After the break, Bertuzzi, Stuart and Rafalski told the Hawks they were not going away and scored another for the away team. Then Chicago retaliated with a goal from Bryan Bickell.

Going into the third, the battle was won by a hard-core goal by Filppula, who will be one of my fantasy picks for the week. But just wait….it’s Filppula with a power-play goal. Hudler knocked out an assist to get back into the Wings groove again. Looks to be a great season.

Returning home with the Red Wings

After the tearful departure of Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings extended their power across borders and bad lines by adding Mike Modano and Chris Chelios.

Modano will return to the Red Wings to end his career, near to his roots growing up in suburban Detroit. But Modano was always a Red Wings kind of player. A kid from Westland can’t play on Mike Illitch’s youth team without some kind of loyalty to the red and white.

Pre-game partying at Cheli’s won’t be a thing of the past. Though the Wings declined to sign Chris Chelios to play, they have brought him somewhere, anywhere within the team’s organization. Is this like the Messier internship that I so covet?  Bringing in experienced Red Wing alum will calm the crowds. Chelios, who already gets the drift, will make an impact out of sheer loyalty despite the disruption from last year.

So how does all of this benefit your fantasy hockey roster on draft day? You can still rely on Detroit to fill you fantasy needs, particularly Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. These two power forwards will make it work. Injuries and an off-kilter mode sent the Wings into tight situations yet they still took a spot in the playoffs.

Johan Franzen is the third guy on the running relay team- he makes up the difference to hand off the score. He wants that role, so expect plenty of assists and shots on goal.

With the return of Jiri Hudler, anything goes. He was ranked 12th in scoring in the KHL, but that may not translate to NHL quotas. If you can spare the spot, then take a chance.

If someone in your league is keeping Jimmy Howard, too bad. This is the catch him if you can pick. Don’t think it’s crazy to draft a goalie first either. The role of goaltender is diminishing in its impact, but you must have one starter to lead the charge. Two solid goalies work for your stats to diversify your scoring into more categories.

For those who have Chris Osgood, I don’t know what to say. Look at your options.

Adding Ruslan Salei was fine. I watched him play in Denver and he stood solid on contributions to the team. He could get fired up alongside Justin Abdelkader, who will return for the Wings. Watch this winger with a punch- he’s from a hot bed of western Michigan hockey that I grew up with. A burst of brilliance could come from either, but not enough scoring or penalties for either defensive player to sit on you roster just yet.

I’m still waiting for Jonathan Ericsson to show that he has the fight and might to play like the usual Detroit defensemen. He fits in so well with the Swedish stronghold in Detroit it seems to be just a matter of time that he lifts his play to the level expected.  Todd Bertuzzi leads the team in PIMs, so that’s that until someone else on the D-list can step up.

Though it is only approaching mid-August, my hockey groups are actively discussing the upcoming season. The Wings fans are analyzing the power of “our” roster, the New York Rangers are analyzing the moves of the management, and the Colorado Avs fans are drinking a beer in the mountains chill about their hockey team exceeding expectations last season.

Take a few more weeks to relax, and then get ready to plan your strategy as training camps begin in September.