Tag Archives: Eastern Conference

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.

New York Skate of Mind

Finally, Rangers fans have their razzmatazz back on Broadway, or do they?  News out of training camp created an impeccable look into the metamorphosis of the New York Rangers. Despite a loss to the New Jersey Devils in preseason, the Rangers have an incredible group of players who will overcome any obstacle, particularly if coach Torts has anything to say about it. So why are they sitting last in the division?

Considered by The Hockey News for the Jack Adams award for best coach, John Tortorella won with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and he will win again. With the cast of talent in New York, the playoff run will surpass the past few season. Filling in the gaps will bring the Rangers the stature the team, Torts and the fans expect from an Original Six team. Fan-fave Sean Avery was given the boot and possibly took the energy with him. While Torts and Avery clashed, the talent on the team now did surpass Avery’s abilities over the long haul.

The New York Rangers paid a pretty penny to secure dominance in the New York market with the addition of Brad Richards. Richards is excited to be playing in New York, but has he been distracted by the huge crowds eyeing his every move? Are the Rangers able to deliver on their preseason prowess or will they find Richards a bust in the Big Apple? Too soon to tell Rangers fans. Let Ryan Callahan lend his captaincy to the cause. The Rangers looked good and they have the tools to do it, eventually.

How about those Buffalo Sabres? Great team concept with Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers, Robyn Regehr and the entire cast of the Sabres who could become the New York team fans are cheering about on Broadway. Ryan Miller’s blueliners are showing more cohesion and so it was planned to stop that gap effectively showcasing Miller’s abilities. Be true Buffalo fans and allow those bandwagon fans to cheer because when was the last time that happened?

Tavares has brought the New York Islanders the franchise player the Island wanted. Not quite the fisherman of yore, but steering the boat nicely. The return of Evgeni Nabokov looks like a nice fit by the confidence in goal against the Rangers over the weekend. With Ricky D out again, anything can happen in net.

Fisherman logo

Islanders Vintage Logo

The New Jersey Devils are close behind with their confidence in their new coach and new system in play. The nagging issue remains in net with Martin Brodeur an iffy healthy mainstay. Johan Hedberg is no slouch. Hedberg served with the Penguins and is familiar with the demands in this division. Look for the Devils to add players as needed- recent rumor for Kyle Turris.

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins make this division an enticing race. With Jagr’s return and Sidney Crosby slated to return soon, the Pennsylvania teams will lace up and tighten the race for New York’s teams.

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.

Is hockey here yet?

September 1 signifies the beginning of legitimate hockey talk. Yes, over the summer I was strategizing for my fantasy teams. Every year, the roster changes must be studied and I’m quite excited to spread my teams into new territory. This year, The Hockey News, cautiously gave a possible scenario for both the Western and Eastern Conferences standings. I couldn’t resist commenting on the picks:

Eastern:
1.    Washington Capitals- It’s now or never boys.
2.    Pittsburgh Penguins-I’m surprised they keep hanging on.
3.    Boston Bruins-Light some fire under these guys! So much potential, so little scoring.
4.    Philadelphia Flyers-Underdogs with some talent. Have gained some respect being ranked this high.
5.    New Jersey Devils-My new future home team better get a move on!
6.    Buffalo Sabres- Love them despite what others may feel. Ryan Miller.
7.    Tampa Bay Lightning-Steve Yzerman.
8.    Montreal Canadiens-Let’s get the Habs back in playoff mode.
9.    Carolina Hurricanes-Re-building to be better than ever. Solid base.
10.    Ottawa Senators-Will Carrie Underwood attend every game?
11.    Atlanta Thrashers-Big Buff moves in. Exciting season to watch.
12.    Toronto Maple Leafs- Ughh.
13.    New York Rangers-The fans are growing restless.
14.    New York Islanders- Stuck on the Island
15.    Florida Panthers-Remember the Luongo days?

Western:
1.    Vancouver Canucks-Awesome bunch.
2.    San Jose Sharks-Really, not quite ranked No.1 but close.
3.    Detroit Red Wings-They never suck and don’t forget that!
4.    Chicago BlackHawks-Top stars but not top rank.
5.    Los Angeles Kings-Up and coming group of talent who have arrived.
6.    St. Louis Blues-Watch Halak and Steen.
7.    Phoenix Coyotes-Wow! I’d rank the talent in the desert higher.
8.    Calgary Flames-Not too sure about this one.
9.    Colorado Avalanche-No respect at all. Young guns will prevail.
10.    Nashville Predators-Always a fan of Barry Trotz. Good depth.
11.    Anaheim Ducks-Isn’t this Brett Michaels’ team?
12.    Dallas Stars-Life without Turco and Modano. Benn move in.
13.    Minnesota Wild-Some of the best hockey country needs NHL boost.
14.    Columbus Bluejackets- Oh, we have a saying in Michigan about Ohio.
15.    Edmonton Oilers- Are you really going to take this Taylor Hall? Prove them wrong.