Tag Archives: Nashville Predators

2013 NHL Draft: The Newark Shake

At the end of the Top 10 in the First Round of the 2013 NHL Draft, it all got shuffled.

The Avalanche sent Joe Sakic and Partick Roy out on the floor to pick the not-surprising offensive power rookie, Nathan McKinnon. Sakic is a classy guy, and I was disappointed by the NJ fans booing Sakic thanking Lou L for hosting. Boo you!

Surprise in the NO.2 pick, as Aleksander Barkov is selected by the Florida Panthers. That was a surprise, but Florida feels they need to beef up a line with a big Center.

Tampa Bay shook it up picking Joanathan Drouin, as Steve Yzerman likes the kid. Interesting pick as TB bought out Vincent LeCavelier, and indicating Drouin may see ice time next season.

While Seth Jones waited patiently, the Nashville Predators were making their plan and pressing the jersey for this defensive pick of the draft. At NO. 4, a defender is good, but are the D-men losing respect? Don’t forget how important the defenders can be when your offense sucks. Shea Weber and Seth Jones means Nashville has seen the light.

The Carolina Hurricanes at NO. 5 pick slot, did not trade up or down, but selected Elas Lindholm. A Swede who will go to train before joiing the team. He will play in Sweden next season.

In NO. 6, the Calgary Flames need to ignite their team and their quest for the Cup. So, as it goes, the Flames pick Sean Monahan. Expected pick who can overcome adversity, which really means that he played on bad teams before. Go Sean!

Edmonton has had the first picks for the past few seasons, and the fact that they are picking the NO.7 shows that top draft picks do make a difference. Darnell Nurse gets to go play with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins! A defenseman is exactly what the Oilers need. Darnell, you won the Lottery too.

Buffalo has had its better days.  With the NO. 8 pick there have not been many trades or dealings.  Many speculated the Sabres would make some type of deal or just pick a big player and defender…and they did in  Rasmus Ristolainen.  He’s a hard hitter with a hard shot and a great name.

And just as NJ Devils were about to make their NO. 9 pick, they trade it to Vancouver for Cory Schneider! Vancouver get the pick. Bo Horvat from the London Knights has been compared to Avs player Ryan O’Reilly.

And the final pick in the Top 10, goes to the Dallas StarsValeri Nichuskin is a strong addition to the Stars who already have Jamie Benn as a weapon.  The question is whether he will be on the ice next season.

That’s it for me. Follow more hockey info and in-depth article on the draft picks at The Hockey Writers.

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.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2- Breaking New Ground

New teams  have graced this run for the Cup. Unexpected losses and battles in overtime have created a fresh group of teams who have finally broken hallowed ground. No. 1 seeded Vancouver could not make the case against the surging Los Angeles Kings and the defending Stanley Cup Bruins were eliminated at the hands of Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. What to expect in the Round 2 is more of the unexpected.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings saw their dreams dashed, while the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues have had dream seasons. This season launched a new generation of players and teams turning the tide on the old favorites and diminishing  dynasties.

Eastern Conference:

(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals-
We’ve been here before. In 2009, the Rangers blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven, then last season the No. 1-seeded Caps smoked the eighth-seeded Rangers in five games. This season, The Rangers were caught off quard by the Ottawa Senators in Round 1 but found their style and won. The Caps will have an opportunity for Ovechkin to take control of his destiny and emerge as the elite player he knows he can be. Goaltending is the test. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, finalist for the Vezina, is no doubt a Stanley Cup goaltender. Hank epitomizes what the best of the best can be. Braden Holtby has soared. His performance to beat Tim Thomas is enough to lift the Caps, but can he sustain?
This will be a tight race: Rangers in 7.

(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils-
The Devils will not be able to stop Philly’s Claude Giroux. While the Devils impressed in their win over the Florida Panthers, it was luck. Yes, Adam Henrique  is good, Marty Brodeur is a legendary goalie and so on….but it’s not their year. The Flyers are too good to lose this round. Philly’s only weak spot is the goaltending. Bryzgalov needs to stay healthy and on top of his game, because he was brought to the Flyers to win the Cup.
Flyers will prove in 5.

Eastern Final: Rangers vs. Flyers- Flyers in 7

Western Conference:

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators-
Nashville beat Detroit finally getting over the hump that has haunted their playoff run. Pekka Rinne is a Vezina finalist and deservedly so. Barry Trotz is one of the best coaches in the NHL and will take his team far. The Coyotes can brag about Dave Tippett and his fabulous coaching. Goaltender Mike Smith was a snub for the Vezina. Smith’s season was incredible and he could use this to deflect goals from the Kostitsyn boys and Shea Weber. While Nashville has greater player depth, the Coyotes will not go down without a fight.
Nashville in 6.

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings-
Two Cinderella teams and the best game going in this round. Blues have an amazing crew of players with depth and determination. Goaltending is solid with Brian Elliott in for Jaroslav Halak, but it’s not what Quick can bring. It’s tough to not pick the Blues, but their campaign for the President’s Trophy ran aground. The Kings have Jeff Carter and Mike Richards united to win a Cup, throw in Anze Kopitar and you have an offensive power that even Alex Pietrangelo can’t contain. The Kings have Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick, who could be better than Rinne or Lundqvist in the end. LaLa Land has produced a star studded No. 8 seed. Bad news for the Kings is that no eighth-seeded team has ever won a Cup, so the odds are stacked against them. They’ll put up a fight.
Blues in 6.

Western Final: Blues vs. Preds- Blues in 6

Wow, what an opportunity for these teams to have made it over the hump of the Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Vancouver Canucks. The passionate play of the finals will slow down, particulary in the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference may put up the dukes often if the Flyers and Rangers square off. The discipline hasn’t hindered the culture hockey completely, so don’t expect the professionalism and courtesy to suddenly appear.

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- Western Conference

The Western Conference has been building strength for years, so it’s no surprise that the race is tight. Los Angeles, Dallas and Phoenix all could get a bid for the postseason party. The Colorado Avalanche, The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers bid adieu to the postseason and will be booking tee times later this week. Finally, the West can bring in new blood to represent emerging talent.

The biggest success story is The Los Angeles Kings.  A few weeks ago, the Kings looked lost and doomed down the stretch. Goaltender Jonathan Quick was not quick, but has his game back and could be the weapon of choice for the Kings.  Anze Kopitar will get an opportunity to prove his worth as a top forward.

St. Louis Blues-
Success comes from patience and persistence. St. Louis deserves to be the leading team in the West and should win the President’s Trophy. With top talent in Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk on defense, and Captain David Backes at the helm, the Blues could win this whole shebang. With Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott making a dynamic goaltending duo, the odds are in The Blues favor.

Vancouver Canucks-
Hockey fans know Vancouver can deliver, but can drop at a moment’s notice. Consistency is the key for The Canucks and with Daniel Sedin out, and Kevin Bieksa,  the remaining mates must muster more points. Kesler and Burrows have not produced much, so these two gotta get a groove going. Goaltending is world-class with Luongo and Schneider, but can’t carry the team. Or can they?

Los Angeles Kings-
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter reunion equals Stanley Cup bid. This was their goal in Philadelphia, so maybe the chemistry and drive is propelling the energy in the locker room. Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll have been Kings and would like this season to be the one. Chances are good for Los Angeles. They really spiked up the standings, and likely will make it to semifinals.

Nashville Predators-
Every hockey fan can get behind the program Barry Trotz has put together. Trotz is truly a hockey pioneer. The Predators have an awesome netminder in Pekka Rinne, who is Vezina worthy. Expect Nashville to do well, because the players have turned on the heat and are cohesive. Best chance this year for a conference final showdown.

Detroit Red Wings-
They’re fighters. No matter where Detroit is in the playoffs, they find a way to win. With a healthy crew, the Wings will fight until the end. Goaltending has been spotty. Offense has gone up against tough opposing goaltenders. Scoring must increase and Howard must be at the top of his game if Detroit wants to move on.

Chicago Blackhawks-
The Chicago boys just hang in there. While they have a seemingly secure spot as the No. 5 seed, teams are chasing them. Chicago may be bumped. They play in a tough Central Division this season and sit just ahead of Columbus in the fourth slot.

The Dallas Stars and The Phoenix Coyotes will fight to the death to get in. Dallas has done an outstanding job staying in the hunt. Dallas forward Michael Ryder has been a force to reckon with. The Coyotes have a solid goalie in Mike Smith. The outcome is boosting hockey in the Southwest for certain. The Pacific Division at this point is a 3-way tie. Expect some tenacious play in the next week for a guaranteed spot.

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.

Let the playoffs begin…

Congratulations to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, who won the Frozen Four Saturday. It’s the first national championship in men’s hockey for the Bulldogs beating Michigan in overtime, 3-2.

Despite Michigan’s loss, Michiganders still have hope as the Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs as the third seed in the West. Let’s look at the playoff pairings in the Western Conference:

#1 Vancouver vs. #8 Chicago
The Blackhawks eked in from a Dallas loss and will face the winner of the Presidents’ Trophy. Goaltending in Vancouver will be difficult to diffuse as Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider took home the Jennings Trophy for goaltending tandem. Beyond that, the Hawks have their work cut out with Daniel Sedin securing the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer with 104 pts.  The Canucks have an opportunity to win big in the first-round edging closer to the Cup. Chicago has tough talent but has not been as steady through injuries and malaise. The Hawks could make it tough for the Canucks, but Chicago has lost their Mojo. Canucks should wrap up the series, 4-2.

#2 San Jose vs. #7 Los Angeles-
One of the best matchups in the playoffs. A must watch, especially for California viewers. Three teams from the Golden State have made it in illustrating the shift in power from the East to the West. The Sharks are at it again and seem more relaxed as they enter yet another playoff fun. The Kings are a tough crew with some awesome talent who are fun to watch. San Jose players who have upped their game include Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture who have given the Sharks some needed energy. The Sharks look poised this year. The Kings could be a spoiler, but still have some maturing to do. And without Anze Kopitar, the rest of the gang will surely fire back. Sharks could surprise the Kings with a sweep. The question is can Kings goalie Quick maintain his namesake in the series?

#3 Detroit vs. #6 Phoenix-
So many Coyotes fans are from Detroit. The Yotes have something to prove and could be a nasty pest for the Wings. Phoenix fans are pumped for the playoffs. Wings fans are confident, but without Zetterberg in the first game fans are concerned. Depth is key here- the Coyotes have played very well this year, while Detroit has had their ups and downs. Wings will take the series but Phoenix will fight and make it tight. Goaltending is a factor. Bryzgalov and Howard must play the best games of their lives to move on and both are capable. Tight race but Wings move on.

#4 Anaheim vs. #5 Nashville-
It’s the Nashville curse- they get in and lose. Anaheim has struggled but have dynamic players in Cory Perry, the winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer with his 50 goals. The Ducks are fighters and are scrappy. With home-field advantage, the Ducks could easily wipe out the Preds. Perry, Bobby Ryan, Cam Fowler and Ryan Getzlaf will score. Energetic play will keep this series one to watch. Too close to call, but Anaheim has more oomph to take control.

The Eastern Conference is looking extremely tough:

#1 Washington vs. #8 New York Rangers
A must watch for anyone. Ovechkin meets Lundqvist is a slice of heaven for any hockey fan. Washington has not done well in past Stanley Cup runs, but then New York wiped out last year against the Caps despite leading the series. This series will go down to the wire.

#2 Philadelphia vs. #7 Buffalo-
Philly rocked last year and could be heading to the Cup finals if they can hold on. Buffalo has fought to stay in the hunt. Goaltender Ryan Miller has to be top-notch to get past the Flyers. Flyers’ goaltending has been a revolving door. Great playoff history between these two teams will give this series some bite. The Flyers can win if the goaltending is stable and can beat Miller.

#3 Boston vs. #6 Montreal-
Can’t even begin to describe the fierceness of this rivalry, plus the animosity with the Chara-Pacioretty incident. A healing game on some level, but anyone’s game at this point. Price and Thomas are excellent in net, so grab a beer and pop some popcorn for this double-feature. This one will go to the end. Fighting is likely.

#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Tampa Bay-
Without Crosby and Malkin, the Pens have really shown the depth of their bench and that usually wins games. Staal, Talbot and Kennedy will continue the play that has kept them in the hunt. Tampa Bay lacks some playoff experience; however, with Martin St. Louis and Steve Yzerman as elder statesmen the Lightning will make the series tight. Yet, another good exhibition of players and punch and will come down to the wire if the Pens can keep it tight. Tampa Bay can do it if they shut down the Pens momentum.  Fleury is experienced and Roloson pulls out the stops.

Great games ahead and refreshing teams that have made it into the rotation make this year’s Stanley Cup run a must see.  Complete disappointment in Denver though. The Colorado Avalanche tanked this year after a good start. Recently, I saw Kevin Porter and Kyle Quincey on the day of Adam Foote’s retirement and they looked like someone had died. The loss of their captain in a losing year is a bummer. Better luck next year to all the teams who are heading to the golf course.

Who has the right moves? A summer guide to fantasy hockey

The NHL Entry Draft and July 1 dealing deadlines have mixed the 30 NHL teams into goulash. Yes, it’s a good thing, yet trying to make sense of your fantasy roster next year, could prove enlightening as much research needs to be done. There are many building blocks required to match the force of a Stanley Cup contending teams, but like kids in a candy store agents, players, and managers are gobbling up their sweet deals for next season’s ice time.

I’m already preparing my teams and ranking players for my leagues, and poking around rosters. Should be out in the sun, but the hot weather has me thinking of ice and snow to cool down.

Chicago isn’t the same team that stepped onto the ice last year. Taking out some top players is asking your top guns to perform with more gusto, as Toews, Keith, Sharp and company should be playing hard. If you can get them, get them.

The Western Conference exhibited some dominance last year, and they will continue. The Eastern Conference needs to bulk up and find some identities. These teams are on my radar:

Eastern Conference:

New Jersey Devils- Hedberg backing Brodeur sounds good to me. I hope Hedberg sees some ice time, because Marty needs to rest. The Devils should be able to kick it into the Cup finals with Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and a whole host of good options for your team. When in doubt, go toward the Devils.

Buffalo Sabres– Tyler Myers and Ryan Miller are top fantasy draft choices. Myers was rookie of the year winning the Calder Memorial Trophy, and Miller taking home the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender. But is this enough? Don’t draft too deep into the Sabres bench because everyone scored equally.

Atlanta Thrashers– are in serious building efforts as the landlords realize more effort must be made in the quality of their brick and mortar. Taking Andrew Ladd and Dustin Bufyglien from the Blackhawks was just plain smart. Ladd has quietly worked his way into scoring zones over the past two seasons. He’s the guy who creeps into fantasy teams due to injured wingers, and for the last push of the season. Dustin B. needs no introduction; he is a slayer who can deliver with his bulk and intellect because hockey is both mental and physical.

Tampa Bay Lightning- Steve Yzerman is all I can say. He’s golden. Piling on the players to pay the piper, the new GM knows his hockey both on the ice and off under the leadership of the Illitch family, who created a dynasty both adored and despised. That’s some power. Nittymaki is a good fantasy goalie option, and Martin St. Louis goes early. Steven Stamkos has won me over his second season matching Sidney Crosby is goals.

Western Conference:

Colorado Avalanche
– youth movement continues to catch all. The Avalanche must continue to play at the top of their game. When they sat in the top three in the West, critics said the team couldn’t keep the momentum and they didn’t. Striving to make the playoffs kept fans on their toes and gives Colorado a head start for next season.  Avalanche players that are must-haves include Matt Duchene, Craig Anderson, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart. Other players are excelling quickly and depth in the Avs means depth for your rotation needs.

St. Louis Blues
– they looked so rough last year, but great the year before. Now, with a few bells and whistles in goal gaining Jaroslav Halak’s contract for a steal, the Blues continued their rally by securing forward Alex Steen on the roster. Steen is a breakout player who could boost the Blues. Alex Steen will be on my fantasy roster. The guy is solid. Halak is tops too.

Edmonton Oilers
– not because they have a chance at the Cup, but I want to see Tyler Hall play in the NHL. I want to see if the Oilers can do what the Islanders are still holding onto. Take a look at videos of Hall placing the puck in net: Ovechkin like but more humble. Draft Hall.

Vancouver Canucks
– has taken over the San Jose Sharks pick for me next year. While I’m curious to see how the Sharks unfold with the new Nittymaki agenda, I turn my head toward the border and offer up Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and the Sedins to the hockey gods. Luongo is a stretch, yet could remold into his former self this season.

Phoenix Coyotes
– Coach of the year,Dave Tippett, is tipping the team in the right direction. And my Petr Prucha posts get a lot of hits on my blog. Wolski, Yandle, no shortage of talent. Shane Doan, super nice guy, disappointed a bit last season. Goaltending is not a problem with Bryzgalov.

Other notables getting a nod:
Los Angeles Kings– love the Johnson-Doughty thing they got going on there. Bordering on the Cinderella team last season, the young Kings have some great abundance to flaunt with all the California hockey hype during the NHL Entry Draft. Good options for fantasy streaks.

Nashville Predators
– adding Matthew Lombardi is a good move in not only points, but he’s a bright spot for you face-off category ranking among the top five usually.  You just have to love this line-up and wonder what is happening out there? Well, they are good but have met opponents that are better. Look at Shea Weber for certain. A lot of great options on this team not to be overlooked by your management staff.

Western Conference Wows

Experts have taken their picks, but the wow factor in the Western Conference has delivered on its promise of being the premier conference this season. So many teams have so many guns that can fire as seen in the jimmying of the standings. Now embarking into the depth of the quarterfinals, compelling match-ups make for some great hockey.

San Jose can beat Colorado. But how did the youngest team in the NHL stun the Sharks in the first game? Game 2 in the Shark Tank bit brutally on the Sharks who battled an unexpected talented eighth seed. The scoring was insanely upbeat with six goals in the second period as goals were exchanged back and forth in a rally to win. Desperation won that game for San Jose who could not lose on home ice in that situation. Devin Setoguchi stepped up after having a mediocre year and scored two goals including the OT goal to give the Sharks a lifeline. Much was expected of Setoguchi, but seems his fervor for winning is back.  Now that the series heads to Denver, the Avs may feel more relaxed but the Sharks are a great road team. Don’t forget the altitude in Denver that has caused gasping and tiring quickly of the visiting team. The Sharks took goaltender Craig Anderson to task in Game 3. With 51 saves on goal, and a goal in OT the Avs victory deflates the Sharks who trail in the series. Avs go up 2-1 in an anything goes attitude, totally Zen.

The Detroit Red Wings made it in decent positioning to meet the Phoenix Coyotes in their first road playoff game since 1991. Calder cup candidate, Jimmy Howard, has been put to the test by an impressive Coyotes team who proved they were not done in the desert. Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader returned from the minors just to make the playoffs and tenaciously took pucks away and made plays, including a goal to give the Wings the lead in the third period of Game 2. But Henrik Zetterberg rocked it with a hat trick, six shots on net, five hits, and won 10 of 19 face-offs, all in 17 minutes of ice time. Valteri Filppula also took home two goals and an assist. Coyote coach Dave Tippett has been praised for his turn around team making the playoffs and many say the choice candidate for the Jack Adams Award. Game 2 peaked with eleven points scored. Phoenix takes the lead in the series 2-1.

The Nashville Predators cannot be looked at as a pansy team who cannot beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Nashville is tough and they have nothing to lose. Shocking the Hawks at home with a 4-1 win must have caused some rioting on Michigan Ave. The downfall of Chicago could be their youth, but the productivity is there. The Nashville Predators are scrappers. No doubt the goaltending is a major issue with Antti Niemi lacking playoff experience, but can the blueliners keep the puck out of Niemi’s zone enough to win the series? Duncan Keith, Brent Sopel and Brent Seabrook are heavy hitters and can take the Hawks to the next level if they concentrate. Nashville can sneak up on their opponent. Series tied 1-1 after the Hawks got their mojo back sticking the Preds with a Game 2 shutout.

I’ve been impressed with the Los Angeles Kings this year, but I’m not betting on them to win against the Vancouver Canucks. Taking the Canucks to overtime in Game 1 proved some stamina and skill in the Kings, and their passion is there. But the Canucks are approaching their time to take the whole shebang. Perhaps the Canucks blueline is weaker than most other teams, and the Kings have Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson who may be enough to keep the Kings in the race. The Canucks are running out of time to play for the Stanley Cup. The Kings finally have some success, but the Canucks have been rolling and need to prove they are for real.  Look at top line performances in Kopitar, Smyth and Williams versus the Sedins and Alex Burrows as an indicator in production. Series tied 1-1 after the Kings made a surprising OT push in Game 2 with a goal by Anze Kopitar.

My roots are in the West, so it’s been a pleasure to see the Western Conference build up some strong teams that have taken the critics away from the hockey dominant Eastern Conference. Not saying that the Eastern Conference games are not as thrilling, but that’s another story. I’d love to see the Buffalo Sabres rectify their 1999 loss to the Dallas Stars, and to see Ryan Miller rewarded for his monumental goaltending abilities.