Tag Archives: St. Louis Blues

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.

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.

Nudges and Nets

Vancouver’s Raffi Torres scored a hat-trick against the Oilers, and defenseman Kevin Bieksa made a dent in the stats with three assists. The Canucks have come out of their fog rising in the standings and taking control in the Northwest.

And so it goes for Ed Jovanovski, a hat trick too. Despite the Coyotes successful season last year, there are some struggles in Phoenix with low attendance. Arguments range from the desert to lack of ownership. I’d say both. There are plenty of transplants in the Phoenix area that love their hockey, but they stand behind their original home teams if their new home team can’t win. Also, games are expensive and if the team is losing, then why spend so much? Really, if the NHL is a show, then the residents in Arizona would rather watch a sunset.

Joe Thornton had a misconduct call with the St. Louis Blues when he hit David Perron leaving the penalty box. Joe says it ain’t so, and claims it was not intentional, but the NHL is being overly cautious with these hits. Makes sense to encourage sportsmanship on the ice, but these are big guys who skate on ice at great speed bound to run into each other. Or maybe the players are frustrated and taking it out on everyone they can. It is a weird season. Notice how the Blues are steadily climbing up the ranks?

The Rangers are making headway edging Boston in the East. And Atlanta is cooking up some good players and some good hockey. They aren’t a joke anymore. Pittsburgh and Toronto are slipping. Buffalo has tanked with Ryan Miller out and now on IR and Tyler Myers suffering.

Colorado goaltender, Craig Anderson, is out leaving Peter Budaj to stop the pucks. Anderson should be back in a week, but until then the Avs are holding up under the pressure.

But saving the best for last, Detroit is back. Motown has been resurrected. Hockeytown prevails. It’s a tough division this year, so any week on top is a good week. Never mind one loss to Vancouver; it’s the long haul that counts.

Surprises and Scares

Wow, the first week and a half of the NHL season provided some surprises and shocking situations. So much speculation has surrounded the Cinderella team Toronto Maple Leafs’ undefeated season. They’ve only played four games, so come on…they will lose and the Leafs may not be able to keep it up. The Tormented Toronto Maple Leafs can sing praise as their team has turned a corner with a 4-0-0 start to the season.

The Nashville Predators have just as good as a start as Toronto, as well as down in Dallas bouncing back without Mike Modano or Marty Turco. Impressive games have been played in Tampa Bay and Denver as well.

In the Eastern Conference, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh lead the standings. Florida, Boston and New Jersey sit at the bottom. New Jersey was expected to be a contender but with all the drama, the team has been worn down. New Jersey has paid a high price to ensure a winning team but can they recover? Of course.

Pittsburgh’s goaltending has swayed to the No. 2 seat with some positive outcome behind Brent Johnson. Despite what seems like a slow start, the Penguins will fix any kinks as they do every year. Just wait.

The New York Rangers are down Marian Gaborik and captain Chris Drury after a loss to the Maple Leafs Friday. Hockey critics have kicked both the Islander and Rangers downstairs. Rangers D-guy Del Zotto has had a good start.

In the Western Conference, Nashville, Dallas, and Colorado sit supreme. Calgary, Columbus and Phoenix will climb as more games are played. Calgary is under great pressure especially after Toronto has seemingly turned their bad karma upside down. Calgary’s talent is undeniable with Mikka Kiprusoff in goal, Jay Bouwmeester on the blueline and Jarome Iginla leading the charge. The Flames are usually hanging in near the playoff run with the same expectations as last year to finish in the No. 8 seed just above the Colorado Avalanche.

The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks look shaky as Cup contenders early on. Ryan Kesler posted 10 PIMs for a misconduct call after the LA Kings beat the Canucks again on Friday, but Kesler has been null in points. With Alex Burrows sidelined for the first few weeks, the Canucks lost some steam.

I’m still betting on some gained ground this season from Atlanta and St. Louis. With the youthful talent on both teams, the surge may come later in the season, but both are sitting in the middle of their division waiting and watching. Monday night the St. Louis Blues met up with the Anaheim Ducks and totaled a whopping 50 PIMs for misconduct, 35 for fighting 24 for roughing an 4 for slashing. Atlanta’s Anthony Stewart scored a hat trick to lift the Thrashers over the Ducks at home Friday.

In Los Angeles, the Kings are holding steady with Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and active play from Dustin Brown over the Canucks, the beachfront view sits just behind Colorado in the West. Colorado’s T.J. Galiardi, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart are strongholds for the team.

A new lease deal with Chicago investor Matthew Hulsizer will lead to a good deal for the Phoenix Coyotes to remain in Glendale. Last season, the Coyotes rivaled the Avs for young gun status but have a slow start. Watch the Czech line emerge in the desert plus great talent such as Stempniak, Wolski and Lombardi.

Detroit’s Johan Franzen went to Dallas and all he got was a hit by Mark Fistric. Franzen called it a concussion, but coach Babcock said it wasn’t that bad. Franzen was sidelined much of the latter part of last season, so is he being cautious or being a crybaby? Is Babcock cracking the whip and going forth for the Cup? Yes, the Wings are known for being tough and they cannot falter now.

Beware of counting the pucks yet. Shakeups are bound to happen when least expected. It’s too early to call the season yet.

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.