Monday, April 28, 2008

A Look Inside Penguins Vs. Rangers

I have a million thoughts racing through my head regarding the series between the Penguins and the Rangers. I figured I might as well voice some of them since everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion on this series. So away we go!


People keep referring to Marc-Andre Fleury as the big question mark in this series. Normally this would be where I would go on a rant about how dominant he has been since coming back from his ankle injury and how he has now made it just as deep into the playoffs as Henrik Lundqvist ever has, but instead I'll let the numbers do all the talking:

Marc-Andre Fleury's Post-Season Stats:
6-0, 1.51 GAA, .944 SV%, 2 SO

Any more questions?


The NHL media is reacting to Pittsburgh's 2-0 Game 2 win like the Pens have never played defense before. I know the Penguin offense is what gets all the press, but the boys in black have been one of the top defensive teams in the NHL since we all unwrapped our 2008 calendars. The only reason I can think of for all this sudden amazement on the part of these so-called experts is that they picked the Rangers to win and have to act shocked that the Penguins are this good. Otherwise why wouldn't they have picked them to win the series? Honestly, the Penguins are just as good as the Rangers defensively, if not better, yet they don't get any credit because they actually score goals to go along with it. Die hard Penguin fans know that guys like Gill, Letang, Orpik, and Scuderi have been just as important to the Penguins in the playoffs as Sid and Geno. It doesn't hurt having the hottest goalie in the game between the pipes either (see above).


No, the Penguins have not lost a game in the playoffs yet, but there is still a lot more work to be done in this series. As much as I would love to see the Pens sweep the Rags, and as good as they are playing right now, I would be perfectly happy with taking one of the next two and returning to the Igloo for Game 5 up 3-1 in the series. The Rangers are still a good team and the biggest competition to the Penguins in the East for my money. I don't expect Pittsburgh to take their foot off the gas, but I don't think the Rangers are ready to roll over yet either.


So much was made heading into this series about the impact Sean Avery would have on the Penguins. Despite his Game 1 goal, Avery hasn't had much of an impact on the series thus far. At least not until the end of Game 2:

I have a few reactions to the scrum at the end of the game:
  • Why has nobody mentioned the tomahawk slash Avery took at Hal Gill after the linesman stepped in? Watch closely at about the 1:15 mark of that video and then tell me why Avery should NOT be suspended. That is a flagrant and vicious stick swing and Avery should be out for somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 to 6 games at least. It was an indefensible act by a despicable player and he should be held accountable for it. I am literally in shock that I have not seen this mentioned anywhere.
  • People are going to talk about how Avery was going after MAF and how he was setting the tone for Game 3, but who is to day MAF hasn't gotten to Avery instead. MAF is a smart kid. You know he knew Gill and Laraque were nearby when he decided to show Avery the business end of his stick and Avery fell for it. If not for the bravest (or stupidest) linesman ever they'd still be picking pieces of Avery out of the end boards.
  • How great was it to see Scuderi and Talbot arrive on the scene and then turn to keep the oncoming wave of Rangers from coming to the aid of Avery? Part of me wondered if any of the Rangers were even going to bother going to help Avery. I would not have been shocked if they had just headed for the locker room and left Avery to clean up his own mess.

You can tell that there is really something special going on between Penguins fans and this team. This group of guys is just so likable and easy to get behind that it is not too surprising. But there is something to be said for the fact the Penguins are in the midst of a sellout string better than the teams of the glory days of the early '90s ever enjoyed. I am right in line with this too. This Penguins squad is right there with the '92 Cup winning team as probably my two favorite teams ever. To put it simply, as many others already have...

I love this team!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

2008 Playoffs: Second Round Hype Machine!

It's time to get the blood flowing!!!

Red Wings/ Avalanche




Wednesday, April 23, 2008

2008 Playoffs: Second Round Predictions

We're on to round two of the playoffs! This is generally where the real Cup contenders start to separate themselves from the other remaining teams and I don't think this season will be any different. I think this will be the round where we look back and see that the eventual finalists really started to get on a roll.

Eastern Conference

(1) Montreal vs. (7) Philadelphia
Breakdown: I'm man enough to admit that I really have no handle on Montreal at this point. I really don't think that highly of them and would love to pick against them in round two. That said, I also have a hard time picking Martin Biron to get a team to the Conference Finals. I guess that's my long way of saying that I go back and forth on this series.
Player to Watch:
Derian Hatcher (PHI) - Hatcher may be the worst skater in the NHL today. Not just among playoff teams either, I'm talking all 30 teams here. Having said that, if he can keep up with Montreal's speedy group of forwards and help neutralize them then Philly stands a much better chance of getting by the Habs.
Flyers in 6

(2) Pittsburgh vs. (5) New York Rangers
Breakdown: This is the premier match up in the East to me. I am on record as saying that I think the winner of this series will win the Cup. The Rangers did well against the Pens in the regular season, especially at MSG, but I'm not reading too much into that. Both teams are well rested so I don't think the layoffs benefit one particular team leading into game 1. It should be a pretty tight series, but the Devils were able to score a few goals against the Rangers which makes me think the Pittsburgh offense should be able to get the job done.
Player to Watch:
Michal Rozsival (NYR) - Rozsival has made a career out of playing the Pens since joining the Rangers and they will need some of that offensive boost from the blue line to get enough pucks by Marc-Andre Fleury to be competitive in this series.
Pens in 6

Western Conference

(1) Detroit vs. (7) Colorado
Breakdown: This rivalry doesn't carry quite the buzz it used to, but that doesn't mean we aren't in store for a good series. I think these teams match up pretty well and it should be a close series. I think Detroit is in a little better shape with Osgood in net and they have more talent and experience on defense. I think those two things will be enough to put them over the top. Joe Sakic and company are playing well enough to make quite a series of this though.
Player to Watch: Andrew Brunette (COL) - The Avalanche will need to continue to get goals from their depth players to make this a competitive series. If Brunette can carry over his hot hand from the series against Minnesota that will go a long way towards helping Colorado make life hard on Detroit.
Prediction: Wings in 7

(2) San Jose vs. (5) Dallas
Breakdown: Much like the Pens/Rangers series in the East, I think this series will produce the team that represents the Western Conference in the Finals. This should be a hard fought series and I think there will be more scoring than one might initially think. These teams are really close on paper and it really could go either way. I think Dallas has an edge though based on how they played while taking out the Ducks and the consistency they showed.
Player to Watch:
Brad Richards (DAL) - This series is why the Stars went out and got Richards at the trade deadline. He can be the difference maker for Dallas in this series with his scoring and two-way play. He will need to be among Dallas' top scorers in the series for them to move on.
Stars in 6

2008 Playoffs: Looking Back On Round 1

With the second round of the playoffs just a few short hours away, let's take one last look back at the opening round, including how I fared with my predictions. The first round of the playoffs are possibly my two favorite weeks of the year, and this season was no disappointment.

My Predictions:

Detroit v Nashville
I said:
Red Wings in 5
What happened: Red Wings in 6
Comments: Nashville made a series of it thanks to goalie Dan Ellis, but they just didn't have enough to hang with the Wings. I picked Alexander Radulov as my player to watch in the series as I expected him to have a big impact for Nashville. I just didn't think it would be for knocking Jason Arnott out of the series with a celebratory check into the boards after a goal. That may signal the end of his days in Nashville before all is said and done.

San Jose v Calgary
I said: Flames in 7
What happened: Sharks in 7
Comments: This was a back and forth series and the tightest of the first round offerings in the West, as I expected. I really thought the Flames were going to pull off the upset, but they just didn't have enough in the end. San Jose's depth was the big difference in the series as Calgary failed to find much offense beyond the Iginla line.

Minnesota v Colorado
I said: Wild in 6
What happened: Avalanche in 6
Comments: In what is becoming a playoff tradition, I was really high on Minnesota heading into the playoffs and they proceeded to let me down. I thought Marian Gaborik would get the Wild through to the next round, but he was nowhere to be seen. It was nice to see Joe Sakic back in vintage form though.

Anaheim v Dallas
I said: Ducks in 6
What happened: Stars in 6
Comments: This one was a minor shock to me. I knew the Stars were capable of big things even though they backed into the playoffs, but I really expected a lot more from the Ducks this post-season. Giving away the first two games in Anaheim really came back to haunt the Ducks once they started trying to make a series of it. With that said, I couldn't be happier the Stars won as I have a soft spot in my heart for them (and it keeps my dreams of a Pens/Stars Finals alive).

Montreal v Boston
I said: Bruins in 7
What happened: Canadiens in 7
Comments: I thought this was going to be a really tight series, and I mistakenly thought the Habs were going to be without the services of Mike Komisarek. If I had known he was going to be playing I probably would have taken Montreal. Oh well, life goes on...

Pittsburgh v Ottawa
I said: Pens in 5
What happened: Pens in 4!!!
Comments: I totally expected the Pens to run Ottawa into the ground, but I thought the Sens at least had enough pride to steal a game at home. I guess they showed me. Sid and Geno spearheaded a scarily balanced Pittsburgh attack while the Marc-Andre Fleury experience was in full effect at the other end. It was a near flawless series for the Pens and I think they have established themselves as the team to beat in the East.

Washington v Philadelphia
I said: Caps in 6
What happened: Flyers in 7
Comments: I could sit here and draw up parallels between this year's Caps and last year's Penguins, but that wouldn't do justice to either team. The fact is that Washington is a young team that put up a good fight after digging themselves quite a hole against the Flyers. Mike Richards led the way for the Flyers as they can now set their sights on the top seeded Canadiens and their rowdy fans.

New Jersey v Rangers
I said: Rangers in 5
What happened: Rangers in 5
Comments: While there was a bit more offense in this series than I expected, thanks largely to a rejuvenated Jaromir Jagr, it went down just as I expected. If someone would have made me bet my life on one of the first round series it would have been this one. The Rangers and Penguins are the two best teams in the East to me hands down. One of those two teams will be lifting the Cup come June.

Other Musings:

  • How fun was it to watch the Senators implode right before our very eyes? The Pens sweep of Ottawa almost made last year worth it. Almost...
  • How bad were the Ducks in their first two games? Did they think they could spot Dallas the first two and still roll right over them? And how lame are the Anaheim fans? Talk about fickle.
  • The Rangers and Penguins are far more consistent (especially defensively) than any of the other teams in the East and that is what is going to get one of them to the Finals.
  • The NHL brass must be happy a Minnesota/Anaheim rematch was avoided. That had bloodbath written all over it.
  • Switching to Chris Osgood in net makes the Wings a legitimate contender in the West. Hopefully we've seen the last of Dominik Hasek on NHL ice.
  • I bet if you petitioned NHL players you could raise enough money to launch Sean Avery and Jordin Tootoo into deep space. Martin Brodeur might even fund the entire venture himself.
  • Is there another goalie you would rather have in net right now than Marc-Andre Fleury? Me neither.
  • Bettman almost got his Ovechkin vs. Crosby matchup. Maybe next year...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Reacting To Brodeur And Avery's Non-Handshake

Much has been made about Martin Brodeur refusing to shake the hand of Sean Avery at the end of the Rangers/Devils first-round playoff series, and rightly so. Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury fought about it during the first intermission of this afternoon's Flyers/Capitals game and for the first (and hopefully only time in my life) I agree with Milbury. Brodeur was totally justified in not shaking hands with Avery and I think it was totally the right move by Martin. Avery has been going out of his way to insult and embarrass Brodeur ever since he joined the Rangers and the classiest (yeah I said it) way for Brodeur to respond was to not shake Avery's hand.

I am usually the first guy to jump all over someone when they bail on the handshake line (Belfour and Chelios come to mind), but I have no problem with not shaking hands with a particular individual, especially one as detestable as Sean Avery. Avery has made it very clear that he has no respect for Brodeur, the Devils, and arguably the game itself. I think Brodeur made the right move here by showing Avery that he can't try to humiliate someone and then just expect everything to be cool at the end of the series. This conflict has not been about two gladiators playing each other hard over the course of a series, this was about Avery crossing every possible line in an attempt to get Brodeur off of his game. Avery did nothing to show that he is deserving of the common respect due to every other player in the NHL.

Martin's not having it.

The craziest part of this whole situation is Avery trying to make Brodeur look like the bad guy here.
"Everyone talks about how classless I am, but I guess Fatso there just forgot to shake my hand."

"Everyone talks about how much class I don't have, well it's the end of the series and men go to war against each other," Avery said. "I guess he forgot to shake my hand. I don't know if anyone saw that. Of course I was going to shake his hand."
-Sean Avery (AP)
Yeah Sean, Marty's the classless one here. What Avery did against Brodeur and the Devils was well outside the bounds of "going to war", and he knows it. The bottom line is that there is a reason why Sean Avery is the most hated person in the NHL. It is going to be real interesting to see if the Rangers bring Avery back next season as he will be an unrestricted free agent come July 1. I suppose it would be too much to ask for all 30 NHL GMs to get together and agree to all not sign Avery and just let him fade away into obscurity. I know, I know, too much to ask like I said... but a guy can dream.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Takin' Care Of Business

Just some odds and ends that I need to address:

I'm not even going to touch on Sean Avery Dance Fever because I think the blogosphere has pretty much beaten that horse to death, but I do think the NHL made the right move in the manner and timeliness in which they handled the situation.

My latest contribution over at Fanball/RotoTimes is part of a piece handing out some awards for the NHL regular season. Some of them are standard stuff while other pertain solely to the world of fantasy hockey. In an interesting turn of events, you can also read the article over at Sports Illustrated's FanNation site. A little more exposure is never a bad thing...

If you care, my votes were:
  • MVP - Malkin
  • Vezina - Nabokov
  • Norris - Phaneuf
  • Calder - Price
  • Out of Nowhere Star - Ribeiro (almost voted for Green)
  • Most Overlooked - Staal
  • Fantasy Bust - Marleau
The Vs. Network is cranking up the ol' hype machine again for the playoffs:
So far their coverage has been pretty excellent and it has been nice to have two games to watch every night since the playoffs started. I only wish circumstances allowed me to watch more than I have been able. Vs. will continue to show two games per night as long as there are games to show as well as keep their Hockey Central studio show rolling along with various guests from the NHL filling in throughout the playoffs. Manny Legace was in studio for the first week of the playoffs and a new player should be starting their week (or so) run on Hockey Central tonight.

Vs. also seems to be quite pleased with the viewing numbers they are getting for their coverage. This is from their latest press release:
Now in its third year televising the NHL, VERSUS has seen a substantial increase in total viewership and ratings for the 2007/08 regular season compared to the 2006/07 campaign. At the conclusion of this year’s regular season, national household ratings were up 50 percent (.3 vs. .2), total viewership showed an increase of 28 percent (272,417 vs. 212,366), household impressions were up 20 percent (192,675 vs. 160,134) and viewership for Men 25-54 was up 45 percent (99,753 vs. 69,018).
It's nice to see NHL viewership growing. Hopefully this along with the NHL's many efforts online will help the sport catch on with fans. Especially younger ones who may not have been exposed to the sport, and playoff hockey in particular.
One last thing...

As any of you who have been with me here for a while already know, along with being a hockey fan I am also a big soccer fan and a Liverpool supporter in particular. Today is the 19th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. If you get the chance during your day, take a second and say a prayer for the families of the 96 we lost that day.

Friday, April 11, 2008

07-08 NHL Regular Season Awards And Recap

With the playoffs underway I thought I would take one last look back at the regular season that was, and hand out a few awards along the way. So without further delay...

MVP - Evgeni Malkin (PIT) - Most people out there are all too eager to hand the MVP award to Alex Ovechkin this season, but I'm not buying in to that argument. Malkin is the guy for me. Geno is the total package for the Penguins. He is nearly impossible to knock off the puck, is a juggernaut through the neutral zone, and is very underrated in the defensive end. Malkin is also much more of a playmaker and makes those around him much better, just ask Ryan Malone and Petr Sykora (see below). On top of all of this, Malkin finished just 6 points behind Ovechkin in the scoring race and never went more than 2 games without a point over the entire season. All of that adds up to NHL MVP in my book.
Runner-up - Jarome Iginla (CGY)

Defenseman of the Year - Dion Phaneuf (CGY)
- Dion Phaneuf had offensive numbers similar to many of the other top defensemen in the NHL this season. What gives him the edge here is the level of physicality Phaneuf brings to the ice on a nightly basis. Phaneuf is well on his way to being the top blue liner in the NHL for years to come and should start building a nice sized Norris trophy collection real soon.
Runner-up - Sergei Gonchar (PIT)

of the Year - Evgeni Nabokov (SJ) - Evgeni Nabokov was handed the starting role in San Jose when the Sharks traded Vesa Toskala to Toronto and he did not disappoint. Nabokov started an astounding 77 games and led the league in wins with 46 and tied for third in Goals Against. Those numbers are especially strong when you consider that Nabokov played with little margin for error as the Sharks were so bad offensively for most of the season. To put this in perspective a bit, in only 3 of Nabokov's losses did the Sharks manage to give him more than 2 goals to work with.
Runner-up - Martin Brodeur (NJ)

of the Year - Carey Price (MON) - There was another strong class of rookies in the NHL this season, but none had more of a positive impact on their team than Carey Price. Price was dropped right into the proverbial fire in Montreal and only had the pressure on his shoulders increase when the Habs traded veteran Cristobal Huet to Washington at the deadline. All Price did to respond was lead the Canadiens to the top of the Eastern Conference. By comparison, highly touted rookies Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews could not even get the Blackhawks into the playoffs.
Runners-up - Peter Mueller (PHX) and Tobias Enstrom (ATL)

of the Year - Joel Quenneville (COL) - Few coaches had as much to deal with this season as Joel Quenneville did for the Avalanche. Expectations were high for the Avalanche after they made a big splash in the free agent market during the offseason. Things went downhill pretty quickly for the Avs thanks to a rash of injuries, but Quenneville kept hope alive in Colorado until they could get healthy. On top of that Quenneville had to handle inconsistent goaltending for much of the season and mixing in some new (yet familiar) faces at the trade deadline. Quenneville overcame all of these challenges and more while leading the Avalanche to the 6th seed in the Western Conference. Quite a performance from the very underrated head coach.
Runner-up - Barry Trotz (NSH)

Line of the Year - Malone/Malkin/Sykora (PIT)
- Michel Therrien put this line together full time after Sidney Crosby went down with a high ankle sprain and the results were as impressive as they were instant. The "Syko MaMa" line was a dominant force in the NHL in 2008 as all three players tormented opposing defenses with their combination of skill and power.
Runner-up - Heatley/Spezza/Alfredsson (OTT)

Goal of the Year -

Fight of the Year -

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reactions to Penguins vs. Senators Game 1

The Pittsburgh Penguins put on quite a display against Ottawa last night at the Igloo to open their first round series. It was quite a game, to the point that I feel compelled to share my thoughts (in no particular order):

  • The goal by Gary Roberts 68 seconds in was just what the Pens needed to set the tone for the series right from the get go. They had every reason to believe that this series would be a reversal of last year's five game defeat to Ottawa, but they needed to go out and show it.
  • People can say what they want about Marian Hossa, but he played well and the goals will definitely come in time.
  • Max Talbot racing to the aid of his goaltender was what hockey (especially playoff hockey) is all about. That may have been the highlight of the night.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury looked solid and in complete control. He has really taken his game to another level since his ankle injury. Having said that, I don't recall a single instance where I actually thought the Senators might score. Great defensive effort by the entire team.
  • Hats off to the Penguins forecheckers! Guys like Roberts, Talbot, Laraque, Ruutu, Kennedy, and Staal were making life miserable on the Senators defense.
  • Like every other Penguins fan, I almost had a heart attack when Sid went crashing into the boards early in the 3rd.
  • Ryan Whitney coming to the aid of his captain and giving Wade Redden the beat down of his life made up for every bad play Whitney has made this season. Being a +3 and assisting on Malkin's goal didn't hurt either.
  • Evgeni Malkin = BEAST!!!
  • The refs did everything they could to keep the Senators in the game, and even that was of no avail to Ottawa.
  • This series ended the second Gary Roberts challenged the entire Senators team to a fight and nobody took him up on it. The Senators are the definition of gutless.
  • The Bryan Murray taunting will never get old. Whoever put the "Sufferin' Succotash" sign up in the Igloo is my new best friend.
  • The Jaws theme is back for the Pens PP. Even the arena staff is on board with the greatness that is this Penguins team.
Game Highlights:

Whitney v Redden:

Roberts v Everyone:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

2008 Playoffs: First Round Predictions

The NHL playoffs are finally here! I'm not going to waste time as I get right to my breakdown and predictions for each of the 8 first round playoff match ups.

Western Conference

(1) Detroit vs. (8) Nashville

Breakdown: This one is a train wreck waiting to happen on paper. Of course this is coming from the guy who pretty much completely wrote off the Preds heading into the season, so take that for what you will. I'm not high on the Wings' chances this year, but I think they have more than enough to make it past the Predators relatively comfortably.
Player to Watch: Alex Radulov (NSH) - Arguably Nashville's most gifted offensive weapon, Radulov will need to be in top form if the Predators are going to have a shot at making this a lengthy series.
Prediction: Wings in 5

(2) San Jose vs. (7) Calgary

Breakdown: This series is a really tough one for me to call. The Sharks have been playing outstanding hockey for a while now, but I really think the Flames are capable of great things this post season. Evgeni Nabokov should be the Vezina Winner this year, but Mikka Kiprusoff has the ability to out play him. Joe Thornton is the heart and soul of the Sharks, but Jarome Iginla means just as much to the Flames and is a better all-around player than Thornton. Brian Campbell has been terrific since joining the Sharks, but Dion Phaneuf should have a much greater impact on this series. While all signs point to a Sharks victory, I'm going with the Flames on this one in what should be a hard fought series.
Player to Watch: Dion Phaneuf (CAL) - "The Dion" should make life hard for the Sharks' top forwards with his big hitting. As the checks pile up over the course of what should be a long series the Phaneuf Effect could really tilt things in Calgary's favor.
Prediction: Flames in 7

(3) Minnesota vs. (6) Colorado

Breakdown: This should be a good series as the Wild take on the 1998 2008 Avalanche. Minnesota clearly toughened up their roster with a rematch with Anaheim in mind, but they should still be able to handle Colorado in the meantime. The Avalanche have enough skill to take out the Wild, but I think the combination of the Wild's toughness, defense, and Marian Gaborik will be too much for the Avs.
Player to Watch: Ryan Smyth (COL) - Smyth's first season in Colorado has been a disappointing one, but that could all be erased if he has a big series against the Wild. It will be interesting to see if he can take the punishment in front of the net and score some big goals for Colorado.
Prediction: Wild in 6

(4) Anaheim vs. (5) Dallas
Breakdown: Goals will be hard to come by in what should be a very physical series between Dallas and Anaheim. The Ducks have really had a hard time putting the puck in the net, but I think they will find enough offense to get past the Stars. It wouldn't shock me though if the Stars rode Marty Turco and a few timely goals into the 2nd round. Expect a lot of 1-0, 2-1 games in this series. A two or three OT game wouldn't be a shock either.
Player to Watch: Brendan Morrow (DAL) - Dallas' leader could help them pull off the upset if he can counter the physicality of the Ducks with some punishing hits of his own and provide some scoring punch to go along with it. Morrow could prove to be a difference maker in what looks to be a very tightly played series.
Prediction: Ducks in 6

Eastern Conference

(1) Montreal vs. (8) Boston

Breakdown: This series is another one I'm having a tough time getting a handle on. I don't think too much of either of these teams and don't expect either one to make it past the 2nd round. With that said, someone has to win this round. I know Montreal is the #1 seed in the East, but they just don't feel like it, and they have heaped a ton of pressure on the young shoulders of rookie goalie Carey Price. Take into account that the Habs are built on high scoring and their power play, and they are missing their top blue liner in Mike Komisarek and you have a recipe for an upset if you ask me. This series could go in any number of ways, but I'll go out on a limb and take Boston to pull off the upset.
Player to Watch: Tim Thomas (BOS) - Thomas will have to be at his best for the Bruins to have a chance. Thomas seems to play better when facing a lot of shots and I think the Habs will be challenging him early and often throughout the series. If Thomas can play to the best of his ability, the Bruins could end up getting the best of their Original Six rivals.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

(2) Pittsburgh vs. (7) Ottawa

Breakdown: All bias aside, this should be an easy matchup for Pittsburgh. Ottawa has been playing like crap for months now and they are running into one of the hottest teams in the league who also happens to have revenge on the mind. Both teams can score plenty of goals (although the Ottawa offense has really struggled of late and they are missing Daniel Alfredsson), but the Penguins defense and the play of Marc-Andre Fleury is what really has me excited. The Penguins aren't giving up many goals and that is what should let them make short work of the troubled Senators.
Player to Watch: Jordan Staal (PIT) - Staal has struggled to score goals this year, but the talent is still there and he is the type of player who can come out of nowhere to score like mad in the playoffs. In addition he should also be seeing plenty of the Senators top offensive unit, and if he can shut them down it will be a very short series.
Prediction: Pens in 5

(3) Washington vs. (6) Philadelphia

Breakdown: This could be a very interesting series to watch. It will be interesting to see how Alex Ovechkin and the young Caps respond to the pressure of the playoffs and the physical play of the Flyers. The longer the series goes, the more that will favor the Flyers, but I think Cristobal Huet will prove to be the difference in what should for the most part (I can see the Caps blowing out the Flyers once at home somewhere along the way) a close series.
Player to Watch: Mike Richards (PHI) - Richards is the guy on the Flyers most capable of putting the team on his back and carrying them through a playoff round almost singlehandedly. If Richards can play the way he was early in the season, that may be enough of a difference to get the Flyers on to round 2.
Prediction: Capitals in 6

(4) New Jersey vs. (5) New York Rangers

Breakdown: Much like the Ducks/Stars series, goals should be few and far between in this series. Having said that, I don't see the Devils giving the Rangers much trouble. Martin Brodeur will probably steal a game for the Devils at some point, but I think the Rangers are just too much for New Jersey. On the strength of their defense I see the Rangers as one of only two (Pittsburgh being the other) real contenders in the East and I expect them to take care of business against New Jersey in quick fashion.
Player to Watch: Zach Parise (NJ) - Parise is probably New Jersey's most dynamic scorer and he will be called on to try to solve Henrik Lundqvist and the Ranger defense. If he can average over a point-per-game, New Jersey might have a punchers chance at advancing.
Prediction: Rangers in 5

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why There's More To Life Than Goals

Evgeni Malkin gets my MVP vote this year, and Jarome Iginla is my runner-up (more on that in the next couple days). People can gush over Alexander Ovechkin all they want, but Iginla is so much more and if someone told me the Pens could acquire Iginla or Ovechkin, I would take Iginla in a heartbeat.

Here is just part of what makes the Flames captain such a special player:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

NHL Team Of The Month: March 2008

Okay, it's back to business! It's almost playoff time, can you feel it? In the meantime, here is my last Team of the Month for the 07-08 season. Enjoy!

  • Center: Johan Franzen (13 GP, 14 G, 4 A, +6, 12 PIM, 8 PPP, 6 GWG)
  • Right Wing: Jason Pominville (14 GP, 8 G, 11 A, +7, 6 PPP)
  • Left Wing: Alexander Ovechkin (14 GP, 14 G, 12 A, +17, 12 PIM, 9 PPP)
  • Defense: Dion Phaneuf (14 GP, 3 G, 9 A, 24 PIM, 6 PPP)
  • Defense: Brian Campbell (15 GP, 2 G, 13 A, +10, 9 PPP)
  • Goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (11 GP, 9 W, 1.44 GAA, .951 SV%, 2 SO)
  • Franzen had 6 game winners in March! It almost got to be a joke.
  • Pominville has really come into his own as an offensive force in Buffalo. He and Derek Roy have been outstanding in the second half of the season.
  • Ovechkin has Caps fans thinking playoffs. They may have to win the division to make that happen, but they play in the Southeast so that's not exactly out of the realm of possibility.
  • I don't know what else to say about "The Dion" at this point. The guy may be a bit of a diva, but he can flat out play. Should be a Norris finalist for sure.
  • Brian Campbell has been a great addition for the Sharks. That trade really could not have worked out any better for them in the short term.
  • MAF has been playing out of his mind since coming back from the high ankle sprain. He has been the backbone of the Pens and has them sitting atop the East. He should be fresh after all the time he missed and he is peaking just as we head into the playoffs. It's pretty much the best case scenario for the Penguins.