Game 2 Review

Well, yesterday's game was another beauty, in hockey terms.

The Ducks pulled off a second straight win from a second straight goal by a second checking line player in the second game of the Ducks' second trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Too bad it's not the second round, that would be an insane amount of seconds. Anyways, take a look at these key factors and interesting notes.
Goaltending- Game 1 featured some timely scoring by players who have had a knack for timely goals, at least in this playoffs. But Game 2, on the other hand, involved stellar goaltending by both goalies. As a matter of fact, it took an accidental screen by Joe Corvo, and a ripping wrist shot from Samuel Pahlsson to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead, which turned out to be the final score.
Forwards- Every forward had his own story in Game 2. I can't exactly go player by player, but I'll name 4 players that I saw a story in.
Jason Spezza- It really bites to have to criticize this guy, but, to put it in one word, he stunk (Oops that's two). Spezza had a mediocre night, highlighted (not in a good way) by two awful shifts in the second period. He hasn't made an impact in the Finals yet, and it would be a wise choice to put Mike Fisher on the top line for at least Game 3.
Corey Perry- The guy was as much of a magnet for hits as Elvis was a magnet for fans. And not just during the first few minutes, like Scott Niedermayer was in Game 1. Despite his constant shadows, Perry managed to have a pretty good game, even putting on the physicality mask himself for small periods of time.
Dany Heatley- Unlike his DDJ (Dany, Daniel, Jason) line mate, Heatley managed to have a strong game. He didn't get any points, but managed to be in front of the net often, and was out there when Ottawa had multiple opportunities at a Power-Play goal.
Samuel Pahlsson- Yes, I have to profile the guy who scored the only goal of the game. Are you saying you wouldn't? Pahlsson scored a pretty goal late in the third period, after causing another Senator giveaway. He also continued to play a strong defensive game.
Physical play- This was much more of a factor than any other part of the game. Whether it was the smashing hit Chris Neil put on Francois Beauchemin, or the battle of Fisher and Perry, you had to notice the amount of physical play in this game. Players were crunching each other left and right. Good thing nobody went Colby Armstrong and accidentally injured someone. The only times of concern were when Perry (I told you he was a target) got up slow from an early hit, and some other Senator got hit pretty hard and appeared to have his face hit the boards painfully.

Once again, here are some highlights provided for any of you who don't get Versus. I'm sure some of you don't.

Thanks to HockeyPacific for providing these videos. Nice to get some highlights up here. Unfortunately, this video doesn't show much of the physical play, but does highlight the excellent goaltending, and gives a good view of Samuel Pahlsson's goal.

I'll post on Saturday or Sunday about Game 3, and might be able to find something to write about tomorrow.


Thoughts about other things in hockey

I hope all of you have been solely focused on the playoffs, because if you haven't, then most of this won't be relevant to you.

Two kid lines?- I know it's the wrong time to be looking ahead, but consider this. The Anaheim Ducks have Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry locked up for next year, and Dustin Penner should be re-signed soon if Brian Burke is thinking straight. But, Drew Miller's performance in Game 1 of the Cup Finals shows that he is ready to join the lineup. Bobby Ryan, a highly touted Ducks prospect, had 11 points in his first 12 AHL games (including playoffs) and also looks prepared to be given a shot. Throw in 24-year-old center Ryan Carter, who looked pretty good in three playoff games this year, and the Ducks can have another kid line. Imagine that, Duck fans who dream of a repeat (if they win this year).

Phoenix fantasy better than life- Better start wishing you were me on East Side Hockey Manager, Don Maloney. The new Coyotes GM has to deal with the mess that is the Phoenix Coyotes, and he won't have it easy. However, I've come up with a plan that works while seeming unreasonable. Keep all your current players, and re-sign Jeremy Roenick. Yes, really. Then, acquire Petr Sejna off waivers, and have him replace Jeff Taffe. Also, receive Carlo Colaicovo from Toronto, Andy Delmore from Tampa Bay, and Hannu Toivinen from Boston. Keep Toivinen in the minors until Cujo, still your starter, gets injured and David LeNevue severely falters. Recall said Toivinen, and let him tear up said NHL until Coyotes are in playoffs against unreasonably strong Nashville Predators. Play like zombies until swept in four games.

07-08 Rookie group strong- Yes, the NHL will once again have several rookies that will provide plenty of interest. I know I already tried to make a big report on this, and it's still coming, but here are the most interesting ones. Bobby Ryan- The previously mentioned winger will certainly have a strong NHL debut, although, he may have to adjust to Andy McDonald's style of play if Teemu Selanne retires. Jonathan Toews- The Hawks have signed the college player to a contract. He should be able to crack the roster (it is Chicago), and will likely play a key role. Marc Staal- Staal is less guaranteed to make his team than the other two are, but he should still have a good chance. His defensive style can help the Rangers, so look for him to make a difference.

Posting tomorrow to review Game 2.


Game 1 review

Ok, I swear that I will put a review after each Cup Final game, especially if they turn out as fun as that.

The Ducks came out with a 3-2 win, and, honestly, through the whole game, the score could have been 7-5 if not for some brilliant goaltending by "Razor" and "Jiggy". Giguere's best save came against Daniel Alfredsson with less than 10 seconds to go. The Sens captain was right in front when he received a great pass from Mike Fisher. He let off a top shelf-shot, but "Jiggy" caught it with his glove hand. Emery didn't have on particular save that stands out, but stopped several shots that could have made the deficit bigger. Even so, he's got to be hurting from the relatively soft backhand that Getzlaf put past him. It appeared to be a spectacular goal, but emery could have stopped it with an average save. As for the offense, most of the goals were great. Travis Moen's game-winner was a great play by the Ducks, and a bad play by Andrej Meszaros. Wade Redden has a better slapshot than we know, because I've never seen him pull off a blast like that. The double-Mike play was great (see later note), and congratulations to Drew Miller on making a great hit and free up the space for McDonald's goal.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: These are really just separate thoughts that came during the game.

- Was it Mike 1 or Mike 2? Does it really matter? After two periods of play, the NHL finally decided that Mike Fisher scored the goal on a wrist shot, not Mike Comrie on a tap in. The Versus announcers had a lot of fun with that. "The jury has come back and ruled a verdict..."

- Has anyone noticed the constantly changing personality of Ryan Getzlaf? I was watching the game with my uncle and my dad, and just so happened to (easily) notice the (blatant) series of crosschecks that Getzlaf put on Mike Comrie. As a matter of fact, he earned the name Ryan Crosscheck until he scored his backhander on Emery. Then we talked about his huge potential to become a superstar.

- Plenty of jokes have already been made about the playoff beards of the Anaheim Ducks. But I think we topped it off after seeing a shot of the cleanly shaved Mike Comrie, and the beardless Chris Pronger. " 'Hey, look at that! Pronger can't grow a beard!' 'That's ok, (Scott) Niedermayer is growing it for him.' *laughter* 'Yeah, I can see it in the dressing room! Pronger is staring at his chin, and Niedermayer comes up and says, don't worry man, I got it.' *more laughter* 'And Rob (Niedermayer) is growing it for (Corey) Perry!' 'It's the third period, do you know where your beard buddy is?' Mike Comrie is jinxing the Senators. You could easily tell that he had shaved recently, after seeing his face in a mid-break interview.

- Unless he's in it just for the money (which would be a shame), Zdeno Chara has got to be kicking himself right now. The year he leaves, the Sens make it to the Finals for the first time in franchise history. Speaking of Chara, who would win the fight? Chara or Pronger?

If you didn't see the game, which is understandable considering how Versus is largely unpopular, here are some nice highlights for you.

It fails to show Ryan Getzlaf's crosschecking show, but it is still good. Posting tomorrow or Thursday about Game 2.


"This Just in..."

I must delay the previous report because of an urgent message...

Now, for an analysis, please stand-by....

Stanley Cup Final
Anaheim Ducks (2 in West) vs. Ottawa Senators (4 in East)
Prediction- Ottawa Senators in 7 games
These two teams present an interesting story. One, the Ducks, have been expected to dominate all year, starting from the acquisition of Chris Pronger last summer. Most picked them to win the Stanley Cup in the pre-season, mid-season, end-of-season, and mid-post-season. On the other hand, the Senators, always a strong regular season teams, had no more expectations than the usual. Blow every one's mind in the regular season, and then flop out and disappoint in the post-season. That has changed.
Anaheim (2)- The Ducks are in for a new challenge. Defeating Minnesota involved snuffing out the top scoring line, and then throwing in a couple of goals to finish it off. Bumping off Vancouver meant snuffing out the top two offensive guys, and finding a way to beat a defensive minded team. Manhandling Detroit required some timely plays and stopping the forwards before they got to the defensive zone. See a pattern? While I am in no way saying that the Ducks don't have speed and skill (hello youth line), they haven't had to use it so much as stuff in a puck or two and shut down the other guys.
But against Ottawa, it could be a different story. Had things gone by the names when Buffalo played Ottawa, it would have been Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman shutting down the nameless line, while any of the top three lines would pile in goal after goal. Not so. Not only did Ottawa prove to have scoring depth (Mike Fisher and Mike Comrie come to mind), the top line also made Tallinder and Lydman exhausted by playing an end-to-end game and then passing smoother than seemingly possible for a great play.
Now, it's up to Randy Carlyle to make a tough choice. Play Pronger and Niedermayer together, and have them completely shut down the "nameless line" while leaving Francois Beauchemin and Sean O'Donnell to deal with the depth? Or will he keep going with what he's done (Pronger and O'Donnell, Niedermayer and Beauchemin) and cross his fingers. Will Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald, and Chris Kunitz really turn it on, or will all the pressure be on Ryan Getzlaf, Dustin Penner, and Corey Perry? Will J.S. Giguere forget some of his shaky moments, and push for another Conn Smythe? Or will his game go down the drain, and cause the Ducks to turn in favor of Ilya Bryzgalov? Basically, will it all work? Sorry Anaheim fans, but you've got a lot of questions.
Ottawa (4)- Then again, who's saying that the Sens don't? Will the top line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfreddson be able to keep up their torrid pace against two Norris trophy nominees? Will Mike Fisher and his group of "the other Ottawa forwards" keep up their surprising offensive support? Can Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips keep Ray Emery from getting pelted with shot after shot? Can Ray Emery stop whatever shots get through? We all need answers.
GAME KEYS: It all comes down to who can shut down the top offensive line. If Pronger and Niedermayer can shut down the "nameless line", then the pair of Volchenkov and Phillips can't stop both the "youth line" and the (hmm, what should I call them) "TAC line." But if Phillips and Volchenkov manage to slow down one of those, and Wade Redden and Andrej Meszaros can provide at least some defense against the other, then the "nameless line" should deliver.

However, this is the Stanley Cup Final. Here, a man known for defense can score myriad goals, and even the least defensive player can block a shot and save the game. Here, players will get injured terribly, but keep playing because of a want for the ultimate goal. The STANLEY CUP!

Some good pics from Ottawa's Stanley Cup journey so far.

Not actually from this year's playoffs for the Ducks, but still a good video.

I finally posted a video! It's been so long..... speaking of which, so long! I've got to head out.


Next year's rookies

If you're a draft hound, you probably love The Hockey New's Future Watch and Draft Preview, and www.hockeysfuture.com in general, and so do I. The following report is for those of you who don't necessarily want to know who is rated to go 50th (Akim Aliu for THN) in the draft, but you would like to know more about prospects. Some of these players might not have rookie eligibility, but haven't yet secured a spot.

First, a team report of who I think could crack their respective rosters. I will acknowledge www.hockeysfuture.com, www.hockeydb.com, and The Hockey News Draft Preview and Future Watch, as the sources for my information.

Anaheim- To name just one, Bobby Ryan has given every indication that he can be a top-line scorer for the Ducks. He scored 8 points in 19 games and had 22 penalty minutes with Portland Pirates (AHL) in the playoffs last year, and scored 9 points in 8 regular season games with the Pirates this year. He should at least start out on the third line. Other prospects: Tim Brent (AHL, 30 points, 15 NHL games, 1 goal, Rookie), Ryan Shannon (AHL, 9 points in 14 games, NHL, 11 points in 53 games, hasn't secured spot). Draft Expectations: The Ducks likely won't pick until the second round, unless they trade that one too, so don't expect anyone huge to be acquired.
Atlanta- Brett Sterling had a 55-goal rookie AHL year, but his expectations are wide-spread. Some will look at his stats and believe that he can join the top two lines. But, Sterling is a natural left-winger, where the Thrashers already have Ilya Kovalchuk, Slava Kozlov, and possibly Keith Tckachuk, although he is a UFA. Other prospects: Boris Valabik (AHL, 9 points, 184 PIM's in 50 games), Jordan LaVallee (AHL, 34 points, 16 goals, 79 games). Draft Expectations: The Thrashers too will not pick until the second round, so look for the team to snatch a USHL or BCHL center without too much notoriety. The Thrashers have a desperate need for a scoring center, and Bryan Little is not yet fully developed.
Boston- The Bruins have many prospects that were spectacular this year. Mark Stuart and Matt Lashoff appear to be ready to break in at the start of next season. Stuart had 20 points and 64 PIM's in 49 AHL games, and had an assist and 10 PIM's in 15 NHL games. Lashoff had an outstanding rookie year in the AHL, scoring 36 points and 60 PIM's in 64 games, and even got 2 assists in 12 NHL games. Other prospects: Petr Kalus (AHL, 13 goals, 30 points in 43 games, NHL, 4 goals, 5 points in 9 games), David Krejci (AHL, 31 goals, 74 points, 69 games, NHL, 6 games, no points.). Draft Expectations: The Bruins pick 8th this year, and according to The Hockey News, they could get anyone from a Jeremy Roenick or Derian Hatcher player, to a Terry Ryan or Jason Herter player. Karl Alzner, who has been said ready to make the NHL, is rated to go 8th this year.
Buffalo- The Sabres have several prospects who could step in next year, but their most exciting one has already played half a season. Drew Stafford (41 NHL games, 13 goals, 27 points) would have had a great rookie season had he kept that pace up all year. Those stats pro-rate to 26 goals and 54 points over an 82 game season. Expect a big season from the versatile winger next year. Other prospects: Clarke MacArthur (AHL, 21 goals, 63 points in 51 games, NHL, 7 points in 19 games), Marek Zagrapan (AHL, 17 goals, 38 points in 71 games). Draft Expectations: The Sabres don't pick until either the second or third round, so the scouts will be focused on getting a lower-round gem.
Calgary- The Flames want Dustin Boyd to secure a spot on the roster next year. Boyd's rookie AHL year included 27 goals and 60 points in 66 games. He also scored 2 goals and 4 points in 13 NHL games with Calgary. Other Prospects: Andrei Taratukhin (AHL, 17 goals, 60 points in 89 games), Brandon Prust (AHL, 17 goals, 27 points in 63 games, NHL, 10 games, no points). Draft Expectations: The Flames pick 18th, and according to THN, they could get anyone from a Glen Murray or Jason Smith type player, or a Jesper Mattson or Jason Miller type player. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, last seen with the U.S. U-18 team, is rated to go 18th.
Carolina- Brett Carson appears to be the best AHL performer right now. A D-man in his rookie AHL year, Carson managed 2 goals and 17 points. But beyond that, he showed a strong natural offensive sense, able to move the puck well in any situation. Other Prospects: Justin Peters (AHL, 10 wins, 17 losses, 30 games, rookie AHL year), Mark Flood (AHL, 44 games, 12 points, 22 PIM's). Draft Expectations: The Canes pick 11th this year, and, according to THN, they could get anyone from a Jarome Iginla or Mike Sillinger player, or a Chris Govedaris or David Cooper type player. Big D-man Keaton Ellerby is rated to go 11th this year.
Chicago- The Hawks are hoping Jonathan Toews and/or Jack Skille can step in next year. Toews is the more likely, with 18 goals and 46 points in 34 games with North Dakota in collegiate play. Skille, on the other hand, has been inconsistent. His talent lives up to his name, but his stats don't. However, Skille appears ready for the pros after scoring 4 goals and 8 points in his first 9 AHL games. He only had 8 goals and 18 points in 26 college games. Other Prospects (and boy does Chicago have others!): Cam Barker (AHL, 15 points, 53 PIM's, 34 games, NHL, 8 points, 44 PIM's, 34 games), Dave Bolland (AHL, 17 goals, 49 points, 64 games, NHL, 1 game, no points), Troy Brouwer (AHL, 41 goals, 79 points, 66 games, NHL, 10 games, no points), Kris Versteeg (AHL, 26 goals, 72 points, 70 games), There are many others, but I have to keep going. Draft Expectations: The Hawks have a wonderful opportunity, being able to pick 1st overall. So many superstars (Crosby, Ovechkin, Modano, Thornton, Lecavalier, to name hardly any) have been there, and only three instances have come where the player should not have been picked in that position. Even then, Patrik Stefan has been a good role player, Alexandre Daigle had a few good years, and Bryan Berard should have only been a lower first-rounder. Patrick Kane is rated to go first overall, by THN's standards, although Jakub Voracek, Alexei Cherapanov, and Kyle Turris all fit along with Kane's style of play. Kane, Voracek, and Cheraponov could step in next year.
Colorado- The Avalanche will give three players, T.J. Hensick, Ryan Stoa, and Chris Stewart, every opportunity to make the team. Hensick is the strongest contender, coming off a 23-goal, 69-points-in-41-games year in college. Stoa, also in college, is coming off a year where he dropped in production (25 points in 06, 24 in 07) but showed a more impressive all-around game. Stewart also shows lots of offensive talent. He scored 36 goals and 82 points in 61 OHL games, then went up to the AHL, and scored 3 points in 5 games. Other Prospects: Johnny Boychuk (AHL, 28 points, 125 PIM's, 80 games), Tyler Weiman (AHL, 54 games, 27 wins, 2.99 GAA). Draft Expectations: After their first playoff-less season, the Avs will pick 14th. According to THN, they could get anyone from a Sergei Gonchar or Adam Deadmarsh player, or a Patrick DesRochers or Michel Reisen type player. Offensive Russian winger Maxim Mayorov is expected to go 14th.
Columbus- The Blue Jackets want Derick Brassard and Kris Russell to crack the roster in training camp. Brassard was injured for a majority of this season, however, he still managed 25 points in 14 games. Last season, he went at a two-points-per-game pace. Russell is the surprise of the two. Never getting much attention until recently, the young defenseman scored 69 points in 59 games, showing tremendous potential. Other Prospects: Steve Mason (OHL, 62 games, 45 wins, 3.20 GAA), Geoff Platt (AHL, 28 goals, 49 points, 53 games, NHL, 3 goals, 9 points, 26 games). Draft Expecations: The Blue Jackets have the opportunity to snap up another difference maker with the 7th pick in the draft. THN reports that they could get a Jason Arnott or Shane Doan type player, or a Ryan Sittler or Alex Stojanov type player. Playmaking center Logan Couture is rated to go 7th overall.
Dallas- The Stars will want Niklas Grossman to make the team next year. He played 67 AHL games with Iowa, and scored 10 points, however, his niche as a defensive defenseman helped him into 8 NHL games, where he was scoreless. Other Prospects: Perttu Lindgren (FNL, 43 games, 4 goals, 26 points), Vojtech Polak (AHL, 67 games, 17 goals, 45 points, NHL, 2 games, no points). Draft Expectations- The Stars won't draft until the second or third round, so don't expect a big name to appear. A late round gem is possible, though.
Detroit- The Wings have a couple of players that can make it next year. Jimmy Howard is in his second AHL season, and got 21 wins and a GAA of 2.70 in 49 games. Kyle Quincey played 65 AHL games and scored 22 points from the blueline. Now he is with the Wings in the playoffs, where he has 2 PIM's in 11 games, and no points. Other Prospects: Jakub Kindl (OHL, 55 points, 142 PIM's, 54 games, AHL, 7 playoff games, 2 assists), Igor Grigorenko (Russia, 49 games, 14 goals, 27 points). Draft Expectations: The Wings actually kept a first round pick this year, and will either pick 30th if they win the cup, 29th if they come in second for it (their actual place too), or 28th if they get out in the conference finals. This means they won't likely get a superstar, although they could find a surprise. Bill Sweatt, a project forward, is rated to go 28th, John Negrin, a two-way D-man, is expected to go 29th, and Ryan McDonagh, another two-way defender, is rated to go 30th.
Edmonton- The Oilers have a lot of work to do before they get back on the road to respectability, and that involves young guys such as Robert Nilsson, Rob Schremp, and Denis Grebeshkov making the team and making an impact. Nilsson is more likely to make it, after an 18-goal, 66-points-in-69-games year. He played 4 games with the Oilers, scoring 1 goal. Schremp also should make the team, although, after only being recalled for 1 scoreless game, despite a 17-goal, 53-points-in-69-games year, he may not even re-join the team. Grebeshkov is more of a mystery. He's had success in the AHL, and even played in 33 NHL games over 3 seasons, yet, he returned to Russia and only had 16 points in 47 games. Other Prospects: Andrew Cogliano (NCAA, 24 goals, 50 points, 38 games), Ryan O'Marra (OHL, 26 goals, 51 points, 46 games). Draft Expectations: Edmonton actually gets to pick 3 times in the first round. Their own pick comes 6th, a pick from the Islanders at 15th, and a pick from Anaheim at 28th or 27th. They can get a wide variety of key players. At 6th, playmaker Sam Gagner is rated. Two-way defender Nick Petrecki is rated to go 15th, and forward Mike Hoeffel is rated 27th.

I'll leave it at that for now, and work on getting the rest of the teams soon. I only do this because I hate not publishing something for a while.


Conference Finals Analysis "2"

Oops, I goofed up. Sorry Detroit and Anaheim fans, I totally forgot to write about your series too. Deeply sorry, a huge mistake. (What do you expect, I'm Eastern Conference "media"?). Here we go.

Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Anaheim Ducks (2)
Prediction- Anaheim in 6 games
This is the series where you will see defense, defense defense. How could you not, when there are three Norris trophy finalists among the two teams, along with several other great defensemen?
Detroit- The Wings are solid in all areas of the game. Offense- Just like in the regular season, the Wings are receiving a majority of their offense from Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Pavel Datsyuk. However, instead of the Ottawa style, where one line does all the scoring (which would be Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and bargain Tomas Holmstrom here), they have also received offense from Johan Franzen, D-man Mathieu Schneider, Mikael Samuelsson, Daniel Cleary, and the ageless defender Chris Chelios. All of those players have 5 points or more. Defense- Now, you can't win games just by scoring, and the Wings can take care of things in their own end as well. The top six defenders (Lidstrom, Schneider, Chelios, Brett Lebda, Danny Markov, Andreas Lilja) are solid in their own end. However, with Lebda and Schneider injured coming into this series, the Red Wings are forced to go with Kyle Quincey, and possibly Derek Meech, although Lebda could play. Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Valtteri Filpulla, and occasionally Jiri Hudler are used as checking forwards. Goaltending- The Wings have received solid play from veteran Dominik Hasek, who has won a Stanley Cup once with the Wings already, and been to the Finals another time with Buffalo. Back-up Chris Osgood has the experience of winning a Cup as a starter with the Wings, and as a back-up with them.
Anaheim- The Ducks have good players up front, but is their depth strong enough? Offense- It was easy enough to predict who would score for the Ducks in the regular season, but the playoffs have featured a different group of scorers. Expected leaders Andy McDonald, Teemu Selanne, and Chris Kunitz have put up numbers, but ones more expected by second or third-liners. D-men Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, and Francois Beauchemin all score, while the "youth" line of Ryan Getzlaf, Dustin Penner, and Corey Perry have carried the offense with the unusually high-scoring Samuel Pahlsson and Travis Moen. Defense- The Ducks have a strong point here. Pronger, Niedermayer, and Beauchemin are the big three, while Kent Huskins, Joe DiPenta, and Sean O'Donell are solid in limited playing time. Moen, Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer (yes, he is Scott's brother), Ryan Shannon, Brad May, and Shawn Thornton are better in their own end. Goaltending- The Ducks have two experienced post-season goalies. This is J-S Giguere's third trip to the Conference Finals, as back-up or starter, and he has won a Conn Smythe Trophy for his play in the 2003 playoffs. Ilya Bryzgalov's playoff time is much more limited, but he too has the experience of a Conference Finals trip. In the first two games against Minnesota, Bryzgalov pressured Anaheim to keep him in net for the playoffs, although Giguere has been even better.

Sorry that this comes out two games into the series, but at least I got it out. A special rookie report follows.


Conference Finals Analysis

Ok, it's finally going to come. Hopefully, it will be in depth and you can understand my reasoning.

Buffalo Sabres (1) vs. Ottawa Senators (4)
Prediction- Buffalo in 7 games
Anyone who has paid attention to the Sabres and Senators this year knows that this will be a crazy series. Both teams are exciting on offense, have at least one good pair on defense, and have goaltenders that have been absolutely great.

BUFFALO- The Sabres have everything they need to be a Stanley Cup champion, although their defense is more shallow then they would like. Offense- The Sabres can score from all four lines. The Sabres use Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Thomas Vanek, Jochen Hecht, Maxim Afineganov, Dainius Zubrus, Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford, and Ales Kotalik are the "main offensive weapons." But Adam Mair, Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, and Daniel Paille (if he gets called up more), who are normally on the checking line, can provide timely offense as well. Brian Campbell and Dmitri Kalinin are the most offensively inclined defensemen for the playoffs. Defense- The Sabres' incredible defensive responsibility is shown most by the fact that only 2 players are on the minus side, and both of them (Toni Lydman, Henrik Tallinder) are normally put up against the top offensive players for the other team, and are still only minus-1. Brian Campbell and Dmitri Kalinin are the offensive D-men, Lydman and Tallinder are put up against the opponents top offensive line, and the third pairing, Teppo Numinen and Jaroslav Spacek, can be put up against anyone. Every forward is in the plus rating except for Derek Roy, who is a main checking forward, and Daniel Paille, who has only played one game. Goaltending- The Sabres have used Ryan Miller for the entire playoffs, and will continue to do so unless he is injured. If he does get hurt, the Sabres are toast. Ty Conklin has struggled in his small playoff experience, and Adam Dennis has had an average rookie AHL year. Look for the Sabres to use a unit of Paul Gaustad, Adam Mair, and Jochen Hecht at forward, and Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder on defense, all against Ottawa's top line. They will also try and form two scoring lines since the Senators will use Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips against one.

OTTAWA- The Senators have plenty of momentum, but will it work? Offense- The Senators have less offense then the Sabres, and that may hurt them. Beyond the "give-us-a-name" line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson, the Sens only have Chris Kelly, Dean McAmmond, Antoine Vermette, and Mike Comrie with more than one goal. Some regular-season weapons haven't been reliable; Peter Schaefer, 12 goals, 46 points in 77 regular season games, no goals, 3 points in 10 playoff games, Mike Fisher, 22 goals, 48 points in 68 regular season games, 1 goal, 4 points in 10 playoff games, Oleg Saprykin, 15 goals, 36 points in 71 regular season games, no points in 7 playoff games. Only defenseman Tom Preissing, Joe Corvo, Wade Redden, and Anton Volchenkov have scored a considerable amount of points. Defense- This is a stronger spot for Ottawa. Of the seven defensemen (Corvo, Preissing, Volchenkov, Chris Phillips, Andrej Meszaros, Redden, and seventh defenseman/forward Christoph Schubert), no one has a lower plus/minus- than -3, from Schubert. Phillips is a minus- 1, but he and partner Volchenkov are almost always paired up against the top offensive line. Preissing and Corvo work together as the offensive pair, while Redden and Meszaros are the two-way group. Forwards Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Schubert (who has played forward for the whole playoffs so far), and Chris Neil are the hard-hitting (Neil), defensive (Fisher, Schubert), two-way (Fisher, Kelly) group. Goaltending- It's been all Emery so far. The young, fight-loving Senator has shown that while he loves to be aggressive, he can put on the big saves at clutch time. Back-up Martin Gerber has the experience of winning the Stanley Cup last year with Carolina, although he did not play much.
KEYS TO THE SERIES: Both teams have declared, despite the fight-filled rivalry, that this will be a clean series. That's good news for fans who want an exciting series. Defense will be the main key, though. Will Tallinder and Lydman stump the "nameless line" and allow Drury and co. to pile up the points? Or will Volchenkov, Phillips, and the rest of the gang keep the Sabres at a snail's pace, while giving Heatley the chance to turn on the red light? Tonight, we will find out.

Hockey video of the day- If you missed the first round of the playoffs, here's some highlights for you. I know the quality of the video isn't great, but it's better than another no-vid day.

Back tomorrow with more hockey info and opinions.


Looking Ahead "2"

Here's the rest of the teams for my subject, along with (possibly) a conference finals analysis, and a good hockey video. However, I might not get to all of that. Anyways....

Minnesota- The Wild likely won't make any huge moves in the summer, but there are definitely some possibilities. 1) Manny Fernandez traded. It's pretty likely, and actually, might turn into a major move. Neither Manny nor the spectacular Niklas Backstrom would truly be happy with back-up time, and while Minnesota would sure like to have both of them, it won't happen. To make it more complicated, Josh Harding looks ready, and the Wild have several other goalie prospects vying for the AHL that will be lost once Harding leaves (a.k.a. Miroslav Kopriva, Kristofer Westblom, maybe Niko Hoivinen). Also, the offense is a little crowded, so it may be possible to see Todd White or Stephane Veilleux move.
Montreal- Changes must be made, or Bob Gainey might leave. First of all, anyone in their right mind would get rid of Sergei Samsonov, whether it be a trade, waiving him multiple times, or buying him out. He has to go. Also, re-signing Sheldon Souray would be a huge blessing, and if he leaves, expect the Habs to go after whatever offensive blue-liner is left. David Abeischer will be good trade bait for either a checking forward or a young defenseman.
Nashville- It may actually be convienient to let Peter Forsberg leave. David Legwand is ready to be a top-line center, and Jason Arnott is more than capable of manning the second line. Vernon Fiddler could run the third line, and Jerred Smithson and Scott Nichol can trade off fourth line time, if Nichol doesn't leave in the first place. If he does, Rich Peverley will take his place. On defense, a veteran blue-liner is needed to replace Kimmo Timonen, who likely will become tooo expensive for the Preds to afford. One of Tomas Vokoun or Chris Mason could leave to make room for Pekka Rinne, with Mason being most likely.
New Jersey- The Devils will look to either re-sign Scott Gomez, or bring in another center of his status. It would help if another scoring forward was brought in, but really, the Devils don't have a lot they need to do.
New York Islanders- The Islanders want to sign Ryan Smyth, but he may have other ideas. If he leaves, the Islanders will have to find another scoring forward. Also, an extra defensema would be nice, but really, if the Islanders can keep everyone from this roster, they are good to go.
New York Rangers- The Broadway Blueshirts almost made the conference finals with the roster they had, so only a few changes will be made. A center, such as Ryan Hollweg, or even Petr Prucha (who isn't really a center, but is listed as one on nhl.com), could be moved to make room for exciting youngster Ryan Callahan. Callahan had 4 goals and 6 points in 14 games with the Rangers, and is still eligible for the Calder next year. On defense, everything is set if everyone stays. Unless Al Montoya or Stephen Valiquette is ready, a back-up goalie will be wanted after Kevin Weekes' so-so performance.
Ottawa- If the Sens make it to the Stanley Cup Final (which is actually a good possibility) then they should be happy with most of their roster. Tweaking will be done here and there if they don't make it though. Oleg Saprykin, who underacheived in twelve regular season games and has gone scoreless through 7 playoff games, will likely leave the team, as could extra defenseman Lawrence Nycholat, who only played once for the Sens and had little impact.
Philadelphia- The Flyers will definitley make big moves. Room needs to be made for Ryan Parent, Steve Downie, Alexandre Picard, and, on the possible list, Claude Giroux and Jussi Timonen. No matter who makes it, the Flyers will have a bigger youth movement than Pittsburgh. Lots of changes. In fact, the only sure bets are Simon Gagne, Joni Pitkanen, and Martin Biron.
Pittsburgh- The Pens will need a veteran influx next year. The Pens would like to keep Gary Roberts, but he may go elsewhere. A scoring winger would be nice, and so would another veteran D-man.
San Jose- The Sharks will be focused on their prospects now. But, there are rumors that Patrick Marleau could leave after his poor playoff performance.
St. Louis- It all depends on the draft. Scoring is a key focal point.
Tampa Bay- The Lightning will need defense, and they have the money too spend after telling Ruslan Fedotenko that he will not return.
Toronto- The Leafs need to increase their forward depth, and find a way to rid themselves of Bryan McCabe and Pavel Kubina. Perhaps the Tampa will want their stud back?
Vancouver- The Canucks will be looking to tweak their roster, especially the forwards.
Washington- The Capitals are likely to go through another rebuilding year. They need a playmaking center (or three) to compliment Ovechkin, Semin, and possibly youngster Alexandre Giroux (aren't the Caps tired of that first name?). Kris Beech needs to step up.

Sorry for the rushed finish. I won't be able to add a video just yet, but, tomorrow, I'll analyze the conference finals and try to include some playoff highlights.


Looking Ahead

I feel so pressured to write about the playoffs, but then I think of the perfect reply. "Why don't you check http://www.nhl.com/, http://www.thehockeynews.com/, http://www.versus.com/, and www. whatever else might have playoff coverage .com?"

Instead, how will each team change during the off-season?

Anaheim- Ignoring all the complicated matters involving free-agents, because I can't remember who's restricted and who isn't, I don't see a whole lot of change that needs to go on here.
Atlanta- The Thrashers will be looking for at least one scoring center. If they can pile up the money, they might be able to snatch Danny Briere or Chris Drury, and they would be a killer combo with Hossa, Kovalchuk, or Kozlov. But if Atlanta resorts to Jeremy Roenick, who, by the way, will play anywhere for any amount of money, don't expect a playoff repeat. Everything else looks tight.
Boston- The B's will be busy. Another scoring winger would help compliment the highly pressured Glen Murray and Marco Sturm, although Brandon Bochenski looked great in his short time with Boston. The defense will also need help, but the biggest need is a goaltender. Boston is giving Hannu Toivenen another chance, but if he falters early, he'll be traded.
Buffalo- The Sabres' biggest worry isn't bringing in new people, but keeping the old. They might like to bring in a back-up goalie who fits better than Ty Conklin, but isn't as starting-worthy as Martin Biron.
Calgary- The Flames need defense now. Kind of strange to say about one of the most defensive teams in the league, but, it's true. They might be able to free up some space if Tony Amonte leaves, and they could use that money to sign a young defenseman. Also, Jamie Maclennan is likely done with the Flames after his stunt in the playoffs, and so the Flames will either bring up Brent Krahn or search for another veteran.
Carolina- The Hurricanes are going to be more focused on young players now. They need to trade at least one of their 9 NHL-experienced defensemen, and could perhaps receive a prospect or draft pick in return. Anson Carter did almost nothing with the Canes, and will likely be sent away.
Chicago- Whatever moves the Hawks make will rely on the draft. Picking first overall will be a good thing, and, they have a chance to make a killer young forward group if they can bear another losing season. My not-very-likely-to-happen-master-plan-that-could-go-above-the-cap is this: The Hawks pick Patrick Kane first overall. He gets signed, and ends up on the second line. They proceed to sign Jack Skille and Jonathan Toews, and here's the lineup. Line 1: Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus, Tuomo Ruutu. Line 2: Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jason Williams. Line 3: Jeffrey Hamilton, Jonathan Toews, Peter Bondra. Line 4: Radim Vrbata, Denis Arkhipov, Jack Skille. Defense 1: Brent Seabrook, Adrian Aucoin. Defense 2: Duncan Keith, Cam Barker. Defense 3: James Wisneiwski, Jim Vandermeer. Goaltenders: Nikolai Khabibulin, Corey Crawford. Now, obviously, this wouldn't work because some forwards (Skille, Vrbata, Hamilton) would not like where they were placed for sure. And, remember, I'm not doing this with the cap in mind. I'm also forgetting quite a few players that the Hawks probably want (Nikita Alexeev, Rene Bourque).
Colorado- The Avs don't need as many changes as it seems. The chemistry came together during that late run, and the only thing left is some touch-up. Jose Theodore probably has to go, seeing as his play was not what they wanted. Antii Laaksonen and Cody McCormick struggled, and one of them could fetch a good price.
Columbus- The Blue Jackets should have major changes after firing GM Doug Mclean. It's any one's guess as to who will go, it could be anyone.
Dallas- The Stars have several moves they can make in order to make the team better. Eric Lindros needs to go, because it's highly doubtful that valuable checking center Jeff Halpern would accept fourth line ice time. Patrik Stefan disappointed and could be moved as well. Nolan Baumgartner doesn't fit into the team's defense very well, and he will be allowed to leave.
Detroit- The Wings might have to move a few forwards in order to keep their team happy. They have an abundance of offensively skilled forwards, and one of them might have to move. Robert Lang is on his way down after a slow season, and wouldn't be happy with occasional third line time. But more likely to move are struggling checking forward Kirk Maltby, who has had his worst offensive years since 95-96 and 96-97, and young forward Tomas Kopecky, who hasn't had a bad season, but never claimed a spot, but could still draw a good price.
Edmonton- Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Petr Sykora and Ales Hemsky were the only two guys that had OK years, and maybe Roloson too, but still. Expect plenty of changes in the off-season, including a move for Joffrey Lupul. Lupul had a horrible season, scoring as many points as he had goals last year, and made it better only by not turning into a Sergei Samsonov. Samsonov style (after an awful 26-point year): "I wasn't put with the right line-mates, I wasn't given enough playing time." Lupul style (much more respectable after a terrible 28-point season): "I haven't been on my game all year, I lost all my confidence. Edmonton did everything they could for me, but I didn't do enough myself." I have no idea how many moves might be made by this team.
Florida- The Panthers will be average in their moves, picking up someone her, and someone there, but nothing too big. We could see the team moving Alex Auld after his disappointing season, and acquiring another starter since Belfour is kind of old. Another scoring winger would help, as Martin Gelinas can settle into the checking role that he is good at. Another offensive defenseman, or a breakout season from Mike Van Ryn, would help as well.
Los Angeles- All the Kings have to do is build from the inside, and they can be very successful. Goaltending was a huge problem last year. The Kings had to use the following goaltenders, and I'll list the problems each one had. Mathieu Garon: Injury trouble. He actually performed well (32 games, 13 wins, 2.66 GAA, .907 SP%), but he couldn't stay healthy. Dan Cloutier: Injuries and inconsistency. Cloutier had injury problems again, but when he was healthy, he gave up some bad goals and couldn't keep winning. Sean Burke: Too old, small injuries. Burke also got injured occasionally, but mostly, the 40-year-old's age affected his ability to play. Barry Brust: Too young, pressure. A call-up after Garon got injured, too much pressure was put on the young Brust, and he wasn't able to play up to his potential. Yutaka Fukufuji: Way too young. This was going to be Fukufuji's first full year as an AHL back-up behind Brust. Forced into the line-up, Fukufuji displayed potential, but is definitely not ready. What the Kings hope to do now is continue to develop Brust and Fukufuji, get rid of Burke, hope Cloutier and Garon stay healthy, and maybe sign prospect Jonathan Bernier and have him spend time in the AHL as well. Fukufuji should spend more time in the ECHL, even if he has to give up his rookie eligibility.

I'll write the second half of this tomorrow, because I want to get something published.

Correction- Sergei Samsonov had 26 points. Sorry!



Ouch. Such bold predictions, and then at least half of it went down the drain. Fear not, after a long break to contain my anger against the Canucks, I will make just general predictions based on stats.

Parise- Assuming the Devils remain in the playoffs until the Cup Finals, Parise will be another Fernando Pisani. Granted, Parise had a spectacular regular season too, but, if Zach can keep up the pace, he'll be another hero.

Devils + Offense = WOAH!- During the regular season, everyone (including me) was ranting about the Devils and their boring defensive game. Surprise! As of today, 6 Devils had scored at least 8 playoff points, and Scott Gomez was going at an assist-per-game. A point-per-game would have been surprising, but an assist-per-game is spectacular!

Sorry, a short post today. I should be back to my normal writing in a few days.

One more note, guess who's back to his awesome play? Trevor Linden. Along with surprise scorer Taylor Pyatt, Linden leads the Canucks in playoff scoring. As much as I am annoyed by the Canucks right now, I have to give it to "Mr. Game 7", kept up with his name by scoring the game-winner against Dallas in Game 7. What a post-season man, who once scored as many points in the post-season as he did during this regular season. I'm glad I have a game-used jersey card for him.