Archive for April, 2011

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Round Two Predictions

In Hockey Hits on April 28, 2011 by geespotting

ROUND TWO

EAST

(1) WASHINGTON VS. (5) TAMPA BAY

…Alright, let’s go w/ this round. I predicted a Penguin win over the Lightning, but, Tampa rallied from 3-1 down to take the series in 7. As for the Caps, I said they would win in 7, and they did so in a tough 5. I don’t think Roloson will have it as good as in round one, and the Cap gunners will expose him. That being said, Tampa is a well coached team w/ a ton of Stanley Cup experience, and they should make this a long one.

CAPS IN 7.

(2) PHILADELPHIA VS. (3) BOSTON

…I said the Flyers would get it done in 7 over Buffalo, and that’s exactly what happened. I did have the Habs in a big round one upset, but, the Bruins bounced back to win that dramatic game 7 in OT. Will history repeat itself in this series? Yes, it will, but, not in the form of any comeback, but, we will see another Flyer victory.

FLYERS IN 7.

WEST CONF.

(1) VANCOUVER VS. (5) NASHVILLE

…I was lucky on the first two series for the Nucks and Preds. I said Vancouver would win in 7…and they did, but, no one could have forecasted the 3-0 lead, the Hawk comeback, and all the other storylines that followed this wild one. Burrows buried the Hawks w/ his OT winner. I also said that the Preds would knock off Anaheim in 6, and it happened, thanks to their remarkable defence and goaltending. Despite those Nashville attributes, I don’t think they will get it done vs. Vancouver.

CANUCKS IN 6.

(2) SAN JOSE VS. (3) DETROIT

…No upset in this one either. Detroit was impressive in round one…but, the long rest may cost them, despite the fact that a number of injured players get time to heal. San Jose was not impressive in round one…but, year after year…they never are! Somehow, I still believe that this is the year of the Shark, and like last year, they will prevail.

SHARKS IN 6.

…I was 6 for 8 in round one…but, no upsets this time around, at least as far as seedings go. We shall see!

Articles

Award Tracker – GM of the Year

In Hockey Hits on April 24, 2011 by geespotting

AWARD TRACKER

GM’S AWARD

…So, the actual nominees are Mike Gillis of the Canucks, Steve Yzerman of the Wings, and David Poile of the Preds. I have some issues. Here is a look at my winner:

WINNER: Mike Gillis, VANCOUVER

 

…A pretty easy choice when you consider the way that the Canucks improved their team in the past year. They added some much needed depth on D when they picked up one of the Summer prizes in Dan Hamhuis. They added a little more toughness in Keith Ballard, a player, who actually had a tough time in cracking the Canuck lineup early in the season, a testament to their depth, even w/ some of the injuries that they had to endure. Up front, Gillis added some more missing pieces in locking up a premiere 3rd liner in Manny Malhotra, someone who has added to their penalty kill, line matching and face-offs. Raffi Torres was another piece, and very inexpensive for what he has brought to the table this year. At the deadline, some more depth was added with Max Lapierre and Chris Higgins being added. The result was the Canucks leading the league in almost every category, as they marched to their first ever Presidents Trophy.

RUNNER UP: Ray Shero, PITTSBURGH

…No offence to the work that nominess Steve Yzerman & David Poile have done, but, Shero was able to cut down the salary size of the Pens in off season after losing Sergei Gonchar, and re-tooling w/ a pair of talented of d-men, but, very different than Gonchar. Zbynek Michalek is a stay at home d-man who excels in hitting and shot-blocking, and was a key pickup by the Pens. They also added Paul Martin, an under-rated player who has both offensive and defensive abilities. It was almost like a 2 for 1 deal, and considering that the Pens would play a lot of this season without Crosby & Malkin, these 2 players would play a huge role in a different Pittsburgh team. Shero would also make some big deals at the deadline. With both Sid & Geno out of the lineup, a deal was made to bring in Alex Kovalev, and then James Neal and Matt Niskanen. Alex Goligoski was the victim, but, with the depth already, and the improved play of Kris Letang, he could be expendable. In the end, Shero has to be commended on re-shaping this team, one that is close to a 2nd round berth.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Peter Chiarelli, BOSTON & George McPhee, WASHINGTON

…First of all, a deal in sending Phil Kessel to Toronto resulted in Chiarelli acquiring the 2nd over all pick in last year’s draft, and getting Tyler Seguin. Other recent picks include Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic. He also dealt for Nathan Horton, who has fit in very well for the Bruins, and then added some more forward depth w/ the under-rated Rich Peverley. Other deals have included picking up the much heralded Tomas Kaberle (even though he has struggled with Beantown so far) and a pretty good penalty killer and checker in Chris Kelly. As for McPhee, he has to be applauded for drafting the likes of Alzner, Carlson, Backstrom and other key pieces to this Cap team. He has added also experience and depth w/ Jason Arnott, Dennis Wideman, and Scott Hannan. That latter player (Hannan) may be the piece to the puzzle that has steered the Caps in their new, yet, winning ways.

SERIES WRAPS:

WEST – (3) DETROIT OVER (6) PHOENIX 4-0.

…Last year, I predicted a Coyote win in game 7, but, they fell short. This year, I said the Wings would win in 7…and again the Dogs fell short. This time…they didn’t even win a game in being easily swept by the Wings. Phoenix should a few signs of getting into the series…but, those signs were short-lived. My MVP was NOT Pavel Datsyuk, but, Jimmy Howard instead. In all 4 games, Howard easily outplayed Ilya Bryzgalov, and made some key saves when it looked like the Coyotes were going to get back into the series. As for Datsyuk, he was the best skater in the series, with most of his magic coming in games one and two. Back in the desert, the Wings showed their depth as players like Cleary, Kronwall, Bertuzzi and Ericsson shined. Were the Coyotes distracted with the constant reports that they may be moving to the ‘Peg? You bet they were, and it certainly showed in their early exit.

EAST- (1) WASHINGTON OVER (8) NEW YORK RANGERS 4-1.

…I thought this series may have gone the distance, but, it was Michal Neuvirth who proved to be the difference, and was my MVP as he was the better goalie, and outplayed Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik is one of those few goalies who could steal a series, and he did play well, but, Neuvirth was better, and kept the Rangers at bay with his saves, especially considering that this was a very close series. The Rangers did a very good job in limiting the chances of the 1st place Caps, but, the Washington depth was too much, as a different player came to the forefront each game to be the hero. Jason Chimera, Jason Arnott, John Carlson, and Marcus Johannson come to mind with their play, and subsequent big plays in leading to the Caps to a 5 game series win.

…More wraps, and awards still to come!

Articles

Award Tracker – the Calder

In Hockey Hits on April 19, 2011 by geespotting

AWARD TRACKER

CALDER TROPHY (ROOKIE OF THE YEAR)

…Alright, so, the nominees came out this morning. This is one award where it was easy to predict. Here is a look at my winner, and the runner ups.

WINNER: Jeff Skinner, CAROLINA

…Some may argue this choice, but, I believe there really was NO other choice. He played for a non-playoff team, and had more points than any other rookie. As a matter of fact, of the top 4, he was the only TRUE rookie. In other words, all of his career games came this season. That can not be said of Couture, Ennis and Grabner. Not only did he lead all point-getters, but, he also did it being the youngest player in the league! Not bad for a guy who was actually going to be a figure skater instead of a hockey player. Mind you, those figure skating days have only benefitted his great game. We will watch his progression this Spring as Skinner plays for Canada at the World Hockey Championships.

RUNNER UP: Michael Grabner, N.Y.ISLANDERS

…Grabner finally found a home in Long Island after a stressful off season. The Canucks moved him to their burial ground known as Florida, and his tenure there was short-lived as he was placed on waivers and picked up by the Isles. All Grabner did was lead all rookies in goal scoring on a pretty bad hockey team. He was also electrifying at the All-Star game in winning the fastest skater contest. His wheels certainly helped him in becoming one of the great stories this past season.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Logan Couture, SAN JOSE & Tyler Ennis, BUFFALO

…Both rookies were impressive, but, not good enough for my top 2 spots. Some say that Couture is the most complete rookie they have ever seen. His mind for the game is something to see at such a young age, but, his numbers were certainly magnified playing w/ the talent laden Sharks. As for Ennis, he is among a pretty good young crop of forwards in Buffalo that includes Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford. He played last year for a bit, and was of the Sabres’ best forwards in their first round loss to Boston last Spring.

– Coming up…a look at my picks for the GM’s Award!

Articles

The Season – Oh Yeah, Cup Prediction

In Hockey Hits on April 15, 2011 by geespotting

THE SEASON

CUP PREDICTION

…At the start of the regular season I said that the Sharks would win their first cup, and beat the Flyers in the Final. I am gonna stick with that, as San Jose will knock off the Canucks in the West, while Philly will head back to the final after disposing of Washington in the East. It’s a long 2 months…looking forward to it!

…Still to come, award predictions as I will run through the Adams, Selke, Lady Byng, Calder, Norris, Vezina and Hart Trophies in the coming weeks.

Articles

The Season – West Predictions

In Hockey Hits on April 12, 2011 by geespotting

THE SEASON

…Ok, I reviewed my East predictions for the regular season yesterday, and now a peek at the West. Here are the predictions, and each team’s actual placements in brackets:

MINE

1. San Jose (2)

2. Vancouver (1)

3. Detroit (3)

4. Chicago (8)

5. Los Angeles (7)

6. St. Louis (not in playoffs)

7. Phoenix (6)

8. Nashville (5)

…I had the Ducks way down in the 13th spot, but, a huge last week vaulted them into seed number 4! Let’s roll through the predictions:

(1) VANCOUVER VS. (8) CHICAGO

…It’s the league’s top team against the champs! It’s their 3rd playoff battle in as many years, and this time, I think the Nucks are poised to win, and take the wind out of the Windy City! Heading into the post-season, Vancouver has all of their defence healthy…which did not happen until the final game of the year…good timing! The injury to Manny Malhotra will hurt when it comes to faceoffs, and the intangibles, but, this team is good on almost every single level of the game. They scored more than anyone else, and allowed the fewest goals. The PP and penalty kill are incredible, and they boast the best 1-2 tandem up front w/ the Sedins. The Hawks will make it a series, even though their Cup winning team from a year ago was dismantled as soon as the parade ended. That being said, it’s that core that still remains, w/ players like Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Hossa, Sharp & Bolland. But, it was a very short off season for this club, and it might be too much to ask of this core to provide another Cup run, and there are more question marks in the Chicago net than there are in Vancouver’s. Should be the most entertaining series of the first round!

CANUCKS IN 7.

(2) SAN JOSE VS. (7) LOS ANGELES

…The battle of California does not look like much of a battle on paper, especially when you consider the 2nd half of the season that the Sharks had, and the struggles down the stretch the Kings had. That being said, I think L.A. can win a couple of games, due to the fact San Jose always seems to start slow in any given playoff year, and that has led to 1st round exits before. Last year, Craig Anderson stoned San Jose & stole a couple of games for Colorado. Jonathon Quick will have to do the same for the Kings. And a little good news for L.A. in the fact that Justin Williams might be back in this series. There will not be an upset w/ an Anze Kopitar on the sidelines, and the powerhouse 3 lines that the Sharks can throw at you.

SHARKS IN 6.

(3) DETROIT VS. (6) PHOENIX

…Them Coyotes are my team, and last year, I had them to win the 7 game series that they would eventually lose after going the distance w/ the mighty Wings. This year, I see another long one, and I am hoping that my Red Wing prediction to win will backfire like last year when I picked Phoenix. But, upon looking at the series, Detroit should at least get the round one win. Jimmy Howard has proven that last year’s stand-out rookie season was not a fluke, Nik Lidstrom is on track for another Norris win, and playoff proven performers are ready to roll for Detroit w/ a healthier Datsyuk, Cleary, Franzen and company. There is some concern w/ Henrik Zetterberg who will not play in the first game or two, and if the Coyotes are to win the series, a steal in one of the first 2 games at the Joe will be key! As for Phoenix, Keith Yandle’s play was elevated to one of the top scoring d-men in the league, following his breakout 2009-2010 season. The problem for Phoenix will be their lack of scoring from the forwards. Last year, players like Wolski & Lombardi were huge contributors, but, they are both gone, as well as Scottie Upshall. Those players alone also added incredible speed from Phoenix, which was huge in their forecheck, especially last Spring when it came to getting on the likes of Lidstrom, Kronwall and Stuart. Ilya Bryzgalov will have to be better than the regular season in order for the dogs to move on to another desert path!

RED WINGS IN 7.

(4) ANAHEIM VS. (5) NASHVILLE

…A pretty intriguing final match-up as the Predators, who have never moved out of the first round, will battle the Ducks, a team many had predicted to be on the sidelines (including myself) from the start of the season. For the Ducks to prevail, they are going to have press Nashville into taking a ton of penalties, so, that their remarkable PP can get to work w/ Perry, Getzlaf, Selanne, Visnovsky & Ryan. They are also going to need some big playoff performances from players like Beauchemin, Koivu and Jason Blake. It’s a team w/ a good mix of veterans, but, beyond the superstar scorers, it’s a team that lacks depth, ala Tampa Bay. It looks like Dan Ellis will be the man in goal for the Ducks w/ Jonas Hiller on the sidelines, and I don’t think he will be outplaying Pekka Rinne. It’s the big offence for Anaheim, but, it’s the big defence for the Predators. After Rinne, one of the best tenders in the world, the team is rock solid on the point w/ Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and a pretty good supporting cast. No big names up front, but, decent depth and experience and Rinne should allow Nashville to finally make the move into round two.

PREDS IN 7.

…So, that’s how I see the first round for the East and the West, and tomorrow, prior to the start of the playoffs, I will unfold the rest of the playoffs including my Cup winner! It’s a good time of year, isn’t it?

Articles

The Season – East Predictions

In Hockey Hits on April 11, 2011 by geespotting

THE SEASON

…Alright, so, a long, long time ago, I predicted the top 8 in the East. How did I do? Here is a look at my predictions, and their actual placement in brackets

MINE

1. Washington (1)

2. New Jersey (out of playoffs)

3. Boston (3)

4. Philadelphia (2)

5. Pittsburgh (4)

6. Buffalo (7)

7. Tampa Bay (5)

8. Montreal (6)

…I had the Rangers in 10th spot, and they grabbed that final spot from the ‘Canes to make the playoffs. So…prediction time!

(1) WASHINGTON VS. (8) NEW YORK RANGERS

2 years ago these teams met in a matchup that many had as pretty lopsided in the Caps favor. The Rangers stole the first 2 games in Washington, and had a 3-1 lead, before the Caps came back for the 7th game win. I expect it to be just as long once again. First of all, whether it was on purpose or not to have guys like Ovechkin & Backstrom have reduced ice time and miss games down the stretch is not an excuse for their seasons. Ovie’s numbers were down, and Backstrom was maybe one of the biggest disappointments of the season, dropping from a top 5 scorer to out of the top 30. The Caps have decent depth, but, there are question marks on the back end w/ the likes of Green, Poti & Wideman all suffering from sort of injury. Up front, Alexander Semin’s health has also been a concern, and likewise of the aging Jason Arnott. Washington has 3 young goalies too, and how they perform will also be questioned. As for the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist is having one of his best seasons ever, and will have to pull a Halak in order for New York to get through. The Rangers defence is better than it was a couple of years ago, and up front, there have been some surprises in the elevated play of Dubinsky, Callahan and Anisimov. The injury to Ryan Callahan will hurt however, as he provides instant firepower, and can play in all situations. In the end, I like the Caps to get through, and that has to be in big part to their coaches. Bruce Boudreau and his staff implemented a new defensive style at the start of the season, which was put in place to allow this team to move up a pace in the playoff race. It took some time, and some struggles, but, the team was one of the hottest down the stretch in winning the Conference once again.

CAPS IN 7.

(2) PHILADELPHIA VS. (7) BUFFALO

…This series is garnering the most ‘upset’ attention as we near the start of the playoffs. I think it should be another long one, and once again, injury concerns and goaltending come to the forefront as to who will ultimately win. Like in any playoff series since the Bernie Parent days of the ’70’s, goaltending is a huge issue for Philly. Bobrovsky has had a very good rookie season, but, has struggled down the stretch. Can a Brian Boucher, or even Michael Leighton repeat what was done last year? It will have to be done if the Flyers are to move on. Chris Pronger should be ready to play in the playoffs, but, w/ an extended time away from the game, will it actually be a playoff ready Pronger. Know where I am coming from? That issue remains a huge one in Philly. Otherwise, the Flyers seem to be healthy, and another deep team is key for a deep run. As for the Sabres, it looked like once Derek Roy went down early in the season, their post season aspirations would go down with him. Ryan Miller was nowhere the same goalie that he was a year ago, and Buffalo’s defence was nowhere the same after losing some key d-men in the off-season. But, they found a way to get into the playoffs, and it was some surprises up front that allowed them to get there. Rookies Tyler Ennis & Nathan Gerbe excelled, as did Drew Stafford, who had 4 hat-tricks this season. Thomas Vanek might have had his best season ever, and was healthy too. I do like the Flyers and their depth however, and there are some injury concerns in Buffalo w/ Ryan Miller. No upset on this one.

FLYERS IN 7.

(3) BOSTON VS. (6) MONTREAL

…If you are a true hockey fan, then you are looking forward to this one! With all of the leadup and followup to the Chara/Pacioretty mashup, it only adds to one of the best rivalries in all of sport. The Bruins aren’t as big and as bad as they were in the 70’s, but, they are close. They have an interesting mix of skill and toughness that has a lot of people seeing them heading to the Finals. Goaltending is not an issue, as Tim Thomas and his Hasek-like style have been lights out this year. The backup, Rask, is pretty good too. On defence, the addition of Tomas Kaberle will help in a number of capacaties, as he can kill penalties, run the PP, and eat up a ton of minutes…and that only helps big Chara. Up front, Beantown has some added depth w/ the likes of Krejci, Bergeron, Horton & Lucic. For the Habs, Carey Price has to do what Jaroslav Halak did last year. It just might be the best goalie battle of round one. Montreal (as usual) has some injury concerns on the back-end, but, P.K. Subban has seen his game improve in the 2nd half, and adding James Wisniewski gives them a bit more punch on the PP. Up front, the Habs seem healthy, and for underachieving players like Gomez & Cammalleri, this is a time for redemption. They did it last year…can it happen again? Well, just for the sake of ‘anything can happen’, this is my one big upset of the playoffs. It really doesn’t look good on paper for Montreal in a series against the Bruins, especially after a 7-0 debacle to end the season series, but, I will take Montreal on a Steve Shutt backhand to elude Gerry Cheevers for a series clinching winner!

HABS IN 6.

(4) PITTSBURGH VS. (5) TAMPA BAY

…So, this one might be easier to predict if Sidney Crosby plays. Just the sheer prescence of Sid might be enough to put it in the Pen’s favour, but, it really seems doubtful that he will play, and if he does, his impact may do little. That being said, I like Marc-Andre Fleury better than anything that Tampa will offer up. Sorry Dwayne Roloson. He has has had some big games this season, but, has followed up w/ a stinker the next night. I don’t like his consistency at age 41. On defence, Pittsburgh added players like Michalek and Martin to help them defensively in the wake of losing their PP performer Sergei Gonchar. The fact that Krist Letang has developed into one of the best d-men in the league has helped them in moving on w/o the Gonch. The real issue for Pittsburgh will be scoring w/ both Malkin and Crosby hurt. It is hard to see a Chris Kunitz or James Neal pace the way for the team as they move through the playoffs. As for Tampa, I mentioned the question marks in goal, and their own d-core is probably among the weakest of the playoff bound teams. Victor Hedman is better, Pavel Kubina is decent, and Matthias Ohlund is older. Up front, we know about the firepower that is St. Louis, Stamkos, Lecavalier & Gagne, but, beyond that, Tampa has to plug in a lot of pluggers. Again, I like this to be a long series, but, for some reason, I can see the Pens rolling out 3-2 wins, after being beaten 5-1 the game before. And I like their experience in a series that will give them the last home game…and the series win!

PENS IN 7.

…So, there is a glimpse at the East. Tomorrow I will tackle the West w/ a look back at my season predictions and a look ahead to the playoffs. Wednesday will mark the Cup predictions! I love them awards, so, my award predictions will come up this Spring too, just before the NHL announces their nominees.

Back tomorrow!