Archive for the ‘Hockey Hits’ Category

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Wed. Jun.1st – Predicting Stanley & A Welcome Return!

In Hockey Hits on June 1, 2011 by geespotting

…Yes…hockey is returning to Winnipeg again, some 15 years since the Jets were forced to leave. Exciting news for hockey througout our country as we now have 7 Canadian teams in the league. The only thing more fitting would be the return of the name Jets to the franchise. Time will tell, but, if public opinion is to tell instead, then it should be Jets. And yes…the Cup Final starts tonight…so, here is the prediction:
STANLEY CUP FINAL
Vancouver over Boston in 7 games.
…My Cup Final prediction was that it would be the Sharks who would advance to battle the Bruins, but, I also said that if the Canucks beat San Jose, then they will bring home the Cup! It will be tough (figuring the whole 7 games), but, I think there will be some long awaited celebrating going on this province, and country in the next couple of weeks. Now, if Vancouver does pull it off…it just might cap one of the greatest seasons in NHL history. Seriously…take a look:
– First overall in the regular season, and in these times of league parity, they bettered the 2nd place team (Washington) by 10 pts.
– Lead the league in both goals, and goals against. To do both is a hockey rarity.
– Had the league’s top power play, and the 3rd best penalty kill. Late in the season, with nothing on the line, the ‘Nucks dropped out of the top spot on the kill. Had they maintained that top spot, I am sure it would be the only time that a team has lead in pts, goals, goals against, PP and PK.
– Mike Gillis should win the GM’s Award later this month, and head coach Alain Vigneault could be coach of the year too.
– Ryan Kesler should finally win the Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward in the league.
– Although I think Roberto Luongo is just as deserving, he should finish 2nd in voting for the Vezina as top goalie, and the Bruins Tim Thomas wins.
– And NHL scoring champ Daniel Sedin could follow in the footsteps of his Brother Henrik, and win the Hart. He has just as good of a chance as St. Louis & Perry.
…So, a Cup win would cap an amazing season, and when it comes to stats & honors, this could make this season that much more special. Just pointing it out.
…And finally, my pick (after 3 rounds) for the Conn Smythe would be Kevin Bieksa, which would be yet another honor for a Canuck. Kesler has been great, and so has Bruin goalie Tim Thomas and forward David Krejci. All 3 would garner some votes too. Anyway…puck drop is almost here!
…I will leave you w/ this little remake of a Harlequin standard. In the Jet’s last year in Winnipeg, a friend sent me this CD that contained all sorts of Winnipeg songs, including this tribute to long time d-man Teppo Numminen. You just might get a kick ouf of it:

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Round Three Predictions

In Hockey Hits on May 14, 2011 by geespotting

ROUND THREE

EAST

(3) BOSTON VS. (5) TAMPA BAY

…Wrapping up round two…I was 2 for 4, and now have a record of 8 for 12. I was wrong in the East…big time! 2 sweeps…who would have guessed?! Well, as we dive into the Conference Finals, I think the Bruins will finally make it to the dance. I think the last time came back in 1990 after the Oilers beat them for their 5th cup in 7 years. In goal, despite the heroics of Dwayne Roloson…Tim Thomas will be better. The Bruins have more depth on d, and up front too. I don’t believe the dynamic trio of Moore-Downie-Bergenheim will have the series that they did against the Caps, even though Sean Bergenheim was the best player in the 4 game rout of the Capitals. In order to advance, Steven Stamkos will have to be better, and contribute more than he has to this point. For Boston, they have a ton of character, and it has shown through in flying colors with the likes of Brad Marchand, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, who have all chipped in with timely goals through their first 2 rounds. Their best player in round two was David Krejci, who had big points in all 4 games of their incredible roll through Philly. I went against Boston in the first two rounds…but, not this time.

BRUINS IN 6.

WEST

(1) VANCOUVER VS. (2) SAN JOSE

…I have been 2 for 2 with the Canucks in picking them to beat Chicago in 7, and then Nashville in 6. For Nuck fans though…I am thinking they will want me to be dead wrong for the Conference Final. I was critical of Ryan Kesler heading into round two…but, after game two…he delivered with a performance that is only seen every few years in the playoffs. Names like Keith Primeau, Joe Sakic, and Jonathon Toews come to mind for players who single handedly won a series like Kes did for Vancouver. If they are to tame the Sharks, they will need the same effort from Kesler…but, they will also need some output from the Sedins…who were very silent in round two. For San Jose…they jumped that hurdle again…but, did it the hard way after the Wings won 3 straight to take it to a game 7. Devin Setoguchi was easily the best player of the series, despite the strong performance of Jumbo Joe Thornton. Setoguchi scored 5 times, and that San Jose depth will be needed to oust the Canucks. Patrick Marleau finally scored (game 7 winner), and that type of relief might be what the Sharks need to knock off Vancouver. I said from the get go that San Jose would win the Cup…but, this final could be the best one of the playoffs.

SHARKS IN 7.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?