Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Eastern Conference predictions

Round 1:

(1) Washington over (8) NY Rangers

(7) Buffalo over (2) Philadelphia

(3) Boston over (6) Montreal

(4) Pittsburgh over (5) Tampa Bay

Round 2:

(1) Washington over (7) Buffalo

(3) Boston over (4) Pittsburgh

Round 3:

(3) Boston over (1) Washington

Washington (1)      vs.    NY Rangers (8)

Last Cup Win: Washington (never), NY Rangers (1994)

Why the Capitals will win: They aren’t intimidated by the Rangers or their goaltender whom has been known to get in some of his opponents’ heads (see: New Jersey Devils). Washington is also one of the deepest teams in the league and they will wear their undermanned first round opponent down.

Why the Rangers will win: They spanked Washington twice this season (6-0, 7-0) and when they are on their game, the Blueshirts have all of the necessary components to go toe-to-toe with any team in the league; solid goaltending, timely scoring and team defense will lead New York to the upset win over the Caps.

Washington’s most important player: Tempted to say Alex Ovechkin, but it’s Mike Green; if he is healthy and has fresh legs he could bury the Rangers (a team that has taken a penalty or two) with his power play prowess.

New York’s most important player: The soul of the Rangers is Henrik Lundqvist, if he falters, they are cooked. He’s only won two playoff series in his career, but his league-leading 11 shutouts this season tell you that he is capable of shutting down any team in the NHL.

Washington’s biggest question mark: It has to be the goaltending, despite the fact that they won the East with three goaltenders — two of them rookies. Michal Neuvirth will get the nod to begin the series, and that’s probably the right call. He won back-to-back Calder Cups for the Hershey Bears and was victorious in 27 of his 48 starts with the Caps this season.

New York’s biggest question mark: Which version of Marian Gaborik will show up in this series? Will it be the same Gaborik that had only 48 points (22 goals) in 62 games this season or will he become the two-time 40-goal scorer that the Rangers are paying for?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Washington (Jason Arnott, Mike Knuble), New York (Chris Drury, Ruslan Fedotenko)

PREDICTION: CAPITALS IN 6 — Gaborik and Lundqvist will show up and the Rangers will put up a fight, but Ovechkin will eliminate them with a hat trick in Game 6.

Philadelphia (2)     vs. Buffalo (7)

Last Cup Win: Philadelphia (1975), Buffalo (never)

Why the Flyers will win: Since the start of last season’s playoffs Philadelphia has probably been the best team in the NHL. With the talent on this roster they should walk all over the Sabres, but only if their power play finds itself. This season they ranked 19th in the NHL out of 30 teams, with a putrid 16.6%. Offensive juggernauts that were ranked ahead of them: Buffalo, Colorado, Atlanta, Minnesota and Ottawa.

Why the Sabres will win: They have Ryan Miller and the Flyers don’t; it’s as simple as that. He has won playoff series as the favorite and the underdog in his career, and Buffalo is the hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs. If Miller is at less than 100%, then the Sabres will be in trouble.

Philadelphia’s most important player: Chris Pronger’s presence alone will make a difference in the series, but only if he’s healthy enough to be there. His absence over the final weeks of the season is the reason the Flyers crashed and stumbled out of the East’s top spot.

Buffalo’s most important player: Aside from Miller, it’s Thomas Vanek who very quietly had a solid season — 73 points (32g-41a) in 80 games. If Drew Stafford can get into one of his hot streaks it will make a big difference in the series.

Philadelphia’s biggest question mark: As always since Ron Hextall left, it’s goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky will start Game 1, but lurking behind him are somewhat proven veterans in Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher.

Buffalo’s biggest question mark: Can Tyler Myers and the Sabres’ defensive corps stop the flock of talented Flyers forwards is a good place to start; also how will smallish rookie Tyler Ennis (who had a real nice season) hold up in a seven-game series against the rugged Philadelphians?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Philadelphia (Nick Boynton, Sean O’Donnell, Pronger, Kris Versteeg), Buffalo (Rob Niedermayer)

PREDICTION: SABRES IN 7 — Miller shines as Buffalo wins a l-e-n-g-t-h-y Game 7 in Philadelphia.

Boston (3)       vs. Montreal (6)

Last Cup Win: Boston (1972), Montreal (1993)

Why the Bruins will win: Boston’s depth is only matched by Washington in the East as far as I’m concerned, especially when your top three centers are Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Rich Peverley. The addition of Tomas Kaberle really balanced out the defense in Beantown too.

Why the Canadiens will win: If I had to pick one team in the East that would give Boston the biggest challenge, I’d say Montreal. These two teams know each other inside and out with all of their legendary battles throughout time. Also how will Boston react after blowing a three games-to-none lead in last year’s East semi-finals.

Boston’s most important player: Tim Thomas is the easy choice here, if he continues playing the way he did during the season (35-11-9, 2.00 GAA, .938 save %, 9 shutouts), the Bruins should be able to choke-out the sometimes offensively challenged Habs.

Montreal’s most important player: Where were you this season Scott Gomez? Horrible season (7g-31a, minus-15 in 80 games) from one of the veterans on the Canadiens, but during last spring’s run to the East Finals he put up 14 points in 19 games. If he can get on that type of run it would be much appreciated in Montreal.

Boston’s biggest question mark: The Bruins had a great year, but after choking away last season’s opportunity to beat the Flyers in the semis, anything less than a trip to the East Finals would be a failure. It will be interesting to see how they react if they get Montreal into an elimination game.

Montreal’s biggest question mark: Last season’s dramatic run was led by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who is now with the St. Louis Blues. Now it’s Carey Price’s turn and judging from the season he just had (38-28-6, 8 shutouts) he could be a difference maker, not only this season but for many, many more to come.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Boston (Mark Recchi (2), Shawn Thornton), Montreal (Gomez (2), Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Hal Gill, Brent Sopel)

PREDICTION: BRUINS IN 7 – Boston will bend, but won’t break as they hold off the Habs; Nathan Horton, playing in his first playoffs, will have a monster series.

Pittsburgh (4)                vs. Tampa Bay (5)

Last Cup Win: Pittsburgh (2009), Tampa Bay (2004)

Why the Penguins will win: They have an elite goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal will not only shut down Steven Stamkos, but he’ll also chip in a few big goals.

Why the Lightning will win: Without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, the Lightning can focus their attention on solid team defense and timely goals. Whether or not Stamkos and Simon Gagne can score multiple times will be determining factors in the series.

Pittsburgh’s most important player: It will be all of their penalty killers; they led the league killing off penalties at an 86.2% clip and if they can shut down Tampa’s powerful power play the series could be a quick one.

Tampa Bay’s most important player: If he becomes a playoff-beast once again, it will be the league’s second leading point getter Martin St. Louis (99 points). He’s a proven playoff performer (48 pts in 45 games) and if he gets hot the Pens will become postseason spectators.

Pittsburgh’s biggest question mark: If there is a small chance he can play, does Pittsburgh risk everything and put Crosby out there? If Crosby doesn’t play, who else besides Staal is going to contribute offensively?

Tampa Bay’s biggest question mark: In the 2006 playoffs, Dwayne Roloson led the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and then blew out his knee in Game 1. That was the last time he played in a playoff game, so five years later it’s hard to tell what you are going to get from the veteran netminder.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Pittsburgh (Chris Kunitz (2), Craig Adams (2), Fleury, Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Alex Kovalev, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy, Michael Rupp, Max Talbot, Eric Godard), Tampa Bay (Vincent Lecavalier, St. Louis, Pavel Kubina)

PREDICTION: PENGUINS IN 7 — The Lightning prove to be a valiant opponent but Fleury will top Roloson in a wild Game 7

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

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Devils-Canadiens PostGame Quotes [04.02.11]

Here are the postgame quotes following the Devils-Canadiens game on Saturday night:

Scott Gomez:

Talking about his team’s fans…

“It seems like everywhere we go on the road, there’s a huge Canadien-following; they’re passionate. It’s nothing new to us, everywhere we go there are a bunch of Canadiens fans and it’s unbelievable.”

Talk about the intensity of the game tonight…

“They (the Devils) are as good of a patient team that you are going to get in the league. I thought we stuck with it the whole way. We stuck with our game plan, we had some chances off their mistakes and that’s the way the Devils play. They wait for teams to make mistakes, I thought we kind of did that tonight (to them), and let’s face it — we needed the points, it was a big road game; especially after what happened last game and we’ll take it.”

Do you think Carey Price stopping the penalty shot changed the momentum?

“No, he’s at that level now where that’s expected. He actually got roasted on that penalty shot (laughs), no, that’s one area we don’t worry about. Pricer’s been, like I said he’s set the standard so high, you know he’s up there now with the Brodeur’s and the other guys. It shouldn’t be too shocking because he’s the best goalie in the world right now and that’s what he does. He’s a guy that, we know he’s going to come up with the big save and he’s done it all year for us.”

Your line was really flying out there tonight…

“It was good; (Mathieu) Darche, you know what you’re going to get out of him — he’s going to go to the net and put them in. I think Brian closed his eyes and I think he wanted to shoot and it just happened to slip off his stick and he passed it. He’ll probably tell you that he meant to do that, but what can I say; Brian played great, Darche was going hard and scored two big goals, that’s what we’re going to need. We’ll see what happens, hopefully we stay together. It was a great effort by the team: Pricer did his thing and we’re not in (the playoffs) yet, but we’re taking the right steps. Now we get to go back and play at home and we’re pretty excited about that.”

Brian Gionta:

Talking about the intensity of the game…

“We knew that their season was on the line, we knew they were going to come hard and I thought we did a good job of matching their intensity in the first period and we took advantage of some opportunities; fortunately we came out on top.”

It seemed like you were playing in Montreal tonight…

“Our fans have been great; they follow us all over the place and it means a lot to us to have them there.”

How big was that first goal for you guys tonight?

“It’s always big, anytime you can come out and score that first goal; it’s a momentum-shifter, so it was big for us.”

Talking about the play the first goal was scored on…

“They’re a team that’s known to lock down the middle and there are not many plays there, so you have to drive them wide. Matt Darche did a good job of getting his stick on it as I found him going to the net.”

Similar play on the second goal that he scored?

“Same play, I take it wide. Like I said, they take away the middle, there’s not much there. So you have to use that wide lane and hope for the best.”

Patrik Elias:

Some of the plays that they scored on it looked like vintage Gionta and Gomez…

“I don’t know, I didn’t even see the first one I was in the locker room; the second one was a power play right? Gio is a great player with a lot of speed. He keeps his head up all the time so he can make a play and he makes things happen.”

Martin Brodeur:

Were you surprised the coach didn’t pull you for an extra attacker at the end of the game?

“Yeah, I was looking (at the bench) the whole way, there was still a lot of time to maybe try to figure something out, but he chose not to.”

Getting eliminated tonight has to feel weird for you right?

“Well I think we knew it was going to come, it doesn’t come as a shocker really. But we had a good run, we played really hard to get ourselves in position to compete for the last ten or fifteen games or so, to try and get into the playoffs; but it was just too much (to overcome). We have four more games and we just have to keep doing what we are doing — playing hard and trying to get some wins.”

What did you think of Zach (Parise) out there tonight?

“He hadn’t played in a while but I think the effort was there, the energy; he looked pretty good to me. I think it’s like anything when you miss a lot of time, I think timing sometimes is not quite right; but he’ll work and I think it’s a good thing for him to be able to go through a full game and I’m sure we’ll really see how he feels tomorrow. It’s fun to see him back in the lineup, that’s for sure.”

Was the overall effort there tonight, you guys seemed to be a step behind?

“They played pretty hard, they were skating really well. I think we made them; we turned the puck over too much early in the game and they got a lot of momentum and it kept us on our heels most of the game. They dictated the play most of the game and it was still a ballgame until the third period — after that they scored a quick one on the power play.”

Was the first goal just a deflection that caught you off guard?

“He made a good play, I think he had one hand on his stick and I didn’t expect him to poke at it. It just went over my shoulder there.”

Kind of strange with the crowd tonight huh?

“It was impressive; that’s the only thing I can say. Better than the Rangers when they come in here (grins). It was impressive, I mean I know the Montreal Canadiens’ fans are die-hard, but to show up in the numbers that they did and how much noise they made, it was weird. It was definitely not something that I expected; I knew there were a lot of people coming, but not half the crowd (laughs).”

Did you have to check every now and then to make sure you were still in New Jersey?

“Well I don’t know about that, but it was definitely weird.”

They also behaved better than the Rangers’ fans…

“Well…I won’t comment on that one (smiles).”

What does it say about the team that you were able to extend this run for as long as you did?

“I think it’s pretty impressive for where we came from and I think we have to be happy to have done so. I think there could have been a lot more miserable way of playing the last 40 games of the season, and I think we all worked hard, listened to what our coach had to say and then we went out there and did it. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t continue as much as people believed that we could have, but it took a lot of energy from everyone to do it. The future will be bright, there’s no doubt about that.”

What do you take from the good run that you guys did have these last 37 games?

“Well I think just the experience that some of the young players took and some of the veterans, the way we stepped back into our own game and did what we do. I think we have to put it together right from the get-go next year, there’s a long way to go. There’s a whole summer to have everybody get prepared; and there’s still four games to go. We just have to try to make it fun for ourselves, and hopefully we’ll have a great game next Saturday (at MSG) that counts for our team.”

Would you like to be out there for the final four games?

“I like to play but I also understand that if they feel Heddy should play; he’s been playing so well, he deserves to get in there. There’s no sense playing all the games but if that’s what they want I’m okay with it; I’m here to play hockey, not here to sit on the bench, but hey if that’s what it is, that’s what it is.”

Everyone around this team says if you don’t win it all then the season wasn’t a success, but is there a reason to be proud of this group?

“Well you can’t be proud; our goal is to make it to the playoffs. Regardless of how you get in, this is the first goal that you need to achieve in the regular season and we’ve not done that. Right there it’s a failure because you always want a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup and that first step is the playoffs and we didn’t make it. So it’s a failure of a season, regardless of how we came back and made it interesting, we’re not going to play when the playoffs come; and that’s what we want. That’s what, at the end of the day, we need a chance to compete for.”

After making it so many years in a row, what’s the feeling amongst the players?

“Disappointing, everybody’s real disappointed. I think it’s weird to have a feeling like that and it’s been weird for three or four games now. Even though we weren’t out of it, we were out of it. We believed that we could try to do our own thing and after that things had to fall into place, but it didn’t. We just have to move on from it.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Talking about being eliminated…

“It didn’t even cross my mind….you didn’t ask me why.”

Why?

“Because I was bothered by this game so much.”

Why?

“How we played. I was bothered so much by how we played that it never crossed my mind. How bad we were with the….you know the little round thing there called the puck? My lord!”

Was the effort or the energy not there tonight?

“No energy. I think it was more the mind, we couldn’t make a pass. Montreal played well, I don’t want to take anything away from them, they played a tight game. A lot of times we had the receiver open…and couldn’t complete it.”

Why didn’t you pull Marty for the last minute or minute and a half?

“Because of the way we were playing. We played so bad, I didn’t want another goal; I had enough. As a matter of fact they had a chance (at the end) and another chance after that. One game I did pull the goalie when we had a bad game and gave up a goal. I promised myself next bad game I won’t do that.”

How about Marty giving the guys a chance through two periods?

“Can you ask Marty to be better than how he was tonight? He had nobody in front of him; I’m sorry that’s what it was. Mistakes after mistakes, just a bad game.”

What did you think of Parise?

“He looked like a guy that didn’t play for a year. He’s got to go through this; it’s going to take a little time. And he didn’t get help either, I’m sure if his wingers would have been better, if his center would’ve looked better, I’m sure that it’s not because he didn’t try.”

You came in during a tough situation; do you feel that the team gave you everything they had most nights?

“Oh yeah, it’s just sad that it was not every game. It was not every game; I’m talking to you and I’m trying to find a guy besides Marty that played well (tonight). I can’t, I can’t…it’s got to be (Adam) Mair. Mair, (David) Steckel, you know, they played their game. After that… Teddy, Jo, Kovy, Rollie, Travis. I know they can be better than this.”

Habs Feel Right at Home as They Eliminate Devils

Montreal 3             Devils 1

From the time the game started, check that — walking to and into the arena I could sense this wasn’t going to be a good night for the New Jersey Devils. I had to navigate my way through multiple busloads of partying Montreal Canadiens fans to get to the arena entrance; and the party didn’t stop there. “It’s impressive; that’s all I can say,” said Devils goalie and Montreal-native Martin Brodeur. “It’s better than the Rangers when they come in here. I know the Canadiens’ fans are die-hard, but to show up in the numbers that they did and how much noise they made, it was weird. I knew there were a lot of people coming, but not half the crowd.”

Figuring about seven buses, forty people to a bus, about 280 fans maybe, but in the arena it looked — and sounded like — 12,080 of the sellout crowd were rooting for the Canadiens, something that has become the norm on the road for current Canadien and former Devil Scott Gomez. “It seems like everywhere we go on the road there is a huge Canadien-following, and yeah they’re passionate; but it’s nothing new to us. They’re everywhere we go, it’s unbelievable.”

The result was a 3-1 Canadiens victory, officially eliminating the Devils from the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Ex-Devil and current captain of Montreal Brian Gionta had a strong game with two primary assists on Mathieu Darche’s two goals which were sandwiched around PK Subban’s power play marker early in the third period. “They’re a team that’s known to lock down the middle of the ice,” said Gionta talking about both of Darche’s goals. “There are not many plays there, so you have to drive them wide; Matt did a good job of getting his stick on the puck as I drove them wide.”

Despite being out-shot 23-12 heading into the third period, New Jersey only trailed 1-0 thanks to their best player, Brodeur, who made several big saves that gave his squad a faint pulse. “Can you ask Marty to be better than how he was tonight?” asked Devils coach Jacques Lemaire afterwards. “He had nobody in front of him. Sorry, but that’s what it was. Mistakes after mistakes; just a bad game.”

Perhaps the best news of the night for Devils fans was that Zach Parise played for the first time since October 30, missing 65 games with surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. But even the always-energetic Parise couldn’t save New Jersey from elimination on this night. “He looked like a guy that didn’t play for a year,” said Lemaire. “It’s going to take a little time, and he didn’t get any help either. It’s not because he didn’t try. For his first time, he was fine.” Parise played 21 shifts for a total of 16:05 and had two shots on goal.

Montreal’s Carey Price was lined up for his ninth shutout of the season until Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 29th goal of the season with Brodeur on the bench during a delayed penalty. “He’s at that level now where it’s just expected,” said Gomez of the 23-year-old Price. “That’s one area we don’t have to worry about. He’s up there now with the Brodeurs and the other guys; it shouldn’t be too shocking because he’s the best goalie in the world right now. We know he’s going to come up with the big saves, he’s done it all year (for us).”

Game Notes: Devils rookie Mattias Tedenby had an unsuccessful penalty shot attempt 4:48 into the game but after beating Price his shot hit the goal post and stayed out of the net. “He actually got roasted on that penalty shot,” said a smiling and laughing Gomez loud enough for his buddy Price to hear it. Gionta’s first assist was the 400th point of his career. Devils defenseman Andy Greene led all skaters in ice-time with 29:02, and was a game-worst minus-2; James Wisniewski led the Habs with 24:24. Mike Cammalleri led all players with seven shots on goal; no one from New Jersey had more than two shots on goal, Brian Rolston and Dainius Zubrus were the only two players on the team to not record a shot on goal.

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Mathieu Darche (Mtl) – 2 goals (12)

#2 – Brian Gionta (Mtl) – 2 assists (17)

#3 – Martin Brodeur (NJ) – 26 saves, loss (25)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Overachiever/Underachiever…

With the season almost a month old and today being a rare off day for all 30 NHL teams, I figured it would be a good time to look at each team and see which players have caught my eye as under and overachievers.

Anaheim:

Over —  Teemu Selanne: at age 40 the Finnish Flash still has some gas left in the tank with 12 points (5g-7a) in 12 games. He didn’t want to retire the same summer as Scott Niedermayer, so expect this to be Team Teemu’s swan song.

Under — Jonas Hiller: Only 3 wins in 9 games played with a ghastly 3.13 GAA after the last two seasons when he posted 2.73 (2009-10) and 2.39 (2008-09).

Atlanta:

Over — Andrew Ladd: after winning the Cup with Chicago, Ladd was a salary ‘cap-rifice’ and traded to the Thrashers where he has tallied 12 points (4g-8a) in 11 games.

Under — Bryan Little: There are a few choices here (Antropov, Modin, Bogosian), but I’ll go with Little who has seen his goal production drop from 31 (2008-09)  to 13 (2009-10) to 1. More is needed out of the 12th overall pick in 2006 if Atlanta is going to make any noise this season.

Boston:

Over — Tim Thomas: Sure he won the Vezina Trophy two seasons ago, so we shouldn’t be too surprised by his success, but take a look at these numbers: 6-0-0 in six starts, 3 shutouts and a GAA of 0.50!! The Drew Carey lookalike is pain-free and found his game again.

Under — Blake Wheeler: Only two assists in eight games; he could be trade bait once Marc Savard is ready to return from post-concussion syndrome.

Buffalo:

Over — Tyler Ennis: He has seven points this season (in 12 games) and entered the season with nine career points in 10 career games, so not much was expected of the youngster.

Under — Tyler Myers: The reigning Rookie of the Year may be falling victim to the ‘sophomore jinx’ because he is an NHL-worst  minus-10 this season…yikes!!

Calgary:

Over — Brendan Morrison: The guy didn’t sign until after training camp and leads the team with 10 points (3g-7a) in 11 games; ’nuff said.

Under — Jarome Iginla: The team’s captain and heart & soul has only two goals so far, which isn’t very good for a guy with 443 career goals and nine consecutive seasons with 30-plus goals.

Carolina:

Over — Jeff Skinner: The youngest player in the league (18) is tied for the team lead with seven points (3g-4a) and the seventh overall pick in last June’s draft hasn’t looked out of place at all.

Under — Brandon Sutter: After wetting our appetites with 2 goals in the season-opener, Brent Sutter’s son has only managed one measly assist in the following nine contests.

Chicago:

Over — Patrick Sharp: Leads the NHL in goals (10) and is third in points (15); eh, what Cup hangover?

Under — Niklas Hjalmarsson: The Hawks wanted to keep him so bad they let Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi go to San Jose; now the blueliner has 0 points in 11 games & is a minus-8.

Colorado:

Over — tie, John-Michael Liles or Chris Stewart: Liles has 11 assists in 11 games (t-1st in NHL); Stewart has two hat tricks and is second in the NHL in points (16) and goals (9).

Under — Craig Anderson: The goalie’s play last season meant so much to the young Avs as they made the playoffs; this season he is 3-4-0 and hurt his right knee during warmups this week, and is out indefinitely.

Columbus:

Over — Chris Clark: He has six assists in eight games for the low-scoring Blue Jackets.

Under — Rick Nash: Only five points (3g-2a) through the first ten games and is a team-worst minus-8. Not good enough.

Dallas:

Over — James Neal: The third-year pro is off to a nice start of 10 points (5g-5a) in 10 games and could surpass hsi career-high of 55 points set last season.

Under — Jamie Benn: After 41 points in his rookie season, he has gotten off to a slow start with one goal and five points through seven games.

Detroit:

Over — Jimmy Howard: Nice record (4-0-1) in his second full season with the mighty Red Wings; he is proving that he’s the real deal and learning from vet Chris Osgood everyday.

Under — Mike Modano: He scored on his first shift as a Wing but hasn’t done squat since. Perhaps he should have just walked away after 20 years with the Stars organization.

Edmonton:

Over — Jordan Eberle: The rookie has eight points in his first nine games and two highlight-reel shorthanded goals; keep an eye on this kid.

Under — Andrew Cogliano: Only has two points in nine games; he should be better in what is now his fourth full season with the Oilers.

Florida:

Over — Marty Reasoner: The journeyman has seven points in his first nine games for the Panthers, giving them some much-needed offense.

Under — Stephen Weiss: One of the longest tenured Cats is having a rough start with only three points through eight games and he’s a minus-6.

Los Angeles:

Over — Jaret Stoll: Just about every team would take 10 points (4g-6a) from their third-line center through 11 games.

Under — Drew Doughty: Only one point in five games, plus he suffered a concussion.

Minnesota:

Over — Matt Cullen: Ten points in ten games was probably not expected when they signed the reliable center during the summer, but the traditionally offense-starved Wild will take it.

Under — Martin Havlat: The talented, yet oft-injured winger should have more than six assists in the club’s first ten games. Chances are he will be dealt at some point this season.

Montreal:

Over — Carey Price: The young goalie looked abysmal during the preseason, but he has rebounded nicely with a 6-3-1 record putting the Habs atop the Eastern Conference standings.

Under — tie, Scott Gomez, or Brian Gionta: The two ex-Devils have one goal and two assists each in 11 games, and are no longer considered the Canadiens top line.

Nashville:

Over — Anders Lindback: Another year, the Preds produce another young goalie. The rookie is 3-0-1 in his first four NHL starts. One of these years people will realize that Barry Trotz is a great coach.

Under — Patric Hornqvist: After posting 30 goals last season, he has only potted 3 in ten games this year.

New Jersey:

Over — tie, Matt Taormina or Dainius Zubrus: Taormina, a rookie defenseman, is tied for the team-lead in goals with three; Zubrus leads the team in points (7), and assists (6).

Under — Martin Brodeur: The all-time leader in wins is off to a rocky start (3-7-1); is it his age (38) or the amount of rookie defensemen (3) in front of him on a nightly basis?

NY Islanders:

Over — James Wisniewski: The late-summer acquisition has been excellent for the Isles with a team-leading 11 points (2g-9a) in nine games; his performance has been equal to what you would expect from Mark Streit, who is out until March with a shoulder injury.

Under — Trent Hunter: Two assists in eight games;  coupled with the fact he has never come close to duplicating the 51 points he put up in 2003-04 make you wonder why he is still on the Islanders and in the NHL.

NY Rangers:

Over — Ryan Callahan: Even before Marian Gaborik went down with an injury, more was expected of Callahan this season; he has been the Rangers most consistent performer with a team-leading 11 points (4g-7a) in 10 games.

Under — tie, Gaborik or Chris Drury: They’ve played a combined four games this season, which may explain why the Blueshirts are playing like a .500 team.

Ottawa:

Over — Pascal Leclaire: Injured again and sporting an 0-2-1 record; if the Sens are smart they’ll stick with Brian Elliott or start looking to make a trade for a real no. 1 goalie: see Martin Biron, Jonathan Bernier.

Under — Milan Michalek: It’s tough when you are traded for a 50-goal scorer like Dany Heatley; it’s even tougher when you only have five points in ten games and no points on the PP.

Philadelphia:

Over — Sergei Bobrovsky: The latest in a long, long, long line of Flyers goalies has started the season strong, going 5-2-0 in his first seven NHL games.  Not bad for an undrafted free agent.

Under — James van Riemsdyk: More was expected of van Riemsdyk in his second NHL season, but so far he only has four assists in 11 games.

Phoenix:

Over — Eric Belanger: All that can be said is that Belanger leads the team in scoring with six points in ten games.

Under — Shane Doan: The Coyotes captain has only two points, both assists, in seven games; both points came in the same game.

Pittsburgh:

Over — Brent Johnson: The ‘backup’ goalie has a 5-0-1 record this season with one shutout and a 1.16 GAA.

Under — Marc-Andre Fleury: The ‘starting’ goalie has a 1-5-0 record this season with a 3.35 GAA; can you say goaltending controversy?

San Jose:

Over — Antero Niittymaki: The ex-Flyer and Lightning goalie has started the season strong with a 4-0-1 record for the hungry Sharks, and for the moment has the no. 1 job over Antti Niemi.

Under — Devin Setoguchi: Only one goal and one assist through nine games is a disappointing start for the 8th overall pick in 2005.

St. Louis:

Over — Alex Pieterangelo: He is tied for the team lead in +/- with a plus-6 as the 4th overall pick in 2008 looks to stay with the Blues for a whole season finally.

Under — Brad Boyes: Only has one goal in nine games and its beginning to look like he won’t ever reach 43 goals again like he scored in 2007-08.

Tampa Bay:

Over — Steven Stamkos: Okay, I knew Stamkos was good, but he is turning into a superstar and has Hart Trophy written all over him; and turning Tampa into a force to be reckoned with in the East. 19 points, 1st in the NHL. 9 goals, 2nd in the NHL. 10 assists, tied for second in the NHL.  plus-9, 2nd in the NHL.

Under — Simon Gagne: His first season with a team other than Philly has been a disaster. No points in six games, and now is on IR with a stiff neck.

Toronto:

Over —Clarke McArthur: He had five goals in his first four games as a Leaf, and has given them the second line scoring they so desperately need to stay in contention for a playoff berth.

Under — Kris Versteeg: Aside from the goal and assist he posted in game two of the season he has done nothing else for the Leafs and is a prime candidate to be traded if Toronto continues to play well.

Vancouver:

Over — Corey Schneider: He has made two starts and gave up only one goal in each; he is sporting a sparkling 2-0-0 record with a .970 save%.

Under — Roberto Luongo: The former captain of the Canucks has stumbled out of the gates this season with a 2-3-2 record and no shutouts.

Washington:

Over — Michal Neuvirth: He has taken the no. 1 goalie job away from Semyon Varlamov and ran with it, going 7-3-0 with a 2.15 GAA for the high-flying Caps.

Under — Mike Knuble: One goal and four points in 11 games, no PP points.

Should He Stay or Should He Go…

It’s been almost two weeks since the New Jersey Devils 2009-10 season came to a crashing halt at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Three days after their elimination, coach Jacques Lemaire announced his retirement forcing the team to search for it’s sixth head coach in six seasons since the lockout ended. Three consecutive first round exits, haven’t made it past the second round since winning the 2003 Stanley Cup.

After having time to digest all of this I’ve come up with some suggestions on how to improve the team and hopefully help them (at least) make it out of the opening round of the playoffs. All salaries I used are courtesy of nhlnumbers.com.

Coach: Hire Mike Keenan. The ex-Ranger coach, (more recently ex-Calgary) would seem like an odd choice at first glance, but he knows how to win and he could work well together with another crafty mind like GM Lou Lamoriello. His first task will be convincing Brodeur to play less games, oh and his career total of 672 wins is good for 4th all-time.

Trade: Jamie Langenbrunner, Mark Fraser (and/or) Andy Greene to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle. Perhaps Lamoriello can convince Leafs GM Brian Burke that he can use a Langenbrunner to lead his young team in 2010-11 as he led Burke’s Team USA to a silver medal. Kaberle has one year left on his current deal at $4.25 mil, so to make it fair salary-wise Lamoriello may have to surrender both Greene and Fraser; Langenbrunner is due $2.8 mil and will also be going into the last year of his contract. Perhaps Kaberle will waive his no-trade clause to skate with fellow Czech Patrik Elias.

Trade: Before the draft call your old trading partner Don Waddell from Atlanta and offer him RFA David Clarkson ($875,000) for soon-to-be UFA Colby Armstrong ($2.4 mil). Maybe he still wasn’t 100% from the leg injury, but Clarkson was invisible versus the Flyers; Armstrong will be a player that plays hard every shift and in front of the opposing goalie he will be a pain in the @$$, something Clarkson has failed to do in each of the last two postseasons. See if Waddell has any interest or room for Jay Pandolfo also, who could help stabilize a young squad.

Free Agency: Let Paul Martin, Mike Mottau, Rob Niedermayer, Rod Pelley and Martin Skoula walk away. Changes have to be made and most of these players were very serviceable, the ultimate results just weren’t there.

Do whatever you have to do to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk. Quick name another first overall pick that has played for the Devils. Stumped, well as far as I know there is only one other– Bobby Carpenter — and he wasn’t nearly as dynamic as Kovalchuk is. Hopefully Ilya sticks around, but who am I kidding, there’s no way he’ll stay in New Jersey right?

Sign Free Agents : Tomas Plekanec, Marek Svatos and either Andy Sutton or Anton Volchenkov. Plekanec is the center that the Devils have been lacking since Scott Gomez took the money and ran to Manhattan, leaving Travis Zajac as the team’s only legitimate scoring center. Svatos is a talented, scrappy, underachieving winger from Colorado who could fit in on a solid third/fourth line. Either Sutton or Volchenkov won’t come cheap, but they are both worth the money that will be spent on them. They both block shots well, get in shooting lanes and aren’t afraid to get into scrums to protect the front of their crease — a huge lacking element in NJ the last three playoff failures. Both players also have the same downside too — they are both injury prone, so teams may end up being hesitant to throw major cash around.

There’s a saying ‘scared money makes no money’ so I say the Devils need to revamp the current edition to make it look something like this:

Line A: Ilya Kovalchuk-Tomas Plekanec-Patrik Elias
Line B: Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus
Line C: Brian Rolston-Colby Armstrong-Marek Svatos
Line D: Pierre-Luc Leblond-Tim Sestito/Dean McAmmond-Vladimir Zharkov

D-pair 1: Tomas Kaberle-Anton Volchenkov/Andy Sutton
D-pair 2: Matthew Corrente-Bryce Salvador
D-pair 3: Colin White-Anssi Salmela/Tyler Eckford

Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Yann Danis

I know I’ve made some crazy suggestions here, and I have no doubt that I’ll probably be 0.00% right, but hopefully some changes are made so I’m not sitting home watching less-superior teams battle for a chance to get steamrolled next season. Let me know how insane this all sounded, Thanx.

Dan

Devils-Canadiens Postgame Quotes [12.16.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Wednesday’s 2-1  win by the Devils over the Canadiens:

Patrik Elias:

Why is it that you and Brian (Rolston) are really clicking right now?

“It’s not just me and Brian; I think that Zharkov is doing a lot to make it fun, to make it successful as a line. We’re playing as a unit, all three guys; you saw that he (Zharkov) made another good play on that goal. He’s working hard and makes smart decisions, and with Brian, we’re just having fun, a lot of communication and just playing.”

Was this a patient game (tonight)?

“I don’t know, I don’t think that’s the way we want to play. Like I said, the power plays, we did a lot of good things in the first period because we drew four power plays in a row, and it didn’t work for us tonight. Not every night is going to be perfect, or its going to work; it kind of affected us, maybe a little bit, for the second period. I think both teams didn’t play as good as we can, but we’ll take the win.”

Vladimir Zharkov:

Can you talk about the play on the game-winning goal?

“I see one guy came to me and the second guy went to Rollie, then it was a 2-on-2. It was a beautiful, very nice; Rollie stopped, wait, wait, wait, he gave the puck to Elias; Elias finished nice goal.”

Are you having fun playing with those two guys, it seems like you have good chemistry?

“Maybe, because I love playing with those two guys; very good passers, you know, Rollie and Elias, but I am young. I played just nine games, you know — these guys help me all the time. We skate very hard every game, but I’ve only played nine games, I’m just a young boy.”

Jamie Langenbrunner:

Talking about the play where he lost the puck and gave up shorthanded breakaway…

“We had a set play on that and it just bounced up on me; I went to pass it and the puck wasn’t there. It’s one of those things, unfortunately that one ended up in our net.”

What are you thinking when that happened?

“Oh spit (laughs). I tried to come back as hard as I can, I tried to force him and it was a good job by Andy (Greene) to force him to his backhand; it just snuck its way through.”

Would it have been worse for you mentally if you lost 1-0?

“Probably; the win kind of hides those kind of mistakes I guess.”|

Ilkka Pikkarainen:

Is that the way you envisioned your first goal happening?

“No, that was a lucky one, but I don’t care how they go in; I’m very happy.”

How does that first one feel, especially in a tight game?

“It feels good, we were struggling in the first period, but in second and third we did better.”

Did you think the shot was going in when you took it?

“No, (laughs) I was really happy it went in though. The goalie helped me a little bit there.”

How good does it feel that the team came out flat and still got the two points?

“Yeah, I’m happy that we got the two points.”

Martin Brodeur:

Scripting this I’d call it strange but true victories…

“Well definitely this one was kind of a weird one a bit, we didn’t play our best game. But we stuck with it and scored a big goal at the end; Patty again comes through for us.”

(Scott) Gomez almost got one (on you)…

“A couple of good shots, he kicked one in (on me). I thought we handled their offense pretty good, we had one breakdown — on one of our power plays — and they got a goal out of that. After that, a couple of screen shots, one hit me in the head in the second period there, but I thought defensively we did a great job against especially Gomer and (Mike) Cammalleri, who’s one of the hottest players.”

How surprised were you that the fans kept booing him?

“Well, it’s like anything, everybody’s demanding on being perfect every night and its all in their rights. We’re there trying our best and some nights it works and some nights it doesn’t and it’s just part of the game.”

No, I meant booing Gomez…

“Oh, I thought you meant our power play in the first period (laughs).”

They booed Gomez every time he was on the ice…

“They’ve got to get over it sometime (laughs), but I think he’s not playing for the Rangers anymore, so it’s not as bad. Even for us (players) I think the sentiment of him being somewhere else is a lot different, but fans are weird that way. I think they care about their team and when a guy goes out and does something like that — unless you’re like Bobby Holik and come back and play for us, they’ll start cheering him again.”

1,029 games — how many of them were like that one?

“Oh, I don’t know; that was kind of boring (out there). It’s a big win.”

Is it a gratifying win knowing that maybe the team wasn’t at its best tonight?

“I think we played a team that’s not doing really well right now, and you know that they’re going to try to keep it simple; they did, they didn’t really do much out there and they didn’t give us much opportunities either. They gave us a lot of power plays, but we didn’t do anything with them and we got a lucky goal on a shot over the net that (Carey) Price mishandled and after that we got kind of a cold shower on them — scoring that late goal, definitely nice.”

Another milestone (for you), what does this one mean?

“Well, durability as I’ve talked about for a few days. That’s what playing a lot of games is, it’s being durable, and it’s being successful; because if you’re not, the coach doesn’t put you in there. I’m definitely happy that it’s passed, we get to the next game and it’s over with and move on to just play hockey.”

Travis Moen’s shot went through your legs?

“I think so, he came in on his backhand and he waited (me) out. I was on my post and thought I had everything covered and he just snuck it right through my legs.”

Jacques Lemaire:

How would you describe this game?

“Well, I have to say at the start we got the penalties (against them). I thought we were playing exactly the way we wanted to play. Then, power plays, as I mentioned to the guys in there, power plays are great when you can take advantage; it will destroy the whole team when you don’t score; especially when you go 5-on-3. Then guys make the wrong pass, take the wrong shot or they don’t score. They get frustrated and if they can’t get that off their mind, it’s tough to play hockey like that. I think the power play just turned things around.”

Yet somehow the team hung in, Montreal never got that second goal…

“I don’t think they were better than we were (laughs), we were not good but they weren’t (any) better. They probably had five chances the whole game and we had eight or nine with all the power plays, so you look at the game — only the third period I thought it was decent. The best part of it was the last three minutes.”

How do you describe the rookie’s goal?

“Oh Pikk, I guess he wanted to keep the puck deep and the goalie tried to catch it in his glove and it went in; it’s just a lucky goal. But you know what, that’s what we needed.”

What’s your number?

Have a favorite player who changed teams this offseason and you want to be the first on your block to sport his new number and jersey? Well I did a little research and came up with this little list of old faces in new places (with some new numbers):

Scott Gomez # 91, Montreal
Brian Gionta # 21, Montreal

Saku Koivu # 11, Anaheim
Jay Bouwmeester # 4, Calgary
John Madden # 11, Chicago
Marian Hossa # 81, Chicago
Nikolai Khabibulin # 35, Edmonton
Ryan Smyth # 94, Los Angeles
Rob Scuderi # 7, Los Angeles
Martin Havlat # 14 Minnesota
John Tavares # 91, NY Islanders
Marian Gaborik # 10, NY Rangers
Chris Higgins # 21, NY Rangers
Donald Brashear # 87, NY Rangers
Alex Kovalev # 27, Ottawa
Chris Pronger # 20, Philadelphia
Ray Emery # 29, Philadelphia
Mike Rupp # 17, Pittsburgh
Brendan Morrison # 9, Washington
Mike Knuble # 22, Washington

So head on over to your favorite team’s site or NHL.com and order your new jersey for the 2009-10 season today!