Tag Archives: philadelphia flyers

Nashville Has To Keep Weber

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You lose Ryan Suter your second best defenseman and arguably one of the top 5 defenders in the league, you can get over that.

You lose Jordin Tootoo a resident tough guy and fan favorite, that’s ok he’s replaceable. You can get over that.

Losing Shea Weber, your heart and soul, your captain, the man that represents Nashville hockey and is quite possibly the best defenseman on the planet.

That’s another story.

Yet that is what the Nashville Predators are facing right now. The Philadelphia Flyers signed Weber to a 14/ $110 million dollar offer sheet in an effort to steal Weber away from the only team he’s ever played for.

The Predators have only five more days to match and the question that’s swirling in my head is why they haven’t already matched it?

You don’t let players like Weber walk away. This isn’t like the Knicks and Jeremy Lin. You can get another guard that does the same things as he does and plug him in easily.

Weber is a different story. He’s one of if not the best defensemen in the NHL. He’s a former Norris trophy winner who will win about three more before his career is done. He’s a natural born leader as captain and with Pekka Rinne leads possibly the best defensive team in the league.

To let him leave would mean to let everything that Nashville built go to waste. Yes they would receive four first round picks, but does that really add up to what you lose in Weber?

Coming into this offseason you knew that Nashville was going to lose either Weber or Suter to free agency due to money. They can survive without Suter, but losing both he and Weber would be too much to overcome.

For Nashville’s sake I hope that they match Weber’s deal no matter the cost.
Weber is the face and leader of their franchise. Losing him would mean missing the playoffs, falling into the lottery of the draft and starting over when you were considered a possible Stanley Cup contender.

Something’s you can get over, losing Weber is most definitely not one of them.


Another Classic

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You all know that out of all five of the NHL Winter Classic’s this one sparked my attention most of all.

I was so excited to watch my New York Rangers under the lights at Citizens Bank Park against the hated Philadelphia Flyers that I said to hell with any football being played on Monday.

I didn’t get out of bed until an hour before face-off. At this point Ohio State was down at the half to Florida, Penn State was getting creamed by Houston and the Big Ten was having another horrible New Years bowl day… So?

New Years Day used to be about sitting in front of your TV and veging out to a smorgasbord of football games. It was awesome getting to watch about ten bowls in one day culminating with the Rose Bowl at five and the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls all at eight on three networks.

Well once the BCS came to fruition and spread out every bowl up until ten days after the New Year it rendered January 1st useless. Also with the SEC on top of all things football I’m not interested in watching the Big Ten get creamed in three games at one time.

Bowl season and January 1st used to mean something, instead the day turned into meaningless now that you can watch any one of 69 bowl games in a span of three weeks.

Then five years ago out of nowhere the NHL began a new tradition almost out of the blue. The inaugural Winter Classic was done without fanfare or much knowledge due to the NHL’s dwindling popularity after the NHL lockout.

I remember turning on my TV in the middle of the afternoon before work to see Pittsburgh take on Buffalo in a snow storm in front of a packed Ralph Wilson Stadium. I was shocked at first because I didn’t know that this game was supposed to be scheduled. If I would’ve known that Sidney Crosby was going to play in front of 73,000 people on New Years Day you best believe I would’ve cleared my schedule.

My eyes were fixated on the entire scene, the crowd was raucous throughout the entire game, the snow added an awesome prop to the game even though the snow caused a ton of ice problems, the classic jerseys were so cool I actually thought about buying a light blue Crosby jersey (then I came back to earth and realized I’m a Rangers fan). The game was a spectacle, and after Crosby scored the winning shootout goal I walked to work and couldn’t stop talking about the game.

The inaugural Winter Classic was something I had never seen before and as a huge hockey fan it had me wanting more. The NHL had discovered something, it had an event now that it could call it’s own and something that it could be known for. The question then became “what next?” Where could Gary Bettman take this game and make it bigger and bigger each time it was played? I think he figured it out and very well.

The next four classics have all been better than the previous one because Bettman has focused on keeping the games in hockey crazed cities and has featured his marquee players and teams.

The second classic featured the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings from Wrigley Field in a shootout that got to show the Blackhawks continue their resurgence to relevance oh and Patrick Kane’s silky game.

The third featured The Boston Bruins against the Flyers in a ultra physical matchup that ended with Milan Lucic scoring the overtime winner under the lights and led the NHL into an awesome Olympic tournament.

Last years Classic was a matchup of modern rivals and the leagues biggest star players Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals and Crosby’s Penguins from Heinz Field. It was another physical matchup that featured the Classic’s first fight and unfortunately the beginning of Crosby’s concussion problems. It was also the highest rated Classic because honestly were people going to watch Ovie versus Crosby or Oklahoma against UCONN in the Fiesta Bowl?

Then came this year’s Winter Classic. Once it was announced that my Rangers were battling the Flyers I immediately looked for every leak I could find from jerseys to legends game possibilities. When you have a team involved in such an event it pushes your interest into psycho mode.

My original plan was to go to the actual game with my buddy Scully who’s a huge Flyers fan. That changed once I saw how much tickets were in stubhub. $500 bucks a pop sounds about right for this type of game but not out if my pockets.

Instead waking up at 2 p.m. and throwing on my Rangers jersey and Starter jacket (yeah I have one if those still) would have to do.

The scene was more electric than all other Winter Classics except Buffalo. Say what you want about Philadelphia fans but they bring energy to their team’s games. It also helped that the Rangers and Flyers hate each others guts so there was a little bit more behind those Let’s Go Flyers chants than at a normal game.

The jerseys were the most simplistic of all of the Winter Classic events with the Flyers going with a darker orange color with really cool captains tags. The Rangers took it back to the early 20th century with a skinnier version of their shield logo and cream colored sweaters. Once I find a wholesale site that sells those I’m all over a Callahan #24.

The game itself was the most competitive of the five Classic’s. Both team’s were playing at the highest level possible and no one was slowing up at all. Brandon Dubinsky hit everything that moved in the first period with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux countering for the Flyers.

The Flyers kept the puck in the Rangers zone for most of the first two periods but couldn’t break through on Henrik Lundqvist until rookie Braydon Schenn scored the first goal of the game off of the game. Minutes later Giroux found the back of the net on an odd-man rush to put the Flyers up by 2.

One minute later Mike Rupp cut the lead in half using a Flyers defenseman to shield Sergei Bobrovsky from seeing the puck as he ripped a wrist shot past him. He was booed lustily by Flyers fans not just for the goal but for imitating Jaromir Jagr’s goal salute after.

( Side note: I thought we were headed for a brawl at this point. There was so much aggression from both sides and the crowd was so into it that I thought someone was going to throw a punch a spark an on ice riot. The Rupp celebration almost did it. Rupp and Hartnell started barking at each other at the beginning of the third over the salute and it seemed like they were going to go. Unfortunately nothing came to fruition but that anticipation hungover for the remainder of the game.)

Once the third period began the Rangers began to make their move. They seemed to have fresher legs and got to every loose puck as the Flyers looked a little flat. The hard work paid off as Rupp scored again and tied the game at 2.

Flyers fans started getting nervous as the once raucous crowd grew silent and Rangers fans let their voices be heard amid the silence.

The Flyers play became erratic and they began to panic. Defenders overplayed the puck and it’s carrier and minutes after Rupp tied the game Brad Richards stood alone in the corner and was the only person near a rebound off of Callahan’s missed shot. Richards fired it into the net to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead and send the Rangers bench and yours truly into a frenzy.

As the Flyers tried to mount a comeback they were once again stalled by Lundqvist who was his normal brilliant self in this day. Lundqvist looked every bit like the gold medal winning goalie that he was at the 2006 Olympics as turned away the Flyers time and time again.

In the final minute with the Flyers clinging to their last life two calls drove me absolutely bonkers and looked like Gary Bettman made a personal call to the refs to make sure there was overtime.

The dive call on Callahan was dreadful as the replay showed he was clearly hooked from behind by Kimmo Timonen. It gave the Flyers another opportunity to have an extra attacker with it being 4 on 4 and Bobrovsky on the bench.

With the extra attacker the Flyers threw everything that they could at Lundqvist and with 20 seconds a shot almost squeaked through until Ryan McDonagh stopped the puck from crossing the line by sitting on it. By rule you can’t do that as a defender and the refs awarded Philadelphia a penalty shot. Imagine my face when this happened. I almost through my beer glass at the TV but harpoon is pretty pricey so I calmed down.

Of all of the Flyers to take the shot it had to be Daniel Briere. Briere has a knack for coming through when the Flyers need it most (case in point last years first round versus Buffalo) and with the game on the line who else could’ve taken it for them.

Briere skated in as the entire stadium, 47,000 people to be exact, rose to their feet. Briere tried to go five-hole but Lundqvist did what he did for most of the night, he turned the shot away and ended the Flyers last chance to extend the best game of 2012 in it’s early stages.

The Rangers 3-2 victory was easily the best of all 5 of the Winter Classic matchups. The game play was faster, more physical and had you on the edge of your seat up until the end.

So once again the question is, now what?

Who’s next to play in the NHL’s new spectacle? If it were up to me these five matches would make the most entertaining Winter Classic’s:

1. Detroit VS. Toronto from the Big House in Ann Arbor.

A great original six matchup in hockey hungry Michigan

2. Minnesota VS. Vancouver from Target Field.

Minnesota is a very competitive team and Minnesota has a great hockey history.

3. St. Louis VS. Chicago from Busch Stadium.

The city matchup says it all.

4. Washington VS. Tampa Bay from Nationals Stadium.

D.C. has grown into a good hockey town, plus Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos would light up the scoreboard.

5. Anaheim VS. San Jose from AT&T park.

A California Winter Classic? Hear me out on this. Start it at 8 pm when the temps hit 45 degrees. Northern Cali loves it Sharks and a matchup with Anaheim in a budding west coast rivalry would be a hit for the west coast market.

Whoever gets the opportunity next they have a lot to live up to. This year’s edition of the Classic pushed the game to a new height and left another great memory for those that got a chance to see it.

The Winter Classic has become the new way for sports fans to ring in the New Year and it looks like it’ll stay that way for awhile.

You can watch bowl games whenever you want. The Winter Classic is a treat that you look forward to once a year and continues to deliver.

Let’s hope Bettman doesn’t mess this up the way that college football did and add more outdoor games. Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.


Thank God Hockey’s Back (NHL Preview)

It's been an offseason to forget in the NHL

If you thought the NBA offseason has been hell then you don’t have the slightest idea about rough. The NHL’s offseason has been a public relations nightmare. The summer was supposed to be about the celebration of the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup after 40 years of futility. Instead every other day there was a tragedy on the ice.

Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and the KHL Lokomotiv franchise’s plane crash that killed all passengers aboard including former NHL-ers Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and Brad McCrimmon to name a few cast a shadow of the sport and brought sadness to everyone over the sport.

Add that to the fact that Rangers bruiser Derek Boogaard died towards the end of last season and you understand the somber mood that the NHL might seem to be in.

When looking at ESPN fashion guru Paul Lukas’s annual uniform design review there were less designs for jerseys and more decals and patches for fallen players. It’s like the NHL has become a graveyard instead the coolest game on earth.

If any sport needs to start their season and get back to the brilliant play on the playing surface it’s this league. Ever since the lockout 0f 2004-05 the NHL has been on a roll. The talent on the ice is the highest that it’s been since the mid to late 90’s with the emergence of the Paul Kariya’s, Keith Tkachuk’s and Mike Modano’s of the world.

The NHL has so many great players playing at a high level that it’s becoming hard to keep up with all of them. At first it was the hype of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Dion Phaneuf. Then came Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler. Now we have kids like Ryan Nugent- Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Tyler Myers and others who are crowding the ice and making noise.

The Bruins are ready to repeat.

It’s not like the NBA in terms of star power but it’s a beautiful thing to watch when the games are flowing. There are great players on every team in the league and most are under the age of 27.  Every night in every city there is a reason to watch a game just to catch one of these young studs whether it’s Drew Doughty in Los Angeles or Jeff Skinner in Carolina. Even with the sports brightest star status still in doubt (Sidney Crosby is still having post-concussion issues) the league is as strong as it’s ever been and is staring one of its most competitive season in decades in the face.

This year there is no real clear cut favorite. Gone are the days of Detroit being the front runner in the league every year, nowadays they’re not even the favorites in their own division. There are 10 to 14 teams that have a realistic chance at winning the Stanley Cup this year whether it is because of their goaltending, offensive prowess or just the fact they have all of the right pieces in place to make a run at the cup.

The right pieces meaning the right balance of youth and experience. In the modern NHL the young teams win championships as seen with the Penguins, Blackhawks and Bruins in the last three years. Yes I know Tim Thomas is old as dirt and Zdeno Chara is no spring chicken, but the work put in by guys like Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand helped this team win the Stanley Cup last year. Unlike in other sports where the older teams win the titles the young ones take the crown in the NHL.

So who has the best shot at winning the crown this year? Well in order…

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Now I know what you’re thinking… who the hell will score goals for them? Their leader in goals had 23 and their points leader scored 50. The Predators are the NHL version of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2000’s, they can’t score to save their lives, but no one can score on them. The backline led by Shea Weber along with Vezina finalist Pekka RInne were in the top 5 in goals allowed per game and the teams tough defensive play gave teams fits. If they get two goals a game they could win another 44 games and find themselves fighting for the crown.

BUFFALO SABRES

They can score in bunches thanks to Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford. Tyler Myers heads a steady backline and Ryan Miller is one the game’s best goalies. They failed to take care of the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs last year but if Miller stays on top of his game they can go very far.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Team Teemu and the Ducks have a shot at the crown.

 

Once upon a time the Habs had more titles than the New York Yankees after raising their 24th Cup in 1993. Ever since they’ve been one big roller coaster, which has included numerous changes in net and on the bench and they haven’t had a real identity for a long time. Now they seem settled on Carey Price who came through big for them last year shaking off an up and down 2009-20 season that had him on the bench in the playoffs. This team isn’t too loaded with playmakers but it gets the job done with guys like Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri as well as dark horse Norris candidate P.K. Subban patrolling the blue line. They can make a run as long as they can hold onto a lead unlike how they did last year against the Bruins.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

I don’t care what they do in the regular season anymore. I don’t care if they win the Pacific division, if Joe Thornton scores 200 points and Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture score 90 goals. This team should’ve won a Cup by now and their time is running out. If they don’t get it done this year then they never will.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Is Ilya Bryzgalov finally the answer in net for the Flyers? He better be. The Flyers let go of fan favorites and team leaders Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to clear space for Bryzgalov. Sure they acquired L.A. Kings power forward Wayne Simmonds (who Flyer fans will love) and Brandon Schenn  (who from preseason reports looks like a beast) but you don’t replace Richards toughness and Carter’s skill overnight. I’m still not a fan of either trade but if the Flyers get back to the finals then it proves that maybe I really don’t know anything about hockey.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

I probably jumped the gun last year in making them Stanley Cup favorites, but they are close. Acquiring Richards from the Flyers gives them a much needed veteran presence in the locker room and they have Doughty, Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar flying around and making things happen. The only question is will Jonathan Quick be their full time net minder or will it be Jonathan Bernier?

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Without Crosby the Pens had 98 points last year and took the 4th spot in the East (without Malkin also) so once Crosby comes back how do you think this team will fare?

(This Crosby injury by the way is really bad in both a game play and P.R. sense for the NHL. The league needs Crosby on the ice because he is the NHL. Crosby is the league’s most recognizable face and its best player. The league needs him on the ice as much as it needs Ovechkin. When Crosby is on the ice the game changes. He is the best passer and best scorer in the league and can change a game at the drop of a hat. If the Pens had him healthy in the playoffs they may have hoisted their second cup in three years. Once healthy the Pens once again become the league’s scariest team and might be the best team in the league… once he comes back.

His injury is the reason why Brendan Shanahan has been so harsh when it comes to physical play. This isn’t like the NFL where Roger Goodell is turning the game into flag

40 and still going strong.

football, the suspensions that “Shanaban” is handing out are necessary in order to change the culture of the game and protect the players. After the injuries to Crosby as well as Nathan Horton and Marc Savard it has become clear that the league needs to crack down on these types of hits. Hopefully it discourages this type of play and quick. Because if Steven Stamkos gets a Crosby type of injury then the game will really be in trouble.)

DETROIT RED WINGS

I mean when are they not a player for the Cup?

Also let’s pay homage to Nicklas Lidstrom. This is probably his last season in the league and it looks like he can play another five. At age 40 Lidstrom is still better than most of the defensemen in the league and is probably the front runner for his 8th Norris trophy. What he did in replacing the irreplaceable Steve Yzerman as captain in Detroit and leading them to another title in addition to all that he’s done in his career has to put him in the top 10 players all-time right?

NEW YORK RANGERS

I probably just jinxed my team putting them in the top 7 and I’m probably overvaluing the acquisition of Brad Richards (which will help immensely) but after watching this team play together for two years I think that they will contend for a title this year. The Rangers youth movement has been a huge success with Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky leading the way. The Rangers are a tough team that is defense driven but can score goals when needed. They just needed more consistent scoring and a veteran to get them over the hump. Enter Richards. Richards was a member of John Tortorella’s 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning championship team and is one of the game’s best scorers. His presence will help Marian Gaborik get back to scoring a ton of goals, should push Cally and Dubz to the 30 goal mark and should keep the Rangers ship steady in those late months. I’m saying they’ll win it all, but they will be a serious contender.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Hey Bruce Boudreau, you don’t get it done this year then you may want to update your resume.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The thought of Daniel Sedin taking four shots to the face and Roberto Luongo falling flat on his face in key situations is still fresh. If they didn’t get tougher this offseason then they’ll be done in a hurry.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

The trades after the title killed their chemistry for the first half of last year. Once they got it going they looked like a machine. The key is Corey Crawford in net. We know Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp will score, but the reason they were able to turn things around was because of Crawford’s play in net. He is primed for a breakout year and the Blackhawks are looking at a return to the Cup.

BOSTON BRUINS

With Richards the Rangers can contend.

 

Okay, your city won its 7th title in all four major sports in 10 years… now go away. That wasn’t really analysis more like I’m sick of Boston and its championship reign.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

No one, and I mean no one will stop them from scoring goals especially of Ryan Getzlaf stays healthy all season long. The Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line is the scariest line that the NHL has seen in a while. They can all go for 50 goals and 100 points and they make it easy. It helps when your 40 year-old second line winger can still get you 30 goals and 80 points to help back you up. I don’t know what fountain of youth Teemu Selanne has been drinking from but he needs to share it with others. However it always comes back to goaltending and Jonas Hiller decides whether I’m right about this team making the Cup finals or not. With him in net last year they would’ve won the pacific division. In that period in between before Ray Emery almost saved them the Ducks could’ve scored 10 goals a game and it wouldn’t have mattered because they still would’ve lost. Hiller’s health means so much to this team because they have no real second option behind him. It also doesn’t help that he is one of the top 6 goalies in the league. This team’s title hopes hinge on him, if he’s healthy then put them down for a June reservation. If not, then it’s another first round exit.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Yep, I just picked the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup. They have a 41 year-old goalie, I don’t know if their defense can stop the puck from going in the net and Vinny LeCavalier is still possible trade bait… and I don’t care. This team could’ve made the Stanley Cup Finals last year if not for a road game 7. This year I think Stamkos and company won’t fade late in the season like they did last year, which ultimately cost them home ice. They are settled in net and Roloson is a big game goalie who knows how to win also they can score with the best of them. Steve Yzerman put this team together in his image and if that’s the case then I have no doubts that they will be tough enough to get to and win the Stanley Cup.

The first puck is set to drop in a few hours and I’m more than excited. After a long offseason with so much tragedy and heartbreak it will be a welcome relief to see some of the best players in the world on the ice and making magic happen.

The league deserves some good news and good times after a few months of so many bad ones.

ATLANTIC- RANGERS

Stamkos is ready for a run at Lord Stanley.

NORTHEAST- BRUINS

SOUTHEAST- LIGHTNING

EC PLAYOFFS- CAPS, HABS, SABRES, FLYERS, PENS

ECF-  LIGHTNING- BRUINS

CENTRAL- BLACKHAWKS

NORTHWEST- CANUCKS

PACIFIC- DUCKS

WC PLAYOFFS- SHARKS, KINGS, PREDATORS, RED WINGS, BLUES

WCF- DUCKS- BLACKHAWKS

SCF- DUCKS- LIGHTNING

HART TROPHY- STEVEN STAMKOS

VEZINA- HENRIK LUNDQUIST

NORRIS- NICKLAS LIDSTROM

CALDER- RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

SELKE- JONATHAN TOEWS

JACK ADAMS- JOHN TORTORELLA


The Return Of Random Thoughts

Wait a minute... we're still over .500? High five!

You know what we haven’t done in a while? A random thoughts blog.

Just things I’ve thought about that maybe you have as well in the last few weeks of watching sports.

With so much going on as far as sports since March Madness I think it’s time to do some rehashing.

So without further ado… HERE WE GO!

Is Zach Greinke really worth it? I mean he is 7-3 but he’s got a 5.66 ERA.

Anybody else think Kenny Williams is lying about the Adam Dunn deal?

Josh Harrelson a year ago was buried on the bench at Kentucky with Enes Kanter coming in. A year later he was a key component in the Wildcats Final Four run and will get minutes off of the bench for the Knicks. Life.

Hopefully the Sedin Twins take boxing lessons this summer.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, please gain 20 pounds.

Even though she is six foot five how many of us would hit on Jan Vesely’s girlfriend?

Federer couldn’t beat Nadal, Nadal can’t beat Djokovic… So who’s he going to have a problem with?

Why is it that Joe Girardi is the only person who thinks Derek Jeter should lead off?

David Ortiz couldn’t hit anything for the last two years now all of a sudden he’s hitting .301 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI… hmmmm….

Lebron James dunking on a kid doesn’t help his image.

(honestly at this point LeBron could cure cancer and we’d still hate him. And yes I’m serious about that statement.)

Mario Chalmers is now my new least favorite athlete in the world.

Did any team in the NBA Draft really help itself?

Sabine Lisicki also plays tennis. We'll talk about that later.

Nicklas Lidstrom came back for his 20th season. Can we engrave his name on the Norris Trophy in 2012 already?

Lets face it, Dany Heatley will never be “the guy.”

Neither will Andy Murray.

Anybody else happy that Brian Cashman corrected Alex Rodriguez by saying that Robinson Cano is better that Jose Reyes?

Can I call Austin Rivers “Baby Doc?”

Did Jose Bautista really just score the most votes in All-Star voting history?

How awesome was it that Virginia won the lacrosse title?

(think about this for a second. In the last two years lacrosse’s two most controversial teams fought back from media hell to win a title. Last years Duke team won after three years of dealing with the ugly aftermath of a stripper rape allegation and this year Virginia won after one of it’s own murdered women’s lacrosse player Yeardley Love.

The image of the Cavs men’s team was brutally tarnished and the turmoil around both mens and women’s teams was enough make anyone not want to put on pads and a helmet and sprint out onto the field again. However, Virginia fought through it’s adversity and came out a winner. Their win over Maryland in the Memorial Day title game cast a fantastic light on the team an buried whatever demons were left from the 2011 season.

Very commendable indeed.)

Are the Pirates really a game and a half out of first place?

Who the hell is Mike Morse?

Brian Wilson needs to shave that beard… Now!

Is Jim Riggleman; a, a gangster, b, salty or c, out of his bleeping mind?

Iman Shumpert… And yes I’m still stuck on that pick.

How funny would it be if the Winnipeg Jets won the southeast division this year?

(Winnipeg is six hours north of Minneapolis.)

It’s July… NFL step on it.

(I’m serious. The New York Giants tick me off, Eli Manning makes bad throws, I’ll see 85 Coughlin faces and understand each of them… AND IF I MISS ONE FREAKING GAME I WILL HUNT ROGER GOODELL AND DEMAURICE SMITH DOWN!!!)

By the way, if the MLB locks out in November then there is a real possibility that Hockey may be the only game in town come 2012….

New theory behind the Flyers trades; maybe Paul Holmgren used Jeff Carter and Mike Richards just to get the Winter Classic in Philly and then dumped them afterwards… Nope, trade still makes no sense.

I know Brett Favre is retired, but I’m still uncertain.

Quick, 3 things about Luke Picknell. Ready and… GO!

Is Maryland football a better job than Connecticut football? Randy Edsall are you listening?

Seattle Sounders FC draws more fans than the Mariners…

Anybody else think Cam Newton will bomb?

I still have no caption for this.

No seriously are the Pirates really only a game and a half out of first place?

(why is this not a huge story? The Pirates haven’t had a winning season in almost 20 years. That’s back to the Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla days.

Ever since then they have traded every and I mean every good player that they’ve had and have been in a never ending rebuild mode. Now here there are with Andrew McCutcheon as a dark horse MVP candidate, an All-Star in Joel Hanrahan and the Brewers, Reds and Cards all looking back in disbelief.

If they make the playoffs they are the story if the year hands down.)

Sabine Lisicki… Mmmmmm.

Will Tiger Woods fade into oblivion?

Even though Roger Federer has “lost it” he’s still the third best tennis player in the world.

And lastly… Dirk, a $90,000 bottle of champagne and pictures with Birdman and Lil’ Wayne… In LeBron and D-Wade’s backyard.

Cough on that Miami.


The Flyers Take A Risk

So explain this to me; how in the world does trading your Captain and one of your top scorers make your team better?

What is Philly thinking?

Beats the hell out of me, but to Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren it makes perfect sense.

Yesterday he traded star center Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets and team captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings for draft picks and winger Wayne Simmonds in each deal. The moves were made so that the Flyers could make cap room for recent acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to be signed to a long term deal.

Now while I understand the need for the Flyers to get a top flight goalie (especially after this pathetic postseason showing) I barely understand the need to trade both of these players.

If you wanted to trade one of the two guys fine, go ahead. The Flyers have more than enough scoring power with Danny Briere, Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk in place to replace Jeff Carter. However, Richards too?!

Mike Richards is one of the best leaders in the NHL. His physicality and spirit helped guide the Flyers to within 2 wins of a Stanley Cup in 2010 and it got them a number 2 seed in the playoffs this year. Richards’s hardnosed style was perfect for the city of Philadelphia and was appreciated by fans of the game in general.

Trading him leaves a huge hole for the Flyers to fill in fans hearts as well as on the ice.

Maybe the Flyers realized that the two huge deals given to Richards and Carter in the last few years were going to prevent them from making the proper moves to get ahead. Flyers management was not happy with the team’s postseason performance and they made goaltending a number one priority this offseason (not that it wasn’t in the last 17 years).

The Bryzgalov deal is a bold move but is it the right one? Giving Bryzgalov $51 million dollars after getting swept out of the playoffs seems like a hell of a reach for a team that has been stuck in goalie purgatory ever since Ron Hextall hung them up. Maybe they could’ve found a better deal for another goalie or used the pick that they got for the Carter deal on one.

Whatever the case is, Holmgren made moves to ensure that the team wouldn’t use three goalies in one series again on his watch. Getting rid of his two most popular players to sign a possible franchise goalie will define Holmgren whether it works or not.

When Holmgren took to the podium in Minnesota to explain the deals to the media I felt glad for him that he wasn’t in Philadelphia. Why? Well here’s a text from my buddy Scully, who is a Flyers fan, after he found out about the deals:

I F***** HATE PAUL HOLMGREN!!!

Yeah… um… you better hope this works out well Paul.


Ryan Miller Has To Step It Up For The Sabres

Ryan Miller's performance yesterday overshadowed Philadelphia's own goaltending problems.

Ok, so the Philadelphia Flyers goaltending has been terrible for the last 5 of the 6 games in this series versus the Buffalo Sabres (okay it’s been bad for the last 16 years. Sorry, but I was trying to think in terms of this series.). Whether it’s Sergei Bobrovski, Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton the Flyers have allowed the Sabres to score some ridiculously bad goals and because of that the series will enter a game 7 on Tuesday night.

However, as bad as the Flyers have been Ryan Miller has been the most disappointing goaltender in this series.

Now you’re probably saying um, Kevin… he has two shut outs in the series. Well to you I say I know and thank you for such an astute observation. However, have you also not seen him allow 4 goals in the series 3 times, almost give back game 5 after the Sabres jumped out to a 3-0 lead and watch him not control any of the rebounds that led to 3 of the Flyers goals last night?

In his defense, Tyler Myers and the Sabres defense did little to nothing to help clear the front of the net for Miller and it led to 2 goals that Miller just couldn’t see.

With that said, Miller’s performance in this series has not been indicative of who he is a goaltender and it’s the reason why the Sabres are going back to Philadelphia for game 7 instead of getting ready for the Capitals.

Miller has looked skittish at time in the series, even scared. There were times yesterday when he looked like he didn’t want to be on the ice at all. This is not the same goalie that carried Team USA to the Gold Medal Game last February, or the one that carried the Sabres to the playoffs at the end of the regular season.

Miller has allowed too many rebounds to get by him in this series.

One cause for his off and on play this series could be that he’s still feeling the effects of an injury that he suffered against the Maple Leafs in late March.

Miller took a puck off of his chest and mask and missed the rest of the regular season to recover from what may have been a concussion. Yet in game 1 he was ready to go and showed no effects… until these last 5 games.

He’s been in position for most of the Flyers goals but just hasn’t made the plays to stop them from scoring. Danny Briere has scored 4 goals in the series all off of rebounds that Miller couldn’t control. Guys like Claude Giroux have taken clear view shots that haven’t too hard to stop, but Miller has let them through.

As bad as the Sabres goals have been that the Flyers have allowed Miller has allowed some that have been just as questionable.

So would I pull Miller at this point? No I wouldn’t because he’s the guy that got you here and why put a little used backup like Jonas Enroth in net, which would put doubt in your starter (hi, Alain Vigneault)?

But I would be concerned. If Miller isn’t on his game for game 7 then the Sabres are done. Sure Myers and the defense have to play better and Thomas Vanek has to keep up his scoring output that he’s done over the course of this series, but this team falls if Miller isn’t the Vezina winning goalie that he has been.

So while the Flyers goaltending remains an issue going into tomorrow, don’t think that the Sabres shouldn’t be concerned about theirs either.


A Poem For The Bruins Misery

The Bruins are in deep trouble after Montreal took two in Boston.

To Whom It May Concern, the Bruins of Boston

Your run at Lord you are certainly costing

Losing two at home to a familiar foe

That has owned you since the Richard Brothers long long ago

Down 2-0 heading back to Montreal

How can we not expect you to do anything but fall?

You have scored 1 goal and given up five

If not for Tim Thomas you would barely be alive

Carey Price has turned away all attempts good and bad

And Milan Lucic performance has been very sad

The crowd favorite who had a breakthrough year

Has made little noise and has his own fans in tears

I hate to bring this up but lest we forget

You’ve lost six straight playoff games I’m sure you’d like to forget

That devastating meltdown last year against the Flyers

That you seemed to let go and let build a fire

But dogs lets face it those losses still fester

And this team right now is one big mess sir

Chara is injured the crowd wants Julien fired

Is this the East’s three seed that was chasing the cup it desired

Is this the rugged bunch that knocked opponents around?

Where’s Shawn Thornton’s toughness to energize the crowd?

Where’s Nathan Horton’s offense and Bergeron and Krejci?

Is this really a weak team that lack’s a tough psychy?

You’re down 2-0 headed to the Bell Centre

Where a hellacious crowd awaits ready to end ya

If the Bruins want to come back in this series Milan Lucic has to step up.

They’ve seen Lafleur kill you and Roy and Koivu

Fact is that Montreal likes to annoy you

They’ve been better for so long and yeah they know it

Their na-na-na hey-hey’s definitely show it

P.K. is baling and so is Cammalleri

And Hal Gill and Gionta are making life scary

If you lose tomorrow you’d better mail it in

Because unlike the Flyers there’s no chance you’ll win

7 straight losses 3 to your rival

It’s enough to make Don Cherry act suicidal

My advice is man up you play in Boston

Where the Red Sox and Pats and C’s win often

Channel Bobby Orr and Terry Reilly

Offense step up and defense play wisely

Timmy stand on your head you’re this team’s only hope

If you play like you did Saturday then there’s no hope

2 in the first 2 minutes 20 seconds

Do that again and you’ll see an early exit

Chara get healthy, Ryder step up

Lucic get your head right and turn your game up

They call you the next Neely and if this is true

Then tomorrow you’ll turn Carey Price into stew

Do all of these things and you’ll see another day

If not then you’ll have wasted these last 6 months away

Another offseason to sit back and wonder

How another weaker team put you six feet under

So as you await a must win game 3

Put away last year’s Flyers misery

If you don’t then by Thursday you’ll hear an old Montreal cry

Na-na-na-na hey-hey-hey goodbye!!!!!


Make Or Break For The Washington Capitals

These playoffs have to be different for the Washington Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin and company should watch old footage of the 90’s Philadelphia Flyers, the early 2000’s Sacramento Kings, the mid 2000’s Philadelphia Eagles and the early 2000 New York Mets. Why you ask? Because they all have one thing in common, they all couldn’t get over the hump.

The Kings never could beat the Lakers, the Eagles never pushed themselves to a championship level, the Flyers always fell short and the Mets teased, exceeded and then failed. Washington, you’re next.

Honestly I shouldn’t care. As a homer I hope desperately that my Rangers will oust the Washington Capitals and begin a Stanley Cup march. Yet the Capitals are so much more intriguing of a storyline.

The Caps roll into the playoffs as the league’s hottest and most dangerous team. In January they were 6th in the Eastern conference and trying to figure out how the new defensive style that Bruce Boudreau implemented this year.  Now they are the number one seed after snatching it up from slumping Philly in the last two months of the year. After a 6-0 beat down by the Rangers in late February, the Caps went 16-4 the rest of the way and find themselves as the current favorite to win the Cup.

Playoff exits have been too early for the Caps.

Boudreau’s system turned out to be more than successful as the Caps finished in the top 5 in GAA and number 2 overall in penalty killing even though they were a middle of the road offensive team. Alex Ovechkin sacrificed the most of any other player as he finished with career lows in goals and points, as did Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even though the Caps weren’t lighting the lamp as much, they were winning at a higher rate and stifling opponents at the same time.

Now comes the hard part.

Sure all of this worked in the regular season and they benefitted from Tampa Bay’s drop off thanks to their younger players hitting a wall. However, the postseason is a different animal, and it’s one that the Caps haven’t been able to tame.

Last year the Capitals were number one in the entire league and were barely even challenged during the regular season.  Once the playoffs hit they began pummeling the Montreal Canadiens and led the series 3-1 thanks to a 17-goal outburst in three games. Yet they lost the series because Montreal shut them down on offensive and Mike Cammalleri was able to find the net frequently even though the Habs registered 70 less shots than the Caps in the last 3 games.

Couple that with their lackluster showing in game 7 against Pittsburgh the previous year and getting ousted by the Flyers in the year before that and the Caps are in must win mode.

This team cannot afford a third straight early round exit as the Eastern Conferences number one seed. If not for the Rangers inability to score in 09 then the Caps would have been eliminated in three straight first-round series. The Caps have to win and win impressively if they want to avoid the stigma that currently sits in front of them.

And you know who it starts with.

Alex Ovechkin has to shake off his down year and be the force that he once was in this series. He has to be physical; he has to charge Henrik Lindquist at will, he has to be 60-goal Ovie instead of this version.

For the Caps to win it all Ovechkin has to score more.

Yes the Rangers are more physical, more rugged and like to slow the game down even more than Washington, but Ovechkin has to break that cycle. If this becomes a defensive struggle then the edge will go to the Rangers simply because that’s how the Rangers have always played and it’s a style of play that benefits them. The Rangers have no Ovechkins, no Alex Semin’s, no big-time playmakers that can change a game. Hell they don’t even have Ryan Callahan who will miss the playoffs because of a broken leg suffered from blocking a shot (by the way, the Rangers lead the league in blocked shots as well as hits).

What they do have is one of the best defensive pairings in the league in Marc Stall and Dan GIrardi. They have a ton of young, big, physical forwards that love to grind it out and wear a team down like Brian Boyle and Artem Anisimov. The Rangers almost beat the Caps two years ago in the same  1 vs. 8 scenario, but were undone by their lack of goal scoring. This year the Rangers outscored their opponents by a larger margin than the Caps… and they’re an 8th seed.

Hence the reason Ovechkin, Semin and company have to get going. If they don’t speed the game up and make the Rangers play at a faster pace then the Caps will have another summer of what if’s. questions and doubts.

Do I think the Caps will win the series? Unfortunately yes. Sure the Rangers owned them in the regular season but that doesn’t matter now. The Caps are red-hot and look better than any other team has at anytime during the year. They are on a mission to quiet the naysayers and doubters and finally get over the hump and they finally have the system and players to do it.

However, we said this about Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, about Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid about the Legion Of Doom and Carlos Beltran. Are the Capitals really ready to take that next step? Or are we watching the same old story with different characters? Beginning Wednesday we’ll find out.


A Banged-Up NHL Midseason Review

Injuries are ravaging the NHL as teams are playing without their best players.

We’re in the NHL’s second half; you know what that means… a New York Rangers second half slide… I mean the NHL Midseason awards.

 

Look I shouldn’t be shocked that the Rangers are having another January swoon. The Rangers are like Tom Coughlin’s stepchild but only worse. They do this every season, start fast, struggle in November, get hot in December and then go on a two-month bender of not scoring goals, losing one goal games and cause Henrik Lundquist to wonder about the benefits of committing Hara Kiri.

 

I should be used to it by now, but I’m a New Yorker, I’m crazy. I want the Rangers to play consistent hockey and I’ve wanted it for years. However, you see the beginning to this piece. The difference in this year’s team is that I can see the drought coming but not from inconsistency. This time it’s injuries. Right now the Rangers are missing 6 starting forwards including leading goal scorer Brandon Dubinsky. Due to the injuries the slide began last week as the Rangers lost three out of four games and dropped to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

 

With the Rangers struggling to score goals, losing our number one guy isn’t exactly the best news in the world right now.

 

If think its bad for us how do you think the Penguins are feeling? Sidney Crosby took a head shots from David Steckel in the Winter Classic and then from Victor Hedman several days later and has been out since. Before his injury the Pens were the best team in hockey and Crosby was Megan Fox in a thong hot since then they’ve been 3-3 and fell from 1st to fifth in the Eastern Conference.

 

Same for the Detroit Red Wings; name a Wing and he’s banged up, Tomas Holmstrom, Dan Cleary, Chris Osgood, Jimmy Howard (yes, both goalies) and Pavel Datsyuk all missed their recent loss to the aforementioned Pens and 3 of their last four.

 

The Colorado Avalanche lost leading scorer at the time Chris Stewart 18 games ago and slipped, The Blackhawks lost Jonathan Toews for three weeks and have had a devil of a time staying in the playoff race, The struggling Kings just lost Wayne Simmonds and have been banged up all year, Montreal… IT AINT SAFE PLAYIN HOCKEY I TELLS YA!!!

 

Fact is if you can stay healthy then you’re hard to beat. Philadelphia, Vancouver and Tampa Bay are all examples that if you stay healthy you stay on top. Right now it’s a toss up between the Canucks and the Flyers for the title of best team in the league. I got a front row look of each team last week as each of them faced the Rangers and I really like the Flyers.

 

Granted there are goaltending issues (It’s Philly there’s always goaltending issues) but the team they have is loaded with guys all playing their best hockey. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux and company are leading a balanced attack that could get better when Chris Pronger returns. They’re proving that last season’s cup run was no joke and that getting back there and winning is all that’s on their mind.

 

I do not doubt the Canucks at all though, not with Daniel and Henrik Sedin playing at a high level and Ryan Kesler scoring goals like crazy. The Sedins are in the top five in scoring and Kesler is number five in the leagues with 25 goals. What does worry me about them is Roberto Luongo tends to give up a few softies in goal. Luongo was the reason that the Canucks lost their Western Semifinals series versus the Blackhawks last year in one of his worst stretches ever.  So to say everyone is a little worried about him possibly sliding back into that form is like saying the Trail Blazers are a little worried bout their entire lineup being injured (Sorry Marcus Camby).

Why is Vancouver number one in the league right now? Ask these guys.

Then there’s Tampa freaking Bay in third place in East (thank you Washington slump in late December.). They couldn’t stop a goal from going in until they acquired 41 year-old Dwayne Roloson, and outside of Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos they have gotten NOTHING from anyone. However, the guys have all been healthy outside of Vinny Lecavalier (not that it matters because he’s been dead weight.), and Simon Gagne (which doesn’t matter because no one expected him to play more than 50 games anyway.) and they have played consistent hockey and have played within their skill set. No one is being asked to go out of his way to do things that they can’t do and it’s worked.

 

Stamkos has returned to form after a quick start and slow stretch in December and has returned to the MVP that I thought was all but guaranteed in November. If the Lightning are going to be active in the trade market then he should be getting some help to move him closer to the Hart trophy and the Lightning to the playoffs.

 

Speaking of awards at the mid-way point who has the upper hand in the most of the major honors in the league? Well…

 

Hart Trophy- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Now you know I love Stamkos, and I have been watching the Sedin twins, but none of them had a 25 game point scoring streak and had 49 points during the streak. Without Crosby the Pens are a totally different team and it shows. If they want to win it all they need Sid the Kid at 100% and nothing less.

 

My Bad: Stamkos, both Sedins and St. Louis

 

Norris Trophy- Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta Thrashers

Ok, so Lidstrom might win the thing, but how about the job big buff has done in going back to his natural position in Atlanta? He’s got 41 points, which is second amongst defensemen, and he’s brought the Thrashers alive with his toughness and energy. I actually want to watch a Thrashers game now just because of him (well him and Evander Kane, just saying.).

 

My Bad: Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara and Kris Letang

 

Vezina Trophy- Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

So much for Tuukka Rask taking his job. That’s not happening with Thomas leading the league in GAA and save percentage and is fourth in wins. Because of him the B’s are sitting pretty in second place in the East.

 

My Bad: Henrik Lundquist, Jonas Hiller and Carey Price

Tim Thomas is zeroing in on his second Vezina with the Bruins.

Calder Trophy- Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes

So right at the end of October the Hurricanes come to the Garden and from what I remember from last year I’m thinking this is an easy win. Then comes this Jeff Skinner kid with a three-point game that totally kills us and leaves me stunned. I’m thinking that was a fluke… yeah, um, no.

 

He leads all rookies in points, second in goals to San Jose’s Logan Couture and looks like a great number two to Eric Staal. I guess I was looking at a sign of things to come.

 

(Side note: I really like this year’s class of rookie forwards. There’s Skinner, Derek Stepan, Couture, Taylor Hall and Brian Bickell and they all look good. For years the young defensemen have bean all of the rage in the league and maybe starting with this class the scorers might catch up with them soon.)

 

My Bad: Stepan, Couture and Hall.

 

Jack Adams Trophy- Guy Boucher

Yeah Peter Laviolette has the Flyers in first, Mike Babcock has the Red Wings playing great, but did you think the Lightning would be in the top 3 in the NHL ahead of the Pens, Caps and Habs this year? Yep, exactly.

 

My Bad: Babcock, Laviolette, and Marc Crawford

 

Presidents Trophy- Philadelphia Flyers

Scary good. They’re clicking on all cylinders with Pronger coming back soon. This may change if the Pens get Crosby back but for right now no one has an inside track on these guys.

 

However, that’s the story of this season so far. Injuries are killing lots of teams right now from my Rangers to the Habs, Pens and Blackhawks. As the races tighten up and the season winds down hopefully guys like Toews, Crosby and Datsyuk get back and return to form quick so these games continue to have great meaning. Well, except for the Rangers. I already know what they’re going to do so I’ll just sit back and not worry about it and watch them battle for the 8th seed. I mean I’m used to it by now anyway.

 


Kings With A Crown (NHL Preview)

The L.A. Kings are next in line for Lord Stanley's Cup.

So how crazy would I be to pick the L.A. Kings to win the Stanley Cup? Nuts? Out of my head? Or maybe just smart.

Consider this if you will: the last two Stanley Cup champions have had a considerable amount of young players that were the main core of the team and provided most of the fireworks whether it be offensively or in the physical department, not to mention young goaltending that played at a high level to help its offense out.

The Pittsburgh Penguins of 2009 and the Chicago Blackhawks of this past year may have steered the direction of where the NHL is headed for the future. Teams with a young core that can play big when asked to and can win now and still be set for the future. When you look at Pittsburgh they are set for well into the middle portion of this decade and their best players haven’t even hit 25 yet.

Sidney Crosby is the captain at age 23 (made captain at 20), Geno Malkin is the number two guy at age 24, Marc-Andre Fleury just turned 25 in net, plus don’t forget about Jordan Staal and Alex Gogligosgi on defense. The Pens future is set in stone and they can acquire on the cheap to build around Crosby, Malkin and company like Pascal Dupuis, Mike Comrie and Matt Cooke.

Same goes for Chicago. Last year’s team featured Jonathan Toews as its 21 year old captain, with Patrick Kane as a 20 year old play maker that made all of his teammates better. Add in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Dustin Byfuglien and company and the Hawks had the same nucleus to work with. Funny thing is that when people saw the Hawks dumping salary and trading away every key piece of their championship puzzle they figured this team was dead. What they forgot is guys like Toews, Kane, Patrick Sharp, Keith and company are still there to set the tone so guys like Fernando Pisani and Ed Belfour can come in an add to a already stable foundation and the Hawks won’t miss a beat (which they won’t).

Which brings us back to why I think Los Angeles has a good shot to win it all, or come close; the Kings match both the Penguins and the Blackhawks in the youth nucleus

Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick compose two parts of the Kings young attack.

factor. Captain: Dustin Brown, 25. Brown has seen the resurgence in L.A. first hand since being drafted in 2003 when the Kings were dreadful. Brown played on the 2010 Silver Medal team from the U.S. gaining valuable experience and playing at a level versus high competition and competing well. What he lacks in Toews leadership and Crosby’s offensive output he matches in the cool head department. Brown totaled only 41 minutes in penalties and had a -6 +/- rating, the lowest of his career.

Young playmakers: Anze Kopitar, 23, and Wayne Simmonds, 22. Kopitar, to many around the league, should compete for the points title sooner than later with his flash and great stick work. Kopitar has the ability to kill any defenseman in their zone with the way he moves but hasn’t seemed to conquer it yet. Like Kane and Malkin, Kopitar can pack a huge punch when it comes to offensive potency for this team. Simmonds was sort of a shock for this team last year. In his second season the 22 year old posted a +22 rating with his aggressive play and found himself on the second line for much of the second half of the season. If Simmonds can continue with this play for the whole 82 games then that gives the Kings a second huge scoring option besides Kopitar and makes them a formidable offensive opponent.

Defense: Drew Doughty, 20, Jack Johnson, 23. Talk to any GM in the league or analyst or fan and they’ll tell you that Doughty is the second coming of Bobby Orr… um, he might be. This is his third season and he might be the man to beat for the Norris trophy for top defenseman. On offense he’s slick with his passing and is the perfect power play quarterback. On defense his 6-1 211 pound frame can beat up any forward who comes in front of the net looking for a rebound. Johnson is a beast himself. Though not as polished as Doughty he is a workhorse. Johnson led the team in playoff points and plays as physical as any defenseman in the league. Put these guys together for 23 minutes a night and it’s a problem for anyone.

(Side note: I fell in love with Jack Johnson’s aggressiveness in the Olympics. There was nothing better than him beating up Canadian forwards as they flew into his zone and watching him talk smack back at em. If the Rangers didn’t have about 80 young talented defensemen that were amazing I would love for him to be a Ranger.)

(Side note two: have you looked around the league lately at all of these defensemen that are top notch d-liners? Sports Illustrated did a great story on the large amount of first class young defenders in the league in their preview and featured in particular Doughty, Zach Bogosian in Atlanta, Erik Johnson in St. Louis and Tyler Myers in Buffalo. That’s just scratching the surface. There’s still Keith, Marc Stall and Michael Del Zotto in New York and Dion Phaneuf in Toronto all skating around and punishing forwards every minute. It’s like the NHL scouting department had a master plan after the lockout; put all of the offensive guys out early and dominate, then let’s wait three years and unload a boatload of defensemen to clash with them. It’s a masterful mesh of talent that the league hasn’t seen in over 15 years, it’s a perfect way to gain interest in the game again… oh wait Gary Bettman would never do that, he’s too stupid to help improve hockey. What am I thinking?)

Goaltending: Jonathan Quick, 24. Played 72 games last year, won 39 and one heck of a workhorse. He was top ten in shots faced, and had a 2.54 GAA. Funny part is that he may not even be there best goalie. Jonathan Bernier is the French-Canadian wunderkind that maybe next in line if the Kings don’t want to pay Quick in the future (and if I know the new NHL they won’t).It’s a good problem to have if you’re L.A., however Quick should be the starter because of his experience and I wouldn’t be shocked if he contended for the Vezina this year.

So to that core you add guys like Rob Scuderi, Ryan Smyth and Alex Ponikarovsky and you have a team that’s ready to make a run for the cup and take down the vets like the Sharks and Wings who are getting a little long in the tooth and are retooling while trying to contend.

So why take Los Angeles over Pittsburgh or Washington or Chicago to repeat? I don’t know if Pittsburgh’s defense is strong enough to keep up with the offense or if Marc-Andre Fleury’s head can be in the game for a full season. I don’t know if Chicago can rebuild the chemistry that they perfectly began planning 5 years ago with this new roster. Washington…

Washington I couldn’t tell you about. They seem to match the Blackhawks and Pens plan. They got Alex Ovechkin, best player in the league at 25, Nick Backstrom at 22 who

Ovechkin is larger than life in Washington, but the expectations are growing along with concerns.

might be the best Center in the league not named Crosby offensively, Alex Semin as a great secondary scorer at 26. Mike Green at 24 who is the best offensive defenseman in the league and a great young goalie in Semyon Varlamov. They ran through the Eastern Conference in the regular season and looked like they were going to breeze to the Stanley Cup finals (that never happens in the NHL by the way so shame on all of you for even thinking that). However, they can’t defend anyone. The Habs, who were not an offensive juggernaut, were able to penetrate their zone at will in the playoffs and it made Mike Camilleri look like Maurice Richard. Also this team doesn’t have a heart when faced with adversity. When they get down, they can’t seem to right the ship. It happened last year versus Pittsburgh in the playoffs, and this year versus Montreal. They’re a regular season champion that can’t get it done in the playoffs (see San Jose), could it happen this year? Yeah, maybe. We know Ovechkin could win MVP, we know they’ll score a ton of goals, we know they’ll blow away everyone in their division… but do you think that they can get it done in the postseason when it seems like they have one big mental block that they can’t overcome? Exactly.

I could see anyone coming out of the east (not Boston, not doing that to myself again), including Philadelphia. That was a team that was a 3 seed in a 7 seed’s place (lets not discuss how they got in the playoffs, I’m still salty). The only concern for Philadelphia is… brace yourself… goaltending (in other news ice is cold). However, if Mike Richards got by last year on depth and physicality, then it should work again this year. Especially when you have Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk backing him up.

(Side note three: in the NHL draft of 2006 the Rangers had the 21st pick of that draft, we took Bobby Sanguanetti with that pick, a big defenseman in the mold of Rob Blake. The Flyers took Giroux with the 22nd pick… if you watched the playoffs and saw Giroux play you would understand why I was banging my head against the Eddie George’s bar top. By the way, we just shipped Sanguanetti to Carolina. I really hate Glen Sather.)

Let’s hope I’m right about this L.A. thing. I wanted to pick Chicago last year but didn’t because I thought they were too young to win it right away, oops. Now I know, go with your gut and not common sense. This is the direction that the NHL is going in, win now and win young. If I’m right about this then the Kings will be raising Lord Stanley’s Cup in June of 2011 right before Kobe and the Lakers three peat in the same month. Whatever happens the Kings will contend for a long time after this season, and their main competition might follow their blueprint. Hey it worked for Chicago and Pittsburgh, why not everyone else?

ATLANTIC- PHILADELPHIA

Mike Richards should have Philly back in the Cup this year.

NORTHEAST- BUFFALO

SOUTHEAST- WASHINGTON

PLAYOFFS-  PENS, RANGERS, BRUINS, CANADIENS, LIGHTNING (trust me, Stevie Y will get it done quick… well if Vinny LeCavalier can get his head on straight.)

CENTRAL- CHICAGO

NORTHWEST- VANCOUVER

PACIFIC- LOS ANGELES

PLAYOFFS- DETROIT, ST. LOUIS, COLORADO, SAN JOSE, ANAHEIM

HART- STEVEN STAMKOS

ART ROSS- SIDNEY CROSBY

NORRIS- DREW DOUGHTY

VEZINA- HENRIK LUNDQVIST

CALDER- P.K. SUBBAN

JACK ADAMS- TERRY MURRAY

ECF- PHILADELPHIA VS. WASHINGTON

WCF- LOS ANGELES VS. CHICAGO