Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Second Round Preview and Predicitions

Well, I got three out of eight and two exactas in the first round. We'll see if I get better as it goes on.


(1) Buffalo Sabres vs. (6) New York Rangers: Well, the Sabres won in five games over the Islanders, but they didn't look too, too impressive. They got goals from 11 different players, but depth may not be their best thing right now. The top guys like Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, and Thomas Vanek have to be their best. Ryan Miller will have to find the goalie who carried the team last season if they want to get to the Conference Finals.

The Rangers made easy work of the Thrashers, which saw Michael Nylander take the offense under his wing and led them to the win. Let's not slight Henrik Lundqvist either. He played very well in his first playoff series win. They'll face stiff opposition, but the Rangers have the tools to get it done if need be. RANGERS IN 6.

(2) New Jersey Devils vs. (4) Ottawa Senators: This is a re-match of the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals. The Devils got off to a shaky start, but once Martin Brodeur found his game, they locked up the Lightning. Scott Gomez and Zach Parise put on a show, but in the end-- Brodeur was the main key in yet another series win.

The Senators shut down the high-powered Penguins offense and showed that they were a different team. Ray Emery, Daniel Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza showed their top forms, but Chris Kelly was the big surprise so far this playoffs. Dany Heatley needs to get his game going for this team to be really unstoppable. SENATORS IN 7.


(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (5) San Jose Sharks: After the Red Wings won, many Wings fans were rooting for the Stars, but couldn't get the match-up they wanted. Now they'll have to hope that they are as good in the first round heading into the second round. Dominik Hasek will face a barrage of shot for the Sharks offense, which the scoring will need to be there in order to move on.

The Sharks are looking to right the wrongs of last playoffs. With Evgeni Nabokov on his game and Patrick Marleau showing his leadership ability, the Sharks could be on their way to get back to the Conference Finals. However, it would be nice to get Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo going. SHARKS IN 6.

(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (3) Vancouver Canucks: Anaheim's GM Brian Burke may not lead on, but deep inside, you know he wants to beat his old team. The Ducks have gotten plenty of help from their power play with Chris Pronger and Ryan Getzlaf being the top producers. The tandem of J-S Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov have been very good in their appearances and the hot one will start as long as they are on top.

For the Canucks to have success, they'll need to learn to score more. The Sedins have play well, but will have to lead the charge. Veterans like Trevor Linden and Markus Naslund will be the leadership and actually help ease the young guys. However, with Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa out, the defensive depth is going to be the real question. Roberto Luongo has been good, but there's only so much he can do to keep them in the series. DUCKS IN 6.

So that's it for the Wazz playoff preview. Make sure you check out the Show this week to see Lyle/Orb IV; the best match-up of an expert and Magic Orb since Lyle/Orb III.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Around the Rink 04.19.07

People in Columbus can rejoice, Doug MacLean's era of tyranny has ended. After the ownership group met last night, the Blue Jackets only GM and President was shown the door after a very unimpressive six-year stint in the organization.

The question is now who will fill the void. Names like Steve Tambellini, Neil Smith, Pat Quinn and Craig Button have been thrown out, but in my opinion, guys like Tambellini and Smith should have the inside edge when dealing with a salary cap formula. This will be a developing story for a while now, but at least there is some closure for some fans when it comes to MacLean.

In other ownership news, Phoenix Coyotes CEO Jeff Shumway made it clear that the Coyotes won't have a "country club mentality" for next season. Meaning, those who want to play on the Coyotes will actually want to play hockey instead of soaking up the sun and hitting the links.

As we stated last night, the one thing they need to take care of is who's behind the bench. Gretzky can still be a part of the day-to-day operations of the team, but to be the coach where you're untouchable-- that's not a place any GM would want to be in. It's just not that feasible to have. However, it was good of Shumway to come out and make this known to everyone that they are serious about winning. Whether that translate into actual winning, we'll see.

The 2006 #1 Overall Pick, Erik Johnson, will forego his last three season in the NCAA with the University of Minnesota to sign with the St. Louis Blues. Johnson had four goals and 19 assists in 39 games as a Gopher. Johnson was invited by Team USA to take part in the World Championships happening over in Moscow.

The big question is whether or not this is the right move for Johnson. Many feel that he's ready to make the jump to the pro, even after one year of college. The good thing about Johnson signing is that he'll have guys like Barret Jackman and Bryce Salvador to help him through the transitioning period he may endure.

In a crazy story out of Russia, Alexander Semin was thrown off the Russian World Championship team because he arrived three hours late to the team's first meeting and practice. The finger pointing has begun with Semin's agent Mark Gandler and Russian GM Sergei Nemchinov.

The story itself is quite bizarre with so many twist and turns, but check out the TSN story in its entirety.

The NHL came down on Brad May hard, handing him a deserved three-game suspension for hitting Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson from behind during a fracas at the end of Game Four. May will miss the last games of this series and maybe some of next series. Johnsson won't appear for Game Five.

Imagine Brad May getting caught for this?? The thing is that the Ducks are trying to bring in a hard-hitting expose in the playoffs, which is fine. The thing they have to worry about is getting too out of control and then losing focus at the task at hand. Sure, it's good to bring a little rough stuff into the playoffs to jazz it up a bit, but you have to wonder now if the refs are going to keep a closer eye on all the Ducks from here on out.

That's all for now, but check out the Show live every Wednesday and always on the Podcast. For more hilarity, check out the Message Boards and get in on the discussion.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Around the Rink 04.15.07

The intensity of the playoffs are here and there's no better example of that than in the Nashville/San Jose series. There has been controversy, fights, and scoring to appease any fan. However, the question that keeps getting thrown around when it comes to this series is respect. With incidents that involved Alexander Radulov get a one-game suspension for elbowing Steve Bernier from behind and Scott Hartnell get ejected for kneeing Jonathan Cheechoo; one wonders if respect is given enough in this game.

Though players want to finish their checks, there is a right way and wrong way. We have seen far too many "wrong way" to finish checks, which is why the respect thing comes into play. Players need to have common sense when thinking about finishing their checks. In both incidents, Hartnell and Radulov had the intent to finish their checks, but both wound up not letting up when seeing the opposing player in the vulnerable position, which led to injury, ejection or suspension.

As much as people like the action happening, something has to give or this could get ugly and not in a good way.

Are you as confused with Bob Hartley's decision to bench Kari Lehtonen as I am?? Lehtonen is the franchise goaltender on the team and is in the franchise's first playoffs. Why would you give him the hook after he help bring the team to this point?? Why would you break his confidence in this moment?? Lehtonen had a decent Game One, but the thing that has hurt the Thrashers all year, defense, is hurting now in the playoffs. Lehtonen faced 38 shots and in Game Two, Johan Hedberg faced 39.

If you want Lehtonen to grow as a player, you need to play him and back him up in every way, shape, and form. If he has a rough outing, don't bench him-- keep playing him in order to keep his confidence up and to let him know that there will be no knee-jerk reaction to a bad mishap. This could come back to bite the Thrashers if they are delicate in this situation.

In more Thrashers news, they did something pretty unique for the fans who attended Game One. They handed out scarfs as a giveaway, which I think is a pretty cool idea. Now, of course, it doesn't get cold enough for fans to actually use these; but this is akin to the European soccer fans with the scarves and their respective teams.

I, for one, would love to have one of these things; so you know I'll be surfing eBay for them or hope the Thrashers read this and send some over. The former seems to be the best bet, though.

Did you catch the 4 OT marathon in Vancouver?? I know I fell asleep after the 3rd OT, but it seems that many more watching Versus missed it due to no fault of their own. However, that's not what I want to discuss.

Since that double-hitter, it seems that these marathon games have become a concern to some, even prompting sites to ask the question whether or not we should change the marathon games. Isn't this what we wait all year for, the possibility of a marathon playoff game?? Look, the fact of the matter is that nothing needs to be changed for the playoff overtimes. It's something that has been out there forever and created more drama, joy, and heartbreak than anything in hockey could be.

The Chicago Blackhawks have the first pick in this year's NHL Draft. The big question is whether or not they'll pick a trainer with their first slot. The Hawks have been just a disastorous place to play both on and off the ice. Though some bright spots like Martin Havlat, Duncan Keith, Jeff Hamilton, and Brent Seabrook have shone through, the fact of the matter is that the Hawks are the most injury riddled team in the NHL.

It may be a death sentence for whomever goes to Chicago with this pick. However, in the "Shallowest.Draft.Ever" it's a crapshoot on who they are actually going to pick. Quite frankly, they don't need young defense, they need more help for Martin Havlat when he stays healthy.

The Phoenix Coyotes cleaned house firing GM Mike Barnett, assistant GM Laurence Gilman, and director of hockey ops Cliff Fletcher. While, this was a long time coming, as we said in the show, the real problem is behind the bench. Wayne Gretzky hasn't been a great or good coach, but the problem is-- he can't be fired unless the majority ownership pushes him out.

However, that's another story for another time-- the real question now is when or if the Columbus Blue Jackets will push out Doug MacLean. MacLean hasn't been able to produce much in ways of playoff caliber teams in Columbus, though the pick-up of Ken Hitchcock has helped him stay on life support for the time being. Whether or not something happens, we should know by the Draft; but it shouldn't surprise anyone if MacLean does get canned.

That's all for now. Make sure you check out the Show for all the fun and excitement, as well as the Message Board, which contains the Lyle/Orb: IV thread.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

First Round Playoff Preview

Well, it was a wild weekend, but the match-ups for the Quarterfinals are set and it's time for my preview of the whole thing. Now, your results may vary, but this is how I roll.


(1) Buffalo Sabres vs. (8) New York Islanders: Now, on paper this looks like it'll be a blow-out. On the ice, it probably will be the same result. The Sabres are too powerful and have too much depth to bow out to an upset. The play of Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek has been amazing and with Maxim Afinogenov and Tim Connolly back, who knows what they could really do with the added fire power.

However, give the Isles credit where credit is due. They did come a long way and did what they needed to get the eight seed, but I don't see Wade Dubielwicz putting on a Johan Hedberg circa 2001 performance in the playoffs. Anything is possible, but the odds are squarely against the Isles. Sabres in 5.

(2) New Jersey Devils vs. (7) Tampa Bay Lightning: Here's an interesting match-up; a team with all goaltending and little scoring against a team with all scoring and little goaltending. Martin Brodeur has been sensational again this season and really doesn't look like he's letting up. If Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta can get in top form, the Devils could be hard to stop.

Vincent Lecavalier is living a dream season and Martin St. Louis is have a great bounce-back season. However, the one thing to crush their hopes is the inconsistency between the pipes. Seeing as how the goalies for the Bolts have no playoff experience in the NHL and the Devils have been together for years-- this one may be a no-brainer. Devils in 6.

(3) Atlanta Thrashers vs. (6) New York Rangers: The Thrashers' gamble paid off when they went on a mini-spree at the trade deadline. The question now becomes, did they use it all to get into the playoffs and have nothing left in the tank. Who knows what guys like Kari Lehtonen and Ilya Kovalchuk could do with this extra season, but it'll be the stepping stone for many more appearances to come; I'm sure.

The Rangers are back in the playoffs for the second straight season. Last year, they were ousted in four games, but now they're a year older and may have learned from the mistakes. The only question will be whether or not Jaromir Jagr can find his goal-scoring ability. Thrashers in 7.

(4) Ottawa Senators vs. (5) Pittsburgh Penguins: If you want offense, this is the match-up for you. The Senators have been down this road before and right now, it's time for a pay-off or send-off. They looked to have matured through the season, but now is the time for guys like Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Wade Redden to step up to the plate. Ray Emery has been up and down, but you can bet he'll get the job done when called upon.

The Penguins have the best young team out there on the ice today. They have shown they can score at any time in any situation. However, will the inexperience be the death of them?? Some say the Pens don't understand the pressure so they'll be lethal-- I think the other way around. Marc-Andre Fleury will have to come up huge for the Pens to think about moving on beyond the first round. Senators in 7.


(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Calgary Flames: The Wings are in the same position they were in last year; top team in the West facing a bi-polar Alberta team. However, the Wings look like they could have learned from their mistakes and may be firing on all cylinders. This will be a match-up of two of the top goalies in the game with Dominik Hasek having his ring already.

The Calgary Flames as an eight seed. That's scary to me, especially considering that the Flames have been able to score like they haven't before. The one downfall is that their defense has suffered through the scoring and has given up almost too many goals this season. If they can right that ship, they could be a scary team to face. Flames in 7.

(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (7) Minnesota Wild: A replay of the 2003 Western Conference finals, Anaheim is going into this in an odd situation. Though they have been fairly dominant, they have had some rough patches and injury issues that have kept them from really being an elite team. Though they have Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger; something about their defense doesn't really strike me as being one of the tops.

The Wild have gotten plenty of help from Niklas Backstrom. He has been rock solid and won the William Jennings Trophy for fewest total goals against. Also with Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra seemingly healthy again, the Wild have a good chance of being big time dark horse in this. Wild in 6.

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) Dallas Stars: If you like defensive hockey or need a cure for insomnia, this is your match-up. In the four match-ups this season, the games have all ended in a 2-1 score with each team have two wins, including one overtime win. Now, this is the first playoffs for Roberto Luongo, which should be interesting to see how he fares in all this. The Sedin Twins will be the offense for the Canucks.

Marty Turco has a lot to prove and this could be the place to do it. The Stars are an underdog and really need to pull themselves together as a team to get the job done. Interesting stat, only New Jersey had less goals in the regular season than the Stars and Canucks. Stars in 7.

(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) San Jose Sharks: No, this is not deja vu from last season, it's another Sharks/Preds match-up. The Preds are relatively healthy this season, though. Tomas Vokoun is set for a big run, while Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg look to be the top duo in the post-season.

The Sharks made a big charge thanks to Joe Thornton who had another outstanding season. If Jonathan Cheechoo can keep his momentum going and the Sharks get great goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov-- they could see some big thing in the city by the bay. Predators in 6.

So that's it for the Wazz playoff preview. Make sure you check out the Show this week to see Lyle/Orb IV; the best match-up of an expert and Magic Orb since Lyle/Orb III.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Devil You Don't Know

A bombshell was dropped today in the NHL as the New Jersey Devils fired head coach Claude Julien. No reason was immediately given, but Lou Lamoriello will take over as the bench boss for the Devils for the rest of the season.

To say this caught some off-guard is an understatement. The Devils are the tops in the Atlantic, they have 47 wins, they are battling the Penguins for positioning, and now they shake-up their bench. It does remind many of when Robbie Ftorek was fired late in the 2000 season when the Devils won their second Cup, but even now it's a tad late to be screwing with things.

There's a couple of scenarios that could have led to this. First, players voiced the displeasure of Julien, which is highly unlikely as they have been winning without their top players. Second, Julien had a personal problem that needed to be dealt with, but then wouldn't he just resign?? Finally, and most likely of all, is that Julien and Lamoriello had a falling out, which lead to this.

Now, truth be told, Lamoriello did a decent job of coaching the Devils last season with Larry Robinson stepped down; but that was early enough in the season to fix some things and for the players to adjust. Now is probably not the best time to spring this on a team, especially when you have a Cup contending team like the Devils.

There's only two ways that this ordeal works out well for the Devils. One, if something is revealed about Julien and someone in the organization not getting along, or two, the Devils win the Stanley Cup because of this move and it didn't matter what happened or who was behind the bench. We'll see what happens, but I'm sure more to this story will come out sooner rather than later.