pacific division

Pacific Division Uprising

The Pacific Division is not often compared to the likes of the Central. However, this week’s power rankings have some new members in the top 10 that has the division making some noise.

The Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames all find themselves climbing the ranks of the NHL.

This is the first time the Pacific has had at least three representatives in the top 10 since October 19th (post week two of the regular season).

The depth does not compete with the Central..but they do have the conference leader (Vegas) and the same number of teams in this week’s top 10.

What do this teams do well? What do they need to work on? Are either of these teams a true contender?

Let’s do it.

Viva Las Dangles

pacific division

Photo from NHL.com

There is no team discussed more recently than the Golden Knights… and they deserve it.

What they do well:

Kill penalties – (23-for-23 since December 19th)..

Win close games – (14-4-3 in one-goal games)..

Kick pucks out – (1.98 team goals against average and a .936 team save percentage).

What they need to work on:

The power play – (1 for their last 27 since December 19th, 17% overall/23rd in the league).

Are they a true contender? Yes.

The Knights have a number one goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and are 15-6-1 against current playoff teams. Vegas has posted wins against Winnipeg, Tampa Bay and Washington (the three other first place teams in the NHL). They currently sit at number two in this week’s power rankings and atop the Pacific Division.

Newly shark invested waters

pacific division

Photo from NHL.com

The Sharks are one of the newest members of the top 10 from the Pacific Division.

What do they do well:

The power play – (scored one PPG in 14 of their last 17 games/20-for-64 since December 7th, 23% overall/5th in the NHL).

Winning at home and on the road – (13-6-2 on home ice/11-7-4 on the road)..

Work their goalie tandem – (Aaron Dell/backup/1A goalie is 10-3-0 w/a 2.26 GAA and a .925 save percentage).

What do they need to work on:

Plus/minus – (11 players are in the minus column and are only +9 as a team).

Are they a true contender? No.

San Jose comes in at nine in this week’s power rankings and currently sit in second place in the Pacific. They hold a modest 10-8-2 record against present playoff teams and will most likely be playoff bound. However, the Sharks have a 2-7-1 record against teams with a better record than them. The Sharks are hot, but don’t seem deep enough to compete with higher ranked teams in the postseason.

The flames are hot…naturally

pacific division

Photo from NHL.com

Tied for the Sharks in points and more new members from the Pacific in the top 10 are the Calgary Flames. Coming into Thursday, this club is on a seven-game win streak (longest active streak in NHL).

What do they do well:

Special Teams – (During this streak they are 22 for 24 on the PK and 5 for 20 on the PP).

Road Warriors – (They are a league-best 13-5-4 on the road)..

Johnny Gaudreau – (15 goals/39 assists/54 points in 45 games)..

Balanced goalie tandem – (Smith/Rittich have a combined 2.25 GAA and .928 save percentage).

What do they need to work on:

Play at home – (Flames are a modest 12-11-0 on home ice this year).

Goal Differential – (Calgary is just +6 as a team so far this year).

Are they a true contender? Possibly.

The Flames come in at number 10 in this week’s power rankings. They have a solid 11-7-2 record against current playoff teams. Three of those wins have come against first place Washington, Tampa and Winnipeg. Calgary is led by a ferocious young core that can skate with anyone and will be a tough out come playoff time.

Don’t sleep on this one either…

We did just talk about the Central Division being the most ultra competitive division.

Although this is true, the Pacific is right up there.

This is a division with the leader (Vegas) having a 7-point cushion…but there is a log jam right in the middle with only three points separating second to fifth place.

The contender portion of this article may be true, but San Jose, Calgary and Vegas for that matter haven’t proven anything yet..LA and Anaheim are very much motivated to wreak havoc on the division with a great deal of hockey left to be played.

These three teams are hot..but all must be focused on staying hot all the way to mid-April.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

chill out

“Chill out” – All fans that have teams in the Central

The Central is the most annoying division in hockey if that is where your team resides. The traffic is so steep that we have six points (as of 1/16/18) separating first to fifth place.

Seemingly every night we have each team finding ways to pick up points. We currently have five of the seven teams in the division in a playoff spot. The two teams behind the two wild card teams are two and three points behind.

When you look at it from that perspective you want your opposing teams to chill out in a sense. However, in a division this good, the fan has to think of the gas pedal motive. You want to be in the mindset that every game is a must win. If you’re not in that mindset in a race as tight as the Central, you will not win the race and may not even make the playoffs.

The Stars and Wild are figuring it out. The Avalanche are the most revived team in the league after last season’s dreadful performance. The Hawks are never to be taken lightly. So, you better have your heads on right Central Division fans because this is going to be very interesting down the stretch.

The Resurgent Stars/WIld

chill out

Photo from MassLive.com

Did you see Tyler Seguin’s OT goal against the Bruins on Monday? You need to. The Stars have won seven of their last 10 coming into Tuesday night’s meeting with Detroit. They currently hold the number one wild card spot, but are just two points back of third place, three of second and six of first. Dallas has found their number one goalie in Ben Bishop (19 Ws/2.52 GAA/4 SOs) and are surging.

People were confounded by Minnesota’s slow start (5 Ws in first 14 Games) after their great season last year. The Wild have gotten points in 8 of their last 10 games and have the same number of points (53) as the Stars coming into Tuesday. Eric Staal is having a throwback year (19 Goals/19 Assists) and is on his way to Tampa for the All-Star Game. Minnesota has three players with 30 or more points and seven with at least 20.

If it weren’t for the consistency of these two teams this division would be significantly less congested. These teams could very easily stay hot and compete for a division title. We thought this would be the case in the beginning of the year, but weren’t sure how hectic it would be at this point in the year.

Who are these guys??

chill out

Photo from NHL.com

The Colorado Avalanche won 22 games last season and had a -112 goal differential. They scored a league-worst 166 goals and gave up a league-worst 278. The rebuild was thought to continue for multiple years, but the Avs find themselves two points out of a playoff spot with 39 games to play. They have the upper hand on Minnesota as they have three games in hand on the second wild card holders coming into Tuesday. No one saw this coming..

The Avs have picked up points in nine of their last 10 games and are currently on a seven-game win streak where they took down first place Winnipeg. They sit a game below .500 on the road, but are a solid 16-7-1 on home ice. After their abysmal plus/minus a year ago, Colorado has a very nice +16 goal differential so far this season. The Avalanche are going with whoever is hot at the moment in net with the 1/1A system. Jonathan Bernier (who’s hot right now) has collected 11 wins for the club in 19 games, while Semyon Varlamov has registered 13 in 26 appearances.

Why is this happening?? Why now?? This division has enough traffic as it is, and as a fan of a Central Division team, this is infuriating. This isn’t the NFL where teams can be revamped from the cellar to the playoffs just like that in one year. I mean whatever if they want to battle, let’s battle.

The cellar isn’t really the cellar..

chill out

Photo from NHL.com

The Hawks are on their bye week this week. I’m not going to talk about their current spot in last place in the division. With our luck it would spark a second half surge and I don’t want to deal with that. So, let’s think positively as we discuss Chicago. The Blackhawks are only three points out of a playoff spot!

You can’t really count this first half underachievement with Corey Crawford not in action for 21 of their games. By this time Friday, when the Hawks return to practice, Chicago’s number one goalie will have been out four weeks. There is no timetable for his return, but Crawford has notched 16 of the team’s 22 wins, and when he is healthy, the Blackhawks are due for a run. 37 games remain, which gives Chicago plenty of time to earn a spot in the postseason.

Nine points separate the first place Jets and the last place Hawks. A division title may not be in their near future, but the playoffs are not far fetched whatsoever. Patrick Kane as 45 points in 45 games, while three Blackhawks have at least 30 points and seven have at least 20. Their spread out offense gives them the ability to compete with playoff teams as they just took down Winnipeg 2-1 last Friday. Do not judge this team’s first half as they are more than in the hunt when they come out of their bye week.

don’t look back

St. Louis, Nashville and Winnipeg are all clinging to their current positions (1st/2nd/3rd). By the time this gets out something could change. The window for error and inconsistency is almost shut. The Central Division is so jam packed that (as we discussed earlier) the gas pedal must be in full effect.

Fans want to tell other teams to “chill out,” but you ultimately want to feel this way. Teams need to feel like every game is a must win until the end, so they are hot and ready to go coming down the stretch and into the postseason.

This is the most interesting division in the NHL this year. No team is out of it, while first place separation is apparent in every other division. The Metropolitan has significant traffic and is hotly contested as well, but the race in the Central will be the one we play closest attention to down the stretch.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

no drama

No drama in hockey?

I was talking to a friend of mine about sports the other day. We ended up discussing sports talk shows, podcasts etc. The thing that always bothers me about those shows is that unless you’re watching the NHL Network, you’re most likely not ever hearing about hockey. I disclosed this irritable feeling with my friend, but he responded in a way that made me more frustrated. He said to me, “yeah that’s just cause there’s no drama in hockey”…

That is just absurd. The entertainment and soap opera drama within the game of hockey is so vast, yet the appreciation is slim. We have previously discussed the NHL popularity compared to the other major sports. This is a reason we see a lack of hockey coverage as it pertains to sports talk shows and podcasts. To say that it is due to a lack of drama is about as ignorant as it gets..

Hockey is as entertaining and dramatic as any sport. I don’t have to convince this to the hockey purist or anyone for that matter. Anyone reading these articles are most likely followers of the league. That was simply a phrase that struck a nerve, but also sparked an idea. Today we will discuss all the “no drama” we have in the NHL at this point in the regular season.

“Who are you going to take?”

no drama

Photo from NHL.com

The New Jersey Devils were a long shot to attain the number one overall pick at last year’s draft. Before the lottery took place, the team sat at number five. So, New Jersey GM Ray Shero did not even give the idea of acquiring top prospects Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick much thought. After winning the lottery, Shero went out to dinner with Avalanche GM Joe Sakic at a restaurant in Toronto where media then gathered..

Members of the media started harassing Shero asking him again and again, “who are you going to take?” Channelling his inner Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner in the movie Draft Day) he responded to the media, “Ok! I’ll write it down on a piece of paper” (NHL.com). He proceeded to take out a pen and paper and wrote, “Vontae Mack no matter what”, folded the piece of paper and handed it to the media. Mr. Shero may not have known right then he’d take Nico Hischier at number one, but New Jersey is very happy with their decision.

Hischier (8G, 18A in 41 games) went number one to the Devils, followed by Nolan Patrick (2G, 6A in 33 games) to Philly. Both rookies are 19 years of age and will meet for the first time Saturday night in New Jersey at the Prudential Center. Ray Shero has told the media that you can’t judge these two right now because they are simply great young talents who will both be very good players in the future..

The NHL draft is filled with scrutinized decisions that are mulled over for years. It’s the same drama that is heightened in all four of our major sports that shape all organizations involved.

Realignment/Expansion

no drama

Photo from The Athletic

The NHL currently has 31 teams, which makes it an uneven league. There are three divisions with eight teams and one division with seven. Another expansion is soon upon us (targeted by 2020-21) as  Gary Bettman has invited Seattle to apply. It is a city the league has been looking at for years where owners have been reported to be greatly in favor of the $650 million expansion fee. This would also make for a needed realignment.

A presented restructure of the divisions has Seattle in the now Pacific division, moving Arizona to the now Central as well as the Detroit Red Wings. This would renew an historic rivalry between Detroit and Chicago. Current rivalries would be in a sense broken also as Nashville would then move to the East. Expansion and realignment changes the landscape of who has to go through which teams to capture the Stanley Cup.

The NBA has a conference (the East) that is completely inferior to the other. The MLB has races to the postseason altered when teams like the Houston Astros relocate from one league to the other. The NFL has conversations about the playoff alignment every year as divisions are stronger and weaker at times. Each of the major sports have these conversations about how can we make the game better. Hockey is no different than football, baseball or basketball in this regard.

Tragedy and heart-felt stories

no drama

Photo form Yahoo Sports

National hockey analysts for NBC Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire are currently battling cancer. Olczyk is fighting colon cancer while McGuire is going through prostate cancer as both are undergoing chemotherapy. The two of them are going about their business still as it relates to NBC Sports. Eddie has been filled in for by Mike Milbury, but has found a way to do games here and there while Pierre said he will be back for NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics.

Brian Boyle plays at a forward position for the New Jersey Devils. The 32 year old was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia during training camp. Boyle has since returned to the ice in wake of his diagnosis and was moved to tears after scoring his first goal of the season. He said he has found more of an appreciation for the game as his teammates say he is still ‘the loudest guy in the room’ (Sportsnet). The battle that hockey is can greatly relate to the battle of life as we have discussed.

The tragic overcoming of disease is newsworthy in any sport. These stories have been reported and commented on how they would be in any of the major sports. They are a reminder of how sports can serve as a great coping mechanism for fans and athletes alike struggling with the battles life throws our way. Hockey has always been a sport where adversity is met and has inspired those playing and watching.

Money Aside

Hockey may not approach the revenue stream of the other three major sports, but will never be a sport with a lack of drama. If you were to search NHL in the news section of google or any search engine, you would find stories in abundance just like football, baseball and basketball..

Having a two-minute segment on an hour-long Sportscenter hurts, but it’s reality. Viewership and ratings speak for themselves. Just don’t ever say hockey isn’t “interesting” or there’s “no drama” in the sport.

You look at the NHL playoffs, and you see 16 teams in two brackets trying to win four four out of seven series to win a championship. You have communities competing against one another to try and be the last one standing. It’s a tournament filled with twists and turns that make for an art show overflowing with drama..

Hockey is fast. Hockey is a game that can be won suddenly. A sport such as this can never be said to have no drama.

 

Featured image from Odyssey

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

trade deadline

Buyers and Sellers at The Trade Deadline: February 26th

The end is near for some. For others, it’s just the beginning.

The majority of teams are past the halfway point of the regular season. The marathon part of the year is over, it is now a dead sprint to the finish line and to playoff hockey.

Buyers and sellers will soon come forth as we approach the trade deadline. There are obvious active participants as we approach Feb. 26th, but also inactive participants. You have teams like Vegas who are willing to stand pat and trust their current rosters as they embark on a playoff push. Regardless, everything is now kicked up a notch..

Today we will discuss teams that are willing to buy or sell. It also cannot be stressed enough that the greatest tournament in sports (the Stanley Cup Playoffs) is right around the corner. We will dissect the statuses of the handful of teams most likely making moves, but will also note that the battle for Hockey’s Holy Grail is near. Nevertheless, who’s buying and who’s selling??

Buyers–>The St. Louis Blues.

trade deadline

Photo from Twitter

Yeah, I got to do it. In the most humble and non-biased way possible, the St. Louis Blues need to be buyers as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. They have been fighting the injured reserve all year, which has taken a toll on their depth. Their top point getter (at the time of injury) Jaden Schwartz went down with an ankle injury on December 9th. Since then, the Blues have won just six games and have scored only 26 goals in their last 14 games sitting in 2nd place in the Central..

GM Doug Armstrong has said to Hockey Central that the team is not in the market for a rental player (reported by Sportsnet). With their limited cap space they have expressed interest in a 28 year old Mike Hoffman (Senators) who is signed through 2020. Hoffman would be a vital piece to St. Louis having scored 27, 29, and 26 goals the past three seasons. They have Ottawa’s attention as well with their prospect collection (Jordan Kyrou/Klim Kostin) and seem to be ready to make a move. Getting Schwartz back within the month and adding another sniper in the mix puts St. Louis in a much better position heading into the postseason.

Tuesday night marks the last game for the Blues before their bye week. They have played far more games than everyone in their division at 46 (after Tues.) making a win crucial. St. Louis will take the ice against the Florida Panthers at Scottrade Center at 7pmCT before getting a chance to rest and refuel.

Sellers–>Montreal Canadiens.

trade deadline

Photo from A Winning Habit

The Habs are currently seven points behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card spot in the East. They are in a bad spot because they would have to leapfrog six teams, three of which have games in hand on them. Their position prior to the trade deadline has been deemed as sellers. The Canadiens have scored 13 goals in their last eight games. Montreal is in no way out of the playoff race, but Carey Price would have to go on a run down the stretch as they are 29th in the league in scoring (2.46 goals per game).

Max Pacioretty (Canadiens Captain) has been reported as the main player on the trading block. It’s hard to imagine with Pacioretty having five of Montreal’s 12 30-goal campaigns in the last 20 seasons. He has immense value as the 29-year old is not even a rental with one year beyond 2018 remaining on his contract. GM Marc Bergevin has said that while the team is obviously looking for picks and prospects, they also are eyeing a top goal scorer in return for the Habs’ captain.

Montreal is off until Saturday when they are home to the Boston Bruins. They have 40 games remaining to make some sort of push, but it is almost clear they cannot compete with playoff teams. With points in only four of their last 10 and just seven wins away from home it’s going to be a tough road down the stretch.

Buyers–>Columbus Blue Jackets.

trade deadline

Photo from MyNHLTradeRumors.com

The Blue Jackets made a splash in the offseason acquiring Artemi Panarin. Everything seemed to be falling into place as they were atop the Metro Division for the majority of the first half. The Capitals hot streak that has surged them to the top along with key injuries to Columbus makes them buyers at the trade deadline. The Jackets are currently without top players Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky. Columbus is currently just 24th in the league in scoring putting in 2.71 goals per game.

As the Jackets continue to battle in getting healthy, GM Jarmo Kekalainen will definitely look to add to his contending team. He is said to be targeting a top two center by the February 26 deadline. Kekalainen has approximately 4.3 million in cap space to work with as he eyes former Blue Jacket Derick Brassard. The 30 year old has played in 40 games this year for Ottawa with 11 goals and 16 assists. The Canadien born center spent his first six years in Columbus and could most certainly bolster their somewhat underachieving offense.

The Blue Jackets sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They have played two more games than Washington and three more than New Jersey coming into Tuesday. It is going to be a dog fight to the very end of the regular season for home-ice advantage. Columbus has the talent to compete, but are again looking for help with 38 games remaining on their schedule.

“Let’s getter goin’ here”

All of this is very relevant information as we approach almost one month until the trade deadline. The reshaping of teams will soon commence, but there is a much greater circumstance forthcoming. Every game and every two points on the line now takes greater significance..

We are two and a half months away from playoff hockey. Two and a half months away from throwing the standings and seedings away and the best teams competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup..

It is the toughest trophy to win in sports, and the decisions made prior to February 26th have great impact. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. Let’s just getter goin’ and enjoy it.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NHL midseason sleepers

Potential sleepers at halfway point

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks are currently out of the playoff picture. These clubs have won six of the last nine Stanley Cups.

The championship pedigree of these two teams makes this a curious case at the halfway point of the season. The Pens are the reigning champs who came into the season with the best odds (8-1) to repeat once again. Chicago began the grind coming off a year in which they finished No. 1 in the West. The Hawks were given the fifth best odds (12-1) to raise Lord Stanley for the fourth time in nine years.

There is room for excuses and explanations for why this is happening. You can look at it from various angles, but maybe their reign as the NHL’s elite is over for the time being. That’s what I’m hoping for at least. It would be tough to make that case for Pittsburgh with them being back-to-back champs and then Chicago just given their DNA.

I don’t like either of these teams. It’s nice to have more novelty teams, which makes for more stories. Those outside of these hometown cities must continue to drive them further into the cellar. We can’t sleep on them either. Nevertheless, we need to dissect what’s happening with two of the most successful teams in the last decade.

What’s going on in the City of Steel??

NHL midseason sleepers

Photo from NHL.com

The Penguins have been battling this year to say the least. Seemingly every game has them down another man. They currently sit a point behind Carolina for the second Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh continues to fight through their regular season adversity with AHL call-ups and college signings. If they find a way into the postseason at full strength, the Pens will not be overlooked.

The first order of business on their team dissection is that dreaded goal differential. Coming into Thursday, the Penguins are -14 on the year. Matt Murray (No. 1 goalie) logs the most minutes for them and has been battling injury almost all year. When he’s been in the net, he hasn’t been as sharp as he’d like to be either. Murray has been somewhat average with a goals against close to three and a save percentage hovering around 90 percent.

Furthermore, the Penguins backend is either out of commission or less than advertised. Excluding Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh’s current D-core has registered just 19 points. The entire core is a combined -52 with only one (Schultz) in the plus column, who has played just 24 games. The Pens are more than capable of turning it around as they reach their halfway point, but need to act fast. They lost some pieces in the expansion draft and free agency. But there hasn’t been an excess amount of changeover for the two-time reigning champs.

Troubles in the Windy City..

NHL midseason sleepers

Photo from NHL.com

The people of Chicago and fans of their beloved Blackhawks find themselves in a weird place. At the midpoint of their season they find themselves in last place in the toughest division in hockey (the Central) and four points behind the second Wild Card spot in the West. Will they find their form down the stretch? Or has this been a downward spiral for them since the end of the 2016 season?

Chicago is coming off two straight first-round exits. In each of those series against Nashville and St. Louis, the Hawks’ core players (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane…) were shut down, and they were forced to dig deep. The depth of the Blackhawks roster was exposed, which is perhaps why they are not the same dominant team at this point of the regular season. Kane is still doing Kane things with 38 points in his first 38 games, but Toews is not as lethal with 24. The Hawks have a few young guns putting up points, but are they a complete enough team to overcome this slow start?

Corey Crawford is still a top 10-15 net minder with 16 wins and a 2.27 goals against, but has no partner. Chicago has used two other goaltenders that have appeared in 14 games and have combined for just two wins. In the modern day NHL, we all know having two solid goalies is crucial to your success. Crawford has accounted for 34 of the team’s 42 points coming into Wednesday’s meeting with the Rangers.

DO not sleep on them..Battle.

We can discuss all the injuries and how these two teams have underperformed so far this season, but no. The trap opposing teams cannot fall into is forgetting about the championship DNA in each of these two clubs.

The second half of the regular season is a sprint. The marathon part is over, and good teams play their best when everything is on the line. Every two points is crucial, and that’s what scares me the most about these two teams.

The last thing they need is a chip on the shoulder, which is what we all are giving them. The core and the leaders of these two teams have won and know how to win when it matters most. Therefore, they must keep a foot on the gas pedal and battle.

 

Featured image by A-B Tech

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Are you betting on The Las Vegas Golden Knights?

I believe I made a mistake. I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong. The Golden Knights aren’t going anywhere..

Vegas has 48 points, which is good for second in the NHL (tied with LA and St. Louis). They have won 15 of 18 games (15-2-1) on home ice. Two of their three starting goaltenders (Dansk/Fleury) have a sub two goals against average. Their third (Malcolm Subban), has a 2.30 goals against average. You cannot fake or discount the complete hockey club Vegas has become.

This is the most aggravating story so far this season at the Christmas break. I made the unintelligent decision to state that this team would slowly slide. It was right at the time they were getting their number one goalie back in Marc-Andre Fleury. Vegas was 23-9-2 at the holiday break, which has them atop the Western Conference. This was not supposed to happen..

Yes, it’s a great story. Yes, an astounding amount of credit needs to go to George McPhee (GM) and the entire executive crew of the Knights. However, the fact that my team may ultimately have to go through a first year expansion team to get to the finals is extremely unsettling.

They figured it out

Golden Knights

Photo: ESPN.com

Vegas unorthodoxly stayed competitive in the absence of Marc-Andre Fleury. In the piece mentioning their eventual slide I noted that in their time without Fleury, they had a modest +2 goal differential. Since his return, the Golden Knights have had an impressive +17 differential and have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10. They have also scored the second most goals of any West team (119). This club will be in the playoffs in mid-April.

Las Vegas has mustered up the third best goals for/per game in the NHL at 3.44, which is good for number one in the West. With their number one goalie guarding the crease they have gotten their team goals against per game down to 2.88. Two of the big keys to a solid hockey club is of course goaltending and special teams play. That can be deceiving however as the Knights score on about 20% of their power plays, but are just 79% on the PK.

One thing I won’t go back on is how hockey is a simple game. You need good goaltending and you need to score more than the other team. The Knights are great in net and are one of very few teams that have four players with 12 or more goals. I do not know how far this team will go, but they will be in the playoffs with this group of players. Ugh.

It’s not as big of a surprise as everyone thinks

Golden Knights

Photo: T-Mobile Newsroom

Many people are trying to dissect this team and figure out how this is possible. The reality is that the new expansion rules and the amount of talent that is in the NHL make it a simple case. You’re not allowed to protect as many players as teams have been able to historically. Many teams presently have a 1 and 1a goalie tandem, which made it easier to grab a number one caliber net minder. I’m not discounting what Vegas has done, there just have to be reasons why the “experts” were all wrong about this Knights team.

Everything that needed to go well for Vegas so far this year has gone well. James Neal has been the superstar they needed as he is on pace for 41 goals. Their top two scoring leaders (Marchessault/Karlsson) are 26 and 24 and products of the league’s youth movement. Las Vegas has also turned out for every single home game thus far as they have averaged close to 18,000 fans a night at T-Mobile Arena.

I feel like the disbelief the hockey world had in this team to start the year created a massive chip on the Knights’ shoulders. They probably got to training camp, looked around and said “hey, we have a pretty good lineup here”. You never know what a team is like behind closed doors unless they’re on “The Road to The Winter Classic” for the most part. We still don’t know how far this team will go, but the more doubt that is put on them the more belief they might have in themselves.

Don’t let them be the first

This team has been great for the league this year. It has been a remarkable story. Let’s leave it at that..

Last year, the Nashville Predators almost won the Stanley Cup. That had to be one of the scariest moments for me as a hockey fan. Yes, kids were picking up mini sticks and discovering how great hockey is in the music city for the first time, but no. You don’t just get to receive that trophy after 19 years of existence when my people have been waiting over 50 years..

Many would have been alright with that, but no one outside of the original six should be okay with an expansion team winning it in their first year. Belief is a funny thing in pro sports. This team has gone toe-to-toe with the best in this league this year and beaten them. This could happen if we don’t try and put a halt to this immediately..

I hope no one but my team wins the Stanley Cup of course. However, me and all avid fans alike should agree that we do not want the Las Vegas Golden Knights to be the only first year expansion team in history to win the Stanley Cup..

Don’t let them be the first.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

keep peppering

NHL success: Just have to keep peppering

Much of my inspiration comes from watching my hometown team. The range of emotions I have during the 82-game regular season is overwhelming to say the least. Coming into Thursday my club has gone an underwhelming 1-2-1 in their last four. It hasn’t been all that bad in terms of their play and how they continue to “keep peppering” the opposing net minders.

Devan Dubnyk and Carey Price are two premier goaltenders in this league, as we know. These two faced off against my team during this somewhat average time frame. The game against Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild saw the Blues post 42 shots.

In the game against Price and the Habs, the boys posted 30 shots. St. Louis beat Dubnyk just once and quadrupled their scoring against arguably the best goaltender in the NHL in Price on Tuesday night.

All together, the Blues hit the net 151 times the previous four games prior to hosting Dallas Thursday night. They found the back of those nets just eight times. Therefore, good teams will run into great goaltending throughout the regular season. However, a lot can be said about a “good” or “average” hockey club based upon how often they pepper their opposition.

Are the Knights really that Golden?

keep peppering

Photo: Stanley Cup of Chowder

If the playoffs started today, the Golden Knights of Las Vegas would have home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, they’re a scrappy bunch that have benefited from new expansion rules. Yes, they have great novelty in the sense that absolutely no one thought they would be this competitive. Looking at their overall play, is this really sustainable for 50+ more games?

The Knights hit the net on average 32 times a game and surrender 30 a game. On paper that is somewhat solid. However, it does not show up in their goal differential where they are just +9.

On average, that is not a typical top 10 club (Knights are currently seventh in NHL). They are scoring 3.44 goals a game which is great, but are giving up 3.11 goals a game. The Knights pepper, but they get peppered just as much, which can’t happen when you don’t have a true #1 goalie (Malcolm Subban).

Las Vegas might make the playoffs, but no one knows for sure at this point. My estimation tells me that they will slowly start to slide and their weaknesses will unfold soon. It has been a phenomenal story thus far and nothing can take away from that, but you need a goalie. If the Knights make it to the postseason it will be remarkable, but I wouldn’t bet on them going much further.

Lightning Strikes in Bunches

keep peppering

Photo: Upper Deck Blog

As of Dec. 6, and for much of the season so far, Tampa has sat atop the league standings. They have gone about their business with great peppering, 5-on-5 play and goaltending. Having the best line in hockey has also helped their cause (Namestnikov/Kucherov/Stamkos).

The Lightning are seemingly a complete team who are healthy and ready to make another cup run like they did in 2015 and 2016.

Tampa Bay hits the net the same amount as their opposition hits their own (32) on average. The leg up the Lightning have is that they have a former first rounder guarding their crease (Andrei Vasilevskiy).

They have scored an average of 3.7 GPG and given up 2.51 GAPG, which is fantastic. This group leads the league in goal differential at +32. They are a legitimate Cup contender for their impeccable strengths on both ends of the ice and their lack of weaknesses.

It’s not just in their stats, it’s in their overall play. They are relentless on 50/50 pucks and are hounds along the boards. It all starts from the goal line still. Having a #1 in Vasilevskiy with no controversy with another #1 (Ben Bishop) there will help them go on a long run when the playoffs start.

So, maybe it’s not the peppering. Maybe it’s just the boring and simple fact that you must have great goaltending and be solid offensively and defensively.

“What does it all mean Basil?”

I’ve changed my mind. Peppering is a solid act that helps open the flood gates in any hockey game. However, it is almost never the single most important piece to a contending team in winning a hockey game. Ask the 2012 and 2014 Los Angeles Kings. Those guys won a Cup as an eighth seed and had both occurrences happen with dominant goaltending from Jonathan Quick.

The goalies are always the most important pieces like pitchers and quarterbacks in the playoffs, which is all anyone cares about. Three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw will always say “if you don’t win, what’s the point”  (MLB Network) in having a great regular season?

The shots are a nice stat that can draw a couple conclusions to how a game was played, but not really why a team won or lost. Why else would players overuse the phrase ‘we got pucks to the net’?  It’s because hockey is such an intricate game where the only obvious and understandable postgame lines involve ‘pucks in deep’ and ‘pucks to the net.’

You need to score more than the other team. Anyone can do that during the regular season, but not everyone can 16 times in the postseason. I don’t believe the Knights can, but the Lightning certainly can. I like saying “we need to pepper” whatever goalie my team is playing against, but really we just need to battle and score more goals than the other team.

Hockey is very simple for fans at the end of the day.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

change it up

“Alright change it up…Mendoza, Robinson” – Coach O’Ryan

There comes a time near the 20 some odd games into the season mark where we fans hit a lull. Games are not as intense as they were the first month. Points are either in the bank positively or not as much as other teams. Nevertheless, we like to talk hockey just because of the fact that it’s hockey season, and that’s what we do. Let’s maybe change it up.

An outlook on the rest of the season is almost clear. We have a good indication of who is going to be at the top of the standings as well as the cellar for the most part. There are teams that will be near the Wild Card spots who do not know their playoff fate. Regardless, most teams have something to play for more or less at this stage of the regular season.

Knowing that my team will almost certainly be in the playoffs, just having to improve every day in preparation for the postseason, my mind wonders. I brush up on the other leagues to see how they’re doing while keeping focus on my club’s game days.

82 games is a very large number. Two months of postseason play is a very long time period. If you don’t make the playoffs or lose in the first round, it’s an eternity without hockey. I have been in all areas of this spectrum. Every time I hear potential ideas to make leagues better and even more entertaining, I listen.

The Lebron argument

change it up

(Photo from NBA News Corner)

LeBron James plays in a conference in the NBA where he knows he has the superior team. His goal until mid-April is almost always to keep his team loose in knowing this, as well as create stories for the media. He likes to have fun now, then be all business later. The way the NBA is set up has the league’s most dominant player knowing for sure that he will be back in the NBA Finals again. This has happened the last seven seasons.

NBA fans that are “anti-LeBron” are bored of this situation. So, what does the NBA commissioner do? NBA analyst Jalen Rose has been vouching for ‘open seeding for years.’ Forget the conferences and simply have the best 16 teams.

The same teams have been in the finals the last three years. Increase the parity, where there is seemingly none, and maybe do this in the NHL as well. It is 2017 (soon to be 2018) where traveling is not an issue. The NHL has the most parity by far, therefore open seeding could create ultra competitive and even more entertaining hockey.

Arguments for who deserves to be at the dance in mid-April would go away. Superstars would be seen evenly throughout North America. The integrity of the game would be enhanced wholeheartedly. The two best and most deserving teams most likely would be competing for the Stanley Cup every year. For these reasons, all sports should do this.

Trust The Process??

change it up

(Photo from wn.com)

Sticking with the NBA evidence, the 76ers have tanked the last few seasons to ensure No. 1 picks. They are now a competitive basketball team and will be beaten before or after they play Cleveland in the playoffs. However, the league wants to end tanking even though most believe it is impossible. I on the other hand have some thoughts.

What if there was a losers’ bracket? It would be a bracket for all the non-playoff teams. The winner of this bracket would receive the first overall pick. The rest of the first half of the first round would follow based on how everyone would finish. It may not be seen as doable, but I would beg to differ.

TV runs the world as I have been told. TV rights generate the bulk of each of the major sports’ revenue. Every one of the national networks would kill for each playoff series to go seven games. So what if there was just an excess amount of playoff series going on? I don’t know if that’s possible. It’s just one of the thoughts I have at this point in the NHL season.

Herm Edwards told us “you play to win the game.” So, let’s make that cliche the truest saying in sports. In a long and unbearable season, teams will say “let’s just win one for the fans” or “let’s play for the draft” and lose. Take those sayings and throw them out the window, so Edmonton doesn’t have four tries to get it right at the draft. Everyone in pro sports are considered the best in the world at what they do, so let’s always play for something.

Back To Hockey

I have absolutely no problems with the game of hockey at this point. My team is at the top of the standings seemingly every year. Even if they weren’t, I’d still go see them play.

However, I feel for teams like Arizona who have young talent, but are a team simply playing for jobs. It sucks they are 28th in league attendance. As a fan, you care about your organization above all else, but if you are a hockey purist, you want to see every team at their best.

This creates rivalries, entertainment value and revenue for a league that is four out of four compared to the other leagues in that regard. I despise every hockey club that is not my own, but some teams are just harmless, and I don’t get up as much for certain games.

When the Arizona Coyotes come to my hometown on a Tuesday night, I’m not excruciatingly excited. Is this similar to why my team plays down to their level those nights? The last time we played the Yotes, we squeaked out a shootout win in a surprisingly intense game.

I’m ready to battle every single night, but I’m not sure about the league itself. Let’s battle.

 

Featured image from The Movie Scene

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

oil change

This vehicle needs an oil change

We witnessed a change in culture and an entire revamping of an organization last season in Edmonton. The savior of hockey in a particular community in Alberta named Connor McDavid was the culprit. It still appears to be this way; however, we see a group of individuals just five points ahead of the lowly Arizona Coyotes entering Thanksgiving. What is going on in Oil Country?

There’s never one reason why a club struggles the way they do. A hockey team has 20 pieces to a very complex puzzle. This includes a coaching staff, fans and front office members. Everyone plays a role (like we have discussed before) where one act or one decision can have a huge snowball effect. Are the problems initiated on the ice, in the crowd or in the front offices?

My guess would be everything including the media that’s causing this mayhem. The players on the ice are their own worst enemy. A team’s psyche and mental toughness reigns supreme in their ability to win hockey games. This Oilers team is not entirely different from last season where they made a postseason appearance for the first time in a decade. Nevertheless, this current Oiler squad needs an oil change fast…and in a hurry.

The “Savior of Hockey” in Northern Alberta??

oil change

Photo: Sportsnet

I’m not buying it as of right now, no matter how angry any Edmonton fan gets. Yes, Connor McDavid is the reigning MVP and maybe the most skilled young NHLer since Crosby, Ovi and Wayne; however, he is the captain of the Edmonton Oilers hockey club. He is also 20 years old. Has that responsibility, or that 100 million dollar contract been weighing on him?

28 points in the first 22 games of an NHL season sounds nice for him. What about 18 points in 22 games for the team? That doesn’t sound very good for a preseason pick with the 2nd best odds to win it all coming into the season. Are his leadership skills in question? They say actions speak louder than words. A captain’s notoriety typically goes beyond stats and highlight reel plays.

Wayne Gretzky said he was ‘truly amazed’ (The Globe and Mail) by what McDavid began to create last season. I myself was truly amazed to see him make just one play finally in a game this past Tuesday in St. Louis. Unfortunately for the Edmonton faithful, that one play was made after the Oilers were enduring a 4-0 deficit in the third period.

The Oilers surrendered a season-high eight goals to the Blues that night. We later find out McDavid had ‘flu-like symptoms’ and head coach Todd McLellan described his team’s play as ‘lazy’ (STLToday.com) on that particular evening. Oh well..just another loss in a long 82-game season, right? No need to panic.

That dreaded media that won’t go away..’sorry’

oil change

Photo: National Post

The Edmonton Journal posted an article two hours before I started typing bashing the Oilers’ player development system. Clearly I’m not the only one with harsh remarks for this hockey team. Yes, Mr. Gretzky it’s “hockey 365 days a year in Edmonton”. This is why you came back to the team you helped raise four Stanley Cups. However, that also means the Oilers have to (at the very least) meet expectations.

The article went on to say that “there is a feeling too many of their prospects are not panning out” (Edmonton Journal). There is this youth movement that we have discussed going on in the league. This doesn’t mean the youngest of young players have to be “leading” the charge (McDavid/Matthews/Laine). You have players in their primes leading the way (Pietrangelo/Toews/Crosby/Ovechkin). However, again, these are not the sole reasons the Oilers are struggling.

The media is going to nitpick every little speck of an organization to make stories about how a team is doing. This cannot affect how the players play on the ice. Maybe if the “home” media halted their badgering questions that clearly annoy their team’s players things could change. I have no idea what’s going on in the minds of the entire Oiler community. I just know after that game in early October against the rival Flames, I did not expect these results 22 games into the season.

the entertainment “business”

oil change

Photo. NHL.com

The folks in Edmonton will still fill up Rogers Place to capacity no matter what. If the Oilers play the Florida Panthers on a Sunday afternoon, they will be there. Entertainment value is never the issue; therefore, there is no excuse for the Oiler front office to not piece together a quality hockey team. I mean look at the roster..

Money can buy you a star-studded hockey club. Money cannot buy you wins and points in this parity-filled NHL. This has caught up to teams like the Capitals, Blackhawks and seemingly now with the Oilers. There are “must-have players” up and down each roster that deserve their money. However, is it the most sensible thing for a 22-year old Leon Draisaitl to be making nine million dollars right now?

You have all these ridiculously young players with fat contracts that may or may not be deserving at this point in time. Whether the Hawks had to or not, they realized they couldn’t keep an Artemi Panarin long-term giving him six million right away. Furthermore, you have the Oilers with 27 million in salary between five players that are not yet 30.

McDavid’s rookie contract is up at the end of this season where his 100-million dollar deal will begin. If the playoffs are not in this Oiler team’s future, we could see some real (oil) changes in 2018.

If it’s broke, fix it.

What’s going on in Edmonton isn’t working right now. The organization has multiple big contracts for players either very young or in their prime. Do these “young guns” feel safe and untouchable with all this money?

Connor McDavid is going to put up great numbers. He knows he has great players around him. The “next one” may know in his mind things will turn around naturally, which it could. Although, nothing ever just happens in professional sports. Is McDavid not worried because $15 million is coming his way by the end of next season?

I’m not saying they don’t care. I’m not saying they won’t get it together. I’m saying they are one of the two worst teams in the West right now. This should not be the case. Figure it out.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

two points

Teamwork makes the dream work?

Eighteen skaters, two goalies and a coaching staff suit up on nightly basis with two points on the line. This happens 82 times during the regular season for a particular team. This then continues on past mid April if those 82 games go particularly well. This unit has a common goal. They want to win 16 games beyond the regular season and win a big trophy for a starving community. What do those champions say night after night?

“We got a good group a guys in this locker room.” “You know everyone’s fighting for each other, one guy goes down, then another guy steps up.” – Every championship team ever. For those that really mean it, does that have any impact on the team’s ability in capturing those 16 wins?

No team ever understands why they don’t win unless they blatantly don’t have the talent. You always see the players crying and saying how much they love their teammates in the locker room after they lose four out of seven in a playoff series. “But, you can’t just say it man..you gotta feel it in your blood and guts,” (Dewey Finn/Mr. S/Jack Black).

One for the first finger on the next hand?

The Penguins seemingly have so much fun. They have a reality show for their fans, and were the happy go lucky opponents on the first “24/7: Road to the Winter Classic” show on HBO in 2010-11. Have they won their cups because they really do “fight for the guy next to them”?

Ryan Reaves came into the league with the meanest look on his face and seemingly broke every face bone on his fighting opponent. He had ten times more hair, and his role for awhile was get the St. Louis crowd hyped up with a big hit or fight much like a Cam Janssen would. By the time he left St. Louis, he had become an every day NHL player and a fan favorite. Reaves became best friends with Vladimir Tarasenko who has been the most consistent goal scorer in the NHL since Ryan became an every day fixture in the Blues lineup. Something did not bring it all together as Reaves joined the Penguins after seven years with the Blues and no cups.

two points

Photo: SI.com

Phil Kessel wasn’t one of the brightest of bright stars early on his career. He did not find much team success in Boston and Toronto. The Toronto media was particularly rough on him (as they usually are). The 2013-14 “24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” saw Phil perceived as very chill wearing beanies much of the time. Was this because of the quantity of hair he possesses? These days you see Phil happy as can be in an environment with seemingly no worries where success reigns.

I don’t know what has brought it all together in Pittsburgh the three times they have won the cup. I do know every news story with them is rarely even about how the team plays early on this season. The talk has been the rising bromance between these two players and how they have flourished on the ice and as teammates. I hope the Penguins don’t it again, but I’m scared there’s something going on here with this apparent insanely good team chemistry.

 #AllTogetherNow??

We all are aware the Blues have never won a Stanley Cup in their previous 50 seasons. No one knows why or wants to talk about it in St. Louis. I sure don’t. They have gone through many team slogans that the fans have rallied behind and are always all in. What about the entire group of players?

Dimitrij Jaskin came into the league on draft day with a smile on his face. He was coming off a 99-point season in the QMJHL while lacing up in just 51 games. People were excited about his arrival after scoring his first goal on December 28, 2013 against the rival Hawks. He celebrated just as you would if you had never scored before and was embraced by all of his teammates. Jaskin has since scored just 18 goals in his young NHL career, but still has assured himself a spot in the lineup night after night under Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo.

two points

Photo: Sportsnet

The 24-year old still celebrates as hard as anyone in the league. Everyone loves to score goals in the NHL regardless of how often. Players also enjoy when the team scores because (as referenced earlier) everyone wants to win the Stanley Cup with the team they are on. Jaskin scored just once last season and had a 1.8 shooting percentage. He was seen ready to embrace his teammate after a goal scored against Boston on November 22, 2016. Dimitrij then proceeds to either run into the ref or his teammate just skates by him, I don’t know.

I don’t know what will make my Blues finally capture a Stanley Cup or if they ever will. I do know the bottom six forwards have scored just seven goals this season while the top of the lineup is on fire. The teams that win the Stanley Cup usually have all four lines producing. It could be something else though. I’m not in the locker room, I’m just an observer.

“we want the cup, we want the cup”

Gordan Bombay told all viewers of the Mighty Ducks that “a team is something you belong to,” and “something you feel” (Gordon Bombay/Emilio Estevez). We know everyone in the NHL has talent and can play hockey better than almost anyone. We know that the teams playing, the organizations, and the communities behind their squads want to win “Hockey’s Holy Grail”. Believing in destiny and curses won’t do any of the people trying to accomplish that goal any good.

LeBron James is in the NBA Finals basically every year because he’s never satisfied. He knows he’s the best basketball player on the planet right now. But, LeBron wants to be the best ever. He’s even vocal about the idea. There’s no way to know if he will ever be, but he will do everything in his power to make you and himself believe it is him.

I want to win the Stanley Cup. However, like I said, me the fan has no control or effect on the games played. I just know it’s never happened for me and my fellow supporters. When I hear them say “come on boys,” I do hope everyone on the bench and in the locker room truly feels a part of that brotherhood.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”