out west

Anything can happen out West

The battle in Pyeongchang for American fans is now over. That means our eyes are on the NHL races solely for the majority of NHL fans in North America. In retrospect, I feel that no NHL stars present made for a less entertaining olympics. Nevertheless, it’s all over and we move forward. The race within the Western Conference is immensely tight.

It is wild out west. Teams are scratching and clawing every night for points. Only three teams are locks for the postseason. That would be Las Vegas, Nashville and Winnipeg. Eight other clubs are in a dog fight to secure the final five spots.

These are the eight teams, their projected points and current positions before games on 2/21:

San Jose – 101.1 points (2nd Place in Pacific)

Dallas – 100 points (3rd Place in Central)

Minnesota – 98.7 points (2nd Wildcard)

Los Angeles – 97 points (3rd Place in Pacific)

St. Louis – 96.8 points (1st Wildcard)

Anaheim – 95.4 points (Outside looking in)

Colorado – 94.5 points (Outside looking in)

Calgary – 94.3 points (Outside looking in)

There are two more guaranteed spots in the Pacific Division not yet solidified. In the Central, the Preds and Jets have gained significant separation leaving just one guaranteed spot up for grabs. This gives you a good idea of what will happen in that we have no idea. These are all projections with teams fighting for their playoff lives with 20+ games remaining. Anything can happen.

Battles out west in the Pacific

out west

Photo from NHL.com

San Jose:

22 games remaining – 15 against teams in playoffs or in playoff race – 12 at home – 10 on road

Los Angeles:

22 games remaining – 15 against teams in playoffs or in playoff race – 15 at home – 7 on road

Anaheim:

21 games remaining – 13 against teams in playoffs or in playoff race – 13 at home – 8 on road

Calgary:

22 games remaining – 14 against teams in playoffs or in playoff race – 10 at home – 12 on road

Each of these teams will meet in the middle and end of March. Five points separate these clubs and the intensity of those games will be at an all-time high. None of these teams are guaranteed playoff berths, which means the playoffs start now. The Golden Knights have an eight point lead over the second place Sharks with games in hand. Four of these five could make it out west or just two.

battles out west in the central

out west

Photo from NHL.com

Dallas:

23 games remaining – 19 against teams in playoffs or in playoff race – 10 at home – 13 on road

Minnesota:

23 games remaining – 16 against teams in playoffs or in playoff race – 10 at home – 13 on road

St. Louis:

21 games remaining – 14 against teams in playoffs or in playoff race – 9 at home – 12 on road

Colorado:

23 games remaining – 16 against teams in playoffs or in playoff race – 12 at home – 11 on road

Nashville has a nine-point lead on third place Dallas. Winnipeg is just two points behind with a seven-point separation form the Stars. Just like the Pacific, the Central foes will meet multiple times down the stretch. The teams above are in more of a situation than the Pacific clubs with only one guaranteed spot left. Three of them could make it or just one.

this is why we follow hockey

The United States were eliminated Tuesday night to the hands of the Czech Republic. TJ Oshie was unable to make it as the Americans went down in a shootout. The US Women’s quest for gold will be won or not but nevertheless done by the time this gets out. The point being is that from this point forward all of our time, energy and focus should be on the NHL playoffs forthcoming.

I sound like the most broken of broken records. However, this is a sport with a competitive nature that is worth repeating every time we sit down and watch or talk hockey. There is nothing more exciting and no better time in sports than playoff hockey. The races themselves like the one out west to get to the postseason are almost just as exciting. Let us all sit back and enjoy these races and insanely intense battles.

 

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Possible trades for Sabres forward Evander Kane

Going into the season, everyone had a feeling that the Sabres were not going to be a competitive hockey team. Fast forward to five days before the trade deadline and Buffalo is battling it out with the Arizona Coyotes for worst team in the NHL.

As the days roll forward towards the trade deadline,the possibility of Sabres’ forward Evander Kane being traded becomes more likely.The 26-year old forward is in constant ups and downs with the Sabres ever since being traded to Buffalo from Winnipeg three ago. Kane is now in the last year of his contract and seems to be on the fast-track out of Buffalo.

Recently, Kane got into a scuffle with teammate Justin Falk. While being separated, you could hear Falk calling Kane “selfish.” So things in Buffalo are not “peachy,” but what team will Kane fit on when he leaves? Kane is an excellent player, but with a significant cap hit and a sub-par attitude, he is going to have to land in the right position to be successful.

What He Needs

Kane will need a place with a stable structure, but again the issue with that is very few teams with structure have the cap space to bring in a guy like Kane. Two places that come to mind would be Nashville and Toronto. These teams have the cap space to take on a guy like Kane, and they have a veteran presence in the locker room that keeps everything straight.

Now comes in the issue of Kane’s value. Every team values players differently and that plays into how much they are willing to give up for a player. Kane has been a cancer in the Buffalo locker room, and that is an instant red flag for many of these teams. There are many great players available at the deadline this year in the NHL, and a guy with a bad attitude and a fat contract most likely doesn’t fit into that mix.

With that being said, here are some possible trades that you could see from these three teams at the deadline to acquire Evander Kane.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Sabres forward Evander Kane

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Leafs are loaded with wingers, but that hasn’t stopped them from entering conversations with teams about forwards. The Leafs moved winger Nikita Soshnikov to the Blues. This was most likely to clear a roster spot for a trade.

Many people believe that they are setting up to land a defenseman such as Erik Karlsson potentially, so they probably have a shallow value on Evander Kane, but that does not mean they won’t throw an offer the Sabres way.

There is no reason for the Sabres to keep Kane. He is going to leave after this season, so it is ludicrous for them to think a team will come in breaking the bank for him. Toronto has the cap space to take on Kane’s contract outright, and they also have a plethora of prospects to work with.

Dmytro Timashov and a third-round pick for Evander Kane

The Leafs already have an incredibly large amount of young wingers so the trading of Timashov would not hurt their prospect pool that much. The Leafs most likely don’t value Kane that high, so this would be one of the lowest prices to pay. The Sabres would accept this deal if they get to the deadline and don’t have any offers available.

Buffalo also needs a playmaker, and Timashov could bring that to their lineup whenever he is ready for the NHL. This trade would benefit the Leafs for a run this year and then the Sabres for the future.

Nashville Predators

The Predators are in a battle for first place in the Central Division against the Winnipeg Jets. They could be looking to add a bigtime player to their roster for a playoff push.

There have not been many trade rumors buzzing around Nashville, but I could see them trying to acquire a substantial player like Kane. A change of scenery is needed for Kane. Going to a place that is hockey crazy like the Nashville could make all the difference in his attitude.

Scott Hartnell and a second-round pick for Evander Kane

At 35-years old Hartnell is expendable, especially in a trade for a guy like Evander Kane. Hartnell this season has been far less productive than Kane. Kane has 39 points on the season to Hartnell’s 16 points.

If the Predators make this deal happen, it could be the added boost they need. They are already a very good teae but add in a two-way player like Kane; it could put them over the top. I think that this move would be worth the steep price of a second-round pick.

Evander Kane

Sabres forward Evander Kane has known he was on the trading block for a while now. Kane is quoted at the start of the year saying that he knows it is going to happen, it is just a matter of when. His most recent quote solidifies that Kane knows he will be dealt. “There’s so many things that can happen, but it looks like we know what is going to happen.”We are four days off from the trade deadline now. It is inevitable that Kane will be on the move. It seems that he has already turned on the locker and it has done the same to him. A trade will be good for both teams to get a fresh start and move forward.

 

Featured image by: Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

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away anytime soon

The Winnipeg Jets are not going away anytime soon

The Winnipeg Jets haven’t seen the postseason since the 2014-15 season in Paul Maurice’s first full season as their head coach. Fast-forward to the 2017-18 season and the Jets are in a battle for first place in the Central division, and they are not going away anytime soon.

The Jets are not focused on what will happen in the future, all they care about is bringing that first title to Winnipeg. The Jets have a deep enough roster and good enough goaltending to make a run in the postseason. The catalyst of the Jets success this season has been veteran forward Blake Wheeler.

Blake Wheeler

Wheeler is having one of his best seasons as a pro. Currently, he is second in the NHL in assists with 51. The Jets have a top-3 powerplay in the NHL and Wheeler has been at the forefront of it. Wheeler has had 28 points on the powerplay this season with 23 points coming from assists.

Wheeler has also made incredible strides in his defensive game this season. Right now he has the best plus-minus rating of his career since the Jets last playoff appearance. Wheeler has also shown no fear and in turn is on pace for the most blocked shots in his career. Because of his growth defensively, Wheeler’s time on ice is at a career high.

Blake Wheeler is the captain of a Winnipeg team that has an incredibly young core. By improving on both sides of the ice Wheeler is setting examples for the young stars in Winnipeg. The most prominent of those stars has to be Patrik Laine.

 

away anytime soon

(Photo By: Jetswhiteout.com)

Patrik Laine

Laine is quickly developing into one of the NHL’s elite. So far this season, he has 46 points in 59 games. Laine has an incredibly strong shot that has been featured on the Winnipeg powerplay a considerable amount this season. Laine has 23 points on the powerplay this season; including a league-leading 15 powerplay goals.

Laine’s role on the Winnipeg roster will only get bigger as the years go on, but he is sure to do what he has done this year and embrace the increased role with open arms. As long as Winnipeg can keep him around, they will have a great powerplay unit.

Keeping The Core

The good news for Winnipeg is that they will have the cap space to keep this core intact. Going into 2019 the Jets will have 20.6 million dollars in cap space to work with. The Jets have plenty of decisions they will need to make this offseason, but they should be relatively easy. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, defensemen Toby Enstrom and Jacob Trouba headline the most notable free agents out of Winnipeg this offseason.

The big offseason for Winnipeg will come in the 2020 offseason when Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Tyler Myers, Steve Mason, and Kyle Connor all head to the open market. Winnipeg will have 40.6 million dollars to work within that offseason.

Crunching The Numbers For 2019

This offseason the Jets need to decide on a goaltender. Hellebuyck is a restricted free agent, so the Jets can match any offer made to him, but if they wanted to move forward with Mason as their goalie, they are going to have to let him walk.

With the way Hellebuyck has played this season, the Jets will most likely decide to go with him as their long-term goalie. Hellebuyck will command roughly a $4.5 million salary. That leaves Winnipeg with $16.1 million for the rest of their free agents.

The Jets will most likely sign Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, and Adam Lowry. Enstrom has been one of Winnipeg’s best defensemen, but injuries have hindered his leverage in deals. Enstrom will most likely resign a deal from anywhere between four to five million dollars. Trouba will most likely cost the Jets three million dollars. Lowry will most likely sign for a cheap deal around 1.5 million dollars.

This gives the Jets roughly $6.85 million to work out one-year trial deals. This will set the Jets up correctly for a big 2020 offseason that features the resigning of Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine.

Crunching The Numbers 2020

If the Jets make all the signings in the 2019 offseason, then that will leave them with 26.85 million dollars in cap space for what will be a pivotal offseason.

away anytime soon

(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Wheeler is the first of the players that will be commanding a big deal. Wheeler’s deal will have to be upwards of five million dollars. That leaves Winnipeg with about 21.85 million dollars in cap space.

The big contract will come with Patrik Laine. Laine will command the contracts of some of the best young stars in the NHL. He will want to be the highest paid player on the team and will most likely ask for a deal that gives him around seven million dollars a year. The Jets will obviously provide him with this deal and they should because they have the cap space.

Tyler Myers is one of the critical pieces to the Jets defense, but with roughly 14 million dollars in cap space, the Jets will probably have to let Myers walk especially considering they will have to sign Kyle Connor.

Connor has been good for the Jets, but Connor will likely want about 4-5 million dollars in cap space. This would leave Winnipeg with nine million dollars to work out other deals and make sure that they don’t go away anytime soon.

Prospects

The Jets also have an excellent collection of prospects on the rise towards the NHL. Jack Roslovic leads the way. The playmaking center has a very good combination of speed and stick skills that make him an intriguing talent. So far in 17 games this season he has three goals and three assists.

Brendan Lemieux, the son of Claude Lemieux, is another exciting prospect for the Jets. At 6-1 210 lbs, Lemieux could be a very productive bottom-six forward for the Jets shortly. In his nine games of NHL play, he has just one goal.

At 22-years old goaltender, Eric Comrie will be in a Jets uniform soon enough. He will most likely be a career backup, but he will be a very productive one. In Manitoba this season Comrie has a 2.54 goals against average, and .921 save percentage.

Not Going Away Anytime Soon

The Jets are starting to win, and they are not going away anytime soon. They have the money to spend and young core of players that will stay around. The Jets could become a consistent threat in the NHL playoffs, starting with a run this season.

The Jets should be competitive in these playoffs. They have all the tools a team needs to win a Stanley Cup. The Jets have a potent offense, with a terrific defense to back it up. Winnipeg will be a fun team to keep an eye on this postseason.

 

 

Featured image by: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

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warning signs canes weekly

Warning signs: Canes Weekly [02/17/2018]

A response to Peters was what the Hurricanes needed and it certainly looked as if though they did. However two tough losses to the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders have landed the team one point out of a playoff position. [Both the Devils and the Islanders now hold the Wild Card spots in the East.]  

Good wins and tough losses

The Carolina Hurricanes finished their fifth game in eight days Friday night with a 3-0 loss. Although an expectable outcome for a team playing two back-to-backs in a week, the Canes deserved more. Down 1-0 in the third, Jeff Skinner produced a much-needed goal. Under further review the play was ruled offside and the goal was discredited.

Throughout the game the Canes maintained high energy. Brock McGinn laid a big hit on Matthew Barzal in the first period to get the crowd into it. The Hurricanes held the shot advantage at 45-23. And best of all, Cam Ward once again showed that he wants to be the number one in Carolina.

Thursday night, Carolina took on New Jersey in a critical matchup, one that they wish they could have back. Suffering a 5-2 loss wasn’t what they were looking for. The most disappointing part unfortunately being that of Scott Darling.

In the three other games, the Canes delivered a response that both Peters and all Caniacs were looking for. Producing three or more goals in three straight games alongside very good goaltending play. The Canes even flexed their muscles against one of the best defensive teams in the league as they put up seven goals against the Los Angeles Kings.

Cam delivers and Darling quivers

Canes

(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHL via Getty Images)

A few short weeks ago the goaltending situation in Carolina was still up for grabs. That is no longer the case as Cam Ward has proven to

be the starter. Since the All-Star break Cam has allowed three or fewer goals in every game he has started. He recorded his second shutout of the season on February 1. Ward also posts a .938 save percentage and a 4-2-1 record since.

Meanwhile Darling has once again continued his streak of inconsistent play. Having played three games since the break Darling has allowed four or more goals twice. He posts a .878 save percentage and a 1-2-0 record. However, don’t write him off. Darling has the ability to play, but his confidence is at an all-time low. Given that Ward has earned the starting role, Darling may thrive as he once did with the Chicago Blackhawks.

McGinn for the win

Brock McGinn has been the fire and passion the Hurricanes have needed. He has truly stepped into a role that the Canes have longed for. He brings a physical presence that can rile up any crowd. Not to mention he has been producing points more often this season (10-11-21). McGinn has become a crowd favorite and rightfully so.

The most interesting man in the league

Jeff Skinner has continued to impress. Though he has not stayed with the same line at all this season (due to Bill Peters shake-up style), Skinner continues to make plays out of nothing. Skinner’s somewhat miraculous plays often carry this offense. When he is at his best (being creative) the Canes are usually right there as well. With one of the most interesting styles of hockey, Skinner possesses the ability to score at any moment.Just watch this… [CLICK HERE] 

 

Featured image from NHL.com/hurricanes.

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John Tavares Contract

Breaking down the John Tavares contract debate

As the trade deadline on February 26th approaches, many teams have already begun sending players to new teams, but the Islanders have shown no interest in trading superstar forward John Tavares. Tavares’ contract is set to expire after this season, and he will be looking to land a deal that possibly pays out more money than Connor McDavid’s eight-year 100-million dollar contract. Either way you look at it, John Tavares just might be the biggest gamble in the sport right now. Tavares has shown he can play, but is he worth the money? And what happens if New York doesn’t trade him and he leaves? This offseason Tavares will change the trajectory of a team for either the better or, the worse, and no one knows which one it will be. The John Tavares contract debate will be the biggest storyline of the offseason for the NHL.

What Is Tavares Thinking?

Tavares has made it clear that he will look at factors before making a decision, and rightfully so. It is his life after all, but fans want to know at least a little bit about what he might want to do. Tavares and his team have done an excellent job of keeping things quiet.

However, Tavares has had a lot of positive things to say about the Islanders. One of those things being the building of their new arena in Belmont Park. In a quote by NewsDay.com Tavares touched on how the arena he is playing in factors into his decision.

“Like anybody would be, everything that goes into this decision, I’ll think about,” he said. “Obviously where you’re going to play is an important part of that. I don’t think anything’s been finalized or come out officially, so when the time’s right, that news of what’s going to happen will come out and will just be part of my thought process at some point. We’ll see what happens, I guess.”

One thing that may be a considerable factor for John Tavares is the loyalty the Islanders are showing to him. When asked about trading John Tavares by the Athletic General Manager of the Islanders Garth Snow simply told them “I’m not trading John Tavares.”

The loyalty New York is showing to Tavares could potentially end up being the main deciding factor for him. Tavares responded to Snow’s comments with this quote.

“It’s nice to hear that, but I had a good sense of that already. For me, I’m just trying to do my best to help this team. Everything else is out of my control. The goal is to get to the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup.”

Earning The Money

John Tavares likely won’t be on the move at the trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean he is staying in New York. Although, both sides are sounding like it is a possibility.

John Tavares Contract

(Photo: Getty Images)

But another thing both sides need to factor in is the contract that Tavares will command. Tavares has earned every penny he will get this offseason. Tavares is on pace for a career-high 88 points this season and this year is not a one-time thing. The 27-year old forward has scored 60+ five straight years now and has had two seasons where he eclipsed the 80 point mark.

Along with that, Tavares is the captain of the third best offense goals per game, but that is where the contract factors in. Can the Islanders pay Tavares and fix their defense at the same time?

The Islanders are the only team in the NHL to be scoring more than three goals per game while at the same time allowing more than three goals per game. It is an issue that needs to be addressed and probably will cost a lot of money.

Crunching The Numbers

New York will have 31.8 million dollars in cap space this offseason, and if they sign Tavares, he is likely to eat 12-15 million of that. So at worst that will leave them with around 16.8 million in cap space.

Along with Tavares, the Islanders notable free agents are forward Josh Bailey, defenseman Calvin De Haan, Defenseman Thomas Hickey and goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Bailey is having a career year and will be looking to cash out on it. Bailey’s contract will most likely command around a five to six million dollar cap hit. If Tavares stays, it is likely Bailey will be on the way out.

As for De Haan and Hickey, the Islanders have the upper-hand with how poorly the Islanders defense has been and because De Haan is coming off an injury. They potentially could return both of those players at favorable contracts costing around a combined five-million dollars.

Halak likely is on the way out as his goaltending performance this season has been average at best. The Islanders could also waive goaltender Thomas Greiss who is set to make just over three-million dollars this upcoming season.

So after signing all their notable free-agents and assuming they let Halak go and keep Greiss, New York would have to sign a decent defenseman or two, and a goaltender that can get the job done with about 11 to 12 million dollars in cap space.

This is doable, especially with the number of veteran free-agents that are setting up to find new teams this offseason. General Manager Garth Snow would have to be extremely efficient with his money, but with a group this close to contending it should make it easier for him.

What If He Leaves?

If a John Tavares contract doesn’t happen in New York this offseason, it is not the end of the world for them. The Islanders would then be able to afford Josh Bailey and would save roughly five to seven million dollars to spend on other free agents.

Their offense would take a considerable hit obviously, but they would also be able to patch up their holes on the defensive side much quicker; however, the goal for the Islanders is to avoid this doomsday scenario. Resigning Tavares is their number one goal.

What I Think

I think John Tavares will stay in New York. I also think he will be generous to the Islanders and sign for a million or two less than everyone projects. Both sides have shown loyalty to one another, and it is cool to see because it doesn’t happen often.

I think it would be the smart and safe move on both sides for Tavares to stay in New York. They are not that far off from being able to compete for a Stanley Cup. The Islanders just need two or three more defensive pieces to be an elite team. If Tavares signs for less money, the Islanders could be a legit threat in the Eastern Conference by next year.

Featured image courtesy of NHL.com

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bruins will win the Stanley cup

Why the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup

“I’m an optimist, but no, I didn’t think we’d be here right now. That’s the simplest answer,” Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told CBS Boston when asked if he thought the Bruins would be as good as they are. Nobody, not even the coach of the Bruins thought they would be as good as they are right now, but now 55 games into the season the Bruins are just three points behind the Lightning for the best record in the NHL. As the Bruins keep winning the question of if they can win the Stanley Cup will start being asked more and more, but there are more reasons why the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup, rather than why they won’t, and it all starts with their red-hot goaltender Tuukka Rask.

Tuukka beating but then responded.

In late November Tuukka was on pace for his worst season statistically as an NHL goaltender. Bruce Cassidy had no choice but to bench him for Anton Khudobin, but when that didn’t work out the Bruins had to put their faith in Rask, and he delivered.

The difference between Rask’s play before December 7th and after is night and day. Before December 7, Rask had a 5-8-2 record with just a .906 save percentage, and he was allowing 2.5 goals per game.

Since December 7th Tuukka has an incredible 18-1-2 record as the starter. He has looked like an entirely different player than before. On this astonishing run, Rask has allowed 1.67 goals per game with a .941 save percentage. He has been a force of nature on this run and if he keeps this play up that is reason enough as to why the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup.

Offensive Explosions

bruins will win the Stanley cup

(Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe)

One thing that makes this Bruins team so deadly is their ability to score in bunches. With scorers like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak it is no wonder how Boston is putting together scoring barrages on defenses. The Bruins have scored four or more goals on 22 different occasions this season and currently rank third in the NHL averaging 3.3 goals per game.

In their last 13 games, the Bruins have scored four or more goals seven different times and are averaging 3.69 goals per game in that span with an 11-2-0 record.

Patrice Bergeron has been the fuel to the Bruins offensive firepower this season, and this is especially true during this run. Bergeron has 18 points during this streak and has propelled himself into possible Hart Memorial Trophy considerations.

Brad Marchand’s five-game suspension started on January 23rd after he elbowed a New Jersey defenseman. Before his suspension, Marchand was a potential Art Ross Trophy front-runner, and now that he is back he will try to climb his way back into those conversations. In his first four games back he has had a point in all of them and now has a point streak of eight games dating back to January 18.

The Bruins offense is on fire recently and if it continues this team will be tough to beat in the playoffs. They are peaking at just the right time and could potentially overtake Tampa Bay for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Lock-Down Defense

Along with the excellent play of Tuukka Rask and the Offensive outburst the Bruins defense has played very well this season. The Bruins have held teams to two goals or less 31 times out of 55 games this season.

A lot of the defensive success is due to the elevated play of veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara. His plus-minus rating of +27 is the highest he has had since the 2011-12 season where he had a +33 rating. Along with one of the league’s best plus-minus ratings Chara 17 points on six goals and 11 assists.

Along with Chara, the emergence of 20-year old defenseman Charlie McAvoy has helped guide the Bruins into the NHL’s elite. McAvoy already has 26 points on the year and needs to be in serious considerations for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

McAvoy Injury

Charlie McAvoy experienced quite a scare when he a had a heart-related injury that sidelined him a few weeks ago. Now McAvoy is back to his old self and is playing at the level we saw at the beginning of the year. The process of returning from a heart injury can be tremendously terrifying, but McAvoy is handling it just like any other injury. Right now his primary goal is getting back up to where he was when he left the Bruins. When asked about returning from his injury McAvoy told the Boston Herald

“It’s kind of tough, because you get the rest and you feel good in that regard,” McAvoy said. “I don’t want to say you lose a step, but whenever you’re not playing, and you come back, you have to readjust yourself, so you can get to where you felt you were when you left off, especially when you leave off on a good note. And it’s easier said than done. Guys come back from injuries every day in this league, but it’s definitely hard to get back into that game pace. So I’m continuing to feel better. I’m starting to feel good, and I’m just trying to get better every day.”

Now that he is back McAvoy will look to get back to the way he was when he left off. Boston has played great without him, and now that he is back and getting into his rhythm again, they can be even better.

The Bruins Will Win The Stanley Cup If…

The Bruins will win the Stanley Cup if they can get continued good play from Tuukka Rask. The Eastern Conference is loaded with teams that are full of goal scorers and no matter how good your defense is those guys will get good looks. Rask doesn’t need to play ungodly like he has the last few weeks, but he will need to have a strong postseason if the Bruins are going to take home the Stanley Cup.

It is looking like the Bruins could potentially have home-ice all throughout the playoffs, and if that happens, there is a genuine possibility that they will make it. It will be a group effort, but this team has shown that they can beat any team on any night. As of right now, I would say they are the best team in the NHL, but come playoff time my viewpoint could change on that. But for now their play has warranted the attention of the national media, and they are serious Stanley Cup contenders.

 

 

 

Featured image by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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NHL Super 8

Not so super 8 – Feb. 17

This week finally picked up a bit in the top 16.

However, a couple of teams were snubbed by the panel in place of what feels to be less deserving teams (LA Kings and New Jersey Devils.)

Let’s get right to it.

ANAHEIM DUCKSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Ducks should’ve had a spot in the Super 16. Some of the other teams that made it into the top 16 definitely are not as hot as the Ducks right now. They likely missed because of their close victories with below average teams.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Ducks need to start showing up and taking command against lower-ranked teams as stated earlier. They only beat the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers each by a score of 3-2, and then lost to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1. They are getting destroyed by the better teams in the league and barely squeaking out wins against every other team. The Ducks are 5-3-2 the last 10.

COLORADO AVALANCHESuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is another team that is in the top 16 rankings wise that didn’t make the power ranking cut. They probably also should have made the Super 16 over a couple other teams, but they missed due to their just “ok” last 10 record of 4-5-1.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Last week they got destroyed by the St. Louis Blues and then lost to the Carolina Hurricanes. This week they barely beat the Sabres and the Montreal Canadiens and then were blown out by Winnipeg. Much like the Ducks, they need to start finding victories against better teams and need to limit the scoring of lesser teams.

They are also seeing impressive offensive numbers from their forwards. Nathan MacKinnon has 61 points followed closely by Mikko Rantanen with 52 and Gabriel Landeskog with 42. They just need their goalies to pick it up a bit. They only have a combined .914 save percentage.

CAROLINA HURRICANESSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Hurricanes have honestly done pretty well over their past 10 games, but aren’t really in a ranked position to be in the Super 16. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 and won three straight before losing their last two to the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Hurricanes are on an upward path. Their victories have come against some quality teams. They beat the LA Kings 7-3 earlier in the week. If they continue to play well against teams like the Kings, they have a shot to move up significantly in the standings.

FLORIDA PANTHERSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

While the Panthers have won their last two and are 6-4-0 in their last 10, they have been struggling to shut down their opponents offensively not only in their losses, but also in their wins. Like when they beat the Oilers on Monday by a score of 7-5.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Roberto Luongo has stepped up his game in the crease, but the backups need to become more reliable. James Reimer and Harri Sateri have a combined .910 save percentage. Considering Reimer has started the most games this season, those numbers just won’t cut it.

New York IslandersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is where things start going downhill. The Islanders are 4-5-1 in their last 10, which is “ok” but not great.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

If the Islanders can see more goaltending performances like that of Jaroslav Halak against the New York Rangers (50-save shutout), then they may start looking up. His .912 save percentage is less than average, but if that changes, they may be ok. Especially with the impressive offensive numbers they are seeing. John Tavares has 64 points so far this season and is followed just barely by Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey, who each have 62.

DETROIT RED WINGSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Redwings are 4-4-2 their last 10. They are low in the standings and can’t seem to find a winning rhythm, which is why they keep missing out on the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Turn those two OT losses into wins and their record the last 10 is 6-4-0, and they are up three spots in league standings. Regulation wins would really help boost this team, especially at home where they have a league-leading seven OT losses.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Blue Jackets were 3-5-2 in their last 10. Their record in the last 10 games alone is what is keeping them from even getting close to the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Blue Jackets have been on a significant downward spiral these past three weeks. They barely missed the Super 16 three weeks ago. Now they aren’t even close and are traveling closer to the bottom of the standings.

This past week, they have been very hot and cold. They will beat teams by large margins, like when they beat the Islanders 4-1 and the Devils 6-1. They also lost by significant margins to the Leafs (6-3) and the Washington Capitals (4-2).

The Blue Jackets really need to stay consistent here to even have a shot at breaking into the Super 16.

ARIZONA COYOTESSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They are last in the league, so it is clear why they missed. But they are more deserving to sit in this spot just due to their efforts in their last 10. Their record sits at 5-4-1 the last 10 and they are on a three-game winning streak.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They can actually keep winning games. It is hard to break this down because everything needs to change for the Coyotes. In reality, they have no shot of even getting close to the Super 16, but their effort the last stretch is worth recognizing and their fans should appreciate it.

 

Team logos and featured image from NHL.com

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Central Divison Race

Friday picks: Central Division race heats up with Stars versus Blues

Friday Picks: Central Division Race Heats Up With Stars versus Blues

It is Friday night and for the NHL that means big games! The Central Division race heats up as the Blues head to Dallas to take on the Stars. Just two points separate the two division rivals, so this should be a very physical hockey game.

The Atlantic Division will be in full effect as well with the Hurricanes taking on the Islanders and the Flyers taking on the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Central Division rivals Colorado and Winnipeg are also in action.

Stars vs. Blues

Pick: Stars

What A Difference A Year Makes

Last season the Stars finished with just 79 points. Fast forward 57 games into this season and Dallas already has 70 points. The Stars had an outstanding offseason and have put together a team that should put up a fight in the postseason.

One of the significant differences between this season is the reliable goaltending that Ben Bishop brings. In 43 appearances this season Bishop is 23-15-3 with a 2.5 goals against average, and .918 save percentage.

This is a huge leap forward from Kari Lehtonen’s numbers last season where he went 22-25-7 with a 2.85 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

The addition of Ben Bishop has vaulted this team into one of the best defensive teams in the league. General manager Jim Nill deserves a lot of credit for what he has done in Dallas. Last season was a disappointment, but Nill made sure that it didn’t happen again.

Radulov’s Career Year

Radulov’s highest point total in a season was 58 back in the 2007-08 season. So far in the 2017-18 season, he has 53 points in 57 games and is the point leader for the Stars. Radulov was out of the league for four years between the 2011-12 and 2016-17 seasons so his rise to dominance this season is quite remarkable.

In his three games versus the Blues this season he has three points; including a two-goal performance on December 29th. Coming into this season, Radulov had five games in his entire career where two goals or more. This season he already has two, and there are probably more still to come.

The play of Radulov this season has elevated the Stars play to new level. He has earned every penny of his eight million dollar salary this season, and everything from this point on is just icing on the cake.

Brayden Schenn Leads The Charge

Brayden Schenn has played well above expectations for the Blues this season. The 26-year old forward leads St. Louis in points as well as takeaways defensively. Schenn is a phenomenal two-way player that has definitely helped boost the Blues into the position they are in today.

Schenn is a fast and physical player that knows when to finesse and also when to lay the hammer. His plus-minus rating of +16 is a career-best for Schenn, and it is a testament to how well he has played on both sides of the ice for St. Louis.

Result

I think the Stars will take this one. The Stars play very well at the American Airlines Center, and it shows in their record. At home the Stars are 20-9-1; including their lone win against the Blues this season. Both teams are very defensively sound and play a physical brand of old-time hockey. This game should be incredibly fun to watch, but I expect the Stars to squeak it out and overtake the Blues in the Central Division.

Lock Pick: Hurricanes vs. Islanders

Pick: Hurricanes

central division race

(Photo By: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

It is no secret that the Islanders lack defense. In their loss to Columbus a few days ago they allowed a remarkable 51 shots on goal, but the issues don’t stop there. The Islanders are the only team in the NHL that is averaging more than three goals per game while at the same time allowing more than three goals per game. Their 3.63 goals allowed per game is dead last in the NHL, and that number continues to trend in the wrong direction. In their previous ten games New York is an abysmal 3-5-2.

While New York continues to trend in the wrong direction, the Hurricanes look like a team that is making strides towards playoff contention. The Hurricanes have won three of their last four games and are 6-3-1 in their previous ten games. The only issue in Carolina is that they never know what kind of goaltending they are going to get, but even that has gotten steadier as the season rolls on.

Goaltender Scott Darling was brought in after Cam Ward had struggled for a few seasons, but now as we go past the midpoint of the season Ward has seemed to take back his starter spot. In 28 starts this season Ward is 17-7-3 with a .912 save percentage and is allowing 2.6 goals per game.

I like the Hurricanes to win this one against an Islanders team that seems to be caught in no man’s land. The Hurricanes are starting to put it all together, and they just might actually become a legit threat in the Eastern Conference.

Upset Pick: Blue Jackets vs. Flyers

Pick: Blue Jackets

It is not really an upset if the Blue Jackets win, but they are lower than the Flyers in the standings so by definition it counts; especially with the way, the Jackets’ offense has been. In Columbus’ last three games they have put 50-plus shots on goal in all three of them. They are the first team in NHL history to do this. They have brought an onslaught of shots on opposing goaltenders, and it has been fun to watch.

With the way hockey is played in the Metropolitan Division, I expect those same looks to be there for the Jackets. Their newfound philosophy of throw the puck on net and pray for a bounce has been working and although the Flyers defense is good, I could see the Jackets pouring it on. I think Columbus will take this one at home against Philly.

 

Featured image by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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offense versus defense

Thursday picks: Offense versus defense as Penguins face Kings

Thursday Picks: Offense versus Defense as Penguins Face Kings

The Penguins and Kings face off in a battle of offense versus defense. Led by Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick the Kings have one of the best defensive corps in the entire NHL. They will be going up against a scoring juggernaut in Pittsburgh.

A big day for the NHL with ten other games being played. 14 teams playing on this Thursday are still being considered for playoff contention, and the other teams are starting to let the young guys play more. This time of the year leads to some fun, intense games.

Penguins vs. Kings

Pick: Kings

Changes in the Locker room

Recently the Kings made a trade that sent forwards Marion Gaborik and Nick Shore to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenseman Dion Phaneuf and forward Nate Thompson.

Dion Phaneuf has played in 955 career games where he has recorded 478 points. Phaneuf will be a welcome addition to an already stellar defense. He brings a veteran presence that can make all the difference. Last season he was one of the driving players behind the Ottawa Senators run into the Eastern Conference finals.

Nate Thompson is a very good role player. He should help boost a Los Angeles offense that has struggled all season. In 43 games this year Thompson has 11 points on four goals and seven assists. His ice time typically hovers around seven to ten minutes per game. He will be a valued addition to the third or fourth line in Los Angeles.

This trade should be good for the Kings; however, they are losing two decent players in Marion Gaborik and Nick Shore. Shore and Gaborik have combined for 29 points this season, and for a struggling offense, those are a lot of points to be letting go. The adjustment period will have to be quick, but I am sure the Kings can pull it off.

Penguins Got The Power! Play.

The Penguins power play has been on a tear so far this season. Their 26.7-percent rate is the highest the team has had since the 1995-96 season when they finished with a 25.95-percent rate.

Pittsburgh has scored multiple power play goals 14 times this season which is the most in the NHL. A lot of this is due to the speed and talent of the Pittsburgh players. Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins players are adapt to drawing penalties. They have drawn the fifth most in the league, and it is a significant reason as to why they have been winning more games.

A Defense Fit For A King

offense versus defense

Photo By: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

The Kings defense this season has been terrific. They are allowing just 2.47 goals per game, which is good for the third-best total in the NHL. They have had 30 games this season in which they have allowed two goals or less, and in those games, they are boasting an impressive 25-5-0 record.

The Kings are a defensive unit that is very in sync with each other. The defensemen keep the game in front of them, and if anything breaks down, they have superstar goaltender Jonathan Quick as the last line of defense.

Quick has been off his game a bit so far this season, but his recent play has been pretty good. The Star goalie also has a pretty good history against the Penguins. Quick is 3-3-3 all-time against the Penguins with a .903 save percentage and is allowing 2.56 goals per game.

If Quick is on his game, he can give his team a much-needed boost. The Kings defense is very sound and if they can hold the Pens to under three goals the offense should be able to get it done.

Result

The Kings are one of the most penalized teams in the league which is not good with a matchup against the league’s best power play; however, I think Quick will be locked in, and in a battle of offense versus defense; the defense will win. The Kings will take this one in a hard-fought low scoring game.

Lock Pick: Predators vs. Flames

Pick: Predators

In what will be the third and final meeting between the Predators and the Flames, Calgary flies into Nashville looking to hold onto their one-point lead in the Pacific Division over the Kings.

Coming off a three-game win streak the Flames have now lost two of their last three games; In those three games they have only been scoring 2.67 goals per game while allowing 3.67 goals per game, but they are going up against a Predators team that likes to keep it close.

All of Nashville’s last five games have been decided in extra time, but this is something that Nashville has become accustomed to. The Predators have played in 17 overtime games this year and have a record of 8-9.

One of those games was against the Flames where Calgary won 3-2 in a shootout decision, but the Predators responded to that game with a 2-0 shutout in the two teams’ last meeting. The Flames have a solid group of young scorers, but I expect the Preds to have a repeat of their previous meeting. It will still be low scoring, but Nashville will take it.

Upset Pick: Golden Knights vs. Oilers

Pick: Oilers

offense versus defense

Photo Courtesy Of: Associated Press

Edmonton has had a very disappointing 2018 season. One year removed from a 103 point season and the Oilers are now in the race for the one pick, but Edmonton has still given us some pretty entertaining games. They have been especially good against the Golden Knights.

In the teams, two previous meetings the Oilers have won both of them; including an 8-2 route of the Knights back in November.

Even though Edmonton is a bad team in the standings; they still need to be respected. Connor McDavid is arguably the best player in the world, and role players Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are no slouches either.

Vegas is one of the best teams in the league, but they don’t have the weapons to slow down a player of McDavid’s caliber when he gets going. I think the Oilers will come out and play hard against the best team in the Western Conference and steal another one.

I got a feeling the Oilers will be lucky in Vegas.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of post-gazzette.com

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Maple Leafs Are Hot

Wednesday picks: The Maple Leafs are hot at the right time

Wednesday Picks: The Maple Leafs Are Hot At The Right Time

The NHL is a league like many others. Winning streaks and losing streaks make or break your season, and the Maple Leafs are hot at the perfect time. The Leafs playoff spot is almost locked in at this point, but seeding for home-ice advantage could be the difference maker in the postseason.

The Maple Leafs will be testing themselves against the Blue Jackets; meanwhile, out in Colorado, the Avalanche will be taking on the Canadiens. Out in Vancouver, the Canucks and Panthers will be playing in the last game of the night.

Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

Pick: Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs are hot right now, but they will be going against a Blue Jackets team that is hovering just outside the playoff picture. Both sides have a lot to play for, but the Blue Jackets are mostly already in the playoffs.

This game should be the best one of the night. I expect them to both come out energized and excited to try and propel themselves into playoff position.

Nylander’s Recent Surge

Maple Leafs Are Hot

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

William Nylander has led the way for the Maple Leafs in scoring recently. Toronto has nine wins in their last 11 games, and Nylander has scored in eight of them, including three multi-point performances. Nylander is second on the team in points and has been the igniter for many of the Maple Leafs recent wins.

His most notable performance came against the Lightning. Nylander had two goals and an assist, making him responsible for three of the four points the Leafs scored in their 4-3 win against the best team in the NHL.

Nylander’s recent play has paved the way for the Maple Leafs offense. He has been scoring at will and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Columbus’ Struggling Offense

Columbus’ offense has taken a considerable step backward from where they were last year. The Blue Jackets have the third-lowest goals per game average scoring just 2.6 goals per game. Columbus needs to start trending towards quality, not quantity mindset when it comes to shots on goal. They have recorded the fifth most shots on goal in the entire NHL, but they just can’t seem to find the back of the net.

Another thing the Blue Jackets will have to get going is their powerplay. They have the worst power play in the league right now, and in their last five, they have only connected on two of their 15 power play attempts.

To fix these issues, Columbus has been in many of the trade discussions for forward Rick Nash. It is clear that the Blue Jackets need a scorer if they are going to have success the rest of the year.

The Blue Jackets have a good defense, but it is not good enough to carry them throughout the playoffs. A trade for a player like Rick Nash could be the difference maker down the stretch.

The Result

I like the Maple Leafs to take this one. Their offense and defense have been phenomenal the last few games, and I don’t expect that to stop now. The Blue Jackets are coming off back to back games and are already struggling massively.

This game should be close for the first couple periods, but I expect the Leafs to pull away in the third and take this one.

Avalanche vs. Canadiens

Pick: Canadiens

The Avs went on an incredible streak that ended just a few weeks ago. Since then they have started to come back down to earth. Colorado has lost six of their last nine including a loss to Montreal. In their previous game, they struggled against a terrible Buffalo team.

The Avalanche do have one thing going for them in this game, however. The Canadiens are having a dreadful season and are at the bottom of the league. The Canadiens are both bottom ten in the league in scoring and goals against, but Buffalo is also.

I think the Canadiens will take this one. The inexperience of the Avalanche is going to cause them to drop some games down the stretch that they shouldn’t, and this is one of them. This game will be a tight contest all the way through, but I think that Montreal will come out victorious.

Canucks vs. Panthers

Pick: Panthers

Maple Leafs Are Hot

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHL via Getty Images)

The Panthers are on the far outside of the playoff picture looking in; meanwhile, the Canucks are officially in the race for Rasmus Dahlin. Teams in the NHL don’t throw games, but they do start to get lethargic in their play.

The Panthers are seven games out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. This is the second game of a four-game road trip out west. They won their first game against Edmonton 7-5, and they will be looking to do the same against Vancouver.

The Canucks lack scoring, and it has shown all year long with their horrendous 2.6 goals per game. The defense of the Canucks has also been horrible all year, and it is why they are bottom ten in goals against.

Florida is a team that has struggled all year defensively, but going up against a Canucks team that can’t score I think they should win pretty convincingly. They still have a lot to play for and young scorers Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck will be looking to continue their solid seasons.

 

Featured Image By: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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