Super 8

Not so Super 8-February 9

And we are back with this week’s “Not so Super 8”.

There was quite a bit of shifting this week in the Super 16, some of which I am not totally in agreement with. I mean sure the Golden Knights lost a couple games in regulation. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be dropped to the third spot.

This week also had a lot fewer teams that even deserved to be in consideration. Most of the teams that missed the Super 16 are on huge slides right now.

Let’s get right to it.

Super 8LA Kings

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This one is tough. They are on a two game win streak, their record the past 10 is 5-5-0 and they are in the top 16 in the NHL. It really just game down to choosing between them, San Jose and Anaheim.

Super 8

Offensive statistics for the LA Kings (Screenshot from NHL.com)choosing between them, San Jose and Anaheim.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

We need to start seeing more production offensively from players other than Anze Kopitar. Just take a look at their offensive stat breakdown. Kopitar leads the team in points by almost 20 above Drew Doughty. And while there is nothing wrong with defensemen who are offensively minded, why the hell is Doughty above any other forward in point production?

In addition to this, Jonathan Quick is not playing his best for the Kings. With only a 2.51 GAA and a .919 S% he really needs to cement his place as the Kings’ number one guy in the crease.

Philadelphia FlyersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Flyers did pretty well this week, so much like the Kings, I am not super sure. Also on a two game win streak and sporting an even better record the past 10 games of 6-3-1, I think they also could’ve had a spot in the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

It is too bad the Flyers don’t have better goalies because they have three players with plus 50 point production. The struggles in the crease are killing the team. With Brian Elliot and Michal Neuvirth combing for a dismal 2.67 GAA and a .910 S%. They need a pick me up or their woes will continue.

Super 8Carolina Hurricanes

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is where the play quality takes a steep drop in the list. The Hurricanes are at an okay 4-5-1 the past 10 games. They have been 9-10-1 their past 20 so they are really playing pretty averagely right now.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They are only pulling out close wins against average or less than average teams and they are getting smoked by good teams. The Hurricanes really need to find a way to pull out wins against the better teams if they want to move up in the league at all. They need more offensive production but they really won’t ever win games if their goaltending continues to be awful. Cam Ward and Scott Darling combine for even worse numbers that Elliot and Neuvirth, with a 2.85 GAA and a .901 S%. I mean those numbers are just awful and potentially the worst in the league with the exception of the Coyotes.

Florida PanthersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Panthers missed purely because of actual ranking in the NHL. Other than that they are on fire, they have won four straight games and are 6-4-0 in their last 10.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

In their six games before the win streak they had 27 goals against. That is 4.5 goals per game, and it is completely unacceptable. Roberto Luongo needs to step up in a big way to keep their goal differential lower. This team could easily be in the top 16 in the league, they have the pieces to the puzzle. They just need to execute.

New York IslandersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have lost one and are 3-5-2 their last 10. They are gathering points but just not quite enough to keep them on par with the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Win. In. Regulation. A couple of their regulation losses have been by a one goal margin. In addition to that they lost twice in overtime. They need to start pulling that second point instead of settling for one. Also they lost to the Coyotes and the Sabres in that time frame. Those are the worst two teams in the league a win in both of those games flips their past 10 record to a better than average 5-3-2.

Columbus Blue JacketsSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Blue Jackets are closer to being in the league’s top 16 than a lot of the teams above them. They missed because of the three game slide they are on right now with a past 10 game record of 3-6-1.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They need to start getting contributions from their key players. Josh Anderson is leading in goals with 16 and Artemi Panarin leads in points with 42. That’s fine and all, bit where are Zach Werenski, Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg? I found them. Way down the stat sheet not really contributing to their team.

Chicago BlackhawksSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

I was really starting to grasp at straws here. The Blackhawks record the past 10 is 2-6-2. That pretty much speaks for itself.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

With the amount of star power this team has, it never ceases to baffle me how badly they are doing this year. They are just waiting for something to click, and when it does I am sure they’ll be back to their winning ways.

Edmonton OilersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Oilers are just finally starting to figure things out this season. It is too late at this point. Their 5-4-0 record the past 10 is okay and it’s far better than most of the bottom dwellers they share real estate with.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

It can’t be just “The Connor McDavid Show” anymore. The kid is LITERALLY carrying the team to victory. He scores the majority of the goals whether they win or lose, and there isn’t much other offensive production.

I have no bonus team this week because every team that did not make the Super 16 cut was relatively average. Whereas in the past teams have been snubbed.

Team logos and featured image courtesy of NHL.com

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Calgary Flames

Those Flames are so hot right now

The quintessentially average Calgary Flames have finally found their stride and it may be for real this time.

THE SLUMP YEARS

The last time the Calgary Flames made a legitimate run for the Stanley Cup was in 2004 against the Tampa Bay Lightning (spoiler, the Flames lost).

The last time the Flames won a Stanley Cup was WAY back in 1989 and that is their only Cup.

So, it’s been a while since the Flames have tasted victory and it seems as though they are finally getting hungry.

The Flames have failed to make the playoffs in six of the last ten NHL seasons. Those seasons were chaotic, unsure and frustrating.

Calgary Flames

Miikkaa Kiprusoff may be the best goaltender the Flames have ever had. (Photo from Reddit)

After losing Miikka Kiprusoff (who may be even more missed than Jarome Iginla) to retirement before the 2014-15 season the Flames struggled to find someone to take command between the pipes. They went through Jonas Hiller,  Kari Ramo, Reto Berra, Brian Elliot, Chad Johnson and most recently Eddie Lack.

Even when the Flames had Kiprusoff they lacked solid secondary support in the crease which caused the Flames to overplay Kiprusoff and potentially lead to his somewhat premature retirement.

In addition to their goaltending woes, the Flames also had an extremely slow and old group of players.

Calgary Flames

Here is a breakdown of the average ages in the NHL in 2010-11. (Screenshot from QuantHockey.com)

Veterans are beneficial to a team, but you don’t want a whole team of veterans.

The Calgary Flames were above the NHL age average from the 2009-10 season until the 2012-13 season. Two of those seasons they were second in age average (at nearly 30 years old) to only the Detroit Red Wings.

A COUPLE GOOD MOVES

Extending the contracts of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan were clutch moves (albeit obvious). Their connection is absolutely incredible and adding Michael Ferland to that line has made a huge positive difference.

Picking up Dougie Hamilton and Travis Hamonic and the rise of Michael Stone have bolstered the Flames D-line to be one of top defensive cores in the league.

Picking up Mike Smith is one of the best things that’s happened to the Flames since Gaudreau became an unexpected star.

THE PAST TEN GAMES

In their last four games of December the Flames went 1-3. Not due to lack of effort. The Flames shootout loss against the San Jose Sharks was one of the best games I have ever watched.

On New Years Eve the Flames turned it all around. They were playing the Chicago Blackhawks and came out on top with a great all around effort. That victory sparked a seven game win streak which is still in progress. During the win streak the Flames have matched up with and beaten extremely strong opponents, such as the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning, the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings.

The biggest difference between this current streak and some of the Flames’ past streaks is the quality of the teams they are beating. In addition to this, the Flames are seeing offensive contributions from more players than just their first line, including key contributions from their defensemen.  

The Flames are seeing depth not only from their forwards and defensemen but also their goalies. It seems like for the first time in over a decade the Flames may have found a decent backup in David Rittich who has gone 4-1-1 since being called up with a 2.03 GAA and a .932 S%.

LOOKING FORWARD

Two members of the Flames were named to the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week; with Johnny Gaudreau at number one and Mike Smith at number two.

If the Flames continue to execute on special teams and keep their possession numbers up there is no reason why they shouldn’t be in the playoff picture.

Things are really starting to look up for the Flames, so if they can keep this level of confidence the rest of this season should be smooth sailing. 

Featured image from Calgary Herald

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And Then There Were Four

We are nearing the end of this intense 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with only four teams left competing in the Western and Eastern Conference finals. Here’s a look at the first couple games and what to watch for in games to come.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1)

To start out game one, starting goaltender for the Lightning, Ben Bishop, tweaked his leg and was taken off the ice on a stretcher. Bishop was later quoted “I fell back and felt something I’ve never felt before, and just pain right away” (via NHL-Transcripts). Although it seemed very serious, Bishop will most likely be ready for game 3.

After losing Bishop, the Lightning went to work by not missing a beat with back-up goalie 21 year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy in the net. Although being out shot 20-35 the lightning held on to win 3-1 with goals from Johnathon Drouin, Alex Killorn, and Ondrej Palat.

Sidney Crosby and Matt Cullen celebrate after winning game 2 in OT (chicagotribune.com)

Game two started out with both teams scoring two goals in the first period. It then went scoreless until Sidney Crosby scored on a one-timer 40 seconds into the first overtime period. Crosby hadn’t scored a goal since the first round against the New York Rangers. Phil Kessel and Matt Cullen scored the other two goals for the Penguins on Monday.

Game three is going back to Tampa Bay, where Ben Bishop and even Steven Stamkos may return.

San Jose Sharks vs. St. Louis Blues (0-1)

Joe Thornton and David Backes checking on each other’s beards. (ddexpress.info)

Game after game the Blues goalie, Brian Elliot, proves any doubters wrong. Only allowing one goal off 32 San Jose Shots, Elliot is nearing if not already at the “Elite” status. Blues captain David Backes said, “When your goalie is your best player, it gives you a great chance of winning and that was the case” (ESPN). Although it is a pretty obvious statement, it is the truth, the Sharks are going to have a tough time scoring throughout the series.

I see the rest of the series looking pretty similar to game one. Hard-hitting, low scoring, and coming down to the wire. Also something to watch for is the way the Blues handle the red hot Logan Couture, who is leading the NHL in points in the playoffs. In the first game Logan was held in check by the great St. Louis defense. Holding Couture to just two SOG (shots on goal).

San Jose Sharks @ St. Louis Blues/ May 17th/ 7:00 CT/ Game two

Pittsburgh Penguins @ Tampa Bay Lightning / May 18th/ 7:00 CT/ Game three

What to Watch for in Round Two

With only one more series to wrap up the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will face off against the Nashville Predators in game seven. We will take a look at the round two match-ups.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Alex Ovechkin takes on Sidney Crosby. Two of the greatest players in the NHL face off in this second round match-up. All hockey fans cannot wait to see these two go at it. Alexander Ovechkin, the hard hitting, hard shooting Russian, verses the quiet playmaker from Canada. Both captains of their respected teams are backed by hot goalies. Matthew Murray is normally the backup goalie to Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins, but Fleury is currently out with a concussion. Murray has not missed a beat only allowing two goals a game in the Rangers series. Braden Holtby, the goaltender for the Capitals, had two shutouts in the Flyers series and never gave up more than two goals in a game. Although these are two of the hottest goalies in the league, these are two high powered offenses that can score at any moment.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders

John Tavares (Extratime.uol.com)

Captain Clutch takes on the best playoff line in hockey. Are Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn for the Tampa Bay Lightning the best line in hockey right now? I think so. All three are +6 while on the ice, as they had three of the four game winning goals, and they are first, second, and third in points for their team. The Islanders upset the Florida Panthers in the first round on the back of John Tavares. In game six of the first round, JT scored a late goal to tie the game and then scored the game winning goal in OT. Anyone that follows the Islanders was not surprised by this, JT is as clutch as it comes.

Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues

Brian Elliot (Bleedinblue.com)

The St. Louis Blues took care of the former Cup champions in the first round, and goaltender Brian Elliot can take some credit for this. Elliot posted a .929 save percentage, not letting the Blackhawks get into a rhythm. Right winger Vladimir Tarasenko had the most goals for the Blues in the first round with four, and he always does great against the Hawks. Let’s see if he can do the same against the Stars. With the loss of Tyler Seguin, the Stars needed other players to step up, step up they did. Left winger, Jaime Benn, has scored 10 points for the Stars which tops the NHL. The Stars used two goalies in the first round, Antti Niemi, and Kari Lehtonen. I hope they use Kari Lehtonen for the rest of the way, as I like the way he has looked.

San Jose Sharks vs. (Anaheim Ducks or Nashville Predators)

The Sharks played really well against the Kings in the first round. I was waiting for the Sharks to fall apart towards the end of the series but it never happened. Whoever wins between Anaheim and Nashville has a tough series to come. Joe Pavelski scored five goals in as many games while shooting an astounding 35.70%. In net Martin Jones out played his former teammate Johnathon Quick. Since Frederik Anderson has taking over in net for the ducks they are 3-1 with his .955%. This is something to watch for in tonight’s game.

4/27 Games

New York Islanders @ Tampa Bay Lightning 7:00 ET

Nashville Predators @ Anaheim Ducks 10:00 ET