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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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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Team Canada

(W)o(e) Team Canada!

For the first time in recent memory, we will not see the NHL star-studded Olympics of Winter’s past.

I am sure you all are very familiar with Gary Bettman’s decision to nix NHL player’s participation in the Olympics this year. Meaning that all of the Olympic hockey rosters have a very different look this year.

IN THE CREASE

Two of the goalies on Team Canada’s roster have played less than 85 games.

31-year-old Justin Peters played 85 games in the NHL and sported a losing record of 25-38-9 with an unimpressive .901 S%. He currently plays for Kölner Haie in Germany.

27-year-old Kevin Poulin is even less impressive (is this supposed to be our Olympic roster? I’m confused). He played only 50 games in the NHL with a 18-25-3 record and a .899 S% (yikes).

Team Canada

Ben Scrivens is Team Canada’s goalie with the most NHL experience. (Courtesy of Montreal Gazette)

He currently plays for EHC Kloten in Switzerland.

Their starter seems to be 31-year-old Ben Scrivens who spent 144 games in the NHL with a 47-64-17 record and a .905 S%. He currently plays for Salavat Yulaev Ufa in Russia.

Their goalie situation is below average, at best. Three goalies with NHL losing records and far below average save percentages. The only plus? They have more experience playing against international players so maybe that will be their saving grace.

THE BLUE LINe

The defensive core sports two defensemen that have no NHL experience. Mat Robinson and Chris Lee both went undrafted in the NHL out of college. 37-year-old Lee does has impressive KHL numbers, and was the top scoring defenseman in the league in the 2016-17 season. He is also one of Team Canada’s alternate captains

Next we have a group of defensemen with less than 25 games played in the NHL. Chay Genoway played one game in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild. He currently plays for Lada Togliatti in Russia. Maxim Noreau played six games in the NHL also for the Wild. He is Team Canada’s other alternate captain. Rounding out this group is Karl Stollery who has 23 games of experience in the NHL. He bounced between three different NHL teams and currently plays for Dinamo Riga in Latvia.

The three most notable blue-liners for Team Canada are Stefan Elliot, Cody Goloubef and Marc-Andre Gragnani. With a combined 291 games in the NHL between the three of them they still don’t have much pro time.

THE FORWARDS

This is where we find some more of the well known NHL names.

Only four of these players have less than 100 games of NHL experience and those players are: Christian Thomas with 27 GP, Eric O’Dell with 41 GP, Brandon Kozun with 20 GP and Quinton Howden with 97 GP.

Also making an appearance on the roster we have: Gilbert Brule who played 299 games in the NHL with 43 goals and 52 assists, Andrew Ebbett who played 224 games in the NHL with 26 goals and 45 assists, Ebbett broke his leg in 2015 and was told he may never walk normally again let alone play hockey, so his appearance in this year’s Olympics is an impressive one. Rob Klinkhammer played 193 game sin the NHL scoring 22 goals with 21 assists and Linden Vey played 138 games in the NHL with 14 goals and 30 assists.

Wojtek Wolski played 451 games in the NHL and scored 99 goals with 168 assists. He was a 21st overall draft pick by the Colorado Avalanche. He bounced between five NHL teams in his seven seasons. In 2016 he broke his neck and thought he was paralyzed after diving head first into the boards. Wojtek plays for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Russia.

Mason Raymond played 546 games in the NHL and scored 115 goals with 136 assists. He was the 51st overall draft pick for the Vancouver Canucks in 2005. He played for four different teams during his time in the NHL. Raymond currently plays for SC Bern in Switzerland.

Maxim Lapierre played 614 games in the NHL with 65 goals and 74 assists. He was the 61st overall draft pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 2003. He played for five different teams in the NHL. Lapierre won the Calder Cup in 2007 with AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. He currently plays for HC Lugano in Switzerland.

Team Canada

Chris Kelly is Team Canada’s captain. (Courtesy of stanleycupofchowder.com)

Rene Borque was quite a well known player during his time in the NHL and is one of Team Canada’s alternate captains. He played 725 games with 163 goals and 153 assists. He played for six different NHL teams and had a 50 point season during his time with the Calgary Flames. Borque currently plays for Djurgardens IF in Sweden.

Derek Roy is by far the most notable player on this roster, with 738 NHL games played. He scored 189 goals with 335 assists. He was drafted 32nd overall in 2001 by the Buffalo Sabres. Roy currently plays for Linköpings HC in Sweden and was selected for the 2010 Olympic summer roster but did not make the final cut.

Chris Kelly is Team Canada’s captain and has the most NHL experience on the roster with 833 GP. He had 123 goals and 166 assists. He won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the Boston Bruins. Kelly currently plays for the Belleville Senators in the AHL.

THE OUTLOOK

General Manager Sean Burke recognized that while the NHL is the best hockey league in the world that their is plenty of talent outside of it.

“The N.H.L. is the best league in the world, and I don’t think anybody would disagree with that,but Canada still has a large pool of talent. Try to tell them it’s not the N.H.L. players, it’s not the best players in the world.”

While I agree that their are plenty of talented players outside of the NHL, the Olympics this year may be a struggle for Team Canada.

The group of forwards they selected is a veteran squad but a very talented one. Where we are going to see issues is first at the blue line and then in the crease. While NHL talent isn’t everything, the defensive core for this team has not seen nearly enough pro games to prepare themselves for this level of competition.

The goalie situation is really awful and there is no other way to spin it. Their collective save percentage is .902 and they sport losing NHL records. All three goalies were unable to keep up with the speed and accuracy of the NHL shooters.

Due to the fact that NO NHL players are in these Olympics does help the situation but it will be a much more even playing field (or rink) than in years past.

Featured image from CHL.com

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Olympics

No Olympics for you

Competing for your country is something that every athlete dreams of doing. Playing in the Olympics is one of those opportunities that elite athletes have to do so. Not this year.

Bettman opposes Olympics

Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, once again sided with the owners rather than the players. His decision to do so is supposedly based on the growth of the game. Bettman and the NHL argue that the cost of traveling and accommodations will take money away from growing the game.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly doesn’t see the purpose of the players participating in the Olympics. He suggests that the Olympics do nothing to further hockey or the NHL. In contrast, my own experience speaks volumes against that belief.

Sports’ center stage

The Olympics bring elite athletes, competitive sports and hostile nations together. In a world full of chaos and havoc, the Olympics bring a

sense of hope. Millions and millions of people tune in to the games in anticipation that their country might bring home a medal.

Olympics

(Curtesy of olympics.org)

It becomes the center of the sporting world for two weeks.

The growth of hockey is something that all players, owners, and hockey representatives (NHL, KHL, NCAA, etc.) look for. What better opportunity to introduce the game to those unfamiliar than the Olympics. Suggesting that the games do not grow hockey seems unreasonable, especially at a place like PyeongChang, South Korea.

Personal experience

Being a former college hockey player in Virginia, hockey was not something relished among the other sports. However when the 2014 Winter Olympics came about, hockey became the center of my college dorm. Though most people knew I was on the hockey team beforehand, after the Olympics people were asking for tickets to my games almost every night.

Olympics

(From usa hockey.com)

Being from the USA, I began watching and cheering Team USA on in my room. The most significant game was USA versus Canada in the semifinals. Between 15-20 people showed up for that game to watch with me, most of whom had no interest in hockey until then. (And I will say, though disappointing, it may have been the most exciting 1-0 game I have ever watched.)

Just being able to watch the games online produced 15-20 fans alone. Hockey was always apart of our dorm because I played on the team, but the Olympic hockey games caused life-long fans to be born. Just in that small sample it can be seen how the game is growing. If it can grow like that in a country where hockey is prevalent, hockey can certainly grow in countries not so familiar.

A player’s perspective

Having the opportunity to represent your country is a dream. Many athletes never reach the level of play needed for a chance. Now because of the NHL’s decision, many players will not get the chance to represent their country on the biggest sporting stage in the world.

Many NHLers have expressed their disappointment in not being given the break to participate. Players such as Connor McDavid  and Austin Matthews will not have the opportunity to play in these Olympics. These players are the ones who will grow the game and they are being limited to NHL play only. Their opportunity to win a gold medal at the Olympics has been taken away.

From a player’s perspective, the NHL has let them down. Yes, the games may impact the season in a few different ways, but it is worth it: for the fans and for the players.

Hopeful anyway

As hockey begins at the Olympics, I am hopeful that the players given the opportunity to replace the NHLers will entertain those watching in South Korea and around the world. The hope of game growth is still possible with many good player participating. All the best to them. I will certainly be watching. The US Women’s team began preliminary play Sunday with a 3-1 win and the US Men will begin Wednesday.

 

Featured image by (Gregory Shamus:Getty Images).

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warning signs canes weekly

Warning signs: Canes Weekly [02/10/2018]

The Carolina Hurricanes experienced a difficult week from the top down. It seemed as if the Canes had lost their shot at the playoffs within the week’s time.

However, nothing could be further from the truth as the Canes are one point from a playoff position.

Can’t score, can’t win

warning signs canes weekly

(Photo by James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

In three straight games this past week against Detroit, San Jose and Philadelphia, the Canes struggles to score. The team scored just three goals in those three games before scoring four against Vancouver. (one in each since Friday). You cannot win games if you do not score goals (see The “goal” of making the playoffs).

Now the Caniacs are calling for the players’ heads, but honestly, when do they not? Of course the fans want to see goals, but more than goals, they want to see consistency in wins. The Hurricanes have to find ways to put the puck in the net with the players they have.

The team has scored 141 goals in 54 games for a 2.61 goals-per-game average this season. Those stats are good for 25th in the league. Thus, the Canes need someone to step up on the front end.

#Redvolution

warning signs canes weekly

(Photo from nhl.com/hurricanes)

The Hurricanes are known for asking their fans to join the #Redvolution. Yet, there are many fans that are more contaminating than anything else.

Yes, hold the players accountable and give your opinions, but more fans need to be “Caniac Fanatics” than critics. Express some passion and enthusiasm for the team. No one enjoys playing in front of the “haters.” Hence, why home-ice advantage is so important in many cases.

In 2006, the Canes rode the passion of North Carolina to the Cup. When the fan base is present in full, the PNC Arena can be one of the hardest places to play. This team has struggled through a tough week and would love nothing more than a welcoming cheer from their fans.

Has the panic button been pressed?

Coming off three straight wins, the Canes entered the second half of a back-to-back against the Detroit Red Wings. Losing 4 – 1 was tough, but panic set in after a tough loss to the talented San Jose Sharks. Things have unfolded since then, something that may possibly become the turning point in the season.

In reaction to the loss, coach Bill Peters commented, “There are at least three that can go in, and if it’s not those three, there’s a group down in Charlotte, too. You can’t put that group out again after that.”

Not much of a confidence-booster. Of course, Peters might have a right to be upset, but respect the team that has placed you in position for the playoffs.

warning signs canes weekly

(Photo from Getty Images)

Considering the rough start to the season for goalie Scott Darling, this team has played well. That being said, general manager Ron Francis sent fourth line staples, Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger to their AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers. Thankfully, the two cleared waivers and the Canes will retain their contracts. Both of these players are not goal-scorers, but are solid fourth line guys who can kill penalties and play tough minutes.

Kruger was a part of two Stanley Cup Championships with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015. This is experience that the Hurricanes need down the stretch of the season. Sending down Jooris is more reasonable, but he is still a player that has played hard and well in the few minutes and games he has been given.

Response time

Whether or not Peters and Francis have caused a panic attack, the players must continue to push for the playoffs. How will they react? Will they be a resilient bunch, or will everything come crashing down? The next few games are critical for this team.

 

Featured image from NHL.com/hurricanes.

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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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Welcome back Mike Fisher

It’s not quite comparable to the emotional rollercoaster Brett Favre put Packers’ fans through in 2008 but it comes close. Mike Fisher was a staple in Nashville before his somewhat unexpected retirement at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Fisher played 17 seasons in the NHL and captained the Nashville Predators for the last season. He amassed 276 goals and 309 assists in 1,088 regular season games.

FISHER’S IMPACT ON THE NASHVILLE COMMUNITY

In addition to his impressive career he was also well loved by the Nashville (or Smashville) community. In 2012 Fisher won the NHL Foundation Award which celebrates the player who best enriches the lives of those around them and in the community.

The NHL said this with the announcement of his nomination,

“Since coming to Nashville in February 2011, Fisher has developed strong relationships with a number

Mike Fisher

Fisher with NHL Foundation Award. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

of non-profit organizations: Room In the Inn, a full-service homeless facility located a few blocks from Bridgestone Arena; Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt; and Cottage Cove Urban Ministries, a Nashville based non-profit organization that serves inner-city youth.

Fisher donated $40,000 to Cottage Cove to purchase a van for the youth center and renovate their music room. He’s also purchased tickets for the Fisher’s Friends ticket program for youth organizations. In September 2011, Fisher released the book, “Defender of Faith: The Mike Fisher Story,” geared toward children ages 9-11 that highlights his faith journey, with all sales benefitting World Vision, and autographed copies sold at Bridgestone Arena raising money for Room In the Inn.

Fisher and his wife also are seen at various charity fundraisers in the Middle Tennessee area, including events for The Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s and Rocketown, and he is an annual participant in the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation program.”

This is how the Smashville community reacted to his retirement.

Fisher’s reach went beyond just Nashville.

Definitely take a chance to read that story in the last tweet. It just goes to show how important Fisher was to hockey fans in general.

WHY HE LEFT

It seems as though beyond Fisher’s desire to open more time with his family there were no additional reasons in his decision to retire.

In a heartfelt letter to the people of Nashville he opened with,

“Smashville,

I can still picture it vividly.

That afternoon on TV, I’d seen a drone shot of Broadway and the area surrounding Bridgestone Arena that showed all the people gathered for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. I gasped. How was there that many people there? And all to support us? It was almost incomprehensible.”

-Mike Fisher, Captain of the Nashville Predators

In the letter Fisher states his reasoning for leaving as just being the right time. He also attributed his decision to God’s timing. He shared his support for the city and the team and said “I believe that this team, that this city, is going to win a championship, and I’m going to be the biggest fan. No one will be happier than I will be to see it happen, because, these fans, they deserve it.”

During his brief retirement Fisher loved the times he got to spend with his son Isaiah and loves that he has gotten to see him grow up from home.

ANNNDDDD HE’S BACK

In a surprising turn of events Mike Fisher has announced that he is returning to the NHL on Jan. 31. The decision was, there’s no other way to say it, random. I don’t think anyone saw it coming.

The implications around his return are only just starting to clear up but there are some theories floating around as to why he is returning and as to what prompted his return.

However, after speaking with former teammate, Roman Josi and consulting with his wife Fisher decided to go back to the sport he loves. He says that after discussing with his family and praying about it that he decided it would be best for him to return.

Mike Fisher

Fisher and his wife, Carrie Underwood, with their son Isaiah. (Courtesy of Reuters)

“I asked my son and he’s like, ‘no, no,’ and I don’t even know if he knew what he was saying no to,” said Fisher in an interview with NHL.com

Beyond Fisher’s feeling that it was the “right time” and him getting the blessing from his family and the Predators, there is really no other given reasons for his return.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Predators’ leadership core says that they would do anything to get Fisher’s leadership and passion back on the team so they have jumped at the opportunity to have him back.

“Everything I’ve ever known about Mike, from the time that he’s been here, is he sets a challenge he thinks he can do, he will get it done. He’s got some work to do on and off the ice. We have no timetable for his return, we’re going to be patient, we’re going to see where he’s ready to go and we’re just going to manage this between Lavi and me and Mike and all this is really for getting ready for the playoffs… this is a huge day. This is really neat.” Said Predators’ GM David Poile.

There is no definite timeline for Fisher’s return. Both he and the Predators hope to make a Stanley Cup run.

His return not only comes as joy to the Nashville Predators but also to the hockey community as a whole.

Featured image from ESPN.com

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New York Rangers Wild Card

Wednesday picks: Rangers look to inch closer to last Wild Card spot

It is a slower day for the NHL with only three games being played, but any hockey is good hockey from a fan’s perspective. The Predators and Maple Leafs will be a game with two of the top teams in each conference going at it. The Oilers and Kings will be rocking on the West Coast in a Pacific Division clash.

But the Rangers trying to inch closer into playoff position against the Bruins should be the most exciting game to watch.

Rangers vs. Bruins

Pick: Bruins

Lots of speculation has been made lately about the Rangers potentially moving Rick Nash, but that will not stop the team from trying to inch closer towards a Wild Card position. They will be looking to do just that against a Boston Bruins team that is red hot.

Recently, the Bruins got back young defensemen Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy is one of the top young players on the Bruins, and he continues to impress players and fans all across the NHL.

Lending a helping (March) hand

New York Rangers Wild Card

(Photo by Jimmy Murphy)

In addition to McAvoy’s recent return, star forward Brad Marchand is set to return from his five-game suspension. Even after his suspension, Marchand still leads the Bruins in points with 50 and assists with 29.

Marchand’s excellent play this season has been the fuel for the Bruins’ success. Having him back on the ice will be a big help to a top line that is already incredible. As the Bruins continue to get players back, they will continue to get better.

The return of Marchand should spark an already thriving Bruins team. The Bruins offense ranks fifth in points, and with the recent play of Tuukka Rask, Boston have the defense to match. Rask has the sixth-best save percentage in the NHL right now, and his 2.09 goals against average ranks third among goalies.

New York struggles

The Rangers have struggled recently, and it has them starting to get into the seller’s mindset before the trade deadline. The Rangers are losers in six of their last seven. They have not been able to get anything going.

The Rangers’ problems are pretty sporadic. On some nights, the offense is playing well, but the defense doesn’t get it done and vice versa. If the Rangers hope to inch closer towards playoff position against the Bruins, they are going to have to put a full game together on both sides.

They can start by patching up the defensive struggles. The Rangers are 22nd in goals against at 2.98 per game. Their power play defense has been average at best. They have the 14th ranked penalty kill unit, and that is not good for a team that is in the top half of the league in penalties per game.

Rick Nash

Rick Nash will be the topic of discussion until he gets traded. It’ll be interesting to see how hard he plays now that he knows he is potentially on his way out. Nash doesn’t seem like the type of player to do that, but you never know when someone openly knows he will be traded.

In 53 games this season, Nash has 25 points on 15 goals and 10 assists. Nash has been a member of the Rangers since the 2012-13 season and will likely be on the move within the next few weeks.

Result

I like the Bruins in this one. Their recent play has been some of the best in the NHL, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. I like them to take this one in a division rivalry game against the Rangers.

Maple Leafs vs. Predators

Pick: Maple Leafs

The Predators head to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs in what will be a matchup of defense against offense.

Nashville has the fourth best goals against average in the NHL at 2.49 goals a game. A lot of this is due to the play of goalies Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. As a team, Nashville is tied for the best save percentage in the NHL at .922.

The game changer in this matchup will be the power plays. Toronto’s power play, lead by Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau is top ten in the NHL in success rate. They are going up against the most penalized team in the league.

I think the relentless offense of the Maple Leafs will be too much for the Preds, especially if Nashville finds themselves in the box, which I think they will. That is why I am going with Toronto to take this one.

Kings vs. Oilers

Pick: Kings

The Oilers are coming off one of their best games of the season. Superstar Connor McDavid recorded five points in a 6-2 win over the top team in the NHL in Tampa.

Outside of this, the Oilers have not had much to cheer for this year. They’re in the bottom half of the league in scoring offense and defense, and their power play and penalty kill have been awful at 30th and 31st in the league.

The Kings have been trending upwards recently. Their defense has been terrific all year long, and their offense is slowly starting to get it going. I don’t think this game will be much of a contest. I believe the Oilers will be worn out by the Kings in a win for LA.

 

Featured image from ABC6

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