Tag: atlantic division

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions; Metropolitan, Atlantic and Wild Card Teams…

This may be the year the Eastern Conference is officially weaker than the Western Conference. For years the Rangers, Canadiens and Islanders were top 15 teams in the NHL, but this year the Western Conference seems to be a little tougher and tighter in terms of the playoff race.

Taking a look at the Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division it is heavily dominated by three teams the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals. It has been a major shock to the East that the Pittsburgh Penguins are a non playoff team right now as well as the Flyers being out of contention and struggling this season. Another big surprise is the Canadiens start, coming out now 35 games into the season and being in the second wild card spot and six points out from the three seed in the Atlantic.

The Atlantic division playoff teams 

The Buffalo Sabres are off to a surprising start, yet after going on their win streak, they dropped six straight and now are 3-4-3 in their last ten. Are we sure the Sabres are legitimate playoff contenders? Or will they be out of the race come March? Personally after seeing what the Sabres have done and are capable of, they can easily be a playoff team. Realistically they need to stay above .500 for the next month or so to stay in the race and when it continues to tighten up and get closer, they will pull a few games out of their back pocket and make a push. With that, I don’t think they stay #3 in the Atlantic though, the Bruins are five points behind and have yet to hit their full stride this season. If the Bruins get healthy soon, they will knock the Sabres out of three, but this means Bruins stay three and Leafs stay two it will be another Bruins vs Leafs first round match up. The Leafs are not catching the Lighting (54), the Lightning have essentially clinched first place and will have an easier first round than other teams. Out of the Atlantic I think we see Lightning (1), Leafs (2), Bruins (3), Sabres (4), Canadiens get bumped out of the playoffs by either the Penguins or Islanders. Which brings me to the second part of this article.

The weak Metropolitan playoff teams

The Metropolitan is extremely weak, of the four divisions in the NHL the Metropolitan is by far the weakest. The Capitals with 43 points lead the Metro, yet in any other division would be third in the division. The Metro is basically run by the Capitals who lead the division by just four points but I do not see the Capitals dropping out of that one spot. The Blue Jackets come in at number two (39 points) and they have been very inconsistent this season, they struggle to stay consistent and string together wins over multiple games and number three is the Islanders (38 points) who are on  three-game win streak and surprising a lot of people right now. Based off what we have in front of us right now, I would have to assume the Islanders get knocked out of three by the Penguins and top three in the Metropolitan are Capitals (1), Penguins (2), Blue Jackets (3), the Metro is so weak that the Penguins can start of the season below .500 and still be in contention for a playoff spot. Out of the Metro it will probably be Capitals (1), Penguins (2), Blue Jackets (3), Islanders (4).

Playoff prediction in the Eastern Conference: 

Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs New York Islanders (WC2) 

Washington Capitals (1) vs Buffalo Sabres (WC1) 

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (3) 

Toronto Maple Leafs (2) vs Boston Bruins (3) 

NHL Brain Dump; The Pittsburgh Penguins… St. Louis Blues struggles & Who wins the Atlantic?

This is going to need to be a weekly edition, or monthly. Just a brain dump of what the hell just went on and what is going on currently. Let’s get started. 

Penguins might be better of with an EZ Goal Backstop in net right now

The f*cking Pittsburgh Penguins and Matt Murray, what a terrible start. This Penguins start only thoroughly annoys me because I have Matt Murray on my fantasy team but still what is going on with this Penguins team. When you look at their numbers their power play is ranked 7th in the NHL (25.4), their penalty kill is ranked 15th (80.0), goals for they rank 7th (3.33), goals for total they rank 15th (60). Their offense is there, they are scoring goals but their big issue has been in between the pipes.

Matt Murray has been pulled three times in the last six starts. He has allowed 3 plus goals against in five of his seven starts. He has a 4.08 goals against and .877 save percentage. It looks like a totally different Murray. I would not be surprised with what his contract is at 3.75 million a year the Penguins may look to move him to a team that could use a rental goalie that maybe needs a change of scenery because right now Murray looks lost and it is hurting the Penguins greatly. They score 3 goals plus a game but Murray has to stop a puck once in a while. Casey DeSmith has been able to step in and aid the poor performance of Murray but too many times the damage is done and they are out of it when DeSmith gets in. The Penguins do also lack depth scoring this year as Daniel Sprong, Derek Brassard and Bryan Rust have not been great this year they do still luckily see the majority of their points come from Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. and guys like Patric Hornqvist and Jake Guentzel. I don’t know what it is going to take for this team but you can’t make the playoffs in November but you can sure lose a spot early on. Ask the Oilers and Blackhawks about that they know it all too well from last season.

St. Louis Blues secondary scoring alive? Plus Jake Allen is a cone right now.

The team right infront Pittsburgh, the St. Louis Blues the 29th ranked St. Louis Blues. Who knew this was coming? No one probably. The Blues added Tyler Bozak, David Perron, Ryan O’Reilly, Patrick Maroon and are struggling? Well for the same reason the Penguins are goaltending has been terrible. The Blues rank 11th in goals for (3.11), 9th in power play (25.0), 21st in goals for (56), 12th in penalty kill(81.0) rank 11th in goals against total (57) and 14th in goals against per game (3.17). The Blues top guys like O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko have been off to a solid start but the fall of points from O’Reilly’ 23 points to Brayden Schenn’s 10 points is a big reason the Blues are struggling also. Once and if Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Alex Steen and Patrick Maroon can ramp it up the Blues should be fine. They still have to worry about an inconsistent Jake Allen who is 5-4-3 in 13 starts, 3.51 goals against, .890 save percentage on the year. Like I said you can’t make the playoffs in November but you can lose a spot. Look the Blues play in one of the toughest division in hockey, they do not go on a tear soon, they will be playing catch up all season. Playing catch up vs teams like Dallas, Colorado, Winnipeg, Nashville and Minnesota you might as well start tanking now and give up because the Blues are already 9 points behind Minnesota and 11 behind Nashville. There is still a chance, a small one but the Blues are not looking to hot. 

Who wins the Atlantic?

Well with the new emerged Buffalo Sabres and the Bruins battling major injuries with six defenseman out, the Lightning just being a relentless force and Leafs right behind them. This Atlantic will look very different then we imagined. There’s not a team in that Atlantic division that is below .500. The last place Panthers have three games on every other team too. This division will be very very interesting because (1) Andrei Vasilevskiy is out for 4-6 weeks no way the Lightning can score 4+ every night therefore they will drop. (2) Frederick Anderson is off to a Vezina start he will slow down a bit. (3) The Bruins have yet to play their best hockey. (4) The Sabres and Canadiens are hanging on and competing every night they are not cake walk anymore. This division will be not be determined until April probably, I really really do believe the Leafs win this division and win a playoff series finally. So go to your local site and bet the Leafs to win the Atlantic division. 

NHL News: Is it to early to jump the gun on the Buffalo Sabres?

I am ready to throw off a knee-jerk reaction, the Sabres are legit. They are making the playoffs, the wild card or three seed in the Atlantic. Going to lose in the first round, get back to the drawing board. Cup Champions in 2020. Well, that escalated quickly.

Buffalo Sabres team stats

In all reality though the Sabres have looked exceptional this season. They rank FIFTH in the NHL in points right now with 24 points. They sit 18th in the NHL in goals for(55), 18th in goals against(54). Only average 2.89 goals for per game(21st), allow just 2.84 goals against per game. Have the 20th ranked power play(18.5), 9th ranked penalty kill(82.1). As you can tell by the numbers they are a middle of the pack team performing at a crazy rate. In my eyes this is a HUGE step forward for the Sabres. They allow just 2.84 goals against, they used to be one of the worst ranked teams in the league. Last year they allowed 3.39 goals per game and only scored 2.41 goals for.

It is still early in the year but the Sabres newly formed blue line of Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe, a healthy Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella and a third line of Rasmus Dahlin and Nathan Beaulieu this blue line is deep and it is because of two reasons. The addition of Dahlin and emergence of McCabe. Not to mention , Carter Huttons 2.48 goals against and the Sabres forward line one of Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart can have some credit to. The Sabres have not seen this much production from a line since maybe coach Phil Housley was on the team. 

Sabres second/third line depth

We can also mention that the Sabres have three forward lines that can score and no line is ever a liability out there. With Casey Mittelstadt, Conor Sheary, James Pominville, Kyle Okposo, Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka. The Sabres do not need to worry about line one doing all the work anymore. When you have 10 players with 6+ points and Jack Eichel is not your only guy with 20+ points on the year it makes it a lot easier to win games. 

The Sabres took two games from the best teams in the league, the Lightning Tuesday night and Winnipeg Friday night. They have Minnesota Friday night and the remaining of their November schedule looks like the Penguins, Red Wings, Flyers, Canadiens, Sharks, Lightning and Panthers. They play four road games in the remainder of November but the Sabres can very well come out of November into December with some confidence and a serious shot at the wildcard/postseason play.

Buffalo acquires Jeff Skinner; Sabres top six lining up nicely…

The Sabres had a similar offseason plan last year, they stacked up some solid defensive pieces, acquired two forwards and hoped for a better season, yet they fell short by a long shot ranking 31st in the NHL with 25 wins and 62 points.

The Sabres have this sort of persona to them that people know they can be a legitimate team but it seems like year in and year out they deal with injuries or have some issue. Last year it was Robin Lehner not rising to the occasion, Zach Bogosian missing 64 games, Ramus Ristolainen missing a few games, Jack Eichel missing 15 games, players like James Pominville falling short, Kyle Okposo still not rising to the occasion. Well this year, it seems a bit different for Buffalo they have players to replace those struggling veterans on their team now and a pretty solid line one and top nine also.

Sabres offense has high expectations with all the talent added…

Jeff Skinner Buffalo SabresWith the addition of now Jeff Skinner, who will more than likely play along Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, this could finally be the year, Eichel does not fall apart mentally and actually has someone to look forward to playing with. This could be Eichel’s 30-goal season we’ve all been waiting for! Skinner will bring a ton of speed and be a great line mate for Eichel, he has scored 30+ in his career three times and 20+ three times so he can surely put the puck in the back of the net. Also with Connor Sheary, it may help bump Okposo down or give him something to play for, with a line two looking like rookie sensation Casey Mittlestadt, Connor Sheary and Kyle Okposo the Sabres have another scoring line. With a third line of Patrick Berglund, Evan Rodrigues/Vladimir Sobotka and James Pominville there is a ton of moving pieces in this line up something the Sabres never had.

Carter Hutton will have his hands full… is he ready? 

Carter Hutton Buffalo SabresA lot of the pressure will be on the offense to produce but the Sabres will need a full and healthy season out of Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella, these three combined last year for 63 points. Hopefully the addition of Swedish star Rasmus Dahlin will really push this defense in a new direction. A lot will come on the shoulders of Carter Hutton though, the Sabres newly acquired goaltender will have high expectations heading into this year. With the addition of Mittlestadt, Dahlin and Skinner the Sabres are hoping for a MUCH better season than last. Hutton will have his hands full next season with an easy 50 plus starts coming his way. After a 26 start season Hutton will be looking at a lot more work in Buffalo, to say the goalie cannot do it is one thing but we have to assume Hutton may not be the goaltender many are expecting him to be.

Predictions? 

If Ottawa continues down this direction and Montreal does not get any better the Sabres could possibly make a 6th maybe even 5th place finish for the year. I could easily see the Sabres with 75 points, a couple of games under .500. The playoffs may not be in reach yet due to Toronto, Boston and Tampa Bay still being much better than Buffalo but things are on the up let’s say this, Buffalo will make the playoffs by 2020.

Team Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs; Addition of Tavares enough for Toronto to take the next step?

The Leafs for two years in a row punched their ticket tot he playoffs. The Leafs have not made the playoffs in back to back seasons since 2002-2004, before the Leafs drafted Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, acquired Frederick Anderson they have been known to be the laughing stock of this Atlantic division. Missing the playoffs 10 out of 11 seasons prior to 2016-17 the Leafs did not have much going for them.

Well, with a 4th place Atlantic division finish in 2016-17 and a recent 3rd place finish last season the Leafs are surely on their way up. The Leafs are coming off a 49 win and 105 point season, a lot of their success has been built on their forward depth and Frederick Anderson playing unbelievable minutes. And as we all know with the recent forward signing in John Tavares a lot of Leaf fans and NHL fans believe the Leafs have what it take to make that next step.

In the offseason due to the signing of John Tavares and his 77 million dollar deal the Leafs have parted ways with veteran forward Leo Komarov, Tyler Bozak, James Van Reimsydk and defenseman Roman Polak. While adding Tyler Ennis and Jordan Subban, the Leafs sure did give up a good amount to make sure Tavares could come back home. But with the loss of Komarov, Bozak and JVR are the Leafs going to be able to supplement their absence with the presence of John Tavares?

Leafs front end is locked and loaded for a “different” season…

Toronto Maple Leafs Marner and MatthewsWith a line up consisting of Nylander, Matthews and Patrick Marleau they have a very solid and well known first line. If Marleau and Matthews can stay healthy the Leafs will be in good shape. Signing back Nylander is the problem as of now. Now, with a second line of Tavares, Zach Hyman and Marner the Leafs need these two young guns alongside Tavares to help aid the superstar center and really prove their worth in the NHL. Marner has to stay consistent. Last year he went on a small skid, but still was able to tally 69 points In 82 games, we have to assume that playing with Tavares will help keep the young forward on a solid path. Hyman tallied 40 points last season with 15 goals. With Tavares now in the middle of these two the Leafs have a very good and interchangeable 1, 2 punch. The third line with Nazem Kadri, Connor Brown and Kasperi Kapanen the Leafs again not only have a solid shut down line but a line can be of use on the offensive side. 

The Leafs have a great range of ages in the locker room a good mix of young guys, seasoned veterans and also a superstar with 9 years experience now too. The only problem many wonder about is the Leafs defense.

The big question mark for the Leafs: Is their back end capable of a Stanley Cup push?

Morgan Rielly Maple LeafsOn the back end the Leafs have Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey. Sure, Hainsey is 37-years-old but he has played in a consist 80 plus games 4 of the last 5 seasons and a 37-year-old who sees d-pairing one minutes does a fine job at it too. He tallied 23 points last season the most he has had since 2009-10. Reilly as we know has questions about being a number one defenseman but he does a great job on the power play and also logs major minutes on top 52 points. Rielly is coming off his best year and it will for sure not slow down with this new wave of confidence the Leafs have. Throw in Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaistev, the Leafs line two compares to many other line twos. Zaistev is young sure and has only played two full seasons but in his first year he logged 36 points and last season in 60 games he tallied 13 points. Zaitsev has some concerns but all they need from him is a solid 17 plus minutes a game to shut down opposing players. Gardiner does a great job on the second power play unit and coming off his best year ad 52 point season will just like Reilly show no signs of slowing down. Connor Carrick and Travis Dermott are young and anxious they want to make a name for themselves and I think these two logging 13-14 minutes a game on the third line is nothing they can’t handle. We saw bright spots in both of them last year and the Leafs back end gets extremely undervalued. One reason they can surely supplement a lacking third line d-pairing is because of goaltender Frederick Anderson. Last season Anderson 66 games winning 38 of them with a 2.8 GAA and .918 save percentage. This is Andersons second year logging 66 starts he is more than capable of getting the job done the only concern is his playoff performance as he has shown to dwell in the postseason. If Anderson can take that next step and fix his postseason play the Leafs have what it takes.

Predictions?

I think with Tampa and Boston still a little better and more rounded then the Leafs they won’t edge them out. I could see a 2nd place finish out of Toronto for sure but won’t be surprised to see a 3rd place 102-105 point season again. They will be back in the playoffs and I think this is the year they win their first playoff series in 15 years.

 

Team Preview: Are the Tampa Bay Lightning ready to finally close on Cup final…

The Lightning had yet another successful season despite their 2016-17 missed playoff year and 5th place Atlantic division finish. The Lightning bounced back for a 1st place divisional finish and 3rd place NHL finish. Coming off a 54 win and 113 point season the Lightning, again failed to capitalize on the ultimate goal though. The Stanley Cup. This was the Lightning’s 3rd conference final loss in the last 8 years and fifth time failing to capitalize on a remarkable regular season in the last eight years.

Many times we have seen the Lightning miss their goal due to some injuries, like Steven Stamkos in the 2015-16 Cup run who many thought was the Lightning’s year and I am sure if you ask many fans around the league if Stamkos was healthy during that run it may have turned out differently for Tampa Bay.

Lightning offense able to lead Tampa to 1st place Atlantic finish again…

Heading into the 2018-19 year the Lighting are without Chris Kunitz and defenseman Andrej Sustr, nothing to really throw your arms in the air over as most of there core guys are still around and their young talent is still there. The Lightning have the Atlantic division at the palm of their hands, having to deal with Boston and Toronto, the Lightning should still be a sure favorite for the playoffs and another deep run.

Tampa Bay Lightning 2018-19 previewWith a line up of JT Miller, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov on line one, off the bat you are looking at a top 10 first line pairing. If Miller can be consistent and continue to feed off Stamkos and Kucherov he is looking at an easy 60 plus point year. In Millers 19 games with Tampa Bay he tallied 18 points and in the playoffs he scored 8 points in 17 games. On line two the Lightning have Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson, Point and Johnson combining for 106 points is already enough to supplement a solid second line, throw in Palat’s 35 points in 56 games, a player who can easily be a 50 point guy, the Lightning have a top 5 ranked second line in the league. Now a third line lacking some center depth with Anthony Cirelli but still with Alex Killron and Yanni Gourde the Lightning have three scoring lines right there.

They will be expecting some big numbers from Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde again as the two are coming off remarkable years, which with their production was a main reason the Lightning were so consistent throughout the year. This will be a big test for 3rd round 2015 draft pick Cirelli to step into the mix and secure his third line spot. In 18 games last year he tallied 11 points and in the playoffs he managed to make little bit of noise with 3 points.

Lightning need McDonagh to make a big step next season…

Tampa Bay Lighting Ryan McDonaghOn defenseman the Lightning have a Norris winning defenseman now in Victor Hedman, proving to be one of the most versatile and consistent defenseman in the NHL. Hedman is a sure fire 60 plus points year in and year out. The next step is getting Ryan McDonagh to the next level, and capable of bringing what the Lightning thought they were going to get when he first came over. McDonagh tallied 3 points in 14 games last year with Tampa and is coming off one of his worst years (29 points) since he emerged in the league. McDonagh when healthy is capable of 40 plus points but if he cannot stay healthy or find his groove on this Tampa Bay team it will cause some concern for Tampa fans and leave the Lightning missing that “one” piece they need to secure a Stanley Cup. Along with the meat and potatoes guys in the league Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman, two guys who you know what you are going to get from them and nothing more. Two solid defensive defenseman but as Girardi continues to age as well as Stralman this Tampa Bay defense has some concerns. Luckily with Vezina nominee goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy the Lightning have a sure number one goaltender, with Vasilevskiy coming off a 44 win season posting a 2.62 GAA and .920 save percentage with 8 shutouts the Lightning better hope he can continue to log 60 plus starts a year at a consistent rate. Last year was Vasilevskiy’s second full year as a starter but from 2016-17 to 2017-18 his minutes increased from 1,480 to 2,075 minutes a 595 minute difference his starting time increased from 47 games to 64 games a 17 game difference, point of the story is, he has seen a steady increase in numbers and when this happens we all know what occurs in the long run…

Predictions? 

I think the Lightning edge out the Bruins for the top spot and hold off the Leafs as well, they finish around the same point mark and win wise, perhaps a 112 point divisional win. The only concern with the Lightning here is if they face some injuries and go on a skid they have two of the best teams in the NHL right on their tail ready to take over the division. Still I see a division win from the Lightning, but perhaps that next step is not next season as they will fall short of the ultimate goal once again.

 

 

Mike Hoffman sent San Jose later flipped to Florida for three draft picks

Mike Hoffman has officially left Ottawa and spent a BRIEF moment in San Jose as he was later(45 minutes later) flipped to Florida for three draft picks.

The original deal was between San Jose and Ottawa. Ottawa gave the Sharks Hoffman and Cody Donaghey and a 2020 5th round pick for Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman and a 2020 6th round pick. Then Hoffman was later flipped to the Florida Panthers for a 2nd, 4th and 5th round pick while Florida also received a 7th round pick.

Ok, so Hoffman is now in Florida. In the same division as the Senators and paired with Aleksander Bakrov, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjustad, which means the Panthers now have six 20 plus goal scorers on their roster. Once there goaltending situation is settled, and what this team did towards the end of the year. They are immediate contenders.

Florida Panthers projected lines: 

Dadonov-Barkov-Hoffman 

Huberdeau-Trocheck-Bgujstad

Vatrano-Malgin-McGinn 

Brickley-MacKenzie-Sceviour

Yandle-Ekblad 

Matheson-Pysk

Weegar-Mccoshen