Tag: central division

Have the wheels fell off the wagon in Minnesota

If you think being a Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Flyers, Canucks fan is tough think about what the state of hockey and their fans feel like every time the Wild come out flying and fall short of their goal.

It has been a rough two weeks for Minnesota especially coming off a 7-2 loss to Edmonton Friday night and falling to now 5th in Central division. The Wild started out the season on a high note, winning games and taking pride in their defensively structure. Now, the last ten have not been in the Wild’s favor, the once top-two Central team is now fifth in the Central, 9th in the conference and 16th in the league.

Minnesota’s depth scoring

They are 3-7-0 in their last ten games and just +1 in terms of goal differential. They are clearly struggling on both sides of the puck, but was the Wild’s start a fluke? We all know the Central will be dominated by Winnipeg and Nashville but someone needs that three spot and a lot fans figured the Wild could be the next team up. The Wild’s offense has been off to a mediocre start, they are seeing production from a select few guys but not on a consistent basis. The Wild’s leading scorer is Mikael Granlund (11G, 17A) next up is Zach Praise (13G, 11A), these are players they expect to produce daily. What has hurt the Wild recently is players who they expect to produce not living up to expectations. For example the 30-goal scorer Jason Zucker is off to a slow start with 9 goals and 9 assists, Charlie Coyle has 4 goals and 9 assists, Nino Niederreiter has 4 goals and 10 assists, Jared Spurgeon even to has not been all that impactful with just 3 goals and 12 assists.

You are probably thinking for a defenseman 15 points is good, or 9 goals is solid for a forward, but most of these points came when the Wild were winning and things were going right for the team. When things have gone south so have these players production. Over the last ten games, Coyle has two points (1G, 1A), Zucker has four points (3G, 1A), Niederreiter has four points (2G, 2A), Spurgeon has five points (5A) these are players that while they may not be top three forwards around the NHL they still need to find a way to provide some much needed depth scoring for the Wild. Despite the Wild’s lack of goal scoring as they have scored 24 goals in their last ten games compared to the 27 goals for they scored in their previous eight games before they went on this skid. The Wild have allowed 35 goals against.

Can the Wild turn it around with their upcoming home stretch?

So the question is have the wheels fell off the wagon in Minnesota? Will be a contender in the Central or is there only hope a wild card spot? They have 5 home games coming up in the next two weeks (MTL, CGY, SJS, FLA, DAL) with three road games (PIT, WPG, CHI) and end the month of December with a home game vs Pittsburgh. It may still be early in the season but every point counts and the Wild need to make the most of these four straight home games coming up.

NHL News; Can the Canucks, Oilers and Islanders continue their success?

Not many expected the standings to look the way they do right now. Besides the Predators, Lightning and Maple Leafs being a top the standings, the rest of the top-10 has some unexpected teams in it.

(6) Vancouver Canucks: 9-6-0; 18 points

  • What has been the Canucks reason for success? Well we know the answer is obvious they are getting supplemental scoring along with decent goaltending. The two biggest reasons the Canucks have struggled for so long is due to not enough depth scoring and inconsistent goaltending. Now, through 15 games the Canucks are ranked 9th in goals for (46) and 6th in goals against (50) but they also rank 19th in goals for per game (3.07), 16th in power play percentage (20.4) and 29th in shots on goal per game (26.9). The Canucks shoot the puck on net the least among all teams besides three, they have a decent power play percentage, rank in the middle to low end of the pack in terms of goals for per game. Along with the fact they are a team that allows a ton of goals against, essentially the only way the Canucks continue this performance is if Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Jake Virtanen can continue on this reign of doing all the heavy lifting for Vancouver. Along with the fact Jacob Markstrom and Andres Nilsson can continue to be a solid two-goalie tandem. Right now the Canucks are performing at an extremely unbelievable rate that is destined to fall apart soon. They have 5 players who do all the offensive work for them, with Boeser, Horvat 11 points and Pettersson’s 15 points the next guy up is Markus Granlund with 6 points. It will be tough for Vancouver to continue down this path, I personally do not see this being sustained all year.

(7) Edmonton Oilers: 8-4-1; 17 points

  • After a disappointing 2017-18 season the Oilers made it clear in the offseason they
    Edmonton Oilers 2018-19
    Ryan Nugent Hopkins able to continue his hot start? RNH has 14 points in 13 games thus far…

    were not going to let that happen again. Although they did not acquire many players to their team, they have come out the gate flying looking like a team on a mission. Of course their success comes from the one and only Connor McDavid. McDavid has 21 points in 13 games, 9 goals and 12 assists, after McDavid comes Leon Draisaitl’s 14 points in 13 games and Ryan Nugent Hopkins(RNH) 14 points in 13 games. Aside from McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH the Oilers next line of production is Tobias Rieder with 7 points(7 assists), Alex Chiasson and Oscar Klefbom who also have 6 points(6 assists) and Drake Caggiula who has 5 points(5 goals). The Oilers have very little secondary scoring after McDavid and Draisaitl which is a big concern and was a big issue for them last season. On top of that the Oilers rank 20th in goals for(40) but also 8th in goals against(34), they average just above 3 goals a game while allowing just under 3 goals against. The Oilers are like many teams seeing great production from three players right now, it is early and will these guys continue? We can all guarantee McDavid will, Draisaitl is good for 80 points, can Ryan Nugent Hopkins come out of his shell and break out? Potentially he can but it is not a guarantee obviously. Other than that Cam Talbot will need to pick up his play a tad and find a way to bring back his 2016-17 self to help the Oilers continue on this trend. Personally I see this as a possibility, I see the Oilers falling off around the All-Star break though, bubble playoff team.

(8) New York Islanders: 8-4-1; 17 points

  • As we all know the big question for the Islanders coming into the year was what are they going to be able to do without John Tavares? Well it seems they have answered that question pretty nicely through the first 13 games. The Islanders have seen distribution of production across the board leading the team is Josh Bailey with 15 points, then captain Anders Lee with 13 points, sophomore Matt Barzal with 12 points, Brock Nelson with 9 points, three guys with 7 points and two guys with 6 points. They rank 16th in the goals for category among the league with 41 goals and have the second lowest goal against among all NHL teams. They average around 3.15 goals for and 2.31 goals against, their power play is ranked 13th (22.5). On top of it all their goaltending has been much better, Thomas Greiss has a 1.85 goals against in 6 games started and a .944 save percentage along with Robin Lehner’s 2.45 goals against in 7 games started and .928 save percentage. The Islanders are certainly the opposite of what they were last year, they are actually playing defense, getting support from their goalies and not blowing leads. Many may overlook the Islanders with no John Tavares but it seems as if the players they have now are out to prove something. Plus with a tough Metropolitan division the Islanders can go one of two ways this season middle of the pack or a playoff team. The Islanders are a team that will compete with their divisional opponents and raise their level of play when it comes to other Metropolitan/Atlantic division teams. It is now staying consistent for the Islanders all year round, not just three months. I see the Islanders sustaining this and being a big surprise to many.

NHL: Early Playoff Picture, Which teams are the favorite to fall off?

Metropolitan Division:

New Jersey Devils(11-5-3)

Columbus Blue Jackets(12-7-1)

Pittsburgh Penguins(11-8-3)

Atlantic Division: 

Tampa Bay Lightning(15-3-2)

Toronto Maple Leafs(14-7-0

Detroit Red Wings(10-8-3)

Wild Card: New York Islanders(1), Washington Capitals(2)

Central Division:

St. Louis Blues(15-5-1)

Winnipeg Jets(12-4-3)

Nashville Predators(11-6-2)

Pacific Division: 

Los Angeles Kings(12-7-2)

Vegas Golden Knights(12-6-1)

Calgary Flames(11-8-0)

Wild Card: Chicago Blackhawks(1), Colorado Avalanche(2)

Ok, now we are 22 games into the season and some teams have remained atop their division since the start of the season. When it comes to playoff talk this early, it should be considered a crime, therefore I should be arrested and thrown in jail. But, I don’t care, this was of interest to me and I feel like this is a decent time to start throwing around some playoff prediction talk.

The Metropolitan will be shaken up a bit and I think we will see five teams come from that division, but as far as the top three go, at this moment the top three is weird and by no means do I see the Devils atop that division much longer, they are tied with the Blue Jackets and Penguins and currently have four teams within three points or less of them. The Devils will fall off, Islanders move into three, Rangers take the second wild-card spot.

Atlantic, yes Tampa Bay is pretty much set in stone to win that division, Toronto is a heavy favorite for second and the third spot is the next team up who will make the playoffs. If you don’t get a top three spot in the Atlantic, you’re not making the playoffs. And the team I think who takes that three spot is Ottawa. They are the most balanced team up and down the line up compared to Detroit and Boston.

Central, again St. Louis is going to be a top three team in this division, very well could fall off the top spot as they are only four points ahead of the Jets. I think this top three is what we will see all season, just some different teams in some different positions.

Pacific, no clue, holy crap. One thing I am sure of though is that Vegas won’t be a wildcard or top three team come January. I could very well see the Flames winning that division, Kings falling to three spot and Anaheim jumping to the two spot.  As far as wild card goes for this conference, I am thinking Chicago will be the first wild-card spot, if not expect major changes in Chicago. The second will fall to Edmonton, going out on a limb but this team needs to wake up and start stringing together a win streak. Talbot will have to be much better, which I think he will and this team will turn there season around.

My Prediction:

Eastern Conference:

  • Tampa Bay Lightning(1st Atlantic)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs(2nd Atlantic)
  • Ottawa Senators(3rd Atlantic)
  • Columbus Blue Jackets(1st Atlantic)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins(2nd Atlantic)
  • New York Islanders(3rd Atlantic)
  • Wild Card: Washington Capitals, New York Rangers

Western Conference: 

  • Winnipeg Jets(1st Central)
  • St. Louis Blues(2ns Central)
  • Nashville Predators(3rd Central)
  • Calgary Flames(1st Pacific)
  • Anaheim Ducks(2nd Pacific)
  • Los Angeles Kings(3rd Pacific)
  • Wild Card: Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers

 

NHL: Winnipeg Jets Preview, Scheifele Laine Impact, Sturdy Blueline

Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg finished 5th in the division a season ago, and they remained in the playoff race for pretty much the entire year. People may not realize, but points-wise, they finished 9th in the Western Conference, making them the first team out. Winnipeg failed to string together a series of wins that could ultimately keep them close to a playoff spot. The biggest thing for this team will be consistency because we saw flashes of what they can be last season.

Impact of Laine & Scheifele 

If Winnipeg is going to go anywhere, they’re going to need Patrik Laine to come back healthy and with as much pop as he had in his rookie campaign. You can make a legitimate case that Laine could have won the Calder, and that’s saying a lot considering the season that Auston Matthews had. Laine at 19 years old already has one of Mark-Scheifele-Winnipeg-Jets-featuredthe deadliest shots in the league. There was certainly some hype surrounding Laine going into his rookie year, and he sure lived up to it. Mark Scheifele is a center that Laine will probably be playing with a lot this year. Scheifele is arguably the most underrated player in the league, he provides high-level playmaking ability. His 82 points were good enough for 7th in the entire league. It is time to start talking more about this guy! Scheifele will be working most of the year with Laine and Blake Wheeler. Wheeler, the team captain, has scored 26+ goals in 4 straight years. If these 3 guys play together, it could be one of the top lines in the league this season. In terms of depth, another guy that broke out last season on forward was Nikolaj Ehlers, who quietly had 64 points last season.

Efficient Blueline 

Moving to the Blue Line, Winnipeg will be led by Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba. Byfuglien is a force that no one wants to mess with, and you can’t avoid him because he led the league in average time on ice per game. Trouba is a steady Defenseman who plays a complete game. Despite trade rumors more most of the last season, Trouba is back and ready to spend the season in Winnipeg. In goal, the team has moved in a different direction by signing UFA Steve Mason. I still expect Connor Hellebuyck to get plenty of time between the pipes, but expect Winnipeg to ride the hot hand during the year.

What to watch for: Overall Forward Depth. I’m a little concerned with the depth, I wonder if it’ll cause coach Paul Maurice to break up that top line.

Breakout Player: Kyle Connor. This will be Connor’s first full season in the NHL, the 20-year-old has tremendous talent, and I expect him to break out and to catch some eyes around the league early.

Prediction: 6th in Central

NHL: St. Louis Blues Preview, Tarasenko Scoring, Parayko Improved Role

St. Louis Blues:

The Blues are a team that continues to look for answers that will take them to next step. A consistent playoff team for years now, St. Louis has struggled to win the big game in the playoffs that would bring them to where they want to go. St. Louis took a step back this year getting knocked out in Round 2, after making it to The Western Conference Final the prior year. With the season in question, St. Louis opted to make a coaching change mid-year, removing Ken Hitchcock and promoting Mike Yeo to Head Coach. Yeo provided an instant spark as St. Louis went on a good run and went into the playoffs on a high note (no pun intended).

Questionable D-Core?

Knowing the team likely wouldn’t resign him in the offseason, the team dealt star Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington at the trade deadline. Despite this, St. Louis was able to stay the course and make the playoffs. With Shattenkirk’s departure, this gave young Defenseman Colton Parayko more opportunity to play big minutes, including the Power Play. This season I expect to see even more of Parayko, fresh off his new five-year contract. Also eating up big minutes on Defense is team captain Alex Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo plays in all situations and was 8th in the league last season in average time on ice per game. With Jay Bouwmeester starting the year injured, St. Louis will need some guys to step up and play more minutes if this D core is going to hold up in this high-powered Central division.

Tarasenko & Company

Switching gears to St. Louis’s offense, they are led by their Russian sniper Vladi Tarasenko. Tarasenko finished 5 goals off the league lead with 39. Year in and year out, Screenshot 2017-08-29 at 3.18.27 PMhe has proven that he can consistently put the puck in the net. Tarasenko has started to take on more of a leadership role and has worked hard to improve his overall two-way game. To help Tarasenko on the goal scoring front, St. Louis acquired Brayden Schenn in the offseason from Philadelphia in exchange for Jori Lehtera. Schenn has scored 20+ goals in 3 of the last 4 seasons, and it can be argued that the 26-year-old is now entering the prime of his career. Two more forwards that I want to highlight are #17 and #71. #17 Jaden Schwartz is not a big forward, but he battles for any puck and has tremendous vision. Having him back healthy for the majority of last season helped St. Louis, and I expect him to play sometime this year with Tarasenko. #71 Vladimir Sobotka is back, and here to make a difference in St. Louis’ lineup. Having left to go play in the KHL for 3 seasons, Sobotka is a highly skilled guy that provides another dynamic look to this lineup. He returned last season in the playoffs and his presence was felt right away. In net, Jake Allen took big steps last year in terms of playing more consistent. When St. Louis let Brian Elliott go, they were going all in on Allen, and he has definitely shown that he can be the guy. Look for Allen to build off his solid season last year.

What to watch for: Who steps in in the D Core? This will be the first full year without Shattenkirk, and Bouwmeester is currently on the shelf, there are top 4 minutes that need to be eaten up. Watch for Joel Edmundson to assume a larger role.

Breakout Player: Ivan Barbashev. This will be his first full NHL season, the former 33rd overall pick has shown tremendous skill in juniors and into the AHL, he will be a crucial part of St. Louis’ forward depth, and I think he gets a good look on the Power Play.

Prediction: 5th place Central

NHL Preview: Colorado Avalanche 2017-18, Youth To Watch, Barrie & Johnson Health

Colorado Avalanche(22-56-4:7th Central):

By no means was the worst team in the NHL saved for last on purpose, out of the 31 teams I’ve covered this offseason oddly enough it happened that way and seemed to work out perfectly because the Avalanche will be the exact same team, possibly a little better than last season. After rumblings of Matt Duchene being traded for much of last season and all of the offseason, he has yet to go, along with Gabriel Landeskog. Duchene will more than likely be gone sometime soon though and possibly Landeskog as well. Either way, they are both reporting for camp and will be an Avalanche to start the season(unless something happens if so, I’ll be sure to report on it!). Aside from those two the Avalanche still have Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Jost, Mikko Rantanen, Colin Wilson and Sven Andrighetto on the front end, on the back end the Av’s have Eric Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Nikita Zadorov as of now. Plus Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier the Av’s roster really does not look terrible on paper, but they are extremely young and inexperienced. Aside from being a young team they really do not have a reliable #1 goalie and only two possibly three defensemen. Give this team a few years and they will prosper. As I forgot to mention though the Avs will probably receive a couple picks and some young guys for Duchene and Landeskog, therefore making this team really inexperienced.

The Central is too competitive right now and so is the Western Conference, just count the Av’s out now. If you’re a gambling man do not put your fortune on the Av’s to win more than 30 games next season. They have a tough schedule, a young team, no identity and some question marks in goaltending. Despite the Av’s blunders last season and to come next season there will still be some exciting hockey to watch in Colorado, some key guys to look out for next year are…

screenshot-2017-08-31-at-5-08-07-pm.png

Tyson Jost: Obviously. 10th overall in the 2016 draft will draw some attraction to one. Jost appeared in the final six games for Colorado last season and recorded 1 goal, that’s a start and much more to follow. Jost is goal scorer through and through, there’s really no other way to describe the 5”11 forward, he seems to see the ice well and envision plays well, despite scoring goals he’ll do his fair in the corners and win loose puck battles. Jost is an easy top six forward in the making, at the right moment and right team he can see some top three forward talk later in his career as well. Jost played one season at the University of North Dakota where he tallied 35 points, 16 goals in 33 games. Before that Jost was the “C” of team Canada’s U18 in the World Juniors in 2015-16, Jost scored 6 goals and 15 points in 7 games. WJC was where many recognized Jost and his goal scoring ability. Despite the Av’s mishaps next season Jost will be an exciting player to watch grow next season and be the highlight of this Av’s team for years to come.

Sven Andrighetto: As of now it looks like Andrighetto will be paired with Duchene and MacKinnon to start the season, the former Canadien served three seasons in Montreal prior to last season, Sven has yet to play a full 82 games. Andrighetto has had a slow start to his career being passed in the 2013 draft a lot and being tossed up and down line ups he has yet to make a name for himself. Sven holds a ton of speed and talent, paired with Duchene and MacKinnon, will help this 25-year-old forward’s game soar to the next level. Given full time and a some solid linemates Sven will see a breakout season for himself, it would be possible to see Andrighetto produce 35 points, given some power play time and top six forward minutes Sven will be given all the tools to excel next season.

Mikko Rantanen: Rantanen saw full time last year and despite the Av’s disappointing season the 20-year-old forward showed some signs of progression. Rantanen had 38 points and 20 goals in 75 games last season. Rantanen tore it up in the AHL in 2015-16 scoring 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games. Rantanen is a big forward with a ton of playmaking and scoring ability, he has that NHL-ready hockey sense and flawless skating ability, given the chance to use his size and presence a bit more, Rantanen will excel at the NHL level. It’s tough to say where Rantanen will end up next season right now he’ll be a bottom six forward but easily will crack the top six come later in the year. Rantanen will be an exciting player to watch grow and excel in the Colorado organization.

Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson: One of the two go down, the Avalanche’s defense is screwed, royally. Johnson missed 36 games and Barrie has seen his fair share of injuries and missing time. When the two are healthy they are exciting to watch, Barrie has the ability to be a top 20 defenseman given some consistent production and Johnson stays healthy he is a solid top four defenseman on any team. The Avalanche have more forward prospects than defenseman, but these two are the two defenseman to keep an eye on in the regular season.

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NHL Preview: Dallas Stars 2017-18, John Klingberg Elite?, Hanzal Depth, Youth Defenseman

Dallas Stars(34-37-11: 6th Central):

Dallas found themselves outside the postseason race last season in which was one of the more shocking things to happen in the NHL. After Dallas shifted its defensive focus towards developing their youth plus the two goalie tandem failing miserably yet again, Dallas faced a disappointing 2016-17 season. John Klingberg faced some struggles last season, Dallas could not find a starting goalie and they slowly fell off the map as the year went on. Despite Dallas blunder of a season, Tyler Seguin still managed to tally 72 points in 82 games and Jamie Benn tallied 69 in 77 games. Luckily the Stars have Benn-Seguin still in tact firing at all angles, add on some major upgrades this offseason the Stars are looking to be a postseason team come May. With the addition of Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal, it helps make this Dallas team deeper and even more dangerous on the front end. Between Radulov, Seguin, Benn they three combined for 195 points last season, add in Jason Spezza, Hanzal on the other line the Stars top six, looks pretty good right now. 

With the Stars offseason addition of Marc Methot helps add some depth and sturdiness to the Stars defense but Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns have a lot of ground to makeup, the two didn’t even crack 20 points in their 65 plus games played last season. The Stars defense is still a question mark right now. But with Ben Bishop in net, the Stars defense can afford to make a few mistakes this season as Bishop will be returning to #1 goalie duties, looking to help this team make a postseason run.

The Central is real close right now, go on a losing streak early and teams may find themselves in a hole tough to climb out of. The Stars should be much more consistent next season with a high powered offense, strong goaltender and a few key pieces on defense. Some players for the Stars that will be seeing some extra attention and will need to produce next season are…

Screenshot 2017-07-17 at 5.23.03 PM

John Klingberg: Is Klingberg a top 20 defenseman? After last season he proved not to be, he’s right on the cusp of being in that conversation. After hitting a rough patch in the middle of the year and only producing 48 points and 17 power play points the Stars will need more from Klingberg. Klingberg is the real only difference making defensemen on the Stars line up if he’s struggling their whole defense will be struggling, the Stars need Klingberg to produce consist numbers and lead the power play effectively. Klingberg has the tools and talent to be an elite defenseman, with some adjustments to his defensive game and learning to effectively play a two-way game will help others see the value in this 25-year-old defenseman. Klingberg will be looked upon in Dallas to lead this defense into the postseason and produce big numbers to be considered an elite defenseman.

Martin Hanzal: Hanzal failed miserably in Minnesota he scored 4 goals in 20 games and a -2 plus/minus, Hanzal all together last year only had 39 points in 71 games. As the 30-year-old center was brought into Dallas to help with some depth at the center position and be a body in front of the net on the powerplay, Hanzal will have some expectations to live up to in Dallas. Hanzal will more than likely be paired with Jason Spezza and Mattias Janmark or any other bottom six that can crack the top six. But paired with Spezza, Hanzal should find the back of the net more and also see his production total increase a slight amount, Spezza is a great puck moving power forward who is a sure 30 assist player each year, paired with Hanzel’s size and shot, the two should work nicely together. Hanzal has been a top six guy his whole career, but paired with some other great talent Hanzal should look to excel next year and that’s what the Stars hope to see in the veteran forward.

Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns, Julius Honka: Three for one special here, I couldn’t pick out just one of them. Anyways these three are the question marks on Dallas’s defense, we saw Lindell produce 18 points in 73 games, Johns had 10 points in 61 games and Honka played in just 16 games last season. Two of three will be in the top four of Dallas defense, and if Dallas wants to be a postseason team these three need to step up and show some signs of reliability and capability. More than likely Lindell will be a full-time guy next season and Johns and Honka may see some healthy scratches to let the other two defenseman play. Lindell has shown the most signs of progression and is probably the most talented. Johns is 25-years-old still looking to make a name for himself in the NHL, Honka is still 21-years-old and with little NHL experience, we can see Honka playing more time as well next season. Furthermore, though these three need to help out and do their fair share in the lineup, 20 points will not cut it, compared to other top four defenseman that’s not good enough. Expect to see two of three playing more minutes and stepping up more for Dallas.

Ben Bishop: I’ve spoken about Bishop before, but he has proven his starting ability in Tampa Bay and his sturdiness in the playoffs as well. There’s really no doubt with Bishop here, but after a few injuries and seeing less time recently, is Bishop going to be healthy for a full season and if so, can he do it once more? It’s fair to question but I think on a team with this kind of offense and a defense that can hold off some top guys for the most part and Bishop having the confidence back in him, he’ll be a top 10 goalie once again. Bishop has the size and ability to be himself once again, on a team like Dallas he should pan out well. Aside from all that though, Bishop will be asked to do a lot in Dallas as they have not had a legit starter in net for quite some time now, Bishop is the guy many are looking to, to help shut the door on this topic of Dallas’s goalie issues.