Tag: minnesota wild

The Wild Card Race In The Western Conference Is A Joke

I tried to make this sound as polite as possible but what a disaster this Western Conference wild card race has been. It goes to show one of the many reasons that the last three Stanley Cup winners has come from the Eastern Conference but also this could mean that maybe these teams a top the Western Conference are not that good. But back to the main point of this article.

How can a conference have a wild card race like this, a team that is basically below .500 is in the run for the wild card right now. A team that was once 16 points out of a spot is in the run for a wild card and in the last wild card spot (Blues). I am just completely blown away by the fact that at this point in the season, 52 games in 63 percent of the season played we still have no idea what is going to happen in the Western Conference wild card.

The current wild card layout is as follows: 

Minnesota Wild (26-23-5) 57 points (1st wild card spot)

St. Louis Blues (25-22-5) 55 points (2nd wild card spot)

Vancouver Canucks (24-24-7) 55 points

Colorado Avalanche (22-22-9) 53 points

Edmonton Oilers (24-25-5) 53 points

Chicago Blackhawks (22-24-9) 53 points

The fact the Edmonton Oilers are two points out of a wild card spot is embarrassing, they have won 6 of their last 15 games a record of 6-9 in the last 15 makes you a playoff team I guess now.

The Canucks who have won 4 of their last 14 games, a 4-10 record is a playoff contending team. Just looking at this race it is a complete disaster, any team can squeak in at this point so if you are a gambling man just throw money on all six teams to make the playoffs you’ll probably walk away with some money at this point. Not to mention the Ducks who have won TWO games in their last seven and a half weeks and have been outscored 31-6 are four points out of a wild card spot. Argument closed.

The reason this race for the wild card in the West irks me a little is because any of these teams that get into the first round are going to get bounced in four to five games. Which honestly just kills NHL viewership, ratings and the growth of the game in a sense. If you are not a die hard NHL fan there is not a chance in h double hockey sticks you are watching a Blues-Flames playoff matchup.

Can anyone else shed some light here? MY prediction is that the Canucks and Blues sneak into the playoffs. Or should I say those are the two teams I would like to see make it.

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NHL Around The Boards; Here Come The Penguins, The Flames year? The Devils and Wild Struggles…

This is an edition called around the boards, essentially giving you the top five headlines from the last weekend of play. This will be playoff talk, individual team talk, player talk, whatever is the most important news.

Here Come The Penguins…

First off, the Penguins, people do not look now. But, they are going to probably win the Metropolitan division, ok maybe not the Metro but the Penguins have propelled from below .500 to 18-12-6 now with 42 points and five points behind Washington. The Penguins are 7-2-1 in their last ten games and on a three-game win streak. This short break could be detrimental or monumental for the Penguins. Looking at their schedule up until the All-Star break, of their 11 remaining games they play three playoff teams, one Metropolitan division team and two Eastern Conference teams. The Penguins can very easily head into the All-Star break a top of the Metropolitan division. The Penguins are back, great.

Flames Year?

Is this Calgary’s year? The Flames have been consistently a top the Pacific division for about two months now. Even with a two-goalie tandem the Flames have made it work and a lot of it comes because of their tremendous scoring and great play of Art Ross nominee Johnny Gaudreau. The Flames are a top the Pacific by two points with one game in hand on San Jose. The Flames have won six of their last ten games and top-four team in the NHL right now. The Flames have the fourth most goals scored in the NHL (127) and score around 3.43 goals per game. Over their last week of six wins even though the Flames only out scored their opponent’s 20 to 19 of their six wins four of them they scored 5+ goals in. the Flames are coming into what everyone expected them to be. If Mike Smith can be more consistent and the Flames can continue this scoring surge they will have a nice first round opponent come April. 

There Have Been WILD Struggles 

What happened to Minnesota? This is not good news for the Wild, after starting out the year on the right foot and being one of the best teams in the NHL, the Wild have fell drastically out of a playoff spot now. They have just 37 points on the year, have dropped 6 of their last ten games and have a slim chance of even making a divisional top-three finish. The Wild are two games above .500 luckily they are still within a Wild Card spot but it has been a slow and painful slump for the Wild. They have seen very little depth scoring the Wild have seven of their top 9 forwards with 20 points or less, five with 15 points or less. Players like Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter have 12 goals or less, with just one player with 15 goals on the year the Wild have struggled greatly on the offensive side of things. I would not be surprised if Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter get moved before the deadline this year.

Put The Fork In Them…

The Devils are probably done right? The surprising playoff team from last year seem to be the complete opposite of what they were. The Devils are ranked 30th in the NHL, last in the Metropolitan division and last in the Eastern Conference. They have a -23 goal differential, have dropped five of their ten games, only picking up three wins in their last ten games. During the month of November the Devils won just three of their 15 games during that month. the Devils have been so bad this year for multiple reasons. (1) They score just 102 goals on the year (21st) while allowing 123 goals (4th). They score 2.91 goals per game while allowing 3.51 goals per game. (2) The players like Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier are not the same players as they were last year. Bratt has 13 points in 21 games (2 goals), Hischier has 23 points in 31 games (9 goals), other players though like Will Butcher have 11 points in 34 games (2 goals). Aside from Taylor Hall (37 points) and Kyle Palmieri (33 points) the next top scorer is Hischier with 23 points. Their has been no depth on the Devils line up and those role guys are just not performing like they were last season. The Devils will at least get a good draft pick because they are not turning this around anytime soon.

NHL Power Rankings: From 15th and up…

15. Columbus Blue Jackets: 43-30-9

The Metropolitan division is not as deep as it used to be. The Rangers, Hurricanes and Rangers are not contending teams anymore and the Devils while they had a great year last year are going to need a lot of fire power to repeat that season. I believe Columbus comes in at 4th in their division but middle of the pack for the year. They do not have a great team to be honest, while they have a very competent goalie and two good defenseman they are very thin on the backend. Like many teams though they have a solid group upfront, that is if Artem Panarin stays the full-year in Columbus as of right now basing of their situation it seems Panarin is starting the year with them. Making their first three lines very capable of scoring goals, with a fourth line of Sonny Milano-Riley Nash-Anthony Duclair they have a potential four scoring lines. Hopefully Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson can stay healthy, along with Josh Anderson. But aside from those three the Blue Jackets will be relying on Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alex Wennberg and Pierre-Luc Dubois to have a big year and be a focal point of this offense day in and day out. After another playoff season and falling short in the first round perhaps the Blue Jackets can come over that hump once and for all! 

14. Anaheim Ducks: 45-30-7

I think they creep into that #3 spot, essentially that 3, 4, 5 is going to be a real dogfight in the Pacific next year and with the Kings, Ducks and Flames really all relatively similar in structure and lineup depth, the Ducks team overall may be a little more balanced. Sure Corey Perry is not on-fire lately but with Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Jakub Silvferberg, Adam Henrique and a few other options on the forward end their has to be some spark in Anaheim. Their defense when healthy is a solid group of seven guys honestly, Brendan Montour, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson Hamphus Lindholm, Andrej Sustr and Luke Schenn that is a solid seven if you look at what each line will be doing. If John Gibson and Anaheim’s D can stay healthy it is a major confidence booster for the Ducks offense as well knowing you have puck moving defense it makes the forwards job easier, and looking at four puck moving d on Anaheim it can be a major positive for them. A possible third place finish or if they come out slow like they usually do, it could be a missed playoff chance for Anaheim.

13. Minnesota Wild: 43-32-7

The Wild are going to need another big year out Jason Zucker and Eric Staal without those two forward last year it would have been a different turn out for Minnesota. They have a lot of skill but not much consistency. Zach Praise you can chalk up for about 30 points if that, Mikael Granlund had that one year where he rose to the occasion hen battled injuries last year, same with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle, two young forwards that have been hovering around that same point total for quite sometime now, they are either due for a breakout year or going to continue on this path. Along with an aging and injured Ryan Suter, all you have is Jared Spurgeon and Matthew Dumba two good defenseman but it is not enough. The Wild are good, they will get away with a lot because of their offensive talent and depth but, where they lack defensive depth is their issue. Same goes for goaltending, Devan Dubnyk is solid but at 32-years-old it is not getting easier for the goalie. This may be one of the last seasons we see the Wild within the top 15, another playoff run fallen short for this team.

12. Los Angeles Kings: 43-30-9

That division is not a breeze through for L.A. as it used to be but now you have teams like Vegas, San Jose, Calgary and Anaheim this is going to be a battle for L.A. I would not be surprised if they missed the playoffs. With the Flames getting better, the Ducks staying relatively the same and the Sharks and Vegas being the power houses in this division. The Kings may fall in the 4, 5 spot if anything. But luckily they do have a great tandem on defense in Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Dion Phaneuf to accompany that Jonathan Quick the William J Jennings trophy and Vezina winner is a solid addition not to mention. Hopefully eh Kings can string some offense together they saw a bizarre year out of Dustin Brown, a big bounce back year from Anze Kopitar but with Jeff Carter aging and really only Tyler Toffloli being the other option the Kings are not super deep on the offensive side of things. We can assume Ilya Kovalchuk will come in and score 30-goals but being out of the NHL since 2011-12 is a long time, as they say one year out and in the KHL equals like seven years (technically he was gone for 42 years), all joking aside. Kovalchuk may be a good addition with Kopitar or he may not be, we do not know he has been out for quite sometime I would not be surprised if the veteran winger had around 50 points this year. Anyways, middle of the pack for the Kings is reasonable what they finished last year essentially perhaps a little worse.

11. Philadelphia Flyers: 44-28-10

They somehow got by with their goaltending last year and I don’t think anything will change in that regards. They added James Van Reimsydk a former Flyer and now current Flyer gets to play alongside Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek, not to mention their first line with Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny, they are very deep across the forward side of things. But they are very similar to Minnesota good upfront and lack depth on the back end. The Flyers saw some good things out of their young defenseman last year and with Ivan Provorov with another year under his belt, Shane Gostisbehere on the back end too these two will do a lot of the heavy lifting. But Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg showed some bright spots last year. It will be a similar run for the Flyers they will have their ups and downs but at the end of it all, they will be out in the first round.

 

 

FREE NHL Picks: March 10, 2018

Chicago Blackhawks(29-31-8) vs Boston Bruins(42-15-8)

Without a doubt go Bruins today. The game is going to be aired on NHL Network, probably going back and forth between this game and Vegas. But the Bruins are home, clearly the better team, on a five-game win streak and 7-3-0 in their last ten. Although this game may be won by the Bruins, I could see Chicago putting up somewhat of a fight, despite their terrible season, they still have a few solid pieces on their roster. This will also mark the first meeting between the two, and in years past these games always pan out to be solid matchups. The Bruins even without three top players on their roster will be fine, the Blackhawks struggle tremendously on all facets of the ice. Offensive depth scoring, defensive depth, and goaltending since Corey Crawford has been out. If there is one give me game tonight it is this one.

Montreal Canadiens(25-31-11) vs Tampa Bay Lightning(47-17-4)

I am not sure what the need of four 1 o’clock games is for but the Lightning are also the other game on at 1:00 P.M. Being that it is a divisional play and the Lightning and Canadiens have met three times prior to this, I think we can see a solid game here this afternoon. The Lightning currently hold the season series at 2-1, their last win coming in a shootout, February 24. Before that on January 4, the Canadiens won in a shootout, so these games always are close and usually a good showing. The Lightning are currently two points away from reaching the 100-point mark, so that is something to play for, but also 8-1-1 in their last ten on a four-game win streak is a whole other story in itself. The Canadiens in their last ten are 3-3-4, and two of those wins were against the same team last week. The Canadiens are without Pacrioetty, Price, and Weber. Easy choice tonight, Bolts at home going Lightning.

St. Louis Blues(35-27-5) vs Los Angeles Kings(37-25-5)

Almost identical records, but by god, talk a quick death. The Blues in just a month have fallen out of the three spot in the Central and plummeted out of a playoff spot now. They currently trail the last wild card team by four points. Which just so happen to be the Kings. The Blues I have no real answer for, they traded away a veteran got nothing in return to replace him and have struggled to see solid goaltending, scoring depth and dealing with some injuries on the backend. The Blues in their last ten are 1-7-2… ok wow, I had no idea they were that terrible. Well, even MORE of a reason to go, Kings, tonight. They are making a playoff push have two teams on their tail and have an opportunity to create some separation tonight. The Kings are coming off a big win vs Washington Thursday night. They are 7-3-0 in their last ten and I cannot see them losing today vs the Blues. Easily going Kings tonight, playoff push, season-ending soon, they need all the points they can.

Pittsburgh Penguins(39-25-4) vs Toronto Maple Leafs(39-22-7)

The Penguins are going up against another Eastern Conference juggernaut, I bet the NHL is furious they scheduled this game thinking the headline was Matthews vs Crosby but Matthews is out. Still, these two teams have a ton of talent and are on a roll since the All-Star break. The Penguins are coming off a 5-2 win over Philly, and now one point ahead of Washington for first. they are 7-3-0 in their last ten on a three-game win streak, with a relatively healthy line up(Bryan Rust out indefinitely), but still, have their top guys healthy and performing. The Leafs on the other hand dealing with Matthews being out have not been as successful but they are still inches away from the top of the leaderboards in the NHL. They are 5-3-2 in their last ten coming off two straight losses one that happened to come against a bad team, Buffalo. Big regroup game for the Leafs, but I don’t see them taking this game with the Penguins hot, going Penguins tonight.

New Jersey Devils(34-26-8) vs Nashville Predators(44-14-9)

There is no shot New Jersey takes this game tonight, at Nashville with Nashville on a 10-game winning streak, 10-0-0 in their last ten and have basically locked up the first seed in the Central division. The Predators are on an absolute roll, their offensive depth is unbelievable and the Devils are coming off a couple of bad losses, and go into Nashville where Nashville is 24-7-3. The Devils do not have it easy now or for the rest of the year. As their remaining schedule on the road is, at Vegas, Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Penguins, Lightning. It will be tough for New Jersey to get one here, they are 4-6-0 in their last ten, Columbus on their tail by one point and Florida on their tail by three points. If you are a Devils fan, I’d be concerned. Thousand-percent Predators tonight.

Other games on tonight…

Rangers vs Florida: 

Golden Knights vs Sabres: Vegas, but this will be a solid game, Buffalo has been playing some of it’s the best hockey as of late since they’ve realized they have nothing to play for. I would not be surprised if Buffalo took this honestly. 

Jets vs Flyers: Jets, too hot right now. 

Coyotes vs Avalanche: Going to be a close one, similar to Buffalo, Arizona has bought into spoilers hockey and we may see that here tonight…

Capitals vs Sharks: Capitals have dropped all of their West Coast games, three straight losses may be tough, but I could see the Capitals doing it here today. 

Wild vs Oilers: Wild. 

NHL Power Rankings UPDATED: Bruins top rankings, Flyers & Minnesota emerge in top ten

NHL Power Rankings edition number like six I think, last power rankings article was February 14, and like I said every two weeks I like to update this ranking period. See what teams can gain some momentum, some teams fall off the tracks and some teams that just say hey, we are still playing terrible don’t mind us. Also, surprise top 15 came into play here. Hate me or love me on these rankings, it’s ok.

Here is the new rankings as of Feb. 14, 2018. 

  1. Boston Bruins(+1) 
  2. Vegas Golden Knights(-1)
  3. Nashville Predators(+3)
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning(even) 
  5. Winnipeg Jets(-2) 
  6. Toronto Maple Leafs(NEW)
  7. Dallas Stars(+1)
  8. Pittsburgh Penguins(NEW)
  9. Washington Capitals(-4) 
  10. Minnesota Wild(NEW)

AND… Here is the new NHL Power Rankings as of March 2, 2018!

  1. Nashville Predators (+2) 
  2. Boston Bruins (-1) 
  3. Vegas Golden Knights (-1) 
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning (even)
  5. Toronto Maple Leafs (+1) 
  6. Winnipeg Jets (-1) 
  7. Minnesota Wild (+3) 
  8. Philadelphia Flyers (NEW) 
  9. Pittsburgh Penguins (-1) 
  10. Dallas Stars (-3) 
  11. San Jose Sharks (Hey, why not here is the top fifteen while we’re at it. )
  12. Anaheim Ducks
  13. Los Angeles Kings 
  14. Florida Panthers
  15. New Jersey Devils 

 

 

Rangers hope to end five-game skid vs Minnesota

The Rangers are coming into this game off a tough loss to Montreal, a game where they struggled 5-on-5, but the takeaway from this game was that the Rangers are making young, and inexperienced mistakes, which on the flip side is a positive sign.

The Rangers goaltender Alex Georgiev made 38-saves in his NHL debut and played pretty well for the Rangers, a defense with a ton of youth on the back end right now, sporting Rob O’Gara in his Rangers debut, Neil Poink, Tony De’Angelo, John Gilmour the young goaltender fared well in his debut with a list of inexperienced defenseman.

The Rangers struggled later in the game, they controlled much of the first period due to power play time, in which they went 1/4 on and then ran into their own penalty trouble in the second and third period which put them on their heels, with little momentum to get going. Rangers did kill all five penalties Thursday night, but allowed 41 shots and had 14 giveaways.

Well, another loss for the Rangers their eighth in ten games and fifth straight. To a bad Montreal team, and now they travel from Montreal to New York to welcome the hot road team Minnesota Wild. The Wild have taken two road games already this three-game road trip, coming off a win vs New Jersey Thursday night. Minnesota also beat the Islanders Monday night and just last week beat the Rangers at their place, the Excel Center, 3-2.

The Rangers news right now is basically all trade talk, Rick Nash got pulled from the lineup Thursday night as he is expected to be moved real soon, would not be surprised if it was later this day. As well Michael Grabner, as he was traded Thursday night to New Jersey for a 2nd round pick and Russian prospect defenseman Yegor Rykov. Last but not least Ryan McDonagh trade talks have heated up and by the time the deadline comes we can possibly see McDonagh, Nash, and more all gone.

Onto tonight vs Minnesota 

Onto tonight though the Rangers, come into this game with their sights probably not set to high, they have lost a handful of games in the recent month and have clearly made it obvious they are looking towards the future right now. Jeff Gorton and Glen Sather have made it clear they want to acquire youth, picks and start a new path to the Stanley Cup.

The Rangers and Wild meet two times all year, per usual, the Wild took the first one as we spoke earlier, and they head to Madison Square Garden for their final road game of the three-day trip. The Wild are trying to secure a playoff spot so don’t expect this team to come out sluggish or have any bus legs. They are in the first wild-card spot with 73 points, on a two-game winning streak, 6-2-2 in their last ten and 13-15-1 on the road. The Wild want to make that playoff push once again and with teams on their tail every point matters. If the Wild win tonight they have a chance to secure a third-place spot in the Central division, with that on the line, we can expect the Wild’s back end and Devan Dubynk to hold the fort down and rally the troops for another win.

Who to watch tonight?

Devan Dubynk, he is 4-3 in his last seven starts allowing 16 goals over that span. Dubynk has picked up six wins over the last month posting 2.68 goals against and .918 save percentage. He has 21 wins on the year with 2.64 goals against and .917 save percentage.

For the Wild on the offensive side of things, Wild’s forward has 3 goals, 2 assists, 14 shots on goal over the last two week. Also, Matt Dumba who has tallied 3 assists and 8 shots on goal over the last two games.

For the Rangers, Kevin Hayes as he has been the Rangers best forward and most consistent player right now scoring in back to back games and tallying eight points over seven games(4 goals, 4 assists). As well as the Rangers young defensive core as they see even more ice time and have the opportunity to make a name for themselves and be around for the future of the rebuild.

NHL Headlines 11/9

No Matthews No Problem, Is it? The Leafs have played their first game without Auston Matthews since his debut, and it went according to plan…well kinda. The Maple Leafs defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on home ice for a 2nd straight win. The problem this game was the shot differential, Minnesota outshot the Leafs 37-19, ouch. Without that star power of Matthews, who was out due to soreness, and was more of a maintenance day I do not know if the Leafs are still contenders. But they got one without him, and hopefully this is not a serious problem.

Rangers Are Streaking: Jimmy Vesey scored twice, and the led the Rangers to their 5th straight win. This is a huge confidence boost for a team, who in a way appeared to be similar to the New York Giants football team. A good team on paper, with a guy who should be a good coach, and they all just crumble down into a bottom dweller. The difference is hockey has 82 games, and Alain Vigneault has his guys playing the right way. To also note, Henrik Lundqvist appears to have swiped the October cobwebs off and can make a save. Overall a good game by the Rangers, who knows, maybe they will push for a top spot in the Metro when it is all said and done.

Lightning Strikes San Jose: Tampa Bay scores, scores, scores. A 5-1 win over the Sharks, and they made it look easy. Offense flowing from their whole top 9, and filtering through their lineup. The more I watch them play, the more I believe this team will win the Cup this year without a doubt. They are not pretenders at all, only if they stay healthy, sorry for the jinxing Bolts fans.