Flames Win Big; Penguins, Rangers Improve; Canadiens Do Nothing
March 5, 2009 by Big Tony
Now that the NHL trade deadline has come and gone the general consensus is that the Calgary Flames made the biggest splash acquiring Ollie Jokinen. Many in the hockey world think this acquisition puts them over the top and makes Calgary the new Stanley Cup front runners. Calgary did indeed improve their status greatly but not because of Jokinen but rather because of Jordan Leopold. In recent years the Flames have struggled in the playoffs in large part because of their inability to limit the amount of shots Mikka Kiprusoff. Adding Leopold may be just what the doctor ordered to take some pressure off of Kiprusoff and Dion Phaneuf. With this acquisition and Detroit’s goaltending issues the Calgary Flames have now put themselves up there with the San Jose Sharks as the front runners to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Looking to the bottom part of the West perhaps the most notable move was made by Columbus who acquired Antoine Vermette. For the first time Columbus is on the cusp of making the playoffs and now management has shown that they are both serious about making the playoffs and also about winning once they get there.
Turning to the Eastern Conference now it’s probably fair to say that no major splashes were made by any of the teams on deadline day. The biggest impact of any trade to this point in the season is probably how Chris Kunitz has played in Pittsburgh netting three goals and five total points in only three games. Pittsburgh added Bill Guerin in the meantime and have won four in a row all without Crosby, so adding Guerin and Crosby to the lineup probably makes Pittsburgh somewhat of a wildcard down the stretch/into the playoffs. Perhaps the “splash” of the day in the east was made by the Rangers who acquired Nick Antropov which may just be the answer to all of their offensive woes and may provide the spark the Rangers need to break out of their recent funk. Erik Cole going back to Carolina means they are sure to score a lot of goals the final month and a half of the season. The bigger question for the Canes is can Cam Ward continue to carry them defensively; they rely on Ward a ton and he will probably get burned out pretty soon.
There were also some “non-moves” that will greatly impact the Eastern Conference race. Most notable was Florida not moving Jay Bouwmeester. If the Panthers were going to make the playoffs or at least make any noise once they got there they were going to need Bouwmeester and now they’ve got him so Eastern Conference teams beware. Also of great significance is the fact that the Montreal Canadiens did not make a single move. After addressing none of their on ice issues the Canadiens promptly lost to Buffalo 5-1 in a game they were thoroughly outplayed by Buffalo in the final 40 minutes. Many (including myself) believed the Canadiens were the favorites to win the East and they still can do just that, but by not making a single move at the deadline coupled with Price’s continues woes their chances are in jeopardy. Mathieu Schneider has done a lot to improve their power play and it’s possible that Wednesday night was the exception but considering how poorly they played it’s hard to imagine. In the end, no matter how the season turns out these final 19 or 20 games will be an awful lot of fun to watch.
By the way, I know Sean Avery is back in New York… I don’t care.