As Tim Thomas goes so go the Boston Bruins and at the moment that direction is south… in the standings that is. Thomas has started five of the Bruins games so far posting a 2-3 record with a sub .900 save percentage including a game in which he gave up six goals on only 30 shots against the Anaheim Ducks. There is no doubt that Boston misses Phil Kessel (who has yet to play a game yet for Toronto) but if they don't get decent goaltending it won't matter how many goals they score. Thomas has had his doubters over the years but has silenced them a bit in recent history; however now all of those same questions will come up again if things continue they way they have been going. There is plenty of time to go of course but there might not be a whole lot of patience in Boston for the Bruins have very high expectations. In the meantime if things don't turn around for Boston you may see a return of the famous neutral zone trap that just to take some pressure off of Thomas until he can get himself back on track. Personally I do not think Thomas is going to get his act together because he's always been very erratic so when it works it's great but when it doesn't he has no real base to return to in order to simply his game until he regains his confidence. We'll see what happens of course but I haven't been a fan of Thomas in the past and still am not. Nevertheless, despite Thomas' shortcomings the Bruins are good enough to recover and still be a very good team without him playing well (or without him at all) so people in Boston need not panic.
In other news:
Alex Ovechkin is having an incredible start to his year and is well on pace to be the first to score 70 goals in a long time. No matter what you think about Ovechkin and the Caps he's one of the best players in the world and certainly there is no one more exciting to watch in any sport. Will he break Gretzky's record of 92 in a season? Of course not; but he is still the best goal scorer in the NHL in quite some time.
Hey Toronto, how about winning a game eh? They haven't even been competitive in most of their games managing one point in an overtime loss to a Montreal team that is in the midst of a five game losing streak. Toskala is definitely a big problem but scoring only seven goals in the last five games is not a good way to win games either; Phil Kessel will help but no one player can save this team.
Lastly are the President's Trophy winning San Jose Sharks who have done little to change their team in terms of quantity of moves but the quality of moves has been stellar. Dany Heatley was picked up—at the expense of Jonathan Cheechoo—and will be a wonderful addition to this squad. Regular season success has not been a problem for the Sharks (true of many west teams it seems) but Heatley puts them over the hump into serious contention to win the west. Heatley can not only score a lot of goals but he has enjoyed a fair amount of success before so his experience along with a chip on his shoulder to show those in Ottawa that he can still play is going to move San Jose along another step in the right direction.
The only other team that could make any noise should they make the playoffs are the Anaheim Ducks. Their experience is what sets them above the rest but unfortunately perhaps their greatest asset is their biggest downfall. The Ducks are an aging team who have lost yet another step at every position and can only hope to stay close until the trade deadline where they can maybe make a move for a younger group of players with fresher legs for a lengthy playoff run. Edmonton is not far behind either but they fall short of the star power and physical play needed to succeed in the west. Goaltending is Edmonton's strongest aspect but that was true last year as well so they will not get their either. No other team has a prayer of even getting to the playoffs let alone making noise once they get there.
As the hour draws closer and the puckheads continue to salivate over the tease that is the hockey preseason it is time to supplement the appetizers before the hockey fest begins.
Eastern Conference Preview:
I'll start by predicting who I think will make it to the playoffs (in no particular order) then we'll look at least briefly at where each team stands. So here are the top eight teams in no particular order: Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers (Carolina Hurricanes?), New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, and the Washington Capitals.
The Pittsburgh Penguins should probably be the favorites going into the season because their team is a lot the same and they are the champs until someone else wins the title. They did lose Rob Scuderi but overall you have to like their chances to defend their conference title.
The NHL has announced that the 2010 Winter Classic will be held at Fenway Park between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers. Generally speaking I could care less who is playing in this game because as a fan of the sport and of the unique nature of this game I will be watching and will enjoy it from start to finish. That said, I cannot understand why the NHL and NBC have decided that a Bruins-Flyers match up will have a better draw in the US than say a Bruins-Capitals showdown. It is true that both teams have large television markets and that will result in a huge draw from the two participating cities alone. However, there is no bigger star in the NHL today than Alexander Ovechkin; no matter what you think of him I think all fans agree that he is one of the most exciting hockey players in the whole world from his on ice performance to his off-ice personality. Not only would people in the DC and Boston area be excited about this game, but hockey fans throughout the country and casual sports fans alike would go out of their way to watch Ovechkin play in a game as special as the Winter Classic has become. Not only should Ovechkin and the Caps be playing this game instead of the Flyers for star power but also because Philadelphia playing in this game against Boston pushes away the idea of a Penguins-Flyers Winter Classic at Beaver Stadium for many years. That makes deciding to put Philadelphia in this match-up a double whammy of blunders on the part of the NHL and NBC. The ratings will suffer this year because Ovechkin is not in it (and should be) and because a potential future contest that could also result in huge ratings and fan turnout in person has been push back indefinitely. So again, while I will be watching this game no matter who is playing in it–and it is possible that this match-up will still get a huge draw and be largely entertaining–I still think the NHL and NBC have hurt the potential of the Winter Classic not only for 2010 but for the near future as well.
As the Pittsburgh Penguin organization and fans continue to celebrate their club's victory and people in Detroit continue to lick their wounds the rest of the hockey world looks to the future. The NHL awards dinner is Thursday June 18, the NHL entry draft on June 26 and of course NHL free agency starts July 1 st . With the NHL awards first up we'll take a look at three of the biggest awards (according to me) up for grabs and my prediction for who will win; those awards are the Calder Trophy (Top Rookie), Norris Trophy (Top Defensemen), Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender), and the Hart Trophy (League MVP).
Round two of the playoffs has been the best round of the post-season by far to this point and the excitement continues to build. Let's take a brief look at each series up to this point.
3. Washington Capitals VS 4. Pittsburgh Penguins This has been the keynote series since the second round draw came out and it has not disappointed. Four of the five games have been decided by one goal and two were decided in overtime. The big stars Ovechkin and Crosby have stepped up to the plate and have excelled in the spotlight as all of North America looks on. There has also been plenty of drama to boot with both sides making complaints about the officiating at one point or another and Ovechkin hitting Sergei Gonchar knee-on-knee which has created plenty of controversy across the airwaves. The series has been the perfect showcase for the NHL as hardcore and casual fans alike tune in and are NOT disappointed. As of the writing of this article the Penguins have taken a 3-2 series lead after dropping the first to in Washington. Pittsburgh finally got some secondary scoring in game five and it proved to be the difference between the two teams as the big stars continue to cancel each other out. Penguin fans would love for this series to finish in six, but for the rest of the world how could this series culminate any better than if it comes down to game seven on Wednesday at Verizon Center?
1. Boston Bruins VS 6. Carolina Hurricanes For many this has been the shocker of the three Conference Semi-finals as the high-powered Bruins were seemingly going to steam roll the Hurricanes right into the Conference finals. However, since the end of game one it has been all Carolina. Cam Ward, Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen have been unbelievable leading the Canes to an unlikely 3-1 series lead. The difference in the series comes down to Carolina's best players performing at the highest level while the Bruins have not been able to rely on their studs as much as they have all year. Zdano Chara in particular has not been the same since game one where he shut down Eric Staal. For the Bruins to get back into the series they have to better utilize their size to create offense and continue to put pressure on Cam Ward. Boston cannot win by simply getting frustrated when Ward plays well and by trying to fall back into their defensive style when they're only up by one or when the game is tied, playing not to lose rather than to win. There is a lot of speed on the Canes and the Bruins need to neutralize that speed with some pace of their own. But don't think this is a fluke because the Canes have plenty of talent and have been to the promised land before winning the Cup in 2006.
Round one could not have gone out on a better note with two game seven's ( Devils-Hurricanes and Caps-Rangers ) that did not disappoint in drama and excitement. I couldn't possibly say anything to sum the two games that are surely both instant classics; as a result we'll just turn to round two now that we know the match-ups. So far the sportsroids predictions have yielded a 4-4 record which I'll be looking to improve upon in round two.
1. Boston Bruins vs. 6. Carolina Hurricanes The Bruins breezed through the first round sweeping the hated rival Canadiens right out of the playoffs. Despite picking Montreal to win (in the interest of not flip-flopping from my preseason Eastern Conference Champ) I had serious doubts about their performance down the stretch and how they would fair in the playoffs and sure enough they laid an egg. Although Boston swept the series the lame duck Canadiens probably would have made any team look like juggernauts. Nevertheless, the Bruins are very well rested and do have a lot of fire power, enough to have swept the season series from the Hurricanes anyway (not to mention the top seed in the East). So far Tim Thomas has continued his stellar play despite the doubts surrounding his style of play and his lack of consistent success in his career before this year. In front of Thomas are the likes of Zdano Chara who has been unbelievable for the Bruins all year and it continued in round one. Pair Chara's dominance at the blue line with a very strong core of forwards and the Bruins have all the makings of what could be a very special playoff run. Opposite the Bruins are the Carolina Hurricanes who are very much a different team today from the one Boston saw in the regular season. 瑞安 Whitney, Chad LaRose, and Eric Staal have played incredibly well thus far in the post-season each with at least five points against the best goalie in the game today in Martin Brodeur. The Canes also have a world class netminer of their own in Cam Ward who came up huge for them all season and certainly in the playoffs keeping them in game seven in particular. This team has a lot going for it on the ice with their talent but also their experience with key members from their Stanley Cup winning team of a few years ago still around. So what can we expect from this series? Well the goaltending for both will most likely be stellar but beyond that the comparisons end. Boston is more of a big bruiser type club that loves to slug it out and play a hard hitting, defensive type game. Whereas the Canes are a smaller, quicker club who will generate a lot of offense and as a result rely heavily on Ward defensively. Carolina is on an emotional high at the moment by they just finished a grueling back-and-forth seven games with New Jersey. The Canes experience will keep them in the series but the Bruins will simply out class the Canes and send them packing in six.
The Washington Capitals sprung back to life Monday night entering Madison Square Garden down 0-2 but leaving with a 4-0 shutout and their first win of this post-season. Alexander Semin led the way with the first two goals of the game and the Caps never looked back. Alexander Ovechkin finally made his presence known by assisting on the first two goals by Semin and making an unbelievable back-checking play to prevent a possible breakaway goal for New York. The stars stepped up for Washington on Monday but they weren't the story; instead rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov stole the show stopping all 33 Ranger shots to post his first career shutout. Coming into this series many felt the glaring weakspot for Washington was between the pipes but if Varlamov can keep this up the Rangers fast start in this series may be negated by the weekend. The Caps may have lost the first two games at home, but after their performance in game three we may have the makings of a very long and entertaining series.
The story is a bit different for the Montreal Canadiens who followed a poor performance in game two with a fast start but slow ending in game three against Boston. The Canadiens fed off of the home crowd energy to take a 1-0 lead (their first of the series) but that was neutralized soon thereafter. As the game settled in it unfolded more like game one with the Canadiens hanging in there until the very end with a chance to tie and/or win late. The Bruins however stayed the course and showed why so many people picked them to steamroll the Canadiens. Boston is by far the superior team with stellar skill accompanied by dominating size. Montreal tried to get bigger in the offseason but as the season unfolded they ended up once again relying on skill and speed to carry them to success. That philosophy did not work last year and is not working this year. Boston may not be heads and shoulders ahead of all the competition in the Eastern Conference but they are proving that to be so when it comes to the Canadiens.
Well the playoffs are now in full swing as every series will have played two games by the end of Saturday. So let's take a look and how the respective series are unfolding:
1. Boston Bruins VS 8.Montreal Canadiens The final score of game one was about what everybody expected but the level of competition between the two clubs was probably higher than most thought. Boston roared out to a 2-0 lead but the Canadiens battled back to tie the game at two before ultimately going down 4-2. But the rivalry is hot and despite the perception of a major mismatch it doesn't seem likely to be over anytime soon. Game 2 is tonight before the series shifts back to Montreal so we'll see what surprises are in store for us.
2. Washington Capitals VS 7. New York Rangers Jose Theodore didn't make it past the first game as he was benched for rookie back up netminder Simeon Varlamov after Washington's 4-3 loss at home to the Rangers. Again many people felt the Rangers were completely outmatch by the fire power of the Capitals and that the only chance the Rangers had offensively is if Theodore didn't play well. Theodore did not play all that well in game one and the Rangers stole one from Washington but surely things would be different now that Theodore was benched. Varlamov did indeed play very well in net for Washington Saturday afternoon as the Rangers were only able to net one behind the rookie netminder. Unfortunately for the Caps Henrik Lundqvist was up to the challenge and shut Ovechkin and company out. Now the series shifts back to New York with the Rangers having a commanding lead and looking for the sweep. Sportsroids when against the grain in predicting a Rangers win in this series and so far the Rangers have no disappointed.
3. New Jersey Devils VS Carolina Hurricanes In a series that many felt would be evenly matched has surely turned out to be that way. After game one the Canes looked to be greatly overmatched; but after Carolina took game two in overtime we've got ourselves a series. The two teams are so similar in every aspect of the game and that makes the series a virtually toss up on paper. Sportsroids said Carolina in five and although that seems unlikely now we are sticking to our guns! Regardless of what happens there is a lot of great hockey ahead of us in this series.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins VS 5. Philadelphia Flyers The Flyers seemed greatly outmatched after game one but game two was an entirely different story. Philly took the earlier lead but Pittsburgh battled back to tie. Then the Flyers took another lead only to see penalties allow the Penguins back into a game seemingly headed to the win column for the Flyers. But take nothing away from Pittsburgh, they dominated game one and although were largely outplayed in game two they took advantage of Flyer mistakes and now have a strangle-hold on the series. Don't expect the Flyers to quit though as they move home to play in front of their rowdy and very unforgiving fans at Wachovia center. Sportsroids told you this would go seven games, and although that is still possible if Pittsburgh wins either of the games in Philadelphia the Flyers will be in serious trouble. The Flyers won't fold but don't expect Pittsburgh to take their proverbial foot off the gas.
1. San Jose Sharks VS 8. Anaheim Ducks People were wondering if the Sharks were finally ready to take it to the next level or if the same old Sharks would show up again in the playoffs. One game does not a series make but for at least one night it's the same old Sharks. Granted, the Ducks are not far removed from a Stanley Cup Championship but the Sharks at least need to score a goal. There is still a long way to go but if San Jose continues to play like they did in game one they will be making an early exit.
2. Detroit Red Wings VS 7.Columbus Blue Jackets As I write this post the Red Wings are leading the Blue Jackets 3-0 at the second intermission, this after winning game one 4-1. The Blue Jackets have been a great story all season but the playoffs are too much for them and so they are done.
3. Vancouver Canucks VS 6. St. Louis Blues The Blues were another good story going into the playoffs but after making a pretty good showing in game one they were completely shut down by Vancouver in game two losing 3-0. Like Columbus, St. Louis is an up and coming team with great goaltending but they appear to be severely overmatched by the Vancouver Canucks.
4. Chicago Blackhawks VS 5. Calgary Flames Game one of this series was probably the most entertaining game of the first round so far. Game one had everything you could want in a playoff hockey game: lead changes, scrums, great individual battles, fantastic goaltending and overtime! Sure Martin Havlat ended the party early by scoring only 12 seconds into the overtime period but if game one was any indication of how the rest of the series will go then this and the Carolina-New Jersey series have the potential to become classics.
Like you, we at sportsroids will be watching intently to see how the rest of round one unfolds. Enjoy the ride hockey fans!
The playoff match-ups are all set and read to launch Wednesday evening. To start the first of two playoff previews I will take a look at the Eastern Conference match-ups, give you some notes about them and make a pick. This is the BEST part of the year by far so let's get right to the previews.
1. Boston Bruins VS 8. Montreal Canadiens Well it's a year later and the seedings have been swapped but the first round match-up is the same as the Canadiens and Bruins throw more gasoline on the burning rivalry between the two. The teams are slightly different but the key pieces have gone unchanged. Carey Price and Tim Thomas are both back and bring with them playoff experience which neither of them had last year. Each netminder had stretches of brilliance and ineptitude in the series last year and with that experience under their respective belts they should each be relatively solid in net. Zdano Chara had a fantastic year on defense while Marc Savard, David Krejci, and others showed that you can score a lot of goals in a Claude Julien system. Montreal lost Mark Streit and last year's version of Alexi Kovalev but they gained some size and toughness in Ryan O'byrne and Georges Laraque (something they desperately needed against Philadelphia last season). There are plenty of other things to consider and we can talk all day and night about this series… so who has the advantage? The Bruins had a great season but really sputtered toward the end including a 6-1 loss to a Sabres team spending another April on the golf course. Montreal did not have the best end of the season either but despite falling so far so quickly they are in and that's what separates them from the Bruins, despite all odds the Canadiens end up where they want to be. Series outcome: Montreal in six.
A few stories of note as the season comes to a close concerning the races for playoff positioning:
1. The Chicago Blackhawks have played well virtually all season, but the last few weeks they have encountered some pretty hard times. Including their loss to Montreal Tuesday night the Blackhawks have lost nine of their last 13 and are in danger of falling out of fourth position and losing the first round home-ice advantage that goes with it. Perhaps it's the fatigue of a young team going through a long year of high-level performances culminating in a losing stretch as they anticipate the commencement of the playoffs. The dip in play by Chicago is understandable but just because they haven't made it to the post-season in a while doesn't mean the fans will be at all forgiving if their late season struggles turn into a first round exit.
What has happened to the Boston Bruins ? That may seem like a weird question to be asking about a team that just posted their 100 th point Thursday night but it is a legitimate one to ask. After spending most of the season shredding everyone in the league the Bruins have experienced a bad case of the hick-ups as of late. They have lost 11 games in the last month alone, and with a total of 27 losses for the year 11 is an awful lot to suffer in a relatively short period of time. Generally speaking it's not as of Boston is doing one thing in particular wrong that simply needs to be corrected before the playoffs hit. Some nights their goaltending lets them down and they lose 6-4 and others they can't find the back of the net and lose 2-0. There is plenty of blame to go around and the solution to the problem may be complicated but the end result is simple: if the Bruins don't fix their issues they will not enjoy the playoffs for very long no matter who they play. Perhaps it's a leadership issue since most of the guys on the team have not been very far into the playoffs—maybe the addition of Mark Recchi can help with that. It may be a coaching issue or simply a problem of execution, but whatever the reason it needs to be fixed and fast. Granted, the Bruins may have been a little disinterested with the end of the regular season since they were so far ahead of the team behind them. That is no longer the case however as the Devils have put themselves within striking distance of the Bruins for top honors in the east. No matter the reason the Bruins need to figure it out and quickly. With their early season success the expectations for the Bruins have only gone up and in a city where every other major sport has experienced a championship within the last four years the fans will not be very patient. As far as New England sports fans are concerned, going deep into the playoffs will not be enough for the Bruins, they need to win and they need to win RIGHT NOW.
Saturday night, with Patrick Roy in attendance, Martin Brodeur tied the all-time wins mark for a goalie and is now even with the aforementioned Roy with 551 wins. Brodeur has already accomplished just about everything else a goaltender can accomplish and now the all-time wins record will soon be his as well as the shutout record. He's won championships and broken records with nothing but class and dignity. All those who know him whether in the media or on the ice (perhaps except Sean Avery) have always had nothing but high praise for the way he handles himself in every aspect of life. And if all of that weren't enough, his New Jersey Devils have a very good team assembled in front of him. The Devils will certainly make a lot of noise come playoff time, but meanwhile they are in prime position to overtake the once high-flying Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. So not only can Brodeur claim two major records—after being out for most of the season only to return to the ice in top form—but he may be able to add another division title, regular season conference title, and most of all perhaps another Stanley Cup. Whether you're a fan of the Devils or not, watching Brodeur operate is a real treat for hockey fans everywhere. And as he goes on to break the all-time wins record and soon thereafter the shutout record, appreciate that you're watching a very special player, the type that doesn't come around every day and one we may never see again.
Unlike the West, the Eastern Conference is a much tighter race top to bottom with the exception of the Boston Bruins who have all but officially secured the top spot as they are 12 points ahead of their closets challenger. But looking beyond Boston a very colorful picture is painted as Washington and New Jersey battle for the second spot separated by only one point and the difference between 4 th and 10 th spot is only 9 points (essentially 3 games). That's right ladies and gentlemen the difference between home ice advantage in the first round and being out of the playoffs altogether is merely 3 games. So you may be asking yourself how all this will end up, who's in and who's out? Well look no further folks, we've got it broken down for you right here.
Washington – The Alexes (Ovechkin and Semin) provide the Caps with enough scoring to hang with anybody from either conference and at any level of the playoffs. Supplement that with great defensive play by guys like Mike Green, outstanding goaltending by Jose Theodore and the toughness of the likes of Donald Brashear needed to wear teams down in the playoffs, you've got a team that can go a LONG way.
New Jersey – No Brodeur? 没问题。 Scott Clemmensen has been great, Parise, and Elias combine skill with leadership, and of course New Jersey always plays amazing defense. Add in Brendan Shanahan as the proverbial cherry on top and you've got yourself an irresistible sundae—ie a team that can rely on its core not only to get to the playoffs, but deep into the second season.
Montreal – Sure they lost Robert Lang for the season (a major blow indeed since he led the team in goals scored overall and power play goals) but now Kovalev and Price and company need to step up their play. They were picked by many (yours truly included) to represent the East in the finals and you better believe they'll be there.
NY Rangers – Everything they expected to get from Wade Redden but haven't has been more than adequately made up for by the play of Henrik Lundqvist. However, his play can only get them to the playoffs so do not expect them to get very far. A lot of their games have been won in shootouts and in case you didn't get that memo there aren't any shootouts in the post-season. Scott Gomez is great too but they miss Jagr and Shanahan so enjoy the Rangers while they last because it won't be long for them in the playoffs.
Philadelphia – They are huge and can score. Big teams who can score make it to the playoffs, and as long as Biron stays solid they will be in excellent shape.
Florida – Netminder Craig Anderson has been fantastic and somehow this team has learned how to score on a more consistent basis. They have a lot of guys who are overachieving and it doesn't look like that will stop anytime soon; however, as Anderson goes so go the Florida Panthers. In my estimation a 2.47 GAA and .930 save percentage are no accident, the Panthers are for real.
Pittsburgh – They have not played well as of late and have a lot of injuries to boot. Despite all that the Penguins have an incredible amount of talent and are becoming a grittier team as they realize they cannot win on talent alone. Losing Malone, Laraque and Hossa (among others) has hurt them more than most realize but regardless the team refuses to quit and their new 1-2-2 trap will help them win enough games to make reservations for post-season play.
The New Jersey Devils downed the Boston Bruins Thursday night 4-3 in overtime despite blowing a 2-0 third period lead. That makes seven in a row for the Devils increasing their Atlantic Division lead to three points over the Rangers and allows them to slip past Washington for second in the East. This win streak is probably not an indication of what New Jersey will do in the playoffs but it says a lot about their team. When future hall-of-fame goalie Martin Brodeur went out for the season with an elbow injury early in November many wondered how the Devils would react to such a major loss. Scott Clemmensen has been quite impressive after a bumpy start to life without Brodeur in which the Devils lost 5 of 6 including a 4 game losing streak. Fans in New Jersey are now saying “Marty who?” well, not quite but so far so good for the Devils, but what happens in the playoffs is what matters.
On the other side of the spectrum are the Montreal Canadiens who, despite all the good will created from the all star game festivities this past week, are losers are 4 in a row and have questions about second year netminder Carey Price. Price has made three starts after returning from injury and has loss three games yielding 5 goals in each of those starts. The Canadiens and Price had some high expectations coming into this season, and many of those expectations can still be reached but it will take a much better effort from Price and from their once dominating power play. It is important to remember, however, that Price is just a second year player and not every goaltender can have the success so early in his career the way Patrick Roy did; but don't tell Canadiens' fans.
There was a lot of action in the NHL this past weekend as there is every weekend but there are four big things we learned and should keep in mind the rest of the year:
1. The Washington Capitals are for real. They have been on a roll lately but nothing like Saturday when they beat the East leading Boston Bruins 2-1 at Verizon Center. And after defeated the new trap playing penguins (more on that later) and the similar defensive style of the Bruins who supplement that with great goal-scoring the Caps showed they can beat anybody and play any style. Their team speed breaks that trap better than any other team in the East and they can win high scoring AND low scoring games… the rest of the league should be on high alert.
2. The Pittsburgh Penguins have finally figured out that with all their injuries a change in strategy is necessary and the trap is just what the doctor ordered. In casual conversation with a friend on December 12 th I mentioned the Penguins need to run a trap if only temporarily to keep themselves in games until they get some guys healthy and sure enough a month and a day later they run it and win against the Flyers. Now they have won two of three and despite all the injuries are in a playoff position. The Penguins are now a team to worry about again and once they get guys healthy the teams at the top of the standings should worry… just ask the Flyers and Rangers.
3. The San Jose Sharks beat Detroit 6-5 on Saturday. They are not going to fade away… the Western Conference has been warned.
4. The Phoenix Coyotes (yes Phoenix) is a viable team and WILL make the playoffs.
Monday night the Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 to improve their East leading point total to 68. Later Monday night the Sharks improved their league leading total to 69 which might lead some to believe that San Jose and Boston are on a Stanley Cup Finals collision course. While clearly possible it is not going to happen, or at least I don't think it will. San Jose still has to get by the Detroit Red Wings which will not be an easy task for a number of reasons namely their experience and goal-scoring ability. Chris Osgood has struggle a bit so far despite his good record and seems to be a weakness for Detroit at the moment but if last season is any indication come playoff time that weakness will morph into a strength. The Bruins seemed to lack a weakness; they play great defense, are scoring like crazy, have great size and will probably have fresh legs come playoff time because the trap they run helps to keep players from exerting too much energy by allowing them to simply stand in the neutral zone to clog it up as the other team comes to them. But two important pieces are missing for the Bruins: one is that their coach Claude Julien has experienced very little playoff success in the NHL. Secondly, Tim Thomas has one year of playoff experience and that was last year against Montreal in a series that he did not play particularly well, enough so that the Bruins brought in Manny Frenandez because they felt Thomas could not be trusted. Not having experience in other positions hurts but when the coach and goaltender both had very little success in the playoffs it is very detrimental to a team and in this case will keep Boston from even reaching the finals. So despite the looks of things now don't count on a Bruins/Sharks finals, but Boston will make a lot of noise nevertheless in the playoffs.
Tuesday night Jarkko Ruutu of the Ottawa Senators apparently bit Sabres' defensemen Andrew Peters in the thumb. It is awful that Ruutu did that and hopefully he is severely punished, but it is the hope of hockey fans everywhere that the casual fan will not once again only see hockey in this light (since ESPN eats stuff like this up) and think that's all that goes on in hockey. If all they did in NFL coverage was show guys getting poked in the eye or really bad facemask penalties and quarterbacks getting knocked out or guys getting paralyzed it would give football a bad name for sure but we all know that stuff does not happen frequently and the NHL should be given the same consideration. So please, if you have casual fans as friends and think this is how it is all the time please just get them to follow a number of games and they will quickly see it is not an every game occurrence.
Now to the better side of hockey and that would be two great match-ups Tuesday night between the Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild, and the game of the night between Washington and Philadelphia. Boston was defeated 1-0 by Minnesota making it two in a row for Boston cooling off the then hottest team in the league. What is to be learned from that game is Minnesota is simply better at running the dreaded neutral zone trap than the Bruins head-to-head. Boston has been able to open up the ice to score more goals now but if other teams are paying attention Minnesota taught them a great lesson. If you slow the game down and play most of it at center ice Boston will get so frustrated because they are so hungry to score that they end up skating in circles and don't get anything going. Patience is the best way to beat Boston not trying to outscore them.
As for Washington and Philly, all that needs to be said about that at the moment is that if you're looking for the anti-Ruutu game, this was the one to watch. That game was everything that makes hockey such a great game to watch.
波士顿棕熊队，底特律红翼队和圣何塞鲨鱼队是仅有的三个队在NHL的全年表现出一致性的任何款项。 The Pittsburgh Penguins once upon a 6 game winning streak, and now it looks like they cannot play defense or hold a lead for the life of them. 有时多伦多却显得很强大的，有时和别人看起来非常像年轻的球队，他们是。纽约流浪者队开始热出了大门，此后便定居下来了一点，但仍然打得很好。阿纳海姆开始很缓慢的，但现在他们看起来非常凤凰是可怕的在一个点上，但有似乎把它在一起，成为一个更好的团队自今年年初。 Ottawa was up and down for a while got hot for a moment and now they are looking to have a fire-sale. 团队和故事陪他们不胜枚举上的点是，除在第一个句子中提到的三支球队上面，我们不知道任何人任何东西。有恐慌在匹兹堡有多大的团队已经迷迷糊糊的，也有传言在蒙特利尔与如何穷其发挥威力是如何完善，熊玩。底线是球员，教练，前厅经理，分析师和球迷都什么在NHL最需要的是要有耐心，一个团队，这就是存在似乎是最小的。看到你的团队迟到一月二月上旬，然后开始恐慌。
Don't look now but the trap-playing great defense of the Boston Bruins is now accompanied by an offense that can score. The rest of the Eastern Conference needs to be on notice that the Bruins have both given up the least and scored the most goals in the league. Over the last few years the Bruins have felt a certain amount of pressure in the Boston area since they were the only team who had not won a major title and even more troubling was they were not even in contention. Head coach Claude Julien and company knew defense alone would not take them to the next level and were called upon to score more goals; boy have they ever answered that goal. With a win over division rival Montreal on Saturday the Bruins have moved into a tie for the conference lead with 32 points after only 21 games played—the Rangers also have 32 points but have played three more games than Boston. The Bruins have also been red-hot as of late winning 9 of their last 10 and are unbeaten in regulation. It is doubtful that Boston will be able to keep up this run and continue to post such big numbers, however the Bruins have proven that they are not going anywhere but up. The Northeast Division is now very much a fight between Boston and Montreal and no matter what happens no one will want to play this new-and-improved Bruins team come April.
I want to talk about a number of things in short order so a few blurbs on league wide news:
- Do not let Tuesday's 7-2 loss fool you, these are not the same Columbus Blue Jackets from years past. People make pre-judgments about the team based on reputation only but they will make you bite your tongue when they beat your team.
- Yes, the Boston Bruins are that good. They may not dazzle you night in and night out but they play very good defense in front of Tim Thomas who is having an incredible start to the season. The Bruins will absolutely be a force throughout the season and I would NOT want to face-off against them in a best 4 of 7 series come playoff time.
- Brian Burke resigned as Anaheim Ducks GM ( shocker… ). Despite his denials he will most likely end up in Toronto and help their already ahead of schedule rebuilding process. Burke and Ron Wilson may knock heads but it will probably result in victories.
- The Chicago Blackhawks are once again relevant, THANK GOD. Not only is this great for the US since Chicago can be a great hockey town if they have a winner to support but it also serves the league well since the Winter Classic will more than likely be a competitive and intriguing game.
- The Minnesota Wild have played the fewest number of games of all teams in their division and yet they are in first place. Minnesota plays very slow-paced methodical defense that puts teams to sleep, reminds me a lot of the Devils of the mid to late 90s and early part of this decade. All New Jersey did was win 2 cups in a 4 year period and 3 in 8 years; that's good news for Wild fans.