Here is our 22nd edition of 'Saturday Fantasy'! In case you're new to the RLD, Chris (from The Program) and I will select 3 players each Saturday to have a good day fantasy-wise. We pick a forward, defenseman, and goalie each time, and I keep up with the stats on the right-hand side of this page. I still hold a slight lead of 5-3-1 over Chris! Here are today's picks... Chris F- Travis Zajac, NJ* D- Jay Bouwmeester, FLA* G- Kevin Weekes, NJ* Ryan F- Michael Ryder, BOS D- Shea Weber, NSH # G- Henrik Lundqvist, NYR*
* This is the 2nd time we've used these players # This is the 3rd (and final) time I can use Weber...
Game Thoughts: This is a critical game to the Western Conference playoff picture; both teams are coming off losses. The Stars have struggled since Richards’ injury… the Ducks have been inconsistent all month. I expect Dallas to barely get the win.
Prediction: Stars 2, Ducks 1 -- San Jose Sharks (42-9-9) @ Montreal Canadiens (33-22-7) 7:00 ET… TV: CBC, Local Networks
Players to watch: SJ- Joe Pavelski MTL- Alexei Kovalev
Projected Goaltenders: SJ- Evgeni Nabokov (08-09 stats: 32-8-7, 2.48 GAA) MTL- Jaroslav Halak (Last night @ PHI: 35 Saves, 3 GA)
Season Series: 1st Meeting
Game Thoughts: Oh, how things have changed. Last Saturday, Montreal’s playoff hopes were suddenly in doubt after their road trip from hell. But they’ve rebounded very nicely. The Sharks had an unimpressive win in Ottawa after their loss in Detroit. I think this one will be very exciting and will go the full 65 minutes-plus!
Prediction: Canadiens 4, Sharks 3 (SO) -- Buffalo Sabres (31-24-7) @ New York Islanders (18-36-7) 7:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: BUF- Jason Pominville NYI- Bill Guerin
Game Thoughts: This is simply a must-win for Buffalo. You gotta take advantage of these games against bad teams. Will they do it?? That remains in limbo as they haven’t responded well from the injury to Ryan Miller. Sabres in a close one.
Prediction: Sabres 3, Islanders 2 -- Colorado Avalanche (28-33-1) @ New York Rangers (31-24-8) 7:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: COL- Milan Hejduk NYR- Markus Naslund
Projected Goaltenders: COL- Andrew Raycroft (08-09 stats: 12-9-0, 3.04 GAA) NYR- Henrik Lundqvist (08-09 stats: 26-20-7, 2.52 GAA)
Season Series: 1st Meeting
Game Thoughts: John Tortorella hasn’t been able to get a win yet behind the bench for the Rangers. They need to win this game against a slumping Colorado team. I think they’ll be able to get the 2 points, but it won’t be easy.
Prediction: Rangers 2, Avalanche 1 -- Carolina Hurricanes (32-26-5) @ Atlanta Thrashers (22-34-6) 7:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: CAR- Petr Sykora ATL- Mike Richards
Game Thoughts: The ‘Canes and Thrashers finish up their season series as Carolina looks to jump into the top 8 in the East. Atlanta has given them all they can handle this year, but I ultimately think Paul Maurice’s bunch will come away with the win.
Prediction: Hurricanes 5, Thrashers 3 -- Detroit Red Wings (41-13-8) @ Nashville Predators (30-28-4) 8:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: DET- Pavel Datsyuk NSH- David Legwand
Projected Goaltenders: DET- Ty Conklin (08-09 stats: 22-7-1, 2.28 GAA) NSH- Pekka Rinne (08-09 stats: 19-10-1, 2.21 GAA)
Season Series: 2-1 Red Wings
Game Thoughts: Nashville has won 3 in a row, and this game means much to them than it does to the Wings… Detroit won twice this week at home. As a Preds fan, I feel really confident about this game as they’ve clicked on all cylinders in the last 4 periods. Prediction: Predators 4, Red Wings 2 -- Minnesota Wild (30-25-5) @ Edmonton Oilers (30-26-5) 10:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: MIN- Pierre-Marc Bouchard EDM- Sheldon Souray
Game Thoughts: The Oilers almost need to win this game after getting shutout by Columbus on Thursday. Minnesota looked uninspired in Calgary last night, and has lost 4 of 5 at Rexall Place. Look for the Oilers to come away with the 2 points tonight.
Prediction: Oilers 3, Wild 2 Today’s other predictions: Maple Leafs over Senators Coyotes over Blues
Devils get: D Scott Niedermayer Ducks get: 2009 2nd Round Pick Prospect
With Whitney going to Anaheim, it opens up the door for the Ducks to trade Niedermayer to a Cup contender. He’s a UFA this summer, and even though he could return next year, this could be his last chance to win another one. And what better place to go than back to Jersey to help out the Devils!? I think it’s a great fit, and one of the few places Nieds would want to go. -- Stars get: C/W Nik Antropov Maple Leafs get: 2009 2nd Round Pick 2009 4th Round Pick
Dallas has really struggled lately in the absence of Brad Richards. Acquiring Antropov from Toronto would be a boost to the offense. I believe it’s a natural fit, and the Leafs get two picks for the upcoming UFA. -- Oilers get: D Jay Bouwmeester Panthers get: LW Erik Cole 2009 1st Round Pick 2010 3rd Round Pick
I can honestly see Edmonton overpaying to get Jay-Bo. Cole and a couple high-end picks could do it. With Lubomir Visnovsky out for the year, the Oilers may want to deal for a d-man… Jay-Bo certainly fits the bill. In return, Florida would get Cole, who I think would do better there than he’s doing in Edmonton. But it’s entirely possible that the Panthers keep Jay-Bo for the playoff run…
Players to watch: MTL- Tomas Plekanec Plekanec is suddenly scorching as he currently has a 6-game point streak. PHI- Scott Hartnell I look for ‘Harts’ to bring a physical presence tonight, and he’s been steady offensively.
Projected Goaltenders: MTL- Jaroslav Halak (08-09 stats: 14-10-1, 2.93 GAA) PHI- Antero Niittymaki (08-09 stats: 14-5-4, 2.56 GAA)
Injury Report: MTL- Alex Tanguay (shoulder, out), Guillaume Latendresse (shoulder, out), Robert Lang (Achilles, out), Francis Bouillon (groin, out) PHI- Daniel Briere (groin, probable), Kimmo Timonen (flu, questionable)
Game Thoughts: The Fly-boys are coming off a great win in Washington earlier this week, and the Habs have a nice little 2-game win streak. The Canadiens are going to have to be near perfect on special teams against Philly, and I just don’t see it tonight. Philly could smoke ‘em tonight, but it’ll likely be a hard-earned 2 points for Mike Richards & company.
Prediction: Flyers 3, Canadiens 2 ---- Game #2: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Chicago Blackhawks 8:30 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: PIT- Sidney Crosby If he’s good to go, I’ll be anxious to see how he does with Kunitz on his left instead of Dupuis! CHI- Jonathan Toews The Hawks’ captain is starting to turn it on, picking up 9 points in the last 6 games.
Injury Report: PIT- Sidney Crosby (groin, questionable), Mike Zigomanis (undisclosed, out) CHI- Patrick Sharp (knee, out), Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body, out), Brent Sopel (elbow, out)
Game Thoughts: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is the first time that the young duos of Kane/Toews and Sid/Geno hit the ice in the same game. It should be a fun game to watch as Chris Kunitz makes his Pittsburgh debut. Without Sid on Wednesday, the Pens couldn’t muster much on the Isles, so the drought could continue if he can’t go. Chicago has lost 2 in a row, and I expect them to find their winning ways once again.
Prediction: Blackhawks 4, Penguins 2 The rest of tonight’s predictions: Red Wings over Kings Flames over Wild Canucks over Lightning
Today, the Penguins and Ducks made a fairly significant deal. Ryan Whitney is headed to Anaheim as the Pens make some room on the blue line. Coming the other way is winger Chris Kunitz and solid prospect Eric Tangradi.
For Anaheim: This deal may be a signal to the immediate future of blue line stalwarts Pronger and Niedermayer. One or both of them are rumored to be dealt by next Wednesday’s deadline. Whitney has a long-term contract, so it looks like the Ducks want him to control the point for years to come. He’s been decent since returning from an ankle injury, but hasn’t been too good defensively, being a -15 in the plus/minus column. A change of scenery and a transition to a better power play could benefit Whitney.
For Pittsburgh: GM Ray Shero has traded a big piece to the blue line to acquire help for Crosby & Malkin. Chris Kunitz is a speedy winger who is offensive-minded. He racked up 60 points in 81 games for Anaheim in their Stanley Cup season in 06/07. But he’s gradually gone downhill since then, so a change of scenery could benefit him as well. Playing with 87 or 71 will make him a better player. And for prospect Eric Tangradi, he was a 2nd round pick by the Ducks in 2007. He’s 6’3”, 214, and projected to be a solid power forward once he gets to the NHL.
Who wins this trade?? A slight advantage goes to Pittsburgh. Kunitz could be a spark plug to the Pens’ offense and they received a pretty good prospect as well. Whitney will be good for Anaheim, but they may wish they kept these two players in the long run.
Injury Report: ANA- Samuel Pahlsson (mono, out), Kent Huskins (foot, out), Francois Beauchemin (knee, out), Brad Larsen (sports hernia, out) BOS- Marco Sturm (knee, out), Petteri Nokelainen (eye, doubtful)
Game Thoughts: The Ducks will play the 4th of a 6-game road trip tonight, and they’ve done well so far, beating Buffalo and Columbus after a loss in Detroit. Boston found the win column again with a 6-1 beating of Florida two nights ago. I’m not confident one bit in this pick… I really feel like Anaheim could win this game. It’s a trap game for the Bruins before they host the Caps on Saturday. Can the Ducks take advantage?? I say they earn a point.
Prediction: Bruins 2, Ducks 1 (OT) The rest of tonight’s predictions: Devils over Avalanche Maple Leafs over Islanders Rangers over Panthers Capitals over Thrashers Hurricanes over Sabres Sharks over Senators Predators over Coyotes Stars over Blues Blue Jackets over Oilers
Is Halak the answer for Montreal?? Since returning home from a nightmare road trip, the Habs have won both games due in large part to the solid goaltending of Jaroslav Halak… not Carey Price. Halak has made 78 saves in the two games against Canadian rivals Ottawa and Vancouver, including last night’s shutout. He seems to have taken over the job between the pipes for as long as the team keeps winning. As for Price, well he might as well get comfortable to that pine. The ‘Price has not been right’ since he returned from injury. Did they rush him back?? Probably. He’s 1-5-1 in February and is now watching Halak make Montreal forget about the media fiasco that was Kovalev and the Kostitsyns.
At this time last year, Cristobal Huet was headed to Washington because Gainey & company had high hopes for Price to succeed at a catastrophic level in a city where hockey is god. Did the organization rush him into this whole mess?? Is the kid rattled by the pressures brought upon him by the media and fans?? Here’s a thought for Gainey. If Halak plays well in Philly and vs. San Jose this weekend, you gotta ride him as long as you can. So here’s what you do… send Price to Hamilton to find his game (call-up Marc Denis to backup). And if Price performs at a high level for a couple weeks, the Habs could bring him back and give him an opportunity to unseat Halak in net. The power play is starting to get it again with Schneider on board, so Montreal could be scoring goals in bunches in the near future. Something to think about, Mr. Gainey…
Legwand sparks Preds’ 3rd period surge vs. Chicago Say what you will about David Legwand. The 2nd pick in the 1998 entry draft has been highly criticized for his lack of production, mostly being compared to the 1st overall pick Vinny Lecavalier. But I’ve always given ‘Leggy’ the benefit of the doubt. He’s a helluva penalty killer and can create something out of nothing with his puck possession skills.
And last night was a classic ‘Leggy’ game. He was great on the PK, and scored the Preds’ second goal early in the 3rd period to spark the team as well as the crowd. It was a ‘workmanlike’ goal for him, as he beat 3 ‘Hawks to the puck on an icing and banged home a loose puck past Huet. This was a huge win for Nashville as they had scored 4 goals total in the last 4 games. And to get 4 goals in the 3rd to rally past one of the better teams in the league, it really should be a confidence boost at the perfect time for Barry Trotz & company!
Can Ottawa really make a run?? The Ottawa Senators have been a different team since Cory Clouston replaced Craig Hartsburg behind the bench, going 6-3-2 since. And the Sens have a slew of home games coming up to possibly propel back into the picture. 10 of the next 12 are at Scotiabank Place, with 4 of those against non-playoff teams. It’s a longshot at best for Ottawa to crack the top 8, but it’s not impossible especially if the goaltending gets hot. Nonetheless, the Sens are going to be a tough to play against down the stretch as they look to get back in the thick of things.
Game Thoughts: Ok, San Jose… this is your time. Your time to put the clamps on Detroit in the west… your time to prove to the rest of the league why you’re #1 in the NHL. But that time will not come tonight as the Red Wings will again prove why they’re the team to beat in the conference. An important battle within the game tonight is special teams. The Sharks must do an exceptional job on the PK…
Prediction: Red Wings 4, Sharks 2 The rest of tonight’s predictions: Flyers over Kings Rangers over Maple Leafs Penguins over Islanders
This could be a big deal for Philly if they can’t get Bouwmeester from Florida. Morris would bring some offensive punch to the Flyers’ blue-line. The free agent-to-be will likely be dealt by next Wednesday’s 3 PM ET deadline. -- Flames get: RW Colby Armstrong D Niclas Havelid Thrashers get: C Matthew Lombardi 2009 3rd Round Pick
I could really see Armstrong thriving in Calgary… and Havelid would provide depth on the back end. Atlanta would get Lombardi, who could be a top six forward for them next year before he becomes a UFA. I think this deal could work for both sides. -- Penguins get: LW Erik Cole Oilers get: 2009 2nd Round Pick
Cole obviously has not worked out in Edmonton, and Pittsburgh may be a good fit for him. A change of scenery and line placement with Crosby or Malkin would pay dividends for Cole.
Now honestly we all saw this coming! What I have done is taken some bits and pieces from the day and put it all together almost like leftover Beef Stew! Keep in mind that the times are approximate and some names have been protected for the sake of the innocent.
The bottom line here is that Tom Renney's team did lose 10 out of 12 and that a chance was long since coming. By the way that 2-7-3 record was not the only thing that sealed Renney's fate. That has to be kept in mind. When you are 29th in goal scoring and 28th on the Power Play....it is more than just the GM's fault. Yes the GM shops for the groceries but the coach has to find a way to make it work.
The handling of Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes did not help Renney's cause. At the same time, Glen Sather and Tom Renney had worked together for several years. The team got more and more divergent from 2005-06 to now. Renney played a more defensive system while Sather brought in players that were more suited to an up-tempo game. Reality is the writing was on the wall. We had said this on our podcast in August.
Onward to today....this is how it went down kinda sorta!!!
February 23rd, 2009 (All Times Pacific Time) 7:30am -- I woke up.
7:45am -- There were rumblings of a move at MSG. Of course, everyone figured it was Renney. Talk from several of the finest New York Ranger bloggers said something was coming in the next hour or so.
8:30am -- First report comes out that Renney was going to be let go and Assistant Perry Pearn as well.
8:50am -- Several other bloggers basically echo the sentiment
9:20 am -- Renney is fired literally as Kevin was writing his Renney blog.
9:35 am -- Made the mistake of posting it on my facebook....40 comments in 20 minutes....YIKES!
10am -- Rumors started to float around about Schoenfeld. First hints about Torts are suggested. Obviously by then players were talking how they failed the team...etc....etc.
11am -- Talk starts to gravitate toward Tortorella....TSN goes as far to suggest they may be working on a possible deal.
Noon -- Rumors flow about a multi year dearl for Torts...that a deal was very close to being struck with one variable left unaccounted....the Tampa Bay Lightning...who he still technically had a little more left on the contract.
12:30pm -- Maxime from RDS and several sources around RDS basically all but said Tortorella would be coach of the New York Rangers as soon as the late evening. At this point the ball began rolling.
1pm -- By now most major Ranger bloggers were speculating that a deal was all but done but awaiting Tampa. What would Tampa want? A pile of cash? Or a secret buyout perhaps?
2pm -- Sources were floating around that an agreement of some sort had been reached between Tampa and New York. What that involved? Probably not much.
3pm -- Media Conference Call announced for sometime around 4pm.
3:25 pm -- Bob McKenzie of TSN states that Tortorella WILL be the next coach of the New York Rangers....that the compensation issue would not derail the events at this point.
4pm -- The conference call doesn't quite start right away....string quartet music is playing in the background. It would start a bit later.
4:28pm -- Rick Carpinello of Rangers Report states what we all knew was coming. John Tortorella would be coach of the New York Rangers with Schoenfeld and Parino as his assistants.
4:38 pm -- Turned out Schoenfeld never really wanted the coaching job or was considered. Keep in mind he will be an interim assistant coach. Tortorella would not be available this evening but would be tomorrow for questions when he arrives in New York, New York.
I obviously wanted to thank all the Ranger bloggers that were so quick and accurate with their information today as well as the blogosphere in general. It does prove that social and regular streams of media can work together to bring you the whole story and not just part of the story.
It will be interesting to see what John Tortorella has to say tomorrow about the Rangers. One thing is for sure and that is the fire is back in New York. Now will that mean a playoff berth? That is for another time folks.
Players to watch: PHI- Joffrey Lupul I just have a hunch that Lupul will make an impact tonight. WSH- Alexander Ovechkin ‘AO’ is on a mission to catch Malkin in the Art Ross race.
Projected Goaltenders: PHI- Antero Niittymaki (08-09 stats: 13-5-4, 2.59 GAA) WSH- Jose Theodore (08-09 stats: 23-11-3, 2.79 GAA)
Injury Report: PHI- Daniel Briere (groin, out) WSH- Viktor Kozlov (groin, questionable), Chris Clark (wrist, out), Brent Johnson (hip, out), Brian Pothier (concussion, out)
Game Thoughts: I have a belief that this one will be played like a playoff game. It’ll be a good test for Washington as the Flyers are a fairly good road team. I don’t know who’ll be in net, but if Niittymaki is over the flu, I’d start him over Biron. In the end, I like the Caps because they’re at home and on a mission.
Prediction: Capitals 4, Flyers 3 ---- Game #2: Vancouver Canucks @ Montreal Canadiens 7:30 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: VAN- Ryan Kesler Kesler is turning into a really good all-around player. MTL- Alexei Kovalev Can he carry over his success from Saturday??
Projected Goaltenders: VAN- Roberto Luongo (08-09 stats: 19-7-5, 2.56 GAA) MTL- Jaroslav Halak (08-09 stats: 13-10-1, 3.06 GAA)
Injury Report: VAN- Rick Rypien (personal, out), Lawrence Nycholat (groin, out), Jannik Hansen (hand, doubtful) MTL- Francois Bouillon (groin, out), Alex Tanguay (shoulder, out), Robert Lang (Achilles, out), Guillaume Latendresse (shoulder, out)
Game Thoughts: Vancouver dominated their first meeting a week or so ago, but Montreal was on their abysmal road trip. The Habs have played much better, including Saturday’s 5-2 beat-down against Ottawa. Carbonneau’s bunch has got to win this game to keep their momentum going. I think they will in a very close battle; the Canucks’ 4-game win streak will come to an end.
Prediction: Canadiens 3, Canucks 2 (SO) ---- Game #3: Columbus Blue Jackets @ Calgary Flames 7:30 ET… TV: Local Networks
Records: Overall: Blue Jackets (30-24-6) … Flames (35-18-6) Last Ten: Blue Jackets (6-3-1) … Flames (5-3-2) Away/Home: Blue Jackets (11-14-4) … Flames (20-7-4) Season Series: 1-0 Canucks
Players to watch: CBJ- Jason Williams Williams has been somewhat of a spark since acquired from Atlanta. CGY- Jarome Iginla ‘Iggy’ is starting to break out of his funk with 2 goals in the last 3 games.
Injury Report: CBJ- Fredrik Modin (knee, out), Rostislav Klesla (shoulder, out), Pascal Leclaire (ankle, out), Derick Brassard (shoulder, out) CGY- Rene Bourque (ankle, out), Daymond Langkow (hand, doubtful), Mark Giordano (upper body, doubtful), Andre Roy (head, questionable), Wayne Primeau (foot, out), Rhett Warrener (shoulder, out)
Game Thoughts: Calgary has found ways to win amidst a sudden slew of injuries. They downright stole 2 points in Edmonton on Saturday. Columbus, meanwhile, was run outta the building by Anaheim over the weekend. Mason gave up 5 goals on 13 shots, but I anticipate a better performance from him tonight. But I don’t think the Jackets will come away with the win as the Flames gut out another ‘W’.
Prediction: Flames 3, Blue Jackets 1 The rest of tonight’s predictions: Bruins over Panthers Ducks over Sabres Avalanche over Thrashers Senators over Hurricanes Predators over Blackhawks Kings over Wild Blues over Coyotes Oilers over Lightning
Top 5 games I’m looking forward to: 1. Sharks @ Red Wings (Wednesday) 2. Capitals @ Bruins (Saturday) 3. Flyers @ Capitals (Tuesday) 4. Penguins @ Blackhawks (Friday) 5. Canucks @ Canadiens (Tuesday)
Teams with the most on the line: 1. Nashville Predators This is the most important week of the season for the Preds. 3 home games against Chicago, Phoenix, and Detroit. 4 or 5 points of the possible 6 is necessary for Nashville to stay in the hunt. 2. San Jose Sharks The Sharks have a lot to prove this week. Can they win at the Joe?? Can they win in tough places like Dallas & Montreal?? Will Ottawa be a tricky trap game after the Wings?? Is this the week that Detroit finally catches San Jose??
National TV Schedule (US): Tonight- Sharks @ Stars… VERSUS Tuesday- Ducks @ Sabres… VERSUS Wednesday- Rangers @ Maple Leafs… NHL Network Saturday- Sharks @ Canadiens… NHL Network Wild @ Oilers… NHL Network
We are closing in on the trade deadline very quickly, and about to hit that final stretch. So, let's see how the playoffs may shake out, and the current award winners! 1. Let’s look at the teams who are locks for the playoffs, along with the bubble teams… EASTERN CONFERENCE Playoff Locks- Boston Bruins (88 points, 60 GP) Washington Capitals (81 pts, 60 GP) New Jersey Devils (79 pts, 60 GP) Philadelphia Flyers (71 pts, 57 GP) Will probably get in- Montreal Canadiens (69 pts, 60 GP) Florida Panthers (68 pts, 59 GP) Bubble teams (w/ breakdown)- New York Rangers (69 pts, 61 GP) - Remaining games… 21 (10 H, 11 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 3/9 – 3/17 (@ CAR, @ NSH, @ PHI, vs. PHI, @ MTL) Buffalo Sabres (68 pts, 60 GP) - Remaining games… 22 (11 H, 11 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 3/28 – 4/6 (@ MTL, @ ATL, @ WSH, vs. NJ, vs. DET) Carolina Hurricanes (67 pts, 61 GP) - Remaining games… 21 (11 H, 10 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 3/9 – 3/18 (vs. NYR, @ CHI, @ DAL, @ WSH, vs. NJ) Pittsburgh Penguins (64 pts, 61 GP) - Remaining games… 21 (11 H, 10 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 2/27 – 3/8 (@ CHI, @ DAL, @ TB, @ FLA, @ WSH) Start looking at 2009/10- Toronto Maple Leafs (54 pts, 59 GP) Ottawa Senators (53 pts, 58 GP) Tampa Bay Lightning (52 pts, 60 GP) Atlanta Thrashers (48 pts, 60 GP) New York Islanders (42 pts, 59 GP) WESTERN CONFERENCE Playoff Locks- San Jose Sharks (89 points, 57 GP) Detroit Red Wings (86 pts, 60 GP) Calgary Flames (76 pts, 59 GP) Chicago Blackhawks (76 pts, 57 GP) Will probably get in- Vancouver Canucks (68 pts, 59 GP) Bubble teams (w/breakdown)- Columbus Blue Jackets (66 pts, 60 GP) - Remaining games… 22 (10 H, 12 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 3/7 – 3/15 (@ DET, vs. BOS, vs. PIT, @ CHI, vs. DET) Dallas Stars (65 pts, 58 GP) - Remaining games… 24 (12 H, 12 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 3/14 – 3/24 (vs. MIN, @ VAN, @ CGY, @ SJ, vs. VAN) Minnesota Wild (64 pts, 58 GP) - Remaining games… 25 (8 H, 16 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 3/28 – 4/5 (@ CGY, @ EDM, vs. VAN, vs. CGY, @ DET) Edmonton Oilers (63 pts, 59 GP) - Remaining games… 23 (13 H, 10 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 3/26 – 4/2 (@ PHX, @ ANA, vs. MIN, vs. ANA, vs. SJ) Anaheim Ducks (63 pts, 61 GP) - Remaining games… 21 (10 H, 11 A) - Key 5-game stretch… 3/3 – 3/15 (@ CHI, vs. DAL, vs. MIN, vs. VAN, vs. SJ) Playoffs aren’t likely- Nashville Predators (60 pts, 60 GP) Los Angeles Kings (59 pts, 58 GP) Phoenix Coyotes (59 pts, 60 GP) St. Louis Blues (58 pts, 59 GP) Colorado Avalanche (57 pts, 60 GP)
2. Here are my selections for the awards at this point… Hart Trophy: 1. Alexander Ovechkin, WSH 2. Alexander Ovechkin, WSH 3. Alexander Ovechkin, WSH Vezina: 1. Tim Thomas, BOS 2. Niklas Backstrom, MIN 3. Evgeni Nabokov, SJ Norris: 1. Zdeno Chara, BOS 2. Mike Green, WSH 3. Nicklas Lidstrom, DET Calder: 1. Steve Mason, CBJ 2. Bobby Ryan, ANA 3. Blake Wheeler, BOS Jack Adams: 1. Todd McLellan, SJ 2. Joel Quenneville, CHI 3. Peter DeBoer, FLA Art Ross: Evgeni Malkin, PIT Maurice Richard: Alexander Ovechkin, WSH
3. Since the 1998/99 divisional realignment, a division winner has won the Stanley Cup every year except one (’00 Devils – #4 seed). Let’s see how the division leaders stack up against each other. Chances are that one of these six teams will hoist the Cup in June. EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlantic- New Jersey Devils ‘RLD’ Playoff Formula: 40.97 Strengths: Team defense, top-line scoring Need to improve: Total special teams, blue-line production How I see it: The Devils are a really good team, but we have to see how Brodeur returns to get a feel of how they’ll do in the playoffs. If Clemmensen has to be the man in the postseason, they may not get past the 2nd round if not upset in the 1st round. Nonetheless, this is a legit Cup contender with Zach Parise leading the way. Northeast- Boston Bruins ‘RLD’ Playoff Formula: 49.49 Strengths: Goaltending, balanced production Need to improve: Total special teams, blue-line production How I see it: This is a team I’m going to watch very closely in these last 20-plus games. They were so dynamite in the first half, but their play has dropped off the last few weeks. Boston could be a team that has 1st round upset written all over it… but they also have all the tools to put together a deep run this spring. Southeast- Washington Capitals ‘RLD’ Playoff Formula: 32.51 Strengths: Top-line scoring, power play, home dominance Need to improve: Penalty kill, goaltending consistency How I see it: If Ovechkin is playing like this come playoff time, look out! A top-notch deadline acquisition may put this bunch over the top. But with that being said, their playoff hopes rests on the shoulders of goaltender Jose Theodore. Yes, he has not lost a 1st round playoff series as a starter, but hasn’t cracked the conference finals, either. WESTERN CONFERENCE Central- Detroit Red Wings ‘RLD’ Playoff Formula: 32.53 Strengths: Top-line scoring, power play, playoff experience Need to improve: Team defense, penalty kill How I see it: Of course you can’t overlook the defending champs. When they can throw Hossa, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Lidstrom, Rafalski, etc. at you at any time, you know they’re a team to be reckoned with. Their goaltending, though, is the main question. Osgood isn’t the same, and Conklin’s only playoff experience is his notorious brain-cramp behind the net at Carolina in 2006. Hopefully we don’t have to see this team win it… again! Northwest- Calgary Flames ‘RLD’ Playoff Formula: 20.94 Strengths: Balanced production, penalty kill Need to improve: Goaltending consistency, road record vs. playoff teams How I see it: The Flames will have to be rolling into the playoffs to have enough momentum to get to the finals and win it. Kiprusoff will also have to kick his game up a couple notches for ‘em to have a chance. Still a very dangerous team in the Saddledome with Iginla as the Captain. Pacific- San Jose Sharks ‘RLD’ Playoff Formula: 59.23 Strengths: Total special teams, top-line scoring, home dominance Need to improve: Playoff mentality How I see it: Ok, we know they can win in the regular season. But will this be a spring to celebrate in San Jose with McLellan behind the bench?? Everyone still has their doubts. March is usually their best month of hockey, so expect them to be on fire going into April… let’s hope (for their sake) that that flame doesn’t burn out in the 2nd round as usual.
4. Finally, here are my predictions for what the playoff picture will look like on April 13th… EASTERN CONFERENCE 1. Boston Bruins 2. Washington Capitals 3. New Jersey Devils 4. Philadelphia Flyers 5. Montreal Canadiens 6. Florida Panthers 7. Buffalo Sabres 8. Carolina Hurricanes -- 9. Pittsburgh Penguins 10. New York Rangers WESTERN CONFERENCE 1. Detroit Red Wings 2. San Jose Sharks 3. Calgary Flames 4. Chicago Blackhawks 5. Vancouver Canucks 6. Dallas Stars 7. Edmonton Oilers 8. Columbus Blue Jackets -- 9. Minnesota Wild 10. Anaheim Ducks
Game Thoughts: San Jose-Dallas is turning into one of the best rivalries in the league, and this one has a lot of meaning to it. The Stars are looking to rebound from their 3-1 loss to Chicago over the weekend. The Sharks have won 3 straight, but a crucial week lies ahead of them; McLellan’s crew can’t look to Wednesday’s tilt with Detroit. They’ve taken the first 3 of the season series, but they can’t win ‘em all. I like the Stars tonight to get a big win at home.
1. Is Tom Renney on the hot seat?? “Yes… with that being said, you won’t see a change until the summer. Renney has disappointed me, but it’s not his fault. You can blame me for a lot of our lack success this season. A coaching change won’t make us a better team down the stretch.” 2. What personnel moves do you regret making?? “Well, first of all, the Redden deal was a big mistake. I feel like I really blew that one, and we’re in a bind for years to come. As for Drury and Gomez, they are important parts to our team. We look for them to be leaders on and off the ice. I’d sure like to see them produce a lot more on the offensive end.” 3. Do you feel your job is in jeopardy at this point?? “I hope not, but you can’t help but to think about that stuff. I have not met my expectations as a general manager. By now I was hoping to see this team go deep in the postseason. But we’re just going to take it one day, one game at a time and see what happens.” 4. On April 13, will the Rangers be in the top 8 in the East?? “Ooh… that’s tough. Uh… we’re not playing too well right now, obviously. Lundqvist seems to be running out of gas, and we’re not giving any sort of support offensively. I really hope we make the playoffs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we happened to miss out this year.”
Injury Report: PIT- Mike Zigomanis (undisclosed, out) WSH- Viktor Kozlov (groin, questionable), Brent Johnson (hip, out), Chris Clark (wrist, out), Brian Pothier (concussion, out)
Game Thoughts: I am anxiously awaiting this one! The Pens won a thriller yesterday in Philly, 5-4… thanks to Biron’s gaffe with 2+ minutes to go. Washington lost at home on Friday, so I expect them to play much better today. The stars usually shine when these two meet. I don’t think the Pens will be able to pull off back-to-back wins this weekend, but they’ll force the game to overtime. Enjoy this game, everyone!!
Prediction: Capitals 4, Penguins 3 (SO) The rest of tonight’s predictions: Avalanche over Hurricanes Bruins over Lightning Blackhawks over Wild Rangers over Maple Leafs
Here is our 21st instalment of 'Saturday Fantasy'! In case you're new to the RLD, Chris (from The Program) and I will select 3 players each Saturday to have a good day fantasy-wise. We pick a forward, defenseman, and goalie each time. Well, since it's a special day in the hockey world, Chris and I are selecting 2 players at every position. After last week, I have re-taken the lead for the first time since the fall (5-3-1). Without further ado, here are today's selections... Chris: F- Jeff Carter, PHI* F- Zach Parise, NJ# D- Dennis Wideman, BOS* D- Dion Phaneuf, CGY# G- Ryan Miller, BUF* G- Scott Clemmensen, NJ* Ryan: F- Dany Heatley, OTT F- Dustin Brown, LA D- Kevin Bieksa, VAN D- Sheldon Souray, EDM# G- Steve Mason, CBJ G- Chris Mason, STL
* This is the 2nd time we've used these players. # This is the 3rd (and final) we can use these players this year.
Here is a special edition of the Morning Skate! Since there are 13 games with playoff implications today, I’m bringing you a full slate of mini-previews… Enjoy! Tonight’s Slate: Penguins @ Flyers, 1:00 ET Blackhawks @ Stars, 2:00 Senators @ Canadiens, 3:00 Coyotes @ Kings, 4:00 Thrashers @ Sharks, 4:00 Rangers @ Sabres, 7:00 Canucks @ Maple Leafs, 7:00 Devils @ Islanders, 7:00 Bruins @ Panthers, 7:00 Ducks @ Blue Jackets, 7:00 Red Wings @ Wild, 8:00 Predators @ Blues, 8:30 Flames @ Oilers, 10:00
Games of the Night: Pittsburgh Penguins (28-25-6) @ Philadelphia Flyers (31-16-9) 1:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: PIT- Petr Sykora PHI- Mike Richards
Projected Goaltenders: PIT- Marc-Andre Fleury (08-09 stats: 20-15-4, 2.84 GAA) PHI- Martin Biron (08-09 stats: 18-11-5, 2.87 GAA)
Season Series: 3-1 Penguins
Game Thoughts: The Pens have somewhat had Philly’s number this year. I expect this game to be decided in the 3rd period, with desperate Pens pulling it out.
Prediction: Penguins 4, Flyers 3 ----- Chicago Blackhawks (33-15-8) @ Dallas Stars (29-21-7) 2:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: CHI- Brian Campbell DAL- Loui Eriksson
Game Thoughts: Even with Kovalev back in the lineup, I don’t foresee things getting better in Montreal today… especially after yesterday’s news about the Kostitsyns. The Habs’ collapse continues against rival Ottawa.
Prediction: Senators 5, Canadiens 3 ----- Phoenix Coyotes (26-28-5) @ Los Angeles Kings (25-23-9) 4:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: PHX- Peter Mueller LA- Jarret Stoll
Game Thoughts: These are the games Phoenix needs to win… they can’t afford to lose any ground to the teams ahead of them in the pack. But I like LA’s chances at home, and to continue their uphill battle for a playoff spot.
Prediction: Kings 3, Coyotes 1 ----- Atlanta Thrashers (21-32-6) @ San Jose Sharks (39-8-9) 4:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: ATL- Ilya Kovalchuk SJ- Milan Michalek
Game Thoughts: Mats Sundin makes his return to the ACC tonight in the 2nd leg of CBC’s triple-header. Vancouver is hot… Toronto is not. I really expect the Canucks control this one from start to finish. But maybe the Leafs will try to win with Sundin in the house… who knows!
Prediction: Canucks 4, Maple Leafs 1 ----- New Jersey Devils (38-18-3) @ New York Islanders (17-35-6) 7:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: NJ- Brian Rolston NYI- Mark Streit
Game Thoughts: Jersey has simply dominated this season series, and I expect them to continue that tonight. But the 2 points won’t be easy against a mad Isles team, coming off a 6-2 defeat to the ‘Canes.
Prediction: Devils 3, Islanders 1 ----- Boston Bruins (40-10-8) @ Florida Panthers (29-21-8) 7:00 ET… TV: Local Networks Players to watch: BOS- Zdeno Chara FLA- Stephen Weiss
Projected Goaltenders: BOS- Tim Thomas (February stats: 4-2-0, 1.82 GAA) FLA- Tomas Vokoun (February stats: 5-3-0, 1.86 GAA)
Season Series: 2-0 Bruins
Game Thoughts: Boston righted the ship Tuesday in Carolina with a 5-1 win. Florida lost 3-0 to Chicago on Thursday. This game means much more to Florida, and I’ll say the ‘Cardiac Cats’ pull out another win.
Prediction: Panthers 3, Bruins 2 (OT) ----- Anaheim Ducks (28-27-5) @ Columbus Blue Jackets (30-23-6) 7:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: ANA- Ryan Getzlaf CBJ- R.J. Umberger
Projected Goaltenders: ANA- Jonas Hiller (08-09 stats: 14-12-1, 2.27 GAA) CBJ- Steve Mason (08-09 stats: 23-12-2, 2.10 GAA)
Season Series: 2-1 Ducks
Game Thoughts: The last time these two met Mason shutout the Ducks in Anaheim. And with Carlyle’s bunch getting shelled in Detroit last night, I wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘em get blanked again tonight.
Prediction: Blue Jackets 2, Ducks 0 ----- Detroit Red Wings (39-12-8) @ Minnesota Wild (28-24-4) 8:00 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: DET- Pavel Datsyuk MIN- Brent Burns
Projected Goaltenders: DET- Jimmy Howard (08-09 AHL stats: 15-13-4, 2.46 GAA) MIN- Niklas Backstrom (08-09 stats: 27-17-3, 2.24 GAA)
Season Series: 2-0 Red Wings
Game Thoughts: The Wild need all the points they can get; Detroit coming off 2 blowout wins… a recipe for a Minnesota ‘W’?? I believe so.
Prediction: Wild 3, Red Wings 2 ----- Nashville Predators (27-28-4) @ St. Louis Blues (25-26-7) 8:30 ET… TV: Local Networks
Players to watch: NSH- Steve Sullivan STL- Patrik Berglund
Projected Goaltenders: NSH- Pekka Rinne (February stats: 5-2-1, 2.08 GAA) STL- Chris Mason (February stats: 5-2-3, 1.91 GAA)
Season Series: 4-1 Blues
Game Thoughts: I wouldn’t be surprised by anything in this game. Both meetings in the last week have gone to OT. But I expect Chris Mason to get the better of his former team once again.
Prediction: Blues 3, Predators 1 ----- Calgary Flames (34-18-6) @ Edmonton Oilers (29-25-4) 10:00 ET… TV: CBC, NHL Net. (US)
Players to watch: CGY- Rene Bourque EDM- Sheldon Souray
1. First of all, what’s the deal with Kovalev and the team?? “Everything was blown out of proportion by the media on Wednesday. Kovalev is not going anywhere as of now, but we have had some minor discussions with some other teams. He’s an important player for us on the ice, and in the locker room. Coach Carbonneau and I just felt Alex could use a break, which is why we kept him home for our 2 recent road games. And those games proved to us that Alex is needed in this lineup.” 2. After a 1-6-1 stretch, what does this hockey club need to do to right the ship?? “Everyone needs to play better, plain and simple. Our goaltending has been weak… the power play has been struggling… we’ve gotten bad breaks on the injury front. It’s a combination of things. But, uh, we got 2 big home games coming up. We have to get some wins pretty quickly.” 3. Will you be active before/on Deadline Day?? “I cannot say right now. A lot of it depends on our play from until the March 4th deadline. We have a small list of players that we’d be interested in acquiring, but we have roughly 11 days to figure everything out.” 4. Are you worried at all about Price’s composure?? “To be honest, yes I am. He’s playing in a tough city with rabid fans. And with his age, he’s going to go through some growing spurts, and we’re seeing that right now. You put all that together with his inconsistent play in the playoffs last year… you can’t help but to have doubts about your goaltender’s state of mind.”
Tonight’s Slate: Avalanche @ Capitals, 7:00 ET Lightning @ Hurricanes, 7:00 Ducks @ Red Wings, 7:30
Game of the Night: Anaheim Ducks @ Detroit Red Wings 7:30 ET… TV: Local Networks
Records: Overall: Ducks (28-26-5) … Red Wings (38-12-8) Last Ten: Ducks (5-5-0) … Red Wings (7-2-1) Away/Home: Ducks (13-13-2) … Red Wings (21-4-3) Season Series: 2-1 Red Wings
Players to watch: ANA- Teemu Selanne Anaheim will need the ‘Finnish Flash’ to play well tonight to grab 2 points. DET- Nicklas Lidstrom Lidstrom has been a force this month, tallying 11 points in 9 games.
Injury Report: ANA- Samuel Pahlsson (mono, out), Kent Huskins (foot, out), Francois Beauchemin (knee, out), Brad Larsen (sports hernia, out) DET- Tomas Holmstrom (sports hernia, out), Brett Lebda (back, questionable), Brad Stuart (ribs, out), Darren McCarty (sports hernia, out)
Game Thoughts: Detroit responded from a 2-game skid by running Nashville outta town, 6-2. The Wings scored 5 power play goals en route to the victory. The Ducks are heading in the wrong direction, and haven’t been getting any sort of goaltending from either Hiller or Giguere. I fully expect Datsyuk & company to steadily beat-down the Ducks tonight.
Prediction: Red Wings 3, Ducks 1 The rest of tonight’s predictions: Capitals over Avalanche Hurricanes over Lightning
We are less than 2 weeks away from the Trade Deadline, so it’s time to take a closer look at some buyers, sellers, and trade bait… BUYERS- Anaheim Ducks Dallas Stars Edmonton Oilers Florida Panthers Minnesota Wild Montreal Canadiens Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins Vancouver Canucks Washington Capitals SELLERS- Atlanta Thrashers Colorado Avalanche New York Islanders Phoenix Coyotes Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs Teams that I believe will stand pat- Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres Calgary Flames Carolina Hurricanes Colorado Avalanche Columbus Blue Jackets Detroit Red Wings Los Angeles Kings Nashville Predators New Jersey Devils New York Rangers Ottawa Senators San Jose Sharks St. Louis Blues
Looking at the trade bait- Jay Bouwmeester, FLA Jay-Bo is one of the bigger names out on the market, but will the Panthers part ways with the free agent-to-be?? If they do, I think they need to get NHL players in return, and not picks & prospects. And remember… the ‘Cats could keep Bouwmeester, make the playoffs, and trade his rights on draft day. They wouldn’t get equal value, but it’d be something. Possible destinations: MTL, PHI, PIT, VAN, and EDM. Chris Pronger, ANA This is another big name floating around the trade market, but I honestly can’t see a team taking that big of a contract without him being a UFA this summer. IMO, Pronger will be moved (to Toronto?) in the off-season. But you can’t overlook the possibility of one of the most dominating d-men being moved by March 4th. Possible destinations: BOS, WSH, TOR, NJ, and MTL. Nik Antropov, TOR It’s only a matter of time before Antropov leaves Toronto. Brian Burke came out publicly and ripped Antropov last week. He’s a UFA this summer, so he’ll be attractive to teams looking to just rent a player. Possible destinations: PIT, ANA, BOS, and MTL. Keith Tkachuk, STL A lot of Tkachuk’s fate will depend on how the Blues play from now til the deadline. It’s a possibility that St. Louis becomes buyers and keeps him. But if they fade in the next couple weeks, there’s a very good possibility Tkachuk will go to a contender. Possible destinations: CAR, PIT, FLA, and ANA.
Other players likely to be dealt: Derek Morris, PHX; Tomas Kaberle, TOR; Pavel Kubina, TOR; Erik Cole, EDM; Mike Comrie, NYI; Chris Neil, OTT; Petr Prucha, NYR
Players to watch: BUF- Tim Connolly The oft-injured center has 17 points since January 17 (14 games). PHI- Claude Giroux The rookie’s starting to get it, racking up 6 points in the last 5 games.
Projected Goaltenders: BUF- Ryan Miller (08-09 stats: 28-15-5, 2.51 GAA) PHI- Martin Biron (08-09 stats: 17-11-5, 2.87 GAA)
Injury Report: BUF- Thomas Vanek (jaw, out), Maxim Afinogenov (groin, out), Henrik Tallinder (shoulder, out), Paul Gaustad (upper body, questionable) PHI- Antero Niittymaki (flu, questionable), Daniel Briere (groin, out)
Game Thoughts: I expect this to be a hard fought battle as both clubs needs the 2 points. Philly’s last game was their 5-2 stomping at MSG on Sunday; Buffalo soundly beat Toronto 4-1 on Tuesday. Biron played well over the weekend, so expect him to get the call even if Niittymaki is recovered from the flu. In a game like this, I just like the home team… Flyers win.
Prediction: Flyers 4, Sabres 3 The rest of tonight’s predictions: Hurricanes over Islanders Penguins over Canadiens Maple Leafs over Blue Jackets Senators over Canucks Devils over Lightning Panthers over Blackhawks Blues over Predators Wild over Flames Stars over Oilers Coyotes over Thrashers Sharks over Kings Upset Alert-San Jose vs. Los Angeles The Sharks have been more vulnerable at home than usual, and the Kings have won 7 straight on the road. LA won a big game last night in Anaheim, and could carry that momentum into tonight. Don’t take the Kings lightly, San Jose…
Players to watch: MTL- Christopher Higgins This is someone who needs to elevate his game for the Habs. WSH- Alexander Ovechkin Ovie enters the game with a 9-game point streak… and has 2 hat tricks during that time!
Projected Goaltenders: MTL- Jaroslav Halak (08-09 stats: 12-10-1, 3.06 GAA) WSH- Jose Theodore (08-09 stats: 21-10-3, 2.78 GAA)
Injury Report: MTL- Robert Lang (Achilles, out), Guillaume Latendresse (shoulder, out), Alex Tanguay (shoulder, out) WSH- Viktor Kozlov (groin, questionable), Brent Johnson (hip, out), Chris Clark (wrist, out), Brian Pothier (concussion, out)
Game Thoughts: How will Montreal respond from the recent shake-ups?? Will the absence of Kovalev be an addition by subtraction?? Those are just a couple questions of many in Habs Nation. Washington, meanwhile, is coming off a successful road trip, and has taken 2 of the 3 meetings with the Habs so far this year. In the end, I think the Caps will be too much on home-ice, while Montreal’s funk continues…
Prediction: Capitals 4, Canadiens 2 The rest of tonight’s predictions: Islanders over Rangers Blue Jackets over Blues Red Wings over Predators Kings over Ducks
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.