Well, the clock keeps ticking towards the end of the regular season. Can't wait. Now, where were we?
Lundqvist now has 10 shutouts with 6 shootout victories to his name this season. Is Tim Thomas really that much better, especially now that it's Hank's job to finish the rest of the season (20+ consecutive games) all by himself with Biron done? The Rangers are the hottest team in the league right now and Lundqvist is leading the charge.
Don; No question Lundqvist has insinuated himself into the Vezina Trophy discussion. Funny how these last three or four weeks has altered the landscape. Right now I would put Carey Price ahead of Thomas (it's the broadcasters' vote not the writers' in this case) with Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Ilya Bryzgalov all in the mix. With Thomas's play slipping slightly and with Lundqvist helping the Rangers virtually assure themselves of a playoff berth it's wide open as far as I am concerned even though Thomas's numbers remain impressive.
Simple question: do the Sharks overtake the Wings for 2nd place in the west?
Steven; I'll tell you after tonight's Sharks/Kings tilt. Seriously I like the Sharks' chances of ending up with the second seed in the west.
Does the East have the advantage over the West in a Stanley Cup final because the West winner is likely to be traveling greater distances in 4 differet time zones before reaching the final? Will the NHL ever go to a top 16 teams make the playoffs regardless of conference to even out the travel discrepancy?
Jason; I don't think there is an advantage and the fact the west has won three of five post-lockout Cups suggests that (Anaheim, Detroit, Chicago). And with the NHL's devotion to divisional play and selling divisional/conference rivalries I doubt you'll ever see a straight 16 team playoff grid.
Why do the sharks never get any respect, just because there are in the west must be they are not the pens, capitals or bruins?
San Ramon; I think it's their penchant for spitting the bit in the playoffs. You know that old chestnut about having to earn respect well I think the Sharks are the poster boys for that. Another trip to at least the conference final and maybe people will view them differently. My guess is they don't get that far.
How do you think the bruins vs. Canadiens game is gonna' play out?
Andrew; In spite of all the bad blood I think it'll be a tough, entertaining game but without any kind of fireworks the likes of which we've seen the last two times these clubs met. I think they'll save their best for mid-April.
Have you read/heard Recchi's comments in their entirety? Not the canned version being circulated by The Canadian Press, rather within the context of the entire interview. If the latter, was he completely out of line or was there some truth to it? The sentiment being that the organization purposely stoked the hysteria surrounding the play in order to maximize the punishment. Not sure that I completely agree with him, but it also wouldn't surprise me if true. Also, Recchi never insinuated that Max was faking, but I can see where some might infer this if they hadn't heard the entire interview. Every player (and fan that I've come across) in Boston has wished him nothing but a speedy recovery.
Mike; I must admit I have not seen/heard the entire transcript. Have had plenty of opportunities to talk to Mark Recchi over the years and he's not a loose cannon so I am sure he was thinking big picture about how the community/politicians/police reacted to the Pacioretty hit as opposed to suggesting Pacioretty was trying to embellish the seriousness of the hit. I never took that meaning from his comments even as they appeared in wire stories. As for suggesting the Habs were trying to protray the hit in its most serious light to try and ensure Chara was suspended, don't see that as being part of the team's strategy given the seriousness of the incident.
Why no love for the Rangers in the Power Rankings? They have won seven of eight, against teams like San Hose and spanking Philly. Not to mention they have owned the Caps this year. They have a healthy +37 in goals, and have 5 scorers with more than 20 goals. Torts for the Jack Adams?
Bob; Actually just did a piece on the Rangers today that should be on the site. And LeBrun did the rankings this week. I'll have them fixed up Monday. And yes, I would think Mr. Tortorella will get a long look as a Jack Adams finalist. Lots of competition though.
Scott, If you are the Wings, do you keep resting as many of your players as possible? You can't catch the Canucks at this point and with the West the way it is this year, seeds won't mean much at all. -Jay
Jay; I think there is a fine line for Mike Babcock to consider with a line-up that is pretty banged-up including arguably your most important player, Pavel Datsyuk. You want guys rolling into the playoffs not having to find that gear having missed three or four games. But you're right, there is no compelling reason vis a vis the standings to rush guys back. I wouldn't be surprised to see guys filter back and play a game, maybe take another off and so on down to the final weekend. But that's just a guess.
What's fueling the speculation that the Habs embellished Pacioretty's injuries is that the day after, he was giving an interview saying he didn't have any headaches. Two days after he was at the arena, four days after he was at the movies. Those aren't things you do if you have a severe concussion, you're in a dark room with no light/sound.
Marc; You are right on. The fact that Pacioretty appears to have responded well to what appeared at first blush to be a signficant if not career-ending injury has conspiracists coming out of the woodwork. You just never know how players will respond. But to suggest any of this was part of a grand plan to try and snooker Chara into a longer suspension is a bit much. Anyone who watched that hit - and who hasn't - had to fear the worst.
Scott, 16 teams make the playoffs. THIS YEAR, the most pressure to win the Cup will be on ____________________? [Me, I'd say Vancouver, Washington and Philly in that order]
Stephaine; I would say you are right on; Vancouver, Washington, Philly and you can also throw Los Angeles in to at least make a good showing (win at least a round maybe two).
Do the Preds make the playoffs? Do they win their first playoff series? Does Trotz win the Jack Adams if they do? No team does more with less (obviously have to give it up to Poile as well for that, great GM).
Paul; I think the Preds do make the playoffs but I don't see them any higher than 7/8. Not sure Vancouver is a good match-up for them although they've sure played Detroit tough if that's how if falls. In the end, as much as I like Barry Trotz and the entire organization for what they've managed to accomplish in getting teams to the playoffs, I just don't see them coming out of the first round.
Joe Sacco needs to go. once you start making injury excuses why you team isnt winning you arent getting the job done as a head coach. Dan Bylsma / Mike Babcock and other great coaches dont make injury excuses.
Ian; All of the indications are that GM Greg Sherman and Sacco will return next year. But it sure has gotten ugly in a hurry in Denver. That said I like a lot of the pieces there. Obviously finding a serviceable number one goaltender is a key and it may be the single-most important thing Sherman, assuming he is still in Denver this off-season, has to do. I think Sacco gets a chance next year to get off to a good start but I imagine his leash will be pretty short if he's back. My prediction? I think the Avs are a playoff team next year.
If, and this is a big if, Crosby comes back and even looks like a shadow of himself from earlier in the season, where do you see the Pens ranked among the elite teams in the East?
Devin; The more he skates the more it appears like he'll give it a shot this season - don't want to start any false rumors, just my gut on this - and if he does come back he does dramatically effect the balance of power in the east.Even with a bit of rust Crosby gives the Pens, one of the most difficult teams to play against defensively in the NHL, as good a chance as anyone to come out of the east. You can bet it will be one of the most interesting developments to follow over the next 2 1/2 weeks.
Did Matt Cooke deserve the suspension handed out? Seemed a little harsh to me
Baby; I think the NHL was right on with the suspension. I think the bigger question is how the league deals with the next controversial hit given that Cooke was an easy mark given his history and the timing of his hit on McDonagh.
Burnside, Flyers fans need your professional opinion. Who will/should be the Flyers goalie come playoffs? Also, if they choose to go with a 2 goalie system, can they be successful?
Frazier; Never a dull moment in the Flyer goal, no? I understand Bobrovsky will start tonight against the Pens and one has to imagine this is a real test for the rookie netminder who got the hook the other night against Washington and hasn't looked all that good in the last month or so. If Bobrovsky managed to deliver two or three quality starts down the stretch I think he gets the nod but it goes without saying Peter Laviolette won't hesitate to go to Brian Boucher. And all you have to do is look at the Leighton/Boucher tandem last year to answer the question about using a rotation. I know that was brought on by injury but the Flyers never missed a beat. Laviolette also used a similar pattern in '06 when the 'Canes won the Cup using Martin Gerber a couple of times after Cam Ward had taken over as starter.
What seed will the Coyotes end up with in the first round, and how far can they go?
Shane; I am guessing 5/6 hole (how's that for waffling?) and like Nashville as much as I love the team and think Dave Tippett has done yeoman work again this season just not sure I see them emerging from the first round. 'Yotes fans deserve a playoff win just not sure it's in the cards this spring.
Who is your pick for the Calder this year?
Zach; This has been a great year for rookies with probably eight or nine guys for whom you can make a case. Right now I have Logan Couture at the top of my list. A complete player and really crucial to the Sharks' turning around an up and down season.
How much is Vancover's win total affected by the fact that the play in the weakest division in hockey? What is the differential in wins they get by playing in the North? I say its good for +5 wins
Cody; I've seen this floated in recent days and it's a valid point. Remember when Detroit was pounding the stuffing out of the Central Division the first couple of years after the lockout? Given how tough the Central and Pacific are there is no doubt Vancouver has padded their point totals with easier games against bad Northwest teams. Does it diminish what they've accomplished? Not in my books. Still the best team in the NHL right now and full value for the top seed and the Presidents' Trophy.
How do you think the Sabres new owner will effect there playoff performance after his vow that , the only purpose for them was to win a cup?
Rob; I think you have to look big picture with Terry Pegula and his plans for the Sabres. The Sabres are a playoff team and having added Brad Boyes may provide a stern test for a Philly or Washington. But I think the issue is making Buffalo a hockey destination in the way that Detroit has been for years. Pegula wants players to want to come to Buffalo and that means spending money and not cutting corners. It will take time but I think there is nothing but positives about setting the bar high right from the beginning. Now he just needs to follow through and that means beyond this spring.
Do the Islanders have a shot next year? They have been rebuilding the past few years, but I think they have a good chance to make a significant dent in the playoff picture come next year
Chizzy; After battering the Isles for most of the year you have to give Garth Snow and Jack Capuano credit. There are a lot of impressive things going on with the Isles right now. Priority one would be deciding what they want to do with their goaltending. Has Al Montoya shown enough to be given a shot at being the starter regardless of where Rick DiPietro is at? I will say right now I will be surprised and disappointed if they aren't a playoff team next year.
Or when the Sharks do make the Western Conference Finals again this year you can just discount it by saying they got lucky like they did last year playing a "tired" Red Wings team. Just admit you don't like the Sharks
Scott; I have nothing against the Sharks but I do take issue with those who suggest getting swept in the conference final is somehow an achievement. If that's all you're aiming for, well, okay, but this is a team that has since the lockout been as talented as any team in the NHL and never made good on that talent - unless getting swept in the CF is what you aspire to.
Suppose the 'Yotes win the Stanley Cup - Yes its highly unlikely but imagine if they do win and this ownership situation is not figured out and they have to move next year. Now that would be the most embarassing.
Matt; The shame would be unbearable. Worse. Let's say the deal falls apart in the next week and the NHL confirms it will relocate the team to Winnipeg next season and the team goes on a long run. Brutal.
If the Hawks were to make it to the finals, don't you think that Q would be deserving of the Jack Adams award?
Rich; All the major awards are voted on before the start of the playoffs. I don't think Coach Q will mind not getting the hardware if his boys are back in the final, though.
if the playoff seedings remain pretty much the same... who is your one team out of the East and one out of the West who the higher ranked seeds don't want to be matched up against (even though the playoffs are WIDE OPEN)?
Toby; Not sure anyone wants to tangle with Chicago in the west even though they may finish in the bottom end of the bracket somewhere between 5-8. And in the east the way the Rangers are playing they will give Philly, Washington or Boston all they can handle.
Who gives Nashville the best chance at winning their first series? Who do you think they'll play, assuming they get in, and what's the results?
Mike; I think Phoenix would be a good match for the Preds. Two similar teams that rely on scoring by committee and terrific goaltending. Might not be a ratings bonanza but for the hockey purists it would be a fun series to watch. Maybe the Kings, too. I know they aren't intimidated by the Wings but I just don't think they can keep up with a Red Wings team offensively provided the Wings are healthy.
Scott....above regarding the Coyotes you said "Let's say the deal falls apart in the next week and the NHL confirms it will relocate the team to Winnipeg next season and the team goes on a long run. Brutal."....How is that worse than when the Nordiques assembled several top draft picks, finished #1 in the East in their final season, then moved to Colorado and won the Cup the next year? And then won the Cup again 5 years later?
Citizens; Not sure I said it was worse.
Scott, at this point in the season do the Devils have a chance of making it to the playoffs with only 8 games left and being down 9 points? It looks grim at this stage of the game. What do the devils look like next year with Parise back, maybe a nice success in the second round that we haven't seen in 4 years?
Edward; No, I think the loss to Boston earlier this week was the final bell coming on the heels of a couple of killer losses to Ottawa. But it's interesting that Parise looks like he'll try and get a few games in before the end of the regular season and with the play of some of the youngsters like Tedenby I will be shocked if the Devils weren't back in the playoffs next year assuming of course Lou Lamoriello can find a way to keep Parise in the fold.
Tomas Vokoun is a free agent this offseason. You think Florida resigns him or do you think he lands somewhere else?
Gray; Unless Tomas Vokoun is prepared to play for half what he's making now (he makes $6.3 million this season) he'll be on the move. Denver anyone?
I was just looking at the shots total stats and noticed Byfuglien is second behind Ovechkin with 308 shots. Next closest is Chara at 236. No other Thrasher even ranks in the top 50. To me that seems a bit disconcerting if you are an Atlanta fan (Sharks/Kings fan here) unless your entire forward core is made of Holmstrom clones infront of the opposing goalie.
Garrett; It's not necessarily a bad thing as long as some of them go in the net. But sadly for the Thrashers after a wicked start Byfuglien's production has tailed off and once again the Thrash couldn't find a way to make up for it in other areas and will be outside the playoff bubble again. Sad is right.
Scott, in a few questions above, you said you would be "surprised" and "shocked", respectively, if the Islanders and Devils both weren't in the playoffs next year. If that is true, which of the Top 8 would come out?....don't see Philly, Pitt, Wash, Boston going anywhere...and Buffalo and Tampa will only get better with their new owners. Montreal and the Rangers also don't look to be getting worse.
Jesse; I hate it when I'm asked to be accountable. Well, I'm not sure I had Montreal in my top 8 this year so I could take them out. And can the Rangers replicate their dedicated play of this year for another campaign? Of course I could just end up being shocked and disappointed.
Scott, Do you think that the 'Canes can catch either Buffalo or NYR? Is it going to come down to that head-to-head Apr. 3rd? I started growing a "luck-stache" (moustache for luck) in the hopes that it would please the hockey gods.
Paul; Big home and home with Tampa this weekend they need to get through first. I would think they need three of four at least to stay in the hunt. And they're going to need help as both the NYR and Buff haven't shown much slide of late. Honestly, don't think the 'Canes have it in them this year. I'd say they should be in next year but then I'd have to pull another team from the top eight.
Alright folks. Thanks for hanging out. Let's do it again next week.