Hello friends of frozen rubber. Well, two weeks from right now the regular season will be rubble and we will have turned our eyes to the playoffs. Can't wait. Now, where were we?
It seems that in the lst decade the regular season has become less meaningful due to the increase in playoff upsets based on seeding. Do you think this is a problem? Should dominant regular season teams have a greater advantage in the playoffs? Or are you okay with the current format (season length, playoff set-up)? I am torn on the subject and see positives to either argument.
Philip; It is an interesting question. Recall the spring of '06 when the bottom four seeds advanced from the first round in the west and of course the 8th seed Oilers ended up in Game 7 of the final. But in that same year the top four moved on in the east and Carolina, second in the conference, won the Cup. In '08 the Wings won the Presidents' Trophy and the Cup.I think it's good there are no or at least few cakewalks in the playoffs. How much fun is it to watch a sweep? But it does raise the question of how to reward the teams that do finish atop their conferences. Doubt if you'll ever see a bye situation. There'll be more fuel for debate, though, if a 7 or 8 seed knocks off a 1 or 2 in the first round and I wouldn't be shocked to see if happen.
So what does Carlyle do about Jonas Hiller in Anaheim? Bench him and stay with Emery/Ellis until one of them fall apart? I think he should sit Hiller until the Ducks secure a playoff spot, then find a way to insert him in a game.
Sean; My good friend Pierre LeBrun and I had this very debate last week. I said go with Hiller. Wrong. I think at this stage you have to play the guy you think can get you two points. Not sure Hiller is that guy right now. Secure a playoff spot and then tinker if you want with the playoffs a little more than two weeks away. Emery's been the guy to shoulder the load the last couple of weeks no time to switch unless his play forces Randy Carlyle's hand.
Scott, which is more likely, Bylsma for Adams, or Fleury for Hart. Both of those seemed to be dismissed in the comments sections of espn articles as just Pens hyperbole.
Bob; One reason I never read the comments sections. Fleury has been pretty terrific the last 3/4 of the season but don't see him pushing aside Carey Price or Tom Thomas or even Pekka Rinne for Hart consideration and my sense is voters will only make room for one tender on the ballot given goalies have the Vezina as a fallback. I think Bylsma will be given strong consideration for the Jack Adams given the Pens' strong play minus Crosby, Malkin, Orpik et al.
Scotty... It's time to start worrying. They look lethargic, always getting outhustled to the puck. Making terrible passes. Getting beat by Bruins, Pittsburgh, and Capitals in one week is not a good sign. Even think Buffalo with a hot goaltender could beat flyers in first rounds. Just don't like the smell. REEKS OF CAPITALS OF 2010!!!
DieHard; I feel your pain. And it will be interesting to see how the team closes out the regular slate with meaningful games against Pittsburgh, the Rangers and Buffalo the latter two likely first-round opponents. I still like this team a lot. And I assume Chris Pronger will be on the ice come mid-April and that changes the team's swagger exponentially. I don't see them falling in the first round regardless of who they draw.
Predict (in order) seeds 1 through 4 in the East. Also, do the 'Canes still have a shot?
Mike; Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh. And no, the 'Canes are cooked.
are the rangers actually "good" or is this a huge mirage. Not counting a 3-4 game stretch, how long can you keep winning 1-0? Has King Henry won the Vezina?
brian; I think the Rangers are this good. Your point is a good one, relying on Lundqvist to win every night 2-1 doesn't leave much in the way of margin for error. That said, those games are playoff-like in that players get used to playing in tight quarters. I think that was one of the problems that Washington faced a year ago not being familiar with the nightly one-goal game grind. Now, could the Rangers knock off a Washington or Philly or Boston? I'd like to see a Boston/Rangers tilt because I think the Rangers stack up pretty well against the Bs. As for the Vezina, hard to push Rinne, Thomas and Price off the ballot but Lundqvist and his 11 shutouts deserve a hard look. He may replace Price if the Habs continue to struggle.
Hey Scott ... do you see much chance of the Kings making a deep run given the latest injuries to Williams and Kopitar? I know these things can have a galvanizing effect, but in this case it feels like too much lost firepower for them to get past the second round.
Tony; We have seen the Penguins turn into a kind Steel City brand of the New Jersey Devils since Crosby and Malkin went down. Don't score much but don't mind playing one-goal games. Can the Kings do the same? Saw GM Dean Lombardi reference the Pens' response to adversity and is looking for the same from his squad. Lots of character in the Kings room and as long as Jonathan Quick can continue his strong play no reason they can't stay on track. Still, I think the twin losses will cut short what could have been a long playoff run this spring.
Re: Concussions. Players continue to get bigger, but the size of the rinks stay the same, thus lessening the amount of open space on the ice. Would removing one row of seats from arenas really cost that much for this not to be implemented?
Michael; Maybe but I'm not sure there's enough data to sway owners into cutting their own revenues. Don't see if happening, frankly.
Can Calgary squeak in? Are they capable of beating the Canucks if they do?
BJ; Too much left to chance now for the Flames I fear. They have played three more games than Chicgo (8th as we speak) and Dallas (10th as we speak) and will have to win at least four of five to close out the season and hope they end up ahead of those two teams (or hope others lose five of six etc.) given their low number of regulation/overtime wins. Cards definitely stacked against Flames.
Wings vs Hawks tonight...... Who ya got?
peter; Should be a great tilt and the 'Hawks have a golden chance with Joey MacDonald set to start (with all due respect to MacDonald who has actually played well in relief of Jimmy Howard). Still, like the Wings in overtime.
Is this the year the Coyotes win a playoff series. Likely first round opponents: LA, Nashville, San Jose (ugh), Detroit.
Loup; Would actually like to see a 'Yotes/Preds match-up if only to see one of those two hard-working, hard-luck teams make it to the second round. Imagine seven one-goal, multiple overtime games. May not get great ratings but what a series it would be. I think the 'Yotes need Hanzal back (hasn't skated in a couple of weeks) and a healthy Ed Jovonovski back (he's close). But I must admit I will always wonder where the scoring will come from regardless of who they play.
Who do you think the Bruins would like to see more in the 1st round. Rangers or Canadiens?
Nick; I think based on their mauling of Montreal in their last game and the Habs' struggles the Bruins probably match up better against Montreal than the Rangers right now. Montreal has better tiebreaker numbers than the Rangers and Buffalo so am guessing they finish in 6th and the Bruins stay in the 3rd seed which gives us a terrific Original Six match-up to start.
how is tim thomas not the runaway vezina winner!!??
charles; Because Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist and Ilya Bryzgalov have also turned in Vezina-worthy performances. Price may have fallen off a bit but I sense a real groundswell of support for Rinne given the Preds recent strong play. Not saying Thomas doesn't deserve consideration or that he won't win but it's closer than people think.
What do you think about the Wings goalie situation? Not a big deal before playoffs with a spot nearly secured, but can Howard do it with an inexperienced backup?
Andy; Assuming Howard is healthy - and he should be back later this week - I don't think that's an issue at all. I think the issue is really the health of guys like Datsyuk, Franzen, Bertuzzi, and whether they are at peak performance as to whether the Wings are able to enjoy a long playoff run.
I feel that many teams in the East/West can derail Vancouver's cup aspirations. what do you think?
Jim; Define many?I would love to see Chicago and Vancouver go for the third straight year. And I think Anaheim, assuming their goaltending stays strong, would be interesting, too. From the east, Philly and a healthy Pittsburgh or Washington would be a toss-up I think.
My bolts have really crashed. Stamkos might be the streakiest player I have seen in a long time and with our Defense/goaltending, im worried about the playoffs. Help me out here, whats going on? Can we beat Pittsburgh in a 7 game series?
Pete; Agreed. Very troubling but I think one positive is that with Steve Downie back and Ryan Malone around the corner this will give the Bolts some much-needed sand. That said, they do look like a team that's hit the wall. Interesting to see how Boucher/Yzerman address this in the coming days. As for beating Pittsburgh, don't like their chances especially if Crosby comes back.
Living here in Ducks territory but am a longtime Vancouver Canucks fan and everybody says this is our year ... you think despite the mounting injuries, they can get it done?
SoCal; No question the Canucks are head and shoulders better than anyone else in the NHL. But there is something that nags at me, maybe it's Luongo and his playoff performances, maybe it's the injuries to character guys like Hamhuis and Malhotra but I am guessing the Cup stays south of the border again this spring.
So what are the odds of the Coyotes staying vs leaving? And when will this saga be over.
Brendan; I am loving the idea of this mess being over. I think in the end the 'Yotes stay. Guessing a deal gets done before the puck drops on the post-season. Then the question becomes do the Atlanta Thrashers end up taking the 'Yotes' place in Winnipeg.
Would break up the Staal, Kunitz, Kennedy line if Crosby returns? Crosby has been with Kunitz for a while but the current line is producing nicely.
Patrick; Nice problem for Dan Bylsma to have but would think he'd try James Neal out with Crosby and maybe Kunitz/Pascal Dupuis on the other side. Tyler Kennedy has had himself a nice second half.
Scott, do you see the Canes or the Leafs overtaking the Sabres for the 8th seed?
Ned; I do not. Think the Sabres and the Rangers for that matter are in too much of a groove to allow a five-point lead to slip in less than two weeks. I think the better issue is how Montreal, New York and the Sabres align themselves down the stretch.
Burnside, you're crazy. Look at the numbers, Thomas leads in everything that isn't related to games played, the only reason he doesn't play more is because the Bruins have two good goalies. Why on earth should Price get bonus points for the vezina because he's too whiny to deal with having a decent back up?
Corey; Perhaps my lightbulb is a bit dim but all of those things are going to factor into voters' decisions (the GMs vote on this one). Games played, the amount of offense a goalie's team provides, the amount a team relies on him. Again, not saying Thomas won't win just saying it isn't the cakewalk it looked like at the All-Star break.
I'm pretty sure when its's your turn to update the Power Rankings you moved the Islanders DOWN each and every week. Just want to say you're 'contribution' hasn't gone unnoticed.
John; I would have had the Islanders in the top 10 but then realized they have won twice in their last seven and are 13th in the conference. Actually like a lot of what is going on with the Islanders. I think I am on record in this forum as saying I think they'll be a playoff team next year.
Why would the Coyotes stay? Nobody goes. Actually, when you really look at it, there are several teams that can't draw fans, the league really needs to contract about 6 teams.
Marc; Well, in a perfect world you might be right. Sadly that's not going to happen. You can't just do a Bewitched and wiggle your nose and make franchises disappear (I'm betraying my age with that television reference I know). As for the 'Yotes I'm not saying it's a lock things will turn around if they stay but like Atlanta it's hard to know if it's a lousy market or a market that's been saddled with lousy ownership/teams. No one watched the Pens when it looked like they were heading to Kansas City. And the Verizon Center was a tomb even after the lockout. Things change. Maybe they will change in Glendale.
Scott, enjoying your work as always. Out of the non-playoff teams, which do you see as having the best chance to climb into the top eight next season? Can LeafsNation actually feel excited when we talk about next year?
Todd; Been a long time since I was in Wasaga Beach, the Dyconia still there? As I mentioned earlier I think the Isles will jump up into the top eight in the east and the Devils, too. In the west I think St. Louis will bounce back and I like Colorado even though they've really fallen off the map after an inspiring run to the post-season last year.
Top three most dangerous teams heading into the playoffs, and the team you think could go the furthest in the playoffs that would be a surprise (a la Butler and VCU in the Final Four)?
Bryce; Too hard to call given the injury uncertainty for so many top players on teams that have a shot at going a long way. That said, I still think Philly is the team to beat in the east and I think Washington will be very tough, too, given their more prickly style of defensive play. Sharks are healthy and under the radar although, like Vancouver, still something about them that makes me hesitate to pick them for a run to the final. I think Anaheim is interesting and Chicago, too, and both will likely play out of the 6/7/8 seed.
How much longer do you see the Thrahsers staying in Atlanta? Not winning a playoff game in the history of the team has got to catch up to them eventually
Scott; A lot of factors go into that one but I think if the Coyotes stay - and I think they will - then it will put a lot of pressure on current ownership and the league to come up with a new owner in Atlanta with Winnipeg waiting in the wings . I think it's no better than 50-50 that the Thrashers are still in the south next fall if the Coyotes don't go to Winnipeg.
Okay folks. Thanks for hanging out. Let's do it again next week.