Jan 072012
 
Cody Hodgson, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

It was about as heated as everyone anticipated; the Vancouver Canucks showed their disdain for the Boston Bruins and vice-versa. Neither team was willing to let the other off the hook so easily, but at the end of the day it was Vancouver eking out the 4-3 victory and coming away with the two points, just like they hoped.

But beyond just the brawls and powerplay prowess, it was two of Vancouver’s most tradeable assets who truly shined in this heated affair. Cody Hodgson had an assist and blasted home the eventual game-winning goal in just 11:19 of ice time, while Cory Schneider made 36 saves in the win.

Neither Hodgson or Schneider were given the chance to be difference makers during last year’s Stanley Cup Final. Hodgson played in the San Jose and Nashville series, but didn’t see a shred of the ice in the last round, while Schneider’s only playing time was when the games were well out of hand.

Isn’t it funny that when that brass ring presented itself today in Boston, both young players stepped up and seized it?

Over the course of this season, Hodgson has shown more and more improvement and you might even be able to make the argument he’s been Vancouver’s most consistent player from start to finish. That’s what the organization hoped he could be; the young spark that could rejuvenate a team still recovering from a mentally and physically-draining playoff. Ditto for Schneider, whose increased workload and sensational performances this year has turned him into one of the NHL’s most coveted goalies on the trade market.

There’s been a lot of talk about trading both players for talent that can help Vancouver win now, but with all due respect to them (I also find myself in this crowd of people at times), Hodgson and Schneider both played big roles in a victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Who’s to say that Hodgson and Schneider can’t help this team win now? The Canucks’ epic 4-3 victory over the Bruins just showed that you’re never too young to make a difference, and you’re not too inexperienced to shine on a big stage.

Jan 072012
 

I’m confused about the NHL quickly rescinding Milan Lucic’s game misconduct after the Canucks’ 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.

The league is apparently saying that Lucic was on a legal line change, and thus was allowed to be on the ice while the line brawl was happening. But I have a couple of issues with this.

With a hat tip to the poster from HF Boards who pointed this out, first is NHL rule 70.1 which states:

70.1 Leaving the Bench – No player or goalkeeper may leave the players’ or penalty bench at any time during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation. Substitutions made prior to the altercation shall be permitted provided the players so substituting do not enter the altercation.

It’s obvious from the many replays that Lucic was still on the bench when the brawl started. You see him standing in front of the bench for a long time before getting on the ice. And when he gets on the ice, he immediately joins in the brawl.

But secondly – and perhaps more importantly – was Lucic even supposed to be – legally? – on the ice?

The NHL’s own time chart doesn’t have Lucic on the ice just prior to the brawl.

Now this makes sense as it was Lucic’s line coming on the change. And on the replay, you do see Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille leaving the ice and David Krejci and Nathan Horton coming on.

The problem is, Lucic was supposed to come on for Shawn Thornton, and obviously, Thornton hadn’t left the ice yet as he was fully engaged with Alex Burrows and the other Canucks.

Maybe the league has a better explanation than this, but from what I’ve seen, I don’t know how Lucic can escape the automatic suspension for leaving the bench to join an altercation.

Jan 062012
 

[Two-Line Pass is a discussion, or even a debate, between two hockey bloggers on some of the hottest topics in Canucks Nation and the NHL.]

Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: Vancouver Sun

From: JJ Guerrero
To: Elizabeth Moffat
Sent: Friday, 6 January, 2012 13:19:25

Hi Lizz,

So the Canucks have tapped Cory Schneider as their starting goaltender in tomorrow morning’s game against the Boston Bruins. I swear I haven’t seen such a divisive reaction since Team Edward vs. Team Jacob.

It’s a surprising decision to say the least. The Canucks have always maintained that Roberto Luongo is its number 1 goalie. So why isn’t he starting in its only game this season against the best team in the league and the team that beat them in the Stanley Cup Finals?

J.J.

*****

From: Elizabeth Moffat
To: JJ Guerrero
Sent: Friday, 6 January, 2012 13:38:56

Hi JJ,

First off, 12-year-olds are crazy. There should be no debate between Edward and Jacob. Jacob is a hot wolf who will keep you warm at night; Edward is a pale emo whiner who will stalk you and watch you sleep. Plus he’s like 100 – I’m pretty sure that’s a felony.

Luo still is our number one goalie. That’s why he’s started in nine of the last ten games. I’ll admit I was expecting a Luongo start, but when you consider the reasons it makes sense.

It’s Schneider’s hometown, and he’s never gotten the start there, giving it to him now is an easy way for the team to say they trust and respect him. Kids dream of this moment.

Unless Schneider is content to remain a backup for the next three to five years and take a bargain of a contract, he’s going to be leaving sooner rather than later. Boston will be full of scouts and a good show could serve up some excellent trade bait.

Assuming Luo is “scared” of the Bruins – which I don’t think he is – what good will playing him really do? It’s not Chicago, this isn’t a personal dragon he needs to slay, and even if the Canucks do make it back to the Finals there are 14 other teams they could come up against before having to play Boston.

Lizz

*****

From: JJ Guerrero
To: Elizabeth Moffat
Sent: Friday, 6 January, 2012 14:52:37

Hi Lizz,

The Canucks finally slayed the Chicago dragon, but it took them a couple of playoff series in 2009 and 2010, plus 7 hard-fought, first round series games last year.

In Luo’s last 3 playoff appearances in Bahs-ton, he allowed 15 goals. If the road to the Stanley Cup goes through the city that brought us NKOTB – and right now it looks like a very good possibility it will – you’d think the Canucks would want to give him every opportunity to rebuild his confidence in playing there. There’s no better time for them to do this too as he’s coming off a shutout and has been playing lights out in goal in the last couple of months – he has a 14-5-2 record and a 0.931 save percentage in his 21 games since the start of November.

I understand that Schneider is from nearby Marblehead; and after 5 years, he has yet to play in front of family and friends in his hometown so it’s entirely believable if Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault said they simply wanted to afford Schneider the same opportunity they do Luongo whenever the Canucks play in Montreal. But they’ve always made decisions with the big picture in mind, and in this case, the bigger picture has a big shiny Cup – a Cup the team has never won – in the hands of the Boston Bruins. It has to be more important for them to know that Luongo can indeed slay the dragon in Boston like he was able to do in Chicago.

J.J.

*****

From: Elizabeth Moffat
To: JJ Guerrero
Sent: Friday, 6 January, 2012 16:01:25

If we’re looking at the big picture, then the team can’t be planning to face one specific team six months from now. They need to be looking at what they need to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that that will ensure they’re ready for another long playoff run. If not giving Luo a symbolic re-do will help acheive that, then that’s what needs to happen.

If the Canucks make it back to the Finals this year, it won’t be because Luongo was able to exercise some demons. Likewise, if they don’t, it won’t be because Schneider had some hometown fun one weekend in January.

The Canucks didn’t lose in the Finals last year solely because Luongo couldn’t win in Boston or in game 7. They didn’t score a single goal on June 15th – now that is something we should be talking about.

Sure, it’d be nice to know that Luongo is capable of beating Tim Thomas, but no one demands to know if he can beat the Rangers or the Flyers every year. Boston may be winning the East, but have you seen who’s in third? The Florida Panthers. Should the Canucks also be tailoring their game to face them in the Finals?

Winning tomorrow won’t bring us the Cup or erase what happened last June. Sure there’s pride at stake, and I’m sure Luongo was biting at the bit to play in Boston, but remove the emotion and you know what you have? A 10:00 AM midseason game against an Eastern Conference team that most of Vancouver didn’t really care about a year ago. Win or lose, no one is coming home with anything more substantial than two points.

Lizz

Jan 062012
 

[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm.  You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]

Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: Yahoo Sports

I’m taking a break from planning my Saturday morning “Ruin the Bruins” party to offer up a few quick thoughts as the Canucks have reached the midway point of the season.  It feels so strange to type the word “morning” when blogging about a hockey game, but I digress.

On this eve of the Stanley Cup Finals rematch, here are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  The need for perspective. There are so many intriguing storylines heading into Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins, notwithstanding the fact that it’s the only regular season meeting between the two Stanley Cup Finalists.  Luongo or Schneider.  Mason Raymond’s return to the rink where he nearly had his career ended.  Daniel Sedin vs. Brad Marchand.  Burrows, Bergeron, and biting.

Thursday afternoon, I tweeted: “48 hours from now we’ll either be celebrating a bit of revenge for the Canucks or wondering what it will take to beat the Bruins in Boston.”  I received a couple of replies, with both of them intimating that a Canuck win had limited upside (as opposed to a Canuck loss having a larger downside) and that true revenge would be winning the Stanley Cup.  While I didn’t disagree with these sentiments, I pointed out that a win is a win and we can’t do much about the Stanley Cup until June.  It’s important to remember that this is game #42 of an 82 game regular season and that we shouldn’t read too much into the result of the game, whatever it may be.  I don’t buy the argument that a Canuck loss will have a long-term effect on the team’s psyche… the same way I won’t get too excited if the Canucks walk out of Boston with a win.  Enjoy it for what it will be: a hotly-contested battle of two of the top teams in the league.

2. Biggest surprises and disappointments. There have been numerous “midseason evaluation” posts including an excellent one by CHB writer Matt Lee already, but I thought I would chime in with a few of my observations.  For me, the biggest surprises up front have been Jannik Hansen, Cody Hodgson and Chris Higgins.  The collective Triple H has combined for 31 goals and 37 assists for 68 points, a welcome wave of secondary scoring behind the big four of the Sedins and Kesler and Burrows.  On the flip side, Manny Malhotra is still struggling to regain his pre-injury form of last year and the jury is still out on David Booth, who was picking up his game before his knee injury.

On the back end, the play of the top four d-men (Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo) have helped some Canuck faithful forget about Christian Ehrhoff.  In particular, Hamhuis is quietly piling up the points and is on pace to match his career high of 38 points (2005-2006 season).  Hamhuis and partner Bieksa (who has overcome a shaky start) have become one of the league’s premier shutdown pairs, while Edler and Salo continue to contribute at both ends of the rink.  Conversely, Keith Ballard is still not playing like a $4 million defenseman, and he is still prone to making risky plays in his own end.  I really like him and I want to see him succeed, but 6 points and -1 just doesn’t cut it.

3. The Canucks in the Winter Classic. On the heels of another entertaining Winter Classic and HBO 24/7 series, there’s increased chatter about the possibility of the Canucks appearing in the big game in the near future.  One would think that Montreal and/or Toronto are likely to be considered ahead of our local team, but you never know.  With respect to the 24/7 series, it’s hard to predict what kind of ratings a Canadian team would draw south of the border.  But one thing’s for sure: the Canucks would make for some interesting TV.  I would find it fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at the player’s preparation and personal lives.  What is Luongo like away from the cameras?  How are the twins different in how they approach the games?  Who are the locker room leaders?  Does Dale Weise un-follow and block people in real life?  And where does Bieksa come up with his comedy gold?  With respect to opponents, I think it’s a toss-up between Boston and Chicago.  The former for all of the reasons listed above, the latter for the playoff history and animosity between the teams for three years running.  A dark-horse would be Detroit, but their rivalry with the Canucks is one based on respect and similar playing styles as opposed to the dislike that comes with the Bruins and Blackhawks.

Amidst all these questions, it’s good to see that the Canucks have emerged from the first-half of the season at the top of the Western Conference (albeit with the other teams holding games in hand).  Now please excuse me as I continue preparations for my Saturday morning viewing party.  I’m curious as to how many of my friends will be drinking while watching the game.  10 AM seems a tad early, but I’m certainly not here to judge.  Hmmm…

Jan 062012
 
Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas

Photo credit: Vancouver Province

Respect is a life and death struggle on that 85 x 200 sheet of ice. Most players are tight-lipped with the word in the locker room, but beyond just salaries and winning or losing games, respect is the richest prize in hockey.

If you know anything about the Vancouver Canucks, you know they’ll be looking to reclaim some respect on Saturday when they meet the Boston Bruins for the very first time since the B’s won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and flew out of a rioting city with hockey’s most cherished prize in tow.

Ever since that warm June evening the Canucks have, in one word, been haunted. Haunted with questions about their team personnel and character; haunted about whether or not they were good enough or tough enough to get back to and win in the Stanley Cup Final.

Tomorrow’s game may just be another ordinary regular season match on the calendar, but it goes beyond just any ordinary game. For the Canucks, it’ll be their first shot at redemption. The playoffs won’t begin again for another four months, but defeating the NHL’s most vaunted team in what should be an emotionally-charged affair would go a long way to re-assuring Vancouver and their fans that they can get the job done.

Anyone who’s anyone knows just how good the Bruins are. They’re frighteningly good, winning 23 of their last 27 games dating back to the beginning of November. Their goal differential is a league-best +69. Looking at their roster from top to bottom, they’ve got the pieces to compete for the Stanley Cup for the foreseeable future, so you can see why they can call themselves the absolute best in the league.

That said, the Canucks aren’t all that dissimilar from the Bruins. Down the middle, the club is just as deep and their blue line is just as potent. Goaltending, as chastised as it’s been in this city, is capable of much more than it’s been labeled. Really when it comes down to it, all that separates the two clubs is that one team won the Stanley Cup and the other team lost.

Tomorrow morning’s epic tilt will go a long way in earning some of that respect again. In the regular season and going into the playoffs, that’s the prize the Canucks covet the most.

Jan 032012
 

In this episode of the CHB TV video podcast, Clay Imoo, J.J. Guerrero and Chris Golden discuss the Canucks’ team toughness (or perceived lack thereof).

Jan 022012
 

[Every week, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead.  You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing.)]

The Canucks looked to end 2011 with a California sweep, unfortunately they just fell short due to a poor effort against the Los Angeles Kings.

A new year brings the same expectations. They had a fantastic month of December and we expect much of the same to finish off the season and continue on into the playoffs.

Captain Henrik and his crew head back to Rogers Arena to play two home games and then head to Beantown for a rematch against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

Canucks Record

39 GP, 24-13-2, 50 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Henrik Sedin was just named the NHL’s 3rd star in the NHL ffor the month of December after recording 22 points (2G-20A) in 15 games. He currently has 6 points (1G-5A) and plus-3 rating during an active 4-game point streak.

Not only is Captain Henrik leading the Canucks with 36 assists and 46 points, he is also leading the NHL in those two categories. He is player that leads by example – he isn’t the strongest, biggest or fastest on the ice, but he does what he needs to do and can change the game with one slick pass to his brother, Daniel. He has also shown in the last few games that he won’t allow the opposition to push him around; he has been a little bit more feisty. Albeit, his feistiness won’t intimidate other players but at least he is standing up for himself.

Who’s Hotter

Kevin Bieksa had a slow start to the season, struggling with his defensive responsibilites and not finding the score sheet consistently. Since the middle of November, Juice has turned his game around for the better and has become an offensive threat while improving his plus/minus rating. He is currently on a 6-game point streak and has 7 points (1G-6A) during that stretch.

But also, Bieksa – along with defensive partner, Dan Hamhuis – have been the Canucks’ shutdown duo and have done a commendable job. Hamhuis’ calm presence and poise allows Bieksa to be more adventurous offensively. Likewise, Bieksa has been smarter about his pinches so as to not leave Hamhuis in a bad spot.

Who’s Next

Monday January 2, 2012 vs. San Jose Sharks (5:00 PM start, home)

The Canucks and Sharks met up just last week in one of the best – if not the best – games of the season thus far. The intensity and atmosphere at the Shark Tank made it feel like a playoff game. It was a physical battle between two teams who clearly do not like each other. In that last game – a 3-2 OT win for the Canucks – Joe Thornton taunted and stuck his fingers in Henrik’s face while they were talking to the referee. To say that there is animosity between the teams is an understatement, so it should be interesting to see how the Canucks respond.

Patrick Marleau is tied for second on the team with 27 points (13G-14A). Marleau has great speed and when he is on his game can be very effective on the ice for his team. He has been hot with 10 points (3G-7A) and a plus-4 rating in his last 7 games.

Wednesday January 4, 2012 Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM start, home)

Before last week, the Wild lead the Northwest Division but they have been struggling as of late. They’re 1-6-3 in their last 10 games, which is a complete turnaround considering that they were, just before that, on a 7-game win streak.

The Canucks have won 2 of the 3 previous meetings against the Wild this season, including a decisive 4-0 shutout before Christmas. In that game, Roberto Luongo was stellar in stopping all 33 Minnesota shots.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who recorded the GWG in the Wild’s lone victory against the Canucks this season, has 3 points (1G-2A) in 3 games against Vancouver (same with Matt Cullen). He currently has points in consecutive games and has 22 points (9G-13A) in 36 games this season.

Saturday January 7, 2012 vs. Boston Bruins (10:00 AM start, away)

It won’t be hard for the Canucks to find motivation against the Bruins on Saturday. This is the first meeting between the two clubs since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. We all know how that ended, so it will be fun to see the two team renew their rivalry from the finals. Canucks fans will never get over the Cup final loss but many are moving on, but it willl be interesting to see what sort of emotions will arise. Brace yourself, Canucks Nation, for countless reminders of what happened in June and the hostility from Bruins fans.

The Bruins, like the Canucks, are playing very well right now. They had a very successful December going 9-3-0; while the Canucks went 10-4-1. It’s safe to say that both teams are on top of their game which can only mean an entertaining battle come Saturday.

Second overall pick, Tyler Seguin, is far from experiencing the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”. He is currently leading the Bruins in goals (15) and points (32). He has 6 points (2G-4A) and a plus-6 rating in his last 5 games.

Tough Enough

Although the Canucks did not win (or deserve to win for that matter) the game against the Kings, there are a few positives to take out of that game.

The biggest thing that stood out was the fact that players like Andrew Alberts and Keith Ballard stood up for their Captain and their teammates. The topic of team toughness is as prominent in Vancouver as the Kardashians are in Hollywood. They may not have fighter or an enforcer – nor do they necessarily need one – but if they can play together and stand up for one another, there’s no telling how far they can go (again) in the playoffs.

The bottom line, like Henrik said, is that we didn’t lose the Cup Finals because of team toughness we lost because we couldn’t score. So while the assertiveness and physical play of players is a positive, the team needs to stay focused on their game and what makes them successful.

Dec 072011
 

Some quick thoughts on two issues dominating NHL talk right now:

Derek Boogaard and Fighting in the NHL

For anyone who’s been living under a rock, here’s the original New York Times story about the study of Derek Boogaard’s brain.

The results of the study shouldn’t surprise anyone. If you’re a fighter, and you get punched in the head a lot, it’s logical the impact of these blows will have an effect on your brain and brain function.

The larger issue here is that, as scientists continue to show conclusive evidence that hockey fights endanger the health of those involved, it gives credence to the argument against fighting in the NHL.

See, it was easy before for the old guard to say that fighting has always been a part of the sport, and that those who want it removed don’t understand the game, or aren’t man enough or tough enough to understand.

Scientific evidence kind of robs these folks of their bully pulpit.

Look, there’s a simple solution here that should make both sides of the argument happy.

Don’t ban fighting in the NHL. Just kick anyone who fights out of the game.

Fight in the last five minutes of the game – you miss the next game. And then determine a suspension formula for players who fight multiple times in a year.

This way, the NHL can say they haven’t banned fighting but are going to great lengths to protect players.

Conversely, the reduction in NHL fights that would follow such a rule change would appease most of those who believe the game is better off without the pugilist sideshow.

Makes sense. So much sense that this is how it’s done for most amateur hockey leagues and beer leagues in Canada.

(Another option we’ve already discussed in this space – getting rid of the 4th liners who cause most of the NHL violence).

One more thought on this – I heard talk on Team 1040 today wondering if the NHL knows if its core audience is pro-fighting or fighting-opposed.

The NHL absolutely knows the answer to this question. It probably knows the answer to this question in Canada and the United States, if not for its fans in each NHL city.

Why? Because professional sports leagues do significant market research to protect and grow their brand.

Given this, if the NHL doesn’t move on fighting, then it says a lot about where their current fan base stands on the issue.

NHL Realignment

How would the NHL standings and playoffs have differed if the proposed NHL realignment had been in place since the lockout? Let’s have a look:

2005/2006

Standings:

Eastern ConferenceTeamPtsWestern ConferenceTeamPts
1Ottawa1131Detroit124
2Carolina1122Dallas112
3New Jersey1013Calgary103
4Buffalo1104Nashville106
5Philadelphia1015San Jose99
6NY Rangers1006Anaheim98
7Montreal937Colorado95
8Tampa Bay928Edmonton95
9Toronto909Vancouver92
10Winnipeg9010Los Angeles89
11Florida8511Minnesota84
12NY Islanders7812Phoenix81
13Boston7413Columbus74
14Washington7014Chicago65
15Pittsburgh5815St. Louis57

Playoff seeding under new format:

New Conference ANew Conference BNew Conference CNew Conference D
Carolina – 112Ottawa – 113Detroit – 124Calgary – 103
New Jersey – 101Buffalo – 110Dallas -112San Jose – 99
Philadelphia – 101Montreal – 93Nashville – 106Anaheim – 98
NY Rangers – 100Tampa Bay – 92Winnipeg – 90Colorado – 95

Some notes about 2005/2006:

  • Winnipeg makes the playoffs, while Edmonton, the Stanley Cup finalist that year, doesn’t.
  • Ottawa still plays Tampa Bay in the first round (Sens won the series 4-1). That’s the only series that stays the same.

2006/2007

Standings:

Eastern ConferenceTeamPtsWestern ConferenceTeamPts
1Buffalo1131Detroit113
2New Jersey1072Anaheim110
3Winnipeg973Vancouver105
4Ottawa1054Nashville110
5Pittsburgh1055San Jose107
6NY Rangers946Dallas107
7Tampa Bay937Minnesota104
8NY Islanders928Calgary96
9Toronto919Colorado95
10Montreal9010St. Louis81
11Carolina8811Columbus73
12Florida8612Edmonton71
13Boston7613Chicago71
14Washington7014Los Angeles68
15Philadelphia5615Phoenix67

Playoff seeding under new format:

New Conference ANew Conference BNew Conference CNew Conference D
New Jersey – 107Buffalo – 113Detroit – 113Anaheim – 110
Pittsburgh – 105Ottawa – 105Nashville  – 110San Jose – 107
New York Rangers – 94Tampa Bay – 93Dallas – 107Vancouver – 105
New York Islanders – 92Toronto – 91Minnesota – 104Calgary – 96

Some notes about 2006/2007:

  • Toronto makes the playoffs, while Winnipeg does not in their new Conference. All the teams in the “old West” make it.
  • Nashville plays Dallas for the second year in a row, as does Ottawa against Tampa Bay.

2007/2008

Standings:

Eastern ConferenceTeamPtsWestern ConferenceTeamPts
1Montreal1041Detroit115
2Pittsburgh1022San Jose108
3Washington943Minnesota98
4New Jersey994Anaheim102
5NY Rangers975Dallas97
6Philadelphia956Colorado95
7Ottawa947Calgary94
8Boston948Nashville91
9Carolina929Edmonton88
10Buffalo9010Chicago88
11Florida8511Vancouver88
12Toronto8312Phoenix83
13NY Islanders7913Columbus80
14Winnipeg7614St. Louis79
15Tampa Bay7115Los Angeles71

Playoff seeding under new format:

New Conference ANew Conference BNew Conference CNew Conference D
Pittsburgh – 102Montreal – 104Detroit – 115San Jose – 108
New Jersey – 99Ottawa – 94Minnesota – 98Anaheim – 102
New York Rangers – 97Boston – 94Dallas – 97Colorado – 95
Philadelphia – 95Buffalo – 90Nashville – 91Calgary – 94

Some notes about 2007/2008:

  • Washington doesn’t make the playoffs while Buffalo does. All the teams in the “old West” make it.
  • Detroit and Nashville still play each other in the first round (Detroit won the series 4-2), as do San Jose and Calgary (San Jose won the series 4-3).

2008/2009

Standings:

Eastern ConferenceTeamPtsWestern ConferenceTeamPts
1Boston1161San Jose117
2Washington1082Detroit112
3New Jersey1063Vancouver100
4Pittsburgh994Chicago104
5Philadelphia995Calgary98
6Carolina976St. Louis92
7NY Rangers957Columbus92
8Montreal938Anaheim91
9Florida939Minnesota89
10Buffalo9110Nashville88
11Ottawa8311Edmonton85
12Toronto8112Dallas83
13Winnipeg7613Phoenix79
14Tampa Bay6614Los Angeles79
15NY Islanders6115Colorado69

Playoff seeding under new format:

New Conference ANew Conference BNew Conference CNew Conference D
Washington – 108Boston – 116Detroit – 112San Jose – 117
New Jersey – 106Montreal – 93Chicago – 104Vancouver – 100
Pittsburgh – 99Florida – 93St. Louis – 92Calgary – 98
Philadelphia – 99Buffalo – 91Columbus – 92Anaheim – 91

Some notes about 2008/2009:

  • Both Carolina and the New York Rangers wouldn’t make the playoffs under the new format. Conversely, Florida (!?!?) and Buffalo do.
  • All the teams in the “old West,” again, make it under the new format.
  • San Jose and Anaheim would still play each other (Anaheim won the series 4-2), as would Detroit and Columbus (Detroit won the series 4-0).

2009/2010

Standings:

Eastern ConferenceTeamPtsWestern ConferenceTeamPts
1Washington1211San Jose113
2New Jersey1032Chicago112
3Buffalo1003Vancouver103
4Pittsburgh1014Phoenix107
5Ottawa945Detroit102
6Boston916Los Angeles101
7Philadelphia887Nashville100
8Montreal888Colorado95
9NY Rangers879St. Louis90
10Winnipeg8310Calgary90
11Carolina8011Anaheim89
12Tampa Bay8012Dallas88
13NY Islanders7913Minnesota84
14Florida7714Columbus79
15Toronto7415Edmonton62

Playoff seeding under new format:

New Conference ANew Conference BNew Conference CNew Conference D
Washington – 121Buffalo – 100Chicago – 112San Jose – 113
New Jersey – 103Ottawa – 94Detroit – 102Phoenix – 107
Pittsburgh – 101Boston – 91Nashville – 100Vancouver – 103
Philadelphia – 88Montreal – 88St. Louis – 90Los Angeles – 101

Some notes about 2009/2010:

  • All the teams in the “old East” make it under the new format. St. Louis qualifies under the new format; Colorado doesn’t.
  • Washington/Philadelphia, New Jersey/Pittsburgh and Chicago/St. Louis play each other in the first round for the second year in a row.

2010/2011

Standings:

Eastern ConferenceTeamPtsWestern ConferenceTeamPts
1Washington1071Vancouver117
2Philadelphia1062San Jose105
3Boston1033Detroit104
4Pittsburgh1064Anaheim99
5Tampa Bay1035Nashville99
6Montreal966Phoenix99
7Buffalo967Los Angeles98
8NY Rangers938Chicago97
9Carolina919Dallas95
10Toronto8510Calgary94
11New Jersey8111St. Louis87
12Winnipeg8012Minnesota86
13Ottawa7413Columbus81
14NY Islanders7314Colorado68
15Florida7215Edmonton62

Playoff seeding under new format:

New Conference ANew Conference BNew Conference CNew Conference D
Washington – 107Boston – 103Detroit – 104Vancouver – 117
Philadelphia – 106Tampa Bay – 103Nashville – 99San Jose – 105
Pittsburgh – 106Montreal – 96Chicago – 97Anaheim – 99
New York Rangers – 93Buffalo – 96Dallas – 95Phoenix – 99

Some notes about 2010/2011:

  • All the teams in the “old East” make it under the new format. Dallas qualifies this time around; the Los Angeles Kings don’t.
  • Vancouver and Phoenix play each other for the second year in a row.
  • Washington and the New York Rangers still play each other in the first round (Washington won 4-1 originally).

Final note on the new realignment, and how it impacts playoff matchups/qualifying:

Old AlignmentNew Alignment
# of different playoff teams, 2005-201028 (only Toronto and Florida fail to make the playoffs)# of different playoff teams, 2005-1029 (only Edmonton fails to make the playoffs)
# of different first round matchups, 2005-201039# of different first round matchups, 2005-1034
Nov 282011
 

In part one we looked at the first quarter for teams in the Western Conference. Now let’s take a look at the East.

Eastern Conference

1. New York Rangers – 27 Points

Powerplay: 25 / Penalty Kill: 9 / Goals For: 15 / Goals Against: 2

What’s working: Henrik Lundquist for starters. He’s the biggest reason why the team is among the league leaders in goals against. In the absence of Marc Staal (concussion), Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi have capably stepped up on the blueline, while defenseman Michael Del Zotto has re-found his game. Marian Gaborik has gotten hot in November, and suddenly the Rangers have two lines that can score. Interestingly, Brad Richards and Gaborik aren’t regular linemates.

What’s not: The Wojtek Wolski experiment looks like a bust. Brandon Dubinsky only has one goal, although he’s contributing in other areas of the game. The team is taking too many penalties. Also worrisome is the shots for/against ratio is roughly -5. The powerplay hasn’t found its groove yet.

2. Boston – 26 Points

Powerplay: 14 / Penalty Kill: 10 / Goals For: 3 / Goals Against: 3

What’s working: Boston continues to take advantage of its depth, rolling four lines, three of them capable of offense. Tyler Seguin has taken a Steven Stamkos-esque leap in his second year, which has offset the departures of Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder. The Bruins have found their intimidating, rough style again after a slow start, and rode it to a franchise record winning streak. Joe Corvo has already made a bigger positive impact on the team than the defenseman he replaced, Tomas Kaberle, ever did. Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask have played like the elite goaltending tandem they are.

What’s not: Benoit Pouliot has been prone to mental lapses and taken dumb penalties, and isn’t anything more than a fourth-liner at this point. David Krejci has the worst plus/minus on the team and has struggled to find his offensive game.

3. Washington – 25 Points

Powerplay: 16 / Penalty Kill: 20 / Goals For: 4 / Goals Against: 22

What’s working: This remains a team that can score, even if they aren’t the run-and-gun Caps that fans fell in love with years ago. Jason Chimera has had the best start to a season of his career, while Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward have been immediate, physical contributors.

What’s not: Bruce Boudreau, since he’s now been replaced by Dale Hunter. Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin are struggling, with both players regularly taking shifts off. Semin, of all people, leads the team in penalties. Quite honestly, their performances to date place each of them on any current NHL list of “most-overpaid players.” Starter Tomas Vokoun has been better but not exactly a world-beater. Back-up goalie Michael Neuvirth has been awful. The special teams have started slow, likely due to the fact that Mike Green is once again battling the injury bug.

4. Pittsburgh – 25 Points

Powerplay: 12 / Penalty Kill: 4 / Goals For: 11 / Goals Against: 11

What’s working: Sidney Crosby’s head for starters. Getting him back in the lineup vaults the team from contender status to Stanley Cup favourites. Jordan Staal has also taken another step in his development and is on a 40-goal pace. Steve Sullivan has brought imagination, if not consistent results, to the Penguins powerplay. James Neal leads the team in scoring.

What’s not: Very little, although the team’s lack of blueline depth has been exposed at times, particularly when Brooks Orpik or Zbynek Michalek has been out of the lineup.

5. Philadelphia – 25 Points

Powerplay: 13 / Penalty Kill: 13 / Goals For: 1 / Goals Against: 21

What’s working: The offense, big-time. The top three lines are creative and physical. Claude Giroux is an early season MVP candidate. The Jaromir Jagr experiment has been a success, although he’s been bothered by groin issues of late. Rookie Sean Couturier is the team’s top penalty killer while another rookie, Matt Read, has looked like a 10-year veteran on the ice.

What’s not: Three other young forwards, James van Riemsdyk, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek, have been inconsistent. Highly-touted Brayden Schenn has been a non-factor at the NHL-level and is a team-worst -5. The Flyers remain undisciplined, although a solid penalty kill has helped in that area. Team speed, particularly from the defense, seems lacking.

6. Florida – 25 Points

Powerplay: 7 / Penalty Kill: 14 / Goals For: 5 / Goals Against: 10

What’s working: The Sawgrass Express line (Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann) has been one of the top lines in the NHL. The defense has really gelled. Brian Campbell is rejuvenated, and along with second-year man Dmitry Kulikov they represent two of the better puck-moving defenseman in the league to-date. Jason Garrison has been a primary beneficiary, with his cannon of a shot becoming the focal point on the team’s improved powerplay. Quietly, Jose Theodore is playing his best hockey in years. Much like in Dallas, rookie coach Kevin Dineen has this “group of castoffs” playing each night to prove their detractors were wrong about them.

What’s not: As bad as David Booth is playing for the Canucks, at least he’s playing. Mikael Samuelsson, acquired in the trade, has yet to suit up for Florida and is still recovering from sports hernia issues. Meanwhile, Marco Sturm, the other player in the deal, looks washed up. Free agent Scottie Upshall has been a bust.

7. Toronto – 24 Points

Powerplay: 6 / Penalty Kill: 28 / Goals For: 6 / Goals Against: 25

What’s working: Toronto’s best players have been just that for the first time in a few seasons. Both Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul came into the year in the best shape of their lives, and they’ve taken their offensive game to the next level. Dion Phaneuf remains a risk-taker, but on most nights his gambles have paid off and contributed to Leaf victories. He’s the stir that mixes the Leafs drink. Before getting hurt James Reimer had continued his strong play from last season. The powerplay is greatly improved under assistant coach (and notorious xs and os man) Scott Gordon. Tim Connolly, when healthy, has been the team’s best centreman at both ends of the ice. Finally, Toronto is getting strong contributions from its AHL call-ups. In fact, an improved-skating Joe Colborne has probably leapt Nazem Kadri as the team’s most promising prospect.

What’s not: The penalty kill remains a huge weakness. Luke Schenn played the worst hockey of his NHL career earlier in the year. The second line (Clarke MacArthur-Mikhail Grabovski- Nik Kulemin) has been wildly inconsistent.

8. Buffalo – 24 Points

Powerplay: 11 / Penalty Kill: 2 / Goals For: 14 / Goals Against: 13

What’s working: Ryan Miller and Johnas Enroth have given the Sabres solid goaltending, with Enroth actually outplaying his partner so far. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville have played like All-Stars and are carrying the team offensively. Rookie Luke Adam rocketed out of the gate and has remained a contributor.

What’s not: The defense, supposedly improved with the additions of Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff, has been a massive disappointment. In fact, there’s a lot of Wade Redden-ish smell coming off Ehrhoff’s first 20 games with the Sabres. Tyler Myers hasn’t shaken the inconsistency of last season either. Meanwhile the other off-season free agent splash, Ville Leino, looks lost and is on pace for a ~20 point season. Finally, the smallish Sabres have been pushed around a bit, and team toughness has become a question mark.

9. New Jersey – 23 Points

Powerplay: 28 / Penalty Kill: 1 / Goals For: 23 / Goals Against: 15

What’s working: Patrick Elias has found the fountain of youth and looks four years younger on the ice. Backup Johan Hedberg has given the team strong goaltending and has played much more than expected. New coach Peter DeBoer has tweaked the system he had in Florida and the Devils are using their speed to play a good team defense. Rookie Adam Henrique has come out of nowhere to give the Devils a second line scoring threat they haven’t had in some time. The penalty kill has been formidable.

What’s not: Someone tell Ilya Kovalchuk the season has started. He remains an enigma and the worst contract in the NHL. Zach Parise has had a slow start after missing most of last year with injury. Together, the struggles of these two players have crippled the team’s attack. The Devils still aren’t getting any offense from the blueline either, which is killing their powerplay. Finally, nothing Martin Brodeur has shown signifies he’s a top-15 goalie in the league anymore.

10. Ottawa – 21 Points

Powerplay: 3 / Penalty Kill: 21 / Goals For: 10 / Goals Against: 28

What’s working: Coach Paul Maclean is getting a lot out of the most skilled players in his lineup. Jason Spezza is arguably playing the best hockey of his career, while Erik Karlsson looks like the new Mike Green. Even Sergei Gonchar has shown a heartbeat and a pulse. Along with Milan Michaluk, these four have got the Senators powerplay humming.

What’s not: Pretty much anything associated with the defensive side of the game outside of Zach Smith (who’s become a strong 3rd line player). Goalie Craig Anderson hasn’t come up with enough key saves, and both Karlsson and Gonchar continue to struggle in their own zone. None of the team’s forward prospects have run with the opportunity to play important minutes either, leaving Ottawa without much secondary scoring.

11. Montreal – 21 Points

Powerplay: 20 / Penalty Kill: 3 / Goals For: 18 / Goals Against: 8

What’s working: Carey Price has given Montreal great goaltending on most nights. Max Paccioretty has lived up to pre-season billing as a breakout scoring candidate. Lars Eller has played well enough to warrant more ice-time, perhaps even a top-six role. The penalty kill has been excellent. Tomas Plekanec remains the team’s most important forward.

What’s not: With Andrei Markov delayed in his return to the lineup, Montreal’s young defense has struggled. P. K. Subban has had a taste of the sophomore slump, although his play recently has picked up. With the team failing to score much, the lack of production from Scott Gomez is becoming a bigger and bigger distraction.

12. Tampa Bay – 20 Points

Powerplay: 19 / Penalty Kill: 17 / Goals For: 17 / Goals Against: 26

What’s working: Vincent Lecavalier is having a bit of a bounce-back season and is on pace for 40-goals. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis remain dangerous scoring threats whenever they’re on the ice. Matt Gilroy has been a pleasent surprise on defense, leading blueliners with a +5 rating. Marc-Andre Bergeron has entered beast mode as a powerplay threat.

What’s not: Outside Lecavalier, Stamkos and St. Louis, the forwards aren’t scoring. Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone and Steve Downie are not contributing as expected. Meanwhile, Brett Connolley doesn’t look ready for a top-six forward role. Dwayne Roloson’s goaltending has been problematic to the point that Mathieu Garon should probably be the starter. Defensively, Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman have had quarter season’s they’d probably like to forget. Consistency has been another issue, with the team no-showing a few games (7-1 loss to Toronto; 5-1 loss to the Islanders) and periods more than at any stretch last season.

13. Winnipeg – 19 Points

Powerplay: 8 / Penalty Kill: 19 / Goals For: 13 / Goals Against: 24

What’s working: They’re selling a lot of merchandise. That’s something, right? In all seriousness, Kyle Wellwood has been surprisingly effective and leads the team in points. Jim Slater and Tanner Glass have combined to give the Jets a pretty good third line. Evander Kane looks like a 30-goal scorer, while Alex Burmistrov has shown glimpses of becoming a modern Igor Larionov.

What’s not: Remember the problems the Atlanta Thrashers had? Poor defense and bad goaltending? Nothing’s really changed, although part of the blueline problem has been due to injury. Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien have remained inconsistent, although Byfuglien has picked up his play of late. Ondrej Pavelec is running out of time to prove he can be a starting NHL goalie, and has been outplayed by Chris Mason.

14. Carolina – 15 Points

Powerplay: 29 / Penalty Kill: 18 / Goals For: 26 / Goals Against: 29

What’s working: Cam Ward is giving the team a chance to win every night. Jeff Skinner has avoided the sophomore slump. Jay Harrison is playing too many minutes but brings a physical presence to the Hurricanes blueline. And that’s pretty much it. Sorry Hurricanes fans.

What’s not: The strategy of re-creating the post-lockout Maple Leafs isn’t working (Harrison, Paul Maurice, Alex Ponikarovsky, Jiri Tlusty, Tim Brent, Tomas Kaberle). Kaberle is goalless and proving his struggles with the Bruins last year weren’t a mirage. Paul Maurice, who arguably mishandled some of the young talent available (not named Jeff Skinner), and who’s record of mediocrity as an NHL head coach has finally caught up with him. Kirk Muller is a great hire by the ‘Canes. Clearly something’s up with Eric Staal, who’s playing the worst hockey of his career, and is a big reason why Carolina is a cellar-dweller. The team just doesn’t score enough.

15. New York Islanders – 14 Points

Powerplay: 22 / Penalty Kill: 23 / Goals For: 30 / Goals Against: 27

What’s working: John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner haven’t taken steps back offensively. When he’s played Al Montoya has been excellent. Frans Nielsen remains an underrated defensive player, and leads the team at +1.

What’s not: Everything else. This looks an awful lot like a team that’s abandoned its coach. Veterans Steve Staios, Marty Reasoner and Brian Rolston have been mediocre-to-terrible, while many of the team’s other young forwards (including Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey) aren’t competing on a nightly basis. Nino Niederreitter isn’t even getting a chance to compete – he’s been a healthy scratch over the last week amongst rumours of another injury. Evgeni Nabokov has been average; Rick DiPietro has been bad. Outside of Calgary, this is the other NHL team in most need of a roster tear-down.

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