Apr 162014
 

NHL_2014_StanleyCupPlayoffs

With the puck ready to drop for the 2014 NHL playoffs, a few of us at CHB make our predictions for the first round.

At least with the Canucks not making it, we can make our picks with our brains, rather than our hearts. Well, mostly our brains. We flipped coins, drew straws and other things too.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

Victoria: Avalanche in 5. This prediction is based on the real fear that if Minnesota makes it too far in the playoffs we’ll all fall into a coma. Most boring hockey ever. So come on Avs, knock them out and save us all.

Matt: Avalanche in 5. This isn’t the same team that won the Nathan MacKinnon sweepstakes at this time last year. This is a ferocious, tenacious, deep team that has excelled under the marvelous coaching of Patrick Roy and is stable in goal thanks to the performance of Semyon Varlamov. Minnesota is good enough to perhaps steal a game, but a series? I’m not buying it.

Chris: Avalanche in 5. There is no reason to believe that Patrick Roy will tolerate the team losing to the Wild. Therefore, fear itself will propel the Avs through to the second round.

J.J.: Avalanche in 7. I’ve been waiting for the Avs to crash and burn all year, but they look like the real deal. Wild will give them some pushback, but I don’t think enough of one to take the series.

Clay: Avalanche in 5. Colorado is too young, too fast, and too skilled to lose to the Wild.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Victoria: Hawks in 6. As long as Toews and Kane are healthy, I see the Hawks rolling over the Blues fairly easily. They’re young, strong, talented and they’ve been here before and know how to win. Blues, not so much.

Matt: Hawks in 7. A first-round series that should really be worthy of a Conference Final, I’d hedge my bets on the defending champion over a team which – on paper – is built for the playoffs. This looks like it could be a physical series from start to finish, but again I believe the Blackhawks’ top guns will survive this war of attrition. How much they have left after this is another debate in itself.

Chris: Hawks in 7. I’ll be honest, I flipped a coin to determine who wins in 7 games. These two teams will beat the living daylights out of each other.

J.J.: Hawks in 6. The Blues are hurt and slumping; the Hawks are about to get Kane and Toews back. Unless Ryan Miller turns into a money goalie overnight – the eye test says he hasn’t had the impact the Blues had hoped for – Chicago gets this one.

Clay: Hawks in 7.  One of the most intriguing first-round series. It sounds like Chicago is healthy, while St. Louis is everything but.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars

Victoria: Ducks in 5. Teemu wants one last Cup and he’s gonna steamroll Seguin, Benn and the Stars to get there. I’m hoping, because I am not a Ducks fan at all, that eventually they run out of steam, but it won’t be in this round.

Matt: Ducks in 4. The Ducks, who finished first in the West, look like a team that has been in cruise control the last couple weeks. But they appear motivated by what I’d like to call the Teemu Factor. Selanne, who looks like he knows this will be his final season, wants another Stanley Cup ring and I like the Ducks to play hard for the best player the franchise has ever known. Dallas is a team just happy to be here.

Chris: Ducks in 5. May the power Wild Wing compel you. Seriously… is anyone taking Dallas?

J.J.: Ducks in 6. How the Ducks keep winning hockey games with one good line and a (relatively) no-name goalie baffles me.

Clay: Ducks in 5. The Stars might get one, but that’s it. Look for some of Anaheim’s younger players (Bonino, Fowler) to shine.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Victoria: Kings in 7. Because they can. With the addition of Gaborik to their already stacked scoring line-up – Carter, Kopitar, Doughty, etc. – they’ve got the advantage. Also, history dictates Sharks never win it all. This year will be no different and the Kings will put them out of their misery early.

Matt: Kings in 7. I know we say this almost every year, but the Sharks always look like a team that thrives in the regular season only to come up short in the playoffs. Los Angeles is a team that has struggled to find consistency on offense, but their club has a history of flipping the switch when it matters most. I’ll take SoCal over NorCal, yet again.

Chris: Kings in 6. Another series that will serve as a knock-down, drag-out brawl where only one team will survive. At least until round two.

J.J.: Sharks in 7. Jonathan Quick has been good, but the guys in front of him have had trouble scoring all year. This should be a familiar script for Canucks fans.

Clay: Sharks in 6. In this battle of teams that like to pound the Canucks, I like the Sharks’ firepower up front with Pavelski, Marleau, Thornton, Couture, Burns, and Hertl.

*****

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

Victoria: Wings in 7. Because the Wings are like the Goonies, they never say die. And because good should always triumph over evil.

Matt: Wings in 7. My upset special for the first round. Detroit has been ravaged by injuries all season, but their kids (Tatar, Nyquist, etc.) have helped fill in the holes quite admirably. With Henrik Zetterberg practicing and potentially nearing a return, things are looking up on the injury front. The same can’t be said for Boston, who’s already without some key bottom six forwards in Chris Kelly and Dan Paille, not to mention the questionable status of Patrice Bergeron.

Chris: I’m cheering for Motor City and wish them all the best in a long and glorious cup run. Bruins in 6.

J.J.: Wings in 6. I had a late pick in my playoff pool and lost out on all the Bruins who went early in the draft. I hope Datsyuk and Nyquist both have a big series.

Clay: Bruins in 6. They are hungry and right now the class of the East. Can’t believe I used the word class in describing these goofballs.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

Victoria: Habs in 6. Sure they’ve got Steven Stamkos, but Habs have Pacioretty and most importantly Price. If he can channel his Olympic mojo, Bolts don’t stand a chance.

Matt: Habs in 7. My early nomination for the toughest series to call. The Bolts have been bolstered with the return of Steven Stamkos (11 goals in 20 games since his return), and provided goaltender Ben Bishop and forwards Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat return for Game 1, should make for a tough test. Montreal is always a motivated club in the postseason, and Carey Price should have extra incentive after claiming the gold in Sochi.

Chris: Habs in 7. Il faut battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud.

J.J.: Habs in 6. Ca-rey, Ca-rey, Ca-rey! PK and the Vanek-Desharnais-Pacioretty line aren’t bad either.

Clay: Habs in 7. The longer Bishop stays out, the better for Montreal of course. Intrigued by the young Palat and Johnson on Tampa Bay, but I think Montreal is deeper throughout the line-up.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Victoria: Penguins in 4. Fleury has learned his lesson and won’t meltdown… at least not this soon. And Crosby, Neal, Kuntiz and Malkin will make quick work of….of…. whoever plays on Lumbus.

Matt: Penguins in 6. Every NHL postseason, there seems to be that one scrappy, annoying team that defies all odds and just doesn’t seem to go down without a big fight. The Blue Jackets reek of a team that is – perhaps foolishly – motivated to show the rest of the NHL that they’re worth being called a playoff team. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff game before, and the feisty Jackets should be able to embarrass Marc-Andre Fleury for at least a game or two.

Chris: Penguins in 4. Have to feel good for the Blue Jackets for givin’ ‘er a good effort. Pens already have the brooms.

J.J.: Penguins in 5. The Blue Jackets couldn’t beat the Penguins in the regular season; unless playoff-mode Fleury makes an appearance, I really don’t think they’ll beat them in the playoffs either.

Clay: Penguins in 5. Too much firepower up front for Pittsburgh. Plus that Crosby guy.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Victoria: Flyers in 7. This, kids, will be the series to watch. It will be long and scrappy in my opinion. AV has the ability to guide a team through the playoffs, but the Rangers have the history of failing early. Flyers have something to prove after a really crappy start to the season. If Giroux can stop with the stupid hits he’s got a history of in playoffs, then Philly will scrape through.

Matt: Rangers in 7. Long live the King. Henrik Lundqvist has been sensational down the stretch, scraping together a .949 save percentage in his final five games and looking as good as he’s ever been. The Rangers’ success hinges largely on his shoulders, but something should be said about New York’s 25 road wins, which are best in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to see the Rangers not stealing a game on the road.

Chris: Rangers in 6. Because you know the darkest timeline has AV leading the Rangers to the Cup, right?

J.J.: Rangers in 7. Only because it would be so Canuck-y for AV’s new team to have some post-season success immediately after being fired by the Canucks.

Clay: Rangers in 7. Better goaltending. ‘Nuff said.

Feb 272014
 

Welcome back from the Olympic break, Canucks fans.

How about we break that 7-game losing streak, eh?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 262014
 
(Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

(Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

With Team Canada’s gold medal performance in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi still fresh in our minds, it’s time once again to try and focus on the battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The quick change-over from teammates to opponents to teammates again is all part of the Olympic experience. But now that their country’s flag on the front of their jersey has been replaced with the NHL logos, it’s time to reacquaint themselves for the stretch run. That means, no more giveaways, *ahem* Daniel Sedin, though Canada appreciated the assist on Sunday morning. In all, 10 St. Louis Blues players and 7 Vancouver Canucks players were on Olympic rosters, and all, save for a few exceptions, should be back on the ice tonight at Rogers Arena.

Tonight marks the start of a 3-game homestand for the Canucks. Believe it or not, despite their troubles this season, the Canucks have won every meeting against the Blues this season. Sure their last matchup, back on January 10th, was in the midst of better times for the Canucks, but what the hey, with how the last couple of months have turned out, it’s good to cling on to something good.

The Canucks have 22 games left this season, and as we speak, they’re outside the playoff picture. But if we were to look for reason for hope, they’re also still within striking distance of a wild card spot and the 3rd seed in the Pacific Division. In fact, a couple of points tonight could move them back into the playoff picture, although the teams around them all have games in hand.

The Bachelor

With fresh legs, the well-rested Eddie Lack will be in goal tonight to give Roberto Luongo the night off.

Lack had a good two weeks. Well, mostly. He did get to watch The Bachelor, but he also had time to make – and lose – an ill-fated bet.

I wish I was kidding.  (twitter.com/eddielack)

(twitter.com/eddielack)

I wish I was kidding.

Ironman 2

Henrik Sedin is expected to play tonight after missing 9 games with a rib injury. Of course, the injury kept him off Team Sweden for the Olympics, but I heard they did alright without him.

Not-So-Wonder Twins

Hank hasn’t scored a goal in 19 games; Daniel hasn’t scored one in 17 games. Their usual linemate, Alex Burrows hasn’t scored, well, since last season. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the Canucks are 24th in the league in scoring.

The Missing

Ryan Kesler won’t play tonight and is day-to-day with a hand injury. Chris Tanev, Mike Santorelli and Andrew Alberts are no-gos as well.

For the Blues, Jordan Leopold and Vladimir Sobotka will not be in the lineup tonight.

Jan 112014
 

The Canucks got their offense from some unlikely combinations last night. Zac Dalpe, playing with the Sedins, opened the scoring early in the second period, and playing on a line with Darren Archibald and Dale Weise, Mike Santorelli scored the game-winning goal in the third period.

The Blues pressed in the final minute of the game though. And oh man, did they press hard. But at the end of it, the Canucks held on and won 2-1, breaking a 5-game losing streak.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 102014
 
7th in the Western Conference, our Canucks, take on 2nd in the conference the St.Louis Blues tonight at Rogers Arena.  (Photo Credit The Canadian Press)

7th in the Western Conference, our Canucks, take on 2nd in the conference the St.Louis Blues tonight at Rogers Arena.
(Photo Credit The Canadian Press)

It goes without saying that the Canucks are having a lacklustre start to 2014. They’ve lost 5 games in a row, blowing leads in all of them, and prompting coach John Tortorella to question his team’s mental toughness. They’ll need to get tough real fast as they take on the streaking St.Louis Blues at home at Rogers Arena before heading on the road for another 3-game jaunt through the Pacific Division. The Blues are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, a span in which they’ve outscored their opponents 41-17.

Tonight will be the second meeting between the two teams. Their last meeting was back on October 25th in St. Louis, where, thanks to some stellar goaltending by Eddie Lack and an overtime goal from Ryan Kesler, the Canucks came away with the 2 points. Since that meeting, however, the Blues have gone 26-6-3 and have surpassed the Chicago Blackhawks for top spot in the Central Division and have come within 4 points of the Anaheim Ducks, with 3 games in hand, for top spot in the Western Conference.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Canucks come out tonight after a roller coaster of a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. They gave up the first 2 goals of the game to the high-powered Pens, but then struck for 4 unanswered goals, including 3 in the third period, before surrendering 2 goals in 16 seconds with 71 seconds remaining on the clock, en route to a 5-4 shootout loss. They’ve had a couple of days to stew over the loss so we’ll see how they respond.

Who’s Hot

With Henrik Sedin obviously nursing an injury, Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian have stepped up to the plate, contributing a couple of points each in their last game. Kassian was particularly impressive, his goal and his assist on Higgins’ goal showcasing the mix of speed, size and hands that the Canucks coveted when they acquired him for Cody Hodgson.

Brian Elliot is expected to start since Jaroslav Halak played last night in the Blues’ win against the Calgary Flames. Elliot has won 7 consecutive starts with .926% SV and a 1.86 GAA. Team Canada defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, has 7 points in 4 games.

Who’s Out

The Canucks are still without Roberto Luongo, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Stanton and Andrew Alberts. Burrows and Edler skated with the team yesterday, but neither is expected back tonight. Luongo should be back next week.

The Blues are missing leading scorer, Alex Steen, due to a concussion. Defenseman Roman Polak is also out with an ankle injury.

Oct 262013
 

Hands up, anyone who foresaw the Vancouver Canucks going 5-1-1 on this 7-game, 11-night road trip.

Written off by everyone – and seriously, if you had gone on Twitter and the message boards, or listened to the talking heads on TEAM 1040 yesterday, you would’ve thought the Canucks already had their bags packed for YVR even before last night’s game against the St. Louis Blues.

The Canucks weren’t great, but they were good enough. Eddie Lack, in only his 3rd NHL start, made some terrific saves, especially in the third period when the Blues tried to get their game to another gear. Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler were in #beastmodo, and Kesler eventually potted the game-winning goal in overtime, his 2nd goal of the night and his 6th on this road trip.

Add to that the great fun and company enjoyed at the official Canucks Tweetup, and all-in-all, it was a good night.

And a beautiful end to a successful road trip.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Chicago Blackhawks

Photo credit: Grantland

Chicago Blackhawks

The Good

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013, and may very well have a chance at a repeat performance. After all, they retained much of their players, with Dave Bolland perhaps the only significant subtraction from the roster. Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger all seem ready to take on more responsibility.

The Bad

Especially with the hard salary cap and increased parity, it’s pretty darn tough to repeat in this league. The last team to be able to do so were the 1996/1997 and 1997/1998 Detroit Red Wings.

The Outlook

As much as it hurts to say this, I think the Blackhawks are, once again, the team to beat this season.

*****

Colorado Avalanche

The Good

After a few seasons in the cellar, the Avalanche are slowly assembling a good group of players up front. Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon are as good a young forward core as any team can ask for.

The Bad

Their defense is weak and their goaltending is inconsistent.

The Outlook

There may be hope on the horizon for the Avs, but at least for this season, they’ll have to go through some growing pains.

*****

Dallas Stars

The Good

The Stars may have given up first-line winger, Loui Eriksson, to the Boston Bruins, but in Tyler Seguin, they received someone with no. 1 center potential. In the same deal, they also managed to get Rich Peverley, who has potential to produce as a no. 2 center. Jamie Benn, a 6’2″ forward who averaged 0.80 points per game last season, is an emerging star. 23-year old Alex Chiasson and 2013 1st round draft pick Valeri Nichushkin look like they will fill some key roles in the lineup.

The Bad

There’s not a lot of depth in the back end after Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley. 39-year old, UFA signing Sergei Gonchar will help, but other than that will rely on guys like Brendan Dillon, ex-Canuck Kevin Connauton, Jamie Oleksiak and Jordie Benn to improve.

The Outlook

This may be a bridge year for the Stars. The kids will get opportunities to play and gain some much-needed experience.

*****

Minnesota Wild

The Good

By signing Matt Cooke and trading for Nino Niederreiter, the Wild did well to improve their bottom-six.

The Bad

The top-six is top-heavy. After the no. 1 line of Mikko Koivu-Zach Parise-Jason Pomminville, the Wild will have to rely on youngsters, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, and hope that Dany Heatley can stay relatively healthy and able to chip in offensively.

The Outlook

After making a big splash and signing Parise and franchise defenseman Ryan Suter last year, there was a lot of optimism in St. Paul to start the 2012/2013 season. Expectations should be more tempered this season.

*****

Nashville Predators

The Good

Goaltending and defense will, of course, once again be the Predators’ strong suit. They had Seth Jones drop into their laps at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and Roman Josi looks like the real deal.

The Bad

The Preds’ offense finished dead last in the NHL last year; this year won’t be any better.

The Outlook

Sometime in the future, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and Taylor Beck may well provide Nashville with the offense they need. Just not with any regular frequency this season.

*****

St. Louis Blues

The Good

The Blues have incredible depth throughout their lineup and should once again be one of the hardest teams to play against. Already with David Backes, Alex Steen, Chris Stewart, Patrick Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko, they went ahead and added Magnus Paajarvi from Edmonton and ex-Canucks, Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre. Their defensive corps consisting of Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Barret Jackman, Roman Polak and Jordan Leopold may be the best in the league.

The Bad

The Blues have only won one playoff round – in 2011/2012 – in the last ten seasons.

The Outlook

The Blues should easily make the post-season in the new Central Division, and certainly, they have the pieces to finally make it out of the second round of the playoffs.

*****

Winnipeg Jets

The Good

The Jets’ top-3 on d – Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian – can produce with the best of them. Up front, they added some depth behind Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little by signing versatile Michael Frolik and 20-goal man, Devin Setoguchi.

The Bad

Their defense isn’t that great defensively, playing in the same division as some very good defensive teams.

The Outlook

The Jets should be able to compete for one of the Western Conference’s wildcard spots.

Apr 302013
 

Vancouver Canucks beat the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011 NHL playoffs

Photo credit: CBC.ca

As we await the first drop of the puck in the 2013 NHL playoffs, we at CHB put our reputations on the line and make our predictions for the first round. Like last year, we’ll keep a running tally of who makes the most correct predictions. And also like last year, the winner gets nothing but bragging rights.

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (8) Minnesota Wild

Clay: Chicago in 5. Chicago is simply too strong for Minnesota. There’s a reason why one team won the Presidents’ Trophy and the other got in on the last weekend of the regular season. Chicago has too much high-end talent – this won’t even be close.

Victoria: Chicago in 5. I hate to admit it but Chicago has been a force this short season and I don’t see the Wild taking any of the flame from their fire.

@cherry_grant: Chicago in 5. I hate saying this because I, as a good Canucks fan, hate the ‘Hawks. That said, I feel pretty certain that Minnesota will be decimated by them and I will be sad, but somewhat pleased to be basking in my correctness.

J.J.: Chicago in 4. Maybe I like the Hawks that much. Or maybe I just want to jinx them.

Matt: Chicago in 5. This comes down to simple physics: The Blackhawks are a team with firepower up front, adequate defense, and decent goaltending, while the Wild have a popgun offense that barely got them into the postseason. What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?

(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings

Clay: Anaheim in 7. While Detroit has more momentum heading into the playoffs, Anaheim had a better regular season including an amazing February when they won 11 out of 13 games. They’ve faltered a bit since then but I still think they’re a better team.

Victoria: Detroit in 7. If any team can pull off a come-from-behind and out-of-nowhere unexpected victory or 7, it’s Detroit. And as the Capitals have proven time and time again, if any team can perform an epic playoff meltdown, it’s a team coached by Bruce Boudreau.

@cherry_grant: Anaheim in 6. Mainly because they have Reverend Lovejoy on their team. (Note: I don’t actually care if his first name is Reverend or not, it will be to me either way.)

J.J.: Anaheim in 7. Given their roster turnover, both teams probably overachieved this season. Datsyuk and Zetterberg elevated their games at the end of the season, and Jimmy Howard has been tremendous, but Getzlaf, Perry, Bobby Ryan and company aren’t slouches either. Plus, I like the Ducks’ kids (Bonino, Fowler) a tiny bit more than the Wings’ kids (Brunner, DeKeyser).

Matt: Anaheim in 7. To answer the question a lot of people are asking, yes, the Ducks are for real. The team doesn’t have to rely solely on Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Teemu Selanne because their young kids are getting the job done too. But don’t expect the Detroit old boys to go down quietly.

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) San Jose Sharks

Clay: Canucks in 7. Very similar teams: strong goaltending and deep down the middle. Two main differences to me: the Canucks have a deeper blue line and the Sharks are horrible on the road. Game 7 at Rogers Arena may be the difference – stanchion or not.

Victoria: Canucks in 7. To be honest, other than a game against Chicago, the Canucks play hasn’t given me a ton of confidence. But they’ve beaten the Sharks in their sleep before so hopefully they can do it again, even if they’re scoring and defence are sleeping through games.

@cherry_grant: I’m going to say Vancouver, in 6. San Jose’s playoff hockey has been pretty weak in past years. Then there’s the whole “being a staunch fan” thing, which makes me want to say “VANCOUVER IN 4, SUCKAS!”

J.J.: Canucks in 7. If the Canucks team that played the Chicago Blackhawks last Monday shows up, they can beat any team in the league. If the Canucks team that didn’t show up for about 40 of the other games this season suit up against the Sharks, it’s going to be a quick exit and a long summer in Vancouver. I have to believe the Canucks can flip the proverbial switch.

Matt: Canucks in 7. What happens when two teams who have a reputation of being playoff “choke artists” meet in the first round? Both teams find a way to make it hard for themselves. With home ice and a healthy-ish lineup, the Canucks should normally get this done in five or six, but they’ll find a way to mess up a game or two.

(4) St. Louis Blues vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings

Clay: LA in 7. I’m looking forward to these two big teams try to run each other through the boards. I believe that the Kings will prevail in the end: they hammered the Blues on the way to the Stanley Cup last year. It will be closer this year but with the same result.

Victoria: LA in 5. Kings don’t seem to have much of a Stanley Cup hangover, so I’m thinking they’ll at least get through the Blues without a meltdown.

@cherry_grant: Ewwww. St. Louis is my pick for this, in 7. Though really, nobody does as well against St. Louis as Gino Odjick.

J.J.: St. Louis in 7. The Kings have won 8 straight regular season and playoff games against the Blues. So of course, I’m putting my money on St. Loo.

Matt: St. Louis in 7. The last two teams to represent the West in the finals have been bounced in the first round? Coincidence? Probably, but why not keep the trend going? These two teams are strong defensively and physically and will beat the crap out of each other, but the Blues have more incentive to do it.

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) New York Islanders

Clay: Pittsburgh in 5. Crosby or not, the Penguins will over-match the Islanders. While New York might be a feel a good story, there’s a reason why the Penguins loaded up at the trade deadline. Fleury won’t have to be awesome for the Penguins to win this series; he just has to be good.

Victoria: Pittsburgh in 6. The last couple of seasons the Penguins have had a way of melting down in the playoffs against teams that they should easily beat. I think it’s time that trend stops. I think they think it too.

@cherry_grant: Pens in 7. Iginla will totally win it for them, single handedly! Right?!

J.J.: Pens in 5. You just know the Islanders will promote Evgeni Nabokov to the front office and bring back Alexei Yashin for some playoff punch, and cause a kerfuffle in what has been a relatively worry-free season in Long Island.

Matt: Pittsburgh in 5. The Penguins are this year’s “sexy” pick to win it all, but the fact the Islanders are in the playoffs for the first time in a gazillion years should provide them a little pep to steal a game. Otherwise, this isn’t a matchup that’s even close.

(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Ottawa Senators

Clay: Montreal in 7. This is going to be an entertaining season to watch. The Senators will get a lift from the early return of Erik Karlsson but they’ll miss Jason Spezza. Look for Carey Price to find his game just in time to help his team squeak out a narrow victory.

Victoria: Montreal in 7. Ottawa is definitely on it’s way back from near disaster but Montreal is hungry after missing the playoffs last year. Habs want it more and they’re generally better at playoff battles.

@cherry_grant: Ottawa in 7. No reason for this choice at all.

J.J.: Ottawa in 6. Carey Price has owned the Sens recently. But Carey Price also has an 0.871 save percentage and has allowed 32 goals in his last 10 games.

Matt: Ottawa in 7. Montreal started the year on fire but have been mediocre down the stretch, while the Sens have been given a lift with Erik Karlsson — and potentially Jason Spezza’s — return. The Sens have been underdogs all season but won’t go away, why should the first round be any different?

(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) New York Rangers

Clay: Washington in 6. Washington and New York enter the playoffs as two of the hottest teams in the East and they were separated by only one point in the final standings. Ovechkin is on an amazing run right now and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.

Victoria: Rangers in 7. Both these teams always seem to struggle to get in and stay in the playoffs. But the Rangers have more fight in them and I predict Ovie will fall into his regularly scheduled playoff coma nap.

@cherry_grant: Washington in 6, which is a purely arbitrary decision because I have unreasonable, baseless dislike of the Rangers.

J.J.: Washington in 7. The Caps are peaking at the right time, losing just twice in April and posting an 11-1-1 record. Ovie is back in beast mode, and Ribeiro, Backstrom, Brouwer and Johansson have played great in support. Defenseman Mike Green is back too, which gives the Caps’ back end a different dynamic.

Matt: Rangers in 6. This might be a bold pick given the Caps were rolling in the second half, but I’ll take a stingy defense and all-world netminder over a vaunted offense. The Rangers have a core group that’s more battle-tested and playoff-ready (Callahan, Stepan, Richards over Ovechkin, Backstrom, Ribeiro).

(4) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Toronto Maple Leafs

Clay: Boston in 6. As much as I dislike both of these teams, I must admit that I’m very interested in seeing how this series pans out. While Toronto is much improved, the Bruins are much more seasoned and playoff-tested. Jagr and Redden add to their experience.

Victoria: Leafs in 7. There is no rational thought process involved in this pick. If Leafs manage to pull this off then pigs really will fly. But I’d rather see pigs fly than Boston win so, oink! oink! Watch out for that jet, Wilbur!

@cherry_grant: Leafs in 7. I’m SHOCKED (and feel more than a little dirty) to say this, but GO LEAFS GO. I like the Bruins even less than the Blackhawks, so the Leafs had better continue being GOOD, for once.

J.J.: Boston in 5. It’s hard enough to tolerate the early media coverage now that the Leafs have made it back to the postseason for the first time in 9 years. I can’t imagine how insufferable things would be if the Leafs won a playoff game, never mind a playoff series.

Matt: Boston in 6. If there was an option to have both teams eliminate each other, I’d be picking it, just for sheer reasons fraught with anger and dislike. But there can only be one winner, and it’ll be the Bruins. The hard-nosed B’s will keep Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel under wraps, and Patrice Bergeron has established himself as a playoff force.

Apr 172013
 

After rolling through some of the weaker teams in the West, the Canucks begin a stretch of games against potential playoff dance partners.

They started with a game against the St. Louis Blues last night, a chippy affair that featured a lot of rough stuff and name calling, and resulted in a 2-1 Canucks loss in the shootout.

So, of course, we find a way to work an O.C. reference in TGATT.

Here’s the game recap in your tweets.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 192013
 

Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak were the cornerstones for the St. Louis Blues last season, when, for the first time since 2002, they made it to the second round of the NHL playoffs. Elliott and Halak combined to win the Jennings Trophy last season as the best goalie tandem in the NHL. Elliott posted a 23-10-4 record; while Halak went 26-12-7. Elliott also led the NHL in GAA (1.56), save % (.940), and was second in shutouts (9).

Needless to say, coming into this season goaltending was not a major concern for the Blues. But as the Canucks faithful know, a team’s goalie situation can change very quickly.

This season, Halak has been plagued with groin issues and Elliott’s play has declined dramatically. The latter is winless in his last 6 starts going 0-5-1 and allowing 24 goals in that span.

Enter rookie Jake Allen.

Jake Allen

Courtesy of Darryl Dyck


Allen has been sensational for the Blues. In just his first NHL season (though he did play about a minute of game 2 of the Blues’ second round playoff series last season against the Kings), he has an 8-1-0 record and is in the top-10 in the NHL in GAA (2.18) and save % (.920). He has not allowed more than 3 goals in any of his starts. (Remember the good old days of less than 3 goals against, Canucks fans?)

Allen’s stellar play probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Canadian fans might remember that he was a part of Team Canada when they won the gold medal in the 2008 U-18 World Hockey Championship. Allen went 6-1-0 in that tournament, and was named tournament MVP and its top goaltender. He was also a part of Team Canada when they won the silver medal in the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship in Saskatoon; he posted a 4-0-0 record in that tournament.

The Blues come to Vancouver for the two teams’ second meeting of the season. In their first meeting back in February, the Canucks blew a 2-1 first period lead and eventually lost 4-3 in a shootout. Mason Raymond tied up the game with less than 2 minutes remaining in the third period to help earn the Canucks a point.

After a brief lull, the Blues are rolling again with 5 wins in their last 6 games. On the other hand, the Canucks are in a tailspin. After blowing yet another lead in last night’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Canucks have just 3 wins in their last 11 games.

Cory Schneider should get the start in goal for the Canucks tonight.

Canucks Record

13-9-6, 32 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 7th in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Chris Stewart is an impending UFA next season and is making every effort to boost his value in the open market. Through 28 games, Stewart leads the Blues in goals (14) and points (28). He’s currently on a tear with an active 3-game point streak (5G-2A-7P) and 15 points in his last 10 games.

Who’s Not

David Peron has just 1 goal in his last 5 games.

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