Jun 122012
 

1. The Los Angeles Kings have begun their royal coronation, and they got on that championship road by defeating the Canucks in the first round in five games. That means that for three straight years Vancouver has been defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup champions (Chicago, Boston, and now Los Angeles). I’m not one for superstition but how many teams would like to line up against the Canucks in the first round next spring?

2. When watching the rest of the NHL playoffs, I always find it a little unnerving when Canucks fans cheer for the team that ousted them, in this case the Kings. Canucks fans feel better about the fact they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Sure, it means the Canucks lost to the best team, but it doesn’t mean the Canucks were the second-best team in the postseason. To me, a loss is a loss; there is no second place when there’s 16 teams and just one champion.

3. Love him or hate him, Drew Doughty was fantastic and a huge reason why the Kings got to the promised land. He was delivering production close to a point per game and was +11 in the process. Most memorably, his Bobby Orr-like goal in Game 2 of the Finals turned out to be a real turning point in that series. Canucks fans have to ask themselves if they have anyone like Doughty in their system. Is Alex Edler the answer? I don’t think even Canucks management knows for certain.

4. The pace of games in the playoffs were at a snail’s pace on occasion, depending on the team you watched. Vancouver has built its team around an up-tempo style, but considering the success of guys like Dustin Penner this spring, you have to wonder if that philosophy needs to change. The Canucks picked up David Booth in November for the purpose of making their team faster, but I’m not sure anymore if that’s a winning recipe.

5. Craig MacTavish resigned as head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate yesterday in order to become the senior VP of hockey ops with Edmonton. You get the sense that once he learned Alain Vigneault would be back behind the Canucks bench next season, MacT had little reason to stay. It’s obvious he wants to be a head coach at the NHL level again and he knew that wouldn’t happen with Vancouver any time soon.

6. That leaves a head coaching hole with the Chicago Wolves that the Canucks need to fill. There are a few good candidates to take the spot; a week after hiring Bob Hartley as their next head coach, the Flames decided to let Craig Hartsburg go. Hartsburg has coached Canada to world juniors gold in 2008 and prior to taking the associate coach position with Calgary was the Everett Silvertips bench boss.

7. Another option to take over is Scott Arniel, who was canned from the Columbus Blue Jackets this past season. Sure, Arniel had a rough go in his time in Ohio, but any coach would with Steve Mason between the pipes. Arniel was treasured during his time with the Manitoba Moose and while he currently works for the Canucks as a scout, you know he’ll be eager to get behind a bench once again. Both Hartsburg and Arniel would be excellent choices.

8. Sticking with coaching talk, no one knows what was said in the meetings leading up to Alain Vigneault’s renewal, but it’s clear there needs to be a change in how Vigneault approaches his players. Vigneault is a coach known to loosen the reins on his players a bit, but that will have to be different this upcoming season. Fans weren’t happy with the dives and yapping coming from players, and the leadership to remedy those problems starts with the head coach. Vigneault would be best served by implementing a tighter ship; dive and yap and you can find yourself stapled to the bench.

9. Call it a hunch, but I suspect trade activity will pick up considerably as the NHL Draft gets closer. There’s a ton of uncertainty with regards to a possible work stoppage and the temporary increase in the salary cap, but that shouldn’t deter general managers from bolstering their teams. The increase in cap space should give teams incentive to make moves they wouldn’t normally make, and perhaps the Luongo trade saga fits that equation.

10. Only Mike Gillis holds the cards, but the Luongo saga continues to unfurl. Some fans want assets coming back that can help the Canucks win now, but isn’t freeing up $5.3-million in cap space the biggest asset? This summer isn’t exactly a ground breaker in terms of free agents available, but freeing up that much space and adding an extra million in a cap increase could give Vancouver the chance to land a really, really big fish.

11. Continuing on with the Luongo rumours, a lot of people have thrown out Jake Gardiner and Luke Schenn’s name when mentioning the Toronto Maple Leafs, but how about Cody Franson? The Memorial Cup winner with the Vancouver Giants is a product of the Nashville system where defencemen are bred like prized racehorses, and at 24 is still a blueliner with potential.

12. Some have asked about what the real chance the Canucks have at signing soon-to-be free agent Justin Schultz. Schultz is a product of the U of Wisconsin and while there teamed up with current Leaf Jake Gardiner. Now both players were once draft picks of the Anaheim Ducks, but Gardiner was traded to Toronto in a package for Francois Beauchemin. Hard to say for certain, but perhaps Schultz’ feelings towards Anaheim soured when they traded his partner. This isn’t to say Schultz will follow Gardiner to Toronto, but if the Canucks could land Gardiner in a deal for Luongo…

13. If the Canucks are hoping to sign Cory Schneider to a new contract, they better get it done soon. Not just because Schneider could be eligible to receive offer sheets, but because of the Tim Thomas effect. Now that Thomas is taking a year off from hockey, Tuukka Rask’s bargaining power as a restricted free agent just got bigger. Rask and Schneider are goalies with similar career trajectories, and if the Canucks want to avoid paying Schneider upwards of $4-million a year, they’d best get a contract hammered out before Rask does.

14. For those in the trade Schneider camp, word is that Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is being lured by a KHL team. A restricted free agent in July, the potential offer from the KHL team is said to be substantial. If Pavelec pulls a Radulov and bolts, a certain redheaded Canucks goalie is known to be a fan favourite in the ‘Peg. Hmm…

15. The NHL Draft is on June 22 and fans are wondering who the Canucks will target at 26th overall. I’ll have more in my draft preview, but given Jordan Schroeder and Anton Rodin’s strong strides in development this past season, the team should be looking at a defenseman with this year’s pick. And considering the abundance of blueliners in this year’s crop, that’s a pretty safe deduction to make.

Jun 122012
 

With the LA Kings’ 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils last night they captured their first Stanley Cup in their 45-year history.  And speaking of history, CHB bloggers Caylie King and Ed Lau finished tied for first in our inaugural CHB Playoff Prediction Pool.

For the final round, I once again awarded one point for correctly guessing the winning team (LA Kings) and another point for getting the right number of games (six).  Also, I added an extra bonus point for predicting the Conn Smythe winner (Jonathan Quick).

Here are the final standings:

  • 11 – Caylie
  • 11 – Ed
  • 10 – Clay
  • 10 – Tom
  • 9 – Victoria
  • 7 – JJ
  • 7 – Chris
  • 7 – Matt
  • 4 – Richard
  • 4 – Lizz

With Caylie picking the Devils to win, Ed was able to snag 2 points to grab a share of first place.  Yours truly was the only CHB blogger to earn the maximum of 3 points in the final round, vaulting me to one point behind the leaders (tied with Tom).

With this season officially over, the CHB bloggers can now turn their attention to their next big project…stay tuned for details.

 

 

May 162012
 

[Disclaimer: Please note that these were made prior to the start of the round...it’s just taken me a few days to put this post together.  The proof is in the fact that many CHB writers picked the Coyotes over the Kings!]

After two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ed still leads the CHB Playoff Pool with a total of 9 points.  Following Ed is a logjam for second place as JJ, Caylie and Victoria all have 7 points.  Here are the complete standings after Round 2 based on 1 point for naming the correct team and a bonus point for guessing the correct number of games:

  • 9 – Ed (7 series, 2 bonus)
  • 7 – JJ (6 plus 1)
  • 7 – Caylie (5 plus 2)
  • 7 – Victoria (4 plus 3)
  • 6 – Tom (4 plus 2)
  • 5 – Chris (4 plus 1)
  • 4 – Clay (4)
  • 4 – Matt (4)
  • 3 – Richard (3)
  • 3 – Lizz (2 plus 1)

Without further adieu, here are the predictions for Round 3. 

Caylie

  • Kings in 5
  • Devils in 6

The Kings have proven that they have everything a Cup-winning team needs: scoring, depth, defense and a great goaltender.  As for the East, I have been wrong in a lot of my predictions. My actual pick is the Rangers but I’m doing a little reversal and picking the Devils. Hopefully this strategy helps me.

Chris

  • Coyotes in 6
  • Devils in 7

Even though it confounds me that the Coyotes have a shot at making the SCF, my hope is their consistent play and lights out goaltending are enough to get past Quick and the Kings.  Good money is on the Rangers, but these teams hate each other and in another war of attrition I’m not sold that New York has the health to get through another long series.

Clay

  • Kings in 6
  • Devils in 6

In each series, I’m going with the team that has played fewer games and therefore more well-rested.

Ed

  • Coyotes in 7
  • Rangers in 7

Sticking with the Coyotes. Everyone picked the Coyotes’ opponents in the first two rounds while I chose Phoenix.  And it’s great that Shane Doan is playing in his first Conference Finals and he’s damned near retirement. Not a Shane Doan fan but I respect his loyalty to a franchise that wasn’t very committed to winning for a long time. 

J.J.

  • Coyotes in 7
  • Rangers in 6

I’m not emotionally-invested in either team so I’ll cheer for the sentimental favorite Shane Doan to win the Cup for the first time ever in his career. 

Lizz

  • Kings in 6
  • Rangers in 6

The Kings have surprised and dominated every team they’ve come across, and I can’t see that momentum stopping now.  Despite surprising everyone with the win over Philly, I think the Devils still won’t be able to stop the Rangers.  Plus, a Rangers win is the only thing that could save my embarrassingly bad playoff pool.

Matt

  • Kings in 6
  • Rangers in 6

The jerseys of Matt’s ice-hockey team look a lot like Kings’ jerseys.

Richard

  • Coyotes in 7
  • Devils in 7

Richard likes teams that wear red.

Tom

  • Kings in 5
  • Rangers in 6

See Tom’s detailed previews of the Kings-Coyotes here and the Rangers-Devils here.

Victoria

  • Coyotes in 7
  • Rangers in 7

I hate LA more than I hate Phoenix.  I want Marc Staal to get a chance at the Stanley Cup because his brothers have played for it.  Now I’m picking on emotion as using logic has failed me miserably.

Apr 282012
 
New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals

Photo credit: New York Times

Yesterday we looked at the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference now, shall we?

New York Rangers (1) vs. Washington Capitals (7)

Season Series: Tied 2-2

What we Learned About the Rangers: 

It was more about what we were able to confirm than what we learned. Even with the addition of Brad Richards (who led the team in scoring in round one), this is a New York team built to keep goals out, not score them in bushels. Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin could add that offense in time, but right now their biggest contribution seems to be speed. Derek Stepan was arguably the team’s best forward in the first round. Henrik Lundqvist got out of the first round for the first time in four years and cemented his status as the game’s best. With the Bruins out of the playoffs the Rangers are now the best defensive team remaining in the East. Given they’re the top seed; given that defensive excellence; given Henrik Lundqvist; these Blueshirts enter this series as prohibitive favourites.

What we Learned about the Capitals: 

A heck of a lot. For starters, we learned that coach Dale Hunter will play whoever he feels is going, meaning that stars Alex Ovechkin, Nik Backstrom and Alex Semin all saw reduced minutes at different times in the last series. We learned that the Capitals blueline is starting to really come of age, with Karl Alzner especially making a difference defensively. We learned that the Caps have become a patient team – they’ll wait for their opponent to make mistakes rather than push the tempo themselves. Oh, and we learned that the Caps have a pretty good third string goalie, especially when the entire team is going to great lengths to protect him. Look, this isn’t the Capitals team that captured our hearts years ago. But their round one performance certainly revealed this is a hockey club that, after years of disappointment, has improved character on its roster. Boston – the more talented, deeper team – trapped and passively played their way to a series loss. It’s quite possible the Rangers, with their similar style, who’ve lost to Washington in the last two playoffs, could do the same.

Quick Decisions: 

Coaching: Rangers. Tortorella has won a Cup and, well, I’ve got segments of 24/7 cued for whenever I need an inspirational speech. Hunter’s won a round but the jury is still out on him being a capable NHL bench boss.

Goaltending: Rangers. Yes Braden Holtby looked like Ken Dryden in round one. But Lundqvist is the best in the game. Best Washington can hope for here is a draw.

Defense: Rangers. It’s closer than expected based on Washington’s excellent performance against the Bruins. Both teams have strong defense cores, with the Caps a bit more dynamic along the blueline (Mike Green had a nice series against the Bruins). Ranger forwards execute the defensive system in their sleep, while the Caps still have a few players who freelance from time to time.

Offense: Even. Washington has more talented players but they don’t have much beyond their big three scorers. The Rangers have slightly more scoring on their second and third lines but Marian Gaborik – their strongest sniper – had a pedestrian first round. Expect a low scoring series.

Special Teams: Even. Both teams have the resources to be better in this area. Washington’s special teams were average in the regular season and slightly better in the first round. The Rangers powerplay has been frustrating for most of the year, but surprisingly their strong penalty kill was lit up a bit by the Senators.

Prediction: Capitals in 7.

*****

Philadelphia Flyers (5) vs. New Jersey Devils (6)

Season Series: Philadelphia (3-2-1)

What we Learned About Philadelphia:

That they have probably the most offensive depth in the Eastern Conference. We also learned that their willingness to take risks often leaves goalie Ilya Bryzgalov hung out to dry. We learned that Braydon Coburn has taken another step and is a legitimate top-pairing defenseman. We learned that Danny Briere can still raise his game in the post-season and that Claude Giroux might be the best player in the league right now. We learned that Max Talbot has gotten better since leaving Pittsburgh.

What we Learned About New Jersey:

We learned maybe the biggest lesson of the first round – that Ilya Kovalchuk has become a more complete player and has grown into a leadership role. We learned that Martin Brodeur has some magic left (very solid in Game 7) but that his game can leave him at any given moment. The Devils also showed some weak defensive play that’s unlike the great Devils team of old. This is certainly the weakest blueline left in the playoffs and arguably the weakest goaltending left in the playoffs.

Quick Decisions:

Coaching: Philadelphia (Peter DeBoer has done a very good job bringing speed and a more dynamic approach to the Devils. The Flyers Peter Laviolette though is an elite coach)

Goaltending: Flyers. Slight edge here. Bryzgalov isn’t as bad as his first round stats against the Penguins and Brodeur isn’t as good as his against the pop-gun Panthers. Bryzgalov’s numbers were slightly stronger in the regular season and have been stronger over the last few years.

Defense: Flyers. Another slight edge attributable to a stronger Flyers blueline. Nick Grossman has been a nice addition, while Matt Carle and Kimmo Timmonen are stronger than anything the Devils have on defense.

Offense: Flyers. It’s the Flyers top three lines versus the Devils’ top-two. That depth, and the ability of coach Laviolette to mix and match 10 forwards with offensive skill (list includes youngsters Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn), give Philadelphia a definitive advantage here. The Devils still can’t get any offense from their blueline on a consistant basis.

Prediction: Flyers in 5.

*****

And finally, a final word for the dearly departed:

Boston Bruins

Cause of Death: Self-asphyxiation – injuries robbed the team of offensive depth, and Claude Julien’s passive system didn’t generate enough opportunities for the team to score.

Prescription: Continue to search for a creative blueline to quarterback the powerplay. Explore another top-six forward to potentially replace Nathan Horton, whose future is cloudy due to concussion.

*****

Florida Panthers

Cause of Death: Lack of talent

Prescription: Stay the course. This Panthers team as constructed is an interim measure while the team’s best young players develop at their own pace. Adding a Jonathan Huberdeau next year will only help this club.

*****

Pittsburgh Penguins

Cause of Death: A lack of defense and goaltending.

Prescription: Find a stronger back-up goaltender to spell Marc-Andre Fleury when his game escapes him. Upgrade defensive depth, as Paul Martin struggled in the post-season and the third-pairing barely played.

*****

Ottawa Senators

Cause of Death: Lack of composure in Game 6.

Prescription: Stay the course. Composure comes with experience. The Senators shuffled all their young players into the lineup to get them playoff exposure. That should pay dividends next year.

Apr 282012
 

Yesterday I posted the results of our CHB Playoff Pool after round one with quick analysis.  See the post now to see which CHB writers are doing well and which ones should just give up now.

Well we’re back for another round of predictions…enjoy!  And check out the end of this post to see how you can once again get in on the fun.

Caylie (@CayKing)

  • Blues in 6
  • Predators in 5
  • Rangers in 7
  • Flyers in 5

Caps will push the Rangers to game 7 because they will carry the momentum over from a huge series wins against the depending Cup Champs, Bruins.

Chris (@lyteforce)

  • Blues in 7
  • Predators in 6
  • Rangers in 6
  • Flyers in 5

The way these two teams are built, I’d be surprised if the systems Sutter & Hitchcock run will allow either team to generate offense.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the team who wins the opening faceoff should immediately be given the win as that will likely be the most exciting event we’ll see in each game.  So why the Blues?  No way I can pick the team that beat the Canucks.

Clay (@CanuckClay)

  • Blues in 6
  • Predators in 7
  • Rangers in 6
  • Flyers in 6

Bryzgalov will continue his yo-yo tendencies and bounce back to play like he did in March.  Flyers will overpower the outmatched Devils.

Ed (@edlau)

  • Blues in 6
  • Coyotes in 7
  • Rangers in 6
  • Flyers in 6

Ed didn’t submit any analysis but he doesn’t need to.  After all, as our first-round leader he’s the only CHB writer to match the scores of the top CHB readers.

J.J. (@canuckshockey)

  • Blues in 7
  • Predators in 5
  • Rangers in 6
  • Flyers in 5

I don’t like Bryz vs. Brodeur, but I do like Giroux, Briere, Hartnell, Jagr, Voracek, Schenn, Read vs. Marty and a fairly shallow Devils team.

Lizz (@lizzmoffat)

  • Blues in 6
  • Predators in 7
  • Rangers in 7
  • Flyers in 5

One of my best friends declared that I’m jumping on the Nashville bandwagon with her. Plus no one needs to see poor Carrie Underwood crying again.

Matt (@mattlee61)

  • Blues in 6
  • Predators in 6
  • Rangers in 6
  • Flyers in 4

Washington will make it interesting, but Rangers have learned by now to take a series by the throat when the opportunity is there. New York leadership will carry the load.

Richard (@mozy19)

  • Blues in 7
  • Coyotes in 6
  • Rangers in 5
  • Flyers in 4

Like Ed, Richard didn’t submit any analysis.  But unlike Ed, Richard is at the bottom of the pool and not the top.

Tom (@tomwakefield88)

  • Blues in 6
  • Predators in 5
  • Capitals in 7
  • Flyers in 5

Pekka Rinne ain’t no Corey Crawford.

Victoria (@concretefluff)

  • Blues in 6
  • Predators in 4
  • Rangers in 7
  • Flyers in 6

This will come down to goaltending. It’s two against one with Quick versus Elliott AND Halak.

 

Are you smarter than a CHB blogger?

Once again we’re giving you a chance to prove it by leaving your predictions in the comments section below – don’t forget to predict both the series winner and the number of games!

 

Apr 272012
 
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues

Photo credit: The Checking Line

Let’s just get this out of the way first, shall we?

This first round was a bloody disappointment.

Welcome to the deadpuck era 2.0 – to a style of play that see goal prevention more successful than goal creation.

Where goaltenders dominate, and the flow of the game – much improved since the lockout – has returned to slogging through muck.

It’s an game filled with interference and Wild West justice, where league’s least skilled players may attack, hurt and render obsolete its most talented.

Look, playoff hockey is supposed to be many things – faster, more physical, more passionate. But what it shouldn’t be is more boring.

But that’s what it’s been.

The league has become stronger defensively in general, and the playoffs have only amplified that. This is shaping up to be the lowest scoring first-round of the last five years, if not longer. 

First Round Goals Per Game:

Western ConferenceYearEastern Conference
4.4320125.64*
5.9620115.83
6.4320105.08
5.3020095.00
5.0820085.65

God bless that Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series, which on its own has saved the league from having the lack of goals be a bigger negative story. The Battle of Pennsylvania averaged 9.33 (!!!) goals per game. The rest of the Eastern Conference games have been snore-fests (4.47).

Skilled teams are falling by the wayside in these playoffs, which, unless Philadelphia or Nashville win the Stanley Cup, reverses the historic trend that shows scoring teams persevere.

The only question is if this is a one-year anomaly or not.

The decline in scoring league-wide in recent years; the rise in shot-blocking; the reduction in penalty calls this season and power play goals (only the Sharks scored at a rate higher than 10% on the powerplay after the All-Star Game!); the defensive collapse in front of the net and other strategies lead me to believe things are only going to get worse unless rules are changed.

With that cheery thought in mind, let’s take a look at the Second Round match-ups in the Western Conference.

 St. Louis Blues (2) vs.Los Angeles Kings (8)

Season Series: Los Angeles Kings (3-1)

What we have learned about St. Louis:

They have come of age. When the Blues hired Ken Hitchcock, they did so to determine once and for all whether the young players they’d assembled on their roster were good enough to win together. Manhandling the Sharks in the first round answered that question. Winning in five games also gives them some rest ahead of another round of significant travel against a gruelling West Coast team. The Blues have four lines that can contribute, although in reality only the top-two lines are a threat to score.

What we have learned about Los Angeles:

That they look like another Darryl Sutter team – the 2004 Calgary Flames that went on a Cup run. Jonathan Quick remains a brick wall in goal (Miikka Kiprusoff-esque) and Dustin Brown did a pretty terrific Jarome Iginla impression against the Canucks. Having said that, the absence of Daniel Sedin for three games (all losses) and the poor play of Ryan Kesler were significant factors in L.A.’s win. They’re a good team – better than your usual eighth place team – but the stars were aligned a bit for them in round one. Oh, and the fourth line barely plays.

Quick Decisions:

Coaching: Blues. Slight edge to Hitchcock because he’s won a Cup but both coaches have their teams playing about as well as possible.

Goaltending: Kings. Both teams have put up microscopic goals against totals but if I had to pick one goalie from this series to win a seventh game right now it would be Jonathan Quick, not Brian Elliott or Jaroslav Halak.

Defense: Even. Alex Pieterangelo is playing better than Drew Doughty these days, but Willie Mitchell had the series of his life against the Canucks. Both teams execute their defensive systems flawlessly.

Offense: Blues. A slight edge here to the Blues, as Andy McDonald and Patrick Berglund had impressive first rounds. Can they continue? Meanwhile, the potential is there for L.A.’s offense to explode, but a strict commitment to Darryl Sutter’s system could mean on-going sporadic production from Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. If the Kings are to win this series, they need one of their big guns to get hot.

Special Teams: Blues. The Blues powerplay was third-best in the league post the All-Star Game, and lit-up the Sharks at a rate of 33%. Both teams have very good penalty kills.

Prediction: Blues in 6.

*****

Phoenix Coyotes (3) vs Nashville Predators (4)

Season Series: Tied 2-2

What we have learned about Nashville:

They are who we thought they were – arguably the most talented, deepest Predators team in franchise history. They proved they can skate and out-play the Red Wings five-on-five as their powerplay (league best in the regular season) failed them in the first round. At over 20-minutes a game, rookie defenseman Roman Josi was leaned on and played a sound series against Detroit.

What we have learned about Phoenix:

That Mike Smith has pretty much transformed himself into goaltending coach Sean Burke, who at his best was among the league’s elite netminders. This is a Phoenix team that found surprising scoring depth in round one – no remaining Western Conference team had as many different round one goal scorers as Phoenix did (11). Otherwise, this is a Coyotes team that won a playoff series by taking advantage of the counter-attack and being opportunistic. Territorially, thanks to their bend-don’t-break defensive scheme, the Coyotes were outplayed much of round one by the Blackhawks.

Quick Decisions:

Coaching: Even. Two of the best coaches in the game.

Goaltending: Even. Pekka Rinne has a bit longer resume, but Mike Smith was all-world for Phoenix in round one.

Defense: Predators. It’s an underrated blueline in Phoenix, but Ryan Suter and Shea Weber were dominant against the Red Wings. The Predators should get Hal Gill back as well, which should give them a boost on the penalty kill and an additional match-up advantage. Forwards on both teams are expected to play both-ways, but the Predators don’t give up nearly as many shots as the Coyotes do.

Offense: Predators. The Coyotes surprising scoring in the first round could be attributable to poor play from Chicago’s Corey Crawford. Ray Whitney is an elite, intelligent attacker but the rough style of play found in these playoffs limits his effectiveness at even strength. Let’s not forget Nashville was one of the highest scoring teams in the league during the regular season. Alex Radulov is probably the player in this series most capable of dominating play.

Special Teams: Predators. Phoenix’s special teams were very good against a Chicago team that struggled in this area during the regular season. Expect a bit of a drop-off. Nashville’s powerplay struggled against Detroit. They’ll need a better second round performance if they hope to beat the Coyotes.

Prediction: Predators in 5.

*****

Finally, a quick word on the departed:

Vancouver Canucks

Cause of death: A lack of secondary scoring and Duncan Keith’s elbow.

Prescription: Stay-the-course, get what you can for Luongo, and try and find a 25-goal scorer or strong playmaker who can mesh with Ryan Kesler.

*****

Chicago Blackhawks

Cause of death: Poor goaltending and a massive concussion to Marian Hossa, care of Raffi Torres.

Prescription: Upgrade in net. Otherwise there’s still much to like about this Chicago team.

*****

Detroit Red Wings

Cause of death: Age. This team is just not as deep or capable on defense or up front.

Prescription: Use their cap space on Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter. A Rick Nash trade would be worth exploring too. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jaromir Jagr end up here either as a PP specialist (if he doesn’t resign in Philly).

*****

San Jose Sharks

Cause of death: Age. See the Red Wings above.

Prescription: Shake up the core. It would not be a surprise to see Patrick Marleau and/or Danny Boyle moved to bring fresh pieces into the fold. The Sharks will try to take a quick step back to take a giant leap forward before Joe Thornton is completely washed up.

Apr 272012
 

Just before the first round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs began, the CHB writers gave their predictions and we invited CHB readers to do the same.  Scoring was simple: one point for guessing the correct series winner and a bonus point for also correctly guessing the number of games (presuming that the series winner was correct).

Conveniently, there were 10 CHB readers who submitted predictions matching the 10 CHB writers who participated.  Thus, I don’t even have to calculate averages (although I still will)…we can just compare total scores!

In the interest of full disclosure (yet at the risk of it making it look like we don’t know what we’re talking about), I will provide you with the results now.  And it’s not pretty.

CHB readers amassed a total of 51 points (average of 5.1 per prognosticator) while the CHB writers totaled only 41 points (average of 4.1 per predictor).  Yes, that means that each reader outscored a writer by an average of one point.  That’s quite significant.

Here are the results:

CHB WritersPointsCorrect Series and No. of Games
Ed7(5 series, 2 bonus)
JJ6(5 plus 1)
Tom6(4 plus 2)
Caylie5(4 plus 1)
Victoria5(3 plus 2)
Chris4(3 plus 1)
Clay3(3)
Matt3(3)
Lizz1(1)
Richard1(1)
Total Points:41
CHB ReadersPointsCorrect Series and No. of Games
Jason S7(6 series, 1 bonus)
Michael K7(5 plus 2)
Natevk7(5 plus 2)
Tyler B7(5 plus 2)
Ella K7(5 plus 2)
Brian R5(4 plus 1)
Jason M4(4)
David D3(2 plus 1)
Nicole F2(2)
Rich B2(2)
Total Points:51

Ed tops the CHB writers with 7 points going 5 for 8 in winners along with a couple of bonus points.  He was the only writer to correctly predict the Coyotes’ win.  Close behind are JJ and Tom, each with 6 points.  JJ was the only writer to pick the Capitals and he got the number of games right to boot.  Meanwhile, Tom’s detailed analysis for his posts seemed to pay off.

In the middle of the pack are Caylie, Victoria and Chris.  Caylie fared particularly well in the Eastern Conference going 3 for 4.  Our newest writer Victoria is holding her own while Chris is trying to stay out of the Danger Zone.

Sitting at 3 points are Matt and Clay.  Being the Asian James Duthie didn’t help Matt and Clay might as well start writing a song to the tune of End of the Road.

Bringing up the rear are Lizz and Richard; they both predicted just one series winner correctly.  Perhaps Lizz should have Picked According to Twitter.  As for Richard, he should probably just mozy on out of the pool.

So congrats to all the CHB readers, in particular Jason S, Michael K, Natevk, and Tyler B for all matching CHB writer Ed for 7 points.  We encourage you to provide predictions once again for the next round.  Just leave them in the comments section below – don’t forget to predict both the series winner and the number of games!

And even if you didn’t get in on the first round, feel free to jump in now for the second round.

Apr 242012
 

Clay Imoo, Canucks Hockey BlogIt’s been just over 24 hours since the Vancouver Canucks were unceremoniously eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings in just five games. As I outlined in my season-ending Clay’s Canucks Commentary, I was quite saddened and disappointed immediately after the game especially given the high hopes for the Canucks in the post-season.

After drowning our sorrows in some beef sashimi and salmon cones, my son Sean and I made it home just after 10pm. There, I was met by my lovely wife Gail.

“I’m so sad, disappointed and frustrated,” I lamented, “and I’m not even on the team!”

To which Gail replied “Well, you think you are!”

Gee…thanks for the sympathy, honey. But it did get me thinking about just how consumed I became with the Canucks’ exciting playoff run last year. And how it will be a lot different this year.

Given that there have already been some good post-mortems on the Canucks’ season, I thought I would take a different approach for this blog. Thus, being a positive person, I present to you 5 good things about the Canucks’ early elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

1.  More Time With Family. This is without a doubt the most important one and one of the easiest ones to measure. It was also the basis for Gail’s remark about me thinking I’m part of the team. As a loyal fan, my mood often goes as the team goes which isn’t exactly fair to my wife and kids. In fact, last year I wrote a blog about it called “A Hockey Blogger’s Love Letter to his Wife” in which I thanked Gail for her patience, understanding and forgiveness. With the Canucks out of the playoffs, I won’t be in such a rush to check Twitter, make a Clay’s Canucks Commentary video, or write a post for CHB. Now, I can focus on the four people at home instead of the 20 on the ice. I guess asking the family to help me with my videos by being the camera people and lighting people didn’t count as quality family time.

2.  Less Stress. Let’s face it: playoff time is stressful. Whether watching the game at Rogers Arena or at home or at a bar, tensions rise, moods swing, and relationships are tested. Earlier today, my good friend Mike relayed a story from Sunday night in which he and his buddies were at the Las Vegas airport waiting for their flight home to Vancouver. So they went to one of the sports bars to relax and catch some of the game. The bar was understaffed, management was rude, and many of the patrons were drunk. Overall, it was a very charged atmosphere that led to many testy exchanges between the patrons and employees…especially when the bar manager changed the channels on all of the TVs away from the Canucks-Kings game except for one. What should have been a couple hours of fun and relaxing viewing turned out to be a couple hours of stress. And back home, I’m sure productivity levels at work and school drop off while the Canucks are still alive…especially on game days.

3.  More Sleep. I already don’t get enough sleep. In fact, it’s 1:45am as I type this. On Canucks playoff game nights in particular, I’m usually up until 3am or so reading articles, editing and posting videos, or writing blogs. With the Canucks out, I can still do all of these things but I can start a whole lot earlier in the evening. Heaven forbid I actually go to bed at the same time as Gail. Now, this is made more challenging by the fact that she often goes to bed before sunset but that’s not the point here. Gail is a teacher and thus needs her 8 hours of sleep whereas I can function on 4 or 5 hours. Thus in 12 years of marriage, we rarely go to sleep together. I’m surprised we have three kids. :p

4.  Less Scheduling Conflicts. There’s simply going to be more free time to do everything. We won’t fret about whether or not the Canucks game will conflict with a church function, piano lesson, or family gathering. In fact, my work’s annual two-day rally for high school teens always falls on the first weekend of May. Thus, for the past few years there’s been a Canuck game on either the Friday or Saturday evening. Not so this year for the first time since 2008. It’s a blessing in disguise: the teens will be able to fully concentrate on the rally. Or perhaps I’m talking more about my own attention span.

5.  More Disposable Income. Bottom line is that I’ll have a bit more money to spend this year. Although I feel extremely fortunate to be a season ticket holder, it’s obviously quite an investment of both time and money. The cost of 16 potential home playoff games is equivalent to 45 regular and preseason home games. So instead of paying for 14 home playoff games last year, I (sadly) only paid for 3 this year. That’s a big difference, especially factoring in that costs go up per round.

Would I trade any of the above for a deep Canucks playoff run? Having lived through it last year, I would try my best to honour the family time but I’d be willing to sacrifice or endure the other 4 for sure: more stress, less sleep, more scheduling challenges and more spending.

I guess I better submit this for posting and get on up to bed. Not that Gail will notice.

Apr 232012
 
Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings shake hands

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

I’m not going to rant. I’m not going to rage. I would probably cry but I don’t want to short-circuit my keyboard so I won’t even do that. Instead I’ll keep this brief. And then I will eat chocolate.

Where We Went Right

Ryan Kesler was incredible on the penalty kill. He may not have scored goals but in this game his shot blocking and clearing was equally if not more important. If it wasn’t for Kesler and Cory Schneider the score would have been 8-1 for the Kings by the end of the third.

And that leads me to the second thing we did right – we had the right goalie in net. Schneider was calm and collected despite slashes by Mike Richards and bodies flailing in his crease. He never fell down and stayed down and he never lost his stick – both traits Luongo is famous for.  Cory did every thing you could ask of a goalie and more. He earned his spot as our number one netminder and I will be shocked and horrified if that’s not exactly what he is next season.

Where We Went Wrong

One goal is not going to win you a series when you are down 3 games to 1. Putting David Booth on a line with the twins is not going to get you goals. Putting Mason Raymond on the ice at all is not going to get you goals. For me, Alain Vigneault’s coaching decisions were almost as epically bad as Alex Edler was on defence. And they of course, are a reflection of what Mike Gillis has given him to work with. The trades this year have no been the glorious additions Max Lapierre and Chris Higgins were last year. Not even close.

I Don’t Blame Hamhuis

I honestly don’t. Hammy was about the only defenceman trying in Games 1 and 2. He made 1 mistake at a very inopportune time. If we’re going to crucify individual players here we need to nail Raymond and Booth and Edler. End of story. Their complete and utter uselessness, or in the case of Edler his plethora of mistakes, are what cost us the first two games. We wouldn’t have been in a hole if it wasn’t for those 3 more than anyone else. And Kesler diving instead of taking shots. And Duncan Keith elbowing Daniel to in regular season and taking him out of the first 3 games. There are so many more reasons we lost than simply Dan Hamhuis falling down. We need to take a good hard look at all of those reasons – on the bench and behind it – and make some changes before October.

It’s been an honour and a pleasure writing for the Canucks Hockey Blog. I hope I can do it next season while I cheer on our boys in Blue – no matter who those boys may be. (But it better not be Raymond).

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