Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tonight's preview: Buffalo at Anaheim

This is the first installment of many for the preview of the night game. I chose The Buffalo Sabres visiting the Anaheim Ducks. The game can be seen tonight at 10:00 PM. for Sabre fans, it will be on MSG-B and for Ducks fans it will be on Prime. Anaheim has been on a tear since the new year and doesn't seem to be slowing down. They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and they are jockeying for the 8th and final playoff spot in the west. They sit at 64 points today, 6 behind the Dallas Stars who have 70.

Buffalo is in a similar position. After new owner Terry Pegula bought the Sabres from Tom Galisano for $189 million, expectations were incredibly high for the team. Pegula invested a ton of money into the team so they could increase payroll and really contend with better teams in the league. Especially after acquiring players like Ville Leino (Free agent signed to a 6 year - $27 million contract), Christian Erhoff (Free agent signed to a 10 year - $40 million contract), and Robyn Regehr (Traded from Calgary). Their pursuit of being a contending team is yet to yield results. Sitting at 62 points they are only 7 points out of 8th right now.

So tonight should be a really great battle of two teams fighting for their playoff lives with time running thin on the regular season. I have Buffalo emerging victorious by a score of 4-1. I feel like Thomas Vanek is going to have a really good game and Ryan Miller is going to return to his old form as the best goaltender in the world. Tune in to this one if you can guys.

Highlight of the Night: 2/28/12

Today marks the start of Highlight of the Night. A daily update of the game of the night last night, my opinion of it of course, which includes a recap, evaluation and a little thought for the next game for both teams.

Last night's top game in my opinion was the Montreal Canadiens at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa is fighting with everything it has to make that final playoff berth in the east while Montreal has an extremely slight chance of coming up from the 15th and last spot in the east to the playoff tier. What easily could have been a good old fashioned spanking by Tampa was ousted by the skill and ability of Carey Price. He held the Lightning in check for most of the game stopping 19 of 21 shots but Montreal just couldn't score on Mathieu Garon, who earned his 21st game of the year after stopping 18 of 19 shots. 

At 8:42 of the first period, the Lightning struck first by guess who? Steven Stamkos. Breaking down the wing, Stamkos gets a lucky break off the stick of teammate Teddy Purcell and makes no mistake about it giving him his league best 44th goal of the year. He is white hot scoring 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points in his last 7 games played. "We're just believing." said Stamkos after the game when asked what is going on for the team after the trades that have been made. A real team leader down in Tampa in Stamkos.

Almost 8 minutes after Stamkos' goal, David Desharnais scored his 13th goal of the year on a wicker wrister off of a turnover in the offensive zone by Tampa. Desharnais leads all Montreal players in points with 47 points on the year. Desharnais is an undrafted free agent out of the QMJHL who is proving himself a very good example of how some low risk opportunities can pay off huge. Not very many people saw this amount of production out of this kid seeing as how 210 players were drafted in 2007 and he was not one of them.

At 00:28 in the second period, grinder Adam Hall broke through Garon's wall for Tampa's second goal, which would eventually turn into the game winner. A broken play by Montreal led to a breakout pass to Ryan Malone who shows incredible patience and waits for a lane to set up Hall all alone in front. All Hall had to do was bat the puck top shelf and that's your game winner. 

Tampa Bay solidified last night that they are for real and last year's playoff run was not a fluke. They will make it into the playoffs this season and be a dangerous team without question. Garon is giving them a shining light in net while Stamkos' play along with Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis is powering their offense. Not a very shabby defense corps either with Victor Hedman anchoring guys like Eric Brewer, Bruno Gervais, and Mike Commodore. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trade deadline wrap-up

Nothing too exciting happened with the trade deadline this season. Rick Nash remained a Blue Jacket, no notable acquisitions for any team really minus the Hodgson-Kassian trade. Zack Kassian is a big, talented power forward who will one day be a perennial 30 goal scorer on a second line. Cody Hodgson is a highly talented center who needs to be put around scorers to develop his skills fully. Either way you slice this trade both teams will be very happy with their returns.

Virtually all other moves were done for depth, here is a quick synopsis on all the other trades;

Buffalo trades defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani to the Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Alexander Sulzer. Gragnani was once the most promising defensive prospects for Buffalo behind Tyler Myers. After a roaring success as a rookie his sophomore campaign slowed quite a bit. Sulzer will provide a good stand up defenseman for a smaller, offensive minded defensive corps in Buffalo. Vancouver gets a kid that could fill the hole that Christian Erhoff left.

Toronto trades defenseman Mark Fraser to the Anaheim Ducks for right wing Dale Mitchell. Super simple here, minor league deal really. Mitchell hasn't played above the junior level yet and Fraser has played 4 games for the Devils this year before being traded to Toronto in December.

Vancouver traded defenseman Sebastian Erixson to the Anaheim Ducks for right wing Andrew Gordon. Minor league deal here agin. Gordon has been called up here and there for a few games his entire career and Erixon was an undrafted free agent who hasn't played at the NHL level.

Chicago trades defenseman John Scott to the New York Rangers for a fifth round draft pick in the 2012 entry draft. Scott is an enormous defender standing at 6'8" and 270lbs. 7th defenseman for the Rangers who will get some pk time for sure.

Minnesota trades defenseman Greg Zanon to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Steven Kampfer. Boston gets an every day third pair defenseman in Zanon who is a reliable stay at home d-man. Kampfer is a former 4th round pick who has the potential to turn into a reliable 5th or 6th, 2-way defender.

Buffalo trades center Paul Gaustad and a 2013 4th round pick to the Nashville Predators for a 2012 first round pick. Buffalo begins stockpiling for their rebuild as Nashville goes all in for their playoff run. Gaustad is a very reliable second or third line center who can win face-offs, kill penalties, and eat up minutes. Great depth acquisition by Nashville. It will be interesting to see if Nashville re-signs him as he is a UFA at the seasons end. They would be smart to do so.

The New York Islanders trade right wing Brian Rolston and defenseman Mike Mottau to the Boston Bruins for minor leaguers Yannick Reindeau and Marc Cantin. New York continues to build from younger players and Boston acquires a monster shot from the point on the PP in Rolston and a stay at home defenseman to play 6th or 7th in Mottau.

Winnipeg trades defenseman Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks for a second and third round pick in the 2013 entry draft. Winnipeg clearly accepted that Oduya was not part of their future as he is a UFA at seasons end. Over payment a little he but Steve Yzerman made that the price of defenders this season. Oduya will likely be just a playoff rental for the Hawks.

Columbus trades center Samuel Pahlsson to the Vancouver Canucks for two fourth round picks in the 2012 entry draft. Columbus saw no reason to hold Pahlsson back from running at another cup. He was an enormous part of the Ducks championship in 2007. He can win face-offs, kill penalties, and play against the other teams top line. Great acquisition by the Canucks for depth going into the playoffs.

Colorado trades left wing Daniel Winnik, left wing TJ Galiardi and a 7th round pick in 2012 to the San Jose Sharks for left wing Jamie Mcginn, center Michael Sgarbossa and left wing Mike Connolly. San Jose wins big today with this trade. Galiardi and Winnik are tremendous grinders who are responsible, 2-way players and will get a lot of minutes in San Jose. The return to Colorado is to help build their future. Nothing notable for now other than McGinns's ability to play today.

Ottawa trades defenseman Brian Lee to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Matt Gilroy. After all the hubbub about nit trading Brian Lee turned out to be all talk for Ottawa after years of underachieving on Lee's part. Gilroy is an undrafted free agent out of Boston university. He is a big stay at home defenseman, exactly what Ottawa was looking for while Tampa Bay added offense to their blue line with Lee. Very even trade for both teams.

Toronto trades defenseman Keith Aulie to Tampa Bay for right wing Carter Ashton. Aulie has been untouchable since being drafted by the Leafs but Brian Burke is starting to see that he needs to give up some of the depth he has on defense to round out his team. Ashton is a first round pick who brings good size for a power forward and if he is put on the right line he could become a force to be reckoned with. Kudos to Toronto on this trade.

Edmonton trades defenseman Tom Gilbert to Minnesota for defenseman Nick Schultz. Pretty straight up trade here. At best both guys are 2nd pair defenseman. Simply a swap of size and skill sets.

Detroit trades defenseman Mike Commodore to the Tampa Bay Lighting for a conditional 7th round pick in the 2013 entry draft. 6th or 7th defenseman for Tampa on this one. Commodore hopes to revitalize his career in Tampa.

Nashville trades a 2013 2nd round pick and a 2013 conditional 5th round pick to the Montreal Canidiens for left wing Andrei Kostitsyn. If Kostitsyn can find the same fire his brother did in Nashville, this could be a great trade for the Predators. It remains to be seen if Andrei can break the chain of underachieving that he has shown his whole career to date. Possibly a top line winger in Nashville.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Back with the news!

After a brief pause on my part, I am back to report a few moves through the league. Much has happened in my absence so I wont make this too long, but some significant moves were made. The Philadelphia Flyers made two acquisitions which may seem depth geared but in my opinion, these trades very possibly could lead to more. With a few extra draft picks, they acquired Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars and Pavel Kubina from the Tampa Bay Lighting. Grossman was at first thought overpaid for, while I agreed when he was first acquired, I have to say the price was just right. In my humble opinion, the Flyers have been missing real grit on the blue line since Derian Hatcher's retirement. While Grossman is no Hatcher, he brings good size, (6'4" 230lbs), he is a true stay at home defenseman who eats up a lot of minutes and plays the pk better than most. He eliminated the need of an aging Andreas Lilja and opens up the door for young guys like Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall to season in the minors just a little longer. 

The second acquisition made by Philadelphia, being Pavel Kubina, is much more about power play time. Kubina has been one of the better quarterbacks on the PP for many years now and at 35 he can't play 30 minutes a night anymore. He does also give tremendous size at 6'4", 258lbs, and he plays the PK. Both are depth additions at first sight I know but riddle me this. Nicklas Grossman is 27 years old. Impending UFA, 27 years old, a second and third round draft pick went for him. You don't acquire a guy that age at that stage in his career for that amount of a return and not re-sign him. Again, Grossman is not Hatcher, but he is close. 

The hard thing to figure out for most people is in Kubina is really just a rental. Kimmo Timonen is absolutely one of my favorite Flyers, and favorite players in the NHL. His contract, that pays him right around 5 million this year and 3 million next year at a cap hit of 6.3 million, expires after next season. We all would love to see him stay in the orange and black but if he does not discount his services, Philadelphia simply can not afford him. So, Kubina has stated that he would deeply discount for Tampa Bay to re-sign him, if Philadelphia as a team can convince him to stay by showing some effort, proving themselves, ahem BRYZGALOV, and winning a few playoff games, I see Kubina coming in on a deal around 2.5-3 million for one year.

The other big move in the NHL was Hal Gill to Nashville. In the grand scheme of things, Montreal made out like bandits with this trade. But in the immediate future, you have a team in Nashville who is proving everyone wrong about their quality and just wrecking teams. They are already solid defensively and have a tremendous netminder in Pekka Rinne. But with the acquisition of Gill? Wow they are scary now. A former co-worker and good friend of mine told me today that his pick for the cup is Nashville. He has a strong team to count on for that prediction.

Speaking of my friend, I would like to add something for him. He is a die hard Sabres fan like I am a Flyers fan. So Ben, this last part is for you; The strong possibilities for Rick Nash remain Philadelphia and the New York Rangers, but, there is a phantom team involved. I do believe it is the Buffalo Sabres because they have exactly what Columbus wants in return. This might sound lopsided at first Ben but just mull it over. Buffalo send Ryan Miller, Brad Boyes, Nathan Gerbe and a 2nd rounder to Columbus. Columbus returns Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, and Curtis Sanford. Sanford is not the greatest back-up in the world but let's face facts here Enroth is Buffalo's guy once Miller goes. Jeff Carter will shoot the puck 700 times a season and if he nets 30 its worth it for the Sabres. Oh yeah and Rick Nash is Rick Nash. Big, strong, accurate, physical, basically everything you want in a high scoring power forward. I like to call him the white Jerome Iginla. 

That's all the thoughts for today guys, with a recent change in career I will have more time to write and I will be covering every trade coming up to and including the trade deadline. Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Who to look at for depth at the deadline. Part one.

So the big question for hockey fans now is what do teams need to improve and who can make that happen at the deadline. Just like every other year there are buyers and sellers so I will go over the entirety of the league real quick on who is buying who and who is selling who. This obviously isn't set in stone that anyone will be moved or acquired but the likelihood is there in these cases. Anaheim may seem to be in the playoff hunt to some, but I apologize to you ducks fans, they don't stand a chance. Bruce Budreau added a much needed spark, but not nearly the spark they needed. Anaheim will be sellers at the deadline. I would look for them to shop guys like Toni Lydman or Jason Blake. Nothing too exciting like Getzlaf or Ryan being dealt. Unless that is Brian Burke decided to overpay for another overrated center. Boston will be buyers looking for a power forward or secondary scoring. Jason Blake would be the type of player Boston would be interested in with a lesser contract. Marc Savard has left a void in the team that is yet to be filled. Look at a depth defenseman to be dealt in return for said scoring. Buffalo are pretty obvious sellers sitting in the cellar of the east. Darcy Regier will do everything he can to try and move Tomas Vanek and his obnoxious salary hit. Unless there is an unreal return I doubt he will be able to move Vanek. Drew Stafford and Derek Roy are other forwards they may try to move for building blocks. With the right offer teams may be able to land puck moving defenseman Jordan Leopold as well. Calgary will be hard to predict. History tells that there isn't really a lot to expect out of them but they are reasonably in the playoff chase and are a few pieces away from being a real contender. Jerome Iginla is rounding up on the end of his career so the clock is ticking on completing the team. Look for top notch prospects and/or picks going for top 6 scoring. Henrik Karlsson will be the only untouchable in their system. Carolina will make all efforts to clean house rather than lose players to free agency. Bryan Allen looks like he could end up in Philadelphia or Jaroslav Spacek. Both d-men will be moved. Tuomo Ruutu looks to be as good as gone as gone as well. Carolina fans have a rebuild on their hands. Chicago is pretty sound all around. I don't see many if any moves at all being made out of the windy city. Possibly moving a defensemen to a team looking for depth. Other than that I doubt much will happen there. Colorado will be yet another team looking for scoring depth. It will be a dogfight to the end for the limited scorers available. Shane Obrien looks like their best option in players to move for their scoring needs. Unfortunately for Columbus fans, the team is likely to be completely gutted this year. Some team will give up a few top prospects and a few NHLers for Rick Nash. The first team to make an offer for Jeff Carter that isn't insulting will walk away with him. Steve Mason is likely the only remaining piece come next year. Dallas has a history of standing pat at the deadline. Mostly because of a lack of money and notoriety in the toe. Of Dallas. Hockey is a small market there and I would expect history to repeat itself. Detroit will be the most interesting in my opinion. They are an aging team having a tremendous season but one would think that they need to address youth sometime soon. Guys like Todd Bertuzzi and Nikals Lidstrom are on their last legs. I wonder if they a willing to sacrifice this years playoff run to offload some impending UFAs in order to stay competitive.