by Patrick Hoffman on 01/17/12 at 10:00 AM ET
With the National Hockey League officially past the mid-way point of the season, there have been lots of things going on in the 2011-12 campaign.
For starters, the hockey has been excellent. There have been great games, big goals, lots of hits, terrific saves and more.
“I love it,” Bruce Bolton, Producer of Hockey This Morning on NHL Home Ice on SIRIUSXM Satellite Radio, told me when I had a chance to catch up with him about the NHL season so far. “The first half of the season is usually always good hockey.”
One thing that Bolton really likes about the first half of the season is that every team for the most part is competitive and is fighting for one of the top eight spots in their respective conferences.
“It is great because of the parody that is in the league now,” Bolton said. “Not only is there parody in the first half, but there is parity the whole season. It is great to see how tight it is in a 30 team league.”
With that said, Bolton realizes that there have also been several negatives that could easily over shadow the first half.
“When it comes to any season it’s to easy to look at the negatives.” Bolton said. “Especially this season with so many coaches canned, concussions dominating headlines and with focus on fighting and discipline.”
However Bolton says you can dwell on negatives on any given season and it doesn’t really get you anywhere. So instead, he likes to focus on the positives, such as one team he hates to admit has surprised him this season.
“The Ottawa Senators have definitely surprised a ton of people this season including myself,” Bolton said. “They are battling it out with the best in the Eastern Conference and are beating good teams.”
Bolton credits new head coach Paul MacLean for the turnaround.
“MacLean has his superstars going,” Bolton said. “He deserves the Jack Adams Award because he has his team playing with confidence and has taught them how to win.”
Bolton also pointed out what a strong season defenseman Erik Karlsson is having.
“At first, because I am a Toronto guy, I had a big dislike for Karlsson,” Bolton admitted. “However, something has made me like him. He is a really, really smart player and certainly deserves his spot on the All-Star team.”
As for teams that are disappointing him this season, Bolton was quick to point out the Columbus Blue Jackets, but feels the Tampa Lighting have let him down the most.
“I do not think anyone could have expected the Blue Jackets to be this bad after acquiring Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski,” Bolton said. “This team is the easy pick for disappointments.”
However after a big playoff drive last season and hope throughout the fan base Bolton feels the Bolts are that much more disappointing.
“After taking such a big step forward last season, they now find themselves near the bottom of the Eastern Conference,” Bolton said. “General Manager Steve Yzerman may have overlooked his defensive depth and he also needs to fix his goaltending.”
At the half-way point of the season, most hockey prognosticators, writers, analysts, bloggers and other members of the media start thinking about individual Hardware. Such as the Hart, Vezina and Norris Trophy Candidates. And Bolton was not afraid to give his thoughts on who should win what.
“For the Hart Trophy, as of today I would pick Evegni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Bolton said. “He is playing like an MVP and has been keeping the Pens relevant despite all the injuries they have sustained this season.”
When it comes to the best goaltender, Bolton expressed that the easy pick is the tandem in Boston, but if it has to be one guy because his pick would be New York Rangers’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
“I cannot say anything bad about him. He has solid stats and is always involved in the goaltending conversation. I also think the best from King Henrik is yet to come as this spring we are in for a show.”
For best defenseman, Bolton once again acknowledged Karlsson in Ottawabut thinks that Nashville Predator Shea Weber could win it.
“Weber gets the job done at both ends of the ice,” Bolton said. “He is one of the toughest in his own end, has a solid +/- and is still putting up the points.”
Bolton also managed to throw some of his predictions at us, one of which could be a bit obvious.
“At the All-Star game this year, Alex Ovechkin will get taken last in the fantasy draft,” Bolton said. “However, that will only fuel Ovi’s 2nd half and the Capitals as they will end up overtaking the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division.”
Some predictions on two Canadian teams.
“Mike Cammalleri is going to light it up for the Calgary Flames with Jarome Iginla,” Bolton predicted. “And Rene Bourque will struggle in Montreal.”
“Oh and more prediction just so I get one right, I will go with the Jackets ending up with the first pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft”, Bolton joked.
As we all know, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are not a joking matter. With that in mind, Bolton ended our chat by giving me the 16 teams he thinks will make the postseason.
“For the Eastern Conference, it will be the Leafs, Boston, Rangers, Philly, Ottawa Capitals, Penguins and Panthers,” Bolton said. “In the Western Conference, it will be Vancouver, St. Louis, San Jose, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Calgary and Minnesota.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at email@example.com.