The Buffalo Sabres have been are a playoff bubble team for a couple years. If they were to make the playoffs, they would take one of the lower playoff seeds and if they were to miss the playoffs, they would be one of the top teams to miss the playoffs. For much of the season, they were well within the playoff race looking to improve on last season’s 90 point year that left them four points out of the playoffs. The hope was that the younger forwards Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville would take a step forward and bring the Sabres with them.
For the most part the Sabres have not taken a step forward. They haven’t taken a step backwards either. None of the young players truly had a breakout season. The Sabres remained a playoff bubble team. It took their loss of goaltending to close the door to the playoffs this season.
As the NHL regular season draws to a close, some teams find themselves outside the playoff picture. There are a few malcontents around these teams who suggest that their team should now try to lose as much as possible to increase their chances at a top draft pick: While it is true that a top draft pick might improve the team’s chances in the future - especially given the potential of John Tavares who should be the first pick in the draft - this is a stupid idea for the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are eight points up from last pace with ten games left in the season. If they followed Dater’s advice and tanked, most likely they would wind up with a worse record and no first overall pick. The most likely long-term result is a hit to the Avalanche public relations.
Tanking is not an easy thing to do. If anyone is doing it this season, it would be the New York Islanders. The Islanders do not have a very good team. They knew that coming into the season. They knew they didn’t have the veteran stars to compete and they didn’t have the deepest group of prospects either. I picked them to finish last in the conference at the beginning of the season and wasn’t alone in that prediction.
Here is something odd that I ran across today. Colin Stuart of the Atlanta Thrashers has scored more points shorthanded (4) this season, than he has at even strength (3). In fact in his NHL career, which is in its second partial season (he has 41 career NHL games played); he has scored four of his seven career goals shorthanded.
It is extremely rare for a player to score a significant number of his points shorthanded.
It is a little over two weeks past the trade deadline. It is possible to get some early opinions on the deals that occurred on deadline day. One trade that looks like a big victory is the Calgary Flames pickup of Olli Jokinen from the Phoenix Coyotes. Calgary acquired Jokinen and a 2009 third round draft pick in exchange for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first round pick in either 2009 or 2010.
Jokinen has been a great pickup. He has been one of the best players in the NHL since the deal. In fact, his eight goals since deadline day is a league leading figure in that period.
When I look at some of the Abel to Yzerman posts on this board sometimes we see some incredible worry and fear about the progress of the Red Wings. What is interesting is the disconnect between those feelings and reality.
Since the beginning of February, the Detroit Red Wings have the most points in the league. They have a 16-6 record (with two losses counted as regulation ties) to give them 34 points. No other team has more than 31 points in that time frame. I would use that as a strong argument that the Red Wings are in a very solid position for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
In honor of Martin Brodeur breaking the NHL goaltender wins record by posting his 552nd career regular season win over Chicago 3-2, I thought I would take this time to try to put his career into perspective a bit.
I have written some posts in the past that have attempted to do this, so a link to a couple of the highlights follows and then my own attempt to rank the top ten goaltenders of all time.
When I last looked at the AHL scoring race, I noted that Keith Aucoin is running away with the AHL scoring lead. Aucoin’s 86 points are an eight point lead over teammate Alexandre Giroux who holds down second in the scoring race. These two players are a big part of the reason the Hershey Bears (Washington Capital affiliate) are a top team in the AHL.
Although Aucoin has been running away with the lead, there is a good chance that Giroux could catch him. Keith Aucoin was called up to the Washington Capitals. Since his weekend call-up, Aucoin has played two games. In last night’s 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, Aucoin got an assist. This is his first NHL point this season. This could help lead to Aucoin getting more ice time in the NHL (he played under twelve minutes last night).
Over the weekend, former Tampa Bay Lightning owner Bill Davidson died at age 86. Under normal circumstances, a former owner dying might be a sad moment for a hockey franchise, but nothing more. It may not be so simple in Tampa Bay because the current owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie were loaned the money to buy the team from Davidson himself (since they couldn’t get it through more traditional means).
Koules and Barrie have not been successful owners. They are showing signs of financial problems. Team employees now must pay to park and there is no more direct deposit of paycheques. As a result speculation was beginning that the current owners would not make it financially and Davidson might be forced to take over the team again (as its primary creditor).
For a good portion of the season, I have been picking Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins as MVP. He leads the scoring race by a sizable margin (8 points) and the assist race by seven points. He leads his Pittsburgh Penguins with a +19 +/- rating. This is an MVP season, but most people support Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin is the goal scoring leader in the NHL with 49 goals. His 89 points are second to Malkin. Ovechkin is an MVP contender. He should be nominated, but I don’t see why he should win it given the fact he has been consistently well behind Malkin in the point race all season. Of course the MVP race is not decided on points alone, but I fail to see where Ovechkin catches up to Malkin.
Typically, the lowest scoring team in the NHL is not a very good team, but this year they will probably be a playoff team. The New York Rangers are the lowest scoring team in the league with only 2.38 goals per game. If the season ended now, the Rangers would finish seventh in the East Conference with 78 points. They are part of the race for the final eastern playoff spots and are only one point ahead of the currently non-playoff Florida Panthers.
In order to be in the playoff race despite being the NHL’s lowest scoring league, the Rangers must be pretty good at keeping the puck out of their net. Their 2.65 goals against per game is sixth in the NHL. This is due to a good goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, who has had a solid season. This is due to a good defence which is made up of several proven talents in Michal Rozsival, Paul Mara, Wade Redden, Marc Staal and the recently added Derek Morris. This is due to a good defensive system brought in by ex-coach Tom Renney. All of these are reasons that the Rangers have a good defence, but none of them make it great, and given their lack of goal scoring it makes the overall team not particularly impressive.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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