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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Afterthoughts on Game 4, plus New Features!



Afterthoughts on the Game

(1) Physicality - The CBC Hockey Night in Canada crew noticed the same thing I noticed: Erik Cole still hasn't quite fit in perfectly with the top line as of yet. But regardless of this, he led the team in hits tonight and was a presence all over the ice.

I don't think it would matter so much where Cole plays as much as he keeps it up until he find some chemistry somewhere on the team. THE SLAW HAS ARRIVED AND HE'S GONNA HURT YOU!

Speaking of physical play - great fight between Prust and MacIntyre. Calgary's BP has got some balls and it has nothing to do with spaghetti, trust me. To go up against a guy who's got 75 lbs on you is something else. Standing in there just so he can pummel your innards is another. If BP evades the IR after this one, kudos to him. THE CAVEMAN HAS ARRIVED AND HE'S GONNA HURT YOU!

(2) Missing Sheldon - For the first time this season, Visnovsky looked very human. Grebs looked a bit shaky last game and he looked very shaky to start this game. Him and Tom Gilbert got out with their skins intact though. (phew!) For the first time, we saw what Lubo plays like without that physical presence that Souray provides. Smid played decidedly well; he made safe plays, didn't overcommit to any pinch and was sound in his own end. I think he showed why I always say he plays better without Staios. Staios and Strudwick, with the exception of the own goal (that Strudwick put through Garon's 5 hole - and then proceeded to bank off his skates into his own net...) looked good tonight from the 2nd period onwards.

(3) 3rd line versatility - The core of the Oiler's depth showed why this Oilers team was missing a beat without the Captain and Fernando Pisani in the lineup last season. Even without Gagner in the lineup, this pesky pair has forechecked the business into bankruptcy in opposition defensive zones and wrecked havoc on their outlet passes. The ability for either Penner, Pouliot, or Brodziak to slip into that 3rd line RW slot has shown how valuable this pair is to the team. What does this mean? It could mean that Erik Cole is headed to the 3rd line if he doesn't find chemistry within 2 or 3 games. If the 3rd line can find chemistry and ignite the flame under Pouliot and Penner, they can definitely do it for a crash-banger of Cole's quality.

(4) Roloson dressed over DesLauriers - As I predicted the other day, the decision to get JDD dressed as a backup could indicate that he was starting his NHL career. It happened.

This time, I'm guessing that MacT plans to start Roloson either next week in Chicago or Colorado in one of the back-to-back nights. MacT might keep going like this until one of the backups establishes themselves over the other. And plus, you can't make a move with the goalies unless they get some evaluation time.

Plus, it would be a shame if Roli didn't get a chance to don that Fuhr replica mask!

(5) Holy speed Batman! - Is it just me, or did Nilsson and Cogliano actually get better this game than they were in the previous 3? If they can play this well without Gagner, I can't wait til Samwise gets healthy and plays on the kid line again! Backchecking. Forechecking. Playing 4-on-4. Nilsson's ninja breakaway skills were wasted as he almost lit it up too. Cogliano breaking in on the RW and making Kipper look like a fool was reason enough to cream one's pants. Candy is dandy - but Cogliano's speed is godly. Move over, Matthew Lombardi!

New Features:

- Team Extra (this week, it's Minnesota and Buffalo)

-
(+/-) Gold Award

-
Goalies for Poolies



It's the Minnesota Machine - Move outta the Way!

Anyone who doubted that the NW division was the toughest division in hockey - has not been paying attention to the Wild starts to the season (pun intended) for the Canucks, Oilers, and the Wild. Though the Flames and Avs didn't have such a hot start, they sure put in some real battles in the last few games as well.

The amazing part is that the Wild have done this much so far without some key players. Thus far, the Wild have seen injuries to Marian Gaborik, Marek Zidlicky, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, John Scott, Owen Nolan, and Kurtis Foster. Tonight, the Wild shutout the Lightning and won in a shootout - a tight 1-0 decision. Technically the Bolts shutout the Wild too - but all that matters is who won the game.

How are they doing this?

Like always, the Wild have a tight team game based on a tight defensive system. The fact that Antti Miettinen and Mikko Koivu are on pace for career years doesn't hurt, either. Koivu has 9 points and Miettinen has 7 points and a shootout winner. The only tandem doing better right now is the dreaded Dubinsky-Voros combination, who have also come straight out of nowhere. But back to the Wild: I love the fact that I picked Koivu in my pool. I traded Cam Ward so I could pick up Garon and Koivu - and it's worked out dandy.

The question now is - what happens when the injured players return? I would anticipate that Jacques Lemaire will not get the itch to fix anything that aint broken - meaning he will make the most minute changes to his lineup. That could mean that Gaborik will not restart on the top line. Won't help Gaborik to sign any long-term contracts, mind you.

I wish Minny all the best because they have shown that a good team game can overcome adversity. But when it comes down to the NW division title and playing against them - I hope they goddamn well lose to us. Pretty please?



Guys who you want on the ice - even if they won't score


(1) Michael Komisarek (+6) - 1 point
(2) Dennis Wideman (+6) - 1 point
(3) Andrew Ference (+5) - 2 points
(4) Colin (John) White (+4) - 1 point
(5) Willie Mitchell (+4) - 3 points

And the winner of the very first Bi-weekly (+/-) Gold Award goes to...

Michael Komisarek
1st (+/-) Gold Award

Just because he's not gonna beam down on you on the breakaway, just because he's not gonna outskate Marty St. Louis or deke out Mathieu Garon - doesn't mean he's not gonna HURT YOU.

That's right, MK is one TOUGH CUSTOMER.

You can't hurt him, either. That's because he's GOD ON SKATES and he's gonna SMITE YOU WITH HIS DEFENSIVE PLAY.

Check us out again in a coupl'a'weeks for the next (+/-) Gold Award.



Lindy Ruff's Team Turning Heads

While Minny and the NY Rangers were ripping it up last week in the limelight, the Sabres and Oilers were slowly giddying-up for a quick start - that nobody expected!

The Sabres have lost a game now in the shootout to the Atlanta Thrashers. They're still unbeaten in regulation, but at least that proves the Oilers are better. (Take that, Darcy Regier!) Ignoring the fact that I wouldn't touch someone named Darcy with a ten-foot-pole (Tucker, Regier, Hordichuk...) I must admit that Lindy Ruff is one of the best coaches in the league. The Sabres surprise is due in no small part to him.

Credit is also due to both goaltenders, the re-emergence of Thomas Vanek, and the scoring of Kotalik and Pominville. The veteran defenseman Teppo Numminen has also found his game.

Now the question is
: can they keep it up?

The disappearence of Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht is rather worrisome, but the fact that guys like Afinogenov have picked up their games means that Roy and Hecht cannot be far behind. Why do I know this? Because Roy and Hecht are historical performers.

My guess would be that this is signs of things to come for the Buffalo Sabres. When your secondary scoring is Derek Roy, Jochen Hecht, and Maxim Afinogenov, I think you're gonna be in fine shape.



Established #1's get De-established

The first couple of weeks have been a dandy. We've seen quick starts by surprising teams followed by slow starts by supposed contenders. Brodeur is looking to toy with Roy (yes, I realise it doesn't rhyme) and his wins record, and no wonder people are asking: how many shutouts would a Sawchuk get if a Sawchuk played today? Regardless, the once-thought-untouchable record of Mr. Terry God-of-Goalies is now being challenged by none other than Mr. Devil himself. Luckily, the hockey gods were kind to me in the auto-draft and they blessed me with Mr. Devil. Combined with Mathieu Garon, I'm wrecking havoc with only two goalies in a three goalie league and the extra forward Mikko Koivu is making me grin from ear to chin.

Now, who's on the way up, who's on the way down? Furthermore, what can we expect out of some goalie tandems that have faced some controversy or adversity? Read on to find out!

On the Way Up/On the Way Down



(1) Philadelphia


In a tough sports city like Philly, you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT drop the ball. When you're the goalie and the team leans on you like an old man on his crutch, you can't let the team down.

Martin Biron is letting this team down. The season's early, it's not a problem, right?

Wrong.

The Flyers have a backup in Antero Niittymaki who's stellar play in the past, who has seen some decent time since coming up from the AHL has been set back by injuries in the past. Recent play has shown that he is more than just "an option" to the team. This indicates that, at least for the time being, Biron may be backup.

If you have Biron, expect him to lose some minutes to Antero.

(2) Colorado

Thus far, Peter Budaj has been atrocious and expect him to get worse, with the Canucks and Flames clawing onto the Wild and Oilers. Surprisingly, Raycroft did pretty decent in his duties and his Avalanche debut. Until Peter Budaj can shake the questions of his #1 status, expect Raycroft to get some more starts.

(3) NY Islanders

Rick DiPietro has shown to be injury-prone in the past. Whether this is due to Wang protecting his assets or legitimate injuries - who knows eh? All that can be determined is that Joey MacDonald has made it to the NHL and he's making some noise to boot.

In 2 games, McDicks has a .889 SV % and a 3.25 GAA. Yeah, I know: it's not stellar. But neither is Rick DiPietro. Until the Islanders can get their 15 year man in the plans, they're gonna play MacDonald.

(4) Ottawa

Yikes! Auld is already working on making my prediction come true. When I heard that the Senators had signed Auld - my first thought was "watch out Martin Gerber." He didn't perform well in Florida, it's true. But my oh my, he has shown in Vancouver what he can do if he's given a chance to shine.

And shining is what he's doing now. Expect him to take the #1 spot in the rotating door of Senators' goalie tandems.

(5) Edmonton

We love Dwayne Roloson. He took us to the Cup dance in 2005-06 and with a little bit of help from Jussi Markkanen we almost tasted the sweet victory. Darn those 'Canes. That being said, if you go to SportChek or any other place, it would seem that the managers have overstocked #35 jerseys and t-shirts. Coincidence? Hardly! We all know he's making the most money in the crowded crease and we all know that Roli the Goalie is up against the ropes.

We love Dwayne Roloson. But love doesn't win games and it doesn't ease salary cap burdens. Somebody's gonna get cut and I'm gonna bet it's Roloson eventually. It's fine and dandy that we have an experienced duo but when the team is not willing to give you the starting or backup job outright - you know something is up.

We can't blame Roli though: he's a victim of timing. He showed in the latter half of 2007-08 that he's still got the skills to pay the bills. But the stellar play of Garon and the emergence of DesLauriers means that there's not going to be much room for him in the future plans of the team. Hopefully, he gets to wear his Fuhr mask before we say goodbye.

We love Dwayne Roloson. That being said, my future-telling teddy bear says pick DesLauriers over Roloson in the long run.

Going Steady



Ranking of the steadiest goalie tandems in the league

(1) Evgeni Nabokov / Brian Boucher

The Vezina nominee has a reliable backup in Boucher. Boucher has plenty of NHL experience and knowing his role behind Nabokov will mean his brief experiences will be stellar. Ownage will ensue.

(2) Carey Price / Jaroslav Halak

I decided at the last minute to pick the Sharks' tandem over the Habs' tandem. This is due to experience points alone. Price's rise to fame last year was no fluke, and Halak has also regained his form. The Habs have always been skilled at scouting and drafting goaltending prospects and this tandem is the envy of many teams in the league.

(3) Henrik Lundqvist / Stephen Valiquette

The journeyman Valiquette has found his home - backing up Lundqvist, one of the busiest and most skilled goalies in the league. Lundqvist has had some injury problems before, so having a guy who plays well but knows his role on the team is a bonus. Thankfully, it's a good team. And Valiquette isn't a passive contributor to the team's success. He's out there stopping pucks - occasionally. The Rangers are smart enough not to let their goalie get worn down by the regular season grind.

(4) Ryan Miller / Patrick Lalime

Patrick Lalime is making a comeback in Buffalo. The season is young but he's off to a good start backing up Miller. He's already played 2 games and as of this moment is leaguing the league in save percentage (not counting Boucher, who has played only 1 game). Ryan Miller is #2.

(5) Vesa Toskala / Curtis Joseph

There are no questions who is #1 in Leaf-land, but due to the dire situation that is the Maple Leafs' season, expect CuJo to get some respectable playing time. Toskala is human, too.

Situation Pending



(1) Detroit

I've always been a believer of Ty Conklin's. I was mad when he was pulled in favor of Mike Morrison in a shootout against Phoenix a few years back. Then I was mad when Ty and Jason Smith fumbled the winning goal of Game 1 against the 'Canes in the spring of 06. But all the indications are there that this is his time.

Roberto Luongo - Schlumertoluongo: Ty Conklin has already done that whole "I'm a goalie and I'm a captain at the same time" thing. He was captain of his college team. Been there, done that. Goalie captains were SO nineties.

After leaving Edmonton with his career in shambles, he flirted with success in Columbus. It was fleeting. He had a chance in Buffalo. The time wasn't right and Miller was on a roll. He was a force along with Malkin until Fleury took his job back. It's a shame with how well he played in the Winter Classic and all. Could have been the hangover from the better version, the Heritage Classic. Bygones are bygones. For Ty Conklin, the time is now.

This doesn't guarantee that he will take Chris Osgood's job in any way. But what I'm saying is, his chances are infinitismally higher now than they were in Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo, or Pittsburgh. No way jose, this means I think Ty Conklin, if he keeps his nose to the grindstone, may actually emerge as Detroit's #1. He is the younger and better half of the Detroit tandem and only time will tell if the gods of hockey will be kind to him - finally.

(2) Boston

The team overall - is great. The goalie tandem - not so stellar. There is no clear cut boundary between Manny Fernandez and Tim Thomas (one of my favorites). Neither of them have the age advantage (both aged 34), though Fernandez has more experience being in a 1A/1B system whereas Thomas loves calling the shots. Will Thomas retain his job? Or will Fernandez wedge his foot in the door and steal in the neighbourhood of 35-41 games?

(3) Chicago

What in the name of Jesus H. Christ is going on in Chicago anyway? Doesn't anybody want an overpriced backup who is slightly outplaying the goalie they brought in to replace him? God, the NHL can't appreciate Buhlin walls when they see them.

(4) Atlanta

Let's be honest, so far, Lehtonen has sucked. When are we supposed to see the superman version of the goalie the Thrashers drafted instead of this pretender in his place? So far, he has been outplayed by Johan Hedberg. He hasn't done anything this season to indicate that Hedberg shouldn't get more starts. Could this be bad news in Atlanta?

(5) 3 headed monster (aka 3 way tie between Tampa Bay, Anaheim, and Florida)

On none of these 3 teams have we seen any starters or backups establish themselves. The teams are hanging on by a thread and the goalies have been dragging them down. Avoid these goalies at all costs.

Expect the Nod



Due to start a game soon:

(1) Dwayne Roloson
(2) Kevin Weekes
(3) Erik Ersberg
(4) Danny Sabourin
(5) Pekka Rinne

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1 Comments:

Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

Holy long post Batman! I've read some of it so far. I will attempt to read the rest at another time!

October 19, 2008 at 3:27 PM

 

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