Shaun Heshka celebrating for Ässät 2012-13.  Source: MTV3 

There was a time when everyone thought that they’d never get to the playoffs. Ässät from Pori was deep down the bottom of SM-liiga table until January this year 2013. Suddenly something happen. Ässät won 14 games in a row during January and February. Going on like an unstoppable machine. Everyone was overwhelmed by their change and surprised so to say at least. Everyone said:

-Where did that lightning come from? The sky was clear for Christ sake!

Among the main reasons to this sudden success was that Ässät had found a good balance between the offensive and the defensive. Call that very good timing because they really needed to win. Everyone begun to work hard for each other in every game rest of the season. Also the goalie, Antti Raanta became literarily a wall.

One of the main pieces in this team Ässät during the last season was Shaun Hehska. Long time since I have ever seen anyone taking the command in the defense the way as he did. Not sure what to say really, but he was basically the chief, the sergeant, leading the team from behind and supporting the young guns Daniel Brodin and Joel Armia in their offensive work.

Hehska’s defensive qualities also offensive such made me personally think many times if he wasn’t a bit too good for SM-liiga.  Well, I don’t know really about that, so I let the scouts and agents discuss that part. But let me put it this way:

if I’d be a scout for an NHL team, I’d be sending reports about him straight to the GM (perhaps a NHL GM are reading this?)

“Hey, here’s a guy! Yeah, you know him, he’s been over here before, but he earn a new chance”.

But a KHL manager got him first. Shaun is moving on to AK Bars Kazan in Russia.

He played all the 60 games and 16 games in the playoffs. During the regular season he made 8 goals and 23 assists, which means 30 points.  1 goal and 7 assists during playoffs he did on the team Ässät’s way to the bucket.

I know, it’s not like Erik Karlsson numbers if talk about the points, but it’s not really about that, it was about the way he took charge for the defensive work with his attitude

“Guys, we’re going to make this and you’re doing exactly what I tell you to do”.

For his deeds this season he got the Pekka Rautakallio’s award for the best defense player in SM-liiga 2012-13. Well earned and deserved.  Congratulations chief Heshka! And good luck with your new steps in KHL.

Not: Shaun Hehska played some games for Phoenix Coyotes 2009-2010. He’s originally from Melville, Canada, and started his career in Melville Millionaires.

There are a lot of other awards of course but I will go through them later on. The names of the awards come from former players and functionaries who has done honorable work for Finnish ice hockey and hockey as sport in general.

/Arto Palovaara, from Arena Kalevala and Betsafe 

Connecting the worldwide hockey family closer to each other by telling stories from the Finnish SM-liiga and Finland’s national teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a great game played by the Chicago Blackhawks today in the first game of the NHL regular season, defeating the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings 5-2.

Patrick Kane scored the first goal of the year and added an assist later in the game. Jonathan Toews, coming off a bout with the flu, was arguably the best player on the ice which is incredible considering the lingering after effects having the flu. Toews also added a goal and an assist. Marian Hossa, in his first game back from his concussion, had a great game adding two goals and one assist. The highly criticized Michael Frolik got off to a good start by scoring for the Hawks, too.

Another often criticized player is goaltender Corey Crawford. Crawford played extremely well. Goals scored against him were basically unstoppable, the first goal he was screened on and the second goal he was pushed over in his crease. Crawford was always in position, square to the puck at all times and his movement was very fast. This is what we want to see from Corey from now on and with it only being one game after his sub-par season, he’s definitely on the right track.

There was some bad news with the Blackhawks victory tonight. Dan Carcillo was caught in a “collision” as a lot are saying with Kings star D-man Drew Doughty and ended up injuring his leg in the process. Head coach Joel Quenneville expects Carcillo to be out for a lengthy period of time.

How do the Hawks replace Carcillo? It’ll be tough as Carcillo was out there as a player who could protect superstars Toews and Hossa. With “Carbomb’s” presence it allows Toews and Hossa to do more freewheeling on the ice, as seen in today’s game, plus he can actually play not too bad compared to a lot of so-called “goons” out there.

It sounds like rookie Brandon Saad will replace Carcillo on a line with Toews and Hossa. Saad is an unproven rookie with big upside (which we’ve seen with many young Hawk players); he notched eight goals and twenty one assists in Rockford and has played two games with the Blackhawks last season before being sent down. One can understand the excitement for Saad to play but people need to remember he’s just a rookie and he may not blow people away like Andrew Shaw did last season. Saad also doesn’t add much of a “toughness” factor so we could very well see “open game” on Toews and Hossa as early as tomorrow night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

All in all it was a great start for the Chicago Blackhawks and it’ll be a tough test tomorrow night against the chippy and defensive Phoenix Coyotes.

Thanks to Zimbio.com for the photos.

 

 

It’s been an eventful past eight days in the NHL with an abundance of player movement to go along with the 2012 NHL entry draft.

The trades that happened weren’t exactly “smallish” deals. Take a look.

Tampa Bay acquired Anders Lindback, Kyle Wilson and a 2012 7th round draft pick from Nashville for Sebastian Caron, two picks in this year’s draft and a 2013 third round pick.

Winner: Tampa Bay

Tampa’s pick acquired from Nashville turned out to be 5’9” 163 lb. Nikita Gusev from Russia.

Nashville’s picks ended up being Pontus Aberg, a 5’11” 189 lb. winger, and Colton Sissons, a 6’0” 187 lb. Center.

Kyle Wilson has a chance to step right into Tampa’s lineup next year. He’s a good sized scoring/playmaking center which could help with the offensive depth for the Bolts. Anders Lindback is surely pencilled in as the starting goaltender with Mathieu Garon as his back-up. No chance the Lightning will re-sign Dwayne Roloson after his performance last season plus his age is a big factor. Dustin Tokarski will be waiting in the wings if Lindback doesn’t pan out.

Nashville might keep Sebastian Caron around to back up Rinne simply because they will want highly touted youngster Chet Pickard to play a ton in the minors rather than get ten games in at the NHL level behind Rinne. The Predators could be in trouble if Pekka Rinne goes down with an injury so one would expect them to acquire a veteran goaltender in the free agent market. Scott Clemmensen may get a look from Nashville.

Winner: Still, for now, Tampa Bay wins this deal.

Columbus acquires Sergei Bobrovsky from Philadelphia and the Flyers receive a 2012 2nd round pick (Anthony Stolarz 6’5” 210 lb. goalie) 2012 4th round pick (Fredrik Larsson 6’3” 172 lb. D-man) and a 2013 4th round pick.

The Blue Jackets were obviously desperate for a number one goaltender with the horrific play of late from once highly regarded Steve Mason. They have Allen York in the system who is probably not ready yet but who is for this team? They were at least smart and drafted Oscar Dansk (6’2” 187 lb. goalie) with their first pick in the second round of this year’s draft.

Philadelphia loaded up with some nice prospects, of course TBD if they will pan out or not, but this does leave a hole in goal with suspect goaltending last year by Ilya Bryzgalov. One has to dig VERY deep to find a suitable back-up goalie in Philadelphia but people should expect them to dip into free agency to acquire a bench warmer that is somewhat capable.

While I truly believe Bobo and Mason are going to get lit up this season, Philly has deepened their prospect depth but created a hole for a bench warmer. Not sure what their plans are for free agency (Suter?) but they had better watch their pennies if they plan to make a splash for a big time UFA. A back-up goaltender is extremely important and might not come too cheap.

Winner: Flyers, marginally.

New York Islanders acquire Lubomir Visnovsky and Anaheim receives a 2013 2nd round selection.

The 2013 NHL entry draft is supposed to be a deep one so the Ducks are probably thinking the Islanders will, once again, be near or at the bottom of the league after this season and that pick could end up being selection #31. The Ducks relieved themselves of a $5.6 million contract but also rid themselves of arguably their best D-man. Anaheim now has an extremely thin blue line and one can expect them to be making a deal or dipping into the free agent market this year. Perhaps if they finally trade (now disgruntled) Bobby Ryan, a solid top four D-man will be coming back as part of the deal.

The Islanders have solidified a nice top three trio with Visnovsky, Streit and Hamonic on the back end with MacDonald and Donovan being the four and five guys. Might see a rookie jump up this year to round out the defensive pairings on the Island this year but I wouldn’t be surprised if they took a look at a guy like Hal Gill.

Winner: Depending on what the Ducks do to get some D help, the victory in this deal goes to the Islanders, for now.

Washington trades Cody Eakin and a 2012 2nd round pick (Mike Winther 6’0” 172 lb. Center) to the Stars for Mike Ribiero.

Washington knows what they’re getting in Ribiero, a soft yet offensively skilled player who will put up the points for the Capitals. Dallas got some nice cap relief (like they needed any more) and received a young centerman in Eakin. Not sure what Dallas is doing this year but it looks like they will be struggling to get to the cap floor by the time the season begins. How long will rising star Jamie Benn put up with this? Only time will tell. This trade will help Washington right away (offensively) but will Ribiero fit into the system that the Capitals play this year? (Who knows what system that will be?)

Winner: Washington. While Dallas did what they wanted to do and dump salary, the edge goes to the Caps for creating more offensive depth.

Carolina receives Jordan Staal and Pittsburgh receives Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and a 2012 1st round draft pick (Derrick Pouliot D 5’11” 192 lbs.)

There is no doubt what Staal will bring to the Canes’ next season if he stays healthy and gets a lot more ice time, he and his brother, Eric, could both be 90 point players next season. Jordan Staal brings everything you need in a player and is going to pay great dividends for Carolina for many years.

Pittsburgh received Brandon Sutter who is a big Center and getting better and better each season. Sutter will surely be a star in this league sooner than later. Dumoulin is a puck moving D-man who also has good upside and then adding Pouliot (a big time offensive d-man); the Penguins are looking great now and down the road.

Winner: Even. The trade helped both clubs and will do so for many years.

Phoenix receives Zbynek Michalek and Pittsburgh receives goaltender Marc Cheverie, D-man Harrison Ruopp and a 2012 3rd round selection (Oskar Sundqvist 6’3” 172 lb. Center).

This seems like more of a salary dump than anything but with Pittsburgh getting some nice prospects while doing so. Yotes GM Don Maloney reaped the benefits of the salary dump and acquired a defenseman who will help fill a void if star player Keith Yandle is moved. The Penguins just deepened their minor league depth while adding some much needed cap relief.

Winner: Pittsburgh. Why re-acquire Michalek and then try to deal away Yandle? Why not keep the prospects and move forward with your star D-man who is signed through until 2015/2016?

Toronto receives James Van Riemsdyk and Philadelphia acquires Luke Schenn.

Maple Leaf fans must be ecstatic over this deal, Van Riemsdyk, 6’3” 190 lb. power forward with huge upside, has been on the wrong end of trade rumours throughout his short career in Philadelphia. James was a second round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and has played well in his three seasons so far but an injury cut his season short last year.

Schenn was also a high pick in 2008 going 5th overall and was slated to be the Leafs next great D-man. It hasn’t panned out that way thus far, unfortunately. Leafs nation was begging Brian Burke to trade away Schenn and to get something good in return and he did just that. Will Luke turn his career around in Philadelphia? Who knows, but from what we’ve seen from Schenn is digression from his rookie season in 2008/2009 and for Van Riemsdyk we’ve seen progression from his rookie season.

There seems to be a trend with uniting brothers in the NHL of late.

Winner: Toronto. Hands down.

 

It wasn’t too long ago that the Chicago Blackhawks were knocked out of the 2011/2012 NHL playoffs at the hands of Mike Smith…err..I mean the Phoenix Coyotes. Two days later, fans have gone batshit crazy in regards to the team holes and what the Blackhawks should do for their upcoming season.

There have been some questionable ideas thrown out there from various Blackhawks fans on what to do with the roster from top to bottom. Do I blame them? No. This is a natural occurrence for any team that doesn’t win the Stanley Cup and the fandom goes all loopy with some donkey ideas. Don’t get me wrong, not all of these ideas are bad ones but the majority of them most certainly are. I think our friend Justyna over at MidwayMadness.com can attest to probably the most outlandish trade hype and that has to do with one time hero, Patrick Kane.

It’s funny how Kane is the scapegoat now and also going back to the trade deadline as the pure answer to solve all of Chicago’s problems. Who do these people want? Rick Nash. They want Nash because he’s a scorer and plays with a physical edge, do we want that type of player? Of course we do. But not at the price of Patrick Kane who is four years younger, makes considerably less money and has scored 29 more points than Nash since Kane broke into the NHL. So do you want to spend 1.5 million more per year on a guy who scores less and is signed through 2018? If your answer is still yes after all of that, shame on you.

Let me remind you that Chicago outplayed Phoenix in each and every game with all but one game going to overtime. Would you have snapshowed like this if they lost in the next round to Nashville? How about the Western final or perhaps even the Stanley Cup final?

Yes the Blackhawks have holes on the team and any onlooker would even realize that. For the ones who watched them all season you probably lost a lot of hair like I did as I was constantly yanking it out of my skull in frustration.

Let’s take a look at the Blackhawks POSSIBLE lineup next year.

Sharp/Toews/Saad

Stalberg/Kane/Hossa

Shaw/Bolland/Bickell

Bollig/Kruger/Carcillo/Frolik

Keith/Seabrook

Leddy/Hjalmarsson

Montador/Olsen

Crawford/Emery

  • Brunette will probably retire but can’t see him being resigned regardless of what he does
  • Morrison. He gone.
  • Mayers. Probably gone, he played a solid role but there are many rookies on the rise.
  • Jimmy and Kevin Hayes will both be fighting for a roster spot next season.
  • O’Donnell. He gone.
  • Lepisto. He gone.
  • Oduya played well in his short time here but was not great in the playoffs. 30% chance he’s back
  • McNeill, Beach, Pirri, Smith and Morin can’t be written off either.

Not a lot of room is there? Of course you can package some talented rookies together and ship them away for some already seasoned players or you can dip into the free agent pool. You want to trade one of our core players? Get real.

Niklas Hjalmarsson has been absolutely ripped by many because he makes too much money. Why rip on him? People make mistakes, it’s not his fault that Bowman signed him to a pretty good contract based off of what he was projected to be. It’s not uncommon and I don’t think I need to list all the players that have bad contracts or were signed to a good deal because of what they were projected to be. “Hammer” is not going to be a Kronwall like some expected him to be. Bowman will deal with it somehow and my guess is a trade.

I haven’t seen this since the trade deadline but one of the more humorous scenarios that people tend to throw out there is packaging up a bunch of the Hawks’ lesser players to get a star player. It really doesn’t work that way.

Does anyone have any realistic ideas for the Blackhawks next season?

Please share.

Thanks for reading,

TK0N

 

 

On the final day of the NHL regular season the Chicago Blackhawks first round playoff opponent has ended up being the Phoenix Coyotes. The Blackhawks needed a regulation victory over the Detroit Redwings earlier Sunday to have any chance of locking up the fourth seed in the Western Conference but failed to do so and ended up winning in overtime.

Many of the Blackhawks fans were hoping for exactly what happened in that game as they didn’t want to face either Detroit or Nashville in the first round of the playoffs even if they did have home ice advantage. Did the Blackhawks think that way? Not a chance, they wanted that chance to get home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and actually pulled the goalie while they were tied with Detroit in regulation to try to get that win. Chicago failed in doing so and will now face the third overall seed, the Phoenix Coyotes.

The statement the Hawks’ showed their fans in this game is that they really don’t have a preference in who they play in the playoffs and that’s how it should be. The top eight teams in the Western Conference is really a crapshoot on who comes out of there to go to the Stanley Cup final. Sure, odds makers will probably consider Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose as the least likely to come out of the West but each of those teams have intangibles that could propel them to the final.

Who wins this series? Well, the health of Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland is critical for the Blackhawks future success in these upcoming playoffs, obviously. On paper, the skill level is heavily in favor of Chicago even without Toews and Bolland but one can’t deny the work effort of the Coyotes which propelled them to first in the Pacific Division.

Keys for Chicago to win:

  • Must improve special teams play dramatically.

Special teams have been borderline disgusting for a team that is highly skilled as Chicago is and if they don’t improve vastly then their playoff run could be short.

  • Crawford needs to play as well as he did in last year’s playoffs

Corey has had his ups and downs this season but of late he has been playing incredibly well, Chicago fans are generally worried about the goaltending but we feel he will be just fine.

  • Need to improve their ability to hold on to a lead in any game

In many games this season, the Hawks’ have squandered leads late in games or even large leads early in games. Shut down defence is needed.

Keys for Phoenix to win:

  • Mike Smith will need to keep up his stellar play in goal

With only 3 playoff games under his belt, Mike is somewhat of a rookie and will need to carry his great regular season play into the playoffs.

  • Yotes star players will have to score at a solid pace

With the 14th ranked offence in the NHL it is not one of their strong points.

  • Defence will have to shut down star power of the Hawks’

Chicago has a ton of speed so the Coyotes defence will have to neutralize that to limit scoring chances

Yes the playoffs are considered a “new season” but season long issues with teams such as special teams don’t just turn around in a few days but one would be surprised what the intensity of the playoffs bring.

All in all we have the Blackhawks winning this series in five games with or without Toews. We feel the Coyotes will not be able to keep up to speed with Chicago and if Crawford can match Smith in goaltending, which we think he will, this shouldn’t be a long series.

Of course, we all know anything can happen in the playoffs. Who do you think wins this series and in how many games?

Here is a look at the lineups for Chicago and Phoenix below. Please note, these lineups are in no particular order especially in the Hawks’ case where their lines are usually juggled every ten minutes during a game. Blackhawks Brandon Bollig could also see some ice time this upcoming playoffs as well and he is not on the charts below.

 

Goalies
Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

 

Defensemen
Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya
Duncan Keith
Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy
Sean O’Donnell

 

Left Wings
Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell
Andrew Shaw
Andrew Brunette

 

Goalies
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

 

Defensemen
Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Derek Morris
Keith Yandle
Michal Rozsival
Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla

 

Left Wings
Ray Whitney
Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker
Raffi Torres
 

It was almost one year ago when San Jose Sharks Captain Joe Thornton trounced the Los Angeles Kings’ Stanley Cup aspirations.

Trailing 3-2 in 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals, the underdog Kings faced a “win or stay home” game six at the Staples Center. After 60 minutes, the scoresheet was knotted at three and–for the third time in the best of seven series–the outcome would again be decided by sudden death overtime.

Although Los Angeles began the extra session with 1:37 of power play time stemming from a Jamie McGinn 5-minute major and game misconduct, the Kings could not muster a single shot on goaltender Antti Niemi. Following the unprecedented kill, Sharks coach Todd McClellan wisely deployed his top line of Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Devin Setoguchi; the rest, as they say, is history.

Thornton’s series winning, “Are you not entertained!” ovation turned backslide over the the Kings’ center ice emblem did not sit well with the Los Angeles faithful and the noticeably peeved head coach Terry Murray, who spurned the customary post series-handshake.

345 days later, on the final weekend of the 2011-2012 NHL regular season, Los Angeles and San Jose will endure a final two game, home-and-home series to determine Pacific Division supremacy and Western Conference playoff seeding.

After beating the Dallas Stars 5-2 onTuesday night, the Sharks improved to 92 points and remained in the West’s top-eight, three points ahead of the ninth-place Stars. Los Angeles, meanwhile, blanked the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 on Monday, and currently sit atop the Pacific Division (third in the West) with 93 points, holding the tie-breaker over seventh-place Phoenix Coyotes and one point lead cushion on San Jose. All four Pacific Division contenders have two games remaining.

Barring back-to-back regulation losses to the Kings and two culminating Stars victories, the Sharks are an odds on favorite to, at worst, secure the West’s eighth seed, according to Sports Club Stats.

But, after last season’s abbreviated playoff run, Los Angeles is looking forward to an opportunity to send the Sharks golfing.

“I think even in the first game this year we all knew we had San Jose back-to-back at the end of the year,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said during a Wednesday interview with CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz. “We didn’t want it to come down to these last two games like it’s going to, but we knew it would be two big games. We definitely want to do whatever we can to knock them out of the playoff picture. We want third place, and that’s what we’re going to play for.”

If the Kings want to end the Sharks’ streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances, they will have to do so without one of their leading scorers. Recently acquired center Jeff Carter remains day-t0-day with a deep bone bruise in his ankle.  Carter, acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade-deadline deal in late February, has missed the past three games and has yet to participate in a full practice since sustaining the injury.

Conversely, if the Sharks want to extend their streak of four straight Pacific Division titles, they will not only need some help from the Coyotes, but they will also need to hurriedly reverse their road woes. Since Jan. 15, San Jose is just 5-13-4 in road games and they have yet to defeat the Kings at Staples Center this year.

San Jose’s last victory in LA was the result of Thornton’s game six, series clinching overtime winner; Big Joe and the boys will attempt to repeat history tonight.

For a more comprehensive–and somewhat nauseating–look at San Jose’s potential playoff clinching scenarios, check out CSN Bay Area.

 

Daniel Carcillo was signed to a two year extension at an average of $825,000 per year as reported by Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune.

Carcillo, 27, is currently on the mend recovering from surgery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on his questionable hit on the Edmonton Oilers and now Minnesota Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert. Dan received seven games for that hit, which was called as boarding, only two other players had higher suspensions this year in the NHL and that was Andy Sutton of the Oilers and James Wisniewski Of the Blue Jackets whom both received 8 game suspensions.

Here is the video on Carcillo’s hit on Gilbert.

This is not the first time Carcillo has been suspended in his tenure in the NHL and the Blackhawks are hoping it will be the last time. The signing was surprising to most as he really has not changed from his days in Philadelphia, Phoenix and of course currently playing with Chicago. Daniel has played 310 games in the NHL, amassing 84 points and 1068 penalty minutes.

Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Kuc also got some quotes from Carcillo on his new signing and where he is at currently with his injury.

“I’m the happiest guy in Chicago to hear that I’m coming back for another two years.”

“With a guy like me, you don’t usually get that security and sort of gesture so it’s really nice.”

Here is an interview with Carcillo also courtesy of the Chicago Tribune seen HERE

The salary that the Blackhawks gave to Carcillo was a fair one but it’s the roster spot he would claim from this contract that is questionable. With the emergence of tough guy Brandon Bollig and physical players like Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes, it makes one wonder where the Hawks’ are headed for a roster for next season. Chicago has an overabundance of young talent currently playing in Rockford plus highly touted Brandon Saad and Kevin Hayes on the rise so the question is asked, where do these kids play? Surely the Blackhawks will take a look at bringing back Jamal Mayers as he’s been a solid role player for Chicago this season and more than likely try to sign newly acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya to a reasonable contract.

Carcillo does have the skills to play the game and be a physical presence every night but will he bring that every night and keep his head on straight? Like the Blackhawks roster next season, only time will tell on both accounts.

Thanks to Zimbio.com for the photo and kudos to Chris Kuc and the Chicago Tribune for his interview and video.

Thanks for reading,

TK0N

 

This is a broad look at the playoff picture with just over twenty games to be played by each team. There is still much hockey to be played but let’s dream while we can. So here is an overview of where teams currently stand and which teams I think will be the eight in the playoffs come April.

As of Sunday night, divisional leaders are the league leading Detroit Redwings(84), Vancouver Canucks(82), and San Jose Sharks(69). Similar to the Eastern Conference, there is one division leading the rest. The Central Division commands the 4th through 6th seeds, all of currently surpass the Sharks in points. The St Louis Blues, sitting in 4th with 79 points, were just recently rated by the players as the most underrated team in the league. Players Poll here. Nashville(74) and Chicago(71), who have not been great as of late, are still staying ahead of the surging Coyotes(67). Calgary(65) is sitting in 8th is just above four teams: LA Kings(65), Dallas Stars(62), Colorado Avalanche(62), and Minnesota Wild(61). The Ducks have also managed to make themselves slightly relevant over the past twenty games, climbing to within five points of the playoffs. Since this is a playoff discussion, the one and only time Edmonton and Columbus will be mentioned is in this sentence, stating that they will not make the playoffs.

Detroit has been unstoppable at home this year. 26-2-1 over the season at home and currently on a record setting twenty-three game streak. Away from their dome, the Redwings are much more mediocre, 15-15-1. For the love of everyone outside of Detroit, someone (yes, all of us in Central) needs to go on a huge hot streak so that the old guys in red have to travel away from Michigan to play their games. But otherwise, short of a few of their guys dying of old age, Detroit is a lock for their 21st consecutive post-season trip.

Vancouver is 8-0-2 in their last ten. Bobby Lou is playing well recently, which contributes to their battle against Detroit for the lead. They have no worries about seeing games in mid-April with Calgary, who is 17 points behind, is the 2nd team in the Northwest Division. Hawks fan’s need not worry about this team to the north, as Bobby Lou will fail as usual.

Swimming along in mediocrity, the Sharks are third in the conference only because Phoenix had a rough beginning part of the season. They are a good team but can’t seem to put together consistency this season. The red-hot Coyotes are surging along and will overcome San Jose by the end of the season. The only question is whether they can keep the lead over the Sharks once they take it. My guess is no and the Sharks will remain in 3rd.

The Blues will see the playoffs this year and most likely have a first round home advantage in the playoffs. As the most underrated team, they are a strong, defensively focused team that has improved on their scoring from last year. The Blues have the lowest GAA in the league and will rely on that strategy to pull them all the way through. To make any headway through the playoffs however, they will need to step up their scoring just a little bit.

Nashville is playing great, but not wonderful. They are holding onto 5th and will make it into the playoffs. Their scoring is slightly better than the Blues, but they allow many more goals against. Surprisingly, the Predators, with one of the best goalies, Rinne, and their highly touted defensemen have let in more goals than Phoenix. Their pickup, Hal Gill, will improve their defense and their PK. They could hang onto 5th but more likely end up at 6th.

The Blackhawks should regain their early season form and climb the rankings once again to overtake Nashville. The Hawks only downfall is their lack of depth on defense. After taking a 9 game losing streak, they have won three straight. Things that I have seen are an increased willingness to block shots, an improved PK which has been great over the past 4 or 5 games and not letting in any while shorthanded, but Chicago still cannot seem to score with the man advantage. If they don’t correct that soon, they will have a very tough time advancing in the playoffs.

This leaves us with our 7th and 8th seeds. Currently occupying those spots are Phoenix and Calgary. A quick reminder to who is sitting right underneath them; LA Kings, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, and Anaheim Ducks. With information from the Stars that they traded Nicklas Grossman and Starstud’s article on how the Stars will be selling over the next week, you have to think if they have given up already, despite being just 3 points behind. With the trade deadline looming in just over a week and so many teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot, which other teams are going to toss in their hat this season and continue to build for the future. I see the Avalanche and the Wild joining the Stars as sellers over this next week. Anaheim will continue to make a run for it as well as the Kings.
Now, as far as which of the four teams will make those last two spots; Phoenix will not, as they were hot too early and will stop just short in the end, LA Kings will find some scoring over the next few weeks and pick it up to end up in 7th. Can Anaheim climb a 5 point deficit over Calgary with 24 games to go? Yes, and they will have made a run from 14th spot to 8th to let Teemu Selanne have one last chance at the cup. Unfortunately for them, they will be playing the Red Wings in Detroit.

Here are the playoff standings to where I see them sitting come April.
1. Detroit: 116
2. Vancouver: 114
3. San Jose: 99
4. St Louis: 111
5. Chicago: 103
6. Nashville: 99
7. LA Kings: 96
8. Anaheim: 95

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