Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blue Jackets Bring Back Hejda

On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets decided to sign one of their key defensemen to a new deal. Jan Hejda signed a 3-year contract extension, that is reportedly worth $6 million for the duration of the deal. Hejda will be a $2 million hit against the cap for the next three seasons.

Hejda played in 81 games for the Blue Jackets this season, registering 13 assists and had a franchise-record +13 record. Hejda was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer after signing on with Columbus as an unrestricted free agent last summer.

This now gives the Blue Jackets a fourth full-time defender on the books for next season. Their projected cap hit is still only $25.2 million with 15 full-time players.

Rick NashRostislav KleslaFredrik Norrena
Nikolai ZherdevKris Russell
Jason ChimeraDuvie Westcott
Manny MalhotraJan Hejda
Jiri Novotny
Fredrik Modin
Jared Boll
Gilbert Brule
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
Derrek Brassard

Stars Keep Ott Around

It looks like it will be quite some time before Dallas gets their Prospective Look, but that won't stop the Sherpa from posting a key signing for them now. The Stars signed forward Steve Ott to a 2-year deal worth $2.85 million.

Ott played in 73 games for Dallas this season, registering 11 goals and 11 assists. His goals and points totals are career-highs and he also gives Dallas a lot of grit as a third-line winger. He was scheduled to be a restricted free agent this summer.

Prospective Look at Toronto

Obviously, the Maple Leafs have a lot of work to do with their team. No question. So much has been made about the Leafs during this past season, you can only imagine how it's going to magnify when it draws closer and closer to the Entry Draft. Especially, since they still don't have a full-time General Manager in their possession to make all the directional decisions going forward. Oh, the decisions. So many decisions. Where could we possibly begin to dissect the team in a going forward thought? Well, let's start with what they have at the moment. Seems about right.

Nikolai AntropovTomas KaberleVesa Toskala
Jason BlakePavel KubinaAndrew Raycroft
Alex SteenBryan McCabe
Alexei PonikarovskyIan White
Darcy TuckerAnton Stralman
Boyd DevereauxCarlo Colaiacovo
Jiri Tlusty
Mark Bell*

Above, in the chart, the Leafs have 16 regular players signed on for next season at an estimated cost of $40.3 million. That includes Mark Bell, who should have started serving his jail sentence in San Jose, which could very well leak into the pre-season or the season, but the dates are a little fuzzy, which could determine some more numbers. Going forward, however, we'll keep him in.

There are five contracts on that list for next season that reach or eclipse the $4 million mark, which seems pretty heavy, not to mention the six other deals that reach or eclipse the $2 million mark. It's a very heavy burden to bare, since most of those deals include a no-trade or no-movement clause. Except for Pavel Kubina, that is. It will be a case of creative management, if any of these other players move out of the system to make some room.

Then you have to pose the question, cap-wise, where is Mats Sundin going to fit, if he desires to return to the Leafs at about the same cost as last season, $5 million. It would be like dropping an anchor off the Titanic... just bringing the boat down faster.

Let's not forget about the restricted free agents, Matt Stajan and Kyle Wellwood, who are both eligible for arbitration. So, let's play independent arbitrator for a moment and assign these guys their estimated value according to last season's production. Stajan, at 24, should earn about $1.2 million (Colby Armstrong/Scottie Upshall money). Wellwood, at 25, will likely get something close to the same figure as Stajan, thanks to an off-season due to injury, which will also likely result in unrestricted free agency after the deal is done. So, right there, the team needs about $2.5 million for two of the young centres to return.

So, maybe even before movement actually happens in the Leaf organization, we'll all hit Draft Day, so speculation can run amok. The Leafs currently sit with the 7th overall pick, quite a ways from the 1st overall pick, which they may covet, because of Steven Stamkos. It would truly be monumental to see the Leafs implode the team structure at the Draft (which is in Ottawa) in order to do a complete rebuild from scratch. I guess we'll all have to wait to see if the Buds can get themselves a General Manager who can pull it off in the next 6 weeks.

Avery Done, Rangers to Follow?

The Rangers will go into Game 4 without their super-pest, Sean Avery (Box 18), because he has been diagnosed with a lacerated spleen. It wasn't disclosed on when or how the injury came to be, but it will sideline him for the rest of the playoffs. 13 teams in the pool subscribed in Avery's services in the playoffs.

The rest of the playoffs may only be one more game for the Rangers, as they find themselves officially behind the 8-ball, although that could have been said when they lost the first two games in Pittsburgh, but all judgement was held out until they lost Game 3 last night. The Rangers are in severe danger of being swept by the Penguins, since the Pens have been so overpowering, that the Rangers can't seem to come up with a decent enough plan to quell all of the weapons at Pittsburgh's disposal.

This series is looking at being a huge disappointment for this Ranger team that successfully did in the Devils in five games and had some pretty high hopes, if not expecatations, of reaching the Cup Finals. The team had a great deal of the pieces in place for a good run, but it isn't like they are going to be ousted by a team that doesn't deserve it. The Penguins are proving to be the far superior team and the Rangers would have needed to raise their level to have a better chance.

New Avalanche Spunk Wasn't Enough

Being at home and having Peter Forsberg (Box 6) and Scott Hannan (Box 11) back in the line-up seemed to make a bit of a difference for the Avalanche, but it certainly was far from being enough to keep the dominant Red Wings at bay. The Red Wings stormed the Pepsi Center in Denver and took Game 3 with a 4-3 score. At times, the Red Wings seemed to let the Avalanche back into the game, especially early in the third, but they quickly closed up shop and let Chris Osgood (non-pool) take the win.

It was a second period goal that ended up being the winner. Henrik Zetterberg (Box 1) notched his first winner of the playoffs and gave his 20 owners a bonus point. Him and Pavel Datsyuk (Box 2) each finished the game with 3 pool points, Datsyuk had 2 goals and an assist in the game. Mikael Samuelsson (Box 6) also added a pair of assists for his 4 owners in the pool. The Red Wings now sit on the verge of eliminating the Avalanche in a contest which was very one-sided to say the least. Game 4 will be the late game on Thursday night.

It could be argued that the incomplete line-up for the Avalanche was the problem yet again. Ryan Smyth (Box 7) missed the game with a foot injury and then the team lost forward Paul Statsny (Box 1) to a knee injury in the first period and never returned. The two injuries made the return of Forsberg and Hannan more important, but only to fill the gaps left behind. With the inclusion of Hannan to the line-up, Jeff Finger (Box 10) sat again as a healthy scratch.

Sharks Down Three to Dallas

In the first round, the Dallas Stars lost big at home after taking both games in Anaheim from the Ducks, but they corrected their mistake against the Sharks here in the second round. Game 3 was not going to be a blow out for the Sharks and the Stars played this one close to the vest.

In the end, the game only needed four and a half minutes of overtime before Mattias Norstrom (non-pool) knocked it past Evgeni Nabokov (Box 24). The Stars defenseman stole a bonus point away from the pool, but gave his club a massive 3-0 series lead over the second ranked Sharks (playing like a second-rate Sharks team) and Game 4 goes Thursday night in Dallas. Both Mike Ribeiro (Box 1) and Marty Turco (Box 12) finished as the big gainers from the game last night. Ribeiro picked up a pair of helpers in the game, while Turco took the win. Brad Richards (Box 4) also picked up his 5th point in the series with an assist.

In the losing cause, the Sharks tried to shake the line-up a little in order to get some guys going. Matt Carle (Box 11) was the odd man out of the line-up for the Sharks, as he was a healthy scratch. His spot was taken by Alexei Semenov (non-pool), who was a +1 in the game.

Penguins Seventh Win in a Row

Craig Simpson on CBC mentioned that ten other teams had started their playoff seasons going 7-0 and eight of those teams ended up winning the Stanley Cup that same year. Could this be the year of the Penguins? A 5-3 win over the Rangers in a see-saw battle could help their argument, because they didn't want to go away or be let down by letting a goal or two... or three... in behind Marc Andre Fleury (Box 24).

Scoring the bonus point for the Penguins was Evgeni Malkin (Box 14), his second of the playoffs. Rangers goalie, Henrik Lundqvist (Box 24), was left to Malkin's mercy on a number occasions, only to be burned twice by two booming shots, each on the power play. Malkin finished the night with four points, the clear leader coming out of the evening. It was a big night for Penguin owners... five other players finished the night with two points a piece. If they only finish this series in four games again, then all but Fleury holders could feel a little shortchanged.

The series remains a pretty healthy one, although the Rangers looked to have suffered some bumps, cracks & bruises... possibly losing Colton Orr (non-pool) after taking a puck in the face and Chris Drury (Box 15) becoming hurt, but continued to play at less than 100%.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hart Trophy Candidates

On Tuesday, it was another award candidate announcement for the year-end bash, which goes on June 12th and it's feature award for the day was the Hart Trophy. The player deemed most valuable to his team, which in some respects has been thought to be the league MVP voted on by the media.

The first candidate is a 50-goal scorer and helped guide the Flames to the playoffs, but in the confines of the Northwest Division, Jarome Iginla doesn't quite have the value that the other two candidates have, thanks to the support players he has in Dion Phaneuf and Miikka Kiprusoff, who were available to him all season. Iginla is a true leader and is undoubtedly the best player for the Flames, but he falls short of being the most valuable player to his team.

What a stretch Evgeni Malkin had when Sidney Crosby fell to his high ankle sprain. Malkin not only kept the Penguins afloat in the East, he managed to keep them in the race for the regular season title as best team in the East. Malkin finished second in regular season scoring with 106 points, including 47 goals. His dominance was such a big lift to a Penguins team that really needed one, but he did have last season's Hart Trophy winner healthy for 53 games. Malkin's numbers are impressive... but not quite good enough.

65 goals. 112 points. First playoff birth for the Capitals since 2004. Southeast Division title. The resume could possibly go on and on for Alexander Ovechkin this season, but it won't here. You've probably heard or read it all already, so why go through it all again. Ovechkin help revitalize the hockey market in the US capital and helped bring people to the away buildings of the league as well. Not only was he the MVP of the team, but he could very well be considered the MVP of the marketplace in Washington and that should be worthy enough of capturing the trophy. It should be a pretty solid haul of hardware for the Russian superstar.

Prospective Look at Tampa Bay

In the not so distant past, the Tampa Bay Lightning were considered to be so 'top heavy' that they were going to be in trouble for years to come. Well, that prognosis came to fruition, but now there looks to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

During the season, the team trimmed away a big salary in Brad Richards (sending him to Dallas) and now are looking forward to taking that new space and accomodating some new fresh talent to the line-up to improve their last place finish. If the team could unload Marc Denis and his $3 million salary for next season, they would be in even better shape, but they may drop him to the minors for another season and wait the year out before his contract runs out. But with the three goalies on the active list, the team roster sits at 16 players and is worth approximately $37 million against the cap. That's being in pretty good shape.

Vincent LecavalierPaul RangerMike Smith
Martin St. LouisFilip KubaKarri Ramo
Jeff HalpernDan BoyleMarc Denis
Jussi JokinenShane O'Brien
Michel OuelletBrad Lukowich
Jason WardMike Lundin
Nick Tarnasky

With one look at the roster above, you'll notice that the Lightning have already filled the top six spots on the blueline, with the greatest of ease. Those six played the bulk of the season, except for Dan Boyle (through injury) and a healthy season from him would mean big things for the Lightning offense. The inclusion of Mike Smith in the deal for Richards from Dallas was a big boost to the crease for Tampa Bay, while they are still waiting on the likes or Karri Ramo or Riku Helenius to pan out as bonafide number ones.

With the space they have underneath the cap, they will have to decide on whether or not to bring back unrestricted free agents, Chris Gratton and Andre Roy for another season. Both earned a million or better, but neither played more than 63 games this season or had more than 21 points. The market for mid-range forwards who are available in the talent pool is fairly reasonable. Good targets for the Lightning may be players like Antti Miettinen from Dallas, Kristian Huselius from Calgary or Niko Kapanen from Phoenix, depending on budget and demands.

Their current stable of young talent is fairly thin, with next to no blue chips waiting in the wings, but of course, that changes come June. On Draft Day, they will get to select first and will more than likely keep the pick and choose Steven Stamkos to give them a little more depth on offense, hopefully right away. If he jumps right away, the stable is still very thin with young and up and coming talent. The Lightning don't have a second round pick this summer, as they had dealt it to pick up Gratton and would likely have to hit a home run in the third round to make this Draft a real success.

Prospective Look at St. Louis

I was going to start the Blues' column off saying that there was a lot of expectations going into this past season to do much better than the few season previous, but then I looked back at a couple posts and realized that there wasn't any greater expecatation on this team, despite some of their returning talent. What can be said, however, is that there was some very pleasant surprises in their line-up, in lieu of the lack of expectations and they are highlighted here.

Up front, the 43-goal season from Brad Boyes was the most pleasant of surprises. The Blues brass were so impressed with his progress, they rewarded him with a 4-year, $16 million extension to do that every season with the Blues.

A pair of rookies also shone brightly for the Blues. Both David Perron and Erik Johnson were regular fixtures in the Blues line-up during the year. Perron finished with 27 points in 62 games, while Johnson had 33 points in 69 games. An off-season worth of NHL-type conditioning and both players should be ready for the full 82-game schedule next year.

So, looking forward towards next season, the team has some gaps they would like to fill, likely with some younger talent, but I would imagine they will dip their toes into the free agent pool once or twice to snag some established help. The 14 players listed below are all signed on for next season and played quite regularly for the team. They are worth a whopping $41.3 million, which doesn't leave them a ton of cap space for 9 more regulars, but they have some talent coming through the ranks, who may ease the burden financially, if they wanted to push the cap limits and get one more decent free agent.

Brad BoyesErik JohnsonManny Legace
Paul KariyaEric Brewer
Keith TkachukBarret Jackman
Andy McDonaldJay McKee
Lee Stempniak
David Perron
Jamal Mayers
Dan Hinote
D.J. King

There are a few players that the Blues may want to look after, who are becoming free agents in July, to fill in the gaps. Players like David Backes, Jay McClement, Hannu Toivonen and Jeff Woywitka are all candidates for re-signing with the team, as they are all restricted free agents.

There is also a couple prospects who will look to make the jump to the big club in training camp this Fall. Both Patrick Berglund and Ben Bishop have signed deals in the past 12 months that could see them make the jump. Berglund a crafty centre from Sweden and Bishop is a goalie who could make a push for Legace's back-up job, in front of Toivonen and Marek Schwarz.

The Blues currently sit with the fourth overall pick in this summer's Entry Draft, which should land them one of the blue-chip defensemen tabbed for the Top 5. This could fare well for the Blues, as they already have four of the tougher defensemen signed on for next season and the prospect of getting another that could jump into the league right away only makes Manny Legace's job all that much easier.

Flyers Take Series Lead

The Flyers are one tough team to play against at home in these playoffs. The Capitals sure had a hard time and now the Canadiens are feeling the squeeze of the Wachovia Center crowd. The Flyers chased Carey Price (Box 24) from the net after two periods, down 3-0, but those Habs were resilient. They managed to snag two goals on a major penalty to Derian Hatcher (non-pool) to make it a close game, but the Flyers hung on for the win, 3-2.

The winning goal came late in the second, when R.J. Umberger (Box 17) shoved the puck past the Canadiens netminder. That was Umberger's second game-winner of the playoffs and fifth point in this series against the Canadiens. Only one team in the Playoff Pool picked up Umberger and he's way down near the bottom, so this production paragraph is almost all for naught.

It was scoring by committee for both teams last night. The only other player to have a multi-point game was Martin Biron (Box 24), because he ended up with the win. Not surprisingly (at the start of the playoffs), no one in the pool has Biron, so his 15 points in the post-season are going unappreciated.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Prospective Look at Phoenix

There's way too much reason not to be excited about the prospects that the Coyotes are shuffling in their deck. Bringing Kyle Turris up to the big club for three games before the end of the season was a nice little hello for the third overall draft pick in 2007 and now he gets to suit up for Team Canada (with teammates Shane Doan & Ed Jovanovski) at the World Championships that start this Friday. Very exciting! Even Peter Mueller and Keith Ballard will be playing in the tourney for the United States, while Martin Hanzal will dress for the Czech Republic. If you didn't get to see much of the Coyotes during the season, you'll be able to keep up with a good number of them at this tournament.

The Coyotes boast one of the most solid bluelines at the moment and five of them are already returning to the team next season. The five defensemen listed below are all big minute-loggers for the Coyotes and this sort of depth should keep the team afloat, in case of injuries.

The long-term signings of Shane Doan and Ilya Bryzgalov during the season give the team direction when they add young players to the mix and now they have a great core of players and it's all at a reasonable price as well. The 13 players below have an estimated cost of $32.5 million for next season, which may go up, according to Turris' actual salary figure.

Shane DoanEd JovanovskiIlya Bryzgalov
Peter MuellerDerek MorrisMikael Tellqvist
Steve ReinprechtKeith Ballard
Martin HanzalZbynek Michalek
Daniel WinnikNick Boynton
Kyle Turris

As you can tell, the Coyotes have many holes to fill on the forward lines, as they have a lot of players from their end of season roster are going to become free agents come July 1st. Among those are Radim Vrbata (unrestricted), Mike York (unrestricted), Niko Kapanen (unrestricted), Marcel Hossa (restricted, arbitration) and Daniel Carcillo (restricted).

What should be on the Coyotes wish list should include the likes of a veteran centre that could end up playing up on the second or third line with some of their youth, who would come at a reasonable cost, to keep up appearances. Names like Doug Weight, Craig Conroy, Vaclav Prospal or Brendan Morrison all come to mind, if you were to start naming names. It should almost be expected to see Phoenix in the mid-range market for forwards come the Frenzy.

As for Draft Day, they will choose in the 8th spot come June. They'll more than likely try and fill one of their forward spots in the minors for future use, instead of pulling a player who can make the jump right away. The Coyotes are very young as it is, having one of the younger cores in the league. Of the other teams already done with a Prospective Look, only Columbus has a younger core of players.

Prospective Look at Long Island

The Islanders are still (and will continue to) suffering through some bad financial decisions, namely the giant-ass contract that Alexei Yashin had and then bought out last summer. It's another $2 million hit to the salary cap for next season, which would translate into improving one or two players on the roster. Looking at the current list of forwards signed on for next season, they could definitely use some help.

It's hard to gauge the roster model that GM Garth Snow is really building for the team, but luckily he's got a franchise goaltender signed on until the apocolypse. The team currently fits quite a few role players acting as front-line guys, until prospects like Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau are ready to take on the job full-time.

Mike ComrieChris CampoliRick DiPietro
Bill GuerinRadek Martinek
Trent HunterFreddie Meyer
Richard ParkAndy Sutton
Mike SillingerBrendan Witt
Andy Hilbert
Blake Comeau
Kyle Okposo
Jon Sim

The roster of signed players above are worth an estimated $30.5 million, plus Yashin's $2 million buyout portion and the Islanders already have $32.5 million on the books for next season. Notable players that will hit free agency on July 1st include Miroslav Satan ($4.255 million in '07/'08), Ruslan Fedotenko ($2.9), Jeff Tambellini ($942K) and Bryan Berard ($725K). The team should still have plenty of cap space to bid on one or two top level free agents, if they decide to skip out on Satan and/or Fedotenko, so they join the list of teams that have been a little more savvy with the cap to make more of an impact on future years. No player on the books is worth more than $4.5 million against the cap, which is less than a lot of teams can say at the moment.

The team is definitely in need of a star forward and a star defender, not only for skill, but for some notority in the league. The Islanders seem to be a forgotten team in some respects, except for last season, when they knocked the Leafs out of the playoff picture in the last day. Possibly a play for a player like Marian Hossa or Markus Naslund would be within their grasp or perhaps snag cross-town Czech, Jaromir Jagr. There are plenty of high-priced unrestricted free agents soon-to-be available, which should make the mouths water of Islander brass.

With the number five pick in the Draft, they should be able to pick up one of the key defensemen that are cropped in the high ranks of the list provided by the NHL's Central Scouting. Alex Pieterangelo or Luke Schenn could certainly be on the radar for the Islanders come June.

Prospective Look at Los Angeles

It's an interesting situation in Los Angeles going into the off-season. What could possibly be done to this team that can get it into the playoffs next season? It's a fairly long and arduous answer and it looks like it will take a fair bit of work to get it done, but the possibility is there for it to be done in the next couple seasons. So saying that, will the Kings be able to field many players who will be good pool players?

First of all, we should look at who they have coming back next season and then we'll drop some ideas down the line. Up front, the Kings have four bright, young players who have a lot of talent. Kopitar, Frolov, Brown and Cammalleri are all full of potential and getting some good support up front would be key to unlocking all that potential. Also, health does provide a concern with the top players, as Kopitar was the only one of the four who managed to play a full 82 games this season.

At the back, the three defensemen listed below are all signed on for the long-term and provide a good backbone for a blueline corps, so there is a good foundation to build on. It is likely that the team will re-sign Rob Blake for another year, but the price tag could be a bit of a concern. Blake made $6 million last season, which is awfully steep for a guy who missed 11 games and only managed 31 points.

In goal, the team used a small army to guard the crease this season, mostly due to inconsistency and injury. The team used six keepers through the year and five of them are signed on for next season, while Erik Ersberg seemed to be in the team's future plans and still needs to be re-signed. This should be the season where Jonathan Bernier takes the reins of the team and makes the number one job his, so he's on the list of guys for next season. If Bernier gets the job, he could provide a pool team with some good support goaltending points through the year.

Anze KopitarLubomir VisnovskyJason Labarbera
Alexander FrolovTom PreissingDan Cloutier
Dustin BrownJack JohnsonJonathan Bernier
Mike Cammalleri
Derek Armstrong
Michal Handzus
Kyle Calder
Ratis Ivanans
Matt Ellis

The 14 players on the list above are valued at an approximate value of $34.1 million and they have dropped free agent weight (for the time being) of Rob Blake at $6 million and Ladislav Nagy at $3.75 million. With production dropping from Blake and Nagy in the past few seasons, the team should hope that they can retain their services with some sort of depreciation discount. Doesn't sound very likely, I know, but they should at least try.

A restricted free agent that is on the books that may get another look is Patrick O'Sullivan, who only earned a minimal $850,000 this past season, will look for a raise after notching 53 points in all 82 games. He could very well be a good sleeper pick for next season.

The Kings will enter Draft Day on June 20th with the second overall pick. It's a pretty handy situation to be in, but the Kings would be much better suited with the first pick overall, as they could use Steven Stamkos more than another big defenseman. I wouldn't put it past Kings GM Dean Lombardi to trade up and get the franchise prospect or even listen to offers to trade their pick down for a player or two that could help next season. The Kings will benefit from a player that could very well make the jump into the league next season, so they do hold a lot of cards in their hand before they actually land on the clock.

Sunday's Action

It doesn't look like the long layover from sweeping the Senators did the Penguins any harm. They were ready and willing to do whatever it took to beat the Rangers at home for their opening two games. In Game 2, Marc-Andre Fleury (Box 24) gave his 11 pool teams something to be proud of, his second shutout of the playoffs. Fleury made 26 saves in the 2-0 for the Penguins, despite Sean Avery's (Box 18) best efforts to throw him off his game.

Midway through the second period, it was Jordan Staal (Box 19) who broke the deadlock and gave the Penguins the lead they would never look back from. But with only a pair of goals scored in the game, Staal came away with the bonus point as the second highest point-getter (behind Fleury, who had 4). Evgeni Malkin (Box 14), Sergei Gonchar (Box 20) and Ryan Whitney (Box 21) all came away with assists in the contest as well.

Last night, it was difficult to say in the third period where the giant killing started for when the 'pissing the game away' ended. The San Jose Sharks had control of the game going into the third at 2-1, but failed miserably to hang on to the result, as Brad Richards (Box 4) started his 'third period of terror' on the Sharks with a goal under a minute in. Richards led the Stars with a four point night adding three assists after his third period opening goal.

For a second time in these 2008 playoffs, Mike Modano (Box 5) rewarded his 10 team selectors with a bonus point for the winning goal. That bonus point gave Modano two points on the evening. Other multi-point getters on the night were Niklas Hagman (Box 7), who had a pair of goals for the Stars and Craig Rivet (Box 9), who had a pair of assists for the Sharks. Marty Turco (Box 12) notched his sixth win for the Stars in the playoffs and now has 15 points in the playoffs.

In Game 2, Sergei Zubov (Box 8) finally returned to the line-up for the Stars and managed to notch an assist in the game as well. Zubov had missed the Stars' last 40 games and didn't look like he missed a step. This is a huge boost to the Stars who are already rolling and could prove to be a contender in the Western Conference. The Sharks could find themselves behind the 8-ball on Wednesday morning.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Recapping Necessary

It's been a bit of an ill weekend, so the updates have been rather slow to come. So, I'm quickly recapping the games this morning, see how far I can get.

The Penguins opened up their second round with a barn burner, showing the Rangers how resilient their team is despite their youth. The Penguins came back from a 3-0 deficit to edge out the Rangers, 5-4. It was quite the game.

Evgeni Malkin (Box 14) was the big favourite from his box and you could tell why. Malkin eventually scored the winner (pictured right) to win it for the flightless birds. That bonus point gave him 3 points on the evening, which was tied by Rangers defenseman, Michal Rozsival (Box 20), who had 3 assists in the loss. Marc-Andre Fleury (Box 24) earned his fifth win of the playoffs. Four other players managed to scoop two points out of the game and it was certainly a pro-pool kind of game.

Both teams remain healthy, pool-wise, and there were no excess scratches to report on either.

In the late game on Friday night, the Dallas Stars are looking to be this season's David, taking out all of the goliaths in the Western Conference, as they took Game 1 from the Sharks, 3-2 in overtime.

It was his second goal of the night that proved to be the winner in overtime, as Brendan Morrow (Box 2) brought his A-game against the team's division rivals. Morrow finished the game with 3 points, including the bonus, which made him the high scorer of that match-up. Both Mike Ribeiro (Box 1) and Marty Turco (Box 12) each potted a pair of points in the contest as well. One team actually picked up Morrow in the pool, while Ribeiro and Turco didn't garner a selection.

On the injury side, the news of Sergei Zubov (Box 9) may have been exaggerated or the team was quite hesitant on letting him loose too early. Zubov didn't dress against the Sharks in Game 1, rather remained in the press box to watch. With the Game 1 lead, it may not be until Game 3 at home before he sees some ice in a game situation, as the team won't need to rush him back. The Stars were also without defender Phillipe Boucher (Box 10) with his lower body injury as well. There is no real word on when he'll be ready to return.

The Avalanche are looking rather poorly up against the President's Trophy winning Red Wings. The Wings took a 2-0 series lead on Saturday afternoon after a 5-1 schalacking. The Avalanche are going to need a big game plan when they get home for Game 3 on Tuesday night.

Boy, is Johan Franzen (non-pool) making the Sherpa look like a fool. He would have netted a playoff pool team 4 points on Saturday after scoring a hat-trick and getting the bonus point for the winning goal. If Franzen was in the pool, he would be tied for third in pool scoring with 13 points. Oops. As for pool-worthy players, Henrik Zetterberg (Box 1) and Niklas Kronwall (Box 10) each had a pair of points to be the best in that category. The Red Wings were able to chase Jose Theodore (Box 12) from the net again, which may question his starting role come Game 3.

I suppose it depends who you ask, but the Avalanche were without both Peter Forsberg (Box 6) and Scott Hannan (Box 11) to a groin and foot injury, respectively. Having two players of that stature out of your line-up, certainly will hinder the abilities of the collective to stop the giant wrecking ball called the Red Wings.

The Flyers earned a split in Montreal, as they downed the Canadiens, 4-2, in a entertaining match on Saturday night. The Flyers will now take their hard-working show home for Game 3 on Monday ngiht, while the Canadiens try and figure out a plan to outsmart their opponents.

Quite possibly, an early entrant in the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy would be Daniel Briere (Box 15). He scored his second game-winner of the playoffs and now remains tied for the lead in pool scoring, with his opponent (also pictured), Carey Price (Box 24). Briere's bonus point gave him two points on the night, which tied him with Martin Biron (Box 24), R.J. Umberger (Box 17) and Saku Koivu (Box 15).

There were no new injuries or scratches to report from this game either.