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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A quick comment on the first round and then on to more analysis on the second round…

We got mostly chalk out west and a truckload of upsets in the east.

Going into the first round—we at Bettman’s Nightmare all felt the same thing. Both #1 seeds seemed somehow fallable. The San Jose Sharks’s struggles in the playoffs are well-known, they’ve been called soft and their stars never seem to show up in April. The Presidents Cup Washington Capitals seemed somehow beatable as well, especially with lackluster goaltending and defense. Colorado is a young and exciting team capable of beating the Sharks and extending their choke series. The Canadiens don’t have much and are unsettled at goaltending—so the Caps should have been able to escape—or so we thought.

To Washington Capitals fans….HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA…I’m sorry, that was wrong, we are more professional than that here at Bettman’s Nightmare. Let me try that again—HA HA HA HA..Sorry, it’s just too funny. Remember after game 3, Norris Trophy Candidate Mike Green said “ When everyone plays like that -- they don't have much out there. Really, they don't." How does this guy get nominated for a Norris and Chara, Lidstrom, and Pronger do not? This is the most fundamental rule in sports—don’t discount your enemy. San Jose, meanwhile, despite the efforts of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau actually found a way to win. At this point, these three should be trading salaries with Many Malhotra, Joe Pavelski, and Ryan Clowe. You’re soft Thornton—Boston knew it way back in the day, but I doubted them. They were right. MAN UP!

We are going to mix some things up here on Bettman’s Nightmare—we are going to start our round two forecasts in the west—east coast bias be damned!

#1 San Jose Sharks (19.2 PP%, 86.7 PK%, 1.33 5:5) vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings (23.5 PP%, 81.8PK%, 1.36 5:5)

San Jose in the playoffs? Detroit in the playoffs? I’ll take Detroit. That was easy. Let’s move on. But wait, Detroit is playing rookie Jimmy Howard (4 W, 2.59GAA, and .919 Sv %) between the pipes. San Jose has found good goal scoring behind their top line of Joe Thornton (0G, 3A, .5 Pts/Game), Dany Heatley (0G, 4A, .Pts/Game), and Patrick Marleau (1G, 2A, .5Pts/Game) (read: duds—1 Goal between these three!), their defense has improved, and Evgeni Nabokov (4 W, 1.76GAA, and .926 Sv %) has been playing well. Dan Boyle (2G, 4A, 1Pts/Game) has been leading the way for a much-improved San Jose defense. Still—how can you bet against Detroit? Well, Detroit’s top line played well, Pavel Datsyuk (5G, 3A, 1.1 Pts/Game) and Henrik Zetterberg (6G, 5A, 1.6 Pts/Game), but they did not get the stereotypical Detroit scoring from third-liners like Kris Draper (0G, 0A, 0Pts/Game), Dan Cleary (0G, 0A, 0Pts/Game) and Darren Helm (1G, 0A, .2GPts/Game). Nicklas Lidstrom (3G, 3A, .8Pts/Game) has been adding much-

needed offense from the blueline. Each Spring, somebody comes out of the word work in Hockey

Town—this year that didn’t seem to happen. Even Tomas Holmstrom (2G, 2A, .6Pts/Game) struggled to crack Ilya Bryzgalov.

There are three questions to answer: will Detroit find its second-tier goal-scoring, will San Jose find its first-tier goal-scoring, and which rookie Detroit netminder will show up? When push comes to shove, Detroit will find its second-tier goal scoring—San Jose isn’t as good defensively as Phoenix. Thornton will continue to choke—because Detroit is better defensively than Colorado. Howard will give away one game, but keep Detroit in the other five. Red Wings in Six!

#2 Chicago Blackhawks (17.4 PP%, 96.3 PK%, 1.10 5:5) vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks (25.0 PP%, 61.5 PK%, 2.43 5:5)

This matchup really excites me. Chicago is young and fast and very solidly defensively. Vancouver has got a pair of twins that I’ve heard are pretty good and a goaltender that likes to make highlight-reel saves. Chicago will go into this series as the likely favorites, after surviving a tooth-and-nail battle with the plucky Nashville Predators. Vancouver beat a very underrated and up-and-coming Los Angeles Kings team that took the Canucks to the brink and very nearly forced a pivotal game seven. For the Blackhawks, the big name forwards are all over a point a game Jonathan Toews (2G, 6A, 1.2 Pts/Game), Marian Hossa (1G, 6A, 1.1 Pts/Game), Patrick Sharp (3G, 4A, 1.1 Pts/Game), and Patrick Kane (4G, 3A, 1.1 Pts/Game). They are backed-up by a steady group of blueliners led by Brent Seabrook (0G, 4A, .7Pts/Game) and Duncan Keith (1G, 1A, .3Pts/Game). All of this offense is strongly supported by the stable

goalkeeping of Antti Niemi (4W, 2.15GAA, .921 Sv%). The Canucks, on the other hand are riding the hot hand of shoot-first Mikael Samuelsson (7G, 4A, 1.8 Pts/Game), who has been paired perfectly with the red-hot Sedin twins. Daniel Sedin leads the way (4G, 6A, 1.7 Pts/Game), while pass-first Henrik Sedin (1G, 7A, 1.2 Pts/Game) is in hog heaven, passing to Samuelsson and his twin brother. Ryan Kesler (1G, 5A, 1 Pts/Game) has been providing sufficientsecond-line scoring to support the top line. In the back, the Canucks have a team of steady blueliners led by Sami Salo (1G, 2A, .5Pts/Game) and Christian Ehrhoff (1G, 2A, .5Pts/Game). In net, Roberto Luongo (4W, 2.92GAA, .893 Sv%) has looked at times like the best goaltender in the league and somewhat average at other times.

There are several questions to answer: can the Canucks blueline give Luongo enough support to make him the bestgoaltender in the league again? Can Antti Niemi continue to find the hot hand? Can Ryan Kesler spearhead a second-line scoring arsenal that compares with the Sharp line in Chicago? Can Vancouver shore upthe penalty kill? Not likely, against Chicago’s attack! In short, Chicago has too much forward pressure and Luongo will steal a few games, but when push comes to shove—Chicago is going to score a lot of goals and win in six. Also, don’t expect Vancouver to dominate Chicago 5:5 as they did against Los Angeles.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins (25.0 PP%, 68.2 PK%, 1.33 5:5) vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens (20.0 PP%, 97.0 PK%,.76 5:5)

For Pittsburgh, the question coming out of the regular season was—could Crosby maintain his hot season, could Malkin find his game, and more importantly could Fleury find his game? Well, Sidney Crosby (5G, 9A, 2.3Pts/Game) maintained his hot hand, Evgeni Malkin found his game (4G, 4A, 1.3Pts/Game), and Marc-Andre Fleury (4W, 2.75GAA, .890 Sv%) has not. Pittsburgh’s playoff formula is very

consistent—ride your superstars and rent an old winger to pitch in some goals and leadership. Bill

Guerin (2G, 4A, 1Pts/Game) has played the role of the old goal scorer quite well. On the back end, Sergei Gonchar (0G, 6A, 1Pts/Game) continues to forget that he’s supposed to play defense. Jordan Staal (1G, 2A, .5Pts/Game) has stepped up his game and given the Pens a much-needed checking-line center. The story for the Canadiens going into the playoffs was—where would they find enough goaltending to go punch-for-punch with the Capitals? Well, as it turns out, the Capitals took a different approach—they took every punch the Caps had to offer and merely asked Jaroslav Halak (4W, 2.46GAA, .939 Sv%) to shrug them away. Halak found his game and I think he found Patrick Roy’s game too. Montreal’s defense quite simply shut down the Capitals, led by Hal Gill (0G, 1A, .2Pts/Game), Josh Gorges (0G, 1A, .2Pts/Game), and Jaroslav Spacek (0G, 2A, .3Pts/Game). All of these stay-at-home defensemen took the best of what the Capitals had to offer and left them without a good shot. Michael Cammalleri paced the way on offense (5G, 5A,1.4Pts/Game), while Tomas Plekanec added scoring as well (4G, 3A, 1Pts/Game).

The questions are: Can the Canadiens defense shut down the Penguins attack like they did the Capitals? Can Jaroslav Halak forget that he’s Jaroslav Halak and not Patrick Roy? Can Marc-Andre Fleury find his game? Where will the Canadiens extra goal scoring come from? Will the Pens be able to crack the Canadiens Penalty Kill? Will the Pens be able to figure out their own penalty kill? I like the Penguins to get more offense than the Capitals—the Capitals have become quite predictable. Jaroslav Halak will continue to play well—but not as well. Marc-Andre Fleury will play better, but still not great and the Canadiens will struggle to score. The Penguins will escape in 7 games. Until Fleury finds his game, the Canadiens will score well on the Powerplay.

#6 Boston Bruins (27.3 PP%, 100 PK%, .57 5:5) vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers (27.6 PP%, 87.5 PK%,2.00 5:5)

Boston was able to find enough goal-scoring and incredible goaltending to skate by the Buffalo Sabres, who continue to struggle to find goal-scorers. Tuukka Rask (4W, 2.18GAA, .927 Sv%) played admirably to carry the Bruins to a six-game series win. The Bruins spread their offense around amongst forwards Mark Recchi (3G, 2A .8Pts/Game), Miroslav Satan (2G, 3A, .8Pts/Game), Patrice Bergeron (2G, 3A, .8Pts/Game), David Krejci (3G, 2A, .8Pts/Game), Defensemen Dennis Wideman (1G, 3A, .7Pts/Game), and Zdeno Chara (2G, 1A, .5Pts/Game). For the Flyers, the team was paced by the stalwart play of Brian Boucher (4W, 1.59GAA, .940 Sv%). The playoff Boucher far outplayed the regular-season Boucher. The Flyers got goalscoring from Captain Mike Richards (2G, 6A, 1.6Pts/Game) and youngster Claude Giroux (4G, 2A, 1.2Pts/Game). The Flyers blueline was anchored admirably by Kimmo Timonen (0G, 3A, .6Pts/Game) and Chris Pronger (2G, 3A, 1Pts/Game). Unfortunately, the Flyers will be dealing with a heavy dose of enfermary visitors, including snipers Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne and penalty killer Ian Laperriere.

The questions are: will Boston be able to find goal scoring to go punch-for-punch with Philadelphia? Will Rask maintainhis hot hand? Which Boucher will show up? How will Philadelphia deal with the loss of stars like Carter and Gagne? Both teams have outstanding special teams, but how will the Bruins offset the Flyers significant 5:5 advantage? Boston will struggle to get shots against the shut-down blueliners tha

t Philadelphia puts on the ice. Rask will face a lot more rubber against the Flyers forecheck than Buffalo was able to create. Boucher should continue to show up, and Giroux, van Riemsdyk, Richards, Carcillo, and the rest of the forwards should be able to pick up the offensive slack for the Flyers. Philadelphia wins in five games. Boston’s 5:5 disadvantage is too significant to overcome.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Q: What do West Virginian's and Philadelphian's have in common?

A: Not much.

However, they are linked in my stream of consciousness this afternoon as I watch the Phoenix Coyotes continue do what they've done all year - that is, win games no matter what overwhelming conditions are stacked against them.

But, to the point now. Being a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, one of my favorite jokes is:

Where was the toothbrush invented?
West Virginia, of course. Had it been invented anywhere else, they'd have called it a teethbrush!

This joke popped into my head as I was taking in the latest Geico commercial with Mike Green and one of the cavemen (you know, where the former is popping a puck into an empty net, and the latter is talking to the camera from the stands). It occurred to me that only a native of the City of Brotherly (Sh)ove could have come up with the idea for this commercial.

Because no hockey fan base other than Philadelphia's could so readily link together the idea of neanderthals and hockey.


PS - Being an economist, another of my favorite jokes is:

How many Marxist economists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
None. The lightbulb has within it the seeds of its own revolution.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Do the BN Experts Look Right Now?

Well, I'm anxious to post something because I'm mid-good post and it isn't ready yet, but I have time to throw something up and there's so damn much to say how the playoffs have gone so far.  I'm feeling like a freakin' champ at the moment because the Kings are up 2-1 in the series, but you don't bet against The Sisters.  We've had some controversial hits to sort out, and a couple hundred OT games.  Just a few thoughts before we get to the brackets...

Andy Sutton's Check Was Legal

Jordan Leopold gets absolutely crushed on this play.  Why is it that when a guy like Lindros plays with his head down and gets hurt, nobody seems to care too much, but when someone like Leopold does, people get up in arms?  It reminds me of the second Booth concussion this year by Jaroslav Spacek, where you're thinking At what point in time did these guys stop thinking they would get hit when they have the puck?  This is still a big man's league, and if you're little this means your head needs to be on a swivel.  It also means that if you're little your head is going to be at the level of the hardest parts of any hitter, their tucked elbow and their butt (insert "hard-ass" joke here; insert "Matteau just used 'insert' and 'ass' in the same phrase" joke here).  I look at a guy like Marty St. Louis and here's a small guy that is not getting hit like that.  He plays a lot (only missed two games the last 8 years), I can't find a vid of him getting pwned without the check being away from the play, and even so we're not seeing the guy getting crushed.  Now, say what you will about the Southeast, but it's rarely been short of big hitters.  Ultimately, St. Louis is little, knows he's little, and plays like he knows he's little.  Of course, next year Jon Erskine (or some slow, ogre-ish equivalent) will check him to oblivion, but he's my example of heads-up hockey right now, damnit!

Dan Boyle Needs to Settle Down

I think that if there's one element of the play that Dan Boyle will still be thinking about later in his life, it will be trying to understand why he had such a sense of urgency on a relatively inconsequential play along the boards.  I leave the rest to (eternally) disgruntled Sharks fans.  Hell of a shot, though.

I Love Me Some OT
I don't want to overload this post with vids, so I'll just link them up to YouTube.  But it's always fun to watch the big goals.

San Jose 6 - Colorardo 5...Devin Setoguchi
Colorado 1 - San Jose 0...Dan Boyle
Vancouver 3 - Los Angeles 2...Mikael Samuelsson
Los Angeles 3 - Vancouver 2...Anze Kopitar
Montreal 3 - Washington 2...Tomas Plekanec
Washington 6 - Montreal 5...Nicklas Backstrom
Philadelphia 3 - New Jersey 2...Daniel Carcillo

So how are those BN experts looking now?

Colorado 2 games to San Jose's 1
- Expert: Cosby
- Receiver of Andy Sutton's Hate (RASH): Me, Weagz, Forsberg, Rankin

Chicago and Nashville knotted at 1 game apiece
- We are all experts

Los Angeles 2 games to Vancouver's 1
- Expert: Me, Forsberg
- RASH: Cosby, Weagz, Rankin

Phoenix 2 games to Detroit's 1
- Expert: ...
- RASH: All of us

Washington 2 games to Montreal's 1
- Expert: All of us
- RASH: ...

Philadelphia 2 games to New Jersey's 1
- Expert: Weagz, Rankin
- RASH: Me, Cosby, Forsberg

Boston 2 games to Buffalo's 1
- Expert: Rankin
- RASH: Me, Cosby, Weagz, Forsberg

Pittsburgh 2 games to Ottawa's 1
- Expert: Me, Cosby, Weagz, Forsberg
- RASH: Rankin

The BN Expert Rankings:
Weagz - 3-4
Me - 3-4
Rankin - 3-4
Forsberg - 3-4
Cosby - 3-4

...refreshingly consistent.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Breaking Down the Opening Round - Western Conference

Note: Sorry about the pixel-lated pictures and weird formatting.  I never learned to read.

Need some clarification for our (occasionally) ridiculous choices in our brackets?  Well, we'd hate to leave you hanging.  So, Weagz, Forsberg's Foot, and I want to give you a better sense of the matchups for this opening round and why we think they'll break the way we chose.  For the second installment, the Western Conference:

Matteau the Magic Wrap-Around "does" the 1 v. 8 Matchup

#1 San Jose Sharks (51-20-11) versus #8 Colorado Avalanche (43-30-9)
San Jose has probably been the most "blah" #1 team in the NHL this year, lacking an explosive offensive season on the part of any of its players, or an unbelievable performance by its number one goaltender (sorry, Nabby, but it's still the Dead Puck Era).  What the Sharks have lost in explosiveness they've gained in all-around play, boasting some of the league's most underrated defensive forwards (Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Manny Malhotra) in addition to a largely stay-at-home defensive corps.  Unlike previous years, this team won't be relying on its offense to stay strong through the playoffs; hard-working, gritty players like Scott Nichol and Torrey Mitchell will carve out success, if they have to.

Colorado is a wild-card team, a group that has surprised as much as the Coyotes, and carries with them many of the weapons that made them so dangerous during the regular season.  But it's where Colorado differs from Phoenix that should come back to bite them.  Built around it's
 extremely youthful core, Colorado dealt with boom-or-bust performances all year, played out in front of the relatively steady work of Craig Anderson.  Their current struggles (3-5-2 in their last 10 games) have exposed the fragility of a team that has exceeded everyone's expectations.  Anderson has also been shaky, and at this time of year you need to play well in at least four games out of seven if you want to advance.

I'm picking
 San Jose to reverse their playoff curse, 4 games to Colorado's 2.

Weagz "does" the 2 v. 7 Matchup

#2 Chicago Blackhawks (52-22-8) versus #7 Nashville Predators (47-29-6)
Chicago isn’t a hard team to figure out. They are filled with stars and some goalie I’ve never heard of. 
Chicago is fast and they are relentless. They are the third-highest scoring team in the league, lead by young point-machines Patrick Kane (30-58-88) and Jonathan Toews (25-43-68) up front and supported in the back by the steady Duncan Keith (14-55-69). With all of that firepower, plus Brian Campbell on the point, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp up front, the Powerplay has underachieved this year, finishing in the middle of the league. While the powerplay is a mystery (although I am confident with all of that talent, they will get it going), the team is near the top of the league in Penalty Kill and Antti Niemi has been blazing hot. Will he stay hot in the playoffs? Will he crumble under the pressure? Will the Chicago Powerplay get it going?

Nashville is a middle-of-the-road team. They are 18th in goal scoring, and 14th in goals allowed. They do most of their damage 5-on-5 as both of their special teams are in the bottom-third of the league. When you consider the Predator’s prospects, you think of the exciting Shea Weber (16-27-43) blasting shots from the point Pekka Rinne (32W, 2.53GAA, .911 Sv %) doing the yeoman’s work in the pipes. Nashville doesn’t have a lot to excite people, but they get the job done. They find a way to win and they are gritty. Don’t sleep on the Preds, they seem to slip under the radar every year and find themselves still playing meaningful hockey in late April.

I’m rolling the dice on the Blackhawks. If they don’t get their PP worked out, Nashville has got just enough to give them fits and to hang around. If Rinne steals one in Chicago, this series will get very interesting. That said, I don’t think Rinne steals one and I think Chicago comes out with their skates on fire and dominates this series they are just too fast—too much firepower.
 Hawks in 4.


Matteau the Magic Wrap-Around "does" the 3 v. 6 Matchup

#3 Vancouver Canucks (49-28-5) versus #6 Los Angeles Kings (46-27-9)
A mediocre team to begin the season, the Canucks came out roaring after Daniel Sedin returned from injury.  The Sisters have not looked back, lifting the Canucks to the 3rd spot in the conference despite struggling to stay above .500 through the first 3 months.  On paper, this is a stellar team, boasting the explosiveness of The Sisters coupled with the hard-as-nails goal scorers in Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows.  Contributions from the back 6 are sparse, though Ehrhoff has quietly put together one of his best seasons.  The big question marks include the fact that, despite all his regular season accomplishments, we are still not completely sold on Luongo as a "big-game" goaltender.  Despite that melty-looking gold medal on his mantel, the Olympics did little to dispel the notion that we don't know what to expect out of him.  A slow finish to the season and a crushing 8-3 loss to the Kings (with Luongo in for all 8) in early April makes this even more concerning.

I love the Kings, I have to admit.  They have one of my favorite players (Dustin Brown) who I feel that I could have been in another life (gritty and annoying, throws hits even when it's not merited, cowlick), and a host of young veterans.  Despite their young ages, guys like Kopitar, Brown, Quick, Doughty, Simmonds, Frolov, and Johnson have all had enough time in the league to become more than just rookies.  Their energy can be smart and scary to even the best teams in the conference.  I'm not sold that Quick is a solid goaltender, but he has played well all year and it is really hard to gauge who will emerge in the playoffs and who won't.  On the flip side, Quick has played like a tired-out goaltender and might fall flat.

I'm going upset on this one,
 Kings in 5 games.  It will need to be a fast series or the Canucks will rebound.

Weagz "does" the 4 v. 5 Matchup

#4 Phoenix Coyotes (50-25-7) versus #5 Detroit Red Wings (44-24-14)
Apparently Gary Bettman thinks the Phoenix Coyotes are the dream franchise and a model for the future NHL. Apparently, Gary Bettman thinks the best way to make money is to play in front of an empty stadium and to use the other owner’s money to lose more money. What a model—how this guy retains his job is beyond me. I once asked a Phoenix resident why nobody goes to the ‘Yotes games, I asked if it was ignorance or apathy—he replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” I really struggle to talk about the Phoenix Coyotes as anything more than disfunction. That said, they did win 50 games this year—hooray! I’m so happy! Look—this team is really simple—Ilya Bryzgalov (42W, 2.29GAA, .920 Sv%) is scary good and is on a very short list for the Vezina. Keith Yandle (12-29-41) is VERY underrated in the back. They don’t score many goals (24th in the league), but they sure as heck don’t give up many either (3rd in the league). It’s no surprise that their PP is near the bottom of the league and their PK is near the top.

Hmm… Apparently the Detroit Red Wings are in the playoffs this year—wow! There’s a shocker. Hockeytown will be jumping again—especially on the backs of a 13-1-2 finish, enough to storm to the five-seed after a brief, albeit interesting, flirtation with missing the playoffs. If memory serves me correctly, Chris OsBAD (7W, 3.02GAA, .888 Sv%) played in the one loss. They are decent on offense, 14th in the league and Jimmy Howard (37W, 2.26GAA, .924 Sv%) has shored up the defensive core, ahem… Nicklas Lidstrom (9-40-49) doesn’t hurt either, as they rank 7th in goals against. Detroit’s offense makes it money on special teams (9th on the PP, and 10th on the PK). A few of their players had less-than-stellar offensive years, like Henrik Zetterberg (23-47-70) and injury-ladened Tomas Holmstrom (25-20-45), but Pavel Datsyuk had another banner year (27-43-70). When push comes to shove, it’s April in Hockeytown, so expect the superstars (Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, Rafalski) to find their game and also expect no-name-guys like Cleary, Eaves, Filppula, Draper, and the rest of the group to also pitch in. Howard has shown he’s capable of being the guy—but things are always a little different in the playoffs.

The question is between the pipes for the Red Wings—the offense is going to find a way—just as it does every playoff run for Detroit, but it won’t matter if Howard is giving up a half-dozen goals a game. Oh that’s right, they are playing Phoenix, and he’s a lot better than that. Red Wings upset the Coyotes in 5 games. Suck it Bettman!

Matteau the Magic Wrap-Around "does" the closing statement

Ladies and gentlemen, throw away those razors...let's...get...hairy!

Breaking Down the Opening Round - Eastern Conference

Need some clarification for our (occasionally) ridiculous choices in our brackets?  Well, we'd hate to leave you hanging.  So, Weagz, Forsberg's Foot, and I want to give you a better sense of the matchups for this opening round and why we think they'll break the way we chose.  For this first installment, the Eastern Conference:

Forsberg's Foot "does" The Eastern Conference

#1 Washington Capitals (54-15-13) versus #8 Montreal Canadiens (39-33-10)

Washington is an easy team to peg; lots of offense and little defense.  They boast an incredible offense (goals for is top in the NHL by a large margin), have an offensively capable but otherwise ordinary defense, and poor goaltending (only Pittsburgh and Ottawa have given up more goals among Eastern Conference playoff teams). Their powerplay is ranked first in the league (25.2%; Montreal is 2nd at 21.8%), but their PK is ranked 25th (78.8%). Up front, guys like Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin will probably put up plenty of points in this series. Compared to the Caps of previous years, though, they'll get secondary scoring support from Mike Knuble (29G, 24A), Brooks Laich (25G, 34A), and Tomas Fleischmann (23G, 28A). Deadline acquisition Jason Chimera was a nice pickup and should provide another weapon. On the blueline, Mike Green, Joe Corvo, and Tom Poti provide plenty of puck moving and point-producing capabilities. Meanwhile, the rest of the defense ranges from average stay-at-home guys to plainly below mediocre bottom pairing guys. I have absolutely no faith that Theodore can make up for this team's defensive blunders, and young goalie Semyon Varlamov is unproven.

Montreal does not boast an offense that can stand up to the Caps' offense. They only scored 217 goals this year, which only beats Boston's total amongst Eastern playoff teams. They will have to rely on forwards like Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta to keep them in games. Their 2nd-ranked powerplay might help them in that regard. However, stopping Washington's offense is another matter. I would imagine that Andrei Markov or Jaroslav Spacek will have the honor of shadowing Mr. Ovechkin. Dominic Moore will likely also get the nod of leading his checking line out there to keep Washington's first line in check. On the whole, Montreal is a better defensive team than Washington is, but unfortunately, they aren't backed by a proven goalie. Jaroslave Halak has had a good year, but I don't think he's up for this challenge.

I'm going with Washington in 5.

#2 New Jersey Devils (48-27-7) versus #7 Philly (41-35-6)

The more things change the more they stay the same. It feels like the year 2000 all over again; the Flyers will be starting Brian Boucher in net against the New Jersey Devils. Fortunately, Eric Lindros and Scott Stevens won't be around to provide a memorable ending to this series.

New Jersey possesses one of the most balanced lineups in the league.  They have a balanced scoring attack embedded within a defensively sound system that is anchored by the Sister Banger. Zach Parise, Ilya
Kovalchuk, and Patrick Elias will lead the offensive attack and they'll be supported by good all-around players like Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner. The Devils also dress plenty of guys that provide good grit up front: David Clarkson, Dainus Zubrus, and Rob Niedermayer. While their defense, at least from a personnel standpoint, isn't incredible, they get the job done. Paul Martin, who missed most of the year with injury, should provide added scoring from the back end. Andy Greene quietly put together a very good breakout year (6G, 31A).

The Flyers came into this season with high expectations. Sadly, those expectations have not been met. Less than stellar production up front coupled with inconsistent defensive play (with the exception of Norris Trophy hopeful Chris Pronger) led to the club relying on a shootout victory to propel them into the playoffs. The biggest question mark surrounding this team, not surprisingly, is Brian Boucher. There is perhaps no greater mismatch (on paper anyway) than that of Boucher vs. Sister Banger. However, that only tells part of the story. The Flyers' success will depend on their effort which, frankly, has been poor this year. Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, and Danny Briere will be asked to provide the bulk of scoring in this series. While their powerplay (ranked 3rd in the NHL) has been good for most of the year, it dried up quite a bit during the last few weeks of the season. Chris Pronger will get the pleasure of shadowing Parise, and if this defense
comes together like it is capable of doing, they might be able to keep New Jersey's production at a manageable rate.

While the Flyers handled the Devils in the season series, the mismatch in goal is too big to overlook. Unless Boucher puts together a magical run, I see New Jersey taking this series. Jersey in 7.

#3 Buffalo Sabres (45-27-10) versus #6 Boston Bruins (39-30-13)

The Sabres are another balanced team on paper. While their offense does not strike fear into the opposition, their 235 goals ranks 4th amongst Eastern conference playoff teams. Meanwhile, their very underrated defense is deep and productive. Having a 20-year-old rookie defenseman put up 48 points doesn't hurt, does it? The strength of this team, though, is between the pipes. I haven't been a big supporter of Ryan Miller over the years, but he promptly showed that my concerns were unfounded at the Olympics. Their 2nd-overall ranked penalty killing unit should help them out a lot in this series.

Boston has had a bit of a strange year. Their biggest problem has been that they can't score goals. Luckily, their 3rd-overall ranked penalty-killing unit, stout defense (only the Devils gave up fewer goals in the NHL), and emerging goalie Tuukka Rask kept them in the playoff hunt. Will this team be able to put up enough goals to win this series? I doubt it. The Bruins will miss Marc Savard and Dennis Seidenberg, and if they were going up against a team with a poor goalie between the pipes, I might be inclined to pick Boston. Their defense should keep them in this series. However, the combination of an impotent offense and rookie goalie is not a recipe for success in the playoffs.

Sabres in 7.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins (47-28-7) versus #5 Ottawa Senators (44-32-6)

My favorite team in the entire world had a regular season filled with pretty average play. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has not had a good year, and super-talented forward Evgeni Malkin has watched his production fall slightly compared to previous years. And somehow, the Pens could only manage a #19 ranked powerplay unit. Despite that, this remains a very-talented club. Sidney Crosby has improved his goal-scoring ability immensely compared to last year, and while I'll be the first one to criticize Penguin Nation for putting average to above-average defenseman up on a pedestal, the blueline is a good and deep group.  Jordan Staal is an excellent defensive forward, and he will lead a checking line that is tough to play against. While the wingers on this team are not superb, they don't have to be, and if this team flips the "on" switch like they are capable of, Fleury doesn't have to be superb either.

Ottawa is a tough team to get a read on. On paper, they look like an average offensive team saddled with a mediocre blueline and unproven goaltending. Not exactly a recipe for success, now is it? Then again, I did not think that this team would even make the playoffs, so they must be doing something right. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza will lead things up front, while tough as nails Anton Volchenkov and Chris Philips anchor the blueline. Youngster Brian Elliot gets the nod between the pipes. While he's shown an ability to get hot, the
playoffs can be a different animal. It should be interesting to see how he reacts.

I expect the Pens to flip on the switch and finish off Ottawa pretty easily here. Pittsburgh in 5.

BN Gives You a Muddled Picture of How We Think the Playoffs Are Going to Shake Out

Long title, but it saves me words down here.

Matteau the Magic Wrap-Around's Picks (in other words, the right ones):

Power Rankin's Picks:

Forsberg's Foot's Picks:

Weagz's Picks:

Blog Cosby's Picks:

If you point and click on any one of these it will get larger.  That's what she said.

Monday, April 12, 2010

NHL Power Rankin's - Year in Review edition

It has been a great inaugural year for the NHL Power Rankin's - following in the footsteps of, and building upon the sturdy franchise name made famous by the NFL Power Rankin's over the past half-decade. I'd like to thank the Academy, and all my loyal listeners...

Let it be known that since Bettman's Nightmare went live, the Rankin's have had this year's edition of the Phoenix Coyotes ranked in the top 5 - making their debut at #3 back in early January. So like Southern hockey or not, you can at least count on the Rankin's to provide you a filter through your bias that enables you to speak intelligently on hockey matters.

The year's final Big Mover award goes to Nashville, which fell 8 spots on losses to Florida, Carolina and the Islanders to close the season. Not the most promising of trends as the Preds enter the playoffs.

All the usual suspects can be seen at the top - except for Pittsburgh, that is. Don't be surprised to see the Penguins make an early exit from the post-season this year. Rankin' 11th going into the post-season with no power play to speak of and sieve-like goaltending has this native 'burgher less than hopeful for a repeat - Rocket Richard trophy or not.

The highest finish for a non-playoff team is St. Louis (#13). They couldn't quite pull of an 08-09 Anaheim run, but they gave it a good fight. On the flip side, Montreal finishes lowest of the 16 post-season entrants, at #20. If I were a Habs fan (or player, for that matter), the prospect of playing Washington in the first round would likely have killed my spirit, too.

Toronto wins the year's Consistency award. Despite Edmonton's presence in the league, the Leafs managed to hold onto the 30th spot in the Rankin's for the lion's share of the year.

Based upon their respective places in the final Rankin's, I'll give the Overachiever award to the Los Angeles Kings - finishing in a surpising 5th place - and the Underachiever award (and oh, how I relish this) to the Philadelphia Flyers. Sorry, but I don't see Chris Pronger bringing the long-elusive gleam of the Cup home to Broad Street despite the hopes, dreams and flat-out guarantees of the Philadelphia phaithful.

1) (1) Phoenix
2) (2) Washington
3) (4) Chicago
4) (5) San Jose
5) (6) Los Angeles
6) (7) Buffalo
7) (8) Detroit
8) (3) Nashville
9) (9) Vancouver
10) (12) New Jersey
11) (10) Pittsburgh
12) (11) Colorado
13) (16) St. Louis
14) (14) Ottawa
15) (15) Anaheim
16) (13) Calgary
17) (18) Boston
18) (19) Dallas
19) (20) Philadelphia
20) (17) Montreal
21) (21) Atlanta
22) (22) NY Rangers
23) (23) Minnesota
24) (24) Florida
25) (26) Carolina
26) (25) NY Islanders
27) (29) Tampa Bay
28) (27) Columbus
29) (28) Edmonton
30) (30) Toronto

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Boo the Rangers!

The BN Readers' Choice Player Awards

As the season wraps up today, we too at Bettman's Nightmare wrap up our own event, the reader's poll for NHL player awards.  Admittedly, we only represent a small slice of the hockey opinion world, but in the long run you will probably see a lot of the real winners reflected by these picks.  So, without further ado, your choices:

Masterton Trophy:  Michael Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens

Cammalleri narrowly edged out Tim Connolly and Marian Gaborik to nab the Masterton, but truly any one of these players deserved the award for their impressive comebacks from injury (or injuries).  I like to think I influenced this decision.

Lady Byng Trophy:  My Mom

She's actually not that nice to me.
Jack Adams Award:  Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes

Tippett gets the nod as most of us agree that, really, taking the Coyotes to the playoffs is nearly the most difficult thing to do.  At least since Gordon Bombay took a rag-tag bunch of kids to a state pee-wee championship...

Selke Trophy:  Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks & Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

We have co-winners for the Selke, as both Kesler and Datsyuk edged out David Backes for top honors.  It's hard to deny the contribution of either player, as Kesler takes care of the defensive side of the puck for a potent Canucks offense and Datsyuk continues to be one of the best all-around players in the league.

Calder Trophy:  Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

Dangerous playoff teams rarely become so without scary-good goaltending, and Howard has solidified the Red Wings' place as the team to look out for going into the postseason.  Going 37-15-10 over 63 games (61 starts) with a 92.4 save percentage, saving the Red Wings' season after Osgood proved to be ineffective in is hard to argue that any other rookie meant more to his team than Howard.

Norris Trophy:  Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

With great skill on both ends of the ice, only Tippett had a more overwhelming victory in our polls.  The 69 points and 14 goals were a pleasant surprise for the defensively-reliable Keith.

Vezina Trophy:  Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

In an incredibly close vote, Miller edged out Breezer for the Vezina.  And really, who can argue?  He went 41-18-8 in 69 games (68 starts) with a 92.9 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average (he was 2nd in the NHL in the latter two categories).  He brought a good team up to the status of a great team.  And now we'll see what he can do in the playoffs.

Hart Trophy:  Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres & Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes

For as close as the Vezina vote was, the Hart vote was even closer.  And frankly, it doesn't do either player justice to say one was more important to his team.  Neither the Sabres nor the Coyotes could have made the playoffs without the performance of their starting goalies, plain and simple.

Thanks for voting!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Olympic Pain Points Redux

As the Playoffs approach, it’s time to revisit our Olympic Pain Point blog. As you recall, we saw a number of the truly talented NHL teams send a majority of their teams to the Olympics. At the top of this list were the Sharks, Devils, Canucks, and Ducks. Meanwhile, the Islanders, Panthers, and Oilers all huddled around their respective captain’s Big Screen to watch the Olympics on TV, without much participation in the games themselves. Two things that strike me as noteworthy right away—the Sharks, Devils, Canucks, and Ducks seem to be better teams than the Islander, Panthers, and Oilers.

But the more interesting question is, how much did the Sharks, Devils, Canucks, and Ducks suffer from sending a significant portion of their team to Vancouver? How much did the couch time help the Islanders, Panthers, and Oilers? The short answer is—not much. There appears to not be any correlation between Olympic Pain Points and Post-Olympic Performance. If you were a 1-pt./game team prior to the Olympics and you sent a truckload of players to the Olympics, like Anaheim, you are a 1-pt./game team after the Olympics. It isn’t surprising that the Sharks, Devils, and Canucks are still good. It also isn’t surprising that the Panthers, Islanders, and Oilers are not that good.

(Teams are ranked by biggest drop-off in points/game after the Olympics)
NHL Teams Olympians Total Pain Total Pain Grade
Tampa Bay Lightning 4 1200 D
San Jose Sharks 8 2048 F
Chicago Blackhawks 6 1036 C
Colorado Avalanche 3 728 B
Dallas Stars 4 560 A
Los Angeles Kings 5 1020 C
Ottawa Senators 5 1244 E
Philadelphia Flyers 5 1008 C
Minnesota Wild 5 1108 D
Atlanta Thrashers 5 1312 E
Florida Panthers 2 1088 C
Buffalo Sabres 4 1284 E
New Jersey Devils 6 1980 F
Boston Bruins 5 1232 E
Calgary Flames 3 1088 D
Pittsburgh Penguins 5 1216 D
Anaheim Ducks 7 1648 F
Edmonton Oilers 2 504 A
Vancouver Canucks 7 1868 F
New York Rangers 5 1104 D
Columbus Blue Jackets 6 788 B
Washington Capitals 5 896 B
Phoenix Coyotes 3 872 B
New York Islanders 1 448 A
St. Louis Blues 3 420 A
Nashville Predators 6 996 C
Montreal Canadiens 6 1344 E
Carolina Hurricanes 3 512 A
Toronto Maple Leafs 5 760 B
Detroit Red Wings 7 1580 F

Of the teams that saw a spike after the Olympics, (Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Canadiens, and Coyotes) Phoenix only sent three individuals to Vancouver, whereas Detroit sent 7, so perhaps this is just a case of teams either turning it on and getting good, or having more favorable schedules in the second-half. Conversely, the teams that fell apart in the second half (Blackhawks, Lightning, and Sharks) sent a mixed-bag of representatives to the Olympics.

Some teams had a good last-quarter of the season, others struggled, but it appears that the Olympics did not impact their performance. More interestingly, Just as a tiger reveals its stripes, so too does an NHL teams.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Allow Me to Deter You...Matteau the Magic Wrap-Around's Picks for the Anti-Player Awards

For all the influencing you might have been sucked into last week, I think it's only fair I turn you off this week. Besides, you've probably seen enough awards predictions outside of ours to make your heads swell, and frankly that's a little too much Ovechkin/Crosby for my refined taste.  So says the guy posting pictures of oversize men in training bras...

Anyways, I think that it is essential that, as an NHL blog, we give credit where it's due.  Also, we should give non-credit where it's due.  Lest you even dream of suggesting them...I present to you the Anti-Player Awards for 2009-10.

The Barry Melrose Trophy for Coaching Excellence
Great teams typically follow great leaders.  The Lightning followed Barry Melrose last year.  Let's just say that the Lightning cut bait before Barry could empty the contents of his hope chest.  The Barry goes to Ken Hitchcock of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who's team followed a promising 2008-09 with a real shit in Columbus fans' oatmeal in 2009-10.  But seriously, the only place this guy doesn't wear out his welcome is the drive-thru at Denny's.

Believe it or not, he's not saying anything in this picture.  It's been his expression all year.

The Viktor Kozlov Award for Determination & Perseverance
This anti-Masterton goes to show you that guys can battle back from cancer, overcome years of injury, or lose one of his berries and yet still not do enough to inspire some other players.  To Kozlov's credit, he seemed more interested when playing with Ovechkin.  A little bit.  Then he left.  This year's "driven" player is none other than Shane O'Brien, aka Party Boy.  After being verbally spanked by his coach for showing up late for practice, a fun photo gave us a little taste of what Roxy club hero O'Brien was up to the night before.  It's not so much the partying, it's that everybody else rocks the party and still makes it to practice.  Now that's perseverance.  Right, Phil?

The Kirk McLean Medal for Goaltending Excellence
I admit, it's a personal vendetta.  McStain wasn't that good with the Cutnucks, and he was even worse with the Rangers.  Besides, "Kirk" is one letter removed from my least favorite name of all time, "Dirk."  No offense, Dirk Graham.  So who get's the anti-Vezina (I considered calling it the Veskala, but to go after Toskala is too easy nowadays)?  Chris Osgood.  You had this one coming, buddy, and now that Soda Jerk Jimmy has taken your spot, there's no one to defend you.  Your name is a misnomer.  You've been nut-dirt terrible this year.

Mclean? Terrible.  Osgood? Nut-dirt terrible.

The Claude Lemieux Trophy for Gentlemenl...Oh, Who Am I Kidding?
Yeah, this was a tough one because the NHL is full of pricks.  I know how to resolve this...(wheel spin)...big money! biiiggg money!...(click-click-click)...Matt Cooke!  What a dick!

The David Harlock Award for Best All-Around Defenseman
Never hear of the Morlock?  He was so good he played for four teams in eight seasons!  Wait...that's not a barometer for success?  But they were the Leafs, Capitals, Islanders, and Thrash...hmmm...but it was those teams in the late 1990s...hmmm...okay, he was great in college!  Or he must've been, since I can only find one video of him on YouTube and it was while playing for Minnesota.  During practice.  And he didn't score then, either.
Who gets the Harlock?  Why, it's none other than Brendan Witt, who even after his +/- is adjusted to his team's average +/- still ranks the lowest among defensemen with a -20.  Add to that a stellar .16 points per 20 minutes and you really can't find a guy who lifts his team more.  Except everyone (and yes, this includes Jeff Finger).

The Anti Ross Trophy
Cam Janssen and Raitis Ivanans can share this one with 0 points in 41 and 58 games, respectively.  Even Brent Sopel looked like Paul Coffey compared to these two.  I'd hesitate before calling them useless, though I don't know why.  Oh yeah, because they'd probably put a Sherwood Feather-Lite up my ass.

It's a "rugged" hamdsome.  As in some rugged mountain man made him of sticks, pitch, and discarded, melted action figures.

The Richard Zemlak Memorial Trophy
All you need to know about Zemlak has been well-documented, though he is still alive.  Just memorable.  The Anti-Hart is always hard to choose because there are so many players that seem to have no value.  Kyle Chipchura comes to mind.  Andrew Peters, too.  But when a guy goes 58 games without a point, gets a -8 (adj.: -33!), and takes only 16 shots, there's reason to think he's really something not special.  With two awards today, the big winner is Raitis Ivanans!  

A player like Ivanans only comes by once, maybe twice a year.

In closing, a beautiful song per Ivanans' request (he always plays it at parties; I think he brings the CD):

If that doesn't clinch the Zemlak, nothing will.

P.S. Have some non-winners of your own?  Let us know in the comments.  If they're bad enough, I won't hesitate to put them up there next to a picture of Bea Arthur with her fist in her mouth.
P.P.S.  Don't forget to vote!  See to the right side of the blog!