“Red Hot Topics on Cold Ice-Hockey Playoffs”
The best time of the year, if you are a hockey fans…
GULLS…The American Hockey League franchise is a raging success. Crowds of 12,000 or more have become the norm. The Gulls used 50-players this year, and still went (43-20-5). Look at who they have sent to the Anaheim Ducks, goalie John Gibson, winger Nick Ritchie, and stud young defensemen Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore. How deep the Gulls go in the AHL playoffs will depend on how hot their goaltending can get, and if they can score goals. They have one of the best defensive teams in the AHL, but struggle to put the biscuit in the basket. With all the callups, Dallas Eakins is putting alot of just signed college kids on the ice nightly. A month ago, most of them were in NCAA games. The AHL playoffs are a real grind. They face Ontario to start the journey on Friday.
DUCKS…Can you say NHL Stanley Cup finals? Veterans, kids, fiestiness, size, skill, and strong goaltending. Ryan Getzlaf is on a tear, only a veteran can provide. You wonder if Ryan Kesler of Kevin Bieksa were still in Vancouver, if the Canucks would still be playing? Who’d expect a combined 51-goals from Rikard Rakell-Jacob Silfverberg..Very good, very deep team…Excellend job by the front office stockpiling talent….and now Shea Theodore-Nick Ritchie scoring key goals at most important time of season.
KINGS…They won, they paid out big money, they got old, the coach and GM both got fired. The way of life in the NHL if you start overpaying players, and make mistakes in drafts. The Kingds did both. It’s like everyone up there makes 8M a year, and half of them shouldn’t be making half that figure. A tough challenge ahead for Rob Blake to fix the mistakes GM-Dean Lombardi left behind. The stunner this year, after the deals a year ago, he needed a goal scorer at the trading deadline, and instead got another goaltender, that he did not need.
OILERS…It took 11-years, but Edmonton is back in the playoffs. Yes it’s Connor McDavid’s team, flanked by alot of young high draft picks, better goaltending and the arrival of Marian Lucic-joining vet Pat Maroon. But it has been the leadership of coach Todd McLellan who did such a great job at San Jose, that has really made a difference.
MAPLE LEAFS…In two short season, Mike Babcock-Brendan Shanahan have flipped the franchise, with a strong front office series of moves…turning Toronto into a budding NHL power. Yes Austin Matthews (40G) is a star, but they have so much firepower alongside him, a bunch of no names on defense, and a young veteran goalie Frederic Andersen, this is a really good team.
MONTREAL…Goalie Cary Price carries the workload, but a red-hot goaltender can make a difference in these series. They work hard, and Claude Julian has them hitting. Do they have enough firepower to win games is the big question..still not enough help for Max Pacioretty..
SAN JOSE…The Sharks have an ailing Joe Thornton,but they have a cast of really good veterans, playoff tested, Burns, Coture, Marleau, Pavelski to grind thru series. Has G-Martin Jones really established himself yet as a star?
FLAMES..They’ve been building, have goal scorers, can skate, and have a lockdown defense. They might be a year away from going deep into post-season. Sean Monahan and his buddies Tkachuck, Gaudreau, Frolik, Backland are really good. But this 28-game losing streak on Anaheim ice, dating back to 2004, is an albatross around their neck.
PENGUINS…What’s not to like about Pittsburgh, and it’s not just Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin is back healthy. Have the people in the crease. Have survived some really bad injuries to defense, notably Kris Letang, to likely get to the finals in the East.
RANGERS…Henrik Lundqvist is spectacular, but do they have enough snipers to take the pressure off their star-studded veteran goalie. Mike Zuccarello, Rick Nash and friends need to make a difference.
CAPITALS…It starts with Alexander Ovechkin and bunch of worker bees on various lines. Niklas Backman may be as good a player in the NHL no one knows about. Brandon Holtby does look at alot of rubber. So explosive, they could be playing into May easily.
COLUMBUS…John Tortorella had this team on a 15-game win streak in December. Too bad the playoffs didn’t start then.
MINNESOTA…The post season curse of Bruce Boudreau followed him from the Ducks to the Wild. This end of season fade is about to put them out of business. Minnesota is (4-14-2) since mid-March and now down (3-0) in their St Louis series.
BLUES…Thank goodness for Bryan Elliott the goalie and Vlad Tarasenko..
BOSTON..Coaching change worked..just not sure enough firepower to help Brad Marchand..
OTTAWA…Not enough goal-scoring, but the marvelous story of goalie Craig Anderson, backstopping this team, while spending time with his young wife in a bitter battle against cancer.
NASHVILLE…Who are these guys? It’s more than just the energy of PK Subban, but the Preds are a tough matchup. Just ask the Blackhawks about dealing with G-Pekka Rinne. Wow they work hard.
CHICAGO…Shocking they are in the playoff hole they are in, after re-tooling the roster a couple of times in between Stanley Cup parades. Number of veterans have gone MIA for the Blackhawks in this series. Kane-Toews need to earn their pay. More roster changes coming.