10.04.2006

Puck drop

Let the season begin with some quick hits.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Martin Brodeur was inconsistent at times, but still led the league with 43 wins ... Harvest's husband, Brian Gionta (affectionately known by column castigator Chris Altruda in the M.G. as "that widget") will top 50 goals and 100 points for the first time ... Patrik Elias is healthy again.

2. NEW YORK RANGERS: What more can Henrik Lundqvist do in net during his second season? Get the Rangers past the quarterfinals ... Petr Prucha burst on the scene with 30 goals in his rookie season, and needs to avoid the sophomore slump ... Jaromir Jagr was nosed out by Jonathan Cheechoo for the Maurice Richard Trophy and Joe Thornton for the Art Ross Trophy after a 54-goal, 123-point season.

3. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Peter Forsberg and Antero Niittymaki must stay healthy -- and that's not a given ... Simon Gagne was three goals short of 50 last season, and may be hard-pressed to duplicate that ... Did Mike Knuble really have 13 power-play goals last year?

4. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: At some point this season, they will likely have one of the top two picks from the last four drafts -- Marc Andre-Fleury (No. 1, '03), Evgeni Malkin (No. 2, '04), Sidney Crosby (No. 1, '05) and Jordan Staal (No. 2, '06) -- in the lineup at the same time. They're still not going anywhere, except eventually to Kansas City or Winnipeg.

5. NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Major applause for bringing back Ted Nolan to coach in the NHL. He may want to quit by Christmas ... Rick DiPietro will be laughing to the bank. He needs to find out what branch Alexei Yashin (the "petulant Russian prick," according to the column castigator) uses ... Biggest offseason move was signing Mike Sillinger. He joins his 12th team in 15 seasons, and he's scored more than 20 goals just twice.

NORTHEAST DIVISION

1. BUFFALO SABRES: Beware the Buffaslugs ... Goaltender Ryan Miller missed 18 games last season with a broken thumb and still found a way to win 30 games ... Daniel Briere has 25 goals and 33 assists in an injury-shortened season a year ago. If they stay healthy, they win.

2. OTTAWA SENATORS: "Swiss Miss" Martin Gerber is in net after the Dominik Hasek experiment fails ... Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley will fight tooth-and-nail again for the scoring lead ... the loss of Zdeno Chara (forever known as "Alice the Goon" in the M.G.) will hurt some ... Andrej Meszaros was a plus-34 last season. I would be too on that team.

3. MONTREAL CANADIENS: "Les natifs" are getting restless for another Stanley Cup ... After seven shutouts in 36 games a year ago, Cristobal "Baby" Huet was the real deal. Now do it again ... Underachieving Sergei Samsonov replaces Mike Ribeiro.

4. BOSTON BRUINS: Just getting rid of the gold "Winnie the Pooh" jerseys means they're headed in the right direction .... Zdeno Chara will become a fan favorite ... Phil Kessel leaves the University of Minnesota for Beantown ... Tim Thomas and Hannu Toivonen? Remember the name Tuuka Rask.

5. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: New coach Paul Maurice was born the year the Leafs last won the Cup -- 1967 ... Fans will soon learn Andrew Raycroft is more like Jim Carey than Ed Belfour ... Mats Sundin is coming up on 500 goals and that may be the only reason to watch.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

1. WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Surprise. Alexander Ovechkin really is God ... Washington will win, but also will give up a lot of goals ... Chris Clark and Matt Pettinger are underrated, but will score 20 each again.

2. CAROLINA HURRICANES: Cup hangover hits Raleigh ... Cam Ward was exceptional in a short postseason -- welcome to the regular-season grind ... Josef Vasicek will be missed more than they think ... Eric Staal doesn't reach 100 points this season.

3. ATLANTA THRASHERS: If Ovechkin is God, what does that make Ilya Kovalchuk? ... Noted whiner Marc Savard is gone but so are the 97 points he scored last season ... Marian Hossa continues his development as a finesse player; his goal totals have gone down while his assists have gone up each of the last two seasons.

4. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Anyone feel like hitting a bar with coach John Tortorella after a loss? Plenty of chances this season ... Unsung hero Fredrik Modin -- 60 goals, 17 PPG over the last two seasons -- will be missed ... Martin St. Louis needs to improve on a 61-point season from last year.

5. FLORIDA PANTHERS: Could challenge the Islanders as the worst team in the East ... Roberto Luongo was a rock in net, not so sure about Alex Auld ... Player to watch: center Rostislav Olesz. Trust me.

CENTRAL DIVISION

1. NASHVILLE PREDATORS: The trendy pick to win this season and for good reason ... Paul Kariya gets help on offense from newcomers Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont ... Another name to remember: Alexander Radulov ... Tomas Vokoun's health still a concern after blood clotting.

2. DETROIT RED WINGS: The last go-round of success in Hockeytown ... With Steve Yzerman now in the front office and Brendan Shanahan in New York, Nicklas Lidstrom becomes the face of the franchise ... He's 41 and injury-prone, but he's still Dominik Hasek.

3. ST LOUIS BLUES: They're not making the playoffs, but they will improve over last season's 57-point debacle ... Manny Legace gives them a legit starting goalie perhaps for the first time since Greg Millen ... Bill Guerin comes over from Dallas and Doug Weight returns from a Cup winner in Carolina ... New ownership led by Dave Checketts and new president John Davidson provide stability.

4. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: The Pascal LeClaire show gets underway in Ohio, but watch for backup Fredrik Norrena ... Fredrik Modin and Anson Carter provide another offensive dimension besides Rick Nash and David Vyborny ... Is Nikolai Zherdev worth the money and the trouble? Ten of his 27 goals last season on the power play.

5. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: Will Tuomo Ruutu play an injury-free season? No ... Can Bill Wirtz die soon enough so "Islanders Midwest" can become relevant again? No ... After wearing No. 53 last season, Nikolai Khabibulin hopes No. 39 will be a little luckier ... Martin Havlat, welcome to NHL Hell.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

1. CALGARY FLAMES: In Miikka, we trust -- Kiprusoff logs 12 shutouts this season ... Jarome Iginla finally gets help with the arrival of Alex Tanguay ... Flames won the division last season despite third-fewest goals in the West .. watch Dion Phaneuf play and count how many Norris Trophies he will win.

2. MINNESOTA WILD: No one will be happier to see Pavol Demitra on the ice than linemate and countryman Marian Gaborik ... Not sure if Brian Rolston will duplicate his career-best 79-point season or if Pierre-Marc Bouchard can build off his breakout season a year ago.

3. EDMONTON OILERS: Too many pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle left -- Chris Pronger to Ducks, Michael Peca to Leafs, Sergei Samsonov to Habs ... Dwayne Roloson and Fernando Pisani need to show last season's playoff magic was no fluke ... Joffrey Lupul will feel no pressure playing in front of the hometown fans.

4. VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Welcome coach Alain Vigneault and goalie Roberto Luongo ... just not having the presence of Todd Bertuzzi around makes them better ... Anson Carter's 33 goals will be missed ... Can one of the Sedins become a 30-goal scorer?

5. COLORADO AVALANCHE: So not sold on Jose Theodore ... Joe Sakic will reach 1,500 career points this year, but this also will be the season he starts to show his age ... Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos begin to assert themselves as stars ... Toughness added with waiver pickup George Parros.

PACIFIC DIVISION

1. SAN JOSE SHARKS: Cheechoo is level-headed enough not to live off his 56-goal season from a year ago ... the Vesa and Evgeni show needs to be settled in net. Nabokov will head to an Eastern team and I'm thinking Washington ... Patrick Marleau had nine preseason goals ... Watch for Steve Bernier.

2. DALLAS STARS: Mike Modano becomes the all-time leading U.S.-born scorer ... Marty Turco is great in net during the regular season, but not a sure thing come playoff time ... Jere Lehtinen is still vastly underrated ... Jussi Jokinen is a lot of fun to watch in a shootout.

3. ANAHEIM DUCKS: Chris Pronger joins a loaded defense ... like in San Jose, the Ducks need to settle on Ilya or J.S. in net, unless coach Randy Carlyle decides to go with the hot hand ... No way Teemu Selanne has 90 points again this season.

4. PHOENIX COYOTES: Glendale Arena's new nickname -- "The Retirement Community" ... Jeremy Roenick? Owen Nolan? Did they learn anything from Brett Hull last season and is Wayne going to lace them up again? ... Ladislav Nagy has missed 66 games over the last two seasons and has yet to score 25 goals ... CuJo is 39.

5. LOS ANGELES KINGS: Dan Cloutier brings a fiery personality to laid-back southern California ... Rob Blake comes back ... rookies Patrick O'Sullivan and Anze Kopitar are reasons to watch ... Lubomir Visnovsky had 41 of his 67 points a year ago on the power play.

1 comment:

kansas brat said...

Harvest sounds like a porn star name.

Or illegal body organ thief.

Either way, a tad creepy.

Which reminds me... you are the posting fool! One of these days I'll get around to creating original text.

Until then... go check out Degolar's list of best high school movies: href "http://through-the-prism.blogspot.com/2006/10/your-favorites.html"