Friday, February 11, 2011

New York Rangers at Atlanta Thrashers

Two teams free falling in the Eastern Conference meet tonight in Atlanta where something has to give. The Rangers have lost 5 in a row and if it weren't for the collapse of the Thrashers, might be on the outside looking in right now. The Thrashers are just 4 points behind the Rangers for 7th place and 1 point behind 8th place Carolina. A Thrashers win (just 2 wins in last 13 games) would climb Atlanta into 8th place and just two points behind the Rangers. Another Rangers loss and most fans would go into complete panic mode.
However, the last two seasons the Thrashers have moved up into being a respectable team. Since trading Kovalchuk, the Thrashers went on a great run just to fall short of the playoffs last year. However, they have yet to win an important game. Tonight is one of the most important games in the young history of the franchise. A big win at home could propel the team and get them back on track. Also helping the cause is the return of Tobias Enstrom.

However, the Rangers have a Stanley Cup winning coach and have had 3 days off since losing a tough one in Detroit. We don't trust Atlanta's ability to win big games and the Rangers have shown they are good enough to make the playoffs.

Pick: Rangers -105

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Toronto at NY Islanders

The Maple Leafs travel to Long Island coming off a win at home against the Thrashers last night. The Isles have been off since Saturday and come off a 5-3 win in a spirited game with the Senators.
The Isles have played better under Jack Capuano and are starting to get healthy albeit too little too late. Kyle Okposo is back and on a line with Frans Nielson and Michael Grabner and they have produced some offense for the Islanders while Milan Jurcina is back on defense. The Islanders are 14-9-3 with Jurcina in the lineup this season.

Toronto has struggled once again this season but have a bright spot as of late. 22 year old James Reimer was called up to fill a void due to injury this season but has played so solid that they couldn't send him back down. It appears he will be in net tonight for Toronto as he holds a 5-4 record, a 2.38 GAA and .929 save %.

The Isles will go with another young goalie who is still up because of injuries but his play also has heads turning around the league. 20 year old Kevin Poulin holds a 4-2-1 record, 2.44 GAA and .924 save %.

Tonight's game is pretty much meaningless in terms of playoff position but the Poulin and Reimer matchup could be one we see for a very long time.
Tonight's Pick: Islanders -125. Simply because we don't think Toronto can win back to back nights and travel in order to do so coming off a tough fought win.

Tuesday Timeout

Top Five Players to be Moved at Trade Deadline

It's a date that has been circled on the calendar all season for hockey fans. Monday, February 28th is the day for contenders to make that last move which could result in a Stanley Cup, and for rebuilding teams to sell of veterans for future assets. Last years deadline saw 53 players moved and according to TSN that was the most ever. This years deadline could virtually attract the same amount of activity. Hockeysureshot feels that five NHL clubs are realistically eliminated from playoff contention. They are Edmonton, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Toronto and Ottawa. We feel that Florida, St. Louis, and Columbus will be teetering on the brink of elimination by month's end.

Which leaves us to the five most attractive players to be moved by contenders. First, let's take a look at the clubs who are projected to be the most active. The Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Ray Shero always seem to make a move at the deadline. With the injury to Evgeni Malkin, and the health concerns of Sidney Crosby look for the Penguins to acquire a forward.

The NY Rangers are in the midst of a losing streak and badly need a point man on their struggling power play. Los Angeles could use a winger to play with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Two Northeast division rivals, Boston and Montreal are looking for a stay at home defensemen. Throw in the San Jose Sharks as another team looking for defense. The Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators desperately need offense.

The goaltending market seems dry, but are the Philadelphia Flyers comfortable with Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher? Does Washington truly feel confident in Semyon Varlmov and Michal Neuvirth between the pipes? Below we break it down.

Breakdown of top five players to be moved:

#5 Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators

Veteran defensemen who has struggled on a awful Ottawa team this season. He is a free agent at the end of the year which is important and will probably welcome a change of scenery. Philips has not registered a goal and is a -26 this season. He clearly has missed former defense partner Anton Volchenkov. He is big at 6'3 220 lbs. and would clearly help a team that has a solid defense.

Prediction: We'll guess that Philips ends up a Boston Bruin. Boston has offensive assets that Ottawa desperately needs.

#4 Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers

Penner is the Oilers leading scorer, but that's not saying much since he only has 34 points. He's a streaky scorer who had success in the playoffs with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. He is signed through next season so the team that acquires him will need to have salary cap space. Penner would be a good fit on a line with a skilled center.

Prediction: The Pittsburgh Penguins were looking for a forward before the injuries to Crosby and Malkin. Penner may be their best option.

#3 Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs

It seems like Kaberle has been on the market for years. Toronto needs to move the free agent to be and start building with young players in the organization. He may be a bit overrated, but will undoubtedly help a team looking for offense from the blueline.

Prediction: The NY Rangers are the most logical fit and we can't see why he wouldn't waive his no trade clause to play on Broadway.

#2 Bryan McCabe, Florida Panthers

McCabe is having a solid year for Florida and would add grit and leadership to any clubs blueline. The Panthers are continuing to rebuild and are realistically a year or two away from serious playoff contenders. The value of physical stay at home defensemen come playoff time can't be underestimated. Florida Panthers GM, Dale Tallon should receive plenty of offers for McCabe right down to the final hour.

Prediction: Montreal would love to pair him with Hal Gill, especially since they have lost Andrei Markov for the season.

#1 Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers

Here is our surprise of the trade deadline. The Florida Panthers Tomas Vokoun is an elite goalie who is not signed past this year. They have the highly regarded, Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings. If the Panthers are still sitting seven points out of the playoffs by the end of the month they may have to move Vokoun to get something back for him at least. The bigger question is if any of the contenders are seriously looking at a goaltender. If they are, Vokoun would be a huge addition.

Prediction: The Washington Capitals can say all they want about how they like their young goalies, but if the opportunity presents itself to acquire Vokoun they would have to consider it. With the Penguins injury issues and the Flyers having goaltending questions of their own, this could be a move that make the Capitals the favorites in the Eastern Conference. There has to be enormous pressure on Washington to advance far in the playoffs this season and they may feel a goalie like Vokoun may give them their best shot.