Game 7

Quick write-up here before the commencement of the first Overtime period in Game 7 of the Boston Bruins-Washington capitals series. These games are the reason we watch sports, the potential excitement, the potential disappointment. Remember as your watching the game that if one shot squeaks through, a hero will be born, but also a goat will be born, the hero will be forgotten by the end of the next series, the goat will be remembered until at least next season. So take in the beauty of this seventh game and all of the positives in the game, because after the game everyone will be talking about the goat, including myself who will probably write an article on his terrible play.

-Vernon Smells
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The Greatest Hockey Game Ever And What Else Ive Learned From Game 3 Of The Battle For Pensylvania

The Pens-Flyers series has been crazy, to say the least. The Flyers came back from 3-0 deficit in game one to win in overtime. The Flyers then came back in game 2 to win again and take an 2-0 lead in the series. In an NHL playoffs that has started to look like the 70′s with all the fights, the Pens and Flyers series has proven to be the most violent and brutal, all this set the stage for game 3. The Flyers lit up the Pens in the first period to take the lead 4-2. Its not the 6 goals in the first period that was shaping this game to be a masterpiece, it was the fights! There were a couple major fights in the first and you could see the bad blood brewing. The second period had less goals and less fights but was just the calm before the storm. By the end of the 2nd period the score was 6-4 for the Pens. This all brings us to the third. With a win out of sight for the Pens with the score being 8-4. The only smart thing to come would be a fight, AND WHAT A FIGHT! There were bodies everywhere, everyone was in the mix. After every dirty play that happened in the series, they decided to spill the most blood possible. The fights caused close to a 10 min break within the game. Now enough with the synopsis, I shall now list everything I took from the game.

1) Marc Andre-Fleury is a terrible goalie. I have never been a Fleury fan, I’ve always thought he was overrated and could never tolerate people putting him up there as the leagues best. Midway through the 3rd period a stat flashed across my screen which stated that Marc Andre-Fleury was 5-0 after a game where he had let in in 5 or more goals. My dad (whom I was watching the game with) thought that was quite the stat but I couldn’t believe that they would give him any dues for such an atrocity of goaltending. Granted he’s 5-0 the next game after letting in 5+ goals BUT what goalie lets in 5+ goals. There’s a reason they’ve never showed that for Tim Thomas (another player I dispise) or for Jonathan Quick.

2) Crosby should be treated equally by the refs and if not it could mark the end of his career. Another player I have never liked is Sidney Crosby. As of late he’s been scrutinized for his cheap shots. This has left me on cloud 9, I have always hated him for his cheap shots and “tough talk” but once in the thick of things somebody else would have to fight his battles. That happened tonight when he got into a fight with Scott Hartnell but once the fight started Adams got into it and fought Hartnell. The two were then kicked out of the game. Crosby should’ve been kicked out of the game for starting the altercation with Hartnell but instead was just sent to the sin bin. The NHL has to start treating Crosby as if he is any other player in this series. This is the same situation we saw with the Sedins and Duncan Keith. But if Crosby is to keep up this scrappy play we could see him getting harder hits or punched in the face which could lead to the end of his career due to a concussion.

3) Scott Hartnell is a bad@$$.

4) Old School Hockey is alive and well. The NHL has transformed into a fines league it is more softer in nature (like the NFL) but just like NFL were seeing that once you get to the playoffs it’s the defense and gritty teams that will prevail. Although the most awesome quote giving goalie (Bryzgalov) is giving up 4+ goals a game there is still an element of defense. The scrappiness of all these playoff games (especially this one) is just showing us that it’s the teams that are willing to grind it out and fight are gonna be the teams that continue to win. Once the fights began and the hard checks came in by the hundreds Pittsburgh looked out of sync, it looked as if the Flyers were running circles around them because they were in the Pens heads.

I don’t know what will happen from here on out but if half the games are as entertaining as this one, were in for a good NHL playoffs.

 

 

-McFultz

NHL Playoff Predictions 2012

The NHL playoffs are once again upon us, and there are certainly some surprises in the seeding. I mean if someone at the beginning of the year had told me “Florida will be a 3 seed, Washington will be a 7 seed, St. Louis will 2 seed and Ottawa will not only not finish last in th East but make the playoffs too”, I would probably ask you for some fish (sorry, I’m in the mood for fish), ans then I’d tell you you were crazy. Anyways, with game 1 of the series I’m most excited for (Pittsburgh-Philly), lets get the picks started.

Round 1- Eastern Conference
#1New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators
Pick: New York Rangers in 6 games
X Factor: Henrik Lunqvist & Jason Spezza
This series will actually be pretty close considering it’s a 1 vs. 8 matchup, the Sens have fared very well against the Rangers in the recent history, especially at MSG. However I don’t believe that the Sens will be able to solve Lundqvist, or play solid enough defensively to take this series, however they should be able to scare the Rangers a bit.

#2 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Washington Capitals
Pick: Boston Bruins in 4 games
X Factor: Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom & Zdeno Chara
A lot of people have the Caps upsetting the Bruins in this series, I don’t. The Bruins have the best goal differential in the league (+67), Washington has the second worst amongst playoff teams with a -8 goal differential. Boston finished the year off with a 9-2-1 record in their last 12 games. To go along with all of this, Tim Thomas is scorching hot with a .934 SV% and a 1.70 GAA in his last 8 games. Unless Washington surprises me this year and starts playing as a team rather than individuals, they have no chance in this series, especially with their injuries to their goaltenders.

#3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Pick: New Jersey Devils in 6 games
X Factors: Ilya Kovalchuck, Martin Brodeur & Jose Theodore
The Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. I ca’n't see them beating the Devils, who I think is a team built for the playoffs. However, they should still be happy about making it to the postseason, and you never know if their goaltending can be great and they can generate some offense anything can happen. Definitely don’t count them out, they’ve won a lot of close games this year and have some real heart.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers
Pick: Philadelphia Flyers in 7 games
X Factors: Ilya Bryzgalov, Scott Hartnell, Evgeni Malkin & Sidney Crosby
This is the one true upset I’m going to pick (depending on how you look at the Preds-Wings matchup), the Penguins are certainly the more skilled team in this series, and have more depth up the middle. However, there’s a big rivalry between these two team, and a lot of times what matters most in a rivalry is who’s toughest? And I know Pittsburgh has some tough guys but I can’t see them being able to get by the physicality of this Flyers team (which is also very skilled). With bad blood already running between these two teams, this is the series I’m most looking forward to of the entire first round, and ultimately, it will come down to goaltending, and considering bears are in the forest, I had to go with the Flyers. I’m still scared to make the pick though, because if they get past the Flyers, I see them winning it all.

Round 1- Western Conference
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
Pick: Vancouver Canucks in 6 games
X Factors: Roberto Luongo & Jonathan Quick
The Kings have a really good team, and of course, really good goaltending. If the Kings do pull off the upset, there’s no doubt in my mind, Jonathan Quick will be the reason why. Unfortunately I don’t see them pulling off the upset, the Canuucks team is too good, especially with Daniel Sedin returning soon.

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks
Pick: St. Louis Blues in 5
X Factors: Joe Thornton & Anti Niemi
The Blues easily win the defensive matchup between the two clubs, as well as the goaltending matchup. And with the Sharks offense much older, the great streak of Regular season success the Sharks have enjoyed since the 2003-2004 season may be coming to an end, and with not even a Stanley Cup appearance coming out of it, the Sharks need a great postseason this year to keep their fans happy. Unfortunately, I don’t see them being able to do it against the Blues, they’re way too solid of a team.

#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Picks: Chicago Blackhawks in 5
X Factors: Jonathan Toews, Mike Smith & Corey Crawford
Phoenix is a very fundamentally solid and defensively tight hockey club. They’re coached wonderfully and have had surprisingly great goaltending this year from Mike Smith. However, they just don’t have the skill yet, but if Phoenix eventually moves, and grows a big fan base, and is willing to go out and get big names this team can be great in years to come. Unfortunately, the only way they win this series is if Corey Crawford plays poorly in net for the Hawks.

#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Pick: Nashville Predators in 7 games
X Factors: Pekka Rinne & Henrik Zetterberg
This will be a great series, the Red Wings have the history, the veterans and the skill, the Preds have the young talent, the goaltending and the physicality. This series could really go either way, but I have to give it to the better goalie, no offense to Jimmy, but Rinne’s got him by a hair in my opinion.

Round 2- Eastern Conference
#1 New York Rangers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Pick: New York Rangers in 7 games

#2 Boston Bruins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers
Pick: Boston Bruins in 6 games

Round 2- Western Conference
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Pick: Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #4 Nashville Predators
Pick: St. Louis in 5 games

Round 3- Eastern conference
#1 New York Rangers vs. #2 Boston Bruins
Pick: Boston Bruins in 7 games

Round 3- Western Conference
#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Pick: St. Louis Blues win in 6 games

STANLEY CUP FINALS
#2 Boston Bruins vs. #2 St. Louis Blues
Pick: Boston Bruins win in 6 games

I know it’s boring to see a repeat but I still believe the Bruins are the best team in the league, stay tuned before round #2 starts as I re-evaluate my picks.
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-Vernon Smells

He’s Back……again

Sidney Crosby will be returning to the Penguins lineup on Thursday against the Rangers. What does this mean for the Penguins? What does this mean for Malkin? and most importantly, what does this mean for Crosby and his health? I’ll try to answer all of those questions for you, and more in this article.

First off, what does this mean for the Penguins? The Penguins are currently in 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 89 points, and are just 4 points back of the 1st place Rangers. Last time Crosby returned to the lineup, I was skeptical he would be able to produce right away, he proved me wrong by putting up 4 points in his return. With the team currently riding a 9 game winning streak it could mess up the chemistry the team has going, but even if it does, it will be worth it to have Crosby ready and in the lineup when it matters, playoff time.

Secondly, what does this mean for Malkin? It’s been no secret that Malkin is having an unbelievable year. Everyone always says Crosby is the best player in hockey right now, Malkin is either second or third on that list, as he leads the league with 84 points and is second in the league with 38 goals. It’s also been no secret that Malkin plays much better without Crosby in the lineup. To me, this is just due to less ice-time, of course having him be the #2 centre rather than the #1. If Malkin continues to play this way, I can’t see them reducing his ice time by very much, so that shouldn’t become a factor.

Lastly, how will this affect Crosby and his health? Last time, when Crosby was on his way to returning, he was cleared for contact on Oct. 13 and then didn’t play until Nov. 21. This time around, he will be making his return a bit more than a week after being cleared for contact. After waiting over a month last time, he still got hurt just 8 games in to his return. This time, however, they know what they’re dealing with, after the news that it may have just been a neck injury this whole time, if he’s been rehabbing his neck properly, and the Penguins and Crosby truly believe that he’s 100% healed, I don’t see a  problem with him returning to the lineup. However, they better be sure he’s 100%. It will be good for Crosby to make his return in a very important game, as the Penguins try to catch the Rangers for 1st in their division and in the East. It’s also good to get his legs moving before the playoffs, so that he’s ready.

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-Vernon Smells

A Tale Of Two Nashs

This year in both the NHL and NBA, Phoenix Suns’ point guard Steve Nash and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash are involved in major trade talks.

Steve Nash has been with the Phoenix Suns since 2004 and has given them all he has to offer, winning two MVP awards and leading them to several playoff appearances. Nash is now 38 and closing in at the end of his career. There is one thing Nash is missing though and that is an NBA championship. The Suns are not in the hunt for even a playoff spot let alone a contender for the championship. So what many people including me think they should do is trade him. The Suns need young players to rebuild their franchise. Steve Nash has done everything he possibly could for them, so why not give him the chance to end his career on a high note. Now there is a problem for getting a deal done, there aren’t a lot of teams who are willing to give up young players or picks for a 38 year old point guard. With that being said there are three teams that I can think of that could use Nash and possibly make a trade for him.

1) The Los Angeles Lakers, The Lakers need a point guard, badly! Without a point guard the Lakers have a slim chance of winning the NBA championship. However, with Steve Nash they have a solid chance of if not winning the championship at least making it there. The Lakers are a team who wants to win and would likely be willing to give up a draft pick  for a future Hall of Famer. Also after seeing them willing to give up Gasol for CP3 they may be willing to give him up for Nash. Nash would also be more willing to play for two or three more years.

2) The Indiana Pacers, the Pacers made the playoffs last year and should make it again this year. The Pacers have some decent point guards, including Darren Collison. However, they don’t have a true leader or man to run the court. Steve Nash is that. The Pacers could give up a second round pick, a future pick and one of those point guards.

3) THE BOSTON CELTICS! I have not heard this team named yet and I’m very surprised to say the least. The Celtics have had continuous problems with Rondo. Nash would give the Celtics the consistency that they so desperately need. The Celtics also are the type of team that I could see giving up draft picks for an old player. With Nash, the aging Celtics could make a legitimate run for the NBA championship.

 

Now for Mr Rick Nash, Rick Nash is latest man to be put on the trading block. He is also the biggest name out of all of them, and the most enticing. A lot of teams are interested in Nash. One team that could trade for Nash is my hometown Leafs, the leafs could make a deal for Nash getting rid of Nazem Kadri and other loose ends or draft picks. The Leafs have the GM to do so as well. Brian Burke has been able to muster up plenty of trades this would be one I’d like to see. Other teams Included could be the struggling Habs, The Penguins, pending a trade for Staal amongst other players and picks. We brought in one of our hockey experts, Vernon Smells, for his take.

Rick Nash was asked to make a list of just 5 teams, so it has to be a team he’s willing to go to. So as McFultz said, Toronto is a possibility, with Nash being a Brampton boy and all, I’m sure he’d love playing in front of all his friends and family, but will this deal get done? I doubt it, mostly because the asking price for Nash is huge, they would probably have to trade away multiple prospects and probably a 1st rounder to get him, and they aren’t willing to bring on that much of a cap hit when they already have 2 first line wingers. They’re still in desperate need of a center. As for Pittsburgh, I don’t think they have the cap space or the assets to pull this deal off. Montreal is an interesting choice, I can’t see him going there, as that Hal Gill trade sort of proclaimed that they were sellers, but they swear they’re not. They could probably muster up the assets(P.K Subban, Pacioretty, some prospects and maybe some draft picks) but they don’t have the cap. I also don’t see why a team out of the playoff picture would trade away their future for 1 player, or why Nash would want to play in Montreal, but it’s possible. Here’s my list of the 3 most likely teams Nash will be dealt to before the deadline.:

1) Los Angeles Kings. The L.A Kings have been looking for a star winger for a while now, they tried and failed with Kovalchuck, and now that Nash is available, they’re going to be trying harder than ever to acquire him. The most interesting part of this story is that they have the assets, the most likely trade is Nash for Bernier+Johnson+picks and/or prospects. As long as they move Bernier and Johnson, they’ll also have the cap space to get this deal done. The other side of this story is that the Jackets also want to move Carter, and the Kings may be one of the few teams interested, so maybe move Carter to the Kings and Nash elsewhere, but for the Kings, an organization in dire need of a cup, they will try their best to get Nash.

2) New York Rangers. The Rangers have shown great interest in Nash, and to be honest I’m really not sure why, they already have a high-scoring winger(Gaborik), and they’re second overall in the the NHL and a Stanley Cup contender, why mess with that chemistry? They do have the assets to get this deal done, but they’d have to give up Dubinsky, Del Zotto, Hagelin maybe, along with multiple other prospects and picks. I understand that he has nobody good playing with him, and he’s had much better years, but  essentially your giving up that much for a 27 year old on pace for 55 points and a -33 on the season. However, they do have high interest and are a front-runner to land him.

3) Philadelphia Flyers. The Blue Jackets and Flyers have been in major talks over the last week, Blue Jackets GM, Scott Howson, is reportedly trying to orchestrate a deal with Sean Couturier and/or Brayden Schenn, however, Paul Holmgren, the Flyers GM, is reluctant to give them up. There may also be a deal in the works including Bobrovsky, Van Riemsdyk and a draft pick. However, The Flyers are still more interested in acquiring another Defenceman, with the absence of Chris Pronger.

To me, the most likely scenario is that he doesn’t get dealt until the off-season. There will be more teams interested, such as The Red Wings, The Bruins and The Sharks, and more teams means higher return.

-McFultz & Vernon Smells

Are Headshots in Hockey Killing the Game?

Max Pacioretty with the hit on Letang which brought him a 3-game suspension

If a team could be made up of all the players who have been out this season or are out with concussions right now, there would be little doubt that they would be serious contenders for sports’ greatest prize, the Stanley Cup. So far this season the players that have been out with concussions; which include the best player in the National Hockey League, Sydney Crosby, the leader in points (at the time, when he was concussed) Claude Giroux, and the leader in goals (at the time, when he was concussed) Milan Michalek.

Concussions are becoming an epidemic in the NHL. The main reason for all these concussions is too many headshots which are obviously illegal. What really grinds my gears is the inconsistency in disciplinary actions towards players who commit the crime. This is undoubtedly a cause for concern. Both the players and refs are getting confused because they don’t know what’s right or wrong anymore.

Infractions that appeared similar in intensity and motive are receiving different disciplinary responses. That is just unacceptable. Some players with a history of dirty play appear to be suffering worse consequences than others. For example: On December 9th, the Edmonton Oilers’ defenseman Andy Sutton got an 8-game suspension and a fine of $200,000 for a dirty hit on the Carolina Hurricanes’ left winger, Alexei Ponikarovsky. Although it appeared deliberate, and it was a headshot, that punishment was way too extreme. Sutton likely got this massive punishment because of his tough guy reputation. However, on October 1st, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s left winger, Ryan Malone absolutely demolished the Habs’ defenseman, Chris Campoli with a headshot. It looked just as nasty as the one dished out by Sutton but there was no suspension, no major penalty and not even a minor penalty. In these two similar instances, giving Sutton 8 games and a fine for $200,000 and letting Ryan Malone off the hook is an absolute joke.

The NHL and its Senior Vice President of Player Safety, Brendan Shanahan need to protect its players better. End of story. There’s too much grey area and too much inconsistency with these calls. The intent for reducing headshots in the NHL is good but the league has to make the disciplinary measures more black and white for the refs. We realize this isn’t an exact science as to what hits are acceptable and what hits deserve suspensions but the league has to get its act together regarding its disciplinary practices. This may take some time but hopefully they will get it right and ultimately we will see a dramatic reduction in headshots in the future.

 

NHL Monthly Power Rankings Jan. 20th, 2012

Vernon Smells here, to all of you regular readers, which is now at a record breaking 0, you’ll find out very quickly that I am the Power Rankings guy, I will do monthly Power Rankings for the NHL, the NFL, and the MLB. So here are my power rankings for the NHL season to this point. Stay tuned for next months edition.             

1. Boston Bruins,  30-13-1 61 Points.                                                                                 Not including October, Boston is 27-6-1, and as the defending Champs they are by far the best team in the league.                                                                                                    Past Week:  2-2-0                                                                                                              Last 10: 6-4-0                                                                                                                    Tyler Seguin: 17G 23A +35                                                                                                 Tim Thomas: .906 SV% 2.02 GAA

2. New  York Rangers, 29-12-4 62 Points. The New York Rangers have been a great surprise this  season, they find themselves on top of the East after heating up in December, and then never cooling back down.                                                                Past Week: 2-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 7-3-0                                                                                                                 Marian Gaborik: 23G 14A +11                                                                                         Henrik Lundqvist: .936 SV% 1.93 GAA

3. St. Louis Blues, 28-12-6 62 Points. What a great story the Blues have been. Their goalies have led them  all the way up to third in our power rankings, with a 1.94 team GA/G and they have let only 1197 shots get to their keepers (both stats  lead the league respectively), this goalie/defense combination can win.                                                   Past Week: 3-0-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 7-1-2                                                                                                                    Brian Elliott: .937 SV% 1.68 GAA                                                                                 Jaraslov Halak: .920 SV% 2.00 GAA                                                                                David Backes: 14G 19A +13

4. Detroit Red Wings, 31-15-1 63 Points. They now sit on top of the NHL, and are riding a 5 game winning streak, the only reason they aren’t higher on this list is because 3 of those games were in a Shootout and 1 was in Overtime.                                                          Past Week:4-0-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 8-2-0                                                                                                                   Pavel Datsyuk: 13G 38A +21                                                                                         Jimmy Howard: .926 SV% 1.98 GAA

5. Chicago Blackhawks, 28-13-6 62 Points. The Blackhawks have been good all season long. With 3 of the top 5 teams from the Central Division, it looks like a couple of teams may get screwed in the playoffs seedings, they have to assure they aren’t one of them. easiest way to do that is to win your divisional games.                                                     Past Week: 2-0-1                                                                                                               Last 10:  5-3-2                                                                                                                Marian Hossa: 18G 31A +23                                                                                      Jonathan Toews: 26G 22A +16                                                                                     Patrick Sharp: 20G 20A +18

6. Ottawa Senators, 27-16-6 60 Points. The Sens are the hottest team in the NHL and deserve this spot, however, I still don’t think they will end in this spot, or even the playoffs……..                                                                                                                       Past Week: 3-1-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 8-1-1                                                                                                                  Jason Spezza: 20G 30A 50P                                                                                              Erik Karlsson: 7G 38A +8

7.Vancouver Canucks, 28-15-4 60 Points. The defending Presidents’ Trophy winners may have liked a few more W’s at  this point in the season, but I’m sure they will happily take the second seed in the Western Conference.                                                                  Past Week: 0-1-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 5-3-2                                                                                                                  Daniel Sedin: 20G 30A +14                                                                                             Henrik Sedin: 11G 41A +13

8. Nashville Predators, 27-16-4 58 Points. That’s now 4 Central Division teams in the top 10, it’s clear everyone in the division is taking advantage of playing the Blue Jackets 6 times.                                                                                                                                 Past Week:3-1-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 8-2-0                                                                                                                    Shea Weber: 10G 23A +13

9. San Jose Sharks, 26-13-5 57 Points. San Jose has gone back to playing great regular season hockey after a small hiatus. I don’t know though, maybe a sub-par regular season would have finally given them success in the postseason.                                              Past Week: 2-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 7-2-1                                                                                                                      Joe Thornton: 8G 28A +13                                                                                             Patrick Marleau: 17G 19A +10

10. Philadelphia Flyers, 27-14-4 58 Points. Philly has had a small but noticeable drop-off after a great first 2 and a half months. Maybe the team’s finally gotten  too creeped out by Danny Briere.                                                                                                                     Past Week:1-0-2                                                                                                                Last 10:6-4-0                                                                                                                  Claude Giroux: 18G 32A 50P

11. Pittsburgh Penguins, 25-17-4 54 Points. The Penguins have come back after a tough six game losing streak and have now won 4 straight. They also have a +22 goal differential(3rd in the East)                                                                                                 Past Week:4-0-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 4-6-0                                                                                                                 Evgeni Malkin: 24G 30A +9

12. New Jersey Devils, 26-18-2 54 Points . Just like last year, the Devils are getting hot mid-season, except this time, they are still in the playoff race.                                         Past Week: 2-1-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 6-3-1                                                                                                                   Patrik Elias: 17G 28A 45P

13. Los Angeles Kings, 23-15-10 56 Points. Ever since Darryl Sutter took over Head coaching duties in L.A, they’ve really turned their season around, but to really succeed, L.A needs to play better in OT/SO, as they lead the league in O.T GP, but they’re only 7-10 in the extra frame.                                                                                                                  Past Week: 2-0-2                                                                                                               Last 10: 5-1-4                                                                                                                    Anze Kopitar: 14G 29A 43P                                                                                        Jonathan Quick: .934 SV% 1.92 GAA

14. Washington Capitals 25-18-2 52 Points  The Caps deserve to be higher on this list with the way they’ve been playing  as of late, unfortunately, so does everyone ahead of them.                                                                                                                                  Past Week:3-1-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 7-3-0                                                                                                                Nicklas Backstrom: 13G 29A 42P

15. Colorado Avalanche, 25-21-2 52 Points. The Avs are on a roll and currently hold the final playoff spot in the West, but they’re going to need to find a new way to win, because even though a 7-0 record in shootouts may look nice, it won’t help come playoffs.         Past Week: 2-1-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 6-3-1                                                                                                                    Ryan O’Reilly: 13G 22A 35P                                                                                            Jean-Sebastien Giguere: .923 SV% 2.12 GAA

16. Toronto Maple Leafs, 23-18-5 51 Points. The Buds have had an up-and-down  season, but with their league worst penalty kill yet to give up a goal in January and the greatly improved play of goalie Jonas Gustavsson (5-2-0 in Jan.) I expect good things.             Past Week: 1-3-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 5-4-1                                                                                                                 Joffrey Lupul: 20G 31A +5                                                                                                   Phil Kessel: 25G 25A 50P

17. Florida Panthers   21-14-10 52 Points. It’s finally happened, with the play of     Versteeg, Weiss, Fleischmann and Theodore finally coming back down to Earth, it seems as if the Cinderella run by the Panthers may be over, and they could fail to reach the playoffs for  an NHL record 11th straight season, but for now they are still barely holding on to that final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.                                                          Past Week: 0-1-2                                                                                                               Last 10: 3-4-3                                                                                                                      Kris Versteeg: 17G 22A +9                                                                                          Stephen Weiss: 12G 23A +11                                                                                       Tomas Fleischmann: 15G 19A 34P                                                                                  Jose Theodore: .918 SV% 2.48 GAA

18. Calgary Flames, 22-20-6 50 Points. The Flames have been a middle of the pack team all season long, we’ll see if the addition of Cammalleri can boost them up a couple of spots.                                                                                                                                 Past Week: 1-1-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-4-2                                                                                                                Jarome Iginla: 18G 20A 38P

19. Dallas Stars, 24-19-2 50 Points. After a great start to the year, Dallas has really declined. At this point the  best you can call them is sub-par, and with the 4th oldest team league, I don’t see it getting better anytime soon.                                                             Past Week: 0-1-2                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-5-1                                                                                                                  Jamie Benn: 13G 29A +10                                                                                                 Loui Eriksson: 17G 24A +11

20. Phoenix Coyotes, 21-19-8 50 Points. With the yotes’ pretty much relying on Mike Smith all year long, they  really stumbled when he got injured, and he’s still trying to find his game now that he’s back and the team continues to struggle, despite the fact that Vrbata and Whitney are quietly having great seasons.                                                                        Past Week: 1-2-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 3-3-4                                                                                                                      Ray Whitney: 14G 25A +11                                                                                            Radim Vrbata: 22G 16A +8                                                                                                Mike Smith: .918 SV% 2.41 GAA

21. Winnipeg Jets 22-20-5 49 Points. The Jets coming back was the story of 2011, but no one expected anything from them, but for a brief period in December they held a playoff spot, since, they’ve stumbled down to 10th in the East. Now to make the fans in Winterpeg happy, they’re gonna have to improve.                                                                              Past Week: 2-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-6-0                                                                                                                   Blake Wheeler: 9G 24A +9                                                                                          Evander Kane: 18G 13A 31P                                                                                         Ondrej Pavelec: .910 SV% 2.83 GAA

22. Minnesota Wild, 22-18-7 51 Points. Wow, what a turn around, they were first for a little while, but after the injury-riddled Wild dropped their 11th consecutive road game last night, they proved that they are definitely not a top team in the NHL.                                         Past Week:0-2-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 2-6-2                                                                                                                  Niklas Backstrom: .921 SV% 2.45 GAA                                                                            Josh Harding: .925 SV% 2.44 GAA

23. New York Islanders, 18-21-6 42 Points. The Isles, in what is a disappointing but expected season are actually on a pretty good roll right now and have had 5 players putting up really good numbers: Tavares, Moulson, Parenteau, Nabokov and Montoya.             Past Week:: 3-1-0                                                                                                              Last 10: 6-4-0                                                                                                                    John Tavares: 17G 29A 46P                                                                                              Matt Moulson: 22G 21A +10

24. Anaheim Ducks, 16-22-7 29 Points. The Ducks have now won 3 in a row and six of their last 7, losing just once to Calgary in O.T, but with the assets they have, this should have happened a long time ago, too little, too late                                                             Past Week: 3-0-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 6-3-1                                                                                                                 Teemu Selanne: 15G 29A +6                                                                                          Corey Perry: 21G 17A 38P

25. Montreal Canadiens, 17-21-8 42 Points. The Habs are in the middle of an awful season, and the biggest controversy is that the coach doesn’t speak French, priorities Habs fans, priorities.                                                                                                          Past Week: 1-1-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-5-1                                                                                                                      Erik Cole: 17G 16A +4                                                                                                     Carey Price: .912 SV% 2.45 GAA

26. Carolina Hurricanes 16-24-8 40 Points. Cam Ward and the Canes have had an absolutely disastrous season. Not much else to say.                                                       Past Week: 1-1-1                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-4-2                                                                                                                      Eric Staal: 11G 23A 34P

27. Buffalo Sabres, 19-23-5 43 Points. The Sabres have now lost 13 of their last 16 games. Start of season “The always good Sabres finally spent money this off-season, they may be a Stanley Cup contender” -Every person who has ever existed.                 Past Week:1-4-0                                                                                                                Last 10: 2-6-2                                                                                                                  Jason Pominville: 17G 29A 46P                                                                                  Thomas Vanek: 19G 22A 41P

28. Tampa Bay Lightning, 18-23-4  40 Points. The Bolts have had an absolutely disappointing and horrendous year, at least Stamkos continues to live up to the hype.  Past Week: 1-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 3-6-1                                                                                                                 Steven Stamkos: 31G 20A +3

29. Edmonton Oilers, 17-25-4 38 Points. After a good start, it seems Operation: see how many #1 overall picks we can get in a row is back on, but it may be in jeopardy as Colombus already has 7 points on them, but there’s always  the lottery.                         Past Week: 1-3-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 2-7-1                                                                                                                 Jordan Eberle: 17G 26A 43P                                                                                            Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 13G 22A 35P

30 Columbus Blue Jackets, 13-28-5 31 Points. FAIL FOR NAIL!!!                                  Past Week: 2-2-0                                                                                                               Last 10: 4-6-0                                                                                                                     Rick Nash: 16G 16A 32P

*These Rankings are based of Stats and Standings as of Friday, January 20th at 4PM ET

-Vernon Smells

Top 10 NHL Goalie Nicknames

Throughout history nicknames have always been a great part of life, but they’ve been used a ridiculous amount in professional sports. Especially in hockey, I don’t remember the last interview where an NHL player referred to a teammate by their real name. So many nicknames have been passed around the NHL, there have been some good ones and some bad ones. The best ones, for whatever reason always seem to be for goalies. So without further ado, here is my list of The Top 10 ACTIVE NHL goalie nicknames.

Alex Auld, Ottawa Senators

10. He’s big, he’s bald, he’s Alex Auld. – Alex Auld, Ottawa Senators                                     Though, it isn’t really a nickname, this saying has been famous while he’s been playing back-up for, well basically every team in the NHL at some point in his career.

9. Flower - Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins                                                                       With Flower being “La Fleur” in French Marc-Andre Fleury adopted Guy Lafleurs old nickname.

8. Kipper - Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames                                                                         A nick name he’s been referred to his whole life, a nick name so simple, yet something you’ll never forget. In fact, you’re probably more likely to forget the name Miikka Kiprusoff than you are to forget Kipper.

7. Optimus Reim - James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs                                                       Despite his struggles as of late, James Reimer won the hearts of Leafs fans last year when he just about led them on a Cinderella run to the playoffs. Reimer had many of nicknames (The Reim minister of defense, Reim time, etc.) but Optimus Reim was by far the best.

6. Captain America - Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres                                                                              Before this season Ryan Miller was considered one of the best and most consistent goalies in the NHL. I believe that Captain America suits him much better than his more popular nickname of “Miller Time” as people will probably remember him most for the silver medal run that he led the Americans to in The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

5. Bubbles - Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes                                                                                       Mike Smith holds the great privilege of sharing his name with the actor who played the character “Bubbles” on the Television show: Trailer Park Boys.

4. King Henrik - Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers                                                                    Even though it’s one of the simplest nicknames on this list, after the really solid and consistent showing he’s put on so far in his career, and after leading the league in shutouts last season, he has earned the title. Although, a cup would make it a hell of a lot more convincing.

3. Rollie The Goalie - Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay Lightning                                                     Roloson, now 42 years young, almost led his Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. Despite stopping 37/38 shots in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, his team fell short 1-0 to Boston. Even considering the loss he proved that he’s still got it. The Nickname itself is very fun and a classic.

2. The Halakness Monster - Jaraslov Halak, St. Louis Blues                                                            Despite the incredible season St. Louis is having so far, it won’t matter how well they do, he will always be remembered most for the run he took the Habs on in 2010. Upsetting Washington and Pittsburgh to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Which was when the name “The Halakness Monster” was born.

1. The Bulin Wall - Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton Oilers                                                       Khabibulin, 39, has the best and one of the most popular nicknames in the league, as well as a classic. The clever pun is nothing short of how he has played since his first game, as a member of the old Winnipeg Jets. With a career .908 SV% and 2.71 GAA, he only seems to be getting better with age.

-Vernon Smells