Monday, October 20, 2014

Season Week 1 Review

(credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images/CBS Sports)

Hello folks. As the fantasy season's weeks ends, we'll have a review over notable events which happened during this time. We'll look to make this a regular feature at Bruise Brothers.

The Impressive Darcy Kuemper
With Josh Harding on the shelf with a broken foot and with Niklas Backstrom settling into the background, it's Kuemper's time to shine with the Minnesota Wild. Though his streak came to an end at the Anaheim Ducks home-opener, his impressive 163:46 shutout streak set a franchise record. His strong play will need to continue as the Wild face off in one of the toughest divisions in the league.


(credit: CBS Sports)

The Non-Impressive Slava Voynov...
After receiving a call on their business line, the Redondo Beach Police Department found out that Slava Voynov was involved in a domestic violence incident. Both the NHL and his team (the Los Angeles Kings) acted swiftly in suspending Voynov pending the results of the investigation. With Bill Daly cryptically saying that the circumstances are different now than when Colorado Avalance goaltender Semyon Varlamov was involved in a similar incident, this may bode poorly for Voynov's freedom, much less NHL career.


Andrew Desjardins Doesn't Like Your Face
San Jose Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins had quite the weekend this weekend...



What The Hell's Going On With Mike Smith?
Mike Smith of the Arizona Coyotes has played three games so far and it's been pretty rough. Though his team provided seven goals in the 7-4 win he played against the Edmonton Oilsers, his GAA is 5.34 and his save percentage is at .822. The team isn't paying him to provide those kinda numbers, so one has to wonder if this is going to either open the door for Devan Dubnyk to have a crack at the starting role or if the team continues to start him due to his salary. Hopefully, Smith can regain his bearings, as the Coyotes are counting on him to find the form that led them to the 2012 Western Conference Finals.


Goal Of The Week:
Andrew Cogliano, you are a cruel man...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bruise Brothers Cause For Celebration

As you know, we're two brothers living in So-Cal who were born in Detroit and lived in Phoenix...

That said, the following games are on tap tonight:

7 PM EST: Anaheim Ducks Vs. Detroit Red Wings

9 PM EST/6 PM AST: Los Angeles Kings Vs. Arizona Coyotes

We don't recall a time in the past where this happened, but we're totally stoked that we get to see "The Four Horsemen" of The Bruise Brothers face off at the same time in regular season action. This would be the on-ice equivalent of Bob Probert Vs. Marty McSorley Vs. Tiger Williams Vs. Dave Schultz in a donnybrook. We just have one thing to say about that...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

NHL 2014-15 Season Finish Predictions

If you were to take the predictions laid out at the end of each season review, this would be the predictions in which teams would finish:

2014-15 Season Finish Predictions

Playoff-bound teams noted with an asterisk (*)

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
* Montreal Canadiens
* Boston Bruins
* Tampa Bay Lightning
Detroit Red Wings
Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs
Florida Panthers
Buffalo Sabres
Metropolitan Division
* New York Rangers
* Montreal Canadiens
* Pittsburgh Penguins
* Washington Capitals
* New York Islanders
Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils

Western Conference
Central Division
* Chicago Blackhawks
* Colorado Avalanche
* Minnesota Wild
* St. Louis Blues
Dallas Stars
Nashville Predators
Winnipeg Jets
Pacific Division
* Los Angeles Kings
* San Jose Sharks
* Anaheim Ducks
* Arizona Coyotes
Vancouver Canucks
Edmonton Oilers
Calgary Flames

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Central Hockey League Folds / ECHL Absorbs Seven Teams

Are we one step closer to a West Coast expansion of the American Hockey League?

Today, it was announced that the Central Hockey League has folded and seven of their member teams have joined the ECHL (which is now the premier "AA" minor league hockey organization in North America.) From CBS Sports:

Though speculation had been running rampant for some time, the ECHL confirmed Tuesday that it is absorbing the seven teams that made up what was left of the Central Hockey League a little more than a week before its full season was set to begin. This sounds like a merger, but it isn't. The CHL will cease operations as the ECHL now expands to 28 teams.

Among the seven CHL teams joining the ECHL: the Allen (Texas) Americans, Brampton (Ont.) Beast, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards (Moline, Ill.), Rapid City (S.D.) Rush, Tulsa (Okla.) Oilers and Wichita (Kan.) Thunder.

"The ECHL is very pleased to welcome these new Members to the League," ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna said in a statement. "These additions strengthen our base in the center of the country and give the ECHL, for the first time, a true national presence. It expands our ability to act as a development league and more closely aligns our number of teams with both the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League.

"There will be logistical challenges in the short term, however, in the long term, it is certainly in the best interest of the ECHL, the new members and minor-league hockey in general."

This maneuver seemed inevitable as the CHL struggled to stay afloat as a small-market league. Plenty of teams have folded or moved to other leagues in recent years, leaving the 51-year-old CHL in a bit of disrepair.

This move has long been rumored to occur and seems to set the stage for the American Hockey League to begin their westward expansion to accommodate western based NHL clubs who have their prospects playing (predominately) in the east coast. The AHL has long coveted clubs such as Ontario, California's Ontario Reign; which has both a nice facility and attendance figures that double most other ECHL teams.

More news as it develops.

The Best Hockey Duo You've Never Heard Of

Back when Steve Yzerman played for the Detroit Red Wings, he happened to see (or be part of) some pretty effective tandems during his day. He was able not only to see one of the most effective offensive forward tandems during his playing career (in Pavel Datsyuk and and Henrik Zetterberg), but also one of the most effective defensive forward tandems (in Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby.) The former group was an effective power play unit (when joined up with Tomas Holmstrom) while the latter were proficient penalty killers. Given the success of each, it would be logical for Yzerman to try to bring the same type of formula to the Tampa Bay Lightning now that he's their General Manager...

... But did he manage to find the best of both tandems in two young rookies with a bright future ahead of them?

Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson were both nominated for the Calder Trophy last season (in a rare instance where a team has two Calder candidates - an award ultimately won by Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche), but that's hardly the only similarity both of them have had since joining the Lightning organization. Sure, Palat is a native of the Czech Republic while Johnson hails from Spokane, Washington, but both began their playing careers in the Canadian Major Junior system (Palat played for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL while Johnson played for his hometown Spokane Chiefs of the WHL), both joined the Lightning system in 2011 (Palat came on as a seventh round draft selection while Johnson was signed as an undrafted free agent), both spent their first professional season (and the first half of the lockout-shortened 2013 season) in the minors, and both had their first full-season campaigns last season. Further, both have been perfect compliments on the penalty kill and were awarded for their efforts with matching 3 year/$10 Million deals they earned during the off-season.

You'd think spending that much time together would drive them batty. Instead, it's only brought them closer. When asked about their chemistry together, Palat attributes it to their friendship. "On the ice, it's helped that we're good friends," Palat told the Tampa Bay Times. "He's got really good speed and I just try to find him and every time pass to him because he can beat the defense. It's fun to play with him." Outside the rink, the two have pretty comparable personalities, live in the same apartment complex during the season, and have a tendency to go out on do activities together (though in Johnson's words - "(Palat's) not much of a fisherman.") It shouldn't have come to any surprise that when Palat's contract was finalized, the media wanted to know what Palat though about working in league with Johnson for the foreseeable future. His response? "We (are practically) living together, playing together, and now we have the same contract. It's awesome. I was happy about his deal and I'm sure he's happy about mine."

Palat's happy for good reason, too, as their play has provided a tremendous benefit to the Lightning. Palat put up 59 points on the team last season (23 goals, 36 assists) while Johnson posted 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists.) When Steven Stamkos went down with a broken fibula last season, Johnson and Palat ascended the depth charts to find themselves on the first line with former Lightning winger Martin St. Louis (where they channeled some of the offensive prowess they demonstrated in the minors with fellow teammate Richard Panik.) Both led the team's forwards in Shorthanded Time on Ice while also becoming fixtures on the power-play (Johnson was fourth in Power Play Time on Ice amongst forwards while Palat was seventh.) The slight differences they have in their game has only complemented the other - Johnson's more of a faceoff guy while Palat can also punish opponents with his checks - and makes them reliable and effective in any game situation.

Will the duo need to avoid the sophomore slump to remain effective? Indeed they will. The duo is certainly cognizant to this and know the bar's been set for them to perform even harder this season. Yet when being guided by a supportive coach and surrounded by a talented corps that features both Stamkos and Victor Hedman, it's safe to say that the future looks bright for these two.

When two young rookies take the next step at the same time, you could expect there to be some rivalry. Yet instead, the duo will be supporting each other and their squad for (hopefully) seasons to come. "It's awesome," Palat said of his achievements with Johnson. "He's one of my best friends." Johnson's response? "It makes it more special."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Season Preview: The Best Of The Best

To recap our coverage of the Season Previews, we're going to provide the best of the best that we've seen from each team so far.

Best Offense: The Colorado Avalanche

Best Defense: The St. Louis Blues

Best Goaltending: The Montreal Canadiens

Best Power Play: The Washington Capitals

Best Penalty Kill: The Tampa Bay Lightning

Best Team Toughness: The San Jose Sharks

Best Management: The Los Angeles Kings

Best American Team: The Chicago Blackhawks

Best Canadian Team: The Montreal Canadiens

Season Preview 2014-15: Winnipeg Jets

2014-15 Season Previews: Winnipeg Jets

Since we didn't say it the first time around, welcome back to the NHL, Winnipeg!

Team M.O.: 15 years after the NHL left Winnipeg for the sunnier skies of Arizona, the troubled Atlanta Thrashers went back to Winnipeg and rechristened themselves as the Jets (ironically, this would be the second time a team from Atlanta would relocate to Canada, as the former Atlanta Flames are now known as the Calgary Flames.) Yet while the team may have moved to a market that could better support them, they've managed to bring their losing ways with them.

Last Season: The team finished with a record of 37-35-10 and failed to qualify for the playoffs. Not only have the failed to qualify for the playoffs during their past three seasons in Winnipeg, but the franchise hasn't qualified for the playoffs since the 2007-08 season, where the Atlanta Thrashers finished atop of the former Southeast Division. Though they had a better travel schedule this past season than they had before the realignment, that all but assured they would face better competition then they faced as members of the old division.

Offense: Though there's a few new faces, this corps more or less resembles who the team relied on during their Trasher days. There also seems to be a particular lack of diversity (as far as roles are concerns) in the scoring lines.

Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, and Dustin Byfuglien (who appears as if he'll be used as a forward going forward) could each fill a power forward role on many other team in the league. While Kane's stock is on the rise, Ladd and Byfuglien would be better suited for second-line or special team duties as opposed to being solely first line options. In Wheeler's case, he may not be a point-per-game player, but he also doesn't have true first line talent to work with either. Don't get it wrong, Bryan Little's done well for the club while Mark Scheifele (the first non-Thrasher we've covered so far) did well in his first full season in the NHL. But while the team's tried to do what it can to be patient as the team grows, a veteran player with a better history of being a leader (not one named Olli Jokinen) probably should've been traded for some time ago instead of seeing the team be in love with it.

The team did manager to acquire Mathieu Perreault from the Anaheim Ducks in the off-season to line up on the third unit (and hopefully propel them to 40 points) along with Michael Frolik (who FINALLY broke the 40 point barrier last season.) They may have to do it as a duo with whomever compliments them on the left, because Eric Tangradi and free-agent signing TJ Galliardi may not have the overall ability to be as effective offensively. Jim Slater will center the fourth unit, but injuries and lack of offensive ability essentially limit him to being a faceoff specialist. Chris Thorburn will likely round out the Top 12 forwards, giving the team a decent physical forward who can mix it up. Anthony Peluso should get inserted into contest that will be tougher than usual while Matt Halischuk faces the best changes of rounding out the lineup due to his versatility (but he'll be facing stiff competition in camp after returning on a two-way contract.)

It would be nice to see another Top-9 forward with some offensive ability to capitalize on the team's "score by committee" format that they're going for (largely because scoring from the checking unit appears as if it will be hard to come by.) Otherwise, the components are mostly there for the Top-9 in terms of talent, but they're going to have to out-work everyone on a nightly basis to be effective due to seeming lack of versatility in roles (most notably on the Top-6.) The checking unit qualifies for defensive ability, but Jim Slater's injury history (in tandem with the limited production the checking unit projects to output) isn't going to do them any favors offensively.

Grade: C-

Defense: Hope springs eternal as Jacob Trouba has graduated to the big club, providing the team with an effective shutdown defender (at age 20) who'll be able to take on more responsibility as he adapts to the NHL game. Tobias Enstrom has the overall ability to play at any end of the ice, but his overall lack of size (and decent offensive abilities) may make him more ideal as a power-play quarterback. Will Zach Bogosian ever live up to his draft position, or will he remain a second (or even third) pairing player? Paul Postma's calling card in the minors was based on his offensive prowess, but he'll need to rely more on providing a shutdown role if he wishes to stick around with the big-club permanently. Mark Stuart is dominant physically and gives the squad a defenseman who can play with an edge. Grant Clitsome gives the team a puck-moving defenseman who isn't afraid to initiate contact while Adam Pardy will round things out as the team's stay-at-home defender. Keaton Ellerby re-signed in the off-season, but is on a two-way deal and will likely begin the season in the minors.

As a whole, the case could be made that the group of defenders is actually complete. However, there's also a lot of youth, immaturity, and players who may be miscast in their roles. It's not the worst defense out there, but it still needs to collectively gel if they want to intimidate anyone this season.

Grade: C

Goaltending: Though it's usually the easy way out to blame the goaltenders, Ondrej Pavelec has the lowest save percentage of any starting goaltender in the league; his play has come into question as lackadaisical, leading one to wonder how long the Jets will go with him until they consider another option in the crease. Michael Hutchinson is ready to graduate this season to the big club; he's accomplished all he's had to in the minors so the call-up is warranted based on his play. Connor Hellebuyck will spend his first professional season in the minors while Jussi Olkinuora will spend another year trying to hone his craft in the minors after a disappointing campaign in the minors last season.

With that, the only person who's seemingly ready and good for their role is Hutchinson, as the guys in the minors need to remain there while Pavelec hasn't proven to have the mettle necessary to be the team's starting goaltender. Pavelec has to step it up if he doesn't want the Jets to be a punchline this season, much less become a potential buyout candidate over the summer.

Grade: D

Management: The main question around hockey circles is "What exactly does Kevin Cheveldayoff do?" Sure two of his early first-round selections have gone on to join the team, but the squad as a whole still has that "Thrashers stink" to them. It's great that Mark Chipman and the rest of True North Sports and Entertainment have managed to repatriate Winnipeg with the NHL, but are they really in the same boat financially as the Coyotes or the Panthers? Coach Paul Maurice experienced some mid-season success with the squad last year, but most of his success as a mid-season replacement is generally followed up with seasons of playoff-less exits that see him replaced by his successor.

Overall, the management for the Jets aren't that captivating, which seems to have a trickle down effect on the rest of the roster.

Grade: F

Prediction: Out of the playoffs because it's still the Thrashers.

They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over again and expecting the same result. Taking a team that's never known how to win and saying "Okay, go out there and win!" will lead to the same results the team found in Atlanta. It's admirable that the Jets would try to incorporate the pieces provided to them when the squad came to town, but a lot of the ineffectiveness that plagued Atlanta still prevails on the club today.