Monday, October 27, 2014

Review Of 2014-15 Season Week 2

(credit: The Tennessean)

Hello folks. Here's our thoughts as Week 2 comes to a conclusion:

How about those Nashville Predators?
Granted, it's early in the season and the team's mettle hasn't been tested against enough Cup Contenders (they didn't fare well in their 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins), but the fact that the Predators are first in a division that's home to the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, and St. Louis Blues is noteworthy it its own right. Part of this has been due to the inspired play of Pekka Rinne (who's returned to his usual self after a lackluster 2013-14 season), but also due to the play of newcomers James Neal and Mike Ribiero (hey, if you have two teams paying you to play, you gotta pull your weight, right?) If the team can keep up this torrid production until Mike Fisher returns from injury, the playoffs will be a lock for the Music City.


(credit: Yahoo! Sports/Getty Images)

Bad Week For elite NHL defensemen.
It's been a tough break for a few high-caliber NHL defensemen this week. Emerging Penguins defensive stud Olli Maatta will need surgery to remove a tumor from his neck. While he's expected to play the next three games with the team, he will be out indefinitely following surgery (he should, however, make a full recovery.) Tough break to be sure, seeing as how Maatta was on par to have a more successful sophomore campaign than he did as a rookie (which is rare when you consider how often the "sophomore slump" rears it's ugly head.) Further more, Zdeno Chara will be out 4-6 weeks after a knee injury, which throws another curveball at an embattled Boston Bruins squad (who are in danger of being leapfrogged by everyone in their division save the Buffalo Sabres.) Though the Penguins will hope that Maatta comes back sooner than later, the Bruins are in dire need of their blueliners to step it up in Chara's absence if they even want to think about making the playoffs.


Anaheim Ducks Don't Like Losing, But Jon Scott Will Be Sitting
We weren't lying when we said that the San Jose Sharks were the toughest squad this season. It should also go without saying that the Anaheim Ducks, despite having a now 7-2 record, don't take losing rather well. As the game got out of the Ducks' hands for what would eventually become a 4-0 victory for the Sharks, things took a decided turn for the worse. Sharks enforcer Jon Scott ended up leaving the bench during a legal line change to start an altercation, which has him sitting at home suspended for the next two games (the Ducks, however, lost Ben Lovejoy for up to two months with a broken hand.) Since we know our readers wanna see the fisticuffs, here's the fighting in all it's glory.



Can The Dallas Stars Win Without Kari Lehtonen?
Though six games played, Lehtonen has managed to carve out a 4-0-2 record, but his individual stats are sort of pedestrian (2.74 GAA, .915 save percentage.) The real concern, however, is what should happen if he's forced out of the lineup for any extended period of time. So far in two appearances, backup Anders Lindback suffered through two losses and posted both a 4.56 GAA and a .850 save percentage. Though the season's still early and Lindback could find a rhythm, he wasn't dominant when he played for the Tampa Bay Lightning and may have only done well as a product of the Nashville Predators's system. Lehtonen suffered concussion issues during the preseason, so the team will need to make his health a priority if they're to have repeat playoff appearances in April.


Goal Of The Week:
Never say die...

And for a bonus...

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