Monday, February 2, 2015

2014-15 All-Star Break Review

(credit: Bleacher Report)

Sorry for the long layoff - Life outside of blogging was busy during the holidays (and after) but here we are getting out out half-way review as to what's great, what's bad, and what's expected from the 2014-15 season thus far.

The Good

How About Them Wings?: Just when it looks like the team's aging stars won't compensate for other areas, Mike Babcock drops the hammer and demands perfect out of his team. The result? Despite nagging injury woes, the team's still managed to find themselves battling for supremacy in the Eastern Conference (with a record that would be respectable even if they competed in the stronger Western Conference.) Tomas Tatar was expected to be a decent two-way center, but did anyone see him find such a dominant scoring touch at the start of the season? Did anyone expect Henrik Zetterberg to be as dominant with or without "The Magic Man?" No, the defense isn't horribly productive (like the Wings fans are accustomed to from the Lidstrom years), but they are incredibly stingy. Further, it's pretty certain that the tandem of Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek is going to be an unstoppable force for seasons to come (maybe they can trade one and keep Tom McCollum, but it would be better for the team if Howie and Petr could find a way to make it work.)

Duck's Dominance Leads The NHL: Granted, the Bruise Bros. were a bit more critical of Anaheim than most, but the team's done rather well to keep competitive despite the perceived shortcomings going into the season. Regardless of whether or not you like the guy, Ryan Getzlaf may as well tattoo a "C" on his chest for the way he's carried the team thus far in the season. Yes, John Gibson fared poorly at the start of the season, but Fredrick Andersen has keep the team in contention despite the lack of support around him. They'll need to keep the pedal to the metal if they don't expect to lose ground in the competitive Western Conference.

Miracle In Music City: No one, outside of the most die-hard Nashville fan, would've expected them to be amongst the top teams in the Western Conference. Yet when you have one of the most impressive defensive tandems in Shea Weber and Roman Josi, a sober Mike Ribiero, a matured Filip Forsberg, and a Pekka Rinne who regains his playing ability, it's going to be a recipie for success (along with the new offensive-minded system implemented by Peter Laviolette.) The second half's going to be a challenge though with Rinne suffering another knee injury, so Carter Hutton will need to play with more consistency if he's going to remain an NHL-level goaltender (much less pull them through this rough patch.)

The Bad

The Dumpster Fire In Arizona: Everyone expected the Coyotes to struggle as a result of not going into the season with a goal scorer, but no one could've predicted the absolute disaster they'd be out of the gate. Mike Smith's play has been absolutely dreadful, but the team had opted to trade backup Devan Dubnyk instead of having him start while Mike Smith figures out the game in the minors (because no one would want to claim him at even half the original salary.) The team has listed former untouchables Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson as available while they opt to dress AHL and ECHL level goaltenders in an laughable effort to tank for the 1st overall draft pick. We've previously given plenty of props to the Coyotes brass, but it's hard to think they're even remotely close to handling this properly.

Voynov's Actions Have Team Consequences: Normally people brush domestic violence incidents under the rug because they don't "hurt the team", but is it poetic justice - in a way - when it does? Slava Voynov's legal proceedings are on-going after his wife ended up in the hospital following a domestic violence incident. With Assistant Commissioner Daly stating that the events were entirely unlike Semyon Varlamov's case, the team was not initially offered salary relief while Voynov was suspended (and therefore his salary counted against the cap.) Though players like Tyler Toffoli took unprecedented steps forward, it undoubtedly hurt the team to be paying for a top four defender that isn't in their lineup - And now see themselves in dangerous position of being a Stanley Cup winner who completely misses the post-season the year after. Granted, Voynov's hardly been the only problem - Mike Richards is now being played an NHL-level salary to play in the AHL - but it was the start of a long season for the Los Angeles Kings.

The Minnesota Wild Shouldn't Be This Bad: On paper, the Minnesota Wild should be one of the most dominant teams in the league. Yet despite a pretty hot start, the team is sputtering through the mid-season at the bottom of their division. This is the team that went out and spent mega-bucks on Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Thomas Vanek - Which means the team would be expecting more than a 23-20-6 record. It's true that the goaltending situation in Minnesota is dysfunctional (yet is being turned around by Coyotes' cast-off Dubnyk), but the team's big guns aren't generating the type of offense they're being paid to (and the secondary scoring is absolutely average.) One may be inclined to blame Mike Yeo, but did the Wild inadvertently create an environment where players would rather play with friends than win? This meltdown by Yeo is pure gold:

The Expected

The Islanders Have Arrived: A few seasons ago, it would've been considered abysmal if you were playing for the New York Islanders. Today? They're setting pretty atop of the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference, largely because they finally resemble a real team. Jaroslav Halak's decision to head to Long Island was a great one, as the team finally has a reliable starter while he's enjoying the best season of his career as a bonafide starting goaltender. It's no stretch to say John Tavares has been amazing, but it's great to see Kyle Okposo developing a scoring touch which is beginning to rival Tavares's. Young forwards Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson have taken some pretty serious steps forward in their young careers while the built-in tandem of Nik Kulemin and Mikael Grabovski have been an effective two-way line for the squad. Oh, and the Islanders' defense now has Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy... in addition to Lubomir Visnovsky. Put it all together and it finally looks as if Snow and Capuano finally have their team.

Say Hurray For Tampa Bay: The Red Wings are doing rather well, but it's the Tampa Bay Lightning who poses the greatest risk to their success. Hey, remember when we told you about the best duo you've never heard of? Yeah, Tyler Johnson's now Tampa's top point scorer while Palat may be establishing himself as a high-end two-way forward (oh, they're also both league-leaders in plus/minus as well.) Because of this, Steven Stamkos is free to score goals at will while Nikita Kucherov's playmaking prowess was able to go uncontained by opposing forces. Throw in the solid play of Ben Bishop along with reliable secondary and defensive scoring and you have a team that could make a case as to why the Stanley Cup should return to Tampa Bay.

Every Now And Then, I'll Turn Them On Again, But It's Plain To See that the Oilers Still Suck: The team decided to fire Dallas Eakins. That's nice... They're still the second-worst team in the league with absolutely no sign of becoming a winner. The team needs a re-do at this point instead of a rebuild (because at this point, it looks as if they're ruining the careers of these oft-hyped prospects instead of fortifying them.) Darryl Katz would be merciful to sell the team to an owner who'd be committed to building a winner instead of continuing to employ a group of yes-men who consist of former Stanley Cup winners... when they were players 30 years ago. At least Garth Snow had a vision, it's impossible to tell what Craig MacTavish's image is for the team other than trying to throw things against the wall and see what sticks. At least the Calgary Flames have been better this season while the Coyotes and Kings floundered.

That's it for now - We'll probably be starting the Season Reviews soon (and it looks like the Buffalo Sabres will be up first...)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review Of 2014-15 Season Weeks 4 and 5

(credit: LA Times)

Hello folks. Week 4 was kinda slow, so we opted to consolidate and put it together for one big update that you'll read now:

Team Viruses Are The Worst
So both Corey Perry and Francois Beauchamin are out indefinitely with the mumps. On top of that, the St. Louis Blues have seen their defensive corps stricken by a virus that's going around (or at least that's what they're blaming Jay Bouwmeester's sole point this season on.) Look, we know that every game matters, but isn't it a detriment to the team when you keep sick players alongside perfectly healthy ones and expose them to illness? It seems like it would be far easier to substitute your top winger instead of a whole first line (or a top defender instead of a top pairing.) We know hockey's a tough sport, with the attention given recently to concussions, maybe it would be prudent to take other forms of medical illness seriously, too.


(credit: Calgary Sun)

The Calgary Flames Aren't For Real... Right?
Going into this season, the Flames were supposed to be a moribund and just as pathetic as their provincial rivals (the Edmonton Oilers.) Yet instead, they're sitting pretty at third in the Pacific Division and are currently riding a two game winning streak (with a game in hand over the trailing San Jose Sharks, nonetheless.) There's no doubt that Jonas Hiller's having something of a career renaissance in Calgary, but the inspired play of Mark Giordano (who's put up 21 points in 19 games as a defenseman) has also helped fortify the scoring (which is being complemented by youngsters Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.) With almost a quarter of their games being played already, it may take a collapse of sorts for us to be singing a different song come playoff time.


(credit: Edmonton Sun)

Could Devan Dubnyk Steal The Show In Arizona?
It's been no secret that Mike Smith has had an absolutely disastrous campaign for the Coyotes this season. As the team turned to Devan Dubnyk over the weekend, he managed to pitch a shutout against the Vancouver Canucks and allowed one goal the following night against his former squad (the Edmonton Oilers.) Though team management may want to give Smith the onus of the starts due to his elephantine contract, the reality is that the team needs to win and they need to do whatever's necessary for them to win. The Coyotes cannot afford to be in a situation where they make it to the .500 mark only to find themselves in a losing streak afterwards (as has been the case with Smith in net.) With Josh Harding being placed on waivers by the Minnesota Wild, it may be possible that the team makes a claim while they send Smith to the minors to figure his game out (the chances of another team picking him and his $5.167M salary up from the waiver wire are pretty slim.)



The Buffalo Sabres Need To Leave "Kids" In Junior Alone
Though this didn't "just happen", the Buffalo Sabres have sent Sam Reinhart back to the juniors after his 9 game audition in the NHL. The team was probably driven to do this instead of handling him the same as they did with Mikhail Grigorenko, who is back in the minors after a haphazard stage in his development where he was playing for everyone (junior, NHL, and international levels) while not being able to focus on his own development. Sure youngster Zemgus Girgensons is having a decent campaign thus far, but is this because he's "ready" or because he's having a good run lately? One thing's to be sure, it may be best for "lottery" teams to keep their prospects simmering until they're ready instead of plugging them into the lineup and hoping for the best. There could be the argument that the draft age should be 20, but that's another conversation for another time.


Goal Of The Week:
We love our penalty shots...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review Of 2014-15 Season Week 3

(credit: USA Today Sports)

Hello folks. Here's our thoughts as Week 3 has concluded:

Rest Well, Mr. Howe
Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, is recuperating after suffering a serious stroke during the week. The past few years haven't been kind to the progenitor of power forwards everywhere, as he's been battling dementia and and suffered through the loss of his wife. Nevertheless, he remains tough with age, so we here at Bruise Brothers wish him the best with recovery.


(credit: Fansided.Com)

There's No Place Like Home For The Los Angeles Kings
After an impressive homestand through most of October (save their home opener where they were smashed by the San Jose Sharks), the Kings went on to lose every game of their jaunt through the Eastern Conference. It's one thing to lose to the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, but losing to an injury-laden Carolina Hurricanes? Yikes. The Kings will need to get a victory against the Dallas Stars if they want to catch up with the other teams in the Pacific Division.


Michael Del Zotto Likes Porn Stars.... Just Not Lisa Ann
Michael Del Zotto's been bouncing around a few teams lately, and it seems that outside distractions may play a part in it. Apparently, the current Philadelphia Flyer met with renown starf**ker adult actress Lisa Ann (who's known for her, uh, erotic portrayal of Sarah Palin) and after a date with her, decided to use her as his madame instead of continuing to see her. Perhaps out of equal parts annoyance and jealousy, Lisa Ann decided to put Del Zotto on blast on Twitter for going through her for dates. If this is an indication of anything, he's probably having more success with the Flyers this season than he is with the ladies.


(credit: National Post)

The 7th Man Isn't In Toronto
With a record of 6-4-1, things have certainly been worse for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yet after three early losses, the fans are starting to respond in the same manner as the Edmonton Oilers fans in throwing their jerseys on the ice and booing the team while calling for personnel changes. Some say the fans are right because the players should have the mental toughness to withstand any playing environment. Some say the fans are wrong because the cheering gives teams that extra "oomph." Regardless of whether or not they're perceived to be "entitled", the Leafs fans are hungry for a Cup Contender, much less one that can land a playoff berth.


Goal Of The Week:
The New Jersey Devils finally won a shootout. On Devils Night, nonetheless. Is this proof that Hell froze over?

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