Tag:Adam Gretz
Posted on: February 15, 2012 3:35 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 3:35 pm
 

Kovalchuk is becoming complete player in NJ

By: Adam Gretz

The trade that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils prior to the trade deadline two years ago may prove to be the best thing that has happened to him in his NHL career.

Not only because the Devils have given him an opportunity to play on what has been a consistent playoff team (something his previous team, the Atlanta Thrashers, was not) but also because his time in New Jersey has resulted in him becoming a better, and more complete player.

Kovalchuk has been on a roll offensively for the Devils over the past couple of weeks, and thanks to his three-goal, four-point effort against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night he's recorded nine points in his past five games for a Devils team that looks as if it's going to return to the postseason after a difficult first half kept them out of the playoffs a year ago, and a lot of that has been due to the play of Kovalchuk.



His current per-game averages for the season would give him 40 goals and 90 points over an 82-game season, which is pretty much what we've grown to expect from him offensively.

But he's not doing it the same way he used to do it in Atlanta. Just watching him you can notice a difference in the way he plays when he doesn't have the puck, but he's also seen role and value expand beyond just goal-scoring. It's not uncommon to see him on the ice late in games with the Devils protecting leads, and he's taking on more responsibility. Even though his total ice-time per game is about the same (around 21-22 minutes) it's being spread out across the board a bit more.

His power play time is down and his even strength and, perhaps most surprising, his shorthanded minutes are up. Way up.

Only once over the past six seasons did he finish a season averaging more than 15 seconds of shorthanded time per game (and that was when he averaged 23 seconds back in 2007-08).

This season he's playing over a minute per game on one of the best penalty killing units in the league, and during his 60 minutes of shorthanded play Kovalchuk is a plus-four on the season, having been on the ice for five Devils shorthanded goals (scoring three of them himself and assisting on the other two) and only one power play goal against. There are only seven other players with a minimum of 30 games played in the NHL this season that are "plus" players during 4-on-5 play, and only one of them (Pittsburgh's Kris Letang) has played more than 23 minutes of total shorthanded ice time this season.

I don't know if a 15-year contract like the one New Jersey signed Kovalchuk to prior to last season is always the right investment for a team, but with the way his game has evolved in a short period of time, he should continue to be the franchise building block the Devils expected when they acquired him.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 15, 2012 1:15 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 1:43 pm
 

Should the Jets be buyers?

JetsBy: Adam Gretz

As one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL, averaging just 2.3 goals per game (25th in the league as of Wednesday afternoon) it's not a surprise that Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd would like to see some additional offense added to the team, especially after dropping a crucial 3-1 decision to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

The Jets have scored more than two goals in a single game just six times since January 1 (they've actually lost four of those games, for whatever that's worth) and are one of just two teams in the NHL that doesn't have a single player with at least 40 points this season (the Columbus Blue Jackets being the other). Blake Wheeler is currently leading the team with 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists). 

Following Tuesday's game in Winnipeg, Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun asked Ladd about the Jets needs as the trade deadline approaches, and the captain offered a little hint as to what he would like to see coming into the locker room.

“With the troubles we’ve had scoring, if it’s not going to come from within this room, we probably could use some help there,” said Ladd, via the Sun. "We’ve got a great goaltender, we’ve got D that can move the puck and play both ways.”

Obviously, it's a reasonable request from a player -- and the captain -- that's putting everything he has on the line every night and isn't ready to give up on the season.

But how much sense does it make from a front office standpoint to look for trade deadline rentals in what appears to be a rather thin market when it comes to goal-scorers? Especially for a team that still has a tough fight just to get into the playoffs.

The Jets are four points out of a playoff spot as of Wednesday, and even though that doesn't seem like a huge gap, it's not exactly promising, either. As we pointed out earlier on Wednesday, the Jets might need to finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 17-5-3 to reach the 95-point mark that it usually takes to make the playoffs. Is there a player (or players) available to them via trade that would give them enough offense to push a team that's won just seven of its past 20 games to that level? Rick Nash might be that sort of player. But is that a realistic target? Once you get past him you're looking at guys like Ales Hemsky and, well ... that's about it on this trade market when it comes to top-six forwards.

The only way a pre-deadline deal that has the Jets adding something to their NHL roster makes any sense is if it's a younger player that's under contract for future seasons and will be a long-term part of the team. A deadline rental that probably still won't be enough to reach even the No. 8 seed isn't what this team needs to be using its resources and assets on right now.

Latest NHL Trade Rumors and News

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 15, 2012 12:08 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 12:20 pm
 

A look at the NHL playoff bubble

Can the Islanders pull off a miracle run? (Getty Images)

Pucks and Numbers:
a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the playoff bubble and what the teams on it need to do to make the postseason


By: Adam Gretz

Recent hot streaks by the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning have sparked some playoff hope for their respective fan bases. On the other side, a recent slump that's come in the form of a 9-game losing streak has left some wondering if the Chicago Blackhawks could, amazingly, find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture when the regular season comes to a close.

Anything is possible, but even though there appears to be a large number of teams that are still "in" the playoff race, the harsh reality is that even a two or three-game deficit (four or six points in the standings) is a lot to overcome. It doesn't seem like it should be, but it is.

A couple of months ago I looked at how a slow start is extremely damaging to a teams playoff chances sooner than you might realize, and as the days of the regular season start to fall away those deficits become even more daunting. I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week that since the start of the '05-06 season there have only been two teams that managed to overcome a 5-point deficit this late in the season (the '06-07 Rangers and the '08-09 Blues) to qualify for the playoffs.

Ninety-five points is usually a safe bet to get your team into the playoffs, so with that in mind, let's take one more look at what each of the bubble teams will need to do over their remaining games to reach that level. Of course, it is possible for a team to make the playoffs with fewer than 95 points, and that may in fact happen this season, especially in the East, but I'm simply going with the number that tends to be a near automatic playoff berth.

Let's start with the Eastern Conference...

Eastern Conference Playoff Race
Seed Team Games Remaining Pts Needed Record Needed
7 Ottawa Senators 23 29 13-7-3
8 Toronto Maple Leafs 25 33 15-7-3
9 Washington Capitals 26 34 15-7-4
10 Winnipeg Jets 25 37 17-5-3
11 New York Islanders 26 39 17-4-5
12 Montreal Canadiens 25 40 18-3-4
13 Tampa Bay Lightning 26 41 18-3-5
14 Buffalo Sabres 26 41 18-3-5

Incredibly, Washington and Winnipeg still have an outside shot (at this point, a very outside shot) at winning the Southeast Division, which speaks more to the quality (or lack of it) of the division than anything else, but that hope of a Division title gets smaller with each loss. Once you get past Washington in the No. 9 spot the remaining teams have almost no margin for error.

The Canadiens? Better start praying. The Islanders, for example, have been playing some pretty great hockey recently, especially veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, but does anybody believe they have a 17-4-5 finish in them?

Even if it only took 90 points to reach the playoffs, they would still need a 15-7-4 finish.

Now, a look at the Western Conference...

Western Conference Playoff Race
Seed Team Games Remaining Pts Needed Record Needed
6 Chicago Blackhawks 25 30 15-10-0
7 Los Angeles Kings 25 30 15-10-0
8 Phoenix Coyotes 25 32 15-8-2
9 Calgary Flames 25 33 15-7-3
10 Colorado Avalanche 25 35 16-6-3
11 Dallas Stars 26 36 17-7-2
12 Minnesota Wild 26 37 17-6-3
13 Anaheim Ducks 26 40 20-6-0

When you look at in terms of how many games these teams need to win the rest of the way, the playoff races may not be as deep as they appear to be. When you get right down to it, there might only be four teams (Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Calgary) in the West fighting for three playoff spots.

Minnesota would need to play almost as well as it did in October through December to get back into the top-eight, which shows just how far that team fell over the past month-and-a-half. After 30 games the Wild had the best record in the league. Just 26 games later they're going to need to play like the best team in hockey for the remainder of the season just to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Bruce Boudreau has certainly helped get Anaheim going back in the right direction, but he's going to need to turn water into wine to get Anaheim, as well as its played in recent weeks, into the playofs this season.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 11:53 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 12:06 am
 

Do the Rangers have the No. 1 seed secured?


By: Adam Gretz


There are still two months to play in the regular season, but with their 3-0 win in Boston on Tuesday night you can probably assume that the New York Rangers have all but locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Maybe not officially, because, after all, there is still a chance that the Bruins could put together another run where they look like the '75 Canadiens, and the Rangers could always hit a rut down the stretch, but with Tuesday's win New York opened up a nine-point lead over Boston for the top spot in the conference.

That's a significant lead, and a deficit that large, this late in the season, can be almost impossible to overcome, even though the teams have two more games remaining against one another. That's a lot of ground to make up, and with the way the Rangers are playing right now it's hard to see them slowing down enough to allow Boston to get back to the top.

Since the start of the '05-06 season the average No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference has finished with 112 points, so for arguments sake let's just go with that. The Rangers would only need to put together a record of 15-9-3 over their final 27 games to reach that mark. Boston, by comparison, would need to go somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-6-2 in its remaining 28 games.

This is a pretty amazing development given how dominant the Bruins looked as recently as a month ago, and how ordinary they've looked since the start of January, having won back-to-back games just twice since the start of the new year. They haven't been able to win consecutive games since Jan. 10-12.

I haven't always been a believer in the Rangers this season, particularly earlier in the season, but it's hard to ignore what they've been able to accomplish to this point.

Henrik Lundqvist, having earned his 7th shutout of the season in Boston, is not only playing like a favorite for the Vezina Trophy, you can also make an argument that he's in the race for the Hart Trophy as the league MVP as well. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi have been one of the best defensive pairings in the league this season, while Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik have done their part to carry the offense.

The Rangers made a pretty big statement on Tuesday night, and right now they've put themselves in a position that very well could make the road to the Stanley Cup Finals go right through Madison Square Garden. And just imagine what they might look like if Rick Nash would happen to end up on Broadway.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 10:11 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 10:41 pm
 

Wings set new record with 21 straight home wins

RedWingsBy: Adam Gretz

With their 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night the Detroit Red Wings made NHL history, setting a new mark (and one that looks like it will continue to grow based on the way they're playing) by winning their 21st consecutive home game, breaking the record that had previously been owned by the 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers and 1929-30 Boston Bruins.

It's an incredible streak, and shows just how much the Red Wings have dominated their opponents at Joe Louis Arena this season, pushing their home record to 24-2-1. They haven't lost a home game since dropping a 4-1 decision to the Calgary Flames on November 3. The only other losses at home this season were against  Minnesota (a 2-1 shootout loss on November 1) and San Jose (a 4-2 loss on October 28).

What makes it so amazing isn't just the number of wins, but also the manner in which many of them have been achieved.



Some quick facts on the current streak:

-- The Red Wings have outscored the 21 teams they've knocked off by a total margin (as of Tuesday) of 87-31.

-- 10 of the wins have been by a margin of three goals or more. Three of the wins have been shutouts, five involved the Red Wings giving up just one goal, and only two saw them give up more than two. No team has scored more than three goals against them.

-- In typical Red Wings fashion, they have completely controlled puck possession and have out-shot their opponents by an average margin of 32.8 to 25.4 on a nightly basis.

-- And, finally, yes, three of the wins did come by way of the shootout.

My Eye On Hockey colleague, Brian Stubits, rattled a few cages by pointing this fact out on Sunday night when the Red Wings tied the record with a win over the Flyers.

You can put whatever level of significance on that fact that you choose (you can put an asterisk next to it, or you can ignore it, it doesn't really matter), but there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing it out, and it doesn't mean that by doing so that you can still can't marvel at the record -- because it is darn impressive, and worthy of being celebrated.

But these events from one era to another don't take place in a vacuum. The league that the 2011-12 Red Wings play in is vastly different from the league that the 1975-76 Flyers played in, for a number of reasons. It might as well not even be the same sport when compared to the league that the 1929-30 Bruins played (In 1929, for example, there were still limitations on when you could advance the puck with a forward pass). You wouldn't look at a 30-goal scorer in today's NHL the same way that you look at a 30-goal scorer in, say, the 1980s, because it's a completely different era with different rules and a different style of play.

None of this makes one streak better or worse than the other as all three teams had advantages and disadvantges when compared to the others, but it's still worth mentioning the differences. You have to (well, you should, anyway) take everything into account when comparing teams and players from different eras.

No matter how you look at the streak, the Red Wings are setting themselves up to be the favorites to take the Western Conference. After Tuesday's game they sit on top of the West (and the NHL, for that matter) with 80 points, and still have seven of their next 10 games on home ice where, again, they've only lost three games this season, and only two in regulation.

The schedule does get a bit tougher as they have upcoming games with Nashville, San Jose, Vancouver and Chicago at home, but that hasn't really mattered much this season, as nearly every team that's entered Joe Louis Arena has left in defeat, regardless of record.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 7:04 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 7:09 pm
 

Tuomo Ruutu expected to miss 3 weeks

CarolinaHurricanesBy: Adam Gretz

Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu has been one of the most talked about players leading up to the Feb. 27 deadline, perhaps illustrating just how little intrigue there has been this year (well, until the Rick Nash reports surfaced on Tuesday).

General manager Jim Rutherford recently expressed an interest re-signing Ruutu, but no matter what happens on the contract/trade front over the coming weeks the forward isn't going to be playing for anybody in the near future. The Hurricanes announced on Tuesday that he is going to miss the next three weeks after suffering an "upper body injury" during Monday's 5-3 win in Montreal.

That timetable will keep him out of the lineup until after the trade deadline. That doesn't mean a team still can't make a move for him, but the injury and Carolina's apparent interest in re-signining him may have pretty much removed Ruutu's name from the trade market.

The 28-year-old forward has 17 goals and 30 points in 57 games this season. He's currently in the final year of a three-year contract that pays him $3.8 million per season, and is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer if a new contract isn't signed before July 1.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 13, 2012 1:10 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 1:16 pm
 

Goal differential and the Southeast Division

SoutheastBy: Adam Gretz

Even though there are still three teams fighting for the top spot in the Southeast Division (yes, Winnipeg is still "in it" … barely) it's probably the worst division in the NHL, and there is a very real possibility that only one team will represent it in the postseason.

None of the teams have done anything to separate themselves from the other, and the team currently occupying the top spot, Florida, has fewer points than five other potential playoff teams in the conference as of Monday.

Also of note: every team in the division, again as of Monday morning, is on the negative side when it comes to goal-differential, with every team, including the currently first-place Panthers, having been outscored by their opponents over the course of the season.

Florida is at minus-11, Washington at minus-2 and Winnipeg at minus-22.

Of course, this isn't a good thing because, as common sense should tell you, good teams tend to score more goals than their opponents. A lot more. Since the NHL went to the three division alignment in the 1998-99 season, the average division winner (72 of them) has finished the regular season with a goal-differential of plus-45. Thirty-two have been plus-50 or better.

As the numbers above show, all three teams in the Southeast this season would have a hell of a long way to go  and need quite a few blowout wins over the final 25-or-so regular season games to reach that average mark. The Capitals having to spend so much time this season without two of their best players, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, has certainly impacted their numbers and on-ice performance, and the season has seemed to really fly off the rails since Backstrom went down with his concussion, pretty much eliminating whatever center depth they had. Still, how much of a threat would any of these teams as currently constructed be in the playoffs?

No division winner over the past 12 years has finished the season with a negative mark, and only five have finished with a mark worse than plus-10. Since it seems entirely possible that the winner of this division is going to post one of the worst goal-differentials for a division winner in recent NHL history, let's take a look at how the division winners with the five worst goal-differentials over the past 12 years did in the playoffs.

Interestingly enough, four of them also called the Southeast Division home.

2001-02 Carolina Hurricanes: 217 goals for, 217 goals against (even)

The Hurricanes finished the regular season with 91 points, fewer than six of the seven other playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. Amazingly, the Hurricanes went on an improbable playoff run and ended up winning the East before losing to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. Perhaps showing that playoff run was a total fluke, the Hurricanes not only failed to make the playoffs the following season, they finished with the worst record in the league.

2006-07 Atlanta Thrashers: 246 goals for, 245 goals against (plus-1)

The only playoff experience in the Atlanta/Winnipeg existence, and it was a brutal one. The Thrashers not only failed to win a playoff game, they were outscored by the No. 6 seed New York Rangers by a 17-6 margin in the four games. Like the '01-02 Hurricanes, they failed to make the playoffs the following season, finishing with the third-worst record in the NHL.

2007-08 Minnesota Wild: 223 goals for, 218 goals against (plus-5)

Minnesota's last playoff team, the Wild narrowly edged the Colorado Avalanche for the top-spot in the Northwest Division and ended up facing off against their divisional rivals in the opening round of the playoffs. The Avs ended up taking the series in six games, owning a 17-12 edge on the scoreboard, with Minnesota's only two wins in the series coming in overtime, meaning they were just a couple of breaks or bounces away from being dismissed in four games. Minneosta hasn't been back to the playoffs since (and has a fight on its hands to get back in this season).

1998-99 Carolina Hurricanes: 210 goals for, 202 goals against (plus-8)

The worst playoff team in the Eastern Conference during this season, and not surprisingly, the only one from the Southeast Division. The Hurricanes finished the regular season with just 86 points in the standings, four fewer than any other Eastern Conference playoff team. The Bruins team they played in the first round, for example, finished the season with 91 points and had a goal-differential of plus-33. Not surprisingly, Boston won the series in six games and outscored the Hurricanes 16-10. Carolina followed this season up with a nearly identical 84-point campaign (with a plus-1 differential) in 1999-00 and missed the playoffs.

2002-03 Tampa Bay Lightning: 219 goals for, 210 goals against (plus-9)

After knocking off another Southeast team (Washington) in the first round, Tampa Bay dropped its second round series to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils in the second round. Tampa Bay came back the next season won the Stanley Cup.

Photo: Getty Images


For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 13, 2012 10:50 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 3:50 pm
 

Rinaldo has hearing for hit on Jonathan Ericsson

By: Adam Gretz

Just a little over a week after Zac Rinaldo received a pair of fines for a trip and a late hit against the New Jersey Devils, the Flyers forward will be answering questions from the NHL once again on Monday following a charging penalty against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.

The NHL has a 1 PM disciplinary hearing with Rinaldo scheduled for Monday afternoon for this hit on Jonathan Ericsson late in the first period of Detroit's 4-2 win in the game that extended their home winning streak to a record-tying 20 consecutive games.



Rinaldo received a two-minute minor for charging on the play.

Even though a hearing is scheduled that doesn't mean a suspension is guaranteed, as it could also result in a fine or warning, or perhaps even nothing at all.

That said, the fact that Rinaldo was fined twice just last week probably isn't going to help him going in.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Rinaldo fined for trip, late hit
More NHL discipline news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com