Tag:Steven Stamkos
Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:35 pm
 

Anisimov move sets off scrum; Downie leaves bench

By Brian Stubits

New York Rangers forward Artem Anisimov didn't make himself any friends on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster on Thursday night. Especially Steve Downie.

In the second period of their game in Madison Square Garden, there was a really interesting sequence that unfolded. While on the power play, a Lightning slap shot took down Brett Connolly in front of the Rangers crease, leading to a breakout the other direction. The rush was finished off by Artem Anisimov scoring a goal. The place was excited.

Then all hell broke loose. Relatively speaking, of course.

Obviously pleased with his effort and the go-ahead goal, Anisimov felt like celebrating. That's all fine and dandy, until he decided to pretend his stick is a gun and aim right for Mathieu Garon and the Lightning net. Vincent Lecavalier wasn't happy as you might expect.

The ensuing scrum resulted in four minutes of roughing for Marc-Andre Bergeron, two for roughing on Steven Stamkos, two minutes for roughing on Downie and a 10-minute misconduct, four minutes for Brandon Dubinsky on roughing, two minutes to Anisimov for unsportsmanlike conduct, four for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. Phew!

"It was just classless," Stamkos said after the game. (Quotes courtesy of @AGrossRecord, @DaveLozo, @KatieStrangESPN, @NYDNRangers)

"It's wrong, we all know that," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's the wrong thing to do. He's a solid, solid guy who made a mistake. He's not an idiot."

"I guess I'm in a protective mode because he deserves to be protected."

Tortorella went on to say that Anisimov apologized for his celebration and that he'll be available to the media on Friday. Nor did Tortorella blame his former team, the Lightning, for their reaction, admitting that Anisimov crossed a line.

"Artie's not doing it to do anything against their team," Brad Richards added. "Artie won't do that again. He wasn't trying to embarrass anybody."

That would have been the end of and the sportsmanship of Anisimov would have been the only remaining talking point for the next few days.

That's until you see the replay again and wonder, where did Downie come from to join that scrum? That's right, the bench. That means an automatic suspension is coming his way -- if it's determined it wasn't a line change. That could be the one thing that saves Downie if they decide he was coming onto the ice for the next shift after goal, but it sure doesn't look that way.

Eric Godard learned the suspension lesson last year with the Penguins. Making it worse, Downie doesn't have a pristine reputation. Brendan Shanahan might add more games on to what could be a long suspension.

In the end, it was the Lightning getting the last laugh, winning in a shootout after a late comeback to end their five-game losing streak.

But back to the original celebration. Are you OK with Anisimov going gunny on the Lightning?

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 30, 2011 3:27 pm
 

Lightning strike five-year extension with Hedman

By Brian Stubits

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed young defenseman Victor Hedman to a five-year contract extension on Wednesday, locking up their No. 1 draft pick in 2009 until the age of 26.

“We are extremely pleased to announce that we have agreed to a five-year contract with Victor,” general manager Steve Yzerman said. “He has shown tremendous growth as a player in just more than two seasons in the NHL while also becoming a key member of our team. We look forward to his continued development in a Lightning uniform.”

Since he was drafted, Hedman has been with the Lightning, making the team's roster and sticking. He is still coming into his own at the NHL level, obviously, but he has a nice foundation. Last season in 79 games the tall defenseman had three goals and 23 assists.

This season he has a couple of goals and is second on the team in average ice time. The idea is that Hedman will be around for a long time to anchor the blue line.

But his defensive effort that has been just as big for the Bolts. With his big frame, he's already shown he's capable of throwing his weight around a bit on the ice and deliver some big hits. He showed some mistakes early in his career in his own zone, but those have largely been cleaned up. That's to be expected with an 18-year-old.

"I'd like to thank our owner, Mr. Vinik, and of course GM Steve Yzerman for helping me move forward in my career," Hedman said. "I love it in Tampa Bay with the Lightning and I will do all I can to help this organization be successful on and off the ice."

Like most teams, the Lightning didn't release any financial numbers with the contract. However, the almost always reliable Bob McKenzie reported he was hearing the deal is worth about $4 million per season.

If that is correct, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't be, you have to like the deal for Tampa Bay. They don't have to worry about any restricted free-agency headaches with one of their most important players, a building block for the future to complement Steve Stamkos in front of him. With the clear potential to become one of the better all-around defensemen in the NHL, it's a nice deal for both sides.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:57 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Sanford, Jackets starting to roll

By Brian Stubits

Amid Columbus' awful, awful opening to the season, the only bit of defense the team and its fans had was something along the lines of waiting for everybody to be healthy. The team was built in the offseason around the additions of James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter and for the first month and a half of the season; they had not played in the same game. Now they are both playing and the Blue Jackets are now winning.

But it was another injured player returning that has been even bigger. And this one wasn't really on anybody's excuse radar.

Turns out the return of goaltender Curtis Sanford has been huge. Or at least it would appear that way. It was no mystery that Steve Mason in goal was as big an issue as anything else in Columbus' struggles, but I am not sure anybody believed there was a possible solution within the organization.

It wasn't long ago that in this blog we were discussing the possibilities of the Blue Jackets getting a major shakeup in the front office and coaching staff. Some were just saying give it more time, all they needed was to trade for a good goalie. The only problem was the Jackets are right up against the cap and have no flexibility.

This feels as good as a trade right now.

In the five games prior to Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Blues, all Sanford starts, the Blue Jackets picked up at least one point. His record is now 3-0-2 after Columbus' 5-1 beating of the Buffalo Sabres on Black Friday. He entered Sunday with a goals against average of 1.27 and a save percentage of .950. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The recent run has done what not long ago seemed laughable: the Jackets had climbed out of the NHL cellar. With the Devils' squeaker over the Devils on Saturday, the Jackets returned to the basement, but they are hot on the heels of the Isles, Ducks and Flames to move (or down) the draft lottery list.

But the big acquisitions have been doing their part, too. Carter, back after breaking his foot, is finally looking comfortable with his new team. With two beautiful assists against the Sabres, Carter brought his total to five points (3-2=5) in the last five games. Wisniewski has also recorded five points in that span as he also contributed two assists to the win on Friday.

However none of that would matter much if they weren't getting better goaltending. Now, with Sanford getting the bulk of the work, they are. It's not too late to crawl their way back into the picture, but a lot of that will ride on Sanford continuing to play at a level this high.

If he keeps those ice blue pads, maybe he will.

Hangover Part II

Much was made about the champion Bruins' hangover to start the season. They came out slower than any team not named the Blue Jackets. Of course, that's long-ago history as the Bruins have won 11 of the past 12 games, earning a point in all of them.

But not as much has been said about the Canucks' meager beginning. After all, this was the best team in the regular season last year and was within 60 minutes of winning the Stanley Cup. Like the Bruins, the Canucks returned the core of their team and were expected to be powerful once again. Yet they were merely average.

That might be changing. With a road trip that included a 5-0 domination of the Coyotes in a "packed" (with blue) Jobing.com Arena on Friday and a gritty 3-2 win over the Sharks in San Jose on Saturday, the Canucks have won four in a row.

With the eight points in four games, they are now two points behind the Minnesota Wild, two points from reclaiming their seemingly rightful position atop the Northwest Division (they have lived in the Northwest penthouse for a few seasons).

In goal for each of those four games? That would be Cory Schneider, not Roberto Luongo. Schneider -- who had back-to-back shutouts in the four-game run -- was already seen by many to be the best backup in the game, rumored constantly in trade talks around the league over the last season-plus. Now the only goalie that Canucks fans want to throw around in those conversations is Luongo, the Vezina finalist from just last season.

There was already a goalie controversy in Vancouver even before Schneider began playing so well. The controversy? The fact that Luongo was the starter. That was enough to cause a civil war among the fans in British Columbia. This just makes it more heated.

It's show time

We got a taste of the Winter Classic on Saturday with the Flyers and Rangers waging battle in New York, a 2-0 Blueshirts win. Brandon Prust fought not once, but twice, much to the pleasure of John Tortorella.

It was also the first time this season that the league's highest-scoring offense, the Flyers, were grounded. It should come as no surprise that it was Henrik Lundqvist who was first to do it. They don't call him King Henrik for nothing.

But over the weekend, we also got our first taste of the HBO 24/7 series that's set to debut on Dec. 14. No, I'm not talking about the game, but HBO's 12-minute preview of the must-see show for hockey (and non-hockey) fans.

Warning: If you don't already have HBO in your cable/dish subscription plan, the following teaser might make you change your mind (video courtesy of nyrangersblog.com).

There wasn't even an appearance from Jaromir Jagr or Sean Avery in this tease, so clearly they must be saving the best for the show, a refreshing change from movie trailers that show you the only good parts of the movie.

Glory Toews

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews isn't going anywhere anytime soon. If they have their way in Chicago, he'll retire in the black and red.

But if he were to change work addresses, he just might move to Southern California.

The Blackhawks took their turn at the SoCal double dip with a game Friday in Anaheim and Saturday in Los Angeles. What did Toews do? Oh just help the 'Hawks take both games with three goals and three assists. One of those goals came 1960s style with Toews parked in the crease without a helmet and scrambling to hammer home the loose puck.

I have no doubt that when this season is all said and done, Toews will have his say in the Hart Trophy conversation.

Real quickly on the Ducks, this is just too atrocious to leave out (from Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register: The Ducks have now lost six in a row, 12 of 13 and 15 of their last 17. No other word for that than horrendous.

Florida flurry

It's not even December yet and the intrastate rivals in Florida have already met five times. For the second time in the first two months, the Lightning and Panthers had a back-to-back set beginning in Sunrise and finishing in Tampa.

This time, it was the Bolts getting the better of the Cats. One massive reason was the play of Steven Stamkos. He had three goals, including the game-winner in overtime on Friday night, and an assist. He was the best player on the ice on Saturday, no questions asked.

It continues to amaze me how little attention Stammer seems to be generating. After all, he proved last year he's one of the top three scorers in the league. He has quietly amassed 14 goals and 10 assists this season. Yet there seems to be hardly a peep about him.

A few more four-point weekends for the Lightning and I'm sure he'll start getting his due.

Capital punishment

At this point I'm starting to think this will be a regular section in the Weekend Wrap. At least as long as the Capitals continue to play the way they have been.

With their 5-1 beating in Buffalo -- where the Sabres' Zack Kassian scored his first career NHL goal -- the Caps moved to 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. In the past eight, it's been particularly awful.

Check out this stat from Stephen Whyno at the Washington Post. The Caps have now been outscored 34-17 in their past eight games. Minus-17 in the past eight? That's worthy of one big OUCH.

The upcoming week for the Caps has dates with the Blues and Penguins. So things might not get better quite yet.

Quote of the weekend

After the Penguins destroyed the Senators 6-3 and Sidney Crosby continued his stellar return with three assists, Sens forward Nick Foligno attacked Crosby for taking a headshot at him late in the game. He wasn't too happy with Sid, saying he was disappointed and more or less called Crosby a hypocrite.

While Crosby was quiet about the criticism, his coach Dan Bylsma wasn't. Here's what he had to say in response.

"We're talking about a player that bumped into our goalie three times. With the score 5-1 and intentionally going into our goalie, he can expect more than Sidney Crosby coming at him and talking to him during the game. That's how we feel about those situations. He was in our net falling over our goalie, and I don't think there was any question about the intent."

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:29 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 10:57 am
 

Early season surprises: Avalanche take the cake

By Brian Stubits

The Colorado Avalanche have shown a little pattern in recet years, so maybe we should have seen this start coming.

Three seasons ago they came off a conference semifinal loss by finishing with 69 points, bad enough to get the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, which they used to select Matt Duchene (good call). The following season they were in the playoffs behind Craig Anderson in goal. That was followed by another miserable season to give the Avs the No. 2 pick, which is where they grabbed Gabriel Landeskog.

It is still incredibly early, but if there were a surprise from the first two weeks of the season, it is without a doubt the Avalanche. Colorado lost its home opener before embarking on a five-game road trip to the East, including the Eastern Canada swing, and lo and behold, the Avs took all 10 available points. It was the first time in franchise history they won five consecutive road games. Not bad for a team with only three players over the age of 30 -- Jean Sebastien-Giguere, Milan Hejduk and Jan Hejda.

"Now what we have to do is take this kind of game we played on the road -- keeping it simple, doing little things -- and translating it to our home ice," Giguere said Monday night after beating his former Maple Leafs team. "This was obviously a great trip for us. It should give us confidence going forward."

Obviously winning at this rate won't last. That goes without saying. Considering their youth and inexperience, they are more susceptible than most to higher highs and lower lows. But the prospects of not finishing near or at the bottom of the Western Conference like many foresaw? Those seem pretty good right now.

A good chunk of the team's success has come from the goaltending duo of Giguere and Semyon Varlamov. Desperate to get a goaltender to take the reins this offseason, the Avs signed the veteran Giguere, but it was their move for Varlamov that took the attention.

Colorado was the heavy favorite to court and then sign free agent Tomas Vokoun. It seemed to be a perfect match. But a funny thing happened; the Avs didn't seem to want to go down that road. Instead, they spoke with the Capitals -- Vokoun's eventual landing spot, oddly enough -- and worked out a trade to acquire Varlamov, who said he was done playing in Washington. The price of a first-round pick in return seemed like a quality deal for the Capitals. After all, Colorado was the second worst team in the league a season ago. Talk to people around Washington and they are all aware of how talented Varlamov is. That was never the issue. If he can stay healthy -- now we have our issue -- it could be a coup for the Avalanche

However they are more than the goaltending, obviously. What really jumped out of the screen watching them play the Leafs on Monday -- and again, this was the fifth of five games on the road in another time zone, so the excuses to be sluggish where there -- was their speed and energy. I guess you can call that youthful exuberance. Whatever words you use to describe it, I call it impressive.

A lot of people might have been sleeping on the Avs before this season began, but Joe Sacco's crew has opened some eyes in a hurry.

Surprises

Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite losing to the Avalanche in overtime on Monday -- their first missed point of the season -- Toronto is out of the gate strong. Now this isn't something entirely new this time of year. Remember the Maple Leafs started 4-0-0 last season, then they won only one of the next 12 games.

One difference this time around, however, is James Reimer -- or his Twitter world nickname Optimus Reim, if you prefer. The young goalie is giving fans hope that they have finally solved the riddle in the cage. That and the so-far spectacular play of Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf gives you reason to believe the Maple Leafs just could end their six-year playoff drought this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning: They are surprising, but not in a good way. The Eastern Conference runnerups from a season ago have looked, well, awful. They have picked up only four points from their first six games and given up four goals or more four different times already. Dwayne Roloson looks his age, which is now 42.

"Obviously, we're not happy," Steven Stamkos said Monday. "I wouldn't say we're in a panic mode, but we're worried. This isn't the start we wanted. We're taking way too many penalties."

They better figure it out soon because with some improved teams in the East this year, they don't want to fall too far behind.

Dallas Stars: So Brad Richards is winless with his new team while his old team, the Stars, are 4-1? That qualifies as a surprise to many.

Everybody wondered how Dallas would replace the loss of Richards. Signing Michael Ryder in the offseason didn't seem to be a void-filler. Maybe all they needed was another year for Jamie Benn, Mike Ribeiro, Brendan Morrow, Steve Ott and Loui Eriksson together. Oh, and a healthy Kari Lehtonen. Dallas is 4-0 when Lehtonen starts this season.

Then there is Sheldon Souray, who Edmonton couldn't get out of town fast enough. Dallas took a shot on the bought-out Oilers defenseman and so far it's looking like a good gamble. He has a goal and three assists as well as a plus-4 rating while averaging more than 20 minutes on ice per game.

Florida Panthers power play: Is this real life or is this just fantasy?

The Panthers had 35 power-play goals in 82 games last season. Let that sink in for a minute. As you would probably guess, that was the lowest in the NHL. Maybe it's the addition of Kevin Dineen and assistant Craig Ramsey, maybe it's the influx of new forwards, or, perhaps most likely, it's the arrival of Brian Campbell to run the show. Whatever the result, the Panthers have scored on eight of their 25 power-play attempts this season, including five in one game against the Lightning on Monday.

Heck, they even have a short-handed goal already, making them an even squad on the penalty kill.

No suspensions for hits: With how busy Brendan Shanahan was during the preseason, I was getting ready to request Shanny TV 24/7. It was like Hannukah, waking up every day for eight straight days to see the newest gift, or in this case video. But since the first puck was dropped in Toronto, the only suspension handed down was for the Wild's Marc-Pierre Bouchard and his high stick on the Blue Jackets' Matt Calvert.

But a funny thing happened when the season began, the suspensions stopped coming. That's because the head hits have stopped coming, which is exactly what everybody hoped to see in the first place, even the anti-Shanny crowd. I view it like Republicans and Democrats; everybody wants to get to the same prosperous place, they just don't agree on how to get there. This is the same. I have yet to hear one person say they want head shots to remain in hockey, just that they feel like Shanahan was going too far, or as Don Cherry and Mike Milbury put it, setting the bar too high.

The preseason over/under on the number of suspensions laid down by Shanahan was 40.5. That under is starting to look awfully tasty now.

But this could change later Tuesday after Kris Letang of the Penguins has his meeting with Shanahan.

Not surprising but still noteworthy

The Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings both remain perfect. But we wouldn't expect anything else from those two franchises these days. To the other hot starters like the Flyers and Ducks, consider it a compliment that your team isn't on here. They have rosters people thought were capable of doing just this.

Photos: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 11, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 10:36 am
 

The Lightning: The East's (again) quiet contender

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Let me take you back to last season. The Tampa Bay Lightning were just one game, no, one goal from making a trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals. The pushed the champion Bruins to the brink before a late Nathan Horton goal in Game 7 sent the B's on.

That's how the Lightning's breakout season ended. People had perhaps anticipated an improved Lightning squad, but one going that far? It was a quick ascension under first-year coach Guy Boucher. Yet, outside of the drama of Steven Stamkos' contract extension, there was very little discussion about the team from Tampa.

But why not? After all, the Bolts finished only four points behind the Capitals not only in the Southeast Division last season, but in the Eastern Conference. They then swept those same Capitals in the conference semifinals.

There are the headliners, of course. Outside of the twins in Vancouver, it is hard to find a better pairing of players than Martin St. Louis and Stamkos. Throw in Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone? There is some special talent.

It's enough for Boucher to throw the slightest of bulletin-board quotes Washington's way before Monday's matchup.

“Last year we showed that we were the new kids on the block for them and they are used to being first," Boucher said. "We were kind of in their way as a thorn in their side and this year we are planning on being a thorn in both sides, hopefully."

Then they showed in the crazy, back-and-forth 6-5 shootout loss in Washington that they can be even pricklier. It was as captivating a game as you will see in the regular season while also being rather hideous. It's funny how sometimes an ugly game can be so pretty. It was "so bad, it's good" theater.

In that game, the Lightning managed to score five goals without any coming from the aforementioned four players. Stamkos didn't even have a shot on goal through the first two periods. Asked if he is getting enough enough production from his top line, Boucher's answer was perfect.

"No. I never get enough of anybody," he said with a smirk.

Instead the scoring work was done by Brett Clark, Teddy Purcell, Dominic Moore, Bruno Gervais and Nate Thompson. Now the game was hardly any model for defensive responsibility and goaltending teaching seminars, but you had to be encouraged to see so much production beyond the top line.

"It's a process. It's always a work in progress. Obviously we're doing a lot of good things, but we have a lot of things to clean up and that's part of the regular season," Thompson said. "You're going to have games where it's not going to be perfect. Still have a lot of work to do and a lot of season left. We did some good things, we did some bad things [on Monday]. We have to learn from it and move on."

It hasn't been the best of starts to the season. At times they looked sluggish and out of sync, but keep in mind the Bolts just began the season on a three-game road trip that included visits to the defending Stanley Cup winner and then the division champs here.

"I don’t think it’s concerning me, but we got to have our finger on it," St. Louis said after the game. "We took a huge stride in our work ethic compared to last game. We took way too many penalties, power play’s got to be better. That sums it up."

So again, why are people sleeping on the Lightning? Maybe it's because they were very quiet in the offseason aside from the Stamkos situation? The only new addition from outside the organization is Ryan Shannon, Gervais and backup goaltender Mathieu Garon. Hardly scene stealers.

There are two answers that seem the most obvious: They play in Tampa Bay. It's nothing the fans in Tampa don't already know, but it just isn't treated with the same attention as the traditional markets. That's the easy one.

But the real reason could be the concerns about the defense, including the goaltending situation. Last season the Bolts were 21st in the league in defense. If the game in Washington is any indication, things aren't looking much better yet. Add on that, the Lightning just learned they will be without Mathias Ohlund for the next four-to-six weeks.

Speaking specifically to the five goals surrendered to the Capitals, Boucher expressed some trepidation over the defense right now.

"Turnovers hurt us, but we can certainly be a lot better at [defense]," Boucher said. "But we are concerned. Ohlund is supposed to play against the top lines and he's out for a long time. So now we're asking some guys to play in slots their not supposed to. On any team it needs to be an adjustment. Guys are going to have to take the load for long times so I guess it's hurting us. But hey, we're battling through. We're still doing some good stuff, but we got to get better."

And when they do, the Lightning will somehow be right back in the position as the under-the-radar Cup threat. With the lack of attention, you get the feeling this is a "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" situation.

There's no reason to think the Bolts aren't one of the best in the East. The perception is that teams like the Sabres and Rangers got better through free agency and the Penguins will be better with the eventual return of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But Tampa Bay, by sticking together and being in Year 2 under Boucher, will have another crack at reaching the Stanley Cup Finals this spring.

Photo: Getty Images (Side note: Love the guy watching Boucher diagram the play from the stands!)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 6, 2011 2:23 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 2:28 pm
 

NHL prop bets: Sidney Crosby's games played, more

By Brian Stubits

I'm not a betting man. Seriously, I've never made anything more than a friendly wager in my life. But I still enjoy looking at the odds, especially Vegas prop odds.

I think the most interesting of all the ones released by bodog.com this week are the ones pertaining to Sidney Crosby. The over/under on the amount of games he plays has been set at 60.5. That is starting to seem very attainable, too, as it seems Crosby is close to being cleared for contact. Interestingly enough, Crosby is also third down the list of Hart Trophy candidates at 13/2, trailing only Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos.

Speaking of Stamkos and Ovechkin, t's also interesting to note that according to the oddsmakers, nobody is a lock to score 50 goals this season. Stamkos has the highest over/under followed by Ovechkin. Here are the top 5.

Steven Stamkos -- 47.5
Alexander Ovechkin -- 43.5
Corey Perry -- 41.5
Ilya Kovalchuk -- 38.5
Daniel Sedin -- 36.5

A couple other names of note are Zach Parise at 35.5, trendy Hart Trophy pick Evgeni Malkin at 31.5 and Jeff Carter at 34.5.

Here are some of the oddball prop bets for this season. If the preseason is any indication I'm taking the over, WAY OVER on 40 1/2 suspensions.

How many NHL head coaches will be fired during the 2011-2012 regular season?
Over/Under: 1 ½

Total Player suspensions during the 2011-12 NHL season?
Over/Under: 40 ½

Total fines during the 2011-12 NHL season?
Over/Under: 16 ½

Lastly, here are the over/under point totals for the top four or five scorers for every team in the league. There are a few enticing numbers on there, but again, interesting nobody has an over/under in the triple digits.

Point Total Over/Unders
Anaheim
Corey Perry 87.5
Ryan Getzlaf 78.5
Bobby Ryan 71.5
Teemu Selanne 52.5
Boston
David Krejci 67.5
Milan Lucic 58.5
Nathan Horton 58.5
Patrice Bergeron 56.5
Buffalo
Derek Roy 69.5
Thomas Vanek 64.5
Brad Boyes 57.5
Drew Stafford 52.5
Calgary
Jarome Iginla 80.5
Alex Tanguay 62.5
Olli Jokinen 52.5
Rene Bourque 47.5
Carolina
Eric Staal 74.5
Jeff Skinner 66.5
Jussi Jokinen 51.5
Tomas Kaberle 44.5
Chicago
Patrick Kane 75.5
Jonathan Toews 74.5
Patrick Sharp 65.5
Marian Hossa 60.5
Colorado
Matt Duchene 70.5
Paul Stastny 66.5
Peter Mueller 50.5
Milan Hejduk 48.5
Columbus
Rick Nash 71.5
Jeff Carter 66.5
A. Vermette 54.5
R.J. Umberger 52.5
Dallas
Loui Eriksson 65.5
Mike Ribeiro 65.5
Jamie Benn 64.5
Brenden Morrow 48.5
Detroit
Pavel Datsyuk 83.5
Henrik Zetterberg 76.5
Johan Franzen 54.5
Nicklas Lidstrom 53.5
Edmonton
Taylor Hall 55.5
Jordan Eberle 53.5
Ales Hemsky 46.5
Linus Omark 45.5
Ryan Whitney 44.5
Florida
Stephen Weiss 56.5
Kris Versteeg 45.5
T. Fleischmann 45.5
David Booth 44.5
Los Angeles
Anze Kopitar 76.5
Mike Richards 66.5
Dustin Brown 55.5
Justin Williams 47.5
Minnesota
Dany Heatley 69.5
Mikko Koivu 68.5
Devin Setoguchi 40.5
G. Latendresse 37.5
Montreal
Tomas Plekanec 57.5
Mike Cammalleri 51.5
Brian Gionta 47.5
Max Pacioretty 45.5
Scott Gomez 45.5
Nashville
Patric Hornqvist 50.5
Martin Erat 50.5
Shea Weber 47.5
Ryan Suter 40.5
New Jersey
Zach Parise 77.5
Ilya Kovalchuk 74.5
Patrik Elias 59.5
Mattias Tedenby 37.5
New York Islanders
John Tavares 71.5
Michael Grabner 52.5
Matt Moulson 49.5
Frans Nielsen 46.5
New York Rangers
Brad Richards 77.5
Marian Gaborik 61.5
B. Dubinsky 56.5
Ryan Callahan 52.5
Ottawa
Jason Spezza 64.5
D. Alfredsson 54.5
Erik Karlsson 43.5
Bobby Butler 39.5
Milan Michalek 36.5
Philadelphia
Claude Giroux 75.5
Jaromir Jagr 63.5
Danny Briere 62.5
J. van Riemsdyk 50.5
Phoenix
Shane Doan 56.5
Keith Yandle 55.5
Radim Vrbata 49.5
Daymond Langkow 34.5
Pittsburgh
Evgeni Malkin 82.5
Sidney Crosby 79.5
Jordan Staal 48.5
Kris Letang 46.5
San Jose
Joe Thornton 75.5
Joe Pavelski 68.5
Patrick Marleau 66.5
Martin Havlat 63.5
St. Louis
David Backes 55.5
Chris Stewart 53.5
Andy McDonald 52.5
Patrik Berglund 50.5
Tampa Bay
Steven Stamkos 95.5
Martin St. Louis 93.5
Vincent Lecavalier 64.5
Teddy Purcell 52.5
Toronto
Phil Kessel 67.5
C. MacArthur 54.5
Nikolai Kulemin 51.5
M. Grabovski 49.5
Tim Connolly 47.5
Vancouver
Daniel Sedin 93.5
Henrik Sedin 92.5
Ryan Kesler 57.5
Alex Burrows 52.5
M. Samuelsson 47.5
Washington
Alex Ovechkin 98.5
Nicklas Backstrom 78.5
Alexander Semin 63.5
Mike Green 49.5
Winnipeg
Andrew Ladd 56.5
Evander Kane 52.5
Blake Wheeler 51.5
Tobias Enstrom 50.5
Bryan Little 47.5
   

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 4, 2011 4:43 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 4:43 pm
 

Fantasy: Ovechkin primed for bounceback season

By Brian Stubits

Alex Ovechkin is arguably the NHL's biggest star (although Sidney Crosby has a pretty good case). He recently had a wax statue in his likeness unveiled. He was picked as the face -- literally -- of the Mr. Big bar. He even was in a bunch of odd, yet funny (some people will just stop at odd). You could say he's kind of a big deal.

He's also our biggest Fantasy star -- among non-goalies, of course -- in this season's projections. His predicted numbers are still a touch below his torrid pace of a few years ago, but 45 goals and 52 assists ain't too shabby. He just edges out Steven Stamkos of the Lightning among the skaters.

Henrik Lundqvist is the top player overall based on the projections. Remember this valuable lesson when assembling your Fantasy team: In most scoring formats, Miikka Kiprusoff is about as valuable as Ovechkin. That's just the quirk of goaltending in Fantasy.

But back to Ovechkin. Here's how high he has set the standards for himself: Last season's 32-goal, 53-assist season was a disappointment. As somebody who spent a first-round Fantasy draft pick on him, believe me. It was hardly his usual output.

He still ended the season with more points (85) than games played (79) but it was the lowest total of his career, seven points lower than his sophomore season. It was the lowest goal total of his career by a longshot; the 32 goals were 1 4 fewer than his previous low of 46, again in his sophomore campaign.

It's pretty easy to identify the culprit in this case. Not much changed from season to season that would have led to such a steep drop from a personnel standpoint. He's been playing with Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and the rest of the Capitals core for a few seasons now. He was also injury free, as far as we know.

No instead it's easy to pinpoint what was different, and that was a new philosophy. When Ovechkin was putting up monster numbers like his 65-goal season in 2007-08, the Caps basically said to hell with defense and rushed all day long. It was succesfful in the regular season, but they could never sustain it when it mattered most, the playoffs. So coach Bruce Boudreau decided to change the focus, make the Capitals play with a more defensive conscience. All of a sudden Washington was no longer the league's top-scoring team. They weren't even in the league's top half of scoring teams. Their 2.67 goals per game was good for 19th in the NHL.

So it's easy to beg the question: which Alex Ovechkin will we see in 2011-12?

Fantasy Hockey prep

At 26, he's just entering the prime of his career (that's scary to think about), so the natural inclination is to expect he'll have a return to normal, which is around 50-plus goals. That seems to be what the oddsmakers are thinking, enlisting Ovechkin as the favorite to win the Hart Trophy with 4/1 odds.

The Capitals are going to try and find a balance this season between offense and defense. Boudreau says that they are going to try and be more opportunistic to jump into scoring plays. If that holds true, then naturally we can expect a climb in his numbers again. After all, there is hardly anybody faster and Ovechkin on the rush is a killer.

Getting Mike Green back fully healthy will help, too. The hope is he will help make the Washington power play more than just average, which is exactly what it was last season. In a related note, Ovechkin, who once scored 22 goals on the power play in a season, had a very modest seven in 2010-11.

Now you have a better picture of why there is optimism he'll have a bump back up in his numbers. When you stack his six seasons together, there's an anomaly, and it's 2010-11.

Herein lies some concern. Last season Ovechkin had one less shot than he did in 2009-10. That season he had 50 goals on 368 shots. Last season he had 32 on 367. That means his shooting percentage went from 13.6 to 8.7, the first time in his career he was below double digits. The hope for Ovie drafters is that is rectified by the team trying to open back up a little.

But this is the time to remind of perspective. We're still talking about a guy who will be better than a point-per-game player. That's not about to change. It's hard to imagine you can keep a good player like him down.

Plus, having him atop your team lends itself to some great Fantasy team names like Ovy One Kenobi.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:09 pm
 

Southeast Division preview: Still chasing Caps

By Brian Stubits

The days of the South-least Division are slowly fading away.

For the last half decade, the Southeast Division has been the Washington Capitals' playground with four teams chasing. Of course the Caps have been very good through that time, but fattening up on their division "rivals" undoubtedly helped them to four straight division championships.

Just take the 2009-10 season as an example. That year the Capitals had 18 more points than the next closest team in the East while no other team in the division finished even in the top nine of the conference standings. That's especially amazing when you consider there are only 15 teams in the East.

They stil finished atop the East despite a transformation. Head coach Bruce Boudreau changed the way the team plays, trying to lock down on defense. As a result, the league's highest-scoring team the past few years dipped all the way to 19th in scoring. Alex Ovechkin had a very good season by almost anybody's standards. Just not his own.

The trick for Boudreau is to find that happy medium. They showed defense is something they can and in the past they showed they can score. Now they need to show they can do both. If they don't, especially early, Boudreau will hear the calls for his firing. The most successful regular-season team hasn't done enough after it to satisfy the increasingly antsy and demanding fan base.

But the somewhat surprising emergence of the Lightning last year has beefed up the division's rep. Tampa Bay figured to be on its way back up the NHL ladder, but the boom that came out of last season seemed to be ahead of schedule. Now the division has two of the game's elite scorers in Steven Stamkos and Ovechkin. With the Bolts unceremoniously sweeping the Caps in the playoffs last year, we just might have the beginning of an actual division rival for Washington.

The division also features something new: the most amped up fan base in the league, at least for one season. The Winnipeg Jets are still stuck playing in a division that will have them being true fish out of water. To say the Jets will suffer from jet-lag isn't just a fun pun but a reality they face. With that said, what was one of the easiest road trips in the NHL just became one of the toughest, especially for the teams in the Southeast that should look into taking the Concord to Manitoba.

Southeast Division (in order of predicted finish)

Washington Capitals: The Caps have become one of the league's elite teams and have done a pretty remarkable job of keeping their core together. Well this offseason owner Ted Leonsis and crew decided it was time to shake up the roster a touch to try and find the missing recipe to move Washington deeper into the playoffs. Enter Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Tomas Vokoun among others. I don't think there was a bigger offseason addition in this division than the Caps getting Vokoun, especially when you factor in the salary he'll be getting. Vokoun's talents have been hidden in Florida in the past four seasons, but he's an excellent goaltender but he is (or at least was) prone to prolonged slumps. As for Ward and Brouwer, they considerably beef up the Caps' toughness up front along the boards who are very capable two-way players.

Strengths: They have shown they can do every facet of the game well. It is a challenge to find a more talented team in hockey, including on the blue line. That's not something you could say in the past, but John Carlson and Karl Alzner complement each other well enough to make one of the best young defenseman duos in the NHL.

Weaknesses: It is tough to pinpoint any with this team, it is very well-rounded. It will be interesting to see how they handle expectations and increased heat when they hit some rough patches. Also, from an organizational standpoint the team has very little room to maneuver under the salary cap. That could be worth monitoring if/when GM George McPhee decided to tweak the roster.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Everything came together for a great run to a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference finals last season under new coach Guy Boucher. He brought in the ol' 1-3-1 system that seemed to be a magic trick for the Bolts. Now the question becomes can they repeat or was last year lightning in a bottle (that pun really was not intended)? One thing strongly in their favor is that the return almost the entire roster intact from last season. They did lose a couple of players such as Simon Gagne, but not much in the way of being unable to repair. one player who is back is Eric Brewer, and he'll be better for having spent camp and beginning the season in Tampa Bay. It will be interesting to see how this team fares with expectations on their shoulders.

Strengths: They roll out two excellent lines at the top. The Ryan Malone-Stamkos-Martin St. Louis line is one of the best in the game and the second group of Nate Thompson-Vincent Lecavalier-Teddy Purcell isn't too shabby, especially if Purcell continues his growth. They also had excellent special teams last year, ranking in the top 8 of both power play (it helps to have Stamkos, who scores 17 on the PP last year) and penalty kill a season ago. I also love the man on their bench as Boucher is a star in the making among coaches.

Weaknesses: I am still not in love with the goaltending situation. Dwayne Roloson was very good after being picked up by GM Steve Yzerman (he would qualify as another strength), but he just doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me to keep it up. The addition of Mathieu Garon to back him up is a good one, though. Moreover, consistency might be an issue, especially for Stamkos. He really slowed down last season, failing to score 50 goals when he appeared to be on his way to 60 midseason.

Carolina Hurricanes: If the playoffs were a night club, the Hurricanes have been the guy standing at the front of the line until the bouncer says they're full. Every year it seems they are squarely on the playoff bubble, including last season when it came down to Game 82, which was a sound defeat. This season figures to be more of the same for the 'Canes as they might just be the next-best thing to a playoff team the East has to offer. They had a very pleasant surprise in Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner last season and captain Eric Staal is still leading the show. Gone, though, is another Carolina long-timer in Erik Cole (now in Montreal). One thing you have to love about this franchise, though, is its consistency. GM Jim Rutherford has been there ever since they became the Hurricanes (and before). It seems like their best players don't leave the organization, either. Hopefully for them the consistency in their finishes doesn't stay the same, but instead they crack the postseason. But in a beefed up East, that will be tougher said than done.

Strengths: They have an excellent captain in Staal, both from a leadership standpoint and player quality. They also boast one of the better goalies in the league in Cam Ward, an All-Star last season. And there's that whole consitency thing they have going on, often helps in the old chemistry department.

Weaknesses: There is not much depth to talk about in Carolina. After Stall, Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, they aren't likely going to find a whole lot of scoring. They also don't posses a ton of size among the forwards, hence the reason they brought in Anthony Stewert and Alex Ponikarovsky this offseason to help. There just doesn't seem to be enough to crack the postseason, but Rutherford admits to this being somewhat of a "rebuilding" phase. That's a pretty competitive team for one that's rebuilding.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers were incredibly active in the free-agent market in July, adding a slew of veterans to hold the tide while the youngsters develop. Undoubtedly the Panthers are better than they were last season, but how much better? They did lose arguably their best player in Vokoun and are replacing him with the combination of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, not exactly an exciting development. But it can't be denied that the Panthers now at least have NHL-quality players across their lines (and defensive pairings, led by Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski), but they still aren't high-quality players, not guys that you figure can get them into the playoffs, finally. The trick in Florida is not doing anything now to hinder the future, which is very bright as the system is loaded.

Strengths: I do like the defensive corps they are putting together, especially if 2010 No. 3 overall draft pick Erik Gudbranson makes the team as expected. It's very hard to say at this point with so many new faces coming together what kind of strenghts we're looking at, it's tough to predict how they will play together. But we do know something that isn't likely be a strength this year ...

Weaknesses: The aforementioned goaltender position. With Vokoun gone, the Panthers are relying on the combination of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. Now, both do have experience, Theodore more so than the Clemmer, but in no way do they make up for what Vokoun, Florida's best player in recent seasons, took with him. You also have to wonder about chemistry issues with this team having brought in so many new faces. We'll put new coach Kevin Dineen as an "unknown."

Winnipeg Jets: The virtue of such a home-ice advantage will likely make the Jets a little better than the Thrashers were last season, but not enough. Thankfully for them the new home crowd in Winnipeg will just be jacked to have hockey back. They will need to take advantage of the home crowd, especially with a stretch of 10 home games in 11 contests that stretches from the end of November through December. But they will need to find scoring punch, especially from the forward group. They have excellent point producers among the defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, but Ladd needs more help. Hopefully, that's where Evander Kane will fit in. In his third year since being drafted in the first round (all of his time spent at the NHL level) this could be the year he steps up his game and becomes a franchise fixture. He is already a popular figure partly by virtue of his Twitter account and the way he has taken to Winnipeg.

Strengths: They were above average on the power play last season, finishing 12th in the league thanks to Byfuglien and Enstrom. Thrown in the potential of Zach Bogosian as an offensive weapon and that's a lunch of firepower coming back the blue line. I like Ondrej Pavelec in net if he can get a little better support from his teammates. I will put one more in this category, and that's the patience of the front office. They have a lot of first-round talent on the roster and they don't seem willing to abandon the long-term plan for a quick fix to appease the riled up fans.

Weaknesses: The forwards need to show more. Outside of Ladd, nobody up front cracked the 20-goal barrier last season in Atlanta. They need to find a way to tighten down defensively after giving up the second-most goals per game in hockey last year at 3.20. The forwards doing a better job of creating scoring chances and possessing the puck will certainly contribute. The penalty kill was almost equally bad last year, clocking in at 27th in the NHL. Like the Panthers, we'll put new coach Claude Noel as an "unknown."

NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL 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