Tag:Alex Ovechkin
Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:37 pm
 

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

PNN1

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: the "slow" starts for Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Washington's Alex Ovechkin

By: Adam Gretz

In news that is sure to calm the chaos surrounding the Vancouver Canucks and their starting goaltender, Roberto Luongo, the three-time All-Star was pulled during the second period of their 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night after surrounding three goals on 14 shots. Panic!

Luongo, of course, has been under intense scrutiny, as he always seems to be in Vancouver, and it's reached the point that the local press is writing editorials proposing trades, much to the chagrin of general manager Mike Gillis. Imagine what it would be like if this team wasn't one win away from owning the Stanley Cup just a few months ago.

There is no way to deny that it's been a bad month for Luongo, as his .868 save percentage through his first six starts is near the bottom of the NHL. But he's not going to stay this bad, and it shouldn't be a surprise that he's struggled in the month of October. Throughout his career Luongo has been a slow starter (and at times slow finisher) and plays lights out during the months in between. He's basically a goaltending bell curve.

Let's take a look at his save percentages, by month, for his career and the past few seasons.

Roberto Luongo: Month-by-Month
Month Career 2010-11 2009-10 2008-09 2007-08
October .914 .907 .902 .902 .903
November .916 .914 .921 .959 .940
December .923 .922 .932 Injured .942
January .921 .947 .922 .876 .908
February .923 .923 .915 .914 .919
March .920 .942 .902 .930 .909
April .904 .961 .867 .918 .820

If you're of the opinion that Luongo can't win when it counts, maybe his decreased production in April, which has carried over to the playoffs at various times in recent years, simply reinforces that belief. But a slow start is nothing new. And while this one has been worse than some of his recent ones, he's eventually going to rebound. Over the past six years Luongo has been one of the best goaltenders in the league when it comes to even-strength save percentage, and even finished second in two of the past three years. He didn't suddenly lose that ability. At least not yet. He's going to play better, so let's calm down with the trade talk and suggestions of starting Cory Schneider, Vancouver, because it's not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen.

Ovechkin's start not unlike his previous starts … sort of

Speaking of great players that are off to "slow" starts, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has three goals and four assists through his first seven games of the season. For most players, a point-per-game average at any point of the season is a cause for praise and celebration; for a former scoring champion and two-time MVP it's started conversation as to whether or not we've already seen his best days as an NHL scorer.

(Actually, that may not be entirely out of the question at this point, as most players see their peak performance come somewhere around the age of 25 or 26. Of course, that doesn't mean Ovechkin is destined to become an average player or that his career is going to suddenly fall off a cliff. He's still going to be one of the best and most dominant players in the NHL and a force to reckon with everytime he steps on the ice -- he just may not score 65 goals again.) 

But what about his start to this season? Is three goals and four assists through seven games all that out of the ordinary for Ovechkin? No. No it's not. Have a look.

Alex Ovechkin: Production Through Seven Games
Year Goals Points Shots
2011-12 3 7 21
2010-11 4 8 35
2009-10 7 14 55
2008-09 2 4 37
2007-08 4 6 36
2006-07 4 7 46
2005-06 4 8 28

The biggest difference, obviously, is that his shots on goal are not only way down, but are also the lowest they've ever been through this many games, and that should be a bit of a concern.

The easy suggestion is to simply shoot more(!) but that's easier said than done. Everybody wants to get more shots on goal, whether you're a former 60-goal scorer or a third-line grinder. But there's another team out there with highly paid professionals doing their best to prevent that from happening. Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post wrote about Ovechkin's start last week and pointed out how the Capitals are trying --and have been trying -- to get him to become less predictable on the attack, and how other teams have been defending his usual rush of cutting to the high slot.

Maybe "the book" is out on him, and maybe he hasn't adjusted to it yet, but this slow start looks pretty similar to every other start he's had throughout his career, at least as far as his production is concerned, even with the fewer shots on goal (something that's been on the decline in recent years, as Neil Greenberg recently pointed out). Whether or not that's sustainable over the course of the season remains to be seen.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 14, 2011 5:04 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 5:04 pm
 

Asham calls Ovechkin hypocrite, expects fireworks

By Brian Stubits

Nothing like a fight to get things riled up once again in the NHL.

Arron Asham's knockout of Jay Beagle in last night's Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals game has been the talk of the day, the soup de jour. The fight itself was noteworthy enough. After getting his right hand free, Asham threw two punches square to Beagle's face, dropping him to the ice a bloody mess.

Obviously what took it from there to a bigger story altogether were Asham's actions immediately after the fight. On his way to the penalty box, he motioned that it was over and then did a go-to-sleep sign. Very soon Asham realized the severity of the injury for Beagle and was seen tapping the glass in support. He was further apologetic after the game.

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who was yelling at Asham from the penalty box while serving Beagle's two-minute minor, wasn't happy in the postgame.

“It’s a fight. It’s hockey game but again it was pretty tough. Beagle, like, he’s just first-year NHL,” Ovechkin said Thursday night. “Asham, I don’t know if he knows that or not, but just put him on the ice,” Ovechkin said. Beagle is “not a fighter, it’s not his job to fight. I don’t know, it looked kind of not respectful for players on different team. I don’t know what people think, but I think it’s not respectful.”

Well that got the attention of Asham. The Penguins tough guy, who reached outto the Caps' Mike Knuble to apologize to Beagle, wasn't willing to take that from the Ovie without a retort.

More Capitals-Penguins

“I don’t know what Ovie’s talking about, disrespectful,” Asham told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “A guy who throws his stick down and warms his hands over it. He is being a hypocrite himself. The rivalry is back. I’m sure the next game is going to have a lot of fireworks.

"I woke up this morning feeling pretty stupid. Guys make mistakes. Mine could have been a lot worse than some of the mistakes that go on. I held him up at the end so he didn't smash his face up.

"I didn't know he was unconscious. I obviously want to win the fight but I don't want to hurt anyone. The thing is, I didn't go up and ask him to fight. I told him to settle down. He challenged me. He wanted to fight me."

I wasn't aware that the Penguins-Capitals rivalry had gone anywhere to the point that it's back, as Asham says, but this did solidify Dec. 1's rematch in Washington as must-see TV. After sitting out as a scratch the first three games of the season, it's probably safe to say D.J. King will be in the lineup for the Caps that day.

Meanwhile, Capitals defenseman John Carlson, only 21, took to Twitter to share some of his frustrations. After simply tweeting "#JayBeagle83", he was chirped back by a Penguins fan. Carlson's response? "Go screw yourself u mutant." Well, there's no doubting Twitter gets fans closer to athletes than every before.

Rivalries make the world go round. And in hockey, this has become one of the best and most intense out there. Now we just have some logs for the fire.

Photo: Getty Images

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 5, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 10:01 am
 

Daily Skate: Leafs' Franson not pleased with role

By Brian Stubits

FRANSON FRUSTRATION: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Cody Franson in a trade with the Predators presumably because they thought he could play on their blue line. So did he. Well as they break camp in Toronto, Franson is still on the roster, but is the seventh defenseman. "Right now I'm not too thrilled with it," Franson said. This will be worth watching. (Globe and Mail)

DEBUT DELAY? Martin Havlat is ready to begin his tenure as a member of the San Jose Sharks, but it might have to wait just a little longer. The former Wild forward acquired this summer in a trade flew to Cleveland to meet with a shoulder surgeon hoping to gain clearance for Saturday's first game. Havlat had his shoulder operated on in the offseason after getting hurt in the World Championships. (Working the Corners)

LESSON LEARNED: In September, Milan Lucic made his way into some negative publicity when he was involved in a slight confrontation with his girlfriendand pulled the "Do you know who I am?" card. The young Bruins scorer says the whole incident taught him a major lesson. As far as the "DYKWIA?" card? He says it wasn't to get special treatment, but to ask the police to think of why he, with so much to lose, would do anything to jeopardize it. (CSN New England)

CHARITABLE RIVALS: When the Capitals and Penguins get together in Pittsburgh on Oct. 13, they will be wearing commemorative patches on their jerseys for the KHL's Lokomotiv team. After the game, they will autograph then auction off the jerseys and donate all the proceeds to the families of the players killed in the plane crash. (CBSSports.com)

STILL NO. 1: TSN put out their list of the Top 50 players in the NHL for this season, so who is No. 1? It's still Sidney Crosby, even if there's no guarantee as to when he'll return from post-concussion symptoms. No surprise that he comes in just ahead of Alexander Ovechkin. (TSN)

LUCKY LINEMATE: The winner of the Marian Gaborik-Brad Richards linemate sweepstakes with the Rangers is ... Brandon Dubinsky. He'll start the Rangers' game on Friday manning the left wing spot on the top line and coach John Tortorella will "see where it goes" from there. (@thenyrangers)

NOT A SAAD STORY: The Blackhawks are loaded with talent. It's why many see them as a Stanley Cup contender this season. So that gives you an idea how much second-round pick Brandon Saad impressed as he not only has earned a spot on the roster, but is slated to start on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. Not too bad for a player whose draft stock slipped. (CSN Chicago)

COUTURIER A CATCH: Saad isn't the only player who slipped in the draft that is looking like more than a player on an extended tryout. Sean Couturier was once seen as maybe the best prospect in the draft but fell to No. 8 where the Flyers were waiting with open arms. GM Paul Holmgren is willing to give up a season of control of his contract if Couturier continues to make an impact. (Philadelphia Sports Daily)

HUBYMANIA ENDS: Not all the top draft picks are going to get that extended look. The Panthers elected to send No. 3 overall draft choice Jonathan Huberdeau back to his junior team on Tuesday despite the forward leading the Cats in scoring this preseason. Interesting that a team so desparate to win and attract fans is willing to let their top prospect develop. (NHL.com)

BOUDREAU MIC'D AGAIN: This time it's clear of profanity ... because it's bleeped out. Bruce Boudrea, the Capitals coach who drew plenty of attention for his actions (and words) in HBO's 24/7 last season, was mic'd up for the Capitals' first preseason game held in Baltimore and let's just say he didn't like getting shut out.

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 29, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 10:09 am
 

Daily Skate: P. Kane fares well in center tryout

By Brian Stubits

CENTER STAGE: Patrick Kane played his first game of the preseason last night, and the Blackhawks went throught with their plan to try him out at center. The reviews are in and they aren't bad. When asked if there was anything about the experiement that wasn't good, coach Joel Quenneville said “No, we liked it." COuld get interesting. (ESPN Chicago) Bonus note: Kane joined the Twitterverse on Wednesday, he can be found @88PKane and has over 14,000 followers after just two tweets.

RIPPING AVERY: Boy, this year's 24/7 will be good. The animosity continues to grow in the Broad Street vs. Broadway rivalry. Things got very ugly on the ice in Philly on Monday between Sean Avery and Wayne Simmonds. At one point, Avery was overheard on TV saying he didn't want to have to f***** kill (Claude) Giroux. So the Flyers' Danny Briere took Avery to task for being hypocritical and just seeking attention. (Philly.com)

AV APOLOGY: The Colorado Avalanche were whipped up and down the ice by the Kings on Wednesday, including a hat trick for Anze Kopitar. After last year's second-worst record in the NHL, it caused some bad flashbacks in Denver. Soon after, Matt Duchene took to Twitter to apologize: “Sorry to all the fans that paid their hard earned money tonight to watch that terrible performance of ours. We WILL be better” (Denver Post)

SLOW START: Speaking of not being pleased with preseason results, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was upset at Washington's 4-1 loss in Nashville on Wednesday. “It’s time we started to get our act in gear and start playing better.” If they don't, Boudreau's seat could be awfully warm come Thanksgiving. (Capitals Insider)

MOVING ON: James Wisniewski of the Blue Jackets received the toughest punishment from new chief Brendan Shanahan this preseason, but he's not dwelling on it. “I’m going to be around here, but I’m not going to be down about anything. No pouty face from me. It’s over. It’s done. That’s how it has to be.” (Columbus Dispatch)

SANTORELLI SETBACK: The Panthers will be missing one of their few holdovers for the first month of the season. Mike Santorelli, who had somewhat of a breakout season last year with 20 goals and 21 assists, will sit out with a shoulder injury until Halloween. (Miami Herald) Speaking of Halloween, the Panthers will give free tickets to kids who are willing to trade in candy for hockey. (Miami Herald)

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Alex Ovechkin took time before returning to the States for the season to have a lengthy sit-down interview with Elena Khanian at Sobesednik in Russia. Here's the entire transcript in English. Among the interesting parts is this bit about his taste in women: "I think I will only marry a Russian, well, I mean, a girl from Russia. Russians are sincere, understanding and cook well." I imagine an influx of Russian women to the D.C. area soon. (Alex Ovetjkin)

IS HE READ-Y? One of the big revelations from Flyers camp -- outside of the fact that Jaromir Jagr can still play -- has been Matt Read. He leads the NHL preseason list in points and is still sticking with the big club. The unsigned free agent out of Bemidji State is doing all he can to make the roster, and it's looking good. (Philly.com)

Photo: US Presswire

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

Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:06 am
Edited on: September 27, 2011 10:12 am
 

Daily Skate: Marchand's champion tattoo typo

By Brian Stubits

WE ARE THE CHAMPIANS: Brad Marchand was one of the Bruins that celebrated the Stanley Cup victory by going out and getting inked up. Too bad the tattoo artist couldn't spell champions correctly. One of his teammates soon spotted the typo and Marchand had it corrected, but not before some photos were taken. (ESPN Boston)

STAAL STAYS BEHIND: While the Rangers headed to Europe after last night's controversy-filled game against the Flyers to finish out the exhibition schedule before the regular season begins in Sweden, Marc Staal stayed behind. The alternate captain of the Blueshirts is dealing with post-concussion symptoms, but coach John Tortorella expects Staal will join the team later and play in the games that count. (NHL.com)

QUESTIONING OVECHKIN: Here's an interesting question posed by Neil Greenberg of Capitals Insider: Is Alex Ovechkin an elite scorer or just a good shooter? The conclusion after stasticals analysis -- with charts! -- is that Ovie isn't the most skilled shooter around, he just gets more off than anybody by a large margin. (Capitals Insider)

BOOGAARD GETS A SHOT: After Derek Boogaard's death this summer, brother Aaron Boogaard was doing a lot of the speaking for the family, including explaining how his brother never quite overcame an addition to painkillers. But Aaron plays the game, too, and the former Minnesota Wild draft pick is all set to join the team's AHL affiliate in Houston. (Star Tribune)

ANOTHER WAIVER WONDER: It was about this time a year ago Dale Tallon was attempting to send Michael Grabner to the Panthers' AHL affiliate through waivers only for the forward to be claimed by the Islanders. we know how that turned out. Now another promising Panthers is on the wire, Michael Repik. While he doesn't seem to have Grabner's promise, here's one person who can't forget the gift Tallon gave them last year and would like to take a shot. (Lighthouse Hockey)

LOMBARDI AWARD: After the more high-profile cases of players sitting out after concussions such as Sidney Crosby and David Perron is Matthew Lombardi. The former Predators player who was shipped to the Maple Leafs this offseason is doing much better and looks like he'll be playing for Toronto. Feel-good story of the year candidate? Perhaps says James Mirtle. (Globe and Mail)

BATTLE UPDATE: In case you were wondering how the Battle of the Blades, the popular Dancing With the Stars meets ice skating show in Canada, here's your Week 1 recap. (Mile High Hockey)

ANYONE PUMPED UP YET? Came across this pump-up video for the Canucks this season. Surely they should have a lot of reason for optimism in Vancouver, but this video ... doesn't seem all that inpsiring. Set to Adele's Rolling in the Deep (which screams hockey) it mostly dwells on the Canucks losing to Boston, including Marchand punching Daniel Sedin. Excited?

Photo: ESPN Boston

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

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com