Monday, January 21, 2013

Thoughts on the first weekend

Two days' worth of games in the books.

  • The Rangers did not look good against Boston (and I'm guessing they didn't look good against Pittsburgh, either). Of course, they looked like a good team, but for a team laced with Stanley Cup expectations, they spent too much time chasing the puck. I still felt like John Tortorella was holding them back. There's no point in bringing in creative players like Brad Richards and Rick Nash if they have to play within a system everywhere they go on the ice. And that defensive zone strategy...I think they'd be better served to be more aggressive and try to win the possession battle. They still struck me as a team that is reactive rather than proactive (like New Jersey, Los Angeles, or St. Louis), and I don't think that's going to get it done.
  • Every team needs to copy Philadelphia's strategy to play against Pittsburgh. Rivalry aside, there's more that the Flyers do to get Pittsburgh off its game. They forecheck aggressively and force the Penguins' defensemen to make quick choices. Since only Letang is capable of making good, quick choices, it works. I guess Shero and Bylsma have tried to cover up that flaw by exclusively icing defensemen that are pretty mobile, but Philly has got a pretty up-tempo forward corps, so I guess that's their effective counter. (Also, crashing the net and matching Giroux to Crosby seems helpful.)
  • It seems like if you don't play the Blues exactly the right way, they dominate. It was stunning to see them dominate the shot clock like they did against Detroit, though, because, well, the Red Wings are known for possession as well. (St. Louis also did that against Washington last season.)
  • It's nice to see the Sharks and Blackhawks get off on the right foot. I think they were both pretty underrated heading into the year (San Jose more than Chicago).
  • When did Cory Schneider become the starter for Vancouver? If memory serves, he started one game in the playoffs last year, and over the summer (when Vancouver didn't make any goalie changes) he somehow supplants Roberto Luongo? I'm not referring here to Alain Vigneault's choice to start Schneider against Anaheim, but at the media's willingness to play along. Schneider is as much a starter as Holtby is.
  • Washington should not really be in 50/50 games with Tampa Bay. It's one thing when you play a little better than your opponent and sometimes lose because the shots don't go in or the other goalie plays well. It's another when your caliber of play fluctuates as well. I didn't like what I saw of that game, especially from the top line. It wasn't awful, but I expected better. Hopefully the next game follows the expected script a little better.
  • How soon will Tomas Kundratek get a call-up?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

30 Expectations for the 2013 season

1. At least one postseason "lock" (Chicago, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, Boston) will miss the playoffs.

2. Evgeni Malkin will not be a Hart finalist. Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby will be.

3. Dan Bylsma starts Tomas Vokoun at least 25 times between the regular season and playoffs, helping the Penguins to win the President's Trophy.

4. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both finish over a point-per-game and Braden Holtby wins the starting goalie job as the Capitals win the Southeast, which is the East's best division.

5. None of the mainstream rookies (Jonathan Huberdeau, Nail Yakupov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Mikael Granlund, Justin Schultz) win the Calder Trophy.