A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

NHL 2008-2009 Predicted Final Division Standings

Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Atlantic Division

Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Northeast Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Southeast Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Central Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Northwest Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Pacific Division
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October 9, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lace ’em up: The 2008 NHL season begins Saturday

Lace up your skates and hit the ice — it’s hockey time.

Ron Cortes/MCTPittsburg Penguins’ Sidney Crosby celebrates a goal by Ryan Malone during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The NHL season starts Saturday in Prague, Czech Republic, with the New York Rangers taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning. This season begins after numerous offseason signings and trades that are sure to shake up the standings. Will the Detroit Red Wings repeat? How will the local teams, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, do? Which team is the dark horse? Which team will tumble into the depths of last place? Those questions will all be answered.

Following their Stanley Cup Finals victory, the Red Wings decided it would be best to sign another sniper — Marian Hossa. Surely, this will keep Detroit in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, but things will not be as easy this year. Goalie Dominik Hasek finally retired and defenseman Nick Lidstrom is one year older, as is Chris Chelios. Age has always been a factor for Detroit but they are winners in Hockeytown. However, the Central division, which Detroit is a part of, has been retooled and looks very formidable for the defending champs.

The Chicago Blackhawks are the team to watch in this division, and in the whole NHL. With their two young stars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (both could be sophomores or juniors with us here at Virginia Tech), Chicago could easily challenge Detroit for the division crown. Its defense has been bolstered with offseason acquisition Brian Campbell, bringing offense to their blueline. The question mark for Chicago is its goaltender, Cristobal Huet. If he can match his second half of last season with Washington, Chicago will be in tremendous shape.

Let’s head back east and take a look at the defending Eastern Conference champions — the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens lost quite a few players in the offseason, namely Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone and, of course, Marian Hossa. This is going to hurt them this year. They are in one of the most difficult divisions in hockey, the Atlantic.

Philadelphia is the main opponent for the Pens. There was not much movement by the Flyers except a huge contract extension for young franchise man Mike Richards. The past year allowed Richards and Briere to gel, and let Braydon Coburn break out into a top defenseman.

The Rangers lost a lot with Jaromir Jagr going to Russia. All of that experience and scoring is now halfway around the world. The pressure now solely rests with centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, both entering their second year in Madison Square Garden. The Rangers front office did help the loss of Jagr by bringing in Markus Naslund and blueliner Wade Redden. It will be a three-team race for the Atlantic title, but all three will end up in the playoffs. That means the Devils are out.

We will stay in the Eastern Conference and look at the Southeast division, won last year by Washington. Alexander Ovechkin proved again why he is one of the best players in the game, every bit as good as Sidney Crosby. There is a problem for the Capitals, though — the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa yanked Barry Melrose away from ESPN to be head coach, and with a slew of signees things look bright for the Lightning. This is the dark horse for the NHL. It would not be surprising for them to make it to the Eastern Conference finals, if they can sure up the goaltending.

Wrapping up the east is the Northeast division. Montreal goalie Carey Price, said to be the second coming of Patrick Roy, proved his worth last year. The Canadians dumped some useless salary and are still attempting to bring in will-he-or-won’t-he free agent Mats Sundin, your Roger Clemens of hockey. They should finish first in the division.

Montreal’s archrival, Boston is going to turn some heads this year. Barring any more injuries, they will be contenders, along with Ottawa and Buffalo in the division. Ottawa is going backwards, and Buffalo is at a stalemate. Now is the time for Buffalo to make its move. Watch for a big trade deadline deal for the Bruins.

Back out west, we find the Northwest and Pacific divisions. In these two, you will find some of the best goaltending and defense in the NHL. It’s all about hardnosed hockey here, with the occasional sprinkling of offensive firepower in San Jose and Detroit. The Northwest division lost a lot of talent and players shifted around to teams in the same conference. Anybody can win the Northwest — it’s that simple. Every team has a solid defense backed by exceptional goaltending.

The Pacific division is home to a perennial regular season powerhouse, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks’ problems come in the playoffs, and that is why they fired their coach Ron Wilson last year and brought in one of Detroit’s assistant coaches, Todd McClellan, to give the team a new, winning attitude. This coupled with the addition of a revamped blueline — Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich — means the pieces are once again in place for a deep playoff run.

The Stars and Ducks are going to give the Sharks everything they can handle, though, especially with goalies like Marty Turco and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Anaheim did not make any huge moves in the offseason, and Dallas lost a few key players from their Conference Finals run. That will not stop them from competing though. Both teams have superior coaches.

With all of that said, this looks to be another fantastic hockey season. More and more fans are tuning in and attending games, bringing back the love for hockey in America. It is truly a great and exciting sport. There is nothing more emotional in sports than seeing players lift the Stanley Cup after a strenuous eight-month journey. That journey begins tomorrow.

– Ray

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will They Repeat?

With 3 seconds left in the game, the puck sat on a member of the Penguins stick. It was just him and Chris Osgood, who had been dominant throughout the playoffs. The fans chanted 3, 2, and for a moment as the puck had gotten behind Osgood, and was trickling on the goal line, no one knew what was going on. Then, the final buzzer sounded, and the players jumped over the walls and the celebration had begun. The Cup was coming home to Detroit, home of Hockeytown. The Red Wings had won another Stanley Cup, and the celebration was just beginning.

Well now, some 3 months later, its time to start looking forward to another wonderful NHL season filled with many surprises, and at the end of the season, while Gary Bettman is being booed by many NHL fans, another group of guys will be named Stanley Cup Champions.

Believe it or not, there will be a number of teams that start out well but slowly fade off as the games go along. These guys are known as the Teasers because they simply “tease” their fans at the beginning of the season with hopes of being able to lift the Cup. The Nashville Predators and the Toronto Maple Leafs are two of the teams that are in rebuilding mode and even though their hopes are up at the beginning of the season, come trade deadline, they will be sellers instead of buyers. With the loss of key players, and many unproven players headed up to the NHL, its gonna be a tough season for both these teams.

The teams that have a decent chance at having a successful season, but with challenging schedules and tougher teams in their division, they may be looking in on the playoffs come April include Carolina and Colorado. Both teams have made some adjustments to their lineups from last season, and even though Carolina missed out barely on the playoffs, literally being eliminated on the last day, and Colorado made it to the second round before being swept by the future champs, both teams have quite an uphill battle to climp this season. Teams in both divisions have made vast changes to their lineup, and im not quite sure these two teams have done quite enough to match their opponents.

The shockers to look for in the 2008-2009 NHL season include the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks. Both teams made a vast-array of changes to their lineups and the organizations, and believe it or not, this could be the matchup to look forward to come next June’s Stanley Cup Finals. If both teams can avoid injuries and maintain good defense’s then these two teams will meet in June.

The San Jose Sharks, Detroit Redwings and New Jersey Devils are 3 teams that are sure to be in the playoffs once again. All three teams have tweaked their lineups, and with veteran goaltending tandems, and bluelines that have more than proven themselves, all three teams have a great chance at meeting the standards to qualify for the playoffs.

The teams that may be on the bubble and may have to wait til April to decide whether or not they are in the playoffs include the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, and the Dallas Stars. All four teams made the playoffs last season but with a very tough schedule (all teams playing each other) and division opponents only playing each other so many times, its gonna be tough for division opponents to beat up on each other like the last few seasons. I expect all four teams to be in the playoffs but don’t be surprised if they dont qualify to the end of the season, possibly the last week.

The spoilers this season include the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, and Minnesota Wild. These teams have lost key players and have been plagued by injuries over the last few seasons. Many of their players are not yet proven on this level, and with other teams vastly approving, its gonna be a tough season for these fellas.

“ARE YOU READY..I SAID ARE YOU READY FOR SOME NHL HOCKEY!!!!” Summer is officially over, and with less than 3 weeks until training camp, I surely know I am. I hope everyone is strapped in and ready for what going to be another amazing season of NHL hockey!

-Nathan

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment