Chad Billins Staying in Michigan

If you were wondering what Chad was going to do after the Ferris State Bulldogs hockey season ended, you didn’t have to wait long. Like most college hockey seniors, Chad signed with an AHL team immediately after the season ended. It was announced today on griffinshockey.com that Chad Billins, the 22 year old from Marysville, Michigan, has signed the defenseman to an amateur tryout.

The Grand Rapids Griffins are an affiliate to the hometown Detroit Red Wings as well. Maybe one day we will get to see Chad wearing the red and white. Good luck to Chad in his future which is looking really bright right now.

 

Here is  the link to the site where I found the information if anyone would like to take a look at it

http://griffinshockey.com/news/releases/index.html?article_id=2169

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NHL Playoffs Round 1

Goals, fights, blocked shots, broken noses, lost teeth, bruises, collisions, speed, sacrifice, determination. All of these things and more are what people think of when they hear the words “the NHL playoffs”. I know that I, along with many others, are very excited to see the playoffs start and just wanted to give a quick rundown of the matchup and who will win.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1 New York Rangers v.s. 8 Ottawa Senators

RANGERS in 4. Clean sweep for the rangers here. Basically Ottawa is garbage and found themselves to be a little bit better than the bottom of the barrel in the East. New York will take it to the Sens early and often, won’t be a very entertaining series.

2 Boston Bruins v.s. 7 Washington Capitals

BRUINS in 5. This series is very simple to explain. Bruins have Tim Thomas and Washington has Holtby, Neuvirth, and a banged up Vokoun. Enough said. Next!

3 Florida Panthers v.s. New Jersey Devils

DEVILS in 6. Brodeur plays great and leads the devils to the 2nd round. It’s not like there are enough Florida Panther fans that care anyway.

4 Pittsburgh Penguins v.s. 5 Philadelphia Flyers

PENGUINS in 6. Should be the best series to watch along with the wings-preds. Although I hate to see cindy crybaby win, I don’t see Philly taking this one. Pens have too much talent. However it will be fun to watch this rivalry possibly taken to a whole new level in this series.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1 Vancouver Canucks v.s. 8 Los Angeles Kings

CANUCKS in 5. Canucks will choke, but not yet. Canucks are too good offensively, defensively, and in the goaltending department. That usually adds up to a series win.

2 St. Louis Blues v.s. 7 San Jose Sharks

SHARKS in 7. This will be a fun one to watch. Youth versus experience. The sharks offense will show up and Niemi will play great. They will sneak by the blues with my biggest upset in the first round.

3 Phoenix Coyotes v.s. 6 Chicago Blackhawks

BLACKHAWKS in 5. Another upset in the works here. Although it’s not really an upset at all to me. The firepower the hawks possess is undeniable. They will take this series from a very overrated Coyotes team. The hawks are a playoff performing team, the coyotes are not.

4 Nashville Predators v.s. 5 Detroit Red Wings

PREDATORS in 7 (even though i’m rooting for the wings). The best for last. Everyone will have their eyes on this series. Can the predators finally take the next step after the moves they have made? Or is this the same predators team who will fall flat on their face and let the almighty wings take this series from them? I believe this is Nashville’s time. They have home ice, which kills the wings chances. They have built a team now that will quite possibly be as good as it will ever become. Predators and Rinne get by the wings in 7 and make a deep playoff run this year. Give Barry Trotz the coach of the year award and David Poile the GM of the year award. Both have done a great job with this team.

BRING ON THE HATE  WINGS FANS!!

Billins and Motte Advance to the Frozen Four

It’s always nice to see local kids making big impacts. In this case, we have two great hockey players from this area in the Frozen Four of college hockey. Both Chad Billins and CJ Motte play for Ferris State University and will be playing in the Frozen Four against Union College next Thursday. Ferris State at one point was ranked #1 in the country and have been playing very good hockey.

The (25-11-5) Ferris State Bulldogs have been led this year by their captain and Marysville, Michigan native Chad Billins. He has had an incredible year, and as a defenseman ended up 3rd on the team in points with 29 points. I was fortunate enough to play two and a half years with Chad, and even though we were only 14 years old, you could see how good Chad was. He was a great teammate on and off the ice. To this day I tell people that he is the smartest hockey player I have had the pleasure of playing with. Chad has played with a lot of great teams in the state of Michigan. He quickly went from a state champion Blue Water Wild team to Detroit Little Caesars AAA hockey club.  The very next year moved to Alpena in the NAHL and another year later to Waterloo in the USHL. It happened so fast for Chad and within a few years saw himself in a Ferris State  uniform where he has thrived. He still has at least 1 and at the most 2 games left with Ferris depending on if they win their semifinal matchup with Union College, but Chad’s hockey days will not end there. Right after the season is over NHL teams can sign seniors playing college hockey. Without a doubt the future is looking bright for Chad and should be signed and end up in either the NHL or the AHL after the season is over.

CJ Motte has to be happy with his decision to go to Ferris State University. His first year with the team and he is already on the verge of playing for a national championship. He has played outstanding in the 12 games he has started and posted a 1.98 Goals Against Average and .925 save percentage during the regular season. CJ is also a local hockey player, and grew up in the city of St.Clair, Michigan. CJ also played AAA hockey for Honeybaked. Although it was just after Chad had left Waterloo for Ferris, CJ Motte also played for Waterloo last year. CJ is not the only one in the family with hockey skill either. He has a younger brother who currently plays for the US Under 17 NTDP. He played for Honeybaked AAA last year and has already verbally committed to the University of Michigan. This means we could potentially see a matchup of brothers in a few years if their 2 teams meet. The futures of all 3 local hockey players are very promising and it’s exciting to see these great people on and off the ice succeed as they are.

If you’re interested in watching CJ and Chad play, tune in to ESPNU at 4:30 PM on Thursday April 5th. They will be taking on Union College in the semifinal. The final will be played on Saturday April 7th at 7:00 PM and can be found on ESPN2. So tune in, and support these local athletes as they strive to achieve greatness in the form of a national championship.
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Author: Anthony Walker

Shaking Down the NHL Playoffs

The NHL playoffs are arguably one of the greatest events in sports. 8 seeds upset 1 seeds, such was the case in 2006 when the Edmonton Oilers upset the mighty Detroit Red Wings, and it doesn’t shock you. Anything can happen in a 7 game series. A goalie can get hot at the right time and shut down an entire team, one bounce of the puck can change the momentum of a whole series. The greatest thing about the NHL playoffs is the unpredictability of it all. With that being said, I now will try to give you a rundown of who the contenders are, who the pretenders are, and who just might shock the world and be the next 2006 Edmonton Oilers or 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks by reaching the Stanley Cup Finals as 8 and 7 seeds in the West.

When I look at how the playoff situation is looking right now, I see 3 contenders in the east. I see Boston, New York, and the team I consider the favorite to win it all, the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the west I see only 2 true contenders and those would be the Vancouver Canucks and our own Detroit Red Wings (barring any major injuries entering playoffs).  The pretenders I have chosen this year are the number 1 seeded team in the NHL in the St. Louis Blues as well as the 3 seeds in the east and west in the Florida Panthers and the San Jose Sharks. I have 2 dark horses chosen and both happen to be the 5 seeds. I think the Nashville Predators in the west and the Philadelphia Flyers in the east are 2 teams who can be very scary for any of the top tier teams in this league and just might have what it takes to make a Stanley Cup playoff run.

For once, I feel as if the top teams in the east are superior to those in the west. Although Pittsburgh as of now stands as the 4th seed in the east due to their divison leader being a very strong team as well, they are the team to beat in the NHL right now. With their offensive firepower they have, even before Sidney Crosby came back, they are able to score at will. The proof is in the pudding. They currently have 2 of the top 4 goal scorers in the NHL. Evgeni Malkin is 2nd only behind the one and only Steven Stamkos with 46 goals and teammate James Neal comes in at 4 on the list of top goal scorers with 37. Not only do they have great offense, but they have something that every Stanley Cup Champion needs…..a great goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury currently leads the NHL in wins with 41. There’s not much else to say about them. The stats don’t lie, they are the number 1 scoring team in the league, they are a top 10 power play team and a top 5 penalty kill team and have the 4th most points in the NHL. They did this without having their captain for a majority of the year. All of those factors including having won a cup once already before makes them my favorite to win the cup this year.

Other teams who can make a run in the east are the two original six teams, Boston and New York. Out of these 2 teams I give the advantage to the Rangers because of goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist is a top tier goalie and has played outstanding this year with a 1.93 GAA and an outstanding .932 save percentage which is good enough for 3rd in the NHL. I think they are a hungrier team than the Boston Bruins who come off a Stanley Cup winning year in 2011. The Bruins shouldn’t be counted out either. If they get good goaltending, they could easily run the table and win the cup. They’re top 5 in both goals for and goals against this year. They have amazing depth on both the offensive and defensive side of the puck. One name jumps out at you and that’s Zdeno Chara. Other than that, a lot of people don’t care or know about Rich Peverley, Krejci, Horton, Lucic, Seguin, Corvo and all the other solid players on their roster. Just because a team doesn’t have a Datsyuk, Malkin, Ovechkin or Crosby doesn’t mean they can’t win it all.

The contenders in the west scare me because these teams both hold a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t have to say anything about the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings. Both are highly skilled great all around teams. However, each team holds it’s own set of problems. With Vancouver i think it’s simple. It’s all psychological. Can they get over the hump and get it done? They are a lot like the San Jose Sharks in the fact that both simply cannot win it all. Both San Jose and Vancouver fall to pieces when it means most. Detroit has a different set of problems. Can Detroit get healthy before playoffs and can they stay healthy throughout the playoffs? If the wings stay healthy, I say almost no team can beat them and I can see them making it to the finals for round 3 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. That is only if Jimmy Howard is in net and not letting the “softies” go by him.

I have already given a reason for why the Sharks are chosen as a pretender, but both San Jose and Florida share other reasons why both can be called pretenders in this year’s playoff. San Jose and Florida both play in the weakest division in their conferences. This means San Jose and Florida get to beat up on their division foes all year and automatically receive at worst the 3 seed because they are a division leader.  Another reason for Florida being a pretender is the lack of experience. Florida being in the playoffs is a surprise, but being on top of that a top 3 seed is just ridiculous. Home ice is a non factor seeing as no one wants to watch a hockey game down there. I just don’t see how either of these teams could make a run. Along with these 2 I chose the St. Louis Blues as a pretender. As much as I like the young talent they’ve assembled there, I don’t know if they can keep it up. None of the players have enough experience to know what it takes to win in the playoffs. I see this team being great in a couple years, but for now I just don’t see it. I mean honestly, how long can Brian Elliot keep stopping the puck like he has been? Only time will tell.

Now for my 2 “sexy” picks in the mix for a Stanley Cup. In the east it’s the “broad street bullies” Philadelphia Flyers and the Nashville Predators. If you’re looking for underdogs to root for this year, here you have them. They’re both the 5th seed in their conference and both have potential to even meet up in the Stanley Cup Finals. With Philly, they have just about everything except goaltending. Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky have not played to their potential this year and if they’re going to have any chance to win the cup, then Bryzgalov needs to step up to the plate and be the guy for Philly. They have a good mix of veterans and young guys and a ton of skill on offense with Claude Giroux leading the way. The team is 3rd in the NHL in goals per game, but 20th in goals allowed per game. If that doesn’t set of an alarm in your head, I don’t know what will. The good thing is they have size on defense in guys like Coburn as well as skill on defense such as Timonen. On offense they have a great balance of grit and skill. These things are huge when it comes to playoff hockey. Let’s just hope Bryzgalov returns to old form.

As for Nashville, they weren’t threatening until around the trade deadline. They have made so many great moves and have really come into their own. They made 4 significant moves that vastly improved the makeup of their team. It starts with Hal Gill. Their strength was defense and they added to it with Hal Gill, a big tough D with a ton of playoff experience. He is the perfect D-man for a playoff run. They also added firepower on offense by trading for Paul Gaustad from Buffalo and Andrei Kostitsyn from Montreal. Kostitsyn doesn’t just add firepower, but great chemistry seeing as he became reunited with his teammate and brother, Sergei Kostitsyn. It didn’t just stop there. They went out and grabbed a player from the KHL. Alexander Radulov, the 25 year old who played in Nashville for 2 years, made the jump from Russia back to the NHL. He is the KHL’s all time leading scorer and holds the record for most points in a season. He averaged over a point per game over there. Not to say that’s surprising, because he faired well in the NHL too for those 2 years and in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) he posted an astounding 61 goals 91 assists and 152 points in just 62 games. With these additions to an already solid team with a great goalie like Rinne and a top defenseman like Shea Weber, I can see this team being a tough potential matchup for the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

As of now, the playoffs are still a work in progress as teams on the bubble try to make it in. Teams who have clinched are trying to get home ice advantage, or play for a more favorable matchup. Unfortunately right now, it looks like all roads will lead to the Pittsburgh Penguins who really look unstoppable in a 7 game series. I can’t wait for playoff hockey and to see which team gets the lucky bounce that brings them the Stanley Cup.
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Author: Anthony Walker