My Red Wings offseason

When the Detroit Red Wings lost to the Nashville Predators Friday night, it was the end of more than a playoff series. The Wings lost in the first round of the playoffs for only the fifth time in the last 21 seasons, and yes, they made the playoffs all 21 times. At the start of the next season this team will be five years removed from their most recent Stanley Cup, with the last three years being early exits from the playoffs. While many franchises would kill for this success, it is not enough, not in Detroit. I have a few offseason needs that I would love to see happen, and if they were to happen it would make the Red Wings one of the favorites next year. The team has cap space and GM Ken Holland decided against using it to make a move at the trade deadline this year. That move will now pay it’s dividends this offseason, allowing Holland, who is one of the best GM’s in all of sports, to work his magic. These are my needs in order of importance.

1. Sign Ryan Suter – Nick Lidstrom is aging and may only have one season left in him. Suter is in the prime of his career and is a physical defensmen who can immediately step in and take over the void Lidstrom leaves, if he does retire.

2. Nick Lidstrom paycut – He is without a doubt one of the best three defensemen to ever play the game and there is no arguing that. However, he turns 42 next week and although his production is still solid, he is no longer a $7 million player. I would over him one year at $3.5 million and if he doesn’t take it, I’d let him walk. Sports is a business and the extra money is absolutely necessary.

3. Sign Zach Parise – Holland will need that money here. It is no secret Parise and Suter want to sign in the same place, so why not Detroit? Parise is a skilled and tough forward who will add more punch to the offense that was exposed in the Nashville series. Parise needs to be a Wing next year.

4. Trade Hudler and Filppula – Don’t get me wrong, I like both of these players. They play both ways and are solid forwards who play well within the Wings system. The downside is they both make $3.5 million and $7 million is too much money for almost no production. They are relatively young so they will have good trade value and we can get some good draft picks for them.

5. More Gustav Nyquist – I came away very impressed with Nyquist’s performance this season and in the playoffs. He is, in my opinion, the best young guy the Wings have and should be a full time NHLer. He played very well and was extremely productive when he was paired up with Datsyuk this season and I want to see more of them together next year.

6. Less Tomas Holmstrom – I love Tomas Holmstrom. He has been a staple of Red Wings hockey for the entire length of his tenure in Detroit. He made his living taking abuse in front of the other teams net, and I still believe he can do that, but that is all he has left to contribute. He was never a skilled guy and he is always a step behind everyone on the ice. He isn’t getting any younger so, as much as it sucks to see, I would like to see his role reduced drastically again.

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Author: Wil Hunter

My Foray into the NHL Playoffs

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know as much about hockey as I’d like to, nor do I know as much about the sport now as I did 10 years ago, when I was a pretty hardcore Wings fan and (roller) hockey player. That’s not going to stop me from trying to outsmart and out-pick the hockey heavyweights (Walker and Hunter) here at Put Away the Whistle. I’ve been paying attention, so here goes my best effort:

Eastern Conference

1. New York Rangers vs 8. Ottawa Senators

Offense: Advantage Ottawa.
Defense: Advantage New York.
Goaltending: Advantage New York.
Power Play: Advantage Ottawa.
Penalty Kill: Advantage New York.

I guess we’re about to find out if the Rangers are as real as the 1-seed might indicate. Ottawa possesses decent scoring ability between Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Milan Michalek. However, they can’t play defense to save their collective lives, so go ahead and give me…

Rangers in 6

2. Boston Bruins vs 7. Washington Capitals

Offense: Advantage Boston.
Defense: Advantage Boston.
Goaltending: Advantage Boston.
Power Play: Push.
Penalty Kill: Advantage Boston.

Ovie has really fallen off this year, only managing to scrap together 65 points this season. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not awful; however, it is disappointing for a player of his caliber. Tim Thomas is, in fact, a boss, and I believe the Bruins are capable of admirably defending their title from last season. I’ve got…

Bruins in 5

3. Florida Panthers vs. 6. New Jersey Devils

Offense: Advantage New Jersey.
Defense: Push.
Goaltending: Push.
Power Play: Advantage Florida.
Penalty Kill: Advantage New Jersey.

I can’t believe in Florida when they have Jose Theodore in net; I also can’t believe in Florida when they don’t really have any particularly dynamic goal scorers. Thus, by default, give me…

Devils in 6

4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5. Philadelphia Flyers

Offense: Slight Advantage Pittsburgh.
Defense: Push.
Goaltending: Advantage Pittsburgh.
Power Play: Push.
Penalty Kill: Advantage Pittsburgh.

I’ll channel my inner Mugatu – Bryzgalov is SO HOT right now. The guy was 11-3-1 in the final month of the season, with four shutouts and a .939 save percentage. The bad news for him and his Flyer brethren is that they’re going up against the highest-scoring team in the NHL in the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’ll take…

Penguins in 5
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Western Conference

1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Los Angeles Kings

Offense: Advantage Vancouver.
Defense: Advantage Los Angeles.
Goaltending: Push.
Power Play: Advantage Vancouver.
Penalty Kill: Push.

It’s hard to pick against the Sedin twins; however, Daniel’s recovery from the concussion he suffered in March has made me second-guess the confidence I had in this pick. Jonathan Quick’s tremendous ability to keep the puck out of the net made me third-guess my second-guess. In the end, by the smallest of margins, I’m gonna pick…

Canucks in 7

2. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. San Jose Sharks

Offense: Advantage San Jose.
Defense: Advantage St. Louis.
Goaltending: Advantage St. Louis.
Power Play: Advantage San Jose.
Penalty Kill:  Advantage St. Louis.

When you have a goaltending pair like Halak and Elliott, you have to feel pretty good about your chances in the playoffs. However, St. Louis has had some trouble scoring against good teams this season. Nonetheless, the Blues need to be careful, because you never know when douche-of-a-captain Joe Thornton is gonna take a few more pathetic dives like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=defOE1Ewxsk. What a Nancy; I can’t pick any team he captains, so I guess that means…

Blues in 7

3. Pheonix Coyotes vs. 6. Chicago Blackhawks

Offense: Advantage Chicago.
Defense: Advantage Phoenix.
Goaltending: Advantage Phoenix.
Power Play: Advantage Chicago.
Penalty Kill: Advantage Phoenix.

The Blackhawks have the second worst goals against mark of all playoff teams, which is scary. However, they combat that problem with some great offensive firepower in the form of Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews. That being said, I think that Mike Smith is the difference-maker in a very competitive series. I’m gonna pick…

Coyotes in 7

4. Nashville Predators vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings

Offense: Push.
Defense: Push.
Goaltending: Push.
Power Play: Advantage Nashville.
Penalty Kill: Advantage Nashville.

I hate to say it, but the Wings are old and haven’t been able to win consistently on the road this season. Pekka Rinne is a monster in the net, but I think it’s actually special teams that makes the difference in this series. Thus, I have…

Predators in 7

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Author: Joe Cook

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!!

NHL Playoff picks: First Round

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are THE greatest playoff system in all of sports, in my humble opinion, of course. The playoffs start Wednesday so I figured now would be a wonderful time to put down some thoughts and predictions for the first round.

Eastern Conference

1. New York Rangers vs 8. Ottawa Senators

Ottawa has had a nice and very surprising season, and the future looks bright for the Senators. Unfortunately they run into a buzz saw in the first round. The Rangers have one of the most talented teams and are very balanced up front and on the blue line. Henrik Lundqvist is a stud and should lead the Rangers deep into the playoffs.

Rangers in 5

2. Boston Bruins vs 7. Washington Capitals

Expect this to be a very fast and physical series. The Capitals had a down year this season, but are still tremendously talented up front. You can never count Ovechkin and co. out. I expect the Caps to put up a fight, but the Bruins are just too big and too strong. Expect Bergeron and Seguin to have big series’ and help carry the B’s to round two.

Boston in 6

3. Florida Panthers vs. 6. New Jersey Devils

The upstart Panthers won the Southeast division and made the playoffs for the first time since 2000. You may not know much about the Panthers, but they have a good amount of strong hockey players and are very good on the blue line. The devils bring the star power to this series with Brodeur, Kovalchuk, Parise and others. The Devils are still a good team, but are running out of time to win.

Florida in 7

4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5. Philadelphia Flyers

This is the series that I am so excited to watch. These two teams are both loaded with talent and they HATE each other. Malkin has been the best player all year for the Penguins and Crosby has looked real strong since his return. Expect Giroux, Hartnell and co. to play an extremely physical game to slow down this Pittsburgh attack. Ilya Bryzgalov needs to have a big series in net for Philly.

Pittsburgh in 7

Western Conference

1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Los Angeles Kings

This series will not be easy for the Canucks. The Kings have been playing better hockey lately after a slow start and will have Jeff Carter returning to the lineup soon. The Cancuks are still loaded up front and will need strong play from the Sedin twins. Ryan Kesler had a down season but was great in last years playoffs. I expect John Quick to make this a great series.

Vancouver in 7

2. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are not as good as they were the past few seasons and need the last week of the season to squeak into the playoffs. The Blues broke out in a big way this year and play some of the most physical hockey in the NHL, along with boasting good talent all around the team. This series will make a lot of people in Detroit happy.

St. Louis in 5

3. Pheonix Coyotes vs. 6. Chicago Blackhawks

Pheonix has had a very nice season and wrapped up the Pacific division on the last day of the regular season. Mike Smith has been very reliable between the pipes for the ‘Yotes this year. The Blackhawks obviously have great talent up front and have a great top pair of defense men in Keith and Seabrook. One thing they lack is a goaltender and that is a little important in the playoffs.

Pheonix in 6

4. Nashville Predators vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings

Picking this series breaks my heart because although I adore my Red Wings, this series will be an uphill battle. I expect the Wings to step up their play considerably, because they always seem to do that for the playoffs. The Preds have been hot lately and their moves at the deadline have payed off big time. Pekka Rinne is a stud in net for Nashville. So many signs point towards Nashville winning this series that I can’t possibly pick the Wings without losing my integrity. Wait, yes I can, this is my blog. Screw integrity, I’m a homer.

Wings in 7

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Author: Wil Hunter

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