Atlantic Division (3/8) Season Review
Since a full NHL league review was just too much info all at once, and very hard to write it all in 2 days, the Season’s Reviews will be broke down into Divisions, starting with the Atlantic Division of the East.
I received help from MantaRay on this review, my thanks to him. Enjoy! Atlantic Division
New York Rangers
Although 3 games in hand (ahead of the Isle’s), the Rangers lead the Eastern Conference for the 2nd time this season. As surprising as this will sound, the Rangers are not even done improving yet. Beginning with the offense. The FLY-line, or as Stan Fischler calls it…The Legion of Doo…I mean, Zoom Line, is so far the hottest line in the NHL. The Iginla line has more goals, but 70% of those goals belong to Iginla. The FLY line on the other hand: Lindros (G-14, A-17, P-31, + 21), Fleury (G-11, A-18, P-28, +29), and Mike York (G-13, A-16, P-29, +29) are all scoring goals as you can see. But, something was still missing. How about a 2nd scoring line that scores goals too? Well, players like Nedved (G-7, A-12, P-19, +8) Ciger and Dvorak had to start a chemistry. As I mentioned in previous comments, I wanted to see this line work again. Coach Low gave it another shot, and so far it seems to be working really well. It was just put together against the Montreal Canadiens. The most impressive player out of those three is Nedved. He changed big time. Nedved is usually known to put up good numbers but be a lousy forward in defense, or doesn’t play physical enough, and not a good fore-checker. But, it’s all changed for Nedved. Lately, Nedved might not be putting up the numbers he should, but he’s been a very active player. I guess many people (including me) made wrong judgements on Ron Low. Low told Nedved, Ciger, and Dvorak to play north and south, not east and west. Meaning, skate up and down the ice quickly, and don’t try to do any cross-ice skating and passing (east and west) that could cause turnovers. This seems to have changed Nedved’s style of game. It is the first time I’ve seen Nedved play so well all around the ice. Creating chances, making good passes, but most important…take the opponent and check him. In the game against the Habs, Nedved was all over Gilmour. Nedved is starting to play really well as an all-round forward, and the system that Low is playing is a big part of that. Messier has been more than I expected, again. Last season, I expected Messier to help his teammates, make some good defensive plays, and be more like Larionov or Gilmour. Yet, he scored 23 goals. This season I expected him to just be a figure and play a well defensive game, making Lindros fit in. He has been great defensively (+4; last season –19), but not only that, he is still creating chances by making precise passes. Now, he is playing with Johansson and Samuelsson. The two Swede’s built a chemistry since the first shift they were put together, really amazing. The play a typical Swedish style, with a lot of fore-checking, using a lot of strength. So, the offense is coming along with Ciger, Nedved, and Dvorak, but it will take time to make them become a strong scoring line.
Defense is just hard for the Rangers to play, but again…this team is still improving, and they were also reviewed by ESPN as Still Blooming. Ulanov has been a bust. He made some great plays, yet he made a lot of bad plays. Finally, the Rangers have Glen Sather who can give permission to Low to bench and scratch players. If it were Neil Smith, Ulanov would be playing with Leetch. Karpa was the best acquisition of the summer by Sather. Karpa led the NHL in blocked shots last season, and since he came back from that injury, he’s been playing really well by making big plays. Malakhov was a great bargain from Sather last summer. I never understood how anyone would have judged Malakhov last season when he played well in the pre-season, but only 3 games in the regular season, which he played well too. This season, Malakhov has been playing above average. He hits hard, blocks shots, clears rebounds well, takes the bodies well, and best of all…pinches in at the right time to create a scoring chance. Malakhov has been paired with Leetch, and Leetch did say that he reminds him of Beukaboom, but with more offense obviously. Malakhov has a (+18) and Leetch a (+16). Leetch was very underrated for his defensive abilities. He has been blocking shots and checking the opponents well. Kloucek will be known as one of the scariest defensemen in the NHL. He hits clean more than 95% of the time. Unfortunately, for one accidental incident, Kloucek’s reputation is not good, because of a poor common sense media. But, he is a big important defenseman on the Rangers, just 22 years old. Every time Kloucek hits someone hard against the boards, the “victim” misses a shift or even a period, like Matt Barnaby last night skipping a full period from a Kloucek hit. Berard is improving every 5 to 10 games. Currently, Berard has joined rushes, made sharp passes and take more shots. Defensively, he has played well and also keeps improving. The 7 dressed defensemen system works really well with the Rangers, especially with Van Impe (what a steal off waivers) and Purinton (future goon).
All those nice branches of positives come from one major root, Mike Richter and a small seed growing on the side, Dan Blackburn. Richter, Blackburn, and the Rangers allowed just 1 goal in three games. Sure, a lot of shots get through, a lot get blocked, but many of those shots come from the angles as well. Rangers did give up scoring chances, but this is a true fact. If Richter works a lot, he can dominate, if he works little, he will let in the soft goal. Richter should be the hottest goalie in the league, especially in the East, and he deserves to be recognized like that. Great goaltending = wins. The special teams are a major problem. If the Rangers would have a good power play, their record would be more than 17 wins, and if the Rangers penalty-kill would be better, the same thing. Rangers are slovenly when controlling the puck on a power play. They MUST fix that soon. The PK had a horrible start, mostly because of undisciplined plays, or stupid penalties I should say. But, not all the times is it easy to stop a five on three twice in the game. However, Rangers showed a few signs of improvements lately.
What does this team need? Nothing as of now. They might make a run at Lecavalier, but Nedved is playing too well, with Dvorak and Ciger, to be traded. You can’t take a risk to dissolve a line, but Lecavalier could play very well with a player like Dvorak, but then again…who wants to wait for him to build a chemistry? Rangers might trade soon, who knows. The defense should be looked at very carefully, especially when approaching the playoffs. Rangers still have a lot to prove. They do play very sloppy at times and they must realize that there are improvements to make. The season is not over, and it is still unpredictable to say they will make the playoffs, especially with the pathetic special teams.
New York Islanders
This team is still surprising. Their record explains it all. Their offense is working well. The lines work well and they have good chemistry overall. Yashin is playing his typical game (G-15, A-13, P-28) but his +/- sign is below average (-1). Obviously it is not bad, but if you look at the team’s record and Yashin’s point total, why does he have a minus rating? The next powerful offense is quick hands Mark Parrish (G-17, A-12, P-29). He had such an amazing start of the season and he is always a threat. He also has a decent +/- rating (+5). Who else is there…well…Czerkawski has 7 goals, Peca 6, and Bates also has 7 goals. But, that is as far as it goes. The team’s total goals is only 77 and only has 203 total points all together from the players. There needs to be more offense on this team, a complete balanced line that scores goals. Their +/- rating has to improve as well, which means they must get stronger on even strength. Peca has been a big part of this team. He leads the team in +/- with a (+8). His leadership and aggressiveness means a lot to the team.
Defense is probably the best thing this team needs to improve on. Their +/- is not that good. Jonsson is having a very good season, in my opinion, and Martinek has a very bright future as an Isle’s defenseman, hopefully Mad Mike won’t get rid of him. As I mentioned in one comment, the Isle’s would have to face a lot of issues, and all would be learning experiences. They experienced enough losing as a losing team, but this year they are a real team, a winning team, a pretty strong team. They will have to face the slumps, injuries, and playoffs will be a BIG factor. So far so good for the Isle’s as they hold on to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, I think 7 years has been a long time, too long. It is time to get those former Isle’s fans (now Devils fans, or just switched back) to support a real team. I don’t see the Isle’s interested in anyone yet. They must get a 3rd scorer on that team though. This team would be very different if they had an extra player with 13 goals or so.
What a weird team. Without looking at the stats, I would comment the Flyers as a below average team. When looking at the stats, I would comment on the Flyers as a just above average team. They won a lot of games by one goal, but if you think about it, that record is good for a struggling to score goals team and a team without Boucher. Chechmanek does not impress me at all. He never impressed me, same with Hedberg. Let’s save that for later, I must talk offense with this team. This is what I want to point out:
Roenick: 5 goals
Recchi: 8 goals
Primeau: 3 goals
LeClair: 11 goals
Hlavac: 7 points
Johnsson: 16 points
Dopita: 3 points
Ok, so that is just some info there. Roenick disappointed me statistically. I mean, I think he should listen to the guy who gives him tips in that commerical of Hockey Rules. Ok, his assists are great (18), but I expect for Roenick to at least have 10 goals by now. He has a great (+9) rating, and that tells me a lot. He participates every game, trying to make the best he can. That is the problem though. I think Roenick is trying too hard. He is worrying too much about trying to prove everyone, that GM Clarke made a great move to sign him, even if he admitted that he was about to sign with the Wings. Roenick needs to score goals! I don’t want him to see him score 35 goals or more. Hell, I would take 25-30 goals from Roenick! But, 5 is just unacceptable. Recchi is doing fine. I’m ok with Recchi’s stats, they don’t disappoint me at all, except his assists number. Before HTR’s hockey pool initiated, I suggested and predicted to my fellow HTR members that Recchi might score 20 goals or so. Actually, I would be more satisfied if Roenick and Recchi swapped their numbers. Recchi, forget about scoring goals. His goal should be to make his team score goals. Make Primeau score goals! I want to see Recchi score 80 points at least. I want to see Recchi putting up a lot of assists. Primeau is just starting way too slow. I don’t care if he said that he starts slowly, he always does. To me, that is a pathetic lame excuse, and making his situation worse. Why? Well, if he said that, then what do we expect from him in the 2nd half of the season? GOALS…LOTS OF GOALS. Well, just exaggerating there. But, I expect Primeau to finish the season with 28 goals, at least. LeClair, well…what can I say about LeClair. He’s been good so far, and been doing the way I expected him to do. 11 goals is a good number for LeClair, but 30 or less goals is unacceptable from him. I excluded Gagne because he’s been the most impressive player on the team. But, he is not the typical original Flyers’ scorer, LeClair is. Hlavac…only 7 points? I don’t care what Hlavac does on the ice, I don’t care how well he has skated or had a trillion chances, but 7 points is not Hlavac. I understand he is on a 3rd line, but this is where I blame Barber. He is not using Hlavac smartly. I am very anxious to see Recchi-Gagne-Hlavac play as a line for 3 games. I am an all offense minded hockey fan, and would I love to see that line produce. The “GRH!” (as in *grrrrr*) Line would be great to see. A fast, talented, and exciting line to watch. Hlavac must be used correctly.
Kim Johnsson is my favorite Flyer player after Boucher. Again, I told Flyers fans they would love to watch Johnsson play, more than Hlavac or Brendl. Without Johnsson, the Flyers defense would not be as good, and that is a true fact. He has 16 points, very impressive. I am glad Clarke picked him, because he had to…it was the best he could have gotten from the Rangers. Johnsson will hit a cold streak, but don’t worry. You know what a cold streak for Johnsson is? Scoring a few assists here and there…not much, but still making good defensive plays, and when he skates up to the neutral zone…I love watching that, and I hope he still does that. So, moving on to Dopita. Well…only 3 points in 10 games. I know he was injured, I know he played less than half a season, but only 3 points in 10 games? When someone rates a veteran European player as the best European player in Europe, you would expect that the player would do more than 3 points in 10 games. Obviously, I told everyone that I don’t care what he is in Europe, I want to see what he does here. I guess he plays well and makes nice plays, but I would want to see points from him too.
Boucher is just one of my favorite goalies. I love the old timers, (Roy, Hasek, Cujo, Richter, and the other vets) but I want to see these youngsters play. I am 19 years of age, and since I used to play goalie, I am a big time goalie fan. I like Brodeur…he is a Devil, but I like him. I want to watch these young goalies become NHL’s goalie stars in the next 10 years. Boucher will be one of them. Every time I see a young player struggle in his 2nd NHL season, my conclusion would be sophomore jinx. Boucher will carry the Flyers back up where they are suppose to be, and he will be an important goalie for the next 10 years. I heard he is suppose to come back soon and I hope he gets his form back quickly.
I apologize, not that I am careless, but I am not 100% sure about the Flyers special teams. They should look somewhere close to average, right? Anyway, they need to do better on even strength. You can’t rely on your special teams that much, because if you get penalties and the opponent team does not take any penalties, then you are in big trouble. Flyers must start to score more goals, and I see that happening this month. As far as trade possibilities go, I cannot think of that many, I guess Billy Guerin is on the top of my list. You’re not going to see a defenseman go, but probably Fedotenko will be dealt for Guerin. Forget about GM Clarke trading Hlavac. If Clarke trades Hlavac, that means he got Brendl and Johnsson for Lindros, which makes it a steal for the Rangers in a way. My best word to describe this team would be cautious. They are cautious about losing, which lessens their scoring and could mean a tie or a loss by one goal.
The Penguins should be considered the leagues Band-Aid
bunch. Players comprising about 54% of their goals
last year have been out of the line-up or traded
Kovlev, Straka, Lemeiux, have missed significant
playing time, thus handicapping the remaining players.
Much was expected of Milan Kraft & Alexey Morozov, but
nothing has come of it. Robert Lang has played good,
but has not been as effective without Martin Straka.
Straka was the key to the franchise, since the
owner/winger Mario Lemieux was not scheduled to play a
Straka helped Jagr become a scoring machine post
Mario, and last year did the same with Kovelev. The
loss of Straka is devastating for the Pens. Kris
Beech has played below expectation, but he is not a
scorer, he is primariliy a set up man.
New coach Rick Kehoe has the team playing a bit more
structured, but the lack of quality depth will hinder
them down the road.
The defense is adequate, but nothing special.
Kasperitis always plays well and Michal Rozsival has
picked up the slack that Andrew Ference was supposed
to provide at the point. Janne Laukkanen has recently
returned off the injured list…again. This may help.
Hedberg has played well, but lacks any strong
defenders in front of him, (Kasper excluded).
Trades: Lang is on the block, I would assume Morozov
and Kraft are too, but I don’t know what they can get
on the market in return.
Hrdina has been rumored to be gone for the past few
months. He is too valuable, with the loss of Straka,
to trade at this time.
Kasper is rumored to be going back to Long Island,
perhaps for Diepietro and Ken Sutton.
There are small rumors about Toronto trading Cory
Cross and Nik Andropov for a Franco Harris autograph
and a paper shredder, but Craig Patrick thought this
was too much for the shedder.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are a .500 team, but this is not acceptable to a
proud Devils franchise. They are simply too talented
to remain underachievers. It has not been for lack of
effort. They have outplayed all of their opponents
for the past month and a half, but lack a finishing
touch around the net.
They are dealing with confidence issues. They were
overconfident throughout the playoffs last season,
thinking they could just score whenever they wanted.
They were traumatized by not winning the Stanley Cup,
when Patrick Roy stole the Cup from them.
They are also haunted by the absence of exiled winger
Alexander Mogilny. One of the rare mistakes of Lou
Lamoriello’s reign. Mogilny publicly stated he would
take a pay cut to stay with the Devils, but no offer
was made. Lamoriello blamed Gomez and Mogilny for
losing the Stanley Cup. Gomez has been offered around
the league the entire summer as trade bait.
Coach Robinson has tried to shock the team out of
their scoring funk. He broke up the A-line, stripped
Arnott of his “alternate captain” status, benched
Sykora, and White.
The maneuvers seem to be working. This weekend’s home
and home against the first place Detroit Red Wings
offers hope. The Devils looked great and it seems the
confidence is starting to grow.
The addition of Andrei Zyuzin solidifies an already
strong defense. The only mistake that coach Robinson
has made has been shifting the defensive pairings.
Rafalski and Stevens were a combined +67 last year
against the opposition’s best lines. They have been
split. Stevens and Scott Niedermayer look out of
sync. An ailing back all season has also bothered
Niedermayer. Kenny Daneyko has been playing like he
is 21 again.
Colin White when paired with Zyuzin mesh very well.
Tommy Albelin looked great against Detroit on
Saturday, but has been a scratch for the past 18
Goaltending is starting to become an issue. Martin
Brodeur needs to rest more. The years of playing
hockey through the months of June are starting to
catch up with him. He has let in the first shot on
goal (from long range) for the past five games.
He needs to rest, and JF Damphousse has looked very
good as a replacement. He lost 2-0 to Tampa but
looked very comfortable in net. He is gaining coach
Robinson’s confidence and I suspect will see more ice
Possible trades: I do not see any need to make any
trades. This is the same squad that won the Cup two
years ago. Holik is rumored to be on the block, but I
suspect he will be signed at the end of the year.
Billy Guerin is rumored to be coming back but Lou
banished him a while ago and it was too acrimonious
for him to come back.
The Devils will be allowed to play themselves back
into contention. The outlook is good here and there
is no need to panic.
****any additions on the Isle’s review are acceptable****