Northeast Division (News/Notes)

Ok, so most of you have probably never heard of me before. I have been reading articles and comments on HTR for almost two years now and other than a few odd coments here and there, I have been pretty much invisible. I am just returning from a 28 day trip offshore Newfoundland and now I’ll be home for 28 days and will find myself pretty bored at times. So you may see more of my artcles posted in the near future. Today I’ll just post some simple news and notes coming from the Northeast division. Anyway, here goes; take it for what its worth:

“The Leafs finally win!!”

As Hab fan and Leaf hater, I’m actually happy to see them finally pull one off. I can’t believe I’m saying this but, I was actually starting to feel bad for some of these guys. I’ve encountered Wellwood and Stajan on a number of ocassions here in St. Johns when the Baby Leafs were here. They are really great people and I was a big fan of the St. John’s Leafs. Man did I ever love watching Wellwood play. So sad to see the team move to Toronto. Anyway, I think this comeback victory against Tampa will give the Leafs confidence again, and as Maurice said, they’re going to win a few games now. However, I still only see them being an average team that should play slightly better than 500 hockey. Toronto should be in a dog-fight for the last two or three playoff seeds with a number of teams. Dont be fooled by this team that loss 7 straight games, nor by the team who was 4th after 25 Games played. Consistency is the key and so far, the Leafs haven’t had it. Its been a battle of the extremes, one minute they’re nearly unstoppable and the next minute they can’t pull off a win. Could make for a scary playoff team dont cha think? Thats of course, if they’re able to squeeze in.

“Raycroft or Aubin”

Sticking on the Leaf topic, I found it very interesting that Maurice opted to start Aubin last night at home. It turned out to be a poor decision with Aubin allowing 3 goals on 9 shots. However, Maurice was able to rally the troops and complete a comeback victory. The decision to start J.S Aubin
started to put doubt in the minds of some fans. Who really is the #1 goaltender. A strong performance by J.S last night could have really caused a controversy but right now, It’s Raycroft. This guy started the season on a positive note but tappered off a little recently. That being said, I don’t think any of the Leafs’ 7 losses can be put directly on his shouders. Its a team effort. Raycroft was brought in to be the #1 goaltender and it will remain that way for a while unless he blows it. Toronto gave up a high qualitiy prospect for this guy in Tuuka Rask. Even though Raycroft is a very good goaltender I don’t agree with this move at all. First, you trade away one of the leagues top Goaltender prospect, then you trade him to a division rival where he can possibly haunt you for years. I’d say the Leafs should have tried to somehow pull one of Gigure/Bryzgalov or Toskala/Nabokov from their respective teams. With the possibility of loosing Tucker in the offseason, they could have packaged him with a high pick or prospect to Anaheim or San Jose for a goaltender. Tucker could have been a great addition to one of those teams making a Stanley Cup run.But we know this won’t happen now because the Leafs have both Raycroft and Aubin.

“The Beasts from the East?”

Well its all but certain that the Sabres will win the East this year. 7 points separate them from 2nd (Atlanta). This gap doesn’t seem too far but were talking about the Buffalo Sabres here. The team is young, fast, skilled, you name it. When they get their complete roster back they should be even scarier. Baring some collapse or an incredible run by another team, the Sabres should finish #1 this year. I don’t think too many would disagree with me there. By the way, do any of you realize how tight this eastern conference is? only eleven points separate 2nd-13th in this conference. This is pretty amazing although were only 30 games into the season. Only four points separate 6th-13th. There are still many sweet, juicy playoof seeds up for grabs. Any takers?

“Ray Emery shuts the door”

Wow, did you see that game against Detroit last night? I only saw the highlights because I was watching the habs game, but Ray Emery looked amazing. He stopped 43 shots in a 3-2 win as he stoned the Wings all night long. Is there any question who the #1 goalie is now in Ottawa?

Emery: 11-6 0.925 Sv% 2.34 GAA
Gerber: 5-9 0.891 Sv% 3.35 GAA

I feel bad for Gerber after such a great season last year in Carolina. I think this guy actually folds under pressure. He bombed the first two games of the playoffs last year and is still struggling this year while playing for Ottawa. The pressure of playing well in a Canadian city is much higher than playing in Carolina. Maybe Gerber should have signed somewhere where hockey isn’t so popular.

“Can I see an ID Please?”

The referees must have asked this question to Samsonov last night after his two goal performance and a 4-3 win over the Bruins. It wasn’t just the two goals, but this guy was all over the ice last night. Everytime he hit the ice he would create scoring chances. Imagine if we got this kind of performance from him every night? Samsonov’s problem over the years has been his inconsistency. Once in a while he would play like an allstar, and then be invisible for the next two weeks. But man, did he ever impress me last night.

“Guillium Lat-en-Dresse”

For the first 15 games this guy had me pulling the hair outta my head. He could hit people but that was about it. After moving Latendresse on the top line with Koivu and Ryder, he has 7 Goals in 17 Games. If he had played on the first line since Day 1 and produced at the same rate, that would pace him for 34 goals in a complete 82 game schedule. He’s no Crosby, Ovechkin, or Malkin, but that aint too Shabby for a rookie. The guy looks more confident and stronger as time goes by. If nothing else, he’s proved that he belongs in the NHL and he’s an asset to his team. Anyone see how he out-muscled Chara for the game winner last night? It was a flukey goal, but it still came from hard work.

What will be done when Higgins comes back? Before throwing him back on the 1st line where he deserves to be, why don’t we first try him centering the Samsonov and Kovalev line? If this doesn’t work out, then put him back on the 1st line and demote Guy or Ryder to the 2nd. Personally, I would like to see:


But im not the coach so I’ll trust whatever Carboneau decides to do. Its been working so far. How about those Special teams eh?

“Gainey and Kessel”

I’d like to say my thoughts and prayers go out to both guys and their families. Tough break for both, but im sure they will recover and be back soon enough. Get will soon Phil!… And Bob, I’m still praying for that miracle!….

Thats it for me fellas, have great day!

19 Responses to Northeast Division (News/Notes)

  1. simplyhabby says:

    Nice article.  Sound and unbiased.  Nice to see.

    I am a leaf hater myself and like to look down at them in the standings but I do want them competitive.  I think the consensus is to keep Raycroft for the 3 years and that should allow Pogge to take the reins.  If you could pry a goalie out of San jose, it would be a good thing but I am sure the Sharks are looking for some D and I am note sure they will take McCabe off your hands.  Tucker is perfect trade bait for a playoff team looking for a first line winger if Toronto cannot sign him.

    That was a fantastic glove save on the goal line by Emery. I still don't understand the controversy with the goalies.  Emery wins games and keeps his team in the game despite a few bad games.  Who cares if Gerber is overpaid, you want to win.

    I did enjoy seeing Sammy play his best game by far this season.  Hopefully this will light a fire under his ass.  If we can get the second line going, Montreal will compete with Atlanta for second in the conference (in points of course).  Gui is doing well.  What I like about Gui ihe is playing a smarter game (still rookie mistakes but better).  He is begining to pick his hits and is becoming that big presence down low we so sorrowly need.  I only hope his game continues to progress.  But let me remind hab fans, a lot of credit has to go to the captain. He may not be a top scorer in the league but he makes his linemates better.

  2. B514 says:

    I like your line ideas when higgins returns. Once he's back in game shape, but him between ryder and samsonov, and put kovalev on the line with koivu and latendresse. That could solve the second line woes…hopefully kovalev wont drag down the first line though.

  3. HabsRUs says:

    Agreed. If that 2nd line can contribute on a nightly basis than we may even give the Sabres a fight for the division. But the line has be be great throughout the rest of the season in order for that to happen.

  4. HabsRUs says:

    Yeah hopefully he can find chemistry with Koivu. But if this isn't working, im sure the Higgins/Koivu/Ryder line would be put back in place.

  5. PhanufRoxs says:

    Great article. I like it. You said everything that has been going on in the NorthEast Div, and you didn't say anything extra, barely any spelling errors, and it was very well said.

    Okay I honestly think the Sen's should have keep Hasek for $750 000, even though he wouldn't be first in the NHL in save percentage (He's only there now, because of Detroit's defense). He's 19th in the league in save percentage, which is the catogory which says how good the goalie is, but Gerber is 36th, and is making almost 3 million more then Hasek. I think if Hasek stayed he would be better, because he wouldn't be the full time starter. They could rest Hasek, and still have a great goalie in net, and have them both play 41 games (not that exact number). They could have saved 3 million right there, then they could have not signed Corvo (who hasn't been bad), and then Havlat I think would come back for 5.5 million, and maybe, but I doubt Chara would have came back for that much. Maybe they could have got Kubina, or spend a bit more go up to the cap, and get Jovo.

  6. HabsRUs says:

    I agree with you. Hasek would have been a better fit in Ottawa than Gerber. Hasek can still be a great goaltender in this league while Gerber continues to struggle. Too bad for Ottawa that Gerber isn't getting the job done though, especially when you look at his price-tag. Emery and Hasek could make for a pretty solid goaltending tandem this year. Plus, if you look at Gerber's 5-9 record that should tell the story. With the Sens roster on paper, he should have won at least 2 of those 9 losses. Then he would be 7-7, thus giving the Sens 4 more points. We are a little over 1/3 through this season, so if Gerber continues to play poorly, we could see him loose another 6-8 points. 10-12 blown points can be a huge difference in the overall standings.

    As you said, saving money to sign Havlet in the offseason could have also been huge for the Sens this year.

  7. robinson19 says:

    refreshingly sane, objective article, cheif.

    I'm one of the big Habs-nerds who's more concerned about what to do with the top lines after Higgins comes back than I am with what's for supper tonight… but that said, here's what I want to see:

    Latendresse Koivu Ryder
    Kovalev Higgins Samsonov

    But the way Kovalev's playing lately, did you see him skating around in a big brown cloud of his own stink last night against the Bruins? I hate to get on a guy's case too much because he might be injured, especially with Kovy's wonky knee, but for a 4.5 mil guy, he spends way too many games as the worst guy on the ice. Like half of them.

    The most frustrating thing about him is he'll still suddenly deke the crap out of some people and saucer over a beautiful pass, and then climb back into his brown cloud of stink to drive it back over to the bench.

    Here's a question that's tougher than it seems: (provided he puts some good games together) how tradeable is Kovalev?

  8. jocool_88 says:

    I am just curious if all the Sammy haters or people that are crying from him to be traded will jump ship and say well he is starting to score now so we should keep him.  Of course I was one of the ones that really did not or doesn't have faith in him to play more consistant but I really don't believe him and kovy have the chemistry that was thought they would and that they should try to juggle the first line a bit to shake things up.  I would not touch the 3rd line cause they are really fun to watch, seems like that really pi$$ off alot players that they are matched up against and I also really enjoy watching Streit up front.  He seems like a real pest on the ice.  The only real problem I see with Gui is that he seems to be in everyones way at times, maybe its just him being a rookie/inexperience but it won't take him long to get out of the habit and the fans love him.  Another person I never really had much faith in and I have really done a 180 on is Koivu.  This guy is a true leader and makes everyone around him about 200x better.  Komi is a rock and is def going to be a force to recon with in the near future.  Even Janne has been playing better as of late.  As long as they can stay healthy and get Higgy  and Souray back, they will be even stronger then they are now.  Higgy is due back any game and Souray I believe is only DTD so it should be soon, hopefully both by Saturday for the Crosby Show and Malkin in the Middle.

  9. 92-93 says:

    Good unbiased article. well no one can be completely unbiased, its just not possible. but for a sports article – this is good.

    "Dont be fooled by this team that loss 7 straight games, nor by the team who was 4th after 25 Games played."
    exactly, this pretty much sums up the leafs. they are inconsistent but that is because they are younger and are still adapting to Maurice. Also, they dont have the goaltending that can allow them to play Maurice's forecheck style. Regardless, they are playing their young guys and for the first time in a long time they have all 3 of Bell, White, and Coliacovo up with the big club. hopefully they will shine and make Kubina, Gill, and McCabe look redundant or at least too expensive.

    Raycroft is so-so and is certainly not worth Rask. I'd rather they trade Pogge than Rask – oh well. The leafs will finish between 7th and 12th and 80-95 pts. Knowing the East is going to be jammed packed and tight, such parameters dont give any clue to as where they'll finish. But the point for leaf fans (and non-leaf fans) is to understand this: its not their year this year, and each and every move, game, and decision should be thought using a long-term frame of reference. if they make the playoffs and do some damage there – that is all just a bonus at this point in the process.

  10. leaferdude2 says:

    Great article dude.Even though i'm the opposite of you (leaf lover, hab hater) i think you get your points accross well in an unbiased way. Even when you are commenting on your team, your not trying to make trade proposals that are totally one sided.

     Just one thing i noticed. When you were commenting on the pressure of playing in a Canadian city is too much for gerber, i think you forgot that it's Ottawa that we're talking about.  there isn't too much pressure playing there. There are more people that go to the 67's games than the Sens games (almost). It isn't like Toronto or Montreal or Calgary. At times in Ottawa you can hear a pin drop in that building and they have one hell of a team. I think that it's Emery that's too much for gerber to handle. he's their goaltender of the future and he's trying to prove that this year. I don't think that gerber feels like he fits in there. to me, it looks like he was never even part of their plans. I believe that they should have re-signed hasak and used the little bit of cash left over to sign havlat to an extension. to all you fans of other teams in the northeast, lets thank God that Muckler wasn't doing his homework there as usual. They'd be slottering us! Maybe even competing with Buffalo for the top spot.

  11. Kraut182 says:

    The Leafs don't have enough consistent scoring or great goaltending to be a top team, but should be able to hang around and be in the playoff hunt.  Raycroft should be the starter, I really don't think Aubin is very good at all and should have been traded instead of Telly.  Even when Aubin went on that run last season he seemed to be more lucky than good.

    Emery seems to have really improved since he first came into the league.  I don't see enough of Ottawa to be sure, but the stats over the last year tell a lot.

    Samsonov is the kind of player who does things on the ice that when you see them make you think he should be a superstar … then he goes the next 3 games without you even noticing him on the ice.

    Latendresse is showing some nice signs, especially considering he is only 19 and a power forward type player (they usually take longer to develop).

    And of course all prayers and well wishes to the Gainey and Kessel families.

  12. mtl_prince says:

    OMG i cant wait till saturday!!!! the pens vs. habs game is gonna be sick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. TheFish12 says:

    The decision not to keep Hasek was not hockey related.  Everyone, including the sens front office knew that Hasek wasn't done and could still play, though not as well as he has so far, but their would have been an uproar by the sens fans had they signed Hasek.

    Consider that GM Muckler asked Hasek not to participate in the Olympics in case he gets hurt and to rest up for the playoff drive.  He goes of, gets hurt, never plays for the sens again.

    He then refuses to give his adductor a try in the second round when he could have played, despite being asked to by his coach, captain and teammates, and creates a distraction during the playoffs.

    The Sens gambled on him to take them to the cup, and he placed his interests over those of the team by going to the olympics when others, such as Scott Niedermayer in Anaheim chose to miss out to rest/heal.  Fact is that Hasek was not welcomed in Ottawa

  14. TheFish12 says:

    Trust me, Gerber is under ALOT of pressure here in Ottawa.  Not as much as the hockey Meccas of Toronto and Montreal, but definently on par with the other canadian cities. 

    As for your 67s comment, please do your homework.  While the 67s can draw up to 10 000 fans at the civic centre, the Sens have yet to have a home game drawing less then 18 000 and have sold out a majority of their home games.  The only reason you can hear a pin drop is because the ticket prices are so high that those that cheer loudest, being families and students, can hardly afford tickets.

    But back to Gerber.  He is under pressure because this team, much like the 1990's Flyers has had THE team to go all the way for years now, but has never had the goaltending (Tugnutt, Barasso, Lalime…) and the goalie has always been the scapegoat.  Also, he is the 4th highest paid player on the team and at 3.7 million per he is the 10th highest paid goalie in the league, making more then guys like Vokoun and Kiprusoff.  Trust me, he is under ALOT of pressure, considerably more then he is used to from Anaheim and Carolina.

  15. habsoverserver says:

    Higgins earned his way onto the first line and has been an added bonus on the PK.  You can't send him to the second line.  He deserves all the ice time he can get. 

    As someone here suggested last week, I would rather move Ryder to the second line and see if there is any chemisty between Latendresse and Higgins.

    If you look at Ottawa's goal differential the past few seasons and compare it to their win loss record, you have to conclude that for every 7-2 win there is a 2-1 loss.  They just don't win their fair share of close games.  Look at this season, they have the same points as Toronto in the same number of games but Toronto has 9 fewer goals for than against and Ottawa had 16 more goals.  So despite having a 25 goal advantage in differential over 32 games, they have no more points.  This has been the case for a few seasons.  Ottawa has the kind of players you want on a fantasy team but not in the playoffs, because while they may know how to score, they don't know how to win. 

    I don't know if the Islanders are going to win their division or miss the playoffs and we may not know until the last week of the season.  every game the rangers, penguins, devils and isles play against eachother has huge meaning.  This is why the Board of Governors would not vote for a schedule change.

    So long as Martin Brodeur is a Devil, Lou will fight hard to keep the number of intra-division games.  Ever wonder why Brodeur starts more games than any other goalie – because most of his away games against division rivals are 1 hour bus rides and not  multi-hour flights.  Think about how many more miles Kipprusoff has to fly every year compared to Brodeur. Talk about an advantage. 

    These days, the only diving talk I hear about Crosy is how Jagr just plunged into second place in the scoring race. 

  16. Habroller says:

    You are so right about Ottawa's top scorers. As skilled as they are, you can always count on Heatley getting a hat trick and Spezza getting 4 passes in a 7-1 win. Man, I should have picked them up in my pool, but I'm glad I'm not relying on them as team leaders…

    Anyone still favoring Alfie over Saku as their team captain?

    There is no such thing as a 1st, 2nd or even 3rd line (Bonk's trio occasionnally is the team's best line) among the habs roster. If Higgins doesn't play with Koivu, it doesn't mean he's being demoted and will likely get as many minutes anyway (playing on all special teams). Anyway, I think Carbo will put him on the 4th line so he can fully resynchronize himself before seeing 20+ minutes a game…

    Anyone seeing Chris as the eventual top SH scorer? (he has 3 in 13 games, while Staal has 4 in 29…)

  17. habsoverserver says:

    Higgins is a scorer and Koivu is the best set-up man for him.  I don't see him getting the opportunities alongside Samsonov and Kovalev. 

    Higgins is very dangerous shorthanded.  Hopefully the Habs will reduce their penalties against per game and Higgins will get less short handed ice time.  You can't judge a guy by 13 games but he makes good decisions and has great hands. 

  18. openclose says:

    kovalev… does what can be expected when two players who hog the puck are put on the same line.  Plekanec has very little offensive talent, and samsonov is about as streaky as they come (19 games without a goal???) kovalev still frees up much space on the canadiens excellent power play for souray to unload… watch the PP athnd see that it eier goes… koivu wins draw to markov to souray —>goal           or  it goes Kovalev on sideboards… makes space then draws them in close then dishes it to koivu or souray who score… if kovalev wanted to he would unload from the side (like his goal against calgary earlier this year) but he is unselfish enough this year to know that the team needs him to create space for others to finish… instead of him just trying to do it all.

    also he is worth every penny of the 4.5 million if it keeps koivu happy. do you see how happy koivu is whenever he gets to play with kovalev…. ryder/higgins/latendresse are all fine but given a choice im sure koivu chooses the russian.  (the goal SHG koivu scored against TB was about as happy as i have ever seen my captain… and who gave him the puck… kovalev)

  19. openclose says:

    im not too sure about moving ryder to the 2nd… i see the top line as… koivu passes, ryder shoots and higgins swoops in front of the net for the goal.  if they put latendresse on the same line they would lose any ability to get the opponent away from the net. (ryder stays along the boards hoping for one timers)

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