Halfway there people!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Yup. It's the halfway mark - more or less - and I apparently have nothing better to do than to give random thoughts about the random teams in the Eastern Conference. Go me! Note i said the word "random".

Atlantic division - the closest division in the east so far because no one's taken the lead and run away with it. Yet. I'm betting on Philly finishing on top.

The good news: Mike Richards has been solid for the team in the first half. Jeff Carter is taking a swat at being the top goal scorer of the year.
The bad news: Goaltending. Biron has been less than amazing after pretty much single-handedly knocking Montreal out of the playoffs last spring. Niittymaki hasn't exactly stepped up as the league's best goaltender either.
The great news if you're a Habs fan but really bad if you're a Flyers fan: It looks like Briere is about to be paid millions of dollars to play just a handful of games this season. Good news if you're looking to make a lot of money and not do a heck of a lot - and great if you're one of those people who doesn't want to see his face for a long time - but definitely bad news if you're the Flyers' GM.

Good but definitely not wonderful news: Well, umm... they still have a chance to turn around their season?
The really bad bit: A very disappointing start to the season following their Stanley Cup finals run. They have struggled time and time again to find their rhythm - in particular, less than stellar performances from Sidney Crosby, Miroslav Satan and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (who did sit out a number of games due to injuries) and at times Evgeni Malkin. The top players haven't been producing and it's hurting the rest of the team. They're missing players like Ryan Malone and Hossa more than they care to admit.
Intriguing bit: Do you think Hossa predicted the Pens implosion? Everyone was pegging the Pens at having a fairly easy run to the playoffs in the offseason, but Hossa ditched them and said he wanted to play with a team that had a chance at winning the cup (read: Pens don't have a chance). At the time of his signing, it looked like Hossa was just being opportunistic. But now....? Well, I'm not saying the Wings are going to win it but I highly doubt it's going to be the Pens either...

New Jersey
Good news: They can survive without star goaltender Martin Brodeur, thank you very much. Yay for them!
The intriguing bit: What will happen to backup goalie Scott Clemmensen when Brodeur gets back? Will they go back to using Brodeur who hasn't played almost all season and will most likely take a while to get his rhythm back or will they continue to use Clemmensen? Also, the Devils have been quite an offensive type team without Brodeur. Will they ditch all this once he comes back?

NY Islanders
The good: I'm not sure what's good about the Islanders. They're sitting at the bottom of the league right now.
Really good if you're the Islanders: At this rate they'll be getting John Tavares. Poor Tavares.
The bad: Well, they're bottom of the league? Oh wait... maybe that's good. See above.

NY Rangers
Good: uh... I'm sure there's some good here. I don't watch the Rangers so I'm totally out of the loop on these guys but sitting near the top of the league during the first half of the season is pretty good.
Bad: The reason why they were sitting at the top was because they got off to a good start and played a lot more games than the rest of the people in the league. Where they will end up at the end of the season remains to be seen. Also, goalie Henrik Lundqvist hasn't exactly been top of the league a lot of the time.

Northeast - despite having Toronto (and now Ottawa) in it, this division is still the best in the east, in my very biased opinion. In my unbiased opinion, I still think this division is very good thanks to two teams. I mean, c'mon, how are we supposed to have the best division when two and a half teams play terribly?

Good: Sitting at the top of the league. Well, second now that San Jose won. But still. They barely squeaked into the playoffs last year and now they're top. Goalies Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez been key to this abrupt turn around as have players like Milan Lucic, Philip Kessel and Somethingrather Wheeler. And I guess Ryder has been too.
Will this translate into playoff success? (finally?): It should be interesting to see how the Bruins handle themselves in the playoffs which is a totally different beast. I'm personally hoping for some imploding but I think this team has what it takes to go all the way...where they will then lose in 6 games to Detroit or maybe even San Jose (I wish!).

Montreal (in my totally biased assessment)
The good: They're still fairly high up in the rankings. Rookies that have been called up have been good. Especially the earlier stint that D'Agostini has had here. Also, players like Lapierre and Kostopoulous have really stepped things up. Price has had stellar performances and has stolen the game for the Habs on more than one occasion.
The bad: INJURIES. And especially inconsistency that has kept the team from gaining valuable points. I won't get into whether Carbonnneau has done his job properly or not but as an entire team they have had issues this half of the season. Yes, expectations were high coming in here. Too high. But there were some games that a team should win but ends up losing because they can't play a full game of hockey. And this team has gone and lost those games. Also less than stellar performances on the powerplay and from players like Kovalev have hurt the team at times.
The bright spot: They can climb out of this right now and dominate the rest of their season. Will they catch Boston? Probably not. But they can close the gap if they focus on playing 60 full minutes of hockey.

Again not one of the teams I follow regularly but it seems that they've struggled quite a bit so far. Consistency from the players has been an issue at times. Oh and a complete lack of effort from Maxim Afinogenov has been a real downer.

The bad: Well, let's see... 11 straight years of making the playoffs could be going down the drain this year. The Sens are going through a major crisis right now and the over emphasis on the top line of Heatley/Alfredsson/Spezza has finally come crashing down on the team. Oh and goaltending has been another issue this year, though instead of it being the antics of the goalies, it's been the performance of the goalies that has been a problem.
The good: Maybe now Ottawa will do something about not relying 24/7 on "the big three" and get themselves some other good players. Or maybe they'll just grab Toskala when he either goes on the trade market or goes free agent when Toronto dumps him.

The good: Luke Schenn. The kid has been the closest thing to a god send for the Leafs. And winning six games in a row. And surprisingly Grabovski seems to be liking life in Toronto. Funny how all of Montreal's ex players do better when they join the Habs' major rivals...Must have something to do with a mutual dislike of the Habbies (don't tell me that Ryder and Grabovski left with smiles and hugs while promising to send a postcard every week).
What they think is good: Ron Wilson and Brian Burke. Never underestimate the power of the Leafs' management problems. Ever.
The bad: The fact that they are the Toronto Maple Leafs and they're run by a corporation that couldn't give a hoot over whether they actually win or not. Oh you mean with the actual team? Well, take a look for yourself. I'm placing bets on them missing another playoff run.

Southeast - and arguably the weakest division which is why the Caps have a runaway lead.


The good: They've solved their goalie issues and Ovechkin seems to have snapped out of his slump (can't blame him entirely if his grandfather's health was bad. Family first, yes?).
The bad: Earlier injuries and bad goaltending from their goalies have stalled the team. Semin's previous scoring outburst seems to have stalled.

Bad: lack of depth has hurt the team who keeps getting injuries.
Good news is: Um... I guess Cam Ward has been doing some stuff lately. When he's there he's been good when he's not, well.... hehe... byebye Hurricanes!

Intriguing bit:
Someone tell me how Anderson has a good save percentage and the team is still sitting in 18th place? The team obviously needs to learn how to score more goals. And no, the Panthers getting five goals against the Habs doesn't count because the Habs got five goals on Anderson as well.

Tampa Bay
The bad: The owners, the management, the coaches, and the team. And hyping up Stamkos as something way more than he is. That is unfair to anyone but especially to an 18 year kid. I feel extremely bad for Stamkos.
The good: Um... I'm not seeing one other than maybe they'll get themselves another top player.
Can someone tell me...How Mike Smith has two shutouts?!

Don't follow these guys at all but obviously something's very wrong here. Kovalchuk keeps threatening to break out at any time but someone should tell him that now would be a good time to do it.


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