Spinorama Hockey

What is going on in Jetsville?

As Winnipeg Jets nation is feeling alone in this already lonely pandemic world, we felt necessary to provide hope and some wishful thinking in this troubled world of Jetsville. Is this the same team that was battling for first place only weeks ago? Let’s first start with some history and will follow up with key concerns and talking points on this current Jets roster and management team. With six games left before the playoffs time is of the essence.

Key Points:

  • The Patrick Laine trade: After his opening 2 goals and 1 assist red hot start, the powers at be in Jetsville felt this was a good time to trade their star especially with the much talented Pierre Luc Dubois becoming available. But as we said at the time, the downside to this move is your top Right Winger is now Blake Wheeler followed by Mason Appleton and of course potentially losing your most prolific goal scorer. Let’s not forget the other center/right winger to go in that trade was Jack Roslovic. I would argue you lost goals in this trade for center depth. Here is the thing though. The most powerful offensive team in the North Division became less offensive than the powerful Leafs or Oilers offence after this deal. Result is the Jets can’t trade offence with these teams like they use to do. No track race in these match ups anymore. Please don’t tell me Dubois is offensive. He is a good solid two-way center and needs to play that way. That’s what his potential is.
  • Dubois expectations: Let me first point out that we like this player. He’s 22 big and strong and a center. Hard to come by in this league. In fairness he has had a tough start between the Torts benching and the quarantining time after the trade. But let’s be clear, eventually these become excuses. He needs to play big, strong and mean. The coach needs to get this through to him for him to have any impact on this team. Everyone is saying wait for playoffs. Maybe, but he really needs to show a mean streak and help set the tone in games. That’s why the Jets wanted him and traded for him.
  • Center Depth: Presumably the Jets are now deeper at center but we will never know. Head coach Paul Maurice has not gone to the four headed monster of Scheifele, Stastny, Dubois and Lowry. Thompson has been good but having him on Lowry’s wing works for me or have him take a seat to see what this looks like. Thompson is useful and can be thrown out for the odd draw on any line when things aren’t working. Teams do it all the time. Take the draw and race to the bench for the change. Also worth mentioning is that Paul Stastny needs to play center. He is clearly their smartest center and is a waste of his true talents on the wing. Would have been interesting to see how he would have played between Laine and Ehlers this season and what it would have done for the team. But I digress.
  • Youthful Integration: As long as I can remember Stanley Cup Championship teams always have this mix of youthful players filled with vinegar. The likes of Vesalainen, Harkins, Gustafsson, Stanley and Heinola with the exception of Stanley have barely played. Why not insert these guys. It seems like when any of these players seem to play well in a game or two, they are quickly pulled out of the line up in place of a veteran. Why not work them in while resting guys? I realize there are few spots available but would have loved to see more integration of some of these players throughout the year. Too late now.
  • General Manager: Overall we like what Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has done with building the current roster. But how has he done this year? First off we are going to assume a few things. Like we wrote in are preview column earlier this year, we new that there would be an offensive explosion on this roster. No one in the North division plays defence particularly well. I would assume that this team was built to out score teams (remember the Chevy tongue and cheek comment before the season on how he expects Patrik Laine to have a great year). In saying this there was no point to rush on picking up a much needed defenceman until the trade deadline. Big error in not picking one up though. Jordie Benn is good for depth but he needed a defenceman that can log minutes and more importantly play tough playoff minutes. On the forward side you traded 2 right wingers (see above) and 40 goals in the central which I have to think would have equated to much more than that in the North for 1 center and his 18 goals. Maybe he thought the young guys would pick up the slack? I guess they would have to play in order to see if that was the right move.
  • Coaching: We have said this numerous times. We are fans of coach Paul Maurice. In fact when he eventually moves on (which may be never) he should be offered a spot in the organization. He is a great hockey man and in my opinion you can never have enough of these in your organization. As the second longest tenured coach it’s time to move on. There were rumours that Jon Cooper was going to get fired in Tampa before they won the cup for pete sake. This is the way it works for coaches in the NHL. This should be noted in the last point but we are not understanding the loyalty to coach Maurice. Its admirable but foolish. Coach is a fixer and came in when he was needed but firing the coach would most likely tweak the make up of the core of this group with which I believe is required.
  • The Core: Where there is smoke there is fire. We know Wheeler and Scheifele head the group. Morrissey is in there and I would venture to included Copp and Lowry. But looking into the past (all not confirmed of course). A fight with Buyfuglien, closed door meetings, Hendericks brought in a second time to help out, Laine and Roslovic wanting out and the insistence of 26 and 55 needing to play together. I know we have all heard the stories but what is going on this year? Something doesn’t look right in Jetsville and here is our latest questions to the core group. Wheeler has a concussion and is told by the coach to sit out for the 5 game road trip. After the Tkachuk elbow Wheeler played and practiced the next day? Strange. Did something happen at practice? Probably just precautionary but captain Blake does have a tendency to go off and show his frustrations. Next Maurice which he basically never does benches his star center Mark Scheifele? You know, the one that will have his statue built right beside the Hawerchuk one in True North Square? Listen, I saw the extra long shift in question while it was happening and wondered myself why 55 wasn’t going off. Typically this is not a mistake that gets a star player benched unless your name is John Tortorella and especially by Maurice. Scheifele doesn’t strike me to have much attitude but maybe he does and maybe the coach decided it may be a good time to put him in his place. This move is the most staggering in recent memory. It is something that makes me feel there is a bigger problem at work.
  • Top 6 vs Bottom 6: Remember how the bottom six was the bone of contention with many. I would argue that this year the bottom six (and Nik Ehlers) in some strange way is carrying the top six. This is a tough point to argue but it may be better dealt with my saying the top six has been disappointing and the bottom six has at the very minimum been playing up to expectations or better.

Challenges Moving Forward:

  • Goaltending: Look, no one believes in Connor Hellebuyck more than we do. He is a Vezina trophy winner and a runner up but so was Pekka Rinne. Why am I mentioning this? Helle (love his confidence) but he will need to prove to this writer at least that he can do it in the playoffs. This is not an attack on Helle just the facts. The last three playoff series he has played in (if you count the Flames one last year) he has not been good. Sure I know he has one the Vezina in between but look at what I’m seeing. He got outplayed by Marc Andre Fleury in 2018 but more importantly he couldn’t make the timely crazy saves he needed in that series. For this writer he gets a pass on that one. Fleury was out of this world. In 2019, he let in some awful goals to the eventual Stanley Cup champions the St Louis Blues at the worst times (especially in the dying moments of a game or period). I’m not being a homer. Had he played well in that series the Jets would have won it and who knows what would have happened after that. I don’t want to even talk about the pre playoff series with the Flames in 2020. Even with Laine and Scheifele out of the line up due to injury it was all the more reason to step up. He was average at best. Like any team in the NHL, if Helle doesn’t step up this year and play over his head when it counts the Jets will be on the golf course in no time this spring.
  • Going into the playoffs: If things go well, the Winnipeg Jets will get out of their current funk and start winning some games going into the playoffs. Maybe the losing streak is just in time but losing team confidence never helps. On the wishful thinking side, the Jets need to infuse some young vinegar, get some goaltending and march into the playoffs on a mini roll. Besides how many times can you lose to the same team? Doesn’t the law of averages state that if in fact they do play the Oilers, the Jets should win at least 4 of the next 7 games? Wishful thinking you say? We are in a pandemic. What else is there?

Send your comments to @spinohockey or @frankzappia1

A New Beginning…Winnipeg Jets go Canadian Eh…

NHL JETS PREVIEW 2020-2021

TEASER

With the end of 2020 comes a new beginning.  Brace yourself…The Winnipeg Jets will no longer be playing against defensive juggernauts in Dallas, Colorado or St Louis?  Won’t even mention those annoying Predators.  Wait…one more thing…all Canadian teams will be moving into one division?  Maybe 2020 isn’t as bad as I thought…

During Kevin Cheveldayoff’s recent press conference, he notably mentions that Patrik Laine should have his best season ever.  Makes sense to us plus what else is Chevy supposed to say here? No one in the “WeTheNorth” division knows how to defend.  Maybe we should take a closer look at the newly created Canadian division. Seriously? The Jets would have the best goals against of any team. There you go.  Defensive wows solved.  Career offensive years for the offence.  Let’s take a quick look:

Team Leaders in Goals Against:

Central Division (League Rank) & Total Goals Against:                      

  1. Dallas (2)                              177                  

2. Colorado (5)                         191                  

3. St Louis (6)                           193                                          

In New Canadian Division

  1. Winnipeg (12)                      203

2. Calgary (16)                         215

3. Edmonton (17)                    217

4. Vancouver (19)                    217

5. Montreal (23)                      221

6. Toronto (27)                         227

7. Ottawa (31)                         243                                          

WINNIPEG JETS PREVIEW                                          

The Winnipeg Jets are now two seasons removed from their long playoff run, which took them to the Western Conference Final. The expectations were high, but after losing some key pieces since then and after back-to-back early playoff exits, it has left most fans wondering where this team is headed and what they’re capable of.

The all Canadian division is a blessing in disguise.  Not only are we going to see more Habs, Leafs and McDavid but the Jets may be the team to beat in this division?

Okay, I’ll calm down.  The Jets did lose to the Calgary Flames in the first round last season, but I would attribute that to a combination of two of their top players going down very early during the start of the series.  I know, more team excuses.  Trust me I don’t want to hear them either. 

All we are saying is under the current set up, get to the final four and anything can happen.  Here is our take on the key factors that the Winnipeg Jets will need to contend with.

Connor Hellebuyck 

Just like most every other team in the NHL, the Jets success starts and ends with goaltending. Hellebuyck needs to be the difference-maker as he was last year.  We put an asterisk beside his name in the playoffs.  To be fair we feel he has the ability to be that playoff goalie.  Time will tell.

The Patrik Laine Situation

Nothing more annoying than this.  We expect a career year if they don’t trade him.  But this would be foolish as the new Canadian division could vault him to Rocket Richard trophy territory.  Will be interesting to see how the newly acquired Paul Stastny fits back in this line up.  As much as I would like to see him on Mark Scheifele’s wing, Stastny is a left shot and may work better for one of the leagues most terrifying shooters.

Josh Morrissey

Last season was a disappointing one for Josh Morrissey. Losing Jacob Trouba and not having a suitable partner to play with on the top pair didn’t help. The result was the Jets best defenceman struggled and the sudden lack of depth on the right side hurt the team.  Whether Morrissey rebounds with Dylan DeMelo as his full-time partner or he gets someone via trade (most likely a playoff deadline trade), he needs to play like their top defenceman.  The new division should help this.  Also wouldn’t hurt if Paul Maurice would throw him a bone once in a while on the top powerplay unit.

Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp

Is the team better off having Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp on the same line or having them separated an playing on the 3rd and 4th lines?  I’ve always been a same line kind of guy.  Nonetheless if together Paul Maurice needs to give them a consistant winger to play with.  Be it Appleton, Roslovic (if he isn’t traded), Perreault or Harkins just keep it the same.  These guys used to set the league on fire with possession.  Jets need to get back there to make good use out of their bottom 6.

Rookie/Young/New Player Impact

The position where the team needs their rookies to really step up is on defence. With the recent notable departures, the opportunity is there for the taking for rookies Dylan Samberg and Ville Heinola to step right in the lineup.  Derek Forbort could be a sleeper pick up but we feel the player that needs to step up the most is Sami Niku.  He is capable physically but is he capable mentally.  It’s important to note this year he was one of the few players to stick in Winnipeg during the pandemic.  In saying all this, Maurice needs to play him to truly see what impact he can make if any.  Jansen Harkins is worth mentioning because we know Maurice likes him as I noted a few years ago in training camp. I believe Harkins will be a key cog for the Jets to help improve the bottom six. He has the ability to be a difference-maker and provide secondary scoring up front, especially when things tighten up in the playoffs. He can also play center and learn from newly acquired Nate Thompson.

Offensive Explosion

Based on the fact that no one in the division can play defence especially everyone’s pre-season number one pick the Maple Leafs (barf here).  You have to expect that the Jets players should see a ballooning at pandemic proportions around their waistline of offensive stats (pro-rated of course).  Example:  The amazing Erik Karlsson leaves the defenceless confines of the Senators and the Atlantic division (Eastern Conference) to the San Jose Sharks on the trap yeilding West side and his points per game drops from 0.93 to 0.77.  Should be interesting to see if the reverse of this happens to the list of Jets talented forwards and seemingly smaller offensive defencemen.

Paul Maurice

Entering his 7th full season as the Jets Head Coach, you’ve got to think this is the last kick at the can for Paul Maurice. For PoMo to have lasted this long, likely due to the love-in the team brass have for him.  And why not?  He is a smart hockey man and has really helped organize the team and franchise.  Nontheless coaches are hired to be fired.  He has been criticized for the handling of his line combinations, ice time distribution and overplaying bottom six veterans. While you can argue he’s been dealt a tough hand lately, he will still need to find away to dust off the excuses and lead the Jets the promised land.

So are the Winnipeg Jets problems solved by the Canadian division?  Likely not.  No team is sitting idle.  But no more Stars, Avalanche or Blues at least until the playoff final four.  2020 was a brutal year for many and sad on so many fronts.  But at least in NHL terms for the Winnipeg Jets, the Canadian Division is a new beginning.

@spinohockey

NHL 2020-21 Season – What you need to know…

It’s been a while and we are glad to be back (with the exception of our overly active twitter account). We thought we should start off with an important information column. Considering the NHL is planning to put on a 56 game season with limited or no fans at the games during a world pandemic, we felt that we should recap all the relevant information a real hockey fan like yourself would require. Key dates including playoff format, the new division alignments noted with the much anticipated “Canadian Division”, roster, waiver, salary cap, covid 19 information and of course the perhaps forgotten Expansion Draft that will hover over the season like an eagle watching it’s prey).

KEY DATES:

Dec. 31: Training camps open for seven teams that did not participate in the Return to Play Plan for the 2019-20 season (Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks).

Jan. 3, 2021: Training camps open for the remaining 24 NHL teams. Note: No Preseason games will be played. Teams can invite up to 36 skaters and unlimited amount of goalies.

Jan. 13: Regular season begins. Teams will play a 56 intradivional game condschedule. Each of the eight teams in the East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times, and each team in the North Division (seven teams based in Canada) will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.

April 12: NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET).

May 8: End of regular season.

May 11*: Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds will be intradivisional, with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team and the second-place team facing the third-place team in the first round. The four teams that advance from the second round to the Semifinal Round will be seeded by their points total in the regular season (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3).

July 9*: Last possible day of Stanley Cup Final.

July 17: Deadline for teams to submit protected lists for 2021 NHL Expansion Draft (5 p.m. ET).

July 21: 2021 NHL Expansion Draft (8 p.m. ET) for the Seattle Kraken.

July 23: First round of 2021 NHL Draft.

July 24: Rounds 2-7 of 2021 NHL Draft.

July 28: Restricted free agent/unrestricted free agent signing period begins (12 p.m. ET).

* — subject to change

DIVISION ALIGNMENT:

ROSTERS, WAIVERS & SALARY CAPS

During the regular season, the NHL roster limit will remain 23 players with a salary cap of $81.5 million. Each team will also have a taxi squad of 4-6 players that can practice and travel with the players on the NHL roster. Any team not carrying three goalies on its NHL roster must have at least one goalie on its taxi squad.

To be eligible to play in an NHL game, a player on the taxi squad must be recalled to the active roster by 5 p.m. ET on the date of the game. Goalies can be recalled after 5 p.m. ET if fewer than two goalies on the team’s NHL roster are available to play.

Players required to clear waivers to be assigned to the American Hockey League also require waivers to be assigned to the taxi squad. Players assigned to the taxi squad will receive the salary they’d receive playing in the AHL and the impact on the team’s salary cap will be the same as if the player is in the AHL.

COVID 19 TESTING & INFORMATION:

Players, coaches and staff will be tested daily throughout training camp and the first four weeks of the regular season. The NHL and NHLPA will reevaluate after that, consulting with medical personnel and infectious disease specialist and the data on positive tests, to determine if testing should shift to every other day.

During training camp, the NHL will announce League-wide results of testing without naming individuals with a confirmed positive test. During the regular season, the names of players with confirmed positive tests will be made public.

Those with a confirmed positive test will follow isolation guidelines consistent with local public health regulations. Players must also be cleared by a cardiologist and team physician before returning to play.

Teammates identified as a close contact to a player with a confirmed positive test won’t be required to quarantine if they test negative and remain asymptomatic.

COVID 19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS

While in their home cities, players, coaches and staff should stay home when possible and not engage in unnecessary interactions with non-family members. Players, coaches and staff should diligently wear face coverings and following social distancing guidelines inside and outside team facilities.

Coaches are required to wear a face covering at all times, including on the bench, except when engaging in physical exertion on the ice and when eating and/or drinking.

All teams will travel on charter flights with assigned seats on planes and buses. While on the road, players, coaches and staff will be limited to the designated team hotel for that city, the game arena and practice rink. They cannot patronize restaurants, bars or shops outside those at the designated hotel.

Players, coaches and staff will not be permitted to use the hotel gym, have guests in their hotel rooms or have their rooms serviced by housekeeping during their visit.

Visiting teams cannot practice in other facilities owned or operated by third parties. Practices will not be open to the public.

EXPANSION DRAFT RULES:

Seattle was granted an expansion franchise by the NHL on Dec. 4, 2018 and will begin play in 2021-22. The Seattle Kraken will be in the Pacific Division with the Arizona Coyotes moving to the Central Division.

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will be under the same rules for Seattle as the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. Seattle will select one player from each team excluding the Golden Knights for a total of 30 (14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies) not including additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the Expansion Draft rules.

Seattle must choose a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2021-22 regular season and those with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100 percent of the prior season’s upper limit for the salary cap. Seattle cannot buy out players chosen in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.

Current NHL teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie, under the following conditions.

* All players with no movement clauses at the time of the draft, and who decline to waive those clauses, must be protected and will be counted toward their team’s applicable protection limits.

* All first- and second-year NHL players, and all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward protection limits.

In addition, all NHL teams must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the draft:

* One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.

* Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played at least 40 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 70 NHL games in the prior two seasons.

* One goalie who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the end of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to make a restricted free agent goalie available to meet this requirement, that goalie must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the team’s protected list.

* Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games (or who otherwise have been confirmed to have a career-threatening injury) may not be used to satisfy a team’s player exposure requirements unless approval is received from the NHL. Such players also may be deemed exempt from selection.

We figure it would be best to have this information all in one place. Please use and enjoy.

@spinohockey

NHL Final Eight Preview

We promise we will try to get some of these right. Our final 8 thoughts below…

AVS vs STARS

Personally, I have been expecting that this older Stars roster to falter but they keep ticking away. Their President calls out their best players. Tick on. They lose their coach, Rick Bowness in. Tick on. Arguably left with the leagues best goalie this will be a tough bunch to beat. I’ve been converted but can they beat the high flying, very deep Colorado team? Is it Nate McKinnon’s time? He has to end his career with a Stanley Cup (I think). Two weeks ago I would easily have picked the Avs. Now it comes with great difficulty but I will stay with it. AVS in 7

VEGAS vs CANUCKS

No series is easy to pick. Vegas is big, strong, fast & deep. Peter DeBoer has been there before. This team plays with a confidence that is hard to bet against. Not to mention we agree with Coach that Robert Lehner is on a different level. Is there any better goalie in the league? If there was one it would be the crazy play of Jacob Markstrom. Seems like a goal is never easy to get by this guy. Playing on an expiring contract, he sure is proving his worth. A young strong, fast group of forwards and a lot of heart throughout this line up and the underrated (maybe) outstanding coaching of Travis Green. We are still on the bandwagon…Canucks in 7

LIGHTNING vs BRUINS

The Bruins look unstoppable. No Pasta and no Rask? No problem. Bruce Cassidy is working his magic. Dispatching a very strong and very well coached Hurricanes team in 5 was surprising to say the least. Enough is enough. Can they beat the mighty Tampa team that has always faltered in playoff’s past? Unfortunately a team needs to lose in order to win (could say the same thing about the Bruins). I just think that the Lightning have been around too long at the top of the league to not get to the final. Maybe in pandemic/bubble conditions is what the Lightning need to play with the utmost focus and get over this hump. This has to be the year. Tampa in 6

ISLANDERS vs FLYERS

Is there a better feel good story than the Islanders getting to the final eight teams? Their best player/center leaves for the hated/filthy rich Maple Leafs. Arguably the leagues best goalie doesn’t sign a contract and moves on. Arena problems? No problem. Let’s go out and get the leagues best coach, off of a Stanley Cup championship and pick up a recycled number 1 goalie. Naturally the formula to advance far into these playoffs. The Flyers are well coached (a theme in these last group of 8 teams), tons of depth, can play any style of game and dispatched a Carey Price team that were on a tidal wave. I thought the Islanders would lose the last round. There is this old New Jersey Devils thing going in on the Island and sweet Lou knows how to win playoff games. Islanders in 6

@frankzappia1 @spinohocky for your comments

Did the Bubble Burst after the Qualifying Round – 1st Round Short Preview

Vegas vs Hawks – No doubt that past Championship glory will be tempting to take here. The likes of Toews, Kane & Keith is always hard to bet against. The problem, they are facing a Vegas team that traded for the Hawks 1.(b) goalie and are seasoned with veterans hungry to win. Without the pandemic this series would have never happened. Lehner the former Vezina finalist gets his revenge. Vegas in 5

Avs vs Coyotes – Is there anyone better than the Avs? Colorado full of speed, top flight talent at forward and on D for this writer is the team to beat. Do we need to keep mentioning the kid from where Sidney Crosby is from? We like the blend of talent and all that Rich Tocchet inspired play drawn out of this feisty Arizona team but the Coyotes already have won this year by upsetting the Predators. Colorado in 5

Stars vs Flames – It’s easier when no one sees you coming. After a disappointing season last year where the Flames had so much promise finishing on top of the league, there is no pressure on the back of their young stars. This is always a formula for a great playoff run. The Stars are very strong defensively, great goaltending, couple of “stars” up front but we have seen this team be overrated all year long. Flames in 7

Blues vs Canucks – The young flying Canucks backstopped by a hot goaltender seems like the perfect formula to upset the defending Stanley Cup champions. Perhaps aging tired legs combined with a goaltender that doesn’t have anything to prove anymore. This one is a tough pick but we are going with the upset. Canucks in 7

Flyers vs Habs – Can Carey Price and these group of underrated forwards and competent back end upset probably the hottest team in the league pre-pandemic. Something about the Flyers and their mix of high end offence, gritty forwards and very well coached team that puts an end to the Habs season. The Flyers finally have goaltending. This is the biggest change for this team. Flyers in 5

Lightening vs Jackets – Can the Blue Jackets defeat the Lightening again? Is any team better coach than the lovable Torts? Lovable was sarcastic. Say what you want but his players love him. Great goaltending, a solid D core and gritty forwards is the perfect formula. But Tampa can’t lose again in the first round? Especially to the same team and especially with their depth and coaching. Tampa in 7

Capitals vs Islanders – This is a real tough series. The obvious is the Caps are big, tough and more talented than the Islanders. The Islanders seem to be a band of believers similar to what I saw in Carolina last year. I can easily see an upset here for New York. My head tells me Ovi and Oshi will be too much. Caps in 6.

Bruins vs Hurricanes – After a rough qualifying round, the Bruins should come back strong. Or will they? The Hurricanes seem to be destined and really don’t get their due as to how deep and how clutch this team is. That Bruins top line will have their hands full with this tenacious bunch. Hurricanes in 6

@frankzappia1 @spinohockey for your comments

Don’t burst our Bubble…NHL Qualifiers Preview

NHL playoffs mean the world to us unless of course there is a pandemic going on. So who really cares about the NHL playoffs? Don’t burst our bubble! Here is our annual breakdown of the NHL playoffs of the final 16 or wait a minute…I think it’s 24 this year. Nonetheless we will start with the first round “Qualifiers”.

Eastern Conference Qualifiers

PIT vs. MTL: As much as I think Carey Price can steal a series, this isn’t the series he can steal. With Penguins overall depth not to mention the 1-2 Center depth of Crosby and Malkin (stating the obvious) but this year it seems like the winger depth is healthy and padded thanks to the trade deadline. It’s not like their goalie (Matt Murray) hasn’t won before. As fo the Habs, if you are going to upset a team like Pittsburgh a 5 game series is ideal. The race to 3 could favour a high intensity, fast forward group backstopped by the legendary coolness of Carey Price and the leadership of Shea Weber. Not this time. Penguins in 4

CAR vs. NYR: Since everyone and their dog is picking the Rangers to win this series, something must be wrong. What gives? I get that the Rangers were hot and they have 3 possible starting goaltenders but something tells me that Rod Brind’amour’s band of underdogs can sure check. They are aggressive, fast, young and have a trio of centers in Aho, Trochek & Jordan Staal. Did Justin Williams retire yet? We are going against the grain. Hurricanes in 5

NYI vs. FLA: Bobrovsky! Will he he show he is worth his $10 million dollar contract? We love Barkov & Huberdeau. Here is the thing. When sweet Lou brings a team to the playoffs things happen. We like this defensive minded band of gritty forwards and an underrated group of big defencemen and a goalie tandem that flew under the radar all season. Islanders in 4

TOR vs. CBJ: Can the Blue Jackets do it again? This team has a lot of heart. Timely scoring and solid defensive play with a little nastiness is always a good formula for the playoffs. The best part of this series will be the many faces of Torts. Just can’t see with all those young legs in Toronto how the Jackets can contain the overwhelming offence that the Leaf forwards will provide. It’s painful but…Leafs in 5

Round-robin order of finish: 1. Lightning; 2. Capitals 3. Bruins 4. Flyers

Western Conference Qualifiers

EDM vs. CHI: If anyone is picking Chicago for past glory, I have an empty arena in Florida to sell you. Oilers are too young, too fast and now too well coached for this series. Though goaltending is in question still, we see Miko Koskinen’s 6’7″ frame standing or rather kneeling tall in this one. It will be interesting to see if Mike Smith gets the start with Coach Tippett’s history. I suppose you can’t go wrong either way. No one loves Toews and Kane and their past glory as much as we do. But this is all on Corey Crawford. Oilers in 4

NSH vs. ARI: This will be a fun pick. Turmoil in Arizona. A John Hynes led Predators team. I really think this is a toss up. It’s hard to bet against that Preds defensive core. They have such an impressive list of forwards (talent wise) but are they playoff wise. My head tells me to take the Predators but for some reason the goaltending depth and the underrated D core of the Coyotes will come to play. All this turmoil is perfect for a Rick Tocchet us against the world rallying cry to produce the biggest upset in the first round. Coyotes in 5

VAN vs. MIN: There is a theme going on with our picks. Young legs will win in a long layoff, playoff type quick series. The Wild are stingy smart and have good goaltending. With timely goals this can surely upset the young Canucks. We just think there is to much of an upward trending curve in this youthful Canucks roster. Lead by their Trever Linden type leader Bo Horvat, we like the supporting cast of gritty playoff guys like JT Miller, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli etc. If Markstrom shows up to play like we know he can. This will be the Canucks series to lose. Canucks in 5

CGY vs. WPG: This is the toughest series to call in our opinion. We don’t think just because one team has likely the Vezina winner in Hellebuyck and the other team doesn’t know who their starting goalie is. For the record we are going with Rittich as we believe acrobats & luck (see M.A. Fleury a couple of seasons ago) will be needed to win this series against the potent Jets offence. The Flames tenacious group led by Tkachuk, Lucic and Mangiapane will need to get on the Jets D in order to have a chance. Though we think this will be tough, the likes of Scheifele, Wheeler, Connor, Laine & Ehlers will be to tough to handle especially with questionable goaltending. Helle will not let them lose. Jets in 5

Round-robin order of finish: 1. Golden Knights 2.Avalanche 3. Blues 4. Stars

Frank Zappia

Your comments are welcome at @frankzappia1, @spinohockey