Spinorama Hockey

WINNIPEG JETS PREVIEW – Is it New Altitude, New Attitude?

When I first saw the “Rise Together” tag last year as the Winnipeg Jets theme slogan, I was thinking this is bold.  I guess they new something that we didn’t or maybe it just worked out better than they could have ever imagined.  There is nothing better than welcoming a new season, except welcoming a new season with actual expectations.  Great for the fans, maybe not so much for the team.  But if one actually wants to get to the next level (ex: winning the holy grail of hockey, Lord Stanley’s Cup), it will be something the team will eventually look forward to.  It’s called confidence.  Not cockiness but a confident attitude is a must.  It’s amazing what that can do for a team.  Jets 1.0 had a slogan one year and it was “New Attitude, New Altitude”.  Interesting as this may be what the Jets require this season except reversed “New Altitude, New Attitude”.  Some would say, act like you have been there before.  Well the Jets now have been there before.

Let’s dissect what we believe are the three key factors to the 2018-2019 NHL season that the Hockey News predicted would be the year your Winnipeg Jets would win the Stanley Cup!

Goaltending: 

Do you want to predict who will make the playoffs each year?  Just look at the goaltender.  If your goalie plays well so does your team.  How is your coach doing?  Or how is the team defence this year?  Ask your goaltender.  Unfair but reality.  I don’t think this area is talked about enough.  Connor Hellebuyck nearly won the Vezina trophy and the Jets finally made the playoffs with basically the same team they had the year before.  Yes, I realize everyone is a year older.  If your main man has a down season, an injury or maybe has a back up that can’t pick up the slack, your team will most likely find themselves in big trouble.  Ask Cam Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers who went from everyone’s pick to contend for the cup to not making the playoffs last year.  Even with the best player in the world on your roster, Connor McDavid.  If this doesn’t tell you how important your goalie is, I’m not sure what does.  No pressure Connor, Laurent Brossoit or Eric Comrie is your back up.  Though we predict that Chevy knows something about Brossoit that we don’t.  Highly touted goalies that don’t pan out immediately are a dime a dozen in the NHL.  Though, there are many examples of this working out.  Look at Mike Smith or Devan Dubnyk.  Sometimes the right situation means everything.  Especially when you play in front of a confident team.

 

One More Year Experience:

Generally one more year of experience for a roster like the Jets (young, fast and strong) is a good thing.  I can’t imagine what another year for the likes of J. Roslovic, K. Connor, A. Copp, J. Morrissey and many others will do for this team.  Unless of course there is, the dreaded sophomore jinx or the, I have signed a new contract and can’t live up to expectations curse.  I really believe the way the NHL is going, by players getting younger each and every year, the Jets should be fine in this area.  Remember when you are on a good “confident” team bringing in young players is a hell of a lot easier for them to develop and thrive in this type of environment.  Confidence breeds confidence.  We expect Roslovic in particular to step up and work that 3rd line centre role to his advantage.  I thought when Paul Maurice inserted him in the Las Vegas playoff series last year, he may have been the Jet’s most dangerous player.  As we said numerous times last year, centre ice and goaltending is a must to win in this league.  No one needs to step up more than Jack Roslovic this year.  It wouldn’t hurt either if Brian Little has a comeback season, most specifically in the offensive stats area.

Opening Day Roster Depth:

Forward Depth:

Connor, Sheifele, Wheeler

Ehlers, Little, Laine

Vesalainen, Roslovic, Perrealt

Copp, Lowry, Tanev

Dano, Petan, Lemieux

Defensive Depth:

Morrissey,Trouba

Morrow, Buff

Kulikov, Myers

Chiarrot,Poolman,Niku

Goalie Depth:

Hellebuyck, Brossoit, Comrie

The Winnipeg Jets may have the most talented roster in the NHL with so many choices to make.  The easy choice is to send Niku, and Poolman and either Lemieux or Vesalainen to the AHL and you don’t lose anyone to waivers.  I have a feeling that Vesalainen will be pushed to make the team.  If this happens, Lemieux gets sent down and neither Dano or Petan will face waivers. If Lemieux is feisty enough to make the team a trade or more likely an injury to Petan or Dano will surface. All good problems to have.  A team does not win the cup without depth.  Vesalainen’s interesting clause option to go back to Finland in year one of his contract may not be good for the team as he would need to be convinced to join the Moose.  In my opinion, joining the AHL’s Moose would be the better option for his development. Though I’m sure the Finish Elite League (Liiga) would be close to being just as effective.  As for goaltending Eric Comrie is waiver exempt and most likely will be sent down to the Moose at least to start the season.

The only question left in this category is, do the Jets need anything else?  Team toughness is there but at the very minimum last year they had Matt Hendericks to drop the gloves just in case a message needed to be sent or Laine was being attacked.  Yeah, I know the NHL is not like that anymore but that isn’t entirely true as long as this element is allowed to be in the game.  You still don’t want the likes of Buff, Lowry or Wheeler dropping their mitts or taking roughing penalties when someone takes a run at Ehlers.  Most likely player in this category would be on the border of the roster and that is Brendan Lemieux.  The kid can score and drop them if he has to.  I’m a fan.  He needs an injury to get a sustained opportunity in this line up.  I think Lemieux’s time will come at some point this season and could be a key ingredient for a possible playoff run.  Even though I was certain the Jets wanted Morrissey (who had no rights except to sit out) signed to a long term contract, they worked themselves some much needed cap space for potential playoff run additions by having him sign a low AVV bridge contract.  If all stays the same, a depth center, a gritty scoring winger, some lunch pale grit forwards and a veteran back up goalie may be some of the items required to put the icing on this roster’s cake.  Assuming that they actually make the playoffs.  But if we learned anything from last year, the Jets are ready.  And just like last season the team will need to play confident as I noticed that for most of the season they were playing with a chip on their collective shoulders, lead by their captain Blake Wheeler.

Veteran Coach: 

Coach Paul Maurice went from one of the most likely coaches to be fired in the media, to hero & genius in the span of a few months.   There is no one smarter in the organization than this man.  If you think that this isn’t true you are not paying attention.  No one has his experience nor the pulse of this organization more than him.  Until he arrived, the organization was spinning.  He has brought much to the Jets organization but NHL legitimacy and professionalism to hockey operations has to be at the top of the list.  Not saying the Chevy or Chipper has not done this as well.  Actually, I don’t think there is a better trio of coach, GM & owner in the league.  Just that it’s different from the guy that interacts with all the players in the organization on a daily basis.

Now in the matter of coaching this is a different subject and not necessarily related.  Maurice has been with the Jets as head coach for what is deemed in professional sports, a long time.  He has the third longest tenure in the NHL behind Joel Quenneville in Chicago and Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay.  This is usually not a good stat for coaches as it usually means your time is coming to an end.  But Paul Maurice is a spitfire.  Literally as he used to play for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL as a junior and started his coaching career there when he retired.  But I regress.  I am only stating facts and they may not even be Coach Maurice’s fault (see goaltending above) but Po Mo has only made the playoffs as a coach back to back years once in his NHL career.  Keep in mind that year they went to the final after losing in the conference quarterfinals the year before with Carolina.  Let’s face it, he is great at analyzing and his players seem to really like him.  Let’s just hope that Hellebuyck plays well and doesn’t get injured and everything should be okay.

As for expectations, a word of advice.  It’s okay to be confident in your team as long as they are confident in themselves.  Rise Together was bold.  The team has definitely achieved a new altitude that should provide a confident attitude.  Great teams are great teams for a reason.  Will the Jets be a great team this season?  At the very least, act like you have been there before.  Be it team slogans, goalies, coaches, young and older players confidence is everything…

Frank Zappia @spinohockey

 

 

 

NHL Draft 2018 Coverage: The Bloodlines

As we head into the upcoming NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23, we take a look at a recent trend in recent drafts where the last names are familiar ones that we have watched when we were growing up. Second and even third generation players have become more and more common as each and every year goes by.

Here is a list of some recognizable last names who, along with their older relatives, may soon become household names.

 

Brady Tkachuk (LW/C)

Son of former Winnipeg Jet Keith and brother of current Flames forward Matthew. Both of them were drafted in the 1st round of their respective drafts, Keith was drafted 19th overall in 1990 and Matthew was drafted 6th overall in 2016. At 6’3, Brady is projected to be more skilled and even nastier than both his father and brother. He is ranked 2nd for North American (NA) skaters, and will very likely be taken in the top 5. Could you imagine the Battle of Alberta if he were to be selected by the Edmonton Oilers?

Possible fit: OTT, ARI, VAN

Mattias Samuelsson (D)

Son of former Flyers defenceman Kjell. Like his dad, his 6’4 frame makes him attractive for NHL teams looking for a big, physical d-man. He is considered a good skater who makes smart decisions with the puck in his own end. Ranked 21st for NA skaters, he is projected to be a late 1st or early 2nd round draft pick.

Possible fit: PIT, STL, WSH

Jack Drury (C)

Jack’s father, Ted Drury, played his NHL career with the Bruins and Ducks and he is also the nephew of Chris Drury. Similar to his father’s game, Jack is a smart versatile smallish forward who also excels at playing special teams. He rose from 60th in the mid-term rankings to 27th in the final rankings for NA skaters.

Possible fit: ANA, BUF, COL

Nikolai Kovalenko (RW)

Nikolai’s father was known as the ‘Russian Tank’ Andrei Kovalenko, who played 9 seasons mainly with the Nordiques/Avalanche, Habs, and Oilers. Just like his dad, being 5’11 Nikolai has the same stature and playing style, which will likely be attractive to some teams looking for some Russian grit. His final rank as European skater was 33rd and is projected to be taken in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Possible fit: BOS, DET, NSH 

Jack McBain (C)

Son of former Jets forward Andrew McBain, who was selected 8th overall in the 1983 NHL entry draft. Jack possesses great hands and shooting skills but it’s his skating that he needs to work on and is the big question mark. Playing this past season for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, he was voted Ontario Jr. Hockey League’s top prospect. He is ranked 35th for North American skaters. 

Possible fit: MON, LA, NYI

Jonathan Gruden (C)

Son of new Raiders Head Coach…actually he is the son of the other John Gruden, who had a brief NHL career with the Bruins and Capitals. Jonathan is a smart, strong skater who can also play the wing. His final NA ranking was 46th.

Possible fit: CHI, PHI, TB

Kristian Reichel (C)

Son of former Flame Robert. At 20 years old, Kristian is a 3rd year eligible draft pick. He only started playing in North America last season, with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, after starting his career in Europe. His passing and on-ice awareness are considered his strengths. He also attended Winnipeg Jets prospect camp in 2017. Ranked 53rd as NA skater, he could step in for a team sooner based on his age.

Possible fit: ARI, DET, WSH

Adam Samuelsson (D)

Yet another Samuelsson in the same draft. Adam’s father Ulf (one of the most hated players of all time – see image) had a lengthy NHL career as a former Whaler/Penguin/Ranger defenceman. At 6’6, 240 lbs. Adam is even bigger than his father was and he will have teams drooling at the prospect of landing a mobile, shutdown, Chara-like d-man. Projected to be a mid-round pick, he is ranked 77th for NA skaters.

Possible fit: BUF, DAL, WPG

Riley Sutter (RW)

Son of former Flyer/Blues forward Ron. Riley is considered a two-way player with good size and hockey sense (which as a Sutter I believe you’re born with). Needs to work on his skating. He may not have great offensive upside and is projected to end up in a checking role, should he makes it to the NHL. He is ranked 80th overall for NA skaters.

Possible fit: CAL, MIN, NJ

Max Paddock (G)

Max is the nephew of former AHL/NHL player, and more notably, Head Coach of the Winnipeg Jets, John Paddock. A native of Brandon, Manitoba, he came out of nowhere after taking over as the starting goalie for the Regina Pats early last season. He helped lead the Pats to a Memorial Cup Final, which they just missed out winning. Things are looking up for Max, including his chances of being selected in this year’s draft. He finished 22nd in the final rankings for NA goalies.

Possible fit: FLA, NYI, VGK

Other notable mentions, including their final North American rankings:

-Jacob Pivonka (C) (Michal) is ranked 105.

-Cole and Christian Krygier (D) (Todd) are ranked 149 & 205, respectively.

-Ethan Manderville (C) (Kent) is ranked 165.

-Jack DeBoer (C) (Peter) is ranked 166.

-Erik Middentorf (LW) (Max) is ranked 195.

-Ben Sanderson (LW) (Geoff) is ranked 208.

-Philipe Lapointe (RW) (Marty) is not ranked.

-Ryan Savage (RW) (Brian) is not ranked.

Mass DiGeronimo @spinohockey

Why the Washington Capitals will win the Stanley Cup

Yes, I know, you are rolling your eyes at the title of this article.  Like everyone else in the hockey world including this writer has picked Vegas to lose during these playoffs.  Technically I picked them to lose in the first round (LA Kings) and the third round (WPG Jets).

The smart money tells us not to doubt these Golden Knights especially with the red hot Marc Andre Fleury.  So why pick the Caps to win this series?  I need to go on my theory, that the eventual Stanley Cup champion needs to face adversity and have odds stacked up against them during the playoffs and somehow overcome it.  This is traditionally what happens on the road to winning the toughest trophy in professional sports.  No doubt Vegas has had much adversity during the regular season as an expansion team.  But what have they endured in the playoffs in 2018?  Let’s take a look at what these two teams have overcome to get to the final? 

Golden Knights road to the final:

  • Round 1: Vegas sweeps LA.  The series is a lot tighter than the “sweep” would indicate.  As he will continue to do throughout the next two rounds, MA Fleury stands on his head.
  • Round 2: Vegas has a minor challenge against the San Jose Sharks who end up tying the series at 2 to give them some difficulty.  The Knights go on to win game 5 & 6 (including a shutout in game 6 by Fleury) to finish off the Sharks.
  • Round 3: Vegas faces the Winnipeg Jets, arguably the best team left in the playoffs  and lose game 1.  This will be the only time that the Golden Knights  have trailed in the playoffs).  Fortunately it’s only game one and the Knights behind some stellar goaltending go on to take the Jets out in 5.  The Knights never trailed again on the scoreboard for the final 4 games.

Capitals road to the final:

  • Round 1: Caps are down 2 games, losing both at home against Colombus only to come back and win four straight.  Keep in mind game 3 (the pivotal game), they came through and won in double overtime.  Veteran goalie Braden Holtby comes in after game 2 loss to take over for goalie of the future Philipp Grubauer and goes on a tear to get his team to the next round.
  • Round 2: Caps finally defeat their arch rival.  The Pittsburgh Penguins, finally find themselves on the wrong side of the Ovechkin – Crosby classic playoff duel and the Caps move on.
  • Round 3: Caps face elimination after Tampa Bay wins 3 in a row to take a 3-2 lead in the series.  With immense pressure on the Caps, they win the elimination game at home 3-0 (Holtby with the shutout).  They end up finishing off the Lightning in Tampa Bay on the road with another Holtby shutout in game 7.

Washington’s road to the final has been full of tough odds, pressure in must win games and much adversity to overcome.  The Golden Knights for some strange reason (Fleury as the main reason) has had relatively easy road to the final.  You can argue that this will keep them fresh and ready to pounce on the worn out Capitals.  But from my experience this is rarely the case.  Ovi finally will get his Stanley Cup ring and the odds in Vegas will finally go against the Golden Knights.  Capitals in 6

Frank Zappia

2018 Playoff Predictions – A Whiteout Snowstorm is coming

2018 NHL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

 

Our Playoff predictions are here and we have news for you!  A whiteout snow storm is coming to the NHL Playoffs!  See our format below that has some notes on the series, our prediction and some key players.  Please note that every team’s best players and in particular every team’s goaltenders need to play well for teams to advance so we will leave the obvious choices out of our notes.  Our “Need to Step up” selections are players that we think will need to play above their weight class to give their team the edge to move on to the next round.

First Round:

NASHVILLE VS COLORADO

Notes: President’s trophy winner rarely wins the Stanley Cup so why does everyone keep picking them to win it?  I understand no one is deeper than the gang in Smashville.  It makes sense a lot of sense.  Go to the final and lose and the following year you are back to claim what is rightfully yours.  The big problem in this series is Avs goalie Varlamov is out.  He can steal a series but let’s face it in order to win in the playoffs goaltending is a must.  Bernier is a top notch back up but without Varly we just don’t think it will be enough.  We still think the Avs will make it difficult and why not?  Nothing to lose here…Preds in 6

Need to Step up – NSH: Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, Ryan Ellis. COL: Nikita Zadorov, Samuel Girard, Tyson Jost & Carl Soderberg

WINNIPEG VS MINNESOTA

The Jets, for a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since they have come back, there is a lot of talk of this team going all the way.  There is eerie similarities between this team and the Black Hawks first Stanley Cup Champion of 2010.  I know they are building their team like Nashville but to this writer they really look like the Blackhawks!  As for the Wild, yes we know Suter is out.  This is a team that if not dealt with can become very dangerous if they shake any Jet confidence.  Keep in mind the eventual Stanley Cup Champion nearly always has a tough first round.  We don’t expect any different.  Jets in 7

Need to step up – Jets: Adam Lowry, Paul Stastny, Josh Morrissey, Mathieu Perreault  Wild: Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Matt Dumba, Nino Niederreiter

LAS VEGAS VS LOS ANGELES

What else do the Vegas Golden Knights need to do?  After winning the division and taking the NHL by storm.  How about win a playoff round against what may be the most experienced playoff team in the conference.  It doesn’t hurt that they have won 2 Stanley Cups lately in 2012 & 2014.   Take note in 2012 they were the 8th seed and in 2014 they were the 6th seed.  This year they are the 7th seed.  The dream season ends for Vegas here.  As for the Kings we have four names for you: Quick, Doughty, Carter & Kopitar.  Enough said.  Kings in 6

Need to Step up – LA: Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, Alec Martinez Vegas: Erik Haula, Alex Tuch, Riley Smith, Deryk Engelland

ANAHEIM VS SAN JOSE

The Ducks are tough, have centre ice depth, defensive depth and goaltending depth.  Though the Sharks will be a tough opponent we think the Ducks who’s seem to thrive in this type of atmosphere will be too much for the Sharks.  We like what we see in San Jose and it’s not like the Sharks lack at centre ice, with Martin Jones in the pipes or a pretty solid defensive core.  This is really a coin flip series and should be one of the most intriguing coaching battles. Ducks in 7

Need to Step up – Ducks:  Jakob Silfverberg, Adam Henrique, Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase Sharks: Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, Marc Edouard Vlassic

WASHINGTON VS COLOMBUS

This is the year for the Caps to finally win the Cup!  As much as we feel for Alex Ovechkin we just can’t seem them winning this series.  Something is up with this team.  It seems like they can not put it together when the stakes rise.  Maybe starting Grubauer in net will be just the trick they need.  Torts seems to have his team rolling at the right time.  Depth throughout the line up and perhaps the leagues best goaltender in Bobrovsky.  Should be an interesting series.  Blue Jackets in 7

Need to Step Up – Colombus:  Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, Thomas Vanek, Seth Jones  Caps: Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Dimitry Orlov, Tom Wilson

PITTSBURGH VS PHILADLPHIA

Can the Flyers upset the Penguins?  I guess anything is possible but the only team on this side will need to beat them in some other format.  You can not match them at centre or forward depth so game plan will be the deciding factor.  Flyer don’t have what it takes to do this but maybe the Blue Jackets may.  Penguins in 5

 Need to Step Up – Penguins: Derick Brassard, Patric Hornqvist, Olli Maata, Justin Schultz  Flyers: Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Ivan Provorov, Wayne Simmonds

TAMPA BAY VS NEW JERSEY

As Tampa has been slowing up down the stretch we just can’t believe there will be an upset here.  Even though this may be the series that can have the biggest upset potential.  Jersey has been playing for their playoff lives for weeks going into the Stanley Cup tournament while the Lightning has been coasting.  Even this may not to overcome the Lightning depth and the genius coaching of Jon Cooper.  The Devils have this strange assortment of pluggers, young guys and players that need to prove themselves including their Hart Trophy candidate in Taylor Hall.  We so badly want to pick the Devils to win this series but we have to believe that talent will win in the end. Tampa in 7

Need to Step up – Tampa Bay: Tyler Johnson, Ryan Callahan, JT Miller, Ryan McDonagh  New Jersey: Kyle Palmieri, Patrick Maroon, Brian Boyle, Will Butcher

BOSTON VS TORONTO

Are the Bruins one of the most overrated teams in the playoffs?  With the exception of that top line it seems like they have been playing over their heads all season long.  Lines 2-4 and the Defence are good but not great.   At least for the Leafs I can point at Freddy Anderson and say that if it wasn’t for him the Leafs would most likely not have made the playoffs.  It seems like the Leafs win with great goaltending, timely goals and are never out of a game.  Coaching could end up being the difference.  Leafs in 7

Need to Step up – Bruins: Torey Krug, David Backes, Rick Nash, Charlie McAvoy Leafs: Nazeem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly

Second Round Winners:

Winnipeg over Nashville, LA over Anaheim, Tampa Bay over Toronto, Colombus over Pittsburgh

Third Round Winners:

Winnipeg over LA, Tampa Bay over Colombus

Stanley Cup Champion: Winnipeg over Tampa Bay

by Frank Zappia @frankzappia1 @Spinohockey

The following are Picks by @Mass_Insight

NSH in 6, WPG in 6, VGK in 7, SJ in 6

TB in 7, BOS in 7, WSH in 6, PITT in 6

Stanley Cup Champion PITT in 6 over VGK

Your comments are welcome @spinohockey, @frankzappia1 and @Mass_Insight

NHL Teams Season Review in Song

The NHL season is almost complete. For some it has been a long and painful one, while for others it’s been a coming out party. What better way to summarize it than with some classic tunes that we all grew up listening to:

Anaheim:
You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones

Like the Stones, the Ducks top players, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, are getting up there. Led by an old-school coach, their time may be running out of being a threat in the West, but they are still battling. They came close last season, but were ousted in the playoffs by the Preds. This may be the last go around for the Getzlaf-Perry led group.

Arizona:
Land of Confusion – Genesis

A year ago, the Coyotes were seemingly on the right track with some top young players in their system, like Anthony Duclair and Max Domi, and with the NHL’s version of Moneyball at GM, in John Chayka. This season they are battling for last overall with the Canucks and Sabres, Duclair is no longer on the team, and Domi appears to be on his way out.

Boston:
Back in Black – AC/DC

With some strong play by both their veterans and young players, the Bruins are back at being one of the top teams in the East, as they have been one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season. With the acquisition of Rick Nash and solid goaltending by both Tukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, the Bruins could be a dangerous team come playoff time.

Buffalo:
Shout – Tears For Fears

The Sabres cleaned house last season, hiring Jason Botterill and Phil Housley as GM and Head Coach, but things have gone from bad to worse this season. Their star Jack Eichel was hurt early in the year and they never recovered from that. The icing on the cake was when they practically gave away impending UFA Evander Kane at the trade deadline.

Calgary:
Moneytalks – AC/DC

Another classic tune by AC/DC. However, the Flames fans know all too well what the song title means with their year-long arena debate. Threats by their owner and the always quotable Brian Burke have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. Throw in a little (pardon the pun) quick fly-in by Commissioner Gary Bettman and the threat of possible relocation, it makes for a real fun atmosphere in Cow Town.

Carolina:
Winds of Change – The Scorpions

Peter Karamnos finally found a taker for the Hurricanes, when he sold majority control of the team to Tom Dundon. Dundon has since ‘moved’ his GM Ron Francis to another position in the organization. With the team likely to miss the playoffs, coach Bill Peters might be next to go.

Chicago:
You Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone) – Cinderalla

One of the best Hair Bands of the 80’s! The Blackhawks have been used to winning, having not missed the playoffs since the 2007/08 season and winning a remarkable three Stanley Cups. As they say, all good thing must come to an end and it has thanks to cap problems catching up to them and a key injury to their star goalie, Corey Crawford.

Colorado:
Return of the Mack – Mark Morrison

It’s not really a return, but more like a coming out party for Nathan MacKinnon, but it was the best I could as the song title fits. MacKinnon is playing out of his mind, which could land the Avs and playoff spot and Nathan with the Hart Trophy. GM Joe Sakic also deserves a lot of credit for the Matt Duchene haul earlier in the season, which jump started the team.

Columbus:
Bang Your Head – Quiet Riot

Is it just me, or every time I watch a John Tortorella postgame press conference he is either complaining about his team’s effort or badgering a reporter for asking a ‘stupid’ question. The Blue Jackets are well off last season’s win total of 108 points, as they battle for a wild card spot in the East. If they don’t make it in, the Fonz just may finally lose his cool.

Dallas:
Back in the Saddle Again – Aerosmith

The Stars were a disappointment last year, finishing under .500 and out of a playoff spot. In the offseason they added Ken Hitchcock and also traded for and signed arguably the top two players available on the market, in Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov. The moves have paid off, as the Stars are back in contention in the very competitive Central division.

Detroit:
Gin and Juice – Snoop Dogg

For an organization that is not used to losing, Detroit fans have had to endure some lean years, recently which may have caused some to hit the hard stuff. They have not been able to replace Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Lidstrom. GM Ken Holland is in the last year of his contract, and it might finally be time for the $1 Man, Kris Draper, to take over the reins.

Edmonton:
Don’t Stop Believin – Journey

And what a ‘Journey’ it’s been for Oilers’ fans. Including this year, it will be one playoff appearance in the last twelve seasons. How many number one picks and coaches can this team go through before they can finally meet expectations? It may have finally dawned on GM Peter Chiarelli that they could really use a Taylor Hall, and not Milan Lucic. They may also want to consider making this tune their new goal song.

Florida:
Round and Round – Ratt

After their ‘Analytics’ experiment fell through, the Panthers brought back Dale Tallon as their GM, and wouldn’t you know it, they are now back in the playoff hunt. Led by Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trochek, Jonathan Huberdeau and a healthy Aaron Ekblad, they could be a dangerous team in the playoffs.

Las Vegas:
Crime of the Century – Supertramp

How does an expansion team end up with 45+ wins in their first season? The answer is $500 million and some head scratching expansion draft deals (Columbus, Florida, Minnesota). You have to also give credit to Head Coach Gerard Gallant (thanks to Florida again) for doing a marvelous job of getting the most out of the other team’s castoffs. It will be interesting to see what they can do in the playoffs.

Los Angeles:
Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds

All it took was a coaching change and the Kings are back in business. They were also a big player at the trade deadline after acquiring Dion Phaneuf and speedy forward Tobias Rieder, for the final playoff push. I wouldn’t want to face this team in the first round.

Minnesota:
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd

Is it me or have the Wild been spinning their wheels since signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to big money contracts? They have some solid seasons, but they have not been able to get past the second round of the playoffs. And then there was the Hanzal trade last season. Chuck Fletcher’s time as GM should really be coming to an end.

Montreal:
What Have I Done to Deserve This – Pet Shop Boys

With the way things have been going this year in Montreal, it’s seems as if their struggles have gone on longer than a season. However, they did win their division last season with 103 points. Lack of depth down the middle, average goaltending by Carey Price, and some head scratching trades will do that to you. The good news is Geoff Molson has all the confidence in the world that Marc Bergevin will turn things around. John Tavares could really help.

Nashville:
Even Flow – Pearl Jam

Ever since their long playoff run last season, the Predators have been on a roll. GM David Poile continues to roll too, with the amazing trades he continues to make which improves this already dangerous team. They are pretty much a lock to finish first place in the Central. We’ll see what they can do for an encore in the postseason.

New Jersey:
Runnin’ With the Devil – Van Halen

What other way can you explain how Ray Shero managed to steal Taylor Hall from Chiarelli and the Oilers. Add to the team’s impressive performance this season and we’re convinced that Shero made a deal with the Devil. He’s made some shrewd trades (Marcus Johansson, Sami Vatanen) and signings (Will Butcher, Brian Boyle) too.

NY Rangers
New York Minute – The Eagles

‘Everything can change in a New York Minute, ooooo ooo.’ Classic tune that rings so true for the Rangers season. While in the middle of a playoff push, the organization decided to go into sell-mode. GM Jeff Gorton got a nice haul of players and draft picks and the team has played better as of late. He has also freed up some cap space, so the offseason could be interesting (John Tavares).

NY Islanders:
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – Journey

‘Sleepless nights, losing ground, I’m reaching for you, you, you’ is the recent voicemail message that GM Garth Snow left for their soon-to-be impending UFA and superstar, John Tavares. Throughout the season, no story has been more prominent than this one. Will he or won’t he? Only JT knows at this point and with another season out of the playoffs, it might be one that leaves Islanders fans in even more despair. On the brightside, at least they will still have Andrew Ladd.

Ottawa:
What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye

Great question! After being taken to the cleaners by Joe Sakic and David Poile in the Matt Duchene-Kyle Turris trade, GM Pierre Doiron may not have an answer for that. Thus far, Duchene has not been the answer for the Sens but the trade did help the Avs turn their season around and solidify the Preds lineup. Add to that the Erik Karlsson situation and things just keeps getting better in the nation’s capital. Only thing shorter than the fan’s patience will be the lineup to renew season tickets.

Philadelphia:
Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

Will the real Philadelphia Flyers please stand up? So far this season, this team has gone on a 10-game losing streak, followed that up with a 6, 4, and another 4 game winning streak, only to lose 4 in-a-row, then proceed to win 10 out their next 11, and most recently dropping 8 out of their last nine games. What a rollercoaster! If they end up making the playoffs they’ll either make it all the way to the conference final or they’ll be out in 4 straight.

Pittsburgh:
Take On Me – Aha

The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions started slow, but they have picked thing up in the second half of the season. The only question mark going into the playoffs is the health of goalie Matt Murray, who has battled some injuries this season. Who will get in their way of a three-peat?

San Jose:
Got Me Under Pressure – ZZ Top

I’ll be the first to admit, this has less to do with the title song and more to do with the similarities of the groups look compared to Brent Burns and Joe Thornton. The Sharks aren’t really under pressure. They are flying under the radar with some solid play from their young players. Plus they pretty much got Evander Kane for free, and they could be the surprise team in the West during the playoffs.

St. Louis:
Fade to Black – Metallica

On December 17/17 the Blues were tied for 1st place in the Central. Since then they have gone 15-15-3, which has dropped them to 6th in the division and out of a wildcard spot. One of the reasons has been shaky goaltending by Jake Allen, who sports a .907 save percentage. The shocking trade of Paul Stastny to the Jets didn’t help things either.

Tampa Bay
Smooth Operator – Sade

Stevie Y is slowly turning into David Poile-East of the NHL. How does he manage to continue making these great deals under a tight cap? The Lightning have also had a very strong season, led by Nikita Kucherov and strong goaltending by their new number one netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy. A solid bet to unseat the Pens and make it to the Finals.

Toronto:
Born in the USA – The Boss

The ending of the Maple Leafs’ 50+ year Stanley Cup drought seemingly falls on the shoulders of a player who was born south of the border. And don’t we know it! The rest of Canada is force fed a daily dose of ‘What is Auston Matthews doing on his off day?’ Only thing worse is that it’s Mike Babcock delivering the updates. I can’t wait for the coverage during playoffs (insert sarcasm). Matthews has been injured a couple of times this season, so he has needed to enter the protective ‘bubble’ to heal up. On a side note, goalie Freddie Andersen has been their team MVP.

Vancouver:
Hold On – Triumph

This title song mirrors what the Canucks have been doing with the Sedin twins. While they have some impressive young players on their roster and in their system, like Calder Trophy candidate Brock Boeser, they have been unable or unwilling to move on from Henrik and Daniel, who are in the last year of their contracts. It might have been a good move to trade them at the deadline, to continue with their rebuilding, but the Sedins may have not been interested. As much as they have given to the franchise, it would be a mistake not to move on from them next season.

Washington:
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2

Alex Ovechkin recently scored his 600th career goal. Very impressive. I’m pretty sure he would trade that in for a Stanley Cup. The good news for the Caps is the Pens have played a lot of hockey over the last two seasons, and they could be ripe for the picking. The bad news is they still don’t have a playoff built team. Maybe I’m wrong, but if it’s not this year the team may want to move in another direction. I’m really surprised that they gave GM Brian MacLellan an extension, with the way he has managed their cap and roster.

Winnipeg:
Break on Through – The Doors

It’s been a seemingly long wait for Jets fans but they have finally been able to enjoy the fruits of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s labor. Take your pick. Connor Hellebuyck, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Josh Morrissey, or Kyle Connor. They are indeed the envy of the league. Now it’s time to find out if this recent success can translate during the playoffs.

Mass DiGeronimo
@mass_Insight
@spinohockey