Posts Tagged ‘NHL betting’
Losing in the playoffs at the hands of your archrival is always devastating for a team and its fan base. Blowing a 2-0 series lead while heading home to host games three and four pours some salt in the wound. Watching your rival not only come back to defeat you in that series, but go on and win the Stanley Cup? Let’s just say the scenario couldn’t have gotten much worse for the Montreal Canadiens.
Despite the tragic end to their season last year, the Canadiens proved that they had the ability to compete with the best teams in the game, and had a couple of bounces gone their way they might have even been the ones hoisting the Cup. The Canadiens come back mostly in tack from last year and as always, the fans in Montreal will be expecting big things.
Adding to their forward group in the offseason was a point of emphasis for general manager Pierre Gauthier. Montreal struggled to score goals last season, tallying only 213 goals on the year. They tied with Toronto, and finished better than only the Florida Panthers the dismal Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils. What the Canadiens really need is for current players to produce more, but the acquisition of Erik Cole should certainly help. Cole scored 26 goals last season and should fit right in on a team that loves to move the puck up the ice in transition as quickly as possible.
The Canadiens brought in former Colorado Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj to help back up Carey Price. Price was sensational last season, finishing with 38 wins and really affirming himself as one of the top netminders in the league. Montreal will need another big year from Price, but having Budaj as a potential back up to spell him and in case of injury is just another layer of depth that good teams always seem to have.
One of the most important players heading into the season for the Canadiens has to center Scott Gomez. He’s been the talk to many trade rumors and no doubt there are plenty of fans who want him on the next bus out of town. Gomez was absolutely dreadful last season, finishing with career lows in goals and points, and his $7.5 million cap hit certainly doesn’t provide him room for any excuses. Gomez is at his best when he’s distributing the puck, so even if he scores only 12-15 goals, the Canadiens need him to near the 50 point mark this year.
Cole should help the offense a bit but this is still a team that might have trouble scoring consistently. P.K. Subban could take the next step to becoming an elite offensive defenseman this season, and with Andrei Markov returning the Canadiens have a capable defense in front of Price. If the offense improves and the Canadiens are able make the playoffs they should be able to make some noise.
Last season came down to 60 minutes of hockey for the Carolina Hurricanes. Eighty-one games had been previously played, and all that remained was one matchup with the rival Tampa Bay Lightning. Winning would mean the Hurricanes were in the playoffs, losing would mean they were going home. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they trailed 3-0 just 13 minutes into the opening period. Carolina managed to cut the deficit to 4-2 in the third period but they couldn’t get any closer, and they watched their season come to a close with destiny in their own hands on home ice.
This season the Hurricanes expect nothing short of a playoff spot, and if they earn one in the tightly contested Eastern Conference they will most definitely deserve being there. Captain Eric Staal still leads the way for Carolina, compiling 33 goals and 76 points to lead the Hurricanes offensively. Sophomore Jeff Skinner will look to improve on his incredible rookie season as well. Skinner scored 31 goals and recorded 63 points, and if you watched him play last season you know he’s got all the talent in the world to surpass that this season.
On defense the always steady Cam Ward remains in goal for a seventh consecutive season. Ward posted 37 wins and 4 shutouts in 74 games last season for Carolina. It will be interesting to see if the addition of Brian Boucher will finally allow Ward to get some much needed rest during the year. The Hurricanes replaced the loss of Joe Corvo with Tomas Kaberle, and are hoping that the veteran Kaberle can assist the power play. Kaberle will be looked at to return to form after a sluggish playoff performance during the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup run last season.
The most devastating loss for Carolina was losing forward Erik Cole to the Montreal Canadiens in the offseason. The Hurricanes tried to retain Cole before the Canadiens were able to blow him out of the water with an $18 million contract. Cole scored 26 goals last season for Carolina and his speed was always a lethal weapon for a hockey club that loves to transition the puck up the ice quickly and generate short handed opportunities.
The Hurricanes countered the loss of Cole by acquiring forwards Tim Brent, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Anthony Stewart. Stewart could be one of the most underrated signings of the year if he takes another step forward after his 14 goals and 29 points in his first full National Hockey League season. Stewart is the type of player that should fit right into the way the Hurricanes play hockey, and that might mean big things for both parties.
It will be tough sledding for the Hurricanes all season long, having to fight off the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals within their division, not to mention the numerous other good hockey clubs in the East. If Boucher is capable of playing around 15 games and spelling Ward, the Hurricanes should have enough to be a playoff team this year.
The biggest question facing the Colorado Avalanche heading into the 2011-12 NHL season is whether or not they can keep the puck out of the back of their net. The Avalanche allowed a league high 287 goals last season, 25 more than the next closest team. It’s not even close to being good enough if the Avalanche want to return to the post season or even be slightly competitive in the Western Conference this season.
Colorado attempted to address this starting last season when they acquired Erik Johnson from the St. Louis Blues, and their process continued at June’s NHL entry draft. The Avalanche used their first pick on winger Gabriel Landeskog, and then drafted defenseman Duncan Siemens. It remains to be seen whether or not either player will make a difference for this year’s club, but both have a chance to be in the NHL sooner rather than later based on the way Colorado played defense last season. The Avalanche also brought in veteran defenseman Jan Hejda to help support a still suspect defense corps.
Perhaps the most important move for the Avalanche in their quest to shore up their defense was the trade they made for Semyon Varlamov. Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman put all of his eggs in one basket, and Varlamov better produce the way Sherman expects. Colorado sent a first and second round pick to Washington for a goaltender that wasn’t even going to play for the Capitals after they acquired Tomas Vokoun. That first round pick could be costly if the Avalanche finish as one of the worst teams in the league for the second year in a row. If Varlamov turns into the elite goaltender Sherman thinks he can be, then the deal may very well be worth it for Colorado in the end, and may help put the Avs in contention this season. Varlamov has been extremely successful in his limited playing time as an NHL netminder. He’s posted a 30-13-12 record in 59 career games, along with a 2.39 goals against average and .917 save percentage.
The Avalanche have some solid young forward depth with Matt Duchene, T.J. Galiardi, and Paul Stastny. They have veteran Milan Hejduk back for another year. Can David Jones duplicate or improve on his breakout season from last year? Will other young forwards step up to alleviate the burden from the big four? Is there a defensive puck move that can replace the loss of John-Michael Liles?
Unless the Avalanche reduce their goals against drastically this season they don’t stand a chance out West. The addition of Varlamov and veteran backup J.S. Giguere will certainly help, but it would be a surprise if it were enough behind a still shaky defense. The offense needs to find more individuals to contribute as well if they don’t want to regret losing that first round pick come next June.
Heading into the start of the 2011-12 season the Dallas Stars can’t be looking for any one individual to replace the loss of Brad Richards down the middle. Instead the Stars will look for everyone on the roster to contribute a little bit more in order to collectively fill the void.
It’s not an easy proposition for a team to lose their star player after missing the post season and expect things to improve. However the situation in Dallas is a little more confusing than it looks on the surface. The uncertain ownership situation didn’t help in the Stars’ ability to retain Richards, and the fact they missed the playoffs is a bit skewed when you consider they finished the season with 95 points.
The Stars had a chance on the last day of the season to clinch a playoff berth but their hopes were dashed by a Minnesota club with nothing to lose. Now just a few months later they head into the season with a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan and Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro being relied upon even heavier.
Dallas added Michael Ryder through free agency this July and his addition should provide some needed secondary scoring to the lineup. They also added defensman Sheldon Souray on a one-year contract and hope the veteran can play competent defense while improving the power play with his shot from the point. Souray is a huge wild card for the Stars heading into the season and could be a player that is a difference maker either way in the Dallas lineup this season.
Stars also brought in veteran forwards Radek Dvorak and Vernon Fiddler this offseason. Both are expected to be role players and not contribute much offensively.
It’s going to be a real challenge for Dallas to make the playoffs for the first time in four years. Faced with the challenge of being in one of the best divisions in hockey, they also have to deal with the depth of the Western Conference and the loss of their top point getter. For the Stars to make the post season they’ll need a monster year from youngster Jamie Benn, a bruising power forward with 30 goal potential. Eriksson has been a stud for the Stars for several years now and they’ll need his production to stay on par with what it was been in recent seasons.
It would behoove the Stars to win every game they play against the bottom feeders of the Western Conference and against Eastern Conference foes. Dallas will compete within the division but with the additions made by the teams around them it could be another empty second season at the American Airlines Center.
After last season the most important thing for Tampa Bay Lightning will be securing a division title and a top three seed in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning had one of the best seasons in franchise history but came up one game short of appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals. That loss came on the road at the hand of the eventual champion Boston Bruins by a score of 1-0. Head coach Guy Boucher couldn’t have had a better start to his coaching career, and he’s set the bar high for himself from here on out. Boucher looked extremely comfortable behind the Lightning bench, and seems to have the respect of his players.
General manager Steve Yzerman resolved the team’s biggest offseason question by re-signing center Steven Stamkos to a five year deal. Stamkos has scored 95 and 91 points in his last two seasons respectively, only the second and third of his NHL career. The 21 year-old isn’t even anywhere near his prime, and he’s already arguably the best pure goal scorer in the game. As long as Stamkos is in Tampa, the Lightning will be a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference.
As mentioned earlier, it is imperative for the Lightning to find a way to win the Southeast Division this season. Last year they were in the lead for much of the early part of the season, however Washington’s impressive run late in the year led them to a second place finish and fifth overall seed in the playoffs. Ther season came down to playing a Game 7 on the road in the Eastern Conferences, a fate that could possibly have been avoided if the Lightning had won the division.
Gone are Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim, two of Tampa Bay’s most important playoff contributors. Returning will be veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who turned out to be one of the best pickups for any team during the season last year. Backup goaltender Mike Smith is also gone, and Mathieu Garon was signed to assist Roloson with his duties this year. Yzerman will be hoping that one of his forward acquisitions of Taylor Pyatt, Ryan Shannon, or Trevor Smith can fill the void left by Bergenheim.
There’s no question the Lightning have the top end talent to return to the Eastern Conference Finals this season. With Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Stamkos in the lineup the offense is one of the most dangerous of any in the league. If Roloson can defy age and keep his play consistent over the course of an 82 game schedule the Lightning have as good a chance as any team in the East. Where the Lightning need to start is within their own division and showing the Washington Capitals that things are going to change in the Southeast Division.
Once again the New York Rangers purchased the biggest prize on the free agent market in July. Some things never seem to change, but this move is a little bit different than those of the past for the Rangers.
For the first time in a long time the Rangers have developed a youthful core, a group of players with some decent talent, but more importantly a shared belief system on the ice. The Rangers are one of the youngest teams in the league, and yet some of those players also feel like veterans now. Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, and Henrik Lundqvist have all been through the wars, but they’ve got plenty of years left in them. The acquisition of Richards is a piece that is being added to address a need, and upgrade the overall talent level; not to bring in a savior in order to resurrect the franchise.
New York’s biggest question heading into season will be whether or not the young players who stepped up last season will be able to duplicate their play again this year. The second pairing on defense, Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh, were both rookies who played like veterans a year ago. A regression by either one would hinder the Rangers’ chances in the Atlantic Division, but progression by both could put them in contention.
Derek Stepan made the team surprisingly out of training camp and proceeded to put up 21 goals and 45 points in his freshman campaign. With the addition of Richards, Stepan will lose ice time but also get an opportunity to play against opponents third defensive pairings. It will be hard for Stepan to put 25 or more goals with reduced ice time, but staying close to his production from last year will make the Rangers one of the deepest teams down the middle in the league.
It would be strange to have a Rangers season preview and not mention Henrik Lundqvist, so here’s the obligatory acknowledgement. The thing is that Lundqvist has become the model of consistency in net, and it’s time for his teammates to pick him up this season.
Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Marc Staal will be looked upon to continue their outstanding play this season.
The addition of Mike Rupp gives the Rangers a player who can fill various roles, contribute in the locker room, and limit the abuse that a useful player like Brandon Prust has had to take while defending his teammates on a nightly basis.
If the Rangers can solve their home ice woes they could be looking at a top five seed in the Eastern Conference, and perhaps an Atlantic Division crown.
Another year brings high expectations again for the San Jose Sharks. That makes sense for a club that has tallied over 100 points in six of the last seven years, the only other season finishing with 99. They’ve won four straight Pacific Division crowns and haven’t finished lower than second in the division since 2002-03. Yet even with all their talent and productive seasons year after year, the Sharks have still be unable to win a Stanley Cup.
The question facing the Sharks heading into the season is whether or not the offseason moves they made were made for the sake of change, or if they really made San Jose a better hockey club.
Gone are forwards Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. In is veteran forward Martin Havlat, and bruising defenseman Brent Burns. Setoguchi’s production had dropped dramatically since his breakout year in 2008-09, but the potential is still there. Heatley’s numbers also dropped last season, even in a year he still accumulated over 60 points. So in steps Havlat, a player whose production in recent seasons doesn’t match Heatley’s, but will be expected to integrate nicely into the Sharks lineup.
While many can have differing opinions on the Sharks offseason moves, the question still remains whether or not this team has the mental fortitude to find a way to play their best hockey come playoff time. For years now they’ve been unable to match their regular season level of play in the post season, and have also been unfortunate in some of their playoff matchups.
Logan Couture will return for his second NHL season, after scoring 32 goals in his first full season. Consistency from the sophomore will give the Sharks great forward depth alongside Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryan Clowe, Joe Pavelski, and Havlat.
The defense will be strong with the addition of Burns alongside Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Dan Boyle.
Antti Niemi returns for his second season in net for the Sharks. Niemi posted a 35-18-6 record and a 2.38 goals against average. Niemi should get plenty of offensive support from one of the best offensive lineups in the league.
The first 82 games of San Jose’s season should be pretty irrelevant. The Sharks have all the talent required to win another Pacific Division crown (although it will be interesting to see how much the Los Angeles Kings have improved), be a top three seed in the Western Conference, and compete for a Stanley Cup. Whether or not this season is a repeat of so many that have come before, or one that ends in a title will be all that matters to Sharks fan come April.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the most consistent teams since the lockout canceled the entire 2004-05 season. It’s no surprise when you consider that stretch of consistency coincides with Sidney Crosby’s National Hockey League tenure. The Penguins star has amassed over 200 goals and nearly 600 points in six NHL seasons, leading a franchise on the verge of relocation to two Stanley Cup Championship appearances and one title.
Pittsburgh knows they’ll be without Max Talbot, Mike Rupp, Chris Conner, and Eric Godard next season. The question is whether or not they’ll be without Crosby, and if so, for how long?
Crosby’s post concussion syndrome could easily be the most important storyline heading into the 2011-12 season, and for Dan Bylsma and the organization it’s certainly one they must be losing sleep over.
The Penguins showed last season that they have an ability most other teams in this league do not. Without Crosby and fellow star Evgeni Malkin (lost last February to a torn ACL and MCL) the Penguins surged up the conference standings. Players like Dustin Jeffrey, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, and Chris Kunitz all played huge roles for the eventual Atlantic Division Champions.
Malkin is said to be ready for training camp, but we’ll have to wait and see if it takes him some time to get back up to speed. Crosby is the wild card for a franchise that looks like a Stanley Cup contender if they can get their captain back in the fold.
Adding to the Penguins depth this season will be Steve Sullivan, signed to a very friendly one year deal by general manager Ray Shero. Sullivan has been slowed by injuries his whole career but has also proven the ability to be a legitimate offensive threat when he’s on the ice.
The Penguins blue line looks deep with Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, and Matt Niskanen at the top. They’re solid in goal behind Marc-Andre Fleury who will look to avoid the poor start to the season that plagued him last year.
If young players like Jeffrey and Letestu continue to develop and Pittsburgh has a healthy Crosby and Malkin for most of the season, there’s no reason Pittsburgh won’t be the favorite to win the Atlantic Division next season for the second consecutive year.
That’s a big if, however. The confusion that surrounds Crosby’s post-concussion syndrome seems to be getting stranger and stranger the closer we move towards training camp. The Penguins organization seems to have little clue about the availability of their franchise center heading into the season, and Crosby himself has been mum about the situation.
We know the Penguins need Crosby, but what about the league? With a revamped Versus/NBC Sports Network on the horizon you can bet the league is hoping a healthy Crosby returns to play sooner rather than later.
It’s clear that Vegas thinks Pittsburgh is one of the favorites in the East, but without Crosby the Penguins season is in jeopardy.
The Stanley Cup will be awarded Wednesday night as the Canucks and Bruins battle for hockey supremacy. The Canucks are -170 favorites over the Bruins with an over/under goal total set at 5.
The Bruins jumped on Roberto Luongo early and then let Tim Thomas and the defense take over in a 5-2 game six victory to force a decisive game seven. The deciding game will be played in Vancouver on Wednesday night where home ice seems to have been a factor with the home team emerging victorious each time in the series. Having said that, Boston has had a chance to steal all three from the Canucks on the road while Vancouver has had zero chance in Boston losing all three contests by an embarrassing 17-3 margin. The Bruins ended this one early with a four goal first period blitz courtesy of Luongo who looked shell shocked in the three road defeats.
Luongo lasted less than nine minutes before having a seat on the bench with Cory Schneider taking over between the pipes and at least giving the Canucks a chance stopping 30 of 32 shots. Once again the Bruins received plenty of scoring from a number of sources with five different players lighting the lamp. Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Andrew Ference, Michael Ryder and David Krejci did the honors while Thomas was terrific once again with 36 saves. Boston held a 4-0 lead heading in to the third period before Vancouver got on the scoreboard with a pair of harmless tallies. Henrik Sedin and Maxim Lapierre scored for the Canucks but all they did was make the final numbers look respectable if that.
Luongo has been Jekyll and Hyde to say the least in the finals looking like a Vezina Trophy candidate at home stopping 95 of 97 shots and posting a pair of shutouts. However he has been invisible on the road allowing a whopping 15 goals on only 66 shots. In essence he has been less than reliable and has not given his team an inkling of a chance. In contrast the Bruins have been in every game thanks to Thomas who has given up just five goals in Vancouver and eight overall. Once again the question is whether Boston has momentum heading in to game seven after another decisive victory with easily the best goalie on the ice. Keys for game seven is almost too obvious and probably more so from a Vancouver perspective and that’s score first.
If they can’t score first than at least keep the Bruins from putting three or four in the net and surprisingly Luongo has been able to do that at home. I can’t say there is any momentum because each time I’ve thought that the other team has won. I’m really not a fan of the Vancouver net minder as he’s has been horrible in the defeats and made the games unwatchable for me while Thomas has stolen the show and is the Vezina Trophy winner in my opinion whether Boston wins or loses. It’s hard to back Luongo at this point but I’ve said that a few times already in this series and he’s responded. I think both goalies respond in a low scoring game seven.
Vancouver hopes to hoist the Stanley Cup against a tough Bruins squad tonight. The Bruins are -130 favorites over the Canucks with an over/under goal total set at 5.
fter 13 goals were scored in Boston in games one and two, defense once again made an appearance in the Canucks 1-0 victory in game five. After being outscored 12-1 in Beantown Vancouver regained control of the series with a 3-2 lead heading back east with their first ever Stanley Cup now within reach. Maxim Lapierre was the offensive hero with the game winner and only goal early in the third period. Roberto Luongo who was blitzed in a pair of defeats to the Bruins looked strong and confident stopped all 21 shots to post his postseason high fourth shutout. Boston’s offense was held in check but goalie Tim Thomas continued his spectacular play stopping 24 of 25 shots.
So much for the Bruins having all the momentum after an offensive onslaught that led to back to back victories and a tied series as Luongo once again looked like a Vezina Trophy candidate. His performance negated any momentum the Bruins had and after five games I’m not sure if such a thing exists. After an offensive show in games two and three the Boston attack couldn’t solve Luongo who was pulled in game two and looked shell shocked. He rebounded nicely and appeared to regain the form that spurred the Canucks to a 2-0 series lead. This series has taken on a Jekyll-Hyde look with each team winning at home but through five games we have seen some dramatic swings.
Although Vancouver opened the Stanley Cup finals with a pair of home victories both teams had plenty of shots and opportunities but the games were close with both net minders standing on their heads at times. In fact all three Canucks victories were defensive oriented and both games in Boston were the complete opposite. The one constant through five contests has been the play of Tim Thomas who has lived up to the hype but his counterpart has been both outstanding and vulnerable. The offenses of both teams has been up and down as well with the Canucks really never getting fully untracked at home and nonexistent in Boston.
In contrast the Bruins were explosive at home and rather meek on the road to this point but thus far Boston has controlled a potent Vancouver attack yet trails in the series. I can honestly say this series has been difficult to pinpoint as neither team has carried momentum with them on the road but at the same time I feel the Bruins have played well enough to be leading the series. Having said all this the vast majority are backing Boston and the supposedly best team in hockey is getting great odds which I can’t pass up. I’m taking the Canucks plus the 125.
Vancouver Canucks +125 Boston Bruins