(We’re moving right along with the CtA season preview. Today we take a look at the Pacific Divison which has a ton of old guys.)
#3 Phoenix (97) -#7 San Jose (96) – #8 Los Angles (95) – Dallas (89) – Anaheim (80)
LOS ANGELES KINGS:
New Guys: Nobody. This team is pretty much the opposite of the 2010 Blackhawks. They get to keep the band together.
Gone: Nobody. Well, Ethan Moreau retired, but he doesn’t really count.
Young players to keep an eye on: The Kings have a number of fantastic young offensive players in their system, but with every position on the roster filled, it doesn’t look like there will be a need to carry any of them. Should a center go down, Andrei Loktionov would be a candidate to fill the roster spot. Slava Voynov is the kid on the blue line and should get more minutes in his second season. While he had a quiet playoff, he’s still one of the most intriguing young defenseman in the NHL and possess with an absolute blast from the point. Dwight King, who was stellar for the Kings when they got hit with the injury bug, will also enter his second season.
Outlook: Pretty damn good. The lockout should have taken care of any hangover problems and they have the entire Cup roster ready to make another run. Watch out.
New Guys: 112 year old Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, Cody Eakin, Aaron Rome (eww) and Ray Whitney (also old).
Gone: Brad Richards (just rubbing it in), Mike Ribeiro (SUSHI), Sheldon Souray (has a ‘Baywatch’ wife), Steve Ott (gross) and Adam Burish (I thought he sucked but you all loved him).
Young Players to (probably not) watch: They have a couple good young prospects like goaltender Jack Campbell, Brett Ritchie and 6’7 fucking monster Jamie Oleksiak – but I’m not sure any of these guys fit into their immediate plans. There may be spots to be had on their (weak) blue line for players like Brenden Dillion and Patrick Nemeth. Personally, I love those hulking defenseman so I hope its Oleksiak.
Outlook: It’s sort of sad to see the Stars Twitterverse treating Jagr as if he were Sidney Crosby. But I guess it can’t be denied the Stars are sporting a different look this year and that should be refreshing to their fans. Roy and Eakin strengthen the Stars down the middle, yes, but that defense still looks awfully suspect. The Stars always seem to hover right around that 8th spot and I’m sure they’ll be right there again. Maybe the addition of a few seasoned vets like Jagr and Whitney will get them back into the playoffs……or maybe not. The best news for the team this offseason was the announcement that will be sporting a new uniform very soon. We can all agree this is a good thing.
New players: Steve Sullivan (still alive), Zybnek Michalek, David Moss and Nick Johnson.
Gone: Ray Whitney, Adrian Aucoin (only Columbus would have him) and Taylor Pyatt.
Young players to keep an eye on: Puck mover David Runbland should make the team. Otherwise, there aren’t many spots on the blue-line to be had and their offensive pipeline is nil.
Outlook: This team is boring as hell and I don’t want to really waste my team thinking about them. A lot depends on Mike Smith replicating his performance from last season. A dull team that competes every single night. Always dangerous. Continuing to watch Oliver Ekman-Larrson develop will be a pleasure. He should give fans in either Seattle or Quebec City something to cheer about for years to come.
New Players: Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, Daniel Winnik and Brad Staubitz.
Gone: Lubomir Visnovsky (currently doing everything he can not to be an Islander), Sheldon Brookbank (now a Blackhawk) and the mustachioed George Parros.
Not Gone: Teemu Selanne. He’s sticking around for one more season. Admit it, you don’t give a shit about the Ducks and you wanted him to be a Jet. I sure did
Young players to keep an eye on: Devante Smith-Pelly and potentially Emerson Etem. Both are good, strong forwards on a team desperately in need of some depth behind their big three. Power forward Kyle Palmeri is another candidate to see time in the NHL.
Outlook: Bruce Boudreau will coach his first full season with the Ducks. They got some help on the back end in free agency, but this is still a team with a few glaring problems. My theroy is that Jonas Hiller struggled because he stopped wearing that badass black helmet with the gold cage. Or maybe it was the vertigo. This is a team that teases a fire sale every year, but if they stumble this season it could finally happen. I want Bobby Ryan.
San Jose Sharks:
New Players: Brad Stuart (former Red Wing) and Adam Burish.
Gone: Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Winnik.
Young players to watch: Uh, none? There’s that tool who wears #69. They have Chicago area native Tommy Wingels who played well for them last season. They also have Sebastian Stalberg – Vik’s brother. In retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have traded Charlie Coyle.
Outlook: This is a team that has a bunch of good players but just never seems to be able to but it all together. Are Stuart and Burish what they’ve been missing all along? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I’m always conflicted when I think about the Sharks. I want to pull for Marty and Nemo and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are certainly likable players. But at the end of the day the fuckbaggery of Joe Thornton and guys likes Marc -Edouard Vlasic are enough to make me forget all that other stuff. Remember Thronton’s repeated targeting of the head of Jonathan Toews? Vlasic’s love of the slash behind the play? Then add the whole Hjammer offersheet thing. Yeah, screw the Sharks.
Admit it. You haven’t been excited about a Blackhawks/Stars game since Ed Belfour and Brett Hull wore the Star. Even when they had Brad Richards and James Neal they weren’t all that exciting to watch.
So what makes the game tonight different? Well, Dallas (39-27-5) currently occupies the 3 seed in the Western Conference standings with a ever so slim 2 point lead over Phoenix and the Sharks only 3 points behind. With the Blackhawks currently the 6th seed, Dallas would be the opponent in the 1st round.
“When they got that first one, we need to stay the course and for whatever reason we seemed to get away from our game. We didn’t manage the puck well in the third, and as a result we lose the game.” – Jamal Mayers
This one is tough to be angry about. It’s just damn annoying.
Not only do we have to listen to reports and read official statements about the possibly concussed Jonathan Toews getting into a car accident in the morning, we’re treated to a game in which the ‘Hawks looked… blah.
The Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday at the United Center looked pretty good for about 50 minutes, with the ‘Hawks controlling much of the game and seemingly dictating the pace – not that it was all that exciting to begin with.
Corey Crawford was playing well and making the necessary saves on the few lapses in front of him, and he seemed on his way to helping record the team’s first shutout.
Then a string of unfortunate bounces and a relaxed style of play did the ‘Hawks in, as three deflected goals got past Crow to send them to their first loss in regulation when leading after two periods this season.
Going to get straight to a couple things here…
♦ Seven times the Blackhawks have put five or less shots on goal in the third period, with Thursday being the only time they lost. Basically, Coach Q and the gang decided the one-goal lead was enough and took down the firing squad to play a prevent-type D.
I don’t care what team you’re playing in this league, a one-goal lead with 20 minutes to play is not safe, and to think and/or play otherwise is just not smart. Add that onto the fact something named Richard Bachman was playing his ass off for the Stars all night, he’s still a backup goaltender. Attack him, disrupt him – like how they did on Marian Hossa’s goal and what they did against Detroit the other night – and get a goal or two to put it away.
Instead, the ‘Hawks took their foot off the pedal and it cost them in a four-point game.
♦ Dallas, meanwhile, did exactly what the Blackhawks were doing the past few games to get back on track – put people in front of the net and get dirty goals. Steve Ott and Michael Ryder scored on deflections, then Brent Seabrook’s skate got an assist on Loui Eriksson’s tip-in. Crawford had no chance on any of them. Sure, there were some minor blimps on the ‘Hawks end that kept the puck in their own zone, but the results are more telling than what led up to them. Dallas was attacking, the Blackhawks were tightening up. Game over.
♦ John Scott played 2:22 and had five shifts. Dallas came into the game ranked 21st in the NHL in fighting majors, making Scott’s presence damn near worthless – again.
♦ Bryan Bickell was probably the most noticeable forward for the ‘Hawks tonight. Pretty solid game all around.
♦ Power play: 0 for 31 over the last 12 games.
♦ Interesting trend: There were nine games on the NHL schedule Thursday, with seven road teams picking up wins.
♦ With the accident this morning and all the concussion rumors, it will be interesting to see if Toews makes the trip out west to face the Los Angeles Kings – with the newly acquired Jeff Carter – and Anaheim.
Here’s your Boxing…
It’s easy to forget about Dallas, mainly since the Blackhawks haven’t seen them since splitting a home-and-home with them to open the season in October. But also because in terms of the standings, the Stars haven’t been a factor. They’ve been cruising around in bubble-team land for most of the year, currently hovering a game back of the 8th spot in the Western Conference.
Then one remembers who tends goal for them, and you get that knot in your stomach. Kari Lehtonen, who fought off 37 shots in his team’s winning effort against Chicago to start the year, has always been a serious pain in the ass to get a puck behind. Going back to last season, when Chicago managed to drop 3 games to Dallas, the Blackhawks did a fine job of humiliating themselves twice on the visitor’s ice — the first by blowing a 3-0 lead and managing to lose 4-3 in a shootout, the second by getting shut out 5-0 while Lehtonen barely broke a sweat at the other end of the rink.
No matter where they sit in the standings, the Stars always give the ‘Hawks trouble. Tonight should be no different.
After Friday’s poop fest, it was more than nice to see the ‘Hawks score first and shut down the Stars out of the gate in a 5-2 win Saturday night at the United Center.
It also helped that Andrew Raycroft was getting beat like a group of Mormons in a keg race to his glove side all night. A couple of inches on numerous shots and this game could’ve ended 9-2.
Jonathan Toews scored out of the penalty box after Andrew Brunette got his first goal as a Blackhawk. Dave Bolland had a pair, including one that made Raycroft look like, well, Raycroft. Goals came much easier than they did Friday against Kari Lehtonen.
The Blackhawks seemed to be determined well before puck drop, as the ‘Hawks limited shots to Corey Crawford as he was playing a back-to-back for the first time since late last season. No real threats were posed other than a Vernon Fiddler goal which was set up by a nice give-and-go with former friend Adam Burish. Still, it took a great shot from Fiddler to beat Crawford to the far top shelf when Crawford had the near post covered.
Jamal Mayers helped welcome back Jake Dowell to the UC with a couple of haymakers, while John Scott was up to his same old shit – wasting a perfectly good uniform while dressing his large, worthless body for a whole three minutes.
Bolland, on the other hand, proved just how useful he can be when he can stay healthy. Friday and Saturday were night and day, and don’t think Bolland wasn’t a major cause of it. The Stars looked completely out of sorts, and Bolland provided plenty of offense as well. It’s probably both good and bad, but the ‘Hawks seem to be a different team when he’s out on the ice (See: Vancouver series, Games 4-7).
Onto Boxing to celebrate the first of (hopefully) many more victories. As always, separate images for the summary and box score, click each to enlarge:
Oh well. Not much to get nuts about here. One game down, 81 (and hopefully more) to go.
Sure, there are certain things that made me angry. The power play was 0 for 4, Duncan Keith looked like poop. Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik missed on a couple of good chances.
Again, it’s just one game and a 2-1 loss in Dallas on opening night isn’t something to cower in the corner about. It’s time for the Stars to head into our house.
It’s time for the triumphant return of Boxing – the first one here at our new home, Cheer the Anthem. There are two separate images, one for the game summary and one for the box score. Click on each to enlarge.
The bad news for the Dallas Stars is, they come in to the 2011-12 season with most hockey pundits expecting them to miss the playoffs, ranking in 11th place or lower when April rolls around. The worse news is, they have a rookie coach, their leading scorer flew the coop in the off-season, and they may be moving to Medicine Hat at any moment.
That unfamiliar face behind the bench is Glen Gulutzan, coaching his first NHL team in his first NHL game. Both his playing and coaching careers topped out at the minor league level — until tonight. Star center Brad Richards decided to follow dozens of overpaid and underperforming hockey players to the white-hot Klieg lights of the New York Rangers’ dressing room. And the ownership situation is still very much up in the air — leaving the question open as to whether new ownership will want to take the team someplace where the most prevalent religion is not NASCAR.
And let’s not forget, this is the Dallas Stars team that handed their playoff berth to the Blackhawks on the final day of last season, with a hog-smoking performance against the nearly-impotent Minnesota Wild. That Cubs-worthy choke sent the Stars to an early tee time for the third straight season, and contributed significantly to the dismissal of former head coach Marc Crawford.
Not exactly a good time to be a Dallas Star.
The season opener(s) is upon us, and to help preview the home-and-home with the Dallas Stars is ESPNDallas.com’s Mark Stepneski, who discusses last season’s letdown, the departure of Brad Richards and the Stars’ gameplan for the weekend against the Blackhawks.
Bartl: After missing the playoffs on the final day of the season and allowing the Blackhawks to sneak in, has there been any talk around the team about that near miss providing added motivation for this season, or has the team moved on?
Stepneski: I think missing the playoffs for a third straight season is a big motivation. But the sense I get from the team is that this season is kind of a fresh start. There’s a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan and several new players have been added via free agency. Not many in the national media are giving them much of a chance – hardly anyone is picking them to make the playoffs – and that is providing a little extra motivation as well.