Hot Takes – Mar. 19th, 2018

It’s a junior hockey heavy edition of Hot Takes.  But before I get to talking some CHL playoffs, I got a niece and nephews who had some big weekends of their own.  My niece Devyn captained her Bantam Female B team to the provincial gold.  My nephew Gage and the Lloyd Pee-Wee AA Blazers took home the league title, taking a best of three series (all in Grand Prairie) 2-1, and are now off to provincials.  And finally my twin nephews as I’ve mentioned a few times this season play for the Whitecourt Wolverines who began their second round series with Fort Mac over the weekend in two outstanding games.  Both went to OT, both tied late (Whitecourt in game one with 1:04 to play, Fort Mac in game two with 35 seconds to play).  After being benched in game one, Chase Haygarth responded with a massive two assist performance and the Wolverines tied the series at one Saturday night.  This one really is shaping up to be a classic between two evenly matched teams.  Anyway, obviously my weekend went pretty good!  So let’s take a look at what else was going on in the hockey world, starting with the CHL playoffs.

 

QMJHL

I’d be lying if I suggested that I could speak like an expert to anyone on the Q.  Do I know it reasonably well?  Yeah, but not anywhere near the level to really speak on it.  I’ll simply say what I know.  Blainville-Boisbriand were the top team in the league, an 11 point gap on Acadie-Bathurst.  Blainville-Boisbriand are led by WJC surprise star Drake Batherson, but really don’t boast a star studded team.  If you ask me, the Q is wide open this season.  Again, I’m not the guy to ask, but from the outside looking in I’d say that anyone of Blainville-Boisbriand, Acadie-Bathurst, Rimouski, Halifax, Drummondville or Victoriaville have a legitimate shot to represent the Q in Regina.

 

What I’m going to be watching closely in the Q playoffs is a draft storyline which exists between two of those teams (Halifax and Drummondville) and their star players.  Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno.  The reason I want to focus on these two is because Zadina has become the darling of the scouting community (rightfully so).  Established by at least half of them as the clear cut number two prospect in the draft, and I personally would kill for the Oilers to get that second pick and take him in the draft.  But then you have Joe Veleno, who right from the get go this season felt like someone who the scouting community was looking to shit on.  And then out of the gates, playing for a TERRIBLE St. John team, he looked as though he was proving them right.  Only a PPG player, which is real good, but wasn’t meeting their expectations.  He got dealt to Drummondville right before the new year, and around that time was knocked down to the 15-20 range .  Since the beginning of January however, it doesn’t feel like anyone in the scouting community either notice, or want to notice that Veleno has been outstanding with his new team.  How outstanding?  Veleno put up 1.53 PPG from January on.  Zadina in that time?  1.44 PPG.  That’s tremendous too, but point being that in the same league, on similarly talented teams (Halifax finished one point better overall), Veleno has been the better point producer.  Veleno also gets high marks for his work ethic and commitment to his 200 foot game, he’s a 2000 born where Zadina is a late 99 and is a centre where Zadina is a winger.  I’m REALLY intrigued to follow and compare these two for the next month or so.  I’ve never seen the scouts shoot a player down their rankings and then right back near the top in the same season, but to my eye Veleno SHOULD do just that.  We’ll see…

 

OHL

This one is A LOT more clear cut, as the Soo Geyhounds have been running rough shot over the OHL all season and are the clear cut favourites as of writing this to not only win the OHL playoffs, but take home the Memorial Cup as well.  55-7-3-3 on the season, just ridiculous.  I really don’t mean to piss all over any excitement that may exist for the OHL playoffs, but I don’t know what to tell you.  The Soo are going to win barring a major rash of injuries.

 

And it’s another draft story that I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on here as well, this time a first round matchup between Niagara and Oshawa that’ll feature two kids I’m higher on than most.  Akil Thomas of the Ice Dogs, and Serron Noel of the Generals.  Very different players.  Thomas is a 5’11, 170 lbs highly skilled playmaking centre (though it’s questionable whether he can play the middle at the next level).  Noel is extremely raw, but is massive at 6’5, 209 lbs.  I have Noel higher ranked as of right now, but Thomas is without a doubt currently the better player.  Where these prospects are now and where they are five years from now will be intriguing as hell for a hockey geek like myself to follow.

 

WHL

The big story in the dub is the fact that you have three teams in the East who are probably the three best teams in the league.  So that means we have a first round matchup between two of these teams, Swift Current and Regina.  The Pats will obviously be in the Memorial Cup as hosts, but it’ll be just like Windsor last season where the hosts could be sitting at home for a long time before playing again.  And then the winner will more than likely get the Moose Jaw Warriors, who might be the only serious threat to the Soo Greyhounds Memorial Cup hopes.

 

Other than the tremendous hockey we’ll get to watch between the Broncos/Pats/Warriors, I really want to see how the Vancouver Giants fair.  Since Tyler Benson returned back in November this team has looked as good as any in the B.C. division.  Obviously it’s an Oilers slant with Benson, who has cameback with a vengeance and had about a 20 game stretch where he was close to two points a game.  He’s cooled off in the last two months, so I’m really interested to see if Benson can crank it up again in the playoffs.

 

It’s not playoffs per say, but congrats to the U of A Golden Bears on their 16th national championship!  I don’t know who was calling the game for Sportsnet yesterday, but the guy couldn’t have sounded less enthusiastic about what was a pretty good game.  And it wasn’t as though it was intentionally understated and an attempt to be a minimalist as they say in the sports broadcasting world.  He sounded like a guy who wanted nothing to do with being there and insanely bored.  He also just kind of nonchalantly said “Jamie Crooks from…Vermilion…British Columbia” I’m sorry, but get it right man.  This was after the game, not in the middle of the game and it sounded like he was reading it, and he still said B.C.  I don’t know if I could do a better job, but I would have sounded a hell of a lot more giddy about calling damn good high level hockey.  Hell, I’m talking CHL off the top, these kids all played in the CHL!  I know a kid currently playing in the CHL who isn’t even considering the U of A because he doesn’t think he’s good enough!  U Sports hockey (horrible name) is terrific hockey and deserved more respect than that dude seemed to show it during the broadcast.

 

Ok, onto some NHL stuff.

 

Excuse me if I don’t get that warm tingly feeling watching the Vegas Golden Knights fluke out and get every single break in the book this season.  I love the underdog, but I don’t love the underdog when they haven’t faced any kind of adversity.  The 1996 Florida Panthers weren’t anything lovable.  It was admirable how hard that group of nobodies played, but it was impossible to fall in love with a team that played boring, played in Miami, and had only been going for three years seeing absolutely zero adversity in that time.  The Golden Knights don’t even have many great stories!  They’re not really cast off’s as much as they were cap casualties or traded there.  Sure, teams let them go, but every team had to give up decent players the way the rules were structured.  It isn’t as though the G-Knights picked from the same talent pool the San Jose Sharks did in 1991.  And oh yeah, it’s Vegas.  If you’re living in Vegas it’s tough to gain sympathy from the rest of North America.  Maybe I’m alone in this, but unless they get the Avs in the first round (looks possible at the moment), I think they’re done in a max of five games.  Anaheim would smoke them, so would LA, and Minny would have their way with them too.  I better watch what I say though, because if you follow me on Twitter than you know I got the William Karlsson police watching what I say….what a fucking douche that guy was….

 

Then you have the team they pretty much eliminated yesterday.  I wrote about it last time, but I need to hit on it again with the Flames.  If it wasn’t for what happened in Edmonton, this team would be facing insane heat (pardon the pun) from the fans and media.  Instead, they’re just getting it from their fans.  First things first, Glen Gulutzan is without a doubt finished.  Brad Treliving?  As I wrote two weeks ago, he might also be on the chopping block (I wouldn’t, but I could see them doing it).  I’m not sure if they’ll be in the John Tavares sweepstakes this summer, but they should be.  Tavares, even at an insanely large ticket of 13-14 million per season, puts them in the Cup conversation.  If not him, I’m not sure what move they could make that would put them back in the playoff conversation for next season.  That’s not to say they can’t get there, but they got a brilliant year from Mike Smith and they’re still not going to come close.  Can’t deal the 2019 1st, because they’ll need to re-stock the system thanks to not having their first or second rounders this season (and now will not have their 2019 second rounder thanks to missing the playoffs).  Can’t trade your top prospect because they badly need Juuso Valimaki to step in next season, not to be their number six as was expected back in the fall, they might need him to step into their top four.  That vaunted blueline from the start of the season just hasn’t panned out.  I’d say the top pairing is terrific, but Brodie and Hamonic have both massively disappointed this season as the second pair.  I doubt Hamonic would have near the trade value he had last summer, but Brodie MIGHT still have some.  Brodie though has just not been the same player since Bob Hartley left.  Is that Glen Gulutzan, or can he only do what he did playing for Hartley?  Something is going to need to be done, because right now they’re stuck.  In 2015 I recall writing and constantly suggesting that season was going to be more of a curse than a blessing for the Flames.  Imagine if the Flames are bad that season….maybe they’re the ones with McDavid now?  Or even Eichel?  This organization desperately needs to do something major like a Tavares signing or somehow bringing in another star player.  Barring that, this is a finished rebuild with no hope of ever winning a Cup.

 

Thanks to that Travis Hamonic trade, the Islanders have some hope for the future, but that doesn’t mean the Islanders are in much less of a mess than the Flames.  John Tavares MIGHT re-sign, but I’m going to guess he won’t be re-signing with Garth Snow, and wouldn’t be playing for Doug Weight (which sucks because I LOVE Dougie).  My concern and most of Northern Alberta’s concern with the Oilers is that Peter Chiarelli is going to ruin Connor McDavid’s chances of winning Cups over the next five years or so.  McDavid is now in his prime, and while a generational players prime will last a lot longer than most, the clock is still ticking.  Garth Snow has somehow overseen John Tavares entire career and the best he’s ever got JT was a second round appearance where they got curb stomped by the Lightning.  Garth Snow HAS to be fired.  The guy has done so many awful moves over the years, it’s actually surprising things have done as well as they have.  I shudder to think of where they’d be at if Snow didn’t have that get out of jail free card named Peter Chiarelli….

 

I could write more doom and gloom with the Oilers, but I’m actually not going to.  I will believe Todd McLellan is gone until he’s not, and I would love to see Peter Chiarelli shown the door too even if it’s for a guy like Ken Holland (not my guy, but he’d be an upgrade).  But it’s been pretty clear since Maroon and Letestu were dealt and more speed was inserted that it’s made a world of difference.  Their confidence is still pretty shot as a team, and the blueline mostly thanks to injuries is still a mess, but watching them I do believe they aren’t far away from getting right back to the top of the division next season.  The big thing will be finding the proper wingers for McDavid.  I like that McLellan has given Pontus Aberg a chance and given Ty Rattie a chance with 97.  That’s what needs to happen is they need to find the right guys to play with him, not the biggest name.  Sid playing with Kessel didn’t work.  Chris Kunitz did, Connor Sheary did, Jake Guentzel did.  I don’t think Aberg is the guy at all (I actually don’t believe Aberg is much of a player at this point), Rattie looked better with McDavid but it’s far too early to suggest he’s the right fit, but it’s a guy along these lines.  Nic Petan?  Brett Connolly?  Artturi Lehkonen?  All guys who I personally would be looking into if I were running the Oilers.  And once they find these guys, even in the cap mess the Oilers are in, it’ll alleviate a lot of the problems they currently have.

 

They might have these guys in the system, but the problem is that one of them likely won’t be ready for at least a year, possibly two years in mind, that being the freshly signed Kirill Maksimov.  I got hyped about this kid the moment they drafted him last year and I saw a couple of OHL based scouts (Mark Seidel and Brock Otten) start raving about the pick.  So I made a point of tracking his progression this season and wow were they ever right.  His shot man…whether it’s the one timer or the wrist shot, they’re both bullets.  The wrist shot has no back swing.  And lately he’s proving that when teams are going to start taking away his shot that he can dish it too.  I said it when I did my top 20 prospects list that his big thing lacking is lower body strength, to my eye anyway.  Once he gains that, he’ll have an extra step that he’s currently lacking in his stride.  He’s a good skater, but could use an extra gear.

 

The other kid is Tyler Benson and obviously I talked about keeping a close eye on him in the WHL playoffs.  I just really believe Benson is going to be the perfect fit with McDavid.  Skating isn’t great, but it’s better than say Patrick Maroon and I don’t think anyone has complained about Maroon’s ability to keep up with McDavid.  Benson has always had that next level of hockey smarts, and it’ll always be a matter of staying healthy with him, but as long as he does I believe he’ll end up playing on McDavid’s wing before too long and he’s going to thrive there….as long as someone else hasn’t beat him to the spot.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NHL Picks – Mar. 10th, 2018

I don’t have much time to do these this week.  Last week I told you my picks would be garbage because A) I didn’t have much time to do them and B) I didn’t have much to pick from.  I was right.  This week, Not much to pick from yet again, but the picks are likely a little more solid.  Four of five are “puckline” bets which is a lot safer to do this time of year when you know which teams have something to play for and which don’t.  I’m expecting two of them to win, and if two win then you win money.  And who doesn’t like to win money?!

 

St.Louis at Los Angeles

Kings -1.5 (+185)

Simply put, the Blues are slip sliding right down the standings, and at this point I’m sure that Doug Armstrong actually hopes they slide right to 25th overall or lower.  Why?  Because that would guarantee the Blues keep their 2018 first round pick.  If they pick lower than 10th in the draft, the Flyers get that first round pick.  On the ice they’re trending that way.  Jake Allen starts today, he’s been a disaster after a scorching hot start (I think by now it’s a pretty obvious pattern with Allen that he really struggles with the mental aspect of the game because he’s wildly inconsistent).  I also believe that they’ve quit on the GM because of the Stastny trade.  Couple those things with every game being massive for the Kings right now and I just think the Kings -1.5 is a good play here.

 

Washington at San Jose

Capitals +120

Is it wrong to simply play a hunch?  The Caps have lost their first two on their California roadie.  So with a good team like them, and a very inconsistent team like them, you’d think they would win one of the three…right?  Even with Philip Grubauer getting the nod today, it might be a bonus for the Caps as Braden Holtby just hasn’t been the same guy this season.  Plus, as I said earlier, I don’t have much to pick from for the second week in a row.

 

Pittsburgh at Toronto

Penguins -1.5 (+235)

It’s not no Auston Matthews.  It’s really not anything to do with the Leafs as a team.  It’s that this is the only game the Leafs have in an eight day stretch.  Haven’t played since Monday, and don’t play again until next Wednesday.  And what do they currently have to play for?  They’re in third in the Atlantic, they’re not going to climb in the standings, and it’s highly unlikely the Panthers will catch them (and even if that happened they’d still be pretty safe for a wildcard spot), so there is no motivation on top of it being the only game they have in an eight day stretch.  So at +235, I like the Pens to get an empty netter late and take this one by two.

 

New Jersey at Nashville

Predators -1.5 (+150)

Nobody seems to notice right now in the midst of Taylor Hall’s tremendous play, but the Devils are sliding.  They’ve lost four of five, the only win in there was at home to the Canadiens, and even in that game they did their best to blow the game.  Then of course you have the Preds on a 10 game winning streak, and while I haven’t been quiet about not believing in the Preds come playoff time, there confidence is so off the charts right now that they should win this one going away.

 

 

Minnesota at Edmonton

Wild -1.5 (+260)

This is insane value.  Now, I get what Vegas is thinking here.  Wild on the second half of back to backs.  But I’ve started to notice this season that the second half of back to backs isn’t the struggle it once was.  I’m going to look more into it at some point, but as the league gets quicker and quicker, it gets less and less of a grind.  Hence, back to backs aren’t what they once were.  A little surprised Bruce Boudreau is starting Devan Dubnyk on back to backs when he has a quality backup to go to in Alex Stalock, but he’s the coach.  Add to all this, the Wild are on a major heater right now, while the Oilers are very much so done.  -1.5 at THIS kind of value is too good to pass up.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Mar. 5th, 2018

Spoiler alert, this one ends up being over 2,000 words.  What is wrong with me?  I started doing this article in particular to just write about 1,000 words each week on what’s going on in hockey, mainly the NHL.  Here I am doing 2,200 words on a Sunday night when I’m exhausted and just want to go to bed!  So you better damn well enjoy this!

 

I want to start off with Nashville, and they look amazing.  Won eight in a row.  Best blueline, four real solid centres, a terrific group of wingers, Pekka Rinne has been back to form this season, they look like the best team in the league….and I’m not sure they’ll even make it out of the first round.  It’s the same as Chicago last season, Washington just about every season, Boston in 2014, where you think there is just no way they’ll get bounced in the playoffs.  But it’s coming too easy for them, and as I said on Twitter Thursday night, they’re continually flipping a switch in their games and winning.  When you’re playing L.A. or Anaheim in the first round and you go to flip that switch, they won’t let you.  Especially the Kings.  This isn’t to say they can’t win it all, very obviously they can.  But right now I’m thinking that this team is fools gold, where last season I loved them going into the playoffs because they had to struggle through an inconsistent regular season.

 

Of course with the Preds, it’s not just that they’ve cruised through the season.  A lot of my thinking with them being primed for an upset is because of how brutal their division is.  They’re looking like they’ll get one of Anaheim or L.A. in the first round as I mentioned, but it’s still very possible it’s Minny or Dallas, and then they could get Winnipeg or Dallas (I think that ends up being the 2-3 matchup) should they get to the second round.  I along with most other Western Canadian hockey fans will be a massive Jets fan come playoffs, and the Stars are currently my dark horse pick to come out of the Western Conference.  I just think the Stars have everything you need to matchup with any team in the West.  Minny…well…Minny could win a round, but they aren’t going anywhere.

 

Minny might have the league MVP though.  I recall Bruce Arthur taking to Twitter two years ago and making fun of the Rangers for giving up next to nothing for Eric Staal at the trade deadline.  Yep, great call Bruce.  And sure, it didn’t work out for Staal with the Rangers, but I never felt like he was done because he still had great wheels.  Here we are two years later and the Wild have had him for a bargain the last two seasons.  Having said all this, I don’t think he’s the MVP for me.  But it’s tough because this is a year with no clear cut guy.  Taylor Hall is getting a lot of the love for it right now, but how does this work?!  You have a player in Hall who has only one more point then a guy who is also a Selke trophy candidate, and his team is higher in the standings.  Patrice Bergeron?  Nope!  Anze Kopitar.  And literally not one person is mentioning Kopitar!!  Kopitar is 12th in the league with 71 points, and as I said is one of the top two way players in the league, the next highest scoring King is 8 F’N 4th!!!  Dustin Brown with 45 points.  How is he not THE guy for everyone right now?!?  And again, he’s not even mentioned!!!

 

The media is just so ridiculous with how they view this thing anymore.  They all want to vote for the best story, not the right guy.  Last year at this time if you recall, Brad Marchand was getting into the mix with Crosby and McDavid.  Marchand had less points than Patrick Kane and the Bruins were nowhere near the Hawks in the standings, yet Marchand was the hot take pick while literally nobody mentioned the defending Hart trophy winner who was better than Marchand in every way you would view a Hart candidate.  This one isn’t going to be simple for anyone, so I won’t pretend to have the answer.  But my top three at the moment would be Nathan MacKinnon (I don’t care if the Avs get in, he should be in Vegas as a top three, unreal this season), Kopitar (would be my winner right now) and Taylor Hall.

 

Another guy who deserves MVP love right now and outside of his town is getting zero is Claude Giroux.  I can’t believe how completely non descript this Flyers team is.  Probably because they aren’t the most exciting team in the league to watch, and with Brian Elliott in goal nobody believes they’ll make it out of the first round.  But remember where that team was earlier in the season?  Fans wanted Dave Hakstol out, they lost 10 straight, it was a mess.  Ron Hextall stayed the course and now the Flyers are fighting for first in the Metro.  Pretty damn impressive.

 

It really is amazing the job that Hakstol has done when you consider that his starting goaltender is Brian Elliott with a .908 Sv%.  Everyone knows how vital good goaltending is in this league, yet it still gets drastically underrated.  It’s amazing how much we miss it when teams have unexpected seasons.  The first thing that should be looked at when you want to fire a coach is how the goaltending was.  We should also be looking at it when looking at Jack Adams candidates.  It’s 90% of the game.  If your goaltending is great, your teams confidence is going to go through the roof.  If it’s terrible, it’s likely they’ll fall apart because they won’t have the confidence to do anything.

 

Case in point, the Calgary Flames.  With Mike Smith this season, they’ve been right in the thick of the playoff hunt.  Since Mike Smith went down, the team has slid and it’s looking like the end is near for the Flames playoff hopes.  Crushing loss to the Rangers at home Friday night, they now sit four points out of the second wildcard spot, no games in hand on anyone, facing the Penguins in Pittsburgh tonight.  Talk about must win, though they do play the Pens very tough, they matchup well.  And this isn’t to say that they’re done yet, but it’s looking bleak at the moment.  I’ve harped on it a few different times in this piece throughout the season but I’ll say it again: If they miss the playoffs and that first round pick (not to mention the second rounders that they gave up both this year and next) is a lottery pick for a player who has just been a complete disaster for them in Travis Hamonic, I really wonder if it’ll cost Brad Treliving his job.  Now, you might say that it’s ridiculous, and you also might say that I’m always talking about how much I love the job Treliving has done.  Both very accurate.  But I’m looking at how the Flames upper management has operated .  Remember all last season when it was very bizarre how Treliving was left without a contract extension?  And remember how I was seemingly the only person even mentioning the possibility of Bob Hartley being on thin ice with Flames management late in the 2016 season?  Which isn’t to pat myself on the back for that one (maybe a little…) as it is to bring up that it wasn’t being discussed at all.  Neither is this.  I think it would be ridiculous, and even though it was a disaster to do the Travis Hamonic deal, and I know I didn’t like it for them as much as I would have for other teams, it was tough to not think it was a good deal at the time.  But Treliving had the ability to do a lot more homework on Hamonic than you or I did, and you wonder if he did everything he could?  If I’m Brian Burke, or someone above Burke in management, I know I’m asking how much homework Treliving did?  Because it didn’t seem like they were asking themselves “why is Garth Snow so eager to dump a top four D like this AFTER the expansion draft and while he’s looking to keep John Tavares in the fold?”  Now we know.  All his injuries seem to be catching up to him, and at 28 years old he’s looking like he’s shot and the Flames just gave up a lottery pick, a high second, and a 2019 second (if they miss the playoffs this year) which is currently expected to be a terrific draft, all for that shot defenceman.  Can you imagine having a GM do such a terrible deal?  Oh wait, Peter Chiarelli has done two of these…

 

That pick and having their own is going to soften the blow of this season for the Islanders a little, but its been a disaster for them as well.  Again, why the hell would John Tavares stay?  They aren’t going anywhere!  This is why I’d re-sign if I’m Tavares: They fire Garth Snow after the season (which unfortunately for Doug Weight would likely mean he’d be canned too), and they win the top pick with one of what’s looking like their two lottery picks.  If Snow stays and they end up picking about 8th and 12th, it’s just not enough.  They seem destined to be a fringe playoff team the way they’re currently constructed, and as I said a few weeks ago he could go to seven or eight teams this off-season who are at least that good if not better…without Tavares.

 

I haven’t had much Flyers Ethnic Club hockey to talk about lately, and last night was perhaps the worst performance of the season losing to the Cocks…well…Roosters.  No excuses, but star players Sam Sayeed and Cody Chickeness no showing the game was a massive blow.  The nine of us who did show probably made a better effort mowing down Jimmy Rogers delicious apple crisp in the post game snack than on the ice.  Even in defeat though, you guessed it, I once again sniped the game winning goal.

 

I actually don’t have much to say on the Oilers this week.  It’s stunning, and Chiarelli and McLellan both badly need to be fired and I worry that they won’t be.  So I won’t touch on that again, but I do have a few thoughts on some shit.

 

One is that Connor McDavid is going to get 50 goals next season…maybe 60.  Why?  He’s finally shooting.  He’s up to 30 snipes on the season, and the way he’s rolling he’s got a chance at 40 (only needs 10 in 17 games).  Elliotte Friedman had it in 31 Thoughts earlier in the season that he was told that once McDavid starts shooting the puck that the Oilers PP will be unstoppable, because all teams have done this season is take away any of his options.  With him, it won’t surprise me if he works like mad on his shot in the off-season so that not only will he have a game plan to shoot a lot more, but have a much harder and more accurate shot while doing so.  It’ll be interesting to look back at this in a year and see how accurate this will or won’t be.

 

Second…of all people, I’m going to ask this question….is it time to start getting worried about Jesse Puljujarvi’s development?  Remember the game against Vancouver on a Saturday night back in January and the team was fresh off the bye week.  Puljujarvi looked incredible that night.  Three points, and he could have had two or three more, far and away the best player on the ice.  Since that night, he’s been a ghost.  Some of that is opportunity, and as we’ve seen with Todd McLellan he seems to hate giving kids real opportunity.  He used Darnell Nurse on the top PP unit for literally one game, he’s hardly used Anton Slepyshev this season until lately, and Puljujarvi has not only been bounced around the lineup but still hasn’t had a real chance to be on the top PP unit.  Having said this, it was the case prior to his dry spell too, and you could see him progressing practically with every game.  I’m far from ready to give up on him, but earlier in the season I was thinking that he’d be ready to carry his own line (soft minutes line) heading into next season.  Now, I’m starting to wonder if he might end up being a kid who is just content being a 40-50 point guy every season?  Obviously, hope not because the talent is there to dominate.

 

Finally, big matchup for myself on the local front coming up as the hometown Lloydminster Bobcats will face Chase Haygarth and the Whitecourt Wolverines in round one of the AJHL playoffs!  Sucks balls that both nephews won’t be suiting up for the Wolverines in round one as Easton has been out since the end of November with a broken ankle.  He will possibly be back for round two, but they’d have to get there first.  If you’re from Lloyd, you know the Bobcats have been going damn good in the second half of the season, and I’m expecting a pretty good series.  If I had to guess…I’d say this will be a homer series all the way (just like the regular season series was with these two ) with the Wolverines winning in five.  Games one and two are in Whitecourt Thursday and Friday night, games three and four (if necessary) will be Sunday and next Monday in Lloyd.  You’ll want to get out to see this matchup.

 

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NHL Picks – Mar. 3rd, 2018

Why do I do these for Saturday’s?  Don’t answer that, because I know why, but I like to go out and have a few on Friday nights.  Sometimes a few turn into a lot, like last night did, and you wake up asking yourself “why were we drinking with Big Pred in Brewhouse at 3 AM?  Oh well, I have to get my ass up to go lose people money”.  So looking at the schedule, this is going to be a shitty group of picks.  But it’s what I got to work with, so here we go.  2-3 last week, after back to back winning weeks.  So I’m due for another long losing streak I’m sure…

 

Montreal at Boston

 

 

Bruins -1.5 (-120)

There just isn’t anywhere else to go with this one.  It’s one of the best teams in the league against one of the worst, it’s Niemi vs Rask, it’s in Boston, it’s the Habs on the second half of a back to back.  So despite poor odds, you still want to win money so the smart money is on the Bruins giving a goal here.

 

 

NY Islanders at Pittsburgh

Over 6.5 (-115)

There is just no way this doesn’t go over.  I fully expect the Pens to button things up tonight after their showing in Boston on Thursday night, but the Islanders just can’t.  This season has just completely blown up in Garth Snow’s face.  He basically made it public that he was going to put this top contender around John Tavares and that would convince him to stay, and instead he’s put a very flawed team around Tavares and given him a ton of reasons to leave.

 

Ottawa at Arizona

Coyotes -1.5 (+220)

The Sens are on the second half of a back to back, and the Coyotes are actually playing decent the last month or so.  But I’m not going to lie to anyone here, this is much more about the odds of the Coyotes winning by two or more than anything.  +220, and hey, it’s not easy to find five games on a light night.  So I’ll take a shot here and say the Coyotes lead 3-2 late and Max Domi nets an empty netter with under a minute to play to get the win here.

 

NY Rangers at Edmonton

Over 6.5 (-110)

This will be Pavelec vs Talbot tonight, not Lundqvist after he stole the game in Calgary last night.  The Rangers have been hot offensively since the trade deadline moves (Ryan Spooner in particular seems to be loving life in New York thus far), and the Oilers are so loose defensively.  Then the Rangers with Pavelec in goal, you’d expect the Oilers to pop three or four in.

 

NY Rangers at Edmonton

Rangers +175

Simply put, the Rangers are a team playing with house money right now and just seem to be loving coming to the rink.  They’re playing a lot like Vegas right now.  Zero pressure, nobody is gripping their sticks, and because of that they’re hot.  The Oilers, they’re a mess.  Even their two previous wins in Los Angeles and Anaheim they nearly pissed both games away, both with two goal leads and under 30 seconds to play.  Think about that.  That’s extremely rare to have happen once, they nearly did it and then actually did it on back to back nights.  It’s just a total mess right now.  Rangers will win a high scoring game.

 

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