2013 NHL PREVIEW: SOUTHEAST DIVISION

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Finally, after months and months of everyone involved being morons, causing 113 days, 625 games, and the biggest outdoor hockey game in history to be cancelled, hockey fans can finally say “Game On!”  The NHL has a new 10-year labor agreement, and is set to start the shortened, 48 game 2013 season on Saturday, January 19.  Find out what you need to know about every team in the NHL for the upcoming season, this time featuring the Southeast Division.  Continue after the jump to find out where your team will finish.

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NHL All Star Game Concept Succeeds; Leaves Room for Improvement

The NHL shook things up, stepped out on a limb and took a few risks. Not surprisingly, buzz was generated and people seemed to show genuine interest in the league’s All Star Game.

For years I’ve been suggesting ideas to spruce up each of the professional sports’ All Star showcases in an effort to make them more entertaining and watchable. For the most part, it seems the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL were oblivious to the fact that most people didn’t care about an event that featured each league’s biggest stars. Until the NHL decided that they were going to do away with the conference alignment in it’s All Star Game and used a Fantasy Draft to make up the two teams competing for the All Star Game win.

By Peter Christian and Bryan Vickroy

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With NHL’s Superstar Missing the All-Star Game, Who Will Shine?

Only 23 years old and he’s already got a Stanley Cup, two Messier Leadership Awards, a Rocket Richard trophy, an Art Ross, a Lester Pearson, a Hart Memorial and has been an All-Star since the first one in 2007. Not to mention, he was the youngest player in NHL history to record 100 points in a season and has had the prestige of two Lou Marsh trophies in his career.

Don’t get me wrong; I am anything but a die-hard Crosby fan. To me, he’ll always be the whiney, overpublicized player, who likes to take dives every now and then. But I give credit where credit is due. Face it hockey fans, Sidney Crosby is Superman on ice.

But looks like this year, Superman’s out of the game with a nasty concussion. The 2011 NHL All-Star Game will proceed with captains Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings.

So with NHL’s superstar out of the game, who will shine through?

By Harrini Krishnan

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NHL Eastern Conference Finals Preview


By Ailyn Diaz of Chics Hockey.com and the Big Hair Hockey Show
 

The newspaper headlines for the Pittsburgh Penguins focused on the rivalry between Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the crown as best player in the NHL.  The storyline for the Eastern Conference Finals will shift to brother against brother.  Carolina’s Eric Staal, a center, and the older more seasoned brother will be matched up against Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal, a natural center with a keen sense of scoring. 

But, this is not the first time two Staal brothers were pitted to duel against each other in a playoff series.  Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jordan Staal faced the New York Rangers’ Marc Staal in last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

 Jordan Staaal hasn’t reached the 50-point milestone in his first three NHL seasons.  He stands at only 5 points in his last 13 playoff games while his older brother Eric Staal has nine goals in his past 14 playoff games.  Interestingly enough, the brothers have never been matched at any level of playoff hockey before.

 

The Matchup:

“You’re going to see fast hockey”  — Sidney Crosby

Offensively, the matchup will rely on the speed of their forwards.  Sidney Crosby who just came off from a hat trick duel against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitalsill  in the last round now has 12 goals leading the playoffs. Counting his total 21 points, Sidney Crosby is now tied with teammate Evgeni Malkin and the Capitals’ Ovechkin for the league lead.  In fact, going head-to-head against Ovechkin, Crosby had 8 goals and 13 points.  Will he prove the same against Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes?

The Canes need to power up offensively against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Jussi Jokinen has been adding up goals solo with 6 total in the playoff series. He leads the league in game winners.  Other players like left wing Eric Cole needs to step up in the power play to contribute to the overall team offense. After 14 games, Erik Cole still does not have a goal.  Playmaker Rod Brind’Amour only contributed during Game 7 against the Boston Bruins at which time he obtained his one and only goal of the postseason.

During the last series, after Sidney Crosby scored 4 of the Penguins’ first 5 goals, the offense shifted to goals from ten other Penguin players.  Evgeni Malkin geared up offensively after game 3 of the series with linemates Ruslan Fedetenko and Maxime Talbot.  In fact, Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin scored 3 each.  Also, fourth liners such as Craig Adams and Miroslav Satan were able to produce. Adams scored his first career playoff goal in Game 7, and Satan had assists in three of the last four games, including a pair in Game 7 against the Capitals.

Carolina relies on a transitional game.  In a wink of an eye, the puck moves from defensemen to the forwards lingering around the neutral zone directly to the net.  The Penguins will need to be disciplined and rely on their defense to control any turnovers.  The Penguins held the record for blocked shots in the season.  The triumphant return of Sergei Gonchar made for remarkable plays. Gonchar returned from the right knee injury to have an assist in 15:06 of ice time in Game 7. Kris Letang  during defense into offense with 9 points and defensemen Brooks Orpik and Hal Gill held the blocking during the series against the Capitals.

Carolina’s defenseman Anton Babchuk, struggled against the Boston Bruins and was replaced by Frantisek Kaberle.  Dennis Seidenberg  and linemate Joni Pikanen attempted to generate scoring opportunities in the series but could not convert.  At the end, Tim Gleason provided the physical grit needed to keep the puck away from Cam Ward’s net.

The Carolina netminder has yet to lose a game 7 in a playoff series since his debut in 2006.   The former Conn Smythe winner is unstoppable with a  .927 save percentage.  The Pittsburgh Penguins must overcome excellent goaltending similar to that of Simeon Varlamov during the last playoff run against the Capitals.  Most importantly, Marc Andre Fleury has battled with consistency capturing rebound goals.  However, his goaltending skills appeared to peak during game 7 against the Capitals.  Fleury holds a .901 save percentage. 

Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins rely on excellent coachies that base their philosophy on communicating with the players.  Carolina’s Paul Maurice has the most experience in playoff hockey. Paul Maurice refused to allow his team to lose after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Boston Bruins.  He is a motivator and a tactician known to implement quick changes on the ice.  Dan Blysma, the rookie coach, follows an organized playing system which his players have learned to embrace.  “I’m a believer that there are adjustments that need to be made throughout the game, and you don’t just make them in Game 7,” Bylsma said to NHL.com.  “If you make them just in the playoffs or just when it heats up, players begin to question it.”

Prediction:  Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games as their offensive power builds.  If the Penguins were able to beat Simeon Varlamov’s excellent goaltending and Ovechkin’s offense in the series against the Washington Capitals then they will overcome Cam Ward’s goaltending abilities and outshine Eric Staal’s scoring in the Eastern Conference Finals.   The Carolina Hurricanes must increase their offensive abilities in all lines to be able to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

The newspaper headlines for the Pittsburgh Penguins focused on the rivalry between Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the crown as best player in the NHL.  The storyline for the Eastern Conference Finals will shift to brother against brother.  Carolina’s Eric Staal, a center, and the older more seasoned brother will be matched up against Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal, a natural center with a keen sense of scoring.  But, this is not the first time two Staal brothers were pitted to duel against each other in a playoff series.  Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jordan Staal faced the New York Rangers’ Marc Staal in last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.  Jordan Staaal hasn’t reached the 50-point milestone in his first three NHL seasons.  He stands at only 5 points in his last 13 playoff games while his older brother Eric Staal has nine goals in his past 14 playoff games.  Interestingly enough, the brothers have never been matched at any level of playoff hockey before.

The Matchup:

“You’re going to see fast hockey”  — Sidney Crosby

Offensively, the matchup will rely on the speed of their forwards.  Sidney Crosby who just came off from a hat trick duel against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the last round now has 12 goals leading the playoffs. Counting his total 21 points, Sidney Crosby is now tied with teammate Evgeni Malkin and the Capitals’ Ovechkin for the league lead.  In fact, going head-to-head against Ovechkin, Crosby had 8 goals and 13 points.  Will he prove the same against Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes?

The Canes need to power up offensively against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Jussi Jokinen has been adding up goals solo with 6 total in the playoff series. He leads the league in game winners.  Other players like left wing Eric Cole needs to step up in the power play to contribute to the overall team offense. After 14 games, Erik Cole still does not have a goal.  Playmaker Rod Brind’Amour only contributed during Game 7 against the Boston Bruins at which time he obtained his one and only goal of the postseason.

During the last series, after Sidney Crosby scored 4 of the Penguins’ first 5 goals, the offense shifted to goals from ten other Penguin players.  Evgeni Malkin geared up offensively after game 3 of the series with linemates Ruslan Fedetenko and Maxime Talbot.  In fact, Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin scored 3 each.  Also, fourth liners such as Craig Adams and Miroslav Satan were able to produce. Adams scored his first career playoff goal in Game 7, and Satan had assists in three of the last four games, including a pair in Game 7 against the Capitals.

Carolina relies on a transitional game.  In a wink of an eye, the puck moves from defensemen to the forwards lingering around the neutral zone directly to the net.  The Penguins will need to be disciplined and rely on their defense to control any turnovers.  The Penguins held the record for blocked shots in the season.  The triumphant return of Sergei Gonchar made for remarkable plays. Gonchar returned from the right knee injury to have an assist in 15:06 of ice time in Game 7. Kris Letang  during defense into offense with 9 points and defensemen Brooks Orpik and Hal Gill held the blocking during the series against the Capitals.

Carolina’s defenseman Anton Babchuk, struggled against the Boston Bruins and was replaced by Frantisek Kaberle.  Dennis Seidenberg  and linemate Joni Pikanen attempted to generate scoring opportunities in the series but could not convert.  At the end, Tim Gleason provided the physical grit needed to keep the puck away from Cam Ward’s net.

The Carolina netminder has yet to lose a game 7 in a playoff series since his debut in 2006.   The former Conn Smythe winner is unstoppable with a  .927 save percentage.  The Pittsburgh Penguins must overcome excellent goaltending similar to that of Simeon Varlamov during the last playoff run against the Capitals.  Most importantly, Marc Andre Fleury has battled with consistency capturing rebound goals.  However, his goaltending skills appeared to peak during game 7 against the Capitals.  Fleury holds a .901 save percentage. 

Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins rely on excellent coachies that base their philosophy on communicating with the players.  Carolina’s Paul Maurice has the most experience in playoff hockey. Paul Maurice refused to allow his team to lose after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Boston Bruins.  He is a motivator and a tactician known to implement quick changes on the ice.  Dan Blysma, the rookie coach, follows an organized playing system which his players have learned to embrace.  “I’m a believer that there are adjustments that need to be made throughout the game, and you don’t just make them in Game 7,” Bylsma said to NHL.com.  “If you make them just in the playoffs or just when it heats up, players begin to question it.”

Prediction:  Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games as their offensive power builds.  If the Penguins were able to beat Simeon Varlamov’s excellent goaltending and Ovechkin’s offense in the series against the Washington Capitals then they will overcome Cam Ward’s goaltending abilities and outshine Eric Staal’s scoring in the Eastern Conference Finals.   The Carolina Hurricanes must increase their offensive abilities in all lines to be able to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.