Tag Archives: Ilya Kovalchuk

Looking back at my playoff predictions

So back before the playoffs started, I decided to make a few bold predictions.

davidgsteadman photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Roberto Luongo makes an easy save. So you know this has to be a picture from the regular season.

These were things I could see happening, but they probably wouldn’t. But it’s always fun to take a gamble on these things.

So here are my 10 predictions, and how I did.

There will be at least three goaltending controversies.

Looking back, there was only one. Vancouver going with Cory Schneider in game three instead of Roberto Luongo.. There were some other close ones. If Marc-Andre Fleury had a decent backup, there might have been one. And if Jaroslav Halak didn’t get injured, there could have been another one. But as it stands, there was only one. So not a good start.

No player will get more than 30 points.

Such a win. No player had more than 20 points. It helped that some of the more offensive teams were eliminated early. Plus the Kings never played many games. Claude Giroux had me worried after his 14-point first round, but he recovered nicely and only had three points in the second round (and one suspension).

There will be no sweeps in the first round

Another win. Every series went at least five games.

There will be at least one major upset (7 or 8 seed winning)

I actually took this one because I was pretty confident that Washington would win. And the Kings ended up with the upset as well. Looking good so far.

Ilya Kovalchuk will not score in the first round

A loss. He scored three times against the Panthers.

One team will not score a powerplay goal in the first round.

So close. San Jose and Boston each scored two power play goals. And the Blackhawks, in a seven-game series scored only one powerplay goal.

Roberto Luongo will have a game where he lets in at least seven goals.

To be fair, he wasn’t given the chance to suck that bad.

There will be two suspensions in the first round.

I didn’t realize how many there would be. I should have said at least two suspensions, as that is what I actually meant. There were eight suspensions, for a total of 40 games. And that doesn’t include Shea Weber, who should have been suspended.

Nick Backstrom will lead the league in points after round one

Not even close. My theory was that Washington would beat Boston in a six or seven-game series, and Backstrom would be better than a point-per-game. That would put him around the 10-point mark. But Backstrom only had four points and a suspension in the first round. So disappointing.

There will be one four-overtime game.

Another one that was so close. Washington and New York played three overtimes, and were only five minutes away from a fourth before the Rangers scored.

So in the end, I got four right, and came pretty close on a couple of others. Not too shabby.  I would have loved to have gotten the no powerplay goals one right, but I wasn’t that far off.

All in all, pretty good considering they were more off-the-wall picks.

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My NHL playoff predictions

Tonight is the start of the NHL playoffs.

Orlandkurtenbach photo, via Wikimedia Commons

If the puck is behind Roberto Luongo, you know he's in playoff form.

Before I get on to my series picks, I thought it would be fun to have some bold predictions.

So here are 10 slightly-off-the-wall predictions:

There will be at least three goaltending controversies

I figure there are five teams that could see fans start screaming for the backup: Vancouver, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, and all for different reasons.

St. Louis, for example, has two number one goalies. So if one struggles and the Blues are down two games in a series, I could see fans yelling for the other goalie.

In Philly, I could see Ilya Bryzgalov pitching two shutouts in the first two games. I could also see him being pulled after allowing 11 goals on 45 shots.

In Vancouver, there’s already speculation about Cory Schneider getting some playing time.

Last year, there was a small bit of talk about Tukka Rask being the starter for game three after Boston lost the first two games on home ice to Montreal, even though it wasn’t Tim Thomas’ fault.

And in Washington, I don’t even know who the #1 goalie is.

The seeds are already planted for at least three of those teams will have a goalie controversy.

No player will get more than 30 points

I understand with so many superstars in the playoffs, most people think 30 points is easily available. I’m less sure.

With so many good goalies and defensive teams, goals will be harder to come back. You’ll see more third- and fourth-liners winning games than the top two lines. That means scoring will be more spread out, and less points for the top players.

There will be no sweeps in the first round

I think the Blues-Sharks has the best chance for one, but I think every team wins at least one game.

There will be at least one major upset (7 or 8 seed winning)

I’m looking at Washington for this one. But I could easily see Ottawa beating the Rangers. But I don’t think the top two seeds will lose in the western conference.

Ilya Kovalchuk will not score in the first round

I think the Devils advance, but I think he’ll be snakebitten for the first round for some odd reason.

One team will not score a powerplay goal in the first round

This goes back to my earlier point about the defensive teams being so strong this year. New Jersey’s penalty kill is dynamite, so I think they’ll be the ones to do it.

Roberto Luongo will have a game where he lets in at least seven goals

Okay, so this one isn’t so off the wall, as he seems to do it every year.

There will be two suspensions in the first round

Pittsburgh and Philly, I’m looking to you guys to help me out on this one.

Nick Backstrom will lead the league in points after round one

Last year, the leading point-getter was Michael Cammalleri. So while Crosby, Malkin, Giroux, Sedin, etc. may be the top picks by a lot of people, I expect Backstrom to get at least eight points.

There will be one four-overtime game

We haven’t had one in a while. Last year, there were hardly any double-OT games. I think we’re due.

As for my series predictions:

Rangers over Senators in six

Capitals over Bruins in seven (upset special!)

Devils over Panthers in five

Penguins over Flyers in six

Canucks over Kings in six

Blues over Sharks in five

Blackhawks over Coyotes in six

Red Wings over Predators in six

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25 bold NHL predictions

Most web sites do a NHL predictions page. But most of those predictions are safe. They don’t really take a chance.

Photo by rubyswoon, via Wikimedia Commons

Zach Parise will score 50 goals this season.

Want some boldness? Read my predictions on the upcoming NHL season below.

1. There will be five players that crack the 50-goal barrier, the most since the 2005-06 campaign. My guess on the players would be Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Alexander Ovechkin, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek (with Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash coming close, and possibly Sidney Crosby, depending on how much time he misses).

2. Surprise good team of the year: Colorado Avalanche. They may not make the playoffs, but they’ll come close.

3. Surprise bad team of the year: Philadelphia Flyers. They’ll struggle for much of the year.

4. Don’t expect much out of the Bruins. A lot of teams in the East got better this past summer, and the Bruins will have a bit of a Stanley Cup hangover. They’ll still make the playoffs, but they’ll struggle.

5. Alexander Semin will be traded in a move designed to shake up the Capitals before the playoffs.

6. Daniel Alfredsson will be traded to the Red Wings to give him one last shot at the Stanley Cup before he retires.

7. Shane Doan will be traded to Winnipeg.

8. There will be at least two 20-game suspensions, as players don’t seem to understand the new headshot rule.

9. No player on the Habs will get 70 points.

10. On the wrong end of a few blowouts, and with a few scrapers on the team, the Senators will lead the league in fights.

11. Three Canadian teams will make the playoffs: The Canadiens, the Leafs and the Canucks.

12. Simon Gagne finds a way to stay healthy, score 30 goals and net 70 points.

Photo by Dan4th, via Wikimedia Commons

Dany Heatley will demand a trade this year.

13. Dany Heatley will demand a trade, and will end up in Winnipeg.

14. Surprise player of the year will be Bryan Little.

15. The Islanders make a big trade for a goalie.

16. The Calgary Flames will finish last in the West.

17. All three Calder finalists from last season — Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture and Michael Grabner  — have a sophomore slump.

18. Brad Richards does what most big-money free agents in New York do: he has a subpar season, finishing with 60 points.

19. One thing that bothers me about all these expert sites making predictions is they’re scared to take a chance to deviate from the norm. Really, you’re picking Steven Stamkos to win the Rocket Richard trophy? And Shea Weber to win the Norris? Wow, what a gutsy prediction. Blech. The following are my dark horse predictions for each of the trophies:

Rocket Richard: Zach Parise

20. Hart: Jarome Iginla

21. Art Ross:  Ryan Getzlaf

22. Selke: Tomas Plekanec

23. Norris: Dan Boyle

24. Calder: Luke Adam

25. The Devils will win the Stanley Cup, with Martin Brodeur retiring shortly thereafter.

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33 NHL thoughts

Once again, my 33 NHL thoughts, including my playoff predictions. I also list my choice on who is going to win the Stanley Cup.

Marcusvfx photo, via Wikimedia Commons

When the opposition scores, it's a good bet Chris Phillips is on the ice.

1. Bryan Murray was re-signed with the Sens. Some believe he deserved to be brought back after the trades he made this past half a season. Of course, it was his fault he had to trade away bloated contracts that he gave players, but that’s besides the point. Or so some would have you believe.

2. One thing I don’t understand. If Murray was able to fix his mistakes and the team competitive in the latter half of the season, why was his job safe and not Cory Clouston? Shouldn’t Clouston have also been rewarded for making a team of AHLers competitive?

3. Remember Murray giving Chris Phillips that bloated contract at the trade deadline? The one that will see Phillips get a little more than $3 million a year for the next three years? Since that deal, Phillips has been a minus 10, despite the Sens posting a winning record of 11 wins, eight losses and one overtime loss.

4. Phillips finished last in the league with a minus 35. That’s what $9 million gets you nowadays.

5. In the Habs-Sens game, Chris Neil challenged Scott Gomez to a fight. It seemed strange to me, considering he was getting a facewash from Hal Gill at the time. But that’s what Neil does. Instead of going after the other team’s tough guys, he decides to go after guys he knows he can beat. Of course, if my fights against tough guys went like this, I’d probably stop challenging them too.

6. I know the playoffs start today, and the Habs series starts tomorrow, but is it too late to fire coach Jacques Martin? I don’t get what the appeal is with him. He seems to get outcoached many times. He doesn’t even get credit for the playoff success last year, as a lot of the accolades went to Kirk Muller.

Tim Thomas should win the Hart trophy, but he won't be nominated.

7. Lots of talk about the Hart trophy, and about whether Daniel Sedin deserves it over Corey Perry. But as much as I hate the Bruins,  Tim Thomas put on a show that deserves the trophy this year. Perry finished with 50 goals, and Sedin just over a 100 points. But that’s not actually too rare. Thomas dominated this season, and had numbers that goalies haven’t had in more than a decade.

8. There’s actually been a lot of talk for various goalies being nominated for the Hart trophy (Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist), but I don’t think any of them get nominated. Not even Thomas, despite my previous point.

9. Coach of the year has got to be Penguins coach Dan Blymsa. He lost Jordan Staal for the first half of the year, and then Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby for the second half. Yet they still finished fourth in the conference, and was actually making a push towards the division title down the stretch. That’s unbelievable.

10. Compare that to other teams, and think of their coaches. Could Vancouver have had the success they did if they missed Ryan Kesler for the first half, and the Sedin twins for the second half? Does Tampa make the playoffs if Vincent Lecavalier misses the first half of the season, and Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos the second half? I don’t think so.

11. I understand injuries play a role, but I’ve never understood why Jacques Martin likes to break up lines when they’re working. Case in point, the PhD line. Benoit Pouliot, Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Darche played great when they were on the same line. But they were broken up way too early. Hopefully, we’ll see them back together in the playoffs. 

12. No one got 60 points in Montreal? Not good. And there’s not a lot of cap space to go out and get help.

13. The Habs aren’t the only ones with that problem. Despite the “new” NHL leading to more scoring, there are plenty of teams without a 30-goal scorer or a 60-point guy.

14. What is Andrei Markov worth this summer? After three major injuries in the last two years, I’m not sure what the market will be like for Markov this summer. A team like Colorado might go after him, but really, I think Markov needs to sign a one-year deal with the Habs, have an awesome season, and then look to sign a big contract the following year.

Bridget Samuels photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Nazem Kadri won't be eligible for the Calder trophy next year because he played an extra four games this season.

15. Nazem Kadri won’t be eligible to win the Calder trophy next year. I understand the Leafs wanted to get the kid some games, but playing him in 29 games is a little silly, especially when the cutoff for rookie of year candidates is 25. They could have sat him out of an extra five games, and he would have had something extra to play for next year.

16. Scott Gomez finished the season with seven goals, meaning he is getting paid $1 million per goal. I wouldn’t mind if he was an Adam Oates type of player, getting tons of assists. Or if he was a hard hitter. Or if he actually contributed anything to the team. But he doesn’t. But because he makes so much money, he’s always on the top two lines. His minus 15 doesn’t help matters either.

17. The question now becomes, should the Habs buy Gomez out this summer? Of course they should. According to CapGeek.com, if the Habs buy him out, they would save $5.5 million next season. For that price, they could sign five guys who could score only seven goals a season.

18. I love PK Subban, but his penalty minutes need to be lower. Getting 42 minor penalties is way too much. That’s the worst in the league, and it’s way too much for such an important player on the Habs.

19. Don’t like the fact that Andrei Kostitsyn has more hits on the Habs than anyone else. Even though the Canadiens play a speedy game, they still need to have a couple of grinders that can help wear the other team down.

20. Leafs fans should curb their optimism about next season. Career year from certain guys helped, and so did a rookie goalie. But you can’t expect everyone to meet those same numbers next year.

21. Sens finished one goal ahead of their lowest scoring regular season in modern history. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of offensive help coming. Can you count on Bobby Butler over the course of 82 games? History says no.

Moe photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Having Zach Parise for a full season will help the Devils next year.

22. If all the Devils do is re-sign Zach Parise this summer, they’ll be a playoff team next year. There’s no way guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur start off the season as bad as what they did this year.

23. Is there any hope of Florida ever being a playoff team? Things look bleak there. I’m a huge NHL fan, but I don’t think I could name five Panthers.

24. It feels like there are more coaches than ever being fired right now. So far, Dallas, Minnesota, Ottawa and Florida have all fired their coaches already, and the playoffs haven’t even started yet. If there are a couple of first round upsets (Washington, for example), then there could be a couple of more coming, plus more from teams already eliminated. Not sure what the record is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a new one set for coaches fired in a single offseason.

25. It’ll be interesting to see how many playoff teams have trouble in the postseason thanks to the shootout inflating their points. Both the Kings and the Pens won 10 shootouts, with the Rangers winning nine. And the Kings, for example, only one won game in overtime during the whole season. It’ll be interesting to see how that translates to postseason success.

26. Interesting to note: Only one team has a winning percentage when losing after the first period. The Washington Capitals. So never count them out of a playoff game.

27. Way back at the start of the season, I tried to make some crazier predictions (see them all here). Some of them, I was way off, especially when it comes to the trades. Probably the worst prediction was saying Kris Versteeg will finish with 80 points. He had 46, and was traded once it became apparent he couldn’t be a top-line player.

Bridget Samuels photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Who would have guessed Michael Grabner would have such a good rookie season? Oh right, I did.

28. My favourite prediction that I came close on?  Michael Grabner for the Calder trophy. He probably won’t win, but he should be a nominee.

29. Other predictions I was right on: ” Daniel Sedin gets more points than his brother, Henrik.” Most people had it the other way, considering Henrik won the Hart trophy and the Art Ross last season.

30. “Despite all their rookies, no one on the Oilers will be nominated for the Calder trophy.” The nominees haven’t come out yet, but I feel pretty confident in this one.

31. My first round Eastern playoff predictions: Capitals over Rangers, Sabres over Flyers, Canadiens over Bruins and Lightning over Penguins.

32. Playoff predictions for the West: Blackhawks over the Canucks, Sharks over Kings, Wings over Coyotes and Ducks over Predators.

33. Stanley Cup finals will be between the Ducks and the Sabres, with the Ducks winning the Stanley Cup.

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33 NHL thoughts

One of my favourite columns each week is written by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.

By Canada Hky, via Wikimedia Commons

Did Brayden Schenn inadvertently give Team Russia extra motivation?

Besides a main column, he also has something called 30 NHL thoughts, which are pretty insightful and fun to read.

So I figured I would borrow the idea, without the insightfulness. I would also make it 33 thoughts, for obvious reasons.

1. I loved watching Kings prospect Brayden Schenn play for Canada at the World Juniors this year, but after his goal that made it 3-0 for Canada against Russia in the gold medal game, Schenn celebrated by tugging at his jersey. It was his way of saying Canada is tops, I guess. But it’s no coincidence that Russia started coming back after that goal. And if you watch the Russian players and the bench after each third-period goal, they tugged at their jerseys. Rubbing it back in Schenn’s face? Did Schenn unwillingly give the Russians some motivation?

2: An underrated part of Sidney Crosby’s game is his faceoff record. So far this year, he’s winning 55.6% of the draws, which is amazing considering how many defensive specialists he faces off against. He also takes more than 40% of his team’s draws, tops in the league. He’s been getting steadily better. Two years ago, his winning percentage was 51.3%. In 2006-07, he was under 50%.

3: Has there been a bigger fantasy bust than Patrice Bergeron? I’m not talking about high drafts picks that never played, but more so guys who showed promise and teased fantasy owners with some good seasons. Bergeron showed so much promise early in his career with back-to-back 70-point seasons, but now is good for about 50 points a year. He’s still a good player and is strong defensively, but hockey poolies should stay away from him.

4: The Oilers shootouts look very disappointing. They have only one shooutout win in seven tries. Shouldn’t they be better with all their young talent?

By Bridget Samules (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bridgetds/5088655878/), via Wikimedia Commons

Wouldn't Sheldon Souray help the Oilers powerplay with his booming shot from the point?

5: And the Oilers powerplay doesn’t look good. Wouldn’t Sheldon Souray, who they are paying anyways, help them out with that big shot from the point?

6: For all the pomp and circumstance, the Winter Classic is actually dull to watch. The passes aren’t crisp. There’s not many goals. Hardly any scoring chances. It may be great to watch in person, but I usually tune out after the first period.

7: Former Barenaked Ladies singer Stephen Page sang the Canadian national anthem before the Winter Classic. But why have the Canadian anthem when it was Washington at Pittsburgh, with no Canadian teams involved? Does that mean the American national anthem will be sung before the Heritage Classic next month between Calgary and Montreal?

8: No major changes needed in New Jersey. Sometimes teams have a bad year. But they still have Kovalchuk (a two-time 50-goal scorer), 45-goal scorer Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and others. Just like some teams can have a season where everyone sets career highs, the opposite is also true, and that’s happening this season.

9: However, New Jersey needs to start grooming a backup to replace Martin Brodeur. If he doesn’t retire this summer, he only has another season or two left.

10. All that said, Lou Lammarello should be the next GM fired. He has trouble managing the salary cap since it came into being after the lockout. The Devils have only $9.6 million in cap space for next season, and they still need to re-sign Zach Parise.

11: Another fun thing to do is visit HFBoards, and read trade proposals by different fans. About 99% of them are laughable, and would never actually happen. Case in point? This one, which suggests Eric Staal straight up for Evgeni Malkin. Or this one, where Calgary trades Jarome Iginla and Anton Babchuk to Washington for Alex Semin, Karl Alzner and a 1st round. Doesn’t make sense for Calgary to trade their top player for an unrestricted free agent and a late first rounder.

12: The Chicago Blackhawks could be having another fire sale this summer. They have only $17 million in cap space, but still need to re-sign  a bunch of players. In fact, they only have 10 players signed for next season, and no goalies. Once players like Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and others re-sign, that doesn’t give them a lot of room to go after anyone. It could be time to trade another couple of guys.

By Dan4th Nicholas, via Wikimedia Commons

Is Evgeni Malkin a top 10 player?

13: There used to be a time when Evgeni Malkin was considered one of the top three players in the league. Now, he may not even crack the top five, once you take into account Crosby, Steven Stamkos, the Sedins, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Nick Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, etc. And that doesn’t include goalies or defencemen. In fact, Malkin may not even crack the top 10.

14: Overlooked player of the year so far: Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche. As a sophomore, he has 40 points in 40 games, and is leading the Avalanche to a great season so far. Which is important, considering Avs goalie Craig Anderson has taken a step back this season.

15: With so many shootouts this year (62 in total so far), it’s amazing the Canadiens haven’t had one yet. In fact, they’ve only gone into overtime on five occassions this year, and are 2-3 in those games.

16: One reason why Brad Richards will be sought after at the trade deadline and this season that no one talks about: His shootout record. Richards is tied for third all time in shootout goals, with 24. That’s important extra points for teams looking to make the playoffs. Add that to a potential 90-point guy, and Richards should be able to get about $7 million a season.

17: In case you’re wondering, Petteri Nummelin has the best shooting percentage of all-time in the shootout (minimum 10 shots). He’s scored on eight of them, for a percentage of 80%. Outside of the shootout, In 139 regular season games, he has nine goals.

18: Some of the all-time worst shooting percentages in the shootout belong to Bobby Ryan, Marian Gaborik, Tomas Plekanec and Eric Staal. Dany Heatley ranks up there as well, with only four goals in 25 tries. So why does he keep getting opportunities if he’s not good at the shootout?

19: This past summer, the Minnesota Wild gave Mikko Koivu a $7 million a season deal for five years. This year, Koivu has only nine goals in 39 games (along with 25 assists), and the Wild are out of the playoffs. If this were happening in a place like Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto, people would be screaming that he’s overpaid.

Oiler cheerleaders aren't necessarily a bad thing.

20. The Edmonton Oilers debuted their cheerleaders a couple of weeks ago, called the Octane. There were some who think this was a bad idea, but I don’t see it that way. Cheerleaders are used in almost every sport, and some groups, such as the Laker girls and Dallas Cowgirls, bring more to the team, especially when it comes to extra revenue. Plus, the list of people who have been cheerleaders at some point is long. It includes names such as Sandra Bullock, Katie Couric, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Steve Martin. If the Octane take off, the Oilers could make extra money with calendars, merchandise and promotions, and that’s never a bad thing.

21: Every team in the NHL has scored at least one shorthanded goal except for one: The Tampa Bay Lightning. That surprises me, considering the speed of the team (which generally leads to short handed breakaways).

22: Can’t see anyone willing to take a chance on Alexei Kovalev and trying to trade for him. Even though he’s a free agent this summer, he’s a distraction, and most playoff teams would be better off without him. People can dream about him playing on Crosby’s wing, but you have to remember this is 2010 Kovalev, not 2001.

23: Yes, the future looks bright in Edmonton, but there’s a lot of work to do there. The team is in the bottom five in powerplay, faceoff percentage, overtime losses and last in penalty killing and goals against.

24: A lot is being made of Vancouver’s great record so far this season. But could they be peaking too early? The regular season looks awesome, but the team has had trouble in the playoffs, especially Roberto Luongo. If they lose in the first or second round again, would anyone actually care if they came first?

25: Everyone thinks the Penguins get the benefit of calls from the referees, but the team is actually the most penalized in the league. No team has been shorthanded more times (172) than the Pens.

26: It’s important for the Canadiens to get off to a quick start. Their record when trailing after the first period is 0-11. They’re the only team in the league to not get a single point if trailing after one.

By Bridget Samuels, via Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta is winning because of contributions from all their defencemen, not just Dustin Byfuglien.

27: While everyone talks about Dustin Byfuglien as being a Norris trophy candidate, the other Atlanta defencemen deserve a lot of praise as well. Three of the defencemen (Brent Sopel, Tobias Enstrom and Ron Hainsey) are in the top seven in the league in blocked shots, with Johnny Oduya being 14th. That’s a lot of shots that never make it to the goaltender.

28: One of the problems with the Toronto Maple Leafs is the giveaways by their defencemen. Francois Beauchemin leads the league in this category, Luke Schenn is third and Tomas Kaberle is eighth. When your defencemen are giving up the puck that much, that leads to a lot of odd-man rushes and scoring chances against your team.

29: For my money, the most overpaid player has to be Thomas Vanek. More than $7 million a year for a 30-goal scorer. Edmonton should be grateful that Buffalo matched that contract.

30: Things don’t look good for most of the free agents this summer. Out of the 26 UFAs currently making more than $3.5 million, I think only two of them get a pay raise (if they don’t take hometown discounts): Joni Pitkanen and Ilya Bryzgalov. The rest of the names, such as Michael Ryder, Alexei Kovalev, Andrei Markov, Tomas Vokoun, Pascal Leclaire, J.S. Giguere, etc. will probably have to take pay cuts.

31: That’s especially true with so many young restricted free agent studs needing to be locked up. Some of the RFAs this summer include Steven Stamkos, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Zach Parise, Dustin Byfuglien, Keith Yandle, Brent Seabrook and more. If teams spend money on their youth, that takes up a lot of the salary cap, and doesn’t leave much for the guys who are becoming restricted free agents.

32: It’s amazing Detroit Red Wings keeps rolling along. Despite their age, and now injuries (Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Modano are all out), the Wings keep finding ways to win. Sitting second in the West, you have to wonder if it will ever catch up to the Wings.

33: Even if the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs, would it be considered a successful season in some fans’ eyes if they don’t finish in the bottom five of the league. Especially if one of those teams are the Ottawa Senators. It could happen. The Leafs are only five points back with five games in hand.

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New Jersey Devils preview

Overview: With all the talk about the Ilya Kovalchuk contract/non-contract debate over the summer, many people never bothered to focus on exactly what Kovalchuk brings to the team.

The Devils have a great nucleus in place, with Travis Zajac and Zach Parise representing the talented youth players, Jason Arnott and Patrick Elias representing the experienced players, and Marty Brodeur backing everyone up.

The only thing they’re missing is an offensive defenceman. While the Devils can have Kovalchuk on the point for the full two minutes during a powerplay, it’s the rest of the time when they are lacking. There’s no one who can give that breakout pass, or anyone with a booming shot from the point on the rush. They’re strong defensive defencemen, but that’s about it.

Best offseason move: Signing Ilya Kovalchuk. Who cares about the length of the deal, or the amount of money? Kovalchuk is money. He’s scored at least 40 goals every single season of his career except for his rookie season, when he had 29. He’s hit 50 goals twice. He was the only reason people watched Thrashers games. He’s exciting on the ice. Even if Kovalchuk is good for only 10 years of the contract, this was a good signing.

Worst offseason move: Giving Anton Volchenkov too many years. Yes, he’s a hitting and shot-blocking machine. But he’s also 28 years old going on 47. He misses more and more games every year, and he can’t score. I once compared him to Hal Gill, but without the offensive talent. About three years from now, he’ll be missing half the season as his body breaks down more and more. Nice signing, but it was too long.

Dark horse trophy candidate: Zach Parise for the Rocket Richard

Pool pick: Jason Arnott. After spending a few seasons in the city where offence goes to die (Nashville), Arnott will be centring the second line in New Jersey. He’ll be on a line with good offensive players, and won’t be the main concern of the other teams’ defensive players. Who to stay away from: Brian Rolston. A few years back, he was good for 60 points. Now, with so many other offensive talents, he’ll probably be on the third line in a more checking-type role.

Sporcle quiz: Can you name the New Jersey Devils leaders?

Best hall of fame choice: Martin Brodeur. The easiest choice of any team in the league. All-time leader in wins and shutouts. Has three Stanley Cup rings. Has two Olympic gold medals. Four Vezina trophies. A Calder trophy. etc etc. If the league were to disband right now, and they could only put one person in the hall of fame, it would be Brodeur.

Blog to follow: In Lou We Trust

My Prediction: Second in the Atlantic, fifth in the East

Famous celebrity from that city: Sunny (aka Tammy Lynn Sytch)

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Other Sens rallies

So it looks like Ottawa Senators fans will be holding a rally on Parliament Hill on June 19 to try to show Jason Spezza that he’s loved in Ottawa.

But for those who may not be aware, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other rallies that will that Sens fans will be holding this summer.

So, in my best Down Goes Brown imitation, here are some other rallies for Sens fans to attend.

• June 19: A rally to keep Jason Spezza in town.

June 20: A rally to raise money for Chris Neil.

• June 24: Trying to create positive karma, a rally in support of Bryan Murray and letting him know that they support all his past draft picks, Brian Lee included

• June 25: A rally to try to figure out how to properly pronounce first-round pick Tom Kuhnhackl’s name.

• June 30: A rally to show Murray that Ilya Kovalchuk would look good in a Sens jersey

• July 1: A rally to say that Kovalchuk is overrated, and the Leafs are stupid for signing him

• July 3: A rally for Murray to finally sign make a big splash in the free agency market

• July 4: A rally to show that signing Tomas Plekanec to a five-year, $27 million deal was a good pickup, despite his small size, poor faceoff percentage and horrible shootout record

• July 4: A rally to say that singing Olli Jokinen was a good signing and he can turn it around in Ottawa, especially on a line with Alexei Kovalev

• July 12: A rally to show that Pascal Leclaire is a true #1 goalie, no matter what his career stats say, all you need to do is look at Game 5 of the first round for proof of that.

• July 17: A rally at Scotiabank place to show general support for the team (the Leaf fans who show up drown out the Sens fans and their cheering)

• July 18: A rally by Sens fans to say classless Leafs fans should stop booing the Sens, because it upsets the Senators players and their fans

• August 1: A rally to convince themselves that Kovalev has only had three bad years of the past four seasons, and he’s due to turn it around

• August 7: A rally for Daniel Alfredsson, just so he doesn’t feel left out (Alfie guarantees the crowd his feelings weren’t hurt)

• August 19: A rally to show Mike Fisher that he’s still worth the $4.2 million cap hit, just because people can keep an eye out for Carrie Underwood

• August 24: A rally that celebrates the trade of that bum, Jason Spezza, for Scott Hannan and Milan Hejduk. Because former one-time 50-goal scorers who have seen a decrease every season since then is always a good thing to have, right?

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