2010 NHL playoffs: Western Conference first round predictions


This is what everyone loves to do as we gear up for the first of four
rounds of playoff hockey: throw a dart at the wall and hope we can
come close to predicting the outcomes of each series.

So we are, Pro Hockey Talk’s predictions for 2010 NHL Western
Quarterfinals predictions (Eastern
Conference here)

(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (8) Colorado Avalanche (full
preview here

Season series (Tied 2-2)
Oct. 1: San
Jose 2 @ Colorado 5
Oct. 30: Colorado 1 @ San Jose 3
Colorado 3 @ San Jose 4
April 4: San Jose 4 @
Colorado 5 (OT)

Brandon: Oh boy…San Jose’s worst
nightmare: a hungry, speedy, talented and young team with solid
goaltending. Must…not…choke….again…. Colorado in 7.

James: Everyone is so in love with the
Sharks “choking.” It’s kind of like when someone unfunny finds that one
joke that makes them feel part of a group. Like my grade school friend
who used to say “Kung Pao Chicken” every day because we laughed at it
twice. San Jose in 4.

Joe: Colorado is
gassed, San Jose is just naturally better. There’s ZERO reason for the
Sharks to lose this series. But if they do… perhaps it’s time for an
on-ice personnel change or twelve. San Jose in 5.

(2) Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators (full
preview here

Season series (Chicago won 4-2)
Oct. 15:
Chicago 3 @ Nashville 1
Oct. 24: Nashville 0 @ Chicago 2
Chicago 0 @ Nashville 2
Dec. 4: Nashville 4 @ Chicago
Dec. 26: Chicago 4 @ Nashville 1
Dec. 27:
Nashville 4 @ Chicago 5

Brandon: This could be the best shot the
Blackhawks will get at a Stanley Cup. The Nashville Predators are the
perfect team to get in their way….but the Hawks are too hungry. Chicago
in 5.

James: The Predators could give the
Blackhawks some serious headaches. That being said, I think that
Nashville’s lack of high-end offense will be a huge disadvantage against
the loaded Chicago team. Chicago in 6.

Joe: I
think this is a terrible matchup for Chicago and Nashville will give
them everything they can handle and thensome. If Chicago is going to
show they’re for real, beating the Predators will go a long way towards
proving that. Chicago in 7.

More after the jump.

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) Los Angeles Kings (full
preview here

Season series (Vancouver won 3-1)

Vancouver 2 @ Los Angeles 1 (SO)
Nov. 26: Los Angeles 1 @
Vancouver 4
Dec. 14: Los Angeles 1 @ Vancouver 3
Vancouver 3 @ Los Angeles 8

Brandon: Some are saying this is an upset
waiting to happen; I don’t see it. The Canucks are too good, and I can
see Jonathan Quick collapsing from exhaustion in the middle of a game. Vancouver
in 6.

James: Man, I cannot wait for this series.
I like the Kings’ talent, but I just can’t bring myself to choose a
team with Jonathan Quick in net (he’s decent, but …) against a team
with Roberto Luongo. Vancouver in 7.

This is going to be a tremendous series. LA are the comeback kids,
Vancouver has the future MVP and Luuuu. The Kings are damn good though
but the question is can Jon Quick carry them through? Not yet. Los
Angeles is just setting the table for next season anyhow. Vancouver
in 7.

(4) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings (full
preview here

Season series (Tied 2-2)
Oct. 22:
Detroit 2 @ Phoenix 3 (OT)
Dec. 14: Phoenix 2 @ Detroit 3
Detroit 4 @ Phoenix 1
Jan. 26: Phoenix 5 @ Detroit 4

Brandon: The series I’m most looking forward
to. Can the Coyotes pull off an unthinkable season, beating the Red
Wings in the first round? Will Jimmy Howard be magical? Will Tomas
Holmstrom play fair? Phoenix in 7.

James: I would feel bad for the Coyotes,
but then they rejected Throw the Snake. Now – as usual – I have empathy
for their fans, not the franchise. That being said, this should be a
great series because Phoenix is legit. I just like Detroit’s talent a
bit more. Detroit in 6.

Joe: A
bit of a homer pick, I admit, but for every great playoffs storyline
there’s a foil to make sure that story doesn’t go all Disney on us. Who
better than the Red Wings to go and foul everything up. Detroit in 6.

As expected, Avalanche recall highly touted prospect Rantanen

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Last week, it was reported that Colorado Avalanche forward prospect Mikko Rantanen would re-join the team at some point this week.

On Monday, the Avalanche made good on that plan, recalling Rantanen, the 2015 first-round pick, from San Antonio in the American Hockey League.

The move comes after Toronto claimed Colorado forward Ben Smith off waivers, opening a spot up front for Colorado.

Rantanen’s season got off to an unfortunate start. He suffered a sprained ankle in a rookie tournament, and was eventually sent down to the minors to get some playing time after coming back from the injury.

It’s expected that Rantanen, who had an impressive rookie campaign in the minors with the Rampage despite still being a teenager, will be put into a top-six role right away for the Avalanche, which is averaging 3.2 goals a game early on.

He scored 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games in the AHL last season, and had a small taste of the NHL. He began the season with the Avalanche, and was later recalled from the minors in the middle of March when Nathan MacKinnon went out with a knee injury.

Rantanen, who later this week will turn 20 years old, didn’t register a point in nine games with the Avalanche last season. But he still did get that experience, as well as most of an AHL season under his belt, which could serve him well this time around.

Given he is a 10th overall selection, and his numbers in Europe before the draft and in the minors as an NHL prospect, there are high expectations for what Rantanen could potentially do at the big-league level for an Avalanche team that already boasts highly skilled playmakers like MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie.

The Avalanche are in the midst of a break in their schedule, with five days between games.

They don’t play again until Friday, when they host the Winnipeg Jets, so Rantanen’s season debut in Colorado will have to wait at least until then.

Canucks recall training camp standout Stecher

Vancouver Canucks' Alexander Edler, of Sweden; Joseph Labate; Alexis D'Aoust; James Sheppard; and Troy Stecher, from left, celebrate Labate's goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey preseason game Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Didn’t take Troy Stecher long to get back up to the NHL.

Stecher, the undrafted free agent out of North Dakota that starred for Vancouver in the preseason, has been recalled from AHL Utica along with forward Jayson Megna.

The Canucks needed some fresh bodies from the farm following injuries to Alex Burrows, Derek Dorsett and, most distressingly, defenseman Chris Tanev. Tanev took a bad spill into the boards during Sunday’s loss to Anaheim, and appeared to be in serious discomfort.

If he’s out for any length of time, it could be a problem.

The 26-year-old is one of Vancouver’s top blueliners and a valued defensive defenseman. He’s averaging over 20 minutes per night this year, and is coming off a campaign in which he scored 18 points in 69 games, while averaging a career-best 21:45 TOI per night.

Stecher, 22, could draw into the lineup for Tuesday’s home date against Ottawa as Tanev’s replacement, or the Canucks could give towering Russian rearguard Nikita Tryamkin his season debut.

Tryamkin, who appeared in 13 games for Vancouver last year, has yet to dress but also refused assignment to Utica (he has an out clause allowing him to return to the KHL rather than report to the minors.)

Update: General manager Jim Benning confirmed to Ben Kuzma of The Province that Burrows and Dorsett have been placed on injured reserve, and will be out a minimum of seven days.

Canucks’ Tryamkin refuses AHL assignment, would prefer to be a healthy scratch apparently

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Nikita Tryamkin #88 of the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game was the final game the Oilers played at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

The Vancouver Canucks have an interesting situation with big Russian defenseman Nikita Tryamkin. Six games into season, the 22-year-old defenseman has yet to get into the lineup, and he’s been brandishing the KHL out-clause in his contract by refusing an assignment to the AHL.

“There is no possibility that he will play in the American Hockey League,” GM Jim Benning said this weekend, per the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve explored that. We’ve talked to him and his agent and he has said no. In a perfect world, we’d like him to get some games (in the minors). But it is what it is. He is working hard in practice and doing extra work.”

Tryamkin was the 66th overall pick in the 2014 draft, an enticing project with size and strength, one who naturally drew comparisons to Zdeno Chara. He came to North America late last season, after his fourth KHL campaign with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg had finished, and played 13 games (1G, 1A) for the Canucks down the (meaningless) stretch.

It remains to be seen when he’ll get into a game again. Chris Tanev got banged up Sunday in Anaheim and is questionable for tomorrow’s home date against Ottawa, but Tanev is more likely to be replaced by Alex Biega, who played as a forward against the Ducks.

Tryamkin, meanwhile, will likely have to sit and wait. Unless he gets bored enough to go to Utica, which is where the Canucks would like him anyway.

Per Cap Friendly, Tryamkin’s contract pays him $925,000 in the NHL versus $70,000 in the AHL. He can become a restricted free agent after the season is over, which would allow him to return to the KHL should he choose to do so.

The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the season

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) watches as Patrik Laine's game-tying goal goes past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

In case you haven’t noticed, NHL goalies are having a real struggle to start the 2016-17 season. After 80 games, the average save percentage sits at just .903, per Hockey Reference.

To put that number in perspective, the last time a season finished with that low an average was 2000-01. The last couple of years, it’s been at .915, the highest save rate in league history. So don’t expect it to stay at .903 for long. Remember, the goalies’ equipment hasn’t really been altered yet.

With that in mind, here are five goalies that need to pull it together:

Brian Elliott: The most obvious candidate. He’s been extremely shaky for his new team in Calgary, going 0-3-0 with an .839 save rate. Another poor performance tonight in Chicago and head coach Glen Gulutzan may need to give Chad Johnson an opportunity to take the ball and run with it, because the Flames are already in a hole.

Frederik Andersen: Another goalie playing for a new team. He’s gone 1-0-3 for Toronto, with an .879 save percentage. The Maple Leafs had better hope this is just a blip, because they’re committed to Andersen through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $5 million.

Corey Crawford: This is an interesting one, because Crawford has mostly been ventilated on the penalty kill. His save percentage is a ridiculously low .615 while the ‘Hawks are shorthanded (10 goals allowed) and an impressive .966 at even strength (three goals). Overall, he’s 1-3-0 with an .886 save percentage, which needs to be higher one way or the other.

Eddie Lack/Cam Ward: Let’s count these two as one, because they both play for Carolina and they’re both having serious issues. After five Hurricanes games, Lack’s save percentage is just .857 (three starts), while Ward’s is somehow worse at .852 (two starts). It was a similar story last year, when Lack and Ward combined for the second-worst team save percentage in the NHL, so don’t feel obligated to act surprised.

Steve Mason/Michal Neuvirth: We’ll also count these guys as one, since they both play for Philadelphia and they’re both having a tough go. This scenario is different than Carolina’s, though, because Mason and Neuvirth were both excellent last season in helping the Flyers to an unexpected playoff berth. This season, Mason is 1-2-1 with an .882 save percentage, while Neuvirth is technically undefeated with a 1-0-0 record, but his save percentage is just .854 in two appearances.

So that’s seven struggling goalies. There are plenty of honorary mentions, including Anton Khudobin, Louis Domingue, Darcy Kuemper, Craig Anderson, John Gibson, Martin Jones, Jake Allen, and even Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, whose save percentage sits at a lowly .861.

PS — Henrik Lundqvist, Semyon Varlamov, and Marc-Andre Fleury haven’t been great either.