Martin Erat, Alex Goligoski, Jamie Langenbrunner

Martin Erat looks forward to healthier 2011-12 season

There are many wonders in the world of hockey. Off the top of my head, a few include:

  • Alex Ovechkin “only” scoring 32 goals despite playing 79 games during the 2010-11 season. (Don’t bet on that happening again until he’s in his 30’s.)
  • Quietly elite goalie Tomas Vokoun only receiving serious offers from two suitors.
  • Jose Theodore receiving a job as a No. 1 goalie and Ed Jovanovski signing a hefty four-year contract without the use of a time machine.

Those are some mind-melting thoughts, but they’re isolated to more recent times. One bewildering thought that always seems to work itself out – at least to some extent – is: “How are the Nashville Predators actually going to score goals?”

Slim pickings for offense

Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn lead the team in points with 50 and Shea Weber tied Patric Hornqvist for second place with 48 last season. Despite these piddling top-end numbers, the Predators scored 219 goals in 2010-11, more than nine other teams. That being said, the Predators might actually be less potent next season after losing playoff standout Joel Ward and two washed up scorers in Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont.

Perhaps Ryan Ellis can swoop in and create some offense from the blueline if he makes the big club out of training camp (or maybe the Predators’ Big Three will be so motivated by contract years that they just won’t allow any goals), but it’s likely that the team will need to scratch and claw for most of their points once again next season. That means the team might need even more from Martin Erat, a player who has produced a steady stream of seasons in the 50-point range. (Which might be more like 60-point seasons in a more wide-open system, but that’s pure conjecture.)

Could next season be a career year for Erat?

From a point per game perspective, the 2010-11 season was the second best of Erat’s nine-year NHL career. He scored 50 points in 64 games (.78 points per game), second only to his .84 rate in 06-07 (57 points in 68 games).

An optimistic Predators fan might hope he can keep up that pace and produce a career-best campaign in 2011-12 if he could manage to stay healthy. Back issues plagued the Czech-born winger last season, but Josh Cooper reports that Erat is feeling refreshed this summer.

“I took a little bit more time off, just to get healed and on the right track,” Erat said. “I’m feeling OK right now and feeling good. Excited for being healthy next season.”


So far this offseason, Erat said, he has mostly used lower-body weights in workouts and worked on his “explosiveness.” He also decided to work more on his midsection, in order to make sure the back issues don’t return.

“Right now it’s working for me,” Erat said.

Cooper points out that although Erat’s cap hit is a reasonable $4.5 million, the 2011-12 season marks a peak salary year of $6 million. For a budge-conscious team like Nashville, that means they’ll be expecting Erat’s best. Judging by their roster of gritty but not-so-creative offensive players, they’ll probably need his best, too.

Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record

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When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.