Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins

Does the Atlantic Division have a true favorite?

1 Comment

Every year, sportswriters face tough choices when they make predictions. Can a surprise team find lightning in a bottle once again or will they prove to be one-hit wonders? Will the splashiest moves create a “Dream Team” or an expensive, embarrassing nightmare? Should you tab the best team on paper or try to chart intangible things like chemistry?

While most decisions are tough, there are certain situations that stand out by being unusually difficult to gauge. In my mind, the Atlantic Division race is far more difficult to forecast in 2011-12. You could make an argument for almost every team to win the title, although I don’t think the New York Islanders are “there” yet. (Expect significant strides from that young bunch, though.)

Let’s take a look at what makes each Atlantic team confounding.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils were expected to collapse like they did in 2010-11 during just about every season since the lockout. That’s the natural assumption when you keep losing great (Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer) and very good (Brian Rafalski, Paul Martin) defensemen while your star goalie slides further away from his prime.

New Jersey has burned many pundits for counting them out over the years, though. Before 10-11, they ranked high in the standings more often than not, even when they looked thin on paper. They’re a deeply flawed team, but it’s tough to count them out completely considering their organizational guile (not to mention the fact that they employ Zach Parise, Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias).

New York Islanders

Again, I don’t expect them to be in the division title chase, but counting this rising team out of the playoff picture is foolish. The Isles could turn some heads, especially if Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo are healthy.

New York Rangers

Click here for a post full of questions about the team, but to play my own devil’s advocate, they have arguably the best goalie in the world (Henrik Lundqvist), one of the league’s best passers (Brad Richards), a fiery coach (John Tortorella) and a ton of worker bees to drop in front of shots and hustle for loose pucks. It’s not outrageous to put them in the mix.

Philadelphia Flyers

Not many division title winners trade away their captain (Mike Richards) and a potent, affordable sniper like Jeff Carter. Then again, the Flyers march to the beat of their own stone-faced drummer.

They still have a nice variety of forwards to work into the lineup, although that group won’t be as good in all three areas of the ice (especially on the penalty kill). It’s hard to tell what to expect from Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek this year, in particular.

Oddly enough, public sentiment seems to be that Ilya Bryzgalov will be a bust. I disagree, even if I firmly nod my head when people discuss the risky nature of his contract. For all that’s been made about Dave Tippett’s defensive system, the Phoenix Coyotes allowed the third most shots per game (32.6) last season. Bryzgalov kept them afloat and should be able to clean up some messes for Philly, which is promising since Chris Pronger’s health is unclear – at best.

Pittsburgh Penguins

A lot of people – and at least one prominent video game – picked the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup, which probably means that they expect them to take their division as well. Two factors make that a risky proposition, though:

1. Obviously, Crosby’s health is a big question mark.

2. The Penguins earned just one division title since Crosby’s debut.

The team should be commended for its work without Crosby and Malkin last season, but they played with a tiny margin of error and scrapped out a lot of charity points in that time. Geno could indeed be explosive next season, but the Penguins’ aren’t a lock to win the Atlantic by any means.

Then again, who is?

‘Hawks send towering d-man Svedberg back to AHL

Justin Abdelkader, Corey Crawford, Viktor Svedberg
Leave a comment

Chicago sent blueliner Viktor Svedberg back to AHL Rockford on Sunday, the club announced.

Svedberg — who goes 6-foot-8, 234 pounds — was recalled from the IceHogs a few days ago with veteran d-man Michal Roszival dealing with an injury. The 24-year-old Swede has made an impact with the ‘Hawks this year, scoring three points in 16 games, but has struggled to stick consistently at the NHL level.

That said, he did make one appearance during this most recent recall. Svedberg played just under 14 minutes in a 2-1 win over Colorado last Tuesday, registering an assist.

Svedberg has appeared in 30 games for Rockford this season.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers at Caps (Also: No hearing for Simmonds, who will play)

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 22:  Wayne Simmonds #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his game winning goal in the shootout against the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center on March 22, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Capitals 2-1 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Today, the Philadelphia Flyers invade Verizon for a Super Bowl matinee against the Capitals. You can catch the game on NBC (12 p.m. ET), or you can watch live online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Some notes to pass your way:

— Per an NHL spokesman, there will be no disciplinary hearing for Wayne Simmonds after getting ejected from yesterday’s game against the Rangers for punching Ryan McDonagh.

Per the AP, the NHL has not rescinded Simmonds’ match penalty.

Steve Mason starts in goal for Philly, while the Caps counter with Braden Holtby.

Some relevant linkage for today’s affair:

‘A big loss’ — Couturier out four weeks with lower-body injury

Ovechkin beats Devils in shootout

Forsberg’s three points push Predators past Sharks, 6-2

at SAP Center on October 28, 2015 in San Jose, California.
Getty Images
1 Comment

NASVHILLE, Tenn. (AP) Recent call-up Viktor Arvidsson scored twice, Filip Forsberg had a goal and two assists and the Nashville Predators beat the San Jose Sharks 6-2 on Saturday night.

Pekka Rinne made 28 saves and James Neal, Calle Jarnkrok and Shea Weber also scored to help Nashville end a three-game home losing streak.

Joe Thornton and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks. Their 17-8-2 road record is the best in the Western Conference, and the Sharks fell to 9-2-2 in their last 13 games.

Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, regained his form after allowing six goals in a loss Thursday night to Philadelphia.

Arvidsson was recalled from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Monday.

San Jose goalie Martin Jones allowed five goals on 29 shots. He was 8-1-1 in his previous 10 starts and has an NHL-best 15-5-2 road record.

The Sharks dominated early and took eight of the game’s first nine shots, but Rinne stopped them all.

Nashville scored on its third shot when Neal fired a slap shot from the low slot past Jones 13:12 in. Neal leads the Predators with 19 goals.

Jarnkrok’s wrist shot from the mid-slot bounced over Jones’ glove and in for a 2-0 lead at 6:26 of the second period.

Johansen assisted on the play, giving him 14 points in 13 games since arriving in a trade with Columbus on Jan. 6.

Jarnkrok also scored in a 6-3 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday, giving him nine goals on the season.

Thornton cut Nashville’s lead in half when he swatted a loose puck in the crease into the net at 15:41 of the second period.

Nashville responded quickly when Arvidsson roofed a wrist shot that beat Jones glove side at 17:01 of the second period.

Forsberg’s short-handed goal built Nashville’s lead to 4-1 at 6:51 of the third period. He beat Jones with a wrist shot to the far post. Forsberg now has 101 career points.

Arvidsson scored his second goal on a 2-on-1 breakaway, deking Jones before sliding a backhander past him to give the Predators a 5-1 lead at 8:44 of the third period.

Couture’s slap shot narrowed the deficit to 5-2 at 13:37 of the third period.

Weber got an empty-net goal with 4:37 left.

Notes: Predators center Mike Ribeiro played in his 1,000th career game, becoming the 22nd active NHL player and 300th ever to reach the milestone. He was Montreal’s second-round pick in the 1998 draft. … Nine of the Sharks’ first 11 games after the All-Star break are on the road. … San Jose RW Joel Ward, 35, played three seasons for Nashville from 2008-11 early in his career. … Sharks right wing Joe Pavelski entered with eight game-winning goals, tied with Chicago’s Jonathan Toews for the most in the NHL.

Hockey tough: Mark Stone shakes off skate to face, scores

Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone celebrates his game winning goal during overtime against the Boston Bruins during an NHL hockey game in Ottawa, Ontario, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016.  The Senators defeated the Bruins 2-1. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
Leave a comment

You’d think the reaction to taking a skate to the face would be something like “Not coming back to that game, getting some ice and maybe do some soul-searching.”

Nope, not in the NHL, at least.

In this league, the real reaction is almost always to come back to the same game … and barely miss a beat.

Ottawa Senators Mark Stone provides the latest example of hockey toughness, as he bounced back almost immediately from this.

What did he do? He scored a nice goal in the Senators’ 6-1 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs.