20 questions: PHT predictions for the 2013 NHL season

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We’ve already made our Stanley Cup picks. Now here are 20 more predictions from the PHT staff. You never know — a few of them may be correct.

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1. Which team will win the Presidents’ Trophy (first overall in the regular season)?

Jason Brough: Boston Bruins. A bunch of B’s were playing in Europe, making a fast start likely.

Mike Halford: New York Rangers. Who should’ve won it last year, but lost three of four to finish the season.

Ryan Dadoun: Boston Bruins. A strong team in a weak division.

Joe Yerdon: Boston Bruins. Good team, bad division.

James O’Brien: Vancouver Canucks. They’ll feast on the Northwest yet again.

2. Which team will finish last overall?

JB: New York Islanders. Glaring weaknesses in all areas.

MH: Columbus Blue Jackets. The Central Division is loaded; they’re going to get slaughtered.

RD: Columbus Blue Jackets. I hate being predictable, but I can’t think of anyone even remotely close to CBJ.

JY: New York Islanders. The rest of their division is a meat grinder and they’re ridiculously young.

JOB: Columbus Blue Jackets. On paper, it doesn’t get much worse.

3. Which team will be the most pleasantly surprising?

JB: Columbus Blue Jackets. Not saying they’ll make the playoffs, but they’ll be better than most of my colleagues think.

MH: Montreal Canadiens. Had quite a few guys playing in Europe, and Andrei Markov is healthy now.

RD: Nashville Predators. Their young defensemen will step up without Ryan Suter.

JY: Buffalo Sabres. Ryan Miller is fresh and Mikhail Grigorenko could be a stud.

JOB: San Jose Sharks. Lowered expectations, but still dangerous.

4. Which team will be the most disappointing?

JB: Detroit Red Wings. Like their general manager, I wouldn’t be shocked if they missed the playoffs.

MH: Florida Panthers. Primed for a letdown after winning the first Southeast Division banner in franchise history.

RD: New Jersey Devils. They lost Parise and I’m not confident in their aging goaltenders, especially after a long break.

JY: Minnesota Wild. Not because they’ll be bad; the bar is just set too high right now.

JOB: Edmonton Oilers. Lots of hype, but can’t keep the puck out of their net.

5. Which player will be the most pleasantly surprising?

JB: Dany Heatley. Has been skating with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, two pretty good line-mates.

MH: Semyon Varlamov. Finished last season strong and posted great numbers in the KHL.

RD: James Reimer. If given a chance, he’ll bounce back nicely.

JY: Matt Duchene. He’ll come flying out of Joe Sacco’s doghouse (to be replaced by Ryan O’Reilly.)

JOB: Cam Ward. Thanks to Kirk Muller’s system and improved goal support.

6. Which player will be the most disappointing?

JB: Jaromir Jagr. Still don’t know why he picked Dallas. Except I guess for the $4.5 million they gave him.

MH: Pekka Rinne. Lost his second-best defenseman (Ryan Suter) and trusty backup (Anders Lindback).

RD: Ilya Bryzgalov. But I’m sure he’ll continue to give the Daily Show/Colbert Report a run for their money.

JY: Ryan Suter. Expectations are too high given his supporting cast.

JOB: Braden Holtby. Danger of small sample sizes.

7. Who will finish with more points – Sidney Crosby or Claude Giroux?

JB: Crosby

MH: Giroux

RD: Crosby

JY: Crosby

JOB: Crosby

8. Will Ilya Bryzgalov be Philadelphia’s starting goalie for the first game of the playoffs?

JB: Yes, and it won’t even be a debate.

MH: Yes, but I could see Michael Leighton getting some action.

RD: Yes, but not because he’ll be great.

JY: Excepting injury, yes, he’ll be the man.

JOB: Yes, but a putrid defense won’t help him silence critics.

9. Who will win the Hart Trophy (most valuable)?

JB: Sidney Crosby

MH: Claude Giroux

RD: Sidney Crosby

JY: Claude Giroux

JOB: Evgeni Malkin

10. Who will win the Art Ross (most points)?

JB: Sidney Crosby

MH: Claude Giroux

RD: Sidney Crosby

JY: Sidney Crosby

JOB: Evgeni Malkin

11. Who will win the Rocket Richard (most goals)?

JB: Steven Stamkos

MH: Steven Stamkos

RD: Rick Nash

JY: Steven Stamkos

JOB: Steven Stamkos

12. Who will win the Vezina (best goalie)?

JB: Jonathan Quick

MH: Tuukka Rask

RD: Henrik Lundqvist

JY: Henrik Lundqvist

JOB: Henrik Lundqvist

13. Who will win the Norris (best defenseman)?

JB: Zdeno Chara

MH: Alex Pietrangelo

RD: Alex Pietrangelo

JY: Shea Weber

JOB: Drew Doughty

14. Who will win the Calder (top rookie)?

JB: Justin Schultz (Edmonton)

MH: Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida)

RD: Nail Yakupov (Edmonton)

JY: Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay)

JOB: Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis)

15. Who will win the Jack Adams (top coach)?

JB: Adam Oates (Washington)

MH: Kirk Muller (Carolina)

RD: Barry Trotz (Nashville)

JY: John Tortorella (New York Rangers)

JOB: Barry Trotz (Nashville)

16. Who will be the first coach fired?

JB: Todd McLellan (San Jose)

MH: Joel Quenneville (Chicago)

RD: Mike Yeo (Minnesota)

JY: Joe Sacco (Colorado)

JOB: Jack Capuano (New York Islanders)

17. Of last year’s 16 playoff teams, which one is most likely to miss the postseason?

JB: Florida Panthers. Weren’t very good to begin with, plus lost defenseman Jason Garrison.

MH: Florida Panthers. Injuries and departures will get them off to a slow start, and they won’t recover.

RD: New Jersey Devils. Tough division, no Parise, old goalies.

JY: New Jersey Devils. Brodeur will do his best, but yikes to scoring depth.

JOB: Ottawa Senators. Will regress after overachieving last season.

18. Of last year’s 14 non-playoff teams, which one is most likely to make the postseason?

JB: Buffalo Sabres. Panicked with high expectations last season. No shortage of talent. Tougher now too.

MH: Montreal Canadiens. Michel Therrien has a history of turning bad teams into playoff teams.

RD: Colorado Avalanche. Semyon Varlamov looked good in the KHL, and Matt Duchene should bounce back.

JY: Carolina Hurricanes. East is open enough to make it happen.

JOB: Tampa Bay Lightning. They might even win the Southeast.

19. Will the Minnesota Wild make the playoffs?

JB: Yes. Better roster, worsening competition in West.

MH: Yes. I even think they’ll win the Northwest Division.

RD: No, they’ll fall just short. Next season though…

JY: They’ll just miss out. Next year though? It’s on.

JOB: No, the West is too deep and they’re still too shallow.

20. Will the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs?

JB: No. They’re not very good, and the East has too many strong teams.

MH: No. They’ll finish dead last in the Northeast.

RD:  Yes, thanks to stronger goaltending from Reimer.

JY: No, but hey, maybe they can make a run at the top pick in the draft.

JOB: No. Not a good team.

Pre-game reading: ‘Trying to keep playing at such a high level, it was going to kill me’

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The Pioneer Press caught up with former Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding, who quietly retired from professional hockey two-and-a-half years ago. That decision came after Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and made a stirring comeback with the Wild, capturing the 2013 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as a result.

In the piece, Harding talks about his final game, one in which he left an AHL game against Charlotte in an ambulance due to severe dehydration. That proved an eye-opener, one that all but cemented the need for him to hang up his skates.

More:

Sara Harding took one look at her gaunt husband on FaceTime [following the game in Charlotte] and immediately bought a one-way plane ticket from Minneapolis, not knowing when she would return — or if she would be coming back alone.

“She was really scared,” Harding recalled Tuesday. “That was the final dagger. It started hitting me that I still have a family and life to live here. People that I love and that love me, I saw how scared they were and how much it affected them. I knew it was time to put up the pads.

 “The doctors all told me if I kept doing this to my body, trying to keep playing at such a high level, it was going to kill me.”

Harding, who has attended a few Wild games since retirement, is currently working as a goalie coach at a local Minnesota high school.

— “I think there’s only three teams left in the NHL that don’t have a downtown arena, and we’re one of them and it’s tragic that we don’t. I bought the team out of bankruptcy and that’s where the arena was, and that’s what I bought. But we need to move things downtown, if it’s Ottawa it’s got to be downtown.”

That’s Sens owner Eugene Melnyk (per the Citizen) talking about Ottawa’s proposed new arena. He’s hopeful negotiations with the National Capital Commission on the development of Lebreton Flats will be completed before the end of the year, at which point construction can begin on what he promises will be a “gorgeous” complex.

— The latest development in the U.S. women’s looming boycott of the 2017 World Hockey Championships: USA Hockey has postponed a pre-tourney training camp, and an exhibition game against Finland. The organization is still hopeful it can hold a camp just prior to the start of the worlds, which will begin on Mar. 31 in Plymouth, MI. (Yahoo)

Goalie nods: Raanta goes back-to-back in Battle of New York

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Another chapter in one of the league’s most storied rivalries will be written tonight, when the Isles take on the Rangers at MSG.

And in goal, it’ll be Thomas Greiss against Antti Raanta.

Raanta, the goalie of record in seven of the Rangers’ last eight games, gets the call even though Henrik Lundqvist is reportedly healthy enough to return from his hip injury. Lundqvist is expected to resume playing on the club’s upcoming three-game California swing through Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.

So that means tonight’s game falls to Raanta, who continues to put up solid numbers. He’s now at 15-7-2 on the year with a 2.32 GAA and .920 save percentage, and has allowed three goals or fewer in each of his last five appearances. That includes last night’s 3-2 OT loss to the Devils, in which he made 26 saves.

Greiss, meanwhile, is coming off a very good performance in Saturday’s 3-2 OT loss to the Jackets. He stopped 35 of 38 shots for a .921 save percentage, and knows he’ll need to be as good — or better — as the Isles are in desperate need of points.

The Isles head into tonight’s action three points back of the Maple Leafs for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Elsewhere…

— Toronto won’t start former Blue Jacket Curtis McElhinney tonight, when it visits Columbus. Instead, head coach Mike Babcock will continue to roll with the red-hot Frederik Andersen, who’s coming off a 33-save win against Boston on Monday. For the Jackets, Joonas Korpisalo looks to be in goal.

Jonathan Bernier continues to pile up the starts in Anaheim, with John Gibson still nursing his lower-body injury. Bernier will get the call when the Ducks host the Oilers tonight. And guess who’s in for Edmonton? If you guessed anybody other than Cam Talbot, you haven’t been reading this column often enough.

KHLer gets eight-game suspension after attacking Talbot, Kozun

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A recent playoff game in the KHL between Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and CSKA (Lokomotiv won the game and the series) featured a little bit of chaos because of the actions of CSKA defenseman Grigory Panin.

Late in the second period Panin briefly lost his cool when he delivered a devastating hit to the head of former NHL player Max Talbot, injuring him and igniting a scrum that resulted in Panin slashing former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Brandon Kozun in the head.

As you can see in the video above, Kozun was in pretty bad shape after the incident and needed a lot of assistance just to get off the ice. Talbot was also injured as a result of the hit from Panin.

Panin received five-minute major penalties for both hits, as well as 20-minute misconduct penalties for a grand total of 50 penalty minutes.

This all happened just a few minutes after a Talbot goal gave Lokomotiv a 2-0 lead, scoring a goal that would ultimately decide the game and the series.

On Tuesday, the KHL announced that Panin has been suspended eight game for his actions. That suspension includes an automatic one-game suspension for being a repeat offender (this was not his first ejection this season) and another automatic one-game suspension for receiving two 20-minute misconduct penalties in the same game. The hit on Talbot also resulted in a two-game suspension while the incident with Kozun resulted in a four-game suspension.

Kozun and Panin do have a bit of a history with one another in the KHL. Last year Kozun was ejected from a game for injuring Panin on a hit from behind.

It’s also not the first time Panin has done something outrageous to warrant a suspension in the KHL. Along with a suspension earlier this season, he was also suspended twice back in 2013, including an 11-game suspension for an outrageously dirty hit on former NHL player Matt Murley.

Kozun played 20 games in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2014-15 season, scoring two goals to go with two assists. He was one of the top scorers in the KHL this season with 56 points in 59 games.

Talbot spent 11 years in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins.

Columbus started extension talks with key youngsters Wennberg, Anderson

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Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was a busy man on Tuesday, signing three players — center Lukas Sedlak, left winger Markus Hannikainen and blueliner Scott Harrington — to two-year extensions.

Kekalainen’s also working on some more significant deals as well.

Per the Dispatch, he’s begun preliminary extension talks with three Columbus’ brightest young players — forwards Josh Anderson and Alex Wennberg, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo — all of whom are pending restricted free agents.

Though talks will reportedly be sidelined as the team focuses on its playoff run, Kekalainen insisted all three deals would get done.

“They’re all restricted,” he said. “And they’re all going to be re-signed.”

Of the three, Wennberg and Anderson have made the biggest impact this season.

Wennberg, 22, has done a terrific job filling the hole left at center from the Ryan JohansenSeth Jones trade. The 14th overall pick in ’13 leads the team in assists this year, with 42, and sits second in scoring with 54 points.

“He’s been probably one of our best play-makers,” Tortorella said of Wenneberg, per NHL.com. “When you talk play-makers, everyone thinks offense, but coming out of our end zone, too, he makes plays. He’s not an off-the-glass guy. He wants to try to make a play so we keep possession. For such a young man, I just love his poise, and that’s what you need. You can’t be afraid to make a play and he has shown that.”

Anderson, also 22, has made a major impact in his first fulls season with the Jackets. He’s found the back of the net 16 times — more than Henrik Zetterberg, Nathan MacKinnon, Claude Giroux, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf — and has been a physical presence, sitting third on the team with 119 hits.

Korpisalo’s had a smaller role this season, though that has to do with the heavy workload shouldered by No. 1 netminder Sergei Bobrovsky (and the fact now-Maple Leaf Curtis McElhinney spent time as the backup). But the organization is high on Korpisalo who, at 22, projects to be a potential goalie of the future.

It’s fair to suggest Wennberg will get the biggest raise this summer. The question will be if the club tries to sign him to a bridge deal, like it did with Boone Jenner, or negotiate a long-term deal, like it did with Jones.

Kekalainen also has a few UFAs to make decisions on, with the most interesting being Sam Gagner. Signed on the cheap last summer — one year, $650,000 — he’s done an excellent job of reviving his career, notching 18 goals and 44 points through 70 games.