Posts Tagged ‘Jets’

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With another regular season in the books, the infamous Black Monday is upon us. Coaches will be on pins and needles to see if they will be returning or on the unemployment line. With a bevy of head coaches on the hot seat, lets look at the presumed outlooks of these nervous head coaches.

Leslie Frazier-Fire. One year removed from a playoff bid, the Minnesota Vikings tremendously underperformed this year with a final record of 5-10-1. Despite having mostly the same personnel, this team could just not put it together. Expect the Vikings to start from scratch in hopes of returning to the playoffs next year.

Jim Schwartz-Fire. Reports surfaced before Sundays game that the Lions are leaning towards having Schwartz return. With that being said, Schwartz needs to go. Detroit has way to much talent to have gone 7-9 this year. They have the best Receiver in the NFL, a fantastic defensive line, and a potential franchise Quarterback in Matthew Stafford. The Lions collapsed down the stretch and it had a lot to due with the questionable and sometimes flat out odd play calling of Schwartz. The players are there, it’s the coach who needs to be upgraded.

Greg Schiano-Keep. Who would have thought that these words would have been uttered two months ago? However, there is credit due here. Schiano has taken a team on the heals of mutiny and has reinvigorated them. For that, he deserves to come back for another year.

Joe Philbin- Keep. Yes the Dolphins collapsed. They endured a horrific last two weeks, suffering embarrassing losses to the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. Despite all that Philbin deserves to stay. If for no other reason, Philbin deserves to keep his job for putting the Dolphins in a position to make the playoffs. After the Richie Incognito scandal, most people wrote off the Miami. However, Philbin was able to right the ship and keep the players focused on football. He deserves one more year to come in, with better personnel, and attempt to lead this Dolphins team one more time.

Jason Garrett- Fire. Everyone’s seen enough. America’s team has not made the playoffs in Garretts tenure. In similar fashion to his Quarterback, Garrett has choked when it matters most with ridiculous play calls that have cost Dallas full games.  He is just not an NFL Head Coach. He was a fine OC, but that’s it. Jones needs to clean out the entire coaching staff if he hopes to have a chance at getting to the promise land.

So far, the NHL season has had it’s fair share of plot twists and surprises. From the trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the Islanders, to Steven Stamkos breaking his leg on a goalpost. From Shawn Thornton receiving a 15 game ban for mugging Brooks Orpik, to a drunk Blackhawks fan stealing Adam Pardy’s helmet. Much has happened so far, and here are some predictions of how it will lay out in the end.

Metropolitan Division

Obviously, the Penguins are a playoff team. We’re also fairly certain of the Capitals being there. Since the Atlantic is much stronger, they will likely have both wild card spots from the East. That leaves one spot for the rest of the division to fight for. Let’s look at each of the contenders:

Philadelphia Flyers – After a tumultuous start, where they lost their coach and top scorer Claude Giroux took 15 games to score a goal, they seem to be piecing it together. Steve Mason has been solid in net for them, and a little bit of stability in net goes a long way for these guys. However, the lack of discipline these guys can have could easily be an Achilles’ Heel. They take 17.2 penalty minutes on average per game, which is most in the league, and 3 more than the next highest team, the Blues. Their 12th ranked penalty kill has done well, but continual overworking of them will wear them down and hurt them later on.

New York Rangers – They just extended goalie Henrik Lundqvist for 7 more years, and already he’s been put under the microscope. His numbers this year are well below his career averages so far, and has received some very ill criticism from Rangers fans and the media. The truth is, it isn’t all his fault. No one’s sure that the team in front of him will show up on any given night. They’ve had games where they picked apart the Minnesota Wild, and games where they rolled over to the New York Islanders. They have to stick to one trend if they want to see continued success, and not just wavering between one or the other.

New Jersey Devils – In my honest and unbiased opinion (despite me being a Devils fan), I honestly think that the Devils have the best of the rest potential in this division. They have tremendous discipline, taking the fewest penalties per game with just 7.8, and have the 6th best penalty kill when they do get penalized. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone, on average taking the fewest shots per game, but they give up the least shots against per game. Here’s where they beat other teams, and that’s chemistry. Their record is skewed somewhat toward the beginning, where they started 0-4-3, but since then, they’ve made some key call-ups (Eric Gelinas, for example), and have grown together to create a team that is strong defensively. They do have games where they can’t outscore their mistakes, but if they keep playing their game, discipline and defense, they will be tough to beat.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Recently, they’ve been heating up, but with a horrid stretch, winning just 4 of 17 games between 10/27 and 12/1, they remain on the outside looking in. Marian Gaborik was just starting to heat up, when he broke his collarbone, and is likely out a couple of months. Nathan Horton is still on his way back, and they need him, because only one Jacket has more than 10 goals, being Ryan Johansen. They need offensive depth, because goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is not playing like he did last year, and it’s hard to trust a backup, despite Curtis McElhinney giving his all. It probably doesn’t add up to a playoff berth this season for them.

Carolina Hurricanes – They’ve been up and down this season so far, bouncing between 2nd and 7th in the Metro. They have serious offensive issues, having one skater with double digit goals, in Jeff Skinner, who’s been hurt part of the time. Goalies Justin Peters and Cam Ward can’t handle the game every night, and because of those reasons, it’s clear to me that this isn’t a playoff team.

Final standings: PIT, WAS, NJ, PHI, NYR, CBJ, CAR, NYI.

Atlantic Division

It’s clear that at the very least, 4 of these teams are serious playoff threats. The only real questions are, can anyone catch the Bruins, and do the Leafs have what it takes to hold on?

The Bruins have one of the stingiest and biggest defensive corps in the NHL, led by 6’9″ mountain Zdeno Chara, and sometimes a brick-wall-lookalike in net Tuukka Rask. Their offense is known for being grind-it-out tough and hard to play against. They also have the know-how, being the defending Eastern Conference champions. Can anyone top them? I don’t think so. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a scary offense once Steven Stamkos gets back, and goalie Ben Bishop has been very strong in net. However, I don’t see them skating circles around the Bruins. The Montreal Canadiens have a very talented team, but they are on average one of the smallest teams in the NHL. As I said before, I really like how they play the game, but it’s hard for them to get around the big defensive line for the B’s. These are the top 3 in the Atlantic, but the Bruins are the best of the bunch.

Now, the Leafs. They made a couple of moves over the offseason, and they aren’t quite panning out like they wanted. David Clarkson already has 12 games of suspension under his belt, and only 8 points in those 27 games he did play. Dave Bolland, the Cup hero, has been out with ankle surgery since early November. While Jonathan Bernier has been playing solidly in net, he’s not there the whole time, and can’t help in the games he’s not in, as James Reimer hasn’t been playing like he did last year. Mason Raymond has been the best of the lot, also the quietest move, as he’s been playing some of the best hockey in his career. But with the potential these Leafs have, they easily could hold on to that spot, but it’s becoming tougher each day that they don’t perform to expectations. With the Devils and Flyers heating up in the Metro, it gets closer in Toronto’s rearview mirror by the day. In the end, it’s tough for me to say if they are holding on to this spot. If I had to predict right now, I’d say the Devils and Flyers would make it over the Leafs.

Final standings: BOS, MON, TB, DET, TOR, OTT, FLA, BUF.

Central Division

The only real question here, is do the Stars have enough to catch the Wild. The Blackhawks, Blues, and Avalanche have been proving time and again that they belong where they are, and it doesn’t matter who gets what seed, because I think they are all interchangeable.

Dallas has been one of the hot teams under the radar in recent weeks. They made massive strides in shrinking their deficit from double digits at one point, to now just 3 points. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn lead the way offensively, and have been remarkably good the whole season, in terms of point getting and playing well. Also on the rise are young guns Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin, both excellent for secondary scoring and depth. Defensively, they aren’t spectacular, but goalie Kari Lehtonen has been great when healthy, keeping this team afloat. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild have been tapering off, more specifically on the road. They do have good scoring depth, with Miko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Jason Pominville shouldering the load, but their defensive play has not been amazing. Also, the goaltending tandem has been Jekkyl and Hyde this year. Josh Harding has been the story of the year, with a record of 18-5-3, with a goals against average of just 1.51, and a save percentage of .939. Meanwhile, Nick Backstrom (not to be confused with Caps center of the same name) has been awful, with a 2-8-2 record, GAA of 3.18, and a save percentage of .896. They can’t rely on Backstrom, and can’t play Harding every night. They need consistency in net above all. Do the Stars catch the Wild? My answer, is yes. The Wild won the first meeting 5-1, but 3 remain, and anything can happen.

Final standings: CHI, STL, COL, DAL, MIN, WPG, NAS.

Pacific Division

I think it’s a safe bet that the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks and L.A. Kings are locks for the playoffs, but 3 teams remain in the hunt. Only 2 wild card slots are left, and the Avalanche have a stranglehold on one. Here are the 3 contenders from the Pacific:

San Jose Sharks – Their scoring depth is among tops in the league, and Antti Niemi has been playing well when called upon. The only qualm about this team, is losing Tomas Hertl for the season. He recently was involved with a knee on knee collision with Kings’ Dustin Brown, and is now likely out for the year. Can they make up his scoring? I think so. Tommy Wingels is the guy to look at to step up in his spot. Tough as nails and a nose for the net, he can play up a line and help the Sharks secure a playoff spot.

Vancouver Canucks – Of course, you have the Sedin twins leading the way, but the surprising emergence of Mike Santorelli and Chris Higgins returning to form have been great developments for the ‘Nucks. Their goaltending also has been strong with Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack keeping the peace, and no real doubts about this team either. They likely will secure a ticket to the playoffs as well

Phoenix Coyotes – They’ve had decent scoring across the board, but not one guy stands out for them. Among Shane Doan, Mike Ribeiro, Martin Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker, and Radim Vrbata, the scoring depth is there. However, they depend on goalie Mike Smith a little too much. 33.2 shots against per game is 5th most in the league, and Smith is only human. They simply can’t depend on the goalie for everything, and must step their defensive game up, or it may be too much of a climb to reach the playoffs.

It’s clear here, that the teams to beat are the Sharks and Canucks, and the Coyotes are on the outside looking in.

Final Standings: ANA, LA, SJ, VAN, PHX, CAL, EDM.

That’s what I have for you, puck-heads. See you next week, and happy hockey!

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Could the end of an Era be on the horizon? According to a report by Fox Sports reporter Jay Glazer, New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan will coach his final game as a Jet next Sunday in Miami. Glazer tweeted on Sunday that Ryan told his players in a team meeting on Saturday night that he will be fired after the season ends.

Ryan requested of his players to fight for him in the last two games of the season and the players have seemed to respond. The New York Jets played one of their strongest games of the season, defeating the Cleveland Browns 24-13. The defense came up huge on multiple occasions and the offense look fairly competent, moving the ball fairly well against a strong Cleveland defense.  With one game remaining for the Jets upper management to change their mind, here are three reasons why New York should hold on to their once beloved coach.

                                                                        He is Respected

            Players like to play for Rex Ryan. This has been a fact ever since 2009. Multiple players, both on and off the Jets, have come out and said if they could have any head coach they want Rex Ryan. This nearly became a problem in 2011. After going 8-8 and missing the playoffs, it seemed as if the Jets locker room was in total disarray. Players not giving it their all, being selfish, and getting in fights seemed to be a common occurrence. It was at this point that Rex stepped up and not only demanded the adoration of the players, but the respect. The players have seemed to respond to this properly. Despite the losing, there has not been another report of dysfunction or lack of discipline in the locker room. Rex also showed this week the give and you shall receive policy. After a Geno Smith was pushed after running out of bounds, Ryan exploded at a referee for not immediately throwing a flag. Ryan then ran over to a scuffle that was breaking out between players and broke it up. One of the keys to being a good head of anything is to be respected and with Rex Ryan there is respect.

He Did The Best He Could

Coming into the season, expectations were at an all time low for the New York Jets. Coming off the worst year in his tenure, dealing with a Quarterback controversy, and having a difficult schedule, Ryan and the Jets seemed doomed to have a terrible year. However, this has not been the case. With the average prediction was 4-12 for the New York Jets final record, New York took that all in stride and put together a pretty impressive year. The Jets are 7-8 going into the last game of the year. That 7-8 record includes wins against the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and the then formidable Atlanta Falcons. In addition to this, the Jets possess a top 10 defense, a top 5 pass rush, and a top 6 rushing attack.

The area in which New York has struggled the most is in the passing game. Despite having the 30th worst passing offense in the NFL, the question must be asserted, how much can you blame Rex? New York has a second round rookie quarterback under center. To make matters worse, that quarterback has no receivers to throw to. Stephen Hill has been a disappointment, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley have been off the field half of the year with injury issues, and Kellen Winslow was suspended for PEDs. With all that being stated, none of these receivers are stars to begin with. Holmes, who is supposed to be the #1 receiver, has only had one year where he had over 1,000 yards receiving. You cant expect to have a better than 30th ranked passing game when you don’t have better than 30th ranked receivers.

Who Else Is There?

            Despite all of the positives, New York still hasn’t made the playoffs in three years. This is typically long enough of a time span for a team to decide to pull the plug on their head coach. However, who are they going to hire? Former Bears head coach Lovie Smith, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, and Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton are the three hottest names on the market right now. All of these guys are defensive minded coaches. The defense has been very good to this point, so what need is there to replace one established defensive mind with a less established one?

Another name brought up has been Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrel Bevell. Bevell did wonders with Russel Wilson over the past two years and has created one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. This could be an intriguing higher, but is it worth it? Yes, the offense would receive an improvement, but without proper upgrades, that improvement has a ceiling. Furthermore, the defense would take a tremendous hit with Rex no longer in the fold. With the weak free agent market this year, the cost would outweigh the benefit of replacing Rex.

As WFAN host Joe Beningo pointed out, the New York Jets seem to be stuck in a rut. They hire a coach; he exceeds expectations in his first year and then disappoints and gets fired. First Herm Edwards, then Eric Mangini, and now it seems Rex Ryan will be joining that club. The Jets need to resist temptation and keep Rex. He took a team that no one gave a chance to and may have them end up at .500. In reality, Rex may be getting a pink slip, but he might actually deserve an extension.

Welcome back, puckheads! Finals week is over, and now you can concentrate even more on sports, more specifically hockey. We’ve had half a season so far, roughly, and in case you missed a lot of it studying or working, here’s how everyone did. We are giving each team a semester grade, and later in the week we will have predictions on what will happen next.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: Most points in the league as of today, with super strong play by top guys like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, as well as the less known guys like Hampus Lindholm and Nick Bonino. It seems like it’s no longer a possibility for them to lose at the Pond, so far 13-0-2 on home ice. Grade: A

Boston Bruins: Despite a couple of setbacks, and a policing issue, the Bruins seem to be doing fine for themselves. The defense-wins-championships mantra holds very true with the B’s, having let up the 2nd fewest goals in the league, and it adds up to 2nd in the Eastern conference. Grade: A-

Buffalo Sabres: They managed to get great value out of the Thomas Vanek deal, being Matt Moulson (doubt he’s staying) and 2 top draft picks. That’s where the good part stops. Now the only team not to have won a 10th game, and are 19 goals behind 2nd to last in scoring, the Sabres seem like they are investing in ping pong balls for the lottery. Grade: F

Calgary Flames: Young gun Sean Monahan has been a pleasant surprise, with 16 points in 29 games, despite a minor injury. However, they really miss Miikka Kiprusoff in net, having to depend on a couple of guys only hockey experts and Flames fans know, in Reto Berra and Karri Ramo. Their best move, however, was firing GM Jay Feaster. Now, they might actually progress. Grade: C-

Carolina Hurricanes: Mired in the Metropolitan mess, the Canes have quietly had a better season than what people originally predicted. Despite injuries to Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner, they have a NHL .500 record, and are alive and kicking in the playoff race. It won’t be easy, but the Staals have been there before. Grade: C+

Chicago Blackhawks: The defending champs aren’t joking around with the fabled “Cup hangover”. They have far and away the top offense in the league, and if they can keep outscoring any mistakes they make, it will be difficult to beat them on any given night. Grade: A

Colorado Avalanche: The surprise team of the season has to be the Avs. Led by rookie head coach Patrick Roy, and a multi-headed attack of young dynamic stars, this team has a bright future. Despite trouble with the law, goalie Semyon Varlamov has been solid enough to help the team succeed in the elite Central. Grade: A-

Columbus Blue Jackets: Marian Gaborik was a fantastic pickup, but a broken collarbone will shut him down for a couple of months. Nathan Horton is on his way back, however, and the Metropolitan factor means they are still very much alive in the race. Who would have thought that the 3-7 seeds in that division are 3 points apart? Grade: C

Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin has more than a point per game, and the guy he was traded for seems to have a target on his back for cheap shots. Also emerging are Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin, giving the Stars a bright future. Grade: B-

Detroit Red Wings: For whatever reason, the old Red Wings can’t play so well in their old barn, just 6-9-6 at the Joe, while 11-3-3 away from home. At least they are getting point in nearly half the games they lose. Grade: B

Edmonton Oilers: I had high hopes for this team coming into this season, predicting them to be a dark horse team in the playoff run. Now, they have Ilya Bryzgalov on their NHL roster. How the possibly mighty have fallen…Grade: F

Florida Panthers: The biggest news out of this team is that Tim Thomas is back, though not quite to his form from his Boston years. Maybe it’s because the Panthers’ D-men aren’t guys like Zdeno Chara. However, the Cats have been playing spoiler the entire season, as everyone thought they would. Grade: C

Los Angeles Kings: Who would have thought that the Kings would be better after Jonathan Quick went down with an injury? Martin Jones, tying an NHL record with winning his first 8 starts, has been the talk of the league since his call-up. Ben Scrivens has been good too, and the Kings have the stingiest defense in the league to boot. This makes for an interesting question; two’s company, but three’s a crowd. Will one of them be traded? Who knows? Grade: A-

Minnesota Wild: At home, they are stellar, 14-3-2. Once they hit the road, they seem to lose their flair, with a paltry 6-10-3 record away from the X. Josh Harding has been excellent for them this season, and a hero to everyone regardless of his record. But we know the Wild aren’t going to get home ice in the playoffs, so they have to solve their road woes in order to succeed. Grade: B+

Montreal Canadiens: A solid hot streak has put them in a good race for tops in the Atlantic, with young guys like Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and PK Subban leading the way. The team has a good mix of young and older, and can be dangerous later in the season. Grade: A-

Nashville Predators: They miss Pekka Rinne, but the guys backing him up seem to be doing alright. Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton combined have a 12-12-3 record, but in a division like the Central, .500 will get you nowhere. All the Seth Jones hype seemed to have died down also. Grade: C

New Jersey Devils: The Devils’ injury problems seemed to be a blessing in disguise, when some of their future emerged and started playing well. Reid Boucher and Jon Merrill have been good, but the real story is Eric Gelinas, who is quickly making a name for himself, having one of the hardest slap shots around. Can’t hurt that the golden oldies like Jaromir Jagr are there to show them the way. Grade: B-

New York Islanders: Between November 12 and December 20, they had a grand total of 2 wins, and neither of them were in regulation or overtime. It’s safe to say that something’s gotta change, because their promising future took a massive hit. Grade: D-

New York Rangers: Probably the most inconsistent team in the NHL. There are nights where everything goes right, and nights where they lose to the Islanders. Henrik Lundqvist seems to be fielding a good chunk of the blame, but that’s because he fields a good chunk of the payroll. The lack of a defense-first coaching scheme should get part of it too. Grade: C+

Ottawa Senators: Their great defense from last year seems to have dissipated. The only team to have given up more goals are the Islanders, and the Sens have their regular goalies in net. The fact that they have top defenseman Erik Karlsson says something about the rest of the blue line crew for them. Grade: C-

Philadelphia Flyers: They made a great bounce back after an atrocious start to the season. It’s still a surprise to the hockey world that Steve Mason has a .922 save percentage, as well as a winning record. Claude Giroux also has regained form after a 15 game goal drought to start the year. The Metro division is very convoluted, and the Flyers are right in the middle of it. Grade: C+

Phoenix Coyotes: They had a great start to the year, made a little bit of noise, and then quieted down some. Still a playoff contender, despite a decent difference between them and the 4th place Canucks. It’s still way better than most people in Arizona thought it would be (ehem Seattle). Grade: B

Pittsburgh Penguins: Crosby yadda yadda yadda, Fleury regular season blah blah, Malkin when he’s healthy, yeah that too. It’s the same story for the Penguins as it’s been the last few years. Not that that’s a bad thing. Grade: A

San Jose Sharks: A single regulation loss in the Shark Tank confirms that this team is deadly at home. However, they are vulnerable on the road, at 10-7-3. Tomas Hertl has been phenominal so far, but a nasty knee injury could sideline him for the season. If that’s the case, someone else has to step up. Grade: B+

St. Louis Blues: By the numbers, the Blues have the fewest losses (7 regulation, 4 overtime/shootout), best goal differential (+44), in fewer games than almost everyone in the league. Alex Steen became yet another weapon for this team, who is primed for a cup run after years of dreams dying in the playoffs. Grade: A

Tampa Bay Lightning: It was on everyone’s mind, how the Bolts would do after Stamkos got hurt. They have a 10-6-3 record since the injury, and he’s still a couple of months away from returning. They seem to be doing just fine, and just wait until he returns. The question remains, if Ben Bishop can continue playing lights out like he has been. Grade: A-

Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite still holding a playoff spot, the Buds aren’t nearly as impressive as last year. Fresh off the free-agent market, David Clarkson has been a massive bust, with just 6 points so far this season. Despite some bright spots, it’s been more of the same for the Leafs, and their fans sure let them hear about itGrade: C

Vancouver Canucks: They are slowly returning to form, despite a sluggish start. Despite still being tied with the Sharks for 3rd in the Pacific, they seem to be holding their own nicely, and are for sure happy about that coaching swap with the Rangers. Grade: B+

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin has been the story, now with 30 goals in 34 games. Many say he might break the 50 in 50 barrier, which has been done by 5 players before (Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Brett Hull), but I have my doubts. Meanwhile, the team is in cruise control for a spot in the Metro playoffs. Grade: B+

Winnipeg Jets: This group can be better, but they just haven’t been playing to their potential. The home ice advantage they seemed to have in their inaugural year seems to have slipped as well. It’s a shame, too, because everyone wants to see a true Winnipeg White-out. Grade: C-

Well, there you have it. This week, we will have predictions for the rest of the year, including some bold ones. Until next time, puck-heads!

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This past week in hockey had some significant developments in the standings, as well as some controversial events. The standings are ever-changing, in this week’s Week in Review.

Metropolitan Division

The division leading Pittsburgh Penguins had an up-and-down week, crushing the San Jose Sharks 5-1, but losing to the Boston Bruins in a bitter rivalry turned dirty game 3-2. In the process, defensive stalwart Brooks Orpik was carted off the ice, and James Neal is awaiting a suspension in a similar event, but more on that later in the post. The Washington Capitals remained just 7 points back, also taking a 2-1-0 week by thrashing the Nashville Predators and the New York Rangers. Speaking of the Blue-shirts, the Rangers had a tough week, taking 3 points out of 4 games, losing division matchups to the Devils and Capitals, and only beating the bottom-feeding Sabres. They are now tied with the Carolina Hurricanes, who have set up a nice 3 game win streak, with strong play from Cam Ward and rookie Elias Lindholm. 1 point behind those two are the New Jersey Devils, who still have random outbursts as well as random lulls. The Devils lost the first 3 games of the week, taking 1 point out of 2 games against surging Montreal, then coming from behind to beat the Rangers in OT. The Devils have needed to dig into their AHL roster, and have seen success in them so far. The Philadelphia Flyers are hanging around, and are even more baffling than the Devils, crushing one night, then looking hopeless the next. They  remain 1 point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have started to win a few big games recently. The Islanders haven’t won since Nam, with their streak extended to 9 games without a win, and continue to be one of the league’s biggest busts. Seeds 2-7 in the Metro are separated by just 7 points, and the shuffle continues from here on out.

Atlantic Division

The Boston Bruins have lost most of their division lead this week, and it had nothing to do with their play. They won 2 of their 3 games, against decent opponents in Pittsburgh and Toronto. But their one loss came against the bleu-blanc-et-rouge hot team, the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs, winners of 4 this week and 5 straight, swept the Devils in a home-and-home, and beat the Bruins in a showdown Thursday night 2-1, climbing within 1 point of the lead in the Atlantic. Both of those teams are trying to pull away from teams like pesky Detroit. The Red Wings went 1-2-0 this week, beating the Devils, but losing to the Flyers and Panthers, teams they should beat, and are now 4 back of Montreal and 5 from Boston. Tampa continues to fall through the standings, only winning 1 of 3 games this week, but received good news from Steven Stamkos, who plans a return soon after the Olympic break. The Lightning just have to hold on until he gets back in order to contend for the playoffs. Another team that’s been falling have been the Maple Leafs, who took 2 of 4 this week, but remain far from the top, and have not played well against better sides. They do remain in the second wild card, 4 points ahead of Carolina/New York Rangers, however. Ottawa is stopping the flailing, but they haven’t been winning enough games to get back in the hunt, now 8 points back of Toronto after a tough week. The Florida Panthers seem to win random games, with no rhyme or reason behind it, and remain way behind most teams. The Sabres played twice and lost twice, what else is new? The Canadiens caught fire, but can it continue into the next few games? We shall see coming up soon.

Central Division

The Blackhawks actually lost 3 in a row this week (gasp!) before pommeling the Panthers Sunday night, and remain well ahead of anyone in the division. Their 21 wins and 47 points both still lead the league. The St. Louis Blues, however, have played 4 fewer games than Chicago. The Blues took just 1 of 3 games this week, and missed a golden opportunity to gain ground on the ‘Hawks, but still are within range. The Minnesota Wild are now tied with the Blues, after 3 home wins and a road loss this week. The Wild are nearly unstoppable at their home rink, and have passed the Avalanche, who took 1 of 3 this week in Western Canada, including an embarrassing 8-2 loss to the Oilers. The Avalanche seem to be coming back down to earth after an unreal start to the season, having one of the best records at the quarterpole, while the Wild are heating up again, and starting to prove that they have the team to compete this year. The Dallas Stars have been creeping up, taking 5 of 6 possible points this week in big wins against Chicago and Philadelphia, and are now just 7 back of the Avalanche. The Winnipeg Jets also remain somewhat alive, taking 2 of 3 this week, but have a bigger hill to climb, having played more games. The Nashville Predators lost all 3 this week, and are becoming destined for another lottery pick. This division has been tightening up, and will get more interesting with the current trends as the season continues.

Pacific Division

The division lead continues to be switching between the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks every week. This week, it belongs in So-Cal. The [Mighty] Ducks got 5 of 6 points, beating Chicago and St. Louis in big games, while the Sharks hit another soft spot, losing 3 straight after beating Toronto, including losses to Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Minnesota. It wouldn’t shock anyone if the [Mighty] Ducks continue to win, and the Sharks continue to struggle, or if they again swap positions by this time next week. The Los Angeles Kings have something to say on the matter,  winning 3 this week and getting points in 9 of their previous 10 games to pull within a point of the Sharks, further changing the scope of things. Vancouver also won all 3 of their games this week, making 4 straight, and are pulling back into contention. The Canucks are now just 6 behind Anaheim, and took the 4 spot in the division away from the plummeting Phoenix Coyotes, who took 1 of 3 in Western Canada to fall back to 5th place, 2 behind Vancouver. They have been struggling recently, but look to get back into the swing of things when they return home to the desert. The Calgary Flames had 2 wins this week, and it seems like a while since they’ve done that. The Edmonton Oilers have gotten crushed and also crushed this week, showing that their offense is potent, but their defense is still a huge question mark. It seems this division turns to whoever is playing on home ice for the time, as the top 5 teams are a combined 46-12-11 at their respective home rink.

Top 5

1) Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks – Though it took a shootout, they beat the Blackhawks this week. They are still without regulation loss at the Pond, also. Tops for me this week.

2) Chicago Blackhawks – I know they hit a 3 game slide this week, but that says more for them because they still lead the President’s Trophy race.

3) Los Angeles Kings – Ben Scrivens has stepped up big time in the absence of Jonathan Quick. This gives the Kings time to make sure their top guy is ready to come back at 100%.

4) Montreal Canadiens – Red hot play from everyone lately, and the group of Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, P.K. Subban, and others are looking to overthrow the Bruins in the Atlantic.

5) Minnnesota Wild – The Xcel Energy Center has been a safe haven for them so far, but their road woes continue to question their stability. I see it getting fixed soon.

In the Box this week:

Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo and Bruins’ Shawn Thornton. Friday night, the Flyers were in Dallas to face the Stars. Rinaldo and Stars’ forward Antoine Roussel were chasing the puck down the ice, when Rinaldo surprised Roussel with a mugging. Here’s how it looked:

Rinaldo got 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting, 10 minute misconduct and a game misconduct. It led to a 7 minute power play for Dallas. At least Roussel got up from that one. In our other case, a series of cheap shots exchanged Saturday night in Boston led to a small scrum between the Penguins and Bruins. Shawn Thornton took exception to a hit Brooks Orpik landed on poor Loui Eriksson, and gave him the business. This time, though, it ended worse.

Thornton slew-footed Orpik, followed by a couple of punches to the head. Orpik was out cold, and was subsequently stretchered off the ice. Thornton does have a bit of a history, but this one involves injury. He has a hearing coming up, and a well deserved suspension soon there after.

Stay tuned this week for some more action on the ice. See you then, puck-heads!

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10 Case Keenum- He is going against JAX and needs to make up for the last loss he had against them. Expect Tate to be the star of that game but Keenum should still put up numbers.

9 Matt Ryan- He has talent but the team has been falling apart all year since Julio went down. Poor guy has a great arm and two good receivers, but all they do is run the ball. If you can’t win might as well kill the clock from the start and protect the talented arm.

8 Joe Flacco- Against MIN everyone does well. Hasn’t been on this list much this season, but has the potential to do something good this week.

7 Josh McCown- Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall help when you are a second string QB. Another thing that helps is going against DAL secondary on Monday night AT HOME. Looks like we are in for another great matchup Monday night.

6 Cam Newton- Cam is showing us why we should call him SUPERMAN even though he wears Batman fleets. The man flies and can sling the ball as well.

5 Tom Brady- He is heating up finally and becoming that QB we all wanted to watch in the beginning of the season. Look for him to have fun against a strong CLE defense.

4 Drew Brees- Time to forget last week and think of the future. BIG DIVISIONAL GAME! Saints are back at home and are going to show them why home field advantage is so important after being shown that back in SEA

3 Nick Foles- Gonna be a shootout down in Philly this week! Two of our top 3 QBs are in this matchup and the other is clear cut #1! I like him for another week without an interception.

2 Matthew Stafford- Going against a weak PHI DEF and second in the league in passing yards. He has Megatron and he has Bush he is one blessed man this week.

1 Peyton Manning- Is this really still surprising people that he is putting up these numbers? He has the most passing TDs by a long shot and passing yards by a full 300 which is more than the average passing yards per game in this league