The NHL midseason report
After 7 years of missing the playoffs and having the leagues highest payroll the New York Rangers went into rebuilding mode months before the 03-04 season ended. They knew that a salary cap was going to be implemented once a labor agreement was ever going to be struck so they had to get rid of their high price players. Upon doing that, Rangers management did a very bright thing in keeping Jaromir Jagr for the long run instead of unloading his 8 million a year salary at the time. Coming into the season New York Rangers were picked by many experts including Sports Illustrated to finish dead last in the league. Well I would have to say the Rangers surely have proved their doubters wrong. Heading into the Olympic break the New York Rangers sit atop the Atlantic Division with 78 points. They are lead by Jaromir Jagr who is having a m.v.p. type season leading the league in goals 40 and points 88. He is finally playing like the player we saw for all those years in Pittsburgh. He has a outstanding supporting cast in Straka,Prucha,Nylander,Rucchin,Ruchinsky,Skyora and role players like Marcel Hossa and Jason Ward, who do the little things that don’t show up on the score sheet.
Defensively this team is very sound, and play a great team game defensively. They are led by Rookie goaltender Henry Lundqvist who is 25-7 with a 2.09 G.A.A. That is phenomenal for a 23 year old but a lot of credit has to go to their coaching staff for the system they have implemented. When you watch this team, all of their defenseman are on the same page and know where to be. This is a scary team with Jagr at the helm that has a strong shot at getting to the finals.
My midseason awards:
M.V.P. 1.Jaromir Jagr, 40goals-48assists-88points
Top Defenseman. Wade Redden, 8goals-34assits-42pts-plus31 Ottawa Senators
Top Goaltender. 1.Dom Hasek,28-10-2.10 G.A.A. Ottawa Senators
Rookie of the year. 1.Henry Lundqvist 25-7-2.09 G.A.A, New York Rangers
2.Sindey Crosby 28-37-65, Pittsburgh Penguins
3.Alexander Ovechkin 36-33-69, Washington Capitals
This three way battle will go down to the wire. It’s hard to not give it to Crosby. At 18yrs old and playing at that high of a level is simply amazing or Ovechkin who is a human highlight film everynight, but based on consistency over the whole season Ludqvist gets the nod for now.
Coach of the Year. Lindy Ruff – Buffalo Sabres
My fab 5 Stanley Cup Contenders
1.Detroit Redwings 83 pts. The new NHL hasn’t slowed down this bunch at all
2. Ottawa Senators 79 points. Have struggled as of late, but the Olympic break might be the best thing for this squad.
3. New York Rangers 78 points. Dangerous team, and when you have a superstar in jagr playing at the level he is, anything is possible.
4. Dallas Stars 79 pts. A team every seems to forget about, excellent goaltending and lots of depth up the middle.
5. Calgary Flames 73 pts. A team nobody will want to play come playoff time, tough as nails on D, but a despearate need at the trade deadline is a 1st or second line center.
5 teams that are close but no cigar
1. Carolina Hurricanes 82 pts. the surprise team of the year, the addition of Weight makes this team scary come playoffs,but i dont see them getting past the 2nd round.
2.Tampa Bay Lighting 68. I have them at number 2 because i feel they will obtain a top notch goaltender at the deadline, if they dont there doomed. Also for them to have any shot at defending their title past the 1st round is for Marty St.Louis to get out of his funk
3. Buffalo Sabres 77pts. The sabres play a outstanding team game, the way Ryan Miller is playing and with their best player Brier coming back at the deadline, they have a strong shot at overtaking Ottawa in the standings.
4.Vancouver Canucks 71 pts. Goaltending issues is why this team has no shot of getting past the 2nd round. If they somehow address that need, i ll change my tune on this team.
5. Philadelphia Flyers 75pts. They are right on the Rangers tail in the standings but we’ve been down this road before haven’t we. im not a big fan of this team. Their defense is slow and old plus the loss of Primeau is going to hurt come playoff time.
Two teams to keep a eye on come playoff time
1.New Jersey Devils 66pts. They found there stride lately, and finally have some kind of a resemblence of pasts Devil teams. Brian Gionta is turning into a special player.
2.Nashville Predators. Points wise, i should have them in the top 10 but they have been fading of late( 4-6 past 10 games). Although im not a big of their style of play come playoff time, they do have the ability with Thomas Voukon between the pipes to knock out some powerhouses again like they did to the Red Wings in 04.