NHL Previews – March 14, 2008

Ouch! What a bloody day for me and my no-longer lofty winning percentage. Yesterday I went a pathetic 2-6 and now, for the season, I am 16-10 for a winning percentage of 61%.

With regards to yesterday’s games – how ’bout them Thrashers!?! What a great comeback for the fans in Blueland and what a devastating loss for the Calgary Flames. Instead of getting two points and keeping their lead in the Northwest Divsion the Flames suffered a regulation loss that dropped them to seventh in the Western Conference. That’s gotta hurt.

Another team that took a tough loss was the Boston Bruins who lost to the Lightning in regulation and failed to put any distance between themselves and the ninth seeded Buffalo Sabres. The Bruins still have a five point lead on the Sabres with 11 games to play but the way Boston has played lately, and the inability to beat Tampa Bay at home, has to concern them.

Vancouver was shutout by Ilya Bryzgalov and the Coyotes and that’s a painful loss for the Canucks. Phoenix is now just three points behind Vancouver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and both teams have 11 games left. Between the two are the Nashville Predators who were beaten by the Kings on their home ice. Woof!

One team did not waste an opportunity as the Detroit Red Wings beat the Dallas Stars to record their eighth straight 100 point season and clinch a playoff berth. Congratulations to the Red Wings on both impressive accomplishments.

It appears that teams with nothing to lose are playing a lot better than teams that are fighting for a playoff berth. I’ll have to take that into consideration when doing my predictions from now on. Speaking of which, it’s time for my previews and predictions of tonight’s games…please remember that these predictions are only for fun and are not for gambling puropses.

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GAME OF THE NIGHT!

Who would have thought that a Thrashers/Capitals game in mid-March would be my Game of the Night? Well, when you get the league’s top two goal scorers to play in the same game and when one of those teams is fighting for a playoff berth you have the makings of a great game.

Ilya Kovalchuk and the Thrashers had a big win last night against the Flames and now they travel to the Nation’s Capital to see if they can dampen the Capitals playoff hopes as well.

Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals are currently the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference and are five points behind the eighth seeded Flyers. The Capitals need to get two points in this game and most of the other 10 games they have left. If the Flyers were to go 5-6 in their final 11 games the Capitals would need to go 8-3 in their final 11 games in order to beat them. Obviously each win you add to the Flyers, or even a loss in overtime or a shootout, would add another win that the Capitals would need to get. In summary – the Capitals NEED to win this game.

Ovechkin has eight goals and seven assists in his last seven games and currently has 56 goals. Clearly he’ll need to remain red hot if the Capitals are to make the playoffs and I think he’ll have a good game tonight. In addition to predicting the final score I’m going to predict what Ovechkin and Kovalchuk will do as well.

I’ll predict a 4-2 win for the Capitals with Ovechkin scoring two goals and Kovalchuk scoring one goal.

By the way – Colby Armstrong has three goals and one assist in his last four games. That’s a lot better production than the Penguins have gotten out of Marian Hossa thus far.

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Tired of the playoff race? Want to watch a game that has no playoff implications between two teams that are already looking forward to next season? Than this is the game for you!

Fans of these two teams might actually be rooting for their team to lose tonight. That’s because both teams are tied for the sixth worst record in the league and are just two points ahead of the Islanders for the fifth and final spot in the Draft Lottery. Want Steve Stamkos on your favorite team? Then root-root-root for them to lose tonight!

This will be the first game for Rick Nash since he was named the Blue Jackets captain and I expect him to have some extra spring in his step as he wears the ‘C’ on his chest for the first time. Columbus has won three of the first five meetings between the two teams this season and I’ll predict that the Blackhawks tie it up. I’ll predict a 5-3 win for the Blackhawks.

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The Buffalo Sabres are decimated by injuries on their blue line but if they want to make the playoffs they have to find a way to win some games. This one is going to be a tough game to win as Carolina is about as hot as it gets in the NHL right now.

The Hurricanes have won five straight games and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games while Buffalo has lost four straight and six of their last seven. Part of those streaks was the game between these two teams last Saturday which Carolina won 4-3.

I’d be surprised to see the Sabres win this game as they are too thin on defense and look mentally tired. Carolina is red hot and I believe that will continue tonight. I’ll predict a 5-1 win for the Hurricanes.

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The San Jose Sharks are the hottest team in the NHL and the Carolina Hurricanes are red hot lately as well. But perhaps the most impressive team in recent weeks has been the New York Rangers.

The Rangers are 10-0-3 in their last 13 games and with 12 games left in the regular season they actually have a chance to win the Atlantic Division. It’s a longshot to be certain, but it’s a shot none-the-less and they enter tonight’s game four points behind the Penguins and five points behind the Devils with a game in hand on each of them. Rangers head coach Tom Renney, who I’ve supported 100% all year long, credits the teams character for their turnaround:

“We’ve really galvanized as a group to find a way to do things and get points. That speaks volumes for their character.”

I credit two players with the Rangers success lately: Henrik Lundqvist and Sean Avery. Avery has been a demon on the ice with big hits, timely scoring and he’s gotten Jaromir Jagr to pick up his game as well. Those are all big contributions and without him I don’t think the Rangers are where they are right now.

Lundqvist is 8-0-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last 11 starts and in his career he is 6-1-0 with a 1.68 GAA and three shutouts against the Panthers. That doesn’t bode well for Florida. I’ll predict a 3-1 win for the Rangers.

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Let’s see….the Sharks have won 10 straight games; the Blues are 1-7-2 in their last 10. The Sharks are fighting for the Pacific Division title; the Blues are fighting for the #1 pick in the draft. The Sharks have actually tried in their recent games; the Blues have completely quit on head coach Andy Murray.

I’ll predict a 4-1 win for the Sharks.

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That’s it for today. I have no idea if I’ll be able to post previews over the weekend but please check back often. You never know when Eddie or I will have something we want to rant about and if it doesn’t make it into the show it’ll find it’s way on here. Thanks again for stopping by and, as always, if you’d like to post your predictions or comments you can do so by clicking on “Leave a Comment” at the top of this post.

– Doug

About Doug Stolhand 26941 Articles
Doug Stolhand is one of the co-founders and co-hosts of the Puck Podcast and has been a member of the NHL media since the show's inception in 2006.