NHL Grades At The Break!
Thrilled to be in a hockey hot bed in Northern NY. 4 local NHL teams to follow and at the halfway mark I grade all 4. Let's start at the bottom shall we
The bottom literally finds the bottom feeding Buffalo Sabres. I can't imagine a Lindy Ruff team being 26th in goals against but that is where this squad is at. Starting Golie Ryan Miller has shared duty with Jonas Enroth partly because of injury and mostly because of mediocre play. Miller whom I have always thought over rated is supposed to be the best Golie from America. Hogwash! Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick of LA have surpassed Miller in my opinion. This season in 30 games Miller is 12-15 with a pair of OT losses. His goals against is 3.07 not exactly steller compared to Enroths Goals against of 2.59. Buffalo's big free agent signing Ville Leino has only 3 goals and is a minus 9. Their other big signing Christian Ehrhoff is a sad minus 10. Not exactly what the Sabes were looking for when shelling out the big dollars. No chance this team should be underachieving as badly as they are but the facts are what they are and Buffalo is tied for the worst point total in the East. New ownership is pledging to remain patient. We shall see. GRADE-F
Next up the scale the always underachieving NY Islanders. Oh this was going to be the year they finally returned to the playoffs. Hmm don't think so. Charles Wang the majority owner of this team is on a losing streak.1st he lost at the ballot box hoping to get a tax hike for a new arena but the Island folks said no and now his team despite being loaded with young talent is out of the playiff picture again. This club has tons of young talent but lacks a big time Golie. Rick DiPietro has been a total bust despite a 16 year contract they foolishly gave him. For their huge investment DiPietro has played only 8 games and is back on the shelf with a concussion. The Isles haven't made the post season since 2006/2007 season. That's an eternity in the NHL. GRADE-D
1 rung up the ladded is the New Jersey Devils. Ok full disclosure I delight when the Devs aren't good. I used to have this feeling for the Islanders but it has shifted. The Devils won those Cups with a system that was unwatchable. They have opened it up more with a new coach Peter DeBoer. Martin Brodeur is 39 now and showing some age. He no longer plays every night and missed a decent stretch with injury. His backup Johan Hedberg has done a nice job. The Devs are an interesting team with a nice blend of youth and veterans. they wasted a lot of cash on Ilya Kovalchuk who is 3rd on the team in scoring but you expect more then 17 goals for over 100 million dollars. The Devils saving grace is their penalty kill which is 2nd in the NHL. If the season ended today NJ would be playoff bound which they missed last year. this is a mediocre club and get a mediocre grade C+
That brings us to the area's best club by far my beloved NY Rangers. it's about time!!!!!! They have been putting together a nice young team the past few years after years of splurging and wasting money on older free agents. This team is loaded with young excellence and have withstood injuries to 2 of their backline stalwarts in Michael Sauer and the wonderful Marc Staal. Their isn't anything this club can't do and are led by the best Golie in the NHL King Henry Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers are 2nd in stingy meaning goals against and finally coach John Torterella has let them open it up a bit. What thrills me more is their 11-3 record vs the combination of NJ, The Isles, Pittsburgh, Washington and the Flyers. Of particular delight is a 3-0 record vs the Hated Flyers including that great win in the Winter Classic and the Blueshirts beat the defending champion Bruins in their 1 match this year so far. It is my opinion this team needs a little more size and toughness to reach the Cup finals. GRADE A
The 2nd half and the chase for the Cup starts again on Tuesday. Game On!