Tag Archives: Mike Richards

DTFR Podcast #135- Welcome to Seattle

This week’s episode is chock full of coffee infused, Seattle inspired, artisanal Seattle expansion discussion in addition to William Nylander’s new deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, waivers and trades are rampant this time of year, Tom Wilson: The Bad and the Bad Things That Happened This Week, Chuck Fletcher was hired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and a 15-year first round draft pick look back of the Los Angeles Kings.

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Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 3

Player of the Week: Jakub Voracek

Stealthy good. Not only an apt description of the big Flyers winger’s week (and season), but really of his entire career. Voracek has been one of the best ‘under-the-radar’ players in the league for some time, and this week he was really flying (pun somewhat intended). On a team that finished the week 1-2-0, Voracek was a major bright spot, tallying 2 points in every game. The Kladno, CZE native notched an assist on both Flyers goals in a 6-2 thumping against Anaheim, then tallied 1 & 1 in each of their next two contests (a 5-4 loss to Ottawa and 4-2 victory over Toronto). Oddly, not a single one of his 6 points in those 3 games came on the power play, an area where Voracek usually excels.

Side note: Though Voracek is currently 3rd in points in the entire league (trailing only Tampa’s dynamic duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov), those goals in back to back games were just his 1st and 2nd tallies of the year. He’s 2nd in the league in assists with 14.

Team of the Week: Los Angeles Kings

One of the league’s resident surprises, LA has surged to the top of the standings with a 9-1-1 record, and though they suffered their first regulation loss this week, it wasn’t enough to prevent them earning this recognition.

With 8 players having recorded at least 5 points so far in the young season, and a goaltending duo both boasting sub-2.00 GAAs and >.930 save percentages, the resurgent Kings are getting contributions from seemingly everyone. Dustin Brown has burst back to life after multiple subpar seasons, seemingly flourishing in the system of new coach John Stevens. Anze Kopitar continues to make an argument for being possibly the most undervalued center in the league, and youngster Adrian Kempe has been sublime.

Only a 3-2 loss to Toronto managed to blemish an otherwise-flawless week, as the Kings toppled Ottawa 3-2, Montreal 4-0, and Boston 2-1. A long summer and a fresh face behind the bench may have been just what the doctor ordered for the battle-weary club, and other clubs may need to start worrying about how to deal with a Cup-hungry LA franchise once again.

Game of the Week: Dallas Stars 4 @ Edmonton Oilers 5, Thursday October 26th

I admittedly have an affinity to games decided in extra frames when it comes to this award, but the Stars and Oilers simply put on a barn-burner too good to ignore.

One of those matchups that just looks like it’s going to be fun on paper (two high-octane offenses backed up by less-than-stellar defenses), this tilt certainly delivered. 9 goals (3 on the power play), 67 shots, 56 hits, and even a fight (okay, more of a facial reconstruction on Antoine Roussel by Eric Gryba), this one had plenty of everything.

The opening period started with a bit of a goaltending duel, with Ben Bishop and Cam Talbot both making a handful of quality stops in the opening half of the frame. But as a penalty to Ryan Strome was expiring just past the 11 minute mark, Leon Draisaitl collected a loose puck and fought through a check along the boards to push the puck ahead to the newly-freed Strome, who flicked a no-look backhand from the boards into the middle of the ice, feeding a streaking Connor McDavid in full stride, who proceeded to shelf the puck over the blocker side of Bishop to give the hometown Oilers the 1-0 lead. A see-saw contest would develop from there, as just over 1 minute later opposing captain Jamie Benn would bury a sweet feed from Alex Radulov to knot things up. Patrick Maroon would see a centering attempt turn into a goal after bouncing off the skate of Dallas defender Marc Methot and into the net with just 25 seconds to play in the opening frame, sending the Oil to the locker room with a 2-1 lead.

Radulov and Benn would both tally power-play goals in the 2nd, with a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal splitting the two and sending the game into the 3rd period tied at 3. To break the streak of trading goals, Esa Lindell would bury Dallas’ 3rd PP tally after receiving a sweet cross-ice slap-pass from Jason Spezza just over halfway through the 3rd, giving the Stars their first lead of the night. Unfortunately for the Dallas faithful it would last just shy of 2 minutes, as RNH would net his second of the night to draw even at 4. Then with less than 3 to play, defenseman Matt Benning would give Draisaitl his 3rd assist of the night by burying a one-timer from the point (with a bit of help from the skate of Alexander Radulov) and giving the Oilers the final lead of the game.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Seriously, Golden Knights, about this Twitter campaign to be the next winning goaltender for your franchise? Oscar Dansk is 3-0-0 after being handed the starting job when both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban went down with injuries, and boasts a ridiculous 1.34 GAA and .959 save percentage, along with a shutout.

I’m starting to actually believe anyone wearing goalie equipment could win the Vezina with this team.

 

Speaking of roster vacancies in Vegas, Vadim Shipachyov earned himself a suspension by going all ‘Russian’ on the franchise after being sent down to the AHL. He has supposedly gone AWOL from the Chicago Wolves, and his future with the Golden Knights (and potentially the NHL altogether) is looking pretty well decided.

Alex Ovechkin made headlines off the ice, as the Capitals superstar went out of his way to buy a sweater, coat, and hat for a shirtless homeless man he spotted while walking in Edmonton. Ovie downplayed his actions and attempted to avoid questions about it in interviews, stating that “It was nothing,” following up with “I think if you saw a guy almost naked out there with a cold temperature, I think every human can do something, a coat, a shirt, or whatever.” Autograph hounds throughout the league were seen disrobing and untidying their hair soon after word of Ovie’s actions reached the airwaves*.

*- I assume

Kevin Bieksa successfully utilized a ‘Superman Punch’ in a fight for the 2nd time in his career, with both instances occurring against the Philadelphia Flyers. Radko Gudas was on the receiving end of this most recent entry, while years ago it was Mike Richards. This does beg the question of why you would choose to fight Kevin Bieksa.

The Habs and Rangers had a contest to see who was the least worst, and in fitting fashion, it was an ugly thing. 9 total goals on Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, the former getting the…better?…of the latter, with both teams looking sloppy and discombobulated. I suppose either team can take solace in knowing they are better than Arizona, but I don’t know exactly how much solace can actually be taken from that knowledge.

Can Arizona go an entire season without a victory? I think we should all get behind them in their efforts to set the least enviable record in hockey history. 10 down, 72 to go.

February 11 – Day 115 – Youth explosion on the QEW

You know what one of the best things about the weekend is? All the hockey. No day is that more apparent than Saturdays, when almost the entire league is in action.

That remains true today, as we have 13 games taking place, starting with a trio (the New York Islanders at Ottawa [RDS], Vancouver at Boston [SN] and San Jose at Philadelphia [NHLN]) of 1 p.m. matinees, followed an hour later by two more (Carolina at Dallas and Florida at Nashville) and Detroit at Columbus at 5 p.m.  The usual 7 p.m. starting time marks the puck drop of four contests (Tampa Bay at Winnipeg [SN], Buffalo at Toronto [CBC], St. Louis at Montréal [CITY/NHLN/TVAS] and Colorado at the New York Rangers), with Anaheim at Washington getting underway half an hour later. Pittsburgh at Arizona gets green-lit at 8 p.m., followed by Chicago at Edmonton (CBC/SN) – this evening’s nightcap – at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Vancouver at Boston: Welcome bask to Boston Loui Eriksson!
  • Buffalo at Toronto: The third installment of the Battle of the QEW rages on tonight!

And that list doesn’t even include the five fantastic games between teams currently in the playoff hunt.

As good as Eriksson might have been in Boston, it’s been awhile since we’ve featured Buffalo in the DtFR Game of the Day series, so we’re off to Toronto!
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When two teams are separated by only 100 miles, there’s a strong chance of a rivalry. Mix in a handful of the shining young forwards in the league, and it’s almost a certainty.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always yield success. Just ask the visiting 22-22-10 Sabres who currently sit in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and 15th in the Eastern Conference. Even with Jack Eichel at it’s disposal, Buffalo has still managed only 132 goals this season, the seventh-fewest in the league.

Eichel has certainly been fantastic in his sophomore season, improving on his .69 points-per-game in his rookie campaign by a tenth of a point. Unfortunately, his high ankle sprain suffered at practice a day before the Sabres began this season effectively spoiled the rhythm from a solid 13-goal, 4-2-1 preseason. He missed two months with the injury, which is why most of the offensive numbers belong to newcomer Kyle Okposo. The right wing has 35 points so far this season, including 16 goals – both team-highs.

For those that want to breakdown the Sabres‘ offense further to find the biggest problems, I have two words of advice:

  1. Consult @kephartc.
  2. Don’t look at the power play.

Even if the overall offense has struggled, the power play has been, as the kids say, straight fire. Buffalo converts 23.3% of opponents’ penalties into goals, the second-best rate in the league. Both Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen can share equal responsibility for that dominating performance, as they both have 18 power play points, but it’s been Matt Moulson (usually a fourth-liner, but on the second power play line) with the most goals on the man-advantage, with nine on his season résumé.

Unfortunately, prosperity on one special team does not translate to the other. Stopping only 73.8% of opposing power plays, the Sabres‘ penalty kill ties for dead last in the NHL. Even though Josh Gorges ties for 25th in the league with 23 shorthanded shot blocks, both his goaltenders, Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson, are not very good against the power play. They both have only a .867 save percentage in that situation, tying for 27th in the league.

Playing host this evening are the 25-17-11 Maple Leafs, the third-best team in the Atlantic Division thanks in large part to their intimidating offense. Toronto has buried 163 goals so far this season, tied for the sixth-most in the league.

It seems like every time the Leafs are featured, someone else has the points and goals lead. And it’s always a rookie.

Tonight’s star rookie is Mitch Marner, who has an impressive 46 points to his credit, two more than second-place Auston Matthews – another rookie. That being said, there’s one thing Matthews has that Marner doesn’t: a knack for scoring. The center has buried 25 goals this season, the most among NHL rookies and tied for eighth-most in the league overall.

Just like Buffalo, the Leafs play a beyond-impressive power play. Led by William Nylander‘s (yup, another rookie) 16 power play points, Toronto has converted 23.1% of opposing penalties into goals, the third-best rate in the league. Even though he’s not a first-year player, scoring most of those tallies has been Nazem Kadri, as he has a solid 10 to his credit.

The Sabres‘ power play will be put to the test this evening, as the Leafs are one of the best teams in the two minutes following a penalty. Led by Roman Polak‘s 28 shorthanded blocks, Toronto stops 83.7% of opposing power plays – the eighth-best rate in the league.

Twice these rivals have met this season, and twice have the Maple Leafs emerged victorious. The last time they met was January 17 in Toronto, where they played to a 4-3 result in front of 19,122 fans.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Buffalo‘s Lehner (.923 save percentage [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Frederik Andersen (three shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the league) and Matthews (25 goals [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]).

It’s never a good sign for the visitors when Vegas puts a negative number next to the host’s name. That’s the situation this evening, as the Maple Leafs are marked with a -158. Given the Sabres‘ abysmal penalty kill, I don’t see this one going any other way. The Leafs should win.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Eddie Shack (1937-) – This left wing played 17 seasons in the NHL, most of which in Toronto which is only 400 kilometers from his hometown of Sudbury. He was a member of four Stanley Cup-winning Leafs teams, including their most recent in 1967.
  • Jaroslav Spacek (1974-) – Florida selected this defenseman in the fifth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, but he played most of his games in a Sabres sweater. A 13-year NHL veteran, his best season was in 2005-’06 when he notched a combined 43 points and a +11 between Chicago and Edmonton.
  • Maxime Talbot (1984-) – Selected in the eighth-round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh, this center spent 11 seasons in the league. His crowning achievement was being a member of the Penguins‘ 2009 Stanley Cup-winning team.
  • Mike Richards (1985-) – This center was drafted 24th-overall by Philadelphia in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, but he won both of his Stanley Cups as a member of the Kings.

Thanks to a three-goal third period, the Blackhawks were able to knock off the Jets 5-2 in Winnipeg in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Who else to score the lone goal of the first period than First Star of the Game Patrick Kane (Third Star Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov)? He buried his snap shot with 4:23 remaining in the opening frame to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

Only 1:43 after returning to the ice from intermission, Bryan Little (Toby Enstrom and Patrik Laine) pulled the Jets back even with a wrister, but Anisimov (Panarin and Kane) made sure that Chicago entered the second intermission with a lead, scoring a wrister of his own with 7:44 remaining in the frame.

Duncan Keith (Nick Schmaltz) takes credit for the game-winning tally with 2:59 remaining in regulation, but the real stick to break the camel’s back was Marian Hossa‘s (Niklas Hjalmarsson) shorthanded empty netter 68 seconds later. Adam Lowry (Joel Armia and Jacob Trouba) took advantage of the man-advantage with 71 seconds remaining in regulation to pull Winnipeg back within two goals, but Panarin (Keith) set the final 5-3 score with a wrister on an empty net.

Corey Crawford earns the victory after saving 28-of-30 shots faced (93.3%), leaving the loss to Second Star Connor Hellebuyck, who saved 31-of-34 (91.2%).

The last two road teams to win a game in the DtFR Game of the Day? Chicago and Chicago. Last night’s win pulls the visitors in the series within eight points of the 61-38-18 hosts.

Flyers fan Fanelli is our crazed Philly [ph]an

By: Nick Lanciani

This season on Down the Frozen River we’re going to write some more feature stories, starting with ourselves, of course. Here’s one about DTFR member, Frank Fanelli.

A tall, young, bearded man ambles up to the door of a four-story brick building with a Philadelphia Flyers jacket on that makes him look like he should be behind the bench as the equipment manager, at least— if not athletic trainer— and approaches with a grin. We exchange pleasantries then head up to the Down the Frozen River studio to begin this interview.

Born in Arlington, Texas, Frank Fanelli has moved a total of seven times in 18 years. He’s lived in Texas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and now currently resides in North Carolina, though he doesn’t remember much up until about New Jersey. Fanelli and his family have bounced around the country as his father’s job has called them to new and exciting lands within the United States.

The middle child, technically by 20 minutes, says he was reminded a lot when he was younger of the fact that his older twin sister was born first. Fanelli grew up in a household with two siblings, his older twin sister and a younger sister. He says they’ve always been pretty tight and have never argued much, but that they have always had a bit of healthy competition between the three of them.

While Fanelli and his family were living in Pennsylvania, he fell in love with hockey. Fanelli quickly became a Philadelphia Flyers fan when Mike Richards was with the team and playing in his prime, however, Fanelli’s love for the Flyers was not easily reciprocated by the people he was surrounded by. You see, he was a Flyers fan, living in Pittsburgh Penguins territory. Unlike the City of Brotherly Love, there’s no love in Pittsburgh. At least if you’re a Flyers fan.

Yet for Fanelli’s sake, he could take comfort in knowing that only his closest friends knew he was a Flyers fan and that “no one really [other than them] knew or would give me trash [otherwise] unless I wore a Flyers jersey.” Fanelli proudly wore Philadelphia apparel to Penguins-Flyers matchups at Mellon Arena growing up.

“People would lay into you and I wanted to say something back, but unfortunately I couldn’t. It bothered me, but I got used to it over the eight years of living there,” Fanelli recalled. He explained how the atmosphere of a Penguins vs. Flyers game is unlike any other he has experienced in that there’s usually a brawl, intense momentum swings, lead changes and lots of blown leads between the two teams. But that’s all part of the highs and lows of the sport.

One of the more memorable highs of the sport in Fanelli’s lifetime was when the Flyers went on to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. He explained the emotional rollercoaster of a ride that the then 13-year old version of himself was part of during the Flyers comeback in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins that led to the unthinkable, though ultimately disappointing 2010 Stanley Cup Final run.

Despite the fact that the Flyers lost, Fanelli took residence in the holistic approach to hockey— the experience of the sport in one of its best forms, on one of its largest stages. Fanelli was at Game 1.

“I remember a lot— I probably won’t remember a lot when I’m 80 though,” Fanelli remarked. “My dad worked for Dick’s [Sporting Goods] at the time and got tickets from the NHL. We were sitting behind one of the nets.” Fanelli remembers the remarkable atmosphere of an Original Six arena, long dehydrated from a Stanley Cup run. “[Chicago’s] goal horn and ‘Chelsea Dagger’ got embedded in my mind. Usually when your team scores five goals, you expect them to win, but that wasn’t the case for the Flyers that night.”

Philadelphia dropped Game 1, 6-5. While leaving the United Center, Fanelli experienced some trash talk from the notoriously passionate Blackhawks fans, but he took it in stride as part of the road game experience.

Aside from attending Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Fanelli’s other most enjoyable experience as a fan happened when he went to the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. Although, once again, Fanelli watched his team lose, the overall atmosphere of an outdoor NHL game as the home team made it that much better at the end of the day.

“The United Center [in 2010] had the best overall atmosphere, but the 2012 Winter Classic is definitely a close second,” Fanelli remarked as he then explained how he became a Flyers fan. “It’s because I played hockey at the time— I still do— but becoming a professional hockey player was something I wanted to be when I was five years old.”

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Fanelli celebrates his favorite goal that he ever scored from his days of youth hockey. (Photo via Frank Fanelli)

When Fanelli was young and just started to get into the sport, his eyes latched onto one Flyers forward in his prime— Mike Richards. There was just something about the way that Richards played that drew Fanelli to the TV for every game broadcast, combined with the style of play Philadelphia has long been accustomed to.

Brash, hard hitting, tough; the Broad Street Bullies have been shoving their weight around the NHL since 1967, but have been number one in the hearts of their city and fans forever, as the team has matched the work ethic of the citizens of Philadelphia— never give up. Fanelli admits to not being as “successful” as some players are growing up playing youth hockey, scoring many goals and mimicking their heroes, but his style of play has always had a role on any team. He doesn’t give up on a play and knows when to come in clutch— like the work ethic of many Flyers over the years.

For a while, Richards was Fanelli’s favorite player (and not just because 18 was Richards’ jersey number and Fanelli’s favorite number— though it was his favorite number before associating it with Richards ever since. “It just came naturally,” he exclaimed). He was devastated when Philadelphia traded their captain, Mike Richards, and Flyers prospect, Rob Bordson, to the Los Angeles Kings in June 2011.

Although the Flyers got Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and the Kings’ 2012 2nd round pick in the deal, Fanelli was less than thrilled. In fact, Fanelli has had a few qualms to say about former Philadelphia GM, now President of the Flyers, Paul Holmgren’s time with the organization. Fanelli hated the Richards trade and wasn’t a fan when Holmgren traded Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Matt Walker and a 2011 4th round pick in July 2010.

But by now, Fanelli’s used to the revolving door side of the business of hockey— and that’s helped grow his interest in the sport. Players come and players go— sometimes a lot quicker than you want, other times agonizingly too slow to watch as a fan. Prior to being a fan of Richards, Fanelli’s favorite Flyer was Daniel Briere. Since Mike Richards, it’s been Claude Giroux.

His all time favorite Flyer “would have to be either Eric Lindros or Bobby Clarke.” From the mindset of a player, Fanelli understands the business side of the sport and the urge to win, but as a Sport Management major at Queens University of Charlotte, Fanelli’s passion for the front office has grown.

“I want to work for a sports team— preferably a hockey team [in any league]. I want to work for the business operations side or hockey operations side— GM, Vice President, President, Owner, Coach; you name it. Mainly I want to work as a marketing or analytics guy,” Fanelli added, while also mentioning that he wouldn’t mind working in a scouting department too. “It may change, but that’s what I have my mind set on.”

Change is part of the sport, but one thing remains the same, his love for Philadelphia. To help celebrate 50 years of the single largest moment of expansion in NHL history (when the league doubled in size from six teams to 12 with the addition of the California Golden Seals, Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues), this season’s Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game is being held between the Penguins and the Flyers at Heinz Field.

And like any Philly fan, Fanelli wants to be there, in enemy territory, to cheer on the Flyers. February 25, 2017 won’t just be his third outdoor game; it might become his favorite moment in Flyers history, if his team is able to pull off the win.

“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere. Just seeing the atmosphere and an outside game… …it’s the greatest thing in the world.” But it could be said that anywhere there’s a rink is the greatest thing in the world. There’s not a day that goes by that Fanelli isn’t wearing something associated with the Flyers (or any Philly sports team for that matter).

While graduation is just a couple of years away, one can only assume that Fanelli is not that far away from nesting his home somewhere in the realm of one of his favorite teams, whether it’s the Flyers, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Union or the Philadelphia 76ers, the time is almost now for him to begin the ascension to the throne of a front office position in Philadelphia sports.

Bolts Win Big in Game 2

Is it time for Detroit to hit the panic button?  A poor performance in the final fifteen minutes of game two leaves them down 2-0 in the first round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Lightning on the other hand are set on cruise control as they look to take game three in Hockeytown. Even though the score board reveals a dominant performance from Tampa Bay, both teams seemed to be executing their game plan accordingly during the first two periods of play.

First Period

The first half of the opening period was rather unexciting. Each team had a handful of chances, but neither could find the back of the net. That is until Nikita Kucherov scored his third goal of the playoffs. He one-timed a feed from Victor Hedman and put the Bolts up 1-0 on the power play.

Second Period

The action picked up a little bit here in the second, as each team was able to kindle some offense. Just 3:30 into the period, Dylan Larkin made a play and scored his first career post-season goal. Larkin picked up a puck that banked off the back boards and beat Ben Bishop five-hole.

Just a few minutes later, Brian Boyle regained the lead for his club. The Lightning broke out on a 3-on-2 play and Jonathan Drouin was able to feed Boyle in the high slot. A nice wrist shot beat Jimmy Howard as the tie was broken. Detroit was upset with the sequence, as they believed Boyle had committed a penalty earlier in the shift.

Third Period

The Redwings battled hard and received a good call in their favor, as Nikita Nesterov was sent to the box for a high stick. Bishop was fighting through a good screen as Brad Richards took a shot that found the net.  Assists on the play went to Mike Green and Tomas Tatar and the game was tied 2-2.

That goal was the last bit of hope for the Wings, as Tampa Bay went on to score three straight goals and win a pivotal game two with a score of 5-2. Tyler Johnson put two tallies on the board, scoring the game-winner just shortly after the goal from Mike Richards. Alex Killorn put the final nail in the coffin with an empty-net goal late in the period. Johnson assisted on the play to earn his fourth point in what was a monster performance from the forward.

The referees had themselves a mess to sort out at 19:06 of the final frame. A whopping thirteen penalties were handed out to all ten skaters on the ice. Both teams skated with grit and aggression.

Ben Bishop was by far the better of the two goalies, as he stopped 30 of 32 shots, while only allowing one even strength goal. Jimmy Howard only turned in a 26 saver performance on 30 total shots.

Game three will be played on April 17th at 7:00pm in Detroit.

March 9 – Day 146 – They left Kings…

For the second night in the row, Boston earned a win in the Sunshine State, and once again it required overtime.

If you like defense and goaltending, this was the game for you.  Although there was a combined total of 75 shots on goal, 98.7%, all but the last one, did not find the back of the net.

Marked at the 60:10 mark, Third Star of the Game Brad Marchand scored his 34th goal of the season to earn the Bruins the bonus point.  His wrister was assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug.

First Star Jonas Gustavsson saved earned the shutout victory after saving all 42 shots he faced, while Second Star Ben Bishop has to take the overtime loss, saving 30 of 31 (96.8%).

Thanks to the Bruins, the road squads are currently riding a five game winning streak in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which now stands at 64-37-15, favoring the home squad by 28 points over the roadies.

This Wednesday is a lighter schedule, although still busier than Monday’s.  To start the night, the New York Islanders visit Toronto at 7 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Chicago at St. Louis.  Nashville at Calgary drops the puck at 9:30 p.m. eastern, trailed half an hour later by two more games (Arizona at Vancouver and Anaheim at Colorado).  Finally, Washington at Los Angeles, this evening’s nightcap, gets underway at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Chicago at St. Louis and Arizona at Vancouver are this evening’s only divisional rivalries being played, and another set of two games are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Chicago at St. Louis and Washington at Los Angeles).

This is usually the point of the post where you’ve already figured out which contest I’ve chosen.  Alas, the ChicagoSt. Louis game, while very important to the standings and a heck of a lot of fun to watch, is not this evening’s choice, but instead it is the return of Mike Richards and Justin Williams to the City of Angels.

Washington Capitals LogoUnknown-3This will be Washington‘s 15th appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 10-4-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was Friday, a 3-2 loss on home ice to the Rangers.  Los Angeles was featured the next day in their 3-2 loss to the Ducks, also on home ice.  That was their fifth appearance in the series, setting their record in such games at 2-3-0.

Before jumping into game analysis, we must first set the stage.  Tonight’s game is the first return by both Richards and Williams to the Staples Center since joining the Capitals this January and last July, respectively.  For Kings fans, these returns are of strikingly different varieties – almost similar to a hero and heel of WWE, but few will be in favor of tonight’s villain.

Our hero this evening is Williams, a seven year veteran of the Kings.  The right winger joined the squad during the 2008-’09 season after being traded from the Carolina Hurricanes, where he had won a Stanley Cup in 2005-’06.  Although the Kings didn’t make the playoffs that season, they did the next five.  Williams was an important part of the 2010-’11 and 2011-’12 seasons, where he twice tied for second most points on the squad.  Of course, it is the ’11-’12 season that is most memorable, as his 15 playoff points (tied for fourth most on the team) helped lead the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Championship.  Williams’ success, especially in assists, continued in the following seasons, as he always ranked at least top-three in points leading up to the 2013-’14 Stanley Cup Championship.  After declining last season, the Kings elected not to renew his contract, leading him to sign with the Capitals over the summer.

Not everything about Washington‘s visit will be pleasant for Kings fans, as they also show up with Richards on the squad, our heel for the evening.  Richards joined Los Angeles before the 2011-’12 season, and was also on both the teams to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.  With the exception of the 2014-’15 season, which witnessed him being sent down to the AHL, Richards consistently ranked top-four in points during the regular season.  He was a much bigger contributor to Los Angeles‘ first Cup than the second, as he continued being a top-four point scorer, which he followed up a year later by leading the squad in playoff assists.

Richards’ downfall during the 2014-’15  season was completed in June when the Kings terminated his remaining contract due to drug charges at American-Canadian border.  After a long ordeal between the Kings and the NHLPA, Richards was finally eligible to be signed as a free agent in October.  Washington signed him to a one-year, $1 million contract in January.

Richards’ and Williams’ new team, the 49-13-4 Washington Capitals, look more and more like the team to have signed with this offseason.  Not only do they lead the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference and the entire NHL, but they’re doing it by an incredible 14 points.  As you’d expect of a team with this kind of success, the Caps play well on both ends of the ice, ranking second best in both scoring and goal prevention.

The offense starts just where you’d expect it to: Alex Ovechkin.  His 329 shots more than double Williams’ attempts, and he has the second most on the squad.  Overall, the Caps have fired the puck 2025 times, with a spectacular 10.4% finding the back of the net for 214 goals (led by Ovi’s 41 tallies), the second most in the league.  Washington‘s special teams are not too far behind, successful on 23.33% of attempts for 49 power play goals (led by Ovechkin’s 16 extra man tallies), the third best conversion rate in the league.

Defensively, the Caps are just as good.  Led by Karl Alzner’s 169 blocks, only 1904 shots have reached 41-8-3 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.4% for only 151 goals against, the second fewest in the league.  The penalty kill has also been stellar this season, responsible for neutralizing 84.76% of their infractions for only 32 power play goals against.

Washington is currently riding a two game win streak, with their most recent occurring Monday, a 2-1 shootout victory in Anaheim.  With 102 points already to their credit, the Capitals are already planning out which hotels they’ll be staying in when they play in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.  That being said, they’d like to maintain a 15 point minimum lead for the Presidents’ Trophy to ensure home ice throughout the tournament.

The 39-22-4 Los Angeles Kings currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference.  They are led by their defense, which ranks best in the league, but their offense is 14th worst.  A more in-depth analysis of LA‘s game can be found within Saturday’s article.

The Kings‘ most recent game was 5-1 win over the Canucks.  Tonight’s game is an important one for the Kings, as a win paired with any type of loss for the Ducks propels Los Angeles back to the top of the Pacific Division.

Per usual, teams from opposite conferences meet only twice a year (excluding, of course, the Stanley Cup Finals).  Los Angeles has already made their visit to the Verizon Center this year on February 16, falling 3-1.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (+26 [tied for fourth best in the league]), Tyler Toffoli (+27 [third best in the league]) and Jonathan Quick (33 wins [tied for third most in the league] and 2.17 GAA [tied for fourth best in the league]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (44 assists [tied for fifth most in the league]), Holtby (41 wins [leads the league], 2.21 GAA [tied for seventh best in the league] and .923 save percentage [tied for seventh best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+31 [leads the league], 47 assists [fourth most in the league] and 67 points [fifth most in the league]), Ovechkin (41 goals [leads the league] and +21 [tied for ninth best in the league]) and Williams (+21 [tied for ninth best in the league]).

Los Angeles may own the best defense in the league, but Washington‘s offense will be too much to handle.  The Capital that will have the best time this evening will be Williams, who should be well received by the home crowd, but the same may not be able to be said about Richards, who, in fact, may enjoy beating the Kings all the more because of it.

Viable Trade Options- Part Four- Pacific Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Pacific Division Standings

  1. ANA 83 pts. (38-17-7) 62 GP
  2. VAN 73 pts. (35-23-3) 61 GP
  3. LA 70 pts. (29-19-12) 60 GP
  4. CGY 70 pts. (33-24-4) 61 GP
  5. SJ 68 pts. (30-24-8) 62 GP
  6. ARI 47 pts. (20-35-7) 62 GP
  7. EDM 46 pts. (18-34-10) 62 GP

UnknownAnaheim Ducks (1st in the Pacific Division, 62 GP 38-17-7 record, 83 points)

What could the- 2nd place in the Western Conference- Anaheim Ducks possibly want or do at the trade deadline on March 2nd? The tremendous acquisition of Ryan Kesler in the offseason has flourished in impact with the Ducks. It’s a fresh breath of life in Kesler’s career as he is on pace to better his performance of the last few seasons.

Only Matt Beleskey, Sami Vatanen, and Frederik Andersen are on the injured reserve currently. Beleskey would have been the Ducks most viable asset to move should they have made an offer or seen an offer than would enhance their roster.

There seems to be no sense in worrying about the injured Vatanen as the rest of the defense is solid and Andersen’s injury, while it sets the Ducks back a bit in goal, is certainly not a challenge for John Gibson and Jason Labarbera to handle.

So the only thing that the Ducks really had to do to make their team better was Thursday’s placement of Ilya Bryzgalov on unconditional waivers for the mutual termination of his contract. As long as the Ducks stay healthy and focused, they’ve got great chances of seeing a second or third round (or maybe longer) playoff run.

Unknown-1Vancouver Canucks (2nd in the Pacific Division, 61 GP 35-23-3 record, 73 points)

The Vancouver Canucks have been a pleasant surprise in the Western Conference standings this season. With that said, their place near the top of the Pacific Division podium has come with a bit of a price.

With Ryan Miller out four to six weeks the Canucks are likely to face a bit of shakiness in goal with Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom defending the twine. But Miller isn’t the only injured player on Vancouver’s roster currently.

Brad Richardson, Kevin Bieksa, Frank Corrado, Alexander Edler, and Christopher Tanev are all on the injured reserve with Ryan Miller. The Canucks have faced crushing blow after crushing blow to their defensive aspect of their lineup and would likely seek to acquire a depth defenseman out of fear of more injuries heading into the long run.

Otherwise, in terms of forwards Vancouver could look to move Chris Higgins, Zack Kassian, and Shawn Matthias. Kassian and Matthias are obvious skaters to send elsewhere as Kassian has struggled to live up to anything since being brought in for Cody Hodgson (but then again, Hodgson is practically a fourth liner in Buffalo, so maybe the Canucks won that trade).

Kassian brings some size to any lineup and would be suitable for a fresh start in an organization looking to turn things around, such as the Ottawa Senators or the Toronto Maple Leafs. If Vancouver dealt with Ottawa they could try to get Patrick Wiercioch or Jared Cowen in return, but in either case a package offer would have to make the deal worthwhile for Ottawa, given Kassian’s track record. By no means am I saying that Wiercioch or Cowen are tremendously better, but they are worth more than Kassian alone.

Likewise, if the Canucks struck a deal with Toronto a suitable package offer including Tyler Bozak could favor Vancouver’s chances of getting a deal done. Then again, at this point Toronto might make just about any deal, so why not? The Canucks could use a guy like Higgins as the right kind of a player to sweeten a package deal without damaging their roster too much.

Meanwhile, Vancouver is continuously on the search to find a home for goalies it seems these days. Eddie Lack could be moved at the deadline, although where I am not sure. A Lack for Anders Lindback deal with Buffalo would help solidify the Sabres backup goaltending and wouldn’t be that much of a hassle for the Canucks to send Lindback to Utica if they insist on going with Ryan Miller (once he’s back from injury) and Jacob Markstrom as it appears they do.

In any case, Vancouver must carefully construct without subtracting too much of a good thing. Unlike the past couple of seasons, the Canucks actually have a ray of hope on paper, heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

UnknownLos Angeles Kings (3rd in the Pacific Division, 60 GP 29-19-12 record, 70 points)

Let’s face it, the Los Angeles Kings will find a way like they have since 2012. They’ll find a way to get into the playoffs, they’ll find a way to come out as big winners at the deadline, and they’ll find a way to break the hearts of San Jose Sharks fans- again.

One of the more interesting storylines for the Kings that has settled down a bit heading into the deadline is that of Mike Richards. He’s currently in Manchester (AHL) and wasn’t claimed when he was on waivers, so it’ll be intriguing to see if he ends up traded or not.

But what might be even more perplexing is that one of the variables for the Kings is the future of Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll. Stoll is a pending free agent and unless Los Angeles tumbles down a mountain over the weekend before Monday, then he’s probably not going anywhere. Unless the Kings get an offer they can’t refuse- a younger player, with less of a cap hit, for a longer period of time under contract, potential, and points to prove currently.

Hypothetically, it’d be impossible for the Kings to trade defending Conn Smythe trophy winner, Justin Williams, but it could happen. If a team like the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, or the Winnipeg Jets were offering Los Angeles an offer they can’t refuse, consider him as good as gone (albeit still producing Game 7 miracles wherever he goes). If not, then Williams’s job is safe and secure in LA.

The bottom line is, go back and reread the first paragraph of this little tidbit about the Kings until it sets in and ignore the rest.

Calgary Flames LogoCalgary Flames (4th in the Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference Wild Card, 61 GP 33-24-4 record, 70 points)

The Calgary Flames have been a pleasure to watch this season and it seems like their patient process is has turned into progress and results. Johnny Gaudreau has emerged as one for the rest of the league to keep an eye on while the rest of the team is built on youthful forwards and strength on defense.

Jonas Hiller has provided some much needed stability in net for the Flames and as it turns out Karri Ramo isn’t too bad of a backup either (at least based on his larceny of a save the other day against the New York Rangers).

But for Calgary one thing is certain approaching the deadline, it’s time for life without Curtis Glencross as the organization looks to maintain a grip on the 2nd wild card in the Western Conference. Moving Glencross with the right trading partner could be beneficial to the Flames and help them regain control of third in the Pacific Division, giving them just enough of a leg up on the Los Angeles Kings.

The Flames have been one of the only teams to corral the Kings this season. Whether that translates into the playoffs is yet to be seen, as both teams have got to make the playoffs first. Trading Glencross with a valuable team such as the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, or the Winnipeg Jets would bring in a tremendous return for Calgary.

And perhaps there isn’t a plan for Sven Baertschi in Calgary’s rebuild anymore, so maybe the Flames could dangle him over the competition as a chance to take on a young player who could use a fresh start in different scenery. A combination of Glencross and Baertschi in a package deal with Buffalo for Chris Stewart and some other asset could be all the Flames need in the long run for a decent playoff run to build off of in the coming seasons.

Regardless, I’m glad to see at least one team in Alberta is heading in the right direction.

Unknown-3San Jose Sharks (5th in the Pacific Division, 62 GP 30-24-8 record, 68 points)

The San Jose Sharks have been turning things around from some low parts of the season, however, things have to improve in order to actually get better. Los Angeles is starting to heat up as they always tend to do at this point in the year and that annoys Sharks fans deeply. It’s not that the Sharks haven’t been able to maintain in years past during the regular season, but it is that the floor falls out from underneath them when it comes time for the playoffs.

Given the ultimate disappointment of last year (Los Angeles came back from being down three games to none in the series to eliminate San Jose in seven games- sorry to remind you Sharks fans) it’s no surprise to see that this year’s roster has a bit of a different look to it.

San Jose has done a respectable job of building from within and quietly adding versatile pieces to their roster, but it’s time for more than just a minor deal at the deadline to supplement the Sharks in the long run.

The Sharks are a young team and I get that, but some of their young “talent” isn’t working out and could be moved. Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins have largely been underperforming for the Sharks when they need it the most. A fresh opportunity for Kennedy and Desjardins would likely benefit both San Jose and the club they trade with.

I won’t discredit the value of Kennedy or Desjardins as both players would be vital depth forwards for playoff bound or playoff seeking candidates, such as the New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, or the Vancouver Canucks. James Sheppard could become an expendable asset for San Jose is they are offered something worthwhile, if they decide to move either just Kennedy or Desjardins.

On defense, San Jose could move Scott Hannan given the substantial interest in older defenseman for teams looking to make a push for the playoffs or a deep playoff run, yet that would leave the Sharks with their next oldest defenseman, Brent Burns, becoming their oldest- at only 29 years old. Then again, the Sharks could try to move Hannan for a depth defenseman older than thirty but younger than thirty-six.

The bottom line is that maybe San Jose doesn’t have to move Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton after all (or at least, not yet).

Arizona_Coyotes.svgArizona Coyotes (6th in the Pacific Division, 62 GP 20-35-7 record, 47 points)

The Arizona Coyotes have nothing-attractive going for them. Plain and simple they’re playing ugly hockey given where they are in the standings. They haven’t hit Edmonton Oilers hockey- oh wait, they’re only a point ahead of them.

The Coyotes will undoubtedly be sellers at Monday’s trade deadline with the rest of the league chomping at their bits over Antoine Vermette, Zybnek Michalek, and Keith Yandle. Arizona has the right parts and pieces to control the asking price and drive up competition among teams aiming at landing the solid third liner, Vermette, and or shut down defenseman Yandle or Michalek.

If Vermette and Chris Stewart are the hottest commodities available on the trade market this year, then that doesn’t reflect too well by any means. However, Vermette could at least be promising as rental player for any playoff looming organization.

Vermette has drawn interest from the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, and Colorado Avalanche. The least likely of those teams to land Vermette in the short run between now and the end of this year is Colorado. However, if the pending unrestricted free agent decides to test the waters of free agency, then by all means, throw the Avalanche back into consideration on July 1st.

Boston, New York, and Detroit have assets to offer in return, with perhaps all three teams also taking an interest in a package deal that includes either Michalek or Yandle. However, Montreal could steal the deal of the day for the second year in a row at the deadline if they landed Vermette in a move similar to their acquisition of Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders last year.

If the Coyotes are at all to be like the Toronto Maple Leafs, then they would not be open to sending any player to a Western Conference team, perhaps ruling out Anaheim’s hopes.

As for Michalek and Yandle, had Los Angeles not acquired Andrej Sekera on Wednesday the Kings would have been more inclined to be on the hunt for a Coyotes defenseman. With that, many teams in the Eastern Conference, especially, are looking to bring in talented blueliners. Boston, Montreal, New York, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington, Florida, Ottawa, and the New York Islanders could all be looking for fresh defenders.

But in reality, aside from moving Vermette, Michalek, and Yandle, Arizona should look to dump a player like David Moss, Martin Erat, or Lauri Korpikoski for a younger forward that could bring a little rejuvenation to the roster.

And perhaps the Coyotes could be on the charge for a backup goaltender, with the likes of Eddie Lack potentially being shopped around by the Vancouver Canucks. In any case, Arizona has a long road ahead both on the ice and off the ice still.

200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgEdmonton Oilers (7th in the Pacific Division, 62 GP 18-34-10 record, 46 points)

It is clear that nothing is working in Edmonton. It is also clear that something needs to be done. Jeff Petry, Derek Roy, and Viktor Fasth are all options to trade at the deadline for the Oilers.

Petry could be moved to a team like Detroit, Tampa Bay, Montreal, or Pittsburgh with the target of a prospect and a draft pick in return for the Oilers. Roy could fit in with a team like the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, or (would it be crazy to think) the Chicago Blackhawks. And Fasth could be a quick short term fix for the New York Rangers behind Cam Talbot while Henrik Lundqvist is out with an injury.

But as for the rest of Edmonton’s roster…

Boyd Gordon, Jordan Eberle, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Hamilton, Matt Hendricks, Benoit Pouliot, and Nail Yakupov are all forwards that could be relocated. Edmonton needs to rid themselves of the God awful Matt Hendricks.

One would think that Edmonton would recognize a bad player if the saw one, but they have Hendricks in their lineup. Gordon and Pouliot were failed attempts at bringing in the wrong kind of experience and veteran leadership in the locker room (just because Pouliot had a great playoff run last year with the New York Rangers doesn’t actually mean he’s good). And Eberle, Gazdic, and Yakupov are all young players that if Edmonton had to, they could move in a package for some tried and tested hockey ability.

Overall, the Edmonton Oilers are a mess that is beyond me. Frankly, I’m not sure what they need to do, other than burn everything to the ground and start over. The front office has messed up as many times as their players do on a nightly basis, and coaching is just left in the middle of it.

Good luck Edmonton.

Viable Trade Options- Part One- Atlantic Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Atlantic Division Standings

  1. TB 71 pts. (33-16-5)
  2. MTL 69 pts. (33-15-3)
  3. DET 69 pts. (30-12-9)
  4. BOS 63 pts. (28-17-7)
  5. FLA 56 pts. (23-17-10)
  6. TOR 50 pts. (23-27-4)
  7. OTT 49 pts. (20-22-9)
  8. BUF 35 pts. (16-34-3)

Unknown-1 Tampa Bay Lighting (1st in the Atlantic Division, 54 GP 33-16-5 record, 71   points) Not buying or selling.

Have you heard about the Tampa Bay Lighting recently? No? That’s okay, neither   have I- with the exception of some of the highlights from Steven Stamkos on any  given night. The Lightning are cruising along a successful season currently as the first place team in the Eastern Conference. Tampa’s putting up points consistently this season in one of the most inconsistent divisions (if not conference) in the league, yet they haven’t taken the talk of the town by storm.

Despite their young goaltending in Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevsky, the Lightning seem ready for a playoff run. I question their goaltending based on their youth alone. Bishop is a solid starter that can at least be good on any given night with shut down defense in front of him and blazing offense producing goals (two things Tampa Bay has nailed this year). Some might consider Vasilevsky too young to be a backup.

After being swept by the Montreal Canadiens in last year’s playoffs, this Lightning roster gained valuable playoff experience that can only help them approaching this time of the season. However, the Lightning are currently short a regular lineup defenseman, or two, due to injury.

Their best option this year at the trade deadline is to go out and acquire a veteran defenseman with rental player status. Their best asset in doing so would be to trade Brett Connolly for a defenseman. If we’re talking matching age for age, the other plausible option would be to trade Brenden Morrow for an older defenseman. Otherwise, a straight up defenseman for defenseman swap could hamper the integrity of the Lightning’s current roster.

Unknown Montreal Canadiens (2nd in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 33-15-3 record, 69 points) Buying on sale.

The Montreal Canadiens are having themselves a decent run so far, currently  seated in the last divisional spot in the Atlantic Division for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They haven’t had any major bumps in the road in the injury department or in the any player severely lacking in performing their job.

With that said, the Canadiens look to improve upon their Eastern Conference Finals run in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yet the Habs don’t exactly have any players they’re looking to trade and they certainly don’t have that much that they are in dire need of acquiring. Their forwards are young for the most part, and their goalies are young as well- aside from being untouchable given that Carey Price is their starter and how Dustin Tokarski has lived up to his role as the Habs backup.

So what could Montreal do to better their team? For starters, there is always the age old saying “defense wins championships”. For a twenty-four-time Stanley Cup winning franchise that hasn’t seen hockey’s holy grail since 1993, one would think that the Canadiens would be pressing for some type of complete roster. Only three of Montreal’s defensemen are under the age of 32.

Mike Weaver and Andrei Markov are both 36 years old, Tom Gilbert is 32, and Sergei Gonchar is 40 years old. Only P.K. Subban (25), Alexei Emelin (28), and Nathan Beaulieu (22) are under the age of 32. The Habs could certainly use Weaver as trade bait for a younger rental defenseman that could help ease time on ice duties, relieving Markov and Gonchar on the blueline.

The Canadiens are also interested in the hunt that everyone seems to be in right now- the quest for landing Antoine Vermette. While the versatile center- that can also play wing- would fit in with the roster, the asking price might be a bit much for the Habs to cough up. Could it be possible that Montreal moves Manny Malhotra and another forward and/or a draft pick for Vermette, certainly, but Vermette seems a bit out of reach for the Canadiens, given their status and outlook heading into the playoff run.

Another highly touted player currently being shopped around is Jaromir Jagr, though it seems next to impossible to envision Jagr in bleu, blanc, and rouge. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Canadiens pulled off a surprising steal at the deadline, given how they acquired current Minnesota Wild forward, Thomas Vanek, last year from the New York Islanders. The New Jersey Devils would probably do better rebuilding with someone like Manny Malhotra, who is a bit younger than Jagr and has a few more years left in him (although the ageless wonder that is Jaromir Jagr does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon).

One thing is for sure; Michael Ryder probably isn’t going back for a third stint in Montreal.

Unknown-1 Detroit Red Wings (3rd in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 30-12-9 record, 69 points) Buying on sale.

There’s not that much to worry about this season for the Detroit Red Wings. Their scorers are scoring, their checkers are checking, and their goaltenders are goaltending- which has pretty much been the Red Wings system for eternity it seems. Like the Lightning, the Red Wings are quietly producing.

None of this should come as a surprise really, with guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Kronwall, and Jimmy Howard on the team. Thus none of it should come as a surprise to say that the Detroit Red Wings don’t really need anything.

The lack of a right handed shot on defense hasn’t shot the Red Wings in the foot this year, unlike preseason speculations feared. Could the Red Wings try to land a right-handed defenseman in a deadline deal? Yeah sure, but then again, anyone could if they wanted.

Despite their early playoff exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins last year, the Red Wings don’t need that much to stockpile for a playoff run this year. They’ve got plenty of playoff experience in the depth of their lineup and they’re on top of things (for the most part) right now. I’m not suggesting that Detroit should take the rest of the season lightly (and the playoffs, for that matter). I am merely stating that from a management perspective, they’ve got the team they want to go with for a successful outlook in terms of a playoff run.

Unknown Boston Bruins (4th in the Atlantic Division, currently 2nd Eastern Conference Wild Card, 52 GP 28-17-7 record, 63 points) Buying and selling.

Despite the recent turnaround, there is no doubt that the Boston Bruins so far this year have been a disappointment compared to recent years. After a dismal December, the Bruins found themselves on the brink of a drastic identity change. Now after the month of January, the Bruins, while still not perfect, are trending in the right direction, especially considering that they are in playoff contention.

Patrice Bergeron has been Boston’s most consistent player, as usual, and Tuukka Rask has kept them in games. During the opening months it appeared as though the Bruins were shooting themselves in the foot. They aren’t as much of a Jekyll and Hyde team currently, although some aspects are still lacking. It would be in Boston’s best interest to patch some holes in their roster- they still need a winger and could probably use a defenseman. Especially after some of the small holes in their game pestered them and ultimately plagued them in last year’s playoffs leading to their demise to their archrivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

Everyone wants Antoine Vermette. He could be the solid addition the Bruins are looking for in the short term, but they’d need a little more of a guarantee in the long term. However, could a rental player be enough to suffice for this season with Ryan Spooner and Seth Griffith about a year away from making the roster on a nightly basis? And what would it take to get Vermette?

Certainly if the Bruins wanted to work on a deal for Vermette and Keith Yandle, they’re going to have to offer the Arizona Coyotes something worthwhile. This is where Chris Kelly may be expendable for Vermette and Yandle if the Bruins throw in someone like Matt Bartkowski and a draft pick. As always, though, there’s the salary cap to consider.

In terms of other potential forwards the Bruins could chase after, there’s the whole Chris Stewart or Zack Kassian dilemma. Any deal for Kassian would make the Bruins worse (that’s all you need to know about my position on Kassian). Even if Boston offered the Vancouver Canucks Matt Bartkowski and something else that might sweeten the deal. The Buffalo Sabres have all the advantages in the world given their situation and trying to move the potentially useful Stewart.

They could be demanding and not budge from a high asking price, meaning that the Bruins would have to part with a piece from their core, which isn’t an ideal situation for Boston (yes, even if it were a one for one Milan Lucic for Chris Stewart trade. Take a look people, Lucic is a better player). Besides, Buffalo wouldn’t want someone they hate anyway, right?

But along the lines of Buffalo, I can only wonder how much a guy like Cody Hodgson runs for. Hodgson doesn’t solve the first or second line (depending on the night) right wing that the Bruins need, but he does carry some value as a third or fourth liner- which also an area the Bruins could use some retouching.

While it’s a stretch, Cody Franson would look like a good replacement for the months departed Johnny Boychuk, however Franson would be a next to impossible piece to land, especially if the Toronto Maple Leafs insist they only move him to a Western Conference team. But if the Bruins are looking for an extra, young, defenseman (and believe me, they are) Edmonton Oilers defenseman, Jeff Petry, might solve that problem.

Then again, general manager, Peter Chiarelli, might see adding another veteran blueliner as an easier option for the short term. Someone like Andrej Sekera or Marek Zidlicky. Sekera wouldn’t take much to pry from the Carolina Hurricanes and Zidlicky would probably require even less from the New Jersey Devils, who will no doubt be forced to sell like there’s no tomorrow, considering the dividends the race to the bottom will pay out in this year’s Entry Draft (Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel).

Given Chiarelli’s track record, the Bruins could very well go out and try to strike a deal with the Ottawa Senators for Marc Methot. Methot is a versatile defenseman that could bring an edge to Boston’s blueline without tampering with it too much.

Whatever the Bruins end up doing, they’re well aware they need to do it now (or by/on March 2nd).

Unknown-2 Florida Panthers (5th in the Atlantic Division, 50 GP 23-17-10 record, 56 points) Selling used parts.

The Florida Panthers are average. Now there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d write this year (or ever). Last year’s deadline deal brought stability in net in the form of Roberto Luongo. Their youth is starting to come around and general manager, Dale Tallon, has made moves that have begun to payoff on defense.

Yet there is still a major overtone hampering the Panthers from getting any better. A friend once told me that a player only goes to Florida when they know their career is pretty much over. While the Panthers have done a decent job riding themselves of many 35+ club players, Florida has some moveable parts in that demographic.

In order for their youth movement on the blue line to improve, Brian Campbell has got to be swapped for a mid-aged defenseman that brings in the right amount of youth and experience- Cody Franson, perhaps? Again, the problem lies with mid-aged defenseman being a hot commodity and the Panthers being a less than ideal trading partner.

In terms of forwards, Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, and Derek MacKenzie are all available options for working out a decent trade. If the Panthers could pull off a move by trading any one of these players for a younger player or two, they could continue to build their roster from within (youth) and bring in young players from outside of the organization (experience, be it elsewhere or in the playoffs). No matter what, Florida has to keep chasing after the right combination of a youthful, energetic, and experienced roster if they want to crack the code to the playoffs.

If anything, for once they don’t have to worry about goaltending heading into the deadline, draft, free agency, off-season, and well pretty much for the next couple of seasons.

Unknown-3 Toronto Maple Leafs (6th in the Atlantic Division, 54 GP 23-27-4 record, 50 points) Sell, sell, sell.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to commit once and for all to something. That something is the process of a rebuild. I’m not saying they dump their entire roster around the league, but moving players like Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, Daniel Winnik, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, and James Reimer just might be part of the answer in the long run. Especially if it means that the Maple Leafs would have a chance at landing the next Connor McDavid, presuming that they don’t obtain the 1st overall pick in this year’s draft, but rather the 2016 draft.

Life without Phil Kessel in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform seems to be getting all the more real as every minute passes. As the rumors swirl around Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson, Phil Kessel’s name is bound to be tossed around in serious consideration as well.

I’m not saying that we’d be looking at a monster deal involving Kessel, Phaneuf, and Franson heading to the same team, but then again, I’d find it hard to imagine that it wouldn’t make sense if the right conditions were in place. If Toronto feels like dishing the trio to the same place and out of harm in the process of their rebuild, then the Edmonton Oilers must look like a golden opportunity for a seemingly farfetched deal.

The likes of Kessel, Phaneuf, and Franson being swapped for Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, and Jeff Petry might be exactly what Toronto is looking for, but just out of reach. Likewise, a trio deal to Dallas wouldn’t be able to attract the right return either. Or would it? Perhaps a trade with the Stars wouldn’t give the Maple Leafs immediate replacements for Kessel, Phaneuf, or Franson, but rather a defenseman, a forward, and a 2015 first or second round draft pick.

The options for the Maple Leafs run dry in trying to get Mike Richards from the Los Angeles Kings, considering how Richards is slumping and bringing in the another David Clarkson wouldn’t be optimal for Toronto at this time. While Phaneuf, or Franson alone, might be enough of an asset for the Kings to consider, they’d surely pass on any package that offered either defenseman and Phil Kessel.

What’s likely to happen for Toronto is three separate deals where they can disperse the talents of the players among Western Conference teams (after all, Toronto desires a deal with any Western Conference team).

Nazem Kadri and Daniel Winnik, on the other hand, would be the typical deadline trades to be made for any team looking to improve for a playoff run. Winnik isn’t as valuable in the long run as Kadri might be, but he might be the perfect fit for a playoff contender’s third line.

And one last thing, good luck trading James Reimer, Toronto. Unless they’re thinking a one for one swap with Vancouver for Eddie Lack seems like a good idea, although the Canucks seem intent on making Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom their go to netminders.

Unknown-2 Ottawa Senators (7th in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 20-22-9 record, 49 points) Selling used, buying new.

As much as the Ottawa Senators could be sellers at this trade deadline, it is my belief that they won’t be selling out and cashing out on this season entirely. There isn’t that much hope for making the playoffs this season for the Sens who last made the playoffs in 2013. However, the pieces are in place for success with their roster, all they need is a little time.

That’s where taking advantage of the most they can get out of this season comes into play. Ottawa probably isn’t going to attract the best deal at the deadline this year, but they’ll more than likely be active in the offseason trying to figure out who’s worth signing and who isn’t.

It is plausible to see the Senators move Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Chris Phillips, or Marc Methot by March 2nd. Condra is one of those players that could be attractive to a team looking to make a run at the playoffs and needs to add some depth in forwards. The same goes for Greening. Both Condra and Greening have spent their time well in Canada’s capital, yet moving them could make room for a prospect or the right young player brought in a deal.

Marc Methot is an attractive option for any team that needs a defenseman. At 29 years old, he fits the mid-aged defenseman status with the right combination of experience in the league and hint of youth left. Chris Phillips, on the other hand, is 36 years old and would likely become a sixth or seventh defenseman on a team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs. But then again, that might just be what he wants and exactly what the team looking to get him needs.

The Dallas Stars are exactly the kind of team that could prosper from either Methot or Phillips (or both). Given their interest in Cody Franson and Dion Phaneuf, however, the possibilities of working a deal with Ottawa might be hampered. Then again, the Sens and Stars are trading buddies, having completed the Jason Spezza deal this offseason. Maybe it’s time both GM’s get on the phone with one another again.

Regardless, things aren’t as dire in Ottawa as other Canadian markets (Edmonton and Toronto, namely). An effective run to the end of the season that builds on learning and gaining experience should put the Senators on track for a possible playoff run next season or a 4th or 5th place finish in the Atlantic Division next year.

Unknown-3 Buffalo Sabres (8th in the Atlantic Division, 53 GP 15-34-3 record, 33 points) Selling unwanted parts.

The Buffalo Sabres are without a doubt likely to land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Pairing either player with any of their players in the fountain of youth is sure to make them a legitimate contender within one to three years as not only a productive team, but a destination for veterans looking to bring the right amount of experience to a youthful team longing for success.

The Sabres have been in serious talks recently with the Anaheim Ducks concerning a move that would involve Tyler Myers. Trading Myers while knowing the future outlook is a risky move. Myers is still one of Buffalo’s youngest defenseman and is one of their largest (1st in height, tied for 2nd in weight- 6’8”, 219 lbs).

If the Sabres are to move a defenseman, trading Andre Benoit, Mike Weber, or Tyson Stratchan would be better options. Benoit is by far, their worst defenseman. Weber could be a key asset for a playoff looming team and the right price for the Sabres to get something valuable in return. Stratchan, likewise, could bring back something of use for the Sabres- a draft pick if anything.

Chris Stewart is nowhere near the player that he “used to be” if that term can even loosely be used. However, he is drawing significantly enough interest for the Sabres to bargain effectively in both terms of trying to bring something in return and providing security for the future (a second round draft pick, for example).

While the Boston Bruins seem like a prime suitor for Stewart in that they have a plethora of forwards that they could swap and a second round draft pick from October’s Johnny Boychuk trade with the New York Islanders, the Buffalo Sabres could use that knowledge as enough of a factor to drive up Stewart’s selling price.

Among forwards that the Sabres could move, Matt Ellis, Torrey Mitchell, Cody Hodgson, and Drew Stafford seem like reasonable assets to offer to other teams. Ellis and Mitchell are getting in the way of potential roster developments. Likewise, Hodgson is slumping too much to hold onto for the future.

If the Sabres and Stafford think it would be a good idea to reunite former teammates Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville with Drew Stafford in Minnesota, then by all means, there is enough to pick and choose from the Wild organization.

Had Cody McCormmick not been on the injured reserve, then by all means, the Sabres might have been able to do something with him. Although, perhaps the fourth liner could stick around another year or two solidifying four lines in Buffalo.

The only other debate is between Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth in goal, with Matt Hackett and the long list of developing goaltenders in mind for the Sabres. Neuvirth could be worth dealing for the right goalie. Then again, he could be exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning need for added security in net heading into this year’s playoffs.

The Sabres best bet at improving in goaltending is through free agency and the entry draft, despite the time required to develop the next best starter that they could go with. Finding a solid backup goalie in free agency shouldn’t be a hard thing to do for a team that has a bright future just on the verge of the horizon, despite what many say about the currently at the bottom of the standings organization. At the very least, Buffalo is not Edmonton, where surely the light of day isn’t showing for the next million years.

Buffalo has a tough road ahead, but fortunately it can be navigated properly with the development of either McDavid or Eichel in this year’s draft, coupled with young stars like Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Gregorenko, and Nikita Zadorov.