Archive for 2011

Ovie on the move

Stars deal winger in big swap
After spending his entire career as a Dallas Star, Alexander Ovechkin awoke to the news he was shuffling off to Buffalo.
"Didn't see that coming," said the bulking Russian who had been the face of the franchise for several seasons. "We all knew changes were coming but I thought I'd be part of the future. I guess not."
The changes Ovechkin referred to are the ones the team expected to come after Owen Lin took over as the new General Manager of the Dallas Stars last week. Lin took over from long-time GM Darren Mathieu's, who recently left the Stars to go to Winnipeg in a similar role for the newly minted Winnipeg Jets.
Ovechkin, defenseman Mike Lundin and a 7th round pick in 2010 are moving to Buffalo, with a hefty ransom returning to the Stars. Phil Kessel and defenseman Ryan Whitney are the main pieces returning to the Stars, along with prospect Justin Schultz and two 1st round picks in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The Stars also received Chicago's 3rd in 2011 as part of the deal.

Looking to make a big splash as the new Sabres GM, Sahil Soni did just that, bringing in arguably the biggest name in the sport in Ovechkin. It is expected Ovechkin, as well as several other moves completed by Soni, will help bring the Sabres back to the playoffs after missing out by a single point last season.
Lin, meanwhile, was quoted recently as saying "I like to build through the draft and with youth," and this deal will afford him the luxury to do both. In addition to other recent trades, the Stars have added four first round picks to their arsenal.
"It's good for the league, but it's a shock for sure," said Trent Allen, WCHL Commissioner, on the deal. "You don't see guys like Ovie moving very often, but it does happen. I didn't think Crosby would be dealt, and he was, to a divisional rival of all places. Moves like these spur interest in trades and in the league."

It's not going to be all babes and booze for Ovechkin in Buffalo.

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Can't Stop an Avalanche

Avalanche win epic seven-game series
Ray Bourque hoists the Stanley Cup around after winning it with the Colorado Avalanche on June 9, 2001.   (REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)
It was one for the ages.
One year after witnessing the upstart Detroit Red Wings nearly go the distance only to lose in a hard-fought seven game series to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the same thing happen last week in the WCHL as well. This time the Colorado Avalanche finally ended the improbable run of the New York Islanders with a seven game victory that was arguably the closest finals in league history.
"After watching the Avalanche roar out to a 2-0 series lead, then the Islanders come back and win three straight only to watch the Avalanche tie the series in game six in overtime -after tying the game with just four seconds left in regulation - I knew I would have no problem handing the WCHL Cup to whoever won it. Both were just so deserving," said WCHL Commissioner Trent Allen.
Indeed. Both teams battled hard to get to the finals, most notably the Islanders. One year after missing the playoffs with one of the most underachieving teams in league history, the slanders rolled back into the playoffs with a 107 point season. They then rallied from a 3-2 deficit to the Boston Bruins in round one to win 4-3 before once again rallying from a 2-0 deficit in round two against the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers. In the third round they then proceeded to sweep the defending WCHL Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Even in the finals, the Islanders rallied from being down 2-0 to go up 3-2 and held a one goal lead with four seconds left in game six before allowing the tying goal.
"To come that close and not get it, that's going to be tough," said long-time Islander Jarome Iginla. "But we have to build off this and try and return next year."
"Thank f%^king goodness," said Colorado Avalanche GM Ryan McClanahan, nearly floating from having a weight as heavy as a 10-ton brick come off his shoulders. "We've had these expectations for years and we kept coming up short year after year. When the Islamders came back after we won the first two, I was worried it was happening again. The guys really rallied, and that's a testament to their abilities and strengths."
When asked how he would be celebrating, McClanahan stated he had some stuff in mind, but wouldn't ellaborate. According to a receipt observed falling from McClanahan's pocket during the on-ice cup celebrations, the long-time GM purchased a pallet of whip cream, four canoe paddles, a car battery and nipple tassles. No word on if they are related to any post-Cup celebrations.
It could be a repeat performance. The Avalanche have every one of their players returning for next year and several elite prospects on the rise, meaning they could be even better.
"That's our goal," said McClanahan. "We want to be better every year and we know if we want to repeat, we will have to be."
Only one team in league history, The San Jose Sharks, have repeated as Cup champions. This year, the Pittsburgh Penguins became the only team other than the Sharks to win a cup one year and advance to the third round the following year. Pittsburgh didn't go home comepletely empty-handed though, as their farm team, the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, won the ACHL championship in seven games over the Abbotsford Heat.


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Atlanta out; Winnipeg in and Canucks get a facelift

The Winnipeg Jets are back in the WCHL.
After a season of anticipation, the WCHL has finally done what many expected all, along. The Atlanta Thrashers are now no more, and are on the move to Canada.
But the Thrashers are not moving to Winnipeg as many initially thought. Rather, the Thrashers are moving to Vancouver.
But wait, doesn't Vancouver already have the Canucks? How is this going to work.
"It's a bit complicated, but it's a deal we felt was for the best interest of the league," explained WCHL Commissioner Trent Allen. "The Thrashers boast the names of a few weel known former Vancouver Canucks players, such as Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Mason Raymond, Alexander Edler and Bryan Allen. We felt moving this team to Vancouver would be a way to make the market more appealing to new ownership."
So what is the new Vancouver franchise going to be called?
"The Canucks," said Allen.
"The current Vancouver Canucks are moving to Winnipeg. I'm pleased to announce the WCHL is returning to a market it never should have left, and Winnipeg is rejoining the WCHL as the Winnipeg Jets," said Allen.

Only downside to Atlanta moving is the lack of hot ice girls, but it's a fact Canucks women show more of the goodstuff anyways.
So, in summary, the Vancouver Canucks are now the Winnipeg Jets, and the Atlanta Thrashers are now the Vancouver Canucks.
It can make your head hurt.
"We felt there was plenty of excitement, even from within the league, to see a team in Winnipeg, so having a viable ownership for Winnipeg wouldn't be a problem, even as bad as the team has been playing," Allen explained.
The announcement comes on the heels of the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres ownership changing hands. Allen stated he felt resolution on ownership for Vancouver, Winnipeg, Florida, Boston and Columbus would be finalized soon as well.
"We have some good candidates we are weighing out. There are no guarantees however."
The transfer of the Thrashers to Vancouver and the Canucks to Winnipeg is expected to be resolved in the coming days.

Jets fans go crazy in the streets at the news the WCHL is coming to Winnipeg.
"This is serious news for all of us," said long-time Jets fan Hue Ghwang. "It's been hard to handle being away from prime time hockey like this for so long."
The Jets have several tasks at hand, but announced they had signed on to a deal with Abbey Clancy to be the main ice girl for the upcoming season.

Abbey Clancy will be on the ice for the Jets in Season 14.
"That's easy to handle," confessed Hue Ghwang. "This day just keeps getting better and better."
Gary Bettman, for WCHL Commissioner who was responsible for having the Jets relocated to Phoenix 15 years ago, tried to call an impromptu press conference to defend his initial action all those years ago, but his feed was replaced in Winnipeg by a 30 minute revolving slideshow of
irina shayk so nice really 6 Irina Shayk   So Nice Really
As Bettman (left) blabbered on, Irina Shayk graced the screens of TV's across Winnipeg and much of Canada Tuesday. More pictures of Irina Shayk from the TV broadcast are found below.
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Final four holds no surprises

In past years, the final four teams in the WCHL usually fields at least one Cinderella team. Last year it was the Detroit Red Wings, who powered through three of the best squads the WCHL had to offer before finally being closed out in seven games in the WCHL Cup finals by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This year, that's not the case. In the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche have ripped through the competition, losing a combined three games thus far, with both teams sweeping their second round opponents.
In the Eastern Conference meanwhile, the closest there is to an upset is the New York Islanders, who shocked the top seeded New York Rangers in the second round. Even then, the Islanders finished the season with 107 points and boast a whose who of elite names, so their presence in the conference finals is anything but a Cinderella story.
What will be interesting is to see whether two teams who have made a sport of failing to meet expectations can get the better of two teams who have succeeded in reaching them. The Sharks and Penguins both have cup rings to their name, with the Sharks having won four titles and the Penguins currently the defending WCHL Cup champions. As for the Avalanche and Islanders, despite having elite level talent for a number of seasons, both have failed miserably in the playoffs, with only one prior appearance in the conference finals each to their credit.
Will the proven prevail, or will the Avalanche and Islanders finally reach their long overdue goal of a finals appearance?
Western Conference
(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Colorado Avalanche
The Sharks were the toast of the WCHL all-season long, and look like they are heating up again, having swept through a tough Anaheim Ducks squad in the second round. A pair of 15 game winning streaks are to the credit of the Sharks this season already, proving they can be hard to stop when they get hot. And right now they are hot.

For the Avalanche though, no one has been hotter these playoffs. Losing only once so far, the Avalanche have won seven in a row and blew through the Red Wings in the second round, one season after the Wings upset them in the second round. Looking like a team possessed, the Avalanche will likely face their toughest challenge here in this round against San Jose.
The Avalanche will need to reverse their regular season fortunes against the Sharks, where they lost all three games by a combined score of 10-4. One of those game did go to a shoot out however, an option that won't be available to San Jose this time around.
Prediction: San Jose in six games.
Eastern Conference
(3) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) New York Islanders
The Penguins are aiming to become only the second team in WCHL history to repeat as WCHL Cup champions, and they took a huge step towards that goal by beating the Atlanta Thrashers in round two. Only the Sharks have ever won a WCHL Cup one year and advanced to the third round the next year before Pittsburgh did just that this year, so the odds of a repeat grew dramatically.
Joel Rechlicz Joel Rechlicz #40 of the New York Islanders fights with Mike Rupp #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum on April 11, 2010 in Uniondale, New York.
For the Islanders though, playing nail-biting hockey is nothing new to them this post-season, so taking on the defending champs won't likely be very intimidating. One year after missing the playoffs entirely, the Islanders have knocked off the Boston Bruins in seven games in round one after trailing the series 3-2. They did one better in round two, defeating the top seeded Rangers in six games after trailing that series 2-0.
If the Islanders can avoid failing behind the Penguins here, they could push past the champs, as Pittsburgh has looked somewhat erratic these playoffs.
Prediction: New York Islanders in seven.

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Ducks the lone Cinderella

The big dogs in the WCHL playoffs certainly were barking loud in round one. Only two teams, which didn't have home-ice advantage, advanced to round two, both in the Western Conference.
The Detroit Red Wings did the trick, but as the fifth seed and last years Western Conference Champions, knocking off the surprising Edmonton Oilers, who were back in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and just six points ahead of the red Wings in the regular season, it was hardly a shocker.
What was was the Anaheim Ducks. Coming in as the seventh seed, the Ducks finished 30 points behind the Calgary Flames in the regular season, the same Flames who were one of only four teams to win 50 games in regulation in the regular season. No problem for the Ducks, who sent the Flames flying home in five games, including two overtime victories. That matched the number of victories in extra time the Ducks had all season.
But now the Ducks are faced with trying to be the Cinderella story for the rest of the post-season, not an easy fact to face when every other team in the playoffs but the Atlanta Thrashers had at least 100 points in the regular season.
Here's a look at my predictions for round two in the WCHL:
Western Conference
(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Anaheim Ducks
The Sharks were once again the model of consistency in the regular season, racking up 134 points to easily claim the President's Cup. They weren't the model of consistency in the playoffs, however, as the Dallas Stars pushed them to a hard-fought six game victory, including two overtime games which were split between the two teams. San Jose also got no help from starting netminder Cam Ward, who posted a.852 save percentage.

The Ducks meanwhile took hold of their series early against the Flames and, after a game two loss, rattled off three straight victories to earn a dance in round two. This is the second straight year the Ducks have struggled mightily for the first 50 games of the season, only to turn it on down the stretch and into the playoffs. In their last 27 games, including the playoffs, the Ducks are 19-6-2.
The Ducks were stopped last year by the Dallas Stars in round two, so expect Anaheim to be ready to ward off any post-season meltdown this time around, while San Jose is trying to get back to playoff glory after several strong regular seasons have faded away with early exits from the post-season.
The key to this series will likely be Cam Ward. A .852 save percentage won't fly against Crosby and Co.
Prediction: Anaheim in six.
(2) Colorado Avalanche vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
Colorado is the poster child of playoff disappointments in the Western Conference. Year after year of great regular seasons have faded away under playoff scrutiny, and this year could be the same unless the Avs knock off the Red Wings and move on to round three.
Cody Mccormick Cody McCormick #11 of the Colorado Avalanche fights Darren McCarty #25 of the Detroit Red Wings during game two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 26, 2008 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
No easy task to achieve though. The Red Wings looked like easy cannon fodder last year, only to defeat the Flames, Avalanche and Dallas Stars before finally being dropped in seven games by the Pittsburgh penguins in the cup finals. The Red Wings are off to a good start this year as well, having bounced the Oilers in six games.
If the Avalanche can get a realistic return from their stars, they will win this series, but hasn't that been the case for the past several seasons?
Prediction: Colorado in seven.
Eastern Conference
(1) New York Rangers vs. (4) New York Islanders
Two teams who not only share a geographical area but also a level of talent few others have achieved finally square off in one of the longest overdue match-ups in the playoffs.
The Rangers once again dominated the regular season and the first round, but now they need to see that carry over to the second round after being bounced last season by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers will do just that if Henrik Lundqvist and his lights out .950 save percentage continue.
The Islanders meanwhile are working hard to erase the joke of a season they had last year when they failed to even make the playoffs for the first time in WCHL history. Sneaking past the Bruins in seven games after trailing 3-2 in the series is a good step, but the Rangers are on a whole other level. Jerome Iginla's six goals in seven games will need to continue to see the rebound season move along to round three.
Prediction: New York rangers in six games.
(2) Atlanta Thrashers vs. (3) Pittsburgh Penguins
With rumours swirling around of their eventual relocation, the Thrashers looked dead in the water against the Flyers in the opening round, suffering two straight home defeats to open the series. Wondering if they would ever play in Atlanta again, the Thrashers showed they have plenty of moxie in the tank, winning four straight games after that, three in Philadelphia, to make it to round two and a date with the Penguins.
Johan Hedberg Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins is backed into by Johan Hedberg #1 of the Atlanta Thrashers at the Mellon Arena March 17, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Thrashers 6-2.
Pittsburgh may not have home ice advantage this round, but the Thrashers can only thank a very weak division for that. Pittsburgh actually posted 25 more regular season points than the Thrashers and is the defending WCHL Cup champs. Knocking off the Flyers is nothing compared to taking down the Penguins, who are trying to become just the second team in WCHL history to win back-to-back WCHL Cup titles. Of note, not only has no team other than the Sharks won back-to-back titles, no other has won more than one WCHL title period, so that is something working in Atlanta's favor.  
Prediction: Pittsburgh in six games.

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The playoffs are ready to roll

The playoffs are now here, and for sixteen teams, it's a chance to show they are the elite force in the WCHL. The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to do what only one other team has ever done; repeat as cup champions, but it won't be easy. The sixteen team field features seven teams which at one point have won the WCHL Cup, including the past four winners and the mighty San Jose Sharks, who have won four WCHL Cups in their history.
But to get to hoist the cup, the first step is getting out of the first round alive. Many teams have been upset in the opening round of the playoffs, while many a cinderella team showed their true colors right about now.
Who will win and live on, and who will fade out early? Read on to see my predictions for the first round of the 13th WCHL playoffs.
Western Conference
(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (8) Dallas Stars
The Sharks have long been the class of the WCHL, and their four cup rings shows that. They look to be back there again, as the club topped the WCHL standings again this year with a 132 point season. The Sharks have been streaky. however, twice posting winning streaks of 15 games or more. Take away those winning streaks and the clubs record is 33-14-2; still impressive but not unbeatable. The Sharks just ended a 17 game winning streak, so it's possible they are on the downswing now, perfect timing for the Stars.

The Stars will be motivated to go out in style as well. Entering their first playoff in a while without Roberto Luongo between the pipes, the Stars will also be witnessing the swan song of long-time Star Mike Modano, who announced he will be retiring after the season is over. Alexander Ovechkin meanwhile will also be out to prove something after a regular season that saw him post just 69 points.
It will be a much closer series than the Sharks want, but they will be hard to stop right now. The Stars won't fade out into the night, but midnight will strike pretty quickly for this cinderella candidate.
Regular season: Series tied 1-1, San Jose outscored Dallas 7-3.
Prediction: San Jose in six games
(2) Calgary Flames vs. (7) Anaheim Ducks
If there is an upset potential in the West Conference, this series is it. The Ducks this season what they did last year; struggle for the first 50-plus games of the regular season, only to turn it on down the stretch and enter the playoffs hot. The Ducks were 15-6-1 down the stretch and have far to much talent to be a run of the mill depth playoff squad. Like last season, when the Ducks came into the playoffs hot and bestest the Sharks in the first round, the Ducks will be looking to do the same to a Flames squad which has been very solid all year long.

In Calgary though, expectations are much higher. After winning it all in Season 11, the Flames bottomed out in Season 12, coming in as the fifth seed and being bounced far to easily by the Detroit Red Wings in five games in the first round. This team, loaded with arguably the most depth of any team in the league and 101 point scorer Steven Stamkos, is looking for a much better post-season than last year.
Despite the Flames depth, the Ducks have the defense and goaltending to get it done this year. If Broduer can steal a game, the Ducks likely will have enough to push the Flames over the brink.
Regular season: Series Calgary won both games, outscoring Anaheim 12-6.
Prediction: Anaheim in seven games.
(3) Colorado Avalanche vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
If the Colorado Avalanche players enjoy playing together, they want to win a cup this year.
The Avalanche are likely the hardest-luck team in the Western Conference, having not made the finals in WCHL history despite having some of the best teams in the regular season most years. This season is no different, as the club posted a 54 win season and 116 points, but all of that matters little as the playoffs are now here.
Craig Anderson Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks misses his shot in the eighth round of the overtime shootout against goalie Craig Anderson #41 of the Colorado Avalanche during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on November 6, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Blackhawks 4-3 in an overtime shootout.
The Chicago Blackhawks meanwhile have always been the team that hangs around; sometims getting into the playoffs and other years missing out. In or out, the Hawks have rarely made much noise in the post-season, but they have the ability to do so this year. Star netminder tim Thomas is looking to guide the team to a cup, just like he did with th Flames two years earlier.
It will be a good effort from Thomas, who always brings his A-game, but the Avalanche just have to much for one player to manage.
Regular season: 1-1-1 with the Avanlanche winning one game in a shootout. Colorado outscored Chicago 10-9.
Prediction: Colorado in five games.
(4) Edmonton Oilers vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
The Oilers were one of the biggest surprises of Season 13, rocketing back from a dismal season last year to post 106 points this year and earn home ice in the opening round. Rookie GM Keith Foster and netminder Tomas Vokoun have led the Oilers rebirth, and will be seeking to advance the oilers to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in WCHL history.

The Red Wings though know all about surprises, having rocked the WCHL world last year. After knocking off the defending cup champions in the first round last season, the Red Wings went on to beat the Avalanche and Stars before finally losing in seven games in the WCHL finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Having come one win away from WCHl glory last year should serve as motivation for the Wings this year.
Two GM's who obviously know how to get the most out of a line up which features more grit than talent should be an entertaining series. The Wings experience could be the winning factor, however.
Regular season: Detroit won the series 3-1, outscoring the Oilers 18-10.
Prediction: Detroit Red Wings in seven games.
Eastern Conference
(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) New Jersey Devils
After a so-so first half by their standards, the Rangers absolutely destroyed the opposition in the second half of the season, going 32-5-3 in the final 40 games. After a second round defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers last year, the Rangers are ready to step up and prove they are the force of the Eastern Conference.

The Devils on the other hand are just glad to be in the playoffs, having secured their berth on their final game of the season. They are hardly entering on a hot strecth though, having gone 6-6-1 in 13 games after a six game winning streak. Now the club has to work on beating the Rangers who only lost 21 games all year. Hardly an easy task.
This series will likely be the closest to a sweep that will happen in the playoffs this year, unless the Devils have some of their old playoff magic stuck away someplace.
Regular season: New York rangers won both games, outscoring the Devils 9-5.
Prediction: New York Rangers in five games.
(2) Atlanta Thrashers vs. (7) Philadelphia Flyers
The Thrashers, with rumours of their departure swirling around they, may be the second seed in the eastern conference, but only due to winning a very week conference. Their 97 points would have placed them sixth otherwise, just five points ahead of the Flyers, making this series much closer then the seeding would appear.

If there is a motivated team for playoff success, it should be the Flyers. After missing out on a cup finals berth by one win last year, the Flyers looked lost at times this year, and had to get a bit hot down the strecth to even make the playoffs. Clinching their playoff berth on the final game of the season, the Flyers lucked out potentially in lining up with the Thrashers and still have the horses to pull their team that led them to the third round last year.
Both teams have looked unmotivate this year, so whichever one finally shows they have a pulse is likely to be the winner of this matchup.
Regular season: Atlanta won all three games, winning two in a shootout. Atlanta outscored Philadelphia 14-10
Prediction: Philadelphia in six games.
(3) Pittsburgh penguins vs. (6) Montreal Canadians
After years of playoff disappointments, the Penguins finally came into their own last year, winning their first WCHL Cup. Now tasked with repeating the feat, the odds are stacked against them and they will try to do better than last years defending champions, Calgary Flames. The Flames won just one game in the series, losing in five games.
Marc-Andre Fleury Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save on a shot by Travis Moen #32 of the Montreal Canadiens on November 25, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Habs have to best the best in this series, and the Penguins are the best. After a great start, the Canadians have really settled down and will need to ramp up their efforts in a hurry or this series will be a blow out quickly. Montreal will have the benefit of the playoff hangover from Pittsburgh, but it will take more than that to beat the Penguins.
This series will be closer than it should be on paper, but it will be hard for Montreal to keep Pittsburgh from advancing to the second round.
Regular season: 1-1, with Pittsburgh outscoring Montreal 10-8.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in six games.
(4) New York Islanders vs. (5) Boston Bruins
There is little to seperate the Islanders and Bruins, who each posted 107 points and 40 regular season wins. The islanders though did it after a season last year that ranks as one of the most disappointing in league history. Despite having nearly the exact same team, the Islanders finished as one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference, so they have a lot of motivation this year.

In Boston, they have nearly no identity, having gone through three General Managers this year. After long-time GM Cole Wilkinson stepped down, Pat Blais was around long enough to have a cup of coffee before also stepping down. Now Roman Chrencik is in place, and is still introducing himself to his players. Talk about having to hit the ground running.
How fast Chrencik and his players can get on the same page will likely determine who will take this series.
Regular season: 1-1 with the Bruins outscoring the Islanders 4-3.
Prediction: Boston in seven games.

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Three's company

                             Who stays and who goes?


With one game left on each of their schedule's, the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are engaging in a winner takes all of epic proportions.
"We can't fail; we mustn't fail," said Sabres General Manager Jordan Snyder, hammering his fist down on his desk after suffering a 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night.
All three teams were in the post-season dance last year, with Buffalo and Philadelphia actually playing each other in the first round. While Buffalo succumbed to the Flyers and the Devils were also ousted in the first round, the Flyers actually made their deepest playoff push to date, advancing to the third round before finally bowing out to the eventual cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in seven hard-fought games.
Expectations were as high as Cheech and Chong in Philadelphia as a result. But one year later, the club may need help just getting into the playoffs.
"This is a big, stinky pile of fermented hog $h!t," Flyer GM Doug VanStrepen sounded off when questioned Friday morning. "But we still control our own destiny and if we get in, anything can happen."
Indeed, the Flyers are in the driver's seat between the three clubs. Sitting with 90 points, if the Flyers win, they are in; it's that simple for them. They can also suffer a loss and get in, as long as that loss is in overtime or the shootout. The Devils, who are one point back, will also be in if they win their final game. Buffalo, who has 88 points, will make the playoffs if they win and New Jersey loses or if Philadelphia loses in regulation.
Philadelphia also gets in if New Jersey loses in regulation or if Buffalo loses in any manner. If Buffalo wins, New Jersey gets a point and Philadelphia fails to get a point, the Flyers will miss the post-season.
Confused yet? The GM's are.
"So we get in how?" questioned Devils GM Trevor O'Neill. "I really wish we hadn't lost to Tampa Bay three times this year, I'm not good at math and this is starting to give me a headache."
New Jersey started out hot, going 8-2 to start the season, but losses in six of their next seven brought them back to earth. Since then, their season has been filled with more streaks than a mid-70's prom night.
"If consistency was the key, we'd be locked out of our home by now," said centre Vincent Lecavalier, who is pointless in 15 straight games.
The playoff chase caused at least one major deal, as the Flyers sent long-time Flyer Henrik Zetterberg packing to conference rival Montreal Canadians in a deal which netted the Flyers Clarke MacArthur and Matt Bradley. The deal hasn't boosted the Flyers much, if any.
New Jersey wraps up their season tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus. While Columbus isn't a playoff team, don't expect this to be an easy one for the Devils. New Jersey is 1-1 against Columbus this year, and is a paltry 17-21-2 on the road this year.
Tomorrow night is the final game of the season, and nothing officially will be decided for the Flyers and Sabres until then. While a Devils win over Columbus assures them of a playoff berth, a Flyers regulation loss tomorrow coupled with a Sabres win puts the Sabres in the playoffs. Anything other scenario puts the Flyers in the post-season.
Philadelphia is taking on the New York Islanders, who have rebounded after a brutal season last year. The Flyers, who are 14-5-1 in their last 20 games, are at home where they have gone 24-15-1 this season. The Flyers are just 1-3 against the Islanders this season, but their lone win came at home. The Sabres meanwhile are in Anaheim to take on the Ducks, who have had another last season resurgence. Buffalo is 17-18-5 on the road, but they won their only other encounter with the Ducks at the mid-way point of the season, besting Anaheim 7-5 in a shootout in Anaheim. Anaheim is 24-14-5 since that defeat, however, including 20-9-4 in their last 33 games.
How will all play out though is anyone's guess, as this game isn't played on paper. By tomorrow night, everyone will finally know who is in and who is out in the Eastern Conference.

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Relocation looming? Jets soar once more?

Could the Atlanta Thrashers be moving to Winnipeg?

While league sources have been tight-lipped, there are rumours the WCHL has come to terms with a group of investors to help salvage the struggling Atlanta Thrashers franchise.
Citing a source close to the negotiations, the league is expected to announce the Thrashers will be moving from their southern home to another city. While several options were being considered, such as Las Vegas, Quebec, Kansas City and the Portland, Oregon area, as well as possibly even adding another team in New York or Chicago, it appears the WCHL is returning to Winnipeg.
The source declined to be identified as the deal has not been finalized and as such has not been confirmed.
Trent Allen, WCHL Commissioner, declined to speculate on the rumour, but did confirm Atlanta has proven to be a hard sell.
"I mean come on. This is the second time around in Atlanta. you guys f*%&ed it up the first time, b!*$%ed and moaned until the lague came back, and still don't show up? We have about 14,000 towns across Canada that could draw more fans than Atlanta, so for a rumour like this to come out is not surprising," Allen ranted.
While Atlanta team officials originally were claiming incredible numbers through the gates -estimating 20,405 fans per game this season, or nearly 95 per cent capacity- that estimate was shot down last week by a member of the Thrashers front office.
"We made that up," said Phil McGroin, Director of Marketing for the Atlanta Thrashers. "A lot of those were give away nights. We even dropped tickets from a Good Year blimp once, and another game was attended by inmates from Folsom Prison on a sort of day parole thing. Even then, we had to tell them Johnny Cash was coming or they would have rather stayed in their cells. They've been in Folsom so long, they didn't know he had died."
Tits McGee, the WCHL Ice Girls Management Team Co-ordinator, said it's likely a good thing the team is slated to move.

Did you know this is a man?
"You ever see women from Atlanta? It's hard enough to get three girls that aren't so badly inbred they can't skate. I think from this years girls team of 14 skaters, we have eight that can't even spell hockey. Five girls' had such bad gingivitis we had to pay them in teeth," said McGee, who later refused to confirm or deny that three members of the Thrashers Ice Girls team were in fact really skinny men who liked to wear their mom's make up.

It'll be a big deal if the Jets return to Winnipeg
Allen said a further update would be made on the Thrashers franchise at a better time, so as not to take away from the appeal of the playoff push and the WCHL trade deadline.
"It's an exciting time of year, lets keep it that way," Allen said.
Allen didn't shy away from labelling Winnipeg as a viable market for the WCHL to return.
"I wasn't the A-hole who helped move the Jets to a f^&*ing desert, so you won't catch me saying some bull$h!t about how the league was different back then like that Bettman guy," sad Allen. "The WCHL should never have left here. Winnipeg is awesome. they love hockey, and more importantly they get hockey. They know when to cheer and when not to cheer. They started the whiteout which has since gone around the world as a hockey symbol. This place went ape$h!t for hockey once before, it will again," attested Allen.
According to the inside source, the league won't simply move Atlanta to Winnipeg, but rather a third team could be involved. The source was unclear on how that other team would be implicated in the transition if one does happen, however.

"Us leave? That's unpossible," said Thrashers diet guru Dustin Byfuglien.

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Caps hire new GM; Thrashers post now open


The GM carousel continues to spin in the WCHL. Just days after filling the Washington Capitals front desk, the WCHL once again finds itself with five teams open as Braydn Ericckson stepped down from his position with the Atlanta Thrashers.
"It was disappointing to see Braydn go, especially after a great regular season last year, but he choose to move on," stated WCHL Commissioner Trent Allen. "It's a sad day."
But the positive was the fact the Capitals have a new front man, as Steven Bruce was introduced as the newest GM for Washington.
"We're excited to have Bruce here," said Allen, noting Bruce prefers to be referred to by his last name. "We look forward to seeing him work with a team that has a lot of intriguing parts which could be a good team if molded properly."
The Capitals are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, but still sit with a record of just 29-37-6, leaving them 14 points out of a playoff position. As such, there are plenty of names on the trade block.
While the club is expected to try and shed some veteran players like Todd Bertuzzi, rumours persist that younger forwards such as Brandon Dubinsky and Pierre-Marc Bouchard are also available to be had for the right price.
Bruce would neither confirm nor deny the reports.
"We are looking to make moves that nenefit our hockey team first and foremost," said Bruce. "If we can do that, we'll look at making the move, regardless of who it involves."

Could Brandon Dubinsky be New York bound? Rumours have it the Capitals would like to move the young power forward, who has long cited a love for the New York Rangers.

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