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Blue Line Buzz: Maximizing defensive strategy

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

New Year's Resolutions, Part I

Anaheim: For Cam Fowler to be stronger in his defensive end and stop saddling owners relying on the talented youngster with a minus-18 rating -- he is currently on pace for 33 points and a minus-40. Lastly, for Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to pick up the pace and follow the example the ageless Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne, is setting.

Boston: Someone other than Zdeno Chara needs to contribute more consistently from the blue line. Joe Corvo has been posting points a bit more often, but Dennis Seidenberg should resolve to find the back of the net more, as it certainly isn't for want of trying. For those in deep leagues that count shots on goal, Seidenberg isn't a horrible option. Boston has no problem finding balance in their forward scoring, as eight forwards own 20 points or more with Brad Marchand enjoying a huge season and Rich Peverly being surprisingly productive.

Buffalo: Resolve to find some more healthy bodies on defense. Tyler Myers remains out with a broken wrist and had just six points in 19 games before the injury, while Christian Ehrhoff left Friday's loss to Washington with an apparent upper-body injury. The Ehrhoff injury is a bit more frustrating as his game showed signs of turning around, but he will miss some time. This leaves us with Jordan Leopold (a solid six goals on the season) and the vexing Marc-Andre Gragnani, owner of nine points in 31 games. Brayden McNabb lit up the WHL last season and has the most upside on the Buffalo blue line.

Calgary: What is more surprising about Calgary? That Olli Jokinen has a team-leading 31 points through 39 games, or that Curtis Glencross has more goals, 15, than Jarome Iginla's 14 through Friday? The Flames have not been kind defensively to owners, as Jay Bouwmeester has more points than Mark Giordano, as does Chris Butler and Derek Smith. Not much positive can be said about the Flames, as just four players on the team have more than 15 points through Friday.

Carolina: For Jamie McBain to resolve to take full control of the team's power play and offensive contributions from the blue line in the wake of an injury to Joni Pitkanen and the trade of Tomas Kaberle. McBain, a trendy pick that started horribly, had nine points in December. Tim Gleason may want to resolve to play more consistently offensively, as he will be forever compared to Jack Johnson.

Chicago: Resolve to get more goals from Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy and Brent Seabrook, as the high-flying trio has just six tallies combined on the season despite 54 total points.

Colorado: The Avs finally resolved to put Kyle Quicney back in the lineup after having him a healthy scratch for four games prior to Thursday's win over Winnipeg. Quincey responded with an assist and hopefully will remain in the coaching staff's good graces going forward. Quincey has 18 points on the season with a surprising minus-1 rating, which is quite good for a Colorado defenseman. Rookie Stefan Elliott has been teasing owners this season with flashes of what is to come, going on scoring binges then disappearing. He has three points in five games through Friday, will turn 21 at the end of January and is entirely worth the frustration.

Columbus: Nikita Nikitin, Fedor Tyutin and Grant Clitsome have yet another opportunity to be highly productive on a flailing Columbus team. All three have shown flashes, but have not been terribly consistent. Their teammate, James Wisniewski, will be out of action for four-to-six weeks, suffering a broken ankle Thursday against Dallas while blocking a shot. See what happens when you get in the way of shots to keep the opposition from scoring.

Dallas: Resolve to find a shred of consistency for their defenders in terms of scoring. Sheldon Souray disappeared after a strong start while Alex Goligoski is making Pittsburgh General Manager Ray Shero look like a genius for dealing him last winter for a player that is currently one of the league's top goal scorers in James Neal. Seriously though, Dallas has been a game of shadows on the back end with Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas popping up like whack-a-moles only to hide quickly. Unrelated, Dallas forward Eric Nystrom has 12 goals on 57 shots for an astounding 21.1 shooting percentage.

Detroit: Nicklas Lidstrom, Nicklas Kronwall, Ian White have combined for 59 points and 21 goals through Friday, not bad. The Wings are again proving to be one of the tops in the NHL and Pavel Datsyuk continues to amaze, as his deflected goal Tuesday against St. Louis was highly impressive.

Edmonton: Resolve to not rely on Ryan Whitney, as the analogy of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown is in full effect for the Oilers. Knee and ankle injuries have limited Whitney to just 17 games this season with a meager three points. Tom Gilbert and Cory Potter have shown flashes of productivity but hardly any consistency, although Potter had three points in three games through Friday.

Florida: Resolve to continue what they are doing. Carrot Top impersonator Brian Campbell is second amongst NHL defenders in scoring while Jason Garrison has slammed home 11 goals, good enough for the most in the league. Dmitry Kulikov was showing consistency with 20 points in 27 games, but has gone pointless in 10 straight contests heading into Saturday. A talented, yet inconsistent Russian player? Such a travesty is simply unheard of.

Los Angeles: Drew Doughty needs to emerge as the leader he was paid to be. The team fired its head coach, Terry Murray, earlier in December after many believed the Kings were capable of a deep run into the playoffs. Regardless, Jonathan Quick has a 2.09 goals-against average and Anze Kopitar sports 34 points through 38 games. Jack Johnson's pace has fallen off and Slava Voynov has experienced the peaks and valleys associated with rookie defensemen.

Minnesota: Resolve to clone Cal Clutterbuck and receive a semblance of productivity from their defenders. Jared Spurgeon leads all Wild rearguards with 15 points, but could miss a few more games following a rough hit from Phoenix's Cody McLeod. Marek Zidlicky has nine points in 26 games this season. For those of you that haven't watched Clutterbuck play, he is pure energy on the ice, a player you want on your team. His 148 hits are second in the NHL and he is shooting at a 12.8 percent clip.

Montreal: Resolve to let your "interim" coach off the hook for his lack of speaking French. Randy Cunneyworth's benching of P.K. Subban last week took some guts considering the team had lost four straight games prior to Monday's outburst win in Ottawa. Subban returned that game with authority, notching a goal and an assist. With Andrei Markov's return date quite murky, Subban will need to let his consistency catch up with his talent while toning down his attitude a bit.

Nashville: Resolve to lock up Gary Suter and Shea Weber to long-term contracts as soon as possible. Weber will be eligible to negotiate a new deal on January 1 after going through a messy arbitration hearing and Suter is a UFA this coming summer as well. Speaking of Weber, here's hoping that Weber's concussion is as mild as it can be (however, the term mild has never seemed adequate to describe concussions). Weber and Suter are in the midst of career seasons and are currently ranked first and third on the team's scoring list -- great for Fantasy hockey players but the Predators' forwards should resolve to contribute more offensively.

New Jersey: Resolve to stop allowing short-handed goals. The Devils have surrendered 11 a league-leading 11 shorties on the season, adding another in Monday's loss to Carolina. Highly touted rookie Adam Larsson leads all Devils' defenders with 13 points but has not seen a shred of power play time in recent weeks. Kurtis Foster has four assists in seven games with the Devils. New Jersey won't score much from the back end, but the Devils are the only NHL team with seven players sporting 10 goals or more.

New York Islanders : Resolve to show up for more than a few games at a time. Mark Streit has been quietly productive, as his 18 points are good enough for fourth on the team through Friday. Pierre Parenteau and John Tavares lead the way with 30 and 29 points, respectively, through 35 games, which is surprising when you consider the team has been shut out seven times this season. Travis Hamonic has been steadier of late, but his season's point totals are just three points higher than Milan Jurcina and Steve Staios each. Odd stat of the day: goalie Rick DiPietro has two assists in eight games while Jay Pandolfo has one helper in 21 games.

New York Rangers : Viewers of HBO's "24/7" may want Dan Girardi's son, Landon, to replace his father on the team's blue line, as his son has been just about as productive of late. Girardi has seen his offensive numbers plummet in December, with two assists in the last 16 games and no goals since November 11. After all, Landon did look ready, taking one timers in the show's second episode. As paltry as Girardi has been of late, teammate Michael Del Zotto is enjoying a career season with 22 points and a staggering plus-minus of plus-25, all the more impressive considering he registered a minus-20 just two seasons earlier as a rookie. Lastly, let the Rangers resolve the Sean Avery situation once and for all; the team waived him a second time on Friday after Avery had been a healthy scratch in nine straight games.

Happy New Year to all.

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Player News
Cody Goloubef
Jackets' Ink Goloubef To Two-Year Extension
Cody Goloubef, D, CLB
1:23 PM
News: Cody Goloubef signed a two-year, one-way contract extension with the Blue Jackets on Thursday, Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Cody Goloubef's role with the Blue Jackets in 2014 expanded largely beyond his two previous seasons. The blueliner dressed for 36 of the team's games, posting 23 shots on goal, nine points (all assists) and a plus-12 rating. Following the strong season, he'll likely enter 2015-16 on firmer footing, and could solidify a roster spot with the club in training camp.

Cedric Paquette
Bolts' Paquette Practices Again Thursday
Cedric Paquette, C, TB
9:16 AM
News: Cedric Paquette (hand) participated in Thursday's practice, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Analysis: After injuring his hand in Game 5 of the series against the Rangers, Cedric Paquette was able to resume skating with the Bolts the morning of Tuesday's Game 6, but ultimately sat out the contest. With an extra day to recover from the ailment in advance of Friday's series finale, perhaps Paquette could be ready to draw back in.

Mats Zuccarello
Rangers' Zuccarello Practices Without Contact
Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR
9:14 AM
News: Mats Zuccarello (upper body) briefly joined the Rangers during the non-contact portion of Thursday's practice, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: As soon as coach Alain Vigneault blew the whistle for the start of full-contact work, Mats Zuccarello left the ice, suggesting that he's not a candidate to play during Friday's Game 7 against the Lightning. Zuccarello could receive clearance to take contact in the coming days, and should have a decent shot at reentering the lineup in the Stanley Cup Finals if the Rangers are able to advance.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom Undergoes Arthroscopic Hip Surgery
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
7:59 AM
News: Nicklas Backstrom underwent arthroscopic hip surgery Wednesday afternoon, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: The Capitals are optimistic that Nicklas Backstrom will make a full recovery and be back to 100 percent health by the start of the 2015-16 regular season. Backstrom didn't indicate during his exit interview following the second round of the playoffs that he had been nursing any sort of injury, but perhaps he elected to get out ahead of the hip issue before it became a recurring problem. Backstrom's recently completed season was a near mirror image of 2013-14, as he finished with the same goal total (18) and one fewer assist (60) while playing all 82 games for the second straight year.

Cam Fowler
Ducks' Fowler Continues Big Series
Cam Fowler, D, ANA
7:50 AM
News: Cam Fowler picked up an assist in his 23:37 of ice time in Wednesday's Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Cam Fowler has delivered a four-point series for the Ducks thus far, generating a goal and three helpers. Expect him to rank among the team leaders in minutes for Saturday's series-deciding Game 7 in Anaheim.

Patrick Maroon
Ducks' Maroon Nabs Power-Play Goal
Patrick Maroon, LW, ANA
7:47 AM
News: Patrick Maroon potted a power-play goal in Wednesday's Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Patrick Maroon has been outstanding all postseason for the Ducks, but he's really ratcheted up his production in the Western Conference Finals. Through six games, he's recorded three goals on 20 shot attempts, while also posting sizable hit totals on the defensive end.

Nate Thompson
Ducks' Thompson Credited With Assist In Game 6
Nate Thompson, C, ANA
7:45 AM
News: Nate Thompson picked up an assist in Wednesday's Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Nate Thompson isn't typically one of Anaheim's more productive scorers, but he's been able to come away with a goal and four assists thus far in the series. Though it's been a nice run for the 30-year-old, his modest track record as a point producer suggests the Ducks shouldn't bank on him driving their offense in Saturday's Game 7.

Clayton Stoner
Stoner's Goal Not Enough In Ducks' Game 6 Loss
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
7:42 AM
News: Clayton Stoner registered a third-period goal in Wednesday's Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Clayton Stoner's first goal of the postseason didn't come without controversy. Teammate Jakob Silfverberg appeared to run into goalie Corey Crawford's glove as Stoner was about to fire off a slap shot, but officials didn't call interference on the play. Nonetheless, the goal didn't affect the final outcome in what was a well-deserved Chicago victory. The series heads back to Anaheim on Saturday for Game 7.

Marian Hossa
Three-Game Point Streak For Hawks' Hossa
Marian Hossa, RW, CHI
7:36 AM
News: Marian Hossa notched a goal on one of his two shot attempts in Wednesday's Game 6 win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Marian Hossa has found twine just three times in the playoffs, but he's seen heavy involvement as an assist man to prop up his overall point totals. Wednesday's goal was his fourth point of the series, three of which have come in the last three games.

Andrew Desjardins
Blackhawks' Desjardins Dishes Out Two In Win
Andrew Desjardins, C, CHI
7:34 AM
News: Andrew Desjardins supplied two assists in Wednesday's Game 6 win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Andrew Desjardins' first assist required a particularly resilient effort, as he chased down a loose puck and dumped it over to Andrew Shaw, who would give the Blackhawks a two-goal advantage. Valued mostly for his steady, physical play on the back end, Desjardins typically doesn't see much involvement on the attack, and he has only three points across 14 postseason contests.

 
 
 
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