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Schedule Analysis: Rebounding Blackhawks

Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford

A freelance writer of all things but mostly sports, music and politics, Brian Rutherford was raised on Long Island, NY and currently resides in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. His favorite teams are the New York Rangers, Texas Rangers, New York Giants and New York Knicks. "So the difference I think, boils down to this: you can either impose yourself on reality and then write about it, or you can impose yourself on reality by writing it." -Hunter S. Thompson "The Proud Highway"

NHL Schedule Analysis
By Brian Rutherford, RotoWire Writer

After two years of planning, there was a pummeling in Washington D.C., and no I'm not talking about Alexander Ovechkin (8 G, 9 A) and the Capitals. The Republicans have taken the man advantage in The House of Representatives. The power play leaders of the NHL have changed just about every week thus far. So let's breakdown a few teams affected by the open ice.

Puttering down the campaign trail

Pittsburgh has been sterile lately, ranked 24th (1 for last 30) in power play opportunities. Brent Johnson has gone 5-1-1 but looked more like the backup goalie he is in Dallas last week. Marc-Andre Fleury is 1-6, and as one cinematic fellow once said, "something ain't stirring the Kool-Aid". Despite a rise in Kris Letang's numbers (three goals, 10 assists) and (Sidney) Crosby's 17 points in 14 games, the only ice hockey club with an igloo for a home is 6-7-1 in this young season. I'm not even close to buying this start. A weak power play is no reason to worry, as Pittsburgh's man advantage attack hasn't ended a season with a 20% success rate since 2007-2008.

What does worry me is the Pittsburgh Steelers' veto power, removing The Winter Classic from the Penguins schedule (read more at Pittsburghlive.com).

This week: vs. Boston, Tampa Bay, @ Atlanta

The Chicago Blackhawks (7-7-1) have been far from the Stanley Cup winning team they were one year ago. Yes, they've slowly recovered from the pick-pocketing that was their 2010 summer. Fourth in the league on the power play, it's all about risk and reward. Having lost two in a row, 15 of Chicago's position players have a minus rating, including their top three producers, Patrick Sharp (-10), Duncan Keith (-4), Patrick Kane (-7). This all may change as Marian Hossa will be back on the ice this week.
This week: vs.Phoenix, @Nashville, vs. Anaheim

Landsliding (Streaks)

After a slow start, the vote of the Northwest division is in Vancouver. Having won six in a row, the Canucks are ranked first in the NHL in power play (13 for 46), and of course the Sedin tandem are responsible for over 30% of their overall production. Former New York Islanders 1st-round pick, Raffi Torres has seven goals this year. When Roberto Luongo gets the night off, he can truly relax, as Cory Schneider (3-0, 0.90 GAA) is arguably the best back-up goalie in hockey. The Canucks hit the road with momentum and visit a few Eastern Canadian rivals.

This week: @ Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto

Dallas stopped the bleeding on that three game losing streak by taking three in a row in the right column. After netting four power play goals against Phoenix last week, Dallas' power play mosaic is now ranked 12th in the league and rising. Loui Eriksson has 10 points (4G, 6A) during his five game point streak. Brad Richards has been a beastly presence (6G, 12A) and Mike Ribiero is just behind his teammates with 13 assists this year. This may be the site all year, a very talented but streaky and in-experienced squad will have Dallas/Fort Worth fans counting the days till pitchers and catchers report. This week, it will be a back-to-back two game schedule.

This week: @Los Angeles, Anaheim

*Los Angeles, Columbus, New Jersey and Nashville also have a light two game schedule this week*

Full Ballot (playing four games)

For a second week in a row, we will focus on the St. Louis Blues (7-1-2). The Blues have taken full advantage of a light schedule early on and are the only team with just one under the L column. Their power play unit leaves something to be desired, ranked 21st in the league (seven goals in 51 opportunities). As mentioned last week, the schedule speeds up a bit, they will play three games in four nights and seven in 11 over the next two weeks.
This week: @Columbus, vs. Nashville, @ Phoenix

Also a full ballot

Tampa Bay Lightning -This week: vs.Toronto @Washington, Pittsburgh, vs. Minnesota (power play ranked 7th)

Anaheim Ducks - This week: @San Jose, vs. New York Islanders, Dallas @ Chicago (power play ranked 8th)

Washington Capitals - This week: @New York Rangers, vs. Tampa Bay, @ Buffalo, vs. Atlanta (power play ranked 13th)

Atlanta Thrashers - This week: @ Ottawa, vs. Minnesota, Pittsburgh, @Washington (power play ranked 9th)

Phoenix Coyotes - This week: @ Detroit, Chicago, vs. Calgary, St. Louis (power play ranked 19th)

Edmonton Oilers - This week: @ Carolina, Detroit, New Jersey, New York Rangers (power play ranked 17th)

Hover a 6'0 Matt... if you dare (Keeper League FA)

Matt Niskanen is a six-foot Swedish defenseman drafted by the Dallas Stars in the first round of 2005. After a disappointing sophomore year last season, Niskanen is showing quick movement and confidence in the open-ice. If you see his pick up percentage increase and you're in a keeper league, follow the trend. When and if everything falls into place for Niskanen, 10 goals, 35 assists will be a balanced year.

Matt D'Agostini is starting to string together a point streak, currently having notched 4 points in his last three games. Though this six-foot right-winger has posted a solid five goals and two assists, I'm not pressing you into an FA pickup, YET. However, this may be your fair warning as St. Louis looks to remain competitive all year. I wonder how a politician would report on Aaron Palushaj's (who D'Agostini was traded for) progress. Two goals, nine assists in six games with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.

The Full Schedule



Team

Away

Home

Total

Anh

2

2

4

Atl

2

2

4

Edm

4

0

4

Pho

2

2

4

TB

2

2

4

Was

2

2

4

Bos

1

2

3

Buf

2

1

3

Car

1

2

3

Cgy

3

0

3

Chi

1

2

3

Col

2

1

3

Det

0

3

3

Fla

1

2

3

Min

3

0

3

Mon

1

2

3

NYI

3

0

3

NYR

0

3

3

Ott

1

2

3

Pit

1

2

3

SJ

0

3

3

StL

2

1

3

Tor

2

1

3

Van

3

0

3

Cls

0

2

2

Dal

2

0

2

LA

0

2

2

NJ

0

2

2

Nsh

1

1

2

Phi

1

1

2


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