Well, here we are… two weekends into the lockout shortened 2013 season and a few things have become blatantly apparent to even the casual hockey fan – Stanley Cup hangovers appear to be legit (especially when you have the tandem of Carter and Richards), the Northwest Division is making the Southeast Division look like the “Home of Hockey” and there is a strong chance that Roberto Luongo may be rethinking his wish to don the pads as a Florida Panther. With a Goal Difference of -11 after just 5 Games, we can all be pretty certain that getting shelled on a nightly basis like a shadow target at a southern gun show outweighs the allure of a bruised and battered Luongo falling semi-conscious through the patio door with a barely audible “Honey, I’m home…” Knock, knock. “Mr. Gillis. Hi, it’s me Roberto. Are we still talking to Nonis over there in Toronto?”
Let’s start in the Eastern Conference where there appears to be a certain amount of parity… collective gasp. In the Atlantic Division, slow starts by the Rangers and the Flyers (who look awful and it’s not all Bryzgalov’s fault) have allowed the Devils to take an early lead over the Penguins. No Parise, no problem as Martin Brodeur, that bloodless, ageless Daywalker amongst us continues to anchor the joyless, lifeless system that is Turnpike hockey. The Penguins continue to play with a style of desperation that suggests they know Marc-Andre Fleury has the kind of mental tenacity to make him a superb guest for Dr. Phil and He Of The Golden Goal is but one hit away from seeing Tweety Birds circling musically around his head for the remainder of his non-career. That leaves the Islanders. The Islanders General Manager is Garth Snow. Garth Snow is an idiot. There, I’ve done the math for you. Division winner – Penguins. Playoffs – Rangers, Devils.
To the Northeast we go where the Bruins have ushered in the Tuuka Era for the second time, allowing Tim Thomas to spend a year stocking the shelves of his Colorado bunker for the socialist takeover. The defensive corps may be the best 6 in the NHL led by Chara but it needs to be because goal scoring is by committee. The Senators have picked up where they left off under The Matrix that is Paul Maclean’s moustache, with net-minder Craig “Mr.” Anderson proving that at least for now, he is The One. While the Leafs, albeit struggling with the loss of Lupol continue to disprove the value of being a 1st period hockey team, the Sabres look like they will play almost an entire season of 1-Goal games… losing most of them. As for the Habs – they have great team speed and quickness – all the things that get you killed in the playoffs. Division winner – Bruins. Playoffs – Senators, Canadiens.
Yes, the Jets are still in the Southeast Division which means they’ll put in more air miles than the now soul-less Anthony Bourdain but no, ‘Cash Money Evander Kane” won’t get them to the promised land…which of course, for him, is Las Vegas. The Lightning are strange-to-say the class of the division – mainly because the Washinton Capitals looks about as efficient as Congress and the engine that was supposed to drive the high-flying Hurricane offense has apparently Staaled on the first leg of the trip. As for the Panthers, if I could find a way to say less about them, I would. Division winner – Lightning. Playoffs – Hurricanes.
Onwards, to the Western Conference where we begin in what may be the best division in the NHL – the Central and it contains the Columbus Blue Jackets who may already be on the clock for 1st pick in the Draft even with the new lottery. The Blackhawks are 6-0 and playing like a team that has conveniently forgotten that Corey Crawford is in net while the aging Detroit Red Wings look like a team that would trade for anyone in net to replace Jimmy Howard who looks suspiciously like an octopus thrown on the ice by an extremely enterprising Motor City Fan. Then there’s the Blues whose depth at almost every position enable them to play at the kind of frenetic pace that would make a hamster rethink his stance on the evolution of the wheel and of course the Nashville Predators who in 5 Games have lost 3 Shootouts and makes us all wonder when Pekka Rinne will try a Savardian spin-o-rama for giggles. Division winner – Blackhawks. Playoffs – Blues, Red Wings, Predators.
So, the leader in the Northwest has 5 Points and it’s the Minnesota Wild and the Canucks, based on the best Goal Difference of -2. Ugh… The Canucks, despite the on-going soap opera and only having one line that opponents need to film study, will eventually have more than enough fire-power to dominate the division. Is this the year for the Oilers with all that wonderful 1st round talent? No… The Avalanche and Wild have potential over the short haul but Brian Burke is now officially the only person who doesn’t believe you can bring home Stanley from the 8th seed so who knows? Then there’s the Flames. The Flames have Jay Feaster as a General Manager. Jay Feaster is an idiot. Enough said. Division Winner – Canucks. Playoffs – Wild.
The Western Conference also sports an unbeaten team in the Pacific Division and that is the 5-0 San Jose Sharks who have Patrick Marleau on pace for about 90 Goals based on his 9 already! They continue to perfect the regular season format. The hung-over Kings thankfully share an arena with the Lakers to make them look less dysfunctional to start the season and although the Stars are showing signs of getting all their ducks in a row, Tim Cowlishaw can’t buy every seat, every night. Speaking of Ducks, Anaheim has potential and the 48-Game season may be a benefit based on their consistent inconsistency. Then there is Phoenix where somebody might buy the team. Or not. Another recent rumour suggests somebody might care. Or not. Shane Doan, the Glendale Trooper – what were you thinking? Division winner – Sharks. Playoffs – Ducks.
Until next time Kelowna, keep your heads up and your sticks on the ice…