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Sunday, March 1, 2009

COL & FLA at Game 60(-ish)

Before launching into more analysis at the Game 60(-ish) mark, a couple of notes:

First, thanks go out to the guys at The Program for having us on their Blog Talk Radio show last week. It was fun, and we look forward to doing it again soon! By the way, they've got a new site, with lots of good info and videos. Check it out!

Second, I want to mention a site that's caught our (collective) eye of late: Puck Money provides a wealth of information on attendance figures around the league, as well as other money-related matters, such as updates on the status of the Lighthouse Project on Long Island. We like both this site and The Program so much, we've posted links on the OGA Home Page, so...Check.Them.Out.

And with that, let us take a look at a few more teams at Game 60(-ish):

COLORADO AVALANCHE: Currently 15th in the Western Conference, and Colorado has certainly earned their Tee Time. These aren't the Avs of old - they lack depth, and Paul Stastny's broken arm (26 games missed) and Joe Sakic's lost battle with a snowblower (48 games and counting) have mortally wounded the team this season. And let's face it: Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft combined don't make one starting goalie, as evidenced by the team GAA of 3.08 (27th in the NHL), despite only allowing 29.3 shots/gm (12th). It's not as if the defense isn't helping out - the Avs have blocked 1,001 shots so far this season (4th). There's plenty of blame to go around for Colorado's PK efficiency of 78.8% (25th), however.

The aforementioned lengthy absences of Stastny and Sakic have hurt Colorado on both sides of the puck: The Avs are scoring just 2.62 G/gm (T-21st), and the PP is an anemic 16.7% (22nd). They've struggled to win faceoffs, too, and must hope the return of Stastny will bring an improvement to their 48.4% on the draw (24th).

If there's one bright spot this season, it's that Colorado is the only team in the league still undefeated when leading after two periods. The bad news is they've only led after two periods 18 times in 63 games. Without question, the Avs are sellers at the trade deadline, as they look forward to re-tooling over the summer.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: Over their last eight games, Florida has done a spot-on impression of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, going 4-4-0 in the following manner:

Capitals@ Panthers 4 - 2 L
Devils@ Panthers 0 - 4 W
Blackhawks@ Panthers 4 - 0 L
Bruins@ Panthers 0 - 2 W
Panthers@ Bruins 1 - 6 L
Panthers@ Rangers 2 - 1 W
Panthers@ Devils 2 - 7 L
Panthers@ Capitals 6 - 2 W

So much to say about this, so little time...Goals Allowed in the 4 wins: 0,0,1,2. Goals Allowed in the 4 losses: 4,4,6,7. Are the Panthers cutting costs somehow by only playing defense every other game? Also, if we needed proof positive that the Hockey Gods hate Florida, this schedule provides: 2 games each against the top 3 teams in the East, plus 1 game against Chicago for good measure? Oh, yeah - and 1 "easy" night, at the Garden against a pissed-off Ranger squad. Judas Priest, that's a tough two weeks! Give the Cats credit for winning half.

After 63 games, Florida finds themselves 9 games over .500 (using NHLmath - patent pending), 6th in the East and very much In The Curve. Aside from the Dynamic (goalie) Duo of Vokoun and Anderson, who've combined to give the team a GAA of 2.65 (6th), how are the Panthers getting the job done? Can you say, "Scoring by Committee"? Eleven Panthers have 10 or more goals after Game 63, with Ville Peltonen being the most recent inductee into the club. While team scoring could stand improvement (2.76 G/gm - 17th in the NHL), it actually has improved over last season's 2.57 G/gm (20th). Who would've thought that trading Olli Jokinen would actually boost Florida's scoring? A certain Blogger Who Shall Remain Nameless, that's who. Said Nameless Blogger, way back in September:

While some might view the Olli Jokinen trade as a step back for the Panthers, OGA believes the upcoming season will prove the wisdom of the move. Not only did Florida receive two solid defensemen in return for their Captain, but they also sent a message to the remaining forwards: We believe in your ability to get the job done, and now is the time for you to step up. With a beefed-up blueline and a bunch of swift-skating kids up front, the Panthers will be a tougher team to play against in 08-09.

Don't think for a minute the Panthers would've made the promise they did if management didn't believe they'd make the playoffs this year. The Bouwmeester question will be answered, one way or another, this week (I'm betting on Jacques Martin keeping Jay Bo in a bid to make some playoff noise this year), and the team will be able to put that distraction behind them and focus on the home stretch and nailing down a playoff berth. Will the Panthers make the playoffs for the first time since the 99-00 season? The Magic 8-ball says, "Sources say YES".

Tomorrow, look for Game 60(-ish) analysis of the Kings and Blackhawks. Until then, ponder this: In previous Game 60 posts, I criticized both the Rangers and Predators for their lack of scoring. In their first games after my posts, they won, 6-1 and 8-0, respectively. Can I light a fire, or what?

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