Dropping the Gloves: Riding the Stretch Run

Updated: March 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm by Alexander Monaghan

Dropping the Gloves is a new series in which Cameron Chase and Alexander Monaghan share their weekly thoughts on fantasy hockey via email. The main purpose of the article is to entertain so keep in mind that the contents may, or may not, be factual. Feel free to gripe in the comments.

—–Original Message—–
From: Cameron Chase
To: Alexander Monaghan
Subject: Dropping the Gloves: Riding the Stretch Run

Hey Alex, have you noticed that Christmas and Birthday’s just aren’t as exciting as they were when we were 10? The only time of the year I get excited for anymore is Halloween (hello ladies) and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The playoffs are so close I can practically smell the Doritos. Matter of fact you don’t even need a calendar to tell you the playoffs are near; if you’ve happened to catch pretty much any hockey game this week, you can tell that some teams are giving it their all to sneak into a playoff spot.

For example, the Buffalo Sabres– they’ve been up and down all season. They had a decent start in October (going 9-5-1 in their first 15) but once the Bruin’s first line enforcer Milan Lucic delivered a huge, open ice hit to the Sabres goal tender Ryan Miller on November 12th, they headed straight for a steep drop off in wins. Miller was out with a concussion, which turned out to be a neck injury…thanks to “House” for clearing that up, for a couple weeks or so and even when he came back he wasn’t holding it down in net. It looked absolutely rattled from the Lucic hit and I found he never really got his bearings back until about a month or two ago when the Sabres really had to turn it on to get into the post-season.

Recently though, the Sabres seem to be taking notes from the Jefferson’s by ‘moving on up’ in the Eastern Conference standings. They won seven of their last 10 including the crucial game against Washington earlier this week, with that win they moved past the Caps who (would appear) to be their only other contenders for the 8th seat in the East.

I don’t expect the Sabres to slow down at all either, they are going to give it their all in these last few games to try and move up the rankings to avoid playing the Rangers in the first round. The team they need to surpass would be Ottawa (yeah….Ottawa….who’d a thought?) and looking at both of those team’s schedules I would say Ottawa has a rougher go. Buffalo has to face a couple tough opponents (Pittsburgh/Boston and Philly) but then again they have a couple “freebies” with 2 back to back games versus Toronto, who should be looking to lose the next couple games to snag a decent draft pick. On the other hand; Ottawa has a pretty rough upcoming schedule, having to go up against Philly, the Islanders (who have been dealing some damage lately) Boston, Carolina and New Jersey.

I would say in these final five games for Buffalo, they’re going to go 4-0-1. Who do you think is going to lay it on thick for the remainder of the season?

—–Original Message—–
From: Alexander Monaghan
To: Cameron Chase
Subject: Dropping the Gloves: Riding the Stretch Run

Thanks for the help, Cameron. When I posed this question to you, I felt you would take the slam dunk pick in the Pittsburgh Penguins while I got the pleasure of convincing our audience the Sabres are pretty good too. I would have to be a fool not to take the Penguins, right? Well, then call me what you want.

The Penguins might be the most dangerous team in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs; that much we know. In fact, it’s a fact, not a secret. But now that they have clinched a playoff slot, I’m not sure they are gunning for home-ice advantage or even need it for that matter. Marc-Andre Fleury looks tired, Kris Letang is out for the next two games and Sidney Crosby, as awesome as he is, remains the third line center on this team. Over their last three games, this Penguins team has allowed a whopping 15 goals. They lost depth on the blue line with Ben Lovejoy out and overall haven’t really been able to bear down defensively.

Therefore, my pick to succeed from now until the end of the season is the St. Louis Blues. This club is getting healthy at the right time with only four injuries to report. Of those four, Matt D’Agostini and Andy McDonald figure to get back into the mix as soon as this week making the injured total just two. And one of those two is depth defender Ian Cole, who probably would be in the AHL if Roman Polak was healthy.

The Blues have been able to win all season on the back of a very defensive, tight-knit crew. Head coach Ken Hitchcock has instilled a vintage system which makes this Blues team resemble his Stanley Cup winning team in Dallas. He has his core of first liners in T.J. Oshie, David Backes and David Perron, who are supplemented by a fantastic mix of veterans– Jason Arnott, Alex Steen, Jamie Langenbrunner– and youth– Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, Kevin Shattenkirk. Did I forget to mention Alex Pietrangelo? Well, the former 4th overall pick looks like an elite defender, worthy of any accolade given to him.

Perhaps the best part of the Blues is their stingy starting goalies. While they remain a shoe-in to win the Jennings Trophy, there really cannot be enough press on how good Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak have been. Both players have settled in, and bought into, Hitchock’s system flawlessly. Considering they have the President’s Trophy to play for, I think they might just be the best team from here on out.

Brian Elliott, Buffalo Sabres, Jaroslav Halak, Ken Hitchcock, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Miller, Sidney Crosby, St. Louis Blues