Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tonight's Games (Oct 25)

Atlanta at Carolina 7:00 PM
Florida at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
San Jose at Detroit 7:30 PM
Los Angeles at Minnesota 8:00 PM
Vancouver at Chicago 8:30 PM
Washington at Colorado 9:00 PM
Edmonton at Anaheim 10:00 PM

Game of the Night

Atlanta at Carolina

The pleasant surprise in the East thus far meets the biggest disappointment (outside of Philadelphia). Atlanta has lost just once in regulation in nine starts. Kari Lehtonen may finally be living up to his potential, posting a 1.96 GAA and .929 save percentage so far. If he keeps this up and stays healthy the Thrashers could be a threat in the East. However Atlanta's offense is very top heavy and they may need to make a trade or two to shore up their depth (which is why Conroy makes a lot of sense for them).

Marian Hossa has been fantastic through the first 9, scoring 10 goals and adding 5 assists - leading the league in both categories. After a slow start Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the league's most explosive players, has 5 goals and 10 points in his last five games.

There has been an increasing amount of talk about the division-heavy schedules and it's my opinion that something NEEDS to be done for next year. A good example as to why is the Thrashers' schedule so far - in their first ten games they play Florida three times, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Washington twice each. With a schedule like that they may as well make it like baseball and play three at a time against each team. The Thrashers have been playing some great hockey but nobody outside the Atlantic has seen them play except Boston. Without a doubt, having 40% of the schedule played within the division is too much.

As for Carolina, the defending champs are off to a slow start. They have played better as of late though, winning three in a row before losing a 1-goal game to the Sabres and in OT to the Islanders. Cam Ward has been pretty average in net and John Grahame has given up 10 goals in his first two starts. The Canes have a strong group up front led by Brind'Amour, Whitney, Staal, Williams, Walker and Cole but I wonder but they are lacking that star offensive defenceman that most Cup winners (and all recent Cup repeat winners) have had. Still I expect the Hurricanes will be near the top of the Conference when all is said and done, due to their strong depth and great coaching. Carolina has been off since Saturday so I would expect a very strong performance out of them - I'm going with the Canes in this one.

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