What did I do on my summer vacation? When I wasn't catching up with
Let's start with the Northeast Division...
The image of Bergeron lying motionless against the boards, victimized by an illegal hit from behind, haunted Boston fans throughout a season that saw the team take significant steps toward legitimacy even without its best forward. And while there had to be a temptation to bring him back for the playoff push and the first round -- a loss to the Canadiens --the Bruins brass wisely held Bergeron out, keeping the bigger picture in mind.
Now we'll see if their patience pays off.
But the ability to play the body is a critical component part of Bergeron's game. Even if the flesh is willing, there's no way of knowing if the spirit is weak without seeing if Bergeron will hesitate, even slightly, before going into the corners or initiating contact.
But even at 75 percent, Bergeron makes Boston a better team. He needs to be 100 percent, both physically and mentally, for the Bruins to move forward.
Despite playing with a cast of thousands on their wing, Buffalo's top duo was dynamic after the All-Star break. Roy had 14 goals and 44 points in that 34-game span, a pace that works out to 106 points over a full season. Vanek, who clearly labored under the weight of his massive contract in the early going, finished strong with 23 goals. Maintaining that clip -- 55 over a full season -- would go a long way toward justifying Vanek's $7 million-plus cap hit.
Neither player has put up numbers like that before, so it may seem like a bit of a stretch. Given the lessons learned over the second half, both players could be in for monster seasons.
Sabres observers will attest to the fact that Vanek actually worked harder during his first half struggles. Trying to validate his fat contract, the sniper tried to round out his offensive game, too often choosing to pass instead of shoot, or getting himself out of position while trying to be physical. When Vanek got back to what he's good at -- finding space to take advantage of his enviable hands -- the results followed. If they keep it simple, both Vanek and Roy could emerge as top-10 scorers.
A tidy $1.6 million. That's the sum total that GM
If all goes according to plan, it'll be Price carrying the Habs to glory. But is he ready to tote that kind of weight? He wasn't last season...at least, not when it mattered. He was wildly uneven against the Bruins in the first round, twice shutting them out and twice giving up five goals in the final four games of that series. He followed that up by watching 15 pucks sail by him on just 89 shots in four games against the Flyers, his glove hand and positioning exploited mercilessly by Philly's snipers.
But that was what it was: a rookie, one who'd played up to his paper and then some all season long, finally starting to act his age in the playoffs. Price failed to live up to the freshmen legacies of
After getting off to one of the best starts in league history, the Senators almost missed the playoffs thanks to an historically bad second half. It was a perfect storm of events that shot the wheels off the defending Eastern Conference champs, from a lack of depth that only grew more pronounced as
There's no relief in sight for the forwards, and now the defense looks to be in worse shape than last season with the loss of
But heading into the new season, both of those issues pale next to a goaltending duo that ranks among the least imposing in the conference. While Emery was doing his best
Gerber won 13 of his first 15 starts last season, but lost 11 of his final 14. Until he or Auld prove otherwise, it looks as if the Sens will enter the season with a pair of No.2 stoppers.
So this is what a decade of mismanagement buys you -- a hodgepodge of mid-level spares, sagging vets and unproven newbies that just might leave Leafs fans longing for the dark years under
Is it any wonder that former captain
Hope springs eternal in the heart of the hockey universe, and that's why there are Kool-Aid drinkers who believe that checking winger
Outside of a fairly competent back end led by
Smart Leafs fans will hope for the worst this season.