Eastern bubble teams forecast
You say you can't get enough of playoff action? Then give it up for parity in the New NHL. (Can we still call it New four years down the line? What's the statute of limitations on that, exactly?)
Thanks to a cap-induced leveling of the playing field, the must-win games for the league's bubble teams start popping up early in March instead of April. Six teams are in contention for four spots in the Eastern Conference (even though the Flyers are just two points ahead of the Habs, I consider them a lock). So who will bemoan a season of missed opportunities while cleaning out their lockers a month from today? All will be revealed below.
Gainey promptly promoted highly-regarded Hamilton coach
So far, the results have been spectacular (9-1-2 under Bylsma). Kunitz and Guerin have
Torts is a demanding coach, so his presence ensures a level of personal accountability that's been missing for long stretches. Avery should provide a spark and
The Skinny: The savvy re-acquisition of
Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and they reverted to their kinder, gentler, losing ways against the Hawks and Stars -- two teams struggling through some tough times of their own. The problem: a near total absence of physical play and a forward corps that seems all too happy to dance around the perimeter waiting for scoring chances to magically appear instead of creating them by going hard to the net.
The Panthers have two factors working in their favor as they scrap to keep their hopes alive.
On the surface, the numbers suggest that these Sabres should be in position to snatch a playoff spot, maybe even home ice in the first round...so why are they on the outside looking in? Truth is, they're just not that good. Parts of their game work some nights, but they rarely put all the pieces together. Calling them inconsistent is being too kind. As a group, they're neither particularly talented, nor do they seem motivated to play with passion and intensity. Like the Hurricanes, they're just too soft on too many nights.