Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Playoff FIs: Western Conference

Let us take a look at the Former Islanders who should be gracing the NHL squads during the push for Lord Stanley's Cup - the pantheon of sports trophies. The glittering epitome of silver beauty. The greatest guerdon known to living man. Digression. The teams have been arranged by conference and according to rank. Here is the Western Conference:

Western Conference

#1 San Jose: The best team in the league and Stanley Cup favorite, the Sharks feature a lone FI in defenseman Brad Lukowich who wound his way to NorCal during the offseason trade that sent blueliner Dan Boyle packing from Tampa Bay. Luko suffered some major injury time playing in only 58 games this season. In those games he managed only 8 assists. We will have to wait and see if the true impact for Lukowich will be his presence on the blue line.

#2 Detroit: The perennial powerhouse Red Wings feature a lone FI, as well. A large part of the team's Cup-winning success from last postseason, goaltender Chris Osgood is going to try to regain last season's awesome form which may be a daunting task in light of his less than stellar season. Ozzie split time with Ty Conklin managing starts in only 44 games and appearances in 46. Over that span Osgood sported a 26-9-8 record which looks deceivingly good. Beneath the surface Ozzie surrendered an average of 3.09 goals per game while stopping shots at only an .887 clip, the latter of which being the worst of any season for the veteran goalie. He managed only 2 shutouts. Only time will tell if Osgood can find his true self.

#3 Vancouver: On the other side of the coin is stellar goalie Roberto Luongo who came back from injury to dominate the Northwest Division. Luongo went 33-13-7 on the season in 54 starts. At one point Lu had won 12 of 13 games helping the Canucks rise from potentially out of the playoffs to division champs. Lu pulled off a 2.34 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and a single season high 9 shutouts. Questionable to make it back for the playoffs is winger Taylor Pyatt who lost his fiancee to a car accident shortly before the end of the season. T-Py played in 69 games posting 10 goals and 9 assists for 19 points. Also questionable is defenseman Rob Davison who played in only 23 games on the season with the 'Nucks recording 2 assists. Davison has not seen ice time with the team since February 10.

#4 Chicago: The fate of Blawkhawks' d-man Aaron Johnson is currently unknown for the playoffs but we will keep a watch on whether the blueliner makes an appearance. Johnson started the season off hot for the 'Hawks and then rapidly cooled off. With 7 points in the first 17 games of the season Johnson seemed poised for a big year but fell apart soon thereafter managing only 1 point in his next 21 games. Johnson only played in 38 games recording 3 goals and adding 5 assists for 8 points.

#5 Calgary: Calgary made some major moves during the season including the acquisition of center Olli Jokinen which, when you look at the record (8-11), not only caused a late season slump but also lost the Flames the division crown and home advantage in the first round. O-Jok headlines a trio of Flames' FIs which also includes winger Todd Bertuzzi and d-man Adrian Aucoin. Jokinen is making it to the playoffs for the first time in his 799 game NHL career though he backed into it via the trade north from Phoenix. Jokinen finished his weakest season in the last 6 years with 57 points (29 goals, 28 assists) on 76 games. Bertuzzi started the season off hot, a streak tempered by injuries and fatigue. He finished the season respectably with 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) on 66 games. Bert is looking to regain some form in the playoffs. D-man Aucoin had another 30+ point season managing 10 goals and 24 assists for 34 points on 81 games.

#6 St. Louis: With captain and d-man Eric Brewer out indefinitely following December back surgery the cinderella Blues feature no FIs.

#7 Columbus: Making their first appearance as a franchise in the NHL playoffs the Blue Jackets feature a trio of FIs. First off is winger Raffi Torres who was instrumental late in the season for the BJs. Torres scored 12 goals and 8 assists for 20 points on 51 injury-shortened games but it was his 6 games winners, including 4 in March, that helped vault Columbus into the playoffs. Center Michael Peca played another grinder of a season scoring 4 goals and adding 18 assists for 22 points on 71 games. Of those goals scored by Peca 2 were game winners. Finally, late season pickup goalie Wade Dubielewicz will be warming the bench for rookie sensation Steve Mason. It is unlikely Dubie will see much playing time. During the season he started 2 games and appeared in 3 going 1-2-0 with an obese 3.56 goals against average and a sickly .870 save percentage.

#8 Anaheim: If it were not for a late trade the Ducks would not feature an FI, but alas they received center Petteri Nokelainen from the Bruins before the deadline. Noky played pretty well in his 17 games with the Ducks scoring 4 goals and adding 2 assists for 6 points. On the season the muscular winger had 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) on 50 games. Look for him to lead the Ducks' 3rd line in the first round of the playoffs.

Check back soon as we will be following all the matchups here at FIW.

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