NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 02/23/2009
Rangers Make A Change
Another week, another NHL coaching change. The NHL is getting to be more like the NBA in that regard. This time the victim is Tom Renney, the coach of the New York Rangers for the last five years. No replacement has been named yet. The Rangers have been in a freefall, and some sort of change was desperately needed. Make no mistake, though - this move will have absolutely no effect on this team. A coaching change only has a meaningful impact when the coach was the problem. In New York, the team's struggles have to do with inadequate, overpaid, underperforming talent; a salary cap mess that doesn't let them make any changes; and a long-term commitment to the archaic and hopeless Glen Sather. Nothing will really change until Sather is sent packing, but this coaching change shows that the GM is reasonably secure in his position.
A Mess in Montreal
Things couldn't be going worse in Montreal. They can't seem to win a game. Their goaltender of the future has forgotten how to stop a puck. Management is fighting with one of the team's biggest stars, Alexei Kovalev. A former coach has caused a stir by publicly accusing stars of the team of spending too much time in the bars. Now, brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn have been exposed as having connections to a mobster who was busted for drug-trafficking and possessing illegal weapons. The team is a ridiculous soap opera, and it doesn't show immediate signs of getting any better. Montreal is probably the most obsessive and difficult media market in the league, so there will be no escaping the issues for the team. Montreal is not a team to trust right now.
Big Blow For Buffalo
The Sabres are fighting for their lives, hanging onto a playoff spot by just one point with Carolina and Pittsburgh on their heels. The last thing they needed was a big setback. That may be their fate, though. Goaltender Ryan Miller left Saturday's game against the Rangers after suffering a high ankle sprain. There is no word yet on the severity of the injury, but this is just the kind of injury that can linger for a goalie. Any time is too much for the Sabres - they are just 2-7-1 when Miller is not on the ice.
Things Are Hot in Florida
You don't normally think of the Florida Panthers as a powerhouse team, but they are certainly playing like one right now. They have won nine of their last 13 games, and they are an impressive 14-5-3 this year. The surge has put Florida into a playoff spot for now. The biggest sign of their progress was a solid shutout win over conference leaders Boston on Saturday night. Before we get too excited, though, we need to see what happens in the next couple of weeks because a couple of issues loom large. First, the Panthers have to go on the road for seven of their next nine games. They are just 2-2 on the road in their recent hot spell, so this scheduling quirk could derail the progress they have made. More significantly, the team faces a big decision when it comes to the fate of defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. He's their best player, and he has been discussed frequently as the trade deadline approaches. A trade would ensure that he didn't leave the team as a free agent with nothing in return, but it would likely derail and chances of a playoff run that Florida might have.
New Jersey Falters
The Devils are an incredible story. Most people wrote them off after they lost goalie Martin Brodeur early in the season. His replacement, Scott Clemmensen, has come from nowhere to become a star, though. Add that to stellar offensive play by left wingers Zach Parise and Patrik Elias and you have the recipe for a team that sits comfortably in third place in the Eastern conference. They were 13-2 over the stretch that ended last Sunday, but things have taken a perplexing turn since then. They were shut out 4-0 by the Panthers on Tuesday, and then lost by the same score to the pathetic Islanders on Saturday. That's likely nothing more than a loss of focus, but it would be a real concern if things don't turn around soon. On top of that, Martin Brodeur is set to return to action on Thursday. That's likely a good thing because of how important Brodeur is to this team, but it will inevitably be a short-term challenge to chemistry as the team adjusts to the change. That could extend the team's struggles.
Checking In On Tavares
London Knights center John Tavares is going to be the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft this year. There is little doubt of that. Tavares has been projected as the top pick since he was 14 or so, and yet he has managed to continue to perform despite the intense pressure and scrutiny. At the start of the season, Tavares briefly dipped behind Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman in draft rankings, but an MVP performance at the World Junior Championships that included strong play against Hedman put Tavares back on top - likely for good. Tavares has been traded this year, but he's still playing extremely well - he leads the scoring race in the OHL by six points, and he has seven goals and three assists in his last six games. Overall, he has 48 goals and 40 assists in 49 games. Teams are going to be desperate to get Tavares, and he is a very good bet to be a solid contributor as soon as next year. Nothing is certain in the NHL Draft, but Tavares has a very good chance of being a star.