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Under Pressure: 5 Teams with Most to Gain/Lose

Monday, 10.03.2011 / 3:00 AM
Melrose Minute
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Melrose Minute
Under Pressure: 5 Teams with Most to Gain/Lose
5. Chicago Blackhawks: Did this team learn from last season, when it went from winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 to being very lucky to make the playoffs? This year we find out which is the real Chicago Blackhawks team – the Cup contender or simply a playoff team?
 
I think the Blackhawks learned a lot from last year. They picked up grittier players during the offseason. They found a goalie in Corey Crawford, who is coming off a stellar season.  They have great young talent. We'll see if they can return to Stanley Cup winning form.
 
Brad Richards
Center - NYR
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 49 | PTS: 77
SOG: 272 | +/-: 1
4. New York Rangers: The Rangers front office decided the team needed a scorer, so they signed Marian Gaborik. There was the Wade Redden thing before that. The team throws money at its problems. That's a list: the top five Rangers acquisitions that didn't work out.
 
Now the Rangers have signed Brad Richards for a ton of money, figuring he is a forward who has won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe trophy. Richards will play with Gaborik.
 
It's time for the Rangers to quit finishing as an also-ran. I like the way this team has been built from within. It has one of the best goaltenders in the world. We will find out if Henrik Lundqvist is as good as he is billed. It is easy to be good as a goalie. The great goalies win.
 
People are always saying the Rangers need to score goals in front of Lundqvist. This team can score goals.
 
3. Philadelphia Flyers: This is a team that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. The Flyers lost their top goal scorer and traded away another top scorer. They gave the team to Chris Pronger. It's his team and his locker room now. We will see how that turns out.
 
I like the Max Talbot pick-up. I think Philly will be better with him and Pittsburgh (a division and conference rival) is going to miss him, maybe more than realized. Brayden Schenn is a young player everybody agrees was the best player not in the NHL last year. He will have some pressure on him because he was traded for Mike Richards, the captain.
 
You can't say this is a team without a goaltender. Ilya Bryzgalov is a winner. I like this team a lot.
 
There's tons of pressure on Pronger. There was clearly tension in the locker room last season. Now Pronger gets control.
 
Brent Burns
Defense - SJS
GOALS: 17 | ASST: 29 | PTS: 46
SOG: 170 | +/-: -10
2. San Jose Sharks: Every year, San Jose is one of the most talented teams. The Sharks made some big changes during offseason, especially getting Brent Burns. He's a big defenseman who will play a ton of minutes.
 
Pretty soon the Sharks will have to win. Side by side, who's better on paper – San Jose or Boston? You would have to say San Jose, right? Well, this team has never even been to the Stanley Cup Final. The Sharks have to show they can win and will be feeling the pressure this season.

1. Washington Capitals:
The Caps situation is very similar to San Jose. This is the most talented team in the NHL, yet last spring the Caps lost four straight to Tampa Bay.
 
They made a lot of changes, picking up veterans players for the playoffs, but the core is the same. The core will be feeling the pressure.
 
Washington acquired a veteran goalie, so there are no excuses about the goaltender, a lot like the Flyers. If this team doesn't make the Final, heads will roll.  Talent-wise, on paper, this is the League's best team. But it hasn't come close to getting in position to win a Cup.
 
Alex Ovechkin wants to be recognized as the greatest player in the world. But Sidney Crosby has a won a Stanley Cup. Crosby has won a gold medal. Ovi will be feeling the pressure to win. No one wants to be the Best Player Not to Win a Stanley Cup.
Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp