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Leafs looking to build on strong late-season finish

Saturday, 10.01.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

On the surface, 2010-11 was another season of failure for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season and never really contended for a top-eight spot after a strong couple of weeks to open the season.

But over the final two-plus months, the Leafs showed there is a lot to be excited about for 2011-12.

Entering February, the Leafs were 19-25-5, 12th in the Eastern Conference. But thanks to the emergence of rookie goaltender James Reimer and improved overall play, the Leafs finished the season 18-9-6. That level of play over the course of 82 games would be good for 104 points.

Burns addition should supply needed blue-line offense

Saturday, 10.01.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist

Advantage Margin: +15

The Sharks were the best in the League on the power play at home (26.8 percent), and had 29 more chances than they allowed at HP Pavilion. On the road, the differential was minus-14.

Lightning power play got plenty of work

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist

Advantage Margin: +34
The Lightning gave up a higher-than-average 302 power plays, but compensated by drawing 336 of their own, the second-highest total in the NHL.

Special Teams Goal Margin: +5
Tampa Bay's power play was prolific, scoring 69 times, and the penalty killers allowed only 49 goals. However, the Lightning allowed a League-worst 16 shorthanded goals while scoring just one of their own.

Goals by defensemen: 21
The Lightning got a shot of offense from Brett Clark, who was the runaway leader among their defensemen with 9 goals. No other defenseman who spent the season in Tampa Bay had more than four.

Already a scorer, Stamkos emerging as a leader

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

So there they were, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, hanging out at St. Louis' house in Tampa earlier this month when the television got flipped to the NHL Network.

The picture coming through the screen was crystal clear to both of them, and it had nothing to do with the high-definition quality.

"Game 7 was on," Stamkos told

That would be Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.

Lightning expect to be better than last season

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Lonnie Herman - Correspondent

No team in the NHL outpaced its preseason expectations more than the Tampa Bay Lightning did last season.

With new ownership, first-time GM Steve Yzerman and an entirely revamped coaching staff led by first-time NHL coach Guy Boucher, all the excuses the Lightning needed to buy some time to jell were in place -- especially considering the team was coming into the season off a three-year playoff drought.

But all those excuses went out the window after the Lightning piled up 103 points, their best point total since 2003-04 -- when they captured the Stanley Cup. 

Coyotes feel they're deeper, but are they better?

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

In one sense, the Phoenix Coyotes 2010-11 season ended the same way as the season before -- a loss in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Detroit Red Wings.

But so much was different in 2009-10, when the Coyotes set franchise records for wins and points and cruised into a playoff spot with home-ice advantage before losing to Detroit in seven games. Last season, the Coyotes improved offensively but lost some of their defensive mojo, had one of the League's worst penalty kills, crept into the playoffs by two points and were swept from the postseason.

Changes -- some expected, some a result of the team's on-going financial uncertainty -- came this summer. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who rewrote the franchise record book in less than four seasons, was shipped to Philadelphia, where he signed a long-term, big-money deal. Center Vernon Fiddler, defenseman Ed Jovanovski and 19-goal scorer Lee Stempniak are gone.

Some of those big-ticket players will be replaced by cheaper veterans (Mike Smith, Daymond Langkow, Raffi Torres) or young players getting the chance to prove they belong in the NHL (Mikkel Boedker, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Kyle Turris).

Nothing seems to slow down St. Louis

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Frank Mentesana - Staff Writer

There isn't much that bothers Martin St. Louis.

Maybe that's because he lives by the maxim -- one he preaches to his three sons -- "You get out of life what you put in."

As one of the National Hockey League's star players, St. Louis is confident in life's returns, because he always has "put in" more than the next player.

Coyotes were at their best at even strength

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist

Advantage Margin: -7
Unlike 2009-10, when there were a lot more power plays when the Coyotes played at home, last season saw 51 more power plays in the Coyotes' road games than at home.

Special Teams Goal Margin: -9
Just as they did a year earlier, the Coyotes struggled to score on the power play (46 goals, 15.9 percent). However, the penalty killers weren't as good as the previous season, surrendering 64 power-play goals, more than all but three teams.

Goals by defensemen: 37
Keith Yandle reached double figures in goals (11) for the second straight season, but Ed Jovanovski slipped from 10 to 5. Yandle's 59 points were third in the League among defensemen and helped him earn a long-term contract extension.

Overtime Record
Total: 7-7-6 OT: 2-7 SO: 5-6

The Coyotes' record in games tied after regulation was the biggest reason for their dropoff from 2009-10. They went from 19 wins in 2009-10 to just seven last season -- including a slide from 14-6 in shootouts to 5-6. Phoenix also went 0-4 in overtime at home.

Faces change, results don't for successful Preds

Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Manasso - Correspondent

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz said the thought dawned on him minutes after his team was eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Semifinals.

"We saw and observed that we may be a lot closer than even we thought," Trotz said, "and it's not always the best team that's going to win the series, it's the team that plays the best that's going to win the series. And that was a lot of growth for us. I think organizationally we look at it as anything less than the Stanley Cup now, we must consider it a season (where) we didn't accomplish what we wanted to. … So are expectations higher? Yeah."

Vancouver, which came within one victory of winning the Cup, lost four home playoff games -- two of them to Nashville.

Predators were hard to beat at home

Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist


Category Rank (Conference)
2010-11 Points 99 (5th West/10th NHL)
Change from 2009-10 -1
Home Points 56 (2nd West/3rd NHL)
Road Points 43 (8th West/15th NHL)
Advantage Margin: -3
More than most teams, the Predators like to play 5-on-5 -- they were in the bottom seven in power plays drawn (269) and allowed (272).

Special Teams Goal Margin: +3
Nashville's penalty-killers tied New Jersey and Los Angeles for the fewest goals allowed at home (17). The power play was next-to-last in goals scored on the road (17).

Goals by defensemen: 37
Shea Weber matched his 16 goals from 2009-10 and had a career-high 48 points. However, the Predators will miss Cody Franson, who scored 8 goals despite playing in the shadow of Weber and Ryan Suter.
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