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Duff's Digest: A hockey meal for the holiday appetite

by Brian Duff
It's the busiest travel time of the year in America and, in conjunction with the holiday, I am all over the map in this installment of Duffer's Digest -- emphasis on Digest, as in, digest the big bird in good health everyone!

I'm blogging this week from San Jose. The Hawks just scored again!

Is Nashville the insurance capital of the United States? If not, why is everyone so quick to write off the Predators every time they go through a tough 10-game stretch?

It's especially perplexing when most who follow the game closely almost unanimously and justifiably praise the organization for its stability in management and coaching, as well as its team-building philosophy.

Before you jump to your next conclusion about the Preds, remember how they got out of the woods this last time -- healthy bodies returning to the lineup up front. Production finally came from mainstays David Legwand and Martin Erat and the blue line is too good to be kept quiet on the power play. Plus, Pekka Rinne is still, in my opinion, not garnering the praise he deserves.
In fact, I still can't help but wonder how bad the Calder Trophy voting would have looked last year had the Predators and Blue Jackets switched spots in the final week. (Columbus finished seventh, Nashville 10th; separated by one win and four points)

Steve Mason won the Rookie of the Year honors by a landslide, at least in comparison to Rinne who finished fourth in voting, even though their numbers were just about equal.


Not sure where the Rangers are heading -- along with about a dozen other teams in the East -- but I will say this: I love how they respond to timeouts by coach John Tortorella.


Sports information Pet Peeve No. 1: Someone telling me "that was the team x's first win in regulation time" in the past eight games, three weeks, two months, whatever.

Who cares? That could still mean the team is winning the bulk of its games overall, and isn't that the whole point of this exercise?

Pet Peeve No. 2: Can we please stop arguing over the single point for an overtime loss?
The "purists" often say: Just make it a win and a loss and leave it at that.

Well, if they truly believe that a losing team doesn't deserve a point, then how did they feel about the 85 years prior to 2005 when the League rewarded two teams for not winning by allowing ties!

The League deserves credit for finally ridding itself of an outcome that no one should have appreciated.


Don't look now but the landlords have decided to move back into the penthouse of the Northeast Division.

After a quarter of a season wracked with injuries and inconsistent play, the Boston Bruins -- as we remember them with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic -- have swept a four-game road trip and taken back the keys to the penthouse suite from the Senators and the Sabres.

Most enjoyable about watching Boston's return to form has been the play of goalie of the (present and) future in Tuukka Rask, and the nightly consistency from Patrice Bergeron.

The Bruins’ biggest challenge may well come from the Ottawa Senators. One would think that at some point Jason Spezza will produce they way he can -- regardless of how well he's playing defensively -- and the blue line has to improve once shutdown defender Anton Volchenkov finally returns from injury.


Are the Sabres in trouble?


Unlike most teams, all of the Sabres regulars are in the lineup -- and they still can't score. They have even struggling offensively against an injury-depleted Capitals squad hardly known for its defense.

Losers of four in a row, the only plus players Buffalo has up front are those who generally make up the fourth line.

Tim Connolly hasn't scored since before Halloween. They've stopped conducting a census in Pominville. And Derek Roy is on pace for 15 goals.


Which of these low-scoring forwards elicits the most concern from you?

Scott Gomez. David Krejci. Andrei Kostitsyn. Martin Havlat. Bryan Little. David Backes. Jason Spezza. Peter Mueller. Fabian Brunnstrom

Those nine players have combined for 15 goals -- or 4 fewer than Marian Gaborik.


If the Florida Panthers miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it will come down to their inability to close out games in the third period. The Panthers are the only team in the League that has a losing record (4-2-3) when leading after two periods.


How competitive is the KHL? So competitive that Marcel Hossa (237 NHL games - 31 goals) already has 20 in his new league, to lead all snipers. Draw your own conclusions.


Dec. 19 can't come soon enough for he of three teams this season -- Andrew Ebbett.
The former Duck, Hawk, and current Wild forward will appreciate the NHL's annual roster freeze from the Dec. 19 to Dec. 27.


How much has the game changed?

Consider these recent words from Avalanche Coach Joe Sacco.

"There's times in that game when we have to get one more and make it 6-2."

Sacco was speaking after a narrow 5-4 win against Philadelphia, a game in which his club blew a 2-0 lead, then nearly saw a 5-2 lead disappear in the games' final 10 minutes.

Isn't it amazing that one can't even be comfortable with a three-goal lead today?

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