Each week hockey columnist Scott Morrison and his protegé, senior hockey writer Tim Wharnsby, exchange (mostly) friendly banter on the latest storylines in the NHL.
1. Which team has enjoyed an unexpected rise in the first-half of the season and which team has suffered an unexpected fall?
WHARNSBY: Did anybody predict the New Jersey Devils' fall from grace would be so steep? Yes, they have been hurt by injuries and salary cap problems. But Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur is on the decline and Ilya Kovalchuk has scored only 10 times in 41 games. He scored 10 goals in 27 games after he joined New Jersey last year. On the plus side, the Nashville Predators have piled up 50 points in 41 games despite having been without injured players like Martin Erat, Steve Sullivan, Matthew Lombardi, Marcel Goc, Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter, Jordan Tootoo and Cal O'Reilly at various points this season.
MORRISON: I can't argue that the Devils plummet from grace was the unexpected fall, no question. To see Brodeur struggle, the $100-million man come up empty, didn't see that coming. On the positive side, I didn't think the Atlanta Thrashers would be, notwithstanding the stinker against the Leafs last week, as good as they have been. They haven't just ridden a hot goalie or a hot player, they look like they can sustain their level of play over the second half.
2. What's been your favourite story in the past week?
MORRISON: For me, the best story of the week was the Chicago Blackhawks staging a classy tribute to the 1961 Stanley Cup winning team on Sunday, honouring the players on the ice and giving them a framed replica of their title banner. And they made the 50th anniversary even better when they announced they will have bronze statues of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita outside the United Center.
WHARNSBY: Red Wings play-by-play man Ken Daniels was named the 2010 Michigan sportscaster of the year. The Toronto native and former Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster is all class. For Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup final between Pittsburgh and Detroit, Daniels was pressed into action because radio play-by-play man Ken Kal came down with laryngitis. But in the last minute, laryngitis or not, Daniels threw to Kal so he could describe the last final minute of the Red Wings' Stanley Cup win.
3. Pick a team not currently in the playoffs to emerge with a strong second half to snatch a post-season position.
WHARNSBY: I'll take the Buffalo Sabres. Here is a club that lost its top offensive centre in Derek Roy to a season-ending torn quadriceps injury on Dec. 23, yet has gone 4-1-1 since. Forwards Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht and Thomas Vanek have picked up the slack and netminder Ryan Miller has regained his form.
MORRISON: It had better be the San Jose Sharks, who entered Monday night percentage points out of a playoff spot, but they should be a top four team, not one fighting for its playoff life. There is simply too much talent for them to miss the playoffs, or so you would think.