Ice Junkies are packin up the van and heading over to http://www.dailydeke.com/
Over the past couple months I have been engaged in a weekly podcast with Grant Beery, Alan Sheilds and Chris Roberts. We started this podcast through Twitter when Grant sent out a message about starting an NHL focused podcast that would air once a week. I Tweeted (or something like that) back to him that I would be interested and the rest is history.
The podcast started out painful and clumsy, lots of dead air, rambling thoughts and horrible microphones (on my part - seriously, I sounded horrible)! Now, 8 shows later we are starting to sound like an actual Hockey show (I still don't like the way my mic makes me sound, but I am working on that) ... anyway, so last week, Grant and I were talking about how to make what we are doing even better. One suggestion was to focus on the blog ... but which blog. Ice Junkies was going pretty well and our content was updating once in a while. Grant was falling back on his content since he started the podcast, so we decided to blend our 2 blogs together.
Starting soon (not quite sure of the date yet) I will be taking over the Daily Deke blog and Grant will be focusing on the podcast. We will be migrating Ice Junkies content over to the Daily Deke and I'll post up one last farewell with a couple links to get you where we're going!
For all of you who read ... Thank You for checking us out. We are moving up to better places and we hope to see you over at our new home!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Ice Junkies are packin up the van and heading over to http://www.dailydeke.com/
Posted by Bill Brister at 7:24 AM
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Alexei Yashin, who spent the season in Russia after his inflated contract was bought out by the Islanders, appears to be heading back to the NHL. He was league MVP in Russia putting up 43 points in 56 games so it could be interesting to see if he returns. He was quite productive at times during his career, but his attitude and level of commitment were always questioned and who would be willing to give the 35 year old another shot….and how much does he want? Apparently the Canadiens and the Wild, each looking to upgrade their offense, are both interested. However, if someone wants him they’ll have to go after him pretty quickly as by the time July 1st rolls around he’ll already be committed to his team in Russia.
Sounds like the Penguins will not make a serious attempt to re-sign Marian Hossa for fear that it would eventually cost them Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal or Marc-Andre Fleury. Bruins and Canadiens, both of which made a big push at the deadline to get him, are the most likely of suitors. However, if Scott Niedermeyer retires perhaps the Ducks will have the cash to get Corey Perry locked up to a long-term deal and bolster their offense…they certainly have the need.
Wade Redden hasn’t received a contract offer from the Senators and will almost certainly be a free agent come July 1st.
According to a Toronto newspaper it appears that the interim Toronto GM may not be so interim as they are reporting that he will stick around for one more year in that role. “One more year” makes me feel like they already have a target in mind but need to hold out for a year……HMMMMM wonder who that would be *cough* Burke* *cough*.
Dan Ellis stands to get a hefty raise after his performance in the first round where he almost singlehandedly beat the Red Wings. He is in discussion with the Preds who also have Chris Mason under contract and are paying him top goaltender money. Signing Ellis makes me feel as though they'd want to deal Mason.
Ottawa newspaper claims that while the Sens would love to unload Ray Emery in a trade, no one has shown any real interest. This leaves the team with one option: buy out the remainder of his contract for 1/3 of the total amount, which would make him an unrestricted free agent. If that happens, someone has to sign him and take a chance that the young, erratic goaltender could return to the form that had him lead the Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Rumors about Brian Gionta being on the tradeblock as the Devils hope to get tougher overall and improve their offense. This is not the first time his name has come up and they desperately need a center as Patrick Elias is more comfortable on the left wing.
Olaf Kolzig packed up his stuff, removed his name tag and missed all the following team meetings after the Caps lost in game seven to the Flyers and appears to be heading into free agency and into a season with only the second team in his career. This means that the Caps need a goalie and after Cristobal Huet’s performance down the stretch he seems to be a no-brainer. Apparently, he’d like to stay in Washington as well. Also, Sergei Fedorov will get a contract offer from the Caps if he still wants to play.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Doug Wilson, the GM for the Sharks, fired Ron Wilson, Coach of the Sharks, today. They also said they will begin a search for a new head coach immediately. This does not come to a surprise to me seeing that only 5 days ago Ron Wilson was quoted on TSN.ca saying “That's all irrelevant. You look at my record, it's second to none, literally, in the sport, so I'm not even worried about that,” when asked about his job security. This decision was made many months ago by Doug, the Board and Ron himself … and I can prove it by the last paragraph in the story on TSN. Doug Wilson was quoted as saying "People will tell you we've accomplished some really good things the last three or four years, and that's wonderful. The disappointment is we haven't accomplished what's ultimately our goal, and we're not going to stop. We're going to push through, and decisions will be made when they get made."
According to NHL.com:
"Ron helped foster a new era in San Jose Sharks hockey with some record-setting regular season performances,” said Doug Wilson. “However, ultimately we have decided that it is time for a different voice and a different approach to lead this team. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished as an organization but we feel that this team is capable of achieving greater success. I want to thank Ron for his level of commitment and desire to make our organization successful. Our entire organization wishes him well.”
The 2007-08 Pacific Division-champion Sharks were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a four-games-to-two series loss to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Wilson, named the sixth head coach in franchise history on Dec. 4, 2002, leaves the Sharks as the team’s all-time coaching leader in wins (206) and winning percentage (.535), and postseason games coached (52). In four-plus seasons, the Windsor, Ontario native posted a 206-134-45 regular season record and a .535 winning percentage in 385 games with the Sharks. During his tenure, the team won two Pacific Division Championships (2004, 2008).
Wilson also leaves as the franchise leader in post-season games, posting a 28-24 mark in 52 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He led the team to a berth in the Western Conference Finals in 2004 and to the Western Conference Semifinals in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Wilson reached several milestones while serving behind the Sharks bench, including his 1000th game as an NHL coach on March 18, 2007 at Colorado, his 500th NHL win on Feb. 9, 2008 vs. Nashville. He notched his 200th win as Sharks coach on March 18, 2008 at Los Angeles and surpassed Darryl Sutter for the franchise all-time wins list on March 1 at St. Louis.
Here is a quick snapshot of Ron Wilsons accomplishments as the Coach for the Sharks:
There is a good pool of candidates for Doug Wilson to contact over the next couple weeks. Two that come to mind are Joel Quenneville from the Avalanche and Paul Maurice from Toronto are both holding their “Will Coach For A Cup” signs. Since Toronto has all but laid their cards out on the table, it appears the San Jose Sharks will have plenty of interviews starting to line up – I mean, who wouldn’t want to coach the Sharks. They are the most consistent team in the NHL. Over his career Wilson has coached the San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, compiling a record of 518-446-127 over his 1,091 games. He coached the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final during the 1997-98 season but Washington was swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
Friday, May 9, 2008
While last night was text book example of how a team can get caught on their heels and not recover I have to say how interesting it was to see so many empty seats at Joe Louis Arena. Cheap seats, Expensive seats – Did not matter. Empty clusters and Half-empty rows were scattered throughout as if this was “just another Detroit game.
I thought for a moment I was watching a Nashville game. Did anyone put the word out that Detroit is known around the league as “Hockeytown, USA” where every seat should be filled, after all … these are the conference finals, the bridge to the championship, the last push for that beloved battle to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup. Maybe it was because they are playing against Dallas, a team that hasn't been here for the playoffs in 10 years, when Detroit knocked them out of the Conference Finals in 6 games. Also, maybe because they are playing against a goalie that has yet to add a tick mark to the Win column when playing against Detroit. Even IF those are all true – Why would you still not pack the arena during the Conference Finals to show your team (Hockeytowns Team) that they have fans behind them? Is it because this is what you have come to expect from your team? Is it because it does not mean anything until your team is IN the Finals? Let us not forget the Month of February where your team went 4-8-2 being outscored in that month 28-38.
So what's the problem, I know the economy is bad and I am not telling people to go farther into debt for a Hockey game … but seriously, we're not talking 100,000 seats to fill at Joe Louis either. I would want to think there are enough fans and money in Hockeytown to fill those empty seats. Come on - if Detroit can fill Lions seats, why can’t they fill Red Wings seats.
Some great hockey is being played this year and this post season has given us games that will be relived for many years to come. Ever since Game 5 against Nashville, the Wings have been a different team. Grinding, hitting and hat-tricking. They haven't lost in three weeks. They look tight and enthused. They've gotten production from their stars and their supporting cast. They're protecting the puck and they're getting an enormous boost from Osgood, the goalie. This is the combination every great Stanley Cup winner possesses – The stars of the team shine, the supporting players back them up and before you know it, your lifting the Cup with tears running down your face … because since your 4th birthday when you were given those “New Skates” … THIS is the moment you have dreamed of.
If you missed last nights game, here's my quick wrap up. The Wings started off the night with too many opportunities. They got a 5-on-3 chance less than five minutes in. Nine seconds later, they scored -- a beautiful ricochet slapper by Brian Rafalski. How about Franzen, redirecting a puck for his 12th playoff goal and his fifth straight playoff game with a score -- tying a team record held by, ahem, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. Even captain Nicklas Lidstrom said, when asked to evaluate the seven-game winning streak "It's comparable to some of the great teams (we've had).”
I still don’t think you can pin this win soley on the stellar game Detroit brought to the table. Dallas did not even show up, I think they were caught off guard early in the first period and never recovered. It looked, to me, as if the Stars were watching the puck to much and standing around waiting for something to happen. Well, Marty did the best he could … after all, I would assume knowing your playing in an arena where you are 0-8-2 might do something to your confidence. That is where the 5 guys in front of him have to say … Not Our Goalie!
I am excited about the Philly/Pittsburgh matchup tonight and I will wait to see how the Stars answer back in Game 2 before I cast my judgment.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Anyone catch the last game in Dallas? 6 days ago I posted my thoughts on the Sharks/Stars match up. 4 games down and San Jose is looking at elimination is NOT what I had in mind. So, let me ask again ... Did anyone catch the last game in Dallas? The Sharks come out fighting, owning the corners, dominating the offensive zone. Marty Turco turns aside shot after shot … then, 5 minutes into the second period POW, Dallas scores and the Sharks pack it up. They might as well had their equipment truck back up to the zamboni entrance. San Jose’s game changed the moment they were down by one. Then, on an amazing breakout pass from Sergei Zubov, Patty Marleau pulls out another short-handed goal on Marty Turco (yes, 2 games in a row he did that!) I was shocked, and that is what energized them enough for Milan Michalek to convert the only power play (out of 6) to make it 2 – 1 by shoving in his third goal of the series, and Evgeni Nabokov had his strongest game of the series, and possibly of the playoffs, making 17 saves in the win, and the Sharks live to play another day. I bit my nails, Dallas threw everything they had at Nabby and the Sharks won!
The Sharks win came on the second night of a back to back games in Dallas because everyone expected there would be a Dallas Mavericks playoff game that night, but the Mav’s were eliminated by New Orleans. The win gives the Sharks a very small shred of hope, in that, this series is not quite over yet. What San Jose has done is planted that same thought, into the heads of the Dallas Stars, instead of hope, it’s in the form of doubt. It’s like a seed has been planted, and tonight, the Sharks need to do everything in their power to make that seed grow. If they play the “in your face” hockey they showed us at the end of the regular season I believe they can get Dallas to second guess their play and capitalize that into another win.
With Detroit completing their sweep of the Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks can hope that a possible date with Detroit could be just what they need to rejuvenate their passion into power. Just the thought about meeting Detroit for the Conference should have some Sharks players and fans licking their lips, thinking a possible revenge match could be waiting for them in the next round.
However, as we all know, one game does not make the series, and the Sharks aren't close to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. A win tonight night will get them that much closer, plus keep them in the second round for one more game. As of now, there is no Game 6 or Game 7 that the Sharks can even think about, because if they don't win Game 5, then neither of those will ever exist. There are ways for San Jose to secure another trip to Dallas: A continued presence from guys like Mike Grier, Tomas Plihal, Torrey Mitchell, and Devin Setoguchi up front, not to mention Marleau’s continued hot streak, and the occasional appearance from Joe Thornton needs to become a little more consistent. Back that with pressure from the defense, Brian Campbell needs to show up and push San Jose’s Defensive lines like he did after the trade.
Kudos has to go to Ron Wilson for bringing Curtis Brown back … in his Stanley Cup debut this year his veteran leadership allowed San Jose the ability to hand the Stars zero points on their 3 power plays, Brown also won 7 of the 11 face offs. Brown’s efforts were part of the reason why San Jose is playing a Game Five on Friday. The Sharks are pining for a chance to make history. Only two teams have rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series. In 1942, the Toronto Maple Leafs did that in their Finals series vs. Detroit. Thirty-three years later, the 1975 New York Islanders repeated that performance in the quarterfinals vs. Pittsburgh. And ironically, it’s been 33 years since that Islanders-Penguins series.
If you are into numbers … this could be a great omen for the Sharks.
“It’s an awfully big mountain to look at if you say, ‘We have to win four’,” Brown said of the Sharks elimination situation. “We have to take little steps and win one. And then hopefully another one. That’s how you take little bites out of that big hill.”
“We know what the task is,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to win four games in a row to win the series. It’s happened before. If you think you’re facing an impossible situation, then we shouldn’t even bother playing the game. The advantage for us is that we have two of the next three games at home. We can hold our home ice. We just have to win one more game in Dallas. You just try to find any way to look at something positive.”
Saturday, April 26, 2008
As I have been reading over the past couple weeks since the playoffs have started, there are more than 2 view points as to who is doing well, who is struggling and who shouldn't be in the post season. The first round in the Stanley Cup playoffs proved that every team in Round One deserved to be there and they fought to be there. Well with exception to Ottawa … they “wanted” to be there, but Pittsburgh had a difference of opinion. Now, looking forward the San Jose Sharks survived the most physical and intense playoff series in the first round with a strong game 7 performance against the Calgary Flames. The Flames pushed the Sharks so close to their breaking point, but they would not allow the Flames the opportunity to capitalize on anything. A fifth seed Dallas Stars lineup will be an even more difficult match up. The Stars, as with Calgary, had regular season success registering a 4-2-2 record against the Sharks. Dallas has established a high intensity work ethic 5-on-5, on the penalty kill, and on the power play that is perfectly suited for playoff hockey. Dallas also plays a smash mouth, gritty style of hockey, relies on a more balanced offense, and puts most of their faith and superstitious beliefs on an aging athletic goaltender named Marty Turco - Who will probably not be pulled from the net at the first sign of adversity.
Watching and reading game recaps about the first round proved to me there were a number of warning signs exhibited by the Sharks, primarily their performance early in game 1, allowing Calgary the ability to net four unanswered goals in game 3, and then there is the entire 60 minute performance en route to a 2-0 shutout loss in an elimination game 6. San Jose has depth unmatched by any team left in the postseason, but the shift-to-shift intensity needs to improve in order to realize that potential. A strength for San Jose during the regular season, a mobile puck-moving defense that initiates offense, had trouble getting into gear against the Calgary forecheck. The Flames gave the Dallas Stars a blueprint for how to shut down the Sharks offense. San Jose will need to rely on its leaders, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, Milan Michalek, and Joe Pavelski to win battles and score goals from in front of the net.
The Dallas Stars will not get the free penalties that helped them dethrone last season's Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round. In fact, if the Sharks coaching staff could take anything from the first round and apply it to round two it should be to lobby the referee's more often. They have been labeled "the hardest working team in the NHL". Defenseman Stephane Robidas may be the MVP of the first round for Dallas, scoring a goal and 5 assists while defenseman Sergei Zubov and Philippe Boucher were recovering from injuries. It is pretty much guaranteed that Mattias Norstrom and rookie defenseman Matt Niskanen will face a heavy load trying to contain a Shark attack that will keep pressing the action. Mike Ribeiro, Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards may be the most difficult offensive threats on the surface, but the Stars have a gritty lineup top to bottom that will make San Jose pay for turnovers and inopportune penalties.
Lets jump into the Way Back Machine and remember that the Sharks and Stars met twice in 3 years (1998, 2000), and, at least one of those series was a big one. Ed Belfour, Owen Nolan, Bryan Marchment, Joe Nieuwendyk, Derian Hatcher, Mike Ricci. Ah, the good ole days!!! Can we take this round and cultivate some new leaders, some new stories and re-write some of the past history that haunts us every year? I think we can … I think San Jose can beat the Stars … they just need to play Sharks Hockey!!!
Friday, April 25, 2008
Sean Avery is transitioning from agitating hockey player to fashion magazine intern. Thats right, according to ABC News (www.abcnews.go.com) Sean has a soft side!
You can check out the story here - Ranger Wears Prada: Hockey Player to Intern at Vogue Magazine
Monday, April 14, 2008
I remember growing up and when I was playing anything outside with my friends there was one major rule ... No making up rules as you go along. Not in Colin Campbell's game though, apparently he can just make up rules and "interpretations" as he sees fit, depending on who is affected.
Lets keep in mind the Simon / Pronger incident when reading this story! Here is what happened last night that is causing quite a stir in the NHL offices:
I am sure my interpretation of this maneuver by Sean Avery is going to be argued relentlessly. I think there is nothing wrong with what Avery is doing here. He is not in the crease, he is not coming into contact with Marty, he is doing his job and that is to distract and help his team score a goal. What difference would it make if Sean's back had been to Marty and he was doing those same movements trying to distract him? My other question is directed at Paul Martin who stands 2 feet away from Sean and does nothing for a good 10 seconds, and then he tries to give him a cross check that is ineffective.
Was anyone surprised to learn this today from NHL.com - NHL reacts quickly to Avery's antics, amends unsportsmanlike conduct rule
According to Marin Brodeur "I've played for 15 years in this league. I've been watching games for 33 years. I had never seen that in my life, I don't think that kind of behavior should be done in front of the net, but there is no rule for it." Well since Marty is not fond of it, don't worry, Colin will fix that for you sir.
The NHL moved quickly this morning by making an "on-the-fly rule interpretation." Seriously, that's what it says in the article ... along with this - "An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play," Colin Campbell, the NHL director of hockey operations said in a statement.
"That's not something that anyone writing the rule book has anticipated, and I don't think that we view that as part of our game," said Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, an NHL goalie for 13 seasons. "With that being said, Sean Avery didn't do anything to break any rules. "With every rule that is written, or how we try to change the game, somebody gets creative. Sean has gone beyond being a little bit creative on this one."
That is exactly what you get from Avery, a talented player always looking for ways to push the envelope. He rarely stops talking on the ice or the bench, whether it's to opponents, teammates, officials or anyone who will listen. Once again folks, Mr Campbell shows us how easy it is to re-write the rules for this great sport. I find it interesting that they filed this under unsportsmanlike conduct instead of interference since the "interpretation" of the movement is intended to interfere with the goaltenders job of keeping the puck out of the net.
I guess that was overlooked when they decided to make this "on-the-fly" rule change ... good job Colin Campbell ... thank you for making this sport "better." *insert sarcastic "yeah, Right" here!*
Friday, April 11, 2008
Could Evgeni Nabokov be the best goaltender in the NHL today? He leads the league in wins (46 out of 77 games played) and is tied for 3rd in Goals Against (2.14). Last night he knew what was at stake for San Jose after the Flames' 3-2 victory in Wednesday's opener. He accepted the challenge and responded with the type of performance that has led the Sharks to the Playoffs this year as the Pacific Division champions.
After the game, when asked, Nabokov said “We knew we couldn't lose going to Calgary, they were playing great hockey, and we just kept coming at them. It's a win, that's the most important thing. A shutout is icing on the cake. There's a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of fights ahead of us." He made one of the most incredible saves with 4:51 to play after a sharp Calgary pass left him out of position to stop Nolan's shot on a wide open net. Nabokov somehow leaned across the crease and blindly gloved the puck, leaving the former Sharks captain chewing on his mouthpiece in disbelief. "The last one was sort of lucky," Nabokov said. "I just tried to put my glove somewhere there, and hope he would hit me."
Kiprusoff was nearly as good as Nabokov in the rematch, stopping 41 out of 43 shots as the Flames struggled on the penalty-kill for 9:52 in the second period, in which San Jose out shot Calgary 27-3. Calgary’s lack of performance in the 2nd was partly caused by the 7 penalties in a row they brought upon themselves. 2 cross checking, 2 holding, Roughing, Hooking and Slashing … most of them “sloppy” penalties and these professionals should know better. San Jose again used its big advantages in speed and skill to keep the Flames on the defensive - or force them to commit penalties. After the game Calgary coach Mike Keenan said "I was very upset about the officiating, I'll share those thoughts with the league and with the supervisor of the officials. I can't comment on how it affected my players. We had a good first period, and then there was a total imbalance in the second."
This was a completely different game than the night before when Calgary won the opener despite being out shot 39 – 23 by San Jose and a Sharks home sellout crowd expecting big things from the NHL's second-best regular season team. It seems as if San Jose just needed to obtain their playoff bearings … if San Jose can continue to play the rough grinding hockey I watched last night I see them going deep into the playoffs. San Jose's rocky playoff start was disturbingly familiar to us fans, we have watched the talented Sharks crash out of the playoffs' second round in two straight springs. San Jose had a franchise record 108 points in the regular season, finishing 7 points behind Detroit after a 20-game streak without a regulation defeat from mid-February to early April. Regarding their first game Wednesday night Sharks LWer Ryane Clowe said "I thought we came out with the right intentions, but maybe we were kind of tight, and they were really hungry, we definitely have to be more hungry, more of that dog-with-a-bone mentality. Overall, they wanted it more.”
I must admit that the Sharks / Calgary match up this first round has the best showing so far. The physical play of both teams, the grit, the power, the unstoppable momentum from both teams is what this sport is all about – First round, Final round … this is NHL Playoff Hockey – No other sport compares to it!
Posted by Bill Brister at 10:02 AM
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The Matchup: (1) Montreal versus (8) Boston
The Story: Montreal is one of the most surprising stories of the season due in large part to the NHL’s comeback player of the year Alexei Kovalev. Throw in a dash of history with a rookie goaltender, Carey Price, leading the team into the playoffs, much like Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden did for the franchise years ago, and there is a sense of strange destiny here. They possess the league’s best powerplay and have scoring ability on all top three lines. However, injuries have taken their toll as their captain Saku Koivue is questionable for the first round with a broken bone in his foot while Mike Komisarek, maybe the team’s best defensive defenseman, has yet to be cleared for full contact practice. Oh, by the way, the Canadiens won the cup behind Roy and Dryden those years…just keep that in mind.
Boston is a heart and soul team that despite numerous injuries has battled to the very end to stay in the playoffs. Tim Thomas has proven that he’s one of the top goaltenders in the league, despite some inconsistency, and Zdeno Chara deserves to be considered for the Norris Trophy. The team has also received good news as Patrice Bergeron appears likely to play in the first round. It will be the first time he’s played since October and should provide an emotional lift. However, they are still waiting for leading scorer Marc Savard to return from a broken bone in his back, which was a result of a nasty cross check, and are far from healthy entering post-season play.
The Verdict: If Carey Price continues to play as well as he has since taking the number 1 job and inspiring, through his play not his words, the trade of Cristobal Huet then Montreal should sail through in 5 games and possibly be healthy for the second.
The Matchup: (2) Pittsburgh versus (7) Ottawa Senators
The Story: It didn’t take long for the words and accusations to start flying in this series as Brian Murray, GM and coach of the Senators, accused the Penguins of throwing the last game of the season against the Flyers to assure a first round matchup with his team. The Penguins have denied it, but they certainly weren’t the same team in that game as they were in the previous matchup with the rival Flyers. If the Penguins did throw the game, it’ll be interesting to see how they feel about it after the first round. The Senators exposed the Penguins in the first round last year. They came out and set a physical tone that the finesse-based Penguins simply couldn’t match. Frankly, not much has changed so Ottawa will certainly come out with same level of intensity. In fact, Ottawa may come out an angry team with every analyst in the world expecting them to fall easily and quickly. Ottawa was the NHL’s hottest team through the first 20 games but has fallen apart as of late. Whether the playoff pressures, and loss of Captain Daniel Alfredsson for at least the first round, will bring the team together and push them apart remains to be seen.
Pittsburgh is riding high coming into the post-season as they are finally healthy for the first time this year. Evgeni Malkin matured rapidly when Sidney Crosby went down with a high ankle sprain and Malkin eventually finished second in the scoring race behind fellow countrymen Alexander Ovechkin. Fleury, who also went down with a high ankle sprain, came back a confident goaltender and led the team to a division title. The Penguins went for broke at the trade deadline in acquiring Marian Hossa, arguably the biggest fish in the trade deadline pool, but did so at the expense of grit. And ironically, grit is exactly what cost them the first round last year. Ryan Whitney has recently been moved from forward back to his natural position at defense and the brief demotion seemed to have little impact on his decision making as he was positively dreadful in the last couple games of the season. He was possibly the worst player on the Penguins roster in the playoffs last year and he could single handedly cost them at least a game in this series.
The Verdict: I think this series is nowhere near automatic and the Penguins will have to learn how to play tough, nasty, playoff hockey in a real hurry. Their second to last game of the season against the Flyers showed that they have the ability, but can they do it consistently? I hope so. Pittsburgh in 6.
The Matchup: (3) Washington versus (6) Philadelphia
The Story: The NHL’s Cinderella team set numerous records this year not only behind league leading scorer Alexander Ovechkin and his historical campaign, but also as a team with one of the greatest comebacks of all time, a comeback that revitalized hockey in Washington. They come into the post-season streaking and have proven that they can beat anyone. Sergei Fedorov is alive again and brings a sense of calm to an otherwise young and inexperienced team with players like Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and even Alexander the Great himself making their playoff debut. The role players for the Caps, players like Brooks Laich, Matt Cooke, and Eric Fehr, will need to continue their high level of play and disrupt the Flyers. Cristobal Huet, who’s been incredible as of late, comes in with a lot to prove. He’s playing for a contract and I’m sure he would love to make his way to Montreal and eliminate his former team.
The Flyers are a manic team. They started off the season with so many suspensions that the league quietly warned them about their play. They then streaked to the top of the Eastern conference and then, just as rapidly, tumbled down and nearly missed the playoffs. They have depth up front and solid defense and were one of my early picks for teams to watch in the playoffs. They come into the playoffs playing some of their best hockey in awhile, but it all comes down to Martin Biron displaying the consistency he showed early in the season.
The Verdict: I have to go with Cinderella on this one. The team of destiny, if you will, is streaking right now and I can’t pick against them. However, this will be a very close series and if the youngsters in Washington get caught up in the spectacle of the playoffs, it could be over quickly for them.
The Matchup: (4) New Jersey versus (5) New York Rangers
The Story: These two teams faced each other in the last game of the season for home ice advantage and the Devils won in a shootout. This should give us an idea of what to expect in this series as it should be a close, hard fought battle. However, each team is coming from very different angles.
The Devils made few changes in the off-season and struggled early on as the team didn’t quit seem to be on the same page. The Rangers, on the other hand, made a number of high profile acquisititions in the off-season including Mr. Playoffs Chris Drury and former Devil Scott Gomez. Both players will get a chance to earn their long contracts as all of the traditionally edgy New York fans and media certainly won’t let it slide if they don’t.
The Verdict: The Devils had possibly the greatest goaltender of all time in Martin Broduer, while the Rangers will lean on Henrik Lundqvist who, despite some inconsistency, seems to have re-discovered his game. Henrik will also be playing to justify his long-term contract extension but this won’t be his first time in the show. The scoring depth of the Rangers is the difference here and even Broduer can’t save them. Rangers in 6.
The Matchup: (1) Detroit versus (8) Nashville
The Story: Detroit was easily the best team in the NHL through most of the regular season, but they did expose some weaknesses late in the year. When Detroit isn’t getting secondary scoring from guys like Daniel Cleary and Johan Franzen they can be beaten. They place their Stanley Cup hopes on 43 year old Dominik Hasek who appears to be completely healthy for the first time in a long time, whether or not he’ll stay that way, remains to be seen. The Redwings were often criticized for the lack of toughness over the last few years and they appeared to take it to heart as they went out and added Aaron Downey, Dallas Drake and secured the return of hometown favorite and playoff veteran Darren McCarty. While they still have a few injuries on the back-end, they appear to be poised for yet another deep playoff run.
Nashville held a firesale in the off-season sending Tomas Vokoun, Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell all out of town. They now want to do more with less behind the surprising Dan Ellis who has only allowed 5 goals on the last 182 shots he’s faced. Health or, more specifically, weight is a concern for Ellis who has been trying to find a way to stay hydrated during games after he lost a whopping 13 pounds in a single evening.
The Verdict: The Predators would need a Conn Smythe performance from Dan Ellis to even have a shot. Detroit in 4.
The Matchup: (2) San Jose versus (7) Calgary
The Story: The Sharks were a team with two personalities for much of the season. They were great on the road and mediocre at home. Few expected them to compete for the division, but something changed at the trade deadline. The Sharks went out and acquired Brian Campbell, a puck moving defenseman from Buffalo, and the team rattled off a franchise record 20-game points streak to win their first division title. Evgeni Nabokov finished one win shy (46) of Martin Broduer’s record for wins in a season and, in my opinion, deserves the Vezina Trophy for this year for the league’s best goaltender. Joe Thornton and crew, much like Detroit, have often been criticized for being too soft but in the last game of the season the Sharks earned 95 penalty minutes against the Dallas Stars. A game that saw Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek both drop the gloves. It could be considered a statement, now they need to show that they can do that and stay within the rules.
Calgary is another schizophrenic team. The Flames have struggled to build momentum, failing to win two straight games since late February, but when they do win and play well, they are one of the best. Miika Kiprusoff, a perennial favorite for the Vezina, hasn’t been his normal dominant self this season posting decent, but unspectacular, numbers. The biggest advantage the Flames have going for them is Jarome Iginla and the mentality of this team. Jarome put up his second 50-goal season this year and continues to be one of the best all-around players in the league and easily, in my opinion, the greatest captain in the sport. Kristian Huselius was scorching hot through much of the season, including streaks of 13 points in 4 games and 12 points in 5 games, but disappeared in the last month. The secondary scoring of the Calgary Flames, which includes Daymond Langkow and Alex Tanguay, is the key to the series along with physical play. The mentality of this team is to always be a tough team to play against. This is especially the case in the playoffs and they will attempt to wear down the Sharks with the most physical series in recent memory.
The Verdict: This is a tough series to call. San Jose has always underachieved in the playoffs while the Flames can beat anyone on any night and then follow it up with a loss to a cellar-dweller. Every year we have a 7th seeded team defeat a 2nd seed, so I’ll pick the Flames in 7.
The Matchup: (3) Minnesota versus (6) Colorado
The Story: Minnesota won their first division title in franchise history this year and finished strong securing points in all but 2 of their final 14 games. A number of their young players are coming off of career years, including Marian Gaborik (42 goals) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (50 assists) and Nicklas Backstrom continues to be one of the league’s best between the pipes. Minnesota is a defense first hockey team, which could serve them well in the playoffs if they can produce on the powerplay and use their counterattack to produce timely goals.
Colorado reached into the history books and tried to rebuild a winner of old when they signed Peter Forsberg and acquired Adam Foote at the trade deadline. The team struggled with injuries, including Joe Sakic, throughout the year but appears to finally be healthy and ready for what should be a great playoff series. One of the league’s most surprising stories of the year has to be Jose Theodore, whom everyone has been waiting to see crumble. He shows no signs of doing so and his playoff experience is invaluable. Youngster, and star-to-be, Paul Stastny will make his playoff debut and both he and Ryan Smyth will need to produce against the Wild’s stingy defense if they Aves hope to win.
The Verdict: This is possibly the most even series of the playoffs, but I’m going to go with the Wild in 7. If the Wild can’t get any secondary scoring or the Avalanche are able to push around the Wild’s somewhat finesse group of defensemen, it could be over rather quickly.
The Matchup: (4) Anaheim versus (5) Dallas
The Story: The Stars were rapidly closing the gap between themselves and the Red Wings, added a tremendous offensive piece to the puzzle in Brad Richards and seemed to be on their way to a division title when suddenly the wheels fell off. The Stars went 4-9-2 over their last 15 games and fell to the fifth seed. They were lucky to have not fallen further. Now with an injury to key defenseman and powerplay quarterback Sergei Zubov, Dallas isn’t limping into the playoffs, they’re crawling.
The reigning Stanley Cup champions Anaheim Ducks are both better and worse this year than they were the last. They have less depth down the middle with the trade of Andy McDonald for the somewhat impact-less, yet battle tested, Doug Weight. Corey Perry is likely to return in the first round but certainly won’t be there for the first couple of games as he’s still recovering from the laceration of his thigh. His absence puts a lot of offensive pressure on the other forwards known to contribute offensively, namely Ryan Getzlaf, Todd Bertuzzi, Chris Kunitz and the always solid Teemu Selanne. The Ducks strength is clearly their defense, as they have what is possibly the greatest defensive core assembled in the last decade. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is a bright spot for the Ducks as he’s been stellar down the stretch. Overall, they are a team lacking offensive balance but all it would take is a guy like Ryan Carter or Bobby Ryan to step up and the Ducks will repeat.
The Verdict: The Ducks will pound the Stars throughout this series. They will wear them down with their size on both ends of the ice and win the series in 5 games. Anaheim will also come out of the West. Doug Weight, while quiet as of late, will be a big part of their run.
Last night myself along with Grant from Nosebleedradio.com and Bethany from BethanysHockeyRants.com teamed up and did our first podcast for the NHL ... its called "The Weekly Deke" and it will be airing every Tuesday night 9pm east / 6pm west. I'll write more about this experience in a bit - however, I wanted to toss this podcast up to our readers.
Here is the link - http://snurl.com/23x4x
Keep in mind, this is the first recorded podcast ... there is a ton of room for improvement.
Posted by Bill Brister at 11:51 AM
Monday, April 7, 2008
The Tampa Bay Lightning have won the draft lottery and will almost certainly add superstar-to-be Steve Stamkos to their lineup essentially reconstructing a new "big three" with Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St Louis and Stamkos. Now if they can find some defense maybe they'll make the playoffs again.
Patrice Bergeron met with his doctors this morning and was cleared for contact. He immediately went to practice and participated in his first full-contact practice since he suffered a grade 3 concussion in October. While his exact return date is uncertain, Patrice himself said that he won't play on Thursday in the Boston Bruin's opener against the Montreal Canadiens, it does look like he'll play at some point in the first round.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
The Washington Capitals completed their seemingly impossible venture from the basement of the Eastern Conference to the third playoff seed on Saturday night with a passionate, and somewhat dominant, win over the Florida Panthers. It topped off what has been one of the most remarkable stories of the year and puts the team in the playoffs for the first time in five years. It is, in many ways, the classic Cinderella story.
The team spent 50 days with the worst record in the conference prompting their coach to be replaced by his minor league counterpart only a few months into the season. Their group of young future stars and role players came together and exceeded all expectations under new leadership. They acquired a true veteran at the deadline that many, including myself, believed to have nothing left in the tank, or the chest, only to see him find his passion again. They traded for a goalie that was left behind by his former team, a goalie that would then lead the Caps to the playoffs by setting a franchise record for wins in a row. Their young superstar proved that he's the best player in the world and stands to be the first to win four NHL awards in single season. All of this resulted in the Capitals becoming only the second team in NHL history to go from finishing last in a division three years in a row to winning the division and the first since the NHL had more than 6 teams in the league. It is easily the greatest single and multi-season comeback in recent memory and the story shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
The league MVP award is on the line tonight along with the Washington Capitals playoff hopes as Alexander Ovechkin leads the Caps into their final game of the season. They face the Florida Panthers, ironically the same team that did them a favor last night when they defeated Carolina, in what is easily the biggest game of Ovechkin's career and the the most important game for the Capitals in a very long time. All they have to do is earn a single point, just one, and they'll not only be in the playoffs but they'll also secure the third spot in the East and home ice advantage through at least the first round.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Capitals have been neck in neck in the Southeast Division for the last week or so as both teams surged towards a playoff birth. The teams come from very different angles, however, as the young Hurricanes franchise looks to overcome the disappointment of missing the playoffs last year after winning the Stanley Cup the year before. They started off incredibly well this season as one of the top team's in the East, and then tumbled through the standings before regaining their momentum at the end of the season. Washington, on the other hand, hasn't made the playoffs in years and struggled out of the gate prompting the dismissal of then coach Glen Hanlon. He was replaced by Bruce Boudreau and the team has soared since in what has become a record breaking season for their young superstar Alexander Ovechkin.
Ovechkin now has 65 goals on the season and 47 assists. He's set a new NHL record for goals by a left winger in a single season and was the first player to score more than 60 in a decade. He's easily the MVP of the league, but will he win the award if his team fails to make the playoffs? If history holds true, it's unlikely since the award is rarely given to someone on a team that failed to make the playoffs, which is just one of the reasons why he'll need to play the best game of his young career. A tremendous amount of pressure will also sit on the shoulders of Cristobal Huet, acquired at the trade deadline from the Montreal Canadiens, who has been nothing short of stellar since arriving in Washington.
Going into yesterday's games Washington was tied with Carolina in points, but Carolina had an additional win which gave them the top spot. All Carolina had to do was beat the Florida Panthers in their final game of the season to secure the division and their playoff birth. They out-shot the Panthers 46-17, but fell 4-3 in what can only be described as a devastating loss for the franchise. A loss that paves the way for Ovechkin and the young stars of the Capitals to make their playoff debut.
If they earn a point tonight and subsequently find themselves in the playoffs, they may just have the scoring depth and role players to surprise a number of teams. The NHL has to be quietly cheering for their new face of the league to make the post-season. It would make for quite a story and it's exactly the kind of drama that makes the NHL post-season the best season of any major sport.
Friday, April 4, 2008
The Ottawa Senators earned an important victory over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs 8-2 last night but they may have paid a terrible price in the process. Late in the first period Daniel Alfredsson carried the puck into the offensive zone and then committed the cardinal sin of hockey. He admired his play, lowered his head and didn’t watch where his body was moving. Mark Bell took a few strides and then glided in to lay a textbook, yet brutal, hit on the Senators’ Captain sending him spinning through the air and down to the ice in a heap. A small melee ensued while Alfredsson lay on the ice with the trainer at his side. Eventually, he was able to stand up and skate off the ice but the extent, or existence, of the injury is unknown at this time.
Bryan Murray, head coach of the Senators, was angry after the game, “I didn't like the hit, I thought he was blind-sighted. The knee came out, and it was a hit to the head.'' This is in stark contrast to his defense of Chris Neil when he laid a nearly identical hit on the captain of the Buffalo Sabres at that time, Chris Drury. After losing Patrick Eaves to a monster hit from Colby Armstrong in last year’s playoffs, Murray replied “I feel bad with [Eaves] getting hurt the way he did and I know you’ll write extensive articles about how tough Armstrong was and how that shouldn’t be allowed,” Murray continued, “but we felt the same way when Neil hit Drury. It was a fair hit, a hockey hit and we live with it accordingly.”
Posted by Clint Bundrick (email@example.com) at 10:58 AM
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I always thought the NHL gave the first draft pick to the worst team from the year before … what I did not realize is that there is a weighted system to determine the order of selection for the first 14 picks and that will take place Monday, April 7, at 8 p.m. ET at the NHL’s New York City office.
As stripped from the pages of NHL.com – “The League, in cooperation with TSN, further announced that the results of the Draft Drawing will be televised live by TSN in Canada; VERSUS in the U.S.; and NHL Network in the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, the results will be streamed live on NHL.com and TSN.ca and broadcast live on XM Satellite Radio. It will be only the second time the Draft Drawing results will be televised live, and the first time since 2005, when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the right to select first overall and drafted Sidney Crosby.”
So - let me ask you all this - would you believe that they went and sold the rights to this honored and coveted process … the NHL has now named it the “Scotiabank NHL Draft Lottery” … amazing! For those that want to know (and don’t pretend you don’t care) I might be badmouthing it, but I’ll be glued to the TV on April 7th at 8 p.m. ET - it will originate from the NHL on TSN studios in Toronto. TSN’s James Duthie will host the program, with Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie and analyst Mike Milbury.
The Draft Drawing involves Clubs that do not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or the Clubs that acquired the first-round drafting positions of those non-playoff clubs. Here is how the super secret formula works (again, according to NHL.com) … the club selected in the Draft Drawing may not move up more than four positions in the draft order. Thus, the only Clubs with the opportunity to receive the first overall selection are the five teams with the lowest regular-season point totals, or the Clubs that acquired an eligible Club’s first-round draft pick. The 2008 NHL Entry Draft will take place at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario. The first round will take place on Friday, June 20 commencing at 7 p.m. (local time) and the subsequent rounds (two through seven) will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 21. No club will move down more than one position as a result of the Draft Drawing. Under the weighted system, the club with the fewest regular-season points will have the greatest chance (25%) of winning the Draft Drawing and will pick no lower than second. Based on team finish, the percentage chance of being selected in the Draft Drawing is:
30th place team - 25.0%
29th place team - 18.8%
28th place team - 14.2%
27th place team - 10.7%
26th place team - 8.1%
25th place team - 6.2%
24th place team - 4.7%
23rd place team - 3.6%
22nd place team - 2.7%
21st place team - 2.1%
20th place team - 1.5%
19th place team - 1.1%
18th place team - 0.8%
17th place team - 0.5%
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Eklund has a great breakdown of the games tonight and each one has its own implications. I think this is a great snapshot of what tonight means for so many teams! You can read his post here on Eklunds Hockeybuzz.com ... or, for your convenience, I have posted it below.
Thanks to Eklund for this list -
There have been several huge nights of hockey so far, tonight is enormous on so many levels … Here are all the scenarios.
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins (idle) can clinch the Atlantic Division tonight: If New Jersey gets one or no points against NY Islanders.
#2 Montreal Canadiens can clinch the Northeast Division tonight: If they get at least one point against Ottawa.
#3 Carolina Hurricanes can clinch the Southeast Division tonight: If they get a regulation victory against Washington.
#4 New Jersey Devils can clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth tonight: If they beat NY Islanders or if Washington gets one or no points against Carolina.
#5 New York Rangers (idle) can clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth tonight: If Washington gets no points against Carolina.
#6 Ottawa Senators can clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth tonight: If they beat Montreal and Washington gets one or no points against Carolina or if they get one point against Montreal and Washington gets no points against Carolina.
#1 Detroit Red Wings (idle) can clinch the Presidents' Trophy tonight: If San Jose gets one or no points against Los Angeles.
#3 Minnesota Wild (idle) can clinch the Northwest Division tonight: If Colorado gets one or no points against Vancouver and Calgary gets one or no points against Edmonton.
#6 Colorado Avalanche can clinch a Western Conference playoff berth tonight: If they beat Vancouver or if they get one point against Vancouver and Nashville gets one or no points against St. Louis or Nashville gets no points against St. Louis.
#7 Calgary Flames can clinch a Western Conference playoff berth tonight: if they beat Edmonton and Nashville gets no points against St. Louis.
The Phoenix Coyotes' will get a glimpse of their future this week with Kyle Turris making his NHL debut. The 18 year old signed an entry level deal with Phoenix that ended his career at the University of Wisconsin and started what could be a brilliant one in the NHL. Turris was taken third overall by the Coyotes in last year's draft and Wayne Gretzky has been very high on the youngster from the start. In fact, many thought he may even try to trade up at last year's draft just to make sure he was able to obtain the 6'1 centerman. Turris scored 121 points in 53 games last year for Burnaby in the BCHL and averaged a point per game at the University of Wisconsin. Getting Turris into the NHL this year is a great move for Phoenix as this will not count as the first year of Turris' contract but will get him some valuable time in the NHL before next season. Phoenix already has a number of standout youngsters including Peter Mueller, who is battling for the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie, and the team continues to get better while they get younger with their newest addition. Had they had Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes all season they'd easily be in the playoffs, but for now they stand as the number one team to watch for next year.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
It's been a trying season for the Buffalo Sabres, to say the least, and it appears that it won't be getting any easier though it may finally be coming to an end. Contracts, trades, free agency and injuries have severly damaged what was one of the best teams in hockey for the last couple of years. Despite all of that, and a 10+ game slump in the middle of the season, the Sabres have been on the verge of sliding into the 8th and final spot in the East for the last week or so. However, their performance over the last week may have finally put them to rest.
The Sabres are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games, but that doesn't tell the whole story. In the last week alone, the Sabres have managed to squander three points in games that were absolute must-wins and games they simply gave away. On March 25th, against the rival Ottawa Senators the Sabres appeared to have the game in-hand when they scored two quick goals to start the third which put them up 3-1. A little less than 10 minutes later the Sabres were on the powerplay on the verge of putting the game away when one of their defensemen made a terrible decision to pinch along the boards. He got caught and it produced a shorthanded scoring opportunity that Dean McAmmond buried to cut the lead to 1. Less than 2 minutes later Daniel Alfredsson scored to tie the game and it seemed as if the Sabres threw in the towel. In the next 4 minutes and 18 seconds the Senators would rattle off 2 more goals and then throw in an empty netter with 1 second left to leave Buffalo with a 6-3 win. 2 points given away at a time where you simply can't afford to do that.
Buffalo somewhat made amends 2 nights later when they scored with less than a minute and a half left in the game to force overtime against the Senators. Buffalo eventually won in a shootout. The next night the Sabres faced the Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens. The Sabres dominated in shots on goal, but the Canadiens had twice as many "scoring opportunities" as the Sabres starting the third period in a game that was tied at 1. Ryan Miller, who has not been great when his team needed him so desperately, actually had a good night making a number of key saves. Buffalo stormed out of the gate and scored two goals in the first 7 minutes to go up 3-1. Buffalo had a number of chances to extend the lead but Carey Price kept Montreal in the hunt and with a minute and a half left Tomas Plekanec scored on the powerplay to cut the lead to 1. Suddenly, it felt hopeless. It seemed that the Sabres were destined to throw away another 2 goal lead and eventually they did as Plekanec scored his second of the game with 15 seconds left to force overtime. Christopher Higgins ended the game 3:38 into overtime. It was another devastating loss that followed what has become a familiar script for Buffalo fans.
Now Buffalo stands 6 points out of a playoff sport with 4 games left and their season is essentially over. At the very least those 3 points would have put the Sabres squarely in the hunt for the playoffs. Now they'll be watching from home for the first time in recent memory and the attention quickly shifts to re-signing Ryan Miller. At this point, the Sabres failing to re-sign any player would not surprise me.
If you have not checked in the past 2 minutes you will see that currently (3/30 @ 2am ... yes, I am up blogging at this time ... SO!) there is a 3 way tie for the coveted 8th slot in the Western Conference playoffs. Both Nashville and Vancouver hold 2 games in hand to Edmonton. Nashville's last 4 games are against Detroit, St Louis and Chicago, while Vancouver gets to play with the Flames, Avalanche and Oilers. 3 out of 4 games for Nashville are on the road while Vancouver hosts their last 4 opponents. Here is a snapshot of how the the Western Conference looks right now:
Nashville has not really dominated any of the teams they are going up against this season. It will be interesting to watch if Nashville can pull out a playoff berth in the end - especially with the new owners, now wouldn't that be nice! Here is where the Predators stand against its remaining adversaries!
Detroit @ 3-3-1
St Louis @ 3-2-1 (Nashville plays them 2 times in their last 4 games)
Chicago @ 3-3-1
Vancouver has seen their ups and downs this year, special thanks must go out to Roberto Luongo who has helped them as best as he could this year. He is sitting with a 34-26-9 record with 6 shut outs. He has a 2.33 GAA and a .919 SV% ... according to the Fantasy Hockey universe Roberto is #2 right behind Henrik Lundqvist. According to the NHL stats in Wins he is tied for 6th with 34, His GAA has him in 10th and his SV% has him tied for 4th ... Not to shabby when he has to sit and watch the team in front of him fall apart and play inconsistent hockey. With that said, lets look at Vancouvers series tallies against their final matchups.
Calgary @ 4-2-0 (Calgary plays Vancouver 2 more times in the next 4 games)
Colorado @ 2-4-1
Edmonton @ 4-0-3
Seeing how Vancouver has been able to take Edmonton past regulation I am sure they will be hoping for at least one point in the column when that game is played. Colorado has figured out how to play Vancouver hockey, and with the Avalanche being one game in the hole to Vancouver and only 4 points in front of them - I am certain they are reviewing the play book for this game.
This has to be one of the most exciting ends to regular season Hockey in a long time. The emotion and physical energy exerted each night - I swear some of these teams are already in playoff mode.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
And how do they celebrate - how about ordering up some Roast Duck with Mango Salsa! San Jose has not lost in regulation since Feb 20 … taking their record to 16-0-2. Brian Boucher helped the Sharks win last night by making 23 saves, and at the same time helped snap the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks' 10-game, home-winning streak. Brian Boucher is going to grow with the Sharks and we have been given a glimpse into how this kid owns the crease since being signed by the Sharks on Feb 26th. Since then he has played 4 games for a total of 198 minutes - he is 3-0-1 with a GAA of .90 and a .966 SV% ... he has allowed 3 goals on 88 shots. It definitley will be interesting to watch him grow – as we did when Toskala was Nabby’s back up. Boucher helped San Jose add another notch when it won for the 10th time in 11 road games to improve its NHL-best mark to 27-8-4 away from home.
San Jose clinched this with 4 games remaining in the season, they have home games against Phoenix and Los Angeles and away games with Los Angeles and Dallas. All Pacific Division rivalries, all passionate about the sport but looking at the standings - the Kings are positioned for a great spot in the draft and Phoenix is looking at a 6 point spread between them and the 8th spot in the playoffs. However, as we all know – it’s not over till they skate around the ice with the Cup.
For the Sharks season series with the final 3 teams they play are:
Phoenix @ 4-1-2
Los Angeles @ 3-2-1
Dallas @ 4-3-0
As I am sure you all know, tow of these teams might not be in the playoffs but our record against them shows they know how to slow down the Sharks play and convert opportunities into Wins! Dallas has been a strong force against us and with their position in the Western standings it looks like they will need to polish their game play if they want to make it into the 2nd round. For the Sharks, these last 4 games give them the opportunity to break San Jose’s season record of 107 points – currently they are 3 points away from that mark.
Good Luck San Jose!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
This post is in rebuttal to the recent post by Chris Lucas over at Lucas On Sports regarding Gary Bettman and the NHL … while we at Ice Junkies agree with a few things in this post, there are some ideas thrown around that we need to interject our 2 cents worth. You can read the post by clicking here - What Gary Bettman Can Do To Save The NHL and you can follow Chris over at Twitter, he is @Hockeyskates The other driver of our rebuttal is the comment from “Chris in Canada” and his thoughts as to how he would make the NHL better also. So, sit back and enjoy – and thank you for taking the time.
It is annoying when Hockey purists complain about the league having teams in southern states just because they don't think they are "hockey states.” We at Ice Junkies believe if you want the league to grow, that has to be part of it. If you trimmed down the teams in the NHL you would not be able to see the difference between "good" players and "great" players. We would love to see another team in Canada … but it's ridiculous to say that the league has too many teams when you look at the standings this year and how close the race is for the playoff spots. The talent isn't being spread thin at all, in fact, if you had less teams it could be harder to find these gems because there would not be any room on NHL franchise rosters for young players or tough role players. You'd never see a guy like Darren McCarty, Georges Laraque, Steve Ott, Daniel Carcillo, etc … they would all be in the AHL. If you look at Anaheim and why they won the cup, they won it based on role players … by limiting the number of teams the league would lose that ability, like Travis Moen in Anaheim, would he have made it onto the roster? A player like Daniel Carcillo, who clearly has offensive skills, would never get to learn how to play in the NHL because nobody would want to take a chance on him when they are inundated with star caliber players. Also, when great players hit a slump, unless they have the seniority, in a league with less teams to absorb the field - they would be thrown back into the farm league and some of the great ones might never be "found" by allowing them to grow through the droughts - because no matter how you slice it ... AHL Hockey and NHL Hockey are day and night. Your stars in AHL could easily be flops in “The Show.” Look at the Busch League and Nextel Series in NASCAR.
Now, we do agree that having two teams in Florida is unnecessary when there are places in Canada begging for a team, but saying that Carolina (Stanley Cup winner), Phoenix (who has been great this year), Columbus (who actually has a decent following) don't deserve teams is, in our opinion, a clear display of bias and jealousy.
Regarding shortening the season, we do not support that idea in any shape or form, for us that's part of hockey. It's supposed to be the toughest sport on the planet and the length of a season is a part of it and to say "No one wants to watch in October when it really doesn’t matter until April and June!" proves to us that someone’s not quite as hardcore as they want to pretend. Anyone who says October doesn't matter isn't paying attention - teams know this and fans clearly care about October looking at attendance stats it's not like no one is coming to hockey games until the end of the season.
As much grief as Eklund gets around the Blog Universe, he does make some good points … and a couple days ago he discussed this exact point about tightening the NHL and the teams that are playing. You can read his post here (of course after you finish this one.) The Oil Rises. An NHL 1/3rd tighter, plus the Virtual Final Standings.
Let’s talk about the Commish now, We think Bettman has done one great thing and one terrible thing. The great thing being the salary cap structure and the new CBA (which many said he would never get) and the terrible thing is the agreement with Versus. With Versus the main problem is the lack of a real marketing push to spread the game into the mainstream (though the winter classic was brilliant) – Versus just does not have the market share to help the NHL expand its viewership and introduce this sport to new audiences. Frankly, you won’t grow the sport without ESPN and NBC. While the best way to generate a solid fan base is to have them experience the passion and excitement of the NHL in person, you won’t do that until people can see what they’re missing when they’re not even looking for it. Chicago is a great example of this. Now that the Hawks are back on local television, their attendance levels are finally climbing out of the gutter.
You can't put all the blame on Bettman either, though part of his role is to be the scapegoat, but the owners have a big say in how the sport develops and keep in mind that the NHL has actually gotten healthier under him (much like the NBA did). So while we are unhappy about some of the stuff he's done, he's at least made it so that the sport can continue.....it wasn't going to under the previous system.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Martin Gerber made his 11th straight start this evening in a huge game against conference and national rivals the Montreal Canadiens. He has a 2.60 GAA over that span with a .915 save percentage. Tonight's start, however, did not go as planned. Gerber allowed 3 goals on 14 shots and was pulled after the 1st period. The much maligned back-up, Ray Emery, has taken to the ice for the first time in nearly a month.
Emery, who led the team to the Stanley Cup finals last year, has had the kind of year, both personally and professionally, that makes PR management firms smile. He's struggled on the ice, dropped the gloves with a teammate, been late to practice numerous times prompting his coach to throw him out, had altercations with the police and been singled out for his questionable work ethic. It's the kind of year that can taint a career.
Emery, after returning from wrist surgery, split starts with Gerber which seemed to be a point of contention for him. In many ways, he had a good amount of responsibility in the firing of John Paddock, the Senators coach, only a month ago. Bryan Murray, the Senators GM, took over as head coach, a role that is pretty familiar to him after being behind the bench throughout the playoffs last year. Since Murray has taken over Gerber has been the starter as the team tries desperately to develop some consistency and find a way out of a slump that has less to do with goaltending and more to do with the team as a whole..
Now Ray Emery has found himself unexpectedly back on the ice in a clutch game that his team truly needs. Thus far, he's made 5 saves and couple of critical stops and the Senators have been able to cut the lead to two. My prediction is that this won't be the last time we see Ray Emery this season and we won't go through the playoffs without him in the net. Whether he will yank the starting reins away from Gerber, I'm not sure, but I think he could be the surprise player of the post-season. The biggest obstacle he'll need to overcome is the damage he's caused to his teammates' faith in him. A team has to believe in their goaltender, otherwise that doubt manages to spread into all aspects of the game. If Ray Emery can lead the Senators to victory tonight it may just be the first step to doing exactly that.
Ultimately, it wasn't mean to be for Emery or the struggling Senators. After Ottawa cut the lead to 2 midway through the second period, the Canadiens roared back scoring four goals in less than 8 minutes. The Senators seemed to wake up in the third and were able to score four goals but fell 7-5. Emery was good early on, but it wasn't enough as the Senators are clearly not a playoff hockey caliber team right now. Martin Gerber will search for retribution as he makes his 12th straight start tonight against the high-flying Buffalo Sabres.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Note: This story combines data I found on yahoo, cbssportsline and a few other sites with my own observations.
Boston Bruins' young star centerman Patrice Bergeron wasn't thinking about hockey in November. He wasn't thinking about the next opponent or the playoffs or what he needed to do to elevate his already impressive game. At age 22, he was wondering whether he'd ever get a chance to play again.
On October 27th against the Philadelphia Flyers, Bergeron's career was forever changed when he was driven face first into the end boards at full speed by Flyers defenseman Randy Jones. The hit left him motionless on the ice for what seemed like an eternity. The medical staff cut away his gear before placing his neck in brace, taping his legs to one one another and moving him to a board to stabilize his body. He was finally moved on to a stretcher and taken to the hospital. It was a terrifying scene as Bergeron showed little to no movement throughout the process. He was ultimately diagnosed with a severe grade 3 concussion and a broken nose. There was good news, however, in that there was no damage to his neck or spine but his career was certainly in question.
Claude Julien was furious with the play, calling it a "dirty hit" and challenging the league to address the situation with the Flyers who, as a team, had been involved in three violent plays in their first 10 games. Ultimately, Julien was most likely disappointed in the suspension handed down by the league. Randy Jones was suspended for two games without pay, which ultimately cost him $5,614.98. For the Flyers, it wasn't much of a loss considering that Jones wasn't even one of their top four defensemen while it was a devastating loss for the Bruins.
Patrice Bergeron was one of the most promising young players in the league. 2005-2006, his second year in the league, was a breakout season for the 20 year old where he scored 31 goals and added 42 assists. 29 of those points were scored on the powerplay. The following year wasn't quite as great, but still a very good season with 70 points and 22 goals. There were high hopes for the 2007-2008 season as Bergeron had 7 points in the first 10 games, but the attention quickly shifted after the incident. The team no longer wondered how many points he' d scored but rather whether he'd ever score another goal again.
On November 8th, an ailing Patrice Bergeron held a press conference to discuss the game, the injury and his future. It was as gutsy a performance by a player that I can remember. Bergeron, still in a neck brace, physically struggled to even rotate his head to face the reporters. The lights, the noise, the commotion all seemed to take a toll on him. The rules were that he would answer questions in English for five minutes and then in French for another five and then he would walk away. It was ultimately a unique press conference where Bergeron called, not for the league, but for the players to change the game. He urged them to show a greater level of respect for one another and cut down on the dangerous hits from behind.
"You have to hold back -- hitting is a part of the game, but not from behind. We have to respect each other a little bit more. I know I'm not the only one who has been saying that this past year. Something needs to be done. We have to think about the consequences when you're on the ice. "
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bergeron and I'd love to say that his sacrifice was worth it, that his press conference changed the game but I'd be lying. For me, there have been more dangerous hits from behind this year than any I can remember and the league continues to be shy about cracking down on it. I often wonder when we'll see someone get paralyzed on the ice. When it does happen, the league will need to shoulder part of the blame.
It's been about 5 months since the incident and Bergeron has fought through all of the pain and discomfort that comes with a concussion of that magnitude. In fact, at times it prevented him from even being able to watch his teammates as the lights and noise triggered debilitating headaches and dizziness that made it difficult to move around. Brief walks were a challenge and all the exercise his body could handle. Ultimately, he struggled to even leave his home. Over time, he regained some of the little things people generally take for granted. He was able to move around, go outside and eventually go see his teammates in person. It was one of the first steps he'd take.
Recovering from concussions is a difficult thing. It's about testing yourself and your body and being patient throughout the process. For Bergeron, a slow, steady five minute ride on an exercise bike in December was a huge step forward and the biggest "win" he'd had since the injury. Throughout his exercise program the headaches would return forcing Bergeron to scale back his approach. After a period of time, he'd try again and see how far he could go without the headaches and dizziness bringing him back to earth. Then he took a big step in late February when he started skating again. It started slowly, with him skating before and after practice by himself with no gear. Two weeks ago his dedication, patience and persistence allowed him to return to practice with his teammates. He wears a special colored jersey so that his teammates know that he is only practicing in a "non-contact" fashion but being back with the team is exactly what he wanted.
Now, he stands at the edge of an incredibly remarkable milestone. On Wednesday he will have a number of neuro tests done and they will determine whether or not he is ready for contact again. If all goes well, and the tests provide positive results, it certainly seems like Bergeron will be back this season. The Boston Bruins, who are desperately hanging on to a playoff spot in the East, would love to have their star in the lineup but they also won't take any changes with a player so young. For them, it's just great to have him back in the locker room. The likelihood of us seeing him back during the regular season are slim-to-none, but the post-season might be a different matter. Regardless, it's great to hear that his return is now a matter of "when" as opposed to "if." He's just happy to be back in the environment, back with the team and back to focusing on the game we all love.
“It’s a great feeling to be around the guys again, be around the locker room, have a chance to skate with the guys. I waited 4 1/2 months to have a chance to do that,” Bergeron said. “It’s a great sport, and you don’t appreciate it as much; you don’t say thanks enough.
“Now that I’ve been away from it, I get a chance to realize it’s my passion. I’m thankful for every second, every minute that I’m on the ice.”