Saturday, April 26, 2008

San Jose Sharks / Dallas Stars - We Meet Again!

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 - Fashionista Interning At Vogue Magazine

Sean Avery is transitioning from agitating hockey player to fashion magazine intern. Thats right, according to ABC News ( 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

Sean Avery And Colin Campbell - New Rule Change

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 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

Sharks / Flames - Truly An Amazing Series!

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!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

NHL Playoff Preview 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.

Ice Junkies - Live And On The Air

Last night myself along with Grant from and Bethany from 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 -

Keep in mind, this is the first recorded podcast ... there is a ton of room for improvement.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tampa Bay Wins the Stamkos Sweepstakes

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's Return Imminent

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

Cinderella Makes the Ball

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 Hope for a Night to Remember

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

Ottawa Senators Destroy Toronto Maple Leafs, Maple Leafs Destroy Daniel Alfredsson

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.”

Hypocrisy reigns.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The 2008 Scotiabank NHL Draft Lottery Process

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 – “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 and 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 … 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's Breakdown Of Tonights Lineup

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 ... 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.

Kyle Turris to Make NHL Debut This Week

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.