Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Inside The Sabres

After a shorter-than-hoped-for walk down Stanley Cup Lane in the 2006-2007 season, The Buffalo Sabres had to endure an even worse experience. During the first few hours of the free agent frenzy, the team suffered through losing Chris Drury to the New York Rangers and Daniel Briere to the Philadelphia Flyers. Also, Dainius Zubrus went to the New Jersey Devils a few days later. A team that had visions of Stanley Cups dancing in their heads was suddenly a shell of itself.

One thing the Sabres still have going for them is the young and very good goaltender, Ryan Miller. Miller wanted to take over as the dressing room leader of the Buffalo Sabres. Though he’s still young at 27, he’s an established veteran. His teammates look to him for guidance on the ice and off it.

“I’m trying to focus more on my game,” Miller said. “Early in the season, I was probably too worried about what everybody else was trying to do, trying to be bigger than my role. I was trying to do too many things at once. I can’t be a captain-type leader and talk to guys at all times. I have to go out and just do my job.”

Helping Miller between the pipes is the "old man" Jocelyn Thibault, picked up during free agency. Only 32 years old, Thibault started playing at 18 with the Quebec Nordiques, and the 13-season veteran has years of experience. As the backup to Ryan Miller, Thibault doesn't see a lot of action, but together they average a 2.61 GAA and a .900 save percentage. Those are pretty good numbers that should keep the Sabres solid in net.

But, after twenty-one games, Buffalo is 10-10-1, ranked 13th in the conference and are fourth in their division behind the surging Bruins of Boston, Montreal, and last year’s Stanley Cup finalist, the Ottawa Senators. The Sabres average 2.90 goals per game while giving up 2.76 goals. They have a 20.2% rating on the power play, ranking them 10th, and they are in the seventh position with an 85% success rate on the penalty kill. All average numbers, and hence the .500 record.

Many players on this team are above average players and just may need some more time to gel. Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Brian Campbell, and Tim Connolly lead the team in point production with modest totals ranging from 17 to 14 points. Pominville may be the Sabres most versatile forward and his abilities are allowing the team flexibility when it comes to its power play combinations. Recently, he moved from his position near the net to the blueline. He's made the switch before and is comfortable with the situation. But more importantly, the team is comfortable putting five forwards on the ice with an opposing player in the penalty box because of Pominville's defensive skills. He's the team's quarterback on a unit that features Maxim Afinogenov, Ales Kotalik, Roy and Vanek and he is the squad’s last line of defense against an odd-man rush.

Something else “odd” about the Sabres is their rotating captaincy. Jochen Hecht was captain for a while and now Toni Lydman is the man wearing the “C”. This creates a lot of leaders and some different competition in the locker room. Each player, it seems, will have an opportunity to be captain based on leadership and play.

The Buffalo Sabres are in a tough division, but with continued growth and leadership, more wins will come. It’s a shame they lost so much during free agency, but seem ready to start again and are headed in the right direction. With a strong core of players, it won’t be long until we here about them fighting for the Cup once again.

So, herd up your friends and draw your weapons! Support your team with a rousing War Room Roll call!

~ ogre1kanobe

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday Night Special: Let's Get Wild!

Saturday Night Live was made famous by two wild and crazy guys. Well the Minnesota Wild just drive the state of hockey wild. The team started out 7-3-2...full of promise and looking good but injuries to Niklas Backstrom...and the personal absence/retirement of Wes Walz has seemingly put the brakes on the Wild season. The Wild stand now at 11-9-2...still only a point out of first place in the wacky Northwest Division. Now Backstrom was a main reason for the early success playing incredibly the first two weeks of the season....posting both of his shutouts in that time. Then the injury bug hit....and there wasn't as much rejoicing.

First Backstrom went down....then Gaborik and now Demitra....the Slovakia glass groin syndrome has taken full effect. This undoubtedly has hurt the Wild offense.

They have to rely more on the goaltending and lately even that has taken a hit. In a 3-2 loss to Calgary, Backstrom had to give up one of the most ugly goals I have ever seen....which lead to the Flames win. In yesterday's game, Backstrom had two goals he would most certainly like to have back and a defensive turnover so bad I could have thrown a clock through the television. Who does that in front of their goalie? Don't answer that Devils fans! The Wild had an awesome goal differential of +16 after 12 games....but now has slipped all the way back to a -1.

Now Gaborik and Parrish share the team lead in goals with 7 and Pierre Marc-Bouchard leads the team with assists with 14. A defensive player that has been playing pretty well is Brent Burns...his last two games have been not so great but his 11 points and a +4 are pretty solid for a player with such high expectations placed on him by management, teammates, and even himself. This is a little excerpt from Doug Risebrough's Managing Expectations....very interesting indeed. Burns recently was awarded a four year extension for his hard work...and players can go two ways.....

A couple players in the last couple years have discussed, in telling ways, the pressure of a long-term, high-paying deal. I won't name the players. But here is what they said.

Player A: "For the first time in my career, I came to the rink as an underachiever. It really ate me up."

Player B: "I got an opportunity early in my career to fly under the radar and live with my and my teammates' expectations. It's something I'm getting used to. It's more responsibility."

This really makes you think. Burns is going to be the anchor of this defense. Sean Hill is a nice veteran presence and a good mentor to have but the Wild's fortunes on the backend ride on the youngster. The defense and goaltending are a staple of any Jacques Lemaire coached team. It doesn't hurt that the forwards, as a group, are one of the best backchecking groups in the league. The Wild have strayed away a bit from that...and their 4-6 record in the last ten games indicates it more than the injuries. Injuries are just an excuse and the Wild have to fight through it. Also, Backstrom has to right the ship a bit on his own end.

It will take a team effort from the coach down to the players to get the Wild back on board but if any team can pull back the reins and rise back up the standings in the Western Conference...it is the Wild. They have the system in place....they just have to execute it. Do you believe the Wild will bounce back? Voice your opinion and GO WILD!

~ stevens8204

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Motor City Set On Cruise Control

Realistically, reviewing the Detroit Red Wings during the past 5-10years could be simple. You write a riveting piece about theirdomination of the Western Conference, and proclaim their ability tocontrol the game with their stymy defense, and then republish the samearticle year after year.

They have become one of the most consistent teams of the 21st century,and have been an utter surprise post lockout considering the dumpingof so much salary. They now boast one of the best and mostcomfortable teams, with plenty of cap room to spare. They have savvyveterans like Niklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios to lead theirdefensive core, and one of the most prolific and obscure goaltendersof all time in Dominic Hasek, although he has struggled early tomaintain the necessary health to be a starting goalie.

No matter, as Chris Osgood has once again proved to the Wingsorganization to be a quality backup for as long as they need him, andwith the kind of defense the Red Wings play, he should really onlyhave to prepare himself for around 20 shots a game. Pending thehealth of Hasek, the Wings can segue into young prospect Howard to betheir next star in the crease. Another fantastic pick by the Detroitscouting, Howard will likely be the go to guy within three years.

Up front, the top three (Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Holmstrom) have comeout of the gate firing. Gaining the reputation of one of the NHLsmost potent offensive lines, they are probably only out classed byOttawa's ASH line. Zetterberg is well on his way to setting careerbests in basically all categories, and his offensive prowess has beenan incredible asset to the Wings, who have been outscoring andoutplaying every team thus far.

In terms of additional help, it was suggested that Detroit was seekingthe services of Peter Forsberg, pending he is capable of returningfrom a potential career ending surgery on his ankle. After quitting apractice with the Swedish National team, Forsberg has suggested thatthis latest embarrassment could in fact end his career pending adoctor's review, and this could change the plans in the Detroit frontoffice. There is no question a healthy Forsberg would produce an evenstronger offense, but with guys like Chelios, Hasek, and Lidstrom, whoare all playing close to or well over their career expectancies,Forsberg would only add to the fragile nature of the team.

The bottom line here is that Detroit doesn't need help with veterans.They boast one of the most knowledgeable defenses in the league, witha strong core of offensive threats. What they need to do is continueto build for the future of the franchise after the older playersretire or move on.

~ srotaneS


If you happen to follow the Detroit Red Wings, be sure to announce yourself in our Red Wing Roll Call.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Canadiens Roll Call

One, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 16, 18, 19, and 29.

Those numbers are very familiar to any Montreal Canadiens' fan. They all hang from the rafters at the Bell Centre where they play their home games. The Canadiens have a long and wonderful past to look back on. The names of great players, coaches and general managers are far too long to mention. It is this history that changes a player when they put on the sweater with those famous colors on it.

That is why when the 2006-2007 season ended and this team didn’t make the playoffs, it was like the world came to an end. Finishing seventh the previous year, hopes were for a longer playoff run, but the team finished tenth and sat at home watching instead of skating. Some players had off seasons as well. After scoring only 18 goals all season last year, the AK-27, Alex Kovalev, is back on track eager to forget last year.

With 10 goals already through 19 games this season, Kovalev has reached the mark faster than any Canadiens player in over a decade. Not since Martin Rucinsky scored his 10th goal in game No. 20 back in 1996-97, has a Habs player scored so many so fast. The Russian winger will crack the 40-goal mark for the second time in his 16-year NHL career, if he were to continue at this pace. The last time he did was in 2000-01 with the Penguins when he exploded for 44 goals on his way to his first All-Star Game appearance. He is sixth in the league with 6 power play goals on a team that is ranked number one with 30% power play efficiency. He, Saku Koivu, and Andrei Markov all have 17 points in this early season.

The team is also fourth in goals scored per game with 3.16 Goals/Game and only a small handful have a plus/minus ratings in the red zone. But it is not all about offense in Montreal. They rank ninth in goals allowed per game with a stingy 2.53 goals. This, in part, is due to their goaltending tandem of Cristobal Huet and rookie sensation Carey Price. Huet has a 6-4-2 record with a 2.23 GAA and a Sv% of .925, while his younger counterpart enjoys a 5-1-1 record with a 2.66 GAA and a .0914 Sv%. Price is making the departure of David Aebischer a faint memory.

The Canadiens lost a few big names over the summer, Sheldon Souray, Radek Bonk, and Janne Niinimaa to name a few. But they also picked up some with marquee talent; Roman Hamrlik, Bryan Smolinski and Patrice Brisebois for coach Guy Carbonneau to insert into his lineups. Carbonneau took over the coaching reins on May 5, 2006 after having played 13 seasons with the Canadiens, including five as the team’s captain, and was the winner of the Frank Selke Trophy three times.

Carbonneau’s second season behind the bench figures to be a much better one than his first. You see he’s one of those great Montreal Canadiens players of the past. And he won’t let this team fail.

So, stand up and help Guy Carbonneau push this team to the playoffs and beyond. Be a proud member of the team and shout your support in the Montreal Canadiens' Roll Call!!

~ ogre1kanobe

Monday, November 19, 2007

Colorado; The Rocky Road

I think it's safe to say that the one team most people expected a vast improvement from this season, would have to be the Colorado Avalanche. With their incredible playoff push late last season, which inevitably fell short, only the New York Rangers managed to put up a better 2nd half.

In the offseason, Colorado GM Francois Giguere managed to add two more pieces to his quickly rebuilding project in the likes of free agents Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan. Further allowing his fans to come into the 07-08 season with much to anticipate. And now that we've nearly reached the quarter pole of the season, we can take a deeper look into the Avs now vs. then.

Today the Avalanche sit in 2nd spot in the Northwest Division, just 1 point behind the Wild. Although with 1 game in hand. Their 23 points in 19 games also puts them tied for 4th in their Conference. And again, with games in hand. An obvious improvement you say? But of course, "obvious" is not what I've come here to talk about.

Right now, the Avalanche are on pace for a 99 point season. A mere 2 wins better than the season that saw them on the outside looking in, on a very rare occasion. 2 more wins would have made all the difference in the world, allowing them to surpass the 8th seeded Flames. But it still wouldn't have been enough to earn home ice advantage no matter who they faced or how many rounds they survived.

Why do I bring up home ice advantage, you ask? Well for one, the Calgary Flames who barely backed their way into a playoff round, knew full well about home versus the road. They were known as the Jeckyll and Hyde. A term that has now made it's way to the Rockies. Let's try and put this into better perspective...

Had the Colorado Avalanche played just .500 on the road this season, their current overall record would be 13 - 5 - 1. Good enough for 27 points, second only to the Detroit Red Wings. And yes, you guessed it... with a game in hand. Prorating that into an 82 game season, the Avs would end up with 116 points. A feat nobody in the league could accomplish last season, earning them the hypothetical Presidents Trophy.

And before someone suggests that I am putting forth a 'perfect scenario' here, please keep in mind that I said merely a .500 record on the road. Hardly an earth shaking expectancy.

So in retrospect, yes the Avs are moderately improved as a team, which was to be expected. But they are far from the team they should be, right now.

~ LeaferSutherland


I invite all Avalanche fans to drop by and put your own two cents worth on your team.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Strange Brew In Beantown

The Bruins were a team many had picked near or at the bottom in most hockey circles. I had remembered The Hockey News actually picking them 29th or 30th. Well thanks to some stingy goaltending and semi reliable scoring....they are actually 9-6-2 with a little over 20% of the hockey season complete. Boston was thought to be a walkover for most of the Northeast Division but they are finding out very quickly that this team indeed has some talent. They always have really but the question has been and always will be...how long can they keep it together?

The season started off with a five game West Coast Trip...which the first game was a 4-1 disaster where nothing went right and it looked like Dallas was on a roll (funny how things change, right?). The B's then managed to come back and defeat Phoenix 3-1 the next night before losing 2-1 a few nights later to the defending champion Ducks. In what has become a bit of a curious pattern so far...the Bruins occasionally put up a crooked number after weeks of scoring so little. That was quite evident in their 8-6 survival of LA. Manny Fernandez was in net for this one too and eventually would go down with a knee injury...he still hasn't really since much if any ice time since. Phil Kessel's hat trick carried the way as the B's won again 2-1 against the Sharks completing the road trip at 3-2...not too shabby.

After wins against Tampa and the Rangers (Boston's lone shutout came via the shootout)....faceoffs or the lack of winning them came to a head again in an ugly 6-1 loss that many thought may spell doom for the Bruins. It definitely looked bad that 4 of the 6 goals given up came directly off defensive zone faceoffs....something that would make any coach unhappy, particularly Dave Lewis. Yet the turning point would come in a Saturday afternoon tilt against the Philly Flyers. In a 2-1 loss, Patrice Bergeron was going for a puck in his zone and Randy Jones came from behind and checked him into the boards. Bergeron was motionless on the ice for minutes as the crowd gasped in horror. Jones would later receive a 2 game suspension and Bergeron may not play again this season after suffering some fractures and a Grade 3 concussion. It seemed to give them a jump as they defeated Buffalo 4-3..but then the low scoring blues set in again.

For the next 2 weeks...it seemed Boston could find the net but not be able to put enough behind the goalie and into said net. Scoring 7 goals in a 5 game span is not going to get you many wins (1-2-2 in that span). This led to many questions if the Bruins were going to trade Glen Murray among others who had not really produced and so far the answer is a resounding no. I am sure that may change but right now it seems the Bruins are sailing the ship with what they got. Sure enough when Toronto came to town last night....the B's put another crooked number on the scoreboard.....winning 5-2 to raise their record to the current 9-6-2. Tim Thomas made 34 saves and Peter Schaefer had 2 goals and 1 assist (both goals coming in the third). The four days off and watching tons of video on Toronto proved to be the difference. Players knew where to be....everything clicked at least for one night.

Team MVP: Tim Thomas. No doubt many thought Fernandez would be the starter but Thomas just finds a way to well worm himself into the picture. In 13 games, he has produced a 1.68 GAA...a stellar .950 save percentage and more importantly 7 wins. He has kept the team in games most nights they should have no business being in. He is the reason Boston is above .500 but his durability may also become a concern later. Right now Boston is just trying to find ways to win games...to score just enough. Oddly enough, the goaltending and defense are there for the most part but the offense isn't....something you wouldn't normally associate with the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins are a team in flux right now....they spent their money and now they are stuck with it. The cap issues have hurt this team as far as being able to go out and get some scoring depth. Also, there aren't many takers for an aging scorer like Glen Murray who hasn't been the same since Joe Thornton was traded.....ahhh that T word. The Bruins as a franchise have been definitely hampered since that trade. Goaltending prospects haven't quite worked out...free agents haven't either and not being able to string some games together with some decent goal scoring output may come back to haunt this team later in the season but right now they are making due with what they got...and so far that is good enough.

So do you think Boston is just a mediocre team or are they a couple players away from making the playoffs and maybe winning a round...give us your thoughts and don't mince them...right on The NHL Arena.

~ stevens8204

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blue Streak

Blue Streak can mean one of two things when one talks about the St. Louis Blues these days. It could reference the streaky play of the team itself or quite literally mean the "Blue Streak" coming out of Blue fans on some of the nights to come.

The Blues stormed out to a 4-1 record to start the season back in October and if I remember right they outscored their opponents very handily in doing so. Since that fast start the Blues have gone on to lose 6 of their last 9 and have had issues scoring during that time. The two wily vets leading the charge for the team are long time incumbent Keith Tkachuk and the new UFA from the off season Paul Karyia. They each have 15 and 16 points respectively, those stats lead the team in offense. The picture isn't all bleak by no means for the St. Louis Blues. Many Legace has been solid in net, posting a record of 7-5 with a SV% over .910% and GAA of 2.33. Maybe the most positive thing about the Blues is that they are young. Real young. With an average age of 27 they are only going to get better. 25 year old Brad Boyes is third in team scoring and first in team goals with 9. Lee Stempniak, age 24, is coming off a 27 goal, 52 point, season from last year and has a tone of upside and a bright future. The blue-chip stud on the blueline is Eric Johnson and he is a plus player in his first year so far in the NHL at age 19.

The short and the skinny is that the Blues have 8 wins and 7 loses so far in this NHL season based on little production from their youth movement. Their future is their kids and when the kids start to carry their weight the Blues will start winning hockey games and it should be real fun to watch.

Then again, this is just a damned opinion.

~ damned


If you happen to be a fan of the St Louis Blues, we want to hear it!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Accepting The Capitals

If it were not for one of the most prolific scorers of this era of the NHL, the Washington Capitals could easily slip through the cracks into the basement without so much as a sniff from the average fan. Having
been there for multiple years, the Capitals are starting to become a household name when it comes to teams you play your backup against.

After repeated years of poor play, the Capitals started this year with the beat of a different drum. 3-0-0 after their first three games, and beating teams like Carolina, Atlanta, and the Islanders, things were looking up in the United States Capital, but that would be rather short lived.

After finishing October with a record of 5-6, they proceeded to lose five of their next six games, tying them with Buffalo and Edmonton for the worst record in hockey. The basement never looked so bad for a team with an all-star talent like Ovechkin.

They are effectively porous at home and away, with very similar records, and considering that, it shows that the problem is not in the players heads. Probably the most disturbing statistic would be the 91
shots number 8 has taken on net, which has a 36 shot gap between him and second place. If Washington wants to be effective with the puck, they are going to have to rely less on their star player, and more on
their secondary scoring.

While Kolzig has had streaks of brilliance throughout the initial stages of the year, they will need to find a solution in goal if they want to compete for a stop in the top 8. With eight more goals against
than goals for, the Caps are going to need to make some serious adjustments to one of the aspects of their game so it can make up for their holes elsewhere.

So where should the Caps turn for support? Alexander Semin has been out for most of the season because of injury, and Kolzig is performing, but not to the standards of the new NHL. Should they start considering a player move, or should they look to the coach and GM for answers? I think it is a tough call because Washington did
such a huge overhaul with their roster during the last couple years. Last year I considered it a lack of respect and teamwork, but maybe it is time to start considering it a growth issue. Washington did in
fact put money into the system this year, and the results have been rather pedantic to say the least.

One thing is for sure. Washington is not getting the help they need to compete with the rest of the league. Whether it is a financial issue, or simply a player production issue, the Capitals need a serious
change in their system to have any hopes of making the playoffs this year. If I was the one running the show in Washington, I would be sitting down with Hanlon and letting him know that his days are
numbered if the basement is where he is directing this team. I would tell him to take the players off their pedestal and go right back to the basics until they can work as a unit. Develop the defensive game
with the forwards, and continue to rely on guys like Ovechkin to score the individual goals.

Are you willing to accept the Capitals for who they have become, or are you ready to fight for a chance to watch them play for the cup? The NHL Arena wants to hear what you think.

~ srotaneS

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Oilers In Depth

The Edmonton Oilers’ General Manager Kevin Lowe has his team in position for a playoff run. Maybe not this year but in the years to come. After making a “statement” offer to Dustin Penner of the Ducks and signing Dick Tarnstrom during free agent time, it seems obvious that he realizes this may not be the year for his team. Sitting Tarnstrom in favor of youngsters Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov, may make him trade bait when defencemen Sheldon Souray and Joni Pitkanen return from injury.

Injuries surely haven’t helped the Oilers this season. Currently the are last in many categories in the Western Conference. They are last in goals scored, goals allowed and power play goals which leaves them last in their division and in the conference. Only three players on the team have a plus/minus rating of zero or higher. In addition, the goalie tandem of Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson have decent numbers, both having about a three goal allowed per game average and save percentages hovering around the .900 mark, but have only 7 wins between them.

And yet all the news is not bad for this team. Along with the youngsters Gilbert and Grebeshkov, the rookie line of Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Brodziak have looked good early on. There is also the play of Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff that give optimism for any Edmonton fan. Horcoff leads the team in goals, points, assists and power play goals.

Optimism may not be only thing going for this Oilers club. Remember, they were in the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2005-06 season, and having a rich history, with GM Lowe and coach Craig MacTavish, this team may go far in the very near future. As Jarret Stoll said after a loss to a very good Colorado Avalanche team, "We came out and showed that we cared, showed that we have respect for the organization." he said. "We weren't happy with our last outing. We played really hard and battled in every area."

It won’t be long before they are battling in the playoffs again. So, stop in the Edmonton Oilers forum and sign you name to the roll call and state your faith in a great hockey organization and a team for the future.

~ ogre1kanobe


If you happen to be a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, we want to hear it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Shame In Nashville

I can't help but feel for the fans in Music City. Even if there aren't enough of them to fill an arena. The franchise, which was born in 1998, deserves so much better one decade later.

What started off with a lucrative deal with the city shelling out over 25 million put forth to pay for it's entry fee into the league, while taking a hit on the operating costs for the arena, it's rather ironic that this team's failings have occurred in the business sector rather than a lack of fan base in these uncharted waters. That said, the Nashville faithful have been a far cry from the Pittsburgh natives that felt their pain not so long ago.

It's a shame to see a franchise barely stay afloat amidst talks of a deal that just doesn't seem to get done. In a city that knows how to entertain like no one else. And with a team that patiently built itself of draft picks and the astute signings and trades from Poile, not to mention the tutelage of head coach Barry Trotz.

Currently hovering around a .500 season with a new Captain named despite never holding that title in all of junior, a backup thrown to the wolves, and possibly the two greatest remaining scraps on the IR, which may or may not be having more affect on the team than the many high caliber players it chose to auction off in the summer. How does the Nashville fan get through the day? Knowing full well that it is not he or she that is the root of the problem, no matter how many of us in the north would pass it off as being that.

In a perfect world, the Nashville Predators would have won the Stanley Cup a year ago. For those in California could have survived on the glitz and glam that continues to bring big named talent to their western shores. But instead we watched, as Paul Kariya who came to this team when no one else of his caliber would, turned and went again, off on his way.

You might still have a team today Nashville. Perhaps even for 3 more guaranteed years if they ever get that straightened away. But what good is a team if it cannot compete?

I say stand up to the commercial side of your hometown. And don't be pressured to pick up those tickets to prolong the lease on your Arena. Instead, stand in your storefronts and demand that you have your team of promise given back to you. Let it be known that the only hardware stores you will be willing to do business with, are the ones buying boxes at the Sommet Center. The only cars that you will buy will be ones that are the official sponsors of your Preds. The only insurance companies will be those assuring you that your team will not only survive be be restored.

Do you love your hockey? Are you satisfied with just a win for every loss? Will you just sit back and allow them to rip your team to shreds?

Go ahead. Click the following link and tell me that your just some dumb Southerner that just doesn't give a rats ass about the game of hockey...

I dare you!

~ LeaferSutherland

Saturday, November 10, 2007

500 And More?

Good morning from the High Desert! Hey...it is still morning here. That being said it is time to enjoy all that is Saturday Night Hockey. The rivals continue to face off against each other and better still...the Hall Of Fame Game is tonight between the Rangers and Maple Leafs. All that really means is that it is only two days till the induction of Scott Stevens as well some guys named Francis, Messier, and MacInnis. It is probably one of the, if not greatest induction classes ever to be seen. However, there is still some hockey to cover. Eleven games that will leave you screaming for more and some battles that could only be drawn up in a backyard playground.

A rare CBC tripleheader is scheduled for today. Gotta love those Canadian hockey folks just for that alone! Can Ottawa bounce back from their "hiccup" against the Habs? Well we will all find out at 3pm ET as that is today's matinee. Not for nothing but Montreal is off to a hot start (9-3-3)...so Ottawa (13-2) may have its work cut out for them....especially going up against the #1 Power Play in all the NHL. When you convert at nearly a 30% clip (even if its early)...that commands respect so Ottawa best stay out of the penalty box...something they have had problems doing the past few games. Ottawa is 6th in the league on the PK at 87% so this could shape up to be one hell of a game. The goaltending is right up there....so who knows...maybe 3-2 Montreal in an upset....sounds good to me.

Then there is the Hall Of Fame game between the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs at 7pm PT. Something has to give here....the Leafs are abysmal at home and the Rangers are downright horrid on the road. Someone has to win as league mandates rule...but it makes you wonder sometimes. Toskala and Lundqvist will be in net tonight. So this may be just what the Rangers need...then again who knows...this could end up in a 0-0 tie heading into a shootout. I seriously doubt that however. There will be some goals scored tonight. Not only that...expect a Ranger road win for the first time this season....in a 4-2 victory.....I am pretty sure I am going out on a limb here. Then again, that is what makes hockey fun.

Finally there is the Battle Of Alberta tonight at 10pm ET. Ah the joys of watching the Flames and Oilers slug it out...Vernon and Lanny against Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr...etc...etc. Oh wait....tonight's battle! Oops! Really it is just Hemsky and Rolo versus Iginla, Kipper and company in a steel cage err ice rink. Both teams come in reeling off 4 game losing streaks. Since getting that fat extension, Kiprusoff has actually been playing worse if that is possible. At some point, he has to snap out of it one would think...right?? The Calgary PK is awful at 74.7% while the Oilers PP is a calamitous 7.8%. These are numbers you can't make up but I do believe the Flames may be the ones more apt to get out of this funk tonight and they will with a 4-1 victory over the Oil.

Now there are other games like the Battle Of Pennsylvania tonight as the Penguins play the Flyers in Philly. Philly dominated in a 3-1 fashion in their first meeting of the season, avenging last year's Pens sweep. Can Philly bounce back from that humbling 4-1 loss Thursday night? I believe so. In another Atlantic Division war, the New Jersey Devils try for the 500 mark in more ways than one in Long Island against the New York Islanders. The Islanders won the last matchup 4-3 in OT as Billy Guerin scored with just seconds left. Martin Brodeur has the opportunity to become only the second goalie ever to win 500 games (Roy - 551). I really don't know who is going to win this one...honest. One thing is for sure.....and that is this....it is going to be one hell of a night. So sit back...get your food and beer, and watch some hockey!!

~ stevens8204


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Friday, November 9, 2007

Big "E"xpectations

Unless you have been under a rock all week, you are aware of two things. It's Hall of Fame Week in the NHL and Eric Lindros has officially retired. These two things, to this point, have nothing to do with each other. But it's only a matter of time until Eric Lindros's name is on the ballet to be voted on for the Hall of Fame. The question of the week has been has been a simple one.

Does Eric Lindros belong in the NHL Hall of Fame?

My response immediately is yes. Lets just take a look at the numbers to start. 760 games played, 372 goals, 493 assists, good for 865 points. That breaks down to 1.13 points a game. Good numbers for any hockey player, but as we all know Lindros had a problem with his NHL career, he couldn't stay healthy. In 13 NHL season Eric Lindros only played 4 seasons that in which he didn't miss significant time. His last two season with the Leafs and Stars where nothing short of brutal. Yet, over his career, he averaged 1.13 points a game. He was one of the games best hitters, his only minus season in the +/- column came in his one year with the Leafs, he had 46 game winning goals, and in 50 games in the NHL Playoffs he scored 24 goals and had 57 points. Lindros could change the outcome of the any game he was in. He made other players better, for no other reason then they where playing on his line. In 13 shortened years in the NHL he is tied for 248th in goals, 420 in assists and 355th in points all time. Those rankings get even better if you just compare him to forwards overall in the NHL. Now the kicker.

What if he had stayed healthy?

Players can't change the fact they get injured and I for one give any player, not just Lindros, credit for what they might have accomplished if they where healthy. Lindros was one of hockey's best talents, an asshole, but he could play hockey. He should be in the Hall of Fame.

Then again, this is just a damned opinion.

~ damned

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Buzzing At The Door

Count me in. Open the door to the bandwagon and let me hop on. Also, wake me, if it’s a dream but I think not. With the hockey season entering it’s second month, the Columbus Blue Jackets are a team with a purpose. And that purpose isn’t to sweep the cellar floors again this year.

After thirteen games, the Jackets have an 8-3-2 record and are in second place behind those pesky Red Wings of Detroit. They have done it with goaltending, Pascal Leclaire, who has led the NHL in goals-against average (1.12), save percentage (.957) and shutouts (five). And a defense, which is allowing fewer shots on goal. They have outscored their opponents, 37-23. Twenty-three goals (21, plus two shootout goals) in 13 games for a 1.77 GAA, and toss out the 5-1 and 4-1 losses and it’s much better than that. They have improved their penalty killing, which is at or near the top in the NHL.

And Rick Nash is, well, Rick Nash again. Nash has 10 goals, 2 game winning goals, 6 assists, and a 16.7 shooting percentage, placing him near the top of the list in a few categories. He seems to be enjoying himself and it is helping the team with some aggressive play.

Sergei Fedorov is riding a four-game point streak (1-3-4) and has points in five of his last six games (2-3-5) since enduring a six-game drought. Fredrik Norrena is quietly having an outstanding second NHL season as he has posted a 1-1-2 record with a 2.41 GAA and .919 SV% in four game. Manny Malhotra, Jason Chimera, and Nikolai Zherdev have contributed offensively as well and D Jan Hejda leads the club in plus/minus (+6) and hits (26).

Coach Ken Hitchcock defensive system and the overall Blue Jackets' aggressive play will keep them in the race for the Central Division title. But, all the teams in this division have improved over last year and this season promises to be no cakewalk. And then there are the Wings, who have owned the lease to the penthouse apartment for several years. They’re still not ready to pack up and move out just yet.

That being said, the state of hockey in the Buckeye State looks much better than in recent years. And they know the Red Winds can’t be on top forever.

Could they?

~ ogre1kanobe

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Saturday Night Special; Atlantic Edition

Well it is another Saturday Night but this one may be just a little more special as later tonight the clocks have to be set back. Oh no...we gain
an hour's sleep...wait that's a good thing.....more hockey!! Now I do admit being away this week really helped recharge things. I could relax..go where I wanted to...do what I wanted to do and all those things that sometimes every person takes for granted. It was nice to see things and explore but more importantly I learned a lot about the area that I am eventually moving to (sometime in July more than likely). San Diego is a very cool place and not too far from Anaheim and LA...so I can't complain there. That being said, onward to the hockey!

Tonight is a bit of a rivalry night in the Atlantic Division with Border War 2 between the Devils and Rangers..then the Isles do battle with the Penguins. The Flyers have the night off after their win at the Phone Booth against the Caps last night. The Isles and Pens are both above .500 but have what you could consider many interesting subplots in development. The Isles have all sorts of issues with consistency which is unlike a Ted Nolan coached team. The Pens are in near chaos with Fleury the unofficial #2 and Sabourin a very unsure #1. The Isles eventually head into a stretch where they start actually playing some games...after this weird 4 games in 20 days bit. The Pens need a clear choice for a #1 goalie and the lines are so blurred that the coaching staff may starting wondering aloud to the GM...are you looking for somebody? I expect the Islanders Army to have quite a bit on this game afterward and as always Faceoff Factor has a bang up preview.

In other Atlantic Division rival action...the second installment of the Border War takes place at MSG tonight between the Rangers and Devils....both teams are coming off wins...both teams are 5-6-1. Will the Devils learn to cover Nigel Dawes? Will the Rangers score some goals? Will the Devils PK ever show up this season? So many questions and as always Devil and Ranger fans alike will try to answer them. The folks at Battle of New York have this all covered and perhaps there will be a liveblog of the events tonight. For all the NHL Arena fans....go right on to the Ranger forum for the GDT. Honestly, I expect another low scoring battle...hopefully this time the Devils figure it out a little better than last time and get some shots on net. That being said, I expect a gritty matchup with the return of Sean Avery tonight. Cue in Vishnevski to the front of the net please. I can't wait!

Another saucy matchup takes place in the Southeast tonight...as the Canes do battle with the Panthers in Raleigh. Anyone who saw the last game on Halloween knows what happened...knows the history. Basically this has gotten ugly between Canes GM Jim Rutherford and Panthers coach Jacques Martin. The diving accusations aside....what was a dive, not a dive...etc. have made this not just another division game. The fine folks at Southeast Shootout have their insights on it....by all means go take a look. Tampa also finally comes home...only to face Atlanta in another SE division game. Think Tampa is glad to come home? They haven't won a road game yet this season...and the tri-state part of the trip was a total disaster getting outscored 13-2 in those 3 games. Atlanta started off 0-6 but has gone 4-3 in their last 7 with improved goaltending and scoring so this could get very interesting in Tampa tonight. Kovalchuk vs. The Tampa Big 3...it is a game I will definitely be watching.

Finally, I just wanted to announce that we have our next four panelists for Hockey Around The Horn...they are LS, Rick, Dan, and Pogo. The questions will be hermetically sealed and sent out sometime tomorrow...and the episode should air on The NHL Arena sometime next weekend. So judges...get ready...this one will be more difficult than the last. Hopefully everyone enjoys all eleven games tonight and don't spill the beer or burn the house down after your team scores. Good hockey...good fight....good night!

~ stevens8204