Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fishing On The Island

Well it is indeed time.....for the Islanders to get their comeuppance. They have had a hard time this year no doubt about it. However, with Ted Nolan in command, this team does not quit ever. At 18-15-2, they are treading water in the tough Eastern Conference race. Goal scoring has always kind of been an issue but it has been even more this year so far. The Isles are pressing at times and sometimes even when the goals come...the defense forgets the memo.

Well the MVP of this team IS Rick Dipietro. No doubt they rise and fall on his shoulders. He has 16 wins...a 2.47 GAA and a .910 save percentage. His puck handling skills bail out what many consider to be an average to below average defense. With all those years to go on that 15 year contract, he needs to stay healthy as their backup Wade Dublewicz is well just a 5-10 start guy right now it appears. For the most part, DiPietro has kept his team in the games most nights. Also, he has a winning record against the Devils and Rangers...pretty important things considering all the divisional play so far.

The Isles have cooled off some since their quick 9-4 has their offense led by Mike Comrie. Comrie had 12 points in 7 games...but only has 16 since. Yet he still owns the lead with 11 goals. Bill Guerin had a hat trick but then went on a 13 game pointless streak before connecting a few times recently. Ruslan Fedotenko leads the team with 4 PPG's along with Miro Satan, but his play really hasn't been that great according to Nolan. In fact, Nolan has felt his entire team has underachieved. Though I tend to disagree...I do think the Isles play their hearts out but they have been heavily hamstrung by their owner and his business-like approach.

The inability to sign a quality premier forward has hurt this team and although Comrie and Vasicek have been nice clearly hasn't been enough. The defense is not doing the greatest right now. It also hurts when your leading scorer is a -10. Chris Campoli has 16 points which is decent, but guys like Bergeron
and Berard should be producing as well. Both aren't. So that makes their defensive shortcomings that much more magnified? Bruno Gervais has probably been the most solid Isles D-man and he is only a +3 but has 9 assists. This team has to get more production from their defense. If they don' is going to be a very long season for Rick DiPietro.

DiPietro really has no margin for error at all. It almost seems if they don't get spectacular goaltending from DiPietro....they lose. Yet, they aren't too far off from the 8th spot...and hell they are only 7 points out of first in the division. So they are indeed still in it.....all it takes is a little scoring punch and another streak. Maybe GM Garth Snow can swing a move. One way or the other it hasn't been all bad for the Isles but they will need something more to contend in the tough Atlantic division and furthermore...the Eastern Conference.

So if you are a diehard Isles fan...let it be known what you think right here at our very own Islander Roll Call.

~ stevens8204

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Stop It And They Will Win

I wish I could sit here and tell you that the fact the Vancouver went 8-2-2 in November was because the team was a well balanced, efficient, playoff ready hockey team. But I can't. The Canucks went 5-7-0 in October for the exact same reason they are now winning.

Roberto Luongo.

When Luongo stops pucks the Canucks win, when he is average they lose. It doesn't get anymore complicated then that. Don't believe me? Well name me one other goalie, that in his last 12 games, has a GAA of 1.56 and a SV% of 0.940? There is none. There is only one goalie in the NHL today that can put up those numbers and he plays for the Canucks. Not to mention the 210 minutes and 24 seconds of shutout hockey Luongo played this month as well. As one writer this week already said, "With the way Roberto Luongo has been playing of late, it's little wonder that scoring is down again in the NHL."

Of course there has to be a token amount of offense from somewhere to still win a hockey game, and the Sedin twins and Markus Naslund are providing that on a consistent basis for the team. Frankly they are one of the most fun lines to watch in the NHL on most nights. The concern for the Canucks, in my mind, is the future. Like most Canadian teams, they haven't attracted big name Free Agents and I can't remember the last time I read about the team drafting a stud offensive player. The future of Naslund and Morrison with the hockey team is clouded at best and I don't think Peter Forsberg is the answer. Can the Canucks offense move backwards from here? If it does, I guess the real question is can Luongo be better?

Then again, this is just a damned opinion.



If you happen to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks, drop in and give us your two cents.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Walking Through A Hurricane

How appropriate! The winds are howling up here well past tropical storm force. It kind of feels like a hurricane out there at times. So what better time to do a report on the Hurricanes...than NOW! The Canes are standing at 14-9-3....they did beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 last night behind 31 saves from Cam Ward. What can be said is the Canes are much improved from last year...though they have been .500 since their hot start. So what has gone right and what has gone wrong? Well away we go!!

The offensive MVP'S have to be Rod Brindamour and Cory Stillman. Both have 13 goals and 18 assists for a total of 31 points. Both have multiple game winning goals and Stillman's four leads the team. To think Stillman was kind of tossed out like yesterday's trash by the Lightning. He has probably been the Canes' best player so far. Even Eric Staal has contributed with 14 goals...and though he is not quite at a point per game, he is close enough leading many to think that last year's Sophomore slump is over. I think his stats will heat up as the season does. Hell Ray Whitney has 26 points in 26 is like the ageless wonders of this team are keeping it upright offensively....quite amazing.

Defensively....this group is fairly steady. However, they do not produce much in the way of points. Bret Hedican leads the corps with just 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists). The unit itself hasn't even produced 1 single power play goal. The physicality really isn't where it needs to be at times either with this group...but they do play hard. Their cohesiveness helps them overcome their lack of physical play which is very apparent against bigger teams. Commodore and Gleason are close to physical presences but Commodore has been injured of late and Gleason well doesn't always play enough to make an impact. GM Jim Rutherford may have to go the trade route to get an enforcer and an offensive defenseman perhaps or something in the middle because the D as it stands now is not good enough.

Goaltending didn't seem like much of an issue early on....but kind of has become one. I mean, Cam Ward, could not keep up that hot start...but he slumped for a good bit since. The first 10 games...Ward had a GAA of 1.93...the last ten Ward has been well over a GAA of 3. That has dropped his save percentage down to .909. Just to think, Ward basically has little protection in front of the net and most of his forwards are he needs to be on top of his game every night. There is little margin for error. His backup, John Grahame tries hard but face it, is no Ward and it shows. His 3.17 GAA is a testament to that..and his .891 save percentage prove why he is not a very capable 2nd netminder but he is serviceable at least. So until something develops in the Carolina system...this is what Rutherford has chosen to ride...not too bad really.

So what do the Canes really need? They do need some younger offensive depth. Will the older forwards be able to keep up like this? Sure but for how long? Ward with his lighter weight can keep the Canes in it for much longer now. His style is similar to Martin Brodeur's but his consistency is just starting to show slowly. The Canes can do well with a stud like this in net...but they turned back the clock to the run of 2006. Sometimes turning back the clock can be bad but so far it has been pretty good. This team knows work needs to be done and they need to play better and I think they me they look like the Southeast Division
champions this season.

Now what do you think....make your voices and opinions known if your a fan of Carolina or just a fan of the NHL right at The NHL Arena.

~ stevens8204