Saturday, April 30, 2011
The big story coming out of the Worlds is the opening loss by the Russians to the Germans. Germany has never beaten Russia at the Worlds, until yesterday. The score was 2-0. The Russian lineup includes Ilya Kovalchuk - this hasn't been his year. Leaf forward Nikolai Kulemin is also in the Russian lineup. Leaf prospect Marcel Mueller plays for Germany.
Canada beat Belarus 4-1. All of Canada's goals came from players under the age of 21: Jordan Eberle scored twice, while Jeff Skinner and John Tavares had a goal and an assist each in the win. However, Mikhail Grabovski was probably the best player on the ice, but he couldn't beat his NHL teammate James Reimer. Best story of the day? Defenseman Mario Scalzo, the only Canadian player without any NHL experience or current NHL contract, got two assists in the win. Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn also play for Canada.
This is why the notion of legal and illegal head hits makes no sense. By putting players in a position where they can suffer a concussion you are pretty much shortening their career. As you can see from the Gagne hit at a certain point it doesn't even take a blow to the head to bring back symptoms.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Leafs sign another European goalie named Mark Owuya. He is a 20 year old butterfly goalie with a technique that is not very developed nor pretty. Hockey's Future reports that he has good attitude, self confidence and stops the pucks, which it all is about in the end.
He has a lot of advantage being of large size (6’2) and is pretty good at moving side-to-side. Has problems with high shots. Agility could still be better. Sounds like another project at best for coach François Allaire..
The Star reports he is also a rapper that goes by the name Mark In Da Park. Below is an appearance on Swedish Idol (no Simon Cowell). Back in When 2007 when Mark Owuya auditioned for the Swedish version of American Idol, judges had five words for him: “Don’t quit your day job.”
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Well the Coach was 6 out of 8 in the first round. Though the Sabres behind Ryan Miller would upset the Flyers and they did make it close. I also did think the Predators would finally make it to the second round but here they are facing the Canucks. There weren't the usual high number of upsets in the first round. Perhaps they will happen this round.
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
The Capitals seem to be more resilient this year having learned from last season's disastrous playoffs. They scored less but gave up even fewer goals. Tampa Bay prevailed against the Penguins predominantly because they had all their lethal weapons healthy while Pittsburgh was at a serious disadvantage without Crosby and Malkin. Dwayne Roloson will keep the Bolts in games but Ovechkin and company should prevail.
Prediction: Caps in 6
(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (3) Boston Bruins
A Flyers vs. Bruins rematch from last season should be the highlight of the second round. Last season the Bruins were up 3-0 in the series before collapsing and losing 4 straight. Danny Briere was unstoppable in the first round and should continue the carry the Flyers. The Bruins were lucky to beat Montreal. How you win a series without scoring a powerplay goal is a total mystery. The Bruins' physical play will be matched by the Flyers. The only interesting factor will be goaltending. Thomas won the round one series for the Bruins. Meanwhile the Flyers net should have a revolving door installed.
Prediction: Flyers in 6
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (4) Nashville Predators
Nashville may be a tougher match for the Canucks than Chicago. Nashville had great goaltending in Pekka Rinne, the best shutdown defensemen in Shea Webber and Ryan Suter, and four balanced lines. Fortunately Luongo fought off the demons and the doubters to carry the Canucks into the second round and perhaps he can keep it up for a few more rounds as well. They will need a little more secondary scoring than what they have been getting.
Prediction: Canucks in 7
(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings are going to have Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen back in their lineup, and are rested following their first-round sweep. However, the Sharks actually have more scoring depth than Detroit. This may finally be San Jose's year after so many disappointing playoffs - or maybe not.
Prediction: Sharks in 7
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I wasn't planning to watch the entire game 7 in Vancouver. But I just couldn't turn it off to go to bed. Not until 1:08 am when Alex Burrows blew the winning goal by Corey Crawford. It was an amazing game and a great outcome at least for Canuck fans. Unfortunately Hab fans did not share in the good fortunes.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Some forgotten former Leaf players are still playing hockey. Yes, Steve Sullivan who Pat Quinn gave away is still contributing with the Predators. Ian White so far is scoring at over a point per game. He would have been a good fantasy draft pick.
Although the Chicago Blackhawks barely made the postseason, they are the reigning Stanley Cup champions. At this point I wouldn't bet against them.
Can you actually go back to Luongo in game 7 after this goal?
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The game winner by Nathan Horton
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Prior to this season, teams that scored first were generally winning between 60-70% of games which is probably a good statistic when compared to the pre-lockout era. When obstruction reined free in the NHL it was common for teams to try to sit on a 1-0 lead for 40 or 50 minutes. Pretty boring hockey. After the lockout when offensives began to open up sitting on a lead became more difficult.
So what has happened?
I'm not sure. It doesn't appear that obstruction has returned to the pre-lockout levels. We are only talking about 35 games so perhaps this post-season is just an anomaly. Still it may be something of a concern if it continues.
Friday, April 22, 2011
I'm surprised to see that Tomas Kaberle has not worked out well so far. These deadline deals rarely do work out because it takes time to integrate your play with that of your new teammates. Training camp is an ideal time to work these things out not the playoffs. And honestly, when do you remember Kaberle having a strong playoff? His last playoffs with the Leafs he scored just 3 assists in 13 games.
Kaberle was supposed to help Boston's power play buy yhe Bruins are only 7 for 77 on the powerplay since Kaberle arrived 27 games ago. Kaberle has nine points in 27 games with the Bruins, including only one goal, and no points so far in the playoffs. He was also the goat on the first goal of the series, 2:44 into a 2-0 loss in Game 1, and has struggled at times in his own end.
He doesn't look like the all-star from a few seasons ago and looks more like a player on the decline. I had thought that a change of scenery would elevate his game but that hasn't happened. Perhaps a full training camp in the fall will make a difference but that won't help the Bruins right now. His ice time has also been reduced.
It' starting to look like the deal that sent Joe Colborne, a first-round pick and a conditional draft pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs was a good deal. Though that conditional pick may not happen since it looks like the Bruins may let Kaberle walk this summer. Unless they panic and sign him to justify the prospects they handed Brian Burke - who must be smiling watching these playoffs.
According to the NHL rules, he should have been awarded a game misconduct penalty. The league could still fine him $2,500 but likely will just let it pass. For the record Ference claims it was a malfunctioning fist pump. You judge for yourself if you buy that. Fist pump movement is up and down not directed straight forward.
In the 2009-10 NHL playoffs home teams won 52.8% of the games. In 2008-09 the winning percentage of home teams was 59.8%. Not sure what is happening here but in three season we have gone from almost 60% advantage for the home team to almost 60% advantage to the visitors.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Perhaps no save had more players in both locker rooms talking than the point-blank one Miller made on Danny Briere -- his former Sabres teammate -- with 8:50 left in the third period and the Sabres nursing a 1-0 lead. Briere had the puck in front of Miller and shot it directly into his pads. But his goaltending was simply amazing.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Here is Steve Downie actually leaving his feet to make a hit. This is clearly charging as Downie launched himself into his opponent. Downie got a one game suspension.
Next is Chris Kunitz who can be seen aiming his elbow at the back of Simon Gagne's head. Gagne was not injured on the play and that definitely played a part in why Kunitz will miss only one game.
This is the puzzling call and why the problem with hits to the head will not disappear. Raffi Torres levels Brent Seabrook behind the net and walks away with just a minor for interference but no suspension. The explanation from the NHL is that Rule 48 was not intended to outlaw shoulder to head hits or hits behind the net. And that is the problem with the NHL policy. Hits to the head are still considered part of the game as long as the player didn't leave his feat or use an elbow.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Wednesday’s game between Detroit and Phoenix will likely be the Coyotes’ last game in Glendale. It certainly won’t be announced as such but the efforts to keep the team in Arizona are coming to a futile end. The only viable ownership groups that exist out there are only interested in relocation which the NHL has opposed. Instead the NHL brings forward very reluctant ownership candidates that want to see the City of Glendale incur all the risks in operating a team in Arizona. Such is the case of Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer who worked out a deal where Glendale would hand over $100-million of taxpayers’ money so Hulsizer could buy the Coyotes from the NHL, and to commit a further $97-million for him to manage the taxpayers’ arena.
This sweetheart deal is opposed by the Goldwater Institute. As a result, the Goldwater Institute and their CEO Darcy Olsen have been vilified by some hockey fans for continuing roadblocks in the sale of the Coyotes to Hulsizer. The Goldwater Institute is a conservative public-policy advocacy group focused on educational reform and tax-revenue spending. Goldwater vowed to sue if the suburban city of Glendale went through with a municipal bond sale that would have provided $100-million to Hulsizer. The mere threat of litigation chilled the bond deal, left Glendale and NHL officials fuming.
However all the blame goes to reckless municipal politicians who sunk $180 million of taxpayers’ money into an arena that should never have been built. Never mind they that may have been hoodwinked. That is nonsense. Too often the allure of sporting franchises causes politicians to lose their sense of fiscal responsibility. To make matters worse, they now want to give Hulsizer money so he will buy the team and keep it locally. The made up rationale for giving him the money is that Glendale will get all the parking revenue and Hulsizer will manage the facility for the city. The Glendale taxpayers should be thankful that the Goldwater Institute exists.
The NHL has been culpable in all this. Either to protect the Phoenix market or Glendale’s investment in the arena, the NHL has been actively trying to coerce Glendale to cough up more money. The reason for this is that the NHL owners have no intention of losing even one dime on the Phoenix franchise. They paid previous owner Jerry Moyes $140 million to keep the team away from Jim Ballsillie even though the value of the franchise is about half that amount. Since then the team has lost about $30 million which they expect to be covered by the new owner (or Glendale if they are foolish enough to hand over the money).
So along comes the Goldwater Institute to stop that nonsense. At the end relocation is the only option if the other NHL owners who obviously want to hang onto their money. So sometime between now and the June draft the citizens of Winnipeg will be out on the streets celebrating the return of their beloved Winnipeg Jets. So you might be wondering why the NHL didn’t save themselves all this trouble by selling the team to Basillie? Well Balsillie had no interest in moving the team to Winnipeg. He was clear that he only wanted to move the team to Hamilton which is within the Maple Leaf territory. All this time Gary Bettman was taking hits from hockey fans here who believed he was anti-Canadian when all he was doing was protecting the richest franchise in the NHL. I might add at the expense of taxpayers in Glendale.
UPDATE: I heard Gary Bettman on TSN Radio today say that the league continues to work at keeping a team in Phoenix and there is no plan to move it to Phoenix. He also indicated when pressed that a decision would have to be made before the schedule is drawn up. Which means that he doesn't want relocation to be the focus of the media during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Look for a June announcement.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
A 59 year playoff tradition may be coming to an end in Detroit. The octopus back then represented the 8 wins necessary to win a Stanley Cup. The slimy critters have been smuggled into arenas for decades.
On Thursday night when Deadspin published an account from "Tommy B.", a Red Wings fan who claimed arena personnel encouraged his octopus toss in Game 1, but who was ejected and fined $500 when he tossed his octopus on the ice — after, he said, five others had already been thrown. Ejections are not new but it was the $500 fine that got people's attention. It seems Detroit police enforcing a Detroit municipal codes - at the request of the NHL.
The NHL has been after Detroit to crack down on the practice for several years now.
What a bunch of killjoys.
What about this hit by Jason Demers on Ryan Smyth? Demers leaves his skates to make this hit. It's right in front of an official but no call. I thought the NHL was going to crack down on charging which happens to be getting air to make a hit. You could use this video to teach officials what charging looks like. Yet no penalty or secondary suspension.
That's why they call it the "Wheel of Justice."
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers
It’s too simplistic to point to Alex Ovechkin and declare the Caps winner in this series. Washington also finished 1st overall last season only to be knocked out in the first round. There is no question Henrik Lundqvist will be a factor and is the only reason the Rangers qualified for the post-season. Meanwhile Washington is going with an unapproved goalie. Both teams are hobbled my injuries going into the playoffs. Still Washington finished very strong and slipped past Philadelphia and Boston to take the first seed. Their defensive game is much improved which has been Bruce Boudreau’s objective over the regular season.
Prediction: Caps in 6
(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres
The Flyers were really the Cinderella team last year when the slipped into the playoffs and rode a minor league goalie all the way to the finals. This year has been entirely different. The Flyers have been one of the stronger teams this season until their goaltenders let them down. Management has already gotten into panic mode by recalling 2010 playoff hero Michael Leighton. Not exactly a vote of confidence for the goalies. Meanwhile the Sabres are firing on all cylinders with red hot Ryan Miller. Chris Pronger can change the complexion of a series on his own but is he healthy enough to carry the Flyers.
Prediction: Sabres in 7
(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens
Lots of hate hear even before the Chara hit on Pacioretty. A lot of question marks in this series. Will Mike Cammalleri be able to repeat his clutch scoring for last year? Have the Bruins learned from their monumental collapse to the Flyers last year after being up 3-0 in the series? One thing for sure, the goaltending will be superb. However, Tim Thomas will neutralize any edge Carey Price may have provided the Canadiens. The physical Bruins will eventually wear down the Canadiens if the series goes deep.
Prediction: Bruins in 7
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
Will Crosby play? That’s all you need to know about this series. The answer seems to be that he will not be available for the first round. That swings to offensive advantage to the the Lightning who have Steve Stamkos and an array of other weapons. Then down the stretch GM Steve Yzerman wisely picked up 41 year old Dwayne Roloson to fix his goaltending problems. Rollie hasn’t disappointed. Still there is an experience factor with Pittsburgh and they have done fine for the past 3 months without both Malkin and Crosby.
Prediction: Bolts in 6
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Blackhawks
The reigning Cup champions have an experience factor that cannot be overlooked. Yet they are just a shell of the team that dominated last season and barely qualified for the post season. Patrick Sharp has come back early from his knee injury so hard to say how effective he will be. In the past the Hawks have had Vancouver’s number though the Canucks are thinking this may be payback time. But looking back the President Trophy winner often struggles in the first round of the playoffs. Will Vancouver imitate the Caps of 2010? Will the superb Sedin twins be able to carry the very deep Canuck team in the competitive West?
Prediction: Canucks in 6
(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have lost Anze Kopitar and they have no scoring depth. Doesn’t look good. The Sharks started off slow but have been gaining momentum in the second half. They also did well in last year’s playoffs and come in with the experience factor. This should be a short series.
Prediction: Sharks in 5
(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes
This is a repeat of last year’s first round match up. Teams actually don’t look much different than last year either. The Red Wings are a little banged up but have the depth and still have an edge in scoring. However that is offset but the clear edge Ilya Bryzgalov has over Jimmy Howard. Then there is the ageless Nik Lindstrom to control the play both on offense and defense. Despite the fact that the moving trucks are already parked in front of the Jobing.com arena, the threat of relocation has never seem to distract Phoenix. Uncertainty is no doubt the norm for the Coyotes.
Prediction: Wings in 7
(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators
Who would have thought at the start of the season that Corey Perry would be the NHL’s only 50 goal scorer and a Hart Trophy candidate? Not me. Then there is a 40 year old Teemu Salanne scoring 80 points. That’s just nuts. Throw in Ryan Geflatz and Bobby Ryan and you have a lot of offense. But then Predators have the best shut down pair in hockey with Shea Weber and Ryan Sutter who are sure to see close to 30 minutes of ice time per game. Also Anaheim’s goaltending situation is unclear because of injuries although they just need one healthy goalie to give themselves a chance.
Prediction: Ducks in 6
Monday, April 11, 2011
As you listen to the minions that follow the Toronto Maple Leafs you hear both optimism and pessimism. The optimists look at the finish to the season and believe that the Leafs can build from their recent play and actually finish with a playoff spot next season. The pessimists will point out that the Leafs finish strongly every year after their out of contention for a playoff spot only to start the following season at the bottom of the standings. I totally understand where the pessimists are coming from. I've been fooled before too.
In the past the Leafs have been a soft team loaded with veterans who frankly underachieved. When the pressure was on they melted away. Yet they were capable of putting together a string of good games when it didn't matter. This pattern was repeated each season. So why might this season be different? Well the 2010-11 Maple Leafs competed hard for much of the season but had little to show for it in the first half. Despite the work ethic, their offense was anemic, the defense prone to turnovers and the goaltending was inadequate. Then in the new year along came James Reimer. His stellar goaltending compensated for his turnover prone defense. Suddenly a bad pass didn't automatically end up in the back of the Leaf net. The improved goaltending turned one-goal losses into gone-goal wins and also compensated for the weak offense. A few other good things happened. Some of the younger Leafs developed into useful NHLers, Dion Phaneuf finally found his stride, and picking up Joffrey Lupul finally kick started Phil Kessel.
So will the Leafs be good to make the playoffs next season? Well not without some changes. Reimer alone is not enough. The four teams directly ahead of the Leafs in the standings also have very good goalies: Carolina with Cam Ward, New York Rangers with Henrik Lundqvist, Buffalo with Ryan Miller and Montreal with Carey Price. Most people will agree that these are the Leaf priorities for the offseason.
The Leafs now have two 30-goal scorers (Kessel and Kulemin) with Grabovski just falling short. Lupul playing an entire season with Kessel would likely also come close to scoring 30. But this is not nearly enough. Without a scoring centre with size, the Leafs lack a true number one line. Grabovski who played hard this season is a second line centre. A number one centre would also elevate Kessel to the 40-goal range. The only free agent centre that could fill this role is Brad Richards. Richards is looking at for a long-term deal at about $8 million per season which is likely more than Burke is willing to pay. As well, Toronto does not appear to be one of his preferred destinations. It will also not be Joe Colborne or Nazem Kadri who both require seasoning before stepping into such a significant role.
As for Tyler Bozak, well Maple Leaf loyalists will point to his improved play. I don't think he advanced nearly enough and Brian Burke likely agrees. He must have led the league in missed scoring chances. I would be surprised to see him back with the Leafs next season. Most fans believe Burke has to re-sign MacAuthur and keep the Grabovski line intact. I think there is a good chance that the threesome will not return. Burke has shown that when players who overprice themselves he does not hesitate to move them. In addition, Grabovski's breakout year has improved his chances of being traded. Last summer Burke tried to move him and found no takers. This summer he will find willing trade partners and could move him if the return is to his liking. The emergence of Mike Brown, Darryl Boyce and Tim Brent as competent role players could spell the end for veterans like Colton Orr, Fredrik Sjostrom and Colby Armstrong. Armstrong comes with a $3 million salary which is expensive for a 3rd liner.
The defense still needs a lot work before the Leafs are competitive. It is prone to cough up pucks, dominated by big bodies that do not carry the puck and produces very little offense. But the defense like the offense is young and improving. The Leafs have to find a puck carrying defense much like the one they moved to Boston. Many people are relieved by the impressive play of Dion Phaneuf in the second half. However, the big surprise is the advancement of his partner Keith Aulie. Aulie is 6'5" with an incredible reach with those long arms. I see his emergence as opening up a possible trade involving Luke Schenn for that number one centre. Many fans would be shocked to see such a trade but if you are deep in young defensemen and thin at centre well it becomes a no-brainer. Burke has struck out with free agent defensemen the past two summers and needs to find teams willing to pick up the contracts of Mike Komisarek and Brett Lebda.
The starter role is filled thanks to Reimer. The Leaf system also has young developing goalies in Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens. The tough decision is what to do with Jonas Gustavsson. As well, the Leafs would be wise to bring in one veteran goalie considering the collective NHL experience of the returning staff is less than 1oo games.
The Leafs played pretty well five on five. But games are won and lost on special teams which partly explains why the Leafs have another early summer vacation. I'm not sure if it is a manpower issue or a coaching issue. Maybe a little of both. Perhaps Ron Wilson needs some help in this area. As well more competent players on the point might reduce the number of breakaways while on the man advantage.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
The core of players to build a winner around has clearly grown this season. So have the draft picks and prospects within the organization. Knowing Brian Burke, I expect even some of what fans believe to be core pieces could be moved this summer if the right pieces come back the other way. There is no first line centre in the group of surviving players below. That person is likely to come through other means.
Like everyone else following the Leafs, I've handed out grades. Last season there were no A grades at the end of the season. This year there are 5 players and the oldest among them is just 27. Things are looking up finally.
|PLAYER||AT 20 GAMES||AT 40 GAMES||AT 60 GAMES||AT |
Thursday, April 7, 2011
On one side you see children playing hockey on a pond, and in the background you see a house with light in the windows, mother and father are waiting for the children to come in from the cold. The other side is a tribute to Reimer's favorite TV show Hockey Night. It shows Cherry and MacLean in blue tints in a layout on the side with glistening stars around.
The right side of the maks's backplate is more spiritual. There is a bible passage referenced above the image of Jesus and Peter – “Matt 14:31″ – Matthew 14:31 reads: “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The slogan on the left side of his mask’s backplate is: “Obstacles are things you see when you lose sight of the goal.” In addition the mask has a yellow heart with the words “Ramona’s courage” in honor of his cousin’s wife who died of cancer more than a year ago.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
(Link) View more The Wizard Of Oz Sound Clips and Bert Lahr Sound Clips
So for the Leafs to make the playoffs it would require a total meltdown by both New York and Carolina. In other words, both the Rangers and Hurricane can only win out of their remaining 4 games while the Leafs will have to sweep their remaining 3 games. Well why not?
Last night was just another in a series of must-wins that the Leafs went out and won. With a fantastic effort in the first period, Kessel hit the 30-goal plateau for the third consecutive season, also establishing a new career-high for points (61). Kessel is only the 7th player in the NHL to score 30 or more goals the past three years, the others being: Crosby, Marleau, Ryan, Carter, Iginla and Nash.
By the way the Leafs are now 10 points ahead of last year's finish with 2 games to go. Double digit improvements are significant in an era of salary caps and parity.