Friday, December 31, 2010

Stamkos, Richards key routs

The Nyquil is kicking in, and kicking in hard, so this is what we call a speed recap.

--Steven Stamkos had two goals and four points as Tampa Bay beat up Carey Price and Montreal, 4-1.
--Ditto Mike Richards, who helped Philadelphia torch Los Angeles, 7-4.

--Ondrej Pavelec's 42 saves and Tobias Enstrom's two goals helped Atlanta down Boston, 3-2.
--Paul Stastny had a goal and assist and Colorado beat Edmonton, 4-3.

The others
--Kristian Huselius scored twice and R.J. Umberger had the game-winner as Columbus edged Toronto, 3-2.
--San Jose blew a two-goal lead in 22 seconds in the final half-minute of period two but recovered to beat Chicago, 5-3. Dany Heatley had a goal and assist.

Quick thoughts
--Twitter world's abuzz with "Carey Price is tired, panic time in Montreal." Which I can't argue with. Someone mentioned Montreal's offense drying up. Hardly. It was never good to begin with.

--Not very impressive debut for Michael Leighton for Philadelphia. Offense picked him up. Can't wait to see what the Flyers do with these three goalies.

--Is Steve Mason back? Probably not.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Backyard Rink Chronicles Pt. 2


Frame up. Check.

Tarp laid. Check.

Water in. Check.

One night's worth of freeze. Check.

Lessons learned:

*What you think is flat is maybe not so flat. Remember, I'm using 2x8s as the frame. On on end, there's about 7" of space between the water and the top of the board, on the other there's about 1". Ruh-roh.

But I decided I would fill until there was water covering the entire tarp. I suppose I could have filled the low end a little bit and let that freeze before filling in the rest so there'd be a base of ice in the deep end. That would probably have been smarter actually. I know there's going to be water under the ice on the deep end much longer than at the shallow end. I also know I may have fated that deep end to not freeze over, ever.

Maybe I can peel off the ice layers as they freeze at the deep end? I don't know.

*When my instant gratification addiction meets the crack dealer of Home Depot, and their blue tarps, hilarity ensues. Yes, I bought the only tarp they had at the store that was my desired size. Yes, there was a lucid thought behind it (I was afraid that if I bought smaller pieces of white sheeting that I wouldn't be able to duct tape (or whatever) them together in a way that would have maintained a necessary amount of water-proofification). But when my neighbor - who used to do a rink when his kids were younger - saw how dark my tarp is he was like "ooh....yeah....uh, that might be a problem." We'll see. I'm living and learning.

*Don't sweat the corners. I was worried about them, but once I got the frame up and the tarp on, when the water came in, there was no problem.

The issue now is the weather. I'm reticent to put any stock in any meteorologist's "forecast" but is telling me I'm looking at hi/lo splits of 39/32 today, 46/39 tomorrow and 52/32 (with rain) on new year's day. Then it starts to get colder. But I'll be nervous about the ambient temps and the blue tarp conspiring to keep my water from freezing for the next few days.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Isles snap Crosby's streak, plus win to boot

Islanders trap Crosby, Penguins to earn shootout win
I hate playing teams coming off a horrid loss. Usually they bounce back nicely. The Islanders certainly made it so.

Rick DiPietro made 37 saves and New York blanked Sidney Crosby en route to earning a 2-1 shootout win over Pittsburgh. The Islanders lost their last game by a 7-2 margin and DiPietro was making his first appearance in nearly two weeks after being out with an injury. Naturally, they're the ones who end Crosby's 25-game point streak. Speaking of DiPietro's injuries, there's at least a 50-50 chance he injured himself in the celebration after he stopped Mark Letestu in the fourth round of the shootout to get the win.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves, including a few good ones, for Pittsburgh, but couldn't stop three of four New York shooters (Rob Schremp, Frans Nielsen, P.A. Parenteau) in the tiebreaker. New York has now won four of its last five games and five of the last seven.

The numbers don't add up
So, New Jersey averages 30 shots per game. The Devils allow the second fewest shots per game at 27. They routinely out-shoot their opponents. Yet they still lose, and lose, and lose.

Henrik Lundqvist's 43 saves got the Rangers past New Jersey, 3-1, handing the Devils their sixth straight loss. Get this: In each of those six games, New Jersey scored exactly one goal. No more, no less. The Devils out-shot five of those six opponents, including by a large margin a couple times.

New Jersey has lost 11 of 12 games in December, with each loss coming in regulation, and it scored more than one goal in only two of those 11 losses. The Devils have one more chance to earn a point or two in December with a game Friday afternoon against Atlanta.

Speaking of which, the last three Devils losses were at home. They were out-scored 12-3 in that time.

Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and assist for New York.

More good goaltending
Cam Ward's 37 saves and two first-period goals by Zach Boychuk fueled Carolina's 4-0 win over Ottawa. Patrick Dwyer had a goal and assist and Erik Cole also scored.

Not good goaltending
--Minnesota scored three times in a five-minute span against Antero Niittymaki in the third period and earned an impressive 5-3 comeback win over San Jose. Kyle Brodziak scored twice, Brent Burns had a goal and assist and Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves.
--Kari Lehtonen is not feeling good. Dallas led 3-1 early in the second period before Detroit rattled off six straight goals, the last into an empty net, and ended up routing the Stars, 7-3. Patrick Eaves recorded a hat trick and one assist, Jiri Hudler and Nicklas Lidstrom each had a goal and assist and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves. Lehtonen finished with only 19 stops.
--Jonathan Quick allowed six goals on 18 shots in 30 minutes and Phoenix doubled up Los Angeles, 6-3. Shane Doan scored twice, Scottie Upshall had a goal and two assists and Keith Yandle posted three helpers. Ilya Bryzgalov made 23 saves.

--Really, DiPietro ended the streak? That's it, I am so leaving the Islanders when my NHL11 Be a Pro contract is up.

--Elite teams score on a 4-on-3 power play in overtime against a team like the Islanders. The Penguins didn't. Draw your own conclusions. I don't know, maybe they were tired; the game was their fifth in eight days, even with the holiday break. I won't say they have the worst schedule in the league (they don't) but they haven't gotten many days off. I think they tried to force too many plays through Crosby as well rather than focus on just winning the game.

--At least the Penguins got a point. One of their problems is when they lose, they usually lose in regulation. So while they lead the league in wins, they'd have a bit more of a cushion in the standings if they got more loser points. Tonight's was just their third loss (out of 14 total) after regulation.

--I dunno, do I sense more Jonathan Bernier appearances in the future? He's been playing better and maybe Quick deserves some rest more often.

--Was about to say Quick was struggling, but actually he had shutouts in three of his last six starts, including two of his last three before tonight. Never mind me.

--I just don't get what's going on in New Jersey. The Devils are always out-shooting opponents but nobody at all is scoring. They actually got the first goal of the game tonight, and from someone who's really been struggling (Travis Zajac.) Paging Ilya Kovalchuk: This is when you step up to be a leader and go-to scorer your team needs.

--The karma's rich though, isn't it? I don't know if Kovalchuk legitimately wanted to stay in Atlanta and the Thrashers just didn't pony up the money (in which case, well, he didn't really want to go back, did he?), but he went from that dead-end franchise to a new team that's suddenly becoming dead-end, while his old team is one of the bright surprises in the league.

--How the eff do the Red Wings put up seven goals without Pavel Datsyuk, with no Dan Cleary, and only a secondary assist for Henrik Zetterberg?

--In case you're wondering, yes, I hate the Penguins again, and yes, I'll flip-flop, again, after their next win.

The Backyard Rink Chronicles Pt. 1


I'm doing it.

I'm going to attempt to fulfill a lifelong dream and build a backyard skating rink.

I researched on the web, and the kits look nice and easy, but expensive. They also would entail waiting for delivery and I'm all about instant gratification (and I've got the rest of the week off) so, F that.

So I went to Home Depot (and I'm one of those guys who isn't the most handy, so I can never really put on the air of confidence that garners the respect of the dudes working there, but the guys I talked to were all super helpful and didn't snicker at my naivete very much at all) and wound up buying (what I hope is) everything I need for less than a kit would have been.

I had wanted to do a 20' x 30' sheet. But the tarps they had available in the store dictated that I go 15' x 25'.

For the frame, I'm using 2" x 8" boards, cut into 5' lengths, held together with an extra piece of wood behind them, into which I'm screwing deck screws. I'm planning on ~2" of ice, so ~6" of extra space above it creating the kick plate. If I need additional "boards" (particularly end boards) I can always add them later.

My plan is to build and lay the frame, flatten the snow inside it, lay the tarp, fill with water and let mother nature do her thing. Okay, we're getting the same 40+ degree weather this weekend that is currently threatening the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, but I've never been accused of having great timing.

Last night, I made the two 15' end sections and a 15' and a 10' side section for each side.

Today I'm going to connect the side sections and finish the frame. Then I get to use my new tamper to flatten what little snow we currently have. I was advised to let the frame sit for a bit to settle before laying the tarp, but we'll see about that.

A) with the warmer weather coming in, I'd like to try to get a couple layers of ice down first
B) instant gratification

I'll update more later.

Crosby, Canucks turn on the lights

Premature hat tossing
When Sidney Crosby's slap shot found its way past Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec, hats rained down as the fans thought the goal completed Crosby's hat trick. Instead, it turned out teammate Matt Cooke deflected the shot, meaning Crosby had to settle for just two goals as part of a four-point night in Pittsburgh's 6-2 win over the slumping Thrashers, who have lost four straight games.

Craig Adams, Chris Kunitz and Mark Letestu also scored for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves. Cooke (two points) was the only other Penguin with more than one point.

Rested or rusty?
While some teams in the NHL have played three times in a six-day span, the Philadelphia Flyers have had over a week off since their last game. Rather than be fully rested, the Flyers appeared to be awfully rusty. Vancouver out-shot visiting Philadelphia 22-8 in the first period and jumped out to a three-goal lead early in the second period en route to a 6-2 rout of the Flyers.

Ryan Kesler led the charge with a pair of goals and one assist, Henrik Sedin tallied three helpers and Daniel Sedin registered two points, including a goal. Jannik Hansen, Manny Malhotra and Jeff Tambellini also scored. Roberto Luongo made 35 saves as the Flyers found their legs after the first period.

All-around stud
Nice game from Buffalo's Mike Weber. The defenseman scored the first two goals of his NHL career and added an assist in Buffalo's 4-2 win over Edmonton. Not only that, Weber registered three hits and blocked five shots. Jochen Hecht had a goal and assist and Luke Adam also scored for the Sabres. Ryan Miller made 29 saves.

Backups to the rescue
--Andrew Raycroft made 44 saves and Dallas scored three times in the third period to erase a 2-1 deficit and defeat Nashville, 4-2. Loui Eriksson had a goal and assist for the Stars. Colin Wilson scored both Predators goals.
--Ty Conklin backstopped St. Louis to a 3-1 win over Chicago, making 25 saves.

Goalie carousel
Does anyone know who the No. 1 goalie is in Washington? Michal Neuvirth has done fairly well, but now he's fallen out of favor apparently. That's not likely to change after Semyon Varlamov stopped all 25 shots he saw to lead the Capitals to a 3-0 win over Montreal.

Holding the fort
Anaheim had to kill off three disadvantages in quick succession in the third period and held off Phoenix to earn a 3-1 victory. Jonas Hiller made 31 saves and Luca Sbisa, Joffrey Lupul and Corey Perry all scored.

Late strikes
--Patrick Dwyer scored with 5:11 left in regulation to snap a 3-3 tie and give Carolina a 4-3 win over Toronto. Cam Ward made 34 saves and Eric Staal had two goals for the Hurricanes. Phil Kessel scored twice for the Maple Leafs.
--Mark Recchi's power play goal with 20 seconds left in the third period proved to be the difference in Boston's 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay. Tim Thomas made 31 saves for the Bruins. Steven Stamkos led the Lightning with a goal and assist.

--Probably lost in the shuffle of Crosby's four-point game and Pittsburgh scoring six times was Fleury played an excellent game. He made a number of big saves in the early going when Atlanta was controlling play.

--I learned the Lightning radio crew is about as homeriffic as anyone out there. I didn't see the late penalty to Stamkos that led to Recchi's goal, so I don't know if it was a good call or not, but those guys went off on quite the epic rant about the state of officiating in today's NHL.

--So, do we still think the Canadiens are good? Not a very good effort tonight, and now they've been surpassed in the division by Boston and have dropped to eighth in the conference. Given the bum teams in the East, I'm not convinced they'll fall any further, but Montreal has lost seven of its last nine games.

--Dear Anaheim: Please decide if you're good or not.

--Philadelphia suddenly has goaltending issues. Shocking, I know. First, Sergei Bobrovsky was excellent, the frontrunner for the Calder Trophy. A couple bad games and Brian Boucher started earning more starts. Boucher gets lit up, Bobrovsky gives up two in limited action, and Michael Leighton is lurking somewhere.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Osgood gets #400

Power play, overtime strike give Osgood 400th win
Say what you will about Chris Osgood as a person. But he's in a pretty elite group now, and no one can say he didn't deserve this particular game.

Osgood made 46 saves, including quite a few dazzlers in short succession as part of a 23-save second period, and Detroit scored four power play goals to grab a 4-3 overtime win over Colorado. Niklas Kronwall delivered the game-winning strike that made Osgood just the 10th goalie in NHL history to win 400 games.

Of Osgood's 400 wins, 316 have come with Detroit. He entered the 2009-10 season needing just 11 victories to reach the milestone, but ineffectiveness and the emergence of Jimmy Howard turned a foregone conclusion into a drawn-out event.

Nicklas Lidstrom had a goal and three assists for the Red Wings, which led 3-2 late before conceding Matt Duchene's second goal, on the power play, to force overtime. Kronwall had two points, as did Jiri Hudler (goal and assist) and Johan Franzen also scored.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try again
Los Angeles peppered San Jose goalie Antti Niemi with shot after shot through two periods. None went in. Then the wheels came off in the third period for Niemi.

After making 30 saves through two periods, Niemi conceded four goals on seven third-period shots and Los Angeles blanked San Jose, 4-0. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves and Dustin Brown scored twice. The Kings scored three times in the first 6:49 - in a span of 4:41 - of the third period.

Trevor Lewis scored as did Marco Sturm for his first goal of the season and as a King. Anze Kopitar posted three assists.

New York, New York
Woof. From the NHL First Star of the Week to conceding a touchdown. Such is the life of Dwayne Roloson.

Matt Gilroy scored his first goals in 65 games and the floodgates opened as the Rangers scored five times in an 18-minute span to rout the Islanders, 7-2. The Rags out-shot the Islanders by a whopping 52-20 margin, getting at least 16 shots in each period and holding the Islanders to four in each of the final two periods.

After one period, the game was tied 2-2. At 12:08 of the second period, Gilroy scored his second of the game to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. At 10:34 of the third, the lead was 7-2.

Brian Boyle had a goal and two assists, Marian Gaborik, Derek Stepan and Brandon Dubinsky a goal and helper each, and Ruslan Fedotenko also scored for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist made 18 saves.

In the shootout
--Blake Wheeler scored in round two and Boston upended Florida, 3-2, handing the Panthers' their first loss after regulation. David Krejci scored twice and Tim Thomas made 32 saves. Scott Clemmensen stopped 40 shots in defeat for Florida.
--Columbus overcame a pair of one-goal deficits plus conceding the tying goal to beat Minnesota, 4-3, when Jose Theodore failed to stop anyone in the shootout. Steve Mason made 37 saves in a rare win and Rick Nash had two assists plus a shootout goal for the Blue Jackets.

And finally
Five different players scored as Calgary handed Buffalo a 5-2 defeat. David Moss and Olli Jokinen each had a goal and assist and Miikka Kiprusoff made 25 saves for the Flames.

--Congratulations to Osgood. He was awfully good in that second period tonight.

--One wonders how the hell the Islanders were able to get two goals. Oh yeah, Lundqvist wasn't very good on either goal.

--Given the season-ending injury to Derek Roy, I wonder when we can write off Buffalo as a potential playoff team. Already 10 points back and without its leading scorer. I can't imagine it'll be long.

--On the flip side, can we rule out anyone in the West as possibly making the postseason, even Edmonton?

--OK, yeah, probably Edmonton.

--Big bounceback for Mason. Maybe we can rule out Minnesota now after having lost to Steve Mason. Wonder if that'll kickstart his season. Probably not.

--Quite impressive performance from the Kings.

Monday, December 27, 2010

More badness for Devils; Some upsets on Sunday

"Clever headline using Sharp"
Patrick Sharp scored twice and Chicago handed Columbus its second straight defeat by a 4-1 margin. Marian Hossa returned to the lineup and had two assists, as did Troy Brouwer. Marty Turco made 26 saves.

Quiet nights
--Jimmy Howard saw only 17 shots and stopped 16 as Detroit didn't struggle with Minnesota, 4-1. Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and assist.
--Jonathan Bernier's 18 saves and four second-period goals were enough to give Los Angeles a 4-1 win over Anaheim.

Fans of 3-2 scorelines, listen up
--Alex Ovechkin broke an eight-game goalless drought and added an assist in Washington's 3-2 win over Carolina. Semyon Varlamov stopped 33 shots. Ovechkin had also gone 13 games since his last multipoint effort. Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen each had a goal and helper for the Hurricanes.
--Vincent Lecavalier's second goal of the game came on the power play early in overtime to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 win over Atlanta. Steven Stamkos had a goal and assist and Dan Ellis made 26 saves.
--Kevin Bieksa scored with 24 seconds left and Vancouver erased a two-goal deficit to down Edmonton, 3-2. Cory Schneider had 19 saves.

Dozens of witnesses
OK, yes, this is an attendance joke, but fans of the Devils and Islanders also deserve a break considering the vast amounts of snow that hit their areas. Would you venture out to watch those two teams? Me neither.

--An announced crowd of 5,329 - with estimates of actual people about half that - watched Martin Brodeur give up three goals in two periods and be lifted before the third period of Toronto's 4-1 win over New Jersey. Brodeur has now been relieved more often (six times) than he's won a game (five). Colby Armstrong scored twice and Jonas Gustavsson made 29 saves.
--Dwayne Roloson's 38 saves were witnessed by an announced 3,136, predominately Montreal fans as the Islanders knocked off the Canadiens, 4-1. P.A. Parenteau had a goal and assist for New York.

Good news, bad news
The good news for Pittsburgh was Sidney Crosby extended his points streak to 24 games by becoming the first NHLer to hit the 30-goal mark. The bad news is he needed another hat trick, as Brian Elliott stonewalled Pittsburgh on 44 saves to lead Ottawa over the Penguins, 3-1. Erik Karlsson scored twice and also had an assist.

Clean sheets
--Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves and David Backes scored twice, once into an empty net, to lead St. Louis over Nashville, 2-0.
--Backup Jason LaBarbera fended off 30 shots and Kyle Turris scored the lone goal as Phoenix downed Dallas, 1-0.

--Hey, at least the Devils should get a good draft pick to replace Zach Parise when he's signed to an offer sheet and is too expensive for them to keep this summer, right? Maybe they'll draft a goalie.

--Ilya Kovalchuk has been a minus in nine of 11 December games. He's last in the league in plus/minus. The bottom four guys are Devils. Should they just blow things up and start over?

--All I'll say on the Penguins game is Ottawa came out hungrier and took more advantage of its opportunities. Anything else and I'll be labeled a whiner. Also, Elliott was awfully good. I don't remember a long list of awesome saves he made but he was always in position and I'm not sure he allowed even one rebound. The one goal he let in wasn't even a clean one; he made the save and it bounced off his defenseman's leg and barely in.

--Will Sunday's be the game that sparks Ovechkin the rest of the season? I didn't realize how long he'd gone between multipoint games.

--Maybe the Islanders figured out a good strategy to win. Throw off your opponent by playing in an empty arena.

--Wait, if that was the case, New York would be undefeated at home. Oh, snap!

--I should say something about the West so I'm not East Coast biased, but too bad. I'm tired.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Musings, Some FUs


First, nice little streak the Wild has put together. Hasn't helped them in the standings, but at least the games are more fun to watch. The drive for drafting just outside the money picks is on!

If you want to read crappy, myopic, hockey-stupid, ugly American-style hockey "journalism", read Adrian Dater of, well of whatever the hell the Denver papers are called these days (Rocky Mountain Post?) He's everything that undermines any of the MSM types when they try to claim that new social media/blogger types are not legit like they are. And that's a battle I've never really taken a side on. But Dater's just a waste. Don't read him. Don't give him and his paper the satisfaction. He's the Matt Cooke of hockey writers.

Speaking of which, does anyone actually think Jack Edwards is, I don't know....good? Smart? Has integrity? He's horrid. He's as big a homer as any PBP guy in the league (the Wild's own tv PBP is right there with him, as far as I'm concerned.) But the homeristicness is bad enough (see his comments during last night's set-to towards the end of the Bs/Thrashers game) but it's the quasi-wannabe-intellectual ranting that he pukes up every once in a while when he's particuarly exercised about some outrage perpetrated against the Bs.

Jack: you're not that smart. You sound like an idiot when you go off. You were a jackass at ESPN who couldn't even hold down the SOCCER gig there (ouch), and you're a hack on NESN covering the Bs. You embarrass yourself. I'm embarrassed for you, and I don't give a crap about you! The Farrelly brothers should have cast you as Warren in "There's Something About Mary."

And, I hate it when players who wear half-shields fight with them on. I don't care if you wear a half-shield. But if you're going to fight, be a man and take it off. Lookin' at you, Evander Kane.

Where has all the goaltending gone?

Ondrej Pavelec, Ryan Miller, Martin Brodeur, Mathieu Garon... what the hell happened? What an ugly night for these guys.

Normally a firing rejuvenates a team
Merry Christmas, John MacLean!

After firing head coach MacLean, relieving him of the agony of coaching New Jersey and resulting in this scathing ESPN column by Scott Burnside, Lou Lamoriello watched his team get steamrolled, at home, by the other inept team in the league, the Islanders, by a 5-1 margin. Wow!

The best part is New York had only 14 shots on goal.

Read that again.

The game wasn't six minutes old before the Islanders - you remember them as the team that once lost 14 straight and won three of its last 24 games - jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Josh Bailey. He later set up Frans Nielsen's shorthanded goal. John Tavares and Blake Comeau also scored for the Islanders. Dwayne Roloson made 34 saves.

Travis Zajac scored just his fourth goal of the season - part of New Jersey's problem - as the Devils rightfully earned sole possession of worst in the league.

Has Martin Brodeur ever played a complete game and finished with a single-digit save total? Hell, or ANY goalie? 60 minutes, fewer than 10 saves? How does that happen? This is rock-bottom for the Devils, right? I can't stop asking rhetorical questions?

I just looked it up. Brodeur had a nine-save shutout on Dec. 4, 2003, in a 3-0 victory over Washington. (Or as most Caps fans call it: Before Hockey Existed.) Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra and Sergei Gonchar were still playing for Washington. New Jersey got goals from Paul Martin, Turner Stevenson and Jeff Friesen. Wow. Scotts Niedermayer and Stevens were still Devils, as were Brians Gionta and Rafalski. In goal for Washington that game: Olaf Kolzig. The shot total was 41-9.

Yikes, he did it again. This time it was a loss, 2-1 to Carolina, on Oct. 29, 2002. Shots were 35-11 in favor of New Jersey. Shots in the third period: 7-0. Friesen scored for the Devils and Carolina got goals from Jaroslav Svoboda and Jeff O'Neill. Rod Brind'Amour was still a Hurricane, and still ugly. Ron Francis, Ken Daneyko and Joe Nieuwendyk were still playing.

Those games were so long ago, ties still existed. My resources stopped at the 2001-02 season.

Other not-so-great performances
--Ryan Miller conceded three first-period goals and Buffalo fell to Florida, 4-3. Christopher Higgins scored twice and Tomas Vokoun made 45 saves for the Panthers.

--One of the hotter teams and goalies in the league ended up with more fighting majors than good performances. Shawn Thornton scored twice as Boston rolled over Ondrej Pavelec and Atlanta, 4-1. A good ole line brawl occurred with four minutes left, including a fight by Marc Savard, who probably shouldn't have done that. Tim Thomas made 26 saves.

--He doesn't have the pedigree of some other guys in this post so far, but Mathieu Garon has been an excellent goaltender this year. Then he went out and allowed six goals in 33 minutes as Vancouver blasted Columbus, 7-3. Henrik Sedin had a goal and three assists, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows each had one and two, Raffi Torres scored twice and Cory Schneider made 24 saves for the Canucks. R.J. Umberger had two goals for Columbus.

--Maybe Chris Osgood will never get that 400th win. St. Louis scored four times against Osgood on just 25 shots and held on to take down Detroit, 4-3. Patrik Berglund scored twice and Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves for the Blues.

Power up
--Power play goals by Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexandre Picard 2:03 apart on a major power play turned a 2-1 Montreal deficit into a 3-2 Canadiens victory over Carolina. Scott Gomez had a goal and assist and Carey Price made 22 saves.
--San Jose scored three power play goals and knocked off Phoenix, 4-1. Patrick Marleau (two goals) and Joe Thornton (one) each had three points, Joe Pavelski recorded two assists and Antti Niemi made 24 saves.
--Nick Foligno's power play goal proved to be the difference as Ottawa took down Nashville, 2-1. Brian Elliott made 25 saves.

He's Back(strom)!
Niklas Backstrom allowed just one goal for the third straight game and Matt Cullen scored twice, once shorthanded, to help Minnesota down Colorado, 3-1. Backstrom made 36 saves for the Wild, who have won three straight.

In the shootout
--Coupled with Washington's shootout loss earlier transcribed, Tampa Bay took over the Southeast Division lead after an 11-round shootout win over the Rangers, 4-3. The who's-who of shootout scorers were Erik Christensen and Mats Zuccarello (New York), and Victor Hedman, Adam Hall and Ryan Malone (winner) for Tampa Bay. Martin St. Louis had a goal and assist and Steven Stamkos scored his 27th goal for the Lightning. Dan Ellis made 34 saves.

--Alex Tanguay scored with 1:21 left in regulation to force overtime, then netted the only shootout goal to give Calgary an improbable 3-2 win over Dallas. Miikka Kiprusoff was not busy, needing to make just 14 saves. Mike Ribeiro had a goal and assist for the Stars.

--Jarret Stoll's goal in the sixth round gave Los Angeles a 3-2 win over Edmonton. Jack Johnson had a goal and assist and Jon Quick made 27 saves for the Kings.

Happy holidays! Enjoy the two days of no hockey. Or mourn them as you'll have to spend it with your families. Whichever suits you best.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Caps-Pens analysis

Shootout skillz of Dupuis, Fleury lift Pens over Caps
Sometimes I wish I was a fan of a team other than the Penguins, but also not the Capitals. That way I could really enjoy the games when those teams meet regardless of the result. Instead, they're usually pretty damn nerve-racking and not always "happy endings." I think 20 percent of my hair turned gray during the 2009 playoff series.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves, including quite a few dazzlers and six almost-routine saves in the shootout, and Pascal Dupuis scored in round seven to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 victory over Washington. Last season, the Capitals won all four meetings, though two were in overtime or a shootout.

This game was fairly one-sided through two periods, then Pittsburgh wrested control for about 15 minutes of the third period before Washington regained its equilibrium for the final moments. Then it turned fairly even.

Mainly that was because the Penguins couldn't stay out of the penalty box. They took three non-coincidental penalties in each of the first two periods, including a crazy delay of game penalty by Matt Cooke, who shot the puck out of the opposite end of play from his own zone. Twice Pittsburgh had to kill off lengthy 5-on-3 disadvantages, one lasting 1:21 (eventually shortened by a Washington penalty) and the other of 1:51.

Although Sidney Crosby scored on another ridiculous deflection just 3:21 into the game - his 29th goal and extending his points streak to 23 - the Penguins were on their heels the whole first period. Fleury played perhaps his best game of the season. He made 12 saves in each of the first two periods.

Mike Green scored his first goal since Labor Day just after Washington's second 5-on-3 power play expired to tie the score at 1-1 after two. Crosby's effort and one-handed flip of the puck toward the net created a rebound that Chris Kunitz buried 17 seconds into the third period to break the tie.

That's when Pittsburgh took control, keeping the Capitals hemmed in their zone for much of the time. Shots in the third period were 11-5 Pittsburgh. It became Washington's turn to make treks to the penalty box, being whistled for three minors. But Pittsburgh's fatal flaw - its power play - not only couldn't bury the Capitals, it opened the door for Washington to bounce back.

After pussy-footing around the rink, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski tried to play catch along the attacking blue line but mucked even that up, leading to a turnover by Goligoski. Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble went the other direction in a near 2-on-1 and Knuble - with Goligoski committing a penalty on his back - slipped a puck under Fleury for a shorthanded goal with 5:29 remaining in regulation.

That salvaged a point for the Capitals, who maybe deserved more, maybe deserved less. It's hard to say. All their power play time allowed them to maintain a nice territorial edge - they had 13 power play shots after two periods, Pittsburgh had 12 total - but 5-on-5, Pittsburgh might've been better. Certainly the Penguins were in the third period after going ahead 2-1.

It's a good thing Pittsburgh has such a good penalty killing unit (still ranked first despite giving up a goal) because the Penguins take way too many penalties for an elite team to take. Washington finished 1-for-6 on the power play.

Pittsburgh blocked 23 shots; props to defensemen Deryk Engelland (five), Zbynek Michalek (four) and Kris Letang (three) plus forward Craig Adams (four). The Capitals blocked 21; I'm betting most came in the third period, because Michal Neuvirth had little to do through two periods.

Nice game by Green, whose goal was his first in 15 games. The goal, plus eight hits and five blocks. He did concede a penalty shot to Evgeni Malkin, but Geno sucks on breakaways/shootouts so it was probably the right play.

On the other hand, if the Capitals had given up a power play, they would've had more chances for a shorthanded goal.

Anyway. Pittsburgh won because of Fleury. He made a lot of big saves, including a huge pad save on Knuble late in regulation. After giving up a shootout goal to Alex Ovechkin in the first round - a real nice move by Ovechkin - Fleury stoned the rest of the Caps shooters, seemingly with ease.

I'm glad I didn't have to write a scathing post about Pittsburgh's power play, which nearly cost them a point in the standings. That is, again.

Big win for the Penguins, who as I mentioned lost all four games last season to Washington. Especially playing on the second of back-to-back nights and on a night when they didn't play their best at all.

Crosby, Crawford continue to shine

Like a broken record
Stop me if you've heard this before, but Sidney Crosby scored and Pittsburgh won again.

Crosby's 28th goal of the season, extending his points streak to 22, was one of three first-period goals scored by the Penguins en route to a 5-2 win over Florida. Mark Letestu and Matt Cooke also scored, chasing Tomas Vokoun early from the game.

If you own Ben Lovejoy in a fantasy league, he did wonders for you, scoring his first career goal and also getting into a fight. And, seriously, if you own Lovejoy, what the hell is wrong with you?

Pascal Dupuis scored an empty net goal and Chris Kunitz tallied two assists for Pittsburgh. Brent Johnson started the game and made 20 saves through two periods before leaving with an injury. Marc-Andre Fleury made 15 saves in the third period.

Stephen Weiss and Bryan McCabe scored for the Panthers.

Skille, Crawford lead Blackhawks over Predators
In one swoop, Chicago jumped from ninth to sixth in the West.

Jack Skille scored a pair of goals and Corey Crawford further cemented his status as Chicago's number one goalie by making 24 saves to guide the Blackhawks over Nashville, 4-1. Dave Bolland had a goal and assist, Bryan Bickell scored and Duncan Keith posted two assists.

Sergei Kostitsyn scored for the Predators.

In overtime
--Dwayne Roloson made 34 saves - 15 in the first period - and John Tavares scored late in overtime to give the Islanders a surprising 2-1 win over Tampa Bay. Tavares also assisted on P.A. Parenteau's goal and Andrew MacDonald had two assists.
--Henrik Zetterberg's second goal and third point of the game came with 2:01 left in overtime and gave Detroit a 5-4 win over Vancouver. Brian Rafalski posted three assists and Jimmy Howard made 35 saves for the Red Wings. Ryan Kesler led the Canucks with three helpers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Caps grind down Devils; Quick blanks Avs

Devils continue to suck as muckers run amok
Hey, that kind of rhymed. That was inadvertent.

Anyway, New Jersey's season continues its downward spiral by letting Washington's role players wreak havoc in a 5-1 Capitals rout. Washington's first three goals came by noted goal scorers Andrew Gordon (the first of his career), Jay Beagle (his first of the season and second in 14 career games) and Jason Chimera, whose career-high for goals in a season is 17.

Atta Devils! Atta Martin Brodeur.

John Carlson had a goal and assist and Mike Knuble also scored for the Caps. Gordon added an assist and Michal Neuvirth made 35 saves.

That's the funny thing. New Jersey out-shot the Caps, 36-28. A good showing again.

Quick, Kings shut down potent Avalanche
Currently cracking up over the Stargate SG-1 episode "Urgo" so no clever lead-in to this game. Just the facts, ma'am.

Los Angeles held Colorado, the league's top scoring offense, to 23 shots, with Jonathan Quick stopping each one, and Dustin Brown recorded four points as the Kings easily handled the Avalanche, 5-0.

Brown scored twice and set up two others. Rob Scuderi scored his first goal as a King, his first goal in 108 games, and also had an assist. Drew Doughty posted two helpers and Brad Richardson and Justin Williams each had a goal.

Coming back to Earth
Well, after a nifty win in Boston, the Ducks were flying fairly high. It didn't take long for them to come crashing back down.

Buffalo scored three first-period goals, out-shooting visiting Anaheim 17-4 in the opening frame, en route to a comfortable 5-2 victory. Two of the Sabres' early goals were on the power play. Tyler Ennis scored twice, Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe scored and Craig Rivet had a goal and assist. Derek Roy and Jordan Leopold each had two assists.

Ryan Miller made 21 saves, allowing two power play goals to Corey Perry. Teemu Selanne assisted on both goals.

Yeah, this was expected
Surging Atlanta or tumbling St. Louis? Yeah, I'd have picked the Blues to win too. *eye roll*

Alex Pietrangelo's goal early in the third period proved to be the game-winner as St. Louis got three goals past Atlanta backup Chris Mason to earn a 4-2 victory. Vladimir Sobotka added an empty net goal. Both players also had one assist.

Brad Boyes and Alexander Steen also scored for the Blues, who got 37 saves from Ty Conklin.

More bang for their buck
Dallas didn't get many shots on goal against Montreal but made them count.

The Stars, despite having only 17 shots on goal, got goals from five different players and knocked off Montreal, 5-2. Loui Eriksson had a goal and assist. Jamie Benn, Adam Burish, Brad Richards and Karlis Skratins each scored. Stephane Robidas tallied three assists and Steve Ott two. Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves.

Mathieu Darche and Brian Gionta scored for the Canadiens.

The bottom-feeders
--Mathieu Garon made 29 saves and Columbus defeated Calgary, 3-1. Jakub Voracek, Jared Boll and Rostislav Klesla scored for the Blue Jackets.
--Logan Couture and Dan Boyle scored, helping San Jose down Edmonton, 2-1. Antero Niittymaki came within 1:59 of a shutout before allowing a goal to Dustin Penner. He finished with 29 saves.

--Poor Ryan Whitney. He has 25 points but they're all assists after having Tuesday's goal taken from him and credited to Penner. TV replays showed him saying, "Oh my God" after apparently scoring, finally.

--Probably time to take the Stars for real, eh?

--Garon continues to impress for Columbus. If the Blue Jackets want to make the playoffs, they're going to have to ride him for a while. He gives them a chance to win each night. Steve Mason is a 50-50 proposition at best.

--I just did the math. If the Devils win 70 percent of their remaining games, they'll finish with about 88 points, which was good enough for two teams in the East to qualify for the playoffs last season. Considering New Jersey has won 27 percent of its games so far, things are looking, well, let's just say bleak.

--One wonders how much a healthy Zach Parise would've changed New Jersey's season. By the time he returns, sometime in February, the Devils' season is likely to be all but over.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Indecision


Man, LeBron James has provided people everywhere with opportunities for cheap jokes, hasn't he?

Anyway. I believe I've made my feelings known on the Winter Classic. At least as it pertains to Pittsburgh appearing in the game.

Now, we're less than two weeks away from the game and I still don't know if I'm going to attend the spectacle or not. Acquiring tickets isn't a problem; I have them already. The question is whether I wish to use them or if I choose to sell them.

I suppose, when the game was made official, I probably would've decided on going. Then I received my invoice in the mail. And I saw the price I'd have to pay, and read the bit about how I can't choose where I want to sit, that I'd be stuck with wherever the NHL allocated me in relation to my location in Consol Energy Center.

And I was not happy.

From that moment, I was like the Duke brothers at the end of Trading Places, when they realized they'd been duped by Billy Ray and Louis: "SELL! SELL!"

After searching around for buyers, and finding some prospective ones, I now have a conundrum. As the date of the game gets closer, and as I'm seeing more and more commercials for it, I start to want to go. On the one hand, as others have pointed out, it's potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (I maintain that the NHL will give Pittsburgh another game in a few years.) I haven't sold my tickets yet, however I can anticipate seller's remorse, that I'll regret not attending the game.

It would be a really neat experience, I'm betting. It's also likely to be chaotic, cold and miserable. Not to mention that I'm not a morning person and I hate afternoon hockey. The later I can wake up, the better. I have no idea what kind of sightline I'll have; I know where my seats are in relation to the rink, but that doesn't tell me what I'll actually be able to see.

My seats are high up. That means more likely exposure to the wind. Brrr. But I might be able to see more than the people who are in the front rows of the lower level of the stadium.

On the other hand, playoff tickets are expensive, man. And if I can get a round or two paid off in one shot, that's awfully tempting.

So, I don't know. Do I take my talents to Heinz Field or not? Do I be who other people want me to be and attend the game?

Fulfilling your fantasy, Part 4


What's a near three-week absence between installments? Nothing, if you ask me. Anyway. Back to the list of fantasy-worthy players on each team.


Pretty much everyone. Let's just move on.


Pretty much no one. Let's just move on.

Philadelphia, for real

Must-own: Jeff Carter, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux
Should own: Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell (especially in leagues with PIMs), whatever goalie they churn out these days (Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton)
Could own: James van Riemsdyk, Ville Leino, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, Daniel Carcillo

Comments: The Flyers are loaded.

Phoenix, for real

Must-own: Ilya Bryzgalov
Should own: None
Could own: Shane Doan, Eric Belanger, Keith Yandle, Lee Stempniak, Ray Whitney, Ed Jovanovski

Comments: Yandle is the only skater I'd rush to add on this team. Yandle and Whitney lead the team in scoring and they're ranked 93rd and 94th in the NHL. Wojtek Wolski should've been good, Jovanovski's probably a reach at this point, so would be Adrian Aucoin. It's basically Bryzgalov and Yandle or bust.


Must-own: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury
Should own: Kris Letang
Could own: Alex Goligoski, Chris Kunitz

Comments: If you need hits, feel free to grab Brooks Orpik or Matt Cooke, the latter of which occasionally provides some offense. Deryk Engelland has become the team's go-to fighter.

San Jose

Must-own: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Dan Boyle
Should own: Joe Pavelski, probably Logan Couture at this point, and maybe their goalies (Antero Niittymaki, Antti Niemi)
Could own: Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray (hits, blocks); Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Comments: I'm not sure I'd trust the Sharks' goalies right now, but they have to be good enough, don't they?

St. Louis

Must-own: Jaroslav Halak
Should own: Um...probably no one
Could own: Just about the rest of the team. David Backes, Andy McDonald, Alexander Steen, David Perron, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Erik Johnson, Erik Brewer (hits and blocks), Alex Pietrangelo

Comments: The Blues don't have a potent offense, though maybe they should. All these kids have nice potential but none of them have taken the next step towards stardom. Own Blues forwards (I didn't mention Brad Boyes) at your own risk. Johnson's taken a step back as well. Perron and Oshie are hurt by the way.

We'll do the last four teams hopefully before the new year. At the rate I'm going, it'll be Groundhog Day. Of 2012.

Penguins roll; Surprising shutouts

Malkin, Crosby help Pens rebound
Amazing what a few days rest will do for a team.

Evgeni Malkin recorded five points inside 28 minutes to lead Pittsburgh, coming off its longest break (five days) of the season, over Phoenix, 6-1. Malkin scored two goals, including one off a nifty faceoff play set up by Sidney Crosby, and had three assists in tying his career-high for points in a game. Crosby's scoring streak sits at 21 games after scoring his 27th goal and posting two assists.

Special teams proved key. Phoenix failed to score on four first-period power play opportunities; Pittsburgh converted its first three man-advantages plus killed off an extended 5-on-3 disadvantage in the second period after being whistled for three minor penalties in a span of 1:13. For the game, the Coyotes' power play was 0-for-8 while the Penguins went 3-for-5.

Kris Letang posted a goal and assist, Matt Cooke and Chris Conner also scored and Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves for the Penguins. Wojtek Wolski broke the shutout bid midway through the third period.

After allowing 16 first-period shots, Pittsburgh held Phoenix to 11 for the rest of the game.

Wait, they shut out who?!
--Tomas Vokoun stopped 26 shots and Florida marched into Philadelphia and pulled off a stunner, earning a 5-0 win to knock off the Flyers, who had won five straight. Evgeni Dadonov and Dmitri Kulikov each had a goal and assist.
--Jonas Hiller made 45 saves, 18 each in the second and third periods, and Anaheim pulled off a key victory, 3-0 at Boston. Brandon McMillan had a goal and assist and Teemu Selanne recorded two assists.

Stamkos nets 100th in Tampa Bay win
Martin St. Louis scored with one second left in the first period to snap a 1-1 tie and also had two assists, but the bigger story was Steven Stamkos becoming the sixth player to score 100 goals before his 21st birthday as Tampa Bay routed Carolina, 5-1. Dan Ellis made 21 saves. Dominic Moore and Brett Clark each had a goal and assist.

Back in front
Toronto made things interesting with a pair of third-period goals but Atlanta's cushion proved big enough to earn a 6-3 victory, putting the Thrashers back in first in the Southeast Division. Tobias Enstrom recorded four points, including a pair of goals, Fredrik Modin also scored twice and Ondrej Pavelec made 37 saves.

--Vancouver limited St. Louis to 16 shots and grabbed a 3-1 win. Ryan Kesler scored the gamewinner, Mikael Samuelsson had two assists and Roberto Luongo made 15 saves.
--Niklas Backstrom made 34 saves and Cal Clutterbuck and Martin Havlat each had a goal and assist as Minnesota downed Calgary for the second time in three days, 4-1.

--As I've always said, the Penguins should never trade Malkin. (At least not until his contract year.)

--Backstrom's resurrection continues. Hurray!

--OK, who else had Anaheim and Florida winning? Either one. The Panthers come to Pittsburgh Wednesday; hopefully they used up all their mojo.

--This is three straight games the Lightning have allowed just one goal. Amazing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The cure for what ails ya

Caps snap skid against Ottawa
Rock bottom for Washington was 40 minutes away. At the first intermission, head coach Bruce Boudreau must have said the right things to his team. Something like, "Hey, fellas? You do realize we're playing Brian Elliott and the Senators, don't you?" And the Capitals realized this.

(Of course, every other word that Boudreau would've said was an F-bomb; I cleaned it up as this is a family blog.)

Washington scored three goals in the first 6:55 of the second period - including two goals in the first 80 seconds - to erase a 2-0 deficit and held on for a 3-2 win over Ottawa to snap its eight-game losing streak and leapfrog Atlanta back into first place in the Southeast Division.

Mathieu Perreault had two of the goals, getting Washington on the board at 2-1 then netting a power play goal a few minutes later to give the Capitals the 3-2 lead. Eric Fehr had a goal and assist and Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves.

Ryan Shannon and Chris Kelly scored for Ottawa.

So close, yet so far
Chris Osgood was just over three minutes away from joining the exclusive 400 wins club. Then the shit hit the fan.

Brenden Morrow's second goal of the game with 3:14 to play in regulation forced overtime, where Loui Eriksson's wrister on a 3-on-1 gave Dallas a 4-3 victory over Detroit. Eriksson also had two assists, as did Jamie Benn. Brad Richards also scored and Andrew Raycroft made 28 saves.

Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen had a goal and assist and Patrick Eaves also scored for the Red Wings.

Chris Stewart, Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk. These are just some of the key names Colorado has missed from its lineup in recent days. That hasn't stopped the Avalanche from going on a nice little run.

Craig Anderson made 27 saves - 14 in the third period - and Colorado held off a Montreal assault to earn a 3-2 win, the Avalanche's sixth straight win that propelled them to the top of the Northwest Division. Ryan Wilson, T.J. Galiardi and Kevin Porter all scored for Colorado and Ryan O'Reilly had two assists.

Mike Cammalleri and Alexandre Picard scored power play goals for the Canadiens, who now have fewer points than three teams that are "below" them in the Eastern standings.

Quick response helps Chicago best Quick, Kings
See what I did there? Clever, huh?

Duncan Keith scored 25 seconds after Los Angeles tied the score at 1-1 and Chicago held off the Kings to earn a 3-2 victory. Jonathan Toews had a goal and assist, Patrick Sharp set up two goals and Fernando Pisani also scored. Corey Crawford made 26 saves.

Wayne Simmonds scored and helped set up Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings. Jonathan Quick stopped just 21 shots.

--A good question to ask is when will Osgood get his next crack at #400? Maybe Mike Babcock relents and plays him more than normal until he gets it.

--I think I've mentioned this before, but I think the NHL should seed the top four teams in each conference based on points, but still guarantee division winners a top-four spot. Just don't automatically give them the top three spots. If one team has fewer points than a second-place team, drop the division winner down a spot. They'll still get home-ice advantage in the first round.

--Has anyone seen Mike Green? He's missed some games here and there with an injury or illness, but is he playing with something more serious? He has only one point, an assist, in his last 13 games. Is that a reason why Washington's offense - and power play (3-32 in the last eight games) - is struggling?

--The Stars are kinda, slowly creating some separation in the Pacific. Can Kari Lehtonen's back hold up to it? Raycroft's been pretty solid as a backup but I wouldn't want to roll with him long-term.

--Does anybody talk about the high-powered Avalanche? Do you know they lead the league in goals? OK, sure, they're also one of only seven teams to have allowed 100 or more goals, but they have the guns to make up for it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wild Can't Even Lose Well


There's that line at the beginning of "Gladiator" when Maximus' Roman army has the Gauls/Huns (or whomever they're fighting) beaten but for the fighting and the one general says to Maximus "People should know when they're conquered." And then Maximus answers him "Would you? Would I?"

The Wild, apparently, would not.

This team, with this group of players, and especially with this coach, is not going anywhere. Mark my words.

That two-game losing streak? Fine.

14th in the west? Not low enough - to get into solid lottery position.

So what do they do last night in a building that used to haunt them? Against a team that used to have its way with them? Featuring a star player who used to dominate them? The Wild played a solid game.

A solid road game.

Chipping it in, getting it deep, clearing the zone, marking up on the backcheck....seriously guys, what the hell?

Mikko was very, very good last night.

Backstrom was as well.

Zidlicky was tidy in his own zone - and that, if nothing else, is how you know the Wild wasn't trying hard enough to lose.

Yes, for a contending team, that would have been a very satisfying road win. For a team that's not going to amount to a damn thing this season, that was an ill-timed aberration.

One is the loneliest number

Of the 11 games on the NHL schedule Saturday, eight of them featured a team that scored just one goal. And no, none of those teams won.

They're not saying "boo," they're saying "Kooooovalchuk," or maybe "Kovalchuuuuuuk"
OK, let's be honest. They were booing.

Ilya Kovalchuk's second triumphant return to Atlanta proved a success! He scored a goal, after all. The problem was, it didn't come until after Atlanta had already scored four times, proved to be New Jersey's only tally, and preceded three more goals by the hosts as the Thrashers became the latest team to embarrass the Devils, 7-1, behind Eric Boulton's first career hat trick.

Boulton now has four goals on the season and 25 for his career in 508 games. Good showing, New Jersey.

Chris Thorburn had a goal and two assists and both Ron Hainsey and Evander Kane had a goal and assist for Atlanta, which got 29 saves from Ondrej Pavelec. Martin Brodeur was chased after giving up four goals in 28 minutes.

The win, coupled with Washington's loss, put Atlanta atop the Southeast Division.

Thomas stonewalls Caps again
Speaking of Washington, the Capitals do not ever want to see Tim Thomas again.

Thomas made 39 saves - 25 in the third period and a dazzler on Alex Ovechkin with 11 seconds to play - to defeat Washington for the third time in four starts, 3-2. Boston scored three first-period goals, getting a goal and assist each from Patrice Bergeron and Blake Wheeler, then hung on for the win. Andrew Ference scored his first goal in 100 games.

The Capitals have now dropped eight in a row and actually fell to third in the division.

Stop the presses
For the second straight game, Tampa Bay received a good goaltending performance. Yes, I'm scared too. Maybe they heard Evgeni Nabokov is looking for NHL work and decided they can't lose to their job to that has-been.

Mike Smith made 22 saves, allowing only one goal for the second straight start to lead Tampa Bay over Buffalo, 3-1. Martin St. Louis had an empty net goal plus two assists and Steven Stamkos scored his 25th goal. Simon Gagne also scored.

Two of the three stars, by the way, were Nate Thompson and Dana Tyrell, who combined for no points, three shots on goal, two blocked shots, one hit, two takeaways and seven faceoff wins. Thompson was the first star. I have no idea what they did to merit star consideration. Great penalty killing or defensive work I guess.

Other one-goal games
--Nikolay Zherdev scored twice and Brian Boucher made 24 saves to lead Philadelphia to its fifth straight win, 4-1 over the Rangers.
--Roberto Luongo's 27 saves helped Vancouver get past Toronto, 4-1.
--Brad Richards scored twice and Kari Lehtonen stopped 35 shots to lead Dallas over Columbus, 2-1.
--Logan Couture scored a pair of goals as San Jose got to Jaroslav Halak in a 4-1 win over St. Louis.
--Los Angeles routed Nashville behind two goals from Ryan Smyth and 29 Jonathan Bernier saves.
--Mikko Koivu's three points (one goal) and Niklas Backstrom's 28 saves got Minnesota past Calgary, 3-1.

And finally
--Eric Staal recorded a natural hat trick and Cam Ward fended off 43 shots to lead Carolina over Anaheim, 4-2. Ryan Getzlaf scored both Ducks goals.
--Martin Hanzal tied the score with 1:28 left in regulation and Phoenix went on to defeat the Islanders, 4-3 in a shootout. Jason LaBarbera made 41 saves.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Redemption, Closure and Hockey


This was such a sad story.

Brittanie Cecil. And Espen Knutsen.

I clearly remember feeling awful obviously for the family but also for Knutsen and the then-young BJs organization (the Wild's expansion brothers) at the time.

So, to read about both the family's and Knutsen's grace, of them needing, seeking and (hopefully) getting closure from each other, was very uplifting.

It's easy to get lost in statistics and (ultimately empty) tough words about bad losses as a fan. All fans of all sports do it (or entertain doing it). The tricky thing is that, in doing so, you risk losing the ability to see the forest for the trees. At least I do.

And, we as fans of sports are, at some point, trying to live vicariously through our teams and their employees. Their triumphs are our triumphs. Their failures are ours as well. Some fans are better equipped to deal with those ups and downs than others, but that all just amounts to sociology.

However it therefore stands to reason that, if I seek triumph through my teams, should or could I not also seek redemption? If I can justify paying the employees of my teams abnormal sums of money so that they would endeavor to bring me joy, can I not also justify seeking redemption from those same people?

Brittanie Cecil, her family and Espen Knutsen. These stories are important because they allow us opportunities to re-calibrate our internal fan calipers. So that, the next time your team blows a lead, hopefully the measure that you take of yourself as a fan is reconciled against at least the backdrop of a bigger picture. So that, maybe you can ascribe some level of....something bigger than yourself and your material needs to the holidays.

Consuming sports is consuming entertainment. It's being entertained. Unless and until something tragic happens. Being killed while or as a result of being entertained is something that is, thankfully, so remote in our minds as to not warrant conscious thought. Until it isn't.

This was such a sad story.

But now, it's also sort of a good story.

Panthers maul Buffalo; Hawks nip Wings

So many fitting metaphors! Panthers and Buffalo, Blackhawks and Wings...

Florida chases Miller in big victory
It's easy to say the Panthers were in full control of their 6-2 victory over Buffalo, and they probably were. The funny thing is, they still gave up over 40 shots.

Bryan McCabe scored the first goal of the game just 1:40 in and Florida continued to pour it on, getting a pair of goals from Marty Reasoner and one from David Booth in the first period. Ryan Miller was relieved after that disastrous first period.

Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik added a goal and assist each for the Panthers, who got 41 saves from Tomas Vokoun.

Derek Roy and Tim Connolly scored for the Sabres.

Ex-Wing haunts old foes
Based on that headline, you'd probably think I'm talking about Marian Hossa. Nope, he's still out of the lineup. Enter Tomas Kopecky!

Kopecky scored twice, once into an empty net, to lead Chicago past Detroit in a Central Division game, 4-1. Bryan Bickell and Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks and Corey Crawford made 29 saves. Brent Seabrook had two assists.

Patrick Eaves scored for Detroit.

Duchene leads Avalanche in high-scoring affair
Oh, Ottawa. Talk about dysfunctional. From the top-line guys to the goalie, from the general manager to the head coach, talk about a clusterfuck.

Ryan O'Reilly scored with 3:13 remaining in regulation and Matt Duchene scored his second goal of the game in overtime on a play very similar to O'Reilly's goal to lead Colorado over Ottawa, 6-5. Brian Elliott's struggles continue for the Senators, giving up all six goals and having now allowed 14 goals in his last three starts. The funny thing? Two of his previous three starts were shutouts.

Elliott now has only one win in his last nine starts after posting Ws in nine of his first 13 appearances, 12 of which were starts. In his non-shutout games of the last nine starts (one of those shutouts was a shootout loss), Elliott has given up at least three goals in each game. In six of those, he's given up at least four. If you think I'm an unhappy Elliott fantasy owner, you are correct, sir.

Kevin Porter had a goal and assist, Kevin "Don't call me James Tiberius" Shattenkirk had two assists and Cody McLeod and T.J. Galiardi also scored for Colorado. Craig Anderson made 24 saves.

The Senators don't get any other player mentioned.

Fans of entertainment, look away now
Quite the thriller played between Nashville and New Jersey.

The teams combined for a whopping 36 shots on goal - nine in the first, 10 in the third - and somehow Nashville found a way to earn a 3-1 victory over the Devils for its fifth straight win. Steve Sullivan deflected a Shea Weber shot and Martin Erat scored twice for the Predators. Weber and Ryan Suter each had two assists. Anders Lindback made 15 saves.

Rookie Mattias Tedenby scored his fourth goal for the Devils.

--Ottawa sucks.

--Ditto New Jersey.

--Nobody good in the Southeast Division (meaning Washington) played Friday, but looking at the standings, it occurred to me that it's amazing the Capitals have lost seven games in a row and are still in first place.

--The scary thing about the Senators and how bad they are, they're only four points out of a playoff spot. Though they have played four more games than the two teams above them.

--If anyone knows where Jimmy Howard's game is, please turn it in to the lost and found at Joe Louis Arena. Yeah, OK, he's won two of his last four starts, but I can stretch that to two of his last six.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Habs rebound; Blues get past Kings

Normally weak Montreal offense gets to Thomas, Bruins
Remember when Boston had unbeatable goaltending? Me neither.

Montreal scored three times in the first period against Tim Thomas en route to a 4-3 victory over Boston, handing the Bruins their third straight loss. Max Pacioretty (I don't know who he is either) had a goal and assist, and Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Maxim Lapierre also scored for the Canadiens, who rebounded after a bad loss to Philadelphia.

Scott Gomez had two assists and Carey Price made 34 saves.

Marc Savard had a goal and assist and Patrice Bergeron posted two helpers to lead Boston.

Late St. Louis pair give Blues win over LA
Defense and goaltending were optional in this Western tilt.

Alexander Steen scored with 2:53 left in regulation and St. Louis added an empty net goal to knock off Los Angeles, 6-4, and reverse the Blues' two-game losing streak. Vladimir Sobotka and David Backes each had a goal and two assists for St. Louis. Carlo Colaiacovo posted three assists and Ty Conklin made 25 saves.

Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar each had a goal and assist for the Kings.

Anaheim = /facepalm
So, the Ducks. Not good.

The Islanders scored three times in a span of 1:39 against Anaheim backup Curtis McElhinney and hung on for a 3-2 victory, snapping the Ducks' three-game winning streak. P.A. Parenteau, Blake Comeau and Matt Moulson scored and Rick DiPietro made 30 saves as New York won just its second game of the last 22.

Jason Blake and Joffrey Lupul each had a goal and assist for Anaheim.

More quick strikes
Three goals in 57 seconds by Calgary turned a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead in an eventual 5-2 victory over Toronto. Olli Jokinen scored a goal with two assists, Niklas Hagman had one of each and Anton Babchuk posted two assists. Miikka Kiprusoff made all of 17 saves.

I hate to say it, but I think NiNY is right about something. Steve Mason is not a good goalie.

Edmonton - yes, that Edmonton, the one that's not good - put six goals behind Mason in two periods to double up Columbus, 6-3. Linus "Showboat" Omark scored the first goal of his career and added two assists and Jordan Eberle potted a pair for the Oilers. Taylor Hall had three assists, Ryan Whitney two, and Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi both scored one goal with one assist. Nikolai Khabibulin made 37 saves.

Kristian Huselius, playing his second game since returning from an injury, recorded a hat trick for the Blue Jackets.

Ottawa converted its two power play chances, getting goals from Nick Foligno and Daniel Alfredsson, and Pascal Leclaire made 23 saves to lead the Senators past Minnesota, 3-1. Alfredsson also recorded an assist and Erik Karlsson tallied three.

Working late
--The Rangers erased deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to earn a 4-3 shootout win over Phoenix. Daniel Girardi had a goal and assist and Martin Biron made 30 saves.
--Cam Ward's 45 saves helped Carolina overcome a 2-0 setback to knock off Atlanta, 3-2, in a shootout. Sergei Samsonov had the winning shootout goal. Evander Kane and Anthony Stewart each had a goal and assist for the Thrashers.
--Logan Couture's power play goal in overtime gave San Jose a 4-3 win over Dallas. Devin Setoguchi netted a pair of goals and Antero Niittymaki made a whopping 15 saves.

--That's a tongue-in-cheek nickname I gave Omark, so don't anyone jump down my throat about it.

--I mentioned yesterday the pendulum swinging to the other side for the Penguins. It did the same for Jonathan Quick. From a 51-save shutout of Detroit to giving up five to St. Louis. How weird is that?

--Tough break for the Wild in that game.

--Hmm, just realized I don't have a lot to say tonight. Until next time!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Western Conference = wacky competition

Remember when teams like Nashville and Anaheim were losing badly and, well, sucked? Well, guess who's in the top six in the West now? Yup, the Ducks and Predators. Chicago, Phoenix, San Jose? You'd be out of luck if the playoffs began today. Of course, the playoffs don't start today. But the Western Conference appears like it'll go down to the final day.

Getzlaf, Hiller push Ducks past Caps
We'll start with Anaheim.

Ryan Getzlaf's goal late in overtime gave the Ducks a 2-1 win over Washington, Anaheim's fourth win in the last five games and the Capitals' seventh straight loss. Jonas Hiller made 31 saves. Joffrey Lupul also scored for Anaheim.

The Ducks' problem is, although they have 38 points and sit sixth in the West, Anaheim has played more games than anyone else. Only one other team in the West - Chicago - has played more than 31 games; Anaheim has played 34.

Nashville comeback stuns San Jose
Have I mentioned something about how the Predators won't die? If I have, allow me to repeat myself. If I haven't, consider it mentioned.

Nashville scored two goals in 44 seconds in the game's final three minutes and stunned San Jose, 3-2. Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson scored the key goals to turn a 2-1 Predators deficit into the winning score.

The Predators have won four straight games and seven out of eight. Anders Lindback made 25 saves.

Detroit adds to St. Louis' slide
The Blues have certainly fallen on hard times.

Nicklas Lidstrom registered a hat trick and four points to lead Detroit over St. Louis, 5-2, handing the Blues their second straight loss, seventh in the last nine games and 12th in the last 17. St. Louis has freefallen to 12th in the West but is just two points behind Nos. 7 and 8.

Daniel Cleary had a goal and two assists and Henrik Zetterberg notched four assists. Jimmy Howard made 19 saves.

More hat tricks
--Tomas Fleischmann has certainly found his groove in Colorado. He scored three goals in the third period to lead the Avalanche over Chicago, 4-3. Greg Mauldin also scored, Matt Duchene had two assists and Craig Anderson made 35 saves for Colorado.
--Ryan Kesler's third goal of the game came on the power play in overtime and gave Vancouver a 3-2 win over Columbus. Roberto Luongo made 28 saves.
--Drew Stafford completed his hat trick with two goals in the third period, turning a 2-1 Buffalo deficit into a 3-2 victory over Boston. His second goal came 32 seconds after Michael Ryder gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Derek Roy had three assists and Ryan Miller made 32 saves.

Old flashes
Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice - his first two-goal game as a Devil - and Martin Brodeur made 29 saves to lead New Jersey over Phoenix, 3-0. Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac each had two assists.

Deja vu
Pittsburgh's last loss prior to its 12-game winning streak was a home defeat to the Rangers. Maybe the Penguins can win another 12 after losing another home game to New York, which struck four times in the third period in another poor defensive collapse for a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh. Alexander Frolov and Brian Boyle had a goal and assist each and Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves.

Sidney Crosby assisted on Evgeni Malkin's goal to extend his points streak to a career-high 20 games.

Still rolling
Sergei Bobrovsky's 38 saves led Philadelphia to a 5-3 win over Montreal. James van Riemsdyk scored twice and Jeff Carter had a goal and two assists.

Southeast results
--Carolina gave up three goals in the game's first 5:16 but recovered in part on Tuomo Ruutu's two third-period goals to defeat Florida, 4-3.
--Mike Smith made 27 saves and Victor Hedman's shootout goal in round four gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 win over Atlanta.

--I hate hockey.

--The Penguins need Jordan Staal back ASAP. Arron Asham, Max Talbot and Matt Cooke cannot continue to be a line, not when there's already two grind lines.

--I hate all of you who failed to advise me with fantasy hockey decisions, resulting directly in me benching Brodeur and playing Tuukka "Two U's, two K's, too sucky" Rask. It's your fault! Figures the one time I get brave enough to bench that aging, washed-up has-been is the night he gets a shutout.

--If there are any Devils fans out there, don't get mad at me about the above comment on Brodeur, I'm just kidding.

--I could make a big deal about the penalty to Cooke that led to New York's goal that tied the game at 1-1 or the disallowed Penguins goal that would've tied the score at 2-2, but the Penguins didn't play very well. Defensively they did through two periods but then they kind of stopped in the third period. The pendulum has swung the other direction. They were so good for so long and now they've been pretty bad the last two games. Take care of business earlier and don't let the result come down to one or two plays.

--The Flyers have no weaknesses.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flyers dethrone Penguins; Leafs win, Leafs win!

Bad penalty leads to Philadelphia game-winner
The Flyers have one of the most talented groups of forwards in the league. Coincidentally, they possess a dangerous power play. Pittsburgh played with fire one too many times.

Scott Hartnell deflected a shot from Chris Pronger for a power play goal with 10:06 remaining and that held up as the winner as Philadelphia knocked off Pittsburgh, 3-2, simultaneously ending the Penguins' 12-game winning streak and taking over first place in the NHL.

Evgeni Malkin, who scored two power play goals, proved to be the culprit. He took a needless - no, make that stupid - penalty in a tied game that opened the door for Philadelphia, which had failed on its previous five power play opportunities. Pittsburgh's penalty killing, still ranked second in the league, has given up a power play goal in every game this month, six straight.

Hartnell had two points and Claude Giroux and Nikolay Zherdev also scored for the Flyers. Brian Boucher needed to make only 21 saves.

Sidney Crosby had two assists to push his points streak to 19 games.

Edmonton: Sucky again
Here come the Maple Leafs.

Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel each had a goal and assist as Toronto earned a 4-1 win over Edmonton. The Maple Leafs have climbed out of the bottom three places in the East for the first time since the Reagan administration. (Editor's note: Not actually true. More like Ford.)

Dion Phaneuf scored his first goal of the season and Mikhail Grabovski also scored for the Maple Leafs. Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 23 saves.

For the third straight game, Edmonton had fewer than four shots in a period after getting only three in the second period. Jordan Eberle scored for the Oilers.

--Now that the Penguins have lost a game, I wonder if I'm allowed to say bad things about them. I guess I might've said some things that rubbed some people the wrong way during the winning streak, even though we saw last year and in 1993 that winning a dozen straight during the season doesn't guarantee shit. It doesn't mean a team will win 12 in a row in May. The last few weeks have been fun, don't get me wrong, but pardon me for thinking long-term.

--I'm stealing this next bit from Seth Rorabaugh over at Empty Netters, but the foot was on the other hand this time. Normally it's the Flyers who take dumb, undisciplined penalties that cost them games against the Penguins. Now Pittsburgh's the one doing it.

--Of all the games for Pittsburgh not to lose, this was the one. Despite the 12 wins in a row, the loss knocks them out of first place in the division. That says how bad they were earlier in the year and how consistently good Philadelphia's been. Plus this is now the third loss to the Flyers. At best the Penguins can hope for just a split of the season series. Last year's horrid head to head record against a division foe cost Pittsburgh the division title; now it might happen again.

--Pittsburgh's had such a good commitment to defense the last few weeks but it sure wasn't there tonight. The Penguins gave up 37 shots and perhaps most telling, they were credited with only five blocked shots.

--(Editor's note: We're entering the overly emotional, probably irrational part of the commentary that one finds after a bad loss like this one.) I'm willing to trade Malkin. That penalty tonight was just inexcusable. He's too undisciplined and he's not nearly as hard a worker as some of his teammates. He lazily plays through games too often. The Penguins could probably trade him for an entire second line. I'm telling you, Malkin to Dallas for Brad Richards and one of Loui Eriksson, James Neal or Jamie Benn. Maybe more. (Editor's note: We're now leaving this section of the commentary.)

--It's probably a good idea Ray Shero runs the Penguins and not me. Plus, I know, the Stars probably can't take on Malkin's contract, not if the reason they want to trade Richards is because of his impending free agency. I know. Allow me this moment of idiocy.

--Pittsburgh is now tied with Washington for the fourth-most times shorthanded in the league. Despite how good the penalty killing has been (though not this month), that needs to change or that will ruin the season.

--I don't really have anything to say about Edmonton or Toronto. Neither team's any good. I'm going to go watch some Stargate SG-1 DVDs now. Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what.

Quick to the rescue; Turco not so much

Kings show up, mostly, to knock off Wings
On the one hand, Los Angeles gave up as many shots in one period (26) as it got for the entire game. All told, Detroit out-shot the Kings, 51-26.

Naturally, LA won.

Jonathan Quick made an astounding 51 saves, including 26 in the second period, and counterpart Jimmy Howard kept giving up goals as the Kings routed Detroit, 5-0. Drew Doughty tallied three assists and Anze Kopitar netted two quick goals early in the third period to turn a close game into a blowout.

Wayne Simmonds, Oscar Moller and Jack Johnson also scored. Dustin Brown had two assists.

Turco yanked in Chicago loss
Remember when we all said, "Marty Turco in Chicago? Yeah, good luck with that"? Well, we were right!

Turco has all but lost his spot as Chicago's netminder and he didn't provide Joel Quenneville any reason to reconsider after allowing four goals in under 21 minutes, when he was removed in what became a 7-5 Colorado win over Chicago.

Turco sucking was one story. Tomas Fleischmann being awesome is the other.

After the teams exchanged goals up to 4-3 Colorado - yeah, Turco was pulled in a one-goal game - Chicago scored twice to take 5-4 lead. As the minutes ticked down, Fleischmann provided his finest moments as a member of the Avalanche. First, he took a pass from David Jones and skated into the Chicago end, where his wrist shot slipped through Corey Crawford to tie the score.

Just one minute later, Fleischmann made a great play to steal the puck from a Chicago defender behind the Blackhawks net and centered to Matt Duchene, who one-timed a shot past Crawford to put Colorado ahead 6-5 with 1:24 remaining in the game. Ryan O'Reilly's empty net goal sealed an improbable Avs win.

Fleischmann had a goal and two assists, as did Paul Stastny. Duchene scored twice with one assist. Craig Anderson made 29 saves.

Troy Brouwer had three points, including two goals, for Chicago.

Who is this guy?
Nashville's ability to churn out awesome goalies continues.

Anders Lindback recorded his second straight shutout to lead Nashville over the Islanders, 5-0. New York has lost 20 of its last 21 games. Meanwhile, Lindback has a 7-1-2 record with a 2.18 GAA and .931 save percentage. Yowza.

Patric Hornqvist scored twice, Sergei Kostitsyn had a goal and assist and Jered Smithson and Nick Spaling also scored for the Predators.

Working late
--Atlanta blew a 3-0 lead but recovered enough to get a 4-3 overtime win over Ottawa on Bryan Little's second goal of the game. Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and assist and Ondrej Pavelec made 27 saves for the Thrashers.
--Calgary did much the same, allowing a 2-0 lead slip away when Rick Nash scored a late power play goal, but Jarome Iginla scored for the second time in the game in overtime and the Flames knocked off Columbus, 3-2. Miikka Kiprusoff made 22 saves. Antoine Vermette had a shorthanded goal and assist for the Blue Jackets.
--Andrew Raycroft's 31 saves helped Dallas earn a 3-2 shootout win over San Jose. Mike Ribeiro had a goal and assist for the Stars.

--Not sure how to feel about that LA-Detroit game from the Red Wings' standpoint. Obviously they had the run of play, enjoyed a tremendous shot advantage; it's not like they didn't show up to play. But they didn't score and their goalie gave up five. That's gotta sting.

--I wonder if Capitals fans are feeling a bit ill right now. The current six-game losing streak would be only part of that. The Fleischmann-Scott Hannan trade was supposed to bolster Washington's questionable defense. Well, the Caps haven't won a game with Hannan in the lineup and now they can't score, so they could probably use Fleischmann.

--I was moderately terrified of that trade. I thought it was a great one for Washington to make. It might still turn out that way, but not at the moment.

--A thrasher is a bird, but the Jaws music might as well be playing. Atlanta is two points behind Washington in the division, with a game in hand and I do believe Atlanta has the better head-to-head record.

--Who would've guessed Colorado, without Chris Stewart for over two weeks now, would have the best offense in the NHL? Thank goodness they didn't spend on Ilya Kovalchuk, eh Avs fans?

--Didn't see the beginning of Columbus-Calgary, but Steve Mason was pulled after giving up two goals on four shots. Don't know if either of the goals should've been stopped or if coach Scott Arniel just wanted to change the momentum, but I'd be more than a little nervous about my goalie if I was a Blue Jackets fan.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wackiness ensues on Sunday

OK, pop quiz: If I told you Washington would lose a game 7-0, then told you that a player would score a goal using a stick from a player on the other team (plus the stick was of the opposite handedness), which would you say was more likely to happen? Well, if you chose C) Both, congratulations, you are a winner!

Four-goal second period spurs Rangers' rout
Mark this date down: It's probably not too common that a city's hockey team out-scores its football team on a given day. Congratulations, New York!

The Rangers scored four times in the second period - three in a span of 3:31 in the first five minutes - and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves as New York beat down Washington, 7-0. Factoring in Brandon Prust's goal late in the first period, New York scored five times in 6:33.

New York fired only 20 shots on Semyon Varlamov, who gave up all seven goals. The Rangers got them in a variety of ways. Artem Anisimov had an unassisted goal, Marian Gaborik scored on the power play, and Marc Staal made the score 5-0 with a shorthanded tally.

Ryan Callahan scored twice in the third period, once unassisted on a 2-on-1. Anisimov, Staal, Prust and Brandon Dubinsky each had a goal and assist, with Brian Boyle and Dan Girardi each getting two assists.

Notable from this one was Alex Ovechkin dropped the gloves with Dubinsky midway through the second period. The Capitals have now dropped six straight games.

I also feel like pointing out Boyle, a center, blocked seven shots in the game. That's an awful lot for a forward in one game.

The New York Jets, by the way, scored six points Sunday in losing to Miami.

Perry's first hat trick boosts Anaheim
I'm not sure what was more memorable from Anaheim's 6-2 rout of Minnesota: Corey Perry's first career hat trick or Bobby Ryan's rare achievement. I'm betting it was Ryan.

I don't remember how it happened, but Minnesota's Mikko Koivu lost his stick with the puck in Anaheim's end. Ryan, a right-handed shooter, literally had his stick ripped out of his hands by Koivu. Ryan then picked up Koivu's left-handed stick, then a rebound came to him and he one-timed the puck home for a 5-2 lead.

Earlier, Perry and Ryan Getzlaf each scored two goals, with one of Perry's being a shorthanded penalty shot. Perry completed his hat trick on the power play with 4:13 left in the game. He also had two assists, as did Ryan and Lubomir Visnovsky. Getzlaf finished with three points. Jonas Hiller made 20 saves.

Defensemen Brent Burns and Marek Zidlicky scored for the Wild. Koivu had two assists, presumably with his own stick.

No sweat for Vancouver
Where did all those good vibes go for Edmonton, who had won five of six games? Roberto Luongo didn't even work up a sweat against the Oilers.

Vancouver limited Edmonton to 12 shots on goal - one in the third period - in earning a 2-1 victory. Alex Burrows and Henrik Sedin both scored for the Canucks, who nearly went the entire third period without allowing a shot on goal. It wasn't until Jordan Eberle scored a rather meaningless - but shutout-ruining - power play goal with 4.5 seconds remaining that Edmonton got its first shot against Luongo in the third period. Luongo stopped the other 11.

Sedin had one assist and brother Daniel - did you know they were brothers? Rumor is they're twins - had two helpers.

--Ryan says he wasn't taunting Koivu after his goal, but it would've been effing awesome if he was.

--Excepting his two previous games, when he allowed only four total goals, does anyone have any theories on where Niklas Backstrom's game has gone? Did Russo make eye-contact with him again on game day? All of those game days?

--I don't expect it to happen, but Washington's slide opens the door for Tampa Bay, maybe even Atlanta, to claim the top spot in the Southeast Division.

--When it's all said and done though, the Caps will be fine and have a top-three seed.

--Anaheim's a tough team to get a read on, and most likely the Ducks aren't good and will miss the playoffs. But if they play more like they did Sunday - and play Minnesota another 30 times - then they'll be a dangerous team.

--I would not have guessed Perry didn't have a hat trick before Sunday.

--Egad, that was actually the second game in a row Edmonton had only one shot on goal in the third period. That calls for this.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Flyers beat clock this time; 'Canes knock off Blues

Richards' OT goal takes down Bruins
A few nights ago, Philadelphia captain Mike Richards thought he won a game in overtime but his goal came just after the final buzzer. The Flyers lost in a shootout. On this occasion, Richards had plenty of time.

After a turnover by Marc Savard, Richards skated into the Boston end, was eventually joined by two teammates in a 3-on-1, then snapped a sneaky shot past Tim Thomas with three seconds remaining in the extra frame to give Philadelphia a 2-1 win over the Bruins.

James van Riemsdyk scored earlier in the game and Brian Boucher made 35 saves for the Flyers. Nathan Horton scored for Boston. Thomas finished with 31 saves.

Ward out-duels Halak in Carolina win
There were several good double-goaltending displays (what does it mean?) Saturday. Arguably the best was in St. Louis.

Only three pucks found their way into the net in 65 minutes of hockey and six shootout attempts due in large part to Cam Ward's 38 saves as Carolina knocked off St. Louis, 2-1 in a shootout. No goals were scored until early in the third period, when Brandon Sutter (Carolina) and Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis) exchanged goals 3:13 apart.

Once in the shootout, only Jussi Jokinen scored in the bottom of the third round to give Carolina a much-needed win. Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves.

Other overtime strikes
--Steven Stamkos boomed a slapper from the point on the power play in overtime for his second goal and third point of the game to give Tampa Bay a 5-4 win over Vancouver. The Lightning led 4-2 after the second period before blowing the lead. The Sedins each had a goal and assist for the Canucks.
--Ryane Clowe's second goal of the game came late in overtime and San Jose edged Chicago, 2-1. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had two assists and Antti Niemi made 28 saves.
--After the penalty killing fended off eight of nine power plays, Minnesota's power play capitalized in overtime as Brent Burns powered a slap shot past Jonathan Quick to give the Wild a 3-2 win over Los Angeles. Jose Theodore made 24 saves for the win. Anze Kopitar had two assists to lead the Kings.

The losing continues
--Detroit scored 28 seconds into the game then again 1:14 later in an eventual 4-1 win over New Jersey, which has lost five straight games. Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and two assists and Chris Osgood made 33 saves to earn win #399.
--The Islanders joined their division foe in losing a fifth straight game by giving up two third-period goals just to Johnny Oduya - who now has two goals on the season - and four total in the final period in falling to Atlanta, 5-4. Chris Mason made his first start in forever for the Thrashers and made 25 saves. Rob Schremp and Blake Comeau each had a goal and two assists for New York.
--A third team is on a five-game losing streak and it's the biggest surprise. Paul Stastny had a goal and two assists and Craig Anderson stopped 40 shots - 16 in the third period - in Colorado's 3-2 win over Washington, which has lost five in a row.

The Auld is wrong, Bob
That headline doesn't really work as well as "The Price is wrong," does it? In any case, Toronto got two first-period goals against Montreal backup Alex Auld and hung on for a 3-1 win, sealing the victory on Kris Versteeg's empty net goal. Tomas Kaberle had a goal and assist, Fredrik Sjostrom posted two assists and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 22 saves.

Welcome back to the NHL
Newly recalled forward Dustin Jeffrey had a goal and assist and Marc-Andre Fleury made 34 saves to lead Pittsburgh to its 12th straight win, 5-2 over Buffalo. Sidney Crosby was held to one assist in extending his points streak to 18 games.

Greatness, thy name is Rick
Rick Nash assisted on Antoine Vermette's power play goal then scored twice in the final five minutes to lead Columbus over the Rangers, 3-1. Steve Mason made 32 saves.

No magic this time
Andrew Raycroft has been brilliant more often than not as backup to Kari Lehtonen, but playing on back-to-back nights didn't work out too well. Phoenix poured five goals past Raycroft and knocked off division-leading Dallas, 5-2. Shane Doan scored twice, Keith Yandle had a goal and two assists and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 33 shots.

Getting defensive
Defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber each scored in the first period, with Suter assisting on Weber's goal, and Nashville allowed only 22 shots in earning a 3-0 win over Florida. Anders Lindback earned the shutout.

--Not a pretty game by the Penguins. Buffalo roughed them up, got them off their game, but they found a way to win. The Sabres were probably the better team but their finishing touch was lacking. Twice Buffalo players had an open net but couldn't corral the puck in situations that could've drastically changed the outcome, including once when the game was scoreless.

--So, honestly, what's happened to the Devils? Is it age? Is it John McLean? Is Brodeur done as a quality goalie? The Zach Parise injury hurts but they were bad when he was in the lineup, though from what I understand, he was plagued by that knee during the season. Still...when they signed Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder, their defense was supposed to improve.

--Is it the cloud of Ilya Kovalchuk? We remember how good Ilya's teams in Atlanta were, right?

--I'm guessing Steven Stamkos is back.

--I know Jon Quick made some gaffes tonight, but the Kings fans gave him heat? Really? Four goalies in the league have a GAA under 2.00 and he's one of them. Boo your piss-poor power play instead. Quick's the main (only?) reason LA is able to win games these days.

--You can't save your season in December (you can throw it away though) but some teams earned fairly key wins tonight, like Carolina, San Jose and Columbus.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Brodeur's return not enough as Devils lose again

Disallowed goal key in Ottawa's win over Jersey
If anything was going to kick-start New Jersey's season, it'd be the return of first ballot Hall of Famer, all-world Martin Brodeur between the pipes, right? Well, not exactly. Not yet, anyway.

Two points by Erik Karlsson and a disallowed Devils goal late in regulation allowed Ottawa to squeak past New Jersey, 3-2, to earn a key victory in the latest Hot Seat Bowl. Cory Clouston relieves some of the heat off him, for now, while John McLean's warms up.

New Jersey thought it tied the score at 3-3 but officials ruled David Clarkson kicked the puck in with 3:36 remaining in the third period.

Karlsson, Milan Michalek and Jarkko Ruutu scored for the Senators. Pascal Leclaire made 29 saves.

Ilya Kovalchuk had two assists for the Devils.

Red Wings reverse skid, hold off Habs
No way Detroit was losing four in a row.

Jimmy Howard made 36 saves, including 18 in the third period, and Detroit kept Montreal at arm's length in earning a 4-2 victory. Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and assist and defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall also scored for the Red Wings. Patrick Eaves had an empty net goal.

Montreal out-shot Detroit 19-3 in the third period. The Red Wings held an 18-7 shots advantage in the first period, possibly due to the strength of four first-period power plays. The Canadiens had only one man-advantage; Detroit had six.

Stewart-less Avs best Stewart-ful Thrashers
The non-Battle of the Brothers needs a rubber match. That won't happen this season unless Colorado and Atlanta meet in the Stanley Cup Final.

Minnesota nemesis Greg Mauldin scored a shorthanded goal but it was Milan Hejduk's strike early in the third period that proved to be the game-winner in Colorado's 4-2 win over Atlanta. The Avalanche had two shorties, but one was into an empty net, by Paul Stastny in the final minute to seal the win. Tomas Fleischmann had a goal and assist for Colorado and Craig Anderson made 24 saves.

In the shootout
--Andrew Raycroft and Cam Ward put on a goaltending display, particularly Raycroft, who stoned Joe Corvo with the glove late in overtime when Corvo had a gaping net, and Dallas edged Carolina, 2-1. Raycroft had 22 saves. Brad Richards scored the lone shootout goal. Ward finished with 28 saves.
--Steven Stamkos broke his long goalless drought but shootout goals by Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark allowed Edmonton to earn a 4-3 win. Nikolai Khabibulin made 38 saves and Magnus Paajarvi had a goal and assist for the Oilers.
--Anaheim blew another two-goal, third-period lead but recovered to down Calgary, 3-2. Jonas Hiller made 37 saves and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry scored in the shootout. Lubomir Visnovsky had a goal and assist for the Ducks, while Jarome Iginla and Mark Giordano each had two assists for the Flames.

--I've seen only one view of the Clarkson non-goal, and it wasn't good, nor was it in slow-motion, so I shouldn't really judge, but based on that one replay, it seemed like a good call to waive off the goal. I saw what could have been interpreted as a kicking motion but honestly, on that look, I couldn't tell how the puck went in.

--I didn't watch the game (not that I'll let that stop me from making a rash, blind judgment) but do we give the Canadiens a passing grade for their effort tonight? Out-shooting Detroit 19-3 in the third sounds impressive, but I do wonder if the Red Wings just pulled back, similar to what the Penguins did a few nights ago against the Maple Leafs.

--The Ducks really need to tighten things up. This is the third straight game they've allowed a third-period lead of two goals to vanish. In two of those games, they were up by two with under 10 minutes to play.

--Not to alarm Wild fans, but Edmonton's only one point behind Minnesota.

--I listened to part of the Tampa-Edmonton game on my way home from work. At one point, the play by play guy said, "Edmonton has three goals on 15 shots against Dan Ellis." I just nodded and said, yeah, that's about right.

--The Lightning became the first team to allow 100 goals on the season. Yup, not even Edmonton has (the Oilers are at 99.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wild @ Phoenix redux


Okay, Bax was back in and he was....better. He started out all jumpy-Bax, leaving rebounds, too deep in his net, etc. Then he settled down and was swallowing shots whole by the end of the game. That's encouraging.

The Mikko line was better. A lot better.

Greg Zanon is a man.

O'Sullivan should stay in the lineup.

I still can't reconcile Richards saying he won't work match-ups to get his top line more offensive zone draws, and/or against non-checking lines because he doesn't want to let the other team dictate what he does (see Russo, main paper, article on Mikko, yesterday.) That's simply ridiculous. I'm over Todd Richards.

To hell with it. I'm going to Disney World.