Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Penguins win seventh straight; Ducks win Battle of SoCal

One is the loneliest number
--In one of the duller yet effective games one will see, Pittsburgh won its seventh consecutive game and ninth in the last 10 after a 3-1 win over the Rangers. Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves and the Penguins got goals from Max Talbot, Kris Letang and Chris Conner. Sidney Crosby extended his points streak to 13 with an assist.
--James Neal had a pair of goals and Kari Lehtonen shut down Carolina, making 27 saves as Dallas earned a 4-1 victory. Jamie Benn had a goal and assist and Steve Ott also scored for the Stars.
--Nick Foligno finally scored his first goal of the season for Ottawa but Edmonton rattled off the next four to grab a 4-1 victory over the Senators. Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule each had a goal and assist in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie. Taylor Hall scored into an empty net to seal the win. Former Senator Martin Gerber made 22 saves for the win.

Wish we could've gotten one
--Miikka Kiprusoff fended off 32 shots and Calgary blanked Minnesota, 3-0. Jarome Iginla had a goal and assist and Jay Bouwmeester and Niklas Hagman also scored.
--Jonas Hiller made 27 saves, including a sterling one on Anze Kopitar with 3:19 left in a one-goal game, and Anaheim downed Los Angeles, 2-0. Cam Fowler scored on a power play midway through the second period and Jason Blake sealed the win with a late goal. Teemu Selanne and Lubomir Visnovsky, both returning from injuries, had two assists.

--Really boring Penguins game, but an effective road game. It's two points, can't complain much.

--Ottawa fans are doing a /facepalm. For those who don't know, that's a geeky, Internet term/emote, often used by video gamers, for putting your head in your hands in despair.

--Seriously, they got dominated by the Oilers at home. Woof.

--Who else is waiting for the Kings to pull off some big trade to bring in offense? Wouldn't it be some shit if the Devils traded them Kovalchuk? Let's start that rumor.

Tuesday's games

Tampa Bay (13-8-3) at Toronto (8-11-3), 7 p.m. ET

Steven Stamkos's chase to score 50 goals in 50 games has taken a hit as he hasn't found the back of the net in a whopping two games in a row. Coincidentally, the Lightning lost both those games (albeit one by a 6-0 margin, so Stamkos would've needed to have a really good night to get a win.) If Tampa isn't careful, the Thrashers might leapfrog the Lightning in the standings.

The Maple Leafs are considerably better at home than on the road. They can score a goal in Toronto, and in fact have won three straight there. Jonas Gustavsson is basically the only Leaf playing well and even he's had a couple average games at best lately. He'll need to start stealing some games.

Phoenix (11-6-5) at Nashville (9-8-5), 8 p.m.

The glaring lack of anything remotely resembling an offensive talent is really starting to hurt the Predators now. They've lost four straight and have just four goals in that time. Except for a bogey against Minnesota, Pekka Rinne has done all he's can to help his team win, allowing just two goals each in those other three losses but is getting no support.

Nashville's task won't be any easier against Ilya Bryzgalov, who backstopped Phoenix to seven straight wins (OK, he was in net for only six of those) before a loss to Anaheim ended that.

St. Louis (12-7-3) at Chicago (13-11-1), 8 p.m., Versus

This should be a good one. Right?

On the one hand, you've got the Blackhawks. They've scored the second-most goals in the West. They've also given up the third most. Then we have the Blues, who have the third-lowest goals total but have conceded the third-lowest amount of goals.

So chances are we'll either see a doozy of a scoring game or a 1-0 shootout game. Either way, should be fun.

Atlanta (12-9-3) at Colorado (13-9-1), 10 p.m.

The red-hot Thrashers look to see if they can keep up their act on the road. Atlanta is coming off a six-game homestand, winning its last five. The Thrashers have lost three of their last four road games but Ondrej Pavelec and Dustin Byfuglien are playing out of their minds right now.

They'll both get a good test. The team Chicago trails in the goals department? Colorado. Only the Capitals and Flyers have scored more than the Avalanche, though they'll be without Chris Stewart, who broke his hand on Kyle Brodziak's skull. He's their leading goal scorer with 11.

Detroit (15-4-2) at San Jose (11-7-4), 10:30 p.m., NHL Network

The Red Wings aren't exactly well-traveled; this will be just their ninth road game out of 22. But wherever they go, they're good. They've played the fewest games in the league (21) but trail league-leading Washington by just four points. The Capitals have played four more games.

When the hell did Dan Cleary get 10 goals? Talk about something that slipped under my radar. He and Johan Franzen both have 10 for Detroit, which has a pretty good offense to go with a (normally) real good goalie in Jimmy Howard.

If anybody can stop the Wings... well, I'm not convinced it's the Sharks. They've yet to find a groove, having only one winning streak longer than two games, and it's just three. They have more losing streaks of three games (two.) San Jose has wins in four of its last five home games, so there's that.

By the way, I know plus/minus should be taken with a grain of salt, but Joe Thornton is a minus-6 and Patrick Marleau a minus-8.

Tampa Bay 4, Toronto 2
Phoenix 3, Nashville 1
St. Louis 2, Chicago 1
Atlanta 4, Colorado 2
Detroit 5, San Jose 3

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wings wresting control of Central

Detroit sweeps home-and-home with Columbus
The Blue Jackets had a chance to make a statement in the NHL. That statement ended up being, "Well, maybe we're not there yet."

Behind 27 saves by Jimmy Howard, Detroit doubled up Columbus, 4-2, taking two of two from the second-place team in the Central Division over the weekend. Four different Red Wings scored: Niklas Kronwall, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula and Dan Cleary, the latter into an empty net to seal the win. Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen each notched two assists.

Derrick Brassard and R.J. Umberger scored for Columbus. Steve Mason stopped 40 shots.

Surging Thrashers add Boston to the kill list
Another quality team, another notch on Atlanta's bed post.

The Thrashers had their way with Boston, scoring three times in the first period and Ondrej Pavelec was nigh unstoppable yet again in Atlanta's 4-1 victory. Dustin Byfuglien had four points and Pavelec finished with 40 saves.

Evander Kane, Byfuglien and Jim Slater scored in a span of 6:10 in the first period to seize early control of the game. Atlanta's attack all but ceased after that, being out-shot 31-14 in the final two periods, but except for Blake Wheeler's goal that made the score 3-1, Pavelec didn't allow anything through.

Niclas Bergfors scored a power play goal late in the second period to restore the three-goal advantage. Atlanta has won five straight games.

Varlamov saves Caps
Cam Ward earned No. 1 Star honors but it was Semyon Varlamov who made the highlight save of the night.

Actually, I didn't watch the game so maybe Ward had a better one; it was football day.

Varlamov made a huge save on Ian White in overtime and Washington took down Carolina for the third time in three meetings, 3-2 in a shootout. After a nifty passing play by the Hurricanes set up a 2-on-1 down low that Sergei Samsonov turned into a 2-on-0, Varlamov stoned White who was all alone from point-blank range.

Alex Ovechkin scored the only shootout goal and Varlamov stoned Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu. Jeff Skinner also failed for the Hurricanes, but he pulled a Kovalchuk and lost the puck before getting off a shot.

Varlamov finished with 26 saves. Ward had 38. Eric Staal had two points for Carolina, including the game-tying goal with three seconds left.

Monday's games
Pittsburgh (15-8-2) at Rangers (14-10-1), 7 p.m. ET - When last these teams played, the Penguins couldn't solve Henrik Lundqvist until the final three minutes, then they choked and found a way to lose in overtime. That's the only blemish for the Penguins over their last nine games; they won the other eight, including six straight.

Sidney Crosby is on a 12-game points streak and leads the league with 40 points. Pittsburgh has the top-ranked penalty killing unit.

New York has won two straight, getting excellent goaltending from Lundqvist.

Dallas (13-8-1) at Carolina (10-10-3), 7:30 p.m., Versus - I think Kari Lehtonen has at least a slight case of schizophrenia; he has a 2.15 GAA in his 11 wins but 3.38 in eight losses. That kind of sums up Dallas' season; the Stars are either pretty good or pretty bad. I really don't know at this point. But a three game winning streak has them in first place.

I think the Hurricanes are proving themselves to be average. They're capable of strong performances - like shutting out Boston, because you know, that's hard to do with that popgun offense pouring in seven goals against such quality opponents as the Islanders, Oilers and Senators but then they'll have a real bad game.

Mainly my biggest question from this game is: Really, Versus? This is the one you picked to show? Two non-playoff teams from a year ago? I guess it gets other teams on. Just make sure you show the Hurricanes' cheerleaders if when Carolina scores. Those girls are some of the finest in the business. Rawr.

Edmonton (6-12-4) at Ottawa (11-12-1), 7:30 p.m., RDS - How bad is the Eastern Conference? The Senators earn less than a point per game but they'd be just three points out of a playoff spot.

How good is the Western Conference? The Oilers earn less than a point per game but they'd be just, um, well let's just say more than three points out of a playoff spot. (Try 11.)

Minnesota (11-9-2) at Calgary (9-12-2), 9 p.m. - Friday's win aside, is anyone playing uglier hockey these days than Minnesota? Even the Islanders, Maple Leafs and Oilers aren't giving up six goals a game. Niklas Backstrom ruined many a fantasy team last week. And I'm just talking about the 493 that I have.

With the Flames having only two wins in their last nine games, this one doesn't have the makings of what we'd consider quality hockey. In Calgary's defense, this is just its fourth home game of November. The Flames had a four-game road trip broken up by two straight home games then packed their bags for another five road games.

Los Angeles (13-9-0) at Anaheim (11-11-3), 10 p.m. - How badly are the Kings struggling these days? Well, you remember when they were leading the West? They're in ninth now. LA can't score.

The Ducks ain't much better. Both teams have lost six of their last seven, and only two of those 12 losses came in overtime or a shootout, both by Anaheim. The Ducks won their last game to end that six-game slide. Prior to that, they had won six in a row. Yet another schizophrenic team.

Pittsburgh 3, New York 2
Dallas 4, Carolina 2
Ottawa 3, Edmonton 1
Calgary 4, Minnesota 3
Los Angeles 5, Anaheim 3

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adventures in scheduling

In the long run, the following rant is not important, doesn't require any major change, isn't going to ignite World War III and is essentially tongue-in-cheek.

I know Sunday is basically reserved for football in America, but a good way to not get your teams exposure, NHL, is to schedule their games all at once! There's three Sunday games in the NHL and they all begin at 5 p.m. ET. Apparently the schedule makers don't know how to stagger their games. Starting the three games at, say, 5, 6 and 7 could've worked nicely, because when one game goes to an intermission, the next game should still be going on.

No, let's have them all play at the same time so that viewers have to flip back and forth and can't dedicate themselves to one game.

Columbus (14-7-0) at Detroit (14-4-2)

Battle for first in the Central Division, Take Two. These teams just met on Friday and Jimmy Howard made 34 saves, including one on a penalty shot, and Valtteri Filppula's power play goal in the third period gave the Red Wings a 2-1 victory.

Word is Steve Mason will start and he's managed to string a few good games in a row. The Blue Jackets are 8-1 on the road; Detroit is 9-1-2 at home.

Detroit 4, Columbus 2

Carolina (10-10-2) at Washington (16-6-2)

One team in the league has a double-digit win total at home: The Capitals, at 11-1-1. Translation: The Hurricanes have no chance, even if they held Washington to three goals in the first two meetings (both losses).

Washington 5, Carolina 2

Boston (12-7-2) at Atlanta (11-9-3)

The Thrashers have won four in a row and Ondrej Pavelec is red-hot. Atlanta's got a lot of nice depth; no real premiere players but a lot of ones who know how to get the job done. The Bruins are coming off being shut out at home by Carolina; good thing they're 8-2 on the road.

Boston 3, Atlanta 1

Back to football!

Double the Patrick, double the good

Hawks edge Kings in Western duel
Patricks Kane and Sharp each had a goal and assist and Chicago held off a late Los Angeles charge to earn a 2-1 victory. Corey Crawford made 21 saves, allowing just a late 5-on-3 goal by Anze Kopitar.

The Kings' slide continues. They've lost three straight, scoring only four goals in those three games, and have dropped six of their last seven.

Mad hatter
Sidney Crosby completed his hat trick - including his 200th career goal - with a shorthanded empty net goal and Pittsburgh won its sixth straight game, 4-1 over Calgary. Brent Johnson made 30 saves and Kris Letang tallied three assists.

So close
Carey Price was just 73 seconds away from his fifth shutout of the season when Jordan Leopold's sneaky wrist shot got through traffic to ruin it, but Montreal still came away a 3-1 winner over Buffalo. Brian Gionta showed up, scoring twice and notching an assist and Andrei Kostitsyn had a goal and assist.

KiPA Call-out of the night
Remember when I wrote, "Mike Fisher might have a hot wife but he has only eight points" in the preview? Well, now Fisher has 11 points. You're welcome, Sens fans.

Fisher scored twice and set up a third as Ottawa earned a 3-0 victory over Toronto. Brian Elliott made 29 saves. Alexei Kovalev had a goal and assist and Milan Michalek recorded two helpers.

The Maple Leafs have scored 16 goals in 10 road games. It gets better when you learn that eight of those goals came in their first two road games, and they have a third game where they scored four. So in the other seven road games, they have four goals.

If you're a fan of Minnesota
Skip to the next section.

Greg Mauldin, who has played 15 NHL games spread out over three NHL seasons since debuting in 2003-04, scored twice and set up two others as Colorado smashed Minnesota, 7-4. In those first 15 games, Mauldin had one goal and two assists, all this season.

Kevin Shattenkirk had a goal and two assists and Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny each had a goal and assist for the Avalanche. Peter Budaj made 28 saves.

Kyle Brodziak (two), Matt Cullen and Mittens scored for the Wild. Niklas Backstrom gave up all seven, seeing his GAA balloon from under 2.00 to 2.66 and his save percentage plummet from .938 to .916 in his last three games. Dear God.

If there's a silver lining for the Wild, it's this: Mauldin didn't get a hat trick and Chris Stewart screwed himself and his team when he gave all good players a valuable lesson in why not to fight after fracturing his hand on Brodziak's head.

The KiPA Good Call of the night
Streaks meant nothing as Anaheim ended both its six-game losing streak and Phoenix's seven-game winning streak by earning a 6-4 victory in Arizona. Bobby Ryan did the bulk of the damage, netting a hat trick as the Ducks turned a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead. Ryan Getzlaf had four assists and Corey Perry notched three points, including his 11th goal which turned out to be the game-winner. Jonas Hiller made 30 saves.

How the hell did this happen?
Remember when Dallas lost three straight games and five out of seven at one point this month? The Stars are in first place in the Pacific Division now.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 35 shots and third-period goals by Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson lifted Dallas past St. Louis, 2-1. The loss was the Blues' first in regulation at home. With losses by Phoenix and Los Angeles, Dallas is atop the division.

Hanging on
San Jose seemed in full control before two Edmonton goals in 57 seconds late in the game made things interesting but the Sharks held on for a 4-3 victory. Dany Heatley had two goals and an assist and Antero Niittymaki made 22 saves.

In the shootout
--Goals by Jason Arnott and Travis Zajac in the bottom of the third and fourth rounds canceled Nikolay Zherdev's strike and New Jersey knocked off Philadelphia, 2-1. Johan Hedberg made 40 saves.
--Florida overcame both a 2-0 deficit and blowing a 3-2 third-period lead to upend Tampa Bay, 4-3, on Stephen Weiss' goal in the fourth round. Tomas Vokoun made 34 saves.
--Ryan Callahan scored with just under seven minutes left in regulation and the Rangers went on to earn a 2-1 win over Nashville. Erik Christensen had the only shootout goal and Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves.

--I'm really liking how the Penguins are playing right now. Um, not to rub it in. They're on fire and looking very impressive. Still need guys who can finish though. These last couple of games could've gone easier.

--Which is it worse to be these days, an Islanders fan or a Leafs fan? Probably New York but it's close, isn't it?

--I threw my hands up trying to figure if Carolina was good or bad. Dallas has joined the list.

--The Blues did win three straight games a week ago, but they're still 3-6-1 in their last 10.

--I half-jokingly Tweeted asking if this was the game that would end Todd Richards' coaching career. I don't necessarily think he will or deserves to get canned but the Wild have had some pretty bad performances of late, haven't they? I know he doesn't have a whole lot to work with, but still...the season is turning rapidly ugly.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fulfilling your fantasy, Part 2


Part two of one person's list of fantasy-worthy players for each NHL team. Today's post features another six teams. To clarify things a little, these are players I'd consider owning but is not a complete list of fringe guys who might get hot here and there. I'm no expert, I just watch a lot of hockey and play a lot of fantasy hockey.

It's occurred to me that this would've been even better to do before the season to maybe help people out. Then again, that might've made it tougher for me to win. Plus it's less an advice guide and just a simple listing, especially since some players had their places affected by the first two months of the season.


Must-own: Craig Anderson

Should own: Paul Stastny, Chris Stewart, John-Michael Liles

Could own: Matt Duchene

PIMs guy: Cody McLeod

Comments: If I did this list in the preseason, there's no way Liles would even be on it, let alone as "should own." But he's playing that well these days. Duchene probably should be owned too, certainly in keeper leagues. He's not having a spectacular sophomore season but it's not horrid either. Milan Hejduk is growing old but could be worth owning.


Must-own: Rick Nash

Should own: This is a real tough call, but none.

Could own: Steve Mason, Mathieu Garon, Antoine Vermette, Jakub Voracek

PIMs guy: Jared Boll, Derek Dorsett

Deeper picks: Derrick Brassard, R.J. Umberger

Comments: Mason and Garon are almost "should own" players; Mason is sometimes stellar but his inconsistency and tendency to have four-, five-goal games is a problem. And Garon's status suffers because it's a goalie rotation at best for him. I'm sure they prefer Mason gets the bulk of the starts. Vermette adds even more value when factoring in his faceoff success. Jan Hejda is a guy to look to for hits and blocks; Rostislav Klesla is a very good blocker.


Must-own: Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson

Should own: James Neal, Brenden Morrow

Probably should own: Mike Ribeiro, Kari Lehtonen, Stephane Robidas

Could own: Steve Ott, Jamie Benn

Comments: I really want the Penguins to get just one of those wingers. Sheesh. Let's see. Lehtonen's hot and cold; you never know what you'll get from him. Ott is a surprisingly valuable fantasy player in everything. He sees power play time, he gets an occasional shorthanded goal, he's decent on faceoffs, he's a solid hitter and of course, he's a big PIMs producer. Ribeiro is starting to heat up with the goals. Robidas is another good all-around producer in points, blocks and hits. This is actually a pretty nice team to look to for fantasy players.


Must-own: Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen

Should own: Henrik Zetterberg

Could own: Todd Bertuzzi, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom

Grit players: Brad Stuart (hits, blocks)

Comments: Zetterberg is a little overrated as a fantasy force, if you ask me. He's very capable, don't get me wrong. But he's not an elite offensive force; only once has he had a 90-point season. He does provide excellent value with faceoffs though. Another problem is his health. He's not a huge injury risk but you can normally pencil him in to miss a handful or more of games. Also, look elsewhere if you want PIMs. This team doesn't have those.


Must-own: None

Should own: None

Probably should own: Taylor Hall, Ryan Whitney

Could own: Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner

Comments: In standard, year-to-year leagues, no Oiler should be on someone's roster. In keeper leagues, Hall, Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi are worth looks. But the Oilers are so bad, it's pretty barren for fantasy hockey consideration. Whitney is the closest in standard leagues because he's a defenseman who's putting up nearly a point per game. You'll notice no goalie made this list. There's a reason for that. I'll let you figure it out. Theo Peckham is a decent grit guy.


Must-own: None

Should own: Tomas Vokoun

Could own: David Booth

You could do worse: Stephen Weiss, Michael Frolik, Bryan McCabe, Dennis Wideman

Comments: It's possible that Florida is an even worse source of fantasy players than Edmonton. One difference is Vokoun is a very capable No. 2 goalie, mainly because the Panthers tend to give up over 30 shots a game and he gets a high save percentage. He steals games occasionally too. In the preseason, Booth and Weiss would've been "should own" but since I'm doing this list just after Thanksgiving, neither is very worthy of a spot. Florida doesn't even have someone to get PIMs. Basically, stay away from Florida unless it's Vokoun, and even then, make sure he's not your No. 1.

More teams later, probably Sunday.

Few sexy matchups on Saturday

On paper, there's not many games that seem to be exciting. But then, parity exists in the NHL and no one is a walkover. That's why we watch.

Calgary (9-11-2) at Pittsburgh (14-8-2), 1 p.m. ET

Both teams eked out victories Friday, with the Flames earning quite the controversial one. In fact, the Penguins' win over Ottawa had a point of debate too. Pittsburgh has won five straight and is one of the hottest teams in the league. The Flames have won just two of their past eight.

Pittsburgh 4, Calgary 2

Philadelphia (15-6-3) at New Jersey (7-14-2), 1 p.m.

The Flyers are going to be angry. I would be too. May God have mercy on the poor Devils, who are trying to stay out of the Eastern Conference cellar.

Philadelphia 5, New Jersey 1

Buffalo (9-12-3) at Montreal (14-8-1), 7 p.m., NHL Network

Carey Price didn't play in Montreal's loss to Atlanta, but that's not an excuse for the Canadiens scoring exactly zero goals. That's the dirty secret about Montreal, nobody is scoring. Price's stellar play has made it a moot point for much of the season. The Sabres can't score either, but they are playing better of late.

Montreal 3, Buffalo 2

Toronto (8-10-3) at Ottawa (10-12-1), 7 p.m., CBC

Brewing controversy in Ottawa. Pascal Leclaire, ever an injury risk, is playing some of the best hockey of his career. So who's the goalie, him or Brian Elliott? The Senators, losers of five of their last six, can't score either. In four of those losses, they scored only one goal. The other, just two. Mike Fisher might have a hot wife but he also has only eight points on the season.

Toronto is... well, we know about the Maple Leafs.

Toronto 3, Ottawa 2

Florida (9-12-0) at Tampa Bay (13-8-2), 7:30 p.m.

Now that the Lightning aren't playing Washington, maybe they'll show up.

Tampa Bay 4, Florida 2

Dallas (12-8-1) at St. Louis (12-6-3), 8 p.m.

Daryl Reaugh is always worth listening to. My dream broadcast team: Doc Emrick and Razor. Um, not that I think about these things. Let's just move on.

St. Louis 3, Dallas 1

Anaheim (10-11-3) at Phoenix (11-5-5), 8 p.m.

Phoenix has won seven straight and Anaheim has lost six in a row. Doesn't that tell us the Ducks will win? It's that kind of league these days. Plus, Curtis McElhinney might start for Anaheim and he's been pretty solid sometimes.

Anaheim 3, Phoenix 2

Rangers (13-10-1) at Nashville (9-8-4), 8 p.m.

Henrik Lundqvist put his recent struggles behind him with a shutout Friday. Will he start a second day in a row? The Predators have dropped to the bottom of the Central but have played four fewer games than Chicago, which is four points ahead.

New York 4, Nashville 2

Minnesota (11-8-2) at Colorado (12-9-1), 9 p.m.

The Wild had to play well in front of Jose Theodore, not Niklas Backstrom, didn't they? Sigh. By the way, a Minnesota win puts the Wild in second in the Northwest.

Colorado 4, Minnesota 1

San Jose (10-7-4) at Edmonton (6-11-4), 10 p.m., CBC

If it wasn't for Antero Niittymaki, I'd make a "Think San Jose misses Evgeni Nabokov?" joke, because Antti Niemi has been horrible. Presumably the Sharks bounce back after a dreadful showing Friday. The Oilers are hot, winning one of their last one games.

San Jose 5, Edmonton 2

Chicago (12-11-2) at Los Angeles (13-8-0), 10:30 p.m.

This is pretty much the one, "Ooh, I want to see this" game of the night. It's lost some of its luster though since the Kings have lost five of their last six. But at home, Los Angeles is 8-1-0. Chicago is 7-4-2 outside of Illinois so it's bound to be good. Right?

Los Angeles 4, Chicago 3

Goalies rule as offenses play in tryptophan-induced lull

If you play fantasy hockey, chances are you didn't like what your skaters did, unless you own Alexander Semin. Conversely, you probably really enjoyed the performances from your goalies. Unless you own Mike Smith, in which case, you deserve whatever badness you get.

Only four teams out of 26 in action scored more than three goals. Smith, Pekka Rinne, Jonas Hiller, Antti Niemi: Go to your room!

The perfect goalies
Three of the first seven games to go final were shutouts. We had two more by night's end.

--Cam Ward made 37 saves and a power play goal in each period against the league's top-ranked penalty killing lifted Carolina over Boston, 3-0. Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner had a goal and assist each.
--The Islanders avoided making history by ending their 14-game non-winning streak by knocking off the Devils, 2-0, behind Rick DiPietro's 29 saves. The team record for a winless streak is 15 games.
--Semyon Varlamov had little to do, facing just 17 shots and stopping them all in Washington's 6-0 rout of Tampa Bay. Alexander Semin had a hat trick.
--Henrik Lundqvist was very busy, fending off 40 shots from Florida to lead the Rangers to a 3-0 victory.
--Don't look now but the Thrashers might have a goalie. Ondrej Pavelec posted his second shutout in four games as Atlanta took down another marquee team, beating Montreal, 3-0. Pavelec has given up two goals in his last four games. Rich Peverley scored twice.

Nearly as good
--Marc-Andre Fleury's stellar run continued with a 43-save effort in a rather defenseless Pittsburgh 2-1 victory over Ottawa. Counterpart Pascal Leclaire made 38 saves. Fleury is on a 7-0-1 run and has his personal numbers way better than earlier in the season.
--A goal and assist from Patrick Sharp and 26 saves by Corey Crawford gave Chicago a 4-1 win over Anaheim.
--Valtteri Filppula had a goal and assist in support of Jimmy Howard's 34 saves as Detroit reclaimed the Central Division lead with a 2-1 win over Columbus. Steve Mason stopped 30 shots.
--Ryan Miller made 35 saves, losing his shutout bid with 3:27 remaining on a Phil Kessel shorthanded goal that was set up by Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold's errant clearing attempt, in Buffalo's 3-1 win over Toronto.
--Roberto Luongo made 31 saves and Mikael Samuelsson scored twice as Vancouver routed San Jose, 6-1.

Not as good, but still good
--Jose Theodore made 32 saves and Martin Havlat scored twice and had three points for Minnesota in a 5-2 win over Nashville.
--Kari Lehtonen made 25 saves but the story in Dallas' 3-2 win over St. Louis was Jamie Benn. His shorthanded goal in the third period tied the game at 2-2, then, after an aggressive forecheck by Brenden Morrow forced Jaroslav Halak to play the puck on a potential icing call, Benn stole the puck and slid it across to Mike Ribeiro, who had a wide-open net for the eventual game-winner.

Adventures in officiating (Copyright: TMQ)
We saw a rare, perhaps downright horrid, call in overtime of the Calgary-Philadelphia game. Mike Richards appeared to score a power play goal to give the Flyers the victory. Instead, the referee inside the attack zone waved the goal off and whistled Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The reasoning? Pronger lifted his arm off his stick, briefly blocking the vision of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Was there intent on Pronger's part? Even my hatred for him as a player and the Flyers as a team doubts that; Pronger appeared to be pointing to an area for Richards to attack.

This is the Sean Avery Rule; you'll remember when Avery faced Martin Brodeur in a playoff game, waving his arms and stick, gesticulating like the douchebag he is. With Avery's action ranking a 14 on a scale of 1 to 10, what Pronger did is probably a minus-4. At least.

After a surprisingly scoreless 3-on-3 - because, you know, that's supposed to generate all kinds of goals - the game went to a shootout, and goals by Niklas Hagman and Rene Bourque canceled out a Claude Giroux score to give Calgary a 3-2 win. Even I think the Flyers got hosed.

It's always possible Pronger tried to impede Kiprusoff's vision more than a normal screen does - and Pronger had his back to Kiprusoff - but I doubt that's what went on there. Plus, I lose a Richards game-winning PPG. Dammit.

Anyway, Kiprusoff finished with 34 saves. Curtis Glencross and Steve Staios scored for the Flames. Nikolay Zherdev and James van Riemsdyk had the Flyers goals. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots.

--Speaking of bad calls, Ottawa got hosed too. Alex Goligoski's game-winning power play goal came a few seconds after teammate Mark Letestu skated into Mike Fisher, knocking Fisher down and clearing a lane for Goligoski. Should've been interference on Letestu. I didn't even react to the goal, which broke a 1-1 tie; I was still in shock that play was still going on.

--Good bounceback win for the Wild.

--The Bruins suck. If they didn't have awesome goaltending, they wouldn't win anything. Of course, normally they do have awesome goaltending, but still. You know what I'm saying.

--That's the last time I label a Tampa-Washington game as "must-see." Second horrid effort by the Lightning against the Caps. Maybe when the series shifts to Tampa it'll be different; Washington is such a monster on home ice.

--I'm growing more impressed with Atlanta each day. No stars on that team, no real game-breakers, but a lot of energy, a lot of grit, and that's making it tough on opponents. Plus Pavelec is on fire.

--I kind of think the Stars should be better than they are. I'd kill to have just one of their top four wingers - Loui Eriksson, James Neal, Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow, all of whom I love - and with Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro, that's one really good center and one pretty good one. I guess it's the weak defense, whose only household name is Stephane Robidas (and that one might be iffy) and goaltending which isn't quite consistent yet. Defenseman Matt Niskanen's been in major regression mode but he's only 23, so no need to give up on him yet.

--Antti Niemi is doing all he can to prove last year's Stanley Cup run was a fluke.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fulfilling your fantasy, Part 1


When Calgary's Mark Giordano took a holding penalty in Friday's game at Philadelphia, my first thought was, "Good, I should own most of the Flyers on the ice right now." I'm serious. That got me thinking: Which teams have the most fantasy hockey-worthy players on their roster?

The first of a multi-part series looks at seven teams in alphabetical order.


Must-own: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Lubomir Visnovsky

Should own: Jonas Hiller, Teemu Selanne

Could own: Saku Koivu

Depending on the league: George Parros (PIMs); Toni Lydman, Paul Mara, Andy Sutton (hits, blocked shots)

Comments: Hiller's early-season struggles (3.13 GAA, more losses than wins in October, occasionally lost starts to Curtis McElhinny) kept him off the must-own list. Keeper leagues can look at Cam Fowler. Koivu adds more value in leagues with faceoff wins.


Must-own: Dustin Byfuglien.

Should own: None.

Could own: Ondrej Pavelec, Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom, Evander Kane, Rich Peverley, Nik Antropov

Wouldn't berate you for owning: Zach Bogosian

Comments: I wouldn't have Byfuglien as must-own if he wasn't eligible as a defenseman. The points he's putting up though can't be overlooked, especially as a blue liner. Pavelec and Enstrom just missed earning "should own" status; need to see both guys do it for longer. Same with Ladd. Kane's a good pick for keeper leagues, as is Bogosian, who's been a stud-in-the-making for what seems like three years now but it hasn't happened yet. Trust me, I keep drafting the SOB.


Must-own: Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara

Should own: Tuukka Rask

Could own: Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic

Depending on the league: Dennis Seidenberg (hits, blocks, occasional offense)

Comments: Even with a healthy Marc Savard, I don't think any Bruin forward should be owned in every league. Their offense is woeful. Lucic is starting to score more but isn't getting PIMs. (Quick aside: I strongly disagree with the presence of PIMs in fantasy leagues. Now that Hits is becoming a common stat, that's a much better indicator of toughness if you ask me.) Bergeron's a good faceoff guy. Tyler Seguin will get there eventually, I'm sure, but not yet.


Must-own: Ryan Miller

Should own: Derek Roy, Tyler Myers

Could own: Thomas Vanek, Tim Connolly, Jordan Leopold, Jason Pominville, Tyler Ennis

Depending on the league: Steve Montador (hits, blocks)

Comments: Despite the struggles, Miller is still a really good goalie, even if not many people seemed to realize this until the Olympics. Myers looks more like the kid he is but he's not having a horrid season. Pominville's was derailed in part by a concussion. Ennis is worth looks in keeper leagues for sure. Vanek is one-dimensional and isn't good any more at that one dimension. I guess the potential for Vanek is always there so maybe he should be in the "should own" list. Or maybe not.


Must-own: None. Yeah, you heard me. None.

Should own: Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Rene Bourque

Could own: Mark Giordano, Alex Tanguay

Do not own if you want to win your league: Olli Jokinen, Jay Bouwmeester

Comments: Age is catching up to Iginla and the Flames suck, so Kiprusoff's numbers are going to suffer. That's why I consider neither as must-own. In fact, I've considered cutting Iginla in multiple leagues. I haven't, but still. As a former owner of Bouwmeester, I'm seeing, well, I'm seeing flames, so let's move on.


Must-own: Eric Staal

Should own: Cam Ward

Could own: Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo

Depending on the league: Tuomo Ruutu (hits), Tim Gleason (hits, blocks)

Comments: Skinner is an excellent keeper pick. Performances like Friday's against Boston is why Ward is "should own" but be warned that Carolina's prone to giving up a ton of goals.


Must-own: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp

Should own: Marty Turco (probably)

Could own: Brent Seabrook, Viktor Stahlberg

Depending on the league: Nick Boynton, Niklas Hjalmarsson (both blocks)

Comments: The "could own" list could've been lengthy. Basically anyone who plays alongside Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp could pick up points by osmosis. Troy Brouwer for one. He's also a good hitter. Turco has not been good but he's gotten the majority of the starts.

We'll stop here since this post is getting rather beefy. Stay tuned for the remaining teams.

After near day off, the NHL returns in almost-full force

After watching Colorado lose to Edmonton (note: I didn't actually watch it), I'm excited for some actual NHL action. Oh, snap! In that game, Taylor Hall scored with 29 seconds left and also had an assist as the Oilers won 3-2. Martin Gerber made a return to the NHL with 35 saves for the win. Matt Duchene had a goal and assist for the Avs.

As for Friday's games, there's 13, so how about another power poll?! The last one was so well received.

1. Tampa Bay (13-7-2) at Washington (15-6-2), 5 p.m. ET

I swear I didn't plan it this way, but the inaugural power preview also featured the Lightning at the Capitals. The difference is this time I no longer believe the Lightning will be a threat to the Capitals' division title but with Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin, plus these teams' questionable (at best) goaltending, the red lights should be on a lot.

Washington 5, Tampa Bay 3

2. Detroit (13-4-2) at Columbus (14-6-0), 7 p.m.

Now here's a fun one. Battle for first in the Central Division. The Red Wings have still been winning (7-2-1 last 10) but they've been giving up some goals. The Blue Jackets are one of the hotter teams in the league, on a five-game winning streak.

Detroit 4, Columbus 2

3. Montreal (14-7-1) at Atlanta (10-9-3), 7:30 p.m., RDS

The Thrashers have been giant killers lately, downing Detroit and Washington in two of their last three games by a combined 10-1 margin. So, watch out, Habs. The funny thing is, Atlanta needed overtime to beat the woeful Islanders. As I said once before, I give up trying to predict this league. (The next line is a prediction. Oh well.)

Montreal 3, Atlanta 1

4. San Jose (10-6-4) at Vancouver (11-7-3), 10 p.m., TSN

Both these teams have hit something of a mediocre stretch but there's a lot of talent on the ice in this one.

Vancouver 4, San Jose 3

5. Chicago (11-11-2) at Anaheim (10-10-3), 4 p.m.

Ditto for this one, though it's a bit worse for the Ducks, who have lost five straight. That's bad, not mediocre. Even though two of those losses were at home, Anaheim is significantly better at home.

Anaheim 3, Chicago 1

6. Ottawa (10-11-1) at Pittsburgh (13-8-2), 1 p.m.

The Penguins are on fire with a 6-0-1 stretch led primarily by Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby, who has a 10-game points streak. The Senators always present a tough matchup; plenty of hatred too after three playoff meetings in four years.

Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 2

7. Calgary (8-11-2) at Philadelphia (15-6-2), 1 p.m.

The Flyers are probably the cream of the East right now. The Flames are the cream of, um, Alberta. Barely.

Philadelphia 5, Calgary 2

8. St. Louis (12-5-3) at Dallas (11-8-1), 8:30 p.m.

At least these two teams are over .500.

St. Louis 2, Dallas 1

9. Carolina (9-10-2) at Boston (12-6-2), noon

The Bruins are good but not entertaining, except for the whacky Tim Thomas. The Hurricanes? Bad.

Boston 3, Carolina 2

10. Rangers (12-10-1) at Florida (9-11-0), 7:30 p.m.
11. Nashville (9-7-4) at Minnesota (10-8-2), 2 p.m.
12. Toronto (8-9-3) at Buffalo (8-12-3), 7:30 p.m., TSN
13. New Jersey (7-13-2) at Islanders (4-12-5), 1 p.m.

I can't think of anything good to say about these matchups, so I'm not even going to try.

New York 4, Florida 1
Nashville 3, Minnesota 2
Toronto 2, Buffalo 1
New Jersey 2, New York 1

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wild ROI Pathetic


The Wild is inches from the salary cap ceiling.

And they're right back in a familiar place in the Western Conference: much closer to the bottom than contention.

Owner Craig Leipold is shelling out $58-and-change million (according to capgeek.com) of his, well of ticket buyers' money.

$58M for a team that takes entire periods, if not games, off. $58M for a team without a legit first line scoring threat. Spending to the cap for a team with far more passengers than drivers. For a team whose head coach has no answers - by his own admission.

That, my friends, is a shitty return on investment.

Yeah, it's easier to pick on them after a couple losses than it is to sit here and write about how great they are after a couple wins. But that's not cherry picking/entertaining glass-half-empty tendencies. And you don't come here to read sunshine getting blown up the Wild's skirt. Because this team hasn't "earned" more than one or two of its wins 10 wins this season. Sneaking out an OT win in a game in which you get completely owned is not earning a win. It's stealing. It's hard to be proud of a team that steals.

It's time to start seriously looking at whether or not Todd Richards is the right coach for this team. This is not the same situation the Vikings are in. The Wild was not a contender coming into this season as the Vikes were. Richards did not have the same expectations on him that Chilly did.

The Wild's tale of woe is based on a lack of growth. This is still a team trying to deal with the crippling mismanagement of Risebrough. So, this isn't some wistful, infantile demand for the Wild to be a competitor this year. I just wanted to see growth. Improvement.

That didn't happen at all last year - some would say the Wild took a few steps backward - with the end result being stasis - finishing just out of reach of the lottery, but with no real shot at the playoffs at any point during the season. But, first year for Richards, lots of injuries, I'll give it to him.

This year, lots of talk about improvement, lessons learned as a head coach, and still no material increase in expectations. That would seem to be a perfect environment to over-deliver, for Richards. Granted, more injuries (why the PMB career death watch isn't at full vigil status yet among Wild fans speaks to a remarkable willingness to deceive ourselves), but no appreciable improvement in any of the areas we were told were being worked on (read: offense), and, recently, a significant step back in defense. So, non-existent offense, bad defense...you do the math.

Plus, anytime I hear a coach say he doesn't have answers for his team's play, I take that as a bad sign.

You don't replace Richards with the hope of jolting the team into playing like the contender you think they really are. That's not going to happen with the Wild - this year at least. You replace Richards because the team is going no where under him. If you aren't expecting a Cup run, then you better be getting teaching and building blocks and gritty performances and effort. And, if you're not getting those things, then you're not getting enough.

I'm glad Richards got a couple Thanksgivings at "home" out of the deal. I'm hopeful he won't get another Christmas at home - at least not while he's on the Wild's payroll.

Feisty Thrashers earn big win; Habs win showdown

Quick start spurs Atlanta to big win over Detroit
I told you not to sleep on a pesky Atlanta team. Then I picked the Red Wings to win anyway.


Chris Thorburn scored 2:39 into the start of the game and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 32 shots to lead Atlanta to an impressive 5-1 win over Detroit. Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little had a goal and assist as the Thrashers chased Jimmy Howard (four goals) after two periods. Dustin Byfuglien and Anthony Stewart also scored as 11 Thrashers recorded a point.

Beating LA no longer hard to do
I might've said this was an impressive Montreal win, but not at the moment it's not.

Montreal scored twice in each of the first two periods and defeated Los Angeles, 4-1. The Kings have lost five of their last six games, with four of the defeats coming on the road.

Carey Price needed to make just 24 saves. Andrei Kostitsyn had a goal and assist and Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller all scored.

The haters will always hate
Marc-Andre Fleury's critics couldn't have had a much better month than October, when Fleury posted a 1-6 record and did nothing to earn his team points. Now they might be a little quiet. Fleury stopped all 30 shots he saw and led Pittsburgh to a 1-0 win over Buffalo, the Penguins' fourth straight win. They're 6-0-1 in their last seven, all with Fleury in goal. He's posted a 1.54 GAA with a .944 save percentage during that time, but I'm sure he probably didn't really have anything to do with the current streak.

Fleury shutouts do not happen often. It's just his second in the last two seasons. Pascal Dupuis scored the lone goal late in the first period after a Sidney Crosby takeaway.

Bouncing back
Washington saw a two-goal lead disappear in the third period but rebounded on Brooks Laich's late power play goal to edge Carolina, 3-2, and snap a three-game losing streak. Nicklas Backstrom scored twice, Alex Ovechkin posted three assists and Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots.

Taking the lead
Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists in Tampa Bay's 5-3 win over the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist's struggles continued, giving up all five goals. Stamkos has a league-high 38 points. Mike Smith made 17 saves.

Struggling offenses
--Andrew Raycroft saw just 19 shots and stopped 18 as Dallas held off Ottawa, 2-1. Brenden Morrow scored the gamewinner early in the third period. The Senators haven't scored more than three goals in a game since Nov. 9 and have lost four of five.
--Tim Thomas got things back in his favor by making 31 saves in Boston's 3-1 win over Florida. Mark Recchi scored twice in Boston's three-goal third period, becoming the 13th player to reach 1,500 points on his second goal. The Panthers have lost three of four, with just three goals in the losses.
--In a "cover your eyes" woeful type of game, Minnesota got blasted by Philadelphia, 6-1 on home ice, registering just 16 shots on goal. Danny Briere, Ville Leino and Andreas Nodl had a goal and assist each and Sergei Bobrovsky made 15 saves.

Working late
--Jakub Voracek banged home the rebound of a Kris Russell shot in overtime and Columbus edged the Islanders, 4-3, sending New York to its 14th straight loss. R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette had a goal and assist each and Mathieu Garon made 21 saves.
--Ilya Kovalchuk didn't screw up this time, powering home a wrist shot for the only goal in the shootout and New Jersey defeated Calgary, 2-1, for the Devils' first two-game winning streak of the season. Johan Hedberg made 25 saves.
--Despite getting only 15 shots on goal through regulation and overtime, St. Louis earned a 2-1 shootout win over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak's 29 saves. Andy McDonald scored in regulation and had the only shootout goal in round five for the Blues.

Out west
--Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin had a goal and assist each in Vancouver's 4-2 win over Colorado. Roberto Luongo made 21 saves. Craig Anderson left the game after the first period, apparently because of a groin injury.
--Two third-period goals by Patrick Marleau helped secure San Jose's 5-2 win over Chicago. Former Blackhawk Antti Niemi made 30 saves.

Colorado (12-8-1) is back in action at Edmonton (5-11-4), 9 p.m. ET, NHL Network. I get that there's still not a majority of Americans playing, but why have any U.S.-based team playing Thursday? Let all the Canadian teams play today. Anyway, I forced myself to watch about 22 minutes of the Oilers-Coyotes game Tuesday. I might watch a little more of this one but the Avalanche have actual talent and some exciting players. -Avalanche 4, Oilers 2.

--My condolences, but I'm glad I didn't tune in to that Wild-Flyers game. That sounded brutal.

--Poor Islanders. I feel bad for them at this point. I hate playing against them because the Penguins often seem to take them lightly and/or New York steps up its game against us and thus the games tend to be more competitive than maybe they should be, but the Isles are the one division opponent I bear no particular angst for, even after 1993.

--Atlanta might be sneaky good. Especially if Pavelec's development continues at its current pace.

--Maybe Jimmy Howard needs a rest? He's made 10 straight starts and he hasn't been good in the last three.

--What the hell's happened to the Kings?

--Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Get your hockey fix tonight

I tried to come up with something to write about but I don't really have anything I feel like discussing, so here's just another run-of-the-mill preview with 13 games on the schedule.

First, Phoenix kicked off its holiday vacation by whipping Edmonton, 5-0 on Tuesday, behind 23 saves by Ilya Bryzgalov and two goals each by Martin Hanzal and Lee Stempniak. The Coyotes have moved into first place in the Pacific Division with a seven-game winning streak.

Washington (14-6-2) at Carolina (9-9-2), 7 p.m. ET

The Capitals have looked pretty shaky lately, losing three straight, two by scores of 5-0. Alex Ovechkin has been contained with only two goals in his last nine games, and pointless in three of his last four. Amazing. He should get back on track tonight though; Carolina is starting backup Justin Peters in goal, and Peters did not look like an NHL goalie in his previous outing against Pittsburgh. He battled the puck that entire game.

Washington 5, Carolina 2

Columbus (13-6-0) at Islanders (4-12-4), 7 p.m.

Rick Nash is en fuego. The Islanders? Well, their fans might want to literally set them on fire.

Columbus 4, New York 1

Detroit (13-3-2) at Atlanta (9-9-3), 7 p.m.

Jimmy Howard has started in goal each game this month (nine) for Detroit and he's given up some goals lately. Don't sleep on the Thrashers; Ondrej Pavelec is playing well and they thoroughly out-played Washington a few days ago.

Detroit 3, Atlanta 2

Pittsburgh (12-8-2) at Buffalo (8-11-3), 7 p.m.

Jhonas Enroth will start for Buffalo, which is unfortunate for me because the Penguins have had Ryan Miller's number lately. His backups, not so much.

Buffalo 4, Pittsburgh 2

Los Angeles (13-7-0) at Montreal (13-7-1), 7:30 p.m., RDS

Normally this might be the game of the night, but Jonathan Bernier is starting for LA, not Jonathan Quick. Of course, now that I jettisoned Bernier in a keeper league, he'll probably start pitching shutouts. Bank it.

Los Angeles 2, Montreal 1

Calgary (8-11-1) at New Jersey (6-13-2), 7:30 p.m., TSN

No way the Devils string two good games in a row, right?

Calgary 3, New Jersey 1

Dallas (10-8-1) at Ottawa (10-10-1), 7:30 p.m., TSN2

I'm sure there's some reason to watch this game, but I can't think of it.

Ottawa 4, Dallas 3

Rangers (12-9-1) at Tampa Bay (12-7-2), 7:30 p.m.

Two words: Steve. Downie. Er, Stamkos.

Tampa Bay 5, New York 3

Boston (11-6-2) at Florida (9-10-0), 7:30 p.m.

It's about time for a Tim Thomas shutout, isn't it?

Boston 2, Florida 0

St. Louis (11-5-3) at Nashville (9-7-3), 8 p.m., Versus

Goaltending on display, right? Certainly not offense.

St. Louis 5, Nashville 4

Philadelphia (14-6-2) at Minnesota (10-7-2), 8 p.m.

Please beat the Flyers. By the way, I know Brent Burns was real good a few years ago, and Mittens has shown a goal scoring touch in the past, but the Wild's three leading goal scorers are Cal Clutterbuck, Burns and Mittens. That qualifies as "ouch" doesn't it?

Philadelphia 4, Minnesota 2

Colorado (12-7-1) at Vancouver (10-7-3), 10 p.m.

The Avs have won four straight, the Canucks have lost four straight. That's why Colorado's in first. That kind of in-depth analysis is why you read this blog, I know.

Vancouver 3, Colorado 1

Chicago (11-10-2) at San Jose (9-6-4), 10:30 p.m.

If not for two certain 2010 Eastern Conference division winners, these two teams might qualify as the most disappointing in the league.

Chicago 4, San Jose 3

My Wild Thankful List is Pretty Damn Short


  • I'm thankful for Backodore. It's painful to think about what the Wild's record would look like without those two.
  • I'm thankful for Rick Wilson. But not as thankful for him as Todd Richards should be.
  • I'm thankful that Fletch is more willing to try to plug holes in the team than DR appeared to be.
  • I'm thankful for Russo.
  • I'm thankful for KiPA (okay, I know he's not Wild-centric, but I'm still thankful for him.)
  • I'm thankful for Ms. Conduct.
  • I'm thankful for my friends at GTRCMBSHP.
  • I'm thankful that we have a team; it's better to have a frustrating team to root for than no team at all.

And, seeing as how I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel with that last one, I think I'm done with my list.

Everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Slaughter in Jersey, as expected; Mason holds serve

Hedberg, Devils wallop Capitals
As I correctly predicted earlier today, it was like leading a lamb to a slaughter in New Jersey. OK, so I had Washington doing the whipping, not the Devils. Who could blame me?

Johan Hedberg made 30 saves and the Devils jumped on top of Washington for three first-period goals in a 5-0 rout for New Jersey's second home win of the season. Mattias Tedenby scored on a penalty shot and assisted on Patrik Elias' power play goal.

Those two goals, plus one by Jason Arnott, put New Jersey up 3-0 after one period. Arnott tallied his second of the night early in the second, followed five minutes later by Dainius Zubrus netting his third of the season.

Back to you, Mr. Garon
Mathieu Garon, similar to Brent Johnson for Pittsburgh earlier this season, has been singlehandedly earning his team points and putting pressure on Steve Mason to perform better and more consistently.

Mason's paying attention.

Mason stopped all 27 shots he saw and goals by Mike Commodore and Rick Nash led Columbus past Nashville, 2-0. The Blue Jackets have won four straight games.

Tied, sort of, at the top
--Sidney Crosby had a power play goal and assist as Pittsburgh edged Florida, 3-2. Chris Conner broke a 2-2 tie late in the third period and Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves. Pittsburgh is 5-0-1 in its last six.
--Steven Stamkos became the first player to reach 20 goals in Tampa Bay's 3-1 victory over Boston. Stamkos and Crosby both have a league-high 35 points but Stamkos gets the edge both by having more goals and one fewer game played. Mike Smith made 26 saves.

By a gnat's eyelash
Ryan Smyth appeared to score the tying goal with 3.8 seconds remaining but it was ruled to be a high stick and Ottawa squeaked by Los Angeles, 3-2. If Smyth's stick was above the crossbar, it was juuuust barely. Hard to tell.

Pascal Leclaire made 28 saves, Alexei Kovalev had a goal and assist and Jason Spezza broke the 2-2 tie midway through the third period.

Trouble brewin' in the Big Apple
John Tortorella insists there's no goalie controversy in New York with his Rangers. That's why he started Martin Biron for the second straight game. Now he might have a problem on his hands.

Biron made 31 saves, including 15 in the third period, and New York edged Calgary, 2-1. Brian Boyle and Daniel Girardi scored, with Girardi assisting on Boyle's goal.

Jarome Iginla scored his sixth goal in his past three games and seventh in the last five.

Not this time
For a while, it looked like Carey Price would blank Philadelphia for the second time this season. That would've happened if games were 35 minutes. Of course, they're 60.

Philadelphia overcame a 2-0 deficit by scoring three straight goals to earn a 3-2 victory over the Canadiens. Struggling youngster James van Riemsdyk, often a healthy scratch as of late, broke the 2-2 tie just over seven minutes into the third period. Ville Leino and Claude Giroux also scored for the Flyers and Brian Boucher made 29 saves.

Price finished with 42 stops. Maxim Lapierre had both Montreal goals.

And finally
Nikolai Kulemin scored twice and Toronto knocked off Dallas, 4-1. Kris Versteeg scored into an empty net and had an assist and Jonas Gustavsson made 21 saves.

--I'm growing convinced that Dallas isn't good.

--I really hate playing Florida and Tomas Vokoun. Always a tough battle, rarely high scoring, at least for the Penguins.

--New Jersey's huge win replaces Columbus beating St. Louis 8-1 as the season's most surprising result so far.

--Boston might like their goaltending combo but it really might make sense to trade one for a decent forward. They got shut down by Mike Smith, for crying out loud.

--Maybe Steve Mason just shouldn't start consecutive games. He has won three straight but his GAA is still over 3.00.

--Rough stretch for the Kings. They did win two games ago but they're 1-4-0 in their last five. Maybe home-ice advantage does exist for some teams. Just look at the splits for LA, Washington and St. Louis to name a few. Unbeatable at home, mortal on the road.

Tuesday's game
Just one game Tuesday. Edmonton (5-10-4) at Phoenix (10-5-5), 9 p.m. ET, TSN. You have to really, really love hockey to want to watch this one. I'm shuddering just thinking about it. Best part about this one is "R. Whitney" leads both teams in points and assists, Ryan for Edmonton and Ray for Phoenix. The sad part is Ryan has more assists than Ray has points. Ryan also doesn't have a goal.

Phoenix 3, Edmonton 1

Monday mania

Eight NHL games tonight and not a single one that starts after 7:30 p.m. ET. Really? What am I going to watch at 10?

Game of the night

Montreal (13-6-1) at Philadelphia (13-6-2), 7 p.m. ET, RDS. When last these teams met, Carey Price - who has made 10 straight starts - blanked the Flyers with 41 saves in a 3-0 victory. The Canadiens have also been involved in a shutout in three straight games, winning two and losing one. Overall, they've won five of six.

Conversely, goaltending for Philadelphia has been woeful, conceding 12 goals in the last two games, including that little eight-goal outburst against Tampa Bay. The Flyers did however become one of the few teams to win a game in Washington.

Philadelphia 3, Montreal 1

Another game of the night

Boston (11-5-2) at Tampa Bay (11-7-2), 7:30 p.m., Versus. Is it possible we have a goalie controversy brewing in Boston? Five goals in his last two games has caused Tim Thomas' GAA to balloon to an unhealthy and unacceptable 1.49, while Tuukka Rask has given up four goals in his last three starts to shrink his numbers to a much better 2.24 GAA. Five of Boston's 11 wins are via shutout and the team is much better on the road than at home (7-1-0).

The Lightning hit a rough patch a while back, losing six of seven games. Then they went on the road and won three straight. Mike Smith is current goalie du jour, winning his last start and earning a relief win in that wild Philadelphia game. Steven Stamkos actually lost an assist after that game so he has only 34 points, not 35, and he was held pointless last game, so he's really got to start stepping up his game.

Boston 3, Tampa Bay 1

Mismatch of the night

Washington (14-5-2) at New Jersey (5-13-2), 7 p.m. Alex Ovechkin had two goals and three points as the Capitals dropped seven on a Martin Brodeur-led Devils in the teams' first meeting. Now, New Jersey is even worse and starting Johan Hedberg. "Lamb, slaughter" comes to mind.

Washington 6, New Jersey 1

Are these teams good?

Nashville (9-6-3) at Columbus (12-6-0), 7 p.m. The Predators lost five straight games, then won four of their next five, but lost the one to Toronto. Three of those wins came in a shootout. Their leading goal scorers are Steve Sullivan, Marcel Goc and Patric Hornqvist, each with five, the lowest total of any NHL team leader.

If not for Mathieu Garon (5-1, 1.08 GAA, .960%), I don't know if we're talking about the Blue Jackets and playoffs.

Columbus 3, Nashville 1

Quick hits

Calgary (8-10-1) at Rangers (11-9-1), 7 p.m. Jarome Iginla's remembering he's good. Henrik Lundqvist isn't.

Dallas (10-7-1) at Toronto (7-9-3), 7 p.m. This just in: Brad Richards is involved in trade rumors.

Pittsburgh (11-8-2) at Florida (9-9-0), 7:30 p.m. Sidney Crosby's playing really well and Florida's not too bad either (6-4-0 last 10.)

Los Angeles (13-6-0) at Ottawa (9-10-1), 7:30 p.m. If he could stay healthy, we'd talk about Justin Williams as being a pretty good hockey player. Ottawa's been out-scored 17-4 its last three games.

New York 4, Calgary 2
Dallas 4, Toronto 1
Pittsburgh 3, Florida 2
Los Angeles 5, Ottawa 2

Z saves game; Ducks bad again

Zetterberg's late pair sets up Lidstrom's winner
Detroit looked dead and buried. Then the Red Wings remembered they were playing Calgary.

Henrik Zetterberg scored twice in the final nine minutes, including the game-tying goal with 3.2 seconds remaining, and Nicklas Lidstrom scored early in overtime to give Detroit a 5-4 comeback victory over the Flames. Lidstrom finished with three points, as did Pavel Datsyuk, who scored his seventh of the season.

Jarome Iginla's resurgence continued with a pair of goals and one assist. Jimmy Howard's struggles also remain ongoing; yes, he got the win with 23 saves but he's also given up 11 goals in his last three starts.

Well, so much for that
Remember when Anaheim was good again, with a six-game winning streak? Yeah, about that.

Despite out-shooting visiting Edmonton 40-25, Anaheim dropped its fifth consecutive game, 4-2 to the Oilers, who got 38 saves from Devan Dubnyk. I mention this every now and then, but Dubnyk was not named one of the game's Three Stars. Go figure. I'm sure those 19 first-period saves were all easy and didn't help keep his team in the game when it was out-shot 19-4.

Anyway, Ales Hemsky scored with 6:31 remaining to snap a 2-2 tie and Tom Gilbert's empty net goal sealed the win. Edmonton had taken a 2-0 lead on goals 1:41 apart by Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall. Anaheim responded with two goals 22 seconds apart from Bobby Ryan and Saku Koivu late in the second period.

Big. Bad. Buff.
Dustin Byfuglien, who earlier assisted on Nik Antropov's power play goal, gave Atlanta a 2-1 overtime victory over the Islanders when he lasered a shot past Rick DiPietro 1:30 into the extra frame. Andrew Ladd had two assists and Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves.

New York has now lost 13 - that's THIRTEEN - straight games. Dear God. The Islanders haven't scored more than two goals in a game all month and have just 10 goals in nine November games. You have to go back to Oct. 27, the second game of this losing streak, to find the last time New York scored three times.

An old friend wasn't very kind
Former Canuck Taylor Pyatt rubbed some more salt into Vancouver's growing wound.

Pyatt scored twice, including the 2-2 tiebreaking goal six minutes into the third period, and Phoenix knocked off Vancouver, 3-2, to give the Canucks their fourth straight loss. Pyatt entered the game with only one goal on the season.

Scottie Upshall also scored for Phoenix and Ilya Bryzgalov fended off 25 shots. Tanner Glass and Christian Ehrhoff scored for the Canucks, who dropped their second straight home game in regulation. Vancouver did not receive a power play in the game.

--I can't even imagine what it's like to be an Islanders fan right now. John Tavares isn't even close to pulling off a Steven Stamkos-like sophomore surge, their best goalie is a 41-year-old, their highest paid player is a guy who hasn't been in the NHL for three years... and this team started 4-1-2! They were moderately good! As bad as the Oilers are, as dreadfully impotent as New Jersey has been...I think the Islanders are the worst team in the league. Sad times.

--That Byfuglien trade is having some modicum of success for Atlanta.

--The funny thing? In my NHL 11 Be a Pro season, the Islanders have Byfuglien.

--If we want to talk about goalies who are playing well, let's look at Pavelec. In his last five starts, he's allowed only seven goals. He's pushing Chris Mason to the side and becoming the goalie the Thrashers have wanted and needed.

--Detroit's good.

--Calgary's not.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday's action

Calgary (8-10-0) at Detroit (12-3-2), 5 p.m. ET

I feel bad for the Flames. The Red Wings are coming off a rare home loss, albeit in overtime, and the thinking here is they're going to take it out on Calgary. The Flames, by the way, aren't good. Also, 17 different Red Wings have scored a goal this season. That seems like a lot. Only Ruslan Salei, Brian Rafalski, Doug Janik and Jakub Kindl have not. Rafalski was injured and while he hasn't scored he has seven assists in seven games.

Detroit 5, Calgary 2

Islanders (4-12-3) at Atlanta (8-9-3), 5 p.m.

The Thrashers are coming off a very impressive shutout win over Washington. Doesn't that all but guarantee they'll find a way to lose to the Islanders? We've seen stranger things this NHL season. You know, like Atlanta shutting out Washington.

New York 4, Atlanta 2

Edmonton (4-10-4) at Anaheim (10-9-3), 8 p.m.

The Oilers have an overtime and shootout loss in their current six-game slide. The other losses are all by at least four goals. Yikes. The Ducks were red hot for a while, at home, then went on the road and lost three straight. A home setback to Columbus means Anaheim has gone a week without winning a game. For the most part, the offense has been the culprit. There aren't many better solutions for stagnant scorers than playing Edmonton.

Anaheim 5, Edmonton 1

Phoenix (9-5-5) at Vancouver (10-6-3), 9 p.m.

The Canucks had been so good at home. Then the Blackhawks came to town and made the Canucks their bitch, and then some. Vancouver has lost three straight now and I would not want to be the Coyotes, even if they've won five straight. It's likely Vancouver heaps some kind of misery on Phoenix, either on the scoreboard or with, let's just say, some gritty, physical play.

Vancouver 4, Phoenix 2

Chicago rips Vancouver, again; CBJ sweeps California

Boom goes the red light
I'm trying to confirm this, but my sources indicate Roberto Luongo is adding a new sticker to his goalie helmet. It will read "Property of Chicago." 'cause the Blackhawks own him.

Four goals in a stretch of 10:36 in the second period spurred Chicago to a 7-1 beatdown of Vancouver, chasing Luongo after Patrick Sharp scored to make the score 4-0. Jonathan Toews, Troy Brouwer and Brent Seabrook also scored during this run and Marian Hossa potted three assists.

Fernando Pisani scored twice early in the third period and Patrick Kane kicked the extra point to go with his two assists. Corey Crawford made 27 saves, allowing only Mikael Samuelsson's power play goal late.

Garon leads Blue Jackets to 3-0 California trip
I said Columbus needs more consistent goaltending. Well, Mathieu Garon is providing it.

Garon posted his third shutout in four starts and Rick Nash scored a hat trick to lead the Blue Jackets over San Jose, 3-0. Garon, who made 35 saves, has given up just seven goals in seven appearances (six starts) and is putting some serious heat on Steve Mason. Columbus earned its first road sweep of the three California teams.

Nash now has nine goals in his last seven games.

Hey, I was right about something
I have to celebrate that when I can. It doesn't happen often.

Carey Price faced and stopped 30 shots and Montreal blanked Toronto, 2-0. Jeff Halpern had a shorthanded goal and Mike Cammalleri scored on the power play.

Here's the funny thing
The Devils have scored the fewest goals in the league yet they routinely out-shoot their opponents (average shots per game: 31.4; average shots against: 28.5) and get their share of 35 to 40-shot games. They had another Saturday. Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves and St. Louis edged New Jersey, 3-2. The Blues had 27 shots. Brad Winchester's goal early in the third period broke a 2-2 tie.

One is the loneliest number
--Tomas Vokoun made 39 saves and Mike Santorelli scored twice to lead Florida over the Islanders, 4-1.
--Mike Smith's 29 saves helped Tampa Bay edge Buffalo, 2-1. Adam Hall's goal midway through the second period snapped a 1-1 tie. Steven Stamkos did not record a point.

On the bright side
Marian Gaborik didn't score, right? Plenty of other Rangers did though in New York's 5-2 win over Minnesota. Five different players scored for New York and Martin Biron made 26 saves. Daniel Girardi, with two assists, was the only Ranger with multiple points.

Shoot 'em up, shoot 'em out
--Pekka Rinne made 21 saves through overtime and three more in the shootout as Nashville downed Carolina, 2-1. Martin Erat netted the shootout winner.
--Philadelphia blew leads of 3-1 and 4-3, conceding three power play goals in the game's final nine minutes, but recovered to knock off Washington, 5-4 in the shootout. The Flyers had nine power play chances to Washington's seven but converted just one. Brian Boucher made 33 saves.
--Michal Handzus had the only shootout goal in round six to give Los Angeles a 4-3 win over Boston. The Kings led 3-0 at one point. Jonathan Quick stopped 38 shots.
--Colorado blew a 3-0 lead but recovered to beat Dallas, 4-3, on Kevin Porter's goal in the fifth round of the shootout. Peter Budaj made 26 saves and Milan Hejduk scored two power play goals.

--I decided to be the Mad Channel Changer tonight and flip between every game every couple minutes. When I tuned in to the Philly-Washington game, not only was there a power play every time, but I came away pretty impressed with the Capitals' penalty killers. Very aggressive, never gave the Flyers any room to work.

--Does that fill my quota of "Nice things to say about Washington" for the season? I hope so.

--Dallas still has goalie issues. The Stars hoped they solved it with Kari Lehtonen and he had a nice start but he's got a ways to go.

--Nash is absolutely on fire.

--Know who's not good? New Jersey, the Islanders and Toronto. Not quality hockey teams.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Strong night of hockey on Saturday

Tonight's NHL schedule seems to have some pretty good games.

Must-see games

1. Los Angeles (12-6-0) at Boston (11-5-1), 7 p.m. ET

Do you like good goaltending? How's Jonathan Quick and Tim Thomas for you? Not only that, but the Bruins are still looking to figure out how to win at home while the Kings look for solutions on the road.

Kings 3, Bruins 2

2. Philadelphia (12-6-2) at Washington (14-5-1), 7 p.m.

Do you like a lot of goals? How's Danny Briere, Claude Giroux and Jeff Carter vs. Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin for you? Not only that, but the Capitals are incredible at home while... OK, that's as much symmetry to the first one as I can get. The Flyers are solid on the road and took the Caps to overtime last time these teams met.

Plus Philadelphia scored seven goals last time. OK, the Flyers gave up eight but hey, you can't have it all.

Capitals 5, Flyers 3

3. Chicago (10-10-2) at Vancouver (10-5-3), 10 p.m., CBC

OK, the Blackhawks aren't good this season. They're average. But there's still a lot of talent there and this rivalry is becoming one of the more heated ones in the league. The Canucks, who have lost two straight games, haven't lost a regulation game at home yet.

Vancouver 4, Chicago 2

Not quite must-see but still high quality viewing

1. Columbus (11-6-0) at San Jose (9-5-4), 10:30 p.m.

The Blue Jackets, 7-3-0 in their last 10, are tearing through California with wins in Los Angeles and Anaheim. They've been particularly strong in November, winning five of seven games. Rick Nash is heating up with six goals in his last six games.

San Jose is coming off consecutive, mirror-image collapses, allowing two-goal leads to vanish in the third period then lose in overtime. Despite being in fourth in the Pacific, the Sharks can find themselves tied for first (on points) depending how the night goes.

San Jose 3, Columbus 2

2. Colorado (11-7-1) at Dallas (10-7-0), 8 p.m.

I know the Stars are in last but they can score a lot and depending how Kari Lehtonen's feeling on a given night, they can give up a lot of goals too. Dallas features some of the brightest young talent in guys like Loui Eriksson and James Neal along with veterans Brad Richards and Brenden Morrow. Dallas also has two straight impressive wins over Anaheim and San Jose.

The Avalanche, with guys like Paul Stastny, Chris Stewart and Matt Duchene, are one of the hotter teams in the league. They've won three straight.

Dallas 4, Colorado 2

3. Rangers (10-9-1) at Minnesota (10-6-2), 8 p.m.

I'd make a "I know, I'm surprised I put the Wild on this list too" joke but after the last crack I made about them made me look like an idiot, I'll hold off this time. Not only that, Minnesota is 7-3 in its last 10 with a three-game winning streak. Plus, the dual "boo" calls tonight should be fun; one for Marian Gaborik, the other for Derek Boogaard, though I'm thinking only one will be derisive.

Minnesota 3, New York 1

At least one player is good in this one

Tampa Bay (10-7-2) at Buffalo (8-10-3), 7 p.m. - Steven Stamkos is always worth watching, especially when he's up against a goalie like Ryan Miller. Plus Tampa Bay's goaltending is like a train wreck. You don't want to watch but you can't stop yourself.

Lightning 5, Buffalo 3

Sneaky good, maybe, sort of game

Nashville (8-6-3) at Carolina (9-9-1), 7 p.m.

I don't know if either of these teams are what we'd call "good" but they're at least competitive. There's nothing exciting about Nashville but the Predators are never a walk-over. After seeing them up close last night, I totally understand how Carolina consistently gives up or scores seven goals a game. Defense is very much optional and they find cracks in the attacking zone.

Carolina 4, Nashville 2

At least this is a rivalry game

Low on the list of games to watch? Toronto (7-8-3) at Montreal (12-6-1), 7 p.m., NHL Network. Carey Price against the Maple Leafs offense seems like a mismatch but we've seen many times that it doesn't always play out like that.

Montreal 3, Toronto 1

Back away and no one gets hurt

Florida (8-9-0) at Islanders (4-11-3), 7 p.m.
New Jersey (5-12-2) at St. Louis (10-5-3), 8 p.m.

At least the Blues are good. By the way, New Jersey's third-string goalie is starting.

Florida 3, New York 1
St. Louis 5, New Jersey 0

Pavelec's Revenge; Iginla's resurrection

Pavelec stymies Caps with shutout
The last time we saw Ondrej Pavelec start against Washington, he ended up fainting, suffered a concussion and was out of action for some time. Now he's joined Ryan Miller in a fairly exclusive club.

Pavelec became just the second goalie to shut out Washington since the start of the 2009-10 season, making 29 saves as Atlanta earned an impressive 5-0 victory. The Capitals hadn't been blanked since last Dec. 9, when Miller stopped 35 shots in a 3-0 victory.

The Thrashers used some of Washington's typical magic. They got an early goal from Ben Eager less than three minutes into the game, then later in the first period struck twice in 15 seconds on goals by Nik Antropov and Evander Kane. All three players also had an assist. Dustin Byfuglien and Alexander Burmistrov scored as well.

I'm not dead yet
Anyone else know the "Bring out your dead!" scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Just when we were about to put Jarome Iginla on the cart, he pipes up and claims he's not dead. Unfortunately I'm sure one of the Sutter boys or Olli Jokinen will club him back to suckdom.

Iginla netted a hat trick, doubling his goal total for the season in the process, and led Calgary to a 7-2 rout of Chicago. Iginla scored twice in the second period to turn a 2-1 Flames lead into 4-1. His third goal came with 1:50 remaining.

Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves. David Moss had a goal and two assists, Alex Tanguay posted three helpers, and Curtis Glencross, Niklas Hagman and Brendan Morrison each had a goal and assist.

OK, so I was way wrong
I theorized that Minnesota starting backup Jose Theodore against Detroit was basically waving a white flag of surrender. I might have miscalculated.

Theodore made 41 saves - apparently easy ones, since he wasn't one of the Three Stars - and John Madden scored late in overtime to give Minnesota a 4-3 comeback win over the Red Wings. Mikko Koivu scored with 1:23 to play to force the extra frame. Brent Burns and my boy Cal Clutterbuck also scored and Nick Schultz and Martin Havlat posted two assists each.

Happy return
Craig Anderson returned to Colorado's lineup and stopped 25 shots as the Avalanche knocked off the Rangers, 5-1. Matt Duchene had a goal and two assists.

Back on track?
--After a rough go of things, St. Louis tightened up its game defensively, allowing only 20 shots through to Ty Conklin, who fended off 18 of them, and the Blues defeated Ottawa, 5-2. Patrik Berglund, Brad Boyes and Carlo Colaiacovo had a goal and assist each.
--Buffalo won its fifth game in the last seven thanks in large part to Ryan Miller's 34 saves against Los Angeles in a 4-2 win. Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek had a goal and assist.

Masonry work
Steve Mason bounced back from a bad outing and stopped a whopping 47 shots as Columbus hung on to defeat Anaheim, 4-3. Chris freaking Clark and Mike Commodore had a goal and assist each for the Blue Jackets.

Gimmick finishes
--Sidney Crosby had a goal, three assists and shootout goal to lift Pittsburgh to a 5-4 win over Carolina. The Hurricanes got Jussi Jokinen's second goal and fourth point of the night with 52 seconds left to force extra hockey. Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves, Chris Kunitz scored twice and Evgeni Malkin had three assists for Pittsburgh.
--In yet another late-tying goal-finish, Wojtek Wolski forced overtime by scoring with 35 seconds left and Phoenix defeated Edmonton in the shootout, 4-3. Radim Vrbata had a goal and two assists and Ray Whitney three helpers. Eric Belanger won the shootout in round five and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 27 shots.

--I can't take Columbus seriously until that team gets more consistency, especially Mason. The BJs are starting to put the puck in the net more regularly but they'll go as Mason goes.

--I don't know what was more surprising Friday, the Wild winning in Detroit or Iginla scoring a goal, let alone three.

--OK, Atlanta blanking Washington is in the discussion too. The Capitals are nearly unbeatable at home but they're a bit different on the road.

--I met Alyssa Milano. Bam. Thank heaven the Penguins won though; crazy crap going on in the city nearly led to some road-rage incidents after. If they'd lost, especially after giving up that late goal, I might be in prison right now.

--Critical win for the Blues. Their season wasn't in danger of falling to pieces just yet but they needed to stop that horrid slide quick.

--Should we make anything of LA's 4-5-0 record on the road? They're like the Caps in that sense.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A look at Friday

Carolina (9-9-0) at Pittsburgh (10-8-2), 7 p.m. ET

Of all the teams I'm done trying to get a read on it's Carolina. Do you know that this month, in eight games, either the Hurricanes or their opponent scored at least seven goals SIX times, including four straight? Carolina has won games 7-2 and 7-1 (twice) and lost by scores of 7-4, 8-1 and 7-2. W. T. F.

Pittsburgh has won three of its last four games but is still looking for its first two-game winning streak at home. And I can confirm the rumors that Penguins ownership and management petitioned the NHL to allow teams the option to decline power play chances, but the request was denied.

Also, Justin Peters is in goal for Carolina and he owns Pittsburgh.

Carolina 4, Pittsburgh 1

Los Angeles (12-5-0) at Buffalo (7-10-3), 7:30 p.m.

This is LA's ninth road game out of 18 but it feels like the Kings are always at home. They're certainly not as successful away from Staples Center, where they're just 4-4-0. Jonathan stinking Bernier gets the nod, hoping to erase the memory of that little six-goal outing his previous time out.

Wednesday's regulation loss to Washington ended a string of five straight Buffalo games that went into overtime or beyond. That's the most interesting thing I can think of to say about the Sabres right now.

Los Angeles 4, Buffalo 3

Minnesota (9-6-2) at Detroit (12-3-1), 7:30 p.m.

Based on the information I've gleaned, there's a trend in the NHL tonight with backup goalies playing against conference opponents so coaches can save their starters for a non-conference game Saturday. Carolina with Peters is one. Minnesota with Jose Theodore is another. With all due respect to the Wild, starting Theodore seems to be akin to waving a white flag. The Red Wings are really good at home, so one would think Todd Richards would put his best goalie on the ice.

I dunno, maybe like with Peters and the Penguins, Theodore has very good career numbers against Detroit. The Red Wings have won seven of eight.

Detroit 5, Minnesota 2

Washington (14-4-1) at Atlanta (7-9-3), 7:30 p.m., NHL Network

Gee, I wonder if this is a contract year for Alexander Semin (14 goals, 25 points to lead the team.)

Again, with all due respect, but one of the few constants in life it seems is the Thrashers are not and will not be a good hockey team. They're kinda getting better, but I dunno.

Washington 5, Atlanta 2

Ottawa (9-9-1) at St. Louis (9-5-3), 8 p.m.

Bad times for both these teams. The Senators had that whole "coach's daughter suicide" thing, while the Blues are reeling on the ice, out-scored a mind-boggling 29-12 in a current five-game losing streak. Ottawa's last three losses were by a combined 18-4 score but the Senators at least have a 2-0 win over Boston mixed in there.

St. Louis 3, Ottawa 1

Phoenix (8-5-5) at Edmonton (4-10-3), 9 p.m.

No clue how they've done it, but the Coyotes have won four straight games. It helps when you get hat tricks in two of the games (Vernon Fiddler and Ray Whitney) and give up only one goal in the other two. The Oilers... well, they already have one six-game losing streak this season and they're working on another. They're at five right now.

Phoenix 3, Edmonton 1

Rangers (10-8-1) at Colorado (10-7-1), 9 p.m.

Craig Anderson returns to the pipes for the Avalanche, who fared pretty well in his absence, winning six of 10 games. Three of New York's last four final scores were 3-2.

New York 3, Colorado 2 (Why not?)

Chicago (10-9-2) at Calgary (7-10-0), 9:30 p.m., TSN

Congrats to the Blackhawks, who finally figured out how to beat Edmonton. Congrats also to the Sutters for ruining Jarome Iginla's career.

Chicago 4, Calgary 2

Columbus (10-6-0) at Anaheim (10-8-3), 10 p.m.

Pop quiz: Who has the best road record in the West? That's right, the Blue Jackets. (OK, I guess technically Chicago and Colorado have more points but they've lost more games, so I'm giving it to Columbus. And it's Nick's my blog so I can do what I want.)

Pop quiz #2: Who has one of the best home records in the West? That's right, the Ducks. Something's gotta give.

Anaheim 4, Columbus 2

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Philly, Tampa burn out red lights; Deja vu for Sharks

Sorry, Carolina
We know the league gave you the All-Star game this year, but the NHL decided to play it earlier, like Thursday in Philadelphia. Looking at the lineups of Tampa Bay and the Flyers, in some ways it could be mistaken for an all-star game.

The defense and goaltending sure resembled the ones usually seen in the midseason exhibition.

In a game that saw neither starting goalie last beyond the first period and seemed to have a goal every five seconds, it was Nate freaking Thompson who scored the game-winner in a wild and crazy 8-7 Tampa Bay victory. Steven Stamkos netted a hat trick and had two assists and Martin St. Louis tied a Lightning record with five assists.

The teams combined for the most first-period goals in the league in almost 19 years (nine, 5-4 Philadelphia.) Thompson scored the only goal of the third period to snap a 7-7 tie. It was Tampa's first lead of the game. The Lightning trailed by scores of 2-0, 5-3 and 7-5.

I enjoyed this exchange regarding this game, from the wonderful guys over on NESN:

Jack Edwards: "Steven Stamkos is taking this leading-the-league-in-scoring thing seriously. It's 7-7 now, Stamkos has three goals and two assists."

Andy Brickley: "Well, where was he on the other two goals?"

Edwards, laughing: "Slacker."

Stamkos now has 19 goals and 35 points, both league-high totals.

No one else on Tampa Bay had more than two points. Thompson also made a couple key defensive plays in the final minute to preserve the win. Mike Smith relieved Dan Ellis and made 22 saves to get the win. Ellis was pulled after allowing four goals in the first period.

Philadelphia starter Sergei Bobrovsky was replaced after the first period, also giving up four. There can't be too many times when both starting goalies were pulled because of ineffectiveness and not injury. Nikolay Zherdev led Philadelphia with two goals and one assist. No one else had more than two points.

Two goals were scored in under a minute apart five times, including 14 seconds (twice) and 16 seconds. Check a box score for full details, we'll be here forever if I relay everything that happened.

Fine timing for Ribeiro, Stars
Dallas center Mike Ribeiro hasn't had a bad season. He's tallied 14 assists in 16 games. He's contributing, he just hasn't been scoring. He picked a good time to start.

Ribeiro scored his first two goals of the season, first with 2:06 remaining to tie the game then again in overtime to lead Dallas over San Jose, 5-4. Ribeiro's first of the night came 29 seconds after James Neal cut the Stars' deficit to 4-3.

For the Sharks, the loss was just like Wednesday's. San Jose had a disallowed goal early in the third period, blew a two-goal lead and lost in overtime. Thursday, Patrick Marleau's second goal was disallowed as he hit it with a high stick. That would've put the Sharks ahead, 5-2.

Neal had two goals and an assist. Brad Richards scored once and set up two others. Brenden Morrow posted two assists and Kari Lehtonen made 35 saves.

Dallas scored the game's first two goals before San Jose netted the next four, then the Stars got the last three.

Look in Beantown for good goalies
Don't look now, but Tuukka Rask is remembering how to be a good goalie. That gives Boston a real scary 1-2 combo.

Rask stopped 41 shots and Milan Lucic scored a hat trick in support to lead the Bruins over Florida, 4-0. Lucic's first goal held up until the final 5:18 remaining, when he scored twice in 15 seconds to increase Boston's lead. The story in the meantime was Rask, who made at least a dozen saves in each period.

Nathan Horton tallied assists on each Lucic goal. Patrice Bergeron had two and Shawn Thornton scored late. Tomas Vokoun made 36 saves in defeat.

I give up trying to predict this league
Nashville scores three quick goals on Toronto, holds leads of 3-0 and 4-1 and loses 5-4. What do the Predators do for an encore?

Right, march into Montreal and earn an impressive victory. Of course. Nashville blanked Montreal, 3-0, behind 30 saves from Pekka Rinne. Marcel Goc scored twice and Cal O'Reilly once.

Meet and greet
Is it too early to stick a fork in Martin Brodeur and the Devils? It's a risky proposition, but...

New Jersey held a players-only meeting following a 3-1 loss in Toronto. Maybe this one will work; thanks to Tom Gulitti, who reports it's not the first players-only meeting the Devils have held this season but it was the longest.

Brodeur allowed two goals in two periods before being replaced prior to the start of the third period because of discomfort in his already-injured right elbow. According to Gulitti, Brodeur will see the specialist who operated on Brodeur's elbow two years ago.

Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg scored for the Maple Leafs. Nazem Kadri posted two assists and Jonas Gustavsson stopped 29 shots.

--So when does Lou Lamoriello send Gary Bettman a letter asking him to nullify the Ilya Kovalchuk contract again? Ten times the Devils have scored one goal or none in 19 games. Four other times they've scored just two goals. Under the new math, that's 14 games out of 19 when New Jersey hasn't scored more than twice in a game. They've won only two of those contests.

--The Zach Parise injury hurts the Devils, but Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner have to figure out a way to score. This team won the division as recently as, oh, last season.

--Was Bobrovsky tired? He made his 12th straight start as a 22-year-old rookie. Maybe fatigue contributed to his poor outing.

--I wonder how many times Stamkos has to score on a one-timer from the left (goalie's right) circle on the power play before teams figure out a way to defend that play. Certainly can't stop the shot, so got to prevent him from getting it away. He's really freaking good, by the way. I'm breaking news here.

--Versteeg is heating up. That'll only help Toronto.

--San Jose is missing the huge physical presence Douglas Murray provides. Dallas' last three goals all came from near the crease.

Thursday's quickie preview

Super quick preview, for some reason the Internet on my computer isn't working but my iPhone is.

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia

The Lightning is basically Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and a bunch of other guys. Oh and the "wait, is he good?" Brett Clark. The Flyers are stacked.

Philly 5, Tampa 2

Florida at Boston

Theoretically a low scoring game but we could see both backups, Scott Clemmensen and Tuukka Rask, so maybe we will see some goals.

Boston 3, Florida 2

New Jersey at Toronto

Just....ugh. Even if the Leafs scored a lot last time. Probably used up the goals.

New Jersey 2, Toronto 1

Nashville at Montreal

The Preds scored a lot last time and still lost. Carey Price? Yeah, he's good.

Montreal 3, Nashville 0

San Jose at Dallas

Tough loss for the Sharks last night, good win for the Stars last game. Dallas is becoming an enigma, don't know if they're good or not.

Dallas 4, San Jose 2

Horrid day turns worse for Ottawa; Kings stopped at home

Staal's hat trick, five points fuel Carolina's rout of Ottawa
No jokes for this one. Just a sad, sad story. Wednesday was bad enough for the Senators, who delayed their trip to Carolina to attend the funeral of assistant coach Luke Richardson's daughter, who committed suicide on Friday. Tragic.

Then they had to go play a hockey game, and there would be no good vibes.

Whether it was the small downtime between arrival and gametime - Ottawa didn't arrive in Raleigh until the afternoon - or the emotional distress, the Senators fell behind early and often as Eric Staal scored a hat trick and added two assists in Carolina's 7-1 victory.

Ottawa won the first game since the tragedy but have lost its last two games by a combined 12-1 score.

Chad LaRose had two goals and two assists and Cam Ward made 23 saves for Carolina.

Blue Jackets get best of Kings in LA
Los Angeles had allowed only one team to score more than one goal at home all season in posting an 8-0 record. Rick Nash alone scored twice.

Nash broke a 3-3 tie with 3:12 remaining in the third period then added an empty net goal to seal a surprising 5-3 Columbus victory in Los Angeles. The teams exchanged goals throughout the contest until the Blue Jackets scored three times in the third period, including Jared Boll's second of the season that made the score 3-3.

Andrew Murray had a goal and assist and Steve Mason stopped 33 shots for Columbus. Jonathan Quick, who had been performing so well this season, made only 21 saves.

At least these guys are special
In case you haven't heard me rant before, Pittsburgh's power play sucks donkey balls. The penalty killing is awfully good though.

The Penguins killed off all five Vancouver power plays and their fourth-ranked penalty killing unit scored the first shorthanded goal of the season against the league's No. 2 ranked power play en route to a 3-1 victory over the Canucks. Vancouver's was the power play that has more road man-advantage goals than the Penguins do total.

Max Talbot had the shortie that made it 2-0 and also assisted on Sidney Crosby's game-opening score. Arron Asham made it 3-0 after a madcat scramble in the goal crease. Marc-Andre Fleury had his best game of the season, stopping 29 shots. Dan Hamhuis scored for Vancouver.

Working late
--Mittens scored with 1:24 remaining in overtime to lift Minnesota over Anaheim, 2-1. Niklas Backstrom was good, with 27 saves, allowing only Teemu Selanne's power play goal. Martin Havlat made an appearance by scoring his second of the year.
--Just after I said I was glad I didn't start Peter Budaj, Colorado scored twice in the third period to force overtime, where Kevin Porter scored to give the Avalanche a nifty 4-3 comeback win over San Jose. Budaj finished with 40 saves. Chris Stewart had a goal and assist in the final frame for Colorado.

Vince Lombardi says: What the hell's going on out here?
Seriously, what's up with the Blues now? Wow. After being so unbeatable, St. Louis suddenly looks like an AHL team. Detroit scored four times in a span of 3:14 late in the third period to rout the Blues, 7-3. Jaroslav Halak gave up all seven goals on 31 shots. Dan Cleary scored twice and Brian Rafalski posted three assists. Jimmy Howard made 33 saves.

The Blues have lost five straight and been out-scored - get this - by a whopping 29-12 margin (really, 28-12 but one loss was a shootout loss.)

--Tim Thomas made 34 saves and Boston edged the Rangers, 3-2.
--Martin St. Louis had a goal and two helpers and Dan Ellis made 34 saves to lead Tampa Bay over the Islanders, 4-2. Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist.
--Washington opened up a 3-0 lead and held on to beat Buffalo, 4-2. Michal Neuvirth had 31 saves and Matt Bradley and Alexander Semin each had a goal and assist.
--Tomas Vokoun's 38 saves led Florida over Atlanta, 2-1.
--Ilya Bryzgalov fended off 39 Calgary shots for Phoenix in a 3-1 victory.
--Jonathan Toews scored a natural hat trick and Marty Turco stopped all of 18 shots for Chicago in a 5-0 whitewash of Edmonton.

No thoughts tonight. I'm tired.