yankee hockey

SPECIAL PLAYOFFS WEEKEND UPDATE

I’m currently watching the Rangers/Capitals game. This has been the best series in the East. I expected Washington to win both games at home but they’ve run into a monster goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. The more I watch this Rangers team, the more I believe they can go really far into these playoffs. They remind me of the Sweden team Lundvist won a gold medal with. They have some speed, some skill, some size… the only thing they are missing is a really good puck moving defense. Nik Antropov was the perfect pick-up (and for only a second!), he can complete the plays started by Scott Gomez, Markus Naslund, and Chris Drury. Even if New York wins today, I still think this will be a long series, Washington is too skilled offensively to allow a single goaltender to sweep them.

The series in the East that was supposed to be the most exciting, Flyers/Penguins, has been so very boring. Yes I know they went into overtime yesterday, but there was no drama, it was obvious the Penguins were going to win. It’s too bad, for awhile it seemed that the Flyers had it figured out, but then they started playing scared again. When you play scared you start making mistakes and taking penalties… see the overtime 5-3 for an example. The Flyers really need Darrien Hatcher to come back from his injury. Hatcher is such a great defensemen, he made me want to like the Dallas Stars. I couldn’t, of course, because how can they take a team from Minnesota and move it to Dallas? Plus, in ’99, Brett Hull’s foot was so in the blue paint (it was a stupid rule, but it was still a rule). Hatcher isn’t afraid of anything. If I had to travel through the mystical Realm of Spiders (where everything is spiders) I’d want Hatcher there to carry me. If I had to perform an exorcism I’d want Hatcher there to hold the possessed down. They should make stuffed Darrien Hatcher dolls for children who are afraid of the dark. The point is Hatcher wouldn’t let the Penguins run all over the place like they have been. If the Flyers can’t start playing with confidence it’s going to be a short boring series.

In the West the Blues/Canucks series is the best hockey I’ve ever seen. I guess that’s what happens when the two hottest teams in the league meet in the post-season. The Canucks are up 2-0 in the series, but there should be no shame in the Blues lockerroom. They haven’t lost a game, the games were won by the Canucks and Luongo. Luongo is proving that he really is the best goaltender in the game now. Whatever is in the water in Vancouver the two teams need to bottle it and bring it to St Louis cause these teams are playing better then anyone could have imagined. I hope it’s as electric in St Louis as it was in Vancouver. Last night the players couldn’t even hear the whistles.

I’m looking forward to the second game of the Flames/Blackhawks series. The ‘Hawks started the first game very nervous, but by the end were playing with the confidence they had in the regular season. Calgary is going to see a different team at the start of game two. I wonder if they can match the intensity and tenacity of the young Chicago stars.

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THE SEASON THAT WAS

Well folks, the end of the season is upon us, and the reason for the season is about to start, so what better time then now to look back on all the significant events that have transpired through 2008-2009 in the NHL.

Injuries Galore:

There are injuries every season, but has any season seen an IR list like this year? It started small with Erik Johnson of the Blues hurting his knee by getting his foot stuck between the brake and accelerator of a golf cart during spring training. The knee required surgery and he was out for the season. Then Burnaby Joe Sakic ended up hurting his back big time, missing a significant chunk of the season. And then, with his return on the horizon, he gets his hand stuck in a snow blower, requiring surgery to repair it. Sakic is hoping to play the last three games this season. I had believed that this would be his last season. I think now he’ll come back, he wants to end it on a full season. But the Avs trouble didn’t end there, their young star Paul Stastny ended up getting injured not once… but twice! The first time missing more then 20 games, the second time… well he’s still out. Mike Richards, he of post-season glory and expensive off-season contract, ended up breaking his wrist early in the season and missing a lot of games. Then, in his long anticipated first game back… he broke his other wrist, out for the rest of the season.

In the goalie category the league lost it’s two best goaltenders long term to injury. Martin Brodeur tore a tendon in his elbow and lost 16 weeks to injury, the longest period of time he’s been out in his career. On the other coast Roberto Luongo suffered a pulled groin muscle, and after reaggravating it a few weeks later trying to come back early, ended up missing more then two months. Will it hurt his Vezina chances? Maybe. And then Ryan Miller goes down at the most inopportune time, leaving Buffalo without a solid netminder, and out of the playoffs. And I think we’re all done talking about DiPietro and his injury problems. How’s that fifteen year contract going Long Island?

In the Sharks category… who hasn’t been injured? Their entire D-corps has been out at one point or another, their starting goaltender went down… hell, I’m surprised HP Pavillion hasn’t been placed on the IR. The worst of it has been happening recently. That’s what we call a case of BAD TIMING.

Record Breakers:

Brodeur came back into the spotlight by winning his 552 game, breaking Patrick Roy’s all-time record. I’m sure New Jersey was expecting to celebrate that earlier in the year, they should be glad they got to celebrate it at all. In Washington Mike Green managed not to just break the team goal scoring record for consecutive games… he managed to break the league record (for defensemen). Green is a phenomenal offensive player… will it be enough to garner him a Norris Trophy? Also in Washington, Alexander Ovechkin became the first player to score 50 goals three times in a Capitals uniform, further justifying his “Greatest-Player-In-The-Game” status.

Melrose, we hardly knew ye:

In the most celebrated coaching hire in decades (at least, if you work for ESPN), Barry Melrose started the year behind the bench in Tampa Bay. After trying to prove to both the fans and the players that old school, hard-working hockey is better then flash-and-dash hockey for about a week, he was fired and allowed to go back to hockey analysis where he really shines. Meanwhile new coach Rick Tocchet has managed to keep them in the Tavares hunt, apparently to management’s great satisfaction.

The trade that wasn’t:

For a year… A YEAR… all I heard about was how the Panthers were going to trade Jeremy Bouwmeester. Oh how the excitement built up as the trade deadline came close. Oh how the fans of teams in the hunt held their breath trying to imagine Bouwmeester on their blueline. What’s that? The Florida held onto him for their playoff run? And now they aren’t even in the top eight with only a few games left to play? And they’re going to lose him for nothing in the offseason? Way to go Florida… way to go.

Toronto institutes a “No Stanley Cup Ever” program:

Brian Burke, fresh off riding another GM’s players into the Stanley Cup, left Anaheim and moved over to Toronto where he immediately began to trade off players. The thing about Burke is, he hates prospects. Just ask Vancouver where his handy work left them hard pressed for the kind of young talent most other teams have in their line ups. Unfortunately for both Burke and Toronto, there isn’t a Stanley Cup winning team already in place for him to leech off of. You know what, as long as he can build a decent US Olympic team I’ll forgive him anything… not sure Leafs fans will though.

Wait a minute… penguins can’t fly!:

Oh, how much joy I had when I thought the Penguins were going to miss the post-season. Alas, you just can’t stop a team with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, no matter how much the rest of the team might try. Still, it is better for the league to have this team in the playoffs. Just please please please not another Stanley Cup appearance… I don’t think my delicate constitution could take that.

To celebrate, or not to celebrate:

Don Cherry stuck yet another foot in his mouth (how many does he have in there now… fourteen?) when he started complaining about Ovechkin’s exciting, over the top goal celebrations, and lauding Crosby’s stoic “Oh, did I just score? How intriguing.” nothing celebrations.¬† We all get that you enjoy things that blend into the background quietly Mr Cherry, especially your clothing (want some more examples). Look Grapes, anyone who watches Ovechkin score a goal… or a linemate for that matter, and doesn’t get excited for the game of hockey is either dead or a xenophobic loud mouth. And to think, because he’s on the CBC, Canadian citizens pay his salary.

Well, there’s been plenty more including a great Winter Classic, some incredible rookie sensations, a few veteran comebacks, and even a fight or two. But there is one event that we should not, ever, let slip past our notice this season.

Colleen Howe, Mrs Hockey, passed away at the age of 76. They say behind every good man is a great woman, and never was it more true then in this case. Mrs Hockey not only supported her husband emotionally, she supported him professionally too, acting as his manager. She was instrumental in getting hockey players the kinds of competitive contracts they have today. When she began as Gordie’s manager he was the third highest player on the team, despite being by far the best. Thanks to the negotiating skills of Colleen, the Red Wings were forced to give him the raise he deserved. She’s been honoured more times then I can list, and her death is likely the reason that the Hockey Hall of Fame will, from now on, be allowing women to be honoured. The passing of Mrs Howe is a sad and tragic event for anyone who loves hockey, and so it is with great regret that I make it the final moment of note this season.

GOALIE GODS

Posted in Buffalo, Calgary, Columbus, Dallas, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Players, predictions, Prospects, Vancouver by yankhockey on March 16, 2009

Martin Brodeur tied Patrick Roy’s all-time wins record over the weekend. Add to that the fact that he is only a few shutouts behind the current record and there is little you can say against him being named the greatest goaltender of to play the game. Some people might say that he is a few Stanley Cups away from being the greatest, but consider the era he plays in. There are thirty teams in the league now, and all of them are competitive. In years past, when the league¬† expanded, the new teams suffered from a lack of available talent, but with the arrival of European players, as well as better youth programs in the US and Canada, the talent pool is so big that many players of an NHL level of play are playing in the AHL or European leagues.

But I’m not here to argue Broduers case, he’s argued that enough with his play, I’m here to argue whether any goaltender we’re watching now will ever beat his wins total. So let’s look at the usual suspects.

Roberto Luongo:

The heir apparent of Brodeurs goaltending kingdom certainly has made a case for himself for the last four years. The problem is, unlike Broduer, Luongo spent a lot of time backstopping a horrible team; the Panthers. He just racked up too many losses in his early career to catch up. Ever after winning more then thirty (more then forty even) games in the last four seasons he still has a losing record.

Brodeur’s first four full seasons looked thusly:

27-11-8, 19-11-8, 34-30-12, and 37-14-13

Luongo’s:

12-24-7, 16-33-4, 20-34-7, and 25-33-14

Miikka Kiprusoff:

He leads the league in wins this year, but don’t let that fool you. He’s fallen off his game since he backstopped the Flames to the finals. As of the writing of this column, in the last four games he has let in well over twenty goals. He was doing the same thing at the start of the year, giving up twelve goals in his first two games alone. He’s done people, his fifteen minutes are up.

Marty Turco:

An interesting case could be made for Turco. He’s been a solid starter since he started his career, and has played in front of a winning team that entire time. However, this year he has proved with his play that he benefited from Dallas being one of the most defensively responsible teams in front of him. With their defense older and depleted this year he has struggled to win games at times and has given up far too many goals. He just doesn’t have enough years left to pull out the 300+ wins he needs.

Ryan Miller:

In the last couple of years Ryan Miller has really shown himself to be an elite goaltender. The only problem is he’s already 28 and this is only his third year as a starter. Miller is good, really good, especially because he can make a bad team good. But it looks like it will be too little too late for Miller.

Henrik Lundqvuist:

Now things are getting interesting. Lundqvuist is a great goaltender backstopping the only team in the league who can both attract and afford star players. Even though the Rangers don’t appear to be poised to compete for the Cup anytime soon, let alone a division title, Lundqvuist can win 30+ games a season through talent alone. He’s young, he’s good, and if he can stay healthy he may be able to compete for the wins title.

Carey Price:

If he starts playing like he did last year and shows that this year is just a sophomore slump Price could made a go at the wins title. However, if he was simply playing above his level last year and we’ll be seeing the Price of this year continue into the years to come the he won’t even be close.

Steve Mason:

The young phenom that is Mason is the best chance, in my mind, to make a go at this record. He is only twenty and will end up winning thirty this year. Not only that, if his numbers continue to improve, he may even make a go at the shutouts record. If he wins 35 every year for the next sixteen years, bringing him to Brodeurs current age, he’ll have 560, beating what Brodeur has now.

WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOING ON

Let’s see, what’s happened since the last post I wrote. Ok, we got five jerseys unveiled, two numbers retired, two devastating injuries, and a partridge in a pear tree. God, where to begin? Frankly, I don’t want to start anywhere because all of these occurrences just make me mad. The jerseys are horrible, one of the retired numbers doesn’t make any sense, and the injuries could cause their teams all kinds of troubles this season (for Dallas losing Morrow it could mean the deepest part of the sewer, for Vancouver and Luongo it may mean missing the post season). But, I am a hockey writer, and as a hockey writer I must remove my own misgivings to properly cover the news of the game, so let’s get on with it. Because of the length of today’s entry there will be no questions at the end.

IF INGESTED, USE THIRD JERSEY TO INDUCE VOMITTING:

In the weekend of weekends for third jersey fans five new jerseys were introduced. The Sharks started things off with their new horrorshow of a sweater. It even has a name: BlackArmor. That loud banging sound you hear combined with a throbbing pain in your forehead is you hitting your head against your desk. Don’t be alarmed, it’s a reflex like sneezing, yawning, or laughing at people who buy this jersey. I’ve never thought San Jose had a particularly good jersey scheme, but it has seemed to work if their continued use of teal is any indication. But this is so very lame. Not Dallas Stars lame, but pretty sad for a such a great hockey market. I mean, is black a theme or something? And giving it a name? Ugh. The logo itself looks too much like an AHL or ECHL logo for my tastes. Well San Jose, you didn’t do any worse then anyone else this year.

After the Sharks it was the Ottawa Senators’ turn to show how not to spend money. Also, is it just me or does Dany Heatley trying to look intimidating just look silly. The guy is a great hockey player, but he still looks like he’s eighteen. Wow, it’s black, and it says “SENS”… incredible. It must have taken a six year old four minutes with a crayon to work that one out. And what’s in this “Back in Black” campaign? I realize that the Senators have had black in their jerseys forever, but I thought the main color was always red. Am I wrong about this? Did they have a period of time when they wore primarily black? Whatever the case, I hates it.

Then the Coyotes came out and said “We want to do something different.” And something different they did. I’d like to take a moment to thank the Coyotes for doing something that’s been sorely missing from this alternate jersey season: create something entirely new. Oh, it’s plenty ugly, but it has a new main logo, new shoulder logo, and “Coyotes” script mark on the pants. I don’t know what’s up with all the black, I actually really like the Coyotes’ red. I lived in Phoenix for a time and I could say with confidence that the earthen red they wear suits the city. Overall the jersey is totally unremarkable though. The main logo is way to small, the little red sleeve forearms look pathetic, and seriously what’s with the black?

Then it was time for the Kings to do something completely different. They said “We want to stand out from the crowd, be unique.” And so they went with black… Ok, maybe they did what everyone else did but they must have had a unique slogan…. right? Seriously… did all these teams hire the same damn people? I mean, is black the new black or something? Are they planning on rescuing some hockey players captured by the Vietcong in a daring midnight raid? The new logo is decent I guess, it’s more of a mish-mash of previous logos then something totally unique but it looks fine. I just swear, if I see one more black jersey I’m gonna punch Gary Bettman.

So then, on Sunday Tampa Bay ended the parade (well, not really, since the Bruins will be unveiling theirs later today). And all I can say about it is I LOVE IT! Sure, there’s a little black on the sleeves but look at all that blue! And if I’m not mistaken there’s a little bit of silver in there too. And white. Who cares if it’s the most boring piece of crap I’ve seen since Manos: The Hands of Fate, the colors make me feel so alive.

Alright, I’m done with that charade, it sucks, they all sucked, looking at them just makes me mad. So let’s move on to something more positive.

IF YOU DIDN’T REVEAL A THIRD JERSEY, RAISE YOUR BANNER:

On Sunday the Maple Leafs raised the number of former captain and home town favorite Wendell Clark. Cap’n Crunch’s number 17 went up into the rafters in Toronto to take it’s place amongst some of the games greats. He got the name Cap’n Crunch because of his brutal hits, as well as his awesome ‘stache. He was a scrapper, a body checker, and a bruiser. He could score some goals too, over 40 in ’93, but his role was the adrenalin gland of the Leafs. This number retirement is exactly what the whole concept was meant to represent. Clark is no hall of famer, he wasn’t the best player in his era. Hell, he wasn’t even the best player on his team. It wasn’t his point totals that retired his number, it was the love from his city, and his love back. This leaves Maple Leaf nation with a good feeling, they love Clark there, and have even after he left for other teams. That his number joins Ace Bailey’s is an honor well deserved.

In a more questionable retired Saturday, Montreal retired Patrick Roy’s number 33. We all should know enough about Patrick Roy to understand why they might do this, but for those new to the sport, let me give a brief history. Roy came into Montreal as a rookie and won the Stanley Cup right off. He won a bunch more games for them including another Stanley Cup (the last they have won). And then it all fell apart in one game. After letting in 9 goals in a period and a half Roy was finally pulled from the game. Feeling like his coach left him in just to humiliate him (they didn’t have a good relationship) Roy demanded and trade and never went in goal for the Canadiens again. He was traded to the Avalanche where he won two more Stanley Cups, became the winningest goaltender in NHL history, and uttered one of the best sports quotes of all time.

I can understand why anyone would want to retire Roy’s number. Colorado already has. The thing is… they hated Roy in Montreal for demanding that trade. After that trade the Canadiens had no success in the post season at all, if they even got there. It’s great that they are able to forgive, but you shouldn’t forget. A guy should go from arch-nemesis to in the rafters just cause his numbers are huge. Granted, he did a lot for that team while he was there, but he spit in their faces and stormed out. There’s no going back from that, or at least, there shouldn’t be. But, I guess love is blind and Patrick Roy is a French-Canadian hero. Just look at all the goaltender’s he’s inspired; Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Roberto Luongo, Jose Theodore. Ok, I’ll let this pass this one time, but don’t be doing anything like it again Montreal!

ALWAYS STRETCH BEFORE EXERCISING:

Ok, I’ll be brief. Brendan Morrow and Roberto Luongo both left games on Saturday with injuries. Morrow’s requires surgery and he is done for the year. Luongo’s is still undetermined, he will be having an MRI on Monday, but walked unaided to a press conference after the game so it doesn’t look too bad. Of the two Morrow’s is by far the most damaging to his team, and not just because it’s for the entire year. Dallas needs leadership and scoring, and Morrow brings them both. Without him they will be completely disheveled, like the Lost Boys without Peter Pan. The Canucks will miss Luongo, he’s one of the best goaltender’s in the league. But in his place Curtis Sanford won his second game in a row, and the Canucks have an amazing prospect by the name of Cory Schneider who not only rocked the pre-season, but is making complete fools out of AHL shooters posting a record of 10-1 with a .945 SAV% and a 1.37 GAA. Frankly, I’d really like to see what the kid can do in the big show, and I think Canucks’ fans will too as soon as they stop hyperventilating.