Saturday, February 28, 2009

San Jose at Montreal - Sat Feb 28: "He Shoots... He Almost Scores"

Well, the Sharks went into "this city is hockey" (written about on this blog last month) and did everything except for win Sat night. After a fast start, they then yet again figured out how to allow the first goal on the road (power play goal no less) and proceeded to allow two more 1st period goals for good measure.

They woke up in the 2nd with two fast goals and a ringing post shot just after. Beyond this... lots of chances with no more goals.

Shouldn't feel bad about the effort and I like the start of Boucher just to remind Nabokov that he's got to earn his #1 spot. One thing I do wonder is whether Claude Lemieux is really accomplishing anything that any number of rookies couldn't bring to the same roster spot. Me thinks once Torrey Mitchell is back, it might be tough to keep Messer Lemieux with the big club.

We'll see, though and it's likely to be entertaining.

The NHL "Code"

Fighting in the NHL is such an interesting thing. It's exciting to be sure, but also... well, I don't know how to describe it other than to say it's got odd circumstances around it.

What I mean by that is you hear long-time hockey people talk about it's important role in the game, but also decry the style in which it's executed today. The short jab whilst holding the jersey, the takedown, the non-removal of the helmet and visor... so many things for player/pugilists to remember as taboo, it's a wonder they even have time to fight.

I don't have an enormous opinion of fighting or the video below, but it does I think raise questions to consider...

- Should Lucic have stopped?
- Should the Ducks not have gotten all huffy with him just because they were losing big?
- Should the league do anything at all about fighting and "how it's done"?

Welcome to the Top Spot, San Jose

Guess it shouldn't be surprising... after being placed at the top of heap in the both the Yahoo! Sports NHL Power Rankings from Ross McKeon and the rankings from Allan Muir at CNNSI, San Jose goes and gets beaten 4-1 in Detroit by the Red Wings.

Well, it is only the regular season and San Jose is still an excellent team (along with those pesky Red Wings), but as a Sharks fan, I'd be quite happy to see them return to the form they showed early in the season.

However, they've got time and the ingredients to win the Cup are still there. Not the least of which is Captain Patrick Marleau. To this point, there's an excellent article from Darren Eliot at CNNSI titled "Marleau and Sharks all business" that details the reemergence from a tough start to last season.

Good stuff, hope it translates in the playoffs.

2010 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team Preview/Prediction from CNNSI

I previously posted about the U.S. team roster options with a link to the CNNSI predictions. While this is interesting to myself and other hockey fans in the U.S., the roster that's much more anticipated (to say nothing of the anticipation for how that roster does) is that of the Olympic host Canadian men's hockey team.

Also from CNNSI is Allan Muir's predicted Canadian roster along with detailed analysis of each spot. To give the names without the analysis, here's his picks...

1. Martin Brodeur
2. Roberto Luongo
3. Steve Mason

Robyn Regehr & Duncan Keith
Chris Pronger & Shea Weber
Jay Bouwmeester & Mike Green
Brent Burns (extra guy) & Drew Doughty (taxi squad guy)

Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby & Jarome Iginla
Dany Heatley, Ryan Getzlaf & Rick Nash
Simon Gagne, Joe Thornton & Patrick Marleau
Benden Morrow, Mike Richards & Shane Doan
Marc Savard (extra guy), Jonathan Toews & Corey Perry (taxi squad guys)

A formidable lineup to be sure, but where things get interesting is in looking at the people that Muir currently is leaving off the roster (keeping in mind that this is a writer's take and not necessarily that of GM Steve Yzerman. Here's some of the guys mentioned in the Fan Nation story linked from Muir's CNNSI piece:

Defensemen: Dion Phaneuf, Brian Campbell, Dan Boyle, Braydon Coburn
Forwards: Eric Staal, Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Sakic

My opinion after watching Dan Boyle for a season is you have to find a place for him on the team and Vincent Lecavalier certainly belongs as well.

Regardless of how the details shake out... it's gonna be fun to watch.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blog Moved to

I've now officially moved this hockey blog from Blogger to the Most Valuable Network collection of blogs and writing.

Blogger has been an excellent platform and I'll continue to use it for my writing blog at, but I'm drawn to MVN to see how many additional readers I can bring to my hockey writing.

The new URL is below and please visit there for my additional hockey writing in the foreseeable future.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2010 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Preview/Prediction from CNNSI

Only a year away till Vancouver. What may well be the last time that NHL players participate in the Olympics (if the league office gets their way) is highly anticipated and the subject of much debate.

To that end... CNNSI just published Michael Farber's take on the U.S. roster as well as Allan Muir's predictions for the Canadian roster. In addition to these posts, CNNSI also links to a comments page from the site Fan Nation.

From these, I want to first look at Farber's predictions for the U.S. team along with players he may have left off. Subsequently, I'll look at Muir's view of Team Canada. The links above to each story are very much worth viewing as there's analysis of each player.

2010 U.S. Olympic Team - by Michael Farber

1. Tim Thomas
2. Ryan Miller
3. Jonathan Quick

Ryan Suter & Brian Rafalski
Ryan Whitney & Mike Komisarek
Paul Martin & Jack Johnson
extra guys: John-Michael Liles & Matt Niskanen

Zach Parise, Paul Stasny & Phil Kessel
Dustin Brown, Scott Gomez & Patrick Kane
David Booth, Chris Drury & Brian Gionta
Jason Blake, Ryan Kesler & Jamie Langenbrunner
extra guys: Blake Wheeler & Jason Pominville

Here's the guys brought up on the Fan Nation comment page as others that may get the nod...

Brooks Orpik, Keith Ballard

Tim Connolly, Erik Johnson, Peter Mueller, Brian Gionta, Lee Stempniak, Erik Cole, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ryan Malone and Keith Tkachuk

Finally, there's an interesting story from The Sporting News linked on Yahoo! Sports about the choices facing U.S. GM Brian Burke as he and the other team leadership decide what to do with longtime stalwarts such as Mike Modano, Doug Weight, Bill Guerin and... Keith Tkachuk.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sharks-5 Bruins-2: What it Meant

Quite the preamble to the San Jose Sharks game at the Boston Bruins earlier today... Joe Thornton's 2nd return to Boston since his trade by the Bruins, the Sharks needing a win to avoid a four-game losing streak and... oh yeah, a matchup between a couple of pretty good teams.

Earlier in the day, San Jose was ranked #3 in Ross McKeon's Yahoo! Sports Power Rankings and Boston #1. In the CNNSI Power Rankings from Allan Muir, yep... the same #1 for the Bruins and #3 for the Sharks. Take this and throw in the fact that each team has the best record in their respective conference and the ingredients were there for quite a barnburner.

And for the game itself...

The Bruins were the dominant team in period one with Evgeni Nabokov playing well enough in net to keep San Jose in the game. The second period was filled with back and forth hockey... lots of chances and excellent action. Third period, that was Sharks time. Four goals including an empty net goal resulted in the win.

What it meant... well, it meant that these were in fact a couple of good teams that played in other. Huge props to the Sharks for weathering the 1st period storm (with help in goal), getting their legs in the 2nd and then pouring it on in the 3rd. Nice recipe for a victory. The Bruins, though, also looked like an excellent team with a combination of grit (see: Lucic, Milan), playmaking (see: Savard, Marc), dominating D (see: Chara, Zdeno) and really really entertaining goaltending (see: Thomas, Tim). They will want to do a better job of protecting 3rd period leads, but... can't do it each and every regular season game. Now, the playoffs... that's when you really want to.

All in all, fun game to watch between two of the best teams in the league. Man, like that good hockey.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bobby Ryan Story from Sports Illustrated

Really interesting story in the February 9 issue of Sports Illustrated on Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks.

To this point in his career Ryan has been best known for being the second pick in the 2005 NHL draft behind Sidney Crosby. However, the piece by Michael Farber titled "No Looking Back" (linked from the SI Vault) shows just how many different layers of interest there are to Ryan's story (which is totally different than "Brian's Song", but any chance to drop in an "I love Brian Piccolo" reference can't be passed up).

His current status as an NHL Rookie of the Year candidate (11 goals scored in the month of January) combined with his time spent in the minors this year due to Anaheim salary cap reasons (odd, but true) is a good story in and of itself, but Ryan was a story even before the Crosby draft year. As Farber does an excellent job summarizing (a book could I'm sure be written about it), Ryan spent from 1998 to 2000 living under a false identity given to him by his father that had jumped bail and taken the family with him. Yep... an interesting story to be sure.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Prognosticating Playoff Participants II - NHL Eastern Conference

After laying out my predictions and associated reasons why for the Western Conference playoff hopefuls in a prior post, it's time to look at the East. First, the current picture...

Eastern Conference Standings

1. Boston - 82 points
2. Washington - 70 points
3. New Jersey - 67 points
4. Montreal - 64 points
5. NY Rangers - 63 points
6. Philadelphia - 61 points
7. Buffalo - 59 points
8. Florida - 56 points
9. Carolina - 55 points
10. Pittsburgh - 55 points
11. Toronto - 47 points
12. Tampa Bay - 45 points
13. Ottawa - 41 points
14. Atlanta - 41 points
15. NY Islanders - 37 points

My various and sundry thoughts...

- #1 (Boston) at 82 points and #2 (Washington) at 70 points. Wow... quite a delta.

- New Jersey is 3rd in the conference without all-world goalie (and some would say all in the family guy) Martin Brodeur. Impressive... and makes one wonder how good they'll be with a healthy and rested Marty.

- It wouldn't have been a stretch the predict the Islanders would be so bad, but Ottawa... who would have thought that? Well, actually... I would have in my Eastern Conference season preview.

- To the question of who will make it... I think the top six teams above are all good enough to hold those spots, or at least hold a spot in the top eight. Additionally, I think Toronto and below are both too far back and not good enough to fight their way into the top eight. This creates an "an then there were four (with only two spots)" scenario featuring: Buffalo, Florida, Carolina and Pittsburgh.

- Carolina I'm going to discount and say I don't think they'll make it... just not good enough. Now, if they would just move back to Hartford and put a snazzy green whale on their chests, I would certainly want them to be good enough, but... I digress.

- Florida is the surprise of the bunch (well, the good surprise if you're like me and are surprised to see Pittsburgh currently out of the playoffs). One thing I think will hurt them down the stretch is the likely trade of #1 defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. This probably wouldn't be a bad move as it would prevent him from leaving for nothing as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but would weaken the Panthers' chances this year.

- With these two teams out, that would mean that I think Buffalo and Pittsburgh both are in. True, it's my prediction, but it's not just by elimination... the Sabres and Penguins both have going something I think helps a lot, superstar players. Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek on one side and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the other are exceptional enough to win a few games almost by themselves and make me think both Buffalo and Pittsburgh are playoff teams.

But, that's why they play the games...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Prognosticating Playoff Participants - NHL Western Conference

Living by the credo of "it's never too early", let's take a look at the current NHL standings and see how that would translate to the 8 playoff teams in each conference (starting off with the West in this post).

Actually, granted... it is just the first week of Feb, but an interesting fact I heard on Hockey Night in Canada Radio the other day (love that Sirius) was that last season the only two teams to be out of the top 8 in their conference at the end of January and still make the playoffs were Washington and Nashville. So, in this case... past performance really does indicate future results, but I digress.

Western Conference Standings

1. San Jose - 77 points
2. Detroit - 71 points
3. Calgary - 64 points
4. Chicago - 62 points
5. Anaheim - 55 points
6. Dallas - 53 points
7. Minnesota - 53 points
8. Edmonton - 53 points
9. Columbus - 53 points
10. Phoenix - 53 points
11. Vancouver - 52 points
12. Los Angeles - 47 points
13. Nashville- 47 points
14. Colorado - 47 points
15. St. Louis - 45 points

Well, there's a bunch of numbers and teams... what to take from it? Here's some observations...

- Draw a line below Chicago at #4 because there's your clear delineation point between the elite and other. One interesting thing is that you'll likely not have the situation this season with a weak division champion taking the 3rd spot. Going with the assumption that Calgary isn't as good as San Jose, Detroit (or even Chicago)... I still would fear them in a playoff matchup.

- Seeds 5-11 separated by three points... yowzer.

- Anaheim has had an on and off season, but they're likely just too good, experienced and nasty to not make the playoffs.

- Dallas being in the situation they are (a playoff team as of right now) is amazing given the dire (i.e. Sean Avery still on the active roster) straights they were two months ago. I have to believe if they've pulled themselves out of the abyss, they'll likely not fall back in it. Count them in as a playoff team.

- LA and below in the standings are a combination of just too young and not quite good enough this season. Count these four teams out.

- Vancouver is in free fall mode right now (even with Roberto Luongo back and Mats Sundin getting a bunch of money from them). I think current status combined with the memory of falling flat the final week of last season will cause them to... do the same this season.

- This leaves four teams for two spots... Minnesota, Edmonton, Columbus and Phoenix.

- I think Phoenix has the toughest road of the four to the playoffs. They have a difficult division top to bottom and uncertainty about the viability of the franchise in Arizona (back to Winnipeg, anyone?). Definitely a good young team and I'd like to see them make the postseason, but I wouldn't predict it happening this season.

- Columbus benefits from having both Nashville and St. Louis in their division (even though the top of the division is pretty darn "top" with Detroit and Chicago). I think this combined with the magic of a hot rookie goaltender in Steve Mason will put them into the dance for the first time in franchise history.

- Final spot (but, not necessarily only the #8 seed)... Minnesota-Edmonton, Oilers-Wild... I gotta go with the better goaltender in Nicklas Backstrom and nicer arena in the Excel Energy Center. Minnesota makes the playoffs.