Category Archives: N.H.L.

LUONGO SHOWS NO CONSISTENCY

As soon as Roberto Luongo walked into the dressing room, he was surrounded; swarmed, really.  The reporters were on all sides, overflowing out the door and into the hallway.  Voice recorders pressed inches from his lips.  Boom mics almost brushed the bill of his cap.  TV cameras and spotlights pointed at his face, held high by men on stepstools, hoping to get a clear angle above the horde.  Luongo spoke for about three minutes.  He actually asked the key question.

“I’ve got to believe in myself, right?” he said.

Right there is the heart of this enigma; the Jekyll and Hyde of elite goaltenders; the guy who can get pulled and then pitch a shutout and then get pulled again in the Stanley Cup Final.  After another Luongo meltdown Monday night and a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Canucks’ dream season has been reduced to a Game 7 on Wednesday night in Vancouver.  It hinges on somebody who has bounced back before but always leaves you wondering if he can bounce back again and why he has to keep bouncing back like this at all.

As for the Canucks,  they are standing by their man.  Everyone from coach Alain Vigneault to backup goaltender Cory Schneider believes Roberto Luongo will deliver a Game 7 performance that is good enough to win them the Stanley Cup.  The No. 1 goaltender has bounced between great and gruesome in the championship series, surrendering three early goals before getting pulled in Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 6.  Vigneault was quick to end any debate about who would get the start on Wednesday’s do-or-die game at Rogers Arena.

“I haven’t talked to him,” said Vigneault. “He knows he’s going back in next game. He’s going to be real good.”

“Probably the biggest pressure game he played all year was Game 7 against Chicago (in the first round),” said Schneider. “He had a lot riding on that game and he stepped up in the biggest way possible. He’s won a gold medal there, he’s won a lot of one-and-done games in that building and that means a lot.  We’re confident he’ll be there for us.”

In Luongo you have an Olympic gold medalist, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. When he is good, he’s among the best. In three home games in this series, he is 3-0 with a .979 save percentage and two shutouts.  Unfortunately Luongo has been terrible at times. He invites self-doubt and doubters, and when he self-destructs, he’s spectacular. In three road games in this series, he is 0-3 with a .773 save percentage and has been pulled twice.

Game 7 could be a defining moment for Luongo, but you wonder whether he has already defined himself, no matter what he does now.

Sources:  TSN, Yahoo Sports

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

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CANUCKS QUEST

The Canucks sit one win away from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.  Now all they have to do is figure out a way to win in Boston and the silverware will return to Canada for the first time since 1993.  The problem is, the Canucks have been terrible away from home so far in the Stanley Cup Final.  So, which Canucks team will emerge once the puck drops at TD Garden in Boston tonight for Game 6?  The Canucks have been dynamite at home, playing tight, defensive hockey and winning all three games by one-goal margins. The problem, however, is that the Bruins have had their way with them on home ice, outscoring the Canucks 12-1 in Games 3 and 4.  So, with the home team unbeaten so far in the final, will the Canucks be able to put up a fight in Beantown?  The Canucks are hoping they’ll be able to rebound and exorcise the demons of Games 3 and 4. They’ll try to look back to the killer instinct that allowed them to bury San Jose and Nashville with games to spare and do their best to get the job done in six.  Otherwise, they will allow Boston back into this series for a one-game playoff on Wednesday in Vancouver.  Consider this: the Canucks are 3-4 in potential series-winning games so far in these playoffs and have been outscored 24-15 in those games. The Canucks are 5-5 on the road so far, including the three road wins they garnered in Nashville.  The Bruins, meanwhile, are 2-2 in Games 6 and 7 in the post-season, with an even score line of 10-10 in those four games. They have not won a Game 6 yet in the playoffs, though both were played on the road. The Bruins are 9-3 at home in the playoffs, including dropping their first two games of the playoffs at home to the Canadiens.  So, can this Canucks team finally close out a series on its first opportunity? Or, will they be forced to go the distance and hope they can grind out a series victory in Game 7 like they did in Chicago in the first round?  Both teams have played a vastly different game at home than they have on the road. With the Cup on the line, which Vancouver team will show up?  The answer comes to you 8 p.m. tonight.

Sources:  TSN

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

WINNIPEG JETS SET TO RETURN?

Winnipeg’s mayor says it’s just “a matter of time” before a deal to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg is announced.  Sam Katz says the deal to bring an NHL team back to Winnipeg “is going to happen.”  He says there is an understanding the deal will move forward but nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet.  No one is more anxious to officially learn the fate of the Atlanta Thrashers than members of the team.  The players have been given no indication one way or the other where they’ll be playing home games next season, according to goaltender Chris Mason.

“They’re not going to include us in any of the stuff and we shouldn’t be either,” Mason said Friday from his off-season home in Red Deer, Alberta. “We’ll know probably the same time or after everybody else knows, that’s the way it goes.  “We’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what’s going to happen, too.”  Mason has played in six different cities during his professional career and is facing the possibility of moving once again.  “That’s one of the very few things that is tough about the job,” said Mason. “I’m fortunate enough to be playing hockey and that’s one of the things that you just have to deal with.  It’s happened throughout a hockey player’s career and that’s just the way it goes.  We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.”  Mason has mixed feeling about relocating from Atlanta to Winnipeg.  On one hand he feels bad about the fans and team employees that would be left behind in Atlanta but it would also give him a chance to live out a dream.  “There’s definitely things that would be really cool about it,” said Mason. “Playing in Canada, for me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  It would be really cool.  Just playing in front of a packed house every night would be awesome.”

All of this was started by an article yesterday by The Globe and Mail in Toronto stating the Thrashers’ agreement with True North was done and will be announced in Winnipeg on Tuesday.  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and True North Sports and Entertainment quickly denied the report Thursday that a deal has been reached to sell the team to True North, which would relocate the team to Winnipeg, Manitoba.  There are still obstacles to overcome, but it looks inevitable this time; hockey is back in Winnipeg and Canadians are celebrating across the country.  The Winnipeg Jets, as they should be called, should be soaring again this year after 16 plus years in the waiting.

Sources:  TSN, The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

OFFSIDE, PLAYOFF THOUGHTS

Well the refs really blew it now.  They were terrible with offside calls all game but this non-call really was costly.  The Boston overtime winner should never had counted.  They were offside as pointed out in the replay by CBC.  I know the game moves fast and mistakes can be made, but they really need to be careful when the game is on the line.  Not calling that play offside affected the outcome; it cost Montreal even more than a bad line change which is what led to the goal.  Not to take anything away from the Bruins effort; they overcame numerous deficits to win this game, coming back from two goals down in the second period and then down by a goal with less than seven minutes left they tied it again.  The problem is instead of a game which should have continued, you have a series tied at 2 games each.  It has been a great series so far, living up to all the hype, I just would have liked to have seen a legitimate goal win last night’s game.

Vancouver fans are really starting to get nervous now.  After a 3-0 series lead, the Canucks have been blown out by a combined score of 12-2 the last two games.  They have played terrible and are in real danger of Chicago taking this series away.  If this happens it would be the second time in as many years a team has come back down 3-0.  This has never happened before and though is supposed to be unlikely, after the last two games, it seems very possible unless Vancouver smartens up and fixes their game.  You have to give credit to Chicago though, they’ve played really well the last two games.  Vancouver had better finish this series in game 6 otherwise I’m predicting they will be eliminated in game 7 and we will see a repeat of last years Philadelphia / Boston series.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

CURTAIN CALL ON THE COYOTES

So is this it?  There is speculation this will be the last game played in Phoenix if Detroit wins tonight.  It’s kind of sad if you think about it.  Consider all of the people who will be out of a job; all the businesses folding once the Coyotes leave town.  It’s not a pretty scenario, but it seems very likely.  The same happened 15 years ago when Winnipeg lost the Jets to Phoenix.  The fitting saying is “what goes around, comes around”.  I’m not saying that it’s right to strip a city of its’ team and leave their workers unemployed, but the city of Phoenix had no business ever having an N.H.L. team.  Bettman has exhausted all possibilities to try to keep Phoenix from losing it’s team, but it doesn’t look like there will be a knight in shining armour this time.  No-one is going to rescue the Coyotes; it’s time they packed up and left for a hockey starved market waiting to cheer them on.  Sure some of the hockey players might prefer to stay in the warm weather of Phoenix, but let’s be real here, why keep a team where they have no support?  Why not go to a city which adores you; a city which will have a building near capacity every night.  I’m sure the players will enjoy the support they receive in Winnipeg much more than in Phoenix.

There’s a reason no-one has stepped up to make a significant attempt to buy the team and keep them in Phoenix; there’s a reason why the Goldwater Institute denied Hulsizer’s request to allow him to use the city of Glendale to contribute $100 million worth or proceeds from a municipal bond sale to help him buy the team for $170 million.  They too see hockey as a failing entity in Phoenix and refuse to risk any city funding to aid in keeping a team there.  Considering the rough state of Arizona during this recession, I don’t blame them.  If Hulsizer really wanted, or was fully able to buy the team, he wouldn’t ask for any city funding whatsoever.  Has he done this?  No.

So I’m going out on a limb here and saying the N.H.L. will make it official after the Coyotes are swept away in Phoenix tonight.  Where a few fans will be mourning the loss of their Coyotes, many fans in Winnipeg will be rejoicing the rebirth of hockey in Winnipeg.  There is no doubt the Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba Moose, or whatever they call the “new” team there, will receive a heroes welcome the minute they step on the ice and the first N.H.L. game is played there again.

It’s time to give the city of Winnipeg back its’ team which was taken from them so long ago.  It’s time for Shane Doan to don a jersey for Winnipeg as he did when he started his career; the last of the Winnipeg Jets he is, so how fitting would it be for him to be the first to bring hockey back to Winnipeg.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Right now every hockey fan, writer and analyst is putting together their N.H.L. playoff predictions.  Who will win the Stanley Cup this year?  Click on the link for my predictions.  I think you’ll be surprised at some of my picks.

2011 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

SPIN-O-RAMA

Nathan Gerbe‘s goal last night may have been a complete fluke, but it was one of the best goals I’ve seen all season. It was a throwback to the Dennis Savard era. The spin-o-rama was a move made famous by Savard throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s. I was ecstatic to see a goal scored that way as I was a Savard fan back then and loved that move. It also didn’t hurt that the goal tied the game for the Sabres with just over nine minutes left. Thomas Vanek would score the winner in overtime and clinch a playoff spot for the Buffalo Sabres, a win they desperately needed. It was a great game to see and a great finish. Philadelphia now is in danger of slipping from the second seed to the fourth seed as they are now tied with Pittsburgh. Check out the highlight for yourself as Gerbe scores the tying goal midway through the third.

Now check out the great Dennis Savard, who made the spin-o-rama famous.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

GO HABS GO

This weekend my family and I went on a trip to Montreal.  While there we visited family, went on a few tours and watched the Canadiens play the Washington Capitals.  I have been a Canadiens fan for nearly 22 years and had only been to one game, back in 1998, until now.  My brother, who came with me, became a Habs fan over the last 3 years.
It was a true honour to see the statues of the Habs greats outside the Bell Centre; players like Richard, Beliveau and Lafleur stood tall as I photographed each of them.  As I walked inside the Bell Centre, I felt like I was an 18 year old seeing the place for the first time again.  It was absolutely an amazing experience looking up at the rafters seeing all the retired numbers and Stanley Cup banners.  It didn’t hurt that we were 6 rows from the ice, near the centre.  The atmosphere inside was electric; chants of “Go Habs Go” and “Carey, Carey, Carey” echoed throughout the building.
The actual game itself wasn’t so great.  The Canadiens were sleeping from start to finish.  Only Carey Price was on his game stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 2-0 loss where Montreal was outshot 33-18.  It’s the third straight shutout loss for a Canadiens team struggling to stay in the playoffs.  Their playoff future seems secured but if they continue playing like this, it is possible they won’t make it.  They need to wake up and start playing better.
At the end of the game, Price was named the first star and as he came out he was tossing souvenirs to the crowd.

Overall in spite of the loss, it was a great experience and I can’t wait to go back.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

CAMPBELL SHOULD BE COOKED

How is it that someone with only a high school diploma, is the Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations for the National Hockey League?  It is clearly evident through his actions recently, he is not qualified and should be let go.  He has shown favouritism to certain clubs, like the Boston Bruins, over the years.  How he has lasted nearly 13 years is beyond me.

On November 15, 2010, TSN and various other media outlets reported on a string of emails from Colin Campbell. The e-mail correspondence became a matter of public record in the wrongful dismissal case of referee Dean Warren against the N.H.L. and the emails were entered into evidence in the case, although specific references to names and dates were blacked out.  In these emails, Campbell calls Boston Bruins centre Marc Savard a “little fake artist” after Warren assessed Colin Campbell’s son, Gregory Campbell, a high-sticking minor on Savard and sending further emails to director of officiating Stephen Walkom complaining about the work of referees who gave Gregory a late-game penalty that resulted in a tying goal.  It’s funny how he considers Marc Savard a “little fake artist” when Savard’s career has been ruined with several concussions, the last coming from an illegal hit by Matt Cooke.  That’s the mark of a great VP; criticize a good hockey player who was hurt by his own son.

Campbell dropped the ball again with his “expertise” in the Zdeno Chara ruling with Mike Murphy nearly two weeks ago, which saw Chara get away with an illegal hit to Max Pacioretty; a hit still talked about today.  Now again he had another chance to right the ship.  Though I still believe Campbell is not fully qualified to be in the position he’s in, at least he handed out a pretty severe suspension to Cooke today.  The incident with Cooke occurred less than five minutes into the third period of Sunday’s Rangers and Penguins game, when Cooke went high and landed an elbow on Ryan McDonagh‘s jaw.  McDonagh had his back turned to the Penguins forward, and was in the process of shooting the puck into the offensive zone.

“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position,” said Campbell. “This isn’t the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response.”

Matt Cooke represents everything that’s wrong with this league.  He’s injured so many with his illegal hits and it’s time the league does something about it.  Enough is enough with this guy!  If it were up to me, I would banish him from the league!  I don’t think 14 games is enough of a suspension.  He’s already been suspended for minimal time and no progress has ever been made.  Simply put, Cooke hits to injure.  He’ll deny it but the evidence is all over.  So many injuries have come at Cooke’s expense, so why is he still allowed to play?  At least Campbell should have suspended him for the rest of the season with a hearing scheduled at a later date to discuss if Cooke should be allowed to play again.

If I were Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, I would release him.  I wouldn’t want him playing for my team or any association with him whatsoever.  Lemieux expressed his disgust with the punishment of the New York Islanders after a fight-filled game February 11, 2011 against Pittsburgh.  Lemieux called the game a travesty, said the N.H.L.’s suspensions of two New York players did not send a strong enough message to deter on-ice violence, and he implored the league to do more to protect player safety.  Well take a stand Mario; fine your player for his behavior!  If Lemieux does nothing, he’ll just be joining the list of the hypocrites running the N.H.L.

It’ll be interesting to see what the reactions, if any,  from Lemieux are and the response from Campbell’s decision.

Sources:  TSN, Wikipedia, National Post, Toronto Star

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

Boy oh boy this kid is playing phenomenal!  Carey Price is going to be 24 this year and already looks like he is one of the best goalies in the N.H.L.  In a big game against the Boston Bruins this week, he was as sharp as ever stopping 30 of 31 shots.  He continued his success Saturday night with a 26 save shutout against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He’s been sharp all season with flashes of greatness.  He leads the N.H.L. in wins, games played and minutes.  He is second in shutouts with eight and is in the top 10 in nearly every other meaningful category for goalies.  He is definitely a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy.  When you think of all the ups and downs he’s gone through over the last 3 years, and especially in the hockey mad city of Montreal, it’s truly remarkable how he’s responded this season.  We’re talking about a city where hockey is life and some players choose not to play there because of the immense pressure.  Price lives on and is beginning to fulfill his destiny as a franchise goalie and dare I say world class goalie.  He is adored by the fans now and could potentially “steal” a few rounds in the playoffs.

When you look back at his brief career so far only one saying comes to mind, “What doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”.  Well that is definitely the case here.  He’s gone from being cheered in 2008 to being booed in 2009 and replaced with Jaroslav Halak in early 2010.

Halak, who was a key part in the Montreal Canadiens reaching the Eastern Conference Final in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was traded in the summer of 2010.  Many Canadiens fans were outraged over the deal and showed their displeasure while booing Price after a poor performance in an exhibition game this season.  I, for one, had never lost faith in Price.  I was and am happy they chose him over Halak even if Halak won the first meeting of the two Thursday night.  The Canadiens chose to keep the right goalie.  In my opinion, all he needed was a veteran presence to learn from, which he wasn’t getting with Halak.  Alex Auld has been that great influence on Price.

Now the chants of “Carey” in the Bell Centre are deafening and will continue throughout the playoffs should the Canadiens go on another run like last spring.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick