I forgot to post this the other day. The new Rbk EDGE uniform system is coming to a rink near you this summer as all NHL and AHL teams will be wearing the new uniforms. Despite the eyesores that the All-Star jerseys were, I suspect the new NHL jerseys will be somewhat better, although you can be sure that a fourth installment of "You're Wearing That?" will feature the new NHL and AHL jerseys.
In any case, I forgot to post this little piece of info the other day.
"ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals will unveil their new uniforms at a special Draft Day Party on Friday, June 22, held at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. The event will be held in conjunction with the live broadcast on Versus of the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, which takes place that evening in Columbus, Ohio.
The new uniforms will mark a return to a red, white and blue color scheme – the colors the Capitals wore from their first season in 1974-75 through 1994-95. The Capitals are the first team in the NHL to announce their plans to unveil their new uniforms, which are produced by Reebok and feature the Rbk EDGE Uniform System technology that was introduced at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game in Dallas. The Capitals are the first team planning to have their new uniforms on hand at the NHL Entry Draft.
Further details about the event will be announced in the coming weeks."
No further details have been posted yet, but the Washington Capitals' website is making this into a huge show. Their splash page even has "The Unveiling 6.22.07" on it. I'm assuming that Ted Leonsis, who was never very fond of the current Capitals jersey and colour scheme, has had his hand in the redesign as well.
All I know is that this release should be very interesting. If the Capitals' new jerseys look as ridiculous as the All-Star Game jerseys did, it will be a crime. However, if the new jerseys recapture that red, white, and blue essence of the old jerseys, I will be very happy.
After spending some time on various Washington Capitals message boards, it appears that the fans are split on bringing back the red, white, and blue. Most really want them to ditch the black jersey, but some want the Capitals to go back to the blue jersey (great idea, if you ask me). It appears that with the press release above that the Capitals will officially return to the old colours. It is official, though: Caps fans hate the black uniform. What do you think? Hit me with your thoughts in the comment section.
All I know is that the Minnesota Wild are going to be using their current alternate red uniforms as their home uniform next season. The prevailing rumour out of Edmonton is that the current alternate jersey with the dark blue and silver has a good chance as sticking around as Edmonton's home jersey. It is consistently in the top-selling merchandise, so it makes sense to keep it. I'd like to see Vancouver's alternate jersey stick around as their home jersey. I love the blue and green colour scheme, and I am a huge fan of Luongo's alternate look (sorry, Canucks fans, about the pic, but it shows his awesome pads too). I'd really appreciate the Bruins keeping their alternate as their home uniform. All this is, of course, speculation, with the exception of Minnesota, but good jerseys should live forever. Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Sunday, April 29, 2007
I forgot to post this the other day. The new Rbk EDGE uniform system is coming to a rink near you this summer as all NHL and AHL teams will be wearing the new uniforms. Despite the eyesores that the All-Star jerseys were, I suspect the new NHL jerseys will be somewhat better, although you can be sure that a fourth installment of "You're Wearing That?" will feature the new NHL and AHL jerseys.
There's one thing that I absolutely love at a sporting event, and that is the sound of the crowd singing along to the national anthem. It is one of those things that touches your soul when 15,000 or so people are singing proudly in honour of their country. Nothing even comes close to it for me. It is a sign of pride, and one we should revel in more. Canadians sing loudly with the national anthem, and some Americans do. Both are good songs. Why not belt the tune out and encourage others to do the same?
There have been many instances where the anthem has been played that have made me proud. However, there are some that have been inspirational beyond words for a variety of reasons.
Akina Shirt, 13 years of age, sings the Canadian national anthem in Cree, the first time the anthem has ever been sung in Cree before an NHL hockey game. Huge thumbs-up from this writer.
The Canadian national anthem sung before the start of Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2006. If this doesn't give you goosebumps, you probably have no emotions whatsoever.
Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys gives an excellent performance of the Star Spangled Banner before the start of an AHL game, and adds a few of his own twists.
The incredible Chicago Stadium crowd cheers the entire time during the anthem signing at the 1991 NHL All-Star Game in Chicago. Chicago crowds were awesome during the early '90s! The anthem singer does a heck of a good job too.
Of course, there is the bad as well. Do NOT boo a national anthem ever. It is classless and in bad taste. The country has nothing to do with the team playing, and those representatives in the game, especially in hockey, are from around the world. I cannot say it enough: you DO NOT boo an anthem. Ever. No excuse for it. None.
Sing. That's all you have to do. Sing proudly. Sing for pride. Sing for your country. Sing for the people standing on the ice in front of you, waiting patiently to go to war. Sing for those men and women who have gone, and are currently in, wars around the world. Sing. Like the crowd in Edmonton, just sing. Even if you only know a few words, sing.
It is a point of pride for yourself, the players, the management, and the country. Be proud. Heck, sing both anthems if you can. They define who we are as a nation.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice... and your voices singing loudly and proudly!
Saturday, April 28, 2007
As you may have noticed, I've implemented some changes on this blog. If you haven't noticed, are your eyes open? Anyway, as you can see, there are a few changes, mostly for the good since I was tired of having a plain ol' blog. I've changed the template, the colour scheme, the banner up top, and the layout. Honestly, I love the banner. It feels a little more "personal" now, and that's exactly what this blog is: a personal view of hockey. However, the rest of the changes were made just for aesthetics. As always, it's all about hockey, and let's get to that.
Firstly, kudos to the Detroit Red Wings and their stirring come-from-behind victory against the San Jose Sharks today. The Red Wings came out flat against a very physical Sharks team for the second game in a row, and the Sharks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead again. The Red Wings fought back, though, and equalled the series with a 3-2 victory. This series looks like it will be one of who capitalizes on the other's mistakes the most. I look forward to Game Three!
Next, if Henrik Lundqvist described the New York Rangers' last game against the Barney Rubble Hairpieces as "almost perfect", it will take four games of perfection to beat the Hairpieces. The Hairpieces rallied to win 3-2 after New York had jumped out to a 2-1 lead late in the second period. It didn't stand as the final score as Chris Drury and Thomas Vanek scored in the third period to give the Hairpieces a 2-0 lead in the series. New York needs to be more physical. If they don't, they'll be swept just like Atlanta was in the first round by those same Rangers.
The Vancouver Canucks, missing both Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo due to injury, rallied in overtime to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 2-1. Jeff Cowan, who is seeking a long-term endorsement contract from Victoria's Secret, scored the OT winner in double-overtime, adding to his somewhat legendary career in Vancouver. Teemu Selanne had a very strong game for Anaheim, but Roberto Luongo kept his team in the game until they won. While it appears that Luongo's parents were both brick layers, Luongo's wall has been good enough to keep his team going. That, while it seems simple in my writing, has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. If the Canucks make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, he already has a very strong case to follow in the steps of current Anaheim Duck, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, to win the Conn Smythe Trophy regardless of whether Vancouver wins or loses.
The Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils play Game Two of their series tonight, and if the Devils want to keep playing they have to stop turning the puck over. Yes, they battled back in Game One, but getting behind 4-0 in the first period is not the way you win playoff games, and three of the four goals were a direct result of defensive zone turnovers. I expect Ottawa to continue to forecheck like there's no tomorrow. New Jersey has to be ready, or they'll visit Scotiabank Place down 2-0.
The IIHF Men's World Championships opened yesterday. USA defeated Austria by a score of 6-2. Erik Cole of the Carolina Hurricanes and Lee Stempniak of the St. Louis Blues had a goal and an assist each in the win. Finland shutout the Ukraine by a score of 5-0. Pekka Saravo of Lulea HF in the Swedish Elite League had a goal and an assist in the win while Fredrik Norrena of the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the shutout. The Czech Republic defeated Belarus by a score of 8-2. Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens has two goals and an assist in the win. Russia pounded Denmark 9-1. Aleksey Morozov of Ak Bars Kazan in the Russian Superleague had a goal and two assists in the victory. Sweden scored seven straight goals to defeat Italy 7-1. Johan Davidsson of HV 71 Jonkoping in the Swedish Elite League and Fredrik Emwall of Linkopings HC in Swedish Elite League had two goals apiece for Sweden in their victory. Canada squeaked by Germany 3-2 in their opening game. Jamal Mayers of the St. Louis Blues scored two goals including the game-winner. Switzerland beat Latvia 2-1 in their first games. Sandy Jeannin of HC Lugano in the Swiss National League and Adrian Wichser of ZSC Zurich Lions in the Swiss National League both had a goal and an assist for the Swiss. In the final opening game, Slovakia shutout Norway by a score of 3-0. Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens picked up the shutout.
All in all, no upsets in the opening games. Canada has to start being more disciplined if they want to go far in this tournament. Canada picked up 41 PIMs in the game against Germany. If they do that against the Russians, Swedes or Americans, they will not win.
Lots of hockey action going on right now across the world! Keep you eyes glued to the sports highlight shows because things are heating up all over the place! Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I was almost right about one prediction in Round One: "Maggie the monkey on TSN will probably guess more correctly". She went 4-4, while I went 4-4. I've decided this time around that I won't let sentimental favorites cloud my judgment towards superior teams. I did call the Vancouver and Detroit victories in the correct number of games, though, so my confidence is still pretty good. However, this time I choose with much less emotion, and much more intellect (I hope).
Losing Tomas Holmstrom for part or all of this series will significantly hurt Detroit's offensive capabilities. Detroit's offence will still shine with both Datsyuk and Zetterberg playing better than they ever have at this point of the season. Hasek needs to be protected from being worn down by San Jose's big power forwards, and watch for the Thornton-versus-Lidstrom battle to take form in the same way that Iginla-versus-Lidstrom took place in Round One. San Jose has been playing well, and they've been blocking shots for Toskala and Nabokov like there's no tomorrow. That will be the key for this series if San Jose wants to advance. They need to play as tough as they did against Nashville, and live for today only. If they do, they'll be moving on.
Prediction: San Jose Sharks advance in seven games.
If there is any upside to playing all seven games, the Canucks can roll into Anaheim without having any rust on them. The Canucks' offence finally broke through in Game Seven against the Stars, but they'll need to keep it rolling if they want a chance against the Ducks. Any team with Luongo on it has a shot at beating anyone, but if the Canucks don't score, they can't rely on Luongo forever. The Ducks are the one team in the playoffs that have excellent, tough defence and an up-tempo offence that really pushes the play. Giguere and Bryzgalov have looked solid so far, and with Vancouver's offence woes showing against a stifling Dallas team, the Ducks know exactly what they have to do to advance.
Prediction: Anaheim Ducks advance in six games.
Henrik Lundqvist looked extremely sharp against the Atlanta Thrashers in Round One, and his team responded by embarrassing the Thrashers on special teams. The Rangers danced around the Thrashers' defence like they were pylons on a slalom course. That won't be the case with the Barney Rubble Hairpieces. The Hairpieces, who love to push the tempo, will cause fits for the slower Rangers' defensemen. I don't expect Jagr & Company to roll over for the Hairpieces, but keeping up with them may be too much for the Rangers to handle. Somebody from the Hairpieces needs to shut Sean Avery up. Hello, Andrew Peters.
Prediction: Barney Rubble Hairpieces advance in seven games.
Hall-of-Famer-to-be Martin Brodeur faces a tougher test than he did with Tampa Bay. Ottawa rolls four lines who can all score, and they play a much tougher game in front of the net. The New Jersey defensemen should be used to quickness having played Tampa, but can they handle four lines and 60 minutes of pressure? Ottawa, on the other hand, needs their stoppers to be as good or better to shut down Elias, Gomez, and Gionta. Volchenkov and Phillips will be given this job, so the task of stopping Parise, Zajac, and Langenbrunner will most likely fall to Redden and Meszaros. Redden looked average against the Penguins, and he will certainly have to be better if Ottawa is to advance. Emery was strong against the Penguins, but will certainly see more traffic with the Devils as his opponent.
Prediction: Ottawa Senators advance in six games.
I'm hoping to fare better than that damn simian this time. If Maggie outscores me, I'll do a tribute blog to Maggie, her hockey smarts, and how spinning a wheel is better than some guy who watched games all season long. Either way, these should be excellent series. Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I like to read the newspaper. It brings me a pile of news that I may have missed from the day before. In particular, I read the Sports section from cover to cover because it keeps me informed. I go online to read other cities' newspapers as well because I believe that it is important to see both sides of a story. Yesterday, I was reading through the Winnipeg Free Press' coverage about the Manitoba Moose and the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs. What I found, though, was something totally different.
I've never been one to whine and cry about the loss of the Jets from the city of Winnipeg. They never had major corporate support, and the fans would only show up when the Jets were winning. Sure, they had their die-hards, but the Jets relied far too heavily on the walk-up crowd. Winnipeg is a blue-collar city: lots of hard-working people with far too little entertainment money to throw at every pro sports franchise to wander into the city. Well, Randy Turner of the Winnpeg Free Press received an email, and responded to it by using the power of the paper media. Here's the article in full.
"It all began earlier this week with an e-mail from 'Jason', a smug, know-it-all type of missive that, long story short, branded your humble agent as 'ignorant'.
Not the first time, of course, nor the last. In fact, in this Dodge, such accusations can be a badge of honour, depending on the accuser.
My crime, so Jason believed, was having the audacity to pen a column that focused on the fortunes of the Manitoba Moose.
That's right: how dare this newspaper devote any attention to the professional hockey team about to embark on their 2006-07 playoff run?
Don't you know Winnipeg hockey fans don't care about the AHL's Moose? it asked. It's embarrassing to have to root for a farm team of the Vancouver Canucks, once the Winnipeg Jets' nemesis, it continued. I'll never go to a Moose game as long as I live, it concluded.
Sigh. Only in Winnipeg. You see, over the years it's almost inevitable that whenever this space focuses on the Moose, there will usually be a few responses berating the team and Free Press coverage thereof. Conversely, when I write about the NHL, the response comes back, 'Hey, why are you ignoring the Moose? Don't you know they're in first place?'
Seriously, who can figure out Winnipeg hockey fans? They didn't support the Jets when they were here, but cry crocodile tears now that they're gone - to the point where in some quarters the Moose are considered poster boys for the loss of the NHL.
Most say they'd rather have the Western Hockey League, but this city never supported the Winnipeg Warriors, either.
Meanwhile, the Moose aren't good enough even though it's the only professional sports franchise in town that regularly sends its players to the majors. Have you seen Kevin Bieksa play defence for the Canucks? He anchors the Vancouver blue-line, is featured on the power play and is tough as year-old beef jerky.
Last year, Bieksa did exactly the same thing for the Moose. But so-called 'real' hockey fans in Winnipeg would never have seen him play in person, what with Moose hockey not being up to their standards and all. Moose call-up Jannik Hansen is drawing rave reviews in the playoffs only a few days after being plucked from the Manitoba roster.
Yes, I get it: the Moose don't play in the NHL. And to fans still pining for the departed the Jets, that will never be good enough. But, seriously, what's the point of berating those thousands who do follow the Moose?
Look, the Moose drew their smallest crowd of the season Thursday night to open the playoff series with Grand Rapids. Some were shocked by the empty seats. Others thought it was a testament that nobody cares.
But I'll tell you exactly the reason for the light gate. In fact, I'll give you four: Roberto Luongo, the Ottawa Senators, Sidney Crosby and the Calgary Flames. All four were in action Thursday night for free on television. It was literally a feast of post-season eye candy. And why should anybody feel guilty about not showing up? Because you know who else would have rather been watching the NHL playoffs on Thursday night? The Moose, every one of them, in person.
In fact, I was somewhat surprised that almost 6,000 spectators actually showed up, given the competition. At the same time, it was the largest crowd to attend an AHL playoff game so far this year. And tonight some 8,000 fans are expected to be back in the MTS Centre for Game 2. You know what, folks? That's not bad.
Indeed, it wasn't so long ago that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosted a playoff game with arch-rival Saskatchewan and more than 10,000 empty seats showed up to watch. Yeah, the Bombers also had competition on television: themselves. And playing a night game in October doesn't exactly scream walk-up ticket sales.
But the point is nobody considered the small crowd as a slight on the Bombers. Yet when it happens to the Moose, it's 'embarrassing'.
You know, this is getting tiresome. The Moose are what they are: a damn good AHL hockey team playing in the shadow of the long-gone Jets. No one should be frowned upon if they're a fan, and no one should apologize for not buying tickets, either.
If you want to go to the games, then go. If you don't consider them worthy of coverage in the local papers, don't read the story.
Just spare me the useless debate of justifying the team's existence and being labelled as ignorant by hockey snobs who have the arrogant audacity to speak for us all."
Randy Turner pretty much gave an intervention with that article to those who believe that Winnipeg is an NHL town. It is not an NHL town. It never was once the sky-rocketing salaries of the early-1990s began. This is why great players were jettisoned regularly from the Jets franchise. Dale Hawerchuk, Phil Housley, Dave Ellett, Teemu Selanne, Fredrik Olausson, Tie Domi... all traded or let go as free agents. When the NHL left Winnipeg, the salary of the Jets totalled $27 million dollars. With the new CBA, the maximum spenditure is almost double that figure.
I'm a realist. Winnipeg is a town of 700,000 people. They don't have an Ikea because Ikea feels that if you have less than a million residents, you don't have the market for an Ikea. I would say that would be a minimum requirement of the NHL as well. Stop begging the question from Gary Bettman. Winnipeg should not be allowed to receive an expansion team or a relocated team.
Sorry, Winnipeg. I like your city, but sometimes you need to hear the truth. And the truth is that you're not Edmonton or Calgary or Ottawa. You're not even close.
If you want to reach me in regards to this article, my email is to the right. If you'd like to address Randy Turner, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be respectful if you email one or both of us. No one wants to sling mud across email.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Friday, April 20, 2007
Two more teams were laid to rest in the NHL playoffs last night. The Pittsburgh Penguins were sent home to Steeltown with their tails between their legs, and the Minnesota Wild were sent back to the Land of 10,000 Lakes after spending a careless day in California. Both of these teams played hard, but it appears that there was one telling issue in both teams' losses: they ran into a well-oiled machine. The Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators played extremely well in their first-round series, and the results show just how well they played.
The final nail in the coffin for the Pittsburgh Penguins came in Game Four off the stick of Anton Volchenkov to give the Senators a 3-1 lead in the series. Despite Ottawa's record of 10-22 in one-goal games, they delivered a knockout blow to the Penguins with Volchenkov's goal at 9:12 of Tuesday night's game, winning that game by a score of 2-1. Pittsburgh played hard and worked hard all game, but ended up on the losing side of the ledger. They never recovered.
Perhaps the more telling story is the one of who didn't show up in this series. While 19 year-old Sidney Crosby had a good series, he wasn't the same force as he was in the regular season. His supporting cast wasn't all that helpful either. For the season, Evgeni Malkin, Mark Recchi, Jordan Staal, Michel Ouellet, Gary Roberts, Erik Christensen, and Ryan Malone netted a total of 159 goals. In the series against the Senators, these seven men totalled five goals. Of those five goals, Staal had three, and Roberts had two. Pittsburgh's top five scorers for the season were Crosby, Malkin, Recchi, Gonchar, and Whitney. In the playoffs, they scored a total of five goals and 14 assists while posting 20 PIMs and a dreadful -11 rating. There are two problems with this: (1) The other 15 players on the Penguins scored a combined five goals and six assists while posting 58 PIMs and a -18 rating, and (2) of the ten goals the Penguins scored in this five game series, only five players scored on Emery. Of the regular players, only Roberts and Crosby finished at an even plus-minus rating. Everyone else was a minus. As Sid the Kid said about the disappointing series loss, "Maybe it's something that needs to happen for us to win." Maybe it is, Sid. The Gretzky-led Oilers had to learn to lose before they won.
On the other side, Ottawa played like a team on a mission. From the drop of the puck in Game One, Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson showed Mark Messier-like qualities in willing his team to victories with timely goals and smart plays. He didn't shy away from accepting responsibility like he had in past series where he earned the name Afraid-sson. Along with Alfredsson's fearless play, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley showed some of the moxie that they had going in the regular season. Mike Comrie came to play, and getting contributions from role players such as Patrick Eaves, Anton Volchenkov, Joe Corvo, and Tom Preissing only added to Pittsburgh's woes. Ray Emery looked stellar in between the pipes, helped by the great defensive play of Volchenkov, Phillips, Corvo, Preissing, Meszaros, and Redden. Ottawa appears to be a legitimate threat to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, especially when they roll four lines as good as anyone in the NHL.
"Four lines played pretty much the whole series for us, we didn't have to really shorten the bench a lot, which pretty much kept everyone fresh," said Alfredsson, who was terrific in this series. "We could do that more than Pittsburgh. We got the lead in most of the games and that made life a lot easier."
My prediction was blown out of the water, thanks to a hungry and well-prepared Ottawa Senators team. Kudos to the Senators. They deserve it.
In the West, Minnesota ran into a hungry Anaheim Ducks team, and it showed. Three one-goal games in the first three games were all Anaheim wins. Minnesota played desperate hungry hockey in Game Four, and won 4-1. However, Anaheim's depth showed true last night as they defeated the Wild 4-1 on home ice. Anaheim's strength was their defensive unit, and that showed on the scoresheet. Anaheim's seven defensemen who played in the series scored a total of four goals and eight assists while posting 27 PIMs and an even rating. Their top three of Chris Pronger, François Beauchmin, and Scott Niedermayer actually put up all their points while logging 14 PIMs and a +1 rating. Only Aaron Rome and Joe DiPenta had minus ratings, with Rome sporting a -2 and DiPenta sporting a -1 in the series.
Minnesota played well, but Backstrom's inexperience and Anaheim's depth ended this series in five games. I called six games, but five is close enough.
So far, I'm 1-for-3 in series predictions. Not good at all. One series has gone completely opposite to what I had thought (Atlanta-New York); one series had a team show up and play outstanding hockey to prove they are as good as they say (Ottawa-Pittsburgh); and one series went according to how I thought (Anaheim-Minnesota). I only hope I break even for the first round.
Until the next elimination, keep your stick on the ice!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The image to the left is not a joke. The New York Euro-Circus Rangers may have written the final chapter in both Don Waddell's career and Bob Hartley's career in Atlanta. The Rangers systematically made the 3rd-seeded Thrashers look like an AHL team by skating circles around them at every point in the four-game series. Being swept is one thing; being swept by a team that struggled down the stretch and mortgaging your future on two superstars who did nothing in the four games is a recipe for swift, brutal termination. Looking at some of the moves made in this series, Atlanta showed their lack of playoff experience over and over. What makes it hard to stomach is that the men leading the team have experience, but made inexcusable mistakes that lead to the sweep.
Bob Hartley has won a Stanley Cup. He coached Colorado to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2001. Don Waddell was the assistant GM in Detroit in 1998 when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup. Assistant coach Brad McCrimmon won a Stanley Cup in 1989 as a member of the Calgary Flames. How is it that these three men couldn't coax a win out of such talented players as Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa, Keith Tkachuk, Kari Lehtonen, and Alexei Zhitnik?
Here's where things get ugly. Don Waddell traded Glen Metropolit, a 2007 1st-round pick, a 2007 3rd-round pick, and a 2008 2nd-round pick to get Keith Tkachuk from St. Louis. Tkachuk scored one goal and two assists in four games while posting 12 PIMs and a +2 rating. Don Waddell traded the young and highly-regarded defenseman Braydon Coburn to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Alexei Zhitnik. Zhitnik had no points in four games while posting 4 PIMs and a -4 rating. Don Waddell swapped tough defenseman Vitali Vishnevski to the Nashville Predators for Eric Belanger. Belanger had one goal in four games while posting 12 PIMs and a -6 rating.
Now, I'm not saying that Waddell is to blame alone. The track record of Tkachuk is nothing new. He didn't show up in the playoffs for Winnipeg, Phoenix, or St. Louis, so why should this surprise anyone? Zhitnik played an important role for Buffalo when they went to the Finals against Dallas, but has since gone unnoticed. Belanger played a key checking role for Carolina's run to the Cup last season, but was forced into an offensive role on Atlanta due to injuries to Steve Rucchin, and this is not something he made a name for himself with in the NHL. Waddell acquired pieces that are (a) aging and slowing down, (b) have poor playoff track records, and (c) being used in a capacity they should not be. As the GM of this team, it's his job to bring in the best people for the job to fit his team's chemistry. For all that he gave up, he could have done better, and this should be the reason for his dismissal.
Bob Hartley and Brad McCrimmon are also to blame. Hartley pretty much shattered Lehtonen's confidence by removing him as the starter after Game One, and leaving him for seven goals in Game Three. This is a kid who, at age 23, stepped in to be the team's full-time starter, going 34-24-9 with a 2.79 GAA and a .912 save percentage. He will be a full-time starter for a very long time. To yank him after a game in which the team in front of him didn't play very well showed some panic on the part of Hartley. To let him get shelled in Game Three when the Thrashers played terrible hockey reminded me of the Patrick Roy-Mario Tremblay incident in Montreal when Patrick Roy informed Montreal Canadiens' President Ronald Corey that it was the last game he'd ever play for Montreal after Mario Tremblay kept him in net during nine Detroit goals. If I were Lehtonen, I'd be angry and frustrated with Hartley.
I'm also blaming Hartley and McCrimmon for the Thrashers' poor special teams play. The Thrashers allowed five powerplay goals in 24 chances, killing off penalties at a 79.2% rate. When five teams are killing penalties at a 90% rate of higher, that's simply brutal. The Thrashers' powerplay scored one goal on 17 chances, scoring at a 5.9% rate. When six teams are scoring powerplay goals at a 20% rate of higher, that's inexcusable, especially with the talent that the Thrashers have. All of their stats were lower on the road than at home, and both Hartley and McCrimmon know that you have to win on the road to win a Stanley Cup.
Here's another telling stat of how Hartley and McCrimmon failed to motivate their stars. Hossa, Kovalchuk, Kozlov, Tkachuk, and Zhitnik, who were Atlanta's top five scorers in the regular season, combined for two goals and four assists in the series while posting 47 PIMs and a futile -15 rating. New York's top five scorers of Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander, Martin Straka, Brendan Shanahan, and Sean Avery combined to score 10 goals and 16 assists in the series while posting 29 PIMs and a dominating +17 rating. When Marcel Hossa outscores Marian Hossa, is it any wonder who swept the series?
If all three men keep their jobs, Atlanta will not win a playoff series ever. I like the exciting hockey they played in the regular season, but they are light years from being a threat in the playoffs. My prediction of Atlanta in five games was certainly wrong. I just didn't think that the Thrashers' five best players would disappear at the same time in the same series. Nor did I expect Johan Hedberg to get two starts. Nor do I expect Waddell, Hartley, and McCrimmon to have their jobs come September.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
There have been some remarkably ugly jerseys seen in the previous editions of You're Wearing That?, as well as some that are quite creative. If you want to check out the first two editions, You're Wearing That? and You're Wearing That? - The Sequel are available by clicking those links. The You're Wearing That? - IceCats Exposed article is also available by clicking the link, and that edition looks exclusively at the Worcester IceCats who seemed to change their jerseys as often as they changed their underwear. Not to worry, though. We're back with an extended version, and some of these are quite... well, I'll let you read about them.
It seems that holidays have a special place in the world of hockey. The NHL doesn't go too far in changing teams jerseys as a promotional item, but they have changed their practice jerseys, specifically with the San Jose Sharks. Well, another NHL team has joined the holiday practice jersey bandwagon - the Atlanta Thrashers, who celebrate St. Patrick's Day with these jerseys. Like the Sharks, all of the practice jerseys went up for auction, and the money was donated to charities in and around Atlanta.
The Arizona SunDogs of the Central Hockey League decided that Christmas just wasn't Christmas without Santa, so they dressed their players as Santa Claus for their game during the holidays. My first reaction was "why". My second reaction was "WHY".
The Augsburger Panthers of the German Elite League (DEL) celebrated Halloween with this jersey. With all the advertising and writing on the jersey, Halloween is the last message I see. This jersey falls under "when good ideas go bad". They also did a Halloween jersey in 2003, but that jersey had the same problem.
The Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL celebrated St. Patrick's Day this season with these jerseys. They also wore jerseys for Veterans Day. Both jerseys are decent, but not outstanding.
The Binghampton Senators of the AHL celebrated St. Patrick's Day with these jerseys this season. They're not bad, but they went ahead and committed a ridiculous mistake by creating an anniversary jersey for their 5th anniversary as their alternate jersey. Having one anniversary jersey is bad enough, but another one for home games? A patch is fine. A jersey is not, let alone two anniversary jerseys. I cannot say this enough. Do not use a jersey to commemorate your own anniversary. That's why patches were created.
The Cardiff Devils of the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in England celebrated Christmas with this jersey. Personally, I find it a little hard to celebrate Christmas when there is an angry devil's head on my chest.
Team Canada wore pink jerseys against Team USA at the 2007 Women's World Hockey Championship. They wanted to recognize the Canadian team that wore pink jerseys and won the first Women's World Hockey Championship in Ottawa in 1990. I like the idea, but I hate the jersey. Team Canada is red, not pink. Make it a patch, not a jersey.
The Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL have the first entry in the "Guns and Hoses" jersey category, and their jersey looks pretty good. The Guns and Hoses promotion was run to honour the men and women of the police departments and fire departments throughout America for their tireless efforts everyday in saving lives. This promotion gets a big thumbs-up from this writer, and the Roughriders' jersey also gets a thumbs-up for its simplicity.
The Chicago Freeze of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) wore St. Patrick's Day jerseys in 2002. They're quite boring, and not very creative.
The Chicago Hounds of the UHL offered an interesting promotion this season: Battle of the Bands. It's too bad that the jerseys they wore aren't as interesting.
The Chicago Wolves of the IHL and AHL have worn several versions of St. Patrick's Day jerseys: the first, the second, and the third. The third jersey is the best of the three, but it's hard to overlook that menacing wolf's face in the middle of the green. They lose points for that, but the designs are unique.
The Coventry Blaze of the EIHL celebrated Christmas with these jerseys this season. Additional marks for the letters and numbers having snow on them. If they weren't a European team, I'd take marks off for the advertising on the jerseys being a distraction, but the Christmas feel is there on these ones.
The Elmira Jackals of the UHL also celebrated a Guns and Hoses night, wearing these jerseys in honour of the men and women of the police and fire departments. Honestly, they are a little busy for my liking. Simplicity cannot be overstated on promo jerseys. The Jackals also celebrated St. Patrick's Day with these jerseys this season. I would have liked to see more Irish design on the jerseys, but at least they made this one a little less busy.
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL celebrated Christmas in 2004 by donning these jerseys. I like these jerseys as they capture the spirit of the promotion, and are very clear as to what they are promoting.
The Flint Generals of the UHL celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2002 by wearing a jersey for the event. Make it a patch, Flint. The jersey looks stupid.
The Laredo Bucks of the CHL, who seem to be a mainstay on these lists, make it on here again, thanks to a number of jerseys. The celebrated Halloween this season, which I like. The celebrated New Year's again, but these aren't as good as the 2006 version found in the last article. The Bucks went boring with this season's St. Patrick's Day jersey. The Bucks also celebrated a Military Night. I really like the Bucks' logo, and I think it works extremely well with that camouflage jersey.
The Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL show up again for their Centennial jersey that they wore in 2005-06. They even wore a Centennial patch on their Centennial jersey which, to me, makes no sense. Why not just wear the patch? Anniversary jerseys are, once again, a stupid idea in my view. The Wranglers weren't done there, though. They also celebrated Mardi Gras Night in 2003. This jersey is terrible in my opinion.
The Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) wore a ridiculous alternate jersey. What's with the atrocious logo?
The Louisville Panthers of the AHL wore Christmas jerseys in 2000. Unfortunately, if it weren't for the Santa hat on the Panther, you'd never know. The candy canes on the shoulders are highly inconspicuous, and the colours don't scream out "Merry Christmas". This jersey receives a failing grade. I'm not saying the jersey was the reason, but the Panthers are now defunct.
The Madison Monsters of the UHL and Colonial Hockey League (CoHL) wore these jerseys in the mid-1990s. The team moved to Knoxville, Tennessee before the 1999-2000 season. I don't know if it was because the pyjama-esque jerseys or something else, but these jerseys make me sleepy.
The Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL celebrated Halloween in 2004. Strangely enough, the Laredo Bucks also wore a Halloween jersey that looks familiar. Are we running out of promotional jersey ideas that two teams in different leagues need to copy one another?
The Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL paid tribute to Atlanta traffic this season. Gwinnett, located just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, wanted to portray something for which Atlanta is famous. Some may find it funny, but I think this is a waste of a promotion. Thumbs-down from this writer.
The Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL celebrated their 10th anniversary with a jersey this season. It feels as though I am beating a dead horse here: patch - yes; jersey - no. No one wears their age on their chest for six months, so why do owners wear their team's age on the chests of others? Idiotic.
The Kentucky Thoroughblades of the AHL celebrated Christmas in 1999. The changes to the logo are nice, but why not add a few more elements of Christmas to the jersey? You could maybe add some green and red. Or a candy cane. Or some snow. Or just not make stupid promotional jerseys.
The Houston Aeros of the AHL have created some "interesting"-looking alternate jerseys. And by "interesting", I mean "hideous".
The Knoxville Ice Bears of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) ran a couple of interesting promotions on 2004-05. They honoured Harley-Davidson with a jersey, and honoured America with a jersey. These jerseys are decent. The Ice Bears get a pass.
The Mahoning Valley Phantoms of the NAHL celebrated a couple of things this season. They wore a St. Patrick's Day jersey, and wore a Relay For Life jersey to help in the battle against cancer. Both jerseys are pretty good. The only thing missing from the St. Patrick's Day jersey would be an Irish hat. That would have made for some smiles. Good jerseys here, though.
The Missouri River Otters of the UHL celebrated Christmas in 2002-03. Again, two leagues with two similar jerseys for the same promotion. The River Otters and Milwaukee Admirals both wore the same jersey for the same season for the same promotion. Unoriginal? Yes. Am I impressed? No. I had said "I really like the 2002-03 Christmas jersey in that the background has been changed to reflect the promotion. That's taking the design to a whole-new level, and gets a thumbs-up from me". Does Milwaukee lose marks for this? Yes. Sorry, Milwaukee. That's what happens when you share a promotion.
The Motor City Mechanics of the UHL have worn several promotional jerseys. They wore an Inaugural Game jersey. Again, a patch would suffice (as I shake my head while writing that line). They honoured America with a jersey. The celebrated St. Patrick's Day with a jersey. The American and St. Patrick's Day jerseys are pretty good. I'm just not a fan of the advertising on the sleeves of the jerseys.
I made mention of them before, but here's another look at the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals during their Hawaiian night. I giggle everytime I see these.
The Muskegon Fury of the UHL have worn a few promo jerseys in their time. I'll start with the bad: their 15th anniversary jersey, their 2004-05 Opening Night jersey, and their NASCAR jersey. The 15th anniversary jersey should be self-explanatory - make it a patch, not a jersey. The Opening Night jersey is even more horrid in that they remind everyone that they won the Colonial Cup the previous season, as well as in 1999 and 2002. If that doesn't say arrogance, I don't know what does. The NASCAR jersey gets a bad rating from me because NASCAR and hockey don't go together. Ever. Not to mention that it's a stupid cross-sport promotion, but it's a stupid cross-sport promotion. The good would be the jersey created to honour America this season. It's simply, it's classy, and it's clear as to what they are honouring. Good job on the last jersey, Fury.
The New Haven Knights of the UHL wore a couple of St. Patrick's Day jerseys: 2000-01, and 2001-02. The second jersey appears to be a Minnesota Wild knock-off, and doesn't really have a huge St. Patrick's Day element to it. The first has a few shades of green, so it gets higher marks. However, I wouldn't say either of them achieve a passing grade.
The Peoria Rivermen of the ECHL had jerseys that would make the New York Islanders' Gorton Fishermen jerseys jealous. They are ridiculous. Number on the hem? No. Uneven lettering and numbering on the back? No. The angle the letters and numbers take? No. What the heck were they thinking?
The Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL wore some decent St. Patrick's Day jerseys in 2004-05. They're simple, they're not gaudy, and they represent the green of St. Patrick's Day. Only the shamrocks needed to be a little bigger. Otherwise, this is a good jersey.
The Port Huron Flags of the UHL wore a couple of St. Patrick's Day jerseys: 2005-06, and 2006-07. The second one is neat in that they doctored up a blank Guinness jersey into their own jersey. The first one is a little on the boring side. Kudos for the Guinness jersey, though.
The Providence Bruins of the AHL wore two promo jerseys of note in 2006-07. The first is the Reds jersey, worn in honour of the old Providence Reds and Rhode Island Reds. The Reds were Providence's first professional hockey team, seeing action in Canadian-American Hockey League (CAHL) from 1926-36, and then in the AHL from 1936-1976. The Reds won the Calder Cup in 1938, 1940, 1949, and 1956. The actual franchise of the Reds is now the Hartford Wolfpack, but the Bruins still honoured their city's former team. The second jersey they wore was in honour of St. Patrick's Day. I am huge fan of this jersey. It is probably the best St. Patrick's Day jersey I have seen to date. Two thumbs way up to the Providence Bruins in keeping hockey classy with these two timeless jerseys.
The Quad City Mallards of the UHL seem to be the ugly duckling of the jersey world. In previous articles, their jerseys have been questioned by me. It will be no different this time. They have their 10th anniversary jersey. The only good thing about the jersey is the logo since their regular logo is hideous. From there, we have a St. Patrick's Day jersey from 1995-96, a Valentine's Day jersey from 1998-99, and a Halloween jersey from 2005-06. They featured a VH1 Save The Music/Battle of the Bands jersey this season. The VH1 Save the Music Foundation seeks to encourage America’s public school to make instrumental music education a part of their curriculum while alerting Americans about the role that music plays in each child’s education. The foundation has provided schools with over $34 million worth of new instruments to over 1,400 schools in 80 communities. The jersey itself was designed by a local student. My thought was "good initiative, but a terrible jersey". In 2000-01, the Mallards had a Disco Night. That jersey seems a little quiet for disco. Six bad jerseys from the Mallards.
REV Bremerhaven of the DEL had a couple of interesting jerseys. They wore this jersey as their regular road jersey all season, and followed that up with a Christmas jersey. The Christmas jersey is kind of cartoonish, but it is very representative of the season. The first jersey? Wow. And not in a good way.
The short-lived Roanoke Valley Vipers of the UHL wore a very nice Guns and Hoses tribute jersey. The logo is really the only thing that changed, aside from the patch on the shoulder. A very nice tribute to the men and women of the police and fire departments in that it is a simple design and carries the message well. Thumbs-up to this jersey.
The Rochester Americans of the AHL wore the most boring St. Patrick's Day jersey ever in 1999-2000. The words "Ho hum" come to mind.
The Rocky Mountain Rage of the CHL makes another appearance on these articles. The Rage wore three promo jerseys this past season: Mardi Gras, Winter/Holiday Season, and St. Patrick's Day. Compared to the Christmas atrocity that was seen last time, these three jerseys are an improvement. However, Mardi Gras in the Rocky Mountains? Not on my watch. The winter/holiday jersey is different but unique, and I like the snow-covered numbers. The St. Patrick's Day is simple, so it gets a thumbs-up.
The San Antonio Rampage of the AHL offered a couple of promotional jerseys this season. They had their Salute to the Badges jersey, honouring local law enforcement and firefighters from the Alamo Area, similar to the Gun and Hoses jerseys seen above. The jerseys were auctioned after the game with proceeds benefitting the Alamo Area Fire and Police Memorial. They also honoured the NBA's San Antonio Spurs with a jersey. Cross-sport promotion is still a no-no in my books. The Badges jersey isn't bad, but isn't that great either. At leats the Guns and Hoses jerseys had jersey changes, making it easy to spot the differences in what the promotion was. The patch is a nice addition, but I thought the Rampage could have done more.
The Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL have worn a pile of promo jerseys. They have their 25th anniversary jersey (for the love of God, no!), a 2002 Halloween jersey (that's Halloween?), a 2005 Halloween jersey (that's better! I like it!), a 2000 St. Patrick's Day jersey (not bad), a 2006 St. Patrick's Day jersey (baby puke green? Why?), and a 2001 Valentine's Day jersey (I love it not). My bolded comments in parentheses should say enough.
The San Francisco Spiders of the IHL worn this tye-dye uniform in 1995-96. I think my eyes are bleeding. That is horrific.
The Sioux City Muskateers of the USHL sported some St. Patrick's Day jerseys. These jerseys aren't bad, but certainly not close to the Providence Bruins' version. They do get a passing grade.
The Utah Grizzlies of the AHL hosted a Guns vs. Hoses game before they closed up shop. It was a charity game before the actual Grizzlies' game that featured the police vs. the fire department. A portion of each ticket purchased from a Guns and Hoses player went to the University of Utah Burn Camp and the Foundation for Children and Youth with Diabetes. Thumbs-up for a solid jersey helping out two excellent causes.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL have wore a pile of promo jerseys over the years. Here's a rundown: 5th anniversary jersey in 2003-04 (end the insanity!), Fight Against Breast Cancer warm-up jersey in 2007 (a decent jersey for an excellent cause), 2001 Christmas jersey (boring), 2002 Christmas jersey (Christmas is never that bland), 2003 Christmas jersey with a side view (are they just re-using the same jerseys?), 2006 Christmas jersey (did the Wild design that jersey?), 2000 St. Patrick's Day jersey (big shamrock = average jersey), 2001 St. Patrick's Day jersey (getting better!), 2002-03 St. Patrick's Day jersey (still better!), 2004 St. Patrick's Day jersey (still on the right track), 1999-2000 tye-dye warmup jersey (my eyes!), 2001 Pittsburgh Hornets jersey (awesome!), and the 2002 Pittsburgh Hornets jersey (still awesome!). The Hornets were a former AHL team based out of Pittsburgh, and the jerseys were worn as tributes to that team. The comments say enough.
The Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL honoured their ties to the city of Pittsburgh by wearing Pittsburgh-inspired jerseys. I have to admit that the Nailers put the Pirates to shame. They also wore St. Patrick's Day jerseys in 2004-05. This one gets a big thumbs-up for the Guinness jersey and the awesome font on the back. Well done, Nailers!
And finally, we move to sponsorship at its worst. The UHL All-Star Games in 2005 and 2006 featured team wearing corporate logos as their primary logo. Paul Lukas of Uni Watch will not like these photos. The 2005 UHL All-Star Game featured Team Mountain Dew vs. Team Pepsi. Simply brutal. I know I've talked about how all-star games are basically a chance for professional sports leagues to wine-and-dine any and all sponsors and sponsors-to-be, but this is taking it to a whole new level. In 2006, the UHL did it again, featuring Team Aquafina vs. Team Gatorade. Hideous? You bet. But at least you know you'll be drinking Pepsi products at the game. Brought to you by Pepsi. The Pepsi UHL Pepsi All-Star Pepsi Game.
Ok, so that's a huge pile of jerseys, but I'm sure there are some that are worth it, and some that aren't. Just remember: if you go blind or have a seizure, I'm not to blame. More NHL playoffs tonight! Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I'm never one to say I told you so, but after watching Game Three between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils last night, it has become apparent that Lou Lamoriello cannot out-coach John Tortorella. Ruler-Of-All-Things-Devils Lou has now lost two games in a row to a much faster, much quicker, much more offensively-talented team, both by 3-2 scores. While I concede that there is no urgency to push the panic button yet in this series, there is some room for concern regarding the Devils, and Coach Lou needs to address this.
The Devils cannot run-and-gun with Tampa Bay. If they do, Tampa Bay's highly-gifted offensive unit will make short work of the Devils. What the Devils need to do in Game Four is come out the exact same way they did in Game One: score early, and forecheck hard. The Devils need to exercise their psychological advantage of wearing a team down when they are trailing. That is what they do best, and that is where they've had the most success in the playoffs. Score early, play defence hard, capitalize on mistakes, and run out the clock. That's Devil hockey to a tee.
They also cannot let Tampa Bay's forwards of Andre Roy and Nick Tarnasky hammer them into the boards all night like they did last night. They need to be able to absorb a few hits, and get right back into defensive position. Roy had four big hits on one shift last night alone, including one on Patrik Elias. No one skated by Roy and warned him that any contact on a star would result in repercussions. And so Roy continued to hammer away on guys. Someone needs to step up and send a message to Tampa Bay that the Devils are not going to be pushed around.
Lastly, the Devils need to start getting in Johan Holmqvist's face. John Madden's weak floater that scored on Holmqvist last night was a direct result of Jay Pandolfo's excellent screen. Is it any wonder that a young goalie, such as Holmqvist, would try to look around the left side of Pandolfo as Madden approached, only to be scored on under his right arm? Go to the net, plant yourself there, and just be a screen. It has worked for the Devils before. Why abandon that concept now?
My prediction of New Jersey losing in 6 games will come true. Tampa Bay will win on home ice tomorrow, and then Jersey will win in New Jersey on Friday. After that, it's back to Tampa Bay where the Lightning will close out the series.
Thanks for coming to the dance, Lou. Too bad you're going to be watching the Stanley Cup Finals from your armchair again. I had hoped that the Devils would be the anti-Barney Rubble Hairpieces where they would show everyone how defensive hockey in the new NHL is played. The problem is that they have forgotten that you need some offence to win games.
As an aside, the third installment of "You're Wearing That?" will be available sometime tomorrow. This one is huge as well. It has more jerseys than either of the first two, so be prepared. Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Every year, teams develop a personality, and it shows over and over again in the playoffs in different situations. Whether it be a plucky team who just won't say die, or a team who scores immediately after being scored on, there is always an identity created for a team. The Calgary Flames, since Darryl Sutter has take over, have always shown a high-level of tenacity and intensity, not to mention a lot of attention paid to the defensive side of the game. Having watched Games One and Two of this opening round of the playoffs, my only question is "what the hell has happened to the Flames".
Look, I'm not blaming one guy here. It's not Iginla's fault or Conroy's fault or Kiprusoff's fault. I am blaming the team. There's no backcheck, there's no solid forecheck, there's no break-out from the defensive zone, and this is leading to Detroit's domination of the first two games. There have been too many two-on-ones and too many bad penalties. There hasn't been the upstart, hard-skating team that showed up in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Flames.
I don't believe that guys like Martin Gelinas, Ville Niemenen, and Darren McCarty were the reason for the 2004 playoff success. They helped, but they weren't on the ice as much as guys like Conroy, Iginla, and Regehr. They battled hard, forechecked hard, and played their role well, but it seems that this year's version of the Flames are missing that edge. Maybe it's Jim Playfair's coaching style or maybe Detroit is simply that good, but it appears that the Wings are set to sweep the Flames in Calgary this week.
All I know is that the Flames have been outshot 97-35 in two games, and outscored 7-2. They've looked disoreinted and confused. My advice, if I were coaching, would be simple: skate hard, shoot the puck on net, and skate hard. If the Flames don't start creating their own chances, they won't get any. And that's where the problem lies so far.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Thanks to reader Will Radie, he informed me of another "How It's Made" video. This time, the item in question are goalie pads. This one is quite informative, much like the video about the hockey gloves. Check it out.
I also went digging for some more goalie-related info that could be used by some of the players out there that read this blog. I found a good video that explains how to relace your trapper.
I also went looking for other informative videos. The video below, talking about Easton's composite sticks, is a wealth of knowledge.
That's all for now! Enjoy the Women's World Hockey Championship tonight, and gear up for the NHL Playoffs on Wednesday! Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Two familiar foes will square off in Winnipeg tonight in the Women's World Hockey Championship Final at the MTS Centre. Team USA plays Team Canada for the 10th time in the championship in tournament history. Canada has won eight gold medals, while Team USA won the last Women's World Championship in 2005 in Linkoping, Sweden. The Canadian women won the Olympic gold medal last year in place of the World Championship, and that is still fresh in the minds of the Americans who lost 5-4 in a shootout this past Saturday. However, US captain Krissy Wendell also remembers the feeling of her first World Championship win with Team USA.
"I always remember lining up at the blue line and being able to watch our flag go up and actually sing, because I'd heard 'O Canada' a few too many times," said Wendell. The 25-year-old US hockey veteran from Minnesota is playing in her sixth world championship.
The Canadians and Americans are very evenly-matched, and both sides know that the team that wins will be the team that capitalizes on the other's mistakes. The American forecheck gave Canada problems getting out of its own end early Saturday, and Canada twice had to come from behind to tie the game before winning it in penalty shots.
"We've got to clean up in our end and take care of the little things in our end and help each other out," Team Canada star Hayley Wickenheiser said. "With the new rules, you are holding back not wanting to take a penalty, but tomorrow night I think we're going to be able to play a little more physical than we have in the tournament."
The players who lost two years for Team Canada in Sweden don't want to see a repeat of the 2005 World Championships on home soil.
"Not something to dwell on, but remember in the back of your mind," veteran Canadian forward Vicky Sunohara said. "We want to win for ourselves, we want to win for the country. The Americans want to win it too, so we need to come out hard and keep the crowd on our side and keep them in the game because that's huge.
"We need to use that playing in Canada."
Both teams are expecting the sold-out MTS Centre to be energetic for the Canadian women, and the Americans will be ready.
"Canada-U.S., it's the best game you can watch in women's hockey," Wendell said after practice Monday. "There's not a hatred. When you play on a great team, you want to go and play another great team."
In other games Monday, Sweden beat Switzerland 3-0 and will play in Tuesday's bronze-medal game against Finland, who lost to the Canadians 5-0 and the Americans 4-0. Russia defeated Germany 4-0 in the relegation round. Kazakhstan finished last in the tournament, and will be relegated to the World-B Championship. Japan won promotion to the 2008 Women's World Championship in China on Sunday.
The Championship game can be viewed on TSN Broadband, and is available here.
1. To be determined (Canada or USA)
2. To be determined (Canada or USA)
3. To be determined (Finland or Sweden)
4. To be determined (Finland or Sweden)
9. Kazakhstan (relegated; replaced by Japan in 2008)
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
The quest for the Silver Chalice starts on Wednesday, so I'm going to give you the earliest playoff preview in history. TSN will be carrying their playoff preview and fantasy hockey show on Tuesday, so you know that I am jumping the gun here by a few days. Hockey's Holy Grail has seen 30 teams battle through 6 months of games with 16 teams making the playoffs. 16 teams will play for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup, and the right to take it home with them for a few days. There will be triumph, tears, blood, lots of sweat, and celebrations. Let's take a look a Round One of the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Hairpieces and the Islanders met four times this season: October 26 - Buffalo wins 3-0 in New York (Miller vs. Dipietro); January 1 - Buffalo wins 3-1 in Buffalo (Miller vs. Dipietro); January 27 - New York wins 5-3 in New York (Miller vs. Dipietro); and March 30 - Buffalo wins 6-4 in Buffalo (Miller vs. Dunham).
Honestly, I can't see this series going past four games without Dipietro. Dunham and Dubielewicz simply aren't good enough to win four games in this series. Buffalo had the best road record in the NHL season, posting a 25-11-4 mark this season, and playing well on the road goes a long way in the playoffs. Sure, New York won at home against the Hairpieces, but with Dipietro gone, that opportunity will disappear. Look for another David Copperfield act to show up in the Islander dressing room as Yashin will undoubtedly disappear for the playoffs as he has done much of the regular season.
Prediction: Buffalo Sabres advance in four games.
The Devils and Lightning met four times this season: January 18 - Tampa Bay wins 3-2 in a shootout in New Jersey (Brodeur vs. Holmqvist); January 26 - New Jersey wins 2-0 in Tampa Bay (Brodeur vs. Holmqvist); February 11 - Tampa Bay wins 4-1 in New Jersey (Brodeur vs. Holmqvist); and March 22 - Tampa Bay wins 3-1 in Tampa Bay (Brodeur vs. Denis).
This series is all about Martin vs. Martin and Vinny. Tampa Bay's dynamic duo of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier have caused problems all season for Martin Brodeur. Tampa Bay also has Vaclav Prospel and Brad Richards contributing, and this gives them two potent lines, not unlike their 2004 championship run. The Devils seem to be stuck in an offensive holding pattern, scoring less and less while relying on Martin Brodeur to hold down the fort. Dismissing Claude Julien will come back to hurt the Devils in this series since Lamoriello is running Julien's system. If the Devils get behind, can they find the offence fast enough without exposing themselves to the Lightning's impressive goal-scoring? Elias, Gionta, Madden, Langenbrunner, and Gomez have to start scoring at a regular pace if they want to go deep. Tampa Bay must protect its goalies from being peppered with shots.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning advance in six games.
The Thrashers and Rangers met four times this season: November 10 - New York wins 5-2 in Atlanta (Lehtonen vs. Lundqvist); November 28 - Atlanta wins 5-4 in overtime in New York (Lehtonen vs. Lundqvist); January 20 - Atlanta wins 3-1 in New York (Lehtonen vs. Lundqvist); and March 16 - Atlanta wins 2-1 in overtime in Atlanta (Hedberg vs. Lundqvist).
The New York Rangers have not played up to potential all season, and this series will be no different. If it weren't for Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers could have missed the playoffs. Lundqvist will factor into a game, but not four games. The Thrashers have been solid all season with Kari Lehtonen providing the foundation for their first playoff appearance. The additions of Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhitnik will pay dividends in the first round as both will be used a lot by Bob Hartley. Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Slava Kozlov will continue their strong regular season play. The only place of weakness on the Thrashers is their defensive unit who will have fits with Jagr and his Euro-circus of forwards. However, after learning their methods, the Thrashers will adapt and win. Sean Avery will NOT be the second-coming of any playoff hero. He'll end up with a goal and two assists in one playoff round.
Prediction: Atlanta Thrashers win in five games.
The Senators and Penguins met four times this season: November 10 - Ottawa wins 6-3 in Pittsburgh (Gerber vs. Fleury); March 6 - Pittsburgh wins 5-4 in a shootout in Pittsburgh (Emery vs. Thibault); March 18 - Pittsburgh wins 4-3 in a shootout in Ottawa (Emery vs. Fleury); and April 5 - Pittsburgh wins 3-2 in Ottawa (Emery vs. Fleury).
This series could be the best of the first-round series. These teams showed in their April 5th game that they do not like each other. While it appears that the Penguins have Ray Emery's number, the story could be the play of the back-ups. Is Gerber as good as his $3 million salary says? Can Thibault continue his strong play? The Senators boast Dany Heatley's 50 goals this season, and Daniel Alfredsson's +42 rating says that the Ottawa first-line is as good in their own zone as they are in the offensive zone. Ottawa also tied for the league-lead in shorthanded goals with 17. Pittsburgh boasts the Art Ross Trophy winner in Sidney Crosby, rookie scoring leader Evgeni Malkin, and shorthanded goal leader Jordan Staal. For those of you looking for the Gary Roberts diatribe about his history against Ottawa, save it. I am not a member of the Toronto media, and don't believe for a second that he will be the final nail in the Senators' coffin. He will play a factor, as will guys like Mark Recchi, Maxime Talbot, Colby Armstrong, and Erik Christensen. I don't see Ottawa's supporting cast being as dynamic as Pittsburgh, and having a guy like Mike Comrie disappear will hurt Ottawa badly.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins advance in six games.
The Red Wings and Flames met four times this season: November 1 - Detroit wins 3-2 in Detroit (Hasek vs. Kiprusoff); November 17 - Calgary wins 4-1 in Calgary (Hasek vs. Kiprusoff); February 11 - Detroit wins 7-4 in Detroit (McLennan vs. MacDonald); and March 20 - Calgary wins 2-1 in Calgary (Hasek vs. Kiprusoff).
Since neither of these teams wanted to win on the road, let's just throw out the regular-season record. The Red Wings have been playing well recently, while the Flames backed into the playoffs with losses in their last three games. While I honestly believe that Kiprusoff is a better goalie this season than Domink Hasek, Detroit's team play is far better than Calgary's has been. Conroy, Langkow, Iginla, and Huselius cannot carry the offence for the entire series against guys like Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Holmstrom, and Lang. Defensively, Detroit's six are superior, and that is where this series will be won. Detroit also had the best home record in the NHL this season, posting a 29-4-8 record. That fact cannot be overlooked. The Wings dominate at Joe Louis Arena.
Prediction: Detroit Red Wings advance in six games.
The Ducks and Wild met four times this season: October 20 - Anaheim wins 2-1 in Anaheim (Giguere vs. Fernandez); October 27 - Minnesota wins 3-2 in a shootout in Minnesota (Giguere vs. Fernandez); November 12 - Anaheim wins 3-2 in Anaheim (Giguere vs. Backstrom); December 31 - Minnesota wins 4-3 in Minnesota (Wall vs. Fernandez).
Again, another set of regular season games where the home team wins. The big story here is that these team haven't played one another since the last day of 2006. Since the return of Gaborik from injury, the Wild have been on an incredible tear. Manny Fernandez has been playing MVP-style hockey the last few weeks, and Pavol Demitra has been solid. Brian Rolston and Wes Walz provide the leadership that the young Wild need in a playoff run. Anaheim is loaded with great talent and good, young players. Dustin Penner, last season's playoff surprise, should be a factor for the Ducks in this year's playoffs as well. Teemu Selanne led the league in powerplay goals with 25, a factor not overlooked by this writer as the playoffs can be won and lost on special teams. With Niedermayer and Pronger platooning on the blueline, the Ducks look formidable. Their only question mark is their goaltending. Will the real Giguere show up?
Prediction: Anaheim Ducks advance in six games.
The Canucks and Stars met four times this season: October 23 - Dallas wins 2-1 in Dallas (Luongo vs. Turco); November 6 - Vancouver wins 2-1 in Vancouver (Luongo vs. Smith); January 3 - Vancouver wins 2-1 in a shootout in Vancouver (Luongo vs. Turco); February 25 - Dallas wins 2-1 in a shootout in Dallas (Luongo vs. Turco).
Yet another series of regular season games where the home team won. In any case, this series might be all about the goalies. Roberto Luongo has played well enough to be considered for both the Hart and Vezina Trophies, and has allowed his team to win games they have no business winning. Marty Turco has allowed soft goals at times, and has been replaced in several games after playing poorly. The problem is that both these teams have a problem scoring goals. Dallas has only scored 223 goals, while Vancouver has only scored 221 goals, but their defences and goaltending have been the difference throughout the season. Neither team allowed more than 200 goals this season. Defensive hockey? You better believe it. Overtime in every game? Not unlikely. Vancouver has the league's best penalty-killing at 87.2%, and that's where this series will be decided: on the powerplay.
Prediction: Vancouver Canucks advance in seven games.
The Predators and Sharks met four times this season: October 26 - Nashville wins 4-3 in Nashville (Vokoun vs. Toskala); December 9 - San Jose wins 3-1 in San Jose (Mason vs. Nabokov); February 14 - Nashville wins 5-0 in Nashville (Vokoun vs. Toskala); and February 28 - Nashville wins 4-3 in a shootout in San Jose (Vokoun vs. Toskala).
With all due respect to San Jose's offence, if Vokoun gets the start in this series, I'm calling it to be short. Joe Thornton is a great set-up man, but Jonathan Cheechoo hasn't been the same player as last season. Patrick Marleau is having a fine season, but he needs some help. The Bill Guerin experiment hasn't gone as well as had hoped. If the Sharks are going to beat the Predators, they need to put someone in Vokoun's face for the entire series: powerplay, even-strength, shorthanded, while Vokoun eats, while Vokoun sleeps, while Vokoun brushes his teeth. Mike Grier's and Bill Guerin's butts are all that Vokoun should see day and night. Otherwise, the deep and talented Predators, with their agile yet tough defensive unit, will run roughshod over the Sharks. Nashville only gave up two shorthanded goals all season, so that should tell you that you need to dump the puck if you're playing with a man down. If not, Nabokov and Toskala will be fishing it out of the net behind them.
Prediction: Nashville Predators advance in five games.
Ok, so those are my first-round predictions. Am I right? Probably not. Maggie the monkey on TSN will probably guess more correctly, but, like James Duthie, it won't stop me from guessing some more. Comments are appreciated below, and I will read and respond. Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!
Hello all! This post is to suffice while I wait for the Islanders to wrap up their game versus the Devils. I plan on having the playoff previews up tonight. Until then, school is in session. Here is a look at how some common hockey items are made.
How Hockey Gloves Are Made
How Hockey Sticks Are Made
Some interesting and informative videos. I like the hockey glove one. It shows the innovations that were specifically designed to make hockey gloves. That's all for now! See you later with "Teebz's Playoff Predictions". Until then, keep your stick on the ice!
Saturday, April 7, 2007
The final weekend for NHL teams trying to make the playoffs is upon us, and most have been decided as of the time of writing this article. Honestly, it was some of the best hockey I have seen in a while, and it made for great hockey watching. As Europe sang, it was the final countdown for a few teams: the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, and the Colorado Avalanche. Who did what? Who is playing who? How far will my team go in the playoffs? All will be answered below.
Firstly, tomorrow's game between the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders has the fate of two teams resting on the outcome: the Islanders themselves, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Toronto Maple Leafs eliminated the Montreal Canadiens from the playoff race tonight with a 6-5 victory. Montreal simply needed to win or gain a point, and they would have eliminated both the Islanders and Maple Leafs. However, if they lost in regulation, they'd have all summer to think about it. And what happened? Kyle Wellwood's deflection of a Tomas Kaberle point shot on the powerplay early in the third period was the difference. Now, if the Devils beat the Islanders in regulation, Toronto is in. However, if the Islanders win, the Maple Leafs are out. If the Devils and Islanders are tied after 60 minutes and the Devils win in overtime or the shootout, the Islanders and Maple Leafs would be tied, and we go to the NHL's tie-breaking procedures:
"If two or more clubs are tied in points during the regular season, the standing of the clubs is determined in the following order:
1. The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).
2. The greater number of games won.
3. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.
4. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season."
Option One is out since both teams will have played 82 games. Option Two is a factor since the Leafs would have 40 wins to the Islanders' 39 wins if they lose after 60 minutes. With one point separating the teams, if the Islanders win, the Leafs are out. Therefore, the Leafs have to hope that the Devils win in any case. Otherwise, they are done like the Canadiens were tonight.
In other playoff battles, Ottawa clinched the 4th-seed in the East over the Pittsburgh Penguins by way of having more wins. Both teams finished with 105 points, but the Senators had 48 wins to Pittsburgh's 47 wins. Honestly, I am hoping that the Islanders win tomorrow to eliminate the Leafs so that Hockey Night in Canada carries this series. This one should be one for the ages!
With Tampa Bay losing 7-2 to the Florida Panthers last night and losing 3-2 in a shootout to Atlanta tonight, the New York Rangers clinched the 6th-seed in the East. Tampa Bay will square off in Round One against the New Jersey Devils, while the New York Rangers will travel to Atlanta to meet the Thrashers.
The Barney Rubble Hairpieces, who clinched home-ice throughout the playoffs and won Presidents' Trophy with a 2-0 win over Washington today, await the outcome of the Toronto-New York Islanders saga to see who they face.
In the West, Colorado's loss to the Nashville Predators earlier today eliminated them from the playoffs. Had they won and Calgary lost to the Oilers, tomorrow night's game would have been similar to the Toronto-Montreal game. However, that's all for naught since the Avalanche lost 4-2 to the Predators.
With this known, Detroit will welcome Calgary in the opening round of the playoffs at Joe Louis Arena.
Anaheim will welcome the Minnesota Wild to the Honda Center in the 2-vs-7 series.
Vancouver will welcome the Dallas Stars to GM Place in the 3-vs-6 series.
Nashville will entertain the San Jose Sharks at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in the 4-vs-5 series. This might be the series with the most Frequent Flier miles if it goes seven games.
And last year's Stanley Cup finalists, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Edmonton Oilers, will watch from the sidelines. This is the first time in NHL history that both finalists failed to qualify for the playoffs the following season.
Tomorrow, I bring you the first annual "Teebz's Playoff Predictions". It should be funny because I'm not going to beat around the bush on any of the series. I'll simply tell you who I think will win, why they will win, and in how many games. It should be a blast. Until tomorrow, keep your stick on the ice!