Thursday, 19 May 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 504

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back at UMFM tonight as Manitoba braces for more Vancouver-like rain today. It might be a good thing that we're getting subtropical rains being that Survivor: NHL Playoffs sees seven more entrants sent off the island tonight as we wrap up the first round of the contest. If you missed the updates, everything was recapped here on HBIC earlier this week so check that out if you like. Beyond that, our hosts will squeeze in a little hockey chatter around the exit interviews, so get ready for some laughs as we go to "Tribal Council" tonight!

Teebz and Jason will be joined by Mike G., Jared M. (by proxy), Rich G., Derek A., John M., Barry A., and Tyler D. tonight as each of these gentlemen will get an opportunity to air their grievances over their teams' exarly exits from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Normally, we find these exit interviews occupy a good chunk of the show's airtime, but we'll do our best to keep things moving so we can get to a few topics including ASU putting the Coyotes in their place, a new contest that starts next week (that I forgot to announce last week), Manitoba earning a gold medal at the NAHC in Nova Scotia, another highly-skilled player joining the coaching ranks, and more! It's a show that will surely make you smile as we hear seven exit interviews in the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest, so make sure you're listening at 5:30pm CT so you can hear The Hockey Show on 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com!

If you live outside Winnipeg and want to listen, we have options! The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online so you cnn call in for the contest as well. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, so if you want to stream the show I'd recommend Radio Garden to do that as it works nicely with Safari. If you're more of an app person, we recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or Google Play Store. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Jason chat with the seven entrants exiled off Survivor: NHL Playoffs island as we end their runs in the contest with some fun exit interviews and more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

A Christmas Tradition

It's been two years since the trophy to the left was awarded to one of six teams that travel to Switzerland after Christmas. The Spengler Cup will be awarded this year, though, as long as there aren't any major pandemics that hit between now and the final week of 2022. As we know, the hosts from Davos will participate in the tournament, and there's always a collection of Canadians who gather to represent their home nation as Team Canada over the week of hockey. The other four teams who make up the rest of the field are invited by HC Davos to the tournament, and are normally some of the best club teams in Europe from the SM-Liiga, the Swedish Elite League, the Czech Extraliga, the KHL, and more! Who is going this year, you ask? Let's find out who will spend the last week of 2022 in the Swiss Alps playing hockey at the Spengler Cup!

As stated above, the two annual entrants who have had the most success at the Spengler Cup will return once again this season. HC Davos hosts the tournament just as they do every year, and Vaillant Arena will play host to the tournament once more after two long years of missing out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. HC Davos, as we know, play in the Swiss League and often feature some good hockey talent on their roster, so expect the home team to push for the Spengler Cup when action gets underway.

Team Canada will also return to take their place at the tournament as the Canadian squad is made up from players across Europe and North America who aren't under NHL contract. Canada is the defending champion at the tournament after winning the event in 2019 over Czech champion Ocelari Trinec by a 4-0 score, and they'll be aiming to add their 17th Spengler Cup championship to the trophy case with the return of the tournament in 2022. Only HC Davos is close to Canada in terms of overall success throughout the tournament's history, but Canada officially has won the most Spengler Cups in the 93-year history of the event!

Joining them will be Czech team HC Sparta Prague as the Extraliga finalists will make the trip to Davos in December. HC Sparta Prague has won the Spengler Cup twice, so they're no strangers to the week-long hockey tournament. It's been a while since they hoisted the trophy, though, as they won back in 1962 and 1963, but they did finish as the silver medalists at the tournament in 2004. HC Sparta Prague boasted former NHLers Roman Horak, Filip Chlapik, and Vladimir Sobotka on their roster this season, so expect them to bring a strong team to Davos in December.

HC Ambri-Piotta is the second team from the Swiss National League who will play at the event, and they're looking to make some history with their first appearance in the final this season. Known as the "Biancoblù" for their colours - white and blue - HC Ambri-Piotta is an interesting addition to the tournament considering that they've never won a Swiss National League championship in their history either. What shouldn't be overlooked is the quality of players that HC Ambri-Piotta attracts with the likes of Matt D'Agostini, Peter Regin, and Brandon McMillan on their roster this season, so I'd expect HC Ambri-Piotta to make a little noise at the 2022 Spengler Cup.

IFK Helsinki returns to the Spengler Cup for the fourth time after playing in the event in 1994, 1995, and 2004. IFK Helsinki has won the SM-Liiga seven times, so they have a championship pedigree that saw them last win the league championship in 2011. They did finish in third-place in 2021 and were fifth-place in 2022, and they'll be looking for their first appearance in the Spengler Cup final this season. Former Quinnipiac netminder Michael Garteig backstopped the team this year while Jere Innala, Eetu Koivistoinen, and Otto Paajanen led the team in scoring. IFK Helsinki will need a push if they hope to win, but they shouldn't be taken lightly.

The sixth team at the tournament this year is Swedish club Örebro HK. Örebro HK was elevated to the Swedish Elite League in 2013-14 and look to continue their strong play after another season in which they qualified for the playoffs. Örebro HK has never played at the Spengler Cup before, so seeing them make their debut will be special as they write another chapter into their hockey history. Former NHL netminder Jhonas Enroth is Örebro's star, and he'll be expected to stonewall the opposition. The have a handful of players who played in the AHL, but they'll need big tourmanents out of leading scorers Robin Kovacs, Rodrigo Abols, and Nick Ebert if they want to shock their world in the Spengler Cup debut!

The tournament runs from Monday, December 26 through Saturday, December 31 with the games following the schedule posted below.
As you can see, Canada plays on Monday against HC Sparta Prague in the Cattini Group with the losing team in that game playing HC Davos on Tuesday. The winning team plays Davos on Wednesday. Örebro HK's debut will be against HC Ambri-Piotta in the Torriani Group on Monday with the loser moving to Tuesday's match against IFK Helsinki before IFK Helsinki plays the winner of Örebro and Ambri-Piotta on Wednesday.

Quarterfinals are played on Thursday with the second-place teams in each pool playing the third-place teams from the other pool. The winner of the second-place Torriani and third-place Cattini teams will play the first-place Cattini team (which could be Canada) in the first semifinal while the winner of the second-place Cattini and third-place Torriani teams will play the first-place Torriani team. The final happens between the winners of the semifinal games on Saturday for the trophy and the glory of being the 2022 Spengler Cup champions!

I love the Spengler Cup as its one of the best tournaments on the planet to see some great European players and teams that we rarely get to witness in North America. While there are fiercely-contested games on the ice, the crowd in Davos are always revved up and ready to cheer on their heroes. This tournament is on the bucket list of hockey events I want to attend, and I'm glad it's back for 2022 because it's been two long years without the Spengler Cup making my holiday season more enjoyable!

Can Canada win their 17th Spengler Cup? I'll be watching when the action gets under way on December 26!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 16 May 2022

Round Two Is Set

The field has been reduced from its sixteen teams to eight as the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs roll into the second round. There's no denying that with all the Game Sevens seen in the opening round that this playoffs is turning out to be pretty fun, and that means that the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest on The Hockey Show has been incredibly entertaining thus far! We already had one exit interview as Doris and the Nashville Predators were voted off Survivor: NHL Playoffs island, and we'll have seven more this week on the radio show as we close out the first round of the playoffs as well! Who's still in, and who is playing whom? Let's find out who is matched up against whom in this round!

Here is the second-round bracket with names for the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest as the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue!
As it stands, eight entrants in the contest will continue to push forward in an effort to win the Vegas Golden Knights Reverse Retro jersey as the grand prize in the contest, while all of Mike G., Jared M., Rich G., Derek A., John M., Barry A., and Tyler D. all get themselves set for exit interviews on Thursday's edition of The Hockey Show. There's one challenge remaining - the first team to advance to the third round - so all eight entrants have a shot at winning a prize this round as well!

The six challenges that have been won will see John M., Dave W., Matt C., Doris D., Tyler D., and Dave W. once again choose their prizes this week, and I'll have them out to the winners as soon as possible based on how quickly those winners respond to the email they receive. There have been a few decided already, so make sure you're checking your email if you're one of the five people above who won a prize!

The team I cheer for has been eliminated, but I enjoyed watching some of the series play out to their seven-game finales. Perhaps you've lost a little enthusiasm for the playoffs with your team eliminated, and have decided that it's too painful to watch any additional games. I'd recommend that you tune into the IIHF World Hockey Championship in that case as there has been a ton of great actions happening in Finland thus far. Canada, Switzerland, and Denmark have looked fun in Group A while Sweden and Finland have controlled Group B. Keep your eyes on Austria, though, as they've shown all sorts of moxie thus far!

Whatever hockey you decide to watch, have a good time watching it. This is a fun time of year, and we always enjoy the chatter during the exit interviews. It should be another beauty round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that means another fun round of craziness in the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest! And if you've moved on to the World Championship, I'll be watching that in the mornings too as I cheer on Canada!

Settle in, folks, because there's some good hockey coming up over the next few weeks!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Holy Hofer!

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but regular readers of Hockey Blog In Canada know that I'll stop what I'm doing for a goaltender goal any time one is scored. I was all prepared to write a piece on how Sidney Crosby may have a whole new cast of people around him next season with the decisions the Penguins have to make in the off-season, but that went out the window when I was alerted of a player's first goal in his career. That player is the guy you see to the left in Joel Hofer, and he normally defends the net for the Springfield Thunderbirds when he's not scoring goals. Tonight, though, is all about Joel Hofer scoring because he did something awesome!

We roll back to Friday night as the Springfield Thunderbirds were hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game Two of the Atlantic Division semifinal. We pick the game up with four minutes to play and Springfield leading 4-2 in the game and 1-0 in the series.

That's a playoff goal for goaltender Joel Hofer, and it makes the first time in his career that he's scored a goal at any level! Beyond that, it marks only the second time in AHL history that a goaltender has scored in the Calder Cup Playoffs, and it came in Hofer's first-ever Calder Cup playoff game! For those asking, Max Legace of the Chicago Wolves is the only other netminder to score in the AHL postseason, doing so on May 25, 2019 in San Diego against the Gulls!

Hofer, who won his first NHL game this season on November 5, 2021 against the San Jose Sharks, has been making history at each of his hockey stops. In that NHL game, he became the first goalie to record an assist in his NHL debut since Jason Bachashihua did it for the Blues on December 16, 2005 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and Hofer also became the youngest Blues goaltender to win his NHL debut, besting the mark by Michel Plasse back on March 30, 1971. That assist he recorded? It moved him into elite company as well as he became just the fifth goaltender in NHL history to win and record a point in their NHL debut, joining the likes of Alex Auld, David Goverde, Ron Tugnutt and Bob Froese!

It's been a wild 18 months for Hofer as the netminder was named the Best Goaltender and part of the Media All-Star Team at the 2020 World Junior Championship after helping Canada win the gold medal over Russia. The Winnipeg-born goalie led the Portland Winterhawks to an incredible 45-11-7 record in the WHL before the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic as Hofer was 34-8-5 with a 2.49 GAA and a .915 save percentage. It's hard to imagine that the Winterhawks would have struggled in the playoffs, but it seemed that Hofer was poised to help Portland make a deep run in the playoffs towards the Memorial Cup.

After the Blues assigned him to the Utica Comets in 2020-21, he earned his first professional win on April 13, 2021 in a 5-1 win over the Syracuse Crunch. His first professional shutout followed a week later when he blanked the Binghamton Devils in a 3-0 Utica win.

With the Blues securing an AHL affiliation with the Springfield Thunderbirds, Hofer settled in this season with an 18-14-7 record, a 2.96 GAA, and a .905 save percentage in helping Springfield to a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division with a 43-24-9 record. That led to an opening-round series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a best-of-five series that saw Charlie Lindgren win Game One before the historic moment above set by Hofer.

"I told myself 'Don't go for it', it's the playoffs and a big game, preserve the lead kind of thing. I obviously got the puck, handled it well and then had more time than I thought and I was just like, 'Screw it, go for it.'," Hofer told reporters after the game. Clearly, that was a good decision based on the outcome as Hofer's goal helped Springfield secure a 2-0 lead in the series over the Penguins in the best-of-five series.

The good news? Springfield won again tonight by a 7-6 score to finish off the sweep of the Penguins and advance to the Atlantic Division Final where they await either the Charlotte Checkers or the Bridgeport Islanders. Lindgren was back in the net for tonight's Game Three action, but it takes nothing away from what Joel Hofer did on Friday night in scoring his first career goal!

Hofer is officially the 18th AHL netminder to record a goal, and it couldn't have come at a better time in helping his team get closer to a Clader Cup championship. Congratulations to Joel Hofer on his goal and the Thunderbirds on their series win, and here's hoping this isn't the last goal we see from this future St. Louis Blues goaltender!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

I'll begin this article that you're not going to see any sympathy given for the latest disappointing entry in the history written by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs had every opportunity to write their own ending to this year's playoffs after all the bluster about being better, wiser, smarter, and any other adjective they wanted to use, but Toronto's NHL team will watch from the sidelines once again after an early exit from the postseason. The Leafs fell in seven games to the defending Stanley Cup champions, though, so they can pluck positives from the carcass of another season filled with promise if they like, but there's no denying that this season feels like one that was wasted after the efforts the Leafs gave throughout the regular season.

It's hard to single anyone out as the reason for this year's disappointment as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and John Tavares were the top-five scorers for the Maple Leafs in the playoffs, compiling 15 goals and 21 assists in the seven games against Tampa Bay. One can point to the fact that Marner only had two goals or that Tavares' six points were underwhelming, but it's hard to blame the top-paid guys if they're doing their part in leading the team in scoring.

Perhaps you want to point at Jack Campbell as the reason as his 3.15 GAA and .897 save percentage are arguably far below where you need them to be if you're going to make a run, but his numbers were right behind that of Andrei Vasilevskiy who posted a 3.04 GAA and an .897 save percentage. As long as your goalie outduels the other goalie, the numbers don't really matter since Campbell actually allowed one less goal (21) than Vasilevskiy in their opening round. The only problem was that he allowed one more in Game Seven, but that's not entirely on Campbell in any way.

Special teams might be more of a concern considering that Tampa Bay's power-play clicked at a 21.2% rate while Toronto's only cashed in on 14.3% of their opportunities. The 4-for-28 Maple Leafs didn't see as many advantages as the 7-for-33 Lightning did, though, so Toronto it's not like their power-play failed them in any way. They should have been more efficient, but it's not like the Lightning held a massive edge in power-play goals.

So where, you may be asking, did the Maple Leafs go wrong? What if I told you that the Maple Leafs played well enough to win, but simply ran into a team that knows how to win in the playoffs?

Case in point is the fact that Tampa Bay is an incredible 18-0 following a playoff loss over the last three seasons - an NHL record for that statistic. I'm not sure what it's going to take to hand Tampa Bay two losses in a row, but there's no team that has done it in the nine-consecutive rounds they've played since the 2019 first-round exit they suffered at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. As stated above, the Lightning simply know what it takes to win in the playoffs, and they do it every single time they need a win.

On the Maple Leafs' side of the coin, they became the first team in MLB, NBA, and NHL history to lose a winner-take-all game in the opening round of the playoffs in five-straight years. If you're asking, 2018 was a 7-4 loss to Boston; 2019 was 5-1 loss to Boston; 2020 saw the Leafs bounced by Columbus by a 3-0 score in the qualifying round of the bubble's playoffs; 2021 was a 3-1 loss at the hands of the Canadiens; and, 2022 was a 2-1 loss tonight to the Tampa Bay Lightning to help the Leafs set that dubious record.

If you're doing the math at home, the Leafs have been outscored in elimination games by a 20-7 margin. Of those seven goals, two of them were scored by the recently-retired Patrick Marleau, current Canucks defender Travis Dermott had a single, current Penguins forward Kaspari Kapanen had a shorthanded marker, John Tavares scored, William Nylander scored, and Morgan Rielly scored. There are a couple of names that are conspicuously missing off that list, but, like they promise every season, they'll try again next year.

Should this team be dismantled heading into the summer? Should we look for Kyle Dubas to make sweeping changes to his roster or dismissing coaches and front-office staff in a major overhaul? After all, how many times can the Leafs deliver this kind of heartbreak and disappointment to their fans?

The answer to the questions above are both "no", and it's for a very good reason in that had the Bruins finished ahead of the Lightning, we'd be talking about the Leafs getting prepared to play Florida rather than Tampa Bay getting ready. Toronto matched up so much better against Boston than they did against Tampa Bay, and it was fairly obvious that the series against the Lightning - a very experienced team that boasted solid scoring, good defence, and all-world goaltending - was going to test the Maple Leafs at every turn.

That's precisely what happened, and the Leafs responded by pushing the Lightning to the brink of elimination. Like the eight teams before them who fell to the Lightning, though, winning that fourth game of the series proved the toughest as the Lightning found a way to win. Again. And that's why the Leafs shouldn't be blown up this summer.

Let me be clear: the Lightning found a way to win as opposed to the Leafs finding a way to lose. It wasn't a failure in goaltending or a lack of scoring from their stars or a failure in special teams. And while all three of those factors could have been better throughout the entire series, the Lightning were just a little bit better in the end when it mattered most.

Unfortunately for Leafs fans, it's just another opening-round setback in their annual practice of opening-round setbacks. I can't say for certain if Simon and Garfunkel were Maple Leafs fans, but the ACC will echo with the sounds of silence once more this spring after another early Maple Leafs exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!