Monday, 5 February 2007

The Weekend That Was

Who says you can never go home? Tonight will be the first meeting for Brendan Shanahan's New York Rangers and his former team, the Detroit Red Wings, at Madison Square Garden. Shanny scored 309 goals for the Red Wings, including 40 last season, and helped the Winged Wheels win three Stanley Cups in nine seasons. This will be the first time since March 6, 1996 when he was a member of the Hartford Whalers that Brendan Shanahan has faced the Red Wings. As an opponent, Shanahan has fared well against the Wings, scoring 10 goals and 15 assists in 32 games. It will be interesting to see how he plays tonight.

Perhaps a bigger concern to the Rangers should be their recent slide. As of this moment, the New York Rangers occupy the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference, five points back of the Carolina Hurricanes who sit in 8th. The Rangers have lost six of their last nine games, including two straight losses to Toronto and Tampa Bay.

The Red Wings, on the other hand, have been playing consistent hockey lately. The Wings defeated St. Louis 5-3 on Friday for their 10th straight home win. Dominik Hasek is looking good at age 42, and Henrik Zetterberg has been playing extremely well up front. Hasek, however, is 5-7-0 at MSG. The Wings have only lost once in their last nine games versus the Rangers, a 3-1 decision on October 25, 2003 which also marked the last time these two Original Six teams met on MSG ice.
The Washington Capitals boast one of the most exciting players in all of the NHL in Alexander Ovechkin. However, it's another Alexander that has made the Capitals a threat in the Southeast Division. Alexander Semin, born March 3, 1984, has made the Capitals more than a one-line team. His 29 goals is second to Ovechkin on the team, and his 53 points are good for second as well. Semin is a rather classic case of a speedy, small Russian forward. He shoots well, skates extremely smoothly, and has a knack for finding the open spaces for goals. However, like Ovechkin, he needs some defensive improvement to make him a more complete player.

In terms of scoring threats, he ranks third behind Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, respectively, when it comes to recent Russian draft picks. He sees the ice well, but needs some improvement when it comes to his play without the puck, a similar case to Ovechkin last season. While Semin has the potential to be a game-breaker, his green play makes him vulnerable to slumps as well.

Overall, I like Alexander Semin, and I see a long NHL career for him. I think he compliments Ovechkin's style, and he has a good, hard, accurate shot. Here is a video highlight of his first NHL hat trick, as well as a goal versus the Anaheim Ducks, a goal versus the Philadelphia Flyers, and a blast versus the Senators. Semin, in this writer's opinion, has a long career ahead of him, and that freeze-the-goalie move he has is one of the most lethal moves I've seen this year.
On Saturday, the Chicago Blackhawks traded winger Brandon Bochenski to the Boston Bruins for forward Kris Versteeg and a conditional draft pick. While I questioned this move on Saturday, I now see why the Bruins pulled this off.

Marco Sturm is suffering from a concussion, and the lack of scoring wingers in the Bruins' system was a concern for GM Peter Chiarelli. While Bochenski is a solid winger, I don't think he's a long-term solution for Boston. According to the Boston Globe, "Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli says winger Brandon Bochenski needs a centre to get him the puck, so look for the 24-year-old to get a shot somewhere on the top two lines Tuesday against Washington. Marco Sturm most likely will not make the trip, making Bochenski a candidate to play left wing alongside Marc Savard and Glen Murray".

Looking at this trade, the depth may help, but it doesn't help Boston's push for the playoffs.

That's all for now! Keep your heads up, and your sticks on the ice!

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