Archive for October, 2010

I know I know, this should probably start with a rant saying “fire Scott Howson, blow the team up, relocate them”  but, I’m not going to do that. This is just an honest look of what I see on the ice for the Columbus Blue Jackets thus far. And so far, this is what im seeing:

 

If only things were as good and happy as Umberger made it look in this photo. (Photo:AP)

On the offensive side, we look ok, and just ok, not what we were expecting, but not everyone can come firing out of the gate.  But when Rick Nash is tied in points with Derek Dorsett and Derek Mackenzie, you know there is a problem. Our first two lines have been to say in the least, invisible outside of say, one game.

The first line of  Nash, Huselius, and Vermette has just not clicked as usual, and for a line that worked together last season, you think the chemistry would be there and firing, but so far, nothing. The main issue on this line (in my opinion) is Kristian Huselius, he is seeming to have trouble 5 on 5, he is having trouble passing, and maintaining puck control. Rick Nash, while scoring 3, is having his fair share of troubles as well. He still tries to do too much on the puck by himself and usually ends up losing the puck altogether. Vermette outside of the faceoff dot, has just been bad, especially when it comes to knowing where his teammates on the ice are.

 

 

Derick Brassard is trying to get his game back together this year. So far, small but steady improvement. (Photo:THN)

 

The second line of Filatov, Brassard, and Voracek has been nothing short of a disappointment. This line seemed like one that could be deadly and just come out of the gate firing on all cylinders, but it just hasn’t panned out thus far. Derick Brassard has been in a funk since his injury last season, and he still isn’t breaking out of it, it is like he is still afraid to make a mistake, and with Hitchcock long gone, there is really no reason for it. BUT,  I will say, he has made small strides as time is going on, taking better shots and passing a little bit better, it will just take him some time. JakubVoracek, just seems slow, it is like his bulk from this off season was a little too much, he might just need a few games, like Brassard, to find his touch. Nikita Filatov was the only guy on this line who seemed to know what he was doing, however, he just gets taken off the puck too easy, he tries a fancy deke and the defender is usually ready for it, he needs to work on puck battles, if he can do that, he will find success.

 

 

Moreau looks rejuvenated this year, But an early injury has removed him from the 3rd line.

 

The third line of Moreau, Pahlsson , and Umberger has been nothing but money, and by that I mean, the only guys on the ice earning theirs (well.. aside from the goalies). But the easy surprise has been Ethan Moreau, he has been flying on the ice, and finding all kinds of scoring chances, of course, what else would you expect from 15 year NHL vet? He’s just doing his job. Unfortunately, a broken hand will keep him out of action for a while. Sami Pahlsson is still solid in the faceoff dot, and a solid shutdown guy, moreso than some defenders (including some of our own) And RJ Umberger, what else can be said about him that hasn’t already? He is just the definition of heart and determination to this team. He works his tail off nightly, and he has been repaid with 4 points and the best +/- on the team at +4.

 

 

Derek Mackenzie is looking to shine this year in Columbus

 

The 4th line of Dorsett, Mackenzie, and Clark has done what has been asked of them, and then some. The surprise I think to anyone, is Mackenzie himself, he is seeming to thrive under Arneil’s system, he knows when to be physical (threw 13 hits so far), and apparently, he knows how to score as well. Derek Dorsett, you want to say right place right time, those are the words to describe him. He always seems to be in the right place, be it offensive or defensive, he seems to know where to be at all times. Chris Clark, now this is a guy I have honestly ragged on before, and said “well… what does he bring to this team?” Well, I can honestly answer myself now, he does all the little things right, he can block shots, pass, shoot, hit. And when you do all of those things, they help you win hockey games.

 

 

Blue Jackets defense makes you do this OFTEN.

Now we go onto the darkside of Blue Jackets hockey, Defense. I think Arneil’s system has completely thrown our D for a loop, and they cannot figure out what to do it seems. So, here is what im (unfortuantely) seeing:

 

 

Jan Hejda is the only guy who can probably be called "defensive" (Photo: THN)

 

 

Our first Defensive line consists of Jan Hejda and Anton Stralman. Jan Hejda, is just one of those guys who goes hard game in and out, he knows what he is doing, and nobody really questions his ability. He is the one Defenseman who doesn’t seem lost out on the ice under Arneil’s system, he knows when to go into the zone, and come back out. Anton Stralman on the other hand, should probably be a forward, he forgets the defensive part of his game. He constantly loses the guy he is supposed to be covering, and goes far into the zone, leaving his D partner susceptible to constant 2 on 1 rushes.

 

 

Don't worry kids, that is his gameday face.

 

Our second Defensive line consists of Fedor Tyutin, and Marc Methot. Fedor Tyutin is just frustrating to watch as a fan, he constantly loses the puck at the blue line, ruining some ample scoring chances and Blue jackets offensive pressure. Not to mention he has a habit of letting forwards skate by him with the greatest of ease. Marc Methot, he isn’t entirely noticeable on the ice, but he hasn’t done anything wrong on the ice, he’s like Clark, he does all the little things right, and you cannot ask more out of him.

 

 

Klesla looks to rebound from a injury suffered during the 09-10 season. (Image: Getty)

 

Our final defensive line features the original Blue Jacket Rostislav Klesla and Kris Russell. Rostislav Klesla has been a solid Dman, but has reminded us more and more as the game changes, players need to as well. Klesla isn’t fully grasping the concept that Arneil is throwing out there, but he has managed a couple assists, and like everyone else, it might just take some time for him to click. Kris Russell, despite a current injury, is still showing us what he did last year, speed speed and yes, more speed. He seems to be more suited as a forward than as a defenseman, but alas, he uses his speed to his advantage as a Defensemen, getting back and pushing forward when needed.

 

Goaltending, probably one of the most important pieces of a hockey team, especially for the Columbus Blue Jackets. And after last season, there were many questioning who would be the starter heading into this season. Well, here’s what I see:

 

 

Steve Mason looks to rebound from a bad 09-10 campaign

 

Steve Mason so far is undoubtedly the Blue Jackets starter, he is showing signs of his rookie campaign, he has had a few bad goals against him, but they haven’t really rattled him much, if at all. The one area of concern is some of the soft goals against him, there are some, he HAS to make the save on, and if he can do that, then that will make the big saves, that much more important to this team. Mathieu Garon, is still solid in the backup role. In his few games, he has had one bad goal against, but other than that, has looked like the Garon from last season, and if Mase ever goes into a funk this season, you know he is there to bail him out.

So, as we press on through this season, there are still unanswered questions, so do not jump to conclusions on this team, there is alot to prove in that locker room and all the guys in there know it. We need to keep readjusting until we find that one right combination to bring out the full potential of Arneil’s game. And the first 6, have given alot of insight as to what is working, and what isn’t. And also, if the first 6 are any indication, we are in for a wild ride this season, hang on, we’ll see what happens as it unfolds.

LETS GO JACKETS!!!!

The Downward Spiral

Posted: October 23, 2010 by Realdeal in NHL

The pass that normally goes to a teammate so easy gets intercepted and leads to a breakaway.  The routine save by a goaltender somehow trickles in.  The usually harmless poke check attempt that turns into a tripping penalty.  All examples of things that happen during the “Downward Spiral”.

Every team goes through the “Downward Spiral” at some point in a season.  The harder you fight, the more frustrated you get. Freak injuries happen.  Nothing works.  Everything seems to go wrong.  3-0 deficits seem like 10-0 deficits.  Players try to tie the game up with just one shot, and that’s just not realistic if you’re down by multiple goals.  In those late 3rd period games tied at 2, the thought can be “oh, how are we gonna blow this one?”

How does it start, you ask?  Usually by some bad luck.  It’s always uncontrollable.  A couple breaks going the wrong way and it starts snowballing from there.  Players start pressing and the frustration adds up when every little thing goes the wrong way.

Luckily for some teams, they’ll go through it earlier, as the worst time to go through it is obviously April.  Some teams will go through it multiple times.  It’s part of the natural evolution of a season that teams will go through ups and downs.  The key is for players to not get too low during the downs.  Fans can tell when players are frustrated, and most will understand as long as they’re trying their best, although it may not always seem that way.

Players just need to keep plugging away.  Maybe the team prankster pulls a joke in the locker room that lightens the mood.  Maybe a coach calls an early timeout and tells the team, “Let’s just get one goal before intermission.”  (Thanks, Peter Laviolette.)

And that’s when it happens. The team scores an ugly power play goal.  Hey, it’s a start, right?  Then, the breaks start turning as the hard work pays off.  Then, the thought process in those tied games late changes to “we’re going to win this, I know it!”

Bettman’s Hopeless Charge

Posted: October 22, 2010 by goaliesgetmorebetches in Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes
Tags: ,

I’m not going to talk much about tonight’s Kings’ game, because frankly there wasn’t much to talk about. Kings’ played a crap first period, and made a major blunder on a second period PP, and were still in the game against the NHL’s pet team. So we’re not going to be 81-1 now. I’m not gonna lose much sleep.

If you watched the game on TV, you had to notice that the Jobing.com Arena was EMPTY. Announced attendance was 6,706 in Arizona tonight. This Arena looked like that most of last season too – and the season before that, and the season before that…

With the Coyotes ownership in flux, Gary Bettman and the NHL have been insistent upon keeping the team – that is hemorrhaging money eternally it seems – in Arizona. Seeing that many empty seats, with a decent product on the ice makes it clear what a lost cause this is. Why would any investor with any smarts put up money for a team that can’t sell more than 6,706 seats for a game against one of the most exciting young teams in the NHL, and a division rival at that. Even at the team’s absolute WORST, we’ve more than doubled that on Average in Los Angeles – a city where there are more entertainment choices than Phoenix by far. You can’t tell me that Winninpeg (the team’s former home), Quebec City or Hamilton, Ontario can’t put more than 6,700 asses in seats for games.

There is no evidence that the Coyotes can be a financially viable operation in Phoenix. There are a few thousand die hard hockey fans (to their credit that’s a few thousand more than Anaheim has) and the rest of the area seems apathetic, at least when it comes to buying tickets. They’ve got a state of the art arena and surrounding plaza that some teams would kill for, and for the moment anyway, a competitive team – and said arena is still a ghost town.

The NHL’s insistance that the Coyotes must stay in Phoenix is all about Gary Bettman’s ego. Bettman made the controversial decision to move the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix in 1996, much to the chagrin of Jets fans that surely outnumber the crowd in Glendale these days. That decision has been a financial disaster from the outset, and unless something changes drastically, seems destined to remain that way. The team could be more financially viable in any of the afforementioned Canadian markets, both for it’s ownership and the league, but Bettman is determined to ride Phoenix out until the wheels fall off. Bettman still wrongly believes he can dumb down the game enough to sell it to the same crowd that buys tickets to NFL and NBA games. Some sports fans will always cross over, but hockey is a niche sport who’s understanding requires a depth and breadth that the average sports fan, quite frankly lacks (yes, I realize that does sound a bit arrogant). At some point though, Bettman will be forced to admit that his “southernization” movement hasn’t been the success he’d hoped. Atlanta and Florida are empty much like Phoenix most nights. Expansion and relocation to many of the wrong places, too fast, is the culprit.

Don’t get me wrong, I am sympathetic to the die hards in Phoenix as well as those in other markets where ticket sales are meager. There’s nothing quite like NHL hockey, and to a hardcore fan, nothing else will do. From a financial standpoint though, I’ve yet to see any evidence that it can be made to work.

The few in Arizona will have some months to try to sell the game to their peers. If they’re fortunate, the team will remain competitive and that might help a bit. In the end though, any potential owner that agrees to leave the Coyotes in Phoenix for an extended period of time is committing financial suicide. As a community of hockey fans as a whole, we can hope that Gary Bettman can set his ego aside, cut bait and give up on the “southernization” of hockey before he runs the NHL into irrelevance.

What’s with players these days?  Is there a lack of respect around the National Hockey League?

Last season, Matt Cooke blindsided Marc Savard with an elbow to the head. Savard is still out seven months after the hit, and will be for the near future. Cooke was at it again on Friday night when he ran Islander goalie Rick DiPietro, not once, not twice, but three times in one game. Fellow agitator Sean Avery caused a debate this past weekend after whacking Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek in the leg twice.  Cooke was penalized on all three plays, and Avery got off with no punishment.

The always controversial Sean Avery.

Those two incidents followed last week, when Blackhawk defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson boarded Buffalo forward Jason Pominville and was suspended two games.  Two days later against New Jersey, Pominville’s teammate Pat Kaleta headbutted Devils center Travis Zajac.  Kaleta was later fined for the incident.

And now the NHL has made an example of someone, suspending Coyote forward Shane Doan three games for his hit on Anaheim’s Dan Sexton.  Under the new “blindside headshot” rules, Doan is the first player suspended.  The hit was unnecessary as Sexton had already passed the puck up ice well before Doan delivered the hit, so the “separating player from puck” or “he couldn’t stop in time” excuses are out the window.

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Revenge Is a Dish Best Served On Ice

Posted: October 16, 2010 by goaliesgetmorebetches in Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks
Tags: ,

 

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo sobs after the Kings' Justin Williams scores.

Kings celebrate Justin Williams' 2nd period goal in the corner as Roberto Luongo sobs. (Image: Getty)

 

Back in April, the Vanouver Canucks ended the Kings’ hockey season by defeating them 4 games to 2 in their first round playoff series. Along the way, the Canucks and many of their fans became mortal enemies of the LA faithful. First their was the blatant disrespect handed down from Vancouver press toward the Kings. Second was Canucks’ fans whining about officiating and even going so far as to propose conspiracy theories about the NHL “not wanting a Canadian team to win” simply because off ice officials made a CORRECT call about a deliberate kicking motion. Then it was Alex Burrows’ dirty antics and Roberto Luongo flopping to the ice like he’d been shot with a 12 gauge every time a King forward got within two feet of him.

If I haven’t made it clear by now, I’m still bitter about that loss. A couple of bounces go the other way and the Kings win that series in 5 games. Even so, they gave the Canucks all they could handle and came up short in the end. I want revenge. The team wants revenge. If you’re a Kings’ fan reading this, I’d bet money you want revenge too.

The Kings have played two solid games against the Canucks this season, and have won both. Last Saturday’s season opener was a 2-1 shootout victory in which Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson absolutely torched Luongo in the shootout and Jon Quick slammed the door on Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler. Quick was the first star of that contest.

Friday night in LA, the Kings again bettered Luongo. While LA managed only 19 shots against Luongo, they scored on four of them. Vancouver outshot the Kings 26-19. The low shot total was indicative of two quality defenses, the difference being the Kings got clutch goaltending from Quick while Luongo was less than stellar.

 

Jon Quick makes one of 25 saves against Vancouver (Image: AP)

 

Speaking of Quicker, he’s been the #1 star in all three of his starts this season. He’s currently 3-0-0 with a paltry 1.0 goals against average and a save percentage of .963. He looks more focused and refined, and his play has been nothing short of dynamite. Quicker came to camp 15 pounds lighter and in better shape. I don’t think you can understate the effect of Jonathan Bernier’s graduation to the NHL on Quick. When the two were teammates in Manchester 3 seasons ago, Quick rose to the occasion. This year, the same is happening early on. You could easily argue that Quick has been the best goalie in the entire National Hockey League during this first week of the season. I’d take him over Roberto Luongo right now, without thinking twice.

So, the Kings have earned no worse than a season split with the hated Canucks. I wonder if the Vancouver papers are still calling the Kings “lucky” and “inferior”?

The real opportunity for revenge, will come in April once the postseason starts. I expect both to be division winners, but we could see a Kings-Canucks matchup in round two. It’s a long ways off yet, but I wouldn’t bet against the Kings right now.

I have a feeling next time these two conduct a post-playoff series handshake, it won’t be the Kings heading home to play golf.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and what’s colder than serving it on ice?

GO KINGS!

The last time Simon Gagne had played for another team besides the Philadelphia Flyers, he was suiting up for the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts in 1998-99.  In an era of free agency and jettisoning players, Gagne was the one constant for the Flyers for ten seasons.  Mike Modano had been with his franchise even longer, debuting with the Minnesota North Stars in 1989.  When the North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, Modano went with them, and spent the next sixteen seasons as a member of the Dallas Stars.

In the past offseason, both players said goodbye to their respective clubs and joined another franchise for the first time in their NHL careers.  Thanks to the salary cap, Philadelphia was forced to trade Gagne, and his $5.25 million salary, to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas decided to move on from the Modano era. Modano contemplated retirement, but decided to join the Detroit Red Wings for the 2010-11 season. (more…)

All summer, we heard about Ilya Kovalchuk and his contract status with the New Jersey Devils.  No need to rehash, but the $100 million contract he signed ($6,666,666 cap hit by the way) forced the Devils into a precarious position.  Over the summer they had to shed some salary to make it under the cap.  They tried to make it work, but unfortunately for them, many of their expensive players have No Trade or No Movement Clauses.  So Lou Lamiorello thought, okay, let’s just play with a short roster to make it work.  The team went with 18 skaters (plus two goalies), including only 11 forwards.
 

Lou thought he was being slick.


 
It seemed like the plan might actually work until the team took the ice for their second game on Saturday night against the Capitals.  After a 7-2 shellacking, the team learned defenseman Anton Volchenkov has a broken nose, and forward Brian Rolston would be out with a lower back injury.  This of course, came after fireworks in the game, when tough guy Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond instigated a fight in the final five minutes and got an automatic one game suspension.  This forced the Devils to play Pittsburgh Monday with only 15 skaters, 3 short than a team usually ices.  Teams have played with less than 18 skaters before, most noteably Calgary, who was ravaged with injuries late in 2008-09 and played with 15 skaters for their final games. (more…)