November 26, 2010

Chelios Takes a Page out of Favre’s Playbook

It’s official. Defenseman Chris Chelios is hockey’s equivalent of Brett Favre, minus the gratuitous shots of male genitalia, of course.

Favre’s recent sexting scandal aside, is there another hockey player out there that best embodies Favre’s desire to compete well into his years as an octogenarian? Because there’s no way around saying it: Chelios is just as bad as the over-the-hill quarterback... maybe even worse if you factor in his being eight years older and not cutting it at his sport’s highest level any more. More to the point, despite retiring in August at the age of 48, Chelios is finding it difficult to let go and has decided to return based on reports Friday that he’s in negotiations to play in the KHL.

If there was ever indication that Chelios is both desperate to keep playing AND that his skills aren’t up to snuff any longer, this is unfortunately it. Because what was once Russia’s superleague is actually about as super as Clark Kent during a colonoscopy, being prodded open with a bar of kryptonite. Because the team for which he might end up playing, Vityaz Chekhov, boasts the talents of such renowned former North American superstars as Josh Gratton and Chris Simon. That’s right. Chris Simon. The guy that was forced out of the NHL, because he could no longer play the role of a tough guy, beating opponents senseless until they were bloodied mangled corpses on the ice, on the up-and-up.

Far be it for me to criticize one of the game’s great defensemen, a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, but in order to even get nominated you kind of have to stay retired. I understand that getting in after three years and then returning to the game (a la Gordie Howe) is out of the question seeing as at that point he’ll be on the verge of surpasssing Howe’s record of playing until he was 52 (kind of, with Howe being the oldest NHLer to retire at the age of 52) and that’s something he said he would never do out of sheer principle. Even so, this is getting kind of ridonkulous. Impressively ridonkulous, but ridonkulous all the same.

"Ahh, how I look fondly back upon the days when I was a young and naive youngster of just 41."

Chelios deserves to do what he loves, and if he loves playing professional hockey up until he’s 80, power to him. I mean he loves hockey so much he played in the AHL last year, biding his time until he got a worthwhile offer to return to the NHL. But he should realize that he only managed to play seven games with the Atlanta Thrashers last year, earning a +/- rating of -2. That was his first negative rating since being on some pretty bad Chicago Blackhawks teams in the late 1990s... which, just to offer some perspective, was around the time his teammate Evander Kane was entering second grade.

His game is clearly not where it was (amazingly, though, I’m sure there are coastlines that have eroded worse than he has under the test of time), so it’s clear the only thing he’s looking to accomplish is to hold onto a key part of his past just a little longer. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se... it’s just freakish is all. If he wants to play in Russia and be thought of by his “peers” as some relic from before the collapse of the Soviet Union (which he actually is), it’s of course his choice, but maybe before any decision is final he should watch a Minnesota Vikings game or two on television and realize that Favre’s hindering and not helping his team.

"In just 20 years, maybe."
Admittedly the role Chelios would likely fill would not carry as much responsibility as that of a QB, but even that should be taken by him as a hint for him to stay retired. And if Favre’s fall from grace isn’t enough of a deterrent, maybe an example that hits a little closer to home will be: does he really want to be like Dominik Hasek? Does anyone? He’s proven his point, that he can. But he shouldn’t and instead should take a step back before the term “groin pull” takes on the not-so-fun meaning.

Avs probably still Kicking Themselves for Losing to Oil as Hall Nets First Game-Winning Goal

Everyone knows that the Edmonton Oilers have been a bad team this year, as their 6-11-4 record (as of Thursday night) speaks for itself. But few really know how bad. One stat potentially sheds some light on the situation: Their penalty-kill efficiency of 67.5%. Think about that for a second... on average, every three penalty kills they give up one goal, which I guess would be the NHL's version of the three-date rule.

Not only that, but they've also given up a league-high 3.86 goals per game, which, needless to say, is astoundingly high. Scoring on the Oilers has become so easy that there has been a sudden unmanageable increase in the number of horny, sexually frustrated teenagers looking to drop everything in order to pursue a career as an NHLer, which would be all fine and good if the only team they could most realistically make wasn't the Oilers.

However, all is not lost, as the future of the organization (admittedly long-term future) is still very bright. A recent TSN poll (link here) asked Canadians which of the six teams up north was in the most trouble. While the Calgary Flames seem to be running away with it right now, the Oilers are unjustifiably in second place (although one could argue that the Flames are also unjustifiably in first). Unlike the Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, the Oilers are knee-deep in top-level talent. The only problem is it's going to take a few years for that talent, like a fine wine, to mature. The Leafs may be better off right now, but when your only legitimate blue-chip prospect is Nazem Kadri you might as well forego the fermentation process altogether, get drunk off your ass as soon as possible, and try to drink away your sorrows, because they ain't ever going away any other way.

However, in the here and the now, there is a very real concern that the Oilers losing the way they have been will irreparably damage them. Thankfully Taylor Hall brought some joy, however short-lived it is to be, to the City of Champions on Thursday with the first game-winning goal of his career, scored with under 30 seconds left in the Oilers`game against the Colorado Avalanche. It may not be much, and in the end those two points may very well end up screwing the Oilers out of a top pick in June, but at least they would have screwed themselves in such a scenario... an infinitely preferable situation to the alternative, at least in hockey, anyway.

November 25, 2010

Hell Has Frozen over: Hedberg Is more Valuable to the Devils than Brodeur

I don’t know what’s sadder in New Jersey, that perennial Vezina Trophy-contender Martin Brodeur currently has a save percentage barely over .900, or that his back-up Johan Hedberg needed a shutout streak of over 100 minutes to raise his to .896.

"Usurped by a guy nicknameed 'Moose'? Don't make me laugh!"
Truth be told, it’s probably the latter, but what’s perhaps saddest concerning the Devils’ goaltending situation is that Hedberg is now over .500 with a 3-2-1 record, while Brodeur is 4-10-1. Everyone knew the Devils signing Hedberg to a two-year deal this off-season was a sign of the times (i.e. Brodeur not being able to carry as much of the load as he used to), but this is getting ridiculous. With Brodeur out with a sore elbow for a few more days, Hedberg has actually been a rock in nets and has helped to solidify the team’s shaky defensive situation by posting a shutout against the Washington Capitals and then helping his team to beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 on Wednesday

All of a sudden the Devils are playing decently and can proudly lay claim to their first winning streak of the season, albeit one of a modest two games. Okay, maybe not-so proudly lay claim to, but the point is if ever there was a sign that things were turning around for the 7-13-2 Devils, this is it.

Things had gotten so bad that when Ilya Kovalchuk scored a game-winning goal a few weeks ago, analysts were saying how impressive a victory it was for the Devils and how important a goal it was for Kovy. People conveniently turned a blind eye to the fact that the Devils were playing the Edmonton Oilers at the time, one of only two teams currently with a worse record than them, and that the goal came on a power play in overtime no less. Not scoring and winning the game under that set of circumstances would have been akin to a jonesing drug addict not getting his fix despite having his dealer on speed dial and a huge wad of cash in his pocket after ripping off the convenience store down the street. Add in the fact that back-up Devan Dubnyk was in nets for the Oil (Brodeur was for the Devils) and a victory like that should not only be marginalized, it should be stricken from the records out of sheer principle.

So, no, that win wasn’t the turning point for which Devils fans were looking, especially since the team went on to lose three straight after that. This current winning binge has shown far greater signs of life in the team than Kovalchuk did after that goal was scored, which was perhaps an even greater sign of how far the team’s fallen from grace, because in essence it was like talking smack to a baby after stealing the lollipop from straight out of his mouth. But when things are bad I suppose you overemphasize the good and look for the silver lining in the raincloud even if you’re stuck under your leaking roof during a storm and can’t see past the raindrops drowning both the outside and inside of your window.

At this point, it’s clear hell has frozen over with Hedberg making a case to be the go-to guy from here on out. I’m not saying it should happen or that it’s going to, only that there’s a case to be made much to that effect. The Devils are seven points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern conference and seeing as the Montreal Canadiens earned the eighth seed last year with 88 points, the Devils would hypothetically need 72 points in the remaining 60 games. It’s not impossible, but is surely improbable for a team that has scored less than two goals per game so far.

Brodeur’s career has been circling the drain for some time, with his seemingly being unable to put together one of his signature playoff runs in recent years. It used to be that he would fade in the stretch run, everyone would count him out, then he would go on a tear to start the following season, everyone would think he was back, and then the cycle would repeat. Now he hasn’t even been able to start off half-decently. Granted an inexperienced defensive corps has something to do with that, but so does the undeniable fact that he’s 38.

"This cannot possibly end well."
Meanwhile, Hedberg is your prototypical late-bloomer. He really only got his start in the NHL at 28 and he’s always been an afterthought on whatever team for which he’s played only to eventually make a run, however feeble and ultimately unsuccessful an attempt, at the starting job. Last year, when he was 36, he posted his best season ever, going 21-16-6 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. However, now he’s 37, and even if he is by some miracle able to convince head coach John MacLean that he’s the better choice for the team right now, he’s still in the twilight of his career no matter how you look at it.

As such, it’s good to look at what’s in the team’s pipeline right now from a goaltending perspective, which amounts to one prospect, singular, in Jeff Frazee, who’s only mustered a .895 save percentage and .500 record playing for the Albany Devils in the AHL this season. The bad news is obvious. The good news is he should fit right in with Hedberg and Brodeur should the need ever arise to promote him.

Maybe it’s time general manager Lou Lamoriello start taking an active interest in searching for Brodeur’s heir. If he spent one fourth of the time he did trying to sign Kovalchuk last summer, the team would be in good shape moving forward, but maybe he doesn’t need to. The Vancouver Canucks currently have Cory Schneider playing one game to every four of Roberto Luongo’s. Surely he could pry him off Mike Gillis’s cold, not-so-dead hands for the right price. He wouldn’t necessarily turn the team around, but he would serve as a stop-gap measure of sorts, because at this point Brodeur is not only (figuratively) bleeding out his elbow but his greying hair as well. Right now everyone in Jersey should be able to relate. Even the bald Lamoriello. Especially Lamoriello.

"This cannot possibly end badly."

Timonen Accidentally Breaks Pane of Glass, or so He Would Have us Believe

The lesson here, Rick Rypien, is if you're going to go after a fan in the stands in Minnesota, don't grab him by the collar. Shoot a puck in their general vicinity. That'll teach them to keep quiet, without anybody being able to prove your intentions. All of the intimidation, none of the hassle. For the record, I'm not condoning violence... just violence on over-zealous hockey fans. There's a difference.

O'Sullivan and Eller Score Garbage Goals for Their Firsts with Their New Teams

They say that the first cut is always the deepest, but when it comes to goals scored in hockey, unless you're Edmonton Oiler Jordan Eberle, they may very well end up being something best locked away in the attic upstairs for fear of remembering something truly ugly. Case in point would be Montreal Canadien Lars Eller and the Minnesota Wild's Patrick O'Sullivan's first goals with their new teams, each being scored on Wednesday night.

Contrary to popular belief, that wasn't Eller's first career goal. He had scored two with the Saint Louis Blues last year. Meanwhile, it may as well have been the first of O'Sullivan's long road travelled of a career. It's somewhat ironic that he'll be looking for a fresh start the same place he got his first ever... only to be tossed aside before ever actually playing a game with the Wild.

It's safe to assume that if he continues to score as he did last night, he'll not only get more ice time to go along with the projected-first-round-pick status he had going for him back in 2003, but also a relatively high spot on the team's depth chart along with some pretty big-name talent: Leading-goal-scorer Cal Cluttberbuck (7)? Kyle Brodziak? Matt Cullen? Eric Nystrom? John Madden? Antti Miettinen? Guillaume Latendresse? Chuck Kobasew? They had all better watch out. There's a new glorified third-liner on the block.

Blue Jackets' New Third Jerseys Are, Surprise, Surprise, Blue!

Geez, the last time anyone went this nuts for a third jersey, it was probably the third jersey ever made and the first two had probably sold like hotcakes (or whatever sold pretty fast in the olden days... yeah, probably hotcakes, whatever those actually are; cakes that are hot?). Honestly, I personally don't know what to make of it yet... the Columbus Blue Jackets have announced that they will only be worn a total of 15 times, so the response can't have been that great, one would think. The Jackets will wear them for the first time on Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, which you can generally take to mean that might not make it to a second game due to the baptism by fire they're likely to endure.

In all honesty, the Jackets have been a pleasant surprise with a 14-6-0 record and sit fourth in the Western conference. Kind of looks like they actually are playing with fire, trying to shake things up with a new look when they're on a roll. It unfortunately shouldn't be long before the owners realize the team is playing over their heads and burns the whole operation down for the insurance money (or whatever the hockey equivalent is). Pyromania really is the best way to go. If you're going to play with fire, you might as well do it right.

As an on-the-side note, the collar apparently hides the following motto: "We Fight. We March!", which was  made popular when the team made the playoffs for the first time in 2008-2009, because if you can't commemorate a four-game sweep at the hands of, coincidentally, the Wings, why should you commemorate anything at all?

November 24, 2010

Further Proof the Justin Bieber Phenomenon is Bursting out of Control

Those are the Montreal Canadiens being asked what they like about Justin Bieber. Other than Bieber being Canadian, is there really anything of value that ties one to the other? For God's sakes, he's not even from Quebec. He's Ontarian!!! Why not get the Maple Leafs to answer the question? At least then it would give them something else to worry about than putting pucks in the net. You're right... even that's cruel and unusual punishment... even for the Leafs. God! At least a handful of Habs answered "nothing" in response to the question. The best answer? Defenseman P.K. Subban saying he likes him because he's known for being "down to earth". That explains the whole cockiness thing. He's using the Biebs as a role model!

Price Lives up to the Hype as Fleury Wilts like a Flower

It would seem proving everyone wrong isn’t good enough for Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price. Now he has to rub it in our faces too.

"That was then. Now I only hang out with women dressed up sexily like angels!"
Indeed, as of Monday, Price leads all goalies in voting for the upcoming edition of the all-star game, as if to say “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah”. Real mature, buddy. As if co-leading the league in wins (12) and shutouts (4) wasn’t enough of a vindication for the apparently reformed party animal. Now he gets the smug satisfaction of knowing the fans are on his side as well.

Of course, it remains to be seen how long things will stay as they are with the Habs’ faithful traditionally being as fickle as a horny teenager forced to choose between his girlfriend and that one sexy classmate in second-period English who’s been known to play fast and loose with social conventions of monogamy. It’s just really hard to choose. On one hand, it’s your girlfriend, with whom you’ve been through thick and thin, and, on the other, you get real weird feelings down there whenever you’re around Jimmy... but I guess college is really when you ought to be experimenting. Right now, stick with what’s safe.

And, in the end, Canadiens fans, deep down, anyway... really deep down, are guilty of doing just that. I mean look back to when they tried to stuff the ballot box two seasons ago and Mike Komisarek ended up a starter, which could really only have been the byproduct of some Make a Wish Foundation initiative to grant a mediocre hockey player the chance to see for one game what it’s like to actually be worthy of a five-year, $22.5-million contract (and then Brian Burke went and spoiled it all).

Really, hockey fans in general are insanely loyal and proof this year comes in the form of New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit getting 2500 votes, despite being injured. Perhaps more outrageous? San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi earning 18,695 votes despite doing his best to play dead in the crease on the odd occasion coach Todd McLellan goes against his better judgment and gives him another chance. Marc-Andre Fleury is actually in fifth place among goalies with 44,111 votes, causing speculation that maybe Pittsburgh Penguins fans are united in the belief that him giving up 20 goals in one period might actually do wonders for his game, which has actually been soooo awesome that it’s sparked the invention of the term “six hole” for the one between his ears.

These atrocities aside, sometimes the fans do get it right and Price’s 71,199 votes are proof of that. So, which other goalies actually belong in the all-star game (with votes or not)?

In the East:

Tim Thomas (BOS): The Boston Bruins may not have needed their back-up from last year to be this good, but with him leading goalies in three of the four main statistical categories they also need not complain all the same. Thomas has redeemed himself to the point that referring to him as Mr. Zero has become a sign of respect and no longer a shameful nod to the excess digits in his five-year, $20-million contract.

Sergei Bobrovsky (PHI): Everyone knows the Philadelphia Flyers are a good team, but no one knew they had a good goaltender in Bobrovsky. Hell, few even knew who Bobrovsky was, but he’s proven himself capable of being a bona-fide number-one starter in the NHL to the point that his team can only be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and no longer the joke players tell each other behind the Flyers’ backs for fear of getting beat up (because they’re still big and mean-looking, no matter how many goals they let in).

In the West:

Jonathan Quick (LA): “White Chocolate” Quick as he’s been dubbed (by yours truly; it’s going to catch on, just you wait) has proven that last season, during which he posted 39 wins, was no fluke. While he does have the benefit of a strong team in front him (like Bobrovsky and Thomas), one has to assume he’s at least in part responsible for the Los Angeles Kings’ 13-7 record.

Jaroslav Halak (STL): He has stumbled lately, but if he can pull it together again and improve his stats enough to justify a spot, a period pitting him against Price would be something hockey fans would likely pay to witness, let alone actually take the two seconds needed to turn on the television to tune in at home. Make it happen NHL. Even if you have to rig the entire voting process and so-called draft.

Mathieu Garon (CLB): He may have only appeared in seven games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but in principle Garon deserves to be in the game as much as anybody (only seven goals allowed in those seven games). He has three shutouts, a 1.08 goals-against average, and a .960 save percentage. What will likely keep him out of the game is the fact that he doesn’t seem to have gotten any votes at all (or not enough to justify the Herculean effort needed to add him at the end of the list at that and the league will likely not want to draw attention to that fact and the indisputable evidence that there, really, are no hockey fans in Columbus.

"It's not that no one voted for me; It's that no one in Columbus voted for me. Man, my wife lives here!"

Honourable mentions go to Washington Capital Michal Neuvirth, Phoenix Coyote Ilya Bryzgalov, Detroit Red Wing Jimmy Howard, New Jersey Devil Martin Brodeur (for a brilliant career that’s likely done, or should be after this year), and Fleury for bringing a smile to everyone’s faces, because shouldn’t the all-star game be about having fun (41000 votes? Really?)!

The Reason Wolski Rarely Scores? He Rarely Shoots

This is only Phoenix Coyote Wojtek Wolski's fourth goal of the season, putting him on pace for a relatively modest 16. Going into last night's game against the Edmonton Oilers, he only had 34 shots on goal all season  (he had three last night). It begs the question: If he has such a killer shot, why isn't he using it more? Admittedly, the Coyotes were playing the defensively lax Oilers and the defensively lax Devan Dubnyk was in goal, but one still has to give props to Wolski for what amounts to a truly impressive skillset. Of course, he was benched for two games earlier this season for not showing enough effort during games, but it's clear that if this hockey thing doesn't work out he could probably still find work with the Oilers (because what they're doing right now isn't exactly playing hockey).

Crosby Sticks It to a Bunch of Innocent Pucks

As much as I would love to oogle over Sidney Crosby's sniping skills, I kind of think this latest video is fake. Just like the last one where Crosby's shot seems to have more power behind it then a prostitute servicing a World's Strongest Man competitor to the point that the net moves on impact, it's just a little too impressive that Crosby was able to hit that last rolling puck on the boards (and a little too convenient that the puck was rolling to begin with). And that "so, what" expression he has on his face afterwards, I'd have to strongly consider lobbying for him to forego any and all acting gigs in the future based on its lack of believability alone. Still, it is what it is: fun to watch (and then fun to make fun of him after watching it). I will say this: at least he's a better actor than Evgeni Malkin.

November 23, 2010

Wild’s Waiver Claim of O’Sullivan Hardly Oh-My-God Material

It’s not often you get a do-over, but, even so, the Minnesota Wild must surely be looking at its re-acquisition of Patrick O’Sullivan on Monday as nothing more than a “meh” on its indifference scale.

Who really cares that once upon a time he got traded away (along with a first-round pick) for Pavol Demitra to try and get Marian Gaborik to stay with the franchise well into the twilight of his career? Gaborik probably never intended on staying no matter what the team did, however much money the team threw his way.

Who really cares that the Wild have basically just gotten back a human suitcase more well-travelled than the worn body of a 40-year-old prostitute on the verge of retirement? All that matters is the here and the now.

Who really cares, all due respect to O’Sullivan and the publicized personal trials and tribulations he’s had to endure, about what has transpired in his past? It is just a business after all.

And who really cares that the 10-7-2 Wild are actually surpassing expectations early this season? No one should be, especially no one affiliated in any shape or form with the Wild, because to care would be to become content with what is still by and large a mediocre record. That’s why the rationale behind this move is so confusing, because the team has in essence turned to the one player who has been complacency personified over the course of his career.

O’Sullivan first got drafted by the Wild in the second round of the incredibly strong 2003 draft. While the first round saw such gems as Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, and Zach Parise get drafted, even in the second round, names such as Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, and Jimmy Howard were still available to be had. Many thought O’Sullivan belonged in that special group of talent-laden players, especially after his 53-point season in 2007-2008 with the Los Angeles Kings. And yet his career took a different turn when he staged a mini-hold-out to start the following season, failing to show up for training camp and signing a three-year, $8.775-million contract four days before the team’s season opener. I mean, as far as salaries go, a $2.925-million-per-year average isn’t too crazy, but let’s just say everyone’s lucky Mike Richards didn’t captain the Kings then or we all would have been told to death just how bigger than his britches O’Sullivan was acting.

After getting the contract he wanted with the Kings that year, his production and development didn’t so much regress as it did just stall. And then came the kiss-of-death trade to the Edmonton Oilers, a three-way deal that saw Justin Williams go to L.A., Erik Cole go to the Carolina Hurricanes, and O’Sullivan to what would become the graveyard of his career in Edmonton, where he posted a league-worst +/- -35 last season en route to being placed on waivers this past off-season before eventually signing a two-way contract with Carolina.

"So, let me get this straight: I shouldn't be letting pucks go in my net?"
If you’re getting the impression that O’Sullivan is just an oversized human hot potato no one really wants to hang to for too long, you’re not alone. I mean, no one even took a chance on him when Edmonton placed him on waivers, leading to the Oilers trading him for defenseman Jim Vandermeer, his consequential buy-out by the Phoenix Coyotes (because the Coyotes are so adept at goal scoring, didn’t you know?), and his short-lived stint as a Hurricane.

Really, the only reason Minnesota is taking a chance on him now is because injuries are starting to pile up at forward with the none-too-bright James Sheppard still trying to figure out where he went wrong riding an ATV in the off-season, Chuck Kobasew nursing his lower body, Pierre-Marc Bouchard still out with a concussion, and Guillaume Latendresse conveniently requiring surgery to repair both a torn labrum and a bilateral sports hernia and taking his sweet time to return, lest he be discovered for the third-liner he really is who just got insanely lucky 20 times over last season.

As such, O’Sullivan should get plenty of opportunity to prove to the Wild (and to the Hurricanes, and to the Oilers, and to the Kings, and to the Coyotes) that the team made a mistake getting rid of him initially.

Hopefully the presumed chip on his shoulder isn’t made of potato like the rest of him and lasts at least the remainder of this year so he can resurrect what’s left of his career. And if it doesn't help the Wild right off the bat, so be it. It's not the end of the world. Because it is a move made to at least try and improve the team, because judgment should only be reserved for a few weeks in anyway, and, finally, because the only thing Wild should ever really live to regret is investing all that time and money in Gaborik.

Staal Hit on Stajan a Hit on Broadway

Clean and solid seemed to be the best way to describe New York Rangers defensemen Marc Staal's hit on Calgary Flame Matt Stajan on Monday. It's perhaps more accurate to call it clean and rock solid, as in like a rock, as in a Chevrolet truck, as in Stajan probably would probably have been better off being hit by a Chevrolet truck, because at least he would have been hit by an American-made vehicle. As it happens, Staal is from Canada, where toughness is a way of life and things like this are a near-everyday occurrence:

Bottom line: Stajan never had a chance. An on-the-side memo to owner Charles Wang: As tempting as it may be, and as far superior as they may be to your New York Islanders, kids need to be 18 to enter into the NHL.

Boucher Has a Senior Moment, Forgets Opposing Players Are Allowed to Shoot from Anywhere on the Ice

Definite shades of former Vancouver Canucks goalie Dan Cloutier on this stinker that somehow eluded Philadelphia Flyers goalie Brian Boucher on Monday night. The Montreal Canadiens' Maxim Lapierre actually scored again on a not-all-that-much-better goal that had been deflected by defenseman Andrej Meszaros in front of the net.

Boucher did have the last laugh as his team ended up coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 and take back bragging rights in its ongoing rivalry with the Habs. As such, I wouldn't worry about Boucher's career being destroyed, also due to the fact that it ended soon after he set the modern-day shutout-streak record at 332 minutes with the Phoenix Coyotes. It would seem no one actually bore witness to that amazing feat back in 2003-2004, seeing as it was in Phoenix and all. As soon as he let in the next garbage goal, he went back to being the clumsy goalie everyone had come to love and laugh at behind his back.

As for Cloutier, he played three games in the AHL last year, establishing perhaps a career-high .893 save percentage with the Rockford IceHogs. Word is he's become a Tibetan monk, taking an oath of silence, so as not to accidentally spill the beans as to how he ever became an NHL goalie in the first place. Problem is, that's the wrong kind of monk, and he still gets reminded of the Nicklas Lidstrom goal all the time. Poor bastard.

Kovalev Reaches 1000th-Point Milestone

Congratulations to Alex Kovalev, not just for reaching 1000 points, but doing it in style, with a goal, breaking his stick on the play, in a game the Ottawa Senators ultimately won 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings. Of course, there was some controversy, with a possible Ryan Smyth goal late in the game being waived off due to high stick, but I'm sure the Senators, who had lost their last three, will take it no matter how shrill the public outcry.

Also a positive for Kovalev, who also had an assist in the game: he's probably the fastest to reach the milestone in history, having played in probably just over half his 1249 career games (actually, Wayne Gretzky reached 1000 in his sixth season in the league, so we'll just have to assume that he was a tad faster). Still, sarcasm aside, kudos to Kovalev. He deserves some accolades for at least putting together spurts worthy of a superstar over the course of his career and you don't reach 1000 points, or even 1249 games, by being a loser. Case in point would be countryman Alexei Yashin, who only made it to 850 (781).

November 22, 2010

Subban Takes His Cockiness on the Road as Habs Face Flyers in Anticipated Rematch

Tonight’s game has been erroneously billed as Richards vs. Subban 2, when really it should be considered just another game between two teams... of course another game that could quickly degenerate into a brawl at the drop of the hat.

Mike Richards and P.K. Subban do represent the faces of their teams in this latest clash of two teams that don’t like each other. But, when all is said and done, they are just two players whose words just add a little context to what should be a heated game overall.

“You can’t just come in here as a rookie and play like that,” he said after the 3-0 loss in which he and Subban got into it verbally on several occasions. “It’s not the way to get respect from other players around the league. Hopefully someone on their team addresses it, because, I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but something might happen to him if he continues to be that cocky.”

Or, in video form, as was interpreted by most people in Montreal:

Subban responded to those comments the following day, oddly enough saying that he respects Mike Richards as a player, but essentially confirming what most knew all along: that he wasn’t going to change his game just because an opposing player says he should. Maybe if a person and not just a player he respected asked him to, he would.

Due to the time span between last week’s game on Tuesday and Monday’s rematch, this whole storyline has been hyped up to the point that one might mistake it for Rocky vs. Drago, without the actual fighting (well, at least not between Subban and Richards; could you really see that happening?). But because Richards kind of, sort of uttered a threat in the aforementioned interview, everyone will be on especially high alert tonight, meaning if something does happen to Subban, Richards will have some explaining to do.

Then the whole “respect” debate should be revisited, but until then one mustn’t forget that there will be an actual game being played tonight, one with relatively large implications, with both teams a hair’s length out of first place in the Eastern conference. As it stands now, the Flyers have played one more game than the Habs, with a record of 13-6-2. The Habs are 13-6-1.

While the story for the Habs has been goalie Carey Price’s stellar play, it’s also been team defense as a whole with Montreal not yet allowing more than three goals in any one game and a 1.95 goals-allowed average overall. The Flyers have conversely scored the most goals in the league, with 75. Clearly defense beat out offense last week, even without defenseman Andrei Markov out for the Habs. But it remains to be seen how long the Habs can hold off a very deep Flyers team that boasts three, maybe even four solid lines.

"That's pornstar Gina Lynn, P.K. Guess who's feeling cocky right now?"
With adjustments presumably made on the part of the Flyers to make sure they don’t get shut out again, one has to believe they have the advantage tonight, even if Montreal has won seven of the last eight regular-season games played in Philadelphia. History doesn’t mean a whole lot, unless we’re talking about the recent history... and all the most recent history between the two teams should just make Philly angrier.

The game starts at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

The Islanders Are so Bad, even Their Commentators Can't Hide Their Frustration

That's Howie Rose saying: "Let me know how this game turns out... I don't particularly care," as he mistakenly thought he was going to break. Well, it turns out the Atlanta Thrashers won the game in overtime 2-1 so the New York Islanders indeed ended up suffering their 13th straight defeat. Rose later apologized, to his credit. No word yet on when owner Charles Wang and general manager Garth Snow will as well.

Weekend at Burnie's: How Three Days Epitomize just what's Wrong with the Flames

A lot can happen in under four seconds: you can cut yourself shaving, you can switch channels on the television, you can chug a beer if you're especially talented, you can miss your bus if the driver feels like being a knob and sees you coming only to drive off anyway, and, hell, you can even climax (although, I would hope the foreplay and actual intercourse would last at least a tad longer). However, if you're the Calgary Flames, what happens is that one weekend's worth of hard work nearly all goes down the drain.

On Sunday, with the Flames leading the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings 4-3 late in the third period, Henrik Zetterberg tied it up with approximately 3.2 seconds left. In overtime, Nicklas Lidstrom scored the game-winning goal in spectacular fashion to not only send his team home with two points but leave the visitors shaking their heads as to just what they have to do to get it right... consistently. Because that's all the Flames' woes this season boil down to (dysfunction within the organization has already been analyzed to bits leaving the on-ice product the only thing left to criticize).

A few days earlier, on Friday to be exact, the Flames skated rather easily to a 7-2 victory over the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks. And up until the 10-minute mark of Sunday's third period the Flames were doing quite well and even held a 4-2 lead, and, then: disaster struck.

Clearly the Red Wings are a good team and ironically if Detroit had embarrassed the Flames yesterday, there would probably be no reason to write this because everyone would have just accepted that the Wings were the superior team. While that's true, the fact of the matter is the Flames arguably deserved to win that game (giving up three-straight goals including the game-tying one with three seconds left notwithstanding), and yet they didn't.

The Flames' longest winning streak of the season lasted three games and right after that ended they started their longest losing streak, which lasted four. After that ended, they won one game and then began another three-game losing streak, and then they beat down the Hawks, and then yesterday happened. There's little to be made of it except for the fact that they are good enough to make the playoffs, but will maybe just fall short, winning 10-straight at the end of the season to put themselves in playoff contention only to lose their last game 13-0 and miss out on the post-season. With this team anything can happen.

When it all comes down to it, the Flames are deep enough to at least make the post-season this year. When healthy, with the addition of Brendan Morrison and with the hopefully eventual return of Daymond Langkow, the Flames are deeper than any team in the league at centre. When Jarome Iginla is going, there's arguably no better captain in the league (he now has six points in his last two games, fyi). Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is undeniably one of the most effective starters in the league as well, when well-rested. And defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has near-limitless talent that once justified his five-year $33.4-million contract. These are all facts, but it's those qualifiers that do the Flames in:

1) Bouwmeester has yet to live up to that limitless talent.
2) Kiprusoff has started all but two of Calgary's 19 games, putting him on pace for over 70 appearances yet again.
3) Before these latest two games, Iginla had only 10 points (three goals) in 17 games, putting him on pace for only 48 (14).
4) The Flames aren't healthy and the recent three-game suspension to Olli Jokinen only evidenced just how fragile even the greatest depth can be.
5) And, oh, yeah, Alex Tanguay, who has more gears than a mountain bike (an incredibly soft, not-all-there mentally mountain bike), leads the team in scoring. How more inconsistent can the team be proven to be?

So the Flames are now forced back to square one, with their latest loss serving only as a cruel reminder of how great they can be and yet aren't. For the record, I picked them to finish eighth in the conference (link here), but like Weekend at Bernie's it's a very real possibility that they may end up disappointing... unless you like watching things die a horrible death.

Burmistrov still Has Schultz Searching for His Footing... and Neuvirth for His Jock

This is from Friday night's 5-0 Atlanta Thrashers' win over the Washington Capitals which proves two things: On any given night the Thrashers can compete against the league's elite (they are 2-1-1 against the Caps this season), even if back-up Braden Holtby started the game (starter Michal Neuvirth finished it and was in net for this beauty of a goal); and the Thrashers are in the (very) capable hands of Burmistrov (I think it's safe to say with hands like that a job in construction was never in the cards) going forward along with those of the Thrashers' other young guns in Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Niclas Bergfors, Bryan Little, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, and even captain Andrew Ladd, who has yet to turn 25. Talk about a youth movement done right. Enstrom is the oldest of that group and he's only 26. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec (23), who only has a 3-4 record, also has a 1.93 goals-against average to go along with a .939 save percentage.

Speaking of goals of the year, there are shades of Kane's goal earlier this year against the New York Rangers:

And every goal-of-the-year discussion has to include Edmonton Oiler Jordan Eberle's first:

If I've missed any, feel free to let me know, but I'm at least confident in the quality of these as nominees and them standing up until the end of the season as such. So sick are they that Britney Spears called to ask for her schtick back. So sick are they that Tom Cruise called and wants to recruit each of them as scientologists (not the players, the goals, proving just how sick he is in turn). So sick are they that Sean Avery reportedly feels threatened, called, and wants to recommend a good therapist to help out just so he can hold onto whatever ounce of attention he has left in the league. And that's pretty sick.