October 8, 2011

The Highlights from these Season Openers Show Promise

Tyler Seguin’s pass to Brad Marchand for the opening goal of the season for last year’s Stanley Cup Champions was a stunning play. The length of the ice pass that put Marchand in the clear was a stunning play for a player that just keeps getting better. We expect big things from him this season.

There was a HUGE performance on defence from Philly on their opening night. Not only did Bryzgalov stand tall in between the pipes but when he was beat his defence were there. A fantastic goal saving clearance from Timonen was a highlight of the game. The Flyers must have been wondering where that kind of performance on D was in last year’s playoff series. The Flyers took their opener with a 2-1 win.

In Toronto James Reimer posted a shutout against the Canadiens, turning away all 32 shots as the Maple Leafs took it 2-0.

Marc Andre Fluery went from ridiculous to sublime. He let a Lappiere shot bounce in off his leg from a stupid angle then made an amazing glove save on Daniel Sedin and a post to post sliding save on Burrows.  He then snuffed out Vancouver in the first shoot out of the series and Pittsburgh took the game 4-3 after penalty shots. Both Fluery and Luongo looked shaky at times – early season legs that need to be shaken off sooner rather than later.

Tomas Vanek picked up 2 as the Sabres won 4-1 against the Ducks in Helsinki. Around free agency time when the Sabres picked up Leino, Ehrhoff and Kaleta I decided to put a little wager on the Sabres for the cup this year. After this performance I feel a little more excited rather than it being a stab in the dark!

The new boys got on the score sheet in the Rangers v Kings game with Brad Richards and Mike Richards picking up points. It was extremely good to see Anze Kopitar back and scoring too. The end result was a 3-2 OT win for LA in Stockholm.

A 3rd period blitz by the Redwings saw them take their game v Ottawa by the scruff of the neck. The eventual score was 5-3 to Detroit. After taking a 5-1 lead they allowed Ottawa back into the game but the result was never in doubt. Neither team impressed but Detroit upped their game when needed.

Five different scorers tallied for the Lightning as they came from 1 down to beat the Hurricanes 5-1. The Lighting were  one of the impressive teams of last season’s playoffs for me and they continued to impress in the opening game of the season.

Nashville started their season with a 3-2 win over the Bluejackets. It was a tight game that saw Rinne make 32 saves on 34 shots to earn him the 1st star. This was the best performance so far for a goalie who is a potential Vezina Trophy winner??

Kari Lehtonen plays a blinder!! He faced over 20 shots in the middle period alone and carried  Dallas manage to a 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks. His shut out was only broken with 14 seconds remaining in the game.

By Adam Yates

October 7, 2011

Redwings V Senators - First Clash of the Year - Hot off the Presses !!!

The Joe Louis was alive as the players took to the ice for the 1st time this season. After the introduction of the players it was time to reflect on the tragic incident over the summer and the Redwings showed their class with a great tribute to Brad McCrimmon and his family, who received the applause of the crowd and framed tributes to the ex player and coach who sadly was lost in that horrific plane crash.

An early Detroit PP saw Ian White force 2 good saves out of Craig Anderson in the Ottawa goal. After a pretty dire 16 minutes with neither team creating a notable chance it was a pass by Helm from his own blue line that sent Bertuzzi clean in on Anderson and he put it in the roof over the glove side of Ottawa’s netminder.

This seemed to spark the Redwings a bit as Anderson then pulled off a good save from Filppula and a Franzen pass to Zetterberg nearly brought a 2nd.  It was a 1-0 1st period where neither team impressed but Detroit seemed in control on home ice.

It wasn’t long into 2nd when Lidstrom got the 2nd, a rare goal type for the captain as he went to the net and softly lifted the puck past Anderson. Not the expected blast from the point. One the netminder would want back but a great start to the season for the 7 time Norris Trophy winner.

Smith had Ottawa’s first great chance from infront of the net around 8 mins into the 2nd and he poked the puck through Howard’s legs only to find Kindl in behind him to deflect the puck wide with his skate.

Emmerton made it 3-0 at the half way point of the 2nd as Drew Miller chased the puck into the corner and beat the defenseman to the puck as Anderson tried to set it up. He put it out infront and  as Anderson was out of position and the rookie tapped the puck in. Datsyuk then stole the puck in the Ottawa zone and fed Hudler who lifted the puck glove side on Anderson to make it a 4-0 game and bring the time out from Senators coach Paul Mclean.  It only took 3 minutes into the 3rd for Detroit to make it 5-0 as Ian White sent a knucle puck from the point high over the stick side of Anderson. Anderson had made a brilliant glove stop from Hudler a moment before to try and keep the score down.

Spezza broke the shut out of Howard with a wrister from the point that deflected up and in off Michalek’s foot and over Howard. Michalek then hit his 2nd of the night as Ottawa took 19 seconds on the powerplay to find the net. Spezza with a nice play for his 2nd assist of the night. Kuba fired a shot from the point on a late powerplay for Ottawa that was screened infront and it flew in past an unsighted Howard and that made it 5-3 late on.

That’s how it finished, a fightback from the Senators as Detroit took their foot off the pedal a little in the closing stages. Not the greatest of games but Detroit got scoring from different lines which is a pleasing to start whilst Ottawa showed that even though they went down heavily early on they can still come back and fight a bit.

by Adam Yates

The Potential Magic of Claude Giroux - This Fan is Loving It !!!

Claude Giroux... what is there to say about this young Canadian born player who has  been passed the torch to help lead the Flyers in the scoring department?

This young hotshot was drafted 22nd overall in the 2006 entry draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Philadelphia faithful will know that he was  born in 1988 in Ontario Canada. Giroux was a right handed winger who has now turned to center plays well in all situation.  He has been a great draft pick and his hockey IQ keeps climbing.

Ever since (ex) captain Mike Richards and scoring sniper Jeff Carter were traded away in the summer, the buck has been passed to Giroux and he is expected to be to set up a new core with James Van Riemsdyk, prospects Brayden Schenn and latest 1st round draft pick Sean Couturier. Giroux scored 25 goals and registered 51 assists last year on route to an impressive 76 point campaign which was 29 points more than his 2009- 2010 season.  He is an excellent two-way forward as well; let’s just say Giroux does it all! 5v5 even strength? (50 points and plus 20) excellent! Shorthanded? (7 SH Pts) throw ‘em out there! Power play? (19 pts) Uh... YES!

This is not to say they will do all the heavy lifting, because Daniel Briere is still on the team as well as curly haired Scott Hartnell who is returning for another year of showing off his long locks and throwing his body around.  On top of all that you have the newly acquired Wayne Simmonds, Jacob Voracek and 39 year old NHL Elite European ex mullet extraordinaire...Jaromir "freakin" Jagr.

All those forwards are lethal weapons on any given night. With Giroux centering a line of JVR and Jagr they can become a very dangerous 1st line for the boys from Philly!

There is no doubt in mind that GM Paul Holmgren has decided to let Giroux be the lead center...and their first game of the season is a testament to that. In that game, Giroux was OUTSTANDING! His goal was off the charts !! Like a young wizard with the puck he beat the veteran Tim Thomas with his back hand to forehand goal. It was absolutely amazing! Let's not forget that the great pass down the ice came from Jagr. Again this is just a preview of what is to come for this young player and I for one can not wait to see what is in store for the leading goal scorer for the Flyers last year.

This writer has a bold prediction for this young All-Star? I expect 80 points as well as some of the most beautiful dynamic plays that will make the highlight reels in this coming season. The potential is there and continues to grow.

- Justin Stefani

James Reimer: First Leafs’ Home-Opener Shutout Since 2000

Few rivalries in sports are as heated and rich in history as the ongoing feud between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, and October 6, 2011 added another win to the Leafs’ tally.

The goaltenders for the Leafs’ season opener at the Air Canada Centre were the young guns, and the future of NHL goaltending; James Reimer (TOR), and Carey Price (MTL).

While Price made a few excellent saves to keep the game close, his efforts were all for naught, as Montreal lost to Toronto 2-0. Price stopped 16 of 18 Toronto shots in the effort, and was the top performer on Montreal. Defenseman PK Subban also contributed to a strong showing by the Canadiens.

But the real story of the night was the man in the other goal crease, James Reimer. The 23 year-old netminder stopped all 32 Montreal shots for his first win, and shutout, of the season. The Leafs locked Reimer down this summer for the next few years, and he is already earning his keep.

Opening the season with a shutout was just what the Leafs needed to get behind their new number 1 goaltender. The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs opened their season at home with a shutout was in 2000, when Curtis Joseph blanked Habs.

Reimer stayed solid positionally throughout the entire 60 minutes, and showed exceptional athleticism during multiple scrambles in front of the net. His rebound control needed a little work, which would have eliminated the need for his athletic scrambles, but overall, his play to begin the season was statistically flawless.

Reimer, who is arguably the new franchise player on Toronto’s roster, must avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, or risk becoming another Steve Mason (CBJ), who won the Calder Trophy before putting up horrendous numbers that prevented the Blue Jackets from playing past mid-April. Stellar rookie seasons followed by dreadful careers are unfortunately common amongst National Hockey League goaltenders, and Reimer knows what it takes to keep performing at his peak.

The pressure is on the Morweena, MB native to help the Leafs reach the playoffs for the first time since the NHL lockout. Look to Reimer to step into some sort of leadership role throughout the season and influence the team’s confidence and momentum during each matchup. His ability to make huge saves at the right time makes him a game-changer.

Look for the Leafs to be serious contenders for the 8th playoff seed in the Eastern conference this season, and look to Reimer when dishing out credit.

Greg Summy

October 5, 2011

The Rollercoaster Restart Of a Sharks Fan

Every mid June I am left hungry waiting for the next 3 months to speed by as I sit and fill my time by playing summer street hockey, watching baseball...all the while waiting for the next season to begin.

I am hungry because every year I wait and patiently watch as my team battles for a chalice of legendary proportions...then watch as they fail year in and year out for the last 20 years.
It’s a hunger that grows each year as I watch the General Manager try filling in gaps with different accoutrements or fix the lingering issues that were not maintained before.

Its being a Shark’s fan that can make you want to pull out your teeth all the while being joyful that you have such a talented team. 

This year is no different...ever since my beloved sharks were knocked out by the Vancouver Canucks, I told myself…

"Well can't wait till next season. I know we will get it right!"

This doesn't mean I stop watching hockey altogether though, No I went out friends or stayed home and watched every game leading up the finish where the Bruins Won in fashion and knocked out the Canucks.

After a long summer it is time again to begin a new cycle of roller coaster emotions. Time for the pizza and games, time for your friends (that are fans of other teams) to jeer their team is better because they have a cup but really this is the time for My Sharks team to beat them down again... *cough Detroit*

Once again I look and see a team built to contend and once again I will stand by my San Jose Sharks...especially with the upgrades Wilson has done.

I will say out loud again, this is our year, and if not well there’s always next season...

Now with a nice taste of 5-1 preseason that really means nothing but showcasing a nice team. Finally it begins; the start of the NHL...let the games begin.

By Justin Stefani


Today, the Habs claimed Blair Betts off waivers. Not too bad for a team that needed a little toughness and 4th line presence. The Canadiens now have a much better PK unit because of this move. Think of Betts as the forward version of Gill when it comes to the penalty kill. Except the difference is he is great at faceoff’s and can actually skate. Big difference, actually. This claim also helps them at even strength, giving the Habs their much-needed “bigger” centre. He’s bigger in size, but not big when it comes to his skill. Look at this as a special teams move, that can’t hurt 5 on 5. He’ll probably be gritty in the corners when needed, and for sure in front of the net. This move means that the Habs have cut both Palushaj and Engqvist, finalizing their 23 man roster, with the forward lines looking like this:


When Eller is healthy, which looks like at most about 2 weeks, it looks as though Weber will be the odd man out, and with Diaz and Yemelin making the team as defensemen, it looks like Weber will spend some time in Hamilton. Woywitka also looks to be cut, having been put on waivers today, the 5th of October. With Markov still out, the defense looks like this:


In my opinion, when Markov is healthy, it should be Diaz that sits, as I think the whole team was impressed with Yemelin, and his physical side to the game. He also has a very strong first pass, and Diaz has a more offensive minded game.

The goalies have been set since Day 1, as Budaj looks to backup Price. Price said he is more ready then ever for this season, which looks good for the Canadiens and their fans. Look for the Habs to finish in about the 6th spot in the East this year.

By Noah Goren


4 teams, 3 Countries, 4 NHL regular season games. NHL Premiere is back this weekend with the Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers, LA Kings And Buffalo Sabres taking part in games across Sweden, Germany and Finland.

After being lucky enough myself to witness the 1st ever NHL regular season games in Europe between Anaheim and LA in London back in 2007 I would expect the atmosphere and the excitement in the cities lucky enough to host these games will currently be immense. The hype that will be built up across Stockholm, Helsinki and Berlin will be at boiling point. Home fans of teams that play out of these arena’s will have been queuing for tickets, rival teams fans will have been snapping them up and I’m sure there will also be a host of travelling fans from outside these countries attending these games, getting that glimpse of their heroes from across the pond that normally they wouldn’t get the chance of.

What will the on ice action bring? The teams have been travelling a lot and although there is prestige in playing in these games it is a tough pre season schedule, probably tougher than a preseason back home. All teams are generally rough around the edges going into the start of a season so all 4 teams will be looking not only for results but some sort of performance and to hit good form from the go. There will be players in the line ups that are at new teams wanting to impress as well as players that have come through training camps who have made line ups and wanting to stay there. It will be interesting to see who the star performers over these games are and intriguing to see if they go on to make an impression over the 82 games.

All 4 teams have been promoting not only their own brand whilst playing in friendly games in these but the brand of the NHL and promoting Ice Hockey Worldwide. This will no doubt bring in sales of products relating to these teams and the NHL but currently the European fans and market are still in the dark as to where they will be able to see all the stars of the game after the Premiere as there are currently still no TV rights to show NHL games across the whole of Europe in place.

ESPN’s contract ran out at the end of last season’s playoffs and the NHL and although the NHL have signed a 5 year contract with Medge Consulting and AMI to represent the rights of the NHL in Europe, Africa and the Middle East these are merely brokers that were brought in to get the NHL the best deals from TV stations in a hope to up the NHL’s revenue.

Living in England and relying on ESPN last season for all my live NHL coverage I was originally disheartened by the news above. I used ESPN player last season allowing me to watch every game live or on demand if I so wished so. It was a reasonable price and had good coverage. I also had ESPN TV which meant if I wanted to watch a game on a bigger screen, I was able to watch a certain schedule still through them. A lot of people in England will now not have access to a similar service, at least at the start of the season.

What is available for the first time in Europe is NHL GameCentre Live, which is a similar service to ESPN Player. A few pence difference in price but looking at the service they offer it could prove to be more value for money. The multi view option looks extremely good for keeping an eye on multiple games starting in different time zones, especially on nights when the Redwings aren’t playing and I’m unsure which games to watch!

Hopefully a proper TV deal for the NHL will be sorted for all of Europe sooner rather than later to allow the fans the chance to see the greatest show worldwide – which all kicks off within the next few days!

By Adam Yates

October 4, 2011

Early Vezina Picks - Finally Some Choice

Last year, there was no Vezina Trophy race, it was more of a “who was second-best to Tim Thomas” Trophy. This year, I am more confident that the league’s elite goaltenders will create a tight race for the Vezina. 
My Top Five (early) picks for the Venzina this year, in no particular order, are Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, and Ryan Miller. 
Why no Thomas? History tells us that Thomas’ performance this season may not be up to expectations. The last time Thomas won the Vezina, he came back with a horrible outing, which allowed Rask to take over the starting position and show us what he is capable of. Last season, Thomas took home the Vezina, as well as the most coveted piece of hardware in hockey, the Stanley Cup. Oh, and did I mention the Conn Smythe? With that much hardware, the pressure is going to be on Thomas to live up to those accolades again this year. While he was stellar in the playoffs and regular season last year, and didn’t let the pressure phase him, but he’s had the off-season to reflect on his performance last season. I anticipate that he will over analyze everything, and attempt to fix too many things in his game, which will lead to poor numbers and inconsistency.
Now, it may seem like I am a bit harsh on Thomas, but after winning the Cup, Vezina, and Conn Smythe in the same year, expectations are much, much higher. 
Pekka Rinne
A dark-horse of a draft pick (8th round, #235 overall) in 2004, Pekks has been a perennial favourite of many fantasy hockey managers, and admired by players, GMs, and fans alike. 
His numbers speak for themselves (2.12 GAA, .930 SV% in 2010-2011), but the most notable part of Rinne’s playing ability is his training. The Nashville Predators have one of the most tested and successful goaltending coaches in Mitch Korn, who has been described as the “Yoda of goaltending.” Korn’s training methods and ability to effectively fix a goaltender’s weaknesses have given the Predators goaltending core a massive advantage over the rest of the league. Combine Korn’s insights and coaching with Rinne’s natural instincts and athletic abilities, and Pekks is definitely a front-runner already for the Vezina. 
Henrik Lundqvist
13 shutouts, and multiple strings of stolen games should speak for themselves, but sadly, last season Lundqvist was overlooked as a candidate for the Vezina. After his performance in the first round of the 2010-2011 playoffs, and his uncanny flexibility and athleticism, all eyes are on Lundqvist to yet again be an elite force between the pipes. 
As one of the most flexible and adaptive goaltenders in the NHL, Lundqvist is overdue for not only a Cup victory, but also the accolades he deserves. I would be hard-pressed to find a professional hockey writer, scout, or coach who would disagree with me when I say that Lundqvist is easily one of front-runners for the Vezina this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury
The Pens were without Crosby for half of the 2010-2011 season, and lost Malkin near the end of the season, yet made the playoffs in a decisive fashion. A large part of Pittsburgh’s success over the past season, and over the last few seasons has been the work of Fleury between the pipes. Granted, the rest of the Penguins definitely produced well beyond what was probably expected of them without the two superstars, but Fleury stole a few games for them, and made sure his team’s efforts were not squandered. 
This year, there will be added pressure on Fleury to perform at Hall of Fame levels. Crosby’s uncertain timetable, and the loss of Talbot to the Flyers will put more stress and fatigue on the Penguins’ core, so Bylsma, Pittsburgh management, and the Penguins’ loyal fan base will expect nothing less than perfection from the Stanley Cup winning goaltender. 
Given his performance over the past few seasons, Fleury will likely rise to the occasion, and possibly have a career-high statistical year. If it’s one thing Fleury has been known to handle well, it’s pressure. His shoulders will be the resting place of much of the stress put on the Penguins by their fans and coaching staff. Fleury’s history suggests he will perform well, and rise to the occasion, which is why he is preseason favourite for the Vezina.
Roberto Luongo
Controversial pick, I’m sure, but I have to go with Luongo again for the Vezina nomination, at least right now. Last season we saw Luongo put up career best regular season numbers during 2010-2011, and helped the Canucks win the President’s Trophy and the Western Conference Title. Luongo shared the Jennings Trophy with Cory Schneider, and stayed consistent through most of his 60 regular season. 
The only hurdle Luongo will have to clear this year is his mental toughness. He cares too much about what others think of his performances, which to the fans of Vancouver, must be perfect at every moment. 
Luongo’s limited preseason appearances show a different, better Luongo. He looks more relaxed, and looks like he is not over-thinking every play. With a relaxed and confident demeanor, Luongo will likely produce another statistical-best year.
Ryan Miller
Should Buffalo be smart and limit Miller’s starts to around 60, the Michigan native will hopefully perform on a more consistent basis this season, and help put the Sabres in a better playoff position than 2010-2011. 
Miller’s focus, athleticism, and confidence will play key roles in his success as they have in the past few seasons. The former Vezina winner is not overlooked by most, but I have a feeling his play behind a more solid defensive core now in Buffalo will have critics, fans, and players once again praising Miller as they did in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. 
A Vezina, and perhaps an Eastern Conference Championship are well within Miller’s grasp, as long as he is not fatigued late in the season. If he gets his rest and the confidence of his coaches and players, the hardware is sure to come.

By Greg Summy