January 7, 2012

Canucks/Bruins Rivalry Renewed 1/7/2012 [HD]

2012 WJC Final - Mika Zibanejad's golden goal

January 6, 2012

Sheffield Steelers Come Out on Top Again

Friday night saw a rare televised game over here in the UK as the Sheffield Steelers visited the Blaze at the Sky Dome Arena in Coventry.

An entertaining 1st period saw Coventry have the better of the early exchanges but it was Sheffield who took the lead as ex Blaze forward Luke Fulgham pounced on a puck after good pressure from Phillips and Finnerty,  deked around Hirsch in the Coventry net and finished from a wide angle.

Sheffield had to then kill off their first 2 minutes of the night as Jason Hewitt sat for tripping but Coventry couldn’t force an equaliser as they pressured the Steelers net.

Infact it was Ramsay who made it 2-0 for Sheffield at 8.37. Jeff Legue led from the red line on a 2 on 1 and his pass to Ramsay was just about directed towards net and the puck seemed to squirm up and over Hirsch on his stick side.

It was soon 3-0 as Jason Hewitt picked up a rebound off a Matt Stephenson shot at 10.05 as Paul Thompson called a time out from the Coventry bench.

This stemmed the flow of goals from Sheffield who in all honesty were lucky to be leading by 3 so early. The game had been pretty even with the Steelers seeming to be getting the bounce of the puck as well as being clinical with their chances.

The first minute of the third period saw Birnstall and Hewitt in the box for Sheffield whilst Farmer went for Coventry which gave the Blaze another powerplay opportunity that they couldn’t capitalize on.

Coventry would come to rue some bad powerplay time as the game went on as Sheffield made it 4-0 at 10.45 of the 2nd. It was Mike Ramsay’s 2nd of the game on a Steelers powerplay as Ashley Tait found the inform wingman all alone and he buried the puck low past Hirsch.

Robert Farmer then decided he would try and get the Blaze team going after a little skirmish infront of the Steelers net. He dropped his gloves in anticipation Mark Thomas was going to dance with him but his ex team mate declined. Amazingly Farmer wasn’t called for his actions and only Jason Hewitt was called for  his 3rd 2 minute penalty of the night, this time for a hook in the build up before the fracas. However, Coventry still couldn’t get anything going to get back into the game.

They did finally manage to get on the board with 6.30 left on the period as Bryan Jurynec tucked the puck in quickly after a big rebound was given out by John DeCaro off a Jeremie Domish blast from distance.
There was an immediate chance for a 2nd as Mike Ramsay gave up a puck infront of his netminder but this time DeCaro made a great glove save to deny the Blaze. DeCaro then made his 2nd great stop of the period as he got a piece of one shot with his glove and as it went over his shoulder he manged to get back down to deny the Blaze forwards crashing the net trying to force home the loose puck.

There was certainly a momentum change after the Blaze goal as Coventry tried but failed to get a 2nd before the end of the period.

Coventry would however come out for the 3rd period with around 1 minute 20 left on a powerplay opportunity but yet again they couldn’t click on this as the period had an extremely scrappy start to it.
The Blaze would then have 4 consecutive powerplays from 7 minutes into the period without managing to create too many great chances on them.

Mike McLean had the best chance of all but he somehow managed to hit the post with the cage wide open infront of him.

The Steelers saw out the remainder of the game and despite being outshot 33-25 and taking 20 PIMS to the Blaze 8 they held on to that 4-1 scoreline and the 2 points were heading back to Sheffield.

The Steelers now head to Kirkcaldy for a Saturday night game against the Fife Flyers and then over to Edinburgh on Sunday to finish off 3 games in 3 nights with a tough tie against the ever improving Capitals.

- Adam Yates

January 5, 2012

Canucks,Habs,Bruins, and Sharks in the Winners Circle in Last Night's NHL Action

We begin Wednesday nights NHL round up with the game in Vancouver as the Canucks hosted the Minnesota Wild.

It took the Canucks just over 6 minutes to get themselves a 1 goal lead in this one as Daniel Sedin fired a one timer in from the top of the circle  after some good play between himself and Burrows to create the opening. It was 2-0 at 10.24 as Burrows finished off an excellent move which started from deep in the Canucks own zone. When Henrik Sedin made a backhand pass from just inside the Wild blue line across ice to Daniel he centred the puck with one touch and Burrows was there to redirect the puck in behind Josh Harding. One of the most beautiful looking tic-tac-toe moves you will see in 2012.

The home team largely dominated the 1st period as they outshot their opponents 16 – 11 and passing up a great chance 4 on 3 to extend their lead further.

The Canucks started the 2nd period with a minute remaining on the powerplay after a late unsportsmanslike call on Prosser of the Wild but couldn’t find any rhythm or create any chances.

It was Bouchard for the Wild who had the best chance early in the 2nd but as he skated over the blue line with the puck on a 2 on 1 breakaway he shot and Luongo got his shoulder on the puck and deflected the puck wide.

Luongo then made a great glove save on Clutterbuck as the Wild had their 1st powerplay opportunity 8 minutes into the 2nd. They couldn’t take advantage of this and it was Burrows who nearly gave the Canucks a 3-0 lead as the powerplay expired. This time it was Harding’s turn to pull off the glove save to prevent the puck going behind him again.

As the 2nd period went on the Wild started to have more puck possession and time in the Canucks zone but couldn’t turn the possession into a goal and despite outshooting Vancouver 10 - 9 in the period they couldn’t get anything back on the scoreboard.

Both team exchanged chances at the start of the 3rd period as Burrows hit a post on a redirect from a Daniel Sedin shot and then Cullen was foiled by Luongo as he tried to force once past him shortside.
Minnesota had 2 powerplay chances in the 3rd but couldn’t get anything going at all as the Wild were outshot by their hosts 10 – 7.

With 1.33 left in the game Setogucchi had a great chance to make it 2-1 and produce a frantic finish. Luongo came out and challenged and gobbled up the  players shot in his equipment as the Wild missed their best chance of the period.

By this point Harding had been pulled from the Minnesota net and Manny Malhotra fired the puck into an empty net with 29 seconds left.

The game finished 3-0 with Roberto Luongo standing strong in the Vancouver net for his 3rd consecutive shut out in games against the Wild.

In Montreal the Canadiens thumped the Winnipeg Jets 7-3 as Lars Eller put away 4 of the 7 goals.

It was the Jets who took a 1-0 lead early on as Tim Stapleton poked a loose puck into the net as Evander Kane had forced a save from Carey Price in the Canadiens net.

Josh Gorges celebrated his new contract with the equaliser at 13.24 as he wristed a shot in from the point and Ellar got his 1st of the night at 14.07 as he robbed the Jets defence and fired a quick wrist shot low past Pavlec.

The teams exchanged goals in the 2nd period as Tomas Kaberle scored his 1st as a Canadien on a snap shop from the face off circle and then Blake Wheeler got a powerplay goal as he tipped in a Bogosian drive.
It was 3 goals inside a minute in the 3rd that saw Montreal home and dry. It started at 2.41 as Eller tapped in from on the doorstep after great play from Kostitsyn and Moen set up the chance.

22 seconds later Cammalleri just casually threw a puck towards the goal backhanded from along the boards and it found its way into the net via a defenceman’s skate in front.

Ellar had his hat trick 28 seconds later as he benefitted from a great play by Kostitsyn. He came out from behind the net with the puck, held off 2 challenges as he circled back infront and made a reverse pass that gave Ellar an easy chance to bury the puck. Mason replaced Pavlec at this point in the Jets net.

Ellar got his 4th and the Canadiens 7th on a penalty shot at 11.00 of the period and what a move he pulled on it as well. Skating in on Mason with the puck on his forehand he went out to the circle and then back in to the top of the crease where he spun to his back hand. Mason was anticipating the shot  on the forehand and was sliding across net as Ellar guided the puck in on the back hand. A brilliant move that capped a brilliant performance from the Montreal 3rd liner.

Andrew Ladd tipped in a 3rd for the Jets with 6.57 left of the game but Montreal had already sealed the win with the 3 goal blitz at the start of the 3rd.

In Anaheim the Ducks took an early lead as a play by Cogliano to keep the puck in the zone on the boards bounced straight to Corey Perry infront of Niemi and he made a forehand / backhand move to bury the puck.
Anaheim held that lead right through towards the end of the 2nd period when San Jose hit with 2 goals in 27 seconds to turn the game on it’s head.

Brad Winchester fired a snap shot from the circle across Hiller and in off the woodwork and then Ferriero pounced on a puck in the crease after a blocked Dan Boyle shot from the point was helped towards the net by Logan Couture.

Joe Pavelski secured a 3-1 win for the Sharks at 12.43 in the 3rd as Hiller allowed a big rebound off a Joe Thornton shot and Pavelski was the 1st to react and sweep it into the net.

That leaves us with just 1 game to conclude the round up and that was between the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils.

New Jersey started the game well as they took a 1-0 lead at 4.24 of the 1st period. On the powerplay, Zach Parise led a partial 2 on 1 out of his own zone and he centred the puck to David Clarkson who fired the puck past Thomas’s glove.

That would be the highlight of the evening for the Devils however as the Bruins then turned it on to blast 6 past Brodeur for no reply.

Gregory Campbell tipped in an Andrew Ference shot  at 8.15 and Krejci slipped the puck across the crease to Nathan Horton to fire in off the post at 13.17. Horton scoring his 10th of the season, this one on the powerplay to give Boston a 2-1 lead going into the 2nd period.

Patrice Bergeron got the only goal of the 2nd at 4.24 as he blocked a Larsson shot at his own blue line and chased after it. He went clean in on Brodeur and made a quick backhand to forehand deke to make it 3-1.
Bergeron and Krejci scored within 5 minutes at the start of the 3rd period to kill the game off. Marchand and Seguin took the play out of their own zone and deep into the New Jersey end, Seguin dropping the puck off for Marchand to circle around the net and find the perfect pass to an open Bergeron who wristed the puck in stick side on Brodeur.

Then Krejci tipped in a blast from Seidenberg amidst some protest from the Devils that there was a high stick used to score.

Shawn Thornton fired in the final goal with 5.37 left in the game as his wrist shot from between the circles found its way through Brodeur’s pads and into the net. A horrible night for the New Jersey netminder but another dominant performance from the Bruins who after a shaky first few games this season are showing what good champions can do.

- Adam Yates

January 4, 2012

Hockey Nerd's Awesome Evening.

Last night driving back from my brothers birthday dinner I decided to stop at the Goodwill. Now I have a big problem with Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. I am a huge nostalgia dork, this past month I bought a 1984 Olympics Coffee mug, Original Great America (Chicago Amusement Park) Beer Mug, a copy of NHL Faceoff '99 with Chris Chelios on the cover. So you can probably see where this is going.

Usually I start looking at the old VHS selections which in the past I have picked up a copy off hockey's biggest hits with unfortunately Pat LaFontaine graces the cover as the hittee, bad foreshadowing to say the least. Then I move to the books and then drinking glasses. I have really grown up since no longer do I purchase crappy old electronics or exercise equipment which is never used. Then I saw this:

Now at first I was stunned and couldn’t believe it was a vintage stick, because frankly I have never seen one in person...So right off the bat, I knew was going to buy it, it is probably from the mid 60s to 70s because there is no curve.

Secondly to my amazement you can still see the advertising, Victoriaville 40 “M.F” My mouth nearly hit the floor and I sprinted to checkout.

The only problem is, it appears some one went over the original stamps with a sharpie, oh well this thing is still amazing!

This has definitely jumped to the top of my collection next to my 1979 Blackhawks poster. If anyone has knowledge of the age of this stick please contact me at Goodintheroom@gmail.com, I am super interested, now all I need is a cool place to display it.


Joe DeTolve

Red Wings Come out on Top vs Stars (Game Recap)

Injuries depleted both teams for this match up as Robidas and Souray were missing from the Dallas defence whilst Helm, Holmstrom and Eaves were missing from the Detroit forward line.

The first big chance of the game fell to Jiri Hudler 5 minutes in but Lehtonen robbed the Detroit forward as he pulled off a big glove save. Hudler somehow not burying the puck as he was wide open on the Dallas doorstep with just the netminder to beat.

Filppula gave Detroit the lead at 8.02. Lidstrom and then White sent in shots wide on Lehtinen which managed to pull the netminder out of position and when the puck bounced

Hudler made it 2-0 with 2.54 left on the 1st period. Zetterberg miss hit a shot which flew straight into the skates of Hudler and into the net. It was judged a good goal on the ice and the review confirmed that no kicking motion was made.

Erikson cut the lead in half only 50 seconds later. He picked up his own rebound off Howard as the netminder made a save short side and circled back around infront and fired the puck back through traffic and behind Jimmy Howard.

However, Detroit regained their 2 goal lead with a minute left on the period as Zetterberg skated from deep in his own zone, layed a puck off to Filppula on the wing and he sent it across to Hudler who skated infront unchallenged and buried his 2nd past Lehtonen.

The Zetterberg, Filppula, Hudler line was absolutely on fire through the 1st period, scoring all 3 goals and running the Dallas defence ragged. If Lehtonen hadn’t been as good as he had been through the period then Detroit could have had a lead of 4 or 5.

It took just over 1 minute of the 2nd period for Dallas to score their 2nd of the game as Jamie Benn picked up on a puck that was purposely shot wide by Goligoski and quickly fired it in before Howard could get across.
Corey Emmerton scored at 3.51 to put Detroit back into a 2 goal lead as he fired the puck from behind the goal line into the back of Lehtonen’s skates and into the goal.

With just over 7 minutes gone Michael Ryder made it 4-3 as he fired in a shot from the wing the crept passed Howard on his blocker side.

Franzen then made it 5-3 at 11.46 of the period as Datsyuk stole the puck behind the Dallas net and his quick pass was one timed high into the net by the Swedish forward.

That was to end the scoring in the 2nd period even though Dallas came extremely close towards the end of the period as the post was struck by Pardy on a shot from the point.

It took 14 minutes of the 3rd period before the lamp was lit again and it was Ryder with his 2nd as Dallas yet again closed to within 1 goal. He picked up a puck just inside the Detroit zone and delayed on making a pass before choosing to shoot and send it high glove side past a screened Howard.

With time running out for Dallas to get the game tying goal, Lehtonen was pulled but to no avail as the clock ran down and Detroit took a 5-4 win.

It was a fast and furious opening 2 periods with goals galore. Both netminders conceded where they should have saved but both pulled off great saves as well. There was a distinct lack of penalties called in the game, the only one being 15 seconds into the game on Bertuzzi for Holding The Stick. This meant the game was played even handed throughout and made for a riveting contest.

Another 2 points for Detroit as they moved to only 1 point behind Western leading Chicago.

- Adam Yates

WJC - Russia vs Canada - One for the Ages

When the puck drops between Canada and Russia you just never know what will happen. At Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta on Tuesday night another magnificent chapter was written between these two hockey-loving nations and intense rivals. In the World Junior Hockey Championship semi-finals the Russians dominated the Canadians 6-1 into the third period until the Canucks mounted a furious comeback attempt to cut the lead to 6-5 with just under five minutes remaining to send the sold-out, red-clad partisan crowd into a frenzy. 

The fifth goal lead to a netminder change and with less than a minute to go Ryan Strome hit the post and Russia hung on for the victory despite being outshot in the game 56-24. They will face Sweden in the Gold Medal game while Canada will play Finland for the Bronze. 

Washington Capitals prospect and Russian captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov scored a hat trick and 2012 NHL Draft projected number one pick Nail Yakupov had four assists. 

Even though these are the junior teams, the epic nature of the game still adds to the storied rivalry between the two nations. It seems only appropriate that this dramatic match took place only a day after Versus relaunched its brand as NBC Sports Network by airing the documentary "Cold War on Ice: Summit Series '72" celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and Russia. Of course that series was all the more dramatic because it took place at the height of the Cold War and political tensions added to the heated action on the ice.

Ten years ago I visited the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto with my father and we were treated to the 1972 Summit Series 30th Anniversary festivities. At a press conference we got to see Phil and Tony Esposito and other Team Canada legends speak about the dramatic series. That moment really crystallized for me how much hockey means to these two countries. In Canada they say hockey is religion and the mystical bond between a nation and a sport is really seen at the National Cathedral in Toronto, otherwise known as the Hockey Hall of Fame's Great Hall, where the domed ceiling features stained glass windows reminiscent of old European churches and Canadians file past the Holy Grail -- Lord Stanley's Cup. Even in French the building at the corner of Front and Yonge Streets has religious connotations, as it is called Temple de la renommée du hockey.

For the citizens of Russia and Canada tonight the almost miracle comeback (another religious reference) was another glorious chapter in this storied rivalry. For the rest of us it was simply one of the most entertaining games of the year. And it builds anticipation for the next time Russia and Canada battle on the ice.

-- Josh Marks

January 3, 2012

NHL Winter Classic 01/02/12

NHL Round Up - Highlighted by the Winter Classic

The big game of the afternoon was of course the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.The Flyers played host to the New York Rangers infront of a crowd of almost 47,000. With only 2 points separating the teams at the top of the Atlantic division and a fierce rivalry between them there was more at stake here than people might have thought. This wasn’t just a showcase game, both teams wanted the points and the bragging rights over their rivals.

It was a fast and furious 1st period without either team getting off the mark. Lundqvist was playing exceptionally well in the Rangers net and it took until 12.26 of the 2nd period before the Flyers finally got the opening goal of the game.

It was Brayden Schenn’s 1st NHL goal and what a game to get it in as he picked up a rebound in the crease off a Matt Carle shot and slammed it into the gaping net.

It was quickly 2-0 as Claude Giroux was sent through by Maxime Talbot and he went forehand to backhand to beat Lundqvist high over his blocker shoulder.

The Rangers took only 30 seconds though to get the score back to 2-1 as Mike Rupp snapped a shot from between the circles low past Bobrovsky who was screened by Meszaros. Rupp celebrated with a Jagr style salute which seemed to upset some of the Flyers players on the ice.

Ironically, Jaromir Jagr had seemed to pick up some sort of injury towards the end of the 1st which had limited him to only 7.06 of ice time. Most of that was through the 1st period as he was seen very little in the 2nd and not at all in the 3rd.

It was the 3rd period where things really hotted up as Mike Rupp got his 2nd of the game at 2.41. He squeezed a puck stick side on Bobrovsky where there really didn’t seem any room to do so.
Brad Richards gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead at 5.21 of the period as he received the puck at the top of the crease on a smart pass from Dubinsky and buried the puck into the back of the net.

Both teams then continued to create chances but none better than the Flyers chance to level the game with just under 20 seconds left as they were awarded a penalty shot with Ryan McDonagh adjudged to have covered the puck with his hand in the crease. The responsibility fell to Danny Briere but Lundqvist had been outstanding all game and was once again as he saved the shot and denied us all an extra 5 minutes of this wonderful event.

The Rangers came away with the 3-2 win, extending their lead in the Atlantic Division to 4 points whilst making it a 3-0 record against the Flyers this season.

In Vancouver, the Canucks hosted the San Jose Sharks and this game needed a shoot out to decide it. Jannik Hansen gave Vancouver the lead with just under 5 minutes left in the 1st period. He lead a 3 on 1 break out for the Canucks and although it looked like he had made a mess of it he somehow still managed to slide the puck on net and in off the San Jose defender Dan McGill who was diving in front of the net.

Vancouver edged the 1st period without creating any clear cut chances despite having 3 powerplay opportunities.

Ben Ferriero levelled the game 94 seconds into the 2nd period as he swept in the puck right on the doorstep as Bieksa had blocked one shot with his foot and stayed down by the side of the net.

San Jose started to create some momentum after the equaliser and Luongo fended off 6 shots on a Sharks powerplay soon after including a fantastic glove save from Thornton as the forward fired from point blank range.

Patrick Marleau gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead midway through the game. The Sharks pressure paid off as he picked up on a rebound from a Braun shot and back handed it past Luongo.

Thornton had a great chance to make it 3-1 but Luongo pulled off a pad save as the Sharks captain skated behind the Canucks defence and in on the netminder.

Hodgson then had a great chance for the Canucks as Joe Thornton gave the puck away on his own blue line and Hodgson went 1 on 1 with Niemi. The netminder managed to deflect the puck over with his arm as Hodgson tried to go high gloveside.

Vancouver had over a minute 5 on 3 at the start of the 3rd period as Burns and DeMurs sat for 2 minutes each but despite putting 4 shots on net they couldn’t find an equaliser at that point.

They finally got the equaliser with 8.25 left as Hodgson scored on the Canucks 6th powerplay of the game. Hamhuis got the puck out of the corner to Hodgson and he fired a one timer lower across Niemi and into the corner. Bieksa picked up the 2nd assist on the goal to extend his point scoring streak to 16 games.

The game stayed at 2-2 as both Luongo and Niemi fended off everything thrown at them for the remainder of the period. A 5 minute OT period couldn’t separate the teams either and it was decided on penalty shots. 

Burrows went 1st and missed as Niemi poke checked the puck away as he approached the net and then Luongo saved from Clowe as he tried to go stick side.

Hodgson went to his back hand side but Niemi saved with his blocker then Pavelski was shut out as he tried to go five hole on Luongo.

Kesler went right down the centre on Niemi and had the Sharks netminder backing into his net only to wrist the puck against the inside of the post which left Handzus with the chance to win it for San Jose. He did just that as he deked backhand to forehand and shot the puck past Luongo stick side.

In Ottawa the Senators staged a 3rd period comeback against the New Jersey Devils to tie up the game 2-2 before taking it 3-2 in Overtime.

The Devils built a 2-0 2nd period lead as Zubrus forced home a puck after Anderson had made a pad save on a Sykora attempt and then Clarkson tapped in a puck that Zajac had forced in behind the Senators netminder.

Spezza halved the advantaged a minute and a half into the 3rd period as he found some speed going in on Brodeur to fire the puck past him with ease.

It was Erik Condra who tied the game on a short handed play with just over 6 minutes of the game left as he fired from the wing and the puck somehow found a way through Brodeur.

That left it to Captain Daniel Alfredsson to win it 4 minutes into the overtime period as he fired the puck high stick side from the face off circle and into the net. It was a powerplay goal as Clarkson was serving a 2 minute hooking call and the Senators picked up the extra point.

In Chicago the Blackhawks were looking for some sort of revenge on the Edmonton Oilers after being battered 9-2 in their previous meeting in Edmonton. Things didn’t go to plan though and the Oilers took the 2 points with a 4-3 win.

Chicago had taken a 1st period lead as Toews beat Dubynk with a soft wrist shot that went straight through the Oilers goalie but 2 powerplay goals at the mid point of the 2nd saw the Oilers turn the game around. It was a 5 minute major penalty on Daniel Carcillo for boarding that saw the Blackhawks man thrown out and the Oilers get the powerplay chances.

First it was Ryan Smyth who put in the puck after a goal mouth scramble and then Taylor Hall fired in from an acute angle to give the Oilers a lead.

Andrew Brunette levelled the game at 12.39 of the 2nd as he tipped in a Hjalmarsson shot infront of Dubynk but Andy Sutton scored the Oilers 3rd before the end of the period as he found himself alone infront of the Blackhawks net to fire past Corey Crawford.

Ben Eager made it 4-2 at 8.17 of the 3rd as he swept a back handed shot across Crawford and in at the far post. This would prove to be the game winning goal and make some amends for his performance against Minnesota in the previous game.

Jimmy Hayes made it 4-3 with 4 minutes left to give the Oilers a scare towards the end but an equaliser could not be found. However, it was a 1st NHL goal for Hayes in only his 2nd game.

It was a low scoring affair between the LA Kings and the Colorado Avalanche as the Avs took a 2-1 win after a shoot out.

LA had taken a 2nd period lead through a Dustin Brown goal, the forward picking up a pass from behind the net from Kopitar and backhanding through Varlamov in the Avalanche net.

Ryan O’Reilly scored his 10th of the season to level the game in the 3rd period as he snapped the puck in off the far post with just over 5 minutes left.

It finished 1-1 after the overtime period and Milan Hejduk was the only one to stick his penalty shot inbetween the pipes and he took the extra point for Colorado.

- Adam Yates

January 2, 2012

Top 10 Canadian World Junior Hockey Moments [Part 2/2]

Top 10 Canadian World Junior Hockey Moments [Part 1/2]

Jeff Legue Goal V Blaze 01.01.12

Sheffield Steelers Hit Coventry Blaze For 6.

More GB hockey action for our readers !!

The only Elite League game to be played on New Years Day saw the Sheffield Steelers regain 4th spot in the Elite League with a fine 6-3 win over the Coventry Blaze.

Coventry started the opening 2 minutes looking menacing but a defensive lapse saw Colt King give Sheffield the lead at 2.33. He fired the puck high over the net but it took a funny bounce to come straight back infront of the net and with the Blaze defence asleep King stole in to fire the puck past Hirsch.

The Blaze levelled at 8.34 as Barry Jurynec was the beneficiary from a Matt Stephenson mistake as the puck found him open infront of the net and he fired past John De Caro. Stephenson was less than impressed with himself, smashing his stick on the crossbar as he realised he should have controlled and cleared the puck.
Sheffield were to take a 2-1 lead into the 2nd period though as ex Blaze star Luke Fulgham got on the score sheet with a clinical finish at 17.46.

2 quick goals at the start of the 2nd period saw Sheffield take a commanding 4-1 lead as Fulgham scored his 2nd of the game at 21.48 and Jeff Legue fired  a one timer in off the bar as Colt King fed him the perfect pass on a 2-1 breakaway.

It then turned into the Peter Hirsch show as the Blaze netminder started to stand on his head to keep the score down. He pulled off some jaw dropping saves from Legue, King and Finnerty – the latter the most upset as he slammed his stick into the plexi after being denied on his chance.

The Blaze did pull a goal back in the midst of all these Steelers chances as Owen Fussey scored a powerplay goal at 5.53.

Hirsch was still on top form at the start of the 3rd period as he again denied Finnerty a certain goal but he was finally beaten for a 5th time as Matt Stephenson atoned for his earlier error and managed to force the puck in behind the Blaze netminder.

Coventry weren’t finished yet though and brought the game back to within 2 as Greg Owen scored at 9.32 of the third, firing the puck in off De Caro’s skates from just behind the goal line.

However, Mike Ramsay finished off the scoring at 11.45 of the period as he was put clean in on Hirsch and this time the netminder couldn’t pull off the big save as Ramsay deked round him and fired it into the net.
A superb game from both teams but Sheffield proved they are a force on home ice and got back to winning ways after 2 disappointing games over Christmas.

My man of the match awards go to Peter Hirsch in the Blaze goal who certainly stopped the Steelers scoring 10 in this game. There were at least 5 / 6 one on ones where he pulled of miraculous stops and he kept his team in the game in the 2nd period.

For Sheffield, Colt King really impressed me. Having a reputation as more of an enforcer type of player he is certainly a lot more than that. A great power forward display and his passing was excellent throughout the game. 1 + 1 on the board and was one of the ones that Hirsch stoned otherwise would have scored more.

- Adam Yates

Josh Georges is Off to a Great 2012

Wow - What a way to start a New Year in Montreal !!!

If the 1st day of 2012 is any indication of how the rest of the year is going to play out, then Josh Gorges is going to have an INCREDIBLE year! Not even 12 hours after celebrating for New Years, Gorges got what I could essentially guarantee was the best gift he has ever gotten. 23.4 million dollars is a pretty tough gift to beat, but that is exactly what Gorges received from the Canadiens yesterday in the form of a 6 year extension worth 3.9 million a year. But this gift didn’t come unearned, as he has given his heart and soul to the Habs organization throughout his entire tenure in Montreal.

Josh Gorges isn’t very flashy, he isn’t the best skater, doesn’t have the hardest shot, and doesn’t exactly rack up the points. In 277 games played with the Habs, he has only scored 9 goals, and put up 59 points, that is an average of 17 points in a full season. When you look at those numbers you might wonder why the already  Salary Cap-strapped Montreal Canadiens would offer such a lucrative contract to Gorges. This must look like a horrible contract, however, that is not the case. Despite not putting up many points, or being dangerous offensively, Gorges brings a lot of intangibles to the table. First off he is an assistant captain, and if Brian Gionta needed to be replaced as captain, there is no doubt in my mind that Gorges would be named as his successor. Not only does Gorges provide leadership in the locker room, but he also leads by example on the ice. He is one of the only Habs players that gives 100% every single game, and puts his body on the line for the CH on his chest. If an opponent drives the net hard, or takes advantage of one of his teammates, Gorges is always the first; sometimes the only; player to get in his face and defend his teammates/goalie. The Canadiens don’t have a lot of tough guys, and although he isn’t the most intimidating player at 6’1, 200 pounds, he won’t back down from anybody! Right there that’s 2 qualities; leadership and toughness; that he provides that cannot be measured by stats. But let’s look at the stats that do measure how valuable he is.

Time on Ice: This season Gorges has played under 19 minutes in only 2 out of 39 games. And as the season has gone on, his ice time has went up, as he has played 21+ minutes in each of the last 16 games (including 4 of 25+ minutes). When it comes to total time on ice, Gorges is in the top 50 in the NHL. But most other players in the top 50 get significant powerplay (PP) time as well. Gorges rarely gets PP time, as he only averages 39 seconds a game on the PP. Time on the powerplay is a luxury, players love to be on it, but those aren’t the minutes he gets, he gets most of his time without the man advantage. In fact, Gorges has played the 13th most even strength minutes in the NHL, and his nearly 149 minutes played shorthanded is the 3rd most in the NHL. This is a large reason that you don’t see him contributing goals and assists, because he isn’t an offensive player, he is the shutdown guy on the blueline. His TOI combined with his PK expertise make him almost worth the 3.9 million alone.

Hits/Blocked shots: What makes Gorges so effective as a shutdown guy and as a penalty killer is his dominance in the area of hits and blocked shots. Gorges has blocked 101 shots so far this year, which is the most by any player in the NHL, that’s 101 shots that Carey price hasn’t had to face because Gorges sacrificed his own body to help out the team. And when it comes to hits, his 60 hits so far on the year ranks him in the top 50 d-men. What is really impressive however, is the fact that he is 1 of only 9 players in the NHL to have both 50+ hits and 75+ blocked shots!

Plus/Minus: Gorges has been a minus in only 1 of his 4 seasons in Montreal. And this year he currently is a +6, good enough to lead the team. What’s even more impressive about that is the fact that nobody else on the team is better than +2! Only 6 players aren’t a minus on the Canadiens and not a single one of them is a defenseman who has played significant time this year! So when you consider that, clearly Gorges is the most responsible player on Montreal’s blueline.
Those are the reasons why Josh Gorges became a fan favorite almost immediately as soon as he came over from San Jose, and he has gained popularity every single season. He only made 2.5 million last year on a 1 year contract, it was the way he responded once given a bigger role due to the injury of Markov that earned him the extension. 3.9 million is a lot of money for a guy who doesn’t contribute offensively, however, for the reasons listed above, Gorges is definitely worth it.

The only problem I have with the signing is that the Habs were already in cap trouble. After they made the Kaberle trade, they now had 38 million dollars spent on 7 players for each of the next 2 seasons. Add Gorges contract to that, and the Habs have 42 million committed to 8 players that will make up the core of this team for the next 2 seasons. Those 8 players are Gomez (7.4), Cammalleri (6), Plekanec (5), Gionta (5), Cole (4.5), Markov (5.75), Kaberle (4.25) and Gorges (3.9). That is hardly the core of a Stanley Cup contending team. Teams like the Penguins who have stars like Malkin, Crosby, Letang, and Fleury pay around the same amount for their core. The problem isn’t just one contract (although if it was it would be Gomez), the problem is the Habs have too many bad contracts which add up. Over the next 2 seasons the Habs will have 22 million to fill out the rest of their roster. The scariest part of that is the fact that after this season the Habs have many key RFA’s that will be expecting big raises. Carey Price will be expecting a HUGE raise, PK Subban although underachieving should expect a big bump in pay as well, the team’s leading hitter Emelin, and young Lars Eller’s contract is up as well. And in 2 seasons, the team’s most explosive offensive weapon in Max Pacioretty will be up for a new contract. When you look at all those upcoming RFA’s there just isn’t enough money to go around for everyone. You have to ask yourself, was it worth trading for Kaberle and re-signing Gorges, if it means having less money to work on deals for Price, Subban, Pacioretty and other potential free agents…? That is a question that Pierre Gauthier will be asked all summer if he isn’t able to find a creative way to get rid of some cap space.

But the Montreal salary cap problems are not due to Gorges, he is worth what he is getting, it’s the teams higher-paid forward that really just aren’t living up to the contracts they were given. The Gorges signing was great news for Habs fans in the short-term, but a storm could be brewing in the near future in Montreal as problems definitely lie ahead.

Grant Robinson  (@Thesportsgrind)

The Right Hand For Job? - Was he the right choice for GB Hockey ?

The announcement of Tony Hand as the next Great Britain coach last week as raised many questions. These have ranged from whether it is viable for an EPL coach to be national team coach? Is his record as a coach good enough? Who else is there? Is he tactically sound? And even does he have the passion for it? Added to this outspoken Sheffield Steelers’ spokesperson Dave Simms said after the news that Paul Thompson would be stepping down broke that there was no outstanding candidate for the job.

Putting aside all these questions for a moment it is great that such questions are now being asked. 10 or 15 years ago the national team wasn’t even on the radar of most fans. The Great Britain team was being coached by Chris McSorley was coaching in Switzerland and doing the job without getting paid whilst some duel internationals were being offered large sums of money to play for the side. Today the GB team has gone from this to a Division One promotion possibility and potential host of a world championship as well as rising from outside the top 30 countries to inside the top 20. Fans are also more involved with 2 international games at ‘home’ per year. No longer is the GB job a thankless task for a week a year but a high profile role taken seriously by the players and fans.

Turning to Tony Hand now. His history and experience in the sport does suggest that this is a job he was destined for. His playing career which is still going today has seen Hand score more points than any other British player or any other player in this country, a draftee of the Edmonton Oilers, played in all corners of the British game and was a member of the Great Britain team that last played in the World Championship group in 1994. Behind the bench Hand has built up 10 years worth of experience. Winning the British National League title with Dundee, the EPL title with Manchester and coaching at all ends of the financial scale in the Elite League with Edinburgh, Belfast and Manchester.

Despite this some quarters have asked questions.

Does Hand lack the passion and commitment for the job?

Some people have questioned this based on his actions as a player most based on Hand’s decision to retire from international ice hockey despite still being the most proficient British player in the league. However not only was this decision right for Hand given his age and had prolonged his career it has turned out to be right for the national side. By leaving the national programme Hand gave the powers that be at that time a shake up that was desperately needed. The mismanaged, haphazard way in which duel nationals were ‘employed’ was stifling young British talent and making a mockery of the national squad.

Does Hand have the Tactical Knowledge?

Tony Hand has been deeply criticised at times for his tactics. This has centred on his overuse of his top two lines. This is true however during his time in the Elite League with Edinburgh and Manchester Hand has lacked the depth due to tight financial constraints to roll three lines in tight games. However even during the EPL games Hand has continued this practise. This is an area that Hand will need to improve on although in his defence part of his reasoning behind the two-line system is that one of those lines has included Hand himself. It looks from the outside that in close games Hand feels he is better being on the ice himself and so uses the two-line system to put himself out there more. In international games however against strong line-ups such as the Ukraine or Kazakhstan it is much more important to keep the team fresh but of course Hand will not be icing.

Is it Viable for an EPL Coach?

On time will tell but it would appear to be difficult. Paul Thompson as an Elite League coach saw every team and every player by virtue of the fact he was behind the bench of one of the sides. This allowed Thompson to view players together and watch them play on their lines however as an opposition coach Thompson had a responsibility to beat those players and so at times was difficult for him to be abstract. Hand however does not have that problem for the majority of players. Also with more midweek games in the EIHL Hand will be able to watch games from an outsider viewpoint. It is also true that the EPL has some overlooked British players as well as Longstaff and Bowns who made the last GB squad.

The main sticking point however will be the EPL playoff finals. This playoff weekend comes a weekend before the World Championships start and has seen the Great Britain team play warm up games that weekend. With Manchester a favourite to make the weekend for the third successive year there is an obvious conflict of interest. There are of course rumours about Manchester moving back into the EIHL that would solve this problem for the final 3 years of Hands international contract but that is a matter for a whole other blog.

It is worth noting that Hand will have a team of assistant coaches to help him but it is not reasonable to expect an assistant to take charge of the warm up games and then for Hand to charge for the World Championships.

Is Hand’s Coaching Record Good Enough?

Following in the footsteps of a 4 time Elite League winning British coach is always going to make Hand’s coaching record look poor. However Hand has won 2 championships in the BNL and the EPL. It is also worth noting that Hand didn’t really have the resource to win the Elite League in Manchester or Edinburgh but did get them to the playoffs. Belfast was a different matter but Hand did only spend a season in charge there.

So that puts the jury out on Hand’s credentials to be Great Britain coach. So perhaps the deciding factor is who else is there?

The truth is there are not that many candidates. If you are looking for British born coach then there is only Hand who has a record remotely near that of Paul Thompson. Other duel national candidates are available such as Corey Neilsen from Nottingham. However Neilsen is yet to coach a league winning side and would mean losing a defenseman from the pool of players to pick from. There is also Rob Wilson but Wilson is currently coaching in Italy.

There are of course non-British candidates. Gerard Adams of the Cardiff Devils and Doug Christiansen of the Belfast Giants have both coached in this country for several years but neither have been involved in the international set up before and after a successful couple of years now is not to the time to start changing that.
At the end of day Dave Simms is right. There aren’t a great number of candidates for the job and no one perhaps is as suited to the role as Paul Thompson was. In Tony Hand though there is at least someone with a great hockey sense. All the rest of us can do is cheer him and the boys on.

Neil Tucker