Posts Tagged ‘Capitals’

This past week in hockey has had good action, a little controversy, some fan fun, and a farewell to Jason Arnott.

As a member of the Devils’ A-Line at the turn of the century, Arnott made his impact on hockey history by scoring the 2000 Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime against Dallas. Here’s a picture of the moment:

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Such sweet memories…Anyway, the week in review:

Metropolitan Division

Don’t look now, but the New York Rangers have a winning record. After a tough 2-1 home loss against the [Mighty] Ducks, they won their next 3 against Pittsburgh (a blowout win no less), Columbus, and Florida. They move into 3rd place in the Metro, and have disproved all the non-believers, thinking that you can stick the proverbial fork in them. They are 4 points behind Pittsburgh (who scored 2 goals this week, yikes!) and 1 behind Washington, who had a 1-1-2 week. Another team starting to find their way is New Jersey, who got 5 out of 6 points this week, and allowed 1 goal over those 3 games (Cam Janssen scored more than that by himself over that stretch. Go figure). Shutouts of Philadelphia and Nashville (3-0 and 5-0 respectively) flank a tough luck shootout loss to the Leafs, as we see that this team is starting to bring it all together, despite not having top forward Patrik Elias around, due to injury. The Devils overtake the Islanders, who lost all 4 games this week, and Columbus, who’s only win this week was against the Isles. That leaves Philadelphia still in last place, despite captain Claude Giroux finally finding the back of the net, but the Flyers are still falling fast out of contention.

Atlantic Division

I’m continuing to believe that the Lightning are for real. 2 games this week, both wins, against struggling Edmonton and division rival Detroit. Their offense is potent, with 2nd highest goal total in the East. However, Toronto (1-1-0 last week) and Detroit (0-1-2) are right with them, just 2 points behind. Boston is just 3 points back after winning 2 of 3 this week, as the division is becoming more cluttered at the top. Despite being in the 5th seed in the division, Montreal is still in a playoff spot, due to the continued collective struggle by the Metropolitan. Just 5 points back of Tampa, they are still right there. Ottawa is just one back of Montreal though, possibly setting the stage for some interesting matchups between the two teams in the coming weeks. Florida fired coach Kevin Dineen after a miserable start, just 3 points in front of Buffalo, who benched their top line in a blowout against Anaheim on Friday. So has been the season for the Sabres, with everything just getting worse and worse.

Central Division

The Avalanche finally lost a game, falling 6-4 to Nashville on Wednesday in Denver, but won their next 2 games, just to reassure us that all is fine and dandy in the Mile-High city. However, the Central division race is just so, that if you blink, the picture changes. The Blackhawks did just that, by winning all 3 games this week and tying in points with Colorado (though the Avs have 2 less games played). The Blues have played 3 less than Chicago, and are just 4 points back, still having only lost 2 in regulation. The Blues, like the Hawks, won all 3 games this week. Further convoluting matters, Minnesota got 5 of 6 point this week, and are tied with the Blues, making it a hard top 4 to crack. Nashville, Dallas and Winnipeg are all tied right now, but only Winnipeg has been playing winning hockey this week. This could lead to something interesting in the next few weeks.

Pacific Division

The [Mighty] Ducks are overtaking Colorado as the hottest team in the NHL, winning all 4 this week, and 5 in a row. They remain the only undefeated at home, and have the most points in the league. Phoenix is behind them, but the distance is growing, now 5 points separating the two. The Yotes and Ducks played to a 5-2 Anaheim win Wednesday at the Pond. The Sharks, however, are starting to slip, winless in 5 games, and now 6 behind the red hot [Mighty] Ducks. The Sharks have done this before, hitting a wall after starting strong, and falling into a lull they can’t seem to skate out of. Vancouver has been in neutral lately, but lost their last 2, and still can’t seem to pass the Sharks for 3rd in the Pacific. Los Angeles isn’t far off, 2 behind the Canucks, and have won their last 2 games. Calgary is falling off the table again, losing their last 3 games, but the Oilers have made bigger news in Alberta. Edmonton announced their signing of one of the more interesting characters in hockey, Ilya Bryzgalov. In order to clear space for Bryzgalov, they traded D-man Ladislav Smid to Calgary. SB Nation’s Copper and Blue has this to say on the trade:

You know what the problem is! The problem is that the Oilers have once again traded an established NHL player for once again guys who, if we’re very lucky, will become nearly as good as Smid, once again sacrificing play at a position where they absolutely cannot afford to sacrifice it, all once againout of the hope that something good will somehow come of trading decent players for inferior ones. We have finally reached the point which people like me have been warning of for seven years, where the young players that we acquired because we had to trade our veterans have become veterans we have to trade to acquire young players.

Here’s some (old, but still entertaining) thoughts of Bryz on Edmonton:

I think the Oilers are in desperation mode.

Top 5

1) Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: 3 points up in the President’s trophy race on a team that’s lost 2 games all year? I think that’s tops in the league for me. Also having 2 of the top 5 point getters in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry can’t hurt too.

2) Colorado Avalanche: Just as I said last week, the Avs will remain atop the Top 5 until they lose. They dropped one to the Predators on Wednesday, which they might as well chalk up to the Law of Averages. Also: tafoya_sean

Thoughts?

3) Chicago Blackhawks: They are tied in points with Colorado, and goals scored with Anaheim. They seem to be doing something right here. If you can outscore them, you can beat them, but you can’t really outscore them.

4) St. Louis Blues: Quietest contender ever. 3 games at hand on Chicago, and just 4 points back. Wait until the playoffs to see if they are for real, because this happens every year now.

5) Tampa Bay Lightning: Our lone Eastern Conference representative in the Top 5. The real question is; when will their defense and goaltending give way? Ben Bishop is hot, but collapses have happened before in Tampa.

In the box this week:

Ironically, referees make it this week. Wednesday night in the Shark Tank at San Jose, the lowly Sabres took the struggling Sharks to OT, when Tommy Wingels pokes a rebound through Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers. Though the play was ruled no goal, this is the view from above the net:

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Worse yet, it wasn’t even reviewed. Tyler Myers is a big kid, at 6’8″, and must have blocked the ref’s view, but that’s a goal in overtime for San Jose, and a much needed point in the end for the Sharks, who lost in the shootout later on. Seems to take things like this to get Buffalo some wins around here.

Keep tuning in for your hockey fill. Happy Hockey everyone!

Last year, the NHL’s Board of Governors and the Players’ Association came to an agreement, one that would change the divisional setup in the NHL. The move was necessitated when the Atlanta Thrashers picked up and moved to Winnipeg, but remained in the Southeast division. Since there is nothing southeast about Winnipeg, other than it’s location in Western Canada, the NHL got to work.

The reincarnation of the Winnipeg Jets wasn’t the only issue that realignment had to solve. The Dallas Stars played in the Pacific division, where all the other teams played on the West Coast. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators were in the Western Conference, despite being in the Eastern time zone. Also, Detroit Red Wings’ owner Mike Illitch and crew were clamoring to Commish Gary Bettman for a move to the Eastern Conference.

This new system couldn’t possibly please everyone, but it did many teams involved a huge favor. Here’s the new setup, for those who don’t know:

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This new 4 division plan came with a new/old way to decide who makes it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The top 3 teams in each division make it automatically, and then the other 2 spots in each conference are decided by the next 2 best records, or 2 wild cards. Then, each division will have their own playoffs, culminating with the 4 division champions in the Conference Finals.

There are many ways that we can see this as an improvement. There are also some massive flaws with the system.

The NHL got problems solved with this move, and also added a couple new ventures to enhance rivalries and playoff pictures. First, Winnipeg is in the Western Conference, which was one of the root causes for this whole shpiel. They join the Central Division, who also picked up Dallas from the Pacific, getting them off the West Coast. The Columbus Blue Jackets join the Metropolitan Division, and could very easily spark a rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins, considering that the cities are 3 hours away from each other. Also, one of the NHL’s favorite rivalries, the Ovechkin v. Crosby rivalry, has become a divisional matchup. Yet another rivalry, albeit renewed, that pops up is Detroit v. Toronto. The two teams have a long and troublesome history, and face off in the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. The 2 Florida teams join the new Atlantic, and it makes sense for older fans who have set up retirement homes, but still want to see their hockey teams play.

Looking at the bigger picture, the schedule has every team playing at least one game in each of the other 29 arenas in the NHL, which forces any big free agents to play at least one game in their old barn, and also expands exposure of each team. Also, the playoff system now in place leads me to believe that divisional rivalries will become much more bitter (to the enjoyment of the fans). In the days before my time, when divisions were named after hockey greats (between 1981-1994), the NHL actually used a similar format, and had some excellent moments and rivalries built within these playoffs.

However, that old system was much simpler, and didn’t have a discrepancy of teams in one conference or another.

The advent of wild card teams, plus the fact that one conference has more teams than the other, makes it almost as head-scratching as the 1950 NBA Playoffs (don’t ask how I know that). Consider this: The East currently has 2 divisions of 8 teams, while the West has 2 of 7. The Western teams have less teams to watch for than the East, plus have a smaller pool of teams to fight against. 

While I do understand that this problem likely will be solved with expansion to 32 teams, that’s a conversation for a different time.

There are a couple of other flaws we can point out. We mentioned that the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning join the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Bruins, Sabres, Senators, and Red Wings in the Atlantic Division. The distance between South Florida and Southern Canada is approximately 1,100+ miles (1,770+ km for our readers outside of the States). This leads to increases in travel for the Cats and Bolts, which seemed to be the issue for the Stars and Jets last year, whose problems were solved, not complicated.

Speaking of the Red Wings, they get an Eastern Conference spot, after years of waiting for one. However, this causes some problems, despite solving the travel costs and time difference issues. All of these problems fall under one umbrella, broken rivalries. One of the longest standing rivalries in NHL history, plus one with the second most games played, is the Detroit Red Wings vs. the Chicago Blackhawks. They have played 879 games, including 80 playoff games. The tickets for these games are extremely sought after, and the fans hate the other team with a passion. With the Wings not just leaving the division, but the conference, it breaks up this legendary rivalry. The Red Wings also have established “beefs” with the Colorado Avalanche (inculdes the legendary Blood Game), and Nashville Predators. Those games now have significantly less meaning because the teams are in separate conferences. All this opportunity lost, because Commish Gary Bettman made a promise.

It is fairly obvious, as much as the NHL is denying it, that expansion to 32 teams is on the horizon. The current realignment isn’t here to stay, though, we can say that it is a building block for years to come in an improved NHL. The current system is far from perfect, but it very well could be the precursor to a new system that works, and is conducive to a bigger and better league.

gnh

 

Happy Monday everyone, and if you missed out on hockey this past week, due to partying, dealing with partiers, or work, here is where you’ll be filled in.

Metropolitan Division:

Just when you thought the Penguins were slipping up, they rip off a 4 win week, beating Carolina and Boston, and then sweeping a home and home with new rival Columbus. Led in scoring by Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin, they’ve steadily outscored opponents, lightening the load for Marc-Andre Fleury in net. Elsewhere, the Islanders remain in second after enjoying a 2-1-0 first week with Thomas Vanek, who has his first 3 points for the team in those 3 games. The Rangers are heating up after finally getting to play in the refurbished Madison Square Garden, winning their last 3 games against the Isles, Sabres and Hurricanes. Washington had demolished Philadelphia 7-0, but overall have been treading water. Columbus and Carolina seem to be stagnant in the division, as is Philadelphia, who’s been disappointing, but have been picking it up. New Jersey started the week looking promising against Tampa, but seem to hit another wall where nothing goes their way, losing to the Flyers and Wild without scoring a goal, thus the Devils remain the most enigmatic team in the league.

Atlantic Division:

The Lightning have remained atop the division, with wins over Carolina and St. Louis. Their offense remains strong and potent, and their goaltending has been a pleasant surprise, with Ben Bishop starting to show some promise. Elsewhere, it started to look like the Maple Leafs would sweep straight through western Canada, beating both Alberta teams, but then losing badly to the Canucks. The Red Wings, meanwhile, did pull the feat off this week, beating the aforementioned Flames, Oilers and Canucks, and have quietly been making their playoff case. Boston and Montreal, rounding out the current playoff picture, have had average at best weeks, with neither winning more than they lost. Ottawa lost goalie Craig Anderson this week to injury, when Dallas’ Valeri Nichuskhin ran into him accidentally, and is beginning to join Florida, Buffalo, and the Titanic near the bottom of the Atlantic, with each team losing at least their last 4 games.

Central Division:

I’m beginning to think that the Avalanche are the single hardest team to beat. Despite the new controversy surrounding netminder Semyon Varlamov and his arrest, the Avs won both of their games this week, bringing the win streak to 6 games. At 12-1-0, they have the best record in the NHL. That hasn’t deterred Chicago, however, going 3-0-1 this week while scoring 18 goals in those 4 games. The Hawks remain right on Colorado’s tail, and it will be interesting from here on out, to see how the two continue, with one team on the rise and the other being defending Cup champs. Minnesota and St. Louis aren’t too far behind either, each going 2-1-0 this week, and remain just behind Colorado and Chicago. Nashville is playing solid hockey lately, but remain behind 4 very strong teams in the Central, and Dallas and Winnipeg have even further to the top as they continue to slip further out of contention.

Pacific Division:

San Jose has just completed their first winless week in the still young season, but got points in both games. However, both of those games were divisional games, against the Kings and Coyotes. They remain on top, but not by much. Hot on their trail are the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks, who got 5 out of 6 possible points this week, and remain just slightly behind the Sharks in the division. The Coyotes have been one of the most surprising team in the league, and this week winning all 3 games, and 4 in a row. Along with Vancouver, the top 4 teams in the Pacific are separated by 2 points. The Kings are also right there, but it will be tough to crack that top 4 until someone hits a real lull. The Flames seem to be holding their own, but will have a very hard time taking it to the top 5 in the division, and the Oilers continue to disappoint, losing both games this week without scoring a single goal.

Top 5:

1) Colorado Avalanche: Until someone figures this team out, and I’m not talking about the Denver police, this team remains on top of the mountain (pun not intended).

2) Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: Now tied atop the Pacific cluster with the Sharks, they remain a hard team to beat. It remains to be seen if they can complete the pass this week.

3) Chicago Blackhawks: They scored 18 goals this week, and got 7 out of 8 potential points to keep them right behind Colorado. The math speaks for itself, but we all know this team’s for real.

4) Phoenix Coyotes: Here’s a team that no one can believe is for real. Mike Smith still has more goals than a few top skaters, notably Claude Giroux and Martin Erat.

5) Pittsburgh Penguins: Pascal Dupuis sat on the bench pulling his teeth out this week.Image

But his team has been heating up without those teeth.

In the box this week:

Flyers goalie Ray Emery was absolutely embarrassed on Saturday, giving up 7 to division rival Washington, and on the 7th goal, he was run into by Caps’ Joel Ward. Off the insuing faceoff, a line brawl started:

Ray Emery has his team to protect him from such events, but he skated across the ice, took matters into his own hands, and dragged Washington’s Braden Holtby (who was pitching a shutout) into the fight, when Holtby didn’t really want to go. He then proceeded to whale away at Holtby until the ref got in and stopped the mugging. No supplemental punishment for Emery, but he certainly won’t get brownie points for that.

Tune in this week for a discussion about the current realignment situation, and happy hockey everyone!

This past week in the hockey world has been eventful for so many reasons. We’ve had surprising teams continue to rise, rookies showing their talents early, controversial hits and suspensions, and even a massive trade. Let’s dive in and see how things shook up this week.

Metropolitan Division:

The Metro is starting to really even out. We can all make our assumptions about the first place Penguins, but they have lost 3 straight games, albeit to tough teams (Colorado, N.Y. Islanders, and Toronto). With the Pens slipping a bit, the other 7 teams have been trying to make moves to catch up. Most notably, are those Islanders. On the ice, they’ve had an up and down week, beating the Pens but losing to the lowly Flyers. Off the ice, they made a huge splash in Thomas Vanek. Elsewhere, the bottom half of the division is starting to come around, with the Devils, Rangers, and Flyers all starting to show some life. The Capitals, Blue Jackets, and Hurricanes are all treading water right now, but Cam Ward for the Canes is injured yet again, and without a viable backup available, look for them to give way to some of the more healthy teams in the division.

Atlantic Division:

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been a huge story so far this week, winning all 3 of their games this past week, wielding a powerful offense, and vaulting into first place in the division. Toronto has also been looking very strong, with wins over the [Mighty] Ducks and the Penguins. The Bruins had a good start to the week, blowing out Buffalo, and skating by the Sharks, but letting one slip away to New Jersey, with their penalty kill failing them. The Sabres landed Matt Moulson in the Vanek trade, but that may not be enough in this powerful division, especially if they can’t string together a few wins. Montreal and Ottawa seem to be battling out for that 5th place spot, which could be a playoff berth if they remain better than the Metro division. Florida is looking way up (not just geographically), and losing all 3 of their games this week can’t help their cause.

Central Division:

One of the more surprising stories in the NHL continues, as the Avalanche continue to roll through everyone they face. Winning 3 this week and 4 in a row, they seem unstoppable under Patrick Roy and the young offense. Even with the Minnesota Wild heating up, the Avalanche are running away with it. The Blackhawks and Blues have had average weeks, going 1-1-1 and 1-0-1 respectively, seemingly in a holding pattern until the Avs come back to earth. Nashville has been cooling down, and the Jets and Stars have been turning colder, as this division seems to be shaping up very early into a 4 team race.

Pacific Division:

This is by far the strongest division in the league. The Sharks, despite losing in regulation to the Bruins, are still the top dog in the Pacific. The [Mighty] Ducks and Canucks have been hot on the trail, nearly matching the Sharks win for win in a tight race. The Coyotes don’t seem to have a problem scoring, winning games purely on offense, but their defense is lacking, especially looking at that 7-4 loss to the Kings, who have been strong in their own right. The two Alberta teams, Calgary and Edmonton, seem to be taking a back seat to the 5 team race that will be exciting throughout the rest of this year’s campaign.

The Top 5:

1) Colorado Avalanche: It isn’t easy shutting down the Penguins offense, as the Avs showed they can win despite being outshot mercilessly. Props to J.S. Giguere for stopping them all.

2) San Jose Sharks: They did lose to the Bruins, but they were 0.8 seconds away from a point. Doesn’t count in the standings, but it shows that it’s really tough to beat the Sharks. Can’t wait to see them against Colorado (12/23 is their first matchup) though.

3) Tampa Bay Lightning: They showed that they can score on themselves and still win games, putting a selfie in the net against Chicago, giving the Hawks a freebie point, proving their offense is potent and reliable.

4) Vancouver Canucks: On an Eastern road swing, the Canucks managed to win their past 3 games in tough environments. They are squeaking by teams, but they are showing strong play from a team with high expectations.

5) Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: They are quickly turning around a tough Eastern Conference road trip, winning in Ottawa and Columbus. They are hanging in there with 2nd place in the Pacific mess.

In the box this week:

John Scott of the Buffalo Sabres, as well as H.C. Ron Rolston and G.M. Darcy Regier. Scott gave a nasty elbow to the head of Loui Eriksson, making that shift of his last a grand total of 5 seconds, while getting a 5 minute major and match penalty, teamed with a suspension until further notice. Quite the efficient penalty minute accumulation. But Sabres’ upper management should know that Scott’s no more a hockey player than a goon, and he shouldn’t be on the ice. More on that later in the week as a suspension looms.

Tune in next week for another crazy week in hockey.