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Tag:Vancouver Canucks
Posted on: November 4, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 3:22 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Streaks, stats on the line

By Brian Stubits

It's amazing how quickly things can go from being so hot to being so cold. I mean 72 days for a marriage? That's a quick flameout.

Oh, and there are also those Red Wings from Detroit. Just two weeks ago, the NHL eyes were locked on a battle of the unbeatens; 5-0 Detroit at 6-0 Washington. Fast-forward to Friday and the Red wings have picked up one single point since, sitting now at 5-5-1.

In this six-game losing streak it hasn't been what we figured would be the team's Achilles' heel -- defense - that has let them down. I mean it could be much better -- it could ALWAYS bet better -- but it's sufficed, even if Jimmy Howard has slumped a little, too.

Instead, it's been the offense, the unit that carried the team a season ago. During the six-game losing streak, the Wings are averaging exactly one goal per game. Once they scored two, once they were shutout, the other four games they scored once. That means Detroit has the second-fewest goals in the NHL -- incidentally still six clear of the last-place Islanders, who have scored just 18 goals in 10 games.

At that kind of scoring clip, the Red Wings were lucky to even pick up one point.

"We've got to believe in ourselves, stay positive," Henrik Zetterberg told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. "Here we go again -- same quotes, but there's nothing else we can do."

We can chalk some of that up to bad luck, though. Detroit is carrying a shooting percentage of 6.2 percent right now. As Jesse Spector of the Sporting News points out for comparison's sake, the Devils were at 7.3 percent last season for the worst in the league.

Statisticians will tell you shooting percentage is more a byproduct of luck than anything else. The Wings are too talented to shoot at that low of a level for the season. These things do even out. If you believe they will continue to shoot that low of a percentage this season, I have some beach-front property in Nebraska to sell you. Real cheap, too.

Maybe Ken Holland crossed a black cat's path sometime just before Halloween or something. Seven games of bad luck, perhaps?

If the streak stretches to seven, it will have to come at the expense of the similarly struggling Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night. The Ducks themselves enter on a nasty little losing streak, having lost four in a row, the last two in overtime.

As they say, something's gotta give.

Lucky Seven

The opposite of the Red Wings and their six-game losing streak? Try the Edmonton Oilers and their six-game WINNING streak. (Boy, the NHL standings look awfully wacky right now ... can it last?) The last time the Oilers won six in a row? You have to go back to 2002.

They will have a chance to run that streak to seven on Saturday when they visit the Coyotes.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Nikolai Khabibulin, who is back to being the Bulin Wall. He spent a couple weeks in jail back in Arizona for a DUI offense. Who knows what kind of impact that might have had on Khabibulin, but he's been spectacular.

He was deservedly named one of the NHL's three Stars for the month of October. He has been maybe the biggest surprise of the season from an individual standpoint. He is still averaging less than a goal per game (0.98) in GAA and has a spectacular .963 save percentage.

Just like Detroit's shooting percentage, you don't need a genius to tell you that's not going to last. Still, for a guy that people felt was going to be as useful as an empty Twinkie wrapper, this qualifies as outstanding.

He will have a chance to keep his stats low for another night, though. Considering the Oilers and Coyotes are two of the lowest-scoring teams in the league, a 2-1 battle or so is probably in store. Of course, now that we mention it, the game will more likely be a 7-5 breakout.

Speaking of bad shooting percentages ...

Remember that start the Colorado Avalanche had? The one where they were 5-1-0 and the early talk of the NHL? Yes, life on the road was nice.

Well home has not provided very friendly confines. At all.

The Avs are 1-4-1 at home while still 6-1-0 on the road. Since you are clever readers, I'm sure you know where this is going ...

Colorado is at home for the weekend capper on Sunday evening when it hosts the Calgary Flames. The key to getting on the right track at home? Again, we return to the that luck theme.

In their home games, the Avalanche have a 3.8 -- 3.8!!! -- shooting percentage. Either they continue to shoot directly into the opposing goalie's chest, or things just aren't going their way.

More starting trends

One more shooting percentage trend and then that's it, we promise.

Here are two reasons not to go all in on the Toronto Maple Leafs quite yet. First, their shooting percentage is unusually high at 12.9 percent as a team. Secondly, Toronto is actually being outshot by an average of five shots per game. They are in first place in the Northeast.

On the other hand, the Bruins are plus-five in shots per game and they are in last place in the Northeast.

The means exist for a reason. Teams usually regress toward the mean over the course of a season. Of course, in the meantime these trends are still being bucked.

Now the table is set for their showdown on Saturday in Toronto. By the way, Phil Kessel is still on pace for that monster season with 10 goals and 11 assists through 13 games.

Net issue

Very quietly there is the rumblings of a goaltending controversy in Buffalo. Like we said, very quietly.

Backup Jhonas Enroth has been very solid in his backup work of Ryan Miller, including the relief appearance earlier this week against the Flyers. In that game, Enroth held the Flyers scoreless for the majority of the game after Miller was pulled early in the first period with three quick goals.

It comes as little shock then that Lindy Ruff is going to start Enroth on Friday night with the Calgary Flames in town. Ruff is electing to start the hot goalie and likely trying to flip Buffalo's fortunes at home.

Like the Avs, the Sabres aren't finding home so nice in the early going. They are 2-4-0 at the First Niagara Center or whatever they call the arena these days.

The champs are here!

That would be baseball's champions, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Friday night in St. Louis will be a chance for the Blues to honor their winning neighbors.

Chris Carpenter, the Cards' ace pitcher, practiced with the team this week. In case you missed it, it was brought up countless times during the playoffs that Carpenter played hockey growing up.

Also, now ex-Cardinals manager (retirement) Tony La Russa will drop the ceremonial puck before the Blues face the Canucks. The Blues would love it if some of that winning magic can rub off on them as the Blues enter having dropped their last two games and are a quiet 5-6-0.

Photo: US Presswire

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 3, 2011 11:21 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 11:28 pm
 

Clutterbuck accidentally punches linesman in face

By: Adam Gretz

Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck is a physical player and is no stranger to hitting people on the ice. Body checks on opposing players, that is.

During his team's 5-1 win against Vancouver on Thursday night he delivered a different type of hit when he accidentally punched a linesman in the face.

While he was tangled up along the boards with Canucks agitator Maxim Lapierre, who was trying to lift him into the Canucks bench (all while Dan Hamhuis, sitting on the bench, tried to pull him in), Clutterbuck started to blindly throw punches and accidentally connected with the face of linesman Darren Gibbs. Observe...



Embarrassing and unfortunate, sure, but there's no way it was intentional. Clutterbuck, Lapierre and Hamhuis all received 10-minute misconducts for their roles in the scrum.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:01 am
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:42 am
 

Eye on Hockey Halloween costume contest

By Brian Stubits

Hockey season might be in full swing, but that's no excuse for players not to go out to costume parties sporting their best Halloween outfits.

Considering it is Halloween and all, we figured we would have our own hockey costume contest here at Eye On Hockey. Make your vote and may be the best costume win.

Oh, before we begin, let me just say this is the greatness of Twitter. For those athletes daring enough to share, we get to see things like this which hardly ever saw the light of day before.

First we have Twitter sensation Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes. He is sporting his Hacksaw Jim Duggan outfit with his date dressed as Pocahontas, I believe.

USA! USA! USA!

My take: Kudos for being daring enough to wear that out. It's a solid start and the post makes it better.

Next up on the list is Bissonnette's teammate in Phoenix, Ray Whitney rocking toy soldier outfits with his wife.

Be all that you can be!

My take: This could be a contender here. The costumes are great for starters. But the real kicker is the pose. Whitney's wife has that solider position perfect. You remember that soldier, you always put it on the highest elevation possible.

Third in line is Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. Geno is going with the tried and true costume of the hairy pimp.

Big pimpin', spending Gs.

My take: As I said, a tried and true costume here. I love how both the wig and the mustache are leaning to the side and the sunglasses are a nice touch.

Fourth up is Carolina Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart as the one and only Chubbs Peterson from Happy Gilmore.

It's all in the hips. It's all in the hips. It's all in the hips.

My take: At the risk of contaminating the voting public, this is my favorite. Stewart nailed Chubbs from the wooden hand to the outfit and even the alligator's eye in the glass container. Chubbs would be proud.

The fifth contestant is Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler as Sylvester the Cat. At least I'm left to assume it's him considering he tweeted it out.

Sufferin' Succotash!

My take: I have to think this one will be on the outside looking in partly based on the photo itself. But at least Kesler didn't go in the same costume as his ESPN the Magazine shoot.

Next up we have recently retired player and former Dallas Stars star Mike Modano trying out an LMFAO costume. You know, the guys who brought you the Body Rock.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle! Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle!

My take: I don't know if Modano actually wore this out of the house or not, he tweeted this out a few days before Halloween as a potential costume. But if he was willing to send it out, it counts. Daring is all I'll say. Oh, and please don't wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

Last up in the contest we present to you the Boston Bruins. Now we already covered this one, but figured it deserved a shot here. For voting purposes, let's just stick with Zdeno Chara in the bunny suit.

"You look like a deranged Easter bunny. He looks like a pink nightmare!"

My take: The homemade touch is great, gives it an authentic feel. But I think this one scared too many people to get enough votes to win.

For the record, Raffi Torres of the Coyotes also dressed up, electing to go with the blackface and dressing up as Jay-Z with his wife as Beyonce. As you might expect, that's drawing a whole lot of criticism for Torres.

Photos: Thanks Twitter!

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 10:33 pm
 

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

By Brian Stubits

Before the season, there was a lot of lip service given to the Stanley Cup hangover. While I could see the thinking behind it, I wasn't sure I believed it would really have a negligible effect.

While it could be pure coincidence, I'm beginning to believe in the power -- or more appropriately pain -- of the hangover. That's because the Boston Bruins are 3-7 to start the season after being swept in a home-and-home by the not-long-ago struggling Canadiens (by the way, that's three straight wins since the Habs axed assistant Perry Pearn). For those keeping track at home, that's good enough to be last in not only the Northeast Division, but the Eastern Conference.

“Honestly, this is so frustrating,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after Saturday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. “I don’t know. It’s like we can’t buy a break right now and we just keep getting deeper. We need to turn this around.”

Maybe this is a team that used up all of its breaks last season.

But I didn't see this hangover coming this harsh to start the season. I mean, this is the kind I'd get in college when I'd sleep through breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I was a believer in Boston last season, picking them to win the Cup before the playoffs began. I'm a sucker for plus/minus stats for teams, and nobody was better than Boston in that category a season ago. I took that as a sign of quality balance and partly the product of Tim Thomas' career year.

Thomas hasn't been the problem this year, even if he's not living up to the standard of a year ago. But nobody, and I repeat nobody, expected that season again. It was record-setting as far as save percentage goes, the best in NHL history. That's tough to repeat.

No, instead it's been the offense. It's a group that doesn't seem to possess any elite scorers, but as the playoffs showed, there are numerous guys who are good enough. They have just 22 goals in 10 games. Defensively, there 25 goals allowed is the second lowest total in the East behind only Buffalo.

Claude Julien has tried to fix the issue. There has been line mixing. The team's best player has been sophomore Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and six points. Only five players have at least five points through 10 games.

For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli is not panicking yet. Why would he? This current roster is almost exactly the same as the one that won the championship a few months ago. Obviously it is good enough. But Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reported that Chiarelli might be working the phones already, trying to perhaps find a player to come in and inject some life into Boston.

“I’m always working the phones, but I am a little more diligent these days," Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Thursday.

This is the part where we normally remind you that we're only 10 games into the season. There is still a lot of time for the B's to wake up and defend their Cup in earnest. But it's also worth noting that the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference are looking better this season.

They can't afford to sleep in too long until the headache goes away.

Any be-Leafers now?

When do you start believing in what the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing? Ron Wilson's crew is 7-3-1 begin the year. The last three games, including Saturday's OT win over the Penguins, have been with starting goaltender James Reimer injured. They did get tripped up by the Sens on Sunday night in a great game.

We chuckled at the uber optimism Leafs fans were feeling with the quick start and statements such as Phil Kessel is headed for Wayne Gretzky numbers. Now there is a bigger sample size of 10 games and Kessel has 10 goals with eight assists. It's still a small sample size, however it's easier to take big projections. Don't expect Gretzky numbers, but it could be a monster season nonetheless.

Speaking of monsters, Jonas Gustavsson has fared certainly well enough in Reimer's absence. With Reimer sidelined for a little bit, this was Gustavsson's chance to show he could handle the backup duties himself. So far so good. He was good enough on Saturday for Ron Wilson -- one of the few coaches on Twitter -- to pronoune him the starter for Sunday night's game against Ottawa, a loss.

"Great win. Monster was huge and gets start tomorrow. Komo keeps getting better. Dion and Phil are the best at their positions in NHL!"

If nothing else, let's just say it's time to take Toronto a little more seriously.

Streaking Senators

Raise your hand if you saw the Senators winning six games by Thanksgiving before the season began.

Forget Thanksgiving, the Sens have won six games in their last six outings after a great comeback win over the Rangers on Saturday and then a solid win over the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Things seem to be coming together quickly.

It doesn't come as much of a surprise, but Jason Spezza has been his usual spectacular self. He has 15 points through 12 games (7-8=15). But also joining him in the better-than-a-point-per-game pace are Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, who has an NHL-high 12 assists.

Before the season, a lot of folks had the Senators as the preseason favorites for the Nail Yakupov (top draft prospect) sweepstakes. While they still could be, they are at least giving the fans some fun along the way.

A Star is born

Has anybody noticed what Kari Lehtonen is doing in Dallas? Judging by the attendance, the majority of the Metroplex hasn't.

The Stars are 8-3-0 after Saturday's 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. In those 11 games, Lehtonen is 8-1. He carries a goals against average of 1.75. He has been simply stellar for a team now being led not by Brad Richards, but instead by a bevy of young guns and veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Lehtonen is at that magical age in sports when they are supposedly at their peak, 27. After playing in 69 games a season ago, he looks ready to carry the load again this season.

Just another quality goalie from Finland. Ho hum.

As for the attendance? Well Saturday night only 11.740 were announced to be in the stands to witness the win. I understood the reasons for low attendance numbers earlier this season, baseball's Rangers were fighting for the World Series and, well, the Stars lost their big star in the offseason. But with this kind of start and the Rangers now done, I hoped to see more than 11,740 in the crowd. Baby steps, I guess. Baby steps. If the Stars keep winning, they will come.

Night Caps

The Washington Capitals took on the Vancouver Canucks in the Saturday night cap and it didn't last long for Tomas Vokoun. The Capitals goalie gave up three first-period goals, two of them being on Canucks power plays, and was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau to start the second.

The reason? Boudreau wanted to give the team a spark. Well, his Caps did come back to the tie game, but it all got away from them again in a 7-4 loss. (On a side note, a four-goal performance won't do much to change the Canucks fans' feelings about Roberto Luongo either.)

Some are seeing it as a deal. Boudreau said Vokoun wasn't particularly sharp. Vokoun said he felt fine.

But I'd like to point out that Vokoun had played every game since Michal Neuvirth was given the opening-night start. If nothing else, Vokoun deserved a break.

We're going streaking!

As already mentioned, the Ottawa Senators now have a six-game winning streak going. But they're not alone.

The San Jose Sharks have also won five in a row. More impressively, all five of those games were on the road, including Saturday's shootout win over the Islanders and a win on Friday over the Red Wings.

Speaking of Detroit, it has lost four games in row since beginning the year 5-0. Maybe that 7-1 beatdown at the hands of the Capitals sent them into a funk?

The Islanders are also in an early tailspin. Make that five losses in a row for them after Saturday's loss to San Jose.

Last but certainly not least, the Edmonton Oilers are very quietly in first place in the Northwest Division, surpassing the Colorado Avalanche. That's because the Oilers have won five games in a row after weekend wins over the Avalanche on Friday and Blues on Sunday. The Kids in the Hall are getting a lot of attention for that, but Nikolai Khabibuln has been spectacular.

Quote of the weekend

Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was very happy with his team's 3-2 comeback win over the Sabres on Saturday night. He took it as a chance to talk a little, umm, anatomy.

Let's just say he appreciated the marbles his team showed by scoring twice in the final four minutes for the win.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:31 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 11:04 am
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers get MSG debut do-over

By Brian Stubits

The refurbished Madison Square Garden finally hosted a Rangers game on Thursday night, and it wasn't enough like old times for the fans. And I'm not talking about the $9.50 domestic beers.

No, the fans in attendance were longing for the old MSG, where Sean Avery delighted them on the ice. OK, maybe they were just longing for Avery.

There was also a banner hanging from the upper level earlier in the game in support of Avery. Mysteriously, it was gone later in the game. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the fan didn't have a change of heart midway through the game and took it down him/herself.

The case of Avery is an odd one. He is a player that all the teams in the NHL apparently don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole, including the Rangers, who sent him to the AHL's Connecticut Whale. If you ask 100 people to describe Avery the player in one word, the most flattering response you would receive is "agitator."

He's like a member of the Rangers family. Johnny Ranger fan can insult him all day long, just like I can call my brother a jerk (hypothetically, of course). But don't you even dare to call my brother a jerk. It's in the same vain. Avery might just be an ineffective player whose only role it seems is to piss opponents off, but he's THEIR ineffective player whose only role it seems is to piss opponents off. He's a fan favorite. His antics have gone over well in New York, clearly.

But honestly, this wouldn't be that big of a deal if the Rangers were playing better, specifically Avery's replacement, Kris Newbury. Sure, they are 3-3-2, but it has been less-than inspiring. This is a team that had a lot of hype after an offseason that saw them catch the biggest fish swimming in the free-agent lake. The combination of Brad Richards with Marian Gaborik would be gold, I tell you, gold. The Blueshirts would finally be able to give Henrik Lundqvist the kind of scoring support to show he is a Vezina-quality goaltender.

Well, it hasn't happened yet -- the scoring, not Lundqvist showing he is Vezina-quality. The Rangers offense has scored 16 goals in eight games. Even the mathematically challenged should easily recognize that as two goals per game, not very impressive.

“I’ve known [Gaborik] for a month now,” Richards said. “It would be great if we’d come in here and click perfectly. Realistically, we have some work to do, and we’ve got to get to know each other on the ice. We’re both used to having the puck. That’s a work in progress, for sure.”

“It’s no secret that we have to put more pucks in the net,” Ryan Callahan said after Thursday's game.

This has coach John Tortorella tweaking the lines, trying to find the right combinations. The pairing of Gaborik and Richards just hasn't produced yet the way they hoped. Gaborik was practicing on Friday with Wotjek Wolski and Erik Christensen on one line while Richards was with Brandon Dubinsky and Callahan on another.

It's under that backdrop that the Rangers welcome the Ottawa Senators to new-look MSG on Saturday. You know the Senators, the team most everybody saw as being the worst in the Eastern Conference this year but has surprised the masses by winning four games in a row? The plus side is that the Senators could be the team to jumpstart the typically sluggish Rangers offense. Ottawa has surrendered a league-high 39 goals in 10 games.

Let's look at that game as a second chance to make a first impression at home.

Scorer's delight

Speaking of that Rangers season debut at MSG, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs who spoiled the party with a 4-2 win in New York. With the victory they remained one of the surprising starters of the season, improving to 6-2-1.

But I pose this question: What's more surprising, Toronto starting so well thanks to Phil Kessel's nine goals, or Penguins forward James Neal being tied with Kessel for the league lead in goals scored? We'll have a chance to see them at the same time on Saturday when the Penguins visit the Leafs.

Normally, hearing that a Pittsburgh Penguins player leads the league in scoring doesn't come as a surprise. Rather, it is expected. But that's expected from guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not James Neal.

Which brings me to that trade from last February when the Penguins acquired Neal. Talk about one of those trades where both sides win. Well, let me rephrase; a trade where it looks like both sides came out well. I caution against calling winner and losers in a trade so soon. But Neal has obviously been producing for Pittsburgh as he seems capable of not only reaching his career-high 27 goals he had in 2009-10, but surpassing it. On the other end, Matt Niskanen and Alex Goligoski, while having very cool surnames, have both been good fits in Pittsburgh and Dallas.

As for the Leafs' sharpshooter Kessel? Well this is what they hoped for when Brian Burke made that trade a couple of years ago. Just for fun, I'd like to point out that Kessel is on pace for an 81-goal, 144-point season and a plus-45 at this time.

Big Z, Max meet ... again

Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins will be in Montreal on Saturday to pay a visit to the Canadiens. Obviously it's an anticipated reunion for some folks who are into that sort of thing.

Chara has already been back to Habs Town since his hit on Max Pacioretty late last season, the Bruins had to go through the Habs on their way to the Stanley Cup. But it will mark the first time Chara has faced Pacioretty in Montreal. OK, OK, we're stretching a bit. The Canadiens just beat the B's Thursday in Boston, so let's just say this one is about the game, shall we?

These are two struggling teams. Montreal got off to such a bad start, it was their worst in 70 years! It led to the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn and since then, the Habs have reeled off two in a row, including one over the Bruins. Not that that had much if anything to do with Pearn's dismissal, but at least the Habs are showing signs of getting out of the early season doldrums.

For Boston, they have struggled too, although much more quietly. Interesting considering they are the defending champs and all. In a way this might have been expected. You hear all the time about the dreaded hangover, and that might be in play here. Either way, the Bruins are struggling to score.

The game is just like any other in an 82-game season, but this will quietly be an important one. These teams both want to get on track and in the Boston's case, a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the hated Habs wouldn't help in that regard. But for Montreal, it could help forgive much of the early struggles.

Best games, on paper

Entering the season, these two games appeared to be monster October showdowns: The Sharks visiting the Red Wings on Friday then the Capitals taking on the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday. If you had to pick five preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup, there's a good chance three or maybe all four of these teams would make that list.

The Sharks have been somewhat slow to start themselves, but seem to have flipped the switch and won three games in a row, all on the road. The Red Wings, on the other hand, began like gangbusters, but have since lost two games to the Caps and previously winless Blue Jackets. However these two are still titans and will be in the Western hunt all year and just might have another playoff battle lined up. (You might remember they played a great seven-game series last season.)

As for Capitals-Canucks? Well one team has played like a Cup contender and the other, well, the Cup contention seems like a long time ago now. Washington finally took its first loss in Edmonton on Thursday night after getting off to a franchise-record 7-0-0 start. Tomas Vokoun has been spectacular. If there has been anything to complain about up to this point, it's nitpicking.

Vancouver meanwhile has a hot mess of a goaltending situation at the moment. Starter Roberto Luongo is more than a hot topic in the city, a lot of the fans want him gone and would like to see Cory Schneider play. A victory over the Capitals, while not incredibly symbolic at this time of the season, would perhaps satisfy the fan base with the notion that things will be OK. Serenity now!

Somebody get him a compass

Ilya Bryzgalov, who is admittedly "lost in the woods" right now and appears to be a broken goalie, is slated to start Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. He better find his way out of the woods in a hurry.

Since his first two starts of the season when he was stellar, Bryzgalov has been a mess, never worse than Thursday's five-goals-on-10-shots showing in "reprieve" of Sergei Bobrovsky. His best showing since those first two was when he gave up three goals to the Kings in an overtime loss. His numbers right now? Ugggly. Try an .870 save percentage and 3.45 GAA. Ouch.

So Peter Laviolette might have decided that what better way to get a goalie's broken confidence going once again than start him the next time out?

Either that or Lavy didn't want to put Bobrovsky back out there either.

Pregame trash talk

One of the great things about Twitter is the ability for players to interact with fans and other players for thousands to see. Ever wonder what players talk about before the puck is dropped in the faceoff circle? Twitter has helped give fans an idea.

But Anthony Stewart of the Carolina Hurricanes and Daniel Carcillo talking a little pregame smack on Twitter before Friday night's tilt? Yes please!

Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) got it started with this: Goin 2 Carolina to throw a beat down on the Hurricanes and on@EhStew13 Just like in bantam when I'd drop u in buckets b4 pracy #indafaaace

Here was the response from Stewart (@EhStew13): You remembered u got Tko'd, keep the Bus in the Windy City, these 2 points aren't for sale #meh.

The short back-and-forth concluded with Carcillo: @EhStew13 we aren't lookin to buy #5fingerdiscount and I recall me havin to double shift in practice bc some1 had post concussion syndromes.

Good stuff. Guys having some playful smack (I'm assuming its playful) for all to see is good fun.

As to the game itself between the 'Hawks and 'Canes in Carolina? Well Chicago is looking for its first win in Raleigh since 1998. Granted there is unbalanced scheduling, but still, that's a long time. Also, Eric Staal needs to improve and that league-worst minus-9 he's sporting at the moment. Ouch.

Back to Vancouver ...

There will be no Green Men sitting by the opponent's box to torment Alex Ovechkin and crew. Vancouver's most famous fans will instead be ... in Bakersfield, Calif.?

Well look at that, the Green Men have turned their antics into appearances at hockey arenas. The Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL (originally from the WCHL) will have the spandex-wearing fans at their game on Friday night. Then Saturday will be Star Wars night.

I don't know about you all, but I'd rather see Star Wars night. Either way, these promotions are two big reasons why minor-league hockey is so awesome.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 11:05 am
 

Horton spreading TD Garden ice across New England

By Brian Stubits

Even though Nathan Horton didn't play a minute in the Boston Bruins' Game 7 win over the Canucks in last year's Stanley Cup Final, he still made his way into Bruins lore with one silly, superstitious little gesture.

Prior to the game, Horton stealthily walked to the bench and dumped some water on the ice. It was, as everybody presumed, water from TD Garden, where the Bruins had dominated the Canucks in each of the three games played in Boston.

Of course, the Bruins went on to win and this little moment became a fun little side story. Who knows, maybe one day this will be seen as a curse in Vancouver if they can't win a Cup.

In the meantime, Horton is continuing the practice, bringing TD Garden ice to rinks all across the Northeast.

My two favorite parts of this video? The first is how Horton dumps the water the same way as he did in Vancouver, squirting it out through the Gatorade bottle before just opening the cap and dumping the rest. It's almost like a religious practice.

Secondly, the simple things like one of the kids at the very end of the video saying "This is so cool!" It's always great to me to see how athletes can so easily give kids a moment they will cherish. Unlike those stupid autograph contracts ...

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:37 pm
 

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

PNN1

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: the "slow" starts for Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Washington's Alex Ovechkin

By: Adam Gretz

In news that is sure to calm the chaos surrounding the Vancouver Canucks and their starting goaltender, Roberto Luongo, the three-time All-Star was pulled during the second period of their 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night after surrounding three goals on 14 shots. Panic!

Luongo, of course, has been under intense scrutiny, as he always seems to be in Vancouver, and it's reached the point that the local press is writing editorials proposing trades, much to the chagrin of general manager Mike Gillis. Imagine what it would be like if this team wasn't one win away from owning the Stanley Cup just a few months ago.

There is no way to deny that it's been a bad month for Luongo, as his .868 save percentage through his first six starts is near the bottom of the NHL. But he's not going to stay this bad, and it shouldn't be a surprise that he's struggled in the month of October. Throughout his career Luongo has been a slow starter (and at times slow finisher) and plays lights out during the months in between. He's basically a goaltending bell curve.

Let's take a look at his save percentages, by month, for his career and the past few seasons.

Roberto Luongo: Month-by-Month
Month Career 2010-11 2009-10 2008-09 2007-08
October .914 .907 .902 .902 .903
November .916 .914 .921 .959 .940
December .923 .922 .932 Injured .942
January .921 .947 .922 .876 .908
February .923 .923 .915 .914 .919
March .920 .942 .902 .930 .909
April .904 .961 .867 .918 .820

If you're of the opinion that Luongo can't win when it counts, maybe his decreased production in April, which has carried over to the playoffs at various times in recent years, simply reinforces that belief. But a slow start is nothing new. And while this one has been worse than some of his recent ones, he's eventually going to rebound. Over the past six years Luongo has been one of the best goaltenders in the league when it comes to even-strength save percentage, and even finished second in two of the past three years. He didn't suddenly lose that ability. At least not yet. He's going to play better, so let's calm down with the trade talk and suggestions of starting Cory Schneider, Vancouver, because it's not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen.

Ovechkin's start not unlike his previous starts … sort of

Speaking of great players that are off to "slow" starts, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has three goals and four assists through his first seven games of the season. For most players, a point-per-game average at any point of the season is a cause for praise and celebration; for a former scoring champion and two-time MVP it's started conversation as to whether or not we've already seen his best days as an NHL scorer.

(Actually, that may not be entirely out of the question at this point, as most players see their peak performance come somewhere around the age of 25 or 26. Of course, that doesn't mean Ovechkin is destined to become an average player or that his career is going to suddenly fall off a cliff. He's still going to be one of the best and most dominant players in the NHL and a force to reckon with everytime he steps on the ice -- he just may not score 65 goals again.) 

But what about his start to this season? Is three goals and four assists through seven games all that out of the ordinary for Ovechkin? No. No it's not. Have a look.

Alex Ovechkin: Production Through Seven Games
Year Goals Points Shots
2011-12 3 7 21
2010-11 4 8 35
2009-10 7 14 55
2008-09 2 4 37
2007-08 4 6 36
2006-07 4 7 46
2005-06 4 8 28

The biggest difference, obviously, is that his shots on goal are not only way down, but are also the lowest they've ever been through this many games, and that should be a bit of a concern.

The easy suggestion is to simply shoot more(!) but that's easier said than done. Everybody wants to get more shots on goal, whether you're a former 60-goal scorer or a third-line grinder. But there's another team out there with highly paid professionals doing their best to prevent that from happening. Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post wrote about Ovechkin's start last week and pointed out how the Capitals are trying --and have been trying -- to get him to become less predictable on the attack, and how other teams have been defending his usual rush of cutting to the high slot.

Maybe "the book" is out on him, and maybe he hasn't adjusted to it yet, but this slow start looks pretty similar to every other start he's had throughout his career, at least as far as his production is concerned, even with the fewer shots on goal (something that's been on the decline in recent years, as Neil Greenberg recently pointed out). Whether or not that's sustainable over the course of the season remains to be seen.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 24, 2011 6:03 pm
 

David Booth meets Vancouver media, talks trade

By Brian Stubits

David Booth met the Vancouver media for the first time since his surprising trade to the Canucks on Saturday. Let's just say it was a far cry from an attention standpoint than any interview he did in Florida.

“No, maybe for the Miami Dolphins, but not for the Florida Panthers," Booth joked.

Much was made over the weekend about Booth reportedly shedding some tears when he was told of the news. Inevitably, the jokes about tears of joy for leaving Florida poured in, but Booth explained why it was so tough for him to hear he was leaving Florida.

"It was an emotional time for me," Booth said. "I live with my brother down in Florida and it's hard to leave him. He's one year younger than me and I grew up my whole life with him.

"It was tough to say goodbye and it is going to be tough for a while.

"I am very close to my family. My dad was down there, too, for the weekend and I'm glad he was. It was good to see him. I have another brother and I am very close with him. My little sister is 16 and a hockey player and she wears No. 7. That's why I chose to be No. 7."

One thing that will help him adapt will be some familiar faces in Vancouver, particularly those who he'll be sharing a line with. Booth goes way back with Ryan Kesler as the two played together growing up in the Detroit area. The other member of his line, Chris Higgins, spent time with the Panthers last season before he, too, was traded to Vancouver. Add in Byron Bitz, Alexander Sulzer and Keith Ballard -- all of whom had stints in Florida recently -- and Booth rightfully joked that if he began the season in Vancouver, he probably would have known more teammates there than in Florida.

As for why he thought he was traded from Florida, where he seemed to be a franchise cornerstone?

“I know they’re turning around the organization. It takes some time. [GM Dale Tallon] has his way of doing things and I wasn’t part of it. That’s all right. You can’t please everybody. ... There are 28 other teams I could’ve went to. I’m glad I came here."

For those counting at home, that leaves Stephen Weiss as the only player who played significant time with the Panthers during the 2008-09 season.

Booth is scheduled to make his debut with the Canucks on Tuesday night in Edmonton.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
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