Tag:Tampa Bay Lightning
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 10:58 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Mike Richards returns to Philly

By Brian Stubits

Mike Richards the hockey player basically grew up in Philadelphia. He was the centerpiece around which the Flyers were built, their captain by the time he was 23 years old. The next Bobby Clarke, they dubbed him.

Then came last summer, when he was unceremoniously shipped out of town like a package at FedEx. The Flyers had seen the light, and that was the importance of goaltending and defense.

As a result, Richards and his $69 million contract that took effect in 2008-09 were sent to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and cap flexibility. On Saturday night, he'll return to Philly a King. Funny enough, he's back in Philadelphia for a game before even playing in his new home in L.A.

Inquiring minds want to know; what will it be like returning to an arena he once called home, just now as a visitor?

"I try not to think about it as much as possible," Richards said after Thursday's morning skate before the Kings' 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils. "It will be an exciting night once I get there.

"I expect to be nervous. I think that being on the opposite side playing against a lot of great friends ... I spent a lot of time there, a lot of great friends. It was an organization that game me an opportunity to come in the league. I think it's going to be nice to get it over with and turn the page."

Not to mention it's a pretty darn good game, too. Richards just adds some extra theater to it. But when we are looking at the matchup at hand, we have two genuine Stanley Cup contenders here. Los Angeles received one vote to represent the West from the CBSSports.com preseason picks. With Richards' addition, they have two All-Star worthy centers to go with a good young defense.

Philadelphia didn't have as many believers beore the season began, but that was just because nobody truly knew what to expect. If early returns are any indication, however, shipping Richards and fellow young star Jeff Carter (to Columbus) seems to have put in motion a great base behind goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers are 3-0-0 and have only surrendered five goals.

So yes, from a hockey standpoint, it's a marquee matchup. There's plenty of intrigue from that standpoint alone. But the homecoming King who scored 133 goals and 350 points in a Flyers sweater is the focal point.

"When you think of Mike Richards you think of Philadelphia, so this is certainly a big event for him and for the fans," Kings assistant coach John Stevens said.

You never can be sure with the notorious Philadelphia fans, but I'd expect to see a king's welcome (seriously, that pun wasn't intended) for Richards, at least at first. Once he scores or assists on any L.A. goal, they will treat him the same as any other opponent.

"I enjoyed playing in front of them every night and was excited to play in front of them," he said. "And I will be excited to play in front of them on Saturday."

Homeward bound

There are still seven teams that have yet to play their home-openers, but a few will finally take to the home ice this weekend. The Sabres will return to Buffalo to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night after a very successful trip to Europe. The city is so jacked up for Sabres hockey right now, that place (who knows what name the arena is going by now?) will be rocking.

Anaheim is also back Stateside after exploring Europe. The Ducks host the Sharks, who have somehow only played one game up to this point.

The Florida Panthers will debut their new all-red arena (and their red jerseys) against the instrastate rival Lightning on Saturday night. The two will play a home-and-home that concludes on Monday with the Bolts showing off their revamped arena for the first time.

The New York Rangers and Kings will remain as road warriors for a bit longer. L.A. doesn't return home until the 18th while New York is traveling all the way until October. 27 when it hosts Toronto at a slightly renovated Madison Square Garden.

Jets past and present

The one other team that has yet to play a game in front of the home crowd, Phoenix, will do so on Saturday. It should be interesting, too.

The Coyotes will host the Jets in what is instantly an awkward rivalry. It sort of feels like domestic abuse. The former Jets who are now the Coyotes meet the current Jets who were once the Thrashers. There is no real animosity to speak of between the two teams, but a lot of folks in the 'Peg still hold a grudge against the Coyotes, even if they have a team back to help close that wound.

Here's the oddity of the weekend: Shane Doan will play against his former team even though he has never left the organization that drafted him. Huh? Of course we're taking some liberties with relocation here, but Doan is originally a Jet, playing 74 games in Winnipeg before moving to Phoenix and becoming a career Coyote.

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night!

You just have to love Saturday's in the NHL. You are almost always guaranteed your favorite team will be playing, but if not, you will have plenty of other games to choose from. This Saturday, 28 of the league's 30 teams will be in action.

Only the Hurricanes and the Ducks have the night off.

Still standing

There are still are still six teams in the NHL that have yet to lose (yes, I'm counting OT losses as losses, imagine that). The Flyers, Sabres, Maple Leafs, Capitals, Red Wings and Sharks all remain unblemished. In the case of the Sharks and Sabres, they'll have to do double duty to remain perfect come Monday.

Best chance for a loss? Have to think it's Buffalo in Pittsburgh with Detroit visiting the Wild next on the list.

On the flip side

Of course, there are still some teams looking for a win, too. The Rangers, Jets and Blue Jackets are yet to experience the thrill of victory. In the case of the Jets, they remain pointless going into the weekend.

Fun with numbers

Small sample sizes create fun little stats such as James Neal of the Penguins leading the NHL in goals (with four in five games), the Senators' Erik Karlsson ahead in assists with six and the Predators' David Legwand in front for points at seven. Even with the small sample size distorting things, did anybody foresee a Predator near the top of an offensive category?

Photo: Getty Images

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


Posted on: October 13, 2011 8:52 pm
 

Video: Victor Hedman's own goal

By: Adam Gretz

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman had a first period to forget against the New York Islanders on Thursday night, as he was on the ice for three New York Islanders goals in his first seven minutes of ice-time. And the first one, a tally by John Tavares, the player chosen two spots ahead of him during the 2009 draft, came as a result of Hedman accidentally smacking a bouncing puck with his hand past goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

Here's the video:



Anytime we see a player putting the puck in his own net it's easy to think back to Marc Bergevin, then a member of the St. Louis Blues, accidentally throwing a loose puck into his own net during a playoff game. This one didn't come in as big of a game, but it's still a play Hedman would no doubt love to have back.

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


Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Daily Skate: Sabres being careful with Hecht

By Brian Stubits

HECHT OUT: The Buffalo Sabres will be without Jochen Hecht, who suffered a concussion until at least next week as the team is being especially careful with him considering he has a history of concussions. He will be out at least through Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. (Sabres Edge)

GO FISH: Speak of concussions, Capitals GM George McPhee and member of the NHL and NHLPA concussion working group, talked about them recently. Noting that of course you have to be concerned about the players, a non-physical game just isn't as entertaining. “If you go to Europe … it’s not very entertaining. It’s highly skilled, but it’s like trying to watch two guys fish.” (Washington Times)

ROLOSON THANKS SNOW: Dwayne Roloson returns to Long Island to face the Islanders for the first time since he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. And the 42-year-old took the time to say thanks to GM Garth Snow. "When I signed, Garth told me the situation and to his credit he stuck to his word, that when we were out of the playoffs, he would trade me. Very appreciative of what he did" (ESPN New York)

SERGE OF MOTIVATION: The boo birds have found a target of Sergei Gonchar in Ottawa. Unhappy with his performance, the Senators fans have let him know. His coach Paul MacLean suggests he uses it to his advantage. “I’ve been booed, so it’s something that you ... I think it’s a motivator. If your fans are unhappy with how you play, they should express that they’re unhappy with how you play. Conversely, if you play better, they should appreciate that you play better and to me, it’s just a signal that you need to be better.” (Senators Exra

THE UNTOUCHABLES: Here is a list compiled of the 10 most untradeable contracts in the NHL. Not surprisingly it starts with Rick DiPietro. But after seeing Brian Campbell change addresses this summer makes me think in this this era of a salary cap floor, no contract is untradeable. (The Hockey News)

FISHER STORY: Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators is very open about his strong religious faith. He has said in the past one thing he likes about being in Nashville as opposed to Ottawa is the amount of churches. Last summer he came out with a book Defender of Faith about his story. Here's a little more from Fisher on how it came about. (Predators Insider)

BROTHER BOND: When the Toronto Maple Leafs headed to a military camp for a team-bonding retreat, it made defenseman John-Micheal Liles think of his brother stationed in Washington state with the U.S. Navy. Here's a good story on the strong relationship the brothers have. (Globe and Mail)

STROME SENT DOWN: It's about the time of the season where a lot of the rookies who were getting extended looks out of camp are going to be returned to their junior teams beore contracts kick in. That's what the Islanders did with their first pick in this summer's draft, Ryan Strome. (Islanders team site)

MURPHY TOO: The Carolina Hurricanes did the same with their top pick, sending diminutive Ryan Murphy back to Kitchener of the OHL. In Murphy's case, he had been a healthy scratch in the team's four regular-season games, so it seemed pointless to continue to leave him up. (Hurricanes team site)

GABRIEL'S GOAL: One first-round pick who won't be returning to his junior squad is Colorado Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog. The No. 2 pick in the draft scored his first NHL goal (video below) on Wednesday night in a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he talked to Adrian Dater about it afterward. (All Things Avs)

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

Posted on: October 11, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 10:36 am
 

The Lightning: The East's (again) quiet contender

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Let me take you back to last season. The Tampa Bay Lightning were just one game, no, one goal from making a trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals. The pushed the champion Bruins to the brink before a late Nathan Horton goal in Game 7 sent the B's on.

That's how the Lightning's breakout season ended. People had perhaps anticipated an improved Lightning squad, but one going that far? It was a quick ascension under first-year coach Guy Boucher. Yet, outside of the drama of Steven Stamkos' contract extension, there was very little discussion about the team from Tampa.

But why not? After all, the Bolts finished only four points behind the Capitals not only in the Southeast Division last season, but in the Eastern Conference. They then swept those same Capitals in the conference semifinals.

There are the headliners, of course. Outside of the twins in Vancouver, it is hard to find a better pairing of players than Martin St. Louis and Stamkos. Throw in Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone? There is some special talent.

It's enough for Boucher to throw the slightest of bulletin-board quotes Washington's way before Monday's matchup.

“Last year we showed that we were the new kids on the block for them and they are used to being first," Boucher said. "We were kind of in their way as a thorn in their side and this year we are planning on being a thorn in both sides, hopefully."

Then they showed in the crazy, back-and-forth 6-5 shootout loss in Washington that they can be even pricklier. It was as captivating a game as you will see in the regular season while also being rather hideous. It's funny how sometimes an ugly game can be so pretty. It was "so bad, it's good" theater.

In that game, the Lightning managed to score five goals without any coming from the aforementioned four players. Stamkos didn't even have a shot on goal through the first two periods. Asked if he is getting enough enough production from his top line, Boucher's answer was perfect.

"No. I never get enough of anybody," he said with a smirk.

Instead the scoring work was done by Brett Clark, Teddy Purcell, Dominic Moore, Bruno Gervais and Nate Thompson. Now the game was hardly any model for defensive responsibility and goaltending teaching seminars, but you had to be encouraged to see so much production beyond the top line.

"It's a process. It's always a work in progress. Obviously we're doing a lot of good things, but we have a lot of things to clean up and that's part of the regular season," Thompson said. "You're going to have games where it's not going to be perfect. Still have a lot of work to do and a lot of season left. We did some good things, we did some bad things [on Monday]. We have to learn from it and move on."

It hasn't been the best of starts to the season. At times they looked sluggish and out of sync, but keep in mind the Bolts just began the season on a three-game road trip that included visits to the defending Stanley Cup winner and then the division champs here.

"I don’t think it’s concerning me, but we got to have our finger on it," St. Louis said after the game. "We took a huge stride in our work ethic compared to last game. We took way too many penalties, power play’s got to be better. That sums it up."

So again, why are people sleeping on the Lightning? Maybe it's because they were very quiet in the offseason aside from the Stamkos situation? The only new addition from outside the organization is Ryan Shannon, Gervais and backup goaltender Mathieu Garon. Hardly scene stealers.

There are two answers that seem the most obvious: They play in Tampa Bay. It's nothing the fans in Tampa don't already know, but it just isn't treated with the same attention as the traditional markets. That's the easy one.

But the real reason could be the concerns about the defense, including the goaltending situation. Last season the Bolts were 21st in the league in defense. If the game in Washington is any indication, things aren't looking much better yet. Add on that, the Lightning just learned they will be without Mathias Ohlund for the next four-to-six weeks.

Speaking specifically to the five goals surrendered to the Capitals, Boucher expressed some trepidation over the defense right now.

"Turnovers hurt us, but we can certainly be a lot better at [defense]," Boucher said. "But we are concerned. Ohlund is supposed to play against the top lines and he's out for a long time. So now we're asking some guys to play in slots their not supposed to. On any team it needs to be an adjustment. Guys are going to have to take the load for long times so I guess it's hurting us. But hey, we're battling through. We're still doing some good stuff, but we got to get better."

And when they do, the Lightning will somehow be right back in the position as the under-the-radar Cup threat. With the lack of attention, you get the feeling this is a "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" situation.

There's no reason to think the Bolts aren't one of the best in the East. The perception is that teams like the Sabres and Rangers got better through free agency and the Penguins will be better with the eventual return of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But Tampa Bay, by sticking together and being in Year 2 under Boucher, will have another crack at reaching the Stanley Cup Finals this spring.

Photo: Getty Images (Side note: Love the guy watching Boucher diagram the play from the stands!)

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

Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:13 pm
 

Capitals debut hardly smooth for Vokoun

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- As far as first impressions go, this one was way down the list.

Tomas Vokoun played his first game with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday against the Lightning, and, well, it was ugly. But don't take my word for it. Take Vokoun's, who still got credit for the win despite giving up five goals on 28 Lightning shots.

“I can’t tell you the last time I remember having as bad a game as I did tonight,” Vokoun said. "It just shows how strong this team is. They literally won today without goaltending. We won the game ... certainly not thanks to me.”

The night got off to a rather ominous start. Vokoun surrendered a goal before every actually facing a shot from the opposition. The Bolts' first "shot" of the night was a centering pass from behind the goal line from Teddy Purcell that bounced right off Caps defenseman Mike Green's skates and in. Not much he could do there.

The second goal, though? Again, beat from behind the goal line, this time the puck squeezing in on his near side. It was ugly. At that point you could already hear the fans inside Verizon Center asking "THIS is the guy that's supposed to lead us to the Cup?"

After a few more Tampa Bay goals -- in Vokoun's defense, there were a couple of nice deflections from the Lightning and another time a man sat on his doorstep in the crease unmanned -- it got to the point that the crowd couldn't help itself anymore. A puck came trickling into the zone and Vokoun calmly shuffled it on to a defenseman, leading to a nice sarcastic ovation from the Caps faithful.

“Once you get a little bit on the heels, you’re misreading the plays and it was just ugly, ugly, ugly game for me,” Vokoun said. “Every time I thought something’s going to happen, the exact opposite [happened]. Sometimes you go through games like that.”

But Vokoun ended up redeeming himself. When it came time for the OT -- thanks to a late Jason Chimera tally, his second of the game -- he was spectacular. He helped the Capitals kill off time on the 4-on-3 and then stonewalled Tampa Bay's only two attemps in the shootout and totally redeemed himself. Or at least saved face.

“If you asked Tomas, he’ll be the first one to tell you that’s probably not the way he wrote the script," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "I guess if you’re trying to look at the big picture, it takes a guy with a lot of mental toughness top lay like that. And then in the overtime when you’re having four-on-three against you and you make those three or four huge saves. I got to believe if it was me, I would have been so mentally out of it… and he comes up and he makes those big saves and he makes the save in the shootout. It told me a lot about his character and it ends up as a positive thing even if he didn’t have a positive game for the most part.”

But in the world of first impressions, this one wasn't the best. Coming on the heels of his agent saying the decision to start Michal Neuvirth in the opening game was a slap in the face? That's a little bit of a whole to dig out of. So long as he's as good as he was when it mattered most, that shouldn't be a problem.

“I’m going to make a promise I’m going to get them back sometime when they need me.”

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 7, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 9:55 pm
 

Vokoun's agent speaks out on goalie situation

TV1By: Adam Gretz

When it was reported on Friday afternoon that Michal Neuvirth, and not Tomas Vokoun, would be the opening night goaltender for the Washington Capitals you had to expect some sort of controversy to build, and it didn't take long for that to happen.

Allan Walsh, the agent for Vokoun, told Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times Friday evening that coach Bruce Boudreau's decision "could be perceived as a slap in the face" to the 35-year-old goaltender who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Capitals this summer.

It's been an interesting situation to watch from the start as it was widely assumed that Vokoun would be the No. 1 starter due to his recent track record with the Florida Panthers. Neuvirth, however, refused to concede the job that he perceived to be his and talked multiple times about how he planned to keep his spot as the starter. And for at least one night -- the first night of the season -- he did.

More from the Times:
To Vokoun’s agent, it was not only a surprise but it also could be “perceived as a slap in the face.” Allan Walsh told The Washington Times in a telephone interview Friday night that his client was “very disappointed” by the decision.

“He was told he was coming into Washington as the No. 1 goalie,” Walsh told The Times. “They were very public in their comments about that. … There’s a certain symbolism attached to who starts the first game of the season at home. It doesn’t mean he’s not a No. 1 goalie. But this can certainly be perceived as a slap in the face."

Walsh, who is no stranger to taking to Twitter and social media to speak up for his clients, also added that "all around the league, the No. 1 goalie on teams is starting on opening night." And that's how your controversy starts. For now, anyway. Earlier this week Boudreau said that he considers the two players to be "1 and 1B" when it comes to their standing on the depth chart, and anytime you're dealing with two players that are capable of being the starter -- and both of these guys are -- somebody is going to have to swallow some pride every now and take the occassional seat.

Plus, most teams like to get both goalies a start as early as possible at the beginning of the season, and the Capitals' next two games after the opener are against Tampa Bay, their top competition within the Division, and Pittsburgh, their top competition within the conference. It should be interesting to see which goalie gets the call in those two games.

If it's Vokoun, this whole thing likely blows over and becomes much ado about nothing. If it's Neuvirth? Things might get interesting.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 5, 2011 5:39 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 5:59 pm
 

Why the Capitals kept Boudreau

BB1By: Adam Gretz

When the Washington Capitals were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs last season there was a belief that head coach Bruce Boudreau could be the person to take the fall for yet another disappointing -- and short -- postseason run.

For all of the regular season success the Capitals have experienced since Boudreau took over behind the bench, relieving Glen Hanlon early in the 2007-08 season, the team has managed to win just two playoff series in four trips, both of which came against the New York Rangers.

Given that the Capitals have finished in the top-three of the Eastern Conerence in each of the past three seasons, much more has been expected.

Even so, the Capitals front office showed its faith in Boudreau this offseason and brought him back for the 2010-11 season, and this week general manager George McPhee told Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times why he made that decision. For one, McPhee said that teams in the NHL change coaches way too often -- and he's right about that. Teams go through them like they're old socks -- and that when a team comes up short the knee jerk reaction is to always go right to the coach.

More from McPhee, via Whyno...
“I look at a coach who’s got the best winning percentage in the regular season of any coach in the history of the league. No coach has had a better record after this many games. He’s won four straight division titles, he’s won a Presidents’ Trophy, he’s won two Eastern Conference titles — pretty good record. It doesn’t always go your way in the playoffs, but as long as you’re getting there and playing well and competing, that’s what we want.”
I'm not sure what the two Eastern Conference titles is a reference to, but the overall point is that McPhee has complete faith in his head coach and is happy with the impressive regular season mark. The Capitals are once again a preseason favorite to reach the Stanely Cup Final, especially after adding Tomas Vokoun, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Roman Hamrlik this summer to go with their already deep roster, which will once again put a target on Boudreau if the team falls short of expectations.

Either way, his return to the Capitals is great news for local businesses in the Washington D.C. area, including Hadeed Carpet, which is using Boudreau in some amazingly awkward commercials, like the one featured below, which comes via Capitals Blog Russian Machine Never Breaks (and they have more, including outtakes).


Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 3, 2011 5:32 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2011 9:03 pm
 

Bolts' Malone not suspended for hit on Campoli

By Brian Stubits

Ryan Malone of the Tampa Bay Lightning has escaped the Shanaban from Brendan Shanahan.

The forward's hit in question occurred in a game against the Canadiens' Chris Campoli where the principal point of contact was the head. However, Shanahan concluded no punishment is forthcoming, saying this was his "most difficult [decision] to date."

Here is Shanahan's video detailing the ruling.

Now here's Shanahan's explanation given to NHL.com as to why Malone won't be sidelined for those who can't listen to the video.

“We felt that this hit was the most challenging one so far in this preseason for the Department of Player Safety to evaluate,” Shanahan said. “In the end, we felt that Malone had committed to the hit when Campoli was upright. However, when the contact was made, Campoli's head position significantly changed just prior to the hit.

"There are elements about the hit that we don't like -- specifically, the principal point of contact being the head and that it was not a full-body check. But the overriding factor in our judgment was that Campoli's loss of the puck and subsequent bending forward for it just prior contributed significantly, if not entirely, to those elements."

Count Campoli among the surprised at Shanahan's ruling.

"Somewhat surprised I guess. Haven't heard officially but if that's the case I'm surprised."

I think this ruling gives hope to a lot of people out there afraid the NHL is going too far. It shows that Shanahan and crew are taking a very close look at each play and trying not to take the hitting out of the game, something a lot of people are afraid will happen. By doing this, it shows it will be more than knee-jerk reactions to game misconducts.

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

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com