Tag:Adam Gretz
Posted on: January 31, 2012 4:28 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 4:30 pm
 

Pucks & Numbers: Blackhawks' D and goaltending

Does Chicago need a backup goalie upgrade? (Getty Images)

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at how the NHL's have top scorers have been used this season.

By: Adam Gretz

As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare to enter the second half of the regular season they find themselves in the bottom-third of the league when it comes to preventing goals.

Entering Tuesday's game in Vancouver, a rematch of last year's Western Conference Quarterfinal series, which the Canucks won in seven games, the Blackhawks are giving up just a little over 2.8 goals per game, which puts them 20th in the NHL. The only teams that are currently occupying a playoff spot that are surrendering more goals on a nightly basis are the Philadelphia Flyers (2.90) and Ottawa Senators (3.04).

So what is the biggest problem at this point? The goaltending of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, or the defense in front of them?

Actually, it's probably a little bit of both.

When the the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup two years ago it was easy to point to what their biggest weakness was -- goaltending.

It was supposed to be the position that held them back on their playoff run, and there was even a bit of concern (a lot, actually) when the trade deadline passed and the team was prepared to go into the postseason with a duo of then-rookie Antti Niemi and veteran Cristobal Huet. It raised a few eyebrows, resulted in a lot of questions, and then they went on and won the ultimate prize, ending a lengthy championship drought for the franchise.

Niemi was definitely solid in net, and he made some big saves for them in the playoffs, but he wasn't exactly Tim Thomas or Dominik Hasek back there, either.

Statistically, the Blackhawks finished the regular season, as a team, near the bottom of the NHL in most of the key goaltending areas. Their overall save percentage of .901 was 23rd in the league. Their 5-on-5 save percentage of .902 was 29th, ahead of only the Ottawa Senators.

Through their first 50 games this season the Blackhawks new goaltending duo is playing at a slightly higher level, especially when it comes to even strength play. At 5-on-5 the pairing of Crawford and emery is 22nd in the NHL with a .911 mark, and at a comparable .901 mark (23rd) overall. But they're giving up nearly a half-goal more per game.

How is that possible? The team in front of the goalies isn't anywhere near as good at limiting the goaltendes workload.

The Stanley Cup team in '09-10 had ridiculous depth at forward and defense and consistently steamrolled over their opponents, controlling the puck better than any team in the league. They limited their opponents to just 25 shots per game and out-shot them by an average of nine shots per game, the third-best mark of any team over the past 10 years. A team that controls the puck like that is capable of overcoming what might be a weakness in goal.

While they're still a really strong possession team this year, they're simply not an all-time great one like the Cup team was, due in large part to the decreased depth, especially on the blue line. (Just as a quick example: Even though he has a contract that was the butt of many jokes, Brian Campbell, now a member of the Florida Panthers, was a really, really good player for the Blackhawks. And while they needed to find a taker for his contract, they do miss his play on the blue line). That decreased depth puts the below-average goaltending (and let's face it, that's what it's been for a couple of years now in Chicago) under an even larger microscope.

I'm not sure Chicago can find an upgrade over Crawford on the trade market leading up to the deadline, and even though his play has regressed a bit from last season, he can probably play a little better over the second half of the season. Their best bet leading up to the deadline would be to focus on adding some depth to their blue line, or at the very least, looking to find an upgrade over Emery to help take some of the pressure off of their second-year starter.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 11:55 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 12:01 am
 

Nyjer Morgan to practice with Sharks

MorganBy: Adam Gretz

If you've ever watched a baseball game involving Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan it's a good bet that you've heard an announcer make some sort of remark about his days as a hockey player. If you haven't? Pay attention the next time you do watch a game he's involved in, because it's sure to come up.

Before he was causing the kind of chaos that only he can provide as a Major League outfielder, he was a hockey player in the Canadian junior leagues during the 1999-00 season, playing seven games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.

So he knows his way around the rink a little bit.

Now he's going to have an opportunity to show what he can do against the best players in the world as he will practice with the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday morning.

Morgan, who was born in San Francisco, said in a statement that he followed the Sharks from the time the team arrived in San Jose back in 1991, and also added "I will never forget the George Kingston and Patty Falloon days. I'm not sure the guys are ready for me!"

Well, at least he knows the team history, making reference to the Sharks first coach, Kingston, and perhaps most well-known player in those dark early years (Falloon).

After Morgan stopped playing hockey and focussed on baseball full-time he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 33rd round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft. He's since spent time with the Pirates, Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers over parts of five, let's say ... polarizing seasons. You probably love his Wild antics if he plays for your team, but if he's playing for somebody else? Not so much.

Given his approach to baseball it's probably fair to assume that he would have fit in quite well as an agitator in the Matt Cooke, Sean Avery, Jarkko Ruutu mold had he continued to pursue a career in hockey. He did, after all, record 20 penalty minutes in his seven games with the Pats.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 3:50 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 3:56 pm
 

Crosby skates prior to Penguins practice (video)

By: Adam Gretz

Sidney Crosby was back in Pittsburgh on Monday and he hit the ice for a 45-minute skating session, along with injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres, before the Penguins team practice at the Consol Energy Center.

He had been in California visiting Dr. Robert Bray, a neurological spine specialist, for a neck injury that was reported to be to his C1 and C2 vertebrae. The Penguins issued a statement on Saturday evening that the injury had already healed and that the findings will be evaluated by independent specialists over the next couple of days.

It's been yet another bizarre chapter in what has surely been a frustrating year for the Penguins and their captain, while it also seemed to provide more questions than answers.

As for his appearance on Monday, well, this is what some of it looked like, and it seems that his hands still work quite well.



The Penguins return to action this week with back-to-back games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday (home) and Wednesday (away).

Crosby has appeared in just eight games this season and he has been out of the lineup since December 5.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Crosby also had a neck injury
More Crosby news
More Pittsburgh Penguins news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 12:50 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 4:42 pm
 

Tim Gleason signs 4-year deal with Hurricanes

GleasonBy: Adam Gretz

The Carolina Hurricanes are one of the top teams circulating in the rumor mill right now, and while one of their upcoming free agents (forward Tuomo Ruutu) could soon be on the move, another one has been taken off the market.

The team announced on Monday afternoon that defenseman Tim Gleason has signed a four-year contract extension, a deal that will pay him a total of $16 million, which comes out to a salary cap hit of $4 million per season.

Had the two sides not agreed to a new deal he would have either been an unrestricted free agent on July 1, or been dealt before the Feb. 27 trade deadline as his name was one of the most popular ones in trade talks.

"It’s kind of a nightmare, but it comes with the territory," Gleason said. "I was going somewhere every day for the last month."

Said general manager Jim Rutherford, “We thank Tim for choosing to stay with the Hurricanes long term. He is one of our core players, someone who brings character and leadership to our locker room, along with being a key piece on the ice. This is a very important signing for our team going forward.”

Head coach Kirk Muller added to that sentiment.

"He’s played hard, and he’s done a great job of shutting the top lines recently," Muller said. "The organization is real excited that he wanted to make a commitment to stay here and be a part of what we’re doing."

The 29-year-old defenseman has one goal and 13 assists this season in 51 games, and has recorded 114 points in 599 NHL games. That said, offense has little to do with what he brings to the table for the Hurricanes as he is their go-to player for the top defensive assignments, and is one of the more underrated defensive-defenseman in the league.

Gleason has been with the Hurricanes since the start of the 2006-07 season when he was acquired from Los Angeles in the deal that sent Jack Johnson to the Kings.

Photo: Getty Images

Also at Eye On Hockey

Tuomo Ruutu could soon be on the move
More Carolina Hurricanes news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 12:30 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 1:06 pm
 

Tuomo Ruutu could soon be on the move

By: Adam Gretz

Less than a month away from the NHL trade deadline and rumors are quickly starting to fly.

One of the busiest teams this year is expected be the Carolina Hurricanes, as they're currently near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and have a number of players eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. One of those players is forward Tuomo Ruutu, and he could be on the move as early as this week according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and TSN's Darren Dreger.

Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford has always been aggressive when it comes to making moves, and has already made a couple this season.  A couple of weeks he sent upcoming free agent Alexei Ponikarovsky to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Joe Sova and a fourth-round draft pick, which came just weeks after he shipped disappointing defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the remainder of his contract to the Montreal Canadiens for Jaroslav Spacek. And there could soon be more where that came from.

Ruutu should be able to bring the Hurricanes a better return. In 51 games this season he has 15 goals and 11 assists, and over the past four years has scored at a rate that would average out to nearly 20 goals per 82 games. Any team that trades for him will be on the hook for the remainder of his salary cap hit, which for this week would come out to about $1.3 million for the rest of the season.

There is no shortage of contenders that could be interested, but keep an eye on Pittsburgh, Nashville or Boston, all teams that would Ruutu seem to be an excellent fit for given his aggressive forechecking and the fact at least two of those teams, Pittsburgh and Nashville, could use some an upgrade when it comes to secondary scoring on the wings.

Still, at this point it just seems to be a matter of when and where rather than if. Once that shoe falls the focus will then surely shift to Carolina's other upcoming free agents.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Gleason signs four-year deal with the Hurricanes
More Carolina Hurricanes news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 8:47 am
Edited on: January 30, 2012 8:54 am
 

Video: Announcer loves this ECHL goalie fight

By: Adam Gretz

As is the case with most minor league hockey brawls that find their way onto the Internet, the best part of this one between the Bakersfield Condors and Ontario Reign of the East Coast Hockey League  on Saturday night just might be the announcer, as he completely loses his mind during the chaos.

It is, after all, "dogs and cats living together."



Ontario won the game, 5-1, and the two teams combined for 278 penalty minutes, including the fighting majors that were issued to the two goaltenders, Bryan Pitton of the Condors and Jean-Francois Berube of the Reign. Of course, even though Pitton scored a decisive win against Berube he has to lose some points for doing so with his goalie mask on. 

Almost all of the penalty minutes were handed out with less than two minutes to play in the third period when the above brawl broke out following a hit in the corner from Bakersfield's Ian McKenzie.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Category: NHL
Posted on: January 28, 2012 11:28 pm
Edited on: January 28, 2012 11:35 pm
 

NHL skills contest results, highlights

By: Adam Gretz

The NHL wrapped up its Super Skills competition on Saturday night with Daniel Alfredsson's team, loaded with all of the hometown Ottawa Senators, picking up the overall win by a 21-12 margin. Below is the complete list of winners in all of the invidual events, including Patrick Kane in the Breakaway challenge and Zdeno Chara taking home yet another championship (and record) in the hardest shot contest, as well as some of the highlights (and lowlights) from the night.

2012 NHL Super Skills Results
Competition Winner
Fastest Skater Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers)
Breakaway Challenge Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks
Shot Accuracy Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)
Skills Challenge Relay Team Alfredsson
Hardest Shot Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins)
Elimination Shootout Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Zdeno Chara makes the hardest shot contest the must-see event: I understand what the NHL is trying to do with the breakaway challenge (it's basically the Slam Dunk contest, in hockey form) and at times on Saturday night it was the highlight of the night, whether it was Kane putting on the Superman cape, Anaheim's Corey Perry busting out the knee-hockey stick and using it to score a goal, or Montreal's Carey Price stopping a shot with his back turned to the shooter. Great stuff.

But the must-see event, at least as long as Chara is taking part in it, remains the hardest shot contest, If for no other reason than to watch in amazement at the freakish speeds these guys can fire a piece of frozen rubber across the ice. Watching Chara in this event right now is like watching a home run hitter get himself in a rhythm and hit one titanic fly ball after another in a home run derby.

At this point it's his event, and everybody else is just taking part in it for his amusement. Even Shea Weber, a guy that hit 106 on the radar gun Saturday night, couldn't get near him. Chara has won the event five years in a row, and not only does he keep winning, but his shots keep getting faster and faster, and he keeps shattering his own records.

It's worth asking if 110 MPH is in play next season in Columbus. I wouldn't bet against it.

Change that wasn't an improvement:
The NHL used a new format for the fastest skater contest this season, having the players line up side by side, skate in a straight line down the ice, make a narrow, short turn, and then head back in the opposite direction. In years past the players would simply skate all the way around the ice, the complete length of the rink, making it easier to compare players and their times from year-to-year. The new approach almost seemed to slow the players down because it didn't give them enough of a chance to really show what they can do speed-wise.

On a positive note, for the second year in a row goalies competed in one of the rounds, with Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick blowing away Detroit's Jimmy Howard. And yes, they have to skate with all of their equipment on, which definitely adds a bit of unintentional humor.

Fortunately for the two keepers this year neither one of them took a spill in the corner like Boston's Tim Thomas did last season.

Event that doesn't seem to work: The Skills Challenge relay. Dump it. It's basically a giant obstacle course that involves just about every skater on the two team's taking part in a series of events, including passing, one-timers, shot accuracy and puck control. Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to work or generate much excitement.

It's by far the longest event from start to finish, taking nearly two-and-a-half minutes for one team to complete the course, and it seems to suck a lot of the life out of the crowd.

Helmet camera's are always cool: St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott, who received a nice ovation from the Ottawa fans as one of the many former (and current) Senators to play in the game, had a helmet cam throughout the night -- along with Howard -- to give a first-person look at some of the events. That included during the breakaway challenge when Elliott was in the cage attempting to stop Kane's slapshot with what turned out to be a trick puck that broke into four pieces on its way to the net.

Of course, given the way that Elliott is playing this season for the Blues it's not much of a surprise that none of the pieces ended up in the back of the net, while he even managed to glove one of them out of the air.



Previously at Eye On Hockey

Kane's Superman wins breakaway challenge
Chara sets another record
More 2012 All-Star Game coverage

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 28, 2012 9:31 pm
Edited on: January 28, 2012 11:35 pm
 

Zdeno Chara breaks his own hardest shot record



By: Adam Gretz

As long as Zdeno Chara is going to All-Star games it's hard to imagine anybody beating him in the hardest shot contest.

And he keeps raising the bar.

On Saturday night he set a new All-Star record, breaking his own mark, by firing a shot that traveled an incredible 108.8 MPH, topping the 105.9 he registered last year.

Needless to say, he won the event (by a pretty wide margin) as he had done in the previous four All-Star games, and in the process became the first player to ever win the contest five straight times. When it comes to the all-time mark he still trails former Blues and Flames rearguard Al MacInnis who won the event seven times. But it seems to be only a matter of time until Chara takes over that spot as well.

Chara's four shots on the night went an average of 107 MPH, and from slowest to fastest were 106.2, 106.9, 107.0 and 108.8. The only player on the ice that could even stay within reasonable range of him was Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber, who for the second year in a row finished as the runner-up.

Weber, of course, is no slouch, and finished with a high mark of 106.

Hey, anybody want to play goalie?

Previously at Eye On Hockey

NHL Skills Challenge results, highlights
Kane's Superman wins breakaway challenge
More 2012 All-Star Game coverage

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