Tag:Dennis Wideman
Posted on: February 22, 2012 8:36 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 9:05 pm
 

Milan Michalek goal of the year candidate

By: Adam Gretz

There are so many beautiful things about this Milan Michalek goal during the first period of Ottawa's game against Washington. If you're a Senators fan, that is. 

The pass from defenseman Erik Karlsson that covers nearly three quarters of the ice. The move by Michalek to dangle through defenseman Dennis Wideman, a move that Michalek attempted earlier in the period against Dmitry Orlov and nearly pulled off. The casual way he beats Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun to score his 26th goal of the season.

It also perfectly sums up the way both teams have been playing over the past week. The Senators look like a buzzsaw that is just ripping through people. The Capitals? Well, the less said about them right now, the better.



For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 27, 2012 3:13 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 3:39 pm
 

All-Star Game preview: Finding lines to entertain

By Brian Stubits

When it comes to All-Star Games, the NHL is probably in the middle. It's certainly a notch below the holy grail of games, baseball's Midsummer Classic, but it's undoubtedly ahead of football's Pro Bowl. Like the NBA's version, defense isn't even optional, it's pretty much discouraged.

So truth be told, people don't watch the All-Star Game for the hockey. Really, mid-week games featuring the Blue Jackets and Oilers will provide a better game (not necessarily entertainment, however). Instead, fans watch it for the Stars , the chance to see their favorite players.

Or to see things we never get the chance to see.

Thanks to the Fantasy Draft, the possibilities exist for some squeamish line combinations that wouldn't otherwise have been feasible. Such as Bruins playing with Canucks. However seeing as one of the two captains was a Bruin, we missed out on some golden opportunity to have Zdeno Chara paired with Alex Edler while playing with Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Tyler Seguin in front of them with Tim Thomas in net. Oh, if Chara could have only seen the potential.

What Chara did end up doing was drafting a host of right wingers, making this pre-draft incredibly awkward exchange all the more apropos.

With all that said, thanks to our Line Mixmaster 3000 (patent pending) we were able to come up with some interesting lines with the teams that were selected -- and some lines that make you go "meh." Hey, you can't win them all.

(Do note we had to execute some position changes to get four even lines. But to Joffrey Lupul and Daniel Alfredsson: I see what you did. Lupul only helped Chara draft one left winger and Alfredsson only picked one right winger. Sorry fellas, you can't triple shift.)

Let's start with Team Alfredsson, considering he's the host and all.

As Seen in Ottawa line: Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson. Intrigue? Nah, there's not a whole lot on this one, frankly. Senators fans can see these guys together most every night. But you have an entire line of guys not out of position in their hometown ... it's a lock. But hopefully they keep the mic on Spezza during the game like he had it on in the draft and this time we can hear a full-out laugh. That's interesting enough.

Third Wheel line: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Logan Couture. OK, I'll relent and keep the Sedins together. The best third wheel for them is Couture. You have the whole Predators of the sea thing (Canucks' killer whale vs. the Sharks), the little rivalry between their teams and, well, just another way to pick on Couture a little bit after he was Mr. Irrelevant. Sorry Henrik, I don't think you're going to get those better players to play with this year (It's OK, Daniel, you can smile!).

I Believe I Can Fly line: Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, John Tavares. I had a harder time naming this line than any of the others (no doubt it shows). But the Flyers connection is pretty clear and they get an Atlantic Division friend in the mix in Tavares, somebody who has wheels that just might inspire Hartnell to try and skate faster and contribute to the Hartnell Down-O-Meter. Tavares converts to the wing to make it happen, a pretty easy transition from center.

The Forgotten line: James Neal, Steven Stamkos, Jason Pominville. Neal was the guy who the NHL just didn't seem to want to invite. It took the last replacement spot for Neal to get the call despite being second in the league in goals scored. Stamkos is the only guy with more goals than Neal and yet he's such a quiet superstar that some might not even be aware of that fact. As for Pominville? Well it's been a forgettable season in Buffalo so far, so he fits in here.

Defensive pairings: This is really a hodgepodge of names when put together, there's not a whole lot that screams out for obvious potential pairings. So I've got Shea Weber with Alex Edler (Western Conference the tie that binds), Erik Karlsson with Kris Letang (excessive use of the letter K) and Dan Girardi with Keith Yandle (ummm, they were each in that game that was won with 0.1 seconds left this season).

Now on to Team Chara. Here are the lines that we can put together, seeking maximum intrigue.

Cyborg line: Corey Perry, Pavel Datsyuk, Jarome Iginla. The cyborg obviously references the man in the middle, but it also includes one of the league's ageless wonders in Iginla plus a guy with a connection to Disney. Hey, we have to make some stretches. The only person out of position here is Perry, being forced to the left wing because of Chara's right-side glut.

Miss-match line: Jamie Benn, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Gaborik. Yea, there isn't a whole lot of connections with this line except Malkin and Gaborik are both from Eastern Europe. But hey, good for Benn to play his first game in weeks alongside the best player in the NHL the last couple of weeks in Malkin. He'll take it, I'm sure.

Two Blackhawks and a Kid line: Jordan Eberle, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa. So this line has a couple of players "out of position" but Kane is no stranger to center. We had to convert somebody to the middle and he's the easy pick seeing that he's played there this season. He gets to be alongside his Chicago buddy Hossa. Poor Eberle, he might not get to see the puck with these two guys. That won't make his fan club president (on the right) too happy.

Blackhawks and ladies? No doubt this will be Joey the Junior Reporter's favorite line to follow.

The Awkward line: Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel. We saved the best for last. Yes, consider this the coup-de-grace of interesting lines. The two players -- Seguin and Kessel -- who will forever be tied to each other thanks to the trade between the Maple Leafs and Bruins, alongside another Leaf in Lupul.

“I said ‘Kess, I think we’re linemates,'" Seguin said to Kessel on Thursday (from the Boston Herald). "He said ‘That be cool. I think the media would like it.’”

Yes, Phil, yes we would.

Defensive pairings: Well we have to put Chara with Dion Phaneuf. Again, it's the Leafs-Bruins angle but also two of the more fearsome defensemen in the league. Good pairing. Ryan Suter gets paired with Kimmo Timmonen so they can find out if there is any chemistry there in case Philly is Suter's landing spot if he's traded. That leaves Brian Campbell to pair with Dennis Wideman. All I got here is Campbell is a current Panthers defenseman and Wideman used to be one.

As for a goalie to be mic'd up like Cam Ward was last year? I'm going to vote for Carey Price. Hey, any guy that does a campaign video like this and nearly spits his drink out when he's picked in the draft is probably entertaining enough to help carry the event for a period.

Enjoy the game. It will be a lot easier with some of the above intrigue. But please, leave your gripes about the lack of defense at home, we all know it's sorely lacking.

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

Posted on: January 26, 2012 9:23 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 11:42 am
 

2012 NHL All-Star Rosters

By: Adam Gretz

We knew which players were going to be taking part in the All-Star game this season, but we had no idea which team they would be playing for and who they would be playing against. It was all settled in Ottawa on Thursday night as Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson and Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, the two captains for this year's game, made their selections as you can see below in the order they were picked.

Chara won the coin toss and ended up with the first selection and chose Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk, and continued to load up on offense in the early rounds going with Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa and Phil Kessel.

Kessel, of course, was the last pick in the All-Star draft a year ago, but went in the eighth round this season. The last man standing this season was San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture

Two developments that should not have been a surprise to anybody: First, The Vancouver-Boston rivalry that started in last year's Stanley Cup Finals, and carried over into this season as we saw in their regular season matchup a couple of weeks ago, continued on as Chara did not pick a single Canuck.

That means that unlike last year when they were split up, the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, will play on the same team as they've always done throughout their time in the NHL.

Also not a surprise: Alfredsson made sure to pick every Senator in the game, ending up with Erik Karlsson (his first pick), Jason Spezza (his second pick) and Milan Michalek.

2012 NHL All-Star Rosters
Team Alfredsson Team Chara
Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers, Goalie)* Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs, Forward)*
Erik Karlsson (Senators, Defense) Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings, Forward)
Jason Spezza (Senators, Forward) Tim Thomas (Bruins, Goalie)
Jonathan Quick (Kings, Goalie) Evgeni Malkin (Penguins, Forward)
Claude Giroux (Flyers, Forward) Marian Hossa (Blackhawks, Forward)
Kris Letang (Penguins, Defense) Kimmo Timonen (Flyers, Defense)
Steven Stamkos (Lightning, Forward) Corey Perry (Ducks, Forward)
Brian Elliott (Blues, Goalie) Carey Price (Canadiens, Goalie)
Shea Weber (Predators, Defense) Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs, Forward)
Daniel Sedin (Canucks, Forward) Ryan Suter (Predators, Defense)
Dan Girardi (Rangers, Defense) Jimmy Howard (Red Wings, Goalie)
Keith Yandle (Coyotes, Defense) Brian Campbell (Panthers, Defense)
Milan Michalek (Senators, Forward) Patrick Kane (Blackhawks, Forward)
Henrik Sedin (Canucks, Forward) Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs, Defense)
James Neal (Penguins, Forward) Jarome Iginla (Flames, Forward)
Alex Edler (Canucks, Defense) Dennis Wideman (Capitals, Defense)
John Tavares (Islanders, Forward) Marian Gaborik (Rangers, Forward)
Scott Hartnell (Flyers, Forward) Jordan Eberle (Oilers, Forward)
Jason Pominville (Sabres, Forward) Tyler Seguin (Bruins, Forward)
Logan Couture (Sharks, Forward) Jamie Benn (Stars, Forward)

(*Assistant Captain)

More NHL All-Star Game Coverage


For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 4:24 pm
 

All-Star Game: Dissecting the picks; predictions

By Brian Stubits

The NHL announce its full list of All-Stars on Thursday in about as poor a way as it could have. Remember when Mario Lemieux called the NHL a garage league? Maybe he was thinking of days like this.

The NHL had ample opportunities to put this front and center. They could have announced the selections on Wednesday night using NBC Sports Network and TSN. Heck, they could have made the announcement using the NHL Network instead of running a replay of a game from last night.

All of that would have been better. Instead, the All-Star selections started leaking one at a time. The first was the Florida Panthers announcing Brian Campbell would be representing them. Then the Blackhawks followed with the Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The leaks continued until the NHL finally released the entire list of players about an hour later.

It's almost like it wasn't planned.

Anyway, on to the guys who were selected. These are the guys who will head to Ottawa for the All-Star Game and will be part of the second NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, much like the way you would pick teams for kickball at recess with two captains selecting players until they're gone.

As usual, there are a few head-scratchers in here.

Forwards

Jason Spezza (Senators), Milan Michalek (Senators), Daniel Alfredsson (Senators), Jamie Benn (Stars), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Marian Gaborik (Rangers), Claude Giroux (Flyers), Marian Hossa (Blackhawks), Jarome Iginla (Flames), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs), Mikko Koivu (Wild), Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins), Logan Couture (Sharks), Alex Ovechkin (Capitals), Jason Pominville (Sabres), Daniel Sedin (Canucks), Henrik Sedin (Canucks), Tyler Seguin (Bruins), Corey Perry (Ducks), Steven Stamkos (Lightning), John Tavares (Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks).

Defensemen

Erik Karlsson (Senators), Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs), Dustin Byfuglien (Jets), Brian Campbell (Panthers), Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Alexander Edler (Canucks), Dan Girardi (Rangers), Shea Weber (Predators), Keith Yandle (Coyotes), Dennis Wideman (Capitals), Ryan Suter (Predators), Kimmo Timonen (Flyers).

Goaltenders

Tim Thomas (Bruins), Brian Elliott (Blues), Jimmy Howard (Red Wings), Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers), Carey Price (Canadiens), Jonathan Quick (Kings).

For those wondering on the breakdown, that's 24 players from the Eastern Conference, 18 from the Western. The six vote-ins all coming from the East helps with that bit of disparity, though.

Now, on to the superlatives ...

Biggest snub

You never know who actually said no to the invite. That's the caveat here. But if nothing else the players should get the honor and then decline to appear (I get the murkiness of it, but they deserve the honor).

With that said, wow, where do I begin? Teemu Selanne? Nicklas Lidstrom? Well they asked out, so no use getting bent out of shape there. So moving on ...

I understand that Nicklas Backstrom (the Capitals center, that is) is injured at the moment, but he's day to day and the game isn't for another few weeks. There is zero doubt that he has been the Capitals' best player this season, not Ovechkin, who made the roster ahead of a long list of players that probably deserved it more.

I scratch my head a little with the selection of Byfuglien on defense. Not that he is bad by any stretch, but I probably would take a few guys over him. From the Jets perspective, I would have liked to see Evander Kane more.

You could make a case -- probably not a great one, however -- for Florida's Jason Garrison, as well. He leads defensemen in goals with 11 and has a slap shot that might possibly stand a chance in the hardest shot competition against Chara and Byfuglien.

There are a few more in the forward role who seem to be more deserving. It's going to continue to come back to Ovechkin because he's the high-profile name with mediocre numbers. Thomas Vanek in Buffalo? Scott Hartnell in Philly? Kris Versteeg in Florida? Patrik Elias for the Devils? Patrice Bergeron in Boston? Patrick Sharp (who was reportedly not picked before injury concerns) Or even Radim Vrbata from the Coyotes? The lists goes on.

It goes to show how even when the fans aren't voting, star power is a big factor. It's always about a little more than just performance.

Least deserving

To make room for the snubs you obviously have to decide who shouldn't be on the list, otherwise they aren't a snub, right? Well that is pretty tough to do.

I do not think Ovechkin deserves his selection based on merit alone. But again, there's more to it than just the stats. Ovechkin gets in based on the star power and marketing more than anything else. I don't necessarily like that, but I can accept that. I think Kane falls into this category to an extent, too. All things being equal, a few of the snubs probably deserve the honor more than Kane this season, but he has a little star power that, say, Versteeg doesn't have.

I'm not terribly high on the other Caps pick of Wideman either. He's had a good season offensively, which is what this game values most, so in that regard it's OK. But even he admitted he was surprised when he was told, he thought he was getting traded.

After them (not counting the guys voted in) it gets pretty tough. Not any wholly undeserving guys (not even the above mentioned).

Keeping in mind that every team gets represented through the All-Star Game or the rookie selections, some guys are safe. That makes it tougher.

Who will be Mr. Irrelevant?

We know this much: It won't be Kessel again. Absolutely no way to predict this accurately, so my stab in the dark is going to say Couture. He's the only member from the Sharks, he is young and plays at the position with the most players, on the wing.

Who will be the captains?

The official announcement will come in a week, so for now we're left to speculate. Alfredsson is a given seeing how the game is in Ottawa. Take that one to the bank. The other was likely going to be Selanne, but now ... Iginla? Maybe you go with an old Senator in Chara? I'd take my chances it's Iginla.

Or maybe Kessel? That would be interesting.

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

Posted on: December 11, 2011 4:34 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 4:55 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Just stop it, Brian Elliott

By Brian Stubits

There was concern going into this season for the people in St. Louis regarding the team's goaltending situation. Jaroslav Halak had been subpar in his first year with the Blues, exacerbating the need for a quality backup should things not improve.

So with the choices on the board, who did they sign? Brian Elliott, a castoff by both the Senators and Avalanche. His signing was so underwhelming that there was no guarantee he would even open the season with the Blues. There was an honest-to-goodness competition for the second goalie spot between he and young Blues prospect Ben Bishop.

If you've been paying attention to the first third-plus of the season, then you know how that competition turned out. But it's my duty to pretend that my readers are dumb and don't know a thing (sorry people) so I'll just tell you that Elliott won out.

And he's been winning ever since.

Despite being the "backup" to Halak, Elliott is tied for the league lead in shutouts after Saturday's blanking of the San Jose Sharks. He also leads the league with his jaw-dropping save percentage (.947) and goals against average (1.45).

"I'm satisfied, but I'm not too high on myself," Elliott said after the 1-0 victory on Saturday. "Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don't."

Truth is, he has had to be that good. The Blues aren't exactly scoring like their division foes in Detroit.

While the coaching change from Davis Payne has worked wonders for the Blues and Halak, it would be unfair to credit Elliott's success to that, too. He was outstanding before the change, he's been just as excellent after it.

It's rather amazing when you think where he came from. As we mentioned, his signing was just a little underwhelming and uninspiring. Why? Consider that last season he played for both the Senators and Avalanche after a mid-season trade, a straight goalie swap for Craig Anderson. For the whole season, Elliott was 15-27-9, including 2-8-1 with the Avs. That .947 save percentage this season? Last season it was .893.

That's quite a turnaround. It's not like he's just become suitable this season, he's been outstanding. You could make the argument that he's been the MVP for the Blues this season. Honestly, I have a hard time making an argument for anybody but Elliott considering Hitchcock isn't a player.

"He seems to always be our best player in the third period," said Kevin Shattenkirk, who scored the only goal in the game. "When we're up by a goal, he's always there to make a huge save."

He had to make 11 saves in the third against the Sharks to preserve the win, obviously with no room for error.

I can't say that Elliott is the reason why the Blues are knocking on the Blackhawks' and Red Wings' doors in the Central. It would obviously neglect a lot of other factors at play. But Elliott could very well be at the top of that list.

Power boost

The Washington Capitals had one of the worst power-play units going into Friday night. The Toronto Maple Leafs had one of the worst penalty-killing units. Advantage: Capitals.

Among a lot of the concerns surround the Capitals, one was the power play's struggles. They had recently just gone through an 0-for-17 streak -- or skid, if you'd prefer. Then the Caps scored all four goals in a 4-2 win over Toronto on Friday with the man up.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

Originally three were credited to Dennis Wideman with an assist on the fourth goal, but it was reviewed at Wideman's request on Saturday and the hat trick was taken away. But for a night at least, Wideman had the first hat trick by a Capitals defenseman in more than a decade (Sergei Gonchar in 2000).

But more immediately, there is hope that the Capitals might have found some hope for the man-up. Of course, the opposite side of the coin is that it came against the Leafs.

There is no doubt that the PK continues to be the Achilles' heel for Toronto. After Friday's awful showing, the Leafs are above only the Blue Jackets in successful PKs at 74.3 percent.

Bachman overdrive

When it was announced that the Dallas Stars would be without Kari Lehtonen for some time due to injury, Stars fans were right to be worried at the process of Andrew Raycroft getting more time. Not a reason for much optimism.

However Richard Bachman is. The rookie got his first start of his NHL career on Saturday and he turned in a great effort, holding the Kings to one goal for the 2-1 Dallas win.

With the win, he likely earned himself a start for the Stars' next game Tuesday at the Rangers.

"He's a competitive guy, and he's pretty clean when it comes to rebounds," said coach Glen Gulutzan, who coached the former Colorado College goalie in the minors last season. "I just told him when he went out there, `It's the same game that you've been playing.' He has that ability, and he's going through the natural progression. He deserves another start, and most likely we'll give him that opportunity and see if he can run with it."

The two points put the Stars back on top of the Pacific Division, which has been surprising this season, and not so much in a good way. The Stars and Coyotes are tied atop the division, but they are each 10 points behind the top team in the West, the Wild. If the division winners weren't awarded the one of the top three seeds, the Stars would be the sixth seed.

On the other bench ...

What's going on with the L.A. Kings? I'll tell you one thing, Terry Murray can't be feeling very comfortable with his job these days.

There was so much hope coming into this season for the Kings. They had been growing every season, they added Mike Richards. It appeared the Kings were on their way to their best season since the days of Gretzky.

They still could be, but they'll have to right the ship in a hurry. Would you believe that there is no team in the NHL worse at scoring goals than Los Angeles? Its 2.21 goals per game ranks at the bottom of the NHL< including below the Ducks in nearby Anaheim. Nothing like low-scoring games to sell hockey in SoCal.

When your cross-town rival makes a move firing its coach and you are being booed off the ice, it's time to wonder if the end is in sight for Murray.

The Wings are good

Just in case you missed that memo.

I was getting ready to start talking about the Winnipeg Jets and how they were extremely quietly inching their way up the Eastern Conference. Then they went to Detroit and were railroaded.

The Red Wings had seven goals from six different scorers -- and none of them was Pavel Datsyuk. It was Detroit's ninth straight win at home where they are 12-2-1 this season. Those are the most wins at home for any team this season.

Some things never change.

One-sided rivalry

What is it about the Battle of Alberta that the Oilers are having so many problems with?

Half of the season's six games have been played between the Oilers and Calgary Flames this season, and the boys from Edmonton have yet to pick up a single point. Against the rest of the NHL, the Oilers are 14-10-3.

The most recent rendition of the provincial rivalry saw Jarome Iginla flash some of his old form with a pair of goals and the Flames took the game 3-0.

Most everybody would agree that the Oilers are likely the better team between the two, but they just can't beat their neighbors. I guess that's why they play the game (well that and winning, right Herm?).

Quote of the weekend

If I were to take a poll of NHL fans who have the Center Ice package which announcer is the biggest homer around? I think it would be a two-horse race between Paul Steigerwald in Pittsburgh and Bruins play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards.

So for this week's QOTW, we're going to take a light-hearted look at a call from Edwards in the Bruins' win over the Blue Jackets.

On the play, Derek Dorsett is driving toward the net to try and beat Tim Thomas, but his shot attempt is stopped and he then goes skidding into the boards. Here is Edwards' call, you might be surprised (like me).

Yes, that is Edwards rather vehemently arguing against a penalty that went on an opposing player. Clearly he was right, in no way, shape or form was that goaltender interference. If anything, it was interference from Tomas in the form of a trip on Dorsett, who was a bit worse for the ware afterward.

Before you jump down my throat, calm down. I have no problems with local announcers catering to the home team, that is their audience. But sometimes it goes overboard and is comical. So when I hear somebody this adamant in another team's defense, it's "ear-catching."

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Dennis Wideman loses hat trick day later



By: Adam Gretz

During the Washington Capitals 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night it appeared that defenseman Dennis Wideman had recorded his first career hat trick with three power play goals, resulting in the traditional shower of hats on the Verizon Center ice and what would have been one of the most unexpected hat tricks of the season.

On Saturday, the hat trick was erased from the books as Wideman's third goal (shown above) has now been credited to Capitals forward Brooks Laich. Wideman still gets credit for an assist, and finished the game with four points (two goals, two assists).

According to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, Wideman asked the NHL to review the goal after the game and insisted that it was Laich's goal from the start. It was reviewed, and ultimately changed.

“If you get one you want it to be honest,” said Wideman.

No matter who scored the goal, it was a huge night for the Capitals power play, which had been struggling in recent weeks, as it converted on four of its six chances.

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

Posted on: October 22, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:54 pm
 

Capitals look good all around in pounding Wings

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- How much do you read into a 7-0 start? Not much other than a team is playing well to start the year.

But what can you read from the Capitals' 7-0 start to the season after a 7-1 rout of the previously unbeaten Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night? Maybe they're more than just hype. This performance is what you can call a statement win. On the heels of a very solid win in Philadelphia?

There is a lot to like. Let me count the ways.

Mike Green is beginning to resemble the player we came to know a few years ago. He tied a career high with four points Saturday, including both Capitals goal on the man advantage.

His presence was a large reason why the Capitals power play is looking lethal again. Sharp, crisp passes and Green firing on net from the point?

"If we could go 2 for 4 every night, we'd take it," coach Bruce Boudreau said.

He isn't alone in the puck-moving duties. A healthy Dennis Wideman has been huge in that department. With an assist here, he has a point in each of Washington's seven games thus far. That ties a career high (noticing a trend?). John Karlson ain't too shabby either.

Their lineup has balance and depth. Marcus Johansson, who was a healthy scratch on opening night, is tied for the team lead in goals with four, including a goal against Detroit. Matthieu Perreault, himself a scratch on a couple occasions, scored twice to bring his total to three on the season. Overall, 14 different Capitals made their way on to the score sheet against the Red Wings -- 14!

"It shows that we got a lot of depth and everyone can score every night," Perreault said. "It makes our team pretty tough to play against. You got to get out there with four lines ready to go every night because our four lines are ready to go every night. It feels pretty good right now."

More Red Wings-Capitals

"That shows the versatility and the depth on of this team," Troy Brouwer added. "Matty P's [Perreault] line scored two, well Matty scored two. Even our shutdown line was scoring tonight."

Players like Alexander Semin -- criticized for his playoff showings in recent years -- and Alex Ovechkin aren't carrying all of the offensive load. It's why Ovechkin's minutes are down this season and Bruce Boudreau wants to keep it that way. Johansson and Jason Chimera are the leading goal scorers so far, not Ovie, Semin or Nicklas Backstrom. Although it is worth noting that with two assists, Ovechkin might be warming up. That's points in three straight games.

They have some much-needed grit in the additions of Joel Ward and Brouwer, who had a team-high five hits Saturday. The line of Ward, Chimera and Brooks Laich -- the aforementioned shutdown line -- has been a nightmare on opposing top lines. Plus, those guys have some skill.

"It's good. That's how you win in this league," Ward said. "When you get each line scoring and in a positive manner, that's huge. That's what you need."

Oh, and there is this pretty sharp goaltender named Tomas Vokoun. He's just been OK if you find save percentages in the .960s good. Since an ugly debut, he's been lights out, allowing six goals in five games.

"It [being undefeated] feels pretty good," Vokoun said. "Obviously I am not custom to that feeling, so it's great. We work hard, we play hard and obviously we have the older talent. We are doing good things."

You are afraid to read too much into things so early in the season, but it's tough not to notice.

If we were to nitpick, though, we have to turn to the statistics. The Capitals are being outshot most nights, including 33-25 against the Red Wings on Saturday. A 28 percent shooting percentage is a little tough to repeat on most nights.

The Wings didn’t put their best foot forward Saturday night, starting Ty Conklin in favor of Jimmy Howard, who played in Friday night’s game. But they beat him like a drum.

"Anytime we lose it's disappointing [but] there's a lot of things as a team that we can take away from this," Conklin said. "I found a lot of ways we were really good, [but] like I said, the difference was in goal."

Tthere is no let up here. The balance is obvious just by looking at the ice time. No forward played more than 17:16 (that was Laich) and none played less than 10:20 (Perreault).

The word that comes to mind now is complete. The wholes are tough to find.

"The guys in here, it's still early in the season, we're real wrapped up and we're real excited to come into every game," Brouwer said.

"Right now we've been pretty hot and hopefully we can keep that going," Perreault said.

With so many contributors, that seems like a distinct possibility.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 19, 2011 6:14 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 6:51 pm
 

Hit reactions pour in, including Michael Buble

BubleBy Brian Stubits

You know how the new rules and Brendan Shanahan's regime keeps being referred to as a "work in progress?" Well there are a few people who think it needs a lot more work before they can progress.

One of the biggest criticisms that I've seen fans and commentators expressing about the strong new emphasis on hitting from behind is the accusation that players will turn their backs on a player hoping to draw a penalty. How a two-minute minor to an opponent is worth risking severe physical damage such as a concussion or worse is beyond me, but that's hockey players for you, I guess.

But now that there has been time to digest the new rules and for players to get a feel for them, the constructive criticism is becoming to come in from those who just so happen to be known for their hitting. (And then from one crooning minor-league owner, we'll get to that further down so stay tuned!)

Ben Meyer-Abbott of the Chicago Sun Times gathered some opinions from around the league. Let's just have a look.

“Guys are abusing the rule in the wrong kind of way and purposely putting themselves in vulnerable positions. You should never turn your back when you know someone’s coming to hit you. It’s the stupidest thing you could ever do. The league’s got to look at this.”

-- Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“I’ve felt for years a lot of guys turn their back when they’re going to be hit to draw a penalty. They know you can’t hit them when they turn their back.”

-- Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers.

“I’m not naïve, I have seen it and it is happening. At the same time. ... I’ve seen an awareness [about boarding and head shots] where you’ve seen guys, I don’t want to say necessarily pass up a hit, but not go for the big hit when a guy is vulnerable.”

-- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

“Yeah, it was [my] game of the year actually [against the Winnipeg Jets]. [Johnny] Oduya did that. [He] had the puck on the boards and I had him lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and he rimmed [the puck away] and then as soon as I got there he turned his back and I had to come to a complete stop and I couldn’t finish him.

“It’s really difficult. The game’s so fast, once you start thinking about, 'Oh man should I make this hit, maybe I shouldn’t make that hit,' it’s not good -- especially for a guy like me who needs to make those hits to be an effective player."

-- Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo.

There were more than a few people who felt Alex Burmistrov might have turned away from Kris Letang Monday night in Winnipeg which drew a two-game ban for Letang. I don't think he did, but as long as the doubt exists, it will be an issue -- not in his case specifically, but league wide.

Herein lies the essence of all the naysayers to the systematic changes. You are threatening to take away an integral part of the sport. Again, nobody that I have seen has said they don't want to remove hits to the head, etc. They are unnessary, let alone very dangerous. 

The more timid players get for fear of a suspension, the less hitting you'll see in the game, obviously. That's the fine line.

But the integrity of players is being comprimised. Intentionally turning your back to either avoid a hit or draw a penalty? It's in the same vain as flopping, but worse, in my opinion. These are changes that are needed to the game, however the effort could be undercut by those looking to gain an advantage. It's a dicey situation, to be sure.

That brings us to Michael Buble. You know him, he's the guy who just hasn't met you yet. Where does he fit in the picture? Well he just happens to be a co-owner of the Vancouver Giants and considering he's Canadian, he knows some hockey.

Here's what Bublé told AOL Music.

"I find it hypocritical that men who made their money fighting or playing the tough guy are now telling people it shouldn't be part of the game. I think it's part of hockey -- no one's ever got killed fighting. I think there's got to be atonement on the ice. You take a shot at a team's best player, then you need to pay the price,"

"I honestly can't stand what's happening in hockey right now. I don't think the players know what they can and can't get away with. I obviously think the players should have more respect for each other when they hit each other, but I saw [NHL head of player safety Brendan] Shanahan suspend a guy two games for high sticking. That's just crazy. It can't go on like this."

He sounds very Don Cherry-esque there. Really. When I first saw what he said, I just thought the story was quoting Cherry's season-opening rant on Coach's Corner that got him in so much hot water. It's basically the same argument, except it comes from a guy who doesn't have a history of being a polarizing figure (or a history of awesome outfits).

Buble continued, though, by offering up his solution to the problem.

"They need a third party. You cannot have someone who works for [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman making disciplinary decisions. Nor can you have someone who is part of the players' association. You have to have a third party who has nothing to do with either. So it's fair and balanced," he says.

"The game has never been as good -- its fast, it's exciting. But hockey has also never gone through a time as tough as this with these young guys who were fighters who have taken their own lives," he adds, acknowledging the subtext of the uproar."

This isn't the first time that the idea of a third, neutral party as judge has been thrown out there. It won't be the last, either. If the controversy surrounding the suspensions keeps up, it will be another point of contention in the growing list of them for the CBA negotiations that are set to start in earnest around the All-Star Game.

I like the idea of a mediator, if you will, but it wouldn't be without its questions, too. How well does the person really understand hockey? Are they really neutral? You have to think that even if said mediator does enter the picture as a truly neutral party, it won't stay that way. It is only natural to begin forming opinions that shape your thoughts, no?

Of course, not all players see this change as being so difficult. For somebody like Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman, it's a matter of respect for your opponent. I caught up with him earlier this season and here's what he told me regarding the new rules.

"For me I don't think it changes anything. I think the rules, the way they tweaked the rules and the way they changed it, that's the way it should be played," Wideman said. "I think when some one has got their back to you and they are in a vulnerable situation, you should lay off.

"We shouldn't have to change the rules. We shouldn't have all these suspensions. There has got to be that respect. I like what [Shanahan] has done and as long as he hopefully keeps it going and hopefully the guys start protecting each other a little more."

I was always told you can wish in one hand and, well ... do something in the other and see which comes true first. The fact is that it's not an easy transition, neither for the players nor for the sport. If it were as simple as saying "no more dangerous hits" it would have been eliminated years ago.

But as you can clearly see, the integrity of the game remains an issue. Hitting is such a fabric of the game that an official stat is kept just for it at every game you go to. It's a physical sport and hockey players are a typically tough breed. They and their fans by in large take a lot of pride in the physicality of the game. Scars are often badges of honor.

Fact of the matter is this is and will remain a very divisive issue. Players bating others into hitting them illegaly only compounds it. Players will always find ways to circumvent the rules, look for their shortcuts. The same applies here.

You work on one thing, that brings up a whole new second thing to work on, yada, yada, yada, the beat goes on. It makes progress pretty difficult at that point.

More NHL Discpline News Here

Photo: Getty Images

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