Posted on: December 17, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:03 pm
By: Adam Gretz
It had been a couple of days since the NHL went through a coaching change, so it was probably time for another one. On Saturday morning the Montreal Canadiens announced that head coach Jacques Martin has been relieved of his duties and will be replaced on an interim basis by Randy Cunneyworth for the remainder of the season.
The Canadiens will be in action on Saturday night at home against the New Jersey Devils. They enter the weekend with a disappointing 13-12-7 record which puts them in last place in the Northeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, two points out of the No. 8 seed. Crushed by injuries all season, especially along its blue line where the team has been without one of its best players, Andrei Markov, from the start, as well as several other key players at various teams, Montreal struggled out of the gate losing seven of its first eight games.
That slow start made assistant coach Perry Pearn the early-season sacrificial lamb, which really did nothing more than buy some additional time for Martin behind the bench.
This was Martin's third season as Montreal's coach, and during his tenure with the team compiled a 96-75-25 record. During his watch the Canadiens qualified for the postseason in each of his full seasons with the team, with the high point being the 2009-10 season when the team made an improbable run to the Eastern Conference Finals behind the stellar goaltending of Jaroslav Halak, eliminating the No. 1 seed Washington Capitals and defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, both in seven games.
Last season Montreal exited in the first round, losing a game seven to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
Replacing him behind the bench for the remainder of this season will be the 50-year-old Cunneyworth. A former player in the NHL for nearly two decades, Cunneyworth was hired as the coach of Montreal's AHL team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, prior to the 2010-11 season.
This is already the sixth coaching change to take place since the start of the regular season, as Martin joins Davis Payne (St. Louis), Bruce Boudreau (Washington), Paul Maurice (Carolina), Randy Carlyle (Anaheim) and Terry Murray (Los Angeles) as coaches to take the fall for their teams early season struggles.
More on the NHL's coaching carousel here
Photo: Getty Images
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 5:09 pm
Let's call this the Ilya Bryzgalov tour of fun.
It started with Bryz facing his former team on Thursday night, the Phoenix Coyotes. His old pals still in the Phoenix red? Let's just say not all of them had flattering comments to make about their former netminder.
There was Derek Morris (no, not THAT Derek Morris) talking about how Bryzgalov gives up soft goals. He even went so far as to say he's glad Bryzgalov is gone and Mike Smith is in. Adrian Aucoin wasn't the most complimentary either.
In the end Bryzgalov got the last laugh with a 2-1 win. Afterward he was only complimentary of his ex-squad.
"It's my former team and not an easy team to beat," he said.
That was Step I, reunion with the team he used to play for. Step II is visiting the city he could have played for, but never would have on Saturday afternoon.
You remember earlier this year, before the Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets, don't you? Most of the speculation was that the Coyotes, not the Thrashers would become the Jets. So Bryzgalov was asked for his thoughts on the matter and considering he's usually always candid, the response he gave didn't exactly sit well with the 'Peggers.
Here is what he said in April.
Think the people in Winnipeg forgot about that? Of course not. After all, there is no excitement except the hock ...
Bryzgalov remembers it too, and he did back off a bit on Friday.
"I didn't mean it and I didn't want to offend anybody," Bryzgalov said (from Ted Wyman at the Winnipeg Sun). "I'm pretty sure it's good people, beautiful people live in Winnipeg. I'm pretty sure it's passionate fans. I didn't mean it to be honest. That's it."
Since returning to the NHL this season, the Jets fans have enjoyed once again the art of goalie taunting. No doubt they will serenade the goalie with "Illlll-yaaaa" chants all game long, but they could have just a little more juice in store. A popular Jets fan forum has taken to posting sign ideas for fans at the game. I'm envisioning a WWE event or ESPN College Gameday site with signs all over in the crowd. Make it happen Winnipeg.
Of course, with all of the anticipation in Winnipeg for the chance to boo and jeer Bryzgalov, it will probably be Sergei Bobrovsky that starts.
As far as the game on the ice is concerned, the Jets are playing better hockey these days and have been getting the habit of knocking off some of the traditionally stronger East teams at home. They come into the game against the Flyers -- the top team in the East at the moment -- having won the last two home games, both against teams in the playoffs last year (Capitals and Lightning). They also knocked off the Penguins at home early in the season.
When you add in the absence of Jaromir Jagr for the game and it won't be a walk in the park (get it?) for Bryzgalov and the Flyers.
Back on track
It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Canadiens were in disarray. They were off to their worst start in more than 60 years. Assistant coach Perry Pearn was fired. Jacques Martin seemed to be only a couple of losses away from meeting the same fate.
Since an October 24 loss to the Florida Panthers and the subsequent dismissal of Pearn, the Canadiens have very quietly rebounded. I mean, when have you known the Habs to do anything quietly? They have posted a 7-3-1 record since that game and have climbed within three points of the division-leading Sabres.
The natural connection to make is to see the team has done well since firing Pearn, so that must have something to do with it. While I don't want to completely dismiss the idea -- there could be some credence to the belief that it was a "wakeup call" for the Habs players -- it probably is more coincidental than anything. Montreal just happened to have a rough patch at the beginning of the season.
This is where I caution you not to get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. The Canadiens have evened themselves out and are at .500 (if we treat OT losses as ties). Of course, that doesn't mean Martin's seat isn't still hot, it's just not scalding at the moment. He's been passed by Scott Arniel and Paul Maurice in the hot seat rankings.
We will get a better idea of which team more closely resembles the truth: the one that started the season or the one that is 7-3-1 of late. That's because they will go up against arguably the hottest team in hockey on Saturday night. What the Rangers been up to lately? Oh, they're just on a seven-game win streak.
Roller coast of tough love
Speaking of highs and lows, check out the Detroit Red Wings. Talk about a roller coaster of emotion.
The Wings came out of the gate winning their first five games. They followed that up with six straight losses before rebounding with four consecutive wins. Now they have lost two in a row. Pretty amazing for a team to be 17 games in without anything but a streak.
Overall, they have lost five in a row on the road.
"It's tough, nothing that we want to do," said Henrik Zetterberg of the road losing streak. "We have another chance Saturday [in Los Angeles] to turn it around."
That will come on Saturday afternoon against an on-the-up Kings team, 4-1-0 in their last five.
"Do we want to be a good team or not?" coach Mike Babcock said about what will be the subject matter of a team meeting (Detroit News). "Life doesn't just go on good for you. You make a decision it's going to go good for you. You decide for yourself you're going to be successful. You decide for yourself that you're going to make a difference and have a good career. No one just gives you stuff.
"The other teams are trying to. We have to make some decisions."
Ovie debate continues
Alex Ovechkin is drawing a lot of heat these days, and unfortunately for him it isn't over goal celebrations.
At first glance, his numbers don't seem bad (seven goals and seven assists in 17 games) but this is Ovie we're talking about here. Obviously a lot is expected of him.
Right now he is struggling. And, maybe as a result, the Capitals are struggling. Are the two connected? Somewhat. Obviously No. 8 is a big part of the Caps. They especially need more than one goal in a five-game span, such as his current stretch.
So what better place than Toronto for Ovechkin and Washington get find their confidence again? Since James Reimer went down, the goaltending in Toronto has returned to its pre-Reimer state: atrocious. Moreover, Ovechkin has always put up good numbers at the Leafs' place, scoring 23 goals in 23 games there.
It would help ease some of the increasing hysteria in "the nation's hockey capital" if he and the Caps could bust out the scoring stick again in a Hockey Night in Canada showcase.
How much more for Maurice?
That's becoming a popular question in NHL circles right now. Is Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice one or two more losses away from being fired?
Something's gotta give right now in Carolina. The 'Canes have lost six of seven and their star player, Eric Staal, is still struggling to make much of an impression. This was supposed to be a year of progression, not the other way around. After just barely missing the playoffs last spring, the hopes were that the 'Canes would again contend for the postseason as presently constructed.
It would probably go a long way toward calming the panic that is setting in not only among the fans, but GM Jim Rutherford as well, if they handle the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. As you'll recall, Rutherford has fired Maurice before, he could certainly do it again.
We're going streaking
As the great Lou Brown said in Major League: "Gentlemen, we won yesterday. If we win today, that's two in a row. If we win tomorrow, that's what they call a winning streak. It has happened before."
So with that obvious definition in mind, here's a look at the winning streaks in play.
Flyers: As mentioned above, they play in Winnipeg on Saturday and they enter having won three in a row.
Rangers: Also covered, they have won seven games in a row and take that streak into Saturday's tilt against the Habs.
Ottawa Senators: Yes, the Sens have found themselves on another run, winning three in a row. Their lone weekend game comes on Sunday night in Vancouver.
St. Louis Blues: That's right, that Ken Hitchcock move is working out pretty well. The head to Minnesota having won three consecutive.
Kings: Lastly (boy there are a lot of streaks right now) the aforementioned Kings also take a three-game run into their Saturday game against the Red Wings.
Among the losing steaks, we'll just list the top (or bottom) and that's the Oilers, losers of four in a row.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adrian Aucoin, Alex Ovechkin, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Derek Morris, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Eric Staal, Henrik Zetterberg, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jacques Martin, James Reimer, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Babcock, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Paul Maurice, Perry Pearn, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Weekend Preview, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 10:33 pm
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.
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.
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
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
Tags: Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Brian Burke, Brian Stubits, Bruce Boudreau, Buffalo Sabres, Claude Julien, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Erik Karlsson, Florida Panthers, Hot Stove, James Reimer, Jason Spezza, Jonas Gustavsson, Kari Lehtonen, Kevin Dineen, Michal Neuvirth, Milan Michalek, Montreal Canadiens, Nail Yakupov, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ottawa Senators, Perry Pearn, Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins, Roberto Luongo, Ron Wilson, San Jose Sharks, Sheldon Souray, St. Louis Blues, Tim Thomas, Tomas Vokoun, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Seguin, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Weekend Wrap
Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:31 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 11:04 am
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
Tags: Alex Goligoski, Anthony Stewart, Bakersfield Condors, Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Burke, Brian Stubits, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Daniel Carcillo, Detroit Red Wings, ECHL, Eric Staal, Erik Christensen, Evgeni Malkin, Green Men, Henrik Lundqvist, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jacques Martin, James Neal, John Tortorella, Kris Newbury, Madison Square Garden, Marian Gaborik, Matt Niskanen, Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Perry Pearn, Peter Laviolette, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Callahan, San Jose Sharks, Sean Avery, Sergei Bobrovsky, Sidney Crosby, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Weekend Preview, Wotjek Wolski, Zdeno Chara