Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:52 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:55 am
By: Adam Gretz
There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.
1. Phoenix Coyotes: A 3-0 deficit against Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings seems like like it might be impossible to overcome with the way this season has progressed. Not the case for the Coyotes on Tuesday night as they continued their winning ways with a come-from-behind, 5-4 shootout win. It was their eighth win in the past nine games, and their ninth straight game with at least a point in the standings. It also moves them into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division with the San Jose Sharks, a team that had their lunches handed to them by our next winner, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: In what has become a lost, disappointing season, the Blue Jackets had their most complete and impressive performance of the year on Tuesday night with a 6-3 win over the Sharks. R.J. Umberger completed his first career Gordie Howe Trick scoring a goal, assisting on another and dropping the gloves … all in the first period. And it took him just 4:11 of ice-time to accomplish it. Talk about efficiency.
3. Another high-scoring Jets-Flyers game: Somehow, the Winnipeg Jets had a chance to move into the top spot in the Southeast Division (and the third spot in the Eastern Conference) with a regulation win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
They didn't win, but they still managed to gain a point with a 5-4 overtime loss and move into a tie with the Panthers, which is still pretty amazing. Are the Jets buyers? Sellers? A team that does nothing? Who knows at this point, but they're still in it thanks to the collective mediocrity that is the Southeast Division. But the most entertaining thing here is the Jets and Flyers played another high-scoring, back-and-forth game. In their four-game season series this year the two teams combined for 38 goals. That's an average of 9.5 goals per game in a league where the average game features just 5.46.
It's like 1985 all over again when these two teams get together, and as of now, a first-round playoff matchup isn't entirely out of the question.
We can only hope.
1. The Anaheim Ducks playoff chances: Much had been made of the fact the Anaheim Ducks were only five points out of a playoff spot entering Tuesday night, but here is why it's going to be next to impossible for them to catch up: Even with one of the best stretches in the NHL they're still back to being six points out and are still in 13th after Tuesday. Their best two-month stretch of the season has seen them gain four points and move up one spot in the standings since early December. Those points are just too hard to make up, and a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay doesn't help. They have no margin for error, and losing to a team that's in selling off players every other team and makes the hole they're in even deeper.
2. Calgary Flames: There was one team on the ice on Tuesday night that looked like it was fighting for its playoff lives, and it wasn't the Calgary Flames in a 6-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. These are the points that the Flames need if they're going to earn one of the top eight spots in the West, and this one was a clunker.
3. The New Islanders slow starts: Scoring first is a big deal in the NHL, and no team seems to get off to slower starts on a nightly basis than the New York Islanders. They were down 2-0 just three minutes into Monday's game, and then on Tuesday against Buffalo they fell behind just 1:12 into the first period of their 2-1 loss to the Sabres. It's tough to win games when you're spotting the other team a one-goal lead almost right off the opening faceoff every night.
Goal of the Night: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins.
New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella said this goal by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, his 33rd of the season, was the result of "a dumb play by Michael Del Zotto." His turnover may have led to it, but it's still a big-time move on a play that involved two of the NHL's MVP favorites going one-on-one.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Tags: Adam Gretz, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter, John Tortorella, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, Michael Del Zotto, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, R.J. Umberger, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winners & Losers, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: January 12, 2012 7:04 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 7:08 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Anaheim's Jean-Francois Jacques received a three-game suspension earlier this week for a hit to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger. During Brendan Shanahan's video breakdown of the play and his explanation for the suspension, he noted that Umberger's lack of an injury as a result of the hit went into his decision.
Even though it appeared at the time that Umberger was uninjured, we now know, less than a week later, that he is going to be sidelined indefinitely with a concussion that is believed to have come as a result of that play during Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Ducks.
Umberger was able to play on Tuesday night, Columbus' first game after that incident, and even scored a goal in a 5-2 loss to Chicago. As of Thursday, it's not yet known when he will suit up next for the Jackets.
“It’s a big blow,” general manager Scott Howson told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. “Obviously, R.J. is a big part of this team, and he’s a guy who has always played through a lot of injuries to keep himself in the lineup. But I’m glad he’s taken this step. We’re going to take it slow and handle it the right way, show every bit of patience that is required of an injury like this.”
In 42 games this season Umberger has scored seven goals and recorded 11 assists. He's not only the latest NHL player to go out with a concussion, he's also the latest in a long line of Blue Jackets players to be out of the lineup for any injury, joining a list that already includes Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski and Kristian Huselius.
Previously at Eye On Hockey
Jean-Francois Jacques Suspended
More Columbus Blue Jackets News
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 9:52 pm
As usual, here's Shanahan's video explaining it.
This video has a lot of the same verbage we've heard from Shanny this season. Going into the slot, Umberger can expect a good check, but should not expect one to the head and in this case that was the principal point of contact.
"J.F. hit a player that was vulnerable after shooting the puck, and he needs to be more aware in those situations," Ducks GM Bob Murray said. "We accept the league's ruling and will move forward."
Leading to part of the three-game punishment is the fact that Jacques was handed a suspension in the preseason too.
That was just the first of two hearings on the day for Ducks players. The one a bit more concerning to Ducks fans was a hearing for defenseman Francois Beauchemin for his hit that left Jeff Carter with a separated shoulder.
Shanahan elected to come down with no additional punishment for Beauchemin, be it a suspension or a fine. That's the good news in it all for Anaheim.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 3:47 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson has seemed to be stubborn for stubborn's sake in the early going. At least in public he hasn't been willing to admit the long odds that are facing his Jackets in their attempt to try and get back in the playoff race. Some might even call them astronomical.
Well it's a Festivus miracle, Howson has seen the light. The team as currently constructed isn't going to "flip a switch" -- one of those clichés I hate so much -- and start instantly playing better. They are what their record says they are -- one of those clichés I don't mind -- which is not a good NHL team. Finally Howson will admit that.
Remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery (from Bob Hunter at the Columbus Post-Dispatch).
“This last five-game stretch has given us a little more clarity,” Howson said. “We’re just not good enough as a team.
“The first six or seven weeks of the season, it was too disjointed,” he said. “We had [James] Wisniewski out. We had [Jeff] Carter out. We had [Radek] Martinek out. We had [Mark] Dekanich out. ... It was just too disjointed to get a clear picture. The picture is becoming clearer now. We aren’t playing well enough and ... me as management has to find a solution to help the team.”
So what's the solution then? Howson still believes it's not changing coaches. It's pretty amazing that six coaches have been fired this season and none of them was Scott Arniel, but Howson doesn't seem interested in getting rid of him yet, doesn't believe the coach is the issue at hand.
He has some other areas of focus instead.
“We’re not good enough defensively, first,” he said. “And that’s a team-wide thing. It’s goaltending, it’s defense, it’s forwards playing together as a group. We gave up six [goals] in St. Louis. We gave up four [in Chicago]. We gave up six in Nashville. We gave up six in Edmonton. You can’t win like that. It’s impossible.”
So with the Christmas roster freeze lifted when the clock struck midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, it figures Howson will begin making and taking some calls trying to upgrade his defense. The only problem is that's a lot easier said than done.
But it's not going to stop Howson from trying.
“We’ll be active.
“Everything’s on the table,” he said. “We’ve got to look at everything. We’ve got to seriously look at everything. Now that’s different than saying, ‘I’m going to phone every GM tomorrow and say who do you want, [Rick] Nash, Carter or [R.J.] Umberger?’ but we’ve got to look at the whole situation and we’ve got to consider everything.”
With that, every team in the league collectively began salivating.
If Howson is insistent on trying to upgrade his team via trades this season, he will likely have to dangle one of those big names if he wants to get any serious returns. It's unlikely that James Wisniewski would also be available, after all he is trying to upgrade the back end. Trading away a defenseman you have committed for years doesn't jive.
One concern too will be the fact that the Jackets don't have a lot of flexibility under the salary cap, so that further opens the idea that one of their big-name players like Carter or Nash could be on the market. It's tough to add some quality players without shedding some salary.
There is still plenty of time before the trade deadline so there is no urgency to get moving right now, but what's to gain by waiting? Howson has given the team ample chance to get things going in the right direction after they got all their players back in the lineup. Yet here the Jackets are, losers of six straight games.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:13 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 1:31 pm
The NHL All-Star voting has commenced on NHL.com and as usual, there are some fan campaigns trying to take the process over.
The first attempt to stuff the ballot boxes was launched well before the season even began. Considering this year's game is in Ottawa, some Maple Leafs fans (specifically a blogger from Pension Plan Puppets) had the idea to mock the Senators for their mismanagement over the years and to vote in all of the ex-Sens around the league. Names like Dany Heatley, Martin Havlat, Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa -- each with a good shot to make the All-Star Game to begin with -- are the targets. Even Sens fans are getting behind it.
But the second, most recent campaign that has been launched is from the New York Rangers fan base. They want to see their shot-blocking extraordinaire defenseman Dan Girardi get an honor they feel he so richly deserves. Thus, the #VoteForGirardi hash tag was born.
The New York Rangers Blog has been the driving force behind the movement, begging all the Rangers fans to use up their 30-ballot allotment and do their best to get Girardi an All-Star nod.
Girardi was so far off the radar when the ballot was put together, Girardi isn't even on the list to vote from. If he is going to make the ballot, it will be on a write-in basis.
It's not all that surprising, but Girardi has the support of his coach John Tortorella in his All-Star worthiness.
"This league," Tortorella said. "It's because he's not pedigree. There's no pedigree there. Our league is so ass-backwards when it comes to that.
"It's not just this year that he's underrated. This guy has been a really good player, but if you don't have the pedigree in this league, they don't look at you."
I might say he's not in the running because defense isn't something that translates to All-Star status very well except in the case of goaltenders, but I digress.
The Girardi ballot snub got me to thinking: What is the best starting six you can build out of names that didn't make the ballot cut? Here's my write-in submissions.
Girardi, Rangers: Considering this is the genesis of the idea, Girardi gets a spot. His 42 blocks are tied for the sixth most in the NHL. And his offense is showing this season with three goals and five assists in 16 games.
Jason Garrison, Panthers: Many people don't even know the Florida blueliner, but he leads all defensemen in goals scored with seven. His booming blast from the back has been a revelation for the Panthers.
Jimmy Howard, Red Wings: There are a lot of great candidates here (Brian Elliott, Jhonas Enroth, Mike Smith) but I give the nod to Howard based on the fact that he's been the best of the true starters (Elliott and Enroth have split) with a .935 save percentage and 1.69 goals against average.
How'd he make the list?
R.J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets: Unfortunately, somebody has to be the standout face that makes you say huh? The token choices of Marc Staal and Sidney Crosby jump out considering neither has played a game this season. But I'm going to go with Umberger considering he has one goal and four assists and is a minus-6 in 17 games.
So do your civic fan duty and vote. Just don't forget about that write-in section!
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dan Girardi, Dany Heatley, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Jason Garrison, Jimmy Howard, Johan Franzen, John Tortorella, Kris Versteeg, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, New York Rangers, NHL All-Star Game, Ottawa Senators, Phil Kessel, Project Mayhem, R.J. Umberger, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara
Posted on: September 21, 2011 10:19 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 10:28 am
Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch says the contract calls for $5 million in the first season then $4.5 million for the remaining four years. It also contains a no-trade clause for the first two years, a modified clause for the final three.
“We are pleased that we were able to come to an agreement with R.J.,” Howson said. “R.J.’s commitment to the team and the city has been impactful since we acquired him three years ago. We are very excited about him continuing to play such a large role on our team.”
Umberger has one of the very rare pleasures in hockey of playing professionally in the same city where he played as an amateur, in his case in college. Umberger was a center for the Ohio State University, obviously located in Columbus.
Umberger has played all 82 games in his three seasons with the Jackets, putting up very consistent numbers in that time. Last season he had 25 goals to go with 32 assists, the highest point total of his career.
It is a very generous contract for Umberger, one that Umberger will have to exceed or at least match his numbers from last season to live up to it. The Jackets have been busy this summer, not only getting Nash and signing James Wisniewski, but they also extended Fedor Tyutin and Marc Methot.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: July 24, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: July 24, 2011 1:16 pm
By Adam Gretz
Now that the Columbus Blue Jackets have acquired a No. 1 center, the discussion has shifted from whether they will ever find a player capable of matching Rick Nash's ability on their top line, to whether the player they acquired -- Jeff Carter -- is the right fit.
The concern now is that Carter and Nash might be too similar to complement each other as they are nearly identical players. They both have roughly the same build; they both score a lot of goals; and both take a lot of shots. Over the past three years, they've been two of the top-five goal-scorers in the NHL, while both finished last season in the top six in shots on goal.
Assuming the two are paired on Columbus' top line, somebody is going to have to take on more of a playmaking role because, well, you have two guys that love to shoot and only one puck to go around. The expectation seems to be that Carter, the center, will be that player, and he's been asked about it since being officially introduced to the Columbus media this past week.
AJ Mazzolini put together a story in the Columbus Dispatch on Thursday talking about the expectations Carter will be facing, where he acknowledged passing will have to become a larger part of his game. But should it?
As the center it's easy to assume Carter will distribute the puck more, and while neither player has put up huge assist numbers throughout his career, I think Nash, based simply on personal observation, possesses more playmaking skills and could be a better set-up man on the wing.
Nash has taken on such a shooting role in Columbus for, I think, two main reasons: 1) because, obviously, he's an excellent sniper on the wing, but also 2) because he's been forced to take on such a role.
He's been forced to take on such a role because he's been the only consistent goal-scoring threat in Columbus over the past seven seasons. Since 2003-04, he's been the only Blue Jackets player to score at least 30 goals in a season, while only three others (Antoine Vermette in 2009-10, R.J. Umberger in 2008-09 and 2010-11, and Nikolay Zherdev in 2005-06) have managed to score more than 25 in a season. If he doesn't do it, nobody is doing it.
Not only does Columbus have another option, Nash has somebody else on his line that will also be capable of finishing plays. And Nash brings more to the table than just the ability to shoot. He has vision, he can create space for himself and his linemates, he works along the walls and he even has some touch to his passes. Take this play for example:
He's just needed somebody else to take advantage of all of it.
I don't expect Nash's game to change all that much, but I do think we'll see his performance go to another level. He's going to have a much better player on his line -- perhaps the best player he's ever played with in the NHL -- that is also capable of scoring goals and highlighting his playmaking ability that has gone relatively unnoticed the past seven years.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:24 pm
San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski finished the first weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in solid shape, leading the three other NHL players who particpated in CBSSports.com’s Bracket Challenge.
Pavelski is seventh overall among the 35 celebrity brackets compiled. He got 33 games correct out of a possible 48 and enters the Sweet 16 with 43 points. All of his Final Four teams -- North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Florida -- remain in contention.
That's not a bad start for Paveklski, who also tapped as one of the NHL's three Stars of the week on Monday.
Teammate Dany Heatley and Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller are tied in 16th (39 points), Columbus Blue Jackets winger R.J. Umberger is 34th (37 points.), just ahead of last-place Special K Daley of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Overall, President Obama leads with 49 points, predicting 39 games correctly.
-- A.J. Perez