Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:16 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 12:12 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.
Thanks to their 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with the Florida Panthers 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Winnipeg Jets, for the time being, are in first place in the NHL's Southeast Division and occupy the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
This is incredible, and to mark this moment we remind you once again that we could very well see the return of the Winnipeg Whiteout this season. And what a thing of beauty that would be.
Sure, the Panthers still have games in hand, but the two teams also meet two more times this season and with the current nature of the Southeast Division (everybody stinks, apparently) it's certainly possible for now. And that makes them the big winners for the night.
Some of the others...
1. Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks managed to do what no team has done since Nov. 3 … win a game in Joe Louis Arena as a visiting team. It required a shootout, but Alex Burrows' goal in the third round clinched the win for the Canucks to pull them to within one point of the Red Wings for top spot in the Western Conference.
[Related: Canucks 4, Red Wings 3 -- Wings home win streak ends at 23]
2. St. Louis Blues: In what was a potential first-round preview in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues gained an extra point in a 3-2 shootout win over the Nashville Predators thanks to goals from T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald. The Blues now have a four-point lead over the Predators for the No. 4 seed in the Western playoff race, which would give them the final home-ice advantage spot in the conference.
[Related: Blues 3, Predators 2]
3. Slava Voynov, Los Angeles Kings: Yes, the Kings picked up the goal-scoring help they needed by acquiring Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and that's a huge pickup for a team that is in desparate need of offense. With Jack Johnson going the other way that could mean young defenseman Slava Voynov gets an increased role in Los Angeles to help fill that hole on the blue line, and that makes him a winner for tonight.
[Related: Kings acquire Jeff Carter from Blue Jackets]
1. Toronto Maple Leafs: They not only lost to the San Jose Sharks, 2-1, giving up a pair of goals to Patrick Marleau, the Maple Leafs also fell out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference due to the Panthers gaining a point against the Wild, and the Jets moving back into the playoff picture for the time being.
[Related: Sharks 2, Maple Leafs 1]
2. Ottawa Senators: The Senators didn't play on Thursday night, but they suffered a big loss when it was revealed starting goaltender Craig Anderson was injured on Wednesday night after a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals, sidelining him indefinitely. There's a reason Anderson has played so many games this season, and that's probably because there is a rather large drop from him to backup Alex Auld.
[Related: Anderson sidelined with hand injury]
3. Philadelphia Flyers: Philadelphia has hit a bit of a slump here recently and it continued on Thursday with a 2-0 loss to one of the worst teams in the NHL in Edmonton. The Flyers have now won just seven of their past 18 games and currently sit just one point ahead of the suddenly surging Senators for the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference.
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Posted on: November 30, 2011 1:48 pm
WASHINGTON -- When a team fires a coach midseason, what the St. Louis Blues are doing is exactly what that team is hoping for.
It was 11 games ago that the Blues fired head coach Davis Payne and brought in former Stanley Cup-winning coach Ken Hitchcock to fill his spot. Since then the Blues, once seemingly meandering, are now dominating. How else would you describe an 8-1-2 record under his watch?
They aren't flashy, they don't have any real superstars. So unless you've been paying really close attention, it might catch you by surprise that the Blues sit only one point behind the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild for the best record in the Western Conference. But Surprise! They do.
The team has taken to Hitch like a fish to water. The same can't be said for the Hitchcock to the team. He has been around the NHL a while, but there was still plenty to learn.
"It's been a wee bit of a whirlwind," Hitchcock said. "But at least I know how to get to the rink so I'm doing good." That after getting lost for the first five days on the job.
"I think the two things was that surprised me was that we took two penalties and I didn't even afford myself enough time to put my head up and see who was in the box," Hitchcock said before Tuesday's game. "I knew somebody in our sweater was over there, but I didn't know the numbers. That's when I came home and said, 'Man, I got to get going here.' I would go home and visualize rotations, visualize numbers. I spend at least 30 minutes at home just visualizing how I want to match lines, how I want to get the right people out at the right times."
Well, so far so good. More like so far so great.
"We're starting to dial in and playing the way we need to play to win hockey games," Hitchcock said. "Doesn't matter who's in or who's out, when you play this well it's a good feeling."
Here's where I point out they are doing with defense. Considering who their new coach is, is anybody surprised by that? If you are, you haven't followed Hitchcock's career very much. This could as well be his motto: "The only way you can play defense in the league is you've got to sustain forecheck." That was Hitchcock after Tuesday's 2-1 win in Washington.
The Blues have the best defense in hockey right now. They are allowing the fewest goals per game in the league (2.00). They are only surrendering an average of 25.1 shots per game --including only 19 to the Capitals -- 1.5 shots fewer than No. 2 Detroit.
Statistically, the Blues were already doing a good job with Payne when it came to shots against and overall defense. It's just they are doing even better now under Hitch.
"We're still working through some things," T.J. Oshie said. "Those first few games, everyone is playing for a new coach and everyone's trying to make a good first impression and work hard and it seems like we haven't taken our feet of the gas since then."
One player who has floored it and taken off speeding since Hitchcock arrived is goaltender Jaroslav Halak. In his first season-plus in St. Louis since coming over from Montreal was less than superb. To put it frankly, he was one of the worst starting goaltenders in the NHL.
But check this out. In his last seven starts, Halak has a 1.57 goals against average and .937 save percentage. Now he's almost plays as well as fellow goalie Brian Elliott who has been, without a doubt for me, the most surprising individual player this season.
So when it comes to his goaltenders, Hitchcock doesn't have much to worry about. Just a little concern with Halak.
"The only time that we're nervous is when he has the puck," Hitchcock said of Halak. "So when he has the puck we're all nervous. We've got to fix that. But he's solid, he's been good, both goalies have been great. I trust both of them. But we've got to clean up Jaro when he goes out to play the puck because there's miscommunication there. If we can clean that up, he can have a really big impact on us winning games."
A lot of people think that if you have two goalies you really have none, like the old adage about quarterbacks in football. In most cases, that is true. It's usually because the starter is struggling and a coach is looking for the best fit. In St. Louis they have two because right now neither deserves to come off the ice.
It really seems that Hitchcock is having a really big impact on the entire team winning games. You can't argue with results.
"The first three games felt quick. One of the reasons it did is that, I've never had a card. I carry a card now because I'm still getting used to the players," Hitchcock said. "Here's it's like get behind the bench and get coaching. So I think it's hard. I think it's a lot harder than I said it was and a lot harder than I thought it was."
His team is sure making it look easy.
"I think first game it was pretty simple," Oshie said about the change in coaches. "Getting pucks behind the dmen and getting as many shots on the net and things like that. We're still working a few things out. Other than that, it's going really well."
Hard to argue.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 23, 2011 10:44 am
Edited on: November 23, 2011 1:29 pm
By: Adam Gretz
In the closing seconds of his team's 3-2 win in St. Louis on Tuesday night, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was issued a two-minute minor for cross-checking T.J. Oshie face-first into the boards. At first glance, during real-time and on the normal broadcast view, it didn't look to be anything out of the ordinary, other than your run-of-the-mill cross-checking minor.
From the second angle, it appeared to be a little worse, with Doughty hitting a vulnerable player into the boards in a dangerous spot. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after the game that Oshie should be OK.
On Wednesday the NHL announced that Doughty has been fined $2,500 for the play.
Here's a look at the video, via The Score:
Andy Strickland spoke with Doughty following the game as he offered his point of view on the play, saying, “I thought he turned at the last minute, I was just trying to finish my man. I saw him take a peak and maybe I should have done a shoulder hit as opposed to a cross-check but I had no intention of hurting him and I hope he’s OK."
Just last week the Blues had one of their own players, forward Chris Stewart, an otherwise clean player, receive a three-game banishment from the NHL for a similar push into the boards.
More NHL Discipline News Here
Posted on: September 22, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 5:48 pm
By: Adam Gretz
There are plenty of new faces in the Philadelphia Flyers locker room this season, and they are going to have the difficult task of replacing the offensive production that belonged to several of last season's top-scorers that are no longer with the team, including Mike Richards (traded), Jeff Carter (traded) and Ville Leino (free agency). Players like Danny Briere and Claude Giroux are still there to help lead the charge, and big things are expected from 2007 No. 2 overall pick James van Riemsdyk.
The 22-year-old van Riemsdyk is entering his third season in the league and signed a brand new six-year, $26.5 million contract extension earlier this summer, coming off a 21-goal, 19-assist season for the Flyers in 2010-11. Solid numbers for a second-year pro, but it was during the playoffs where he really started to excel. Considering the expensive new deal he signed a couple of months ago, it's pretty obvious the Flyers expect him to continue his development and become a top player in a suddenly re-tooled Flyers lineup. And it's something he should be able to do.
Van Riemsdyk's breakout started during last year's playoffs when he played top-line minutes against Buffalo and Boston, typically against their best players, and finished tied for the team lead in playoff goals with seven. Along with the goals he was arguably the Flyers' best overall forward in the playoffs, making an impact every time he stepped on the ice, even with star players like Richards and Carter still on the roster.
That should continue to be the case in 2011.
He's going to be asked to take on a larger role for the Flyers this season, and as he showed in last year's playoffs, when the game becomes a little faster and goals a little harder to come by, he is more than capable of handling that assignment. Thirty-or-more goals shouldn't be out of the question.
Four more players, in no particular order, that could be on the verge of a breakout season…
T.J. Oshie, Blues A former first-round pick by the Blues in 2005, Oshie has had his ups and downs in St. Louis, including a suspension last season following an unexcused absence. He's reportedly shown up to Blues camp in top shape and has apparently dedicated himself to becoming more of a pro. Talent has never been an issue for the 24-year-old Oshie, and now that he appears to be in great shape and committed to becoming a top player, a breakout season could be right around the corner.
P.K. Subban, Canadiens With Andrei Markov's status for the start of the season up in the air due to a setback in his recovery from a knee injury, as well as the departure of Roman Hamrlik and James Wisniewski, Subban could quickly become the top offensive option for the Canadiens along the blue line. And the flashy 22-year-old definitely has the tools to make a huge impact. He's kind of a polarizing player at this point in his career -- among both fans and players -- and seems to have that "love him or hate him" attraction, but there's no denying the ability and upside. As a rookie he scored 14 goals to go with 24 assists, which is impressive enough, but he's capable of doing even more damage to opponents.
Colin Wilson, Predators There is perhaps no team in the NHL that relies on its farm system more than the Nashville Predators. This year's team has a couple of interesting youngsters including Nashville native Blake Geoffrion, who scored six goals in 20 gameas last year, and Craig Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2009 that had a sensational summer at the World Championships and the recent prospects tournament. There's also former first-round pick Colin Wilson who has a ton of talent but has yet to fully realize it at the NHL level. Entering the final year of his entry level contract, this could be the season the 21-year-old forward becomes the player the Predators anticipated when they selected him at the top of the 2008 draft.
John Carlson, Capitals Like Subban, Carlson is coming off an excellent rookie season with the Capitals and has All-Star level potential. He already has experience playing top-pairing minutes -- he also saw time in every situation, including the power play and the penalty kill as a rookie -- and is loaded with offensive ability. One of the top young defensemen in the NHL and figures to be a core player for one of the best teams in the NHL.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 17, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: September 17, 2011 11:19 am
By: Adam Gretz
MORE CROSBY CONFUSION It was announced on Friday that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, still recovering from a concussion, has been cleared to skate in non-contact drills. Helping to add to the confusion that's already out there regarding his comeback is that his medical team is apparently not on the same page. Ted Carrick, a chiropractor that has been observing Crosby for the past month, appeared on a Pittsburgh radio station (WDVE) on Friday and said that he's as ready for contact as any other player in the NHL, which would be the first time we've heard such a report, and one that seemingly goes against everything his other doctor, Michael Collins, as well as the Penguins team doctors are saying. Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review has more on the story.
OSHIE APPEARS IN TOP SHAPE St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie had an up-and-down season a year ago, going through a team-imposed two-game suspension following an unexcused absence. He was committed to making the team forget about all of it, and it seems that he is off to a good start, having appeared to Blues camp in great shape and acing the teams conditioning tests. Said Oshie, via Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "I just wanted to prove to them after everything that happened that I've matured and have grown up." In 49 games last season he scored 12 goals to go with 22 assists.
DATSYUK'S SALEI TRIBUTE Pavel Datsyuk will be honoring his former teammate, Ruslan Salei, who was tragically killed in the plane crash involving the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, by wearing No. 24 during the preseason. That is the number Salei wore for most of his NHL career, including the 2010-11 season which he spent as a member of the Red Wings.
JAGR OPENS CAMP ON TOP LINE The top line at Flyers practice on Saturday featured Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux and James vanRiemsdyk. Jagr signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia this summer after playing the past three seasons in the KHL. Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Jakub Voracek, acquired in the trade that sent Jeff Carter to Columbus, skated on the second line.
Posted on: May 27, 2011 7:32 pm
A few weeks ago we told you about the St. Louis Blues organization and players pitching in to help in the recovery from the tornado that hit St. Louis by donating $20,000 to the relief efforts. They are at it again.
In the wake of the tornadoes that devastated Joplin, Mo., the Blues are holding a food drive on Wednesday. Per stltoday.com:
It's unfortunate the Blues have tragedies to keep getting involved in, but the fact they are helping should be commended. It's a nice gesture and hopefully meeting some of the team members and/or getting a free ticket will be enough to get a few extra people to pitch in.
Here's hoping this is the last time the Blues have to join any relief effort, the people in the middle of the country could really use a break.
-- Brian Stubits