Tag:2012 Winter Classic
Posted on: January 1, 2012 11:25 am
Edited on: January 1, 2012 5:56 pm
 

Bryzgalov says Bobrovsky starting Winter Classic

By Brian Stubits

Ilya Bryzgalov had possibly the greatest goalie masks I've ever seen made especially for the Winter Classic. He has been largely seen as the MVP of HBO's 24/7 series. But he's not going to start when the big game begins on Monday in Philly.

While Flyers coach Peter Laviolette hasn't announced who his starter will be and Sergei Bobrovsky wouldn't say, Bryzgalov had no problems about releasing the team's plans.

"I have great news and even better news. OK, great news is I’m not playing tomorrow night," Bryzgalov told the gathered media. "Better news is we have a chance to win the game tomorrow night."

That's why so many people enjoy Bryzgalov. The self-depricating humor and refreshing soundbites. So I think that news will make a lot of people disappointed, Bryzgalov included.

"Yes, I did ... of course, I said yes. I'm a human. I'm not made from the steel. But it is what it is, I had a good practice today again like yesterday and two days ago. We just keep moving forward and have lots of games in front of us, lots of hockey. I heard it was still main goal in Philadelphia to win the Stanley Cup and prepare for this."

So that means the start will go to Bobrovsky, who started Philly's last game, Thursday's win over the Penguins.

The question everybody wants to know from The Universe -- Bryzgalov's new nickname -- what will his mindset be tomorrow? You know you'll never get a classic, cliched quoted with Bryz -- thankfully.

"Make sure I not forget early in the morning my thermos, put some iced tea and enjoy the bench," Bryzgalov quipped.

Later on Sunday Bryzgalov sent a tweet with a photo simply labeled "My thermos."

It's a touch disappointing for Bryz to not be playing from a fan perspective but it's pretty easy to see why Laviolette would start Bob. In three of his last four starts, Bryzgalov has given up at least four goals including five in his most recent start, Tuesday in Tampa Bay. On the season his goals against average is 3.01 and he has a save percentage of .890. Flat out, he just hasn't been getting it done recently. So in that regard, it's no surprise.

It's a reminder that no matter how big the hype is around the Winter Classic, it's just another game in the 82-game regular season.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:25 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Central the center of the action

By Brian Stubits

Earlier this week, the St. Louis Blues visited Joe Louis Arena and battled the Detroit Red Wings in one of the better games of the season. In it, the Wings came back from a two-goal deficit and stung the Blues 3-2.

That was just on Tuesday. Apparently it was so good, they're going to do it again this Saturday, same arena and all.

Two teams playing each other twice in one week isn't rare in hockey. Happens a lot of weekends actually with home-and-home series. But playing twice in one week in the same city? Unless we're in the playoffs, not that common. But the Red Wings won't mind, I'm sure.

In hockey, home-ice advantage doesn't compare all that well to home-court advantage in the NBA, for example. Most teams fare better at home, but it's not as much of a lock as basketball. However for the Red Wings, it is. After beating the Blues on Tuesday, Detroit has won 11 consecutive games at the Joe. Overall this season, the Wings are 14-2-1 at home.

And they want to get rid of that place, huh?

Then again, it's probably a lot more about the team on the ice than where the ice is located, huh? I mean any team that has Pavel Datsyuk has to be good.

The three-time Selke winner and Russian stick wizard took the first-star honors after Tuesday's win, scoring a goal on a fantastic redirection and setting up Detroit's first goal of the game.

The year began a little slowly for Datsyuk -- he didn't score his third goal of the season until No. 19 -- but he's back to old tricks. For the most part, I mean that literally for that's what you think you're seeing when Datsyuk is playing the puck, trickery. He's been in the NHL since 2001 but he still leaves people amazed.

Detroit will be looking for a bit more of that amazing this weekend. Obviously their battles with the Blues have grown this season with St. Louis taking off under Ken Hitchcock. The two teams are separated by only one point in the standings and it sure seems like neither team will go away this season. So all of the head-to-head games are big with the points up for grabs.

If the rematch comes close to being a repeat of the meeting earlier this week, it might still be one the best game this weekend.

Friday night's alright in the Central

That's not the only big interdivision matchup in the Central Division this weekend. Both the Blues and Red Wings have massive matchups on Friday night, including the season's first Blackhawks-Red Wings matchup.

Hard to believe that the Oilers and Wild have already played each other six times while the Blackhawks and Red Wings have yet to renew acquaintances, but that's the case. Until Friday, at least.

This is the matchup in a very good Central. The two top dogs, big rivals and true Stanley Cup threats. It begins Friday in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the Blues will be tangling with the Nashville Predators in what has become a very nice -- or should I say not nice? -- rivalry in its own right.

These two Friday night showdowns pit four of the West's top six teams against one another (Nashville is tied with the Sharks and Kings with 42 points). More importantly, they are all fighting within the same division.

It's going to be a great weekend of hockey in the Midwest.

B's buzzing

At this point it's beyond absurd. The Boston Bruins are in the middle of one of the best stretches in the history of the NHL, and that's not hyperbole. In their last 24 games, Boston is an astounding 21-2-1, including the current seven-game win streak they take to Dallas.

In that time they have obliterated opponents. Eleven of those 21 wins were by a margin of three goals or more. By anybody's definition of dominant, the Bruins fit the bill.

Now they head to Dallas to face the Stars and get a glimpse of an old pal in Michael Ryder. The Stars forward was part of the Stanley Cup champs last season before migrating to Texas in the summer. The Bruins he played for were very good obviously, but not even that team was ever this great.

Of the many amazing things about the Bruins, one is the fact that not one of their players appears in the top 30 of the NHL in points. You have to go to No. 33 on the list to find Tyler Seguin. That's all in spite of the fact that the Bruins have the most productive offense in the league with 3.47 goals per game. Talk about balance. As Stars center Steve Ott would say "look at NHL.com."

Classic tuneup

While the Philadelphia Flyers are already back in the City of Brotherly Love and waiting to play in Citizen's Bank Park on Monday for the Winter Classic, their foes are making one stop in sunny South Florida first.

The New York Rangers, fresh off a 4-1 loss in Washington to the Capitals, would love to take a win with them into Philly for the game, so they'll take a crack at the Florida Panthers. It's the third meeting between the two teams this season, the most recent a Rangers demolishing of the Panthers in Madison Square Garden. The first meeting came in Sunrise and went to the Panthers.

The good news for Florida is that Stephen Weiss is a game-time decision. The top-line center has missed the past couple of games while the Panthers have made due with almost two lines worth of AHL forwards.

The game is just about as big for the Panthers as it is the Rangers. Florida has been atop the Southeast Division for most of the season, but the Winnipeg Jets have crawled to within four points of the 'Cats for the division lead.

Happy New Year!

Typically, the Winter Classic has been the first game played in the new year in recent seasons. Not this year.

Because of the final Sunday of the NFL season falls on Jan. 1, the Winter Classic -- and majority of the NHL schedule -- has been pushed back to Monday, Jan. 2. But one game will be played on Sunday.

The Calgary Flames will visit the Predators and the two will have the (meaningless) honor of being the first teams to play in 2012. Ring it in, boys.

We're going streaking!

Here are the streaks, good and bad, entering the weekend. Not a whole lot.

Bruins: As mentioned, take that seven-game win streak into Dallas.

Vancouver Canucks: The other Stanley Cup Finalist last season is almost as hot as the Bruins. The Canucks have won three in a row and seven of the last 10. They have a date with the Kings in L.A. on Saturday.

Phoenix Coyotes: Phoenix heads to face the Minnesota Wild as losers of four straight games. The good news? The fourth-place Coyotes are still only two points behind first-place San Jose in the Pacific.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:10 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 12:14 pm
 

Rangers success has Lundqvist shining brighter

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Thanks to HBO, we all learned a little something extra about New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist: he plays in one awesome jam band.

In the second episode of the great behind-the-scenes show, Lundqvist was followed on a day off to a studio where he was seen playing right beside American tennis legend John McEnroe and Jay Weinberg, son of Max Weinberg, on the drums.

How does a Swedish hockey player end up playing alongside such a group of guys?

"You live in New York, play there a few years obviously you're going to run into people," Lundqvist said. "John McEnroe, I've been running into him a bunch of times. He's a hockey fan and I'm a tennis fan. So we've been talking about playing music together. I said finally this year, 'Let's do it, let's do something fun.' We're doing a charity event in February, rock it out a little bit.

"Then the drummer Jay Weinberg, I met him at a Bruce [Springsteen] concert in Sweden actually, when his dad was playing. It's fun. If you play in New York you get to meet a lot of interesting people, sometimes people that you admire and respect a lot, so it's a great place."

So add musician to things we already knew about Lundqvist, such as his stellar fashion sense. Oh, and the fact that he's a damn good goalie.

We know that because New York isn't just a great place to live, it's a great place to play when you're playing for a Rangers team like this.

"So far it's been a good year," Lundqvist said. "It's been fun, it's been fun."

That usually happens when you are fighting for the top spot in the conference with every game you play. Sure beats the alternative of the past few seasons where the Rangers were fighting for the eighth spot in the East instead of first.

Make no mistake about: The Rangers have grown as a team. They have a young core of players that is only going to get better -- as a side note, watch out if Brandon Dubinsky regains his scoring form that he's beginning to show again -- and they had a pretty notable upgrade to the scoring this summer with Brad Richards in free agency. They are a very good group of skaters.

But Lundqvist has been and still is the straw that stirs the Rangers drink. He has earned the right to be referred to as an elite goaltender, and not just because he plays in New York. He's been that good in recent seasons for the Blueshirts. Without him, you wonder if they make the playoffs as often as they have. OK, I'll save you the wondering -- they don't.

But now he has help.

"I mean the reason why we're in pretty good shape in the standings is not that we're that much better than everybody else," Lundqvist said, "but it's that we've been consistent in how we play and how hard we have to play, so that's been paying off for us."

One of the ways that they play is a commitment to blocking shots. Defenseman Dan Girardi has been near the top of the shot-blocking list in the league the last couple of seasons and team captain Ryan Callahan isn't afraid to get in the way of a puck either. In the first period of the Rangers' 4-1 loss to the Capitals on Wednesday, Callahan was credited with four blocked shots, one of them actually led to a Dubinsky goal, giving Callahan an assist. He then was a mad man during a later penalty kill, scrambling and diving all over the ice, getting credit for three blocks in one shift.

"Guys take a lot of pride in that [blocking shots]," Lundqvist said. "You have a style. We have to play hard and we have to block shots, it's part of our game. Guys are doing a great job of that.

"To play well as a goalie you want to feel the support from the team in front of you. It helps if you have a good structure, you know what's going on and what type of chances are going to come up."

Well, it's working, because Lundqvist is playing as well as he ever has. In his case, that's saying something. Through 26 games this season, Lundqvist is on pace for career bests in save percentage (currently .936) and goals against average (1.95 per game).

Maybe that has something to do with coach John Tortorella's plan to play Lundqvist less this year, too. Only once in the past five seasons has Lundqvist played less than 70 games -- last season with 68. He was up there with the likes of Miikka Kiprusoff for biggest workhorses in the league. Now backup Martin Biron is being asked to and is carrying some more of the load. Rather well, too.

Before he took the loss against the Caps, Biron had a 7-1-0 record in his spot duty with a 1.84 GAA and .933 save percentage. That makes it a lot easier for the Rangers to stick to the plan this year and play Lundqvist around 65 games or so, possibly even a few less.

"I'm trying to get used to not playing as much. Last few years the plan was for me to play around 65 games, around there. It hasn't turned out that way," Lundqvist said. "We're [he and Biron] a good team. Benny [Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire] and Marty work well together, push each other to work hard."

Well whatever it is, it's working.

The funny thing this season is that everything seems to be coming together for the Rangers. The spotlight was turned up on them this season anyway thanks to the Richards signing and all else they are experiencing this year.

"It's been a fun year. It's been an interesting year starting in Europe and then HBO and the Winter Classic coming up," Lundqvist said. "It's been a lot of ... I don't want to say distractions ... fun things going on. Things we don't normally see in a normal regular season. It's been a fun experience. I think we all look forward to the Winter Classic here as well.

"But it's good for us to have these different things happening during the year, learn to deal with it. It could be a distraction, it hasn't been one for us. We've been focused on what we have to do, with all the travel starting the year, the HBO, Winter Classic coming up. So, it's a test for us to maintain our focus on the games."

As he said, they've done that. He's done that.

But they're all hoping to have a lot more fun by season's end.

"It's still so early, but I'm happy with the way I've been playing so far, but there's a long way to go here," Lundqvist said. "We definitely raised the bar this year though. Our goal is to play in June. That's our goal."

If this is the Rangers' year, maybe Lundqvist can get the band together for a big show on the streets of Manhattan this summer.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:04 am
Edited on: December 29, 2011 12:09 am
 

24/7: Flyers-Rangers Episode 3

By: Adam Gretz

When Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and Dallas Stars forward Steve Ott had their little "shoving" match after the first period of a recent game the first thing that popped into my mind was, "I can't wait to hear what was actually said on the next episode of 24/7."

As it turns out, and it's probably not much of a surprise, the actual encounter was pretty lame and consisted of nothing other than Ott telling Laviolette to wait for the remainder of the Stars bench to head into the locker room, and Laviolette telling Ott to "go [expletive] yourself" two times. WIth a couple of shoves thrown in for good measure. In other words, it was just another day at the office for Steve Ott as you can be darn sure that's not the first time those words were spoken to him by an opposing player or coach during a game.  

It's no wonder the NHL didn't fine either participant: nothing happened.

Episode 3 of HBO's 24/7 probably wasn't one of the best ones in the series over the past two seasons. We had an opportunity to see a lot of the players hanging out with their families over the Holiday break, including Rangers forward Brian Boyle as he went home to spend time with his 12(!) brothers and sisters. There was an ugly sweater party, probably not unlike the ones you've had at work, and we also watched as Marian Gaborik awkwardly carried a massive Christmas tree over his shoulders through the streets of New York in an effort to get it back to his pad.

Three moments that stood out

1) Episode 3 focussed the Flyers-Rangers game at Madison Square Garden last week, which the Rangers won, and we were able to get a good listen to all of the trash talk that takes places on the ice and on the bench during a heated rivalry game. The best line of the night came from Rangers forward Brad Richards in response to Flyers call-up Tom Sestito, whom had been chirping the Rangers bench and talking about how he was going to knock all of them out. Said Richards, "This is fantasy camp for you," an obvious jab at Sestito's status as a call-up from the American Hockey League.

2) That game also gave us an opportunity to get a quick glimpse at the War Room in Toronto that keeps an eye on every single game taking place in the NHL and handles all of the questionable goal reviews that come up in a given night. During the second period of the Rangers-Flyers game Ruslan Fedotenko's goal had to be reviewed to make sure the puck actually went in the net (it did) and we managed to get a look at what can only be described as a dream job for a hockey enthusiast: a wall of massive HD flat screen TV's with nothing but hockey games taking place ... and one TV that, for reasons unknown, happened to have a close up angle of a dog.

3) The unquestioned star of the first two episodes, we had to wait nearly 49 minutes before we had our first real look at Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, and like many of the players, was seen celebrating the holiday with his wife, two children and his now-famous (after the previous episode in the series) Husky that he referred to as "a hot girl, man."

I'll say this, he wasn't lying about the dog: it is a sharp looking animal.

More 2012 Winter Classic News Here
24/7 Flyers-Rangers Episode 1
24/7 Flyers-Rangers Episode 2

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

Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Empire State Building dons Flyers, Rangers colors

By Brian Stubits

The Empire State Building is getting a mini makeover for one night in the name of the Winter Classic.

If you are around Manhattan on Wednesday night, take a look to the sky. New York's most famous building will take on the colors of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers just a couple of blocks from the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.

Philadelphia will have a tinge of the Classic too.

Here's the description from the NHL.

NEW YORK -– As the countdown to the 2012
Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® continues, the New York City and
Philadelphia skylines will shine in celebration of the much-anticipated
outdoor match-up between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers on
Wednesday, December 28.

     The Empire State Building’s world-famous tower lights will shine in
Rangers and Flyers colors on Wednesday evening.  The east/west sides of the
building, with west facing Madison Square Garden, will be lit in the
Rangers’ Blue, Red and White, while its north/south sides, with south
facing the City of Philadelphia, will be lit in the Flyers’ Orange and
White.

     In Philadelphia, the PECO Main Office Building’s iconic Crown Lights,
which display scrolling text around the top of the 23rd and Market Street
building, also will celebrate the Rangers, Flyers and 2012 NHL Bridgestone
Winter Classic on Dec. 28 with scrolling text in recognition of the outdoor
match-up between the two storied teams.  The Crown Lights will also display
2012 NHL Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic text on Thursday, Dec. 29 and
Monday, Jan. 1.

Pretty cool and it's good exposure for hockey in New York City, literally a billboard high in the skyscrapers of Manhattan and Philadelphia. Now if the could just put the Winter Classic logo below it on the Empire State Building they'd really be on to something.

The timing is a slight bit odd. Might have made more sense to change the colors last Friday when the Flyers and Rangers played their tuneup down the street. But it does coincide with the third episode of HBO's 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic tonight.

Plus, far be it from hockey people to complain about any kind of attention.

More Winter Classic News Here

Photo: NHL.com

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

Posted on: December 26, 2011 4:50 pm
 

Winter Classic weather forecast isn't promising

By: Adam Gretz

Worrying about a weather forecast a week in advance isn't always the best idea. Weather changes, forecasts change (or are wrong) and what's projected today might be completely different later in the week. But if you have tickets for next Monday's winter classic in Philadelphia between the Rangers and Flyers you should probably start digging out your ponchos and umbrellas.

According to the latest weather forecast for Philadelphia on Monday, Jan. 2, we're looking at the possibility of temperatures in the low-to-mid 40's and a 60 percent chance of rain.

Excited yet?

And this, of course, is the largest (some would argue only) problem with scheduling an outdoor hockey game in January. Especially in a region/climate like Pennsylvania. It could be in the single digits with snow, or it could be in the 40's or 50's with rain, which is what we went through last year during the New Years Day game in Pittsburgh between the Penguins and Capitals.

That game had to be pushed back from a 1:00 PM ET faceoff to a primetime drop of the puck because of rain. Much of the game was played through a steady rain shower and the conditions were far from ideal (not that an outdoor hockey game in a baseball or football stadium would ever produce ideal conditions).

Again, we're still a full week away, but it's a situation worth watching, and it sounds like Dan Craig, the NHL's ice guru, is once again going to have his work cut out for him.

More Winter Classic News Here

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

Posted on: December 26, 2011 1:34 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Marc Staal takes another step in return



By: Adam Gretz


Marc Staal was able to take another major step in his return from a concussion on Monday morning when he was not only cleared for contact, but was also able to take part in a full practice with his New York Rangers teammates.

Said Staal, via Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record, "I totally felt fully confident going on the ice and taking some hits. There was no doubt in my mind it was the right thing to do."

Staal, the Rangers' best defenseman, hasn't played in an NHL game since last April due to post concussion syndrome. The concussion is believed to have happened during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes in February when he was on the receiving end of a hit from his older brother, Eric. Marc ended up missing a couple of games immediately after the hit, but ultimtely returned to the lineup. The severity of the injury wasn't fully known until he reported to training camp this season.

At this point Staal hasn't ruled out playing in the Jan. 2 Winter Classic at Philadelphia, but also knows that it's important not to rush himself back into the lineup.

In his four NHL seasons Staal has scored 20 goals to go with 61 assists and is currently in the second year of a five-year contract that pays him an average annual salary of $3.975 million. Without him, the Rangers have raced out to a 21-8-4 start and enter the week on top of the NHL's Atlantic Division.

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

Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:45 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:00 am
 

24/7: Flyers-Rangers Episode 2

By: Adam Gretz

Episode two of HBO's 24/7 showed us two very different sides of Rangers head coach John Tortorella. On one hand, we saw the type of intense, expletive-filled rants and speeches in the locker room that we expected to see in an effort to get his team moving. That's what happened during the first intermission of a recent game against the St. Louis Blues that the Rangers eventually lost.

But we also saw his softer side, as his relationship with a 10-year-old Rangers fan with cerebal palsy by the name of Liam Trainer was highlighted. The two met through the Rangers' Garden of Dreams Foundation, and Tortorella's face lit up when speaking about him and how he's kept in contact with him. The Rangers even gave him an early Christmas present by setting he and his family up with tickets for the Jan. 2 Winter Classic in Philadelphia.

"I'm glad he's part of my life," said Tortorella.

It was nice to see that Tortorella is more than a hockey coach that screams at people on the ice and, away from the rink, can be more than willing to give back to his community.

Episode two MVP: Flyers coach Peter Laviolette

I'm giving it to Laviolette for this season, and this reason only: How many times have you, as a fan, watched your team play a game in Montreal and get called for a penalty that leaves you saying, "they only got that call because it's in Montreal."

If you haven't said it, you've probably thought about it at some point. Well, you're not alone, and coaches react the same way you do. After Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr was tripped as he carried the puck into the offensive zone (with no call) the play went down to the other end of the ice and resulted in a slashing call on Flyers rookie Sean Couturier. Laviolette was livid and started screaming "Typical Montreal" at the officials. He did this multiple times, even after he left the bench.

I also like how he edits himself when talking to referees. Instead of dropping F-Bomb's with the officials during that exchange he made sure he said "frickin'", and then proceeded to let loose with his expletives once back in the locker room.

Three moments that stood out

1) Speaking of referees, one of the interesting angles provided this week was footage of the referees locker room after the first period of the Rangers-Coyotes game (the one that ended with Brad Richards' goal with 0.1 seconds remaining in regulation) as they discussed an incident involving Rangers forward Mike Rupp and Coyotes forward Raffi Torres. I realize the show is focussing on the two teams, but the referees and their involvement in the game is a pretty huge part of it, and I wouldn't mind seeing a bit more from them.

2) After the series debut last week we all wanted more Ilya Bryzgalov, and we got him this week. It appears that his teammates have started to refer to him as "universe" after his speech about how it is "so humongous big" while others joked that they would be sure to never kill a tiger after he explained how it's illegal and will result in the death penalty in certain countries. But we also had some fresh moments for the, let's say unique, Flyers netminder.

For one, he reads Tolstoy while on the plane, and he also compared his husky to a beautiful woman saying, "My husky, she's basically a hot girl, man."

When talking about how crazy it is to play goalie in the NHL and put himself in front of shots every night, Bryzgalov suggested that it's the defensemen in front of him that are crazier.



You know what? He's not wrong.

3) We learned just how young some of the Flyers rookies are. How young? Couturier, a 19-year-old rookie and first-round draft pick from this year, lives in the extra bedroom of Danny Briere's house, and that he is closer in age to Briere's three kids than he is to Briere himself, his teammate. We also learned that Zac Rinaldo is amazed that he gets to play on the same ice as Jaromir Jagr, which impresses him because he used to be able to play with Jagr on Sega Genesis as a kid growing up.

More 2012 Winter Classic News Here
24/7 Flyers-Rangers Episode 1

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

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