Posted on: December 14, 2011 11:34 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 12:48 pm
By: Adam Gretz
HBO's 24/7 kicked off on Wednesday night, following the two participants in this year's Winter Classic (the Flyers and Rangers) as they prepare for their Jan. 2 showdown in Philadelphia.
Unlike last year's matchup between Pittsburgh and Washington, where one team (Pittsburgh) was playing on top of its game and the other (Washington) was struggling, there was little contrast this time around as both teams came into this year's documentary near the top of the NHL, giving most of the episode an "all is well, everything is cool" sort of feel.
It was difficult to find any real adversity for either team until the end of the episode when Claude Giroux's concussion was featured. It was obvious right from the start that it was't going to be good, and while we didn't get to see anything involving Giroux's time in the quiet room after the collision, we did get a brief glimpse of the Flyers trainer telling coach Peter Laviolette that Giroux simply wasn't feeling like himself.
A few quick takes on Episode one...
Episode one MVP: Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
He wasn't featured all that much, but wow did Ilya Bryzgalov make a first impression. His only two appearances were a brief stretch early in the episode that was nothing but him spending a minute talking about the size of the universe and space, and how it makes everything that happens on Earth, as well as our solar system, seem so insignificant. "Just be happy," he said.
Later, he was presented with a rare bottle of Russian liquor that featured a picture of a Tiger on the bottle, and he then went into a discussion about how there are so few tiger species left in the world and how it is illegal to hunt them.
An entire episode that simply follows him around for a day would be pure insanity.
Four moments that stood out
1) The mini-brawl that was sparked by the shooting gesture of Rangers forward Artem Anisimov against the Tampa Bay Lightning last week had a big part in the episode, including him pleading his case to the officials in the penalty box, why he did it, and the sight of him apologizing to his teammates in the locker room for putting his team at a disadvantage. When asked where he learned it, Anisimov sighted an unnamed player he played with in Russia that used to do it after big goals and how it always fired the crowd up. He said he always promised himself that he would do it if he scored a big goal in the NHL. Apparently that goal was big enough.
When asked if he was "shooting at the goalie," he simply smiled and said "Just reloaded my weapon."
2) The New York Rangers pay for dinner on the road by putting all of their credit cards in a hat and then pulling them out, one at a time, until there is only one card remaining. And that's the person that gets stuck with the bill.
3) The Philadelphia Flyers post-game victory celebration in their locker room? Dancing to the song "Knock Knock" by Mac Miller. Very bizarre.
4) Perhaps the best, nicest moment of episode one: Rangers captain Ryan Callahan giving his grandmother a kiss after scoring a goal in his hometown of Buffalo and bringing a tear to her eye.
The unnofficial F-bomb count
If you had Flyers coach Peter Laviolette as the first person to drop an F-Bomb, you win the prize, as he let loose with four of them in an eight-second span in the shows opening minutes.
The unofficial final tally (by my count): 44
John Tortorella F-bomb count (again, by my count): 11
Biggest complaint of the night
Needs more Bryzgalov.
More 2012 Winter Classic News Here
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 10, 2011 10:04 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 10:28 pm
By: Adam Gretz
When we last left the Flyers and Lightning, there was quite a debate raging on about Philadelphia's "stall tactics" in an effort to beat Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 neutral zone trap. Heading into Saturday's rematch the biggest question being asked was whether or not we would see a repeat when the teams faced off at the Wells Fargo Center.
Maybe it was because they didn't want to put their home town fans to sleep, or perhaps because the strategy resulted in a loss and their worst offensive showing of the season, but the Flyers made no such attempt on Saturday on their way to a 5-2 win over the Lightning. For Tampa Bay it was its sixth loss in the past seven games, and while Philadelphia ended up winning on the scoreboard, it suffered two pretty big losses in the injury department as Claude Giroux and Ilya Bryzgalov both left early with injuries.
Giroux, who entered the game as the NHL's leading scorer, had to exit during the second period when he fell to the ice and took an accidental knee to the head from his teammate, Wayne Simmonds. He did not return. He's been Philadelphia's best player thus far and and an early front runner in the race for league MVP. He did manage to add to his league-leading point total before leaving the game with a pair of assists, including a helper on a power play goal by Simmonds in the second period.
Bryzgalov's injury doesn't appear to be serious and he seems to have been held out as a precaution, and when asked if he's "day-to-day," he replied, "probably hour-to-hour."
It's been a costly week in the injury department for the Flyers, as Chris Pronger and Brayden Schenn are both out indefinitely due to concussion-like symptoms.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 12:16 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 12:37 pm
By: Adam Gretz
One of the most anticipated matchups of the regular season finally takes place on Thursday night as cross-state rivals Pittsburgh and Philadelphia face off at the Wells Fargo Center. These games are always a highlight of both team's schedules, and usually involve some level of on-ice chaos.
This time around, it's the first meeting between the two teams since the Flyers' dip into the free agency pool over the summer that included their signings of former Penguins Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot.
Talbot was a playoff hero for the Penguins in recent years, scoring two goals in their Game 7 win over the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, helping the team claim its third Stanley Cup title. There was also his famous silencing of the crowd in Philadelphia earlier that postseason following his fight with Daniel Carcillo in a Game 6 series clinching win.
And the there's the Jagr angle. He is still the second greatest player in franchise history, and a large part of the first two championships the team won in the early 90s, and all of that is going to get overshadowed for the foreseaable future, or at least as long as he wears the Flyers orange and black, because of what happened over the summer.
By now, you're probably already familiar with how it all went down, but if you're not, a quick refresher: After spending three years playing in the KHL, Jagr was ready to make a return to the NHL and the Penguins were one of the teams interested. What followed was a highly publicized free agency courtship between them and the Detroit Red Wings, before both teams ultimately backed out of the bidding with Jagr signing a one-year pact with Pittsburgh's fiercest rival, essentially burning every bridge that wasn't already burned when he asked for a trade out of Pittsburgh 10 years ago.
And with that, the stage is set for Thursday night, even if it seems to mean more to the fans of the two teams (especially the Penguins fans) than it does for the players on the ice.
Three talking points heading into Thursday's game:
1) Matchup with Jagr more for Penguins fans than Penguins players: Regarding the Penguins' first meeting with Jagr since his signing with Philadelphia, defenseman Brooks Orpik said, via Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review, "I think this whole thing is more for the fans. I've been here the longest of anyone, and I've never played with him. Had one training camp with him — that was it."
And that's probably accurate. When Jagr last suited up for the Penguins, players like Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and James Neal were all under the age of 14. Defenseman Simon Despres would have been 10 years old, and none of the players on the roster played a single game with him in the NHL.
After they missed out on Jagr, the Penguins ended up signing veteran forward Steve Sullivan who has spent most of this season playing on a line with James Neal and Evgeni Malkin. He hasn't been Jagr, but he's been solid with 12 points in 28 games.
2) With Jagr, the Flyers can still score ... a lot: Two months into the season and Jagr has proven he can still play at a high level, even at the age of 39, averaging a point-per-game with nine goals and 13 assists in his first 22 games this season, playing mostly on a line with the NHL's current leading scorer, Claude Giroux. The additions of Jagr and Talbot were part of a summer-long re-tooling by Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, and while it seemed that goaltending would finally become a strength (or at least, no longer be a glaring weakness) with the addition of Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes, it's the offense that's continued to carry the Flyers, even in the absence of defenseman Chris Pronger.
The Flyers, at this point, have silenced any doubt as to whether or not they have enough offense following the losses of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino to compete for a top spot in the East, currently putting the highest-scoring team in the NHL out on the ice. Giroux has been everything the Flyers could have hoped that he would be at their top-scoring option, while rookies Matt Read and Sean Couturier have played large roles.
3) Sidney Crosby Isn't Playing And Nobody Knows Why: When the Penguins announced on Wednesday that Sidney Crosby will miss the next two games (including Thursday's game in Philadelphia) it was assumed that it was a result of his center ice collision with teammate Chris Kunitz. And while that wouldn't have been good news, it would have been better than worrying about whether or not it was a head injury. But that may not be the case. As Mike Colligan of the Hockey Writers pointed out on Thursday, Crosby took several hits during what was an extremely physical game with the Boston Bruins on Monday, including an elbow from David Krejci (poor video quality by clicking here). Because the Penguins were so vague with their description, saying only that he "took a hard hit," and because NHL teams guard injury information like it's gold in Fort Knox, we're left to guess as to which play has him sidelined "as a precaution."
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Tags: Adam Gretz, Boston Bruins, Chris Kunitz, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, David Krejci, Detroit Red Wings, Evgeni Malkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Bryzgalov, James Neal, Jaromir Jagr, Jeff Carter, Jordan Staal, Max Talbot, Mike Richards, Paul Holmgren, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Simon Despre, Ville Leino
Posted on: December 8, 2011 12:15 pm
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Posted on: December 4, 2011 4:20 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2011 6:43 pm
It's about time we start taking the New York Rangers seriously, wouldn't you say?
The view in the Eastern Conference is that it's the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins followed by every other team. While that's still the case -- I mean, they have combined to win two of the last three Stanley Cups -- there has to be a setting at the table for the Blueshirts, no? (Yes, Flyers fans, Philadelphia too.)
It's amazing to think about a team from New York being overshadowed. Teams all across Major League Baseball wish that were possible in their sport. But this Rangers team is rather quietly just chugging along. The latest steamrolling effort came in Tampa, where Brad Richards returned to one of his favorite places and helped the Rangers take down his and coach John Tortorella's former team, the Lightning, 4-2.
Since losing to the Ottawa Senators 5-4 in a shootout on October 29, the Rangers have gone 12-2-0. They won seven straight games before dropping two on the road and then have since reeled off five wins in a row since being shutout by the Panthers on Nov. 23.
And how about Richards, the big acquisition in the offseason? In the most recent five-game winning streak he has four goals and five assists. Looking at the team's last nine games, Richards has points in seven of them. The only two he didn't get on the score sheet? The two losses.
Don't think he didn't savor a win in his old stomping grounds. From the New York Daily News.
I don't think anybody that's in the organization or is a Rangers fan is too unhappy these days.
The problem in recent seasons in New York certainly hasn't been the goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist has been outstanding in recent seasons and could have been a Vezina Trophy winner at some point if he had a little more offensive help. Let's be honest, team success is helpful in winning individual awards and the lack of offense wasn't helping the team achieve a whole lot of success.
But things are finally clicking. It's no wonder the Rangers have won 12 of their last 14 games. In six of their last seven wins, the Rangers have scored at least four goals.
Marian Gaborik is back to scoring like he did before coming to New York. He has a team-high 12 goals. It would appear he's beginning to thrive again now that there is somebody else -- Richards -- to take a good chunk of the spotlight and expectations off of him, somebody to share those heavy burdens with.
Start spreading the news, the Rangers aren't leaving any time soon.
The other team in New York, the Islanders, have been anemic when it comes to scoring goals. The offense has been horrible all season long. So of course they became the first team this season to have one of its players score four goals in a game.
The Isles needed all four scores from Matt Moulson on Saturday in Dallas, his final tally of the night being the game-winner.
"They [John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau] really gave me some good chances, all I had to do was sweep it into an open net," Moulson said. "The win's the biggest part. Score as many goals as you want, but the win's the most important thing."
The win in over the Stars caps off a very successful four-game road trip for the Isles. They picked up seven of the eight possible points, the only point missing came in Friday's shootout loss to the Blackhawks.
Yes, there is actually a hint of optimism on the Island again after another brutal start.
Good to have Gabby back
Bruce Boudreau's debut as the Anaheim Ducks coach was eerily reminiscent of his debut with the Capitals for years ago. His team was playing the Flyers, built a three-goal lead before losing it and going to overtime. The only difference was the Capitals won that game four years ago while a double minor in overtime cost his Ducks dearly as they lost in overtime.
But Boudreau had plenty of positives to take from the game, most notably the team's effort.
However it's what he said after the game that really caught my eyes and made me grateful Boudreau is already back in coaching. Having familiarity with the Flyers from his time in Washington, Boudreau said he was anticipating what Philly would do.
“I knew exactly what Philly was going to do,” he said. ”I knew the guys that were going to dive and they did. They got away with it. The only one that didn’t get away with it was [Wayne] Simmonds. It looked like he got shot. And he went down until he start peeking and no one was calling it and then he had to get back up.
“[Scott] Hartnell looked like he’d gotten shot by a bazooka. He didn’t miss a shift and then he comes in and scores the tying goal.”
Props for dropping a bazooka reference on us, Bruce. The implication is that the Ducks didn't really deserve all of the penalty minutes they accrued to contribute to the loss.
I'm sure Philly fans will love Boudreau as much as Rangers fans after this.
While the first leg of the Flyers' back-to-back was all about the opposing team and its new coach, the second leg was about one of the Flyers players.
For the first time this season, Ilya Bryzgalov started both ends of a back-to-back, and it's probably no coincidence that it involved playing in his former city, Phoenix (or Glendale, if you'd prefer). They saw the Bryzgalov they came to know and love, too.
The Flyers goalie was sharp enough to allow just two goals and lead his new team over his old team with a 4-2 victory.
"I was walking in the building, and I can't explain what I felt, but it's something," Bryzgalov said about his return. "I played here three-and-a-half years. Winning lots of games, losing lots of games. Part of my soul is left here.
"I was surprised if they were going to boo me because I don't think I deserved it. I think I did lots of good things for this city and for this team and same thing. They did lots of good things for me. I really appreciate everything they've done for me."
He shows his appreciation by beating his old team. Nice (we kid).
This is how you make people believe you're for real.
The Florida Panthers just made a quick cross-country trip for games in Los Angeles and San Jose. While they lost 2-1 to the Kings on Thursday, they outshot and pretty much outplayed the Kings.
On Saturday they went into San Jose and fell down early to the Sharks. The Panthers stormed back in the second period and eventually won the game 5-3. It was the first time this season the Sharks lost a game when scoring the first goal.
As is becoming common again, there were even a few plastic rats on the ice, even in California.
Of course, it was the top line of Kris Versteeg-Stephen Weiss-Tomas Fleischmann doing the damage again after Versteeg missed the Kings game with a bad neck.
Now the Panthers begin their third consecutive week (!) as the Southeast Division leaders by welcoming Tomas Vokoun and the Washington Capitals to Florida on Monday. Still quite stunning.
This is as great of a run as we've seen in hockey in a long time. The Bruins just finished reminding the Toronto Maple Leafs who the boss of the Northeast is. After beating the Leafs earlier in the week in Toronto, the B's took care of the Leafs a second time, this time back in Boston, 4-1.
With the win, the Bruins haven't lost in regulation since Oct. 29. That's an entire month (14 games) of earning points in every game. The only non-two-point game was the shootout loss to the equally hot Detroit Red Wings on Black Friday.
There are a lot of heralded players on the team. One of them, David Krejci, just received a big extension from the club. Another guy that could soon be getting a nice new contract is Chris Kelly, and he'd be on the unheralded side.
But his goal on Saturday, the game-winner, was already his 10th on the season. He came in to Boston as more of what people love to call a "role player." (Resisting urge to rant ...) Now he is only five goals from matching his career high of 15, which he set twice with the Senators, most recently in 2009-10.
We'll have more on the Bruins later this week from Adam Gretz, but this is one helluva run
Quote of the weekend
There were a few candidates this week. We shared them already, lines from Richards, Bryzgalov and Boudreau.
Like a lot of other players this season, Kovalchuk was booed in his visit to the 'Peg. What were his thoughts on the matter?
"They should support me, maybe I'm one of the reasons they moved here." Ouch. Sorry, Atlanta.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Brian Stubits, Bruce Boudreau, Chicago Blackhawks, Chris Kelly, Dallas Stars, David Krejci, Florida Panthers, Henrik Lundqvist, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ilya Kovalchuk, John Tavares, John Tortorella, Kris Versteeg, Los Angeles Kings, Marian Gaborik, Matt Moulson, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, P.A. Parenteau, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Scott Hartnell, Stephen Weiss, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tomas Fleischmann, Toronto Maple Leafs, Wayne Simmonds, Weekend Wrap, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: December 2, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 8:42 pm
It's tough to find a position in sports that lends itself to streakiness more than goaltender in hockey. For some reason, most of them fail to maintain an even balance throughout the course of a season -- Tim Thomas' consistently spectacular play notwithstanding. There season charts resemble roller coasters tumultuous enough to turn even the heartiest rider's stomach.
L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick isn't immune to the turbulence. In the opening month of the season, Quick was absolutely phenomenal. He turned in three consecutive shutouts in mid-to-late October. For his work, he was given a day off on Oct. 25 and that good mojo seemed to vanish.
In his next seven starts and nine of 11, he surrendered at least three goals. Instead of being a large part of why they were winning early in the season, he became a large part of why they were losing. It was a quick reversal of fortunes, if you'll pardon the pun.
But like any streaker -- we're still talking goalies here -- he has reversed course again. Entering Saturday's matinee against the Montreal Canadiens, Quick comes in on a tear. Thanks to a shutout of the Sharks and a nearly flawless 41-save showing against the Panthers, Quick has stopped 74 of the last 75 shots he has seen. Go back a little further and he has actually saved 84 of the last 85 shots.
Here's what Pierre McGuire told an Ottawa radio station about how good Quick was in Thursday's win. "If the kings don't have Quick Florida wins that game. Kevin Dineen's team dominated with speed game".
Yes, he's back on his game. It really is no coincidence, then, that the Kings enter their game against the Habs having earned points in seven of their last 10 games.
They really need him to be the good Quick this season. The Kings have high hopes for this season. Many, myself included, saw them as legitimate threats in the Western Conference race this season. Despite the addition of Mike Richards to some other talented offensive players like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, the Kings aren't going to do a whole lot of scoring. As of now, they are 24th in the league in goals per game with 2.32.
So much more than other goalies, when Quick is playing poorly it shows.
Assuming he'll get the start on Saturday, he'll have a chance to extend his already league-high shutout mark of four. The Canadiens haven't been very good this season, that's obvious. But moreover, they have really struggled on the road. You have to go back four weeks to Nov. 4 to find the last time the Habs won a road game in regulation.
In Kings terminology, that was near the beginning of the bad Quick days.
As a bonus for L.A., if the Kings are victorious, coach Terry Murray will have his 500th career victory.
The Bryz is back in town
When the Flyers visit Phoenix on Saturday Ilya Bryzgalov's arrival will be highly anticipated by the local crowd for the second time this season. Earlier this year he made his first trip to Winnipeg, a city he wasn't too fond of possibly moving to once upon a time. He didn't play in that game.
Now Bryzgalov returns to Phoenix, the city where he did play and left this past offseason. It was with the Coyotes that Bryz built up his reputation as one of the better goaltenders in the league before taking a bigger pay day with the Flyers.
This will be the second time Bryzgalov has faced his former team this season. Before the first meeting in Philadelphia, some of his former teammates had some less-than-kind things to say about Bryz. Derek Morris even admitted to being glad that Bryzgalov was gone.
Everybody knows the Coyotes don't draw a lot of butts to the seats. But this game should have a few more tickets purchases not only because of the abundance of Flyers fans who will be there -- rest assured, they will be -- but likely from a few of the Coyotes fans who just want to boo. Or thank Bryzgalov for his time there. Take your pick.
Welcome back, Bruce
We hardly forget ye.
Anaheim Ducks' coach Bruce Boudreau (looks weird) will make his debut with his new team on Friday with the Philadelphia Flyers in Southern California. One thing we know we'll see, at least to start the game, will be the reunion of Bobby Ryan with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on the top line.
In his final days as coach, Randy Carlyle had been trying to mix and match, trying to find the best results and cure the woes the lack of depth was causing his team. Boudreau, however, restored the top line to its old self and will try to make due.
Remember, when he arrived in Washington he didn't inherit a Caps team with a lot of depth. It was a very similar situation, actually, with some highly skilled forwards. They soared under his leadership. Will the same happen in Anaheim? We'll get the first glimpse on Friday when the Ducks host the Flyers.
Too bad HBO hasn't begun the 24/7 filming yet and depriving us a chance of more Boudreau, if only in a very small sampling.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
In this case, the ranch would be Washington, Boudreau's old stomping ground.
The Capitals enter the third game of the Dale Hunter era still searching for their first win. If the third time's the charm, it will have to come at the expense of the Ottawa Senators, who visit the Caps on Saturday.
They are badly in need of a win, for their confidence if nothing else. The Caps have lost four games in a row and seven of their last nine. They have fallen -- get this -- five points behind the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division, and that's even with the Panthers leveling off in recent weeks.
There has been a whole lot of difference so far for Washington, but they do appear to be focusing more on defense again and the effort has appeared to be better. But right now they just need a win.
Still searching Part II
Carolina Hurricanes new coach Kirk Muller is in the same boat as Hunter, 0-2 in his NHL career behind the benches. His task, on paper at least, looks a bit tougher than Hunter's.
That's because the 'Canes will host the high-flying Penguins on Saturday night. Not exactly the team you want to see when trying to bust out of a slump.
It has to start with getting the defense squared away. In the Hurricanes' current five-game losing streak, they have given up at least three goals in each game. Tomas Kaberle isn't working out, that's no secret. But that's only part of the defensive woes. The unit continues to leave Cam Ward high and dry in net behind them.
Nobody told Muller this was going to be easy.
More to prove
The St. Louis Blues have been ridiculously good since Ken Hitchcock came aboard. They are 8-1-2 under his leadership.
But Hitchcock is still delaying his excitement for the team's play until their next stretch of games. Starting with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, they will begin playing teams for a second time. That's when you can start to draw some conclusions.
"We're going to get a push," Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "You can surprise a team, but we're now playing a second wave. When we start playing the Chicago's and Detroit's again, now we'll have a look. They'll be ready for us. They won't be surprised by our game
What's shocking about it all is that by the end of the weekend, the Blues -- 14th in the West when Hitchcock was hired -- could be leading the Central Division. With their crisp and disciplined play, that's certainly a possibility.
We're going streaking!
New York Rangers: It took them a few games to get going at the beginning of the season, but when they got going, boy did they. John Tortorella heads back to Tampa Bay with the Rangers having won four in a row.
Blues: In addition to Saturday's game against Chicago, they play the Avalanche on Friday night. That's where they take their four-game win streak.
Detroit Red Wings: All this team does is streak. No seriously, look at their schedule. Like the Blues, they have two games over the weekend, Friday in Buffalo then Sunday at Colorado.
Canadiens: Already mentioned, the Habs go into Los Angeles on Saturday having lost four straight.
Capitals: See above: Caps have lost four in a row headed into Saturday date with Senators.
Hurricanes: Currently at five losses in a row, the Penguins visit next. Ouch.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Anze Kopitar, Bobby Ryan, Brian Stubits, Bruce Boudreau, Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Perry, Dale Hunter, Derek Morris, Detroit Red Wings, Dustin Brown, Edmonton Oilers, HBO 24/7, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jason Chimera, Jonathan Quick, Ken Hitchcock, Kirk Muller, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Randy Carlyle, Ryan Getzlaf, St. Louis Blues, Terry Murray, Tomas Kaberle, Washington Capitals, Weekend Preview
Posted on: November 22, 2011 1:33 pm
WASHINGTON -- The Phoenix Coyotes are a little more like another inhabitant of the Southwest, cockroaches. They just won't go away -- speaking both of on-ice ability and relocation. They can survive anything, it seems.
Lose Ilya Bryzgalov? That's alright. Kyle Turris refuses to play for them? They survive.
"It's no secret we don't have an [Alex] Ovechkin or a [Nicklas] Backstrom or a superstar guy like that who's going to get us 50 goals or 150 points," defenseman Keith Yandle said before Monday's game against the Capitals. "It has to be a collective effort in our locker room for us to win games."
There have been some constants through it all in recent seasons, namely coach Dave Tippett. I hesitate to give too much credit to coaches in sport, I believe they are given way too much credit or blame for a team's successes or failures, but it's hard not to praise Tippett's work in Phoenix. As Yandle points out, there is no superstar on this team (Paul Bissonnette's Twitter fame doesn't count here). The closest they come is probably Yandle himself, or veteran Shane Doan.
That's where Tippett comes in. It's starting to look like no coincidence that Bryzgalov's career took off when he began playing under Tippett in the desert. The same is happening now with Mike Smith, the goaltender they signed to be the No. 1 guy despite no track record of being that in the past. He is performing well enough to have the low-scoring Coyotes hanging in the early going with the Pacific Division heavyweights.
It all comes back to the system. Eye On Hockey cohort Adam Gretz looked at the numbers of the Tippett system a ways back and you see the drop in production hasn't been that drastic from Byzgalov to Smith.
"Unless our goalie stands on his head or something like that, or we get a couple of fluke goals, we have a tough time winning if we get out of our system," Yandle said. "That's why our coaches put it in play and they know that's how we have to win.
"Here's the thing with our team: I feel like we get better as we go along. As soon as everybody, so called, buys into the system and does what the coaches want us to do, I think we're a lot better team. It might take us a few games to do that but I think we're on that path. Just taking it in stride right now and trying to do what the coaches want us to do and I think we've been getting better every game."
While the system isn't failing the Coyotes, perhaps the "system" is (that's an attempt at a segue, folks., emphasis on attempt) You know, the system that continues to leave the team's future in the clouds as it remains under NHL control?
Because of that uncertainty -- or probably it's the simple answer that Phoenix just isn't a hockey market -- the Coyotes don't really get the feel of a home game often. If ever.
"We play a road game even at home," Tippett laughed.
You don't need me to tell you the Coyotes don't draw well. This season they are again at the bottom of the league in attendance. So then it should come as no surprise that Phoenix is pretty good on the road.
"We play a pretty simple game. We're expected to compete hard," Tippett said. "You go into a road game, you got to make sure you have your details are good, you're playing the game strong and smart and finding ways to win. That's kind of the way we've been on the road. I think we do the same thing at home, but I think our road stats are a little better right now."
Yandle had a slightly different idea on why they fare well away from the desert.
"We're just the type of team that plays a road-style game where it's just ugly and you try to take crowds out of it," he said. "We try to work a team and not do anything fancy. Maybe on the road we're not trying to impress anyone, we're just trying to play our game to the fullest."
Of course, no story on the Coyotes would be complete without a real mention of Doan, the lifelong Jet/Coyote. For most teams, the last players on the ice for practices and morning skates are the scratches, guys who need a little extra work. For Phoenix, the last player off the ice every time is Doan.
"He's probably one of the best captains of a team I've ever seen around," Tippett said. "He has total respect from his teammates. His attitude and work ethic toward the game is phenomenal. This organization is the only organization he's really known, so he's the been the cornerstone here and he carries that label very well. True face of our franchise and true leader of our franchise."
Doan is third on the team with six goals and six assists. He's first in longevity. He is one of those players that fans often romanticize about, somebody who plays his entire career for one organization. While he still has a few years to go at age 35, it's tough to imagine him up and leaving at this point.
As I said, some things just don't change for this franchise.
Then again, maybe the name Coyotes does fit. After all, Wile. E. Coyote could withstand whatever the Roadrunner did to him.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 19, 2011 6:11 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 11:41 am
By: Adam Gretz
We were all kind of curious to see how the Jets faithful would welcome Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov on Saturday afternoon after his comments last year about not wanting to play in Winnipeg (comments he apologized for heading into the game). As it turns out, Bryzgalov did not play during Philadelphia's 6-4 loss, but Jets fans were prepared to give him a hard time anyway.
One young fan held a homemade sign during warmups with the words "Boo Bryzgalov" written in big, bold letters. After seeing the sign on his way off the ice to the locker room, Bryzgalov responded by giving the young man a hockey stick.
Said eight-year-old Donovan Collier to the Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press, "I made the sign because he said we have no parks and we have terrible winters. I think it was very nice of him to give me his stick."
Indeed it was.
Sergei Bobrovsky ended up getting the start between the pipes for Philadelphia and allowed five goals on the 39 shots he faced. Winnipeg's sixth goal was scored an empty net. The Jets raced out to an early 5-1 lead but had to hold on in the closing minutes. In the two games these two teams have played this season they've combined to score 27 goals, with the Jets also taking the first game in a 9-8 thriller back in October.