Posted on: February 11, 2012 1:42 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Sitting on top of the NHL standings with 76 points, the Detroit Red Wings are in a rather familiar position as one of the top contenders to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Always a dangerous team come playoff time, the Red Wings domination on home ice this season has to make them one of the scariest teams to match up with in the postseason if they can secure the No. 1 seed and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
After Friday's 2-1 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks, the Wings pushed their home record on the season to 22-2-1, a mark that only one other team in the league can come close to matching -- their central division rivals, the St. Louis Blues, who currently own a 22-3-4 record on home ice.
As of Saturday afternoon, only five points separate the two teams in the standings while St. Louis still has three games in hand. Seeing as how the two teams are nearly unbeatable on their home rinks but are .500 teams on the road (between them the two teams are 44-5-5 at home, but just 25-26-4 on the road) wrapping up the top spot in the division, as well as what could be the top spot in the conference, has to be a top priority for both clubs.
Given the upcoming schedules, you have to like the Red Wings chances. Detroit is currently riding a 19-game winning streak at Joe Louis Arena, the second longest run in NHL history, trailing only the 20 game runs that the 1975-76 Flyers and 1929-30 Boston Bruins achieved (oddly enough, the Red Wings next home game is on Sunday night against the Flyers).
The incredible thing about Detroit's winning streak at home isn't just the number of wins, it's also that a lot of these games haven't even been that competitive. Of the 19 wins 10 of them have been by a margin of three goals or more, and overall they've outscored their opponents by an 80-27 margin.
They're not just beating teams at home, they're crushing them, and they're in the middle of a stretch that has them playing nine of their next 12 games at home.
The Blues? Eight of their next 12 are on the road.
Unless either team does something to reverse the script that's been written through the first half of this season, this looks like a pretty big opporunity for Detroit to open up quite a lead in the Central Division race.
Photo: Getty Images
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 2:29 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 3:12 pm
When Nathan Horton was concussed last year, he didn't seem all that worse for the wear. Sure, he missed the last four games of the Stanley Cup Finals, but he reported not feeling bad by the time the series was done and the Bruins were champs.
He felt good enough to travel with the team and bring the Bruins some good luck.
This most recent concussion, though? Doesn't seem to be going as smoothly.
Horton has been out of the lineup since Jan. 22 thanks to a hit from Tom Sestito of the Flyers. The B's have been taking his recovery slowly, obviously in no rush to get him back right away. That's one of the benefits of the cushion they have, not to mention the depth.
Unfortunately, even with their cautious approach, Horton suffered a setback on Friday after trying to take to the ice for a solo skate.
“He’s been pulled back,” coach Claude Julien said. “He’s got some symptoms. So we’ve pulled him back. It’s hard for me to come out every day with a step forward, step backward. He’s back to square one. We’re giving him some time here. Those symptoms, once he got on the ice, came back.”
As for what those symptoms are? The usual things you'd associate with a concussion, headaches chief among them.
This is the fickle nature of concussions. Even when you seem to be doing things the right way and taking it slow, you can revert right back to square one, as Julien puts it. The same happened with Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals.
Read into this what you will, but since Jan. 22 the Bruins are just 2-4-0. In three of those six games less than two goals, twice being shut out.
Before the concussion, Horton had 17 goals to go with 15 assists on the season playing on the top line.
Posted on: February 9, 2012 11:30 am
The next edition of the Winter Classic will be held at one of college football's most iconic sites, the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. It's the first time the Classic will be held on a college campus. Previously, three have been held at baseball stadiums and two at NFL stadiums (but to be fair, a college team is a tenant at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field).
The annual outdoor game has seen some of the best sites to host a game in just a short existence. Here's this author's humble ranking of the venues the NHL has picked so far.
6. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh (2011)
The weather was uncooperative as it was rainy and mild. While it did add a neat effect, the game had to be delayed to the night time as well.
But Heinz Field just doesn't have a whole lot going for it on the appearance side. It's just another nice football stadium, really. Not much to create a setting.
I would have loved to see the game at the Pirates' PNC Park, with downtown Pittsburgh just across the river in the background including the Roberto Clemente Bridge. That is one of if not the best view in baseball from a stadium.
5. Citizen's Bank Park, Philadelphia (2012)
Some lamented that Citizen's Bank was just another cookie-cutter baseball stadium for the game, it doesn't have a ton that makes it unique or characteristic. It doesn't have a true flavor.
Still, after delaying the game a couple of hours the weather played along. There was even snow. Although it only came during an intermission, it was a great site to see.
The stadium does have a little visual appeal going for it in that downtown Philly is beyond the centerfield wall, but it's so far away it doesn't feel like you can reach out and touch it like you could in, say, PNC Park.
4. Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo (2008)
The best thing the Bills' stadium had going for it was the snow globe effect. The wind was whipping and the flurries falling, making for a pretty awesome site.
But much like Heinz, there isn't a whole lot that is visually appealing about the stadium itself. It gets a little extra credit for being the first stadium and in a truly cold city like Buffalo.
I think if it weren't the first game and not snowing the way it was, it would be the most forgettable.
3. Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor (2013)
Maybe it's just because I like college football too, but the Big House makes for a pretty great setting.
There isn't anything you can see from the stadium. It's just a massive bowl that is completely enclosed. But I expect the pageantry of college football and the stadium itself will come out. The college campus just adds a cool element to me.
With that said, I can't imagine it will be good for the fans at the game. The seats go up slowly in the bowl, they aren't steep. I can't imagine there will be many good seats for seeing the action.
2. Fenway Park, Boston (2010)
The Green Monster? The Pesky Pole? A relatively small and history-laden stadium? Those are all some great ingredients.
Plus, you know, they got to blast Neil Diamond and sing along. I don't ever really see how that can be a problem.
Boston was a good host and Fenway is a great stadium to take in a game, of any sport. You could just see Carlton Fisk still willing that ball fair while the players sported the eye black. I just loved the shots like the one above with the Monster in the background.
1. Wrigley Field, Chicago (2009)
Was there any doubt? This was as good as it will probably ever get, I think. What can really top it?
Wrigley is as classic as the game of baseball. The ivy on the outfield walls the signature sign, but the rooftop bleachers and city of Chicago in the distance? Just a perfect setting.
While it's cheating a little, the jerseys they were wearing added to the appeal of the game for me. They were by far the best sweaters to appear in a Winter Classic so far.
The stadium on the North Side of Chicago had everything to make for a great Classic.
Posted on: February 5, 2012 4:06 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2012 4:16 pm
As big of a loss as that is for the Caps, seeing Brooks Laich go down in the game is as big of a concern as anything for Washington right now.
In the second period, Laich was playing the puck behind the Bruins net when Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg delivered a check into the boards. It looked innocent enough but there was some contact on the play that pinned Laich's knee against the boards. Moments later he was being helped off the ice and down the tunnel toward the locker room without putting any pressure on his leg.
He came out during a television time out to test the knee but he couldn't go on. He left the arena with a brace on his knee and with the help of crutches.
"I’m not a doctor, but with these things sometimes there’s some swelling ... But I don’t think it’s anything serious," Laich said after the game. "I'll get some ice on it and see how I feel when I wake up."
"He's day to day right now," Caps coach Dale Hunter said after the game. "We're just going to wait and see."
They better hope so. It's no secret that this season the Caps are in a dog fight just to make the playoffs. With the loss today, they remain out of the playoff seedings in the East at the moment. If they are going to sans Laich for any length of time, that makes things even tougher.
The Capitals already have a weakness up the middle with Nicklas Backstrom still on the sidelines since he was hit in the head by Rene Bourque. They can't afford to lose another center like Laich, who is one of their more consistent players and is a big piece for a team that hasn't been scoring much.
The good news for Washington is that despite the loss, they actually outshot an opponent on Sunday afternoon. They had 36 shots to the Bruins' 30, so there's that. Their pace of shooting has been way too low for well over a month now so that's a step in the right direction.
But they need to keep their fingers crossed Laich will be OK. He's a very underrated player for the Capitals, a solid two-way guy that probably every team in the NHL would like to have on their side.
With a win over the Canadiens on Saturday, normally you'd say a weekend split isn't bad. But depending on how Laich comes out of this, it could be.
Hit of the weekend
I'm not sure it's 25 feet as the Penguins announcers says. I have a hunch they might have been dabbling in the art of hyperbole, something I do myself from time to time. But that still is probably the greatest hit in the history of hockey hits.
In this day and age you're not used to seeing the Bruins players acting as the ragdolls, they're usually the ones doing the pushing.
The Colorado Avalanche are historically good when it comes to the shootout. They just don't lose in the "skills competition." That was until Saturday.
On the season the Avs were 7-0 in shootouts. Go back to last season and the streak was 10 consecutive shootouts. For an event that is statistically close to a tossup, that's pretty remarkable.
Of course, all good things must come to an end. The Avalanche finally lost a shootout this Saturday to the division rival Vancouver Canucks, failing to score in their three attempts.
Their shootout success has been a big reason why the Avs are as close in the playoff picture as they are. Those are crucial points to be picking up. And while losing the extra point to the Canucks doesn't seem like the biggest thing in the world considering they likely aren't catching the reigning Western Conference champs in the Northwest, it is obviously critical in the hunt for that eighth spot.
What a game
Speaking of shootouts, the only other team this season who had yet to fall in a shootout also suffered the fate on Saturday.
Of course Sam Gagner played a huge part in the Oilers effort. He scored a point on each of the Oilers' eight goals against the Blackhawks in Edmonton's last game and then he was in on each of the Edmonton's first three goals against Detroit.
While he didn't get in on the game-tying goal in the final minute for the Oilers to snap his streak, Gagner did tally a score in the shootout, helping the Oilers eventually prevail thanks to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' shootout goal in his first game back, giving the Red Wings their first shootout defeat.
It was one of the better games of the season, a very entertaining, back-and-forth game. Minus the shootout, it had everything most every hockey fan likes to see.
Hit of the weekend Part II
I'm not sure this can compete with the Orpik-on-Paille hit, but it's still worth watching. I mean, who doesn't love guys being dumped over the boards?
The Wild and Stars got together for a crucial game for the West playoff picture and at least this hit showed how big it was. Watch Jake Dowell get dumped over the boards and into the camera well by Jed Ortmeyer of the Wild.
I'd say that's as good as time as any for a line change.
Quote of the weekend
“It was a party. It’s always fun. It keeps you in the game. Who knows, though? The next game I might get 15 to 20 shots, and you have to be ready for that, too.” -- Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators goalie on facing 43 shots against the Blues. (from the Tennessean).
Only a goalie could think his team facing 43 shots in one game could be considered a party.
Then again, when you beat a division rival 2-1 and move second place in the ultra-competitive Central, well then it might feel pretty good.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Brooks Laich, Brooks Orpik, Colorado Avalanche, Dale Hunter, Dallas Stars, Daniel Paille, Dennis Seidenberg, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Jake Dowell, Jed Ortmeyer, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Nicklas Backstron, Pekka Rinne, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, St. Louis Blues, Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Weekend Wrap
Posted on: February 1, 2012 2:01 pm
Go back a few months and it was the Buffalo Sabres who were being picked on, called out for being soft or whatever other similar insult people could come up with.
The shoe is on the other foot today. That's nice for a change in what has been a pretty miserable season for Buffalo up to this point.
The Sabres began the post-All-Star break push with a 3-1 win on the ice in Montreal. Paul Gaustad had a point on each of those three goals, so he was probably pretty jacked up. But with a few seconds left and the lead up the eventual 3-1 game-winning margin, there got to be some chirping by the benches.
None of this should strike you as unusual (except Gaustad recording three points in one game). Chirping happens all the time. But the Canadiens didn't like something that Gaustad had to say, specifically him asking Max Pacioretty "Where's Chara?"
That line shouldn't need a refresher at this point, but just in case it does, here you go.
Not to be outdone, the Habs responded by asking Gaustad "Where's Lucic?" referencing the situation earlier this season where Lucic ran over Ryan Miller and the Sabres didn't have much of a response.
Again, none of this is usually a big deal. That's mostly because this stuff normally doesn't make its way into the media. But this one obviously has thanks to the Habs, specifically Mathieu Darche and goaltender Carey Price. Here's Darche after the game last night (from the Buffalo News).
Price had some comments of his own, saying "He's got a big mouth and he likes to run it. What can you do? Can't worry about what he's got to say. He doesn't do much out there."
Seeing how that all took place in the Canadiens locker room after the game last night, the first chance the Sabres had to talk about it publicly was on Wednesday at the morning skate. Gaustad was pretty frank when discussing the matter (again from the Buffalo News).
"I'm just going to address it for the last time today," Gaustad said. "It's something where Pacioretty said something to me, I said something back along the same lines and the guy that kind of brought it up in the media [Montreal's Mathieu Darche] wasn't even involved with it. For Darche to bring it up in the media, in my opinion is stuff on the ice stays on the ice. I don't want to blow it out of proportion. You have to have thick skin in the NHL. I'm fine with it. Just move on."
Hey, maybe the NHL has a new marketing partner in Las Vegas: What happens on the ice stays on the ice.
Lindy Ruff isn't one to shy away from making comments on these matters either, so he had his piece. Again, not much on the mincing words front.
"I could give you one situation every night [where there is trash-talking]," Ruff said. "For them to go public that I thought was ridiculous on their part. They were looking for something to talk about or feel good about after that game and they're barking up the wrong tree if you ask me."
It brings that old unwritten rule book conversation again. What is in bounds as far as trash-talking goes? It's pretty clear that we have some differing opinions from the Canadiens and Sabres concerning injury chirps. But what's the line, if one is even there? If there were one of decorum, there's little doubt Pacioretty's would be off limits, it was a vicious hit that left him with a broken neck.
As Ruff says, there is trash-talking all the time. It's pretty much a part of the game, you know it comes with the territory. Behind the scenes shows like HBO's 24/7 have helped make that plenty clear to those who haven't played hockey or been on the ice.
I've chatted with somebody whose job it was to open the penalty box doors and he had some great stories about the cross-box trash talk, names omitted of course. There isn't a whole lot that's sacred ground.
You be the judge on this one: Did the Sabres cross the line here or are the Habs wrong for making it public?
By the way, doesn't this have to really make the Bruins and their fans laugh? Two division rivals taunting each other with things Bruins players have done to each?
Posted on: January 31, 2012 11:04 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Craig Anderson has been a pleasant surprise for the Ottawa Senators this season as the veteran goaltender has helped backstop their surprising playoff push.
Tuesday night in Boston, however, did not provide one of his best (or luckiest) moments of the season during a 4-3 loss to the Bruins.
Just minutes after a Brad Marchand power play goal tied the game at three for Boston, defenseman Dennis Seidenberg scored what proved to be the game-winner as he stepped up to the red line and blasted an innocent looking slap shot from center ice. And somehow, it found a way to sneak past Anderson for a goal that he would no doubt love to have back.
There's really nothing else you can do there but chalk a lot of that up to luck. Good luck for the Bruins; bad luck for the Senators.
"I don't know if it was a lucky bounce or the way it came off of my stick," Seidenberg said. "It just seemed to bounce off the ice and kind of was rising up and it was tough to read I guess for him and somehow it went in."
Said Anderson, "It took a one-bouncer and it hit my stick and went in. Just one of those things where I've got to make the save but, at the same time it took a crazy bounce."
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 12:30 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 1:06 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Less than a month away from the NHL trade deadline and rumors are quickly starting to fly.
One of the busiest teams this year is expected be the Carolina Hurricanes, as they're currently near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and have a number of players eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. One of those players is forward Tuomo Ruutu, and he could be on the move as early as this week according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and TSN's Darren Dreger.
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford has always been aggressive when it comes to making moves, and has already made a couple this season. A couple of weeks he sent upcoming free agent Alexei Ponikarovsky to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Joe Sova and a fourth-round draft pick, which came just weeks after he shipped disappointing defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the remainder of his contract to the Montreal Canadiens for Jaroslav Spacek. And there could soon be more where that came from.
Ruutu should be able to bring the Hurricanes a better return. In 51 games this season he has 15 goals and 11 assists, and over the past four years has scored at a rate that would average out to nearly 20 goals per 82 games. Any team that trades for him will be on the hook for the remainder of his salary cap hit, which for this week would come out to about $1.3 million for the rest of the season.
There is no shortage of contenders that could be interested, but keep an eye on Pittsburgh, Nashville or Boston, all teams that would Ruutu seem to be an excellent fit for given his aggressive forechecking and the fact at least two of those teams, Pittsburgh and Nashville, could use some an upgrade when it comes to secondary scoring on the wings.
Still, at this point it just seems to be a matter of when and where rather than if. Once that shoe falls the focus will then surely shift to Carolina's other upcoming free agents.
Also at Eye On Hockey
Gleason signs four-year deal with the Hurricanes
More Carolina Hurricanes news
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 29, 2012 8:38 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 8:40 pm
The All-Star Game is about fun and it ends up being a lot about offense. The scoring is always through the roof. That's what happens when defensemen get stuck in 1-on-3s, players don't hit and the intensity level is lower than a mites game at intermission.
It doesn't always make for compelling television, but it does result in some pretty interesting statistics for the players. This saddens the skaters but the goalies couldn't be happier.
So here you are, the All-Star Game superlatives from Team Chara's 12-9 over Team Alfredsson in Ottawa.
Most goals: That would go to MVP Marian Gaborik, the only player to record a hat trick on the day. Sadly, nobody in Ottawa threw a hat on the ice, but Gabby did have a pretty memorable moment by beating his Rangers teammate Henrik Lundqvist and celebrating like Artem Anisimov.
Most points: Also Gaborik, who was the only player to reach four points. He assisted on Zdeno Chara's game-winning goal.
Most unselfish (assists leader): Pavel Datsyuk earns the "award" with his three assists in the game, the benefits of playing with Gaborik (or the other way around). "I wanted to score, too," Datysuk told Dan Rosen of NHL.com. "I never scored in my career in the All-Star Game. The dream is still there."
Ironman (most minutes): Shea Weber had more ice time than any player in the game, clocking 22:12 for Team Alfredsson. Still, he didn't record a point on the night. Something about nobody taking slap shots ...
Plus/Minus ace: Chara and Brian Campbell were tied for the best mark, playing together for much of Team Chara's win. Each was an impressive plus-seven.
Forgettable forward: Despite playing for the team that scored 12 goals and won, Jamie Benn was the only forward in the game on either side that didn't record a point.
Hitman: Yes, there was actually a hit in the game. A single hit. Scott Hartnell (of course) come on down! He had the audacity to get credit for a hit in an All-Star Game.
Best goalie: The award goes to Thomas, who pulled off a pretty incredible feat by winning the All-Star Game for the fourth straight time. He stopped 18 of 21 shots for an .857 save percentage.
Worst goalie: It was like old times in Ottawa for Brian Elliott, unfortunately. He surrendered six goals on 19 shots in the third period for a save percentage of .684. Oy.
Prettiest goal: It's a tough call after Daniel Alfredsson's first of the game, but I'm going to go with Marian Hossa's third-period goal when there was a player who was actually trying to play defense in front of him. It gets some extra credit for the saucer pass from Datsyuk to spring the breakaway.
More from Eye on Hockey
Photo courtesy of Sean Gentille twitpic
Tags: 2012 All-Star Game, Boston Bruins, Brian Campbell, Brian Elliott, Brian Stubits, Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Sedin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Keith Yandle, Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Milan Michalek, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Pavel Datsyuk, Scott Hartnell, Shea Weber, Tim Thomas, Vancouver Canucks, Zdeno Chara