Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Tag:Buffalo Sabres
Posted on: January 4, 2012 8:37 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 8:41 pm
 

Dan Carcillo suspended 7 games



By: Adam Gretz

The NHL's disciplinary committee has been dropping the hammer all day on Wednesday, and the latest player to face its wrath is Chicago Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo.

The league had already announced that Carcillo had received an indefinite suspension for his hit from behind on Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert on Tuesday night. Carcillo was ejected and given a five-minute major for boarding, a penalty that proved to be costly as Edmonton went on to score a pair of goals on the extended power play during its 4-3 win.

A lengthy suspension was obvious, and on Wednesday evening the league announced that Carcillo has been suspended seven games for the hit.

"Carcillo chips the puck behind Gilbert at the Edmonton blue line creating a race for the end boards," said Brendan Shanahan. "This is a 50/50 puck that either player can win, and in such cases a reasonable amount of physical contact is permissable as the the players jostle for position. However, on this play, Carcillo slows up and gets behind Gilbert, just as Gilbert begins slowing down and bracing himself for some contact, Carcillo explodes into him causing a violent crash into the boards. This is a clear violation of the boarding rule."

Carcillo is a repeat offender in the eyes of the league, and has been fined or suspended nine previous times throughout his NHL career, including a two-game suspension earlier in the season for a similar hit against Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen.

That prior history, combined with the violence of the play, as well as the fact that Gilbert was injured, earned Carcillo the second-longest suspension (in terms of regular season games lost) that's been handed out by Shanahan during his time in charge of player safety. Columbus' James Wisniewski missed the first eight games of the regular season for his preseason incident with Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck.

He won't return to the Chicago lineup until Jan. 18 against the Buffalo Sabres

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 5:55 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 6:10 pm
 

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

DucheneBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the shootout success of the Colorado Avalanche and what it might mean for them going forward.

Thanks to a recent hot streak that's seen the team win nine of its past 11 games the Colorado Avalanche entered Wednesday in what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Three of those recent wins have come by way of the shootout, and for the season, Colorado has been the best team in the league in the tie-breaking skills competition, posting a perfect 7-0 record, after an impressive 6-1 performance a season ago.

They're relying heavily on the shootout, and that may not be a good thing for the team going forward.

Their 2010-11 performance in the shootout earned them absolutely nothing as they failed to qualify for the playoffs and finished with one of the worst records in the NHL. This season, for the short-term anyway, it's at least helping to keep them competitive for a while, and as one of only two teams in the league to still be perfect in the shootout (the other is Detroit -- which has only been involved in one shootout this season) those seven extra points have certainly helped.

For Colorado, its shootout success this season has a lot to do with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. During actual game play he's been terrible and currently owns a .900 save percentage, well below the league average. In shootouts, however, he's actually been one of the best goalies in the league and has stopped 17 of the 19 shots he's faced, winning every shootout he's been involved in. His individual performance in this area has improved in each of the past three seasons, and for his career owns one of the best all-time shootout save percentages in league shootout history (brief as it may be).

Meanwhile, forwards like Milan Hejduk, the currently injured Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly have been their most called upon skaters and have managed to convert on 10 of their 17 chances, including five of the seven game-deciding goals.

Of course, the shootout still has its share of critics around the league, mainly among hockey purists, and the NHL has even taken steps to minimize the impact it has at the end of the season, as those wins no longer count when it comes to breaking ties for playoff spots. 

It's also worth pointing out that teams that rely heavily on the shootout during the regular season don't have much success in the postseason, for obvious reasons.

First, if your team is taking part in a lot of shootouts it probably means they're not pulling away from the opposition and find themselves in a lot of close games that can be decided with one bounce. And, even more importantly, there's no shootout in the playoffs, which means those teams will then have to rely on actual 5-on-5 hockey to win, and if they were successful in that area, they wouldn't have had to rely on so many shootouts over the course of the regular season.

Since the NHL added the shootout coming out of the lockout for the 2005-06 season, the average NHL team takes part in 10-12 shootouts per year, usually winning somewhere around five or six of them per season. Only once did the NHL average number of shootout wins drop below five in a season (4.76 per team in '05-06) and only once did it go above 6 (6.1 during the '09-10 season).

The Avalanche already have seven this season, and with half of the season still to go, it's a good bet they're probably going to win a few more.

How have teams that relied on shootout success done in the playoffs? Not well. Not well at all. Over the past six seasons 13 teams have won at least 10 shootouts in a single season, and here's what they did in the playoffs, assuming they qualified:

Teams with 10-or-more shootout wins in a season
Team Year Shootout Wins Playoff Success
Edmonton Oilers 2007-08 15 Did Not Qualify
Phoenix Coyotes 2009-10 14 Lost In First Round
Dallas Stars 2005-06 12 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2009-10 10 Did Not Qualify
Boston Bruins 2009-10 10 Lost In Second Round
New York Rangers 2008-09 10 Lost In Second Round
New Jersey Devils 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
Buffalo Sabres 2006-07 10 Lost In Conference Finals
Minnesota Wild 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
New York Rangers 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round

Only five made it past the first round of the playoffs, while only Buffalo during the 2006-07 season went as far as the Conference Finals.

Whether or not the Avalanche have to worry about that at the end of the season remains to be seen at this point. As a team they've been getting crushed during 5-on-5 play, mainly due to the struggles of Varlamov when he's not taking part in a shootout.

Right now they're relying almost exclusively on their power play (which is quite good) and their ability to scratch out extra points in a skills competition. How long can that reasonably be expected to continue?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 10:23 pm
 

Sabres coach Ruff: Ehrhoff likely to be out weeks

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- The Buffalo Sabres are having troubles scoring in recent weeks. That continued in a 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Friday night.

It's going to be a little tougher now after the loss of offensive defenseman Christian Ehrhoff due to an "upper-body injury."

Ehrhoff engaged in a shoving match with Capitals forward Troy Brouwer at 16:49 of the first period that led to a fight. It wasn't much in the way of swinging but instead grabbing and headlocks. But after the fight, Ehrhoff didn't return to the game.

Here is the fight with Brouwer.

After the game coach Lindy Ruff said that Ehrhoff is "going to miss some time." Asked for an early timetable: "It'll probably be weeks."

These days when you hear upper-body injury in the NHL on the injury list, you have to worry that it might mean a dreaded concussion. Of course, there are so many parts of the body on the upper half that it could be a lot of things. He was in a head lock that had his shoulder twisted around during the scrap, too.

As to what the injury is, we don't know yet, perhaps it will come out in the coming days. But we do know that according to Ruff, it will be some time. Add in the fact that defenseman Tyler Myers is out and there's no timetable for his return and you see a blue line getting awfully thin.

Ehrhoff isn't one to fight often. The tussle with Brouwer was only the fourth fight of Ehrhoff's career, second this season, his first with the Sabres. He was one of Buffalo's two high-priced free-agent acquisitions this summer when he signed a 10-year, $40 million contract with Buffalo. So far in 36 games, Ehrhoff has produced three goals and 14 assists.

The other big free-agent acquisition for Buffalo this summer, Ville Leino, is also sidelined by injury at the moment.

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

Posted on: December 21, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 2:18 pm
 

The most dangerous player in hockey right now

malkinBy: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin is back, and right now it looks as if the Pittsburgh Penguins are his team.

When Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup last month the discussion immediately focussed on whether or not he could win the NHL's scoring title, despite missing the first 20-plus games of the season. As it turns out, Malkin is the Penguins forward we should have been looking at all along.

Thanks to his three-assist performance during a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, which came after a five-point destruction of the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend, Malkin moved into a tie for the top spot in the NHL scoring race with 39 points, catching Toronto's Phil Kessel, despite missing six games of his own.

Right now there isn't a more dangerous offensive player in the league, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Penguins.

For the second year in a row the Pittsburgh roster has been crushed by injuries and on any given night has had some combination of Crosby, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, among many others, sidelined due to various ailments and injuries. Even with all of that, the team has a continued to pile up wins and stay near the top of the conference standings and have the look of a top Stanley Cup contender. Head coach Dan Bylsma certainly deserves a lot of credit for that, as does the Penguins front office, led by general manager Ray Shero, for having the type of organizational depth that allows the team to handle so many injuries to so many key players.

But it also doesn't hurt to have a player like Malkin, one of the most talented and skilled players in the world, that is always capable of taking over a game. And that's exactly what he's been doing for the Penguins this year. For much of this season he's been playing on a line with James Neal and free agent acquisition Steve Sullivan. When the Penguins acquired Neal last season it was done so under the assumption that he would eventually be the goal-scoring winger the Penguins have long been searching for to put alongside Crosby. But with Crosby missing so much time due to injury, Neal has found a home on Malkin's line, and along with Sullivan, have formed a trio that has been Pittsburgh's best on a nightly basis.

"I thought his line in particular, I know Geno is the big guy on that line, but their line played very well in the first," said Bylsma after Tuesday's game. "They attacked in every chance they got over the boards at 5-on-5, and on the power play. They were putting pucks behind and playing in the offensive zone and on the attack."

A couple of years ago Malkin was one of the players consistently mentioned in the "best player in the world" discussion, along with Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. He won the scoring title during the 2008-09 season and then followed it up with a Conn Smythe performance in the postseason as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.

But over the past two seasons his production dropped a bit, perhaps due to lingering injuries, and then he missed the last half of the 2010-11 campaign, as well as the playoffs, due to a knee injury that he suffered when Buffalo's Tyler Myers awkwardly fell on his leg during a game last January. Because Malkin has always played second chair in Pittsburgh to Crosby, the face of the franchise, his name has always been the one that's been brought up in absurd trade rumors and baseless speculation for a wide range of reasons (I've brought this up before, but just google "Evgeni Malkin Trade" and start reading), including but not always limited to salary cap concerns, the need to acquire a goal-scoring winger, and, well, pretty much anything that anybody could throw against the wall in the hopes that it would stick. It never did, and for good reason.

Even though Malkin is the "No. 2" center in Pittsburgh (it's probably more of a 1A and 1B deal) when the team is at 100 percent, he has always had a knack for elevating his game when Crosby is out of the lineup. He did it during the 2007-08 season when Crosby missed extended time due to an ankle injury that came after he fell into the boards, and he's doing it again this season. On a per-game average he's actually scoring at a higher rate right now than he was during the '08-09 season when he won his Art Ross Trophy.

 "Geno has been a force offensively," said Bylsma on Tuesday. "But he's also a guy we're counting on to play against other teams top lines right now, and he's been good at both ends of the rink. He's been powerful and making plays and driving. He's going to have probably 10 scoring chances again with how he's dominating and how he's playing."

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 18, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Selanne returns, but Jets take off

By Brian Stubits

Saturday night in Winnipeg was just a little bit louder this time. That's because the Jets fans were more than eager to welcome back Teemu Selanne, a one-time favorite son in the 'Peg under the Jets 1.0.

He didn't leave Winnipeg in a bad fashion (he was traded to the Ducks). He didn't burn any bridges or ever say anything negative about Winnipeg and the fans there. Oh, and he was pretty damn good when wore the red, white and blue of the old Jets, too.

As good as Selanne has been throughout his career, he was never better than he was in his first season in the NHL, playing for the Jets. He set career highs that season with 76 goals and 132 points, marks that he really hasn't come even close to seeing since.

So it took an awful long time (try 15 years) for the Jets fans to get their chance to welcome him back, and they took it.

When Selanne's Anaheim Ducks took to the ice, the crowd was already cheering for the hometown team. The cheer was almost doubled when Selanne came out and the ovation continued through Selanne getting a standing ovation. It was a great moment.

That was well and good, a highlight of the weekend to be sure.

But then came the hockey game. And with that came another Jets home win, 5-3 over Selanne's Ducks.

Yes, the Jets are playing some pretty good hockey these days, especially at home. Coming into the season, the assumption was easy to make that the Jets would be a much better home team, but I still don't think many believed that would translate into Winnipeg having the best home record in the Eastern Conference a week before Christmas.

As things stand right now, the Jets are the closest competitor to the Southeast-leading Panthers. They got off to a bad start, but have flipped the script. The Jets have won six of their last eight games and are just one point behind the Sabres and Maple Leafs in the East playoff picture.

It's essentially the same team that was playing in Atlanta as the Thrashers this time last season, so we can still draw comparisons and warnings from that team. So I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everybody that the Thrashers were leading the Southeast Division this week one season ago. How did that turn out for them, exactly?

Still, it's hard not to believe this team is taking strides, as small as they might be. Evander Kane is beginning to break out and become the player the franchise thought he could be. The young sharpshooter has a team-high 15 goals, five behind the league-leading pace from Steven Stamkos. Dustin Byfuglien, for as rough of an offseason as he had, is still playing well ... offensively at least.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

Ondrej Pavelec has been good enough in goal. His numbers are hardly stellar, but that's pretty much the goalie that he is. He won't compete for any Vezina trophies, but he is good enough to hold the Jets in a lot of games.

If the ship continues to take on water in Anaheim -- and really, at this point it seems like the holes won't be patched this season, even with a new coach in there -- they will have decisions to make with the roster. Talks about Bobby Ryan were already a hot topic. But the Ducks might consider doing more.

At this point in his career, Selanne made it very clear that he was going to only play in Anaheim if he were to play this season. He likely wouldn't waive his no-movement clause if asked. But maybe, if there were one place he would consider it, perhaps it would be Winnipeg. At his age, the Ducks obviously don't have Selanne in the long-term plans, so if they were able to get a player/players or picks for Selanne, they probably would love it at this moment.

That's all pure speculation and the chances of a Selanne trade are awful at best. But wouldn't it be great if Selanne had another return to Winnipeg later this season?

Wish finally granted

For months, Kyle Turris made it clear that he didn't want to play for the Phoenix Coyotes any more. His contract negotiation was long and contentious. During that time, Coyotes GM Dan Maloney was insistent he wasn't trading Turris, no matter what teams offered for the 22-year-old former first-round draft pick. He held firm and eventually got Turris under contract or two years and $2.8 million.

But the calls didn't stop and Turris certainly didn't seem to be secure in his position with the Coyotes. He had to be under contract or risk sitting out the entire season. So this weekend Maloney found a deal to his liking for Turris from Senators GM Bryan Murray. In exchange for Turris, the Coyotes received young and promising defenseman David Rundblad and a second-round draft pick.

I had long held the notion that any return in the trade that netted the Coyotes even a decent return would be a good deal. This would qualify as at least a decent return.

I have just never understood the drooling over Turris from a lot of teams. There was reportedly a lot of interest on Turris from numerous teams, both before he signed the contract and after. And just as he should have, Maloney was playing hard to get and making it obvious that it was going to take a lot for him to trade Turris.

Who knows, maybe Turris will find the environment suitable enough to become the player that everybody seems to think he can be. Maybe getting more of a chance to play and being in a less-regimented system will allow him to put up the best numbers of his career. If he does, I'll eat my crow.

But at this point in his career, he has been underwhelming, for sure. Heck, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett had made Turris a healthy scratch in his final two games as a member of the Coyotes. The interest in him still surrounds that potential tag, and I don't know how many seasons a player gets to play while still holding onto that tag.

Rundblad, meanwhile, has that potential tag, too. But he's a rookie in the NHL, so the sample size is much, much smaller. And with the way Erik Karlsson has developed this season for Ottawa, it made Rundblad a bit more expendable. However it is never an exciting prospect when you give up a young defenseman with loads of potential, those are pretty solid commodities.

My immediate reaction is that I don't like the deal for Ottawa. But like any trade, you can't truly judge it for another five years or so.

Give the Devil his due

The New Jersey Devils are starting to play some pretty good hockey. With their 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens and interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, New Jersey has run off four wins in a row and has two points in six of their last seven games. They have moved into sixth place in the East, joining Atlantic foes the Penguins, Flyers and Rangers in the top six.

The line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and rookie Adam Henrique has been spectacular. Henrique is the name that sticks out like a sore thumb in that trio with two perennial All-Stars, but he has been just as terrific. Any time this line is in the game right now, you get the sense that the Devils are on the verge of scoring.

But there is still some secondary scoring coming right now, including two goals from Patrik Elias in Saturday's win. Why is that noteworthy? Because the two goals allowed Elias to tie then surpass John MacLean as the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer.

Also on the minds of the Devils is the status of this year's top draft pick, defenseman Adam Larsson. He took an elbow to the head from the Canadiens' Erik Cole behind the net, a hit that Brendan Shanahan didn't deem worthy of a suspension.

Outside of that, things are going pretty well for the Devils these days.

Tip of the hat

Without Sidney Crosby on the ice, it's a lot easier for Evgeni Malkin to get the spotlight and attention that he deserves. That's easy when you have a game like he did on Saturday, with or without Crosby playing.

Malkin had a hat trick and two assists (of course I'm going against him in Fantasy this week) as the Penguins drilled Ryan Miller and the Sabres, 8-3. That brings Pittsburgh's goal total to 107 this season, behind only the Flyers and Bruins for the most in the league.

What makes it even all the more amazing is this gem of a stat from @PensInsideScoop.

"#Pens salary of their 20-man roster Sat was $38.9 million. That's 25 mill under cap (64.3) and 9 bellow cap bottom (38.9) missing $25 million in salary w injuries 2 Crosby, Staal, Letang, Martin, Michalek. That doesn't include 5 other hurt guys"

Speaking of injuries ...

This won't surprise too many fans out there, but San Jose Sharks forward Martin Havlat appeared to injure himself pretty badly in San Jose's 3-2 win on Saturday night.

When he was hopping onto the ice in a line change, Havlat seemed to get stuck for a second on the boards and immediately came right back off the ice in pain, seemingly in his leg.

It comes just when the Sharks appear to be finally piecing things together a little bit. For the first time this season, San Jose has won three games in a row at the shark Tank and is now in first place in the Pacific, tied at the moment in points with the Stars while having a game in hand.

For Havlat, though, maybe a break could give him a chance to revitalize himself. It's been a big struggle for him since being traded to San Jose this summer. He has just two goals and 13 assists through 26 games, well off his 22-goal, 40-assist season he had with the Wild last year.

Quote of the weekend

"The Leafs have always been a team I hated as a kid. For some reason it feels good to play here -- it's a great building, the fans are great, it's nice to play. I know a lot of fans in Vancouver don't like this team. ... It just makes it extra special." -- Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks.

Burrows, who hails from Quebec and grew up a Canadiens fan, finds it awfully easy to hate the Maple Leafs for that reason alone.

So for him, scoring the game-winning goal in Toronto is always special, particularly when it's on Hockey Night in Canada.

And with the 5-3 win, the Canucks keep climbing back to where people expected them to be this season. They are now 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have climbed to within five points of the Wild in the Northwest Division.

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

Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Flyers streak on sans Pronger, G

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

There must be something in the water in Pennsylvania. That's the old cliché people turn to when they can't make sense of what's going on, how people (or teams in this case) continue to perform at a high level despite the obstacles.

We saw it last year (and again this season, really) with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite being without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the second half of last season, they just kept on winning. Their 106 points were tied with the Flyers for most in the Atlantic and were just one point behind the Capitals for best in the East.

This season, the Flyers are getting their own taste of life without their Stars. And just like their Keystone State brethren, they continue to win. As in seven in a row.

Philly has been playing without its captain Chris Pronger for a month now. After yesterday's news, they are going to have to play the rest of the season without him, too. In fact, some are saying that Pronger might never play a game again. After all, he is 37 and he has a life after hockey to think about.

As good as Pronger is and has been his entire career, the Flyers have done a good job overcoming his absence this season -- nay, a great job. Since he last played against Winnipeg on Nov. 19, the Flyers have won nine of 11 games.

As callous as it always feels, the Flyers must move on. While their captain and best defenseman deals with severe post-concussion syndrome, they have a very promising season to continue. With the roster freeze coming next week, it's unlikely the Flyers will acquire some additional help on the blue line in the near future, but it will have to be a consideration for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

Holmgren told the media on Friday that he's already considered that, having called all 29 teams, presumably about any defensemen they might have available.

But that's for then. Right now, the Flyers are making due without him or their budding superstar center Claude Giroux (or simply G, as they team calls him). It doesn't seem like it will be a long shelving for Giroux, but you never can know, concussions tend to be pretty fickle.

In the only games the Flyers have played without either player, they have won. Despite missing their leading scorer and a point-producing defenseman, Philly has still averaged 4.5 goals in the two games without Giroux and Pronger.

But now a real test comes to see how they compare with the other beats of the East without the two stars.

The Boston Bruins are nipping on the Flyers' heels for the best record in the Eastern Conference and they, too, have been playing without arguably their best player (skaters-only division) in Zdeno Chara. But the big man might be back in time for the Saturday matinee in Philadelphia.

"We're going to give him a chance to fly and see how he feels," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If he feels good then we have a chance of seeing him."

Normally I'd lament this game being played without Giroux, Pronger and possibly Chara. But with the way both of them, the Flyers in particular, have played without the all-stars, I don't see it stopping what will likely still be a very good game.

Winnipeg welcome wagon rolls on

This first season with the Jets back in the NHL has been an ongoing welcome wagon for the folks in Manitoba. They were licking their chops at getting to see Ilya Bryzgalov, they relished the opportunity to see former Jet Shane Doan back in Winnipeg.

Now comes perhaps the best welcome/return of them all; Teemu Selanne.

The veteran once starred for the Jets before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He has waited for the chance to go back and play in the first NHL city he called home. Now it comes on Saturday night.

"You know, even when the schedule came out, even when I didn't know if I was going to play or not, I checked right away if we were going to Winnipeg," Selanne said. "That day was on my calendar right away.

"I knew there were two really special things. Obviously the Finland trip and then Winnipeg. It was really exciting to even think about it."

Unlike the welcomes fans in Winnipeg gave to Bryzgalov and, to an extent, Doan, it's hard to imagine there will be any jeers, only cheers for Selanne.

"He was so admired. It was overwhelming," Jets chairman Mark Chipman said of Selanne. "This guy was so good and so approachable and so humble in his approach that the community just absolutely fell head over heels for the guy."

Amazingly, Selanne is still performing at the level he was when he first broke into the NHL with the Jets in the early 90s. That's only going to help the flashbacks for the fans -- minus that whole wearing the Ducks jersey part.

Back in Buffalo

One of the more criticized offseason signings (excluding just about every move made by the Florida Panthers) was the Toronto Maple Leafs signing former Sabres center Tim Connolly. Leafs GM Brian Burke gave Connolly a two-year deal worth $4.75 million per season.

People in Buffalo laughed and simply said "Enjoy!" to their near-neighbors in Toronto. It wasn't about Connolly being a bad player -- he's not at all -- but it was about his health concerns. There always seemed to be something that was keeping Connolly on the bench.

So there's a sense of irony when the Maple Leafs visit the First Niagara Center this weekend. Connolly will be healthy and on the ice against his former team. Although he hasn't been without his health issues this season, when he's been on the ice, he's been good for Toronto. In 18 games played, he has 15 points.

On the other hand, the deal that Buffalo signed with Ville Leino was widely applauded. That one hasn't worked out so well.

Reunion tour continues

The Washington Capitals will be visiting the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. That means they will get to see their old goalie Semyon Varlamov up close and personal again.

Varlamov was traded to the Avs this summer after he made it clear that he was looking to play in the KHL over Washington. So Caps GM George McPhee swung a deal with the Avs to give them Varlamov in exchange for Colorado's first-round draft pick this offseason and their second-round pick.

So not only do the Caps get the chance to say hi to an old friend, but they can help themselves out in more ways than one. The points in the standings are the first and most obvious way, but every game without points for the Avs helps the Caps' first-round draft pick go higher and higher.

Although it's quieted down with Varlamov coming back down to earth, when he and the Avalanche were off to their hot starts, some in Washington wondered if the team made the wrong goalie decision. There might still be some questions considering the duo of Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth hasn't fared much better, if at all. But at least Neuvirth comes into the game having just shut out the Jets in Winnipeg, so there might be some positive momentum building. The goaltending problems have been as much an issue as anything in D.C. this season.

Canucks are still great

In fact, according to Roberto Luongo they are better than they were last season, which was great.

"We were one win away, so I don't think you need to change much," Luongo said. "That being said, though, we went through a lot last year, and I think we grew as a team. So for that reason alone, I think that we're better than last year."

That's even with him still getting a lot of starts in the net. Remember, he was a Vezina finalist last season. This season? Not so much.

Their next chance to prove Lu right will come in Toronto on Saturday evening for another Hockey Night in Canada appearance.

Stammer don't hurt 'em!

More like don't get hurt Stammer.

With his overtime winner on Thursday night, Steven Stamkos joined Milan Michalek on the top of the goal-scoring list this season with his 19th. Hopefully the same fate that has befallen many of the game's best scorers in recent weeks won't strike the Lightning's superstar.

With Michalek, Giroux, Sidney Crosby and Jeff Skinner (among many others) recently being diagnosed with concussions or at least post-concussion symptoms, the last thing the league wants is another young star to go down. If anything, it would probably love to see Stamkos go on one of his tears and become a positive story in the league again.

He'll have the chance to take the lead in the goals race by himself when Tampa Bay heads to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

We're going streaking!

Flyers: As mentioned, they are the hottest thing going in the NHL right now between their seven-game win streak and HBO's 24/7.

Bruins: Philly's opponent brings a modest three-game run of itself into the Saturday matchup.

Chicago Blackhawks: A double-dip awaits the Blackhawks and their three-game win streak as they face the Ducks and Flames.

Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues: We're going to combine these two because they are both riding four-game win streaks and they will face off against one another on Saturday. The Blues also have the Jackets on Sunday.

Dallas Stars: Last on the win side, the Pacific-leading Stars take to New Jersey seeking to extend their three-game streak on Scott Niedermayer Night.

New York Islanders: Once again, the Isles are slumping. They get to face the NHL-best Minnesota Wild with a four-game skid. The good news for New York is Minnesota is likely down a lot of bodies.

Florida Panthers The Southeast leaders are on a mini slump having lost three in a row. They have the Flames and Hurricanes at home this weekend to try and cure the ills.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 14, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 3:11 pm
 

Milan Michalek's fast start

michalek2

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the the fast start for Ottawa Senators forward Milan Michalek.


By: Adam Gretz

(Note: I started to prepare this Tuesday evening after Milan Michalek took over the NHL's goal-scoring lead, and before he was injured. It was announced on Wednesday that's he day-to-day with a concussion. I decided to go with it today anyway.)


Ottawa Senators forward Milan Michalek unfortunately became the latest player in the NHL to suffer a concussion during his team's 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night when he collided with his teammate, Erik Karlsson, in the second period. It had to be a tense moment for the Senators and their fans to watch as their two best players this season smashed into each other. It's the second time in a week that an accidental collision between teammates sidelined a top-scorer with a concussion, as Philadelphia's Claude Giroux is currently out after Wayne Simmonds hit him in the back of the head with his knee over the weekend.

Michalek's status for future games is still unknown at this point, and while the team currently has him listed as day-to-day, you simply never know with concussions. It could be a couple of games, it could be a couple of weeks, or it could be even longer.

Head coach Paul MacLean said on Wednesday that he didn't think it was going to ruin his season, which is good news. Hopefully, for his sake and the Senators, he's able to return to the lineup soon enough.

Before exiting Tuesday's game he did manage to add to his early season goal total, scoring his (as of Wednesday morning) league leading 19th goal of the season, pushing him past Toronto's Phil Kessel and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.

It's been a magnificent start to the season for 27-year-old forward, and by far the best of his seven-year career. Through 31 games he's only seven goals behind his previous career best for a full season (26), and was on a pace to shatter that total assuming he kept producing at the same rate -- even if that were unlikely to happen, even before the injury.

Currently, Michalek is shooting at a 21 percent rate, a mark that few players have been able to top over a full season in recent years. Since the start of the 2005-06 season, only eight players that qualified for the league lead finished with a number that high, and pretty much all of them were single season outliers in each players career. And that's kind of what's happening for Michalek this season.

For his career, he is a 12 percent shooter, and his previous six individual seasons have all fallen between 10 and 13 percent. Like most players, he's been pretty consistent in that area.

How does his hot start compare to his previous seasons through the same number of games? Let's take a quick look:

Milan Michalek's Goal Scoring
Year Goals (through 31 games) Shots On Goal (31 games) Shots Per Game (31 games) Shooting % (31 games) Full Season Shooting %
2011-12 19 88 2.80 21.5%  N/A
2010-11  7  63 2.00 11.1%  10.8%
2009-10  15 85 2.74 17.6%  13.5%
2008-09  8 75 2.41 10.6%  12.8%
2007-08  10 98 3.16 10.2%  10.3%
2006-07  10 76 2.45 13.1%  13.6%
2005-06  4 52 1.67 7.6% 10.7%

Obviously, this season stands out from the rest.

One of the factors that's gone into his increased production (both goals and shots) is that he's simply playing more than he has in recent years. Throughout his career, whether it's been with Ottawa, or his previous team, San Jose, he's typically averaged about 18 minutes of ice-time per game. This season he's up over 19 minutes, and not only playing more in even strength situations, he's also seen a small bump in his power play time.

But no matter what he's done through this many games, his single season shooting percentage has always regressed toward his career average of 12 percent, and unless he suddenly became the best sniper in the NHL in one offseason, that's probably going to happen again this year once he returns to the Ottawa lineup.

What could reasonably be expected from this point on? Well, if he were to play every game the rest of the way (and we already know that's not going to happen, as he's already out for Wednesday's game against Boston and is probably expected to miss Friday's game when the Senators host the Penguins) and maintained the same number of shots per game, and shot at his career level of 12 percent, he would still score an additional 17 goals this season. Even if he shot at the league average rate of 9 percent, that would be in the area of an additional 12 goals. Both of which would not only give him a new career high, it would shatter it. Either way, it's been a career year for him.

But before any of that happens or can continue, he and the Senators need to make sure he's 100 percent healthy and completely recovered before he returns to the lineup.

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

Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:18 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 12:28 am
 

Tortorella was not happy with this charging call

By: Adam Gretz

The protection of goalies has been a hot topic in the NHL this season and it all started when Boston's Milan Lucic ran over Ryan Miller in a game back in November. During Tuesday's New York Rangers-Dallas Stars game, which the Stars won by a 1-0 margin thanks to a late third period goal from Trevor Daley and the first career shutout for rookie goalie Richard Bachman, Bachman left his crease in an effort to knock a loose puck away from Rangers forward Carl Hagelin.

There was a collision that resulted in Bachman losing his mask and being knocked to the ice, while Hagelin was assessed a two-minute minor for charging. It again needs to be pointed out that goalies, whether they're in the crease or out of the crease, are not fair game to be hit, and if the opposing team's skater doesn't make an effort to avoid the contact, the proper penalty is to be assessed.

That's not necessarily what happened with this incident, as evey replay angle shows that not only did Hagelin make an effort to avoid making contact with the Stars goalie, he's not even the player that made the actual contact with him -- it was Bachman's own teammate, defenseman Alex Goligoski, that hit him.

No penalty should have been called, and Rangers coach John Tortorella had a bit of an eruption on the bench, and rightfully so.



It's a good bet that shouting match is going to make an appearance on an episode of HBO's 24/7.

After the game, Tortorella said "The goalie came out 20 feet. Sometimes they feel they have to call something. It should've been a non-call."

He's absolutely right.

(H/T PHT for video)

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