Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:03 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom hasn't appeared in a game for the team since he was elbowed in the head by then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque earlier this month. It was a play that resulted in Bourque earning a five-game suspension from the NHL, and had some of the Capitals, including forward Troy Brouwer, lamenting the fact they weren't going to play another game against Bourque and the Flames this season.
That all changed, of course, when Bourque was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens last Thursday in the trade that sent Mike Cammalleri back to Calgary.
And which team are the Capitals visiting on Wednesday night? You guessed it, Rene Bourque and the Canadiens.
Not surprisingly, John Erskine, perhaps the Capitals' most willing fighter, is expected to be in the lineup, and some fireworks are expected. It's pretty much a given that somebody is going to challenge Bourque, even if the Capitals are downplaying it and talking about how the two points are the important thing (and, truth be told, they are the most important thing for the Capitals right now).
“For us to say we're going go out there and take liberties at him or something like that, probably not," said forward Joel Ward, via Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times. "I think we'll definitely be playing hard for sure. I'm sure guys are going to be playing pretty hard, especially against him and let him know that what he did we thought was a pretty cheap shot.”
With all of that in mind, the folks at Capitals Blog Russian Machine Never Breaks have their own idea as to how tonight's game is going to play out ... if it were a version of the classic Nintendo game, Mike Tyson's Punch Out.
(H/T Russian Machine Never Breaks)
Previously at Eye On Hockey
Rene Bourque suspended 5 games
Bourque traded to Montreal for Mike Cammalleri
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 1:15 pm
One of the many things I love about hockey is that it doesn't revolve around the coaches, they are hardly ever the stories. You can't say the same about other sports, particularly college athletics where the coach is sometimes the only constant there is. In the NHL, a lot of coaches are so quiet I'm not even sure half of the hockey fans out there could name all 30 bench bosses.
But this weekend in Calgary? It's about the coaches. Well it's now partly about a certain player's Flames debut too, but first to the coaches.
The Los Angeles Kings will be traveling to the Saddledome for a slightly awkward reunion. It's the first time that Darryl Sutter has been involved in a game in Calgary since he resigned -- all but forced -- as general manager for the Flames a little more than a year ago, leaving his younger brother Brent behind to continue to coach the Flames.
For those who suggest you shouldn't mix business with family, this is a good example why. During the time they were together working with the Flames, they had some problems with each other to the point that they stopped talking after Darryl was ousted. Imagine that, two brothers getting to the point of not talking based largely on their working relationship.
They were giving each other the silent treatment until Darryl reached out this week and at least reopened the lines of communications. Probably a good idea on many fronts, particularly about the one of avoiding the awkward moment at the game.
“We had a good chit-chat -- it was good,” said Brent, whose brother initiated the call, to the Calgary Sun.
“We talked about their team, about our team ... never once did we talk about anything personally. We talked about the kids. We were all over the map with it. That was the first time I talked to him. It was nice.”
Saturday won't just be the first time these two have been back together at a Flames game since Darryl left, but now it's also about the first time that Mike Cammalleri returns to the Saddledome in a Flames jersey since he left. That's thanks to the Thursday night trade of Cammy to Calgary in exchange for Rene Bourque going to Montreal.
The Flames could use the fire under their behind that perhaps current GM Jay Feaster is trying to send. His team hasn't been playing particularly well and a jolt to the roster might help recharge their playoff push. They aren't dead and buries in that race, especially considering the season is only half over, but they could use a run to help set them up for the finish.
At the least they got a player who's excited to be in Calgary -- again, in the case of Cammalleri.
"I am extremely excited, I was told I was traded and I wasn't sure where. I hoped it was Calgary," he said on Thursday after the trade.
"It's a place that I have such fond memories, I really have strong relationships with some of the players. I really appreciated playing there."
So that will bear watching, no doubt. But it's going to be tough to overcome the drama of the bench bosses.
And I just love it when things come together like this. It means absolutely nothing and has no bearing on anything that will happen on the ice, just little coincidences that are fun to mark. Darryl coached 210 games for the Flames. On Saturday night Brent will coach his, you guessed it, 210th game with the Flames. Not that that will steer the spotlight away from Darryl vs. Brent and the Sutter family equation.
“We’ve now had communication since then, and it has been good,” Brent said.
“Any way you want to look at it, we’re still brothers. I care deeply about what happens with him and how he does.”
Well the family feud will live on for 60 more minutes on Saturday.
I still haven't decided if the Ottawa Senators are as good as they have shown, but it's getting really tough to deny them based on a small sample size.
Now they have played at least two more games than every other team in the East except for Carolina, but that excuse isn't flying any more either. They are comfortably in the top eight in the East as it stands right now, right on the heels of the Flyers for the fourth seed. When you start beating the Rangers at Madison Square Garden with a shutout no less, then yea, it might be time to believe.
But we're going to find out a lot in the upcoming weeks, starting Saturday. OK, it actually started on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. That was when the Senators played their first of nine road games in a 10-game span. The only interruption in that road show comes on Monday with the Jets coming to Ottawa. After that, they go into their weekend as host for the All-Star Game with a trip that takes them out West.
But they can't play those before the play this weekend's game against the Canadiens first. They seem to be getting Montreal at the perfect time. They have all sorts of struggles and strife to deal with at the moment and could possibly be without P.K. Subban after his hit on David Krejci on Thursday night.
If the Sens can do what most everybody else is doing right now and beat the Habs, they will finish with six points in the three-game road trip.
It sure makes those four All-Star selections a lot easier to swallow, too.
Taking a Flyer
In all honesty, this isn't the best slate of games the NHL has seen this year for the weekend. There aren't a whole lot of really intriguing matchups pitting two elite teams.
But one of the better ones will be in Nashville, a cross-conference battle to boot. The Philadelphia Flyers will take on the Predators in Smashville. Adding a little more intrigue to the good matchup? The in-person scouting that the Flyers might or might not be doing on the opposition.
You are going to hear a lot about the status of Ryan Suter in the coming weeks, his name will surely be at the fore of all the trade speculation unless he signs a contract extension before then. Among the top contenders for his services will be the Flyers, already mentioned in the speculation.
That just adds a little underlying story to what should be a very good game.
Speaking of good games ...
The next round in their Central Division battle comes on Saturday at the ripe ol' hour of 12:30 from the Joe in St. Louis. I wonder if the Blackhawks will even be functioning at that hour.
Joking aside, hopefully the start time doesn't take away from the quality of games these two put on. The first two meetings this season came in Chicago and each was a 3-2 game (Blackhawks won the first, Wings the second in OT). You can always count on great hockey when these two get together.
Now that realignment has been halted, hopefully the next proposal doesn't split these teams up.
That's the nickname that has caught on in Dallas regarding their Stars. Pesky. I guess it's because they won't go away.
Dallas isn't as big of a surprise as a couple of other teams this season, including the above-mentioned Senators, but that doesn't mean they aren't a surprise. Here it is mid-January and they continue to hang around in the Pacific Division race as well as the Western Conference.
They will look to continue their pesky ways against the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. The Avs are as up and down as any team in the league this season. There seems to be no happy medium with them. After their most recent run they are no slipping back down the slope, going into Dallas with a three-game losing streak.
It's a battle of a pair of mild surprises in the West. These all count when it comes down to season's end and each of these hopefuls is trying to sneak into the postseason. The schneid list is getting long.
We're going streaking!
Here are the hot and cold streaks going into the weekend's action.
Senators: Talked about above, they have won three straight and only visit Montreal.
Toronto Maple Leafs: How 'bout them Leafs, huh? They take a four-game win streak into Buffalo on Friday night and if it holds will take a five-gamer into Saturday night's home game against the Rangers.
Predators: Three games and counting heading into the Philly matchup.
Flames: Lost in all the other talk surrounding Calgary, they have actually rattled off three straight wins since returning home from an unfruitful road trip.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens are entering unchartered territory here. They bring a six-game losing streak with them to Florida for the Sunshine State saunter, at the Panthers on Friday, Lightning on Sunday.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The postseason run followup isn't going as planned. Five straight losses going into Friday at the Capitals, Sunday vs. the Penguins.
Avalanche: How long will this skid go? Right now it's at three games.
Edmonton Oilers: My how long ago that season start seems. They have fallen 23 points behind the Canucks in the Northwest and have lost four in a row. Their one chance to snap that comes against the Kings on Sunday night.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Brent Sutter, Brian Stubits, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Darryl Sutter, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, P.K. Subban, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Rene Bourque, Rumor Mill, Ryan Suter, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Weekend Preview
Posted on: January 12, 2012 9:44 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:03 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Just when you start to think the Montreal Canadiens have hit rock bottom on the season, it just finds a way to keep getting crazier. And crazier. And crazier.
The latest development: Forward Mike Cammalleri being traded to the Calgary Flames on Thursday night after he was pulled during the third period of the team's 2-1 loss in Boston.
The deal involves Cammalleri, goaltender Karri Ramo and a fifth-round draft pick going to Calgary in exchange for Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland and a 2013 second-round draft pick. This, of course, will be Cammalleri's second stop with the Flames after having spent 2008-09 season in Calgary, producing what was the best season of his career with 39 goals and 82 points in 79 games. He signed with Montreal after that season, inking a five-year, $30 million contract.
Said Flames general manager Jay Feaster in a team released statement on Thursday, “Mike Cammalleri is a dynamic player who enjoyed great success playing in Calgary. We believe Cammalleri will help our offensive production, solidify a second scoring line, bolster our power play, and bring another strong veteran voice to our room. We are confident that a return to Calgary will be good for Mike and good for our continued pursuit of a playoff berth.”
The "strong veteran voice" comment is certainly interesting, seeing as how his "voice" has to be one of the reasons he was even on the market in the first place. Cammalleri's name was in the news earlier on Thursday for some controversial remarks about his team and the way they prepare for games. Less than 24 hours later? He's gone.
Following Thursday's loss in Boston, the Canadiens are now 16-20-7 on the season and seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The team has already fired two coaches this season, dumping assistant coach Perry Pearn in the first month of the season, and then replacing head coach Jacques Martin last month. The latter was a move that has resulted in the entire organization facing criticism from a vocal minority of fans that are unhappy Martin's replacement, Randy Cunneyworth, doesn't speak french.
At the halfway point of the season Cammalleri had been struggling this season and had scored just nine goals in 37 games.
Bourque is obviously the key part of the trade for Montreal, and his name had been coming up in trade rumors for what seems like two years now. And while he's a solid player having scored 27 goals in each of the past two seasons, and on pace for nearly the same number this season, it's hard to argue that the Canadiens are a better team after this move (even though Montreal general manager Pierre Gauthier tried to do just that when announcing the move).
Really, the only benefit Montreal gets is that it dealt a player that made some comments the team didn't like, and saves a few million in salary cap space over the next couple of seasons. Cammalleri's contract still has two years remaining on it with an average salary cap hit of $6 million per season. Bourque is signed through the 2015-16 season and has an average salary of $3.3 million, giving Montreal a savings of about $2.7 million per year.
The Flames entered their game on Thursday night against Anaheim four points out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Bourque is currently suspended for his elbow to the head of Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom. It should be noted that the Canadiens, Bourque's new team, play the Capitals on Wednesday, and he will be eligible to play that night.
Photo: Getty Images
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 4:24 pm
The NHL announce its full list of All-Stars on Thursday in about as poor a way as it could have. Remember when Mario Lemieux called the NHL a garage league? Maybe he was thinking of days like this.
The NHL had ample opportunities to put this front and center. They could have announced the selections on Wednesday night using NBC Sports Network and TSN. Heck, they could have made the announcement using the NHL Network instead of running a replay of a game from last night.
All of that would have been better. Instead, the All-Star selections started leaking one at a time. The first was the Florida Panthers announcing Brian Campbell would be representing them. Then the Blackhawks followed with the Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The leaks continued until the NHL finally released the entire list of players about an hour later.
It's almost like it wasn't planned.
Anyway, on to the guys who were selected. These are the guys who will head to Ottawa for the All-Star Game and will be part of the second NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, much like the way you would pick teams for kickball at recess with two captains selecting players until they're gone.
As usual, there are a few head-scratchers in here.
Jason Spezza (Senators), Milan Michalek (Senators), Daniel Alfredsson (Senators), Jamie Benn (Stars), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Marian Gaborik (Rangers), Claude Giroux (Flyers), Marian Hossa (Blackhawks), Jarome Iginla (Flames), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs), Mikko Koivu (Wild), Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins), Logan Couture (Sharks), Alex Ovechkin (Capitals), Jason Pominville (Sabres), Daniel Sedin (Canucks), Henrik Sedin (Canucks), Tyler Seguin (Bruins), Corey Perry (Ducks), Steven Stamkos (Lightning), John Tavares (Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks).
Erik Karlsson (Senators), Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs), Dustin Byfuglien (Jets), Brian Campbell (Panthers), Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Alexander Edler (Canucks), Dan Girardi (Rangers), Shea Weber (Predators), Keith Yandle (Coyotes), Dennis Wideman (Capitals), Ryan Suter (Predators), Kimmo Timonen (Flyers).
For those wondering on the breakdown, that's 24 players from the Eastern Conference, 18 from the Western. The six vote-ins all coming from the East helps with that bit of disparity, though.
Now, on to the superlatives ...
You never know who actually said no to the invite. That's the caveat here. But if nothing else the players should get the honor and then decline to appear (I get the murkiness of it, but they deserve the honor).
I understand that Nicklas Backstrom (the Capitals center, that is) is injured at the moment, but he's day to day and the game isn't for another few weeks. There is zero doubt that he has been the Capitals' best player this season, not Ovechkin, who made the roster ahead of a long list of players that probably deserved it more.
I scratch my head a little with the selection of Byfuglien on defense. Not that he is bad by any stretch, but I probably would take a few guys over him. From the Jets perspective, I would have liked to see Evander Kane more.
You could make a case -- probably not a great one, however -- for Florida's Jason Garrison, as well. He leads defensemen in goals with 11 and has a slap shot that might possibly stand a chance in the hardest shot competition against Chara and Byfuglien.
There are a few more in the forward role who seem to be more deserving. It's going to continue to come back to Ovechkin because he's the high-profile name with mediocre numbers. Thomas Vanek in Buffalo? Scott Hartnell in Philly? Kris Versteeg in Florida? Patrik Elias for the Devils? Patrice Bergeron in Boston? Patrick Sharp (who was reportedly not picked before injury concerns) Or even Radim Vrbata from the Coyotes? The lists goes on.
It goes to show how even when the fans aren't voting, star power is a big factor. It's always about a little more than just performance.
To make room for the snubs you obviously have to decide who shouldn't be on the list, otherwise they aren't a snub, right? Well that is pretty tough to do.
I do not think Ovechkin deserves his selection based on merit alone. But again, there's more to it than just the stats. Ovechkin gets in based on the star power and marketing more than anything else. I don't necessarily like that, but I can accept that. I think Kane falls into this category to an extent, too. All things being equal, a few of the snubs probably deserve the honor more than Kane this season, but he has a little star power that, say, Versteeg doesn't have.
I'm not terribly high on the other Caps pick of Wideman either. He's had a good season offensively, which is what this game values most, so in that regard it's OK. But even he admitted he was surprised when he was told, he thought he was getting traded.
After them (not counting the guys voted in) it gets pretty tough. Not any wholly undeserving guys (not even the above mentioned).
Keeping in mind that every team gets represented through the All-Star Game or the rookie selections, some guys are safe. That makes it tougher.
Who will be Mr. Irrelevant?
We know this much: It won't be Kessel again. Absolutely no way to predict this accurately, so my stab in the dark is going to say Couture. He's the only member from the Sharks, he is young and plays at the position with the most players, on the wing.
Who will be the captains?
The official announcement will come in a week, so for now we're left to speculate. Alfredsson is a given seeing how the game is in Ottawa. Take that one to the bank. The other was likely going to be Selanne, but now ... Iginla? Maybe you go with an old Senator in Chara? I'd take my chances it's Iginla.
Or maybe Kessel? That would be interesting.
Tags: 2012 All-Star Game, Alex Ovechkin, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Daniel Alfredsson, Dennis Wideman, Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane, Florida Panthers, Jarome Iginla, Jason Garrison, Kris Versteeg, Logan Couture, New Jersey Devils, Nicklas Lidstrom, Ottawa Senators, Patrice Bergeron, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Patrik Elias, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Radim Vrbata, San Jose Sharks, Scott Hartnell, Teemu Selanne, Thomas Vanek, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, Zdeno Chara
Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:42 am
It's always fun when players are asked who is the most overrated player in their sport. It often shows a divide on how players are perceived within the game vs. outside from the media and fans.
With that in mind, here are the results of Sports Illustrated's poll of 161 players asking them who the most overrated player in the league is.
There are a couple of things that stick out to me. Players obviously are very aware of how much players are being paid and their corresponding production. Why else would Scott Gomez make No. 3 on this list? I think he fell off the rating radar more than a year ago for the fans/media side. He has become an afterthought for most people, that's how bad he has been. Same goes for Vincent Lecavalier, just to a much lesser extent than Gomez.
The other observation I made is that the list has a high number of Canadian-based players. Eight of the 15 on the list play for one of Canada's seven teams. The Calgary Flames, for example, have three players on the list. That leads me to wondering how Jarome Iginla could crack this list, but I digress.
Who's your pick for the most overrated?
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: January 8, 2012 3:11 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 3:32 pm
While you were busy worrying about the upcoming summer of labor after the NHLPA declined the realignment plan ...
With all due respect to the guys of Green Day, nice guys really can finish first. Or at least succeed.
Saturday was a milestone day for two of the classiest and most loyal players in the NHL. One milestone awesome, the other simply dumbfounding, on a couple of levels.
First, the awesome: Jarome Iginla's 500th goal in Saturday night's win against the Minnesota Wild. Nobody is surprised that Iginla hit the 500-goal mark in his career. I've seen it argued that he would have passed that milestone a while ago if he had played with some better centers in his time with the Calgary Flames.
It doesn't matter how ugly it might have been. Iginla's had enough beauties in his career, I don't think for one second he was worried about it coming on a pass from the boards that bounced off skates and into the net.
I could go on about with platitudes about the class of guy that Iginla is. People already know that and my personal experience with the guy did nothing at all to change that impression for me. I like to point to this somewhat infamous and incredibly cringe-worthy exchange with Iginla and a reporter earlier this season that Iginla dealt with as patiently as any player could, even though nobody knew what exactly was being asked.
Iginla became only the 42nd player in NHL history to hit the plateau. So we're talking about a pretty exclusive club. Iginla's case is even more unique when one realizes that he became only the ninth player ever to score his first 500 goals with one team.
Every franchise usually has a designated Mr. (fill in the team name). Iginla no doubt is Mr. Flame.
The second milestone also came from a Mr. Franchise type and it was a bit more amazing.
Unless you work for the Elias Sports Bureau or are the biggest Phoenix Coyotes fan out there, it probably caught you by surprise that Shane Doan's hat trick on Saturday night was the first of his career.
It took him 1,161 games to get there, but Doan finally put three in in one game. And it's not like we're talking about a guy who doesn't score. He joins Scott Mellenby as the only other player in NHL history to score 300 goals before his first hat trick.
The most amazing part of all? It took Doan 59 minutes, 59 and 9/10 of a second to get that third goal.
Sometimes you can't make this stuff up.
Like Iginla, Doan has been a consummate professional, a player with the loyalty to a franchise that fans love to see in sports these days. This is a guy who has stuck with a franchise that has been surrounded in questions for a couple of years but has stuck with the only team he has ever known.
A little bit of irony in Doan's goal coming with only 0.1 second left, the Coyotes fell victim to a similar situation earlier this season. The Rangers potted a goal with the same exact amount of time on the clock. The only difference between those two last-second tallies? The Rangers' was for a win, Doan's for the hat trick in an already-decided game.
And all those hats he collected? They are reportedly being donated to the Phoenix Children's Hospital.
It was almost as if Saturday was a night for the good guys in the NHL. Two great honors for two great players. Certainly beats more concussions.
The St. Louis Blues are no fluke, people. This sample size with Ken Hitchcock at the helm is big enough to draw that conclusion.
The Blues are in the Central Division. They compete with the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators. Yet, after Saturday's games, it's the Blues that are sitting in first place of the monster division, for my money the best in the NHL.
St. Louis dominated the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, pitching a 4-0 shutout. The Avs had been maybe the hottest team in the NHL, bringing a four-game win streak into the Lou. Instead they were just another victim for St. Louis.
That moved the Blues to 18-5-5 under Hitchcock. Their sole lead isn't going to last long. By the end of Sunday they will at least be in a tie with either the Blackhawks or Red Wings. But they are right there and will remain right there for the entire season.
The goaltending duo of Brian Elliott -- who had another shutout -- and Jaroslav Halak has rightfully received a lot of the attention for the Blues' success, but the guys in front of them deserve a lot. Just look at what the Avalanche were able to -- or unable to -- do: They only had 15 shots on goal for the entire game. That's why Elliott didn't even get one of the three Stars of the game. The most shots in one period that Colorado had? Seven. In the first they had just two.
I'll admit I'm happy for the fans of St. Louis. It's not a market that gets a lot of recognition as a big one like the cities in the Northeast or Canada, but it's been a strong market for hockey and remains that way. They haven't had a lot to cheer for in the past couple of years but they do now.
And of course the Western Conference has another team to be reckoned with.
The story out of Pittsburgh on Saturday was that the Penguins lost their fourth straight game, something they had not done in two years. On Sunday it was compounded by the announced injuries of James Neal (broken foot) and Jordan Staal (out 4-6 weeks).
But that's taking away from the success of the New Jersey Devils.
Their 3-1 win in Pittsburgh came a night after their 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers at home on Friday. They have points in seven of their last 10 games. They have also hurdled the Penguins in the Atlantic Division and are creeping up on the Flyers, four points behind Philadelphia.
A common thread in those two weekend wins? Ilya Kovalchuk had the game-winner. He's up to 15 goals on the season now, tied with David Clarkson for the team lead. He has the penchant for turnovers -- that's nothing new -- but is still as electric as almost any player in the league with the puck on his stick. What Peter DeBoer wouldn't give to continue to get that kind of production from Kovalchuk.
What a day it was Saturday for Danny Briere. The Philadelphia Flyers veteran had a double rarity in the Flyers' 3-2 win over the Senators: He finished off a hat trick with a goal in the final seconds of overtime and dropped the gloves with Kyle Turris (!).
First, here's the bout from HockeyFights.com.
Not terrible for a couple of guys who don't normally go a round. For Briere it was only his third career fight.
But in the end it was his fifth career hat trick that was the biggest moment of the night. Apparently content to take the game to the shootout, the Senators seemed to give up once the clock moved under 10 seconds. It was up to Craig Anderson to keep them alive. He made the first stop on Briere from point-blank range but couldn't prevent the second from slipping in and winning the game with 5.3 seconds left.
They're getting pretty desperate up there in Buffalo where the Sabres just can't seem to do anything right.
It's a solid cast of characters. There's a reason why people thought this would be a contender in the East this season. Add in the ownership takeover of Terry Pegula, and there was a lot of noise coming out of Buffalo. Now, not so much. Really.
That'll happen when you're not scoring much. Like they didn't score in the 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night in Buffalo.
Their lack of scoring is the biggest culprit for the following: Since Nov. 12 -- as in the day Ryan Miller met Milan Lucic -- the Sabres have the fourth-worst record in the NHL. The fans are beginning to beg GM Darcy Regier to do something. This isn't how it was supposed to go.
Quote of the weekend
The Caps just got Mike Green back from a hamstring-induced absence that stretched back to early November. Now it might cost him even more time now. If so, that will be the third time that Green has been out with injury. He also had an ankle issue cost him time earlier this season.
The Capitals saw their four-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday night in San Jose to the streaking Sharks. It was actually the first loss of the season for the Caps when Green played. They are now 9-1-0.
Looking beyond this season, Green will hit free agency this summer and here's one argument being laid out for why the Capitals shouldn't re-sign him. It will be worth a debate for GM George McPhee.
Tags: Brian Elliott, Brian Stubits, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Craig Anderson, Dale Hunter, Danny Briere, David Clarkson, Ilya Kovalchuck, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Jordan Staal, Ken Hitchcock, Kyle Turris, Mike Green, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Peter DeBoer, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Miller, San Jose Sharks, Shane Doan, St. Louis Blues, Ville Leino, Washington Capitals, Weekend Wrap
Posted on: January 8, 2012 12:37 am
Edited on: January 8, 2012 1:07 am
By: Adam Gretz
The wait is over for Jarome Iginla.
During the third period of Calgary's 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild, the 15th year NHL veteran became the 42nd player in NHL history to score 500 career goals, netting his 16th of the season at the 8:33 mark of the period, beating goaltender Niklas Backstrom. It may not have been the prettiest goal of his career, and it was more of a pass that took a fortunate bounce than a shot, but they all count the same.
Originally a first-round draft pick (11th overall) by the Dallas Stars back in 1995, Iginla has scored all of his goals as a member of the Flames after being acquired in the December, 1995 trade that sent forward Joe Nieuwendyk to Dallas.
Since being acquired he's been a model of consistency, having scored at least 30 goals in each of the past 10 seasons, a streak that also includes four 40-goal seasons and a pair of 50-goal seasons, as well two campaigns (2001-02 and 2003-04) where he led the entire league in goals scored.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 4:47 pm
On the season they have scored 138 goals (most in the NHL) and only allowed 69 (fewest in the NHL). For the mathematically impaired, that's exactly twice as many goals for as against. They have an absolutely staggering plus-69 goal differential on the season.
To put that in further perspective, here's a stat that was pointed out to me by a friend. In only half a season, the Bruins' plus-69 is better than all but three teams' season total in the last three years.
Since their 3-7-0 start, it's been utterly ridiculous what they have done. Their record since is 23-3-1. That means they have earned 47 of the past 54 possible points.
It's scary to think about, but the numbers point to the Bruins being a better team than they were a season ago when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.
Well the Canucks will get their one and only chance this season to see how much better, if at all, the Bruins are than a season ago.
These teams have had rather similar paths since their great seven-game Final a season ago. The Bruins have received a lot of the attention for the way they have just been steamrolling the competition, but the Canucks are going through a somewhat similar season. They, too, rebounded from the long postseason with a sluggish start but have since come to play the way they were expected. They have retaken their seat atop the Northwest Division and are in the thick for best record in the league.
It's no exaggeration to say that these very well could be the two best teams in the NHL again this season.
Yet this Saturday's matchup in Boston isn't as much about this season as it is about last season, specifically the Finals.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of hype for that game, but we’re a different team than we were last year. We’ve added some different components,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told ESPN.com. “Boston is pretty much the same team, but it’s a new year. We’re going to just go in there and try and play our best game.”
There was enough hostility in that seven-game series to last for three series. We had finger-biting, tire-pumping, trash-talking and rioting. Well OK, that last one wasn't in the series, but still.
The biggest bit of trash talk that came out publicly wasn't until after the series when now retired Bruins forward Mark Recchi said he has never hated an opponent like he did those Canucks. That prompted Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa to suggest Recchi go play a round of golf or take a nap.
Recchi, now working with NBC, did backtrack this week.
“I probably shouldn’t have said anything and I wish I wouldn’t have, but that’s what happened and that’s how the series was,” Recchi told Vancouver’s The Province. “People know I love B.C. and Vancouver and it was an unbelievable series but there was a lot of dislike on both sides. And it wouldn’t have been a Stanley Cup final if there wasn’t that much dislike -- we really didn’t like each other.”
It's not likely that the dislike has worn off in the half-year since.
The rematch will have about all you could ask for in a midseason contest, assuming the Bruins don't turn it into a snoozer with another rout.
I haven't come across anybody who doesn't like Jarome Iginla. The Calgary Flames forward has long been the epitome of what people want in their professional athletes. He's humble, approachable, charitable and of course talented.
He's on the cusp of reaching a great milestone, sitting one goal away from No. 500 in his career. Quite honestly, it's about the only reason why non-Flames fans would want to watch Calgary at the moment.
Iginla told CBSSports.com this week that the pursuit of the milestone isn't something that he's been worried about, but he certainly has thought about it.
"No, it hasn't weighed, but now that I'm at 499, you definitely try not to think about it on each shot and think 'well it could be' or whatever. So I think about it a little bit," Iginla said. "But once you get to the game you're just competing and want to win the game. I don't look at it like I'm counting down games. Just keep going and just keep trying to shoot and get chances and keep the same approach. But you definitely think about it a little bit."
Because of the World Junior tournament that just ended on Thursday with one hell of a game between Sweden and Russia, the Flames have been road warriors for the past couple of weeks. But on Saturday night they'll return home to the Saddledome to take on the Minnesota Wild with Iginla still just one away.
In a way it's great that Iginla didn't reach the milestone in the past week for it will give him a chance to do it back home in Calgary. He'd be applauded handsomely in whichever city it happened, but it's always best to do these things at home.
Certainly the team will be happy to be back home, too. The Flames petered out the end of their seven-game road trip, losing the last five, including that 9-0 rout in Boston.
"We feel that we're good at home and that we're confident," Iginla said. They better hope so, they don't want to fall too far behind in the playoff picture.
One team that has crawled back into the playoff picture is the Washington Capitals. The Caps were, to be frank, very average for a good chunk of the first half. However they have begun to play just how they were expected to. That's every more so the case with Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin had gone 23 straight games without multiple points in one night. He snapped that streak and has since run off four consecutive multi-point games. Maybe he had a great Christmas. Or perhaps it was the excitement of his two-year anniversary as captain. Whatever the reason, he has elevated his game big time and probably not coincidentally, so has Washington.
They travel to the West Coast to take on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday riding a four-game win streak. Again, it's no coincidence that Ovechkin has four straight multiple-point games.
But I'm still not 100 percent sold this team is back to its big-time status. Of the four wins, three have come at home where they have been very tough to beat, regardless of the overall mediocre performance. The fourth was a road win at Columbus. So this trip to San Jose, where they haven't won since 1993, will be a better gauge to see how the Capitals are coming along under Dale Hunter. Once they start winning on the road, then I'll start believing in them again.
Boom! Madden's debut
The Florida Panthers are still beating the odds and hanging onto first place in the Southeast Division. On Friday night they'll get some reinforcement to help them stay there.
Recently signed veteran John Madden is expected to make his debut with the Panthers in New Jersey. It's an interesting place for his first game as a Panther considering he spent the majority of his career with the Devils and helped them win two Stanley Cups.
That adds to the storyline this season of Devils coach Peter DeBoer facing his former team. Really, that doesn't hold much weight after the first meeting, so Madden's debut puts a little zest in another game between the two.
I'm sure the Devils fans will give Madden a nice, hearty hand even if he's in the other team's red.
More Wings work
It's going to be an Original Six weekend for the Detroit Red Wings.
On Saturday they will get a crack at their neighbors a little to the Northeast in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite not being in the same conference, these two teams still have a good rivalry that stretches way back. Their proximity to each other helps too. It's why so many want to see the Leafs play in next year's Winter Classic against the Wings, possibly in the Big House.
Once they are done with the team from Toronto, they face their other Original Six big rival, the one that's still in their division. The Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will wage a big battle on Sunday that will continue to help shape the ever-tight Central Division.
Great weekend of hockey for the folks in Hockeytown.
We're going streaking!
Here are the winning streaks and losing streaks in play entering the weekend.
Capitals: Aforementioned four-game win streak with the one game at San Jose.
Sharks: Not mentioned above, the Sharks also come into the game against the Caps hot, having won three in a row.
Flames: They look to end their five-game skid against the Wild on Saturday.
Anaheim Ducks: Three losses in a row and counting? With all their players now on the trade block, they face the Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Alain Vigneault, Alex Ovechkin, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dale Hunter, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Jarome Iginla, John Madden, Kevin Bieksa, Mark Recchi, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Weekend Preview