Tag:New York Islanders
Posted on: November 29, 2011 4:06 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 4:30 pm

Guy Boucher knows how to use M-A Bergeron

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the way the Tampa Bay Lightning take advanatge of Marc-Andre Bergeron's offensive ability.

By: Adam Gretz

A quick look at the top-scoring defensemen in the NHL this season and the second name on the list, as of Tuesday afternoon, is Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Tampa Bay Lightning, currently with 19 points, trailing only the 21 that belong to Ottawa's Erik Karlsson. There are two things, to me, that stand out about Bergeron being in that spot: First, he plays significantly fewer minutes than the other defensemen near the top of the list. Second: His name isn't one that's usually near the top.

Whether or not he remains there for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but he's not only been one of the leading scorers among defensemen across the league, he's also been one of Tampa Bay's top scorers, regardless of position, and a lot of that has to do with the way head coach Guy Boucher utilizes him and takes advantage of what he does well, while also minimizing what he does not do well.

Every player in the NHL has strengths and weaknesses, and Bergeron's are easy to spot every time he steps on the ice. He has a heavy slap shot (Boucher actually talked about it at the Lightning's website on Tuesday) and is a threat to score from the blue line, while he also struggles mightily in his own end of the ice. In all honesty, he's probably the closest thing there is in the NHL to having a fourth forward on the ice without actually putting a fourth forward on the ice.

After spending the 2009-10 season with the Montreal Canadiens, Bergeron was not re-signed by the team and spent most of last season as a free agent before signing with the Lightning in January. He ended up playing 23 regular season games for them, as well as 14 of their 18 playoff games, scoring four goals and recording seven assists in a limited role, mainly in offensive situations and on the power play. 

Since joining the team mid-way through last season, it seems as if the Lightning have made sure to put him in situations where his skills can be maximized: the power play, obviously, while also starting as many of his 5-on-5 shifts as they can as far away from his own net as they can get, while also sending him out against the other team's weakest competition.

For the season, he's a plus-four, tops among all Tampa Bay defensemen, and has been on the ice for 14 even strength goals against, the second-lowest total on the team. That doesn't necessarily mean he's been the best, or one of the best, "defensive" players on the team. It actually says more about the way Boucher and the Tampa Bay coaching staff have used him, and the situations they've put him in.

We know he can score on the power play. It's something he's done throughout his career for every team he's spent time with. But let's take a look at how he's been utilized during even-strength situations in recent years.

(The table below looks at the following over the past five seasons: Percentage of shifts started in the offensive zone (Ozone%), total offensive zone starts (Ozone), Neutral Zone Starts (Nzone), Defensive Zone Starts (Dzone), Quality of Competition (Qualcomp) and the number of even-strength points he's produced. Data via Behindthenet.ca)

Marc-Andre Bergeron's Even-Strength Usage
Team Season Ozone% Ozone Nzone Dzone QualComp Points Games
TB Lightning 2011-12 69.6% 135 111 59 -.152 12 23
TB Lightning 2010-11 69.2% 110 51 49 -.046 5 23
Montreal Canadiens 2009-10 54.6% 227 207 189 -.078 12 60
Minnesota Wild 2008-09 66.8% 399 251 198 -.040 14 72
Anaheim/Islanders 2007-08 50.2% 167 166 246 -.065 4 54

Obviously, none of his recent teams have asked him to play against the other teams best players, while most have gone out of their way to hide his defensive struggles by starting him in the offensive zone. No team has taken it to the extreme that Tampa Bay has, with only the Minnesota Wild in 2008-09 coming close. The one exception here is the '07-08 Islanders who gave him more defensive zone starts than any other team over the past five years, and it's not a coincidence that was the year he finished as a minus-14, still the worst mark of his career. 

By starting nearly 70 percent of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone Bergeron is far and away the top defensemen in the NHL in that area. Of the 127 defensemen that have played at least 20 games this season, the only ones that are starting even 60 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone are Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, Montreal's Yannick Weber and Vancouver's Alexander Edler, while only Sheldon Brookbank and Andreas Lilja have played against a lower quality of competition.

In other words: He's playing some seriously sheltered minutes, and that also can have an impact on the other defensemen on the team.

While Bergeron is getting some of the most favorable matchups in the NHL, his teammates Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer, are drawing some of the least favorable matchups, currently owning the highest QualCOMP numbers in the NHL (again, among defensemen that have played at least 20 games) while also starting, by far, the fewest shifts in the offensive zone. That might help explain, at least in part, why Bergeron is a plus-four, while the two better players defensively are currently a minus-five and minus-seven on the season.

Bergeron is a flawed player defensively, but he has value if he's used properly, and so far Boucher has demonstrated that he knows exactly where, and when, to put him on the ice to take advantage of what he does the best: help score goals.

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

Posted on: November 26, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 4:18 pm

NHL rules Parise kicked puck in (Video)

By: Adam Gretz

With less than three seconds to play in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon the Devils Zach Parise thought he had a game-tying goal to send their game against the Islanders to overtime, as he crashed the net and seemingly banged a loose puck in past Al Montoya. The play was ultimately reviewed by the NHL's situation room in Toronto, and it was determined that Parise used a distinct kicking motion to direct the puck into the net, negating the goal and securing a 3-2 win for the Islanders.

Here's the play:

And here's what the NHL posted on its constantly updating Situation Room Blog: "At 19:59 of the third period in the Devils/Islanders game, video review used the overhead angle and the side camera to determine that Devils forward Zach Parise used his right skate to propel the puck into the net.  According to rule 49.2 "A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net". No Goal New Jersey."

Parise disagreed with the ruling after the game, telling the assembled media that he can't agree with the NHL's decision and that the league made the wrong call.

After watching the replay, it's kind of a surprise that the on-ice official that was standing right in front of the play didn't rule it no goal from the start.

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

Posted on: November 26, 2011 9:44 am
Edited on: November 26, 2011 9:59 am

Foligno 'disappointed' with Crosby

crosby1By: Adam Gretz

In his return to the lineup against the New York Islanders on Monday night, Sidney Crosby wasn't really on the receiving end of any major contact, with Travis Hamonic getting credit for the only hit on him over the course of the game. Over the past two games against the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators it's been a bit of a different story, as not only has Crosby been had more physical contact come his way, he's also finding ways to get involved in it.

Not only is Crosby quickly climbing up the NHL's scoring leaderboard with seven points in his return to the Penguins' lineup, he's also quickly racking up the penalty minutes. In three games this season he's already been assessed eight penalty minutes, which is as many as his controversial teammate, Matt Cooke, has managed to rack up in 23 games.

Early in the third period of Pittsburgh's 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night, Crosby was issued a two-minute minor for elbowing Senators forward Nick Foligno following some contact between Foligno and Pittsburgh's goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury (poor video quality here).

Foligno was also sent off for roughing.

Following the game Foligno spoke out about he was "disappointed" that Crosby would do that.

"I just said you've been talking about it all summer, and then you go and do that," said Foligno. "I was just disappointed that he would do that. I fell over Fleury and Crosby is hitting me, so I look up, I see it's him, and I'm not going to do anything, and then he elbows me in the head. I just kind of got a little frustrated that he would do something like that, so I went back at him. It's not a big deal, but it is something he preached all summer about that we should limit that, and then he goes and does it, so I was just a little disappointed. But, you know, that's a small part of the game and it's over now."

As he recovered from his concussion, Crosby was outspoken about eliminating hits to the head. During his first press conference back in September he was asked if the NHL should have a complete banishment on all head shots, and he responded with, "I don't think there's a reason not to take them out," before pointing out that probably only 50-60 hits that happen over the course of an NHL season are a hit to the head, and that the NHL would not miss such a small number of plays.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 25, 2011 11:32 pm

Isles' Tavares fined for slashing Devils' Parise

By Brian Stubits

Most of the attention Brendan Shanahan has received during his tenure as the discipline czar has been focused on hits to the head and boarding calls; the types of plays that lead to concussions and other dangerous injuries.

But he has also been keeping a keen eye on ferocious slashes across the league and using the tools at his disposal to try and get rid of those as well; that would be finding players.

That's what happened to Islanders star John Tavares for his slash right on the hands of Devils captain Zach Parise on Friday afternoon. The NHL announced that Tavares was docked the maximum amount of money he could, $2,500. The money will go to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

Here is the play that led to the fine courtesy of The Score.

I'm not a terribly big fan of fines for slashing, but I can see where Shanny is coming from here. That was clearly a retaliatory slash from Tavares that wasn't in an attempt to make a play, it was gratuitous. So if you're going to fine players and get rid of these types of slashes, then this fits the bill and might help explain why Shanahan turned this decision around faster than any other thus far, a few hours after the game ended (a 1-0 Devils win).

More NHL Discipline News Here

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

Posted on: November 25, 2011 12:25 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2011 12:25 pm

Blake Comeau claimed on waivers by Flames

By: Adam Gretz

After being a healthy scratch in the Islanders 5-0 loss in Pittsburgh on Monday night, the team placed struggling forward Blake Comeau on waivers on Wednesday afternoon. On Friday, 25-year-old forward was claimed by the Calgary Flames.

Comeau could probably use a change of scenery -- and perhaps a change in luck -- as he's recorded zero points through his first 16 games of the season. He scored 24 goals to go with 22 assists in 77 games last season last season after recording 35 points in 61 games during the 2009-10 season.

He's currently on a one-year contract that pays him $2.5 million. He will be eligible for restricted free agency following this season.

Not only has Comeau not recorded a single point this season, while currently owning a minus-11 rating, he hasn't been on the ice for a single Islanders goal (scored by any player) during 5-on-5 play. He's been credited with 20 shots on goal.

When you consider that the Flames didn't have to give up anything in terms of players or draft picks to buy low on a struggling player that's demonstrated an ability to score some goals at the NHL level, it's low-risk move that has the potential for a positive reward.

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

Posted on: November 21, 2011 7:41 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 8:40 pm

Video: Crosby scores 5 minutes into first game

By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- It took Sidney Crosby three shifts, five minutes of clock time and one shot to score his first goal in his first game of the season.

After taking a pass from Pascal Dupuis in the neutral zone, Crosby flew into the New York zone and beat defenseman Andrew MacDonald before roofing a backhander over Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson, making his first start in the NHL.

Here's the video:

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

Posted on: November 21, 2011 5:58 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 6:03 pm

Excitement continues to build for Crosby's return

By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- How excited are Penguins fans for their return of their captain, Sidney Crosby?

Monday's game in Pittsburgh is being talked about and hyped up locally like it's the biggest and most anticipated regular season game for the franchise  since Mario Lemieux came out of retirement during the 2000-01 season. So, yes, it's kind of a big deal. Walking across the street to the arena one fan compared it to waking up on Christmas morning and added, quote, "it's like Santa is here and he's farting out presents."

I have no idea what, exactly, that means, but his excitement seems to be the norm for what should be a playoff-like atmosphere once the puck drops.

The Consol Energy Center doesn't have the greatest reputation when it comes to in-game atmosphere and reaching new heights on the decibal level. It's a typically mellow, laid back crowd, which is kind of surprising given the quality of the on-ice product. But that's certainly sure to change tonight. At least, it should. This is a game Penguins fans have been waiting for since last January when Crosby suffered the concussion that sidelined him for nearly 11 months and over 60 games. 

As soon as the Penguins announced on Sunday afternoon that Crosby would be coming back for this game the second-hand ticket market soared, and that's carried over to game day where scalpers on the street are asking for (and apparently getting) as much as $300-$500 per ticket.

One gentleman selling tickets simply smiled and said "it's a sellers market."

It's also a media circus as the Penguins have apparently issued somewhere in the area of 250 media credentials for the game, and they're probably not here for the return of Zbynek Michalek to the Pittsburgh lineup.

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

Posted on: November 21, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:05 pm

Anders Nilsson expected to start for Islanders

By: Adam Gretz

With veteran goalies Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya sidelined with injuries at the present time, and Rick DiPietro coming off a bad performance against the Boston Bruins that saw him allow three goals in the first period on Saturday, Islanders head coach has decided to start rookie Anders Nilsson between the pipes when his team takes on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night.

That's a tall task for the 21-year-old rookie in what will surely be a crazed atmosphere in Pittsburgh.

Nilsson has appeared in just one NHL game, and that was on Saturday in relief of DiPietro. He allowed three goals on 17 shots.

He was called up from the Islanders AHL team in Bridgeport over the weekend following the injuries to Nabokov and Montoya. In seven games in the minor leagues this season he posted a 5-2 record to go with a .908 save percentage. Nilsson was a third-round pick by the Islanders back in 2009, and prior to this season had spent the past four year playing professionally in Sweden for Lulea HF.

In 33 career games against the Islanders Crosby has recorded 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists). The only other team that he's recorded that many points against is the Philadelphia Flyers (62) in three more games.

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