Friday, April 30, 2010

Pointless Playoff Prognostication: Eastern Conference Round Two

Unlike the Western Conference.....the Eastern Conference was a complete failure for me. I got the collar in the East, 0-for-4. Here's hoping for the best in the second round, but I don't know how well off it'll be. I mean, who knew all the top seeds would be out-- COME ON!!


The folklore of Sidney Crosby continues to grow this year, with 14 points in his first series over the Ottawa Senators. A bigger point is 14 of the 21 guys who have hit the ice for the Penguins have a point, though playoff wonder of Ruslan Fedotenko has yet to register a point-- which is something that will be looked at if he can actually bounce back, especially since he seems to be playing only once a week and is a minus-3 in his two games this playoffs. Luckily, it seems that Evgeni Malkin is getting back from his slumping regular season with four goals, four assists in six games. The one good thing about this match-up is that Marc-Andre Fleury may not be as tested as the last round. Fleury had a 2.75 GAA and .890 save percentage that is something that you don't expect from a Cup winner.

The Canadiens can be considered a block party (I won't use a Bloc Quebecois joke) and Hal Gill has been a solid pick-up for that back-end for the Canadiens. In fact, the Habs had as many blocked shots as the Capitals had shots on goal in Game Seven. Jaroslav Halak has looked sensational after his game hiatus, but does seem to be beatable, though is numbers tell a different tale. However, the big issues is that only Gill, PK Subban, and Ryan O'Byrne are plus players on the team. The offense for the Habs is something that has been lead by Mike Cammalleri and to a lesser extent, Tomas Plekanec. The Habs scored less that three goals per game and could be vulnerable to an onslaught from an offensive team.

PREDICTION: Penguins in Six. While the Habs could give the Penguins some troubles in the first couple of games with their block ability, much like the Senators tried to do in the last two games of that series, the Penguins will adjust because they've seen it before and have seen the motive of the Canadiens game-plan.


Not only is the big boost from the Bruins by winning the goalie war with Tuukka Rask over Ryan Miller, but the return of Marc Savard should prove to be something of at least a morale boost, but we'll see if a month or so off will give them a boost on the ice as well. With the likes of Mark Recchi, Miro Satan, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron being atop the team scoring charts for the last series. Savard can pack a punch if he's as good as he was when he left. The best part is that they're getting scoring from all around now, from maybe the unlikeliest of places. The story should be Rask, who was solid and could be the second goalie in as many years to be the story getting the Bs to the Conference Finals.

The story with the Flyers was the comeback of Brian Boucher, in a big way. It was about 10 years since he was really relevant. Boucher's 1.59 GAA and .940 save percentage are nothing short of stellar for the journeyman back-up in Boucher and proves a hot goalie will get you anywhere. However, Boucher will HAVE to be sharp; as Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and Ian Laperierre will be lost for the Flyers going forward. While Daniel Carcillo and Claude Giroux have been clutch in their new roles, Mike Richards and Daniel Briere will have to really step up their game. Also, the likes of James van Riemsdyk and the new straight haired Scott Hartnell (AKA white Katt Williams) will need to be a whole lot better than the first round. It should be interesting to see what the week layoff will do to the Flyers.

PREDICTION: Bruins in Seven. With the depleted roster for the Flyers and the boost from Savard for the Bruins, the Flyers will be in deep if the top guys are not there for them. The Bruins will rely heavily on Rask to be the strong backstop and maybe the thing that sparks the team. However, if Rask can't spark them and the slackers on the Flyers can get on the ball-- it could be an interesting series from top to bottom.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another Hart Jobbing

November 9th, 1997 is a date that many wrestling fans (and who wasn't) will remember as the Montreal Screwjob, where Bret Hart was run out of the WWE when Shawn Michaels put him in the Sharpshooter and Earl Hebner rang the bell early with Vince McMahon by ringside ordering him to. Hart lost the title, was screwed over, and "jobbed" when all was said and done.

Now, we can call April 29th, 2010 the Buffalo Screwjob, as Ryan Miller can kind of feel the same way.

The Hart Trophy nominees for the league most valuable player were announced today, with Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Henrik Sedin announced as the finalist. This is much to my own surprise, who didn't think Ovechkin should have been put in the category of this, even with his 50 goal and 100+ point season. Miller did more for the Sabres than Ovechkin did for the Caps-- especially since Nicklas Backstrom broke out for the Capitals with his own 100 point season. Miller had 41 wins (4th in the NHL), a 2.22 GAA (2nd), and .929 save percentage (2nd) with five shutouts (7th), 1,948 saves (3rd) on 2,098 shots against (4th). That's pretty damn valuable, if you ask me.

While you'll have many people complaining about how goalie shouldn't be able to get nominated for the Hart because they have their own Vezina Trophy for the best goalie, thus shouldn't be considered for the award. To that end, why don't you have more goalie awards that aren't based on stats, like the forwards have. The goalies awards are more stat based, like the William Jennings Trophy (fewest goals against) and Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award (highest save percentage). Why shouldn't goalies be considered for individual awards, especially since you really key in on goalies when you talk about what can make or break a team.

The exclusion of Miller (or to a lesser extent, Ilya Bryzgalov) is a shame for the voters of these awards. Goalies are as important as the forwards or defenseman and shouldn't be resigned to their only award that isn't stats based. The Hart Trophy itself is to be award to the player deemed to be most valuable to his team. If take away Miller or Bryzgalov from their respective teams, are the teams as good as they were with them on it. The answer is no, of course. Albeit-- you can say that the three finalist this year were pretty soild and two of the three make have made or broken their team for the season; you have to include the likes of Miller in that final group-- even if he doesn't win.

With all the stuff being thrown around, the fact remains that if you go by the criteria that the Hart Trophy is about; Ryan Miller got jobbed worse that Bret Hart. You take Miller off the Sabres this year, you're left with Patrick Lalime and Jhonas Enroth. The Sabres probably wouldn't have made the playoffs, much less win the Northeast Division. Miller was the most valuable to his team and this award really should be his-- and it's a travesty he won't even get a sniff at it.

Pointless Playoff Prognostication: Western Conference Round Two

Well, I went a perfect 4-for-4 in the first round for the Western Conference, including two perfections in the Canucks and Sharks prognostication. Now, the real money is won, lost, or not bet at all-- in the second round.


After a scare, the Sharks got past the first round, but without their usual star power. Guys like Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe lead the way, while the lack of production from Joe Thornton harps back to....well, past playoff spots. Only three assists in six games for Jumbo Joe and really it doesn't seem like he'll ever be playoff ready. In fact, none of the big three of Thornton, Dany Heatley (though he was injured for a game), or Patrick Marleau have done anything close to their regular season production. Only one goal amongst the three and no more than four points for any of them. Luckily, Evgeni Nabokov seemed to have found his game with a 1.76 GAA and .928 save percentage after round one.

There's a quick turnaround for the Wings, who closed out the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Seven on Tuesday only got one day rest before they're back at it. That could effect some of the older souls of the team, but you'll probably see a lot more of Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader in an energy role for the Wings. Although, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg looked really good in the Game Seven win, as did Todd Bertuzzi, who has five points in seven games. Nicklas Lidstrom looked like his usual playoff self, even if he's up there in age. And while Jimmy Howard was good, the protection he got from his defense was stellar. If they can't protect him all the time, it makes you wonder if he could steal a game by himself.

PREDICTION: Sharks in Six. While it's hard to count out a veteran savvy Wings team, the Sharks top three probably will get a sense of urgency now, or you hold they would. Even so, the depth the Sharks have matches that of the Wings and really could be the factor that puts them over the top in the series and get the flop tag off their resume.


This is a rematch from last year's second round where the Hawks took it to go onto the Western final. Of course, that doesn't mean much-- especially considering the goaltending issues with the Hawks are very much more inflated. While Antii Niemi has looked good at times, he's looked just as bad at times as well. At least the top guys for the Hawks have been continuing their regular season trend and are actually scoring in the post-season. Though the one warning sign could be the lack of production from Duncan Keith, who only has two points and is a minus-4 through the first round. If he can pick up his pace, the Hawks should be in even better hands.

A concern for the Canucks has to be what Roberto Luongo will show up. After the first round, Bobby Lu had a .893 save percentage and 2.92 GAA, which is not his best work. Odds are he will have to be better, especially against a more offensive team like the Hawks are. On the flip side, the Swedish contingent had been taking over, with Mikael Samuelsson putting up 11 points, Daniel Sedin with 10, and Henrik Sedin with 8. The defense has been solid, with pluses all around. They should be tough to beat if they can continue this trend and Luongo can be solid.

PREDICTION: Hawks in Seven. Fatigue could play a factor with Luongo and may be the deciding factor on why the Canucks don't push past the Hawks this year. While the Swedes have been great for Vancouver, the Hawks could just starting to be hitting their stride. The defense should be tighter in Chicago, thus reducing chances for the Sedins and gang. If Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews can continue to be solid, they'll be able to break Luongo's spirit more so.

That's that-- here's hoping I'll be able to go a solid perfection in the second round, much like the first. If not....what more do you want from me?? Pay me if you want accuracy....or something close....or not at all.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Conundrum of Ovechkin

In the next few days, weeks, months-- the common tag when it comes to the Washington Capitals season is that Alex Ovechkin wasn't good enough to come through and carry the team, like a captain should. Of course, most of that will come from Penguins fans who will bring up Sidney Crosby's performance against the Ottawa Senators and others as a key to win their debate.

While Crosby did amazingly against the Senators, it's not like they're a shutdown style team with any assemblance of a hot goalie. You'll never get through to them because that's how they roll and until someone unseats them, they can have that "born on third and thought they hit a triple" kind of attitude. A recent Cup win gives you that entitlement, though Pens fans really don't need a reason.

In any case, the fact is that Ovechkin was keyed on solidly by the Habs after he picked them apart from Games Two to Four. He was able to get speed and space through the neutral zone and got a beat on the defensemen, who weren't able to keep up the pace with him. However, they made a smart adjustment by actually engaging Ovechkin and not letting him get any space, which didn't allow him to have a good shot and thus taking him out of the picture offensively. When he did get space, the likes of Hal Gill would step up to block anything thrown at them. You really can't fault Ovechkin since he pretty much tried to do everything to avoid the congestion, but it just didn't work. Which should create an interesting match-up for the Penguins, who will either fall to the same demise as the Caps or solve their former teammate Gill and be able to do what the Caps couldn't.

Regardless, Ovechkin tried to do what he could, but where he could have lacked is trying to motivate his teammates and get some more support out of them. Granted, the press would see that as him coming off as a prima donna, but it seems he can't win nowadays. Yet, if he couldn't get motivation out of his team, you have to wonder what kind of voice he actually has with his teammates. If he couldn't get a spark out of his guys to have a killer instinct, there's a character question that should need be addressed.

The funny thing about the Caps/Habs series is that the pundits and rival fans won't give credit where credit is due. The Caps were shutdown by the Habs defensively and it wasn't for a lack of trying, as the Caps had peppered the Habs with 134 shots in the last three games. Jaroslav Halak was insane stopping 131. Yet, even with his 10 points and 34 shots in seven games, it won't be enough to say that Ovechkin "choked" the series away. I know the rational of some people won't factor through, but it's hard to say he choked when he was atop the team scoring chart again, while the secondary scoring was nowhere to be found. If there's anything Ovechkin should be blamed for it's for not getting the rest of his team off the snide and motivated enough to help him out. Those lessons and motivational factors he'll learn in time.

Ovechkin will always have the onus of not showing up for big games....which couldn't be further from the truth in this game. I mean, ten shots in the final game, plenty of solid chances; including the called-off goal-- Ovechkin was very prominent, but the Habs defense was what shut him and the rest of the team down and they should get nothing but full marks.

Yet, you have to wonder if Crosby would be given the same treatment if he got no support from his teammates or if he would be given the benefit of the doubt because of the games he has won. Time will tell, but right now-- and as much as I hate to say it-- Crosby has the edge on Ovechkin due to playoff success alone. Once Ovechkin can get over that tag of "big game loser", then he can be truly considered elite.

What's Next: Washington Capitals 2010

1987. 1992. 1996. Now, 2010. Welcome, new generation of Washington Capitals fans. This is the fourth time the Caps have fallen after being up 3 games to 1. There's going to be a lot of finger pointing, a lot of spinning, a lot of grief. The bottom line is that the Capitals let this one slip away and didn't have the killer instinct that is need in the playoffs. History should have been a reminder to them, but it seemed to fall to the back-burner.

The big question now is goaltending. With the exit of Jose Theodore, the question becomes whether or not Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are going to be enough to keep this team at a somewhat elite regular season status and then onto the playoffs. With the limited cap room, I doubt you'll see GM George McPhee go all out to get a UFA goalie. Though, maybe he could seek a trade for prospects and other assets could be the avenue. We'll have to see how the coaching staff and management feel.

Defensively, the Caps saw the future with the Game Seven pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner. Both of these guys should be a regular pairing starting next season and could take some top minutes away from Jeff Schultz and Mike Green. Speaking of Green, while you can't put much of the blame on him, there has to be some kind of block that makes him hate the playoffs. With the exception of his year in Hershey, Green has not shown up in a dramatic fashion for the playoffs. I don't know how sports psychology will help, but he may need to see what he needs to do to remedy himself of the situation.

Offensively, what can you say?? The Caps got shutdown by a team who read them the right way. Alex Ovechkin got no space after Game Four and it worked. If Nicklas Backstrom doesn't get a long-term deal this summer, I'll riot in DC when I get there. Backstrom was solid this season and solid in the playoffs, which should more than warrant him for a "Caps for Life" contract. Of course, the questions start to pop up with the like of Alex Semin, who could be used as trade bait after his inconsistent end of the year and playoffs. The debate on whether Tomas Fleischmann or Eric Fehr should stay or go will pop up and what the Caps can get from their feeder system in Hershey. It's not like a wholesale change is needed, as the Caps did pretty well for offense this year and don't need a major overhaul. Just something for the long-haul.

Bruce Boudreau said this could be the last time this group plays together. Odds are with the UFAs and some RFAs, there will be a somewhat decent turnover. Whether that includes him remains to be seen, but doubtful. Boudreau can only do so much for this team since he can't play. However, the lack of success in the playoffs is something that could be come a troubling trend if it happens again next year.

It's a bittersweet thing, to be the best team in the regular season then completely collapse in the post-season, but it's something to build on. I pondered whether or not they can learn more after the losses they have endured since getting back into the playoffs, but at the same time-- you can really never stop learning. This generation of Caps will have to do a lot of soul searching, a lot of more developing, if they want to get to that next level. You have to lose before you win. The Caps just have to hope the latter part comes soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's Next: Phoenix Coyotes 2010

If nothing else, this has been a seasons of extreme highs and extreme lows, as well as extreme confusion when it comes to the teams future. However, a solid season with a new coach, a breakout goalie, and all-around team effort made this the "sweetheart" team of the playoffs for most people. Sadly, it was only meant to be in the first round. With a lot of the future in terms of ownership still up in the air, the team proved it's worth and were able to get a building full with the winning ways, even if they left with 10 minutes to go in the third period of a Game Seven.

In any case, the real story was the play of Ilya Bryzgalov, which earned him a nod for the Vezina Trophy. A career high in wins by a long-shot (42), which placed him third on the list this year; he was second in the league in shutouts (8), and was top-ten in GAA (2.29) and save percentage (.920). Whether or not Bryzgalov will be able to repeat such a feat remains to be seen, but you can tell that people are kicking themselves for not taking a flier on him when he was one waiver. The Coyotes are reaping the benefits. Jason Labarbera is a solid back-up, but who knows how much they'll utilize him next year if Bryz continues to be hot.

Offensively, the Coyotes were very shaky, being very defensive minded. Luckily, the acquisitions of the Lee Stempniak (18gp, 14g, 4a) and Wojtek Wolski (18gp, 6g, 12a) at the deadline proved to be a great turn of events for the team. It helped Shane Doan and Matthew Lombardi get some scoring support and proved to be what boosted the Yotes up to 4th in the West. Hopefully, Stempniak, Wolski, and Lombardi will get re-signed to help continue their momentum they had ending the season. While Doan is still a solid option, odds are they will need to find something younger to carry the torch. Plus, you still have a developing Kyle Turris and Martin Hanzal to think about, as well-- which are nice options offensively to have.

Another deadline pick-up, Derek Morris, seemed to be solid addition, though his four points didn't really tear up the world. Despite his minus-11, Ed Jovanovski was solid and play a great offensive part to the defense. Keith Yandle came out of his shell and lead the Coyotes' defense with 41 points and plus-16 on the year, showing he's going to be the next big thing for Phoenix. With Sami Lepisto and Zbynek Michalek both up and coming, and both needing contracts-- you have to wonder what kind of deals they'll get to keep a good core group together to move forward with the team.

While it was trying off the ice, on the ice the Coyotes were able to get their first 50 win season since 1977-78 when they were in a different town and different league. It was their first playoffs since 2002, even though they didn't make it out of the first round again. This was orchestraed by the mastermind of Dave Tippett, who really brought this team together and proved to them what they could do. The big thing right now is whether or not they can keep it going or if this loss after a solid season will grind their mental state to a halt. I'm sure the former will happen, but the latter is always an option.

Stage Set for the Sevens

It's a good day, gentlemen. It's a good day to think about responsibility. It's a good day to ask yourself a couple of questions. It's a good day, gentlemen, to ask yourselves if, on a personal level, you're willin' to accept that. If you're willin' to accept the responsibility you have to protect this team, this school, and this town. And make no mistake about it gentlemen, we are in the business of winning. We are in the business of protectin' this town. The expectations couldn't be any higher: We will win State. This is real sincere warfare. Can you be perfect??

~Coach Gary Gaines, "Friday Night Lights"

This is the gist of what the coaches speeches should be to the four teams going into the Game Sevens of the first round. Starting tonight, it's going to be a make or break time for these teams, especially those who are at home and how Game Six's outcome was. The mindset couldn't be any more focused and the questions are going to be abound, for sure.

You have to wonder what kind of momentum each side has. Especially since the situations in each side are a bit different. For the Coyotes/Wing series, the series has been very tight and each team holding a lead at some point of the series. The Coyotes are back at home and will have the support and momentum after winning Game Six. The Red Wings couldn't finish it out at home and now have to deal with the Coyotes, who have been somewhat decent at home, even though they've lost two games already on the road. It's going to be whether or not the Wings offense can show up and if Jimmy Howard can come up big in the biggest game of his life to this point. The Coyotes are going to have to show up big, with or without Shane Doan-- as he is a game-time decision. It should be an even more tense game than any other games in this series.

The Caps/Habs series should have a different vibe to it. The Caps had control of this series, up 3-1 in the series, and then got stoned by the returning Jaroslav Halak, only getting two goals on 92 shots against. Even though the Caps are back at home, you have to wonder if the history of series past are going to haunt them. They need to be better than their 1-for-30 power play and actually find holes in Halak rather than thinking he's invincible, because they did run him before. The Habs have to keep the pressure up. But at the same time, they've been in the elimination side of it twice already; just have to wonder if they can keep up the desperate play and actually think they're down still. The Habs came out strong in the first ten minutes of Game Five and Six, which really set the tone for the rest of the game; both of which they won.

It's the most exciting thing in any sporting event and also a game fans love and hate. They love the fact they can actually have maybe one more game, but hate the fact it could be the last of the season. There are no more shades of gray, just black and white. You win, you move on-- you lose, you're cleaning out your locker room the next day. Tension is high, cliches are even higher, and I have nothing more to say about that-- enjoy the games.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What's Next: Nashville Predators 2010

Another first round, another exit for the Predators. Although, after missing last year's playoffs-- the Predators do have something to look forward to next year, though I'm sure plenty of questions will spring up, as they always do, for how to remedy these early exits year-in and year-out for a fan base that seems to enjoy it when hockey matters.

It seems that the goaltending was selected when Pekka Rinne was re-signed, but you have to wonder if Dan Ellis could get re-signed, as well--just as a contingency plan to Rinne. While Rinne did have his bright spots, when he fell; he fell hard. To have Ellis back would give Chet Pickard another year to grow in Milwaukee and give Rinne a NHL-ready goalie to pick up some pieces. Especially with a defensive minded team like this, there's going to be a need for a two-goalie system, especially when you have some instability every now and again. Even so, the tandem of Rinne and Ellis could be for the greater good and worth the money if it means staying in the playoffs.

Offensively, the Predators could use some help. With only Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist being over 50 points on the year, as well as Hornqvist being over 25 goals (Martin Erat was the other one over 20 goals); the need for some kind of goal support for the goalies is much needed. Hornqvist will need to be re-signed, as he is a RFA and probably going to be a strong asset in the franchise's future. Other than that-- the core will remain and with guys like Joel Ward starting to hit a stride, what more could you want other than execution on the goal-scoring front.

Defensively, the Predators have what most teams dream of. With the solid duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, the Preds have a decent cornerstone for the future. The question on what to do with Dan Hamhuis will be a topic of the summer, though with Cody Franson coming up through the ranks; Hamhuis could be out in the free agent market because of a numbers game, as well as a drop in production over the past few seasons.

Much like the Sabres, who were eliminated the same day-- the question of Barry Trotz being on a short leash (with what neck, I'll never know) or not will come up. Trotz has been the only coach and David Poile the only GM. Even with all the good they have done to build up the future, it could be time for a message change and time for a new era of the Predators. Bring in someone who is new, like the team itself and maybe the fortunes will be different in the end.

The tools are there for the Predators, but it's a matter of actually getting it done. There's going to be a time where the cogs will fall into place and the hardship of first round defeats will be a distant memory. Odds are that it could come in the next few years with a little bit of work and little bit of change. They put up a solid fight and like other series; they could have one. But a bounce here and there really shot them in the foot.

What's Next: Buffalo Sabres 2010

After battling through a tough season, having won the Northeast Division crown, not many had expected the Sabres to be out after the first round. But untimely injuries and running into another hot goaltender spelled the Sabres' demise. Now, they have to regroup and wonder what went wrong and how they can remedy this from happening again.

The Sabres seem to have the same issue the Devils had, where they relied a lot on goaltender Ryan Miller. While Miller didn't play as much as Martin Brodeur, he was 4th in shots against; so you know he was peppered. Plus, you have to see how much and how well he played in the Olympics, so that had to take it's toll as well. While Patrick Lalime may not be the answer as a full-time back-up, he's good enough to not take away development time for the like of Jonas Enroth or Connor Knapp, for the time being. With Miller being as young as he is-- he can play this much, get shelled, and not get TOO worn out, but there's going to come a time where the Sabres will have to think about a better back-up to give Miller a rest now and again and not have to worry about losing without him in net.

Offensively, it seemed to be scoring by committee, with only Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy with over 25 goals on the season. Both Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville also had a solid season, but you have to wonder how the lack of goals will be a hinderance in the future seasons. Luckily, the playoffs showed the future, with Tyler Ennis and Tim Kennedy in the top-five in team scoring for the Sabres' playoffs; so if they can actually get some playing time during next season, then they could add to the committee scoring tactics or maybe break away from it all. One thing you wonder if what Vanek's trend could be. Even though he played two less games than last season, he had 12 less goals. You hope it doesn't become a Jonathan Cheechoo situation, but it has to be in the back of the mind of some....or just me.

Tyler Myers is the defenseman of the future for the league and the Sabres. The rookie showed a lot of maturity and it's showing with his Calder Trophy nomination and the buzz that surrounded him. However, beyond him-- there's not much the Sabres can really throw out as being fantastic. Toni Lydman was consistent, as well Steve Montador; yet neither jump out at you as being solid options when it comes to being THE defensive stalwart. Although, I guess pre-Myers, Henrik Tallinder would be the guy-- and he was quietly decent this season, with a career high in assists. Myers throws an offensive spark into his defensive side of things, thus making him even more valuable and why he'll be the face of this defense for years to long as he doesn't have a stumble.

Though you have to wonder if Lindy Ruff will be on a short-leash with this loss. I know he's be around for years, but is there a time where a change will be the thing that gets the team to the next level. While it'll take GM Darcy Regier to be fired to make this happen, who knows if it ever will. Ruff has done a lot with this team with a lot of components of the team changing in recent years. It'll be a catch-22 if it got to that point, but still something that'll be interesting to look at in the beginning of next year.

There's a lot of hope for the Sabres still to come and while this was a hiccup when there are expectations for this squad, you have to take the bad with the good. They have a great young defenseman, they have a goalie would could probably take home both the Vezina and MVP award this year, but with all the defense; the offense (or lack there of) could be the one thing that holds this team back from the ultimate glory of winning a Stanley Cup.

Absurd Goalie Monday: Robb Stauber

In the playoffs, goaltending is key and could be the make-or-break part of a series. Replacing a goalie could be a great shift in momentum or a sign of giving up, with this year showing a little of both with so many goalies being pulled. However, for four games in 1993's playoffs, this week's AGM may have helped swing the momentum to his team's side; especially since they lost big in Games 2 and 3 before they put him in. It was his only career NHL playoff action. This week, we look at the career of Robb Stauber.

Stauber was a stand-out for the Duluth-Denfield Wildcats in the Minnesota high school ranks with a 2.48 GAA in 49 games. This drew the attention of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, who recruited Stauber for their squad. It also drew the attention of the Los Angeles Kings, who selected Stauber in the 6th round of the 1986 Draft.

Stabuer's freshman year in 1986-87 was able to ease him into the program, only playing him 20 games behind starter John Blue, with Stauber going 13-5-0. That year, Stauber also got the chance to play with Team USA in the World Juniors, where he would see four games of action. The 1987-88 season saw Stauber take over the starting role for the Gophers, playing 44 games and going 34-10-0, with a decent 2.72 GAA. It was a great year for Stauber, who was named the WCHA MVP, WCHA Goaltender of the Year, WCHA First Team All-Star, NCAA First Team All-Amercian, and he won the Hobey Baker Award for top US Collegiate Player. The 1988-89 season would be hard to top, but Stauber did what he could, playing only 34 games, but would go 26-8-0 with an even better 2.43 GAA, which would give him WCHA Top Goaltender honors once again. Stauber went to play of his country again, as he would play for Team USA in the World Championships, going 3-3-0.

Stauber jumped into the professional ranks in the 1989-90, spending most of his time with the New Haven Knighthawks, playing only 14 games and going 6-6-2, then going 2-3 in his five playoff games. Stauber got some time in March of 1990 with the Kings, going 0-1-0 in his two appearances. It was another year in New Haven for Stauber, who played 33 games for the Knighthawks, but struggled going 13-16-4; which got Stauber some time in the IHL with the Phoenix Roadrunners going 1-2-0 in his four games of play with the Runners. Stauber stayed with the Runners for the 1991-92 season, playing 22 games behind Darryl Gilmour and David Goverde; but the struggles continued with Stabuer going 8-12-1. Yet in the 1992-93 season, luck was on Stauber's side as he was the back-up for the Kings for the season, backing up Kelly Hrudey. Stabuer would go 15-8-4 in his 31 games, but he really shined in the playoffs.

The Kings were playing the strong Calgary Flames team in the first round. Even with the Kings winning the first game, Kelly Hrudey let up 14 goals in the next two games. Down 2-1, Stauber was thrown into net and won the next three for the Kings, allowing only 11 goals in those three games, and helping the Kings advance to the second round. Stauber was on a short-leash, as he lost Game One in the next round to the Vancouver Canucks and was along for the ride with the Kings going to the Stanley Cup Finals, but losing to the Montreal Canadiens.

The good times wouldn't last as Stauber struggled in the 1993-94 season, going 4-11-5 with the Kings, which saw him get demoted again to the Roadrunners, where he would go 1-1-0 in his three appearances. With the shortened 1994-95 season, Stauber would only play one game for the Kings, in relief, and getting a no-decision. It was his last showing in the Kings uniform.

On Valentine's Day of 1995, Stauber and the Kings broke up, as Stauber, Alexei Zhitnik, Charlie Huddy, and a 5th round pick were traded to the Buffalo Sabres for Grant Fuhr, Philippe Boucher, and Denis Tsygurov. Stauber would play six games for the Sabres, this time backing up Dominik Hasek; where he would go 2-3-0 in his games. The 1995-96 season would see Stauber again relegated to AHL work, this time with the Rochester Americans. Six goalies went through the Amerks that year, Stauber was one of the back-ups and went 6-7-1 in his 16 games played.

After that, Stauber would sign as a free agent with the Washington Capitals, but would stay in the AHL with the Portland Pirates for the 1996-97 season, again as a back-up. He would get 30 games in going 13-13-2. Stauber would stay in the AHL in the 1997-98 season, this time with the Hartford Wolfpack after signing with the New York Rangers. Stauber played 39 games that year, getting back to his winning form with a 20-10-6 record. However, when put into the playoffs, he was unable to help his Wolfpack going 3-4 before giving way to Dan Cloutier to take over the playoff reigns. Stauber would play five games for the Manitoba Moose in the 1998-99 season, going 2-1-1 and would hang up the pads for a bit. Stauber would play parts of three seasons in three different leagues with the Jacksonville Barracudas of the ACHL in 2002-03 (0-1-0), the WHA2 in 2003-04 (1-1-0), and then in the SPHL (2-1-0).

After his everyday playing career, Stauber would coach the University of Minnesota team as an assistant and goalie coach. He also runs the Goalcrease Training Center in Edina, Minnesota, as well as playing Bandy for the Duluth Dynamo and US National Team. Bandy is basically field hockey......ON ICE and is called "Russian hockey."

Stauber had a lot of promise coming out of his college career and had some bright spots early, but it seemed that he couldn't get a good rhythm going when he got to the pros thanks to happenstances beyond his control. At least now, like so many others, he can train the young goalies how to both physically and mentally deal with the ups and downs.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What's Next: Los Angeles Kings 2010

Much like the team eliminated before them, the Kings really didn't have too much pressure on them, because many deemed them a couple years away before a playoff spot. However, the quick maturity of Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar realized his true stardom ways, and Jonathan Quick surprised many with how he commanded the crease; the Kings made noise early and often, getting LA back into a hockey state-of-mind after years of indifference. The biggest thing now, even after the first round exit, is to build off the momentum they did have.

Starting with Quick, he had a lot of life event this year towards the end of the season, which could have mentally thrown him off his game. After the birth of his child, it seemed that he was a bit off his game when he came back. I think the buzz about how Jonathan Bernier breathing down his throat didn't help much either for his confidence. Even with his small extension, the presence of Bernier will make him worry more. The starting role is still up for debate because of it, many saying Quick played himself out of the role and Bernier can't be held back anymore. If Quick wants to get his job back that he lost-- he'll have to get mentally tougher in the off-season and work on his positioning better as there are a lot of goal he shouldn't have gotten beaten on in the Vancouver series.

Up front, the Kings look solid for another season. Kopitar will undoubtedly lead the way with Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown there for support. However, I would expect big things next season when it comes to Wayne Simmons, as he showed very strong signs of promise towards the end of the year. Also, you can probably expect Brayden Schenn to come up and bypass his overage season in Brandon of the WHL. Schenn will probably take the place of Alex Frolov, who probably won't be re-signed at all, considering his tiffs with management. Along with Schenn, Oscar Moller will probably break through an everyday spot on the roster next year and you have to put the wild-card of Brandon Kozun of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen on the prospective break-through guys for next year.

Drew Doughty was the anchor of the Kings blue line and you can expect to hear that for the next decade or so. The young Olympian had a stellar year and should build off of that. The Kings haven't seen something like that since a young Rob Blake patrolled the back-end. Jack Johnson is going to have to improve on his minus-15 if he wants to continue to get 20+ minutes a game. With Thomas Hickey coming up, it should only add to the stellar youngsters the Kings have on their blue line. Plus, they have a benefit of having some older guys (by proxy) in Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi to help mold the younger guys into the system and be the veteran presence to the team.

All in all, the Kings got to their goal faster than even they had though. They are proof that the youth movement trend is alive and well. I mentioned in April of '08 that this team was my team to look out for in the West and they're proving me right this year. Hopefully, even with all the small changes from their prospects (especially a goaltending one which could get hectic) that they'll be able to keep on the same path to success. No one will underestimate them and now will be gunning for them. Whether they can battle back will be the true test.

What's Next: Colorado Avalanche 2010

For a team who no one expected to do much, they young guns in the Rocky Mountains sure did make a lot of noise early; which helped them in the long-run. Even with a very inexperienced line-up, the Avalanche laid the foundation for the next generation of consistency. This was also the first year since the 1988-89 season that Joe Sakic wasn't in the line-up. The torch has been passed.

One concern will have to be the looming sophomore slump for the likes of Matt Duchene, who led all rookies in scoring they year. While Duchene has all the tools of the future, he could fall victim to the dreaded learning curve, but I think Joe Sacco and the guys who have had to deal with struggles-- like Peter Mueller-- and learn from their shortcomings. Also, the Avs gave to determine the value of Chris Stewart, who had a breakout year. As an RFA, will they be able to give him the money needed to keep him around and not get poached by another team. The question is if he can keep the pace he has and keep leading the team in goals, or at least provide another option for scoring behind Duchene and Peter Statsny.

Craig Anderson was nothing less than stellar for the Avs, though you have to wonder if he slides and mishaps were just fatigue of not playing that much before or a greater problem that could haunt him for the length of his tenure. A decision will need to be made about Peter Budaj as well, whether or not he's worth keeping or if they can call up the likes of Tyler Weiman or Trevor Cann (who struggled in the AHL, but not the Central League) or even going the free agent route for an affordable, reliable back-up who can pick up the slack for Anderson.

Defensively, you can bet that Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei probably won't be back, making room for Kevin Shattenkirk and Wes O'Neill to come up. I wouldn't expect Tom Preissing back, as he'll be bought out-- for those who were wondering if he was still on the roster or not. Brian Fahey may be on the outside looking in, but with a decent year in Lake Erie, it could get him a solid call. While you can think that the Avs will re-sign on more affordable defenseman, don't expect them to go wild to disturb the chemistry they have.

This is a team who had nothing to lose and they looked like they could have been the Sharks, if they didn't crash in the last two games. However, the Avs are another team in line of the Penguins, Capitals, Blackhawks, and Kings, who are in the youth movement business. With a great young crop only looking to grow stronger, the Avs maybe building up their Cup chances prospect by prospect-- which is the exact opposite to how they built their legacy prior.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's Next: Ottawa Senators 2010

Through a summer of turmoil and losing a key cog to their scoring puzzle, the Ottawa Senators did a decent job to get into the playoffs, despite being a minus-13 in goal differential, the worst of all the playoff teams. However, even though Cory Clouston did an admirable job, there's still a lot to be done for this team to be a serious Cup contender again.

Obviously, the goal-scoring should be the number one issue. With Dany Heatley out of the equation, the goal scoring actually went up by 12 goals, but somehow it didn't seem like nearly enough, since the 225 of this year is down from 261 two seasons ago. While there were signs of scoring like from Mike Fisher and Milan Michalek; the true sense of secondary scoring-- or primary scoring for that matter-- wasn't prevalent all season. Even though Daniel Alfredsson remained consistent, the injuries to Jason Spezza slowed him down and Alex Kovalev only gave enough to have people give him another shot at redeeming himself. The main cogs will be there next year with the Sens, so maybe if they can stay healthy, they'll get back to scoring in droves.

Goaltending is another issue, as neither Brian Elliott or Pascal Leclaire seemed to want to be the top guy in Ottawa. Both has streaks of good play, but injuries to Leclaire and inconsistency to Elliott hampered the team down the stretch, though Leclaire may have redeemed himself with his playoff performance. Many wonder if Mike Brodeur could have been the break-out guy for the Sens if he wasn't a victim of the numbers game. Going into the season, everyone had Leclaire pegged as the savior, but those who have followed him even the slightest knew it would be an uphill struggle. A need for goaltending has always been the Sens weak spot and it continues to be that way.

Defensively, the Sens could have been better, as you could see by the goal differential, and signing Anton Volchenkov will be crucial and maybe even seeing if Andy Sutton would be willing to re-sign in Ottawa to help strengthen the shambles the Senators defense has become. Erik Karlsson's progress is something the Sens loved to see, especially in his short-time in North America-- which should be a great asset for the partial re-building on the Sens blue line. Plus, who knows what Filip Kuba could do if he wasn't injured for 1/3rd of the season.

All in all, it's another let-down from a team that's trying to find some way to recapture their one-time glory. While Rome wasn't built in a day, the Senators will definitely be a team to get back on track faster. While getting the fifth seed is a start, the fact of the matter is there's plenty of holes in that facade and they were exposed by the defending Cup champs in their match-up. Whether or not the team can learn from this remains to be seen, but I'm sure there's going to be some kind of shake-up in order to make sure that they can actually last longer than two weeks in the second-season rather than another early exit or not being there at all.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What's Next: New Jersey Devils 2010

After a third straight First Round exit, the New Jersey Devils are sitting scratching their heads, as they are the first team out of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They stalled in the second-half with an 18-17-6 record and lost nine of their last 11 games, including the playoffs. You have to wonder how much a curse the new building is for the Devils. All that tomfoolery aside, there's a lot of questions to be answered for the Devils.

First, will the pursue Ilya Kovalchuk for any kind of extension?? The addition had paid off somewhat, but the fact remains that he probably won't be back for the Devils next season, especially with his probable crazy demands for a contract. While he could be an asset in the long-run, what are the odds he will be held back in the Devils system of defense first. If Kovalchuk is gone, it will be a short-lived experience and will definitely not look good to Lou Lamoriello's track record. Kovalchuk couldn't get into the same system with the Devils and he is not a good fit in terms of this team.

Second, what to with Martin Brodeur's playing time. Another 70-plus start season for Brodeur, who is an all-world goalie, but is getting up there in age. Even so, this will be Brodeur's seventh first round exit in 15 playoffs for Brodeur. Brodeur played well and kept this team in it, but the team didn't respond and Brodeur got worn down. Many ask this a lot when the Devils exit early, did Brodeur play too much, should they have played Yann Danis or whomever the back-up of the year is more?? There has to be some sort of respect to Brodeur for being the franchise in terms of how much he wants to play, but there's time where you have to look at the team aspect of it and maybe save Brodeur from himself. He really has nothing left to prove it could be time to look for the future netminder of the Devils.

Third, what can this team do to get past the first round hump?? Is it the offense, who scored 22 less goals last year than this year?? Did the Kovalchuk trade kill the defensive solidarity they had?? Maybe it's the stability, or lack there of, of the coaching. They've gone through five coaches (one repeat in Lamoriello) since the lockout and that has to effect the players in terms of trying to get a set scheme together in order to go with the flow and actually have a direction rather than get a direction and having it change for one reason or another. If Lemaire is the guy, he has to be there for a while; if he's not-- get the long-term guy now and actually get this team stable with someone before this becomes a Mickey Mouse organization again.

The Devils will have a lot of time to think and mull over all their options, including re-signing Paul Martin; their top defenseman, by far. This is a team that should have done a lot more with their position than they did and were the victim of the first upset of these playoffs, which could have plenty of upsets in this first round when all is said and done. The Swamp is now silent, much like it has been in these playoffs and all season from the stands.

Is There A Comeback Kid Amongst Us??

The Eastern Conference has all their series with one team up three games-to-one. While it seems that all hope is lost, the only redeeming quality is that it's nothing too insurmountable. In fact, all the teams who are up 3-1 have had a history of collapse when in that position. There have been 21 comebacks when a team was down 3-1, eight from the Conference Quarterfinals, last one coming last season. Buffalo and Ottawa are the only two teams in the East to not be involved in any lost deficits.

We'll start with a team from tonight that could clinch, and the first team in the modern era to blow a 3-1 lead, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now, the Penguins are up 3-1 on the Senators, but the Penguins were the first to blow the big lead when they did it against the New York Islanders back in 1975. In fact, the Pens were up 3-0 on the Islanders and couldn't put them away. On the flip side, the Penguins have twice comeback from the 3-1 deficit.

That's something the Washington Capitals fans know all too well; with the Penguins coming back on the Caps twice within three years, in 1992 and 1995; which has spawned the hatred with the Caps and Pens to this day. The Caps and Pens are tied into the same instance, as the Caps blew a 3-1 series lead to the Islanders in 1987, which included the epic 4OT game where Pat LaFontaine beat Bob Mason on Easter Sunday to win it. However, the next playoffs in 1988, the Caps were able to comeback from being down 3-1, as they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers; which included the iconic Caps goal of Dale Hunter beating Ron Hextall in OT of Game Seven to beat the Flyers. The Caps did it again last playoffs when they were down 3-1 to the New York Rangers before mounting a big comeback on the back of Semyon Varlamov.

The Flyers would first blow a lead like that in 1988, but wouldn't be the last. The 2000 Conference Final, the Flyers blew a 3-1 lead to the New Jersey Devils, their opponents this round; which had the same goalie match-up of Martin Brodeur against Brian Boucher. The Flyers have not been able to comeback and erase those memories, but they hope not to repeat history; especially with the injuries mounting for them.

The Boston Bruins were the last team pre-Lockout to blow a 3-1 lead to the Montreal Canadiens, where the Canadiens outscored the Bruins 12-3 in the final three games and really spelled the start of Andrew Raycroft's Blaine Lacher-esque downfall, as he had a stellar regular season, then horrific post-season and here he is now.

There is hope for all the Eastern teams down, two of which are higher seeds and expected for big things. While it hasn't happened post-Lockout, you can never count any team out in this day-in-age. If teams can comeback from down big in the games, who's to say they can't come back from down big in the series?? May as well give some kind of hope to fans who think all is lost.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who's Not Going To Edmonton 2010

With the past occurrences of Michael Nylander signing with the Edmonton Oilers, then going to Washington afterwords, moving to the Chris Pronger issue, then the Dany Heatley situation, and now the Sheldon Souray dilemma; it's safe to say that Edmonton has their issues in drawing and keeping people With the team looking forward to the next season and seemingly going for a youth movement (not by choice, maybe), there would be some guys out there for their needs to fill the gap while the youngsters grow.

Yet, with all the problems that seem to come out of the Edmonton area, this is a look at which players, by position, I think won't be heading to Edmonton this summer, even if they're offered the max contract out there.

CENTER: Patrick Marleau: While he had a career year in goals (44), Marleau doesn't look to be going back to Canada anytime soon. Marleau is from the small town of Aneroid, Saskatchewan, but has played his serious hockey in the US, starting with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL and then to San Jose. Plus, his contract demands would also be too much down the middle, with Shawn Horcoff still there. He'd be a solid addition, but not much will sway him away from the warmth of the Pacific Coast.

LEFT WING: Ilya Kovalchuk: While the money issue is there, you can bet that he left the cold of Russia for the warmth of other places in North America. I don't think Edmonton would be the pick for him or his family. Kovalchuk would make a nice cornerstone for this team, but the lack of support will let Kovalchuk flee from any offer easily. He's going to go where he will be a star and have a solid set-up guy, not one or the other. Especially if Jaromir Jagr gets signed by Edmonton, he'd not be in that shadow.

RIGHT WING: Jaromir Jagr: Don't believe the hype when it comes to the Jagr signing in Edmonton. As Tim Matheson pointed out, Jagr wants any team that signs him to sign Roman Cervenka, as well. In addition, the age is catching up to Jagr. The risk of signing Cervenka and a complaining Jagr is not worth the reward of both of them being good and contributing to the team's rebuild. It'd be nice if Jagr could mentor Ales Hemsky more, but I doubt it'll happen.

DEFENSE: Paul Martin: While it's a good gag that Albertans will hate the name being there (that's also the name of a former Canadian prime minister), the fact is that he would never be lured there like Sheldon Souray and have all the pressure onto him. Considering this is the team that gave up the most goals this year (284), and if Martin were to come in-- he'd be expected to be the shutdown guy and then be run out on a rail, I'm sure.

GOALIE: Antero Niittymaki: The logjam in net for Edmonton is already at an all-time high with decisions to be made, but Niittymaki could be lured because of Nikolai Khabibulin's injury issues. And while his play does conjure up the thoughts of other Oilers' Finnish goalie greats like Jussi Markkanen and Kari Takko; Niittymaki would want a place where he could thrive and have a chance at a meaningful game in late-March rather than picking out tee-times.

While this is all in good fun (Thanks to "Johnny Wrath" on Twitter for his brain-storming), these things could definitely come true in the long-run. We'll have to check back in the fall to see which are true, false, whatever. (This is also filler. YAY!!) But, it also shows how the onus of the past in Edmonton could really hurt them in the long-term of things. If bad commentary (like Souray) and reneging on a contract (Nylander) happen within three years-- the reputation of this once proud organization needs to be rebuild from the ground up. Which could mean....front office overhaul. That remains to be seen how Daryl Katz deals with that.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jon Casey

With the NHL rolling out their new "History Will Be Made" playoff advertisements, it caught my eye of a nominee that I've yet to do. It's one guy who was in two of these advertisements, but always at the butt-end of them, looking like a fool....with his pants on the ground. In one, he's being undressed by the Magnificent One; where in the second, he's getting schooled by a 40-foot slapper by Stevie Y. That's right, this week's AGM is the one and only-- Jon Casey.

Casey started out his career by being accepted into the University of North Dakota starting in the 1980-81 season. He saw limited time in his freshman year, playing six games and only sporting a record of 3-1-0. In his sophomore year, Casey would split time evenly with Darren Jensen and Pierre Lamoureux, though Casey would get a few more games in. Casey would play in 18 games and go 15-3-0. His strong play that season got him a spot on the USA World Junior team, but in his five games he had a 1-2-0 record, not to what the USA was thinking. Casey's junior season in 1982-83 was a less than stellar one, as he would split time again, but went 9-6-2 in his 17 games. Undrafted, Casey had a lot to prove in his senior season in the 1983-84 season, where he would get he bulk of the time, playing 37 games and going 25-10-2 for the season. Casey was able to get NCAA First Team All-American for that season.

It also caught the eye of the Minnesota North Stars, who signed Casey on April 1st of 1984. Casey would play two games with the North Stars, going 1-0-0, before the season ended. The 1984-85 season saw Casey start to hone his professional game, for which the North Stars sent him to the AHL's Baltimore Skipjacks. Casey was fantastic with the Jacks, as he would go 30-11-4 with four shutouts and a 2.63 GAA. Casey won the Hap Holmes Award for lowest GAA and the Baz Bastien Award for best goaltender. Casey got the Jacks to the finals of the playoffs, but they fell short to the Sherbrooke Canadiens.

Casey would start the 1985-86 season with the Springfield Indians of the AHL, playing nine games with a 4-3-1 record before being called up by the North Stars for the duration of that season to back-up Don Beaupre. Casey got 26 games in and went an even 11-11-1 for the year. However, the 1986-87 season saw Casey back in the minors with Springfield in the AHL, 3-8-2 in 13 games, and then sent to the IHL's Indianapolis Checkers, where in 31 games he went 14-15-0. The 1987-88 season saw Casey spend the balk of the time in the IHL with the Kalamazoo Wings, where his game got back on track with a 24-13-5 record, while getting some call-ups to Minnesota for 14 games on a less than stellar team going 1-7-4.

Luck shined on Casey for the 1988-89 season, as current starter Beaupre was traded to the Washington Capitals. Casey would get the starting role because of it and he did what he could for the team he had in front of him. Casey's first year starting would go 18-17-12 in his 55 games. It would start Casey's stalwart job as the North Stars' goalie. The 1989-90 season saw better fortune for the team and Casey, as he would go 31-22-4 in his 61 appearances. It only set up for his 1990-91 season, where he would go a so-so 21-20-11 on the season, but he got on a hot streak at the right time, helping the North Stars run wild through the playoffs. Casey went 14-7 in the playoffs, but they met their match in the Stanley Cup finals, as the Pittsburgh Penguins took them out in six games. It would get rough for Casey in the 1991-92 season, as the curse of losing the Cup took its toll, going 19-23-5 for the North Stars, while having a stint with Kalamazoo, going 2-1-1 in his retooling games. The 1992-93 season was a bit of a bounce back for Casey, as he would get better with a better team in front of him and a 26-26-5 record with a 3.33 GAA. It would be the team's last year in Minnesota, as they moved to Dallas after the year...and it would be the last year for Casey with the franchise.

During the off-season, Casey was traded to the Boston Bruins for Andy Moog, which was the future considerations part of an earlier deal between the two teams, where Gord Murphy went to Minnesota. Casey would be thrown into the starting role for the Bruins, as he would go 30-15-9 in his 57 games and would get the Bruins into the playoffs, but they were stopped in the second round with Casey going 5-6 for those games. His tenure in Beantown was short-lived.

Casey would sign in the off-season with the St. Louis Blues. Casey back-up Curtis Joseph in the shortened 1994-95 season, going 7-5-4 with a 2.75 GAA for the season. It was a slight change for Casey in the 1995-96 season, as Grant Fuhr came to St. Louis and Casey lost the back-up job to Bruce Racine, which sent Casey to the Peoria Rivermen of the IHL. He made the most of his demotion, going 21-19-2 in his 43 games, which got him a call-up late in the year and got him nine games with St. Louis, going 2-3-0. The playoffs were Casey's time, as he got the call in place of Grant Fuhr, who had to have surgery on his knee after the first game. Casey stood strong, but couldn't help the Blues and they lost in Game Seven to the Red Wings, which is where the second "History Will Be Made" commercial came from. Casey went 6-6 in those playoffs. The first half of the 1996-97 season would see Casey backing up Fuhr, but thanks to Fuhr being a workhorse, Casey only saw limited time. In St. Louis, Casey went 3-8-0 in his 15 games and went 2-1-1 in his four conditioning games with the Worcester Ice Cats of the AHL.

Casey would not be retained by the Blues of the 1997-98 season, and he went to the IHL with the Kansas City Blades. Casey would play in 24 games going 9-13-4 with the turnstile goaltending in the IHL, which included former AGMs Pokey Reddick and Peter Skudra. Casey would retire midway through the season. Since then, Casey has gone AWOL.

While he was made famous for two things that were detrimental to his career, it stills shows he'll always be in the spotlight. While he didn't have the most stellar career, he shows that he could be thrown into a situation and still thrive somewhat. At least he was able to finish above .500 in both regular season and post-season records, so that has to count for something.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Bett and Bals" : White and Wrong

There's a lot of excitement in Phoenix these days-- what with them winning their first playoff game in years, getting people out into the Arena, there's throwing snakes-- what's not to like. Well, the litigation that's going on off the ice, but still. What could go wrong??

Gary Bettman: (watching his TiVo) Back to the point...shot-- GOAL!!! OH DEREK MORRIS YOU SEXY BASTARD!! Let's look at it the draw...back...

Jim Balsillie: You really enjoy rubbing that in my face don't you??

GB: It's a great time, Ballsy. People are wearing snakes, throwing white...

JB: What?? Wearing snakes??

GB: Well, whatever. The white-out was a success, we got people on the internets talking and making headlines that way. All because of this winning excitement, the people have forgotten this is a team that was in peril at the beginning of the year. Think if they would have moved to where you wanted them to-- this wouldn't even be a story.

JB: Fair enough, but they would have gotten this press year 'round in Canada-- just sayin'. Plus, it's not like this team is out of the woods yet. Thanks to your plan-- the actual solid buyer who would have helped this team, Ice Edge, were rejected by the city and your golden boy, Jerry Reinsdorf got the bid approval.

GB: See?? The system works for the best. Look, we've been after Jerry the entire time because he's a big time name and we need someone like that as an owner.

JB: Does he even know he's in on this bid?? I mean, has he even given a comment about his excitement on winning?? I mean, you want a big name-- what am I?? I've single-handedly got people to talk about me every time a team is in peril. Who cares if it's not nationally known, but in hockey circles, I'm kind of a big deal.

GB: Only a big deal because of the fact you moved a team and sold tickets to said moved team before you even signed any intent to buy the team. Sure, you're a big deal-- but in the bad way, my friend. Jerry's got this under lock. He knows what's going on and he's ready to go ahead with keeping the team there.

JB: So long as they turn a profit, right?? Did you read about how they have the right to sell the team if they can't pull in a profit for five years, right?? Plus, he's not risking much, if anything in this. It seems to be all on the city to pay you guys if anything goes awry. And the minimum of $103M?? Come on, that's $109.5M LESS than what I was going to bid. How is that good business for the league or this team?!?

GB: First, he's paying $165M. While it's less, he's not going to get up and move the team. Sure, he can try and sell the team after giving 180 days notice, but look at this team-- they're going good and I think they'll have a solid team for years to come. It's good business, even if we have to risk a lot to make it happen.

JB: How are we going to say this team will be successful?? Look at the Hurricanes-- they did well last year and tanked this year. One series and hype doesn't make a team successful. People like winners and if this team isn't competitive every year, there's going to be issues. People love gimmicks and these White-outs and "Throw the Snake" gets people interested. What happens when that goes away?? At what point do people stop pulling for a sweetheart, especially when they play their team in the playoffs?? I'm not saying this all won't help, but at the same-- you have to be sustain these gimmicks. With it being very out of the way-- I don't know how you'll get people excited for the season when nothing much is on the line. We saw that down the stretch.

GB: The people came out-- not by much more, but they did. I think we're going to be fine with Reinsdorf. And the city could find someone should he go ahead and want to sell the team. They were able to get this whole thing sorted out, right??

JB: That's just it. Reinsdorf is just a figure head. He doesn't have to do the foot-soldiering when he wants to get rid of the team. You just have to look at it like that-- you're going to look like the fool if this all blows up in your face. The City only cares about getting their money for the arena and if they got that-- the probably could care less about the team. Especially if they rename the team, like they're thinking.

GB: What's in a name, though?? Things will be fine, I'll be fine in all of this. Reinsdorf won't move the team or try to sell the team unless I tell him to. He listened to me when I asked to use his name-- now we've got people really into it running things. We should be good to go. I know we're going to be fine in Arizona, I'll give you my word.

(Buzzer rings)

GB: Oooooh no, I'm not falling for this again. You get it, I'm tired of being the butt of these jokes.

JB: Ooookay, don't know what you mean. (Opens door cautiously) Oh, hi Mrs. Baum, how are you?? Oh, you made cookies??

GB: (Jumps out of his chair and runs to the door) COOKIES?!?! I LOVE COOKIES!!

(Jim opens the doors as Gary is running to Mrs. Baum....but as he get to her...)

Judge Redfield T. Baum: (Pops from the side of the doorway) T-BOMBED!!!!

GB: GAH!!!!! (Gets scared and faints)

JB: Good work team. Are those chocolate chips??

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pointless Playoff Prognostication: Western Conference

The Eastern side was yesterday, today it's the West. It's semantics, folks.


Look at that, the Sharks are at the top of the Western charts again and they will have plenty of pressure on them. Aside from Joe Thornton and Evgeni Nabokov being under the microscope, I'm sure the likes of Todd McLellan and Doug Wilson are under pressure as well. If the Sharks are going to fall in the first or second round, odds are the latter two are going to be gone; no questions asked. If Dany Heatley is the missing piece, he will have to show it this round or it was all for not. The time to break their curse is now for the Sharks or else they're screwed.

The Avalanche could be the worst thing for the Sharks to see in the opening round. Let's be honest, the team is full of young talent and they really have nothing to lose because I don't think many had high hopes for the Avs this year. Craig Anderson will be the guy that will probably make the Avs have the upset special. While Matt Duchene will be the go-to guy, they'll need a complete effort in order to keep their magical season alive.

PREDICTION: Sharks in six. While the Avs will probably put a scare into the Sharks, the Sharks up and down are far superior than the Avalanche. The urgency for the Sharks is going to be there and you can bet they won't rest on their laurels if they got up.


The Hawks are back at it after last year's run to the Conference finals, they look like they have the fire-power again. Granted, the albatross of Marian Hossa and unsure goaltending situation will be the focal points. Whether Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi get the confidence boost to help the team get to the finals again, it remains to be see if they'd be able to carry the load and if the other could pick-up the pieces should they falter. Luckily, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will lead the way in terms of getting the offense kicked up another notch.

The Predators will take their Scandinavian duo of Pekka Rinne and Patric Hornqvist as their top dogs, with Steve Sullivan there to bring the North American side of things. However, with only Sullivan and Hornqvist over 50 points, you have to think Rinne will be tested time and time again and could get shell-shocked. The defense will be tested by the Hawks every shift and they could be outmatched just due to sheer volume.

PREDICTION: Hawks in five. As much as I like Rinne, I don't think the Preds have the firepower to even test the durability and reliability of the Hawks goaltending. Plus, the Hawks know how to get through the first round and are battle tested, even as a young team.


There's a lot to be said about Henrik Sedin winning the Art Ross Trophy after the Canucks had the onus of a defensive team. With Roberto Luongo behind everyone, then obviously offense took a backseat. Yet, the offense was something a little more turned up, obviously, but we'll see what happens when the second season comes along. The Luongo factor is there, but the fact Luongo has not been to his best in the past few weeks, you can bet he'll be on top of his game in order to keep the Canadian Cup hopes alive.

The Kings are back in the playoffs after a decent hiatus with their young squad. Jonathan Quick has been amazing, but like Luongo-- the last few weeks have been very disappointing, though I'm sure his mind was elsewhere with the birth of his child. Anze Kopitar should be a huge factor, but will probably be shutdown by the Canucks defense since they know to key onto him.

PREDICTION: Canucks in six. The Kings could win games at home, but the experience from the Canucks from years past and Luongo turning into Olympic Luongo will overtake the Kings youth. Whether or not Hank Sedin can really keep the point production going will be another subplot, but should be the means of offense for the Canucks.


Off-ice turmoil aside, the hiring of Dave Tippett and emergence of Ilya Bryzgalov really is the story on the ice. The fact the team dynamic is scoring by committee shows how valuable both of these guys are this season and how they have home-ice advantage. While you need a hot goalie for the playoffs, whether or not Bryzgalov can be that kind of goalie will show in the first game. The scoring will need to pick up in droves if the Coyotes hope to have success.

The Red Wings are finally healthy and that's scary. The fact many were worried if they would get in or not in the first half of the season to now saying they're a big threat should be the story in the West. Jimmy Howard has been spectacular, but his lack of playoff experience could be a downfall. While Chris Osgood's knowledge is at his disposal, this is Howard's team now and Osgood will be along for the ride. Especially since Ozzy hasn't been the most reliable this year.

PREDICTION: Red Wings in five. The story of the Coyotes is a great one for the team trying to be sold, the fact the Red Wings are firing on 95% should have the advantage given to Detroit. Plus, you have to figure it'll be a home-ice advantage away from home-ice with the following the Wings have, especially in Arizona. It may not be pretty in this one.

That's that. While I didn't do many upsets, the fact's all unpredictable and craziness in the end. I'll see you in Round Two after I get less than 50% right.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pointless Playoff Prognostication: Eastern Conference

It's playoff time again, which means everyone and their estranged mother is making a prediction about what's going to happen in the series. I will be on that boat as well, because it's how I roll. I'm all about joining a trend in progress and act like mine will trump all. My NCAA March Madness last place finish will tell you the results may vary. We'll start out in the Eastern Conference because the sun always rises there first. It's true.


The season series had each team split their four meetings, both winning one in extra-time. Everyone knows that the Caps are going to have the pressure on themselves, especially after the regular season they've had. The hope is that Jose Theodore can continue his sparkling record to end the season, going 20-0-3 in his last 23 games. It'll be familiar territory for him, as he returns to where he starts his career out to prove something. The offense is no problem for the Caps, but people will have the focus on the defense and if they can actually be a shutdown team; which is how playoff teams roll. The bigger story is what can happen with Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom in the big pressure role. The depth is there for the Caps, it's just execution now.

The Habs got in by the slimmest of margins, which should be telling of this team. To the opposite of the Caps, Jaroslav Halak has been stellar all year for the Habs and keeping them in the race when the rest of his team faltered. Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta will be in the spotlight for the playoffs-- especially after getting into town and commanding big paycheques. Andrei Markov will be key, as he's a big-game player and should be able to help out the offensive shortcomings from the back-end.

PREDICTION: Capitals in five. I think the Habs will get one on home ice, but there's a lot of determination on this Caps team and they want it all or nothing right now. They will be looking to get rid of the first round in quick-and-dirty fashion.


Martin Brodeur is going to be on the hot-seat, especially after his lapse in the closing games against the Hurricanes last playoffs. Losing six out of eight games to the Flyers this season doesn't help at all, either. While they'll have to have goaltending, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise will have to be giving their goaltender some support. Kovalchuk is also playing for a new contract, so he has much motivation for this playoffs.

The Flyers, though knowing they took over the season series, have many issues-- like riding Brian Boucher as their starter for the playoffs. If this was 2000, then it'd be a good match-up, but the Water Boy will have to get plenty of help from the likes of Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere to give him some cushion. Luckily, they have Chris Pronger and his Macho Man-esque elbow ready to go and hopefully pull out a miracle.

PREDICTION: Devils in seven. Sure, it's a damn reach for it to go that long, but to be honest-- I don't know how well Boucher will play-- especially with the high he's on at getting another chance. Luckily, the experience of the likes of Pronger will help, but if Kovalchuk can kick it up a notch, the Devils have the edge.


This is another match-up where the higher seed had a losing record in the regular season. However, the Ryan Miller effect will be in play. The man who should have the Hart Trophy will be the main factor. If he's on, then the Sabres are in good shape-- if not, it's a crap shoot. Luckily, Thomas Vanek is back and notched four goals for his finale. Also, we'll see what Tyler Myers has to bring to the show and if he can play up this is counterpart, Zdeno Chara. It'll be a tale of the tape....on the real.

When the Bruins lost Marc Savard, many wondered how they were going to keep up. Patrice Bergeron has picked up the slack though, while David Krejci will be the possible X-factor for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will probably be the starter, but on a short-leash; especially with Timmy Thomas' performance last year in the playoffs. This will be a series of futility as both teams don't have many prolific scorers on their rosters.

PREDICTION: Sabres in six. Miller will win this for the Sabres. While Rask/Thomas will be tough to beat, Miller has been nothing short of amazing. He should be able to get the Sabres past the first round, but with the amount he has played this year-- the support will need to be coming quickly.


A re-re-match of the 2007 and 2008 first round, the Penguins will need to show their Stanley Cup championship ways. Sidney Crosby came to play in the regular season, as seen by his co-Richard Trophy campaign. The focal point is definitely going to be on him, but what about Evgeni Malkin?? Will be able to get his playoff flair from last year back, because if show-- that makes the Pens more dangerous. That said-- they are a vulnerable team. I don't know why, but they could be beaten if there's a one minor slip.

The Sens think they can capitalize on that slip-up. However, the issue that the Sens have is goaltending and if Brian Elliott can hold up to the playoff pressure and if Pascal Leclaire could stop the bleeding. Another issue is the Senators, along with the Canadiens, are on the negative side of the goal differential for playoff teams. The points aren't there, with Daniel Alfredsson as the only point-per-game player. Jason Spezza has had an off-year, but Mike Fisher did surprise a lot of people with his first-half, but slacked in the second-half. It'll be an uphill battle for the Sens in this playoffs, for sure.

PREDICTION: Senators in seven. An uphill battle, but not something they couldn't overcome, especially when people counted them out as a non-playoff squad this year. Elliott could pull a series out of his back-side, while M-A Fleury has had an off-year, but did a solid job in his run last year. This could be a the best series in the East to watch.


I'll be touch on the West tomorrow, but that has plenty of solid match-ups and has the possibility for a lot of upset specials in the making. Join me.....or not.

Monday, April 12, 2010

2009-10 Green Jacket and Cy Young Winners

With the year coming to a close, the fantastic awards like the Rocket Richard Trophy for the most goals in the season (Sidney Crosby and Steve Stamkos) and the Art Ross Trophy for most points in the season (Henrik Sedin); as well as the William Jennings Trophy for least goals against (Martin Brodeur). But there's plenty of unhallowed awards that are unofficially handed out, but widely known.

First, which was great that this coincided with the Masters tournament, the Green Jacket award. In the Masters, the Green Jacket is awarded to the winner of the tournament and for the player who shoots the lowest score under par, or the best minus. This year, it goes with Patrick O'Sullivan of the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers, themselves, were just horrific thanks to the injuries and pure rebuilding the team is going through, but O'Sullivan took it to new height with a -35 on the year, with was a difference of 85 to the Plus/Minus winner Jeff Schultz, who was a +50. O'Sullivan did this in only 73 games, so who knows what could have happened in those nine missing games. Shawn Horcoff and Rod Brind'Amour were tied for second at -29.

The Cy Young is a baseball award in the MLB for the best pitcher in the league, mostly based on record. The hockey version of it is the player with the biggest difference between goals and assists. The winner this year is Guillaume Latendresse of the Minnesota Wild with 27 goals and 13 assists, a difference of 14. Latendresse had a big jump after going to Minnesota from Montreal, but for a non-playoff team. Matt Moulson of the Islanders was second (30g, 18a-- 12 diff.) and Brian Gionta was third (28g, 18a-- 10 diff.) for this award.

Yes, this was a filler post, but it's something fun. I'm about fun....or not. Plus, you really want to recognize the craptasticness of the league worst and who is scoring more than they're dishing.

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jeff Reese

From the word go, this goalie was the perennial third-stringer due to teams being completely stacked from top to bottom on their depth charts for netminders. However, his time from the bench and press box allowed him to garner enough knowledge about the game and its angles that he took the usual path into coaching after his career was finished. This week, we tell the tale of Jeff Reese.

When he was growing up, Reese started for the Hamilton Kitty B's in midget hockey and showed himself off well enough to get picked up by the London Knight in the OHL for the start of the 1983-84 season. The Knights trusted Reese so much, they threw him right into the starting role and Reese adjusted well enough to salvage a 18-19-1 record in 43 games. The Knights rode Reese into the playoffs but lost in the second round.Reese was seen as a "work in progress" for his draft year, as he was selected 67th overall in the 1984 Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Reese learned enough from that previous year to take into the 1984-85 season where his record improved to 31-15-1 with a 3.88 GAA. Though in the playoffs, Reese couldn't get the Knights past the quaters thanks to the messed up scoring system the OHL had. Reese went 5-2-0, but still wasn't enough. His last year in junior for the 1985-86 season was less than memorable as in 57 games, Reese went 25-26-3, even with a decent 3.93 GAA. It would be Reese's last year for the Knights.

With the start of the 1986-87 season, Reese moved onto the AHL with the Newmarket Saints, the affiliate of the Maple Leafs. Reese didn't get much of a break, as he was thrown into the starting role quick playing 50 games and getting a 17-29-2 record for his troubles. There started to be quick a logjam in ever aspect of the Leafs goaltending, but Reese did start his season on top in Newmarket for the 1987-88 season, with a brief call-up in the middle of the year to Toronto. With the Saints, Reese saw his time dwindle after his call-up; splitting with Tim Bernhardt and Jim Ralph; Reese compiled a 10-14-3 record with the Saints and 1-2-1 record for the Leafs in his five games. One last split year that focused on Reese's AHL development in the 1988-89 season, with 37 games in Newmarket (17-14-3) and 10 games in Toronto (2-6-1).

Reese would finally move up to the Leafs as a third wheel in the 1989-90 season behind Allan Bester and Mark LaForest, but injuries would rear it's ugly head, as Reese dealt with injuries to his knee-cap; breaking it in the first month of the season which saw him sidelined until December. Reese would come back to play for Newmarket for seven games at a 3-2-2 record before moving up to Toronto and going 9-6-3 in his 21 games. For the 1990-91 season, there seemed to be a set-back thanks to the knee-cap injury. Former AGM Peter Ing took over Reese's spot and Reese struggled, as he went 2-7-1 to start the season and it got him sent to Newmarket for retooling. Reese would only get three games in with the Saints because of the stacked goaltending, but we went 2-1-0 in those games. Reese got recalled in the new year and went 4-6-2 before he broke his transverse processes, which is used to attach muscles in the vertebrae, and was out the rest of the year. The 1991-92 season started off rough again for Reese, as he went 1-5-1 in his first eight games. He would then be involved one of the biggest moves in NHL history.

On January 2, 1992; Reese, along with Alexander Godynyuk, Gary Leeman, Michel Petit, and Craig Berube were traded to the Calgary Flames for Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Kent Manderville, Ric Nattress and former AGM Rick Wamsley.

Reese would finish the 1991-92 season backing up Mike Vernon in Calgary going 3-2-2 in his games. In the off-season, Reese had more bad luck; cutting his hand before the season, which saw him miss three games at the start of the season. Reese did see 23 games behind Vernon, going an astonishing 14-4-1. Reese would also set a record for most assists by a goalie in a game. On February 10th, 1993; during a 13-1 romp of the San Jose Sharks, Reese had three assists for his team-- not bad for a guy up and down through the system. Reese would only play one game for the Flames in the 1993-94 season (a no-decision) before he was on the move again.

In November of 1993, the Flames sent Reese and future considerations to the Hartford Whalers for Dan Keczmer. Reese would be back into a logjam in Hartford playing behind Sean Burke and two former AGMs, Frank Pietrangelo and Mario Gosselin. Because of that, Reese would only see 19 games, but went 5-9-3 for the year. Thanks to the work stoppage, Reese would only have to deal with Burke, but thanks to struggle-- his record was a less than desired 2-5-1 in 11 games. With yet another AGM, Jason Muzzatti, waiting in the wings, Reese only got seven appearances with the Whale in the 1995-96 season (2-3-0) before he set sail again.

The Whalers traded Reese to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a ninth-round pick in the Draft. Reese was the back-up to another AGM, Daren Puppa, and played in 19 games with an even 7-7-1 record. It was very short-lived as Reese was traded in the off-season to New Jersey for Corey Schwab. The 1996-97 season saw Reese play only three games (0-2-0) with the Devils before being send down because of yet another logjam in net. He would then spend most his time in the IHL with the Detroit Vipers, playing 32 games and going 23-4-3 with a 1.87 GAA. His played helped the Vipers in the playoffs where they won the Turner Cup for the season. Reese would share the James Norris Trophy for lowest GAA with Rich Parent that season. It would be another year for Reese in the IHL for the 1997-98 season, as he played again for the Vipers and Reese shined more with a 27-9-8 record and was able to help the Vipers to the IHL Championship again, but lost to the Chicago Wolves.

Reese was a free agent for the duration for the 1998-99 season before signing again with where he started in Toronto in January of 1999. Reese would only play two games with Toronto (1-1-0) before being sent to the AHL and the St. John's Maple Leafs where he would keep his minor league magic alive, going 17-7-3. Reese would be traded in the off-season to the Tampa Bay Lightning, again, but Reese would call it a career before he ever played again for the Bolts.

However, after his career, Reese would go on to coach the Bolts starting in the 2001-02 season, as a goalie/assistant coach. Reese had a helping hand in the Bolts 2004 Stanley Cup victory. Reese spent eight seasons with the Bolts before getting into the Philadelphia Flyers organization this summer as goalie coach-- for which he obviously has his hands full in his first year.

With all the beating and banging, Reese found his spots when he needed and was able to do the job when called upon. While he did bounce around the league and between the minors and pros, he didn't seem to give up when he could have easily faded away into the background. With all the knowledge took from training and grinding to get his playing time, he uses now to mentor the other goalies coming up through the ranks and to help them with some logjam issues they may face. Plus, with his six interactions of other AGMs; he takes over Vincent Riendeau for most interactions of this series.