Are shootouts inflating records?

In their final games of the 2009-2010, the Flyers and Rangers played to decide who would earn a playoff berth.  The Flyers won the game in the shootout, got the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, and eventually took the Blackhawks to six games in the Stanley Cup Final.  A lot of fans (well, Rangers fans) commented that the Flyers only made the playoffs because of the shootout.  That’s not really the case though.

If the shootout did not exist (and teams still earned a point for OT losses), the Flyers would have actually ended up with the 6th seed.  The Rangers, who missed the playoffs by one point, would have held the 7th spot, and the Canadiens would have still been the 8th and final seed.  The Bruins, winners of 10 shootouts, would have missed the playoffs instead of owning the 6th seed.  Had OT losses counted as no points, the Canadiens would have missed the playoffs in favor of the Bruins. Continue reading

Crunch time for the Flyers

The Flyers control their own fate at this point.  They could have been challenging Ottawa for the fifth seed, but they faltered found themselves as close to being out of the playoff picture as they could possibly make it.  They lost to the Islanders, a team they’ve beaten time after time just by showing up.  But then they came back with a strong game against the Habs only to find themselves on the wrong end of a great goaltending performance.

Fortunately, the Flyers responded well to that loss and put in another strong effort against the Red Wings and pulled off a key 4-3 victory yesterday afternoon.  Many have chalked it up to the Wings playing Osgood, their backup goalie, instead of Jimmy Howard.  Does Howard give the Wings a better chance of winning than Osgood?  Of course he does, but the Flyers weren’t exactly playing with Bernie Parent.  Good teams will still win even with their backup goalie in, and the Red Wings didn’t bend for the Flyers yesterday, the Flyers were simply the better team. Continue reading

Craziest Trade Deadline Ever…Or Not

Today was a relatively calm deadline today.  Most of that probably has to do with the Olympic freeze and big names like Olle Jokinen, Dion Phaneuf, and Ilya Kovalchuk being traded then, but still, today was nothing really to write home about.  There are still some trades filing in as I type, but I don’t expect anything significant at this point.

So how made the biggest splashes?  In the Eastern Conference, that goes to the Washington Capitals.  They made a number of deals today for mostly middle of the road players (Scott Walker and Milan Jurcina) and the best move was acquiring Eric Belanger from the Minnesota Wild.  He’ll join a very productive offensive team while scoring 13 goals and 22 assists this year for the Wild.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Capitals play him: he’ll probably end up as the center on either the second or third line.  If he’s on the second line playing with the likes of Semin and Laich, then his numbers should jump up, but otherwise expect a similar or lesser pace. Continue reading

Flyers Goalie Situation: Is Michael Leighton the Guy?

First of all, congratulations to Canada on winning the gold.  Also, congratulations to the US team for an amazing tournament.  As an American, I was severely disappointed that we didn’t win the gold, but I’m darn proud of my team for proving many critics wrong and coming one goal away from the gold medal.  It was a great tournament for hockey and its fans.
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Has there ever been a season where the Philadelphia Flyers have not had a goalie controversy?  Personally, I thought this was finally the year that all of that talk would be put to rest.  Ray Emery started the season on fire but was overcome with an injury that forced him to the shelf for awhile.  He came back, but was unable to play through the injuries again.  He’s now on the long term IR.  While many people will say that that Emery Experiment has been a failure, I’m not so sure of that.  People predicted that Emery would play poorly and/or would cause locker room problems.  Neither has been the case.  Before he was put on the LTIR, the Flyers were about ready to sign him to an extension, so he must have done something right.  Is Emery the goalie of the future for the Flyers?  Probably not, but he’s not bad as a short term solution until the Flyers are able to acquire “the guy.” Continue reading

Jaroslav Halak: Clearly Number 1

Jaroslav Halak guards net for Team Slovakia.

As the Winter Olympic Games wind down, the storylines from the Men’s Hockey tourney grow increasingly exciting. One story that will peak the interest of all Montreal Canadiens fans is how Team Slovakia has pushed its way through the crowd of pre-Game fav’s to find themselves in the Semi-Finals against Team Canada.

No small feat for Team Slovakia considering they knocked off Team Sweden in the Quarter-finals to reach the Semi’s… of course we all know Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Peter Forsberg, and the Sedin Twins (Daniel + Henrik) to name the mega stars on the Swedish roster.

Of special note is Team Slovakia’s starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak otherwise known as the other guy in Montreal behind supposed Franchise netminder Carey Price. Halak has impressed all with his play and the results speak for themselves. He is scheduled to become a Restricted FA this Summer and the Canadiens will be wise to lock him up or at the very least plan + anticipate offer-sheets heading Halak’s way.

So what should we take away from this storyline? For starters, (1) Halak is rising to the top as the cream of the crop should. (2) He’s proving he can handle pressure situations + how he and Team Slovakia perform in the Semi-Finals will determine how Halak is perceived as a Money/Big Game goalie. (3) He proved former Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey wrong, that it was Halak who should’ve been given the Number 1 job in the Fall, not Price (yes, hindsight is a beautiful thing). And finally, (4) Jaroslav Halak has shown he’s a Number 1 caliber goalie in the World, not just the National Hockey League!

Canadiens Need Olympic Break

The Winter Olympics couldn’t have come st a better time for the Habs. With the recent departure of GM Bob Gainey, the trade deadline looming, injuries to key personnel, Montreal is fortunate to get this breather to regroup for the final 6 weeks of the regular season.

Jaroslav Halak appears to have won the starting job over Carey Price. That should help Montreal’s chances of landing a play-off position. Halak has been more consistent and delievered victories when his team’s needed him.

Mike Cammalleri should be able to return in the final weeks to help the Habs with their post-season push. Some goes for the Andrei’s, Markov and Kostitsyn, both are key contributors on the powerplay which has been silence for the past several weeks leading up to the break.

Im thinking this 2 week break will help teams refocus and have a strong finish to the season.

However, I still maintain the Canadiens will just sneak inti the playoffs as the 8th seed in the East and get bounced in the first round. At least I can hope the upcoming trade deadline brings interesting players to Montreal, though it didn’t kickoff very well with the addition of Dominic Moore. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

Habs: Going Nowhere Fast!

Ugly season unfolding in Montreal.The sad fact is this season is going down the crapper and all Montreal Canadiens fans are fooling themselves if they think otherwise.

Tough New Coach

It’s always tough to learn a new coaching system but when the new system is as difficult to embrace as Jacques Martin’s grueling pre-game + post-game routines, the team’s on-ice performance will suffer while players slowly adapt. Let’s face it, Martin’s strategies don’t usually produce an entertaining game and offensive-minded players will struggle to adjust to his system of play.

Players Lack Chemistry

With Bob Gainey cleaning house over the Summer, there’s bound to be a long transition period as players learn to play with and for one another. You can’t overhaul the top 2 lines and the top 4 defensemen and not expect the team to fall apart on occassion, ok, fall apart regularly.

Proof Is In The Pudding

The standings at the mid-way point tell the Habs story. Montreal is barely in the hunt for a Play-off position currently sitting in 9th place as this post is being written. With another 3 months to play out the season which includes a half-month Olympic break in February, it appears the Canadiens will have a big hill to climb to secure a post-season spot.

Prediction: Quick Exit

This fan predicts Montreal will make the Play-offs, sneaking in as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. But that will be the highlight of the Habs’ season as the fall in 5 games and bow out in the first round… to Washington or New Jersey. Looking forward to the 2010-11 season already. :)

FSN Pittsburgh Doesn’t Send Video

This is a huge story.

But it’s not really being reported.  On Thursday night during the Flyers/Penguins game, Simon Gagne thought he scored a shorthanded goal.  It was ruled no goal by the refs on the ice, and by no fault of their own.  And after watching the replays on CSN Philadelphia, I, as well as many other Flyers fans, thought it was a goal too.  It was clear that Brent Johnson pushed the puck out of the net with the pad.  However, after review, the War Room in Toronto claimed their was inconclusive evidence to overturn the call on the ice.  Really?

Yes, really.  Based on the replays they saw, they could never see the puck in the net.  That’s because FSN Pittsburgh never sent all of the angles they had.  They only showed the good angle until after the call was made.  But the NHL has access to every angle!  Well, no, they don’t.  Apparently, they only get the home team’s feed for the games in Toronto.  So really, the home team has the power to send only the angles they want to.

Click here for the story on Philly.com.

This is cheating.  It’s plain and simple.  Whoever is responsible for this within FSN Pittsburgh should immediately be fired.  It’s a disgrace to the Penguins, the NHL, and the integrity of the game.  In addition to this, the NHL should severely fine FSN Pittsburgh or at least give them some sort of other punishment.  As of now, I have seen no sort of apology or statement from the Pittsburgh Penguins.  That’s a shame.  The Penguins should immediately distance themselves from this sort of behavior.

And after the NHL punished FSN Pittsburgh, they should slap themselves in the face.  Who on earth would think it’s a good idea to leave it up to the home team to send the feeds?  You don’t think that anyone would ever be tempted to try to abuse the system?  I’d bet this isn’t the first time this has happened somewhere in the league.  It’s stories like this that just shows how inept the NHL management is.

The worst part is that the NHL won’t do anything about this.  No one’s really reporting this, so I guess they’re off the hook?  They’re just so lucky that it didn’t affect the outcome of the game.  Can you imagine if it were an overtime goal or if the Penguins ended up winning the game?  But that’s precisely why the NHL won’t do anything about it.  They’ve shown this behavior countless times before.  How many dirty hits have we seen with the NHL justifying not suspending the hitter because the victim was uninjured?  Does the NHL sweep things under the rug because they don’t want to deal with the criticism?  Do they think they’ll lose credibility as a league if people hear about this?  No, the league is losing credibility because they fail to address some serious issues in the league.

Nobody wants this cheating happening.  Time for the NHL to step it up and do something.  I won’t hold my breath though.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

What a brilliant game last night.  As an American, it brought so much pride to see the young American boys brings home the gold against a powerhouse team like the Canadians.  In any international tournament, the question is always “Can anyone beat Canada?”  While Canada may have only won the silver medal, no one lost any respect for Canada’s hockey prowess.

Last night’s game was the only game in the tournament I was able to watch.  I guess I picked a good one.  Canada’s got a some great top end talent, and the best overall player in the game was Jordan Eberle.  He is a stud and came up huge when Canada needed him the most.  The Oilers have themselves a player right there.  The Americans didn’t have any real superstar players on their team like Canada did.  But as a group, they just pieced it all together.  What won them the game was their great team speed.  The Canadian defensemen just couldn’t close the gap on them and it resulted in a few goals on the rush.  And defensively, the US team just blocked shot after shot after shot.

Around the corner are the Olympics.  Canada looks scary good and the Russians have a ridiculous top line.  The US is surely an underdog in this tournament.  But we’ll see what happens.

USA!  USA!  USA!