Monthly Archives: February 2011

Blue Line Benefits

I love the blueline.  Good seats for sure, and that’s where the battle begins. If a team loses the battle on the blueline, it will be devastating take a look at the Colorado Avalanche, who traded suffering goaltender Craig Andersen for a top D-guy, Erik Johnson. Rookie Kevin Shattenkirk couldn’t quite hang on to his great start to the season, but held value for a considerable trade with fellow Avalanche player, Chris Stewart, for power-forward Jay McClement. With Alex Pietrangelo creating a buzz on the blueline in St.Louis, The blues felt their defense was solid, so they also traded defenseman Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay. The Lightning are shuffling to secure their spot in the East. Those teams are on to the benefits of the tight defense that it takes to secure a playoff spot.

Last week, I was consoling an Avs fan on the ailments of the team. We both agreed the downward spiral of Andersen was only one area at fault. The blueline seriously lacked any effort. What happened to Liles’ scoring streak? Foote has been out with an injury, and the rest of the crowd are off in lala land as the pucks pass the point of no return. Shaking up a team is good, but for the St. Louis Blues the shaking could rile some excitement. Stewart has slumped since a broken hand, and no one knows what Shattenkirk’s lack was all about, so it’s a new start for both. And the trade did just that. Stewart rocked his debut with two goals, Shattenkirk, an assist. One game of excellence is not a mandate on the potential impact to the team, but kick in the pants type of debut the Avs guys needed. The Avalanche are desperate.  Erik Johnson is solid, but if he’s not surrounded by an equal force, the numbers stall. Hunwick is a good catch if the blueliners can gel in Denver. The debut of the new trades were not enough to gain Denver a win. Better luck next time.

The Flyers have had their share of goaltending concerns, but defensmen like Chris Pronger and Matt Carle control their zone to lead in the East. Close behind, the Lightning can gain more momentum with Brewer, Victor Hedman, and Pavel Kubina. With awesome blue power, Boston carries Captain Zdeno Chara steering the boat into dock. Now adding Tomas Kaberle to a new crew of Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg anything is possible. Ericsson, Rafalski, Kronwall, and Lidstrom top the Wings blueliners and it shows. With mounted injuries, the Wings were able to remain in contention for the top seed in the West. Vancouver just lost Kevin Bieksa for a few weeks, but expect the goaltending to be the blueline for now with only Ehrhoff, and Hamhuis to draw the line. Phoenix is howling sitting at No. 3 and is a shock to most. The hot potato team’s defense racked up some stellar talent in Keith Yandle. Roszival tops an assorted list of newbies that seem to have it all under control. Gone but not forgotten, Jovanovski took another trip to IR, so injuries have taken its toll on the Yots.  Veteran Aucoin can prop up some points- I’ve seen him do it.

Look out for Montreal’s P.K. Subban and Roman Hamrlik who are making an impact for the Canadiens. In New York, the Rangers are throwing themselves into the game standing in a comfortable place in the East, but looking for a climb. Stocked with Staal, Gilroy, Giradi, Del Zotto to name a few, the boys of Broadway are notable in the hunt. Nashville has Shea Weber and Ryan Suter but the Preds struggle in the playoffs. I love the D in Los Angeles: Doughty, Johnson, and Scuderi impress with some suspect if they can hold on to the last spot in the West. The fans in LA are pumped for their team.

Goaltenders are out, the blueline is in. Netminders have been repeatedly shown up in the playoffs- they are not a guarantee of a win or a chance to move forward. It’s all about keeping the puck out of the net and not allowed past the blueline. Hockey 101-basic stuff, but a turn in trend. So much hype on the goaltenders, that the defensive core was downgraded to penalty minutes. The teams with the best defense will make it further. In Vancouver, the top scorers are hanging on despite the depletion of the defenseman. Offensive-defensive players like Ryan Kesler and Pavel Datsyuk are the benefits of the wandering blue line. If the Canucks and Wings can hang on in the West with a merry-go-round of injuries,they will dominate in the playoff run. On the flip side, I’ll take the Flyers and the Bruins in the East as Cup contenders.

Let the bashing begin…

I usually don’t bash my fellow hockey fans, but I can’t resist this one. In an open letter to the Colorado Avalanche on a popular fan site, a “fan” ripped apart each player for the Avs declining season. It’s one thing to comment on their play, but to rip them apart on a personal level shows the lack of sportsmanship and love of the sport. Only Chris Stewart received a somewhat positive cheer as he has returned to the line-up. I’d really like to see this “fan” strap on some skates and do any better. Yeah, bet you’d fall on your face. The season isn’t over yet! The crap written about Matt Duchene and Kevin Shattenkirk are rude and have nothing to do with the game. This putz of a fan bashes personally because he must not know how the game is played. If an Avs player did what Sean Avery did with “sloppy seconds” then have at ’em, but they didn’t. And so it goes in Denver. Bandwagons came across the prairie and into Colorado apparently way back when. I know a die-hard Avs fan that cannot stand fellow Avs fans because of shit like this.

The lack of attendance at any Avalanche game is appalling. Kroenke Sports needs to sell and move back to Quebec to make some money and for the fans who actually appreciate the game. Truly, what the hell does Shattenkirk’s hair have to do with winning games? One of the Avs best players, Matt Duchene, was chided for drinking vodka so therefore he’s a commie according to this fan’s rant. Oh, yeah, that’s right; Duchene needs to beer bong it with some Coors. Even the return of Peter Forsberg has created a lackluster effect on the fans, who doubt his ability. He’s been signed to help with the playoffs, and boost morale. God knows-good energy isn’t coming from the fans.

Hear me out. I subscribe to plenty of fan sites, but I’ve taken this one off of my list. The ignorance is beyond reproach. If you talk like this about the Rangers, they’ll just yell in your face. Trust me, I know first-hand. I once posted a story on Sean Avery criticizing his play, not his personal issues, and I got bashed. If this kind of nonsense found its way to Detroit, expect a seriuos eye roll and snub. And that’s the nice version. If a fan wrote an open letter to the Wings bashing Datsyuk or Zetterberg, your fanship would be revoked. Comments like this about the Flyers- we wouldn’t see you for days. It’s one thing to remark on how to improve the game constructively, but take your slander elsewhere. Seriously, referring to Brandon Yip’s name sounding like “his dog’s diarrhea” is beyond childish. It’s asinine. The comments on the post were all in support of this playground taunting. The site claims it is a “despicable” hockey blog but really it’s all based on cheap shots of people who can’t defend themselves. NHL players are actually people.

Many of the posts on the blog rip apart the Red Wings too, as if they want to be a Red Wings blog. The editor of this blog is a decent guy but his contributors are out of control. If the open letter was supposed to be funny, maybe there would be hope, but it wasn’t. A 3rd grader could have written a better post. Trash talk is supposed to be in jest poking at an opponent’s team, but maybe this guy believes if he bullies the team their play will improve. He does sign off with a spirited Go Avs! I say, go jump in Grand Lake! Rants stem from frustration. Don’t you think the players are frustrated? Probably, and they are adjusting the best they can. Perhaps that wacky Shattenkirk hairdo inspires his play. And don’t forget, Kevin Porter was the Hobey Baker winner in 2008 as Captain of the Michigan Wolverines, so his career isn’t on the same level working as a “porter” that the douchebag claims in his post. The highly PC comment for defensman David Koci was, “f**king concentration camp guard. How the f**k are you so sweet and gentle?” Huh? A self-proclaimed Avaholic was responsible for this post. He wants the players to be motivated by these positive concepts and do better. Ha!

I wore my Red Wings jersey to all the Avs games I attended, but I was never taunted like that. Actually, true fans of hockey love the rivalry talk and can respect the other team involved. It’s easy to take digs when you’re not face-to-face with a player. Being in the public eye does lend itself to criticism but most AHL and NHL players let it roll. They also avoid the commentary because it hinders their game. I’d love to see this guy say his f***ing rants to at least one of those players. Maybe, next time I see Kevin Porter or Shattenkirk I could arrange that.

The players of the Colorado Avalanche are normal nice guys who want to win. There is always talk about how the Avalanche don’t really want it, or they don’t play with heart. What team goes out on the ice each night to lose? Which player forgets to turn on his heart as game time approaches? The fans ripped on them last year and the year before, especially trying to lose to get a better draft pick. Their support is limited to winning. I ask Avs fans to consider that maybe their support can help the team win games. I think I’ll stick with fans who actually give a crap about the game and know how to play the game on and off the ice. I’m disappointed in the Avs hockey community for supporting this type of nonsense. I’ve met so many wonderful Avs fan via my blog, at morning skates, and at training camp who should be better represented. Kudos to those fans still in the game. Hockey isn’t about being an asshole, it’s about shutting up and letting the players play the game.

Kisses from the All-Stars

With a fantasy draft divvying up the All-Star roster, both Eric Staal and Nick Lidstrom became team captains of Team Staal and Team Lidstrom. Hometown fans and Hurricanes’ holler wasn’t enough to pull out the win for Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal’s NHL All-Star team, Team Staal, who lost by a goal to Team Lidstrom. The four-time Stanley Cup champion and six-time winner of the Norris Trophy, Nicklas Lidstrom, led his team to victory over Team Staal, 11-10.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were out with injuries, but we celebrate them all year. This game was a chance for the other players to gain their deserved recognition. And with that, here are a few highlights from the NHL portion in Raleigh, N.C.

Alex Ovechkin made the first goal of the night and the first faux pas for Team Staal. Ovechkin drew the first All-Star penalty shot when he threw his stick in front of the path of Team Lidstrom’s Matt Duchene on a breakaway. Odd play- looks like Ovechkin lost grip or made the sabotage allowing the stick to slide quite a distance on the ice right past the Avalanche forward. Duchene missed the shot against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. If I were a cartoonist, I would have a blast sketching devil horns on Ovechkin and angel wings on Duchene. Or King Henry knighting Duchene as Ovi stretches on the rack.

And now to the defending Stanley Cup Champs time on the ice- Team Staal’s victory was Patrick Sharp winning a new car and named All-Star MVP for his goal and two assists. Chicago Blackhawks teammates, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane claimed the win with Team Lidstrom. Done.

Carolina Hurricane’s forward Jeff Skinner was the youngest NHL All-Star to play in the NHL at 18 years, 259 days, beating Steve Yzerman’s previous record in 1984 by just eight days. Many of the veterans tried to set Skinner up for a goal, but not go. Glad to see Skinner cheered by an awesome group of fans. If anyone doubts that the southeast can support hockey, I beg to differ. Raleigh and Charlotte have made a commitment to hockey playing within the zone of Ovechkin, Byfuglien, and Stamkos. A zone that has not yet been capitalized, teams with low attendance like in Atlanta need to grow or do more marketing. The rumors of Atlanta possibly shifting to Quebec or Winnipeg rouse the loyal in Canada. But if Bettman chooses to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, rather than support the Atlanta Thrashers, the commish must have tee time in Scottsdale often with the NHL players who have retired there.

All-Star games are a celebration of the best talent of the year. Anze Kopitar, Danny Briere and Loui Eriksson scored two apiece for Team Lidstrom. Adding one each were Toews, Dustin Byfuglien, Duchene, Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Staal and Letang each had two goals for Team Staal while Ovechkin Paul Stastny, Patrik Elias, Claude Giroux, Sharp and Rick Nash added the others.

Speed puck champ, Zdeno Chara, had two assists for Team Staal. Chara won the puck speed skill competition with105.9, shattering his old record of 105.4 in 2009.

Meanwhile, in Hershey with dancing mascots of chocolates kisses and a plethora of other chocolate delights, the AHL honored their best-of-the-best. Bobby Butler, leading rookie-goal-scorer of the Binghamton Senators was chosen MVP with a goal, 3 assists and a plus-4 rating. Amazing to note that last year’s AHL MVP was Tyler Ennis who now plays for the Buffalo Sabres, and a few years prior, Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell took the honors.

Bruce Boudreau, Olaf Kolzig and the current AHL President Dave Andrews reminisced on their time in the AHL and the importance of their experience. All commented on the friendships made while playing in the AHL and the torture of travel, notably the 14-hour bus trips from Halifax to Portland. Most AHL players will never get to the NHL, but if you get to play hockey as your job instead of sitting in a cubicle pushing papers, you’ve done good.