A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Some thoughts about the draft

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft will take place in Ottawa on June 20 and 21. With the first pick, the Lightning will be taking Steven Stamkos. The next three picks are expected to all be defensemen. The Kings will pick Drew Doughty, the Thrash will pick Zach Bogosian, the Blues will pick Alex Pietrangelo. After that, there really isn't any consensus.

Carolina will have the 14th pick. Some mock drafts have the Canes picking center Joshua Bailey (not "Josh"), who put up 96 (29/67) points in 67 games for the Windsor Spitfire of the OHL, good enough for tenth in the OHL. Bailey is 6'1" and 190 pounds. He wouldn't be able to make the jump straight to the NHL, and he is too young for the AHL, so if he is the drafted player, he'll spend at least one more season in Windsor. The projection is that he'll make a second line centerman in the NHL when his time comes.

Another popular projection for the Canes to pick with 14 is offensive defenseman Michael Del Zotto. He tallied 63 (16/47) points in 64 games for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL this past season. That points total was third among defensemen in the OHL in 2007-08. The 6'0" 210 pound youngster was slotted as high as fifth on the pre-season rankings. However, he slid down the chart because scouts have deemed him to be somewhat of a defensive liability. Still, the same scouts say that his ability to quarterback a power play and make plays is still enough to warrant a mid-first round selection.

I'm sure at some point I'll have more details on these and other players the Canes might pick with their first round selection.

Most analysts are suggesting that Jared Staal, the youngest of the four boys, will go early-mid second round. Carolina has the fifteenth pick in the second round (45th overall). If he's available, I'd be surprised to see the Canes pass on him at that point. For the record, Jared is the only Staal boy who shoots right handed. He had a less than spectacular season with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, scoring 49 (21/28) points in 60 games while accumulating a -11 rating as the second best player on the worst team in the league.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

NHL Network loving the 2006 playoffs

As the 2008 Stanley Cup finals are in full swing, and Pittsburgh has finally come off the ropes, the NHL Network is showing a lot of the great games from the 2006 playoffs. Hockey fans in general and Canes fans in particular should take note.

On Friday afternoon in the United States, the NHL Network will treat its subscribers to game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Hurricanes and the Devils. That was the series clinching win, a 4-1 victory for the Canes. Personally, I'd rather see the game 2 "miracle", when Eric Staal scored with 3 seconds left to force overtime, then Nic "Secret Weapon" Wallin got the game winner on a disputed goal. This one will do, though.

On Saturday in the United States, subscribers can see the incredible game 7 of the 2006 Eastern Conference finals against Buffalo. Carolina won that game 4-2. If they show the segue from the second intermission to puck drop of the third, I am prominently featured in both the CBC and the NBC feed with my ridiculous sign proclaiming 'MY BEARD BELIEVES'. Look for that.

Game 5, Eastern Conference semifinal CAR vs NJD Friday at 2:00pm (eastern)
Game 7, Eastern Conference final CAR vs BUF Saturday at 8:00pm (eastern)
Top 10 offensive performances 2006 playoffs Sunday at 7:00pm (eastern)

And then the whole 2006 Stanley Cup finals:

Game 1, Monday at 8:00pm (eastern)
Game 2, Tuesday at 10:00pm (eastern)
Game 3, Wednesday at 8:00pm (eastern)
Game 4, Thursday June 5 at 10:00pm (eastern)
Game 5, Friday June 6 at 10:00pm (eastern)
Game 6, Saturday June 7 at 8:00pm (eastern)
and the granddaddy of them all:
Game 7, Sunday June 8 at 8:00pm (eastern)

Each of these games will be shown a few times. Check your local listings for details, or visit their site.

Canucks prospect killed in motorcycle crash

Today, the Vancouver Canucks sadly announced that their top prospect, defenseman Luc Bourdon, was involved in a fatal motorcycle accident this afternoon.

Bourdon was the 10th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He played in 27 games this past season for the Nucks, registering 2 goals and 20 PIM. He also played 41 games for the AHL Manitoba Moose, scoring six goals and adding eight assists and 68 PIM.

According to reports, Bourdon bought a motorcycle two days ago. Today, he collided with a tractor-trailer after losing control of the bike. There have been rumors of winds gusting up to 50MPH, which may have contributed to the accident.

This is the first death of an active NHL player since Sergei Zholtok in November of the lockout year.

The Canucks organization has suffered a big loss, and the entire NHL will mourn. There will be a moment of silence before Saturday's game four of the Stanley Cup final.

Canucks report

Tidying up, part deux

A few days ago, I started what promises to be a very long process: tidying up this blog. First, I got rid of some dead wood in the blogroll. Then I added a couple of blogs to the roll.

I asked for some help with getting a better looking banner for the blog, and I got a few emails about that with some pretty good designs. Thanks to everyone who sent me one.

I felt like I would be a chump if I didn't incorporate the "Canes girl" that my friend Rob sent me. In all his modesty, he said he put it together in just a few seconds. Anyway, I experimented with a few different ways to work the girl into a logo/banner, and I just got tired. And frustrated. So I went with simplicity. Thanks again to Rob for the picture.

Thanks also to the others who sent me their designs. They may be used at some point.

Still to come, an overhaul of the whole template.

I should also mention again that this blog is designed to be viewed using the Mozilla Firefox browser. Seriously. It looks better. And Mozilla is a better browser.

As always, advice/commentary/criticism is welcome

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pens waddle home down 2-0

On Monday night, the Penguins came up empty in game two against the Red Wings, falling 3-0. They are down 2-0 in the series and will go home for games three and four on Wednesday and Saturday. Winning game three is absolutely imperative.

If the Penguins made any adjustments rather than subbing Roberts in and Laraque out, it didn't look like it. They still looked lethargic. They still looked about a step slower than Detroit. They still looked frustrated and exhausted. They still couldn't get the puck deep. They still missed the few quality chances that they had. Ryan Malone and Maid Marian Hossa still looked confused.

It isn't so much that the Penguins were playing like crap. The Wings have had some unbelievably good defense. Osgood hasn't really had to work that hard, and even when a shot gets through, he paddles it down to a sea of red sweaters. They're keeping the Pens forwards out of the house. They're dominating the neutral ice play, they're getting to all the loose pucks behind the net. The Red Wings blueliners have even drawn defensive zone penalties.

Through two games, the Penguins have only mustered 41 shots on goal. This isn't going to get it done.

For game three, the Pens are gonna have to juggle the line combinations. They're gonna have to find a way to get the puck through the neutral zone. They're gonna have to find a way to keep it deep. They're going to have to take some shots and put some big bodies down low. In short, they're gonna have to figure out how to play against the Wings suffocating defense.

On top of all this is the most obvious thing. They're gonna have to find the net.

The good news is that Pittsburgh has won 16 straight games at the Igloo. The last time they lost there was a 2-1 shootout loss to the Sharks way back on February 24.

Pens hotel has false alarm

Last night in Detroit, the fire alarm at the Penguins hotel went off at 1:30 am. The Post-Gazette does not suspect foul play. Whether it was foul play, a routine test, or a false alarm, the point is that the Pens players were roused from their sleep at 1:30 in the morning and forced to evacuate their rooms.

After getting the "all-clear" to go back in the building, there was a hotel-wide announcement 30 minutes later that it was a "false alarm" and that everything was okay. By that point, it was at least 2:00, and Penguins players were still unable to get the much needed sleep before today's morning skate and tonight's game.

None of the Red Wings players were roused from their sleep, but $50 Canadian says their team hotel will have a fire drill of its own when they visit Pittsburgh.

The Post-Gazette also reports that The Mule will play tonight. Even after missing six games, including game one of the SCF, he leads all players with 12 goals this playoff season.

Emma Fleury has been practicing his ice-entering routine after falling flat on his face Saturday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spokane Chiefs win Memorial Cup, then break it.

On Sunday, the Spokane Chiefs defeated the Kitchener Rangers 4-1 to win the Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup. Drayson Bowman, Carolina's third round pick in the 2007 entry draft, scored the Cup winning goal.

Chiefs netminder Dustin Tokarski put on a remarkable show, making 53 saves, including 25 in the third period.

In a shocking moment, Chiefs captain Chris Bruton dropped the Cup on the ice, breaking it in two pieces. The Kitchener crowd, and the rest of the Chiefs looked on in stunned silence as they figured out what to do. The Cup will be repaired, but I'm sure that Bruton will never be able to live that one down.

Bowman has one more year of eligibility in junior hockey, and will probably play at least one year in Albany. All reports are that he won't be expected to play in Raleigh until at least 2010-11.

Game one: Wings

M-A Fleury came charging out of the tunnel, leading the Penguins on the ice for game one on Saturday. He fell. This was not a good way to get things started in hostile territory, and the game was already over at that point.

The Pens were pretty sharp for the majority of the first period, but both teams went into the first intermission with no score.

After that, the Pens were lifeless. Between the blue lines, they were sluggish and mistake-prone. They never really did get the puck deep in the Detroit zone, and even when they did, they didn't do anything.

Detroit capitalized on a couple of Penguin miscues, and after building a two-goal lead, they clamped down defensively. It was frustrating to watch, but very impressive.

At the end of it all, the final tally was 4-0.

Pens need to work on a lot of things before Monday's game two.

More details later.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Maggie makes her pick, Pens doomed

Recently, TSN's Maggie the Monkey made her Stanley Cup Finals pick. She picked the Penguins to win, which may be their demise. In 2006, she wrongly picked Edmonton. In 2007, she wrongly picked Ottawa. This is meant to be fun, and certainly has no weight, but her track record in picking the Stanley Cup champion is a horrible 0-2.

Last year, her overall picks were 8-7. In 2006, she was 9-6. This season, she is 8-6 so far. By comparison, in the same time frame, I have been a perfect 2-0 in my finals picks, and a perfect 6-0 in my conference final picks. I was 9-6 overall in 2006, 9-6 overall last season, and 8-6 so far this season.

Just to re-iterate, I am rooting for the Penguins. However, I think that the experience and the overwhelming offensive firepower and the stronger defense will prevail for the Wings. They might not be as prepared for the Pens as they should be. The Pens will make it tough, but I think the Wings will prevail in 6. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Pittsburgh wins game one, but I would be (pleasantly) surprised if the Pens win the series.

In particular, I think the experience of two Stanley Cup wins by Chris Osgood will give them the crucial edge in nets.

The Mule, who has been out of the lineup for five games, and will miss game one of the Finals, is still leading the playoffs in goals scored with 12. Henrik Zetterberg is right behind him with 11. Pavel Datsyuk has 9. Maid Marian Hossa and Gino Malkin have nine apiece for the Pens. The Kid has just 4, but has been an assist machine with 17 of those to pace all players.

Each team has their weapons, but I think that Detroit just has too many of them. Still, I'll be rooting for the Pens.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Canes, Gleason close to deal.

The N&O is reporting that the Hurricanes are coming awfully close to dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts on a contract extension with defenseman Tim Gleason.

Gleason, who arrived with Eric "Frenchy" Belanger from Los Angeles in the Jack "effing" Johnson deal, has often been Carolina's best blueliner. That trade had a lot of people scratching their heads and lamenting the fact that the Canes didn't get more. I've been in support of it the whole time, and Gleason's play has been more than enough to justify the trade. People often forget that that trade also involved the WAY overpriced Oleg Tverdovsky. Carolina shed more than $2M in salary with that deal, so that worked out pretty well, too.

"Frenchy" never panned out here and was traded to Nashville, then to Atlanta, then signed out of free agency by Minnesota.

Gleason has been a resounding success in Carolina, and a favorite of hardcore fans. The speculation is that he will double his 2008 salary of $1.175M. He will be well worth it. With Glen Wesley and/or Bret Hedican out of the picture next fall, his role will likely be increased. His game has gotten better every day since joining the Canes. At 25 years old, the native Michigander is still very young, especially by defenseman's standards. He has the potential to blossom into an elite defenseman. He also has a bit of offensive upside as well.

My initial thought was that he would get a "small" raise and be offered a two-year contract. That would take him to the end of his RFA eligibility. If his salary is doubled, as the N&O article suggests, I wouldn't be surprised or upset. However, that kind of money is pretty much predicated upon Hedican and his $2.432M leaving Raleigh.

It seems that both sides are hoping that Timmy stays in Carolina. The only point where the negotiations are getting held up is the length of the contract. If you ask me, I'd say to get him locked in for as long as possible.

Assuming Hedican and Glen Wesley aren't re-signed, Gleason makes four defensemen. German Dennis Seidenberg will probably be re-signed, but they'll need to go to free agency or trade to get at least one more.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tidying up

Don't hate me 'coz I'm lazy. Things have gotten to be a little bit of a mess around here. The template is getting a little tired, the masthead is boring and the blogroll is out of order.

After reading a post over at BFLOBLOG, I was inspired to go through ye olde blogrolle, and I was shocked into shame to discover that no fewer than eight of the blogs over there are no longer active. It saddens me that some of the really great ones (namely Sabre Rattling) are no longer doing business.

I used to do a better job of tidying up, but I've slipped up recently. I don't wanna look like a dunce linking to blogs that aren't active anymore. I'd rather let my writing speak for my duncehood.

I know it's difficult since most teams aren't playing anymore, but it's not that hard to find something to blog about, even during the offseason. Bloggers who fail to post anything at all in over a month are put into question. Those whose teams were still alive when they disappeared are banished

I'm always open to adding a blog to the blogroll. I just don't link to cricket blogs or soccer blogs or golf blogs or basketball blogs. Try as you may, I won't add you if your blog is one of those, or if you contact me via bulk email asking for linkage.

If you write a hockey blog that I don't link, zip me an email or a comment. If you know of one that I should be linking to, please do the same. As long as the writing is decent and the updates are frequent, I'll usually add it.

If anyone feels like using their awesome creative and artistic abilities to design a banner/header/masthead for me, please do.

Maybe during the summer, I'll spruce up the place with a new blogger template. I just feel like rearranging the furniture.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yamaguchi wins, Hedican can make decision

1000th post!!!
For a very long time, I've been waiting for the day that Bret Hedican would announce his retirement. I might finally get my wish in the very very near future.

Last summer, everyone was under the impression that Hedican had a "player option" on his contract that could be exercised. Turns out, it was never up in the air, and Hurricanes fans let out a groan when it was officially announced that he would return to the Canes for the 2007-08 season. Now, his contract is up, and everyone hoped he would make a decision when the Canes were eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season. However, his wife was involved with that "Dancing with the Stars" thing, and he needed to be with her.

Kristi won the DWTS championship and a really uncomely trophy, which will most likely be hidden in the couple's attic. Now Bret can make that decision that we've all been waiting for. Given that he's already said that the couple will move to California this summer, that's a pretty good indicator that he won't be playing for the Hurricanes. He'll either try the free agent waters or (more likely) retire.

The Hurricanes will have a lot of work to do to shore up the blue line this summer, and shedding Hedican's $2.432M salary will be a step in the right direction. Nic Wallin, Joe Corvo and Frantisek Kaberle are under contract. "Snuggles" Tanabe is under contract, but will probably never return from concussion-related issues. Glen Wesley is a RFA-to-be, and will wait till the last second to sign a one-year deal. Tim Gleason is a UFA-to-be, and simply MUST be re-signed. Dennis Seidenberg is also a UFA-to-be. I'll take him or leave him.

There's work to be done, and the sooner Hedican hangs up his skates, the sooner JR can formulate a game plan for working the free agent/trade market.

Congratulations to Kristi on winning that absurd competition!

My favorite memory of Kristi is from the 2002-03 season. Mid-way through the season, I "stole" some dude's girlfriend, and by virtue of doing so, I took his seat next to her at Hurricanes games. That was my first year in section 112. I kept noticing Kristi Yamaguchi over in section 113, several rows behind us. I never did figure out why a player's wife and an Olympic gold medalist had such a mediocre seat. Certainly a worse seat than mine. I never saw her at a game after that season.

I would imagine that Hedican and Jim Rutherford will get together some time this week and put us all out of our misery. It's been a nice run, but it's been time for him to retire for too long.

This is, by the way, the 1000th post at Red and Black Hockey

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wings finish Stars; Pens will become 19th different runner-up

On Monday night, the Red Wings finally finished off Dallas with a 4-1 victory to take the series four games to two. They advance to the Stanley Cup finals against Pittsburgh.

Make no mistake. I'm rooting for the Pens. I went so far as to order some Pens gear from the NHL shop. As a secondary team, I like the Pens anyway, and I didn't mind jumping on the bandwagon by buying a couple of t-shirts.

This guy, this girl, these guys, and this guy are among the millions of Penguins fans who are about to burst with excitement and nervousness. I will be standing behind them and I will be rooting hard for the Pens.

However, I think the Red Wings are just too damn good.

That's my inexpert analysis.

Also, there's this game the hockey gods are playing with us. Pittsburgh has been to the Stanley Cup finals twice before and won both times. But the hockey gods have this game they've been playing with us since 1989. Take a look at this list of Stanley Cup runners-up:

  • 1989 Montréal Canadiens
  • 1990 Boston Bruins
  • 1991 Minnesota NorthStars
  • 1992 Chicago Blackhawks
  • 1993 Los Angeles Kings
  • 1994 Vancouver Canucks
  • 1995 Detroit Red Wings
  • 1996 Florida Panthers
  • 1997 Philadelphia Flyers
  • 1998 Washington Capitals
  • 1999 Buffalo Sabres
  • 2000 Dallas Stars
  • 2001 New Jersey Devils
  • 2002 Carolina Hurricanes
  • 2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
  • 2004 Calgary Flames
  • 2005 no cup
  • 2006 Edmonton Oilers
  • 2007 Ottawa Senators
  • 2008

That's a list of 18 different teams. No team is on there twice. The NorthStars and the Stars are "sort of" the same team. Different ownership, different fans, blah blah blah.

I wrote about this last June 7, and even offered this bit of advice:
"Pittsburgh fans, prepare yourselves for heartbreak."

For the Wings, check out this gal, this guy, and these guys.

I may or may not make a more detailed post about the whys and hows, but for now I'll predict the Wings in six. Just to be clear, though, I'm rooting for the Pens.

Buckle up!

Michael Leighton, ... come on down!!!

Since about the beginning of February, it has been a common conjecture in Carolina that John Crackers Grahame had reached the end of the line in Carolina. He appeared in only four of Carolina's last 32 games. Only one of those was a start.

It has become official: John Grahame will not be back. On Friday, he was signed to a two-year deal by Avangard Omsk of the Continental Hockey Association (Russian Super League). Grahame, according to a bad translation from the original Russian, is "owner of Stanley Cup". He will, presumably, sulk on the bench whilst ogling the Russian puck bunnies.

This paves the way for the inevitable signing of Michael Leighton to an NHL contract. Some folks think it would be in Carolina's best interest to go after an aging veteran RFA goaltender so Cam would have a mentor, but I really don't think that Cam needs any more guidance than Tom Barrasso can give him. Leighton, who was the AHL's top goaltender last season, is more than ready to make the jump back to the NHL. Leighton has appeared in 50 NHL games, dating back to 2002-03. Most of those were on the horrendously bad Blackhawks team in the 2003-04 season. That team won only 20 games all season long.

To Grahame's credit, he never complained about his lack of playing time or his obvious #2 status. He didn't complain when he was reassigned to Albany. Things just didn't work out for him here. I wish him well, but I can't say that I'll miss him.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

NBC to screw the NHL again

After last year's disasterous double booking of the NHL playoffs and the Preakness Stakes, NBC has not learned its lesson. And they have decided not to be any nicer to the NHL.

Today's game 5 of the Western Conference final between Dallas and Detroit is set for a 1:30 eastern time start. NBC has announced that, just like last year, it will switch its coverage from hockey to horseracing at 4:30, regardless of the status of the hockey game. If the game ends in regulation, there won't be a problem. If, however, the game goes to overtime like last season's Sens-Sabres game 5, NBC will pull the plug at exactly 4:30. Viewers will have to switch over to Versus. Unless they're in a hotel, which means they probably don't get Versus.

For the record, the horse race doesn't start until 6:15 eastern time. That's right. They need an hour and 45 minutes to lead into an event that will last two and a half minutes. (Refraining from obvious sex joke) They can't won't join the ridiculous pre-race coverage in progress, but they will leave what would hypothetically be an exciting game at a crucial moment.

Next season, I hope the NHL actually learns its lesson and leaves the third Saturday in May blank on the playoff schedule.

It's obvious that the reason both series took an extra day off is so both series could have a weekend afternoon (read: NBC) game. When will the league learn that this is the way NBC conducts itself? What if game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals goes past its allotted time? Will they pull the plug because Deal or No Deal needs its airtime?

I wish I was Canadian.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Penguins can't close the deal

On Thursday, the Penguins failed to complete the sweep of Philly. After an explosive three-goal first period, the Flyers were able to hold on, win the game 4-2 and live for at least one more day.

I predicted a seven game series, but after the Penguins took a 3-0 lead, I thought there would be a sweep. The Flyers, who had played without verve for the first three games, came flying (sorry) out of the gates. Although Jordan Staal and the Penguins had a late surge, they couldn't quite make up the difference.

The Series will shift back to Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, in the AHL, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton "Baby Penguins" lost their game to the Portland Pirates (Ducks). That Eastern Conference final series is knotted at one game apiece. There isn't any standard for series set-ups in the AHL. Some series go 1-2-2-2; some go 2-3-2; most go 2-2-1-1-1. This one happens to go 2-3-2, meaning the next three games are in Portland.

Detroit also failed to complete their sweep of Dallas on Wednesday, and that series will shift back to Detroit on Saturday.

In IIHF action, the two semi-final games are today. Russia will take on Finland, and Sweden will play Canada. Good luck to the Canes players in IIHF play. Tuomo Ruutu for Finland; Nic Wallin for Sweden; Cam Ward and Eric Staal for Canada.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Season tickets more spendy next season.

The other day, I got an email indicating that I was about to receive a package from the Carolina Hurricanes. Season ticket renewal stuff. What was odd, though, is that it was being shipped via courier. Whichever the hell one of those companies has the yellow truck.

I thought it was weird, and I didn't have time to talk to any of my fellow season ticket holder friends. I was able to gather that that was the way they sent them out to everyone this year, and I assumed that it was just a silly waste of money.

Today, said package arrived. Immediately, I saw why they sent these things via courier instead of USPS. They included a two-disc DVD set highlighting the 10 years the Hurricanes have been here. It looks pretty spiffy, and I haven't watched it yet, but the jacket makes it look like a pretty comprehensive retrospective.

I guess I'm watching these tonight.

The second thing is that, as expected, prices went up. By quite a bit. My 10-game package last year cost me a little over $500. This year, I'll have to pay $720. However, it's not quite that bad. The package is now a 12-game package, and apparently they throw in two vouchers for extra games. So I'll be getting 14 games. Looking at it like that, it's not so bad. Plus, they've thrown in some incentives to keep people on board. At my level, I can get a free Hurricanes tailgating chair or a Hurricanes messenger bag, or a Hurricanes gym bag, or a Hurricanes beach cooler, or a couple of other small gifts.

I'll withhold judgment until I've watched the DVDs, but I'm still a little sore that the Hurricanes didn't produce their own DVD celebrating the Stanley Cup win in 2006.

Monday, May 12, 2008

USA crushes Norway, moves on to quarterfinals

In IIHF action on Monday, team USA demolished Norway 9-1 behind a hat trick by Brandon Dubinsky. Robert Esche was in nets again, and wasn't challenged much, but got the job done.

Timmmay Gleason, who was cheapshotted by Olli Jokinen on Sunday, did not play.

In another important game, Canada outlasted Finland 6-3 to remain perfect in the tournament. Cam Ward watched from the bench, and Eric Staal didn't register any points. Tuomo Ruutu scored one for Finland.

The wins by USA and Canada set up a rematch of the bloody USA-Finland game. They will meet on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the elimination round.

After sitting out with a suspension, Jokinen will return to play on Wednesday. David Backes and Anssi Salmela will return to their respective teams after also sitting out suspensions.

After the bad blood on Sunday, Wednesday's game should be a fun one to watch. I guess I'll have to subscribe to WCSN.

Video goal judge Peter Andersson (Sweden), who allowed Finland's bogus goal to stand, will not be working this or any game for the rest of the tournament.

USA beaten by bogus goal

In IIHF action on Sunday, team USA was beaten 3-2 by Finland. The game started chippy, anded chippy, and featured a bogus goal by the Finns.

Very early in the game, Olli Jokinen delivered a crushing blow, driving Carolina Hurricanes defenseman into the boards from behind. Jokinen, who has always been regarded with disdain by RBH, was ejected from the game. Gleason was woozy but okay.

USA got off to an early 2-0 lead in the first frame, but they wouldn't score any more after that.

In the third period, the Finns got on the board with a completely bogus goal. The puck clearly entered the net by going through the right side, under the skirt. The play was reviewed, but allowed to stand. TSN has the highlights. A fuming coach John Tortarella said after the game "I'm suggesting blindness" when asked about the call.

The phantom goal wasn't the game winner. It was the first of three. Team USA still has a very valid complaint about the goal, though.

As the game ended, there was a nasty bench clearing brawl that resulted in several ejections and suspensions.

For Today's Finland-Canada game, Finland will be without Jokinen because of the boarding incident. Anssi Salmela, who was pummeled in the fight, will also serve a suspension.

USA takes on Norway for the right to advance to the elimination round. USA will be without David Backes because of his role in the brawl.

According to the IIHF, they have acknowledged that the phantom goal should not have counted. The video judge has been suspended for the remainder of the tournament.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Mule sits out

Johan Franzen, leading goal scorer in these Stanley Cup playoffs, was forced to sit out of Saturday's 2-1 win in game 2 between the Red Wings and the Stars. He will also miss game three Monday in Dallas. Apparently, is suffering from "concussion-like symptoms" which have been persisting since the Colorado series. He will remain in Detroit where he will undergo baseline testing among other medical examinations.

The Wings have had a fairly balanced attack and some marvelous goaltending, but this is a huge loss. If the baseline tests are not favorable, Franzen will be forced to miss at least a week or more.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency for the team doctors and the players themselves to look the other way concerning concussions. I've written about this before with specific points about how concussions need not be taken so lightly because of the long term and devastating consequences they might bring about. The Toronto Star ran a two part piece about concussions that everyone should read. Even if you've already read it, you should revisit.
Part one
Part two

Even though this is a crucial time for a team to be without one of its best players, they really need to take his health quite seriously. Just ask Kevin Kaminski.

In addition to leading the playoffs in goals (12), Franzen is the author of the prizewinning novel The Corrections. Okay. He's not, but I never get tired of that joke.

Staal has huge game as Canada pastes Germany.

In IIHF action on Saturday, Carolina Hurricanes star Eric Staal potted four goals and added one assist to lead the host Canada to a decisive 10-1 win over Germany. See the scoresheet and stats here.

Until today, Staal had been quiet. He hadn't scored a goal, and only had two assists in the four previous games played. Suddenly, he's second only to Dany Heatley (7) in goals scored for team Canada.

Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward earned the victory, his third. Canada is using a revolving goalie system. A lot has been written about the demerits of a two goalie system, but it's working just fine for now. Normally, I wouldn't find anything positive to say about Pascal Leclair, but he's really been doing a great job shouldering the other half of the load.

Canada, who is a perfect 5-0, will play their final qualifying game on Monday against Finland.

USA will play that same Finnish team on Sunday, followed by Norway on Monday.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

US squeaks by Germany

On Thursday, at the IIHF World Championships, USA barely got by Germany 6-4. The Americans got off to a 3-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game, but the rest of the game was decidedly Germany's.

One thing is abundantly clear. I didn't watch or even listen to the game, but it's clear that Craig Anderson did not have a good game. He faced only nine shots, and he surrendered four goals before being lifted in favour of Robert Esche. If you're scoring along at home, Anderson's save % is a nightmarish .555. That won't cut it. In 15 minutes of relief, Esche was perfect, stopping all six shots he saw.

Germany is not a very good team, but Finland is. If Anderson plays like that on Sunday, the Finns are likely to beat USA 12-2.

Zach Parise had two goals and an assist to pace the Americans. Our native North Carolinian Patrick O'Sullivan scored his third marker of the tournament. Dustin Brown and Jason Pominville had the other goals.

Hopefully, Anderson can snap out of it. Otherwise, it's going to be embarrassing.

Now. Here's the big question.


Ryan Miller is without a doubt the best active American-born goaltender. The simple answer to the big question is that he declined an invitation to play. My guess is that he's still pissed about getting snubbed with respect to the 2006 Olympics roster. Miller had a thumb injury early in the 2006 season and was taken off the USA Hockey's radar. He returned from injury and had a sensational first half of the season. He was named to the "taxi squad", which didn't make any sense to him or to anybody else for that matter.

As for his refusal to play at the IIHF World Championships, he is using "I need to train" and "I need to focus on securing a new contract" as excuses. The real reason is that he wants to drink USA Hockey's milkshake.

I... Drink.... Your..... Milkshake. I drink it up!!!

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bad news for USA

On Wednesday, team USA made some adjustments to its IIHF roster. They learned that captain Jeff Halpern (Potomac, MD / Princeton University / Tampa Bay Lightning) will require knee surgery after sustaining an injury in Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Canada. Also, goaltender Tim Thomas (Flint, MI / University of Vermont / Boston Bruins) has been sent home after being hurt in the same game.

USA has added defenseman Jordan Leopold (Golden Valley, MN / University of Minnesota / Colorado Avalanche) and center Brandon Dubinsky (Anchorage, AK / New York Rangers). Leopold has played for Team USA a number of times, and this will be Dubinsky's first time representing his country.

I can't even guess who will replace Halpern as USA's captain. He is one of just a few "older" players. Many of these guys have little or no experience in international play.

Halpern had registered only one assist and was a -1 rating, but he had the experience and the leadership that will be sorely missed.

Tim Thomas was playing very well and will be missed. Craig Anderson will be in the hot seat as his replacement.

All preliminary games are over, and the qualification matchups have been set. Team USA will play Germany on Thursday night, Finland on Sunday, and Norway on Monday.

Good luck, boys!

Chairman Mo given the axe

On Wednesday, the Maple Leafs announced that they have fired head coach Paul "Chairman Mo" Maurice. They have also relieved his long-time assistant Randy Ladouceur. Maruice had one year remaining on his contract, but had coached the Leafs to two consecutive losing seasons and the last two of three straight playoff-less seasons in Toronto. This lack of success is unacceptable in Toronto, and I'm pretty surprised that he lasted this long. Frankly, I'm surprised that they hired him in the first place.

Maurice was the head coach of the Whaler/Canes team between 1995 and 2003. When he was fired in December of 2003, he was the longest tenured coach in the NHL, and one of the youngest. Randy Ladouceur had been with him every step of the way.

Maurice had his job on the line in 2002, but the boys put together a miracle run to the Stanley Cup Finals, saving the Sault Ste Marie native's job. The following year, the Canes were the worst team in hockey and the natives were restless. They stumbled out of the gates again in 2003-04, and Maurice was quickly fired after starting the season 8-12-8-2.

He didn't coach at all during the lockout, then lucked into a head coaching job with the Toronto Marlies for the 2005-06 season. He parlayed that into a job with the Leafs, but it didn't go well.

Maurice is remembered around here for the bag skate he put the boys through at the tail end of "the season from hell" (2002-03). The tactic had worked the previous season, but that time, it didn't. There was a bit of a rebellion, a mutiny headed up by Jeff O'Neill. The two got in a highly publicized shouting match, and neither the player or the coach were the same afterwards. Most importantly, the coach had lost his control of the room.

Interim general manager Cliff Fletcher has stated that the point of firing Maurice and Ladouceur is that it will give an incoming GM the freedom to put his own coaches into place.

There are a few people around here who think that Jim Rutherford is in line for that GM position and that it would make sense for associate head coach Kevin McCarthy to go with. I'm not buying that, and I certainly won't be selling it.

Dave Nonis needs a job. Loads of other people are qualified and available for the
GM position in Toronto. I don't have any clue who will be Maurice's successor.

Canda too much for USA

In IIHF play On Tuesday, team Canada and team USA played a great game in the final game of round robin play for their group. Both teams headed in undefeated, and Canada stayed that way with an exciting 5-4 win.

All accounts are that the American team outplayed the Canadians for most of the game, but Canada's Dany Heatley was again the hero. He tallied two more goals, including the game winner with less than a minute to play. Heatley leads the tournament in goals (six) and points (ten) after three games played.

Brent Burns, Jonathan Toews and Derek Roy also scored goals for Canada.

Tim Thomas started in nets for USA, but was replaced by Craig Anderson at the start of the third period. Cam Ward got the nod for Canada, and picked up the win despite giving up four goals.

Patrick O'Sullivan (Winston-Salem, NC) scored his second goal of the tournament for USA, and also added an assist. Also scoring were Jason Pominville (Buffalo, NY), Zach Parise (Minneapolis, MN / University of North Dakota) and Dustin Brown (Ithica, NY).

On Wednesday, the preliminary round will conclude, then Team USA will play the #3 team from pool C on Thursday. That will probably be Slovakia, unless Slovakia upsets Finland on Wednesday. If that's the case, it'll be Germany. On Sunday, USA will play Finland, who will be the #1 team from pool C. Then they'll play Germany (#2) on Monday. All of this assumes that Finland beats Slovakia and Germany beats Norway on Wednesday. That's not assuming too much.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Canes score at World Championships

On Monday, there were again four games at the IIHF World Championships. Hurricanes players had key roles in two of them.

In the biggest surprise of the tournament (so far), Norway forced overtime against Finland. Just 1:27 into the extra frame, however, Hurricanes RFA-to-be Tuomo Ruutu potted the game winning goal for the Finns.

Sweden, who is playing without their best players (read: the Detroit Red Wings), routed France in what wasn't a surprise, but was the most lopsided game of the tournament (so far). The thing that was surprising is that some no-name backup French goaltender held the Swedes scoreless in the first period. Sweden ended up getting nine goals, and one of them came via Hurricanes defenseman Nic "The Secret Weapon" Wallin.

Germany pulled a minor upset, defeating Slovakia 4-2. Hurricanes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg didn't figure into the scoring in that one.

The "big game" is Tuesday afternoon. Team USA against Team Canada.

Conference finals set

The second round of playoff games are over, and we're down to just four teams remaining.

In the first round, I correctly picked half of the series winners, while Maggie the Monkey was good on five and wrong on three. In the second round, I again got half of them right, and Maggie got just one. For the third year in a row, after 12 playoff series, I'm tied with a monkey in my prognosticating skills.

This round, I correctly predicted that the Pens would beat the Rangers, but I guessed that the Habs would beat the Flyers. Out west, I missed badly when I said that the Sharks would beat the Stars, but I was good in picking the Red Wings to advance. Maggie only correctly picked the Wings.

Here are my picks for the conference finals, followed by some brief analysis:

The Eastern Conference final promises to be excellent. The two teams, separated by 300 miles of Interstate 76, don't like each other one bit. The Flyers won five of the eight regular season games between the teams. They have met in the playoffs thrice before, and the Flyers have won all three series. Most recently, in 2000, the Flyers beat the Pens 4-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinal.

For the Penguins, they've been getting it done with a balanced offensive attack and a very stingy defense. M-A Fleury has allowed just 16 goals in nine games, and the penalty killers have killed 34 of 38 manpower disadvantages.

The Flyers have been getting it done with some spectacular goaltending by Marty Biron. Save a couple of stumbling blocks, he's been very solid. He's certainly been challenged way more than Fleury has. Biron has faced 395 shots at an average of 32.9 per game. The next guy on that list, Evgeni Nabokov, faced 333 shots at an average of 25.6 per game. Fleury, for comparison's sake, has faced a total of 256 shots at an average of 28.4 per game.
They've also been getting it done by "Mr. Playoffs" Danny Briere, who stumbled in the regular season but has 14 (8/6) points in 12 playoff games. Also, RJ Umberger, who had 50 points in the regular season, has 11 (9/2) in the playoffs.

The Penguins have three guys with 10 or more playoff points. Evgeni Malkin has 14 (6/8). Sidney Crosby has 14 (2/12) and Maid Marian Hossa has 10 (5/5).

By contrast, the Flyers (who have played three more games), have four guys with 10 or more. Briere leads the Flyers with 14. Umberger has the aforementioned 11. Vaclav Prospal (whom I refuse to call "Vinny") has 12 (3/9) and Mike Richards has 11 (4/7).

After cruising through the first two rounds, this will be a challenge for the Penguins. The Flyers are a more physical, more motivated group than the Pens have seen thus far. I fully expect this one to go the distance, with lots of road games won and lots of overtime. And some spectacular goaltending. Oh, and probably some fighting.

Out west, I haven't been folowing as closely, but I don't think the Stars can put up much of a fight against the Red Wings juggernaut. The Stars have been playing some low-scoring games, and that won't cut it against the Red Wings. The Wings have been averaging 3.8 goals for per game, while the Stars have only been managing 2.9. In the six game series against the Sharks, they scored just 15 times for an average of 2.5.

The Red Wings have been on fire, thanks largely to the outstanding play of Johan "The Mule" Franzen, who leads all players with 11 goals. To that, he has added 3 assists, for a total of 14 points. Henrik Zetterberg (7/6) and Pavel Datsyuk (5/8) have 13 points apiece.

Detroit won the season series 3-1. Including the Minnesota North Stars days, the Wings and Stars have met three times in the playoffs, and the Wings have won all three series. Most recently, the Wings won 4-2 in the 1998 Western Conference final.

The Stars, like the Flyers, have four players with 10 or more points. In 12 games played, Mike Ribeiro has 14 (3/11). Brendan Morrow (7/4) and Brad Richards (2/9) each have 11, and Mike Modano has 10 (4/6)

While Marty Turco has been good, I think it will come down to the even better goaltending of Chris Osgood and a superior Wings team dictating the flow.
I think the Red Wings will have a pretty easy time of this, with the Stars winning their lone win at home.

So far as I can tell, Maggie hasn't made her picks yet, but we have a few days off before the series start. The West will begin on Thursday and the East will start on Friday.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Canada, USA roll to easy victories again

On Sunday, Canada and the United States again rolled to easy victories in IIHF play. Both teams are 2-0-0 and will face each other on Tuesday.

Dany Heatley scored a goal and three assists to lead Canada to a 7-0 drubbing of Latvia. Heatley has eight (4/4) points in two games played to lead all skaters in the tournament.

Bruins star Phil Kessel (Madison, Wisconsin/ University of Minnesota) notched a hat trick as the Americans cruised to an easy 5-1 win over Slovenia. The Slovenians could only muster 12 shots on net, and Anze Kopitar from the Kings potted their only goal. Three of USA's goals came via the power play, and by my count they were 3-5 on the power play. They are now a very scary 7-13 (53.85%) with the manpower advantage, leading all teams in that category. The Americans have killed all 10 shorthanded situations they have faced.

Canada has scored 12 goals and given up one while the United States has scored nine and given up one. Anze Kopitar has been the only one to score against both teams.

Kopitar, apparently was lit up by defenseman Keith Ballard (Baudette, Minnesota / University of Minnesota / Phoenix Coyotes) with a huge hit. Ballard was given a game misconduct penalty for a blow to the head and neck area. As of now, there isn't any video. I'll try to get some when it becomes available.

On Tuesday, the top two teams will face each other in what promises to be a great game. Tim Thomas should remain between the pipes for USA, and there's no telling for team Canada.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

USA, Canada get easy wins

The IIHF World Championships began on Friday, and things went pretty much according to plan for the United States and Canada.

Cam Ward made 22 saves and Dany Heatley recorded a hat trick, leading Canada to a 5-1 win over Slovenia. Eric Staal had one assist.

Team USA, who wore vintage 1960 sweaters for the game, cruised to a 4-0 victory over Latvia. The Americans got all four goals via the power play. The Blackhawks' rookie sensation Patrick Kane (Buffalo, NY) netted one goal and two assists to lead the way. Devils' Defenseman Paul Martin (Minneapolis, MN ) registered three assists. Winston-Salem, North Carolina native Patrick O'Sullivan also potted a goal. The standout for the Kings most certainly became the first native North Carolinian to score a goal in international play.

On Sunday, Canada will play Latvia and the USA will play Slovenia.

Friday, May 02, 2008

World Championships begin today

The 2008 IIHF World Championships begin today. This year's tournament is hosted by Halifax and Quebec City. There will be four games today.

The sixteen team touranment begins with four groups of four teams playing round robin. After that, the elimination round begins next Thursday. Like UEFA soccer, the worst two teams at the end of it all get relegated to the lower division of play next year.

In today's games, Team Czech will take on Denmark at 1:00; Canada will take on Slovenia at 3:30; Russia will play relegation-bound Italy at 7:00; USA will play Latvia at 7:15.

Team USA features just one Hurricane: defenseman Tim Gleason. There is also a native North Carolinian on the roster. Patrick O'Sullivan, who plays center for the Kings, was born in Winston-Salem. He had a respectable 53 (22/31) points this year on a very bad Kings team.

Team Canada features goalie Cam Ward and center Eric Staal.

Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg will be suiting up for Germany, defenseman Nic Wallin will play for #1 ranked Sweden, and center Tuomo Ruutu will represent Finland.

Good luck to all of these Canes in international play. Obviously, we'll be giving our unwavering support to team USA.


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