Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

Kings and Sharks Go to Exciting Game 7

This marks the first time in two years the Los Angeles Kings face playoff elimination, as the Stanley Cup Champions host the San Jose Sharks in a decisive Game 7 in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs.

The Kings had a chance to close out the series on the road in Game 6, but fell 2-1, shifting the pressure back onto Los Angeles for this decisive Game 7. The home team has won every game in the series thus far and prevailed in all four regular season games.

The Kings have been led this postseason by the strong play of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who has a stellar 1.54 goals against average and a .947 save percentage. Meanwhile, a pair of former Flyers is at the top of the Kings scoring, as Mike Richards has two goals and eight assists for 10 points and Jeff Carter has five goals and three assists.

San Jose has also gotten strong goaltending from Antti Niemi, a former Stanley Cup Champion with the Blackhawks. Niemi has a 1.85 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. In game sevens, goaltending is always critical, so that matchup could be key.

Offensively, Joe Pavelski has four goals and seven assists for the Sharks, while Logan Couture has five goals and six assists. Joe Thornton has been a key setup man with two goals and eight assists, while Patrick Marleau has scored five times and set up teammates on three occasions.

The winner of this series earns the opportunity to advance to the Western Conference Finals to challenge the victor of another Game 7, between the Blackhawks and Red Wings. Many say that there is nothing more exciting in sports than a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so don’t miss out on your chance to see one live in Los Angeles.

Tickets are still available, but they’ll likely go quick between now and faceoff when fans will pack the seats to see the last game of the season for one of these two teams and the next step toward the Stanley Cup for the other.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Update

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are coming to an end, and it’s just a matter of days until the all-suspenseful final round begins. So far, the Los Angeles Kings are the only team that have stamped their ticket into those finals, and they did it quite a few days before their opponents will. That short rest, along with all the other rest they’ve gotten these playoffs, is sure to help them in the finals against the exhausted team they’ll be facing.

That team will either be the New Jersey Devils of the New York Rangers, the only two other teams that are scrapping it out for their own chance at winning the revered Cup. The Rangers were the clear favorite going into the series; but they’re already down 3-2 in the series and now they must win both games in order to get their own tickets punched. The Rangers have also looked slow and sloppy against the Devils at times, especially during the first five minutes of Game 5 on Wednesday when they allowed the Devils to get two goals past them. Although the Rangers were able to make a bit of a comeback, they still lost that game 5-3.

But it’s not like the Devils haven’t had their share of troubles either; they just seemed to have come at the right end of the series for them. It was during Game 3 that they gave up one of their two losses to New York so far in this series; but it was perhaps the most painful as they didn’t get one score on the board. Now, headed into Game 6 tonight, the Devils are going to keep the lineup that they’ve changed to since – the fourth line consisting of Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter, Travis Zajac, Patrick Elias, and Zach Parise.

So once the third round is officially over, who will face the L.A. Kings – the Devils, or the Rangers? At this point, it doesn’t seem to matter. L.A. has only lost two games during the entire playoffs; one of their series was a sweep that provided the advantage of a much-needed rest, and the other two only went to five games each. They haven’t had as much ice time, they have far fewer injuries, and they’re much better rested. Add that to the fact that they just simply look better during play than either the Rangers or the Devils, and this certainly seems to be the year of the Kings.

New Jersey Devils Move On to Round Three

Are the Philadelphia Flyers really that good? Or were the Pittsburgh Penguins just that bad? That’s the question everyone’s asking after the Flyers were thrown out of the playoffs by the New Jersey Devils in just five games.

In last night’s elimination game, the Flyers looked defeated from the moment they stepped onto the ice, and it was a far cry from the highly aggressive, high scoring team that we saw in the first round. And once the Devils got two shots past Philly goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, the Devils pretty much had it in the bag.

You can credit the 27 saves that Martin Brodeur made for the win, or maybe the fact that Claude Giroux, their best player, was out on a suspension. But what really made the difference in this game was that the Devils knew what they had to do: play a completely different game than Pittsburgh did.

While Pittsburgh was all about engaging in the emotional side of the game with Philly, getting into scrums after the whistle and giving hits that walked the fine line of the penalty box, New Jersey would have none of it. They were extremely focused and if one teammate forgot that for just a moment, there was another one there to pull him away, reminding him what they were to do. It was what’s needed against a team like Philly, and it was enough to effectively shut them down.

The New Jersey Devils have been to the Stanley Cup Finals seven times, and have won six. The last time was in 2003 when Martin Brodeur carried his team to the title, and his performance this season has made all the retirement talk long-forgotten.

“I don’t think he was ever a guy that was going to retire,” said Devils’ forward David Clarkson. “He’s won us some games in the playoffs. He’s held us in. He’s exciting to watch.”

While New Jersey has moved on, they still don’t know who they’ll face — the Washington Capitals, or the New York Rangers. That Game 7 will be played on Saturday and the winner will move on to face New Jersey.

Is it a Bad Sign that NHL CBA Talks Haven’t Started Yet?

Even though we’re still only in March, September 15 is approaching way too quickly for many NHL fans and team owners. And the fact that the league and the Players’ Association aren’t talking yet has them even more anxious. September 15 of course, is the date that the current NHL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires; and if there’s not a new one in place by that date, everyone’s looking at the one thing they’re trying to avoid — a lockout. So, is it a bad sign that talks haven’t even started? Or should fans and owners wait until the summer before they really start to panic?

In order to determine whether or not it’s time to start worrying, you need to go back to negotiations made prior to the 2004-2005 lockout and see where negotiations were at this time back then. In early January of 2003, commissioner Gary Bettman and then-NHLPA executive director, Bob Goodenow, met to talk about the deal that was going to expire in nine months. Then by the end of March, a total of eight meetings had been held. That’s nine meetings in three months that were held prior to April in 2003. In March 2012 however, no meetings have been scheduled and everyone’s keeping mum about it. Bettman keeps giving his “business as usual” line, indicating that teams should keep operating as they are and not worry about the CBA. And he’s even gone as far to say, “There’s nothing going on.”

So do fans and owners have reason to worry?

Probably not. There is a major difference between this CBA and the one that was so mightily fought over in 2003. That difference is that this time, the only real major issue is how high the salary cap will be. And that’s not even going to be that major. Last time, there were dozens of major issues, including the salary cap but also restructuring the entire league, how free agency works, and drug testing. And no one, including Gary Bettman, wants to see a waste of an entire season again.

The fact that the two sides haven’t sat down to talk yet might actually be an indication that things will be smoother this time around, not more difficult. What do you think? Do you think NHL fans will miss a portion, or all, of their season again?

Why Ovechkin Won’t be at the All-Star Game

The NHL All-Star game is being played this weekend on Sunday, January 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario. And if fans were disappointed that Sidney Crosby won’t be showing up, they’re outraged that Alex Ovechkin won’t be there. And it’s not because they view Ovechkin as the bigger star of the two. Unlike Crosby, who can’t attend the game because he’s still out with concussion-like symptoms, Ovechkin is simply flat out refusing to play, since he’s now been suspended by the league.

It was during Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins that Ovechkin took a head shot on Zbynek Michalek that some are now saying was just plain dirty. The league agreed and suspended Ovechkin for three games. That time included the All-Star game, which Ovechkin had been invited to, but the league said that he could still play in that one game. Ovechkin though, wants the league to do him no favors and has now snubbed the invite. In a statement Ovechkin said, “My heart is not there. I got suspended so why I have to go there? I love the game; it’s great event. I’d love to be there, but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. If I suspended, I have to be suspended. That’s why I give up my roster spot.”

The problem of course, is that Ovechkin is a huge draw for fans, and having an All-Star game without two of the game’s biggest stars seems a little counterproductive. But with Ovechkin’s stats this season, there will definitely be bigger stars with perhaps a little more talent there. But one of the other big problems with Ovechkin’s statement is that he’s been vying to get people over to Russia for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, often talking about how important it is that big stars show up to increase awareness and excitement for the sport. This leaves many saying that if he wants all-stars to go to Sochi, he’d better be prepared to make the much shorter trip to Ottawa

Mike Cammalleri Excited to go back to the Flames

Thursday night proved to be one of the moments that makes hockey so great. Going into their game against the Boston Bruins, all the talk was about the comments power forward Mike Cammelleri had made to the press the day before. As the hockey game continued, that talk would get louder.

Coming off the ice after practice with his Montreal Canadiens teammates on Wednesday, Cammalleri was quoted saying to two reporters, “I can’t accept that we will display a losing attitude as we’re doing this year. We prepare for games like losers. We play like losers. So it’s no wonder why we lose.” The comments were harsh, even if they were what everyone in Montreal was thinking, and frowned upon in the world of hockey etiquette. But just how bad were those words, really? And how much would Cammalleri have to pay for saying them?

Prior to the game, head coach Randy Cunneyworth said that Cammalleri “had a right to his own opinion” and that “if he wanted more ice time, he’d have to play better.” While Cunneyworth did seem poised during his own statement, it seems he and Canadiens execs were fuming inside. After dressing Cammalleri for the Boston game, and allowing him to play for two periods, the forward was told to leave the ice, go back to the hotel and await further instructions. Those, as he and the world were soon to find out, were going to be to get on the next flight to Calgary, where he was now a member of the Flames.

The deal gives Cammalleri to the Flames along with Karri Ramo and a fifth round draft pick in 2012, in exchange for Rene Bourque, who will go play for Montreal in addition with Patrick Holland and a second round draft pick in 2013. Jay Feaster, Calgary Flames GM, said that the deal has been in the works for weeks and has little to do with Cammalleri’s remarks, but the timing seems odd for it and many are saying that even dressing Cammalleri for the game shows the lack of organization and professionalism that Montreal has shown all year.

So how does Cammalleri feel about the trade? Well, he’s going back to a team he’s played for before, and a team and city that he loves. And his new general manager, says “When I called him, the first thing out of his mouth was ‘What are we? Four points back? I can’t wait to get there. I’ll tell you — there’s an excited hockey player coming to Calgary.”

And how does Feaster feel about having a somewhat loose cannon as part of his team? In his own words, “For me to hear the passion, the emotion, the enthusiasm, that he had when I called him, I’ll take that. Because that’s what I want — I want that passion. That’s something we need in our locker room.”

Is Sidney Crosby a Hypocrite?

It’s been almost a full year now that Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been the face of concussions and concussion recovery in the NHL. He is the reason why so much attention is given to head shots now and when Sid the Kid was taken out for 10 months due to a concussion, it was time for the league to sit up and take notice. During those 10 months, Sidney went from looking at retirement to full recovery, all the while in between touting the importance of head shots, and how seriously they need to be taken. But, is Sidney now eating crow, after a highly debatable hit on Nick Foligno of the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.

The hit came after Foligno knocked into Pittsburgh’s goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, three times, after which the Penguins were a bit fed up and took matters into their own hands. Sidney Crosby came up to meet Nick Foligno on the ice and swiftly gave him an elbow to the head. The play wasn’t called and the game continued. Afterwards though, harsh words were exchanged by all.

Bryan Murray, GM of the Senators, said after the game that everyone thought it was fair game, and that’s fine with him. He also pointed to the fact that his tough players weren’t on the ice that night saying, “We didn’t have enough toughness, so when we play Pittsburgh that’s something you can bring up to me again.”

Dan Bylsma, coach of the Penguins, blamed the hit completely on Foligno harassing their goalie all night, saying that “he can expect more than Sidney Crosby coming at him and talking to him during the game. That’s how we feel about those situations.”

The problem doesn’t seem to be with the play itself. With NHL disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan, stating it was a good hit; the refs on the ice at the time saying it was a good hit; and just about everyone but the Senators saying the same thing, that much seems clear. But while the biggest question in the NHL a week ago was whether or not Sidney Crosby would get special treatment on-ice post-concussion, it’s a different question they’re asking now: is Sidney Crosby a hypocrite? Where is the Sidney who, while undergoing concussion recovery, talked about how important it was to respect players? And urged players to remember that at the end of the day, it is just a game?

It seems that Sidney may have worn off along with that white no-contact helmet he was wearing for a little while. And while he may be back, it’s fairly obvious that from here on out, Sidney Crosby will be given no special treatment when he takes the ice. And that’s probably just the way he likes it.

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