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Thursday, 18 April 2013

Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins Prove that Hockey can Heal

For most people hockey is a way to escape reality. Every struggle you're facing just vanishes while you're mesmerized by your favourite hockey team. An escape from reality and a little bit of fun is just what the doctor order for the city of Boston. The hockey game on Wednesday that featured the Boston Bruins squaring off against the rival Buffalo Sabres, was far more than just a hockey game.

For the city of Boston winning championship's is nothing new. They've racked up a Stanley Cup, NBA Championship, 3 Super Bowl wins and 2 World Series titles in the last 13 years. Their fans have had numerous opportunities to express their pride and show their support. But none of those moments came close to the game at TD Garden on Wednesday.

bruins-fans_001-4_3_r536_c534I myself am Canadian, and darn proud of it too! But one thing I've always loved about Americans is their patriotism. Americans have the most pride and respect for their country and they're willing to show you it anytime. As soon as the rest of America found out about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, they came together to stand tall with Boston.

One of the best moments from the game on Wednesday was the crowd itself singing the national anthem. I got chills watching, listening to the national anthem being loudly and proudly sung by the 17,000+ in attendance.

While long time anthem singer Rene Rancourt started the anthem he handed the reigns over to the TD Garden. The fans didn't let him down. They picked up where he left off and finished the Star-Spangled Banner united as one.

The pre-game ceremony was like one I have never seen before. Seeing the players on both the Sabres and Bruins singing the national anthem and getting choked up during the video, spoke volumes. It wasn't just a hockey game being played on Wednesday, it was a way to help Bostonians heal.
"It was incredible. To see how everyone was reacting and watching that video was obviously very emotional for everyone. The whole time, we were fighting back tears." ~ Brad Marchand

Not only was this an escape and a chance to be entertained, it was also a way for Bruins' fans to make a statement about their patriotism and pride. They wanted to send the message that they would not be defeated.

When people go through down times there is always a sports team that they turn to and fixate their attention on. Sports occupy the human race. You talk about it with family and friends, watch it, compete in it and it provides a distraction from everyday life. Whether you like it or not, Sports dictate how people live their lives.

With the role sports play, TD Garden was the perfect place for the city of Boston to come together and show they're still strong and united.

Despite the shootout loss, the Bruins clinched a playoff birth with the point they earned. Not only have the Bruins locked up their ticket for the playoffs, there's also a solid chance they'll go far and challenge for the Stanley Cup. Having a competitive Bruins hockey team is just what the city of Boston needs. They'll have a chance to rally behind the Bruins on their quest in the playoffs.

Capitals Bruins HockeyWhile the Boston Bruins will give the fans something to hold onto and rely on, the fans will also help the Bruins with emotional support and pride. While tragedies are never anything good, sometimes good can come out of them. The Boston Bruins now have a new reason to win the Stanley Cup- for their city.

While the scoreboard showed that the Sabres had defeated the Bruins, there were no losers from that game. The entire city of Boston and America stood proud and got behind their hockey team's. The entire city of Boston won on Wednesday. They showed they wouldn't be defeated and that together in numbers, united, they were strong. Boston Strong!

Seeing both the Bruins and Sabres skate to centre ice to salute the crowd and hearing the USA- USA chants break-out, was a special scene. Showing that both teams and everyone in the building was on Boston's side.

It's going to take awhile for things to fall back into place and people to get back on with their lives. Many lives were impacted in one way or another on Monday. It's going to take time for the city to recover. Having a team to cheer for such as the Boston Bruins will help make that process easier.

What fans will take away from the game on Wednesday isn't the score, for that truly didn't matter. But instead the patriotism, pride, strength and resiliency from the people in Boston. Boston may have been shaken but they wont be broken!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Why Brendan Gallagher Deserves the Calder

One of the most exciting things to watch unfold during the NHL season is the rookie race. Watching the top rookies adjust to life in the NHL and make their presence felt for their teams is a treat to watch. The top draft picks from previous drafts showcase their skills and battle it out for the chance to win the Calder Trophy. Normally the players in the running for the Calder are players taken inside the top 5, but this year the Calder trophy may go to a guy drafted 147th.

Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher is having a season to remember. He's worked his way into a top 6 forward role with the Canadiens, is fourth in rookie scoring with 24 points and has successfully become a pest that other teams hate to play against.

While there are other favourites for the Calder like, Jonathan Huberdeau, Cory Conacher or Brandon Saad, with the season Brendan Gallagher has had there's no doubt he deserves to at least be in the running for Calder.

Gallagher is only 5 foot 9 but he plays as if he was 6 foot 4. His drive and determination to not be shoved around and make an impact despite being so small has earned him a lot of respect. He's determined to make an impact with the Canadiens and help them win at whatever cost and that's what separates him from other rookies. Brendan Gallagher's will to win.

imageBrendan Gallagher makes his living parked atop the blue ice. Right in the goalies kitchen. He gets abused by the goaltender he's screening and the defenceman covering him. But every time you slash him, hit him, punch him or knock him down he get's right back up and comes back for more with a big smile on his face. That is the heart of a competitor.

I remember watching the Sabres and Canadiens square off a couple weeks ago and Gallagher was right in front of Ryan Miller. Miller gave him some pretty hefty slashes with his goalie stick, and then defenceman Tyler Myers- who is a foot taller than Gallagher- came over to try and dispose of him. Gallagher took the abuse from Myers and Miller, standing there with a big smile on his face, knowing that he had gotten under their skin.

A huge part of Brendan Gallagher's game is his ability to get under the opponents skin. He drives the opposition nuts and baits them into taking penalties or making dumb plays. He successfully got under the skin of Leafs forward Nazem Kadri last week. Kadri was so upset over Gallagher he ran around throwing hits and trying to be the tough guy instead of scoring goals.

On top of Gallagher being an annoying little bugger he can also produce. He's 4th in rookie scoring with 26 points but tied for first in goals by a rookie with 13. He leads all rookies in game wining goals with 3. He's scoring at a point-per-game rate of .62, 2nd best to Huberdeau and is averaging 22.57 scoring chances per 60 minutes of ice time. The most remarkable thing is he's played 4 games less than his competition because of injury, yet is still right in the mix.

What makes Brendan Gallagher's impact so unique is not only his small stature but his small reputation. Heading into the season all anyone in Montreal wanted to talk about was Alex Galchenyuk and what his odds were for winning the Calder. No one gave Gallagher a shot to make the team out of training camp and certainly no one expected him to out-play Galchenyuk.

Now Gallagher has found a home on the Canadiens second line and see's himself going up against the oppositions best and tallest defenders every game. Yet Gallagher seems to flourish under the pressure and rises to the occasion. There's no slowing the 20 year-old rookie down.

Montreal Canadiens v Boston BruinsBrendan Gallagher has done everything right for the Montreal Canadiens this season. He's scoring goals, drawing penalties and has become a force to be reckoned with. It would be a shame to see his efforts this season go to waste should he not win the Calder Trophy.

Brendan Gallagher appears to the be the offencive spark plug the Canadiens were missing. His work ethic and never give up style of play has inspired his Canadien teammates and catapulted them near the top of the Eastern Conference.

The fact that Brendan Gallagher battles for every lose puck, every shift, every game and is willing to pay the price makes him special. His will to win and work ethic set him apart from other rookies. Whether he wins the Calder or not is yet to be seen but for now he'll take a trip to the postseason with a strong and tight nit Canadien team. Branden Gallagher is going to be a key and valuable member of the Montreal Canadiens for the foreseeable future, he may even do enough to drive them deep into the playoffs.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Year Of the Goalie Tandems

Good goaltending is the key to any successful hockey team. A team is only as good as their goaltending and will only go as far as their goaltending will take them. Just ask the Los Angeles Kings who wouldn't have had a shot at the Stanley Cup Finals, let alone the Stanley Cup without Jonathan Quick. Or the Philadelphia Flyers who lost in the finals because of poor goaltending from Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. Goaltending makes or breaks a championship team.

For most teams relying on one goalie to come up big night after night is tough enough. Teams will usually ride their starter all year, plugging in the backup only when the starter is dead tired. But this year has been a different story for many teams. On any given night you don't know who you'll see between pipes.

With the season shortened due to the lockout, it was obvious teams would need to rely on their backup goalies more. Backup goalies everywhere are rejoicing as they're playing more games in this shortened season then they would in a normal 82 game season.

With the gruelling and compact 48 games season, more and more teams are using goalie tandems. Not only are we seeing more goalie tandems this season, but the teams who are utilizing both goalies are amongst the best in the NHL this season.

Chicago Blackhawks

Corey Crawford (25 games played) 17-4-4 and Ray Emery (19 games played) 15-1-0.

20120313_ajw_ag5_874.0_standard_400.0The Blackhawks are the prime example of this season's goaltending tandems. They've used both Crawford and Emery during various stretches this season. As a result both goalies are fresh and playing well in the final games before the playoffs.

By using both the veteran and the younger goaltender it helps relieve the pressure from the younger Crawford and also allows him to learn from the veteran Emery.

Using the goalie tandem this season has proven to be a great idea for the Blackhawks. Both have been stellar at times this season and as a result they're currently in first place in the entire league.

Toronto Maple Leafs

James Reimer (27 games played) 16-5-5 and Ben Scrivens (18 games played) 7-8-0.

Remember when everyone was freaking out about the Leafs inexperienced goaltenders? Then when the Leafs were going to acquire a goalie at the trade deadline everyone was against that notion? Good times in Toronto.

Both James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have played well for the Leafs and have them currently inside the playoff picture. Having two young goalies battle to become the starter, has forced both Scrivens and Reimer to elevate their game. The Leafs finally have a competitive goalie tandem and as a result they're having a great season.

Now that the Leafs don't have to worry about their goaltending holding them back, they're able to focus on offence. Leafs sit 5th in the Eastern Conference.

St. Louis Blues

Brian Elliott (17 games played) 8-7-1, Jaroslav Halak (16 games played) 6-5-1 and Jake Allen (14 games played) 9-4-0.

The St. Louis Blues don't have a goalie duo, they have a goaltending trio. While Elliott has struggled at times this season the Blue have been able to call on other goalies to step up and carry the load while their "number one" goalie was off his game.

Halak and Elliott combined to carry the Blues last season and won the William. M. Jennings trophy for their efforts. They became the first goalie tandem in NHL history to both record at least 6 shutouts in a season.

After their strong performance between the pipes last season everyone expected the same again this season. Unfortunately that didn't happen. Both netminders lost their job to the rookie Jake Allen and Brian Elliott even found himself in the AHL by March.

With the last handful of games before the playoffs both Halak and Elliot have re-found their game and are ready to prove critics wrong. The Blues are a team on the prowl. Sitting 6th in the West- they're a scaring team heading into the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Marc-Andre Fleury (29 games played) 21-6-0 and Tomas Vokoun (18 games played) 11-4-0.

In the first round of the playoffs last season goaltending was the Penguins downfall. They played their rivals in the Flyers and let their
NHL: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguinsemotion's get the better of them. To insure that wouldn't happen again they brought in Tomas Vokoun to hold down the fort when Fleury isn't playing well.

The Penguins have arguably the best goalie tandem in the league right now. Both goalies have been stellar this season posting Save Percentages above .910. It's been an up and down season for Fleury who has struggled at times but Vokoun has stepped up and shut the door while his counterpart was struggling.

While Vokoun likely wont win any accolades for his performance between the pipes this season, he's been huge for the Penguins. By sharing some of the load Fleury will be rested for the playoffs and if he has some rough patches Vokoun can step in.

The Penguins goaltending is a big reason they're the Stanley Cup favorites and why they're currently first in the East.

Anaheim Ducks

Jonas Hiller (23 games played) 13-5-4 and Viktor Fasth (22 games played) 14-5-1.

The Ducks, much like the Blackhawks, have utilized their goalie tandem for the best. Hiller faltered this season and battled injury, during that time Fasth came in and proved he's ready to be an NHL goalie. Instead of letting their situation turn into a controversy they've used their tandem to propel them into 2nd in the West.

The Ducks have had a remarkable turnaround from last season and their goalie tandem deserves a lot of credit for carrying the load.

In addition to the teams listed above who have fully utilized their goalie tandems and are benefiting in the standings, at least a third of all NHL teams are playing their tandems more and more often. The Vancouver Canucks have used both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo at times this season, the Ottawa Senators were forced to use both Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop, The New Jersey Devils have used both Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg and the Lightning have also used multiple netminders.

When you look around the NHL this seems to be the year of the goalie tandems. Some of the teams atop of the NHL have been utilizing their goalie tandems to the fullest and as a result their dominating the NHL.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Corey Crawford and Ray Emery Solid Goalie Tandem

For most teams having one goaltender claim the right to be the starter is good enough. That goalie plays the majority of the games and carries the weight of the team and as long as he's consistent there's no issues. Having two goaltenders perform above expectation usually throws a wrench in things, but for the Chicago Blackhawks they're perfectly fine with that. Both Ray Emery and Corey Crawford have been splitting time between the pipes for the Blackhawks this season and things have been going just fine.

As soon as two goalies on the same team start to play well everyone immediately wants to create a goaltending controversy. The Blackhawks are proving that having two goalies playing like starters is more of a blessing than a curse.

The most important thing for the Blackhawks is the fact that both Ray Emery and Corey Crawford are grinding out wins. Both goaltenders have 15 wins and while Emery boasts a better 15-1-0 record their stats are nearly identical.

What's the big deal with the Blackhawks rotating goalies? They're in first place in the entire NHL, let alone the Western Conference and have already clinched a playoff spot. Them rotating goalies during their remarkable streak at the beginning of the year is likely the reason the streak lasted so long. Each goalie was fresh and opponents were kept guessing on which goalie they'd face.

It's really quite remarkable looking at the Blackhawks goaltending turnaround. Last season there were talks they would go hard after Roberto Luongo. This season they have two fantastic netminders who could easily both be in the running for the Vezina trophy.

For the Blackhawks this is the perfect situation. Corey Crawford is still very much a rookie this being his 3rd full year in the NHL. At the age of 28 with less than three years under his belt he's still got a lot to learn and a few more seasons before he finds his game. Now Crawford has the chance to learn from the veteran Ray Emery who is in his eighth NHL season and has tons of experience.

nyc_111213_melroseonhawksCrawford is still young. The puck handling skills and confidence he possessed early in the season have taken a major hit. Having the veteran Emery around provides a chance for both goalies to not only learn from each other but push each other to be better. Right now either goaltender is capable of taking over the starters job and sometimes that healthy competition is just what a team needs.

Now rotating the hot-hand during the regular season is one thing and it seems to have worked for the Blackhawks, but playoffs are a completely different story. Crawford's goaltending during last years playoffs was a major disappointment and a huge reason why the Hawks were eliminated in round one.

While the Hawks may want Crawford to carry the load in the postseason, why not throw Ray Emery a bone? Right now Emery is playing his best hockey since 2007 when he carried the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals. Emery has only 1 loss on the season and his 1.90 GAA and .924S% are slightly better than Crawford. With how well Emery has played this season and a deep playoff run under his belt, give him a shot to start in the first round of the playoffs.

The good thing about having both goalies playing so well- apart from the fact you win more, is the flexibility it gives a team. If they go with Crawford and he gets hurt the Blackhawks can put in Emery without skipping a beat. If one goalie starts to flounder in the post-season they have that option to put the other goalie in. Either way it's a win-win situation.

While the Blackhawks will need to make a decision on whether they start Corey Crawford or Ray Emery in the post-season, right now they're enjoying their "problem." Having both of your goalies inside the top 5 of all goalies and having your backup ranked 3rd is usually a blessing.

As long as the Blackhawks have two goalies who are winning games, it shouldn't matter who's between the pipes.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Alex Ovechkin is still Alex Ovechkin

Professional athletes, especially hockey players, go through different phases in their careers. Some players start slow and pick up steam latter on while others enter with a bang and slowly fizzle out. For Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin the latter seemed to be true.

alex-ovechkinOvechkin burst onto the NHL scene in 2005 scoring 52 goals and putting up 106 points in his rookie season. In the next four season he would score no less than 46 goals in each season and put up career numbers in 2007 when he scored 65 goals and notched 112 points. Alex Ovechkin was on top of the proverbial hockey world, winning trophies for individual accolades left, right and center. But one thing was missing, playoff success.

Despite being one of the most exciting and electrifying players in the NHL, Ovechkin still faced never ender scrutiny about his game. Many said he was a one-dimensional player who couldn't play defence and was selfish.

Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau decided he would transform Alex Ovechkin into that dynamic two-way player in order to better the Capitals as a whole. This new philosophy saw Ovechkin's scoring production plummet and he scored less than 40 goals for the first time in his NHL career.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2013 Alex Ovechkin still hadn't re-found his game, scoring just two goals in the teams first 10 games. Immediately discussions began that Ovechkin was no longer an elite player and had fallen from grace. The negativity surrounding the Russian sniper was absurd everyone was ready to write off the 27 year-old former superstar.

But to steal a line from the Russian himself; "You forgot to flush him down the toilet." Whoever's job it was to flush that toilet needs to be fired because Alex Ovechkin is back. He now has 23 goals in his teams last 29 games including a stretch that has seen him score 16 goals and add 7 assists in the last 14 games.

With two goals in Sunday nights win Ovechkin is tied with Steven Stamkos for the lead in the scoring race with 25 goals. It appears Alex Ovechkin is back, but it begs the question did he really go anywhere in the first place?

Every athlete goes through slumps at some point in their game. Some slumps are caused by health issues like Sidney Crosby has been dealing with, others are caused by maturity and a need to grow up like Patrick Kane. Even when Ovechkin was going through his "slump" he still put up 30+ goals. Sure it may not have been the 50+ goals we've become accustomed to but most teams would love players to score 30 goals during a slump.

One thing you have to remember is that when you have a player as skilled and gifted as Alex Ovechkin that skill doesn't just vanish! Ovechkin didn't just wake up one morning and turn into a "normal" player, he's always had the skill he showed early in his career and is showing now. He just didn't know how to use that skill without getting in trouble.

Alex Ovechkin is an exciting player who brings fans to games and scores highlight reel goals, but that often doesn't translate well to a team game. Coaches Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter both tried to change Ovechkin's game and force him to play defence. He was forced to play outside his comfort zone and was told by coaches that they'd rather win games 1-0 than 7-5. He was trashed in front of the media by his coaches and teammates- no matter where he turned everyone wanted to change him or criticize his game.

Now that Adam Oates is behind the Capitals bench, Alex Ovechkin seems to have found a coach he can trust. Yes Oates moved him from  the left side to the right side but the message was still the same- score goals. Oates is the first coach for the Capitals that has earned the respect and trust of Ovechkin.
“It’s respect. He never met me before. I totally respect who he is and what he’s accomplished and when you suggest something like that it has to be a meeting of the minds, with private conversations and he had to trust me." ~ Adam Oates

Alex Ovechkin feels comfortable know that his coach has faith in him and isn't going to try and change his game or throw him under the bus. That trust between player and coach is so key in the NHL today.
"This year is much different. It’s trust. I don’t have that last year. When you have those kind of feelings you want to go out there and play for your coach and do your best out there.” ~ Alex Ovechkin

NHL: New York Rangers at Washington CapitalsThings are clicking for the great 8 and as a result Alex Ovechkin is starting to turn heads again. He's finding success on the power play again scoring 14 goals on the man advantage through 39 games, he's re-found the chemistry with Nicklas Backstrom and most importantly he trusts his coach.

Alex Ovechkin has evolved as a player through all the changes over the last 3-4 seasons. He's become more defencive, passes the puck more and is willing to go to the dirty areas. But what really stands out is the fact that Alex Ovechkin was on the ice with his team up one goal in the final minute of the game.

Early in that career that would never happen, they'd staple him to bench in close games. Now that there's trust, understanding and communication between Alex Ovechkin and Adam Oates, Ovechkin can be counted on to do the little things.

Is Alex Ovechkin's resurgance enough to earn him consideration for the MVP award? Alex Ovechkin is back and bette than before, he's still an elite NHL player who is going to prove all his critics wrong. The Washington Capitals are only as good as their star player and captain, now that he's ready to play they're making a run for the playoffs.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Winners and Losers From the Trade Deadline

Another NHL trade deadline has come and gone. Trades were made and some teams made deals that will no doubt help their teams for the future. It's time to break down the winners and losers from the trade deadline.


Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets are battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference- who would have thought that when the season started? At

[caption id="attachment_2839" align="alignright" width="300"]Marian Gaborik Marian Gaborik[/caption]

trade deadline time they proved that they're serious about making the playoffs and went out to acquire some big guns.

The biggest deal for the Blue Jackets was acquiring Marian Gaborik  from the New York Rangers who waived his no-movement clause to join the Jackets. The fact Gaborik waived his no-movement clause to join the Blue Jackets is huge and turns Columbus into a possible destination for other big players.

In addition to bringing in Gaborik, they also brought in veteran forward Blake Comeau which gives them added depth up front. Sergei Bobrovsky has been lights out for the Jackets this season, he's proven he's ready to be their full time goalie and as a result Steve Mason was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made a major splash at the deadline, giving them all the tools they need to make the playoffs. Rick Nash who?

Boston Bruins

While the Bruins missed out on the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes they made up for it by landing Jaromir Jagr at the deadline. Now of course this opens up the debate on which player is a better fit for the Bruins; Jagr or Iginla?

Jagr will be a huge help for the Bruins and their 24th ranked power play, he'll bring creativity and will help mentor some of the younger players like Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. In addition to bringing in Jagr to help the offence, the Bruins also brought in Wade Redden to add depth to their blue line.

The Bruins brought in key pieces to help counter what the Pittsburgh Penguins have done. The Eastern Conference is extremely close with the Penguins and Bruins both stocking up, wouldn't be a surprise to see them in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins did a lot of their wheeling and dealing ahead of the trade deadline. By getting their shopping list done early the Penguins were able to get the pieces they needed for a playoff run without having to sell the farm. Penguins brought in Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray before the deadline, putting them in contention for a deep playoff run.

Ray Shero deserves the GM of the year award, he brought in three key players that will add depth to the Penguins without even giving up a player on the roster. Right before the trade deadline the Penguins were dealt a major blow when Sidney Crosby took a puck to the face and broke his jaw. No one knows how long he'll be out and with playoffs right around the corner the Penguins needed more depth. Shero made another brilliant move bringing veteran Jussi Jokinen to add more depth, the kicker is the Carolina Hurricanes will be eating some of Jokinen's salary.

Buffalo Sabres

When you trade your captain away it means you're waiving the white flag, and for the Buffalo Sabres trading Jason Pominville is the beginning of their rebuild. This trade deadline may be Darcy Regier's last as GM of the Sabres, but he went out on fire.

Ahead of the deadline the Sabres traded Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold for three 2nd-round draft picks and a conditional fifth. The most important thing when entering a rebuild is the draft, the Sabres have a plethora of second round draft picks which will be key for the future.

The biggest move by the Sabres was the aforementioned Pominville trade. While getting picks for Regehr and Leopold was good settlingpominville-jason_940-8col for picks in return for Pominville wasn't acceptable. The Sabres managed to rob the Minnesota Wild in the return for their captain. Johan Larsson a top prospect who's being compared to both Pominville and Cody Hodgson, top goalie prospect Matt Hackett, a first round pick in 2013 and second round pick in 2014 are all now Sabres property.

This was the perfect move for the Sabres and sets them up for a big off-season that will see the likes of Ryan Miller and Drew Stafford heading out of town. Times are changing in Buffalo and this was the move that needed to kick it all off, the monster return is just the cherry on top.

San Jose Sharks

It was a quiet but good deadline for the Sharks. They picked up 5 draft picks in return for Ryan Clowe and Douglas Murray and they replaced their two roster players with Scott Hannan and Raffi Torres. The Sharks are in tough spot; They're battling for a playoff spot but also starting to rebuild on the fly.


Philadelphia Flyers

With both the Penguins and Bruins making considerable moves to help them make a playoff run the Flyers did nothing to help themselves get closer to the playoffs. In fact by doing virtually nothing- other than claiming Adam Hall off waivers and bringing Steve Mason to add to their goalie circus, the Flyers may have gotten worse.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings needed to add some offence at the deadline to help solidify their win-now motto, they were unable to land anyone that would help. The Red Wings made offers for multiple players leading up to the deadline but nothing materialized forcing them to stay put and make their playoff run with their current roster.

Carolina Hurricanes

With Joni Pitkanen lost for the year due to injury the Hurricanes needed to bring in another defenceman to fill his spot. They went out and found Marc-Andre Bergeron who will help fill the gap for the rest of the season. In the sense that they got their defenceman they did alright, but where they really lost out was losing Josi Jokinen and having to eat some of his contract as part of the deal with Pittsburgh. Hurricanes are just on the edge of the playoffs fighting every game to gain ground, they needed to do more at the deadline to get them closer to the playoffs.

Calgary Flames

It's hard to fault the Flames for their lack of movement at the deadline and getting less than market value back for many of their key pieces as they're heading into a "rebuild." But the Flames could have at least tried to get some solid young prospects in return for Iginla and Bouwmeester. The good news is the Flames now have three- first round picks for the upcoming draft which will help them either make some trades or draft some solid prospects in this years deep draft.


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Leafs Have James Reimer No Need For Kiprusoff

It's that time again when trade rumours are flying all around, often it's hard to decipher between which ones are legitimate and which ones are a hoax. The one rumour surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs all season is their need for a veteran goalie and once again with deadline less than 24 hours away a veteran goalie is all everyone in Toronto wants to talk about.

Talks have heated up again after Dave Nonis said he wouldn't rule out adding a veteran goaltender for the playoffs. News broke that the Leafs have been talking with the Calgary Flames about acquiring Miikka Kiprusoff. Here's the kicker, James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have played just fine and sit 8th and 11th respectively in Save Percentage amongst goalies who have played half their teams games. While James Reimer doesn't have a lot of experience under his belt he's established himself as the Leafs starting goaltender for the future.

Sure Reimer's numbers have been a little shaky this season and he's battled some injuries but he's starting to heat up at the perfect time for the Leafs. In his last 11 games he's 6-1-4 and has posted 2 shutouts (against the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa 1027reimerSenators). What that proves is that James Reimer has been winning hockey games and that's all you can ask for from your goalie. Through his 22 games this season Reimer owns a 13-4-4 record with a .920 S% and a 2.52 Goals Against Average. Even more impressive is his even strength S% of .926 which is amongst the best in the NHL.

By the way the Leafs are tied for 5th in the Eastern Conference and are going to end their playoff drought in large part thanks to their goaltending, whats the issue? Whether you want to admit it or not James Reimer is establishing himself as an NHL starter and he gives the Leafs a bright future.

The major concern for the Leafs brass is the fact that James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have a combined 0 NHL playoff games under their belts. But let's not forget Scrivens led the Toronto Marlies all the way to the Calder Cup Championships and James Reimer was named the most valuable player throughout the ECHL playoffs in 2009. So they do have a little bit of experience playing in high-pressure situations such as the playoffs. Here's a brilliant idea, if you want James Reimer and Ben Scrivens to get some playoff experience, stick with them and let them get that experience!

The next question you need to ask is with acquiring Miikka Kiprusoff are the Leafs now favorites or contenders to win the Cup and the answer to that is no. With his poor attitude, threatening to nullify all trades by not showing up and his weak play this season, is he really that much of an upgrade over James Reimer?

By bringing in a veteran goaltender with playoff experience you're only slowing down James Reimer's development and not allowing him the experience you're upset at him for not having. What happens when you bring in that veteran goalie for the playoffs and then he leaves next season- you're right back in the same boat with two goalies with no playoff experience. Also if you think the Leafs goalies are inexperienced take a look at their blue line and then we'll talk inexperienced.

Bringing in an experienced veteran like Kiprusoff or Roberto Luongo would have huge ramifications for the Leafs in the future and would likely end Ben Scrivens' days as a Leaf, not only that but it could ruin James Reimer's confidence. Reimer admitted today during practice that all this trade talk about bringing in a veteran goalie to take over for the playoffs is bothering him, and he has every right to be upset about it. Reimer has been fantastic this season and gotten the Leafs wins all season long, no you're suddenly going to replace him because you don't think he can get the job done?

Now the fact that Leafs want a veteran goalie to come in and mentor Reimer and Scrivens is understandable and I've even said James Reimer could use a veteran mentor. But bringing a guy like Miikka Kiprusoff in as a mentor would be a big mistake!untitled-1-3 First of all Reimer numbers over the last three season have been better than his mentors. Yes Kiprusoff has playoff experience and a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, but he's been eliminated in the first round in 4 out of 5 playoff appearances. Also at the age of 36, missing the playoffs the last 3 seasons and posting an atrocious .868 S% and 3.64 GAA, there's some debate on whether or not he's past his prime.

The Leafs are going to end their playoff drought and that's great but let's face it they still don't have what it takes to compete with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins of the East. Adding Kiprusoff really doesn't change that fact, so is it worth ruining Reimer's confidence, losing prospects to still possibly getting knocked out in the first round?

The Leafs don't need another goalie, they have two very capable goalies already. Heroes are born in the playoffs- instead of wondering if James Reimer will flop in the playoffs maybe it's time to start wondering if he'll become a star and make a name for himself.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Ottawa Senators Eastern Conference Underdogs

Last season the Ottawa Senators made a cinderella run to the playoffs, surprising everyone and nearly upsetting the favourite New York Rangers in 7 games. Much like last season at the beginning of this shortened season everyone counted the Senators out but once again they're proving that they shouldn't be taken lightly in the Eastern Conference.

With 14 games to play the Senators are sitting 5th in the Eastern conference nine points up on the 9th New York Islanders, once again a big surprise to most. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Senators strong play is that they've been able to overcome significant injuries to some of their best players.

The Senators were dealt a serious blow when they lost Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen two of their best defenceman to injuries. On top of that they're without two of their best forwards in Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. If losing your two best defencemen and forwards isn't bad enough the Senators number one goalie and shoe-in Vezina candidate Craig Anderson also went down with an injury.

For most teams losing a player of Spezza's caliber alone would be enough to end their season, let alone losing five of your best players. But for the Senators losing those players doesn't seem to have slowed them down.

Most expected the Senators to crumble, to count this season as a wash due to key injuries- I mean who would blame them if they packed it in and aimed for a high pick? Instead the Senators that were left standing, lead by captain Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Neil bonded together and have put together arguably the strongest Senators team we've seen in years.

I had the pleasure of watching the Senators absolutely shutdown the New York Rangers last Thursday evening. The Senators were the stronger, better and faster team, the Rangers were unable to generate anything and when they did have a spark Ben Bishop shut the door. I watched in awe at how good the Senators played even without Karlsson and Spezza and Anderson. They had total confidence in themselves and each other, the chemistry was remarkable.

The last key player to be injured for the Senators was goaltender Craig Anderson who had been the backbone of the team after other key players went down. Anderson was 8-4-4 on the season with an .952 Save Percentage and 1.49 Goals Against Average- which still leads the league and he hasn't played since February 21! The Senators were relying on Anderson to come up big every night to win those close one-goal games and he hadn't disappointed allowing only 22 goals against all season.

Ben Bishop

When he went down there were some serious doubts about whether or not Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner would be able to hold down the fort like Anderson
had been doing. But both netminders have stepped up and given the Senators the goaltending they need. Bishop has held down the fort appearing in 13 games winning 8 and posting a .922 Save Percentage. He's making an argument that he's ready for a full-time gig between the pipes which is great news for the Senators moving forwardIn addition to the goalies stepping up to the plate Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad have both stepped up proving they can handle bigger roles. Turris leads the team in scoring with 8 goals and 22 points, while Zibanejed has begun to find his comfort zone in the NHL putting up 6 goals and 15 points.The rookie Jakob Silfverberg has also made a big splash putting up 8 goals tying him for the team lead in goals and leads the team with 97 shots. The Swedish rookie is turning heads and already drawing comparisons to the Senators legendary captain.
“He can play in all situations. I liken him to Milan Michalek and Alfredsson.” ~ Senators coach Paul MacLean.

Speaking of the captain, Daniel Alfredsson has done a fantastic job keeping the team together. With 8 goals and 20 points he's contributing on the ice. But this year it's his contributions off the ice that mean the most. He's been able to keep the players together and motivated, the Senators fully believe they are a top notch team.

The Senators have had no choice but to rush some of their AHL top prospects into bigger roles in the NHL earlier than expected- but as a result they've answered the call and have helped the Senators to win games. Playing a basic fundamental style of hockey which focuses on defence, blocking shots and being physical allows the younger Senators to adjust and find their games. Lucky for MacLean the players- especially the younger rookies - are buying into his system.

Even without their four best skaters and number one netminder the Senators are still going to make the playoffs. It's remarkable how they've been able to band together to play such a high level of hockey night after night and speaks volumes to the character in that dressing room.

The Senators may not be the best team in the Eastern Conference or have the flashy players that the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers have but the Senators have had consistent success and are proving they're not to be taken lightly. At the end of the season the Senators are likely to finish between 4th and 7th place in the East and they'll be up against some tough competition. But the way the Senators have been playing and getting production from younger guys there's no telling how far this team can go and I wouldn't be surprised to see them make a deep playoff run.

With Anderson coming back soon, Spezza possibly returning in the post-season, Alfredsson leading the way and the young rookies stepping up the Senators are the "wild card" or underdogs in the Eastern Conference this season.

While the odds may be against them they are a team that believes in themselves and as a result are the Eastern Conference underdogs heading into the post-season. Look for the Senators to make a major splash in playoffs.