Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Andrei Nazarov gets stoopid again
Russian hockey officials suspended Andrei Nazarov (Phoenix Coyotes) for the duration of the 2005-06 season for his actions that took place after the club's third and deciding loss to Dynamo (Moscow) in the RSL semifinals. According to an interview between PHL vice president Vladimir Shalaev and the Soviet Sports newspaper, "after the conclusion of the third game against Dynamo, in which the Moscow club was victorious over Avangard thanks to a questionable deciding goal scored by Igor Mirnov (Ottawa Senators). He threatened physical harm to the PHL representative Sergei Kozlov and the referees. He behaved himself horribly, and we made the decision to suspend him for a season. Next season he will not play in the Super League (Russia 1) or the High League (Russia 2). Last season Nazarov lead the Super League in PIM with 179 in 39 games, including five match misconducts.Joeri Loonen of Eurohockey.net informs me that the Nazarov had just served a 6-game ban for partaking in a brawl earlier in the playoffs and that this incident took place in a restaurant after a game.
Dumb dumb dumb!!
Now I know Nazarov has never been the sharpest sushi knife in Osaka, but you have to question why any club would want him in the first place! He can't score, he takes dumb penalties, and he's bad defensively. Nazarov finished with just 2 assists (no goals) and a -10 rating in those 32 Super League games.
It's safe to say that Nazarov's 2000-01 season (split between Anaheim and Boston) was one of the worst in NHL history. Nazarov finished with 2 goals and 4 assists in 79 games with a -23 rating and 229 PIMs.
Although players have finished with far worse than a -23 before, it's rare to see a player who played about 5 minutes a game (I don't have his exact figures, but his ATOI was very low that year) playing for two solid, well-performing teams rack up such 'impressive' numbers. In addition to being almost a guaranteed goal-against, Nazarov's dumb penalties gave his opponents even more chances to score. I once did an analysis of Nazarov's season for a message board, but it seems to be forever lost to the internet black hole.
If the NHL does return next year, I wonder if the NHL would uphold the Super League suspension. I doubt it, and I doubt one dumb NHL GM will resist wanting to sign Nazarov to a contract.
Why pay to make your team worse?
Monday, May 30, 2005
Memorial Cup: Knights ride to victory
What was billed to be a Crosby vs. Perry battle turned out to be the Danny Fritsche show as he scored a goal and two assists and was a buzzsaw around the net all night. London pounced on the Oceanic early and never let up. The game was basically over when it started, and the action on the ice didn't live up to the previous games in the tournament. It was rather anti-climatic.
This was the first time I've ever seen Sidney Crosby shut down completely. Apart from two penalties he took out of frustration, Sid the Kid was hard to notice on the ice.
"HA! Sidney is a choker!" (childish fans across Canada)
Hogwash! Wayne Gretzky never scored in every game and neither will Crosby. Crosby has played in enough BIG games in his young career and done a great job in most of them. It's quite foolish to put the 'Choker' label on a kid who just happens to get outplayed in one game.
Let's give credit to the Knights for their amazing defensive effort against Crosby and the Oceanic's top line. As expected, the 'depth' players on Rimouski contributed nothing while London's depth played a big role in their victory.
Finally, there is no doubt that the London Knights have had the best total season in the history of the CHL.
Regular Season: 59-7-2
OHL Playoffs: 16-2
Memorial Cup: 4-0
Just like Team Canada at the 2005 World Junior Championships, the London Knights were like men amongst boys. Dale Hunter did a masterful job turning the Knights into a success on and off the ice, and he created a monster that nobody could stop.
The Memorial Cup award winners
Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player)
Corey Perry, London Knights
Ed Chynoweth Trophy (Top Scorer)
Sidney Crosby, Rimouski Oceanic
George Parsons Trophy (Most Sportsmanlike Player)
Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Rimouski Oceanic
Hap Emms Memorial Trophy (Top Goaltender)
Adam Dennis, London Knights
Sidney Crosby, Rimouski
Dan Fritsche, London
Corey Perry, London
Mario Scalzo Jr., Rimouski
Danny Syvret, London
Adam Dennis, London
Ovechkin says 'Nyet' to the NHL...for now
Dynamo's resident President Anatoli Charcuk told the daily newspaper 'Sport Express' that "Ovechkin will sign a contract when he returns from (his) vacation."
With Ovechkin's status for next season pretty much wrapped up, it gives the media even more time to devote to the future plans of Sidney Crosby.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
"A Little Help Here, Guys!"
Look at these crazy statistics after 4 Memorial Cup games
Sidney Crosby 6-5-11 +7
MA Pouliot 3-6-9 +4
Dany Roussin 3-6-9 +6
Mario Scalzo 2-7-9 +8
Pat Coulombe 2-5-7 +7
TOTALS 16-29-45 +32
...Compared to all of the other Oceanic players
which have 2-3-5 and -19
I think they have teammates, although you may not know it sometimes :)
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Memorial Cup: Firewagon hockey and a little Live Bloggin'
Memo to Ottawa defensemen: It's not a good idea to leave Sidney Crosby all alone when he has the puck.
The chances have been coming every few seconds, and we could finish 15-13 if this pace keeps up. There is no defense being played by either squad.
You can follow the madness here: http://chl.leaguestat.com/en/memcup/stats/game-summary.php?game_id=17&PHPSESSID=2fc4f554448e7e5b1baf427e0a3ab8ec
if you aren't fortunate enough to get this great action on Sportsnet Canada.
Edit (4:30PM) Ottawa ties it up on the power play. McGinn with a masterful deflection to get his second of the game. Just 7 1/2 minutes in. WOO!
..and then 30 seconds later, Ottawa's Bickell takes a penalty and now Crosby can pad his Power Play stats.
Edit (4:33PM) Rimouski is back in front as Marc-Antoine Pouliot makes it 3-2 with an easy Power Play goal. A beautiful cross-ice pass by Crosby starts the play.
*WOW*. 10 seconds later and the Oceanic take a penalty. This is just crazy, folks.
(4:58PM) It's the end of the 1st period and the play really settled down after the Ottawa 67s failed to do much with that Power Play. Shot totals are 17-7 for Rimouski.
I'd love to hear Brian Kilrea's tyrade during the 1st intermission.
If this were San Angeles circa 2029, "Killer" would be fined 104 and a half credits for violations of the Verbal Moraility Statute.
(5:17PM) Not long after Danny Battochio makes a miracle save, Sidney Crosby scores yet again on the Power Play. His 2nd of the game makes it 4-2 and the crowd (which is more partisan for Ottawa) is quiet. Boxscore is showing Pouliot is credited with goal. Wussup wit' dat?
(OK, now it's changed back to Crosby.)
(5:32 PM) Just a thought...I wonder if the play-by-play guys have a tough time with those Barber-shop uniforms on the 67s. I have a hard time seeing what uniform numbers the players are wearing from a distance. Once they zoom in, it's ok, but the numbers don't stick out much if you are a distance away.
(5:53 PM) 4-2 for Rimouski after 2 periods. It's too bad that the second period was completely different than the first period. Both teams put down the clamps, although Ottawa is still giving up a lot of chances. Ottawa will have to pray for an early opening goal, or open it up and risk the wrath of Crosby.
I'm not playing favourites, but I would like to see the creme-de-la-creme matchup of Rimouski and London in the finals. Ottawa doesn't score any underdog points with me when they wear those barber-pole uniforms. There is no way, even after 100 years, that I could get used to those.
I know 'retro' is in these days, but nobody is illin' for the return of Milli Vanilli and Stacey Q. Some trends are best left dead ;)
(6:17PM) I was falling asleep somewhat, and so was Rimouski goaltender Cedrick Desjardins as he let in a floating wrister from the blueline. 67s make it 4-3 thanks to Derek Joslin. Oh, Lukas Kaspar almost makes it 4-3, and the Oceanic get a break as 67s Bonello (great name) gets nailed for a high-sticking penalty.
(6:20 PM) the Oceanic come right back and make it 5-3 on the Power Play. Patrick Coulombe's second of the game on a timely pinch quiets the crowd right back down to funeral noise levels.
Now the Oceanic get a make-up call against them and the 67s go on the Power Play thanks to a weak weak weak call against Michal Sersen.
(6:25 PM) 6-3 for Rimouski. Crosby gets knocked out of the play, but his linemates are left open and Mario Scalzo Jr pots in an easy one. Crosby now has 2 goals and 2 assists and this game is pretty much over. Ottawa is paying for their defensive mistakes and just can't contain Rimouski at all.
(6:37 PM) Sidney Crosby dumps it in from behind the blue line...well, he flips it in towards the goalie and it goes in!!! Was Battochio asleep? Wow, that was the easiest goal Crosby will ever score. Does Sid the Kid need any free gifts?
The official scorer isn't watching the same game that the Sportsnet guys and I are because Crosby hasn't officially been award an assist on the Scalzo Jr. goal. Wussup wit' dat?
(6:43PM) Ottawa makes it 7-4 and Jacques Lemaire is having a heart attack. Julian Talbot mucks and grinds for a goal that will pad his stats a little.
(6:51PM) It's a 7-4 final. Sportsnet guys are campaining for Crosby to get the 2nd assist on the Scalzo Jr. goal. We'll have to see if the official scorer reviews his work.
Post-mortem: Ottawa just couldn't contain the powerful Rimouski attack from start to finish. Crosby just makes it look so easy, and I'm not talking about the flip-in goal that was embarassing just to watch. Ottawa had a very hard time taking Crosby out of the play physically, and Crosby is just so smart...he's got Ray Sheppard's hockey brains.
Rimouski also lets their defensive duties slip and a team like London has, and will, taken advantage of Rimouski's loosy-goosey style.
Rimouski vs. London tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the matchup between the #1 and #2 CHL teams and the Crosby vs. Perry offensive matchup.
Final Shots are 41-29 for Rimouski and reflect the general tilt of play.
Gimme a 'Ho' if you got yo funky bus fare!
Today's Memorial Cup matchup could be rather lopsided if Ottawa 67s goaltending Danny Bottochio can't play the game due to injuries.
It seems that Danny's own teammates are trying to hurt their meal ticket:
On Wednesday in practice, injured forward Jakub Petruzalek ripped a shot off Battochio's collarbone, sending sending a chill down the spines of everyone in the organization. Yesterday morning, it was another teammate, Jamie VanderVeeken, who drilled the little goalie in the throat with a high shot and was banished from the ice surface by coach Brian Kilrea.I expect Danny boy will be playing and making 40+ spectacular saves against Sidney Crosby and his Oceanic cronies. I know I wouldn't sit out this game unless I was chained to a wheelchair with 3 arms missing.
Now...Danny Battochio has really made a name for himself in this tournament. The undrafted netminder has put himself in the spotlight with numerous incredible saves and he really does look like the real reason the 67s made it this far.
His stats this year
Regular Season: 40GP 24-10-3 91.4SV% 2.95GAA
Playoffs: 21GP 13-6-0 92.1SV% 3.10GAA
There are quite a few OHL Goalies who finished around the 91.4sv% during the regular season, so Danny doesn't stand out there. After playing very little as a backup for the 67s in 2003-04 (earning a spot as a walk-on), Danny took over the #1 role and outperformed his backup Anthony Guadagnolo (34GP 10-17-3 91.3SV% 3.29GAA) by a good margin.
Looking at how the 67s have been overmatched by the other Memorial Cup teams on the ice, I wonder if Danny has earned himself a spot at the draft table whenever we have the next Entry Draft.
McKeen's has a good article on 'Batman', but it's behind their subscriber wall. Here's a little portion of their scouting report on him:
A stand-up/butterfly hybrid .. relies on quick reflexes to make saves .. mentally strong and follows play with great concentration .. recovers well and it's not uncommon for him to make two or three saves in a row .. low panic point, calm and poised .. fast feet and is an exceptional skater .. flexible and is able to cover the bottom part of the net well .. quick glove hand is his strong suit and makes many highlight reel saves with it .. tends to drop it a bit on incoming shooters but can get it up in a hurry to make saves ..
Now that 'Batman' has made me stand up and take notice, I'll be watching to see if he can ever catch on with an NHL club. It's great to see walk-ons and other castaways make it big in the CHL.
The Anti-NHL Movement?
Joeri Loonen from Eurohockey.net and I have been arguing and talking about the Anti-NHL movement developing amongst certain European NHLers.
"The Anti-NHL Movement?"
Yes, folks. It seems that many European NHLers are just disenchanted with the CBA talks and the NHL in general. We could be seeing quite a few NHLers signing contracts with European teams WITHOUT NHL escape clauses.
Alexander Svitov, the prospect who hasn't been progressing too well for Columbus, has decided to sign with Avangard Omsk. Tomas Plekanec (My favourite prospect) has decided to leave Hamilton and go back to Kladno no matter what happens with the NHL negotiations.
Hokej.sk has rumours of Pavel Datsyuk (yes, you heard correctly) and Maxim Afinogenov signing no-escape-to-the-NHL contracts in Russia.
The Olympic Games!!
European fans and players don't revere the Stanley Cup nearly as much as Canadians and some Americans do. Several Slovak players have commented that they really really really want NHLers to play in the Olympics. This is on top of the usual reasons why Europeans would want to stay home (less travel, less games, less physical contact, less crappy American TV)
For Datsyuk and Afinogenov, they both want to play in the Olympics, and coach national team coach Krikunov is with Dynamo Moscow, and would definitely be inclined to pick these two players if they were his boys in Moscow.
In other news, Hokej.cz is also reporting that Vaclav Propsal and Radek Dvorak are very welcoming to the idea of staying home with Ceske Budejovice if there is still a lockout. This comes on top of those rumours that Roman Turek would return home no matter what happens.
We saw Marek Schwarz return home (for various) reasons, along with other prospects like Lukas Bolf and Marek Kvapil and when the NHL returns, we could find the AHL and NHL with far fewer Europeans in the player ranks.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Memorial Cup: Rockets Burn Out
After getting robbed in their first game by the 67s Danny Battochio and his 62-save performance in double-OT, the Rockets were beaten by a fresh Knights squad in the second game the very next day.
Last night, Kelowna came up against Rimouski in a do-or-die game and lost 4-3 in yet another exciting game.
Final Shots: 47-40 for Rimouski.
After the first two periods, it was 4-1 for Rimouski and I thought the game was pretty much over. Foolish Golbez, you never learn!
Kelowna spent the first two periods unravelling from their disciplined mechanic defence and spent a lot of time killing penalties - The Rockets gave Rimouski 7 Power Plays in the first two periods.
The tables reversed in the 3rd period when it was Rimouski that suddenly started taking bad penalties and this allowed Kelowna back into the game.
2 Power Play goals by speedy Blake Comeau (who had taken a dumb dumb penalty in the 2nd period). Kelowna outshot Rimouski 18-7 in the final frame, but just couldn't get that 4th goal to tie the contest. So, now we'll have to watch the Eastern teams battle it out.
I really am enjoying this tournament more than the Stanley Cup Playoffs of last year. Certainly, the lack of televised hockey has helped me and countless others avoid 'Hockey Burnout', but each and every game has had a great pace, lots of scoring chances, and the kind of excitement that a lot of non-partisan NHL Playoff games just haven't given me in recent years.
Now, the 67s face the London Knights to determine the final seeding. If the 67s can pull off the win, then we'll have three teams finishing 2-1. If the Knights win, they get the cruical 'bye' into the Finals and they can watch Rimouski and Ottawa tire each other out. I expect another great game.
Video Clip of the Week
Joeri Loonen from Eurohockey.net showed me this great penalty shot goal by Paul Vincent of the Amsterdam Bulldogs. It's eerily similar to a penalty shot goal by Slovakia's Tomas Kopecky at the 2000 World Junior Championships.
Vincent is victorious!
It's not Paris Hilton eating a hamburger and washing a car, but I don't want angry parents trying to close down my site ;)
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
CHL Rule Changes: Legislated Xenophobia?
While the focus of the rule changes has been on the 15 and 16 year-olds (especially in light of the John Tavares case), the rule change that really irks me is this one - "In addition, as of the 2007-08 season, each major junior team will be allowed to carry just one non-North American player."
While the NHL has expanded to 30 teams, the thinning of talent has really been nullified by the supply of European players available to fill in the extra roster spots.
With the CHL having exploded to 56 teams, there hasn't been the same available pool of talent from elsewhere to fill in the extra roster spots. The talent pool has really thinned in the CHL and the CHL keeps wanting to expand even further.
With a current limit of 2 imports per team, the numerous extra roster spots created will filled with Canadian (and occassionally American) players of lower quality that would have never made the CHL in the past.
"But Jes, European players take away positions from CANADIAN players? How is that fair?"
Baloney! If a European player takes any position away from a Canadian player, that player is either
1. The 22nd player on the roster that really didn't deserve to be there in the first place or
2. A young 16 or 17 year-old who would best be served playing in a lower league and getting 1st line ice time as supposed to warming the bench in the CHL.
The 'cost' of not having one or two Canadian players on a roster is more than offset by having players of high skill playing and competing in the CHL. The linemates, teammates, and opposition of these import players is better off, in the long run, by having higher skilled players in the CHL talent pool.
Not every team even uses 1 or 2 European players on their roster, so I can't understand the current and sudden need to change this rule. It smells like typical Canadian Xenophobia infected some people in the Canadian hockey ranks.
Who will love this rule change?
1. Don Cherry
2. European teams. Czech and Slovak teams, especially, have lost many juniors to the CHL as the kids want to increase their NHL chances. Marek Schwarz and Andrej Meszaros, the two Giants imports, were expected to be key cogs for their European pro teams.
3. Xenophobic Canadian hockey fans. There are quite a few redneck hockey fans who don't take kindly to those 'sissy Euros', or refuse to warmup to the nervous imports who have flown half way across the world and left their families behind.
It's a shame that the CHL has to get 'regressive' when the league has done so well the past decade and has even more growth potential. Whomever came up with the concept of reducing the European quotient in the CHL needs a Frantisek Musil slash to the wrists followed by an Ulf Samuelsson hit-from-behind and finished with a Ruslan Salej slew-foot.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Marek Schwarz: "Screw you guys, I'm going home!"
Marek Schwarz, the first round selection of the Blues in 2004, has decided to leave the Vancouver Giants and will return home to Prague to play with Sparta Praha as the backup goaltender.
After a very trying season with the Vancouver Giants, in which 'Schwarzik' finished with very mediocre statistics (56GP 26-24-4 2.67GAA .900SV%) in the WHL, and a terrific performance at the World Junior Championships, Marek just had enough.
Why is he going back?
- Homesickness - He misses his girlfriend (awww, how cute)
- The Pressure - Marek didn't really like the fact that the media and fans were very hard on him for his off-and-on performances and his tendancy to give up some very easy goals.
- Confidence - Marek would like to play in an environment where he can succeed, and not one where he feels 'out of place'
Marek never wanted to come to Vancouver in the first place, a fact that I had mentioned many times last year. Robert Neuhauser, a scout for McKeens Hockey, had confirmed my suspicions:
Schwarz personally isn't that happy with the solution as he was looking forward to playing for Trinec in the Czech senior Extraleague. He signed a good contract there and was a fan favorite last season....and a year later, the relationship soured and Marek's heading home. The pressure from the Blues and his agent isn't enough to get him to endure another 'year from hell'. My rantings from last year were dismissed by many as 'sour grapes'.
His agent has basically forced him to decide not to play for Trinec and head to Vancouver in August.
...it's also obvious that he believes coming to the WHL will get Schwarz him an NHL contract faster...and that, folks, equals "bling bling"I can't say that I'm entirely happy to say 'I told you so', because Schwarz obviously needs to continue learning the angles and nuances of the North American game. If his play for the Giants was any indication, he should really stay here another year and continue his development under the guidance of Bill Ranford.
Henys and his agency will not make that much money from Schwarz playing in Europe, but once Schwarz and Meszaros (who also falls under the same agency) sign their first NHL contracts, the commission from that contract is all the incentive that they need to push their kids into the CHL.
What role do the Giants have in all of this? I can't say for sure, but I speculate if the Giants weren't making some "side" payments to Schwarz's agent to get him to push their clients towards Vancouver. If Schwarz and Meszaros were openly willing to come to the CHL, you'd better believe they would have been drafted (CHL IMPORT DRAFT) much higher than they were.
It would also be nice if someone could help remind Schwarz that Henys and his agency works for Marek Schwarz, and not the other way around. If Schwarz truly doesn't want to leave Trinec, then he should tell his agents to go to hell.
And to add to this...how about Vancouver's reputation as a 'Goalie Graveyard'? As soon as any goaltender plays for a Vancouver team, they are ultimately cursed, so the legend goes. This will certainly add to the mystique and aura that surrounds this dark city.
In the meantime, Schwarz will split the Spartan goaltending duties with the ancient Petr Briza. I expect Schwarz will do great things once he's in the loving arms of his home country. His NHL future, on the other hand, certainly gets a bit more clouded. If Schwarz can't handle the pressure of playing for the Vancouver Giants, then how can he handle the pressure of the NHL?
Sunday, May 22, 2005
A Memorable Memorial Cup
Final Shots: Kelowna 64 - Ottawa 47
This game had everything you could want except for bench-clearing brawls (for those into that sort of thing) - Plenty of great scoring chances, great saves, inspired efforts, and a great atmosphere. This was definitely the best hockey game I've watched this year.
To those pundits and writers complaining about the lack of 'good' hockey at the World Championships, I will severely SMACK the taste from your mouth if you so much as think bad thoughts about the great action we've been watching from London, Ontario.
Ottawa 67s goalie Danny Battochio made 62 saves and was the the game's 1st star for obvious reasons. I stopped counting the amount of spectacular saves he made in overtime. I've never seen or heard of Battochio before this game, but he's definitely not a 'technical' goalie like Kelowna's Tyler Westblom.
Well, whatever works, eh?
Poor Kelowna is now tired from nearly 5 full periods of intense hockey and has to play a rested and powerful London Knights squad tomorrow. Life isn't fair sometimes.
Whoever designed the 67s uniforms should be arrested and bullwhipped for Sartorial Abuse. These things are truly offensive to my eyeballs.
The 67s did suffer some bad news as Jakub Petruzalek went down in the 1st period with a knee injury. Ottawa doesn't really have the depth that the other 3 clubs have, so this loss could be felt later on this week.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Still, life goes on for scouts, publications, and the prospects themselves.
For the heck of it, I decided to compare the Top 10 of the 3 most notable scouting publications (Red Line Report, ISS, and McKeen's) on the market.
Like last year, ISS is not afraid to be a little different than the 'mainstream'. ISS was one of the few sources who went out on a limb and ranked Andrej Meszaros extremely high (4th overall!).
It seems their intuition paid off as Meszaros made a lot of GMs and scouts look bad for passing up on him. Will there pet Slovak from this season, Marek Zagrapan, make GMs and scouts look equally foolish?
I'm not as high on Zags as I am on Meszaros, but Marek has great offensive potential and not many of his peers (other than the top top top guys) can say the same.
Today's firestarter has the high-scoring Rimouski Oceanic and the high-scoring London Knights facing off. Both teams were ranked 1-2 in the CHL's rankings and this seems to be the premier matchup.
TSN has a good preview, right here.
Fans in the northwest USA will be fortunate to have the opportunity to watch the Memorial Cup games on Comcast Northwest.
Memorial Cup on CNW14 Air Times - All Times are Portland, Pacific Daylight Time:
Saturday, May 21 - Rimouski vs. London - 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 22 - Ottawa vs. Kelowna - 1:00 p.m.
Monday, May 23 - London vs. Kelowna - 4:00 p.m.
Tuesday, May 24 - Ottawa vs. Rimouski - 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 25 - Kelowna vs. Rimouski - 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 26 - London vs. Ottawa - 4:00 p.m.
Friday, May 27 - Tiebreaker Game, If necessary - 7:00 p.m. **
Saturday, May 28 - Semi-Final Game - 6:30 p.m. **
Sunday, May 29 - Championship Game - 6:00 p.m. **
** - Tape and Delayed for local airing
Friday, May 20, 2005
Memorial Cup Musings
The Memorial Cup is an exciting time of the year and one I've always looked forward to. While the Stanley Cup playoffs provide their own thrill, there are some major differences, especially from a player's point of view.
1. The time frame for a CHL player to win a Memorial Cup is 1-4 seasons, while an NHL player will usually have many more seasons in which to have a shot at the Memorial Cup.
2. It is actually harder to win the Memorial Cup than the Stanley Cup! In the NHL, you have 4 playoff rounds and 30 total teams. In the CHL, teams go through the 4 playoff rounds PLUS the Memorial Cup tournament itself. Add to that the fact that there are currently 56 teams, and you can see that winning a Memorial Cup is quite a feat.
3. This is the last kick at the can for many players. A handful of players, like Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry, will go on to NHL and AHL stardom. A few players will be able to get minor-pro contracts or maybe a deal in the Swiss or German leagues. Most players, however, will see their hockey careers come to a real end after the CHL. Either some will move on to the working world, or on to university (where they can play University hockey, and then that's about it). The 'role players' will certainly not want to squander their last chance for hockey glory.
The 4 teams competing for the Memorial Cup include the WHL's Kelowna Rockets, the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic, and the OHLs Ottawa 67s and London Knights.
The Knights actually beat the 67s for the OHL Championship, but since the Knights are hosting the tournament, the 67s are the default OHL representative.
This and that...
The WHL's website has a good preview article of the Kelowna Rockets. The interesting aspect of their club is the fact that their #1 goaltender, Derek Yeomans, was injured in their finals series against the Wheat Kings. They will have to use a replacement goalie as a backup on loan from the Silvertips.
Mike Wall a member of the Everett Silvertips, will be added to the WHL Champion Kelowna roster as an emergency replacement goaltender and will serve strictly in a back-up capacity to the Rockets current starter Kristofer Westblom. Wall will not be permitted to play unless an injury occurs to Westblom. The Memorial Cup Games Committee reserves the right, should Westblom suffer an injury, to have anThe Rockets still managed to win against the Wheaties thanks to their absolutely incredible attention to defence and detail. It will be key for the other teams to jump on Westblom early, and to get under Shea Weber's thin skin.
independent medical examination performed before Wall is permitted to play.
The London Knights - I wrote an entry on the record-breaking Knights earlier in the year in which I had a look at their team. (Read it here!)
Corey Perry and Robbie Schremp finished 1-2 in the OHL Playoff scoring race, with Perry continuing his unbelievable junior career with an extremely impressive playoff showing.
Corey Perry 18GP 11-27-38 +7
Rob Schremp 18GP 13-16-29 +13
David Bolland 18 11-14-25 +13
I'll delve more into the 67s and Oceanic in a later entry.
You may have heard about the NHL's Board of Governors decision regarding the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes. There is some good discussion going on over at Tom Benjamin's blog, so check out the news and views regarding this contentious issue.
Suffice it to say, it looks like the NHL is trying any way it possibly can to get Crosby to the New York Rangers... why don't they just completely fix the whole process like the NBA did with Patrick Ewing and the Knicks?
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Is John Vanbiesbrouck worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame?
Among the most notable names are Dino Ciccarelli, John "Beezer" Vanbiesbrouck, Glenn Anderson, Gary Suter, Brian Bellows, Kevin Lowe, Mike Vernon, and Kevin Stevens. It's not really a prime group.
I wanted to have a look and see if my all-time favourite goaltender, John Vanbiesbrouck, had any shot at the HHOF. As much as I loved the Beezer, I knew he was always underappreciated and I never thought that he would ever make the HHOF. Still, it's worth a look considering he had a good career and was spectacular at times.
Using "Dr. Love's" modified Gartner List, let's have a look at Beezer's credentials:
1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in hockey? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in hockey?
Only I ever suggested Vanbiesbrouck was ever the best in hockey, during the 1993-94 season which he carried the Panthers on his back. Nobody with a non-biased position would ever say this.
2. Was he the best player on his team?
Yes, Vanbiesbrouck was undoubtably the best player in Florida Panthers history, and was their best player from 1993-1997 .
3. Was he the best player in hockey at his position?
Vanbiesbrouck was the best at his position in 1985-86 when he won the Vezina Trophy. He was arguably also the best during the 1993-94 season, when he was runner-up for the MVP in the eyes of the voters.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of playoff runs?
He almost carried the Panthers into the playoffs during their first two years of existance, carried them to the finals the very next year, and then was key in their return to the playoffs in 1996-97 (When they bowed out to the New York Rangers, led by Gretzky). During his 1985-86 Vezina season, Vanbiesbrouck took the Rangers to the semi-finals and had quite an impact on that playoff race.
5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
Beezer was 35 when he joined the Flyers, and played fairly well for 3 seasons after that. I would say yes.
6&7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame? Does Vanbiesbrouck meet 'Hall of Fame' standards?
Looking at 'wins', from the article, "The winningest goalie among those who were previously passed over is Andy Moog, who won 372 NHL games. Vernon won 385 and Vanbiesbrouck 374." I'd say those goalies are fairly compatible overall (although neither Moog nor Vernon had quite the impact Beezer did during a few excellent seasons). Yes, other peers have been left out.
Hall of Fame Standards? The HHOF is fairly 'easy' to get into compared to baseball, so I'll look to Roman Nepomnyaschev's study, posted on Daryl Shilling's Hockey Project site.
(Edit: I previously credited Daryl with the HOF Monitor numbers. The study was actually done by Russian stats freak Roman
Nepomnyaschev, and I apologize for the original error)
Ouch! There are plenty of goalies above Beezer not in the Hall of Fame such as Mike Liut, Tom Barrasso, Rogie Vachon, and Ron Hextall(!). Vanbiesbrouck doesn't appear to be nearly a favourite among non-elected goalies.
8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
Beezer played much of his career during the inflated high-scoring era of the 80s and early 90s. His GAA is above the magical 3.00 mark and most of his stats won't look good compared to the goalies from the lower-scoring eras preceding and proceding his time in the league.
Beezer also played with 'poor' teams for much his career, so he never got the same boost that a Chris Osgood or Martin Brodeur would. Still, Beezer's stats aren't skewed badly.
9. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
See question 7. The answer seems to be NO.
10. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an award? If not, how many times was he close?
Beezer won the Vezina in 1985-86, and was runner up for the Vezina and MVP awards in 1995-96. During his first 3 seasons with the Panthers, Beezer was always in good running for the Vezina. I would say he had 1 MVP season, 3 'close' Vezina seasons, and 1 Vezina season.
11. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
Beezer played in the All-Star game in 1994, 1996, 1997, WITH MVP HONOURS IN the 1994 game.
I don't have easy access to this information (All-Star game appearances and such), but I don't think many HHOF goalies played in only 3 All-Star games.
12. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could reach the Finals?
Yes, the 1995-96 Panthers reached the finals and he was, by far, their best player.
13. What impact did the player have on hockey history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Vanbiesbrouck had a major impact on South-West Florida for a few years as the Panthers were winning and Beezer was the 'star'.
He suggested that Scott Mellanby had scored a 'rat trick' after killing a rat in the dressing room and scoring 2 goals in a game. This led to the infamous rat-tossing after every Panthers goal, and eventually the NHL did put in a rule about tossing stuff onto the ice after goals.
This isn't really something HHOF voters will notice, but it’s interesting folklore, nonetheless.
14. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
Vanbiesbrouck is a devout Christian who was very much a 'nice guy' during his playing career and even appeared in that 'Hour of Power' TV show.
After his career was over, he went into coaching for his junior club (Sault Ste. Marie) and has to resign over some racist comments he made in regards to one of his players (Trevor Daley?). This incident tarnished his reputation a great deal, and I know one Beezer fan who was very upset when he heard what happened.
In the end, Beezer's playoff failure with the Philadelphia Flyers (where he somehow forgot how to make saves on the short-side on backhands), racist remark, and lack of popularity combined with his HHOF Standards numbers will likely mean Beezer will have to buy a ticket if he wants into the HHOF.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Random Facts about your Favourite NHLers
Well, I don't...so my crack team of monkey investigators has uncovered some hidden truths about some of your favourite NHLers.
- - -
Joe Thornton never needs to wind his watch. Instead, once every second he shifts reality into an alternate universe in which he is wearing a watch that has the correct time
Darren McCarty owns a chain of fast food restaurants throughout the southwest United States. They serve nothing but pork rinds and Hot Pockets. A giant plastic Darren McCarty head spins around on a pole outside the franchises, shooting fireballs at passersby!
The Legend of Zelda is based on the adventures of Mats Sundin battling Adolph Hitler and the Nazis in World War 2
Karlis Skrastins knows why hot dogs are sold in packs of twelve and hot dog buns are sold in packs of eight
Keith Carney was the one that originally taught that kid from Mighty Ducks 2 the "Knucklepuck."
Daniel Sedin is actually the one singing during Ashlee Simpson's concerts.
Kirk Maltby writes the dead end scenarios for 'Choose Your Own Adventures'
Pavol Demitra and Michal Handzus keep spending most their lives living in a Gangster's Paradise.
Georges Laraques was the cab driver who had dice in the mirror in the opening credits of "Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air".
Dany Heatley defied MC Hammer and touched it.
Peter Forsberg was grown in a lab from DNA samples of all four members of ABBA
Chris Simon removed the word victory from the French language after conquering France in 6 hours using only a salad fork. During the campaign, all French deodorant manufacturing plants were destroyed
Wayne Gretzky once defeated Jesus, the prophet Mohammed and L Ron Hubbard in an arm wrestling match to decide who was the true savoir of mankind
Bob Boughner once was in a maze that he couldn't get out of, so he flooded the earth to swim out. God was angry so He invented Saved by the Bell: The College Years
Bill Guerin single-handedly caused the hyper-inflation of Weimar Germany during the interwar years by intercepting most incoming foreign capital from his hidden Bavarian redoubt to support his penchant for swimming in enormous vats of cold, hard cash.
Brian Leetch killed Kenny (Jonsson). Bastard!
Ok, so I'm a bit hooked on this Random Vin Diesel Fact Generator - Another time-waster that the Internet hath wrought. I'll delve into the Memorial Cup later in the week as the first games start on Saturday.
In the meantime, check out James Mirtle for some real hockey tidbits today.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Hockey Rants Turns 1
One year ago, I started this site as a venue to express my multitude of hockey-related opinions in one convenient place. Instead of childish, terse and fractured conversations on various message boards (like Hfboards.com), I could write more verbose criticisms and analysis of hockey-related news items and write about whatever the heck I wanted to.
Through this past year of blogging, I've been able to garner many new opportunities, meet new people, discover other smart bloggers out in the world, and learn many new things from differing perspectives. It's been a bit tedious, and I may repeat myself on occasion, but you can see that I never seem to run out of things to rant about, lockout or no lockout.
It has certainly been a very strange year in the hockey world. Instead of analyzing NHL trades, games, the Vancouver Canucks, and talking about the 2005 NHL Playoffs, I've been blogging about the Czech and Slovak Extraleagues, more NHL labour bickering than I care to acknowledge, exposing the evilness of Sweden, and many other news items that may normally fly under the mainstream radar.
What will the next year bring? I hope it brings a return of the NHL and continued growth of good hockey blogging. I certainly hope that this blog brings some educational and entertainment value to those who happen to read it.
Looking back at the past year...here are some of the major events from one of the craziest periods ever.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning (!) defeat the Calgary Flames to win their first every Stanley Cup.
- Hell freezes over the very next day.
- The tragic deaths of Ivan Hlinka and Sergei Zholtok.
- North American domination continues as Canada wins the World Cup, World Under-20 Juniors and the 2004 World Championship while the USA wins the Women's World Championships and the WJC18.
- That same domination comes to an end just 2 days ago when the Czech Republic win the 2005 World Championships by beating Canada 3-0 in the Gold Medal game.
- The cancellation of the entire 2004-2005 NHL season. This represents the first time a professional sports league in North America has lost a season to labour strife.
- The 2005 Entry Draft, to be held in Ottawa, is also cancelled, leaving Sidney Crosby's agent awake every night.
- The Kelowna Rockets win the 2004 CHL Memorial Cup, and are one of four teams in competition for the 2005 Memorial Cup.
- The CHL Top Prospects game takes place here in Vancouver. Sidney Crosby bails while Gilbert Brule stars and earns MVP honours.
- Pardubice wins their first Czech Extraleague title since 1988 while Slovan Bratislava wins the Slovak Extraleague title.
- Pavol Demitra, part owner of Dukla Trencin, plays for his club and shatters Slovak scoring records left right and center.
- Tomas Kaberle takes home the Czech Extraleague MVP honours while Milan Hnilicka somehow 'steals' the Top Goaltender award despite finishing no better than 10th in any meaniningful statistical category.
- The OSHL dies a quick death after poor attendance and poor quality of hockey kill interest.
- The World Hockey Association version 2.0 dies twice before it ever gets up and running. The latest WHA 'Bobby Hull Invitational' has seemingly gone up in smoke.
- The Hockey Rumors Blog fiasco, with 'Eklund' getting pwned by Mr. Dubi Silverstein.
- Zdeno Ciger, the ex-Ranger, Oiler, and Lightning, retires and then unretires to help Slovan Bratislava win the Slovak Championship. That doesn't stop him from whining, however.
- Jozef Stümpel scored a hat-trick!!
- During a USA/Canada exhibition game, Anthem singer Carolina Marcil fumbles the words to the American national anthem and then falls on her ass on her way back to the dressing room. This turned out to be one of the most 'googled' items used to find this site.
- Sweden is *still* EVIL, VERY EVIL!
Sunday, May 15, 2005
WC: Defeat Served Upon a Silver Platter
Czechia 3 - Canada 0
- It was a really chippy game...Ryan Smith trying to lumberjack Jiri Fischer's ankles near the end of the game was really low-class and reeked of Sore Loser Syndrome.
- Swedish referees are teh suck
- Whatever alien invaded Tomas Vokoun during his stint in Czechia must be safe on his/her home planet. Vokoun has been his 'usual' self ever since he went to Finland for a spell
- Martin Brodeur = weak. That long bomb by Rucinsky was a nice shot, but Luongo would probaby have made that save.
- They kept showing this hot, but crazy, Czech girl in stands (sitting on the stairs actually) cheering on her team like a schitzophrenic poodle. It was kind of annoying seeing the same girl after about the 50th time. Still, if she ever wants to date a Team Slovakian fan, she can email me anytime ;)
Given how Canada fielded a team of players who weren't in great game shape and the loosey-goosey style they employed, a Silver medal is certainly a good result. I can't say that I'm very crushed that they lost this game...
After the game, the tournament awards were handed out, and Canada's Joe Thornton was the big winner as Tournament MVP after leading the tournament with 16 points (6+10) in 9 games.
Best Goalie: Tomas Vokoun, Czech Republic
Best D-man: Wade Redden, Canada
Best Forward: Alexei Kovalev, Russia
Media All-Star Team
Goal: Tomas Vokoun, Czech Republic
Defense: Marek Zidlicky, Czech Republic and Niklas Kronwall, Evil Sweden
Forwards: Rick Nash and Joe Thornton, Canada & Jaromir Jagr, Czech Republic.
Jaromir Jagr and Jiri Slegr also captured the 'treble' and now have Gold in the Olympics and World Championships to go along with a Stanley Cup ring.
Back to Jagr...I know Caps and Rangers fans are asking "Why couldn't he play with this much vigour with our teams?"
Jagr finished with 2 goals, 7 assists, and 1 broken finger in 8 tournament games. Instead of infecting the Czech squad with "Jagr Syndrome", Jagr displayed the on-ice leadership and fire that numerous coaches have failed to dig out from under that mass of curly hair.
So, what inspired him now?
My theory: Vladimir "Rozy" Ruzicka.
Back in the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games, it was widely whispered that it was Ruzicka, Jagr's captain and centerman, and not coach Ivan Hlinka, that was able to 'control' Jagr and get the big oaf to buy into the Hasek-is-god defensive system the Czechs used to beat everyone.
Now in 2005, Ruzicka is the coach for the Czechs and Jagr was playing with the same level of fire and focus that he showed in Nagano.
It's a weak theory, but do you have something better? Probably not ;)
As you can imagine, I did get some satisfaction out of seeing Russia beat Evil Sweden for the Bronze Medal by a 6-3 count. Sweden goes home empty-handed after opening the tournament with such promise.
Sweden forgot some very basic rules for success in International competition.
- 1. Always bring strong goaltending.
- 2. Don't get into a firefight with the Russians.
- 3. Don't let Maxim Afinogenov and Alexander Ovechkin stickhandle through your entire defense.
- 4. Don't expect Daniel Alfredsson to come through in the clutch.
The London Knights, Ottawa 67s, Kelowna Rockets, and Rimouski Crosbys are your Memorial Cup competitors and I'll be sure to have some stuff about this fun tournament in the days to come.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
World Championships: Return of the Sith
Canada 4 - Russia 3
So, Canada rings up a 4 goal lead, then sits back as wave after wave of Russia bombs are fired at Martin Brodeur. If Team Canada had a motto at this tournament, it would probably be "We're just good enough!". Whatever works.
The ref, a fin with a Swedish surname (Henriksson), went crazy with the whistle in the 1st period, than decided to take most of the night off after that. If you think NHL refs are bad, then just be thankful they aren't as bad as some of these IIHF doods.
Czechia 3 - Sweden 2 (Overtime)
So I predicted a shootout...close enough. Radek Dvorak certainly picked a perfect time to procure his premier goal of the tournament as he is today's overtime hero.
Evil Sweden is thus banished from the gold medal game!
I send many thanks to my Czech buddies and wish them well tomorrow...
Oh, I am cheering for Canada, in case you are wondering... (oh yeah?)
Well, Canada is still my country (For better or worse), and I don't think the Slovaks would take too much joy in watching the Czechs have fun all summer while the Slovaks are mired in sadness and despair...plus Jagr is such a dorkus.
Now, I need the skills of a true Jedi Master to predict Sunday's results...how about Emperor Palpatine?
How about you today, Emperor?
Palpatine: "I have said it many times; you are the most gifted Jedi I have ever met."
Wow! (blushing), you are so kind. So, who is going to win tomorrow?
Palpatine: "It is of no concern. Soon the Rebellion will be crushed and young Skywalker will be one of us."
Ermm...well, it does matter to me and some hockey fans out there.
Palpatine: "From here you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance — and the end of your insignificant rebellion."
Riiiight...you certainly aren't much help, and you are a BIG MEANIE!!
I guess I'm on my own, then...
Canada 4 - Czechia 3
Canada's suspect defense and goaltending versus the Czechs suspect offense. Canada will have 'Just Enough' offense to overpower the smaller Czech defense and the light side of the force will prevail once again. Shane Doan will score the GWG.
Sweden 4 - Russia 2
I'll be cheering for Sweden to lose more than cheering for Russia to win (It's like cheering Target to beat Wal-Mart). It would be nice for evil Sweden to go home empty-handed after such a strong showing in almost every game up until today.
Sweden is evil, however, so I know they will win just to spite me and other Slovakians.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
"What you talkin' bout, Wayne?"
Thursday, May 12, 2005
World Championships: Down to the Final Four
I was able to watch most of the replay of the Canada/Slovakia game. The action was fast-paced and intense. Tom Benjamin called it 'white knuckle', and I probably would have enjoyed it if it wasn't a 'replay'.
Since I knew the result (and didn't like it), I just couldn't enjoy the game very much...which is a shame. I'm not the type who can ever leave a game to be watched later...if the game is being played, I need to know the score.
It also doesn't help that the commentators and every TV personality constantly butcher the Czech and Slovak names (yeah yeah, I've beaten that dead horse a few thousand times).
From the game...
1. Martin Brodeur's save on Zigmund Palffy's penalty shot was, as one of TSN's talking heads stated, 'Sick'.
2. I love it with Pavol Demitra is fired up. He's often very low key, like Alex Mogilny, and it's not too often these days that he plays with such fire. Perhaps getting out of St. Louis has helped him rediscover some passion. Listening to Keith Tkachuk's lame-ass jokes all the time would probably anger even the Dalai Lama.
3. Jan Lasak sucked eggs in this game...Thornton beat a flat-footed Chara cleanly to the outside for the 5th goal and Chara deflected the puck nicely. Lasak misplayed the redirect and Slovakia was thus finished. Although Jan made some nice saves, he let in some terribly weak goals and didn't steal the game like he could have.
So, I went a weak 2 for 4 in my predictions for that round...moving onto the Semis
Canada 4 - Russia 3
Like I would ever predict Russia to beat Canada. Not now, not ever!
Canada will struggle defensively and Brodeur will probably be shaky again (Apart from one or two very nice saves), but Canada will overpower a weaker Russki squad.
Czechia 3 - Sweden 2 (shootout)
Czechia plastered the USA with plenty of shots, but I expect these two teams to revert to their usual defensive shells. I'm taking the Czechs in their favoured shootout.
I could only get the live updates for the World Championships from here at work this morning and I'm completely disheartened after Canada toppled Slovakia 5-4. The Slovaks led 4-3 after Pavol Demitra scored twice, and I had a big goofy grin on my face...but then the big Nash-Thornton-Gagne line put Canada over the top.
Once again, Canada looks like crap at an International competition and finds a way to get it done...even with the craptacular Martin Brodeur in net.
There will be plenty of Slovaks crying in their Pilsners and Budvars tonight, while maybe about *50* people in Canada will care a tad about today's result. I'm not sure I even want to watch the replay this evening, since it will just piss me off even more.
Zdenko Chara was -3 in the game and had a pretty lousy tournament.
"NO SOUP FOR YOU!"
So now I'll be jumping on the Czech's bandwagon (Canada can go to hell for all I care) after they narrowly defeated the Amerikaners 3-2 in a shootout. The Czechs fired 52 shots at Slick Rick DiPietro and were trailing 2-0 heading into the 3rd period. It would have been amazing to see DiPietro single-handedly deflate the hopes of the Czech nation.
Alas, as you well know, NEVER bet against the Czechs in a shootout.
Ex-Canuck Martin Rucinsky, the much maligned 'What-the-hell-is-he-good-for?' player, scored the 'winning' shootout goal and at least one half of the old Czechoslovakia will be hopping tonight.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
WC's: Into the Knockout Round
Rick Nash (who else?) potted the winner in his usual 'Tim Kerr Jr.' style and Canada had a tough time generating offence against a Ukrainian team playing an aggressive 0-5 'NyQuil' forecheck.
Meanwhile, evil Sweden recovered from their American beating to wallop Belarus 9-1 and take first place in Pool F. Typical of Sweden to run up the score ;)
Slovakia had another one of those games where they had plenty of chances (50 shots!) and few goals as they defeated Kazakhstan 3-1. Slovakia has done well against the poor teams, but needs to start playing well against GOOD opponents.
And to finish off, Czechia wrapped up 2nd place in Pool E with a 5-1 win over Glen Hanlon's Belarus squad. I don't think Hanlon will get a return engagement after leading Belarus to a rather poor record...and just 4 goals for!
Standings after yesterday's games
Group Qualifying F
Team G W T L GF : GA PTS
1 SWE 5 4 0 1 23 : 13 8
2 CAN 5 3 1 1 18 : 14 7
3 USA 5 2 2 1 14 : 10 6
4 FIN 5 1 3 1 12 : 13 5
5 LAT 5 1 1 3 9 : 18 3
6 UKR 5 0 1 4 5 : 13 1
Group Qualifying E
R Team G W T L GF : GA PTS
1 RUS 5 3 2 0 13 : 8 8
2 CZE 5 4 0 1 15 : 5 8
3 SVK 5 3 1 1 12 : 11 7
4 SUI 5 2 1 2 9 : 10 5
5 BLR 5 1 0 4 4 : 11 2
6 KAZ 5 0 0 5 3 : 11 0
...and now the real fun begins with the Mike Tyson Knockout Round, beginning on Thursday. One loss and you go home crying to your partially-eaten children.
Canada vs. Slovakia
Canada *should* win this game, normally. Slovakia has had plenty of trouble with the top teams, and Canada has much more talent defensively and in goal. Still, Slovakia seems to be gellin like a felon on the offensive side (results aside) while the Canadian defence is sucking lemons. This is the year that Canada is primed to be booted off of the island, and I have my biases.
Predicition: Slovakia 4 - Canada 3
Czechia vs. USA
USA was great against the evil Swedes and played well against Canada. Czechia has been in fine form defensively, and has the edge in personnel, even with Jagr's finger hanging by a surgical thread.
Czechia should win a very tight and, probably, boring defensive battle.
Prediction: Czechia 2 - USA 1
Russia vs. Finland
Finland has almost no offensive firepower that will leave goaltenders waking up with cold sweats. Russia has a lot of no-name players (outside of Russia) that have really gelled and played much better than star-studded Russian teams of the past. Despite the lack of offence, you can always count on the Finns to play a tough game and keep the score close. I expect an upset here.
Predicition: Finland 3 - Russia 2
Sweden vs. Switzerland
Overpriced watches and sheltered bank accounts are no defence for evil Swedish torpedos. Apart from their amazing loss to the US, Sweden has been phenominal without their top stars. How do they do it?
Predicition: Sweden 5 - Switzerland 1
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
You don't know Ukraine
I picked them to finish dead-last in 16th place, but the Ukeys appear to be capable of giving their more powerful opponents a rough time. This was none the more evidant than in their 1-1 tie against the US of A.
OK, so the Ukes were outshot 39-9, but the USA couldn't grab both points and Ukraine managed to steal a point away from their old cold-war enemies.
The Ukes have played the style that the Germans have tried to do for so many years - Slow down the game to a crawl and take advantage of the low score to steal some points. It isn't pretty, but it's been working... 6 goals for and 12 goals against and a 1-3-1 record in 5 games is pretty good for this squad, especially since they don't have some of their biggest stars like Ruslan Fedotenko, Dmitri Khristich, and Boris Protsenko.
3-2 Loss to Sweden
4-1 Loss to Finland
1-2 Win over Denmark
3-0 Loss to Latvia
1-1 Tie vs the USA
The leading scorers for Ukraine both have just 2 goals and 0 assists (Sergei Varlamov and Bogdan Savenko). The real star has been goaltender Konstantyn Simchuk, who has a 93.91% save percentage and a 2.40 GAA. Simchuk had about 100 rather unimpressive games in the UHL, and is now plying his trade in the Russian league.
Like Slovakia's Peter Bondra (Born in Lutsk, Ukraine), my family also has roots in the western Carpathian mountains of Ukraine and we share Ruthenian roots. I've always had a soft spot for the Ukrainian hockey team, despite the fact that they don't leave much for you to cheer for.
Hockey is a very minor spot in Ukraine, with very little in terms of facilities available outside the capital Kiev. Don't expect the growth of hockey in that country to mirror that in places like Switzerland.
The biggest impact Ukraine has had on the hockey world has been the emigrants who went to other countries and produced fine hockey playing sons unto the world - Ilya Kovalchuk, Igor Kravchuk, and Pavel Datsyuk for Russia and Dale Hawerchuk, Bernie Federko, Dave Andreychuk, Richard Matvichuk, Johnny Bucyk, Devan Dubnyk, and Jordin Tootoo (a half-ukey) for Canada.
For the time being, I'm just hoping they can avoid relegation and stick around another year.
Nash gets off Scot-Free - No punishment for Rick Nash after the *phantom* attack on a referee. Much ado about nothing...
Monday, May 09, 2005
Evil Sweden tries to suspend Nash
TSN Story Link
Swedish team manager Claes-Goran Wallin says Canadian forward Rick Nash should be suspended from the world championship for his attack on the referee during their qualification round match. Hmm, ever wonder why you never heard of this incident before now? Maybe it's because THIS ATTACK NEVER HAPPENED!
If Rick Nash attacked a referee, you can be sure that this would be on the front page of every sports section and website in Canada. Surely, the referee in question must be traumatized and feeling hurt...
I'm not sure when this photo was taken, but it looks a little incriminating, I suppose...
The referee has not filed a report concerning Nash or the incident and neither did the supervisor of the game. An IIHF official was not aware of any request for an investigation into any incident involving Nash and Canada's game against Sweden.Oh, I guess not, eh?
I know Bill Daly and Ted Saskin are full of enough cow manure to grow a lifetime's supply of corn, but Mr. Wallin takes the cake for these utter BS allegations. Maybe Sweden can do a few more Photoshop goodies and show Joe Thornton canoodling with Michael Jackson at the Neverland Ranch. Maybe Nash just happened to bump into the referee...but there was no 'attack' that anyone here seemed to be aware of.
I told you Sweden was evil!
I Know This Much is True
Judging by yesterday's 3-3 comeback tie against Finland, I'd have to say I don't feel too confident about Team Canada's probability of triumph this year.
Although Canada's natural skill level has helped them pile up goals with few problems (especially Rick Nash, who tallied another Jehovah's Witness Special yesterday), Canada's defensive woes continue to haunt them like an image of a naked Condaleeza Rice *double shudder*
As Tom Benjamin so appositely describes Canada's defensives struggles...:
In the last five games we have seen the pattern when the puck is advanced into the Canadian half of the ice. Someone misses his guy which causes another defender to shift, then another and suddenly we see a Chinese fire drill out there.I've never seen a Chinese fire drill before, but I'll take his word for it...
- - -
A tip of the cap and a blown kiss (Jagr style) to my friends south of the border in USA. The Amerikans beat up on the evil Swedes 5-1, with Slovak-American Yan Stastny getting one of the goals.
The Slovaks had plenty of target practice on Martin "Baby Food" Gerber, but could get 'only' a 3-1 victory over the land of overpriced watches. The lines of Hossa-Demitra-Gaborik and Satan-Stumpel-Palffy can really wreak havoc when coach Frantisek Hossa lets them play 'their' style. Jan Lasak returned to the goal for Slovakia, and *should* stay there the rest of the tournament.
In the 4th game of the day, Czechia lost to Russia 2-1 thanks to a 3rd period goal by speedy enigma Alexander Semin. The Czechs outshot the Russkies by almost a 2-1 margin, but only Jagr's line seems to be producing points these days. The Czechs have an amazing 4 Goals Against in 5 games, but only showed some offensive cohesion in their bombing of Slovakia.
Say what you want about the petulant Jaromir Jagr, he really is playing his heart out in this tournament. Despite a broken finger, Jagr has 5 points in 4 games and is showing the heart and leadership his coaches have been trying to coax out of him for years. Sure, David Vyborny is the team captain, but it's Jagr who's really counted on to lead the Czechs on the ice.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
How Swede It Isn't: Evil Triumphs Again!
Although the Canadians took a 2-0 lead and tied the game at 4 in the 3rd period, the Canucks looked like a team that had half a roster of out-of-game-shape players for most of the night. *sigh* I hope this disease will be cured in time for today's game versus Finland. Nash and Thornton looked great, once again, and showed why it's favourable to take players who have actually been PLAYING during the season. Unlike the game versus the Amerikaners, Martin Brodeur wasn't able to bail out his team with miracle saves (no surprise, there) . Right now, the Canadians are like Paris Hilton - They look pretty, but there isn't much to like underneath the surface.
Canada's defense was soft (especially Souray) and running around like headless chickens while Sweden peppered Martin Brodeur with 42 shots. Sweden, on the other hand, looked a lot more precise with their passing and defensive play. The Russian ref, Vyaecheslav BULANOV, was horrible for both sides. Maybe this guy should ref soccer for all of the weak dives he feel for...or was he taking bribes from the Swedes? Hmmm....
Brodeur or Luongo? There is some debate as to who should get the start versus Finland. Brodeur was excellent versus the USA, and then craptacular against the Latvians and rather 'blah' against Sweden. Luongo has shown, night after lonely night in the Florida suburbs, that he has the ability to make 40+ acrobatic saves behind a weak team and pull wins out of his goalie hat.
I would go with Luongo, of coure, but feel that goaltending isn't the biggest issue. Canada needs to seriously work on its defensive coverage and breakout attacks more than worry about the goaltending. If Canada shows no improvement in these areas versus Finland, than switching to Luongo would probably be a wise decision.
It was even uglier for the Slovaks as they were pounded 5-1 by the Czech jackhammer (No relation to Hamrlik). Jaromir Jagr fought through the pain of an injured pinkie to rack up 2 assists while Vokoun is showing that his play in Czechia was more of abherration than anything.
Slovak coach Frantisek Hossa is obviously a bit too senile...Rastislav Stana in goal over Jan Lasak? Stana bombed badly as he let in all five goals.
Jaroslav Obsut has joined the team (and went -2) as a replacement for the injured Ivan Majesky. Lubos Bartecko, fortunately, was able to shake off the injury from last game and remained in the lineup.
The Slovaks play the Swiss next, and it's time for some redemption.
"D'oh!! Not again...
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Bettman and Goodenow have a visit with Stanley
Gary is the short one on the left ;)
(photo from The Toronto Sun)
The Monster Nash - Part Deux
Victoria's Steve Nash, according to this ESPN.com release, will be named the National Basketball Associations MVP over Shaquille O'Neal - Only the 4th point guard to receive that honour.
Why do I even care?
Well, once upon a time, Vancouver used to have an NBA Basketball Team (The Vancouver Grizzlies). Although you'd be hard pressed to even know an NBA team once existed in this city (since people rarely ever talk about it), Steve Nash is as close to a 'local' product (Victoria is just a ferry ride away) as we've had enter the NBA, and he has a lot of fans here.
Any time fans ever talk about the old Grizzlies (maybe once a year), the same question pops up: "Would we still have basketball in Vancouver had the Grizzlies drafted Steve Nash?"
Of course, the Grizzlies declined to take the Division I product, who then went to Phoenix with the 15th overall pick in 1996. The Grizzlies chose Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a decent forward with the personality of cardboard, with the 3rd overall pick and refused to trade up from their 22nd overall pick...instead picking up Roy Rodgers (a guy who could catch a few rebounds and not much else).
Oh, what could have been...
Friday, May 06, 2005
World Championships: Doing the Monster Nash!!!
Rick "Monster" Nash had 2 goals and now has 6 goals and 2 assists in 3 WC games. Martin Brodeur, for perhaps the first time in his entire career, had to actually play the role of 'difference maker' as he made 34 of 35 saves and looked a lot sharper than he did against Latvia.
Writer James Mirtle thinks that Canada had it rather easy, but I'll have to disagree. Although the first two periods were relatively quiet, the Americans took advance of the Canadians' lack of discipline (such as Sheldon Souray shoving a player down right in front of the ref after the whistle had been blown) and peppered Brodeur with a barrage of shots.
James was also impressed with Dan Boyle, while I was impressed with American defenseman Andy Roach; A player I had championed in a post last year (#3 on the list). Roach had 6 shots in the game, and showed a glimpse of the offensive talent that killed Slovakia in last year's tournament.
Back to Rick Nash, who is just dominating this tournament... If there is a young player I'd want to build my team around, Nash is near the top of the list. In terms of players I'd want to watch, Nash is almost at the very top.
Watching him drive to the net like a bull, scoring goals with defenders hanging onto him for dear life, is a real treat. I know we have a similar player here in Vancouver in Todd Bertuzzi, but I could do without the prickly personality and propensity to flip out like a ninja.
After a pretty solid and balanced junior career, Rick Nash has really turned into a "Cy Young" goal scorer (which we haven't had since Petr Bondra's best days). Nash won the Rocket Richard Trophy with 41 goals in 2003-04, and then played the same role with Davos, this season, with Joe Thornton playing the role of Adam Oates. Nash had 27 goals in 44 games for Davos, and it's only a matter of time before Nash reaches the 50 goal mark whenever the NHL returns.
If Tim Kerr or Dino Ciccarelli could give Nash pointers on Power Play goal scoring, then perhaps a 60-goal season is in the cards!
Excuse the hyperbole, but it's been a while since I've actually been this excited about watching a player. Sidney Crosby just doesn't do it for me, yet, while Gilbert Brule and Phil Kessel *could* do that in the future...at least Nash has done it against the world's best.
Alan Adams profiles Nash a bit more in depth in this article.
And a laugh-out-loud quote from American Doug Weight: "He's a great player. The top three players now are him, Mike Modano and probably (Jaromir) Jagr, I think."
Ahh yes, the same Mike Modano that had a whopping 44 points in 76 games with a -21 rating in 2003-04, and didn't even play pro hockey this season.
Looking around the tournament, the Czechs have been doing a great job defensively, but have really done 'just enough' against teams in their rather weak pool. With 6 goals for and 1 goal against in 3 games, and Jaromir Jagr fighting through a broken finger, the Czechs look like they are trying to slow the game down as much as possible, which is strange given their highly talented roster.
Czech Coach Vladimir Ruzicka was a very offensive-minded player, which makes it rather strange to watch him coach with such an eye to defence. Of course, Ruzicka won gold in Nagano with the Czech team that won based on a 'trap-and-let-Hasek-save-our-butts' strategy...so he knows what works.
The tournament's most positive surprise? Evil Sweden! 15 goals for and just 3 against in 3 games...without Forsberg, Lidstrom, and Sundin.
I'm also giving a nod to the tough-as-nails Ukrainian squad. They went just 1-2, but fought hard every game and gave the bigger teams fits. A 5-8 GF-GA ratio is pretty good by Ukrainian standards.
On the flip side, the Germans have been shockingly bad with a 0-3 record and a 2-9 GF-GA ratio. The Germans are looking rather poor heading into the relegation round. It would be a shock to me to see them relegated, but they'll need to improve offensively (which is always their weakest area).
Looking ahead in the sked as we head to the next 'round'...the Americans play the Finns today in the premier matchup. Finland hasn't been too impressive, so look for the speedy Yanks to take this one.
On the 7th (Saturday), the Slovaks take on the Czechs in a much-anticipated matchup. Look for hordes of fans to make the trek to Austria to watch this game. After skipping the game versus the Kazakhs, Jaromir Jagr will play through his broken finger against the Slovaks.
Canada will take on Sweden, and hopefully our boys slay the evil Tre-Kronor beast.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
World Championships: Canada's First Midterm
As Lyle "Spector" Richardson points out, the poor American fans who care about hockey won't even get a chance to see that game unless they fork over $5 to watch it online.
...in Canada TSN is televising a game per day, even on days when Team Canada isn't competing. While this tournament likely won't create the same excitement for Canadians as the Stanley Cup playoffs, last fall's World Cup of Hockey or this past January's World Junior Hockey championship it should nevertheless provide Canadian hockey fans with a much needed fix.Unlike previous years, the Americans have a quality and exciting team to watch. The products of a revamped and much improved American National program are starting to blossom - Rick DiPietro, Brian Gionta, Ryan Suter, with phenom Phil Kessel and talented JP Parise not too far behind - yet the American fans will miss out in favour of Poker and NBA Basketball (zzzz.........)
If you needed more evidence as to how hockey has fallen off the radar of the American sports fan, look no further than the lack of coverage for this tournament.
You can read the IIHF/IWHC preview here.
Canada will count on a new version of the 'Grind Line' with Ryan Smyth joining Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper to shut down opposing forwards, while Dany Heatley is still looking for his first goal of the tourney.
Slovakia had one of those 'stat-padding' efforts yesterday as they beat the host Austrians 8-1.
I was actually a little nervous about Slovakia coming into this game. Slovakia has had a very poor record against poor teams in recent years. The Slovak players have tended to worry more about their individual stats rather than team play. This was so evident in their memorable loss to the HUNGARIAN team over a year ago. Slovakia may be considering one of the 'Power' teams, but they don't always play that way.
Two bits of 'bad' news for Slovakia
i. Lubos Bartecko had to be helped off the ice halfway through the second period, after twisting his right leg while being kneed by Austrian David Schuller. Bartecko took a shot off of his ankle in last year's tournament and watched it swell up like a pregnant Britney Spears, so he's had a run of bad luck at this thing. Expect Vladimir Orszagh to get more ice time in his absence.
ii. Zdeno Chara has had troubles with speedier forwards, according to my pal Daniel. Chara seems to be one of those rare Europeans that do much better on the smaller ice surface than the larger one. The big-ice acts an equilizer for the Slovak defence in that guys like Radoslav Suchy are better than they are in the NHL, while Chara isn't quite 'Norris' worthy when there is more room for the little people to escape from his reach.
Steroids at the World Hockey Championships:
The IIHF announced today that Ukrainian defenseman Oleksandr Pobyedonostsev has been disqualified from the 2005 IIHF World Championship due to a positive doping test. He becomes the second player to be sent home for steroid use.
Kinda makes you go 'hmmm.........'
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Rockets to dine on Wheaties
With 2 goals in the game, Lance Monych now had 17 goals in 19 playoff games. For the Raiders, Jeremy Colliton was a real playoff disappointment with 7 points in 17 playoff games.
I'm going to take the Wheat Kings over the Rockets in 6 games, simply out of spite ;)
Meanwhile, the WHL gave out their year-end awards and Wheat Kings forward Eric Fehr was the big winner as he was presented with the Player of the Year Award.
Smashmouth Flames prospect Dion Phaneuf beat Shea Weber for the Best Defenseman Award, while Jeff "Broken" Glass took home the Best Goaltender Award.
For the Giants, Gilbert Brule came home with the Scholastic Player of the Year Award, and the Giants won the team award in the same category. Congrats on being smart!
The Ontario Hockey League has changed the rules to allow the next phenom to enter their league at the age of 15! TSN STORY
Tavares is currently 14 years of age right now, and I wonder if he's just the fortunately recipient of a very early growth spurt like other 'latin' OHLers like Rico Fata and Mike Ricci. He is 6'1" and 175 pounds, so he shouldn't get pushed around unless he wants to be.
Tavares, a 14-year-old who turns 15 on Sept. 27, is a 1990-born prospect who is considered as good, if not better, than all the 1989-born prospects who are eligible for the draft. The OHL board of governors voted in favour of the amendment to the draft rules in a conference call at 2pm et. The Oshawa Generals have scheduled a news conference for 6pm et on Thursday, where it is expected they will formally announce Tavares as the first overall pick in Saturday's draft, which is conducted via the internet.Tavares had to go through quite a few steps to get this 'exceptional' tag, and I wonder where they will draw the line in the future.
Is he the next Sidney Crosby? When do we start hearing about the 10 year-old phenoms? In any event, we'll be hearing a lot more about Tavares in the future.
Really quiet morning (To us in the West) at the World Championships this morning. Slovakia currently leads Austria 4-0, as they should...meanwhile evil Sweden is surprising Finland by a 4-1 score and don't look too weak so far without their elite players.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
World Championships: Russland ist ein Schönest Land
Slovakia 3 - Russia 3
The Slovaks had the lead for most of the game, but were outshot 31-21 and eventually lost the lead on a goal by Viktor Kozlov.
"At least it wasn't a loss" seems to be the attitude of Slovak coach Frantisek Hossa.
"The first half of the game was ours and the second half belonged to the Russians, so I guess the tie is justice," said Slovak Head Coach Frantisek Hossa.Full marks for frankness, and zero marks for inspiring the troops. A little less 'ho-hum' mmm-k?
Russian coach Vladimir Krikunov was more fiesty with his post-game comments.
"The character of the team and their will to come back prove so-called experts wrong that we were not a real team, but a bunch of stars."I'm not sure which experts 'Creaky' is talking about, since Russia has fewer stars than ever.
Vitali Proshkin, Denis Denisov, Ivan Nepryaev, Vladimir Antipov, Alexander Ryazantsev, and Sergei Zvyagin aren't exactly household names outside of Russia. If there is a 'star-studded' roster in this tournament, it doesn't hail from Russia.
How do the Slovak fans feel? Read between the lines of Zdeno Chara's post-game quote:
"It was very hard to give up a goal in the final minutes when you've been defending the lead for almost the whole game," said Slovak defenseman Zdeno Chara. "But it's still a good result against a team like Russia."Translation: Just like at the World Cup, where we got our asses handed to us, we're sitting back and playing like a shy girl at her first school dance. It's amazing we didn't lose, considering how we're playing 'not-to-lose', rather than 'to win'.
Canada up 3-0 over Slovenia this morning after 1 period. My 9-0 prediction is 1/3 on the way to becoming reality. I know, I really went out on a limb :)
Over in the WHL, the finals are almost set. The Kelowna Rockets could make it 3 straight Memorial Cup appearances. The Rockets took out the Kootenay Ice in 6 games, and they await the winner of the Prince Albert Raiders/Brandon Wheat Kings Game 7 victor.
Looking at the Playoff scoring race, we can see the Wheat Kings powerful 1st line is carrying the team with the top 3 point totals.
Eric Fehr 18GP 14-14-28PTS
Ryan Stone 18GP 4-22-26PTS
Lance Monych 18GP 15-7-22PTS
When did toughster Ryan Stone become the 2nd coming of Adam Oates?
Another player I'd like to highlight is Slovakia's Martin Sagat (no relation to the Street Fighter Thai Boxer), another product of the Dukla Trencin hockey factory.
After being selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 3 (#91 overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Sagat came over to the WHL and has adapted very well to the tough defensive style of hockey that we have out west.
Sagat is a strong and tall winger, who works hard and dishes the puck effectively. While sparky Nigel Dawes gets the attention, Sagat actually led the Ice in playoff scoring with 8 goals and 14 assists in 16 games (4th overall in playoff scoring) while wearing the Alternate Captain's 'A'. Leafs fans should be pleased with the way Sagat transitioned himself to NHL-style hockey. Sagat can be a good 2nd or 3rd line winger in the NHL depending on how he continues to progress.