Monday, April 30, 2007

2007 Team Canada IIHF World Championships - Dion Phaneuf joins Team Canada

After Shea Weber was suspended, Steve Yzermen mentioned Team Canada had 'options,' including that of adding another player, but I must say, this is completely unexpected. At the Darryl Sutter non-press-conference conference, the radio analysts seemed to indicated Phaneuf turned Steve Yzerman down due to 'injuries.'

I suppose that postulation could still be true, but it appears Phaneuf was asked a second time and will be joining the team. No mention as to how soon he will slot into the lineup, but I would bet Team Canada is hoping Phaneuf will join the team for their upcoming game against the undefeated Slovakia, a team that is the current favorite to win.

Canada will now go with 8 defenceman, which leaves me wondering; who will be the odd man out?

For political reasons I would bet Cory Murphy, who has played very well, will be the 8th guy. In my opinion though, it is Dan Hamhuis who has been the most inconsistent for the team.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

2007 Team Canada IIHF World Championships - Making a Mark


About 6 seconds into his first shift in the World Championships, Shea Weber laid out Yannic Seidenberg with what I would characterize at best as a clothesline and at worst a forearm shiver to the head. After the hit, Lindros...I mean, Seidenberg, was so rocked he couldn't stand up straight. Although I don't mind Weber making his mark early on the tournament, he has to remember that the European officials are very very touchy about hits to the head. I'm not going to preach about Canada being a bunch of goons on the world stage, but quite honestly I'm sure it's a play that Weber wishes he could take back. In many ways he got off lightly with a 3 game suspension (IIHF president Rene Fasel initially proposed a 5 game suspension), but that doesn't alter the fact that Canada will have 3 less games to integrate a top defenceman into their lineup.

"I'm sure Shea regrets it," said Canadian coach Andy Murray. "But check his penalty minutes, we all know he's not that type of player."(Source)


"Obviously I was thinking about it all night," said Weber. "It's unfortunate. I'm going to serve it and hopefully come back and help out."
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I thought Canada's game against Germany went pretty well. The Germans showed a lot of heart to keep the game close, and I thought at times they carried the play. Albert Dwayne Roloson (players in this tournament are announced by the names on their passport, and apparently, Dwayne Roloson is actually Albert Dwayne Roloson...I'm sure his teammates will be very non-reactive to this peice of information) let in a soft second goal, a blast from the centre ice line, but was otherwise very good to spectacular. He made a particularly beautiful save on a shorthanded 2-1, a play that went the other way and eventually led to Jamal Mayers scoring the game winner, (his second of the evening).

Actually, the Chimera, Mayers, McClement line was one of the most effective of the night, they really used their speed and grit to cause the Germans to turn over the puck. Contrary to my prediction, Toews played on a line with Doan and Nash, who I thought provided a lot of good physicality and forechecking presence. It looks like it will be Jordan Staal who won the jackpot and will centre Doan and Nash for the game against Norway today.

And for those that remember how much I like Mike Commodore, here's a great story.

Friday, April 27, 2007

2007 Team Canada IIHF World Hockey Championships - Shane Doan named Captain Canada

As expected, Shane Doan has been named team captain, and Eric Brewer named permanent assistant captain. Hard to argue with those picks. (source)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

2007 Team Canada IIHF World Championship Roster - Disappoinments abound

The final 6 players named to round out Team Canada's roster are:
Colby Armstrong
Matthew Lombardi
Nick Shultz
Jonathan Toews
Chris Mason
Cory Murphy

The two most interesting of the group are Toews (the hero of this year's World Junior Championships for Canada) and Cory Murphy. Murphy played for a team in the Finnish Elite League, and although I don't know a lot about him, but I suspect he is no slouch. Prior to the start of Canada's exhibition game, Murphy was awarded the Top Defenceman Award for the Finnish Elite League. Canada has a history of adding Canadian born European players in this tournament, and oftentimes they serve as a very reassuring presence. They have a familiarity about the international game that NHLers seem to miss. Jamie Heward is a guy that played this role in the past, and he has actually used this tournament as a springboard to a legitimate NHL career (in fact, Murphy has just signed on with the Florida Panthers). Glen Metropolit is another player of that ilk.

Toews was a player added onto the 'practice roster' to fill in missing spots on the team, and obviously the coaches felt strongly enough about his pre-tournament play that he was added to the team. He was playing in between Nash and Doan and looked and that group apparently looked good in Canada's exhibition loss. Apperently, Chicago (Toews' NHL franchise) had been practically begging him to join the team at the end of the year. We shall see how he stacks up against NHLers I guess. I expect him to play on the 3rd/4th line.

Chris Mason is a bit of a coup for Canada. He played exceptionally well this season and last, and I think could play the number one role for Canada. As usual, Canada has an embarressment of riches in net, and I would be pretty comfortable with any of the three goalies starting. I would say Ward is the least likely starter because he had a bit of a sophmore slump and is the youngest, but I think they'll all be evaluated.

Nick Schultz is a veteran of this tournament, and I expect he'll play a 3rd pairing role with Mike Commodore.

Here's the projected lineup breakdown:

Nash - Cammaleri - Doan
Lombardi - Staal - Williams
Meyers - Chimera - McClement
Armstrong - Staal - Toews

Brewer - Jackman
Hamhuis - Weber
Schultz - Commodore
Murphy

Roloson
Mason
Ward

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Even though this Team Canada edition looks pretty good, I think there were a lot of disappointments in terms of players turning down Canada. While I can't name names because I don't know the specifics, there are a lot of guys, that, in my opinion, should be outright crossed off the list of 2010 Olympic hopefuls. Team Canada needs to be very explicit that if you want to be considered, you have to attend these smaller tournaments.

In an interview by Dan Tencer, Andy Murray expresses his disappointment:

"The reasons that you gave are not legitimate at all. We've got Shane Doan over here who left 4 children to come over here and he's represented Canada every time Canada's called. The fact that you can't give two weeks to your country makes me shake my head when we're talking about young players. You talk about risk of injury...aren't players supposed to be playing in April and May? I take a look at the Edmonton Oilers...let me tell you, every time you call the Oilers and you ask for a player the team supports it.

Other than a veteran player who has served Canada many times in these situations, there is no excuse. Unless you've got a bone sticking through the skin, I can't see there being an injury that would cause a player not to come...I recognize knee injuries and stuff that players have to have done, too. Some of the reasons we've been given just are not satisfactory." (Source)

Read the full interview here.

Canada's participation in the tournament starts April 28th at 6:15 MST on TSN. The full schedule can be found here.

Darryl Sutter Press Conference 2:00pm MST

GM Darryl Sutter will talk to the media on Wednesday and is expected to address the issue of whether or not Playfair will return. "It's Jimmy's first year and it's growing pains," forward Craig Conroy said. "Jimmy knows the team, he knows what's going on. I always thought he did a good job handling everybody." We will await the Sutter press conference. Apr. 25 - 8:09 am et


updates to come...

all quotes are paraphrased by myself

regarding Playfair: "The media singles people out, and that's not ok...since I got here, the mantra has been, 'just ok is not ok.'

regarding scoring woes one year ago: "We scored 40 more goals, so the media idea we didn't score enough was bullshit...it's about goals for/against and work ethic."

regarding Jarome Iginla contract extension: "We don't discuss contract negotiations publicly/with the media...July 1st, it goes both ways..."

regarding keeping Iginla and Kipprusoff: "I'll be perfectly honest, its been the speculation for a year, isn't it more about them being under contract and wanting to play here? ...you're isolating 1-2 players...you won't win...the team is what's most important."

regarding aquiring new players: "We have 16 players under contract for next year...quite frankly that's a lot...we''ll look at our guys, look at Omaha..."

regarding speed and skill: "We're above average on both and that's why we're a good hockey club."

regarding Dion: "He had a typical sophomore year. I think he had an outstanding rookie season and he had an outstanding year I think...he played 7 playoff games last year and 6 this year..."

regarding the year: "I'm not gonna say we had a good year I'm not gonna say we had a bad year. We had an ok year...(but ok isn't ok?)...of course, how else are you going to improve in this world?"

Certainly some cryptic comments from Darryl. He seems to be generally satisfied with his on ice personnel, but isn't happy with the overall results.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Team Canada World Championships 2007 - Captain Canada

Fans of the IIHF World Hockey Championships (regardless of the team I think) will recognize one conspicuously absent name: Ryan Smyth. Besides from last year, while the Oilers went deep into the playoffs and Team Canada underwent a youth movement, Ryan Smyth has been the one constant about Team Canada. Success has followed. From Smyth's inclusion 12 years ago in the World Junior Championship (Gold) to 2002 Salt Lake City, to 2003-2004 World Hockey Championships (Gold) and the World Cup of Hockey (1st), Smyth has made a respectable name for himself on the international stage. So much so he has been given the moniker of 'Captain Canada."

The question for Team Canada this year is 'who will fill that leadership void?'

Of the players named to the roster so far, I think one name sticks out above the rest: Shane Doan.


In 1995, a year after Ryan Smyth was drafted 6th overall by the Edmonton Oilers, the Oilers again had the 6th overall pick. When it was Glen Sather's turn The then named Northlands Colliseum chanted one name: Shane Doan! Shane Doan! The Halkirk Alberta native could've been an Edmonton Oiler.

Glen Sather went with a guy named Steve Kelley instead.

The Winnipeg Jets picked Shane Doan 7th overall in 1995, and he is the last remaining player from the Winnipeg days.

Shane Doan has played for Canada numerous times in the World Championships, starting in 1999 as a replacement for Eric Daze, and was part of the two Gold medals in 2003. As a kid he watched Gretzky pass it to Lemieux in 89 and dreamed of scoring one just like it. In 2004, he got his chance, scoring the winning goal in Canada's first and only World Cup victory.


Since that victory, Canada has fallen into a bit of a slump. Silver in the '05 Worlds, 5th in the 2006 Olympics, 4th in the '06 Worlds. Doan will get the chance to win again in '07.

While in previous World Championships Doan was the supporting player, this year he will be the veteran. And barring a big suprise, he will be named Captain Canada.

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There will be about 3 more forwards named to the team (possibly a 4th "reserve" forward) and 1-2 more defenceman. Canada needs one 1st-2nd liner, and 2 3rd line guys. I speculate that Brendan Morrow will be on the list of forwards for one main reason. Brendan Morrow is a 'bubble' player on Team Canada. He has participated in numerous World Championships and proven his mettle (played on a line with Dany Heatly and hit a guy so hard on the forecheck the guy had to leave the game and be hospitalized). Despite this, he's never quite made the 'A' team. He was a reserve forward in the World Cup of Hockey (along with Patrick Marleau) and didn't get to play in any games (save an exhibition). He unfortunately never made the 2006 Olympic team either. He's always close, but not quite. The World Championships on the other hand, is a proving ground for future Team Canada 'A' squad players. Morrow has successfully played a supporting role, but if he wants to make the bigs, he needs to play a central role.


If Morrow was named to the team, he would be a huge addition.

2007 Team Canada IIHF World Championship Roster Announcements / Heart of a Lion

Canada added superb defencemen Dan Hamhuis and Shea Weber to the roster last night. Although I never mentioned Hamhuis he really is a very very good top 4 guy, and Shea Weber, as I've mentioned his inclusion before, is just really spectacular. I think of him to be a lot like Dion Phaneuf (they were d-partners in the World Junior Championship), but a bit better positionally, minus the massive hits. They are definately both top choice guys for Steve Yzerman and Co., but I would say that their inclusion means Bouwmeester is definately out. Not having him and Crosby there is a huge blow to Team Canada.

Speaking of Dion Phaneuf, will he join the team? I'm sure he's on the list, but right now there are 5 defenceman on that team that are all used to significant ice time, so is there room for Dion? I would expect Canada adds a player more in the Andrew Ference vein.

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Well, it won't come as any suprise to those watching Flames games, but I got it on pretty good authority today that both of Rhettsky's shoulders are completely shot, and that he will seriously consider retirement in the off-season. I thought his performance throughout this post-season was exemplary considering his work load and health. It's not Warrener's fault the Flames didn't have any defensive depth, and I think overall he did a tremendous job. You can question Warrener's play all you want, but I think everyone can agree he has the heart of a lion.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Red Wings win Series 4-2

Well, I think first and foremost, you have to hand it to the Red Wings for their execution of their gameplan. I would say in every aspect of the game, they for the most part had their way with the Calgary Flames. 3 of the 4 lines were constant scoring threats and just general pains in the asses to play against. It's a bit of a lark to call the Cleary - Draper - Maltby line a '3rd line' because they were a true two-way force and arguably made the difference in the series. MVP for Detroit might have to go to Danny Cleary, I would say he was their best all around player in the series.

Mike Babcock in particular deserves kudos for imposing his will upon the Calgary Flames. If you want any more proof of the superiority of his in game systems (compared to Playfair's joke of a system) then simply look at the shots on net. While Calgary managed 129 shots in 6 games, Detroit managed to put 255 shots on Miikka Kipprusoff and Co. I think if you looked at possession times or in zone times, the results would be just as overwhelming.

I know this isn't really a coaching stat, but if I could find face % I think Detroit would show their domination once again.

All in all, Calgary's 'team game' came down to one thing: relying on the heroics of Kipprusoff. Otherwise, this wouldn't have even been a series, it would have been a Germany on France blitzkreig.

The good news for Calgary? Well, I would bet Amonte's done with the team. Same goes for McCarty who actually dressed for the warm up. Most importantly: I think Playfair got his chance, and he showed how embarresingly antiquated his coaching techniques were. Someone suggested to me he might 'step down/resign' to save face, but I just hope he's gone. Can I get an amen?

Kelly Hrudey and Craig Simpson



After announcing that Jamie Mclennan received a 5 game suspension, both of the aforementioned men were quick to say the punishment was overly severe (and this coming from a man, Hrudey, who recently told me at a Q&A session that he wished the NHL would start handing out much more severe disciplinary sentences to players and coaches). Craig Simpson said that watching the action live, it looked like Jamie really smoked Franzen, but upon review of the play, it was obviously not a serious slash. (Franzen himself confirmed this when he acknowledged he was more surprised than hurt. So surprised in fact, he fell to the ground for several minutes while Detroit trainers evaluated his psychological well being...). I don't really blame Franzen for hamming it up, it was his best option to help his team at that point. But let's call this what it is: the league over-reacting because the game was broadcast for a nationally televised American audience.


Like I mentioned in my last post, Turco got 2 games for knocking out a few of Smytty's teeth with his stick. Trust me, that was a far more brutal play. The league disciplinarian remains the same, so what changed? I'll let that question hang.



As for Daymond Langkow and Jarome Iginla, Hrudey and Simpson both agreed no further discipline was necessary. In fact BOTH men were quick to condone the actions of Jarome Iginla, and remarked that his play was remarkably similar to another dirty but great hockey player: Mark Messier (Jarome Iginla's boyhood hero).



Hrudey suggested to Simpson that whenever the Oilers were out of an important game in the Moose days, Messier would take it upon himself to go out there and send a message to the other team, a message that said if you want to beat us, you will have to pay the price.



To say that either of these men (especially Craig Simpson) have anything to gain by defending Iginla or the Flames would be a lark.



Craig Simpson and Kelly Hrudey: Classless? Dinosaurs? Embarrassments?



Ex-NHLers?

When it rains...

Well, not only did the Flames get blown out today, but Sidney Crosby officially declined to play for Team Canada at the 2007 IIHF World Hockey Championship. Incredibly disappointing for the team, but also understandable.

Remember how badly Dion Phaneuf played with a broken foot against Anaheim in the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs. Remember how badly Chris Pronger played with a broken foot in the 2006 Olympics in Turin/Torino?

Sidney Crosby was arguably the best player on the ice for BOTH teams in that series.

Dear lord, imagine him healthy.

He will be sorely missed by Team Canada, but as expected, Jordan Staal has accepted the invitation and will join his brother Eric. I'm not sure how well he could handle added ice time, but I wouldn't mind seeing the two play together on a regular shift. Interestingly enough, the last time Canada iced a brother tandem (Rob and Scott Neidermeyer) they won Gold (2004).

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To give the Flames credit, they didn't get totally embarressed in the first period. They kept the game tight and could just as easily have gone into the intermission ahead as tied (or behind as well). But give full marks to a Detroit team that simply elevated their game.

Hell, props to Danny Cleary for getting back up. A hell of a game for the newfie (I say that term with affection for all my newf readers), and actually, a hell of a series for the guy. He's made an impact in every game so far, and his contributions may end up being the difference in the series.

Regarding Calgary's goonery. Well, I wholehartedly support it. I know I may be a dinosaur in terms of my opinion, but sometimes a team just has to do things like that. It's something that happens in every level of hockey, and it is not 'suprising' as my boy Pierre and the other NBC commentators tried to sell it.

It was interesting comparing the coverage of the game from the NBC crew (selling it primarily to Detroit fans and an American public thats pretty ignorant) and the CBC crew (selling it to primarily a Calgary crowd). The NBC crew tried to downplay the violence as dispicable, dire, and unmotivated by Detroit. The CBC crew tried to sell it as having utility and perhaps being a necessary evil. Of course, which side you agree with will probably depend on which team you cheer for.

Just a couple thoughts on the various incidents though:

Daymond Langkow - Good for you. I thought the hit you took was by far the most intentionally dirty play of the series, and perhaps post season (Burrows slash aside). You weren't near the puck, weren't expecting a hit, and definatley weren't expecting to get clipped on the knees. The irony is that your little sucker punch didn't do nearly as much damage as the boards did to the Detroit player's knee. That looked bad.

Jarome Iginla - Pierre asked what you were doing killing off a 5-3 with only a couple minutes to go, but I knew. You were there to start shit, and you did. I have no doubt that you gave Schneider a bit of a butt end, but it was a love tap. And yes, you deserved a penalty for that AND the crosscheck, but lets face it, the physics of that crosscheck were all wrong for him to fall that way. Another embellishment, but thats ok, you had to do what you had to do, and he had to do what he had to do.

Jamie McLennan - what more can be said? Obviously you were told to go raise some hell, I think you were trying to create room for Kipper, and quite honestly, I thought you gave Franzen a love tap. I saw Smytty get a real two hander from Turco to the FACE and he got two games, so either he got a severe underpunishment or you got an overpunishment. It really doesn't matter either way because you did your job and I'm sure the team is proud of you. Oh, and Don Cherry and the rest of Canada saw you take the jab to the neck which was a cheap shot too, so we know you were at least moderately provoked.

Marcus Nilson - well Pierre said you were unprovoked when you went after Drapes but we all saw the flying elbow he threw at you and missed, so I totally understand what you were doing. Hell, I would have done the same.

Other notes:
Kristian Huselius - your hands have turned to stone at the worst possible time.
Alex Tanguay - could you PLEASE stop taking offensive zone penalties? It's really a problem.
Rhett Warrener - hang on buddy, I hear your new hip is coming in soon!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Game 5 - The Man, The Legend

The Legend:

He haunts the dreams of Red Wings' shooters. He has to. Calgary has been outplayed for arguably 4 straight games, or at least 9/12 or so periods. But in only one game were they totally out of it by the third, and two of those games they won. Almost the sole reason for the Flames success lies between the pipes. The Finnish Wonder, the Mad Puck Theif. Kipper.

His save percentage is only 5th in the league in this playoff season, but he's behind Giguere (who has only played a couple games and whose team dominated their opponents), Luongo and Turco (both of whom have not faced many quality shots due to their teams' defensive play) and Lundqvist (whose team ran roughshod over their first round opponents). Kipper has also made significantly more saves/minute on the ice, making a save about .63/minute. Luongo and Turco have been much less busy, making only about .46 and .43/minute respectively. Lundqvist and Giguere? Well they aren't even close.

The Man:

As good as Kipper is, he's beatable. His goals against average is 2.75, 12th among playoff goalies. Even though thats mostly due to his team's ineptitude, it is what is is. Kipper has the burden of dealing with his team, and the Detroit Red Wings get the priviledge of dealing with his team.

He hasn't won often on the road this season, and not at all in this playoff series. Although he played heroically in Detroit, he still lost. The Red Wings know they can score on him, and they know they can beat him.

And Kipper has been known to have a bad game every once in a while. It happens to all great players, to think it won't is unrealistic.

Can the Flames ride out a bad game by Kipper? Can the Flames win on the road? Game 5 of this series will probably end up being the deciding game. If the Flames can steal today's game, they should be able to finish the series off in Game 6. Lose, and don't be suprised if Detroit steals the next one in the 'Dome. A lot is riding on this game, in all liklihood, it is the series.

One final thought: We will not see the Flames from game 1 & 2 at the Joe Louis. It will be a different team. That is my expectation anyway.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Team Canada 2007 World Championships - Shitsburgh's loss...

Now that the Penguins are officially eliminated from 2007 playoff contention, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal will be asked if they are able and willing to join their national brethren and play for Canada in the 2007 IIHF World Hockey Championships. Their addition would be a huge boon for a team that has lately been lagging in their recruitment. While the 4th line has been solidified with Jamal Mayers, Jason Chimera and Jay McClement, the team hasn't yet filled out its top two lines.

Still no word on Jay Bouwmeester, but there are a couple of defenceman whose teams are still in the playoffs who will probably be asked to play if eliminated.

If Calgary is elimated, expect Dion Phaneuf to get asked.

From the Dallas/Vancouver series, Phillipe Boucher, Stephane Robidas, and Kevin Bieksa.

Nashville/SJ, Marc Edouard Vlasic, Shea Weber

Brent Burns will probably be asked from the Wild (just eliminated tonight as well). Also from the Wild, Pierre Marc Bouchard is a possible candidate on forward, but he might not get asked simply because the top two lines are nearly full, and he's not playing on the third.

The Eastern teams still battling don't have many candidates, as mentioned in an earlier post, Dan Boyle is probably one of the only who could still be looked at. MA Bergeron has a wildcard chance simply because of his bomb on the PP and his recent point explosion, but it's pretty unlikely.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings Game 3 Post Game

Just overall a wierd time at the 'Dome. The place was rocking 10 minutes before puck drop, and it was a lot more raucus then I thought it would be. I don't know if the TV michs picked it up, but the speakers (I assume) went crazy in the third and started emitting a very low frequency pulse; it sounded like there were several helicopters circling the building. Eventually the speakers started making a ringing sound, as if it was a fire alarm. These wierd sounds lasted at least 10 minutes, and I must say, they really added to the tension in the game. To tell you the truth, I didn't think Calgary had what it took to come back. Dion looked hurt, the Flames looked dejected. For the Red Wing readers, THAT was the good Flames that had (have?) at least a chance to win the series.

For the rest of the game story, just read this post of mine. Looks like all of us got our wish. Apologies to any of the Flames blogs I missed who may have mentioned it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Drastic Times / Odds and Ends

WI has found an article by my fave, Bob McKenzie, who says the Flames should consider putting Sutter behind the bench for Game 3. It's not a crazy or stupid idea, but the same thing happened to Darryl last year, just slightly less drastically. By Game 7 of the Flames/Ducks series, Calgary was getting dominated by Anaheim's puck possession system and the season ended without so much as a whimper from the Flames.

This is not to say I don't support firing Playfair, because I do (as any regular reader knows). But at this point in the season, the Flames have run out of viable alternatives. But who knows, assuming the Flames do fire Playfair (which they won't), Darry does have some advantageous powers of motivation.

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I've been watching the Pens/Sens series with great interest this year, and it's been a perfect example of everything great about the playoffs. Back and forth leads, individual efforts, big hits...and best of all, Sidney Crosby is making his detractors look like fools. If Pittsburgh wins at all this series (2-1 Sens so far), it'll be because he and Gary Roberts are carrying the team on their shoulders. And except for a couple bad calls, the Pens could be winning this series.

In Game 1, Crosby was slapped with a VERY mediocre 'hooking' penalty, and on that PP, the Sens scored. Just before that, Crosby put the puck in the net, and it was discounted as a 'kick in' goal. Another debatable call. That 2 goal swing made the difference, as the Sens won 6-3.

Game 3, the Sens are up 2-1. As Roberts and Spezza are mutually tangling with each other, Crosby rushes into the Sens defensive zone and out muscles Joe Corvo for the puck, drives back out front and puts the puck past Emery (who clearly believes the play is still live). The whistle goes just before Crosby puts the puck in, and it was a genuine non-goal, but no one in the play (Crosby, Corvo, Emery) knew the play was over.

The Sens score the next 2 goals and put the game out of reach. Of course, on the 4th goal, the Sens are blatantly off-side (caught by my eagle eyed friend and stop-motion reviewed by the both of us). In other words, another 2 goal swing for the Sens.

In my opinion, this series isn't quite over.

Just as an aside, hats off to Penguins fans who felt the need to BOO the Canadian National anthem. The sorriest bunch of fans in the league prove once again why they don't deserve a franchise.

Tanguay/Yelle/Amonte/Playfair

Pavel Datsyuk puts in his second in as many games, just 1:02 into the 1st



Tanguay: about 1 minute into the game the puck comes to Tanguay on the boards. He mishandles it in his skates, Datsyuk steals it and scores. (01:02 in 1st) Detroit 1, Calgary 0



Yelle: Flames are down 3-5 and Kiprusoff makes one of his48 saves. Yelle gets the puck in the slot and has time to get it out. Insteading of putting it to the boards, or shooting it hard out, he fans the puck straight to Schneider, who passes it to Lidstrom. (PPG, 03:50 in 1st) Detroit 2, Calgary 0



Amonte: Calgary has miraculously put themselves within 1. Kristian Huselius gives Tony Amonte a beauty cross ice pass, and Tony has a wide open net. Tony fans on the pass reception/shot, the puck goes back to the blue line. David Hale makes an ill advised pinch and it becomes a 2-1. Huselius tries to catch up but is clearly gassed on the play. David Hale plays spectator and Huselius' man fires in the goal. (06:05 in 3rd)



Playfair: Mike Babcock is exposing Playfair's embarresingly bad system with a simple puck possession one. Wings get 51 shots on net, many quality. Calgary ties a team record for shots for futility, pointing only 15 at Hasek. (The only good news is that of the 5 games Calgary put only 15 shots on net, 1 was against Montreal in 1986, and one was against Vancouver in 1989.)



That's all you need to know for the game story. Oh ya, and Regehr looks doubtful for game 3.

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings Game 2 - Pregame

Just a couple quick thoughts before the game:

A friend of mine related a story about his mom: 'She asked me if I thought things would work out better if she stayed home and watched the game or went to church and prayed for the Flames.'

I think just about everything you need to know about the game can be figured out from that question. While I think MG was right to not be suprised at the Flames' lackluster performance, it's still hard for all of us to believe the team was that poorly prepared. While the mood around Calgary has been subdued, most fans still believe the Flames have time to come back. And there is good news for Calgary fans: Robyn Regehr will play.

I know this hasn't been confirmed yet, but I have it on a pretty respectable authority that Robyn will play come hell or high water. He will not be 100%.

The other confirmed personelle change is that Jeff Friesen will be in, while Byron Ritchie will sit out. Not sure I can call this a true upgrade, as Ritchie was one of the few Flames playing with a spark on Thursday. On the other hand, I have mentioned lately that Friesen has been playing better, and if he can continue his chemistry with Yelle and Nilson, then it could give the team a bit of a jump.

The other personelle change I'd like to see is the insertion of Mark Giordano into the lineup. I mentioned he could be a game breaker for the Flames, and MG and Duncan appear to agree.

It's Sunday. Time to pray.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Team Canada World Championship 2007 - Roster Announcements



TSN has finally confirmed the presence of the Carolina foursome (Ward, Staal, Wiliams, Commodore) and has now confirmed that Jason Chimera and Jamal Meyers will join the team, along with Barret Jackman (who has been rumoured to have accepted around 2 weeks ago).

Barret Jackman's acceptance is probably the best news of this group, but I'm still a bit suprised (and am starting to get concerened) that nothing has been mentioned about Jay Bouwmeester. However, these roster announcements have been in the works for a while, so someone like Jay could be going through some medicals or something and confirming he's healthy before he's officially announced as part of this team.
Team Canada 2007
Doan - Staal - Nash
Williams - Cammalleri -
---
Chimera- Meyers
Brewer - Jackman
--
Commodore
Roloson
Ward

Friday, April 13, 2007

Blood From a Stone

You know, I'm grasping at straws here, but the one positive that can be pulled from that 'game' (game in quotation marks, because is it really a game if only one team shows up? Technically a forfeit isn't it?) is that the Flames can no longer look themself in the mirror and give some extraneous excuse to losing.

Mick was up to his old tricks, but it thankfully didn't have any real bareing on the game.

The Flames can't argue it was bounces, even though there were a couple lucky ones that went Detroit's way.

No, simply put, the Flames got brutally outplayed. MG, DD and Duncan have already covered it, but that game was just overall a terrible effort - to all the relatively new Detroit readers: we told you there were two Calgary teams, and you just got a taste of the version of the Flames that never learned to read. I'll have more to say before next game.

Oh, and if any readers get some bad headlines, feel free to post them in the comments so we can all gaze upon the copy editor's sheer laziness.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bad Headlines & other misc



Before the Flames games start, I'm just going to declare how much I hate the playoffs, or more specifically, playoff headlines. They're just so stupid, and they come up every year for every series. For instance, the Flames/Wings series has a lot of opportunity for stupid puns. Calgary newspapers will declare things like 'Flames cook Hot Wings!' or 'Red Wings Soar over Flames' or stupid shit like that.

In the Flames/Ducks and Oilers/Ducks last year there was a lot of stupid crap like 'Time for Duck Soup!' or 'Duck Hunting!' or the like.

Now it sounds like the Wings have some stupid thing called the Red Wave which is some sort of colour scheme akin to the 'C of Red' (which I actually find quite clever actually). Honestly, it's pathetic the way teams are trying to copy traditions like the 'white-out' in Vancouver and the 'C of red' in Calgary with crappy marketing driven traditions. And this so called 'wave' will probably end up looking bad anyway, as sell outs in Detroit are not even close to a guarantee.

Anyway, just some pre-post game day headline ranting.

Ok, this just in from Open Ice Hits, Mick is reffing tonight's game. For god's sake. DAMN YOU SCARLETT!

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Pre Series Analysis final

Unsung Heroes – to preface this section, I wanted to take into account guys that do a really nice job every night but in general aren’t taken into consideration the same way guys like Iginla or Lidstrom might be. These are the ‘Fernando Pisanis’ of the playoffs, or at least, the potential ones.

Calgary

David Moss – first and foremost among the Calgary group. Everyone in Calgary likes Moss, but I don’t think they realize how consistent he is. He’s a 3rd line guy, but his garbage game plays really nice with Huselius and Langkow, and maybe more than anyone else on Calgary, plays a ‘playoff style’ game all year round.

Mark Giordano – Marc has been in and out of the Calgary lineup this year, but he really should be a regular. Remember ‘The Doors’ combo of Montador and Commodore of ’04? This guy could have the same type of impact, and you cannot overestimate the importance of having a reliable 3rd pairing defensive guy. Especially one that teases you with his two-way play.

Matthew Lombardi – Everyone knows Lombardi has had a decent year, but it seems as if he’s a constant whipping boy for the coaching staff (note his benching for one off game). In fact, Matthew has been one of Calgary’s most consistent guys this year. He creates a lot of chances single handily and has the potential to break a game wide open with his speed.

Robyn Regehr – While Dion Phanuef and Brad Stuart grab the headlines, Regehr puts his head down and quietly dominates. Robyn has been taken to task for his play this year, but the fact remains Robyn managed to amass the team’s most impressive +/- (+27) playing with a slew of under performing partners. He’s always willing to finish his checks, and last year he saved his top offensive performances for the playoffs.

Detroit

Tomas Holmstrom – Sure, he’s heralded, but right now he’s playing at least 4th or 5th fiddle behind Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Bertuzzi, Hasek, and maybe even Lang. Holmstrom just keeps doing what he does, over and over and over. 1st or 2nd in the league in terms of skill in front of the net.

Kris Draper – I think Drapes is just one of those guys, like Stephane Yelle, that has been around for so long people forget the level at which he can (or is capable of) contribute. He hasn’t yet matched his 24 goal year of a few, but his penalty killing ability, his speed, and his tenacity make him a constant threat.

Johan Franzen – although I confess I don’t know a lot about this guy, they really seem to like him over at Abel to Yzerman. Something to the effect of, if you don’t know his name now, you will by the end of the series.

Dan Cleary – As I mentioned before, Cleary was a nice rescue operation for Detroit. He has a lot of skill, and Detroit has the type of depth that the pressure on Cleary is somewhat minimal. He’ll be going up against soft D-pairings at times, so his secondary (or tertiary) scoring ability could be the difference in this series.

Edge: Even

It’s a pretty even contest here, as I like all the guys I mentioned. The main difference between the two groups is that from Calgary there are a lot of younger guys who we don’t really know what we’re going to see from. From Detroit, we can probably guess pretty accurately what we’ll see from the players mentioned, and what we’ll see is very good, but maybe only slightly above average play. I think the guys from Calgary could have a higher top end.


Conclusion

It’s a bit of a shame I couldn’t get into the special teams analysis, or get to some other intangibles like home vs. away advantages, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get it all done.

When all is said and done, this series is going to depend mostly on which Calgary team shows up. Detroit has been very consistent, we know what Detroit we’ll see, and they’re a very good team. But in my opinion, when Calgary gets its motor going, there aren’t a lot of teams that can hang with them. Unfortunately for Flames fans, Calgary rarely gets its motor going. Sometimes though the playoffs really are a new season, and this could be just the motivation Calgary needs to play at their peak.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Pre Series Analysis cont

Forwards
Calgary
For the first time since Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Theo Fleury and Lanny MacDonald played together, the forward group is Calgary's true strong point. From top to bottom, Calgary only has one or two real weaknesses (which I will get to later) while they have many many strengths. On the top line, Jarome Iginla is on his best PP/G season, and in my opinion, is playing the most effective hockey of his career. With him is his best buddy Craig Conroy, who has been somewhat of a revelation since he returned from La La Land. He's been very steady (that gaffe in SJ aside) and is on a near point a game pace. On the other side is the sublime Alex Tanguay, who reminds me a lot of Ales Hemsky. Sometimes you want to scream at him to shoot the puck, but most of the time he's just making really superb offensive decisions. Tanguay's biggest problem is that he's a bit prone to taking bad penalties, so the first year Flame will have to stay disciplined.

On the second line we have Daymond Langkow at centre. While early on in the year Daymond couldn't score to save his life, he came alive in November and continued on a torrid pace until now, netting 33 in the process. His winger is Kristian Huselius who is arguably the best puckhandler and pure goal scorer in the NHL (19.65 shooting percentage). Watching him is dizzying - he single handidly runs Calgary's PP, freezing opposition players with his moves and then drilling the puck in. MG mentions Huselius' PP prowess in his pre-series analysis as well, and I think it's a point the Detroit coaches will need to take home to shut down Calgary. The third member of this potent second line has varied from Matthew Lombardi to David Moss. They both play nice complimentary roles: Lombardi provides the line with top notch speed and a devastating forecheck, while David Moss is a true grinder. He goes into the ugly areas to get the puck and he loves scoring the ugly goal.

Calgary's third line has come alive in the last 10 games. Defensive specialists Stephane Yelle (king of blocking shots) and Marcus Nilson (who Calgary sorely missed in last year's playoffs) have been paired with Jeff Friesen or Tony Amonte. It's hard to say who has been the bigger disappointment for Calgary, but have had very low expectations, and both have actually played below expectations. But for whatever reason, Jeff Friesen's play has been steadily improving since late December-early January, and now is a positive force on the team. Tony Amonte is probably Calgary's worst player - he's mediocre defensively and he's lost any touch he ever had around the net. A friend of mine has coined a statistic that applies only to Amonte - SAG (shots at goal). This refers to the fact Amonte almost always misses the net.

Calgary's fourth line is a bit of a jumble right now. Wayne Primeau has been the oft-centreman of this line, and his physicality is something this team sorely needs up front. He's been joined by a bunch of wingers: Tony Amonte (spoken about already) whose true place IS on the 4th line, Byron Ritchie, who has had a very respectable season and who probably deserves more ice time (but who many speculate is hurt). Darren McCarty, the former Red Wing (and Wing fan favourite) has been hurt with a 'groin' problem for most of the season, but last year saved his best for the playoffs. He appears to be ready to go and could be a nice energy guy on this line. Eric Godard is Calgary's enforcer, and while he has limited hockey skills, he KO'd Derek Booguard, and if utilized will keep Detroit's players guessing.

In terms of weaknesses, Calgary has two, both of which I have touched upon already. Tony Amonte is one, and Calgary's best chance is to hide him on the 4th line. Calgary's lack of physical forwards is #2. While Primeau has been consistent, the rest of the Calgary forwards have been pretty much MIA. If Calgary is to beat Detroit, this trend must be reversed. Jarome has to throw his weight around, same goes for Langkow and Moss. The third line doesn't have to hit, but they must pester. Finally, Darren McCarty and Wayne Primeau can only play one way to be effective, and that way is physical.

Detroit
I can't analyze the Detroit forward with the same depth as the Flames forwards simply because I'm not as familiar with them. However, there are some key players who I think will be difference makers in the series. This list starts first and foremost with Henrik Zetterberg. In my opinion he was the most consistent Red Wing in the playoffs last year, he lead the team in goals this year and will have to be a top 3 player for Detroit to win. His health is questionable though, and although it sounds as if he will start on Thursday, one has to wonder if he is truly game shape ready. Second on the list is Pavel Datsyuk, the best regular season player Detroit has. I say regular season for the well publicized fact that Datsyuk has so far not been able to keep his game together in the playoffs. He has the reputation of being soft, and if Detroit is going to win this series, Datsyuk must be a positive factor.

On the second line, Robert Lang only had a so so season, and Todd Bertuzzi has been shuttled in to help get that second line going. Whether you love or hate Bertuzzi, he has been a Flame killer in the past. There have been many a game against Vancouver in the past that Bertuzzi has used to mesmorize Flames defence with his strength and puck handling skills and almost singlehandidly beat us. Bertuzzi's health is a question mark as well though, and although he won't be expected to carry the team as he was in Vancouver, every game that he doesn't perform he will be put even further under the microscope. The pressure could definately get to him. As always, Tomas Holmstrom will be standing in front of Kipper tipping pucks past him. He will score in this series, its only a matter of time.

When Daniel (Danny) Cleary played for Edmonton my friends and I would joke that he would only get going if the stadium music guy played some Celtic jig music, but the fact is that Cleary has been a nice little rescue project for the Red Wings. His second half has been extremely mediocre, but he could provide some secondary scoring for Detroit in this series. Kyle Calder has had a statistically terrible season, but he looked alright last year in the World Championships. I wouldn't expect a lot out of him though.

Of course we are going to see Maltby pestering anyone he can get his hands on, his stickwork matched only by his mouth. As always Kris Draper will be killing penalties, dishing out hits, and occasionally, scoring.

A couple of notables that are question marks to me are Mikael Samuelsson who got off to a roaring start last season but has cooled off considerably since, and Johan Franzen, a guy who Detroit blogs have been raving about.

Edge: Calgary
The Flames in my opinion have more depth and more proven guys, including the best forward in the series: Jarome Iginla. The Red Wings, although potentially very dangerous, have a lot of question marks. If those question marks are answered, Detroit could regain the edge.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Pre Series Analysis cont.

Coaching
Flames

I'll keep this short and sweet. Regulars to this blog know I'm not a Playfair fan. I think he's been unable to recognize and utilize this team's strengths, I think he's made very questionable personelle decisions (Amonte ice time, Giordano scratching, etc) and he hasn't seemed to be able to motivate the troops. While I think motivating players shouldn't be a job left up to the coaches (good players are self motivated), it seems odd that every time Darryl Sutter makes a dressing room appearance the whole team seems to snap out of their funk and play well. It says to me that Playfair is missing something Sutter has. I'm honestly not really sure Playfair has any particular strengths, although whether due to Playfair or not, the Flames had a great PP in the regular season.


Detroit
Just as regular readers know I'm not a Playfair fan, they also know I am a true Babcock fan. I love his demeanor (when asked about his PP after a game last season, which had failed to convert that game, he remarked: (paraphrased) "The PP? Oh ya, what are we ranked in the league? Number 1? Thanks, next question." He guided the Ducks to within a couple goals of the Stanley Cup. If you say he rode Giguere's tail, I say he identified his team's strength and exploited it. He has won Gold medals coaching Team Canada in 1997 and 2004. He has found a way to keep this team winning despite breaking in newer players and dealing with older ones. I will say though, Babcock got outcoached by Craig MacTavish in the first round last year.

Edge: Detroit
Babcock has more experience, has his team playing more consistent, and his team plays a style that compliments their strengths. We'll have to see if Playfair has any tricks under his sleeve, because regular season aside, he'll be remembered a lot more favourably if he can win a playoff round.

next up: Forwards, unsung heroes

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Pre Series Analysis cont.

Defence
Calgary

The last time the Flames faced Detroit in the playoffs, it was their defensive group that was their strongpoint. Not so anymore. Their are mighty holes in this group, despite their 'brand name' and high draft pick status. Andrei Zyuzin is incredibly inconsistent, even if his play has improved lately, Rhett Warrener, although a tremendous leader, has simply seemed too injured this season to make a difference. Brad Stuart, although physical, seems unable to pick his spots effectively, and his offensive side was highly overrated. Dion Phaneuf has been inconsistent this year, and his biggest weak point has been his defensive zone positioning. I still believe our brightest spots have been the emergence of Marc Giordano as a legitimate two way threat, David Hale as an unheralded defensive stalwart (although small sample of games played), and Robyn Regehr who I think has played very well considering the partners he's been given. Roman Hamrlik has shown he can either be very good or very bad.

That said, I fully expect Dion to explode in the playoffs. His pedegree is that of a big game player, and I was very relieved post playoffs last season to find out he was hobbled by a broken foot. Even Chris Pronger looked bad with a broken foot. Warrener I think will fall into this category. He's been hobbled all year but I suspect he won't play hobbled in the playoffs, I think he'll find a way to be better. Robyn Regehr has consistently saved his best for the playoffs (and other big games, ie World Cup).


Detroit
Detroit has the best overall defenceman of this series in Nick Lidstrom. He has been the pillar of consistency in all 3 zones his whole career, and he was arguably the best player for Detroit last year. Mathieu Schneider has got some very good offensive chops, and I think he's improved his overall defensive play since he got to Detroit. Danny Markov has shown he can dish out the big hit (Jarret Stoll anyone?). Detroit's last top 4 guy, Niklas Kronwall (pronounced Kronvall), at one point hailed as a 'mini-Lidstrom' guy, is out for the conceivable future, and that puts a big hole in the top 4. Detroit has a couple of options to go with to fill that hole, but judging from TOI, they've decided to go with their own (older and less injury prone) version of Rhett Warrener: Chris Chelios. I think this is a huge hole in Detroit's defence. While fans rave about Chelios' longevity, the fact is he is not very effective anymore. He gets beaten on the outside more often than a top 4 guy should, and the rest of his game is pretty basic at best. Although he scored a goal against Edmonton in the playoffs last year, his biggest contribution was diving at every chance he got. Andreas Lilja and Brett Lebda round out the top 6, and they both play about 15 minutes/game. Lebda in particular has made pretty good use of his ice time, garnering a +16 (3rd on the defence) and 18 pts.


Edge: Detroit

There is a caveat I must put in with my decision, and that is: it depends on a)which defensive group the Flames ice, and b)if the Flames defensive group deals out a liberal serving of physicality. If the Flames are willing to play Giordano and Hale in place of Zyuzin or an injured Warrener, it could make a huge difference. Those two in particular play a nice complimentary role to eachother, and they're both easily capable of 15 minutes/night. In addition, I think top to bottom the Flames defence CAN be more physical. We haven't seen a lot of it this year, but Brad Stuart is pretty consistent, Regehr loves to finish behind the net, Hamrlik can play it tough, Warrener put out Fedoruk last year with a massive hipcheck, and Dion, well, Dion is Dion.

The Wings on the other hand, get an added boost from a superior defensive puck posession system. Their biggest advantage may come from the fact Robyn Regehr is questionable for game 1, and even if he plays, he's probably going to be playing hurt.
Still up: Forwards, coaching, unsung heroes,

Monday, April 09, 2007

Un-F'in-Believable

A list of officials who made the playoffs:

Referees:

Paul Devorski
Eric Furlatt
Mike Hasenfratz
Dave Jackson
Marc Joannette
Don Koharski
Dennis LaRue
Mike Leggo
Dan Marouelli
Wes McCauley
Bill McCreary
Mick McGeough
Dan O'Halloran
Dan O'Rourke
Tim Peel
Kevin Pollock
Rob Shick
Kelly Sutherland
Don Van Massenhoven
Brad Watson

Linesemen:

Derek Amell
Steve Barton
Lonnie Cameron
Pierre Champoux
Mike Cvik
Greg Devorski
Scott Driscoll
Shane Heyer
Brad Kovachik
Brad Lazarowich
Steve Miller
Jean Morin
Brian Murphy
Derek Nanson
Thor Nelson
Tim Nowak
Pierre Racicot
Dan Schachte
Jay Sharrers
Mark Wheler

(Source)

May the gods of hockey have mercy on whatever series that man presides over.

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Pre Series Analysis

Expectations
Calgary
Two seasons ago, Flames fans were happy as hell just to make the playoffs, but this is no longer the case. After that magical run to the final, making the playoffs is no longer a lofty goal, and Flames fans expect at least a single series victory. Given the makeup of talent on the current edition of the Flames, anything less than a series victory would be a total disaster, and I think not only would fans agree with this, the players inside the dressing room would be on board as well.

Detroit
Making the playoffs is now such old hat in Detroit that its touch and go whether they'll actually sell Joe Louis out. I'm sure
Hockeytowners will tell me to look at the attendance numbers, but I've intently watched 3 of Detroit's last 4 playoff series, and I can tell you, its obvious there are many empty seats in the building, particularly in the lower bowl. This is because Detroit has the burden of expectation on them, perhaps moreso than the Flames. The organization has been so on the ball that making the playoffs is just as expected as the first snow of winter. Hell, if Detroit doesn't end up near the top of the league after the regular season, it's a borderline disaster.

Edge: Even
While the burden of success placed on Detroit's shoulders the last 4 years has truly had a negative impact on the team, the fact that they've done so badly has, in my opinion, taken away some of that burden. This team is practically expected to choke.

On the other hand, the fact that Calgary has been so wildly inconsistent the whole season has truly taken away some pressure. All Calgary fans know if the good Flames show up, it could be a short post season for Detroit, but if the bad Flames show up, it'll surely be a short Flames postseason. In my opinion, all but the blindly loyal Flames fans expect the bad Flames to show up, and the guys in the dressing room know it. They realize all the media and all the experts 'expect' them to lose.

Therefore, I say the burden of expectations falls about equal between the two teams.

Goalies
Flames
The reigning Vezina trophy winner has had a couple off games this year for sure, but he's taken a lot of undue criticism. Case in point, the Flames 4-3 loss to the Avalanche a week ago. Kipper was blamed by many for missing a save that 'he normally would have had' on Joe Sakic's game winner. They of course, forget to mention the fact that Joe Sakic took a wrist shot from about the top of the circle, in other words, the same place and method Joe Sakic has used to score about 500 goals. Kipper keeps the Flames in a lot of games and he makes a lot of saves (Calgary averages 31 shots against per game). The only question about Kipper is whether or not he's been overworked this year. Calgary's inability to be good has forced(?) Playfair to play Kipper 74 times.


Detroit
A riddle wrapped in an enigma. When he's not punching out fellow roller hockey players or faking(?) injuries, he's winning Stanley Cups or stifling Canadians on the shootout (no I haven't forgotten). Detroit has argued their problems over their last few playoff runs have been primarily due to goaltending, but I'm not buying it. The team has had deeper issues (Chelios, Datsyuk, anyone?) and goaltending has been secondary. Sure, their goalies haven't stolen any wins, but the team as a whole hasn't been good enough. Now that Detroit has Hasek, they're out of excuses - unless of course Hasek gets hurt. In other words, they've got an excuse lined up already.

Edge: Even
If both goalies play to their ability, it will be an incredibly low scoring series. Both goaltenders have been simply unbeatable at their best. However, both these goalies have had a bit of a history of coming up with lemons. Hasek is a head case at the best of times, and while Kipper used to have a near shutout followup to 4 GAA games, that little tendency has disappeared.

next up:
Defence, Forwards, Coaches, unsung heroes

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Suprising




So what does everyone make of this?
He DID score the OT winner in Game 1 last year, and he actually was one of our better playoff guys. But can he really be ready?

The Tank

As in, we're in it. What an embarrassment for Flames fans (and team) not being able to beat the hapless Oilers, who are, lets face it, simply brutal. How the hell does Dion Phaneuf get beat on the outside by Patrick Thoresen? How is a line with Tony Amonte the best you can ice on the night?

I simply had to laugh though when I saw this Oil fan dancing in the box seats with the woman behind him grabbing him and trying to make him sit down while another old woman in the background shook her head and scowled. Terrible pic, I know, I'm sorry, but you get the drift.


It's 'ha ha' funny and 'I want to cry this is so bad' funny. Well, actually, maybe it's not all that funny.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Team Canada World Championship Roster Announcements - Carolina Contributions



The rumours have been flying for a couple days now, fueled by Carolina Hurricanes fans who saw the announcement live on air (Fox Sports Net South), but there is now official print confirmation. Eric Staal, Justin Williams, Mike Commodore, and Cam Ward have accepted Team Canada's invitation to play in the World Championship. Rod Brind'Amour declined due to injury.

This is another coup for Team Canada. So far we have what I would say is the ideal goalie combination with Roloson and Ward, a defensive group with someone I think most would have said was a long shot but I believed would be an excellent contributor in Mike Commodore, with stalwart Eric Brewer, and a forward group that includes Staal, Nash and Doan(maybe linemates) and Cammalari and Williams.



The fact that the Sens and Penguins are playing eachother first round could lead to another Canadian bonanza. If Ottawa loses, count on Spezza and/or Heatley getting an invite. If the Pens lose, watch for Crosby and Staal to get an invite. Crosby was a singlehanded force last year in the World Championships, and his addition could mean big things for the team.


I'm still expecting Patrice Bergeron to get and accept an invite (although one never knows with injuries), but I think maybe one more major coup offensive coup be scored by Team Canada. If the Avs do not make the postseason, I think there is a potential Joe Sakic could be invited and accept. This would be the first year since (at least) 1994 that he hasn't played at all in the postseason, so he could be motivated. Combine that with the fact he implied Team Canada's younger players didn't understand what kind of sacrifice/effort it took to win a major tournament like the Olympics, and he could be highly motivated to lead this young group by example. It's definately a longshot, but I think Brendan Shanahan might've started a trend last year by being an older player with nothing owing to Team Canada going over to Europe and playing.


Exciting times for Team Canada for sure.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Am I dreaming? Maybe it's just a nightmare.


Battle of Alberta games this year have ranged from enthusiastically competitive (Games 1 and 2) to absolute implosions from Edmonton, to AN absolute implosion from Edmonton. In my last post about the BoA I mentioned that the two teams were going in opposite directions; Calgary was on the up and up, while Edmonton was ready to pack 'er in. Well I got the latter right, but quite frankly, it's possible both teams are headed in the same direction, just at different rates of speed.

While the Oilers' magic this year has come primarily from the disappearing act of Joffrey Lupul, the Flames supernatural ability is to incite the spirits from beyond to possess them occasionally and turn them into the saddest sack excuse of a hockey team you're ever going to see. Or perhaps the only time the spirit possesses the Flames is when they win. Or perhaps the problem is lack of spirit, although I tend to agree with Matt when he argues that the bulk of Calgary's problems is not really traceable to effort.

In fact, judging purely from last night's game against San Jose, I'd argue the Flames problem is focus. Mental lapses continue to destroy this team from the inside out. Whether it's a weak offensive zone penalty from Alex Tanguay, a defence pairing miscommunication in front of the net, an over backcheck from Daymond Langkow or an under backcheck from someone else. Whether it's defending a 1 goal lead against Vancouver and letting the ONE MAN in front of the net get control of the puck, regardless of the fact there are 5 people covering him.

To think that a team that looks this good on paper would even have a bumpy ride making it to the playoffs is really unbelievable, but to think that 2 games left in the season and the playoffs are (at least theoretically) in doubt is unacceptable. Of course western conference GMs have been warning us from the get go that a very good team will not make it. But look at the talent depth on this team, and then look at the separation in talent depth between the Flames and the next closest team. That difference should (and hopefully will) account for more than a win and a tie over the course of 82 games. A good team might not make the playoffs in the Western Conference, but a VERY good team should. The fact that we're this close makes me wonder if I'm awake or this whole debacle of a season has been a dream.

And so, as I jokingly predicted to family and friends (and I think MG predicted as well) waaaaay back in November when the cancelled game with Colorado was moved all the way to April 8th, that this 'make-up' game would determine which of the two teams would make the playoffs. This looked like a ludicrous statement for much of the season, and a week ago, while the Flames were in the midst of an unprecedented and unexpected win steak, it looked even crazier. But give Colorado credit, they refused to die, and the Flames refused to kill them, and now it looks like it could actually come down to a best of 1 series for rights to the playoffs. Way back in early March I told Scarlett that the Oilers might still play a meaningful game, against the Flames, who might need a win to get into the playoffs. Could happen, I said. Well, it looks like it will be meaningful, unless of course Colorado loses.

Personally, I hope Colorado wins.

Now that every Flames fan reading has called me a traitor, here's my reasoning. If the Flames get into the playoffs because the team pressuring them falters out, rather than by controlling their own destiny, I don't give us good odds in that first round anyway. I want the Flames to take control. I think the Flames can take control.

Now the Oilers have looked worse than listless over their last 5-10 games. For a while, in the early stages of that losing streak, there was at least a good amount of try in the Oilers' game. Lately though, that has all but disappeared. MacT has run out of silver linings and has lately been taking his sad sack bunch to task not only for their gameplay, but their lack of effort. It's been an all around embarrassment for the entire organization and fan base to say the least.

But if there is one game the team can get mentally going for, I would think it would be this one. There has been minor consolation for Edmonton fans seeing Carolina get shut out of a playoff drive as well. I think that's another indication of the amazingly quick turnaround/rebuilding time of this CBA (and they gave up a pretty nice prospect to stay 'competitive' this season as well, a miscalculation for sure). But another silver lining for the players might be being able to look South and know not only that their rivals are not playing in the big show, but that they played a part. And while the Oilers have been resting Roloson for the last couple of games (World Championship implications in my opinion), I would think he'll be trudged out for the last game of the season.

Will the Flames win this game? I still believe so, but I think fellow Flames fans, like me, have this nagging itch caused by impending doom that they can't scratch away. I think put a couple goals past Roloson in the first period and the rest of the team will give up. But let the Oilers get some sort of miraculous lead and all bets are off.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Flamescentral opening this weekend

This is another shrewd Ken King move for the organization, but I have to wonder about its long term viability. I'm sure the place will be hopping while the Flames do well, but come the lean years (we all know its at least possible they will come again) I think it will be hard to draw crowds. Shanks can do it but they cater to the 'general' sports fan. However, the restaurant portion (Wildfire Grill) is going to cater to the lunch crowds, so I guess if it actually serves half-decent food they've got a good backup. It's gonna be pretty empty in April though if we don't make it past the first round (am I jinxing us by assuming the Flames are in? Call me optimistic).

Anyway, the place looks pretty cool, here's the article from the Calgary Herald and here are some early pictures.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

They're here, but will we be?



I think so. The game against the Avalanche was a setback, but there's too slim a margin at this point to not make it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Final Grades - Edmonton

Like the mid-term report card, this one is based both on point production, impact to the team and expectations of performance. Some guys are going to get higher ratings if they played above expectations (Petersen), others will have their ratings lowered by playing below expectations (Lupul).

A
Ryan Smyth
- Smytty has been Smytty. He's the heart and soul of the team, the goal scoring leader, the guy you want on the ice in every situation. I'm sure MacT wishes he had 23 Smyths out there. Just don't expect him to be in the Oilers jersey much longer. Unfortunately Kevin Lowe proved my skepticism right. The best Oiler all year no longer wears the jersey. A -> :(
B+
Jarret Stoll - not only is he second on the Oilers in terms of points, he's arguably their best all round player. He's been physical, he's been winning faceoffs, he's been setting guys up, he's been scoring, and he's been virtually all alone. Jarret’s performance never really dropped, he was playing well up until his concussion. Unfortunately, you have to be healthy to be an impact, so it’s hurt his overall grade. A -> B+

Jason Smith - Despite having the team's worst +/- for a period of time, Smith has climbed back to a somewhat respectable -3. His situation is similar to Staios, he's a great 2nd grouping defenceman, or a complimentary #2 guy to a very speedy skilled #1 guy (Pronger), but with the Oilers' lack of defensive depth, Smith is called on for too many things too often. Smith still does everything a great captain should: blocks shots, finishes checks, makes simple effective outs. Smith’s biggest weakness is his speed but he’s great at what he does. Despite his style of play, is extremely durable, and he gains points for this attribute alone. B- -> B+

Dwayne Roloson - He was the early season hero much like he was the hero in the playoffs, but Roli has been inconsistent at times. It seems when the team played badly, Roli played well, and when Roli played well, the team played badly. Despite this, he's still over .500, has got a +.900 SV%, and is 6th in the league in saves. He just needs some help. I think what I said earlier rings even truer now than ever, except that Roli has been very consistent. He’s regularly making 30+ saves a night and is often the only reason the Oilers only lose by a goal. Arguably the team MVP. B -> B+

Toby Petersen - Toby doesn't do anything extremely well (despite Craig Simpson's insistence he is a PP QB), but he doesn't do anything really badly either. He is a great utility player, it just so happens he plays on a team that desperately needs him to be more. What can I say about Toby Petersen that he doesn’t say with his play? The guy is all heart, he’d kill himself to help the team, he refuses to ever give up, and he’s accomplishing far more in the majors than his talent level should allow. A total inspiration and a great Masterton nominee. B- -> B+

Toby Petersen in happier times, still doing his thing

B
Ales Hemsky
- While Hemsky has been in the lineup, he's done what's expected of him, using his sublime speed and skill to mesmerize opposing teams. Unfortunately right now he's playing with a hurt shoulder, and he hasn't been increasing his shot output so he's still unbelievably frustrating at times. I think everything I mentioned in my midterm still rings true. Hemmers has recently been out of the lineup a lot, but he’s one of the few bright spots most games, and is the Oilers’ best offensive weapon. B+ -> B

Fernando Pisani - Despite the huge expectations being a playoff goal scoring leader brings, Fernando has continued to do the things that made him succesful. He makes good defensive plays in both ends of the ice, he buzzes around the net, he's great on the PK (1 SHG), and his smart play has lead to a +9, the best of the team. Although it looks as if Pisani won’t match last year’s goal output, I think he’s played just as well. He’s lost most of his linemates from last season but is one of the few Oilers that looks threatening most nights. Still buzzes around the net. B+ -> B

Patrick Thoresen - The Oiler's newest Norweigan member has been on of their most consistent players. His positional play is outstanding, and he's often involved in good scoring chances. My main gripes are his lack of finish, his lack of speed and sometimes, his lack of compete. I think Thoresen has proven himself to be a competent third line hockey player over the course of the season, despite a 50 game or so scoring drought. He makes himself useful in other ways, which is more than can be said for quite a few players on the team.

Ladislav Smid - No, he is not the Oiler's top defenseman (I think that probably goes to Staios), but he's played about as well as any 20 year old defenseman I've ever seen (save Phaneuf), and for a guy who was borderline on even making the team at season's start, its an impressive feat. I think more than any other player on the team, Smid improved as the season went on. He’s been pretty durable, and usually makes the right play. There are holes in his game no doubt, but he’s well on his way to being a very good defender.

B-

Marc-Antione Pouliot - Listening to Lowetide you would think Pouliot was supposed to be the second coming of Hemsky, but lets face it, thats never going to happen. Pouliot needs to make the major league jump soon or its not going to happen at all. Timing is everything, and I will say that after his second call-up, Pouliot has looked like a bonefied NHLer. His PK ability has been a pleasant surprise, as has his willingness to bang along the boards. Looks like he will be a respectable set-up man with a solid career, but if MacT works his magic, Pouliot could end up even better than that. C- -> B-

Jussi Markannen - Jussi started the season a bit soft but has picked up his game a bit in the few games he's played lately. Showed he still has some magic left when he beat Carolina again in December, and I think he should be played more often. Has a .500 record which is not bad for a backup. I think Jussi is still a top notch backup, I still think he didn’t see enough ice time (though down the stretch it didn’t really matter either way. Nothing spectacular here, but not a disappointment either. B -> B-


Jan Hejda - The most unfortunate thing about Hejda is that he wasn't pulled up from the minors earlier. He's pretty good in the defensive zone, 1-1, is pretty good in breakouts as well. Made a really nice play to pinch in from the point on his first goal in the NHL, an OT GW. Now the most unfortunate thing about Hejda is that he’s not playing, period. Hard to grade on such a short performance but the team was better with him in the lineup. B+ -> B-

Marc-Andre Bergeron - To be fair, MA should really be playing about 12-14 minutes a night, but he's been forced into much more of a top 4 role. Bergeron plays very consistently, in that he consistently gives the puck away in the defensive zone. Bergeron is tied for 2nd in Oilers PPGs with Stoll (first is Smyth, obviously). Well it seems the ‘real’ problem was shipped out, and I think since he’s been gone Oilers fans (for the most part) have realized he was more of a scapegoat then anything. Since leaving he’s 17pts +4 on the Islanders. He’s been –2 over the last two games but without a real goalie the Islanders are all in deep trouble. B- -> Scapegoat

Steve Staios - In past seasons, Staios has been voted by his teammates as the Oiler's MVP. He's a great leader on this team who does anything to help the team win. Unfortunately his shortcomings are being exposed - Staois is not a strong skater and sometimes he simply tries to do too much. Despite this, he's a great #4 defenseman, and the team is desperately awaiting his return. After being an ironman for a large part of his career, Staios’ season has been a disaster in terms of injuries (not to mention everything else). When he came back it became apparent how much better the team was with him. The Oilers’ best defenceman when playing.


Zach Stortini – The Zach Attack was called up from the AHL and told by MacTavish not to fight. Instead, he was asked to prove the rest of his game was up to NHL calibre. It is. While Stortini will never be accused of having too much talent, there is much to like about his game. He’s a bully, he goes hard to the net, and he was featured on Coach’s Corner because he was still blocking shots with minutes to go in a 5-1 loss. NR -> B-

Sean Horcoff - Big expectations coming into this season, Horc has been snakebitten in terms of points, and he (whether through miscommunication or something else) has been making an awful lot of mistakes in the defensive zone. Will need to transform into the player he was last year if this team is to have any success. After being united with Hemsky and Smyth, Horcoff’s point total really improved. He’s simply looked better at all aspects of the game and I think his only problem now is that he’s pretty much all alone. I do wonder though if he’ll ever get to that 77 point range ever again. C+ -> B-

C+

Daniel Tjarnqvist - He's gotten #1 defenceman ice time, to benched, to hurt. Tjarnqvist has at times been the hero, and at times the goat. But in my opinion, this is a better team with Tjarnqvist playing than when he's not. I had pretty low expectations from the beginning of the year, and he has definately exceeded them. His groin problems have created a big question mark for the Oilers. I think it would be a big gamble to keep him around, but I think for what little time he played, he played well. B ->C+

Raffi Torres - Keeping up his physical presence every night is an unfair request to make, but he needs to bring it more often than he does, because when Torres hits, good things happen. Is not consistent enough in any part of his game. To his credit, he's a + 7. Raffi has been as productive as anyone over the past 10 games, which is to say he’s stone cold. In terms of his play, if he was hoping for raise when his next contract is signed, then I hope Lowe is prepared to sit him until he comes to his senses. B- -> C+

C
Marty Reasoner - This has been an on and off year for Reasoner. After playing a beauty game against Chicago in late Novevember, Reasoner followed it up with two -2 games in a row. His -12 is simply not good enough from a guy who should be a defensive specialist. He's ranked 11th in the league in faceoff percentage though. Reasoner never really found a way to elevate his game and has been hurt down the stretch. Did score a goal against Detroit in a key game down the stretch. C+ -> C

Mathieu Roy - Roy has played pretty well in almost all areas of the game; Outlet passes, in zone coverage, pinch decisions. But his 1-1 play has been extremely questionable, and thats sort of an important skill set for a defenseman in the NHL. Roy didn’t really play much after the halfway point, even as a callup he was way down on the depth chart. Will have to make significant off-season improvements to make the team in September. B- -> C

C -

Petr Sykora - His early season success has been marred by his quarter season disappearing act. Now that his best friend Hemsky is playing hurt, I don't expect his team point lead will last. Sykora moonlights as a magician, the great Houdini, but unfortunately he’s brought his vanishing act to the ice on many many nights. A lot of Oilers fans seem interested in keeping him around, but unless he comes very cheap I see no reason to. The kids are as good or better most nights. B – -> C-


Matt Greene - For all intents and purposes Matt Greene is a rookie defenceman who at this time is actually the veteran on his pairing. Sure, Greene is slow, sometimes makes bad puck decisions, and is a weak skater, but he brings toughness and pretty good pose for his experience. Think of him as a young Jason Smith. Many Oiler fans have correctly identified either a regression or plateau in Matt Greene’s game. He still makes a lot of bad decisions, he’s not strong with the puck, and he’s still not a good skater. The clock is ticking on his NHL career, but he’s probably serviceable as a spare or number 7 defenceman. B- -> C-

D

Jean-Francois Jacques - 19 games, 0 points, -9, 11 shots. Thats just unnacceptable. Really amazing that a player could play 37 games and still not have a single point. Some of the problem now is that there aren’t many points to go around on this goal-starved team, but Jacques needs to find a way. Is probably better than his statistics indicate, and could be a good energy guy one day.

D-
Brad Winchester - For a period of time in late November-early December, Brad Winchester was the best player on this team. Unfortunately he has not been able to consistently deliver the package he should - Size, toughness, intimidation, and a drive towards the net. Lowetide has indicated that he thinks Winchester is done with this team, and I would tend to agree. To a large degree, Winchester’s play regressed and he was never able to regain the spark that made him such a fun player to watch earlier in the season. C+ -> D-

F
Joffrey Lupul - Fairly or not, Lupul will be compared to Pronger, but Lupul is no Pronger. He's been soft on the puck, he tends not to make good plays at either end, and he's got the 2nd worst +/- on the team, despite often playing with Ryan Smyth. He is tied for 3rd in terms of goals on the team though. There are no words to describe what a disappointment Lupul has been in every area of the game. He can’t deke, he can’t shoot, and he gets knocked off the puck as if he has the strength of a 12 year old girl (and actually, that’s an insult to some 12 year old girls, check out the Chinese National O-lifting team, they would eat Joffrey ALIVE). A total waste of space and watching him gets more infuriating every game. C- -> F


Kevin Lowe getting tricked

Petr Nedved - Nedved's only been here a short time, so his report will be short. His point production has increased here and he gave Smith some innovative help on the backcheck. However, his +/- has only gotten worse, and his physical game has been laughably bad. He’s gone, he’s forgotten. Enough said. C- -> F


I
Ethan Moreau - The Oilers miss this heart and soul defensive specialist immensly. Although he sometimes reminds me of Todd Marchant in the way he squanders opportunities, no Oiler is as effective on the forecheck, and his physicality is sorely missed. Seems as if he will not return. He gets an I for incomplete.

To tell you the truth, I’d love to give grades to callups like Syvret, Young, Gilbert, Bisallion, Brodziak and Nilsson, but I just haven’t seen enough of them to warrant a fair evaluation. Gilbert looks like a bonefied NHL defender who could be good at both ends of the rink. Nilsson looks like he has some flash and he did ‘play his ass off’ while he was up. Syvret I think can do everything except be big enough.