Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Who Would Want Ray Emery?

Ray Emery has done it again... for the last time? The Senators netminder was late to a team practice the day after the All-Star game (after spending the All-Star break in Vegas), and the Senators apparently feel that they have had more than enough of Emery's distractions. Senators GM Bryan Murray announced today that Emery will be "fined substantially", and most people around the NHL feel that Emery's time in Ottawa is now all but at an end.

This raises the question, what team(s) would actually be interested in acquiring the embattled netminder? At this point I will mention that I don't think Emery is a very good keeper to begin with, so take that into consideration as you read on. So, how many teams out there would Emery actually be considered an upgrade between the pipes for? For my money, the only teams that really fall into that category are Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, and Washington. Nobody else would be bringing in Emery as a clear cut #1 goalie, but with an annual salary cap hit over $3 million he's getting paid like one.

Let's take a look at the three teams mentioned above and see if it would make sense for them to bring in Emery:

First we'll look at the Lightning. First off, any deal sending Emery to Tampa would almost have to bring Marc Denis to Ottawa in return just to make the cap numbers work. I think Ottawa could probably live with that, but it wouldn't be ideal for them. On the Tampa Bay side of things, they already have Johan Holmqvist and Karri Ramo in net. Holmqvist is wildly inconsistent, but has the ability to be better than Emery on any given night and comes much cheaper (though he will be a UFA at season's end) while the Lightning organization is very high on the 20-year-old Ramo and have pegged him as their franchise goalie of the future. If you take Tampa's current goaltending into account along with their current cap situation, I think we can safely rule them out as a possible destination for Emery.

The Capitals are a more realistic place for Emery to end up. They have plenty of cap space for the next couple seasons and aren't getting any younger in goal. There has been plenty of speculation that this season could be Olaf Kolzig's last and Brent Johnson is not a long-term solution in goal for a young and talented team like the Caps. A Kolzig for Emery swap could make sense for both teams as it would give Ottawa an insurance policy in net heading into the playoffs and Washington would be getting a potential long-term #1 goalie in return. The more I think about it, the more that trade actually makes sense to me, plus seeing the Caps bring in a jerk like Emery would delight me to no end. So it will probably never happen.

Last up, fittingly, are the Kings. On the surface the Kings could definitely use an upgrade between the pipes. Dig a little deeper though and you see that they have 18-year-old prospect Jonathan Bernier waiting in the wings to be their franchise goalie for the next 10+ years. That doesn't mean they couldn't use someone else in case Bernier's development takes longer than expected. If I were Kings GM Dean Lombardi though, I wouldn't even consider bringing in a malcontent like Ray Emery and instead would dial up Kevin Lowe in Edmonton and try to reacquire Matheiu Garon. I would rather have Garon between the pipes anyway, but he also has a much more palatable salary and is more likely to handle giving way to Bernier in a professional manner. I can't see Emery handling that too well. Plus Ray Emery in Los Angeles just seems like a recipe for disaster.

All in all the Senators will be hard pressed to find a taker for Ray Emery (although one can never rule out Kevin Lowe). I can't see many NHL GM's lining up to bring in an overpaid and overrated head case who clearly cares much more about himself than his teammates. If Emery had a slightly better attitude and was making about half as much as he is, then I could see a team willing to take a chance on him. As things stand right now though, Ray Emery is far too big of a risk for any sensible GM to add him to his squad. Don't be surprised if you see Ray Emery on waivers in the coming days. And don't be surprised if he clears waivers. Ottawa may want to be rid of Ray Emery, but that doesn't mean they won't be stuck with him.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fantasy Focus: One Last Push

Right now is a big time for 50% of fantasy hockey players out there. If you are in the bottom half of your standings and you hope to make a serious push for the title, it needs to start now. The season is well past the halfway mark and those currently on the outside of the top spots need to make changes now to save their season.

For those of you in head-to-head leagues this is easier said than done. It's tough to predict just how things will work out on a weekly basis, but there are still ways you can improve your chances at advancing to your fantasy playoffs. If you are in a roto league it is (for my money at least) easier to get back into the thick of things. The only problem there is that there are no playoffs in a roto league, so for those of you playing for keeps it's first place or nothing!

If you want to make a big move in the roto format you need to do 2 things;

  1. Know where you can improve the most.
  2. Know where the teams ahead of you are most vulnerable.
Taking these two things into consideration will tell you all you need to know about how you can climb the standings by season's end. If you are going to make a significant move up the standings then you need to ignore your team's performance up to this point and focus on where you can get better from here on.

One of the best ways to make up ground is in PIMs. If you are not near the top of your league in PIMs then the first thing you need to do is replace your worst defenseman with one who will get you plenty of PIMs. This is a pretty low risk move since you probably aren't getting much production from that spot anyway. If you can, try to add someone with a decent +/- rating as well.

With that move out of the way it simply boils down to determining which categories you can make up the most ground in and getting to work. If you are near the bottom in assists and holding your own in goals then don't be afraid to drop or trade a goal scorer for a quality setup man. If your win total is low, pick up and extra goalie or two. It's all about taking risks and maximizing the possible return you will get on them. The good news is that you're already at the bottom of the standings so you really don't have anything to lose.

Now for a bit of official business... I had hoped to make Fantasy Focus a regular Monday fixture here at TOFTT. Something has come up though that is going to impact that. Starting Friday Feb. 1st I will have a weekly fantasy hockey article running on through the end of the Stanley Cup Finals. I will be breaking down which players are hot and cold in the NHL for RotoTimes. I don't foresee this cutting into the amount of posting I do here, but I do think it will reduce how much I write about fantasy hockey on a regular basis. At least for the remainder of this season.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Should The Penguins Trade Sidney Crosby?

The Pittsburgh Penguins are now 3 games into life without Sidney Crosby, and the results so far have been mixed. One thing that has been made very clear though is that Evgeni Malkin is more than capable of playing the role of "franchise center/forward/player" when Sid is out. Including last season, Malkin has shown that he can put the team on his back while Crosby is out of the lineup. That got me to thinking... would the Penguins be better off trading Sid?

Ever since early last season a hot topic for Penguins fans has been how will the team keep all of their young talent in Pittsburgh with a salary cap in place. This isn't to say that I don't think the Penguins can keep their core intact. I think the Senators have laid a solid blueprint for locking up the nucleus of your team and staying under the salary cap. I really do think the Penguins can keep Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, and Whitney in the black and gold for the long haul. But that doesn't mean they couldn't improve the team by moving Sid.

While I love Sid to death and would love nothing more than to see him win several Cups and rewrite the NHL record books in a Penguins jersey, I would not be upset if Crosby was traded in the "right" deal in order to improve the Pens' chances of winning the Stanley Cup. If the right offer came along, I wouldn't hold it against Ray Shero if he took it.

The first step would be to consider which teams would be viable candidates for acquiring Sidney's talents. There is no way you could move him to a division rival and really it would be ideal to move him to the Western Conference if he is to be dealt. With that in mind, here is my list of possible destinations for Sid:

  • Toronto
  • Montreal
  • Detroit
  • Chicago
  • St. Louis
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • Anaheim
  • San Jose
  • Colorado
Now that we have a where in place, we need to determine what would it take to get Sid out of the Steel City. In my mind it would probably take a couple top prospects, one or two proven NHL-caliber players, and maybe a draft pick or two. If you took this coming offseason as the earliest possible window for Crosby to be traded, I would narrow down the list of potential trade partners to Chicago, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Montreal, St. Louis and San Jose. I don't see the other teams on the above list having either enough to offer the Penguins in return or the need to give up that much in the coming year or two to be serious considerations.

I understand that any offer for a player of Sid's ability who is still years away from his prime would most likely be promptly rejected, but Ray Shero would have to take some time to think it over if one of the following offers came his way this offseason:

Chicago offers:
- Jonathan Toews
- Martin Havlat
- Brent Seabrook
- Cam Barker
- 1st Round Draft Pick
- Sidney Crosby
- Sergei Gonchar

Los Angeles offers:
- Dustin Brown
- Patrick O'Sullivan
- Jack Johnson
- Thomas Hickey
- 1st Round Draft Pick
- Sidney Crosby
- 3rd Round Pick

San Jose offers:
- Jonathan Cheechoo
- Devin Setoguchi
- Joe Pavelski
- Matt Carle
- 1st Round Pick
- Sidney Crosby
- Sergei Anshakov

St. Louis offers:
- Brad Boyes
- David Perron
- T.J. Oshie
- Ian Cole
- 1st Round Pick
- Sidney Crosby
- Brian Strait

These are offers that would be too tempting to immediately dismiss as they could set the Penguins up to be Cup favorites for many years. I do believe that any time in the next 2 or 3 years would be too early to move Sid. My goal here is more to illustrate the kind of offers I think it would take to land him and that the Penguins may be better off moving him. If they could bring in a package of players and picks comparable to the ones above to compliment the players already in place (especially if Angelo Esposito reaches his potential) they could form a dominant team in Pittsburgh.

As crazy as it may seem right now, there could come a time where trading Sidney Crosby gives the Pens their best chance at success. It's not like there isn't precedent for a move like this either. Gretzky was traded in his prime and the Penguins themselves traded Jaromir Jagr coming off a string of 4 consecutive NHL scoring titles (under less than ideal circumstances). Hopefully things would work out a little better for the Pens if Crosby is moved.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Versus Has All-Star Fever!

The NHL All-Star festivities are taking place in Atlanta this weekend and Versus (fresh off signing a 3-year extension with the NHL) is getting the word out:

Click Here!

Be sure to tune in. If not for me, do it for Geno. And if not for Geno, do it for the kids!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Trade Rumor Extravaganza!

It's time to take a look at some trade rumors as the deadline approaches. Some of these may be legit and some of them are simply wishful thinking on my part. I''l leave it to you to decide which fall into which category.

Sean Avery to Tampa Bay for Brad Richards

There's absolutely nothing to this "rumor", and the cap numbers probably wouldn't even work. I just like the idea of Sean Avery on a last place team and the Rangers bringing in the most overpaid player in the NHL.

Mats Sundin to Calgary for David Hale

Sundin heads to a true contender in the Western Conference and the Leafs get a young defenseman in return. Makes sense for both teams, so it will probably never happen.

Mats Sundin and Bryan McCabe to San Jose for Jonathan Cheechoo and Christian Ehrhoff

This is another move that would send Sundin to a team with Cup aspirations. This deal would also allow the Leafs to unload McCabe while at the same time replacing him with a solid young blueliner in Ehrhoff. The change in scenery would hopefully jump start Cheechoo's game for Toronto, but I'm not sure who they would have left to feed him the puck.

Ales Hemskey to Pittsburgh for a Sidney Crosby autographed puck

Just try and convince me that Kevin Lowe wouldn't make that deal. Just try...

Rob Blake to New Jersey for David Clarkson

Blake will only waive his no-trade clause for a move to a serious contender, but I think the Devils are solid enough to convince Blake to switch coasts and leave the Kings again. The Kings would get some toughness in return and not lose Blake for nothing via free agency in the offseason.

Alex Tanguay to Montreal for Michael Ryder

This would allow the Habs to get a quality player in return for the seemingly unwanted Ryder. For the Flames, the get a guy with something to prove who can walk away after the season ends and give them some cap room to try and re-sign guys like Phaneuf and Huselius.

Martin St. Louis to Dallas for Marty Turco

The Stars and Lightning swap Martys (or is it Marties?) in a deal that actually makes a lot of sense for both teams. So once again, it will probably never happen. You get the feeling though that Tampa needs to do something drastic if they are going to be relevant again any time soon.

That's all I've got for now. I'm sure there will be more to come between now and the trade deadline. I'm sure will hear more out of Pittsburgh once Sidney's injury situation becomes a bit clearer. There will also surely be some teams that fall out of the playoff race and become big time sellers. Hopefully GM's won't be too handcuffed by the cap and we'll see some exciting deals go down.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Best & Worst Case Scenarios For The Penguins

As we have all heard by now, the Penguins lost captain and star center Sidney Crosby for the foreseeable future due to the dreaded high ankle sprain. Sid was tied for the NHL scoring lead entering the game and will obviously be missed by the Pens. Early indications were that Sid could be back in four weeks, but after some tests were done today the only conclusion was that more tests are needed. After watching how slowly things have gone with Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury I'll be happy if Sid is back in six weeks.

Ron Francis would have shaken it off! j/k

So where do the Penguins go from here? They are still tied with the Devils for the lead in the Atlantic Division, but this division has been so tough this year that they are only six points ahead of the last place Rangers entering today's games. The Penguins have more than their share of injury troubles right now, but they still have enough talent to stay in the thick of things until Crosby returns. There are a lot of different ways things could go for Pittsburgh as the season winds down. Here are the best and worst case scenarios:

Best Case Scenario:
If the Mellon Arena roof opens and the Hockey Gods smile upon the Pittsburgh Penguins, the following things will take place:
  • Sidney Crosby will be out only four weeks and return to the Penguins lineup refreshed and ready to carry the team through a deep playoff run this Spring.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury will return form his high ankle sprain by mid-February and regain the form he was showing before the injury when he was playing his best hockey of the season.
  • Gary Roberts will return form his broken leg on schedule and rested.
  • Evgeni Malkin will thrive in the absence of Crosby, playing like the franchise center he was always intended to be before Sid was drafted, and maintain that high level of play even after Sid returns from injury.
  • Conk keeps on being Conk and helps the Pens maintain their lead in the Atlantic.
  • Jordan Staal awakens from his slumber and regains the scoring touch (and luck) he displayed during his rookie campaign.
  • Petr Sykora goes on one of his hot streaks and helps fill the scoring void left by Sid.
  • With the brass of a riverboat gambler, Ray Shero brings in some added scoring punch at the trade deadline.
  • Tyler Kennedy continues to develop and provide timely scoring for the Penguins.
  • Colby Armstrong and Ryan Malone find a way to score consistently without Sid on the ice with them.
  • The Penguins defense tightens up like a dad on prom night.
If all these things happen (yes that's a huge if, but like I said this is the best case scenario), then everything will be in place for the Pens to make a deep run into the playoffs and possibly all the way to the Finals. If the Pens can catch a few breaks and stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, there's no reason why this time off for their injured players couldn't prove to be a blessing in the long run. But then again...

Worst Case Scenario:
For every silver lining there's a cloud. Let's take a look at what might transpire if Sid's ankle injury turns out to be the iceberg to the Penguins' Titanic of a season. After all, the following things could happen:
  • Sid misses eight weeks or more and the Pens are out of the playoff hunt by the time he returns.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury makes it back around the same time Sid does.
  • Gary Roberts just isn't the same after his eventual return to the ice. Not that he was filling the net before he broke his leg.
  • Jordan Staal keeps producing the way he has been all season. If you can call it production.
  • Conk goes back to being Ty Conklin.
  • Malkin folds under the pressure of carrying the team offensively and is a shadow of his previous self.
  • None of the depth players pick up any of the scoring slack.
  • The Penguins defense puts too much pressure on themselves to ease the burden on the forwards and buckles.
  • The rest of the Atlantic Division runs roughshod over the depleted Penguins and drops them to the bottom of the standings.
As great as the best case scenario would be, the above events could just as easily happen and this season could quickly become one to forget for the Penguins. This could be a season remembered by Penguins fans with one phrase... high ankle sprain.

I'm optimistic that the Penguins will keep things going well enough to stay afloat until Sid returns, assuming that happens around the six week mark I mentioned before. If Sid's injury drags out the way MAF's has then the Penguins could be in real trouble. Hopefully the rest will agree with Sid and he can come back for the playoffs with something to prove and help get the Pens at least to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The biggest thing for the Penguins to be successful is that they need to replace Sid's production as a team and not look to one guy to do it. Yes Geno will be looked to the most, but the Pens will also need more from guys like Staal, Malone, Sykora, Armstrong, Ruutu, and Christensen. It is going to take a complete team effort for the Penguins to keep up their recent winning ways, but there's no reason at all to think they can't do it. I'm sure there are more than a couple guys in that locker room eager and able to fight for a spot in that spotlight that was attached to Crosby.

The bottom line is that if winning the Cup was easy, we wouldn't have to sit around and listen to Mats Sundin trade rumors all Winter. The Pens need to pull it together and get after it as a team. And this is one fan who thinks they can.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Breakout Passes: Pit Stops And Daily Destinations

I'm going to mix things up for Breakout Passes this week. Instead of giving you links to specific posts and articles I am simply going to give you links to some of my favorite blogs and sites from around the internet. Some of these are sites I visit on a daily basis while I check in on others less frequently, but they are all worth the time for any hockey fan.

  • The Pensblog - I've plugged these guys before, and for good reason. They are the best there is at what they do, though I can't quite explain what that is. This is my standard reading everyday while I eat my morning yogurt.
  • James Mirtle's Hockey Blog - Arguably the most popular and well respected hockey blog there is. Mirtle's blog is about as good as it gets, especially for those with an affinity for stats.
  • TSN's NHL Page - When it comes to the NHL, until you read about it here it never happened.
  • The Sidney Crosby Show - It's like Wal-Mart for Crosby fans... it has everything you need and more.
  • Mike Chen's Hockey Blog - Just good old-fashioned quality NHL commentary. Nothing flashy, but always a great read.
  • Illegal Curve - If you crave NHL info and can only visit one place, this needs to be it. The definition of comprehensive.
  • Goalie Post - Want to no which goalies are starting tonight in the NHL? Look no further! A must-read for any fantasy hockey player.
  • Going Five Hole - This is the Bob Errey of hockey blogs (that's a big time compliment coming from me)... solid all around with a Penguins bias.
  • Battle of California - The NHL... West Coast stylie!
  • Behind the Jersey - A top shelf blog for all the Red Wings fans out there. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Greatest Hockey Legends - Kickin' it old school and keeping it real! This is a fantastic site for those interested in the game's history.
I'm sure there are site's I meant to put on here and have currently forgotten about, and to you I apologize. But you can't go wrong visiting any of these websites. I firmly recommend checking in on all of them weekly at the very least. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fantasy Focus: 1st Half Freaks And Flops

It's Fantasy Focus time again! In this week's installment I am going to look back on the first half of the 07-08 NHL season and name my All-Freak ("Freak" in a good way) and All-Flop teams. Keep in mind this is strictly from a fantasy point of view and is not taking "real" performance into account. So with no further delay...

1st Half All-Freak Team

Center - Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim) -
This was a really tough call. Getzlaf, Lecavalier, Crosby, and Datsyuk were all outstanding in the first half of the season. I'm giving Getzlaf the nod here because he is a good source for PIMs, has a great +/- rating and of the four had the lowest expectations entering the season and was undoubtedly the last drafted in every league on the planet.
Honorable Mentions: Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh)

Right Wing - Jarome Iginla (Calgary) -
Jarome has been the total package this season. He has contributed big time in every category possible. The only way Iginla could do any more for his fantasy owners would be to suit up in goal and get a couple shutouts. First half fantasy MVP in pretty much any format.
Honorable Mentions: Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa), Corey Perry (Anaheim)

Left Wing - Dany Heatley (Ottawa) -
Don't expect to see this name here at the end of the season as Heatley is set to miss the next 6 weeks with a separated shoulder, but before that Dany had been outstanding. Think of Heatley as "Iginla-lite", he produces across the board and will be leaving a huge void in his owners lineups until he returns.
Honorable Mentions: Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit), Alexander Ovechkin (Washington)

Defense - Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit) -
The old Swede just keeps getting it done. I'm sure Lidstrom owners wouldn't mind a few more goals from the Detroit captain, but winners can't be choosers. Just be happy with what you've got and smile on your way up your league standings.
Honorable Mentions: Brian Rafalski (Detroit), Sergei Gonchar (Pittsburgh)

Defense - Chris Pronger (Anaheim) -
Points and PIMs, it's hard to ask for more. An improvement on the meager +2 rating would be nice, but the return of Scott Niedermayer (and eventually Teemu?) should help that a bit.
Honorable Mentions: Dion Phaneuf (Calgary), Zdeno Chara (Boston)

Goalie - Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose) -
Nabby owners have been treated to an outstanding season from the Sharks' netminder. With Vesa Toskala shipped off to hockey purgatory Toronto, Nabokov has had the San Jose crease all to himself and started every single one of the team's first 41 games. He responded with tremendous numbers and is probably keeping more than a few owners (including yours truly) firmly entrenched atop their respective standings.
Honorable Mentions: Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), Pascal Leclaire (Columbus)

1st Half All-Flop Team

Center - Patrick Marleau (San Jose) -
What a year it has been for the San Jose captain. If I had a dollar for every time I read this season that Marleau was about to break out of his slump I could quit my job and live on the beach somewhere. The stats speak for themselves; 8 goals, 13 assists, -14, 9 power play points and 0 game-winners. What more can I say?
Honorable Mentions: Brad Richards (Tampa Bay), Chris Drury (New York Rangers),

Right Wing - Jonathan Cheechoo (San Jose) -
Are we beginning to sense a trend here? Cheechoo has been even worse than his teammate Marleau so far (as hard as that is to believe) netting only 5 goals and 7 assists to date. That's a far cry from the guy who led the NHL in goals just two seasons ago. I can only shudder at the thought of the homers who drafted Cheechoo and Marleau this season.
Honorable Mentions: Maxim Afinogenov (Buffalo), Martin Havlat (Chicago)

Left Wing - Alexander Semin (Washington) -
I've had a front row seat for the train wreck that has been Alexander Semin's season so far... he's on both of my teams. He's the kind of guy that will drive you crazy because he has been hurt most of the year, but he has so much upside that you just can't bring yourself to cut him, so he just ends up taking up a roster spot all year. Hopefully he can get healthy and put it together in the second half. But I wouldn't count on it.
Honorable Mentions: Pavol Demitra (Minnesota), Simon Gagne (Philadelphia)

Defense - Dan Boyle (Tampa Bay) -
Boyle could return to the Lightning lineup at any time now (check your waiver wire!), but that won't help those who drafted him forget that he only played four games in the first half and was held pointless with a stellar -7 rating to go along. Not what most people envisioned for the Lightning point man.
Honorable Mentions: Bryan McCabe (Toronto), Sheldon Souray (Edmonton)

Defense - Alexei Zhitnik (Atlanta) -
Unlike Boyle in Tampa, Zhitnik has actually stayed healthy and been playing all season. You wouldn't know it by looking at his numbers though. Zhitnik was outstanding after joining the Thrashers at the trade deadline last season, but he has been nearly invisible so far this season. At least he's racked up 38 PIMs.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Bieksa (Vancouver), Matt Carle (San Jose)

Goalie - Ray Emery (Ottawa) -
There were a few strong candidates here (see the Honorable Mentions), but in the end I had to go with Emery. I can only imagine how many owners thought they had a great mid-round pick in Emery, only to have him spend the first half of the season fighting injuries, teammates, and the puck. He's a good candidate for a second half rebound, but for the time being it is Flop-City for the Senator voted Most Likely To Be Traded.
Honorable Mentions: Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh), Mikka Kipprusoff (Calgary)

So there you have it, the best and worst from the first half of the season. Some of these choices were no brainers, while others were a lot tougher than I thought they would be. If you had told me before I sat down to do this that Ryan Getzlaf would have been my All-Freak center I would have laughed you out of the room. Not to mention how mentally and emotionally prepared I had gotten to make MAF my All-Flop goalie. Thank you Ray Emery!

Here's looking forward to the second half of the season. There's nowhere to go but up for most of us!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ovechkin Chooses Cash Over Cups

Well you can put to bed all the rumors about Alex Ovechkin leaving the Caps. Washington's superstar left wing has just put pen to paper on a 13-year $124 million contract extension. That works out to just slightly over $9.5 million per season over the life of the contract, or just under the maximum amount of space Ovechkin could take up under the current salary cap. Possibly the most noteworthy part of all of this is that Ovechkin negotiated the deal himself. Now he doesn't even have to give a cut to an agent. Not bad.

$124 million buys a lot of golf clubs!

Now that I'm done patting AO on the back... assuming he really does play out this entire deal with the Caps, Ovechkin will NEVER win the Cup. Ever. Before you get all riled up, hear me out. This has nothing to do with the amount Ovechkin will be making. While I do think it is a mistake to let him take up that much cap space, who knows where the salary cap will be in 10 years? This deal could end up being a bargain. Okay probably not, but my point is that the size of the deal isn't what is going to keep AO from kissing the Cup. It's the fact that the deal is with the Capitals. I just don't see the Craps ever winning the Stanley Cup. After all... they're the Capitals. I'd put the over/under for the number of times Ovechkin even makes the playoffs during that contract at 6. And if I were a betting man I'd take the under.

All bias aside, this deal is a huge gamble for the Caps. Ovechkin plays a very reckless brand of hockey and a series of long-term and possibly career threatening injuries for the talented Russian certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility. Nevermind that he plays a bit on the dirty side and could easily be the victim of some good old fashioned frontier justice somewhere down the road. Heaven help him if he boards one of Todd Bertuzzi's teammates.

In the meantime AO can kick back and celebrate his big payday, and maybe stash a little away so that 15 or 20 years from now he can buy himself a nice plaque that reads "Most Goals Scored By An NHL Player Who Never Won the Stanley Cup!" If you ask me that is the best-case scenario for Ovechkin's legacy when all is said and done.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Luongo Tells Fans To Shove It

Okay, so not really, but the Canucks heart and soul is going to skip the All-Star game in Atlanta despite being voted in to start by the fans. TSN is reporting that the Canucks have given Luongo permission to skip not only the All-Star game, but also their first game after the All-Star game so that he can be with his wife, who is pregnant with the couple's first child.

Luongo says, "Thanks but no thanks." to the All-Star Game.

I think this is a great move by the Canucks to get their big man some rest before the playoff drive really kicks in. This team is only going to go as far as Luongo takes them and getting him a week or so off could really pay off for Vancouver down the road. I'm sure the NHL would love to have Roberto in Atlanta, but the NHL can't complain too much since Luongo will also be missing one of his team's games and not just the All-Star game. Besides, in a perfect world this opens the door for Pascal Leclaire to get the start for the Western Conference. I'll take just about anyone though, as long at it's not Hasek.

Breakout Passes: The Pensblog Is Mightier

In what I am hoping to make a Wednesday staple... it's time to take a little online stroll and see what is going on in the world of hockey.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Are Shootouts Breaking The Standings?

Much has been made recently of the success of the Edmonton Oilers in the overtime shootout and the affect that has had on their point total. To date the Oilers have taken part in a league high 13 shootouts (the Penguins are next on the list with 7) and have won an astounding 11 of those 13. Depending on how you look at things and your opinion of the shootout, that is an "extra" 11 points for the Oilers on the season.

This topic has intrigued me for a while now and I had always meant to take a look at the standings and see how they would look with and without shootouts in effect. Well, it looks like this is as good a time as any, so here are the NHL standings as they currently look, and how they would look if games still ended in a tie after the 5 minute overtime period.

NHL Standings with Shootouts

Eastern Conference
  1. Ottawa* - 58 points
  2. New Jersey* - 49 points
  3. Carolina* - 46 points
  4. Pittsburgh - 48 points
  5. Montreal - 48 points
  6. Boston - 46 points
  7. NY Rangers - 45 points
  8. Philadelphia - 44 points
  9. NY Islanders - 44 points
  10. Atlanta - 43 points
  11. Buffalo - 41 points
  12. Florida - 41 points
  13. Toronto - 40 points
  14. Washington - 39 points
  15. Tampa Bay - 35 points
Western Conference
  1. Detroit* - 67 points
  2. San Jose* - 52 points
  3. Calgary* - 51 points
  4. Dallas - 52 points
  5. Vancouver - 50 points
  6. Anaheim - 50 points
  7. Minnesota - 48 points
  8. Colorado - 47 points
  9. St. Louis - 45 points
  10. Columbus - 44 points
  11. Phoenix - 43 points
  12. Nashville - 42 points
  13. Edmonton - 42 points
  14. Chicago - 41 points
  15. Los Angeles - 32 points
NHL Standings without Shootouts

Eastern Conference
  1. Ottawa* - 57 points
  2. New Jersey* - 47 points
  3. Carolina* - 45 points
  4. Montreal - 46 points (+1)
  5. Boston - 45 points (+1)
  6. Philadelphia - 44 points (+2)
  7. NY Islanders - 43 points (+2)
  8. Pittsburgh - 42 points (-4)
  9. NY Rangers - 42 points (-2)
  10. Buffalo - 40 points (+1)
  11. Toronto - 39 points (+2)
  12. Washington - 39 points (+2)
  13. Atlanta - 39 points (-3)
  14. Florida - 38 points (-2)
  15. Tampa Bay - 33 points
Western Conference
  1. Detroit* - 63 points
  2. San Jose* - 50 points
  3. Calgary* - 50 points
  4. Vancouver - 49 points (+1)
  5. Minnesota - 48 points (+2)
  6. Dallas - 48 points (-2)
  7. Anaheim - 46 points (-1)
  8. Colorado - 45 points
  9. St. Louis - 44 points
  10. Columbus - 43 points
  11. Chicago - 40 points (+3)
  12. Nashville - 40 points
  13. Phoenix - 39 points (-2)
  14. Edmonton - 31 points (-1)
  15. Los Angeles - 30 points
It's pretty apparent that getting rid of the points awarded for shootout wins does have an impact on the standings. There is quite a bit of shift in the Eastern Conference when you take away points earned from shootout wins, with Pittsburgh and Atlanta getting hit the hardest. The results aren't as dramatic in the Western Conference except for the huge drop in Edmonton's point total. When you look a little closer the biggest impact is really on who has home ice in the first round of the playoffs, which can be huge. Having said that, I don't think there is anything there that would make Gary Bettman and the NHL big wigs think about getting rid of the shootout for one second. It's here to stay my friends.

Fantasy Focus: Time To Make A Move

In this edition of Fantasy Focus I am simply going to look at some players that would make a nice addition to your roster. As the second half of the NHL season begins it is time for you to take a look at your squad and possibly reassess the value of some of your assets. If your team is in the bottom half of the standings in your league and you have some players who haven't worked out as planned so far this season, this is a great time to make a change and try to right the ship before it is too late. Here are some players to look at adding (if they aren't taken already...):

  • Ty Conklin (G - PIT) Conklin has been a savior in Pittsburgh since Marc-Andre Fleury went down with an ankle injury. If Conk is still available in your league grab him right now. Penguins coach Michel Therrien loves to roll with the hot hand in net, so Conklin could still maintain some value after Fleury returns to the lineup.
  • Radim Vrbata (RW - PHX) Vrbata has been quietly lighting it up for the Coyotes, to the tune of 8 points in his last 5 games. I recently added Vrbata to both of my teams and hope that he can continue his breakout year in Phoenix.
  • Teemu Selanne (RW - ??) As you should already know by now, Selanne was spotted working out at the Ducks' practice facility last week. It's not a guarantee that he will be back, but if he does want to play the Ducks want him. If your team is struggling it could be worth taking a gamble on the Finnish sniper. My gut tells me he is going to play and play well.
  • Mike Ribeiro (C - DAL) Ribeiro has been the catalyst for the shockingly potent Dallas attack so far this season. For which he was just rewarded with a 5 year contract extension. As long as all those dollar signs don't go to his head Ribeiro should continue to light it up for the Stars. Grab him if you can!
  • Dan Cleary (RW - DET) Cleary finally found a home in the NHL last season with Detroit and now he is picking up the scoring again. Cleary has put up great numbers over the last month and is a solid contributor in every category. This guy should be owned in every league right now. If he's not in yours, you know what to do.
  • Mike Green (D - WSH) Green has been one of the few bright spots for the Caps this season on the blueline. I don't care who is on your roster, he is an improvement over at least one of your current defensemen. He's probably already been snagged off the free agent list in your league, but you never know...
  • Antti Miettinen (RW - DAL) Miettinen has emerged as a very capable scorer for the Stars and could really help a team that is struggling in offensive categories. He has been red hot since the beginning of December and hasn't gone more than 3 games in a row without at least 1 point. Definitely worth a look if Vrbata is already gone in your league.

The NHL Announces All-Star Game Starters

The fan votes have all been counted and the NHL has announced the starters for the upcoming All-Star Game in Atlanta. The starters are:

Eastern Conference

  • Sidney Crosby
  • Vincent Lecavalier
  • Daniel Alfredsson
  • Andrei Markov
  • Zdeno Chara
  • Martin Brodeur
Western Conference
  • Henrik Zetterberg
  • Pavel Datsyuk
  • Jarome Iginla
  • Nicklas Lidstrom
  • Dion Phaneuf
  • Roberto Luongo
All things considered these are actually pretty solid picks by the fans as all 12 players are definitely deserving of the trip to Atlanta. I would probably stick hometown boy Ilya Kovalchuk in instead of Alfredsson, but Ilya will make the team any way so it's not that big of a deal. At first I didn't think too highly of Markov being voted in, but it's not that much of a reach when you look at the numbers. Of course if Sergei Gonchar had been on the ballot (I'll never understand why he wasn't) then maybe things would have been different.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Live Blogging The Past: The Nedved Game

Being in school along with having a job, a wife, and 3 awesome kids (among other circumstances) rarely affords me the chance to watch hockey live. The Winter Classic was the first game I have watched live in its entirety all season. As you can imagine this makes it tough to live blog a game, something I have wanted to do for a while now. I was going to live blog the Winter Classic, but I thought my kids would make that difficult and I was right, so it's a good thing I didn't even try.

However I figured there is no reason why I couldn't "live" blog some other classic games from seasons past. The Penguins 10 Greatest Games DVD set has certainly help to make this idea a reality, as well as the handful of other classic games I have on tape somewhere. So, with the wife out of town for the weekend, once I get the kids in bed I will be pressing play on the DVD player and "live" blogging the 4OT classic between the Penguins and Captials from the '96 playoffs, otherwise known simply to most as The Nedved Game. So grab a drink and get comfy... it's going to be a long night.

First Period
  • 20:00 - Opening face-off and Game 4 is underway! The Pens start with Francis centering Jagr and Nedved. Francis jumps off immediately for Mario Lemieux. The matchup games are underway already.
  • 18:54 - Sandstrom makes a strong move to the net and gets hauled down! Penguins on the power play.
  • 17:44 - Francis makes a great play in front but Kolzig closes the door. Tinordi plants Jagr on top of Kolzig for his trouble.
  • 16:40 - Clip with Caps defender Jim Johnson shows him openly questioning the confidence of goalie Jim Carey. With friends like these...
  • 16:08 - Kolzig stones Nedved on a 2-on-1 with Sandstrom.
  • 15:37 - Peter Bondra gets sent to the box for slashing. Another early power play for Pittsburgh.
  • 14:55 - Lemieux, Francis and Jagr out there together. Best line in hockey history for my money.
  • 13:37 - Pens are a quick 0 for 2 on the power play.
  • 13:20 - Nice save by Barrasso on Bondra who is just out of the box.
  • 12:48 - Sandstrom tries a cute pass between the legs and wastes a nice scoring chance in front of Kolzig.
  • 10:28 - Nice centering pass from behind the net by Bondra finds nobody and goes all the way down to Kolzig.
  • 9:44 - Gonchar dumps Dziedzic in front of the net. Third power play of the period for the Pens.
  • 8:20 - Gorgeous play by J.J. Daigneault at the point to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Caps penalty killer are up to the task again though.
  • 7:19 - First Caps power play of the night. Chris Joseph is off for holding the stick.
  • 6:10 - Pivonka puts the Caps on the board! Traffic in front of Barasso and Pivonka snuck in from the point to drive home a nice pass by Dale Hunter from his backside. 0-1
  • 5:00 - Jagr muscles by three Caps but can't get enough on the puck to challenge Kolzig.
  • 3:20 - Glen Murray just got mugged in the Capitals zone. No call.
  • 2:00 - Chris Tamer just missed it wide from the point. Close call for Kolzig.
  • 0:00 - That's the end of the first. The Pens were unable to cash in on the power play, going 0 for 3, while Washington scored on their only man advantage to go into the break up by a goal.
Second Period
  • 20:00 - Puck drops to start the second with Pittsburgh down by a goal. Ken Wregget is now in net for the Penguins as they try to even this series at 2 games. No word yet on a reason for the switch.
  • 18:37 - Ron Francis gets hauled down by Dale Hunter on a breakaway. Penguins go back on the power play for the fourth time. Ronnie almost put it in despite being tripped from behind.
  • 17:37 - Washington is really keeping the Penguins power play on the perimeter. They have to find a way to get the puck into the slot for some quality chances.
  • 16:37 - Pens now 0 for 4 with the extra man. That needs to change in a hurry for the Pens to get back in this game.
  • 15:35 - Barrasso is out with muscle spasms in an undisclosed location. He may return.
  • 14:52 - Jagr just outmuscled half the Caps roster and then set up Tamer for another point shot that went wide. Gotta get those on net!
  • 14:00 - Mario is in all alone and just misses the top right corner of the net! May have grazed Kolzig and/or the crossbar. Best chance so far for Mario.
  • 13:47 - Neil Wilkinson is off for hooking. Caps get their second power play of the game. Lazy penalty by Wilkinson. Needs to keep skating there.
  • 12:36 - Mario just completely undressed a pair of Capitals in close but was denied again by Kolzig. Best scoring chance of the game so far for the Pens comes shorthanded as Mario is really starting to pick up his game.
  • 12:24 - Caps come back the other way and Bondra scores on a one-timer from the high slot. The Caps have converted both of their power plays as special teams are looking more and more like they will be the story of the game. 0-2
  • 12:04 - Penguins try to answer right back but put a pair of shots off the side of the net.
  • 11:04 - Wregget robs Krygier as the Caps are trying to put the Pens away on home ice. A shot off the right post right after the Krygier chance. Wregget needs to answer the bell and keep the Pens in it right now.
  • 10:30 - Mario gets taken down entering the Capitals zone. Pittsburgh goes on the power play for the fifth time. The Pens could really use a goal here to get back in the game.
  • 8:30 - Pens power play comes up empty again as the Caps are stacking the blue line and Pittsburgh isn't adjusting.
  • 6:34 - Zubov is off for tripping Bondra coming out of the corner. Time for the Pittsburgh penalty killers to make a stand and get some momentum going.
  • 5:36 - Nice wrister by Nedved is stopped by Kolzig along with the rebound chance by a streaking Wilkinson.
  • 5:00 - Bondra deked Wregget out of his net but missed a wide open net. Caps were that close to being 3 for 3 with the extra man and really putting the screws to the Pens.
  • 2:39 - Sandstrom is going off for roughing. Bad penalty to take behind the Caps goal.
  • 1:18 - Jagr scores shorthanded! Francis made a perfect headman pass in the neutral zone that hit Jagr in stride and he snapped the wrister by Kolzig to the low stick side as the Pens' best chances continue to come while down a man. 1-2
  • 0:35 - Mario just lost it and went after Todd Krygier! Krygier looked to have speared Mario and then gave him a shot to the head for good measure. Mario went right back at Krygier giving him a slash and a high cross check and then driving him to the ice before everyone else piled on. Mario is given a game misconduct (among other penalties) while Krygier get just two minutes. Mario's night is done and now the Pens are without their best player and their number 1 goalie. Pat Peake is gone for the Caps for being the third man in and the Pens now have to kill off a five minute major power play. The Penguins are really in a deep hole now despite only being down by a goal to the Caps.
  • 0:00 - The second ends with the Caps up by a goal. The Caps have to like their chances here. They will start the third with the lead, almost a full four and a half minutes of power play to work with, and the Penguins missing Lemieux and Barrasso.
Third Period
  • 20:00 - Capitals start the third with the man advantage and a fresh sheet of ice. This could be the beginning of the end for Pittsburgh, but they need to concentrate on killing the penalty before they can worry about trying to tie up the game at 2.
  • 19:16 - Jagr is getting some time on the PK now with Mario lost for the night.
  • 17:43 - Collision between Smolinski and Eagles at the Caps blueline. Neither player was looking and the ran right into each other. Eagles is helped off and Smolinski heads back to the bench on his own. Hopefully Bryan is okay as the Pens are already working with a short bench.
  • 16:24 - Mark Tinordi channels Chris Tamer and completely misses the net from the point.
  • 15:37 - Penalty is over! Nice hand for the penalty killers by the Penguins fan in attendance. This could give the team a huge boost, much like Game 4 against the Rangers in '92.
  • 14:37 - Steve Levy just mentioned that it was Pens equipment manager Steve Latin who suggested wearing the third jerseys in which the Pens are currently unbeaten. Nice call by Latin as the Pens improved to 7-0 in the new unis after their Game 3 win in Washington.
  • 13:43 - Pens go back on the power play as Michal Pivonka goes off for roughing.
  • 12:27 - Nedved just misses a wide open chance from the side of the crease! Pens still working with the man advantage and creating some chances in front of Kolzig.
  • 12:00 - Nedved scores on the power play! Petr rips a wicked wrist shot to the high glove side after the Caps penalty killers gave him way too much time and space. 2-2
  • 11:29 - Jim Johnson goes after Dave Roche after Roche ran right into Olaf Kolzig at the top of his crease. Sandstrom and Johnson get two minutes each for roughing. 4 on 4 hockey for the next two minutes.
  • 10:31 - Daigneault is taken down but no call. The ref's whistles are starting to make their way into their pockets as the end of regulation approaches.
  • 8:48 - Todd Krygier picks Ron Francis and is off for interference. Huge chance for Pittsburgh to take the lead for the first time in the game.
  • 8:24 - Joe Juneau makes a nice shorthanded rush but is turned away by Wregget.
  • 7:40 - Nedved is skating hard and has really picked up his game since Mario got tossed.
  • 5:42 - Dave Roche is lucky... thanks to Alex Stojanov being around he's not the worst skater on the Penguins.
  • 3:11 - The Caps are turning up the pressure and trying to end this in regulation. The Pens are looking a bit tired here and need to start skating again.
  • 1:15 - Jagr makes a nice cut to the slot and almost puts the Penguins ahead. Kolzig stops the rebound shot from Francis too.
  • 0:00 - That's the end of regulation. We're headed to OT with the Penguins looking to take both games in Washington to even the series.
First Overtime Period
  • 20:00 - Pens open up with Jagr, Francis and Nedved on the ice. They must want to end this thing as quickly as possible and get back to Pittsburgh.
  • 17:46 - The Caps are cycling well but don't generate a quality chance out of it.
  • 17:15 - Jagr is flying with the puck! He just has an extra gear when he gets the puck on his stick.
  • 16:40 - The Pens fans in the arena are starting to make some noise. Typical Pens in Washington stuff. It's like a home away from home for the Pens.
  • 15:09 - Jagr is off for hooking Juneau. OT power play for the Caps who have scored on 2 of their previous 5 power plays but were unable to convert on the 5 minute major to Lemieux.
  • 14:20 - Francois Leroux fails twice to clear the puck. That can't happen in OT.
  • 13:21 - Great save by Wregget on the point shot from Sylvain Cote. That one was close!
  • 12:24 - Kelly Miller almost had a breakaway but he couldn't quite split the Penguins defense. Daigneault made an outstanding play to clear the rebound away.
  • 10:00 - Halfway through the period and the Pens only have one shot on goal. Wregget is really settling in at the other end as the Caps are throwing everything they can at him.
  • 9:20 - Jeff Nelson hooks Sandstrom down and is sent off for two minutes. Pens on the power play.
  • 9:00 - Pittsburgh outshot the Caps 42-21 in regulation, but it's 12-1 the other way so far in OT.
  • 8:07 - Francis almost pounded a rebound past Kolzig but was denied and then flattened for his effort.
  • 6:42 - Wregget robs Stefan Ustorf with the glove! Save of the game as the Caps had Pittsburgh running around in their own end.
  • 3:33 - Things slow down a bit as the players are starting to look a little tired. Some sloppy passing going on too.
  • 1:27 - Glen Murray makes a great play to beat out an icing call, but he is all alone in the Caps end as the Pens are making a line change.
  • 0:00 - One OT period is in the books and no winner to show for it. The Caps came out gunning but the Pens worked their way back into it as the period wore on, largely thanks to Jagr's hard skating. Both teams started to show fatigue towards then end of the period though as the play really dropped off in the last five minutes.
Second Overtime Period
  • 20:00 - And we're off again! Pens start the period with the big guns on the ice again. Not a bad move as Jagr and Nedved have been their two best players for most of the game.
  • 19:02 - Nedved breaks in alone and is robbed by Kolzig as he deked and went to the backhand. Nedved chipped the puck by Pivonka at the blueline and walked in all alone on Kolzig, but no dice.
  • 16:53 - There's a lot of coasting going on on the ice, but Jagr is still working through checks like it's the first period.
  • 15:31 - The net is off and Tamer and Bondra are trading punches behind the cage! The Caps are throwing everything at the net but Kenny Wregget is coming up huge and looking pretty calm in the process.
  • 13:07 - Pivonka had Wregget down and out but couldn't bury the puck from the side of the crease. Best chance of the second OT so far.
  • 11:43 - Jagr is cruising to the bench after a stoppage and he looks like he's about ready to pass out. Jags is leaving it all on the ice tonight.
  • 11:25 - Joe Dziedzic just drilled Dale Hunter in the neutral zone. Big hit to throw in a second OT. Hunter never saw him coming.
  • 10:18 - The Caps are buzzing again and Wregget continues to shut the door. Miller and Bondra were both denied by Wregget at close range.
  • 9:18 - Chris Joseph just tackled Andrew Brunette but no call. That's easily two minutes in regulation. You have to love playoff OT hockey!
  • 7:45 - Zubov has a great chance from the circle and then Kolzig takes a shot at Jagr after the whistle. Kolzig needs to lighten up a bit, Jagr was nowhere near him there.
  • 5:53 - A couple more OT periods and everyone else will be skating almost as slow as Dave Roche. Almost...
  • 4:17 - Trickling puck in the crease and the net is off! Juneau almost ended this things and then Chris Tamer made a game saving swipe with the stick and then took the net off its moorings in the process. Delay of game call on Tamer. Penalty shot for Washington!!! Juneau will take it...
  • Penalty Shot - SAVE!!! The puck was rolling and bouncing all over the place on Juneau and he couldn't get a good shot off. It was rolling before he even hit the blueline. All Kenny had to do was stand his ground and the game continues.
  • 3:31 - Pens put some pressure on at the other end but no dice. Tamer finally got a shot on net though.
  • 1:03 - The guys are really looking tired out there on both sides. You can sense they are just trying to make it to the intermission without costing their team the game.
  • 0:00 - That's it for the second OT. We've played 100 minutes of hockey and still no winner in what has been an epic game full of twists and surprises.
Third Overtime Period
  • 20:00 - Play starts back up and again the Pens start with Jagr, Francis and Nedved on the ice. The Pens lack of depth could really end up costing them here.
  • 19:29 - Mark Tinordi just flopped on top of Jagr after the whistle like the ass that he is. Jagr and Francis are on the bench laughing about it. Life goes on.
  • 18:22 - Dziedzic continues to hit everything he can. Big time effort from the Minnesota native.
  • 17:13 - Jagr dances around in the slot and fires a wicked backhander on net that Kolzig kicks aside. Nice try by Mario Jr.
  • 16:35 - Chris Joseph is headed off for a hook. Pretty blatant dive by Jeff Nelson but the ref bought it. Caps power play here in the third OT.
  • 15:24 - Kevin Miller just drew a trip from Sylvain Cote as he tried to chip it by and head in on a shorthanded breakaway. That will give us 48 seconds of 4 on 4 and then a Penguins power play and a chance to end things.
  • 13:45 - Chance for Nedved in front off a giveaway but he didn't have enough room to do anything with it! Bad turnover in front by the Caps but Kolzig bails them out again. Nedved is starting to show some jump again.
  • 12:56 - Johnson snuck in from the point and gets a one-timer but just misses the net! Wregget looked to have the angle if the shot had been on target.
  • 10:46 - Joseph and Bondra get into it after the whistle after Wregget stops Bondra's shot from the faceoff dot. No penalties called of course. Things are getting a little chippy away from the play again.
  • 8:32 - Jagr, Francis and Nedved put on some good pressure but leave the zone empty handed again. Jagr is doing a great job of conserving energy and finding space on the ice. Nedved looks a lot "fresher" than just about everyone else too. Amazing display by the Penguins top line.
  • 7:20 - Just showed a guy in the crowd with a "Die Penguins Die" sign. Real creative there winner. As guess we have to die once for each Cup.
  • 5:39 - Shot of Olaf Kolzig and he looks ready to pack it in. Guy has to be dead tired at this point. I'm impressed he's still putting his arm up for icings.
  • 5:07 - Bondra just missed deflecting a point shot in. That was the best chance the Capitals have had in quite a while. Looks like it may have caught Wregget's blocker. Good positioning never goes out of style.
  • 3:36 - Ronnie Francis breaks into a full sprint and almost beats out an icing call. They've played almost two full games of hockey now and Ronnie is still sprinting to prevent icings. What a player... what a human.
  • 3:24 - Wregget just absolutely robbed Todd Krygier with the right pad and smothers the rebound. Krygier will be seeing that one in his sleep.
  • 2:10 - Play is breaking down again. Guys are even having trouble with simple, unpressured D to D passes.
  • 0:42 - Slashing penalty coming to Joe Dziedzic as he drilled Todd Krygier. Another Caps power play that could carry over to the fourth OT.
  • 0:00 - That's it for the third OT. Still no winner and the players look beat. Someone is going to have to dig deep to find a little something extra and finish this thing.
Fourth Overtime Period
  • 20:00 - Here we go again. Hopefully fourth OT's the charm. Caps are still on the power play.
  • 18:45 - Krygier fires one through the crease but no luck. Power play is over for Washington.
  • 17:21 - Kolzig turns away a nice one-timer by Sandstrom off a nice feed from Smolinski. Pens are trying to pick up the offense again.
  • 14:42 - Jagr just misses on a wrister from the right circle. The Pens are just firing it on net from anywhere right now.
  • 13:30 - Glen Murray is stopped by Kolzig as the Pens broke in 3 on 2. The Penguins are starting to find some lanes into the offensive zone, but Kolzig still seems calm and in control between the pipes.
  • 11:54 - Nedved is starting to look a little tired finally. That's the first time I've ever seen skating seem like work for him. All these OT's are really taking their toll on the players (and the announcers).
  • 10:35 - Frantic action around the Capitals goal but nobody can put it home. Too many tired bodies out there flopping all over the ice. This is desperation hockey.
  • 9:25 - This is now the third longest game in NHL history. Good times.
  • 8:09 - Full credit to the players. They are all dead tired but nobody is losing track of their man. It's still tight defense being played all over the ice.
  • 6:13 - Hunter and Eagles are shoving at Ronnie. Jokes.
  • 6:03 - Close ups of some of the players and the Pens just seem more "with it". The guys they showed on the Caps look like the walking dead. Could be a good omen.
  • 4:51 - The Penguins top line is starting to fly again. Even Ronnie seems to have found some jump in those old legs.
  • 3:23 - Lots of Caps just standing around and watching right now. The Pens definitely have more jump right now... relatively speaking of course.
  • 2:39 - Hooking call on Jim Johnson as he rode Jagr all the way through the Capitals zone. Jagr outworked him the whole way and the ref had to call that. It was way to blatant to let go, fourth OT or not. Penguins power play coming up!
  • 1:47 - The Penguins are completely outworking and outskating the Capitals right now. They're going for the kill and this game could be over at any second. Kolzig is the only thing keeping the Caps' hopes alive.
  • 0:45 - GOAL!!! It's over! Petr Nedved threw it on net and the puck made it's way through traffic and past Kolzig. It's Nedved's second power play goal of the game and it sends the Pens back to Pittsburgh tied with the Caps at two games apiece. The Pens were definitely the stronger team for most of the fourth OT and it seemed like only a matter of time before they sealed the deal. Epic game. Epic win. And Petr Nedved just secured his place in Penguins and NHL history. 3-2
Closing Thoughts

What a game! I remember when this game happened it was my freshman year at Cal State Long Beach and we didn't have cable in the dorms yet so I didn't get to see it. My buddy from the hockey team Rick Tiley called me when the game hit OT and the rest of the night consisted of me calling him every 10 or 15 minutes to see if they were still playing. I can still feel the relief and excitement from when he called me to tell me Nedved had ended it.

Revisiting this game now the biggest thing that stood out to me was that Penguins team's lack of depth. I always remember that 96 Pens group as being a Ron Francis broken foot away from the Finals, but there was a huge gap between their top players and the rest of the roster. It's pretty amazing how far Lemieux, Jagr, Francis, Nedved, and Wregget were able to carry that team in the playoffs that year. The stuff of legends.

Custom Winter Classic Covers

For all you custom cover fans out there I've whipped up Sidney Crosby covers for NHL 08 on the PS2 and XBox 360 to commemorate the Winter Classic in Buffalo. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Which Is Truly The Single Best Offensive Season Ever?

I have been running across a lot of old hockey clips from the late 70's and 80's lately and I just can't get over how bad the goaltending used to be in the NHL. That got me thinking about some of Wayne Gretzky's records and how he benefited from being in the league during that era. Comparing different eras in sports is always difficult, but I felt compelled to come up with a way to compare some of the biggest single offensive seasons in recent NHL history and see which was really the most impressive.

I used the following method of comparison; I picked the most impressive single season point totals since 1980 to put up against each other. I then determined the player's Points Per Game (PPG) for each season and then divided that by the overall average Goals Per Game (GPG) in the NHL for that season to determine that player's Offensive Involvement Percentage (OI%). The OI% was the percent of goals that player figured in on by a per game basis, using the league average GPG. This basically told me how much scoring a player accounted for per game compared against the NHL average as a whole. It's not a perfect method, but it does give hard numbers across the last 25+ years in the NHL.

For my comparisons I used the following seasons:

  • Wayne Gretzky 81-82 (80 GP, 212 P)
  • Wayne Gretzky 85-86 (80 GP, 215 P)
  • Mario Lemieux 88-89 (76 GP, 199 P)
  • Mario Lemieux 92-93 (60 GP, 160 P)
  • Mario Lemieux 95-96 (70 GP, 161 P)
  • Jaromir Jagr 98-99 (81 GP, 127 P)
  • Jaromir Jagr 00-01 (81 GP, 121 P)
  • Mario Lemieux 00-01 (43 GP, 76 P)
  • Sidney Crosby 06-07 (79 GP, 120P)
The NHL GPG averages for those seasons were:
  • 81-82 - 8.03 GPG
  • 85-86 - 7.94 GPG
  • 88-89 - 7.48 GPG
  • 92-93 - 7.25 GPG
  • 95-96 - 6.29 GPG
  • 98-99 - 5.27 GPG
  • 00-01 - 5.51 GPG
  • 06-07 - 5.89 GPG
This resulted in the following OI%'s for each player:
  • Wayne Gretzky 81-82 - 33%
  • Wayne Gretzky 85-86 - 33.85%
  • Mario Lemieux 88-89 - 35%
  • Mario Lemieux 92-93 - 36.78%
  • Mario Lemieux 95-96 - 36.57%
  • Jaromir Jagr 98-99 - 29.75%
  • Jaromir Jagr 00-01 - 27.11%
  • Mario Lemieux 00-01 - 32.08%
  • Sidney Crosby 06-07 - 25.79%
Now this is where things get interesting. Using the above stats I was able to take the resulting OI%'s above and then use them to project point totals for each player in each of the other seasons. In other words, I could tell you how many points were the 81-82 equivalent of Jagr's 127 points in the 98-99 season. Think of is as some kind of scoring exchange rate. For the sake of balanced projections, I calculated the projected point totals based on the same number of games played by the actual point leader that season. So for example, the 81-82 projections are all based on the player playing in 80 games, just like Gretzky did that season. One exception: for the 92-93 season I calculated all players' totals based on playing 80 games, due to Lemieux only playing 60 games because of his bout with Hodgkin's Disease. Also, for the 00-01 season, I recalculated Mario's "total" based on playing 81 games, just like Jagr did that year.

Here are the projections:

(click to enlarge)

So going by these projections we can see that Mario Lemieux is actually the owner of the two "best" offensive seasons in modern NHL history based on his OI% from the 92-93 and 95-96 seasons. If Mario had played at the level he did in the 92-93 season during the 85-86 season he would have scored an NHL record 236 total points. Not too shabby.

Again I stress that what I have done here isn't perfect, but it does give a foundation for comparing scoring in the NHL across many seasons. The real conclusion to all of this, if you could call it that, would have to be that as scoring went down in the NHL over the years points became harder to come by and thus are arguably more valuable, for lack of a better term, than points accrued during the wide open glory days of the NHL in the 80's. Naturally you could expand the range of this exercise and probably find some seasons from longer ago that compare favorably to Lemieux and Gretzky. In the meantime I feel very comfortable saying that while Wayne Gretzky may own the major single season scoring records in NHL history, Mario Lemieux has actually had the best offensive seasons in the history of the NHL.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

NHL Team Of The Month: December 2007

I almost lost track of this in all the Winter Classic excitement, but here we are with the Team of the Month for December:

  • Center: Jason Spezza (14 GP, 10 G, 15 A, +14, 7 PPP, 2 GWG)
  • Right Wing: Jarome Iginla (14 GP, 14 G, 5 A, +10, 7 PPG, 3 GWG)
  • Left Wing: Alexander Ovechkin (13 GP, 11 G, 7 A, 4 PPP, 3 GWG)
  • Defense: Nicklas Lidstrom (15 GP, 13 P, +15, 5 PPP)
  • Defense: Sergei Zubov (14 GP, 12 P, +8, 6 PPP)
  • Goalie: Evgeni Nabokov (15 GP, 10 W, 1.96 GAA, .925 SV%, 2 SO)
  • Spezza quietly had an insane month for the Sens.
  • Iginla and Ovechkin were both beasts in December. Iginla led Calgary's charge up the Western Conference standings while rumors are already starting to swirl about AO trying to get out of Washington this offseason.
  • Lidstrom and Zubov are as steady as they come. You couldn't ask for more from a defender.
  • Nabokov has been the one constant for the Sharks this season (he's started every game for San Jose) and is having an MVP-type year. As long as he doesn't wear down...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Wrapping Up The Winter Classic

The NHL rang in the New Year in a big way this afternoon with the Winter Classic outdoor game in Buffalo between the Sabres and the Penguins. It was a snowy, frozen day in Buffalo... the perfect setting for an outdoor hockey game. In anticipation for the game I pulled on my brand new Sidney Crosby Winter Classic tee, dropped some extra ice in my Mountain Dew as a sign of solidarity for my friends and acquaintances lucky enough to be in attendance, and settled in for the NBC telecast. And the rest was history...

The Event...

  • The opening overhead shot of a snowy Ralph Wilson Stadium set the perfect mood for what promised to be an epic afternoon for true hockey fans.
  • The side rink for kids to play on behind one of the goals was a nice touch. How sweet would it have been to be one of the kids lucky enough to get to take a skate down there?
  • The players weren't especially bundled up for the most part, but full credit go to the Buffalo players rocking the eye black.
  • Great anthems. Really helped the crowd kick it up an extra notch to start things out.
  • The Penguins look great in the old powder blues. I'd love to see them pull these uniforms out again. I could see putting together a nice winning streak in those babies.
  • As far as play was concerned the weather could have been better, but it was perfect from an atmosphere point of view. Nice and snowy in the first, pretty decent for the second and most of the third, then snowy again for the end of the third, OT, and the shootout.
When you look up picturesque in the dictionary...

The Game Itself...
  • Huge goal by Colby 21 seconds in to start things off. I really thought that might have been enough to seal the win given the conditions. Must have been the soccer side of my brain at work.
  • Even in a blizzard Sidney Crosby is still the best thing on skates.
  • Nice goal by the Sabres to open the second. As mentioned by the announcers, it was hardly a coincidence the scoring was happening early in periods.
  • There was some genuine exciting hockey while the weather eased up a bit in the second. It was nice to see two of the hardest skating teams in the NHL get a chance to open it up for a bit.
  • The penalty call on Colby at the end of regulation was laughable. Especially given the circumstances.
  • The changing sides during the third period and overtime really rubbed me the wrong way. The NHL committed to playing a game in nasty weather, so deal with it. I don't see how making players skate to the far bench for the last 10 minutes of regulation and the second half of overtime is doing them any favors. Just a bad move on the NHL's part.
  • Nice shootout goal by Ales Kotalik. Kept it simple and nailed a perfect shot.
  • Kris Letang is flat out nasty in shootouts. It's just sick how bad this kid makes NHL goalies look.
  • Nice to see Sid nail the winner on the big stage. We all know shootouts aren't exactly his bread and butter, but it was an ideal finish to a great event if you're Gary Bettman (and if you are... YOU SUCK GARY!)
  • Ty Conklin is in the zone. If he can keep this up it could be real interesting to see who gets sent down once MAF gets healthy. Has Sabu been Sabu'ed?
  • Kudos to all the players! They played a fantastic game in conditions that were less-than-ideal at best.
  • Hats off to the ice crew too. Kept things safe and as playable as possible.
The Broadcast...
  • As I already said, beauty overhead shot to open the broadcast. Brought a smile to my face.
  • Mike Milbury eh? Someday NHL broadcasting execs will learn that there is a difference between having personality and being a jackass. Unfortunately this will probably be after we've all been subjected to 10+ years of Jeremy Roenick doing color for national broadcasts.
  • All in all the commentary was pretty solid. They didn't cater to people who know nothing about hockey as much as I feared they might. That said, someone should have told Emerick, Olczyk, and Pang that there were other players on the ice besides Sidney Crosby and Ryan Miller.
  • Speaking of Miller, that Amp Yo Mama commercial was pretty solid, but what is J.S. Aubin doing in there? Pascal Leclaire and Andrew Raycroft should both be shopping for new agents as I type this.
  • NBC continues to screw over the NHL with their intermissions. For a league that is trying to get back into the mainstream, how is a first period intermission consisting of talking about Slapshot and Bob Costas waxing nostalgic about his run-in with the "real" Ogie Oglethorpe going to help that? And if that wasn't enough, they took things to another level between the second and third with old Bobby Orr footage, the worst Sidney Crosby highlight montage ever, and then footage of Mike Milbury in the stands beating a fan with a shoe. How absurd is that? Can you imagine Ron Artest doing the halftime show for an NBA game 20 years from now and them showing footage from the brawl in Detroit and laughing about it? This is the kind of stuff that sets hockey back in many people's eyes and I seriously doubt it helped turn any casual viewers into hockey fans. NBC needs to get it together and actually try to market the game. I don't think there was one person watching who actually cared if Bob Costas almost got beat up on a bus 30 years ago, but I guarantee there were plenty of people watching who still don't know who Evgeni Malkin is.
Overall I think the Winter Classic lived up to its name. It generated a lot of buzz for the NHL and nobody could have watched that game and walked away disappointed. If you ask me the next logical step for the NHL would be an outdoor All-Star game. Maybe in New York (Giants Stadium anyone?) I wish I could have been there in person, mostly just so I could say I was, but I did get to jump around my living room trading high fives with my 17 month-old son after Sid iced the shootout win for the Pens. And that is something I wouldn't trade for tickets to any game ever. Happy New Year hockey fans, it's only going to get better.