10.31.2008

Stars vs. Wild (Post-game)



That's the kind of game fans want to see out of the Stars!


A 4-2 win against the Wild will hopefully spark the Stars into playing some better hockey tonight, and throughout the rest of the season.

Here's some notes from the game:

- During the pre-game interviews, Dave Tippett essentially reinforced the fact that the Stars need Sergei Zubov in the line-up. He talked about how one of the best things the Stars do on defense is pair a young guy with a veteran, and that Zubov and Matt Niskanen were one of the stronger duos using that system.

- You gotta love Steve Ott's personality. When asked about playing on a line with Sean Avery, he said this: "...so look for us to just dump the puck, drive the corner and run some people over." Typical tough guy, but they're key to the team.

- The Morrow-Ribeiro-Eriksson line had a great start to the game, and kept it up the whole time. The opening goal took advantage of a lazy Minnesota defense, and

- Minnesota tried to fight back during the first period with a lot of hitting, and the entire match turned out to be full of hits, although there were no fights.

- Seeing Fabian Brunnstrom on the fourth line surprised me a bit; he had that little bit of chemistry with Toby Petersen on his first goal, but other than that, there weren't many positives. He didn't get very much ice time, although he was given some power-play time, and he didn't have many scoring opportunities either. I'm not sure that he should move, though; every other line looked pretty good.

- Tobias Stephan's first start of the year was excellent. He made a lot of key saves during the game, and some were even spectacular. As for the goals he gave up, they were goals that any goaltender would have given up. Marc-Andre Bergeron just might have the scariest slapshot of any defender (with respect to Zdeno Chara), and Andrew Brunette's fluke goal would've slipped under anyone.

- Brad Richards had a great game, scoring a goal and an assist to bring his season totals up to 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points on the season. He'll be a top scorer in Dallas again.

- Sean Avery's offensive skills only took a few games to click in. After last night's two-assist performance, he has a goal and 5 assists in 10 games.


Like I promised earlier, here's a fun little stats pro-rating thing that would show how the Stars scorers would finish their seasons if they kept up the same exact pace through 82 games. Fabian Brunnstrom, Steve Ott, Joel Lundqvist, Toby Petersen, and Mark Fistric will all be pro-rated based on if they were to play the rest of the season without missing any more games. Doug Janik has only played one game, so he doesn't have anything to pro-rate.

-------------------G--A---P--PIM's----
Brenden Morrow----33--57-90--164------
Mike Ribeiro-------9--81-90--32-------
Mike Modano-------32--50-82--32-------
Brad Richards-----25--31-66--0--------
Stephane Robidas---8--49-57--115------
Loui Eriksson-----33--24-57--16-------
Fabian Brunnstrom-50--10-60--0--------
Sean Avery---------9--40-49--271------
B.J. Crombeen------8--33-41--172------
Trevor Daley------16--16-32--82-------
James Neal--------16--16-32--65-------
Steve Ott---------15--15-30--200------
Krys Barch--------17---8-25--98-------
Matt Niskanen------8---8-16--0--------
Toby Petersen------0--10-10--20-------
Mark Fistric-------0---9--9--36-------
Joel Lundqvist-----0---9--9--18-------
Phillipe Boucher---0---8--8--49-------
Nicklas Grossman---0---8--8--90-------


Now obviously, most of those stats (if not all) will be completely different, but just doing that shows some of the flaws in the Stars' game so far through October. For example, this pace would give the Stars 7 different players with at least 90 PIM's. That's an awful lot of penalties.
Also, it's fairly obvious that B.J. Crombeen, Sean Avery, and Mike Ribeiro will score more goals then this. And while Ribeiro might have the potential to get that many assists, I doubt Crombeen and Avery will set up _that_ many goals. It'd also be pretty funny to see Fabian Brunnstrom score 50 goals while only getting 10 assists. Maybe someday he'll get into that range, but I think he's a more complete player and get a little more than just 10 assists.


*Dallas vs. Chicago:*
Tonight, the next up-and-coming team in the NHL goes up against the Stars, and Dallas needs to come out with a win to keep their momentum going.

The Hawks will be led by the heroics of Patrick's Kane and Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and surprising young rookie Kris Versteeg. Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith will hold down the defensive end, while either Nik Khabibulin or Cristobal Huet will be relied upon to keep goals out of the net.

On Dallas's end of the ice, they'll look for scoring from anyone and everyone, while hoping that a young defense can bring Wednesday's performance to the ice and keep the Hawks' sharpshooters away from likely starter Marty Turco, who needs to bounce back from a rough start to the season.

10.30.2008

Something just "clicked"



Steven Stamkos apparently decided the best time to play amazingly is when your NHL season is at the brink of dissipating.

In the last of Stamkos's 9 games to prove himself ready for the NHL, he scored two goals against the Buffalo Sabres to lead the team to a 5-2 win.

The first goal was originally inconclusive, but was credited to Stamkos when scorers determined that he re-directed the puck into the net off of Vincent Lecavalier's slap shot. However, his second goal was without a doubt his. Taking a smart pass from Adam Hall on a 2-on-2 break into the Sabres zone, Stamkos slapped the puck past Ryan Miller for the second goal of his young NHL career.

Now, without question, the Lightning are going to keep the young forward up with the big team. He didn't impress during his first 7 games, although that was largely attributed to lack of ice time given to Stamkos by coach Barry Melrose. However, you don't send a player back to juniors after he scores 2 goals in a game, no matter how much he would learn with more seasoning.

The interesting question will be whether or not Stamkos can keep this kind of play up, and whether or not he'll get the ice time he needs in order to do so.

For now, we'll see if Stamkos can wrestle back his "Calder lock" title back from the likes of Kyle Turris, Fabian Brunnstrom, and Derick Brassard.

10.29.2008

Stars vs. Wild

Tonight is the night of Antti Miettinen's return to Dallas! Minnesota comes to town looking strong, on the verge of their seventh win early in the season, while Dallas hopes to get off with a win just to keep the balance.

For Minnesota, they must hope that their newly formed trio of Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, and Miettinen can keep up their scoring; Koivu has a goal and 12 assists, Miettinen has 6 goals and 3 assists, and Brunette has 3 goals and 4 assists. They also hope that Nicklas Backstrom can keep up his strong goaltending, and that the defense can hold back Dallas. They'll have to bring the scoring without the help of superstar Marian Gaborik.

For the Stars, they need to focus on not having any defensive lapses. They've given up a lot of goals in their first 9 games, and haven't been able to score many themselves. They'll rely heavily on the offensive instincts of Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, Mike Modano, and Fabian Brunnstrom, while hoping that Phillipe Boucher, Stephane Robidas, and Matt Niskanen can keep the puck out of the defensive end. Marty Turco needs to bring his "A" game.


We'll see which team can come out on top tonight!

10.28.2008

Stamkos gets first NHL point *Update* Video Highlight



Steven Stamkos, the extremely hyped up first overall draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2008 draft, has recorded his first NHL point.

The circumstances of it can only point once again to the tried and true saying; More ice time equals more production.

Stamkos, apparently getting some time on the power-play with Vinny Lecavlier and Vaclav Prospal, notched an assist in his 8th NHL game, getting the second assist on a Lecavalier goal in the second period. I'll update with a video as soon as one goes up.

*Update* Well, I have the "official" highlight off that goal, and although it isn't really a pretty play, kudos to Stammer for getting his point anyways. Hard to really see that he helps, but apparently he does, so congratulations.

10.26.2008

Dallas vs. Washington

It was like opening night all over again.


The Stars and Capitals trading momentum all throughout regulation, up to the last-minute game-tier by Mike Modano. However, just like against Columbus, the Stars could not capitalize on their chances in overtime, and a sloppy defensive play led to a toe-drag wrister from Alexander Semin that won the game.

The Stars are now at 3-4-2 in their first 9 games of the season, and many Stars fans, often myself included, are wondering what the heck is going on.

I think there are two key problems to the Stars' rocky start this year: defensive play, and forward line combinations. Both problems can somewhat be attributed to injury; the Morrow-Ribeiro duo hasn't found a solid right-winger since Jere Lehtinen went down with an injury, and the defense is still without the veteran presence of Sergei Zubov.

However, now is not the time to make excuses and put the blame on something we can't control.

For example, the Stars defense should be strong, even without Zubov. Phillipe Boucher is a veteran leader as well, Stephane Robidas is a valuable defender who improves by the day, Trevor Daley is capable of quarter-backing a power-play and likes to play in his own end as well, and youngsters Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Grossman, and Mark Fistric are loaded with potential. Right now, it's impossible to blame any specific defender as the cause for the rough play; each one has their own partial excuse. Boucher is coming off an injury filled season last year, and was also injured for most of training camp. Fistric only played a partial season last year as an injury call-up, yet he doesn't appear to need any AHL seasoning. Niskanen and Grossman are young, still learning to play consistently, but definitely deserving of NHL time. Robidas is adjusting to a larger role overall, and it's hard to expect spectacular play out of Daley if he often only gets second or third pairing ice time. For the time being, the Stars can only hope that practice will improve the current group, and that Zubov can be a steadying influence once he returns to the line-up.


The forward group is another story. There aren't enough solid duos or trios to go around. For example; last night against Washington, the line of Morrow-Ribeiro-Eriksson played really well, and had a good game on Thursday against the Isles as well. However, Fabian Brunnstrom has also been great on that line, and he didn't click on a line with Brad Richards. Eriksson and Richards had good chemistry last year during the playoffs. One guy that can't seem to find a consistent place is Sean Avery. Now, I'm not saying he isn't a good player, because he might even be a key player. But other than a few nights where he's managed to either rough it up, and last night, when he scored his first goal as a Star, he hasn't been very effective. He's been shuffled around, but it's been very hard for coach Dave Tippett to find a good spot for him. Another question in terms of the forward line-up is; who will go down once Jere Lehtinen returns from an injury? Toby Petersen would initially be seen as the main candidate, but his play is very underrated. He got his only assist of the season so far on a skilled play to set up Fabian Brunnstrom's first NHL goal, and last night nearly scored a short-handed goal off of a pass from Mike Modano.


Moving past the negative parts of the season, here are some positive notes from last night's game and the season in general:

- It's nice to see a lot of Stars producing early on, despite the losses. Mike Modano especially is having a surprising season; not many people expected 4 goals and 10 points in 9 games. Stephane Robidas is keeping up his production from last year's playoffs; he's got a goal and 6 assists in 9 games. Brandon Crombeen is also producing beyond my expectations; he has a goal and 4 assists through 9 games while keeping up his physical play with 21 PIM's. Brad Richards should also have a strong season, with a respectable 2 goals and 6 points through 9 games, Loui Eriksson has the opposite, with 4 goals and 6 points in 9 games.

- Fabian Brunnstrom has found his job with Dallas; stand in front of the net, and capitalize on rebounds or passes from behind the net. He doesn't quite have the typical power-forward qualities; we've yet to see a particularly notable body check, or goal from on his back, but he's got the finesse skills to score in close, and it's gotten him 5 goals and 6 points in 7 games.

- Tobias Stephan hasn't looked to bad as a rookie so far this year. He's been credited with losses so far, but only because he closes out games that Marty Turco has essentially lost. However, in those games, Stephan hasn't looked to bad; against St. Louis, he only gave up a goal in the 3rd period after Turco gave up 5, and he only gave up one against New Jersey after Turco gave up 4.


- Here's some food for thought: Steven Stamkos has 0 points and is -3 in 7 games. Here's more: it's not his fault. That's right, even the people who are saying Stammer should go back to major-junior aren't blaming Stamkos. Instead, the coaching of Barry Melrose is probably at fault. Through his 7 games, Stamkos has never had more than 14:53 in ice time, and most nights, he doesn't get past 12 minutes. That's hardly the expected ice time for a guy with enough talent to be playing on Tampa's 2nd line. Tampa's only option is to send Stammer back down the OHL, let him dominate for the whole year, and hope that Melrose's brain kicks in and realizes that Stamkos can bring the Bolts a lot of points and some wins, too.

- How about this? Todd Bertuzzi is on pace for 62 goals....and 0 assists. As opposed to captain Jarome Iginla, who is on pace for 62 goals and 106 points. That would definitely be an interesting season for both right-wingers.

- Andy McDonald is on pace to have one of those season typical of Marc Savard and Joe Thornton, where the assists out number the goals 11 to 1. Literally, McDonald has a goal and 11 assists in 8 games so far.

That's all for now. I'll have a special pro-rate stats preview after the Stars play their tenth game against Minnesota on Wednesday.

10.25.2008

Dallas vs. NYI

Again, I've been so busy, that this time, I wasn't even able to watch the two games that have passed since my last post. And here's one thing to think about right away; so far, the Stars have always had one good game and one bad game whenever they have back-to-back games. Most recently, the bad game was against the New Jersey Devils. They lost 5-0, and boy, they sure looked like they were in for a playoff-less season.



However, their good game might give the Stars some momentum. A win against the New York Islanders (not that hard, but still) must have felt pretty good to earn. Mike Ribeiro specifically redeemed himself in my eyes, scoring a goal and getting FOUR assists. That game alone brought gave him the lead in points for Dallas. Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson also each had really good games, and Eriksson looks to have a strong season coming up. Marty Turco managed to pull off an ok performance after looking bad in the NJ game, and the defense was definitely a little stronger than it has been.

I love how Krys Barch is all of the sudden a legitimate power-forward at the start of this season. He fights all the time, and now he has two tip-in goals. Obviously, I don't expect him to come up with a 30-goal season...or a 20-goal season....or even a 10-goal season....but he could chip in with 5-6 goals by the end of the year and be a valuable contributor with his physical play.

10.22.2008

Dallas vs. NYR; Dallas vs. NJ preview

Yikes! Haven't had a lot of time online recently, so I'll quickly look over some points from the Rangers game, and get a quick preview in on the Dallas-New Jersey game.

NOTES:

- The opening line for the Stars was Sean Avery, Mike Ribeiro, and Loui Eriksson; a line that may have only ever been seen in practice before this game. While that line didn't manage much offensively, it wasn't awful, either. It also allowed Fabian Brunnstrom, Brenden Morrow, and Brad Richards to experiment together; the first result was a nice goal by Morrow on a rebound from a Brunnstrom shot that looked like a very smooth pass.

- Markus Naslund had a power-play goal, proving only one thing: the Stars are still taking way too many penalties.

- Mike Modano is currently scoring at a point-per-game pace. He probably won't keep it up, but does Dallas's main man since the late 80's have another 45-60 point season left in him?

- Both teams had a heck of a game for one reason; they had scoring chance upon scoring chance and never slowed down. The main reason for the Stars winning was the amazing play of Marty Turco; he shut down the potent New York duo of Brandon Dubinsky and Aaron Voros, and filled the highlight reels with his saves.


Dallas vs. New Jersey
At the time of this writing, the game had already started, and the score was 1-0 in favor of Jamie Langenbrunner. Unfortunately, he's no longer a Star. I'll be watching the rest of the game as soon as I can, and I'll post after the end, if I can.

10.18.2008

At Least it Wasn't 6-1



Well, the Stars did alright in today's game, that I unfortunately missed seeing. However, I was pleased to check the scoreboard and see both Fabian Brunnstrom and James Neal with goals. Also nice to see Loui Eriksson with a couple of points. The highlights probably sum up any notes I could write down, so I'll leave you to watch those for this game. I'll try and get something up tomorrow.

10.17.2008

Just Plain Awful

I almost didn't write this blog, but I promised (at least to myself) 82 games of coverage and I can't skip Thursday night's awful road loss to the St. Louis Blues.

I kid you not, it was terrible. I might be one of the biggest Stars fan out there, and I can honestly say that I couldn't find any bright spots in last night's game. You can't use Barch's goal as a bright spot, because his job isn't to score.

NOTES:

- Right off the bat, John from Stars Live jinxed us (sort of) by rhetorically asking if Brunnstrom would be able to repeat his big performance. The Swede had a few good chances, but obviously he wasn't the only one who couldn't beat Manny Legace.

- A James Neal trademark that will hopefully help the team in the long run; he's got incredible speed, and can hold on to the puck really well. He'll score on that left-side swoop before the year's over.

- The defense was again at fault on Thursday night: Keith Tkachuk's goal came on a turnover, Jay Mckee was left wide open to capitalize on a puck-handling slip-up by Turco, Steve Wagner scored because the Stars weren't willing to step in and take a puck for the team, Eric Brewer's one-timer also could have been blocked, and Yan Stastny had way to much time to shoot the puck on his goal. Penalties were also a big, big, problem; Brad Boyes scored on a 5-on-3, and the Blues had tons of other chances on the power-play.

- The Stars' 4th line played with the most energy last night; Krys Barch scored the only Stars goal, and Joel Lundqvist and Toby Petersen were probably the only Stars with a reasonably good outings.

- Tobias Stephan's second NHL game officially ended with him getting a loss, but he only played the last period, and only gave up 1 goal. That's not too bad, considering the Blues knocked 5 past Turco.

All in all, I was really disgusted with that game. I'm hoping we won't see another performance like this out of Dallas for the entire year, and if the boys can bounce back with a solid game against Colorado tomorrow, they'll be back on track.

10.16.2008

Brunnstrom's on fire; Stars get first win!



Wow.

Maybe I should start bashing the Stars before every game, and they'll all score hat tricks.

Before the Stars-Preds game started, I claimed that the addition of Brunnstrom would cause shaky line combinations to give the Stars trouble. How did he answer me? With a hat trick in his very first game.

The Stars finally pulled out a win, and it couldn't have been sweeter. Mike Modano scored two goals and got an assist, including an empty-netter that gave him 530 goals for his career. Brad Richards had two assists, and Sean Avery picked up his first point as a Dallas Star. But the night belonged to Brunnstrom, who, after being scratched for the first two games and leaving his hype in question, decided that the Stars needed some offense and went ahead and became only the 3rd player in NHL history to score a hat trick in his debut.

NOTES:

- Steve Ott was out with an injury, and the line of Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, and Loui Eriksson didn't mesh all too well. The Stars need to find a way to have every line producing; once Jere Lehtinen comes back, the lines will be more even. I'm seeing:
Morrow-Ribeiro-Lehtinen
Brunnstrom-Richards-Eriksson
Neal-Modano-Avery
Ott-Petersen-Crombeen
Krys Barch would be the 13th forward, occasionally playing in place of Crombeen.


- Dave Tippett on Fabian Brunnstrom, pre-game: Brunnstrom is a very respectable guy, he had no problems with being scratched the first couple of games. The only thing he really needs right now is to understand how we play. Once he can play our kind of game, he'll stick for sure.

- One of the main reasons that Brunnstrom played so well was the fact that Dave Tippett wasn't afraid to give him plenty of ice time; he was out on the ice during the Stars' first power-play of the night.

- An interesting line combination that played well last night was that of James Neal, Mike Modano, and Brandon (B.J.) Crombeen. Neal and Crombeen each had assists on Modano's first goal of the night, along with bringing physical play and speed to the game. I'll be interested as to whether or not Tippett keeps that group together; it would be hard to find a sure place for Avery if he does. All of the sudden, Dallas has good depth on the right wing: Eriksson, Avery, and Lehtinen all deserve top-six spots and B.J. Crombeen could easily play in that group as well.


- A few questionable calls were made in front of the net during this game, but the good thing was that the refs kept their original decisions; they didn't review a questionable goalie-interference call on Brenden Morrow that canceled a goal for Loui Eriksson, and when the ref initially called Martin Erat's goal a good one, and then went to a review that was inconclusive, they stuck with the on-ice call.

- Toby Petersen has to be one of the more unappreciated guys in the NHL right now. He got all sorts of ice time last night, from the penalty-kill, to making a killer move around two Predator defenders to set up Fabian Brunnstrom's first NHL goal.

- After starting the season with poor power-play results, the Stars managed a power-play marker in this game after Mike's Ribeiro and Modano set up Stephane Robidas' slap-shot goal.

- Matt Niskanen showed the maturity of an NHL veteran when he stayed on the ice during a Stars penalty-kill despite taking a painful shot the leg. He played later in the game, so the injury wasn't so serious, but a less-experienced player might have rushed off the ice to make sure he wouldn't get hurt. Kind of reminiscent of Glen Wesley back in the '06 Cup Finals, in my opinion. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to prevent Radek Bonk from scoring a power-play goal.

- Three rookies scored their first NHL goal in this match; Patric Hornqvist had one heck of a cool-looking tip off of a slap-shot from Shea Weber. Ryan Jones showed his tough presence in front of the net by not giving up on a wild, bouncing puck, and eventually knocked it past Marty Turco for his first goal.

- Niskanen really redeemed himself, in my eyes, by his defensive play last night. He was one of the weaker-looking defenders in the Stars' first two games, but last night, he had several shot-blocks and defensive plays that really shined.

- Greg Zanon is perhaps the craziest, yet best, shot-blocking defenseman in the NHL. Not once, but twice in last night's game, he dropped down on the ice to stop a shot and was hit in the head with the puck. Both times, he didn't take long to come back and keep playing. He's giving Nashville a real hard time finding ice-time for Kevin Klein.

- Sean Avery isn't the best fit with Brad Richards, in my opinion. He can still play the body-guard role, but several times last night, I saw him recieve killer-passes from Brad Richards and fail to capitalize on them. Loui Eriksson is a much better fit, and we could see a lot of offense from the Stars second line if they go with a combination of Brunnstrom-Richards-Eriksson.

- Speaking of Greg Zanon getting hit in the head with the puck, it was that reason that Fabian Brunnstrom didn't have four goals last night.

Overall, this was a really strong game for the Stars. Despite giving up 4 goals, they never trailed in the game, and played with much more energy than in the first two games. Tonight, they'll be up against the St. Louis Blues. I don't think I can live-blog tonight's game either, but I'll do my best to get you coverage on everything that happened.

10.15.2008

NHL Quick-Check + Stars vs. Predators preview

Some news around the NHL:

- Ryan Hollweg has gotten himself suspended again. Personally, I think this is getting out of hand. I mean, some NHL players have gotten longer suspensions (Chris Simon) or suspensions for worse reasons (Sean Hill), but Hollweg is ridiculous. Barely into the second week of the 08-09 season, Hollweg has his second 3-game suspension. This man is going to get himself kicked out of the NHL, and I'm surprised that the Leafs haven't demoted him to the Marlies already.

- I know it's only a few games into the season, but it's always fun to look at the names atop the score charts and imagine what the NHL would be like if those guys led the league for the whole season. Then again, if Aaron Voros (7 points) was leading the NHL in points at the end of the year (along with Brandon Dubinksy, also 7 points), then the NHL might want to check back and see just how useful those rule changes would be.

- Along the topic of scoring leaders, can Keith Tkachuk make a comeback? The old power-forward has 4 goals already for St. Louis, and is on pace for, well, technically 82-84 goals. While that obviously won't happen, it'll be interesting to see if the Blues winger can get his goal-scoring into the 30-40 range for a few more years. He scored 27 goals last year.

- The NHL has decided to get the fan's answer on the ultimate question (no, not the question of life); Who's better? Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby? Fans across the NHL can write their own argument for either star player and have the opportunity for their opinions to appear on NHL.com. I'd write my own piece, but I like the play of both superstars and would only barely come out with Ovechkin on top.

Stars vs. Predators Preview:

- The Fort-Worth Star Telegram is reporting that Fabian Brunnstrom is going to make his debut tonight. But hold your applause, Stars fans—Brunnstrom is reportedly going to play on a line with Brad Richards and Sean Avery. Now, I'm not saying this line combo can't work. But not only does it break up the skilled duo of Richards and winger Loui Eriksson, it also takes bodyguard/agitator Avery off of the Neal-Modano-Avery line that played so well in the opening game of the season. Now, Avery is a new player, so his chemistry can still be messed around with, but Eriksson and Modano have rarely, if not never, played together and won't have much time to learn each other's game. The Stars need a win tonight, and they need it badly. A better line combo choice could have been Brunnstrom-Richards-Eriksson and keep the Neal-Modano-Avery line together. Another option that would have been interesting to see would be Morrow-Ribeiro-Brunnstrom. The Stars have had Steve Ott play the protector role for the intimidating duo of Morrow and Ribeiro, but Morrow is a tough guy in his own right and Ribeiro is no weakling either. Essentially, my ideal line combinations would be as follows:
Morrow-Ribeiro-Brunnstrom
Neal-Modano-Avery
Ott-Richards-Eriksson
Barch-Petersen-Crombeen
Hopefully, though, Brunnstrom can prove me wrong and play well tonight. Perhaps another Star will get his first goal in his first game?

- Jason Arnott suffered a hand injury and is expected to miss about 3 games, according to ESPN. This could be seen as very helpful to Dallas; without Arnott, the last Stars-Preds game would've ended up 1-1. Arnott terrorized the Stars by scoring 2 goals, and had so many other scoring opportunities that 4 goals wouldn't have seemed impossible.

- The Stars' defensive play will be under the most scrutiny; it was the main reason for a 0-1-1 start that surprised many Stars fans. I'm hoping that defensive coverage and awareness was the main focus during the Stars' practices, and hopefully tonight will produce better results.

That's all for now. I'll have a blog up after the game, most likely tomorrow, unfortunately live-blogging won't be an option.

10.14.2008

Another loss of life affecting the hockey world



Wow. Just after hockey fans were getting over the shock of Luc Bourdon's untimely death, Alexei Cherepanov has an unexpected collapse on the bench during an KHL game. Cherepanov played for Omsk, and last season had excited the NHL by breaking Pavel Bure's rookie record for goals in the Russian Elite League with 18 compared to Bure's 17. He was probably in line for a roster spot as soon as his contract with Omsk was up.

However, apparently, God (or fate, depending on whom you believe) has decided otherwise. In the past year, the hockey world has lost Mickey Renaud, Luc Bourdon, and now Cherepanov to tragic incidents that nobody could predict happening. I could go into the history of incidents like this throughout the NHL's history, but I've depressed myself enough.

Instead, I'll hit a more interesting note: Why does the KHL, a league with so much money, not have the proper medical equipment at the rink? I've seen reports that a defibrillator may have been able to say Cherepanov, and even if they decided to carry him out for speed, the safer option would have been a stretcher, had one been available in the building. I recently read a blog (for the life of me, I can't remember who wrote it, very sorry) about someone who played in an amateur men's league that experienced a shock much like this; another man on the ice had collapsed from a heart disease (may have been a heart attack) and died because the proper equipment could not be found. The blogger afterwards petitioned for the rink to acquire a defibrillator, and was successful. It was a very touching story, and it immediately rose to the top of my mind when I first heard of Cherepanov's death. I'm not going to bash the KHL for neglecting to take care of their players; obviously, they didn't expect anything on such a serious level, and neither did Alexei. However, if there had been a defibrillator, or perhaps other medical equipment in the room, a life could have been saved. This is another incident where professional and amateur sports leagues, players, and building managers need to hear about this, look at their own equipment, and realize that with a few simple upgrades, they could save many lives.

UPDATE: After finding this link on James Mirtle's blog, this may be the saddest story I've ever read involving hockey. Credits to the writers who translated this: Cherepanov's Tale.

10.13.2008

NHL Quick-Check

Thanks to Columbus Day, I have today off from school. So, in order to take full advantage of it, here's a look at some news around the NHL:

- The Sharks may have found the perfect balance between an overloaded platoon system (Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov, especially in 06-07) and over-working Nabokov (77 games in 07-08). Sharks coach Todd Mclellan made the smart move yesterday, going with Brian Boucher in goal even though Nabokov had won his previous two games. The results? Boucher was named second star of the night for the entire NHL after posting a 21-save shutout against the Los Angeles Kings. Sharks rookie Lukas Kaspar made sure Boucher would get his win, scoring the lone goal of the game for his very first NHL goal, and first game-winner as well.

- The New York Rangers were perhaps the one team in the NHL to recieve so many different opinions in the off-season. Some said that acquisitions Markus Naslund, Wade Redden, Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Fritsche, and Dmitri Kalinin would push the Rangers over the top and into the Cup Finals. Others said that the Rangers had simply picked up some past-their-prime players and would collapse because of their lack of skill. Still more said that the Rangers would be the same team as last year, Naslund becoming the new Jaromir Jagr, and the other new guys making no difference whatsoever.
I don't know who will eventually turn out right, but as of right now, it's leaning in favor of the ones who say New York will win the Cup; the Rangers have started their season at 4-0.

- This seems to be the year of losing defensemen. The Flyers have been ravaged the worst, losing Ryan Parent and Randy Jones, two defensemen who would've been in their top-six for sure. Bryan McCabe is out for Florida, and the Blues lost Erik Johnson and Jeff Woywitka. The Maple Leafs lost Jeff Finger for a little while, and the Stars are missing Sergei Zubov temporarily, and I suspect these won't be the only blue-line injuries to ravage the league. On the plus side, we might see a heck of a lot of goals scored throughout the year. I mean, if the Islanders can score five on St. Louis, you never know what might come next.

- Despite all the rumors of the Sedin twins wanting to take off to another team if the Canucks struggle again this year, it hasn't stopped them from playing well. Daniel was one of the 'Three Stars' of the week for the NHL, scoring 2 goals and 3 assists in 2 games, while Henrik has a goal and 3 assists in those same 2 games. These numbers are still following the pattern of Henrik being more of a play-maker while Daniel is the goal-scorer.

Rookie Report: Didn't See Him Coming:
Some of the more surprising rookies of the first week in the NHL-
Rick Rypien- This rookie center for the Vancouver Canucks has taken a long and hard road to the NHL. He recieved call-ups totaling up to 29 games in 3 seasons before 08-09, which I believe cancels out his Calder eligibility, but this year, his performance appears to be paying off. Rypien (pronounced Rippin', like, he's rippin' shot after shot at the net) is tied for the rookie goal-scoring lead with 2 goals in his first 2 games.
Kevin Porter- Originally thought to be too far down on the Coyotes depth chart to make the team, Porter instead jumped into the line-up and has been solid for Phoenix. Currently, through 2 games, he's tied with Kyle Turris for the rookie lead in assists with 2.
Chris Porter- Another young Porter (although I believe the two are unrelated) was a surprise addition to his St. Louis Blues team after only scoring 12 goals and 37 points in 80 AHL games last year. However, he cracked the line-up for the Blues and enjoyed his first NHL assist when the Blues defeated the Predators in their first game.

- On the subject of rookies, what the heck happened to Steven Stamkos??? After playing two games in Europe against the Rangers and displaying potential by ringing a shot off the crossbar, he's been off the map. Sure, it's only the first week, but his team played two weeks ago, and had a game in this past week! With Kyle Turris topping the scoring lists for rookies and several other young guys making big impacts, the Lightning's first overall pick in the 2008 draft better pick up his play (scoreless in 3 games with a -1 rating) if he really wants that Calder trophy.

10.12.2008

Phoenix rookies giving the Desert Dogs a chance

Coyotes fans saw it Saturday night against Columbus, and they saw it today against Anaheim;

The young guns are in charge now.

Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker scored their first NHL goals against the Ducks today. Peter Mueller and Keith Yandle scored against Columbus yesterday. Rookie Kevin Porter has two assists in two games, and Viktor Tikhonov looks pretty good as well. The veterans are chipping in as well; Turris assisted on Olli Jokinen's first goal as a Coyote against Columbus, and assisted on one of Shane Doan's two goals today against Anaheim. Steven Reinprecht has 3 assists in two games, and Todd Fedoruk has two assists in the games.

Could this be the start of a very surprisingly strong season for the Phoenix Coyotes? We'll see...

10.11.2008

Stars Game 2 of 08-09, Live-blog.

Alright people, I'm going to be attempting my first live blog for tonight's Stars vs. Predators game. I doubt I can update it every time I can add something, but I'll do my best.

PRE-GAME:

6:50- I don't know if this is because of my cable service (Time Warner) or because the Stars or Predators board just made a very odd decision, but apparently, the only place to watch this game is on NHL Center Ice on TV. The free online preview of NHL GameCenter isn't even showing the game. I really can't believe this. Versus isn't showing any games. Fox Sports Southwest is showing football. KDFI is showing some old, two-star movie called Hair Show that I've never heard of. No other local channel in Dallas is showing this game. I'll do the best I can to listen to the audio feed, and write about that, but I'm really outraged at the fact that no TV channel is showing this game unless you're paying however-much-per-year to get Center Ice subscription. This really makes me mad.

7:07- Problem solved! Apparently, Time Warner was showing me the wrong scheduling for FS-SW. I visited the Stars site out of desperation, and it told me the game was indeed on FS-SW, so I re-checked, and now that awesome Stars intro-commercial is on.

7:09- Both goaltenders are or were Stars players, and oddly enough, both goaltenders (Turco and Ellis for those who are new to either team or the whole league) gave up 5 goals in their games yesterday.

FIRST PERIOD:

- Opening lines for Dallas: Robidas-Grossman on defense, Neal-Modano-Avery up front.

7:13 - Could the Stars already be in trouble? A turnover at Nashville's blue-line sends the puck the other way, where Shea Weber, un-covered by any Star, pounces on a rebound and scores the opening goal of the game. Right after that, Martin Erat gives the Stars a quick scare, but Trevor Daley keeps him from getting a shot off.

- All the Stars lines are the same; apparently the Stars think they'll get enough offense from the groups they have.

7:15 - Well, look who wants to be an offensive defenseman. Trevor Daley pots a goal, snapping a high wrist-shot from the top of the face-off circle.

7:15 - Daley takes a penalty right after his goal, but the Stars' penalty kill appears to be on top of its game.

7:17 - Turco keeps getting scaring me. He's still over-handling the puck, and Phillipe Boucher had to save him from giving up a goal.

7:19 - Dan Ellis makes a nifty little up-ice pass...think he took more than a few lessons from Turco?

7:20 - The Predators just look like they have more overall energy right now. They're fighting harder in the corners, playing better defensively, and passing well. I hope we can get some energy in us somehow-perhaps another Barch fight?

- Unlike last night's collection of rookies for the Blue Jackets, Nashville's lone youngster Patric Hornqvist is so far invisible. He's already been given at least two shifts, and he's done almost nothing.

7:23 - Mike Ribeiro got tripped up by Ryan Suter; he looked a little shaken up, but he's still on the ice, so I guess he's not hurt.

- The Stars had an exceptionally weak power-play against Nashville last year, 0-for-26. So far, after one power-play, it's 0-for-1.

7:26 - Two fights at once! B.J. Crombeen against Greg de Vries, and Sean Avery vs. Dan Hamhuis. Both fights getting broken up pretty quickly, but not half-bad. Jordin Tootoo was actually the original cause, messing around with Marty Turco after a play. Steve Ott and Trevor Daley immediately jumped on Tootoo, and then the two fights erupted. Ott, Crombeen, and Avery are all in the penalty box, and one lady is just absolutely shouting her lungs out at Avery. It's pretty funny, mainly because the enigmatic Avery is just kind of looking at her like, "Who do you think you are?"

7:30 - Apparently, Mr. Avery has been kicked out of the game. Both Brenden Morrow and Dave Tippett don't like the call, but oh well. Sucks for the penalty-box lady, she'll have to waste her breath shouting at Ott and Crombeen.

7:33 - I can't imagine Avery and Crombeen will be the only fighters of this game. Shoving matches are occuring after every whistle.

7:34 - Another Stars penalty, Mark Fistric for slashing.

7:35 - Jason Arnott takes advantage of a rough PK unit (Morrow, Niskanen, Robidas, Barch) to score his first goal of the year. If the game stays at this pace, we might see another 5-4 game, or higher.

7:38 - The Stars really need to catch a break offensively. They're having a really hard time bringing the puck into Nashville's end.

7:40 - Shea Weber came close to giving Dallas a goal bringing the puck around his net. Right after that, Turco makes a nice pass the Brad Richards almost caught up to for a break-away. We're getting to that energy level...

7:42 - Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, and Phillipe Boucher combine for a good scoring chance.

- Jason Arnott's house caught fire. Wow, I hope he and his family can deal with that smoothly.

7:47 - The Stars are still looking slow. They can't seem to get the puck moving, which is probably the opposite of how yesterday's first period went, even though on both occasions, Dallas was outshot.

7:48 - B.J. Crombeen in the box. Nashville is getting way too many chances. However, the penalty-kill still looks strong.

END OF FIRST PERIOD

- The Hawks-Caps game is pretty interesting. Alex Ovechkin made up for yesterday by scoring a goal already, and energy player Matt Bradley has scored as well. For the Hawks, rookies Kris Versteeg and Jack Skille have scored.

- Miroslav Satan has a goal for the Penguins against New Jersey. Brian Rolston is shooting a lot.

- Trent Hunter, Andy Hilbert, Sean Bergenheim, and Mike Comrie have all scored for the Islanders, and rookie Kyle Okposo already has an assist. Brad Boyes will probably be the top scorer for St. Louis again; he's got goals in back-to-back games so far. Rookie Alex Pietrangelo is at -1, getting 11:33 of ice time through two-periods.

- Ouch. Whoever does intermission schedule reports for Dallas just said it's already been two periods of the game. Woops.

SECOND PERIOD:

8:08 - Ralph and Razor are right; the Stars really need Sergei Zubov back. He's old, but he's key.

8:09 - Still making lots of turnovers, but at least we're doing better in our own zone.

8:11 - Mark Fistric really needs to work on his defensive coverage. When Zubie comes back, I'm expecting Fistric to get at least a quick AHL assignment until the next defender goes down with an injury.

8:11 - Nashville takes another penalty. The Stars can't afford to go 0-for-2 tonight. They're keeping the play in Nashville's zone, but they can't get a good pass or shot off. James Neal is getting power-play time, and he doesn't look out of place. Dan Ellis is making some awesome saves.

8:14 - Nashville takes a minor with 2 seconds left on the first one. Technically, the Stars are 0-for-2 now, but they kept the play alive pretty well. David Legwand and Scott Nichol both nearly got short-handed goals, and it took a desperate diving trip from Robidas to keep Nichol from getting a perfect opportunity on a break-away.

8:20 - Brenden Morrow snaps a shot that almost goes in. Can the captain bring the energy? We'll have to wait 40 seconds though, Preds have a power-play.

8:21 - Stars have another good penalty-kill. J-P Dumont gets a great shot off and gives Jason Arnott a rebound to pounce on right after it, though, but Marty Turco comes through with a huge save.

8:24 - Again, Turco makes a risky move to try and play the puck, and almost gives the Preds a goal. He's got to be more careful!

8:26 - Dave Tippett is mixing up the lines, trying to get something going. I don't know that it's gonna work, though.

8:32 - Mike Modano has a great chance to score, but Dan Ellis is just too poised. The Stars only have 10 shots so far, which worries me.

8:39 - Turco gets lucky on a shot that goes high, and Nichol rams into him. Can the Stars turn a goalie interference power-play into a game-tying goal? I hope so.

8:39 - An odd minor called now, Stephane Robidas and whoever #25 is for Nashville both called for hooking at different incidents, so it stays a 5-4. The Stars really need to use this power-play to get a goal.

8:43 - Stars get lucky on a 3-1 right after the power-play, Scott Nichol fanned on a shot.

END OF SECOND PERIOD

- Montreal destroyed the Maple Leafs 6-1. Sorry Leafs fans, your team isn't invincible after all. Alexei Kovalev, Roman Hamrlik, Alex Tanguay, and Guillame Latendresse all scored for the Habs, and Sergei Kostitsyn came through with a 2-goal performance. Jason Blake scored the lone Toronto goal.

- Johan Franzen scored two goals, and Valterri Filpulla scored the opening goal as the Red Wings topped the Senators 3-2. Alex Picard and Nick Foligno scored for Ottawa.

- Keith Tkachuk couldn't rally the Blues, and Bill Guerin put the icing on the cake as the Islanders beat the Blues with a final score of 5-2.

- Nik Zherdev, Blair Betts, Freddy Sjostrom, and Michal Roszival all scored for the Rangers, as Sarah Palin's puck drop did little to help the Flyers, who lost 4-3. Scott Hartnell, Simon Gagne, and young leader Mike Richards are scored for Philly.

- Alex Ovechkin potted his second goal of the night, and Brooks Laich popped in the winner as the Caps came back from 2-1 to defeat Chicago 4-2.

- David Booth came out as a hero, scoring the Panthers opening goal, and also knocking in an overtime winner as Florida beat the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2. Stephen Weiss also scored for the Cats, as Slava Kozlov and Jason Williams couldn't get the Thrashers another win.

THIRD PERIOD:

9:02 - Despite his non-presence, Barry Trotz is keeping Patric Hornqvist on the top line. He managed a shot that got blocked, but I still don't see too much special about him yet.

9:07 - Both teams are moving pretty slowly, but it's most worrying that the Stars are still missing that jump on the puck.

9:09 - Morrow and Ribeiro are both giving their all towards another Stars goal, but they can't get anything past Ellis.

9:10 - James Neal is getting all sorts of ice time. He's a great player, but Tippett needs to be careful about overplaying him and ruining his rookie year.

9:12 - The Stars, on the penalty-kill, are still letting players get way too close to Marty Turco. Jordin Tootoo got in 3-4 rebound shots before Nicklas Grossman finally knocked him away.

- As someone who has a bad reputation with me for knocking out Stephane Robidas a while ago, I'm loving how Jordin Tootoo keeps getting dropped by Stars players.

9:14 - Toby Petersen was ever so close to a goal with a deflection on Robidas' shot fomr the point.

- Funnily enough, James Neal's #18 jersey has me thinking I'm seeing #10 have a lot of good shifts. Not that Morrow isn't doing good, but you get my point...

- I love how Time Warner is telling me I'm watching College Football, UCLA at Oregon. So odd...

9:22 - Good job by Brad Richards to keep fighting for the puck in the middle of the ice, he drew a penalty. With about 7 minutes left, the Stars need all the shots they can get.

9:28 - This game might be over. Steve Ott takes a high-sticking penalty with about 4 minutes left. If they can kill it off, and score a goal with just over 2 minutes left, it'll be great. However, look at last night's game. The Stars scored 2 goals in about 3 of the final minutes, but then lost with 21 seconds left in overtime.

9:31 - Definitely over. Jason Arnott scores his second goal of the night after the puck bounces off him onto his stick and into the net. It'll be awfully hard for Dallas to come back from 3-1 in 3 minutes. There's a chance, but it's a small chance. However, maybe the desperation energy will kick in.

9:36 - The Stars pull Marty Turco in hopes of getting goal. Can they do it? I really hope so.

9:37 - 37 seconds to go. It's highly unlikely that Dallas can get 2 goals, but they are definitely giving a strong effort with the empty net, taking a lot of shots.

9:39 - The game's over. Personally, I blame the Stars....for letting Jason Arnott and Dan Ellis leave as free agents. Honestly, the entire game belonged to Arnott and Ellis. Ellis's only goal allowed was through a screen, and he had a countless number of skilled saves through the whole game. Arnott's two goals and one assist led his team, and led to the win.

The Stars have started the season 0-1-1, but I think the main reason for tonight's loss was fatigue. The Stars looked tired for the entire night, and struggled defensively, like yesterday. I'm sure that Dave Tippett will be running plenty of 2-on-1, 3-on-1, 2-on-2, and 3-on-2 drills, especially focusing on covering that third man in. Hopefully, with some rest and practice, Dallas can come out and get a win against Nashville at home on the 15th.

Game 1 of 08-09 for Dallas (frikkin CBJ)




Well, amazingly enough, the Stars' first home game of the season turns out to be a loss.

After some insane trading of goals in the 3rd period, Rick Nash won the game for the Blue Jackets with less than a minute left in overtime.

Here's some of the things I noticed last night (rough notes translated from my phone).

- Dave Tippett on the Stars' play during the pre-season: Our record wasn't that great, but we use the pre-season to test our younger players and now that the season has started, the guys know that it's time to get serious.

- The opening ad for the Dallas Stars' 08-09 season was awesome. It spent a lot of time focusing on how important the fans are the team, which is something the entire NHL needs to focus on.

- I haven't noticed it before, but the fan tradition of shouting 'Stars!' every time the word 'star' or 'stars' comes up in the national anthem is awesome. Some people might criticize Stars fans for not respecting the national anthem, but I think it's just another great way to show team spirit. If the Kelowna Rockets sang the U.S. national anthem before games, it'd be great for their fans to shout 'Rockets!' if they wanted to.

- Right off the bat, both teams were playing rough and fast, which is exactly the kind of hockey I love. Players like James Neal, Jason Chimaera, Loui Eriksson, and others showed exactly why their foot-speed got them to the NHL, especially on several break-away chances for Eriksson and on Neal's tip-in goal.

- The Stars really seemed to control the puck well throughout the whole game, and although they ended up losing in OT, it was due to the passing skill of the team, and Mike Ribeiro's puck-handling skill for the tying goal, that let the Stars stay in the game after going down 1-0 and 4-2.

- Dave Tippett went with these lines up front: Morrow-Ribeiro-Ott, Lundqvist-Richards-Eriksson, Avery-Modano-Neal, and Barch-Petersen-Crombeen. The idea of having at least one defensive/enforcer-type player on each line (Ott, Lundqvist, Avery, and the entire fourth line) seemed to work fairly well for the Stars. I was especially impressed by the play of Neal, Avery, and Modano. The three players, each of whom play differing styles, clicked really well. Modano's speed, although limited at his age, and passing skill seemed to work with Neal, whose crash-the-net scoring style has many hockey experts thinking "Morrow pt. 2." Avery provided a sort of bodyguard presence, getting into several shoving matches, but at the same time, his unpredictable offensive abilities would occasionally kick in and give the Stars a good scoring chance.


- Brenden Morrow's offense was at it's usual level; he hit the post on one play, had several shots, and ended up scoring the tying goal in the second period to make the score 1-1.

- The first power-play unit of Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro, Modano, Stephane Robidas, and Brad Richards didn't connect on its first opportunity, and it looked like they had a little trouble moving the puck around. The Stars do need to work on their power-play a little, but it usually ends up with midde-of-the-pack numbers, and an annually strong penalty kill will help even out the rough patches. The second chance for the power-play was strong though, with Morrow scoring a goal.

- The defensive pairs of Grossman-Robidas, Fistric-Boucher, and Niskanen-Daley were a little interesting to me. I think Tippett was trying to go younger players with more experienced ones, but I'm not too sure that the lines were as strong as they could be. However, Nik Grossman and Robidas were a solid pair all of last season, and looked alright tonight. Robidas is still consistently becoming a two-way defender, and he looked good assisting on Neal's goal. Mark Fistric and Phillipe Boucher made a real nice shut-down pair, but Fistric is still young, and may need a little more time in the minors, whereas Boucher is still coming back after an injury-filled 08-09 season where he only got into 32 regular season games.

- Loui Eriksson continues to impress me with his offensive play. He didn't score last night, but had several break-away chances, and was on top of the puck all night, battling hard in the corners, and doing his best to give the Stars some offense. He'll be another great Stars winger, and the announcers (Ralph and Razor are still great) even compared him to Jere Lehtinen.

- Marty Turco was solid, despite giving up 5 goals. He had several incredible saves during the game, and it's hard to believe that he won't have another amazing year.

- Sean Avery played his usual style, getting up in players faces. When I first hear that the Stars had signed Avery, I had thought it was pointless. We already had Morrow, Steve Ott, and Krys Barch bringing a tough physical presence to the team, and even rookie B.J. Crombeen fights a lot. However, Avery's pest factor is something that he's practiced for a while. I still see him as very similar to Steve Ott, as each player can fight, get in the other team's face, and occasionally back up his actions with a goal or an assist. However, I think Avery will fit in pretty nicely with the team, and he should have a good year.

- I was very surprised to see a lack of Fabian Brunnstrom in the lineup. I mean, obviously Neal and Crombeen are talented young players, but I was really into all the hype that the entire NHL was giving to Brunnstrom. However, if he couldn't secure a roster spot straight out of camp, he may just turn into another undrafted free agent out of Europe who can't secure an NHL job. I really hope he doesn't.

- Mike Modano really seemed to slide in the third line role without a problem. He's been one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL for a long time, and even at his age, he can bring the speed and passion that many Stars players don't.

- Jakub Voracek looked really good on the ice for a rookie. Even though the only people to originally catch his first NHL goal were the Stars play-by-play men, anyone could see that he can play smart offensively. His positioning and timing for that goal seemed like those of a seasoned veteran, and he'll probably be a great NHL player. It was funny to hear the ref say that Voracek's goal was "good" before confirming that it was an actual goal. I'm not sure if he was just stating his own opinion, or if he just thought that it was a goal, but I got a laugh out of that.

- Krys Barch and Jared Boll had one heck of a fight during the first period:



I am probably one of very few people in the hockey world that likes Krys Barch. I know he'll probably be a pure fighter for the rest of his NHL days, but he's just one of the guys I enjoy watching fight. He's got that killer 'grab-hand jab' that we'll probably be seeing used by a lot of NHL players this year, and he's not bad with his other hand either. Boll and Barch had another fight last year, which Boll completely dominated, to be honest. I'd definitely call this second one a win for Barch, so they're even for now. I'll try and keep track of their record if they fight again this year.

- The Blue Jackets will definitely have a more physical blue-line, led by Mike Commodore. Sean Avery got absolutely creamed entering the offensive zone from a clean check by Commodore, and we'll probably see a lot more Commodore hits as the season progresses.

- Stephane Robidas can just click with anyone. On one penalty kill, he rushed the puck into the Columbus zone and almost combined with Joel Lundqvist for a short-handed goal. Pascal Leclaire, who's on his way to becoming a premiere goaltender, stopped Lundqvist on that play, and had several other crazy saves, including one with the chin of his facemask.


- James Neal's first NHL goal came off of a great deflection, and it only helped prove that he'll be another Brenden Morrow-type player.

- Kristian Huselius showed that he can provide plenty of offense, capitalizing on a poor rebound left by Turco, and just pounding it in the net. Rick Nash, you're not alone.

- The Stars definitely had some trouble with their defensive coverage; Andrew Murray's goal only came about because he was wide open right in the middle of the ice. The Blue Jackets forward (I can't remember who) made a smart pass, and Murray had all the time in the world to pop a backhander past Turco.

- Rookie Derick Brassard scored his first goal of the season (he had a goal in 17 games last year), and that nearly toppled the Stars there and then. Right after Murray's goal, Brassard picked up the puck in the corner and made a smart move to, maybe even deliberately, bank the puck of a Stars defender and into the net past Turco.

- The Stars finally caught a break late in the third period, when Stephane Robidas took a slapshot in the point, and Brad Richards, in the typical power forward spot despite being more of a finesse player, had the puck bounce in off his shin and into the net.

- That break brought the life back into the Stars, and Mike Ribeiro proved how much of a leader he can be by out-skating and out-stick handling most of the Blue Jackets on the ice before making a nice pass to Trevor Daley, who slammed a one-timer past Pascal Leclaire to tie the game and eventually send it into overtime.

- The Stars were re-energized by both goals, and controlled the puck well during overtime. James Neal had a really nice opportunity, swooping into the offensive zone, but there were too many bodies in front of the net for him to get a good shot off. Mike Ribeiro's skilled puck control almost led to another goal to win the game, but to no avail. With 21 seconds left in the game, the Stars had one last fatal defensive slip that led to Nash's break-away game-winning goal.

Despite the loss, though, I think the Stars had a really good game. A lot of the forwards found their groove on a line, and the Stars brought back the combos of Morrow-Ribeiro and Richards-Eriksson, really good moves in my opinion. Hopefully, tonight against Nashville, the Stars can bring some better defensive coverage on the ice, protect the front of the net a little better, rush the offensive zone with the same intensity, and come out with a win. I'll be watch that game, and I'll let you know in a blog tomorrow how it turns out.

10.10.2008

Luc Bourdon Tribute Was Amazing

I watched a Youtube video of the Vancouver Canucks' tribute to Luc Bourdon during their home opener, and I was amazed and touched.

Here's a video:



The amount of time people in Vancouver must have spent putting that together is incredible. That song was really great too, and I'm hoping somehow it goes up on iTunes, because I would pay for that.

Also had to love how Alex Burrows pointed to the sky after his first goal, as a tribute to Luc. It's amazing how people still categorize hockey as a brutally violent and cold sport when everyone in the game can put together something like this.

Here's some video highlights of the actual game, which Vancouver completely dominated. Burrows scored two goals, while new captain Roberto Luongo showed some strong leadership by shutting out the Calgary Flames.

10.09.2008

Toronto vs. Detroit OPENING NIGHT!!

Wow.

The Toronto Maple Leafs actually beat defending cup champ Detroit on the NHL's opening night. 3-2 was the final score, and there were definitely a lot of points to notice in the game, mainly about the revamped Toronto team.

- Can Pavel Kubina be a second offensive catalyst from the blue-line? He showed some offensive instincts eerily similar to the good days of Sandis Ozolinsh with that first Maple Leafs goal. The Leafs would love not having to rely on only Tomas Kaberle. However, Kubina hasn't ever really been an offensive defenseman.

- Dominic Moore was all the hype after Toronto's first pre-season game, showing a lot of offensive prowess and challenging for the no. 1 center spot. He goes on to score the game-tying goal tonight; will the Leafs use him for offense as well as defense?

- Tomas Holmstrom showed that he's still going to be one of the best goal-crashing forwards in the league, scoring both goals for Detroit in his usual style.

- Nikolai Kulemin made a very promising NHL debut; how does first game-winning goal sound? Could the Leafs have a challenger for the Calder trophy in their hands?

- The entire Leafs set of forwards seemed to be based on getting offensive opportunities, and even the 'D', specifically Kubina, Kaberle, and rookie Luke Schenn, had a couple of chances at the net. A lot of the Leafs plays came from playing physical, tough hockey in the corners, and battling for the puck at every chance.

- Although not generating any goals, the Leafs line of Jason Blake, Mikhail Grabovski, and Alexei Ponikarovsky was strong on the puck all night and got several shots off. Sophomore Jiri Tlusty also seemed to connect pretty well with Niklas Hagman. Alex Steen, Jonas Frogren, and Dominic Moore clicked well on Moore's goal, while Nik Kulemin was just plain showing off (not) on a break-away.

- I'm hoping Nicklas Lidstrom can have a good influence on younger players by deciding to wear a visor throughout the year. I know it's only because of his facial injury (puck to the face in the pre-season), but hopefully he'll look "cool" enough to make some younger hockey players keep a visor on even when they have the option not to wear one.

- Attention all fans of scraps in front of the net and plenty of body checks: the NHL has you covered.


That's all I can write for tonight. I'll get a little more up tomorrow about the Boston-Colorado game. No chance to watch Def Leppard, though.

10.08.2008

Say What?!

www.thehockeynews.com has an interesting new feature up on their website, which should be fairly entertaining.

The 'Say What?!' feature was introduced yesterday with a quote from Shane O'Brien. It wasn't exactly funny, but it definitely showed how physical of a player O'Brien is.

You can RSS Feed 'Say What?!' here.

L.A.'s new captain

Dustin Brown was named captain of the Los Angeles Kings yesterday, finalizing the obvious youth movement that the Kings are going through.

Brown, the youngest captain in Kings history, had a strong year last season, scoring 33 goals as well as leading the team in hits. It'll be interesting to see if he stays captain of Los Angeles for his whole Hollywood tenure, or if the Kings believe he's warming the spot for Anze Kopitar. Both players are youthful, offensively strong leaders for L.A.

NOTES:

- Alex Ovechkin isn't injured, apparently. He sparked rumors across the league after leaving practice early a few days ago, but he's still on the opening night roster, and coach Bruce Boudreau has said everything is ok.

- Craig Rivet was named captain of the Buffalo Sabres, which is interesting specifically because he's the full-time captain. Fans were all but sure that Jason Pominville or Derek Roy were the definite captain candidates, and both probably deserve it more than Rivet mainly because of what they've done for the team compared to newcomer Rivet.

- Ryan Parent's out for the Flyers for a good 12-14 weeks, and according to James Mirtle, this means Luca Sbisa will get a little taste of the NHL before the season's over.

- Again from Mirtle, Doug Janik went through one hectic little scare today. The Blackhawks claimed him off of waivers from the Dallas Stars, only to trade him back for a conditional draft pick. How weird is that?

10.07.2008

Bailey sticking with NYI?

According to Hockeybums, Josh Bailey is going to stick on the Isles roster as the 13th forward.

Bad idea.


Bailey is just coming off his first truly productive OHL season, and would benefit much more from first or second line time in the AHL, or even a return to the OHL. Remember, the Isles are perhaps the weakest offensive team in the NHL and Bailey would almost definitely have been cut by any other team now.

That's not to say Bailey is a bad player–look at all the other NHL talent that's been cut by teams. Teddy Purcell, who tore up the AHL as a rookie last season, was sent back to Manchester by the Los Angeles Kings, who need some help on the wings. The Ducks were forced to cut Bobby Ryan because of salary cap issues.

New York can play Bailey for 9 games into the season before they can't send him back to his junior team.


NOTES:

- NHL.com made me a little disappointed today. While reading some news pieces that included an inspiring article about young Ben Stafford, a former Calder Cup winner with the Philadelphia Phantoms who's leaving the US to fight in Iraq, two polls about the Flyers season and the NHL cut into the middle of the page. They were just so randomly placed, it was kind of awkward. It was like in-line ads on Blogger, except more distracting. Maybe the new updates aren't so perfect.

- Vancouver needs offense. Badly. So what is their first trade of the season? Sending Juraj Simek and Lukas Krajicek to Tampa Bay for Shane O'Brien and Michel Oullet. Sure, Oullet has more offense than Simek, but the Canucks sent Oullet straight to Manitoba of the AHL. And Krajicek brings a more offensive game to the table than O'Brien, although O'Brien brings strong physical play.

- Blake Wheeler is finally going to get his NHL chance with the Boston Bruins this year. Wheeler's name was not among 5 cuts the Bruins made, including forwards Peter Schaefer and Carl Soderberg. It'll be interesting to see how Wheeler can adapt to the NHL level. He never made the NHL with Phoenix, but he's been highly touted ever since being drafted. I don't expect him to play like Kyle Turris or Steven Stamkos, but for all his hype, he better be good.

- Sean Avery is really going to be in a movie. Wow. I wonder how it'll turn out. Hopefully, the producers (New Line Cinema, I believe) can incorporate a little bit of hockey, just like Mike Myers' Love Guru did. The movie is based on Avery's time as an intern at the fashion magazine Vogue, and is supposedly a 'romantic comedy.' Can Avery portray himself as a good actor? Or will hockey's reputation in the celebrity world get blown to bits? We'll find out.

10.05.2008

Thoughts on Part 2 of the Euro-NHL opener

I got to watch most of both games in Europe today, and I noticed a few things that didn't seem to get touched on much.

- The Senators gave a lot of heat to Crosby during today's game, and he still managed an assist with a second left in the game. Can we expect more of the same treatment-wise from other teams? And can Crosby still produce despite it?

- Dany Heatley looks to be back on his 05-06 and 06-07 track, starting the year off with 3 goals in 2 games. Heatley scored 50 goals in back-to-back seasons after the lockout before facing injury troubles and "only" scoring 41 goals in 71 games last season. Of course, in that same pace, Heatley would've had 11 more games to score 9 more goals, so he might have still hit the half-century mark if he had remained healthy.

- Sidney Crosby was all for showing his critics that he can play physical, laying a heavy check on Chris Kelly and taking several hits from Senators players without the response his critics would expect (rushing to complain to the refs, etc.).

- Lauri Korpikoski sure seemed to fit in as a Ranger in the second game, creating several offensive opportunities and playing a good game overall. For a while, I always had Korpikoski and now-Stars prospect Lauri Tukonen in the same category because their offensive production was no good. However, Korpikoski appears to have broken through, and he should be another strong young player on the Rangers roster.

- Steve Stamkos rang a shot off the crossbar. That's gotta be painfully close to a first goal for the '08 #1 pick.

- I was way under-informed on how weak Tampa's blueline really was. I mean, I knew it was thin, but Janne Niskala already with an NHL job, and Jamie Heward is a veteran presence? Ouch! Maybe no playoffs for the Bolts after all.


Alright, short thoughts for now. I'll try and get a post up tomorrow about the Stars-Oilers game, and if any of you link to this from BallHype, sorry about my last submitted post, I said it was the last Stars pre-season game but I was wrong, tonight's is.

10.03.2008

SO Loss to the Hawks

Dang, why do we have to face the one team that's really rearing to go?

This time, the Hawks were led by Kris Versteeg, Aaron Johnson, Andrew Ladd, and Antti Niemi. According to www.nhl.com, Kevyn Adams scored the game-tying goal to lead to a shootout, where Ladd scored the winner, but I thought Adams had left the team? Perhaps not. Either way, the game ended when Ladd scored on Marty Turco, and Niemi stopped Sean Avery.

However, two of the Stars' young players showed that they both belong on the team, with Fabian Brunnstrom scoring from Brad Richards and Stephane Robidas, and James Neal potting a goal with help from Avery and Toby Petersen.

I'm still convinced that both Brunnstrom and Neal will make the team this year, but keep an eye out for B.J. Crombeen, a young winger who had two fights in the first period before earning a game misconduct in the second. That may be a little too rough for an immediate job, but Crombeen can be an easy replacement for any one of Krys Barch or Steve Ott. Avery may bring a little more offense to the table, but Crombeen did manage 14 goals and 28 points while totaling up 158 PIM's and keeping a plus-1 rating.


Elsewhere around the league:

- Caps center Sergei Fedorov is revisiting the old days; he's been practicing on the blue-line with Washington. Now, this is interesting specifically because the Caps have Karl Alzner and Sami Lepisto waiting in the wings on 'D'; Lepisto has already been cut, but he could easily be called up. However, an interesting option if the Caps do play Fedorov on the blue-line would be the option of pairing him with Tom Poti or Mike Green to play on the first line. A group of OvechKING, Nicklas Backstrom, Chris Clark/Viktor Kozlov, Fedorov, and Green all on the ice at the same time would produce a heck of a lot of goals, and it wouldn't need to wait for power-plays either.

- Nathan Gerbe has been assigned to Portland of the AHL by the Buffalo Sabres, but don't expect him to stay there for long. The product of Boston College has enough potential to kick Clarke MacArthur of the roster and force Adam Mair to play wing.


That's all for today, folks. I'll probably write (as in pencil and paper write) a blog as I watch the NHL season opener in Europe, and post it up here as soon as possible.

10.02.2008

Loss to the Avs

Another pre-season loss, this time coming at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

However, I don't think Stars are in this pre-season to win. Rookie Matt Climie has been getting time in every other game, and while he's obviously not NHL ready, he has been able to show potential as a future NHL goaltender. Meanwhile, Marty Turco has been merely warming up.

Steve Ott should be able to reproduce last season's 11 goals and 22 points fairly easily; he's scored two pre-season goals so far.

Ryan Smyth is doing fine for Colorado in the pre-season. Now the Avs just have to hope he won't get injured, and he'll be able to get back to his normal playing standards.

Note: Raymond Sawada, who scored 9 points in 10 AHL games for Iowa last year, has been assigned to the AHL. This very likely means that both Fabian Brunnstrom and James Neal will play in the NHL this season. The Stars are weak at right-wing, and Sawada was expected to play on the fourth line straight out of Cornell University with only 10 AHL games of experience. However, now Brunnstrom will likely switch over to the right-wing, where he could get 3rd line playing time for the entire season. This would be especially good for the rookie, as he would play alongside Mike Modano and Joel Lundqvist. Modano's experience would actually be beneficial for Neal or Brunnstrom, depending on who switches over to the right side. The other will start out on the fourth-line left wing spot, and work their way up.

10.01.2008

FFTI is now featured on...

http://hockey-bums.blogspot.com/!!!

That's right, folks, this author will now be covering WHL and NCAA hockey for Hockeybums. The site has several other writers, and is often updated as many as ten times a day. For the most part, I'll be writing weekly features on both leagues every Saturday, starting this week. However, be sure to check out the rest of the site, as you can find out some pretty up-to-date happenings across the hockey world.