10.25.2009

Dallas Stars: Week 4 (plus a game)

Today's post is a day late due to the fact that the Stars played St. Louis yesterday. My only available time to write coincided with the game's start time. Anyways;

Dallas vs. Los Angeles: 4-1 Loss
The Stars certainly didn't have their game on Monday against the Kings. They seemed sluggish the entire night, and were unable to even stifle the one line they decided to focus on. Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar, and Justin Williams were all huge scoring threats, and all three capitalized on the mistakes that seemed to be made by every Stars player.
Jamie Benn appeared to spark the Stars towards a win, as he ended a first period scoring drought by pounding in a goal with 2:42 left. However, the Stars' rookie was the only bright spot.
In the second period, the Kings' top line knocked in three goals past Marty Turco, and they never lost momentum as they continuously hounded the Stars' defenders, and the forwards never really had time to play offense.




Dallas @ Anaheim: 4-2 Win
Wednesday was Dallas' redeeming night. They were determined to make up for Monday's painful loss to the Kings, and they did so in style.
Two of Dallas' most reliable scorers in Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson cashed in, while Trevor Daley finally got himself on the scoresheet along with Steve Ott. The Ducks attempted to mount a comeback in the third period, but the Stars never allowed them to tie the game, and Ott's empty net goal crushed whatever hopes they could possibly have had with 9 seconds left in the game.



Dallas @ Los Angeles: 5-4 OT Loss
Thursday was Dallas' chance at revenge against the Kings, and they almost pulled it off. However, Michal Handzus ruined those hopes 55 seconds into overtime.
Anze Kopitar had a hat trick for the Kings, and despite James Neal's two-goal effort, Jamie Benn's second goal in his second game against L.A., and Mark Fistric's first career NHL goal, the Stars could not pull off a win. Regardless, the game was much more exciting and intense than the first match between the clubs.



Dallas @ St. Louis: 4-1 Win
The Stars and the Blues had an intense rivalry begin last season. St. Louis, and particularly youngsters Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie, and David Perron, destroyed the Stars on several occasions last season, and headed into Saturday, another crushing defeat was feared.
However, the Stars did get to taste revenge. Thanks to James Neal and Loui Eriksson, the Stars were able to quickly crush the Blues' resolve, and Tom Wandell and Brian Sutherby potted goals in the third period to secure the win. St. Louis rookie Alex Pietrangelo did manage to score his first NHL goal, and to be plainly honest, I hate the Blues as a team but I love their young players, so it was pretty neat to see Pietrangelo finally rack up a goal.
Brad Richards was an absolute beast in the lineup, assisting on both Neal and Eriksson's goals. He turned the entire Blues penalty kill into a freeze frame from the point before firing the puck to Eriksson for a snapshot goal.



As a "side" note, the Blues game was chock full of nastiness. Krys Barch had his first big fight of the season, and everybody in blue wanted a piece of Steve Ott that night.


NOTES:
-Loui Eriksson, James Neal, and Brenden Morrow are all on pace for around 40 goals this season, which is pretty much a sigh of relief compared to having only Loui break 30 last year. Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro, and Jamie Benn could all easily be on pace for 20+ goals as well.
-Richards also has over an assist per game so far, and is the first Stars player in about 3 years to top the stats sheet besides Ribeiro. He's finally truly earning the contract that we acquired in the Tampa trade.
-Fabian Brunnstrom has yet to score a goal this season.

10.18.2009

Dallas Stars Week 3

[Sunday, October 11th - Sunday, October 18th]

The Stars' 3rd week of the season was much more successful, as they went 2-1-1. They currently stand 7th in the West, at 3-1-3.

Dallas @ Vancouver: 4-3 SO Loss
The Stars fired another shootout blank on Canada's west coast on Sunday, but the game was monumental regardless. Stars' rookie Jamie Benn scored his first ever NHL goal that night, which made the score 3-3 to send it into overtime.
Overall, the game was similar to the home opener against Nashville: the Stars did everything right, but just like Nashville, Vancouver had all their pieces in the right place and topped Dallas in the shootout.

{Video highlights to be posted later!}


Dallas vs. Nashville: 6-0 Win
In the midst of a building rivalry, the Stars pulled off a massive defeat of the Nashville Predators at home this week. Expecting a challenging match from the team that won in a shootout opening night, the Stars came out charging hard and fast. However, the Preds had come off a crushing defeat already, and as a result were quite discouraged at their chances. Mike Ribeiro popped in the opening goal hardly a minute into the game, and the goals came in a downpour through the first period as the Stars went into the first intermission with a 4-0 lead.
Brenden Morrow scored two goals, James Neal had a career-high three assists, and Toby Petersen scored his first goal of the season as Dallas absolutely flattened the Predators.

{Video highlights to be posted later!}


Dallas vs. Boston: 3-0 Loss
The Stars could not carry their momentum into Friday's game against Boston, however. The Bruins came out and Marc Savard fired the gun that killed Dallas' energy for the game. They looked tired, slow, and often out of place, and the Bruins rolled over the Stars to win 3-0. Savard was a dangerous presence all game, and James Neal was the only Star who even managed to make himself noticeable on the ice.

{Video highlights to be posted later!}


Dallas @ Chicago: 4-3 Win
Whatever was said to the team between the Boston game and this Chicago game must have worked, because the Stars managed to recover from a poor first period to come out on top in the end. Chicago had their young players trying to take over the game, as Troy Brouwer, Jonathan Toews, and Niklas Hjlamarsson all cashed in. However, Dallas put their veterans to work, and Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Toby Petersen, and Stephane Robidas all got on the scoreboard as the Stars fought to attain the 4-3 victory.

{Video highlights to be posted later!}


NOTES:
-Mike Modano and Steve Ott are still out of the line-up with injuries, and neither have placed a definite date on their return. However, the Stars have played decently without them, and as such would only be stronger with the two back in the line-up.

-Brenden Morrow leads the Stars in goals with 5; Brad Richards leads in assists and points, with 6 and 9, respectively; Jamie Benn is the highest scoring rookie on the team with a goal and 5 assists; Alex Auld has credit for two of Dallas' three wins.

10.10.2009

Dallas Stars: Week 2

So, I was a little late in writing a review for the Edmonton game, and now I've got to write both game reviews. Anybody think a post per week is a better idea?


Dallas vs. Edmonton: 5-4 (OTL)
The Stars' second game of the year featured lots of goals, some hard-hitting action, and unfortunately, a second straight shootout loss.
Brenden Morrow "arrived" for the season, scoring two goals and getting an assist as well. Along with several highlight reel hits, Morrow certainly looked like the captain that the Stars expect him to be. James Neal scored his 3rd goal of the season short-handed, staying at the top of Dallas' stats-sheet. Stephane Robidas also scored, getting his first goal of the season.



The Stars did put up quite the fight. However, being notorious as a shootout-dominating team, starting the season that way was a little discomforting to a Stars fan like myself.


Dallas vs. Calgary: 5-2 (W)
Despite losing both of their first two games in shootouts, the Stars came into the Pengrowth Saddledome on Friday as a well-rested team ready to take on the 4-0 Calgary Flames.
Back-up goaltender Alex Auld recieved his first test of the season by going up against the Flames, but the Stars did have an advantage over the other Alberta boys, who were forced to bring in back-up Curtis McEhlinney after having played the previous night in Edmonton.
The Stars took advantage of not feeling fatigued right away as Mike Ribeiro popped in a rebound past McEhlinney. The goals came from all around that night, as Brian Sutherby, Tom Wandell, Loui Eriksson, and Brad Richards all scored as well. Only Dion Phaneuf and Rene Bourque cracked the shell that was Alex Auld's goaltending. Judging by the way he played, Marty Turco will recieve plenty of rest this season.



The Stars did suffer their first non-goal this year, as a puck appeared to get stuffed into the net by a diving Fabian Brunnstrom. However, despite one video angle clearly revealing the puck going past the line, the official call was a no-goal and Steve Ott was called for goalie interference.



The Stars play the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow to start off week 3 and to close their Canadian road trip. The Canucks got their first win in their last game, absolutely destroying the Montreal Canadiens. Which team will carry the momentum into tomorrow? We'll find out.

STARS RULE!

10.03.2009

Final: 3-2 Shootout Loss to Nashville

Well, the opening game of the year for Dallas was quite the intense game, although slightly a let down at the end.

However, the team played really well, and showed that despite all of their troubles last season, they'll be able to solidly bounce back this year.

[Video Highlights soon to come!]

The most obvious standout was James Neal, who scored both of the Stars' goals in regulation and then hit the post in the shootout. He played outstanding, clearly returning to the level he was at last year. He'll be at the top of the charts offensively for Dallas all season long.

Marty Turco didn't perform nearly as awful as some people have said he would, but there were a few holes in his game. He still lets a few too many rebounds escape his reach, and wasn't at his best during the shootout. However, he didn't make any risky passing plays that he's usually known for, and made a lot of key saves that could've had the Stars in a much deeper hole and without the small gain of one point from the shootout loss.

The defense played way above the expectations of such an un-proven group. Newcomers Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka filled in seemlessly, and Skrastins especially proved his worth on the penalty kill.

However, that leads to the one issue I had: special teams. Now obviously anybody who watched the game will agree, the Stars need to take less penalties and take advantage of their power-play more often. However, James Neal did manage to capitalize on a power-play goal, and the penalty kill only gave up one goal in four Nashville opportunities.

Mike Ribeiro showed that he hasn't lost his niche in shootouts, of course. He scored a fantastic goal that kept the Stars in the game a little longer.

J.P. Dumont had an awfully scary moment in the second period, hitting his head against the boards after taking a particularly rough, although clean, hit from Stephane Robidas. He was pretty shaken up, and having not seen the exact moment of the impact, I panicked when I saw him flat on the ice unmoving. I was glad to see that he left the ice on his own though, and hopefully he won't be injured for too long.


The next Stars game is against Edmonton on Tuesday, and they'll be on the road. If you don't get to catch the game (and you don't have DVR like me) then be sure to check back here, I'll have a postgame review!

Pre-post

Ok, so the Stars game starts in a few hours, and I'm psyched!

Of course, I have nothing to do for those couple of hours, so I figured I'd make a quick little post for now.

AT&T Uverse with DVR has saved my life. I've watched most of the games they've already shown on Versus so far, including the very first game that featured Alex Ovechkin scoring two goals.

The first Versus NHL game of the year featured the first goal of the season, the first save of the season, first check, first two-goal performance, first crunching hit, first fight, and first crushing defeat.

Also in the good news category, every NHL game except one so far has had at least one team score 4 goals. The game that didn't was a 3-0 Colorado victory over Vancouver. High scoring is back!


I really can't express how much anticipation is in this room right now, from just me. I'm really excited about the new season, it should be a redeeming one. And if anybody doesn't think a team can rebound, just look at the Avalanche so far this season. Two wins already, and a lot of great young talent is there.


STARS RULE!

9.20.2009

Pre-season writings

So, I realize that I'm still incredibly inconsistent with my posting, to the point where I missed the start of the pre-season. However, this time I'll set a date for my full return: Dallas' season opening game.

For now, though, let's take a look at what the Stars have been up to relating to training camp and how their roster is shaping up:


Roster Spots:
The Stars retained most of their roster from last season, and with a few players returning from injury, the majority of their lines will be filled.

Offense
Up front, expect to see Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Jere Lehtinen, James Neal, Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, Steve Ott, Mike Modano, Fabian Brunnstrom, Brian Sutherby, Toby Petersen, and Krys Barch as the regular forwards. They each performed their jobs well, and were sorely missed when injured. The only holes in the lineup would be from injuries.
However, the Stars do have several players on the verge of joining the team. Jamie Benn is the next pure scorer for Dallas, and he proved it by scoring two goals in a recent pre-season win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Ray Sawada is another candidate for cracking the lineup, although more as a grinder/checking player with a bit of offensive flair. He might be carried as the 13th forward for the team.

Defense
On the blue-line, the Stars look a little uncertain. Losing the mentorship of Darryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov was a tough blow, and Karlis Skrastins will be hard-pressed to make up for some of that. Stephane Robidas will also have to take another step towards the role of head veteran, and Trevor Daley will be expected to elevate his game. Nicklas Grossman should continue his steady play that has earned him the admiration of most Stars fans, and Matt Niskanen should be able to redeem himself from last year's erratic and often poor play, while Mark Fistric should finally get the full time NHL job he deserves. Andrew Hutchinson and Jeff Woywitka will be the backup defenders.
Waiting in the wings are several young players with hopes of reaching the NHL soon, the most prominent among them being Ivan Vishnevskiy. The offensively talented defenseman showed great improvements defensively last year, prompting the Stars to give him plenty of time to prove himself in training camp. However, management will likely decide that more improvement will come from top-line AHL time, rather than sporadic play with Dallas.

Goaltending
The Stars have relied on Marty Turco since his rookie season, and it's unlikely that anything will change this year. However, they will have a solid backup in Alex Auld, who will be able to provide Turco with more nights off than in recent seasons.
In the wings, Richard Bachman quietly sits under the radar, waiting to bring his superb skills to the NHL.

8.10.2009

Straying From the Usual

So today, I had some thoughts about the music world that I felt like letting out to see what other people thought. Seeing as I didn't feel like creating a new blog, I decided to post it on here:

THE MYSTERY THAT IS "POP" MUSIC

Pop is perhaps the most broad genre of any music genre. However, the official definition of Pop Music is simply a shortening of the phrase Popular Music. So why do I call the genre a mystery?

Pop can be; Hannah Montana, The Killers, ABAM, Nickelback, Lady Gaga, The Fray.
The diversity of the above listed bands is immediately clear.
Obviously, those aren't the only pop bands. But I'll use these six as my examples because in a way, they're the six subdivisions of pop.

1. Hannah Montana "Pop"
This is perhaps the subdivision of pop that I despise the most. Not just Disney artists, but any pop artist who fits under one of the following:
A) Letting the record company write songs for you,
B) Using Autotune or similar applications because you really suck at singing,
C) Never allowing your backing band to become famous (if listed as a single artist),
D) Wasting your own musical talent by allowing A,
E) Being more interested in the fame or money than the music.
Bands that allow themselves to get sucked into this style of pop really put the music industry to shame. The fact that they could just as easily write their own songs, book their own shows, gain fame via becoming local favorites, etc., but give that up because they don't want to wait that long, or put in that much effort, makes me sad that they have real fans. Also, if I was a member of, say, Demi Lovato's backing band, but I never got any credit, I'd be pretty pissed.
Other bands in this subdivision: Every band signed with Disney, most one-hit wonders

2. The Killers "Pop"
The Killers and bands like them are considered pop bands for any of the following reasons:
A) The ability to constantly release hits that receive lucrative amounts of airplay,
B) The ability to draw a wide variety of fans,
C) The amount of fame they get while staying committed to the music,
D) The amount of money they get while committed to the music.
Some bands that fit the above qualifications are hard to qualify as pop by the actual sound of their music. The Killers' latest album doesn't seem to fit any genre except for a vague qualification of pop-rock. However, they often get classified as pop in articles in popular magazines because, well, as is the obvious case, they're popular. Their songs appeal to almost everyone, and because they name other well-known bands (U2, The Beatles, etc.) as influences, they're immediately accepted as having a good sound.
Other bands in this subdivision: Collective Soul, Silversun Pickups, U2.

3. ABAM "Pop"
This subdivision is actually quite similar to The Killers "Pop" musically, but bands get put into this subdivision for any of the following reasons:
A) They give themselves the genre of Pop, Jpop, Power Pop, etc.,
B) They remain, or at least currently, a relatively unknown band when viewed in the entire scope of the music world,
C) They don't make a lot of money,
D) Their style is universally acceptable.
Often, a band that fits into this kind of pop is an indie band, hence their lack of relative popularity. Also common, any band classified as a "one-hit wonder" that didn't allow a record company to write the song for them, may have started out in this subdivision.
Other bands in this division: The Tough Alliance, Molly Rockwell, Ben Cyllus, Eisley

4. Nickelback "Pop"
There are, for whatever reasons, a number of rock bands who's popularity shoot through the roof after one or two hit songs, and end up getting sucked into the pop music scene. Some of the reasons may be as follows:
A) The song/band has lyrical content that almost anyone could apply to a memorable moment in their life,
B) The song has an instantly catchy and easily memorizable melody,
C) The band manages to grab a spot on a Clear Channel playlist
D) The band has had a considerable following before becoming a "Pop" band and therefore has a large base to build on when they join the pop scene.
The majority of these bands' most popular songs will be soft rock, although on occasion a few loud ones (Animal I Have Become -Three Days Grace) will break through. This subdivision rose up in the late 90's, in the post-grunge era, and appealed to a lot of music fans who were looking for a quieter sound after listening to bands like Nirvana, Green Day, Rage Against The Machine, and other grunge bands.
Other bands in this division: Hootie and the Blowfish, The Goo Goo Dolls, Three Days Grace

5. Lady Gaga "Pop"
Half of the artists in this subdivision are really R&B or Rap, but get classified as pop for any of the following reasons:
A) The artist is wildly popular on radio, or with videos on MTV, or both,
B) The artist makes a ridiculous amount of money (and shows it off in videos)
C) The popularity of the artist comes from the content of their lyrics or videos rather than in the music,
D) The artist isn't particularly keen on creativity, instead taking lyric ideas from other artists and displaying the concept with different words.
This is another subdivision of pop that often disgusts me, because the artists take more pride in the money and fame that they get than the actual potential quality of their music. And the fact that 90% of the time, the lyrical content is about sex, drugs, money, or fame continues to downgrade the kind of music these artists could be making.
Other artists in this subdivision:
Rihanna, T-Pain, Timbaland

6. The Fray "Pop"
This is the style of pop that pains me the most. It mainly encompasses Alt. Rock and Soft Rock bands, but the reasons they might get qualified in here go as follows:
A) The band produces a major hit that's instantly catchy, and then proceeds to release a bunch of mediocre songs that are instantly overhyped simply because it's the same band,
B) The band writes a number of songs with universally relatable lyrics, but allows the instrumentation to be arranged by a record company, in which case the songs end up sounding mediocre and often similar to each other,
C) The band releases a number of songs that they personally wrote and composed, but strangely, it's hard to distinguish one song from another.
To me, this is the lazy side of pop. The bands usually work hard to get to the pop scene, and then become lazy, write cliche songs, and yet manage to remain atop the pop scene for at least a year.
Other bands in this subdivision: Shinedown, Nickelback (yes, they fit two), The Script, Jason Mraz



Now, to get things straight, this writing doesn't mean I hate pop. The opposite actually; The Killers, Silversun Pickups, Collective Soul, ABAM, and The Tough Alliance are among my favorite bands. And I mean no offense to any musical talent any of the implied musicians may have; I simply criticize the way they go about using it. So, without rambling on any longer, please, comment with criticism/questions/applause etc.

(P.S. I've been in a music mood lately, so this blog may become the subject of more music writings.)

7.20.2009

Free Agent Moves Around The NHL

So, in order to make it look like I frequently post to this blog, I'm going to try and spend more of my time thinking I'm bored writing about hockey.

Today; A quick look at each team in the NHL to grade their free-agent additions and subtractions.

Anaheim: (additions: Saku Koivu, Nick Boynton, Steve McCarthy / subtractions: Francois Beauchemin)
-The Ducks' biggest splash was signing long-time Canadiens center Saku Koivu. The Ducks didn't have a lot of offense down the middle after Ryan Getzlaf, so adding Koivu, who brings leadership, scoring, and defensive play, will really make a difference. However, after trading Chris Pronger to Philadelphia for Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa, and losing Francois Beauchemin to the Maple Leafs, will the Ducks' defense be as dominating? Before, it was a top three of Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and Francois Beauchemin. Now, it's a top three of Niedermayer (who's status of retired/active is debated every off-season), Nick Boynton, and Ryan Whitney. The top three remains a formidable group, but some of the intimidation factor has been lost.

Atlanta: (additions: Nik Antropov, Jason Krog, Drew McIntyre, Peter Mannino, Noah Welch, Anthony Stewart, Tim Stapleton, Mike Vernace, Josh Gratton / subtractions: Clay Wilson, Brett Skinner)
-Atlanta has stayed relatively low-profile this off-season, mainly acquiring minor leaguers and prospects. Nik Antropov was the only major name added, as the Thrashers continue to search for that secondary scoring they've needed so dearly. Antropov recently became a high-end scorer; can he do the same job in Atlanta? Noah Welch may also be able to help a defense corps that's becoming younger and younger.

Boston: (additions: Steve Begin, Dany Sabourin, Drew Fata, Drew Larman, Trent Whitfield, Derek Morris / subtractions: Steve Montador, Jeremy Reich, Shane Hnidy)
-Boston suffered relatively minor losses so far this off-season, and as a result, have added only fringe players and Derek Morris. Steve Begin may play a role as a checker and penalty killer, and Morris will be a good addition on defense, but the other additions will likely see time in the minors and as healthy scratches. The Bruins retained pretty much the same roster from last season, and will once again be a top contender.

Buffalo: (additions: Steve Montador, Cody McCormick / subtractions: Jaroslav Spacek, Mathieu Darche, Michael Funk)
-Despite an up-and-down season, the Sabres made very few moves to improve their team. When free-agent defender Jaroslav Spacek left, they quickly replaced him with veteran Steve Montador. Maxim Afineganov is also likely to leave the team, although he hasn't been signed by anyone yet.

Calgary: (additions: Jay Bouwmeester, Fredrik Sjostrom, Garth Murray, Riley Armstrong, Jason Jaffray, Staffan Kronwall, Nigel Dawes / subtractions: Jordan Leopold, Warren Peters, Adam Cracknell)
-The Flames went with big names up front the last time they underwent major revision; the result was another reasonably disappointing season. This year, after losing relatively nobody to free agency, and replacing Jordan Leopold with ex-Panthers star Jay Bouwmeester, the Flames went for depth and youth. Bouwmeester will obviously play a huge role on defense as the 3rd big name behind Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regeher. Sjostrom will be looked to provide a Rene-Bourque-esque season, and the other additions will be sparingly used.

Carolina: (additions: Steven Goertzen, Jay Harrison, Andrew Alberts, Zack Fitzgerald / subtractions: Mark Flood, Dwight Helminen)
-Carolina surprised a lot of fans by returning to the playoffs this season, despite having made very few major moves. The same thing occured over this summer, as Andrew Alberts will likely be the only addition to play a significant role on the team. However, a full season out of the Eric/Erik duo of Staal and Cole should boost the Canes up the standings once again.

Chicago: (additions: Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, John Madden, Richard Petiot, Danny Bois / subtractions: Matt Walker, Nikolai Khabibulin, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Havlat)
-The Hawks made some major moves last summer on their way to a playoff run. This summer, they intend for their moves to do the same. In light of winger Martin Havlat's free agency, they went out and opted to sign the best replacement available, in the form of two-time Cup Finalist Marian Hossa. Hossa has been looking for a Stanley Cup win for several seasons, and made it to the Finals with Pittsburgh and Detroit in the past two seasons. He'll be expecting a Finals trip in Chicago. Chicago also added Tomas Kopecky, a Stanley Cup winner with the Wings two years ago, and John Madden, who's won several championships with New Jersey. Obviously, experience was the goal here. An interesting move however was letting Nikolai Khabibulin, the man who saved the Hawks season in goal, test the free agent market, while keeping the inconsistent Cristobal Huet, who must provide a much better season this year to prove his worth.

Colorado: (additions: Craig Anderson, David Koci, Darren Haydar, Brett Skinner / subtractions: Ian Laperriere, Lawrence Nycholat, Tyler Arnason, Andrew Raycroft, Ben Guite, Nathan Smith, Cody McCormick)
-After the worst season in the history of the Avalanche, team management decided it was time to build from within. Free-agent additions failed them last season (particularly Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker), so they'll look mainly to prospects to step in this year. Craig Anderson was signed to attempt to find stability in goal, while the hole left by Tyler Arnason will likely be filled by 1st round draft pick Matt Duchene.

Columbus: (additions: Samuel Pahlsson, Mathieu Garon, Mathieu Roy / subtractions: Aaron Rome, Wade Dubielewicz)
-The Blue Jackets added most of their major pieces last summer, and it led to their first ever playoff round. Despite being swept by eventual Stanley Cup finalist Detroit, Columbus entered the off-season full of confidence. They added Mathieu Garon to be a veteran back-up to Steve Mason, while Samuel Pahlsson will strengthen the defensive play of the forwards.

Dallas: (additions: Alex Auld, Karlis Skrastins, Jeff Woywitka, Warren Peters / subtractions: Steve Begin, Chris Conner, Brendan Morrison)
-The Stars will be relying on the return of Brenden Morrow, Brad Richards, and Toby Petersen from injury, along with a revival by Marty Turco, to bring the team back up the standings. They replaced free agents Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor with Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka in the hopes that their younger defenders will take another step up. Alex Auld was brought in to be a solid back-up goaltender. They only lost two rental players and Chris Conner to free-agency, so the roster won't look a whole lot different in 09-10. (see previous blog post for more on the Stars)

Detroit: (additions: Jeremy Williams, Kris Newbury, Doug Janik / subtractions: Marian Hossa, Ty Conklin, Tomas Kopecky, Mikael Samuelsson, Darren Haydar)
-The salary cap finally caught up to the Wings this off-season, as the Wings lost four vital pieces of last season's roster to free-agency. Marian Hossa was one of the leading scorers on the Red Wings and had chemistry with the whole team. Ty Conklin was a solid back-up goaltender who salvaged much of the Wings' season when Chris Osgood got rusty. Tomas Kopecky was a rising young player who could've been worth a lot in a trade, and Mikael Samuelsson was a strong defensive player and secondary scorer. The Wings could only add minor league depth via the free agency market.

Edmonton: (additions: Nikolai Khabibulin, Chris Minard / subtractions: Dwayne Roloson, Dany Sabourin, Ales Kotalik, Mathieu Roy, Kyle Brodziak)
-The Oilers are depending on their young players to bounce back from disappointing seasons last year in order to move up the standings. They replaced a reliable goalie with another reliable goalie, and probably won't need to replace Ales Kotalik, who was only with the team for games after the trade deadline.

Florida: (additions: Scott Clemmensen, Clay Wilson, Jordan Leopold, Jeff Taffe / subtractions: Jay Bouwmeester, Craig Anderson, Karlis Skrastins, Nick Boynton, Anthony Stewart, Drew Larman, Tanner Glass)
-Florida's defense corps suffered some losses over the summer and they just didn't have the budget to re-stock with other free agents. Jordan Leopold will be a welcome addition, but he alone won't be able to replace Jay Bouwmeester, Karlis Skrastins, and Nick Boynton. A year ago, Scott Clemmensen would have been considered a step down from Craig Anderson. However, after Clemmensen saved New Jersey's season in 08-09, it may be a step up in goal.

Los Angeles: (additions: Rob Scuderi, Brandon Segal / subtractions: Matt Moulson, Brian Boyle)
-The Kings didn't make very many moves by the way of free agency. Rob Scuderi will be a good stay at home defender for the team, although they may regret letting the young Brian Boyle develop in New York instead of Los Angeles.

Minnesota: (additions: Greg Zanon, Martin Havlat, Shane Hnidy, Wade Dubeiliwicz, Jon DiSalvatore, Nathan Smith / subtractions: Marian Gaborik, Corey Locke, Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster)
-The Wild essentially played the replacement game, knowing which players they planned to lose to free agency, and replacing them with players of the same value. Marian Gaborik jumped ship to New York; Minnesota nabbed Martin Havlat from Chicago. Kurtis Foster bolted to Tampa Bay; the Wild signed Greg Zanon and Shane Hnidy to fill the gap. Stephane Veilleux was a good checking winger and might need a replacement, but his role wasn't so hard to replace. Wade Dubeiliwicz's signing has led to questions about the future of Josh Harding.

Montreal: (additions: Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill, Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mathieu Darche, Paul Mara, Travis Moen, Curtis Sanford / subtractions: Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins, Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Tom Kostopoulous)
-The Canadiens had a confusing season last year, starting off looking like they would ursurp the Red Wings as Cup champions (who were actually ursurped by Pittsburgh), and playing the entire first half as such. However, soon after the All-star game (which featured 4 members of the team), the Canadiens fell apart. They were one of the most inconsistent teams in the league, plummetted down the standings, and ended up in a battle for a final playoff spot.
To fix the problem, they went for a major revamp. Mike Komisarek and Alex Kovalev were two members that made it to the all-star game, Saku Koivu was the face of the franchise for many years, and Chris Higgins was an up-and-coming goal scoring winger. All of them were let off to free agency. Replacing Komisarek; Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill, and Paul Mara. The Canadiens are determined to have the best defense in the league, and a group including Spacek, Gill, Mara, Andrei Markov, and Roman Hamrlik is fairly intimidating. Up front, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Travis Moen will fill the gaps left by Kovalev, Higgins, Koivu, and Tom Kostopoulous.

Nashville: (additions: Ben Guite, Peter Olvecky, Ben Eaves / subtractions: Vernon Fiddler, Greg Zanon, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer)
-The moves made by the Predators have been so largely insignificant that I almost forgot to write about them (sorry Preds fans!). They lost a few of their less-known players, but have the means to replace them. Alexander Sulzer will be taking over Greg Zanon's place on the blueline, while Vernon Fiddler's spot will be filled by Patric Hornqvist.

New Jersey: (additions: Yann Danis, Cory Murphy / subtractions: Scott Clemmensen, Mike Rupp, John Madden, Brian Gionta, Jon DiSalvatore)
-The Devils had an interesting season in 08-09, facing the obstacle of trying to win without Martin Broduer in net for a majority of the season. Luckily, Scott Clemmensen stepped in, and Zach Parise stepped up, and the Devils were able to salvage most of their season. However, the playoffs turned into yet another disappointment, and New Jersey management let several ex-key players test free agency waters. Gone are Clemmensen, scorer Brian Gionta, and long-time defensive specialist John Madden. Gionta and Madden haven't been replaced via free agency, so it's likely we'll see some young faces in the Devils' line-up this year. Yann Danis will be looked upon to be a sparingly used back-up as Broduer will return to his 70+ games/40+ wins status.

NY Islanders: (additions: Dwayne Roloson, Scott Munroe, Brett Westgarth, Jeremy Reich, Greg Moore, Matt Moulson, Greg Mauldin, Mark Flood, Martin Biron / subtractions: Chris Lee, Peter Mannino, Yann Danis, Joe Callahan)
-The Islanders mostly made small changes, bolstering their depth in the minors while hoping that their young players on the roster will continue to improve. The most interesting part of the Isles' off-season so far is the fact that, barring a retirement-due-to-injury by Rick DiPietro, New York will have 3 potential #1 goaltenders. Dwayne Roloson, Martin Biron, and DiPietro all have the potential to be top goaltenders, and have all been paid the money to do so. My guess? The Islanders will use one goaltender as trade bait to pick up a top forward, and have already warned the goaltender they plan to do so with.

NY Rangers: (additions: Donald Brashear, Marian Gaborik, Tyler Arnason, Corey Locke, Chris Higgins, Brian Boyle, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin / subtractions: Colton Orr, Fredrik Sjostrom, Nik Antropov, Greg Moore, Doug Janik, Paul Mara, Lauri Korpikoski)
-The Rangers are in the midst of remodeling, and although many agree that Glen Sather is the man who needs to be away from the team, he insists the problem lies in the team, and so New York has endured yet another summer of player shuffling. Out goes Nik Antropov, who was added at the trade deadline for scoring but let go in order to acquire more of the same in the form of Marian Gaborik. Definitely an upgrade, although Gaborik's health is eternally questionable. Paul Mara abandoned the big city's defense, and while nobody from free agency (unless Brian Boyle returns to the blueline, an unlikely situation) can replace him, prospect Bobby Sanguinetti may finally be ready to join the big leagues. Chris Higgins, Tyler Arnason and Ales Kotalik come in to bolster a forward group that released Lauri Korpikoski, Donald Brashear replaces Colton Orr as resident thug, and one ex-highly touted-Coyote (Fredrik Sjostrom) for another (Enver Lisin).

Ottawa: (additions: Alex Kovalev / subtractions: Greg Mauldin, Drew Fata, Danny Bois, ?Dany Heatley?)
-The biggest off-season news in Ottawa has yet to finish playing out. Other than the strange choice by Alex Kovalev to sign with the Sens, Dany Heatley has been the only major player to be involved in rumors. The right-winger is apparently unhappy with his situation in Ottawa, and has been approached by several teams with contract/trade offers. He's also apparently picky, as no firm decision has been reached as to what his status will be at the start of next season.

Philadelphia: (additions: Ray Emery, Brian Boucher, Ian Laperriere, Lukas Kaspar, Krys Kolanos, Jason Ward / subtractions: Mike Knuble, Scott Munroe, Antero Nittymaki, Andrew Alberts, Martin Biron)
-The Flyers underwent several big changes during the off-season. They entirely restocked their goaltending, letting Antero Nittymaki and Martin Biron walk and bringing in Ray Emery and Brian Boucher. They also gave up points (Mike Knuble, Joffrey Lupul) for toughness and defensive responsibility (Ian Laperriere, Chris Pronger).

Phoenix: (additions: Vernon Fiddler, Jason Labarbera, Adrian Aucoin, Lauri Korpikoski / subtractions: Garth Murray, Steven Goertzen, Nigel Dawes, Enver Lisin, Ryan Lannon)
-Wherever the Coyotes end up after the NHL season starts, they'll have a relatively solid roster to take with them. Adrian Aucoin was added to bolster the defense, Jason Larbarbera will solidify the goaltending, and Vernon Fiddler will be a good checking center. GM Don Maloney is still considering making an offer to free-agent Alex Tanguay, but the main drama of the team's summer has been the financial situation and whether or not someone will buy the team.

Pittsburgh: (additions: Nate Guenin, Chris Lee, Chris Conner, Jay McKee, Brent Johnson / subtractions: Hal Gill, Mathieu Garon, Rob Scuderi, Jeff Taffe, Chris Minard)
-Last season's Stanley Cup champions spent the summer trying to retain the majority of their roster to make another run next season, and just like the Red Wings before them, they were successful. Hal Gill was substituted with Jay McKee, while the Penguins expect a prospect to fill in Rob Scuderi's spot. Mathieu Garon's spot on the team will be filled by Brent Johnson, unless John Curry takes a major step up.

San Jose: (additions: Scott Nichol, Joe Callahan, Jed Ortmeyer, Dwight Helminen / subtractions: Brian Boucher, Riley Armstrong, Brett Westgarth, Travis Moen, Lukas Kaspar)
-The Sharks kept up on their pattern of being regular-season dominators and post-season failures, and GM Doug Wilson demanded major changes. Surprisingly though, the team made relatively minor changes, spending money on resigning the majority of last year's roster, only losing Brian Boucher, and replacing Travis Moen with Scott Nichol.

St. Louis: (additions: Ty Conklin, Barry Tallackson, Adam Cracknell, Brendan Bell / subtractions: Jeff Woywitka, Jay McKee, Trent Whitfield)
-The Blues made it to the playoffs after a long hiatus last season, and kept the majority of their roster this season. Ty Conklin will be the next attempt at stabilizing the goaltender position, while a return from injury by Erik Johnson and a step up by Steve Wagner should fill in the gaps left by Jay McKee and Jeff Woywitka.

Tampa Bay: (additions: Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker, Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster, Antero Nittymaki / subtractions: David Koci, Richard Petiot, Brandon Segal, Noah Welch, Cory Murphy, Jason Ward)
-Many things held Tampa back from being an improved team last year, but a major one was a lack of defensive strength. So the Lightning went out and signed Mattias Ohlund, Kurtis Foster, and Matt Walker to bolster the blueline. They also signed Antero Nittymaki to help out the goaltending, and Stephane Veilluex will buff up the forward lines.

Toronto: (additions: Colton Orr, Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, Garnet Exelby / subtractions: Jeremy Williams, Kris Newbury, Jay Harrison, Tim Stapleton)
-The Leafs decided to boost their young defensive corps with veterans Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek to give the team some stability while they develop from within. Look for Luke Schenn, Mikhail Grabovski, and Lee Stempniak to take big steps up.

Vancouver: (additions: Aaron Rome, Lawrence Nycholat, Andrew Raycroft, Tanner Glass, Mike Funk / subtractions: Mattias Ohlund, Jason Labarbera, Jason Krog, Drew MacIntyre, Jason Jaffray, Zack Fitzgerald, Curtis Sanford)
-The Canucks made a lot of minor changes to their roster, but also let Mattias Ohlund leave the defense corps slightly weaker. They're hoping that a prospect or minor leaguer can step up, unless a free agent and/or trade presents a better opportunity.

Washington: (additions: Mike Knuble, Brendan Morrison / subtractions: Donald Brashear, Brent Johnson)
-The Caps had an outstanding season last year, although they fell short of their desire for the Stanley Cup. However, they only improved their roster as Brent Johnson left the team due to the sudden surge of prowess shown by Simeon Varlamov, and they added Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison for just a little bit more scoring.


This report came out way later than I expected, but I'm pretty sure it's up to date as of August 2nd, 4:10 PM.

7.08.2009

Long Absence—Stars report

For quite some time now, various things have prevented me from blogging, school and working with my band, Drayned (myspace.com/drayneband) amongst them.

However, tonight I managed to secure some time to write.

Let's start with examining the changes made by the Dallas Stars since I last checked in:

New Players: The Stars have added Alex Auld, Karlis Skrastins, Jeff Woywitka, and Warren Peters through free agency/trade over the summer so far.

With Tobias Stephan and Brent Krahn failing to provide a steady back-up presence in goal, and prospects Tyler Beskorowany, Matt Climie, and Richard Bachman needing seasoning with the new Texas Stars AHL team, the Stars brought in Alex Auld from the Ottawa Senators. Auld was a surprise last season, coming from a reputation of inconsistency to ursurp Martin Gerber as the Sens starter. However, he failed to stay at that level of performance, and became expendable after Brian Elliot showed some strong play and the Senators traded for Pascal Leclaire. With Marty Turco perfectly capable of bouncing back from last season's poor play, Auld will be a reliable veteran back-up, the likes of which haven't been seen in Dallas in several seasons.

A combination of age and salary cap limits have forced the Stars to let longtime fan-favorite defenders Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor test the free agent market. Zubov, facing the trials of age and injury, managed only 10 games this past season. However, his leadership will be sorely missed. Darryl Sydor is a consistent defenseman who will surely have a solid NHL job in another location this coming season. He's been on a couple Stanley Cup teams.
To make up for the loss of these two defenders, the Stars have brought in Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka. Skrastins is a servicable defender who had an iron man streak for many seasons. He'll be a solid veteran addition. Woywitka had a tough time breaking into the NHL, but last season he was a steady presence for the St. Louis Blues.
However, the Stars have a serviceable crew of Trevor Daley, Stephane Robidas, Nicklas Grossman, Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric, and Andrew Hutchinson already signed. Skrastins will surely get a role, perhaps replacing Fistric, but Woywitka and Hutchinson will have to vie for ice time in training camp, and one of Fistric, Woywitka, and Hutchinson will have to accept a role as a veteran leader in the AHL.

Up front, the Stars only added Warren Peters, who is likely to accept an AHL job. The Stars will have Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards returning from injury, leaving the following players vying for ice time (listed by official stars.nhl.com positions):
CENTER: Mike Ribeiro, Mike Modano, Brad Richards, Brian Sutherby, Toby Petersen, Tom Wandell
LEFT WING: Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott, Loui Eriksson, Fabian Brunnstrom, James Neal
RIGHT WING: Jere Lehtinen, Krystofer Barch

Now, obviously, a couple players will swing over to play right wing, most likely Steve Ott and Brian Sutherby. Left wing presents a problem, as Morrow, Eriksson, Brunnstrom, and Neal can all play roles as scorers. Morrow and Neal can play top line roles, but Brunnstrom is the only one suited for a third-line-scorer role. Wandell will be a top center with the Texas Stars, and Ribeiro, Richards, Modano, and Petersen had no problems last season being on the lines they were.
The lines could then play out as such:

Morrow-Ribeiro-Lehtinen
Eriksson-Richards-Ott
Neal-Modano-Sutherby
Brunnstrom-Petersen-Barch

Last season developed some chemistry which will be interesting to work out. While Morrow was injured, Steve Ott took a role as enforcer/scorer on his line. Not long after, the line of Ott-Ribeiro-Lehtinen became one of the Stars' most productive, and most efficient at creating scoring chances. Ott reached career highs of 19 goals and 27 assists for 46 points. Whether he can return to that level on a line with Eriksson and Richards remains to be seen, if the lines are formed as predicted above.


The other major change the Stars made during the summer was the decision to no longer go with the dual GM role of Les Jackson and Brett Hull. Replacing the duo is former Maple Leafs, Panthers, Devils, Flames, and Stars center Joe Nieuwendyk. Nieuwendyk's hiring was accepted happily by many fans, as he was a fan favorite during his days with the Stars, and won the Conn Smythe trophy in 1999.


In the 2009 NHL draft, the Stars chose Scott Glennie, Alex Chiasson, Reilly Smith, Tomas Vincour, and Curtis McKenzie. While none of those players had big enough names to come out from under the shadow of John Tavares and Victor Hedman, they caught the eyes of Stars personnel.
Scott Glenie: A right winger for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL for the last two seasons, Glennie is a speedy playmaker. Last season he scored 28 goals and 42 assists in only 55 games. He also cut his penalty minute total in half, from 50 PIMs in his first season (during which he scored 26 goals and 32 assists) to 25 PIMs in 08-09. He'll likely play another year of junior before enduring some AHL seasoning.
Alex Chiasson: Another right winger, Chiasson played for the Des Moines Bucaneers in 08-09. A tough playmaker, Chiasson scored 17 goals and 33 assists for 50 points in 56 games, while garnering 101 PIMs. He'll need a few more years of seasoning before attempting to crack the lineup.
Reilly Smith: In light of the lack of true right wingers with the Stars, Smith, yet another right winger, was drafted out of the OPJHL as a long-term project. In 08-09, Smith played in 13 games with the St. Michael's Buzzers, scoring 2 goals and 7 assists. He also had 22 minutes.
Tomas Vincour: Drafted out of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, Vincour is a low-scoring center. In 49 games last year, Vincour scored 17 goals and 19 assists.
Curtis McKenzie: A left-winger for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, McKenzie is another long term project for the Stars. He scored 3 goals and 7 assists in 49 games for the Vees, while recieving 81 PIMs.


While most of the changes made by the Stars aren't terribly major, the biggest impact will be from captain Brenden Morrow returning from an injury-riddled season. Expect a steadier season from Marty Turco, and a younger, more mobile defense corps.

4.28.2009

First Round Musings

Well, the first round's just about over by the time that I'm starting this blog, and while I don't have the time to recap every series, here are some interesting things to note (get out a sheet of paper, really):

-Of the 8 first round series, only two have made it to seven games (NJD vs CAR, NYR vs WAS). However, 3 of those series made it to the intense mark of six games, meaning in those three match-ups, the teams were fairly equal, but one gained more momentum and won it all.

-The leading scorer of the post-season so far is Evgeni Malkin. Interestingly enough, it's not very common to see the regular season scoring leader top the playoffs in scoring, for whatever reason. However, with the experience of a Finals appearance last year, Malkin's Penguins could go all the way again this year, leaving the possibility of the top regular and post- season scorer being the same man.

-Detroit's 4-game sweep marked the first time since 2002 that the team who won the Cup made it beyond the first round the next year, while Pittsburgh's 4-2 series win over Philadelphia marked the first time since that same year that both finalists made it past round 1.

San Jose vs. Anaheim
Result: Anaheim wins series 4-2
Perhaps the most surprising, yet not fully unexpected, upset of the first round, eighth seeded Anaheim, who struggled to even stay in playoff contention, took down the top seeded, President's Trophy-winning, San Jose Sharks, who are annually expected to go the distance and win a Cup, and annually disappoint the league and their fans.
Series difference-maker: Jonas Hiller (Ducks goaltender) Hiller was shifting between backup and starting goalie throughout the year as J.S. Giguere suffered through numerous inconsistencies, but was always rock solid when called upon. He kept the Sharks' goal total low enough to allow the Ducks a victory every night.

Boston vs. Montreal
Result: Boston wins series 4-0
Coming into the playoffs in their 100th season, the Canadiens had a year of many struggles, but were expected to contend fairly well. Instead, they went up against a Bruins team that had dominated the Eastern Conference all year and weren't ready to slow down just yet. In a crushing sweep, the Bruins took down the Habs like lightning, leading many to wonder just what challenge actually awaits Boston.
Series difference-maker: Michael Ryder (Bruins winger) Ryder came back to haunt his former team in the first round, scoring 4 goals and 7 points in 4 games for Boston.

Detroit vs. Columbus
Result: Detroit wins series 4-0
Perhaps the only series that ended exactly as predicted, the first-time-post-seasoner-Blue Jackets entered the playoffs hyped up, but with a poor match-up that resulted in a crushing defeat at the hands of defending champs Detroit. However, the supposed parity increase in the NHL has finally played out, as the Blue-Jackets, previously the only team in the league to have never made the playoffs, finally tasted the first round. And if the fans in Ohio are any proof, the Jackets want more.
Series difference-maker: Henrik Zetterberg (Red Wings Center/Winger) Although the entire Wings team was balanced out in terms of scoring and defensive play, there's no denying that Zetterberg is one of Detroit's ultimate leaders, and with 3 goals to lead the team, not to mention his outstanding defensive play, he'll lead the Wings wherever they go.

Washington vs. New York Rangers
Result: Washington wins series 4-3
One of the NHL's 7-game series, the Caps pulled off an upset, coming back from a Rangers 3-1 series lead to upset the boys in blue. After the Rangers chased goalie Jose Theodore from the Washington net, rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov came in and stole the show, and the comeback ended on Washington ice in game 7 with a 2-1 win.
Series difference-maker: Simeon Varlamov (Capitals goaltender) With Alex Ovechkin being harassed by Marc Staal and Alexander Semin and Nick Backstrom proving ineffective without him, it was up to the rookie Varlamov, who changed the series momentum in game 5 when he shut out the Rangers 4-0 for the second time. Comparisons to Mr. Cam Ward have already begun, and while it's a bit early, it looks good for Washington. Next up? Pittsburgh.

Vancouver vs. St. Louis
Result: Vancouver wins series 4-0
The first series to end (Boston's sweep of Montreal and Detroit's sweep of Columbus ended only a few days later) proved that while an underdog team can carry plenty of momentum, consistent goaltending will take you all the way. That was the story, as the Blues could not rely on the scoring of David Backes and Brad Boyes to get past the wall of Roberto Luongo. And surprisingly balanced scoring made sure that the Canucks topped the Blues in only four games.
Series difference-maker: Sedin Twins (Canucks center and left winger) It's practically impossible to seperate these two in any way. They duo dominated the series along with right winger Alex Burrows, making precision passes and sniper-like accuracy on net turn into goals. While Burrows had three goals, Daniel Sedin led with 2 goals and 5 points, while Henrik Sedin had a goal and 4 points.

New Jersey vs. Carolina
Result: Carolina wins series 4-3
There might not have been a more dead-locked series in the first round than this 7-gamer between the Devils and the Hurricanes. The Devils had Zach Parise to pour in goals, a world-reknowned defense to shut down the Canes, and star goalie Martin Broduer in net in case all else failed. The Canes had Eric Staal to lead on offense, a somewhat inexperienced, but still strong defense, and former Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward in goal. Through the first six games, it was literally a back and forth series. Two games went into overtime, with New Jersey winning one and Carolina winning the other. Although the Canes dominated in game 6, winning 4-0, it appeared that the Devils had the series locked up with a 3-2 lead going into the final period of game seven. However, goals by Jussi Jokinen and the heroic Eric Staal gave the Canes a 4-3 win and a chance in the second round.
Series-difference maker: Eric Staal (Hurricanes center) With 5 goals and 7 points, the Canes future captain stayed on a point-per-game pace throughout the series and was the leading goal-scorer as well. Although counterpart Zach Parise played perhaps as heroicly as Staal, the Canes came out on top thanks to their leader.

Chicago vs. Calgary
Result: Chicago wins series 4-2
The story of this series was toughness and experience (Calgary) up against energetic youth (Chicago). The Flames were led by gritty veteran Jarome Iginla and solid netminder Miika Kiprusoff, while the Blackhawks had the goal-scoring and leadership of Jonathan Toews and the netminding of former Stanley Cup winner Nikolai Khabibulin. Many people gave the series to Calgary because of the lack of experience (17 players never having played in the playoffs) that Chicago had in their lineup. However, the Hawks managed to overwhelm the defensive efforts of the Flames and moved on to the second round.
Series difference-maker: Jonathan Toews (Chicago Center) Despite being so young, the future Chicago captain dominated the series with his gritty play. He had 2 goals and 6 points to tie for second on team scoring, and kept up the morale of the team even as they lost games 3 and 4 in Calgary.

Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
Result: Pittsburgh wins series 4-2
The series with the most heated rivalry already in place became intense right off the bat. Both teams relied on scoring, as Pittsburgh had the dynamic duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while the Flyers relied upon Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, among others. In the end, though, the superb goaltending of Marc-Andre Fluery bested the efforts of Martin Biron, and the Penguins came out on top. Next up, the dream series of Pittsburgh vs. Washington.
Series difference-maker: Evgeni Malkin (Penguins center) Despite the hype surrounding Sid the Kid, Malking quietly lead the playoffs in scoring through the first round, and potted 4 goals and 9 points total.

4.09.2009

We didn't sign you for THIS

Every team has its flop signings/draftings/tradings, maybe even annually. Here's a list of each team's "We didn't sign you for THIS" player for the 08-09 season.


Anaheim Ducks:
The Ducks flop of the year actually wasn't a new addition. Goaltender J.S. Giguere was expected to be a solid No. 1 this year, but through each game he's played, he's been inconsistent. With a 19-18-5 record, and alleged "backup" Jonas Hiller going 22-15-1, Giguere definitely didn't live up to expectations this season.

Atlanta Thrashers: Other than the entire team consistently playing as a flop, the Thrashers signing of Jason Williams didn't play out as expected. Following a season in which Williams scored 36 points in 43 games, the Thrashers signed him as a free agent expecting him to help lead the attack along with Ilya Kovalchuk. However, Williams never panned out, only managing 7 goals and 18 points in 41 games before being traded to Columbus. However, where Williams failed, Todd White (22 goals, 72 points) and Brian Little (31 goals, 51 points) picked up their game.

Boston Bruins: As hard as I try, I can't seem to find a player for the Bruins that really failed. Marco Sturm's stats are a low, but that's because of a long-term injury that had nothing to do with his level of play while healthy. Mark Recchi has a rating of -17, but was on a poor Thrashers team for the majority of the year and has only been a -2 in Boston. The entire team has risen beyond expectations to clinch the Eastern Conference, and should have quite the playoff run.

Buffalo Sabres: The season as a whole has been slightly disappointing for the Sabres, but a particular disappointment has been backup goalie Patrick Lalime. Signed to be a steady presence if Ryan Miller went down with an injury or needed a rest, he's only managed a 5-13-3 record in 21 games.

Calgary Flames: Most of the players on the Flames have played fairly well this season, but Jamie Lundmark hasn't been able to secure a job with the team. He's managed 15 points in 25 games this year, but hasn't been a consistent presence.

Carolina Hurricanes:
Scott Walker's point totals have been steadily declining over the past three seasons and injuries this year haven't helped. Through 38 games, Walker only had 5 goals and 15 points. His importance to the team is slowly waning.

Chicago Blackhawks: Brent Sopel signed on with the Chicago crew last year in hopes of helping return the team to glory. While the Hawks will finally make the playoffs this year, Sopel has turned in a disappointing 08-09 campaign, only playing in 23 games, with a goal, an assist, and a -4 rating.

Colorado Avalanche: The entire year has just plain sucked for the Avs, but it's interesting to note that the Darcy Tucker signing completely failed. He's only managed 8 goals and 16 points in 60 games, played to a -13 rating, and hasn't even fought a lot, with only 67 PIM's.

Columbus Blue Jackets:
The Jackets are finally in the playoffs after clinching a spot a couple days ago. In the summer, they'll be looking to re-style their roster to fit the style of play that has gotten them this far, and a likely casualty of that change will be center Jiri Novotny. Novotny has never been able to consistently hold an NHL job, and only managed 3 goals and 6 points in 40 games with the Jackets this year.

Dallas Stars:
This may be the most obvious pick of the league—Sean Avery. The Avery experiment in Dallas was a complete disaster. The team went on a downward spiral with Avery in the lineup, and was only able to somewhat reverse the tailspin after kicking Sean off the team. Interestingly, Avery re-joined the New York Rangers later in the year, and has sparked them into fighting for a playoff spot.

Detroit Red Wings:
The Red Wings are yet another team who seems to have no bad decisions this year. The only real issue has been the play of goalie Chris Osgood, who, despite his outstanding record of 25-8-7, has been fairly inconsistent. Osgood's GAA is currently 3.10, and has hovered around that mark all year. He must improve if the Wings want to repeat.

Edmonton Oilers:
Fernando Pisani has been unable to recreate his magic of the 2006 post-season, during which he went on a goal-scoring rampage. This year he's only managed 7 goals and 14 points in 36 games.

Florida Panthers:
The play of Nick Tarnasky hasn't contributed to the Panthers' hopes of a playoff berth this year. In his 44 games so far, he's only managed 6 assists and a -2 rating.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings probably wish Denis Gauthier had played a little better this year. The veteran defenseman didn't provide all that great of a presence, and had a string of suspensions mid-season that messed with the team's chemistry.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild probably would have liked a bit more production out of Craig Weller. The ex-Coyote only managed a goal and two assists in 36 games and was a -3.

Montreal Canadiens: The entire Canadiens team went on a downward spiral in the second half of the year, so every player underachieved in one way or another. However, I still can't find the point of Montreal keeping Mathieu Dandenault on the roster. Once again, he only played half the year, and managed 4 goals and 12 points this time. The Canadiens have so many young players that could be using that playing time instead.

Nashville Predators: Patric Hornqvist needed more AHL seasoning than the Preds thought. Unfortunately, they ran out his Calder game-limit (28 games this season) and he won't be able to contend for rookie of the year next year, that is, if he can pick up his play (2 goals, 7 points) by next year.

New Jersey Devils: Nicklas Bergfors has been unable to secure a spot with the Devils. Despite getting 9 games over the past two seasons to prove his worth, Bergfors has only scored one goal and has played in the AHL the rest of the time.\

New York Islanders: Seeing as the Islanders finished last, every player could be considered a flop. However, a particular letdown was the play of Brendan Witt. Despite still being a veteran leader for the Isles, Witt was a -34, a team worst, and definitely not helping the club.

New York Rangers: Everyone's talking about how Wade Redden has been a huge disappointment for the money the Rangers gave him, but another strange season came out of Aaron Voros. Voros was at the top of league scoring during October, but hit a slump much worse than the rest of the Rangers, and ended up with only 8 goals and 16 points and went scoreless during the month of February.

Ottawa Senators: Shean Donovan has certainly slowed down at this point in his NHL career. Expected to be a role player, Donovan's totals of 5 goals, 10 points, and a -2 rating are still fairly disappointing.

Philadelphia Flyers: Despite an upswing in the latter half of the year, Claude Giroux's play at the beginning of the season was way below what was expected of him, and earned him a trip to the AHL. His expectations will be just as high next season, however, as the Flyers faithful expect him to only need one learning season.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Desert Dogs are certainly upset that the sophomore slump hit Peter Mueller so bad. The (still) future captain of the Coyotes on managed 36 points this year after breaking the 50 point barrier last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins definitely aren't happy with the play of Miroslav Satan. After recording just 17 goals and 36 points through 65 games, he was assigned to the AHL, a tough blow on the reputation of the veteran winger.

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks wish that veteran leader Jeremy Roenick had brought last season's magic. Despite winning more games than ever, San Jose had no help from Roenick in that department, who only scored 4 goals this year, none of which were game-winners.

St. Louis Blues: Barret Jackman was expected to be a solid veteran backbone for a relatively young defense corps. However, his play wasn't the best; a -17 rating looks really bad for the experienced defender, especially when compared to counterpart veteran Jay Mckee, who finished the year at +11.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The entire Tampa team was the biggest disappointment in the NHL, from expected top rookie Steven Stamkos (who still managed a respectable 23 goals and 46 points) all the way down to ex-coach Barry Melrose, who lasted 16 games. However, a lot will be made out of the poor play of Noah Welch, who only managed a goal and an assist with a -9 rating. Welch, through a series of trades, was the replacement of star defender Dan Boyle.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs actually improved this season, somehow. However, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who thinks that Jeff Finger's numbers (23 points, -7 rating) match up to the ridiculous contract he was given over the summer.

Vancouver Canucks: Winger Taylor Pyatt was expected to return to the 20-goal plateau this season, but due to his limited ice time with the Sedins, he only managed 10 goals this season. Fortunately, the unexpected goal-scoring prowess of Alex Burrows relieved most of the disappointment.

Washington Capitals: Michael Nylander did nothing near living up to his expected role as a top center. He only managed 9 goals and 33 points for the Caps and was a letdown.

4.05.2009

Climie's Debut A Win; Looking Towards the Future

Well, there’s nothing like seeing the newest Stars rookie get a win in his NHL debut.

Matt Climie was in net for Dallas yesterday when they played the St. Louis Blues. Although he let in a few goals that he certainly would like to get back, I’m sure he’s pleased with the 5-4 OT win.

Climie was supported very well by a Stars defense who was quick to knock away rebounds and block key shots. Had Brad Boyes had his way, the game would likely have finished with a score of 6-5 or higher.

But thanks to the efforts of Loui Eriksson, who scored twice, Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott, each with a goal, and Trevor Daley, who clinched the game in overtime.

Tom Wandell got his first two NHL assists and proved that he’s ready for at least the AHL, if not the NHL. He was a strong presence for the Stars throughout the game.

James Neal continued to show why he’s one of the top rookies in the NHL. Despite not scoring a goal, he managed an assist on Eriksson’s second goal and had several huge hits that drew cheers from the crowd.

A worrying note for Stars fans were the words of Mike Modano after the game:
The 38-year-old Modano said was unsure whether he’ll be back for his 21st season with the Stars. “I don’t know if it’s my last home game ever,” Modano said. “It crossed my mind. I’m too aggravated right now to make that decision. I’ll spend a long month on the beach and make a rational decision about what’s next.” (nhl.com game recap)
Modano certainly has enough credentials to retire respectably. He’s the top scoring American in the NHL ever, and despite a rough season, he’s managed 15 goals and 46 points in 77 games so far.

Although the Stars have officially been eliminated from playoff contention, they can use their last three games to get a look at how ready their young prospects are for the NHL. Climie will most likely get at least one more start because the Stars should let Marty Turco rest. Defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy was called up from Peoria and will likely see action in the final three games of the year while one of the non-injured veterans takes a break. The Stars could also bring up Jamie Benn for a few games and see how much longer he’ll need to develop in the AHL. Tom Wandell will also probably see action in the final 3 games.

If all turns out well, the Stars will draft either 8th or 9th. According to the three mock drafts NHL.com writers Brad Holland, Shawn P. Roarke, and Adam Kimmelman, the Stars should pick either Jacob Josefsen, a Mike Modano-type, Zack Kassian, a Brenden Morrow-type, or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, a speedy Swedish winger.

My personal favorite would be Paajarvi-Svensson. The Stars could use some speed on the wing, and fellow Swede Fabian Brunnstrom could be a good mentor once he himself is accustomed to the NHL. Plus, you can’t go wrong with two last names.

4.01.2009

Long Hiatus; The Stars' Demise

I haven't blogged since about a week after the trade deadline; that's largely due to immense amounts of important schoolwork.

The trade-deadline analysis blogs will restart once the season ends, starting over from the beginning. This is so I can include the impact that acquired players may have had on the playoffs-or-non playoffs status of the team, as well as how well that player did in the playoffs if the given team did make it.


This article, however, will focus on the fate of the Stars that likely won't be changed within the last 5 games of the season.

Firstly, the Stars would have likely have to win each of their last 5 games, and have several other teams go on losing streaks, in order to reach the playoffs. They currently sit in 12th, with 78 points.


The Stars have definitely had a strange season; they started out the year with a Conference Finals "hangover", and dropped as far as 15th in the conference at one point. They played without captain Brenden Morrow, who was injured after 18 games, and defenseman Sergei Zubov, who started the year on injured reserve and has only gotten into 10 games this year. Often going Lose-Win-Lose-Lose-Win, it was only after superpest Sean Avery, having made comments about former girlfriends and fellow NHLers, was suspended and officially kicked off the team, that the season began to turn around. The Stars then went on a relatively good streak, rocketing up the standings into a playoff position, and managed to hold onto either the 7th or 8th spot for the better part of the year until approximately the trade deadline.

It was a few games before the deadline that things began to fall apart once again. Already without Morrow and Zubov, the Stars lost the services of Brad Richards, Toby Petersen, and Fabian Brunnstrom within a matter of days. Richards suffered a fractured arm, made it back to the lineup for one game, and left partway through that game due to a broken hand, which has kept him out since. Brunnstrom has made it back and stuck in the lineup, but Petersen, perhaps the Stars' hardest worker, has yet to make a return.
The Stars attempted to offset those losses with the acquisitions of Steve Begin (from Montreal for Doug Janik) and Brendan Morrison (waivers). While each player has done his part and contributed (Morrison scored two goals including the game-winner last night against the Kings), the Stars have yet to snap out of their slump.

If the pattern continues, Dallas will most likely finish the year out of the playoffs in what might be the worst possible position.

Finishing 12th in the conference means the team doesn't make the playoffs, but has a poor chance of getting a good draft pick, likely picking 7th or 8th. While that isn't normally too bad of a spot (THN Blogger Mark Seidel ranked Magnus Svensson-Pajaarvi 7th and Landon Ferraro 8th last year), rankings change quickly, and players that have been drafted that high have still turned out to be busts on occasion.


The Stars will also have to clear some roster space over the summer; they have potential overcrowding at both center and defense once players return from injury.

The most pressing issue right now is UFA defenseman Sergei Zubov. Zubov's been a great defender since his first season in the NHL, and has been a Stars veteran since before they won the Cup. However, he's been injury riddled for the past two seasons, minimizing his contributions and making his salary seem too high for what he's done. If he doesn't retire to avoid more injury issues, I think the Stars should let Zubov test the UFA market.

However, the defense will still be crowded even with the departure of Zubov. The Stars who deserve a roster spot next season line up like this:

Stephane Robidas - Trevor Daley
Matt Niskanen - Nicklas Grossman
Darryl Sydor - Andrew Hutchinson
Mark Fistric - Ivan Vishnevskiy

Hutchinson is the most likely candidate for a trade, seeing as he doesn't have very many ties with the team. However, he played well for the Stars when he was in the lineup and his contributions are highly valued.
Vishnevskiy will likely have to play another year in the AHL, although he'll be among the first to get the call when an injury comes up. Garrett Stafford is another defenseman who could hold his own in the NHL if there were more space available for him.


The Stars will also soon find themselves to have quite the crowd at the center position. Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, Mike Modano, Brendan Morrison, Toby Petersen, and Brian Sutherby have all performed well for the Stars, although Sutherby has spent a fair share of time playing wing due to the crowding. But still, Petersen doesn't deserve a year in the AHL after all he's contributed this season, and Morrison probably wouldn't be happy on the fourth line anyways. My guess is that Morrison gets traded and Sutherby plays wing on Petersen's line; the Stars were at their most consistent when the line up went Ribeiro, Richards, Modano, Petersen.

So depending on whether or not the Stars draft an out-of-nowhere-NHL-ready kid, and depending on who they trade, the ideal line up would look like this:

Ott----Ribeiro-----Lehtinen
Brunnstrom/Begin?-Richards-Eriksson
Neal--Modano--Parrish/Conner
Sutherby/Begin?---Petersen---Barch

Robidas--Grossman
Niskanen----Sydor
Daley-----Fistric

Turco
Stephan


The goaltending most likely won't change. Turco's had his ups and downs during the year, but management probably has enough faith to let him rule the crease next year. Richard Bachman will almost definitely be the top AHL goaltender for Dallas next season.

Steve Begin's spot on the team will also likely fall into question after all the injuries are through. He was essentially hired to take the place of Toby Petersen.

Despite Begin's addition, though, the Stars are in need of a little more wing depth. The Richards-Eriksson pair has no solid left winger, and the Neal-Modano pair has no solid right winger. Richards and Eriksson could potentially get help in the next two years, when Jamie Benn decides to make the jump to the NHL. The Stars could also trade Hutchinson or Morrison for an experienced right winger to join Neal and Modano, or they could wait for Colton Sceviour to develop.

Three prospects to look for in the next two or three seasons: Jamie Benn, Colton Sceviour, and Richard Bachman. All three will be entering their first AHL seasons, and the Stars will be looking for them to develop into the leaders of the franchise's new AHL team, the Texas Stars.
Benn is the most natural scorer of the group. He's said to have lightning fast hands, and has the potential to become a Dany-Heatley-style player, although perhaps just consistently in the 30-goal range, not the 40-50 range.
Sceviour's game is similar to that of Daniel Alfredsson when it comes to the numbers game–this season, Sceviour's most productive, has him with a total of 29 goals and 51 assists for 80 points. However, Sceviour also likes to play the rough-along-the-boards game, putting him in the range of Jarome Iginla as well. While his NHL numbers and leadership might never reach that high, his potential is definitely there.
Richard Bachman is most likely the Stars' future in net, if numbers and awards can tell anything. In 2007-08, Bachman won 25 of 35 games and won player of the year and rookie of the year for the WCHA. While his 08-09 numbers aren't quite as impressive (14-11 in 35 games), he's still the top goaltender for his team and could be an AHL starter as early as next season.



To sum up the general feelings of the Stars fans, and, most likely, the Stars organization, Dallas just needs this season to be over so they can begin fresh next year.

3.07.2009

The comeback kids?

I saw an interesting snippet today while perusing The Hockey News' Future Watch 09.

Stefan Legein is back in hockey now.


For those of you who aren't aware of this young man's story, Legein made headlines late in the summer, claiming he had quit hockey. The decision was so questionable that it sparked debate for a good month or so before quieting down.

Now the young right winger is back, playing for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, and although he's still looking for his first point through 9 games, he's gained enough attention and shown enough potential to get back to #8 of Columbus' top 10 prospects.


Another NHL prospect who recently went through this sort of ideal was current Providence Bruins center Dan Ryder.
Last season, Ryder left the Quad City Flames 6 games into the AHL season, claiming he needed to take some time to think about his commitment to the game.
Ryder didn't return for the rest of the season, and his game has struggled since returning this season. Despite 9 points in 19 games with Quad City, he was sent down to the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL for 4 games, where he went scoreless, and then was traded and has gone scoreless in 4 games with Providence.


Unfortunately, this probably won't be the last time a young prospect with enormous potential questions their commitment to the game. And while it would be wrong to try and force the prospect in question back into the game, one can't help but feel somewhat more depressed at seeing someone with so much promise throw it all away because of a commitment issue.

Trade Deadline Analysis: Atlanta

All one has to do is look at the Thrashers spot in the standings to easily realize that Atlanta's purpose at the deadline was to clear out veterans to continue (or start?) a youth movement.

Their first trade was to send solid D-man Niclas Havelid to New Jersey along with prospect Miles Stoesz in return for young defender Anssi Salmela. Salmela was a highly regarded free agent coming out of Finland, and still has the potential to be a top blue-liner with some experience. He had 3 assists in 17 games with the Devils and was plus-1.

Atlanta's last trade was to send checking center Erik Christensen to Anaheim for prospect center Eric O'Dell. O'Dell will be another building block for the team in the future. The Thrashers might miss Christensen's shootout skills, though.

Those were the only moves made by the Thrashers. Many expected Ilya Kovalchuk to be involved in a blockbuster trade, as he'll be a free agent soon, is unsatisfied with the success in Atlanta, and would draw a strong return from many teams. However, the Thrashers will most likely look to the draft and hope that they can get a center to play with Kovalchuk; or hope that Bryan Little can develop stronger chemistry with the Russian left-winger.

3.05.2009

Trade Deadline Analysis: Anaheim

This is the start of a team-by-team trade deadline analysis that has no set time in length, although I'm going for a team a day.


*Anaheim-* The Ducks made several trades in February and March before the deadline, although only two of them are likely to have any impact.

Their first two moves sent center David McIntyre, acquired in the Brian Sutherby trade, to New Jersey in exchange for defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, and defender Nathan McIver to Vancouver for winger Mike Brown.

Their next trade was the major impact move, sending star left winger Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi to Pittsburgh for star blue-liner Ryan Whitney. The Ducks are trying to break a three-team tie to get into 7th or 8th place, and Whitney will be an cannon from the blue-line to add offense, and will also relieve some of the pressure that Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger inherited when Francois Beauchemin went down with an injury. However, the Ducks, who have struggled on offense at different times this year, are sure to miss Kunitz and the 16 goals and 35 points he scored in 62 games with Anaheim.

Anaheim continued with their defender shift, sending Steve Montador to the Bruins for Petteri Nokelainen. Nokelainen will add a defensive presence to the Ducks 4th line when he plays. He had 3 assists in 33 games with the Bruins.
The next Ducks move was to send prospect Eric O'Dell to Atlanta for center Erik Christensen. Christensen will add depth offense, likely from the 3rd line. He has scored 5 goals and 19 points so far this year with the Thrashers, and will probably take on some of the departed Travis Moen's defensive responsibility.

The Ducks also sent prominent checking center Samuel Pahlsson to Chicago for defensman James Wisneiwski. Wisneiwski is a hard-hitting defender who's also injury prone, but should add good depth on the blueline.

Lastly, in a deal with San Jose, penalty-killing center Travis Moen and up-and-coming defenseman Kent Huskins were sent to the Sharks in exchange for prospects Nick Bonino and Timo Pielmeier, as well as a conditional draft pick.

Overall, the trades the Ducks made seem to be building up for the post-season while simultaneously trying to add some insurance for the team's future. The trade most likely to make an impact is probably the Kunitz-Whitney trade, but we'll have to wait for the playoffs to roll around to see who wins that deal.

2.18.2009

Columbus vs Dallas and Richards hurt

A few nights ago, the Stars had a win against the Blue Jackets in a shootout. The game was kept close by goaltenders Marty Turco and Steve Mason, while James Neal was scored the shootout winner.

However, perhaps one of the most important events of the game could turn out to hurt the Stars.

Brad Richards took a heavy hit from behind in the second period, and never returned the game. Now it has been announced that Richards will be out for 6-8 weeks with a distal radius fracture in his wrist. That’s probably the most accurate injury report an NHL team’s given out in a while.

However, it’s the length of recovery time that could affect the Stars the most. Recently, Richards had been the second leading scorer on the Stars, and his absence could potentially mess up the lines.

Previous to the injury to Richards, they were:

Ott/Brunnstrom-Ribeiro-Lehtinen
Eriksson-Richards-Lundqvist
Neal-Modano-Connor/Parrish
Petersen-Sutherby=Barch

Now, post injury, there’ll be a huge gap in the second line.

Ott/Brunnstrom-Ribeiro-Lehtinen should stay together, although it’s been more successful with Ott playing bodyguard then with Brunnstrom as another scorer.

Eriksson and Lundqvist could potentially be centered by Petersen, who has a lot of talent, but doesn’t get much ice time to show it. However, he has a lot of chemistry with the team as a whole and his role can be versatile.

Another option is to move Lundqvist to the fourth line, and play Petersen between Eriksson and Brunnstrom. This would leave the Ott-Ribeiro-Lehtinen line together, reunite a solid checking line of Lundqvist-Sutherby-Barch, and allow the Neal-Modano-Connor/Parrish line to remain unchanged.

However, the Stars mainly want Richards back. It will once again be a struggle to make the playoffs for Dallas, as they are now without top players Richards, Brenden Morrow, and Sergei Zubov. They won’t be happy with a playoff-less season after all the work they’ve done to return to that level.

On another note, please, please, Hull, or Jackson, or whoever decided to play Brent Krahn, go back on your decision and return to Tobias Stephan as the backup. There’s nothing wrong with Krahn, but Stephan fits better with the team. Trust me on this one.

2.15.2009

There's a new Sean?

Out of curiosity today, I read the NHL’s story about Sean Avery’s first AHL game since being suspended.

Most of what was expected was there; minimalistic but helpful offensive contribution with three shots on goal, and of course, two minor scraps of the typical Avery fashion.

However, one quote by Avery stood out to me while reading:

“I had a few comments, but nothing that was too drastic,” Avery said. “Or something the old Sean would say.”

That surprised me.

I wasn’t expecting anger management and any personal goals by Sean to turn out that apparent. For Sean to acknowledge that there were major differences between the way he was in December compared to now, that’s probably a big step.

Now, don’t think for a second that I want Sean back with Dallas. He screwed up the chemistry with the team, and since the Stars got rid of him, they’ve been playing like a real hockey team.

But maybe this man, who once waved his arms around in front of Martin Brodeur in an attempt to distract him the same way a 5-year-old might in street hockey, has a chance of making it back to the NHL now. He’s playing in Hartford; the Rangers will have a good long look at him for the rest of the season. Perhaps a deal can be worked out through re-entry waivers? Time will tell.

2.10.2009

The week(-ish length of time) in review

Well, the Stars have had a good week or so since my last blog.

Let’s see…

The Stars had wins against Calgary, New York, and Nashville, while they lost a close one to Colorado.

The highlight of those games was without a doubt the Stars-Rangers match-up.

The Rangers were supposed to be a fairly good team this year, and at times, they were. The game was expected to be close.

However, after a relatively close first half of the first period, the Stars took control. Leading 3-1 going into the second, Nik Zherdev’s minor scare of the game with a goal was quickly silenced as the Mike Ribeiro scored not long after. The third period ensured that Dallas would have a win, as they scored 6 unanswered goals to dominate the Rangers 10-2. Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Steve Ott, Matt Niskanen, Fabian Brunnstrom, Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, and Darryl Sydor all had multi-point games, and Brian Sutherby and Brad Richards each contributed a goal.

The Calgary game wasn’t quite as exciting, but it helped Dallas continue their push for a playoff spot. A 3-1 victory was sparked by power-play goals from James Neal and Jere Lehtinen. The Stars power-play has vastly improved since the start of the season, and is a big reason why the Stars have gotten themselves back into the playoff race. Solid goaltending by Marty Turco also helped.

The game against Nashville, also a win for Dallas, was again spurred by strong special teams play. The Stars didn’t allow a power-play goal, and Brian Sutherby, who’s been picking up his offense with 3 goals in 5 games, managed to score a short-handed goal. Brad Richards popped in a goal on the power-play, Mark Parrish potted a rare shot that turned out to be the game winner, and Steve Ott tied his career high goal-total with an empty-net goal. And once again, Marty Turco, who’s goaltending has been phenomenal as of late, had a great night.

Looking ahead, Dallas’ schedule for February is jam-packed with home games. This will definitely help the Stars in the standings if they can keep up their outstanding play on home ice.