Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We'll Be Back After These Messages

After a two-plus year hiatus, The Hockey Spot is returning. Just like Chris Chelios, Brett Favre, and syphilis we just won't go away. Stay tuned for this NHL season's Eight Hockey Gifts of Christmas coming this week.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Get Well Soon...

Our thoughts and prayers at TheHockeySpot go out to coach John Van Boxmeer and his family. Van Boxmeer, 55, suffered a heart attack last week, but is not expected to miss any time coaching Swiss club Bern. A former NHL player and coach, Van Boxmeer crossed the Atlantic two years ago to coach in Switzerland after a stint as an assistant coach to Andy Murray in Los Angeles.

Van Boxmeer's team is scheduled to face off against the NHL's New York Rangers on September 30th as part of the Victoria Cup tournament.

Get well soon coach.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Musings on the First Round...

Whew! It's been a hectic two weeks on and off the ice, and with most of my time being spent catching up on recordings of several games from the first round there hasn't been much time to post. So in order to cap off the first round of the playoffs, some ramblings on the progress of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs:

  • Every Stanley Cup Championship team faces some form of adversity at some point during their run to the Cup. For the San Jose Sharks, that adversity came in the form of themselves. After blowing a 3-2 series lead, the Sharks showed what they were made of in Game 7, taking control of the game following a 2-1 deficit at the hands of the Calgary Flames. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this team is finally living up to their potential.
  • Speaking of the Sharks, thank the heavens, Jeremy Roenick is back. After two years that can be described as disastrous at best in L.A. and Phoenix, JR has finally returned to the form that commanded respect from his teammates and opponents throughout his career. Not only did he notch four points in Game 7, but displayed the admirable leadership qualities he was once known to possess. He may be a bit long in the tooth and not the same first-line center he once was, but we can now finally say that Roenick will retire as the player everyone knew he could be.
  • For anyone who began thinking "Carey Price Who?" after the Habs nearly blew a 3-1 series lead, jump off that bandwagon and hop on the "Price=Roy" ride. Trust me, this ride is much warmer (and not just because the Montreal Riot Parade lit the wheels on fire).
  • Speaking of bandwagons, don't tell me Ovechkin should have shot the puck. This is one of the few times I strongly disagree with Barry Melrose; had Fedorov placed his stick on the ice, it is more likely that we would be talking about how brilliant the fake slap shot turned game winning pass was. The play was a smart read on Ovechkin's part, unfortunately for him Fedorov just simply did not read the play the same way.
  • It's becoming apparent that reaching the Finals truly does affect a team's play the next season. Case in point: both the Ducks and Sens were shells of themselves in their first round exits.
  • With all the talk during the Rangers-Devils series about Sean Avery's antics, one point that hasn't been voiced loud and clear is why not one single New Jersey player attempted to make a run at either Henrik Lundqvist, Jaromir Jagr, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, nor Brendan Shanahan. Last I checked, Martin Brodeur has been the star of the Devils for over a decade; on top of that, he is the their number one goaltender. Regardless of the fact that it is the playoffs a message needed to be sent loud and clear, but the Devils seemed to choose to roll over and die instead.
  • Marty Turco may have been a huge piece in beating the Ducks in six, but he's still not in the clear when it comes to being called a playoff flop. The only way he will get that monkey off his back is by getting the Stars to the Conference Finals and, at the very least, having a highly competitive series.
  • And finally, if you didn't watch the Avs-Wild Quarterfinals series, you missed out big time. From the second the puck was dropped in Game 1 it was obvious to everyone watching that these two teams were playing for one thing: the Stanley Cup.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

In the Time of Cheetoh's and Bean Bags...

Anybody else spill something on themselves after watching Alexander Ovechkin do exactly what Alexander Ovechkin does? If you have no idea what I'm referring to, then what in the name of Mark Messier were you doing last night?!

I'm beginning to think that Rod Stewart's "Some Guys Have All the Luck" was nothing more than a premonition of Ovechkin that Mr. Stewart had one night, sleeping on his mass of fluffy 80's hair. Of course, you know what we say, you have to be good to be lucky.

Anyhow, today's lineup of games are not nearly as attractive as yesterday's. Your Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner Game O' the Day for Saturday is Game 2 between the Anaheim Ducks and the Dallas Stars. After a lack of discipline brought the Ducks to their knees in Game 1, expect a much more up-tempo and exciting Game 2 today at 10:00 EST. The Ducks superstars will be exactly that tonight and Marty Turco will begin to show whether or not he can be the overall difference maker over a seven game series.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Game O' the Day

Oh, boy! Today's game o' the day is a toughie. For anyone with a DVR, my advice is to set recordings for all four games, grab a bag of puffy Cheetoh's, a bean bag, and your favorite pair of holy underwear and then close all the blinds, because it's gonna be an ugly scene.

For everyone else, it's time to watch history in the making: Alexander Ovechkin will be making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut. Anyone that has seen Ovechkin play for even one shift during the regular season has to be anticipating the excitement the winger will bring in a post-season game. On top of that, the Washington Caps will show whether or not they can continue the roll they have been on over the past month-and-a-half.

The other two safe picks for the night are the Devils/Rangers and Wild/Avs Game 2's. The only downfall of these two games is that it's highly unlikely they will match the excitement and passion that were brought on during the first games of these series.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Like every hard working hockey fan out there, it's hard to decide which game to choose out of the several that are available throughout the hockey season. For that very reason, The Hockey Spot would like to introduce our daily "Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner Game O' the Day*".

Today's Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner Game O' the Day is Game 2 between the San Jose Sharks and the Calgary Flames. After last night, it's pretty well established that these teams won't be sending each other thank you cards at the conclusion of this series, so expect some serious bruising and hard fought, hard nosed hockey.

(*"Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner is an unofficial trademark of John Buccigross and the ESPN John Buccigross weekly online segment at ESPN.com. Any transmission or rebroadcast of "Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner" will be copped as a literary rip off and all users shall be heckled for said plagiarisms. We here at The Hockey Spot hereby give you permission to begin the heckling.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Predictions Galore!

As I've said before, I hate predictions in hockey. Especially when it comes time to compare one's own predictions against the results.

This season, I did pretty well for my mid-season playoff predictions going 13 for 16.

Predictions Right On or Close to the Money: Pittsburgh, Ottawa, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, New York Rangers, Washington, Detroit, San Jose, Anaheim, Calgary, Minnesota, and Colorado.

Predictions Totally Blown: Carolina, Vancouver, St. Louis.

Boy was I wrong about the three teams I missed out on though: Dallas, Montreal, and Nashville. In fact, it seems that other than San Jose, these are three of the most talked about teams going into the playoffs. So, once again I say, I hate predictions.

And with that positive note, here are my 2008 Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Predictions:

Western Conference

(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Nashville Predators
Prediction: Detroit 4-2
Why: Just like every other hockey pundit, I'm going to continue to underestimate the Predators. With the experience and sheer power of the Red Wings, the Predators are going to have a huge task ahead of them to survive a seven game series that includes four games in Detroit. The key to this series will be the first two games. If Detroit goes to Nashville up 2-0, the chances of the Preds coming back would be slim, to put it generously.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Calgary Flames
Prediction: San Jose 4-2
Why: This is the first round series to watch. During the past few weeks it has appeared that the Sharks have finally matched the hype surrounding them for years, going 19-1-2 in their final twenty-two games.The trade deadline addition of Brian Campbell added an offensive threat from the blue line, but also brought a greater sense of patience and confidence in the Sharks defensive play. The worry for the Sharks is the problem that cost them their 2nd round series against the Red Wings last season: their ability to maintain a lead. The Flames are a team that have become known for coming back from behind during games, and any team with a lead and Mikka Kipprusoff in goal is a serious threat. Expect a hard fought, tough series.

(3) Minnesota Wild vs. (6) Colorado Avalanche
Prediction: Colorado 4-1
Why: The Wild are a team that will not go down without a fight, and given the possibility that they could field an on-ice roster that includes Chris Simon, Derek Boogard, and Todd Fedoruk, the opposing team is likely to come out battered and bruised. The edge in the series goes to the Avalanche due to their top two lines and their new found defensive depth as a result of the deadline acquisitions of D-men Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei. Consider the fact that Jordan Leopold is likely to be a healthy scratch as the Avs 7th defenseman, and you will have a hint as to how deep their blue line is.

(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Dallas Stars
Anaheim 4-2
Why: Due to their experience at every position, the Ducks have got to be the favorite to win the Cup yet again. As long as every man on their roster plays to his ability and manages to stay relatively healthy, the Ducks will remain the team to beat. The wild card in this series, as it has been with every series involving the Stars over the past few years, will be Marty Turco. Despite his phenomenal play in last year's playoffs, the Stars still managed to lose in the first round to Vancouver. It would seem that the Stars ticket to winning this series will be Turco stopping every Anaheim opportunity, every game.

Eastern Conference

(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (8) Boston Bruins
Montreal 4-1
Why: Simply put, Carey Price is a man possessed. Add the fact that Montreal beat Boston in every meeting during the regular season, and you have a series that looks like a no-brainer. If Boston wins this series, it could be the biggest upset of the playoffs; don't count on it though. The Kings, Thrashers, and Blues have a better chance of landing Steve Stamkos in the NHL Draft than the Bruins do of beating the Habs.

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators
Prediction: Pittsburgh 4-0
Why: Can anyone remember watching a team fall from grace in such a tragic and unnecessary way as the Sens have this year? By Christmas the Senators were the team to beat. By St. Patrick's Day they were the team everyone in the Eastern Conference was hoping to play in the first round. Obviously Bryan Murray's comments about the Pens throwing their final regular season game to the Flyers in order to get matched up with his Sens was nothing more than a desperate attempt from a desperate coach/GM to sway the focus away from his team's erratic play. The Sens only hope will be for their players to get hungry and desperate, and now.

(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) Philadelphia Flyers
Prediction: Philadelphia 4-3
Why: This prediction can't necessarily be deemed an upset considering Philadelphia (95) finished with more regular season points than Washington (94). Looking ahead, it would be phenomenal to see a Capitals vs. Penguins Eastern Conference Final, but it's much more likely that the Caps will burn out after their unlikely regular season finish. Also, Martin Biron will finally have the opportunity to show his stuff in the playoffs, and it's likely he may surprise a few people.

(4) New Jersey Devils vs. (5) New York Rangers
Prediction: New York 4-2
Why: Though the Devils are one of the most experienced playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, it seems as though it is finally the Rangers time to be a serious threat in the playoffs. The off-season signings of playoff heroes Chris Drury and Scott Gomez are the factors which seem to put the Rangers over the top. The Devils certainly won't be push overs, but it just simply seems to be the Rangers time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Pre-Playoffs, Pre-Draft Draft Special

After a brief hiatus due to some training, I'm back in time for the playoffs.

Before coverage of the real action begins though, a stake to the heart of Kings, Thrashers, Blues, and Islanders fans:

That's right, Bill Daly, the NHL's Deputy Commissioner, claims the Tampa Bay Lightning's thunder bolt logo as the best in the NHL.

But really, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the rights to the first-overall pick in the 2008 draft. All indications are that the club will select Steve Stamkos, as team rep Dave Andreychuk made it clear that the team has anticipated receiving the pick for the past few weeks with the intention of choosing Stamkos.

Did anyone else watching the Versus telecast have a deep desire to play poker with Andreychuk as soon as possible? One would think someone from the Lightning organization would have informed Mr. Andreychuk that in the event a freak accident occurs or say young Mr. Stamkos decides he has a calling to become the next voice actor for Papa Smurf in the upcoming Smurfs re-make, he should stay tight lipped over who the organization intends to choose.

Unless, of course, Stamkos is just that good. And according to everyone in the world of scouting, he is.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Campbell Officially Arrives in San Jose

Holy massive chicken nuggets!

Thanks to James Mirtle for pointing this one out.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Trade Deadline...Finally...Part 6

Following the trade deadline on Tuesday, the most polled about issue on hockey related web sites was "Who was the biggest winner at the trade deadline?" Though last night's five point introduction by Stars' center Brad Richards would currently shoot Dallas to the top of that pole, many have made an argument for the most active team at the deadline: the Washington Capitals.

After the first month of the season, many in the hockey world believed the Caps would most definitely be sellers as opposed to buys during the trade deadline. However, the hiring of long-time minor league head coach Bruce Boudreau has not only given the Caps a surge in their play to push for the playoffs, but a new identity. Throughout much of his coaching career Boudreau has been characterized as too unpolished to become a successful National Hockey League coach, a reputation which, intentionally or not, Boudreau has responded to by coaching his teams fight for every inch with successful results.

The same underdog attitude that Boudreau has carried with him has begun to translate into success in the NHL through the Washington Capitals. With one of the biggest young superstars in the league, the Capitals have the opportunity to become the rag-tag feel good story of this hockey season, much the same way their coach could.

And after Tuesday's trade deadline, that "feel good" story is looking more and more realistic.

The first trade of the day for the Caps came with the acquisition of soon to be unrestricted free agent goaltender Cristobal Huet from the Montreal Canadiens for a second round pick in 2009. One of the most shocking deals of the day, most in the hockey world believed that the Habs would hang onto Huet for the playoff push and another few years until Carey Price was deemed ready to take over the number one spot. Apparently Habs GM Bob Gainey felt the 20-year-old Price was up for the task, a decision which was likely helped by the shaky play of Huet over the past few weeks.

To add more to the shock of the trade is the fact that the Capitals have a goaltender that has manned the crease for the franchise steadily over the past eleven years in Olaf Kolzig. Though Kolzig played it cool in an interview on Versus after the Caps 4-1 win over Minnesota the night after the trade deadline, Kolzig's agent Art Breeze has begun to stir up a hornet's nest.

The need for a change in goal that Caps GM George McPhee has obviously expressed has been the result of Kolzig's lack of consistency this season. Beyond that, Kolzig is 38 and could be showing signs of the end of his career. Though Huet could prove to be nothing more than a rental player, McPhee must have traded for the French goaltender with the intention of signing him to a contract extension. At 32, Huet could be entering the prime of his career and it has yet to be seen what he is or is not capable of over a full season (he has never played more than 42 games in one season). If the Caps do make the playoffs this season due to any form of stellar play from Huet, expect him to be asking for a hefty salary considering his upcoming contract will be the biggest contract opportunity of his career.

The Caps followed up the Huet deal with another stunner. For days rumors had Sergei Fedorov waiting for the go-ahead to hop on a plane to Detroit to rejoin the Red Wings; instead Fedorov joined an extensive cast of fellow Russians in exchange for the Caps 2007 second-round pick, defenseman Ted Ruth.

Having lost center Michael Nylander to season-ending shoulder surgery the Caps were in need of a second line center, but in the process of fulfilling that need they also added several years of playoff experience. Though the 38 year-old Fedorov is nowhere near the same player he was when he was competing with Wayne Gretzky for the scoring lead fourteen years ago, Fedorov is still a great skater with phenomenal hands. Beyond that, Fedorov can also serve as a mentor on and off the ice for a young comrade that just so happens to be one of the league's brightest young stars in Alex Ovechkin.

Though no one realistically believes Fedorov will put up the same numbers he did earlier in his career, playing with Ovechkin could provide a significant bump from the 28 points in 50 games he put up while playing in Columbus this season.

After the splashes GM McPhee made with these two deals, it would seem that he firmly believed that the Caps would be in the playoffs when he made his final significant trade by dealing Matt Pettinger to the Vancouver Canucks for agitator Matt Cooke. Cooke, a player right up coach Boudreau's alley, will provide the Caps with the grit and nasty play necessary to throw teams off their game plan in the playoffs. Plainly and simply, Matt Cooke was acquired for the playoffs.

Due to the way in which each of these trades addressed specific needs for the Caps, it would appear that the team that could gain further notoriety as the latest "feel good" story were the overall winners at the trade deadline. Now that the GM has done his job, it is up to the coach and his players to prove whether or not they truly are improved or just made for a good story for part of the regular season.