Sports Outside the Beltway

Did the NHL make a mess of the 2009-10 schedule?

The upcoming schedule was released yesterday. Right away I noticed something interesting. Florida has a home and home series with Nashville.

Nov 28 and Mar 29 are when the Panthers and Predators play next season.

What I find interesting is- Florida is playing Nashville home and home for the second straight season. In 2008-09, the Panthers and Predators played on November 1st and December 23rd.

In light of the way the NHL season is set up, namely that any Eastern or Western conference team plays only play 3 home and homes in any season, Florida and Nashville shouldn’t meet home and home more than once every five years 15 western conference teams divided by 3 home and home series equals five.

Here’s a link to the 2009-10 schedule. Anyone have theories as to what happened here or am I off base?


Florida Panthers trade D Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary

Another sad day for South Florida hockey fans. From ESPN-

The Calgary Flames added Jay Bouwmeester to their already impressive defensive corps — at least for the next four days.

Bouwmeester, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday, was acquired by Calgary in a trade with the Florida Panthers as the NHL entry draft wrapped up Saturday with the final six rounds at Bell Centre.

Florida acquired Jordan Leopold — also on the verge of free agency — and a third-round pick (67th overall), which the Panthers used to draft right wing Josh Birkholz.

The trade gives Flames general manager Darryl Sutter a window of exclusivity in negotiating a new contract with Bouwmeester and his agent, Bryon Baltimore.

This trade is risky for both teams, since both players are unrestricted free agents. Pierre LeBrun believes Florida made the right move by getting something for Bouwmeester. Maybe so, but as a hardcore Panther fan couldn’t the team have met the price for him to stay in Florida? Bouwmeester is arguably the best defensemen in the NHL and money talks in sports. How many times do we here athletes say they’re going to a great organization when in fact they’re going to a stinker and the only reason to do so is the big salary they’ll get.

Leopold is supposedly all right. The Panthers may have gotten a sleeper in the draft yesterday. Dmitry Kulikov, who played in Quebec last year. ESPN’s analysts were high on this player, something about his playing in Russia’s Continental League made other teams wary of Kulikov. I’m betting Florida doesn’t make the playoffs in 2010.


Calgary Flames fire Coach Mike Keenan

He lasted just two years at his latest NHL head coaching job. From AP-

Mike Keenan was fired as coach of the Calgary Flames on Friday, almost a month after his team lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.

Keenan spent just two seasons with Calgary, and general manager Darryl Sutter said expectations were not met.

“Taking into consideration all factors affecting our season-ending result, we believe this is a necessary change required to allow our team to continue toward our objective of winning the Stanley Cup,” Sutter said.

The Flames finished the regular season with 46 wins and 98 points, but they were ousted in the first round in six games by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Keenan, who had one year remaining on his contract, said following the playoff loss to Chicago that he believed he would be back to finish his deal.

“I have another year left on my contract,” Keenan said. “My expectation is to be here to fulfill my contract.”

Keenan was hired as the Flames coach in June 2007, replacing Jim Playfair. He leaves Calgary with an 88-60-16 regular-season record. His 672 victories rank fourth on the career coaching list.

Keenan has coached 8(Philadelphia, Chicago, the New York Rangers, St. Louis, Vancouver, Boston and Florida. Only with the NY Rangers in 1994 did he win a Stanley Cup) of the 30 teams in the NHL. I’d be willing to make a small wager he is coaching a 9th before 2010 is over.

As for Keenan’s firing, the Western is the strongest of the two NHL conferences. Calgary is a good team, but Detroit and San Jose are better for sure, with Chicago and Vancouver arguably better than the Flames. Without knowing more, Keenan may be a victim of unrealistic expectations.


The Mighty Ducks- Anaheim beats San Jose 4-1, take series

The team with the best record in the 2008-09 NHL regular season has been eliminated from the playoffs. From AP-

Right when the opening puck dropped, Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton dropped gloves. The star centers’ simmering dislike erupted into a brawl dominated by Thornton, who pummeled Getzlaf with at least two flush blows to the face.

Getzlaf took it and smiled, knowing he still could win the only important fight.

And that’s exactly what happened in the waning minutes of Game 6. Getzlaf scored the knockout goal as the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks ousted the not-so-mighty San Jose Sharks from the postseason with a 4-1 victory Monday night.

Top To Bottom

With a 3-1 loss to Anaheim, the San Jose Sharks became the fourth team to go from winning the Presidents’ Trophy to first-round elimination in the NHL playoffs.
Season Winner Points Result
2008-09 Sharks 117 lost to Ducks
2005-06 Red Wings 124 lost to Oilers
1999-00 Blues 114 lost to Sharks
1990-91 Hawks 106 lost to North Stars

Teemu Selanne and Francois Beauchemin put Anaheim ahead with their first playoff goals on fortunate deflections 43 seconds apart in the second period, and the Ducks coolly finished off the Presidents’ Trophy winners in an upset that could resonate for years in this juicy in-state rivalry.


Jonas Hiller made 36 saves to finish his phenomenal playoff series debut for the Ducks, who won a fight-filled clincher to complete a remarkable playoff upset two years after winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup.

The clubs’ final meeting was a slugfest with 60 total penalty minutes and a long series of brawls between Anaheim’s goals and Hiller’s saves. It all started with the stunning fight between Getzlaf and Thornton, who traded shoves and harsh words two days earlier in San Jose.

San Jose was showing its frustration out of being beaten by their in state rival. Personally I thought Anaheim was capable of winning this series, and thought this was the series most likely to see an upset(After the Rangers-Capitals).

Hiller was brilliant in goal and should get most of the credit for Anaheim’s advancement to the next round. San Jose out shot the Ducks in each of the six games of their series.

The Western conference semi-finals are set now, as the other remaining series ended last night also.

Chicago downed injury-riddled Calgary 4-1 in Monday’s Game 6 to take the series 4-2. The Blackhawks’ previous playoff series win was a four-game sweep of Calgary back in 1996.

The Blackhawks were simply relieved after Monday’s game to have earned their first road win in the series and get a breather before facing the well-rested Vancouver Canucks in the next round.

I thought Chicago would win this series, which they did. Now here are my semi-final round predictions-

Detroit beats Anaheim 4-0. The Ducks magic runs out.
Chicago beats Vancouver 4-3. The superior scoring ability of the Blackhawks trumps Roberto Luongo in goal for the Canucks.


NHL Left Winger Gary Roberts announces his retirement


Dousing the Flames- Panthers beat Calgary 3-2

The cats won their fifth straight road game when Center Stephen Weiss got a shot past Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in a shootout. Going back to November 30th, Florida has beaten the NY Rangers, Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers, and now Calgary on the road. This marks a franchise record.

With the win, Florida goes to 14-12-3 for the season and are tied for 8th in the Eastern conference playoff standings. Which is incredible in light of how banged up the team is.

Florida’s road trip isn’t over yet. Next up is Vancouver on Sunday, then they come back east to play Carolina. Florida is overdue for a long string of home games. When they return to Florida, the Panthers will have played 19 of their first 31 games this season on the road. Could this be the year Florida breaks through to the playoffs for the first time since 2000?

Assorted notes-

*- This marked the third straight game Weiss scored the game winner for Florida.

*- Kamil Kreps got his first goal of the year. A short handed affair set up by a poor Calgary pass.

*- Tomas Vokoun in his first start since Nov. 26th, stopped 35 of Calgary’s 37 shots. Now who does DeBoer start against Vancouver- Vokoun or Craig Anderson?

*- Florida got off more shots against Calgary(29) than they did versus Edmonton(16). Still Florida was outshot 37 to 29.

*- Why don’t Vancover play their Sunday games at 5 p.m. local time like many other NHL teams? I’m going to have to stay up till 12:30 on Monday morning if I want to watch the Panthers.


Post NHL All-Star game playoff assessment- Western Conference

From top to bottom, the standings

Detroit Red Wings 51-37-10-4-78
San Jose Sharks 50-28-15-7-63
Dallas Stars 54-29-20-5-63
Anaheim Ducks 53-27 20-6-60
Minnesota Wild 50-28-19-3-59
Calgary Flames 50-25-17-8-58
Vancouver Canucks 51-26-20-5-57
Colorado Avalanche 50-26-20-4-56

Phoenix Coyotes 50-27-21-2-56
Columbus Blue Jackets 52-25-21-6-56
Nashville Predators 51-25-21-5-55
St Louis Blues 49-23-19-7-53
Edmonton Oilers 53-23-25-5-51
Chicago Blackhawks 50-23-23-4-50
Los Angeles Kings 52-20-29-3-43

Note- The numbers above from left to right are- Games played, wins, losses, Overtime losses, total points

Teams in Bold are Northwest Division teams

I think its more than reason to say Detroit, San Jose, Dallas, and Anaheim are going to make the playoffs, while the LA Kings have no chance. Edmonton’s chances are slim also.

The closest division is the Northwest. Three points separate first to fourth place. I like Vancouver because of Goalie Roberto Luongo. The division is both talented and very tight and I could see anyone but Edmonton could come out on top and deservingly so. The Avalanche, Wild, Canucks nor Flames rate as mediocre or badly underacheiving teams unlike members of the Southeast Division.


Martin Brodeur earns 95th career shutout

It moves the NJ Devil goaltender into 2nd place on the all-time NHL list. From AP-

CALGARY, Alberta – Martin Brodeur broke a tie with George Hainesworth for second place on the NHL’s career shutout list, making 30 saves in the New Jersey Devils’ 1-0 overtime victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night.

Brodeur has three shutouts this season to push his career total to 95. Terry Sawchuk tops the list with 103.

Patrik Elias scored the lone goal, beating Miikka Kiprusoff at 25 seconds of the extra period. Kiprusoff finished with 21 saves.

The Devils won after a Calgary turnover deep in the New Jersey end.

Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich dropped the puck back to Craig Conroy, who mishandled the pass and was stripped by Elias. Elias moved the puck ahead to Brian Gionta, then raced up to join Gionta on a 2-on-1.

Gionta crossed the blue line and slid the puck back across to Elias. With Sarich and Conroy desperately trying to catch him, Elias one-timed the pass into the open side before Kiprusoff could slide across.

With the victory, New Jersey improved to 20-13-3 and into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference behind Ottawa.

I consider New Jersey one of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, and much of the reason why is Brodeur. He is an all-time great and still an exceptional goalie. Florida beat him earlier this year, but the Panthers were just lucky to get Brodeur on an off night.

Brodeur has only 3 shutouts this year, however if he gets back on his normal pace, he would break the all-time record for goalies late in the 2008-09 season.


Calgary Coach Mike Keenan returns to Florida

The former Panther coach and GM makes his first appearance in Florida since quitting the organization. From the Palm Beach Post-

CORAL SPRINGS — When he was hired to coach the Panthers in May 2004, Jacques Martin stipulated that Mike Keenan come along as general manager. So some might consider it odd that the two haven’t spoken in the 15 months since Keenan left the organization.

Not Keenan.

“I just haven’t run into him,” Keenan said Monday after putting his Calgary Flames through a workout in preparation for tonight’s game against the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center. “He coaches and manages the Panthers, and I coach the Flames.”

Tonight’s game marks Keenan’s first return in a professional capacity since the end of his two go-rounds with the Panthers, as coach (2001-03) and general manager (2004-06). Neither stint resulted in a playoff appearance.

Florida captain Olli Jokinen, who gives Keenan much of the credit for his matriculation from a 29-point scorer in 2001-02 to the star performer who has netted 89 and 91 points the past two seasons, said he won’t be surprised if Keenan is booed.

“That’s how the fans think,” Jokinen said. “But there’s been so many coaches and GMs – if you think that way you probably have to boo every team, because there’s so many people around the league who have worked here.”

If Keenan deserves to be booed, its for the horrific Roberto Luongo trade he made two months before leaving Florida. Other than that, it is just another game for Florida.


NHL owners approve scheduling changes

All NHL teams will meet again once every season. From AP-

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The NHL’s board of governors approved the sale of the Nashville Predators and changed the league’s scheduling format Thursday night to allow every team to face each other at least once every season.

Paul Kelly, the new executive director of the NHL Players Association, also addressed the league’s owners during a late-afternoon session to open the board’s two-day meeting at an elite resort on the Northern California coast.

After a three-year experiment in developing rivalries in hockey’s far-flung outposts, the NHL voted to go back to the scheduling format used before the 2004-05 lockout, most notably decreasing the current eight games against every team’s divisional opponents to six.

Starting next season, teams will play just 24 total games against their four divisional foes, 40 against the rest of the conference and 18 against the other conference — one game against all 15 foes, and three home-and-home series against wild-card opponents.

First let me state, my interest in hockey was only rekindled in the last year. Otherwise I had watched little of the sport since the end of the NY Islanders Dynasty in the early to mid eighties.

The arrangement where teams didn’t all meet seemed dumb to me. Fans in the west miss out on seeing players like Sidney Crosby and fans in the east miss getting to see……. well see what problem I have. LOL, make that former Florida Panther and ace goaltender Roberto Luongo. Now I can learn about the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks etc. To be honest I’m sick of Atlanta. You would be too if you had to see the Thrashers and Panthers cross sticks eight times a year.


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