Sports Outside the Beltway

Eight is Enough- Edmonton beats Chicago 8-4

Sam Gagner took part in every Edmonton goal last night. From AP-

It was a spectacular evening for Sam Gagner, who scored four goals and four assists to tie a club record and lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Chicago Blackhawks 8-4 on Thursday night.

Gagner’s eight-point game tied the club record held by Gretzky and Coffey and fell two points shy of matching the league mark of 10, set by Toronto’s Darryl Sittler on Feb. 7, 1976.

It was also the first eight-point game in the NHL since Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux did it on Dec. 31, 1988, against New Jersey.

The 22-year-old Gagner came into the game with five goals on the season.

I had never heard of Gagner before this morning.

The Blackhawks started the scoring six minutes into the game as Mayers fluttered a long shot from above the circle that fooled Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Chicago kept pouring it on but hit a pair of posts — a long blast from the point by Brent Seabrook and another from in close by Andrew Shaw.

Just 40 seconds into the second period Chicago made it 2-0 when Patrick Kane fed it to Sharp who found a clear lane to beat Dubnyk.

The Oilers responded less than two minutes later as Gagner earned his first point of the night. With a long pass Gagner sprung Hall who chipped in his 18th of the year past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Hall has scored in three straight games.

Gagner then tied it just over seven minutes later when he picked up his own rebound, circled behind the net, and scored on the wraparound.

The Oilers took a 3-2 lead with seven minutes remaining in the second as Whitney ripped a shot from the point while on the power play for just his first of the season. Gagner earned the assist.

Chicago tied it two minutes later on a short-handed 2-on-1 as Dubnyk gave up a rebound to Sharp who buried his second of the night.

Gagner made it 4-3 two minutes into the third with his second goal of the night. Whitney’s shot sailed over the net but bounced in front for Gagner to put past Crawford.

The Oilers chased the Chicago goalie two minutes later when Barker fluttered a shot from the point that Crawford waved at as it went into the top corner. Gagner earned his third assist and Ray Emery replaced Crawford.

The Blackhawks got a goal back six minutes into the third as Bolland made a no-look backhand swat at a puck that squirted past Dubnyk.

Gagner completed the hat trick 30 seconds later to make it 6-4, as Hall spun around and found Gagner streaking for his sixth point of the game.

But he wasn’t done yet.

Eberle and Hall did terrific tic-tac-toe passing to get Gagner the puck, and he slapped his fourth of the game into a wide-open net as Emery slid to keep up with the play.

Gagner’s heroics brought a little bit to an otherwise dismal Oilers season. If not for the horrid Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton could finish with the worst record in the entire NHL. Just like they have the last two years.


Costly mistake- Blackhawks waive Rostislav Olesz

Chicago is probably praying right this second that somebody takes the ex-Florida Panther off their hands. IMHO it is very unlikely to happen. Olesz gets 3.4 million this year and that amount will rise over the next two seasons till it reaches 4.25 million. This for a defensive specialist/4th liner who will score at most 30 points in a season. At the 18 game point of this year, Olesz has no points for the 6 games he suited up as a Blackhawk. If noone claims Olesz, he will play for Chicago’s AHL affiliate, Rockford Icehogs. Unless something miraculous takes place, I bet Chicago buys out Olesz’s contract at the end of this season. Rusty will most likely go play in the KHL or somewhere else in Europe.

I’m well acquainted with Olesz from his Florida days. He isn’t a bad player, but Florida took him far too early in the 2004 NHL Draft(7th overall) and then gave him an outrageous contract. Florida dealt him to Chicago for Defenseman Brian Campbell. Another player with a huge contract. The difference is- Campbell has 17 points this season, tied for the most among defenseman in the NHL. Campbell is also helping to lead a surprising Florida team this year which at this moment is tied for the Southeast Division lead. Washington has tiebreaks. The trade made still go sour for Florida, but right now Florida

The Campbell-Olesz trade, which I thought was a good trade for Florida from the start, could still go sour for both teams but at this moment the Panthers look to have made some of the smartest personnel moves of the last NHL offseason. Trading for Olesz, plus signing free agents Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann.


Florida Panthers hire Dale Tallon as general manager

He held the same position in Chicago From 2005 to 2009 the Sun-Sentinel-

Randy Sexton’s stint as Panthers general manager ended Monday.

The Panthers hired former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon to replace Sexton and will introduce the ninth GM in franchise history Tuesday morning at BankAtlantic Center.

Tallon, 59, was serving as a senior adviser of hockey operations for the Blackhawks.

According to a source, former Wild GM Doug Risebrough, former Bruins GM Mike O’Connell and Rangers assistant director of player personnel Jeff Gorton were the others on the Panthers’ short list who were considered.

It’s uncertain whether Sexton, whose one-year contract is set to expire June 1, will remain with the team in some capacity.


Tallon, who in four seasons as Blackhawks GM maneuvered their rise from third-worst record in the NHL to the Western Conference finals, is optimistic he can rebuild the Panthers. While the Blackhawks had missed the playoffs six of the past seven seasons when Tallon took over in 2005, the Panthers haven’t made the playoffs since 2000 — an NHL record-tying nine consecutive seasons.

“I’m elated. It’s a great opportunity,” said Tallon, 59, who plans to fly to Germany on Wednesday to meet with Panthers coach Pete DeBoer, an assistant coach for Canada at the World Championships. “I’ve just got to give him some tools to work with and see if he can do the job.”

Panthers majority owners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel released a statement Monday noting “we are thrilled and honored to open a new chapter in Florida Panthers franchise history.” They added that Tallon “brings with him a proven track record and an impressive franchise-building resume that we believe is the perfect fit for the future” and thanked Sexton, who was named GM hours before the season opener Oct. 2 in Helsinki, for his service.

Tallon told the Sun Sentinel he was first contacted by Panthers alternate governor Bill Torrey near the end of April. Discussions continued and ultimately “it felt right for both parties,” Tallon said.

“They’ve got a lot of good draft picks. They’ve got some good young players,” Tallon said. “It’s a similar situation to what we started with in Chicago, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Much of the appeal of this union, both from the Panthers’ perspective and Tallon’s, is that the team will have nine picks in next month’s draft in Los Angeles, including the No. 3 overall pick and three picks in the second round.

Two of those second-rounders were acquired at the trade deadline when Sexton, who first became interim GM last May after Jacques Martin left to coach the Canadiens, sent Jordan Leopold to the Penguins and fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to the Bruins.

“We have the blueprint. We know how to do it,” Tallon said. “We just have to implement it now.”

Tallon reconstructed the Blackhawks, who finished with 65 points his first season as GM, by drafting All-Stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He also traded for Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg, and signed other current Blackhawks Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, John Madden and Antti Niemi as free agents.

“He did a complete re-haul of a very bad product, and as a result you see the crowds and the excitement the Blackhawks have instilled in Chicago,” said Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, who was Tallon’s assistant in Chicago and Panthers GM from 2002-04. “He knows how to construct a team. He’s a builder. And he’ll do a heck of a job there [in Florida]. The only thing that bothers me is we’re in the same division.”

Despite Tallon’s success in Chicago, he was demoted last July a week after the team mistakenly filed paperwork of qualifying offers to its restricted free agents after the deadline. But many inside the organization and outside believe the move was made because Blackhawks president John F. McDonough wanted to bring in his own guy, Stan Bowman, to be GM. Bowman is the son of Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman.

I always thought the paperwork snafu was just the cover story for a case of nepotism in Chicago. Tallon did nothing that was deserving of promotion.

Donny Rivette does a good job of summing up Randy Sexton’s short tenure in Florida. The Panthers had a big let down last year, but this Panther fan only puts a small bit of the blame at his feet. Oh Sexton made some dumb moves, like signing Scott Clemmensen and Ville Koistinen, but none of these are the cause for the team finished out of the playoff picture once again. I believe former GMs Mike Keenan and Jacques Martin are to blame.

I soured on the Panthers late last season. For that reason, I still don’t trust the team’s new ownership and I find it hard to believe in Tallon turning around the franchise. All I will say is- 1- Florida is rebuilding and is at least two years from being a playoff team. 2- I wonder how safe Coach Peter DeBoer’s job is now? The team has new owners and management and that makes me think DeBoer could be fired before the 2010-11 season is over. Particularly if Florida is once again out of the playoff picture.


Duck Hunter- Chicago beats Anaheim 4-2

Old friends ran into one another last night. From AP-

For the second straight game, the Chicago Blackhawks lost a key member of their defense because of a vicious check against the boards behind the net.Corey Crawford

To add insult to injury, Anaheim’s Saku Koivu scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period — just seconds after a blind-side cross-check by Corey Perry against defenseman Brent Sopel that easily could have been called interference. As a result, the Ducks won 4-2 Wednesday night and handed the Blackhawks their third straight loss — preventing them from tying idle San Jose for the Western Conference lead.


The play started when Lubomir Visnovsky’s shot from just inside the blue line was deflected high in the air, and Sopel was cross-checked to the ice by Perry as they waited for the puck to come down. Perry then got the puck to Koivu, whose 20-foot wrister beat Corey Crawford with 5:36 remaining.


Anaheim defenseman James Wisniewski knocked Brent Seabrook out of the game less than 2 1/2 minutes into the second period. Wisniewski began his NHL career with the Blackhawks before getting traded to the Ducks in March 2009.

He drove his ex-teammate into the glass behind the Chicago net with a vicious shot to the jaw, causing Seabrook’s head to strike the glass with enough force that it left him with a dazed expression a couple of seconds before he crumpled to the ice.

The injuries to Seabrook and Brian Campbell could seriously harm the Blackhawks’ post season chance. This team is not known for its stellar defense when healthy.

Here’s video of the hit.

IMHO what Alexander Ovechkin did to Brian Campbell was worse.

Chicago Goalie Corey Crawford was only just called up from the AHL and put into the lineup. He has some previous NHL experience.

Two seasons ago, Crawford beat the Ducks 3-0 at Chicago for his first NHL shutout. It came in his second career start

Curiously I blogged about that game in 2008. Crawford has a 2-3 lifetime record in the NHL and both wins have come against Anaheim. In light of how weak Chicago is at Goalie, I’m surprised they haven’t given Crawford whose been up and down with the team back to 2005-06, more of a chance.


Alex Ovechkin suspended two games for Campbell hit

The Russian hockey star slammed the Chicago Defenseman into the boards during a game yesterday. From ESPN-

The NHL has suspended two-time MVP Alex Ovechkin two games for his boarding hit on Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell.

It is the second suspension of the season for the two-time defending Hart Trophy winner.

Ovechkin, who was suspended for two games on Nov. 30, 2009, now is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Accordingly, he forfeits $232,645.40 in salary, based on the number of games in the season (82). The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Ovechkin will miss Washington’s next two games — March 16 at Florida and March 18 at Carolina. He will be eligible to return March 20 at Tampa Bay.

Ovechkin met with NHL head disciplinarian Colin Campbell on Monday to discuss the incident in Sunday’s game, according to’s Pierre LeBrun.

Ovechkin was ejected from the nationally televised game for pushing Campbell from behind into the boards in the first period and received a major penalty and a game misconduct. Campbell, according to league sources, suffered a broken clavicle and at least one broken rib, and it’s questionable whether he’ll return this season.

“There’s nothing I can do right now. He just fell and this happens,” Ovechkin said after the game.

No Alexander Ovechkin, you shoved Campbell unnecessarily into the boards. Here’s the proof.

Case closed, Ovechkin deserves to be suspended. Now someone tell me how Colin Campbell doesn’t look even more like a jackass for not suspending Matt Cooke?

Bueller? Bueller?


Alex Ovechkin ejected for hit on Brian Campbell

The NHL’s leading scorer could be facing a suspension. From ESPN-

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was ejected from Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks after receiving a game misconduct penalty for boarding.

With 7:44 remaining in the first period and the Capitals trailing 1-0, Ovechkin checked Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell into the boards behind Chicago’s goal, moments after Campbell had released the puck.

Campbell went face-first into the boards and lay on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the dressing room.

Ovechkin was given a five-minute major for boarding in addition to the game misconduct. A game misconduct penalty automatically incurs a fine and further review by the commissioner’s office for possible suspension.

Ovechkin was suspended for two games earlier this season for a knee to knee hit. I suspect the NHL will hand down a similar penalty here but who knows. NHL fool official Colin Campbell, might give Ovechkin a penalty shot instead.

Note- I watched the end of the Chi-Wash game which saw the Capitals come back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period to win in overtime. The hit on Campbell was dirty and unneeded.

Here’s a video of the hit


Running on fumes- Chicago beats Edmonton 4-2

After last night’s win, the Blackhawks stand just two points behind Western Conference frontrunners San Jose.

The Chicago Blackhawks needed 44 seconds to take the fight out of the Edmonton Oilers.Chi-edm

Jonathan Toews scored on Chicago’s first shot of the game and the Blackhawks added to Edmonton’s misery Tuesday night, beating the Oilers 4-2 and sending the NHL’s last-place team to their 11th straight loss.

Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien and Marian Hossa also scored for the Blackhawks, who are 4-2 through six games of a season-high eight-game road trip. Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith added two assists apiece for Chicago.

Chicago is the Western Conference’s version of the Washington Capitals. Both teams can score oodles of goals but are deficient at goaltender. I think the Huet-Niemi combo is better for Chicago than Theodore-Varlamov/Neuwirth is for Washington. The trouble is, San Jose appears strong enough to keep the Blackhawks out of the Stanley Cup finals. I am not sure there is a Eastern Conference team that can do the same to the Capitals.

As for Edmonton, they have fallen to 16-29-6 for the season. Not much was expected from the team this year, and they haven’t even met those low expectations.


NHL Western Conference at the mid point of the 2009-10 season

Due to the Winter Olympics, the NHL season is being being played at a more accelerated rate than normal. For instance, prior to Christmas week the Florida Panthers had four games in a week, five straight weeks in a row.

A NHL season is 82 games in length. Half of 82 is 41. Most teams are at 41 games or more

San Jose 42 games 27 wins 8 losses 7 overtime losses 61 points
Chicago 41 28 10 3 59
Colorado 43 24 13 6 54
Phoenix 43 25 14 4 54
Calgary 41 24 12 5 53
Nashville 42 25 14 3 53
Vancouver 42 25 16 1 51
Los Angeles 42 24 15 3 51

Detroit 41 21 14 6 48
Dallas 41 18 12 11 47
Minnesota 42 20 19 3 43
St. Louis 41 17 18 6 40
Anaheim 41 16 18 7 39
Columbus 43 15 19 9 39
Edmonton 42 16 22 4 36

Bold denotes all teams who would make the playoffs as of this minute.
The above standings are as of 10 a.m. on Sunday January 3rd.

Teams all but certain to make the playoffs- San Jose, Chicago
Team that won’t make the playoffs- Edmonton

I think Detroit will get their act back together and make the playoffs. Who do I think they will bump? I’m not sold on Phoenix yet. Los Angeles is the next most likely team to drop from the top 8

Columbus won’t make the playoffs unless Steve Mason returns to his form of last season. Dallas could also climb into the top 8. I won’t rule out Anaheim, Minnesota or St. Louis from making the playoffs but IMHO it will be a surprise if any of them do turn around their seasons.


Get the puck out of there- NHL wrap-ups as league takes break for Christmas

Where as the NBA will play games on Christmas day, the NHL won’t.(Florida announcer Billy Lindsay said there may be a clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement with players that rules out holiday games) Therefore there is no hockey on either December 24th or 25th. My favorite team, the Florida Panthers, doesn’t return to the ice till December 27th.

The NHL is almost at the half way point of 2009-10. With all 30 teams having played at least 35 games. Due to the Winter Olympics and the over two-week break the NHL takes as a result of it, the schedule is accelerated this year.

Here are some random notes on games played yesterday and how the NHL shapes up at the moment.

The New York Rangers beat the Florida Panthers 4-1. Now Florida, Montreal who defeated Carolina 5-1, and the Rangers are in a three-way tie for the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Since the Rangers have played the fewest games, for the moment they have tiebreaks.

Pittsburgh routs Ottawa 8-2. The big news out of this game is the injury to Senator Winger Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson, who is Ottawa’s leading scorer, is expected to be out for a couple of weeks.

Ilya Bryzgalov shuts out Anaheim 4-0 to extend Phoenix’s home winning streak to 8 games. The Coyotes are currently 4th in the Western Conference standings.Steve Mason

If Phoenix is one of the pleasant surprises of the 2009-10 NHL season, the play of Columbus Blue Jacket Goalie Steve Mason ranks as one of this year’s biggest disappointments. A almost 3.50 Goals against average was only helped slightly as Dallas beat Columbus last night 3-1.

Backup Chicago Goalie Anti Niemi notches his 4th shutout of the year as the Blackhawks beat Detroit 4-0.

While not shutting out Tampa Bay, Philadelphia’s 3rd Goaltender of the year Michael Leighton looks impressive as the Flyers beat the Lightning 5-2. Before the game was played, Philadelphia’s practice had to be cancelled due to sewage line problem in their locker room.

Merry Christmas NHL. I hope the season is as exciting (and unusual) post Christmas as it was before the holiday break.


Best in the West?- San Jose beats Chicago 3-2

The two teams with the best records in the NHL Western Conference met last night.

The Chicago Blackhawks controlled the play for nearly the entire game against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, but still fell short.Chi-SJ

Evgeni Nabokov made 45 saves, and Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley each had a goal and an assist to lead the Sharks to their third straight win, 3-2 over Chicago.

Jason Demers also scored for the Sharks, who moved ahead of the Blackhawks into first place in the Western Conference, and snapped Chicago’s four-game overall and five-game home winning streaks.

Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa each had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who outshot the Sharks 47-14.

It’s pretty incredible then that San Jose came out on top last night.

San Jose at 22-8-7 and 51 points has a slight edge over Chicago who has 49 points with a record of 23-9-3. I will add that Colorado, Nashville, and Los Angeles are close behind with points totals of 48, 47, and 47 respectively. At the beginning of the 2009-10 NHL season was predicting those three teams to be doing well.

Or that the Detroit would be 9th in the Western Conference with a record of 18-13-5-41. Injuries and age have taken the Red Wings down a few notches. It is still early for teams to turn around or go into a slump. The Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t looking much like a playoff team around Christmas 2008. We all know who won the 2008-09 Stanley Cup, don’t we.

My personal prediction- I think San Jose will be the west’s #1 seed, Chicago #2, and Detroit will make the playoffs.


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