Sports Outside the Beltway

No Canada- Chicago beats Vancouver 7-5, takes series

There will be no Canadian Stanley Cup champion this year. From AP-

The kids made sure the Blackhawks are moving on.

Patrick Kane had his first hat trick and Jonathan Toews scored the go-ahead goal in a wild third period Monday night as Chicago advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1995 by beating the Vancouver Canucks 7-5.

LeBrun: Hawks Have Arrived

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane wrapped up a second-round series that even they didn’t think was possible at the beginning of the season. Yes, the Hawks have arrived, writes’s Pierre LeBrun. Story

“It’s about time I got the first hat trick. I’ve been waiting two years. I guess it can’t come in a better game than this,” the 20-year-old Kane said.

In the thunderous United Center, the Blackhawks rallied from a one-goal deficit twice in the third period and put up four scores against Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo to win the series 4-2. Next up is either Detroit or Anaheim.

Before the series began I didhn’t think the Canucks had enough offense to beat the better balanced Blackhawks. Vancouver now faces a challenging off season. The team has many key players who are free agents. Four of them are the Sedin twins, Goalie Roberto Luongo, and one of their defensemen who I believe is Mattias Ohlund.

NBC must be happy with Chicago’s victory. Otherwise the network would have to go to unexplored territory. Unexplored territory- An NHL game broadcast from west of the Mississippi. They still may have to, but I’ll be surprised if Anaheim comes back and beats Detroit.

In the Eastern Conference, Washington defeated Pittsburgh in overtime last night. This sets up a game 7 showdown. Boston plays Carolina last night. The heavily favored Bruins have to win or they’re out of the playoffs.


All even- Chicago beats Vancouver 2-1 in overtime

With three minutes to go in the game, it looked like the Canucks would return home up three games to one. From AP-

Andrew Ladd had perfect position. When the puck came flying off teammate Dave Bolland’s stick from far away, Ladd was right in front of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo to tip it in.

We keep waiting for this thing to fall apart, for the kids to show their age. But the Hawks keep proving us wrong, writes’s Pierre LeBrun. Story

Ladd’s goal less than 3 minutes into overtime Thursday night capped a remarkable 2-1 comeback victory for the Chicago Blackhawks and tied the Western Conference semifinal series at 2.


Game 5 is Saturday night in Vancouver and the Canucks will have to regroup after losing a game they apparently had sealed up. Chicago’s Martin Havlat tied it at 1 with 2:44 left in regulation after Luongo had been unflappable most of the night.

Roberto Luongo had to be unflappable, because his teammates made franchise playoff history last night. They only took 15 shots on goal, breaking a record set twenty-seven years ago.

The Canuck offense has taken at least one similar snooze in the 2008-09 NHL season. For this reason, I can’t pick this team to make the Stanley Cup finals no matter how good Luongo is.

In the other Western Conference playoff series, normalcy seemed to take over.

Johan Franzen and Marian Hossa gave the Detroit Red Wings all the offense they needed on a new line with center Valtteri Filppula.

Franzen and Hossa each scored twice to help the Detroit beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-3 on Thursday night, tying the Western Conference semifinal series at 2.

I have already been proved wrong about this series. My prediction was a Red Wing sweep. Detroit will win here, and most likely make the Stanley Cup finals for the second consecutive season.


Rally time- Vancouver beats Chicago 5-3

Last night’s game marked only the third time in NHL playoff that a team up by three goals saw it disappear in a single period’s time.

The blood was still oozing out of five stitches above Kyle Wellwood’s left eye and a fat lower lip, and yet the Canucks forward couldn’t stop smiling.

Wellwood had two assists, drew five power plays, lost one tooth and chipped another, but his biggest play in Vancouver’s 5-3 series-opening victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night didn’t show up on the score sheet.

Wellwood made the pass that started a 4-on-1 rush, and defenseman Sami Salo finished the play by banging in a rebound with 1:13 remaining, putting the Canucks back ahead after blowing a three-goal lead in the third period.

Ryan Johnson scored into an empty net with 15.5 seconds left to secure the Game 1 win.

Here’s a interesting fact- Blackhawk Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin hasn’t beaten the Canucks since January of 1998. I think that streak will come to an end in a few days.

The Chicago-Vancouver series may be the best conference semi-final matchup this year. Unfortunately if you don’t have NHL Center Ice or Versus, you will be unable to watch it. NBC televises NHL hockey but sticks to east coast teams and Detroit only till they have no other choice. The NHL’s television deals are just mind boggling to me.


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.


Florida Panthers to play two games in Europe

Wouldn’t it have been nicer to open the year after Panther’s most successful season in a decade in front of its own fans? From the Sun-Sentinel-

The Panthers will open the 2009-10 regular season in Europe.

Team president Michael Yormark said Thursday the Panthers have accepted the NHL’s invitation to play two games against the Chicago Blackhawks.

“It’s good for the profile of our franchise and our exposure,” Yormark said.

The games reportedly will take place in Helsinki, Finland, though Yormark would not confirm the site. He said an official announcement is expected in late February.

It had been rumored that the Panthers and Blackhawks would play a pair in the Czech Republic, from where five players on the roster hail.

As a fan, I don’t like seeing the teams I root for playing half way around the world in some kind of promotion. I lose, other Panther fans lose. What do I care if Finnish people get to see a Panther game, or the Brits a Miami Dolphin game. These are my teams, not theirs.


NHL All-Star Hubert ‘Pit’ Martin’ dead at 64

He died in a snowmobile accident on Sunday. RIP.

Hubert “Pit” Martin, a four-time NHL All-Star in the 1960s and ’70s, has died after his snowmobile plunged into an icy lake, Quebec provincial police said. He was 64.

Const. Marie-Josee Ouellet said Martin was driving the vehicle on Lake Kanasuta in northwestern Quebec on Sunday when the ice cracked and he plunged into the freezing water.

Another man who was driving a separate snowmobile at the time has confirmed Martin ended up in the water, Ouellet said.

Divers were attempting to retrieve Martin’s body.

Martin would have turned 65 next week.

He played 1,101 NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks, amassing 809 points from 1963 to 1979.

Martin was part of one of the biggest blockbuster trades in hockey history in 1967, when he and two other players were shipped to Chicago in the deal that made Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield part of a Bruins dynasty.


Chicago Blackhawks fire coach Denis Savard

He was replaced by former Blues and Avalanche head coach, Joel Quennville. From ESPN-

The Chicago Blackhawks fired head coach Denis Savard just four games into the season on Thursday, replacing him with NHL coaching veteran Joel Quenneville.

“I’m disappointed but I guess it’s the nature of the business,” Savard said from his Chicago home Thursday.

Savard, who was in the last year of his contract, was told he’d been fired Thursday morning by general manager Dale Tallon.

The firing of Denis Savard after just four games did not rank as a record for an NHL coaching change.

• Bill Gadsby left the Detroit Red Wings after just two games of the 1969-70 season.

• Fred Glover departed the California Golden Seals after three games at the start of the 1971-72 season and went on to coach 68 games as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.

• In 2001-02 the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Ivan Hlinka, the first European-born and trained NHL coach (along with Alpo Suhonen who coached in Chicago at the same time) after the Penguins lost the first four games of the season.

• Jacques Demers saw his tenure as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens end after four games at the outset of the 1995-96 season ( indicates Demers coached five games that season).

So there is ample precedent for Chicago’s move. Was the firing a good decision?

The dismissal came hours after the team won its first game by beating Phoenix 4-1. The Blackhawks are now run by owner Rocky Wirtz, and the combination of a slow start and a big public relations push may have led to Savard’s abrupt ouster.

Wirtz took over the team following the death of his father, Bill Wirtz, a little more than a year ago. Since then, he has hired former Chicago Cubs president and marketing guru John McDonough as president. The team has mended fences with former stars such as Bobby Hull, made sure that home games are televised — something Bill Wirtz was opposed to — and allowed Tallon to spend in the free-agent market.


Quenneville, who had been working as a scout for the Blackhawks, coached the Colorado Avalanche from 2005 through 2008 and led the St. Louis Blues for seven seasons (1996-2004). He has a 438-283-118 career record, including a 44-31-7 mark in Colorado last season.

Led by sophomore stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have high hopes to make it into the playoffs this season. They lost their first three games before finally winning Wednesday night.

Chicago is both young and talented. Will Quennville make a difference? He was good in St. Louis, but Colorado underacheived under Quennville. So I’m a little skeptical because of it being too early to judge a coach, being its only 4 games into the season.

Pierre LeBrun writes-

In the wake of Thursday’s Denis Savard firing (the worst part of my job is calling a guy like that at home on a day like this), I thought to myself: Here’s an organization that employs the greatest coach of all time in Scotty Bowman.

Why not give him the gig?

“No, no, my coaching days ended six years ago,” Bowman, a senior adviser of hockey operations for the Hawks, told me.

Another reason Bowman may not want to coach- his age. He’s seventy-five-years-old. Very old to be starting a new and stressful job anywhere in professional sports. Maybe more so when you are talking one of America’s biggest cities.


Chicago Blackhawks waive goalie Nikolai Khabibulin

Did a member of management recently listen to the old speech of Ronald Reagan where he says ‘Tear down that wall.’ From AP-

CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has been put on waivers.

Khabibulin is entering the final season of a four-year, $27 million contract. He joined the Blackhawks from Tampa Bay as a free agent after leading the Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup.

The Blackhawks signed free agent goalie Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.5 million deal in July, giving them two top goaltenders.

Khabibulin was the Blackhawks’ highest-paid player until defenseman Brian Campbell signed an eight-year, $56.8 million free-agent contract with the team on July 1.

But Khabibulin has been inconsistent and injured over the past three seasons. In 2007-08, he appeared in 50 games, posting a 23-20-6 record with a 2.63 goals against average and .909 save percentage.

Those stats are hardly poor. I expect the player nicknamed ‘The Bulin Wall’ to find employment again quickly. Whether it will be with a NHL team for the 2008-09 season is uncertain.


Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings to play outdoor NHL game

Guess what famous Chicago landmark it will be played at? From AP-

CHICAGO – Wrigley Field is going to be the frozen confines on New Year’s Day 2009 when the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings meet the Chicago Blackhawks outdoors in the home park of the Chicago Cubs.

It will be the NHL’s second Winter Classic. Jan. 1 in Buffalo, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 before a crowd of 71,217. Snow fell during the game.

“We expect interest to be on an international level for this once-in-a-lifetime event,” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said.

The game will be televised nationally on NBC.

The matchup will be the 701st meeting between the Red Wings and Blackhawks — no two NHL opponents have played more regular-season games against one another than the two fierce rivals.

It will mark the third regular-season outdoor game in NHL history. The Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 22, 2003.

If you make a rare event a yearly occurrence, well its no longer rare or novel. Now if the Florida Panthers or Tampa Bay Lightning hosted an outdoor ice hockey game in Florida, that would be newsworthy….err I mean impossible.


Ottawa Senators select Craig Hartsburg as new coach

The second of two head NHL coaching vacancies has been filled.

Craig Hartsburg is the new coach of the Ottawa Senators, the third time he has led an NHL team.

Hartsburg takes over from Senators general manager Bryan Murray, who finished the season behind the Ottawa bench after coach John Paddock was fired in late February.

Hartsburg also has coached in Anaheim and Chicago, and was an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers from 2002 to 2004. The 48-year-old Hartsburg has been coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for the past five seasons.

Ottawa was, either the worst or second to worst(Only to the Florida Panthers*) underacheiving team in the NHL last year. The Senators are talented, but face troubles also. One of which is their goaltending situation.

Is Hartsburg going to help Ottawa? He has a lifetime sub .500 record, and hasn’t coached in the NHL for nearly a decade. To me the hiring looks questionable, especially with their being a large pool of experienced NHL head coaches available at the moment (John Tortorella, Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford to just name three).

*- Talking about the Panthers. When will GM(and former Head Coach) Jacques Martin get off his butt and hire his replacement? Martin is still doing interviews two months after being relieved of his head coaching responsibilities.


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