Sports Outside the Beltway

Hat Trick- Florida Panthers NHL Team fails to live up to free Yarmulke Promise

Oi Vei

SUNRISE, Fla. – Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced today that the Florida Panthers Hanukkah Celebration presented by The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 7 during the Cats-Avalanche game at the BankAtlantic Center. Prime Time Stubs, Inc. is an associate sponsor for the event.

Fans are encouraged to join the biggest Hanukkah party in South Florida through a number of initiatives including:

- A giant menorah lighting on the JetBlue Tarmac at 6:45 p.m.

- Jewish music provided by Avimagic Entertainment

- Kosher food available throughout the game in select locations

- Panthers yarmulke given to all ticket-buyers

The Panther website clearly says all ticket-buyers. Fans arrived for tonight’s game and were told it only applied to group ticket buyers. I got wind of it at The Litter Box where one commenter let everyone know. George Richards of the Miami Herald has also confirmed it in his live feed of the game.

The Panthers don’t have a very good rep in South Florida and this sure isn’t going to help it. It is Hanukkah after all and this region has one of the biggest Jewish populations in the nation.

On a side note this particular Panther game isn’t supposed to be broadcast because it is NHL night on Versus. They have exclusive rights on these nights. Well, I’m watching a video feed with Florida Panther radio announcers doing the audio. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is in Sunrise tonight. Maybe he would be interested in knowing all of tonight’s screwups but he’s a screwup himself so I bet he’d shrug it off.


Anaheim Duck Teemu Selanne scores 600th goal

The Finn has the most goals of any active player. From AP-

Teemu Selanne can finally exhale. His 600th goal is in the books, with four home games to spare in what likely will be his final NHL season.Teemu Selanne2

Selanne became the 18th player in NHL history to reach the milestone, scoring 34 seconds into the second period during a power play in the Anaheim Ducks’ 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.

“I was a little nervous that if it didn’t happen tonight, it might not happen here at all,” Selanne said. “It’s great, but it’s way more special happening at home. So I’m very happy about that. It was a big relief for me, for sure.”

Selanne is the fourth player to reach the milestone in the last four seasons, along with Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Joe Sakic. All but one member of the 600-goal club have joined that exclusive fraternity since Nov. 23, 1988, when Wayne Gretzky got the ball rolling just four days before the 23rd anniversary of Gordie Howe’s 600th.

“There are only 17 other guys that have done it before, and it’s a very unique, special group,” Selanne said. “You need a lot of luck, hard work and great players to play with. I have had all those things.”

The 39-year-old right wing from Finland, playing his 16th NHL season, scored on his fifth shot of the game while John-Michael Liles was off for hooking Matt Beleskey.

Selanne’s first NHL goal was scored in 1992. He is only the 3rd former Calder Trophy winner to get to 600 goals.

The Ducks improved their record to 34-29-8. It is unlikely they will make the playoffs.


Fast Draw- St. Louis Blues take 8 seconds to score goal

It tied a record set almost 25 years ago. From AP-

Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues tied a franchise record for fastest goal to start a game, scoring at the eight-second mark Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche.

Steen’s 20th goal tied the mark set by Greg Paslawski on Oct. 29, 1985 against the Washington Capitals.

Peter Budaj stopped Steen’s shot from the left boards after the Blues won the opening faceoff but the rebound appeared to deflect off left wing T.J. Galliardi on its way into the net.

Peter Budaj was in goal for Colorado.


They’re back- Detroit beats Colorado 3-2

The first NHL game since the Olympic break was From played last night.

The Detroit Red Wings are healthy and ready to make a run at the playoffs.Col-Det

That might bad news for the rest of the NHL.

Nicklas Lidstrom scored a power-play goal with 9:03 left in the third period and lifted the Red Wings past Colorado on Monday night and put themselves into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Tomas Holmstrom had a goal and two assists, Pavel Datsyuk had two assists and Jimmy Howard made 22 saves for Detroit, which won the first NHL game since Feb. 14 when the NHL took a two-week break for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Last night was the first time Detroit won back to back games since Jan 7-8. The Red Wings are currently 29-21-12 and 8th in the Western Conference race. I think they will make the post season but exit early. Detroit is getting old and a rebuilding period will start soon.


Florida Panthers trade D Jordan Leopold to Pittsburgh

He didn’t even last a full season in South Florida. From the Miami Herald-

The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired defenseman Jordan Leopold in a deal with the Florida Panthers.

Florida traded Leopold to Pittsburgh for a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The move was announced Monday, two days before the league’s trade deadline.

The 29-year-old Leopold signed a one-year contract with the Panthers in July. In the summer, he was part of a deal that sent the rights to defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary.

Leopold had 7 goals and 11 points for the season. He was to become a free agent at the end of this season, so the trade wasn’t unexpected.

This and the Dominic Moore trade are all the proof one needs to know about the rest of the 2009-10 Panther season. The team is packing it in. Their play has been brutal for over a month and only the wizardry of G Tomas Vokoun has kept the Panthers anywhere near the playoff race. Their 6 points out the 8th spot at present but it might as well be 1,000. This team isn’t going to the playoffs. AGAIN.

As for the trade, a 2nd round pick is a good deal on paper. If Florida makes good use of the pick. Say another David Booth but not a Lukas Krajicek. Even if the pick works out, Florida isn’t likely to benefit from it for 2-3 years. Dimitry Kulikov(Florida’s 2009 1st round pick) aside, most draft picks don’t come to the league for 2-3 years and then need time to adjust. Florida is rebuilding, AGAIN, but it could be 4 years before fans see improvement. I really am a Masochist when I root for this team 82 games a year.

Also blogging on the trade- Donny at Litter Box Cats.


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.


What are you waiting for?- Florida Panthers beat Colorado 6-5

Very little comes easy for the Panthers in the 2009-10 NHL season. Last night was the most recent example. Florida blew a 2-goal lead with less than a minute to go in the game but were able to gain redemption in a shootout. Last night’s shootout victory was the Panthers’ 6th such triumph this year, twice their total from the 2008-09 season.Weiss

Panther Center Stephen Weiss scored the shootout winner. It was his 4th goal of the evening. Weiss scored the first three goals of the game for Florida to accomplish a natural hat trick. Then for some unknown and bewildering reason(I’ll get to this more later), Weiss was the 5th Panther to attempt a shot in the shootout. Four previous Panthers had shot and failed but Weiss got one past Avalanche Goalie Peter Budaj. When T.J. Galiardi couldn’t do the same, Florida was able to come away with the victory they came so close to squandering.

Why did Florida Coach Peter DeBoer send four players out in the shootout before giving Weiss a chance? At the moment he is Florida’s hottest scorer. The FSN announcers, not just myself, were questioning this decision. So far as I know, DeBoer did not address his strategy in post game comments to the media.

I will point out, that Weiss was 2 for 16 lifetime in shootout goal attempts before last night. Still, why send 4 players up to shoot before him?

Another decision of DeBoer’s has Panther watchers scratching their heads. Forward Shawn Matthias was again shipped down to Rochester, Florida’s AHL affiliate. In 10 games this year, Matthias has scored just one goal.

This can be attributed to Matthias use on Florida’s punchless 4th line. Also Coach DeBoer gives these players almost no ice time in a game. More than 5 minutes is alot.

DeBoer explained this personnel move by saying he was unhappy with the 4th line’s play that set up Atlanta’s 1st goal on Monday night. I’d counter, that Kamil Kreps turnovers have resulted in opposition goals in two consecutive games prior to last night’s affair with Colorado. How many goals has Kreps scored this season?

ZEROin 24 games. In fact Florida’s 3rd line, Kreps, Radek Dvorak, and Gregory Campbell have combined to score just one even strength goal all season.(Dvorak has two shorthanded goals to his credit. Campbell and Kreps haven’t scored a goal of any type.) I don’t see any of these guys having their ice time limited or being shipped off to Rochester.

Matthias is supposed to be Florida’s top scoring prospect, and he has scored 3 goals in limited play over the last 3 seasons. Is Kreps any better?

Kreps scored 4 goals in his last 90 Florida Panther games
Matthias scored 3 goalis in his last 31 games

Kreps is garbage, and if not for his contract, he’d be playing somewhere else in the NHL or not at all. I don’t think DeBoer has much confidence in Matthias and I expect him eventually to be moved on to another NHL team before he’s given a real chance to prove himself. How dumb will Florida look when Matthias does prove himself after being given up on?Collision

Maybe I should myself isn’t this normal procedure for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years?

A few other notes.

*- What does Keith Ballard have against goaltenders? For the second straight game, the Florida Defenseman knocked a Goalie out of the game. Monday it was Tomas Vokoun with a swing of Ballard’s stick, last night it was ex-Panther Craig Anderson getting knocked senseless by a charging Ballard. Will the NHL require Ballard to carry Collision insurance?

All snark aside, last night’s incident was an accident caused by hustle, not a stupid swing of the player’s hockey stick.

*- Florida Goalie Scott Clemmensen again played like garbage. He has allowed five or more goals in three separate games this year. Next up is Washington, tonight in Washington and DeBoer has already stated Clemmensen will get the start.

Why not give Alexander Salak a shot? Salak was called up Wednesday to replace the injured Vokoun. Let him get his first NHL start. Especially in light of the fact that Clemmensen gave up 7 goals to Washington the last time the two teams met. The Capitals weren’t even playing with scoring sensation Alex Ovechkin when they mauled Clemmensen. They won’t be with him tonight either, Ovechkin is serving a 2-game suspension at this moment.

Clemmensen was great against Detroit, but that’s looking more like an aberration with every game this goalie plays this season. The choice of Clemmensen over Salak is another one of those recent decisions of Peter DeBoer have me questioning if he really is a suitable NHL head coach.

*- Injured forwards David Booth and Cory Stillman will be out till at least Christmas.

*- I’m going to stick to this prediction. Florida will not make the playoffs this year, and I predict them to have less than 80 points when the season is done, marking the 2009-10 season the worst for the franchise since the NHL lockout. Florida just has too many weaknesses to finish than that.


Colorado Avalanche Goalie Peter Budaj has the swine flu

He won’t be joining his team for a 4-game road trip that begins today. From AP-

The Colorado Avalanche confirmed that backup goalie Peter Budaj has the swine flu.

Budaj didn’t accompany the Avalanche on their four-game road trip that begins Tuesday night in Edmonton. There’s a chance Budaj could rejoin the team later in the trip if he’s cleared by team doctors.

“We’re always cautious,” coach Joe Sacco said Friday. “With Peter, once he came down with those flu-like symptoms, we did the right thing by keeping him away.”

The team said no other players have come down with the virus.

Yet. It will interesting to see what a pro sports league does if there is a significant flu outbreak on one team.

Budaj hasn’t even played a game so far this season. Ex-Florida Goalie Craig Anderson has been doing a fantastic job for the first 11 games of the year. An AHL Goalie has been brought up to fill Budaj’s spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson starts Colorado’s first 15 games of the 2009-10 NHL season.


NHL suspends Carolina Hurricane Tuomo Ruutu for 3 games

Another thug NHL player being wrist slapped by the league. From AP-

Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu has been suspended three games by the NHL for a boarding of Darcy Tucker that knocked the Colorado Avalanche winger unconscious.

Ruutu was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding Tucker at 5:26 of the second period of Friday night’s game.

Ruutu will lose $56,067.36 in salary for the suspension, which was announced Saturday. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Here’s the video

The NHL will only get control of this violence by handing down suspensions for double digit amounts of games. I don’t see that happening any time soon. I think the NHL thinks violence like this and the Evgeny Artyukhin/Matt Niskanen incident appeal to a certain group of fans. They probably do, but I don’t know why a serious sports needs to satisfy the lowest common denominators among its fan base. The image of the NHL will always be dirtied by the thugs that play for them.


Colorado and Goalie Craig Anderson blank Vancouver 3-0

Did the Florida Panthers retain the wrong netminder from their 2008-09 team? From AP-

Craig Anderson always felt he could be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. After two games he certainly has performed like one for the Colorado Avalanche.

Anderson, who signed as a free agent with the Avalanche in the offseason, stopped 35 shots, and Colorado beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 on Saturday.

It was Anderson’s eighth career shutout and his first since beating Edmonton 2-0 on Dec. 11, 2008, when he was with Florida.


Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski had a goal and assist each, Darcy Tucker also scored and Milan Hejduk had two assists for the Avalanche, who have won their first two games in the post-Joe Sakic era.

Anderson, who’s stopped 73 of 75 shots in his first two games with Colorado, was strong throughout. He made a glove save on a blistering slapshot by Alexander Edler in the first period and poked the puck away from Daniel Sedin on a breakaway in the second.

Anderson has been very impressive since at least early 2008. Before that Florida Coach Jaques Martin showed little confidence in him, and three other teams(Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis) had put Anderson on waivers. I think he’s a more than solid NHL goaltender. Florida didn’t make a mistake in choosing Vokoun over Anderson, but my favorite hockey team could have retained Anderson for just a little bit more money(Three years at 1.2 million for Clemmensen versus 2 years at 1.8 for Anderson) than they are paying their current #2 goalie, Scott Clemmensen. So far as I know Anderson was willing to stay in South Florida.


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