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?


Edmonton Oilers fire coach Craig MacTavish

He is the first NHL coach to lose his job during the off-season. From AP-

He was fired Wednesday after the Oilers failed to make the playoffs for the third straight year. The dismissal came on the same day the NHL postseason began, and general manager Steve Tambellini said the team needed a fresh look behind the bench.

“He gave everything he possibly could to help this team get better,” Tambellini said during a news conference. “But we both agree that it is time for a change.”

The Oilers finished 11th in the Western Conference with a record of 38-35-9 for 85 points. This was the fifth time in seven seasons they have not reached the playoffs.

MacTavish has certainly had an interesting NHL career. Originally a Boston Bruin, he spent a year in jail after being convicted of vehicular homicide in 1985. When released, no one but Edmonton was willing to give him a chance. He put his life together and was a key member during the Oilers’ heyday when Wayne Gretzky and others led the franchise to five Stanley Cup championships, three of which MacTavish contributed to.

As a coach, MacTavish took the Oilers to the finals in 2006. Now he’s out of work and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun speculates about his replacement. MacTavish may well get a second chance as a NHL coach, just like he received one as a player.


Ducks backup Goalie ties team record with 51 saves

You may say Anaheim’s net minding last night was not at all like Swiss cheese. From AP-

Jonas Hiller figured that all the Edmonton Oilers’ shots he faced kept him sharp.

The Swiss goalie matched the Anaheim record with 51 saves, and turned aside three shootout tries in the Ducks’ 3-2 victory over the Oilers on Friday night.


Corey Perry scored in regulation and added the shootout winner in the Ducks’ first game on a five-game trip. Rob Niedermayer added a short-handed goal to help the Ducks improve to 18-12-3 with their fourth victory in six games.

Hiller, in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere on leave in Montreal following his father’s death, tied the franchise saves record set by Mikhail Shtalenkov against Ottawa in March 1998 and matched by Giguere against Detroit in March 2004.

Saving that many shots has to be fatiguing. Which is one of the worries I have with my favorite team, The Florida Panthers. Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson have been regularly asked to stop 40 shots in a night. Can they keep it up?


Edmonton Oilers send center Gilbert Brule back to the minors

He had played just two games in a Oiler uniform. From the Canadian Press-

The Edmonton Oilers assigned centre Gilbert Brule to the AHL’s Springfield Falcons on Friday.

Brule had no points in two games with Edmonton after being recalled from the Falcons on Dec. 5.

Brule, 21, had eight goals and four assists in 15 games with Springfield prior to his recall.

Brule, a 6th overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the the 2005 NHL draft, has had a far from impressive career so far. A center with 12 goals in 148 career games and with a -28 rating to boot, just isn’t cutting it. Right now Brule looks like a draft bust, but at age 21 may be able to redeem himself.


FL Panthers win in Edmonton for the first time since 1996

Florida did this in spite of being out shot 41 to 16. The victory pushed the cats to above .500 for the season for the first time since game seven.

The win may not have been pretty, but I’ll take it. I stayed up to watch it on NHL Center Ice like I will do with tonight’s game against Calgary. It wasn’t till Radek Dvorak scored a empty net goal in the last five seconds of the game that I breathed easy. I all too well remember Florida’s blown 2-goal lead to Edmonton from last season.

Florida has won their last four games on the road. This road trip has three more stops, Calgary where the Panthers will face their former coach Mike Keenan, the Roberto Luongoless Vancouver Canucks, then arch nemesis Carolina. Florida has scored points in 8 of their last 9 games, that in spite of being seriously banged up. The team is down five forwards at present, most of whom are the teams leading scorers. David Booth, Cory Stilman, Richard Zednik, Nathan Horton. Which makes the team’s present run more incredible in my eyes. Now if the cats can win 2 of the last 3 road games, I may start seriously thinking of them as playoff contenders.

On a side note, Tampa snapped their losing streak by defeating Montreal last night. Unlike former coach Barry Melrose, I don’t wish the Bolts to lose. Except if they play Florida of course.


Boston Bruins’ Goalie Tim Thomas makes 30 saves en route to second 1-0 shutout

It appears Marty Brodeur isn’t the only hot goalie in the NHL at present. From AP-

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Boston coach Claude Julien didn’t waste any time picking his starting goaltender against Vancouver.

After watching Tim Thomas backstop the Bruins to a 1-0 win against Edmonton on Monday night, Julien ended his back-and-forth goalie rotation. He passed over Manny Fernandez and gave Thomas a second straight start. The decision paid immediate dividends.

Michael Ryder scored his second goal of the season midway through the first period and Thomas made the best of his 31 saves in the frame en route to a second 1-0 win in two nights, leading the Bruins over the Canucks.

“As soon as the game was over Monday, I knew who I was going with,” Julien said after Boston’s third straight win. “Not only did he get a shutout, but he played well. When I say something I keep my word, and my word is, if somebody is going to get hot, he’s going to get the chance to take the ball and run with it.”


“The composure we kept in the third was awesome,” said Thomas, who also blanked the Canucks in their only other meeting, a 39-save, 2-0 win on Dec. 21, 2006. “Hopefully it gives us confidence that in tight games we can come out with the win, whether it s 4-3 or 1-0.”

At first I thought AP got it wrong. Thomas, who’s 34 years old, had to played against Vancouver more than once. A check of his NHL profile showed me he has only been a full-time NHL goaltender since the 2005-06 season. Until a recent rule change, Eastern and Western conference teams only played the other two out of every three years.

Back to back 1-0 shutouts by the same goalie happened in the 2007-08 season. Florida’s Craig Anderson pulling off the feat.

If I was Julien, I’d continue to play Thomas till one of three things occur-

1 The hot streak ends

2 Boston plays games on back to back nights and one of the games is played on the road

3 The next Bruin game against Florida. Thomas has been awful against the Panthers in the past.

On second thought, let Thomas face my favorite hockey team.


Edmonton Oilers Shawn Horcoff out for rest of the season

He was the team’s leading scorer before aggravating a past injury during last week’s All-Star game. From AP-

EDMONTON, Alberta — Edmonton Oilers center Shawn Horcoff will miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

The 29-year-old forward, who leads the team with 50 points in 53 games this season, aggravated the injury when fell awkwardly at the NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta on Jan. 27.

“I tweaked it three times before that already this season,” Horcoff said. “Each time you do it, it gets worse.

“That’s the thing that scared me the most. It was just a harmless play. I got clipped from behind a little bit and I just went to catch myself on the ice. It [shoulder] sublexed. It popped in and out.”

Horcoff had an MRI after returning to Edmonton. He played in the Oilers’ first game after the All-Star break, a 3-0 loss to San Jose on Jan. 29, before sitting out a loss to Dallas on Friday. Horcoff will have surgery this week.

Some may argue All-Star games aren’t worth the risk of injury. I’d have a hard time disagreeing with them. Edmonton, ranked 14th of 15 in the Western Conference standings, looks further than ever from a possible playoff spot this season.


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.


Banging my head against the wall- Florida blows 3-1 lead and loses to Edmonton

Another late game loss by the Panthers.

SUNRISE, Fla. – Jarret Stoll scored twice in the final 1:23 of regulation to force overtime and help the Edmonton Oilers beat Florida 4-3 in a shootout Thursday.

Shawn Horcoff scored the only goal in the shootout, and Oilers goalie Mathieu Baron stopped Nathan Horton, Kamil Kreps and Olli Jokinen.

Ethan Moreau also scored in regulation for Edmonton, which won for only the second time in its last six games.

Jokinen, Brett McLean, and Gregory Campbell scored for Florida, which snapped a six-game home losing streak with a 5-3 victory over Ottawa in its previous game.

Florida All-Star Tomas Vokoun made 37 saves and Garon stopped 32 shots in regulation and overtime in Edmonton’s first visit to the Panthers since Dec. 7, 2002.

Stoll beat Vokoun with a slap shot from the point to make it 3-2 at 18:37 on a power play after the Oilers had pulled Garon.

A miscue by Vokoun led to Stoll’s second goal at 19:08. Vokoun went behind the net to play the puck but let it get past him. Stoll raced to the puck and fired a pass to the front of the net that bounced in off the inside of Vokoun’s leg.

This is at least the fourth game Florida has blown in the last minute of play this year. There were losses to Nashville and Toronto where Florida’s opponent scored in the last half minute of play to win. There was another game against Tampa Bay I think where a team scored in the last minute to tie and then won in OT. I think there is even a fifth example of Florida failing to close out a game, but I forgot the specifics.

Florida is playing at best mediocre hockey and the team has better talent than that. I don’t know if its the coaching or lackadaisical play. Even so Florida remains less than five points out of the lead in the Southeast Division. That with one less game played also compared to Carolina. If the Panthers could get their act together, they can win the division. Florida should win the Southeast, but after hearing enough of that broken record of mine, I’m losing faith in this team. If you can’t beat one of the worst teams in the NHL with a 2-goal lead and less than two minutes to go, how are you supposed to make the playoffs?


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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