Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida Goalie Tomas Vokoun gets no respect

Scott Burnside at ESPN writes-

Of all the teams still fighting for a playoff spot or set for the playoffs, perhaps no team relies more emphatically on its netminder for success than the New York Rangers.

Burnside clearly has a case of New Yorkitis. Lets examine the NHL Eastern Conference standings and where Florida and the NY Rangers stand.Tomas Vokoun

8th Boston 68 30 26 12 72
9 NY Rangers 69 31 29 9 71
10 Tampa Bay 68 28 28 12 68
11 Atlanta 68 28 29 11 67
12 Florida 67 28 29 10 66

8th is the last playoff spot. New York and Lundqvist are 1 point out of that spot but have played one more game than Boston. In fact they’ve played more games than all 5 times fighting for the 8 spot. Florida has a chance to narrow the gap between itself and Boston if they beat Washington tonight.

Now lets look at Lundqvist’s and Vokoun’s stats

2 Tomas Vokoun, FLA 56 23 22 2.36 .930
10 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR 60 28 23 2.45 .919

Now lets look at the Goals scored for the Panthers and Rangers

New York 181
Florida 174

Who are the three leading points scorers for each team


Marian Gaborik, RW 63 36 37 73
Vaclav Prospal, C 62 17 35 52
Ryan Callahan, RW 69 18 18 36


Stephen Weiss, C 65 23 27 50
Nathan Horton, C 51 17 29 46
Steve Reinprecht, C 67 14 22 36

Gee whiz New York’s top 2 goal scorers have more points this season than Florida’s #1. How is that so Scott Burnside?

I’ll also point out that Vokoun went 8-4-2 From for the month of January(he started all of Florida’s games) a Save Pct of over .940. That .940 is outstanding but Vokoun had to be like that. Florida scored 32 goals for the month or 2.27 per game

In that same stretch the Rangers supplied Lundqvist or his backup 36 goals in 16 games or 2.25. The Rangers went 6-9-1 that month. Because NY Goalies gave up 41 goals.

Florida in its last 18 games has only twice managed to score 2 or more goals in regulation. The total amount of goals for Florida in those 18 games-33

For New York in its last 18 games has scored 2 or more goals in regulation 9 times. Tho total amount of goals for the Rangers in those games- 46

Obviously Scott Burnside doesn’t- Look at the stats before making statements in his columns or doesn’t pay attention to all of the NHL. Tomas Vokoun is having a incredible year but this ESPN doesn’t seem to have noticed.


Calgary Flames trade Olli Jokinen to the NY Rangers

From ESPN-

It took a while, but the proposed trade between the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames was finally completed late Monday night.

The Rangers shipped forwards Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik to the Flames in exchange for center Olli Jokinen and rugged winger Brandon Prust, a deal that was nearly consummated Sunday night but was delayed a day.

Kotalik’s limited no-trade clause and his ability to nix the deal was partly responsible for the holdup, but he ultimately agreed to the move, a source told

The trade call between both teams occurred following Calgary’s game Monday night.

Calgary is scheduled to play Florida on February 5th. Which would have enabled the Panthers all-time leading scorer(Jokinen) to make his first South Florida appearance since he was traded to Phoenix after the 2008-09 season. That has now been delayed till April when the Rangers come to town.

The Panthers beat writers have been hammering the Jokinen return to death IMHO. Does the Miami Herald’s George Richards or the Sun Sentinel’s Steve Gorten care to tell us that Jokinen will now be coming to Florida two times a year rather than once every two years? Jokinen is in the last year of his contract, but that isn’t pointed out but I don’t see mention of that or the chance of Jokinen coming to Florida two times a year if he should stay in New York.

As for the deal, both teams rid themselves of players who either couldn’t get along with their coach(Kotalik vs. the volatile John Tortorella) or a underachiever who isn’t supposedly giving a full effort(Jokinen). I think the Rangers come out better on this deal if they re-sign Jokinen but its a close thing. This was Jokinen’s third trade in less than two years and he is now working on his 6th NHL team.

George Richards in a blog post about this trade, made a huge sportswriting blunder.

Of course, Olli isn’t headed east to New York just yet. According to reports, he’s on his way to California to meet up with the Rangers in Los Angeles. Sports is funny this way, yes? Olli’s NHL career started with the Kings. They then traded him to the Panthers where he enjoyed his most professional success. Olli didn’t want to leave the Panthers, know that.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Jokinen is heading back to a NY area team for the second time in his career. He played a year with the NY Islanders. And how did the Florida Panthers acquire him?George Richards

June 24th 2000- Jokinen and Roberto Luongo traded to Florida in exchange for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish

Florida only got a great goaltender and its all-time leading scorer in the same trade. This was only the biggest transaction the team ever made that went the right way for the Cats. Forgetting this trade is like a New York City baseball reporter forgetting the New York Yankees got Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox.

Next thing George will be doing is tell us Jacques Martin didn’t coach in the NHL prior to Ottawa (like at least one other Panther beat writer did) and that Martin had great confidence in Craig Anderson!


Minnesota Wild release Winger Petr Sykora

Just a year ago he helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup. From AP-

The Minnesota Wild have placed right wing Petr Sykora on waivers.

Sykora and rookie Robbie Earl were placed on waivers on Tuesday. Earl can be returned to the minors or stay with the Wild if he clears, but Sykora’s stint with Minnesota is all but over.

Sykora turned down richer offers to play in Russia and signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract with the Wild in September.

The 33-year-old ranked fourth on the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins last season with 46 points in 76 games. He had only two goals and one assist in 14 games with Minnesota, missing nearly two months while recovering from a concussion.

The well traveled Sykora, who played his first NHL game back in 1995, may well be finished as a player for the 2009-10 season. If the concussion isn’t too bad, I am certain he will be back playing pro hockey but perhaps not in the NHL. As of a year ago Sykora could still help a team, and concussion aside, that is the basis for my evaluation.


Sloppy Decisions- NY Rangers beat Dallas 5-2

A former Stars player got revenge against the team who released him. From AP-

Sean Avery exacted revenge on the Dallas Stars a year after they dumped him, scoring a goal and setting up three others in the New York Rangers’ 5-2 victory Wednesday night.Sean Avery

Avery’s stay with the Stars lasted only 23 games into a four-year, $15.5 million contract that he signed before last season after leaving the Rangers. The agitating forward quickly wore out his welcome in Dallas, and was suspended by the NHL in December after making crude comments about his former girlfriends dating other players. He never again played for the Stars, who waived him in February.

Avery was claimed three days later by the Rangers, with whom he finished the season after a minor league stint.


Avery hadn’t had as many as three points in a game since April 1, 2007. Four points matched a career high.

Avery last scored a point in a NHL game on November 23rd.

I didn’t really understand why Avery was released last year. He’s an idiot without a doubt, but he’s small potatoes compared to some of the thugs in the league. Todd Bertuzzi broke another player’s neck and he has no problem finding work. What’s insulting a player’s girlfriend compared to that?


NHL Eastern 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

New Jersey 39 games 28 wins 10 losses 1 overtime loss 57 points
Buffalo 40 25 11 4 54
Washington 40 24 10 6 54
Pittsburgh 42 26 15 1 53
Boston 40 21 12 7 49
Ottawa 41 21 16 4 46
Montreal 43 21 19 3 45
NY Rangers 41 19 17 5 43

Tampa Bay 41 16 15 10 42
Philadelphia 40 19 18 3 41
Atlanta 40 18 17 5 41
NY Islanders 42 16 18 8 40
Florida 41 16 18 7 39
Toronto 41 14 18 9 37
Carolina 41 11 23 7 29

Bold denotes all teams who would make the playoffs as of this minute.
The above standings are as of 6 p.m. on Saturday January 2nd.

Teams all but certain to make the playoffs- Buffalo, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Washington
Team that won’t make the playoffs- Carolina

That’s hardly rocket science based on the above.

I will be greatly surprised if Florida, NY Islanders, or Toronto are playing in the post season. The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years and this will be no exception. How is a team that hasn’t won more than 3 games in a row since March 2008 supposed to get the momentum up for a playoff run?

Tampa Bay and Atlanta have been pleasant surprises this year. I’m still not convinced either team can make the playoffs. Particularly so in the case of the Lightning who are most impotent offensive teams in the league,(28th of 30 teams)

Honestly I think the teams who are currently 1-8 will all make the playoffs. There will be reshuffling but I think the 7 other teams each have enough liabililites that it will keep them out of the postseason.


Crystal Ball Time

My annual sports predictions for the upcoming year. Due to some unknown reason, I skipped doing this a year ago. What matters is I came back, right?

1 Cleveland beats the LA Lakers for the NBA Championship
2 Indianapolis defeats Arizona in the Super Bowl Crystall ball
3 San Jose defeats Washington for the Stanley Cup
4 St. Louis beats the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series
5 Tiger Woods returns to golf, wins at least one tournament but no major championships. That is a risky prediction in light of the fact that Tiger has won majors on 3 of this year’s host courses.(Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews)
6 Phil Mickelson wins the US Open
7 Michelle Wie wins at least two tournaments, one of which is a major championship
8 Ji Yai Shin is LPGA player of the year
9 A non-Korean golfer will be LPGA rookie of the year
10 Yu-Na Kim wins figure skating gold at the 2010 Olympics
11 The Miami Dolphins don’t make this year’s playoffs but have a winning 2010 season
12 The Miami Heat make the playoffs but lose in the 1st round
13 The Florida Marlins have a winning record but don’t make the playoffs
14 Urban Meyer doesn’t return as coach of the Florida Gators
15 Joe Paterno announces his retirement after the 2010 Penn State season is complete
16 The Florida Panthers don’t make the playoffs
17 The Florida Panthers trade Goalie Tomas Vokoun
18 Manny Pacquiao loses to Floyd Mayweather
19 Kansas defeats Purdue for the NCAA Basketball Championship
20 Texas defeats Alabama in the BCS Championship game
21 Army has a winning football season and gets a bowl invitation
22 Washington Redskins fire Coach Jim Zorn
23 Serena Williams wins at Wimbledon
24 Versus and Directv finally settle their dispute
25 A North American horse racing track closes its doors.
26 Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula World Drivers Championship
27 New York Rangers fire Coach John Tortorella
28 The New Jersey Nets don’t finish with the worst record in NBA history
29 Connecticut defeats Tennessee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship
30 At least half these predictions are wrong

We’ll come back on December 31st 2010 and see how I did.


NY Ranger Vinny Prospal to have knee surgery

The well traveled winger currently leads his team in assists. From AP-

New York Rangers top-line forward Vinny Prospal is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery that will keep him out for at least 10 days, and maybe up to three weeks.

Prospal, in his first season with New York, was injured Saturday night in the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. The surgery took place on Monday morning.

In 38 games this season, while playing alongside NHL goal leader Marian Gaborik, the 34-year-old left winger has eight goals and 32 points. His 24 assists are tops on the Rangers and 19th best in the league.

Prospal’s 8 goals is third on the Ranges only to Gaborik and Ryan Callahan. As New York is struggling offensively, the loss of Prospal has to be rated as significant. The Rangers play 6 games in the next 10 days, which is the shortest time frame for Prospal’s return.


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.


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?


NJ Devil Center Bobby Holik retires

He was a member of the ‘Crash line’, a feature of the Devil teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1995 and 2000. Enjoy your retirement Bobby.

Veteran center Bobby Holik is retiring after 18 seasons, 11 of those with New Jersey Devils, the New York Post reported.

“I’m done. I’m retiring,” Holik told the Post from his home in Wyoming. “I miss being with my family every day. I knew when the season ended, but I wanted to leave and get home first, and not make a big deal of it.

“A player is what I was. Now I’m a husband and a father.”

The 38-year-old Holik was picked 10th overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1989. He was traded to New Jersey with Jay Pandolfo for Sean Burke and Eric Weinrich on Aug 28, 1992. He, Mike Peluso and Randy McKay made up the Crash Line and helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 1995 and 2000.

Holik signed with the New York Rangers in 2002. He played two seasons with the Rangers before the salary cap forced a buy out.

Holik then played for the Atlanta Thrashers for three seasons, and was captain in 2007-08. He returned to the Devils last season. Holik played 1,314 regular season games with 1,423 penalty minutes and a plus-115 rating.


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