Sports Outside the Beltway

Hall of Fame Hockey player Clint Smith dead at 95

He was the last surviving member of the 1940 New York Rangers that won the Stanley Cup. RIP.

Hall of Fame player Clint Smith, a two-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy while with the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, has died. He was 95.

Smith died Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks announced Thursday. He played 11 years in the NHL with New York (1936-43) and Chicago (1943-47) and was the lone surviving member of the Rangers’ Stanley Cup-winning team in 1940. Teammate Alf Pike died in March.

Smith was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.

The 5-foot-8, 165-pound center won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1939 and 1944, an award given for skill and gentlemanly play. He had only 24 penalty minutes in 483 regular-season games. Smith had a four-season stretch in which he wasn’t called for a penalty.

In the 1943-44 season, Smith set an NHL record with 49 assists while playing on a line with future Hall of Famers Bill Mosienko and Doug Bentley. The trio set a league scoring record by producing 219 total points.


Five-time NHL All-Star Markus Naslund retires

Maybe he didn’t like playing in ‘The fishbowl’ known as New York City professional sports. From AP-

Markus Naslund wrapped up a 15-year NHL career when he retired Monday after just one season with the New York Rangers.

Naslund, who left the Vancouver Canucks last summer as a free agent, signed a two-year deal worth $8 million with the Rangers but decided to skip the final season when he will be 36.

The five-time All-Star spent parts of 12 seasons with the Canucks and was brought to New York by general manager Glen Sather after the Rangers failed to re-sign captain Jaromir Jagr.

Naslund played all 82 games this season, recording 24 goals and 46 points, but he had only one goal and two assists in the Rangers’ seven-game loss to Washington in the first round of the playoffs.

“I would like to sincerely thank Glen Sather and the New York Rangers for giving me the opportunity this past season in New York,” Naslund said. “I would also like to thank the Vancouver Canucks and all of their fans for their support over the 11-plus seasons I was a part of their organization, as well as to the Pittsburgh Penguins where I began my NHL career.”

Naslund scored a career-high 104 points — including 48 goals — during the 2002-03 campaign when he won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHL’s most outstanding player as chosen by his peers, but his numbers went down each of the next five seasons.

Naslund, who served as captain of the Canucks for eight seasons, was chosen with the No. 16 overall pick in the 1991 draft by Pittsburgh and spent three seasons with the Penguins before being traded to Vancouver in 1996.

Markus Naslund was a very good player who went little noticed except by hardcore NHL fans. I wish him well in retirement.


Washington and Carolina advance in Stanley Cup playoffs

The last two first round series concluded last night. First Washington rallied to eliminate the New York Rangers.

Fedorov beat Henrik Lundqvist with 4:59 left in the third period, rookie Simeon Varlamov was good in the net when he had to be, and the second-seeded Capitals edged the No. 7 New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal Tuesday night.

If Washington coach Bruce Boudreau had stuck with the veteran Theodore as Goalie, The Rangers would have advanced. It was a gutsy decision.

New Jersey was victimized by two late Carolina goals in their loss.

Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored in a 48-second span late in the third period as the Hurricanes stunned the Devils 4-3 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference series.

To me, Carolina’s win is more surprising than Anaheim knocking off San Jose.

The conference semi-finals are set. My predictions are-

Boston takes Carolina 4 games to 1. I think the Bruins are the best team still in the playoffs.
Washington beats Pittsburgh 4 games to 3. Can Varlamov stand the pressure of Crosby, Malkin, and company? He better, otherwise the Capitals will make mincemeat of Theodore.


Washington Capitals Donald Brashear suspended for six games

This for his hit on New York Ranger Blair Betts on Sunday. From AP-

Capitals forward Donald Brashear was suspended Monday by the NHL for a total of six games — five for what the league called a “blind-side hit” on Rangers center Blair Betts — and will miss Game 7 of the teams’ first-round playoff series.

In addition to leveling Betts midway through the first period of Washington’s 5-3 victory at New York in Game 6 on Sunday, Brashear made contact with Colton Orr in pregame warmups and was barred from one game for that.

“Brashear delivered a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player,” said Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior executive VP of hockey operations. “It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury.”

Betts has a broken bone in his eye socket and was ruled out of Tuesday night’s series-deciding game in Washington. He is New York’s top penalty-killing forward.

Here’s the video

Brashear deserves every game he is suspended and more. The trouble is, Betts inability to play is liable to have a detrimental effect on the Rangers’ playoff chances. He is the team’s best penalty killer. However the way Goalie Simeon Varlamov has been playing makes it seem unlikely the Rangers can pull the upset.


NY Ranger Coach John Tortorella suspended for Game 6

This for an altercation between him and a fan on Friday night. From ESPN-

Rangers coach John Tortorella has been suspended by the NHL for one game because he squirted a fan with water and threw a water bottle into the stands, striking a spectator in Washington.

Tortorella, who replaced the fired Tom Renney in February, will miss Game 6 on Sunday when New York hosts the Capitals with a chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

The NHL ruled Saturday night that Tortorella’s actions Friday night during the Rangers’ 4-0 loss that cut their series lead to 3-2 warranted a serious punishment.

At 6:33 of the third period, Tortorella got into a verbal confrontation with a fan behind the bench. A video replay showed the coach heaving a green water bottle into the crowd. Tortorella then grabbed forward Aaron Voros’ stick and held it high, waving it in the fan’s direction.

Here’s the Youtube video of the incident.

The fan was loud, obnoxious, and probably drunk. Tortorella, who is fiery under the best of circumstances, lost his cool. He should have remained focused on what was going on in the game, not the stands.

Now can someone please tell me what ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is drinking? He writes-

It’s a ballsy move by the league, which is apparently trying to send a tough message to its players and coaches about crossing that fine line when emotions run high in the postseason.

I’ve pointed out countless times, the wrongheaded priorities the NHL has. Tortorella gets suspended one game for throwing a water bottle, John Avery is put on indefinite suspension for off color comments, but Todd Bertuzzi is still allowed to play even though he ended another player’s career with a gruesome act of thuggery. Tell me which was worse, what Bertuzzi did or that the NHL hasn’t kicked that thug out of the league already.


Back on track? Washington beats NY Rangers 4-0

The Capitals down two games to none, won the must win game.

While Alex Ovechkin tried to figure out Henrik Lundqvist, the Washington Capitals found a way to beat the New York Rangers.

Ovechkin went a third game without a goal, but earned two assists for the second-seeded Capitals, who methodically posted a 4-0 victory over the No. 7 Rangers and got back into the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Monday night.

Behind 33 saves from 20-year-old Simeon Varlamov, the Capitals cut the series deficit to 2-1 — after a pair of home losses — and moved into position to tie the best-of-seven matchup Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Despite playing only six career NHL games, Varlamov made a surprise start in Game 2, after Jose Theodore was ineffective in the opener.

Varlamov played well in game two also, only giving up one goal. If I was Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau, I’d keep playing him.


Stanley Cup playoffs begin- NY Rangers beat Washington 4-3

The Eastern Conference’s #7 pulled off the surprise of the night.

If goaltending wins in the playoffs, the New York Rangers’ Game 1 victory over the Washington Capitals might be worth more than an early series lead.

There was nothing but praise for Henrik Lundqvist’s performance following the Rangers’ 4-3 win Wednesday night. The New York goalie made 32 saves, and the three shots that got by him were hardly his fault.

Around the corner, in the home locker room at the Verizon Center, there was plenty of finger-pointing at Jose Theodore — by himself. And his coach didn’t exactly disagree. “There’s times when you sit there, you need the save, and he didn’t make the save when we needed it,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.

“Just wasn’t good enough,” said Theodore, who stopped only 17 of 21 shots — and was unable to get his glove on Brandon Dubinsky’s winner with 8:17 remaining.

Theodore having a bad night should come as no surprise. Florida pummeled him 7-4 in the regular season finale. His play wasn’t very good during the rest of the regular season, as I noted in posts here, here, and here. Jose Theodore is not a championship quality goalie. I’m not the strongest of NHL experts but the Washington goalie situation is common knowledge to those who follow the sport.

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN writes-

There’s an extra off day before the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals resumes Saturday afternoon.

An extra day for Washington coach Bruce Boudreau to contemplate the biggest decision in his short NHL coaching career.

Jose Theodore or Simeon Varlamov?

A little early, perhaps, for that kind of drastic decision, and maybe some would see it as a sign of panic. But when you outshoot a team 35-21 and lose 4-3 to a New York team missing Chris Drury on four goals that should have been stopped, it’s the kind of decision you have to consider, even if 20-year-old Varlamov has all of 329 minutes of NHL experience under his belt.

“There’s a chance anything can happen,” Boudreau responded when we asked him about a change in goal for Saturday. “I said earlier: When you lose, you make changes. I’m not saying in goal [necessarily], but there’s a possibility of changes in a couple of positions.”

Boudreau has to sit down and think this through carefully. The stakes could not be any higher. If Theodore goes back in and delivers another stinker, the Caps could be down 2-0 headed into Madison Square Garden. Season over. But if rookie Varlamov isn’t ready for this kind of task, what’s your next move after that?

My answer- Make plans for the off season. Washington was dumb not to address their Goalie need before the trade deadline. I think they will come back and beat New York but they won’t advance past the next round.


Florida Panthers- Do or die

Today marks the beginning of the last week of regular season play for my favorite NHL team. The Florida Panthers host the Pittsburgh Penguins this afternoon. With four games to go in the season, Florida is 9th in the Eastern Conference playoffs standing.

That’s the bad news, along with Florida’s erratic play. After a good December and a brilliant January, Florida has been all over the place. After rising to as high as 5th in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, the team began to slide. The Panthers blew three two-goal third period leads in the last month.

A 5-3 loss to Buffalo two weeks ago had me giving up on Florida for the 2008-2009 season. Then the Panthers won 3 straight games, all with Craig Anderson as goalie. On Friday, Florida had a relapse losing to Atlanta 3-1 when a win would have tied them with the NY Rangers.

New York did Florida a favor again by losing yesterday. Now Florida has another opportunity to tie NY for the last playoff spot. I don’t know what NHL playoff tiebreakers are like, but Florida did win the season series from the Rangers.

I haven’t checked, but I don’t think the Panthers have won more than three games in a row this season. Also if they do make the playoffs, Florida will play Boston. A team that has dominated the Eastern Conference this year, and kicked Florida’s ass 3 of the four times they played during the regular season.

Do I think Florida can make the playoffs? Yes. Will they? I don’t know, I’ve quit predicting what this team will do. The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000. For most of this season I thought Florida was changing from their past bad habits, like quitting and blowing late leads. Then I saw their play of the last month. It will take more than one season for Florida to do a total turnaround from recent wretched past.


NY Rangers fire coach Tom Renney, hire John Tortorella

This marks the sixth time this year an NHL team fired their man behind the bench. From ESPN-

Tom Renney was fired as coach of the New York Rangers on Monday and replaced by John Tortorella in an attempt to save a season that has spiraled out of control.

The Rangers opened 10-2-1, but 10 losses in the last 12 games have knocked the team out of contention for the Atlantic Division title and placed it in danger of missing the playoffs completely.

Tortorella led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup title in 2004 and was let go following last season. The Rangers were not required to provide compensation to the Lightning.

Renney, a former coach of the Vancouver Canucks, was 164-121-42 with the Rangers in four-plus seasons and ranks fourth on the team’s career wins and games coached lists.

I think Renney is the fall guy in New York. The Ranger management has made a series of poor personnel decisions over the last year. Trading for Nikolai Zherdev, Signing Markus Naslund, not retaining Brendan Shanahan.

I do however like John Tortorella. He’ll certainly light a fire under players in New York. Will it work? I don’t know.


Montreal Canadiens acquire Mathieu Schneider from Atlanta Thrashers

The trade brings him back to the NHL team he started his career with. From

Montreal Canadiens General Manager Bob Gainey announced today the acquisition of defenseman Mathieu Schneider from the Atlanta Thrashers, as well as a conditional draft pick from the Thrashers at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, in return for a second-round pick at the 2009 draft (Anaheim’s pick previously acquired by the Canadiens from Washington) and a Canadiens third-round pick at the 2010 draft.

Schneider, a 20-season veteran, made his NHL debut with the Canadiens in 1987-88. The 39-year-old, New York City native recorded 717 points (216 goals, 501 assists) and posted a plus-63 rating in 1,241 NHL regular-season games, with Montreal, the New York Islanders, Toronto, the New York Rangers, Los Angeles, Detroit, Anaheim and Atlanta.

Schneider is a good journeyman defenseman, and I understand Montreal is trying to rev up for the playoffs, but I feel a 2nd round pick for a player about to turn 40 is an awful lot to give up.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.