Sports Outside the Beltway

Home sweet home- Vancouver beats Ottawa 5-1

The Canucks first home game Post Olympics has a happy ending. From AP-

Home never felt so good for the Canucks.Ott-Van

Mikael Samuelsson scored twice and added an assist, and the Vancouver Canucks returned home to GM Place after playing an NHL-record 14 straight on the road to beat the Ottawa Senators 5-1 on Saturday night.

“We were just excited to get back,” Roberto Luongo said after making 13 saves. “It’s been such a long time that we haven’t played here and guys were just excited to play in front of the home fans.”

Living out of a suitcase grows weary after a while but Vancouver survived it. They are 3rd in the Western Conference points stands and more importantly five points ahead of the next best team in the NHL’s Northwest Division. I don’t see the Canucks missing the playoffs but don’t think they’re good enough to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.


Dallas Stars waive Goalie Alex Auld

With the recent acquisition of Kari Lehtonen, the team had one more netminder than they needed. From ESPN-

The Dallas Stars placed Alex Auld on waivers Wednesday and are content to go with Marty Turco and Kari Lehtonen in goal the rest of the season.Alex Auld

Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk acknowledged there’s little chance of trading Turco, who played well the last six games leading into the Olympic break. Turco is 4-1-1 with a 1.15 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage in that stretch.


Lehtonen, 26, has not played an NHL game since last April. The Stars traded for him earlier this month in an effort to fortify their goalie position going into next season. Lehtonen is a restricted free agent next season, while Turco and Auld are unrestricted free agents.

The Stars are one point out of the eighth and final playoff spot and have games every other day in March.

“We’ll work Kari in there because we have so many games,” Nieuwendyk said.

Auld is a journeyman Goalie who has played for six teams since 2006. That says enough about how good he is. Could a 7th team on the horizon? I’d say the chances are about 50-50. If Auld can’t find work in North America, he can always go to play in Europe.


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.


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.


The show must go on- Ottawa beats Minnesota 4-1

The Wild had to scramble for equipment after most of it was destroyed in a Friday fire. From the AP-

Mike Brodeur made a name for himself Saturday night in his NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators.Mike Brodeur

No relation to New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, the rookie goalie carried a shutout into the third period, and Erik Karlsson scored his first career goal, leading Ottawa to a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Brodeur stopped 22 shots in his first career start after backing up Brian Elliott for 13 straight games.

Actually this article states Mike and Marty Brodeur are distant relatives.

Just last season Mike Brodeur was toiling for the Rochester Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers. In spite of having a very good season, Ottawa some how came into possession of the Goalie. The Panthers are so cost conscious, I’m at least partially surprised they didn’t bring Brodeur to the NHL this year rather than sign free agent Scott Clemmensen. Brodeur would have been cheaper, and die hard South Florida hockey fans all know how much the Panthers watch their bottom line usually to the detriment of the team’s chances to compete. Just look at how the exchange of Clemmensen for the slightly higher priced Craig Anderson has been working out for Florida this year.

BTW Clemmensen had one of his better games as a Florida Goalie last night. Still the Panthers ended up losing to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2.


Crushed- Ottawa Senators beat Tampa Bay Lightning 7-1

Are the NHL’s two worst teams now residing in the Sunshine State? From AP-

Milan Michalek made Ottawa Senators fans forget about high-scoring Dany Heatley — at least for one night.Lightning-Senators

Acquired at the start of training camp in the deal that sent Heatley to San Jose, Michalek had his first three-goal game in the NHL, scoring twice short-handed and once on a power play in Ottawa’s 7-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

“To see all the people standing and clapping for me was an awesome feeling,” said Michalek said. “Hopefully, there’s many goals to come.”

Michalek shoveled a rebound past goalie Mike Smith with Tampa Bay on the power play in the first period. The big Czech winger then beat Smith again on a short-handed breakaway early in the second, helping the Senators to their fourth win in five games.

“Two short-handed goals, it’s embarrassing,” Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. “We gave one up against Florida [in a win Monday night]. I know it’s only Game 6, but when you give up three short-handed goals in two games, there’s going to be some video, there’s going to be some talking and there might be some changes.”

Tampa was outshot 35-17, making it appear they are still inadequate at the position of defenseman. That was the team’s biggest weakness during the 2008-09 NHL season.

Tampa is 2-2-2 so far this year. The Florida Panthers are 1-4. Most hockey prognosticators, plus myself, would have had these teams reversed in their predictions for this far into the season. I’m not giving up on the Panthers yet. After a 4-3 start last year they went through a dozen game stretch where little went right. The Panthers then rallied to almost make the playoffs. Hopefully tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers will spark a turnaround for my favorite NHL team.


Ottawa Senators trade Dany Heatley to San Jose

Have the Sharks found the player tyoo lead them to a Stanley Cup? From AP-

The Ottawa Senators traded disgruntled winger Dany Heatley to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, ending a lingering dispute with a player who felt he was not being used properly by the team.

The Sharks gave up Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second-round pick. Ottawa also sent a fifth-round pick to San Jose.

The trade on the opening day of training camp ends a clash that has overshadowed the Senators in recent months.

The 28-year-old Heatley said he wanted out of Ottawa because he wasn’t being used properly. But he angered fans when he refused to waive a no-trade clause to move to Edmonton.

“When I signed in Ottawa two years ago, I felt it was to be an integral part of the team,” Heatley said in August. “Over the last two years and more recently over the past year, I feel my role was diminished. This past season, it diminished a lot more.

“I’m a player who can play in a lot of different situations. I don’t feel I was given that role on the team. I’d like the opportunity to go somewhere where I can play to the best of my capabilities and be the player I can be.”

The Sharks beef up their offense by acquiring a former 50-goal scorer. Heatley had 39 goals and 33 assists last season.

Heatley has 260 goals and 283 assists in 507 regular games, split between Atlanta and Ottawa. He is due to make $8 million this year.

Michalek, a 24-year-old winger from the Czech Republic, had 23 goals and 24 assists in 77 games last season. His salary is $3.5 million this year.

The 29-year-old Cheechoo, a hard-nosed winger, had 12 goals and 17 assists last season. He’s due to make $3.5 million this season.

From the point of view of what talent was exchanged, San Jose came out on top. When everything else is considered, I think Ottawa was a winner. Heatley is a very unhappy person in Ottaw, even though he was the Senators leading scorer and the team’s first or second most valuable player on ice.(A strong argument can be made that Forward Daniel Alfredsson is better than Heatley.) Heatley wanted out of Ottawa, claiming his role was diminished there but how so was it diminished. What’s really at play here is that Heatley is a troubled young man. His reckless driving killed his best friend and teammate Dan Snyder in 2003. NHL fans and Snyder’s family forgave Heatley but I’m pretty certain Heatley hasn’t been able to forgive himself and that’s why he asked for a trade from Atlanta in 2005 and his most recent trade out of 2009. He’s looking for a place to be comfortable. Heatley will never be comfortable anywhere he lives till he forgives himself. I don’t think that will happen before his hockey days are over. Playing the sport is a constant reminder of his friend who unlike him can’t play the sport they both loved so much.


Veteran NHL C Mike Sillinger retires

He played for 12 different teams in his career but he scored the most points for his final team, the New York Islanders. Enjoy your retirement Mike.

New York Islanders center Mike Sillinger decided two hip operations were enough.

The center who played for a record 12 teams during 17 seasons in the NHL is retiring because of an injured left hip.

“The decision was clear to me after dealing with hip surgery the last two seasons, Sillinger said during a conference call Wednesday. “If I was to come back and be a hero I’d be getting a hip replacement before I’m 40.”

The 38-year-old forward played in only seven games last season and had season-ending hip resurfacing surgery in January. In February 2008, he had a microfracture procedure on the hip that forced him to sit out the final 29 games of that season.

Sillinger spent three years with the Islanders and his 42 goals and 87 points were his most with any NHL team.

“It’s a big hole to fill,” Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. “Mike was good at many different things, whether it was putting the puck in the net or taking a faceoff.”

Sillinger was chosen No. 11 in the 1989 draft by Detroit. For his career, he had 240 goals and 308 assists in 1,049 games.

Sillinger said he’d like to stay in hockey but downplayed the notion that he might go into coaching right away.

“I’m just going to enjoy the kids for now and see what the future brings,” he said.

Besides the Islanders and Red Wings, Sillinger also suited up for Anaheim, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Florida, Ottawa, Columbus, Phoenix, St. Louis and Nashville.


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?


Philadelphia Flyers sign Goalie Ray Emery

The former Ottawa Senator spent the last NHL season playing in Russia. From AP-

A year after Ottawa released the petulant goaltender, forcing him to turn to a Russian league when no other NHL team would take him, Emery agreed to a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers worth about $1.5 million.

General manager Paul Holmgren believes Emery, 26, has mended his mercurial ways and again can be the player he was when he helped the Senators to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007.

“I spent a great deal of time talking with Ray,” Holmgren said Wednesday. “The thing that kept coming back is he’s recognized there was a period in his life when he made some mistakes.”

Emery missed practices and clashed with teammates in Ottawa and was charged with multiple speeding violations and a road rage incident. Emery insists he’s learned from the past.

“I learned maybe more from those bad experiences than the good times we had there,” he said. “I realize I had a great thing going and lost a lot of people that I enjoyed hanging out with. I want to get back to having those good relationships. I think that’s the reason I’m going to change.”

Ottawa was a very good goalie up through the 2006-07 NHL season when he helped Ottawa reach the Stanley Cup finals. Then he entered hurt, didn’t play very well, and had the problems listed above. The Senators tired of Emery’s antics, gave his release. That the team then tried to play winning hockey with a couple of schlock career backup goalies(Alex Auld and Martin Gerber) is a whole other story.

Philadelphia had a good Goalie in Martin Biron, but he along with the Flyer’s backup Goaltender are unrestricted free agents this off season. The team didn’t want to pay Biron what he was asking for salary wise, so Philly went with the cheaper option of Emery. Emery for Biron is at best a lateral move for the Flyers. It can backfire, if Emery begins misbehaving again.


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