Sports Outside the Beltway

Throwing in the towel- Phoenix beats Florida 4-3

Would a serious NHL playoff contender would blow a 3-goal lead with less than 20 minutes to go in the game. From AP-

With a lot of grit and a little luck, the Phoenix Coyotes earned a record-setting win Thursday night.FL-Phe

Radim Vrbata scored with 59.7 seconds left in the third period to force overtime, then added the winner in the third round of a shootout in the Coyotes’ 4-3 comeback victory over the Florida Panthers.

Martin Hanzal and Lee Stempniak also scored in the third period to help the Coyotes stretch their winning streak to seven games. The Coyotes set a franchise record for wins in a season with 44, besting the previous mark set by the 1984-85 Winnipeg Jets — before overtime ties were broken in shootouts.

“It was just one of those games where we never quit,” Vrbata said. “We came back and it was nice to get that.”

Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 21 shots in regulation and overtime for Phoenix.

David Booth and Cory Stillman scored second-period goals for Florida, and Stephen Weiss had a power-play goal in the first. Tomas Vokoun made 43 saves.

Florida’s Nathan Horton and Phoenix’s Lauri Korpikoski also had shootout goals.

A fluke goal keeps the Panthers from fluking their way into a playoff spot. Very appropriate for this franchise. I give up on hoping the Panthers will make the playoffs. All I wish for now, is that the Panthers get their act together. The team has new owners but management hasn’t changed much if at all. So I remain pessimistic about my favorite hockey team.


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.


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!


Phoenix Coyote Scottie Upshall out with torn ACL

He is the team’s leading scorer. From AP-

Phoenix Coyotes forward Scottie Upshall is out indefinitely with a torn ACL in his right knee.


Upshall was injured in Thursday’s 3-2 win over Calgary and missed Saturday night’s 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers. The club said surgery will be necessary to repair the tear.

The 26-year-old right wing has a team-leading 18 goals in 49 games this season.

Upshall is most certainly out for the rest of the season. How will this impact Phoenix’s playoff chances? The Coyotes are 4th in the Western Conference at this point and 7 points ahead of the 9th place team. I have been negative about this team’s playoff chances all year but they’ve kept plugging away. Maybe other players will pick up the slack.


Coming apart?- Buffalo routs Phoenix 7-2

The Sabres have beaten the Coyotes the last four times the teams have met. From AP-

Jason Pominville scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season and the Buffalo Sabres routed the Phoenix Coyotes 7-2 on Monday night to move into a tie with Washington atop the Eastern Conference standings.Buff-Phe

Thomas Vanek had a goal and two assists as the Sabres improved to 8-0-3 in their last 11 games, 2-0-1 on their season-high, seven-game road trip.

The Sabres scored three goals on 13 shots before Phoenix coach Dave Tippett lifted goalie Ilya Bryzgalov 4:01 into the second period. Bryzgalov has allowed 26 goals in his last seven starts.

Buffalo and Washington each have 66 points, but the Sabres have played one fewer game.

It was a season high in goals scored for Buffalo and allowed by Phoenix.


The Coyotes had only four shots in the first period.

Butler’s shot dribbled off Bryzgalov into the net 2:24 into the second period. The shot from the middle of the left circle came after a brilliant pass from Vanek, who spun around and with his back to the net sent the puck across the ice to Butler.

A few weeks ago, I was pessimistic about Phoenix staying in the Western Conference playoff picture. I know better than to read too much into short streaks of games, but Bryzgalov’s play of late is troubling. Phoenix doesn’t have a chance unless this Goalie overacheives like he did early in the season.

Note- The Coyotes are in 5th place in the Western Conference. It is hardly panic time for the team’s fans.

On the other hand, Buffalo is riding Goalie Ryan Miller to the top in the East. Miller’s Goal against average is 2.01 and he has a .936 save percentage. No individual Sabre scares you offensively, but almost make good contributions. Other than Miller, Buffalo has no stars. If Washington doesn’t win the Eastern Conference, Buffalo would be my next choice.

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NHL suspends Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski for 2 games

Sixteen years ago(1994) the Florida Panthers made him the first overall pick of the NHL Draft. From AP-

Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski has been suspended two games by the NHL for an elbow hit to the head of New York Islanders rookie John Tavares.

The suspension, announced Monday, is Jovanovski’s second of the season. He was also penalized two games on Dec. 9.

Jovanovski hit Tavares with 17 seconds left in the first period of the Coyotes’ 5-4 shootout loss on Saturday night, and was assessed a major for elbowing and a game misconduct.

Here’s the video.

No question in my mind about the hit being intentional. Hits to the head can be dangerous, and that’s why players like Jovanovski are suspended for them. He deserves the penalty handed down to him for his hit on John Tavares.


Having fun- Vancouver beats Phoenix 4-0

It was 24 years ago that a Canuck last pulled off a hat trick in consecutive games. From AP-

Alex Burrows pulled off a trick that hadn’t been done by a Vancouver Canucks player in 23 years.Blue Jackets Canucks Hockey

Make that two tricks.

Burrows scored three goals for his second straight hat trick, and Roberto Luongo made 31 saves for his 50th NHL shutout as the Canucks beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 on Thursday night.

No Canucks player has scored three goals in consecutive games since Petri Skriko did it during the 1986-87 season.


Henrik Sedin assisted on each goal by Burrows to move atop the NHL scoring race, three points ahead of San Jose’s Joe Thornton.

“It’s fun coming to the rink every day when you have linemates like this,” Sedin said. “We like playing with each other. We feed off of Burrows. He’s having a lot of fun, and that’s what you need on a line.”

Luongo, who has three shutouts this season, helped the Canucks through a tough second period. He praised his defensemen for clearing rebounds and giving him clear views of the shots he stopped.

He has a long way to go to catch Canadian Olympic teammate Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, who has an NHL-record 106 career regular-season shutouts.

I’m one of Luongo’s biggest fans.(He is a former FLorida Panther) He won’t ever equal Brodeur for career shutouts.

Vancouver is in a very tight race for the NHL’s Northwest division title. They have the same amount of points(55) as Calgary but have played one less game. Plus Colorado trails the Flames and Canucks by just one point.

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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.


Los Angeles King Winger Justin Williams suffers a broken leg


Los Angeles Kings right wing Justin Williams broke his right leg early in the first period in a loss to Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.Kings Coyotes Hockey

Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski was spinning off a check of Kings center Anze Kopitar to hit Williams behind the Phoenix net when both players fell onto Williams.

Williams fell backward with his right leg trapped underneath his torso, dropped onto his back and remained on the ice as play continued briefly in the Kings’ end. He was taken off by stretcher after a lengthy delay at 4:27 of the first period.

“It’s not good,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “We’ll take him back on the flight with us tonight, have the team doctors look at him and get the word out.”

Williams is the Kings 4th leading point scorer. His injury will most certainly an effect on how Los Angeles plays and whether they can make the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 NHL Lockout.


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.


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