Sports Outside the Beltway

The Comeback I- Pittsburgh Penguins beat NY Islanders 5-0

Sid the kid played hockey last night like he hadn’t suffered a concussion that sidelined him for nearly a year. From AP-

Sidney Crosby is back.

The superstar center capped his return from concussion-like symptoms with two goals and two assists in his season debut as the Pittsburgh Penguins roared by the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.

Unleashing more than 10 months of frustration in 16 energetic minutes, Crosby put to rest all the questions that had popped up during his lengthy comeback.

Can he still skate? Can he take a hit? Can he play at his nearly peerless level? Can he mix it up?

The answer — for the first night anyway — is an emphatic yes.

“I don’t really have good words for it,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “That was special in a lot of ways.”

For no one more than Crosby, who celebrated his first goal in 328 days in decidedly un-Crosbylike fashion.

After a breathless sprint down the ice in which he weaved through the New York defense and beat rookie Anders Nilsson with a backhand, Crosby raised his arms in triumph and let out a roar punctuated by a hard-to-miss profanity.

He laughed while watching himself on replay and later apologized for his poor choice of words while admitting “I couldn’t hold that in.”

Crosby added assists on goals by Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik and capped his comeback with a second tally, a backhand that fluttered by Nilsson early in the third period to provide the final margin.

Steve Sullivan also scored for the Penguins while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots to collect his 21st career shutout, one behind franchise leader Tom Barrasso.

The Islanders aren’t a good team and their goaltending is horrible but still Crosby’s performance last night beat any expectations I had for him in his first game. Pittsburgh had 25 points and was leading the Eastern Conference without Crosby. With him back in strength, the Penguins just became a whole lot scarier.


NHL does not supsend Matt Cooke for hit on Marc Savard

The NHL is now a sick joke. From ESPN-

Pittsburgh Penguins winger Matt Cooke has escaped suspension for a hit to the head of Marc Savard that knocked out the Boston Bruins center.

NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell made the announcement Wednesday at the general managers’ meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. Penguins general manager Ray Shero also confirmed the news to via e-mail.

Cooke delivered a blindside hit with his shoulder to Savard in the third period of Sunday’s game. Savard was taken away on a stretcher and has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 concussion. He is out indefinitely, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has said Savard possibly could miss the remainder of the season.

Doctors will continue to evaluate Savard during the next several days before determining how long the star center might be out.

Florida Panther David Booth suffered a similar concussion and miissed 45 games. Savard could well be out for the rest of the NHL 2009-10 season plus the playoffs.

Here’s a video of the hit

There’s no question it was a deliberate elbow to the head. Now listen to the justification for not suspending Cooke who BTW is a repeat offender.

Under the new guidelines recommended by GMs on Wednesday at the conclusion of their meetings, both hits would have been subject to a penalty and a possible suspension next season. The recommendation of a rule change still needs to be approved by the NHL/NHLPA competition committee and by the league’s board of governors.

“I know it’s not something that Boston fans, or hockey fans would like to hear,” Campbell said, according to TSN. “They want justice. We feel we have to be consistent and do what we feel is right and hopefully we’ve gone to a place in our meetings today that we can eradicate plays like this in the future.”

Colin Campbell you are one very sick puppy. You fucked up on Richards so now you’re using your stupidity in that case to do nothing in the case of Deliberate head hit. You’re telling me if Savard was paralyzed for life by what Cooke did, you would sit on your hands because of precedent. Admit your fucking mistakes or get out of the way other people who care about hockey can stop this nonsense.


Florida Panthers trade D Jordan Leopold to Pittsburgh

He didn’t even last a full season in South Florida. From the Miami Herald-

The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired defenseman Jordan Leopold in a deal with the Florida Panthers.

Florida traded Leopold to Pittsburgh for a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The move was announced Monday, two days before the league’s trade deadline.

The 29-year-old Leopold signed a one-year contract with the Panthers in July. In the summer, he was part of a deal that sent the rights to defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary.

Leopold had 7 goals and 11 points for the season. He was to become a free agent at the end of this season, so the trade wasn’t unexpected.

This and the Dominic Moore trade are all the proof one needs to know about the rest of the 2009-10 Panther season. The team is packing it in. Their play has been brutal for over a month and only the wizardry of G Tomas Vokoun has kept the Panthers anywhere near the playoff race. Their 6 points out the 8th spot at present but it might as well be 1,000. This team isn’t going to the playoffs. AGAIN.

As for the trade, a 2nd round pick is a good deal on paper. If Florida makes good use of the pick. Say another David Booth but not a Lukas Krajicek. Even if the pick works out, Florida isn’t likely to benefit from it for 2-3 years. Dimitry Kulikov(Florida’s 2009 1st round pick) aside, most draft picks don’t come to the league for 2-3 years and then need time to adjust. Florida is rebuilding, AGAIN, but it could be 4 years before fans see improvement. I really am a Masochist when I root for this team 82 games a year.

Also blogging on the trade- Donny at Litter Box Cats.


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.


FSN Pittsburgh suspends hockey producer

A delayed replay in a game played last Thursday is the cause for this action. From AP-

FSN Pittsburgh has indefinitely suspended a longtime hockey producer for not quickly showing a replay that could have caused a short-handed goal to be awarded to Flyers forward Simon Gagne against the Penguins on Thursday.

The producer, Lowell MacDonald Jr., is the one-time lead hockey producer at ESPN and is the son of former Penguins forward Lowell MacDonald.

Gagne’s shot appeared to cross the goal line while Penguins goalie Brent Johnson was covering it during the second period of the Flyers’ 7-4 victory, but the on-ice officials did not signal a goal. TV replays made available to NHL officials in Toronto were inconclusive.

Moments after play resumed, FSN Pittsburgh aired a replay from an overhead camera that showed the puck crossing the goal line. A call cannot be reversed by use of replay once play has started.

TV rights holders are required to make available all angles of a disputed play. Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia also aired the game, but only FSN Pittsburgh’s telecast contained video from the overhead camera.

FSN Pittsburgh, which carries all Penguins game except those televised by NBC and Versus, said in a statement Tuesday that there “is nothing more important than the integrity of the game.”

Penguin management supported FSN Pittsburgh’s decision saying ‘The integrity of the game is paramount.”

I agree with that statement but have a question. Why is a person like Lowell MacDonald Jr., with deep ties to the Penguins(His father played for the team for a almost a decade), allowed to produce broadcasts whose video can be used to sustain or overturn referee decisions? There was a potential for problems that all parties should have known of in advance.

I’m not saying McDonald did anything wrong, just that he shouldn’t have been put in a situation where it can appear he did. Because to maintain the integrity of the game requires there be no one with strong biases in a position to cause damage to it.


Clobbered- Florida beats Pittsburgh 6-2

How many times do a defending Stanley Cup teams not just blow a two-goal deficit but allow six consecutive goals in a game? From AP-

Radek Dvorak scored three goals for his third NHL hat trick, and Tomas Vokoun stopped 46 shots as the Florida Panthers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-2 on Sunday night, sending the Stanley Cup champions to their season-high, fifth straight loss.FL-Pitt

Rostislav Olesz, Jordan Leopold and Steven Reinprecht also scored for the Panthers, who rallied from a 2-0 deficit and snapped a three-game losing streak. Nathan Horton, Michael Frolik and Gregory Campbell each had two assists.

Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy scored first-period goals, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for Pittsburgh, which has lost six of seven.

Dvorak is contributing after a slow start to this season. He had just 3 goals, two of which were shorthanded going into Florida’s game against the NY Islanders on December 14th or just three weeks ago.

Campbell did indeed get two assists but he is still without a goal for the season. Other than salary considerations there is no good reason for Coach Peter DeBoer to be giving this player so much time on ice. What is really at work here, is DeBoer playing favorites. He coached Campbell in a junior league.

The Panthers have many problems, and one of them is their poor handling of personnel. Last year the team had another non-contributing veteran, Brett McLean who wasn’t worth the roster spot when the team has scoring prospects in Rochester named Shawn Matthias and Michael Repik. Guess where Matthias and Repik are now?

The Penguins will bounce back from their current losing streak. I predict them to get to the conference finals this year. After the Penguins scored two goals in the first eleven minutes of play. With Florida coming off three consecutive defeats, I was almost ready to let my wife turn on the Filipino Channel.

Next up for Florida- A three game road trip through Canada. Games against Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. Can Florida get this season righted before coming home to play Washington on January 13th? It would make a nice 48th birthday(Janurary 12th) present for this Panthers fan.


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.


Goalie Martin Broder sets new all-time career shutout mark

He surpassed the previous mark of 103 set by Terry Sawchuck. From AP-

Martin Brodeur broke the NHL record with his 104th career shutout, and maybe the only surprise was how easily it came against the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.Brodeur

Brodeur needed to make only a few difficult saves while breaking Terry Sawchuk’s shutout record, further strengthening his case to be considered as the best goaltender to play the game, and the streaking New Jersey Devils had little trouble beating Pittsburgh 4-0 on Monday night.

Brodeur made 35 saves to break the coveted shutout record only two games after setting another NHL mark. He surpassed Patrick Roy’s record for regular-season appearances by a goaltender when he started his 1,030th on Friday, and Monday was his 1,032nd game in 16 seasons, all with the Devils.

Brodeur made NHL history against one of the most potent offensive teams today. What can be said about this future Hall of Famer that hasn’t been said already? I’ve never seen a better Goalie.


Why I hate FSN Florida

They broadcast 71 of the 82 games the Florida Panthers play in the 2009-10.

Right now the Florida Panthers are playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Florida, who is coming off a 3 game road winning streak, leads the game 2-0. The puck is on ice now with just a few minutes left in the 2nd period. So what am I watching?

Commercials. A few minutes ago the broadcast broke up and a screen came on saying there were technical difficulties.

Bullshit! FSN has technical difficulties every Panther broadcast they do. Their obtrusive in game promotions for other programming, annoy the hell out of me every time I see them. I don’t give a @#$#$%! about the next broadcast, or some other FSN show. I want to watch the hockey on ice like any other NHL fan. How the hell am I supposed to do that when a good size portion of the screen is covered with garbage?

Obviosuly FSN doesn’t give a damn about its viewers. Rather than entertain us, they can’t stop from promoting itself and haven’t a clue how much they piss off viewers when they do. That’s why I hate FSN Florida.

Update- The broadcast is back on. I think the technical difficulties were really an excuse for FSN to flood viewers with more commercials. Florida still leads 2-0. Go Panthers!


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