Sports Outside the Beltway

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?


Pittsburgh defeats Detroit 2-1, wins Stanley Cup

The 2008-09 NHL season is now over. From AP-

Max Talbot scored two second-period goals, and the Penguins overcame the loss of captain Sidney Crosby to beat the defending champion Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Game 7 and win the Cup on Friday night.

Instead of the Red Wings becoming the NHL’s first repeat champion since winning titles in 1997 and 1998, this turned into a Penguins party. The last time Pittsburgh was crowned champion, in 1991 and ’92, it was captained by owner Mario Lemieux.

This one wouldn’t have been possible without a clutch diving save across the crease by Marc-Andre Fleury, who denied four-time champion Nicklas Lidstrom with 1 second left.

“I knew there wasn’t much time left,” Fleury said. “The rebound was wide. I just decided to get my body out there and it hit me in the ribs so it was good.”
Hradek: 2009 Playoffs Top 10

It’s been a wild 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Six of the 15 series went a full seven games and Sid the Kid became the youngest captain to win the Stanley Cup. Here’s E.J.’s favorite moments from this year. Story

Fleury was stellar in making 23 saves and erasing the memories of a 5-0 loss in Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena that put the Penguins on the brink of elimination. Pittsburgh returned home and gutted out a 2-1 win, behind Fleury’s 25 saves in Game 6, and forced the winner-take-all matchup.


This was Pittsburgh’s second championship in four months, following the Steelers’ Super Bowl victory in February.

Jonathan Ericsson cut the Wings’ deficit to 2-1 with 6:07 remaining, and Niklas Kronwall nearly tied it with 2:14 left, but his drive smacked the crossbar. Detroit pressed further after goalie Chris Osgood was pulled, but Fleury stood his ground.

His last save started a wild scene that culminated in the awarding of the Cup.

I watched last night’s game. Not long into the second period, I told my wife whoever scores first is going to win. A minute or two later Talbot scored the first of his two goals. So I was right.

Pittsburgh Penguin coach Dan Bylsma becomes only the second rookie coach to win a Stanley Cup. The last time it happened was 1971.

Much will be made about Pittsburgh’s win taking place without Sydney Crosby in the lineup for half the game. Some of it will be over sensationalized. I think Detroit was the best NHL team for the 2008-09 season, but the Penguins are the champs. Enjoy it Pittsburgh fans, you will tougher time getting back to the finals next year than Detroit will.


Back to the finals- Pittsburgh sweeps Carolina

Pittsburgh became the first NHL team in 25 years to make it to the Stanley Cup finals the year after being defeated in the finals. From AP-

The Penguins are headed back to the Stanley Cup finals, clinching a return trip with a 4-1 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night that finished off a sweep in the Eastern Conference finals. Pittsburgh lost to Detroit last year in a six-game final series.

“We didn’t touch [the trophy] last year, and things didn’t go the way we wanted,” Crosby said. “I thought we’d change it up this year.”

Max Talbot had a goal and an assist, Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin also scored, and Craig Adams added an empty-netter.

Crosby had two assists to extend his point streak to six games, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped the final 30 shots he faced in shutting down Carolina during the last 58 minutes.

The Penguins outscored the Hurricanes 20-9 in the series, netted at least three goals in each game, and trailed for a total of 20 minutes, 30 seconds, in advancing to the Cup finals for the fourth time.

No doubt, the Penguins were impressive in how they dismantled Carolina. I just don’t think they can beat Detroit. Admittedly, I never thought Penguin would get this far in the playoffs either.


NHL may bump up Cup finals start date

As it stands now, hockey fans will see a repeat of the 2007-08 final. From AP-

According to multiple sources, if the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings can wrap up their respective Conference final series by Wednesday night, the Stanley Cup finals likely would start on Saturday, May 30 in Detroit. In this scenario, Game 2 would be played on Sunday, May 31.

This is a change from a May 22 press release from the league that indicated that the championship series would begin on Friday, June 5, if both Conference final series didn’t end in four-game sweeps.

The Penguins can close out their series with a victory over the Hurricanes in Raleigh on Tuesday night. The defending champion Red Wings, meanwhile, have positioned themselves to advance with a win over the Blackhawks on Wednesday in Detroit.

I think Chicago is more than capable of taking Detroit to Game six. On the other hand, Pittsburgh has so dominated Carolina, I would be surprised if the series don’t end in a sweep.

I think bumping up the schedule is a good idea if the semi-finals end early. Why wait a week to begin the final round?

The NHL may be making this schedule change to accomodate NBC’s programming more than to satisfy its fans need for closure to the 2008-09 hockey year.

For the past several days, the league has been working behind the scenes with NBC, which has limited prime time real estate to devote to the Cup finals due to important “sweeps” week programming and the Tonight Show re-launch with new host Conan O’Brien.

According to wikipedia, May sweeps are over and the next isn’t till July.

NBC concentrates on just a small handful of NHL teams for their broadcasts. Two of whom are Detroit and Pittsburgh. I’m sure network executives are delighted these teams will battle it out for the Stanley Cup.


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.


Chris Kunitz fined not suspended for hit on Washington Goalie

Just the usual slap on the wrist from the NHL.

Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz has been fined the maximum amount under the collective bargaining agreement, $2,500, for cross-checking Washington netminder Simeon Varlamov late in Game 2 on Monday night, has learned.

The fine comes in spite of calls from Washington star Alex Ovechkin for Kunitz to be suspended.

Reporters in Arlington — where the Capitals practiced before traveling to Pittsburgh Tuesday afternoon — heard an angry Ovechkin complain that the hit was a “cheap shot” and that Kunitz should be suspended.

“I think it’s dirty and I think the league has to do something about it,” Ovechkin was quoted as saying on the Washington Post Web site.

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau called the hit vicious. Here’s a You Tube video of what happened.

I think the crosscheck was uncalled for too. What is your opinion?


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.


Ouch- Keith Ballard’s hip check on Evgeni Malkin

This was a great and legal hit by the Florida Panther defensemen

For the second time this year, Pittsburgh Penguin Sydney Crosby gets in a fight with a Florida player. Crosby isn’t helping his team by getting into fights. He’s a scorer, not a brawler.

Florida won yesterday by the score of 4-2. That pulled them into a tie with the New York Rangers for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot. Because they have won more games than the Panthers, New York has tiebreaks at this point.


NHL Left Winger Gary Roberts announces his retirement


Pittsburgh Penguins fire coach Michel Therrien

He didn’t even make it through a whole season after taking the team to the Stanley Cup finals. From AP-

The Pittsburgh Penguins fired coach Michel Therrien on Sunday, less than a year after he led the team to the Stanley Cup finals.

Dan Bylsma, coach of the team’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, was installed as interim coach with 25 games remaining in the season.

Even with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who rank first and second in the NHL in scoring, the Penguins have struggled to a 27-25-5 record this season. They’re in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, five points out of eighth and the final playoff spot.

The Penguins lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games in last year’s Stanley Cup finals.

No question about it, Pittsburgh has underachieved all year. A coaching change in my opinion won’t get this team to the 2008-09 NHL postseason.

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