Sports Outside the Beltway

Shark Bait- Florida beats San Jose 3-2

Another unbelievable Panther win.

Bryan Allen scored with 2:14 left in overtime to help the Florida Panthers rally from an early two-goal deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Saturday.FL-SJ

After becoming the first team in NHL history to win three straight games in regulation when trailing after two periods, the Sharks found themselves on the other side of a late comeback.

Shawn Matthias scored the equalizer off a spin move about 5 minutes into the third period and then set up the game-winner in overtime for Florida. Matthias beat Joe Pavelski on a face off and then went to the front of the net to set a screen for Allen, whose shot from the point beat Thomas Greiss.

San Jose came out on fire in this game. They were up 2-0 17:45 into the game and I was expecting an ugly result.

It didn’t happen. San Jose may have been overconfident. First because Florida isn’t that good, then they haven’t won in San Jose, the Sharks most importantly are one of the best teams in the NHL. All this said, the Panthers managed to beat the Sharks during the 2008-09 season.

San Jose instead of playing their ace Goalie Evegeni Nabokov, sent out Thomas Greiss who hadn’t played in over a month.. Florida Panther Billy Lindsay calls Greiss a terrible puck handler. He looked like it tonight. I think San Jose expected an easy win.

They didn’t get it because Florida didn’t give up. Keith Ballard scored in the 2nd period, while David Booth and Bryan McCabe came tantalizingly close to more goals.

In the third period, Shawn Matthias put in his 6th goal of the season. After early difficulties, Vokoun ended up stopping 37 of 39 shots on goal.

The game went to overtime where Matthias and Allen combined on the winning goal. Sadly I still don’t think Florida will make the post season. This win was thrilling but essentially part of a play that has little meaning barring a miracle. Next up for Florida- Washington on Tuesday. The other team besides San Jose that I picked to make it to the Stanley Cup Championship. Florida hasn’t beaten the Capitals once this season.


Montreal Canadien Maxim Lapierre suspended for 4 games

Welcome to case #2318 of wacky NHL discipline decisions.

Montreal Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre has been suspended four games for a late hit on San Jose Sharks forward Scott Nichol.

The NHL announced the discipline on Friday.

Lapierre knocked Nichol into the end boards 1:50 into the third period of the Sharks’ 3-2 win Thursday night in San Jose.

Nichol was injured on the play and did not return to the game. No penalty was assessed on the play.

Lapierre will miss games at Los Angeles, at Anaheim, against Tampa and against Edmonton. He will be eligible to return March 13 against Boston.

Lets get this straight Lapierre isn’t penalized during the game but has to serve a suspension. Philadelphia Flyer Mike Richards whacks Florida Panther David Booth so hard he earns a five minute penalty and Booth can’t play because of a concussion for three months. Yet the Richards serves no suspension. Isn’t this pro league’s discipline system in serious need of an overhaul?

Here’s a video of the hit

Lapierre deserved the suspension IMHO.

Special Note- This is the 4000th post made to OTB Sports since the blog began on February 21, 2006.


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.


Crystal Ball Time

My annual sports predictions for the upcoming year. Due to some unknown reason, I skipped doing this a year ago. What matters is I came back, right?

1 Cleveland beats the LA Lakers for the NBA Championship
2 Indianapolis defeats Arizona in the Super Bowl Crystall ball
3 San Jose defeats Washington for the Stanley Cup
4 St. Louis beats the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series
5 Tiger Woods returns to golf, wins at least one tournament but no major championships. That is a risky prediction in light of the fact that Tiger has won majors on 3 of this year’s host courses.(Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews)
6 Phil Mickelson wins the US Open
7 Michelle Wie wins at least two tournaments, one of which is a major championship
8 Ji Yai Shin is LPGA player of the year
9 A non-Korean golfer will be LPGA rookie of the year
10 Yu-Na Kim wins figure skating gold at the 2010 Olympics
11 The Miami Dolphins don’t make this year’s playoffs but have a winning 2010 season
12 The Miami Heat make the playoffs but lose in the 1st round
13 The Florida Marlins have a winning record but don’t make the playoffs
14 Urban Meyer doesn’t return as coach of the Florida Gators
15 Joe Paterno announces his retirement after the 2010 Penn State season is complete
16 The Florida Panthers don’t make the playoffs
17 The Florida Panthers trade Goalie Tomas Vokoun
18 Manny Pacquiao loses to Floyd Mayweather
19 Kansas defeats Purdue for the NCAA Basketball Championship
20 Texas defeats Alabama in the BCS Championship game
21 Army has a winning football season and gets a bowl invitation
22 Washington Redskins fire Coach Jim Zorn
23 Serena Williams wins at Wimbledon
24 Versus and Directv finally settle their dispute
25 A North American horse racing track closes its doors.
26 Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula World Drivers Championship
27 New York Rangers fire Coach John Tortorella
28 The New Jersey Nets don’t finish with the worst record in NBA history
29 Connecticut defeats Tennessee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship
30 At least half these predictions are wrong

We’ll come back on December 31st 2010 and see how I did.


Preview?- San Jose beats Washington 5-2

Are these the two teams that will face off in the Stanley Cup finals. From AP-

Joe Thornton had an unusual decision to make when he prepared for his penalty shot in the third period. Having watched teammate Ryane Clowe already convert a penalty shot with a backhander, Thornton figured he needed to try a different tact.SJ-Wash

“I was thinking of going to the backhand but Clowe kind of perfected that earlier,” Thornton said. “So I thought I’d go with the shot and see what I could do.”

Thornton delivered, making San Jose the first team in more than 27 years to score on two penalty shots in a game. The Sharks went on to beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 Wednesday night.

“It’s kind of strange having two in one game,” Thornton said. “I’m not sure the last time that happened.”

It hadn’t happened since Feb. 11, 1982, when Thomas Gradin and Ivan Hlinka converted for Vancouver in Detroit.

That Clowe and Thornton managed to do it could be somewhat surprising considering their records in shootouts. Thornton has missed both shootout attempts this season, while Clowe has made just one of five.

A single penalty shot doesn’t happen very often. For instance, my favorite team the Florida Panthers, hasn’t had one occur in any of their 40 games this season.

San Jose with Thornton, Deny Heatley, Patrick Marleau plus Evegeni Nabokov in goal, I think is the class of the Western Conference. I’ve always put down Washington because of their mediocre goaltending(Jose Theodore and his 3.05 Goals against average stink but The Capitals other goalies this year have been good to very good.). It is hard to bet against a team with someone like Alexander Ovechkin. I do think there is a 50% chance or more that Washington and San Jose will play for the Stanley Cup next spring.


Best in the West?- San Jose beats Chicago 3-2

The two teams with the best records in the NHL Western Conference met last night.

The Chicago Blackhawks controlled the play for nearly the entire game against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, but still fell short.Chi-SJ

Evgeni Nabokov made 45 saves, and Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley each had a goal and an assist to lead the Sharks to their third straight win, 3-2 over Chicago.

Jason Demers also scored for the Sharks, who moved ahead of the Blackhawks into first place in the Western Conference, and snapped Chicago’s four-game overall and five-game home winning streaks.

Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa each had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who outshot the Sharks 47-14.

It’s pretty incredible then that San Jose came out on top last night.

San Jose at 22-8-7 and 51 points has a slight edge over Chicago who has 49 points with a record of 23-9-3. I will add that Colorado, Nashville, and Los Angeles are close behind with points totals of 48, 47, and 47 respectively. At the beginning of the 2009-10 NHL season was predicting those three teams to be doing well.

Or that the Detroit would be 9th in the Western Conference with a record of 18-13-5-41. Injuries and age have taken the Red Wings down a few notches. It is still early for teams to turn around or go into a slump. The Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t looking much like a playoff team around Christmas 2008. We all know who won the 2008-09 Stanley Cup, don’t we.

My personal prediction- I think San Jose will be the west’s #1 seed, Chicago #2, and Detroit will make the playoffs.


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.


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?


The Mighty Ducks- Anaheim beats San Jose 4-1, take series

The team with the best record in the 2008-09 NHL regular season has been eliminated from the playoffs. From AP-

Right when the opening puck dropped, Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton dropped gloves. The star centers’ simmering dislike erupted into a brawl dominated by Thornton, who pummeled Getzlaf with at least two flush blows to the face.

Getzlaf took it and smiled, knowing he still could win the only important fight.

And that’s exactly what happened in the waning minutes of Game 6. Getzlaf scored the knockout goal as the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks ousted the not-so-mighty San Jose Sharks from the postseason with a 4-1 victory Monday night.

Top To Bottom

With a 3-1 loss to Anaheim, the San Jose Sharks became the fourth team to go from winning the Presidents’ Trophy to first-round elimination in the NHL playoffs.
Season Winner Points Result
2008-09 Sharks 117 lost to Ducks
2005-06 Red Wings 124 lost to Oilers
1999-00 Blues 114 lost to Sharks
1990-91 Hawks 106 lost to North Stars

Teemu Selanne and Francois Beauchemin put Anaheim ahead with their first playoff goals on fortunate deflections 43 seconds apart in the second period, and the Ducks coolly finished off the Presidents’ Trophy winners in an upset that could resonate for years in this juicy in-state rivalry.


Jonas Hiller made 36 saves to finish his phenomenal playoff series debut for the Ducks, who won a fight-filled clincher to complete a remarkable playoff upset two years after winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup.

The clubs’ final meeting was a slugfest with 60 total penalty minutes and a long series of brawls between Anaheim’s goals and Hiller’s saves. It all started with the stunning fight between Getzlaf and Thornton, who traded shoves and harsh words two days earlier in San Jose.

San Jose was showing its frustration out of being beaten by their in state rival. Personally I thought Anaheim was capable of winning this series, and thought this was the series most likely to see an upset(After the Rangers-Capitals).

Hiller was brilliant in goal and should get most of the credit for Anaheim’s advancement to the next round. San Jose out shot the Ducks in each of the six games of their series.

The Western conference semi-finals are set now, as the other remaining series ended last night also.

Chicago downed injury-riddled Calgary 4-1 in Monday’s Game 6 to take the series 4-2. The Blackhawks’ previous playoff series win was a four-game sweep of Calgary back in 1996.

The Blackhawks were simply relieved after Monday’s game to have earned their first road win in the series and get a breather before facing the well-rested Vancouver Canucks in the next round.

I thought Chicago would win this series, which they did. Now here are my semi-final round predictions-

Detroit beats Anaheim 4-0. The Ducks magic runs out.
Chicago beats Vancouver 4-3. The superior scoring ability of the Blackhawks trumps Roberto Luongo in goal for the Canucks.


Claude Lemieux signs two-way deal with Sharks

He hasn’t played a NHL game since the 2002-03 season. From AP-

Claude Lemieux signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks on Monday after spending the past month with their top minor-league affiliate, giving another boost to his NHL comeback hopes.

The 43-year-old Lemieux signed with the Worcester Sharks on Nov. 25 after a five-year absence from pro hockey. The four-time Stanley Cup winner’s new contract is a two-way deal, allowing him to play in San Jose or Worcester.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said Lemieux will stay with the Worcester Sharks if he clears waivers Tuesday after signing his new deal. He has two goals, four assists and 12 penalty minutes in 14 games in the minors.

“This is simply the next step in the evaluation process with Claude,” Wilson said.

Lemieux played parts of 20 seasons in the NHL, winning titles with Montreal (1986), New Jersey (1995 and 2000) and Colorado (1996). He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 1995, and his 80 postseason goals rank ninth in league history.

Lemieux was a great player in his day, but five years away from the NHL is likely to leave him deficient as a player. MLB players(Jackie Jensen, Bruce Bochte, and many other) who came back after losing a whole season have had struggles. Two goals in 14 minor league games doesn’t exactly scream he is ready for a comeback either.


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