Sports Outside the Beltway

Home away from home- Tampa Bay beats Atlanta 2-1

Someone in Atlanta should give Antero Nittymaki the key to the city. From AP-

Ilya Kovalchuk couldn’t break Antero Niittymaki’s “curse” on the Atlanta Thrashers. Instead, the Thrashers captain broke his stick in frustration.Atl-TB

Niittymaki stopped 26 shots for his 16th straight win over Atlanta and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Thrashers 2-1 on Tuesday night for a rare road victory.

Stephane Veilleux and Martin St. Louis scored first-period goals and Niittymaki protected the lead, giving up only a second-period goal to Todd White.

“Sometimes you get a game like that where you can’t get a goal behind,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “The curse continues, I guess. A little frustrating.”

Kovalchuk, the Thrashers’ star who is the subject of trade rumors, broke his stick against the net at the end of the game. He has no goals in the three games against Niittymaki this season.


Niittymaki improved to 13-9-5 overall this season. He is 5-1-1 in his last seven games.


The Lightning improved to 4-1 against the Thrashers this season with their fourth straight win in the series, including three victories with Niittymaki in the net.

Niittymaki, in his first season with the Lightning after five with Philadelphia, improved to 11-0 at Philips Arena.

Tampa has split its goaltending duties between Nittymaki and Mike Smith, but if I were Rick Tocchet I’d hand the job to Nittymaki. His stats(2.47 GAA and .918 save pct) is far better than Smith’s (2.97 and .904).

As for Nittymaki’s mastery over the Thrashers, some players get so hut against a particular team it starts getting into people’s heads. I know it did when I played high school sports and competitive chess. Some teams or players always appeared unbeatable.

Tampa(23-21-11 57 pts) and Atlanta(24-23-8-56) are both in the midst of the 8-team Eastern Conference playoff shuffle. One point separates the teams but the Lightning stand in 8th place and Atlanta 11th. I expect alot more movement between now and April.

The Kovalchuk saga in Atlanta is playing out similarly to what went on between the Florida Panthers and Jay Bouwmeester last season. Will Atlanta trade their best player or do what Florida did, keep him for a playoff push? I think Kovalchuk will end the 2009-10 season in Atlanta but will be playing somewhere else in the NHL next season.


NJ Devil General Manager says postponed game to be costly

Should we start taking up a collection for team owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek? From the Newark Star-Ledger-

The Devils will enter Sunday’s 6 p.m. half-game against the Tampa Bay Lightning trailing by three goals. Barring a dramatic comeback, the resumption of Friday night’s suspended game will be a Devils loss.

It will definitely be a loss in the pocketbook, according to general manager Lou Lamoriello.

“No question there are going to be a lot of costs involved,” Lamoriello confirmed before Saturday night’s game in Montreal. “The circus was moving in tomorrow because the circus plays Tuesday. They had to change the ice. We had to make sure it was OK to hold up what had to be done with the ice to get the game played.”

What do you mean, you can’t put skates on Clowns and Elephants?

Seriously, the Prudential Centre was built for the Devils specifically. In order to keep the NHL team from re-locating. The operators of the arena should remember who their main resident is, and if they forget, then New Jersey management should remind them.

There is also the likelihood that the Devils will have to pay expenses for the Lightning to return to the Prudential Center. That could mean hotel and travel costs.

There’s always the Wyndham Garden Hotel Newark Airport formerly known as the formerly Ramada Inn Newark International Airport. The rooms are comfortable but not fancy and the food is good. I’ve stayed there when playing in Star Tournaments.

The game will be resumed at 6 p.m. Sunday. The teams will play the final 9:12 of the second period with one TV timeout and then go back to the dressing rooms for ice resurfacing. Then the final period will be played

The article makes no mention if there are seats available for the game.

I asked Lamoriello if he felt the fans who remained throughout the one hour and 42 minute delay Friday night were treated fairly. No announcements were made after play was stopped and players were told that the game had been suspended at least a half-hour before the media and fans were informed.

The GM said he felt the team handled the situation with fans properly.

Memo to General Manager Lou Lamoriello. If a NHL game is ever suspended in New Jersey again, tell the media about it first. Otherwise they will whine and make your life miserable.

There were many different problems. NHL bylaws prohibit players from playing on three consecutive days, but that has been waived.

I didn’t know about that rule before writing this blog post. It makes perfect sense because hockey is a rough physically demanding sport.

Both teams agreed to waive the rule.

Coach Jacques Lemaire didn’t want to discuss the fact that the Devils will be trailing, 3-0.

“I thought we were playing really well,” he said.

If down 3-0 is playing really well, what would the score of a Devils game be if they were playing horrible? 100-0?

The article makes no mention if the rest of the game will be on television or not. I won’t be checking later as my day will be spent watching the NFL playoffs and then the final round of the PGA Tour’s SBS Championship.


Tampa Bay-New Jersey game postponed after some lights in the arena fail

It had been over four years since a NHL game had to be postponed. From AP-

The New Jersey Devils’ game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was postponed Friday night when a lighting problem on one side of the arena in the second period could not be fixed.TB-NJ

The teams waited more than an hour and 40 minutes before the Devils announced the game would be rescheduled.

The Lightning led 3-0 with 9:12 left in the period when the lights dimmed in the Devils end and could not be relit.

Steve Downie, Brandon Bochenski and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay.

The last time an NHL game was postponed was on Nov. 22, 2005, when Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer had a seizure on the bench in the first period of a game against the Nashville Predators. Doctors had to perform CPR on Fischer.

The Newark Star Ledger reports that a failed circuit breaker caused the lights to fail. Tampa Bay can’t be happy about what happened tonight. They got 3 out of their 7 shots taken past Goalie Marty Brodeur. You just don’t see that happen too often and the same can be said about lights going out at a NHL arena.

Update- When the game is played again,(perhaps as early as this Sunday) it will resume from the point it was suspended at.


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.


Here we go again- Lack of cable deal will affect Tampa Bay Lightning

It’s the team’s fans that are seeing the plug pulled. From the St. Petersburg Times-

By now, most folks know it’s possible that Fox channels will not be seen on Bright House Networks if a new contract is not reached before midnight Thursday.

While fans worry about missing NFL playoff and BCS bowl games on Fox (locally, Ch. 13), there are other local fans who could be affected. If a deal between Fox and Time Warner Cable, which oversees content for Bright House, is not reached, Lightning and Magic games will disappear as well. Those games are on Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida, which are owned by Fox.

“Obviously, we are keenly interested observers on this one, and we hope that Fox and Time Warner can get something done to prevent any programming from being lost in viewers’ homes,” said Bill Wickett, Lightning executive VP/communications. “We are concerned for Lightning fans and will continue to monitor the situation closely but have confidence that the companies will work hard to reach a deal before the deadline.”

The first Lightning game that could be affected is Jan. 2 against the Penguins. Fox isn’t hopeful a deal will be reached in time.

Lightning fans better not hold their breaths. It was four months ago that the dispute between Directv and Versus ratcheted up with the satellite service no longer airing the channel that broadcasts weekly NHL games, WAC football, and other sports. The dispute still hasn’t been settled and who knows if Fox-Time Warner fight will drag on just as long.


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.


Tampa Bay demotes Defenseman Lukas Krajicek

The Lightning made this personnel move just before the NHL’s holiday roster freeze went into effect. From the St. Petersburg Times-

A day after Lukas Krajicek’s defensive-zone turnover led to a goal in Thursday’s 3-0 loss at Detroit, the defenseman was shipped to AHL Norfolk.Krajicek

Officially, an accumulation of factors cost Krajicek. He had one assist in 23 games and was minus-4 in his past two. And his turnover against the Red Wings led to Todd Bertuzzi’s third-period goal that made the score 2-0.

“The thing is, when you’re not scoring goals, you can’t be at the scene of the crime too many times,” coach Rick Tocchet said Friday. “When you’re not producing, you can’t have your fingerprints at the scene of the crime.”

Acquired in October 2008 from the Canucks for Shane O’Brien, Krajicek, 26, signed a one-year, $1.475 million contract during the summer.

Krajicek’s disappointing play in Tampa is just a continuation of his NHL career that started with the Florida Panthers during the 2001-2002 NHL season. The Panthers made the Czech born defenseman the 24th overall pick of the 2001 NHL entry draft.(Florida dealt him to the Vancouver Canucks on June 23rd 2006 in the infamous Roberto Luongo trade) Prior to 2008-09 where Krajicek scored 19 points, his highest output was 16. A slippage this year shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Tampa Bay management.


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.


Nikolai Khabibulin notches his 300th career win

He is the 24th NHL Goalie to reach that mark. From AP-

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin came up big in the shootout to earn a milestone victory.

A game after his goaltending gaffe led to a loss in Edmonton’s home opener, Khabibulin became just the 24th goaltender in NHL history to hit the 300 career win mark.

He stopped all three shots in the shootout as Edmonton beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 on Tuesday night. Khabibulin had a far better night than Saturday, when he lost the handle on the puck with less than a minute, a miscue that led to a Calgary goal and 4-3 loss to the rival Flames.

“That was a hard way to lose that first game so it was good to see the team rewarded tonight,” said the 36-year-old free-agent acquisition. “It’s nice to hit that milestone but right now I am just happy that we won the game. I’ll try to build on it and make sure I don’t stop at 300, I guess.”

Alan Hemsky scored the only shootout goal.

Khabibulin, who played for Chicago, Tampa, and Winnipeg/Phoenix before coming to Edmonton, may be showing his age. IMHO I think he will be a backup goalie within 2 years, as long as a NHL team doesn’t let salary dictate who should be the starting goaltender. Like what is happening in Washington.


NHL Goalie Olaf Kolzig retires

The South African born 14-year veteran played all but the last year of his career with the Washington Capitals. He was a quiet, low key player. Enjoy your retirement Olie.

Veteran goaltender Olaf Kolzig is retiring after 14 seasons in the NHL.

The 39-year-old former Vezina Trophy winner — known as “Olie the Goalie” — spent most of his career with the Washington Capitals.

He says he plans to spend time with his family but wants to remain involved in hockey.

His 303 career wins rank 21st in the NHL. He finishes his career with a 2.71 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. He posted 35 shutouts in 719 games.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.