Archive for February, 2011

Rocky Mountain low for battered Avalanche

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Blame for the Avalanche’s dramatic plunge has fallen on coach Joe Sacco (center), but injuries to key players have surely had a major impact on the team’s play. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

Now that the Peter Forsberg mini-series has run its inevitable course, the calls for Avalanche coach Joe Sacco’s head are becoming louder, especially after Colorado’s 9-1 massacre at the hands of the Flames on Monday, the same day Forsberg called it a career. It was a bad day indeed for the Avs.

This is the same Joe Sacco who last spring was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year. Those Avs were a healthy, young, spirited team that got very good goaltending. Now they are a banged-up, demoralized group with leaky goalies. And somehow that will all be rectified if GM Greg Sherman installs someone — anyone — else in Sacco’s job? It’s not that simple.
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  • Published On Feb 16, 2011
  • Too much Miller Time for the Sabres?

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    Backup goalie Patrick Lalime (left) has not given the Sabres much confidence that he can spell Ryan Miller, so Buffalo’s workhorse has been carrying a mighty load. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Ryan Miller has played 31 consecutive games for the Sabres and that’s a lot for any goalie. In those 31, he’s 18-9-3, but has a 2.85 goals-against average and a sub par .909 save percentage. And after Miller surrendered seven goals to the Islanders on Sunday, one naturally wonders if Lindy Ruff, justifiably regarded as one of the game’s better coaches, has worn out the star netminder.

    Miller’s workhorse streak will end tonight, as the Sabres have recalled Jhonas Enroth from Portland in the AHL to face the Canadiens. The 22-year-old Enroth played earlier this season with mixed results while Miller sat out five games due to a hip injury. He won a pair of postgame skills competitions, but his best performance might have been in a 1-0 loss to Penguins on Nov. 10 – his final game before heading back to Portland.  He hasn’t exactly been burning up the AHL with his 2.83 GAA (ranked 30th in the league), but his respectable  .910 save percentage may be a bit more revealing because he faces nearly 31 shots per outing.

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  • Published On Feb 15, 2011
  • NHL response to Pens-Isles brawl not tough enough

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    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL has been on the edge and even gone over the top too often this season. On Friday night, for one game at least, it spun out of control. And the league’s subsequent disciplinary measures don’t go far enough to discourage players and teams from doing it again.
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  • Published On Feb 14, 2011
  • Quebec plans to build ‘Arena of Dreams’

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    Quebec never forgot the Nordiques’ glory days of Michel Goulet and the Stastny brothers, or how the city lost the team when it couldn’t fund or build a new arena. (George Tiedemann/Sports Illustrated)

    By Stu Hackel

    “We love hockey in this country — unreasonably, unseasonably, unendingly,” writes Bruce Arthur today in Canada’s National Post. And it must be so, because the city and provincial governments of Quebec have decided to commit $400 million of public money to build a new arena in Quebec City by 2015, with groundbreaking scheduled for early 2013. Their expressed purpose is luring an NHL team back to the Plains of Abraham where the Nordiques once roamed. But, they have no commitment that the league will give them one.
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  • Published On Feb 11, 2011
  • Fisher trade could make West even tighter

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    Mike Fisher (12) brings playoff experience and solid two-way play to the Predators, who are in a Western Conference race made hotter by the Flames’ sudden improvement. (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Enough of head shots, goalie fights and TV deals! Let’s talk about hockey for a change.

    Specifically, let’s talk about the wild Western Conference, where the Predators, fresh off administering two spankings to the Red Wings that were sandwiched around a loss to the Oilers, strolled into the trade market today and came home with the Senators center Mike Fisher.

    Now, this is good in a few ways. Nashville needs more consistent scoring and Fisher can provide it. The Preds have never replaced the concussed Matthew Lombardi, and in Fisher they get someone Barry Trotz can use in all situations, who has playoff experience and plays with the kind of consistent intensity that earns a letter on his sweater.
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  • Published On Feb 10, 2011
  • Habs-Bruins rumble deserves closer scrutiny

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    By Stu Hackel

    Fans who watched the Canadiens-Bruins game last night (highlights above) in person or on TSN or Versus certainly got their money’s worth of old time hockey entertainment. The two Original Six rivals combined for 14 goals, 67 shots on net, 182 penalty minutes, 12 fighting majors, including a line brawl and the NHL’s second goalie fight in a week (video) — this one far less eventful than the one in which the Penguins’ Brent Johnson broke Islander Rick DiPietro’s face. Tim Thomas and Carey Price were no better at fighting than they were at stopping the puck.

    It was a fun game in many ways, which is what you want when the Habs and B’s hook up, although it got pretty stupid at the end, especially when Boston’s Adam McQuaid jumped Montreal’s Max Pacioretty with 25 seconds left in a contest that had already been decided. McQuaid got a double minor, Pacioretty got nothing and stayed on the ice to score an essentially meaningless goal with 14 seconds to go that made the final score 8-6.
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  • Published On Feb 10, 2011
  • Cooke rising in hated-player power rankings

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    Matt Cooke, the Penguins’ over-the-top one-man wrecking crew, incurred the wrath of Alex Ovechkin last Sunday with his knee-on-knee shot on the Capitals’ superstar. (Washington Post via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    In general, the rankings of the most despised player in the NHL have Sean Avery at the top of the list. Matt Cooke is gaining ground fast.

    Cooke the Penguin isn’t a yapper like the Rangers’ Unsavory Avery (well, no one is), Alex Burrows of the Canucks, the Stars’ Steve Ott, Vern Fiddler of the Coyotes, the Canadiens’ P.K. Subban and the Flyers’ Chris Pronger. No, Cooke is a heat seeking missile who hunts down opponents and delivers devastating hits that sometimes cross the line. He’s not silent out there but, for Cooke, action speaks louder than words.
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  • Published On Feb 09, 2011
  • NBC, Versus have inside track on NHL deal

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    By Stu Hackel

    If Monday night’s Versus telecast of the Rangers-Red Wings game looked and sounded a lot like an NHL on NBC telecast — with Pierre McGuire “inside the glass” at rinkside along with Mike Emrick and Ed Olczyk in the booth — that’s no coincidence.

    When the $30 billion joint venture transaction between Comcast and General Electric was finalized on Jan. 28, Versus programming came under control of the newly reorganized NBC Sports Group. Its head, Dick Ebersol, has made massive changes at Versus. Not only is this likely to improve the quality of its NHL telecasts, it demonstrates to the NHL how good its national cable package will be if the league renews its NBC and Versus deals.

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  • Published On Feb 08, 2011
  • Players’ action needed to stop headshots

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    Being sent off for four games, as Boston’s Daniel Paille has been, for a headshot hurts a player’s wallet, but the NHLPA must know the cost of a concussion is greater. (Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Joe Haggerty of Comcast Sportsnet New England broke the story on Sunday that the Bruins will shut down Marc Savard for the season after the “moderate concussion” (as if there is such a thing) the center suffered last month. The speculation will now begin on whether Savard’s career is or should be at an end.

    But a larger discussion that somewhat faded in recent months should be revived: At what point will the NHL put some real teeth into the wrist-slapping suspensions it issues when a player blindsides an opponent with a check that targets the head?
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  • Published On Feb 07, 2011
  • Boston brawl full of issues … and one rarity

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    By Stu Hackel

    This doesn’t happen very often in hockey, but in the wake of Thursday night’s wild game in Boston, a player has spoken out critically about a teammate who delivered a blindside hit to the head. It’s a rather remarkable development considering how teammates largely defend each other in hockey’s often tribal culture, but what Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said speaks to just how seriously NHLers are taking the effort to eliminate headshots.

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  • Published On Feb 04, 2011


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