Monday, May 29, 2006

Edmonton Wins the West! Now they just have to wait...

-The Western Conference Final was one of the most boring series’ of hockey I have ever seen. In game 5 it got a little more interesting. On the brink of elimination for the second time in the series, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks put up a fight and scored first, their only tally in the game on a shot from the point by rookie (and I use the term loosely) Francoise Beauchemin with assists from Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne at 7:30 in the first period on the power play. Ethan Moreau of the Oilers scored next at 3:42 in the second period to tie it up. Raffi Torres, who had spent several games out with the flu, scored about 5 minutes later for the game winner. The third period may have been the most exciting period of the whole series.
-The Oilers racked up four penalties in the third period; including a delay of game penalty to veteran Defenseman and penalty killer extraordinaire Chris Pronger at 17:42 of the third after his clearing attempt ricocheted off the glass and into the crowd. It was a very intense end of the period for all fans watching.
-In the end, Edmonton prevailed and is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990. But first, they get some much-needed rest while they await the winner of the Carolina/Buffalo series.
-Teemu Selanne’s ego never ceases to amaze me…after losing he had this to say: “I don't think the better team beat us. We beat ourselves.” Oh really? I would say that is pretty hard to comprehend considering the Ducks out shot the Oilers in EVERY game of the series. If the better team didn’t win, I’ll shave my head and move under one of the bridges over the Platte River…

-After Peter Laviolette decided Martin Gerber was the go-to guy for the Hurricanes, he changed his mind 1:55 into the second period after Buffalo scored its second goal. The gamble paid off however as the Canes beat the Sabres 4-3 in OT to lead the series 3-2 going back to Buffalo.
-In the press conference Canes captain Rod Brind’Amour said that he felt the game “was one of our worst games of the series.” Amazing considering you won! I realize they need to be hard on themselves, but that comment is completely demeaning to the Sabres, who played amazingly and lost on a freak deflection while Carolina was on a power play in the first OT.
-Fun fact for the day: Carolina’s Eric Staal has seven goals and 13 assists during his 15 game point streak, the NHL's longest in the postseason since Pavel Bure went 16 straight games for Vancouver in 1994. Staal is four short of the record set by New York Islanders forward Bryan Trottier in 1981.
-The series returns to Buffalo Tuesday night at 5:30 MST.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

And the Captaincy goes to...

Last Thursday, May 25, Coach George Gwozdecky announced the Captian for the 2006-2007 season. Senior Defensemen Adrian Veideman of Sicamous, British Columbia, will lead the Pioneers in the 2006-2007 campaign. The alternate captains were also announced, Senior JD Corbin, Junior Paul Stastny, and Junior Andrew Thomas were all named as alternate captains. This is the 7th year in a row that a defensemen has been named as Captain. Veideman is the most versatile player on the Pioneer roster as he is capable of playing both defense and forward. Coach Gwozdecky spoke about all the captains in the release.

"Adrian has earned the respect of his teammates on-and-off the ice," Gwozdecky said. "He has played on two NCAA National Championship teams and knows what kind of leadership is necessary for our team to be successful. His selfless play, toughness and willingness to play both offense and defense have been immeasurable."

"J.D. is another in a long line of Colorado natives who have played important leadership roles within the Pioneer hockey program," Gwozdecky said. "He is one of the fastest players in the WCHA and throughout his career has proven to be one of the top penalty killers in college hockey. J.D. is a hard worker who leads by example and we anticipate a strong senior season from him."

"Paul is one of the top forwards in college hockey and one of the most-liked players on the team," Gwozdecky said. "His confidence and personality are contagious and his teammates are ready to follow his lead."

"Andy brings a strong physical presence to our blueline," Gwozdecky said. "He learned a lot from playing alongside Matt Carle for two seasons and we expect him to continue mentoring our young blueliners."

Read the full release here: Veideman to Lead Pioneers as Captain of 2006-07 Hockey Team

Time to play catch-up

Edmonton/Anaheim Game 3
-This game was so boring until the third period. After the last two games ended in 3-1 wins for Edmonton, this game looked to be a similar kind of game. Rookie Toby Petersen, formerly of Colorado College, scored in the first for his first career playoff goal and that stood until the third. Each team scored four goals…not kidding. You should check out the highlights and read the recap ( It was totally killer. The Oilers now lead the series 3-0 and can put the Ducks away in Edmonton on Thursday.
-I love the way Craig MacTavish says the word Calgary. No seriously, it sounds something like cal-GARY…absolutely hilarious…great coach though.
-Hometown boy Fernando Pisani scored the game-winning goal in this one.
-What I thought were just facial ticks from Dwayne Roloson, turned out to be him talking to himself and the posts…not kidding…he talks to the goal posts, almost constantly. I absolutely love the quirky things that goalies do…
-Randy Carlyle, Anaheim’s Head Coach, might just have the best hair of any NHL coach. I like to call his coif “the Peacock.”

Buffalo/Carolina Game 3
-This series could not be more different from the Edmonton/Anaheim series. It is so fast paced and exciting throughout 60 minutes.
-Daniel Briere has become one of my favorite players. He has style and is a great leader. Though he struggled throughout the season with and abdominal injury, he has definitely found his stride.
-Chris Drury, the other Buffalo captain and former Av, continues to show his worth and the Avalanche fan base just exactly what we lost.
-Rookie goal tender Cam Ward was pulled from the game in favor of veteran Martin Gerber after allowing 4 goals. Gerber played an amazing game for the Hurricanes and didn’t allow any goals.
-Buffalo was able to win this one 4-3 and now leads the series 2-1.

Edmonton/Anaheim Game 4
-Another obnoxiously boring game, with a few surprises.
-Randy “the Peacock” Carlyle decided to start John-Sebastian Giguere in goal rather than rookie phenom Ilya Bryzgalov. This might be the most genius idea of the playoffs and it paid off for the Ducks.
-The Ducks won this one 5-3 with very little trouble from the Oilers, who are suffering from the Flu, or so they say.
-The series moves back to Anaheim, where again the Oilers have the chance to eliminate the Ducks.
-Brett Skinner was a healthy scratch for the third night. Since being called up from the Manitoba Moose on May 19, he has not seen any ice time which is not really surprising at all. But it makes me hopeful that he will see time with the Ducks next season. Why else would they call him up unless they wanted him to get acquainted with the team? I have full faith in Randy Carlyle that he will do well for Skinner.

Buffalo/Carolina Game 4
-In a semi-surprising move, Peter Laviolette started Martin Gerber in goal rather than Cam Ward. Gerber hasn’t played in nearly a month since losing the job to Ward.
-Something I noticed about Gerber is he is so large he just seems to fill the entire net…
-Buffalo had a terribly lackluster performance and didn’t deserve to win this game. They lost 4-0 and the series is now tied at 2 games a piece. They return to Carolina for game 5 tomorrow night.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Presenting the Amazing Roli the Goalie...

It’s Sunday which means homework day. So while I am procrastinating on writing a 25 page research paper (that the minimum by the way) I thought I should post something….

-The Western conference finals kicked off last Friday when Edmonton faced Anaheim at the Arrowhead Pond in California. After nearly being bored to tears for 18 longs minutes in the first period, there was an absolutely amazing goal by Mike Peca. It’s so amazing, you have to see it for yourself…
-This video shows a long bit where the Anaheim coach discusses the short handed goal, then the best part, where Dwayne Roloson celebrates…
-Edmonton won the game 3-1 with one shorthanded, one powerplay and one empty net goal. Overall, it seemed that both teams were playing too tentatively. Hopefully tonight’s game will be more exciting.
-The Buffalo Sabres/Carolina Hurricanes game was a complete opposite to the Edmonton Anaheim game, it was exciting end-to-end hockey. The Sabres won 3-2, but towards the end, the Canes played the best hockey of the game. I think this series will definitely go to 7 games and will remain as exciting as the first game.
-Former DU All-America and would be Captain, Brett Skinner was called up to Anaheim from the Manitoba Moose. After being traded at the dealine from Vancouver to Anaheim, Skinner spent the remainder of his season with the Moose who were recently eliminated from the Calder Cup Playoffs of the AHL. Skinner had four goals and 21 assists in 65 games with the Moose in the regular season and four assists in 13 playoff games before they were eliminated. It’s assumed that he will only practice with the team, but it will be interesting to see if he suits up tonight.

Ryan “the Mullet” Smyth Picture of the Day

Friday, May 19, 2006

One step closer to the Edge...

Been terribly busy at work…some quick thoughts for today…

-Unfortunately San Jose is out of the playoffs. They lost on Wednesday 2-0 on Edmonton’s home ice. Great win for Edmonton though and their “Cinderella” story continues. I always found it interesting that the term Cinderella story was applied to sports teams...
-Edmonton faces Anaheim tonight at 7pm MST. I will be rooting for Edmonton. It’s Ryan Smyth’s mullet really that swayed my allegiance. It’s just so beautiful…but also my utter disdain for Teemu Selanne had a big part too. It’s heartening to know that he lost his team while playing the US in the Olympics…
-The Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes meet tomorrow at 12pm MST in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m gonna have to go with Buffalo on this one. I have already expounded greatly on all the attributes of Ryan Miller. Not to mention former Av Chris Drury is just plain getting it done for Buffalo. I also love Daniel Briere…
-In other news, Matt Carle was named the Male Student-Athlete of the Year at DU. Another nice award for him to wrap up his college career.

Ryan “the Mullet” Smyth Picture of the Day
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Monday, May 15, 2006

It's like the Oscars for DU...

At the 50th Annual Hockey Awards Banquet last Saturday, the following awards were presented:

Bill Masterton Memorial Award (MVP): Matt Carle
Keith Magnuson Memorial Award (Best Defensive Player): Matt Carle
Player's Bench "Star of the Year" Award: Gabe Gauthier
Dr. Ralph Verploeg Award as Most Inspirational Player: Gabe Gauthier
Bob Martin Award for Community Service: Gabe Gauthier
Barry Sharp Memorial Award (Rookie of the Year): Chris Butler
Murray Armstrong Award (Most Improved Player): Ryan Dingle
Dr. Ken Bredesen Award for Sportsmanship: J.D. Corbin
Dr. Art Mason Award as Denver's Top Student-Athletes: J.D. Corbin and Danny King
Leading Scorer Award: Paul Stastny

Also, Dr. Nancy Sampson recognized DU's 12 All-WCHA Academic honorees, as all earned a 3.0 GPA or better this season.
Zach Blom
Matt Carle
Steven Cook
J.D. Corbin
Glenn Fisher
Ryan Helgason
Jon James
Danny King
Brock McMorris,
Ted O'Leary
Paul Stastny
Andrew Thomas

In addition, Blom, Cook, Corbin, King, McMorris and O'Leary were recognized for winning WCHA Scholar-Athlete Awards for GPA's above 3.5.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Another one bites the dust...

Uugghh…I am almost too depressed to write. Yet here I sit in my office, listening to Anna Nalick and the sound of my boss droning on and on about meaningless nothings. Thoughts for today…

-I still can’t get over the sweetest mullet on the planet, way to go Ryan Smyth. It haunts my dreams. I almost want to root for it, but my allegiance to Matt Carle, one of my all-time favorite former DU stars, wins out. I really hope that San Jose can pull out the win over Edmonton tonight. A scary thought that, as the Oilers seem to be doing so well on home ice.
-In other Ryan Smyth news, he took a nasty hit to the mouth in the second period on a clearing attempt from Chris Pronger. His teammate said it best: "Not that he was pretty before, but he is not going to look good come game-time," said Oilers left-winger Ethan Moreau, who believes Smyth will be stitched up and ready for Game 4 Friday. Smyth lost 3 teeth and made a trip to the dentist yesterday. It’s really gotta suck when your own teammate tries to take you out…I think Pronger was mesmerized by the epic mullet and got distracted. Smyth came back into the game and assisted on the 3rdOT game winning goal. Now that’s what hockey is all about!
-What is going on with Martin Brodeur and the Devils? After their epic 15 game win streak ended, they haven’t put together a decent game. I almost feel sorry for them…almost…
-I think I may have taken for granted that my loyal readers follow the Avalanche, but it is possible that not everyone has heard about the Massacre of ’06. I nearly cried when the Ducks scored that empty net goal last night in their 4-1 win over the Avs. We can’t blame Pierre Turgeon for this one, since he didn’t even play. However, we can blame Patrice Brisebois. But I should be charitable and blame the whole team, as that would probably be closer to the truth. It should be interesting this summer as the Avs have 13 players who will be free agents this summer, most notably, Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Dan Hinote, Alex Tanguay, Karlis Skrastins, and Marek Svatos.
-How cool would it be if the Western Conference Finals came down to San Jose and Anaheim? It would be amazing! I also think it would be great for hockey in California. In the recent past, some stellar players have come from California, Gabe Gauthier of DU, Brett Sterling of CC (I really didn’t want to, but I have to respect that he is amazing player, just not against DU), Brian Salcido (see previous statement), Robbie Earl (not stellar but well known for his amazing accomplishment of All-American Diving team).
-In the Eastern Conference, I think I am going to have to go with Buffalo. Former Av Chris Drury is having an amazing post season, not to mention Ryan Miller is the future of USA hockey goaltending.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Attack of the hair...

Thoughts on some recent games

-Ryan Smyth of the Edmonton Oilers has the coolest Mullet I have EVER seen!! Watching him during the warm-up was amazing, he’s like a mullet god…His little bangs wisp around in the wind as he skates while his manly mane waves like a flag for white trash around the world! It is truly amazing…props also go to OLN commentator Brian Engblom for his epic mullet; second only to Ryan Smyth’s of course.
-Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres definitely redeemed himself in a 43 save night in Ottawa. Including an amazing save sprawled on his stomach where only his calves’ kept the puck from going into the net…
-After a stellar performance in round 1, Ray Emery of the Ottawa Senators seems to be finally feeling the pressure of the playoffs. While his game was much improved in the last game, he still couldn’t steal the game for the Sens. It doesn’t help that Ryan Miller seems to have found his stride.
-Patrick Marleau might just be the most underrated player in the NHL. As Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton struggle to find a way to score while being defended by Chris Pronger, the best the Oilers’ have to offer, Marleau is stealing the show and proving why he remains the Sharks’ captain.
-Tom Preissing, former Colorado College standout defenseman, got his first playoff goal on a sweet shot through traffic.
-Mick McGeough should really wear a helmet. I think all the hits to his head from loose pucks have seriously affected his ability to make calls. Either that, or he went to Bob’s Basement Referee College and majored in BS Calls (props to Megan for coming up with that one…) or he is actually the WCHA’s most hated ref, Todd Anderson, in disguise.
-Dwayne Roloson has some amazing facial ticks. It never fails, whenever play is stopped, he just ticks away. He also might be one of the funniest looking goalies around, excepting Manny Legacy of course and the way his hair sticks out of the back of his helmet…
-Jose Theodore played so amazingly well last night, but the Avs’ loss overshadowed it. He robbed Teemu Selanne not once, but three times.
-Pierre Turgeon should really just retire. He needs to face the fact that he is too slow for the new NHL. He took three selfish penalties last night and allowed some costly turnovers.
-Patrice Brisebois is the biggest liability on the team. Yes, he makes some great outlet passes, but he allowed the turnover that led to the game-winning goal for Anaheim. I think JQ should put Bob Boughner in his place and bench Breeze-by for the next game. But what do I know?
-Where’s Joey? I see someone skating around who looks like Joe Sakic, but he sure doesn’t play like Joe Sakic…
-The playoff beards just keep getting better and better. By far Scott Niedermayer of Anaheim has the very best. Not only is it full and mountainmanish, but also graying a bit. The funniest might be Dan Hinote’s. It’s patchy and uneven but totally killer….

Monday, May 08, 2006

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Time for some round 2 updates….it was quite a depressing weekend for Avalanche fans. Read on and learn of our sorrow…

Western Conference
4 San Jose vs. 8 Edmonton, series at 1-0: in a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the Shark Tank, the San Jose Sharks took the first game of the best of seven series. The lone Edmonton goal came on the power play after former DU standout Matt Carle took a careless hooking penalty 55 seconds into the game. San Jose tied it up just 5 minutes later on a goal by Sharks’ captain Patrick Marleau. Christian Ehrhoff scored the game winner 3:14 into the second stanza. The Sharks managed to catch up to the speedy Oilers and only allowed them 2 shots on goal in the second period and only 16 during the entire game. Dwayne Roloson turned in another great performance for the Oilers making 28 saves on 30 shots. The series continues tonight at 8:30 MST and can be seen on OLN.

5 Anaheim vs. 7 Colorado, series at 2-0: yes that’s right; the Avs lost the first two games in the series while playing at the Pond. That’s not even the worst part about it. Both losses were shutouts. 25 year old Ilya Bryzgalov, former back-up for J.S. Giguere on the Ducks’ squad, actually set an NHL rookie record set in 1945 for the longest amount of shutout time for the post season. He hasn’t allowed a goal in 229 minutes and 42 seconds, which happens to be not only first among rookies, but 4th overall for any goalie, and he set a franchise record recently held by Giguere (217:54 set in 2003). The only thing that can be said about the play of the Avalanche is that it was atrocious. Absolutely terrible…the first game was lost by a score of 5-0, the second by a score of 3-0. The only possible explanation is that they had too much time off (5 days, while Anaheim had only 2 days). This could be to the Avs’ advantage is the Ducks tire as the series goes. But one thing is for sure, they CANNOT afford to lose a game in Colorado. The series moves to Colorado for game 3 on Tuesday at 6pm MST and can be seen on OLN, TSN, and RDS.

Eastern Conference
1 Ottawa vs. 4 Buffalo, series at 0-1: In the only game where the home team lost, the Buffalo Sabres beat the Ottawa Senators by a score of 7-6 in OT. Former Av Chris Drury netted the game winning goal 18 seconds into 1 OT on a sloppy attempt to clear the puck by Ottawa. At 5 different times of the game, Buffalo was down and 5 times they came back. Here’s the kicker though, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller allowed 6 goals on 33 shots, while Ottawa’s Ray Emery allowed 7 on just 23 shots. I think that definitely points to the sloppiness of both teams in this first game. The series continues tonight in Ottawa at 5pm MST.

2 Carolina vs. 3 New Jersey, series at 1-0: If there is one team that actually played worse than the Avs, it’s New Jersey. This team hadn’t lost since March 26, that’s 15 games, 11 in the regular season and 4 in the post season. On what turned out to be a terrible 34th birthday for Martin Brodeur, the Devils lost 6-0. Brodeur was pulled late the third after allowing 6 goals on 35 shots. Carolina counterpart rookie Cam Ward, on the other hand made 21 saves on 21 shots for his first career playoff shutout. This series continues tonight at 5:30pm MST and can be seen on OLN.

Interesting fact:
Let’s take a look at the ages of the goaltenders and how they have done in the 2nd round:
Western Conference
5 San Jose-Vesa Toskala, 29 won
6 Anaheim-Ilya Bryzgalov, 25 won, won
7 Colorado-Jose Theodore, 29 lost, lost
8 Edmonton-Dwayne Roloson, 37 lost

Easter Conference
1 Ottawa-Ray Emery, 24 lost
2 Carolina-Cam Ward, 22 won

4 Buffalo- Ryan Miller, 25 won

Winning Goaltenders
2 Carolina-Cam Ward, 22 won
4 Buffalo- Ryan Miller, 25 won
5 San Jose-Vesa Toskala, 29 won
6 Anaheim-Ilya Bryzgalov, 25 won, won

Losing Goaltenders
1 Ottawa-Ray Emery, 24 lost
3 New Jersey-Martin Brodeur, 34 lost
7 Colorado-Jose Theodore, 29 lost, lost
8 Edmonton-Dwayne Roloson, 37 lost

It appears that age and experience are not on the side of goaltenders in the new NHL.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Round 2

Round 2 of the playoffs start tonight. Here’s a preview of the Anaheim/Colorado series.

This is a highly evenly matched series. In the 4 games these two teams played during the regular season, all were decided by one goal. Colorado holds the advantage having one three games during the season. Also, this game sees the return of Steve Konowalchuk, who has missed most of the season with a wrist injury. We are glad to see him back! Go Avs!

What Anaheim has:
-Teemu Selanne. The former Av is in the middle of a renaissance. He has had one of the best seasons in recent memory and seems to be on a roll. In the series versus Calgary, Selanne had a team-high 3 points and 6 points.
-Scott Niedermayer. Undoubtedly the Ducks’ best defensemen. He will key in shutting down Joe Sakic and his line. Too bad for Anaheim that Niedermayer can’t play the whole game as there are many other scorers to look out for.
-Francoise Beuchemin. To coin a phrase from my best friend, “Who? He plays what?” This guy came to Anaheim in the Sergei Fedorov trade to Columbus, an after thought really. But since coming to Anaheim and getting back into peak physical shape, he has been having a career year. He plays alongside Scott Niedermayer and has been instrumental in shutting down other teams’ top lines.
-Ilya Bryzgalov. This guy has been huge for the Ducks in net since taking over for J.S. Giguere. After shutting out Calgary, I think this guy is positioned to steal a few games for the Ducks.

What Colorado has:
-Joe Sakic. I said he would come up big and he did. He’ll do the same for the Avs in this series.
-Rob Blake. He had 2 goals and 1 assist in the 1st round. Look for him do to more of the same. Also, he blocked 21 shots and is still healthy.
-Jose Theodore. He has shown us flashes of pure brilliance. I think he should continue to play well, getting better each game. Not to mention, he is communicating well with his d-corps and things seem to be moving more smoothly.
-Brett Clark. Surprise, surprise. He had 2 goals and 1 assist in the 1st round and logged nearly as much ice time as Rob Blake. Not to mention him beautiful (and completely legal) check of Mike Modano that stunned the Stars in game 5.
-Wojtek Wolski. I really can’t say enough about this kid. He was named the OHL MVP this week and had 1 goal and 3 assists in his first 5 NHL playoff games. I think he is going to become more and more comfortable as the playoffs go on.

Why Anaheim wins:
If the Ducks can keep their defense strong and keep up with the speedy Avs they should have a good chance. The key is to keep the Avs from scoring. Anaheim is not a high scoring team per game (in the 7 games of the first series, the Ducks scored a total of 17 goals giving them a goals per game average of 2.42. The Avs scored 18 but scored at least 3 or more in all but one game where they only scored 1 giving them a goals per game average of 3.6) so they have to keep the Avs off the board.

Why Colorado wins:
Jose Theodore needs to play better in the early part of this series than he did in the Dallas series. While he never allowed more than 4 goals against, he allowed at least 2 in each of the 5 games. Also, the defense has to be as good as it was in the last series. Not to mention, the forwards need to do their job on the fore check and in the scoring department. The key will be for the Avs to score as much as they can as early as they can and support Jose.

The series begins tonight in Anaheim.
Gm 1: Fri, May 5 8:00 p.m. Colorado at Anaheim Altitude,
Gm 2: Sun, May 7 1:00 p.m. Colorado at Anaheim NBC, TSN
Gm 3: Tue, May 9 6:00 p.m. Anaheim at Colorado OLN, TSN
Gm 4: Thu, May 11 8:00 p.m. Anaheim at Colorado OLN, TSN
Gm 5: Sun, May 14 1:00 p.m. * Colorado at Anaheim NBC, TSN
Gm 6: Tues, May 16 TBA * Anaheim at Colorado Altitude,
Gm 7: Thur, May 18 TBA * Colorado at Anaheim Altitude,
* if necessary
All times mountain

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The end is only the beginning...

There was only one game last night as every other series had ended in 6 games or less.

3 Calgary vs. 6 Anaheim, Anaheim won series 3-4: Amidst a lackluster performance by the Calgary Flames, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks won the seventh game of the series last night in a 3-0 shut-out of the Flames. Rookie goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made 22 saves in his first playoff shutout in just his fourth playoff game. Miikka Kiprusoff at the other end made 29 saves on 31 shots for 2 goals, the third coming at an empty net shot from Jeff Friesen. Teemu Selanne scored first in the second period on a 30-foot wrist shot while Calgary’s Jordan Leopold was screening Miika Kiprusoff. The Ducks scored again after a Calgary turnover in their end. Ruslan Salei was fed the puck by Vitali Vishnevski who intercepted a clearing attempt. It was a nice win for Anaheim but a superbly disappointing loss for Calgary.

Now, the final four teams standing in the Western Conference are 5 San Jose, 6 Anaheim, 7 Colorado, and 8 Edmonton. I think that the fact that the bottom four seeds all beat the top four seeds shows a definite weakness in the Western Conference and the way the NHL schedules games within divisions. If you look at how the divisions are set up, you will find the following:
Central Division- Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Nashville, and Saint Louis.
Northwest Division- Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Vancouver.
Pacific Division- Anaheim, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Jose.

Sure, Detroit won the President’s Trophy, but they played a majority of their games against teams who were in the bottom of the league. St. Louis finished dead last, Chicago finished at 28, Columbus finished at 25. Not to mention, they spent most April playing games that didn’t have any meaning to them. Whereas teams like Colorado and Edmonton spent most of April fighting for their playoff lives and thus were much more prepared mentally for the playoffs than the Red Wings. I am a strong proponent of changing the way the NHL schedules teams to include more games between conferences. I think this will not only make the teams work harder for playoff positioning but personally, I would love to see the Avs play more Eastern Conference teams throughout the year. I definitely think that the Eastern Conference has more talent spread through the divisions and that makes them stronger competitors. Honestly I think they have an advantage over Western Conference teams and that a team from the Eastern Conference will win the Stanley Cup (yes I am picking them over the Avs…heinous I know).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An upset, a draw, and a blowout!

From The Hockey News:

“I feel like going home and hanging myself, that's what I feel like."

Red Wings goaltender Manny Legace on what he feels like, after getting ousted from the playoffs by the eight-seeded Oilers. Legace gave up 18 goals in the series.

I just couldn’t resist. Sure, Manny Legace might be the nicest guy in hockey but he’s kind of a sieve…don’t believe me? Read on…

Western Conference
1 Detroit vs. 8 Edmonton, Edmonton WON!!!: Sorry, I know, I should be less partial but who am I kidding? The final period in the Detroit/Edmonton game may be one of the greatest periods in hockey! Due to my terrible schedule (I work from 8am-6pm so I can take a class during the day) I was only able to watch the final period of the game on Monday night. When the third period began the score was Detroit 2, Edmonton 0. So I didn’t see much hope of Edmonton pulling out the win in this one, but I was (thankfully) wrong. It all started with Fernando Pisani. He scored two goals roughly 4 minutes apart to tie the game at 2-2. Then Detroit’s Johan Franzen scored 4 minutes after that to give the Red Wings a 3-2 win. Exactly 6 minutes following that goal, Alex Hemsky was making a play on net after a pass from Shawn Horcoff when he was pushed into the net by Nicklas Lidstrom and consequently, the puck went into the net. After a lengthy review of the play in order to ensure that Hemsky hadn’t used a kicking motion to deflect the puck in, the officials ruled that the goal stood, tying the game 3-3. With less than a minute and a half left in the game, Alex Hemsky scored again to win the game for the Edmonton Oilers. After the buzzer sounded, the crowd was shown cheering and hugging and I swear I saw some grown men crying. It was a beautiful thing! Congratulations Edmonton!

3 Calgary vs. 6 Anaheim, series tied 3-3: On Monday night the Calgary Flames had a chance to eliminate the Anaheim Mighty Ducks from the playoffs, but unable to rise to the occasion. Calgary scored first at the 10 minute mark of the first period on a goal by former Av Stephane Yelle. Shortly after, an Anaheim goal was waved off by the officials as they ruled that the Calgary goaltender, Miikka Kiprusoff, had been interfered with. I didn’t agree with the call, but whatever. Another former Av, Teemu Selanne scored the game tying goal in the second period. Then with less than 6 minutes remaining in the third Scott Niedermayer scored on the power play to lift the Ducks to a 2-1 win over the Flames. I think the Ducks made the right decision in playing Ilya Bryzgalov rather than J.S. Giguere who has played terribly throughout the playoffs. The series will finish tonight in Calgary and will be shown on OLN.

Eastern Conference
2 Carolina vs. 7 Montreal, Carolina won 4-2: In a hard fought game last night, Carolina completed their come-back and eliminated the Montreal Canadiens from the playoffs. After Montreal won the first two games, Carolina went on to win 4 games in a row to win the series. Both team scored in the first, Souray at 6:31 for Montreal and Recchi at 7:01 for Carolina, however the next two periods proved to be a goaltending battle between Cristobal Huet and Cam Ward, who replaced the struggling Martin Gerber. Both goalies played excellent games, but ultimately it was Huet who broke first. Cory Stillman scored 1:19 into the 1st OT to win the game for the Hurricanes. The winning goal came on a shot from the point, 53 feet away from the goal.

4 Buffalo vs. 5 Philadelphia, Buffalo won 4-2: In a blowout at the Wachovia center in Philadelphia, the Buffalo Sabres eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers from the playoffs. Six different players scored and Chris Drury scored twice for the Sabres to give them a 7-1 win over the flyers. Branko Radivojevic scored the lone goal for the Flyers with a little over a minute left in the second period. Robert Esche was pulled 7:19 into the second after allowing 5 goals on 17 shots, Antero Niittymaki (whose name I LOVE saying) allowed 2 goals on 11 shots. Sabres tender Ryan Miller, who was overlooked for the US Olympic team for Robert Esche, made 21 saves on 22 shots.

Second Round Match ups:
In the Western Conference, these match ups have not been decided, as they hinge on who wins in tonight’s game of Calgary and Anaheim. Personally, I am hoping that Calgary wins tonight as they seem to be an easier team to play than San Jose. However, possible match ups include:
Calgary vs. Edmonton
San Jose vs. Edmonton
San Jose vs. Colorado
Anaheim vs. Colorado

In the Eastern Conference, the match ups are all set. They are:
Ottawa vs. Buffalo
New Jersey vs. Carolina

Monday, May 01, 2006

In other news....

The Colorado Eagles bid to repeat as President’s Cup Champions fells short as they were defeated in 4 games by the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in the Northern Conference Finals of the Central Hockey League.

In other CHL news, Colorado will be getting a new CHL team for the 2006-2007 season. They will be the called the Rocky Mountain Rage. For those of you who don’t know much about Colorado, Broomfield is roughly 30 minutes north of Denver. I had no idea that they were that interested in hockey up there in, as my grandparents fondly call the area, the boonies….I’m not sure if Colorado will continue to have the Eagles but it appears that we will. These teams will be roughly 45 minutes apart from each other so that should make for some interesting hockey.

University of Denver Assistant Coach Seth Appert has accepted the Head Coaching job at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Located in Troy, New York, RPI has an enrollment of 4,500 and it academically very similar to the University of Denver. It is a member of the ECAC so DU won’t get to see the Engineers very often. RPI has won two national championships, one in 1954 and the other in 1985. I wish all the best the Coach Appert. He did an amazing job of cultivating the goaltenders of DU during his tenure and I hope he can continue his coaching success at RPI.

This is the time of year when many bright shining stars of College Hockey decide to make the big leap to the NHL (or AHL). Thus far 14 college stars have signed with NHL teams. Some have reported straight to their NHL teams while others have been assigned to their teams’ AHL affiliates. Some of the major losses thus far are as follows (in order of most recent, not most important):
-Kris Chucko (Minnesota) signed with the Calgary Flames and will try out for their big club this summer. Personally I don’t think he is ready but he really only went for the money. Good luck!
-Robbie Earl (Wisconsin) signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and was sent straight to their AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies. He played in 3 games with no assists, goals; well basically he didn’t do anything. Now the Marlies season is over. This one was kind of funny because about a week before, he promised 3,000 screaming Badger fans that he would not be signing with Toronto…
-Travis Zajac (North Dakota) signed with the New Jersey Devils and reported straight to their AHL affiliate the Albany River Rats. He played in 2 games, had 1 assist, was a minus-3, and had 2 penalty minutes. I think he could be ready for big show, but he definitely could have used some more time at UND.
-Matt Smaby (North Dakota) signed with the Tampa Bay Lightening and will join the team this summer for their training camp. I think he will spend the next year with Tampa Bay’s affiliate.
-Danny Irmen (Minnesota) signed with the Minnesota Wild. First of all, how funny is it that a kid from North Dakota has played most of his hockey career in Minnesota? Maybe the irony is lost to you but my friends from North Dakota assure me it’s pretty funny! Anyway, I think Danny left because his good buddy Ryan Potulny left. But I think Danny will spend the next year with the Houston Aeros, the Wild’s AHL affiliate.
-Matt Stefanishion (Ferris State) signed with the Washington Capitals. I think he has a pretty good chance of breaking into the line-up next year considering Washington is such a young team as it is.
-Jamie Hunt (Mercyhurst) signed with the Washington Capitals. If the Caps wanted this kid that bad, I’m pretty sure he will break into the line-up next year.
-David McKee (Cornell) signed with Anaheim. Well, Anaheim is having some major problems with goaltending recently, and I think this Hobey Baker Finalist will be just what the doctor ordered in a few years time after he has had time to elevate his game. If only Giguere could hold on for that long…
-Daniel Winnik (New Hampshire) signed with Phoenix. This is a team badly in need of some talent, and though I have never seen Winnik play, if the Great One wants to sign him, he must be worth something…
-Ryan Potulny (Minnesota) signed with Philadelphia. Bandwagon much? He just wanted to be cool like Matt Carle and leave early. Everything that Matt Carle did, Ryan Potulny wanted to do to only he couldn’t quite cut it. Since signing on April 7, he has played 2 games and had 1 assist. He has been a healthy scratch ever since.
-Bill Thomas (Nebraska-Omaha) signed with Phoenix. Ditto what was said for Winnik.
-Matt Carle (Denver) signed with San Jose. I know I have extolled on the greatness of the greatest Denver Defensemen in a long while, but here I go again. In Carle’s 17 games with Sharks, he has 3 goals, 6 assists, is a minus-1 and has 14 penalty minutes. Not to shabby….
-David Backes (Minnesota State Mankato) signed with St. Louis. He will report to the team in the summer. St. Louis definitely needs this guy. He will be great asset to the team that finished last in the NHL. Good Luck!
-Alex Foster (Bowling Green) signed with Toronto and was assigned to their AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies. In 8 games with the Marlies he had 1 goal, was a minus-2 and had 6 penalty minutes.

Good Luck to all these fine young men. And with any luck we won’t loose too many more!

Playoffs Baby!!

Sorry for getting so behind…it’s a crazy thing when work gets uber-busy then I lose the internet connection at home…damn technology! Just kidding…

Western Conference
1 Detroit vs. 8 Edmonton, series at 2-3: GO Edmonton! After winning two in a row, Edmonton lost at home last Thursday in a 4-2 game. In a game that saw 5 of the 6 goals come on the power play, and livid Craig MacTavish, the Red Wings evened the series at 2-2. Sure, the Oilers took some silly penalties (Rookie Matt Greene had 3 penalties all on his own) but this game came down to determination and the Oilers simply didn’t have any. However, on Saturday the tables were turned. Playing in Detroit, Edmonton was able to score 3 goals in the second period as was able to hold off Detroit’s final flurry for a 3-2 win over the Red Wings. The Oilers have a chance to close out the series tonight, as they head back to Edmonton. Of the three wins the Oilers have posted in this series, two have come at Detroit while the third came in Edmonton, after the Oilers has won in Detroit. Hopefully that bodes well!

2 Dallas vs. 7 Colorado, Colorado won the series at 1-4: Last Friday night the Colorado Avalanche had a chance to end the Dallas Stars’ season as game 4 was played in Denver. However, Colorado was not able to close the deal in a 4-1 loss to Dallas. A desperate Dallas team was able to pull out the win on the brink of elimination. Rookie Brad Richardson scored the only goal for Colorado in the first period on a pass from behind the net from Antti Laaksonen less than 5 minutes into the game. However the desperation felt by Dallas was enough to propel them to the win. Dallas iced the game with an empty net goal in the third to force a fifth game. On Sunday, the series headed back to Dallas. In an absolutely stunning win, the Avalanche eliminated the Dallas Stars from the playoffs. Jose Theodore, who allowed only 1 goal in five third periods, made 50 saves. Though it is cliché, he really gave the Avs a chance to win. He looked the most solid I have seen him and made some truly spectacular saves, while making very few “mistakes.” In the 3-2 OT game, Dallas scored first on a power play breakaway by Jussi Jokinen, the shootout God of the NHL. Colorado scored next on a nifty tip by Jimmy Dowd, who was able to find a hole between the post and Mary Turco’s leg to net his seventh career playoff goal. Joe Sakic scored next with less than a minute left in the first period to give the Avs a 2-1 lead. Bill Guerin scored Dallas’ second tally when he poked the puck away from Kurt Sauer in the offensive end. In the OT, Dallas out shot Colorado 11-4, including seven shots in the OT’s only power play. Andrew Brunette scored the winning goal on a rebound from a Joe Sakic shot. CONGRATULATIONS to the Avs!!!

3 Calgary vs. 6 Anaheim, series at 3-2: In a 3-2 OT win, Anaheim tied the series at 2-2 last Thursday. After a quite first period with no scoring and only one penalty, Anaheim scored twice in the second period less than 4 minutes apart to take the lead in the game. However, Jerome Iginla scored twice in less than 3 minutes in the beginning of the third to tie the game. Much to the chagrin of Calgary, Sean O’Donnell scored 1:36 into the first OT to win the game for Anaheim. In game 5 last night, Tony Amonte scored 5 minutes into the game to start off scoring. Once again Jerome Iginla scored twice, once a little over 10 minutes after Amonte scored and then again 1:03 into the second period. J.S. Giguere was pulled after Iginla’s second goal after giving up 3 goals on 8 shots. Anaheim’s back-up Ilya Bryzgalov made 11 saves in the second and 8 saves in the third to shut out the Flames, but his efforts were not enough. Any McDonald of Anaheim spoiled Miikka Kiprusoff’s chance at a shutout when he scored a power play goal in the third. Then Anaheim pulled within one on Rob Niedermayer’s power play goal with 33 seconds left in the game. The series continues tonight in Anaheim as the Flames have a chance to close out the best of seven series.

4 Nashville vs. 5 San Jose, San Jose won the series at 1-4: In another Western Conference upset, the San Jose Sharks beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 last night in Nashville. After winning the first game in the series, Nashville lost 4 in a row. Their third loss came on Thursday in the Shark Tank after putting up a great fight in the 4-5 game. San Jose’s captain, Patrick Marleau scored a hat trick, while University of Denver product Matt Carle had two assists for his first multi-point playoff game. On Sunday, in a 2-1 victory in Nashville, the Sharks eliminated the Predators from the playoffs. The first period went quietly until a flukey goal with .3 left in the first period gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead over the Predators. Scott Hannan passed the puck to Milan Michalek, who shot it from the left circle and Steve Bernier bumped it past Preds goalie Chris Mason. After a review, the officials (not only on the ice, but in the NHL’s war room in Toronto) ruled that it crossed the line before the time expired. Patrick Marleau Scored on the power play in the second for the game-winner. Then Paul Kariya of Nashville scored in the third on the power play to end Vesa Toskala’s shut-out.

Eastern Conference
1 Ottawa vs. 8 Tampa Bay, Ottawa won the series 4-1: After an embarrassing 8-4 loss, Tampa Bay seemed to lose any momentum they had. In game 4 of the series last Thursday, Tampa Bay lost 5-2 to a very strong Ottawa team. 4 of their 5 goals came at even strength. Not to mention John Grahame’s performance in goal for the Lightening was less than stellar, allowing 4 goals in 17 shots is simply not good enough. He was pulled in the third for back-up Burke, who allowed 1 goal on 8 shots in 20 minutes of play. In the final game of series, Tampa Bay struggled to make ends meet again, allowing 2 even strength and 1 power play goal while only managing to score 2 even strength goals in the second. A change in goal did not help. Struggling goalie John Grahame played backup Saturday to veteran Sean Burke who made 35 saves in the loss. It was his first playoff start since he and the Phoenix Coyotes were eliminated from the playoffs by San Jose in 2002. While they applied pressure to the Senators, the Lightening just couldn’t seem to muster the strength to win.

2 Carolina vs. 7 Montreal, series at 3-2: In a tough 2-1 OT loss to the Hurricanes, Montreal surrendered their first game on home ice. Carolina caught some breaks for their first win in the series after losing two at home. The game winner was scored on the power play 3:38 into the first overtime when Huet lost sight of the puck and Eric Staal was able to slide it past him. In perhaps an even more tough loss, the Canadiens surrendered the lead in the series in a 3-2 game that saw more than just the loss of the game. In a scary moment, Saku Koivu received a high-stick to his face that caused an eye injury. Justin Williams, the Hurricanes player who perpetrated the hit was not penalized. Koivu was rushed to the hospital and it is still unclear how much damage was done to his eye. Though he was wearing a half shield, it still did not protect him from the stick that slid under the shield. The Hurricanes took the lead in the series on Sunday with a 2-1 win on their home ice, the first for either team. Cam Ward had a stellar game saving 30 shots in his third straight start after taking the job from Gerber. He seems to be carrying this team. Eric Staal and Matt Cullen scored power play goals for the Canes while Alex Kovalev scored the only goal for the Canadiens. Cristobal Huet had 26 saves on 28 shots.

3 New Jersey vs. 6 New York R, New Jersey won 4-0: In a maybe not so surprising sweep of the New York Rangers, New Jersey advanced the second round of the playoffs as the only team to completely sweep another team. Even the return of Jaromir Jagr could save the Rangers. In a shutout last Wednesday night in Madison Square Gardens, Martin Brodeur made 25 saves. Langenbrunner scored and had an assist to garner the games’ first star, while Patrick Elias also scored and had an assist to earn the games’ second star. Not surprisingly Brodeur came in at the third star (honestly what does a goalie have to do?) In a surprisingly quiet and ironic game (only 5 penalties, 2 in the first and 3 in the second) New Jersey took the third game of the series by a score of 3-0, the last tally coming from former University of North Dakota star Zach Parise. In the final game of the series, the Rangers scored both first and last and again lost the services of Jaromir Jagr. Patrick Elias upped the ante again by have an assist and scoring two goals in the win while Brian Gionta scored the game winner unassisted. The Devils have now won an amazing 15 games in a row. Can anyone stop them?

4 Buffalo vs. 5 Philadelphia, series at 3-2: After losing two on the road, Philadelphia pulled out two home wins to tie the series. Peter Forsberg chose a great time to show the Flyers why they pay him so much. He scored two goals and tallied one assist in a 4-2 win over Buffalo. I should mention however, that the assist came on an empty net…In the second home win, the Sabres didn’t go so quietly, in a 5-4 win, Forsberg again scored twice and added an assist to earn the first star of the game. But let’s not overlook Daniel Briere, the heart and soul of the Sabres franchise who scored two goals himself. On Sunday, rookie Ryan Miller, the Sabres’ goaltender single-handedly took control of the game as he posted a shutout for the lead in the series. Miller made 24 saves, two of which were deflections off of his teammates. He became the third rookie in franchise history to post a shutout in the playoffs. Robert Esche on the other end of the ice also deserves praise as he made 30 saves on 33 shots. The Sabres look to finish this series off tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Wow….that was a lot of writing….