Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

Rangers’ Del Zotto Must Continue to Improve

When you are in the National Hockey League, it is not enough to have just one good season. 

This is the kind of attitude that New York Rangers' defenseman Michael Del Zotto must have when the puck drops on the upcoming season, whenever that may be. In fact, for Del Zotto, it is the only way that he will survive under team head coach John Tortorella.

When the 22-year-old entered the league in the 2009-10 season, Del Zotto showed how gifted he was and how he could be too four defenseman in the NHL. That season, Del Zotto posted 37 points (9 goals and 28 assists) in 80 games. Four of the nine goals were on the power play and he even managed to score one game-winning goal as well.

However, one statistic that was quite alarming was Del Zotto's -20. While there was no doubt that Del Zotto could play well on the offensive side of the puck, his defensive abilities certainly did not measure up to other defensemen in the league.

In his second season, Del Zotto hit the "sophomore slump" and struggled mightily with the Blueshirts. Due to his struggles, Del Zotto played in just 47 games with the Rangers scoring 2 goals and adding 9 assists to go along with a dismal -5. 

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  Tags: brad+richards, john+tortorella, marian+gaborik, michael+del+zotto, new+york+rangers, ryan+callahan

Puck Talk with the Great Steve Dangle

When it comes to hockey and social media, there is no doubt that Steve Dangle is well known in both circles.

Steve was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to give us his thoughts on his favorite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, what is going on with the NHL lockout, and why all these fake insiders are coming about.

PH: Once the puck drops, whenever that is, to being the season, how do you see the Toronto Maple Leafs doing this year? Why?
SD: Well, I think Ben Scrivens put it best in a recent interview that I had with him in saying, the Leafs couldn't possibly go on a skid like they did from February onward to the end of the season. Up until their plummet to the bottom of the standings, they were 6th in the East. That's where New Jersey was before losing to the 8th seeded LA Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. Leafs' fans are understandably uncomfortable with Burke's lack of action this summer, as am I. But I think it just might be the right thing to do. They'll challenge for a playoff spot, but it'll be a struggle.

PH: Are you comfortable with a goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens? Why or why not?
SD: Yes. First of all, the other option, acquiring a starting goaltender is unrealistic. There are so few of those available and any of the ones that are available are an extreme risk. As for taking a flyer on a guy like Jonathan Bernier - why? He doesn't project to be much better or worse than James Reimer and on top of that, he's gonna cost you assets to acquire him. Again, the most frustrating move is to do nothing but it might be the right move. What I'm more worried about is if Reimer or Scrivens get hurt.

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  Tags: nhl+lockout, steve+dangle, toronto+maple+leafs

An E-mail Interview with Montreal Canadiens’ Pro Scout Mark Mowers

When one retires from hockey, it is hard to stay away from the game one grew up playing and loving for so many years.

Mark Mowers, the newest pro scout for the Montreal Canadiens, knows the feeling. This is why he is happy to be back with an NHL team, which is something Mowers missed a lot when he retired from the game several years ago.

Mark was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into hockey, what it was like to play in the NHL and overseas, and what he will be doing in his new role with the Canadiens.

PH: How did you get into hockey?
MM: My family moved to upstate NY when I was 3 and my parents just got me involved.  A bit strange because neither played hockey, just hockey fans.

They would spend hours building the outdoor rinks each winter and I guess I never looked back.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player? Why?
MM: My favorite team growing up was whoever Wayne Gretzky played for. So obviously it was Edmonton at first, then it was the Kings. Once he went to St. Louis, he kind of lost me. I also remember having posters of Guy Lafleur and Brett Hull.

 

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  Tags: mark+mowers, montreal+canadiens

Youth Will Be Served on Broadway

No matter when the next NHL season starts, it will be about youth when it comes to the New York Rangers.

Since the NHL lockout in 2004-05, the Blueshirts have been on a much different path than they were prior to the lockout. Instead of being a team that went out and signed or traded for old veterans or free agents, they have become an organization focused on developing their prospects/younger players while also being a team looking for the right pieces to fill the Rangers' organizational puzzle.

Much like last season, the upcoming season will be about developing the club's younger players while hoping guys like Rich Nash, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik (when he comes back from injury), and others can continue to help the team continue on the path to their ultimate goal: the Stanley Cup.

One such youngster who will have a lot of eyes on him is forward Chris Kreider. After winning a national college championship with the Boston College Eagles, Kreider burst onto the Stanley Cup Playoffs scene on Broadway when he made his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators in Game 3. 

While Kreider did not produce in his first game, he showed that he had tremendous speed, a nose for the net and that he was definitely an offensively gifted player that the Rangers would be lucky to have. Little did the Rangers know that Kreider offensive gifts would come to fruition in Game 6 when he scored the game winning goal for the Blueshirts to force a Game 7.

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  Tags: brad+richards, carl+hagelin, chris+kreider, marian+gaborik, michael+del+zotto, new+york+rangers, rick+nash, ryan+callahan, ryan+mcdonagh

Next For Henrik Lundqvist: A Stanley Cup

There is no doubt that since New York Rangers' goaltender Henrik Lundqvist joined the league in the 2005-06 season, he has changed the Blueshirts for the better.

For starters, he gave the team a face. Prior to Lundqvist, the Blueshirts were a lifeless, aging and a somewhat forgetabble hockey club.

That all changed when Henrik burst onto the scene after the lockout. The team got younger, quicker, more exciting to watch and won a heckuva lot more hockey games.

Lundqvist was one of the main reasons for that. He supplied the consistent goaltending that had been missing since Mike Richter retired and showed that he was ready to take the team and New York City on his back and lead them to great things.

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  Tags: henrik+lundqvist, new+york+rangers

It’s Tuukka Time in Boston

For the Boston Bruins, it has certainly been a strange past two seasons, especially when it comes to netminding.

When the 2010-11 season began, many folks in the media and fans alike felt that Bruins' netminder Tuukka Rask would be the starting goaltender for the team. This was mostly based upon the fact that Rask was terrific in 2009-10 when he went 22-12-5 with a 1.97 goals against average, a .931 save percentage and 5 shutouts.

Unfortunately for Rask, he got off to a slow start in 2010-11 and the starting goaltender position went back to Tim Thomas, who ended up having a season to remember for his hockey club. In the regular season, Thomas went 35-11-9 with a 2.00 goals against average, a .938 save percentage, and 9 shutouts en route to winning the Vezina Trophy as the league's best netminder in the regular season.

Of course, Thomas then had a postseason to remember. Thomas led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league's most valuable player in the postseason.

For Rask, this meant a lot of time riding the bench and playing every once in awhile. When he did play last season, Rask was solid in winning 11 games, posting a 2.05 goals against average, stopped .929 of the shotes he faced and picked up 3 shutouts.

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  Tags: boston+bruins, tim+thomas, tuukka+rask

An E-mail Interview with Toronto Hockey Blogger Extraordinaire Jeff Veillete

When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, there are a lot of great bloggers that cover the team and present valuable opinions.

One such blogger who does that and more is Jeff Veillette of Leafs' HQ as well as Marlies HQ. Jeff is also now one of the bloggers for CBS's terrific Eye on Hockey blog.

Jeff was kind enough to take the time to tell us about how he got into hockey, how he became a hockey blogger, which hockey outlets he has blogged/is blogging for and what he is looking to provide his readers at the outlets he covers the sport for.

PH: How did you get into hockey?
JV: I honestly can't remember a time where I wasn't. Both sides of my family have background in the sport, and as such, I was raised to be into it. My first memories are almost all hockey related, from watching old playoff games to wanting to play street hockey with my uncles. It's an essential part of who I am, and I doubt that will ever change.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player? Why?
JV: Being from Toronto, it was pretty easy to jump into the perpetual disappointment sink that is the Maple Leafs. Granted, my early childhood consists of the time they were at least competing in the playoffs, so I'm not completely out of line for it. I had two favourite players growing up - Doug Gilmour represented the Leafs in that regard, as he would always be making the extra effort while on the ice and usually had a point on a big goal.

The other one was Pavel Bure - I loved watching him take off knowing that nobody was going to catch him, and the pure excitement he both created and showed in every game he played. He was actually the reason that the Canucks have been my "secondary" team almost as long as the Leafs have been my first and foremost.

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  Tags: cbs+eye+on+hockey, jeff+veillete, leafs+hq, marlies+hq, toronto+maple+leafs, toronto+marlies

More on Tortorella from the Maven Stan Fischler

From Stan Fischler at MSGNetwork.com:

"We're ready," Tortorella told me, sounding very much like he'd like to open camp in about two seconds. "Camp is set for the 21st (of September) and I'm enthused."

He should be; with an impressive crop of maturing Whiz Kids such as Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, Torts' challenge will be honing their respective games to sharpness. A build-up-to-a-letdown is something every bench boss fears but with the surplus of Rangers talent at hand, the sky's the limit.

When I mentioned that Bill Torrey's formula for Stanley Cup-winners included speed, size and special teams, the coach said that his club has the goods.

"The additions of Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider have given us a lot of speed," he noted. "And don't forget the importance of quickness as opposed to just speed. That's a big part of the way National Hockey League play is going. As for size, Rick Nash can move and he's adding to our size.

Click here for more from the Hockey Maven.

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  Tags: john+tortorella, msgnetwork.com, new+york+rangers, stan+fischler

A New Start for Hockey Blogger/Podcaster Chris Wassel

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is say goodbye to something you love doing. 

For hockey blogger Chris Wassel, it may have been hard to say goodbye to his well known hockey podcast, The Hockey Program. However, with every end, there is a new beginning.

For Wassel, that new beginning is a new podcast with The Hockey Writers. Chris was kind enough to tell us a little bit about his new program as well as what it was like to say goodbye to The Hockey Program podcast.

PH: After several seasons, your radio show on Blog Talk radio, the Hockey Program, has come to an end. What was that feeling like for you?
CW: Honestly, it was tough. When you do something for any length of time routinely over a period of several years, it feels a little strange saying goodbye. We did catch some people a bit off guard but honestly this was something for the best. The time had come to put this chapter to bed so that we could move on to bigger and better things.

Ironically the CBA negotiations or lack of good negotiations made this an even easier decision. Sometimes, an external force really does make it easier.

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  Tags: chris+wassel, fantasy+hockey, the+hockey+program, the+hockey+writers

CBA Talk with Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey

As you can tell, all the new regarding hockey revolves around the CBA negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA. Unfortunately, it is going to be this way until an agreement is reached so I guess we have to start getting used to it fast.

To help us with that is our very own Lyle Richardson, who occasionally blogs here at Kukla’s Korner and of course, runs his own site, Spector’s Hockey.

Lyle was kind enough to take some time out of his crazy blogging schedule to give us his thoughts on all things CBA.

PH: In your opinion, why hasn’t the CBA been renegotiated between the NHL/NHLPA if they claim to care about the fans?
LR: Neither side cares about the fans. If they truly did, a new CBA would’ve been implemented by now and we’d be looking forward to the start of training camps in three weeks. This isn’t about the fans, it’s about distribution of revenue.

PH: You recently wrote a blog on your site that NHL fans are powerless when it comes to the CBA, lockout, strike. Is there anything that could be done in a reasonable way to change this? Why or why not?
LR: The only way the fans can affect real change is by hitting the NHL in its collective wallet. Cute little Twitter protests to “unfollow” the NHL or proclaiming we won’t stand for another lockout are pointless. Same with petitions. They carry no weight. If NHL fans really want to get the attention of the owners and fans, cancel or refuse to renew your season tickets. Refuse to purchase any season tickets which become available. Cancel your subscriptions to NHL Center Ice and The NHL Network. Return your NHL merchandise and refuse to buy any more. If hundreds of thousands of NHL fans did these things, the league would certainly notice.

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About Goal Line Report

Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.

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