The starters for the NHL All Star Game were announced this week. The All Star Game itself will be played in Ottawa on January 29th with the skills competition running the day before. I thought I would announce my picks for the players who should appear in the All Star Game. I have selected at least one player from each team. Last season the NHL did not follow this policy as it had several rookies selected who participated only in the skills competition and each team was represented by at least one all star or rookie. The worst case of this was the Florida Panthers who were represented by rookie Evgeny Dadonov who is currently in the minors and has never played a full NHL season.
There are 42 All Stars. I have 36 selections to make as the six starters were selected by the fans. These players come from three NHL teams (Ottawa, Toronto and Boston). This leaves 27 teams in need of representation. That leaves nine players available to be selected from any team. I have tried not to pick any players who look likely to be injured when the All Star Game occurs.
I first started blogging about hockey during the 2004/05 lockout. One of the main reasons for this was disgust with the mainstream media parroting the NHL propaganda about labor relations. The media needs the NHL to have access to teams. Without this access nothing differentiates them from the blogging world. Worse, many large media outlets also own hockey teams, thus making the conflict of interest more obvious.
The NHL propaganda machine run through the mainstream media convinced a sizeable portion of fans that the 2004/05 lockout was about creating a system of parity in the league when it was actually about owners taking a larger portion of the NHL revenues. Now that the CBA is ending and a new one must be negotiated, the NHL propaganda machine is trying to convince the fans that the NHLPA is out of line by rejecting the realignment proposal. The fact is the NHLPA has done no such thing, by that hasn’t stopped fan outrage.
In the medal round, Russia and Sweden met in the gold/silver game. This was a rematch of a preliminary round game that Sweden won 4-3 in overtime. In the bronze/4th game Canada met Finland. This is a rematch of a much more lopsided preliminary game that Canada won 8-1.
It is all star season in hockey. The NHL released the winners of the fan voting for the All Star Game today. Yesterday the AHL released their all star rosters. The AHL All Star Game will take place in Atlantic City, New Jersey on January 30th with the skills competition occurring the night before. AHL All Star rosters are bigger than NHL ones. They have 24 players per conference. There are 13 forwards, 8 defencemen and 3 goalies. This is one method to get more deserving players into the game and still have one player from each team.
Unlike the NHL, the AHL still selects two separate teams with one from each conference. There is a fan vote for All Star Game starters which begins now that the All Star rosters have been announced. Fans can only vote for players who have otherwise been selected to the game. This prevents fans from adding an unworthy player and gives fans a better idea who to vote for - as many AHL fans are less aware of other markets in the league than NHL fans due to reduced media coverage.
The quarter and semifinals have completed in the World Junior Hockey Championships. The medal round is ready to go tomorrow. Look back at my preliminary round coverage here.
In the quarterfinals, Finland met Slovakia and the Czech Republic met Russia. The winners moved on to meet Sweden and Canada respectively in the semi finals.
Here are the results:
Last season the Tampa Bay Lightning finished fifth in the East Conference with 103 points and made the semi-finals. Throughout the much of the regular season they did not have great goaltending. They started the year with Dan Ellis and Mike Smith in goal. Neither of them performed like they belonged in the NHL. In January things changed. The Lightning were able to trade for Dwayne Roloson from the New York Islanders. Roloson was their answer in goal. He posted a solid .912 saves percentage and a 2.56 GAA in the regular season and a .924 saves percentage and a 2.51 GAA in the playoffs. The problem was Roloson was a 41 year old veteran and sooner or later he would slow down.
It appears his slow down has been this season. At age 42, Roloson is posting a league worst .883 saves percentage and 3.72 GAA. Tampa Bay has dropped out of the playoff race as this happened. They currently sit in 12th place in the East Conference with a 17-20 record with three regulation tie points.
One surprising thing this season is that it is January and there isn’t a clear choice for the current Hart Trophy leader. The scoring race gives us six players within three points of the scoring lead. Henrik Sedin currently leads the league but has only ten goals. Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel and Daniel Sedin are next. They are followed by Evgeni Malkin and goal scoring leader Steve Stamkos. On defence, the last MVP I selected in Shea Weber of Nashville is out with a concussion. I think he has been the top defenceman so far this season, but if he stays out he will likely soon be caught by Zdeno Chara and Nicklas Lidstrom. Tim Thomas is the top goalie this season followed by Henrik Lundqvist. This is a sizeable group of candidates and no one player has a significant lead.
At this point I pick Steve Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The World Junior Hockey Championships have been underway in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. This is a great tournament to get to see players who may have significant impacts upon the NHL in the future. The teams were sorted into two groups in the preliminary round, which is now complete.
Group A was played in Calgary and consisted of Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. Here is a report on the teams in the order of finish:
The New Jersey Devils currently have a 92.4% success rate on the penalty kill. This is a remarkable success rate. The NHL keeps penalty kill rates on their website since the 1997/98 season and the best penalty kill rate over a full season was 89.2% and this was achieved by the 1999/2000 Dallas Stars and again by the 1997/98 Washington Capitals. Both of those seasons were prior to the 2006 obstruction crackdown. The best achieved since then is 87.8% by the 2008/09 New York Rangers. In that context it is clear that the Devils penalty kill has been remarkable so far this season. The Devils have allowed ten power play goals and scored seven shorthanded goals. Through 36 games played, New Jersey is only -3 on the penalty kill.
The Devils have an aggressive penalty kill where they constantly attack the puck. This helps them score so many shorthanded goals.
After two years of finishes in last place in the NHL it was nice to see the Edmonton Oilers sitting in a playoff spot in the early part of the season was a nice change. The Oilers have a talented young core including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the likely rookie of the year, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. It is clear that this group will likely develop into a good NHL team. It is also clear that this isn’t the year it is going to happen.
The Oilers have won two of their last ten games. They lost in regulation in the other eight. This has gathered them four points in the ten game stretch and that is the worst any team in the league has done in that period. The Oilers are two games into a seven game road trip that is necessitated by the World Junior Hockey Championships, which are being played in Alberta. They are yet to win on the road trip and will likely not have good results in the rest of it.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???