The World Hockey Championships are underway in Switzerland. Games are being played in Bern and in Kloten. The initial Preliminary Round began with 16 teams that were sorted into four different four team groups. Each group plays a round robin tournament with the top three teams moving forward.
Group A: This group was won by Canada. They were not seriously tested as they outscored opposition 22-4. Martin St Louis and Jason Spezza led Canada’s offence with Shea Weber leading the defence. Dwayne Roloson and Chris Mason split the duties in goal. Second place was taken by Belarus- They were led offensively by Alexei Kaliuzhny and Mikhail Grabovski, with Ruslan Salei leading their defence. Andrei Mezin was the top goalie. Slovakia finished third with a shootout loss to Belarus. Marcel Hossa was their offensive leader with Rastislav Stana leading then in goal. Eliminated was Hungary, who was led offensively by Imre Peterdi and used Levente Szuper as their top goalie.
The New York Rangers are in a bit of a jam due to the salary cap. As the 2008/09 season ended they had five forwards, four defencemen and a goalie signed for a total salary cap hit of about $42 million. They have to fill half their roster with the remaining money under the salary cap. If we assume that the salary cap remains constant or falls slightly (due to economic recession) this leaves about a $1 million salary cap hit on average for the players to be signed. You can be pretty certain that restricted free agents Nikolai Zherdev and Brandon Dubinsky will take larger than the average salaries. It will be hard to field a competitive team under those conditions.
The Rangers have had a bit of luck. Markus Naslund is retiring. He signed a front-loaded $8 million two year contract with the team last summer. He is passing up the second year (and $3 million) to retire. He could have waited and had his contract bought out and made $2 million over two years for doing nothing. Both of those scenarios would have given the Rangers a salary cap hit from Naslund. Naslund retiring frees up $4 million that can be spent on next season’s salaries.
During the first round of the playoffs I picked Evgeni Malkin as the playoff MVP, but there has been another player who has passed him. Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks is my current choice as playoff MVP. He has the lead in assists and points, with 10 and 13 respectively. In fact he has as many assists as any other player has points in the playoffs so far.
A lot of credit has been given to goaltender Jonas Hiller for the Anaheim Ducks defeat of the San Jose Sharks are current 1-1 tie with the Detroit Red Wings, but I think Getzlaf has been even more important. He has been the player who has made the Ducks offence succeed.
Over the past few days the NHL has been announcing its award nominations (there is one more award left for charitable giving - but I am going to ignore it). I will compare them to my selections and give my thoughts on who will win given the nominations.
Selke Trophy Pavel Datsyuk Detroit Red Wings, Ryan Kesler Vancouver Canucks, Mike Richards Philadelphia Flyers. I had Richards to win this award, but my other nominees were Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal. I think the writers really missed the boat by missing Koivu. I am not surprised Datsyuk is nominated and he can win, but he doesn’t play all of the key defensive situations in Detroit. This is because Mike Babcock likes to roll out all four lines and often the next line plays in a key defensive situation and not Datsyuk. I think Kesler finishes a distant third.
The San Jose Sharks have failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs in the four years that Joe Thornton has been with them. In a lot of people’s minds, that alone is sufficient proof that Joe Thornton is a choker who is unable to win the big game. This argument is clearly too simplistic to prove anything. Let’s look closer at the issue.
A couple days ago James Mirtle listed the best playoff performers since the lockout. Despite a lack of any deep playoff runs, Joe Thornton places 16th in total points with 35 points in 41 games played. He is the only San Jose Shark to make the lists for top forwards, defencemen or goalies. Those offensive numbers Thornton has are certainly respectable numbers. They are down from his regular season scoring rate, in part because there is less scoring in the playoffs than the regular season, but they are good numbers.
The news slipped out a couple days ago that the NHL has been running the Phoenix Coyotes since February. It was a statement from Glendale, Arizona (home of Jobing.com Arena which is the Coyotes home) city manager Ed Beasley. He was trying to assure local taxpayers that the Phoenix Coyotes were paying their debts for parking fees and security costs at the arena. He was entirely unconcerned about the NHL public relations department that hade been trying to hide this information. Almost immediately the Phoenix Coyote front office denied that they are “reporting to the league”. This appears to be a carefully parsed statement to appear as denial to the Arizona Republic newspaper reports of Ed Beasley’s claims. Bill Daly of the NHL responded by saying “I believe the Coyotes will be in Phoenix next season. I won’t comment specifically on the article, other than to say it contains some inaccuracies,” which is clearly not a denial of the story.
When I commented on Daniel Carcillo’s suspension, I assumed that suspensions would get harder to come by as the playoffs went on. This does not seem to be the case yet. In fact Donald Brashear of the Washington Capitals was suspended for six games after two altercations in game six of the Caps series with the New York Rangers. During the pre-game warm up, Brashear shoved Colton Orr of the New York Rangers. For this he was suspended for one game. Orr was a healthy scratch in the game, so nothing further occurred between the two of them. In the game he gave a late hit to the head to Blair Betts. The hit came from behind so Betts was taken by surprise by it and suffered a broken orbital bone (the bone surrounding the eye). For the hit, Brashear was suspended for five more games giving him a total of six games in his suspension.
The first round of the NHL playoffs is over and my predictions came in 5-3 which isn’t too bad. It is time to look at the second round match-ups.
Boston Bruins defeat Carolina Hurricanes Boston has been the team to beat in the East Conference all season. They breezed by Montreal, while Carolina had an epic seven game struggle with New Jersey. The Bruins are the more talented, better rested team and thus the better bet.
The first round of the AHL playoffs is complete. Here is a summary of what happened in the first round series.
Worchester Sharks defeat Hartford Wolf Pack 4 games to 2 Worchester is the San Jose Sharks farm club and Hartford is the New York Rangers affiliate. Hartford took the lead in this series winning the first two games. Worchester required two overtimes to pull out game three and then held on to the final three games. Worcester was led offensively by Riley Armstrong and Dan DaSilva. Patrick Traverse played well on defence and Thomas Greiss was in goal. Hartford’s top scorer was defenceman Bobby Sanguinetti, followed by Dane Byers and Dale Weiss. Matt Zaba was in goal.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are defending Stanley Cup finalists. Despite that they had a slow start this season that had them out of the playoff race. The slow start even led to them firing their coach. These problems occurred despite having Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in their line-up. Malkin was leading the NHL in points and Crosby was not too far behind him. The problems were largely tied to a lack of an elite defenceman and poor goal prevention. They were solved when Sergei Gonchar returned from a shoulder injury.
Gonchar only played 25 games for the Penguins this season, but it was in those games that Pittsburgh climbed back up to serious contention. Gonchar continued his top play into the playoffs scoring five points in six games. He scored the series winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers,
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???