New Jersey Devils

Barry Melrose wants your forgiveness Newark

In case you missed Barry Melrose’s recent analysis of the New Jersey Devils new arena and its immediate surroundings then just zip ahead to the 1:40 mark and enjoy.

“Don’t go outside if you have a wallet or anything else.” C’mon Melrose, you can’t say stuff like that. Who do you think you are? Charles Barkley?

Well, as you might imagine; as soon as the hate mail started rolling in, it didn’t take long for Barry to realize that he had just gagged pretty hard on his toes. After that, it was damage control time.

Melrose said he has driven through Newark before but has not been to the Prudential Center. He said he based his comments on footage aired by Canadian broadcaster TSN before the Devils’ first game at the new arena Oct. 27.

“I was trying to be funny and I’m sorry it didn’t come through that way,” he said by phone from St. Louis. “No excuse. When I talk I don’t want to offend anybody. I love hockey and I want Newark to be a success. I certainly never wanted to hurt the feelings of the people of Newark or the people of New Jersey. There was no malice on my part.

Trying to be funny, huh? We see that Rick Reilly’s move to ESPN is already affecting your comedic delivery.


[Washington Post]: Melrose Offers Apology for Newark Joke
[USA Today]: ESPN’s Melrose sorry for remarks about Newark

NHL General

Thursday Morning NHL Roundup

Senators 3, Devils 2
As the Senators take a 3-1 lead in this series en route to their likely bloodbath with Buffalo in the Conference Finals, I don’t think the whole “What’s happening to Martin Brodeur?” point can be belabored enough. He won his first-round series against the Lightning, sure; but Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier pretty much scored on him at will; the only reason Tampa didn’t win that series is because no one else could score (kinda reminds me of how the Houston Rockets play sometimes, no?). Last night he got smoked again by a team of very quick shooting attackmen, and the Devils are on the brink, much like Tony Soprano in his final season. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it sounded kinda cool.

Red Wings 3, Sharks 2
Two games, one night, one identical final. Spooky. But – they were quite different. See, I was at a bar last night (uh..), and right before I looked up, and Whoopi Goldberg was, for some reason, being interviewed by Michael Kay. Regardless of that image, the ticker on YES revealed Sharks 2, Red Wings 1 with about 17:00 left. I felt confident in that outcome – and the more pressing game in front of me, Phoenix vs. LA in hoops, wasn’t over yet, so I had to get home to watch that one. I wake up this morning, and what to my puck wondering eyes should appear but this outcome. Apparently, the Wings scored with 33 seconds left in regulation, then in OT to win this puppy. Series is 2-2, headed back to “The Joe” on Saturday. Remember when Hogan vs. Flair headlined Halloween Havoc ’94 at The Joe? I do. Hogan vs. Flair is, in many ways, an apt analogy for this series – both these squads have been around the block a few times postseason-wise. Hogan is probably the Wings – more glory in the past in the form of “world titles.” While Flair actually had more titles than Hogan, no one really gave a crap about that Crockett promotion, so his victories – like the Sharks’ – seemed less significant. If you’re scoring at home, please note I spent 3/4 of this post discussing MLB (Kay), NBA (Suns), and WWF/WCW, and about 1/4 discussing hockey. It’s a good thing Sportscolumn isn’t paying me.

[Ted Bauer will be covering the NHL playoffs for us this year. You can find more of Ted’s work at A Price Above Bip Roberts.]

NHL General

Friday Morning NHL Roundup

Sharks 2, Red Wings 0
I’ve written before about my fascination – perhaps of an unhealthy nature – with the San Jose Sharks. Long story short: a few weeks before my frosh year of college, my dad and I were buying posters; I liked the colors on the Sharks poster (you should have seen how I picked NCAA Tournament teams back then), and thus bought it; it led to an oddly interesting dynamic with a wallflower who lived down the hall from me. Basically, I think I made him throw up from drinking for the first time in his life (and the second, and third, but those are different matters). The Sharks, though, brought us together.

The one legitimate thing I liked about San Jose aside from their colors was how they manhandled Detroit that year they (SJ) were the 8 seed. Arturs Irbe? He was en fuego in that series. The image of those guys skating out of the shark’s mouth en route to a massive upset is something that really kept me tuned into hockey back in the mid 1990s.

It appears San Jose is still owning Detroit, because in Game 1 of the Western Semis last night, they hung a 2-0 win on ’em. Nabokov had 34 saves. Mike Grier and Matt Carle – whose name doesn’t even hyperlink off NHL.Com for some reason – provided the offense. I guess the moral of this story is, a shark will always eat an octopus (or, for that matter, a seal – you guys been watching Planet Earth?).

Senators 5, Devils 4
Two relevant things emerged from this game, in my mind, and I wouldn’t call myself a “puckhead” by any means (maybe a “puckbunny,” but that’s an entirely different tangent), so maybe I’m wrong.

1. What’s wrong with Marin Broduer? OK, he’s old. And OK, the Devils still advanced out of the first round, but Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis basically tattooed their names all over Brodeur’s back, posterior, and nether regions, smacking him around for 11 goals. The problem for Tampa Bay is, they only scored three other goals in all. Anyway, tonight he gives up a goal 90 seconds into the game – Jason Spezza – and then three more in the first period. The Devils are already in a 4-0 hole. How’s a band of brothers going to come back from that? Huh? Huh? It hurts so good, Marty.

2. If anyone cares, what’s the broader American sentiment on Dany Heatley these days? The guy is, for all intents and purposes, someone associated with murder. He also happens to be one of the best damn players in hockey; his two years in Ottawa, he’s had over 100 points per season. In this game, he was one of the Fatal Four that scored on Martin B. in the first period, after a solid first round. What’s your take: is Heatley a monster or a misunderstood offensive genius who was driving the wrong Ferrari at the wrong time? Frankly, I think mistakes happen, and sometimes they’re absolutely awful in terms of their ramifications. An Eastern Conference Finals battle between Chris Drury, the boy who can do no wrong, and Dany Heatley, the brotha who can do no right, would be an absolutely intoxicating battle of Good vs. Evil. Yea, I’m a smidgeon melodramatic.

[Ted Bauer will be covering the NHL playoffs for us this year. You can find more of Ted’s work at A Price Above Bip Roberts.]

New Jersey Devils

You should see what they planned to do if he was in second place

Lou Lamoriello, one of the best GMs in sports according to Forbes, fired Claude Julien today.  The Devils are first place in the division, won four of the last five and are headed into the playoffs as potentially the number 2 seed in the conference.  Does Lou Lamoriello think he’s Pat Riley or something.

This is the oddest firing we’ve ever heard of.  We’ll let James Mirtle do the commentary:

Obviously there are some tensions behind the scenes to which we haven’t been privy to — but my guess is that’s something that will come out over the next few days. Duhatschek notes that many players looked at the team’s coaching situation as one where Lamoriello was pulling the strings from on high anyway.

Of course, hockey’s wiliest GM has pulled this stunt more than once before, which makes me wonder just who will be willing to take on the Devils’ coaching role in the future given their volatile boss and a lack of job security.

Behind the scenes?  Hmmmm… did someone sleep with someone’s wife?

[James Mirtle]: Lamoriello cans his coach

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Islander Injured

1. Alexei Y”ouch”in
New York Islanders captain Alexei Yashin could be out for up to a month, thanks to a sprained knee suffered in Saturday’s game against Washington. This has to be some disgusting news for Isles fans, especially when you consider Alexei’s numbers so far this year: 10 goals, 18 assists, and 28 total points for a +10 rating. He’s the team leader in assists and points, so a big chunk of New York’s offense has just been forced off the ice (the set timetable for his return is officially 2-4 weeks). This was a very untimely injury, seeing that the Islanders are just beginning to heat up–winners of six of the last eight games, they look to be alive and kicking in the Eastern Conference.

2. Devils Deteriorating
New Jersey remained in a bit of a funk after last night’s contest with the Los Angeles Kings, dropping their fourth straight game. L.A. pulled it out in shootouts, with Alexander Frolov scoring the game-winning goal for the 3-2 Kings victory. New Jersey held the lead in the Atlantic Division not long ago, but the significant play of both New York teams has dropped the Devils down to third. For Los Angeles, it was their second consecutive victory (but we’re not too sure that it would even be worth it to explain their chances in the Pacific). All regulation scoring in this game came in the 2nd period, when the Devils and Kings each scored twice. Despite the loss Martin Brodeur played well, stopping 26 shots.

3. Wings Unlock The Secret…
…to winning again. What is it? Simple: Just play the entire game shorthanded, and chances are they’ll come out as victorious. Detroit got a pair of 3rd period shorthanded goals en route to a 2-1 victory over the Dallas stars. Kris Draper and Mathieu Schneider were both able to beat Marty Turco while playing with the disadvantage. Dominik Hasek ensured that the two goals would be enough for the win, ending up with 20 saves on the night. It ended a five-game losing streak for Detroit, who had a nine-game winning streak snapped to begin the slump. For the Stars, their three-game win streak ended–thanks in large part to Detroit’s penalty kill, who held Dallas to 0-5 on the power play while tallying the two decisive shorthanded goals.

Check It Out
Darren Eliot reports that the NHL’s new rules have stripped the game of its physical component. Just based off of observation, the increase in penalties has been clear since the introduction of the new rulebook. It truly does take some flow from the game– knowing that roughly a quarter to a half of the contest will be played with one team shorthanded.

Game of the Night: Anaheim at Edmonton
Chris Pronger returns to Rexall Place–this time as a member of the Ducks

The Last Shot
Monday was arguably the best day of Trent Yawney’s life, while Denis Savard is left to wonder: “Why me?”

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Good Times in Anaheim

1. Feeling Ducky
The Ducks just keep quacking along this year, and if not for the solid play of the Stars and Sharks, they would already be a lock to win the Pacific. They continued their trend of winning on Thursday night, turning in the usual all-around performance that we’ve become accustomed to seeing. With a 6-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim set an NHL record for most games without a regulation loss to start a season. At 12-0-4, they have played an astounding 16 games without being behind after three periods. The Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf scored two goals, helping netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere breathe a little easier. ‘Giggy’ was no sieve on Thursday, stopping all 20 shots that came his way en route to a shutout victory. With the loss, Vancouver has lost four of their last five, scoring only eight goals in that span.

2. Blackhawk Bummer
The Devils earned a shootout victory over the reeling Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, winning by a score of 2-1. For Chicago, it’s their eighth straight losswith only nine points on the season, they have plummeted to the bottom of the Central Division. Goalie Brian Boucher has started seven games this year for Chi-town, and is currently sitting at 0-7-0. That’s pretty sad. New Jersey, on the other hand, won their third straight for the first time this year, and are now leading the Atlantic Division. They held Chicago to 0-4 on the Power Play, meaning the Blackhawks have not scored a Power Play goal in six games. For all you fans in Chicago sitting around and waiting for the Blackhawks to be good, we feel your pain. You know (and we know) deep inside that it just isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

3. Stars Squeak By
Dallas downed the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona on Thursday, winning in a low scoring effort, 1-0. Marty Turco earned his first shutout of the year, but only had to face 13 shots. Brenden Morrow’s Power Play goal was enough for the Stars to break away with the win; their defense did the rest. On the other side, Phoenix goalie Curtis Joseph played excellent, stopping 34 of 35 shots in a losing cause. Cujo gave the Coyotes a chance to win, but an abysmal offense could get nothing going against Dallas. 13 shots? Please. This is the NHL. We knew the Coyotes were bad, but many didn’t think they’d come out this flat to start the season. Their offense just cannot jell — they’ve been shut out three times this year. This team just doesn’t make much sense to us. The puzzle pieces are there, but they have absolutely no logic as to how they go together. Here’s hoping they figure it out soon it would be a true shame to see Wayne Gretzky depart the bench this early.

Check It Out
NBC Sports created a timeline of jerseys for the Vancouver Canucks, chronicled in a series of pictures. The common thought here is that the ‘Original Blues’ are the all-time Canuck favorite (better than the butt-ugly butter yellow uniforms of the mid-80’s, at least). Vancouver wore the throwbacks on Thursday night against Anaheim.

Game of the Night: Nashville at Detroit
Predators have won three of last four games in Detroit

The Last Shot
The Red Wings placed Jason Williams on injured reserve a day after suffering a vicious hit at the hands of Edmonton’s Raffi Torres. Williams was carted off the ice, suffering a concussion and laceration to the face.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Anyone up for a shootout?

John Madden

1. Shootout Spectaculars

  • New Jersey defeated Carolina 3-2: The Devils got revenge for being booted from the playoffs by defeating the Hurricanes on Tuesday night. New Jersey’s John Madden scored the game-winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout, sending his team to a 3-2 win and helping the Devils to winning four of their last five games.
  • Montreal defeated Edmonton 3-2: Alex Kovalev scored the game-winning goals for the Canadeins in the shootout, making sure the Canadeins stay in the thick of things in a crowded Northeast Division – currently they’re in third, ix points behind division leader Buffalo. With the victory, Montreal has won three of its last four games.

2. MacInnis Back with Blues
Longtime St. Louis Blues defenseman Al MacInnis has decided to break out of retirement, but not to get back on the ice. Instead he’ll work in the front office, as the vice president of hockey operations for a Blues team that is on the decline (they missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1979). Al was a 13 time all-star with Calgary and St. Louis. He won the Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989, and racked up a Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) to go with it. In 1999 he won the James Norris Trophy for best defenseman in the league. His last season in professional hockey came in 2004, as a member of the St. Louis Blues.

3. Higgins Hurting
The Montreal Canadeins suffered a mighty blow Tuesday when they learned that their star left winger Chris Higgins would be out for a month and a half. Higgins has a partially torn ligament in his left ankle, which he suffered on Saturday in a game against the New Jersey Devils. Higgins is the team leader in goals (8) and points (13). A first round draft pick in 2002, it looks like he has finally reached his potential in professional hockey, and that could be huge for the Canadeins own the stretch.

Check It Out’s Shawn Roarke explains the USHL’s impact on NHL Entry Drafts, and looks at some players from several leagues who will be competing in the USA Junior Hockey Jamboree, a junior hockey all-star event taking place next week. It’s nice to see some of these developmental leagues get some pull from the media – without the USHL’s of the world, we wouldn’t have a lot of the NHL stars that we do today.

Game of the Night: Ottawa at Atlanta
Sens trying to avoid first five game losing streak since 1996

The Last Shot
In a meeting between NHL general managers that lasted several hours, it was determined that the NHL’s unbalanced schedule (see yesterday’s “Check It Out”) will most likely remain for at least one more year… that’s a real bummer, because nobody will be seeing a rematch of the Stanley Cup Finals unless it ends up coming in the Stanley Cup Finals – hard to determine the best team in hockey with only one series.