NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Ducks Quacking Along

Ducks lead the Pacific

1. Call Them The Mighty Ducks
Even with the new look, the Anaheim Ducks are still mighty good. The boys from the Pond captured their fourth straight win on Thursday night in British Columbia, outlasting the Vancouver Canucks by a 2-1 score. Ryan Getzlaf, who has been on an absolute roll ever since the season started, tallied the game-winning goal in the 3rd period to give the Ducks the win (he also scored the game-winner on Tuesday against the Oilers). At an astounding 19-2-6, Anaheim has the best record in the NHL.

On Vancouver’s side of things, Alex Edler scored his first career NHL goal- he was the only player to get the puck by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who earned his league-leading 15th win of the year. For the Canucks, it is essential to get back on the right track: having lost three of their last four, they’re second to last in the Northwest Division.

2. Atlanta’s Had Enough…
…of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ dominance. The Thrashers’ 5-0 victory on Thursday snapped an eight game losing streak to Toronto, dating all the way back to October of 2003. Give the credit to Marian Hossa for the offensive firepower–he added an assist to his Hat Trick, and let goaltender Kari Lehtonen do the rest on the defensive side. Lehtonen stopped 36 shots from Toronto for his fourth shutout of the season (he also had one on Saturday). Slava Kozlov produced for Atlanta with four assists on the night, capping off an impressive all-around performance for the Thrashers. It was Atlanta’s third straight win, sending the Maple Leafs to their third straight loss.

3. Brewing Up A Storm
The Carolina Hurricanes showed glimpses of last season’s squad on Thursday night as they defeated the Montreal Canadeiens in Raleigh, 4-2. Eric Cole had a nice game for Carolina, scoring two goals to help his team keep up with Atlanta, who is ahead of Carolina in the Southeast Division. The `Canes went into the 3rd and final period down by a goal, and were able to get a pair before the final buzzer sounded at the RBC Center in North Carolina.
Even with the loss, Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet had a nice night, saving 44 of the 48 shots he was peppered with.

Check It Out
We’re counting down the days until January, when the NHL is set to unveil their new jerseys. The new uni style will feature “increased flexibility” and is said to be “less bulky” than the ones currently in use.

Game of the Night: Detroit at Minnesota
Marian Gaborik of the Wild to play for first time in more than a month

The Last Shot
More developments in the NHL gambling ring investigation. According to the AP, a key cog in the scandal is to plead guilty on Friday, and could face up to a year in jail. Not much to say here, except the entire situation is just plain silly, and it is a shame that the NHL has to deal with something like this while they’re still on the road to recovery from the lockout.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Hats Off to Atlanta – Again

Best part of the hat trick

1. Sens Slumping, Thrashers Thumping
The Ottawa Senators are reeling at the moment, now having lost five straight games. This is their longest losing streak in 10 years, believe it or not. Their most recent loss came at the hands of the mighty Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night, as the Sens managed to blow two 2-goal leads in the game. Credit Atlanta, though. This is a team on a mission, and that has been clearly seen through the first month of the season.
Slava Kozlov lit the red lamp three times in this game for his fifth career hat trick. His last 3-goal game also came against the Senators in January. With Ilya Kovalchuck’s Hat Trick on Monday night, it marks the first time in the history of the franchise that they’ve had hat tricks in consecutive games. Hat sales are expected to skyrocket this week in Atlanta, because everyone in town is now looking for a new Thrashers hat.

2. Dominik the Dominator
Detroit continued to melt the ice on Wednesday night, when they made quick work of the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 3-0. For Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek, he earned his 70th career shutout and led Detroit to their seventh consecutive win. At 41 years old, he still has what it takes. If I were him, I’d aim to become the Julio Franco of hockey–play as long as possible. It also helps that the Red Wings have arguably the best defense in the NHL, and pucks are usually cleared out before Hasek has to stop a shot. The only low point for Detroit in this contest came in the second period, when Jason Williams left the ice on a stretcher. He suffered a vicious check to the face, and then landed face-first onto the ice. Ouchies.

3. Sundin Don’t Shine In Toronto
Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin is expected to miss up to month with a torn ligament in his right elbow. He was injured on Monday night while playing against the Philadelphia Flyers. This could eventually be a big blow for the Maple Leafs. They’re going to have to keep up with the Buffalo Sabres in the Northeast Division (they have done an excellent job of hanging around in that division this year) without the help of their team leader in points – and in a division that could end up in a deadlock at the end of the year, this injury could be huge.

Check It Out
ESPN’s John Buccigross evaluates today’s NHL and plays “Buy or Sell” with every team. His biggest buy is with Pittsburgh, and since Evgeni Malkin showed up, we tend to agree. The Maple Leafs, Oilers, and Avalanche are among a handful of teams he would not currently pay to watch.

Game of the Night: Washington at Carolina
Capitals: coming off first back-to-back wins of the season

The Last Shot
The Flyers’ Jeff Carter is sidelined for six weeks, thanks to a broken ankle. This prompted Philly to call up veteran Petr Nedved from the AHL. The Flyers’ farm team, the Philadelphia Phantoms, are 5-6-1 on the season… that’s better than the record of the big league club, as the Flyers now stand at 3-10-1. Our condolences go out to Nedved– we’d rather play on the Phantoms this year, too.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: So what do they do with all those hats?


1. Collecting Hats
Ilya Kovalchuck was the star for the Thrashers on Monday night, leading his team to a 5-3 win in Atlanta. The #1 overall draft pick in 2001 sent the hats flying with a Hat Trick, netting three Power Play goals and an assist in the game. Kovalchuk continues to impress, and is slowly forming into one of the best players in the league. Atlanta’s Johan Hedberg had a nice night between the pipes, stopping 24 of 27 shots faced on the way to his third straight win. Another big reason for the Thrashers’ success was the amount of time they spent on the man advantage. Boston committed 13 penalties in the game, allowing four Power Play goals.

2. Capping Off the Win
Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals walked out of the Verizon Center with a 4-3 Overtime victory on Monday night, trying to keep pace with the Atlanta Thrashers in a crowded Southeast Division. Ovechkin did his thing yet again – scoring two goals, including the game-tying Power Play goal with 24 seconds left in regulation. That would later set up Chris Clark for the game-winner in the extra period. The Senators held a comfortable 3-0 lead in the first period, but were unable to stall the Caps’ offense. Washington scored four unanswered goals over the next two and a half periods to earn the victory. With the loss, the Ottawa Senators have now lost four straight games and are in danger of slipping to last in the Northeast Division.

3. Lightning Strikes the Island
On Monday night in the Nassau Coliseum, the Tampa Bay Lightning downed the New York Islanders by a score of 5-1. Tampa Bay sniper Martin St. Louis scored a Power Play goal in the second period, breaking a 1-1 tie and launching a stretch of four unanswered goals for the Lightning. They also got some offensive help from an unlikely source in Defenseman Filip Kuba, who scored his forst and second goals of the season. Johan Hedberg got a rare start for Tampa, and made the most of it. He stopped 25 shots en route to his first win of the year.

Check It Out
Off Wing Opinion’s Eric McErlain talks about the NHL’s scheduling issues. He, along with the rest of the hockey world, would like to see less divisional games and more interconference contests.

Game of the Night: Minnesota at San Jose
Minnesota has won last four games at San Jose

The Last Shot
Former Red Wing Steve Yzerman received the Lester Patrick Award Monday, given to individuals who have made an impact on hockey in the United States.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Early Movers and Shakers

[Editor’s Note: Welcome to the inaugural “Crashing the Zamboni”, a daily blog by Eric Caterina. Eric will be covering the NHL this year for Sportscolumn.]

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Lindy.

So we’re just about a month into the NHL season, and already things have begun to take shape. Some teams have stormed out of the gates, firing on all cylinders — while others are still wondering where to find their helmets.

1. Ice Melters

Buffalo Sabres (10-0-1; 1st in Eastern Conference)
Buffalo is an obvious choice here. Sure, they finally suffered a loss, but after breaking a team record and tying an NHL record for most consecutive wins to open a season, they deserve some kudos. Looks like Lindy Ruff’s Sabres are well on their way to avenging last year’s loss in the Conference Finals.
Atlanta Thrashers (8-1-3; 2nd in Eastern Conference)
Call them the Hotlanta Thrashers. Scoring 45 goals in just 12 games (second to aforementioned Buffalo in that stat), the Thrashers are on their way to a stranglehold of the Southeast Conference. They are the only team to beat the Sabres so far this year, downing Buffalo 5-4 on Saturday night.
Minnesota Wild (9-2-0; 2nd in Western Conference)
Living up to their name, this team is going wild in Minnesota. Netminder Manny Fernandez is having a stellar year, only allowing 19 goals in 11 games (he is 8-2 in that span). Maybe the loss of Roloson wasn’t as bad as many people thought after all.
Anaheim Ducks (8-0-3; 1st in Western Conference)
They dropped “Mighty” from the name, but have kept it in their game. All is well right now in Anaheim, and they aren’t showing many signs of slowing up. Still undefeated in regulation play, the Ducks will have to hold on to the top spot in a tough Pacific Division.

2. Stuck in the Freezer
Philadelphia Flyers (2-7-1; Last in Eastern Conference)
Right now, the Philadelphia Flyers are in need of some brotherly love. Philly is off to an atrocious start, and it’s tough to say when things will start to look good again. GM Bob Clarke resigned, coach Ken Hitchcock was fired, and captain Peter Forsberg is fighting the injury bug.
Phoenix Coyotes (3-9-0; Last in Western Conference)
Their slogan this year is “A Decade in the Desert”, but the Phoenix Coyotes are anything but hot. Phoenix has been an ugly franchise seemingly ever since they made the switch to Arizona from Winnipeg. Head coach Wayne Gretzky’s job is in question, and like Forsberg on the Flyers, captain Shane Doan has been battling injuries.
Calgary Flames (3-5-1; 13th in Western Conference)
Even with the mighty Miikka Kiprusoff (try saying that five times fast) between the pipes, the Calgary Flames are struggling. In a bit of a surprise, Calgary is sitting last in the Northwest division, and need to do some work to climb back to the top. With guys like Alex Tanguay and Jerome Iginla, a comeback is not out of the question- but in a division that tough, it won’t be easy.
Boston Bruins (3-5-1; 14th in Eastern Conference)
Beantown is beaten up this year. With an abysmal offense (scoring only 19 goals thus far), Boston is reeling. Thanks to Buffalo, the Bruins have no shot at contending for the Northeast Division title. Looks like Boston just has to sit and wait until the next Bobby Orr comes around, which won’t happen for a long, long time.

Game of the Night: Atlanta @ Toronto

Thrashers look to snap seven game losing streak against Toronto.

The Last Shot
The reason for the Sabres’ early success? Of course, it has to be the new uniforms – ugliest in the league!