NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Can Anybody Stop the Sabres?

1. Briere Blitzes Tampa
Daniel Briere led the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-1 bashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, scoring three goals for the first Hat Trick of his career. It is hard to believe that he’s never had one before this, seeing that he’s playing in his tenth NHL season (perhaps this is because he spent his first six seasons with Phoenix). Chris Drury also netted a tally, extending his goals-scored streak to four straight games. (Tampa’s Vincent Lecavalier also scored to continue his own streak of games with goals to four as well). Ryan Miller had another solid game between the pipes for the boys in the yellow slug jerseys, stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced. Buffalo holds an 11 point lead in the Northeast Division, and still has not been below the number two spot in Matt Jordan’s power rankings this year.

2. Fredrik Fantastik
A sign of the apocalypse: the Columbus Blue Jackets have won two straight games, and their opponents haven’t hit the net in two full games. Say hello to Blue Jackets’ goalie Fredrik Norrena, who earned his second consecutive shutout in a 3-0 effort over the last-place Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday (his other victory came in a 4-0 win over Edmonton on Saturday). Norrena received help from Anson Carter, who racked up a goal and an assist in the game to lead the Jackets to their first-ever victory at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Readers, take it from us: you might want to read this paragraph again, because it may be a long time before we see “Columbus” and “won two straight” in the same sentence.

3. Hull To Rafters
The Detroit Red Wings crashed a nice little pregame celebration at the Scottrade Center, winning over St. Louis 5-1– shortly after Brett Hull’s #16 was raised to the rafters. Hull played 11 seasons for the Blues, and was able to tally up some impressive numbers in 19 NHL seasons (we won’t count last year’s brief stint in Phoenix), scoring 741 career goals and falling nine points shy of 1,400. The celebration, which came before the Blues lost their fifth straight game, seemed fitting to come on a night which featured two of Brett’s former teams (he played three seasons with the Red Wings). We highly doubt they’ll be retiring his number in the Glendale Arena, where he played five games for the aforementioned Coyotes before packing his bags and announcing his retirement.

Check It Out
Tuesday’s meetings to discuss possible changes to the schedule and the playoffs worked to no avail. NHL officials are keeping the schedules the way there are for the time being, meaning rare trips for Western Conference teams to the east coast, and vice versa. They also decided on keeping the playoff seeding format untouched, though there were some rumors that the postseason would be changed to a bracket-style tournament.

Game of the Night: Nashville at Anaheim
Top two teams in Western Conference battle it out

The Last Shot
Who doesn’t like a good hockey fight?

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Chicago fires coach Yawney

1. Blackhawks fire Trent Yawney
You think going back to work today was tough for you?  Consider Trent Yawney, fired today by the Chicago Blackhawks who have lost 12 of the last 15 games.  He was replaced by assistant Denis Savard.   No word on whether Yawney said during Thanksgiving dinner, “I am thankful for my job as head coach of the Blackhawks.”

2. Lighting Up The Sens
Tampa Bay goalie Johan Holmqvist chalked up 22 saves on Sunday night in a 3-1 win over a somewhat mysterious Ottawa Senators team. Holmqvist is hot, now having won a miraculous eight of his last nine starts to lead the Lightning back into the thick of things in a crowded Southeast Division. It prompts this question: why even have goaltender Marc Denis on the roster (this year, new Denis is 5-7-1, while Holmqvist is 8-3-0). Holmie’s terrific performance in net snapped a four game winning streak for a second-to-last Sens team, and also ended a seven game point streak for Ottawa sniper Daniel Alfredsson. Offensivley for Tampa, Brad Richards had an impressive night with a goal and an assist–helping the Bolts to their fourth win in the last six games.

3. Kari Goes Krazy
Thrashers’ netminder Kari Lehtonen produced one of the best performances thus far in the NHL season, leading Atlanta to a 1-0 win on Saturday night. He stopped all 37 shots that came his way from the sticks of the Florida Panthers, paving the way for his third shutout of the year. Florida has had no answer for the boys from “Blueland” this year, now dropping to 0-4 against Atlanta. This can be credited in large part to Atlanta’s penalty kill against Florida, who has been shut down to the tune of 1-for-23 in the four meetings between the teams. Ilya Kovalchuck increased his team lead in goals on Saturday, tallying the lone score for Atlanta.

4. BIZZARO NEWS BREAK: Columbus Wins
In an event that can only be considered bizarre, the Columbus Blue Jackets actually showed up to play on Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild. They walked off of the ice as a 5-3 winner in the contest, which is probably the most amazing thing to happen in the NHL in recent memory. Sergei Fedorov had a productive performance for the Blue Jackets, scoring two goals and adding two assists. Still, with only five goals and seven assists on the year, he has to be considered an underachiever (but it is tough to blame him completely, when he’s usually the only Columbus player awake on the ice). The win ended an abysmal stretch of eight straight losses for the Blue Jackets, and also gave new coach Ken Hitchcock his first victory behind the bench. For Minnesota, who is tied for first in the Northwest, it was not the first time they have lost to a last-place team. The Wild dropped a 4-3 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes on November 14th.

Check It Out
In an interesting story from The New York Times, this edition of NHL Notebook discuses the impact of Bo Schembechler’s loss in the NHL. It revolves around Rangers’ defenseman Aaron Ward, who has roots in Ann Arbor. Stories like these just cushion the stories we’ve all heard about Schembechler as not only a coach, but a man.

Game of the Night: Dallas at Detroit, 7:00PM ET
The Red Wings have lost five straight after winning nine in a row

The Last Shot’s Brian Cazeneuve releases his thoughts on a crowded Western Conference, as well as other notes from around the NHL. Brian tends to agree with us in thinking that Anaheim holds Western Conference supremacy.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Penguins, NHL Luck Out

No more red for Malkin

1. Malkin Staying In NHL
After an ongoing dispute with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Super League, a federal judge ended all debate and declared that rookie sensation Evgeni Malkin could stay with the NHL… from the AP:

Metallurg Magnitogorsk, a Russian Super League team, claims that Malkin is under contract in his native country. The club sought a preliminary injunction that would have banned the forward from playing for the Penguins until the matter is resolved.
But the ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska clears the way for Malkin, a star rookie with Penguins, and minor leaguers Andrei Taratukhin of the Calgary Flames and Alexei Mikhnov of the Edmonton Oilers to stick with the NHL franchises.

The Penguins and the NHL must be thanking their lucky stars. Malkin is what the Pens have needed for a while as far as options on the ice – and he’s a marketing machine for the NHL, much like Alex Ovechkin has proved to be after his incredible rookie campaign.

2. Surviving a Scare
The Nashville Predators were able to hold off a pesky Columbus club on Wednesday night, propelling to a 5-4 win. The Preds scored the final two goals of the game in the third to help themselves to the victory – they were netted by David Legwand and Scott Nichol with less than 10 minutes to play. This was a pretty important victory for Nashville, who continued to stay on Detroit’s tail in the Central. As we said before, it looks to be a two-team dogfight for possession of that division, and the race will be close throughout the remainder of the season. The Red Wings have won nine straight, and are clearly the hottest team in hockey. If there was one positive to come out of this game for the Jackets, it’s the solid play of Rick Nash, who scored two goals and racked up an assist in the game.

3. Can’t Capitalize
The Bruins downed the Caps on Wednesday in Washington, taking it to a shootout and converting for the 3-2 victory. After Boston jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the 1st, the Capitals stepped up their D for the final two periods, shutting out the Bruins for the rest of regulation and overtime. In shootouts, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron got one by Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig to secure the victory. In the game, Tim Thomas saved 33 shots off the sticks of Caps’ players, including shutouts in the final three segments of the game. The Bruins’ Marc Savard earned two assists, extending his points streak to seven games.

Check It Out
CBS Sportsline’s Wes Goldstein repots that the Capitals’ days of misery have finally passed by. With a building block like Alex Ovechkin, is tough to disagree — Washington looks to be a legitimate contender not only in the Southeast Division but in the Eastern Conference as a whole.

Game of the Night: Minnesota at Nashville
Wild have lost four of last five games

The Last Shot
Alexander Ovechkin fired his agent, Don Meehan, on Wednesday. This comes as a bit of a surprise to us, as Meehan is known to be a solid agent in the hockey world, working for clients like Jerome Iginla and Jose Theodore.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: K-K-K-Ken c-c-c-coming to C-C-C-columbus?

What’s my job today?

1. Hitchcock Bounced Around
The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t want him coaching the team, so they fired him–then re-hired him as a scout. After last night’s firing of coach Gerard Gallant, the Columbus Blue Jackets seem to think they’ve found their man. The Jackets were granted permission to talk with Ken Hitchcock about a possible head coaching position on Tuesday night–the same night they named assistant Gary Agnew interim coach. Hitchcock has to be scratching his head; he gets booted from a losing team just to be picked out by another club that’s just as bad. Ouch.

2. Coyotes Howl Over Wild
The Phoenix Coyotes gained a much-needed and extremely rare victory over a solid Minnesota Wild team on Tuesday night. Phoenix escaped with the 4-3 win after trailing at one time by a score of 2-0. Coyote Georges Laraque earned two assists and bragging rights over Minnesota’s Derek Boogaard after getting in a scuffle with “The Boogeyman” in the second period. Yanic Perreault and Oleg Saprykin both netted a duo of goals for Phoenix, topping off an awesome all-around performance for the team. Minnesota, who is leading the Northwest Division, received a mediocre performance from goalie Manny Fernandez in the final two periods, stopping 30 out of 34 shots on his way to a defeat at the hands of the last-place Coyotes.

3. Flashbacks for Jaromir, Brenden
Jaromir Jagr showed glimpses of his younger self on Tuesday night, leading his New York Rangers to a victory over the division-leading New Jersey Devils. The veteran scored a pair of key third period goals to provide the Madison Square Garden crowd with a bevy of smiles. Marcel Hossa provided Jagr with assists on both goals. Another fine NHL elder, Brenden Shanahan, scored his 14th goal of the year to put the exclamation point on a game that looked quite similar to the Phoenix-Minnesota contest. Three unanswered goals in the third period were just what the doctor ordered for New York, who will likely remain in a dogfight with the Devils atop the Atlantic Division for most of the year.

Check It Out’s Darren Eliot discusses the pros and cons of having one bona-fide goalie instead of two. Eliot thinks that having one powerhouse netminder is a better option than alternating between a duo, as we’re seeing many teams do nowadays.

Game of the Night: Philadelphia at Anaheim
Flyers are last in Eastern, Ducks are best in western

The Last Shot
The Flyers have announced that captain Peter Forsberg may be in the lineup on Wednesday night against Anaheim. He has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Welcome to the Hall

1. Newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame
On Monday, Patrick Roy, Herb Brooks, Harley Hotchkiss, and Dick Duff were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Patrick Roy
-NHL’s all-time winningest goaltender (holds records for most playoff and regular season wins) with Canadeins and Avalanche
-Won three Conn Smythe Trophies (playoff MVP)
-Won three Vezina Trophies (NHL’s best goalie)

Herb Brooks
-Coached Team USA to Olympic Gold in 1980
-Won three NCAA titles at Minnesota
-Coached four NHL teams
Harley Hotchkiss
-Key cog in Flames’ move to Calgary
-Co-owner of Calgary Flames franchise
Dick Duff
-Played on five NHL teams
-Won six Stanley Cups

2. Future of the NHL
The Penguins showed off their potential and talent on Monday night in Pittsburgh. A trio of first-round draft picks scored goals against the Philadelphia Flyers, snapping a five game losing streak with a 3-2 win. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal all netted goals for the Penguins, who helped themselves at keeping up to par in a busy Atlantic Division. The three kids, whose combined age is only 57 years, sent Philly to its sixth straight loss and proved that they’re the new generation of hockey. At 18, 19, and 20, no member of the tremendous trio is even old enough to drink yet (legally, at least. Guess you can’t blame them for pounding a few with the way they’ve been playing, but that’s beside the point…). Even though they’re currently sitting in third in their division, the Pens look to be setting themselves up quite nicely for the immediate future in Pittsburgh.

3. Gallant Out in Columbus
The Columbus Blue Jackets are hungry for a winner, and they attempted to move one step closer to relieving their starvation on Monday night. The firing of head coach Gerard Gallant was the first step in what could be a tedious process of turning the club’s fortunes around. Gallant was hired as coach in the summer of 2004, and had a record well below .500 in his tenure as head honcho.

In five seasons of existence, Columbus has yet to come close to the playoffs–but star left wing Rick Nash has shown some serious potential at only 22 years old. As featured in yesterday’s “Check It Out”, he needs to start putting up some numbers in order for his club to make any type of impact this year. As of now, Columbus is dead last in the league with only 33 goals scored.

Check It Out’s Eric Mcerlain takes an interesting look at the hockey afterlife, including the post-hockey troubles of former NHLer Darren McCarty. McCarty couldn’t stay out of financial troubles, and was forced to file for bankruptcy… sad occurrence for someone who happened to be a very good hockey player in his time.

Game of the Night: Minnesota at Phoenix
Coyotes: 5-2 in last seven games against Wild

The Last Shot
Washington’s Olaf Kolzig stopped 44 shots against the Florida Panthers on Monday night, getting the win in a 4-1 effort. The Panthers’ 45 shots were a season high–you know things are going awry when you put up a season high for shots and still lose by three… ouch!