[Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Crashing the Zamboni”, a daily blog by Eric Caterina. Eric will be covering the NHL this year for Sportscolumn.]
1. Road Ice Advantage?
After losing the first two road games of the season, the Nashville Predators are feeling comfortably at home while away from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville. With their 3-2 win last night over the Vancouver Canucks, Nashville has now won five straight road games, and seven of their last eight overall. None of their road victories have been overly dominating performances; four out of those five wins came in one-goal nailbiters. So what is the key to the Predators’ road ice advantage? Tomas Vokoun. The goaltender from Czechoslovakia is in his eighth year with Nashville (his fourth as a full-time starter). Even though the offense on this road stretch wasn’t tremendous, Vokoun picked up four of the five victories, never letting the puck slip into the net any more than two times. He’s given them a chance to win, and they’ve done just enough to walk off the ice with a W. This stretch of games could help Nashville tremendously in the longrun — it looks to be a two horse race in the Central Division between the Preds and the Red Wings.
2. Sharks Edge Panthers
Christian Ehrhoff’s last-minute goal gave the Sharks a 2-1 victory over the Panthers last night in Florida. The Power Play tally kept San Jose from slipping to third in the Pacific Division — where it’s possible that the Sharks and Stars could be playing catch up to keep pace with Anaheim for the year. Ron Wilson’s club has arguably the best special teams in the league, with an NHL best 28% on the Power Play this season. San Jose’s win put them at 7-0-1 in their last eight against the Florida Panthers (who eventually could get into the thick of things in a packed Southeast Division). This kind of dominance is similar to what we’ve seen in the Toronto-Atlanta series, as posted yesterday on Crashing the Zamboni.
3. Grinding It Out
Pure passion is hard to find nowadays in professional sports, where money is tossed around like a rag doll and the only basis for your expectations is your contract. That’s why it was refreshing to find this story on Florida’s veteran journeyman, Gary Roberts. In reading, it’s clear that this man is actually enjoying his time in professional sports, taking on an attitude unlike so many other big-time athletes. While the T.O.’s of the world are relishing in front of cameras and signing new shoe deals, sports’ real heroes continue to work hard just to spend that extra day in a big league jersey. Kudos to Gary Roberts for grinding it out, staying under the radar, and still going out and performing every night–he could teach some of today’s athletes a thing or two, if only they were patient enough to watch and listen.
Check It Out
It was hard not to laugh at this ridiculous report that Alex Auld got hurt “horsing around”. Not sure what’s funnier: the story itself, of Ed Belfour’s lame excuses as to why it happened.
Game of the Night: Nashville at Edmonton
Oilers look to stay undefeated at Rexall Place; Nashville has won five straight on the road.
The Last Shot
Montreal’s Chris Higgins scored his third shorthanded goal of the season last night, taking the NHL lead in that category.