Showing posts from January, 2012

Doug Wilson Waives Niittymaki; Laments the Decline of the 3rd String Goalie

Just before the All-Star break San Jose Shark GM and former Norris Trophy winner Doug Wilson waived goaltender Antero Niittymaki for the purposes of demotion. In doing so, he addressed a sparsely attended press conference bemoaning the loss of such a critical roll as the third-string goaltender. "I do wonder where our game is going," he decried before strangely adding, "I know the Greenpeace folks will be happy with this."

Wilson went on, "The fear is we don't have a readily available goaltender if and when both other goalies get injured in warm-up. That's my fear. My admiration for this kid just knows no limits." adding that he had a tough time sleeping knowing he had to potentially end the career of a character player like Niittymaki.

"I mean, in my day I'm not sure what we would have done without an Alain Chevrier, Greg Millen or Jarmo Myllys on the squad. Jeez my first year in San Jose we had five goalies for crying out loud, those wer…

Max Bentley wins two Race Horses

Today I was reading through an old Hockey Digest from April 1979 (as I often do) and read about a story I’d heard before about Hall of Famer, Max Bentley. It was written in the magazine as follows;

“…one of the most famous stories in Maple Leaf Gardens history. During a 1952 game a well-to-do fan who had seats at the end of the Leaf bench promised Max a race horse if he scored on the next shift. The Leafs were losing 2-1 against Detroit, and there had been a delay because of an injury to Detroit goalie, Terry Sawchuk. “Max”, said the fan, who owned a hotel around the corner from the Gardens, “if you tie up the game on your next shift I’ll give you a race horse.” Max scored seconds later. “You got the horse,” hollered the fan, and shook Max’s hand. Later, a Gardens’ director heard the story and said, “If a fan can give you a horse, I can give you one too.” Max ran his two horses on different tracks in Winnipeg and Calgary before other owners bought them in claiming races. “I got enough …

This Season's Pleasant Surprises

Every hockey season is full of surprises. Things that were unexpected at the start of the season, whether they be good or bad things. A few of the surprises on the not so good side are players performing way under their expected range such as Henrik Zetterberg, Ryan Getzlaf, Drew Doughty, Brad Richards, Derek Roy, Ryan Miller and Alex Ovechkin. There has also been a number of surprises this year of guys that have gone above and beyond expectations. The following is my list of the pleasant surprises of 2011/12 heading into the All-Star break.

Scott Hartnell
With 25 goals and 44 points in 47 games, he may just about to be off to his first All-Star game as a replacement for Ovechkin. Although still 16 points behnd his career best, he is only 5 away from matching his top goal total.

Joffrey Lupul
Was pretty much a throw-in/salary dump in the Beauchemin for Jake Gardiner deal last year but now has 70 points in 76 games since moving to Toronto from the Ducks. Even the most ardent Leaf fans (me…

The Unwanted Twig, please take it off my hands.

I’ve got a bit of a problem. This week I came into possession of a hockey stick autographed by this year’s entire Vancouver Canucks team. The problem? Well, I am a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Not only that, but I am a long-time, self-professed Canucks hater. Hate is a strong word, but in this situation it is more than apt. I’m not one of those band wagon Canuck haters just because it’s in vogue now. I have been one since I moved to the West Coast in 1994. The hatred blossomed from a basic indifference I had about the Canucks while growing up in Ontario and was spawned by being immersed in this region.

How in the heck did I acquire this unwanted twig? I have my father to thank for that. You see, my dad ‘pretends’ to like the Canucks although he still lives in Ontario. He does it mainly to get a rise out of my mom and I, but honestly, I think he really does like them. He tries to pick Canucks in his hockey pools and entered a pool on the Canuck website earlier this season. This is …

NHL Parity or Widespread Mediocrity?

A look at the NHL Standings can be fairly deceptive. The Florida Panthers sit in first place in the Southeast Division yet have been outscored by 11 goals over the season. Washington, one point behind is only marginally better having scored one measly goal more than they've allowed. Ottawa sits tied for third place in the entire Eastern Conference despite having given up 2 more goals than they've surrendered.

In the West, the standings seem a bit more truthful although Los Angeles and Minnesota currently hold down playoff spots while giving up more goals than scoring. In the East, three of the current playoff qualifiers have allowed more than they've scored. So, how many actual 'good' teams are there in the NHL?

Forget about team point totals when trying to determine this, a better way is goals scored and allowed. In the current season, only 9 of 30 teams have scored more than five goals more than allowed. Ten more goals scored than allowed over a full season does no…

36 Years Ago Today, "They're Going Home!"

January 11, 1976 was the conclusion of the Super Series tour by Red Army and Soviet Wings. The vaunted Soviet Red Army had beaten New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and tied Montreal Canadiens. It was up to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions Philadelphia Flyers to restore the good name of the NHL and Canadian hockey in gerneral.

Of course, what unfolded has been well documented many times with the Flyers soundly beating Soviets by a score of 4-1. At the eleven minute mark of the first period with the score 0-0, Red Army coach Konstantin Loktev yanked his team off the ice in dispute of some rather violent play by the Flyers. The actions of the Soviets prompted play-by-play man Bob Cole to repeat, "They're going home!" The final straw was a hit by Ed Van Impe on Valeri Kharlamov that was not called a penalty and in today's game would have warranted a five game suspension. Check out the clip below. It's hard to tell, but it sure looks like a straight-arm righ…

Bruins on some kind of roll.

Boston currently sits near the halfway mark of the 2011/12 season with 138 goals for and 69 against. That 2 to 1 ratio is extremely rare for a team throughout NHL history. The only occaisons it has been done over an entire season was 1976/77 Montreal Canadiens when they scored 387 and gave up 171 goals and in 1943/44 the Habs had a goal ratio of 234 to 109. Teams rarely even score even 100 goals more than they surrender over a season. The last time even that happened was 2005/06 when Ottawa scored 314 while giving up 211.

Since Boston started this season by going 3-7-0 in October, the Bruins have played near perfect hockey. They've gone 23-3-1 since November 1st, a Points Pct. of .852. A few other amazing numbers about Boston's amazing run:

In the 27 games they have scored 117 and given up only 44, averages per game of 4.33 and 1.63
They have a ridiculous five different players at a point per game pace over the last 27; Seguin, Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci and Peverley.
Tyler Segui…

All-Star voting joke.

Have a look at the scoring lines for the sets of three players at the current halfway point of the 2011/12 NHL season (G-A-Pts-Plus/Minus).
Group A

10-27-37 +7
11-15-26 +9
13-10-23 +3

Group B

14-26-40 -3
12-16-28 -1
19-7-26 -6

Do any of these look like the numbers of All-Star game starters? Hardly. However,if push came to shove which three would you have start the All-Star game? Doesn't matter really, they're just a collection of mediocre half-season numbers. There has to be dozens of players more deserving to start. Personally between these two groups I'd go with Group A even though they trail the bottom three by 9 points in total, their plus/minus is +19 compared to -10.

The first set of numbers (Group A) belong to the bottom three vote getters in NHL Forwards All-Star voting; Jamie Benn, David Backes and Mike Richards. Group B are the numbers of the voted starters; Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek. The Ottawa Senators fans have succeeded in making a mockery of …

Kladno beats Leafs Subs, 34 years ago today.

January 2, 1978, Super Series 1978 rolled into Maple Leaf Gardens in the form of Czechoslovakian team Kladno. The problem was, Leaf owner Harold Ballard and coach Roger Neilson wanted very little to do with the exhibition game. Ballard declared,"We're not going to bust our butts trying to kick theirs. These games are utterly stupid, a very foolish way to do business." Toronto was in the thick of the Adams Division race with a 21-10-4 record battling Boston and Buffalo for top spot.

Coach Neilson didn't dress stars Borje Salming, Lanny McDonald and Mike Palmateer. He claimed Salming and McDonald were hurting and he wanted them ready for NHL play on Wedsneday saying that, "The game isn't as important as the one against Colorado." He started Gord McRae in net saying,"I wanted to use McRae because he hasn't seen much action this year." The only two regular Leaf defenders to play were second year man Randy Carlyle and rookie Trevor Johansen. Pa…