Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thoughts on the Goaltending Situation in San Jose

This season, I made a conscious decision not to write about the San Jose Sharks. I live in Chicago and I've witnessed the Blackhawks win two Stanley Cups as an Illinois resident so I've developed a soft spot for the club, I always root for the Montreal Canadiens as my Eastern Conference preference, and I've taken an interest in the emergence of the Blue Jackets, Ducks (blasphemy, I know), Stars, Blues, and Wild. I am a capital-H Hockey fan before any allegiance I may have but when the puck drops on any of the 1230 games in the NHL season, I Bleed Teal when the boys from my hometown are on the ice, without question. Me keeping hushed about the Sharks this year was just a show of some unfounded superstition I had relating to their success.

Well, I'm breaking the silence. We're all allowed to knock our favourite teams when they deserve it and, over the years, my general thought about the Sharks is that they play the most spirited 40 minutes of hockey you will ever see. They've put out a different look every season since I really started following the sport in 2007 but the story has remained the same: they come out strong, they sit back on a lead, they choke. I won't make excuses. It's like that girl that builds up your confidence for a year of cautious optimism and, when you finally ask her out, she just wants to be friends. They show so much promise and, just when you really start to believe that this could truly be the team, they're hitting the links and Pierre McGuire is spouting off about other players' junior teams for a few more weeks.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sophomore Slumps: 2013-14, Part 1

Every year, the Professional Hockey Writers Association votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy, the award bestowed upon "the player selected as most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League." A handful of previous winners went on to have stellar careers and, like Teemu Selanne (1992-93), Martin Brodeur (1993-94), and Daniel Alfredsson (1995-96), some are still having productive twilight years. Others, such as Alex Ovechkin (2005-06), Evgeni Malkin (2006-07), and Patrick Kane (2007-08), remain in a class of their own in the league.

Yet for every Brodeur or Malkin, you have your Andrew Raycrofts (2003-04) and Dany Heatleys (2001-02). Over a long enough timeline, a promising prospect may turn into a significant bust. This might manifest as a young player enters his scoring prime or he might just hit a brick wall after a strong debut.

While the jury may still be out on many of the following individuals, each one didn't live up to the promise of their rookie years in 2012-13. 2013-14 was almost business as usual with a full 82 games played for each team so a rough year may be chalked up to growing pains. Let's take inventory of who to look for next season to either bounce back or fade further away.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2-4-T At Frozen Four 2014: Day 2

Saturday at the Frozen Four began with an afternoon open skate at the Wells Fargo Center. They opened the arena from 12:30pm to 2:30pm for fans to come down Broad Street, rent skates provided by Bauer, and traverse around the rink in standard counter-clockwise fashion.


Monday, April 14, 2014

2-4-T At Frozen Four 2014: Day 1

I admittedly don't have a whole lot of college hockey chops, my only real exposure to it being the Hockey City Classic in 2013 at Soldier Field in Chicago. That day featured two outdoor contests, one between Miami (Ohio) and Notre Dame, the other Minnesota versus Wisconsin, on a February day that got more and more frigid as the sun crept below the western edge of the stadium. While I can speak most fluently about NHL action, I'll never turn down an opportunity to take in some puck.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jaroslav Halak: A Brief History

The date is March 4th, 2010. The Montreal Canadiens are squared off against the San Jose Sharks in a road game at the then HP Pavilion. The score is 2-1 Montreal entering the third period and while they are being outshot 29-19, 22 year-old goaltender Carey Price is holding the Habs in the game. At the 11:18 mark of the final frame, Canadien defenceman Roman Hamrlik commits a hooking penalty against winger Ryane Clowe, sending the Sharks to the power play. A minute and fourteen seconds later, Dany Heatley tips a Dan Boyle shot past Price, tying the game at 2 per side. The Sharks don't relent and just over two and a half minutes after the man-advantage marker, they score again to take the lead and, after the final 4:55 ticks off the clock, the game.

Waking up the following morning, Montreal found themselves sitting in 10th in the East. On the previous night, 7th seed Boston bested conference-worst Toronto in a shootout and 8th seed Atlanta rolled over the New York Islanders in a 6-3 decision. While Atlanta, as well as the 9th place New York Rangers, all had matched Montreal with 66 points, the Thrashers held three games in hand over the Canadiens with the Rangers' one game providing the buffer. As is usual in the NHL, the playoff bubble was a crowded place, but the odds were slowly starting to turn against the team from Quebec.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Recent Skid, Heritage Classic Loss Exposes Lack of Depth for the Vancouver Canucks

During this season's Preseason Prognosis, I commented on the Vancouver Canucks that while the Henrik and Daniel Sedin have historically carried the team to success in the past, their ability to do so has been fading over the past few seasons. Despite some man-games lost this season, it appears that things are as ugly as they initially seemed in British Columbia.

Since the calendar flipped to 2014, the Canucks have been caught up in a freefall down the standings. They have gone 5-15-3 in the new year and are currently in the midst of an 11-game stretch with a 1-9-1 record, beginning on January 27. Through that date they have been overwhelmed by opponents, being outscored 32-15. They lost by a single goal twice in that stretch and the lone overtime loss came in a shootout against Minnesota on Friday following a 1-0 win, their only one, over St. Louis.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Thoughts Following the Conclusion of This Year's Outdoor Games

The outdoor portion of the NHL season has finally come to a close. Chicago embarrassed Pittsburgh on Saturday at Soldier Field and Vancouver hosted Ottawa for the Heritage Classic on Sunday for what turned out to be...an indoor game.

Yes, you read that right. The Heritage Classic was held at BC Place right across the street from the Canucks' Rogers Arena. The venue mostly accommodates Major League Soccer and Canadian Football League events but opened its doors to over 50,000 hockey fans for the all-Canada stick-and-puck spectacle. The period (no, not exclamation point) to the relatively underwhelming play on the ice, however, was the fact that the retractable roof remained closed through the duration thanks to continuous rain.