Monday, March 29, 2010

Strong Effort Key to Flyers Victory over Devils

By: Tim Brennan

For the Flyers, the Olympic break wasn't necessarily the best thing to help out their playoff aspirations. They have struggled mightily, posting a mediocre 5-7-3 record since the NHLers went to Vancouver. The combination of no effort and determination to win games and solidify a playoff spot has taken its toll on the Flyers. Although they have faced a couple uphill battles, such as the matchup against Ottawa (see my article about that below) and a recent game versus the Pittsburgh Penguins which had a goal disallowed, a blatant throwing of the stick by Marc-Andre Fleury at Claude Giroux on a breakaway which should have been a penalty, and a missed penalty call on Matt Cooke that led to the Penguins third goal scored by Cooke.

Aside from these two games, the Flyers haven't showed enough and have too many problems at a time when they need to bring a solid effort night in and night out. They took it to the Minnesota Wild last week by getting two quick goals in the beginning of the game to establish momentum. Then, like most of the recent games, the Flyers led their guard down in the third period, opening the floodgates for the Wild to get right back into the game. The Wild scored two in the third after trailing 3-1 and forced an overtime session. The Flyers crumbled and fell apart during the latter part of that game and it continued into the overtime as Kyle Brodziak beat Brian Boucher when Boucher's attempt at making a save landed the puck into the net.

The Flyers needed a huge change in attitude and philosophy to break out of this current funk they've been in and the perfect opportunity was a battle against their division rival, the New Jersey Devils. This is the same Devils team that the Flyers have dominated all season long and it shows in their record (4-1) against New Jersey. The only possible outcome for the Flyers was for a win to keep themselves ahead of the Thrashers and Rangers who were nipping at their heels.

Something that was apparent from the opening faceoff was a hunger and determination by the Flyers to bury the Devils. This element led to an early goal from the stick of Matt Carle, who had missed two games with a bruised foot. Arron Asham started the play when he dangled the puck through Colin White and passed off to a breaking Scott Hartnell whose one touch pass to Carle gave him the lane to fire it through Martin Broduer's arm and in. A game between division rivals always stirs up animosity as Ian Laperriere and David Clarkson dropped the gloves and went at it after Clarkson bugged the Flyers top forwards. The Flyers went up 2-0 after strong work along the boards led to Daniel Briere's pass opportunity that was deflected by a Devil and landed on the stick of Ville Leino who subsequently added to the Flyers lead.

After a bad penalty taken by Devils forward Pierre-Luc Leblond, the Flyers capitalized on the powerplay just 45 seconds into the second stanza as Kimmo Timonen fired a slapshot to the far side of the net, clanking off the post and in. The defense continued this scoring trend when Lukas Krajicek fired a shot from the point that got past Brodeur and completely shattering his confidence with 40 seconds left.

As a result of the Flyers scoring onslaught, Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire replaced Brodeur with Yann Danis to start the third. For an instance, both teams seemed to neutralize each others chances until Ilya Kovalchuk broke Brian Boucher's shutout bid at 10:20. Like most of Kovalchuk's goals, he received a slow pass that led to a one timer that was too quick for the goalie to catch up to. Any momentum that the Devils could have gotten from that goal was snuffed out when the Flyers hot hand, Simon Gagne, scored 32 seconds after Kovalchuk. The frustration of the Devils exploded when Pierre-Luc Leblond and Arron Asham came together to exchange pleasantries and shortly after, Clarkson challenging Dan Carcillo to a fight. Both got their sticks up high and as a result, Carcillo cut Clarkson with his stick, leading to a match penalty and now a two game suspension. The Flyers established themselves superior in their matchup against the Devils this season, picking up a 5-1 win and a 5-1 record against them for the year.

One of the many areas that stood out throughout the course of this contest was the Flyers penalty kill. The incredible play of Blair Betts and especially Ian Laperriere helped the Flyers cause when they fell into penalty trouble during the second period. Laperriere was throwing his body into every shot and wouldn't allow the Devils defense to set up by relentlessly forechecking them. Even the defense provided a strong presence throughout as three defenders scored goals and a few gave the Flyers strong efforts on the defensive side of the puck. Flyers forward Simon Gagne continued his success during the month of March and has been a steady influence on the team during this skid. The finesse player has even provided a physical presence in recent games and has thrived under the spotlight.

The Flyers take on the Islanders tonight and look to continue giving effort and bringing a sense of urgency to keep their playoff hopes alive and well.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rangers Rally and Capture a Much Needed Two Points

By Eric Bancker

When the Rangers and Devils play each other, you can guarantee that its going to be an exciting game between two teams that hate each other. Last night was the perfect example of that. This game had it all. Fantastic goaltending, heavy hits, fighting, and late game heroics. That's exactly what you would expect from rival teams.

The Devils were able to get on the board first when Brian Rolston took a slapshot from the point which goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was able to save but left a juicy rebound for Ilya Kovalchuk who snapped it home, giving the Devils an early 1-0 advantage. This goal rests on Olli Jokinen's shoulders because he made a bad play in the offensive zone which lead to the goal, more on him later. The Rangers weren't able to sustain much of an attack in the 1st period. They only had four shots and were not able to get anything setup in the offensive zone.

The 2nd period was a different story for the Rangers. They were able to come out and pressure New Jersey. Brandon Dubinsky tied the game on the powerplay when his shot deflected off of two New Jersey players before it found its way behind Brodeur.

The 3rd period is where this game just got crazy and exciting. Patrik Elias was able to one time a shot past Henrik Lundqvist to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. The Rangers were able to respond when Artem Anisimov took a beautiful feed from Brandon Prust and showed great patience as he snapped it home to tie the game at 2. The Devils were able to re-gain the lead when the Rangers forgot how to count and had too many men on the ice, which meant Brandon Prust couldnt touch the puck or a penalty would have been called. So what happens? The puck is passed to Jamie Langenbrunner and he blisters a shot past Henrik Lundqvist to take a 3-2 lead. The Rangers fell asleep and they paid for it. As all hope seemed to be lost, the captain Chris Drury was able to step up and perhaps score the biggest goal of his Ranger career as he took Erik Christensen's behind the back pass and slammed it home to tie the game with 17.5seconds left.

At this point the Boston Bruins had lost and the Rangers picked up a much needed point. But they needed to win in overtime or the shootout to get that extra point. Enter Henrik Lundqvist, he was truly "the king" on this night. He played stellar in net and really kept the Rangers in the game. He was able to stop all three shots in the shootout to bring the Rangers within three points of the Boston Bruins who currently sit in 8th place in the Eastern Conference.

Now I personally am calling for John Tortorella to be fired. His benching of Olli Jokinen was a little harsh, especially with what this game meant for the Rangers. Granted they won anyway but he took one of their top offensive weapons off of the ice in one of their biggest games of the year. I understand that Jokinen hasn't exactly been stellar lately but I think he should have been playing. I really think this team has tuned him out and it may be time to find another coach.

The Rangers continue their six game road trip tomorrow night as they travel to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs who have been hot lately. The Leafs wont make the playoffs but that doesnt mean that they will pass up the chance to mess up other teams playoff hopes.

With only eight games left the Rangers need to keep playing like they are right now to make the playoffs. The games are only going to get more exciting from here on out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NHL Vendetta against Flyers Continues as Senators Come Up Victorious

By: Tim Brennan

It's not everyday that someone says that the National Hockey League has a bias against a certain team but I'm really starting to think that the NHL has a serious problem with the Philadelphia Flyers.

The team affectionately known as the "Broad Street Bullies" tends to get a bad rep from those who watch the NHL, calling them anything from goons to bruisers who have no skills. During the 2007-08 season, five different Flyers players were suspended for a grand total of 32 games combined, with Steve Downie serving a month ban in the American Hockey League. I am not saying in any sense of the word that all those suspensions were wrong but that a couple weren't suspension worthy. Steve Downie, Jesse Boulerice and Scott Hartnell definitely needed to be banned for their blatant cheapshots but Randy Jones and Riley Cote were unfairly punished. The now famous boarding incident where Randy Jones hit Patrice Bergeron, leading to Bergeron's serious concussion knocking him out for the rest of the season. The hit was vicious but you can't blame Jones for what transpired because Bergeron looked back to get position and knew Jones was there so they can both be fault there. Riley Cote's suspension was only handed out because of his reputation as a fighter and not much of a hockey player.

Aside from the slew of suspensions, the Flyers were robbed of a goal during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 7th. The Flyers ended up winning the game 7-4 but the league fumbled the ball again when they declared a no goal on a play where Flyers left winger Simon Gagne stuffed the puck past Penguins goalie Brent Johnson. The puck crept over the line and Johnson used his leg pad to push the puck back over the line as if he made the save. The only media outlet that had angles on the play was Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh. When the referees decided that the war room in Toronto needed to sort things out, FSN Pittsburgh sent all the angles to Toronto, except for the one that clearly showed the puck over the line. The war room disallowed the goal and the result was a full on investigation by the NHL into this event, which led to a worker for FSN Pittsburgh being fired and fined.

Flash forward to Tuesday night when the Flyers went to take on the Ottawa Senators. The Flyers received three weak penalty calls in the first period, including one call on Mike Richards for holding when he went to poke-check the puck off of an opposing player and missed on a hit attempt, resulting in the penalty. The Senators would get on the board first, like almost every team that faces the Flyers, when Chris Kelly scored on a 2-on-1 with a laser over Brian Boucher's left shoulder. Danny Briere's selfish play led to the goal when he tried an open ice hit on Jarkko Ruutu but missed and Ruutu's pass to Kelly led to the odd man chance.

The referees continued to miss penalties throughout the game including a certain stretch where the play returned to the old NHL. Every time a Flyers forward would try to go around a Senators defender, the clutch and grab came into effect, slowing down the Flyers and leading to less scoring chances. Chris Phillips and Andy Sutton were guilty of these plays all game long, but were only called once.

The breaking point in this game was a simple play by a Flyers forward that almost turned into another concussion and possible career threatening injury that wasn't called and then the subsequent play led to a goal for the opposing team. The play started when Simon Gagne received a pass at center ice while facing the boards. Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov came in and decided to throw a bodycheck, but Gagne's back was to him but he still followed through, resulting in Gagne being viciously thrown into the boards head first. Gagne stayed down for a little bit and the Flyers were looking for a penalty, which never came even though the referee was right there when it happened. The Senators took the puck down where Daniel Alfredsson buried his opportunity for his 18th goal of the season to make it 2-0 Ottawa. When the puck hit the back of the net, Gagne snapped and grabbed Volchenkov and starting throwing punches.

I give Gagne a lot of credit for sticking up for himself after being drilled from behind when he was in a vulnerable position. The most ridiculous thing about this was not only was there no call on the play, but that Gagne was given four penalties on the play and Volchenkov only one. If the officials had a normal functioning brain, they would have called Volchenkov for a five minute major for boarding and slapped him with intent to injure. The penalties that were assessed to Gagne weren't even logical ones, like five minutes for fighting when Volchenkov didn't drop the gloves so it wasn't a fight and not one, but two instigator penalties which makes no sense whatsoever. The result wouldn't have happened had they made the initial call on Volchenkov in the first place.

The Flyers sat back and didn't take it to Volchenkov after his gutless play, which is unacceptable. Scott Hartnell exchanged pleasantries with Volchenkov in front of the net but nobody challenged Volchenkov to a fight and the Flyers really didn't respond in the way that fans would expect.

Then another play came under fire when Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk shot the puck off of the back of Brian Elliot's leg, which dribbled over to Kimmo Timonen, who shot it in between his legs facing the wrong direction where the puck slid under Anton Volchenkov's shin pad and across the line before Volchenkov shoveled it out with his glove. An extensive review ensued and finally the decision was made: no goal. Several angles showed the puck clearly over the line, with one side angle showing some white between the puck and the goal line and an overhead view showed the puck over before Volchenkov swatted it out of the net.

So what can we conclude from all of this?

Volchenkov made a gutless move in drilling Gagne into the boards from behind and got away with it. The Flyers scored a goal to make it 2-1 but it ended up getting thrown out the window, leading to another shutout for the Senators and Brian Elliot. All of this courtesy of the fine folks of the National Hockey League.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Flyers Get Thrashed in Home and Home Matchup

By: Tim Brennan

The Flyers haven't been playing up to par in the games since the Olympic break, which is a problem for an Eastern Conference team because of the close playoff races that we see year in and year out in the East. The Flyers suffered a couple of loses at the hands of the New York Rangers and Nashville Predators before regrouping and picking up a win against the Dallas Stars. The only way for the Flyers to stay near the top of the conference was to pick up a possible four points in a home and home series versus the Atlanta Thrashers, a team that the Flyers have enjoyed much success against except for this season.

The result? No points and the security of a playoff spot slowly fading.

The first game, that took place at the somewhat empty Phillips Arena, was one that the Flyers never had a chance at gaining any momentum for a victory. After a tussle with Mike Richards near the benches, Jim Slater dropped the gloves with Dan Carcillo 39 seconds into the game. There is no way that any team would gain momentum off of this donnybrook after both players fell several times just trying to stand up and throw a few punches. Then the Thrashers set the tempo early with a goal just a minute and 48 seconds into the contest off the stick of Niclas Bergfors, one of a few coming over from New Jersey in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade. Colby Armstrong added another for the Thrashers, making it 2-0 after just over five minutes into the game. Dan Carcillo got on the board by tipping in a Chris Pronger slapshot from the point to make it 2-1.

The Thrashers would continue their domination in the 2nd period as they held the Flyers to only three shots while firing eleven of their own. Nik Antropov pushed the Thrashers lead by two goals after one timing a pass from Niclas Bergfors. Shortly there after, Flyers center Blair Betts sent a shot on net that squeezed through goalie Johan Hedberg to make it 3-2. The third period belonged to the Flyers, but was won by the Thrashers after two goals from Bryan Little and Colby Armstrong gave them the resounding 5-2 win.

The two major contributors in this game were goaltender Johan Hedberg and forward Jim Slater. Hedberg stood on his head for the majority of this game, which included having to make 15 saves in the third when the Flyers tried a comeback. Jim Slater wasn't even a steady contributor to this team, heck he had a hard time making the roster in the beginning of the season. What made him a difference in Game 1 was his willingness to get involved physically and pestered the Flyers top players all night. Some of the odd man chances that the Thrashers gained throughout were because of a Flyers player going out of their way to hit Slater or try to instigate a fight. The Thrashers looked like the hungrier team during the course of the game, creating odd man chances with their speed and agility and provided more physicality than the Flyers from players such as Slater, Evgeny Artyukhin and Eric Boulton.

So after an effort that wasn't all that good to start out with you would think the Flyers would reshape their gameplan and be ready to take away the Thrashers chance of a season series sweep in Philadelphia, right?

The Flyers made some changes to their roster before the start of the game, taking out Ville Leino and Lukas Krajicek and replacing them with Arron Asham and Oskars Bartulis. Coach Peter Laviolette also shuffled the lines a bit, changing around a few players on the forward lines and pairing Braydon Coburn with Kimmo Timonen. All these changes didn't help the Flyers chances as the Thrashers struck first again two minutes and four seconds in. The Flyers have a horrendous goals for/goals against in the first period of games since the Olympic break and the Thrashers continued to help that stat. Ron Hainsey snuck in from the point to fire one past Brian Boucher for the first goal and Todd White added another first period tally on an odd man rush.

The second period had plenty to offer, with tons of physical play and the tremendous play of Atlanta goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who ended the game with 44 saves. The Flyers showed some urgency during the latter part of the game as they continued to pile on the shots, tying this season high for shots in a game with 45. The physical part of the game turned it's head when Scott Hartnell and Jim Slater (go figure) went at it to give the Flyers some momentum. The Flyers had a hard time figuring out Pavelec until captain Mike Richards received a pass from Matt Carle to put it within one goal at 11:56. Atlanta took control of things once again when Rich Peverley fired a low shot past Boucher with a little over 3 minutes left. The Thrashers would prevail with a 3-1 victory and a season series sweep of the Flyers, which has never happened in the history of the team.

Both of these games were clear examples of how the Flyers have been playing since the Olympic break and have been painful to watch. This Flyers team gets behind early on, tries to battle back but doesn't put in a full effort and gives the other team too many odd man rushes and point blank opportunities. Yes, the Flyers have had some wins during this stretch but most of those were simply because they were able to get a late goal just to keep the game interesting.

Two glaring problems are in net, where Brian Boucher has struggled for the majority of the season and has been letting in some bad goals, which doesn't help the Flyers chances when they can't get quality goaltending. Boucher will have to play out the rest of the year due to Michael Leighton's season ending high ankle sprain. The other would be the defense who has been terrible in front of Boucher and hasn't given him much help to clear the crease. The worst of the bunch has to be Ryan Parent and Braydon Coburn who are absolute turnstiles and couldn't defend an infant on skates. The megastar Chris Pronger hasn't fared much better and his partner Matt Carle continues to try too much that leads to turnovers. The Flyers steady force on the backend, Kimmo Timonen, hasn't played like he usually does and it shows in his hesitations on offensive and defensive plays.

If the Flyers are going to secure a playoff spot, they need an overall team effort and also should focus more on defensive play to limit chances.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Devils Get Shutout by Blues

By: Tim Brennan

The Devils normally don't put a lot of shots on net for the opposing goalie to try to stop, but on Saturday they fired everything and anything towards the direction of St. Louis Blues netminder Ty Conklin to no avail.

Conklin stood on his head against the Devils, stopping 29 shots on the way to a 1-0 victory at Prudential Center. It also helped that his teammates racked up nine blocked shots for the game and at one point, one of his teammates made a save of his own. Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk attempted a wrap around in the early part of the second period that surprised Conklin and just as Kovalchuk was about to put it in, Blues forward Brad Boyes was able to slide down and block the path to the goal. Devils center Travis Zajac also had an opportunity in the third that went off the right post.

The Devils were trying everything to put the puck in but ran into a brick wall, which usually doesn't happen unless they are practicing. The opposing goaltending may have been on top of their game but the Devils powerplay was still off. The Devils failed to capitalize on three powerplay opportunities and has gone 0 for 17 in that category in the last six games.

Other than Conklin, the Blues had another player who contributed to the victory as Alex Steen blasted a shot over Martin Brodeur's glove that proved to be the only marker.

The Devils seemed to be a bit slow off the start in the first, leading to a few bad plays in their own zone and some bad line changes, which ultimately led to Steen's tally.

The most remarkable event during this game had to be the scrap between former Devil/current Blue Cam Janssen and the Devils Pierre Luc Leblond. The fight that ensued had to be the longest that I've ever seen, lasting over three minutes. These two bludgeoned each other and swung until they could no longer stand up and several times Janssen waved off the linesmen so that the fight could continue. Anytime that a fight lasts that long and there isn't a dull moment then you've seen a great example of why fighting should stay in the game.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ovechkin Suspension An Absolute Joke

By: Tim Brennan

Hockey is by far the most physical and fast paced sport on the face of the earth and there are times when a player comes under fire for a bodycheck or hit that is deemed "cheap" or "dirty". These terms have been placed upon the league's best player, Alexander Ovechkin, all season long after being disciplined twice and now the NHL decided they wanted to hold him back again.

Ovechkin was suspended for two games for a hit he put on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell during a weekend game on NBC. Campbell picked up the puck in his own zone to get it away from a forechecking Ovechkin and Ovechkin threw his body into Campbell, which subsequently led to Campbell going full force into the boards. The result of the aforementioned hit was Campbell sustaining a broken clavicle and fractured ribs, which means that Campbell is more than likely out for the rest of the season. This is a huge blow because Campbell logs plenty of minutes on the Chicago blueline and is a valuable asset.

With all that in mind, I think the NHL was quick to jump the gun on the suspension. Ovechkin was given a 5 minute major for boarding and a game misconduct in the game itself, which was questionable. It wasn't even close to boarding to start with because Campbell was not five feet away from the boards, he was much further away. Another problem was that Campbell was off balance when he wrapped the puck up the boards and when Ovechkin hit him, he clearly loses his balance and falls into the boards.

The fact that Campbell was severely injured on the play probably led to the suspension and if Campbell never hit the boards, it wouldn't have even been an issue. But it's a big deal because according to league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, Ovechkin needs to stop playing so recklessly and has to understand that he can't hit someone when they are in a vulnerable position. This is the same Colin Campbell who stated in the same interview that if Campbell was never injured that he wouldn't have suspended Ovechkin. So what gives?

Ovechkin was suspended two games earlier this season for a knee to knee hit on Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason, which he rightfully deserved because he just wanted to get a piece of Gleason at any cost, leading to a dangerous play. But just because one time he did something dirty doesn't mean that he all of a sudden is a goon.

Ovechkin is a one of a kind superstar in the fact that he can go through a whole team, score goals, help his team to victory and isn't afraid to take the body. Several announcers and analysts around the league, including Canada's egomaniac Don Cherry, have stated that Ovechkin is completely reckless when he plays the game and has no respect for other players. On top of that, those same individuals have stated that he needs to stop being so aggressive and tone down his game. That in itself is utterly ridiculous. If you were the coach of a team and had a player who loved to take the body and had a similar situation like Ovechkin, would you tell that player to stop being a hockey player?

Hitting is an important part of the game and is an area that I personally love to see. Hockey players know coming into games that they have to be physical to make a difference and if they play in a standoffish manner, than opposing players will pick up on it and hit that player as many chances as they get. Ovechkin's hit was more or less a push, but because Campbell was off balance and went careening into the boards, it was deemed a dirty hit.

I'm not saying that this incident is Brian Campbell's fault, I'm not saying that at all. I am saying however that he was an important part of why Ovechkin was handed a two game ban on a hit that otherwise wouldn't have been an issue. And how come Ovechkin gets a major penalty, a game misconduct and a suspension on a questionable play when Pittsburgh Penguins pest Matt Cooke knocked out Boston Bruins center Marc Savard with a blind side elbow to the head and not get a penalty or suspension?

It goes to show that sometimes the NHL just likes to nit pick a certain aspect and then turn the cheek on another incident. The NHL handled this carelessly and this suspension is unacceptable.

Hope Continues to Dwindle as Rangers Lose Again

By Eric Bancker

There are not many nights where the Rangers lose and you can point the finger at goaltender Henrik Lundqvist but last night Lundqvist played horribly in a game that the Rangers desperately needed.

The Blues had 16 shots against King Henrik. Lundqvist only managed to save 12 of the 16 shots as the Rangers fell 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. 3 of the 4 goals he surrendered were all shots he should have stopped.

Heres a breakdown of the four goals

1. Just 1:10 of the 1st period Brad Boyes was able to fire a shot over top of Lundqvist's glove hand to give the Blues the early 1-0 lead. This goal was setup by the Ranger inability to get the puck out of their own zone. It happens all to often and Lundqvist was beaten on a shot that he should have stopped.

2. 2:21 into the 2nd period the Rangers decided to team up to score a goal on themselves cause hey, that's what teamwork is all about. It all started in the Blues zone when Sean Avery tried to send a pass to captain Chris Drury out in front of the Blues net. It was immediately broken up and the Blues came into the Rangers end. But the Rangers weren't done turning the puck over yet. Brad Boyes fell down and the puck came to Drury, who instead of turning around and firing the puck out of the zone, decided to backhand the puck out without even looking. Unfortunately for Drury the puck squirted right out to Mike Weaver who fired a slapshot past Lundqvist. Looking at the goal it was almost like Drury set Weaver up for a one timer. There really was no one screening Lundqvist and the puck went by him and the Blues tied the game. Mike Weaver scored only the 4th goal of his career in his 327th career game in the NHL, so a guy who averages a goal every 81.75 games (let me remind you that there are 82 games in a NHL season) was able to score against the Rangers. I'm starting to think that the Rangers just aren't supposed to win.

3. 5:45 into the 2nd period the worst goal of the game was scored when defenseman Erik Johnson went end-to-end, came down the right wing and fired a weak shot from a bad angle and it somehow found its way through Lundqvist pads and gave the Blues a 3-2 lead. This was without a doubt one of the worst goals I've ever seen Lundqvist give up. I would also say it was the worst goal of the night but that belongs to Radim Vrbata of the Pheonix Coyotes.

4. 8:24 into the 3rd period the Blues were able to put the Rangers away when T.J Oshie sent a centering pass to Paul Kariya to give the Blues a 4-3 lead. This goal falls on Ryan Callahan's shoulders as he was just out muscled by Kariya and it let Kariya get to the front of the net and stuff home the pass.

Lundqvist goaltending wasn't even the thing that disgusted me the most about last nights game. No, it was Wade Redden. Ok, he had 2 points last night, finally. He had a good game, so why am I picking on him? Well because Wade Redden only collected his 2nd goal of the season and currently only has 14 points...this is a guy who makes $6.5 million a year. The two years that Redden has been in a Ranger jersey, he has played 145 games, tallied 40 points (5 goals 35 assists) and he has made $13 million in those 2 years. Only 4 more years Ranger fans!

The Rangers play again on Sunday on the NBC Game of the Week against the rival Boston Bruins. The Rangers must win this game. They are chasing the Bruins, who are in 8th place in the East. The Rangers missed their chance last night to gain ground on Boston. If the Rangers lose Sunday, they will miss the playoffs because they are already playing below average hockey and a loss will put them 5 points behind Boston. In all honesty if Lundqvist wasn't so good against Boston, 13-3-2 with a 1.36 goals against average, I would start Alex Auld on Sunday. Lundqvist has been very shaky lately and I think it has to do with being fatigued at this point. But with his track record against the Bruins expect him to be in net with the Rangers playoff chances resting on his shoulders this Sunday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Inside - NorthWest Division

By: Jonathan Kovacs

Heading into the playoffs, the NorthWest division boasts two teams that certainly are a threat to win it all this year.

Let's start off with the Vancouver Canucks. The Sedin twins have been tearing it up this season, Henrik has 94 points in only 70 games and has a team high +32. Daniel has been out for 18 games this season, but is still second on the team with 69 points. The Canucks have a above average powerplay, at 21% right now, which puts them 5th in the league, compared to their 17th ranked PP just a season ago. The addition of Mikael Samuelsson has provided the scoring depth that they needed, netting 30 goals already, which is a career high. However, the hotstreak came to an end, when he was injured on Tuesday with an upper body injury, and is expected to miss 2 to 3 weeks. The Canucks recall Michael Grabner from the Manitoba Moose to fill the void.

Next, we head to Colorado, where the young Avs, are playing surprisingly well this year and are looking to enter the post-season, bouncing back from a Western Conference low, 69 points in the 08-09 season. The Avalanche have a lot to be proud of. 1st year head coach, Joe Sacco has been performing his duties well. Heading into the season many thought it was former Avs legend Joe Sakic, but they were wrong, and some were speculating that he shouldn't have gotten the job, but those critics aren't complaining now. What is more impressive is how well the Avs are doing with playing 10 rookies throughout the season. Matt Duchene, Ryan O'reilly, and T.J. Galiardi have been phenomenal, combining for 105 points. The off-season signing of Craig Anderson is paying huge dividends, he is having a breakout year with 35 wins and 7 shutouts.

Over in Alberta, the Calgary Flames are in a intense playoff race for the 8th seed in the West. Jarome Iginla is once again leading the Flames in points as he has since the 01-02 season, that's consistency to say the least. The big trade with Toronto before the deadline is working out pretty well for Calgary. The got some decent forwards, that they needed. Calgary has struggled to score all throughout the season, currently sitting 28th in goals per game. At this rate, they will not make the playoffs. And if for some miracle they do, they won't make it out of the first round.

It doesn't look like the Minnesota Wild will make the playoffs this season. Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom hasn't been as nearly as good as he was at this time last season. Their defense has been shaky and they just don't seem to be playing as well as they were before. Acquiring Cam Barker was good, he is a solid defenseman that can bring some offensive ability as well. Their forwards aren't producing enough offense to be a competitive playoff team, 21 year old James Sheppard has been playing horribly this season, playing in 52 games and only posting a dismal 5 points.

Sitting at the bottom of the league and division is the Edmonton Oilers. Simply put, the Oilers do not have any scoring depth. Dusting Penner and Sam Gagner supply the majority of the offense. Ryan Whitey, has been alright since being acquired from the Penguins. The Oilers have been plagued with injuries all season long. 4 starters have been injured for the season, including goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and Sheldon Souray. Looking at the injury report, their have been many players out for considerable amounts of time. With so many players getting injured, you just aren't going to win many games. For Oilers fans, this is a season to forget about, they will be happy to be a fan during draft day this summer.

Penguins Fall Once Again to Division Foe Devils

By Eric Bancker

For whatever reason Sidney Crosby and the high powered Penguins cannot seem to beat the Devils. They fell once again last night to the Devils in a 5-2 game where the Devils dominated play. The loss gave New Jersey the season series sweep over the Penguins. In those 6 games the Devils outscored the Penguins 22-5. That just goes to show how tough it is to beat goaltender and future hall of famer Martin Brodeur. The Penguins say they are not concerned about the season series sweep and are just looking ahead to the rest of the stretch run and the playoffs. But should they be worried?

Lets break this season series
Game 1: October 24th Devils win 4-1
Game 2: November 12th Devils win 4-1
Game 3: December 21st Devils win 4-0
Game 4: December 30th Devils win 2-0
Game 5: March 12th Devils win 3-1
Game 6: March 17th Devils win 5-2

Against the rest of the division the Penguins are 12-2-2 averaging 4.13 goals per game and averaging 2.8 goals against per game. Now against the Devils in 6 games they averaged .8 goals per game and averaged 3.6 goals against per game. I don't know about you but I think that they should be very concerned. Now granted they will not face each other in the 1st round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, unless one of them completely collapses within the next few weeks. The most likely way for these two teams to meet would be in the Eastern Conference Finals and judging by the way this season series has gone, the Devils have the upper hand.

The best way for the Penguins to take "revenge" (if that's what you want to call it) is for them to finish strong in their last 12 games and take the division title away from the New Jersey Devils. That journey begins tonight as they fly into Boston to take on the high powered and hard hitting Bruins who are fighting to hold off the New York Rangers and clinch themselves a playoff spot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Devils Rock the Green with Vintage Threads

By: Tim Brennan

The Devils will be taking a blast into the past tonight when they face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins by donning the original colors they had when they came into the league in 1982. In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, the team is going to extreme length to obtain the same colors and style as the original jerseys to give it a vintage Irish feeling.

For all those die hard Devils fans out there, you can purchase a vintage Devils jersey by going onto NHL Shop on and clicking on the Devils under the category Shop by Team. The jersey is going for $129.99 but if you purchase one today, you will get the jersey for 20% off due to the St. Patrick's Day 1 day sale.

So support your Devils and get green to celebrate the history of the Devils and the greatest holiday around!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Devils Walk All Over Bruins in Victory

By: Tim Brennan

The Bruins came into Prudential Center wanting to prove that they can be a playoff team and that they will do whatever it takes to clinch a spot. The Devils wanted to bounce back after a poor performance against the Islanders on Saturday and are looking pretty good playoff picture wise. The result? The Devils dominated the Bruins in every aspect of tonight's game.

Right from the beginning, the Devils pounced on the Bruins and decided that they were going to make an example of them by pouring on the goals in the first. After eight consecutive shots from the Bruins, the Devils created some chances, leading to an offensive zone draw. Almost immediately, Martin Skoula gained control of the puck, slid a pass over to a breaking David Clarkson and Clarkson's shot re-directed off of Rob Niedermayer, who was stationary in front of Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas. The first period dismantling would continue when Zdeno Chara flipped a puck on Martin Brodeur, which he gloved down and sent a stretch pass that lead to a breakaway by David Clarkson, who ended up scoring to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Zach Parise tallied to give the Devils a resounding lead. This resulted in Tim Thomas being chased from the game, having given up 3 goals on 12 shots.

The Devils forwards were phenomenal in pressuring the Bruins defense into countless turnovers, with the most being from Dennis Wideman, who hasn't played anywheres near as well as he did last season. Although the Devils controlled the second period as well, the Bruins were able to get on the board after defenseman Mark Stuart flung a shot from the side boards that was eventually deflected by forward Blake Wheeler to bring the game closer.

The third period was a tale of two teams as the Devils continued to shut down the Bruins in the first half of the stanza but started to crumble in the second half and let the Bruins right back into the game in the closing minutes of the game. After a Mike Mottau delay of game penalty, the ensuing powerplay showed a shift in power as the Bruins peppered the net and got a late goal from Patrice Bergeron. Brodeur had to be sharp in the final minute as the Bruins threw anything and everything on the net, trying to tie things up to get a point instead of going home empty handed. The Devils were triumphant, coming out on top 3-2 but for the most part outplayed and outworked the Bruins.

The one player who shined in tonight's game and was mentioned throughout the broadcast was Devils winger David Clarkson. Clarkson was all over the ice pressuring the defense, taking the body, and getting scoring chances and was deservedly the player of the game. He tallied a goal and an assist, which is something that the Devils had been expecting from him. In an article for my former blog, Metro Hockey, I stated that Clarkson should focus on honing his offensive skills more so that he can become a larger contributor instead of trying to be an agitator and fight, which usually doesn't turn out well. Clarkson showed tonight that he can be a player who can hold the game on the tips of his fingers. Usually that would be reserved for Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise or sort of newcomer Ilya Kovalchuk but Clarkson changed the course of this game, not the aforementioned.

The game had plenty to offer, from the fast paced first, to several fights that broke out, to the exciting finish but showed that both teams have some areas to work on. The Bruins are a team that may not make the playoffs if they continue to come up short in games and didn't show the effort that a desperate team needs to show around this time. The Devils need to refine their ability to hold onto leads, which has led to problems in the past few games. All in all, the Devils just inched closer to the top spot in the Atlantic Division with a big win over the Bruins tonight.

Inside - Pacific Division

By: Jonathan Kovacs

If you told me that the Coyotes and Kings were the 4 and 5 seeds in the Western conference at this time, I would have called you crazy. Both teams were coming off disappointing season's in 08-09, ending with 79 points respectively. However, the future was bright for these two young teams, and now, their stars are shining.

For the Coyotes, the acquisition of Wojtek Wolski, at the trade deadline, should help them as they head into the playoffs. He is only 24, has great puck control and knows where his teammates are, what more could you ask for? There aren't any "superstars" on the Yotes' roster, but they have 5 forwards that are projected to have 20+ goal seasons, Radim Vrbata has netted 21 so far in the campaign. He has really turned it on in this season, and has been welcomed back in open arms and his play has re-assured his teammates and fan base.

The Kings are looking to be a real threat in the playoffs this year. They have 7 forwards with 36 points or more. The 20 year-old Olympian, Drew Doughty, who I predict will win multiple Norris Trophies in his career, has 51 points already, and is a +17. Kings goaltender, Jonathan Quick has been playing exceptionally well this season, tying a league-high with 37 wins. I feel the Kings can really make it far into the playoffs, possibly to the conference finals. A lot of the pressure will be riding in Quick, as in many playoff series, goal-tending is the key to success.

Sitting atop the Pacific Division, is the San Jose Sharks. Aruguably the best team in the league this season, and the one of the top scoring lines, consisting of, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau. These 3 stars have carried the bulk of the scoring this season, and will continue to do that as they march into the playoffs. The Sharks should get deep into the playoffs, they have the what it takes to win the cup, but over the past few years it seems like whenever the playoffs role around they play like rookies. Time is running out for them to make an impact in post-season play, and as of now, it is their best chance to win a cup.

The Stars and Ducks will not be making the playoffs this season. Not surprising that the Stars will miss the playoffs, it is time to move on with goaltender Marty Turco. He has been great in the past, but now he is just hurting the Stars in the long-run. If I were Joe Nieuwendyk, Stars GM, I would look for a goalie in the off-season. I do not think Kari Lehtonen is the answer. The future is bright for James Neal and Jamie Benn, two talented young wingers that are posting great numbers, Neal is his second season, and Benn who currently has 32 points in his rookie season.

Many people are surprised, including myself on the Anaheim Ducks' performance this season. I look at their roster and I see all of their talent, yet their record is far from good. For the most part, they have been a healthy team, and their top 6 forwards are all producing. Jonas Hiller has been average this season, he will only get better. This has just been an off year for them, they only had one key departure which was Chris Pronger, but other than that the core is still there.

Wednesday I will be posting the Northwest Division "Inside", with 2 teams in the playoffs and 1 team clinging to their playoff hopes.

Avery propels the Rangers to a win over the Broad Street Bullies

By Eric Bancker

His first game after being a healthy scratch, Sean Avery delivered one of his best performances of the season and helped get the Rangers a much need two points against the underachieving Philadelphia Flyers.

Avery was the center of attention in yesterdays game. He netted his 9th and 10th goals of the season and drew plenty attention from Flyers players, primarily Scott Hartnell and "tough guy" Daniel Carcillo. Avery was able to draw two penalties in the game, one a roughing call on Scott Hartnell in the 2nd period and and interference call on Braydon Coburn in the 3rd.

The Flyers opened up the scoring in the 1st, when Daniel Briere took a wrist shot from on top of the left circle, beating Lundqvist for his 24th goal of the season.

Then in the 2nd period Sean Avery was able to help the Rangers take over the game. 1:53 into the 2nd period Avery was able to shovel in Wade Redden's garbage and score his first goal of the game. Then three minutes later Michal Rozsival showed that when you make over $5 million that its ok to score a goal. Rozsival scored only his 3rd goal of the season on a booming shot from the point on the powerplay, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

The 3rd period was rather slow paced, the Rangers played very conservative defense to preserve their lead. Then 14:05 into the 3rd, Sean Avery was able to catch the Flyers on a change and came down the left wing and fired a seemingly harmless shot past Flyers goalie Michael Leighton who could only look down in disgust as he gave up a bad angle goal which put the Flyers away. But that didn't mean the nasty stuff would stop. With about four minutes left, Flyers captain Mike Richards got into a fight with Rangers centerman Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky was able to take it to Richards and showed how everything was just right for the Rangers yesterday.

The Rangers now sit 9th in the conference only one point behind the Boston Bruins, the only bad news for the Rangers is that Boston has two games in hand. If the Rangers stand any chance of making the playoffs they are going to have to win at least eight or nine of their last thirteen games. Can the Rangers do it? I don't think so. Even if they limp into the playoffs they don't stand a chance of making it out of the 1st round. They would most likely have to play either the Capitals, Devils, Penguins, or Sabres. Now let me ask you this, what do all these teams have in common? Oh that's right they are the teams that have knocked the Rangers out of the playoffs in the last four years

Devils in 2006-Swept the Rangers in the 1st round
Sabres in 2007-Beat the Rangers in 6, after ex-Sabres captain and now current Rangers captain Chris Drury pulled his heroics in game 5.
Penguins in 2008- Beat the Rangers in 5
Capitals in 2009- Over came a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Rangers in 7.

The Rangers should just focus on this offseason and trying to get this back to being a respectable hockey team. The Rangers need to clean house management wise. GM Glen Sather is only making things worse and should have been fired a long time ago. I personally was all for the "Fire Sather Rally". If Sather does stay then he will have to pull another Scott Gomez type deal and move either Drury, Rozsival, or Redden. Those three players make roughly $18-19 million combined and their combined point total for the season is 58. Marian Gaborik gets paid $7 million and has 73 points in 63 games. Three players that make almost $20 million and who were supposed to help this team offensively have combined for 15 points less the team leader. That's ridiculous.

The Rangers are back in action tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden as they take on the Montreal Canadiens, another team fighting to stay in the playoff hunt so look for both teams to make this a playoff game type atmosphere.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rangers Look for Revenge against Carcillo, Flyers

By: Tim Brennan

These two teams are no strangers to heated rivalries; the Flyers have their cross state rivals in Pittsburgh and the Rangers are just across the river from their pals in New Jersey. In a way, the Flyers/Rangers rivalry is secondary but it doesn't fall short in terms of hatred towards one another. In my opinion, the fan bases of both these teams are tough on their teams when they play bad and don't sugarcoat their dislike for a call made by referees or opposing players. So it should be interesting to see how Ranger fans react when the teams converge on the Garden for a matinee game, especially after what happened the last time these two teams met.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, let me paint the picture:
During the last meeting on January 21st, a scuffle ensued during the second period of an already physical game. Players gathered around and picked a partner to trade shoves with and what would happen just heated up this rivalry. The Rangers star player, Marian Gaborik, was hovering around the net until Flyers pest Dan Carcillo came into the pile and chose the one player who didn't have anybody to grab onto... Gaborik. The two traded shoves and cross checks until finally they dropped the gloves and went at it.

Now this is where the story changes depending on each team's perspective. Flyers fans believe that Gaborik brought it upon himself when he was reluctant to drop the gloves and fight Carcillo when he didn't need to and could have had one of his own teammates take care of that if it was such a problem. The Rangers fans point of view was that Carcillo was just looking for a player to jump and is gutless because he purposely picked on Gaborik, who has only two fights in his entire hockey career. Either way, it paves the way for a compelling matchup this afternoon.

The Rangers added grit near the deadline when they acquired scraper Brandon Prust and enforcer Jody Shelley in separate trades which means that they will be aiming for Carcillo for some payback after the events that transpired on January 21st. It always is a physical matchup and there tends to be plenty of fights so watch for a lot of fisticuffs.

The Flyers have been a so so team lately, with too many close calls and barely winning games of late. Yesterday's win versus the Chicago Blackhawks was a good example of the Flyers picking up their game in the third to best one of the best teams in the league, with the game winner coming 2.1 seconds before the third period was over by Chris Pronger, who received an insane pass from Claude Giroux to tap it in. One of the bright spots during this stretch and the season has been goaltender Michael Leighton. Leighton, who was picked up off re-entry waivers in December, has been more than stellar since he took over the starting job and has been coming up with huge saves in pressure situations. One of the reasons why they have been able to stay into games that they are dominated by another team is because Leighton more or less stands on his head night after night.

The Rangers have been on a losing skid, having dropped 12 of their last 20, resulting in the Blueshirts looking from the outside of the playoff picture in. If they want to stay in the playoff picture, a win today would help give them a win streak and could allow them to continue their success in playing their way into the playoffs. Friday's victory over the Atlanta Thrashers was profound and an example of when all the pieces come together to provide a valiant effort. As long as the Rangers play their system and don't listen to yelling enthusiast/coach John Tortarella then they can mold together and bring consistency. Just like Leighton, Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist has shined and the latter part of the season is usually when he's at his best.

No matter what the outcome is or which team comes out on top, this game will be the most exciting of the day and a must see.


Let me start off by saying, I am extremely happy to be apart of this blog, and eager to work with two very good writers. As most of you know we will be covering the Atlantic Division in the NHL. However, I will be writing about the NHL as a whole, with a bit of Atlantic Division talk included. I will cover everything and everything when it comes to the NHL, from the latest injuries, to the hat tricks, you will know about it. Here at Atlantic Divison Hockey, we write articles for you, the reader.

If you have any question's or comments don't hesitate to contact me. At my e-mail:

My next article will feature a in-depth look at the Pacific Division. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Welcome Everyone!

Welcome everyone to the brand new Atlantic Division Hockey blog. This is a great day for the people involved with this site. Myself(Eric Bancker) and former Metro Hockey writer Tim Brennan as well as Jonathan Kovacs, who is the creator of his very own site have joined up and will be bringing you everything current about the Atlantic Division as well as freelance of the entire NHL.

We here at Atlantic Division Hockey are proud to announce two affiliations that we already have one being, run by a good guy in Jonathan Ragus. As well as creator Jonathan Kovacs, who provided help getting this site going so props to him.

We will be looking for more writers as we go along. This is the unveiling of something great.

Thank you all
Atlantic Division Hockey Staff