Another week is in the can, as the Flames and the NHL pass the quarter pole. On this installment of M and G's look around the league, the Habs and Wild swap disappointments, a Pred makes a case for Olympic duty, and Dion Phaneuf's little brother runs a Canadian hockey heroine.
Another frustrating night in Anaheim for Calgary, as a 43 shot effort only netted the Flames two goals and one point. Three points from the two games in California is still a perfectly fine ratio. The team has a six game tour coming up starting Friday in Detroit, and if they end up with nine points, I'd be fine with that.
One thing that seems heartening is the fact that Olli Jokinen has begun to get more involved in the offence. Seven SOG and 15 attempts in the last two games are more in line with what he should be providing. I suspect we'll argue all year about what he should or shouldn't be doing out there, but I'm fairly sure that everyone would agree that his game's strength is shooting the puck. He was better last night, and at some point with efforts of that ilk, he'll start to score. Unless Jarome Iginla keeps shooting 30-odd percent as he has this month, they'll need Joker's offence soon enough.
Kipper 5 v 5: This week - Chicago 2-11, L.A. 2-20, Anaheim 2-18, overall 30-440, .932 SV%. He should have sued for non-support after the Chicago game, although most of the dumbfuckery happened when the Flames were down a man. Those numbers are still solid, and I have absolutely no problem saying it's all to his credit. As I've mentioned before, he had an .899 5 v 5 SV% last year. I'm not sure any worthwhile evidence exists that the Flames are suddenly an airtight defensive crew, so if Kipper has moved up that much, I don't really see many external explanations. He's the MVP of the team through the first quarter.
Tomorrow's opponent has fallen on some harder times, taking a 4-0 loss in Edmonton Monday night. The Yotes are racked with injuries to the blue, having lost Jovanovski, Michalek and Sauer for extended periods. They've still had a good start to the year, though, and getting an NHL coach has aided matters greatly. Dave Tippett knows what he's doing, certainly in comparison to his predecessor.
Out on the coast, the Canucks lost a tough one to the Hawks Sunday, but they did welcome Daniel Sedin back to the line-up. Meanwhile, Pavol Demitra has been doing his Michael Phelps imitation in an effort to rejoin the Canucks line-up. Swimming, that is, although I suppose Phelps' other activities could be easily emulated in Vancouver if one was so inclined.
The Canucks themselves are dog-paddling along at a game over .500, and the lack of scoring depth is one reason why that team has seemed lackluster thus far. That killer Olympic road trip is looming, and if they aren't well clear of the Flames by late January, Calgary might have an edge.
The Wild and Canadiens traded players from the 2005 draft this week, with Guillaume Latendresse leaving Montreal for the Twin Cities, in exchange for former 4th overall pick Benoit Pouliot. Sean Gordon of the Globe and Mail has an interesting take on the deal, while Michael Russo evaluates the deal in a more conventional manner. Change of scenery, I guess, but Latendresse has been a useful player. Pouliot has been a complete bust to this point. FYI, the Flames picked Matt Pelech that year. Moving right along...
The Hawks are flying, as we know around these parts all too well. They'll get Hossa back this week, to boot. Bastards. Next year holds some cap problems for the Second City outfit, as Bob McKenzie notes this week. The first time I really remember the whole tagging room issue was when Anaheim traded Andy McDonald to St. Louis to accommodate the return of Scott Niedermayer, but what the Hawks are facing is quite a conundrum. Having too many good young players certainly beats the alternative, though.
Nashville has pulled themselves out of the ditch, with a 9-2 streak getting them in a playoff spot. Shea Weber has been very good for a few years running, and his play has him on the cusp of a potential Olympic berth. His Predators dispatched the Red Wings last night, and Bill at A2Y has had enough of Todd Bertuzzi. Welcome to our world, Chief. Iwocpo suggests that Bert's hit on Moore was the act that rendered Sparklepants a shell of the player that terrorized opponents before, but I always wonder if he was headed downhill at just that moment anyway. He only had 17 goals in 69 games, and his shooting percentage went from around 18% to 11% that year. Throw in a bad back, and that was it for Bert as an elite player.
A knee-on-knee play of sorts also has ex-Flame Shean Donovan on the shelf for a couple of months, courtesy of Matt Cooke. No suspension for the Pens' agitator, although one for general crimes against humanity wouldn't be out of line, would it?
The Leafs lost on 4-3 to the Islanders on Monday, despite out-shooting New York 61-21. Dwayne Roloson looks pretty good, doesn't he? Dominik at Lighthouse Hockey has the right idea with that story title, IMO. That said, at least one person appears to have a bit of mercy for the Buds.
Speaking of Islander items, we have a Rick DiPietro sighting. There's been talk about Marty Biron to Buffalo, but I wonder if Columbus is worried about Steve Mason's terrible start this year to the point that they might make a move. Mathieu Garon gave up a five-spot to the Habs tonight, so it's not as if he's bullet-proof either.
The Olympic selection is nearing, and in his latest effort, Elliotte Friedman of the CBC discusses Steven Stamkos' potential for a nod. I do have a quibble with this bit, however:
Also, inexperience cost Canada dearly in 2006.
That's just not so. Of the main squad named to the Turin team, only two players, Bertuzzi and Turco, were absent from the 2004 World Cup side. That team had plenty of issues, but since the absence of Sidney Crosby was the main point of contention going in, that take from Elliotte doesn't seem to match my memory of things. Saying a team with Sakic, Iginla, Smyth, Brodeur and Pronger couldn't handle the jitters, well, nope, I'm not buying it. They looked more like a team that struggled to keep up on the big ice, and someone from these parts said as much at the time.
Ray Ferraro addresses one of my bugbears in his TSN blog this week. He discusses the actions that Nigel Dawes took in the wake of the hit that sent Rene Bourque to IR. The idea that a clean hit demands retribution is stupid, and yet it's now become an automatic response. Why? I'm not a fan of hits that target the head, but there are normal hits that should be part of the game, and Hjalmarsson's play was well within that spectrum.
Gabe Desjardins has a look at how overtime, and the way the league has structured the OT/SO points, can skew results in the standings. It doesn't favour the good teams, to his way of thinking, and mine. I'd be fine if the league went back to tie games, but that's not on the horizon.
That's all for this week. Keep your head up, Hayley. There's no safe place when a Phaneuf is out there.