It's time for another mid-week spin around the NHL as we head in the third month of the season. This week, the Flames are rolling, Ovi and Ballard make news for the wrong reasons, and the Hawks appear ready to sign three of their young stars.
All sweetness and light this week, as the Flames concluded a Central Division swing undefeated, improving by the game, with a 5-0 strangling of the Predators on Monday capping it all off. That really was the primo effort of the season to this point, with Miikka Kiprusoff earning a relatively easy shut-out. David Moss also looked like he was in very good form, and he and linemate Nigel Dawes scored the first two goals to send the team on their way.
The good news around the team continued today, with Rene Bourque being declared ready to go, skating with Iginla and Jokinen to boot. This potential line combination has been a hope of more than a few of us around these parts, and the acceptable play of the Dawes-Langkow-Moss trio appears to have scotched any plans of simply sliding Bourque back to his old spot, at least for now. Good. Jamie Lundmark heads back to Abbotsford, continuing his role in the organization as a useful fill-in.
Kipper 5 v 5: 0-26 vs. Phoenix, 0-27 vs. Detroit, 0-18 vs. Nashville. He gave up 1 goal on a PK in three games. Nice week, sir. Season totals: 30-511, .941 SV%. His overall EV % is .942, and if you look at goalies with at least 15 appearances, his legitimate peer group, that number is the best in the league.
The Heat finished off a 4 game road swing Tuesday in the T-dot with a 3-0 whitewashing of the Marlies. Matt Keetley did the honours, stopping 26 shots for the win. Abbotsford went 3-1 on the tour, and a few of the young defencemen have been pretty good so far, all things considered:
John Negrin: 3G 9A 12 PTS +5
Keith Seabrook: 5G 6A 11 PTS +2
Matt Pelech: 2G 8A 10 PTS +5
That's already a career best point total for Pelech, with only a third of the season in the books. Keith Aulie hasn't had quite the same level of success, but to be blunt, given his style of play, his progress might resemble Pelech's (read:slow).
The neighbours certainly are having a dreadful year health-wise. Hemsky's out, who knows what Pisani's future holds, and Shawn Horcoff's shoulder looks as solid as Tiger Woods' marriage. Now word comes of Sam Gagner awaiting tests for a lump on his neck. That stipulated, the Oilers were touch and go to have any success this year under the best of circumstances, but they definitely appear to be kaput now, currently sitting last in the West. Pat McLean lays out the indictment of Oiler management, and this comment from Derek Zona's alter-ego really seems to sum what that franchise is dealing with:
The scary part is that the Oilers have become the Redskins and Katz is in year one of his role as Daniel Snyder.
For you non-NFL fans, I can assure you that isn't good. Exceptionally bad, in fact.
Looks like the Blackhawks have done the deed, inking Toews, Kane and Keith to lengthy extensions. They'll likely try to dispense with Sopel this year, but next summer is where someone along the lines of a Barker or Sharp might have to be sent packing. If they want to win, no time like the present of course, but it's still easier to get cheap help than core players. If the young guys on that team keep on developing, the Hawks can be competitive or better for a long while.
Besides the Flames' excellence, Monday night had two other items of note. Keith Ballard committed an act of flagrant stupidity, unleashing a baseball swing that clipped Tomas Vokoun in the ear. Vokoun's injury isn't serious, thankfully, and Ballard will escape further sanction. That does allow me to enjoy this bit from Daryl Reaugh:
I haven't seen a Ballard clobber a Czech goalie with this much vicious enthusiasm since Harold let Jiri Crha have it after another Leafs loss at the Gardens back in 1980.
The other news was Alex Ovechkin's knee-on-knee affair with the Hurricanes' Tim Gleason. There's been plenty of opinion forwarded aroung the 'sphere, but there are incidents where a meticulous break down of events is required to fully understand the significance of the matter, and The Peerless Prognosticator gives this play the scrutiny it so richly deserves.
Gleason escaped serious harm on the Ovechkin hit, but his team mate Joe Corvo wasn't nearly as lucky. He'll miss 8-12 weeks after being cut by Karl Alzner's skate. The fall of the Hurricanes from last year's final four to lottery candidate has people wondering if Jim Rutherford can lead them back to solid ground, and with that in mind, Cory Lavalette of Canes Country consults James Mirtle, Greg Wyshynski and Adam Proteau for their thoughts on the situation. I'm not really sold. That contract to Cam Ward seems like a hefty over-pay, the Staal contract certainly is at the top of the market, and the Brind'Amour deal is one that they have to live with due to his age. Magic 8-Ball says, "Outlook not so good". Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin could change that perspective, I suppose.
On the Island, the team has gotten off to a decent start, so off-ice matters are once again under consideration. Chris Botta gives a going-over of the possibilities for a future Islanders' home, dismissing a move away from the area as something that won't occur in our lifetimes. The TV contract, which runs north of 30 million per year by its end, likely makes that so, as much as any arena deal.
Jonathan Willis of the Score has a look at the free-agent goaltenders from this past off-season, and unsuprisingly, the Khabibulin contract doesn't exactly warm his Oiler fan heart. Brian Boucher was a forgotten man this summer, but his good play in Philly has, wait for it, sparked a goalie controversy with the Flyers. Swallows to Capistrano, so on.
The Canadiens cleared out a body with the trade of Kyle Chipchura to Anaheim. On an unrelated note, if I may be allowed a small rant, does anyone give a shit about Montreal's 100th anniversary nonsense? In that linked piece, I noted this tidbit:
Doors at the Bell Centre will open at 4:30 p.m., the ceremonies will begin at 5:45 and the puck will be dropped at 8.
Two-plus hours of pre-game festivities and our national broadcaster falling all over itself? I know the franchise has plenty of history to relive, but unless I hear that a full-scale reproduction of the Richard Riot is on the docket, I'm not likely to watch.
Speaking of commissioners who are beloved north of the border, the incumbent took time out from his busy schedule of selflessly warding off evil-doers to have a chin wag with Reuters, and dropped this beaut:
"Yes, there are some clubs that need to be doing better but not one is in what I would call dire straits or anything close to it."
I believe the phrase is "cognitive dissonance", is it not?
In related news, the search for ownership in Phoenix continues apace, with jilted Habs' suitor Steve Stotland fronting a group with supposed interest. In a development that will shock no one, they want an out-clause built in the lease, and some concessions from the City of Glendale. With the recent news that the city is expecting to be 14 million dollars in the ditch for fiscal 2010/11, that sounds like blood-from-a-stone stuff to me.
That will put a bow on it for this week. Comments are open for any other links you might find of interest.