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Daily Archives: January 31, 2013

Watch John Scott handle Shawn Thornton during anticipated bout (FIGHT VIDEO)

Posted on by Sean Leahy in Featured, News | Leave a comment

It didn’t happen immediately off the opening face-off, but gloves were dropped early in the first period of Bruins-Sabres, and it featured John Scott and Shawn Thornton:

You might have noticed Thornton seemed a bit wobbly on his way to the penalty bo…

Bruins-Sabres square off; Bertuzzi talks visor; 20 years of Bettman (Puck Previews)

Posted on by Sean Leahy in Featured, News | Leave a comment

Back by popular demand, here are your Puck Previews: Spotlighting the key games in NHL action, news and views as well as general frivolity. Make sure to stop back here for the nightly Three Stars when the games are finished.

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Preview: Buffalo Sabres at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. ET. This is the game the Sabres added Steve Ott and John Scott for, right? After the Bruins exposed their last of toughness a year ago, Sabres GM Darcy Regier brought in some grit to compete with the Big Bad Bruins. We’re basically all expecting Scott and Shawn Thornton to be out there for the opening faceoff for a game that the Sabres, losers of their previous four, need more than the Bruins, winners of their previous three.

Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET. Since these two teams last met at Madison Square Garden 11 days ago, they’ve gone in opposite directions. The Penguins have lost three of their last four, while the Rangers have won three of four. They did lose captain Ryan Callahan to a shoulder injury on Tuesday night against Philadelphia, however. Matt Gilroy will make his season debut on the blueline for New York, while Tomas Vokoun, who was in net during the Penguins’ 6-3 win on Jan. 20, will get the start for Pittsburgh.

Preview: Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET. Despite flu-like symptoms, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle expects to play tonight as the team looks to improve upon their franchise-best start. The Oilers are playing their first back-to-back tonight and are heading into it hobbling with injuries nagging Shawn Horcoff (out) and Lennart Petrell (game time decision).

Check out previews and updated scores for all of today’s games on the Y! Sports NHL scores and scheds page. For tonight’s starting goalies, check out Left Wing Lock.

Evening Reading

• Today’s Marek Vs. Wyshynski, featuring Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News talking Sabres-Bruins. [MvsW]

• After taking a stick to the eye on Tuesday night, Todd Bertuzzi said he’ll “think” about using a visor in the future. [MLive]

• Scott Burnside on Gary Bettman’s 20 years in charge. [ESPN]

• “Bet On Coyotes Moving To Seattle As Sale To Jamison Falls Apart”. Well, OK. [Forbes]

• “Prospective Seattle NHL Owner Don Levin said Thursday he has not spoken with the league about acquiring the Phoenix Coyotes franchise.” Oh. [King5]

Puck Daddy Reader Comment of the Day: “Archbishop Krejci” on Hamilton’s reaction to a potential arena in Markham:

And Wyshynski complains about the Boston media’s fawning over Dougie Hamilton. Canada has already named a city after him, and they want it to be the home of an NHL franchise. Which I’m assuming would be the Hamilton Dougies.

Well done, sir.

Bold Prediction: Nail Yakupov scores, celebrates by standing still, pleasing old, crotchety journalists everywhere.

Top 5 Canucks-Blackhawks moments of hate

Posted on by snfeed in Featured, News | Leave a comment

Top 5 Canucks-Blackhawks moments of hate

Despite the rosters changing in recent years, the Canucks and Blackhawks still make up for one of the NHL's most heated rivalries.
Despite the rosters changing in recent years, the Canucks and Blackhawks still make up for one of the NHL’s most heated rivalries.
(Photo: AP/Nam Y. Huh)

Ryan Porth |
January 31, 2013, 6:11 pm

Over time the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks have had their moments of discontent, but since 2009 a mutual hatred has ignited between the two as they met in the playoffs three consecutive years. Despite the rosters changing in recent years, the Canucks and Blackhawks still make up for one of the NHL’s most heated rivalries.

Why is that, you ask? Maybe it’s because Ryan Kesler once called Andrew Ladd a “coward.” Maybe it’s because Dave Bolland once called the Sedin twins “sisters,” and Alain Vigneault responded by saying Bolland has an “IQ the size of bird seed and a face only a mother can love.” Maybe it’s because Raffi Torres once got away with a thunderous, questionable hit on Brent Seabrook in the playoffs. Maybe it’s because Duncan Keith‘s elbow gave Daniel Sedin a concussion. (We could go all day.)

Nevertheless, these two rivals renew acquaintances Friday night in Vancouver. As a refresher, here are the Top 5 bitter moments between the Canucks and Blackhawks:

1. Game 7

Vancouver entered the 2011 playoffs as the Presidents’ Trophy winners, while the defending-champion Blackhawks snuck in as the eighth seed. The Canucks won the first three games of the series and were in full control. Then Raffi Torres hit Brent Seabrook and lit a fire under the Blackhawks. Chicago won games 4 and 5 by a combined score of 12-2, and won Game 6 in overtime after Roberto Luongo came into the game in relief for surprise starter Cory Schneider, who suffered an injury in the third period.

It set the stage for an epic Game 7.

Heading into the series’ decisive contest, the entire city of Vancouver was on edge. Alex Burrows eased the arena’s tension with a tally just 2:43 into the game. The Canucks failed to expand the lead as Corey Crawford kept the Blackhawks in it with one big save after another. Chicago finally tied the game, shorthanded, as Jonathan Toews scored with 1:56 to play.

The Blackhawks were buzzing in overtime, threatening to end the Canucks’ banner season prematurely — until Chris Campoli turned the puck over to Burrows…

Though it came in the first round, this momentous win exorcised the Canucks’ demons and was the catapult they needed for a Cup final run.

2. Patrick Kane‘s hat-trick game

A big contributor to the Canucks’ demons against Chicago was Game 6 in 2009.

This second-round series laid the foundation for the rivalry between these two teams. It was a hard-fought battle through five games, with the emotions spilling over from their regular-season brawl (see below). Vancouver was the favourite, simply because Chicago was so young and experiencing their first postseason since 2002.

However, the Blackhawks held a 3-2 series lead through five games. They were just starting to get into Luongo’s head. And then Game 6 happened.

In a wild back-and-forth game, the Canucks rallied to take a 5-4 lead with 7:45 remaining — but Patrick Kane wasn’t about to let the Blackhawks lose. Kane tied the game just 45 seconds after Vancouver went ahead, then capped off a hat trick with a sick backhanded shot that eluded Luongo…

The highlight-reel goal finished off a 7-5 victory for the Blackhawks to advance to the conference finals and eliminate Vancouver. As a result, Canucks fans had the Blackhawks’ catchy goal song, Chelsea Dagger, stuck in their head all summer long.

3. Chris Chelios strikes twice in 1995

In May of 1995, the Canucks and Blackhawks embarked upon their second postseason meeting. Their first meeting came in 1982, when the Canucks won in five games and Roger Neilson took a trainer’s towel and placed it on a hockey stick, as if to wave a white flag in response to questionable officiating.

But this series in 1995 was over in a blur.

The fourth-seeded Blackhawks took the first two games at home against the sixth-seeded Canucks before the series shifted to Vancouver. Games 3 and 4 of that series ended up being the final two games played at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, both having the same result: a Chris Chelios overtime goal.

In overtime of Game 3, Bernie Nicholls found a wide-open Chelios, who deked Kirk McLean and slid home the overtime winner to put the Blackhawks up 3-0 in the series. Two nights later in Game 4, Chelios struck again in overtime to complete the sweep. Chelios buried a feed from Denis Savard to silence Vancouver and advance to the conference finals.

4. Luongo melts down in 2010 series

It’s not that the Canucks lost this Western Conference Semifinal series — it’s how they lost it. Vancouver played well in Chicago in the series, as they won games 1 and 5 and should’ve won Game 2. But it was their play at home, particularly Luongo, that was so demoralizing for Canucks fans.

In the three home games, the Canucks surrendered a grand total of 17 goals (Luongo allowed 16). The defence didn’t help Luongo, but Luongo’s confidence was fragile all series long. He gave up hat tricks to Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews in games 3 and 4, respectively, and imploded in a 5-1 Game 6 loss.

It was a stunningly poor display of goaltending from a star netminder like Luongo, who sarcastically said after Game 6: “I’m going to leave tonight with my head up. Not like last year (2009), I battled for 60 minutes and kept it under seven goals, so improvement was made.”

If the Blackhawks weren’t in Luongo’s head after Game 6 in 2009, they were after the second-round rematch in 2010.

5. The brawl that started it all

March 29, 2009, is when the bad blood escalated to new heights between the Blackhawks and Canucks.

Midway through the third period of this late-season tilt, a brawl took place after Chicago’s Byfuglien crosschecked/punched Luongo in the mask, causing the goaltender to fall back into his net. The Canucks took exception to Byfuglien’s actions, and it all spiraled out of control when Vancouver’s Shane O’Brien aggressively went after Adam Burish during the stoppage in play.

In a matter of moments, the following ensued: Ben Eager fought Kevin Bieksa, Burrows pulled Duncan Keith‘s hair, O’Brien was tackled by a referee and coaches Alain Vigneault and Joel Quenneville barked at each other between the benches. High drama.

 

 

If the Sabres really want to best the Bruins, they’ll need to start winning faceoffs

Posted on by Harrison Mooney in Featured, News | Leave a comment

Jochen Hecht probably lost this faceoff.

The Buffalo Sabres effectively went out and acquired John Scott in free agency for games like Thursday night’s tilt with the Boston Bruins, so its understandable that most of the discussion leading up to this affair is about whether they’ll finally be able to win the toughness battle. I’d suggest no. The Bruins’ tough guys aren’t hampered by marginal utility. As Kevin Bieksa once said about John Scott, “If a 6-foot-8 guy who can’t skate asks to fight, you say no, then skate around him and score a goal.”

But if the Sabres are hoping to get the best of the Bruins, there’s another battle they’d do well to win: the faceoff circle. And if the early returns from both clubs are any indication, they won’t.

When it comes to team faceoff numbers, Boston and Buffalo currently occupy the 1st and 30th spots on the list, respectively. The Bruins boast an absurd win rate of 60.7%, thanks to stellar pivots like Rich Peverley (67.8%), Patrice Bergeron (65.5%), Chris Kelly (61.5%), and David Krejci (57.5%). Six games in, all are among the NHL’s top 20 in this category.

These numbers are bound to come down some over the season, but it’s not a stretch to assume the Bruins might be able to stay around 55%. They finished last season a league-best 54.5%.

The Sabres, on the other hand, have been beyond terrible in the circle so far this year. Through their first 6 games, their top 3 centres are all winning less than 40% of their draws. Look upon their work and despair:

It’s early, but that is abysmal. Lose that many draws, and your chances of winning are slim, both on the ice and in classic NES zapper games Hogan’s Alley and Wild Gunman.

Playing between Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville on the first line, Cody Hodgson has taken a third of the Sabres’ total faceoffs and won about as many. He’s got a 37.9% win rate.

Jochen Hecht, the Sabres’ third line centre and first-unit penalty kill centre, has been especially bad. He’s drawing at 32.7%. On the penalty kill, where winning the puck is paramount, Hecht has won just 2 of 18 faceoffs.

But defensive zone draws in any situation are an issue for the Sabres. They’re only winning 37.7% inside their blueline. From the Buffalo News:

I realize you can twist numbers any way you want, but there’s no way you’re winning many hockey games when you can’t even win 38 percent of the draws in your own zone. Just off the top of my head, I can come up with three goals (at Toronto, the game-winner at home vs. Carolina and the Leafs’ third goal Tuesday) that came directly off such losses. There might be more

Yes, there are secondary issues after the puck is dropped (Thomas Vanek taking a long route to the point on the Carolina goal by Jay Harrison, for instance). Sometimes a goaltender flubs a save like Ryan Miller did when Grigorenko lost a draw and Cody Franson scored Tuesday. But ultimately, you don’t succeed if you’re spending an inordinate amount of time chasing the puck trying to get it back.

Now, the Sabres do have one decent faceoff man on the team: Steve Ott, acquired from Dallas in exchange for Buffalo’s best faceoff man last year, Derek Roy. Ott’s a natural winger — he says he’s spent 90% of his career at left wing — but he played centre in Dallas and he played it well. He kept special track of his faceoff numbers too.

For whatever reason, however, even despite the Sabres being pretty clearly without a decent faceoff man, Lindy Ruff has been deploying Ott on the wing to start the season.

Tuesday versus Toronto, Ruff had seen enough, and Ott was finally used in the middle. He responded by winning an absurd 16 of 19 faceoffs. The rest of the Buffalo lineup won 17 of 46. Cody Hodgson saw the same number of faceoffs as Ott. He won 6.

All of this is to say that, regardless of whether or not John Scott is in the lineup somehow magically deterring shenanigans from the bench with his powerful glare, regardless of whether the Buffalo rallies together as a team to pass Boston’s punk test this season, they’ll still struggle versus the Bruins because they’ll be expending a lot of energy chasing the puck off the draw.