Archive for the ‘Player News’ Category

Everyone’s heard of Matt Cooke. He’s infamous around the league for his “dirty” plays and hated by many fans. But the latest incident involving Matt Cooke has ignited more hatred than any other, probably because this time, a team’s star and very gifted defenseman Erik Karlsson was injured and taken out of the game for the remainder of the season.

Here’s the incident, you make a judgement for yourself, was it dirty?


 
The unfortunate injury to Karlsson, in my mind, was not intentional. Now don’t take me for a Matt Cooke fan, I am nothing of the sort. I remember vividly sitting in Mellon Arena as Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard was rolled off the ice on a stretcher following an elbow from Matt Cooke. For those who don’t know, Savard has still not returned to the ice, and I don’t think he ever will.

2010-04-03_Cooke_kneelingA poll by ESPN’s Sportsnation can be seen here They asked whether or not Cooke should face supplemental discipline for the incident. Of the 29,361 that responded, 63 percent in the United States said no. Only two states had a yes majority. Not surprisingly they were Massachusetts and Vermont. Internationally 61 percent said no.

Rash comments and over-emotional reactions are expected from fans when star players are injured. And with Cooke’s history, it’s hard to argue for his innocence. If he hadn’t cleaned up his game so much last season, I’d be with those irrational Ottawa fans. But when an executive gets involved and makes unnecessary comments, the line must be drawn. Yes, the injury will affect their team greatly. Of course it will, but it was an accident.

Below is a statement made by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk in an ESPN interview.

“Over the coming weeks, we’ll get to the bottom of it. … You can’t see it on camera, that’s why you can’t blame the league for this or anyone else. On camera you look at it, but when you look at it logically, you’ve got a blade that has to cut through socks, has to then cut through skin, fat, muscle, everything that protects the tendon, then cuts 70 percent of the tendon.”

Melnyk must have missed the memo that skates are sharp. Socks are not very thick, my toes can tell you that by their impersonations as ice cubes. And unless your skin is the same as Superman’s, it won’t take much to slice through it.

At the end of the day, the league has the final say. Irrational comments should be kept for ranting behind closed doors, not public interviews. If the league says it was an accident, then that is exactly what it was. Click here to read the rest of the interview.

Bench Marc-Andre Fleury. I’ll say it again. Bench Marc-Andre Fleury.

That’s what Billy Nauman said in his article February 5, 2013, on TheHockeyWriters.com. Not that Nauman doesn’t have a basis for his opinion, he backs it up well with Fleury’s numbers versus Tomas Vokoun’s. But I will not agree with this statement:  “I’m writing this because Marc-Andre Fleury has been a disappointment throughout his entire career.”

Does anyone remember the year the Pittsburgh Penguins became Stanley Cup Champions? Last time I checked, Fleury was the goalie who stopped 162 shots in six games against the Red Wings, not including Game 5 of the series when he was pulled in favor of Mathieu Garon. Check out Fleury’s saves in the final seconds of Game 7.

Though Fleury has had some poor performances and many goals have gone behind him that he should want back, saying he has never been an elite goaltender is not accurate. He was the goaltender to turn to on the back-to-back cup runs the Penguins made, and even though he struggles, when MAF is hot, he’s hot.

So maybe he isn’t at the top of the goalie list when it comes to save percentage, but maybe he doesn’t have to. The Pittsburgh Penguins have two of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. A team needs a very strong net minder when they have a team that struggles to score or has a less-than average defense. The Penguins have both offensive and defensive strength.

In the game against New Jersey Sunday, Fleury made some remarkable saves and kept the score close, especially when the Penguins took penalty after penalty. A goaltender can’t be responsible for every player on the ice, it isn’t his fault his team kept putting themselves in a bad position.

For his play earlier in the game before his team took up residence in the penalty box, he even drew praise on twitter for his play. 

Don’t think that just because Fleury has had some bad games this season he will get benched in favor of Vokoun. Dan Bylsma has seen Fleury at his best and at his worst. He knows his players and will make the best decision for the team.

After lack-luster performances where the team looked like a disorganized bunch of ants, the Penguins came back and reminded their fans why they should keep cheering.

Evgeni Malkin got the Penguins on the board early, and even got physical with Marc Staal. It looks like “Geno” is starting to return to his MVP form of last year.

Tomas Vokoun performed….well…is there really a word? Maybe the closest one is fantastic. As was the case in recent years, the Penguins fans have started talking about whether or not the starting goalie job should go to someone other than Marc Andre Fleury. Not that they wouldn’t be right to question Fleury’s play. In the past years he has played terribly and given up some horrific goals.

If Vokoun can keep up his current play, look for No. 92 on the ice between the pipes while No. 29 takes a seat on the bench.

 

The league yet again handed down a suspension, this time drawing lots of attention for the name who won’t be playing.

After Claude Giroux threw his shoulder into Devils player Dainius Zubrus late in the game Sunday, few wondered if the young Philadelphia star would face discipline. The answer was yes. After a hearing with the department of player safety, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux was suspended for Game 5, an elimination game for the Flyers.

His hit, featured below, was clear and deliberate. The only problem is, what is the difference between that hit and the one by Alex Ovechkin?

Ovechkin’s hit on Dan Girardi, no suspension by the league.

Now the question is, why did Giroux’s hit warrant a suspension when Ovechkin’s did not? The inconsistency of the player safety department has been under scrutiny for awhile, but in these playoffs the attention has come to a new high. Ovechkin is a league star, and his team’s series against the Rangers has the opportunity to draw more eyeballs because it is closer than the one between the Devils and Flyers.

The league needs to define a standard for suspensions, and soon. The inconsistency will soon begin to drive away fans who cannot stand the apparent favoritism over certain players. In the off season, the issue needs to be addressed so that next season the standard is clear and players will know what will happen if they make such hits.

Evgeni Malkin’s play has earned him another nomination, this time for the Ted Lindsay Award – the NHL’s Outstanding Player.

His two fellow nominees are Steven Stamkos and Henrik Lundqvist, which is no surprise. The three have been standout players throughout the entire season and the decision for MVP and the Ted Lindsay Award will be difficult for the voters.

Evgeni Malkin carried the Penguins with his scoring this past season, even though he failed to appear in the playoffs. He scored a career-high 50 goals, recorded 59 assists and took the scoring championship with a 12-point lead over Stamkos. The scoring championship will be the second of Malkin’s young career, but a win of the MVP or Lindsay award would be new to him.

Stamkos, who is nothing short of a scoring machine, notched 60 goals this season and came in second behind Malkin for points. His play for the Tampa Bay Lightning has been MVP worthy and without him, the team would not have the record they do, including beating the Penguins in last year’s playoffs. The 22-year old shooter has a case for MVP, but his two fellow nominees will make the win tough.

Last but not least, “The King” Henrik Lundqvist, performed brilliantly in the regular season and is the only one of the three to still show off his play in the post-season. Lundqvist’s play this season helped the New York Rangers claim the top spot of the Eastern Conference.

The voters have their work cut out for them as they decide not only the MVP but also the NHL’s Outstanding Player. All three of the finalists have earned their nomination and made a unique case for themselves. The awards show can be seen on NBC Sports June 20, 2012 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.

At one end of the rink between the pipes stood Tim Thomas of Boston, defending Stanley Cup Champion goalie.

At the other a 22-year old starting in his very first playoff game.

That was April 12. But after a seven-game series, the young buck Braden Holtby finds himself playing in the second round of the playoffs.The brilliant display of goal tending during the Boston-Washington series, where each game was decided by one goal and four went to overtime, provided one of the most-entertaining series in the first round.

The defending Stanley Cup Champions just couldn’t seem to figure out Holtby. The young goalie showed poise when the Bruins came at him. Goal tending wins championships, and the Capitals have found a goalie who, if he plays the way he did against the Bruins, will be a good start to their Stanley Cup dreams.

Now Holtby faces Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best goalie this season. A Hart Trophy finalist against a rookie. This series will test Holtby more than the first. The Rangers were a force to be reckoned with during the regular season and sat atop the Eastern Conference for a reason. Washington finds themselves down by one in the series, but even if they lose, they have found a goalie they can build with. If Holby can play like he did against the Bruins for a season, the Caps could find themselves in a better position when it comes to the playoff picture.

There are no words to express what happened on the ice Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

But what’s worse is the Penguins came out of it looking like fools. The lack of self-discipline showed by the club not only embarrassed themselves, but also the fans and the city. The once-favored Stanley Cup winners are now in no-man’s land.

And as announced by the NHL late Tuesday, they will be without Arron Asham and James Neal for the crucial Game 4. Asham may not be a large loss for the team, but Neal will be. He scored half of the Penguins goals in Game 3, and his shot is needed if the Penguins can even stand a chance against the Flyers.

The Penguins may be able to deal with the loss of Neal, however, if they are able to correct the atrocious defense they have been playing. They need to come out, take the body, and get back to the hockey they used to play that made them get so many nods as Stanley Cup favorite.

Early Wednesday the Penguins recalled defensemen Simon Depres, who played 18 games for the team this season. During a time where the team had a plethora of injuries, Depres helped them push through and gave them a fighting chance for staying in contention.

Fans can only hope tonight that the losses of Asham, Neal and Adams will not be too much to overcome for Pittsburgh to have a fighting chance to stay in this series. A loss tonight means more than just elimination from the playoffs, it means embarassment for a team that had so many putting them in the Stanley Cup Final.

His play this season has been nothing short of remarkable, earning him consideration for the league MVP title and scoring champion. But there is one dream Evgeni Malkin would like to make come true this season, and it isn’t just winning the Stanley Cup.

The 25-year-old Malkin came close in 2007-2008 with 47 goals, but failed to reach the 50-goal mark. This season Malkin has gone on a rampage, becoming a terror for opposing goalies and defenses. But will he make it to the big 50 before time runs out?

With five games to go and three goals left before the mark, time is crunching down on the Russian superstar. Not to mention the schedule for the Penguins and their new-found defensive woes will make scoring those last three goals more difficult. The Penguins face Buffalo, who is fighting for a playoff spot; the Flyers twice, who this season have provided exciting and hard games for the team; the Bruins, who have finally began an upswing and may come out and surprise the Penguins after poor performances in the last two match ups; and then there are the division-leading New York Rangers.

The Russian’s last chance to score No. 50 will be April 7 against Philadelphia if he has not hit the mark before then. As the standings sit right now the Penguins will be seeing the Flyers more than twice in April as the two teams are poised to meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“MVP,” the fans chant. “Score and save us.”

In one game he records 10 shots on goal and scores a hat trick, the game after that he assists on four of five goals scored by the Penguins. Well-rounded player? I think so.

Just a month after signing his six-year deal with the Penguins that will keep him a Penguin through the 2017-18 season, James Neal has continued to show not only fans, but ownership that he will earn every dime of the $5 million. (See http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=617794 for full story.)

This season alone he has established career highs in goals, assists and points, played in his first All-Star game and scored his second-career hat trick.

Neal has always been known as the guy who goes out and scores goals, and with 35 so far this season and still a few games left, the winger could hit 40 while playing on the line with league-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin. A statistic Neal and Malkin share is shots on goal. Neal ranks only second to Malkin with 302 shots, that’s an average of four shots per game.

The game March 20 against Winnipeg made the record books for Neal in three categories:  his hat trick, a career-high point total (4) and 10 shots on goal. But those statistics are almost expected with Neal’s reputation as a shooter. What was not expected, however, is what happened in the next game.

March 22 against the Nashville Predators he assisted on four of the five goals scored by Pittsburgh, marking another career high for Neal.

With seven games left before the regular season comes to a close and the Penguins posed for a deep Stanley Cup run, Neal has a chance to make an impact on not only the Penguins scoring, but the outcome of the playoff series as well.

Tonight’s match up against the Nashville Predators not only matches two teams set to make playoffs runs, but also two stellar goaltenders.

Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne sit atop the league’s goalies with 39 wins apiece. The game tonight will decide which goalie becomes the first to hit 40. We know about MAF and how he has been this season, but what about Rinne?

Rinne, when he wins his 40th game, which will happen, hopefully not against the Penguins though, will win 40 for the first time in his career. At 39 wins he already has the Nashville Predators record for wins. Going into tonight’s game, Rinne has a .923 save percentage to Fleury’s .916. But Fleury has something Rinne does not. He has the Pittsburgh Penguins firepower.

The Penguins have scored 30 more goals collectively than the Predators and also  have the league’s leading scorer in Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins have multiple players on hot streaks, and even though Brad Thiessen let in four goals Tuesday against Winnipeg, the Penguins scored eight goals to ensure the win.

With the current hot streaks of James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy scored two in the last game, maybe he gets another tonight, Malkin and Sidney Crosby, Fleury may have an easier time than Rinne between the pipes.

There has been talk throughout the NHL that this game could be a preview of the Stanley Cup Final. Tonight’s game is the last the Penguins will play against Western Conference opponents, but they have fared well against the conference this season. Stanley Cup preview or not, this game will be an exciting one as both starting goalies chase the big 40.