Tag Archives: nicklas lidstrom

Thank God Hockey’s Back (NHL Preview)

It's been an offseason to forget in the NHL

If you thought the NBA offseason has been hell then you don’t have the slightest idea about rough. The NHL’s offseason has been a public relations nightmare. The summer was supposed to be about the celebration of the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup after 40 years of futility. Instead every other day there was a tragedy on the ice.

Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and the KHL Lokomotiv franchise’s plane crash that killed all passengers aboard including former NHL-ers Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and Brad McCrimmon to name a few cast a shadow of the sport and brought sadness to everyone over the sport.

Add that to the fact that Rangers bruiser Derek Boogaard died towards the end of last season and you understand the somber mood that the NHL might seem to be in.

When looking at ESPN fashion guru Paul Lukas’s annual uniform design review there were less designs for jerseys and more decals and patches for fallen players. It’s like the NHL has become a graveyard instead the coolest game on earth.

If any sport needs to start their season and get back to the brilliant play on the playing surface it’s this league. Ever since the lockout 0f 2004-05 the NHL has been on a roll. The talent on the ice is the highest that it’s been since the mid to late 90’s with the emergence of the Paul Kariya’s, Keith Tkachuk’s and Mike Modano’s of the world.

The NHL has so many great players playing at a high level that it’s becoming hard to keep up with all of them. At first it was the hype of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Dion Phaneuf. Then came Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler. Now we have kids like Ryan Nugent- Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Tyler Myers and others who are crowding the ice and making noise.

The Bruins are ready to repeat.

It’s not like the NBA in terms of star power but it’s a beautiful thing to watch when the games are flowing. There are great players on every team in the league and most are under the age of 27.  Every night in every city there is a reason to watch a game just to catch one of these young studs whether it’s Drew Doughty in Los Angeles or Jeff Skinner in Carolina. Even with the sports brightest star status still in doubt (Sidney Crosby is still having post-concussion issues) the league is as strong as it’s ever been and is staring one of its most competitive season in decades in the face.

This year there is no real clear cut favorite. Gone are the days of Detroit being the front runner in the league every year, nowadays they’re not even the favorites in their own division. There are 10 to 14 teams that have a realistic chance at winning the Stanley Cup this year whether it is because of their goaltending, offensive prowess or just the fact they have all of the right pieces in place to make a run at the cup.

The right pieces meaning the right balance of youth and experience. In the modern NHL the young teams win championships as seen with the Penguins, Blackhawks and Bruins in the last three years. Yes I know Tim Thomas is old as dirt and Zdeno Chara is no spring chicken, but the work put in by guys like Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand helped this team win the Stanley Cup last year. Unlike in other sports where the older teams win the titles the young ones take the crown in the NHL.

So who has the best shot at winning the crown this year? Well in order…

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Now I know what you’re thinking… who the hell will score goals for them? Their leader in goals had 23 and their points leader scored 50. The Predators are the NHL version of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2000’s, they can’t score to save their lives, but no one can score on them. The backline led by Shea Weber along with Vezina finalist Pekka RInne were in the top 5 in goals allowed per game and the teams tough defensive play gave teams fits. If they get two goals a game they could win another 44 games and find themselves fighting for the crown.

BUFFALO SABRES

They can score in bunches thanks to Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford. Tyler Myers heads a steady backline and Ryan Miller is one the game’s best goalies. They failed to take care of the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs last year but if Miller stays on top of his game they can go very far.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Team Teemu and the Ducks have a shot at the crown.

 

Once upon a time the Habs had more titles than the New York Yankees after raising their 24th Cup in 1993. Ever since they’ve been one big roller coaster, which has included numerous changes in net and on the bench and they haven’t had a real identity for a long time. Now they seem settled on Carey Price who came through big for them last year shaking off an up and down 2009-20 season that had him on the bench in the playoffs. This team isn’t too loaded with playmakers but it gets the job done with guys like Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri as well as dark horse Norris candidate P.K. Subban patrolling the blue line. They can make a run as long as they can hold onto a lead unlike how they did last year against the Bruins.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

I don’t care what they do in the regular season anymore. I don’t care if they win the Pacific division, if Joe Thornton scores 200 points and Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture score 90 goals. This team should’ve won a Cup by now and their time is running out. If they don’t get it done this year then they never will.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Is Ilya Bryzgalov finally the answer in net for the Flyers? He better be. The Flyers let go of fan favorites and team leaders Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to clear space for Bryzgalov. Sure they acquired L.A. Kings power forward Wayne Simmonds (who Flyer fans will love) and Brandon Schenn  (who from preseason reports looks like a beast) but you don’t replace Richards toughness and Carter’s skill overnight. I’m still not a fan of either trade but if the Flyers get back to the finals then it proves that maybe I really don’t know anything about hockey.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

I probably jumped the gun last year in making them Stanley Cup favorites, but they are close. Acquiring Richards from the Flyers gives them a much needed veteran presence in the locker room and they have Doughty, Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar flying around and making things happen. The only question is will Jonathan Quick be their full time net minder or will it be Jonathan Bernier?

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Without Crosby the Pens had 98 points last year and took the 4th spot in the East (without Malkin also) so once Crosby comes back how do you think this team will fare?

(This Crosby injury by the way is really bad in both a game play and P.R. sense for the NHL. The league needs Crosby on the ice because he is the NHL. Crosby is the league’s most recognizable face and its best player. The league needs him on the ice as much as it needs Ovechkin. When Crosby is on the ice the game changes. He is the best passer and best scorer in the league and can change a game at the drop of a hat. If the Pens had him healthy in the playoffs they may have hoisted their second cup in three years. Once healthy the Pens once again become the league’s scariest team and might be the best team in the league… once he comes back.

His injury is the reason why Brendan Shanahan has been so harsh when it comes to physical play. This isn’t like the NFL where Roger Goodell is turning the game into flag

40 and still going strong.

football, the suspensions that “Shanaban” is handing out are necessary in order to change the culture of the game and protect the players. After the injuries to Crosby as well as Nathan Horton and Marc Savard it has become clear that the league needs to crack down on these types of hits. Hopefully it discourages this type of play and quick. Because if Steven Stamkos gets a Crosby type of injury then the game will really be in trouble.)

DETROIT RED WINGS

I mean when are they not a player for the Cup?

Also let’s pay homage to Nicklas Lidstrom. This is probably his last season in the league and it looks like he can play another five. At age 40 Lidstrom is still better than most of the defensemen in the league and is probably the front runner for his 8th Norris trophy. What he did in replacing the irreplaceable Steve Yzerman as captain in Detroit and leading them to another title in addition to all that he’s done in his career has to put him in the top 10 players all-time right?

NEW YORK RANGERS

I probably just jinxed my team putting them in the top 7 and I’m probably overvaluing the acquisition of Brad Richards (which will help immensely) but after watching this team play together for two years I think that they will contend for a title this year. The Rangers youth movement has been a huge success with Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky leading the way. The Rangers are a tough team that is defense driven but can score goals when needed. They just needed more consistent scoring and a veteran to get them over the hump. Enter Richards. Richards was a member of John Tortorella’s 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning championship team and is one of the game’s best scorers. His presence will help Marian Gaborik get back to scoring a ton of goals, should push Cally and Dubz to the 30 goal mark and should keep the Rangers ship steady in those late months. I’m saying they’ll win it all, but they will be a serious contender.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Hey Bruce Boudreau, you don’t get it done this year then you may want to update your resume.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The thought of Daniel Sedin taking four shots to the face and Roberto Luongo falling flat on his face in key situations is still fresh. If they didn’t get tougher this offseason then they’ll be done in a hurry.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

The trades after the title killed their chemistry for the first half of last year. Once they got it going they looked like a machine. The key is Corey Crawford in net. We know Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp will score, but the reason they were able to turn things around was because of Crawford’s play in net. He is primed for a breakout year and the Blackhawks are looking at a return to the Cup.

BOSTON BRUINS

With Richards the Rangers can contend.

 

Okay, your city won its 7th title in all four major sports in 10 years… now go away. That wasn’t really analysis more like I’m sick of Boston and its championship reign.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

No one, and I mean no one will stop them from scoring goals especially of Ryan Getzlaf stays healthy all season long. The Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line is the scariest line that the NHL has seen in a while. They can all go for 50 goals and 100 points and they make it easy. It helps when your 40 year-old second line winger can still get you 30 goals and 80 points to help back you up. I don’t know what fountain of youth Teemu Selanne has been drinking from but he needs to share it with others. However it always comes back to goaltending and Jonas Hiller decides whether I’m right about this team making the Cup finals or not. With him in net last year they would’ve won the pacific division. In that period in between before Ray Emery almost saved them the Ducks could’ve scored 10 goals a game and it wouldn’t have mattered because they still would’ve lost. Hiller’s health means so much to this team because they have no real second option behind him. It also doesn’t help that he is one of the top 6 goalies in the league. This team’s title hopes hinge on him, if he’s healthy then put them down for a June reservation. If not, then it’s another first round exit.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Yep, I just picked the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup. They have a 41 year-old goalie, I don’t know if their defense can stop the puck from going in the net and Vinny LeCavalier is still possible trade bait… and I don’t care. This team could’ve made the Stanley Cup Finals last year if not for a road game 7. This year I think Stamkos and company won’t fade late in the season like they did last year, which ultimately cost them home ice. They are settled in net and Roloson is a big game goalie who knows how to win also they can score with the best of them. Steve Yzerman put this team together in his image and if that’s the case then I have no doubts that they will be tough enough to get to and win the Stanley Cup.

The first puck is set to drop in a few hours and I’m more than excited. After a long offseason with so much tragedy and heartbreak it will be a welcome relief to see some of the best players in the world on the ice and making magic happen.

The league deserves some good news and good times after a few months of so many bad ones.

ATLANTIC- RANGERS

Stamkos is ready for a run at Lord Stanley.

NORTHEAST- BRUINS

SOUTHEAST- LIGHTNING

EC PLAYOFFS- CAPS, HABS, SABRES, FLYERS, PENS

ECF-  LIGHTNING- BRUINS

CENTRAL- BLACKHAWKS

NORTHWEST- CANUCKS

PACIFIC- DUCKS

WC PLAYOFFS- SHARKS, KINGS, PREDATORS, RED WINGS, BLUES

WCF- DUCKS- BLACKHAWKS

SCF- DUCKS- LIGHTNING

HART TROPHY- STEVEN STAMKOS

VEZINA- HENRIK LUNDQUIST

NORRIS- NICKLAS LIDSTROM

CALDER- RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

SELKE- JONATHAN TOEWS

JACK ADAMS- JOHN TORTORELLA


Agreeing With Golden Tate

Golden Tate's tweets about NASCAR drivers athleticism started a little controversy last week.

Hey … I’m writing a blog on NASCAR!!!

 

Well sort of.

 

I’ve never fully disclosed this little tidbit of information to the world but I am not a fan of NASCAR at all.

 

Now let’s make this clear, I’m not one of those fans that just blasts NASCAR for being too hillbilly for its own good, that has never watched a race and judges it based on perception, or is just a flat out hater.

 

When I was a kid watching a bunch of ESPN highlights and trying to do my best Chris Berman impersonation I actually attempted to watch a few races. Some Sundays I would kick back after the late Sportscenter and watch as stock cars sped around tracks at up to 200 mph in hopes of taking home a checkered flag. I knew about Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough and the other legends that graced the asphalt and knew a little bit of their history. I understood certain ins and outs and what the purpose of each race was… and I couldn’t get into it.

 

All sports are repetitive; throw the ball, score a touchdown, strike one, dump and chase, slam dunk, and so on and so forth. We see the same thing in each sport year in and year out. With Auto racing however, it’s pure torture.

 

Watching a car around and around and around for three hours gives me no redeeming factor. The crashes used to be cool until you saw people die on the racetrack. When Dale Earnhardt was killed after hitting a cement wall at 200 mph at the Daytona 500 I was done with NASCAR.

 

People say auto crashes are thrilling, me not so much.

I cant get into a sport where fans say the most fun part of it is the fact that cars crash into each other and there is the possibility of death. Ask Lamar Odom about how much fun auto wrecks are.  If that’s the fun in a race then I’ll pass.

 

(Funny story. I think it was my buddy Andrew who came up with the best way to describe how mundane NASCAR is to him and I.

 

Right around the time when NASCAR was taking over hockey’s spot after the lockout, which in hindsight is laughable now, and popularity was growing, he looked at me one day and said “if I wanted to watch cars go round and round and spend $8 on beer watching it I would buy a six pack and sit on the Capital Beltway and watch traffic.” To us this is all NASCAR is. There are no bone crushing hits, highlight catches or crazy goals, it’s drive, stop and go. Where’s the fun in that?)

 

So where does this whole rant come from? It’s courtesy of Seattle Seahawks WR Golden Tate.

 

Tate was watching the ESPY’s last week and when the category for Best Male Athlete came up he saw 5-time NCSC champ Jimmie Johnson’s name mixed in with Dirk Nowitzki and others. He decided to let his opinion of Johnson’s place in the pantheon of athletes be known on everyone’s favorite site, Twitter:

 

Jimmy johnson up for best athlete???? Um nooo .. Driving a car does not show athleticism.”

 

“I’ve driven a car on unknown roads at night at 90mph no big deal. No sign of athletism.

 

 “Guarantee he couldn’t in million year play any SPORT.”

 

 “Give me 6 months of training and I bet I could compete.”

 

Now could Tate compete in NASCAR as some bum off of the street? Hell no, he wouldn’t qualify for a race. But do I agree with him that Jimmie Johnson isn’t a real athlete? Yes.

 

Make no mistake, I’m not downplaying Johnson’s success. Winning five of anything in a row takes some serious skill. However, Tate is right when he says that driving a car shows no athleticism.

 

Johnson doesn’t show leadership qualities like a Dirk Nowitzki or an Aaron Rodgers, he doesn’t outwit defenders and make our jaws drop with his incredible offensive skill like Sidney Crosby or Rafael Nadal he just drives a car.

 

There is some skill in changing speeds and knowing when to pit and all that jazz, but are you really going to compare that to closing out an opponent like James Shields has done all year in leading the league in complete games or compare his 5 straight NCSC titles to Nicklas Lidstrom’s 7 Norris Trophies? No way.

 

Jimmie Johnson is a great winner, not a great athlete.

Johnson is good at what he does, but he is no athlete. There is no stamina needed to fend off an opponent in crunch time, no hop in his step to beat a defender off of the dribble, and no standing on his head to keep his team ahead in the final minutes of a contest. He just drives a car.

 

While Johnson shouldn’t be made to feel like he’s beneath other athletes, he’s not on their level.

 

I’m sorry if you’re a NASCAR fan and you feel a certain way about what Tate said or about what I’m saying, but to me it’s true.

 

I tried to get into racing but it just isn’t an attention grabber. There’s nothing special about watching a guy go around in a circle 300 times in a race. I don’t care how good Jimmie Johnson is; I’d rather watch Golden Tate catch passes every Sunday because that takes real skill and work.

 

That to me that is a real athlete.


The Return Of Random Thoughts

Wait a minute... we're still over .500? High five!

You know what we haven’t done in a while? A random thoughts blog.

Just things I’ve thought about that maybe you have as well in the last few weeks of watching sports.

With so much going on as far as sports since March Madness I think it’s time to do some rehashing.

So without further ado… HERE WE GO!

Is Zach Greinke really worth it? I mean he is 7-3 but he’s got a 5.66 ERA.

Anybody else think Kenny Williams is lying about the Adam Dunn deal?

Josh Harrelson a year ago was buried on the bench at Kentucky with Enes Kanter coming in. A year later he was a key component in the Wildcats Final Four run and will get minutes off of the bench for the Knicks. Life.

Hopefully the Sedin Twins take boxing lessons this summer.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, please gain 20 pounds.

Even though she is six foot five how many of us would hit on Jan Vesely’s girlfriend?

Federer couldn’t beat Nadal, Nadal can’t beat Djokovic… So who’s he going to have a problem with?

Why is it that Joe Girardi is the only person who thinks Derek Jeter should lead off?

David Ortiz couldn’t hit anything for the last two years now all of a sudden he’s hitting .301 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI… hmmmm….

Lebron James dunking on a kid doesn’t help his image.

(honestly at this point LeBron could cure cancer and we’d still hate him. And yes I’m serious about that statement.)

Mario Chalmers is now my new least favorite athlete in the world.

Did any team in the NBA Draft really help itself?

Sabine Lisicki also plays tennis. We'll talk about that later.

Nicklas Lidstrom came back for his 20th season. Can we engrave his name on the Norris Trophy in 2012 already?

Lets face it, Dany Heatley will never be “the guy.”

Neither will Andy Murray.

Anybody else happy that Brian Cashman corrected Alex Rodriguez by saying that Robinson Cano is better that Jose Reyes?

Can I call Austin Rivers “Baby Doc?”

Did Jose Bautista really just score the most votes in All-Star voting history?

How awesome was it that Virginia won the lacrosse title?

(think about this for a second. In the last two years lacrosse’s two most controversial teams fought back from media hell to win a title. Last years Duke team won after three years of dealing with the ugly aftermath of a stripper rape allegation and this year Virginia won after one of it’s own murdered women’s lacrosse player Yeardley Love.

The image of the Cavs men’s team was brutally tarnished and the turmoil around both mens and women’s teams was enough make anyone not want to put on pads and a helmet and sprint out onto the field again. However, Virginia fought through it’s adversity and came out a winner. Their win over Maryland in the Memorial Day title game cast a fantastic light on the team an buried whatever demons were left from the 2011 season.

Very commendable indeed.)

Are the Pirates really a game and a half out of first place?

Who the hell is Mike Morse?

Brian Wilson needs to shave that beard… Now!

Is Jim Riggleman; a, a gangster, b, salty or c, out of his bleeping mind?

Iman Shumpert… And yes I’m still stuck on that pick.

How funny would it be if the Winnipeg Jets won the southeast division this year?

(Winnipeg is six hours north of Minneapolis.)

It’s July… NFL step on it.

(I’m serious. The New York Giants tick me off, Eli Manning makes bad throws, I’ll see 85 Coughlin faces and understand each of them… AND IF I MISS ONE FREAKING GAME I WILL HUNT ROGER GOODELL AND DEMAURICE SMITH DOWN!!!)

By the way, if the MLB locks out in November then there is a real possibility that Hockey may be the only game in town come 2012….

New theory behind the Flyers trades; maybe Paul Holmgren used Jeff Carter and Mike Richards just to get the Winter Classic in Philly and then dumped them afterwards… Nope, trade still makes no sense.

I know Brett Favre is retired, but I’m still uncertain.

Quick, 3 things about Luke Picknell. Ready and… GO!

Is Maryland football a better job than Connecticut football? Randy Edsall are you listening?

Seattle Sounders FC draws more fans than the Mariners…

Anybody else think Cam Newton will bomb?

I still have no caption for this.

No seriously are the Pirates really only a game and a half out of first place?

(why is this not a huge story? The Pirates haven’t had a winning season in almost 20 years. That’s back to the Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla days.

Ever since then they have traded every and I mean every good player that they’ve had and have been in a never ending rebuild mode. Now here there are with Andrew McCutcheon as a dark horse MVP candidate, an All-Star in Joel Hanrahan and the Brewers, Reds and Cards all looking back in disbelief.

If they make the playoffs they are the story if the year hands down.)

Sabine Lisicki… Mmmmmm.

Will Tiger Woods fade into oblivion?

Even though Roger Federer has “lost it” he’s still the third best tennis player in the world.

And lastly… Dirk, a $90,000 bottle of champagne and pictures with Birdman and Lil’ Wayne… In LeBron and D-Wade’s backyard.

Cough on that Miami.


Same Old Story For The Red Wings

Nicklas Lidstrom, 3 rings. Henrik Zetterberg, 2008 Conn Smythe trophy winner. Kris Draper, 4 rings… did you really think the Detroit Red Wings were even the slightest bit tense about their game 7 against the Phoenix Coyotes? If you did, you must not know these boys at all.

These guys are used to this.

Sure the Coyotes put a 5 spot on the Wings in game 6 to force a game 7, but the Red Wings came out as if game 6 was nothing more than an aberration. “They got lucky,” rookie goaltender jimmy Howard said after he got lit up 5-2 in game 6. He played like it in game 7 stopping 32 of 34 shots while Ilya Brygalov was shelled for four goals in the second period, two by two-time Selke trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk. As a matter of fact it was basically the same names doing the damage that Detroit fans have been used to since the start of the 2000 season.

Lidstrom scored two goals in addition to Datsyuk’s two, Zetterberg had 3 assists, Johan Franzen chipped with an assist and quality penalty killing, even Detroit newcomer but Ex-champion Brian Rafalski (won two cups in New Jersey) had two assists. The Red Wings may be getting long in the tooth, but they can bring the pain to foes younger than them.

“Their top players came out and dictated the pace and we had no answers. They were relentless. They turned it up another level that we couldn’t get to,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after the game. TIppett is used to the Wings rocking his teams to sleep when he was coach of the Dallas Stars for the better half of last decade.

The Wings at the beginning of the season looked like a team on the decline and found themselves on the outside looking in, in the Western Conference playoff picture in February. Then those same names started the Wings on a roll that pushed them to the fifth seed in the conference and now they meet the San Jose Sharks, who the Wings have owned in the playoffs winning all three of their playoff meetings all-time.

“We were playing against one of the top teams in the world, and the way they played tonight, I don’t know if anybody can beat them,” Bryzgalov said after the game. That’s bad news for a Sharks team that is still fighting the demons of playoffs past and that can’t seem to get their top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley going. If the Sharks want to advance to the conference finals for just the second time in franchise history then they need more than the one goal the Thornton-Heatley-Marleau line collectively scored in the Colorado series.

The Wings immediately headed for San Jose after smoking the Coyotes last night. They’re on a mission to get back to the Stanley Cup and avenge last year’s loss to the Penguins, and it shows. They’ve got possibly the hottest goalie in the playoffs in Jimmy Howard, and a few guys you may have heard of. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Rafalski; same names, same team, and seemingly the same result. Sickening isn’t it? Not to Detroit fans. It’s just business as usual.