Friday, August 31, 2007
The Peerless doffs his prognosticap to the Dallas Stars for the debut of what we think is an absolutely brilliant advertising campaign.
The Stars have authored a series of billboards that strike the perfect balance among a tongue-in-cheek look at other sports, a smidge of self-deprecation, and a focus on the product. Snappy, to the point, and memorable.
The skunk at the garden party, though, was Tony Kornheiser, who on PTI opined that Bettman would tell the Stars to pull the ads...no doubt because of this one...
Except Mark Cuban thinks they're hysterical. Give Cuban credit for being a good sport about it (although maybe that's a bit of a thumb in the eye to his nemesis, NBA Commissioner David Stern).
- Patriotism/Hometown Heroes Night - The first 3,000 fans will receive an American flag. Come out to show your support to all the men and woman that serve our country locally and over-seas.
- DUTCH WONDERLAND Night - See all your favorite friends from DUTCH WONDERLAND, including Duke the Dragon and Princess Brooke.
- Help the Ronald McDonald House Night - The BEARS Booster Club will be accepting donations to help the Ronald McDonald House.
"Dutch Wonderland" night? You know that has to be a hoot.
- Christmas Jersey Night - The BEARS will wear special jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game.
- Ugly Holiday Sweater Night - All fans are encouraged to wear their ugly holiday sweaters for the chance to win holiday prizes.
The Peerless would be all over that ugly sweater night, but that's pretty much his whole wardrobe.
- Washington Capitals Night - The BEARS will wear special Washington Capitals Jerseys. After the game, each player will autograph their jersey and then auction it off, with proceeds going to charity.
Ah...so that's where the old-logo/color jerseys went.
March 15:Maybe The Peerless will see if he can get anything for Chris Chelios.
- HERSHEY BEARS Booster Club Central PA Food Bank Drive - All fans are encouraged to bring a donation for the Central PA Food Bank.
- Dr. Lori's Antique Appraisal Night - Bring your art, antiques and questions to art historian, certified art and antique appraiser, and TV personality Dr. Lori. One free antique appraisal per person.
- Kunzler Ham Shoot Night - All fans have the opportunity to come down on the ice following the game for a chance to win an Easter Ham.
Hey...you do that in DC, folks will bring guns.
April 6:Bonvie has 82 goals in 821 AHL games...and 4,290 penalty minutes. Only in the AHL.
- Dennis Bonvie Retirement/Farewell Celebration - Dennis Bonvie will be hanging up the skates and gloves at the end of the 2007-2008 season. Come out and wish Dennis a fond farewell as we look back at his time with the HERSHEY BEARS.
Only in the AHL, indeed.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Peerless found a reference to this article in his mailbox this evening, and it set him to wondering, "is the NHL really growing?"
Well, maybe not. The Peerless also remembers this analysis by the Globe and Mail on complimentary tickets, and that set him to wondering if the higher revenues the league is enjoying is less a product of growing the fan base -- a byproduct of the appeal of the on-ice product -- and more a product of price escalation on items at the periphery of the on-ice product and puffed up statistics.
Then there was this, the latest in those persistent, just-under-the-radar stories that hint at potential expansion, and it set The Peerless to wondering how one-time infusions of fees are a good thing for the long term health of the league.
Higher prices for merchandise and tickets, inflated attendance figures, hints at juicy (albeit one-time) expansion fees down the road. The Peerless was set to wondering how the league was going to grow the product when a stagnant volume of fans are tapped out of ridiculously priced merchandise, charged ticket prices beyond their affordability, and stuck with a diluted product...
The intersection of these wonderments might suggest a good investment for potential owners -- in the short term -- or benefits (or at least tolerable burdens) for corporate swells whose interest is less in hockey than in having a place to entertain clients.
None of this sounds like a very good deal for fans or families. Maybe the NHL had better beware that as it drives through this intersection, it doesn't end up in a ditch.
The Canadian press had some interesting things to report on the Caps earlier today. There were the expected comments about being a playoff team -- George McPhee noted that, "we think we should be knocking on the playoff door, that we'd like to be battling to get in that seventh or eighth spot..."
Yeah, yeah, ok...we'd all like to be seeing the Caps battle for that spot. But it was the comments that followed -- buried in the story -- that should get brain cells firing and imaginations whirring. The juxtaposition of two comments from McPhee is especially provacative...
"We absolutely had to have a centre (Nylander) that could make a play. We had to have another defenceman (Poti) who could move the puck. And we had to have another player (Kozlov) to play with Ovechkin."
"We know we have a very smart player [in Nicklas Backstrom], a very responsible player, someone who can make a play, someone who is good on faceoffs and really sharp defensively. But you just don't know if they're ready to handle that centre-ice position."
McPhee went on to emphasize that Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal and Boston's Phil Kessel played the wing most of last season, despite each being a natural center.
Well, gee...If Kozlov is going to play with Ovechkin, and Nylander centers those two....and Backstrom ends up on the wing...uh, who is centering the second line?
No plan is (or should be) etched in stone, so if Backstrom can't handle the center duties, Kozlov might move to the second line, with Chris Clark going to play on the right side up top. That'd sure mess up our little benchmarks...but there is a tiny little voice in The Peerless' head asking...."is there a September surprise coming on the personnel front?"
Vogel: Does this camp open your eyes to the types of things you’ll need to do here in September if you hope to make this team?
Alzner: “It’s just little things. Like in practice, I turned up [ice] one time. I handled the puck once and then I passed it. And I was told right after that, ‘You don’t even handle it. You chip the puck off the boards to the guy that should be there.’ And that’s true. Because at this next level when you watch on TV, guys are always open. All you’ve got to do is move the puck quicker and look before you get the puck. It’s really opening up my eyes. I’m happy we have a more intense camp compared to some other teams where they kind of throw sauce around and go off the bar. I’m really enjoying it.”
Thanks to MattyMurp on The Official for the lead...
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Rookie and training camp schedules are up, with dates and times open to the public noted. Bring your running shoes to shuttle back and forth between the rinks for the first week of training camp. There are a lot of special activities on the agenda...
Well, we’re getting close, now. We’ve seen some team predictions, we’ll start to get some individual award predictions before too long. But there is an interesting take on individuals, courtesy of Paul Kukla, blogging over at NHL.com (thanks to A View from the Cheap Seats for the directions). The Peerless humbly offers his own take on these, with a few of his own thrown in…
Best one-on-one offensive player -- Pavel Datsyuk. I’ve got to go with Kukla’s choice here. Datsyuk is an artist; he can make a lot of moves late that will turn a goaltender into a soft pretzel.
Best one-on-one defenseman – Nicklas Lidstrom. The Peerless likes a big hitting defenseman as much as the next guy – such a player can change the momentum of a game on one shift, and Dion Phaneuf is establishing himself as the standard for that specie. But brains works over brawn, even in hockey, and Lidstrom is the smartest there is.
Assist man – Joe Thornton, for now. This isn’t even really all that close. Sidney Crosby had more to work with as far as offensive talent goes last year along the roster (although one could reasonably ask if
Best pure goal scorer – This is another one of those, “until the whipper-snapper proves he’s clearly better” ones…for now, The Peerless will take Ilya Kovalchuk. But there is a fellow named Ovechkin lurking close by.
Power-play specialist – If he returns, this one belongs to Teemu Selanne. 88 power play points over the last two seasons. And, he was a big finisher for
Shorthanded specialist – Four players in the last two years have finished in the top-10 in shorthanded scoring (including ties for tenth). Justin Williams and Matt Pettinger were tied for highest total points among these players. Martin St. Louis had as many points last year as each of the four players (11), but he had Vincent Lecavalier for support, too. Of the four, Matt Pettinger scored his points in 16 fewer games – Pettinger.
Need one save – Roberto Luongo. Until last year, we would have gone with Martin Brodeur, if only for his moxie earned in so many pressure situations. But Luongo – who has always been among the best pure puck-stoppers among goaltenders – made the leap last year.
The guy you never heard of – We’ll go way off the charts here. A guy who had 23 points in only 49 games last year and was +6 on a struggling club. More games this year, and he might get on some folks’ radar – David Backes,
Biggest impact on a new team – Big-dollar signings are the most overrated personnel item in the NHL. I’d be looking to role players as much as the high-wattage deals. Consider….the days of Martin Brodeur playing 75-plus games and 4,200-plus minutes are coming to an end. Having a goaltender who can spell Brodeur can be the difference between being a playoff team and falling out of the top-eight. Kevin Weekes will be the player with the biggest impact with his new team.
When it gets chippy -- Derek Boogaard. He tied for 19th in the league in fighting majors (10). Those were ten guys (actually, nine, since Eric Godard thought it would be a good idea to go twice with him) who lost their minds. Guys like this who don’t get as many fights as you’d expect are guys even tough guys avoid. Boogaard is the scariest guy in that class.
Coach for a must-win game – That’s a tough one among current coaches, since earning tenure to build that kind of a reputation has been hard to come by. Lindy Ruff is the longest-tenured coach with one team in the league; Bob Hartley has as many seasons as Ruff. Both have had three conference finalists. Ruff has also had a Stanley Cup finalist; Hartley a Cup winner. That’s the difference. Hartley.
Get under your skin guy – Sean Avery….and The Peerless is pissed just thinking about it. But there is a dark horse here who might challenge this year – Colby Armstrong.
The home crowd – this is another hard one, since The Peerless has not visited all the NHL venues. But if a club loses only four games at home in regulation in a season, the crowd can’t be a detriment.
And here are some other categories…
Most likely to be a bust among new free agents – Daniel Briere,
Most likely to score a goal that matters – Alexander Ovechkin. His nine game-winners (including overtime goals) tied for seventh in the league and were the highest percentage of his club’s wins of any player (32.1 percent).
Club likeliest to have the biggest turnaround for the good –
Non-playoff team most likely to make the top-eight this year –
Team that will fall the farthest in the standings – This will be a horserace between the New York Islanders in the East and the Nashville Predators in the west. Picking the Islanders in this category is a dangerous pick. The Peerless had the fish sticks finishing 30th last year, and they finished eighth in the East. But they lost players such as Jason Blake, Tom Poti, Viktor Kozlov, Richard Zednik, Ryan Smyth, Sean Hill, Alexei Yashin (ok, that might be a plus), and Aaron Asham. They added Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin, and Josef Vasicek, and Andy Sutton, but this might be like trying to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. Last year, it worked – this year? As for
Monday, August 27, 2007
Or perhaps he's auditioning for the off-Broadway production of "A Fess Parker Retrospective"
Seriously, it is Karl Alzner's prize for being named Canada's player-of-the-game for Game 1 of the Canada-Russia series. Congrats, Karl.
….the Canadians. The boys from up north spotted the Russians a 2-0 lead, then stormed back with four unanswered goals to capture Game 1 of the Canada-Russia Super Series, 4-2.
Brad Marchand and Sam Gagner had a goal and an assist, apiece (assisting on each other's goals), to lead the Canadians.
Of note to Caps fans, Karl Alzner played a steady game, although he did take three minor penalties. But who didn’t for the Canadiens? They killed 13 of 14 Russian power plays, including a pair of 5-on-3’s. Alzner’s ability to play within himself and slow the game down within his own end made him stand out among the defensemen; he knows where to be and when to be there. Josh Godfrey had a couple of occasions to unleash his booming shot, but appeared to be on the low end of ice time among the defensemen for Team
For all the talk of the time change and jet lag affecting the Canadians, it was Team
Alzner was named the
Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday, 9 am (Eastern), from
Sunday, August 26, 2007
We've had Florida with odd stripes at the elbow running perpendicular to piping that makes their panther-on-crack logo look like it's emerging from a curtain parting.
And we have Tampa Bay with their odd cuffs and an inability to decide whether they will wear their numbers on the front (the road ones will) or not (the home ones will remain numberless).
Even our Caps have joined the party, changing not only the jersey style, but the whole color scheme, returning to red-white-and-blue.
OK, that's fine...none of these clubs have a lot of noteworthy history, except for the Islanders, and that was a generation ago.
But now it's getting serious when one of the original six is rumored to be contemplating a sea change in its duds. CBC.ca reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking at a major redesign that will remove the interlocking "TML" shoulder logo, reduce the amount of white in the home version, introduce more silver, and (yuck) piping.*
The Peerless thinks that with all the piping being introduced into jerseys, this might be the best training for uniform fashion design for the NHL...
Maybe next year, Sidney will design the threads.
Or better yet, maybe we can have a redesign of the Stanley Cup!
* Thanks to Novaron on The Official for pointing the way.
There is also another record, referred to somewhat obliquely, having to do with winning percentage...seems the red-white-and-blue are involved in that one, too.
The Peerless offers up this list of records and leaves it to you to ponder whether any are safe until the sun goes dark (or Bettman grows a brain), taken from the Hockey Hall of Fame "Records and Rankings" page:
Goals scored, season, rookie: Teemu Selanne (76, 1992-93)
Assists, rookie, season: Peter Stasny (70, 1980-81), Joe Juneau (70, 1992-93)
Points, rookie, season: Teemu Selanne (132 (1992-93)
Goals scored, game, individual: Joe Malone (7, 1919-20)
Goals scored, season, individual: Wayne Gretzky (92, 1981-82)
Goals scored, career, individual: Wayne Gretzky (894)
Assists, game, individual: Billy Taylor (7, 1946-47), Wayne Gretzky (7, three times)
Assists, season, individual: Wayne Gretzky (163, 1985-86)
Assists, career, individual: Wayne Gretzky (1,963)
Points, game, individual: Darryl Sittler (10, 1975-76)
Points, season, individual: Wayne Gretzky (215, 1985-86)
Points, career, individual: Wayne Gretzky (2,857)
Games played, career: Gordie Howe (1,767)
Wins, goaltender, season: Martin Brodeur (48, 2006-07)
Wins, goaltender, career: Patrick Roy (551)
GAA, goaltender, season: George Hainsworth (0.92, 1928-29)
GAA, goaltender, career: George Hainsworth (1.91)
Shutouts, goaltender, season: George Hainsworth (22, 1928-29)
Shutouts, goaltender, career: Terry Sawchuck (103)
Penalty minutes. game: Randy Holt (67, 1978-79)
Penalty minutes, season: Dave Schultz (472, 1974-75)
Penalty minutes, career: Dave Williams (3,966)
Most trophies won, season: Bobby Orr (4 – Hart, Ross, Norris, Smythe – 1969-70)
Most trophies won, career: Wayne Gretzky (26 – 9 Hart, 10 Ross, 2 Smythe, 5 Byng)
Most Ross Trophies won: Wayne Gretzky (10)
Most Hart Trophies won: Wayne Gretzky (9)
Most Norris Trophies won: Bobby Orr (8)
Most Vezina Trophies won: Jacques Plante (7)
Most Lady Byng Trophies won: Frank Boucher (7)
Most all-star selections, individual, career: Gordie Howe (21)
Best winning percentage, team, season: Boston Bruins (.875, 1929-30)
Longest winning streak, team, season: Pittsburgh Penguins (17, 1992-93)
Longest undefeated streak, team, season: Philadelphia Flyers (35 – 25-0-10 – 1979-80)
Highest point total, team, season: Montreal Canadiens (132, 1976-77)
Most championships, team: Montreal Canadiens (24)
The Peerless was perusing an old Hockey News issue – the 2007 “Future Watch” issue – and stumbled upon an interesting, if unfortunate, nugget of Capitals history. Fittingly, it came from the very last page of the issue, a look back at the 2002 and 1997 prospect lists. Did you know that in 1997, The Hockey News rated five Capitals’ draftees in their top-19? Well, they did, and here they are, with their draft year/position and career regular season numbers to date…
6. Jaroslav Svejkovsky, 1996, 1st round/17th overall, (113 games, 23-19-43, -22)
10. Jan Bulis, 1996, 2/43, (552 G, 96-149-245, -3)
11. Brendan Witt, 1993, 1/11 (724 G, 21-79-100, -31)
12. Alexandre Volchkov, 1996, 1/4 (3G, 0-0-0, -2)
19. Nolan Baumgartner, 1994, 1/10 (131, 3-39-45, +4)
Five top prospects, all drafted by the Caps, all in the system at the same time. As a group, this quintet was 64-141-205 in their respective tenures with the Capitals. That is roughly equivalent to Wayne Gretzky…well, his 1984-1985 season (73-135-208). Trouble is, this group was -72; Gretzky was +98.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
For the latest on the Canadians and "the gauntlet," Sportsnet-Canada has that look.
And for a glimpse (well, more than a glimpse; it's a ten-minute clip) back at another Super Series from years ago...
It will be the first of its kind in the NHL since November 22, 2003, when the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. A crowd of 57,167 (an NHL record) saw the Canadiens beat the Oilers, 4-3. The game also drew a record television audience in Canada.
The New Years Day game might also draw a record crowd for hockey at any level, now held by "The Cold War," played between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University on the campus of Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan, on October 6, 2001. The teams played to a 3-3 tie in Spartan Stadium before a crowd of 74,554.
The Peerless doesn't suspect you'll find many goalies wearing toques or eye-black as a regular equipment option.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Canadian Press is reporting* that Pittsburgh Penguins uber-brat and “last best hope for hockey in the third millennium” Sidney Crosby is taking a turn at…now get this…clothes design.
It conjures visions of a “Crosby-ality” show in the future on Bravo…
Project Cros-way… Selected from thousands of hopefuls who lined up outside Primanti’s all night for the opportunity, an all-new cast of fifteen Penguin puck bunnies will compete for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to model the latest line of Crosby chic. The winner will get an all-expense paid shopping tour of Target.
Tim Gunn’s “Guide to Croz”…The co-author of “A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style” joins Sidney Crosby to “make it work” in the world of hockey fashion. Whether is it finding the right accessory for those stylish Reebok skates or coordinating the helmet color with the shaft of your Koho, Tim and Sid have the answers.
Queer Eye for the Center Guy…the “Fab Five” are talented, hip…and hockey fans, we find out. Tune in to every fun-filled, style-packed episode as the guys take on the challenge of making over Penguin hockey fans in the fashions inspired by local hero, Sidney Crosby.
OK...please excuse The Peerless while he repairs to the lavatory to toss his lunch.
OK...please excuse The Peerless while he repairs to the lavatory to toss his lunch.
AP Photo/Nathan Denette, CP
The last installment in this discussion of benchmarks might strike the reader as a bit odd. But “playoffs” is the goal this year. There can be no talk of “Stanley Cup” unless that minimum threshold is achieved. So, what is the benchmark?
If someone had told The Peerless at this time last year that the Islanders would finish eighth in the Eastern Conference and make the playoffs, he would have called next of kin to suggest commitment proceedings. A team with a owner who was absolutely bats, a GM who was not-long removed from active status as a player and had no direct experience in the duties he was assuming, a coach who hadn’t been behind an NHL bench in any capacity in ten years, and a team with a little bit of talent, but largely imported from far and wide – eight of the 20 players who dressed on opening night played with other NHL teams the previous year. Most prognosticators had the Islanders a mortal lock to be a lottery team. The Peerless picked them to finish 30th in the league.
The Islanders limped along well into the season, stuck at .500 as late as January 16 (21-21-4). But they closed with a rush, going 19-9-8 in their last 36 games. That has the suggestion of a club that was finally integrating the parts it brought in to start the season. But there is another set of factors at play.
If you look at the Islanders’ statistics, the team leaders don’t (for the most part) show up among the league leaders in the more attractive categories:
Points: 45th – Jason Blake (69)
Goals: 10th – Jason Blake (40)
Assists: T73rd – Tom Poti (38)
+/-: T34th – Radek Martinek (+19)
PPG: T19th – Jason Blake (14)
PPA: 21st -- Tom Poti (26)
It was in the little things, the gritty things that teams without top end talent have to do that the Islanders did well:
3rd – Sean Hill (252)
5th – Trent Hunter (246)
8th – Brendan Witt (231)
5th – Brendan Witt (207)
6th – Sean Hill (202)
14th – Tom Poti (170)
10th – Jason Blake (69)
T13th – Viktor Kozlov (65)
17th – Trent Hunter (64)
And, the Islanders earned points in more than their share of one-goal games – 14-7-12, earning 40 of their 92 standings points via that route (including 8-2-8 in that late season rush).
If one adds in the solid goaltending of Rick DiPietro (32-19-9, 2.58, .919), it was a recipe for the Islanders to confound those who, when the season started, saw them as a team destined for the lottery.
Capitals: 22 points
That is what the Caps will need above last year’s 70-point total to meet the expected playoff threshold. It’s hardly impossible –
Here are the team statistics in which the Islanders finished higher than the Caps:
5-on-5 goals scored-to-goals allowed ratio
Power play conversion
Penalty killing conversion
Winning percentage when scoring first
Winning percentage when leading after one period
Winning percentage when leading after two periods
Winning percentage when out-shooting the opposition
Winning percentage when out-shot by the opposition
Face-off winning percentage
And, as if to drive the point home, the Islanders won the season series against the Caps, 3-0-1, outscoring the Caps, 16-6.
Why was that so? The Islanders didn’t have any more talent than did the Caps; they certainly didn’t have the top-end scoring talent. Even Jason Blake, who had 40 goals, still can’t really be thought of yet as an elite goal scorer (he bested his previous career high by 12 goals). The Islanders out-worked teams and were a very difficult team to play against.
The Caps have upgraded their offensive talent, and that should enable the club to take some pressure off of what was a young and too-often overmatched defense last year. The defense should improve, if only as a product of experience. The addition of Tom Poti will provide some added offensive punch from the blue line. But as the other looks at benchmarks suggested, there is work to be done.
But there is another question – do the Caps have a team personality? The Islanders had it in spades last year, and the Caps did not, at least not a consistent one. Much has and will be made of the offensive production that might come from the top two lines. But the Caps once were known as much for a hard-working, difficult-to-play-against style of their own. The “Plumbers Line” from the 1980’s, the lunch-pail ethic of the Konowalchuk-Halpern-Dahlen line of the early part of the decade, not to mention the individual – and ornery – efforts of Rod Langway, Scott Stevens, and Dale Hunter over the years contributed to that profile. The Caps have found additional talent this summer, and that was important. But will they find a personality? That might be every bit as important to their playoff chances this year.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Maybe the Caps can wear 'em down this year.
BENCHMARK (team, offense): Minnesota Wild
Yup, those boring, green-clad, Jacques Lemaire-coached Minnesota Wild. And this isn’t even especially close. No team had more wins (10), and more to the point of the offensive side of shootouts, no team had more “goals” (27), only one team with more than 10 shootouts had a better shooting percentage (Atlanta, in six fewer games), no team had a higher goals-per-shootout average (1.59). They were also very balanced – they were 17-for 39 at home (43.6 percent), 10-for-23 on the road (43.5 percent).
Part of their success is the fact that Wild goaltenders weren’t particularly successful at the other end (they finished 19th in save percentage, for example), but the offense kept them going enough to finish with a 10-7 record.
As a group, they did not depend a lot on a long bench. Only five Wild (“Wilds?”) scored shootout goals, and none of them were named, “Gaborik.” In fact, Marian Gaborik only took two of the Wild’s 62 shots all season (failing on both attempts, but missing 34 games to a groin injury early on contributed to his not being in the mix). The big guns were Mikko Koivu, Pavol Demitra, and Brian Rolston, who combined to go 19-for-41 (46.3 percent). What is odd is that it was defenseman Petteri Nummelin who led the Wild in shooting percentage, converting six of seven opportunities.
There isn’t a mystery here. Rolston, Demitra, and Koivu finished one-three-four on the club in goals scored (31, 25, and 20, respectively). They were the guys who finished in games, and they were consistent finishers in the shootout, and they were consistently used in those situations. Demitra led off in 12 of 17 shootouts, Koivu was in the two-slot in 10 of 17. There was a particularly odd statistic about Koivu, however. He loved home cooking. He was 8-for-9 at home, 0-for-6 on the road.
BENCHMARK (individual, offense): Vyacheslav Kozlov, Atlanta Thrashers
Kozlov tied for the league lead in shooting percentage among shooters with at least ten shots (with Paul Kariya) and was tied for third in goals. But what set Kozlov apart were his five game deciding goals (of his seven total shootout goals and seven shootout wins for
BENCHMARK (individual, goaltending): Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
On a club that struggled defensively (29th in goals-against/game), Thomas shined when he didn’t have the handicap of teammates in front of him. He finished at the top of the NHL in save percentage among goalies with at least 10 shootout games (.826) and was tied for fourth in wins (eight) despite playing in fewer shootouts than any of the top six in wins. He won his last eight shootout decisions. Thomas does not have a noteworthy record over his career as an NHL netminder; being a backup might be his niche. But last year, he was the standard for performance in the shootout.
...a note on the shootout. If anything, the benchmarks here illustrate just how fundamentally different the shootout is from “hockey.”
Capitals (projected top-three): Viktor Kozlov, Michael Nylander, Alexander Semin
Alexander Ovechkin simply can’t be as bad at this as he was last year. He was 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) which put him in a tie for 144th in the NHL in shooting percentage. But then again, the NHL’s top goal scorer for the season, Vincent Lecavalier, could only manage three goals on 12 attempts himself. Maybe there are some things he just does not have a knack for. He might have to play himself onto this trio (or more to the point, someone might have to play themselves off).
Kozlov, on the other hand, might have been only the second-best Kozlov in shootouts last year, but 5-for-13 isn’t bad, and he had two game-winners…that would be twice as many as the entire Caps team had. Nylander also finished 5-for-13 last year, which means that the two new forwards had twice as many goals last year, combined (10), than did the entire Caps team (five). If nothing else, this should (we hope) take some of the pressure off the Alexes to perform…those two had four of the five shootout goals for the Caps. Semin gets the other spot, mostly by default. Being 2-for-10 last year wasn't anything to get excited about.
Capitals (goaltending): Olaf Kolzig, Brent Johnson
Kolzig finished 59th in the NHL in save percentage last year among all goaltenders (.471), while going 1-5. Brent Johnson finished 34th (.650), for all the good it did him…he was 0-5. Frederic Cassivi played in the other shootout, stopping two of three shots in a loss. It wasn’t a memorable year (it wasn’t for the shooters, either, so this was a team effort).
There is good news and bad news in this for the bigger picture. The good news is that eleven of the Caps losses were of the freak-show type. The bad news is that the shootout is back, and so are the goaltenders.
This is likely to continue to be the weakest part of the Capitals’ game in 2007-2008. Difficulty in shootouts at the goaltending end wasn’t confined to last year, although last year certainly was the worse of the last two seasons. In those two seasons, Kolzig is 5-10, .607; Johnson is 3-6, .727. If these two could at least return to a 2005-2006 level of performance as far as save percentage is concerned; the addition of more punch on the offense side might result in a few more wins.
The Caps finished last year...
-- tied for 28th in wins (1)
-- 30th in losses (11)
-- 28th in goals scored (5)
-- 25th in goals allowed (18)
-- 30th in goal differential (-13)
-- 28th in shooting percentage (.125)
-- 27th in save percentage (.550)
They should do better by accident.
Dave Trembley was announced as the new Baltimore Orioles skipper on Wednesday afternoon. His boys celebrated by giving up more runs in one game than any club had in the past 110 years (the Louisville Colonels having been the last to surrender at least that many, back in 1897 to the Chicago Colts). What, they drained Charm City of Natty Bo before taking BP last night?
By way of comparison, that run total was more than the points scored by 20 of the 41 Super Bowl winners. Brian Burres gave up eight earned runs in two-thirds of an inning of relief for the O's. That's an ERA of 108.00, or roughly the GAA of Martin Houle (ok, his GAA was 30.00, and he only played 2:12 last year).
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I want to be here when this team peaks. Our goal is to make make the playoffs. But I think in the next two or three years we should have legitimate shot [at contending for a Cup]. I want to be around to experience that."Next two or three years..." For those of you who follow such things, Kolzig is an unrestricted free agent after the 2007-2008 season. When asked about any talks about an extension, Kolzig utters the requisite "I'm just going to play hockey and let George [McPhee] and my agent take care of that when the time comes" comment. Given that McPhee will have to deal with expiring contracts for Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Boyd Gordon, Brian Sutherby, Steve Eminger, Shaone Morrisonn, and Mike Green, it should be a very busy next off-season for the GM.
Well, if he's still here, that is.
We’re getting close to the end of this look at benchmarks, and the next specialty is penalty killing.
Bet you weren’t expecting that as a benchmark.
On the matter of shorthanded goals, the Senators had nine different players score them. 17 teams scored fewer total shorthanded goals than the Senators had players who scored them. It was a dangerous unit.
It was a rocky road
The balance between consistent performance, depth, and a team dangerous in shorthanded situations made
Capitals (projected): uhhhh…..
I have no idea who will man the top penalty killing group. The Peerless is tempted to pencil in the Pettinger-Gordon-Clark trio in the forward slots, but the defensemen are a head-scratcher. Morrisonn-Juricna? Maybe. Pothier-Eminger? Perhaps. Mike Green saw next to no time on the penalty kill last year; if he makes the squad, does he get some time there? A player to be named (that is, acquired) later?
There is a lot of work to be done here. Based on The Peerless’ rating tool, the Caps finished 24th in penalty killing effectiveness last year. Only one team ranked lower (
Part of the problem is getting into those shorthanded situations in the first place. The Caps were tied for 13th in the league in total shorthanded situations faced. Only three of the 12 teams higher on the list (
The Caps also had trouble with multiple power play goal games. 18 times opponents scored at least two power play goals. And it was a consistent kind of difficulty. In their first 32 games, after which they were 15-10-7, the Caps had seven games in which they gave up at least two power play goals. After that, in the last 50 games, they did so 11 times.
There is another element to this as well, although it can be overstated, that being that a club’s best penalty killer is its goalie. The whole issue for penalty killing is that the opponent has an extra man, and much of the effort for the opponent is to free that extra attacker for a clear shot. If a skater is left unaccounted for, or if a rebound finds itself on the stick of an unmarked attacker in scoring territory, the goaltender is at his mercy. But if the penalty killers attend to business – sound positioning, determined clearing of the crease, blocking shots without sacrificing position, efficient clearing of the puck when they gain possession – the goaltender ends up being less of a penalty killer of necessity.
* By the way, for the attentive reader,
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
-- John Greenleaf Whittier, "Maud Miller"
Pat Peake deserved better from the hockey gods. I remember him when he was drafted and in his early days with the Caps as one of the hardest working sonuvaguns around. And one of the unluckiest guys in the recent history of the sport. Mike Vogel had a chance to talk with Peake, and it is a fine read. See for yourself...
Monday, August 20, 2007
Courtesy of Spector and James Mirtle, here they are...
The Sports Forecaster
Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
Tampa Bay Lightning
Detroit Red Wings
St. Louis Blues
Columbus Blue Jackets
San Jose Sharks
The Hockey News
THE HOCKEY NEWS YEARBOOK PREDICTIONS:
New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders
San Jose Sharks
Detroit Red Wings
Columbus Blue Jackets
Los Angeles Kings
St. Louis Blues
THE SPORTING NEWS (Division)
Atlantic 1. Rangers 2. Devils 3. Flyers 4 Islanders 5. Penguins
Northeast 1. Sabres 2. Senators 3. Canadiens 4. Maple Leafs 5. Bruins
Southeast 1 Hurricanes 2. Thrashers 3. Lightning 4. Capitals 5. Panthers
Central 1. Predators 2. Red Wings 3. Blackhawks 4. Blue Jackets 5 Blues
Pacific 1. Sharks 2. Ducks 3. Stars 4. Kings 5. Coyotes
Northwest 1. Canucks 2.Flames 3. Avalanche 4 Oilers 5. Wild
THE SCORE (Division)
Northeast 1. Sabres 2. Senators 3. Bruins 4. Maple Leafs 5. Canadiens
Atlantic 1. Devils 2. Rangers 3. Flyers4 Islanders 5. Penguins
Southeast 1. Lightning 2. Hurricanes 3. Thrashers 4 Capitals 5 Panthers
Central 1 Predators 2. Rd Wings 3. Blue Jackets 4. Blues 5. Blackhawks
Northwest 1. Flames 2. Wild. 3. Canucks 4. Avalanches 5. Oilers
Pacific 1. Ducks 2. Sharks 3. Stars 4. Coyotes 5. Kings
Who is this year's "Pittsburgh" that everyone is missing?
We’ve looked at the positions, now it’s time to get to the specialties. First up is the power play…
There are two elements to this, one of which is obvious. We’ll start with that.
There isn’t really much difference among the four teams in terms of outcomes. All four were effective – all had a differential of about a goal a game to the good side.
Capitals (projected top unit): Alexander Ovechkin, Michael Nylander, Alexander Semin, Tom Poti, Chris Clark
My favorite movie of all time is “The Wizard of Oz” (go figure). And my favorite movie speech of all time belongs to the Cowardly Lion…
What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?
Well, what do the four teams above got that the Caps ain’t got? And don’t say, “courage.” No, it’s a real-life center and defenseman who have some familiarity and success with a power play. Look at those four teams and the power play scoring of their top center and top defenseman:
Meanwhile, the Caps had Dainius Zubrus (9-12-21) and Brian Pothier (2-13-15). 36 total points from this pair would have rendered them at or below all but Carle and McDonald among the eight individual players above. Any wonder the Caps finished 24th in power play conversion and 19th in total power play goals scored? 49 percent of the power play goals (33) and 43 percent of total power play scoring (75 points) came from two wingers – the Alexes.
Here is another set of numbers to chew on…the Caps generated only 108 assists for 67 total power play goals last year – 1.61 assists per goal.
It is not hard to imagine that the single biggest area of improvement for the Caps this year will be here, on the power play. The Caps did not suffer for chances last year – they were tied for eighth in the NHL in total power play opportunities. It was simply a case of too much of the power play running – by virtue of necessity – through the two wingers, Ovechkin and Semin. The effects of the additions of Michael Nylander and Tom Poti are likely to be felt here as much or more than in any other area. Nylander had 37 power play points last year (14 goals/23 assists); Poti had 32 points (six goals, 26 assists). Matching those numbers this year would put those two on a par with
The Caps do not have a Joe Thornton on the roster, although in time Nicklas Backstrom might (and that would be the operative word here) approach
Saturday, August 18, 2007
But only The Peerless can bring you "The Real Story." It goes back to a meeting in a darkened booth in a seedy bar in upper Northwest Washington, where the two protagonists had a meeting . . .
Steve...sh*t, I'm bored. It's hot, there aren't any Redskin games, and Pollin is really getting on my nerves.
Ted....I hear ya. I'm tired of having nothing to write about on my blog except that 'Nanking' thing, and surfing the chat rooms on AOL gets old real quick.
Steve...we gotta liven up this burg...any ideas?
Ted...I dunno...wanna start a fight?
Steve...what do you have in mind?
Ted...well ok, try this on...that Beckham guy is coming to DC soon, and I know you guys won't be devoting much air time to that. You could have a segment or two that makes fun of the soccer fans here and maybe link that up with hockey...
Steve...the 'no one watches' angle...
Ted...right...then I'll blog for a few days on how you guys don't 'get it'...
Steve...and I come back a few days later with my own blog, sprinkle in a few 'radio jargon' terms no one will understand, and we'll have a full blown kerfuffle on our hands.
Ted...and folks will be talking about us for days...your ratings will go up...folks will buy more hockey tickets...
Ted...see, you're getting in the spirit of it...and then I can come on your show and we can have a mano-e-mano to the death.
Steve...that's not a bad idea
Ted...yeah, and it beats reading those insufferably boring Caps blogs all summer.
Where you stand depends upon where you sit as to whether Czaban stepped in it or Ted was pwned. But as for the real story, remember, you read it here first.