Delayed Penalty

Anything can happen before the other team touches the puck.

NHL Playoffs 2012: Too violent or simply entertaining?

** Note: This was originally supposed to be published on Monday April 16 prior to Game 3 on my internship blog but was unfortunately not approved on time by my editor. Instead of letting it go to waste, I’m posting it to add to this blog’s portfolio. **

Many people consider the first round of the NHL playoffs to be one of, if not the best round and this year’s edition has no shortage of action.

It seems like every game features scrums after the whistle, big (and questionable) hits, and an all-around “old school” hockey feel.

Every commentator from each of the sports networks covering the playoffs—which includes a large number of former players and coaches—have varying opinons about the state of the game.

But what do the fans think? Are they enjoying the drawn out, passionate periods filled with extracurricular activity or do they think it’s a bit excessive?

We took to the streets and talked to a couple of long-time Senators fans:

Team Canada taking shape for Worlds 2012

Though Brent Sutter won’t be returning behind the Calgary Flames bench next season, he’ll still be wearing his head coaching hat as he has confirmed to coach Team Canada at this year’s World Championships.

Tampa Bay’s Guy Boucher and Carolina’s Kirk Muller round out the assistants.

As for the list of confirmed players, they go as follows:

Goalies:
Cam Ward (Carolina Hurricanes)
Devan Dubnyk (Edmonton Oilers)

Forwards:
Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes)
John Tavares (New York Islanders)
Jordan Eberle (Edmonton Oilers)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers)
Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg Jets)
Evander Kane (Winnipeg Jets)
Teddy Purcell (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)
Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks)
Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado Avalanche)
Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)

Defencemen:
PK Subban (Montreal Canadiens)
Dion Phaneuf (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Marc Methot (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Jay Bouwmeester (Calgary Flames)

The rest of the roster should be finalized by the end of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Nothing but good feelings about the Sens’ surprise success season

With two games left in the regular season, it’s almost hard to believe there’s more to see of the Ottawa Senators.

You’ve heard it reiterated throughout the season: they weren’t supposed to be in the playoff mix; hockey pundits had them in the lottery draw before even dropping the puck; they were an inexperienced group with not enough talent to keep them afloat in the eastern conference.

But of course, look at them now.

Craig Anderson has been rock solid, chicken cutting aside. Jason Spezza has risen from the ashes and turned into an invaluable leader. Erik Karlsson is leading the league in points by a defenceman and the competition isn’t even close. Daniel Alfredsson is … well, he’s Daniel Alfredsson. (I guess some things don’t really change after all.)

Most importantly, they punched a ticket to the post-season with games still left on the schedule. Nothing came down to the wire; they didn’t have to fight tooth and nail until the final buzzer to catapult them anywhere. They had their ups and downs but at the end of the day, they stayed steady.

Despite the fact that the Senators are just one of two Canadian teams to make the playoffs this year, their impending first-round date with the Stanley Cup-defending Boston Bruins has everyone counting them out once again.

Listen, I’m not completely delusional and expecting the Senators to suddenly become world-beaters against a team they’ve had the most losses to in franchise history, let alone just this season. There’s a fine line between belief and realism.

On paper – and even on the ice, since we’re considering recent history – there’s obviously a huge mismatch between the two teams. The Bruins are bigger, faster, and can roll four solid offensive lines.

The way I look at it, as long as the Senators can keep from getting swept and at least making it to Game 7, I’ll consider it a pass and then some. That isn’t a knock against them or discounting the progress they made in a rebuilding year; it goes back to having a realistic outlook on what this team can and can’t do.

In saying that, it’s obvious the Senators have quickly erased the futility they’ve endured in the past couple of the seasons and have essentially been reborn under Paul MacLean’s regime.

They’ve had a never-say-die attitude since the season started, fighting and clawing back late in games to make things interesting. Sure, they still lost a lot of games but once they got into their groove, it was like no one could stop them. This team stole handfuls of points away from opponents in games they had no business being in. But that’s the beauty of competitive sports, isn’t it?

Regardless of what happens after the regular season finale against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, the playoffs are a brand new animal and it’s a chance for the young players to experience it first-hand.

Some of them already have championship experience with the Binghamton Senators last year, so going through it at the highest level is only the natural step forward. And of course, anything can happen once you’re in the playoffs. Who knows, maybe they have more pleasant surprises up their sleeves.

What I’m looking forward to the most is being able to see this city with playoff fever again since it’s felt like a lifetime since we could proudly sport jerseys and car flags in the spring. Cue finger-pointing and name-calling with the bandwagon assumptions, but I bet my entire jersey collection that any team on the outside looking in would give anything to be in the Senators’ position right now.

The point is, I’m sticking to my initial outlook from the beginning of the season: enjoying this anniversary year while I can and taking whatever I can get from it. However they end up finishing doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s been the best kind of rollercoaster ride watching this team and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Four Sens voted in as NHL All-Star starters

The new scoreboard was put to good use as the Ottawa Senators found out who made the starting line-up at their pre-game skate this morning. (Photo courtesy Ian Mendes via Twitter.)

Since mid-November, NHL fans have had the opportunity to cast their votes for starters in this year’s All-Star Game and the Ottawa Senators fans–whose city is playing host to the event–have spoken loudly by securing four of the six spots to members of their own.

Daniel Alfredsson, Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek will join Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman and Dion Phaneuf and Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas as starters thanks to fan voting. Or is it?

Leafs forward Phil Kessel was leading in votes for much of the campaign before getting pushed out by a late surge for Michalek — 42,000 votes later. Whether that’s by way of miracle, fixed vote or legitimate (and impressive!) ballot-stuffing by Sens Army, it’s not like Michalek doesn’t deserve that spot what with his goal-scoring prowess so far this season.

So, let’s rewind. We have a Northeast division flavour to the starting line-up dominated with hometown favourites. Obviously one would look at the results and cry out foul play, especially if you’re outside of the proverbial bubble where Sens fans reside.

Within minutes of the results being announced, media and fans took to Twitter to express their opinion, which is pretty much standard procedure in this day and age. It shouldn’t be any surprise to hear that complaints and cries of conspiracy were the norm. It’s unjust! How dare they! This world is a cruel and horrible place!

Newsflash: it’s just an All-Star Game. No need to get any jock straps in a knot.

In the world of fan voting and online politics, things like this are bound to happen. See: Montreal All-Star Game in 2009. So, there’s a dominant Ottawa presence in the starting line-up. You do know there are more spots to be filled, right? What’s the harm in giving the Nation’s Capital a little something extra to cheer for when the festivities begin?

Admittedly, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow when I saw the results myself. The sheer idea of Sens fans furiously getting in votes of that magnitude is such a short amount of time is astounding. Sure, I did my part and voted, but I used just one email address and only 60 of the 90 available votes via online and texting. (Mobile voting wasn’t cooperating with me.)

However Sens Army managed to pull it off should at least be recognized and commended. The team itself put a lot of effort into the voting movement, creating funny campaign ads and even holding a rally to peak interest just 48 hours prior to polls closing. Ottawa cares about being good hosts for the event and seeing their players be a part of it.

Put the All-Star Game in any other market, especially a Canadian one, and I guarantee the same thing would happen with members of their team. You think if this game was in Vancouver, the starting line-up wouldn’t include the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo at the very least? That Phaneuf wouldn’t be joined by Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and James Reimer if it were in Toronto? The Kid Line in Edmonton? Come on.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t have an opinion about this, but before you cry bloody murder, take a step back and realize what you’re boohooing about. You’ll still see the players who deserve to be there such as Kessel and Claude Giroux putting their talent on display for a fun weekend. Emphasis on fun.

Congratulations to all of the Sens who made it so far and I look forward to seeing the remaining names get added to the roster in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, the silly comments will subside sooner rather than later and we can all go back to complaining about more important hockey matters!

Canada’s streak comes to an end, but not without fighting the good fight

For 10 straight years at the World Junior Hockey Championships, we’ve seen Team Canada take a trip to the gold medal final and come home with the goods on a consistent basis. It’s not surprising to hear that we, as Canadians, have developed a taste for winning in this tournament.

For the 2012 edition of Team Canada, they found themselves playing arch-rival Russia in the semi-finals thanks to an easy run through the round robin and the United States seemingly not even putting up a fight. Despite their success, I had my worries about Canada breezing through because of the silver finishes in the last two years. In fact, I know many others did as well.

And for good reason.

Canada needed to come out of the gates guns a-blazing and get on the Russians early since they were coming off a hard-fought overtime win just 24 hours prior over Sweden. But they didn’t. Instead, they had a soft and terribly positioned first 40 minutes that put them in a 6-1 hole, complete with unfortunate puck luck and questionable officiating. Cue the collective depression of an entire nation.

Instead of crawling further into that hole and rolling over however, the Canadians pulled off a near-comeback that nobody expected. I mean, most comebacks aren’t expected but this was like something scripted out of a movie. And when I say a non-expectant comeback, the proof lies in the fact that many had left the Saddledome in Calgary long before the third period began.

But it all comes back to the old adage of all good things must come to an end. Like the TSN broadcasters said, sometimes you get the magic of a Jordan Eberle with last-second heroics and sometimes all you get are posts and shots going high or wide.

So, where does this semi-final loss measure up in true ouch factor for Canada?

The unlucky bounce in Helsinki off Braydon Coburn that cost Canada the gold to the Americans was a real heartbreaker. I don’t think any fan of the World Juniors will ever forget what it was like to see that game end the way it did. Most can probably replay that moment in their heads from memory, though I certainly don’t encourage it right now.

The overtime loss to the Americans in Saskatoon hurt because of the two spectacular late goals by Eberle to send it to overtime. I still say that if the tables were turned, the Americans wouldn’t have been able to come back like that despite the shoddy goaltending Canada had. Besides, not only did they come back in that game but the New Year’s Eve spectacle to win the pool was also the result of a Canadian push to overtime.

The third period collapse to the Russians in Buffalo really stung. Getting into the building by way of miracle 20 minutes before puck drop and the 3-0 early lead that Canada built up made it seem like a dream come true. But the Russians played so much harder and seemed to want it more than the boys sporting the red maple leaf that night. That was a hard lesson I learned in taking winning for granted.

Considering how ugly the score was early in tonight’s game, this loss doesn’t quite stab at the heart the way other ones have even with it being on home soil, at least not for me. They showed that Canadian fight and made it a game that many thought was long over and gave the country something to cheer for in the end.

As for who’s to blame, I think it still comes as a collective finger wagging for the whole group. Canada had a problem with penalties since the beginning of the tournament and couldn’t control their emotion in the right way when things began to unravel. Boone Jenner’s spear that got him tossed and Brett Connolly’s antics right in front of the official were just a couple of examples of these players proving what they are: kids.

Now, all they have left to play for is the bronze medal, which they haven’t had to do since 2001 in Moscow, ironically enough. While their streak for appearances in the gold medal game has come to screeching halt, they still have a medal streak in sight. Winning bronze would secure Canada their 14th straight medal at this tournament.

Losing is not a bad thing for this country, believe it or not. As tragic as it seems and as much as it takes giant chunks out of our flag-waving, hockey stick-yielding proud selves, it’s not the end of the world. Getting a slice of humble pie certainly doesn’t leave the same delicious taste as a gold medal around the boys’ necks but what doesn’t kill Hockey Canada will only make it stronger.

I obviously can’t predict the future but with the tournament shifting back to Europe next year in Ufa, Russia, maybe Canada will have an extra little something on their list of things to do when the new group suits up for our country. Until then, we’ll see if the 2012 World Juniors can at least end on bronze winning note. It may not feel the same, but one last off-key rendition of O Canada never hurt.

Turris turns a page in his career, “excited to get started” as a Senator

With the dust now settled following the Kyle Turris trade, it’s finally another game day after a seemingly longer than usual weekend of chatter surrounding the Ottawa Senators.

Like many, I was surprised when it was announced the Senators had acquired Turris and even more so to hear that David Rundblad was going the other way. While his ice-time was diminishing and his role on the team looking questionable at best, there’s no denying his skill level and potential in the NHL.

Some nights, which seemed like most nights, Rundblad was berated and crucified by the partisans for his weak defensive play and turnovers that appeared to happen more often than not. While his glaring errors were frightening to watch, the way he carried the puck and his fluid skating abilities erased most of my doubts and worries about him.

He needed plenty of work, sure, but I could wait for that to come while watching him easily control the puck around defenders and make those gorgeous long bomb tape-to-tape passes. Of course, he isn’t ours to worry about anymore. Enter Kyle Turris.

While most people saw Turris’ name and immediately thought about the long contract holdout and dramatic dispute with the Phoenix Coyotes, my mind went in another direction. I thought of the Kyle Turris who was drafted third overall in 2007 while Doug MacLean kept making the case for him first overall; the Turris who thrilled us with Team Canada as the leading goal-scorer in the 2007 Super Series and was part of a resilient group that completed the golden quad at the 2008 World Juniors.

And now this promising young centre that skates well, sees the ice in extraordinary ways and possesses a lethal shot is a Senator. On paper, the 1-2 punch of Spezza and Turris down the middle is an exciting possibility since Ottawa has been looking for that solid second-line centreman about as long as they have a bonafide starting goaltender.

He may be the furthest thing from a sizable power forward, but by no means does he shy away from traffic and physical action of the game. I still remember him taking quite a beating during the Super Series after going face-first into the boards — pretty sure he didn’t miss a shift and if he did, it was only to get a couple of stitches.

I don’t disagree that Turris has a lot to prove and he has a ton of pressure riding on his shoulders to make an impact as quickly as possible. But the rage and outcry from Senators fans surrounding this trade was something I mostly saw as overly dramatic and unnecessary. Yes, Bryan Murray paid a hefty price tacking on a second-round pick along with Rundblad but that’s the name of trading game: you have to give up to get in return.

Unless Turris happens to break Darryl Sittler’s record for points in a game in his debut tonight (insert cheekiness here), I don’t think we’ll really see who “won” this trade until a season or two from now. The pundits and the naysayers are quick to say that Don Maloney made out like bandit and maybe he did, but it’s also quite possible that the Senators have added a much-needed piece to this rebuilding puzzle.

No doubt all eyes will be on him tonight as he centres a line between Erik Condra and Nick Foligno. Hopefully, the sheer enthusiasm that he’s shown about being an Ottawa Senator since arriving in the Nation’s Capital gives him a boost. Judging by the media scrums he’s done so far, you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face if you tried and Lord knows there’s no such thing as too much excitement in this city.

Battle Of The Nation’s Capitals: Sens Play Well But Lose To Caps 2-1

Former Senators Jason York, now working for Sportsnet, tweets out an opinion about the Gonchar-less Senators during the game.

The Ottawa Senators managed to take the play to the Washington Capitals in the last two periods but just couldn’t capitalize on their chances that resulted in a 2-1 loss.

The first period started out a little slow for the team, but a goal in the last 30 seconds by Peter Regin – his first of the season – salvaged the period for the Senators. So when the team appears to play as a better cohesive unit without him in the line-up, it’s only more fuel to the fire of those Gonchar haters out there.

Defenceman Sergei Gonchar took a shot off the leg in the first period and didn’t return for the rest of the game, which makes the fact that the Senators started playing better after that a head-scratcher.

It’s no secret fans have been hard on him this season with some audible boos coming from the crowd when he was introduced at home opener. But his play hasn’t exactly been deserving of anything better.

Tomas Vokoun was the main reason the Capitals held on to their 2-1 lead from the first period, even after the Senators poured on the shots with 12 and 14 in the second and third periods respectively. He made one particular game-saver late in the game after Daniel Alfredsson had a point-blank chance after some nifty passing plays with Jason Spezza.

Erik Karlsson had another one of his “on” games again, logging 27 minutes of ice-time and playing well against the always-threatening Alex Ovechkin. Jared Cowen also had a physical moment with the Great 8 and contained him well along the boards.

Seeing the Senators play well but unable to come out with the win should be another trend fans will see this season. Along with the probably Jekyll and Hyde syndrome that will have them brutal one night and guns a-blazing the next, a loss after a good effort might be even more common.

Sometimes that’s all you can ask for during a rebuild. So Sens fans, do the easy thing and take it!

No Jersey Luck For Sens As They Get Pounded By Avs 7-1

Filip Kuba battles with David Jones as Craig Anderson looks through traffic for the puck. (Photo: Aisys Adona)

The Ottawa Senators have so far been relying on determined third period play to keep up with other teams, but it all just caught up with them tonight.

Sporting their heritage jerseys for the first time and looking dapper to boot, that was the only thing that looked remotely good on the ice for the Senators in all 60 minutes of play.

Despite scoring a first period goal and holding a lead for the first time this season, it was a short-lived high as everything fell apart for them after that.

Three minutes after Milan Michalek scored his third goal of the year, fellow Czechmate Milan Hejduk scored to tie and that was the closest the Senators got all night.

The youth of the Avalanche took over with Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog each finishing with a goal and an assists and Ryan O’Reilly notching three assists of his own.

During the Team 1200′s post-game show, former Senator-turned analyst Shean Donovan mentioned how hard it is to pinpoint specific players who had bad games when the team as a whole looked like one giant mess. This game was an example of something all Senators fans should be prepared for this season, which is brutal execution from the back end out.

As good as Erik Karlsson looked in the home opener playing 28 minutes and showing his offensive capabilities, it’s the soft defensive plays or lack thereof that bring him right back to normalcy as a player. When he gets running around in his own end, the puck finds itself in the back of the Senators net more often than not.

And it’s not just a knock on Karlsson as the rest of the defence didn’t look much better. After making an NHL debut that saw him getting better as the game went on, David Rundblad will no doubt be erasing this one from his memory forthwith.

Of course, people are going to look at the score and wonder whether Craig Anderson just decided to check out for the night. But when the players in front of him have only put 13 shots on the opposing goal, it isn’t exactly much if anything for him to work with.

So while this was a disappointing game and effort by the team to say the least, it’s one of those games that everyone just needs to forget about it and move on. There’s no use trying to tell the players what they could have done differently because they know that better than anyone.

Growing pains are tough and may hurt like a you-know-what this season, but that’s exactly why they’re called growing pains in the first place. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so hold on to those cheesy-but-true sayings and let’s all get through this season together.

Game Day Preview: Sens Host Avs And Debut Heritage Jersey

Major Jim Watson joins Cyril Leeder as the Ottawa Senators unveil a new historical exhibit at Scotiabank Place.
(Photo: Ottawa Senators Twitter feed)

The Ottawa Senators are hoping their on-ice play mirrors how good their new heritage jerseys will look tonight.

Debuting the third jersey for the first time this season, the Senators are looking to come out with a .500 record after facing the Colorado Avalanche tonight. They’ll be looking to improve on their 11-21-4 all-time record against the Avalanche.

A few roster changes tonight include Brian Lee and Bobby Butler drawing back into the line-up while Erik Condra and Zenon Konopka come out. Going with seven defenceman, the Senators will have Craig Anderson between the pipes to face his former club for the first time since the trade in February. (Source)

Also worth nothing, Jason Spezza will play tonight after taking a maintenance day from yesterday’s practice.

The Senators announced that Nikita Filatov has been assigned to the Binghamton Senators. With the amount of bodies upfront, it’s better for Filatov to go down to the AHL and play some big minutes. While staying in Ottawa would have been ideal and obviously his goal, his two-way contract makes it an easier move.

In addition to playing in the heritage jerseys for the first time, the Senators have unveiled a historical exhibit on the 200 level in partnership with the City of Ottawa Archives. If you’re anywhere near 209 tonight, go on and take a look!

Flyers Make Another Move, Ship Stefan Legein To Kings

Stefan Legein takes in a pre-game skate when the Adirondacks Phantoms played the Hamilton Bulldogs in Montreal, Canada. (Photo: Aisys Adona)

The Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings must certainly have each other on speed dial after completing another trade that sends minor-leaguer Stefan Legein and a sixth-round pick in 2012 for future considerations.

Now, let’s rewind and try to break this down.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Legein is on the move again, even with this trade being made strictly to get the number of contracts they have within the limit. The once-highly touted prospect is now joining his third organization since being drafted in the second round by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2007.

A brief retirement and so-called attitude problems have stalled his hockey career and it seems like teams just don’t know what to do with him anymore.

His time with the Adirondack Phantoms started off relatively well and he seemed to be getting the fresh start he needed. He scored 24 goals and 34 points in 71 games during the 2009-10 season including numerous multi-goal games and strong poise on the penalty kill.

After the annual turnover that most AHL teams go through, it looked like Legein was in a good position to take a leadership role on the team for 2010-11. But that also went quickly downhill.

The Phantoms had a highly publicized but much less talked about falling out with Pat Maroon in October 2010 that led to his eventual trade to the Anaheim Ducks. Work ethic or lack thereof, bad attitude and an inability to get along with the head coach seemed to be the major reasons for Maroon’s career with the Flyers organization to come to an end.

On top of all that, Legein’s name was dragged in with the problem and it was reported that he had been given a warning to shape up or be shipped out himself. Since that incident, he became somewhat of an after thought, quickly falling out of the Flyers’ plans and struggled to see ice-time whether he was healthy or not.

Legein and Michael Leighton look up at the scoreboard during warm-up in Montreal. Despite being well-liked in the locker room, there was simply no room left for him on the team. (Photo: Aisys Adona)

He finished the season with just five goals, 17 points and a grand total of 41 games played due to injuries and learning the true meaning of being a healthy scratch. He even had a brief weekend stint in the ECHL with the Greenville Road Warriors, a move that seemed to be one last attempt at a wake-up call.

History and number aside, there is still a viable prospect in Legein. He’s not the biggest guy on the ice but he has the kind of speed that kills, reliable penalty killing prowess, a knack for scoring shorthanded goals and an uncanny ability to get under the skin of his opponents.

It seems that all he needs to thrive is being in a situation that fits for both him and the organization itself. The way he plays the game is very similar to Chad LaRose from the Carolina Hurricanes, who was undrafted but played his way onto the team with a lot of heart and determination. Next thing you know, he’s lifting the Stanley Cup in his rookie season and has had a regular spot in the line-up ever since.

But I digress. A lot of people probably think Legein has run out of chances to start over and simply ruined it for himself. While there’s obviously onus on him to step up his game and prove he wants it, there has to be equal dedication from the team and organization he’s playing for.

If the Kings want to turn him into a project and help him rebuild a career that should have been there much earlier, they need to do it delicately and with a lot of patience. That’s not to say they’re supposed to hold his hand and spoon-feed him the whole way, but they can’t just expect him to do a complete overhaul overnight.

It’s been a long time since Legein was ripping it up in junior hockey as an IceDog and being a media darling for TSN with Team Canada, but there’s still plenty of time for him to become the player everyone once expected him to be.

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