Category:NHL
Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:36 pm
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Hockey Canada tabs Yzerman to lead for 2014

Yzerman led Canada to gold in 2010. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Things went so well the first time with Steve Yzerman at the helm, Hockey Canada is going back to the well and the Lightning GM for another go.

Yzerman, who was the man in charge of Canada's gold-medal winning team at the 2010 Olympics Games was bestowed the right to do it again for the 2014 Games. It's up to him (and his large staff) to assemble the team that will compete at the Games in Sochi.

Joining Yzerman on the Hockey Canada contingent will be Blue GM Doug Armstrong, Red Wings GM Ken Holland, Oilers GM Kevin Lowe and then Hockey Canada executives Bob Nicholson and Brad Pascall.

Lowe will be responsible for handling the GM duties for the upcoming World Championships with Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Maple Leafs VP David Nonis assisting.

"I am very pleased with the group that we have assembled to lead us through the next two seasons," Nicholson said. "Steve, Doug, Ken and Kevin provide a great deal of experience gained from their involvement in 2010 and their long-time involvement with our program."

The question remains what will the team look like for Yzerman? More to the point, will it include any NHL players? That will be determined with the upcoming round of CBA negotiations because right now it's no guarantee. Don't expect the owners to be happy about it, but it should be a point that will be conceded. The players all enjoy the prospect of playing for their nation at the Olympics.

Either way, it's going to be up to Canada's latest golden boy to repeat the feat and hold the gold.

“I would like to thank Bob Nicholson and Hockey Canada for the opportunity to return to this role of executive director,” said Yzerman. “While winning in Vancouver was something unique and extraordinary, I am as excited about taking on another great challenge. I look forward to working with Doug, Ken, Kevin, Peter and Dave and the Hockey Canada staff to put a plan in place to bring Canada success internationally.”

The contingent that will head USA Hockey has yet to be announced.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:09 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 11:17 am
 

Brutal truth: Southeast division is horrible

By: Adam Gretz

A couple of weeks ago I looked at the Southeast Division and how every team in it has been outscored by its opponents this season. That is not a good sign, and it's not something that happens very often. It's never happened in the post-lockout NHL, and the closest we came was during the 2006-07 season when the Atlanta Thrashers, the winners of the Southeast that year, finished as plus-one, the only team to outscore its opponents for the season.

They were then demolished in the playoffs, losing four straight games. 

It's still true today, and with the Washington Capitals currently owning the "best" goal-differential at minus-12, the division, as a whole,has been outscored by 107 goals this season

The quick illustration below shows how that compares with the other five divisions in the NHL this season:


Yeah. That's pretty bad, even though every team outside of Carolina still has a legitimate shot to win it. Some might call that parity. Others might call it complete mediocrity.

(For what it's worth, since the start of the '05-06 season no division has ever finished a full season worse than minus-100).

It's probably not much of a surprise, based on the above image, that eight of the top-10 teams in the NHL standings currently reside in the Atlantic and Central Divisions, while the Atlantic gets a bit of a boost by having the Islanders, a team that's at least competitive, in its fifth spot, while the Central has the Columbus Blue Jackets

The Northwest (minus-42 as of Monday) and Pacific Divisions (even) escape a lot of the jokes that have been directed at the Southeast this season, but they're not exactly lighting it up, either. But those divisions at least have teams on the plus side when it comes to goal-scoring this season.

Though, outside of Vancouver the Northwest is every bit as bad as the Southeast. It's very possible that Vancouver, for the second year in a row, will be the only team to represent the division in the playoffs.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:29 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 9:36 am
 

Pregame Skate: Sabres continue playoff push

Sabres

By: Adam Gretz

The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.


Playoff Race

RightJets8 PM, Buffalo at Winnipeg: Ah, yes, the joys of the chaotic playoff race in the NHL.

The Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets enter Monday's game separated by just two points in the standings, and with a win in regulation the Sabres would actually move into a tie with the Jets for the No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 70 points, and still have a game in hand.

It's been quite a turnaround for the Sabres after a dreadful mid-season slump, and a lot of it has to do with the recent play of goaltender Ryan Miller, who has been playing some of the best hockey of his career.

The Jets, meanwhile, need a win to keep pace with the Florida Panthers, winners on Sunday night, in the Southeast Division race, and have the advantage of playing in their own barn which has provided them with one of the best home ice advantages in the league this season. Needless to say, it's going to be a playoff atmosphere at the MTS Centre on Monday night as it's probably one of the biggest games the city of Winnipeg has seen in ... oh, about 15 years.

CoyotesPenguins7 PM, Phoenix at Pittsburgh: Unbeatable in February, the Coyotes have stumbled a bit during their first two games March and are coming off a brutal home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets over the weekened.

It doesn't get any easier on Monday night as they head into Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins, winners of five straight and owners of the second best point total in the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins don't have much of a chance to catch the Rangers for the No. 1 spot in the division and conference, but they are still fighting for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage in the first round, entering Monday's game two points ahead of the Flyers, four points ahead of the Devils and five points ahead of the Senators.

They've outscored their opponents 22-7 during their current five-game winning streak.

The Coyotes have quite a bit of company in the Pacific Division race, and enter Monday's game tied with the Dallas Stars for the top spot with 75 points (Phoenix has a game in hand) and two points ahead of the San Jose Sharks.

DucksOilers10 ET, Edmonton at Anaheim: The Ducks miracle run is starting to run out of time, still seven points out of the No. 8 spot in the West and still trailing four teams.

On Monday they get a visit from the Edmonton Oilers, one of the worst teams in the league, and perhaps the worst road team in the league.

A win is an absolute must in a game like this, and a loss would be a potentially crushing blow to their already slim postseason chances

Your promised miscellany
Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 4, 2012 9:37 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 10:13 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Avs, Stars, Cats with big wins

By Brian Stubits

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

Jamie McGinn, Colorado Avalanche: So they got this guy from the Sharks for scoring, right?

Whether the Avalanche did or didn't (the answer is not really) he's giving it to them anyway. Or at least he did on Sunday.

The Avs, needing to keep pace in the Western race, got two early goals from McGinn and hung on to shut out the Minnesota Wild in Minnesota. It not only kept them squarely in the conversation, it pretty much cemented the fate of the Wild as they drop seven points out of a playoff spot. That's just a little tough to make up at this point.

The Avs have been on one of their patented upswings in an up-and-down season and now join the Kings just one point back of the Sharks in the Western Conference, tied with the Los Angeles Kings.

It was a nice showing for Semyon Varlamov too to stop all 30 shots he faced from the Wild. For a goalie that has struggled for much of the season, to string together some wins like that will go a long way in turning around a young goalie's psyche.

[Related: Avalanche 2, Wild 0]

Florida Panthers: Some team has to win the Southeast Division and in recent days you got the feeling that this team wasn't going to be able to hold on. They still might not, but they have to feel a lot better after Sunday's comeback win.

For the sixth time in the last nine games, the Panthers fell in a 2-0 hole. This time, though, they crawled out of it with four unanswered goals, including a somewhat shocking breakaway score from Krys Barch. Really, you don't see that often.

It brought an end to Ottawa's reign over the Panthers as well. The Sens had won nine in a row -- NINE! -- against Florida including five straight in Sunrise. It looked like they were on their way to making it a perfect 10 until the comeback came.

What the end result is besides the confidence boost for Florida to get over that Senators hump is that the Panthers move four points up on the Jets, five on the Capitals and six up on the Lightning in the Southeast. Keeping that cushion is important.

[Related: Panthers 4, Senators 2]

Dallas Stars: Don't look now, but the Stars have jumped the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division and are now tied with the Phoenix Coyotes for the division lead (but lose out on the tie-breakers at this point). They also bumped the Sharks down to eighth in the West while taking the seventh spot themselves.

That's the result of them marching into Calgary and prevailing in the shootout thanks to their scoring stars of Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.

The Stars are playing as well now as they were at the beginning of the season when they ran out to one of the best starts in the league. There's still a good ways to go, but they have shown they're a serious threat and maybe even a good bet at this point to make the postseason.

The Flames, meanwhile, do get one point and move to within three of the Sharks but remain in 11th place.

[Related: Stars 3, Flames 2 (SO)]

Anders Nilsson, New York Islanders: There was a time this season that people were laughing at the Islanders for carrying three active goalies on the roster each night. Then they called on the fourth man in the rotation, Nilsson, on Sunday and he delivered.

Not only did Nilsson pick up his first NHL victory, it was a shutout. And it had to be as the Islanders only scored once against the Devils, a Kyle Okposo goal in the second period.

If they even dare to dream on the Island, there is still a glimmer of hope that they can get into the playoffs. A glimmer, I said. The win brought them within five points of eighth-place Winnipeg when they finished up. With the way the bottom of the East has been dropping like a rock allowing some of the other cellar dwellers to climb back in (see: Lightning, Sabres) what's to say the Islanders can't? Any kind of winning streak at this point puts you into contention.

Of course they might need a few more goals but points are points no matter how they come.

[Related: Islanders 1, Devils 0]

Losers

Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin: The Capitals were shut out for the second consecutive game at home, being blanked by the Flyers 1-0. Ilya Bryzgalov, who has had his well-chronicled struggles this season, was sharp, very sharp. Obviously, he held the Caps off the board completely despite some of the Flyers' best defensemen (Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros) being out.

Ovechkin, meanwhile, appeared to be benched in the second period by Capitals coach Dale Hunter after his role on the one and only goal, a deflection from Eric Wellwood that beat Michal Neuvirth. His turnover and then pretty poor attempt at stopping the pass to the crease appeared to earn him a seat for the rest of the second.

"My mistake cost us two points and it cost us the game," Ovechkin said.

Now we're left once again wondering if the Caps are dead in the water. With back-to-back home losses, they have fallen five points behind the Panthers in the Southeast and remain out of the playoff picture in the East. If the Sabres -- Buffalo! -- is able to beat the Jets on Monday, the Caps will fall into 10th in the conference.

[Related: Flyers 1, Capitals 0]

Detroit Red Wings: I elected to put the Wings in the losers section instead of the Chicago Blackhawks in the winner section tonight because of the collateral damage that came along with their 2-1 loss at the Joe on Sunday afternoon.

The second period curiously began with Joey MacDonald in the net instead of Jimmy Howard, who had been on for the first 20 minutes. It wasn't immediately clear why. Remember, Howard just missed a couple of weeks with a broken finger.

Eventually Howard was back on the bench and it was revealed that he suffered a lower-body injury and is day to day. That was worthy of a sigh of relief. Of course it's not like MacDonald has been bad in his spot duties so far this season. He gave up the only goal that was scored in the final two periods and took the loss on Sunday, but that dropped his record to just 7-2-1.

The Wings also saw defenseman Jakub Kindl leave the game with an upper-body injury. Add that to the already absent Pavel Datsyuk and the Wings are starting to take some wear and tear.

Oh, and by the tie-breakers, they lost the Central Division lead to the Blues. Not that that means too much right now.

[Related: Blackhawks 2, Red Wings 1]

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:41 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 6:09 pm
 

OHL forward gives up 13 goals in emergency role

By Brian Stubits

So here's a story you don't see very day. A goaltender in the OHL gave up 13 goals in his team's 13-4 loss. And he was given the first star of the game.

Yea, that needs more of an explanation, now doesn't it? In the opening minutes of the game, Erie goaltender Ramis Sadikov was forced to leave the game due to injury. Considering the backup Devin Williams had failed a concussion test earlier in the weekend and the other available goalies were busy elsewhere, they were up the creek without a paddle.

Insert forward Connor Crisp as the emergency goaltender. That's how you end up with the first star having a goals against average a shade under 13.00 on the day.

"I'm a road hockey goalie,” Crisp said following the game. “But that's the first time I've put on goalie equipment and played on ice since I was 5."

In addition to the memory of the game itself, he’ll be feeling the effects for a few days.

"My feet are still cramped,” Crisp said. “I can hardly walk right now."

Ah yes, the joy of goalie skates. I know the feeling, man. Not a lot of fun when they don’t fit right.

Courtesy of Jeff Marek of Sportsnet, here is a statement on the matter from Erie general manager Sherwood Bassin.

"Late last night our backup goaltender failed a concussion test. I looked at our alternatives; one of our goaltenders was playing in the Ontario Junior C Championships, the other in the Midget Ontario Championships. I studied our alternatives based on the 2000 or so games I've been involved in. This turned out to be a bad decision.

"I accept full responsibility and apologize publicly for the embarrassment to the league and the sport of hockey that I love. I have deep respect for our league and sport."

I get that it's a slightly embarrassing situation for him and his team, but really, what's the apology for? The team was in a tight spot and they had to use a skater in net. No biggie.

Considering Niagra is first in its division at 42-17-0-3 while Erie is 19 points behind every other team in the entire league at just 10-46-3-3, I don't think they were likely in store for a good shot anyway. Especially considering Crisp actually faced 45 shots in his 58:15 of action between the pipes.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Category: NHL
Posted on: March 4, 2012 3:41 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 8:03 pm
 

Rangers continue to beat top competitors in East

New York has done a lot of celebrating against their biggest foes this season. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

The New York Rangers are getting ready to lap the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference at this point.

On Sunday they might not have been the best team on the ice at Madison Square Garden for most of the affair, they still prevailed for the 4-3 win over the defending champion Boston Bruins thanks to Derek Stepan's third-period snipe.

The win does a lot for the Rangers in the grand scheme of things. It moves them ahead of the Canucks and Red Wings for the most points in the NHL despite having played fewer games than those teams. It also gives New York a double-digit lead on the next best team in the Eastern Conference (that would be the Penguins).

There are a lot of reasons why. It starts obviously with the fact that they are just a really good team. No duh. But it obviously goes beyond that.

They have really made their money this season against the other top teams in the East. In this case I'm talking about the Bruins, Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Combined this season they are 10-2-0 against those teams so far. The only two losses came to the Penguins. They are 5-0 against the Flyers and now 3-0 against Boston.

Just imagine if that split were flipped and the Bruins were 3-0 against the Blueshirts. Each team would be locked at 85 points. Instead, the Rangers are 12 points up on the B's.

Another part of it is that the Rangers have been a bit lucky this season. I'm not taking away from their on-ice capabilities with that comment. It's about the fact that they have largely avoided the injury bug this season. Sure, they have dealt with injuries like every other team such as the concussion to defenseman Marc Staal.

But this is pretty stunning at this point of the season. This stat comes courtesy of the New York Post's Larry Brooks earlier this week. You can add three games on for Ryan Callahan, who was again a scratch today with a sore foot.

There are a lot of teams that would kill for that kind of fortune.

Just keep that kind of success against the top foes in the conference in mind when the playoffs roll around. That should be worth a confidence boost or two.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 4, 2012 11:31 am
 

Bruce Boudreau unleashes on refs after loss

By Brian Stubits

It's been a stressful time for the Anaheim Ducks the past few weeks. They came flying back into the playoff conversation with a torrid run but still had little margin for error. Well lately, like Saturday night, they have been exceeding that margin for error with results like a 4-2 loss to the Kings.

The resulting pressure is bringing out a lot in the Ducks, including head coach Bruce Boudreau. After the loss to L.A., he let go a lot of his frustrations by unleashing a pretty tough tirade on the referees.

You can view the whole postgame interview below, but here are the money lines. And by money lines, I mean the lines that are likely going to cost Boudreau some money. (Transcribed quotes from O.C. Register. Thanks for the time-saver.)

“Some of the worst calls I’ve seen in a friggin’ long time,” he said. “A game of this importance, we can’t have officiating making calls like that. I mean, there’s three penalties that weren’t penalties.

“Granted, they scored and [it’s] probably sour grapes because they scored, but those things can’t happen. It’s too important. There’s too much at stake for everyone not coming to do their jobs.”

And there was some more in there too. As they say, pressure bursts pipes.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 4, 2012 11:04 am
 

Video: Rangers GM Sather talks Chris Kreider

By Brian Stubits

Amid all the trade talks surrounding Rick Nash and the New York Rangers, there was a pretty lengthy list of untouchables as deemed by New York that the Blue Jackets really wanted/needed in a potential deal. Needless to say, it didn't happen.

One of the names on that list was Chris Kreider, the Rangers' first-round draft pick in 2009 who is currently starring at Boston College.

While Rangers fans might be familiar with him, a lot of the fans around the league probably don't. So consider this your introduction.

With BC hosting Vermont this weekend on CBS Sports Network, New York general manager phoned in and had a conversation about Kreider. It includes some pretty positive praise of not only Kreider, but another BC product with the Rangers, Brian Boyle.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com