Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Palmieri, Coyle Lead Team USA Dominanc Over Slovakia

For all those who worried about Team USA following their opening game against Finland they can take a deep breath this evening after the second game against Slovakia.  From start to finish the game was a display of utter dominance against the Slovakian side as not only would the offense let loose in this one, the defense would lock down on the other end as well.  The scariest part of this one was that they did this without both Jeremy Morin and Brock Nelson who were out with injuries they sustained against Finland.
The best line of the night for Team USA was that of Chris Kreider (New York Rangers), Charlie Coyle (San Jose Sharks) and Kyle Palmieri (Anaheim Ducks) as they were tremendous is sustaining puck possession in the offensive zone all night and excellent on transition plays as well.  The line would combine for 3 goals and 4 assists on the evening. 
It was this line which got it going when Chris Kreider gave the puck to Charlie Coyle just outside the offensive blue line and he would carry it to the left faceoff dot and hit a streaking Kyle Palmieri for the tap in just 4:31 into the game and put it home for the first American goal.  Palmieri would get the second goal as well on a bad angle shot at 8:02 of the first with Team USA on a five minute power play following a hit to the head of Jerry D’Amigo.  The Palmieri goal culminated a shift in which Team USA dominated possession in the offensive zone for the first 1:20 of the major power play.  Palmieri has shown tremendous moves in these two games and shows it will not be much longer before he is adding secondary scoring to that lethal top line the Ducks currently have.
It was Coyle’s turn to get in on the act early in the second when he would take a feed from Palmieri after a scramble in the slot and patiently wait for the goaltender to drop down and from right in front roof the shot far corner.  Coyle was impressive tonight for his strength on the puck and his vision and give San Jose fans a lot to be excited about in the not so distant future for his potential. 
For his part on that line, Rangers prospect Chris Kreider would show off his tremendous speed, his willingness to play in the dirty areas and a high hockey IQ in reading the play to get himself into the right positions on the ice.  He has chances of his own to finish plays off, but did not get them done tonight, though if he keeps getting them the rest of the tournament that will surely change.
Other notables for Team USA tonight were Drew Shore (Florida) who scored a pretty 5th goal and was a monster on the in the faceoff circle; Chris Brown (Phoenix) showed a lot of physicality to his game while scoring a goal and Ryan Bourque who while not doing a whole lot in terms of headlines, did get an assist, was pointed out as a leader by his coach following the game and showed good puck control, a good cycle game and very good back checking when necessary.  Finally Emerson Etem would cap his long couple of days in Buffalo with the final goal of the game for Team USA.
Check out all the highlights and watch the team in their next contest Thursday against Germany

Clean Hit By Stamkos Called Boarding Costs Lightning Game; Is Touching Greg Campbell Now Illegal? w/Video

In the NHL you expect bad calls and you expect superstars to get calls as happens in all sports.  You do not like that it is that way, but you have to accept to some extent as part of how the game goes. Someone forgot to tell the referees that Steven Stamkos is the superstar and Gregory Campbell is just the son of the Director of Hockey Operations because obviously they got a different email from Colin which said any touching of Greg was a penalty.

Tonight with just 1:50 left in tonight's Tampa Bay Lightning Boston Bruins game Stamkos would hit the younger Campbell with a clean shoulder hit in the defensive zone which would astonishingly be called a boarding penalty against Stamkos.

On the the resulting power play Mark Recchi would score with just 20 seconds left in the game and give the Bruins a 4-3 win thanks to the bogus call.  Preferential treatment when you are a star is one thing, but getting it because of who your daddy is falls under a completely different category altogether and is unacceptable.  Guess the referee who made the call was looking for a congratulatory email instead of being scolded and with how it turned out maybe he will get two for a job "well done."

Video: Zach Kassian Ejection; Dirty Hit or Calling the Result?

Today in the Team Canada vs Team Czech Republic game at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships Canadian forward Zach Kassian was ejected and charged with a match penalty for his hit on Czech defender Petr Senkerik.  If the match penalty is allowed to stand it would mean that Kassian is out for at least tomorrow's game against Norway along with having been tossed from today's game.  The question is was the hit a bad hit or was the call that was eventually made based on the fact Senkerik remained down and would have to be taken off on a stretcher?

The reason the question is raising such a buzz is because initally on the play neither of the two referees called for a penalty at all on Kassian let alone a hit to the head, which is an automatic five minute major and game misconduct.  The IIHF rule on head shots is one that was far ahead of the NHL in terms of when they started enforcing it and Rule 540 does give the referees the discretion call a blow to the head a match penalty. 

In watching this play dozens of times I do not see any contact to the head on the hit by Kassian, it was late without question, but to the chest of Senkerik and it was as Pierre McGuire put it, the whiplash effect that caused the brunt of the injury.  We have this in the NHL as well where the severity of the injury to the player who got hit seems to determine whether the hit was legal or not and what kind of penalty it warrants.  Players can get hurt on clean hits and they can walk away from dirty ones, so we cannot use the end result as the determinant of the legality of the hit and unfortunately for Team Canada that is what happened here.

Photo: Connecticut Whale Get New Home White Jersey

Per @CTWhale there will is a look at the new home jersey's of the Whale.  Some said they were not a fan of the green third jersey's, but personally I liked them overall and certainly liked them more than this version.  This resembles the third jersey too much and just feels like a weak attempt, especially for a home jersey.  Let's hope they come up with something better for the road jersey or maybe run a contest to design next year's uniforms.

Video: Anze Kopitar Delivers Picture Perfect Pass To Dustin Brown; Play of Year?

In the era of the sports highlight it is typically the finish which gets the attention, and the finish on this play deserves its own credit, but as someone who enjoys the art of the assist there is no better than what Anze Kopitar pulled off last night for the Los Angeles Kings on a goal scored by Dustin Brown. On the play Kopitar lobbed a pass from just over his defensive blue line over the heads of two Sharks defenders and had it land perfectly at the top of the right face-off circle in the offensive zone. Dustin Brown like any good wide-receiver would take the puck and work some magic of his own going to the backhand over a sprawling Antti Niemi. 

What makes it even more impressive was how Brown never hesitated while the puck was in the air as if the play had been drawn up and practiced before that he had such trust in teammates immense talent to deliver it right where he did and not worry about the puck landing on his head. This is definitely the best passing play I have seen this year and for overall goal scoring play has to be right up there.

With Matt Gilroy Earning His Spot, Who Loses Theirs?

Steve Levy/Getty Images
Matt Gilroy, coming off his first career two goal game and coach John Tortorella proclaiming he is in the top six defense right now, for the first time in a long time seems to at least temporarily be off the scratch list.  As I discussed yesterday even before the big offensive game last night Gilroy had done everything the coaching staff had asked of him not only in improving his own game but in having the defense join the rush more.  That kind of a philosophy plays right into Gilroy’s natural instinct as an offensive minded defenseman and with the level of confidence he is playing with right now he is letting all the tricks out of the bag.  Games like last night where exactly what many envisioned when Matt Gilroy was signed in the summer of '09 following his Hobey Baker winning senior season in that you have a huge threat from the back end to add offense to your club with his shot, his speed, his vision and his ability to rush the puck.

Gilroy displayed his extremely high confidence level last night in the utter lack of hesitation to take the shot, something that has not been the case for him in the past.  Evidence of what happens was clear for neither of the goals were great shots, but to score you must get shots headed at the net and see what happens.  Even before the shot on the second goal the confidence exuded in his decision to rush the puck through the neutral zone that eventually led to the goal.  While being rewarded for his stellar play on the power play Gilroy pulled out the toe-drag to go around a defender and create space and all of these things are things he could not do at the end of last year or even early on this year when his confidence was shot.  For the moment he has certainly earned his spot in many ways by doing everything that thus far this year Michael Del Zotto has failed to do.  In the zero sum scenario that is an active roster if Gilroy is moving up into the lineup then someone else will have to move down out of it.  So who loses their spot so Gilroy can take the one he has earned?  Immediately I will remove Staal, Girardi and Michael Sauer from the discussion as I think all three have outplayed the other four this season.

Daily Recap: Gilroy Earning Spot Leading Win; Zuccarello Here To Stay?; Torts Calls Effort Sloppy

Today was all about two guys who just a week ago were not even thought of as likely candidates to have been in the lineup the last two games; Matt Gilroy and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen.  In the game tonight Gilroy, the oft scratched Gilroy, who was in for the struggling Michael Del Zotto would score two goals and try to stake a claim to remaining in the lineup on a more permanent basis.  I said this afternoon that he had done everything to earn that chance but it was up to the coaching staff to believe he could be used beyond the role of injury replacement and punishment for other’s bad play.  Tonight’s performance certainly helped Gilroy’s chances of doing all of that as it was his offense and overall play that helped lead the charge in the Rangers burying the Islanders 7-2 and had his coach praising him following the game.

The full game recap details the all the goals and thoughts on how certain players performed during the game as always and tonight as you would expect in a blowout win there were a lot of performances to have positive thoughts on including Marian Gaborik of whom I have been critical of lately.

Jordin Tootoo In Entirely Different Fight As He Enters NHL Rehab Program

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
As followers of the NHL we see all different types of players in the game who each play their particular roles on their teams in order to help the team win and also stay in the league.  What we often times lose sight of is that with each different role a player has in the league comes consequences in their life away from the ice.   Today Nashville Predators forward Jordin Tootoo reminded all of us that what goes on away from the ice matters more than just what these athletes do in the games they play when he voluntarily entered into in-patient care through the NHL-NHLPA substance abuse and behavioral health program.

Normally when we talk about Tootoo it is for a hit he has made, a fight he has had, but today is that reminder of humanity we all forget when we talk about these players as if they are machines.  Tootoo on the ice is a player who plays on the edge and it is that style which makes him effective for his club, and also a fan favorite, but playing that way can have it an impact on life away from the ice and all credit in the world to Jordin for seeking help when he needed it and for the NHL in supporting his call. 

The NHL release reads:
The National Hockey League Players’ Association and the National Hockey League announced today that forward Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators has voluntarily entered in-patient care as part of the Joint NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH).
Tootoo’s care will be administered by SABH Program Doctors Dave Lewis (NHL) and Brian Shaw (NHLPA). Tootoo will continue to receive his full salary and benefits and will have no penalty imposed, provided he complies with his prescribed treatment and follow-up care program.
There will be no further comment.
In that vein I will not personally nor will I tolerate any speculation on what has caused Tootoo to feel the need to seek this type of help, just hope that in this process Jordin gets the help he needs for whatever it is that ails him and that we will see him back on the NHL ice as soon as he is ready to be there.

On the ice this season he has 10 points through 32 games and a team-high 47 penalty minutes, but today all we hope for is that he goes 1-0 in this battle he is now getting help to wage.