Category Archives: Hockey

Rypien Suspended for Six Games

Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks gets physical with Minnesota Wild fan James Engquist

National Hockey League players are now going to think twice before getting physical with fans.  Rick Rypien, of the Vancouver Canucks, learned the hard way, after receiving a six game suspension on Friday.  The Canucks were fined $25,000 by the NHL for Rypiens actions.

 

Rypien had fought Brad Staubitz, of the Minnesota Wild, in the first period.  The two were about to drop the gloves again but were separated by the referees.  Rypien was able to get a punch in.  He was then handed a four minute double minor for roughing and a ten minute game misconduct.

On his way to the locker room, Rypien encountered an applauding Wild fan, James Engquist.  That is when things got physical before teammate Manny Malhotra pulled him away from Engquist.  Malhotra believed the fan “got a little bit too involved.”

“There’s boundaries that should never be crossed. We’re in our area of work,” he said. “We’re all for the hooting and hollering and supporting your team and saying whatever is tasteful. But as soon as you cross that line and want to become physical with a player then we have to make sure we take care of ourselves. … We have no idea of what their intentions are.”

I am going to have to agree with Malhotra.  When a fan gets in your face you have no idea what is going to happen.  No matter what Engquists intentions were, Rypien needs to be ready to defend himself.  It may have seemed like a overreaction from the replay, but we do not know what words were exchanged or what sparked everything.

There have been many different situations similar to this one. Examples would be Ron Artest getting into it with some fans while in Detroit or Lagarette Blount at Boise State. However, I heard rumors that there were some racial slurs that took place in the Blount incident. If that is the case, than I am all for what Blount did. For me at least, I have no problem with someone doing what they need to do when being attacked with a racial slur(s).

However, in certain situations there is such thing as overreacting. I do not know what sparked Rypien, but some things you just need to let go in one ear and out the other. It is a part of being professional. I cannot say exactly what Rypien did was right or wrong due to lack of information of what happened.

Basically I believe that there are certain situations where you do what you need to do and others where you need to be professional. I do not think I will ever know the truth of what happened between Rypien and Engquist. With all the information that I know about the incident, I think that the right actions were taken. Rypien is suspended for the next six games and Engquist was tossed from the facility.

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Quick or Bernier?

Los Angeles King's netminder Jonathan Quick, makes a glove save.

One of the biggest story lines that will be taking place in the Los Angeles Kings locker room is who is the number one goalie.  As of now it is 24-year old Jonathan Quick.  As long as Quick keeps playing well his job is safe.

“There’s no gray area there. Jonathan Quick is our No. 1 goaltender,” says Los Angeles King’s Head Coach Terry Murray.  “He’s going to play a lot of hockey this year.”

According to Murray, Quick is going to be their number one guy to start the season.  However, he is going to have to be competing every time he steps in between the pipes.

Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings makes a blocker save.

Highly touted goaltender, Jonathan Bernier just won the back up job after the Kings recently placed Erik Ersberg on waivers today.  Ersberg backed up Quick last season.  Also not to mention that the club just signed Bernier for another two years.

Last season Bernier jumped between the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League.  During his time with the Kings he posted 3-0-0 record with a 1.30 goals-against average, a .957 save percentage, which also included a shutout.  Pretty impressive statistics if you ask me.

Personally I believe the Kings are doing the right thing with Bernier.  They are easing him into the starting position, rather than making him jump into the league too fast.  A mistake I believe Montreal made with Carey Price, who still can live up to his potential, but has not quite lived up to expectations.

Whether it is this season or next season, Bernier will be the starter for the Kings.  He is younger (22) than Quick, and has a lot more potential. For the time being, this is good for both goaltenders as they will be competing with each other every time they take the ice. This is the best situation any team can be in when it comes to goaltenders. No matter what, there is not going to be room for both goalies in the future. This means the club should be able to trade one of them and get something good in return.

Right now the Kings are doing the right thing, hopefully they can choose the right goaltender when the time comes.

Top Five Players to Breakout this Season

John Taveres of the New York Islanders, highfives teammates after getting his first NHL assist.

In some scenarios we see top draft picks not live up to expectations in their rookie seasons or even after a couple seasons.  There are many reasons as to why this happens.  Some players are called up too soon and may need more development with the junior team or in the minors.  Injuries can be another reason for slow starts or the team/coaching style is just not the right fit for a player.

Last year we saw former first overall pick, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, breakout in his sophomore season.  He went from 46 to 95 points, and also finishing with 51 goals in his second season with the Lightning.  It was good enough to be a co-winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the leading scorer at the end of the National Hockey League season.

Now the question is who is going to be this years Steven Stamkos.  Here are my top five picks for players to breakout during the 2010-11 NHL season:

1.  John Tavares

Tavares was the 2009 first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.  He absolutely dominated the junior level in the Ontario Hockey League, the same league that Stamkos played in.  His best season he finished with 135 points in 67 games, which is impressive at any level.  During his rookie season Tavares looked like he was going to live up to the expectations that many had for him.  However, he finished the second half of the season not as strongly as the first.  He ended up with 54 points in 82 games, which was second among rookies.  After a year in the league, expect Tavares to make the same kind of improvements as Stamkos.  I am not saying he had a terrible rookie season but the way he finished can be considered disappointing to some.  Especially after a great start.  Tavares is the most likely candidate to do what Stamkos did last season, something that me and ESPN’s Robert Vollman can agree on.

2. Evander Kane

Evander Kane of the Atlanta Thrashers skate up ice with the puck

Atlantas 2009 4th overall pick should improve his totals this season.  Kane has too much potential to have any doubts about him being a 20+ goal scorer this year.  With Ilya Kovalchuk gone in New Jersey, expect more ice time for Kane and for his name to be called in key situations.  Also do not forget he just turned 19.  I will not be surprised to see Kane finish with 50-60 points this season on a weak Atlanta squad.

3. Joe Pavelski

Talk about clutch.  When Pavelski’s name was called to be out there in key situations during the 2010 playoffs, he came through.  Each of his four seasons in the NHL, he has put up solid numbers despite playing behind the likes of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau.  After a strong post season, many expect Pavelski to continue his strong play this coming season.  Look for him to play more minutes and be out on the ice in key situations.  Definitely a guy you want to keep an eye on this year.

4. Peter Mueller

After two in a half so-so seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, Mueller was given a fresh start on a young Colorado Avalanche team.  Before suffering from a concussion he finished the season with the Avalanche, appearing in 15 games and finishing with 20 points.  Last season, Mueller showed that he was a great fit on a young up and coming Avalanche squad.  Look for him to play his best season yet.

5. Gilbert Brule

After five seasons in the league, most would consider Brule a bust.  His development has been slowed down by injuries, but showed some flashes last year in Edmonton that made him a former 6th overall pick.  I still have faith in him and believe that this year he is ready to take his game to the next level.  After watching this guy in juniors, it is hard to count this guy out.  He is capable to be a consistent point producer in this league.  Look for this year in Edmonton for him to find his stride.  After all, there is such things as late bloomers.

Should NHL Stars Play In The 2014 Olympics?

Sidney Crosby after scoring the game winner in the gold medal game against Team USA at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

Take a moment and imagine the Winter Olympics for Men’s Ice Hockey without Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin.  Not a very exciting thought, huh? However, that thought could become true, but with more superstars missing than just Crosby and Ovechkin.

The NHL still hasn’t agreed to put games on hold so their players can participate in the 2014 Shochi Winter Olympic games in Russia.  The issue is still in debate and they are trying to figure out the pros and cons of the stoppage of the season and participation of players.

“Vancouver was an easy call because we’re going to play the games in Canada,” said Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner. “Salt Lake City was an easy call. Japan and Italy might not have given us in terms of focus and attention and impact what we may have hoped from taking a 17-day break.”

I understand that allowing the players to play on the North American continent is easier, but I don’t understand the difference in the 17-day breaks.  They are all the same.  Every player that was not in the Olympics had a 17-day break.

Fans are not the only ones against it, but also the players.

“I’ll go play the Olympic Games for my country,” Ovechkin said.  “If somebody says to me you can’t play, see ya.”

Even Sidney Crosby agrees with his on-ice rival.

“Russian or not Russian, I can understand,” Crosby said. “I think we definitely feel strongly, me personally and I think all the players do, that it could be the opportunity of a lifetime, especially the guys from Russia. It only happens once.”

The NHL is already competing for players with the Kontinental Hockey League, especially when it comes to the Russian superstars. If the NHL does not let their Russians compete in the games then they can say goodbye to those players. The Russians have become a big part of the NHL in the past years and not allowing them to play would be a mistake.

“Obviously, we want to play in our home country in front of our home crowd, it’s huge for us,” said Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who played for Team Russia in Vancouver. “The Russians have been playing in the league for a while and they’ve done a lot for this league and, hopefully, the NHL will reward us with the Olympics. We’re all hoping for it. Some of them are saying we have to play there, and I agree with them. Hopefully, they are going to respect our opinion.”

The NHL needs to listen to the players. The Russian players have expressed their opinions on the matter, and same with a lot of other players from other countries. They allowed the Americans and Canadians to play in front of their home crowds, so why can’t the Russians.

Another thing Bettman and the NHL need to understand, is that they gained more fans of hockey or at least more people know about the game than before. I had friends that never watch hockey of have any interest texting me about all the USA games in Vancouver. It was very exciting to see what the Olympics were doing for the game.  More people have taken in interest in hockey.

There are some people out there that think they should have amateur players playing in the Olympics rather than NHL stars.  I do not agree with them because that is what the World Jr’s are for.  It is a tournament every winter after Christmas, where players that are under 19 represent their countries.  If that is what you want to see, then watch that.  For Canada it is the equivalent to America’s March Madness.

Personally I see more reasons to allow NHL players to participate in the Olympic games than reasons not to.  I actually don’t see any reasons not to.  I hope the NHL will agree to allow players represent their countries or the league could lose some of its best players.  In the end I think Bettman and the NHL will do the right thing and allow participation.

What Team USA Needs To Do To Beat Canada

Team USA celbrating after Zach Parise's (9) goal against Switzerland.

This is the gold medal game that every American and Canadian has dreamed of.  This is arguably better than the 1980 Miracle on ice, when the USA beat the Soviets, and went on to beat Finland and win gold.

Heading into the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, no one thought that the Americans would make it this far.  For Canada it was a different story.  They were the heavy favorites to win the gold, and still are.

In the group play of the tournament, Team USA defeated Team Canada five to three.  Unfortunately the Americans have not seen what Canada is capable of, as they played poorly against the USA.  Even though the Americans came away with the victory they were not playing their best hockey either.  The main reason they won was due to the play of goaltender Ryan Miller.  The Canadians out shot the USA 45 to 23.

The General Manager of team USA, Brian Burke, was not happy with his team’s play.  He believes that his team needs to be better in order to use their seeding as an advantage and earn a medal.

“You guys are probably going to be shocked by this; I’m not happy with the way we’ve played to this point,” Burke said. “We’re playing with about 10 guys carrying us, in my opinion. I’m not happy with the way we’ve played. I’m not unhappy because we’re in the first seed, and thank god there are some guys pulling on the rope, but we need everyone pulling on the rope.”

Burke is absolutely right.  Before the six to one victory against Finland to advance to the gold medal game, top players Paul Stastny, Phil Kessel, and Patrick Kane have been pretty quiet.  Kane and Stastny both had two points against the Fins.

Team USA’s best players thus far have been forward Zach Parise, defenseman Brian Rafalski, and goalie Ryan Miller.  Other players have been playing pretty solid to, but in order for them to win gold they are going to need everyone on the same page.

A statistic going into the gold medal game that the USA hopes to continue is scoring the first goal in every game so far.  They have not fallen behind at any point in the tournament.

“We definitely wanted to get into that next game,” said Ron Wilson, head coach for Team USA. “We feel we’re prepared and we’ve gotten better every single game, which is key in a tournament like this.”

Getting on the board first is what the Americans need to get the momentum going their way.  Everyone is going to have to do their part in this game for the USA, in order to beat Canada.

Canada has been on a roll since their lost to the Americans.  They came out and defeated the Russians, who many thought would meet the Canadians in the gold medal game.  The Canadians played at the level they should have been after defeating Russia seven to three, eliminating them from the tournament.  The Canadians beat Slovakia in the semi-finals to advance to the finals.

The game against Canada is not going to be like the first meeting for the USA.  The one thing that Canadians hate most is when they lose to Americans in hockey.  Trust me I have been there.  Team Canada is not going to let that happen again and is going to come out hard, with a home crowd behind their back.

Once again the Americans are the under dog going in to this game, despite beating Canada.  Realistically Canada is the better team, but any team can win on any given day, especially in tournament play.

The Americans are going to need to come out and set the tone.  Sending hard hitter Dustin Brown out there to make some big hits might be a good way to get started.  Most importantly they are going to need their star players to show up.  Hopefully Stastny and Kane will carry on their strong play form the Finland game.  Ryan Miller is also going to need to play a big game, because he was the main reason they won the first meeting with Canada.

Stopping all four of Canada’s lines is not going to be easy, but the Americans are capable of doing it.  Thinking realistically Canada has the best chance to win and they would be my prediction, but I am still rooting for the USA.  Nothing is better to see Canadians upset about losing to Americans, especially overly patriotic ice hockey commentator for CBC and co-host of Coaches Corner, Don Cherry.  LETS GO USA!!!

Return for Jagr?

Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Rebuplic takes the puck up ice during the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver.

Ever since the Winter Olympics have started people have been wondering if future Hall of Fame player Jaromir Jagr will return to the NHL.

Currently Jagr is playing in Russia for Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and is also playing for the Czech Republic in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A popular question that Jagr has been asked is about whether or not he will be returning to the NHL next season.  He has proven so far at the Winter Olympics that he can still play with the NHL superstars.  Jagr has 3 points in 3 games for the Czech’s.  He is definitely thinking about playing in the NHL again.

“They treat me so well in Russia, but at the same, time I want to try to player here,” said Jagr. “When we get back to Russia we have to start the playoffs.  Then, I have to make a decision.  If it happens, it happens.”

No one knows what is going to happen except for Jagr himself but he is not ready to make his decision quite yet.  His contract with Omsk is a two year deal and an option for a third year if he decides to stay.  From what it seems like, Jagr is going to deny that option and attempt to make a return to the NHL.

Jagr is an 18-year veteran and began his NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  While there he won a Stanley Cup.  He has also played for the Washington Capitals and the New York Ranger, his last team before heading over seas.  He has 1,599 points in 1,273 NHL games, which are very impressive numbers.

Jaromir Jagr (left) sporting his famous mullet with legendary Pittsburgh Penguin teammate Mario Lemuiex (right).

While playing for the Rangers Jagr was slowed down by injuries, and said that “the rigors of the 82 game season had worn on him.”  Reports have been saying that Jagr is healthy again, which will be important since after all he will be a 39-year old free agent.

A return for Jagr in the NHL would be great.  The fans here love him and he has excelled in the league before.  He can help out any cup contender, that is if he is willing to take a pay cut.  A return to the Pittsburgh Penguins would be ideal so he could retire there and possibly playing with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.  The Edmonton Oilers were known to have made the best offer before Jagr went to Russia, and are most likely going to take a shot at obtaining him.  If Jagr did not want to play for them two years ago, I doubt he will now because they have not improved since then.

If Jagr continues his good play at the Winter Olympics then he could see a lot of offers knocking at his door.  Maybe even an earlier return than expected because the KHL season ends before the NHL season.  I would not be surprised if Jagr is back in an NHL sweater next season.

Chicago Blackhawks looking to upgrade their defense

Chicago Blackhawks' Cam Barker (25) now playing for the Wild, keeps the puck away from the Minnesota Wild's Cal Clutterbuck (22)

The Chicago Blackhawks traded Cam Barker to the Minnesota Wild for veteran Kim Johnsson and prospect Nick Leddy.

Barker, 23, is in his fourth season and has 15 points in 52 games this season. He is still young and has a lot of potential but the Blackhawks thought they had a better shot at the Stanley Cup with a more experienced defenseman.

Johnsson is turning 34 next month has 15 points in 52 games so far this season. His numbers are practically identical to Barkers but he has played in 43 postseason games during his 10-year NHL career. This gives Blackhawks head coach Joel Queneville a more veteran defense and has different options with the pairings.

Another thing that makes this trade key for the Blackhawks is the value that Johnsson has on special teams. It all begins with penalty killing, where Barker was not used. Johnsson is also playing on the powerplay and has been used on both special teams through the first two games as a Blackhawk. He already has a goal in those two games.

Minnesota Wild's Kim Johnsson, now playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, skates up ice with the puck agaisnt the Colorado Avalanche

With the number one pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, arguably one of the top pairings in the league, not breaking apart anytime soon that leaves Johnsson to play along side Brent Sopel as the number two defensive pair. Niklas Hjarmalsson is another option. Quenneville will have it all figure out by the time playoffs come around.

Barker is still young and was no longer fit into the Blackhawks plans. He was drafted third overall behind Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, so he has credibility in that sense and some potential still left in him. However, he was not exactly playing up to what he should be after four years in the league. No one knows if Barker will ever live up to expectations but looking at the trade currently Chicago got rid of a minor contributor for a player that can make an impact right away and down the road come playoffs.

The Blackhawks also got Nick Leddy who was the Wild’s first round pick in 2009. Currently he is playing for the University of Minnesota as a freshman. Chances are he stays all four years of his college eligibility unless he can go into training camp and show that he is ready to contribute. Keep an eye on this kid as he may turn out to be the key player of this trade.

Both teams received something good out of this deal but Chicago definitely came out on top in this trade. Barker will be a top four defenseman for the Wild and be a big part of their future if he sticks around. The Blackhawks obtained a veteran defenseman that brings experience to the team and will be more of an impact in the playoffs. Leddy is the less talked about player in this trade because he is not as well known. I believe that he will turn out to be the big name in this deal once he steps in the NHL and is a steal because the Wild could have gave up a different prospect.

As of now no one has got robbed in this trade. It will all depend on whether Barker lives up to his potential, the Hawks make a deep playoff run with Johnsson, and if Leddy turns out to be a top four defenseman. Only time will tell.