NHL Injuries are Reaching Frightening Levels

Sharkland, CA

Bianca is concerned by the rash of injuries in today's NHL.

Bianca is concerned by the rash of injuries in today’s NHL.

Hey now, today’s column is gonna deal with what I feel is an under the radar situation in the worlds fastest game: a rash of injuries to stars and grinders alike.  As you can see from the photo, Bianca is concerned and rightly so because it seems like it is occurring nightly.

Let me toss out a few big names and see what youse think: Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford from the Hawks, Johnny Hockey of the Calgary Flames, Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan of the Bolts, Tomas Hertl of the Sharks.  How about Jonathan Quick of the Kings and Patrick Sharp from the Dallas Stars?

I could go on with the names but I won’t, because I’d like to explore more deeply what the root cause might be for this disturbing trend.  It isn’t just one particular team or a particular injury. Almost every team has a star or significant player out for a long term severe injury and most have several players on long term IR.

I don’t see this reported in my extensive research of hockey publications today, I must be on the cutting edge of this trend.  Get it cutting?  Alexander Radulov of the Montreal Canadiens was injured in Friday’s Sharks/Habs game in San Jose by an errant stick in a scrum in front of the net. The blood was gushing from the cut above his eye and left a trail for about 50 feet until someone finally got him a towel.

Pre gusher

Pre gusher.

He is described as “day to day”, but his injury is fairly common amongst those players that go to the dirty areas of the crease and score the greasy goals.  However, dislocated shoulders, torn ACLs, hip surgery, broken legs and hands are the type of injuries I’m talking about.  In todays new NHL, those at the top want to see the game get faster.  They want to see more scoring, they want the millennials to be titillated, the video to be gorier, and ultimately make more money.

Those at the top are Gary Bettman and the owners.  They removed the redline from the game, they removed clutch and grab, they allow blue paint play.  All these changes have led to more speed, but unfortunately not more scoring.  The average amount of goals per game for both teams is 5.3.  Roughly, an average score of 3-2, which doesn’t exactly seem like a lot of goals to this guy.

It’s my contention that all these rule changes to increase scoring have led to more injuries, across the board.  The mainly north/south play is in direct contrast to the style from 10 years ago where there were 3 zones and the puck could only be moved one zone at a time.  Now a d man can pass from behind his own goal line to the front of the far blue line.

This allows for and encourages more speed,  though not necessarily a better game and definitely not more scoring.  I know I sound like an old fogey or maybe that I’m pining for the old NHL.  A small part of me is but the main point is this: players are getting hurt more often and the game is not better IMHO, and scoring is not the only good part of our beloved game.

Bianca wants to nurse them back to health.

Bianca wants to nurse them back to health.

 

OutWest We Play a Different Brand of Hockey

Silicon Shmillicon

 Shark Head

Shark Head

Happy Black Friday everyone, get outside and drink in the beauty of a day off and stay outta the mall!  nationalhockeylink.com is going to see John Tavares and his NY Islanders vs the resurgent, maddeningly inconsistent but wholly entertaining San Jose Sharks. My lovely daughter and I will be attending in our new seats in Section 126 and remain ever hopeful of a Stanley Cup championship.

A few days ago, I said I wanted to analyze the the OutWest teams and do a little compare and contrast with the Eastern conference teams.  As I mentioned in the previous column, the East is clicking along at a 57% winning percentage over the West, but what does that mean you ask?  Other than sounding like a Clinton popular vote victory over Trump, it is indicating a change in style and strategy away from the “heavy game” identity employed by teams like the LA Kings, St Louis Blues and to an extent San Jose.

The Pens won the Cup by out skating their opponents and when the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Sharks in the Cup final, it was the opinion of many in the proletariat that fans wanted more speed and skill, and less hitting and goonery.   Not so fast (pun intended), I for one prefer a lot of heavy checking and the occasional F ed up hit because I like the chaos created by the outrageousness of the hit and, its inspirational to the players on both benches.

That being said, the GMs of the league are drafting players formerly thought to be too small to succeed in the league.  Their brand of skill and speed translate into more excitement and ultimately more goals for. Johnny Hockey Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames and Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs are two great examples of electrifying players having success in the “New NHL”. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.  Folks are comparing him to Wayne
Gretzky, you mighta heard of him. The jury is still out on this sea change in the philosophy of building a team, and I think there is a little too much tweaking to the game we love. That is another column.

The Chicago Blackhawks are leading the Central Division and play a very up tempo game. They have a freakin All Star team. The St. Louis Blues have retooled, ridding themselves of their captain David Backes and changing their philosophy a bit by giving smaller faster players a larger role in their offense.  Minnesota Wild, under Bruce Boudreau are in 3rd place and have a more offensive minded style, veering away from the trapping boring game.

The surprise of the West to me is that the Edmonton Oilers are leading the Pacific Division.  A perennial last place team for the last 10 years, they’ve parlayed their consistently high draft choices and lottery pics into a very fast skill team and they have a legitimate goalie in Cam Talbot and that McDavid guy.  The Sharks are in second and the LA Kings round out the top three in the Pacific.

To return to my theme of East being a bit better than the West this year, nobody is lights out lighting it up in the West. Many teams are hanging around in mediocrity, as in around a .500 winning percentage.  Teams like Dallas and Nashville who went fairly deep in the playoffs last year are hanging on by a thread or currently out of a playoff spot.  20 games in at Thanksgiving, a traditional bench mark time for teams being in or out, these teams have a small mountain to climb to remain relevant to their fans and make the dance.  Update: as of tonight the East vs West head to head competition lead for the East has narrowed to 60-52.

Sharks celebration

Sharks celebration

 

 

 

 

Is Donald Trump A Hockey Fan?

Hey now hockey fans, now that you’ve considered that stupit question, what should we talk about?  I think it might be fun to talk about the Eastern Conference vs. the Western Conference.  Or OutWest as the East Coast Proletariat like to describe it.

For the last several years, the perception that the West is a better conference overall could be validated in head to head matchups, and up until last year it would be  true.  The 2016-17 season is shaping up differently, as the East has shown dominance over the West in the first 20 games.  For example, the Metro division has 5 teams with more than 20 points and the Atlantic 4 teams with 20 or more.

Contrasting that with the West, the Central has three teams with more than 20 and the Pacific three.  In head to head competition, the East has won 55 and the West 41 games respectively. That’s a whopping 57% to 43% winning percentage, although not exactly a mandate.

Montreal has the best record in hockey and its no wonder with fans like this:

She Habs got it all!

She Habs got it all!

The Rangers are leading the Metro and the league in goals for with a stunning 4.11 goals per game.  They’ve scored 74 goals in 18 games, the next closest is the Flyers with 62.  Caps are right there also and Pittsburgh continues to show why they won the Cup last year with their blend of speed, great goaltending and timely scoring from their MVP Sidney Crosby.  His hair is on fire.  OutWest analysis tonight

Teams hanging by a thread to a playoff spot

Teams hanging by a thread to a playoff spot

 

 

 

 

Road Warriors

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 6

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Tampa.

Tampa,FLA

Hey now, Happy Veterans weekend and down with the Donald.  As in I ain’t down with the new Hitler, er President elect.  Keep up the good work protesting and don’t tear down your town cause you ain’t down with the Donald.

Politics aside, lots of great  hockey games recently and coming up this weekend.  The red carnations are in the lapels of the coaches and as we reflect upon the sacrifices of men, women and their families to keep us free, we are distracted from worldly problems by this great game we love to watch.

San Jose rides into Tampa with a two game win streak and have scored seven straight unanswered goals.  Tuesday night in DC, the Sharks played their first complete game since they beat the LA Kings in their first game of the season and won going away, shutting out the powerful Caps 3-0.

The Sharks pinpoint passing and tenacious defense, coupled with stellar goaltending from Martin Jones completely shut down a powerful Washington squad.  Marc Eduard Vlasic and Brent Burns scored, and Joe Thornton added an ENG to salt away the contest.

From there it was on to Sunrise, Florida to take on the Panthers, a good young team still looking for consistency this season after playing very well last year, winning the Atlantic Division and barely losing to John Tavares and the New York Islanders.  Florida opened the scoring, getting 2 goals from former Shark Jason “Daddy” Demers in the first period. Brent Burns got one back at 16:18 of the first and in the second C Joe Pavelski scored after a sweet play by Joel Ward to steal the puck from Alex Petrovic, picking the top corner on former Shark James Reimer.

Pavelski fires the puck top corner on James Reimer

Pavelski fires the puck top corner on James Reimer

In the third, Chris Tierney won a face off, and although All Star D man Aaron Ekblad retrieved the puck, Wingels stole it and patiently waited out G Reimer for the game winner.  Logan Couture got off the Schneid, scoring an ENG with less than a minute to go.  On to Tampa to play Steven Stamkos and the Lightning.

I love to Dominate

I love to Dominate.

Monday Monster Mash

I love to Dominate

I love to Dominate

San Jose, CA                                                                                                   10/31/16

Happy Helloween y’all, about 10% of the season has been played and I thought I’d check in on everyone and do a little analysis of what I’ve seen so far.  First up East Coast and Conference: Pittsburgh leads the Metro by a hair over the Rump Rangers with the Ovechkins (Caps for those that don’t speaketh my lingoeth) one point behind.

In the Atlantic, the Habs are tearing it up in the early going, with no losses in regulation.  The rest of the usual suspects, Bolts, Panthers and the Bruins are 8-10 points behind Montreal.  The Dead Things and the Sens occupy the 2nd and 3rd slots but I expect that to change in the near future.

Out West, as the beautiful Kathryn Tappen likes to say,

10-31-kt

Things are ducky for Connor McDavid and the Oil (1st place at 7-2), while not so Ducky for Randy Carlisle’s Anahymen.  San Jose’s beloved Tiburones (Sp. for Sharks) and the Nucks round out the top three positions in the Pacific Division.  In the Big Bad Central, the Wild have the top spot with St Louis and the Hawks one and two points behind respectively.

Two very talented and speedy teams that are perennially in the playoffs, Smashville and the Dallas Stars are bringing up the rear.  Can’t see them staying on the bottom although the main reason I see for their current under performance is GOALTENDING!  The Pekker for Nashville and the two headed monsters of mediocrity, Anti Niemi and Kari Letemin er Lehtonen are not holding up their end of the bargain.

Gotta go hand out some candy but before I do, I wanna say, the LA Kings are in for some deep trouble with G Jonathan Quick out til the New Year or later.  In the ultra competitive Pacific Division, a team can’t afford to get off to a start like theirs (4-5) and think about making the playoffs.

 

The beautiful Kathryn Tappen sporting Kings colors

The beautiful Kathryn Tappen sporting Kings colors.

Hey Kings, perhaps you can get some luck from the queen of Hockey broadcasting?

 

 

 

NHL.com Sharks Preview

Land of the homeless, San Jose, CA

When the median price for a San Jose home is $1.085 million, you get a lot of homeless..ness.  To distract me from this pressing social problem here is an objective look at the Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks.

The San Jose Sharks relied heavily on depth and speed last season to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time, defeating the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues along the way.

But the Sharks ran into the Pittsburgh Penguins, a deeper and faster group, in the Cup Final and lost in six games.

So on July 1, the first day of free agency, the Sharks made two moves aimed at improving their depth and speed at each end of the ice, signing forward Mikkel Boedker to a four-year contract reportedly worth $16 million (average annual value $4 million) and defenseman David Schlemko to a four-year contract reportedly worth $8.4 million (AAV $2.1 million).

“I think it was important for our group to add some speed,” said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who coached Boedker, 26, with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League in 2007-08. “[Boedker] is a world-class skater, and Schlemko is an above-average skating defenseman. That was a key element for both guys.”

Boedker, the No. 8 pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, matched his NHL career high of 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) last season in 80 games between the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. He’ll likely find a spot on one of San Jose’s top two lines, creating more balance among the forwards.

The Sharks believe Boedker will take his game to a higher level playing alongside either Joe Thornton orLogan Couture.

“Mikkel’s tremendous speed is his best attribute, and he has the ability to back off defenders with his combination of quickness and soft hands,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “His creativity and puck-handling abilities make him a threat in the transition game. … We think he will thrive with our group.”

San Jose will be even faster if forward Timo Meier, the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft, or forward Marcus Sorensen, a free agent addition from Sweden, earns a roster spot.

Making the Sharks roster, however, won’t be easy for any young player. Eleven of the top 13 forwards from their Western Conference championship team are returning: Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Tomas Hertl, Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi, Melker Karlsson, Matt Nieto, Chris Tierney and Tommy Wingels, with Boedker joining that veteran mix.

Unrestricted free agent forwards Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus, who each played on San Jose’s fourth line last season, were not re-signed.

Forward Barclay Goodrow, who played 60 games for the Sharks two seasons ago but spent most of last season with the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League, will be fighting for a roster spot, along with forward Nikolay Goldobin, the No. 27 pick in the 2014 draft.

DeBoer said he welcomes the increased forward depth, despite the tough roster decisions he will face.

“We just got beat by a team with Phil Kessel on the third line,” DeBoer said. “That shows you what kind of mismatches you can create when you have that type of depth. It’s a nice problem to have, and we’ll find a way to deal with it.”

Five of the Sharks’ top six defensemen from last season return: Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Paul Martin, Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon. Schlemko likely will skate on the third pair with Dillon, taking the spot of Roman Polak, who signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller provide depth.

Schlemko, 29, who spent most of his NHL career with the Coyotes, had career highs of four goals, 13 assists and 67 games last season with the New Jersey Devils.

“[We’re] very pleased that he chose us with the ingredients that he has,” Wilson said of Schlemko. “He’s a puck-mover, great poise with the puck, had a really good year last year. There’s speed in his game.”

Backup goaltender James Reimer signed as a free agent with the Florida Panthers. Aaron Dell, coming off a solid season in the AHL (17-16-6, 2.42 goals-against average, .922 save percentage), likely will fill that role. Martin Jones won 37 games and had a 2.27 GAA in his first season as a starting goalie in the NHL.

The Sharks re-signed three key restricted free agents in the offseason: Nieto, one of their fastest skaters, received a one-year contract reportedly worth $735,000; DeMelo signed a two-year contract reportedly worth $1.3 million (AAV $650,000); and Hertl, coming off his best season with 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists), signed a two-year contract reportedly worth $6 million (AAV $3 million).

“He just gets better and better,” Wilson said of Hertl. “When we drafted him, we expected him to be a dominant player, and so does he. He has high expectations for himself, loves to play the game.”

Do or Die

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 6

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 6

The Tank, CA

As we look forward to Game Six on Sunday, I want to point out a few things that the East Coast hockey proletariat seems to be missing about the Sharks and Penguins.  They blather on about the complete domination of the Pens on the shot clock, how Matt Murray is Conn Smythe worthy, Sidney Crosby is the poster child for the NHL and the San Jose Sharks need to “show a sense of urgency.”

Last time I looked, shots on goal and outshooting your opponent does NOT guarantee victory.  Yes, its better to have the puck and play in the O zone, I get it.  However, I don’t think enough credit is given to Marc Eduard Vlasic and Justin Braun for their stellar defensive play against Sid, Malkin and the rest of the high powered Pitt offense.  Paul Martin and Brent Burns are also to be lauded for their shutdown D play.

Matt Murray has played 13 games in his NHL career.  He has played more playoff games than regular season games and is sporting a 14-6 record with a .923 save %.  Pretty good, but when your team has the puck 65-70% of the time, maybe not quite so much credit can be given to him.  Martin Jones is outplaying him, but that’s another column.

Sidney Crosby has played great for stretches but seems to disappear for long periods of time.  Why?  Defense and goaltending, give it up for San Jose’s commitment to defense.  I will say that Crosby’s passing is  directly responsible for the Pens 3-2 lead in the series.  However, I concede that San Jose has looked out of sorts on offense because of their style of play (cycling the puck down low) and the Pens trapping setup in the neutral zone.  The trap allows for any Sharks mistake Roman Polak, to be turned into a golden scoring opportunity.

San Jose has shown a resiliency and an ability to recovery from some egregious turnovers and keep the games close.  I don’t think enough credit has been given to the Sharks for keeping the games so close when it appears they are being badly outplayed.  At the end of the day, I believe these teams are very even.  In Game 2, the Sharks hit five posts or crossbars before the sixth post shot went in.  No, I’m not ignoring the fact that the Pens have had similar poor puck luck, hitting four posts in the second with no goal to show, including Kessel’s two posts and out shot.

Game Six on home ice is all San Jose can ask for at this point.  Poised to take the series back to Pittsburgh, the Sharks CANNOT allow the Cup to be hoisted on their ice.  Is Tomas Hertl gonna be able to go for Game Six?  Will Jones continue his sublime play against a very gifted offensive team?  Will Mike Sullivan continue to play the maddening trap game that has cause such frustration for the Sharks?  Does Logan Couture have another Conn Smythe worthy game in him?

Game on!!  Put on the Foil boyz and play like your lives depend on it!

Puttin on the Foil

Puttin on the Foil

 

 

Stanley Cup California Style

The Tank, CA

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 3

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 3

On a sultry Saturday afternoon, with the temperature in the 90s along with the humidity, we march ever closer to game time.  As I glance over at my Corgi prognosticator, he sleepily turned to me and said, ” wake me up when we win today, its too hot to pay attention.”

As we anticipate the first EVER Stanley Cup Final game at 5 PM, a few questions come to mind about the tilt.  Missing Tomas Hertl bad, Karlsson rises to the occasion?  Logan Couture’s comments about the cheater Crosby, whining or productive gamesmanship? Will the linesmen enforce the faceoff rules?  Can Brett Burns get untracked and unleash the nasty on Matt Murray?

Can the Sharks break Pittsburgh’s iron grip on our forecheck?  Can Jones continue his stellar play to give us a chance to turn the series? The Joes need to show up, Joel Ward wreaking havoc in front of Murray needs to happen.  Nick Spaling or Chris Tierney gets a goal tonight….Roman Polak needs to play on the edge and hurt some Penguins tonight.

Going all the Way

Going all the Way

 

Pens Outplay San Jose, Lead Series 2-0

Pittsburgh, PA

 

Pens Secret Weapon

Pens Secret Weapon

The Sharks were no match for the Penguins and their secret weapon, Sofia Vergara tonight as they lost 2-1 in OT.  Connor Sheary scored early in the extra frame on a rocket past Martin Jones for the win.

The real story is how San Jose hasn’t played well for extended periods of time in the first two games.  In Game One, the Sharks gave up two goals in about a minute to fall behind.  They rallied for the tie by imposing their will on the young Pens but ultimately lost on a late goal.

Tonight, they didn’t play well for about 50 minutes of the game, yet were still able to tie the score with about 5 minutes left.  Following that clutch goal by Justin Braun, they played their cycle game down low and had several great chances to salt the game away in regulation but G Matt Murray was impenetrable.

I could blather on about Mike Sullivan doing more with less or how he has devised a method for taking the Sharks out of their customary dominance in the offensive zone.  Boys, the Sharks are getting outworked and are unable to cycle the biscuit as is their wont.  Tomas Hertl hit three posts in the first two periods, Chris Tierney hit a cross bar and even the Sharks tying goal was through traffic off the post but in.

Joe Thornton looked uncharacteristically vulnerable, Pavelski was a step slow and Brent Burns was ineffective and shot wildly most of the night.  Thornton seems to be bothered by his injured thumb, incurred on a slash by Patrick Berglund of the Blues in the Conference Finals. Yet they lost by one goal in OT.  What does that tell us?  That the San Jose Sharks can play better and I believe they are the team with superior talent.  Six posts and one goal.  Pens hit the post a few times also.

Saturday Night Fights from the The Tank Game 3 at 5 PM.

Hertl Hits the Post

Hertl Hits the Post