To Sum It Up: Penguins, Terriers

"At 5-0, the Penguins are the last undefeated team in the AHL." 

Those sweet words came from WBS Pens' beat writer, Jonathan Bombulie, after last night's win against the Hershey Bears. Just as expected, the Pens are off to a strong start. What wasn't quite expected is how they're doing it. This part I like. Bombulie described it well when he said:
Overall, I think the most impressive thing about the start the Penguins are off to is that it's sustainable ... the Penguins haven't done anything in the first five games that they won't be able to do for the next 75. They're just playing good fundamental hockey.
Like music to my ears. The exact type of successful team I like to see. Sure, it's not always as fun to watch as guys doing ridiculous Ice Capade moves, but it's more reliable. I've always been a fan of fundamental, hard-working teams over the rely-on-pretty-skill teams (see: San Jose Sharks).

With injured Pittsburgh players healing up, keep an eye out for Eric Tangradi and Andrew Hutchinson to be back in NEPA.
How about those Terriers too? Geez. If you remember back in my nostalgic preview, I basically said I wasn't expecting much out of them, and anything else will be a pleasant surprise. Well, count me as someone who's pleasantly surprised. After beating UMass last night, BU is now 3-0-1. They defeated both Wisconsin and Notre Dame to win the IceBreaker tournament opening weekend, tied UMass last weekend and got the win last night. Looks like they've woken up from last year. They're working for the wins. 

Three guys I've especially enjoyed so far: Charlie Coyle, Sahar Gill and Matt Nieto. This freshman class is shaping up for a fun few upcoming seasons.

Class of 2014.

And last, but certainly not least, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They had an ... yeah, I guess interesting is a good word for it ... they had an interesting start to the year. By interesting I mean they were 1-3. Certainly not something anyone saw coming. I didn't panic because anyone who thought that was going to dictate the rest of the year should pull their head out of the sand. A lot of spoiled Penguins fans came out. People who clearly forgot what it was like prior to these past few seasons of being awesome. Back then, if you were to have a slow start, you knew that's what you were in for. Now, we go 1-3, and I look around at Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, et. al, and I know they'll figure it out. No team is invincible. A little adversity never hurt anyone.

And now they're 5-3 and in second place in the Atlantic. So there.


Inside Hockey: Ryan Miller + Fashion + Charity

I started writing for a lovely hockey site called Inside Hockey. First piece went up today. Take a peek:
When you think of hockey players, you think of tough guys with missing teeth. Guys who put their heart and soul into games and aren’t afraid to get roughed up doing so. You think of goaltenders standing in front of 80 mph shots. You think of clothing and catwalks … wait, what?
It turns out Sean Avery isn’t the only guy in the NHL with some fashion sense.  Sabres’ goaltender, Ryan Miller, has a taste for it himself. His Michigan clothing store, The Refinery, features plenty for label whores to drool over including Seven for All Mankind, True Religion, Nicole Miller and Hugo Boss. And on November 21, Miller is leaving his crease to take on the runway. The best part? It’s all for a good cause.
Read the rest at Inside Hockey


Boo hoo

Someone get this guy a tissue. Poor baby.


In Case You Were Wondering How Saponari Felt ...


The 2010-11 WBS Penguins: Yes Please.

I haven’t been this excited for a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ season in a long time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always excited for the team I hold closest to my heart, but things could be really fun this time around.

For the first time in awhile, they Pens are kicking off the season with an awesome roster. And that’s not including the very real possibility that we’ll see Eric Tangradi, Derek Engelland and Ben Lovejoy at some point this year. Mark Letestu is on that list as well, but so far he seems to be the guy that had the best camp with the big boys.

Without further adieu, a quick glance at what's in store this season:

Up Front
Brett Sterling.

Okay, I know the team does not revolve around Sterling, but when I hear his name I think of how he dominated us in the Calder Cup Finals. Then I realize he's on my side now, and I love it. Sterling is not a big guy by any means, but he can score. Some say his signing is the biggest in WBS history. I'd have to look back, but if it's not the biggest it's certainly in the top 3.

Ryan Craig was another nice pick-up, coming off a 45 (23+22) point season with the Norfolk Admirals. He's battling a groin injury right now, but once he's healed up I think he could be a nice asset to have around.

Familiar faces like Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Chris Conner and Tim Wallace are all returning. Toss in Joey Vitale and you have a nice little offensive group.

The Blueline
My eyes are on Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo this year. They looked good last season, and as they mature, they'll get even better. Part of the fun of watching an AHL team.

Newcomers include Corey Potter, former BC Eagle Carl Sneep, Andrew Hutchinson and Jason DeSantis. Hutchinson is the one to watch out of this group.

The defensive corps aren't going to be as strong as the forwards, but it's nothing I'm going to lose sleep over.

In Net
This is the one area I’m concerned about. Both Brad Thiessen and John Curry have a lot of potential. We’ve seen them play great, and we’ve seen them play not-so-great. This goaltending situation reminds me of the San Jose Sharks: two guys who are good, but neither of them are above and beyond spectacular. You don’t look at either one and think: ‘Okay. I’m completely confident in him.'

Brad Thiessen earned himself the starting job last season, and he starts out at number one again. I hate to admit this by the way. Like, it makes me cringe. He was a Hockey East foe, and to see a Northeastern kid be ahead of my BU boy ... well, it’s just a tough pill to swallow. BUT I always gave Thiessen credit when he was a Husky. It’s not like he’s Nate Gerbe or anything. If all goes according to plan, Thiessen will have a solid year.

John Curry is my golden child. I will never dislike this kid even if he turned into Martin Brochu. People who have been reading this blog for awhile aren’t surprised at this. He was the walk-on goalie for BU who became a savior in Terrier Nation. He helped get the Pens to the finals in his first season. And then he got hurt. Curry never really seemed to get his mojo back since he was injured. He had a so-so year last year, so here's to hoping he's back to true form this season.

Overall ...
The Baby Pens are going to be a good team. Hockey's Future said the Pens won't be any different from last year. I disagree. I think they're already different from last year. Yes, they'll have to compete with the mighty Hershey, but they can do it. The key will be establishing good chemistry, having fun and working hard. If they can work night in-night out, they'll be rewarded. Those are the Penguins teams that have excelled in the past, and this year will be no different. I think they have the right group of guys to do it.

And what's more fitting than to play the first regular season game against our interstate brothers, the Hershey Bears? They're stacked again - even without guys like Alex Giroux (who failed to make the Edmonton roster. This continues to blow my mind). Rumor has it Sheldon Souray will not be playing in tonight's match-up. I'm certainly not complaining about that.


Terriers Begin a New Era (and I Do Too)

Tonight marks the start of the Boston University hockey season as they take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Ice Breaker tournament in St. Louis.

After four seasons, it also marks the first time I won’t be sitting in section 108 for every home game at Agganis Arena. And, well, it’s sad.

In the four years I was at BU, I saw two Beanpot championships, a lot of Eric Gryba penalties, a kid named Colin Wilson who always found a way to score and the best hockey game I have ever seen – which came with a nice National Championship trophy as well.

More importantly, I found myself a hockey family. Because a lot of my girl friends can only stand the first 30 seconds of a game, I started tagging along with four of my guy friends. I didn’t know them all that well in the beginning, but by the close of the 2009-10 season, I was proud to call them some of my closest friends – not to mention some of my favorite people. Ever. (Trust me, if you met them, you’d agree).

If it wasn't for them, I wouldn’t have learned things like:
+ ‘Get on the Ice’ is just as effective and a lot more fun to chant than ‘Get off the ice’
+ Southern Comfort isn’t that bad.
+ Not all BC students are Jesuits - or are they?
+ Knocking out ceiling tiles is a lot easier to do than attempting to take one home is a little more difficult.

But we all collectively agreed, that watching a team down 3-1, with 59 seconds to go in the National Championship game, miraculously tie it up and go on to win in OT is the single, greatest thing that we saw – and, as far as hockey goes, will probably ever see.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’m going to miss them. A lot. And I won’t feel bad for nagging them each season to reunite for a game.

Now, aside from my sappy feelings on the upcoming season, the Terriers are undoubtedly facing a transition year. Some names you won't see on the ice: Colby Cohen, Kevin Shattenkirk, Eric Gryba, Nick Bonino. Scary.

The new BU Terriers are young. The USCHO preview mentioned there are 17 freshman and sophomores and only one senior -- possibly Jack Parker's youngest squad ever. Young teams don't always bring in a ton of wins, but they can be a lot of fun to watch. In a season or two, after they're used to playing with each other, BU will be a strong team.

The one guy I'm looking forward to seeing the most this year is first-rounder Charlie Coyle. He gave a nice sneak peek of what he can do with his hat trick last weekend against Toronto. The other player I'm excited about is Dave Warsofsky; he's little, but he's one of BU's best right now.

Overall, I'm not expecting a lot from the Terriers. I'm looking forward to see the young guys and watching them grow. Everything else will be a pleasant surprise.

Get it BU.


Saponari Crosses Enemy Lines

Hi everyone. I’m going to kick off the official start of hockey season with a joke:

Vinny Saponari.

Remember him? You may recall him as one of the producers of the infamous, chart-topping hit, ‘Party like a Puckstar.’ Or you might remember him as the kid who got booted off the BU hockey team for thinking he was above showing up on time and staying sober the nights before games. Yeah, that’s him.

Well, the kid has skills, so he was going to have to play somewhere else to keep his career going. Then, with a swift kick to every BU fan’s nuts, he committed to play for the Boston College Eagles. Wait, let me repeat that for you:

The. Boston. College. Eagles.

Per NCAA rules, he has to sit out a year before he can join the Eagles, but words cannot explain how excited I will be for the first BU-BC match-up in the 2011-12 season. Cannot even wait. I know Terriers fans will eat this up. It has to be one of the first times, if not the only time, that a player has transferred down Commonwealth Avenue – either way.

As a hockey move, good for him. BC has an elite program, and isn’t going to be horrible anytime soon (unfortunately). Saponari is a good hockey player. And he will go pro. A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. He got lucky that someone as good as BC was willing to put up with him.

BUT if there’s one thing I hate, it’s someone who is presented with an unbelievable opportunity and isn’t mature enough to keep it. There are no excuses. You’re not 2 years old. You can act like a grown-up.

My favorite quote out of Saponari’s comments on joining BC was:
"I love the city of Boston, and Boston College always has a good team. I played against them for two years. I know how the program is –– the professionalism that comes with being there and playing there."
Keyword: Professionalism. The one thing that got him kicked off the team in the first place. Well bud, I hope you fare better there.

To his credit, he did admit he acted like a jackass – sorry, that he wasn’t “very mature when I was at BU, but I hope in the long run, [the experience] helps me. It was an unfortunate situation, but I’ve grown up and learned from it.” If that’s the truth, I’m glad. I don’t wish him to be horrible for the rest of his life. Only when he plays against BU.

I always enjoyed calling Nate Gerbe a little bitch. Saponari isn’t as good as Gerbe was at the college level, but I will certainly enjoy bestowing him with the same nickname.

And So It Begins ...

Welcome to the 2010-2011 hockey season.


The @33dellis Fiasco

The past 24 hours has brought trouble to Dan Ellis’ Twitter paradise after some poorly worded tweets and some overly-sensitive people came together to create chaos.

In case you’re behind on the whole situation, Ellis - former Nashville & new Lightning goaltender - followed up on a tweet from Reggie Bush who was talking about upcoming labor negotiations.

Bush’s tweet was:

Ellis followed up with:

And apparently this is what caused all hell to break loose. Fans reading his tweets were outraged that any pro athlete could complain about money. I don’t see harm in Ellis’ follow-up comment to Bush, but I can see where some people were disgruntled with it. So let’s look at both sides:

Team Normal People: 
The economy still blows. Unemployment is still high. And here is a professional athlete with a multi-million dollar contact complaining. There’s just no way that gets received well. Plus his follow up reaction was this:

Ellis’ comment on being more worried about finances now than he was in college is ridiculous. There’s no way he’s in rougher shape now than he was in college. Sure, there are less worries in college because really all you’re there to do is play hockey, go to class and booze. For a lot of students, other people take care of the finances (parents, scholarships) or you worry about the loans moreso after school than anything else. Even so - very, very few people have a solid income in college. DEFINITELY not an income of a couple million bucks.

I also think his, “If you don’t make a lot of money, I don’t expect you to understand ...” came off a little bit snooty.

Team Ellis:
He was right when he asked if we would like getting 18% cut out of our salary. I know I sure as hell wouldn’t - and their 18% is a lot more cash than my 18% would be. 18% of $3 mil is like $540,000. Yikes.

There’s also a lot more to player finances than meets the eye. On top of escrow and all that CBA goodness, there’s agent fees, higher taxes (which can include residency depending on the player’s situation) and probably some more I’m not even aware of. Careers are short-lived; players can be out of a job by 35-40 years-old - not quite the retirement age the rest of us are used to. Don’t get me wrong, these guys still have plenty  of comfort room, and no one’s losing their home anytime soon. But for those not making the millions, it can add up.

Finally: relax, people. Do you really think this guy was trying to say he is bitter about his paycheck? I don’t think so.

Bottom line is he took some heat for poorly chosen words. The unfortunate outcome of this is that we will lose some candidness from Ellis going forward. The great thing about athletes on Twitter is that fans get to see their personalities and who they are while getting the chance to interact with them one-on-one. It’s a huge boost to the fan experience. I think people would prefer someone who tweets like his true self (like a Paul Bissonnette and a Dan Ellis) as opposed to the more canned accounts (like Rob Schremp - no offense, but that guy is tweeting what he's told to). But why should Ellis go back to being uncensored if he just takes heat for it? Not saying he didn’t deserve it, but he has no reason to do it anymore.

So @33dellis - I’m on your team. But for God’s sake, let it go. I think we may have gotten a tiny bit over-defensive yesterday. The best move is to close it out and move on from it. Or write up a guest blog post. I’m sure a site like Puck Daddy or From the Rink would host it without a doubt. I’d be really interested in reading that. You’d have to be careful because if you misword things again, then you could end up in hotter water than you already were in. But it gives you a platform of more than 140 and can help some people understand a bit more.

Just my two cents.


Duffrie Heads to Pittsburgh

Latest news coming out of the 'Burgh is that Hilary Duff has signed with the Pens. And by Hilary Duff, I mean Mike Comrie. Comrie signed for the league minimum of $500,000. I'm indifferent to him -- he won't hurt, he won't help, and he's cheap. I agree with Puck Daddy here:
"If nothing else, he'll serve as a place-holder for Eric Tangradi as he continues to mature as the forward-of-the-future."
Although I don't know the progress Tangradi's made this off-season, he could use a little more time in the A just to fine tune some things. I think this will be good for him, and I'm sure he'll have plenty of opportunities to strut his stuff in the show this year.

Hope ya like Pittsburgh Hil. You never know, you just might get to see good old Wilkes-Barre, PA someday!


Antero & Antii

I figured the Niemi signing was a good start to kick back into gear with blogging and get into the groove before the season starts. Can you believe it's almost here again?

So, San Jose signed Antii Niemi. We know him as the Stanley Cup winning goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks. He was on fire during the 2010 postseason, and that earned him a nice little arbitration award of $2.75 million. But Chicago had about $5 left in cap space, so they let him walk.

Now he finds himself on the Sharks. I mean, for God's sake Doug Wilson had to do something this off-season, and he sure as hell wasn't going to try and sign a D-man to help out his Rob Blake-less defense. I shouldn't say that - he tried to nab Niklas Hjarmalsson, but Chitown was having none of that.

So after signing Antero Niittymaki earlier in the summer and feeling fine with him being their go-to goaltender, they decided to pick up Niemi. Both Antero & Antii are good goaltenders. Both are capable of getting hot at the right times. But I personally am not 100% comfortable with these two. First of all, both of them are decent regular season goaltenders -- averaging pretty close stats: 

Niittymaki: 49 GP, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV%

Niemi: 39 GP, 2.25, .912 SV%

But are they enough? I've seen people say, "The regular season doesn't matter." Except it kind of does because you need it to get you into the post-season safely. The Sharks are without a doubt going to make the play-offs. I'm not crazy. They're going to be a good team. But I have to believe that neither of these guys will be as strong of a force that Nabokov during the first 80.

The plus side: they are both cheaper than Nabby, and by no means are they going to be awful for the Sharks. And at least one guy won't be starting 70 games a season and getting nice and tired just in time for the play-offs.

As far as play-offs go, all I have to say is, just because a guy was hot during one post-season doesn't mean he will get hot again in another. It's a clean slate. And do you want either of these guys as your lead play-off goaltender if they're not hot during that stretch? I don't know. After sleeping on it, I feel a little better about it ... but not much.


Lemieux & Crosby Break In the Consol Center

It's a beautiful thing.


B.C. Got Screwed

Yes, I actually did write that headline. We all know by now, I bleed Terrier red and white. The BC Eagles usually make me sick to my stomach. But this is one situation where I actually feel bad for my foes down the street.

Shortly after the Eagles won the NCAA hockey championship, three guys on the team were involved in an incident where they basically crashed into the MBTA Green Line (Boston's subway for any outsiders). No one was hurt, and no one was drunk. The guys did flee the scene at first, and according to the Globe, there were beer cans and vodka in the car.  The media ate it up (not a huge story, but it was still covered in some big time pubs).

Recent updates: the charges have been dropped. Apparently it was the MBTA's fault. The driver was going 35 mph rather than the 10 mph it should have been. On top of that, the T driver had multiple moving violations in Florida and Massachusetts despite testifying he had a clean driving record.

Here's where I feel bad: Because of the incident, the Eagles were not invited to the White House as most NCAA champions are. It was kind of silly to not extend an invite to them in the first place -- it was three guys out of the entire team. Had it been true, it would have been embarrassing and irresponsible, but punishing the whole team is a little much. Leave the three kids behind if you must.

The Eagles also did not get a sign on the Mass Turnpike like area champs usually get. Does this mean the Terriers are still up there? ;-)

Read more about his whole mess in the Boston Globe.


Hey Silver


Sharks Break Up with Nabokov

It's official: the San Jose Sharks are parting ways with the best goalie in the history of the franchise. Sharks' GM, Doug Wilson, met with Evgeni Nabokov today to basically say 'It's been real.'

The news is not all that surprising. After another average post-season from Nabby, there was plenty of talk of him moving on. Then there were some recent rumblings of him sticking around. Now, the speculation is put to rest.

I was originally torn on the decision. Nabokov, after all, is one of the biggest reasons the Sharks do so well during the regular season. The guy starts like 70 games a year. He's a great goaltender ... who just has not fared as well when it comes time for playoffs. And let's face it, that's when you need your goalie to be on fire. I don't blame Wilson for deciding to mix things up; it also frees up some space for the remaining list of guys San Jose has to re-sign: Patty Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi and Manny Malhotra to throw some names out there.

I'm interested to see who they go after. There has been whispers of Tim Thomas possibly heading out there ( the Bruins wouldn't mind unloading him), but Fear the Fin made a good point: he's old and expensive. That being said, Wilson made it pretty clear he's looking for a veteran goaltender. Maybe a guy like Marty Turco who is on his way out but still has a bit left in him until Greiss is ready to take the reins. Jose Theodore, Chris Mason and Dan Ellis are some other unrestricted free agents that pop out at me. Either way, whoever it is has big shoes to fill.

More on the Nabokov Situation:
+ Working the Corners
+ Official Sharks Site
+ Fear the Fin
+ Puck Daddy


No Words.

I'm always a sucker for sports commercials with touching moments and dramatic music. This year's post-season has been full of just that. I've really enjoyed all the commercials they've had, but the most recent, 'No Words' spot really got me. 

There is just something about seeing how much this Cup means to them, seeing how it leaves them speechless ... it's awesome. And when Brett Hull is speechless, you know it's something big.


UPDATE: Saponari Responds to Release

I just found out today, like all of you, and I'm pretty shocked, just as shocked as everyone else. I didn't see this coming. I know I'd made some mistakes as far as rules go, but I really didn't think it would lead to this.
Well, that's why they're called 'rules' bud. Not to mention you broke a team drinking rule ... without being 21 yet. Hmm. That's not just a team rule, it's actually a law. But any how ... he pretty much ruined any chance (if there was any) of being welcomed back to the team by proceeding to whine about the whole thing:
I guess what better example to your team that you're serious than to kick off a player who's played a lot of games. To me, do I think it's justified? No. I love this team, and I wasn't ready to leave. I made a mistake or two since I've been here, but I didn't feel like I was a bad thing for the team, or any kind of bad influence. To me, it's unjust, to [Parker], maybe not.
Really, his best option would have been to have a brief comment saying he's upset about it, and he's sorry for breaking the team rules. End of story. Instead, he did not offer up one apology for his behavior. Sure, it's normal behavior for a regular college kid. But guess what? He's not a normal college kid. He's playing hockey for a Division I school, and he's drafted by an NHL team. He came off as big brat. Even if you feel that way, you don't publicly say it. A lesson in media relations I guess. You wouldn't hear a professional athlete say this (well, unless it's Sean Avery). Whether Parker was rash in his decision or not doesn't matter because Parker's reputation is better and more established than Saponari's.

Oh yeah, Saponari also said he's in contact with his 'people.' Give me a break. 

Guess you'll have to party like a puckstar elsewhere.


Saponari Brothers Released from BU Terriers; Trivino Suspended

My jaw dropped a little bit when I saw the news a few minutes ago. The Terriers have released both Vinny and Victor Saponari from the team. They have also suspended Corey Trivino.

College Hockey News has the article. It lists a bunch of incidents that led to the release including drinking on game nights. I have to believe the Puckstar video (see the below post) set this off. The timing is too coincidental, and the song was certainly not something Jack Parker would enjoy. All stupid things that could have been avoided.

The biggest loss here is Vinny. He's very talented and had a solid year, finishing with 30 points. He was going to be someone the Terriers counted on next season for sure. I'm disappointed. Don't like to see him go, but props to BU for holding players to its standards.

More to come as I get updates ...


BU Terriers: Party like a Puckstar

 Just when you thought the Beanpot Trot was bad, some BU Terriers (said to be Vinny Saponari and Corey Trivino) have come up with their own musical work. 

They rapped and put it on YouTube. It's not rated PG by any means, so I'm guessing it will be taken down shortly. It's already made an appearance on Barstool.

Listen and enjoy. And try not to be too embarrassed.


Check Yourself

You know how I always ramble on about how the post-season is different? Bret Hedican really summed up my thoughts:
I know it's cliché, but you need players who aren't worried about themselves or the stat sheet, but instead about the team, no matter what their role is. You have to have a group of guys that don't have the egos. You can't have egos in that room. When you walk through the door, you are all the same, no matter if you play five minutes or twenty-five minutes a night. Every one is just as important as the next guy because it's going to take every guy to win.


Will the Sharks Prove Everyone Wrong? Or ...

Okay, I’ll just get it over with: Dan Boyle’s freak OT goal sucked for San Jose. A lot. Some say Ryan O’Reilly got his stick on it, but it was pretty much an own-goal.


People started talking about 'the curse' -- also known as 'choking'. The Sharks like the do it a lot. Then again, everyone brings it up whenever they lose a game. 

I will say this though: there are signs this year that the Sharks might have a slightly better chance than usual. I look at guys like Devin Setoguchi who have stepped it up: the kid is playing like he’s on fire. Working hard, hustling, getting a ton of shots in, scoring OT winners. You get the picture. In Game 2, you saw this from others too.

This type of play is essential in the post-season. It’s why teams sign guys like Manny Malhotra. It’s when you need skill guys like Setoguchi to adjust to post-season play (like he has) and start getting physical and putting it all on the line.

That’s why you’ve seen the superstar line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patty Marleau be basically useless. They’re pulling their usual postseason disappearance act (to be fair, this is Heater's first year with SJ). It’s sad because if these guys turned it on and stopped feeling like it should just click for them automatically, the Sharks would be the deadliest team in the NHL.

But they don’t. They have yet to adjust. The postseason is completely different. When you’re up against a young Avalanche team with nothing to lose and who is putting everything they have into it, you have to match that.

For example, you had some Sharks saying Game 2 was not a must-win. Okay – technically it isn’t. But that’s the exact attitude that gets them eliminated before their time each year.

Play-offs is about so much more than the regular season. It's about heart, sacrifice, will, unity .... the list goes on. And the failure for some players to grasp this is the reason why the Sharks have disappointed the past few years. 

Should the Sharks make an early exit again, it's time Doug Wilson brings in the right guys ... and finds a new home for those that can't make that transition to the most important months in hockey.


It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Ladies and gents, it's here ...


It seriously feels like Christmas. That excited feeling in your stomach that is just craving 7 o'clock. The battle to decide which games to watch and the anger of finding out one of them is a "JIP" game as Versus calls them (join in progress). Thank God for live streaming!

There's just no other time like the post-season. For over a month you invest all your emotions into your team. Competitiveness runs through your blood. Your heart races as time ticks down. And God forbid a Game 7 goes into overtime because that is just way too much to handle. You lose sleep because you stay up to watch the west coast games ... which proceed to go into three overtimes and before you know it your alarm is going off.  But it's okay because it's the play-offs.

I had a taste of the Stanley Cup last year, and I want it again. Not to mention I'm still waiting for a Calder Cup after WBS has gotten to the finals three times in the past ten years with no luck.

The great thing about hockey is that with the post-season comes a clean slate. Anything can happen. The regular season is gone.

Let's rock and roll.


Mellon Arena: The Last Days

Tonight marks the last regular season game the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh will ever see. Sure, it will get some play-off games in there, but this is the beginning of the end.

Despite growing up five hours away from the Igloo, I was able to catch a handful of games there. My first NHL games ever in fact. My family would stay at the Marriott across the street. Guys that walked through the lobby? Chris Chelios. Pavel Datsyuk. Steve Yzerman. Scotty Bowman. Just to name a few. In fact, I was squeezed up against Bowman in a crowded elevator.

I had awesome Igloo seats for the games I went to. I remember it clear as day: I saw the Colorado Avalanche, the St. Louis Blues and the Detroit Red Wings. A few of the names I watched skate by me: Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Peter Forsberg. Al MacInnis. Brendan Shanahan. Alexei Kovalev. Robert Lang. Martin Straka. I was in awe.

I even got to see my Baby Pens play two games there dressed in Pittsburgh Hornets jerseys.

I'm big on nostalgia. I tear up when I know it's the last time I'm walking out of a rink for the season - let alone EVER. I ache a little when I think of the season ticket holders who have been going to the Igloo for years. After you watch 40+ games a year in a place, it starts to feel like home.

The Igloo is not considered a nice facility in this day and age. But I loved it. I loved that silver dome. I loved the smell. I loved being packed in with thousands of people. I haven't been there in years, but I'll miss it.

It's hard to let go, isn't it?

Frozen Four Detroit:

The NCAA Frozen Four kicks off tonight at Ford Field in Detroit. About a year ago, I had my face buried in my hands as I watched my BU Terriers fall behind 3-1 to Miami in the championship game .... followed by the greatest 59 seconds of hockey I've ever seen when we tied it up and went on to win in OT. It was one of the greatest feelings. Funny how sports can do that to you, isn't it?

But now it's officially time to move on.

Miami-Ohio is back after becoming BU's victim last year in the final game. I love the type of team head coach Enrico Blasi puts together, and I wouldn't mind seeing them finally get their championship. They're still probably feeling the sting of last year's game. This would be a great way to redeem it.

Miami's opponent tonight is good, old Boston College. I'm not the best person to talk about them considering I hate them. The bottom line is they have a good team again. We'll see how they fair. In two of their last three games they gave up over six goals (6 and 7 respectively). Um, that's not that good. They gotta figure something out.

The Wisconsin Badgers. Who doesn't love Bucky the Badger? I've always been a Wisco fan (was THIS close to going there for school too); I probably like them more than any other team in the final four. Blake Geoffrion is the big name here. He's up for the Hobey, and he's pretty unreal. Count on him to do some damage.

And finally, the Cinderella team. Ah, how I love these types of teams. Following in Bemidji State's footsteps, RIT has surprisingly found its way into the semi-finals. RI-who? Yeah, I know. You'll love them though because there's no way not to. No scholarship players. No drafted players. Just a hard-working team who are riding a hot goaltender. They took out Denver and UNH -- no easy feat. They can do this. Will they? I don't know, but I kind of hope so. 

One of my favorite college hockey writers, Ryan Lambert over at Puck Daddy, put together a little preview here. Although I can't say I agree with 'Jerry York is the best coach in college hockey.' That belongs to Jack Parker in my eyes. But that's because I'm absolutely biased, and I've had a closer look at how Jack interacts and helps his players grow. Regardless, the both of them together are a hard act for any coach to follow. But that was completely off topic.

Both games tonight will be shown on ESPN 2 starting at 5:30 with the Wisconsin-RIT match-up.


BU Boys Fly the Coop

As NCAA teams close out their season, their top guns fly the coop. Come late March/April there's always an exodus of top Division I players to the pro ranks. Since BU's season came to a halt, five players have left.

+ Eric Gryba: Arguably the most loved Terrier over the past four years, Gryba signed with Ottawa. He is currently playing for Binghamton in the AHL. I imagine he'll spend awhile down there as he grows and finds his role - which I would guess is going to be that of an enforcer. His size and strength will benefit him in the long run. Once he finds his role and excels at it, I actually think he'll find himself in the show someday.

+ Zach Cohen: Cohen is coming off an awesome year. He was one of the top goal scorers and really just came into his own. He signed with Colorado making the Avs the official home of BU alum. He joins Joe Sacco, David Quinn, Brandon Yip and now Colby Cohen & Kevin Shattenkirk in the organization. Kieran Millan is also a Colorado draft pick.

+ Nick Bonino: One of BU's best players since he got here. Bonino signed with Anaheim a few weeks ago and has since been playing alongside guys like Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry.  He already notched his first goal. If he keeps it up, it doesn't look like he'll be going anywhere. Even so, I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see him spend some minutes in the A next year.

+ Kevin Shattenkirk: Arguably the biggest loss for BU. Not surprised about his early departure at all. I'm pretty sure everyone saw this coming when he arrived. He's been excellent for BU. A class act if I ever saw one who will without a doubt be a fan favorite throughout his playing career.

+ Colby Cohen: I've had a love-hate relationship with this kid. The hate part mainly being that half the time I look at him he's whining. But he's been awesome ever since he's been here. I have no complaints, and I will forever owe him for scoring the game winner in the NCAA Championship game.

The only senior left to sign somewhere is Luke Popko. I'm really keeping my fingers crossed for him. I'm sure he will get a shot with at least an ECHL team. The kid is a grinder. He's always out there hustling and working hard. His downfall is his size. He has to overcompensate for his 5-10" frame (and that's being generous).

So where does this leave BU? Well, they obviously took a hit. Losing those five players, they managed to lose five of their six top scorers. They're going to have to get a stronger year out of Millan. If he can revert back to his freshman year form, that will be a big plus. Guys like Ross Gaudet, David Warsofsky, Corey Trivino, Vinny Saponari and Alex Chiasson are going to have to lead the team. It looks like it will be another transition year for the Terriers. You never know though. That's the great thing about hockey. They could be surprising. We'll see how the incoming class is and what they bring to the table.

Best of luck to the boys who have moved on!


Hockey in 3-D? I'll give it a shot.

Talks about 3-D TV have been popping up here and there as television companies are planning to churn out TVs that allow you to watch programs in 3-D. My initial reaction was: eh. I don't necessarily want to watch every show in 3-D. It's cool, and I think it's incredible that TV's are evolving into that, but my eyes would hurt after awhile.

That being said, I think hockey can really benefit from 3-D. It's simple: I've met very few people that don't enjoy a live game, but hockey does not translate well on TV. It just doesn't. I can watch it because I practically live and breathe the sport, but for the casual fan or someone just sitting at home channel surfing, hockey is not very enjoyable to watch. The game is fast, and it can be hard to keep up with -- not to mention the majority of people I watch with who aren't solid hockey fans can barely find the puck. Games in 3-D can add more dimension (literally) and make it easier and more fun to watch.

Of course I haven't seen a hockey game in 3-D yet, so I can't say for certain that it will be better. But others can. The MSG Network provided the first ever 3-D broadcast last night for the Rangers and Islanders game. 2,000 people sat in the MSG Theater to watch it -- including Chloe Sevigny, NFL & NBA players and NHL greats like Mark Messier and Adam Graves. Knicks forward, David Lee, echoed exactly what I said in the NY Daily News: "There's nothing more fun than to go watch a hockey game live, but one of the question marks about hockey is that sometimes the speed of the game doesn't translate that well on television. [3-D], I think definitely gives a better perspective of the game, as if you're watching it live."

We'll see what happens. Obviously it will be a long time before everyone can watch any game in 3-D, but there is definitely an opportunity for the hockey here.




One of the best scored his 600th goal last night. 

Congrats buddy.


Hockey East Semis: Do or Die for BU

Big game for Boston University tonight - then again, every game from here on out will be a big game for the Terriers.

Tonight kicks off the Hockey East Tournament -- a tournament that BU has to win to make the NCAA tourney. They face off against Maine at 8 p.m. The Black Bears won the first match-up back in November, 3-2, only to fall to BU twice in a back-to-back series at Agganis, 7-4 and 5-2.

The game really could go either way. Both teams are pretty even record-wise as well. I think the game boils down to whether or not Kieran Millan decides to show up ... and that's always debatable.


Get Crosby for Cooke's Hit? Give me a break.

I waited to get tickets to see my Pens play the Bruins because in the fall I had no problem getting cheap seats off of StubHub close to the game date. This time was different. This time there's a bounty on Matt Cooke's head, and everyone is getting into it. I understand why Bruins fans are angry. They have a right to be. But there's one thing that is really, really making me mad: the calls to go after Crosby. NESN's Jack Edwards called for this -- although no one is surprised about this because Edwards is out of his mind. The Herald also called for it.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Because that will really get you revenge!!  Um, no.  It will look sad, pathetic and immature. Like a spoiled brat who didn't get its way. Handle it like a man. Cooke knows what he has to do tonight. He will stand up to whoever wants to drop 'em, and he'll do the dance. Then everyone can move on, and the Bruins can focus on trying to make the playoffs after becoming pretty darn bad in the second half of the season.

I'm very protective of my boys. This game just got taken to a whole other level for me. Go Pens.


Don't Leave Early To Beat Traffic

The Bruins have had the best hockey commercials going for a little while now. They just released another one with a new warning. Take a look:


Dany Heatley Uncensored

Meet OttawaGh0st. My new favorite YouTube Channel. These guys take interview clips - mostly of hockey players - and do their own voice-overs. I have seen a bunch of them probably five times each, and I burst out laughing every time. Can't even hold it in. It's pretty easy to tell they're all parodies, but one of my friends really thought Dany Heatley was giving the most obscene interview ever.

My favorite videos deal with Dany Heatley. They're not big Dany fans, so they really rail on him. I'm pretty anti-Heatley myself, but I have to imagine that his fans could have a good laugh at it too. The Brian  Burke videos aren't bad either. Check them out. Here's one to get you started (Warning: the language is not PG): 

Ron Wilson: No gold, no positives

I realize I haven’t had the chance to talk about the gold medal game here. As a loyal USA fan, it hurt. A lot. I had a bad feeling going into it, but the tying goal with 20 seconds left gave me some false hope ... only to be crushed in overtime by one of my own: Sidney Crosby.

I finally knew what it felt like to be anyone who is not a Penguins fan. I understand why people dislike Crosby. He's really, really good. He is also a little bit of a bitch, but he’s MY bitch. I felt a sting of betrayal when he put in the OT game-winner. But what a story this kid is, hey? He’s won just about everything, and he’s only 22 years-old. It’s disgusting and awesome all at the same time. I’m glad he’s back on my side.

I pouted when the game was over. I'll admit it. I whined a little about how it would have been a much better story if the US won (I blame it on my PR side). But I recognized that Canada was an unbelievable team just like they were supposed to be. I also recognized that what the US managed to do throughout the tournament was unexpected and amazing. They were inspirational to watch. This young squad wasn't expected to be undefeated until the very last game in the Olympics. They surprised everyone and won people over. A silver for them is still an incredible feat.

So today when I came across a headline on my THN newsfeed that said, “Ron Wilson says there is no positive in gold medal loss for US” a giant record scratched somewhere in my head.

No positive in the U.S.’s gold medal loss?

Okay, I agree with Teemu Selanne when he says that the bronze medal is an easier emotional win because you actually win the game to get the medal. When you get bronze, it’s because you won. When you get silver, it’s because you lost.

But honestly Ron Wilson, how do you get zero positives out of coming up just short of the gold?? I can think of a few:

1.       Um, you won the silver medal. This is pretty obvious. You could have finished dead last in the tournament or pulled a Russia and embarrassed yourself.
2.       Your little underdog team turned out to be pretty darn good. So good that they went undefeated up until the very end. They worked hard and played well. They weren’t really supposed to be as good as they were.
3.       The USA team captivated America. I had friends who could care less about hockey but were all fired up for the gold medal game and publicly displaying their support. By ‘publicly displaying’ I mean putting it as their Facebook status, but that’s a pretty big deal these days.
4.       Ryan Miller. Zach Parise. Chris Drury. Brian Rafalski. Ryan Kesler. And so on…
5.       The hockey was great. The first USA-Canada game was one of the best hockey games I’ve ever seen. Ryan Kesler’s empty net goal? Yes, please. Six goals in, like, ten minutes against Finland? Wow. Not to mention the gold medal game.
6.       Millions of people tuned in to watch. 27.6 million to be exact. That’s just the NBC broadcast. Numbers haven’t been this good since the 1980 miracle. And the ratings weren’t only good for that game – 8.2 million people watched the first US-Canada game on MSNBC (second highest for the network ever). As an American hockey fan, I’m proud of that. I’m not saying there is going to be a huge new following of hockey fans in the States (because there wont’ be), but the ratings are something to speak of.

Those are just a few that come to mind. I know it’s hard to come that far, tie a game with 20 seconds left and lose the gold medal in overtime. I was heartbroken too. But that’s hockey. That’s what we love. As far as I can see, the positives outweigh the negatives. 


We. Want. Gold.

Take any of us back two weeks ago, and we'd shake our heads in doubt if you said the USA men's hockey team would be playing for the gold medal. Canada and Russia were just too strong on paper to even think about anyone else.

But here we are. And the little Yankee boys are making everyone fall in love with them. They're working hard and getting things done. Upsetting Canada. Scoring six goals in like ten minutes. Not to mention goaltender Ryan Miller has been ridiculously good. They're so much fun to watch. Now the whole country is paying attention.

Sean Leahy over at PuckDaddy tweeted that tomorrow will be the 50th anniversary of the 1960 men's hockey gold medal game. The "forgotten miracle" as they like to call it. Gives you the chills doesn't it?

I'm definitely more scared of Canada this time. A few days ago the US upset them 5-3 on their home turf. They're going to be angry. They're going to want revenge. They're going to want to prove to everyone that they are the best just like everyone assumed going into the tournament. They're going to be good. Really, really good. But I truly believe if the US sticks to its game and outworks Canada, they will succeed.

And America can fall in love with its hockey team again.


Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.


"We Know We Can Beat Anybody Now."


If you missed last night's USA-Canada game, you missed one of the most intense and exciting hockey games anyone's seen in awhile.

Some people are saying it didn't even mean that much. But it did. These kids were passed off as a team in its 'building stages' for 2014. They beat one of the tournament favorites.

No, it wasn't a miracle.

It was a pleasant surprise.

It made Americans pay attention to hockey.

It made us proud. 

Thank you. 

Now bring us the gold.


Terriers Lose Trivino For Season

The Terriers swallowed another dose of bad luck when sophomore forward, Corey Trivino, fractured his right fibula during Saturday night's game against Maine. He's donezo for the year. Trivino had 15 points (4+11) in 28 games; considering the Terriers have struggled for scoring at various points this season, losing any amount of contribution is not a good thing.

You gotta feel for the kid; he battled an injury last year as well.



AHL To Get Some Southern Lovin'

Lots of news buzzing around the American Hockey League these days. Namely the two big items are the new additions to the league for 2010-11.

The Edmonton Oilers will shift their affiliate from Springfield to Oklahoma City. Say what? I'll be interested to see how the team does down there. I mean hockey is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of OKC. Nevertheless sometimes locations like that surprise you. In the meantime Springfield's president is determined to find another NHL partner in order to keep the team there for at least the next year. As if that wasn't enough for him to do, the franchise also has to work out a new lease for their rink.

The other snippet is that Carolina will be moving their affiliate, the Albany River Rats, to Charlotte. It makes sense for the Hurricanes; their affiliate will be nearby which will cut down on the amount of travel players will have to go through. But it also makes me sad. The Albany River Rats have been around for what feels like forever. They have possibly the worst name and the ugliest logo, but they're also a classic. The River Rats have also been really bad for a really long time, and now that they're finally getting decent, they're moving. Poor fans. Hopefully they can get another team in there. President Garen Szablewski is already working on it.


Kreider's Beanpot Goal

Here's a clip of Boston College's Chris Kreider and his goal mentioned in the post below. Not sure Max Nicastro enjoys this one as much.

No Miracles This Time

Down 4-3 with 2:46 to go, Boston University fans started to believe. Deficits don't scare us as much after what happened in last year's national championship game. But this isn't last year, and last minute miracles (or any for that matter) are hard to come by in '09-10. So I left the Garden a little heartbroken that my Beanpot career as a student comes to an end with a record of 2-2.

If you were to rewind back to the fifteen minute mark in the third, the score was 4-1 in favor of Boston College. I wish I could say it was ugly, but it wasn't ugly at all. The game was unbelievable. Kieran Millan was the best I've seen him all season. He had some remarkable saves, and you can't fault him for Chris Kreider's work of art early in the third. On the other side, John Muse looked better than I've seen in awhile too. If he doesn't stop Nick Bonino with 19 seconds left, the game goes to OT, and then I put my money on BU. There was Kreider's goal and Dave Warsofsky's shorthander. There were nail-biting third period penalties and more. It was just a really great game.

Quick recap in terms of scoring: The Terriers opened it up in the first with Kevin Shattenkirk's goal. BC responded with three straight: two in the second from Steve Whitney and Carl Sneep and one in the third from Barry Almeida. It looked like BU might be up to its old tricks with Warsofsky's shortie and Colby Cohen's goal late in the third. But that's where the scoring would end.

So, yeah. I didn't get to win my last Beanpot as a senior. But it was a great game, and it's still the best college tournaments out there. And I mean, we have to let other teams win sometimes. It's the nice thing to do .... ;-)

Keeping the lid on (Boston Globe)
+ Classics like this make familiar title game anything but stale (Boston Globe)
Honors roll in for goalie Muse (Boston Globe)
Quite the experience for freshman (Boston Globe)
Eagles pot 15th title (Boston Herald)
+ Jack Parker Praises Terriers (Boston Herald)
+ Bean-tossed (Daily Free Press)
+ [BC] Men's Hockey Wins Beanpot (The Heights)
+ Boston College Edges Boston University to Capture 58th Beanpot Championship (USCHO)
+ BC Goalie Muse Named MVP (ESPN) 

Photo: AP, Winslow Townson



So, so sad. 21 year-old Brendan Burke was killed today in a car accident. Burke is the son of Toronto GM Brian Burke. He had been in the news semi-recently for coming out that he was gay. It breaks my heart that his life was taken from him so young. We're the same age. It hits you hard.

Count your blessings folks.

Rest in peace, bud.



Quote Me

"I’ve never been impressed when a guy brags about how hard he’s perspiring shovelling dirt back in a hole when he dug the hole."
- Brian Burke

See the entire transcript of the Burke interview with James Mirtle here.


The Babies Thus Far

Each year during my month-long winter break, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have graciously managed to schedule in homestands -- as in I usually get to take in between nine to 11 games during that stretch. It gives me a good enough look at what type of group my #1 team is.

This year the Baby Pens are in the middle of the pack: 42 points in 39 games; good for third in the East Division. They're in a tough position this year because of division re-alignment. In order to make the play-offs they have to not only be in the top four of the East Division, but they also have to be better than the fifth place team in the Atlantic Division. Right now the fifth place team in the Atlantic is Bridgeport with 46 points; the Pens have three games in hand.

The best thing the Baby Pens have right now is their work ethic. Man, they work hard. I love teams like this. It's the type of team that can pull off some surprises in the post-season -- that is, if they can dig deep and find some scoring. These guys outshoot their opponents almost every game, but they cannot finish. Granted they don't have any Chris Minards or Jeff Taffes, but they are getting shots to the net. Their defense is pretty good -- I'd argue Deryk Engelland is the best player on the team right now. Goaltending is a little shakey. There isn't a high confidence level in John Curry or Adam Berkhoel (or the games that Brad Thiessen squeezed in while he was in the Dub-B). But at least they try. The only time I thought they looked lazy was six minutes of a second period against the ridiculously good Hershey Bears. It cost them the game.

So I love this team in terms of how hard they work. I'm always a supporter of the workhorse teams over the skill-based teams (:cough: San Jose :cough:). They're going to have to start generating more offense and allowing fewer goals to really give themselves a chance. Sounds like common sense, I know.

In terms of individual players and who stuck out to me, here are my thoughts:

Eric Tangradi -- What is eating Eric Tangradi? Seriously. People might say I'm being harsh. He's on a point streak afterall. But the only thing that has stuck out about him is his size. Maybe I got caught up in the hype that is Tangradi. He was one of the top players in the OHL and a highly ranked prospect. Getting him in a trade from Anaheim was a big deal. Tangradi currently has 15 points in 31 games (9+6). He was caught off-guard with a shoulder injury at the start of the year, so when I saw himover Thanksgiving break, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was still getting back into the groove of things. A month later it's time to get going. He's a bit slower than I thought he would be (I understand he's bigger so it doesn't look like he's skating as hard. Bottom line is, I don't care how big your strides are. You're either fast or slow.). He hasn't done anything breathtaking on offense. He scored a nice goal or two over the ten or eleven games I saw him. I still have high hopes for him. It very well could be an adjustment thing. Either way, people in Pittsburgh hoping he gets called up are going to be waiting for awhile. He is not ready.

Deryk Engelland -- Best player on the team. I'm making that argument now. I always feel comfortable with him out there. He's created a good reputation for himself by playing well. He's a good D-man who isn't afraid to be aggressive when he needs to be. He just does things that make you go 'Nice. I like that guy.' Class act, and I'm very happy to see how he's turned out.

Brian Strait - Okay so I'm obviously a bit biased towards a BU boy, but Strait's game has transitioned exactly the way I thought it would. Watching Strait for three years at BU, it was easy to see how smart of a defenseman he was. He's not going to score goals for you. Offense is not in his game. But he will always be in position. Plain and simple: he makes smart plays. He doesn't overthink things. He does what he's supposed to. Talk about solid. He has pleasantly surprised a lot of people in his first year pro. Not me. The kid will be just fine in his career.

Dustin Jeffrey -- Second best player on the team. Jeffrey has certainly evolved into an awesome player. He's fifth in the league in scoring with 41 points in 37 games (12 + 29). He's an AHL All-Star starter and deservingly so. The kid's on fire. He can score. He should easily be the next call-up to Pittsburgh should they need a center.

Chris Conner -- So tiny (listed at 5-8"). So fast. Can't finish. That about sums him up -- at least during the December-January stretch I saw him.

Joe Vitale -- The definition of workhorse. The kid battles the entire game. How can you not like him?? He knows his role, and he fills it well.

Tyler Spurgeon -- He found his way back on the Baby Pens' roster this season. Not one of the more talented guys on the team, but he NEVER stops moving. I like that.

John Curry -- It breaks my heart to say I think he can be doing much better. I LOVE Curry. I saw him perform miracles in college. Not to mention he has a GREAT story of being a walk-on at BU and working his way up from third-string to number one. He has two habits that seem to bite him in the ass sometimes: going down too early and playing the puck behind the net when he shouldn't. Don't get me wrong: Curry is not bad. He's just not what he could be. He's sitting on a 2.54 GAA and a .904 save percentage over 31 games. Eh.

Here's to hoping the Baby Pens have a strong second half. If they start getting some more goals, I think they'll be fine. If everything clicks and they get more goals & better goaltending? They can be dangerous. They have some work to do until then.

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