Though I still think the Winter Classic (in Philadelphia on January 2nd this year at 8pm) is the NHL’s big moment to gain fans, I also think the move to Vegas in 2009 was a good move and the NHL seems to be presenting the awards better every year. They don’t seem to know where the awards will be in 2012, but I’m hoping they get a new contract here in Las Vegas. Everyone seems to like it. The players get an excuse to come hang out and have fun together in Vegas and the fans have a great place to enjoy surrounding their trip to watch the awards and see their favorite players. Each year the number of players (along with their families and friends) attending and parties for them to attend seems to be growing. It seems like a perfect relationship for the NHL – hopefully, it will continue for a bit longer. I’m generally not a fan of visiting the Vegas heat at this time of year, but as long as you stay inside most of the time, it’s a lot of fun.
Corey Perry lost out to Daniel Sedin for the player-voted Ted Lindsay award, he won the one Daniel Sedin himself described as the “greatest award you can win as an individual” (he went on to say that “it’s been a fun life, so I can’t be disappointed”). Perry won the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded every year to the MVP of the NHL as voted on by members of the NHL Hockey Writers’ Association. The emotional Ducks’ scoring leader said it was his team that got him there. A lot of his family and friends were able to travel to Vegas to see Perry win the award, which definitely makes this moment all the more special. Perry said when he heard his name, “it kinda shocked me – you don’t really believe it.” I’m sure the accomplishment will set in after a bit of celebrating with everyone who came to Vegas to enjoy this with him.
Dustin Brown took home the NHL Foundation Player Award this year, his third year nominated. Clearly, the third time was the charm for him and his charity KaBOOM. I’m sure Kings fans were also happy to see Ian Laperriere (always a favorite ex-King) win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, for the player exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, & dedication to hockey.
Daniel Sedin (2011) and Henrik Sedin (2010) became the first brothers to win back to back Art Ross Trophies (awarded for leading the league in scoring). It was also great to see Tim Thomas get the Vezina for the best goaltender again – especially in the year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Though I know the voting takes place before the playoffs, no one deserved the Stanley Cup more than Tim Thomas the way he performed and during the regular season he did the same thing for the Bruins night after night. It was great to see him rewarded for that hard work.
On a personal note, I enjoyed seeing Dan Bylsma win the Jack Adams award for coach of the year. I think what he did with the Penguins in spite of all their injuries was truly an amazing accomplishment, even though they clearly wanted to do better than they did getting knocked out in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If you get a chance to catch one of the re-airings of the NHL Awards on Versus or the NHL Network, I’d highly recommend it. I’m glad I recorded it, so I’ll be able to watch some of the bits I missed, due to running around and talking to the winners. Apparently, there was a USA vs. Canada part two and I’m looking forward to seeing that when I get home from Vegas tomorrow. For now, it’s almost time to go enjoy more of this fun city!
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Corey Perry, Dan Bylsma, Daniel Sedin, Ducks, Dustin Brown, Henrik Sedin, Hockey, KaBOOM, Kings, Las Vegas, Lightning, NHL, NHL Awards, Penguins, Stanley Cup, Tim Thomas, Versus, Winter Classic
If Kings fans missed the game last night against Vancouver, they might have thought they were seeing things when they read that their team lost 2-1 in a shootout. The only difference in the simple box scores was the game in San Jose taking 3 more rounds of the shootout to end the game.
Though he always went on to say that he liked the shootout for the fans and realized that the fans like the shootout and get excited, Terry Murray made it very clear that he hates the shootout. Many of us think it’s a bit ridiculous to decide a game by a team with a skill competition. Yes, penalty shots are exciting and the skills competition of the All Star game is always my favorite part. However, other sports don’t end team games with individual competition, why does the NHL? Could you imagine after 9 innings of baseball deciding the game in a home run competition instead of continuing to play? What about the team that loses in 22 innings getting a point for that in the standings? Didn’t think so. What about the NBA ending in a free throw competition or a game of HORSE? So why give a goaltender who’s played well enough to keep his team in the game and get them through 65 minutes of play a loss (even if it is in the separate overtime loss column)? Okay, enough of my anti-shootout rant.
Naturally, the Kings didn’t look as good in the second night of their back to back games. I still think that teams in back to back games should be facing other teams who played the day before on their second night (which would have worked if the Canucks had played the Ducks on Wednesday instead of playing them Friday). The Canucks will have the disadvantage against the rested Ducks tonight and the Ducks will be at a disadvantage on Saturday when they play in Phoenix. Somehow, it seems it could have been coordinated a bit better.
On the bright side for Kings fans, their team got a point for the shootout loss in both of their last two games and points in their last 6 (4-0-2) games. The Kings had two four game winning streaks in the same month for the first time since… I’m not sure when. I went back to the late 90s and couldn’t find another time when the Kings put together two winning streaks of 4 games or more in the same month. The Kings are at the head of their division and despite many reports to the contrary, when they were tied in points with the Sharks the Kings were in the lead of the division, since they’ve gotten 3 points in their 2 games with the Sharks and the Sharks have only gotten 2. They only had two four game winning streaks in their entire last season (and none longer).
It’ll be very interesting to see the Kings play the Penguins next week. They’ve played the Sharks, but the Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and (having lost only two games so far) are clearly still at the top of their game. The Penguins haven’t been to LA since November of 2006. For some reason, they tend to come to southern California in November or December (escaping the Pennsylvania weather for a bit?). I’ve seen the Penguins play so often the last couple years in Pittsburgh that I sometimes forget how little most southern California hockey fans have seen of the Penguins. The last time the Penguins were in LA was the season where they made the playoffs for the first time in years. It was Sidney Crosby’s first trip to California in the NHL and Evgeni Malkin’s first year in the NHL. They both had fairly big nights in LA and the Kings lost in overtime (Malkin scored the OT goal). Both teams have changed quite a bit since then. The Penguins have found a coach (Dan Bylsma) who seems to know exactly how to lead a group of young superstars. Bylsma’s record in his 61 games as a coach of the Penguins is 44-13-4 (they’ve won 72% of their games, 83% since his first training camp with the team). The Kings have done well with Terry Murray’s system focusing on defense and seem to have found a goaltender (in Jon Quick) capable of making the saves to give the Kings a chance to win every night. They’ve also added a few key players to help them achieve a higher level of play. Anze Kopitar has definitely stepped up his game this season. It’s early, but Kopi’s on pace to score almost 60 goals this season and has scored 1.5 points per game so far. (He was leading the NHL in points until Alex Ovechkin passed him last night.) Next Thursday’s game should be very interesting and will certainly be the biggest test the Kings have faced so far this season.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar, Canucks, Coyotes, Dan Bylsma, Ducks, Evgeni Malkin, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, penalty shots, Penguins, Sharks, shootout, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup, Terry Murray, winning streak
What a game. I don’t know about all Penguins fans, but this Penguins fan has a sore neck. It’s amazing how stressful just watching a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals can be… When watching the horrible game 5 at Diesel on the south side in Pittsburgh, Bryan Trottier mentioned that he was just watching this year as a fan and that it was very stressful to be a fan watching your team in the Finals. Hearing that from a guy who won the Cup six times (4 with the Islanders, 2 with the Penguins) as a player and once as an assistant coach (with the Avalanche) was pretty surprising.
In Pittsburgh, it would have been simple to pick a bar for watching game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and you probably couldn’t have made a bad choice. Every bar was surely filled with fans wanting the Penguins would win and the fact that the NBA wasn’t playing tonight didn’t matter as much to Penguins fans in Pittsburgh as it did to hockey fans in southern California. Here, most people care more about the Lakers than they do two out of town teams in the NHL Finals. Heck, even if the Ducks or Kings were in the Finals, I’d bet a lot of money that more people would care about the Lakers being in the Finals.
I went to my favorite local sports bar (The Corner Office) with a friend figuring there were bound to be other hockey fans there watching the game and I was right. I left work a half hour early and we just barely got there in time to get one of my 5 favorite booths in front of the big screens. There was another fan in a Penguins jersey (also Mario Lemieux), a fan in a Red Wings jersey, one in a Red Wings t-shirt, etc. More people in the bar seemed to want the Penguins to win, but there were fans on both sides. The Corner Office even put the sound on for the game, which I didn’t expect. Could we hear it most of the time? Not really, but the bar tried and I think that was really nice of them.
Game 7s don’t happen every year in the Finals, but they are a lot of fun when they do. The Penguins/Red Wings series was an exciting one, in spite of the blow-out in game 5 (where the Red Wings won 5-0). The 7th game lived up to my expectations. The game wasn’t over until the buzzer sounded. It was exciting and Penguins fans everywhere went crazy. I’m sure many of them worried when Sidney Crosby went down, but Max Talbot was amazing and gets the Stanley Cup winning goal, which he definitely deserved. Marc-Andre Fleury made some amazing saves, including one highlight reel save that will even show up on ESPN over and over, I’m sure. Dan Bylsma came a long way in a short period of time. From assistant AHL coach to Stanley Cup Champion head NHL coach. It must seem like a bit of a blur for him, but he’s done an amazing job and deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround the Penguins made this season.
Sidney Crosby may not have played much in game 7 (he didn’t even get to 10 minutes, due to his injury), but he was still the youngest captain in NHL history to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory and raise the Cup. Evgeni Malkin became only the 5th player in history to win the regular and Stanley Cup playoff scoring titles (he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP). Marc-Andre Fleury proved he can play with the best of them and Marian Hossa chose the wrong team. Of course, there’s always the question of whether the Penguins would have been able to keep the necessary players (like Brooks Orpik) or afford the late season additions that allowed them to win the Cup this year. The NHL Network mentioned that Maxime Talbot specifically said he wanted to meet up with Hossa in the hand shake line and tell him he picked the wrong team. Clearly, he got to do that and I’m sure he enjoyed it as much as he thought he would.
The Penguins didn’t make the playoff run easy for the fans. The Washington series was rough, but the Finals against the Red Wings were even more difficult. Pittsburgh has two reigning teams (the Penguins and Steelers). A friend of mine mentioned that the pressure is on the Pirates now, which is (of course – if you know anything about baseball) hilarious, since the Pirates are most likely to become the team with the longest streak of losing seasons in MLB history this year. Of course, the other end of the state (Philadelphia Phillies) is the home of the reigning World Series champions. Three out of the four top professional team sports – not a bad year for Pennsylvania sports.
Now, we can all look forward to next week’s NHL Awards ceremony and the draft.
Tags: Bryan Trottier, Dan Bylsma, Ducks, Evgeni Malkin, fans, Hockey, Islanders, Kings, Lakers, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mario Lemieux, Maxime Talbot, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Penguins, Phillies, Pirates, playoffs, Red Wings, Sidney Crosby, sports bar, Stanley Cup Finals, Steelers
I know many will say “Finally? Therrien just took the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals last season!” However, I would argue that the talented team got Therrien to the finals and not the other way around. Sometimes, a team is just too talented to allow management to see that their coaching choice wasn’t the best. I’ve wanted Therrien fired for a long time (ask anyone who knows me well – they’ll all say I was the first to mention the idea to them. Therrien often said his team wasn’t prepared when the Pens didn’t show up for a game. As I’ve mentioned many times, that seems to be the number one job of a head coach – make sure your team shows up for each and every game. With a team like the Penguins (they have the #1 & 2 scorers in the NHL), this should not be difficult. Barry Melrose didn’t last long in Tampa Bay, but I’m guessing even he could motivate these guys.
I’ve always thought the way Therrien changes lines during each game was an issue. Though Colby Armstrong pointed out that the Penguins knew Therrien changed lines more often than any other coach out there before they promoted him to the Penguins head coach (from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, their AHL affiliate), I’m not sure they fully examined the down side of this approach at the NHL level. Perhaps it works better with young players, which would explain why it was initially effective for the Penguins.
I don’t see how a team with the two top scorers in the NHL (or two of the top three, since Ovechkin and Crosby have gone back and forth this season) can excuse having a power play that’s 6th worst in the NHL. While I understand that the Pittsburgh power play took a huge hit without Gonchar and Whitney earlier in the season, a team with so many talented players should be able to move past that obstacle. I also understand how important Colby Armstrong and Ryan Malone were to the Penguins. However, as in the days of Mario Lemieux & Jaromir Jagr, the Penguins should be able to move on and keep winning with qualified substitutions as other players move to other teams making more money than they may currently be worth.
Dan Bylsma may have better luck with the NHL Penguins than his predecessor. I’m sure all Penguins are hoping he will. If nothing else, the Pens should have the initial winning streak most teams experience when they get a new coach. The good news for all Penguins fans is that (unlike many teams in the past) the Penguins have made the move to fire Therrien in plenty of time to turn the down turn of their season around and make the playoffs. Shero saw the Penguins fall out of the playoff standings and took action. The Penguins are currently ranked 10th in the east, 5 points behind 7th and 8th.
With Therrien gone from the Penguins, the talk will certainly turn to who’s next to lose his job as head coach in the NHL. Will it be Tom Renney of the New York Rangers? Randy Carlyle of the Anaheim Ducks? Someone else? Time will tell. A few people I talked to tonight at the Ducks game think Randy Carlyle should be worried and I’m sure he’s thought about the possibility that he might lose his job, but I think there might be enough excuses in Anaheim to save him long enough for Tom Renney to be fired first. New York is also a much tougher market than Anaheim. The Ducks just don’t have the fan base the Rangers do and the intensity of the media coverage may be another factor in how long each coach can last. Of course, I did not think the Penguins (who gave Therrien a 3-year contract extension after they made the Stanley Cup Finals last year) would be the first to fire their coach, so perhaps the Ducks will surprise me and move more quickly than the Rangers. Either way, I think both coaches are probably thinking about what they plan to do after their current team fires them.
Tags: AHL, Alex Ovechkin, Barry Melrose, Colby Armstrong, Dan Bylsma, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, Michel Therrien, NHL, Penguins, Randy Carlyle, Rangers, Ray Shero, Ryan Malone, Ryan Whitney, Scranton, Sergei Gonchar, Stanley Cup Finals, Tom Renney, Wilkes-Barre