Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t give up 5 goals in a game often, but when he does it seems to be in surprising situations (like to the NY Islanders early in the season). Lundqvist has two shutouts in his last seven games and hadn’t given up five goals himself since November 24th in Tampa Bay. He faced only one more shot than Dan Ellis and gave up three more goals. I’m sure that’s not what Rangers fans were expecting after the display against the Flyers Sunday. Most Rangers fans are probably wondering what team will show up for the game in San Jose and whether their team will squeak into a playoff spot in the east or drop out of the playoffs, since many teams around them have a couple games in hand against them.
Ducks fans are also dealing with a roller coaster watching their team play lately. The Ducks were shut out against the Canucks (the number one team in the league, but the way they played was more disturbing than the score), but won four of their last five games. The down side, of course, is that before the last five games the Ducks had lost five in a row. Before that, they’d won five in a row, though. The team has been very streaky all season and fans are hoping they can make that a winning streak for long enough that they’ll end up in the playoffs. Their win tonight put the Ducks back in 10th place in the western conference. The playoff battle is definitely going to go down to the wire again this season. The Kings won tonight and the Stars got a point in the standings with an overtime loss.
Lubomir Visnovsky has five goals and two assists in his last three games. He had a hat trick and an assist against Dallas and two goals and an assist against the Rangers. Lubo hitting his stride is something Ducks fans are hoping will help their team squeak into the playoffs this season. They missed the playoffs last season and don’t want their team to be sitting at home after the regular season again.
Tags: Canucks, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, Flyers, Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, Islanders, Kings, Lightning, losing streak, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, playoffs, Rangers, standings, Stars, winning streak
The Kings lost their first game this season (and one of the first in the last couple seasons) when they were leading after two periods. Los Angeles is now 19-0-1 when leading after two periods. On the up side for Kings fans, the Kings got a point for their overtime loss to the Stars and stay in 8th place (which would have been true without the point). The western conference is super tight, so every point counts. Naturally, the Kings were very disappointed with their loss, in spite of the point they got.
I’m not a fan of the point for losing. I never have been and never will be. However, close conference standings like those this year (especially in the west) were created by these three point games (which all three of the NHL games were tonight – two shootouts and one overtime). Clearly, the NHL got exactly what they wanted by giving teams a point for losing in overtime or a shootout. Many teams are fighting for playoff spots, which should get more fans to attend games than they would if they knew their team was definitely not able to get into the playoffs already.
The Kings are hoping to improve things on the road. Kopitar mentioned “it seems that going on the road we’ve managed to put some strings together.” They’re hoping to put some wins together on the road and move up a bit in the standings. Fifth place in the West (the Stars, currently) isn’t very secure. Eight place is scarily close to sitting at home watching (or avoiding) the playoffs in April. The Kings realize that they have to pull their act together on the road and get back into playoff hockey mode.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Hockey, Kings, NHL, playoffs, standings, Stars
The Vancouver Canucks are the #1 team in the NHL (by 7 points). They’ve played one more game than the Red Wings and two more than the Flyers, but they’re in the lead by more than the maximum possible points in those games. Cory Schneider stopped all 26 of the Ducks’ shots to give the Canucks a shutout in the second of their back to back games this weekend in southern California and complete the SoCal sweep. (The Canucks beat the Kings 3-1 yesterday afternoon in LA.) Schneider said having a shutout at this level was “a good milestone and something to build on,” though he also mentioned that at this point in the season the win was more important than reaching this milestone. All the Canucks spoke highly of Schneider. Daniel Sedin even said “we don’t see him as a backup, he’s shown that he can play on any given night.”
Though the Canucks were the visiting team at Honda Center, you wouldn’t have known it from the crowd noise or the number of Canucks jerseys (especially in the lower concourse). Ducks fans started chanting “Let’s go Ducks” at the beginning of the game, but were quickly drowned out by the “Go Canucks go” cheer. At least from the TV broadcast it was probably difficult to tell the difference between Ducks and Canucks…
Ellis didn’t play badly and he’s 3-2 since coming to Anaheim, but after allowing 3 goals in only 16 shots (only .813 save percent), one has to wonder if Emery will be making an appearance in a game for Anaheim.
Since the western conference is still very tight, had the Ducks won tonight’s game, they would have moved into 8th place in the conference, but since they lost in regulation and Minnesota lost in overtime, the Ducks moved down to 10th. Clearly, the playoff race will be interesting until the end of the season.
Tags: Canucks, Cory Schneider, Dan Ellis, Daniel Sedin, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Honda Center, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Ray Emery, shutout, standings
Lubomir Visnovsky’s 2nd career NHL hat trick (first as a Duck), the first of a Ducks defenseman, secured the overtime win for the Anaheim Ducks tonight in Honda Center in front of the very sparse crowd. Though the announced attendance was over 12,000, I can’t remember seeing a Honda Center that was more empty. There were quite a few sections that had fewer than 50% of the seats filled. Naturally, the fans who were in attendance went crazy when the Ducks won.
The only Ducks goal not by Visnovsky tonight was the game-tying goal by Teemu Selanne. It was Selanne’s 400th goal as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks have been struggling since goaltender Jonas Hiller’s injury, but Ellis has given them enough of a chance to win the last couple games and the Ducks have taken advantage of it to tie their last two games (against the Red Wings and Stars) up in time to win them in overtime, putting them back in 9th place in the conference tied in points with 8th and 10th. This year’s western conference playoff race is definitely a tight one, so hopefully the Honda Center will be a bit more full when the Ducks face the 1st place Canucks Sunday.
Tags: attendance, Canucks, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Honda Center, Jonas Hiller, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, playoffs, Red Wings, standings, Stars, Teemu Selanne
Dustin Penner’s first game as a King was definitely different from their collapse against the Red Wings in the 7-4 loss Monday. The Kings went from a game where 11 goals were scored to a game where the only goal was the game winning power play goal by Jarret Stoll at 12:13 in the 3rd period. When talking about the upcoming playoffs, Stoll mentioned that “You really can’t have a bad period any more.” With any luck, the game against the Red Wings Monday combined with the addition of Dustin Penner will be what the Kings need to shake them up and get them into playoff mode as the regular season winds down.
Bernier got his second shutout of the season tonight in LA, but Terry Murray said he hasn’t thought about who will start on Saturday yet when asked if Bernier’s performance tonight has him thinking of starting him on Saturday. Jonathan Quick was definitely less than stellar Monday night against the Red Wings, but one can hardly blame him completely for the Kings’ breakdown that night. The Kings did well in their last afternoon game, but I’m sure Kings fans are crossing their fingers that their team can play two afternoon games in a row at a high level and stay in the playoff mix.
The Western Conference is so tight that one win moved the Kings from 8th to 5th place (and the Coyotes, who have played two more games than the Kings, but are tied in points with 76) down to 6th from 5th. Terry Murray often talks about how important the four point games are within the division and at this time of the season, these games seem even more important in a tight conference.
Tags: Coyotes, Dustin Penner, Hockey, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, playoffs, power play, Red Wings, standings, Terry Murray
Tonight’s shutout of the Bruins in LA was Jonathan Quick’s 5th of the season. It was also the first time he won two games in a row since the Kings’ four game streak at the end of last month (Quick won the first two and last of the four). Their special teams have also been struggling. Until scoring against the best goalie (in save percentage and goals against average), Tim Thomas, on the power play tonight, the Kings had a 0-22 streak on the power play. Perhaps their special teams have finally started to click again. Ryan Smyth (who scored the power play goal about half-way through the first period, which ended up being the game winning goal due to Quick’s shutout) mentioned that the Kings had “capitalized on special teams tonight, which we’ve been lacking as of late.” Not only did the Kings score on the first of their three power play opportunities, but they were perfect on the penalty kill. Smyth also said he thinks the Kings have been creeping up to the level of play they’re at now in their last few games. The main question is whether the Kings will be able to sustain their high level of play and confidence. They competed for a full sixty minutes tonight, which is something I hadn’t seen from them yet this calendar year. Though they beat the Coyotes in Phoenix on Saturday, the Kings gave up a three goal lead to scare their fans first.
Boston has been a consistently good team, but the Kings have won their last five games against them. Most Kings fans are probably wondering why their team has to play down to the worse teams if they’re capable of beating the best goalie in the NHL. While it’s true that any team in the NHL has the capability of beating any other team on a given night, Kings fans have seen their team barely show up for games against some of the worst teams in the league this season, which is very frustrating. Some of the worst teams in the league try harder than the Kings do consistently and aren’t capable of beating many of the teams they face. I think that’s easier to take than watching such a talented team choose not to compete at a high level sometimes. Maybe beating Thomas will help the Kings regain their confidence and continue to climb back up the standings. In spite of being in 11th place as of tonight’s win, the Kings are only 3 points behind the 8th place Colorado Avalanche. The western conference is very tight, so the Kings are really only one decent winning streak away from being back in the playoff picture.
The Bruins don’t play in SoCal often, which explains why tonight’s sellout crowd was closer to the announced 18,118 than I’d seen it in quite a while. There’s more energy in Staples Center when it’s pretty full, which definitely helps the Kings face an opponent. I’m sure they realize that if they win more there will be more fans in Staples Center, which will make it easier for them to win… It’s definitely a better cycle than the one where losing makes fewer fans show up, which makes it more difficult to play a full 60 minutes and win games.
Tags: Avalanche, Bruins, Coyotes, fans, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, penalty kill, playoffs, power play, Ryan Smyth, special teams, standings, Staples Center, Tim Thomas
In spite of the fact that this year’s Winter Classic was up against prime time bowl games and other hockey games along with other prime time programming and all the activities people do outside of the home on Saturday nights, it was the most successful Winter Classic. The 2011 Winter Classic actually had the best ratings of any NHL game since 1975 with 4.5 million viewers. Four of the top five rated NHL games of all time are the Winter Classics and this year’s Winter Classic had an 81% increase in Pittsburgh viewers over the 2008 Winter Classic (the first ever, where the Penguins played the Sabres in Buffalo).
In the Christmas Eve Winter Classic Preview, Versus pointed out that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin had the same number of points. Of course, Crosby got his 571 points in only 410 games (1.39 points per game). Ovechkin has played 435 games (1.31 points per game). Neither of the super stars the NHL and NBC clearly wanted to highlight in this New Year’s Day match-up scored in the Winter Classic this year. Evgeni Malkin did score, but he wasn’t in most of the advertising I saw for the Winter Classic. How about you? The NHL and NBC concentrated on two players and neither of them had much of an impact on Saturday night’s game. Alex did almost score, but it was called off due to his interference with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Crosby’s first Winter Classic appearance couldn’t have been scripted much better. This year’s Winter Classic is memorable for other reasons. It’s the first Winter Classic played in prime time and the first NHL game where the players (and most of the 68,111 fans in attendance) were in the rain for much of the game. Thankfully, the Classic was still able to be completed Saturday night, but I’m sure the conditions affected the game a lot. The streak trailing the puck and skates made that clear. Most fans I talked to on my way out were still in great sprits, in spite of the weather conditions and (for Pittsburgh fans) the outcome of the game. Capitals fans and Penguins fans were even chanting “Flyers suck” on and off on their very long way out of the building in the crowds – something on which they could agree even when the Capitals had just beaten the Penguins.
The visiting team has now won ¾ of the Winter Classic games, so the 2011 Winter Classic outcome is probably not very surprising. The good news for Penguins fans is that it’s just ONE regular season game. Though the buildup is high and the event is amazing, in the end the Winter Classic is just one out of 82 games played in the regular season. The Penguins beat the Capitals in Washington to start out their 2010-11 series and the Caps beat the Pens at home in the Winter Classic. The Pens are still two points ahead of the Caps in the standings, having played the same number of games (40). Sidney Crosby is still 23 points and 18 goals ahead of Alex Ovechkin this season. I’d say the Penguins are winning the war in spite of losing the Winter Classic battle and most of their fans seemed to realize this fact.
Overall, most fans seemed excited about the prime time Winter Classic game. Many fans I talked to about the change were more excited about the 8pm game than they’d been about the game when it was supposed to start at 1pm. Clearly, the 8pm start on New Year’s Day gave fans of both teams a lot more time to recover from New Year’s Eve and tailgate. Though I know hockey is popular and fans love to tailgate, I was amazed at the number of fans who were tailgating outside of Heinz Field as I walked by. Fans obviously took advantage of the later start and partied in preparation for the game.
The game itself might not have been a great example of NHL talents, but the 2011 Winter Classic will be remembered as the first Winter Classic with rain and to take place in prime time. The prime time start was so successful this year, perhaps the NHL should consider moving the Winter Classic to prime time going forward.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, attendance, Capitals, Evgeni Malkin, fans, HD, Heinz Field, Hockey, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, NHL, outdoor, Penguins, Sidney Crosby, standings, statistics, tailgating, Versus, Winter Classic
Last night, the Anaheim Ducks extended their winning streak to five games, while extending the New York Islanders’ losing streak (the longest in the NHL) to eight games.
At the start of this week (before Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators), the Ducks were ranked 12th in the western conference. Just three games later, the Ducks are now in 5th place in the west. The Ducks are currently tied (with the Washington Capitals, 1st in the NHL) for the leading winning streak (5 games). Anaheim has played more games than anyone in the NHL other than Chicago, so their standings are a bit inflated at the moment (three of the teams ahead of the Ducks in the conference, including the first place Kings, have played four fewer games).
In spite of their poor play, the Ducks have been finding ways to win. Not only do they have a 5 game winning streak, their record at home is 6-1-1. Very few teams in the NHL beat that. The Ducks realize they haven’t been playing at their best and they’re still managing to win games. Perhaps that knowledge is in the back of their minds making it difficult for them to give their all every night. Last night’s poor effort in the first period (only one shot on goal, which came short handed with less than 2 minutes remaining in the period) may be explained by the Ducks having played the night before in San Jose. After winning 5 games in a row, it’s hard to get into bad the team has looked overall in those games. Randy Carlyle often says he’s not going to analyze a win and with a winning streak like this, who can blame him? A win is a win, when all is said and done. The wins you don’t deserve count just as much as the wins where you completely shut down your opponent and outplayed them. The Ducks now have a winning record 9-7-1 and seem determined to keep their winning streak alive.
Tags: Blackhawks, Capitals, Ducks, Hockey, Honda Center, Islanders, Kings, NHL, Predators, Randy Carlyle, Sharks, standings
The Kings will finish the season with 79 points. Just 8 points ahead of last year’s finish of 71 points. Last season, the Kings were 15th in the western conference and 29th in the NHL. This season, they’ve moved up to 13th or 14th in the western conference and 24th- 26th in the NHL. (Games later today and tomorrow will control their final place in the conference and league. Not a significant improvement over last year, most argue. I can see that line of reasoning when you only look at the points and where they’ve finished in the standings. Not a big step forward. A lot of people at last night’s Ducks game were talking about how I should go to today’s Kings game and be sure to say farewell to Dean, since he’ll get fired. I hope not.
Did the Kings make the playoffs this season? No. Did they finish not far behind a playoff spot (as I thought they would)? No. However, they also didn’t finish that close to last in the NHL. Last season, they were tied in points for last place in the NHL, but won the tie breaker with Tampa Bay. This season, Tampa Bay finished in 28th or 29th place (we won’t know what place until later today or tomorrow and how many points ahead of the Islanders will be determined when the Islanders end their season tomorrow). They haven’t made many improvements, though they definitely spent a lot more money. Did they do a better job than the Kings as some suggested at the beginning of the season? Definitely not! Granted, doing a better job than the Lightning is clearly not a good argument for Lombardi being a good GM or for him to keep his job. However, it does show that Dean’s got a level head and is trying to build the Kings the smart way.
For the complete story, see the Defending Dean (Lombardi) HockeyBuzz blog.
Tags: Dean Lombardi, defense, Hockey, Kings, Lightning, NHL, standings, Terry Murray