Before I get into the Penguins game tonight, I have to mention that the Penguins really did an amazing job when they built the CONSOL Energy Center. I enjoyed it as a fan when I was there for the first two games in October (in spite of the outcome) and can’t say enough about what they did with the press box. Though I know it’s a new arena, even Anaheim doesn’t have as many staff members who seem willing to show you the way and make sure you know where you’re going (and the Honda Center employees are BEYOND friendly, for those of you who haven’t been). They seem to have thought of everything – even a shelf behind the seats for your laptop case, camera equipment, whatever… One thing I hadn’t noticed the first couple times I visited CONSOL is that they have about double the recycling cans as they do trash cans, which I think is really great. I was surprised to see more recycling than trash, but it’s great, since most of the stuff one has there is recyclable.
As everyone knows, Sidney Crosby has been on fire. Tonight, he extended his point streak to 25 games and his goal streak to 5 games. He’s leading the NHL in points by over ten and is in the goal lead, too. He’s even near the top of the +/- stats. Between his performance and Fleury’s bounce-back to above average in save percentage and goals against average, it’s no wonder the Pens are number one in the NHL at the moment. (They have played more games than many other teams in the NHL, but they’re clearly in a good position regardless of that fact.)
The Thrashers managed to score against the Penguins’ #1 penalty kill, though the Pens got a shorthanded goal later in the game. The Penguins’ fairly low (22) power play scored against the Thrashers. The Penguins and Thrashers didn’t have a major fight tonight, but other than that there’s not much tonight’s game in Pittsburgh was lacking. Penguins fans were happily cheering as they left the CONSOL Energy Center for their cars or the local bars.
Getting to watch Crosby in person really is a treat that most living in southern California get to have too rarely. Seeing the greatest players live is never something we should take for granted. The current NHL schedule has teams in the NHL playing every team at least once, but only some teams from the other conference at home and away each season. It’s a shame, since Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar of the LA Kings (who passed the puck OVER an opponent last night to set up Dustin Brown’s goal), and other super stars in the NHL aren’t seen often in cities of the other conference’s teams. We should all get to see these players every year – even if it means we have to watch our teams get roughed up a bit by some of the best in the league.
Since the weather was nothing like the forecast said it would be on Christmas Day in Pittsburgh, I’m still assuming that New Year’s Day will work out wonderfully for the Winter Classic. I remember that there were concerns last year for Boston’s Winter Classic and that went well in the end. I’m hoping all this worrying and preparation will be in vain, since the game will work well on New Year’s Day. Preparing for the worst can’t hurt, but I’m certainly hoping for the best. I’d hate for so many people to either have to miss the Winter Classic or spend a lot of money changing flights around, rearranging travel and hotel plans, etc. Especially when they still wouldn’t be positive the game would be played on the 2nd. I think even if there’s a delay the NHL has to somehow have the game on the 1st if it doesn’t rain non-stop. Moving the game by more than a few hours could be really bad for the league’s goal of trying to increase viewers and have one game every year outside on New Year’s Day. Of course, I personally believe that the Winter Classic could be the only NHL game played on New Year’s Day, but no one asked my opinion when they planned the schedule. Delaying the game could also have bad effects for where the game will be aired, since we know that NBC doesn’t have the NHL as a priority (we’ve seen that in the past with playoff hockey going into overtime and NBC airing pre-race information on horse racing instead of the end of the game). It’s also clear that many people in the US still don’t get Versus and if they do, many of them don’t know where they can find it or that they have it. It’s certainly a lot less likely that someone flipping by the channel will randomly stop on an outdoor NHL game, like friends I know who don’t watch hockey have in the past. *fingers crossed* that it works out for a 1pm game with decent weather for all the fans Saturday…
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar, CONSOL Energy Center, Hockey, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, New Year's Day, NHL, overtime, penalty kill, Penguins, playoffs, power play, Sidney Crosby, Thrashers, Versus, Winter Classic
The Kings had some decent chances, but kept missing the mark (13 missed shots) in the first two periods of their home opener against the Atlanta Thrashers. Fortunately for their fans, the Kings didn’t give up when they were down 1-0 going into the third period. They turned things around and won the game with three unanswered goals (including the empty netter at the end). Los Angeles has come from behind in both of their wins this season, which is a good sign for their fans. The Kings believe they can win and when shots don’t go in they keep trying knowing that they will eventually. That attitude and their talent should take the Kings far this season.
It had been four years since the Kings won their home opener in Staples Center and this season promises to be a lot better for Kings fans than the 2006-07 season. Their team got a taste of the playoffs last year and they’re ready to do better this time around. Expectations for the Kings are higher this year, but the team has a good attitude and is confident that they can live up to them. If Quick continues to be one of the best goalies in the league (currently 6th in save percentage and tied for 3rd with Luongo in goals against average), the future should be very bright for the Kings. He’s definitely the leader in the Kings’ successful penalty kill.
Los Angeles hosts the Vancouver Canucks (who knocked them out of the playoffs last season, but were beaten by the Kings in the season opener) Friday night at Staples Center. It’s sure to be another exciting game for their fans. Hopefully, the Kings won’t make their fans as nervous in Friday’s game. I’m sure the fans would be happier with a game where their team had the lead going into the third and kept it for a change.
Tags: Canucks, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Roberto Luongo, Staples Center, Thrashers
At this point in the season, a lot of teams are normally set in stone for the playoffs. The eastern conference has 3 teams that have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and NY Islanders) and Boston has clinched their division title/playoff spot. The western conference is a lot more up in the air. Other than San Jose (clinched the division title & playoff spot) and Detroit (clinched playoff spot), everything in the western conference is up in the air. The closer it gets to the playoffs, the less likely it is for some of the lower teams to make it into the playoffs, but there is definitely a lot more excitement this year surrounding the playoff race than I can remember in recent years.
It’s been suggested that this is largely due to the points for losing in overtime and shootouts. I didn’t feel like completely redoing the standings again this year to figure out if that’s the case. I suspect that the points for losing are a factor. Teams have been moving in and out of the playoffs for weeks in the western conference and it seems very likely that the last day or two of the season (April 11 & 12) will be very important to some of the teams in the western conference.
In spite of all the people I’ve heard who believe so strongly that the western conference is the stronger/tougher conference (due to the top two NHL teams coming from the west), teams in the eastern conference need 83 points to be in playoff standing (Montreal is in 8th place with 83 points). Teams like Edmonton (in 7th place in the west with 79 points), Anaheim (currently in 8th in the west with 78 points), and Nashville (tied with Anaheim in points, but with fewer wins) would be in 9th – 11th place in the eastern conference. The 6th place team in the western conference would just barely beat out the Montreal Canadiens for the 8th spot if the Blue Jackets were competing in the other conference. The eastern conference has more teams in the 80s & 90s than the west. Of course, the fact that each team doesn’t play every team from the opposing conference at home and away each year makes it even more difficult to argue either side of that dispute, but I think it’s worth thinking about the fact that the teams in the last two playoff spots in the west (a quarter of the qualifying teams) would not be in the playoffs if they had to qualify by the eastern conference point scale.
Tags: Blue Jackets, Bruins, Canadiens, Ducks, Hockey, Islanders, Lightning, NHL, Oilers, playoffs, Predators, Red Wings, Sharks, Thrashers
I’m a big fan of the NHL in HD and although I don’t think Versus covers the games as well as ESPN did or as NBC, CBC, TSN, MSG, or most of the FSN & other sports stations that air NHL games, I love the fact that Versus has the games they show on in HD – every single one of them. Between them, NBC, the NHL Network, and Center Ice’s HD channel, there’s almost always a game on in HD.
That being said, I thought it was pretty sad that the only HD game (in fact, the only game) in the NHL today was the last place teams of each conference (Colorado Avalanche at New York Islanders). I’m sure when Versus picked this game for national coverage they never imagined it would be the two last place teams against each other. However, it seems like they might want to consider NBC’s way of choosing what games they’re going to put on national TV. I’ll watch almost any hockey game, but even I didn’t actually care about today’s game.
The Islanders are still 10 points behind the Avalanche after tonight’s game and seem to have last place in the NHL sewn up, since they’re also 5 points behind the Atlanta Thrashers.
It’s still a very tight competition in the western conference this season. The last place Avs are only 10 points behind the 8th place Ducks, though they are the only team in the conference that’s played as many games as the Ducks so far this season.
Clearly, the next couple days will be exciting. It’s always interesting at this time of the season and the crazy rumors seem to be flying around as usual. Every fan wants to believe their team can end up getting that essential player without giving up anyone important, but we all know that’s not how it works.
Enjoy the trade deadline madness.
Tags: Avalanche, CBC, Ducks, FSN, HD, Hockey, Islanders, MSG, NBC, NHL, rumors, Thrashers, trade deadline, TSN, Versus