Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thank you, Peter


MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Hundreds of mourners packed a Toronto-area church Friday for the funeral service of former NHL player Peter Zezel.

Zezel, who played several seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, died Tuesday at the age of 44 after suffering from a rare blood disorder for the last 10 years.

Some of those in attendance included former Leafs teammates Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark, and former team GM Cliff Fletcher.

Outside the mass at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, Clark called Zezel an "ambassador for the game, an ambassador for how to love life and have fun."

The Toronto native played in the NHL for 15 seasons, including three-plus seasons with the Leafs in the early 1990s.

Over his 873-game NHL career, Zezel scored 219 goals and collected 389 assists for 608 points.


I happened to know him. Well, not too close... Peter was really nice person.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tickets price - Detroit vs. Pittsburgh


Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings
Sat, May 30 2009 8:00 PM
Joe Louis Arena - Detroit, MI

294 tickets available from $161 to $1343 each.

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins
Tue, Jun 02 2009 8:00 PM
Mellon Arena - Pittsburgh, PA

314 tickets available from $255 to $3745 each

I don't know about you but I am impressed with $3745 one-ticket-price. Who told our economy is down and Pittsburgh is dying city?

Ultimate Glory--Stanley Cup Preview



Detroit vs. Pittsburgh. Playoffs Finals...but 2008

lovecrosby87

The stage is set. The ice is solid. The players are ready to fight for Lord Stanley. For the second straight year, the Detroit Red Wings will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. My two favourite teams. Never would I have thought I would get to see my two favourite teams square off two years in a row…in fact, if you asked me this back in November, i would have laughed and said the Pens will be lucky if they even make the playoffs. Both teams are ready to go and no one wants to go home a loser.

Stanley Cup Finals

Detroit Red Wings versus Pittsburgh Penguins— Reigning Champs versus Reigning Runner-ups. At this point last year, the Wings held a 2 game lead over the “Final Freshmen” Penguins. The Penguins are determined to not let that happen again. Both teams have improved considerably since the last time they fought for Lord Stanley’s glory. Most notably, the Wings acquired Marian Hossa from..the Penguins. Hossa infamously said “I want to go on a team that has a chance of winning the Cup.” The Penguins were struck by his relatively harsh words and are determined to make him realize that the Penguins can win a Cup…without his help. Ty Conklin is also playing for the Wings this year..although, unless Osgood is injured, it is doubtful he will see any action versus his former team. Assuming Datsyk and Lidsrom are healthy, the Wings will be hard to beat. Every single line can score…even the defense. Also, it is very tough to get the puck to the net, if all deffensemen are healthy.

The Penguins have improved as well. With the acquistion of Kunitz and Guerin, the Pens now have a seasoned verteran who knows how to win the Cup..and a tough and gritty player who is not afraid to hit anyone..who also has a Stanley Cup to his name. Crosby is playing the best hockey he has ever played. He already has scored more goals than he did in last years playoffs…and there is still one round left. Malkin has also been on a tear, since being criticized for his lack of production in the first round. Staal has also improved his game since last year. This yound 20 year old is very tough to get by…he isn’t afraid to hit, has a plus rating, and when needed, he can score. He is blossoming into the ultimate defensive forward.

The Wings desperatly want to win back to back Stanley Cups. Another Cup win would be perfect for the struggling city of Detroit. On the other side, Crosby is so determined to win a Cup after suffering defeat last year..it is scary. You can bet, that if the game (or series) is on the line..Crosby will make magic happen.

This series is going to come down to defense and goaltending. Both teams can score. The Wings have strong defence but will it be strong enough to shut down the Crosby-Malkin duo (and with the help of Guerin it is that much tougher to shut out Sid)…something no team has been able to do successfully this playoffs? Penguins don’t have as good defense as the Wings…but there defensive pairings are still solid. If Datsyuk is healthy (and hey, even if he isn’t), the Wings can score from every angle and maintain puck control throughout the game.

Goaltending will be the critical factor in this series. Fleury saved the Pens quite a few times in last years Finals. So far this playoffs, he has been very good, with a few soft moments. Osgood has been the same way for the Wings. Fleury is the better goalie in the long run but Osgood has a mission to prove to his critics that he is not the Wing’s weakest link. Fleury doesn’t tend to crack under pressure or after letting in a weak goal. If Fleury stands on his head this round, the Pens are going to be damn near impossible to beat. However, Osgood is a playoff goalie. Put him in a Cup sitation, and he morphs into something incredible. If he stays healthy (along with the Wings D)…look out.

If the Pens can win at least one of the first two games then they will be very hard to beat. If the Wings take a two game lead and then win one in Pittsburgh like they did last year, then the Cup is as good as theirs.

Prediction—6 games..it doesn’t matter to me who wins! I cannot believe I am watching my two favourite teams battle for the Stanley Cup for the second straight year! It was a great birthday present last year to cheer them on in game 3…and it was a great birthday present to wake up this morning knowing one of my teams will be hoisting Lord Stanley this year. Here’s to the 2008-2009 Finals. Here’s to the Ultimate Prize. Here’s to…THE STANLEY CUP.

Red Wings - Key to Win


When rookie Darren Helm showed up at Detroit Red Wings training camp last fall with a Stanley Cup championship on his resume, his plan was to make the parent team.
But that wasn't general manager Ken Holland's plan.

Helm was sent back to the American Hockey League with Holland telling him that he would see him in the playoffs. Now Helm is back with the Red Wings, more confident, quicker off the start and perhaps ready to claim the title as the NHL's fastest forward.

When it comes to prospects, Holland's take is "they are ready when they're ready."

If you look closely at the Detroit Stanley Cup Finals roster, particularly at youngsters like Jonathan Ericsson and Helm, it's clear why this franchise is the envy of most teams around the NHL. They know how to find players, they know how to nurture them, and they know how to handle them once they are ready for market.

This is a team that picks near the bottom of the first round every year and yet they are still probably have the NHL's deepest talent well.

Their three top centers — Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula — are all draft picks and Filppula was the earliest pick at 95th in 2002. Zetterberg was drafted 210th in 1999 and Datsyuk was the 171st pick in 1998.

Johan Franzen was a fourth round pick, and most scouts had him pegged as a role player. Holland told Franzen he believed that he could score more than he showed in his first season. Today, Franzen is one of the NHL's top power forwards

The funny aspect of the Franzen story is that the Red Wings have so much talent that they may not have known how much Franzen had developed had Tomas Holmstrom not been injured last season. With Holmstrom out, his role expanded and he started scoring goals as if he were Gordie Howe.

The other day, Franzen joked that he might still be a checker had Holmstrom not gone on the injury list.

Ericsson, a 6-5 defenseman, was 291st choice in 2002, and he probably was ready to play for most teams in the NHL last season. But he wasn't ready for the Red Wings.

Coach Mike Babcock wanted him earlier than he got him.

But Holland's approach is that the Red Wings are not running apprenticeship programs. When a prospect arrives in Detroit, he wants a finished product with no assembly required.

Helm played well for the team last spring and contributed to their Stanley Cup championship run. But the Red Wings still didn't believe he was ready.

Ericsson played three seasons in the AHL, and when he showed up, he was a model of composure. He performs as if he has been in the NHL for 400 games, not 34 games, counting the playoffs.

Goaltender Thomas McCollum is a highly regarded prospect, but he has already been told he will spend two or three seasons in the AHL. Former first-round pick Jakub Kindl has played two full seasons in the AHL, and he's probably going to spend another one there before he gets his chance to be a Red Wing.

The perception is that the Red Wings draft better than other teams, but their success isn't just about having scouts with sharp eyes for talent.

It's also about the commitment they have to slow-cooking prospects in an era when most GMs seem to want to microwave. Holland believes that coaches all like "new toys" but they become bored easily if the toy doesn't work properly. His belief is that the team's interests are better served if the toys show up performing like they should.

The Red Wings now have a lengthy history as a puck possession team, which began under former coach Scotty Bowman's command. Scouts look for players that fit that game plan. The Red Wings aren't looking for the toughest guy in the Western Hockey League. They are looking for the guy in the WHL who can protect the puck when he's being heavily checked. They are looking for the guy who can make plays at high speed. They are looking for the defenseman who passes as well as he defends. The Red Wings look for "between the whistles" toughness, not "after the whistle" toughness.

They look for the same style of players when they make trades or sign free agents. Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson didn't have noteworthy careers until they were brought into Detroit's system. They became valuable NHL players under the Red Wings' guidance. The Red Wings liked Cleary's ability to play a variety of roles and they liked Samuelsson's big shot and offensive instincts.

Even the players understand that there are benefits to playing in this organization. Veterans take less to play in Detroit. Prospects are willing to wait longer to get there.

No game plan is flawless. And even the best franchises guess wrong on players and have down seasons. But in a salary cap world, it's hard not to look at Detroit's success, and its opportunity to win back-to-back titles, and not view the Red Wings as the NHL's model franchise.

They can't outspend anyone, and yet they seem to receive more talent for their dollar.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Red Wings joint Pens in the Finals



NIKALE PHOTOS

Brian Compton NHL.com

If you go by his regular-season numbers, Darren Helm has just 23 games of NHL experience.

If you go by the past two postseasons, you'd think the 22-year-old has been doing this for years.

Helm has yet to score an NHL goal in the regular season. But his third goal of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs came at 3:58 of overtime on Wednesday night, lifting his team to a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final with a pulsating 2-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals at Joe Louis Arena.

Not bad for a kid who played 55 games in the American Hockey League this season, even though he played a big role in Detroit's run to the championship 12 months ago. Like many of his teammates, there's something about this time of year that clearly brings out the best in the native of St. Andrews, Manitoba.

"Being in Grand Rapids (the Wings' AHL team) gave me a pretty big opportunity to go down there and develop," said Helm, who scored twice for the Wings last spring and went 13-24-37 in the AHL this season. "Coming up here and getting a chance to play, it's been a great experience for me. I try to pride myself on being a key player in playoffs. That's what I tried to do throughout last year's run and this year's run, as well."

With Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk out of the lineup with a foot injury, Helm has been one of several players to step up. Skating on a line with Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Holmstrom, the trio kept the puck in deep before Helm found it loose in the crease, where he poked it past Cristobal Huet to create pandemonium at The Joe.

"I thought our line did a good job keeping the puck in," Helm said. "We put a lot of pressure on them. I just saw it sitting there and got a good whack on it just to make sure it went in."
Red Wings center Darren Helm, who had at least eight hits in a game for the second time in this series. He had seven in Game 4 and finished with 12 in Game 5 -- to go along with the OT winner.
"I'm going to remember that one for a while," Helm said.

MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO DARREN HELM

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Russian Veterans Departure.



Florida's Igor Larionov vs. Detroit's Sergei Fedorov

It was Hall of Fame weekend in Toronto and soon-to-be inducted Igor Larionov shared stories from his playing days with the crowd around him. Inevitably the discussion turned to his time in Detroit, where he won three Stanley Cups under Scotty Bowman. In 1997, Larionov and the famed Russian Five helped bring the first Stanley Cup to Detroit since 1955.

It also was Bowman and the Russian Five who implemented the puck-possession style of hockey the Red Wings continue to win with today.

"If you want to control the game, you have to control the puck," Larionov said last November before his induction. "Why should you give the puck away and go and chase? …That game was accepted in Detroit, even now the team is playing so well. I was part of that transition."

When Larionov retired in 2004 after one final season in New Jersey, he was 43 years old. But in those last years, he made a huge impact on an Original Six franchise. And all of hockey.

Now, with Russian players opting to spend their final seasons playing for the KHL, the NHL is being robbed of impact Russian veterans—the Larionovs of this generation.

On Tuesday, news broke that Sergei Fedorov was close to signing with the Russian KHL. His teammate in Washington, Viktor Kozlov, signed a two-year deal with the Russian league, according to an RDS report. Don't be surprised if Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is pursued heavily by the KHL after the playoffs.

In an e-mail to Sporting News Today, agent Pat Brisson said Fedorov does not have a done deal.

"Sergei will be exploring his options on the trip to Russia next week," Brisson wrote. "In the meantime, I will continue to speak with the Capitals."

Fedorov, 39, was a calming influence on the Capitals this season where he was a mentor to young Russians like Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin. Watching Fedorov beat Henrik Lundqvist in the third period of a first-round Game 7 also showed he still has an elite scorer's touch. The Capitals made serious strides this season, and Fedorov was a big part of that.

Detroit goalie Chris Osgood won two Stanley Cups with Fedorov and finds the trend of veteran Russians leaving the NHL early disturbing.

"To lose those guys is huge. We have to figure out a way to keep guys like Sergei and (Jaromir) Jagr and those great older veteran players," Osgood said. "I think it's important to have older guys like that, that younger European players can look up to when they get over here and understand how to handle themselves on and off the ice. That's what guys like Igor Larionov did for him."

But if this is it for Fedorov in the NHL, it's also time for the fans in Detroit to embrace his role in the Red Wings' success—past and present. The same fans who booed Fedorov during every return to Joe Louis Arena after he left for Anaheim in 2003 will be the first to cheer tonight if the Red Wings—and their Russian inspired puck-possession offense—put away the Blackhawks and advance to another Stanley Cup final.

Reacting to news of Fedorov's possible departure to the KHL, fans on Detroit sports talk radio discussed the worthiness of retiring Fedorov's No. 91. It shouldn't even be a debate.

Outside the Red Wings' locker room, the all-time award winners are painted on a cinder block wall. Fedorov's name is everywhere - there's a Hart Trophy, a Lester B. Pearson Trophy, a pair of Selkes. There's also three Stanley Cups.

He loved his time in Detroit. Kirk Maltby said Fedorov still spends a lot of the summer in Michigan. Fedorov recently said he looks back at his time in Detroit and playing for Scotty Bowman fondly. He enjoyed both.

"Yeah, I certainly did," Fedorov said.

And playing for Bowman?

"If you played on the top six forwards, you play all the time," Fedorov said. "I personally like that idea very much."

He's not a top six forward anymore. He may not even be an NHL player anymore if the Russian reports are true. But with the Red Wings on the verge of another Stanley Cup final, his influence is still felt in Detroit.

"The Russian Five really changed the whole game in Detroit and then through the league," Chris Chelios told SN Today. "Everybody loves and respects what (Fedorov) did for the organization."

Congratulations to Pittsburgh



MALKIN AND CROSBY. Getty Images

Pittsburgh has won all three of its series this postseason on the road; a good sign for the Stanley Cup Final, where the Penguins will open on the road against the Western Conference champion and will need at least one road win to be crowned champs. Pittsburgh won in three very hostile buildings: Wachovia Center (Philadelphia), Verizon Center (Washington) and the RBC Center

Peter Zezel dies at 44



Peter Zezel, a solid two-way center during 15 seasons in the NHL, died Tuesday at age 44.
Zezel had struggled on and off with a rare and serious blood disease called hemolytic anemia the past 10 years, and had been in critical condition in 2001. CSNPhilly.com reported that Zezel was taken off life support Tuesday after going into a coma last week. He had undergone chemotherapy and suffered a brain hemorrhage after a recent spleen operation.

Zezel was born in Toronto and played junior hockey with the Marlies before the Philadelphia Flyers chose him with their first pick, No. 41, in the 1983 Entry Draft. He made the Flyers the next year and had 15 goals and 61 points as a rookie, helping Philadelphia advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

He scored a career-best 33 goals and 72 points in 1986-87 for the Flyers and recorded a combined 49 assists for Philadelphia and St. Louis in 1988-89 after he was traded to the Blues for Mike Bullard. He matched his career-high with 72 points for the Blues in 1989-90.

Zezel again helped the Flyers advance to the Final in 1987, and was part of the Leafs' teams that made the conference finals in 1993 and 1994. He finished with the Vancouver Canucks in 1998-99.
In 873 NHL games with Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, Toronto, Dallas, New Jersey and Vancouver, he scored 219 goals with 389 assists and was a plus-39.

"On behalf of the Maple Leafs, I want to convey our deepest sympathies to Peter’s family, friends and former teammates," Toronto President and General Manager Brian Burke said in a statement released Tuesday night. "He was the consummate professional and he always carried himself with great class as a human being. Peter will be greatly missed."

Added former teammate Mark Osborne, a member of the Leafs' Alumni Board: "Peter was the ultimate caring friend and teammate. He was so dedicated to his family and friends and he would always freely give of his time and energies to help someone else. He was truly a passionate and loyal friend both on and off the ice. Our hockey family is devastated."

Zezel was also active in charitable work throughout his NHL career.

"What a lot of people don’t know is that Peter never said 'no' to someone wanting his autograph or anything someone wanted," former teammate Rick Tocchet, now coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, told CSNPhilly.com. "'Can you go to a school or a hospital?' He'd do it. He was pretty special when it came to that."

Zezel remained active in hockey during his post-NHL career, running a successful hockey school and coaching in the Greater Toronto Hockey League with the Don Mills Hockey Association. He was also an active member of the NHL Alumni Association and completed countless hours of charitable work during and following his hockey career.

"Peter will forever be remembered as a great teammate and a wonderful individual who touched the lives of many both on and off the ice," the family said in a statement. "In his typical character of generosity, Peter donated his organs through the Trillium Gift of Life Network."

"What a lot of people don’t know is that Peter never said 'no' to someone wanting his autograph or anything someone wanted. Can you go to a school or a hospital?' He'd do it. He was pretty special when it came to that."
-- Rick Tocchet on Peter Zezel

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fedorov returns to Russia?



NIKALE PHOTOS

It appears Sergei Fedorov is ready to leave the Washington Capitals and play in the Kontinental Hockey League next season.

Citing sources in Russia, RDS.ca is reporting that Fedorov is about to agree to a two-year deal with Russia's Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

The report indicates the two-year contract will see Fedorov collect $3.8 million per season.

Fedorov would be joining his younger brother Fedor on the Metallurg Magnitogorsk roster.

Last season, Fedorov scored 11 goals and added 22 assists for 33 points with the Capitals. In 14 playoff games, he scored one goal and eight points.

Over his 18-year NHL career, Fedorov scored 483 goals and added 696 assists for 1,179 points in 1,248 games. Besides the Capitals, he also played for the Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets. He won three Stanley Cups and one Hart Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last Night Best Player - Marian Hossa



By Brian Compton - NHL.com NIKALE PHOTOS


They kept saying it was only a matter of time before Marian Hossa buried his chances.

On Sunday afternoon, the talented winger did just that as he scored two goals in the Detroit Red Wings' 6-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals at the United Center.

It was a long time coming for Hossa, who had just four goals this postseason entering Sunday's action. All of those goals were scored in two games, which left Hossa scoreless in 12 of 14 playoff contests.

But with Pavel Datsyuk still out -- the Hart Trophy candidate suffered a foot injury in Game 2 -- Hossa found some chemistry with center Valtteri Filppula. The pair factored in on three of Detroit's goals, and it was Hossa who got the party started with a shorthanded tally at 8:41 of the first period.
"We were missing key players on our team," said Hossa, who hadn't scored since Game 4 at Anaheim. "We had to step up. I knew I had to drive to the net more and be more dangerous and play a little more physical. When you're getting chances and the puck doesn't go in for you, it's human nature you start pressing. I told myself I just had to play more relaxed and play with my instincts and keep things simple."

Hossa and Filppula did just that on Sunday. With his team trying to silence a raucous, capacity crowd, Hossa took a cross-ice feed from Filppula and ripped it past Cristobal Huet for the game's opening goal. Filppula gave the Wings a 3-0 lead with a power-play goal 1:13 into the second before Hossa beat Huet with a shot from the slot less than three minutes later to make it 4-1.
Hossa's second goal came just 12 seconds after Jonathan Toews had cut Detroit's lead in half.

"I thought ‘Hoss’ had an unbelievable game," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought he was awesome. We needed him to step up today, and he really did. The fourth goal put a knife in them. He did a great job there. I thought him and Fil were fantastic."

Whether or not the two will skate together in Wednesday's Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena remains to be seen. Babcock said after Sunday's win that Datsyuk is close to returning.

All of Hossa's goals this postseason have come in the fourth game of the series.

"He obviously scores when he has the chances," Filppula said. "He made a real nice play on both of those goals. He's a fast player. He can really score and he can shoot."

MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO MARIAN HOSSA

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Last Night Best Player - Patrick Sharp



Brian Compton | NHL.com NIKALE PHOTOS

This was the type of goal Patrick Sharp dreamed of scoring as a child while skating on the frozen ponds in his native Thunder Bay, Ontario.

With his team's season basically on the line, Sharp pulled out the defibrillator and pumped life back into the Chicago Blackhawks when he took a pretty feed from Samuel Pahlsson and ripped a wrist shot past Chris Osgood at 1:52 of overtime for a 4-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at an electric, yet relieved United Center.
"I think I got one in double overtime once in the minors and in college," said Sharp, who also scored a game-opening power-play goal 8:45 into the first. "But to do it in front of our home fans … it was pretty electric all night long. The fans weren't too happy with the three-goal letdown, but it was pretty loud when that puck went in. It was a great feeling."
"We have no pressure here … we're just having fun playing the game," Sharp said. "The crowd was big for us all night long, especially in overtime. It was a good feeling."
For Sharp, the timing couldn't have been any better. Not only did he give his team life, but he also scored arguably the biggest goal of his existence in front of someone awfully close to him -- someone who shared the same childhood dreams on the same ponds all those years ago. "My brother's in town and he hasn't seen a Hawks game live since last year," Sharp said. "It's a good feeling to put one in tonight in front of him and celebrate with the guys."

MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO PATRICK SHARP





MARTIN HAVLAT. LOOKS LIKE CONCUSSION...

My Photos From This Game Are HERE:
MY HOCKEY PHOTO ALBUMS

Friday, May 22, 2009

Calgary's Keenan is fired



By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist. NIKALE PHOTOS


Calgary Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter announced Friday that coach Mike Keenan has been relieved of his duties.

Keenan, 59, became the Flames' coach on June 14, 2007, replacing Jim Playfair. In their two seasons under Keenan, the Flames went 88-60-16 and twice made the playoffs -- but were eliminated in the first round both times. Calgary finished second to Vancouver in the Northwest Division after leading the division for most of the season and was fifth in the Western Conference in 2008-09. But the Flames were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the opening round. Last spring, they fell to San Jose in seven games.

Keenan, who had one year remaining on his contract, said following the playoff loss to Chicago that he believed he would be back to finish his deal.

"I have another year left on my contract," Keenan said. "My expectation is to be here to fulfill my contract."

That didn't happen.

"Our team did not meet expectations,” Sutter said in a statement. “Following detailed evaluation over the past three weeks, and taking into consideration all factors affecting our season ending result, we believe this is a necessary change required to allow our team to continue toward our objective of winning the Stanley Cup."

The Flames have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon. The team said Keenan's assistants -- Playfair, Rich Preston, Rob Cookson and Daniel Marcoux -- "remain subject to further review and evaluation."

Calgary was Keenan's eighth stop as an NHL coach. He's won one Stanley Cup, with the New York Rangers in 1994. His 672 career victories are fourth on the all-time list.

MY COMMENT:

What are people!
It’s not too smart! I know Mike is a “Russian Style” coach hard to get along with, but he has brought this team to playoffs from NOTHING! According to their roster they had to be out of run together with Colorado and LA
.



Last Night Best Player - Geno Malkin



EUGENE MALKIN. NIKALE PHOTOS

The Hurricanes dropped a one-goal decision in Game 1 and believed they could win Game 2 -- something they've done in each of their last five series -- to take the series back to Carolina all even.
It didn't happen - largely because of Eugene Malkin.
Early in the second period of Thursday night's game at Mellon Arena, Carolina's Scott Walker felled Malkin with a clean -- but dangerous -- hip check. At the time, the game was tied 3-3, but Carolina seemed to have a good dose of momentum after erasing two one-goal leads.
But suddenly Malkin was angry at the Walker hit, as well as some intimidation tactics by other Hurricanes, particularly Chad LaRose. So Malkin did what he does best -- he took over the game with his all-world talent, scoring the final two goals of his first hat trick in the third period to lead Pittsburgh to a 7-4 victory and 2-0 series lead.
Nobody has ever denied Malkin his talent. However, there have been questions about his willingness to play through the hard areas of the ice -- especially when he struggled offensively in the Stanley Cup Final last year.
But on this night, nobody was questioning Malkin's will.
"He wanted to be out there," forward Max Talbot said. "Even when the game was chippy, he wanted to be a part of that."
"That's the way you want to react," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said of Malkin's offensive outburst, which also included an assist on Talbot's game-tying goal in the second period. "If anything, you want to use it as motivation to play. There are times when it might frustrate you, but you can't let it show -- especially in the playoffs. So that's the best way to do it, and he proved that tonight."
Malkin, who already had a goal and an assist before the Walker hit, finished with four points in the contest and now has a playoff-high 25 points -- including 13 in the last five games.
Afterward, Malkin tried to downplay his contribution, although he had to admit that he found it "awesome" when the sold-out Mellon Arena crowd littered the ice with hats after his third - and most spectacular goal -- made it 6-4 with 7:35 left in the game.

"It's just one game," Malkin said. "I try to play every game and smart.".

MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO EUGENE MALKIN




STAAL vs. STAAL. Episode 2. 2-0 to Jordan.

My Photos From This Game Are HERE:
MY HOCKEY PHOTO ALBUMS

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ovie for Hart?



NIKALE PHOTOS

In what could be a hint at the eventual Hart Trophy winner for NHL MVP, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has been named Sporting News' Player of the Year, as 147 of his 292 peers have voted for the award.

The dynamic Russian scored a league-leading 56 goals in 2008/09 and has recorded three seasons of 50-plus goals in his first four years in the National Hockey League. The only other players to have accomplished that feat are Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.

The player affectionately known as "Ovy" also finished the regular season with 528 shots, which is 156 more than the next highest total from a player.

“When he's got the puck, you have to make sure you're ready because he's going to fire away and he's going to fire away quick,” said Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. “He's dangerous with his shot from anywhere in the zone. There are not a lot of guys who can score from anywhere.”

Ovechkin finished the season with 110 points.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last Night Best Player - Nicklas Lidstrom



NIKALE PHOTOS

Have you seen a lot of Patrick Kane first two games Chicago vs. Detroit series? So do I. The best young forward of the Conference and the main factor of Blackhawks success in the second round of playoffs became invisible in Detroit. The 2007 first draft pick has 3 shots and -5 in these games. But I am not going to blame him. Why? Nicklas Lidstrom is in charge of covering him personally. The Norris Trophy nominee had another incredible night to add to his outstanding career. He is not known for unusual speed, deadly checks or killing slapshots. But I haven’t seen the player with better positioning play than Nicklas. It looks like he never does mistakes.

MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO NICKLAS LIDSTROM


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MY HOCKEY PHOTO ALBUMS

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Detroit Wins in OT



Mikael Samuelsson scores in OT


Nikolai Khabibulin stops the puck

NIKALE PHOTOS

Staal vs. Staal - 1-0 to Pens



Eric Staal vs. Jordan Staal. NIKALE PHOTOS

My Photos From This Game Are HERE:
MY HOCKEY PHOTO ALBUMS

Last Night Best Player - Marc-Andre Fleury



NIKALE PHOTOS

Pitsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury didn't have to make many saves, but several of his 23 stops were of the highlight-reel variety. A second-period leg-pad save against Jussi Jokinen and a late save on Eric Staal from the doorstep were among the denied chances that will have the Hurricanes shaking their heads long into the night.

"He was big for us," Crosby said. "We didn't get the start we wanted. They got some quality chances early on. Usually when you are at home, you're not talking about weathering the storm, but he did that for us tonight."
"We had two breakdowns in the first period and they resulted in two goals, which was tough, but I thought our game was there and we created a lot of offense and Fleury made some huge saves, especially in the first period," Carolina's Eric Staal said.
"Both goaltenders played really well tonight," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our guy was very good. He made a couple of key saves for us at different times in the game when Carolina was carrying the play or had good chances. This is the time of the year you need that from your goaltender and Marc-Andre certainly gave us that tonight."

MY "THIS NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO MARC-ANDRE FLEURY

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

This Night Best Player - Dan Cleary



NIKALE PHOTOS

Dan Cleary paced the Red Wings with a pair of goals in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday. Cleary scored 2 goals, had 3 shots on net, 4 goals opportunities and +3 rating in today’s semi-finals opener. His determination and energy were outstanding even for playoffs. The first ever Newfoundlander who won the Stanley Cup last summer now Cleary has 11 points in 12 post season games leading whole league with +13 rating. You should probably understand Dan’s player personality better if I tell you that his favourite players are Wayne Gretzky and Garry Roberts, aren’t you? Not the worst combination of skills and spirit, right?

MY "THIS NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO DAN CLEARY

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Second Round. "Who Is Hot and Who Is Not..."


Dear Friends,

The second round of 2009 is become history. It was one of the best (if not the best) second round I have ever seen. Three games 7 and one series that ended in six – it says a lot. The quality of hockey itself was terrific. The effort of every game shown by every team was fantastic. Anyway, traditionally I would like to bring to your attention my version of “Who is Hot” and “Who is Not” based on the second round of the 2009 Stanley Cup. I will be more than glad to get your opinion on this point!

“WHO IS HOT”

It’s definitely hard task. Ovechkin has got 14 points in 7 games. He becomes the first player to register 2 points-per-game-series since 1995, scoring 8 goals in 7 games. Johan Franzen is Red Wings playoffs scoring machine. Young Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane with his unthinkable hat trick in the last game. Or maybe it’s Cam Ward who was the shipwrecking rock for Bruins battleship? Awakened Geno Malkin or Sergei Gonchar who came back to game 7 playing on “one knee”? Maybe amazing Corey Perry or Jonas Hiller from Anaheim? Again, it’s your choice.

Being Capitals fan I have to admit – my second round “Who Is Hot” selection is Penguins Sidney Crosby. For me his brilliant performance against Washington finally proved his superstar status erased all criticism which he has got during past two seasons. Sidney carried Pittsburgh trough whole series scoring the goals, assisting to his partners but much more important he set the excellent example to his teammates how to fight in each episode, every game. He is true captain. Crosby behaviour is the key factor to the Pittsburgh success specially when trailing 2-0 after the first two games. Good luck, Sid, in the semis.

The hottest team which continues to surprise me is Chicago. This team plays vital, enthusiastic, offensive style of hockey scoring tons of goals against the top NHL goalies, allows tons of goals against only to come back in some romantic unbelievable way. I haven’t seen such type of hockey to be successful in playoffs for decades. Thank you, Blackhawks!



“WHO IS NOT”

I won’t give you too long list for election. Two regular season Norris Trophy finalist are on this list. Bruins Zdeno Chara failed to neutralize Canes offensive leader Eric Staal who dominated for the most games during this series. The shoulder injure reason of Caps Mike Green playoffs “absence” may convince you but not me. The one of the best League defenseman was, in my opinion, the worst in both teams during this series. Varlamov and Fleury both have allowed some amount of the goals which not supposed to be allowed by playoffs goalies. Detroit forwards Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsuyk are far away from their normal level.

But this unpleasant award in my opinion goes to Washington forward Alexander Semin. His impact to his team play was negative, his plus-minus is horrible, he scored 0 goals, he has taken selfish penalties, he produced a lot of giveaways. Boudreau’s comment on Semin’s “undisclosed” injure AFTER playoffs finished for Caps is ridiculous. And on the top of everything is his stupid comments about Crosby who has truly shown “what is so special about him” as well as Semin did.



NIKALE PHOTOS

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Washington Capitals Season



Dear Washington fans,


The long 2008-09 NHL season is over now for Ovie and Co. Its 24 hours after this painful game 7 lost which ended Capitals season. Even I believe the emotional level is still high and negative I think we can discuss some “pros” and “contras” of this year in general and playoffs in particular regarding to the Washington Capitals. This is the list of topics that I would like to give you to discuss. Feel free to leave your comment or put a new question related to Caps.

1. Did this Caps season satisfy you and match your expectations?
2. Did this Caps playoffs satisfy you and match your expectations?
3. After the Pens series what do you now think about Varlamov?
4. Don’t you think Alex Semin is not “playoffs” style of player?
5. What was the reason for Green’s playoffs “absence”?
6. Don’t you think that Nylander is overpaid for his role to Caps this season?
7. Don’t you think Caps have to trade Theodore if he is not good enough for playoffs?
8. Don’t you think it’s not OK having team captain (Chris Clark) injured for ¾ of the season every year?
9. Don’t you think the Washington organization put way too much weight on one guy shoulders?
10. Don’t you think Caps have some players just waiting Ovie to win the games by himself?


Regards,
NIKALE

See You Soon, Alex!



WASHINGTON -- Prior to heading to Verizon Center for Game 7, Alex Ovechkin sat in front of the television, staring at the Detroit Red Wings throttling the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Final.He should have changed the channel. "Detroit went up, 4-0," Ovechkin said late Wednesday night, "and after that, I thought, 'Jesus, it can't be like that.'" Unfortunately for Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, it was almost just like that.The Penguins needed only 2:12 more than the Red Wings needed on May 31, 2002, to take a 4-0 lead in this highly anticipated Game 7. It was lights out early at Verizon Center -- and Ovechkin couldn't believe it.The final score was 6-2, better than the 7-0 final in that Red Wings-Avalanche debacle, but the final four goals Wednesday night, including Ovechkin's 11th and last of the 2009 playoffs, were nothing more than filler in the box score."They just scored everything," Ovechkin said with a deadpanned look on his face, droopy eyes and messy hair. "They have chances to score and they scored. That's it."

What's worse for the Capitals' magnificent No. 8 is that he had early chances to score before the Penguins chased Simeon Varlamov from the net the same way the Red Wings chased Patrick Roy seven years ago.He couldn't capitalize, and that's a weight Ovechkin will carry with him into his longer-than-anticipated summer."Especially in a Game 7, it's so hard when you're so close," Ovechkin said. "I tell you if we had scored one goal, if I had scored one goal, maybe it's going to be a different game. They use their chances, but we don't, especially me. The first two shots, in my position, I have to score."Ovechkin was limited to three shots on goal. He scored on the last one -- but he easily could have scored on his first two as well if not for Marc-Andre Fleury. A mere 80 seconds into the game, Fleury came far out of his crease to cut down the angle Ovechkin had and gobbled up No. 8's hard drive from the high slot. Just 100 seconds later, only three minutes into the game, Fleury made the save of the night.Ovechkin got free on a breakaway by blowing past Rob Scuderi. He kept the puck on his forehand but shot it right into Fleury's outstretched catching glove, which was about a foot off the ice as Fleury was falling to his own left. "Yeah, I think I do the right thing, (but) I just shoot the glove," Ovechkin said. "I was afraid when (Scuderi) was behind me, when he fell I was afraid his stick would hit my stick and I lose a little bit balance, so I can't go to my backhand. I had to use my normal hand, and I just missed it."If Ovechkin scores there, who knows what happens? Maybe Sidney Crosby and Craig Adams still score twice within eight seconds later on in the first period. Maybe they don't.That's the mystery that now haunts Ovechkin, whose goal late in the second period came off a giveaway by Fleury and made it 5-1."I didn't score the breakaway, and if I score the first goal maybe it's going to be a different game," he said. "They scored the first two goals and they go back and use our mistakes. They're experienced guys and they're good."Struck with disappointment, Ovechkin didn't want to talk any more about himself, but it should be noted that he finished with 14 points in the series, becoming only the eighth player in NHL history to average two points per game in a playoff series.Despite being injured, which Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau admitted in his post-game press conference, Ovechkin had 8 goals and 6 assists against the Penguins, barely besting Crosby's 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists). "He had 14 points in seven games playing against their best defensive players all the time," Boudreau said. "So, I mean, his play was what it was -- magnificent. And, he is another one that if this was the regular season, he wouldn't be playing. If you want to know how good he is, that's how good he is."
When it was finally and mercifully over and the teams were meeting in the traditional handshake lines, Ovechkin took the time to mend some old wounds.He grabbed Sergei Gonchar, the Pittsburgh defenseman and fellow Russian he took out with a knee-on-knee collision just 14:55 into Game 4, and told him he was sorry."I just tell him I don't want to hit him and I just said, 'Sorry,' " Ovechkin said. "I explained what happened over there. I have a good relationship (with him). I don't want to hit guys to get them injured."

Ovechkin did a chest bump with Brooks Orpik, a defenseman he battled with all series, jawing back and forth on the ice and off it. He had a quick talk with Bill Guerin and then, when he met Crosby at center ice, he had a few words for his rival and the Pens' captain."I just wished him good luck and tell him to win the Stanley Cup," Ovechkin said. "You always wish good luck when you lose to a great team. It's hockey. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Right now, they win."

nhl.com

SEE YOU SOON, ALEX!

Last Night Best Player - Sidney Crosby




Sidney Crosby finished the series-within-a-series with 8 goals and 13 points. Ovechkin, no slouch, matched Crosby with 8 goals and added 6 assists to outscore Crosby, 14-13. But when it mattered most, in Game 7 at Verizon Center, it was Crosby scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist as the Pens skated away with a dominating 6-2 victory. Penguins TV broadcaster Bob Errey won a pair of Stanley Cups playing with Mario Lemieux and has watched almost every game of Crosby's career.
"He's a big-time player," Errey told NHL.com. "He's the leader of the hockey club. If there's one player I want, if you give me that vote today, I'll take Sidney Crosby. He's great on and off the ice, he's great for his teammates. He goes into the dirty areas to score goals, he scores big goals. We didn't know what he'd do in a Game 7, but we're not surprised by what he's doing here. I'm not surprised.".

MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO SIDNEY CROSBY

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The dawn of a new Russian global hockey dynasty?



In case you didn't notice, there was an international tournament that took place in Bern, Switzerland recently. As much as even some of my fellow Russian speaking writers want to downplay the importance of the IIHF World Championships and the victory, it was an important one.
After Russia again captured the gold medal at the worlds, defeating Canada 2-1, defenseman Denis Grebeshkov said he believe it was the start of a new Russian hockey dynasty.
But Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators may be right when he said that by no means this is the start of the new dynasty.
No one can forget how the Russian juniors were crushed by their Canadian counterparts just two years ago in an eight-game series, with Russia unable to win even one game. Simeon Varlamov was in goal for Russia. And trust me, he did not forget the humiliation.
The Russians have, however, shown signs of recovery from 15 years abysmal results on the world hockey stage. The likes of Nikita Filatov, Evgeni Grachev, Dmitry Kurgyshev and others are the product of the new Russian hockey wave. Kirill Kabanov, a 16-year-old Russian, is now predicted by many to go No. 1 overall in the NHL draft two years from now.
And there is no other opponent for any of the Russian teams than Team Canada. And there is no bigger stage for the two teams than the 2010 Games in Vancouver. I had a chance to chat with Steve Yzerman about the upcoming Olympics a few months ago in Pittsburgh. While Yzerman also tried to downplay the importance of the Russia-Canada final, he admitted that this is a "historic rivalry."
The emergence of the KHL has left only the brightest Russian stars to shine on this side of the pond. For the first time ever we have three Russians finalists for the Hart Trophy (and all of them still in the Stanley Cup playoffs, before this evening.) And all of them are eager to play for their country.
"No, we don't have anyone who can play like Ovechkin," Yzerman told me when I asked him whether there is a player in Canada who can play with the skill and energy of the Washington Capitals superstar.
Guess what Pavel Datsyuk did to get ready for Game 5 against the Ducks? He watched the 2009 final against Canada.
"Not only do I know the score, I actually watched the final right before the game against the Ducks! It is so awesome to win gold two years in a row. Great, guys! Congratulations! There can be no better present for the Victory Day! [May 9 is the Victory Day in Russia]" Datsyuk told Sovetsky Sport's Dmitry Malinovsky in Detroit. Datsyuk will be an automatic choice for the Russian national team this upcoming Olympics.
He will be given a ride for his money to center the first line from Evgeni Malkin.
Is it time for Russia to dominate the world? Players Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk certainly think so.
Kovalchuk was electric after the gold medal win.
"Did I get my energy from Red Bull? A little bit. But the fans were our Red Bull! Did you see how many Russian fans were in the stands?" Kovalchuk told Sovetsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov. "This is a historic victory for us. This is Russia's 25th title in history of the tournament. We overtook Canada now. And wherever we go now, we should be talked about as the No. 1 team in the world."
Indeed, for the first time since its establishment in 2004, Russia leads the IIHF Power Rankings as the number one team in the world.
"It's good. I know you guys are pissed off a little bit. But I think it was an unbelievable game," Kovalchuk told TSN after the game.
Is Russia the best in the world? We will know the answer next February. One can only hope that the tournament organizers will let Canada and Russia meet in the final game.


By Dmitry Chesnokov
ca.sports.yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

MY OWN PHOTO OF THE DAY



CANUCKS ROBERTO LUONGO. NIKALE PHOTOS

Last Night Best Player - Patrick Kane



NIKALE PHOTOS

Patrick Kane tallied the Blackhawks' first playoff hat trick in 15 years en route to a 7-5 win over the Canucks in Game 6 Monday at the UC, sealing Chicago's first trip to the Conf. Finals since '95
"Winning this series was like getting our first job after graduation,” said Patrick Kane.
The Buffalo, N.Y., native notched his team-leading sixth, seventh and eighth goals on Monday while also adding an assist. "It's about time I got the first hat trick. I've been waiting two years. I guess it can't come in a better game than this," the 20-year-old Kane said.

MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO PATRICK KANE

Monday, May 11, 2009

MY OWN PHOTO OF THE DAY



NIKALE PHOTOS

RUSSIA WINS 2009 WORLD CHAMP



SPORT-EXPRESS PHOTO

Yesterday the Russian ice hockey national team became world champion for the second consecutive year having outplayed Canada in the final.
In the contemporary history there was no a tournament with a more easily predictable final. And more desirable one. Everybody waited for the second after Quebec series of Russian-Canadian opposition in Switzerland.
"I saw how our guys appeared together on the ice in the morning," said the Russian Ice hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak. "They usually do it one by one, without haste."
"And today [May 10] they got together earlier and were waiting for the training session to start. That is a good sign. Only a team that is ready for the toughest tryout behaves this way."
"You know that before the semifinal with Belarus I was so worried that could not sleep a wink for half of the night," confessed Tretyak. "And before the final I slept quite calmly."
"It is obvious that the last fight is the most difficult but we have already achieved a lot at the World Championship and felt that we are able to win the main fixture."
"And I am also very glad with the positive emotions of Bryzgalov. After the success in the game with the USA no one should worry about his psychological state."
Ilya Bryzgalov starred also in the third period. Hу saved everything that was intended to get into the net behind him. And not for nothing did our goalie was awarded the MVP of the final title.

Last Night Best Player - Ilia Kovalchuk



SPORT-EXPRESS PHOTO

Ilya Kovalchuk became MVP of the World Championship, and though he failed to score in the final he spent more than the half of it – 30:33 to be exact – on the ice. More important - he carried the team on his shoulders through the World Championship from the very first game till the last seconds of the final. His scoring abilities and outstanding leadership were the key factors to the Russia win.


MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO ILIA KOVALCHUK

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Last Night Best Player - Eric Stall



NIKALE PHOTOS

Eric Staal scored twice to become the franchise's all-time playoff points leader yesterday. More important he has Carolina driven to impressive 4:1 win that gave Cans 3-1 lead against Boston.
“It seems like every time we need a goal or a big play Eric comes and shows up,” Ruutu said. “That’s why he’s a great leader and one of the best players in the world. He shows up in the toughest times.”
“For me personally, I’m just so excited to get to the playoffs,” said Staal, who leads Carolina with 12 points in 11 postseason games. “It was a real, real tough two years missing, especially last year when we were so close. Coming off winning the Stanley Cup you remember how fun and how awesome it was and you want to be back there so badly. It has been a long two years. I feel good where my game is at and I’m finding areas where pucks are going in.”


MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO ERIC STAAL

Friday, May 8, 2009

Last Night Best Player - Johan Franzen




"We found a way to score goals and create momentum,” Hossa said. “Johan Franzen was the key to this game, I believe, because he scored two quick ones and got our team going. That was huge."
"We got our goals a little bit easier," Franzen said. "We had a high tempo and had guys in front. I had a lucky tip. We need stuff like that to break down that goalie. We did a great job with that tonight."
Big postseason goals are nothing new for Franzen, who first burst onto the scene during the 2008 playoffs when he followed a 27-goal regular season with 13 goals in 16 postseason games -- a franchise mark he shares with teammate Henrik Zetterberg -- despite missing six games with concussion-like symptoms.
"The Mule" has been a featured performer ever since. In his fourth NHL season, Franzen had a career-high 34 goals and 59 points. Now the 6-foot-3, 218-pound left wing is starring once again the playoff spotlight.
"I think he's figured out how to play in this League, and he knows how to use size to his advantage," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "He’s a strong player. Strong in taking the puck to the net. Strong in the offensive zone. He’s tough to move.
"And he’s a gifted goal scorer. He’s got a knack for finding the back of the net."

MY "LAST NIGHT BEST PLAYER" AWARD COMES TO JOHAN FRANZEN

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Guys, Even If Your Team Lost - Don't Do It!



BERN, Switzerland (AP)—Police say a Finnish ice hockey fan has died after falling from a farmhouse window in Switzerland.

Bern police said they received a report early Thursday morning of a body lying at the foot of a farmhouse. The man was identified as a 42-year-old Finn who was in Switzerland to watch the hockey world championship.

A police statement said there was no suspicion of anyone else involved in the man’s fall, but that the body has been sent to a forensic medicine institute for more analysis.

Police said the man and seven other people were renting an apartment in the farmhouse for the tournament, which is taking place in Bern and Zurich.

Finland was eliminated Wednesday, losing 3-2 in the quarterfinals to the United States.

Referring and Technology



This is AlmostHuman's article about referring. I found it very interesting

"I watched Detroit Red Wings forward Marian Hossa's controversial disallowed goal many times. It really looks like the whistle blows at the same time the puck goes in. It looks like a goal to me. But the play couldn't be reviewed and the Red Wings lost.
Would the Red Wings have won the game? You never know. But it certainly appeared they had tied the game and if a replay had been allowed, they at least would have gone to overtime.


That play could cost the Red Wings the series. That's why I think the NHL needs to change the rules to allow a review on whether the puck enters the net before the play is blown dead. The games are too important. There's too much at stake for a team money-wise.

We've taken so much away from the referees already. Everything is done by video and the league looks over plays in Toronto. The referees, more than ever, have less decision making. So why would it hurt to let the league review that play, too?

I don't think referee Brad Watson did anything wrong Tuesday night. He lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle as he is supposed to do. But I know that if he could have gone to video review, he would have done that right away. He doesn't want to be the goat of the game. That's the last thing he wants to do, to be singled out as the guy who cost the Red Wings a possible win.

I do more than 100 games a year on TV. It bothers me that even when a goal is obvious, the league still goes upstairs and takes two, three or more minutes to review it. When it's obvious, just call the goal. So why can't you change the rule to allow this type of play to be reviewed?

Officiating is hard in any sport. I watch football games and there are missed calls. Baseball recently added instant replay to determine whether a hit is a home run. Hockey is probably the hardest sport to officiate. The pucks are traveling at 100 mph. The players are big and fast. That's why I personally can't get down on the referees. But they need a little more help with replay.

Just look at all the action going on during that type of play Tuesday night. The referee is behind the net. There are guys who are 6-4 or 6-5 on skates in front of the net. Players are crashing the net. That's a lot of action and it's easy to lose sight of the puck. But allow a review to see whether the puck went in before the whistle blew.

Referees could also benefit from clearer edicts from the league. Guys are going to the net more and running into the goaltender. The referee has to make a split decision. Did Player A push Player B into the goaltender or did Player B follow through and actually want to hit the goaltender? I've seen more contact with the goalie during this postseason than in the past. The referees have their hands full. It's got to stop. The NHL needs to come up with a strong statement that you can't hit the goaltenders anymore and tell the referees to allow absolutely no contact with goaltenders.

Same thing with blows to the head. The guys are so big and the equipment is so rigid that hits to the head can do damage. We saw Donald Brashear get suspended for his hit to the head. Personally, I think all blows to the head should result in the offending players being ejected from the game. The league also needs to tell referees that.

There is so much parity in the league these days in the playoffs. You don't see blowouts anymore, like in the Edmonton Oilers' heyday. Every game seems to be decided by one goal.

We're asking a lot of the referees. Give them some help."

Today's hero - Cans Jussi Jokinen



NHL.COM PHOTO

For the second time of 2009 Stanley Cup my "Today's Hero" award is going to Hurricanes Jussi Jokinen.

Jussi Jokinen, a healthy scratch at times this season and put on waivers twice by Tampa Bay before being acquired by Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford in early February, may have a hard time buying dinner around town anytime soon after scoring yet another clutch goal, this time 2:48 into overtime for a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Wednesday night.
Jokinen’s second dramatic game-winner at home this playoff season gave the Canes a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 at home on Friday night. Jokinen also scored the winning goal against New Jersey in the fourth game of that series with 0.2 seconds left to send the RBC Center crowd into a wild frenzy, and added the game-tying goal against the Devils in the waning moments of Game 7.
“That guy is money for us right now,” Cam Ward said of Jokinen. “He’s a guy who steps up his game and takes advantage of the opportunity. He has been a huge contributor to our hockey team ever since he’s gotten here. We’re sure happy he’s on our side.”
Jokinen, stationed in front of the net, picked up the rebound on Samsonov's shot from the right side, spun off his defender and quickly put it in – his fifth goal in seven playoff games after only 7 in 71 regular season games.
Maurice said Jokinen is a "very, very smart hockey player." He said Jokinen takes tape home and studies it and quickly grasps new concepts from the coaching staff.
It doesn’t hurt either when his new home – he arrived the first week of February from Tampa Bay on waivers -- feels more like home.


MY PHOTOS FROM CAPS vs. PENS GAME : "MY HOCKEY PHOTO ALBUMS"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

2008-09 Lester B. Pearson Award



TORONTO (May 6, 2009) – The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) announced today that Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals have been selected as finalists for the 2008-09 Lester B. Pearson Award. The Lester B. Pearson Award is presented annually to the “most outstanding player” in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA.

For the first time in the history of the Lester B. Pearson Award, all three finalists hail from Russia. This year will mark just the third time that a Russian player will accept the honour, following Sergei Fedorov (1993-94) and Ovechkin (2007-08). Ovechkin is looking to win the Pearson Award for the second consecutive season, and is now a three-time finalist for the award (including 2005-06). Malkin is also a finalist for the Pearson Award for the second consecutive season. Datsyuk is a Pearson Award finalist for the first time in his NHL career.

Datsyuk had an outstanding all-around season for the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, tying his personal best in points (97) and is a finalist for three other major individual honors in 2008-09: the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Frank J. Selke Trophy, and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. Malkin was instrumental in helping lead the Penguins back to the postseason, while topping all NHL scorers with 113 points this season, and will receive the Art Ross Trophy for this achievement. Ovechkin had another phenomenal season in Washington, finishing second in the league in points (110) and leading the NHL in goals (56) to capture the Maurice Richard Trophy.

Today's "hero" - Ref Brad Watson



After Scott Niedermayer misplayed the puck behind his net, Watson lost sight of the puck as it trickled along the goal line underneath Hiller and out to his right. Brad Watson blew the play dead right an instant before Detroit's Marian Hossa jammed the puck in the net for the apparent tying goal with 1:04 remaining.
The play is not reviewable by the League’s control room since it is deemed dead.
"First off, as any of us watch on a replay, it's easy to make the correct call," said E.J. McGuire, the series supervisor of officials. "In the case tonight, the official was down along the goal line. He was moving forward toward the net to try to get a look at where the puck was.
"When he couldn't see the puck, all referees' instructions are to blow the whistle and blow the play dead. A combination of the black puck and the black pants may have been a factor. But when he didn't see the puck, he blew the whistle."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn't mince words when asked for his viewpoint.
"We should be playing (overtime) obviously, right now," Babcock said. "Two teams scored twice tonight, but it just didn't work out that way. There's no sense in complaining about the refereeing or anything like that."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ovechkin vs. Crosby. Game 2




Crosby: "Ovechkin scored again!"
Ovechkin: "I don't like Pens smell!"


For more NIKALE PHOTOS from this game visit "Capitals Photos" and "My Hockey Album"

Ovechkin and Crosby each notched hat tricks Monday night, but the Capitals' superstar did one better than his counterpart from Pittsburgh by bringing the house down with what proved to be the game-winning goal late in the third period, sending his team to a 4-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in this best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal round series.
"It's everything the media has made it out to be, a battle of the two best players in hockey, and tonight they both carried their teams," Capitals defenseman Mike Green said. "We were fortunate that Alex was at the top of his game."
"It's good for the fans to see great players play against each other and two great teams play against each other," Ovechkin said. "It's an interesting time and an interesting game. It's unbelievable when you play against great players and you win a game like this."
"I'm sure it's entertaining for people to watch," Crosby said of this classic duel.
"When you build that hype of superstars playing against each other and then the superstars play like superstars, it's a neat thing, fun to talk about," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Not too many people can do what they did tonight."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Incredible Performance Of Both Superstars



Ovechkin is interviewed by TSN right after the game. NIKALE PHOTOS

Both Ovechkin and Crosby have got hat-tricks during this night game. Fantastic performance of both superstars is the brightest thing to be mentioned about 2009 playoffs right now.

More photos are coming tomorrow

Today's hero - Cans Cam Ward



NIKALE PHOTOS

Cam Ward finished with 36 saves in the 3-0 victory, his fourth career playoff shutout. He was spectacular on a desperate Boston power play late in the third, stretching for pad saves on Michael Ryder and Dennis Wideman.
Ward was on top of his game, finishing with 36 saves -- including 16 in the third period when Boston was exerting sustained pressure throughout. Ward's leg-pad save on Michael Ryder was the highlight of the third-period exhibition of the form that won him the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP.
"It kind of came out of the pile and I didn't think he knew where the puck was, and I tried to throw it and I guess he did; he kicked his leg out and made a great save," said Ryder, who has a team-high five goals for Boston. "He definitely made a lot of big saves and kept the score 2-0 for the longest time there."


MORE NIKALE PHOTOS FROM THIS GAME

Sunday, May 3, 2009

HOW IS IT "NO GOAL"?????????????




You know what, something is wrong with this "under review" system.

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Marchant Scores In The Third Overtime



Happy Todd Marchant is interwed by TSN. NIKALE PHOTOS

Todd Marchant scored early in the third overtime to lead the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-3 victory over the host Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at the Joe Louis Arena.

The win ties the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal 1-1 with Game 3 on Tuesday night in Anaheim.


Today's Hero Award goes to Todd Marchant

Markus Naslund ready to retire?



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Proud and classy to the apparent end, Markus Naslund has told his Rangers teammates he is retiring despite having one season at $3 million remaining on the two-year, $8 million free agent contract he signed last summer, The Post has learned.

It is believed that the 35-year-old Naslund, who wore down dramatically as the season and then the seven-game series against the Caps progressed, notified GM Glen Sather of his decision at his exit interview on Thursday, though The Post has not been able to confirm that.

5 unanswered goals in less than 16 minutes



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Down often so far during the playoffs, the young Chicago Blackhawks never feel as if they're out of any game. An early, two-goal hole didn't faze them one bit Saturday night.
Patrick Sharp scored twice to tie it and Dave Bolland put Chicago ahead with a short-handed breakaway to help the Blackhawks tie their second-round playoff series at a game apiece with a 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. Down 2-0 after power-play goals by Sami Salo and Alexander Edler in the first seven minutes, Chicago took over Game 2 of the best-of-7 series with a strong second period.
"We're a confident team and we know despite the score we're still in any hockey game," Sharp said. "It's nice to have the ability to come back again."

My "Today's Hero Award" goes to Blackhawk Patrik Sharp.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Caps Win First Game



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Caps' third-line center David Steckel (39) had a monster game that will certainly be overshadowed in the storylines that follow by the superstars in the series. Steckel scored the Caps first goal at 13:50 of the first period by going hard to the net and punching home a rebound before barreling into Fleury. He really wound up being Fleury's worst nightmare as he constantly found himself in front of the Pens' goalie, disrupting his vision on numerous occasions. Steckel got 19:11 of ice time and won 65 percent (11-6) of his faceoffs. He was also credited with four takeaways and two hits. He was on the ice in the final minute after the Pens pulled Fleury and won a defensive zone faceoff with 31.8 seconds left.

Today's hero - Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom



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Nicklas Lidstrom usually plays a subtle style of hockey appreciated most by coaches, players and die-hard fans.
The Detroit Red Wings defenseman's latest performance, though, was so spectacular it impressed an opponent.
"Special player," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.
Lidstrom scored his second goal of the game with 49.1 seconds left and had an assist, lifting the Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Ducks on Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series.
"I just get so amazed how he performs out there in a big game like this, in the last minute like that," teammate Jonathan Ericsson said. "He's so calm out there. I guess the experience speaks for itself. I get goose bumps."
During Detroit's opening-round sweep over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Lidstrom was, yet again, a tower of strength. He has possessed one of the best sticks in the game -- capable of sweeping the puck or forcing an opponent wide just by his positioning. He's not overly physical because he doesn't need to be. That speaks volumes about his ability to excel in any situation.

Is there any question Nicklas Lidstrom will conclude his career as the greatest defenseman in the history of the Red Wings?

I have put some of my photos from this game to MY PHOTO ALBUMS

Boston Beats Carolina, Takes 1-0 Lead




Boston blew away the Hurricanes in a dominating 4-1 victory in Game 1 at TD Banknorth Garden. It was the Bruins' fifth-straight victory to open the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- and in those five games, Boston has outscored its opposition 21-7.
The Bruins simply played the hockey that delivered them to the top of the Eastern Conference and left them just one point shy of winning the Presidents' Trophy as the League's best team.
They rolled four lines, played a disciplined game, got solid goaltending from Tim Thomas (26 saves) and defended across all three zones, forcing Carolina to make mistakes with the puck.
"We're playing pretty solid defensively and that is what helps us offensively," forward Michael Ryder said. "We create turnovers in the neutral zone and we take advantage of it. That is one of our strengths in the neutral zone and tonight we tried to clog up the neutral zone and force turnovers.
The Bruins continue to play disciplined hockey this postseason. Boston only gave Carolina one power play in Game 1, and that was after establishing a commanding 4-1 lead. Boston has allowed just nine power plays in five games and has yet to give up a man-advantage goal.

NIKALE PHOTOS. Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara during yesterday game

I have put some of my photos from this game to MY PHOTO ALBUMS

Friday, May 1, 2009

LaFleur Found Guilty



Let this morning's news about former Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers legend Guy Lafleur be a lesson to all of you "cool" dads out there: If you're going to be your son's wing-man when he's out on bail, don't lie about it in court.

From the CBC, news that the Hockey Hall of Famer has been found guilty of giving contradictory testimony and misleading a judge:

When handing down the verdict Friday morning at the Montreal courthouse, Quebec court judge Claude Parent said it was obvious Lafleur knew he was lying when he first testified at his son's bail hearing. Lafleur showed no reaction when Parent announced the verdict.

After his son was arrested in 2007 on assault charges, Lafleur agreed to supervise him as part of his bail conditions, which included a curfew. When asked in court if Mark had ever failed to spend a night at home during the time he was under curfew, Lafleur said no.

But at his son's review for the bail hearing, Lafleur told a judge that he drove Mark to a hotel to meet his 16-year old girlfriend, because he felt it was important for them to spend some intimate time together.


- The dad was trouble-maker, smoking during the game. The son goes further... Too bad. Guy is my childhood hero.
NIKALE