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Showing posts from April, 2008

Bloggers vs. MSM: Nobody Wins

The segment on Bob Costas' HBO show this week that pitched sports blogger Will Leitch of Deadspin against Buzz Bissinger representing the mainstream media is burning up the internet, and having had the privilege of press access to some splendid NHL games back in the late 1990's while writing for In the Crease , I can't help but share my two cents (which, thanks to Blogger, comes to you free of charge). Do sports blogs "dedicate themselves to cruelty" and "journalistic dishonesty", as Mr. Bissinger asserts? While "dedicate" is too strong a word, I think what he's getting at is that reckless sensationalism is the meal ticket for far too many blogs (including, like Deadspin or Kissing Suzy Kolber, the most celebrated ones). That indictment says more about the readership than about the content providers, in my opinion. The sad truth is that there is an insatiable appetite for lewd & crude material, and bloggers have the agility to poun

Penalty Plus/Minus - the Final Numbers

Now that I've got my penalty data (mostly) reconstructed, I can present the final Penalty Plus/Minus numbers for the NHL 2007-2008 Regular Season, with Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings holding off the talented trio of Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin to lead the league. As usual, this list is largely dominated by talented offensive players, who force opponents into taking penalties to avoid giving up dangerous scoring chances. At the bottom of the list are mostly defensemen logging major ice time against elite opponents. To me, what is most interesting is which players go against that stereotyping; offensive players who take too many penalties and end up too low on this list, and elite defenders who carry a heavy burden, without leaving their teammates shorthanded. Using this perspective, a few players in particular stand out; Colorado's John-Michael Liles at a very respectable +7, or Boston's Marc Savard at a woeful -15, with Nashville captain Jason Arnott not much

The 2008 Alternative NHL Awards

Last week the finalists for the Lady Byng and Norris trophies were announced, and while fans can speculate as to which player is most deserving of these hallowed awards, we must also reflect on other, less celebrated achievements from the 2007-08 NHL Regular Season. Yes, it's time for the 2008 Alternative NHL Awards, recognizing the best of the best (or is it the worst of the worst?) when it comes to on-ice illicit activity... For historical reference, the 2007 and 2006 award listings are also available. Boarding : Usually the haven of lumbering , slack-jawed knuckle draggers who aim to intimidate opponents, this year's crop of Bellicose Boarders included a number of smaller, workaday checking forwards like Todd Marchant (3) and Kris Draper (4), who tied for the league lead alongside defenseman Andrej Meszaros of Ottawa. Based on the fact that he's obviously working through some "issues" since being so viciously boarded by Claude Lemieux in the 1996 We

Ring the Bell for Round 2

Tonight marks the beginning of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the matchups are a commissioner's dream: Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche; with most of the old gang brought out of mothballs for this remake of the best sports rivalry of the 1990's, this has the makings of a real beauty. I like Detroit in a long, hard-fought series (6 or 7 games). San Jose Sharks vs. Dallas Stars; two of the elite teams for most of the season, these division rivals both have plenty to prove. The Sharks have only advanced past the 2nd round once in their 11 playoff appearances, while the Stars' have gotten bounced out in the first round of each of the last three seasons. Expectations have been high in San Jose all year, and I expect them to win this series, but Dallas will be a very tough out. Goaltending is usually a key component, and I like Marty Turco here better than Evgeni Nabokov. Playing 77 out of 82 games can't possibly leave a guy with much in th

Vultures start picking while the body's still warm

I'll get to a full eulogy for the Predators 2007-8 season shortly, but in the meantime, a few shots from Ken Campbell of the Hockey News caught my eye over the last few days: First, Campbell slipped this beauty into his Hockey News column : there’s little reason to believe this year’s [Predators] playoff run will have any more of a long-term impact on this franchise than any other. Come next October, you’ll probably see the same sparse crowds, the same general ambivalence toward the on-ice product and the same stunning lack of enthusiasm from the corporate community. What outsiders like Mr. Campbell can't see is that there is a difference heading into this off-season; a locally-dominated ownership group that is actually putting the work in to sell the game and build partnerships around Nashville. In the four months since the Freeman group took charge, I've seen more advertising and outreach from the Predators than in the last 2 years combined. The early part of the NHL

An Opportunity Wasted

The Gang That Won't Give Up almost pulled off a storybook upset last night; playing without 3 of their top 4 starting centers (Jason Arnott sick, David Legwand hampered by his foot, Scott Nichol out with a broken thumb) on the road in Detroit, the Predators skaters were simply dominated by the Red Wings, getting outshot 53-20 in regulation. Dan Ellis single-handedly kept Nashville in the game, giving up only a 1st period goal to Valteri Filppula, in what was probably the best goaltending performance in the playoffs so far. Then, with Ellis on the bench in the final minute so Nashville could use an extra attacker, Radek Bonk slipped into the low slot and fired a one-timer past Chris Osgood to tie the game at 1 with 44 seconds left. It was reminiscent of Bonk's tying goal in Montreal back in December, when Nashville rallied from a 3-goal deficit late in the 3rd period to pull out a victory. This time, however, there was no happy ending for the Preds as J.P. Dumont threw the

Nashville & Detroit, deep inside the faceoff circle

This Predators/Red Wings series is shaping up to be a real struggle no matter which team ends up winning; Nashville can claim momentum heading into Game 5, but Detroit has two games at home in what has now become a best-of-three affair, so I don't think there's a significant advantage to either side right now. One area in which the Red Wings are dominating, however, is the faceoff circle, and that's where I'd like to provide more detail than what fans usually see. Overall, Detroit boasts a 130-112 advantage in Faceoff Wins in this series, gaining possession after 53.7% of draws. While that might not seem like a significant advantage, the difference is to be found almost entirely in Detroit's defensive zone: When face-offs take place in the neutral zone or the Predators' defensive zone, it has basically been a 50-50 proposition, but on draws in Detroit's end of the ice, the Red Wings are winning at a 68.4% rate. Establishing possession of the puck after

A Huge Off-Ice Win for the Predators

No... this isn't a day-old post covering Game 3 against Detroit; tonight, the Nashville Metro Council approved the amended Sommet Center leas e, which provides a boost to local ownership's chances of making the Predators a viable enterprise for the long term. AROUND THE NHL Rest assured, Canucks fans; Dave Nonis may be gone , but a new GM is on the way! The Love Guru is coming, and the NHL is well prepared . There's a fantastic new resource for all of you hockey statistics and historical data junkies; , following in the footsteps of Prepare to lose a few hours...

A Six-Pack from Game Three

Last night's 5-3 win over the Red Wings was a true classic, but for this morning, I wanted to focus on a few points which aren't getting addressed to much extent in the MSM coverage of the game. 1. Niklas Kronwall went head-hunting again, this time leaving his feet and leading with his elbow to nail Radek Bonk in the 2nd period. After all the noise the NHL made last fall about cracking down on head shots, it's amazing to me that Kronwall's been allowed to get away with this twice in three games. The guy's not generally a dirty player, but he's too amped up out there and he isn't going to stop until he gets suspended for it. Apparently, that requires a concussion or worse to be suffered by one of the Preds. It's good to see that Colin Campbell has time to make up rules to address a situation when players are making no contact at all , however. Great priorities, there, guy. 2. Shea Weber looked awful on the Nashville power play, but even worse we

No time like the present

The keys are pretty obvious for Nashville to make their stand tonight at the Sommet Center in Game 3 against Detroit: Stop taking dumb-dumb penalties, particularly the ones that wipe out power play opportunities. This was a factor in last year's loss to San Jose as well. Jason Arnott & J.P. Dumont need to dominate, period Jordin Tootoo needs to keep up the heavy hitting, any scoring chances are a bonus Quit discussing breaks that have gone against the team in the first two games. There isn't a single positive thing that will result from it. Games 1 & 2 have been competitive, and a victory tonight is the first step forward. This team has shown a great deal of determination when facing tough odds before, but this is the playoffs, and the pressure is certainly more intense. Other notes: It doesn't look like Legwand's foot is coming along well , after all. For Detroit, Kirk Maltby's not doing well either.

The Keys to Game Two

Short and simple, here are your keys to this afternoon's Game Two: Get the Arnott line away from Datsyuk's. Using Vic Ferrari's magnificent Time On Ice tool , we can see that Arnott spent more than two-thirds of his ice time matched up with the Datsyuk line, with predictably disastrous results. Through changes after the draw and other techniques, Barry Trotz has to get the top Nashville line away from not just Datsyuk & Zetterberg, but the defense duo of Lidstrom & Rafalski if possible. The corollary to this is that the Predators energy line has squared off against the wrong guys from Detroit; having Jordin Tootoo hit a Dallas Drake or Kris Draper isn't going to help; he's got to put the body on more important offensive players in order to disrupt the Red Wings flow. Losing Scott Nichol to a broken thumb is potentially devastating; besides being an elite penalty killer, Nichol was the top faceoff man in the NHL this year. Jason Arnott in particular h

Quick Game One Thoughts

The Red Wings certainly dominated the scoring opportunities, but the Predators held strong and had every chance to win the game in the 3rd. I'll leave it to sharper eyes to determine whether the go-ahead goal for Detroit should have been whistled offsides, the crappy non-HD feed on FSN didn't give a clear view. Dan Ellis looked very sharp in net, and Jason Arnott in particular looked pretty quick on his skates. I'll follow up with detailed analysis tomorrow morning. More interesting will be to see if anything comes out of Niklas Kronwall's hit on Rich Peverley in the 3rd. As Peverley cleared the puck out the zone, Kronwall pinched in and committed the three sins which supposedly bring a suspension from the league office: 1) He left his feet 2) He nailed Peverley in the head 3) He used his elbow Now, since Peverley got right back up and joined the play, I'm guessing nothing's going to come out of this. The NHL head office has shown a horrible propensit

Get Your Game On

As we count down the final hours to faceoff for Game One, a few thoughts: 1) If you're watching the game from home, make yourself useful during the intermission and either call your favorite Metro Councilman at 615-862-6780, or email them using this directory to urge them to get moving on approval for the updated Sommet Center lease. This drama has dragged itself out far too long, and these folks need to step up and do the right thing. 2) Reports on the radio indicated that David Legwand participated in practice today, and may be able to return to action quite soon. I can't say I'm surprised, as I saw him last weekend pushing a cartload of stuff around the local Costco, wearing a boot to protect his injured foot. It was funny, actually - I was working my way through the store with the Mrs. and the Little Forecheckers, and when I got to the checkout, #11 was right in front of me paying his bill. 3) For Detroit, it looks like Brad Stuart, Tomas Holmstrom, and Mikael

Reasons for Predators Fans to Believe

As the Red Wings and Predators prepare to drop the puck for Game One in Detroit tonight, virtually every pundit throughout the hockey world has called for a Red Wings victory, while giving nominal credit to Nashville's pluck and tenacity for simply making the playoffs. Those platitudes are nice, but are there genuine reasons to believe that the Predators can pull off an upset over this year's Presidents Trophy winner? There are indeed... This may well have been Nashville's motto this season... 1. The Red Wings have been in this position before and found themselves bounced out in the first round, most recently in 2006 against the Edmonton Oilers. As a #2 seed in 2003 they lost to Anaheim in the Western Conference quarterfinal, and in 2001 Los Angeles knocked them out in another #2 vs. #7 matchup. Detroit just doesn't play the favorite very well at times. 2. Across eight games between the Preds and Red Wings this year, Detroit outscored Nashville by just a 20-1

Nashville Predators 2007-08 Regular Season Grades

Since we've got one more day before the first round playoff series with Detroit begins, it's high time to reflect on the 2007-8 Regular Season, and hand out the report cards for the Nashville Predators. First quarter and first half grades have been posted here previously... My main statistical points of reference today come from, a great hockey stats site for any of you not already familiar with it. I've compressed and consolidated things down for legibility, and what I can present here is data for 5-on-5 , 5-on-4 (PP), and 4-on-5 (PK) action. For each situation, you'll see columns for Games Played, Average Time On Ice per game, and then the interesting stuff: GF On/Off Rating : The impact on the team's Goals For and Goals Against when a player is on the ice, compared with when he's not. This is pro-rated to 60 minutes of game time, so if a team is perfectly even Joe Superstar sits on the bench, but when he's skating they outscore

Playoff Predictions

I don't have time for detailed analysis at the moment, but it's best to get some picks out here for the record: In the East : New Jersey over New York Washington over Philadelphia Pittsburgh over Ottawa Montreal over Boston In the West : San Jose over Calgary Minnesota over Colorado Anaheim over Dallas Nashville over Detroit (ya gotta believe!) For the Cup: Anaheim over Montreal...

Predators on the Playoff Prowl

Pundits around the NHL are shaking their heads this morning over the fact that Nashville has actually clinched a playoff spot, thanks to last night's 3-2 victory over the Blues at home, combined with Vancouver's 2-1 loss to the Oilers in front of an understandably disappointed crowd at GM Place. Reaction from the Canucks bloggers can be found here and here , with one jubilant Oilers fan here . There was no limping to the finish line, but rather a strong drive (5-0-1) that lifted Nashville past the struggling Canucks. For Preds fans, it's obviously a time of relief and celebration, and a good time to stick out your chest and declare, "nobody thought we could do it!" But was that really so? This preseason roundup saw 3 of 10 experts picking Nashville to make the playoffs, with James Mirtle picking them as high as 5th in the West. ESPN's Scott Burnside , a persistent critic of Nashville as a hockey market, picked them 11th, and JavaGeek's amalgamat

Preds Shake Off the Blues

In tense days like these, it's best to focus your thoughts and relax with a bit of Haiku... Big game, Ellis pulled Down 3 , the yeomen take charge 'Nucks scrota shrivel You have to wonder what the reaction was on Vancouver when they saw that final score pop up on the out-of-town scoreboard. Once they woke up late in the 1st, the Preds played a pretty strong game, but another lapse like those first few minutes and their season could be over.

Sully Rides to the Rescue!

Just in time for the three critical games that will make or break Nashville's season, word comes this morning that Steve Sullivan will return to the lineup in time for tonight's game in St. Louis. With David Legwand still out with a foot injury , this is a very timely shot in the arm for a struggling Predators offense. Here comes the cavalry... Sully should add punch to what has been an awful power play all season long, and will help diversify a group of forwards that tends to rely on Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont to carry the load far too often. Sure, he'll probably only play 10 minutes or so as he gets back up to speed, but at this point in the season, the Preds will take what they can get, and if they make the playoffs, Nashville just became a much more dangerous team. *sigh* If only... April Fools!