Tag Archives: Battle of Alberta

Weekly Bumblings for Week 8 with Special Guest Host, Cap’n Cornelius

While Peter is out enjoying a trip to see some hockey games in person, I’m filling in with a recap of the past week’s NHL action.

Player of the Week:  Blake Wheeler

Wheeler has been the definition of streaky, of late, but this week was the good side of the coin.  He broke a four-game pointless drought last Monday against Minnesota, getting one goal and two assists.

After being held without a point against Colorado, he put in another three-point performance (all assists) against Vegas.

But he would save his best for Sunday against the Ottawa Senators.  In a game that saw the Jets beat the Senators 5-0, Wheeler had a point on all but one of the goals, putting up one goal and three assists.  He had a beautiful cross ice pass to set up Mark Scheifele on the first goal of the night and the Jets never looked back tallying three of their goals on the power play.

Wheeler has passed Steven Stamkos to take the league lead in assists with 28 and has helped power the Jets to the top of the Western Conference, something few expected as the season began.

 Team of the Week: Los Angeles Kings

Just when it looked like the Kings might be fading after a hot start, they went 4-0 this week and moved six points ahead of the second-place Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division, exactly as the media expected before the season began, right?  The Kings won the first three of those games by three goals each.

After one period of play in their Tuesday game in Detroit, the Kings found themselves down 1-0, but Dustin Brown, who has had a heck of a comeback season, evened it up at 1 and Anze Kopitar then put them ahead 2-1 before the second period was over.  LA would add two more in the third on goals from Adrian Kempe and Kopitar’s second of the night.

Next up for the Kings was another road game against the Caps.  Again, the Kings gave up an early lead on a goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Marian Gaborik would even it up, only for Kuznetsov to get a second goal.  Jonny Brodzinski would tie it again and nine seconds later Jussi Jokinen would put the Kings ahead.  After that, it was all Kings.

The Kings continued their road trip Friday with a visit to play the St. Louis Blues, one of the best teams in the league to this point in the season.  This time the Kings got the early lead on a Tyler Toffoli tally. Kopitar would then bang home a rebound to make it 2-0.  Before it was over, Kempe and Toffoli would add goals and the Kings would win 4-1 despite being outshot 40-28 on a stellar performance by backup goaltender, Darcy Kuemper.

The Kings finished their week and their road trip in Chicago on Sunday.  Through two periods the game was scoreless.  Christian Folin finally put the Kings up with just over 10 minutes left in the game.  Then things got a little weird with just over two minutes left in the game.  First, Brown would get an empty net goal.  Then the Hawks would answer on a goal from Jonathan Toews with 1:46 left to end Quick’s shutout bid.  But Kopitar would put the final nail in the coffin with 51.5 seconds left in the game with a final empty net goal.

As long as the Kings continue to get these types of performances from Brown, Kopitar and solid goaltending, they will have a very good chance to lock down the Pacific Division.

Game of the Week: Edmonton Oilers 7 @ Calgary Flames 5, Saturday, December 2, 2017

One of the first NHL games I can remember watching on TV was Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers against Lanny McDonald’s Flames.  This game was a throwback to that era when goalies for some reason spent much of their time standing up and, consequently, watching pucks go past them.  This is the type of game you hope to see with all of the offensive talent on these two teams and the reason you stay up to watch the late game on Hockey Night in Canada if you live in the Eastern Time Zone.

Connor McDavid skated around the Flames zone early and his persistence led to Jesse Puljujarvi cashing in on the rebound. The Oilers then had what looked like their second goal of the night from Patrick Maroon taken off the board as the goal was kicked.  Eric Gryba then set up Puljujarvi for his second of the night on a redirection of Gryba’s point shot.

Mikael Backlund then forced a turnover on the penalty kill that set up Michael Frolik for a short-handed goal to pull the Flames within one goal.  But the Oilers scored again before the first period ended to go up 3-1.  In the second period, Mark Letestu scored on a short-handed breakaway to expand Edmonton’s lead.  Gryba made another shot from the point which was tipped in, this time by Milan Lucic, to go up 5-1.

As the third period started, Mike Smith was replaced in net by David Rittich.  Unfortunately for the Flames, Rittich bungled a handoff behind the net and the Oilers capitalized to go up 6-1.  One might assume this is where the Flames might call it a night.  But Sam Bennett made a tough angle shot to get the score to 6-2.  Next, Micheal Ferland notched a power play goal to bring the Flames within three goals.  Bennett added a second goal on a 2-on-1 where he took the puck top shelf.  Suddenly the score was 6-4 with a lot of time left in the game.  Johnny Gaudreau then made another tough angled shot off a stretch pass, taking advantage of young Oilers netminder, Laurent Brossoit.  The impossible seemed possible with the score 6-5.  But Brossoit would make a key save on Gaudreau on a two-on-one to prevent the tying goal.

With 1:01 left, the Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tried to center a pass, but it bounced into the net off T.J. Brodie’s stick to salt away the win for Edmonton by a final of 7-5.  While the Flames couldn’t quite finish their comeback, it was the sort of game that reminded you why the Battle of Alberta was once such a big deal.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Trade Rumors seem to be starting earlier than normal and we have already seen one blockbuster and several smaller trades.

This past week saw Anaheim and New Jersey make a significant hockey trade if not a true blockbuster.  The Ducks sent right-handed defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional pick to the Devils in exchange for Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi and a third round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.  The move was a much-needed improvement on the back end for the Devils, who are one of the surprises of the early season.  As for the Ducks, with Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler still out, Henrique can help at center and, when they return, he can provide forward depth.

Who is next?

Well, the name that seemed to be coming up repeatedly during the past week was Pittsburgh’s Ian Cole.  The left-handed defenseman was a healthy scratch and several sources had stated that his relationship with Mike Sullivan had been rocky, leading the Pens to consider a trade.  However, their asking price may be higher than what a willing buyer will give them for Cole—Pittsburgh is still seeking an improvement at center for their third line after Riley Sheahan has failed to impress.  Toronto is a destination that has been mentioned with Tyler Bozak falling out of favor and the Leafs wanting to upgrade their defense, but to this point nothing seems imminent.

The Edmonton Oilers have also been frequently mentioned in trade rumors.  While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins name has probably been mentioned the most, more recently the Oilers have been mentioned in connection with smaller trades that might see them shipping out the likes of Pat Maroon.  It is hard to see how Maroon would produce the sort of return that might get the Oilers back into contention in the Western Conference.

Another name that has been brought up repeatedly is Evander Kane.  Buffalo is one of the few teams clearly out of the hunt at this early date, but it seems most likely they will wait until the deadline to move Kane when they might extract the highest possible return for the wing, who will be a free agent this summer.

October 12 – Opening Day – What to choose?

The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally upon us: Opening day of the NHL season.  It’s time to see if *insert the name of your favorite team’s GM here* made any good decisions during the off-season, or if you’ll just spend the next seven months cursing at your television set.

Oh wait, you’ll be doing that even if your team is good?  Carry on, then.

Just like last year’s opener, we’ve got four games on the docket.  Some stats about them?  Sure, I thought you’d never ask!

Two contests will occur in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and the other two will be under the red and white maple leaf where many citizens of the first nation might be headed after November’s election.  Similarly, no teams will be crossing any national borders, meaning that it will be American vs. American and Canadian vs. Canadian clubs.  Each timezone will also be represented in this evening’s festivities, beginning in Eastern time and traveling across the map towards the Pacific.

Tonight will feature Toronto visiting Ottawa in the Battle of Ontario at 7 p.m. (SN and TVAS), followed an hour later by St. Louis at Chicago (NBCSN).  10 p.m. marks the puck drop of Calgary at Edmonton (SN and TVAS2), the first installment of the Battle of Alberta this year, followed half an hour later by Los Angeles at San Jose (NBCSN) to start this season’s Battle of California.  All times eastern.

Which one to pick… which one to pick…

I know: all of them.

That’s right, each game is too special not to watch this evening, so we’re going to break tradition (does a series only in its second year have traditions?) and feature all four of tonight’s games.  So without further to do, let’s get some quick previews in before you get watching.

UnknownUnknown-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

This game is a special one not simply because of the rivalry that exists between these squads, but that it is also the first official game that the Leafs will be sporting their new logo as well as the first wearing of their road whites.  As explained here, the level of symbolism in the new crest is pretty cool, including references to the 1931 opening of the Maple Leaf Gardens (hint: count the points of the leaf), the 1917 foundation of the franchise and their 13 Stanley Cup titles (hint: count the veins, and note a majority of their locations above the word mark).

Beyond that, this is also a rivalry game, and probably one of the four most circled dates on the Sens‘ calendar (the other three being the remainder of this series).  Ottawa swept the season series last year and certainly has intentions of continuing that success after the summer break.

UnknownUnknown-2

 

 

 

If you’re a little bit old-school and enjoy a good hockey scrap, this is probably your game this evening – this series leads the league in fights and penalty minutes.

This has been one of the best rivalries in recent years, and that has only intensified – twice – since the end of April, which witnessed St. Louis beating the Blackhawks in Game 7 to advance to the Western Semifinals, and eventually the Western Finals.  Chicago will look to exact revenge against a Notes squad that ended their title defense earlier than they would have liked.

Further dirtying the waters, the Blues and Blackhawks played a preseason game only 11 days ago. My opinions on division rivals contesting exhibitions deserves another post, but the net result was a questionable blow from Niklas Hjalmarsson against Ty Rattie. The defenseman was suspended for the remainder of the preseason as well as tonight’s game for throwing a leaping shoulder at the right wing’s head. Although he was not injured, Rattie’s linemates were quick to converge on Hjalmarsson, and I fully expect there to be some carryover both tonight and November 9 after the defenseman returns.

Unknown-4200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgThe third of our four rivalries this evening, this edition of the Battle of Alberta is special in a similar way to the Battle of Ontario.  This will be the first official game played in Rogers Place after 42 years at Rexall Place, and what better way to commemorate it than with naming Connor McDavid the youngest captain in NHL history.

And you thought Sidney Crosby was a baby-faced captain.

The Oil‘s new home, located almost dead-center in downtown Edmonton, increases their seating capacity by almost 2000 and moves them to the bottom of the list of oldest arenas – a list they ranked second in a year ago.

Speaking of new beginnings, the Oilers hope to continue rebuilding towards the days of old with this year’s first rounder, Jesse Puljujärvi.  Perhaps this game will be a sampler of how Todd McLellan intends to use his offensive youngsters this season.

Unknown-3Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

The final game of the night should be one of the better ones.  The Battle of California has extended into the playoffs for three of the last four seasons, including San Jose advancing to the Western Semifinals, and eventually the Stanley Cup Finals, over the Kings in five games last season.  This should be a fantastic game, one well worth staying awake for if you’re tuning in from the East Coast.

Best of luck to your team if they’re playing this evening.  If not, we’ll see you tomorrow!

Hockey Birthday

  • Jaroslav Drobný (1921-2001) – Tennis aficionados are raising their eyebrows at this one. Drobný may be more commonly known for his three major titles (including two French Opens), but he was also a highly successful amateur hockey player. In 1947, he was a part of the Czechoslovakian team that took gold at the World Ice Hockey Championships, where he scored 15 goals in seven games, including a hat trick against the Stars and Stripes. He also helped Czechoslovakia to the silver medal in the Winter Olympics a year later, “falling” to Canada in a goalless championship game. He scored nine goals in eight games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Drobný impressed the Boston Bruins in that tournament, and they offered him a $20,000 contract. If he hadn’t declined to focus on his tennis career, he would’ve been the first European to play in the NHL (instead, Swede Ulf Sterner takes that title, joining the Rangers 16 years later in 1965). He was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1997.
  • Denis Brodeur (1930-2013) – Father of Devils‘ legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur, Denis also knew his way around the crease. He was on the Canadian team that took bronze in the 1956 Winter Olympics at Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy.
  • J.J. Daigneault (1965) – The defender made his NHL debut during the 1984-’85 season with Vancouver, but the 10-team journeyman will be most known for his days with the Canadiens. He played six seasons and seven games in Montréal, 39% of his 900 regular season-game career. He currently serves as an assistant coach with the Habs, a position he’s held since 2012.
  • Dwayne Roloson (1969) – This goaltender made his NHL debut during the 1996-’97 season with the Calgary Flames. He played in 606 regular season games, most of which were with the Edmonton Oilers (193 games over four seasons).
  • Mike Green (1985) – Although this is his second season in Detriot, this will be the defenseman’s 12th season in the league. Most of that time was spent in Washington, where he played in 575 regular season games and seven postseasons.
  • Sean Monahan (1994) – Entering Year Four of his career, Monahan has gotten his start in Calgary. The sixth player selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the center has appeared in 237 regular season games already and has 159 points his credit. Also, this kid is younger than me, so take that for what it’s worth.