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Duffer's Digest: Is there now a Duff jinx, too?

by Brian Duff
I have to confess. As a sports fan, I've been known to be a little superstitious when it comes to my teams. Typical stuff -- wearing the same socks, underwear (clean of course), hoodie, you name it, as long as it "played a role" in the wins.

In the broadcasting business, it's a little different. You're not sitting there doing the show worried about what you've said or done having played a role in the outcome of certain situations ... usually.

I was in attendance for an Islanders-Sabres game earlier this season, and was really impressed by the play of veteran New York defenseman Radek Martinek. And from that game on, because of what I had witnessed, I paid a little closer attention to him than I normally would have.

Yet, I was reluctant to make too much out of his strong play on-air because I honestly didn't want to jinx him. This guy has had some of the worst luck of any player during the last decade when it comes to injury, so I just wanted to keep quiet and watch him succeed.

Well, so much for that.

He's done for the year with another knee injury, and about the only positive I can see is that his coach, Scott Gordon, and GM, Garth Snow, each had glowing things to say about his play prior to this latest setback, and acknowledged it would be a significant loss for the team.

So, the moral of that story is, there's no sense holding back. Say what's on your mind -- you can't control fate.

So if something negative happens to Antero Niittymaki's game, I will have nothing to do with it!

Yes, Niittymaki is top of mind for his outstanding play so far in Tampa Bay, and it should come as no surprise.

This was an excellent decision by Tampa GM Brian Lawton to bring in another quality netminder, and as they said in their press release at the time, form a 1-2 punch with incumbent Mike Smith.

What I can't figure out is that from what I'm hearing and reading, he never seems to get mentioned when the topic of Finland's hockey team comes up regarding the upcoming Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Let's provide some facts.

Of the six Finnish goalies in the NHL not named Vesa Toskala, all of them have save percentages of .900 or better.

Niittymaki, .940; Tuukka Rask, .919; Miikka Kiprusoff, .917; Nicklas Backstrom, .912; Pekka Rinne, .904; Antti Niemi, .900

While acknowledging that Niittymaki's body of work is lacking the huge workload when compared to Kiprusoff and Backstrom, there is one item that should not be overlooked.

Niittymaki led Finland to an Olympic silver medal in Turin in 2006, and was named Top Goaltender and MVP of the tournament!

As much as the games of Vancouver will be an event to showcase the NHL's elite, what shouldn't be overlooked is what a player has done most recently for his country on the international stage. 


Watching the Ducks come up just short against Pittsburgh last week, it seemed like Anaheim was ready to put it all together. Sure enough, for the next five periods they dominated the Predators and Coyotes. But a 4-0 lead turned into a 4-3 nail-biter against Phoenix, and then a four-game road trip began Tuesday with a loss in New Jersey.

Anaheim remains without a three-game win streak this season, and I'm beginning to wonder if they will become a consistent threat in the West.


Chris Mason or Steve Mason?

Who would have predicted the Blues goalie would be more than a goal a game better than his divisional counterpart, who is the reigning Calder Trophy winner?

The fact is even odder when you consider the Blues still are looking up at the Blue Jackets in the Central Division.


What do Rich Peverley, Rene Bourque, Jussi Jokinen, Dustin Penner, Steven Reinprecht, and Matt Moulson have in common?

If you answered that none of them played junior hockey in Canada, you would be correct.

But what I really want to stress was that all are leading their respective teams in scoring.

Here's hoping I haven't jinxed them.
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