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Opening Faceoff: CTN doing it again

by Shawn P. Roarke /

KMFDM doing it again
A treat for the freaks
Truth or dare
Are you ready for this
We don’t care
In a world of deceit
Open your eyes
Don’t be afraid and you realize
What we do for you so good for you
What you do for me so good for me

KMFDM, Light

There it is: the Crashing the Net credo, spelled out so eloquently by KMFDM, the iconic German band that was at the forefront of the industrial musical scene back in the day and still going strong to this day.

Crashing the Net, affectionately known as CTN, is a weekly look at hockey through the same gritty looking-glass that produced the early industrial music of the 1980s. While dealing with all aspects of the game and all its varied personalities, CTN happily focuses on the game’s hard men, the muckers, the grinders – those that crash the net with gleeful abandon and arrive in the corners in ill humor.

Like an NHL game, CTN features three distinct acts. The Opening Faceoff is CTN’s take on any given hockey subject. The Breakaway is free-form riffs on the week’s hockey news, interspersed with other observations and pop-culture references. The Penalty Box, meanwhile, is the fan forum, a place for CTN readers to have their say on all things hockey. It is CTN’s goal to make the Penalty Box mailbag one of the most active and passionate hockey forums on the web.

Readers returning from last year’s debut of CTN already know the drill. Those newly along for the ride will figure out the message in short order. To all, I say welcome along for what will be an enjoyable ride here in 2007-08.

Opening Faceoff

CTN is off to a slow start this season, making its debut two weeks into the regular season instead of arriving in time for Opening Day. CTN has many excuses for its tardiness – a taxing season-opening trip to London, a recent promotion into the management scheme and the impending arrival of CTN’s second child – but, as we all know, excuses are the province of losers.

And contrary to a good portion of last year’s Penalty Box submissions, CTN is not a loser. Instead, CTN chooses to look at the late start in positive light, placing itself in the same boat as some of the League’s slow starters this season.

Will Martin Brodeur be better than he has shown the first two weeks of the season? You betcha! No goals for Jonathan Cheechoo? Not on your life. A donut for Brendan Shanahan? Not unless it’s a off-day Krispy Kreme from upstairs at the Garden. Well, it’s the same for CTN, which is just starting to hit its stride here in week No. 3 of the 2007-08 season.

To celebrate CTN’s return, the Opening Faceoff looks at five unexpected slow starters – in no particular order -- whose early season struggles (numbers as of Tuesday’s games) won’t even qualify as distant memories when the weather warms up again this spring.

Andy McDonald, Anaheim -- McDonald is the poster-boy for the Ducks’ struggles as they try to shake off the cobwebs from a summer of partying with Stanley and a season-opening trek across the pond to open the season. His fluid, understated game usually results in points effortlessly piling up, just as they did in last seasons’ 78-point campaign. But McDonald just has four points in eight games this season. He clearly misses Teemu Selanne, but he will become familiar with a new pair of linemates in short order and start producing the point-per-game output that has marked the past two seasons.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey -- One win in four starts. A 3.26 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. Those are not the sterling numbers that we are used to from the best goaltender in the League. He’s on the pace for just 16 wins this season, an unbelievable number for a goalie who has won 35 or more games in each of the past 10 seasons. Will he be better? You bet. Like everyone else, he is still getting used to coach Brent Sutter’s system. Once he finds his feet, Brodeur will be among the top 10 goalies in the League for the 2007-08 season.

Mike Modano, Dallas -- Two points after six games is not the start Modano hoped for this season as he chases the record for most career NHL points by an American-born player. With 1,288 points to his credit, Modano needs just five to surpass current holder Phil Housley. It says here that Modano won’t need 15 games, his current pace, to be celebrating the most cherished individual accomplishment of his stellar career. The Ceremonies, instead, will come before Halloween.

Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose -- No points in his first five games had people worried about Cheechoo, who has already been on the radar of doomsday prophets after suffering a 19-goal drop from his 56-goal breakout showing in 2005-06. But Cheechoo potted a goal and added an assist Monday night against Vancouver to end his season-opening slump. Despite the lack of points, Cheechoo is getting shots on net. He is averaging three per game. A career conversion rate of 15.3 percent when it comes to shooting percentage, suggests that Cheechoo should start banging home goals in bunches any day now.

Atlanta Thrashers -- They didn’t get hot fast enough to save coach Bob Hartley from being fired Wednesday, but this team is too good to go 0-6 to start the season. Atlanta’s struggles, in fact, run even deeper than the 0-fer to start the season. Let’s not forget they were swept out of the playoffs last season in the first round by the New York Rangers, which means the Thrashers have lost 10-straight games. But it is the first part of that sentence that should be the focus, the part dealing with the playoffs. Atlanta was one of the eight best teams in the East last year. They are equal, if not better, in talent this year. Therefore, they should be in the running for a playoff spot this year. It says here that they will, provided the new coaching regime provides the proper kick start to the club.


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