I expect one of the Big Six to represent the West in the Stanley Cup this upcoming June. Here is how these teams have fared against each other so far in head-to-head matchups this season.
San Jose - 6-4-2, 58.3% (2-0-0 vs DET and 1-1-1 vs VAN) St. Louis - 7-5-0, 58.3% (Five of the games ended in shutouts, 3W's and 2L's) Chicago - 5-4-0, 55.5% (Have five games remaining against DET, currently 1-0 against them) Los Angeles - 5-5-1, 50.0% (2-0-1 with Sutter as Head Coach) Vancouver - 5-5-1, 50.0% (1-1 against CHI, DET, LA; 2-0-1 vs SJ and 0-2-0 vs STL) Detroit - 5-6-0, 45.5% (0-2-0 against nemesis Sharks, but 2-0 against LA)
The Sharks victory at Joe Louis Arena earlier this year (4-2 W on Oct. 28) is looking more and more impressive. The Red Wings have won 12 straight home games (14-2-1 for the year), all in regulation and are outscoring opponents 57-17 in that span (yes, 57-17, it's not a typo). Their only other home loss in regulation this year came at the hands of the Flames and they lost in OT to Minnesota. #SeriousMojoInMotown
Vancouver leads the NHL in points by defensemen with 99. The rest of the top five in the NHL are: Toronto (98), Ottawa (97), Florida (93) and Colorado (89). The Sharks currently rank 21st with 66 points by their defensemen, however I can see the Sharks D moving up in this category based on recent play. The defense has had a point on 11 of the 19 Sharks goals in the past seven games. Boyle is playing with more confidence while Burns is showing that's he more comfortable with the new system and teammates - it's takes time. Braun and Demers have picked up some points lately too. #Don'tComprimiseD-ZoneThough!!!
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, aka Pickles, has been having a tremendous season and should be getting recognition as an All-Star and in the years to come even some Norris votes as the League's best defenseman. He has amazing agility/footwork, is second to none in using his stick and his defensive anticipation is great. Here are some stats on how important he is to the team this year:
• Leads the team in plus/minus at +17, yet he mostly plays against top players from the other team • Only has five minus games all year - team is 1-2-2 in those games • Only two minus games in last 22 (since Nov 17) and is a +13 in that timeframe (team is 13-6-3 in that span) • Has played over 25 minutes in a game 10x this year and seven of the last 12 games. The team is 6-2-2 when he plays 25+ minutes.
Todd McLellan on Thornton turnovers in Vancouver game: “When Jumbo’s feet move and he’s skating and making plays, real good things happen. When he tends to stand still and try to move the puck, they’re much easier to pick off. He knows that. And we know moving forward we can count on this guy.” #HonestAnalysisComesWithTheTerritory
Could there be some big name players on the move soon? After watching Getzlaf the other night, he sure seemed disinterested compared to Perry and Ryan. Same goes for Jeff Carter of the Blue Jackets whose compete level wasn't even close to his days in Philly. Tampa Bay, Calgary, Montreal along with Anaheim and Columbus could all be looking to make changes and possibly part with some big name players. Stay tuned, it could get interesting! #SometimesLongTermContractsWork_SometimesTheyHandcuffYou
Vlasic as I mentioned is one of the best players in the NHL when influencing with his stick, but it's a pattern you see with every team in today's game and is one of the reasons it is so hard to score. If you are a student of the game, one game focus on how players use their sticks so well when defending. This short clip shows how players from six NHL teams use their sticks to make it tough on the offensive team: #PicklesIsAMasterWithHisStick
Two quotes of the week this week:
Ed Olczyk during the second period of the 2012 NHL Winter Classic as the hitting picked up: “You better have your head up and your bucket on tight.” #BoysWillBeBoys
While in the press room before the Canucks game in Vancouver I overheard two Canadians, referred here as Canuck 1 and Canuck 2, discussing New Year’s Resolution: Canuck 1 "I am going to stop watching hockey for a while." Canuck 2 "Oh ya, why?" Canuck 1 "Because I have to cut back on the six-packs (of beer)!" #BobAndDougMcKenzieAreSmilingRightNow_Seriously_ThatIsAwesome!!!
In the upcoming week the Sharks head to Minnesota and their first game in Winnipeg since the move of the Thrashers. Here is a quick look at two teams going in opposite directions of late.
Minnesota Wild (21-14-6 overall) First 30 games: 20-7-3 Last 11 games: 1-7-3
Winnipeg Jets (19-16-5 overall) First 17 games 5-9-3 Last 23 games 14-7-2 Last 12 home games 9-2-1
One would think that concussions wouldn't affect the bigger players in the game. For whatever reason however, the concussion epidemic takes no prisoners and doesn't care how big or small you are. Currently recovering or just returning are:
• Chris Pronger - 6'6" 220 lbs - Out for the season • Victor Hedman - 6'6" 229 lbs - Out indefinitely, placed on IR on Dec. 28 • Shea Weber - 6'4" 232 lbs - Just cleared to play which is great news for Nashville • Marc Staal - 6'4" 208 lbs - Just returned in Winter Classic for first game this year
Many people probably don't know I took an intro to poetry class in college. (Why would you, right!?!) While I don't aspire to be the next Edgar Allen Poe, I don't mind penning the odd poem, whether it's a limerick, haiku or covers a topic of interest. The Winter Classic is hot off the press so here's my quick take on the coverage hockey fans got from HBO:
First there was Bryz, the goalie for Philly He was the star of the show, but his tending was chilly
The Blueshirts are good, coached by a guy they call Torts He's all about passion, as we saw from his exhorts
We saw behind the scenes coverage, the buildup was great The weather did cooperate, so the players could skate
Philly took the lead, but King Henrik stood tall The Rangers won but so did hockey, which have the best fans of all
Photo of the year for 2011 goes to the splendid duo of Randy and Drew. This picture never gets old. Confusion, concern, uh-oh, worried, problematic, not sure why, not sure how... Turns into...
Told ya so, never doubted, everything is great, what us worried, great stuff, Go Sharks!!!
Huge kudos to the NHL, NBC and HBO. The Winter Classic experience was a great showcase for the game of hockey. Here is why, in my biased opinion, hockey is the best sport on earth and also the ultimate test for an athlete:
• Hockey is about hand-eye coordination when it comes to the puck skills needed while a player tries to stickhandle, pass or shoot on two thin blades, going fast and trying to avoid opponents. • Hockey is about toughness. Players play injured, every shift is about battles, hitting, getting hit and blocking shots. • Hockey is about intimidation because anyone can play anyone at any given time with the live changes and there are no out bounds in this sport. You can’t run (skate), and you can’t hide in hockey. • Hockey is about figuring it out because every shift you are on the ice there is probably someone faster, stronger or smarter.