Archive for the ‘Hockey’ Category

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Boll on IR, Filatov to make his NHL debut

October 16, 2008

As reported in the Dispatch this morning, Jared Boll has been placed on the IR with head/neck issues and 18-year old Nikita Filatov will make his NHL debut in the Jackets’ home opener.  Mrs. EOB and I will be in attendance for the home opener (one of two games we get to almost every year), and look forward to seeing the kid on the ice.

The Predators are a rough and tumble bunch, especially when it comes to #22, Mr. Tootoo.  The Dispatch writers are speculating how the Jackets will counter the nastiness in terms of personnel packaging.  With Boll out, there isn’t a time-tested fighter/enforcer.  Perhaps OKT will get the nod tonight, as he’s already with the club.  Derek Dorsett has a reckless streak to him, Alex Picard hits anything that moves, and Mike Commodore has dished out a bit of physical punishment in his limited time with the club.  With management saying no other moves are likely, I’d think that Filatov skates for Boll, and all the defensive pairings remain as is.  I like OKT’s spirit, but I’m not sure he brings more to the table than any of the current six d-men.

What I’ll be watching for:

  • What happens after the “hockey is back in Columbus” glow in the arena wears off, and how long does it take?  If the Preds score early, I see the crowd being out of this game.  If the Jackets are sound defensively, are hitting all the right people in the right places (read: don’t take themselves out of position in attempts at retribution), and can put together some offense, the high could last all game (remember last year when Anaheim came to town?)
  • How do the defensemen and goaltender work the puck out on dump-ins and manage the Predator forecheck?  This was a glaring problem in San Jose, and with enough new faces on the blueline, it could be a bit more time before they make me feel comfortable.
  • How does Leclaire, assuming he gets the start, rebound from the Tuesday night debacle?  He allowed five goals in less than sixty minutes of action, including two shorties.  One of which prompted Pascal to break his stick across the goal post.  A strong goalie can put sub-par outings behind him and move on.  The Predators are not a super-skilled team like some the team will face, and a buckled down netminder should be able to handle the load.  If…
  • The team can handle the physicality of the Predators in their own zone.  The Jackets have showed a slight inability to manage big, puck-possession lines in the d-zone, and need to be strong positionally and ready to break out and clear the puck when necessary.  Shifts of 2:00 or more for the blueliners are unacceptable, even on the PK.  Find the puck, fire it down the ice, and change up.  And to the crowd, when they do this properly: show your appreciation.  It may seem like such a small thing, but you saw in the last few games what happens when those small plays don’t happen.  Bad things.  Goals against.  Hockey is a simple game.  Put the puck in their net and stop it from going across your own end line.  If the other five are fresher than yours, you’re running uphill.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  How does two posts in two days strike you?  Look for more tomorrow with my game preview, and maybe I’ll have a few pictures up after the game from our trip to see the team on home ice.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

– Drew

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2007 Draft: A recap (part one)

June 25, 2007

The long anticipated draft weekend has come and gone.  I’ve taken a moment to relax and reflect.  In the aftermath, I felt exhausted but I’m not really sure why.  I didn’t work all that hard, stay up too late, or party too hard.  Still, it was a whirlwind twenty-four hours for me. 

It’s very unlike the NFL Draft (which I have not been to) for me.  For one, I’ve heard of maybe 25% of the players expected to go in the first couple of rounds.  Also, NFL draftees will very likely be seen in the league within four to six months.  I could probably count on one hand the names of the kids I’d heard of in the NHL Draft, and I would guess it’s safe to say that no more than one or two of these kids will play in the NHL during the upcoming season.

For me, the weekend was about the experience of being there.

Friday

We (Mrs. EOB and I) parked in our usual spot about a half-mile from the Arena, and got to Battelle Plaza at about 4:00.  We entered a few forms to win something (we love filling out forms for free stuff), collected our complimentary NHL Draft towels (what’s with everybody giving away towels, these days?), and headed into the arena for the blogger meet-up at the Bud Light Arena Pub (BLAP). 

The line to get Rick Nash’s autograph stretched down one side of the arena.  I have to wonder if the people we saw at the end of the line even got to see him.  We meandered past the static line, and headed into the BLAP.  For all the people crowding Battelle Plaza, the trophies on display, and the autograph session, the bar was remarkably uncrowded. 

Mrs. EOB and I filed toward the back of the pub to the area Mike had said he would stake out.  There was a local sports talk radio show broadcasting from the back room, so I was initially concerned I wouldn’t be able to hear the conversation.  This turned out to not be an issue.  As we walked into the room, I saw Truth Serum sitting with his wife so I went over and said hello and made the appropriate introductions before strolling to the back table to formally meet Mike (since I’d already stalked him while he was working one day). 

In addition to Mike of Army of the Ohio and Truth Serum from right here at End of the Bench, I also enjoyed meeting with the following folks:

It was great to meet with you all, and thanks for coming.  (And Mike, thanks for organizing just about everything!)

For me, it was great to have the diverse mix of folks together in one room.  You had people like me who write for relatively small sites that very likely generate team specific traffic, and some of the heavy hitters like Eric, Paul, and Greg who had the chops and experience to get themselves credentialed for this international event.  But when you look past the appearances, we were all normal people and hockey fans.

The conversation was plentiful, and the topics diverse.  I’m sure that if a draft hadn’t been slated to begin in a short while, we could have sat there all night talking hockey.  But the crowd began to thin, and a few of my non-blog-reading friends had showed up and were ready to grab a seat.

One of the things Eric asked us was what we expected the attendance to be.  I’d read in the Dispatch that they expected a standing room only crowd.  I read this as wishful thinking, and told Eric that I expected about nine or ten thousand people.  As we took the escalator to the upper bowl to find seating, I still hadn’t seen the inside of the arena to gauge my prediction.  We stepped through an entry tunnel to view our options, and I was stunned to find that there were almost no seats empty.  The sections behind the stage were shut down, but all open sections were looking very full.  The usher told us that Club Level seating was opening to accept the overflow, so we hit the stairs and found four seats.

We got settled just in time for the beginning of the festivities and the unveiling of the new jerseys.  The crowd was much louder (and bigger) than I’d thought it would be.  Jody Shelley and Dan Fritsche came out and modeled the new home and away jerseys.  I’ll have a little more of my thoughts on this in my next post, but I will say now that I like the new duds.

Owner John McConnell spoke before the draft officially began, and was introduced to the usual standing ovation.  People in Columbus are very grateful that he helped to bring the NHL to our town, and every time he speaks at Nationwide those in attendance show their appreciation.

I’ll have a slightly more detailed recap of Friday night up later (as the picks wore on, my commentary dried up considerably, so don’t start expecting five-star reporting, please), but the evening wore on in an interesting mesh of cheers and boos.  Mrs. EOB and I booed Gary Bettman with most of the crowd when he started talking.  We booed when other teams were announced, especially Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville, Toronto…. oh who am I kidding, we booed just about every team to varying degrees.  The crowd was especially derisive when Detroit was put on the clock, starting chants of “Red Wings suck” combined with vociferous booing and catcalling.  The gentleman (I’ll take the high road for a brief moment) behind me did his best to personally try and make more noise than the assembled throng of Blue Jacket fans by creating an extremely loud whistle right in my ear, while yelling “NO CLASS!” at the chanting fans.  What I really wanted to turn around to him and say (among other things) was a hearty, “so I guess Red Wing fans save all their class for cheering on Sergei Fedorov, eh?”  But I sat tight, plugged my ears to save my hearing, and booed with the rest of the crowd.  But when Steve Yzerman stepped to the podium, almost all of the bad blood simmered and the crowd clapped and cheered, myself included.  Stevie Y is an important hockey figure, even to those of us who never were or are no longer fans of the winged wheel, and we’re not afraid to show a little respect.

New Jackets GM Scott Howson stepped to the stage to announce the seventh pick, and was met with thunderous applause, cheering, and chants of “Let’s Go Jackets!”  I’m sure he couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the hockey fans in Columbus.  The Jackets selected Jakub Voracek with their first-round selection.  I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea who he was, but upon reading the reviews and scouting reports later that night and this weekend it sounds like he is a pretty good prospect.

After the Jackets picked, a considerable number of people went home.  But the crowd was still a good one, and there were still 22 more picks in the opening round.  Things that stuck out to me from the rest of Friday night:

  • The aforementioned Red Wings episode
  • The cheers awarded to Phoenix Coyotes owner Wayne Gretzky
  • The big roar Pittsburgh received when they were announced (it’s only three hours from Pittsburgh to Columbus, so I guess a lot of fans made the trip or already live here)
  • The chorus of boos heard when both the Leafs and Rangers were announced.  I knew I didn’t like those guys, but I didn’t know I was part of such a large movement.

The first round wrapped up, and we headed home tired from a long day at the arena.  I’ll have more later regarding Saturday, and my notes from Friday’s action.  If I’m feeling spry, I’ll also upload some pictures from the blogger meetup.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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Pre-Draft party, anyone?

June 15, 2007

Update 6/15/07: We will be meeting at the Bud Light Arena Pub at 4:30 PM, and if they’re not open (we’re pretty sure they will be), we’re headed to the nearby R-Bar at 4:45.  For more details, see Mike’s post about the event.  Tapeleg of Jerseys and Hockey Love fame will be providing some podcasting equipment, so be sure to bring your opinions and a willingness to voice them.  If you’ve got something to talk about, let us know!

If you are going to be in Columbus for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft on June 22nd, be aware that Michael Turner (of Army of the Ohio) and I will be arranging a little get together for that afternoon.  The particulars have not yet been finalized as far as the exact when and where are concerned; but if meeting with a few of your favorite bloggers and chatting hockey with fans sounds like a bit of fun then please let one of us know that you are interested.

Mike put together a great NHL Draft information post, head on over to check it out.  If you think you might come, leave a comment on that post or email me at endofbench@gmail.com

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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Stanley Cup Finals prediction

May 27, 2007

After shooting 75% through the first two rounds, I missed big time in the conference finals. Buffalo and Detroit are both cleaning out locker rooms, and Anaheim and Ottawa are preparing to duke it out in the Stanley Cup Finals. For the final time this spring, my prediction for the next playoff round.

Stanley Cup Finals

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t watched enough hockey in the last month and a half to really know who to pick in this series. But that’s never stopped me from jumping head-first into the deep end before, so here goes nothing.

The Stanley Cup

When the Ducks traded for defenseman Chris Pronger in the off-season, many were quick to place Anaheim at the top of the Western Conference. After a full season and most of the playoffs, the Ducks have done their part to make a lot of people look like they know a thing or two. They haven’t always been the prettiest team but in the end it doesn’t matter how you looked getting there, just that you’re still standing.

Ottawa lost Zdeno Chara to Boston, and more than a few wondered how this would affect their chances of going deep in the playoffs. Often criticized for not being tough enough, and being more flash than substance, the Senators have shown that they have what it takes to continue playing meaningful hockey into June. For Ottawa fans that have showed patience with their club, the rewards are piling up. After suffering though four straight sub-20 win seasons, loyal fans have to be enjoying this. Blue Jacket fans can afford to have a little hope when they see this story unfolding. Not to say that the situations have been comparable, but even the darkest days can eventually turn into something good.

So what do I think? Who’s going to win? I’m taking the Ducks in six. There you have it, a prediction void of meaningful analysis.

And finally, can I direct you back to a post a certain someone made back in September? Notice who the top two teams in each conference were? That said, feel free to ignore the rest of the predictions there (particularly the Flyers in the #2 slot).

Coming very soon (I promise this time), the Spotlight Series 2007.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench. Come back soon.

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2007 NHL Third Round Playoff Predictions

May 11, 2007

I meant to get these up yesterday, but I’ll spare you the details and just say that it obviously didn’t work out that way.  I will state that at this time (10 AM), I have no idea who won last night’s contest.  So that in no way affects my picks, which will likely be wrong.  In the second round, I went (3-1) and brought my overall playoff prediction record to (9-3).  Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres (#1) vs. Ottawa Senators (#4)

Drew’s take: This series would have been anticipated even without the hit Chris Neil laid on Chris Drury late in the regular season and the ensuing two-game free for all.  That’s like throwing another can of frosting on the cake.  I think Buffalo will eventually wear down the Senators by being a deeper squad.  Ottawa will play tough as nails, which will extend this series to six or seven games, but in the end the Alfredsson/Spezza/Heatley line will not be enough to carry the rest of the team.

Drew’s pick: Logo BUF

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings (#1) vs. Anaheim Ducks (#2)

Drew’s take: I picked against the Wings the last round because I didn’t think they were tough enough.  Through four games of their series with San Jose, tied at 2-2, I thought I was right on track.  But Nabokov’s fatal clearing attempt off of Datsyuk’s stick that broke the tie in the game was the beginning of the end.  Detroit proved that they are tough enough and that they are in it to win it.  Anaheim overcame Roberto Luongo to dispatch the Canucks.  I won’t make the same mistake again, I’m picking Detroit to win this series and go to the Finals.

Drew’s pick: Logo DET

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2007 NHL Second Round Playoff Predictions

April 25, 2007

I didn’t do quite as well as Truth did in my picks for the first round.  I missed both of the 4 vs. 5 matchups.  Wiping the slate clean, I’m starting fresh for round two.  Here are my selections to advance in the conference semifinals.

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres (#1) vs. New York Rangers (#6)

Drew’s take:  Henrik Lundqvist is my key to this series.  If he can slow down the four very viable lines of the Sabres, it may be enough for Jagr to lead the Rangers to the conference finals.  Something else to watch will be Sean Avery getting under the skin of Buffalo players and fans.  Should be fun.

Drew’s pick: Logo BUF

New Jersey Devils (#2) vs. Ottawa Senators (#4)

Drew’s take:  Marty, Marty, it’s a playoff party.  2.26 GAA, 0.917 Sv%, one shutout, and four wins.  An experienced Devil squad takes on a Senators team that finally seems to have shown up in the playoffs.  Strong defense against strong offense.  The adage is that defense wins championships.  My addendum is that you actually have to get to the finals to get your name on the Cup.

Drew’s pick: Logo OTT

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings (#1) vs. San Jose Sharks (#5)

Drew’s take:  A lot of people were looking at Detroit’s first round matchup with Calgary to see how the Wings would hold up against the tough Flame team.  I think we can safely say at this point that Detroit is no pushover.  They played great hockey for most of the series, and put on quite a show with their puck-possession game.  San Jose dismissed the Predators for the second year in a row, and have earned the right to face the number one team in the conference.  Nicklas Lidstrom could be elevated to legendary status if he can shut down Joe Thornton and the Wings go on to win the whole thing.  But I’m thinking Joe will be doing all he can to shake the label of a great player who can’t win when it matters.

Drew’s pick: Logo SJS

Anaheim Ducks (#2) vs. Vancouver Canucks (#3)

Drew’s take: About ten months ago, I made some comparisons between Roberto Luongo and Marc Denis, or more accurately between their respective teams.  At the time, they were members of the Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets.  It wasn’t my intention to say that Denis was of the same caliber as Luongo, but I’d understand if some people saw it that way.  Seeing what Luongo has done in Vancouver this season, now would be the time for anyone who misread the original post to email me with a “told ya so!”  On a team with mediocre scoring depth, Roberto Luongo has turned the Canucks into a contender.  The question for today is this: how will he fare against a team that has considerably more scoring depth (Anaheim) than did Dallas?  If the young Ducklings (Getzlaf, Perry, Penner, Beauchemin) can continue their strong play, Luongo may have to continue pining for that Cup inscription.

Drew’s pick: Logo ANA

Things get started tonight with the Sabres and Rangers at 7, and the Ducks and Canucks at 10.  Tomorrow night sees the Devils and Senators at 7, and the Wings and Sharks at 7:30.  Let’s all hope we continue to see good, solid hockey.

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NHL 2007 Playoff Predictions

April 11, 2007

For the second year in a row, I will be putting my playoff picks on the site for all to ridicule.  This season, I’ve got Truth Serum joining me and putting his two cents in.

The action starts tonight with four games on the docket, so without further ado, here are the results of the End of the Bench first round pick ’em:

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres (#1) vs. New York Islanders (#8)

Drew’s take: With Dipietro, the Islanders are a long-shot.  Without him (as they will be to start the series), they’re cooked.

Drew’s pick:  Logo BUF

Truth’s pick: Logo BUF

New Jersey Devils (#2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (#7)

Drew’s take:  If Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis can solve Marty Brodeur and the Devils offense can’t take advantage of the netminding problems in Tampa, this series could be an upset.  But when you’re not even dressing your highest paid healthy goaltender (former Jacket Marc Denis will be watching from the stands at least in Game 1), I’m not inclined to give you much of a chance.

Drew’s pick: Logo NJD

Truth’s pick: Logo NJD

Atlanta Thrashers (#3) vs. New York Rangers (#6)

Drew’s take: The Thrashers make their first post-season appearance, while winning the Southeast no less, and have the good fortune of facing the hottest goaltender in 2007 in Henrik Lundqvist.  Last season, King Henry and Prince Jaromir were embarassed by the Devils in the first round.  This year, a Rangers squad including Brendan Shanahan gets to pick on the new kid on the block.  Expect a big game or two from Atlanta, but probably not enough to take the series.

Drew’s pick: Logo NYR

Truth’s pick: Logo NYR

Ottawa Senators (#4) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (#5)

Drew’s take: In my opinion, this is the series in the East that poses the most questions.  Will Sid, Evgeni, and the young Penguin team choke in the playoffs?  Will Ottawa play up to it’s potential?  Which goaltender (Emery, Fleury, or Gerber) will come up big?  I think this will be the best first round matchup to watch in this conference.

Drew’s pick: Logo PIT

Truth’s pick: Logo OTT

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings (#1) vs. Calgary Flames (#8)

Drew’s take: This game is a chance for Detroit to exorcise some recent playoff demons.  In 2004, Calgary eliminated the Wings in the Conference Semi’s… a series the Wings were expected to win.  In each of the last three playoff runs, the Wings have lost in the first or second round to a lower seeded team.  With Henrik Zetterberg expected back, I’m sure there are many Detroit fans hoping this one is short, sweet, and to the point.

Drew’s take: Logo DET

Truth’s take: Logo DET

Anaheim Ducks (#2) vs. Minnesota Wild (#7)

Drew’s take:  It’s the time of year Ducks management has dreamt about since signing Chris Pronger to join Scott Neidermeyer on the blueline.  Duck forwards Teemu Selanne and the young guys like Perry, Getzlaf, and Penner will have to find a way to break through the opposition’s strategy of lock-down defense.  Interestingly enough, even with Manny Fernandez on the mend, all five of CBS Sportsline’s hockey talking heads have picked Minnesota to win the series.  As for us…

Drew’s pick: Logo ANA (That says Ducks… dang small logos)

Truth’s pick: Logo ANA

Vancouver Canucks (#3) vs. Dallas Stars (#6)

Drew’s take:  Last year I picked the Stars and Marty Turco to shake the recent playoff busts and win the Cup.  This year, they face an even more dangerous team in Vancouver.  Though this is All-World goaltender Roberto Luongo’s first playoff action in his career, he’s shown what he can do with a capable defense.  And Dallas… “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice… well you already fooled me once, you can’t do it again.”

Drew’s pick: Logo VAN

Truth’s pick: Logo VAN

Nashville Predators (#4) vs. San Jose Sharks (#5)

Drew’s take: A team with aging skilled forwards (Forsberg, Arnott, Kariya, Sullivan) takes on a team with younger skilled forwards (Marleau, Thornton, Cheechoo).  (Yeah, it’s simple and unfair… oh well.)  Aside from goaltending, the question I want to see answered is which deadline acquisition will pay off: Forsberg, or Guerin?

Drew’s pick:Logo NSH

Truth’s pick: Logo SJS