Angus here - Merry Christmas (eve). Out doing some Christmas stuff this AM, so the ramblings will be up a bit late. A lot to chew on from a busy Friday night in the NHL. Thanks for your patience!
Dobber's THN column on Radim Vrbata is here.
Weiss left the game with an upper-body injury last night. Likely a promotion for Shawn Matthias (who is playing some great hockey right now). No word on the severity, but Weiss won't play in Florida's next game.
My fantasy hockey year in review will be out this weekend. I have been stalling with it (and a few other pieces) – very busy fall for myself. I’ve spent a lot of time compiling my top 10 fantasy hockey stories (with input from you fine folks on the site, twitter, and via e-mail).
In honor of Kronwall’s hit – a post from the Score’s hockey blog (back from October) on hockey’s five scariest hitters. Worth the read alone to see the evolution of Dion Phaneuf’s photo.
The daily Studs and Duds are up over on the forums.
Nick Foligno was kicked out of the game last night for throwing a hit. More of a reputation call based on some recent stuff (his hit on Kesler which also earned him a game misconduct). Neither hit was malicious – Kesler embellished it and fell into the hit a bit, while Keaton Ellerby blew a tire and Foligno really had nowhere to go but over. It is nice to see him playing with more of a physical edge, though.
Tomas Fleischmann played almost 25 minutes last night. He’s having a great season for the Panthers. His signing was a risk (and still is) considering the severity of the injury/issue he was coming back from (blood clots). He’s a dynamic offensive talent and he’s making the most of his first line opportunity.
Versteeg’s great season continues, as well. The Florida top line is arguably the top surprise line of the season, and could find its way into my top 10 fantasy stories of the year list in a few days…
Three points for Alffy last night, and two points for Karlsson. Karlsson is second in the entire league in assists. Showing why people have been so high on him for so long. He’s never goiong to be a defensive stud but he’s a game-changing defenseman offensively. Imagine the totals he will put up once Ottawa gets some more talent for him to play with?
Chris Neil had a goal and a helper – he’ll be highly sought after at the deadline this season (if the Senators choose to shop him).
Turris has points in two straight games. He didn’t see any PP time last night, although the Sens only had one (brief) power play. He also had three shots on goal.
Michalek is getting closer to returning, but he still missed the game due to a concussion.
Brian Campbell refuses to slow down, as he is still on pace for 65 points.
Shawn Matthias has four points in his last four games.
PK Subban was a healthy scratch last night. The Habs continue to struggle, and I’m not surprised. Their roster is built for a Jacques Martin system – responsible defensemen who can clear lanes and the front of the net, but aren’t great puck movers, and a forward group devoid of elite offensive talent. I feel for Carey Price.
Montreal was shut out without Subban. Chris Campoli was a minus-3. Montreal has been playing some ugly and uninspired hockey lately.
With Bryan Little out, Burmistrov and Jim Slater took most of the faceoffs for the Jets. Neither recorded a point, though.
Three points and four shots on goal for Blake Wheeler. Wheeler’s quietly on pace for over 55 points.
Another collapse for the Blue Jackets, as they failed to hold two different three goal leads. Jeff Carter had a first period hat trick, but the Jackets collapsed once again down the stretch.
Nikita Nikitin continues to log heavy minutes. He had one point, five shots on goal, and close to 26 minutes of ice time.
Weber and Suter combined for five points and a plus-4 rating. Another dominant performance from the league’s best defensive pairing.
Nazem Kadri scored the game winner for the Leafs as Buffalo continues to struggle.
Enstrom has two points in three games since returning from his shoulder injury.
Calgary needs to trade Iginla. I can foresee a deadline situation similar to Sundin in Toronto, although the circumstances may differ (Sundin wanted to stay, if the Flames are out of contention I bet Iginla would entertan offers).
Malkin and Stamkos are both playing well this year. The debate between the two has been the biggest one on this site for the past few years. I haven’t wavered from camp Malkin, but it was looking bleak at times. Both players are elite talents. Stamkos will always be less of a health risk, and his upside isn’t much lower than Malkin’s. Malkin has that little extra “what if” that no other players really have, and we are seeing a bit of that right now.
I think the big thing for Malkin is establishing a level of comfort with his linemates.
Peter Regin is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. He’s pretty much done if this is another serious surgery and rehabilitation. His shoulders make Ales Hemsky’s look durable. Too bad, as he was really starting to develop into a solid top six forward two seasons ago.
I am enjoying the HBO special (obviously), but not quite as much as last year. Bryzgalov is far and away the star of the show with his hilariously bizarre opinions. I really like the team assembled in New York too. A lot of gritty, hard-working, and grounded guys – Girardi, Richards, Callahan, etc.
Speaking of the Rangers, they won again last night, with a depleted defense and their back up goalie.
Del Zotto’s bounce back season continues. There was a great read on him yesterday in the New York Times – mentioning how good a mentor Brad Richards has been (Richards played the same role with James Neal in Dallas, and Neal introduced the two).
Confidence is everything with young defensemen, and Del Zotto has gone from zero to a lot in just a few months. He’s playing more of a two-way role than many thought he could, especially at this point of his career.
The NYR ice time for defensemen: Stralman (22), McDonagh (26), Girardi (28), Erixon (10), Del Zotto (24), and Bickel (8). Leaning heavily on four defensemen – one who started the year in Europe. Really, really impressive.
Stralman saw some PP time, and finished with two helpers and a plus-3. He’s not going to be the elite PP QB many had hoped/expected a few years ago, but he has quality offensive abilities and can produce if given the minutes on a consistent basis.
No points for Carl Hagelin, but he’s seeing lots of ice time (time on the second PP unit, and almost 17 minutes of total ice time).
What if the Islanders returned Josh Bailey to the OHL as an 18-year-old a few years ago? He’s on pace for 23 points, and is once again looking ineffective against NHL defensemen. He was rushed for no reason.
A bright spot for the Isles has been the play of Moulson – under the radar once again, but he’s on pace for over 40 goals and close to 240 shots.
Another loss for the Sabres – as I wrote yesterday, they could be the first team to make a big move in the new year.
Brayden McNabb played almost 20 minutes, including time on the PK and PP. He had terrific numbers in the WHL last year and looks pretty good at the NHL level as a rookie.
Pominville and Vanek are the only ones doing anything for the Sabres right now.
Broad Street Hockey did a review of episode two – mostly Flyer related, of course. Worth the read.
Neuvirth has strung together a few good games after Vokoun struggled a bit. I think Vokoun will re-establish himself as the starter, but I like that the Capitals are letting both goalies show what they can before the playoffs start. Giving Vokoun a super long leash wouldn’t do much for Neuvirth’s confidence.
A good read on Smith-Pelly’s expectations heading in to the World Juniors.
“In 26 games with the Ducks this season, the 19-year-old Scarborough native has three goals and five points to go along with 10 penalty minutes. He knows that with his NHL experience, he will be part of the leadership group for this year's squad, that includes seven 18-year-olds.
"It starts with us (veterans)," Smith-Pelly said. "We have a lot of expectations for ourselves and the team. We've got to make sure that we're on every night and it started tonight. Hopefully we can continue that."
Smith-Pelly was a key part of Canada's win over Finland. He laid out several big hits that put the Finns back on their heels for parts of the game.
"You kind of see him after big hits like that looking over his shoulder," said Canada forward Jaden Schwartz. "It gets the bench going and it's fun to see."”
The Blackhawks spread some holiday cheer: