Archive for the ‘ NHL ’ Category

Washington Capitals: Team of Destiny?

Could there be a very small comparison of the Washington Capitals in the NHL to the New Orleans Saints of the NFL?

Two franchises that haven’t seen much success are reaching new heights that have never been seen before. Both teams have stars (Alex Ovechkin in Washington, Drew Brees in New Orleans) and a dynamic supporting cast.

But the comparisons really stop there.

While the Saints have always had the hearts of fans in New Orleans, despite the losing ways and the days of the ‘Aints, the Capitals are currently the hottest ticket in Washington (and the most successful franchise in Washington over the past few years), but they are still viewed as third-rate to a lot of people in their own city (to the Redskins and Wizards). With the current winning streak they are on (a franchise-record 14 straight) and no other team in the NHL holding a candle to them, it seems as though the stars (not Dallas) are aligned to bring Lord Stanley’s cup to the nation’s capital.

Unlike the San Jose Sharks, who looked like the team of destiny a year ago before choking in the first round against the Anaheim Ducks, the Washington Capitals know how to get the job done. They have won in every way imaginable. They have got off to fast starts and been consistent, they found ways to win the close games, and in a similarity to the Saints (again), no lead is safe with this team. That was proven yesterday when they came back from a 4-1 deficit Sunday afternoon to beat their archrival Pittsburgh Penguins in over time 5-4. Fans braved through the snow and showed up in full force. It just seems as if the Caps are not going to lose any time soon and that this team is a team of destiny. And this is a team that is more than just Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Alexander Semin are just among the few players that makes this team go. Don’t forget about the coaching of Bruce Boudreau, he has done a great job of making sure this team handles their business night in and night out.

If the Capitals can keep this momentum up after the Olympic break, they will easily win the President’s Trophy. However, they still have to exercise demons of last year and losing to the Penguins in the second round of the playoffs a year ago. They definitely have what it takes to get it done, and have everyone in DC Rocking the Red.

Time will tell what that destiny holds.

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TSX Rapid News (1/8)

Welcome to TSX Rapid News for January 8th, 2010. Here are some of the early morning news from overnight into the midday:

– On Thursday, new Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren has announced that current Browns head coach Eric Mangini will stay on as the team’s head coach for next season. After a 1-11 start, Cleveland closed out the season with four straight wins, and it led to a stronger relationship between the players and coaches, and it gives a lot of optimism for next season. The only bad news on this is that one of the main reasons for Cleveland’s late season success, Josh Cribbs has cleaned out his locker over a contract dispute. Cribbs has been dynamic this season, setting records for kickoff returns all-time. Holmgren, please pay the man the money he deserves. Especially if you want to build a winner.

– Indiana Pacers F Danny Granger is looking to make his return to the court soon. He has been practicing and has felt no pain in the past couple of days. The decision will be made by head coach Jim O’ Brien and the Pacers training staff. He will miss the next two games at Minnesota Friday and at Oklahoma City on Saturday.

– Dallas Stars C Mike Ribeiro will miss the next 4-6 weeks after taking an accidental stick to the throat from New York Rangers forward Christopher Higgins during the Stars’ 5-2 loss on Wednesday. Ribeiro underwent a tracheotomy to repair a throat contusion in Dallas on Thursday morning and the Stars will definitely miss his 33 points (10 G, 23 A) he has accumulated this season.

– The Washington Wizards plan to fine several players who took part in Gilbert Arenas’ pregame ritual where he was pointing his fingers like guns and once again making light of a serious matter, along with his teammates, in which nearly all of them were laughing and smiling before Washington’s game with Philadelphia this past Tuesday. Arenas has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA for having three guns in the Wizards’ locker room during a spat with teammate Javaris Crittenton.

Be back tonight for the night edition of TSX Rapid News.

Hockey at Fenway

Happy New Year from The Sports eXpress!

It is appropriate that the first TSX post of the year starts with a yearly tradition: The 2010 NHL Winter Classic. Last Year from Wrigley Field in Chicago was pretty special, and actually brought the NHL on NBC some of the best television ratings in years. This year’s Classic should bring even more ratings, as it comes from what is billed as “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark”, Fenway Park in Boston.

Fenway Park is special. It has its aura that has been standing for 88 years in April, from the manual scoreboard and Green Monster in left field, Pesky’s Pole in right field, and the famous “Triangle” in Center Field; it has seen numerous moments in those 88 years, including six World Series pennants (including in its opening year of 1912 and the Curse of the Bambino for 86 years), and will now serve as a hockey venue for the first time ever when the Boston Bruins host the Philadelphia Flyers Friday afternoon.

The outdoor hockey game has brought together NHL fans and even has drawn non-NHL fans to the game, even if for just a day, and what better way to draw general sports fans into the game then to have it at what is concered one of the most hallowed venues in all of sports. The only thing that would have made this game a little more special is to have put the original New York NHL team in Fenway Park, and give it a Red Sox/Yankees (or Yankees/Red Sox) rivalry type of feel, and two Original Six teams going at it, similar to last year’s game between the Detroit Red Wings & Chicago Blackhawks. The Winter Classic won’t be the only hockey game at Fenway this year. Two college hockey games (one men’s, one women’s) will take place Jan. 8th. The first game will feature the first NCAA women’s hockey game outdoors between the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern, and the second game will feature big-time crosstown hockey rivals Boston College (2008 National Champions) and Boston University (2009 National Champions)

Expect a good game between the Flyers and Bruins though. Both teams are physical, they love to play hard on defense, They have good leadership from their coaches, Claude Julien for Boston and Peter Laviolette for Philadelphia. Forward play advantage goes to the Flyers, led by Mike Richards (16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points), and Jeff Carter (14G, 18A, 32P). The Flyers can score on offense, but they are facing a tough Bruins defense led by captain Zdeno Chara, and one of the best goaltenders in the game, Tim Thomas. With the game in Boston, and the spirit and magic of Fenway Park, it’s hard to go against the Bruins, but expect a great game, just because it’s outdoors, it’s the NHL’s biggest game of the season (no All-Star game due to the 2010 Winter Olympics). Hockey purists and general sports fans alike are in for a very big treat in this game on Friday from Fenway.

New Year, New Coach, New Beginning

Last year, they were the worst team in the NHL’s Western Conference.

Through the end of the month of October, they are the Best in the West.

The Colorado Avalanche have played some extremely sound hockey in the opening month of the 2009-10 NHL season. They have a 9-1-2 record and have taken the overall points lead in the NHL after a 3-0 shutout win over the Edmonton Oilers last night. With new head coach Joe Sacco keeping the team focused, they started out with wins over last year’s President’s Trophy winner, the San Jose Sharks, and the Vancouver Canucks with one of the best goaltenders in the game in Roberto Luongo. With those two early wins, set the tone in the Avs locker room that they can beat and hang in with the best, which was apparently missing from the days of former head coach Tony Granato.

Some factors in the success of the Avalanche are the play of Wojtek Wolski, and Paul Stasny, who lead the team with 12 pts., Wolski has seven goals, and Stasny with eight assists. Another surprise contribution are the play of their first two draft picks, Matt Duchene (3rd overall pick) and Ryan O’Reilly (33rd overall pick), who have made positive impact, especially for two 18 year-old players. They are not Sidney Crosby type numbers, but they are helping the team win. The major factor has been in between the pipes, as Craig Anderson has been a wall for the month of October, with a 9-1-2 record, and a goals against average of 1.97 and with the Oilers’ victory, gave him his second shutout of the season. It is too early to talk Vezina Trophy for the best goaltender, but the great start will have to be consistent in the following months leading to the playoff races in April.

Can the Avalanche make it through the winter and stay at the top of the standings, or will they falter down the stretch. With the successes of all the other Denver franchises, it is good to see the Avalanche off to their best start since the 2000-01 season. That year, they won the Stanley Cup.

Capitalizing On Success

The NHL experienced some of its best action during the 2008-2009 season last year. The ratings for the biggest game, The Winter Classic went up, the revival of the Chicago Blackhawks, an Original Six franchise captivated the city of Chicago and NHL purists everywhere, the success of the Stanley Cup rematch, and watching the game’s biggest player win his first Stanley Cup. The NHL season was full of great action and memorable moments all season long, and this is the golden opportunity for the NHL to make next season even better.

The things the NHL did right in the offseason was not make TWO Winter Classic games. The outdoor game, usually played in a baseball/football venue of some historical significance, should just be one game that is played once a year instead of making it a double header. The Stanley Cup playoffs had some of the greatest action seen in a long time, especially with the drama of the Carolina Hurricanes and their wins over New Jersey and the Boston Bruins. The game’s two biggest stars lived up to the hype in their postseason battle with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. The action was fierce, and electric throughout.

Finally, the Stanley Cup final between the Red Wings and Penguins. The numerous storylines, and the Penguins being able to topple the mighty Red Wings. Marian Hossa, who left the Penguins and their lucrative contract offer to play for one year in Detroit to win a Cup, ended up being a non-factor for the Wings, and Pittsburgh wins at Joe Louis Arena, and Sidney Crosby raising the Cup for the first time in his career. The NHL experienced high ratings for the Stanley Cup finals, it’s highest in years, and it really shows that the league is going in a right direction.

With these success from 2008-2009, it will be a tough year to follow up on, but with the Olympics in 2010, it will be useful for NBC to cross-promote the Winter Olympics and the NHL, and keep the interest going.

Where’s the League-Wide retirement of the #23?

During the 1990s, Michael Jordan revolutionized the game of basketball. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in eight years, and had everybody in the country wanting to be “Like Mike”. His achievements went beyond the court, leading to many endorsements, and reaching different fan bases alike.

His number, 23, is recognized worldwide, in fact, the Miami Heat retired the #23 in his honor, and he never played a single game for them. The fact that he had such an impact on the game, that teams he never played for retired his number says volumes.

So why doesn’t the NBA send the greatest player in its history a brilliant gesture by retiring the #23 league-wide?

The NHL retired Wayne Gretzky’s #99 on Feb. 2, 2000 at the NHL All Star Game in Toronto for his contributions to the game. He revolutionized the game of hockey, winning championships in Edmonton, and leading the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993. He ended up being the NHL’s All-Time leading scorer, and in goals, assists, and points scored. Jordan did not get to be the all-time leading scorer in the NBA, but he brought ratings that were never seen, and will not be seen. Not even the man who is the most-known #23 today, LeBron James, is going to bring the same audience. Ratings were up when Jordan made his way back to the NBA in 1996, and again in 2000, and during the periods where he left, the ratings dropped. The NBA should retire MJ’s #23 just like the NHL retired Gretzky’s #99. The numbers of both these players are iconic with the league, and #23 should not be shared with anyone else, like the #99 is synonymous with the NHL.

So come on David Stern, if you want a big event in Dallas, retire MJ’s # leaguewide at the NBA All-Star Game 2010. Let LeBron be grandfathered… as long as he’s in Cleveland. If he leaves, he must have another number. Sounds like a good plan, and it would bring in those every important ratings that the league craves.