NHL Week One:The Good,Bad, & Ugly

628x471

The Cover 4.com presents you with NHL Week One:The Good,Bad, & Ugly! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

NHL Week One:The Good,Bad, & Ugly

Hello hockey fans, and welcome back. The NHL season is FINALLY underway, and there are a bunch of storylines taking place right now. How has the New York-Vancouver coaching swap worked out for both teams? Can the Blackhawks repeat? Can the Sharks get over the hump? Can the Penguins recover from an embarrassing playoff ouster? How will Tim Thomas fare in his comeback? We are about a week and a half into this new season, and we have seen some great hockey so far. Each week this season, The Cover 4 crew will give you a quick rundown of the weeks happenings in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Buckle up for the first installment.

The Good

-Alex Ovechkin has come out with guns blazing in this young season. Through three games, Ovi has 4 goals and 2 assists, and has looked like the MVP Ovechkin from the second half of last season. His release is still the most lethal in the game (sorry Steven Stamkos) and he is still finding acres of open ice on the power play. If he can keep up the pace, look for him to be in the mix again for MVP.

-The Colorado Avalanche are off to a 3-0 start this season.  They have a top-10 offense, guiding them to their third win over a previously unbeaten Maple Leafs team. Rookie forward and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon  has been very impressive thus far, and new head coach Patrick Roy has brought a new fire to the team.

-Without a doubt, the biggest story of the early season is young Czech Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are off to a 3-0 start as well, and Hertl has been a big part of that. In his three career games, Hertl has two multi-goal games, the most recent of which, a 4-goal game against the Rangers, capped by a must-see stick-between-the-legs move. Just sensational.  Despite the flash, the kid is showing he knows where to go to score goals, potting a few from the low slot, high crease area, which is right where you want to go if you want to have a long and productive NHL career.

 

The Bad

-Cory Schneider opened the season in net for the Devils when they visited Pittsburgh last Thursday, leaving Martin Brodeur to ride the pine on opening night for the first time in two decades. While Schneider is deserving of that honor, and the Devils opened with a back-to-back (so Brodeur could start at home), it is just yet another sign that one of the best goalies of all time is on his way out. My guess would be that this is Brodeur’s last season in the league, and with the Devils’ roster, it could be a long one.

-Despite the hot start from captain Alex Ovechkin (6 points through 3 games) the Caps have been less than intimidating. Already, they are the third worst team in the league in goals against, and they have played the horrible Calgary Flames, the mediocre-at-best Dallas Stars, and the defending Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Through those first three games, the Caps managed just one win, and that was a comeback game against the Flames. The Caps still look to be a one-man show, despite Mikhail Grabovski putting up some numbers early. Luckily for Caps fans, it is still only three games into this young, 82-game season.

-The Philadelphia Flyers have stumbled out of the gates to say the least. Their newly appointed captain Claude Giroux was set back over the offseason by a freak golfing accident (something you thought a Philadelphia Flyer would have mastered by now), but he was ready for the season opener. After a less than impressive preseason and starting 0-3, the Flyers fired head coach Peter Laviolette, making him the first coaching casualty of the season, and promoted assistant coach Craig Berube to head coach. Berube got the Flyers’ their first win of the season to move them to 1-3 on the year, but if the Flyers don’t solve their goaltending issue (change the record on that one), they may be in for another long year in the competitive Metropolitan Division.

 

The Ugly

-Well it didn’t take Patrick Roy long to re-endear himself to the Avalanche faithful. At the end of his first game as bench boss in Colorado, tempers flared as Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy appeared to hit Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon knee-on-knee. MacKinnon was ok, but a fiery Roy got into a verbal altercation with Ducks agitator-extraordinaire Corey Perry, which led to Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau and Roy screaming at each other from the benches. Roy wound up shoving the dividing partition of glass between the benches, breaking it, and nearly pancaking Boudreau with it. “It going to be a long first year for Patrick if that is how he reacts to everything,” Boudreau said after the game.

-It happens to every goalie in their careers, and this week it happened to Jonathan Quick. A disastrous gaffe in the Kings game against the Rangers will keep Quick on hockey blooper reels for some time. After winning a defensive zone faceoff while killing a penalty, the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh cleared the puck off the glass and down the rink. As the puck headed towards the no-play trapezoid, Quick came out to stop the puck, and then move it back up to his teammates on the power play, a very routine move in the game. About two strides out from his net as he was bending down to get the thick part of his stick on the ice, Quick lost control of his stick right before the puck got to him, and the puck bounced right off of his blocker and went into his net. The shock and disbelief immediately befell Quick as reality set it. Luckily for Quick, he’s arguably the game’s best netminder, and this gaffe will quickly be forgotten.

-On opening night, an incident happened between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens that reignited the fighting debate. During their second fight of the game, Montreal’s George Parros and Toronto’s Colton Orr were squaring off, and being that they are both enforcers for their respective teams, they are no strangers to each other. At one point, Orr lost his balance, and as he was falling, pulled Parros down with him, who ultimately hit his face on the ice, knocking him unconscious and forcing him to be taken off of the ice on a stretcher. With both players involved having limited talent and one clear role on their teams (to be the fighters), the debate was kicked off again as to whether it is time to ban fighting in the game. We won’t have an answer to that question for a while, but it is moments like this that spark the debate.

 

Thank you for joining us for our first installment of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Stop back next week for more.

 __________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Pat Davis
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
https://www.facebook.com/theco.verfour
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

NHL Season Preview Part 1:Atlantic Division

NHL_Eastern_Conference

The Cover 4.com presents you with the NHL Season Preview Part 1:Atlantic Division! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

The 2013-14 NHL season is going to look a little different, in terms of teams, divisions and players, all of which have undergone major change. For the upcoming season, the realignment of the NHL is in full effect and there are new divisional names and a new playoff system.  The biggest change in the realignment is the shift of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings to the Eastern Conference. There will be new rivalries that were never able to exist in the past. The playoffs will take 16 teams, eight from each conference, and seed them. Under the new alignment, Eastern Conference teams, now consisting of the Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions, will have 30 games against their division opponents and 24 games against conference opponents outside of their division as well as 28 interconference games. To start our season preview, lets take a look at the Atlantic Division.

168684540

BOSTON BRUINS

The Bruins skated their way last year into the Stanley Cup Final facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks, but lost in six games. The Bruins had a bit of a wild offseason in terms of players coming and going. The Bruins traded young forward and former No. 2 overall pick Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars after a disappointing year on and off-the-ice. His return netted the Bruins a natural goal scorer in Loui Eriksson, who will likely be paired on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Eriksson has been a reliable source of offense, producing three consecutive 70-plus point seasons before a subpar shortened season last year. Gone are Jaromir Jagr and Nathan Horton, but Boston went out signed 36-year-old Jarome Iginla in place of Jagr. Iginla is on the downside of his career, but he should fit in nicely with Boston’s style of play. The Bruins also lost defenseman Andrew Ference to Edmonton, which is their only notable loss on defense. Zdeno Chara will continue to lead the Bruins blue line as veterans Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg are dependable. Dougie Hamilton had an outstanding promising rookie year and could become a top pairing defenseman soon. Also in the mix are Torey Krug , who made a name for himself in the playoffs, Matt Bartkowski, Adam McQuaid  and Joe Morrow, who also came over in the Seguin trade. In goal Tuukka Rask looks to build off a career year and strong playoff appearance as he is now the long-term solution in net for the next eight years. If Rask goes down, Boston will be in trouble as backups Chad Johnson and Niklas Svedberg have little, to no NHL experience.  Boston should be the favorite for this division.

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller sits on the ice after being scored on  during their NHL hockey game in Toronto

BUFFALO SABRES

Buffalo is basically in a rebuilding mode as it has a very weak team and little depth on its roster. Thomas Vanek is the veteran and big name who is looking to lead and carry the team after having his most productive season last year. The forwards for Buffalo are less than ideal and more promise and future hope than what can you do for me now.  Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis are two of Buffalo’s most optimistic players as the youngsters combined for 65 points in 2013 and should be looking for a breakout year in a full season. Mikhail Grigorenko, who was looked at as a promising hope of offensive production last year as a rookie, struggled to find his game and managed just one goal in 25 games. He does have the size and skill to be productive if given a full season to play.  Other forwards include Ville Leino, who signed a $26 million contract two years ago, who needs to stay healthy and produce as he has been nothing but a bust thus far. Buffalo will also have the likes of Steve Ott, who is used to create space and open play for guys like Drew Stafford who had the one of the worst seasons of his career last year.  Once promising youngster Tyler Myers, a 6-foot-8 defenseman, saw his minutes drop as he became nothing but a problem every time he was on the ice. The Sabers need improved play from him moving forward to have any chance of success this year. In net, Ryan Miller who many thought would be dealt last year, is back. Miller has been in steady decline since 2010 and his backup, Jhonas Enroth, didn’t look very promising either last year. It looks like it is going to be along year for Buffalo and fans can expect trades to happen and wins hard to come by.

bilde

DETROIT RED WINGS

The Original Six team joins the Eastern Conference this year and enters as an already formidable opponent. Detroit has wanted this switch for years and it finally has it now, as it has a time schedule that is much more suitable for the team.  Detroit will have a much easier conference than years past, but still play top division teams like Pittsburgh, Boston and Montreal. Detroit was expected to have a down year last year, but went beyond expectations. Detroit has an abundance of forwards but is $2.5 million over the cap, which it will need to get down to before October 2. They added long time Ottawa  Senator, Daniel Alfredsson, as their top free agent signing as well as Stephen Weiss who will be replacing Valtteri Filppula. Alfredsson should be motivated to win a Cup as Detroit is a legitimate contender and practically quit on Ottawa last year after going down in its series to Pittsburgh. Weiss escapes a bad Florida team and can finally just be the play maker he is, and not the go-to guy he was expected to be.  Having Pavel Datysuk and Henrik Zetterberg should help him finally be himself on the ice and see his creativity go to work. Darren Helm will start the season on the IR and has had trouble staying healthy. Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Mikael Samuelsson can all be depended upon and know what their roles are on the team. Their defense was a question mark heading into last season but this year, it should be a sound defensive unit. The defense is young, a change from years past and features Danny DeKeyser and Alexei Marchenko as players to watch. Ericsson, Kyle Quincey and Kronwall are the veteran leaders on defense.  Jimmy Howard has a chance to be a top goaltender in this league and his playoff success from last year shows he can carry them deep into the playoffs. Detroit will be fighting with the Bruins at the top of the Atlantic this year.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Florida Panthers

FLORIDA PANTHERS

There is not much to say about this team other than they are going to need a miracle to even sniff the playoffs this year. They have lots of high ceiling guys, but all offered minimal production. In 2012 they were the best team in their division, but are nothing more than basement dwellers now. They have the 2013 Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau, who is their top young forward trying to lead Florida back into hockey relevancy. They signed veteran Scott Gomez, who is nothing more than a wasted paycheck anymore, during the offseason and have invited goaltender Tim Thomas to camp for a tryout. Thomas took all of last year off and even if he does make the team, he is nothing more than a backup and mentor.  Florida is led by forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg on the first line. As I said before, hope is bleak in the SunshineState. A few other notable forwards will be Sean Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall and Marcel Goc as bottom-tier players.  Jacob Markstrom is expected to be the team’s go-to goalie and Florida needs him to be its future goalie. It’s going to be a long year in Florida, not that many will notice, as the Panthers have one of the lowest attendance figures in the league. Count on them to finish last.

222029_011711-NHL-subban-PI-AM_20110117234512305_660_320

MONTREAL CANADIENS

The Habs didn’t really do much in the offseason in terms of getting better, as they only signed Danny Briere, George Parros and Douglas Murray. None of those three are expected to be game changers for this team. Montreal is banking off its late season surge last year, and feels it already has the necessary pieces in place to compete. Its division gets a little tougher this year but it has the skill and speed to keep up. It needs size and toughness which is what Murray and Parros are for. David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Rene Bourque are expected to be the point producers while the bottom two lines expect to wear you down. Lars Eller, Brian Gionta and Brandon Prust are very tough bottom-six names who can give you problems and chip in on the score sheet.  Montreal has a lot of depth on its team and remains solid overall. PK Subban will be his usual self on defense scoring goals and creating problems for other teams, as he is one of the best agitators in the league. Alexei Emelin will also be a name to look for as a key on Montreal’s blue line. Carry Price is signed for another five years and he has become a reliable goalie after showing signs early in his career that he couldn’t handle pressure. Expect Montreal to be a top 3-4 contender in this division.

ErikKarlssonOttawaSenatorsSensTownBlogPointyMcPointerson

OTTAWA SENATORS

Daniel Alfredsson shocked a lot of people in the NHL by leaving Ottawa. It was a true blow to the fans to see the sides only $1 million off and not get a deal done. Maybe he didn’t really want to come back? Either way, it can be argued the Senators made the biggest offseason trade, going out and getting high-scoring winger Bobby Ryan from Anaheim for Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen. Ryan had been dealing with trade rumors the past few years and he can finally just relax and know it is over.  Ryan will be playing top-three minutes every night and has play-making ability to open space and make his linemates better. Ottawa fans should be excited about this trade because Ryan brings a wealth of talent to an already highly-skilled team.  He should be on a line with (who I assume to be the new captain) Jason Spezza. Spezza is a great passer and there should be a lot of chemistry between the two. Rounding out that line will be Milan Michalek. Kyle Turris will play with newly signed Clarke MacArthur and possibly Cory Conacher or Mika Zibanejad. Erik Karlsson is looking for another nomination for the Norris Trophy this year after being injured for most the year on a play by Matt Cooke last year. The Sens also went out and signed Joe Corvo to play with guys like Eric Gryba and Chris Phillips on the backend. If Craig Anderson can stay healthy, he is a Vezina-type goalie who should be able to backstop this team into a playoff spot. Look for them to be fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the division.

StevenStamkosScoringPace

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Longtime face of the franchise Vincent Lecavalier is gone. His offensive production won’t be missed, but his leadership will. This team is looking to rebound from being one of the worse teams in the league last year, something no one in the NHL saw coming. Valtteri Filppula was their notable free agent signing and was given a lot of money after a disappointing season in Detroit. General Manager Steve Yzerman believes he will have a bounceback year centering the second line with either Teddy Purcell, Alexander Killorn, 2013 No. 2 overall pick Jonathan Drouin or veteran power forward Ryan Malone. My guess would have to be Drouin because he seems more like a natural fit for that line, However, if Drouin struggles early, could he be returned to junior after nine games? I could see Killorn on the top line after he was one of Tampa’s most productive scorers in the AHL. Head coach John Cooper, who took over late last year, should have had more time to establish a system that uses a combination of speed and skill. It could lead to a tougher time for the defense, but their strength is going to be on offense.  Tampa needs to be more consistent this year, after starting last year hot and then resembling a team that forgot how to play. It could score goals, but it could not hold onto leads. In goal, the completion between Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback provides no clear cut favorite for now. Both are big goalies and have the skill set to be number ones, but Tampa is usually a revolving door of goalies. I expect Tampa to struggle this year defensively, and be a brink playoff team thanks to its offense.

8310078

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

The Leafs have what might be their best team in more than 10 years, and they are deep with talent. Their top two lines will be Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk as line one and Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri and newly-signed David Clarkson on the second. I love the addition of Clarkson to this team because he gives them another big body on the top two lines and has proven he knows how to use his size around the net. Kessel is playing for a new contract and as the old adage goes, guys in contract years are motivated and should produce. The bottom six brings new addition Dave Bolland, fresh off a Stanley Cup with Chicago, and talented Russian Nikolai Kulemin. Dion Phaneuf is the team’s best defenseman and had an up and down year last year, but was still a reason for Toronto making the playoffs. He was top 10 defenseman scoring and was often paired against teams’ best players. He may not be a true shutdown defenseman, but he knows how create problems for setting up plays. Jake Gardiner is also a defenseman who will be the Leafs go-to offensive defenseman. Toronto’s biggest concern is its overall defense, as it are often facing a barrage of shots each game. Shots lead to scoring chances and this is something it needs to improve upon. In net, James Reimer is the starter while Jonathan Bernier will push for starting duties. Bernier was the Leafs trade acquisition from the Kings in June and is considered a future No. 1 if Reimer is not capable of fulfilling his duties. I expect Toronto to be a playoff tean this team year, somewhere in the 5-7 seed range.

The Atlantic Division will see the return of some of the sport’s best rivalries with Detroit joining the division again, and it will be a fun division to watch. We are only getting started here at the Cover 4 with our NHL season preview, and tomorrow we shift our focus out West to the Central Division. Today, we will leave you with our three choices to secure the divisional playoff bids:

Boston

Detroit

Montreal

__________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Chris Dazen & Patrick Riley
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
https://www.facebook.com/theco.verfour
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

NHL Season Preview Part 4:Metro Division

NHL_Eastern_Conference

The Cover 4.com presents you with the NHL Season Preview Part 4:Metro Division! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

In  the final installment of our season preview, we swing back to the Eastern Conference and take a look at the newly formed and named Metropolitan Division. The Metro is a star-studded division featuring the likes Claude Giroux, Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.  This division figures to be the most intense, keeping great rivalries such as Flyers-Penguins, Flyers-Rangers and Rangers-Islanders together, while adding new, great divisional rivalries like Flyers-Caps and Pens-Caps. Let’s take a look at how the division figures to break down.

132803_web_7B3qm_Em_156

CAROLINA HURRICANES 

The Hurricanes are one of those teams you look at on paper and wonder just why they were so bad last year? The answer is goaltender Cam Ward. He is the key to this Carolina team and when he went down last year, so did the team. Their top=six forwards are strong, and include two Staals, Eric and Jordan, as well as Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin. The No. 5 overall pick this summer, Elias Lindholm is also supposed to make the team. Offensively this team should be ok. Where it really went wrong last year was trying to stop the puck from going in the net. In the offseason the Hurricanes lost defensemen Jamie McBain and Joe Corvo, not that they were helping out much with the defense last year, and picked up Mike Komisarek and Andrej Sekera. The Hurricanes allowed the second-most goals last season (159), ranking at the near top of list of teams who faced the most shots. It is easy to see why this team was bad. Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen, Jay Harrison and Justin Faulk, all return and are not exactly names that make teams think they are going to be running into a lot of problems. The Hurricanes made some improvements to the blue line, but I don’t see enough of an improvement here to be talking playoffs. The potential to be wrong with that prediction is there, but I feel they did not do enough to help themselves.

Sergei Bobrovsky

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

Columbus is one of my favorite up-and-coming teams in this league and it has finally found themselves in the Eastern Conference where it belongs.  It has what is essentially the same roster back and barely missed the playoffs last year. It is in a much tougher division this year however, and will need to play its best hockey every night to have a chance at making the playoffs. With that said, the Blue Jackets will need to ride Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky throughout the year to succeed. Bobrovsky was practically given away from the Philadelphia Flyers two years ago and last year blossomed into what he was supposed to all along. He was out to prove many wrong, and he did just that. Their biggest off season signing, Nathan Horton, is recovering from shoulder surgery but his offensive production is expected to help when he returns. Marian Gaborik, who is in a contract year, will look to lead the team offensively, but like always with him, he will need to stay healthy.  Artem Anisimov was re-signed and is also expected to score and be a top-six forward while R.J. Umberger, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky are also secondary scorers. Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski are all veterans who can fill big defensive roles for this club. The No. 2 overall pick in 2012, Ryan Murray hopes an injury from last year is behind him, and he is ready to go for this season. If they can replicate everything that went right for them last year, the Blue Jackets should be in the mix for a playoff spot.

martin-brodeur

NEW JERSEY DEVILS 

Who exactly is supposed to score goals on this team? Over the last two years it has lost any resemblance of a team that knows how put pucks in the net. The Devils lost Ilya Kovalchuk to his “retirement” to the KHL, David Clarkson to Toronto and Alexei Ponikarovsky, who was never really that great to start with. They added Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder doing themselves no favors trying to get younger and still being as equally goal challenged as before. These are hard times for the Devils as they are now owned by the NHL, and Martin Brodeur fades into retirement after this season. Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac get the call to light the lamp, but don’t expect staggering numbers. If one thing went right this offseason, it was finding an eventual replacement for Brodeur via Vancouver. Cory Schneider will be the backup, but he should also get a bulk of the starts as well. The Devils likely will have their worst season in years and finish last in the division.

1297415124097_ORIGINAL

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Over the last four years, it may not have looked like it at the time, but the Islanders were building a team with a lot of potential. Last year, that team finally came out. A team built from newly-named captain John Tavares  features the young talent of Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner , Kyle Okposo Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic, Ryan Strome and soon-to-be NHLer Griffin Reinhart. The Islanders are one of the fastest teams in the NHL and can hang and wear teams down over the course of a game. See the Pittsburgh series from last year’s playoffs. The Islanders should have beaten the Penguins, but go no help from their goaltending. Okposo had an awful year last year scoring just four goals, and will be needed this year to help contribute. The team lost defenseman Mark Streit, which hurts their power play but Lubomir Visnovsky can fill that role. Among their other defensemen, the Islanders are in trouble. There is not much there in terms of overwhelming talent and will be a weakness for them this year.  Evgeni Nabokov is 38 and played OK in the regular season, but his postseason was one to forget. Backup goalie Kevin Poulin provides no hope. Expect the Islanders to be fast and sexy, but I think this team needs some help on defense and in goal before talking playoffs this year.

Henrik Lundqvist

NEW YORK RANGERS

Out is head coach John Tortorella and new bench boss, Alain Vigneault formerly of Vancouver, takes over. Vigneault should be the right coach for this team, finally freeing the players from the defensive-minded vice grip Tortorella had on them. That means Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Derick Brassard have their handcuffs off and should be ready to fire at will at the net.  Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan, two of the best two-way forwards in the NHL, will also have an easier time playing more to their game, although not much is expected to change with how they produce. New addition Benoit Pouliot is also an ideal third-line player and should be interesting to watch on this team as he can score if paired with the right players. On defense, Marc Staal is recovered from a career-threatening eye injury. It will be interesting see how he approaches stepping in front of a puck now. Also in that group is Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto who are all sound NHL defensemen.  Goaltending, we all know what to expect from Henrik Lundqvist, but with a less defensive sound team now, it will interesting to see how he responds. Expect for the Rangers to compete for the top of the division.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

We hear it every year, they have the two best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The team around them is built to win and score, as the Penguins were NHL’s highest-scoring team at 3.38 goals per game during the regular season. They lost all those shiny new “old” toys in Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray they acquired last year as well as gritty forward and fan favorite Matt Cooke, and Tyler Kennedy to a trade. Instead of going out and signing new players with high upside, they put all of their money into known commodities Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. The top six will look the same, minus a potential rotating door of Beau Bennett  and Jussi Jokinen on the Malkin and James Neal line. Where the Penguins will really be hurting is the lack of size and grit from their bottom six forwards. Brandon Sutter and newcomer Matt D’Agostini will try to help with lower line scoring. On defense, they kept Kris Letang around, which is huge and signed defenseman Rob Scuderi, an old familiar face, back to the team. The Penguins are beyond loaded with organizational depth on defense and once again it should not be much of an issue (although it was during the playoffs). The biggest question mark is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who once again fell apart in the playoffs. He saw a sports psychologist during the offseason to help, but this is a make or break year for his career. Backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun is out indefinitely with a blood clot. Vokoun carried the Penguins through the playoffs last year, so Fleury will really need to be on top of his game. Expect this Penguins team to be at the top or finish second in the Metro.

142952187_crop_650x440

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS 

When I look at the Flyers, I see a team who has top tier offensive talent, but lacks the overall fear I would normally have in a Flyers team. There is no question their talent at forward is one of the better looking ones in the division.  Claude Giroux is one of the most talented and gifted players in the NHL and will be the team leader in points. Jakub Voracek had a breakout season recording 46 points in a short year while Scott Hartnell will look to bounce back after breaking his foot and only scored 16 points. Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read had nice years, while Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn need to improve after producing well below what was expected of them last year. Newest addition Vincent Lecavalier, who is replacing the departed Danny Briere, should be the second line center and if healthy, he will have a similar role he shared in Tampa over the past few years. On defense, the Flyers had more injures than they could have imagined and were never able to recover. Kimmo Timonen had 29 points on defense and Luke Schenn was nothing special. Their biggest addition was Mark Streit who will ease the pressure of Timonen and become the quarterback of the power play. Health will be a huge determent again as to how well this team does. It’s never the Flyers unless they are having goaltending issues, and always, they are. Gone is head case Ilya Bryzgalov, and a tandem of sub-par goaltending in Steve Mason and Ray Emery will be called upon to play well beyond their better years.  I expect the Flyers to finish either third or fourth in the division.

sp-caps10

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

The Capitals were the Southeast Division winners last year, but this year they join the Wild West run-and-gun Metropolitan Division  where they will need to learn how to defend.  Adam Oates needs more credit for revitalizing Alex Ovechkin’s career, forcing him to right wing where scored a league-high 32 goals and won his third Hart Trophy. Ovechkin seemed lost and many were starting to wonder if this was beginning of the end to his career as an elite player.  But Oates brought out in Ovi what he had been missing for the last two seasons, and Ovi seems to have responded. Mikhail Grabovski was a big pick up and should be the second line center after losing Mike Ribeiro. He has a scoring reputation that the Capitals love and top to the bottom, the Caps have four sound lines. Brooks Laich and Nicklas Backstrom should have no problem putting up their expected point totals for another strong Washington offense. The Capitals defense is a big question this year. The big names; Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson will be fine, but it is the other three remaining defensemen who bring a lot questions. Green obviously will need to stay healthy, as this has become a re-occurring problem for him. The final three defensemen will be names like John Erskine, Tomas Kundratek and Dmitry Orlov. Erskine is the name that many will recognize and is someone the Capitals will need to perform as bottom type defenseman. The goaltender job is Braden Holtby’s to lose, but seems to have finally answer the call as to who should be starting. He had a strong end to his season, but struggled in the playoffs leading to questions if he was the right goalie. He is, but will need to show it was not a fluke. It can be said the team in front of him did not play well, but this is a team effort and he deserves equal blame.  I predict the Capitals will finish somewhere around third or fourth in the division, competing with Philadelphia for one of those spots.

As you can see, the Metro Division is going to be a tightly contested division, with tons of star power battling for supremacy. The headlines are there, the stars are there, and the excitement will surely be there. For our money, here is who we expect to receive the automatic bids out of the Metro this season:

Pittsburgh

Rangers

Capitals

__________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Chris Dazen & Patrick Riley
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
https://www.facebook.com/theco.verfour
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

NHL Season Preview Part 3:Pacific Division

  nhl-western-conference

The Cover 4.com presents you with the NHL Season Preview Part 3:Pacific Division! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

Today, we have our next installment of our division previews, and again we head out west, this time to the Pacific Division. This division should be one of the most competitive divisions, and solid goaltending is a theme for most of the teams in the Pacific. Another common theme of this division is the story of a successful regular season, followed by playoff disappointment. Let’s look at the ins and outs of the Pacific Division.

108080544_crop_650x440

ANAHEIM DUCKS

The Ducks, under the tutelage of Bruce Boudreau, had a surprising second-place finish in the Western Conference last year. But there’s a big piece missing from last year’s team. Bobby Ryan was shipped to Ottawa in exchange for Jakob Silfverberg, a very young and talented forward. Returning are veterans Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. Selanne has already designated this as the last season of his Hall of Fame career. Former Cup champion Dustin Penner is back in town as well, joining old friends Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf both of whom signed long-term deals with the Ducks. Defenseman Cam Fowler will look to rebound after a sophomore slump, and Bryan Allen and Francois Beauchemin will both be rocks on the blueline. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Ducks is the group of five young, extremely talented players. Forwards Matt Beleskey, Nick Bonino, Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem all had their coming out parties last season and look to build off of that. Goaltender John Gibson is possibly the best young goaltender in the game, and he may not even start the season in the NHL. Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller look to backstop the Ducks out of the gates.

giordano-injured1

CALGARY FLAMES

Dark days are here for the Flames. After the very heart and soul of the Flames, Jarome Iginla, was moved to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline last year, any hope for the Flames began to fade. Since then, franchise goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has called it a career. Defenseman Mark Giordano was named captain this offseason, and he is deserving of the honor. Veterans Lee Stempniak, Curtis Glencross and Mike Cammeleri will lead the way to a presumably awful season for Calgary. An interesting player to watch is Sven Baertschi, who enjoyed moderate success as a rookie last season, and he comes in with a pedigree. Expectations are high for the kid, but let’s be serious, the Flames top two goaltenders are Joey MacDonald and Karri Ramo. Yikes.

Yakupov

EDMONTON OILERS

The future is now for this Edmonton Oilers team, and they need to seize it. It seems like over the past few seasons, we have come into the year thinking this is the year the youthful Oilers emerge, and we come out of the season wondering where it went wrong. Injuries to star players like Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall have severely hampered Edmonton over the past few seasons, but inconsistent goaltending has ultimately sunk them. Unfortunately for Oilers fans, the goaltending situation has not been resolved. Devan Dubnyk has shown some flashes of his skill, but has yet to develop into a consistent NHL goaltender. The good news is Dubnyk is another year older, more mature and confident. The same goes for RNH, Eberle and Hall. The Oilers have high top-end talent with those three, supported by Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov. In addition to talent, the Oilers have taken steps to solidify their bottom six as well, bringing in underrated player Boyd Gordon from Phoenix. Gordon is the type of guy that excels defensively at even strength and on the penalty kill. You won’t see him on the power play unit, but he will log of ton of minutes short-handed, and he can pitch in the odd goal on occasion. Ben Eager, Mike Brown and Ryan Smyth provide the grit and toughness that the star players need in order to create space. On the blueline, the Oilers are very underrated. Franchise defenseman Justin Schultz looks to take the next steps in his progression, and free agent signing Andrew Ference will help solidify their top-four that also features hard hitting Ladislav Smid and skilled puck-mover Denis Grebeshkov. The Oilers could sneak into the playoff hunt, but only if they stay healthy and get consistent goaltending.

Jonathan+Quick+Los+Angeles+Kings+v+St+Louis+sG2O5aSd22Kl

LOS ANGELES KINGS

The beat goes on for the Kings as they should be in contention for the Stanley Cup yet again this year. Last year, the Kings lost to the eventual Cup champion Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals, a year after winning the Cup themselves. There are many holdovers from the past two seasons. Captain Dustin Brown is the heartbeat of the team, and he brings it each night. He’s a true warrior of the game.  The forward ranks boast the skill of Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams, supported by the grit of Mike Richards and Trevor Lewis, along with the power forwards Dwight King, Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan. The well-rounded group of forwards needs to find more consistent scoring, but the Kings do not need to find too many goals to win every night, as their backend may be the best in hockey. The defensive corps has some tight competition among their ranks as there are eight legitimate top-six NHL defensemen on their roster, led by franchise defenseman Drew Doughty. We know what it comes down to every playoff series, and that is goaltending, and the Kings have the best goalie in the world right now. Jonathan Quick nearly single-handedly won the Stanley Cup for his team two seasons in a row. His performances the last two playoff years have been as good, if not better, than those of Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur in the past, and Quick is still considered young. If the Kings can develop a consistent scoring touch, without sacrificing defense for it, they could be a dominant team in the league and should contend for the division title.

Phoenix-Coyotes-defender--005

PHOENIX COYOTES

It seems that financial stability has come to Glendale, and that should benefit the on-ice product tremendously. Phoenix hopes to return to the form of two seasons ago, and put a rough year last season in the past. Franchise goaltender Mike Smith has been locked up long-term, and that should make things better for the Yotes, as their success depends squarely on his shoulders. Smith battled injury last season and did not have the year he wanted in a lockout-shortened season, but he should be able to bounce back splendidly this year. Gone is Boyd Gordon, who is a vastly underrated player, but standout center Mike Ribeiro joins the club, and adds some needed skill. Ribiero will join Antoine Vermette, Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata in leading the offense, supported by the likes of Martin Hanzal and captain Shane Doan. The Coyotes play a simple, solid, well-rounded game, and feature an abundance of players that play that style, like forwards David Moss, Lauri Korpikoski, and defensemen Zbynek Michalek, Derek Morris, and Rusty Klesla. Phoenix’s top two defensemen, Oliver Ekman-Larrson and Keith Yandle, rival any team in the NHL’s top pair. Goaltending will tell the tale of their season.

99975050_crop_650x440

SAN JOSE SHAKRS

Led by one of the best netminders in the game in Antti Niemi, the Sharks have the potential to contend for the division this season, but it stands to reason that the Sharks are skating on thin ice. For the better half of the last decade, the Sharks have put together great regular seasons, only to be ousted in the playoffs, without even reaching a Stanley Cup Final. Granted, it seems like every year they are eliminated by the eventual Cup champs, but no matter, they still lose. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are nearing the points in their careers where it’s time to you-know-what or get off the pot. The money the two command is extensive, but as long as they produce, that is no problem, but both tend to be streaky. Thornton is a power play wizard, dishing the puck all over, but is marginal at even strength. Young stars Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are the future of this team, and have showed that they can carry the offensive load. The Sharks brought in a clutch playoff player in Tyler Kennedy from the Penguins (Kennedy has more career playoff winning goals for Pittsburgh than Sidney Crosby does) to help address their playoff struggles. The defensive platoon includes Cup-winning veterans Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart, and is supplemented by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Jason Demers. The story has been the same for the Sharks, regular season success, followed by post-season disappointment, and I see no reason to believe that regular season success won’t be the story again this season. The trick will be changing their playoff fortunes.

John Tortorella

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks will be a vastly different team from last season. Gone is goaltender of the future Cory Schneider, who was shipped to the Devils at the draft, leaving embattled Roberto Luongo to carry the load between the pipes. Bobby Lu’s struggles are well documented by the intense Vancouver media. Speaking of which, that media has their wet dream of a coach in John Tortorella, who swaps cities with former Canucks coach Alain Vingeault, who heads to the Rangers. Torts is a task master on the players, and often a little too candid during his media time. Torts will do what he does, and that is take the public pressure off of his players and place it on himself, while in turn upping his pressure on the players behind closed doors. It will be a big change, but after playoff disappointment after playoff disappointment, it may be a good change for the organization. One key for the Canucks will be keeping Ryan Kesler healthy. Kesler is a world-class player at his best, but has not come close to being healthy the past three seasons, spending an enormous amount of time injured. The Sedin twins will put up their points, and Alex Burrows will too. A lot of pressure will rest on David Booth, Zack Kassian and Chris Higgins, who will have to supply the crucial secondary scoring. I believe free-agent pick-up Mike Santorelli could wind up playing an important role for them by the end of the season, but he first needs to develop consistency. Kevin Bieksa anchors a solid defensive corps with the likes of Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis behind him. The Canucks, more specifically Tortorella, will probably still look to upgrade the defensive corps, but Torts has a way of getting a lot out of his young players.

We will see if the teams of the Pacific will be able to shake their ever-growing history of playoff failure, and match LA is the Cup win column. Thanks for reading, and please stop back tomorrow as we finish our season preview with the newly formed Metropolitan Division. For now, we leave you with our picks for the three automatic division playoff bids:

Anaheim Ducks

Los Angeles Kings

San Jose Sharks

__________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Chris Dazen & Patrick Riley
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
https://www.facebook.com/theco.verfour
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

NHL Season Preview Part 2:Central Division

nhl-western-conference

The Cover 4.com presents you with the NHL Season Preview Part 2:Central Division! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

In round two of our 2013-14 season preview, we are going to head out west, to arguably one of the tightest divisions in the NHL, the Central Division. The Central is one of the most different divisions after realignment as longtime division champ Detroit and the Columbus Blue Jackets have both been moved to the Eastern Conference.  In come the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars who are both going to benefit tremendously from their division alignment this year. Let’s break it down for you, starting with Chicago.

06-_DSC5185-kanecelebration-small

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Well, not much to say about the Blackhawks. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they were fortunate to not have much turnover this offseason. The extended their goaltender Corey Crawford long term, and although backup Ray Emery left Chicago for the greener goaltending pastures of Philadelphia, they brought back Nikolai Khabibulin to fill that void. Viktor Stalberg is gone too, but the Hawks were able to resign playoff hero Bryan Bickell, and bring in rugged Theo Peckham on defense. They also retained crucial second-line center Michal Handzus who will attempt to offset the loss of long-time Hawk Dave Bolland. With a bevy of established star power in Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, along with the emergence of rookie Brandon Saad, the Hawks will be a force to be reckoned with again this season.

628x471

COLORADO AVALANCHE

It is a bounce-back season for the youthful Avs, as they finished last in the Western Conference last season, and sported the second-worst record in hockey, earning them the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, with which they chose Nathan MacKinnon. With such a young team, the Avs certainly suffered from a lockout-shortened training camp, and the Ryan O’Reilly holdout didn’t help, nor did the extended absence of their young captain Gabriel Landeskog. Both are in camp and ready to go this year, along with MacKinnon and budding superstar Matt Duchene. Combined with gritty power forward Steve Downie, underrated winger PA Parenteau, and former No. 1 . overall pick Erik Johnson, as well as the Avs goaltending duo of Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere the Avs should be competitive and fighting for a playoff spot.

ruffweb22s-1-web

DALLAS STARS

The Dallas Stars will be an interesting team to watch this season. Along with a re-branded logo and image, the team that takes the ice will be quite different from last season. For starters, longtime Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is the new bench boss. In addition to Ruff, their heart and soul and face of the franchise in captain Brenden Morrow was dealt to the Penguins at last season’s trade deadline, and his leadership will be sorely missed. In addition to the departure of Morrow, the Stars shipped perhaps the most underrated player in the league in Loui Erikkson to the Boston Bruins, but in exchange, they received Tyler Seguin, who has superstar potential, and Rich Peverley who will solidify their bottom-six forwards and their top PK unit. Jamie Benn had a tough season last year after a contract holdout that followed the league lockout. Benn will look to have a bounceback season, and my money is on him to receive the captain’s C to replace Morrow. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen continued his evolution into a top netminder, and will look to pick right back up where he left off. In addition, realignment has benefited Dallas more than most as they will now play in the Central Division, which will help TV ratings when the team is on the road, which will go a long way to financial security, something this club really needs.

1297379942404_ORIGINAL

MINNESOTA WILD

The Wild enjoyed a ride back to the postseason last year on the backs of free agent signees Zack Parise and Ryan Suter (who finished as a Norris Trophy finalist) and longtime goalie Nicklas Backstrom. Unfortunately for the Wild, they finished eighth  in the West, drawing the eventual Cup champs in the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, and to make matters worse, their goaltender was hurt in warm ups of Game 1, and missed the entire series. The Wild will look to bounce back this year with the majority of the same team from last year. The loss of underrated center Matt Cullen will hurt along with the physical presence of Cal Clutterbuck, who was dealt to the Islanders at the draft for top prospect Nino Neiderreiter. Matt Cooke was brought in to replace Clutterbuck’s physical presence, and he adds a tad more skill, along with the highly skilled Neidereiter. They added depth on the blue line with the addition of Keith Ballard from Vancouver. Parise and Suter, with one year of leading this team together under their belt, will look to pick up where they left off and with second-year stud Jonas Brodin and longtime captain Mikko Koivu, the Wild will be right in the thick of it this season.

nhl_u_rinnep_576

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

The Predators will look to rebound after a disappointing season last year. Unlike last offseason, the Preds won’t be reeling from a free agency loss as they were with Ryan Suter. Nashville will ice a slightly more talented team than last season. Viktor Stalberg and Matt Cullen join the mix along with young star Filip Forsberg. First-round pick Seth Jones who surprisingly fell to the Preds at No. 4 overall in this summer’s draft, will be on the team and will add a dimension on the blueline that the Preds have not had in some time, and that is a legitimate offensive defenseman. In addition to the talent, Nashville solidified their character players by signing Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom, both of whom will go along way in a playoff series. As always, it will boil down to goaltending, and Nashville boasts one of the league’s best in Pekka Rinne. Look for Nashville to sneak into the playoff hunt again this year.

140960316

ST. LOUIS BLUES

The Blues suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the first round of last year’s playoffs, but that shouldn’t sour anyone on this team. They still have one of, if not the best, goaltending tandems in the league with Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. Veteran Brenden Morrow signed late in the preseason at a discount because he believes they have a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup. Young power forward Magnus Paajarvi was acquired from the Oilers in exchange for oft-injured, yet talented winger David Perron. Franchise defenseman Alex Pietrangelo just extended his contract for seven more years, and center Derek Roy was brought in for depth. Agitator extraordinaire Max Lapierre was brought in to help provide some grit and sandpaper to the lineup. The Blues have a diverse line up of skill, grit, and speed, and should be another contender for the Cup this year.

New York Islanders v Winnipeg Jets

WINNEPEG JETS

The Jets will benefit from a vastly reduced travel schedule, and are arguably the biggest winners of NHL realignment. The former Atlanta Thrashers played the last two years in the Southeast Division, but now will play in the Central. It could be argued that the team’s late season breakdown last year was caused by the grueling post-lockout schedule mixed with their insane travel schedule. The Jets should contend for a playoff position this season if they can stay healthy. Led by Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets should provide a pretty potent offense. Bryan Little is getting better each year, and Evander Kane is a bonafide star. The acquisitions of Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi will help solidify the secondary scoring, and depth players like captain Andrew Ladd, Matt Halischuk and Olli Jokinen will help stabilize the Jets in all three zones, and youngster Mark Scheifle has star written all over him. Tobias Enstrom helps QB the power play and Mark Stuart is an every situation type of defensemen. Goaltending will ultimately decide the Jets fate, as Ondrej Pavelic has shown a lot of potential over the past few seasons.

The Central Division looks to be one of the tightest and most contested divisions in the league this season, as it always is. Don’t be surprised if the maximum number of playoff teams (5) that a division can send to the playoffs comes from the Central this year. With Detroit out of the picture in the Central, the throne at the top is vacant, and these guys will all be battling for supremacy. Thanks for joining us for the Central Division breakdown, please stop back tomorrow to check out the Pacific Division preview. For now, we will leave you with our three picks for the divisional playoff bids:

Chicago

St. Louis

Minnesota

__________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Chris Dazen & Patrick Riley
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
https://www.facebook.com/theco.verfour
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

NHL Moment: Goal & Rats

tumblr_m2mz02g20j1qcxpuh

Well boys and girls, the offseason is winding down and only a few weeks sit between us and the new NHL season. Team Canada and Team USA have already opened their Olympic camps for the winter games in Sochi, Russia, and the wheels of the hockey world are beginning to turn. While only being about a month away from hockey, there is still not too much going on in the league, so we’re going to continue our look back at some of the best moments in the NHL’s past. For one of our last installments, we take a trip to South Florida to visit with one of the NHL’s youngest franchises and perhaps a fanbase’s most unique celebration.

The Lead Up:

The Florida Panthers are not the most prestigious NHL franchise to say the least. The team has been a perennial basement dweller with a sprinkling of success mixed in. The team’s most successful season by far was 1995-96. In fact, from the very beginning, it was clear that this season would be very different from years past. While preparing for their home opener against the Calgary Flames, a rat was running amuck in the Panthers locker room. As you could imagine it was probably a comical scene, until veteran Scott Mellanby showed the rat the business end of his hockey stick, shooting it across the room and killing it. That night, using the rat-murder weapon, Mellanby scored twp goals and the Panthers defeated the Flames, 4-3. After the game, All-Star Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck referred to the locker room incident and Mellanby’s resulting game by saying, “He just missed the hat trick, but he got the rat trick.” Coincidentally, 1995 was the Chinese “year of the rat,” and South Florida was well onboard with that. After the Panthers scored a goal in their next game, a lone plastic rat was tossed to the ice by someone from the hometown crowd, and each home game and home goal after that, the amount of rats increased.

The Moment:

The Florida Panthers rode the wave of the rat all the way to the Stanley Cup Final that season. After every home goal for the Panthers, the fans would litter the ice with plastic rats, causing a long delay and opposing netminders to crouch inside their net for protection from the decorative rodents. Once in the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers quickly went down 2-0 in their series against the Colorado Avalanche, before returning home for Game 3. This moment is a bittersweet one for Florida fans (both of them), because the largest rat toss that Florida ever saw happened on June 8, 1996 when Jamie Sheppard scored a goal to tie Game 3 at one. While at the peak of the playoff run/rat wave, thousands of plastic rats were tossed to the ice, causing an extended delay while 25 members of the stadium crew dressed up as Orkin Exterminators (Orkin paid a pretty penny for this sponsorship) picked up the rats. In his typical fiery and defiant nature, Avs’ Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy refused to take shelter in his net, and went as far as to speak to the team at intermission and declared “no more rats.” True to his word and fitting his illustrious career, Roy did not allow another goal the entire series as the Avalanche went on to sweep the Cinderella Panthers.

Remnants of the “Year of the Rat” can still be seen today during the rare occurrence that the Panthers make the playoffs. Every time the team wins a playoff game, you can still see a handful of plastic rats tossed to the ice at the end of the game. It seems that the extremely small die-hard fan base in Florida respects traditions as much as any other (albeit larger) fan base in the league.

__________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Pat Davis
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

NHL’s Greatest Moments: Stevie Y

stevie yAs the off-season drags on, we will continue our look back at some of the greatest moments in NHL history. This installment will take us to Hockeytown, also known as Detroit, at the beginning of the Red Wings mid-‘90s dynasty, with Steve Yzerman, bringing us the moment.

The lead up:

It is a sports cliché that the best players are the ones who step up at the biggest time, and this series was a prime example. In a series that featured 11 present Hall of Famers, including arguably the  best player to ever play the game, it all came down to Game 7 between the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues. The game was scoreless. As any sports fan knows, it is harder to get better than Game 7, but try this on, Game 7 between two Stanley Cup-caliber teams tied 0-0, in the second overtime. This was an era before #BucciOvertimeChallenge, but had it existed then, you would not be short of viable players to choose from: Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov, just to name a few. But it was Yzerman that got it done on this night.

The moment:

As it tends to be in NHL playoff overtime games, the winning goal can seem to appear out of thin air. It was a rather routine moment in the game as the Red Wings were moving the puck out of their own end early in the second overtime. It was so routine that when you watch the highlight, you see two fans turn around and wave to the low-stationed cameras. As Gretzky, “The Great One,”  mishandled an intercepted pass just outside of the Red Wings zone, Yzerman swooped the puck up. As Yzerman carries the puck through the neutral zone, he finds a little space just inside the Blues’ blue line and decides to take a shot. Yzerman winds up and puts everything he has into the shot, and it wound up being a one-in-a-million shot. As captured so infamously by a handheld camera behind the net, Yzerman’s perfect slap shot was a hard rising shot that sailed over goaltender Jon Casey’s (who was in perfect position and was literally unbeatable all game) shoulder and off of the crossbar and in. The Joe Louis Arena crowd ERUPTED. It was the perfect shot at the perfect time from the perfect guy and the Red Wings were advancing to the next round. Yzerman, a usually calm and collected guy leaped for joy before being dog piled on by his teammates, and even coach Scotty Bowman got caught up in the euphoria and raced out to celebration pile. It was one of the first great moments of the Red Wings ‘90s dynasty, and perhaps the most heartbreaking goal in St. Louis Blues history.

____________________________________________________________________________
Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Pat

Pat Davis
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

NHL’s Greatest Moments: Stevie Y

STEVE YZERMANAs the off-season drags on, we will continue our look back at some of the greatest moments in NHL history. This installment will take us to Hockeytown, also known as Detroit, at the beginning of the Red Wings mid-‘90s dynasty, with Steve Yzerman, bringing us the moment.

The lead up:

It is a sports cliché that the best players are the ones who step up at the biggest time, and this series was a prime example. In a series that featured 11 present Hall of Famers, including arguably the  best player to ever play the game, it all came down to Game 7 between the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues. The game was scoreless. As any sports fan knows, it is harder to get better than Game 7, but try this on, Game 7 between two Stanley Cup-caliber teams tied 0-0, in the second overtime. This was an era before #BucciOvertimeChallenge, but had it existed then, you would not be short of viable players to choose from: Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov, just to name a few. But it was Yzerman that got it done on this night.

The moment:

As it tends to be in NHL playoff overtime games, the winning goal can seem to appear out of thin air. It was a rather routine moment in the game as the Red Wings were moving the puck out of their own end early in the second overtime. It was so routine that when you watch the highlight, you see two fans turn around and wave to the low-stationed cameras. As Gretzky, “The Great One,”  mishandled an intercepted pass just outside of the Red Wings zone, Yzerman swooped the puck up. As Yzerman carries the puck through the neutral zone, he finds a little space just inside the Blues’ blue line and decides to take a shot. Yzerman winds up and puts everything he has into the shot, and it wound up being a one-in-a-million shot. As captured so infamously by a handheld camera behind the net, Yzerman’s perfect slap shot was a hard rising shot that sailed over goaltender Jon Casey’s (who was in perfect position and was literally unbeatable all game) shoulder and off of the crossbar and in. The Joe Louis Arena crowd ERUPTED. It was the perfect shot at the perfect time from the perfect guy and the Red Wings were advancing to the next round. Yzerman, a usually calm and collected guy leaped for joy before being dog piled on by his teammates, and even coach Scotty Bowman got caught up in the euphoria and raced out to celebration pile. It was one of the first great moments of the Red Wings ‘90s dynasty, and perhaps the most heartbreaking goal in St. Louis Blues history.

NHL’s Greatest Moments.

Retiring-Kariya-had-rocket-speed-and-focus-VJ6QB9J-x-large
With the NHL season now in the distant past (relatively speaking), but next season still months away, as hockey fans we find ourselves mired in the most boring part of the season, the offseason. To help kill time during the offseason, we will bring you some classic NHL moments that we are taking a look back on, just because we are fans of the game. With such a great sport, played by great people over the course of a century, we certainly will not be short of great moments. Let’s get to it.

“Off The Floor, On The Board”

The Set Up:
​It was Game 6 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals which pitted the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim against the New Jersey Devils. As the teams took to the ice, the Mighty Ducks were in a must-win situation, as they trailed 3-2 in the series. A concern from Mighty Ducks fans heading into the game was “we need more scoring from Paul Kariya.” The Mighty Ducks captain was struggling to score, but in a pregame interview, noted the fact that he himself would like to see more goals go in. With 13:44 left in the second period, and the Mighty Ducks leading 3-1, Kariya made a pass through the neutral zone, and a second later, was absolutely leveled by Devils captain Scott Stevens. Stevens was an easy selection to the Hall of Fame, and at this point in his career, had made a living DESTROYING those who chose to skate through the open ice with their heads down, and Kariya was no exception. The hit left Kariya unconscious at center ice, and he appeared to not be breathing for a moment. After lying motionless on the ice for a few seconds, it was as if his body snapped back into it and Kariya let out a big exhale which you could see hit his visor. The doctors attended to Kariya and helped him slowly off the ice and into the locker room and presumably to the hospital.
​If you have ever watched a hockey game in your life, you know how tough every player is and the warrior mentality that they all possess, but the scene at center seemed to all that Kariya’s season was over. To the surprise of everyone, most notably Stevens, just minutes later Kariya returned from the runway to the locker room and took a quick skate during a stoppage with 9:13 left in the second period. Many a NHL player have played through an excruciating injury in the playoffs or the Final, but minutes after being knocked out cold to the point of not breathing, Kariya returning was a moment in and of itself, until…

The Moment:
​After returning to play, with just under three minutes left in that second period, Kariya took a neutral zone pass, skated over the very spot where only a few minutes ago he was lying unconscious, crossed the blue line and wound up for a slap shot. From a good distance away, Kariya absolutely blasted a perfect slap shot and blew it by future first ballot Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur, and the crowd erupted. With one of the best calls of his career, all-time great ESPN commentator Gary Thorne called the play: “SCOREEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! OFF THE FLOOR, ON THE BOARD! Paul Kariya!!!”.
​The Mighty Ducks went on to force game seven, but ultimately lost in New Jersey in that seventh game. However, to any lifelong hockey fan, this was still one of those moments that epitomizes the sport of hockey and the players that play it.

____________________________________________________________________________
Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

Pat

Pat Davis
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

NHL’s Greatest Moments

retiring-kariya-had-rocket-speed-and-focus-vj6qb9j-x-largeWith the NHL season now in the distant past (relatively speaking), but next season still months away, as hockey fans we find ourselves mired in the most boring part of the season, the offseason. To help kill time during the offseason, we will bring you some classic NHL moments that we are taking a look back on, just because we are fans of the game. With such a great sport, played by great people over the course of a century, we certainly will not be short of great moments. Let’s get to it.

“Off The Floor, On The Board”

The Set Up:
​It was Game 6 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals which pitted the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim against the New Jersey Devils. As the teams took to the ice, the Mighty Ducks were in a must-win situation, as they trailed 3-2 in the series. A concern from Mighty Ducks fans heading into the game was “we need more scoring from Paul Kariya.” The Mighty Ducks captain was struggling to score, but in a pregame interview, noted the fact that he himself would like to see more goals go in. With 13:44 left in the second period, and the Mighty Ducks leading 3-1, Kariya made a pass through the neutral zone, and a second later, was absolutely leveled by Devils captain Scott Stevens. Stevens was an easy selection to the Hall of Fame, and at this point in his career, had made a living DESTROYING those who chose to skate through the open ice with their heads down, and Kariya was no exception. The hit left Kariya unconscious at center ice, and he appeared to not be breathing for a moment. After lying motionless on the ice for a few seconds, it was as if his body snapped back into it and Kariya let out a big exhale which you could see hit his visor. The doctors attended to Kariya and helped him slowly off the ice and into the locker room and presumably to the hospital.

​If you have ever watched a hockey game in your life, you know how tough every player is and the warrior mentality that they all possess, but the scene at center seemed to all that Kariya’s season was over. To the surprise of everyone, most notably Stevens, just minutes later Kariya returned from the runway to the locker room and took a quick skate during a stoppage with 9:13 left in the second period. Many a NHL player have played through an excruciating injury in the playoffs or the Final, but minutes after being knocked out cold to the point of not breathing, Kariya returning was a moment in and of itself, until…

The Moment:
​After returning to play, with just under three minutes left in that second period, Kariya took a neutral zone pass, skated over the very spot where only a few minutes ago he was lying unconscious, crossed the blue line and wound up for a slap shot. From a good distance away, Kariya absolutely blasted a perfect slap shot and blew it by future first ballot Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur, and the crowd erupted. With one of the best calls of his career, all-time great ESPN commentator Gary Thorne called the play: “SCOREEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! OFF THE FLOOR, ON THE BOARD! Paul Kariya!!!”.

​The Mighty Ducks went on to force game seven, but ultimately lost in New Jersey in that seventh game. However, to any lifelong hockey fan, this was still one of those moments that epitomizes the sport of hockey and the players that play it.

%d bloggers like this: