Hawks’ Brian Campbell could return in 7 weeks

brian campbell all star

By Paul M. Banks

You all saw Alexander Ovechkin’s big hit on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell. You all discussed whther you thought it was a clean hit, a cheap shot, or something designated by a term residing in a grey area somewhere. To quote “Fletch”…”how gray? charcoal!” But enough about the past, when is “Soupy” returning? Well, the Hawks will have to advance a couple rounds in the Stanley Cup playoffs for Chicago to see him in action again this season.

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The Sports Bank Traffic Rankings in Global Markets!!!

By Paul M. Banks

Demetri McCamey and company are all huge in Budapest, as you’ll soon see.

In the spirit of the Olympics and international collaboration, I thought I’d post some some friendly competitive statistics from around the world- courtesy of Alexa.com

NHL Eastern Conference Finals Preview


By Ailyn Diaz of Chics Hockey.com and the Big Hair Hockey Show
 

The newspaper headlines for the Pittsburgh Penguins focused on the rivalry between Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the crown as best player in the NHL.  The storyline for the Eastern Conference Finals will shift to brother against brother.  Carolina’s Eric Staal, a center, and the older more seasoned brother will be matched up against Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal, a natural center with a keen sense of scoring. 

But, this is not the first time two Staal brothers were pitted to duel against each other in a playoff series.  Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jordan Staal faced the New York Rangers’ Marc Staal in last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

 Jordan Staaal hasn’t reached the 50-point milestone in his first three NHL seasons.  He stands at only 5 points in his last 13 playoff games while his older brother Eric Staal has nine goals in his past 14 playoff games.  Interestingly enough, the brothers have never been matched at any level of playoff hockey before.

 

The Matchup:

“You’re going to see fast hockey”  — Sidney Crosby

Offensively, the matchup will rely on the speed of their forwards.  Sidney Crosby who just came off from a hat trick duel against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitalsill  in the last round now has 12 goals leading the playoffs. Counting his total 21 points, Sidney Crosby is now tied with teammate Evgeni Malkin and the Capitals’ Ovechkin for the league lead.  In fact, going head-to-head against Ovechkin, Crosby had 8 goals and 13 points.  Will he prove the same against Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes?

The Canes need to power up offensively against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Jussi Jokinen has been adding up goals solo with 6 total in the playoff series. He leads the league in game winners.  Other players like left wing Eric Cole needs to step up in the power play to contribute to the overall team offense. After 14 games, Erik Cole still does not have a goal.  Playmaker Rod Brind’Amour only contributed during Game 7 against the Boston Bruins at which time he obtained his one and only goal of the postseason.

During the last series, after Sidney Crosby scored 4 of the Penguins’ first 5 goals, the offense shifted to goals from ten other Penguin players.  Evgeni Malkin geared up offensively after game 3 of the series with linemates Ruslan Fedetenko and Maxime Talbot.  In fact, Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin scored 3 each.  Also, fourth liners such as Craig Adams and Miroslav Satan were able to produce. Adams scored his first career playoff goal in Game 7, and Satan had assists in three of the last four games, including a pair in Game 7 against the Capitals.

Carolina relies on a transitional game.  In a wink of an eye, the puck moves from defensemen to the forwards lingering around the neutral zone directly to the net.  The Penguins will need to be disciplined and rely on their defense to control any turnovers.  The Penguins held the record for blocked shots in the season.  The triumphant return of Sergei Gonchar made for remarkable plays. Gonchar returned from the right knee injury to have an assist in 15:06 of ice time in Game 7. Kris Letang  during defense into offense with 9 points and defensemen Brooks Orpik and Hal Gill held the blocking during the series against the Capitals.

Carolina’s defenseman Anton Babchuk, struggled against the Boston Bruins and was replaced by Frantisek Kaberle.  Dennis Seidenberg  and linemate Joni Pikanen attempted to generate scoring opportunities in the series but could not convert.  At the end, Tim Gleason provided the physical grit needed to keep the puck away from Cam Ward’s net.

The Carolina netminder has yet to lose a game 7 in a playoff series since his debut in 2006.   The former Conn Smythe winner is unstoppable with a  .927 save percentage.  The Pittsburgh Penguins must overcome excellent goaltending similar to that of Simeon Varlamov during the last playoff run against the Capitals.  Most importantly, Marc Andre Fleury has battled with consistency capturing rebound goals.  However, his goaltending skills appeared to peak during game 7 against the Capitals.  Fleury holds a .901 save percentage. 

Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins rely on excellent coachies that base their philosophy on communicating with the players.  Carolina’s Paul Maurice has the most experience in playoff hockey. Paul Maurice refused to allow his team to lose after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Boston Bruins.  He is a motivator and a tactician known to implement quick changes on the ice.  Dan Blysma, the rookie coach, follows an organized playing system which his players have learned to embrace.  “I’m a believer that there are adjustments that need to be made throughout the game, and you don’t just make them in Game 7,” Bylsma said to NHL.com.  “If you make them just in the playoffs or just when it heats up, players begin to question it.”

Prediction:  Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games as their offensive power builds.  If the Penguins were able to beat Simeon Varlamov’s excellent goaltending and Ovechkin’s offense in the series against the Washington Capitals then they will overcome Cam Ward’s goaltending abilities and outshine Eric Staal’s scoring in the Eastern Conference Finals.   The Carolina Hurricanes must increase their offensive abilities in all lines to be able to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

The newspaper headlines for the Pittsburgh Penguins focused on the rivalry between Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the crown as best player in the NHL.  The storyline for the Eastern Conference Finals will shift to brother against brother.  Carolina’s Eric Staal, a center, and the older more seasoned brother will be matched up against Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal, a natural center with a keen sense of scoring.  But, this is not the first time two Staal brothers were pitted to duel against each other in a playoff series.  Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jordan Staal faced the New York Rangers’ Marc Staal in last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.  Jordan Staaal hasn’t reached the 50-point milestone in his first three NHL seasons.  He stands at only 5 points in his last 13 playoff games while his older brother Eric Staal has nine goals in his past 14 playoff games.  Interestingly enough, the brothers have never been matched at any level of playoff hockey before.

The Matchup:

“You’re going to see fast hockey”  — Sidney Crosby

Offensively, the matchup will rely on the speed of their forwards.  Sidney Crosby who just came off from a hat trick duel against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the last round now has 12 goals leading the playoffs. Counting his total 21 points, Sidney Crosby is now tied with teammate Evgeni Malkin and the Capitals’ Ovechkin for the league lead.  In fact, going head-to-head against Ovechkin, Crosby had 8 goals and 13 points.  Will he prove the same against Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes?

The Canes need to power up offensively against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Jussi Jokinen has been adding up goals solo with 6 total in the playoff series. He leads the league in game winners.  Other players like left wing Eric Cole needs to step up in the power play to contribute to the overall team offense. After 14 games, Erik Cole still does not have a goal.  Playmaker Rod Brind’Amour only contributed during Game 7 against the Boston Bruins at which time he obtained his one and only goal of the postseason.

During the last series, after Sidney Crosby scored 4 of the Penguins’ first 5 goals, the offense shifted to goals from ten other Penguin players.  Evgeni Malkin geared up offensively after game 3 of the series with linemates Ruslan Fedetenko and Maxime Talbot.  In fact, Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin scored 3 each.  Also, fourth liners such as Craig Adams and Miroslav Satan were able to produce. Adams scored his first career playoff goal in Game 7, and Satan had assists in three of the last four games, including a pair in Game 7 against the Capitals.

Carolina relies on a transitional game.  In a wink of an eye, the puck moves from defensemen to the forwards lingering around the neutral zone directly to the net.  The Penguins will need to be disciplined and rely on their defense to control any turnovers.  The Penguins held the record for blocked shots in the season.  The triumphant return of Sergei Gonchar made for remarkable plays. Gonchar returned from the right knee injury to have an assist in 15:06 of ice time in Game 7. Kris Letang  during defense into offense with 9 points and defensemen Brooks Orpik and Hal Gill held the blocking during the series against the Capitals.

Carolina’s defenseman Anton Babchuk, struggled against the Boston Bruins and was replaced by Frantisek Kaberle.  Dennis Seidenberg  and linemate Joni Pikanen attempted to generate scoring opportunities in the series but could not convert.  At the end, Tim Gleason provided the physical grit needed to keep the puck away from Cam Ward’s net.

The Carolina netminder has yet to lose a game 7 in a playoff series since his debut in 2006.   The former Conn Smythe winner is unstoppable with a  .927 save percentage.  The Pittsburgh Penguins must overcome excellent goaltending similar to that of Simeon Varlamov during the last playoff run against the Capitals.  Most importantly, Marc Andre Fleury has battled with consistency capturing rebound goals.  However, his goaltending skills appeared to peak during game 7 against the Capitals.  Fleury holds a .901 save percentage. 

Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins rely on excellent coachies that base their philosophy on communicating with the players.  Carolina’s Paul Maurice has the most experience in playoff hockey. Paul Maurice refused to allow his team to lose after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Boston Bruins.  He is a motivator and a tactician known to implement quick changes on the ice.  Dan Blysma, the rookie coach, follows an organized playing system which his players have learned to embrace.  “I’m a believer that there are adjustments that need to be made throughout the game, and you don’t just make them in Game 7,” Bylsma said to NHL.com.  “If you make them just in the playoffs or just when it heats up, players begin to question it.”

Prediction:  Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games as their offensive power builds.  If the Penguins were able to beat Simeon Varlamov’s excellent goaltending and Ovechkin’s offense in the series against the Washington Capitals then they will overcome Cam Ward’s goaltending abilities and outshine Eric Staal’s scoring in the Eastern Conference Finals.   The Carolina Hurricanes must increase their offensive abilities in all lines to be able to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Points From the Paint: Armageddon Edition

 

By:  Bryan Vickroy

When the owners locked the players out of the NHL during the 2004 – 2005 season, they essentially erased any credibility and traction the sport had gained in the years of Gretzky, Lemieux, Roy, and Messier.  The Stanley Cup Playoffs used to be a must see event for the whole country, like the World Series, but with Jack Bauer like drama and roller coaster thrill rides of sudden death hockey well into the early morning hours.  Despite Gary Bettman’s best efforts to screw up the sport, a must see event has returned to the sport, possibly setting a new course and direction for the league.  Game 7.  Pittsburgh.  Washington.  The game’s first chance to shine with its reformulated product.

As short as two years ago, the national coverage of hockey was so bleak that games couldn’t even be seen in the executive suites at the arena where the games where being played (Anaheim, 2007) due to the region’s cable provider not carrying Versus on the basic cable tier.  The NHL’s television contract has gotten in the way of growing the sport the way it should be.  The Washington/Pittsburgh series has finally given the league a chance to shine a light on the product on the ice, and not the distractions off the ice.

 

With teams like Phoenix and Tampa Bay hemorrhaging money in this economic crises, and attacks on the style and types of actions and play that are allowed on to occur on the ice, bad publicity is usually the only publicity the league can get.  Showing the skills and revolution in play style of the latest wave of players is a trio of snipers:  Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alexander Ovechkin.  These three have combined to rack up scoring titles, goal titles, and MVP awards in the short time they’ve been in the league.  On a national level, Crosby and Ovechkin seem to be the only players to regularly receive any type of attention.

Since the first pick in the 2005 draft, the league has ridden on the hope that Sidney Crosby could salvage the league’s image, and bring hockey back into the mainstream.  Sid the Kid was to the NHL what LeBron was to the NBA:  the can’t miss, mass marketable, guaranteed superstar.  By his ending up in Pittsburgh, it saved a franchise from collapse, and even got them the arena they long desired.  A run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year was supposed to be the coming out party for a string of Penguin Cup appearances.  The struggles of the team to adjust to roster changes in the offseason set them teetering out of the playoffs at the All Star break.  Veteran influences, and a coaching change stabilized the team, and settled them into a home ice advantage in the first round. 

Alexander Ovechkin came into this season with individual accolades already achieved, and ready to create a whole team.  The Capitals learned from their taste of the playoffs last year and responded by winning their division for the second straight year, and claiming the East’s second best record.  After sweating through the first half of their first round game, they coasted through a seven game win, and two home wins against the Penguins.

Home ice has been the key to this series.  The last two games are the only road victories in the series.  The three stars have all been phenomenal, all three leading the playoffs in scoring (Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin) and totaling a Nintendo like 55 points so far between them. 

A seven game series between these two teams is the lifeline the league has been holding onto since it returned.  Not only does the league need another game to match the intensity and quality of the first six games, but also needs an audience that is willing to watch the game and let it grow on them. 

 

 

The ratings for this game may not look good in the end run.  After all, the rest of the games have been lucky to pull one million viewers.  Its not highly likely it will do much more than that.  But hockey has rejoined the mainstream conversation, if only for a brief period of time.  Most will let it be forgotten with all the other filler of our daily lives.  Hopefully some will latch on, and help grow the game.  Every game can’t be Sid the Kid vs. AO, but every game has the intensity and unpredictability that can’t be beat by any other event, program, or scenario.   Hockey still has a long way to climb back from its self-inflicted wounds; hopefully this series is the start of a new national love interest.  Unfortunately, the results may not be seen for some time yet.