January 6, 2008

Puttin' On the Foil - A Weekly NHL Recap 1/6

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MONOLOGUE
The Winter Classic has come and gone and there have been many observations, reactions, opinions, and suggestions about the game and its possible future. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, but I might be a bit biased since I am a Penguins fan and they did win in dramatic fashion.

Taking off my Penguins hat for a minute, I think the NHL did a great job and I'm a firm believer that this should be an annual event. I also think they should keep the game on New Year's Day. College football has spread out their bowl schedule so much that the whole "New Year's Day of football" mentality is diminishing. It's a great chance for the league to capitalize and stamp its mark in the mainstream sports culture. Hockey needs a staple event that can draw in the non-traditional fan. The Stanley Cup hasn't been able to do that, though non-hockey fans do watch the playoffs. Seeing the 2.6 rating of the Winter Classic, the spectacle of the event does have some appealing quality.

A lot of pundits have bandied about the idea of changing the All-Star to an outdoor game. I did like the idea at first, but after thinking about it, I'm going back on that. Yes, the NHL All-Star game has been so-so the last few years, but aren't all of the "big four" sports all star gatherings ho-hum too? The main reason I'm against an outdoor All-Star game is because the game is supposed to showcase the league's top players and give them an opportunity to have fun and show off. If you put the game outside on sketchy ice, in the elements, we won't be able to enjoy the high-flying speed of Ilya Kovalchuk...the pinpoint passing of Joe Thornton...the magical skating of Nicklas Lidstrom...or the wicked hard slapshot of Alex Ovechkin. It's of the same thought of the NBA All-Star game where the guys do no-look passes, creative dunks, and non-stop alley-oops.

With the success of this year's Classic, you can be sure that it will occur again at some point next season. You can also be sure that the NHL will do everything in its power to be sure things go smoothly, especially the ice surface. The league lucked out this time with the weather and the elements. It could have been much worse and we'd all be saying, "Ok, maybe once every four/five years is fine, but not every year." Whatever the NHL can do to help its status in the sports world will have to be done perfectly, otherwise the hockey-haters will pick apart anything that doesn't go right.

NEWS AND NOTES
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Another disappointing turn in the up and down career of Sergei Samsonov. The former top ten pick in 1997 by the Bruins was put on re-entry waivers this week by the Blackhawks. Through 23 games this year, he has yet to score. I remember hearing about this kid before the '97 Draft and while he put up 75 points in 2000-01, he has been a ghost since.
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Another fourth place finish for Team USA at the World Juniors. Team USA lost to Canada on Friday in the semifinals and then Russia in the Bronze Medal Game after going undefeated during group action.
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Two college players, one from New Hampshire and the other from North Dakota, were arrested for disorderly conduct over the weekend. T.J. Oshie (North Dakota) will be suspended at least one game and Michael Radja (New Hampshire) for two games.
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From the "Duh, Garth Snow is his boss" file: This week the NHL ruled that Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro's pads were legal. Apparently, new pads he wore during their Thursday game against Florida were not inspected by the NHL's operations department.

AROUND THE BLOG WORLD
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It's the true mid-point of the NHL season and Hockey Blog in Canada is handing out their own creative awards.
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James Mirtle takes a look at a pretty interesting hockey book that's on shelves.
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Dear Lord Stanley... not a big fan of John Buccigross' top drummers.
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Fantasy hockey nut? Be sure to check out Illegal Curve for the week ahead in goalie starts.
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With the World Junior Tournament over, Lew Serviss of the NY Times'Slap Shot blog looks ahead to the CHL Top Prospects game.

LET'S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE!
The best hits, goals, and saves from the league in the NHL

Jarko Ruutu v. Darcy Tucker from Thursday night

This weekend's Coaches Corner from Hockey Night in Canada

EJ Hradek gives us his NHL-themed New Year's resolutions

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jarome Iginla stamped his name in the Hart Trophy race with a 5 goal and 2 assist week. Iggy Pop also was a +6 and notched 2 power-play goals as well.

UPCOMING GAME OF INTEREST
Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers, Saturday, January 12th, 1pm EST
Both teams are hovering around the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, but it'll be interesting to see if there's more fireworks between the two. This is the second meeting since the Randy Jones-Patric Bergeron incident. Philadelphia probably won't have Steve Downie to do any nonsense and they've traded away Ben Eager to Chicago. Maybe Derian Hatcher will get hungry and gnaw on a Bruin player like he supposedly did to New Jersey's Travis Zajac?

GRATUITOUS PITTSBURGH PENGUINS RELATED AWESOMENESS
Who's the only other retired number for the Pittsburgh Penguins besides Mario Lemieux? Michel Briere

See you back here for another edition of "Puttin' on the Foil".

Ballhype: hype it up!

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