Archive for December 2011

Ovie on the move

Stars deal winger in big swap
After spending his entire career as a Dallas Star, Alexander Ovechkin awoke to the news he was shuffling off to Buffalo.
"Didn't see that coming," said the bulking Russian who had been the face of the franchise for several seasons. "We all knew changes were coming but I thought I'd be part of the future. I guess not."
The changes Ovechkin referred to are the ones the team expected to come after Owen Lin took over as the new General Manager of the Dallas Stars last week. Lin took over from long-time GM Darren Mathieu's, who recently left the Stars to go to Winnipeg in a similar role for the newly minted Winnipeg Jets.
Ovechkin, defenseman Mike Lundin and a 7th round pick in 2010 are moving to Buffalo, with a hefty ransom returning to the Stars. Phil Kessel and defenseman Ryan Whitney are the main pieces returning to the Stars, along with prospect Justin Schultz and two 1st round picks in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The Stars also received Chicago's 3rd in 2011 as part of the deal.

Looking to make a big splash as the new Sabres GM, Sahil Soni did just that, bringing in arguably the biggest name in the sport in Ovechkin. It is expected Ovechkin, as well as several other moves completed by Soni, will help bring the Sabres back to the playoffs after missing out by a single point last season.
Lin, meanwhile, was quoted recently as saying "I like to build through the draft and with youth," and this deal will afford him the luxury to do both. In addition to other recent trades, the Stars have added four first round picks to their arsenal.
"It's good for the league, but it's a shock for sure," said Trent Allen, WCHL Commissioner, on the deal. "You don't see guys like Ovie moving very often, but it does happen. I didn't think Crosby would be dealt, and he was, to a divisional rival of all places. Moves like these spur interest in trades and in the league."

It's not going to be all babes and booze for Ovechkin in Buffalo.

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Can't Stop an Avalanche

Avalanche win epic seven-game series
Ray Bourque hoists the Stanley Cup around after winning it with the Colorado Avalanche on June 9, 2001.   (REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)
It was one for the ages.
One year after witnessing the upstart Detroit Red Wings nearly go the distance only to lose in a hard-fought seven game series to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the same thing happen last week in the WCHL as well. This time the Colorado Avalanche finally ended the improbable run of the New York Islanders with a seven game victory that was arguably the closest finals in league history.
"After watching the Avalanche roar out to a 2-0 series lead, then the Islanders come back and win three straight only to watch the Avalanche tie the series in game six in overtime -after tying the game with just four seconds left in regulation - I knew I would have no problem handing the WCHL Cup to whoever won it. Both were just so deserving," said WCHL Commissioner Trent Allen.
Indeed. Both teams battled hard to get to the finals, most notably the Islanders. One year after missing the playoffs with one of the most underachieving teams in league history, the slanders rolled back into the playoffs with a 107 point season. They then rallied from a 3-2 deficit to the Boston Bruins in round one to win 4-3 before once again rallying from a 2-0 deficit in round two against the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers. In the third round they then proceeded to sweep the defending WCHL Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Even in the finals, the Islanders rallied from being down 2-0 to go up 3-2 and held a one goal lead with four seconds left in game six before allowing the tying goal.
"To come that close and not get it, that's going to be tough," said long-time Islander Jarome Iginla. "But we have to build off this and try and return next year."
"Thank f%^king goodness," said Colorado Avalanche GM Ryan McClanahan, nearly floating from having a weight as heavy as a 10-ton brick come off his shoulders. "We've had these expectations for years and we kept coming up short year after year. When the Islamders came back after we won the first two, I was worried it was happening again. The guys really rallied, and that's a testament to their abilities and strengths."
When asked how he would be celebrating, McClanahan stated he had some stuff in mind, but wouldn't ellaborate. According to a receipt observed falling from McClanahan's pocket during the on-ice cup celebrations, the long-time GM purchased a pallet of whip cream, four canoe paddles, a car battery and nipple tassles. No word on if they are related to any post-Cup celebrations.
It could be a repeat performance. The Avalanche have every one of their players returning for next year and several elite prospects on the rise, meaning they could be even better.
"That's our goal," said McClanahan. "We want to be better every year and we know if we want to repeat, we will have to be."
Only one team in league history, The San Jose Sharks, have repeated as Cup champions. This year, the Pittsburgh Penguins became the only team other than the Sharks to win a cup one year and advance to the third round the following year. Pittsburgh didn't go home comepletely empty-handed though, as their farm team, the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, won the ACHL championship in seven games over the Abbotsford Heat.


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Atlanta out; Winnipeg in and Canucks get a facelift

The Winnipeg Jets are back in the WCHL.
After a season of anticipation, the WCHL has finally done what many expected all, along. The Atlanta Thrashers are now no more, and are on the move to Canada.
But the Thrashers are not moving to Winnipeg as many initially thought. Rather, the Thrashers are moving to Vancouver.
But wait, doesn't Vancouver already have the Canucks? How is this going to work.
"It's a bit complicated, but it's a deal we felt was for the best interest of the league," explained WCHL Commissioner Trent Allen. "The Thrashers boast the names of a few weel known former Vancouver Canucks players, such as Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Mason Raymond, Alexander Edler and Bryan Allen. We felt moving this team to Vancouver would be a way to make the market more appealing to new ownership."
So what is the new Vancouver franchise going to be called?
"The Canucks," said Allen.
"The current Vancouver Canucks are moving to Winnipeg. I'm pleased to announce the WCHL is returning to a market it never should have left, and Winnipeg is rejoining the WCHL as the Winnipeg Jets," said Allen.

Only downside to Atlanta moving is the lack of hot ice girls, but it's a fact Canucks women show more of the goodstuff anyways.
So, in summary, the Vancouver Canucks are now the Winnipeg Jets, and the Atlanta Thrashers are now the Vancouver Canucks.
It can make your head hurt.
"We felt there was plenty of excitement, even from within the league, to see a team in Winnipeg, so having a viable ownership for Winnipeg wouldn't be a problem, even as bad as the team has been playing," Allen explained.
The announcement comes on the heels of the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres ownership changing hands. Allen stated he felt resolution on ownership for Vancouver, Winnipeg, Florida, Boston and Columbus would be finalized soon as well.
"We have some good candidates we are weighing out. There are no guarantees however."
The transfer of the Thrashers to Vancouver and the Canucks to Winnipeg is expected to be resolved in the coming days.

Jets fans go crazy in the streets at the news the WCHL is coming to Winnipeg.
"This is serious news for all of us," said long-time Jets fan Hue Ghwang. "It's been hard to handle being away from prime time hockey like this for so long."
The Jets have several tasks at hand, but announced they had signed on to a deal with Abbey Clancy to be the main ice girl for the upcoming season.

Abbey Clancy will be on the ice for the Jets in Season 14.
"That's easy to handle," confessed Hue Ghwang. "This day just keeps getting better and better."
Gary Bettman, for WCHL Commissioner who was responsible for having the Jets relocated to Phoenix 15 years ago, tried to call an impromptu press conference to defend his initial action all those years ago, but his feed was replaced in Winnipeg by a 30 minute revolving slideshow of
irina shayk so nice really 6 Irina Shayk   So Nice Really
As Bettman (left) blabbered on, Irina Shayk graced the screens of TV's across Winnipeg and much of Canada Tuesday. More pictures of Irina Shayk from the TV broadcast are found below.
irina shayk so nice really 5 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 7 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 13 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 15 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 16 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 17 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 21 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 23 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 26 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 30 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 34 Irina Shayk   So Nice Reallyirina shayk so nice really 35 Irina Shayk   So Nice Really

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Final four holds no surprises

In past years, the final four teams in the WCHL usually fields at least one Cinderella team. Last year it was the Detroit Red Wings, who powered through three of the best squads the WCHL had to offer before finally being closed out in seven games in the WCHL Cup finals by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This year, that's not the case. In the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche have ripped through the competition, losing a combined three games thus far, with both teams sweeping their second round opponents.
In the Eastern Conference meanwhile, the closest there is to an upset is the New York Islanders, who shocked the top seeded New York Rangers in the second round. Even then, the Islanders finished the season with 107 points and boast a whose who of elite names, so their presence in the conference finals is anything but a Cinderella story.
What will be interesting is to see whether two teams who have made a sport of failing to meet expectations can get the better of two teams who have succeeded in reaching them. The Sharks and Penguins both have cup rings to their name, with the Sharks having won four titles and the Penguins currently the defending WCHL Cup champions. As for the Avalanche and Islanders, despite having elite level talent for a number of seasons, both have failed miserably in the playoffs, with only one prior appearance in the conference finals each to their credit.
Will the proven prevail, or will the Avalanche and Islanders finally reach their long overdue goal of a finals appearance?
Western Conference
(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Colorado Avalanche
The Sharks were the toast of the WCHL all-season long, and look like they are heating up again, having swept through a tough Anaheim Ducks squad in the second round. A pair of 15 game winning streaks are to the credit of the Sharks this season already, proving they can be hard to stop when they get hot. And right now they are hot.

For the Avalanche though, no one has been hotter these playoffs. Losing only once so far, the Avalanche have won seven in a row and blew through the Red Wings in the second round, one season after the Wings upset them in the second round. Looking like a team possessed, the Avalanche will likely face their toughest challenge here in this round against San Jose.
The Avalanche will need to reverse their regular season fortunes against the Sharks, where they lost all three games by a combined score of 10-4. One of those game did go to a shoot out however, an option that won't be available to San Jose this time around.
Prediction: San Jose in six games.
Eastern Conference
(3) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) New York Islanders
The Penguins are aiming to become only the second team in WCHL history to repeat as WCHL Cup champions, and they took a huge step towards that goal by beating the Atlanta Thrashers in round two. Only the Sharks have ever won a WCHL Cup one year and advanced to the third round the next year before Pittsburgh did just that this year, so the odds of a repeat grew dramatically.
Joel Rechlicz Joel Rechlicz #40 of the New York Islanders fights with Mike Rupp #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum on April 11, 2010 in Uniondale, New York.
For the Islanders though, playing nail-biting hockey is nothing new to them this post-season, so taking on the defending champs won't likely be very intimidating. One year after missing the playoffs entirely, the Islanders have knocked off the Boston Bruins in seven games in round one after trailing the series 3-2. They did one better in round two, defeating the top seeded Rangers in six games after trailing that series 2-0.
If the Islanders can avoid failing behind the Penguins here, they could push past the champs, as Pittsburgh has looked somewhat erratic these playoffs.
Prediction: New York Islanders in seven.

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Ducks the lone Cinderella

The big dogs in the WCHL playoffs certainly were barking loud in round one. Only two teams, which didn't have home-ice advantage, advanced to round two, both in the Western Conference.
The Detroit Red Wings did the trick, but as the fifth seed and last years Western Conference Champions, knocking off the surprising Edmonton Oilers, who were back in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and just six points ahead of the red Wings in the regular season, it was hardly a shocker.
What was was the Anaheim Ducks. Coming in as the seventh seed, the Ducks finished 30 points behind the Calgary Flames in the regular season, the same Flames who were one of only four teams to win 50 games in regulation in the regular season. No problem for the Ducks, who sent the Flames flying home in five games, including two overtime victories. That matched the number of victories in extra time the Ducks had all season.
But now the Ducks are faced with trying to be the Cinderella story for the rest of the post-season, not an easy fact to face when every other team in the playoffs but the Atlanta Thrashers had at least 100 points in the regular season.
Here's a look at my predictions for round two in the WCHL:
Western Conference
(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Anaheim Ducks
The Sharks were once again the model of consistency in the regular season, racking up 134 points to easily claim the President's Cup. They weren't the model of consistency in the playoffs, however, as the Dallas Stars pushed them to a hard-fought six game victory, including two overtime games which were split between the two teams. San Jose also got no help from starting netminder Cam Ward, who posted a.852 save percentage.

The Ducks meanwhile took hold of their series early against the Flames and, after a game two loss, rattled off three straight victories to earn a dance in round two. This is the second straight year the Ducks have struggled mightily for the first 50 games of the season, only to turn it on down the stretch and into the playoffs. In their last 27 games, including the playoffs, the Ducks are 19-6-2.
The Ducks were stopped last year by the Dallas Stars in round two, so expect Anaheim to be ready to ward off any post-season meltdown this time around, while San Jose is trying to get back to playoff glory after several strong regular seasons have faded away with early exits from the post-season.
The key to this series will likely be Cam Ward. A .852 save percentage won't fly against Crosby and Co.
Prediction: Anaheim in six.
(2) Colorado Avalanche vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
Colorado is the poster child of playoff disappointments in the Western Conference. Year after year of great regular seasons have faded away under playoff scrutiny, and this year could be the same unless the Avs knock off the Red Wings and move on to round three.
Cody Mccormick Cody McCormick #11 of the Colorado Avalanche fights Darren McCarty #25 of the Detroit Red Wings during game two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 26, 2008 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
No easy task to achieve though. The Red Wings looked like easy cannon fodder last year, only to defeat the Flames, Avalanche and Dallas Stars before finally being dropped in seven games by the Pittsburgh penguins in the cup finals. The Red Wings are off to a good start this year as well, having bounced the Oilers in six games.
If the Avalanche can get a realistic return from their stars, they will win this series, but hasn't that been the case for the past several seasons?
Prediction: Colorado in seven.
Eastern Conference
(1) New York Rangers vs. (4) New York Islanders
Two teams who not only share a geographical area but also a level of talent few others have achieved finally square off in one of the longest overdue match-ups in the playoffs.
The Rangers once again dominated the regular season and the first round, but now they need to see that carry over to the second round after being bounced last season by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers will do just that if Henrik Lundqvist and his lights out .950 save percentage continue.
The Islanders meanwhile are working hard to erase the joke of a season they had last year when they failed to even make the playoffs for the first time in WCHL history. Sneaking past the Bruins in seven games after trailing 3-2 in the series is a good step, but the Rangers are on a whole other level. Jerome Iginla's six goals in seven games will need to continue to see the rebound season move along to round three.
Prediction: New York rangers in six games.
(2) Atlanta Thrashers vs. (3) Pittsburgh Penguins
With rumours swirling around of their eventual relocation, the Thrashers looked dead in the water against the Flyers in the opening round, suffering two straight home defeats to open the series. Wondering if they would ever play in Atlanta again, the Thrashers showed they have plenty of moxie in the tank, winning four straight games after that, three in Philadelphia, to make it to round two and a date with the Penguins.
Johan Hedberg Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins is backed into by Johan Hedberg #1 of the Atlanta Thrashers at the Mellon Arena March 17, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Thrashers 6-2.
Pittsburgh may not have home ice advantage this round, but the Thrashers can only thank a very weak division for that. Pittsburgh actually posted 25 more regular season points than the Thrashers and is the defending WCHL Cup champs. Knocking off the Flyers is nothing compared to taking down the Penguins, who are trying to become just the second team in WCHL history to win back-to-back WCHL Cup titles. Of note, not only has no team other than the Sharks won back-to-back titles, no other has won more than one WCHL title period, so that is something working in Atlanta's favor.  
Prediction: Pittsburgh in six games.

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