Category: Scouting Reports

AMAZING & NOT SURPRISING EVENTS…

So far this NHL season, some events are in the AMAZING CATEGORY and others in the NOT SURPRISING CATEGORY. I’ll share some with all of you…

 IT’S AMAZING THAT…

Pavel Datsiuk can steel so many pucks with his stick and come out of scrums with the puck so often.

 … Alex Ovechkin can go 9 games without a goal and only 4 goals in 20 games. Not surprising that Washington lost 8 consecutive games during that span.

…Nickas Lidstrom who is closing in on 250 goals and 1500 games scored his first hat trick at age 40 on Wednesday against the Blues.

…Chicago couldn’t find a way to keep Dustin Byfuglien and Antti Niemi (G) despite their cap issues. They would be a much better team with those two players.

 …How close the Western Division standings are. As of December 14th, only 8 points separated the 2nd place team and the 13th place team.

Dallas is leading their division and second in the conference. Not surprising that Kari Lehtenen has something to do with it producing a 2.58 GAA and 14 wins.

…That HBO would air the emotional speech from Bruce Boudreau which was full of 4 letter words

….how quickly Steve Yzerman turned Tampa Bay around. Watch-out Steve, your team is giving up way too many goals.

The traffic and screens in front of goalies today. Forwards go to the point in the shooting lane, the defense can’t move the opponents in front of the net and are coached to front the player. That makes 3 players in the shootingn lane.

NOT SURPRISING THAT

Detroit is back on top of the league. They are more rested and healthy this year than last season. Their top players can outplay any line in the league.

Ilya Kovalchuk is struggling with only 8 goals and a -21. …Florida is 10 points out of a playoff spot already after 30 games. They just don’t have the “Horses” and no resources to improve the team.

Atlanta is so much improved. They raided the Blackhawks of 4 players which made them bigger and more competitive.

that Bruce Boudreau’s motivational speech was full of swear words. I have had very few coaches in the Pros that didn’t swear while addressing the team. Scotty Bowman was one. I had two coaches in Jr. hockey who never swore. Claude Dolbec in Shawinigan and Hap Emms in Niagara Falls.

RED WINGS A MEASURING STICK

I attended the game between the Detroit Redwings and the Edmonton Oilers last night. Frankly, it seemed like men playing boys. The Oilers younger players who played at the Joe for the first time will remember this moment for a long time. It may not be a pleasant memory as the Oilers dropped a 6-2 loss but it will stay on their mind as a measuring stick to where they need to be as a player and as a team.  

Playing without Shawn Horcoff, their most experienced forward, the youthful Oilers struggled to defend against the Wings movement, speed and great passing. The Wings superior experience was evident as they controlled the puck most of the night. Covering the Detroit area as a Pro Scout for a long time, I witnessed this phenomenon many times. There are many games where it is difficult to rate puck skills and offensive instincts on the visiting team because they get very little puck possession. Teams come in this city feeling pretty good and after playing the Mighty Wings on their home turf, realize that they have a long way to go before they’re a good team.   

Taylor Hall, who played Jr. hockey in neighboring Windsor, is one of the newcomers who faced the Redwings at the Joe for the first time. It was my first viewing of this first overall pick in the 2010 draft. He ended the game with a -3 and no point. He also appeared nervous and rushed his moves at times. He didn’t use his creativity when he had puck and missed the net or had shots blocked; a definite sign that a player is not executing with confidence. He is a cerebral player with a strong skating stride and I’m sure better than he showed in this game.

Jordan Eberle, a first round selection in 2009, made quite an impression on me. What an explosive player! I had “flash backs” of seeing Patrick Marleau for the first time. He has speed, skills, very creative and he competes.

The Oilers are faced with a familiar dilemma that several teams have experienced over the last few years. They are very proud of the group of young players they have acquired and excited at the prospect of a bright future. But how long do you take for the rebuilding? A team takes the risk of taking too long to start winning and their young players develop bad habits, bad attitudes and lack leadership. They never learn to work beyond their comfort level. The best example of failing to grow with their young stars is the Florida Panthers. Jay Bowmeester and Nathan Horton among others, who had so much great promise, are now performing on other teams and the Panthers are still rebuilding. Conversely, the Chicago Blackhawks were able to surround their great young players, acquired when they were a bad team, with high end veterans. They created a winning environment with veteran leadership and skill, enough to win the Stanley cup. The Colorado Rockies appear to be going in the right direction with their young stars. What about the New York Islanders? What direction are they taking with their young draft picks? ? ? To follow up…

PHIL-BITS

–          Great move by Tom Renney not to pull his goalie Nikolai Khabibulin when he was down 5-0 after two periods. The “Bulin Wall” had been pulled in the previous game against Carolina. Pulling your #1 goalie two games in a row sends the wrong message and would be very risky.

–          Ales Hemsky is a magician with the puck but has no idea in the defensive zone. One consolation is that he did compete in this game and was one of their better players offensively.

–          The Oilers want to play a high pace, speed game but they need a lot of work in their own end.

HAVE A GOOD HOCKEY DAY

Phil Myre

TO “BAG” OR NOT TO “BAG”

Minnesota Wild coach, Todd Richards, put his team through a “bag skate” recently and his team responded with a big win over the Vancouver Canucks in their next game. “Bag skates” have been a tradition in hockey for as long as I can remember. The origination of the name “bag skate” is not quite clear. In technical terms a bag skate is “A team practice made of repetitive, strenuous skating drills and sprints, usually without pucks”. Some say the name originated because the pucks were left in the bag, others say that it’s because a bag may be needed in case you get sick…. Whatever the meaning, it’s quite clear to players who have been through it. It’s tough, it’s hell, and it’s a character builder. Coaches use it to send a message when all other tactics failed.  

The worse “bag skate” I ever went through was in the AHL, late in my career. I was 33 years old and playing as a player/assistant coach for the Rochester Americans under Mike Keenan. I had just spent 14 straight seasons in the NHL when I signed with the Buffalo Sabres. After a 2-7-1 start, Mike put us through a workout I will never forget. We were in Moncton on a long road trip. The workout was so tough that players labeled it the “MONCTON MASSACRE”. We skated for about 90 minutes without any pucks. Players were throwing up over the boards, (no bags to be found) sometimes yelling their lungs out pleading for mercy. In my hotel room that night, I even contemplated retirement. I could put up with this abuse in the NHL but I wasn’t ready to endure such punishment in the minors. My wife, Nicole, in her usual wisdom convinced me to finish the trip and discuss it when we returned. The players rallied, mostly against Mike, but nevertheless jelled as a team and we went on to play 21 games with only one loss and eventually won the Calder Cup.   

It’s a risky tactic for a coach but one that is often successful when used in a timely fashion. Overuse is very dangerous. The coach will lose its effectiveness and alienate the players. Other tactics will be exhausted before deciding to put the team through this agony. Changing line combinations, team and individual meetings, motivational speeches are usually the first line of defense against lackadaisical play. But when all else fails…the “bag skate” leaves no doubt that the coach is not happy. . .

PHIL-BITS: PHOENIX @ DETROIT

  1. Chris Osgood hadn’t played in 14 days and showed signs of rust in the first period. He should have stopped 2 of the 3 goals. But he redeemed himself the rest of the game to give his team a chance for a comeback.
  2. Mike Babcock showed great patience keeping his veteran net minder in the game after the 3rd goal, ignoring the “Boo Birds” in Joe Louis Arena. A good decision that almost worked for him tonight but will pay dividends later.
  3. Mike is also showing a lot of patience with Mike Modano who really has been playing below expectations so far.
  4. The NHL “Brass” was in attendance tonight. Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly and V.P media relations, Frank Brown. (Thanks for reading my blog Frank)
  5. The Coyotes PK was excellent and made the difference. Special mention to Belanger, Korpikoski and Fiddler and the defense in keeping the Wings on the outside and preventing the best puck retrieving team down low to get second chances.
  6. Ilya Bryzgalov was excellent in goal. (43 shots) He’s an excellent first shot blocker and he didn’t face many second chances.   
  7. 19 year old Oliver Ekman-Larsson looks like a “keeper”. He’s cool under pressure, has good size and skills. Makes an excellent first pass on break-outs.
  8. WORLD SERIES: I don’t watch a lot of baseball but I had never seen a baseball bat propelled into the stands from a player swinging for a strike like it did in the first game of the Series. Has any of you ever seen that?

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre

FLAMES BATTLE BUT STIMIED BY HOWARD

Jimmy Howard

The Calgary Flames played a strong game in Detroit last night despite injuries to some key players like Daymond Lankow, David Moss and Ales Kotalik. They had a chance to beat the Detroit Redwings but Jimmy Howard made some timely saves in the first and third period to gain a 4-2 victory for his team.

Howard has played much better in the NHL than many scouts, including myself, had predicted. He has improved his positioning and control of movement. He’s playing a more “static” game, waiting for the puck instead of guessing, slipping and sliding away from his net. The most prominent improvement is the control of his rebounds. When playing with the Grand Rapids Griffins, his rebound control was atrocious to say the least. Some of the credit goes to the Redwings development process and to goalie coach Jim Bedard. He’s catching more pucks now and he’s able to trap the puck into his body so much better. His focus and decision making are improving as he gains more confidence.

Special teams were also a factor last night with the Wings going 1/7 and the Flames 0/11. But on most nights, if you’re going to beat the Redwings, you must shut down their top two lines or at least play them even. Calgary’s top lines failed to do that last night. Very few teams do, especially in Detroit. The Flames best line was their 3rd unit with Glencross, Backlund (2 goals) and Bourque. They outplayed the Modano line who doesn’t appear to have jelled yet as a line.

PHIL-BITS  

Same old Jokinen: neutral zone turnovers, lost a battle for the puck on the winning goal. Brett Sutter sat him late in the 3rd period, including a 5 on 3 power play.

Mikael Backlund scored two goals. He has good speed and great mobility.  Very good hands, vision, offensive sense and play making.  However, he will dish-off the puck early along the boards or in physical confrontations…to watch…

Whatever happened to the “physical presence” of Robyn Regehr? He was outfought for puck possession several times last night and didn’t use the physical dimension he has. He must play with more of an edge to be effective!

Miikka Kiprusoff made some good saves but should have had a couple of the goals. He was deep in the net on the point shot by Lidstrom and should have stopped Bertuzzi from a right wing rush on the insurance goal.

I like Mark Giordano’s competitive edge although he lost his man on two goals last night, he’s a keeper.

Why did Anaheim give up on Brendan Mikkelson so soon? He has some shortcomings, he’s prone to mistakes, I know, but he’s still young, he’s big and a great skater. Calgary, who picked him up on waivers should show patience with this kid and continue his development.

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre

Rookies, Redwings, Leafs & Oilers impress in first week

  The first week in the NHL is now in the books. If the games we saw are  any indication we should be in for a treat this season. 

EDMONTON OILERS: What is most  impressive and exciting for me is the play of  young rookies.  The Edmonton Oilers, the doormat of the league last year are showing off the product of their futility with great performances from Taylor Hall, first overall in the 2010 entry draft and Jordan Eberle who was selected 22nd overall in 2008. Swedish player Magnus Paajarvi also showed NHL skills and speed.

NEW YORK RANGERS: What about the performance of Derek Stepan who scored  “hat trick” in his first NHL game.  He showed  exceptional hockey sense, the ability to win faceoffs and good hands.  The Rangers, for the first time in years, can show off some young prospects and can legitimately plan for the future. Wisconsin graduates Stepan and Ryan McDonagh are definitely NHL players. Watch for Artem Anisimov, Matt Gilroy, Michael Sauer to contribute this season. 

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: The Flyers don’t have many rookies but goalie Sergei Bobrovsky showed very good quickness and ability to read and react in beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in his NHL debut.

The Detroit Redwings are off to a great start going 2-0 including a win in Chicago on Banner raising night for the Hawks. A game that featured a fight by Lady Byng trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk.

 TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: How about the Leafs…They also won their first two games, something they weren’t able to do until November 6th last season. they have added speed and depth to their roster  and their top four defencemen are as good as many teams in the league.  Look for Tampa Bay, Atalanta and Edmonton, also 2-0, to climb in the standings this season. That’s what makes it all so exciting!

The final event is not so pleasant. Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec collapsed after just over two minutes during their opening game. He doesn’t remember playing those minutes and suffered a slight concussion in the fall.  He’s going through a battery of tests but no medical report has been issued as of now. No previous medical issues were reported. Hope the best for him. I have a special bond with Ondrej because he has my picture on his mask… HAVE A GOOD SEASON!  Phil Myre