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

NHL Playoffs hopes crushed!

Five teams have missed the playoffs with 92 points or more since the NHL has instituted the shoot-out to decide a winner in 2005-06.

Before the shoot-out, in my unofficial  survey, only two teams have accomplished that record. The Edmonton Oilers in 2001-02 and the Montreal Canadiens in 1969-70.

I have the distinction of being a member of two teams that were excluded from the playoff season with 92 and 93 points respectively. The Canadiens in 69-70 and the Florida Panthers in 2008-09. Interestingly enough, both situations have a special twist to them. Here is the Montreal story.

My first year in the NHL was with the MONTREAL CANADIENS in 1969. I received the call to go from the Montreal Voyageurs of the American League to the Canadiens. It was only a few steps away since both teams played in the Montreal Forum,  but it was a very big step in my life. (where did I hear this before?) The Canadiens had future Hall of Famers all around the dressing room and players I had grown up watching every Saturday night on TV. Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Dick Duff, John Ferguson, Cournoyer, Lemaire, Savard and on and on…Rogie Vachon was the goalie and I was replacing “Gump” Worsley.

I ended up playing only ten games that season but what an experience to be rubbing shoulders with all those great players. The Canadiens had won the Stanley Cup the previous year and was on its way to making the playoffs again. But it was close. With two games to go, we had a 2 point lead on the New York Rangers.  On the last week-end of the season, we had a back to back encounter with Chicago and the Rangers with Detroit. Both of us lost the first game. We were still in good shape, two points up, one game to go.

We flew to Chicago very confident to make the final playoff spot. In the event that we would lose, the Rangers had to win of course and score 6 more goals than us in the process because the tiebreaker was goals for.  Odds were on our side. . . Not so fast!

The Detroit Redwings clinched a playoff spot by beating the Rangers on Saturday. So they decided to rest their top players and play their backup goalie who hadn’t played in a long while. It also happened to be a rare CBS afternoon game which we all watched from our hotel room in Chicago. It was ugly and not what we wanted to see. The undermaned Redwings were no match for the Rangers.  It seemed like (I do specify “seemed like”) they were conspiring to put the Canadiens out of the playoffs. At least it felt that way. The score: DETROIT 5 NEW YORK 9

The situation became very tense for us. Win or tie, we’re in.  If we lost, we would need to score at least 6 goals. Rogie Vachon was our goalie. We played as hard as we could to win. It was a one goal game halfway through the third period in favor of Chicago. Then they scored to make it 4-2. Our coach, Claude Ruel, made the decision to try to score 4 more goals by substituting Rogie for an extra attacker. We never scored and the Blackhawks scored 6 goals in the empty net to end the game MONTREAL 2  CHICAGO 10 and missed the playoffs. Both teams had the same record. The two extra goals scored by the Rangers were the difference. The NHL changed the rule for tiebreaker the next season.

My top Pet-Peeves

Phil Myre

Hockey has been very good to me for 42 years as a “pro”. It brought me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction and a good life. But I also developed several pet peeves and I want to share them with you. Maybe, you feel the same way…   

My first two pet peeves have to do with goalies. The one that irks me the most happens is when I see a goalie shrug his shoulders following a goal showing everybody that  a teammate, not him,  was responsible for the miscue. He wants to show the world that he didn’t see the puck or that a deflection occurred.  I think that it’s a copout and a failure to take responsibility.  It shows a lack of team unity.   

My second pet peeve involving goalies happens when they handle the puck behind the net and shoot it with no purpose right by an oncoming teammate, usually a defenseman. Those plays are very seldom successful and often result in a turnover and put the defenseman in a vulnerable position. The ability to handle the puck for a goalie is an excellent skill which helps teams breakout of their zone. Very few have that vision and instinct. Most of the time, the easiest, simplest play is the best one. Let the defenseman handle the puck when he is in the clear.   

Another pet peeve of mine has to do with defensemen leaving their feet in the defensive zone. Yes, there are times when a defenseman will leave his feet to block a shot. As a goalie, I was very thankful to many defencemen who did that in front of me over the years. Former teammate, Bob Plager with the St-Louis Blues, was the master at blocking shots. He was even diving in front of pucks in an alumni game we played a few years back. I see more and more defensemen today leaving their feet on a 2 on 1 attack or outnumbered situation. Smart, skilled offensive players simply let the player slide away and often get a good scoring chance.  Whatever happened to leaving a lane for the goalie to take the shot and taking the pass away with good body and stick position?   

Finally, my last pet peeve of the day: Teams being rewarded with a point in the standings for losing. It’s time that the NHL reconsiders allowing a point to the losing team in overtime and in sh00t-outs. It’s the only league among the four major pro sports in North America that allows points for a loss. There has to be a better way to promote and reward winning. The Montreal Canadiens made the playoffs in 2008-09 while losing their last 4 games but earning one point in an OT loss to Boston. That one point tied them with the  Florida Panthers and earned them a playoff spot winning the tie breaker.  It’s ridiculous and needs to be changed. Some suggestions have been made, some good, some not so good. I have my own ideas but I will save them for a full blog at a later date. I would also like to hear what you have to say about it…   

HAVE A GOOD 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

Phil’s 5 Commandments of Goaltending

THE 5 COMMANDEMENTS OF GOALTENDING   by Phil Myre

1. EYE ON THE PUCK:   Just like catching a ball, you must focus on the puck from start to finish: from the time the stick makes contact to when it finally hits you.

2. BODY ON THE PUCK: That simply means that you need to be in good position with the puck lined up in the middle of your body and knowing where your net is.

3. LET THE PUCK HIT YOU: Simplify your game and have patience. The puck will come to you; you don’t have to chase it. Overactive goalies often get out of position and have to rely on reflexes too much.

4. CONTROL THE REBOUND: If you have to give a rebound, try to control where it goes. It needs to be in the least dangerous area where the opponents are least likely to get the puck and make an easy play.

5. RECOVERY: This is very important. You must be ready for the next shot quickly and effectively.

CANADIENS FANS HOT FOR HALAK

Halak

On a HOT and HUMID day in Montreal, I’m listening to a sports talk show while I’m driving. Is this July or January, I ask myself? While the animator of the popular talk show is trying desperately to direct the conversations to the Alouettes, the local football team, or to other current events, THE CANADIENS FANS ARE as HOT as the weather. Some of them are downright ANGRY! Only in Canada and especially in Quebec can you experience such passion for a sport during the off-season. It is, after all the middle of the summer and the phone lines are lit up like a Christmas tree as the hockey fans want to be heard.  

The Ilya Kovalchuk signing by the New Jersey Devils which was refuted by the NHL, is a hot topic. How much money should the Canadiens give Corey Price as a restricted free agent. Panic is setting in because he hasn’t signed yet. But the item “du jour” is the trade that sent Jarislav Halak from Montreal to St-Louis only days following his heroic effort which brought the Canadiens to the conference final.  The emotions are still fresh on their mind as if they had been kept in the cold winter snow. It seems and feels like the trade happened just yesterday. The passion, the anger, even vindictiveness is felt through the air wave. A long time Habs fan declares that she will now switch her allegiance to the Blues, another vows never to cheer for his beloved Canadiens again.

Of course, Halak’s performance in the playoffs was extraordinary. He almost single-handedly brought the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final. He won the hearts of the Montreal hockey fans who are clinging on to their hero as if he was a rare commodity for a city who has had so many heroes to cheer about over the years.

Pierre Gauthier and his staff were faced with a sensitive situation. Two good young goalies who both want to be #1 and both wanting new contracts. Allowing 7-8 million dollars on goalies was out of the question. Unfortunately, the “CAP”  dictates more decisions than skills and performance. I’ve worked as a Pro Scout for the last 17 years and I have been involved in similar situations more times than I would have liked.  Regardless of the reasoning behind the trade, the HEAT will be on the Canadiens management and on Price until the fans are satisfied that their team can survive and prosper without their recent hero. The Canadiens fans have already chosen sides and it will be a very HOT DEBATE, as the weather turns cold in Montreal. The long-term benefits outweigh the short-term, in my opinion, but for the Hockey crazed fans in Quebec, the long-term is as long as their short northern summers. Will the Canadiens repeat or improve on their FINAL FOUR finish last season? It’s highly unlikely, even if Halak was still wearing the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge.  Phil Myre