Monday, March 28, 2011

How have past Devils of the past faired in their first game returning?

Wednesday night will likely mark the first time Zach Parise played in a Devils game since he missed 63 games after tearing his meniscus in Anaheim.  He's not the first player to miss an extended period of time and return to the Devils lineup.  Let's take a look at some of the other notable returns:

David Clarkson (missed two shifts in a game during the 2010-11 season due to a broken skate blade): David Clarkson's skate simply fell off his skate, forcing him out of the game for a few moments.  When he returned, it was business as usual: take the puck behind the net and fail miserably while trying to score a wraparound goal.

Ilya Kovalchuk (healthy scratch for one game in the 2010-11 season): After Devils' coach John MacLean felt the best way to get Kovalchuk scoring was to bench him, Ilya responded with a goal at Madison Square Garden.  To scrap MacLean's brilliance, Kovy went 7 games before he scored again, and only had one goal in the first 16 games after being scratched.

Jamie Langenbrunner (healthy scratch for 82 games one game in the 2009-10 season): That's funny, it says Langenbrunner missed just one game in 2009-10.  I could have sworn he didn't show up for 82.  Weird...

Andrew Peters (scratched for 3 games in the 2009-10 season): After losing a spot in the Devils' lineup to a player who actually had enough talent to try out for the Mighty Ducks' team for the movie, Peters returned by fighting an Oiler, and then making chicken-like gestures to the Oiler.  Luckily for the Devils, he failed to tie his jersey down, and was thrown out of the game.

Martin Brodeur (missed 4 games during the 2006-07 season due to "rest"): Scott Clemmensen actually played 6 times during the 2006-07 season, including 4 starts.  It didn't matter though, even though he missed an entire 4 games, Brodeur still led the NHL in wins, saves, shutouts and won the Vezina trophy.

Colin White (missed two months in the 2007-08 season): After returning from his eye injury, White recorded six hits in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh during his first game back.  His vision was blurry at best, so you'll believe me when I say he really didn't mean to hit anyone that night, including a fan in the parking lot after the game.

Patrik Elias (missed 44 games in the 2005-06 season): Patrik Elias had 8 points in his first four games back in the Devils' lineup upon his return from his illness.  Geez, with a recovery that fast, you'd think it was in the food he ate or something...

Paul Martin (missed 50 games in the 2009-10 season): Returned for Retro night against the Penguins.  Prior to the game, Martin made a deal with Ray Shero agreeing that if the Penguins conveniently turned a puck over in the neutral zone and had Marc-Andre Fleury allow a bad goal, Martin would sign with Pittsburgh that off-season.  In a crazy turn of events, that exact senario played out.

Martin Brodeur (missed 55 games in the 2008-09 season): Brodeur took 55 games off during the 2008-09 season, but in fact, it was he that dressed up as Scott Clemmensen and won 25 games in his own absence.  What he did was get Clemmesen a contract with the Florida Panthers, only to have a goals against average over 4.50 during the first half of the 2009-10 season.

Vladimir Malakhov, Richard Matvichuk and Alexander Mogilny (mysteriously disappeared after the 2005-06 season): I guess we'll never know what these players would have done in returns to the Devils.  What I do know is that these players were buried in the minors at one point or another to "manage the salary cap."  Hmm, Russians and salary cap problems...why does that seem like a familiar story?

Brendan Shanahan (missed 1,328 games between 1991 and 2008): When Shanahan returned to the Devils' lineup after a 17-year absence, he made his presence known right away, scoring a power play goal in Nashville.  I wonder what he did during those 17 years...

Bryce Salvador (missed entire 2010-11 season due to concussion): He hasn't returned yet, but when he does, I doubt he'll be able to do what he did against Ottawa on December 18th, 2009 (skip to 4:45):

Friday, March 25, 2011

Top 10 Special - Counting down Zach Parise's 10 Best Moments

Zach Parise will return to the Devils' lineup for the Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 game against the New York Islanders.  It's a shame there isn't more season left, because Parise is going to be on a mission, and if the Devils make the playoffs this season, which appears unlikely at best, they're not going to lose.  Well, anyway, let's celebrate the best of the best.  Here's Zach Parise's top 10 greatest moments.  Enjoy.  *This is part 4 of the DGA Top-10 series.*

NUMBER 10 - A snipe in the steel city

Zach Parise's career year, to date, came in the 2008-09 season, scoring 45 goals and 94 points.  Here's one of those 45 from early in the year, in fact, the second game of the season, in overtime, to beat Pittsburgh, 2-1.

NUMBER 9 - A pair of spin-o-ramas

Parise has always been known to have excellent hands with the puck, and that is evident in this pair of videos.

NUMBER 8 - Who needs Datsyuk?

If you ask hockey fans who the best player in the shootout, most of them will probably reply "Pavel Datsyuk," and rightfully so, however, it would be a disservice to Zach Parise if I didn't include one of his many shootout beautys.

NUMBER 7 - Shorty against Philly

The Devils didn't have many highlights in the playoffs in 2010, but if one had to be picked, this would probably be it: a short-handed breakaway goal by Parise in game 2 against the Flyers.

NUMBER 6 - Dethrone the King

Zach Parise has had considerable amounts of success against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers in his young career.  This is just one of many memorable goals in the King's house in Manhattan.

NUMBER 5 - The 100th career goal

Zach Parise scored his 100th career goal in Los Angeles at Staples Center, and it was quite a shot.  His backhander is very underrated.

NUMBER 4 - Give the trainer an assist!

As I was watching this, I screamed for Rich Stinzianno, the Devils All-Star trainer (he was the East's All-Star trainer that year) to get an assist on this memorable overtime goal in Montreal.  Moments later, Ken Daneyko repeated my words on MSG's Hockey Night Live.

NUMBER 3 - Didn't Ovechkin do that too?

Earlier in the 2008-08 season, Alex Ovechkin chipped a puck by a Montreal defenseman, chased the puck and ended up scoring on his back.  Parise tried his best to impress Ovechkin...without falling.  This is, perhaps, "the goal" of his career, at least in terms of raw skill.  It came against Colorado.

NUMBER 2 - His first career goal and first hat trick!

I couldn't choose between his first goal and first hat trick for #2, so I put them both in.  His first goal is first, followed by his first hat trick (I apologize for the delay in audio feed on the second video).

NUMBER 1 - He's an American hero, too.

Okay, I know the way this game ended, but with 24 seconds remaining in the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal game, Zach Parise became an American Hero, and possibly the face of American hockey at the time with his clutch, game-tying goal.

Zach becomes a restricted free agent this season, so if it gets to July 1st, beware of Glen Sather and his checkbook.  The Devils need to keep this guy for a long time and put a "C" on his jersey someday.  I have a feeling that when it's all said and done, he'll have plenty more to add to this highlight series, and will probably be the last player to ever wear #9 in New a pro-hockey player anyway.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What to expect and what not to expect from NHL GM Meetings

Next week, all 30 NHL General Managers will head to Boca Raton, Florida for the annual GM meetings.  This conference is meant to solve problems and develop new ideas in the NHL, from suspendable hits to financing Gary Bettman's new mansion.  They'll be doing a lot of talking, but this year, will they actually do something?  Here are my predictions:

WHAT TO EXPECT - Expect Gary Bettman to complain about rising salaries in the NHL, and his genuine concern about the likely increase in the NHL salary cap this summer.
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT - Do not expect Bettman to acknowledge the fact that he is averaging a higher salary than Ilya Kovalchuk.

EXPECT - To hear about a suspicious looking man that thinks he's whispering into his microphone while simultaneously checking to make sure nobody sees him peeking through into the meeting room.
DON'T EXPECT - Pierre McGuire to say anything insightful while peeking into the meeting room.

EXPECT - Your team's GM to have a tan when he returns next weekend.
DON'T EXPECT - Glen Sather's tan fool you, he probably spent way too much money on it before he left New York.

EXPECT - Open talks about injuries in the NHL at breakfast.
DON'T EXPECT - Brian Burke to eat waffles at breakfast.

EXPECT - Bettman to ban Lou Lamoriello from using jelly for breakfast.
DON'T EXPECT - Richard Bloch to appeal Bettman's decision.

EXPECT - Gary Bettman to also slap Glen Sather after every offer sheet Sather attempts to sneak in early for Steven Stamkos and Zach Parise.
DON'T EXPECT - Glen Sather to realize that he will have no cap space to sign Brad Richards this summer if he wants to keep Callahan, Dubinsky, Boyle and Anisimov.

EXPECT - Gary Bettman's hairpiece to disappear, while Chris Pronger's car mysteriously drives away.
DON'T EXPECT - The local police to do anything about it.  It's not like they're in Montreal or anything...

EXPECT - People to remind Ray Shero that Matt Cooke is still on his team after he complains about Sidney Crosby's concussion.
DON'T EXPECT - To hear Garth Snow to admit Trevor Gillies is a dirty player.

EXPECT - 30 General Managers to suggest that the Phoenix Coyotes move to Winnipeg.
DON'T EXPECT - Gary Bettman to care.

EXPECT - Gary Bettman to express genuine concern for violence in the league today.
DON'T EXPECT - Bettman to point out that violence has lead to Air Canada threatening to remove its sponsorship with the NHL, and thus threatening Bettman's contract, which was not rejected by the league.

EXPECT - Everyone to laugh at the NFL for locking out.
DON'T EXPECT - The NHL to take advantage of the lockout.

EXPECT - One bold executive to question the league's officiating.
DON'T EXPECT - That executive to have a job next year.

EXPECT - Goaltender equipment and neutral zone defense to become a topic of discussion with scoring down this season.
DON'T EXPECT - Lou Lamoriello to refrain from using the jelly jars that Chris Pronger also stole from Bettman to give to Lou when Lou is criticized for using the trap even though every other team uses it...but can't perfect it.

EXPECT - Colin Campbell to crack down on dangerous hits and plays, and to threaten longer suspensions and heavier fines.
DON'T EXPECT - Peter Chiarelli to appear concerned at all...until he trades Gregory Campbell this summer.

EXPECT - Gary Bettman to 'defend' the Rangers' 23% increase in ticket prices next season, despite calling it "greedy."
DON'T EXPECT - Less Ranger fans at road games from now on.

EXPECT - A round of drinks on the house on the last night of meetings at a sports bar.
DON'T EXPECT - Hockey to be available on any of the TVs at the bar.

EXPECT - All the General Managers to feel good about themselves after the meetings.
DON'T EXPECT - Anything to be done about anything discussed during the meetings.

EXPECT - Your team's TV network to have a segment about the meetings next week.
DON'T EXPECT - Anyone in Phoenix to know the meetings ever happened, despite Gary Bettman's continued support of a hockey team in Glendale.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What is different about the second half New Jersey Devils?

The New Jersey Devils have not had a season in which they lost more games than they won since the 1990-91 season.  They've made the playoffs every year over the past 13 and missed only once (1995-96) since 1988-89.  During that time, they've won three Stanley Cup championships, made it to the finals four times and haven't gone more than five years without making the conference finals...until now.  2003 was the last time the Devils made it to the conference finals.  This season, the team started the season a miserable 10-29-2, last in the NHL, but since, they have gone 20-2-2, and are now within striking distance of (dare I say this) a playoff spot.  In the first half, the team's theme song could have been "Sympathy for the Devil," but now, you're lucky to be "Runnin' with the Devil."  That, in itself, is remarkable, however, there must be an explaination for this incredible turnaround.  DGA investigates.

Differences between the first half and second half of the season for the Devils (from the eyes of a player):

FIRST HALF - Shoot from anywhere, even if it has absolutely no chance to find its way to the net, let alone in it.
SECOND HALF - Who are we kidding?  We don't play Ottawa every night.

FIRST HALF - Our team spent $100 million on Ilya Kovalchuk, let's make him score all the goals for us.
SECOND HALF - Our team spent $100 million on Ilya Kovalchuk, let's make him score all the goals for us.

FIRST HALF - We get booed off the ice every night, but at least our physical safety is not a factor.
SECOND HALF - Damn, I sure hope our fans aren't as creative idiotic as Toronto Maple Leaf fans.

FIRST HALF - Man, I'm tired.  Maybe I'll just take a shift off.  It's not like John MacLean will notice.
SECOND HALF - Mattias Tedenby can't even take a shower, since he can't work up a sweat, because Jacques never lets him play.

FIRST HALF - Johan Hedberg looks just like he did in Atlanta.  No defensive support and he gets lit up every night.
SECOND HALF - Hmm, maybe Martin Brodeur does have it easy in New Jersey...

FIRST HALF - Another loss, another night of crappy officiating.
SECOND HALF - Another win, another night of crappy officiating.

FIRST HALF - The Devils are absolutely terrible with Jamie Langenbrunner.
SECOND HALF - The Dallas Stars are absolutely terrible with Jamie Langenbrunner.

FIRST HALF - John MacLean cancelled practice today.  He probably had to plan his retirement funds a bit earlier than expected.  At least he left us shooting drills to practice.
SECOND HALF - Jacques Lemaire's idea of shooting drills at targets shaped like John MacLean's face are really working well.

FIRST HALF - "Collapsing" is referred to as something the Devils do every spring.
SECOND HALF - "Collapsing" is referred to as a brilliant defensive scheme that most successful teams impliment to win, yet the Devils constantly get accused of ruining hockey by using it.

FIRST HALF - I thought signing Kovalchuk was supposed to help attendance...
SECOND HALF - Why did we have to come all the way out to Long Island for another sold out home game?

FIRST HALF - Uh-oh, Lou Lamoriello mysteriously brought a bag filled with jars of jelly to his office today.
SECOND HALF - Oh, he just legitimately enjoys eating jelly.

FIRST HALF - Wow, if Jamie Langenbrunner is only worth a 3rd round pick...
SECOND HALF - What?  Jason Arnott brought a 2nd round pick back and the guy who knocked Sidney Crosby out during the Winter Classic?

FIRST HALF - Well, at least I can have a longer summer this year.  I better call my buddies on the Panthers (too bad I don't know anyone on the Panthers...) Maple Leafs to find out exactly how that works.
SECOND HALF - Dammit, I might lose my summer plans!  Oh well, I could always retire, since I have pretty much every record a goalie could ever get.

FIRST HALF - You'll give us a 5th round pick for Kovy?  Hmm...
SECOND HALF - Oh, wait, that Kovy?  He's worth a 7th rounder...

FIRST HALF - Is that the same suit John MacLean wore yesterday?
SECOND HALF - Is that the same piece of gum Jacques Lemaire was chewing yesterday?

FIRST HALF - Pierre LeBlond?  What an idiot...
SECOND HALF - Kris Letang forgot to tie his jersey down?  If he only learned from Andrew Peters last year.  See, I knew that Peters guy was useful for something.

FIRST HALF - Still awaiting Anton Volchenkov's first goal as a Devil.  Oh well, he was injured, he'll be fine.
SECOND HALF - Wait, Brett Lebda and Hal Gill scored goals this year?  Gill has...2???

FIRST HALF - Man, this Tedenby kid is fast.  Gionta who?  Stephen?
SECOND HALF - Trevor Gillies had more ice time than Mattias Tedenby last night?

FIRST HALF - I can't believe Matt Cooke has more points than Ilya Kovalchuk.
SECOND HALF - Matt Cooke still has a higher shooting percentage than Kovalchuk...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What does a player go through on NHL trade deadline day?

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and while there were not nearly as many trades as usual, players were still nervous about the possibility of getting traded. For some, they did not want to leave their current team, while others couldn't wait to get out. Jason Arnott was traded from New Jersey to Washington on Monday. Here's how Arnott's day went:

--FEBRUARY 28TH, 2011--

6:43 AM - Text message received from Devils coach Jacques Lemaire reading "klurznygbl"  Ignored.

6:46 AM - Incoming call from Lemaire: "Jason?  Oh oops, sorry, wrong number.  Damn these stupid phones."

6:49 AM - Incoming call from Lemaire: "Oh, by the way, Jason, there's no practice today.  Trust me, it's not just for you since you might get traded, it's for everyone."

8:18 AM - Arnott finally wakes up.  He searches for a trade deadline show, then remembers he's in the U.S.A.  He checks Versus and finds hunting, and becomes heavily engaged in the program.

8:22 AM - Arnott falls asleep while watching hunting.

9:03 AM - Breakfast.  Arnott treats himself to leftover waffles from the diner last night.  He immediately thinks about Toronto, and the possibility of being traded to Toronto and having waffles thrown at him.  Well, at least they'll have good maple syrup, Arnott thinks to himself.

9:07 AM - Arnott falls asleep while eating waffles.

9:10 AM - Arnott wakens from a nightmare.  He had been traded to the New York Islanders in his dream.

9:58 AM - Arnott wonders if the Nashville Predators will take him back.  He feels that they are a much more attractive team now.  I wonder if Carrie Underwood has anything to do with that...

10:34 AM - Arnott finishes polishing his Stanley Cup ring, and ponders the thought of being traded to Montreal.  It would be the first time he'd be in a full arena every night since...the Edmonton days.

10:49 AM - Arnott keeps refreshing his internet page, which is glued to ""  So far, Eklund has reported trades for Arnott to Pittsburgh, Montreal, Washington and Siberia.  Eklund's sources are a bit shaky on the Siberia rumor...

12:05 AM - Arnott tunes into NHL Live, only to learn that there have been few trades.  Reality hits him that he probably won't be dealt anywhere, but he logs into his Twitter account, of course disguised so that Lou Lamoriello wouldn't be able to find it, and has Eklund's tweets send to his phone.

12:23 AM - Hunting is still on Versus.

12:47 AM - Arnott calls Lou Lamoriello to hear if there's any news.  Lou's answer: "Everything is status quo."

1:18 PM - Eklund reports that the Washington Capitals are closing in on a deal to acquire Jason Arnott.  Arnott immediately thinks to himself that his chances to go to D.C. are officially done.

1:20 PM - Arnott receives a text from Patrik Elias saying that sources say Arnott's going to Washington.  Arnott replies telling Elias not to believe Eklund, but then Elias tells him that Darren Dreger reported it.

1:44 PM - Dustin Penner to the Kings.  Arnott realizes his small chance to go to Hollywood are gone.

2:01 PM - "Status quo" keeps wandering through Arnott's mind.  Eklund reports that the Arnott to D.C. trade will not go through.  Arnott immediately gains hope.

2:07 PM - Arnott wonders what the return will be for him.  Jamie Langenbrunner returned just a conditional third round draft pick, but then again, he was captain crybaby, right?  Arnott turns on his X-Box and tries trading himself to Washington for a 2nd round pick.  "We here at the Washington Capitals take trading seriously."  Arnott sighs.

2:14 PM - Joffrey Lupul has been traded to the Islanders?  Uh-oh, Arnott panics that the Isles might be trying to pick up another big player, such as himself.

2:17 PM - The Lupul trade was a gag set up by a Toronto Maple Leafs blogger who amuses himself which such humor.

2:26 PM - Eklund now says there's no way Arnott is going anywhere.

2:27 PM - Arnott receives a call from Devils GM Lou Lamoriello informing him that he has been traded to Washington.  To avoid sounding obnoxious, Arnott mutes Lamoriello as Lou spends ten minutes telling Arnott what an asset he was, and Arnott screams in joy.

2:31 PM - Patrik Elias wishes Arnott well in Washington.

3:00 PM - From Kovy to OV, Arnott leaves for the airport.

3:28 PM - On the plane ride, Arnott hopes that the trade won't get rejected by the league.  Not that he has any reason at all to worry about that happening.

5:06 PM - Arnott meets his new coach, Bruce Boudreau, and is informed that the trade did process.  Boudreau tells Arnott that the entire trade was "status quo."  Arnott rolls his eyes...

8:12 PM - Arnott puts Versus back on, only to find a hockey game being televised.  He looks for another channel that might broadcast hunting, but he has no such luck.

2:01 AM - YES!  Hunting!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Top 10 - Bizarre NHL moments

This is the third installment of the DGA "Top 10" series. So far, I've done Top 10 Bloopers and Top 10 Ilya Kovalchuk Devils moments. The third part of the series features 10 of the greatest bizarre moments in NHL recent memory. The difference between this and the bloopers is that bloopers are caused by athletes on the ice (for the most part), and the bizarre moments are either random or accidental, except for one. Enjoy.

10. CANUCKS FAN GOES GREEN - A Vancouver Canucks fan obviously felt that his team needed a little help to distract Miikka Kiprusoff.

9. MUSICAL STICKS - Bobby Ryan loses his stick, picks up another player's stick and scores a goal on a rebound.

8. NOT LEAF-ING EARLY - About win a 1994 playoff game, Toronto scores a flukey own goal in the dying seconds.

7. WAIT, THAT COUNTS? - Maxime Talbot will probably be remembered for being the 2009 Stanley Cup Game 7 hero, but his first career goal was memorable as well.

6. FIGHT AFTER THE FIGHT - Tie Domi squirts a fan, and nearly lives to regret it.

5. KOVALEV GETS ROBBED...LITERALLY - A Bruins fan sticks his hand through a small hole in the glass and grabs Alex Kovalev's stick.

4. GETTING TRAPPED - Vesa Toskala, who has a highlight reel of bloopers of his own, has the net fall over him.

3. THE FLYING GOALIE - Neal Little decides that he wants a piece of a line brawl in a minor league hockey game...involving Ray Emery.

2. WHAT'S THAT SMELL? - A Flyers fan fires a smoke bomb onto the ice in overtime.

1. DO IT ONCE, SHAME ON YOU, DO IT TWICE, SHAME ON... - Dion Phaneuf's wicked slapshot caused two glass supports to the same period of the same game.