DemocraThree: 4 April 2014

by J.R.

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Every Friday bloggers from around The Heptarchy will update us on the news and notes from their teams (with that fancy header image courtesy of Mike D; like democracy itself, it’s a perpetual work-in-progress). Yes, we ripped this off from TRH’s Pacific War Room; no, we don’t care. And since we ripped it off, we’ll follow their lead and go in standings order.

St. Louis Blues
St. Louis Game Time‘s Tyler Atwood
@kingdonuti

When we last heard from the Conference III leaders, the Blues had opened a long five-game home-stand and were headed toward an end-of-schedule sequence that includes eight games in the season’s last thirteen days. Seriously, schedule-maker . . . what are you, high? Whatever.

First, a home game against those jerks from Dallas who took the Conference III Belt from the Blues the last time they played in St. Louis. The Stars played like a team that needs to win to reach the postseason. The Blues played like a team that had fallen asleep after finding out they had no chance of MISSING the postseason. That’s not a good combo for the home team, and the Blues lost 4-2. The less said about this game, the better off we all are. (YA HEAR ME, DAVID?!)

But let’s follow that up with probably the best game Ryan Miller has played since being traded to St. Louis . . . an April Fool’s Day home date with the Flyers, who had pummeled the Blues just a week and a half prior. Two high-scoring teams are gonna have a great shootout-type game at the O-K Corral, right? APRIL FOOL’S!!! The game was scoreless headed into overtime, then the game was scoreless AFTER overtime, then Ray Emery decided to show up . . . however, the shootout prowess of American Hero© T.J. Oshie and Alternate American Hero© Kevin Shattenkirk helped sink Emery and the Flyers—who were stopped twice by Ryan Miller—and the Blues took a 1-0 victory. So yes, not only did Ryan Miller shut out the Flyers in regulation and overtime (on 31 shots, which is an unusually high number for the Blues to allow, actually) but he didn’t allow a goal in the shootout (to, of all people, Vincent Lecavalier and Claude Giroux . . . who I understand are both pretty good). So he didn’t allow a damn thing in this game to one of the hottest teams in the league. It was an incredible performance from Miller, and the type of performance the team expected when they traded for him.

So up next were the boys Ryan Miller used to call teammates . . . yes, the league-worst Buffalo Sabres! And despite the Blues playing like a team that was stuck in quicksand, the Sabres being what they are couldn’t take advantage. A Maxim Lapierre (!) goal assisted by Ryan Reaves (!!!) put the Blues on the board in the second period, a Brenden Morrow Patented Lunch Pail Goal® gave the boys two and a late power-play goal by the Sabres made them feel like they actually got something for playing so close. The Blues won 2-1, but you couldn’t tell it by the post-game reactions from the team. In the effort, the Blues notched their 52nd win of the season, which is a new franchise record for wins in a season. In comparison, the Sabres have 51 POINTS right now. I dunno, 52 wins . . . is that good?

The home-stand comes to a close Saturday against the Avalanche(s), after which a Sunday morning game in Chicago commences. To finish the season, there’s a home date Tuesday featuring the Caps and the return of Jaroslav Halak, a Thursday roadie against the Wild(s), a Friday date in Dallas for the Stars and a Sunday home nationally-televised finale against those traitor jerks from [Fornicate] Detroit, a game that I’ll actually be in attendance for despite living about 1,500 miles away (THAT’S DEDICATION, HOLMES). And then, I hear there’s this thing called the “playoffs”. I hear they’re fun.

Colorado Avalanche
The Internet’s Anthrax Jones
@anthraxjones

The Colorado Avalanche are locked into the 2 vs 3 matchup in #ConferenceIII with the defending champion Teuvo Terrapins, and looked to extend their lead for home ice in 3 games this week. All 3 Avalanche games to determine the 2/3 seeding in #ConferenceIII finished in identical 3-2 scores. That’s a lot of 2s and 3s, and in honor, we will explore the 3 best players in Avalanche history to wear 23 or 32.

COLORADO 3, SAN JOSE 2

Dale Hunter (#32), this young fan’s first “favorite player” during his Quebec days, returned to the franchise where it all started with a 1999 trade deadline deal that brought Hunter into Colorado for the stretch drive and the playoffs. Hunter brought an appropriate amount of snarl and pugnacity to a relatively young Avalanche team, spreading 55 penalty minutes among 31 games played, regular and postseason. Hunter retired as one of the most popular players in NHL history, particularly among Canadiens and Islanders fans.

COLORADO 3, COLUMBUS 2 (OT)

Riku Hahl (#32) was a smart, underrated defensive center on underachieving Avalanche teams of the early oughts. Hahl played 92 games with the Avalanche between 2001 and 2004, tallying 5 goals and 8 assists during those regular season contests. Hahl also played 34 playoff games during that span, adding 2 goals and 4 assists. “Riku Hahl” sounds like a Finnish game show host.

COLORADO 3, NY RANGERS 2 (OT)

Milan Hejduk (#23) was the last remaining link to the glory days of the Colorado Avalanche prior to his retirement before the current season. Milan Hejduk scored 375 goals in his NHL career, added 430 assists, and had the filthiest hands of the era. Milan Hejduk also once did this:

Chicago Blackhawks
Cheer The Anthem‘s Mike Devine
@brightblack76

The week in Blackhawks hockey

Lots of This (Clobbered by the wretched Senators)

Then some of This (pounded by the Pens)

And finally a healthy dose of This (Jonathan Toews ruled out for the rest of the regular season)

The Hawks did their best to blow it against the Wild last night, clinging on to win in a shootout. A three game losing streak and the Captain hurt.. not the greatest of weeks for the reigning Champions. Brooks Orpik nailed Toews with a hit that was nasty, brutal but ultimately clean. Of course, this didn’t stop the chuckleheads from howling that the Hawks should have “Responded” either by taking a penalty for trying to goad a non-fighter to fisticuffs, or by getting a suspension for targeting Sidney Crosby. Handy hint, kids: if Mike Milbury & Eddie Olczyk  think something a good idea, do the exact opposite. Toews will get some rest along with Patrick Kane and will hopefully be ready to go in Denver in a couple of weeks. In other news, Johnny Oduya pulled out during warmups against Minnesota, Bryan Bickell marked his return with a nifty goal of the kind that he scored for fun in last years’ Postseason and Brandon Bollig can consider himself very lucky not to be facing discipline for a high & late blindsiding of Zach Parise. Five games to go. The Playoffs really need to start, and soon.

 

Minnesota Wild
Hockey Wilderness‘s Ger Devine
@gerdevine

The Wild’s first game was a key match-up in the battle for a playoff spot, taking on the Phoenix Coyotes on the road. Dany Heatley was a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career. The Wild slept for the first period but then completely shut the Coyotes out of the game and won 3-1 with Parise scoring twice and Spurgeon once.
Next they traveled to L.A for a tough match-up with the Kings. Darcy Kuemper got hurt in practice so an emergency back-up was signed and Ilya Bryzgalov got the start. You should read about that emergency goalie because it’s an awesome story.

The Wild managed to hang with a superior opponent for most of the game and came from behind twice to win 3-2 with two goals in the 3rd period courtesy of Matt Moulson and Mikko Koivu. The win was somewhat soured by both Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund leaving the game with injuries.

Both players would miss the next game, a visit to Chicago. In their place, (former Blackhawk) Jake Dowell made his first appearance of the season and Dany Heatley returned from the doghouse. In other injury news, Josh Harding made a surprise return to practice.but wasn’t ready to back up just yet so John Curry would dress as Bryzgalov’s back-up.

The Wild outplayed a depleted Hawks team but, in typically Wild fashion, couldn’t score more than 2 goals and lost in a shootout. Erik Haula, who stepped up into the 2nd line centre position in Granlund’s absence, got himself the GTG. The game was marred with controversy after Brandon Bollig hit Zach Parise from behind with Parise’s head being the principal point of contact. It looked nasty so naturally he was skating again a couple of shifts later. I’m glad the Wild are the kind of organisation that would rather risk the long term health of it’s $98 million player than possibly lose a near-meaningless game at the back end of the regular season (they still lost anyway).

The Wild’s regular season concludes with home games against the Penguins. Blues and Bruins and a road game versus the Jets. There are still some Conference III bragging rights up for grabs.

Dallas Stars
Defending Big D‘s David Wilson
@daveyssuitcase

 

The Stars played last night. I’m trying to forget that the Stars played last night.

Thus far in the season, the one infallible guarantor of defeat, is a three-game win streak. The Stars went into Carolina yesterday carrying just such a streak. In fact, aside from last night, Dallas has been playing pretty marzipanically awesome this week. Let’s talk about that, and I’ll try and ease into a discussion of last night by the end.

The DemocraThree week began with a dismantling of the Predators in Dallas. To be honest, I don’t really remember this game, but J.R. probably does. The main thing I remember is the Preds occasionally scoring, just to make the score once again appear close, before the Stars stacked another couple goals onto the total. Best thing in this one as a Stars’ fan? Seven goals were scored by Dallas players, none of them named Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin.

That was actually a theme in the first three games of the week. The Stars scored 16 goals in them, all but one of those was by a player other than the BennGuin. A refreshing stat considering there was a stretch not that long ago where all the goals were belong to the BennGuin, and the rest of the team sorta skated around watching and admiring them.

Fun as that game was, the highlight of the week was the following night when Dallas traveled to St. Louis. An away game, on the second night of a back-to-back, and in St. Louis, where the Blues have been near on unbeatable. My hopes for this one being good were about the same as my hopes for Noah being good. And maybe it was those low expectations, or maybe the Stars really were that good, but I loved this game. Dallas left St. Louis with a 4-2 victory, led by two goals from Our Lord and Sceviour. Keep an eye on that rookie. He’s going places. And by places, I mean hopefully not anywhere other than a starting spot in Dallas next year.

The third most excellent game of this week was played in Washington against some AHL team that presumably has an affiliation with the Capitals. And Dallas beat the proverbial hell out of them. That’s really all there is to say on that. Oh, and that it added a little more fuel to the ‘Ovechkin is lazy’ fire. Ovi was a minus-2 in the game.

Are we at the end of the week already? Damn it. I can’t avoid it any longer. The worst thing about last night is that I’m not even frustrated with the Stars’ play. That game made me frustrated with life. Dallas dominated the first period, having multiple opportunities to cash in, and failing to, and at first intermission there was a feeling of ‘here we go again.’ Dallas has a problem winning games in which they dominate, you see. Our record in games registering 40+ shots is something like 2-twelfty billion-3. Not that we had 40 shots last night, but we might as well have with the way Anton Khudobin was playing. Still though! There was a hope that at some point the Stars early dominance would result in that elusive thing known in some circles as a ‘goal.’ Instead, the hockey gods had in mind a much crueler fate.

Seriously. When you see the ‘goal scorer’ shrugging and laughing after the puck goes in the net, you know something went terribly, terribly wrong.

It went downhill from there. Fast.

Whatever. Ya know what? Last night was only one of the two games in hand we’d had on the Yappy Dogs. And we’re tied in points. And we hold the ROW tie-breaker. It’s gonna be a fun week as a Stars fan in this dogfight of a Western Conference wildcard race. And by ‘fun,’ I mean incredibly tense, stressful, and ultimately I’ll either be over the moon, or sink into an irrecoverable depression.

Please oh please hockey gods, let me have something great to write about next week…

 

Winnipeg Jets
JetsNation‘s Ross Smith
@EBHeater

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@ LA: L 2-4

@ Ana: L 4-5 (OT)

@Pho: W 2-1 (SO)

Vs. Pitt: L 2-4

Well, that does it, officially, at least. Sid and and his flightless foul companions sealed the deal. Jets grounded. Regular readers here or at JetsNation have seen the writing on the wall for a good, long time. That’s not me being retroactively “told ya so” that’s a verifiable fact. Waiting for the simple math to equate was just good science as our hypotheses turned into evidence through a bizarre experiment of a season in which many problems were glossed over but never truly addressed.

So now will come the entertaining offseason post-mortem, from fans and press alike, that should be as grizzly as a Walking Dead zombie chowing down on a bumbling accountant lost in the woods without a compass. I’ve said it all since November: goalie, depth players, structure. And since they’ve only won 3 games since the trade deadline, I’m gonna go ahead and pat myself on the back while shooting that zombie on the face with a crossbow. Who knew that fate of this season rested entirely on the shoulders of Mark Scheifele? I guess he was the Jenga block in this wobbly tower of a hockey team that shouldn’t have been pulled out.

Of the remaining four games the next 2 are of moderate significance with opportunities to play spoiler against Toronto and Minnesota. Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs will have the Jets representing the rest of Canada in the Schadenfreude Cup! The Leafs are teetering on the edge of a playoff spot but like their boorish mayor, everyone knows they’re drunk and they should really just go home and sleep it off. If the Jets beat them and put a nail in the playoff hope coffin, it’s as good a booby prize as can be had for all Canadian hockey fans outside of Montreal.

I can’t explain exactly why the rest of Canada has a Toronto sized chip on its shoulder but I can tell you it’s good fun to watch The Leafs implode when expectations run so high. It’s like there’s a siren that won’t stop wailing and that ambulance is just doing donuts on the lawn of the TSN studios. Then the rest of the country comes yelling out our window because we have to get up early for work the next day, “Your hockey team is as terrible as all of ours! Put down the defibrillator and call it, already!” Then we remind ourselves that Canada won gold at the Olympics and cherry pick our playoff allegiances based on the Sochi roster. That’s why I’m picking Philly and Claude Giroux to win the Eastern Conference Schadenfreude Cup. Or if the Leafs make it in and past the first round I hope James Reimer has a Conn Smythe-worthy run and then exits Toronto with a high-flying bird flipped to all of his critics. Maybe he’ll come to Winnipeg! We need a goalie… okay, a goalie, not James Reimer. *Zing*.

What’s going on with the rest of the division? Injuries, by golly. Is there any team with their entire core group left standing? Are we going to see playoffs with all AHL call-ups? Somehow I think I might enjoy that.

Oh, also, before I go, some idiot in Vancouver is suing Evander Kane for beating him up. I don’t know the whole story but police never filed charges at the time so you have to think the claim is a bit suspect. But, hey, Evander’s getting more attention for off-ice garbage then he gets for his terrific play so that’s fun, right Evander?

Evander…? Evander, come back! Sigh… don’t get into any trouble over the summer, okay? We need you. Zombies are coming. You know how to fire a crossbow, right?

Stay awesome, America. See you next week!

Nashville Predators
III Communication‘s J.R. Lind
@jrlind

It was a week of rest and relaxation for the Predators, a week to heal wounds for the important final week and the push towards…24th place!

The Preds — like everyone — are nursing a lot of injuries. Paul Gaustad has been out with his annual upper body injury. Patrick Eaves somehow got hurt despite not playing very much. That combination resulted in Calle Jarnkrok making his debut, which has been just fine thank you very much.

There were two games played. The first, a trip to Dallas — the Stars hadn’t played in about six weeks and Nashville was traveling on the second end of a back-to-back – for the Chambers Pot. It was, dare I say, not pretty.

If the Stars are to make the playoffs and have success therein, they need secondary scoring (or so we’re told). Thankfully (for Dallas), Nashville was game for making sure everyone could see that people other than Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are capable of goals. The Stars scored seven times on a still not-quite-right Pekka Rinne and none of those seven came from Jesse and Walt. The Preds did their dangedest to make it interesting — they cut it to 2-1 early in the second, 4-2 later in the period and 5-3 early in the third. But it was not their night, as the analysts say.

Things went much better Sunday against Washington. Falling behind early has been a death knell for these goal-starved Predators, but Patric Hornqvist responded to Troy Brouwer’s early marker with two first period goals — his 100th and 101st of his career, which is pretty darn good for a guy drafted flat last in the draft (in fact, it’s the best for a guy drafted flat last, but he’s had that record for awhile).

The Preds and Caps traded goals, Rich Clune got in an explicable fight with Patrick Wey (or Patrick Wey got in an inexplicable fight with Rich Clune) and it was off to the shootout. Washington versus Nashville in a shootout! Sounds wonderful.

Alas, we had to wait for the start of the talent show, because the Zamboni broke down and dumped a bunch of snow right in the approach alley (is that what it’s called?) the Caps would be using to get at Carter Hutton (Hutton told me during my weekly radio segment he tried to convince the ice crew to just leave the snow). I can’t say whether or not the delay had anything to do with it, but the Caps didn’t score, the Preds got one and won a shootout for just the second time this season.

Due to an injury in that Stars game, Nick Spaling had to take a breather, which resulted in the call-up of 30-year-old Mark Van Guilder, which is almost as cool as emergency back-up goalies. Almost.

Van Guilder was sent down Monday, Gaustad, Spaling, Eaves and Seth Jones (out since taking a sandwich hit in Chicago last week) all skated and now Barry Trotz has some questions to answer. Can he sit Jarnkrok, whose scoring streak came to an end against Washington, with Gaustad and Spaling back? Or does someone else make a trip to the pressbox (*cough*Colin Wilson*cough*)? The Preds play back-to-back in Anaheim and San Jose tonight and Saturday, head to Dallas on their way home for two-game set with Phoenix and Chicago (that’s Fan Appreciation Night and Fan Extra Spending Money Night, respectively) and wrapping things Sunday against Minnesota.

And then it’s time to learn how to pronounce these weird names at the top of the draft board.

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