Saturday, January 31, 2015

Martin Brodeur, NHL’s winningest goalie, announces his retirement.

After 22 years playing in the National Hockey League, Martin Brodeur announced that he was hanging up the skates and the goalie pads. He made the announcement on Thursday in Saint Louis (at that press conference it was announced he was going to become senior advisor to Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong for the rest of the season).

Martin Brodeur at press conference announcing his
retirement on January 29, 2015
Brodeur played 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, where he was part of three Stanley Cup championships. He spent part of this season with the Blues, where he signed as a free-agent after goalie Brian Elliot went down with a knee injury. He played his last NHL game on January 2. (Elliot has since returned from his knee injury). Brodeur, the NHL’s winningest goalie (having won 691 games), has won the Vezina trophy four times and won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1994. Besides being the NHL’s winningest goalie, Brodeur holds a number of records. Some of those records include Most Career Saves (with 28,508), most regular season shutouts with 125, and most games played by an NHL goaltender with 1,259 (as of Dec. 29, 2014). Besides the records, Brodeur has also scored three career goals (including a power play goal during the 2013 season). 

Brodeur was also a member of two gold medal-winning Canadian Olympic hockey teams (2002 and 2010).

Martin Brodeur in the net for the New Jersey Devils

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Can the Wild turn things around in the second half?


Here we are beginning of the second half of the season—which generally means the push for the playoffs. The Wild are currently seven points out for the final Wild card spot for the play offs, with a 21-20-6 record (after having beat Edmonton 2-1 on Tuesday night).

Given the current play of goalies Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher traded the Wild’s 2015 third round draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for goaltender Devan Dubnyk. 

Dubnyk, 28, has been Mike Smith’s back up for the Coyotes and is an unrestricted free-agent at the end of this season. In the 19 games Dubnyk has played for his previous team, he had a 9-5-2 record with a 2.72 GAA and .917 save percentage. (Kuemper has a .902 save % and 2.68 GAA, while Backstrom has a .887 save % and 3.04 GAA, but the Wild’s record has been 18-19-5). 

Devan Dubnyk deflecting the puck over Jonas Brodin's head
Kuemper was sent down to Iowa on Monday for a conditioning assignment (he can be there for up to two weeks). Prior to Kuemper making a relief appearance in the Wild’s game against Detroit, he missed the previous seven games with what the Wild had announced was a “lower body” injury.

We all know how Dubnyk’s debut for the Wild went. He is the first goaltender for the Wild to have a shutout in their debut with the team. Yes, I know, the Wild were playing the Buffalo Sabres. However, Dubnyk did start in the Wild’s last game before the All-Star Break and was pulled for Darcy Kuemper after letting in 4 goals on 10 shots.

Entering the All-Star Break, the Wild were 2-7-2. There are 35 games left in this wild roller-coaster of a season.

Wild Forward Mikael Granlund stated this to Minneapolis Star Tribune Columnist Michael Russo (which appeared in Russo’s column on January 27):

There’s still 30-something games left…A lot of things can happen and I think every guy in this locker room believes we can make it to the playoffs. We need to go game by game. That’s the only thing we can do now.”

Granlund returned to the Wild line up on Tuesday after having missed the previous four weeks with a broken wrist. So far, Granlund only has 15 points in 32 games this season—so the Wild need him to start producing. (Last season, Granlund had 41 points in the 63 games he played).

As far as where the Wild are currently in the standings, Zach Parise stated this to the Twin Cities media:

“We've got to win…There's no other way to put it. There's not a lot of room for error, and it's going to be hard. We know that. It's going to be very hard. But we're not going to quit. We've got to keep improving and get our game going in the right direction...We can't get caught up (in the standings)…We can't put ourselves in an every-game's-a-win-or-season's-over type scenario. You stress yourself out, and all of a sudden, mentally, you're making the game a lot harder. You try to put it in small things where (Tuesday) night we've got to win the first period and then go from there. We can't win the game right away, but we've got to win the first period. That's got to be our approach as we go on through this road trip and the rest of the season. We know what the standings look like. That's no secret. But we can't make up all those points this week. We've got to start small." (Chad Graff, twincities.com, 1/26/2015)

Going into Tuesday night’s game against Edmonton, the Wild are going to need about 46 points in the remaining 36 games of this season (with a record of 22-10-4). Can the Wild pull it off? It will be interesting. They were able to do it last year (after having been decimated by injuries in the months of December and January heading into the Olympic break). How this season is going to turn out remains to unfold at this point in the season. 

The other lingering question is whether or not the Wild are going to be either sellers or buyers come the March 2nd trade deadline. Could the Wild actually try to get Niklas Backstrom to waive his no trade clause and try to move him? That is something else that remains to be seen. 

I would like to believe the Wild could possibly turn things around and make a push towards getting into the playoffs. However, I think the Wild have dug themselves into quite a hole and I can see them possibly playing spoiler towards the end of the season. 






Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pictures from Red Bull's Crashed Ice 2015 in Saint Paul


Since there was no regular NHL hockey on this weekend due to the NHL's All Star break, I went to Red Bull's Crashed Ice Event in Saint Paul Friday afternoon. I thought I would share the pictures I took. I apologize if some of them appear "grainy," the only camera I had was the one on my iPhone. 


The events I saw were the individual practice runs in the afternoon and part of the team qualifying that evening. The field of 64 individual event was scheduled to take place Saturday night (where they are saying approximately 140,000 people attended. 

This year was the first year I actually went. All the pictures in this post are ones I took. I also have a couple of short videos I shot while close to the starting line.

According to redbullcrashedice.com, the Saint Paul Course (which started above the steps of the Cathedral of Saint Paul) was the longest course of this season. This was also the first of five races (the other three races will be held in Helsinki, Belfast, and Edmonton). 

One of two ice sculptures for the event near the Cathedral of St. Paul
Some of the individual practice runs (yes, I was able to get THAT close to the track!):





 


Pictures from around the course:

 





The Cathedral of Saint Paul lit up (where the starting line was located, I think it was 17 feet above the top steps of the Cathedral):

 





The Downtown Saint Paul skyline from the course

Now, for some of the action from the team event (they came by pretty quickly!). I will admit, I don't shoot the greatest videos.
video


video
video


Here are some photos I got of the action:

 




 


For more pictures from the event and to find out race results, click on http://www.redbullcrashedice.com/en_US.

Enjoy and the regular hockey posts will be back this week! 











Friday, January 9, 2015

Remembering Jean-Paul (J.P) Parise

In my previous blog post (posted 1/7/2015), I stated it had been announced that J.P. Parise had made the decision to stop chemotherapy treatments and had been receiving hospice care.

I knew this sad update was going to have to be made...eventually. 

The Minnesota Hockey community lost a great member when J.P. Parise passed away Wednesday night after a year-long bout with Stage 4 lung cancer at his home in Prior Lake with his wife and kids by his side. Mr. Parise was 73-years-old.

Even though J.P. was born in Canada and was a member of Team Canada when they faced off against the Soviet Union in the Summit Series in 1972 (in which he played in six of eight games), J.P. started to make a name for himself in Minnesota Hockey when he played for his first Minnesota team—the Minneapolis Bruins (of the old Central Professional Hockey League) back in 1964.  

J.P. Parise, #11 for the Minnesota North Stars
After playing with games with both the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, J.P. returned to the Twin Cities when he was traded from the Leafs to the Minnesota North Stars in December of 1967. J.P. was an NHL All Star during his first stint with the North Stars, having made the All Star teams in 1970 and 1973. His second stint with the North Stars came in 1978, when the Cleveland Barons merged with the North Stars. J.P. retired from the NHL after the 1978-79 season. He played in 890 NHL games during his career and scored 238 goals, along with appearing in 86 play-off games.  After his playing days were over, J.P. still remained with the North Stars as an assistant coach from 1980-84 and 1985-88. He was the head coach of the Salt Lake Golden Eagles (an affiliate minor league team of the North Stars) for the 1984-85 season. 

Tom Reid had this to say about his close friend and former North Stars teammate:

"J.P. was probably one of the best cornermen in the game,” Reid said. “When he went in the corner, he was going to come out with the puck. But he was a very honest hockey player. No cheap shots out there" (startribune.com, 1/9/2015)

Zach and his dad in his dad's office at Shattuck-St. Mary's
Photo Coutesy of Carlos Gonzalez (@CarlosGphoto on twitter)
J.P. later moved on to being the coach and hockey director at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, MN. His son, (current Minnesota Wild star forward) Zach, played there--along with current NHL players Jack Johnson, Sidney Crosby (who was a frequent dinner guest of the Parises), Jonathan Toews, and Kyle Okposo. 

Sidney Crosby had this to say about J.P., "As a Canadian kid and knowing the history with that series, he (JP) just had so many stories all the time…He played for so long. I always found that to be pretty fun, to listen to him talk and tell stories about that.” Crosby also stated that during his time at Shattuck-St. Mary's that JP and his wife, Donna, were "both really good to me." (Jason Mackey, triblive.com, 11/4/2014).

Later on, J.P. would go on to serve on the Board of Directors and the Board of Legends for Defending the Blue Line (an organization that Zach is a big supporter of). 

J.P Parise being announced to the crowd 
Last January, J.P. was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. It wasn't publicly announced until this past September. Right before the Olympic Break, J.P. did the "Let's Play Hockey" call, (video is here)

Zach stated this to the Star Tribune's Michael Russo in an article about him and his dad, 

“I can’t wait for the season to start because he loves coming to games so much. Everything about the game, the way I play, he has taught me everything. Every kid’s dad is their role model, but it goes beyond that with him. It’s so much more. The life lessons he taught me have been unbelievable.” (Michael Russo, startribune.com 9/28/2014).

Zach and J.P. last March in Arizona (courtesy of startribune.com)
When Zach signed with the Minnesota Wild back in 2012 (along with good friend and now-current teammate Ryan Suter), he based his decision on "going home" (Zach grew up here in the Twin Cities). 

In Michael Russo's article I had previously mentioned (Parise family embraces life's good moments during tough times, startribune.com 9/28/2014), Zach had mentioned that he told Ryan (Suter) about the news he had recently received. As a result of Ryan talking with (Wild GM) Chuck Fletcher, J.P. joined Zach and the rest of the Minnesota Wild on a road trip to Arizona, Los Angeles, and Chicago ( a raod trip in which they went 2-0-1). It was at the game in Phoenix where J.P. witnessed Zach scoring his career 239th goal, surpassing J.P.'s career total. 

Besides, son Zach, J.P. Parise is survived by his wife (Donna), two other sons (Marc and Jordan), daughter (Colette), and six grandchildren. 

Josh Cooper had this to say in an article on sports.yahoo.com about Zach and Ryan's decision to both sign here back in 2012 (Ryan's dad, 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team member Bob Suter, died suddenly in September 2014 in Madison of a heart attack):


“Now it’s clear both made the right choice… And the proximity of both parents to their children to see their kids play before they died made their 2012 decision seem so much clearer, especially with 2015’s 20/20 hindsight. 

“I’m so happy I got to be closer the two years prior,” Suter said to Puck Daddy in early December. “He came to a lot more games and we were able to spend a lot more time together since he was closer. In that regard it worked out great.”” 


For Zach (and for Ryan), the past two years being with the Minnesota Wild has to be absolutely priceless to be able to be close to family. There is no monetary value that can be placed on that at all. 

Yesterday, after it was announced about J.P.'s passing, I was on twitter (my personal twitter account, not the @stickshappen account), and I saw this tweet that sums it up best:


The Minnesota Wild had a tribute for J.P. prior to the start of their game with Chicago on Thursday night. The video that was played can be seen here

While I was writing this article, I also was thinking about the recent passing of well-known ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott (he passed away on Sunday morning after a seven-year battle with cancer) and what he said at the ESPY awards back in July when he was honored with the Jimmy V Perseverance award:

"You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."

Even though I never knew or met J.P., from what I have read, Stuart Scott's statement can definitely apply to J.P. 

My condolences go out to Zach and the Parise Family.



Josh Cooper's article can be read here.

Link to the Star Tribune article from 9/29/2014 is here.









Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wild Coach Mike Yeo Went Lashes Out At His Players In Practice. Was He Right In Doing So?

JP Parise with former North Stars teammate and good
friend, Tom Reid.

First off, my thoughts and prayers are with Zach Parise and his family during the difficult time they are facing right now with his father’s battle against stage 4 lung cancer. Zach didn’t play last night against San Jose after it was revealed his father, former Minnesota North Star JP Parise, stopped chemotherapy treatments and is now in hospice care. 

Zach's status for the Wild’s next game against Chicago is uncertain. (I am going with the assumption that Zach won’t be playing). He was not in practice on Wednesday, either. 

After the Wild's 7-1 drubbing in Dallas and the overtime loss to the Sharks on Tuesday night, Mike Yeo lashed out at his players Wednesday in practice. The Wild have lost 13 out of their past 20 games. The Wild have a tough stretch in their schedule after having played the Sharks last night, playing the Blackhawks tomorrow night, followed by games with Nashvile on Saturday afternoon and an upcoming road trip that involves Chicago and Pittsburgh. As of right now, the Wild are eight points out of the second Western Conference wild-card spot for the play-offs. 

According to an article posted on nhl.com, "Yeo laced into his team Wednesday with a tirade that, according to the Minneapolis-Star Tribune, demanded more effort and execution, detailed how poorly the Wild have been playing and lambasted the players for having the "audacity to show up and practice like this!" After screaming for about a minute, Yeo skated toward the visiting bench, slammed his stick into the glass, skated toward the Wild bench and left the ice." (nhl.com) (Video is here, courtesy of KSTP.com)

Was he right in lashing out? Yes. In my opinion, he should have lashed out at them earlier--instead of waiting until today. Thomas Vanek stated this to the Star Tribune's Michael Russo:

“I think Yeozie finally lost it here… He’s been pretty good with us, staying upbeat. We played well last night. It’s not good when you lose a hockey game. That was his message. He didn’t like how some of us practiced and came out, so those things happen.” (startribune.com, 1/7/2015)


Mike Yeo made this statement, which was in Michael Russo's column today on startribune.com:

“That’s everything that we’re in right now…We’re in a difficult spot and we’ve got a tough road ahead of ourselves. We might have guys out of the lineup and that’s fine. But the one thing you can always control is your work ethic and your attitude and everything else follows suit after that…We played a crappy game in Dallas and aside from that I’ve been happy for the most part with our games post Christmas. Do we just accept that hey we got a point? We lost the game but we played well? No. We can’t. We have to be better. The way we were practicing today, we weren’t practicing with the purpose of getting better. We could’ve just went through the practice and we might’ve been fine tomorrow, but that’s not the attitude that we need as a team right now. We need the attitude that we can’t just accept—and it’s going to be hard. We might play well again and we might lose. I don’t know. But whatever it is, every day we come back to the rink and we’ve got to find a way to be better.”

The question is how is the team going to respond after Yeo's lashing. I think that question will be answered tomorrow night against the Blackhawks and next three games after. 

Yeo did also mention that the pressure is starting to get to goalie Darcy Kuemper, who left practice early today due to a "minor, unspecified injury." Kuemper didn't speak to the media after last night's game and he didn't speak after leaving today's practice.  Yeo did finally state that he is displeased with Darcy Kuemper's play as of late. (It has also been reported that General Manager Chuck Fletcher is now searching for a goaltender). 

Will the Wild start to turn things around? That remains to be seen right now. I will say that Yeo should have lashed out at the team earlier than today and that he should do it again, if the Wild's play warrants it. 







Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Picks for Top Hockey plays of 2014


As 2015 is upon us, I thought I’d share my top hockey plays of 2014. For the top three plays, there are links to the videos of those plays. 






#4 Darcy Kuemper opening the 2014-2015 NHL season with back-to-back shutouts for the Minnesota Wild.


The Wild were one of two teams to start the season with back-to-back shut outs when they won the first two games of the season in a home-and-home series against the Colorado Avalanche. (The San Jose Sharks were the other team, but both their goalies each recorded a shut out). The Wild won at home 5-0 and took the second game in Denver 3-0.

Darcy Kuemper is the youngest goalie in the NHL to open the season with back-to-back shut outs at 24-years-old. 




#3 Minnesota advancing to Frozen Four Championship game with .6 seconds left in the game

One of the biggest (if not the biggest) rivalry in college hockey continued in April when the University of Minnesota met up with the University of North Dakota in the semi-finals of the 2014 Men’s Frozen Four in Philadelphia.


This game was tied up at 1 a piece until senior Justin Holl scored a short-handed goal (and his first of the season) with 0:00.6 left in the game. (Watch the play here). Minnesota went on to face Union in the championship game. 

Gophers' Seth Ambroz reacting to Justin Holl's goal 

#2 T.J Oshie securing Team USA’s win against Russia in the Sochi Olympics in the shootout

“You at some point, we’re going to end up in a shootout and we’re going to want T.J. Oshie” Team USA General Manager David Polle (usatoday.com, February 16, 2014).

Well, that some point came when Team USA’s game against Russia.

T.J. Oshie scored four times in the shootout to give Team USA a 3-2 victory over the Russians. (Watch the entire shootout here)

T.J. Oshie scoring one of his four goals in the shootout. (photo courtesy of usatoday.com) 

#1 Nino’s overtime series winner against Colorado in the first round of the playoffs

Back in 2003, the Minnesota Wild knocked the Colorado Avalanche out of the playoffs with an overtime goal scored by Andrew Brunette. That was the last playoff game Patrick Roy played in, because he announced his retirement as a player shortly after that.

Flash-forward to 2014. The Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche have a game 7 in their play-off series in Denver...and overtime. 

The Wild were down 4-3 when Jared Spurgeon scored with a sniper shot with 2:27 left in the third to tie the game up at 4 a side. Then Nino struck with 5:02 in overtime with a nasty wrister to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche from the play offs. (Watch it here). 

Patrick Roy lost his first play off series as a coach...to the Minnesota Wild.

Nino scoring his OT series winning goal 

The Wild are the first team in NHL history to win a game 7 in overtime after scoring four game-tying goals. 

These plays were chosen by me. 

Here's to 2015 and more great hockey in the new year!