Saturday, February 28, 2015

The NHL Stadium Series in California--why I was not a big fan of it.


For the second season in a row, the Los Angeles Kings were part of the NHL Stadium Series. Last season, the Kings hosted the Anaheim Ducks at Dodgers Stadium.
On February 21, the San Jose Sharks hosted the Los Angeles Kings at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

I was not impressed with either game. I barely watched both of those games. 

First of all, California isn’t exactly a hockey “hotbed.” Yes, the Los Angeles Kings have been around since 1967 and was the only hockey team in California until the Sharks came along in 1991. (The Ducks were founded in 1993.)


The Stadium Series set up at Dodger Stadium on January 25, 2014
So, why was I not a fan of the NHL Stadium Series being in California for two years in a row? Well, there are a number of reasons why. Having grown up in Minnesota all of my life and have grown up playing and watching hockey, I’m used to seeing outdoor rinks with snow around and skating outside when it's like 15 degrees out. The idea of green grass around an ice rink in February just doesn't sit right with me. There was even a sand volleyball court set up at Dodgers Stadium for last year's Stadium Series game between the Kings and the Ducks (I believe the air temperature during that game had to have been in the 80's). With temps in the 70's-80's, the quality of the ice had to be impacted because of those temps (even with all of the refrigeration piping underneath).  I don't understand why the NHL would want to take that risk of injuries with their players to have these games in California. 

"Many NHL players have expressed concerns about ice conditions in very warm-weather cities during the Stanley Cup playoffs. They fear the outdoor temperature may be hot enough to soften the ice inside the building.” (http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/ice-rink4.htm) The same could be said for the air temps affecting the ice for these two outdoor games. 

The Stadium Series set up in Santa Clara, CA at Levi's Stadium
When the league announced that there was only going to be one Stadium Series game this season, I was shocked that the location was chosen as Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA (the new 49'ers stadium). A Stadium Series game for the second year in a row in California? To me, that was just wrong. The San Jose Sharks haven't exactly been selling out their home games as of late (and currently sit three points out of the last wild card spot). I suppose the NHL wanted to capitalize on the rivalry between these two teams after San Jose's epic play-off collapse last year in the Conference Semi-Finals. Both the Kings and the Sharks aren't necessarily locks to make the play-offs this year (the Kings are currently sitting in 3rd place in the Pacific Division with 70 points, and I previously mentioned where the Sharks are currently sitting). 

When I was at the WIld Wednesday edition of the Jeff Dubay show that was being recorded from Bennett's this past Wednesday night, Tony Dean (from hockeybuzz.com) asked how many of those 70,000 in attendance at that game really knew anything about the game of hockey or where they there just to say that they were able to attend an outdoor hockey game in California. Yes, there were probably die-hard Sharks fans in attendance. But really, how many people in the San Jose area really pay attention to hockey? That question probably would have some interesting answers. 

The Sharks ended up losing this game on "home" ice by a score of 2-1. 

I would seriously like to know who is/was responsible for choosing the uniforms the Kings wore during this game? White breezers? Those uniforms were ridiculous. I don't know which uniforms were worse--these Kings ones or the uniforms worn during the All-Star game. 






Next season, I will be very happy to see a Stadium Series game played outside in places where there is actual winter weather...at TCF Stadium on February 21, 2016, when the Minnesota Wild take on the Chicago Blackhawks. 

I cannot wait.





Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is Devan Dubnyk the answer to the Minnesota Wild’s goaltending situation?

**Update**

Devan Dubnyk was named first star of the week by the NHL after shutting out both Chicago 3-0 last Tuesday night and Colorado 1-0 on Saturday night. Last week, he was named the third star of the week by the league for going 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .967 save percentage when the Wild had a 3-0 successful road trip through western Canada right after the all-star break (nhl.com).



On January 14, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher pulled the trigger and traded the Wild’s 2015 third round draft pick to Arizona for goaltender Devan Dubnyk in order to attempt to do address the Wild’s goaltending situation. Dubnyk, who will be a free agent at the end of this season, had been the back up to Mike Smith.  

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk
Since then, Dubnyk “now as four shutouts in nine starts with the Wild and has allowed three goals in five games since the All-Star break. In nine starts, he is 7-1 (one no-decision in Detroit) with a 1.31 GAA and .948 save percentage. Per Elias, Dubnyk is the fasted to post four shutouts with a team among goalies…” (Josh Cooper, sports.yahoo.com 2/8/2015). He has also started all nine of those games.

Not bad for a goalie who has been with four different teams in the past two seasons (Edmonton, Nashville, Montreal/Hamilton (AHL), and Arizona) before coming to Minnesota.
Ever since Dubnyk has joined the team, the Wild have been playing with a renewed confidence.

Mikko Koivu made this statement after Saturday night’s win over Colorado, “Everything starts with goaltending…Winning teams have that and he’s been great ever since he came here.” (Chad Graff, twincities.com).

Before Dubnyk’s arrival, the Wild had seemed to find ways to lose games where they had the advantage on the shots on goal, with shaky goaltending to partly to blame. Chad Graff stated in his article today  On Jan. 8, for example, the Wild lost 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks despite outshooting them 44-20.” 

We all know what has happened since. 

The Wild are definitely going to ride this out, with certain that Dubnyk is going to be carrying the starting role. Niklas Backstrom hasn’t played since January 13 at Pittsburgh, were he gave up six goals. Darcy Kuemper is scheduled to rejoin the Wild on Monday from his rehab stint in Iowa (and supposedly is the starter for Tuesday night’s game in Winnipeg).

Kuemper didn’t have that great of a stint in Iowa, where he went 2-3 with a 3.22 GAA and .891 save percentage.

Now, what do the Wild do with Kuemper and Backstrom? That’s going to be an interesting situation with three goaltenders. Does Yeo alternate using Kuemper and Backstrom as the back up? Does Backstrom get continuously scratched? (Backstrom will be 37 this month and has one year left on his contract with the Wild). Backstrom has a record of 5-7-3, 3.04 GAA, and .887 save percentage this season. (He is the Wild's winningest goalie with 194 wins and 28 shutouts in nine seasons with the team). 

Can Backstrom be sent down to Iowa for a conditioning stint? That could possibly happen. Could Fletcher look at possibly moving Backstrom before the trade deadline? That is unknown at this point. Backstrom has a no-move clause (which the Wild would have to get him to waive at this point) and still has one year remaining on his current contract. (There is also the possibility that the Wild could look at buying out his contract after this season). 

Josh Harding is not an option at all at this point due to on going issues with his Multiple Sclerosis (he hasn't played since November 29 and there hasn't been much of any update since then). He is currently in the last season of his current contract with the Wild. 

It's going to be very interesting to see how this plays out. 

In other news, the Minnesota Wild shut out the Colorado Avalanche for the third time this season on Saturday night. This is the first time this season where a team has shut out an opponent in three consecutive meetings (The Wild opened the season with a home-and home against the Avs and won both games 5-0 and 3-0). This is not the first time that this has happened to the Avalanche. In the 2007-08 season, they were shut out in consecutive games against Detroit three times. 




Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday Edition of Favorite Hockey Memes


Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and with the HOURS of Super Bowl pre-game programming, I thought I would post the Super Bowl edition of hockey memes (as I'm watching the Minnesota Wild play the Vancouver Canucks).





In reference to "Deflategate"

Last time I checked, you can't drink beer out of the Lombardi Trophy

Exactly! Why does a Super Bowl pre-game show have to be HOURS
 long for about 17 minutes worth of action?




Hockey hits are harder! 




 



And in honor of the Wild playing the Canucks today...