Saturday, April 29, 2006

Travel between playoff games yesterday prevented entry of news into this blog, but there has been a lot going on, so I won't delay any further. For now, I have time to post some news and the game review for Thursday night's game. More later this afternoon.

First of all, the Gatineau Olympiques, as a team, have publicly apologized for the racially charged "music" that the team played to whip up the crowd on Wednesday evening. The press release said that there was no ill intention in encouraging the crowd to use a tomahawk chant against the Moncton Wildcats in the game, however, the apology seems to miss the crux of the issue. The apology is addressed to Moncton coach Ted Nolan, and specifically states that two of the Olympiques have First Nations' origins, and that the "music" has been used before in a "positive way." Of course, the implication is that the Olympiques First Nations gentlemen don't mind the use of such negative stereotypical symbols. The apology (which can be found on the Q's website at makes it sound like Nolan is just being supersensitive. Judge for yourself, but to me this makes matters worse by attempting to stigmatize the already maligned Ted Nolan. As most know, Nolan, who is an outstanding coach, has a history with the NHL that, as of now, did not end well. It is hard to know, when someone is a minority groundbreaker in a sport, how much criticism is honest and correct and how much is racially motivated. Nolan has this year taken a step toward getting back to where he belongs in hockey (behind an NHL bench). These sorts of incidents, which are in no way his fault, hurt his chances to make it back. Just as important for the sport, racially motivated incidents rob hockey of respect and of very talented folks. It is time to stop all this nonsense. Come on, league commissioners at all levels. Stand up and say that this sort of thing will not be tolerated under your watch. Then implement regulations to make sure it does not and fine any team that violates them. The only way to change this sort of opportunity squelcher is from the top down. Leagues and teams have an obligation to say to their fans, we don't descriminate and we won't let you express racially motivated hatred in our arenas. Hopefully, this is the last thing I will have to say on this subject.

Back to the playoffs. There was only one CHL game on tap Thursday night. In it, the WHL Vancouver Giants finished off their sweep of the Everett Silvertips, beating them by a score of 5-0, and winning the Western Conference title. For Vancouver goaltender Dustin Slade, it was his third straight shutout win. For overager Mitch Bartley, it was an opportunity to show off his skill. The undrafted winger had 2 goals in the game (one was an empty netter). Although neither goal was particularly important in the outcome of the game, it gives me an opportunity to draw your attention to him. Bartley, who is 6'0", 206, was the regular season team leader in points (67 in 71 games), while maintaining a plus/minus of 26. His season was a major improvement on his past performances, and hopefully, he will get a tryout somewhere this fall. He is definitely ready to play in the AHL somewhere next season, and maybe someday in the NHL.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Besides the 4 games that were played last night, there is lots of news coming out of the CHL. I'll mix some of the news with the game reviews, and add some notes at the bottom.

In the OHL, Peterborough squeaked by Barrie once again, winning last night's game 6-5. The Petes are leading the series 3-1, but they have been very disappointing, in that its taken until overtime to accomplish each win. On paper, they are a much better team than Barrie, yet they have failed to blow the Colts out of any game. The team is inconsistent offensively, and is showing major deficits defensively.

In the Petes first win last week, they played excellently when on special teams, but really poorly five on five. In the second game, the Petes' discipline was so poor, Barrie was able to win the game just by converting on 4 of 9 power plays. Steve Downie (the Philadelphia Flyers' prospect) particularly played so poorly for the Petes in that game (taking a boarding penalty in the first period which led to a goal, and then a slashing penalty in the second which led to another goal and a change in the momentum of the game), that any positives he brought that night were way overshadowed by his lack of discipline. He should have been benched later in the game.

The Petes only took 4 penalties in Saturday's game, and they were able to eke out a win, but the Colts did convert 2 of the 4 power plays they were given. The moral of the story here is that to win, the Petes must stop taking penalties. The Peterborough coaching staff had to be aware of the problem and I am certain they more than mentioned it to the players. However, last night there was Peterborough again taking an inordinate amount of penalties.

They almost lost the game because of it. I single out Trevor Hendrikx, who assisted on 2 goals last night, and officially had a plus/minus of +1. But those stats are really misleading, because the defenseman's lack of discipline almost caused his club to lose the game. Hendrikx took a total of 8 PIM, including 3 third period infractions. Two of those 3 penalties resulted in Barrie goals. I have seen this Columbus Blue Jackets prospect play several times this season and as much as he is an offensive asset, Hendrikx plays too loose a game to be successful even at the AHL level.

Not everyone played poorly last night. On the positive side, I want to take note of the play of Barrie's Hunter Tremblay. Undrafted, Tremblay tried out with the Atlanta Thrashers last fall. When he was not offered a contract, he went back to the OHL for this season. The winger scored 77 points (31 goals, 46 assists) in 68 games, and in last night's game, he scored 2 goals and an assist. Tremblay is a good skater and positions himself well on the ice. Hopefully, he will get another look this fall.

As noted above, the Petes were able to win the game at 6:42 of the overtime, on a beautiful odd-man rush by Dan Ryder and Patrick Kaleta (Ryder took Kaleta's pass and quickly shot it past Colts goalie Dan LaCosta to end the game). It was Ryder's second overtime GWG in the series. Plus he assisted on Kaleta's overtime goal on Monday. Both players are excellent prospects for NHL clubs.

In the WHL, the Moose Jaw Warriors were by far outshot by the Medicine Hat Tigers, but the Warriors were able to win last night's game by a score of 3 to 1. Moose Jaw scored their three goals to begin the game, and rested on their laurels the rest of the night. The Warriors are now up 3 games to 1 in the series. Special mention goes to the outstanding performances by Moose Jaw's goalie Joey Perricone and winger Ian McKenzie. They were named the game's first and second star of the game, respectively. Not known for his offensive prowess, McKenzie's performance was a surprise. But Perricone's was not. The big goalie (6'1", 215), who stopped 50 of 51 shots, was just named the CHL's Goaltender of the Week, and has had an excellent season for Moose Jaw. He appeared in 51 games with a GAA of 2.66 and a save percentage of .911. Undrafted last season, hopefully, an NHL team will consider him a diamond in the rough, and select him as a late round pick in this summer's NHL entry draft.

The natural order of things was restored to the QMJHL last night, as the favorites in each series won their games. In the Moncton-Gatineau series, Moncton was at a severe disadvantage as the team was missing its top 2 scorers (Philippe Dupuis and Stephane Goulet) to injuries. However, the Wildcats overcame that adversity and won the game 3-1 by dominating in the third period. There was no scoring at all in the game until 1:06 in the third, when Moncton's captain Christian Gaudet, an undrafted center, put the puck past Gatineau's netminder David Tremblay. Tremblay had faced 26 shots in the first two periods and stopped them all, but he faced a losing battle, as Gaudet's shot, a backhander, went passed him. Moncton's defenseman Keith Yandle again showed why he is a top prospect and how deft he is at handling the puck, scoring for the Wildcats in the third. Moncton now leads in the series 3-1.

When discussing last night's game in Gatineau, I cannot ignore an incident that must be addressed by the league. There have previously been some questions raised during this Q season about the appropriateness of the crowds and what should be done about it. Last night, the Gatineau crowds were encouraged to participate in warrior chants, clearly intended to rattle the Wildcats' coach, Ted Nolan. This kind of display is deplorable in this day in age, and the league needs to take steps to stop it. It is one thing if the chant is for a team that uses Native Americans or First Nations as team symbols (and I don't even think it is right then), but it is totally a different matter to use someone's race or ethnicity as a weapon at a public event. Shame on Gatineau and shame on the QMJHL for not putting an end to this nonsense.

In the other game in the Q last night, the Quebec Remparts beat Acadie-Bathurst by a score of 3-1, evening the series at 2 games a piece. There was no score going into the first intermission, but Quebec's Brent Aubin changed all that at 1:24 into the second period. With the Remparts on the power play, Aubin took a pass from teammate Alexander Radulov and put it past goalie Maxime Joyal. The Titans Mathieu Roy tied the score late in the period, but the Remparts pulled ahead for good on a short-handed goal by Nicolas Robillard at 7:20 of the third. The player of the game was Aubin, who added an assist to his goal, by helping on Radulov's third period power play goal. Aubin, an undrafted winger, scored 117 points this season in 72 games. Ranked first in goal scoring in the league (72 goals), the diminutive winger (5'9", 181) ranked sixth in total scoring. Some NHL team has got to give this offensive powerhouse a look see. Lets hope it happens over the summer.

News and Notes--Phenom John Tavares of the OHL Oshawa Generals was named that league's Rookie of the Year yesterday. The underage center scored 77 points (45 goals, 32 assists) in 66 regular season games. Tavares was also named to the Rookie All-Star First team, along with Bryan Cameron, Sergei Kostitsyn, Drew Doughty, Mark Katic, and Ryan Daniels. Congrats to all. In addition to being named CHL Goaltender of the Week, on Monday, Joey Perricone was named WHL player of the Week. Although Perricone was great last week, so was Dustin Slade; no award for him though, despite having 5 shutouts so far in the playoffs.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There were 5 CHL playoff games last night, and there were a couple of surprise outcomes. In the WHL, Medicine Hat Tigers had lost the first 2 games of their series with the Moose Jaw Warriors, but the Tigers came roaring back to beat Moose Jaw 5-3. Both winger Darren Helm and goaltender Matt Keetley had excellent games. As I have previously mentioned, Keetley is the outstanding 19-year old Calgary Flames prospect, who has shown that he is ready to step into professional hockey next fall. Although the Flames have 2 other top goaltending prospects, Brent Krahn who was called up recently as part of the Flames' playoff roster and 2003 Calgary draft pick, Curtis McElhinney, Keetley is ready to play the professional game. It is most likely that he will be sent to the ECHL's Las Vegas team, as the 2 spots in Calgary's AHL affiliate, the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, will remain filled. Helm is a late round 2005 pick by the Detroit Red Wings. He had a wonderful season for the Tigers, scoring 41 goals and 79 points in 70 games, while maintaining a plus/minus of +18. More than tripling his production over 2004-05, his point total was ranked 8th in the league. His increased size and strength on the ice was very noticeable this season, and with probably one more year to play in the WHL, Helm will get the opportunity to grow into a star. Hopefully, he will take on more of a leadership role on the Tigers, increasing his value to the Red Wings.

In the other WHL game, the Vancouver Giants took a 3-0 lead in their series with the Everett Silvertips. The Giants blanked the Tips, 5-0 on a stellar performance by Vancouver netminder Dustin Slade. I can't say enough about this kid. In his second straight shutout, Slade looks really smooth in net. With excellent movement side to side, and a good glove hand, he deserves a shot at an NHL contract. Columbus Blue Jackets' prospect Gilbert Brule had 2 goals in the game for the Giants. Picked 6th overall in last summer's NHL entry draft, Brule, made the NHL team out of camp, and then was hit by injuries. After suffering a bruised sternum and then a broken leg, he returned to the WHL Giants, and accumulated 38 points (23 goals, 15 assists) in 23 games. Barring further injures, Brule will be a leading contributor to Columbus' greater success in 2006-07.

The London Knights took a 3-1 lead in their series with the Guelph Storm, by beating Guelph 2-1 last night. Knight goalie Adam Dennis put forth another fine performance in net, stopping 35 out of 36 shots. Another Adam, the Knights' Adam Perry, also had an excellent game. Although Perry went undrafted last year, he put up excellent numbers this season and is one of those dark horses that may just be picked up by an NHL team in this year's draft. Another exciting player on the ice was the Storm's Jason Pitton. The 6'3, 219 power forward got off 6 shots on net last night. This NY Islanders' 2004 pick is fun to watch, and he put up good numbers this year (42 points in 68 games). Pitton is a bit delayed in on-ice maturity, and an overage year may be in order, but he is a real prospect with a bright future.

Both of the QMJHL semi-final series continued last night. The Gatineau Olympiques had a very strong game against the Moncton Wildcats to win by a score of 5-4. Although Moncton jumped out to a 2-0 lead, Gatineau stormed back to reel off 4 straight goals. Then, in a little more than five minutes in the third period, Moncton scored 2 goals to tie the game. In the second of these goals, at 15:59, the Wildcats were a man down, when star defenseman Keith Yandle put the puck past Olympiques goalie David Tremblay. Then with exactly 30 seconds to play in regulation, Gatineau winger Nick Fugere (who had 2 goals and one assist on the night) deflected the puck into the Moncton net for the game winner. Fugere, a big power forward, is an unsigned Nashville Predators 2004 draft pick, who keeps getting better and better. He will try his hand in the professional game next fall. The Moncton Wildcats lead the series against Gatineau 2-1.

In the other game in the Q, the Acadie-Bathurst Titans jumped out to a 2-1 series lead against Quebec Remparts. Somewhat of surprise, the Titans came from behind in the third period to win this one 3-2. Petr Pohl's second goal of the night, at 8:45 of the third period, clinched the game for Acadie-Bathurst. The Titans converted on 3 of 7 power play attempts and won 44 of 64 face offs on the night. Although Acadie-Bathurst were reported to be huge underdogs in the series, they have deserved both of their wins, outplaying the Remparts in every area.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Peterborough took a 2-1 lead in its series with the Barrie Colts last night, winning 5-4 in overtime action. The game had actually looked like a Colts' runaway earlier, but what a reversal of fortunes occurred in the third period, when Barrie took so many penalties that they gave away the game. The night's scoring began with the Petes' center Dan Ryder putting the puck past the Colts' netminder Dan LaCosta on a Peterborough power play. The Petes had been firing one shot after another at the Columbus Blue Jackets' prospect, and one finally sneaked past him. The goal appeared to fire Barrie up, and the team then rattled off 4 straight unanswered goals. When the underdog team took a 4-1 lead into the dressing room after the second period, it appeared the game was all but over. Whatever Coach Todd told the Petes during the break between periods, the team came back onto the ice disciplined and ready, although still offensively not up to par. Barrie's poor play in the third period gave the Petes every opportunity to fix their offensive deficiencies. It began just 22 seconds into the period, with Todd Perry taking a hooking penalty. The Colts took a total of 6 penalties in the third period, allowing Peterborough to wake up and to put in four straight goals, including the tieing goal, at 18:45 of the period. Then just 43 seconds into the overtime period, at even strength, Buffalo Sabres' prospect Patrick Kaleta put the OT goal past the LaCosta for the Petes' win.

What a disaster for the Colts, who came into the series very much an underdog and surprised everyone with their outstanding play in the second game of the series. They then looked like they were going to take game 3, when their game completely fell apart. Barrie's lack of discipline in the third period was inexcusable. The team looked completely unprepared for the position they found themselves in, and one can only wonder whether the Colt coaching staff could have done something differently to change the result.

The London/Guelph series continues tonight. The WHL and QMJHL playoff action also resumes.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Only one playoff game was on the CHL schedule yesterday. In an early evening game in London, Ontario, the OHL Knights beat the Guelph Storm by a score of 3-2. With the win, London pulls ahead in the OHL Western Conference series 2-1. Behind the excellent goaltending of Adam Dennis, a late round 2005 pick of the Buffalo Sabres, and the offensive prowess of Rob Schremp, Dylan Hunter, and David Bolland, London jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Guelph stormed back with 2 power play goals, and the game was tied at 2 goals a piece at the end of regulation. The OT found the teams skating from end to end, until the Storm defenseman Kyle Wharton took an interference penalty at 4:08 of the extra period. London went to work, but Guelph was almost able to kill it off. Then, with just 12 seconds left on the power play, Bolland scored on feeds from Hunter and Schremp. The threesome had 7 points on the night, and showed why they have been the most productive line in the OHL this season. The series continues on Tuesday in Guelph.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

There was a full schedule of CHL playoff games last night. Here is the rundown of who did what.

In the Q, as expected, Moncton won its second straight game against Gatineau. Moncton looked more overwhelming than is reflected in the 5-3 score, putting 45 shots on net. Ten of those shots were off the stick of Phoenix Coyote prospect Keith Yandle. Although none of his missives wound up in the net, Yandle's offensive play in the game was impressive. Moncton's Stephane Goulet, who scored 2 goals, was named the game's first star. Chosen by Edmonton in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL entry draft, Goulet had a breakout year offensively this past season, accumulating 93 points in 67 games. That total was second on the team only to Philippe Dupuis, who was the player that I liked most in last night's game. Chosen to be the game's second star, the Columbus 2003 draft pick registered 3 assists and won 14 of 23 face-offs. Dupuis, who played with Columbus and the AHL Syracuse Crunch in the fall before being reassigned for an overage year in Moncton by the Blue Jackets, made giant leaps in his development this year, scoring 108 points and generally dominating on the ice. Dupuis should be ready to begin his professional hockey career after the completion of the playoffs, and it is looking more and more that he was a wise pick.

I would be remiss if I omitted mention of the play of Gatineau defenseman Pierre-Luc Lessard from my review of the game between Moncton and the Olympiques. He had a goal and an assist in the game and generally was positionally sound. The 1988er, who is in his first year of entry draft eligibility, has the potential to be a fine professional player. Projected to be a mid to late round pick, he may go higher based upon recent performance. After a regular season 32 points (7 goals, 25 assists) and +7 plus/minus in 55 games, in the playoffs, he has 9 points in 14 games. Watch for him to move up to the second round of the draft.

In the second game in the QMJHL last night, the Acadie-Bathurst Titans surprised Quebec by beating the Remparts, 5-4. The Titans scored the only goals in the first two periods, after being handed two 5 on 3 power plays. The Remparts played an undisciplined game, taking 9 penalties in the 2 periods, putting themselves in a hole they could never dig out of. Quebec played a better game in the third period, where they scored 4 goals, and given another few minutes of regulation play, the game might have gone to the Remparts, but it never should have been an issue. Coach Patrick Roy needs to talk to his boys and tell them to settle down; they clearly are the better team and need to play like it.

The player of the game in my estimation was a member of the Remparts. Alexander Radulov, a 2004 first round pick of the Nashville Predators, scored a hat-trick for Quebec in the third period. He has all the skills necessary to be highly successful on the professional level, registering Sidney Crosby-like numbers in the Q this year (152 points and 101 PIM in 62 games). Radulov's 11 goals and 30 points in the playoffs are leading the league. Petr Pohl, who scored one goal and had 2 assists for the Titans, was named the game's first star. I must also give mention to Quebec defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who had 2 assists in last night's game and had an excellent season offensively (73 points in 66 games). That total was good enough to be ranked fourth in the league in points, while maintaining a plus/minus of +41. A second round San Jose Shark selection last summer, Vlasic is a player to watch. There is a good chance he will join the professional ranks in the fall.

There was only one game played last night in the OHL, and in it, the Barrie Colts won 5-3. In drawing even in its series with the Peterborough Petes, the Colts scored the first goal of the game and never trailed. Each of Travis Fuller and Jakub Petruzalek scored 2 goals for Barrie. Petruzalek, who was named the game's first star, is a New York Rangers prospect. Known as an offensive playmaker, he had been held back by questionable defensive skills. Fuller, who had a assist in the game too, went undrafted. If he hopes to play at above the ECHL level, he will have to put up some very big numbers as an overager next year.

All four teams in the WHL playoff hunt were in action last night. Moose Jaw and Vancouver won the first games of their series and each won again last night. The Vancouver Giants beat the Everett Silvertips 2-0 on a strong game by Giant netminder Dustin Slade. Named third star of the game, Slade did not face very many shots, but he stayed focused and turned away all 18. Slade is an undrafted 1986er, who is somewhat small at 5'10", 180. He had a great year though, with a GAA of 1.80 and save percentage of .912, and will be looking for a try-out with a team this fall.

The Moose Jaw/Medicine Hat game needed more than the regulation number of periods to end in a final score of 4-3. The Medicine Hat Tigers outshot their opponents by a huge margin (30 to 20), but the Moose Jaw Warriors were able to put more of their shots past goalie Matt Keetley. After an excellent season, Keetley, a Calgary prospect, had a very disappointing game. Moose Jaw's Dustin Boyd ended the game at 0:48 in OT scoring on a pass from Warriors' defenseman Jesse Zetariuk. Boyd, a third round 2004 Calgary prospect, scored a goal and 2 assists in last night's game. It follows a wonderful 2005-06 regular season in which Boyd had 90 points (48 goals, 42 assists) in 64 games. He also was able to improve his defensive zone play enormously. Look for him to join the professional ranks next fall. Fellow Warrior Zetariuk's play also warrants mention. At 6'3", 190, the defenseman stepped up his aggressive play this season, accumulating 38 points in 72 games, while maintaining a plus/minus of +20 and taking 113 PIM. His gritty play may well have caught the attention of NHL scouts.

That's it for today. One OHL game on tap tonight.