Another in a series of weekly articles summarizing activity in Leafland during the previous 7 days – with some personal observations, commentary, prospect updates and fun thrown in for good measure.
Decision time: It seems to me as though the Toronto Maple Leafs have reached a point in time when significant determinations must be made … even an optimistic person can clearly see that the club trails the Devils in terms of championship potential – especially if Jersey can somehow acquire Rob Blake (see below) … the Leafs are essentially equal to division rivals Ottawa and Buffalo – no worse but certainly not significantly better either … to make matters even more complicated, previously dormant teams such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington have recently sprung to life and now trail the overall conference leaders by a very narrow margin … the situation could be much different if Toronto had performed up to expectations against several of the league’s doormats during the Christmas period … on a more positive note, the team is currently on a pace to match last season’s point total although very few players are enjoying what could be considered “career” seasons … in spite of this, all signs point to a notable player move (or moves) designed to vault the team up into the NHL’s highest echelon … Leafs’ ownership is more than willing to spend the dollars needed to improve their chances of a Cup challenge this spring and this is an option not readily available to rivals such as the Sabres and Senators … the dilemma, of co Read more »
On the last day of the 20th century, December 31st, 2000, the Czech squad had to face the
last opponent in the round robin system of the Group A. The Slovakian squad isn’t playing
really well at the WJC this year, but they might have regained their confidence with a 7:0
win over Kazakhstan. The Czechs were already sure winners of the group and they didn’t need to
play on full speed. So the coaches had to warn the team not to take this game easy because
a loss would damage the confidence before the quarterfinal match. The Czechs are running
high this time with a perfect 3-0-0 record and the Slovakian team wasn’t supposed to be of
any trouble. But they can always surprise and have their leading duo in Portland Winterhawks
forwards and Montreal Canadiens draft picks Marcel Hossa and Jozef Balej, who play along with
Kingston Frontenacs’ Tomas Skvaridlo on the first line. Skvaridlo was drafted by the Pittsburgh
Penguins in 1999 and he plays very solid at the WJC. The defense has its star in Rene Vydareny,
a Vancouver Canucks prospect, who had trouble with his former Slovakian team and wasn’t
permitted to play for the Canucks till late December. Rumors say that with a good performance at the WJC
he should see some ice time with the Canucks already this season, but he is heading for the
Kansas City Blades most likely. Two players of this Slovakian squad could hear their names
called in June – defenseman Tomas Slovak of Kosice is the top Slovakian prospect and he’ll be
drafted sure and goalie Peter Budaj, a Toronto St.Michael’s Majors player, who may be a late
Read more »
As winners of the Group A at the WJC the Czech team faced the fourth placed team of the Group
B, team of Switzerland. This was an advantage for the Czechs who avoided meeting Finland,
Russia or Canada in the quarterfinals. But this opponent can’t be taken easy. Many of the
fans would say, that Switzerland is no problem for the Czech team loaded by future NHL regulars,
but that is not the case. The Swiss guys are gritty players who play together for 4 years and
even if they have no potential superstar on their roster, they often cause trouble to the top
teams. This is what they showed during their games in the Group B, they managed to play a tie
game with the host Russians, 3:3, trailed Finland only by one goal, 2:3, won over Belarus
and only their last game was a clear loss, 4:8 to Canada. But every of their four goals was
scored on the powerplay and the first line plays some pretty good hockey. They’re well
organised, play good defensively and are waiting for the mistakes of the opponent.
The physically good Swiss guys can make every mistake of the opponent to their advantage,
that’s exactly what the Czech coaches have seen when they attended the game against Canada.
The coaches did everything that was possible to prepare the team for this game of high
importance. They even had a secret videotape with the practices of the Swiss team. That’s
something the Swiss coaches wouldn’t like to hear. So the Czechs were ready and went out
on the ice willing to show the others who is better.
At the beginning was everything going easy. Atlanta Read more »
The Kings season has been a mystery. Poor goaltending, an unresolved Blake situation and home losses to the worst team in hockey have clouded what seemed to be a breakthrough season. Despite all of this, the Kings can see the future right now in the play of Steve Reinprecht, Lubomir Visnovsky and Eric Belanger.
Eric Belanger came out of nowhere to claim a roster spot and has adjusted his game to fit the NHL style of play. Belanger has always had tremendous skill. He has shown his playmaking ability when filling in for Josef Stumpel and the start of the season. But when Stumpie returned, Belanger was returned to Lowell. Injuries lead to his recall and his centering the fourth line, flanked by tough guys Stu Grimson and Ian Lapperierre. Belanger has shown some solid defensive play and the grit that Kings management thought he lacked. Granted, he gets alot more room on the ice because of his linemates, but Belanger has shown that he can adapt his game to whatever situation is needed. After being labeled a flop last season, Belanger’s development may move him into a second or third line center for years to come.
Steve Reinprecht has fooled this fan. Rhino has emerged as a second line center and is among the leaders in rookie scoring. I for one thought he would struggle this season, but his amazing hands and playmaking ability have lead to unexpected scoring chances. He has the ability to dig the puck out of the corners, make moves on a dime, and find the open skater. Rhino is solid on both sides of the ice and is a playmaking center that the Read more »
World Junior Championships
- Jamie Lundmark and team Canada won the Bronze medal today as they defeated Sweden 2-1 in overtime. Jamie Lundmark didn’t register a point or penalty for the Canadians. Raffi Torres, an Islanders prospect, got the game winning goal in overtime to give Canada their second straight Bronze medal. Canada also is the only team to win a medal in each tournament the past three years. Lundmark’s final stats are 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) and 6 penalty minutes in 7 games. Here is where he finished among everyone in the tournament: 1st in scoring for Canada, tied for 7th in the tournament with his 7 points, tied for 6th in the tourney with 4 goals, 6th in the tourney with a 22.22 shooting percentage, tied for 12th with 3 assists and 1st in face off winning percentage with a 67.78 percentage. He will soon be heading back to Seattle to continue to lead them towards the WHL playoffs and keep racking up points at a rapid pace.
Read more »
When Bruins prospect Matt Zultek left St. Thomas University on November 30, trade rumors involving the Philadelphia Flyers began to flare up. Zultek, a second round draft pick of the Bruins, re-entered the 1999 draft after failing to agree to terms with the Los Angeles Kings. For those who don’t remember, Zultek was unable to attend training that fall because of a severe knee injury. He spent most of 1999-00 in rehab to strengthen the knee, and was fortunate to play the last 28 games of the season with the OHL’s Ottawa 67′s.
Primed and ready for his 1st Bruins training camp last fall, Zultek had been going back and forth to Boston to do routine fitness tests. At the time Zultek was excited, he felt his knee was strong and was enthusiastic about agreeing on a contract.
Training camp came and went and Zultek was still without a contract.
“I thought I had a great camp,” said Zultek from his Ontario home. “I did all of things they asked me to. I was really upset with the way they handled things, they wanted me to play for Greenville of the ECHL. I didn’t have a problem with playing in the ECHL, I just looked at the $150,000 contract offer, which didn’t include any bonuses, and decided it would be better for me to further my education.”
“St. Thomas University is a great school, and the coach gave me a lot of ice time and an opportunity to play. But because of my contract situation, I had to leave school. If I stayed at school past November 30th, the Bruins would retain my rights for an additional 180 days.”
Waiting till December 28 Read more »
World Junior Championships
- Jamie Lundmark and team Canada were defeated by team Finland, 5-2 today in the Semifinals. Finland now moves on to the Finals, while Canada’s best finish now could be another bronze medal. Lundmark was held off the scoresheets in this game, as was most of the Canadians thanks to superb goaltending by Ari Ahonen of Finland, a Devils prospect. Lundmark currenlty has 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) and 6 penalty minutes in 6 games so far. Canada goes up against team Sweden for the Bronze medal. I’m hoping Henrik Lundqvist has a stellar game in goal for the Swedes, but I’m still rooting for Canada, although I’m a US Citizen. I hope Canadians win 1-0, with Lundmark getting the only goal
- As you could probably figure out from my above comments, Pavel Brendl and the Czech Republic were victorious against Sweden in the semi-finals. The Czech’s won 1-0, but Brendl didn’t get any points, just a 2 minute penalty for slashing in the 1st period. Brendl currently has 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) and 6 penalty minutes in 6 games so far. The Czech Republic, last year’s gold-medal winner, is still currently undefeated in the 6 games they have played. Brendl and the Czech Republic will face talented Oilers prospect Jani Rita and the Finland team to determine who gets the Gold, and Silver..
Read more »
Mike Comrie has left the building, and the city and the area, all for the bright lights and greener pastures of
the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Turn out the lights, stick a fork in ‘em, the Kootenay ICE are done, right?
Wrong, and there are twenty-four other hockey players in the ICE dressing room who are out to prove it.
The post Mike Comrie era began last week in haste as the Kootenay ICE took a possible three of four points
from the Brandon Wheat Kings in a two game doubleheader over the weekend at the RecPlex. In the
4-1Friday night win and 3-2 overtime loss on Saturday, the ICE proved two things. That they indeed have
depth to spare and that the club can play an in-your-face, physical, mucking in the corners brand of hockey.
Skating with a line-up depleted of no less than seven skaters on Friday and nine on Saturday with the loss
of Bret DeCecco to a concussion and Cole Fischer midway through the first frame with re-aggravated back
spasms that also caused him to miss Friday’s contest, from a sheer count of so-called impact players, things
did not look good for the ICE. Missing Jarret Stoll and Zdenek Blatny at the World Junior Championships,
Comrie signing with the Oilers, Svatos still out with transfer problems from Slovakia, standout rookies Andy
Thompson and Adam Taylor at the under-17 tournament in Truro, Nova Scotia and Aaron Rome going
down Friday night with a shoulder injury, needless to say, there was a lot of room on the bench. Do the
math and the ICE were missing seven of their top eleven scorers on the club. A precarious Read more »
There’s some good news and some bad news for the Sharks. The good news is that the Sharks have one of the best young defensive corps in the league, a position that will take the Sharks as far as talent on the blue line can take them. The bad news is that the Sharks also have one of the youngest defenses in the league, which not unlike raising children, results in a lot of excitement, and a lot of frustration as well.
With the Sharks’ system of defense first, it is essential that they get defensive production not only from the blue line, but also from the forward positions while on the transition. The Sharks have reason to be happy with the defensive play of Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan and Shawn Heins back on the blue line, however, it has often been from the forwards where the Sharks have lacked defensive production.
As Shawn Heins finishes his unusual road to the NHL, he has found himself in various roles for the Sharks, and has done quite well. Not only has he stepped in on defense as the team’s seventh defenseman, but he has also stepped in nicely as a fourth line wing when necessary.
Heins’ best weapon has always been his shot, which has been clocked as the hardest shot in professional hockey. In the past however, he has always struggled in reading defenses, reacting accordingly, and getting his shot unleashed at the right times.
This year, while his reaction times still leave something to be desired, he is reading plays much better, and thus has learned to use his shot to his advantage better. He has improved his accur Read more »
World Junior Championships
- Jamie Lundmark and team Canada faced off against team USA today in the Quarter Finals. Lundmark scored the game winning goal to defeat the USA 2-1 and advance to the Semi-finals. While on the Power Play, Lundmark took a cross-ice feed from Dany Heatley, and then roofed the puck into the net to eventually win the game for Canada and eliminate the USA’s chances at winning a medal. Jamie also played aggressive throughout the game, as he picked up 4 penalty minutes (2 for an unsportsmanlike conduct and 2 for slashing). Lundmark currenlty has 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) and 6 penalty minutes in 5 games so far. He is tied for 1st on the team in points with forward Mike Cammalleri and also leads everyone in the tournament in face-offs, with a 70.13 winning percentage. Canada faces off against team Finland in the semi-finals in their next game. The Canadians and Finns tied 2-2 earlier in the tournament.
Read more »