Archive for September, 2013

Win Big, But Win Meaningless? Red Wings Discuss Boston Blowout

September 19, 2013
Henrik Zetterberg scored two of eight Red Wings goals in an 8-2 blowout of the Bruins on Thursday night (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Henrik Zetterberg scored one of eight Red Wings goals in an 8-2 blowout of the Bruins on Thursday night (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

BOSTON — After an 8-2 game, it made sense that one player answered the very first question regarding the significance of it with “it’s the preseason.” It made sense that the head coach stopped a similar question about three words in before making the same point.

But did it make sense that those comments were coming out of the winning locker room? It sure did.

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and bench boss Mike Babcock not only showed humility in their blowout victory over the Bruins in Boston on Thursday night, they also were dealing in reality. Only for a select few in each team’s lineup do these games truly have any meaning and well…there might have been a few more guys like that in Boston’s dressing room than there were in Detroit’s.

“I don’t think it’s indicative of anything,” Babcock said. “(Bruins head coach) Claude (Julien) chose his lineup tonight, I brought more than he had in his lineup. He had no Bergeron’s line, he had no Kelly’s line…to be honest with you, I’d rather the score be 4-2 and it’s a regular game…we had more players dressed than they did tonight. It’s almost like you should phone the coach in advance and decide who you’re playing. You want it to be a good level for both teams.”

It was evident from the morning skate that the game wasn’t likely to be competitive. 19-year-old goaltender Malcolm Subban, brother of Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban and the Bruins’ first rounder in 2012, was set to get the entire game between the pipes, and he struggled to keep up even in a practice setting, getting beaten to the lower half of the net more often than not.

“They’ve got a young kid in net, right? It didn’t go the way he wanted,” Babcock offered. “Things got away from the young guy. As a young player in this league, you get lessons. It was lesson night tonight.”

Where Subban struggled, Howard excelled, as he should. Now a five-year veteran of the National Hockey League, Howard told The Trentonian after the game that at this point in the preseason the focus is more on…well, his focus than it is the numbers.

“For me, it’s all about movement and finding the puck in traffic,” said Howard, who played the first two periods before giving way to Thomas McCollum.

“You spend all summer training and skating, but you don’t really get that movement of guys flowing in and out in front of you, so it’s easy to get distracted out there and lose sight of the puck. One of my two biggest things is just moving to get into place and keeping my eye on the puck at all times.”

Despite Detroit downplaying the win, there were some positives that they were able to take out of it.

“I thought our back end moved the puck good,” Babcock said. “We scored some nice power play goals, we had good line changes…we caught them a couple times on line changes in the second period.”

Added Howard: “I thought from the drop of the puck tonight, we were really good. There were a couple times there in the second and third where we got a little lackadaisical, but for the most part we played a real solid game.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Advertisements

Johnson, Svedberg Battling For Backup Gig In Beantown

September 19, 2013
Chad Johnson is on the precipice of becoming a full-time NHL goaltender for the first time in his career (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Chad Johnson is on the precipice of becoming a full-time NHL goaltender for the first time in his career (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

BOSTON — For the first time in a long time, the Boston Bruins have a goaltending roster spot up for grabs.  Tuukka Rask, of course, isn’t going anywhere.  But with Anton Khudobin having left to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, the battle to back up the incumbent Rask seems to have settled on Chad Johnson or Niklas Svedberg.

Suffice it to say, the preseason looms large for both men.

“These two weeks, it’s like every day is important,” Svedberg told The Trentonian.

“You want to get better every day, and camp is important.  You want to prove yourself.  I want to focus on doing the best that I can.  It’s up to me to play good enough to prove that I should play here.”

As for Johnson, despite having the edge in NHL experience — ten games to Svedberg’s zero — he may be a bit behind the eight ball after his first performance, a lackluster effort in which he made just five saves on eight shots.

“Obviously, the last game didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and it was disappointing for sure,” he said.  “I just didn’t get in the flow, it was one of those weird games, especially for my first one.  I just wasn’t comfortable.  So for me, in these two weeks I can regroup and just play my game, get back to why I have success.  These two weeks are big for me for sure.”

Johnson is looking to avoid a return to the American Hockey League, where he’s spent the majority of his now five-year pro career as a member of the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes organizations.  To even have the opportunity to compete for a full-time job in the National Hockey League, something he was never going to receive in either system, “means a lot” to him.

“My time in New York, some situations, no matter how you play, they have guys there.  Starters or backups, it doesn’t really change because they have themselves established,” he said.

“To be able to come here and have an opportunity to battle, it’s huge.  I’ve had success when I’ve played in the NHL, so to be able to have the opportunity to be here at the start and earn a spot right off the bat, it’s obviously a huge opportunity.  All you can do is go out there and play your best and try and earn a spot in the short period of time that you have to prove yourself.  Looking back, I just didn’t really get an opportunity in New York, and this is why I signed here.”

The situation is a bit different for Svedberg.  A 24-year-old Swede entering his second year in North America, Svedberg was outstanding in the AHL last season, putting together an All-Star season in which he posted a 2.15 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 48 games for the Providence Bruins.

When asked if it would be a disappointment if he had to go back down for another year of seasoning, Svedberg’s answer made it clear he feels like he’s ready for this opportunity.

“Yes, it would,” he said.  “We’re here and we’re competing for spots, and my goal is to make the team.  That’s all I focus on.  What happens later, it’s something to deal with later.  Right now, my focus is to stay up here.”

But in the end — unless Malcolm Subban plays out of his mind in the preseason — the job is likely Johnson’s to lose, with his 1.97 goals against average and recent success (1.22 GAA in four games with Phoenix just last season) playing a big role in that thought process.

“Every game I’ve played in the NHL, I’ve done really well,” Johnson said.

“So for me, I’m not concerned about being able to play at this level, because I’ve done it in every single game that I’ve played.  I’ve played in ten games and done well in all of them, so for me it’s just coming here and proving myself in the short period of time we have.  For me, that’s my mindset right now.  If I earn that opportunity, I’ll continue to do the same things I have in the past and have success when I do play.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Preseason Game 3: Red Wings @ Bruins, 9/19/2013

September 19, 2013

12:00 PM — Had a really good chat with Boston Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson after the first session was completed, and picked up some sound from Jarome Iginla as well.  I’ll have a feature on Johnson posted most likely some point tonight or tomorrow.

Looks like the Bruins will start Malcolm Subban in net tonight.  Complete rosters for both teams are here.  Detroit, who is not skating here, has some extra players listed…but Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen are both not expected to play.

BOSTON BRUINS

G: Chad Johnson, Malcolm Subban
D: Dougie Hamilton, Zdeno Chara, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Zach Trotman
F: Gregory Campbell, Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille, Matt Fraser, Nick Johnson, Carl Soderberg, Jordan Caron, Rob Flick, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner, Craig Cunnigham

DETROIT RED WINGS

G: Jimmy Howard, Thomas McCollum
D: Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff, Gleason Fournier, Alexey Marchenko, Jonathan Ericsson, Adam Almquist, Niklas Kronwall, Danny Dekeyser
F: Justin Abdelkader, Daniel Alfredsson, Pavel Datsyuk, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Jordin Tootoo, Henrik Zetterberg, Luke Glendening, Trevor Parkes, Daniel Cleary, David McIntyre, Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen

9:25 AM — This was a game I had circled on my calendar for quite a while once the preseason schedules were (finally) released.  Can’t really tell you much of anything about a lineup just yet until the morning skates get underway in around an hour or so, but it’s Original Six hockey, preseason or not.  Hard not to be excited.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Gill Hoping To Catch On With Flyers

September 18, 2013
Veteran defenseman Hal Gill is hoping to parlay a PTO into a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers this preseason (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Veteran defenseman Hal Gill is hoping to parlay a PTO into a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers this preseason (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

PHILADELPHIA — For years, the main criticism of the Philadelphia Flyers has been its goaltending.  And, whether they truly have or haven’t, the organization feels they’ve addressed that this season by adding Ray Emery and having dealt for Steve Mason at the end of last year.

Perhaps overlooked, however, is the role the defensemen in front of those goaltenders has played in the team’s seemingly inevitable downfall year after year.  Hal Gill would like to be a part of the solution.

The 38-year-old veteran blueliner is with the Flyers on a PTO, and tallied an assist in 15:17 of ice time in their 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night.

“I think in a normal situation, where you have a contract, you’re just worried about progressing and getting better every game,” Gill said.

“In this situation, I wanted to speed up the process. It was good, it was nice to get out there and be competitive and play. I felt good. It’s preseason, you’re still learning a new system, and timing needs to get there. But it’s nice to get out there.”

A veteran of 15 NHL seasons, the 6-foot-7, 243 pounder found himself on the outside looking in once free agency sorted itself out.  He played in 32 games last year for the Nashville Predators, registering no points, 12 penalty minutes, and a minus-3.

“I think I can show that I’m healthy and I’m ready to go, and I have that desire and I want to be a part of the team,” he said. “I don’t have to show people what I can do, I’ve been doing the same thing for a long time. I don’t have a new deke or anything that I’m trying to show anyone. Obviously, you want to play as much as you can…I’m trying to do whatever I can to get a job.”

The fit in Philadelphia could be an interesting one should he stick around.  After years of rough and tumble games against the Flyers as a member of Eastern Conference opponents like Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Montreal, the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion found himself with a whole new perspective of the organization now that he’s a member of it.

“To be honest with you, I’ve been really impressed with how this whole organization is kind of a family,” Gill said. “There are a lot of guys around that played here and are still involved in the staff, and I see a lot of familiar faces from years ago. This is a first-class organization, but I’ve always rooted against Philly and been hard on their team playing against them. It’s nice to see the other side.”

But it’s on the ice where Gill’s focus lies, and he stressed that he needs to just stick to what he does and not try to be a player he’s not if he has any hopes of sticking around in “The City of Brotherly Love.”

“I try to keep it simple, kill penalties, play solid in front of the net and let our goalies see the puck,” he said. 

“I think every team needs that. They have a lot of good players on this team that can do the job, and I’d love to be a part of that. There’s a lot of emphasis on offense and creating offense from your defense, but there’s also a place for being steady, getting the puck to the forwards and letting them do their job.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Preseason Game 2: Rangers @ Flyers, 9/17/2013

September 17, 2013

5:20 PM — Just arrived at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, ready to cover my second preseason game of the season.  It’s Rangers vs. Flyers tonight, and I’ve got playing rosters for you tonight, via the game notes.  Philly has some extra players listed, not everyone will play.

PHILADELPHIA

G: Yann Danis, Steve Mason
D: Brandon Manning, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman, Luke Schenn, Mark Streit, Mark Alt, Samuel Morin, Hal Gill
F: Brayden Schenn, Michael Raffl, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Adam Hall, Scott Hartnell, Matt Read, Max Talbot, Vincent Lecavalier, Jason Akeson, Kris Newbury, Derek Mathers, Chris VandeVelde, Jakub Voracek

NEW YORK

G: Cam Talbot, Martin Biron
D: Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, Danny Syvret, Ryan McDonagh, Conor Allan, Dylan McIlrath
F: Darroll Powe, Taylor Pyatt, Derek Dorsett, Derick Brassard, Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast, Micheal Haley, Mats Zuccarello, Oscar Lindberg, Andrew Yogan, Benoit Pouliot, Michael Kantor

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Post-Game Quotes: 9/16/2013, Rangers @ Devils

September 16, 2013

I went into the New York Rangers locker room after their 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils in their preseason opener. I spoke with Cam Talbot, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto and was in on the Danny Kristo scrum as well…

Cam Talbot spoke to The Trentonian after finishing up between the pipes for the New York Rangers on Monday (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Cam Talbot spoke to The Trentonian after finishing up between the pipes for the New York Rangers on Monday (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Cam Talbot: “Other than the goal against, it went pretty good.  I felt like I played my angles well, challenged the shooters and made some big saves.  I just looked the wrong way around the screen, and they just beat me on the shot.  I thought it went pretty well for me though.”

“Last season, coming in, I’d never been an established number one in the AHL, so I think last season might have been a bit of a stretch.  But after a full season under my belt as a starter in the ‘A,’ I feel like I’ve progressed a lot and improved a lot, and I’m just happy for the opportunity that they’re giving me.  I’m just going to try to make the best of it.”

“When you’ve got two established guys like that fighting for the goal as well, you’re always a little surprised when your name gets thrown in with the likes of them.  But to be honest, this is what I’ve been working towards, and I was hoping I’d get a chance like that.  I’m just going to try to make the best of it.”

“You can learn so much.  Just in the past three years, watching Hank and Marty and the way they carry themselves on and off the ice, it’s huge for me as a young goalie coming up from college and never having been to an NHL camp before.  So to learn from the best goalie in the world and a guy who’s been around for a while, it’s a great experience for me.”

Marc Staal: “(I felt) good, really good.  After the first few shifts under my belt, I felt comfortable and confident.  I feel really good.”

“I haven’t played in a game in a long time, not since the one I played in the playoffs there, so it’s good to get that first game experience and see what I’m up against.  After those first two shifts, I knew I was going to be fine.  I feel great.”

Michael Del Zotto: “I thought overall I made a couple good plays, but there’s some stuff I’d still like to work on.  But you’re going to deal with that any time it’s your first game back in a while.  Overall, I was happy.  Playing with Staalsie definitely makes the game easier.”

“I thought he was great.  Any time you play with a player like that, who is good in all zones and covers a lot of ice…and he talks a lot too, which makes the game that much easier…I think it was a good start for us, and we’re going to try to keep building chemistry.”

“I think you’re just trying to get your conditioning back and your timing back.  As I said, I felt like I made some good plays.  There were a couple mistakes, but that’s just getting your timing back.  It’ll come.”

Danny Kristo: “That’s obviously my goal, is to make the team out of training camp.”

“(About the deflection with a minute left) Six-on-five, we were buzzing pretty good there and had it set up.  Moorsey made a really good pass, and I just tried to tip in and redirect it.  I actually got a pretty good piece of it and redirected it to the other side of the net, but the goalie made a good save.”

“(About the goal) It was just kind of a scramble, and I think their D got caught up ice.  I heard Hrivo…I didn’t really see him, I just heard him going to the net, so I kind of threw a pass to the slot.  There was a little bit of a scramble, and then we put it in there.  It was good to cut the lead to one.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Preseason Game 1: Rangers @ Devils

September 16, 2013

5:15 PM — Back in an NHL press box, and it feels SO good.  This is my first time in the Prudential Center press box since the end of April — I did cover the draft as well in June — and first time covering an actual NHL game since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much I missed this.

If you solely follow me for hockey, you might be curious to know what I’ve been doing with myself…and if you’re not, I’m telling you anyway.  I accepted a freelance position with MyCentralJersey.com to finish out the season as the beat writer for the independent Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots.  I got my start in 2003 in Somerset, and never really left, but this is the first time in a long time that the Patriots have been my main priority.

So, until their postseason is over, that will still be the case.  But the only conflicts would be with preseason games…I will be free to cover the regular season as I normally would.

Anyway, you’re probably here for news.  So.  Here’s some.  Just wanted to confirm the Rangers playing roster for today, which was initially reported by the Rangers beat crew yesterday…the only question mark was whether Stu Bickel (back) or Dylan McIlrath would be in the lineup, but it will be Bickel as one of the 18 skaters dressed tonight.

NEW YORK RANGERS ROSTER, 9/16/2013

Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist
Cam Talbot

Defensemen

Michael Del Zotto
John Moore
Marc Staal
Stu Bickel
Justin Falk
Aaron Johnson

Forwards

Darroll Powe
Brad Richards
Chris Kreider
Brian Boyle
Ryan Bourque
Dominic Moore
Marek Hrivik
Brandon Mashinter
Arron Asham
Danny Kristo
Rick Nash
Shawn O’Donnell

Goaltender Cory Schneider is excited about making his debut with the Devils following an offseason trade (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Goaltender Cory Schneider is excited about making his debut with the Devils following an offseason trade (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

NEWARK — This is the day.  This is when everything will finally hit home for Cory Schneider.

The 27-year-old was traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the New Jersey Devils in a blockbuster trade on draft day, but even after all the photo shoots and the practices at training camp, today is the day where he’ll put on that red, black and white jersey for the first time in game action.

“Until you start playing the games, it doesn’t feel real,” he said.  “I think when you go and play with guys and play with your teammates and you sort of compete for each other, it helps build those bonds and build those friendships.  I think this will be a good start, and we’re all excited to get going here.”

Keith Kinkaid will back Schneider up tonight, but Devils coach Pete DeBoer told reporters this morning that he isn’t sure if Schneider will play the whole game.  Just in general from speaking with DeBoer, it doesn’t seem like his quartet of young goalies — Anthony Brodeur, Maxime Clermont, Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood — will get many meaningful opportunities for playing time this preseason.

“(Goaltending is) one area that I’m not looking at evaluating,” DeBoer said.  “We’ve got our two goalies, so it’s getting them both ready for the first game of the season.  If it happens that we can get some young guys in net for some short periods, that would be a bonus.  But that’s not our mindset right now, it’s we’re doing whatever we have to make sure Brodeur and Schneider are comfortable for game one.”

Devils forward Reid Boucher will be playing in his first ever NHL preseason game tonight, and there will be many eyes on a young man who many feel has a very real chance to make this club out of camp.

“It’s very exciting, it’s my first NHL anything,” said Boucher, whose mother and brother will be in attendance at the Prudential Center.  “Hopefully I can perform tonight and play well.”

Boucher, just 20 years old, broke Steven Stamkos’ record with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting for goals in a season by lighting the lamp a whopping 62 times last season, and he added three more tallies in an 11-game stint in the AHL with Albany as well.  The time may very well be now for Boucher, but the next two weeks will play a large role in if that will ultimately be the case.

Boucher told me that he did extensive work on his conditioning and added some muscle this offseason, and seems confident that he’s put himself in position to win an NHL job.

“I just have to perform to my abilities, and hopefully they’ll give me a chance,” he said.  “But, I’ll leave the decision up to them and just play hockey…(the next two weeks) are pretty important.  If I perform to my abilities, maybe it can persuade them on their decision.  I’m not going to be pressing overly, obviously I want to go out and do well.  I just have to stick to my game, and can’t go outside of that.”

The next two weeks also loom large for defenseman Eric Gelinas, who would appear to be on the outside looking in when it comes to securing a job on the Devils blueline.

New Jersey’s second round draft pick in 2009, the 22-year-old made his NHL debut on April 25 last season, collecting one shot on goal in 15:59 of ice time against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I think it gave me a chance to prove myself last year, but this year is a new year,” he said.  “There’s a lot of competition with young defensemen trying to make this team.  It’s up to me to figure out the way to prove that I belong here.  I have to show them I can play, and that’s what I’m focusing on during this camp.”

Like Boucher, he says he made some improvements to his game in the offseason as well, saying he got stronger and gained several pounds this summer and worked on his footwork as well.

“I think I really improved and am more mature,” Gelinas said.

Expected lines for tonight’s preseason game against New York

Pesonen-Henrique-Bernier
Olesz-Loktionov-Tedenby
Boucher-Josefson-Sislo
Barch-D. Zajac-Janssen

Volchenkov-Fayne
Gelinas-Harrold
Urbom-Larsson

Schneider
Kinkaid

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com