Five Hole For Food – Scoring For Canada’s Food Banks

June 30, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

When Richard Loat , @Mozy19 on Twitter, contacted me about hosting a road hockey game in Regina, Saskatchewan to benefit our local food bank, I have to admit I was skeptical at first.  Trying to organize one charity event in a single location is a daunting task and here was this 21 year old hockey blogger attempting a cross Canada road trip consisting of stops in 9 different cities with grueling driving schedule in between.

Needless to say, he sold me on the Five Hole For Food idea and I jumped on board. Richard’s enthusiasm for the game and passion for supporting Canada’s food banks was unquestionable.  He quickly ramped up the project and got major sponsors on board such as Molson Canadian, Marketwire, and Boston Pizza and the vision started shaping into reality.

Richard’s vision of  Five Hole For Food has taken shape and officially kicked off in Montreal, where they raised nearly 200lbs of food on June 29. The Ottawa stop on June 30 was next on the list, followed by a Canada day game in Toronto, a long drive to Winnipeg, and then my stop in Regina on July 4th.

Schedule of Events

The full schedule of events can be seen below. If you’re near a game, please grab a can of food and your hockey stick and join in the fun!Richard Loat of Five Hole for Food Fame

Montreal – Tuesday June 29th

Ottawa – Wednesday June 30th

Toronto – Thursday July 1st

Winnipeg – Saturday July 3rd

Regina – Sunday July 4th

Calgary – Monday July 5th

Edmonton – Tuesday July 6th

Victoria – Thursday July 8th

Vancouver – Friday July 9th

The Regina Event

The Regina stop on the Five Hole For Food tour will benefit the Regina and District Food bank. The event day will consist of a 4:00PM game of hockey at the Grant Road outdoor rink (Link to Map) followed by food and drinks at Boston Pizza – South.

Local Sponsors

Prizes for participants who donate the most food include an S17 Stick from Easton Hockey, Cascade M11 Helmet, a padded Hockey undershirt from Shock Doctor and a 50 Ways To Score More Goals DVD from Hockeyplayer.com.

Not too shabby, so get those cans of food out and help support a great cause.  To help Richard and his co-pilot get rested up for the second half of their journey, our good friends at the Hotel Saskatchewan – Radisson Plaza have graciously donated accommodations for their stay in Regina.

Please Join Us!

My initial skepticism over this event soon turned to anticipation and excitement as the days grew nearer. Playing a great game to support a worthy cause and meeting new friends in the process is the perfect way to wind down a long weekend.  So, if you’re anywhere near Regina on July4th, I encourage you to join us.

If you have questions or want more details, please feel free to contact me or catch me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nhldigest or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nhldigest .

See you Sunday!

Photo Credit: North Shore News

A Loser’s Case For The Conn Smythe

May 26, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

Reggie Leach Philadelphia Flyers Conn Smythe WinnerThe Conn Smythe trophy is one often one of hockey’s most unpredictable awards.  At the outset of the playoffs it is nearly impossible to know which player will rise to the top over the course of the next few weeks.

There are some years when an unbelievable individual performance carries an unlikely team to the Stanley Cup finals. In those cases, such as it was with J.S Giguere and Ron Hextall, a player can win the Conn Smythe when his team loses the Stanley Cup.

This year, however, we have a unique situation in that there is really nobody on the Philadelphia Flyers that could earn that distinction in a losing cause.  Michael Leighton, although very good in the games that he played, has not played enough games or “stolen games” as yet.  I believe it would take a remarkable performance from Leighton (repeat of the Conference Finals with more ‘big game saving’ stops) in the finals in order for him to be considered for the Conn Smythe.

I would also argue the same for Chicago’s Antti Niemi. If Kirk McLean couldn’t win the Conn Smythe while making a record 761 playoff saves in a losing effort back in 1994, then neither of these goaltenders have a hope.

Could A Forward Win In A Losing Cause?

Jonathan Toews has to be the front runner right now when evaluating forwards who could possibly win the Conn Smythe if their team lost the Stanley Cup.  Toews is currently leading the playoffs in scoring with 26 points in 16 games. Leading all remaining players in faceoff percentage and his 5 powerplay and 3 game winning goals solidify his spot as a contender for MVP.

Mike Richards may be the player with the next best shot, leading the Flyers in scoring thus far with 21 points. However, of his 6 goals, he has just one Game Winner.  Danny Briere has 4 game winning goals and a total of 18 points, with a couple of game winners in the final, he could have an outside shot.

Ironically, the last (and only) time a non-goalie won the Conn Smythe it was a Philadelphia Flyer!

Reggie Leach won the Conn Smythe in a losing cause back in 1976 when he recorded an NHL record 19 playoff goals in 16 games.  He picked up the playoff MVP award despite his team being swept in the final by the Montreal Canadiens.

Many considered Ken Dryden a favorite to win the award, but no other Flyer had more than 6 goals that playoff year and Boston’s Jean Ratelle had the second most playoff goals with 8.

That is the kind of dominance it takes for a non-goaltender to win the Conn Smythe in a losing cause.

Will It Happen This Year?

Frankly, it will take an absolutely astonishing performance throughout a long series for any player to earn the Conn Smythe in a losing cause this season.  One of the three forwards mentioned would have to rack up a pile of points and score some very key goals to win.  I don’t think either of the starting goalies can win in a losing effort, regardless of what happens in this series.

I have purposely left out defenseman. One could make an argument for a defenseman such as Chris Pronger to win, but I think the possibility is extremely remote. If the Flyers were to win the Cup, Pronger should get some consideration the same light that saw Scott Niedermayer win in 2007 and Nicklas Lidstrom in 2002.

What do you think?

Who is your favorite for the Conn Smythe?

Leighton, Sharp Look For Revenge Against Former Teams In Cup Final

May 25, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

Michael Leighton and Patrick Sharp

Prior to the 2010 NHL playoffs, many people suspected that the Blackhawks would be in the Stanley Cup final. However, anyone outside of Philadelphia that thought the Flyers would be playing hockey in June would likely have been referred for professional help.
(If you did pick the Flyers to be playing for the Cup, please contact me. I need some help with my PowerBall numbers)

That said, the stage is now set for the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2010 playoffs and there are two players who might just be looking forward to it more than anyone else.  Michael Leighton and Patrick Sharp are both facing off against the team that drafted only to traded them away.

Leighton Looking Sharp

Interestingly enough, these teams have some trade history between them that has impacted these playoffs and will certainly have  bearing on this series.

The Philadlephia Flyers are riding the back of goaltender Michael Leighton, who happens to be a former draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks picked Leighton in the 6th Round of the 1999 draft, 165th overall. Leighton played 42 games, recording just8 wins, with Chicago over the course of two seasons 2002-04.

The Blackhawks traded Leighton to the Buffalo Sabres in October of 2005 for Milan Bartovic. Never heard of him? I can’t say I blame you. Bartovic played just 24 games for Chicago that season and has never played in the NHL since.

Patrick Sharp Shooting For Cup

Patrick Sharp has been no slouch in these playoffs for the Blackhawks. While being overshadowed by a remarkable playoffs from Captain Toews, Sharp has quietly amassed 16 points in 16 games during these playoffs.

Sharp’s connection to the Flyers goes back to his draft year when he was selected in the 3rd Round, 95th overall, by Philadelphia out of the University of Vermont.

Sharp managed 10 Goals and 19 assists in 66 Games with Philadelphia before being traded to Chicago with Eric Meloche for Matt Ellison and a 3rd Round pick in the 2006 draft. At this point, it certainly looks like Chicago got the better of that trade.

Which One Will Laugh Last?

Which of these players will have the last laugh against the team that drafted them and subsequently traded them away for next to nothing?

Both can certianly take prid ein their performances this post-season and the odds on favorite would have to be Sharp and the Blackhawks. But, people have been counting out the Flyers from day one.

It should be a great series and regardless of the result, Mr. Leighton will be looking for a hefty pay raise come July.

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers will face off for Game #1 of the final series on Saturday May 29, 2010 at 8:00 PM EST. The full schedule, including the television scheduleis here on NHL.com.

Halak Chasing McLean’s Playoff Record For Saves

May 16, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

Jaroslav Halak Montreal Canadiens GoalieBy now it is no secret that the Montreal Canadiens are the story of the 2010 NHL playoffs.  Much has been much written about Jaroslav Halak and his fantastic performances, backstopping the Habs to the third round. However, a lot of the focus on records has been on Mike Cammalleri chasing Reggie Leach’s 19  playoff goals.

While Cammalleri, who currently has 12 goals, could reach that record and it would be a great accomplishment, Jaroslav Halak is on pace to beat one the top 10 NHL playoff records of all time.

Most Saves In One Playoff Year

Prior to the first game of the conference final versus the Flyers, Halak had already registered 420 saves in 13 games during this playoff run.  Halak is averaging 32.3 Saves/Game and had 119 more saves than Chicago’s Antti Niemi heading into Sunday’s action.  At this pace, if the Canadiens play 11 more games in this playoff year, Halak will likely take over Kirk McLean’s record of 761 saves.

For Halak to reach this record, of course, means that the Canadiens must win the Eastern Conference and make it to the Stanley Cup Final. But, after knocking off the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, beating Philadelphia seems like a definite possibility.

Even if we assume the minimum number of games that the Canadiens could play if they won the Eastern Conference (8), at an average of 32.3 saves per game, Halak would still record the most saves made in the playoffs with 678 since Olaf Kolzig recorded 696 in 1998.

Here is a quick reference of the playoff leaders in saves.

NHL record for most saves in one playoff season

This is one of those records, like the most losses by a goaltender in a career, nobody really wants to break. But, the most saves in a playoff run is still a great accomplishment and underscores the effect that having a hot goaltender in the playoffs can still have.

UPDATE: As this post went to publication, Halak was just chased from the Montreal net in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final after making just 9 saves on 13 shots.

What Is Your Favorite NHL Playoff Memory?

April 27, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

NHL History Will be Made CommercialFor any hockey fan, the playoffs are a special time of year. The games suddenly have more meaning and you can see rivalries develop quickly over the course of four or more games. The weather is nicer outside, the days are getting longer and teams battle with each other every second night for their chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup.

Playoff hockey has given us the most exciting moments in hockey history and some of our best memories as hockey fans. This season, the NHL has offered up a series of History Will Be Made commercials that are promoting this season of playoff hockey.

The commercials are simply constructed and feature some of the most memorable moments in NHL playoff history. What has been even more exciting to watch over the course of the release of these commercial spots is the growing list of fan parody videos that have been posted to YouTube and other Video sharing sites, featuring other memorable moments in NHL playoff history.

Why Simple Can be Good

One of the best things that could have happened for the NHL is for their set of videos to have them “Go Viral”. or be shared, among hockey fans across the globe. But, making the videos simple enough for fans to create their own parody versions is even better. Now, the NHL will benefit from the content produced by fans to promote the game in addition to the exposure of the original videos. Could it have turned out better? Probably not.

Sure, the fan parody videos aren’t exactly featuring the content that the league would prefer to see, but most of the parody videos identify important moments for fans. And, that’s the key. Hockey is live. There are going to be faux pas, referees are going to blow calls, players will make mistakes… that is the nature of game. Fans recognize that the game is not perfect and that sometimes everything doesn’t go as planned, but we still love the sport. The game can survive and thrive even though it is not perfect and, perhaps, because it is not perfect.

What Defines Playoff Hockey For You?

What is the moment that most defines the NHL playoffs for you? Was it a heroic performance by your favorite player? A game winning goal by an unlikely hero? Or, was it glaring mistake or a moment riddled with controversy? (Was Brett Hull’s foot in the crease?)

Whatever the case, it is important to recognize that for the game to be the emotional rollercoaster that excites fans, there are going to be a variety of memorable playoff moments – certainly not all of them perfect.

Capitals and Canadiens Not Playing Playoff Hockey

April 26, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

The NHL playoffs are often known as being a much more physically demanding brand of game than that of the regular season.  In addition, there is a notion that referees tend to “let the boys play” a bit more as opposed to being as stringent on the rulebook. Although, there appears to be evidence to the contrary.

To that end, the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals have been playing what amounts to pond hockey in the first round.  According to the series statistics, only one player from either team is listed in the top 30 in hits thus far. (Matt Bradley – 22nd)

2010 NHL Playoff Hits

Montreal Canadiens versus Washington Capitals Hits in the 2010 playoffs

Further to this, a Montreal Canadiens player doesn’t enter this list until Dominic Moore’s name appears in the 81st slot.  In fact, the Canadiens are dead last in total hits with 112 in these playoffs.  One might assume that the Canadiens would want to be a little more physical against a potent offensive teams like the Capitals. They’ve also lost more faceoffs than any other team, giving puck possession to the Capitals 58.9% of the time.

Staying Out Of The Box

In addition to the lack of physical contact in this series, as one might expect, there have also been very few penalties called.  Except for Bench Minors of course, of which each team has two.

Montreal Versus Washington Penalties 2010 Playoffs

As you can see in the image above, the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals are neck and neck with the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators for penalty minutes in their respective series’.

The Verdict

The Capitals and Canadiens are playing a brand of hockey that is most conducive to a Capitals victory, being the more skilled team. That said, we all know that playoff games and series can be won or lost with goaltending. And stellar Goaltending is what neither team has had consistently.

Unless Montreal gets another outstanding performance like the .974 Save percentage he posted in Game #5, look for the Capitals to finish off the Canadiens tonight.

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