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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Navigating the Stars, Part I

Some good things are happening in Hockey Town, Texas. Before the All-Star break, the Stars beat the Panthers in Florida where Mike Ribeiro recorded his first hat-trick. After the break, they shutout the lowly Atlanta Thrashers. But that's still two points in the standings.

And now...

  • They beat the asterisk-less Red Wings after Niklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk had returned from their one game sit-downs.
  • The Stars have won a season-high 3 games in a row. Doesn't sound impressive but this team has struggled in regular season play with putting together a winning streak since the trade deadline in the 2007-2008 season. Couple this with the fact they have the 5th best winning percentage since late November in this season and you can see this team is finding its groove in offense.
  • In terms of defense, Marty Turco, the franchise face in net is returning to his previous form. In the 2006-2007 campaign, he posted 3 shutouts in the Stars' 7 games against Vancouver only to lose in the first round due to a complete lack of offensive prowess. Last season he showed his post-season play can be Cup-worthy with brilliant performances, helping lead the Stars to the Western Conference Finals where they lost in 6 games to the eventual champs, Detroit. Noted struggles to start this season and complications with a commitment to his former form, he is now aware that if this team is to make post-season play, it will be on his back. Turco never shies from a challenge and is now looking ready to take on this challenge with a shutout in his first game back after the All-Star break vs. Atlanta and his first regular season win in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena as an NHL goalie.

And tonight, the Stars go against their previous coach, Ken Hitchcock in Columbus. The coach that helped guide them to their Stanley Cup vicotry in 1999. Tonight's battle will show what the Stars plan on bringing to the ice for the remainder of the season in their bid for post-season rights.

Should be a tasty game.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nash 3, Detroit 2 (OT)

The first two times Columbus met Detroit this season, the Blue Jackets were A)dealing with injuries to multiple key players, and B) on the road. Those factors contributed to 5-3 and 3-0 Red Wing victories. Last night, Gary Bettman and the Hockey Gods evened it up: Datsyuk and Lidstrom sat (a result of their injury-induced absence from the All-Star Weekend festivities), Zetterburg left late in the first period with back spasms, and the Blue Jackets took advantage of Detroit's 10 remaining forwards to delight the home crowd with a 3-2 overtime win.

Rick Nash was, as Tex Jr. would say, a BEAST, scoring all three Columbus goals. Were it not for a heads-up play by the right post in the 1st period, Nash could've had a fourth. Nash's 1st goal, a shorthanded breakaway created by his anticipation and interception of a D-to-D pass, was electrifying. The hallmark of a superior player and Captain is the ability to strap the team to his back and carry it to victory when necessary, and Rick Nash did just that last night.

Credit for the W must extend beyond Nash, however. Steve Mason was solid, if unspectacular. Truthfully, the D in front of him was pretty solid, so Mason wasn't forced to be spectacular. To this observer, though, it looked like there were a few too many occasions in which the D backed in on Stevie Franchise, effectively screening him. Overall, however, I'd give the blueline corps an A-, as they did a good job of shutting down the low slot and hustled to rebounds, denying Detroit second chances.

I agree with Aaron Portzine of the Columbus Dispatch: Give Jason Chimera a C for his work at Center last night. Considering it was his first game at that position in a long, long time (since he was in the minors, perhaps?), and it came against Detroit, a C isn't so bad. Chimera won 3 of 5 faceoffs, tops among Columbus forwards.

Speaking of faceoffs...I think Detroit won all but ONE draw in the 3rd (at last count, they'd won 7 of 8), and they outshot Columbus in that frame, 9-2. Coincidence? I think not. The Jackets are a respectable 10th in the NHL in faceoff win pct. right now (50.8%), but up against the top-ranked Red Wings (55.7%), they won just 45%.

Overall, it was a good win for the Jackets. They needed to take advantage of a shorthanded Detroit club, and did so. Because the Wings are so far ahead in the standings, it doesn't matter that they picked up a point - what matters most is that Columbus earned two, and are still very much alive in the playoff race.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To Red Wing, Or Not To Red Wing: THAT Is The Question

(With apologies to Shakespeare and Hamlet…)

To Red Wing or not to Red Wing, that is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of missed puck droppings,
And take up Sherwood against a sea of administration,
So by opposing, show them!
To cry, nay, to weep;
No more; and by a weep to say we end
The heart-ache of a thousand unfortunate bloggings
The Internet is heir to — 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To cry, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep what dreams might have come,
While sloughing off this higher call
To market icy sport...
The Wing’ed warriors need not hold

Anger toward Office, and the spurns
That fans lavish of th'unworthy takes,
When they themselves Champion the rink,
And clutch the silver chalice.

Instead proclaim resolute disagreement
And suffer the absence steeped in nobility.
Claim that which is against,
Yet arrive for the common good
Which is to gamely carve yon frosty sheet,
And make us forget ills we carry
But for a few great hours.
Thus conscience stated and tried make heroes to us all,
Those few, good men of resolve, knowingly wagering their word
Who, not sickled by their thoughts,
Instead proudly forfeit their comrades’ capital
As wages for their conscience,
While losing us none of the action.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

GAME ON! NHL Back in the Game and an ASG Review

Today, the games resume for the NHL. Nothing could make me happier right now as the withdrawal (Lordy, the summer is going to be long) is beginning to take on Jones-ian type characteristics.

While many players may have enjoyed some family time at home or a quick vacation to one of those DisneyDwellings, for those fortunate enough to have been in Montreal over the weekend, a truly great All-Stars presentation was had.

Why truly great?

Not just because the All-Star Game itself saw the most goals and shots of any ASG to date, concluded by OT (w/ a power play, for Goodness' sake!) and a shootout...and not just because OV-1 retained his crown in the Breakaways Skills competition with humor, props and a Perestroika-like peace-making with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin...and not just because of the hockey-hallowed host-city, Montreal - but because the All-Star Celebration in and of itself is Great.

The All-Star Game comes at the mid-point of the long, 82-game NHL season where the nightly battles of positioning are put aside and the game itself is appreciated and adored. December and January are often called the 'dog days of the NHL' since, at this point, many teams are nursing wounds, have already played 40+ games and the start of the playoffs still seem so far away.

Its a perfect opportunity for teams to take a break, let the players who have not been named to the All-Star festivities have some much needed down time with their families and, for those players who have been invited to participate, to market the game and share their time with us, the folks who make it possible for their very livelihood.

The Breakaway Challenge, a fan-favorite, was certainly entertaining. In addition to Alexander Ovechkin's antics, we were treated to some pretty nifty moves from the likes of rookie, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf and last-minute replacement, Martin St. Louis.

And for those who were amazed at Martin St. Louis Breakaway Skills Competition tricks, I present the man's inspiration, a young Max Gerlach. At the time, 9 years old, performing during a shootout exhibition during an intermission at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX when the Stars hosted the Ottawa Senators in early December, 2007. I was fortunate enough to be at this game and the crowd was simply amazed at what they had just witnessed. There were equal amounts of cheering and jaws clanking on the floor. Once they began showing the replays on the jumbo-tron, the place erupted.

Kudos to St. Louis (I think his Breakaway skills were actually the most fun to watch), but this fellow was 9 when he pulled off the following move (and actually scored the goal!)

This All-Star Break, however, was not all fun as proposed penalties for skipping the affair were metered out in the form of 1-game 'suspensions' (actually, sit-downs since the players do not forfeit any of their pay) and some heated debates before the events as fans and analysts alike discussed what should change about the ASG format and whether or not the current format is the best way to play the All-Star Game...or if it should even be played at all.

I'm sure the league and the NHLPA will continue to research ways into expanding the appeal of the All-Star Game to the wide spectrum making up today's NHL hockey fans and they will have plenty of time to do so with next year's ASG out of the schedule to accommodate the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC.

For example -
  • how to ensure more teams don't get Red Wingy with it (players bailing to nurse elbows, etc and the subsequent NHL-mandated 1-game sit-downs for the offending players)
  • how to encourage a more 'normal' flow to the ASG (perhaps a hit or two, some defense, something on the line worth fighting for?)
  • a Young-Stars game that is just completely awkward to watch
  • an All-Star weekend that is more designed to grow the fan-base and cater to the new or casual fan as opposed to us, the followers of Lord Stanley

In fact, you should also read some of the creative ideas proposed by the OGA writers where Big Tex believes we could re-learn some of the lessons taught during the Cold War (click here) and The Colonel proposes a 4-year rotation of themes guaranteed to see the players show up to the host city with pride intact, even if the elbow has actually fallen off (read here).

One note on that from the Frozen Pill - Nicklas Lidstrom is a class act and the real deal. I certainly get (and respect) the concept of ANY team having their collective energy completely directed towards the goal of winning the games that count for the chance to Kiss the Cup. That's why we fans watch, after all.

But the ASG is more about marketing the game itself, for all 30 franchises and for the respect of those who came before, those who came to the host city in cars and airplanes, and for those who are currently practicing their drop-pass in my kitchen since that's where a 2-year old has enough room in the Pill house to do so.

Let the gimps drop out of participating in the actual game (an honorary skate-in-clause?) but come they should, lace up the skates and roam on the ice during the Skills competition and participate in meeting the fans during the many ancillary events in and around the rink over the 3 days.

For the All-Star break is a celebration of the history of hockey, the players who entertain us and an opportunity for the fans to be brought inside the magic for a unique view none of the regular season or post-season play offers.

Personally, we at the Pill Household planned all our errands and homely chores around the schedule to maximize our time in order to watch the practice skate, the Red Carpet arrivals, the Skills Competition and Young Stars game as well as the Main Event on Sunday, shared with good friends and good food.

That's quality time, folks, spent with family and friends, courtesy of celebrating the game we love. And the young 2-year old I spoke of very much enjoyed the opportunity to say, "I have HIS hockey card...!", whether he did or not.

And seeing the players enjoying themselves on the ice, rivalries aside and children in tow certainly reinforces the nature of hockey fans everywhere - we love the sport and its history and we love to share it with others.

So in a time of changiness and hopitude - and when so much debate centers on what should change with the ASG - its good to reflect on what we already have...and to be grateful and celebrate it.

I mean, come on, Montreal....Mr. Hockey in the House....the smile that wouldn't leave Shane Doan's face....Ovechkin trying to recreate 'the Goal' on his first breakaway attempt and the analysts thinking he just 'fell down'....Marc Savard's awesome commentary as he was mic'ed up for the on-ice antics...all of it was incredible.

And fun. And isn't that what games are all about?

But alas, another ASG is in the books....and we know return you to normally scheduled program...the race to the playoffs!


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sounds of the All-Star Game

With the conclusion of All-Stars weekend merely moments away as the West and East suit-up and tighten the laces, OGA wishes all the players an injury-free and FUN time on the ice this evening. The OGA writers will post some thoughts on the conclusion of this year's All-Star game after the fan-fare is concluded.

But until then, fans should put aside too much of the punditry (no fights, little hits, reduced speed, fan-voting, etc.) and enjoy the players enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the game they love to PLAY...

I imagine it is a special time for players to put aside rivalry and thoughts of standings for a weekend and find, even if just for a little bit, the pure pleasure that comes from playing on the pond (as it is, for the rink is reserved for business) with other skilled players.

Every clack of the stick meeting puck on a precise pass, every slash of the blade, cutting through ice and every chuckle (instead of chirping!) must be a pure joy for these players who are honored to be in Montreal - to share their love of the game with us, the lovers of the great game that is OUR game...hockey!

Other sounds to look forward to? The on-ice conversations with the players who are mic'ed and the interviews before/during/after the game. For some players it is their first ASG, for some, probably their last.

So put aside any debatable issues and enjoy this presentation...because this one truly is for us, the fans and should remind us of the Game inside the Business.

More thoughts to follow...After the Game is played...!

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

Or, as the great Yogi Berra said, "It's like deja vu all over again." What I'm referring to is the manner in which NHL history seems to be repeating itself this season.

As a child, I collected hockey cards, some of which I still have. Today, Tex Jr. collects cards, and I've noticed lately that many of his brand-new cards have strangely familiar names on them - names like Nystrom, Tambellini and Gilles immediately come to mind (and, being a Ranger fan, I find this quite disconcerting). I'm seeing Suter and Sutter, too. Of course, when was the last time we didn't see the name "Sutter" associated with the NHL? The list goes on: Crombeen. Parise. Wilson. Though the name isn't directly related to the NHL, "Viktor Tikhonov" has a familiar, Miraculous ring to it, too.

The similarities to the NHL of my youth go beyond names. As I watched the Winter Classic, it occurred to me that the 08/09 Chicago Blackhawks might share some commonalities with the 81/82 or 82/83 Edmonton Oilers. Just as the Oilers were back then, I believe the Blackhawks are on the cusp of greatness today. On the flip side, in 08/09, just as in 81/82, there's substandard hockey being played in Colorado (and I'll take Chico Resch over Peter Budaj, any day of the week).

There have been changes, of course: The Rockies moved to New Jersey, to give this Ranger fan another nearby team to hate. The Jets flew off to the desert, the Whalers to Tobacco Road, and the Nordiques filled the void in Colorado. Nine teams joined the league. Change is inevitable, I suppose. This season, though, everything old - including the excitement of the game itself - is new again.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

When To Execute The Trade Deadline

“…He who hesitates ( is lost)….” Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1912

Early March? With five weeks to go in the regular season? Come on. I know we think a bit out of the box at On Goal Analysis (OGA), but we KNOW the OLD date for The NHL Trade Deadline was too late for about 2/3 of the NHL’s teams. Even later? This short blog states why MARCH 2009 is too late for The Trade Deadline and recommends when to hold it.

How Late Is Too Late? Why do we at OGA say The Trade Deadline comes too late? Here are three reasons reasons:

1. By our Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) as of today, 13 teams have clinched a playoff berth and seven have been eliminated. With 67% of the playoff picture ‘drawn,’ Trade Deadline action is dubious for most of the NHL. Teams that have clinched should make trades if they believe a key player/position puts them late into Playoff rounds. If you have been eliminated, the only reason to trade is to work toward next year and beyond. So the Trade Deadline is really guaranteed to be an immediately useful tool for only the 10% of teams still fighting for a remaining position.

2. The PQC also states some teams are really already eliminated because, unless they can afford to draft an entire, top line, a puck-moving/offensively oriented defenseman and an elite goalie, they cannot increase their winning percentage enough to change their Playoff fortunes between now and the end of the year.

3. Losing is both cumulative and compounding in its effort to eliminate a team from Playoff contention. It is cumulative in the fact that a team will eventually be defeated so many times they lose their way out of a Playoff berth. It is also compounding because a single loss by the Number 1 team in Atlantic potentially places the Number 2 Atlantic team that was not even playing a game that night in the division’s top Playoff seed. In the Western Conference where the difference between the current Number 8 seed and Number 15 is only nine points, that loss above means the same thing between Number 8 and Number 9.

So that said, the Trade Deadline comes too late to change the fortunes of 2/3 of the NHL and would better serve a team in the late NOVEMBER to very early JANUARY timeframe. If it is NOT going to be done then, OGA has an alternative recommendation: On Friday of the All Star week, and billed/put on with the same fanfare as the NHL Entry Draft. Think of the draw to the All Star Game festivities if this, INTERNATIONAL Hockey fan’s holiday is connected to the fan fare of the NHL All Star game! Commercialism, hype, and outcome will all yield big-time, positive results for the NHL.

Let’s do this in 2011 on Friday before the All Star Game! (And we at OGA apologize for not thinking of this during last season so we could be seeing that all day today.) But March? As the song says, “…Well it’s too late baby, now it’s too late….” Carole King.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Give Me a Break!

...From NHL officiating, that is. I've done my best to refrain from launching into a "refs suck" rant this season, but I can't remain (almost) silent any longer. Just remember: They brought it on themselves.

Because I'm a firm believer in full disclosure, I must first say that, taken as a whole, I've been pleased with the post-lockout officiating. Prior to the lockout, my "ref rants" revolved around a common theme of non-calls in the 3rd period or OT, no matter how egregious the foul, and my personal pet peeve: The goalie saves the initial shot from the point but gives up a juicy rebound...without fear, because the winger screening the goalie has been tackled by the d-man, is pinned to the ice and can't get to the puck. I will argue 'til the day I die that those non-calls were/are the greatest single factor in causing/extending multiple-OT games in the playoffs. So, given the choice between pre-lockout non-calls and post-lockout ticky-tack/marginal calls, I'll take the post-lockout officiating every time...until this season, that is.

Is it just me, or has the officiating (both on- and off-ice) actually gotten worse as the season has progressed? Back in October and November, what stood out was that the refs seemed to get in the players' way quite a bit. In December and January, I've seen too many flat-out bad calls, under calls (a called minor penalty when a double minor is warranted, for example) and non-calls to count, as well as BLOWN OFFSIDES calls.

I ask you: How hard is it to make the correct offsides call? If you're a linesman, you have three basic responsibilities during a game:

1. Drop the puck.
2. Break up fights.
3. Call icing and OFFSIDES.

It's not as though the linesmen have to perform 1 or 2 at the same time as 3, so there's no multitasking involved. In spite of that, I've seen two blown calls in the past couple of weeks - one blatant non-call that led directly to a PP opportunity for the offending team (WSH vs CBJ, 9 JAN), and one phantom offsides call which denied Rick Nash a breakaway opportunity last night at Calgary. As Columbus lost in a shootout, the argument could be made that the call was potentially a game-changer.

The linesmen aren't the only guilty parties - not by a long shot. I still haven't gotten past the way Hasenfratz and Morton hijacked the Rangers-Blackhawks game last Friday. When mild-mannered Tom Renney is standing in the door, on the verge of stepping onto the ice, raining spittle and obscenities on the refs...something ain't right.

Worse yet, the War Room in Toronto has more than their share of blown calls this season. How is it possible that they can look at multiple camera angles, in super-slow motion, and still blow the call (when fans at home can clearly see that it's a good goal)? Off the top of my head, I can recall both Columbus and Dallas being jobbed by the War Room in the past month or so. Earlier this season, I opined to a buddy that I could envision a time in which off-ice officials would replace the on-ice referees. At this point, though, my confidence in the War Room is at an all-time low.

Because the game moves so fast, hockey officials have the most challenging job in sports (in my opinion). It's also a thankless job, as the best officiated games are ones in which you don't notice the refs/linesmen. By that, I mean that there aren't any bad, under or non-calls which draw attention to the officiating. So far this season, the officiating has been far too visible.

Wake up, NHL! Your officials aren't just missing the game; they're ruining it!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis
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Monday, January 19, 2009

ST. LOUIS at BOSTON: A (Playoff Caliber) Game of Inch(es)

First it was Saturday night with the likes of BOSTON at WASHINGTON, CHICAGO at ST. LOUIS and DETROIT at SAN JOSE. Playoff caliber Hockey in mid-January, all three were a treat for NHL fans everywhere, regardless of your favorite team.

Then, seemingly a no-contest matinee between ST. LOUIS and BOSTON on Martin Luther King Day in the United States was on the schedule. I admit, I didn’t get my Center Ice Online package up and watching until the last three minutes, nine seconds of the game. But in that three minutes, I saw a goal reviewed and disallowed, a goal off the next faceoff to put BOSTON ahead by two, a power play goal by ST. LOUIS to go one behind, a pulled goalie, swirling skating up and down the rink, tape-to-tape passes, desperate attempts to keep the puck in the BOSTON zone, a heroic blocked shot that made me holler, “DON’T WASTE THAT MAN’S EFFORT!”, and a goal to tie the score with 1.5 seconds left.

Above the crossbar by an inch or two on the swat of the straight-up in the air rebound over Tim Thomas’ left shoulder? Not according to the goal reviewers, which you know HAD to include the War Room in Toronto by the time it took.

Regardless, WOW! What a $@#!%&* game! THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is what sells this, The Coolest (Damn) Game on Earth!

Where’s my oxygen mask?...

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43 Year Old Claude Lemieux Recalled by Sharks

From www.ongoalanalysis.com, with love.

It was announced today via Sharks.NHL.com that San Jose has recalled veteran and recently-returned-to-hockey, Claude Lemieux. For anyone following the progress of Claude's desire to return to the NHL over the past few months since his 'tryout' agreement and signing as a free agent in late December with the Sharks this news should be no surprise.

It is said the former most-hated-agitator in the NHL is in excellent physical conditioning and has played 23 games with minor affiliate, Worcester Sharks (AHL) where he posted 3 goals, 8 assists and 24 PIMs.

With Sean Avery on 'sabatical' (anger management, shopping, etc.) and all the recent discussions of whether fighting belongs in the modern NHL, we figured it was time to bring back the nasty.

So, welcome back, Turtle!

And don't think it escapes us the recall comes only 2 days AFTER the much-touted big game between the top two in the West this past weekend, where the Sharks beat the Red Wings 6-5.

Welcome back to the Great Game and let the FUN begin....!

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The NHL’s Half-Mile Pole Analysis

The NHL’s fourth furlong has passed with Game 40’s now in the books for all teams and 20 of 30 teams' Playoff fates decided. What does the League look like at this juncture when analyzed past the standings? As in the 30-Game Marker report, we will look at the NHL, the Conferences, and on down through the individual team echelons.

NHL Standings at Game 30

For the Game 31-40 period, the NHL average against OGA’s Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) has increased from an historical 22.03 to the current 22.1. This is a very modest PQC gain of +.07, but is down from +.223 at the Game-30 marker. This tells us teams as a league whole are playing right about on the historical average.

Given the difference with the Game 30 mark, you might think it means more teams have lost more games than in the previous evaluation period. This is not the case as 14 teams improved in total wins, 13 teams declined and three teams had no change from Game 30 to Game 40. The overall team play affect, however, seems to indicate there is trend developing that might lower both Conferences’ minimum wins/points required to clinch a Playoff position. This potential drop requires further evaluation by OGA, however, so stay tuned for more updates.

One contributing factor to the difference between the historical average and this season’s Game-40 period is the drop off in ‘three-point games’ in December from the preceding two months. Where OCTOBER and NOVEMBER’s number of games proceeding into extra periods was an increase of 27.39% above the average, in DECEMBER the average was only a scant rise of 6.56% above post-Lockout numbers. In other words, when teams won over the Game-40 period, a lot more won in regulation than at the beginning of the season.

Scoring is still up this season to an average of 5.804 goals per game from 5.57 (overall) last season. The increase in scoring, however, is down from 5.85 at the Game 30 mark. It is a small drop off and could be tied to the vast amount of injuries teams are experiencing and chemistry problems present when new faces are infused into the lineup. While we here at OGA have not looked at stats from previous seasons, we have found that the average number of skaters per team that have played in every game for their club this season is only 6.37 (on 11 January). LOS ANGELES and the RANGERS both have 10 who have done so and they stand as the only organizations in double digits. The ISLANDERS are the lowest with three.

How do these characteristics of the 2008/9 season affect Conference play?

The Eastern Conference

The East ended the 40-game span only a –.28 lower against the PQC than the Conference's post-Lockout, historical average. This figure is –.28 lower than the same comparison of averages at the Game 30 mark. Both figures, however, are below the League’s PQC average by a combined average of –.57 with the Game 40 period standing as the greatest difference at a –.73. This difference would seem to indicate to OGA the number of points required to secure a Playoff berth in the East would rest somewhere around 91 – 92 points. If you removed BOSTON from the equation, then the East is a full –1.1 off.

The East’s average Goals For (GF) is greater than the West by +2.6, and shows an overall increase of +3.2 over the Game 30 period. In the last 10 games, the East has been scoring more than the West.

The gap between highest and lowest team winning percentage in the East has increased. The difference was 33.3% through Game 30 and is now 42.5%. BOSTON is winning at a 77.5% clip, while the ISLANDERS are only winning 35% of the time. This fact coupled with the one before means in the East, winning teams are doing so more often than a minority of teams who are suffering the burden of losses.

Because of the decrease in Eastern PQC and scoring, the overall model MIGHT require adjusting for this Conference. OGA will monitor this trend for possible adjustment to the model in the near future.

The Western Conference

The West regressed in overall PQC average compared to the 30-Game mark. The +.6 increase over the historical average they enjoyed at Game 30 fell back to +.413. In the grand scheme of things, this might still call for an adjustment of the PQC model. But removing SAN JOSE and/or DETROIT drops the Western PQC below both the historical NHL and Conference averages.
The average Goals For in the West trailed off rather noticeably between teams Game 31 and Game 40. The advantage they enjoyed over the East has tilted to the other side of the ice as detailed above. For example, SAN JOSE’s goal differential is only +0.1 in this 10 games versus +1.8 in the previous furlong. Being one of the West’s leading teams, their performance drop-off hurts the overall average.

The difference between highest and lowest winning percentages in the West was 33.9% at Game 30 but is now 37.5%. Despite the increase, this is still a loss from the Game 30 average of 41.7%. In the West the ‘upper echelon’ of teams have won less games when compared to the rest of the pack.

There are two, general statements to be made where the West is concerned. Firstly is the fact that the Western Conference played below average over the course of the Game 31 – 40 period. This is shown in all relevant, statistical categories. Second is the fact that the upper two teams’ COMBINED PQC’s and the fierce competition in the West skew the model enough to indicate the bottom half of the Conference playoff picture might need LESS points that normal to qualify for a playoff berth. OGA will be watching the second statement closely for any adjustments that need to be made in the coming furlongs.

The difference between IN and OUT of a Playoff berth in the Conferences is telling...

In the East:

The average PQC difference between the eighth-seeded Eastern team’s PQC and that of the teams that stand a chance of qualifying is –10.3, a noteworthy change from the Game 30 period as teams’ performance begins to spread out winners and losers. The Conference has seven teams IN the Playoffs, five more OUT, and three fighting over a seat at the table. PITTSBURGH’s slide is assisting the three teams that have not yet qualified per the OGA model. But BUFFALO, CAROLINA and FLORIDA need to have a combination of five regulation losses and one OTL in the PENS’ next seven games, and a near-max out effort in this evaluation period to be called IN. For the bottom seven teams to cover the distance and move into the upper tier of teams, they need from .5-to-9.5 more wins.

In the West:

The difference between No. 8 and the rest of the West is –3.86, a change from Game 30 of a significant –2.5. The West has six teams IN the Playoffs, two just short of OUT, two OUT, and four playing In The Curve. The difference from the No. 8 seed to the 14th is only 2.5 wins as this conference south of the top two teams is more competitive than the East against the PQC.
These facts tell us the gap between those IN and OUT of the Playoff race in Eastern teams is almost triple the same gap in the West. The Western Conference’s race to the Playoffs is therefore still due to be significantly tighter than in the East.

Team Notes:

At the 30-game mark, OGA’s analysis indicated 12 teams had qualified for the Playoffs with SAN JOSE performing best in the group Chasing Stanley. There is now a baker’s dozen as CALGARY is the only team to join this group at Game 40. The complete list now includes: BOSTON; CALGARY; CHICAGO; DETROIT; MINNESOTA; MONTREAL; NEW JERSEY; NY RANGERS; PHILADELPHIA; PITTSBURGH; SAN JOSE; VANCOUVER; and WASHINGTON. Seven of these teams are in the East and almost set the Playoff picture there; six are in the West; and SAN JOSE is still the leader of this pack at this time with BOSTON hot on their heels.

In the last report, MINNESOTA looked to be in trouble at the Game-30 mark. They had regressed in PQC from +1, to even, to a –.8 over 30 Games and had slipped down the standings. As this post is being written, however, they look to be rebounding a bit despite the loss of MARIAN GABORIK and are just a shade above even. In the Game 30 report, I ranted about the possibility of a lack of heart on GABORIK’s part and it seems he has a legitimate injury. I also did some research and was interested to find that old-Eastern European block countries’ school teachers and parents’ number one concern was not necessarily a student’s class rank – it was how their health was faring. This was due in large measure to such issues as not having nationally established and enforced health standards for such things as the dumping of industrial pollutants into sources of drinking water. That kind of concern over your day-to-day well-being can be a sociological imprint in your character that becomes second nature and that is likely what is going on with GABORIK. If that is the case, the ’no heart’ comment may have been too hasty an opinion. In any case, it seems to be the WILD have seen the last of MARIAN on their ice.

Also, PITTSBURGH is eating a free-fall sandwich whose main ingredients seem to include a lack of confidence, a possible lack of tolerance for the coach, and a lack of players due to injuries. After being called IN the playoffs by OGA on 18 NOVEMBER, they have trailed off in PQC rankings each 10-game evaluation period. In an NHL whose 16 teams currently holding a Playoff position in the standings are winning at an average 63.6% clip, the PENS are only winning 51.1% of their games. At that sustained pace, they will become an OGA Shot Off The Post – a mistaken call that occurs on average 13% of the time – by the final furlong of the season.

Once again, there are NO teams in the next 10-game stretch that stand a better-than-marginal chance of clinching a Playoff berth. Both BUFFALO and FLORIDA would need to complete this evaluation period just about perfect in order to clinch. This means whichever one of them could be called ‘Chasing Stanley’ will be decided no later than Monday, 19 January when these two clubs meet at the Bank Atlantic Center in The Sunshine State. Such teams in the East as BUFFALO, CAROLINA and FLORIDA, and in the West, ANAHEIM, COLUMBUS, DALLAS, EDMONTON, and PHOENIX will flirt with playing In The Curve, awaiting the elimination of others in that list in order to secure one of the few, remaining Playoff positions.

NASHVILLE, OTTAWA and TORONTO seem to be only marginally at Tee Time, OGA’s ranking for eliminated from the Playoffs. If they continue play along their present winning percentages, however, they will remain well entrenched at Tee Time with ATLANTA, the ISLANDERS, ST. LOUIS and TAMPA BAY. The list of the eliminated is more likely to expand than a name is added to the Chasing Stanley list as COLORADO and LOS ANGELES will find themselves OUT of the post-season if they do not vastly improve their winning percentage over the remainder of this evaluation period.

If PITTSBURGH does not go 0-for-5 and COLORADO and LOS ANGELES find themselves eliminated over the remainder of this evaluation period, that will mean OGA has called 73.3% of the NHL either IN or OUT of the Playoffs this season by no later than 5 February.


There are several lessons learned as the NHL hits the Half-Mile Point of the season. First up is that teams in this furlong seem to be playing more along historical averages than in previous evaluation periods. Some of the factors influencing the overall drop in productivity from the Game 1 – 30 spread are: a significant drop in ‘three-point games’ proceeding to OT or a Shootout; while average scoring per game is still increased versus the 2007/2008 season, the improvement is beginning to decline; and the average number of players that have played in every game for their team this season is only a hair over six (6).

Two additionally important notes are: the Eastern Conference scored and won more than the West in the Game 31-40 period; and no new teams are likely to clinch a Playoff berth in the Game 50 period, while COLORADO and LOS ANGELES may find themselves eliminated. Those eliminations would indicate more than 73% of the NHL’s Playoff picture has been decided by 5 February. This is why at OGA we say make trades and change out any coaches NOW versus early MARCH because changes at that juncture would, in almost all cases, be irrelevant to the Playoff picture?

There is still more hockey to play with some exciting battles for Playoff position occurring, but OGA’s PQC is beginning to solidify the picture. Stay logged in to www.ongoalanalysis.com to follow the calls…
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A March of Penguins to the Locker Room

Originally Posted at www.ongoalanalysis.com

It seems in Pittsburgh, bad just got worse. Not only were the Penguins unable to capitalize on a Washington Capitals team stuck in a rut, but they lost some key players in their losing effort Wednesday night when the Caps took control of the game in the 3rd period to finish it 6-3.

The Washington Capitals come into Mellon Arena having lost its previous three contests and were ready to right their course, knowing they were facing the slumping Penguins who have simply been struggling with an identity crises for the previous 20 games. The Pens, however, were coming off an emotional victory the previous night against their cross-state rivals - a very good Philadelphia Flyers team.

For both teams this contest was to be a match of 'whatchya got'. And what they got was a game that started well with Pittsburgh controlling much of the tempo in the first, an evening in the second and then Caps domination in the third.

What they didn't get were as many players leaving the ice healthy by the end of the game as skated on at the beginning. Major blows were metered out to a struggling Penguins team as they lost defenseman and leading shot-blocker, Rob Scuderi who dropped to the ice to block Mike Green's shot and had the puck appear to meet his forhead right where the helmet does. The sound of equipment getting rattled was heard, but a pool of blood under a kneeling Scuderi was seen.

Fortunlately, Scuderi was able to skate off the ice with little assistance but did not return.

In the third period, the Penguins lost heart-and-soul player, Maxime Talbot (upper-body injury) and the extent of his injury is not yet known.

Most damaging, however, with under 4 minutes remaining in the game, was Sidney Crosby's exit with what appeared to be a leg injury.

Now this is really starting to hurt.

At the midpoint of the 2008-09 NHL season, Wednesday's game may be the 'breaking' point for the Penguins. Their struggles of late have been front and center in the hockey media (one of the best teams in the first 20 games/one of the worst in the last 20) and talks of trades and new coaches have all been refuted and rebuffed to this point.

But if the Eastern Conference Champs from last season are to make the playoffs this season (and OGA has already called them IN!) they must realize they are at the proverbial crossroads now if they are going to lose Crosby, Scuderi and Talbot for any extended period of time.

Keep in mind Scuderi led the team in blocked shots...and the Pens are 2nd in the NHL in blocked shots. When a team is struggling with offensive play, they have a tendency to try and tighten up the defensive game, hoping to capitilize on mistakes for offensive production. But without Crosby in the lineup....well, you get the idea here. Although Evgeni Malkin took the team on his shoulders last season when Crosby was out with the high-ankle sprain, this Pittsburgh team is not the same, confident bunch they were this time last year.

Since the Pens have just signed Jordan Staal to a 4-year contract extension, it silenced some of the trade rumors swirling about as a potential solution. And with Michel Therrien, their coach, working as best he can to inspire this team forward (and seemingly secure in his position - for now), one wonders what simply can be done at this juncture.

Playing Evgeni Malkin on the wing against the Caps seemed a good move - remember this was a close contest until the third period. But I think the time has come for this team to take more chances - and give Janne Pesonen the honest look his skills and stats merit. The Finnish eliter was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in late November/early December for only 6 games and saw no more than 7.16 of ice time (Nov 29th) and as little as 2.55 in his last game with the Pens (Dec 8th).

The 26 year old Pesonen was the leading scorer in the Finnish Elite League last season with 78 points in 56 games for Oulu Karpat and finished plus +39. Get him up to the Igloo, give him more than token ice time and see what he can do after a couple of weeks of playing with this battered and struggling Penguins squad. If no other shake-up can break the Pittsburgh Funk (2-8-0 in last 10 and no back-to-back wins since mid-November) and there is no unknown issue with Pesonen (does he bite? is his middle name Avery?), perhaps using the talent within the organization for a fresh approach may get these Penguins marching again.

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com
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Friday, January 9, 2009

An All-Star Game Worth Watching

The NHL All-Star game is rapidly approaching, which means that it's time to start tossing out ideas for improving the game. I was going to save my opinions for the All-Star break, but I figure by that time, we'll all be sick of reading/thinking/talking about it, so I'm putting my two cents in now.

Tex Jr. and I attended the A.S.G. in Dallas in 2007, and the following is the sum total of my memory of the event:

1. Paying $25 to park in my normal lot, where the "normal" game charge is $15.

2. Paying $125 per ticket to sit one row below the rafters.

3. Listening to Tex Jr. enumerate the reasons why he ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE that $250 Vinny Lecavalier Replica (not even Authentic!) All-Star jersey.

3A. Explaining to Tex Jr. that there was NO WAY ON THIS EARTH that I was going to pay $250 for a Replica (not even Authentic!) jersey that would be deeply discounted before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began. (ED NOTE: Tex Jr. did get his jersey - a month after the event, for $119)

4. Oh, yeah: Dion Phaneuf's bank-shot empty net goal from behind his own net.

That's it. The first few minutes are cool, because you're overcome by the TOTALLY FREAKIN' AWESOME-ness of seeing the best players in the game today, assembled on one sheet of ice. Slowly, though, it dawns on you: These guys are just trying to avoid injury! They have absolutely nothing to play for, so I can't really blame them. This got me to thinking: How could you make this thing worthwhile for the players and watchable for the fans?

In my lifetime, the most exciting All-Star Game was...actually a two-game series. Remember Rendez-Vous '87? Played in Quebec City, it featured a team of NHL All-Stars against the Soviets. Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, Bourque and Hawerchuk on the same team. Kamensky, Fetisov, Makarov, Krutov and Larionov on the other side. Come to think of it, Chris Chelios was there, too. Blatantly biased officiating. Cold War overtones. Some of the best non-playoff hockey I've ever seen.

While the political backdrop for the series will (hopefully) never be recreated, I believe a game featuring the NHL All-Stars and a National Team (rotating annually) would be worth watching. With one team playing for national pride and the other playing to prove that the NHL is superior to any national program, there are bound to be fireworks.

As I see it, the games would work like this: Say, for example, the NHL All-Stars face off against Finland this year. The NHL would work with the Finnish Hockey Federation to ensure proper representation of Finns currently in the NHL on the national team roster (while this shouldn't be an issue with Finland, I can see problems when dealing with Russia). No Finns in the NHL would be eligible to play on the NHL All-Star team, so no one has to play against his own country. Obviously, roster spots not filled by NHL Finns would be filled by players from the SM-liiga, as selected by the national hockey federation.

In addition, the NHL All-Stars should be selected by the players, the coaches and the General Managers, period. Once the players have been selected, let the fans vote to assemble lines, defensive pairs, and the goalie rotation. Use the Skills Competition to decide home ice advantage for the All-Star Game.

As I said, the opponent would rotate throughout the IIHF each year. While the NHL vs Canada or the United States would obviously be quite appealing, the idea of the NHL vs Russia holds a certain nostalgic appeal for me. Plus, the thought of a line of Ovechkin-Datsyuk-Malkin facing off against Hossa-Crosby-Kane makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Let the (New and Improved All-Star) Games begin!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Blue Jackets Bandwagon: Now Boarding!

I am amazed at the amount of (electronic) ink/airtime the Columbus Blue Jackets have been receiving lately. I don't say this because I don't think they deserve it; on the contrary. I'm amazed because very few people outside the Greater Columbus Area (and not too many people IN the Area) had any interest in the Jackets until about a month ago. As most of the hockey-watching world knows, that changed with the arrival of The Boy Wonder, 20-year-old goalie Steve Mason.

Tonight, The Hated (only the unenlightened and Satan's minions call them the Detroit Red Wings) defeated injury-plagued Columbus, 3-0. No matter; the Blue Jackets are building something big - something good - on the banks of the Scioto River. And a child shall lead them...but which one? For now, Mason has strapped the team to his back. Fellow rookie Jakub Voracek may be a year or two away from greatness (or at least very goodness), but he's already shown enough flashes to make fans sit up and take notice every time he hops over the boards. Derrick Brassard will be back next season, ready to pick up where he left off. Nikita Filatov is waiting in the wings (and with tonight's injury to Rick Nash, he might be Columbus-bound sooner, rather than later). So much promise, so many possibilities...it's pretty damned exciting.

The excitement surrounding the Blue Jackets goes beyond the promise of seasons to come, beyond the current excitement of a young goalie carrying a beat-to-hell team and establishing himself as a front-runner for the Calder Trophy (while visions of Vezinas dance in fans' heads). The kicker is this: In spite of all the injuries, which have laid bare their lack of depth, Columbus is still in the playoff hunt! They haven't clinched a playoff spot, but On Goal Analysis can't call them OUT of the race...yet. Their margin of error is slim, but they've still got a chance. Yes, it really is exciting.

I know I'm not the only person who feels this way. I know this because I went to shop.NHL.com with the intent to purchase a SECOND (yes, I already had one, you Jacket-Come-Latelys) Columbus t-shirt. I was prepared to plunk down the plastic... until I discovered that the shirt I wanted was on backorder. What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks?!?! I doubt ANY Columbus Blue Jackets merchandise has EVER been out of stock/on backorder since the franchise's first season. But it is now.

With that, I'd like to welcome everyone to the Blue Jackets Bandwagon. Grab a seat and buckle up - it's going to be quite a ride. Oh, and be sure to stop by shop.NHL and order your t-shirt, so you can show your support for the team...in 2-4 weeks.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis
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Saturday, January 3, 2009

FLA Panthers Eat Flightless Birds

Today's afternoon tilt between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers was supposed to be an opportunity for the faltering Penguins to find their wings again and get their game back in order.

But the exact opposite was realized when the Panthers routed the Pens 6-1 at Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh. The Penguins, losing their 5th straight game at home, have dropped 10 of their last 14 games and are desperately searching for answers.

Rumors swirl on the tongues of analysts and on the intertubes about trades...about replacing coach Michael Therrien...but for the Penguins themselves the answer is more simple, albeit elusive: Find A Way.

The Penguins core is relatively the same team that advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. In fact, the anticipated Stanley Cup Hangover appears to have eluded Detroit and instead found its way to the Igloo so you can imagine the level of frustration that must be felt in the Pens' locker room. The players believe it's time for an extra workout in the weight room and a little extra time spent on the ice at practice.

But if the organization were to explore trade options to jump start a recovery to this season, they cannot afford to wait for the trade deadline or for grabbing the caliber of player they did last year in Marion Hossa. If a trade is what it will take, they will need to work the phones now. Oft denied interest in the available Brendan Shanahan may be worth rethinking...

Pittsburgh had such an excellent start to the season (12-4-3) it surprised many they were able to do so without their top two defensemen, Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney. While Whitney is back in action, Gonchar has just begun skating in practice again (no contact) and is still estimated to be a month out from playing. But it's not so much the D plaguing the Pens as it is the Box...the Penalty Box to be precise and how much time the Penguins are spending there of late.

Frustration in losing leads to bad penalties and time spent in the box is time not spent on the ice contributing to scoring. Take today's game for example. As exciting as it is to see Sydney Crosby take his second career fighting major, it guarantees the opposition the Kid Captain won't be on the ice for 5 minutes. In fact, Syd took a total of 21 PIMs today (his career high). Fight or Flight, Right?

The Pens are too good of a team to not find a way out of this funk...the question is how soon can they find the path. With Buffalo's win against the super-dooper Bruins today, they fall to 9th in the East and just out of playoff contention. OGA has already called the Penguins IN per the On Goal Analysis Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) and we stick to the call. The season is not quite half over and there is plenty of hockey to be played. The question is whether the team (as it exists today) will find the means or if a shakeup is required to jolt the tuxedoed birds back into flight.

And just in case you missed it, here's Syd trying a different tactic on the faceoff dot...

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OTTAWA at TORONTO on 3 January: A Playoff Caliber Game

I do not know what you saw in the Senators/Maple Leafs battle Saturday night, but I for one saw a playoff caliber game. Here are several reasons why:

1. The “Underdog” won. When you think of Ottawa and Toronto on the same sheet of ice, you mind likely goes to history. Since the Lockout, Ottawa has been a powerhouse who has won 17-of-27 meetings since the Lockout. You contemplate dominance. For the Senators, that was not tonight.

2. HITS! There were 62 hits in this game. And Toronto out-hit Ottawa in every period. (There are going to be a lot of ice bags in use tonight.)

3. There was disbelief on faces from the Ottawa bench, followed by anger on the ice, and then, resignation back on the bench again. This range of emotions were present, a microcosm of, for some, several days in their life of sanity and drama, all rolled up into three hours. It is why some play, and why some cannot. And Hockey Night In Canada captured it well.

4. And kudos to Toronto netminder VESA TOSKALA who, in case you missed it, attempted to make a shot on the empty Ottawa net and be the first goalie in a long time to notch a goal. It was knocked down by an Ottawa defender near the blueline and a re-attack on the Maple Leafs was launched. (That would have been 100 points in my Hockey pool!)

The only issue here is that Ottawa is likely not going to make it to the post-season for the first time since the Lockout, and Toronto has a fringe chance of going to that show. But this is why Hockey is such an awesome sport - there are times when the standings do not matter one lick and this was one of them. One of the more expensive tickets-per-seat in the NHL, I would offer nobody left thinking they didn't get their money's worth. I watched it via CenterIce Online and it is the kind of game that made the annual investment worthwhile.

I say play it again, Sam…
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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Musings on Trades and the Big-Game Greatness of Detroit

Just a few thoughts/questions before bed:

1. Is there a team in the NHL capable of beating the Red Wings in a seven-game series? Boston, perhaps...um...hang on; I'm still thinking...Boston (maybe), and...

2. If I were Glen Sather, I'd be wondering if the Panthers were foolish enough to take Wade Redden, Dan Fritsche, and my 2nd round pick this year for Jay Bouwmeester.

3. If I were Scott Howson, I'd have several questions: First, is Nikita Filatov the Real Deal, worth the time investment necessary to allow him to develop and reach his full potential, or is he worth more to Columbus in the long run if he can be dealt for a player who can put the Blue Jackets over the top (and into the playoffs) NOW? Second, if making the playoffs this season is more important, would the Senators take Filatov and this years' 1st round pick for Jason Spezza? Third, what if we throw in Christian Backman? Fourth, if the Sens won't deal for Spezza, will they still take Backman? Fifth, will Toronto give up Pavel Kubina for Methot and a 2nd round pick (or are the Leafs foolish enough to take Backman)? Sixth, what in the world am I going to do with Pascal Leclaire?

4. With Minnesota apparently out of the running in the Ilya Kovalchuk Sweepstakes, Montreal is supposedly the front-runner now. If he lands in Montreal, Kovalchuk will be the SEVENTH "K" on the Kanadiens' roster. The kwestion is: Why is Montreal trying to korner the market on players whose surnames begin with a "K"? I kould go on like this, but I'll spare you...this time.
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The Eliminated… And Why You Should Watch

On Goal Analysis has already made the call that five NHL teams – ATLANTA, the NEW YORK ISLANDERS, OTTAWA, ST. LOUIS, and TAMPA BAY – have been eliminated from their chance to compete for the Stanley Cup this season. With that said, the Hockey fan inside tells us there are at least three reasons to still go see these teams play despite what is likely their chosen outcome.

ATLANTA THRASHERS: 12-21-5; OGA PQC – 1.45; Historical PQC – 1.9125; OGA Elimination Date – 12 December 2008

1. Rookie Center BRYAN LITTLE is the team’s leading scorer with 19 goals, which is on pace for 42 tallies this season. He is the leading PP goal scorer and has lit the lamp seven times in the last four games.

2. ATLANTA’s PP is #9 in the NHL right now, with the likes of KOVALCHUK, KOZLOV, WHITE and LITTLE on the ice.

3. The chance to watch KOVALCHUK on home ice. There are tons of trade rumors, blogs and mongers out there stating KOVY should be, or will be, traded. MINNESOTA and MONTREAL are likely partners. Despite ATLANTA’s ability to contend or not, ILYA has been one of the top goal scorers in the League and he likely won’t be around Philips Arena for half of the regular season.

The NEW YORK ISLANDERS: 12-22-4; OGA PQC – 1.4; Historical PQC – 1.8375; OGA Elimination Date – 1 November 2008

1. DOUG WEIGHT is one point away from the 1000 point plateau. Less than 100 players have done so in a career, and the first ever was GORDIE HOWE in the 1960/61 season.

2. JOEY MAC in net keeping the Isles in the game and the under-20-year-old JOSH BAILEY learning his way in the NHL. These guys with KYLE OKPOSO and TRENT HUNTER are the future of the Islanders and it is always great to get a glimpse into a crystal ball.

3. Games like the December 29th battle in MSG. Seventeen of their 36 games this season have been decided by a single goal. AND they have beaten MONTREAL, the RANGERS and VANCOUVER who have all clinched playoff berths this season already.

OTTAWA SENATORS: 13-17-5; OGA PQC – 1.55; Historical PQC – 2.137; OGA Elimination Date – 19 December 2008

1. The magic of HEATLEY – SPEZZA – ALFREDSSON, though not overpowering as in past seasons, is still a sight to see.

2. ALFREDSSON getting that pass short of the neutral zone and what happens afterwards.

3. OTTAWA wins by an average of more than two goals per game. Some of those victories have come against the likes of the RANGERS, PHILADELPHIA, PITTSBURGH, and WASHINGTON who, according to us here at OGA, have all clinched a berth in the Playoffs.

ST. LOUIS BLUES: 14-20-3; OGA PQC – 1.55; Historical PQC – 1.5875; OGA Elimination Date – 16 December 2008

1. The play of PATRICK BERGLUND who is scoring about once every five SOG he takes

2. BRAD BOYES on the PP – his 10 PPG are tied for second most in the league with BUFFALO’s THOMAS VANEK.

3. Home play. The BLUES have a winning home record, have scored 62 and given up 63 goals at home, and they have beaten the BLACKHAWKS, SHARKS and WILD in the Scottrade Center.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: 10-16-10; OGA PQC – 1.5; Historical PQC – 1.725; OGA Elimination Date – 8 December 2008

1. MIKE SMITH is a legitimate Number 1 goalie for this team. A bit more defense in front of him would yield more W’s.

2. Twenty. This is the number of times a TAMPA BAY game has been decided by one goal. That is a source of frustration for LIGHTNING fans. But when 56% of your games are decided by this narrow margin, you have high excitement at the end of most games to go along with your ability to throttle up and beat just about anybody you play.

3. There has not been any team to come back from a PQC deficit larger than WASHINGTON faced last year since the Lockout. In order for someone to do so, a team would have to take on a completely different personality. If ever a team had the talent to suddenly jell and become a completely different team on the ice than we have seen so far this year, however, it would be the LIGHTNING. But make no mistake – the road back up is very tough at this point – TAMPA would have to play .750 hockey. In other words, they would need to be BOSTON or DETROIT for the rest of the season.

At OGA, we want the local fans to continue to back their team through the frustrations because we know the difference between winning and losing is SOOOOO close. Looking above, there are reasons to go out there and see your team or make a road trip like the OGA Staff did at the beginning of the season. Have more reasons to see your team? Let us know at shotongoal@ongoalanalysis.com...