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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Coming Soon: The NHL Weekend Roadie

As our longtime followers know, we OGA boys like us some hockey road trips. In our two-plus years of existence, we’ve been to (and blogged/Tweeted from) these NHL arenas:

• Madison Square Garden
• Nassau Coliseum
• Verizon Center
• Mellon Arena
• Air Canada Centre
• Philips Arena
• Scottrade Center
• Nationwide Arena
• American Airlines Center

Heading into our third year of existence, we’ve decided to share the wealth (such as it is) with our readers. Starting in August, The NHL Weekend Roadie will be a regular feature. For each weekend during the season, we’ll put together a road trip we’d take if our wives and wallets would let us. We’re going to tell you which games to catch, where to eat, where to sleep, and maybe even offer some suggestions as to what to do when you’re not eating, sleeping, traveling between arenas, or watching hockey. The only decisions you’ll have to make will be which flight to book and how to justify the trip to your significant other…and hell, we might even have some suggestions for that, too (we’re very good at rationalizing).

So tune in next week for the first installment of The NHL Weekend Roadie, and get ready to hit the road. Remember: that light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a freight train; it’s the 2010-2011 NHL season. Plan accordingly.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Other Kovalchukian Toughts - The Colonel

You have been bombarded. The name 'Kovalchuck' or the shortened 'Kovy' have burned up more digits than you can shake a contract at. I know - you need an aspirin and something appropriate to wash it down.

But in no particular order, I would like to throw two more cents at some alternative Kovalchukian thoughts before I get over it and move on to other things:

1. NJD is going for it this season. They have some strong forwards. They believe they have a solid blueline. They have Marty AND Hedberg in net. AT least the second round of the playoffs is within their grasp...

2. Like him or not, Lou's contract is brilliant on several levels. First, he sets his LW position with room to extend Parise coming up. Second, the big hit is a few years down the road when potential NJD winning fills more seats at the Rock and therefore has more of a chance to pay for the big contract. Third, it is within the rules of the CBA as written (like it or not). Fourth, if for some reason he cannot extend Parise, he has his new #1 LW already in the fold. (Don't take this one lightly - this puts pressure both on Parise to perform and 'K to stay healthy and productive going into the $11M+ years.) And finally, Lou is not getting any younger, and neither is The K-man. It could be that both the problems with this in later contract years and the LWer's longevity solve this whole thing a couple of six - 10 years down the road.

3. How much does a player making that much money owe the team in terms of off-ice service to the fanbase/community? I say, as an average Joe out here, he owes a lot. An appearance once or twice a week is not too much to ask for the money in my book, especially if he is working with kid's programs. Like me or don't for that, I don't care - I am not alone on this thought by a long shot.

4. In next year's fantasy pool, do you take Kovalvechkin or Gagne in TBL? Sure I'm giving myself away, but I take Gagne first. He is on the last year of his contract so has a lot to play for. The Big K has to set aside ego to play #2 LW, learn a new coach's system, and if his frustration level is high, screw it, he has the big contract, right? I say you are going to get more effort, night in and night out, from Gagne.

And I cannot resist, although this has nothing to do with The K-ster. The only thing left to get a playoff run in is to sit Marty for 15 - 20 games during the regular season. Come on - let's learn from history. If you want to go long in the post-Lockout world, you are going to run your goalie for roughly 20 games past their regular season totals. Marty is only making it an average of nine games, and not looking at his best doing it, most likely because the 70+ games in front of the playoffs wore him out. Pride be damned, sit Marty for 15 - 20 WITH the addition of the re-newest Devil and you may have found yourself something past the first round.

Another blog-thought from On Goal Analysis,and our last words about the K person this summer...
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Few Summertime Hockey Thoughts

It's July in Texas (and in the rest of the world, come to think of it), which means the temperature today should be around 100, I've got 120 channels of NOTHING ON, and I'm thinking about hockey. It's not Hump Day, but here are my current Hockey Thoughts:

1. Ilya Kovalchuk. Special K still hasn't signed a contract, and I'm not losing any sleep over it. In fact, I refuse to lose any sleep over Kovy unless he signs with New Jersey (because I'm a Rangers fan, of course). After reading numerous blogs, Tweets and bathroom wall poems on the Kovalchuk saga, I've managed to piece together the following: First, he turns down a long-term, megamillions offer from Atlanta, which says, "It's not me, Atlanta, it's you." Now, Everyone's Favorite Defensively Disinterested Sniper appears to want the following: A) A long-term, megamillions contract, and B) To play for a perinneal Cup contender. Well, I want a winning lottery ticket AND a time machine, but the constraints of reality and the salary cap mean Ilya and I are both screwed. I suspect he'll sign with the Kings (eventually), for less money and time than he's currently seeking, while I will keep wasting money on lottery tickets...and he'll probably help the Kings win their first Stanley Cup.

2. The Southeast Division. In case you haven't noticed, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida have all decided to get serious about winning. All three have made significant front-office changes since the season ended, and on-ice changes have followed (to varying degrees). Of the three, post-Kovalchuk Atlanta is most intriguing. The Thrashers finished just five points out of a playoff spot in April, and have made significant acquisitions since, taking full advantage of the Blackhawks' cap woes. I expect Atlanta to start the season slowly, as new linemates develop chemistry and the entire team adjusts to new head coach Craig Ramsay's system. By late November, this team should be firing on all cylinders, and a playoff berth is a very real possibility.

3. Mike Modano. I live in the Dallas area. Unless they're playing the Rangers, the Stars are my team, and have been since they moved here from Minnesota. I think I can speak for most Stars fans when I say that the only thing worse than a post-Modano world is a post-Modano world in which Mighty Mo is now playing for The Hated Red Wings. Feel free to quote me on this:

Mike Modano in a Red Wings sweater is like George Washington wearing a swastika armband.
--Big Tex, July 2010

Seriously: Modano to The Hated Red Wings is wrong on every level. While I can understand the desire to keep playing, the fact is that another season isn't going to give Mo the near-perfect ending he had in both his home finale (1G, 1A, shootout-winning goal) and the season-ender back in Minnesota. Better to retire (perhaps) a year too soon than to play (perhaps) a year too long, I says.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, it's just about Mojito time, methinks. Until next time...

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Patterns in The 2010-2011 NHL Schedule and Your Road Trip – The Colonel

So with the new regular season NHL schedule out since before the Entry Draft, you have probably had a lot of time to look at it and try and determine what road trips you are looking forward to making in the coming season. Many of you will pick you trip based on your first favorite team playing the team you hate the most or love second best. Some of you might be on the road to reach those barns you have not visited yet. (Is there a better goal than to make it to all 30 arenas? Possibly not…) And others may be picking a road trip to follow your favorite team in your favorite part of the United States or Canada.

There are many ways to pick your favorite trip. We would like to point out two considerations.

One of the things the NHL has done for you is made road tripin’ more economical by shortening those road trips in the last, roughly third of the season. In every case, the majority of games played from about the last 20 – 30 games are played within conference.

Here’s how many games each Eastern Conference team plays closer to home toward season’s end:

ATL – 20 of 22 from 23 FEB to end of season

BOS – 17 of 20 from 1 MAR to end of season

BUF – 18 of 21 from 1 MAR to end of season

CAR – 17 of 20 from 1 MAR to end of season

FLA – 22 of 25 from 19 FEB to end of season

MTL – 18 of 21 from 24 FEB to end of season

NJD – 21 of 23 from 25 FEB to end of season

NYI – 21 of 23 from 21 FEB to end of season

NYR – 20 of 23 from 18 FEB to end of season

OTT – NO games after from 15 FEB to end of season (last 26)

PHI – 21 of 23 from 22 FEB to end of season

PIT – 18 of 20 from 25 FEB to end of season

TBL – 19 of 22 from 25 FEB to end of season

TOR – 32 of 36 from 22 JAN to end of season

WSH – 18 of 23 from 20 FEB to end of season

And here is what you look like out West:

ANA – 23 of 24 from 18 FEB to end of season

CGY – 20 of 22 from 20 FEB to end of season

CHI – 17 of 23 from 21 FEB to end of season

COL – 22 of 23 from 19 FEB to end of season

CBJ – 24 of 29 from 9 FEB to end of season

DAL – 21 of 22 from 22 FEB to end of season

DET – 16 of 20 from 28 FEB to end of season

EDM – 16 of 19 from 1 MAR to end of season

LAK – NO games after from 23 FEB to end of season (last 23)

MIN – 13 of 16 from 8 MAR to end of season

NSH – 26 of 30 from 5 FEB to end of season

PHX – 18 of 20 from 25 FEB to end of season

SJS – NO games after from 25 FEB to end of season (last 20)

STL – 22 of 25 from 19 FEB to end of season

VAN – 18 of 20 from 26 FEB to end of season

This breakdown should also tell you if you are looking to catch that one game teams play against the opposing conference’s teams, be prepared to go in the fall or early winter.

But here at On Goal Analysis, we also like to think out of the box. We like the extraordinary. So follow us on this one…

In its great wisdom, the NHL schedulers provided several back-to-back, home-and-away pairs of games for teams this season. It is not exactly what we have called for in other posts of closing (nay, deciding) the season with four sets of three game playoff-like series against Division rivals over the final five weeks of play. But it does produce many opportunities for not-forgotten battles to rage and re-rage over a very short period of time. Call it the “Little Ball of Hate” tour if we can borrow from Pat Verbeek, or our favorite, 'The Battle Of The Pairs'.

Mind you, I am looking at the schedules in the middle of the night after a long day at work, but here are the pairings I found for Eastern Conference teams from the perspective of the team in bold at left:

ATL: A four-in-a-row turn vs NJD 11 MAR; @ PHI 12 MAR; @ NJD 15 MAR; and vs PHI 17 MAR

BOS: PHX in CZE 9 – 10 OCT; WSH 19 – 21 OCT; CAR 17 – 18 JAN; and DET 11 & 13 FEB

BUF: NYI 21 & 23 JAN

CAR: MIN in FIN 7 – 8 OCT; FLA 5 – 6 NOV; BOS 17 – 18 JAN; and TBL 25 – 26 MAR

FLA: CAR 5 – 6 NOV

MTL: NYI 27 & 29 OCT

NJD: PHI 6 & 8 JAN and TBL 9 & 14 JAN

NYI: MTL 27 & 29 OCT; NYR 2 – 3 DEC; BUF 21 & 23 JAN and WSH 26 FEB & 1 MAR

NYR: NYI 2 – 3 DEC and OTT 5 – 9 DEC

OTT: None

PHI: NJD 6 & 8 JAN

PIT: @ TOR 26 FEB & 2 MAR

TBL: CAR 25 – 26 MAR

TOR: vs PIT 26 FEB & 2 MAR

WSH: BOS 19 & 21 OCT; FLA 8 & 11 JAN; NYI 26 FEB & 1 MAR; and FLA 6 – 9 APR

As you can see, ATL doesn’t have any back-to-back pairs, but they do have an interesting, four game home and away chain versus NJD and PHI.

And while OTT does not have any of these pairings, have a look at the Western Conference teams where the potential for the ‘get-even’ factor will be higher:

ANA: LAK 8 – 9 APR

CGY: MIN 18 & 20 DEC and STL 27 FEB & 1 MAR

CHI: COL 13 & 15 DEC; NSH 15 – 16 JAN; and DET 8 & 10 APR

COL: CHI 13 & 15 DEC and DAL 7 – 8 APR

CBJ: SJS in SWE 8 – 9 OCT; DET 26 & 28 NOV; DET 14 – 15 JAN; and STL 7 & 9 MAR

DAL: ANA 12 & 16 NOV; STL 26 – 27 NOV; SJS 13 & 16 DEC; and COL 7 – 8 APR

DET: CBJ 26 & 28 NOV; CBJ 14 – 15 JAN; BOS 11 & 13 FEB; and CHI 8 & 10 APR

EDM: VAN 2 & 5 APR

LAK: PHX 20 & 22 JAN; ANA 8 – 9 APR

MIN: CAR in FIN 7 – 8 OCT; CGY 18 & 20 DEC; STL 11 – 12 FEB; and STL 26 & 29 MAR

NSH: CHI 15 – 16 JAN

PHX: BOS in CZE 9 – 10 OCT; LAK 20 & 22 JAN; and SJS 8 – 9 APR

SJS: CBJ in SWE 8 – 9 OCT and PHX 8 – 9 APR

STL: CHI 18 & 22 OCT; DAL 26 – 27 NOV; MIN 11 – 12 FEB; CGY 27 FEB & 1 MAR; CBJ 7 & 9 MAR; and MIN 26 & 29 MAR

VAN: EDM 2 & 5 APR

So maybe you cannot get to the European matches. That’s OK. Try any one of the 11 intra-divisional match-ups in the West. Or go see CHI and COL because of the youth and speed movement on both teams. Or catch STL, the grand champion awardee of the Battle of The Pairs this season with six pairs of back-to-backs, home-and-aways. Or, or, or…

While we still advocate scheduling things to end the season with four of the final, five weeks as intra-divisional, three-game mini-series, there is still lots of opportunity to either travel within your own part of the country from mid- to late-February onward or catch one or more of the 67 Battles of ‘The Pairs.’
Which way are you headed this season?

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