Saturday, December 03, 2005

Forever and a day

Hello there hockey fans. It's been forever since I've graced the board with hockey news, but here I am with a mid-season update.

I feel compelled to note first that in just 24 games this year, Jason Spezza has earned himself a league leading 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists), averaging 1.79 points per game. He's on pace for just about 147 points this season. In contrast, last season's scoring leader Martin St. Louis scored 94 points in 82 games for an average of 1.14 points per game. Even more astonishingly there are at least 30 skaters with an absolute chance of breaking the hundred point mark this season. If you haven't heard, scoring is up.

Remarkably, goaltending is not down as much as you'd think. The top three goaltenders in Goals Against Average in 2003-2004 all had GAA's under 2.00 (1.68, 1.88, 1.98). This year, Hasek, Lundqvist and Fernandez are holding their own for GAA's of 1.94, 2.00 and 2.02 respectively. These are phenomenal totals for a league with such a dramatic increase in offense.

OLN has scheduled three games for this Monday and Tuesday. The matchups are disappointing, probably because OLN will only air games on Mondays and Tuesdays. Still, hockey is hockey, and here are my quickie summaries of the games:

Wild at Rangers, 7PM Monday: This game will likely feature two of the top three goalies in GAA in the league. Manny Fernandez has been excellent in goal recently, but he hasn't been getting the goal support necessary to win games. The Wild have lost seven out of their last nine games, mustering only 12 goals in the seven losses. The Rangers had won six straight before dropping their last game to the Capitals. Henrik Lundqvist gave up five goals before getting pulled midway through the third period. Look for both teams to get strong play out of their goalies in this one.

Islanders at Blues, 8PM Tuesday: The lackluster Islanders meet the hapless Blues on Tuesday night in what could possibly be the year's least exciting hockey game. St. Louis comes into the game with an NHL worst 13 points and a goal differential of -38. The Islanders are lucky to be in the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference with their .500 record. Look for New York to score quite a few goals in this one.

Thrashers at Sharks, 10:30PM Tuesday: This is possibly the best game on the slate for this week on OLN. The Sharks are circling after their big trade for Joe Thornton. They gave up a lot to get this guy, but he has already made a big difference, with two goals to help his team come from behind against the Maple Leafs. The Sharks have been bad, losing 10 in a row before pulling together two wins at the end of the week. However, of the 10 losses, six were one goal games, and three of those were lost in shootouts. San Jose is close, and the Thornton deal might be exactly what they need.

Atlanta is just plain bad. They aren't as bad as St. Louis or even Florida or Washington, but they just can't seem to get it together this year. The Thrashers had their own blockbuster trade early in the season, sending all-star Dany Heatly to Ottawa for Marian Hossa and Peter Bondra, but the trade has not worked out well for Atlanta. The Thrashers have scorers, but they lack depth in their lines. They also have terrible goaltending -- third to last in goals against. Look for the new look Sharks to take advantage.

So there you have it. At this point, it would do the NHL good to offer programming to networks for free to see if anyone would pick up a Red Wings game or something. It would be worth a shot, because the "Sidney Crosby on OLN on Monday nights" angle is not working to rejuvinate the league.

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