Tag Archives: madden

NHL Center Ice Package: I’m Sold

I broke down and ordered the NHL Center Ice package tonight. It was actually a Facebook conversation with a co-worker that convinced me it was worth the $172 for the next six months, or as he put it, less than the cost of going to two games. My interest started with a sincere interest in seeing Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez take on the Bruins tonight. What I got was a lingering taste of the seven-plus years Mrs. Snowman and I spent in the Boston suburbs, channeling NESN on a 17-inch TV. It’s still NESN carrying the Bruins home game, but it’s in HD — a little bit of old school Boston sports mixed with geographic diversity. Given that all of the out of market games are redirections of local coverage, I’m looking forward to getting to know the broadcast voices of the Lightning, Canadiens, Ducks, Hawks and perhaps the Flyers, as I follow some brand name as well as lesser-known but fun to watch players (Halpern, Powe and Parros, along with Madden, Toews, Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta).

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Beauty, A?

According to the Devils team website, Elias is wearing the “A” again this season, along with John Madden. I can’t remember seeing a formal announcement of this, so perhaps it’s a subtle entree to a season in which predictions of the Devils’ demise are so frequent they go past the point of Clemensy. Perhaps it’s Sutter’s implicit call on Patrik to return to the winger of years past. Or maybe it’s just time for Patrik to be the Czech point among himself, Holik and Vrana. According to that ancient Sports Illustrated piece, we know what the “A” resolves to for Holik – and I, for one, can’t wait to see it resolve in person.

Under 48 hours, 2 days of work, and one Jewish Holiday to go.

Winner, Eleven

Winner, eleven — that is, on the eleventh goal of last night’s Devils-Thrashers game (11 goals? In a Devils game?? Hello, Coach Sutter!). I was hoarse from yelling at the television and radio broadcasts but all’s well that ends well. In this case, there was ample material for holler-backs.

The Good: Elias gets his first goal, and nets two goals and a very pretty assist on Zajac’s tying goal. The Devils didn’t give up when they were down two goals, and after squandering single-goal leads. Strong, solid forecheck, including the last power play of the game which may have been the best I’ve seen in three seasons. The days of long-range bombing from the point, typically resulting in a blocked shot, a riccochet to start a short-handed attempt, or the puck clearing the attack zone, are over and done. Precise passing and shooting through open lanes. Tying all of the good together: Elias fires from the top of the slot, rebound comes to the right where he scoops it, fires back to Martin, who re-feeds Patrik for the game-winning goal. Puck control, skating hard to make time and space, and shooting through lanes rather than into shinpads.

The Interesting and Good: John Madden has re-emerged as a goal scorer. Not that he had ever lost the touch, but I think in previous seasons he was forced into a role of sheep-dogging the opponent’s top-line, over-watched center-pieces to the point where he was playing defense instead of pivot, with or with-out overt over-hyphenation for emphasis. I think my son puts it best: “Maddog is a hard worker.” When teenagers recognize work, you know it’s valuable and valued. When you go from two scoring lines to three, it’s a big deal for your opponents. Half of the Devils goals last night came from the Madden-Pandolfo combination.

The Bad: I always follow games through live caps at 2 Man Advantage because their photo editing captures the mood so perfectly. It’s like enjoying one of the old Monkees TV shows with the cutaway jokes to make a visual pun. Last night they challenged Brodeur to stop a beachball (but stopped short of suggesting he couldn’t make do with a pitchfork, both a Devilishly good utensil and the best for spearing wayward plastic). I’m not so sure it was Brodeur, more of the weak defense on the weak side (again) and a complete lack of attention to the wings on the weak side. A possible breaking point in the game came when Kovalchuk was left unmolested on the left side, with Dave Clarkson just behind the play. When the “D” is back, cutting down the shooting lanes, the wings have to fill in and take away the passing lanes. Nobody got between Kovalchuk and the puck from the cross-zone pass to the one-time that eluded Marty. Partly a rookie mistake, partly bad defense. If the Devils are going to play a more aggressive offensive game, then the natural by-product is that they’re going to have more goals scored against them — this goes both ways. But I’d much rather see the Devils win 6-5 than lose 2-1. Any day.

The Ugly: Bobby Holik. How his crease-crashing that resulted in Brodeur looking up at the Thrasher’s third goal was not a penalty escapes me. Why give the captain-C to a player with the loyalty of a cat and the leadership qualities of a high school locker room bully? To top it off, our brilliant TV commentators relayed a story that Elias and Holik had spoken when Holik was given the “C”, just as Patrik had his revoked, randomness rooted in their Czech heritage. Maybe if Elias races across the Hudson to pimp his contract, there will be some kind of similarity here, but then we’d have to talk about Gomez.

So we will: Elias has 4 points (2 G, 2A) and Gomez has half of that, only thanks to a miserable assist late in last night’s Senatorial smackdown. If Gomer was on his way to 63 helpers, he should have quadrupled his output. Personally, I think the relative economics lesson here is that there’s half a Gome$$ separating the two. Double oof.

It’s Over in the Swamp

Yes, I’m profoundly sad that the Devils season has ended. As many of the Devils said in the press, they had a team that could have gone far in the postseason, and now three seasons in a row have ended with the Devils going no better than 5-5. Could have is the operative phrase, but I’m equally worried about the this team suggestion that somehow this year’s roster is going to change dramatically.

If it changes for the better, I’m all for it. The Devils looked horrible on defense. Turnovers in their own end, lack of a quick break out, and an inability to clear the big guns from Tampa Bay and Ottawa out of the slot. The Devils were clearly out-coached. Not that the Ottawa top line was that much better than New Jersey’s top line, but more than 80% of Ottawa’s goals came from those three guys. Whatever the Madden line was doing to shut them down wasn’t working, and in all honestly, probably wasn’t Madden, Pandolfo and Brylin’s fault. If you keep doing the same things and expect different results, without any other context switches, it’s a sign of insanity. The same thing goes for the attack side; I could count how many shots Ottawwa blocked but it would only emphasize that the Devils attack consisted of throwing the puck toward the net and hoping for a tip-in. Everyone caught on to it after the first few games, and more crisp passing, cycling and quick shots were in order. But see above regarding turnovers.

I’m betting on changes at the blueline. I’m also betting that Lou doesn’t hold on to both of Rafalski and Gomez, and my public opinion is that if that’s the case, Gomez should stay. He had a great playoffs and he scored when needed. There’s chemistry on the EGG line (when healthy) that could promote them into the ranks of Heatley-Alfredsson or Lecavalier-St. Louis in terms of consistent offensive threats. With Brylin on the fourth line for the last game, it’s clear that his stock is falling, so the Devils are short of quality centers. And finally, if Gomez crosses the Hudson to wear a blue shirt, he will be the subject of more fan derision than Bobby Holik. It’s not always about money.

Anybody know a good head coach?

Enter the Dragons

A night of Dragons.

In the northern part of our fair Garden State, the Hockey North America Ice Dragons played our final game of the season, tied for first in the division but lacking the tie-breaker with a game in hand. We needed a win or a tie to clinch our first-ever division title and a #1 seed going into the annual playoffs. This isn’t just about pride, or a feeling of accomplishment to put you on hockey cruise control through the summer; it’s about a trip to Toronto for the HNA Tournament.

With such dramatic backdrop, eight guys came to play last night, along with a goalie we borrowed from another team (thanks, Laurie!). It was a night of double shifts, of double shifts that may have turned into triple shifts because staying in one place at the blue line was easier than skating back to the bench for a change. My contributions for the night consisted of setting a screen for our second goal, and chasing after one of our opponent’s truly large defenseman, who has a slapshot that could crack concrete. I needed neither oxygen nor a stretcher, both big wins.

But not as big as coming up on the long side of a 3-2 score. Fortunately we had a 3-0 lead early in the first to work from, and then we basically held on for the next 30 minutes of hockey. The imperative to hang on, sloopy may not have worked for the Buckeyes (twice) this year, but it landed the Dragons the top spot in the slot.

Further south, in the city where the only thing taller than William Penn’s hat is the pile of complaints about the Flyers, the Devils clinched another Atlantic Division title, one game earlier and without any help (compared to last year’s dependence on Rangers misery). A big game for Brodeur, who set the single-season record for wins, breaking the mark held by Bernie Parent (who was in the building to see it happen!). And a big game for NJ native Jim Dowd, who scored the game-winner, short-handed, about halfway through the third.

Nhl.com had just run an article on short-handed goals, focusing on John Madden, but this year it’s been Dowd with the fast feet on the penalty kill. What’s the connection? Jim Dowd played his high school hockey in Brick, NJ, home of the Green Dragons.

Enter the dragons, professional and amateur, into the playoffs.

Lucky Is As Lucky Does

Two and a half hours to puck drop. An hour until we leave for the great swamp. I’m pulling out all of the stops, all of the swag, everything I can think of, do, or conjure up to send luck to the boys in red and black tonight. We’ll be there in person, look for us to the right of Brodeur, about one section over and 6 rows back of the net. We’re the ones asking the goal judge to only hit the magic red button during the second period (when the Devils are shooting toward us).

Pre-game lucky checklist:

T-Shirt: Czech. Pun intended. The proper undergarment is the foundation upon which all luck builds. Although I’m going to riffle through the Minnesota, North Dakota, and Team USA hockey shirts, just to send a little reiki energy to Mssrs Langenbrunner, Parise, Martin, Gomez and Gionta.

Sneakers: NikeID Frees, in red and black. I don’t care if it drizzles and my feet swim home, as long as we’re singing happily in the rain.

Cheer gear: Czech (flag). A small remainder from the 2003 playoffs. It has been waved, moved, furled, unfurled, lost, found, and stored in a mojo-protected energy-sealed area for three years. As Rafiki would say, “It is time.”

Chair of power: Power creates slapshots. Slapshots break sticks. Broken sticks make a nice Adirondack chair. I sit, and contemplate my navel, then discover it’s gotten harder to get up. Must lay off of the Little League snack bar treats.

Evil Eye Avoidance: Hockey News cover shot of Elias and Klee is turned over, avoiding all ken-klee-a-horas.

Sharpie Kingdom: Scribed goodies from Pandolfo, Gionta, Gomez, Langenbrunner, Parise and Madden, neatly arranged around the Adirondack chair of power. Or something like that. I touch them like hockey mezuzot and hope I don’t get hit by lightning for such thoughts.

Food: The official Meadowlands dinner of chicken fingers, french fries, and soda, washed down with ice cream and a pretzel. It’s 38 steps from our seats to the concourse, so we’re getting some minimal exercise to balance out the calories.

Jersey: 1999 vintage Koho Devils red jersey, washed so many times the embroidery is starting to warp and pucker. As long as it fits after the required lucky eating regimen, I’m wearing it.

As I go in search of socks, I check out the Madden signed page from ESPN: The Magazine and realize it’s a picture of Mad Dog chipping away at the Carolina goalie, in a game the Devils won. At home. Hugely coincidental. Hugely prognostic. I’m not turning away any reasonable semblance of luck or good feelings right now. The word “fan” is a diminutive of the more SAT-caliber “fanatic”. How appropriate.