My Top 10…

Everyone these days is doing some sort of top ten, and recently I read a blogger who listed their top ten favorite players and the idea intrigued me. If you have a top ten (or five) player list, let me know & here is my submission:

10: Zach Parise (New Jersey) — This kid has done nothing but score since making his debut after the lockout and he never seems to take a shift off. Other coaches visiting New Jersey have instructed their healthy scratches to watch Parise shift after shift and pattern their games after him. The best part is that Zach is only 25 and still has room to get even better (if that’s possible); oh and he is as nice a person as he is as good a hockey player — one of the few players that says thank you after being interviewed.

9: Patrik Elias (New Jersey) — My buddies & I nicknamed Elias ‘The Finisher’ back in the 2000 season because of the Czech star’s penchant for scoring big goals (See Philly, Game 7 2000 East Finals) as a member of the A-line (Jason Arnott, Petr Sykora). There have been times when I doubted that he would stay in New Jersey his whole career, but the franchise’s all-time leading point-getter has been a treat to watch and still has some gas left in his tank.

8. Saku Koivu (Montreal-Anaheim) — I instantly became a Saku fan when I first started participating in fantasy hockey and Montreal’s top line was the lethal trio of Koivu-Mark Recchi & Martin Rucinsky. After I read the detailed stories of his battle with stomach cancer, a battle he would survive, how could you not pull for the little guy? One of the most memorable games I ever attended was when he played his first game (after going through treatments for almost a year) at the end of the 2001-02 season in New Jersey. It’s sad that he couldn’t finish his career as a Hab, but I’ll always be a fan.

7. Kirk Muller (NJ) — Captain Kirk spent the first seven years of his career in New Jersey and was my first favorite player when I began watching/listening to games in 1988. I don’t remember many specifics from back then, as I was still learning the game, but I do remember that he seemed to get a point, or do something to help the team win every night. Meeting him a few years ago in New Jersey (he’s now an assistant coach with Montreal) is one of the highlights of my career so far.

6. Jeremy Roenick (Chicago-Phoenix-Philly-LA-San Jose) — I remember JR’s back-to-back 50-goal seasons and his three consecutive 100-point campaigns, but what everyone remembers most is his outspokenness and willingness to say what was on his mind. The Rooming with Roenick spots that ran on Center Ice were hilarious. He’s probably the one player that I ever liked that played for the Flyers (his OT goal in Game 7 against Toronto was a classic) and one of the few great players of my era that never won the Stanley Cup. He did some great TV work during these past Olympics — and hopefully we see more of him doing stuff like that in the future.

5. Sergei Fedorov (Detroit-Anaheim-Columbus-Washington) — He just about all you could do in an NHL career: won three Cups, league MVP, two Selke Trophys and now plays in the Russian league (KHL) after a great 19-years here in the US. Sadly, when I interviewed him I never got the chance to tell him about the ‘White Russian’ Nike poster I had hanging in my basement for 10 years; but he was one of the best players I’ve ever met and had the honor of interviewing. It also annoys to me no end when media outlets like MSG (gag!) spell his name wrong on their bottom line: IT’S FEDOROV NOT FEDEROV!!

4. Brett Hull (St. Louis-Dallas-Detroit) — Hull, like Roenick was never shy when it came to saying what was on his mind, but on the ice he was lethal. His 741 career goals are an amazing number and he’ll probably always be remembered for his Cup-clinching, foot in the crease goal for Dallas in Buffalo in the 1999 Finals, but I also remember the seasons when he tallied 72, 86 & 70 (in consecutive years) while skating in St. Louis. Hull clinched his spot on this list when he decided to suit up for the US team rather than Canada in the 1996 World Cup, prompting boos from the Montreal crowd every time his face was on the jumbotron during the Final series (I was at Game 2 of 3).

3. Scott Stevens (Washington-St. Louis-New Jersey) — When Stevens came to New Jersey, he immediately impacted the franchise and became one of the fiercest open-ice hitters the NHL has ever seen. There were so many memorable hits (See: Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya, Slava Kozlov, Ron Francis) but one of the things I think of when I think about  Stevens is he was the guy who led New Jersey to three Stanley Cups — turning the Devils from a “Mickey Mouse organization” into a team that the NHL has twice adjusted it’s rules for. The only other franchise I can think of that has that distinction was Montreal.

2. Dominik Hasek (Chicago-Buffalo-Detroit-Ottawa) — Ten years ago, I would’ve never picked Hasek for my list, but times change. He was always Martin Brodeur’s biggest rival during his Buffalo days, and Hasek’s unorthodox, yet successful style led him to six Vezina Trophies and two league MVP’s. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when he and Brett Hull became teammates in Detroit, and I’m sure Hasek’s pain was eased a bit when the two Hall-of-Famers became champions together in Detroit. The Dominator had some strange moments throughout his career, and he suffered too many injuries to contend for some of the NHL’s goaltending records. Talking to him late in his career after a game in NJ, still feels very surreal, but he was willing to talk until all of my questions were answered, something I’ll never forget.

1. Martin Brodeur (New Jersey) — He’s been my absolute favorite player since 1994 and when he retires, I may actually shed a tear. Brodeur owns just about every major NHL goaltending record and still has some good years left so who knows what those numbers will be when he does hang up his skates. It’s still a little intimidating to interview my favorite player, but his easy-going personality makes my job a lot easier; and the fact that I can tell that he recognizes me (he should after five seasons!) is pretty neat. He became the ultimate comeback when being taunted by dopey, Rangers’ fans: ‘Devils suck! Yeah but we have Brodeur and you don’t! Whatever, you guys suck!’ I’ll never forget where I was when he scored a goal in the playoffs vs. Montreal or when he broke Patrick Roy’s wins record vs. Chicago, or when he was the backbone of three Stanley Cup championship teams, and one of these days, I will make sure to thank him for all of those memories…and hopefully a few more!

Devils-Canadiens Postgame Quotes [12.16.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Wednesday’s 2-1  win by the Devils over the Canadiens:

Patrik Elias:

Why is it that you and Brian (Rolston) are really clicking right now?

“It’s not just me and Brian; I think that Zharkov is doing a lot to make it fun, to make it successful as a line. We’re playing as a unit, all three guys; you saw that he (Zharkov) made another good play on that goal. He’s working hard and makes smart decisions, and with Brian, we’re just having fun, a lot of communication and just playing.”

Was this a patient game (tonight)?

“I don’t know, I don’t think that’s the way we want to play. Like I said, the power plays, we did a lot of good things in the first period because we drew four power plays in a row, and it didn’t work for us tonight. Not every night is going to be perfect, or its going to work; it kind of affected us, maybe a little bit, for the second period. I think both teams didn’t play as good as we can, but we’ll take the win.”

Vladimir Zharkov:

Can you talk about the play on the game-winning goal?

“I see one guy came to me and the second guy went to Rollie, then it was a 2-on-2. It was a beautiful, very nice; Rollie stopped, wait, wait, wait, he gave the puck to Elias; Elias finished nice goal.”

Are you having fun playing with those two guys, it seems like you have good chemistry?

“Maybe, because I love playing with those two guys; very good passers, you know, Rollie and Elias, but I am young. I played just nine games, you know — these guys help me all the time. We skate very hard every game, but I’ve only played nine games, I’m just a young boy.”

Jamie Langenbrunner:

Talking about the play where he lost the puck and gave up shorthanded breakaway…

“We had a set play on that and it just bounced up on me; I went to pass it and the puck wasn’t there. It’s one of those things, unfortunately that one ended up in our net.”

What are you thinking when that happened?

“Oh spit (laughs). I tried to come back as hard as I can, I tried to force him and it was a good job by Andy (Greene) to force him to his backhand; it just snuck its way through.”

Would it have been worse for you mentally if you lost 1-0?

“Probably; the win kind of hides those kind of mistakes I guess.”|

Ilkka Pikkarainen:

Is that the way you envisioned your first goal happening?

“No, that was a lucky one, but I don’t care how they go in; I’m very happy.”

How does that first one feel, especially in a tight game?

“It feels good, we were struggling in the first period, but in second and third we did better.”

Did you think the shot was going in when you took it?

“No, (laughs) I was really happy it went in though. The goalie helped me a little bit there.”

How good does it feel that the team came out flat and still got the two points?

“Yeah, I’m happy that we got the two points.”

Martin Brodeur:

Scripting this I’d call it strange but true victories…

“Well definitely this one was kind of a weird one a bit, we didn’t play our best game. But we stuck with it and scored a big goal at the end; Patty again comes through for us.”

(Scott) Gomez almost got one (on you)…

“A couple of good shots, he kicked one in (on me). I thought we handled their offense pretty good, we had one breakdown — on one of our power plays — and they got a goal out of that. After that, a couple of screen shots, one hit me in the head in the second period there, but I thought defensively we did a great job against especially Gomer and (Mike) Cammalleri, who’s one of the hottest players.”

How surprised were you that the fans kept booing him?

“Well, it’s like anything, everybody’s demanding on being perfect every night and its all in their rights. We’re there trying our best and some nights it works and some nights it doesn’t and it’s just part of the game.”

No, I meant booing Gomez…

“Oh, I thought you meant our power play in the first period (laughs).”

They booed Gomez every time he was on the ice…

“They’ve got to get over it sometime (laughs), but I think he’s not playing for the Rangers anymore, so it’s not as bad. Even for us (players) I think the sentiment of him being somewhere else is a lot different, but fans are weird that way. I think they care about their team and when a guy goes out and does something like that — unless you’re like Bobby Holik and come back and play for us, they’ll start cheering him again.”

1,029 games — how many of them were like that one?

“Oh, I don’t know; that was kind of boring (out there). It’s a big win.”

Is it a gratifying win knowing that maybe the team wasn’t at its best tonight?

“I think we played a team that’s not doing really well right now, and you know that they’re going to try to keep it simple; they did, they didn’t really do much out there and they didn’t give us much opportunities either. They gave us a lot of power plays, but we didn’t do anything with them and we got a lucky goal on a shot over the net that (Carey) Price mishandled and after that we got kind of a cold shower on them — scoring that late goal, definitely nice.”

Another milestone (for you), what does this one mean?

“Well, durability as I’ve talked about for a few days. That’s what playing a lot of games is, it’s being durable, and it’s being successful; because if you’re not, the coach doesn’t put you in there. I’m definitely happy that it’s passed, we get to the next game and it’s over with and move on to just play hockey.”

Travis Moen’s shot went through your legs?

“I think so, he came in on his backhand and he waited (me) out. I was on my post and thought I had everything covered and he just snuck it right through my legs.”

Jacques Lemaire:

How would you describe this game?

“Well, I have to say at the start we got the penalties (against them). I thought we were playing exactly the way we wanted to play. Then, power plays, as I mentioned to the guys in there, power plays are great when you can take advantage; it will destroy the whole team when you don’t score; especially when you go 5-on-3. Then guys make the wrong pass, take the wrong shot or they don’t score. They get frustrated and if they can’t get that off their mind, it’s tough to play hockey like that. I think the power play just turned things around.”

Yet somehow the team hung in, Montreal never got that second goal…

“I don’t think they were better than we were (laughs), we were not good but they weren’t (any) better. They probably had five chances the whole game and we had eight or nine with all the power plays, so you look at the game — only the third period I thought it was decent. The best part of it was the last three minutes.”

How do you describe the rookie’s goal?

“Oh Pikk, I guess he wanted to keep the puck deep and the goalie tried to catch it in his glove and it went in; it’s just a lucky goal. But you know what, that’s what we needed.”

What You Need to Know [11.21.09]

Here is the link to my latest ‘What You Need to Know’ on NYCSN:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1029

This week’s highlights:

Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin proves he doesn’t need twin Daniel to score at the NHL level, San Jose’s Dany Heatley nets his 2nd hat trick of the young season, Maxim Afinogenov finds his mojo in Atlanta and LA’s Ryan Smyth & Montreal’s Brian Gionta become the latest scorers to catch the injury bug…

What You Need to Know

Here is the link to my latest ‘What You Need to Know’ on NYCSN:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1018

This week’s highlights:
Ottawa’s captain wins a Swede vs. Swede showdown, Dave Scatchard and Chris Chelios find employment, Jacques Lemaire joins an elite group and Montreal finally returns home…

Almost time for training camp…

With the open of training camp on September 13, many of the Devils players have started to make their way to New Jersey for some scrimmages and workout sessions. Here’s whats been going on according to the Fire & Ice blog by Tom Gulitti:

Brendan Shanahan will now wear no. 14 which was vacated when Brian Gionta signed with Montreal; Shanny previously wore 14 in Detroit and with the NY Rangers. He is also experimenting with wearing a visor for the first time in his career.

Jay Pandolfo became a first-time dad when his wife gave birth to a baby boy on July 2, the day after his longtime linemate John Madden signed with Chicago. He admitted it will be weird not seeing Madden when camp opens, but is looking forward to playing for coach Jacques Lemaire again. Pando is one of only four current Devils (Brian Rolston, Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias) that has played for Lemaire in New Jersey.

Ilkka Pikkarainen is wearing no. 17 which was last worn by Mike Rupp who’s now in Pittsburgh.

Zach Parise took batting practice with his hometown Minnesota Twins last week and almost hit a home run to right field, falling just short of the wall which is 340 feet away from home plate.

Elias won the Czech player-of-the-year award, had successful surgery on his hip in June and obtained his level B coaching license from the Czech Ice Hockey Federation according to his website.

Free Agent Winners/Losers

New story I did this weekend is now up on Maxhockey.com on the winners and losers of this summer’s free agency period. Teams covered are: Chicago, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, San Jose and Washington.

What’s your number?

Have a favorite player who changed teams this offseason and you want to be the first on your block to sport his new number and jersey? Well I did a little research and came up with this little list of old faces in new places (with some new numbers):

Scott Gomez # 91, Montreal
Brian Gionta # 21, Montreal

Saku Koivu # 11, Anaheim
Jay Bouwmeester # 4, Calgary
John Madden # 11, Chicago
Marian Hossa # 81, Chicago
Nikolai Khabibulin # 35, Edmonton
Ryan Smyth # 94, Los Angeles
Rob Scuderi # 7, Los Angeles
Martin Havlat # 14 Minnesota
John Tavares # 91, NY Islanders
Marian Gaborik # 10, NY Rangers
Chris Higgins # 21, NY Rangers
Donald Brashear # 87, NY Rangers
Alex Kovalev # 27, Ottawa
Chris Pronger # 20, Philadelphia
Ray Emery # 29, Philadelphia
Mike Rupp # 17, Pittsburgh
Brendan Morrison # 9, Washington
Mike Knuble # 22, Washington

So head on over to your favorite team’s site or NHL.com and order your new jersey for the 2009-10 season today!