Jamie Kelly

Michael Ryder’s patented release leads Devils over Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils

When Michael Ryder raised the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins after a hard-fought 2011 playoff run, residents of Bonavista, Nfld. couldn’t help but raise a glass in honor of their native son. After all, this is where the three-time 30-goal scorer developed his wicked wrister that has allowed him to play more than 10 NHL seasons.

From his junior days with the Bonavista Saints, all the way to his formative years in the NHL, Ryder has always been known as a goal-scoring winger who could tickle the twine from virtually anywhere on the ice. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do this on a consistent enough basis, which is one of the reasons he has bounced between four different NHL clubs (Montreal, Boston, Dallas, New Jersey) including two different stints with the Canadiens.

This isn’t to undermine Ryder’s effectiveness on each team for which he has played. It is very likely the Bruins wouldn’t have won the Stanley Cup in 2011 without the quality secondary scoring Ryder provided by tallying 17 points in 25 contests. The thing that makes Ryder such a unique player is his lightning quick release and his penchant for terrorizing opposing netminders by picking a corner from the high slot. When was the last time you saw Ryder shoot five-hole? The guy loves going upstairs.

And that was no different today when Ryder buried the game-winning goal for the Devils in a 2-1 victory against the Penguins. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound winger received a quick pass from Adam Henrique and wired one to the top corner that left Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury little chance but to stand in the way and hope for the best.

It’s easy to pinpoint the elite snipers in the game. Guys who have otherworldly releases that allow them to score 40-50 goals a season. Names like Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Alexander Semin and Corey Perry are prime examples of pure goal-scorers who were blessed with immense skill level. But it’s the guys who don’t do it as consistently that are so intriguing because you can see their game-breaking ability and the potential for super-stardom if it happened on a regular basis. Ryder is one of those players.

Here are a few more examples of Ryder’s nasty snapper.

 

Five Things to Watch: Jaromir Jagr faces old team with a chance to make history; Yakupov benched

New Jersey Devils vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Jaromir Jagr closes in on a former teammate and Nail Yakupov will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season. Check out our five things to watch as 2013 comes to a close.

The Perfect Storm

It’s almost as if the 41 year-old Kladno, Czech Republic native planned this. Jaromir Jagr faces-off against his old Pittsburgh Penguins in a New Year’s Eve matinee with the opportunity to pass his former teammate Mario Lemieux for seventh on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. Jagr is currently eighth all-time with 1,722 points in 1,431 games, one fewer than Lemieux. Through his 24 year professional hockey career, that has included stints with four different European and seven different NHL clubs, it’s remarkable that the 12-time NHL all-star has a chance to surpass his former running mate against the team where his hall-of-fame career began. It’s a far cry since the days of Jagr’s mullet flowing in the wind at the old Mellon Arena in steel town. Regardless, there is no question this ageless wonder can still finish.

Nail in the Coffin?

For the second time this season, Nail Yakupov will sit and watch his teammates from the press box when his Oilers battle the Coyotes in the desert this evening. No, the 2012 1st overall draft pick isn’t nursing an injury. The enigmatic Russian winger found himself in coach Dallas Eakins’ dog house from the beginning of the season, and has yet to dig himself out. Maybe it’s because ‘Yak’ hasn’t provided the offense expected of him with a measly six goals and 14 points in 39 games. Or maybe it’s because he owns a league worst minus-25 rating. The reality is the former Sarnia Sting sniper will be taking notes tonight rather than taking numbers, and that is an unsettling sign for an Oilers squad that is 3-6-1 in their last ten games.

Addition by Subtraction for B’s

News of veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg’s torn ACL and MCL that will sideline him for the rest of the season was a tough pill to swallow for Bruins fans this week. Although a devastating loss on the backend, Bruins faithful can find solace in the fact that their team has a strong penchant of finding ways to win games when the going gets tough. Behemoth defender and team captain Zdeno Chara will draw back into the lineup as the Atlantic Division’s first-place B’s take on the Metropolitan Division’s last place Isles. Chara was sidelined Saturday with an undisclosed injury but is back for tonight’s tilt. Boston is 13-0-2 in their last 15 games at TD Garden so John Tavares will have to have his troops raring to go if they stand any chance in this building.

Avalanche Iced

It had to happen at some point. After a front office face-lift in the offseason that saw former hero’s Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic rejoin the Avalanche in leadership capacities with the hopes of guiding them out of the abyss, the Av’s got off to a scorching hot 10-1-0 record in October, much to the surprise of many around the hockey world. Excellent goaltending from Semyon Varlamov and the emergence of Ryan O’Reilly and P.A. Parenteu as legitimate stars have been major factors in the Avs’ success but things have started to slow down as of late. They are still third place in the very difficult Central Division with a 23-11-4 record but they have gone 3-3-4 in their last 10 games and will need to snap out of it quick if they hope to salvage a great first half of the season. They have that chance tonight when they host the Blue Jackets in the second game of their seven-game homestand.

Staal to Return

Would anybody be that surprised to see Marc Staal dropping the ball in Times Square as 2013 comes to a close this evening? It was a tough year for the steady defensive-defenseman so a new year and new beginning can’t come quick enough. After a near career-threatening eye injury suffered on March 5th via a slapshot to the face, Staal missed the rest of the 2012-13 campaign and has struggled to regain his all-star form after returning this season collecting only three points through 30 games. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native just missed the last ten games with a concussion so injury troubles have certainly plagued the big rearguard. Thankfully, Staal will draw back into the lineup tonight against the Panthers and hopes to provide a big boost to a mediocre Rangers club.

 

Dusk til Dawn: Craig Anderson slowly regaining form with Senators

Washington Capitals v Ottawa Senators

Craig Anderson is slowly turning things around and Hawks captain Jonathan Toews gets leveled. Check it out in our morning recap.

Essential Water Cooler:

Let’s face it, we have not seen the best of Senators goaltender Craig Anderson through the first half of the season. The Park Ridge, Ill., native has a 12-9-4 record with a .904 save percentage and 3.17 goals-against average. Compare that to his previous three seasons, where he averaged a .931 SP and 2.19 GAA, and he knows things could be better. But Anderson hasn’t received much help in front of him and that could be attributed to a young team failing to exceed the unrealistic expectations they met last season. The reality is, however, the Senators hopes of a playoff spot live and die with their goaltending. If Anderson’s last three games are any indication, he seems to be turning things around. The 6-foot-4, 184-pound goaltender has won his past three starts, including a 34-save performance in the Senators 3-1 victory over the Capitals last night. Sens nation surely hopes this will continue.

Primetime Play:

Kyle Turris could have been dragged down by a hook, instead he decided to finish. In a play that started all the way in the Senators end, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft pulled off a fantastic deke on Philipp Grubauer. Nasty goal.

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Mike Fisher thrives as veteran on young Predators squad

Montreal Canadiens v Nashville Predators

Mike Fisher is a simple guy. The Peterborough, Ont., native plays a north-south, dependable game that always keeps him in his coach’s good graces. There is little flash, yet loads of consistency from the Nashville Predators center. He stays away from controversy and his low-maintenance personality, yet charming demeanor make him endearing to both media and fans.

Yup, that’s Mike Fisher.  A good Canadian boy who plays the game the right way and earned his keep in the NHL through sheer dedication and persistence. There is one thing we didn’t mention just yet though. This two-way, coach’s dream is also married to one of the biggest country music stars on the planet, Carrie Underwood.

Yeah, life is pretty nice for the Predators No. 1 center, who started his career in Ottawa and played 11 seasons with the Senators. In Ottawa, Fisher found his niche as a pivot who could play in all situations – a perfect player for the Senators prospects to model their game after. In 2010-11, the organization made the difficult decision to trade Fisher to the Predators in an effort to rebuild their franchise and carve out a new identity.

With that, Fisher found a new home in Nashville, one he could share with his superstar wife (the six-time Grammy Award winner was born and raised in Tennessee).

Fisher is far from an offensive catalyst. The highest point total he has in his NHL career was in 2009-10 when he tallied 53. But going bar-down and dangling opposing defenseman is not how Fisher has earned respect from players and coaches around the league. It’s because he plays an honest game where the little things matter the most. Chipping pucks out at the right time, winning a key faceoffs in his own zone and taking a hit to make a play. These are all consistent elements to his game.

The Predators are the sixth youngest team in the NHL with an average age of 26.8. Along with Shea Weber, David Legwand and Matt Cullen, Fisher acts as somewhat of a grey beard on his squad and his play has really picked up as of late. He has collected six points in his past two games, including a goal and two helpers in a 6-4 win against the Red Wings tonight. Here is Fisher’s goal against the Wings and, just as advertised, it’s nothing flashy. But just like Fisher, it gets the job done.

World Junior Championship Day 5: Canada survives Slovakian scare; Germans stun Russia

14WJCpanel

Canada 5, Slovakia 3
Coming off a nail-biting 5-4 loss to the Czech Republic on Saturday, the Canada needed a strong start against Slovakia to regain their momentum from an opening-night victory over the Germans. Unfortunately for Brent Sutter, who gave the nod to Halifax Mooseheads goaltender Zachary Fucale for tonight’s tilt, he found his squad in a 1-0 hole just 1:40 into the contest after a David Griger tally.

After a flurry of activity from the Red and White, Senators prospect Curtis Lazar was able to tie the game late to make it 1-1 after one period of play in Malmo.

A collective sigh was heard around Canada as their junior stars laid an egg in the first half of the second frame. Martin Reway and Griger, with his second of the night, put the Slovaks in full control as they mounted a 3-1 lead over the heavily favored Canadians. With three minutes left in the period, Detroit prospect and bonafide sniper Anthony Mantha cut the lead to 3-2.

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Five Things to Watch: Is Claude Giroux NHL’s hottest player? Hawks’ sizzling offence meets King’s stifling defence

Columbus Blue Jackets v Philadelphia Flyers

Four games are on tap as Claude Giroux and the Flyers visit Vancouver and it’s best offence vs. best defence as the Hawks and Kings clash. Here are five things to watch.

Making Amends:
It was November 9th, 2013, and the Philadelphia Flyers were hosting the Edmonton Oilers in a matchup of two teams that were off to disastrous starts in their respective seasons. It was this night, 16 games into the young 2013-14 season that Claude Giroux scored his first goal of the campaign and hence righted a sinking Flyers ship that was going down faster than Kesha and Pitbull’s new hit single, ‘Timber’. Since that game, Giroux has tallied 28 points in his last 23 games including 15 points in his last 8 contests making him one of the league’s most dangerous players heading into game three of the Flyers five-game western road-swing as they battle the Canucks this evening. Not only have his Flyers clawed their way back from league basement into third-place in the Metropolitan division, Giroux has surely clawed his way back into Olympic consideration.

Heavyweights Collide
It’s best vs. best. That is, best offence vs. best defence as the Los Angeles Kings pay a visit to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks. Simply put, the Hawks offense has been downright foolish this season. The windy city wonders have collected a dizzying 153 goals through 41 games which is 20 more than second place St. Louis and at the halfway point of the season, there seems to be no slowing these guys down. Chicago will meet its match with the Kings tonight however, as this will be the second match-up of the season for the two teams, with the Hawks taking round one by a score of 3-1 on December 15th. The King’s have received superb goaltending from the likes of Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones as Jonathan Quick has been sidelined since November with a groin injury. The squad has allowed just a measly 77 goals through 39 games, good for 1.97 goals against per game. This two teams never fail to put on a show.

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Dusk til Dawn: Jaden Schwartz’s coming out party

Chicago Blackhawks v St. Louis Blues

Justin Bieber and Corey Tropp. Read on and discover why both made last night’s recap.

Essential Water Cooler:
Regardless of where your allegiance lies, Jaden Schwartz is one player everybody can root for. The Melfort, Saskatchewan native, who was the 14th pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues, has had an outstanding season thus far with Central division second-place St. Louis and he has deserved every bit of his success. The former captain of Team Canada’s 2012 World Junior Championship team lost his sister Mandy in April of 2011 after a bout of leukemia. Through perseverance, strength and guidance from his late sister, Jaden has not only realized his dream of making the National Hockey League, he is contributing in a big way. The speedy left winger has collected 13 goals through 36 games and is on pace for 62 points by season’s end. Schwartz scored the game’s first goal in his team’s 3-2 victory over Dallas last night. Here’s to Jaden. The hockey world salutes you.

Primetime Play:
There are three things in life that are constants. Death, taxes and Columbus winger Corey Tropp scoring the goal of the year. Wait. What? Take a look at this silky dangle Tropp pulls on Pens rearguard Olli Matta that makes the rookie defenseman wish he was hiding under a rock in his native Jyvaskyla, Finland.

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No Ordinary Ovi

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it. Tony Romo and the Cowboys blew a 26-3 lead at halftime only to lose to the Green Bay Packers 37-36. Although this was a disastrous collapse for the Cowboys, this is not ‘The Football News’ so let’s feast our attention on a different comeback that not only was equally as exciting but is also relevant to this publication.

The Philadelphia Flyers held a 4-1 third-period lead on the Capitals before Ovi and Co. decided that they might enjoy their post-game meal a little more if they left the building victorious. So the Caps did just that, storming all the way back and eventually handing the Flyers a 5-4 loss by way of the shootout.

Alexander Ovechkin once again was the catalyst for the Metropolitan division second-place Capitals. The former 2004 first overall draft pick opened the scoring for the Caps then tied the game with less than a minute left to play. Not only is ‘Alex the Great’ leading his team via sniping ability, he is also displaying sound leadership by setting the tone early in games with his physical play. Don’t believe me? Just ask Brayden Schenn.

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