Graham Mink had 20 goals and 37 points for Rochester this season and has added five points in six post-season games. (Photo courtesy the Rochester Americans)
Author: The Hockey News
By: Patrick Williams
May 5, 2010
For a club that made the Calder Cup playoffs after a two-season drought, the Rochester Americans hardly ended their season on a positive note.
A 91-point season meant little for Rochester after the Amerks coughed up a 3-1 first round series lead, losing Games 6 and 7 on home ice to Abbotsford. Game 7 saw veteran right winger Graham Mink, the crown jewel of last summer's off-season Americans rebuild, sit out as a healthy scratch. The two-time Calder Cup winner watched the Amerks drop the deciding game, 2-0.
Coach Benoit Groulx opted to sit out Mink to meet the American League veteran limit, a decision that did not sit well with a segment of the Rochester fan base.
Defenseman Mathieu Roy was a late-season acquisition by the parent-club Florida Panthers. Problem was, the Roy acquisition nudged the Rochester roster past the six-veteran limit, forcing Groulx into a difficult decision when he opted to insert captain Rory Fitzpatrick into the lineup for Game 7.
Mink, for his part, did not find fault with Groulx in break-up day comments to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
"I understand," Mink told the newspaper. "I see trying to get (Fitzpatrick) in the lineup. I had six of the seven games and we didn’t get it done."
But break-up day sounded like just that for at least one of the Amerks.
Respected veteran Jamie Johnson returned from a stay in Europe to sign with the Panthers last summer and veterans are not generally lured back to North America without a genuine chance of earning NHL ice time. Johnson put up a 27-goal season with Rochester, but a return to the Florida organization next season doesn’t seem to be an option for the forward, who did not see any ice time with the Panthers this season.
"Florida didn’t give me the time of day all season," Johnson said to the Democrat & Chronicle. “I wouldn’t want to give anything back to them.”
Johnson had further words about Groulx for the newspaper.
“I found there to be a lack of respect,” he said. “I played all 80 games for him, I played when we had nobody (due to injury), and then I felt like I was pushed aside the last two months and in the playoffs.”
In a season where the Amerks looked like Calder Cup contenders two months in, the club and fan base head into the off-season with many questions to answer.
MOOSE KEANE ON RETURN?
The Manitoba Moose look to be in a state of flux for next season. Coach Scott Arniel is near the front of the NHL head-coaching rumor mill, goalie and restricted free agent Cory Schneider is unlikely to return for a fourth season in Winnipeg and the Moose have several questions to confront after an extremely disappointing season that ended with a first round exit.
One important question that must be answered is whether Manitoba's Mike Keane wishes to extend his career at least one more season. However, it seems the decision will not merely depend on what the Moose captain's body tells him, but what direction the team’s management chooses to go.
“You know what, it won’t be up to Mike Keane, it will be up to the Manitoba Moose," GM Craig Heisinger told the Winnipeg Sun. "We had a good meeting with Mike and we’ll make that decision going forward. Mike has indicated he wants to play and we’ve indicated to Mike that decision will be up to us. We haven’t made that decision yet.”
THIS & THAT
• On Tuesday, the AHL approved the transfer of the former Iowa Chops franchise to the Texas Stars, giving the Dallas affiliate full membership in the AHL for 2010-11...
• All indications out of Albany and Lowell are that the New Jersey Devils will be relocating their affiliate to Albany next season...
• John Spoltore, a playoff hero for the Providence Bruins during their run to the 1999 Calder Cup, passed away April 30 in Toronto after a battle with brain cancer.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.
Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky celebrate the Game 2 overtime winner at the 1987 Canada Cup.
Author: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Down Goes Brown: What was the best Game 2 in World Cup history?
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 28, 2016
Five out of seven World/Canada Cups have been best-of-three finals, so let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
Tuesday night's Game 1 of the World Cup final, which saw Team Canada earn a 3-1 win over Team Europe, sets up a do-or-die Game 2 Thursday night. A Canada win would end the tournament, and the trophy will be in the building, unless the league has come to its senses and thrown that ugly thing into a raging bonfire instead.
There have been seven World and Canada Cups in international hockey history, but we didn't get to see a Game 2 in all of those. Twice, in 1981 and 2004, the format called for a one-game final. But it's been best-of-three in the other tournaments, which gives us five Game 2 to work with. So today, let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
As always, this is opinion only, and if you disagree, then you're wrong.
No. 5 – 1984: Canada 6, Sweden 5
The road there: Canada stumbled through the 1984 tournament, going 2-2-1 through the round robin and barely making the playoff round as the fourth seed. But Team Canada earned a trip to the final thanks to an overtime win over the Soviets in the semi-final, and they were facing an upstart Swedish team that had beaten them in their round robin meeting and had just embarrassed the Americans with a 9-2 blowout. The Canadians took the opener by a 5-2 final, but the second game proved closer.
Game 2: The game looked like a laugher early on, with Canada scoring four times in the first seven minutes and adding a fifth before the first period was over. A Paul Coffey goal early in the second made it 6-1, setting the stage for a furious Team Sweden comeback. They scored three unanswered goals to close out the second period, and draw to within 6-5 early in the third. But that was as close as they came, as Canada held on for the win and the series sweep.
The aftermath: This turned out to be the first of three straight Canada Cup wins for Team Canada, and remains the only finals appearance by Team Sweden.
The bottom line: What looked like a laugher wound up being a reasonably entertaining contest. But the game everyone remembers from the 1984 Canada Cup will always be that semi-final thriller with the Soviets.
No. 4 – 1991: Canada 4, USA 2
The road there: Coming on the heels of the 1987 tournament, fans were probably hoping for yet another final between Canada and the Soviets. But with the team in turmoil, partly due to the political situation back home, the Soviets failed to even make the playoff round. That left Canada looking for a new challenger, and the Americans were happy to step in for their first ever Canada Cup final appearance. The two teams met in the round robin, with Canada winning 6-3 to hand the Americans their only loss of the stage, and Canada followed that up with a 4-1 win in the opening game of the final.
Game 2: This game may best be remembered for who wasn't playing. Team Canada captain Wayne Gretzky was knocked out of action in Game 1 on an ugly hit from behind by Gary Suter. The check left Gretzky unable to suit up for Game 2, and contributed to the back problems that slowed him down for much of the early 1990s.
Looking for the sweep, Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Americans clawed back with a pair of second-period goals. But Steve Larmer earned some revenge on Suter by stripping him of the puck during an American powerplay and then scoring on a breakaway for the winning goal.
The bottom line: This game, much like the 1991 tournament itself, was an entertaining one that for some reason isn't all that well remembered by many fans.
No. 3 – 1996: USA 5, Canada 2
The road there: The Americans swept through the round robin with a perfect 3-0-0 record, including an impressive 5-3 win over Canada that featured a wild early brawl. That win earned them a quarter-final bye, and after knocking off the Russians 5-3 in the semis, Team USA came into the final looking like they had a real shot to wrestle the international crown away from Canada. But Steve Yzerman's overtime winner in Game 1 in Philadelphia handed the Americans their first loss of the tournament, and left them needing a pair of wins in Montreal to take the tournament.
Game 2: Team USA jumped out to an early lead, but Canada came back to tie the game before the first intermission. Goals by John Leclair and Brett Hull gave the Americans a 3-1 lead, and Mike Richter stood on his head to keep it that way until a late powerplay goal by Joe Sakic made it 3-2 with five minutes to play. That was as close as they came, and a pair of Team USA empty net goals padded the final score to 5-2.
The aftermath: Team USA completed the comeback in Game 3, winning by another 5-2 score to capture their first (and so far only) best-on-best championship.
The bottom line: Despite the two empty netters making the score more lopsided than the game was, this was a fun matchup that featured lots of star power, some bad blood, and a raucous Montreal crowd. You can watch the highlights here.
No. 2 – 1976: Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 (OT)
The road there: Four years after the legendary Summit Series, the Canada Cup was born in an effort to create the first true international best-on-best tournament. There was no semi-final back then, with the top two teams heading directly to the finals. Canada grabbed one of those spots, finishing first in the round robin with a 4-1-0 record. But while many had expected a Summit Series rematch in the final, the Soviets were edged out of a spot by Czechoslovakia.
The opening game of the final was a blowout, with Canada earning a relatively easy 6-0 win. Game 2 ended up proving to be a bigger challenge.
Game 2: Canada grabbed a 2-0 lead just two minutes in, but Czechoslovakia fought back to tie the game early in the third. A Bobby Clarke goal restored the Canadian lead, but two quick Czechoslovakian goals gave them a 4-3 lead with four minutes to play. Bill Barber tied it with two minutes left, and that set the stage for Darryl Sittler to deliver the first ever Canada Cup with what still stands as one of the most famous goals in the tournament's history.
The aftermath: To this day, Sittler and Team Canada assistant coach Don Cherry are still arguing over who's idea that move was.
The bottom line: You could make a great case for this game being No. 1 on the list. I think it’s a coin flip, but I'll take the game that directly led to one of the greatest moments in hockey history.
1987: Canada 6, Soviet Union 5 (2OT)
The road there: Canada and the Soviets finished in the top two spots in the round robin, then knocked off Czechoslovakia and Sweden, respectively, in the semi-finals to set up the first best-on-best multi-game series between the two rivals since the 1972 Summit Series.
Game 2: With the Soviets looking to clinch their second Canada Cup in three tournaments, the series shifted to Hamilton for the second game. The two teams resumed the all-out offensive pace, with Canada leading 2-1 before the game was even four minutes old. Then it got better.
Canada took a 3-1 lead to the first intermission, but the Soviets tied it in the second before Mario Lemieux quickly restored the lead. The Soviets tied it again early in the third, but Lemieux scored again midway through. That set the stage for a frantic end to regulation that saw Valeri Kamensky score with a minute left to send the game to overtime.
With the trophy on the line, the two teams went back and forth through one scoreless extra period. But midway through the second overtime, Canada finally ended it. Guess who.
The aftermath: This game was so good that the hockey gods decided to re-use the same script for Game 3: A back-and-forth thriller that ends with a 6-5 Canada victory on a Mario Lemieux winner.
The bottom line: The series finale was quite possibly the greatest international game ever played. And it was made possible by this one, which was almost as good. That's enough to earn it the top spot on our list, narrowly ahead of Sittler's fakeout.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
-How far can Dave Hakstol take this team? The rookie coach gained traction in the second half of the season and brought out the best in players such as Brayden Schenn while also unleashing the mighty power of rookie Shayne Gostisbehere before that. The Flyers gave Washington an uncomfortable amount of pushback in the first round of the playoffs, and you can expect more of the same this time out as the coach becomes more entrenched.
-Jakub Voracek will be better, right? He has to be. Voracek had a rough 2015-16, with his typical season shooting percentage getting carved almost in half (from nine percent to five percent). Voracek’s struggles manifested most obviously on the power play, where he scored just once after tallying 11 times with the man advantage in 2014-15. A second training camp under Hakstol’s watch will help him get back to his usual scoring ways, plus Voracek will get a running start to the season thanks to his spot with the Czechs at the World Cup of Hockey.
-Who is the starting goalie? The Flyers have that problem right now where there are two options in net – Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. Mason has been the starter for the past three seasons, with results that have bounced between OK and pretty good. Neuvirth has never played more than 48 games in an NHL season and that was back in 2010-11. But he scared the daylights out of the Capitals in the playoffs, surrendering just two goals in three games to push the series to six games after the Flyers started off 0-3. For now, we’ve got a platoon. The best man will win.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
This team surprised a lot of people last season with their stunning late season surge into the post-season, and they might do even more damage this season.
A lot of credit should go to GM Ron Hextall who has cleaned up the past regime’s mess admirably and stocked the cupboard with a lot of blue-chip talent. The team has two of the best forwards in the league in Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and getting value out of their remaining prime years is essential. Doing so while also building toward the future creates a delicate balance that Hextall has navigated excellently so far.
One of those future building blocks is stud 'D' prospect Ivan Provorov who is definitely talented enough to make this team, but still might not due to the amount of money ahead of him on the depth chart. If he starts the year in the top six instead of Nick Schultz, this team will be better for it. With the emergence of Shayne Gostisbehere last season, and the solid contributions from Radko Gudas, Mark Streit, and Michael Del Zotto, the Flyers actually have a surprisingly solid, albeit average, defense corps.
Up front the team’s top two lines are quite good, especially that top line of Giroux, Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds. Voracek had a tough year last season, but there’s no doubt that his shooting percentage should bounce back up to his normal rates. He’s too good to be converting on under two percent of his shots on the powerplay, and 5.2 percent in all situations.
While the top six is decent, the bottom six is a big concern, especially the bottom line. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is a nice story representing France for Team Europe at the World Cup, but his on-ice results have been abysmal in the NHL. Along with Boyd Gordon, that line will probably be spending a lot of time trying to get out of the defensive zone.
The Flyers’ biggest strength, and the biggest reason they’ve got a high chance of making the playoffs, is in net. When they first traded for Steve Mason that seemed absurd to even consider, but his career has taken a complete 180 and he’s now legitimately one of the league’s top goalies. And if he falters, Michal Neuvirth ain’t bad either.
A lot of people were surprised when this team made the playoffs last season. Don’t be shocked if they repeat the magic this season.
Watch Mike Hoffman’s rocket wrist shot ring out for pre-season overtime winner
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 30, 2016
If the season started tomorrow, Mike Hoffman would be just fine. The 26-year-old Senators sniper showed off his shot Thursday with a laser, and he’s ready to start another hunt for the elusive 30-goal season.
Ottawa Senators sniper Mike Hoffman burst onto the scene in 2014-15 with a 27-goal campaign, and he followed that up with an outstanding 29-goal, 59-point season in 2015-16. And with the new season approaching, Hoffman’s shot looks to be in fine form as he chases the 30-goal plateau for the third straight campaign.
In an exhibition tilt Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens, Hoffman, 26, showed off the same sniping ability that has made him arguably the best pure goal scorer in the Senators’ lineup.
Early in overtime, after the teams had played to a 3-3 draw through three periods, Kyle Turris worked his way into the Canadiens’ zone and put a puck on goal, which was turned aside by Mike Condon and skittered into the corner. Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk was first to the puck and he made an incredibly ill-advised no-look behind-the-back pass that found Hoffman’s tape. From there, Hoffman was money:
The sound the shot makes off the bar is crisp, and it might have been the only way Condon knew the puck had beaten him. Hoffman’s shot was off his tape and behind the Canadiens netminder in a hurry, enough that the cameraman tasked with following the puck may have gotten whiplash going from right to left so quickly.
Hoffman signed a four-year, $20.75-million contract in the off-season, and shots like that are one major reason why the Senators were willing to pay up to keep the talented sniper around.
After injury-filled season, Blues relieved Schwartz, Fabbri are only day-to-day
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 30, 2016
The St. Louis Blues lost almost every roster regular to injury for some amount of time in 2015-16, but, thankfully, that bad fortune doesn’t appear to be repeating itself. Injuries to Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri are minor.
You could run down the list of injuries the St. Louis Blues were forced to miss time in 2015-16 due to injury, or you could simply read a list of players to suit up for the squad this past season. The lists, as it turns out, are almost identical.
In fact, the injuries were so bad during the past campaign that it took until the opening game of the playoffs, Game 83 of the season, before St. Louis was finally was able to ice its “optimal roster,” meaning a team free of any injury replacements. And though things turned out quite all right for the Blues, who earned their way to the Western Conference final, the hope was that this season would be a healthier one for all involved.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why the players and coaching staff have been holding their breath whenever someone is forced to leave the ice in training camp or pre-season action, but it already appears the Blues are catching more breaks when it comes to potential injuries already.
During practice Thursday, winger Jaden Schwartz, who missed 49 games in 2015-16 with a fractured ankle, left the ice early and was later said to have suffered an upper-body injury. The ailment appeared to be to do with his wrist, but the Blues could breathe easier when coach Ken Hitchcock announced that Schwartz won’t be forced to miss any meaningful action.
Schwartz, 24, has become one of the Blues’ go-to scorers over the past few seasons, and though St. Louis remained successful during his absence in 2015-16, his presence on the ice was sorely missed. Schwartz had scored 53 goals in 155 games over the first two full campaigns of his career, and there was hope that he’d chase the 30-goal mark this past season. He’ll have his shot at doing so in 2016-17, though, especially as he looks set to take on a first-line role in St. Louis.
But Schwartz isn’t the only injury the Blues are dealing with as 20-year-old Robby Fabbri has also been sidelined since the start of the week with an unspecified upper-body injury. Like Schwartz, though, there’s good news to report in that Fabbri’s injury isn’t one the Blues are considering serious.
According to Hitchcock, Fabbri will be out through the weekend and will continue to be monitored, but he has been on the ice skating. Fabbri missed 10 games this past season — six with a concussion, four with a lower-body injury — but the hope is he can remain healthy this season and take a shot at winning a consistent top-six role as a sophomore scorer for the Blues.