This week’s Ten Takes is dedicated to Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne. His 21-year NHL playing career has been something special, for sure, but this is about Selanne the talker.
When asked about playing in Montreal on Thursday, he said, “it’s another city that you can feel how horny the people are for hockey, and that’s awesome.” Yes, it is.
Now, get ready for some Saturday talk about the Senators’ travel payback, the sad state of the Buffalo Sabres, leaguewide goaltending woes, the Sochi Olympics, a few surprising stats and a word or two about ibex. Yes, ibex.
Anaheim, San Jose, Chicago. Tough schedule for the Senators, right? Not so fast. Let’s take a closer look. Anaheim was here Friday, not so fresh from Thursday’s game in Montreal and Tuesday’s visit in Toronto. On Sunday, the Sharks will be at Canadian Tire Centre for their third game in four nights. Come Tuesday, the Senators will play in Chicago against a Blackhawks team also playing their third game in four nights. Monday night, the Senators will be sitting in the Windy City, watching the Blackhawks complete a home-and-way series with the Wild in Minnesota.
BLACK AND BLUE IN BUFFALO
Buffalo Sabres president Ted Black said this week that firing general manager Darcy Regier would be a sign of panic. Hello? Earth to Black. This is what desperation looks like. Two suspended players and a head coach all wearing Slapshot-esque reputations. The franchise forward and the franchise goaltender become free agents following the season. The franchise defenceman had two assists in 11 games and sported a minus-6 rating before Friday’s game.
BEGINNING OF THE END
It’s sad, hearing New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur concede he’s lost his starting goaltending job to Cory Schneider. Yes, he looked lost in the 5-2 loss here on Oct. 17, but I can’t help but flash back to the 2003 Eastern Conference finals. Brodeur was the difference, stopping Marian Hossa and the most talented Senators lineup of all time in Game 7, leading his injury-riddled Devils team into the finals and a Stanley Cup triumph over Anaheim. Without Brodeur, the Cup might have been paraded down Bank Street that year.
HIGHWAY TO HELL (BERG)?
The NHL’s netminding trade market could be heating up. Nashville workhorse Pekka Rinne, who had played in 116 of 130 games the past two seasons, is gone for at least a month following hip scope surgery, leaving the net in the hands of unknowns Carter Hutton and Magnus Hellberg, who had played a combined three NHL games before this season. In Carolina, Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin are both out with lower body injuries. Minnesota’s Josh Harding has a knee problem, while the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist is dealing with what’s being described as a “minor injury.” Perhaps Martin Biron shouldn’t have retired so quickly?
OLD HOME WEEK
Yes, there was that small story about Daniel Alfredsson, but Detroit’s impact on the NHL was also on full display. Monday, former Red Wings assistant Todd McLellan led San Jose to 1-0 shootout win. Longtime Wings captain and current Tampa GM Steve Yzerman was in attendance. Wednesday, Senators coach Paul MacLean, a former Red Wings assistant, was back at the Joe Louis Arena, along with Senators GM Bryan Murray. Murray, a former coach and GM in Detroit, also brought Mike Babcock into the NHL, hiring him as coach in Anaheim.
The Canadian Olympic brain trust is expected to meet within the next couple of weeks, digesting the first weeks of the season. Jason Spezza made a point in front of Canadian coach Babcock, but Babcock was also loudly praising the line of Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Tyler Kennedy following San Jose’s win. Marleau won Olympic gold in 2010. Couture is aiming for his first taste of Olympic glory.
Senators defenceman Marc Methot shoots left, while most of Canada’s headline-grabbing defencemen shoot right. That gives him a shot — a long shot — at making the Olympic squad. The other lefties invited to summer evaluation camp included Duncan Keith, Dion Phaneuf, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jay Bouwmeester, Marc Staal, Karl Alzner and Dan Hamhuis. Oddly enough, Methot’s chances are linked to the success of a Swede — namely, defence partner Erik Karlsson.
Dallas coach Lindy Ruff followed through on his threat to scratch either Sergei Gonchar or Alex Goligoski, the Stars’ $9.6 million defence pairing. Goligoski was replaced by rookie Kevin Connauton in Thursday’s 5-1 win over Calgary. Poolies, take note. After being scratched last season, Goligoski responded with 24 points in his next 37 games.
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS, BUT
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin has 32 goals in his past 31 regular season games … By the numbers, Canada’s top goalie before Friday’s games was Colorado’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere (0.67 GAA, .981 save pct.) … Nashville’s Paul Gaustad leads the league with a 62.7 faceoff percentage but has one point in 11 games. Serious question: Does that justify his $3.25 million salary?
IDLE TIME IS IBEX TIME
In talking about Alfredsson this week, Babcock said life is all about taking on different challenges. He should know. Babcock’s background includes adventures to find Marco Polo sheep and mid-Asian ibex in Kyrgyzstan — for the geographically-challenged, a Google search tells me that’s a Central Asian country bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China — which can be seen Saturday on the Outdoor Channel.