Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

01/22/2010

RPI: Back To Business

Six weeks ago, the RPI hockey team last played a home game.  A month and a half away from the friendly confines of Houston Field House sounds a bit insane except when you consider that those six weeks all come when the students at RPI are on winter break it doesn’t sound so bad.  After all, home games without the bulk of your vocal home crowd suck ferociously.

For fans of the team that are only aware of the team while they’re at home, a few things happened.  They beat perennial powers (albeit ones in a down year) Boston University and University of Michigan in front of their home fans.  They swept a road weekend conference series at Quinnipiac and Princeton, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 2007. They were also humbled by a very tough Michigan State team to lose the championship of the Great Lakes Invitational and also dropped their final meeting with Union College over in Schenectady.

The loss to Union has some folks up in arms because it’s Union College and they’re a local rival and  because head coach Seth Appert was quoted after the game saying this:

“I refuse to believe that they’re better than us. I believe in our guys, I have a lot of belief in that locker room, what we have in there. I have a lot of respect for Union. I think they’re a really good hockey team. I think they’re a Top 10 hockey team. But I don’t believe they’re better than us.”

Cocky words?  Not at all.  After all, each game with Union was decided by one goal this season (Union scoring an empty-net goal in the final game notwithstanding) and Appert did go on to heap a ton of credit on the Union program saying, “They’ve earned where they are.  Don’t get me wrong by what I say in terms of that question. They’re in first place in the league and they’ve earned every minute of that.”

Obviously Seth Appert wasn’t going rogue on anyone and his faith in his own team is quite clear where it stands.  Unlike teams in RPIs recent history, this year’s team hasn’t shown the penchant for fading and letting teams dominate them on the scoreboard like they used to.  However, for this team to spend six weeks away from the friendly confines and play six games and come away with a 4-2-0 record in that span against a handful of difficult opponents in very difficult settings is saying a lot for this team.

In more than a few games this year, situations have arisen where previous Engineers teams would fold up the tents instantly.  The game against Michigan sticks out as a prime example.  It was a game where they were ahead, some shady calls are made against them and Michigan storms back to tie the game and then things hang in the balance.  If that game happens even a season ago, RPI cracks and gives up two more goals to end that game and lose.  Instead, Marty O’Grady says, “Screw this,” and scores on an impossibly accurate snap shot to put RPI up for good in a 4-3 win.  RPI played this exact type of game two seasons ago against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and lost in front of a huge and largely Gopher-biased crowd.  Things change and things are certainly different for this RPI team.  Now they’re back at home and back on the hardcore ECAC schedule the rest of the way.  This weekend they see a couple of teams who in seasons past have been in the upper-middle part of the pack and still lurk as dangerous.

Dartmouth College comes to town not having seen RPI since the Engineers unceremoniously disposed of the sixth seeded Big Green in the ECAC Tournament last year and if you think revenge isn’t on their mind, you’re crazy.  The downside for Dartmouth is they’re just not very good this year.  They’re severely lacking scoring and even more severely lacking good goaltending.  Juniors Scott Fleming and Adam Estoclet lead Dartmouth in scoring with 15 points each and Fleming is the team’s leading goal scorer with eight.  Only two other players on the team are in double-digits in points and their main goaltender, Jody O’Neill, has a save percentage lingering around .890 and a 3.79 goals against average.

This does not bode well for the Big Green against RPI who sits as one of the highest scoring teams in the ECAC averaging 3.10 goals per game in conference matchups while allowing  just 2.40 goals against.  Dartmouth, on the other hand, has been scoring 2.60 per game while allowing 3.60 per.  Dartmouth, in this case, is going to have to turn the tables on RPI the way the Engineers did to them in last year’s playoffs.  The Big Green stumble into this game losers of seven of their last eight and winners of four games all season.

As for RPI’s opponent Saturday afternoon, the Harvard Crimson, there’s reason to believe that perhaps the ship is finally being righted in Cambridge.  After an uncharacteristic and abysmal start to the season where after opening their season with a win over Dartmouth Harvard went winless in their next ten games going 0-8-2 in those ten.  Since then, they’ve won three of their last five games including a win over #6 Yale.  Their two losses in that span came on the road against Minnesota so those can almost be excused since Minnesota is certainly the better team. Harvard’s gotten wins against Quinnipiac and Dartmouth (again) in that time and considering the Crimson were a team many believed would battle in the top half of the ECAC this would seem to indicate they’re getting their act together.

Harvard’s success has come at the hands of freshman and Montreal Canadiens first round pick Louis Leblanc.  Leblanc and his linemates Michael Biega and Maple Leafs Lightning draftee Alex Killorn have been the one sure thing, scoring-wise, head coach Ted Donato can count on.  Those three players are the Crimson’s three top scorers and Leblanc, of late, has been scoring goals in bunches while finally showing off the talent that made him the Habs top choice in 2009 (aside from being French-Canadian that is).

In goal is where things have gone a bit astray for Harvard.  Junior Kyle Richter returned after a one year absence to attend to “personal matters” and he’s been less-than stellar.  Meanwhile, junior Ryan Carroll has stepped up and provided some sense of sanity of late backstopping the team to their last two wins over Yale and Dartmouth.  In about half as many games as Richter has played, Carroll’s goals against is almost a full goal lower than Richter’s and he’s sporting a slightly better save percentage.  While I’m not sure Coach Donato wants to totally write off Kyle Richter, I’d bet that Ryan Carroll will get the nod this weekend for Harvard.

For as innocent as an RPI-Harvard might seem to be, all is not as indifferent as it might appear.  For instance, one thing RPI is going to have to look out for against the Crimson is the antics of the flying Biega brothers.  Whether its senior Alex Biega, junior Michael Biega or the latest addition, freshman Danny Biega the Engineers and Crimson seem to get together in scrummy fashion when it comes to them.   It all starts with the sandpaper-like play of defenseman Alex who is no stranger to the RPI crowd and he’s usually good for a skirmish or five over the course of a game. Adding in the very talented Michael Biega and his ability to get on the board, that automatically makes him disliked on the road.  It’ll be interesting to see which big brother Danny plays more like.

This game also offers RPI fans the opportunity to once again boo and mock junior defenseman Chris Huxley.  Four years ago, Huxley initially committed to play at RPI but then jumped ship when then head coach Dan Fridgen was not retained by RPI.  Through semi-shady dealings Huxley ended up reneging on his RPI commitment to go to Harvard, something which RPI fans have not forgotten about because each time Huxley touches the puck in Troy he’s booed by the faithful and even given an obvious last-name based nickname.  If you can’t figure out what it is, I’m not going to help you.

The RPI Bedwetter Fan View Of The weekend:

“The Friday night game against Dartmouth lingers as a possible “Superman” game where Jody O’Neill has the game of his life and RPI is stuck looking for answers against a goalie that has the horseshoe firmly implanted in his rectum.  The Saturday afternoon tilt against Harvard sits like a trap game.  Harvard is a team that’s wildly down this year but playing better of late and RPI will find it hard to match up with Leblanc’s line.  Allen York will give up some softies and RPI still won’t get anything done 5-on-5.  I haven’t been happy since 1985.”

The Right Way To Look At The Weekend:

RPI should roll Dartmouth and the Big Green’s porous goaltending should do their part to help solve any questions about their play at even strength.  I’ve got the feeling the game with Harvard is going to be a one goal semi-classic type of game.  Maybe I’m giving Harvard too much credit here, but there’s too much talent all over that team for them to keep losing games all year long.  That said, a solid game out of Allen York and Harvard doesn’t stand a chance.

Listen to this weekend’s games on WRPI online. 6:45pm Friday, 3:45pm Saturday.

07/15/2009

New Faces In New Places: Montreal and Toronto

Because I’m a video game dork, in particular with NHL games (well, OK EA Sports’ NHL game) and the summer leaves a dearth of fun NHL news to talk about, it’s time for me to flex my video game photo taking skills and give you an idea of what some of the new players in new places are going to look like in their snazzy new uniforms.

I’ll do a few of these photo galleries because I’m that bored and I have that kind of time. Suck it.

This gallery will feature two teams who have done quite a bit this off-season. It also helps that they’re huge rivals with each other.

I bring you the newest Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. Feel free to click the photos to enlarge them at your leisure.


Scott Gomez slams on the brakes in front of Matthew Stajan and Colton Orr.


Brian Gionta celebrates a goal he didn’t score.


Mike Cammalleri lets a shot rip from the slot while Mike Komisarek sprawls out to block it.


Paul Mara skates head to head with Colton Orr.


Mike Komisarek lurks behind the net while Garnet Exelby defends. Jonas Gustavsson holds down the fort.


Jaroslav Spacek races through the slot to let a wrist shot fly.


Hal Gill does something other than stand around.


Travis Moen celebrates like a douchebag after scoring a back-breaking shorthanded goal. Francois Beauchemin stands by stoically.

06/30/2009

Montréal: Surréal and Unréal

Picture if you will a place where hockey is talked about day in and day out.

A place where newly drafted soon-to-be superstars high-five you for being hockey fans going into a bar.

A place where an NHL head coach could charm the pants off of just about any woman he wants to in the bar while he’s just as hammered as you are and you’re stuck standing around in awe of the whole scenario unfolding in front of you.

A place where 10 year-olds have no fear, ignore their grandparents and approach a group of hockey-centric strangers just to heckle a Bruins fan.

A place where out amongst the late night drunken revelers, loud and animated discussions about John Tavares erupt out of the blue.

A place where an inebriated 4:30 AM trip to McDonalds turns into a mind-blowing experience when you realize said McDonalds is across the street from what used to be the Montréal Forum.

A place where running into everyone you’ve ever cited or made fun of in the hockey blog world convenes to share a beer or twelve together.

This is what Montréal was during NHL Draft weekend. Part surreal, part unreal, completely incredible.

I’ll say this about Montréal:

It’s a city I loved before making this trip. I’d been there a few times before and had some incredible times up there and the city has always left an indelible mark on my memory for about a thousand different reasons.

This time will go down as one of the most incredible experiences for me because not only was this about being somewhat immersed in the middle of the madness that is the NHL Draft, but it also helped that it doubled as an end of the year convention for those of us in the “alternative” hockey media.

Oh sure, most of us may not have press passes and we may be playing the role of angry columnist at times (OK all the time over here), but anywhere you went in downtown Montreal this past weekend had hockey going on with it.

If you were out to grab a beer at a local tavern, you might run into some front office guys from an NHL team.

Need to get some dinner in Old Montreal? You might see folks from the Penguins stroll down the street with the Stanley Cup, much the way some of the other NHL Tweet Up folks did on Saturday night.

Going to Peel Pub to soak in the frat boy type of nightlife? Downstairs you might get high-fived by a celebrating Kyle Palmieri or you could head upstairs and see Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski among others.

That’s just a sample of how things went down and, even still, there was more going on than all of that. I don’t need to break down how the picks went or the backroom nonsense that was going on or any of that, you’ll find enough about all of that elsewhere.

What I can say is that I’m glad I’m NOT in Montréal now after the announcement of the Christopher Higgins trade to the Rangers for Scott Gomez that also, seemingly, included the Canadiens top defensive prospect Ryan McDonagh.

The reaction to this deal, for Montréal fans has been, to put it lightly, hysterical. Not the funny kind of hysterical but the manic, crazed and angry kind of hysterical. For a good example of what it’s like to be a dyed in the wool fan of Les Habitents, check this thread at Hockey’s Future that reads like an Internet car crash turned into rally with pitchforks and torches. As of this writing, the thread based on this deal alone was up to 35 pages.

Now take folks like that and put them all in one city and have them dialed into what goes on with the hometown team 24/7. That’s Montréal. Hockey all day, every day.

Heaven… I just don’t speak the language in heaven is all. Well, the main language anyhow.

This kind of seemingly moronic deal sets the table quite nicely for the NHLs National Day of Insanity: The start of free agency.

We’ve already seen one highly-dubious contract handed out to Dave Bolland of the Blackhawks for five years and $3.375 million per year. He’s on the young side, but he also notched a mere 47 points last year. The Blackhawks are banking on Bolland improving and making this deal into a bargain in future seasons.

Yeah, good luck on that.

Adding this to the dubious Rangers-Habs trade today you can see why I look forward to this each year, it’s just funny that Glen Sather is on the positive end of the spectrum this time around. Perhaps he’ll give an asinine contract to Christopher Higgins (a restricted free agent) to make up for it and we can mock him endlessly once again.

Bizarre part about this deal for Montreal is that they had oodles of cap space to work with and instead lock themselves into having Gomez as their top centerman, essentially kiss captain Saku Koivu goodbye and take themselves out of the running for the Sedin twins since Gomez is due over $7 million a year on the cap until forever.

Like I said: Seemingly and most likely a terrible development for the Habs.

For the Rangers, it’s an interesting start and one that’s rumored to continue into a deal for Senators winger Dany Heatley sooner than later. Should that happen, well, perhaps the Rangers will realize that they dealt the wrong centerman to Montreal as Gomez would work quite well dishing off to Heatley.

Chris Drury? Not so much…

All of this though is just the appetizer for July 1st. I’ll be doing a lot of snap judgments through the day tomorrow on Twitter, so follow along with me as idiocy runs wild.

04/21/2009

Playoff Thermometer

Bend over everyone, it’s time to take the temperature of the playoffs.


The Playoff Doctor will see you now.

I see the Canadiens, Blues and Sharks are already in position. How nice of you to be so helpful to myself and your opponents.

I know that Bruins fans want to think that they’re exorcising playoff demons here, but considering how schizophrenic the Habs were all season long, how awful they played leading up to the playoffs and how beat up they were… Is this really a surprise at all?

Yeah, yeah I know – rivalries, history, magic, aura… All that crap gets brought up and its stupid. None of that has anything to do with how horribly overmatched the Canadiens were going into this series and now that they’re on the brink of being shown the broom there’s nothing incredible nor overwhelming about it.

The Bruins weren’t the underdogs in this battle and they’re certainly not a rag-tag bunch of kids going up against Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden Canadiens either.

Wait, what’s that Jack Edwards?

Good lord.


Jack Edwards: Certifiably Insane

If the Bruins struggled at all in this series I would’ve been at a loss for words and then if you twisted my arm I might buy into that nonsense about never getting by the Canadiens ever.

Things change and this year things got a lot better for the Bruins and a lot worse for the Canadiens and its more than evident in this series.

The Bruins will get their first actual test in the next round…unless they face Carolina (trailing New Jersey 2 games to 1) or Philadelphia (trailing Pittsburgh 2-1), then forget it it’s a walk to the Eastern Conference Finals in that case.

If they get either the Rangers or the Penguins in the second round, things get shaky for the B’s since the Rangers (leading Washington 2-1) would have a goalie that can carry them far and steal games and the Penguins have offense to burn and give Tim Thomas fits.

In the Western Conference, I want to say that there’s rhyme or reason for why the Sharks are failing so hard, but I can’t even begin to imagine what the hell their problem is.

Presidents Trophy jinx? Get lost and stop reading my website.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau aren’t clutch enough in the playoffs? If you believe that kind of nonsense I’m going to find you and fire you into the sun.

Demotivated team whose boredom carried over into the opening round? Ehh…

That would make sense if they weren’t playing a team they hate in the first round, and let’s face it, San Jose hates Anaheim and there’s no way around that.

You want the truth of the matter? Here it comes:

San Jose went sputtering into the playoffs and then got the worst possible opponent they could draw in Anaheim – a team that was on fire since the trade deadline, a team that didn’t have a favorable schedule to close out the year when it came to making the playoffs.

Yet, here they are and they’re on fire and they’ve got that savvy veteran leadership that the playoffs was meant for.

Oh yeah, and they’ve got a team that plays sick defense. Remember the 2007 team that won the Cup much to everyone’s chagrin? Yeah, they’re just like that team was only this time they’ve got a lot of younger guys up front, a lot of whom came up in the Ducks system and they know it backwards and forwards.

The Niedermayer brothers are still there. Teemu Selanne is still there. Physics egalitarian Chris Pronger is still there. Hell, even Jean-Sebastian Giguere is still there and he looks dashing in a baseball cap while Swiss freak Jonas Hiller backstops the Water Fowl.

They’re not your normal eighth seed – these guys are good and they’re happy staying under the radar. They’re also still douchebags – so they got that going for them.

Should the Ducks move on, and with the way San Jose is playing it seems foolish to think that it won’t, a potential match-up with Detroit (who is busy schooling Columbus on the finer points of how to play hockey) in the second round will go down as the best series in the entire playoffs.

Bank on it.

Then you’ve got the St. Louis Blues…

Let’s face it, I got Andy Murray’s team all sorts of wrong here back in October when I said that they didn’t need to even show up this year because they weren’t going to make the playoffs.

No, really, I did say that.

What I didn’t get wrong though was about Andy Murray himself. Let me cite noted hockey blogger Hockey Joe, author of Gross Misconduct about what he had to say about Andy Murray:


The best part of this team, however, is the head coach Andy Murray. Murray is a smart enough guy and is always able to get the best out of his teams. He did very solid work with the L.A. Kings until things turned horribly southward there and it’s that experience Murray will have to draw on for handling this Blues team.

Such grace in those words – someone should give that guy a pat on the back. Of course, the next phrase after that was:


The Blues will have a spurt or two in them where they’re able to man-up and pull a few surprises out and goaltender Manny Legace, or presumptive backup from Nashville Chris Mason, are more than capable of stealing a couple games throughout the season, but don’t buy what they’re selling. This team is bad.

Damn it all.

I should’ve been wiser to Manny Legace having a meltdown at some point this season and I should’ve stuck to my guns about Murray as a coach. I also should have been smarter about the youth on the Blues roster and respecting what they could bring to the table right away in a situation that would demand they do it sooner than later.

Some how, some way the Blues managed to end up sixth in the Western Conference and their reward for that was Roberto Luongo and the Freaky Swedes with their Bore You Into Submission brand of hockey.

Any other time in my hockey life I’d be openly rooting against Vancouver because they’re like ether on ice.

Not this time.

I’m spiteful.

I’m angry.

I’m vengeful with my words and my middle fingers.

The Blues screwed me out of going five for five on my pre-season prediction and now they’re paying for it.


Hey St. Louis! I got two words for ya!

Suck it.

As for Vancouver, a tune up agains the Blues in what basically boils down to a rough scrimmage is just what they needed. Hell, the Canucks are even getting over on trashing the Blues verbally too:

Embarrassing – glad to have the Canucks on my side in this one.

The Canucks are getting hot and they’re destined for a second round match-up with either Chicago or Calgary (Chicago leads the series 2-1) and that works out just fine since those two teams are going to beat each others brains in for a while, or at least be cheap-shotting pricks:

That sets things up rather nicely, eh?

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