Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Motoring to Motown!

Sophomore Alden Hirschfeld's winner in double OT sends Miami back to the Frozen Four

With Miami's 3-2 victory over Michigan on Sunday night, the RedHawks once again find themselves within two wins of the national title. Miami will face a familiar foe in Boston College with RIT and Wisconsin making up the other national semifinal. Miami and BC faceoff at 8:30pm on Thursday, April 8 from Ford Field.

More on the matchups later. In the meantime, here's a healthy heaping of links to all the game coverage.

Sylvania native Hirschfeld delivers for RedHawks - Toledo Blade

Moving on to Motown - MU RedHawks Hockey Blog

Redemption for RedHawks -

Miami drops Michigan in 2 OT - (with video highlights)

Frozen Four Preview - Detroit Free Press

Boston College awaits RedHawks
- Dayton Daily News

Knapp, Miami survive, move on
- College Hockey

RedHawks exorcise OT demons - Inside College

More to come over the next week leading up to Thursday's games. Congratulations to the RedHawks!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NCAA Tournament Time!

With the work thing getting in my way this week, and quite a bit recently, Alex over at MURedHawks Hockey Blog has the honors this week of writing up the preview of today's game against UAH. Thanks for letting me steal the content, Alex!

Many of you diehard college hockey fans have no doubt heard about the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, but the majority of the publicity that UAH has gotten lately has been less than encouraging. Throughout the program's existence, UAH has been a part of the soon to be defunct College Hockey America (CHA). For now, the Chargers are in essence "homeless," without an official conference to play in next season and an independent schedule in front of them. With Nebraska-Omaha's departure from the CCHA creating an open slot, UAH applied for membership, and received a "thanks but no thanks" reply from the league and commissioner Tom Anastos. Most certainly down, but not out, the Chargers are writing a new chapter in their program's history, winning the final CHA Championship and making the NCAA Tournament as an Automatic Qualifier.

This won't be the first time that the two schools have met. Miami swept the Chargers in the 2003-2004 season at Goggin Ice Arena and Miami holds a 5-1 all-time advantage against UAH. Here's a look at the matchup, scheduled for 4pm ET on ESPNU:

Up front, UAH has forwards Cody Campbell and Andrew Coburn. Campbell, a sophomore and Coburn, a junior are both 22 point scorers. Campbell has 8-14-22 on the season and Coburn is an assist better than his teammate, notching 7-15-22. Separating these two players gives the Chargers the ability to roll more than one line, as Coburn usually centers a line with Kevin Morrison and Chris Fairbanks. Campbell plays on the right wing with Neil Ruffini in the middle and Sebastien Geoffrion on the left side. The RedHawks will need to keep an eye on these two lines, especially Ruffini's.

The bread and butter within the Chargers game resides on the blueline and on special teams, particularly with the penalty kill, ranked 4th in the nation. On the blueline, there are a good mix of underclassmen and "veterans"; seniors with NCAA tournament experience.

Unlike the RedHawks, UAH has a definitive number one goaltender in Cameron Talbot. No platoons here. The junior has recorded the decision in every one of the Chargers games this season and has a record of 12-17-3 with a 2.62 GAA and a .924 save percentage (which ties him for 5th in the nation with our own Cody Reichard). Backup 'tender Blake MacNicol has only seen action in two games and has no record.

Keys to Victory
For Miami to advance, staying out of the penalty box and running a physical game are both very important. The RedHawks definitely have the size advantage in this matchup, and will rely on that physicality to carry the tempo.

Prediction: UAH is a great story, but doesn't have the depth that the RedHawks do. Many say this is a "trap game"; a 4-1 matchup, but I think the skill and experience win out. Miami advances, 4-2.

Friday Recap

East Regional
#4 RIT 2, #1 Denver 1 - Yet another #4 seed defeating a #1. Last year, three #4's advanced to the second round including Miami. Obviously the RedHawks will be on full alert today as they take on a #4 seed themselves.

#3 New Hampshire 6, #2 Cornell 2 - Overrated Cornell taken behind the woodshed by UNH. All-world goaltender Ben Scrivens let in several soft goals as the Wildcats rolled.

West Regional
#1 Wisconsin 3, #4 Vermont 2 - Close game, but Wiscy wasn't really threatened.

#2 St. Cloud 4, #3 Northern Michigan 3 (2 OT) - Bummer for the CCHA, but NMU played well. Interestingly, SCSU notches it's first ever NCAA Tournament victory setting up a rematch of last week's WCHA tournament semifinal where the Huskies shutout the Badgers 2-0. This game will be played in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul likely handing the Huskies a sizeable home ice advantage.

Saturday's Schedule

Midwest Regional - Semifinals
#1 Miami v. #4 Alabama-Huntsville - 4pm ESPNU
#2 Bemidji State v. #3 Michigan - 7:30pm FSN North

Northeast Regional - Semifinals
#1 Boston College v. #4 Alaska-Fairbanks - 1:30pm
#2 North Dakota v. #3 Yale - 5pm FSN North

East Regional Final
#3 UNH v. #4 RIT - 6:30pm ESPNU HD

West Regional Final
#1 Wisconsin v. #2 St. Cloud State - 9pm ESPNU HD

Sunday's Schedule
Northeast Regional Final - 5:30pm ESPNU
Midwest Regional Final - 8pm ESPNU

Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 CCHA Championship Weekend - March 19-20

Miami captain Tommy Wingels hopes to continue last night's celebration on the ice in Detroit

Detroit, Mich. (March 19) - The CCHA season has hit its annual end point with the four remaining teams congregating in Detroit for the final weekend of CCHA play. This weekend, three of the top four seeds made it to the Joe for the CCHA Championships including top seeded Miami and #7 seed Michigan who play tonight at 8pm on the Big Ten Network.

#3 Ferris State and #4 Northern Michigan will meet in the first semifinal with the winner advancing to the championship game against either Miami or Michigan.

Miami and Michigan have faced each other twice already this season with Miami sweeping the Wolverines in Ann Arbor 3-1 and 5-1. But, as they say, that was then, this is now.

These Wolverines are 6-2 over their last eight games and just completed a two game sweep of arch rival MSU in East Lansing to earn a berth in the finals weekend. By most accounts, the Wolverines must win the tournament to keep their 19-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances alive. They are playing fast. They are playing smart and strong in front of walk-on goaltender Shawn Hunwick who is 5-1 since taking over for the injured Bryan Hogan. But, Hunwick has yet to face a team as talented as Miami and certainly not under the hot lights of Joe Louis Arena.

Meanwhile, Miami enters tonight's game secure. They are in the NCAA tournament, but they'd like dearly to hold onto either the #1 overall seed, or at worst, #2 by performing well this weekend. Plus, Miami has never captured the Mason Cup, a feat this team wants badly to accomplish.

Miami has talked about three championships all season. They have the first, the CCHA regular season title. The second is two wins away and the third begins next weekend. Can they do it?

Here's what College Hockey News had to say about the weekend. Miami has never fared well against Michigan, nor in Joe Louis Arena. I'm optimistic, but won't be surprised either way.

I'm out. Heading for Detroit.

Go RedHawks!

Zac Dalpe Signs with Carolina

Former OSU forward Zac Dalpe signs 3-year entry level contract

Raleigh, N.C. (March 18) - Well that didn't take long.

Just a day after Ohio State announced that long-time head coach John Markell would not be returning next season, super sophomore Zac Dalpe signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, the team that drafted him 45th overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft.

Dalpe, a finalist for the CCHA's Player of the Year, finished his Ohio State career with 34 goals and 36 assists for 70 points in 76 collegiate games. This year, Dalpe was by far Ohio State's most impressive and consistent player scoring 21-24-45 earning a spot on the CCHA's First Team. He will be assigned to AHL Albany after pocketing a $262,500 signing bonus and anticipated annual paychecks of $550,000 in 2010-11, $600,000 in 2011-12 and $700,000 2012-13 to complete the entry level deal.

In addition to losing Markell and Dalpe, Ohio State also lost junior forward Hunter Bishop, who signed with the Montreal Canadians. Bishop, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska, transferred from North Dakota two years ago and netted 15 goals and 27 points in 33 games this season for the Buckeyes. He will be assigned to AHL Hamilton.

This means the Buckeyes have lost more than 33% of their total goal production with the early departures of Dalpe and Bishop and the graduation of senior Mathieu Picard who netted 5 goals this season.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Got Hardware?

Miami takes home a truckload of hardware from
tonight's CCHA Awards Banquet

Detroit, Mich. (March 18) - The Miami RedHawks, already owners of the 2009-10 CCHA regular season title, took home nearly every individual award at tonight's CCHA awards banquet held at Detroit's Fox Theatre.

Cody Reichard - The sophomore netminder from Celina, Ohio was named the CCHA's Player of the Year besting former Ohio State forward Zac Dalpe and Northern Michigan's Erik Gustafsson. Reichard,
who also garnered Goaltender of the Year honors, finished the the regular season as the CCHA leader in goals-against average (1.23), save percentage (.950), and shutouts (5). He also led the nation in overall GAA (1.48) and winning percentage (.841).

Tommy Wingels - The junior was named captain of the RedHawks at the beginning of the season and was tonight named the CCHA's Best Defensive Forward. Wingels was +12 in CCHA action consistently seeing time against the opposition's number one line.

Will Weber - Sophomore and CBJ draft pick Weber was honored as the CCHA's Best Defensive Defenseman. Weber is 6'4" and 200 pounds and will be solid contributor for the Blue Jackets. He has a smooth skating stride and is very fast for such a big man. What's more? Weber has a mean streak to go along with that size and is a big hitter.

Enrico Blasi - Miami's head coach was named the CCHA's Coach of the Year for the fourth time in eleven seasons at Miami. Blasi led the RedHawks to their third CCHA regular season title with a remarkable 21-2-5 conference record including a 23-game unbeaten streak in league play.

Congratulations to the RedHawks! Now bring home the Mason Cup!

Coaching Change at Ohio State

Miami fans will have to find another tan man to heckle

Columbus, Ohio (March 16) - After 15 years behind the Buckeye bench, OSU athletic director Gene Smith announced the contract of head hockey coach John Markell, would not be renewed. Markell, a Bowling Green alum, took over for Jerry Welsh in the middle of the 1994-95 season and compiled a respectable 280-267-56 record including the school's only CCHA tournament title in 2004, six NCAA tournament appearances and the school's only trip to the Frozen Four back in 1998. However, after reaching the NCAA tournament last season, the Buckeyes were largely expected to contend for a top four finish in the CCHA. Instead, they finished 9th in the regular season and a disappointing 15-18-6 overall. Instead of a first round bye, the Buckeyes hosted a first round playoff series at the OSU Ice Rink sweeping Notre Dame. The following week, they traveled to regular season champion Miami where they extended the RedHawks to three games but were ultimately eliminated.

Blue Jackets beat writer Michael Arace recently penned a column where he states that Markell was not the problem, but rather, Value City Arena and the OSU administration bear much of the blame for the lack of consistency the program has put forth. While I agree Value City Arena is an absolutely awful venue for nearly anything, it's a pro-style facility that most certainly has all the amenities a professional hockey team might have. And when full, VCA could become a significant recruiting advantage for Ohio State. The problem is that college hockey simply does not play to 17,500 seats every night, anywhere. The top drawing programs like Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota play in buildings that hold 15,237, 11,640 and 10,000 respectively with Wisconsin rarely playing to a full house. Arace is correct in saying that most programs have buildings that range in the 2,500 to 6,000 seat number and a rink of that size on campus at Ohio State could have far-reaching implications for the program. But, I find it highly unlikely that the administration would want to pony up $40-$50 million to build it.

Ultimately, Arace is wrong. It's not the building or the lack of real commitment to hockey at Ohio State that doomed Markell. He was not renewed because his program had stagnated. Even considering he took a program that averaged just 9 wins per season in the decade prior to his arrival on campus to one that won nearly 20 a year during his 15 seasons, he simply could never generate consistent momentum while being tormented by Rico Blasi and Miami down the road.

And while Ohio State has never been #1 in the state of Ohio for men's hockey behind Bowling Green and now Miami, there was the feeling that the momentum Markell had generated a few years ago was squandered. That even with decent recruiting classes, Ohio State was not winning enough to move the needle forward. That long time donors and season ticket holders finally gave up hope and stopped giving their money. In the end, Markell is out because he didn't win consistently enough and was too nice a guy to point out the fact that Ohio State doesn't really care about hockey, regardless of what they might say.

Ultimately, I do feel for Coach Markell and hope he finds another opportunity down the road.

Next Coach?
Adam Wodon of College Hockey News had this to say on possible Markell replacements.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday Night Lights - March 12

Red and White Wall - Miami defeats Ohio State (photo:

Oxford, Ohio (March 12) - Led by two goals apiece from Carter Camper and Andy Miele, the top seeded Miami RedHawks overcame a one-goal first period deficit to defeat Ohio State 6-2 in a CCHA second round tournament game at Steve Cady Arena.

Miele would get the RedHawks on the board first before Ohio State's Hunter Bishop would score his fourth and fifth goals in the last two games as the Buckeyes took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room at the end of 20 minutes.

But Camper would tie the game for Miami just 17 seconds into the second period on a one-timer from Miele and get the game-winner on the powerplay a few minutes later firing up the better-than-expected crowd of 3,141 at the Goggin Ice Center (Miami students are still on spring break). The RedHawks would score twice more in the second period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead heading into the final stanza.

On the night, Miele had 2 goals and 2 assists for his third career four point game while linemate Jarod Palmer had a goal and an assist. Junior captain Tommy Wingels chipped in with two assists and added a massive, clean open ice hit on OSU assistant captain Peter Boyd which resulted in a cheap retaliation spearing penalty to Wingels' nether-region. After the intent to injure penalty was assessed, Boyd was escorted to the locker room and the Buckeyes did not muster much of a comeback even when awarded a late third period two-man advantage.

After a slow start, Miami goaltender Cody Reichard made 26 saves and Buckeye netminder Dustin Carlson was pulled for the second consecutive start at Steve Cady Arena.

Game two of the best-of-three second round series is tonight at 7:05pm from Oxford. You can find an additional game recap at

Around the CCHA

Michigan 5, MSU 1 - Don't look now, but maybe, just maybe, Michigan is about to turn it on. They overwhelmed their in-state rivals with three first period goals and rolled in front of super-sub Shawn Hunwick who is still manning the crease while Bryan Hogan recovers from a groin injury. I believe the Wolverines will have to win the CCHA Championship in order to make the NCAA Tournament for a 20th consecutive year.

Ferris State 3, UNO 1 - Solid performance from the Bulldogs in shutting down one of the hotter offenses in college hockey.

Northern Michigan 4, Alaska 3 - After jetting to a 4-0 lead, the Wildcats had to hang on to defeat the Nanooks in Marquette, Mich.

Around the Country

Niagara 5, Bemidji State 4 - With the Beavers loss, it means that the four-team CHA will likely get two teams into the NCAA tournament spoiling the hopes of an at-large bubble team from a power conference. Currently, Bemidji is 6th in the Pairwise Rankings. I find it highly unlikely they would slide far enough to miss out on an at-large bid. The Purple Eagles will go for the final CHA Tournament title tonight on home ice vs. Alabama-Huntsville.

Quinnipiac 3, Union 2 - Why include this score, you ask? Because it took 5 OT periods for the Bobcats to pull out the victory in the longest game in NCAA history! The two teams meet again tonight in just a few hours.

Friday, March 12, 2010

CCHA Second Round - Miami v. OSU

Andy Miele and the RedHawks prepare to take on Dustin Carlson,
Chris Reed and the Buckeyes

Oxford, Ohio (March 11) - For the first time since 2004, Miami and Ohio State will face each other in the CCHA playoffs. The RedHawks and Buckeyes will battle in a best-of-three second-round series starting tonight at 7:35pm with game two coming Saturday at 7:05pm, and if necessary, game three at 7:05pm on Sunday evening. Each game will be played at Miami's Steve Cady Arena. With Miami's students returning from spring break, tickets are still available for Friday night, however Saturday is a virtual sell out with possibly a few SRO tickets remaining.

Friday and Saturday will mark the fifth and sixth times the two teams have faced each other this season. The RedHawks lead the season series 3-0-1 with the most recent meeting having occurred at Value City Arena on February 27 when the teams skated to a 0-0 tie. Miami has outscored Ohio State 16-4 this season including two shutouts of the Buckeyes.

While the eighth seeded Buckeyes appear to be heavy underdogs this weekend, history has shown that top-seeded Miami is vulnerable after breaks and bye weeks, including when they have hosted second round series in the past.

For instance in 2006-07, Miami finished third in the CCHA earning a first round playoff bye. The RedHawks completed the year at 24-14-4 and upset #1 seed New Hampshire in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Yet, the RedHawks were swept by Lake Superior in the second round of the CCHA playoffs in Oxford.

Last season, Miami finished 23-14-5, tied for second in the league, and came within a minute of the school's first national title. Yet, after securing a first round CCHA playoff bye, the RedHawks were defeated in three games by Northern Michigan and once again sat on the sidelines instead of playing for the CCHA championship and the Mason Cup.

And, earlier this year, Miami was swept by lowly Robert Morris after a lengthy holiday break.

What's this all mean? It means the RedHawks can be beaten by Ohio State if history is any predictor of future performance. However, that same pattern of struggling in the second round tends to occur every other year. This year? The pattern indicates Miami should win the series and advance to the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich. But, certainly Miami's history is worth noting.

But, unlike past seasons where Miami has played a home series to a partially full building (due to spring break) and less than thrilling opponents like Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State, this season, Miami plays their chief in-state rival and the students will be back to fill up the building on Saturday night. Perhaps Miami has fallen victim to a two-week break followed by an opponent that hasn't always been an emotional motivator. Perhaps Miami simply plays down to competition at times. But, that won't be the case with an key rival coming to Oxford. Miami should be sky high for this series and will gain an additional edge if they can get through Friday's game with a less than full student section.

I think Miami sweeps the series and advances to the Joe.

  • Miami has dominated the Buckeyes recently going 11-1-2 in the past 14 games.
  • Miami leads the all-time series with Ohio State 61-56-12 including 38-21-4 in Oxford.
  • Miami is 5-2 against Ohio State in CCHA tournament play with the last meeting coming in the CCHA semifinals in Detroit in 2004. That year the Buckeyes won three overtime games in three days to capture their only Mason Cup when the CCHA still utilized the "Super Six" format.
  • Miami has won 20 or more games for five consecutive seasons and was 21-2-5 in CCHA play this season alone.

Dalpe, Multiple RedHawks Honored
Detroit, Mich. (March 11) - Earlier this week, the CCHA announced its all-league teams and finalists for individual awards. Coming off a dominating regular season, several RedHawks were honored headlined by senior Jarod Palmer and sophomore Cody Reichard joining Ohio State forward Zac Dalpe by being named to the CCHA's first team. Palmer led the RedHawks in goals (16) and points (40) this season while Reichard led the CCHA in nearly every goaltending category as well as being the national leader in goals-against average (1.48), save percentage (93.8) and winning percentage (17-2-3 overall). In addition, junior captain Tommy Wingels and classmate Andy Miele were both named to the league's second team while Carter Camper earned honorable mention. Lastly, freshman defenseman Joe Hartman was named to the CCHA all-rookie team after a year in which he played in 35 of 36 games registering 14 points on six goals including two short-handed. Importantly, Hartman was fourth on the squad in plus-minus with a +20 rating and helped the RedHawks lead the nation in scoring defense at 1.72 goals per game.

Zac Dalpe led Ohio State in goals (20) and points (40) in being named to the CCHA first team and a finalist for Player of the Year. After a stellar freshman year, Dalpe broke out this season and led the Buckeyes from start to finish. He has been the only consistent scoring threat OSU has had this season.

In addition to the team awards, the individual finalists were named.

Cody Reichard was named a finalist for CCHA Player of the Year along with Dalpe and Northern Michigan defenseman Eric Gustafsson.

Tommy Wingels was nominated for Best Defensive Forward and Miami sophomore defenseman Will Weber (CBJ draft pick) was nominated as Best Defensive Defenseman (the league splits this into two honors to give more attention to defenseman who are sometimes overlooked in awards presentations).

Lastly, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was named a finalist for CCHA Coach of the Year, an honor he has won three times previously.

The CCHA Awards kick off CCHA Championship Weekend on Thursday, March 18. The banquet, an Academy Awards-style event with music videos and video highlights, is held at historic Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit, across from Comerica Park. The banquet begins with a social hour presented by the RBC Financial Group at 6:30 p.m. The Awards Program starts at 7:30 p.m. Banquet tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling the CCHA at (248) 888-0600 or at the door the day of the event.

Other Second Round Matchups

Michigan at Michigan State - In a rare second round meeting, the Wolverines will invade their arch-rivals in East Lansing. The good news for the CCHA is that at least one of these teams will advance to the Joe next weekend helping boost attendance. Michigan must likely win the CCHA tournament in order to make the NCAA tournament for the 20th consecutive year. I think the Wolverines advance because they are more talented, but MSU has had Michigan's number recently.

Alaska at Northern Michigan - The Nanooks hit the road again to play an interesting series in Marquette, Mich. NMU has played their best hockey historically during the second half of the season and they are doing it again this year. Walt Kyle almost always has the Wildcats in Detroit and I think that happens again.

Nebraska-Omaha at Ferris State - Dean Blais has the Mavericks flying but they'll be in for a stern test traveling to Big Rapids, Mich. to face the Bulldogs. I think this series goes to three games with Omaha moving on to Detroit.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Around the Boards 3/10/10

Today’s Topic:

What are the Top 5 Sweaters in the NHL?.

Top Shelf:

1. Blackhawks (home)


2. Habs (home)

3. Leafs (away)

4. Minnesota (3rd jersey)

5. Blackhawks (away)

Wait, that’s not it…..



1. Flames home (red)

the C of Red is amazing

2. Wild 3rd (green)

college-like script rocks

3. Devils home (red)

is there anything more iconic than the interlocking NJ?

4. Capitals away (white)

return to the retro looking Capitals logo is cool

5. (tie) Blackhawks home (red)

5. (tie) Red Wings home (red)

5. (tie) Rangers blue (home)

classic, iconic, unchanging

Pepper Brooks:

1. Chicago (Third)

If I was going to buy one sweater other than the CBJ in the NHL, it'd be these

2. Habs (Home)

The Euro chant they go through is annoying, but they sport some sweet threads...

3. Boston (Home)

They do black & gold right

4. Columbus (Home)

After a couple tries, they finally got rid of Stinger, that stupid electric green color, 26 of the 27 stars they had on the jersey, and put together a sweet looking sweater. Now, if they could only change the name.....

5. Vancouver Third

Dunno why, I just dig em.

Others receiving votes:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Around the Boards 3/9/10

Who is your favorite non-Jacket in the NHL?

Top Shelf:

As a fan, I'll say Ovechkin. Maybe it is a frontrunner pick but dude is just magic on the ice. Skating, puck handling, shooting, hitting... he's the complete package and has some flare to him that makes him so marketable for the game. Personally, I'll say Brian Campbell of the Blackhawks. I hung out with him after a Cubs Game at the Cubby Bear bar in Chicago last summer. We played a few games of Flip Cup and had some good natured Central Division smack talk. He's a good dude.


Jarome Iginla - plays like an old-school captain should.

Stick on the Ice:

I would definitely cite Jerome Iginla as my favorite non-Jacket. He is a warrior. He skates hard. He shoots hard. He punches people in the face hard. Those are the three qualities I hold most important.

Pepper Brooks:

Although I do like Iginla and Ovechkin....what fan of the game wouldn’t like those guys as they do everything necessary for their team to win. Warriors, no doubt. I am going to cheat a little and say that my favorite non-Jacket is actually a two-fer. If I had to pay money to watch anyone in the NHL, I’d actually pay to see the Sedin twins. They’re skill, ability to know where their teammates will be and know EXACTLY where each other will be are all worth the price of admission. A major misconception with them is that they’re soft. If you watch, they play a great cycle game and are impossible to knock off the puck. They don’t need to go crashing and banging after the puck because they usually are in possession of it when they gain the zone.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Four Lines Deep - 3/8/10

Blue Jackets at L.A. Kings; Staples Center
10:30 p.m (EST); Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
 #33 Freddy Modin has already played two games for the L.A. Kings and has not been injured.

Spring is a time for new beginnings and the LA Kings are looking to start a new chapter in the franchise -- aided by an emerging core of young talent and solid goaltending, the Kings look like they're well on track to making the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Another former Jacket, Freddy Modin, will be enjoying a trade deadline "upgrade" and provided that he can remain healthy, will be in the playoffs this year. Good for Freddy.

In talking with various members of the JR staff this weekend, I predicted that the game against San Jose would answer a lot of questions about the balance of the season for the Jackets -- most notably, what we could expect from them in terms of effort. I would say the results were mixed. The biggest concern coming out of Saturday's game was the (continued) abysmal performance of the power play -- if that unit can't be counted on for the same level of goal production its added all year, then this last part of the season could seem very long.

The Kings, who have 80 points and sit in third place in the Pacific, have lost their last two games and been outscored 8-4. It is safe to assume that with key defensive players such as Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty coming back from a demanding Olympic tournament, that they have been a little bit off their game. The two have combined for (-) 7 in the last two games.

However, their top line of Kopitar, Smyth and Brown is playing well right now and has given the Jackets big problems in the last several meetings -- especially Kopitar and Smyth. In three games this year, the two have combined for eight points against the Jackets. That line has to be shut down if the Jackets are going to have a chance for two points tonight.

It doesn't feel like there are a lot of bright spots for the Jackets right now, but one would certainly be the return of Brassard. Keeping the second line a justified scoring threat should help the production of Nash and the second line. "Should" is the operative word -- even with Murray/Voracek/Umberger challenging Nabokov on Saturday, the line was especially quiet against the Sharks. Noel credited that to a focus on shutting down the Thornton line - and they were mostly successful in that regard. We shall see if a similar strategy is employed this evening with the Kopitar line.  Regardless, the Jackets need that first line to generate some good chances.

If the Jackets score first, the outcome looks bleak. The Jackets, who have scored the first goal in the last nine games, have a well documented history of blowing leads late in the game. They have lost five of the past nine. They are the worst in the league at keeping a lead after two periods. The Kings - on the other hand - are the best at maintaining a lead after two periods. This is a subject worthy of its own rant -- but the conditioning program for this team must be called into question in the off-season. I don't doubt that the players are working hard and that everyone has the best of intentions -- however, hard work without the benefit of strategy or cohesion is just wasted effort. Ineptitude on this scale transcends the issues of consistency and focus that often plague a young team. For the sake of tonight's game, let's hope the CBJ can keep after it for 60 minutes.

Around the Boards 3/8/10

Today's Question:

Now that Hitch is gone, what do you want to see happen with Nikita Filatov, both this season and going forward?

Should he stay or should he go?

Stick on the Ice:

I think we have to get him a chance, and I believe that for a few reasons. One, if he never plays another minute with the CBJ, it will further any perceptions that Columbus is where young talent comes to practice checking and third line work. This team will be heavily dependent upon youth for at least the next 3-4 years, and that reputation won't help the organization in any regard. Second, it's clear that Filatov has talent -- he's got a goal scorer's instincts, and the last time I looked, we haven't finished in the top half of the league in....forever. Certainly, we've made improvements, but if you get Filatov as part of an effective and consistent second line, then you take a lot of presasure off Nash and the first line. The third reason is that Filatov really hurt his trade value this season -- both for reasons on and off the ice -- and if he doesn't get some exposure to showcase his ability in the NHL, then we'll never get his true value in return in a trade situation. He is the third high-profile Russian we've had on the roster (Federov, Zherdev) and it would be nice to have one work out so that we can get some blog hits from Russia.

No question -- he has to mend some fences. And fast. However, I just think it will ultimately do more damage to the organization if he doesn't come back at all....

Top Shelf:

I get all of SOI's arguments regarding Filatov. Further, I get the impression from the boys at the Dispatch that I should get comfortable with the notion that Filatov may be back in Columbus as early as this season, and definitely next. But I just can't escape the thought that this kid did more than act like a brat to his coach. He quit on his teammates as well. Brassard didn't quit. Russell didn't quit. Jake has worked his ass off all season long. Those young players took everything hitch threw at them and didn't quit. I just feel like if I was on that team I would be hesitant to welcome the kid back.

Pepper Brooks:

There’s no doubt that you have to bring the kid back into the fold next year, that is, if he wants to be here in the first place. Despite being painted as the Anti-Zherdev, he pulled a very Zherdevian move by quitting on his team and his coach. It looks like he may have done the same thing at the World Juniors as he was stripped of his captaincy in the middle of the tournament (although the Russian showing at the Olympics gave a hint that there may be more problems internally than Hockey Russia would like to admit).

Bottom line is, the kid is supremely talented and projected to do great things in the NHL….like it or not, those types of players get a mulligan more often than other guys. He’s too valuable to tell to take a hike and his current trade value isn’t anywhere near where it could be. It would be classic Doug MacLean sell low, buy high….and we all know MacLeananomics do not work in the NHL.

Granted, Filatov is going to have to make good to the organization and his teammates by getting his can to camp nice and early and with a humble attitude (he might want to look up Derick Brassard and say he was sorry for whining to the media as he left), but if he does that he can be a big piece of the CBJ’s ‘season of redemption’ next year.