Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hanging Like a Hex

Pack oust Monarchs in Game Seven

Cadillac grilles, Cadillac bills, check out the oil my Cadillac spills
Chris Rutsch/HWP photo

The Hartford Wolf Pack furthered the Curse of the Monarchs by capturing the seventh game of their first-round playoff series against Manchester on Saturday night, 2-1, at the Hartford Civic Center. Manchester has yet to win a playoff series in their five-year history, so far making the playoffs in every year of their existance but then getting eliminated in the first round each time. The Wolf Pack now advance to the second round, where they will face the Portland Pirates in the Divisional Finals beginning in Hartford on Tuesday.

The Wolf Pack played a solid game throughout, controlling the puck in deep when they had to while creating plenty of scoring chances. Chris Holt started in net for Hartford and played what was probably the game of his life. Holt made quite a number of difficult saves and handled the puck smartly all night, covering up when he had to and keeping some tricky second chances by the Monarchs from getting through. Holt also benefitted from some spotless puck-clearing by the Hartford defensemen, although there was one point during the game when Holt couldn't see a loose puck as it sat behind him in the crease, inches from the goal line. No Manchester players were able to get through and take a stab at the puck, though, and Holt eventually slid the puck out of harm's way with a backwards swipe of his heel.


Martin Sonnenberg (Courant photo)

The Wolf Pack gained the early momentum when Martin Sonnenberg scored 3:42 into the first period, on a shot from the right-hand side of the net that Sonnenberg banked off goalie Adam Hauser. Sonnenberg was practically the saviour of the entire series for the Wolf Pack, scoring the crucial overtime game-winner in Game Two that kept the Pack from going up to Manchester down 2 games to none. Sonnenberg also set up Hartford's second goal of this game, on a nifty diagonal centering feed that Alexandre Giroux buried six minutes into the third period to put the Pack up, 2-1. From there, Holt and the Wolf Pack hung on to claim the win and the series, helped yet again by Martin Sonnenberg, who won some key defensive zone face-offs in the hectic final minutes of the game.

An amusing thing that happened during the game came in those tense final few minutes, during timeouts that were taken by each team. Chris Holt would turn towards the net to get a drink from his water bottle and then nod and wink to the fans behind the goal, acknowledging the applause as if to say, "No way we're not gonna win this thing." The second time he did this, the fans gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.


Giroux's third-period goal (Chris Rutsch photo)

After some nearly unbearable officiating messes earlier in the series, this game was relatively well-officiated, with only six penalties called all game, and none in the third period.

Hartford's parent club, the New York Rangers, were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday afternoon, which at the very least could mean the return of Jarkko Immonen and Thomas Pöck to the Wolf Pack in time for the series against Portland.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Evgeni Malkin: "It's 100% that I'm leaving"


Evgeni Malkin

Russian star Evgeni Malkin has made his decision to play in the NHL next season, and negotiations to bring the talented young forward to Pittsburgh are already underway, according to this story and interview that appeared in Sport Express earlier today:

"It is now known that the forward for Metallurg Magnitogorsk has officially declared his intention to leave for the NHL and play for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the upcoming season. It is likely that all of this, meaning the developments that will surround his departure, will become the main soap opera during the off season. It is unlikely that Malkin will sign a contract soon, however, as the two sides cannot even begin official talks, because of the absence of an agreement between the NHL and Russia. Furthermore, Malkin is still under contract with Magnitogorsk through 2008, and the management of the Russian club does not intend to allow Malkin to go overseas without any compensation.

"Sport Express has learned that negotiations have begun between the two teams, which was confirmed by the general director of the PHL (Russian Professional Hockey League), Vladimir Shalayev. According to the agreement between the Players' Union and the NHL, Malkin, by being the second player picked, must sign a standard contract for three years, not to exceed $750,000. How much compensation the Russian club wants for Malkin from the Penguins isn't yet clear."

Evegeni, have you already made your decision to play in Pittsburgh next season?

Yes, and I announced this to my teammates on the final day of the season. My teammates have already wished me luck.

I have an enormous desire to play in the NHL. I wanted to leave before this past season; however, after consulting with my agents, my parents, and the management of Magnitogorsk, I decided to stay another year in Russia. I have even more confidence now that I can score in the NHL, and become a star there. I realize, of course, that there will be a language barrier at first, and unfortunately I haven't been able to spend much time with my tutor this season. But there is no other way for me: I am leaving, 100%.

You have an active contract with Metallurg through 2008. How has the team management reacted to your decision?
On the one hand, they have assured me that they do not object to my leaving. But on the other hand, Metallurg wants to get fair compensation from the American team, and right now they are conducting talks directly with Pittsburgh. There is likely to be a serious debate between the two clubs, and, I would say, even between the two leagues. I'm hoping that an agreement between Russia and the NHL will be signed by this summer. To what extent Magnitogorsk would try to hold me to the end of my contract, I don't know.

Do they know of your decision in Pittsburgh?
I spoke with my American agent, Pat Brisson (IMG), and he said that he gave notice of my decision to the owner of the Penguins, Mario Lemieux. But since there is no agreement with the NHL, my agent isn't prepared to begin contract negotiations with Pittsburg. So, I can't say how soon I would be able to leave for camp when it is time to start training with the team.



Are you aware that GM Craig Patrick was recently let go from Pittsburgh?
Yes, I know of that. But it doesn't bother me; I doubt that the new GM will say, "This young Russian isn't important to the team." Especially since, in any event, I am still important to Magnitogorsk.

Lemieux is looking to sell the team. The possibility can't be discounted that Pittsburgh might move to another city next season.
Hockey in America is, first of all, a business. For all I know, any discussions about the sale of Pittsburgh could be no more than rumours. I have heard that the city might be willing to build a new arena, or that the league could help the team financially.

It's been a while since the Penguins were serious contenders, and even adding Crosby and Gonchar to the team this year didn't improve the situation. Hopefully you realize that if you do go to play there, you will be playing on a non-playoff team.
There's nothing terribly wrong about that, as far as I can see. Ovechkin went to play in Washington, where they aren't contending for the Stanley Cup, either.

It's pretty simple: the NHL is the strongest league, and to play in it is the dream of every young hockey player, myself included. Where the team might finish isn't what's important to me now. The main thing for me is, first, to prove that I am capable. Further along, it will become more important.

It was said that you didn't join the NHL this season because there were already two strong rookies, Ovechkin and Crosby, and you were afraid of the competition. This new season, there won't be as many competitors against you for the Calder Trophy, which would make it easier. Is this true?
But, there will be competitors! As one example, I will be up against the American, Phil Kessel, a player that I faced often in the World Junior Championships.

This season, both Ovechkin and Crosby passed the 100-point mark as rookies. Do you think you're capable of eclipsing this mark?
100 points is a big number, and achieving that will be very hard. But, I will try. I hope the new rules the NHL started using this season will be to my advantage, and that scoring goals there will be easier than in the Super League.

There is already a young star in Pittsburgh, the Canadian, Sidney Crosby. You're not concerned that, as a foreigner, this will be used against you?
I hope from the beginning to have an agreement, so that such a turn of events won't happen, and that Crosby and I start out as being treated equally. If I'm playing well, and not worse than Crosby, but he is getting more ice time than I am, I will tear up my contract and return to Russia!

Do you plan on having in your contract a clause covering the possibility of a return to Magnitogorsk, in case you don't make the roster?
Yes, I'd like to avoid being sent down to the farm team. These are all details that will be discussed when I eventually sign the contract.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Seven Up

I played your song, I got the melody all wrong
Manchester Monarchs: been kicked around since they was born

Monarchs fans were left crying in their beards (that goes for the men, too) as the Hartford Wolf Pack defeated the Monarchs earlier tonight in Manchester, 3-1, leveling their best-of seven playoff series at 3 games apiece.

The Wolf Pack started out on top, 2-0, for the fourth game in a row, this time making the early lead hold up with the help of some stellar play by Chris Holt, starting in net in place of the injured Al Montoya. Colby Genoway, Greg Moore, and Chad Wiseman all scored goals for the Wolf Pack.


That does it! Next year, instead of season tickets, I'm spending my
nights in front of the buffet down at Sizzler!


The deciding seventh game of the series will be played in Hartford on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hey, Joe...

...just in case you missed it:

No need to thank me, it's my sworn duty to defend this bus station from the ravages of evil


(Photo: Chris Rutsch)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Al Else Fails

I don't know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand
Robert Gherson (Courant photo)

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games.

The Hartford Wolf Pack scored twice in the first 0:46 of their Game Five playoff match against the Manchester Monarchs earlier tonight, building a 4-0 lead by the time the first period was barely 2/3rds over. But then, with the score 4-1 and with just a small amount of time left in the first period, Wolf Pack goalie Al Montoya left the game with an apparent shoulder separation. Without Al-a-Mo in net, the Wolf Pack frittered away their lead, as Robert Gherson surrendered 7 goals on only 23 shots, allowing the Monarchs to walk away with an unlikely 8-6 victory. The Monarchs now lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, with Game Six to be held in Manchester on Thursday.

Three goals by Manchester in the span of about 7 minutes of the second period tied the game at 4-4. The Wolf Pack took the lead back again before the second period had ended, 6-4, on goals from Brandon Dubinsky (his second of the game and fourth in two games) and Alexandre Giroux. That was Hartford's last gasp, though, as the Monarchs put the puck past Gherson four times in the third period.

Besides Gherson's horrible performance in net, the Wolf Pack let the Monarchs back into the game with a string of ill-timed and horrible penalties. Apparently, the referees were following stringent new penalty guidlines that state, if you're a Wolf Pack player and you have arms, that's a penalty. One trick the Monarchs' players used all night to draw penalties was to lift one skate as they were being checked along the boards, to make the hit look much worse and draw a boarding penalty. All told, Hartford was called for 35 minutes in penalties (on 12 infractions), versus 19 minutes (8 infractions) for Manchester.

And I'm Ron Burgundy. Go fuck yourselves, San Diego
Photographic evidence giving truth to the rumor that the Monarchs took a synchronized diving lesson from the Hanson brothers before boarding the team bus on Monday

The stupidest penalty of all was the instigating minor that Dale Purinton took with 2:43 left in the game, on top of a boarding minor that he had already received. The resulting 4-minute power play for Manchester left the Wolf Pack on their heels for the rest of the game, dulling whatever chance they might have had of getting the two scores they needed to tie the score.

Besides Dubinsky's second straight two-goal game, Craig Weller had a 4-point night with 2 goals and 2 assists, and Martin Sonnenberg and Alexandre Giroux had a goal and an assist each. There were at least a dozen Manchester fans in attendance, and when the "crowing rooster" sound effect was played over the PA after Alex "Rooster" Giroux scored his goal, I saw some of the Manchester fans leave their seats to go feed the chickens and milk the cows. Once they realized that it was too far to walk to the barnyard, though, they came back in to watch the rest of the game.

Top Russian sniper Sergei Zinovjev to Bruins?

D'ya think they show Speed Racer here?
Sergei Zinovjev with Team Russia

A recent item in russianprospects.com led me to a report in New England Hockey Journal, stating that the Boston Bruins are interested in bringing Sergei Zinovjev back overseas to play in the NHL. Zinovjev was one of the top scorers in the Russian Super League this past season, playing on the RSL's best forward line for eventual League champion Ak Bars Kazan-- a line on which all three players (Zinovjev, Danis Zaripov, and Alexei Morozov) finished in the league's top 5 in points during the regular season. Zinovjev continued his stellar play into the post-season, where in 13 games he put up 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists) and was +11.

From hockeyjournal.com:

Back in 2003-04, Sergei Zinovjev registered one assist in 10 games for Boston and 1-2-3 totals in four games with Providence before returning to his native Russia. The B’s third-round pick in 2000 showed some offensive power with 15-26-41 totals in 43 games this season with Ak Bars Kazan, and he also scored the game-winning goal when his team captured the Russian League title. Perhaps Boston, which was desperate for offense most of the second half of the 2005-06 season, would be interested in bringing back the restricted free agent.

"With the way the game’s played, he’s a guy we’re going to have to look at bringing back over here," said (interim GM) Jeff Gorton. "He’s obviously pretty well paid in Russia, so it would take a lot. He’s definitely somebody we’d have to consider under the new game to bring over."


An earlier prospect profile of Sergei Zinovjev in NE Hockey Journal, dating back to 2002, had this assesment of Zinovjev's talent:

Smallish but skilled Russian forward... Considered the best skater on Team Russia's 2000 World Junior Championship squad, Zinovjev played the tournament with a hairline fracture in his foot yet still led his team in scoring... In 2001-02, he became the youngest forward to be named to Russia's national team, and he had a solid scoring season with Spartak Moscow at the top level of competition in his country. Zinovjev is considered a tremendous skater with outstanding lateral agility and excellent on-ice vision.

I suppose this all sounds pretty great, if you're a Boston Bruins fan. Since the time that scouting report was written, however, Sergei Zinovjev has had some curious troubles involving illegal substances (archive stories culled from Russian Prospects):

March 2nd, 2006:

Sergei Zinovjev was cleared today of the doping charge by the Russian Hockey Federation's anti-doping enforcement body. Apparently, the banned substance in question that was discovered in Zinovjev's body was testosterone, and while the amount found violated the set Olympic standards, it could have been produced in the body naturally.

The head of the anti-doping committee, Nikolai Durmanov: "A test showed a heightened level of testosterone in Zinovjev's system... we followed all the rules and procedures during the testing, and the results do not give us any reason to accuse the player in using steroids. However, even with this result, we are announcing that we will continue to monitor him. We will carefully evaluate the player, checking him another couple of times throughout the rest of the season. On the 4th of March, Sergei can get back on the ice for the game against Lokomotiv."


Get me a soda- grape or orange, but none of that stinkin' rootbeer
Zinovjev (in white) tries for a tip-in

Then there was this, from September 3, 2004:

In the end of April, practically right before the 2004 World Championships, Russian hockey world was shaken by a drug scandal, which resulted in removal from the national team of Sergei Zinovjev for smoking marijuana. Later, the forward was disqualified from playing in the Super League, forced to miss all preseason games.

Sergei Zinovjev: "I was framed (by) Anatoly Bardin, the general manager of the national team. Apparently it wasn’t adventageous for him to have a player by the last name of Zinovjev playing for the national team at the World Championships. My removal needed to be explained somehow, so they wrote down "marijuana". But I never used the drugs. I never had a positive drug test with any of the clubs I played with. Do you really think that I, knowing regarding my invitation to the national team, would compromise my reputation like this?"

Anatoly Bardin: "I am not a representative of the drug testing agency! This is a boy, who is just over 20 years of age, who let down not only our team, but the entire nation! Now he is saying that he never smoked any marijuana and I framed him! Maybe he smoked up again?"


That last line cracks me up-- "Maybe he's been smoking dope again!"
By the way, you can click here for another version of the Zinovjev "marihuana" story, though you'll have to be able to read Polish.

(Editing note: The RSL salary cap article that was originally a part of this post has been moved to here)

Monday, April 24, 2006

It's a salary cap for the Russian Super League


Metallurg goalie Travis Scott

According to reports that began appearing today on a number of Russian news sites, including Sport Express, the governing board of the Russian Super Leagues has all but agreed to implement a salary cap ("wage ceiling"), starting next season. All that remains is an agreement on the final numbers, according to the reports.

The cap that is being considered will top out at around $10 million to $12.5 million per team, numbers which at least five teams in the League are already over (see: Payrolls of the Russian Super League teams). A 50-percent "luxury tax" is being considered for teams that exceed the cap. Additionally, a minimun payroll level of around $6 million per team would be put into place. Any cap would obviously have an effect on player movement between the Russian Super League and the other pro leagues in North America and Europe.

Also according to a story in Sport Express, the Russian Super League is considering phasing-in a ban on foreign-born goaltenders, to be finalized for the 2009-2010 season. This past season in the RSL, the top four teams all featured Canadian-born goaltenders: Ak Bars, Fred Brathwaite; Avangard, Norm Maracle; Lokomotiv, Steve Valiquette; and Metallurg Mg, Travis Scott.

Note: this article was originally a part of another post, until I moved it to here)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

It's A Slaughter!

Don't you guys think Led Zeppelin would have been better if I had been their singer? Robert Plant SUCKS!
Clockwise from top: Joe Rullier, Doug Nolan, Tim Jackman, Petr Kanko

The Hartford Wolf Pack crushed the Manchester Monarchs earlier today in Manchester, 7-0, to knot their best-of-seven first round playoff series at two games each. Game Five will be held on Tuesday night at the Hartford Civic Center.

Colby Genoway led the scoring for Hartford with a 5-point night (2 goals, 3 assists), with Nigel Dawes scoring 2 goals and 2 assists and defenseman Marvin Degon collecting 3 assists. Brandon Dubinsky, who had only just joined the Wolf Pack straight out of junior hockey on Wednesday, put forth a great effort (judging by the Chicken Hawk's radio call, with Chris Holt also in the booth), notching 2 goals and 2 assists while playing on Hartford's top line alongside Dawes and Genoway.

The first fight of the night came 20 seconds after the Wolf Pack had scored to make it 2-0, as the Monarchs' Tim Jackman was possibly looking to give his team a lift just as Dave Liffiton had done for Hartford in the previous game. Instead, Craig Weller dispatched Jackman fairly easily, crossing Jackman up by switching between rights and lefts. Martin Grenier and Doug Nolan also fought, in the third period with about 7 minutes left, but by then the game had long been put away.

Radiohead? Those motherfuckers never played a good riff in their lives!
Martin Grenier and Konstantin Pushkarev (Heather Sperrazza/HWP photo)

Manchester has yet to win a playoff series in their 5-year history, despite having some pretty good teams. And so, despite this series being far from over, the comically suicidal fair-weather Monarchs fans are already calling for their coach's immediate firing and threatening not to renew their season's tickets, just like they do after every loss during the regular season.

Of course, Hartford's fans have a far less manic internet presence:

"Dewey (Helminen) is so fucking gay. Jake Taylor owns a Jessica Simpson CD. One day Hugh Jessiman clogged the toilet on the teams bus and had to pay 200 dollars to get it fixed. They called him 'huge specimen' in college."

If the person who wrote the above comic masterpiece isn't a perfectly suitable candidate to be the Manchester Monarchs' coach for their next game, then I don't have a clue who is.

The Monarchs Fan in its Natural Habitat

In the spirit of friendship and understanding among the hockey fans in Hartford (Ct.) and Manchester (N.H.) during the current playoff series between the two cities, I present the following composite of the Manchester Monarchs fan.

I hope you have a big trunk, cuz I'm gonna put my bike in it

Monarchs fans are extrememly sensitive. Do not taunt them, or try to feed them cotton candy, lest they claw at you with their hideously-deformed paws.

I have exorcised the demons… this house is clear

In Manchester, diversity is a way of life. Look, Merle! I bet she's not from around here!

I'm not gay, I'm just celibate

Sometimes, Monarchs fans even forget the name of their own team. Hey, guys, look behind you: M-O-N-A-R-C-H-S

If the lieutenant is indeed a woman as she claims to be then she is suffering from the worst case of hemorrhoids I have ever seen!

The Monarchs are lucky, in that their mascot is not a costume at all, but a real, live, local New Hampshire woman. And, best of all, guys: she's single!

Holy testicle Tuesday

Every night is "Mullet Night" in Manchester.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wolf Pack lose in double OT, 6-5

Oh ho! 19th-Century Indian rubber vase, eh?
Watch out, Dan-- Kanko means, "can't go take a shower" (Chris Rutsch photo)

The Hartford Wolf Pack lost in double overtime to the Monarchs in Manchester on Saturday night, 6-5, with the Monarchs' Jeff Giuliano scoring the game-winning goal at 1:46 of the second overtime period. Manchester now holds a 2 games to 1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game Four to be played tomorrow afternoon in Manchester.

The Wolf Pack took an early 2-0 lead in this one, on power-play goals by Dwight Helminen and Dan Girardi before the game was even 3-1/2 minutes old. The Monarchs then reeled off 5 unanswered goals, with the fourth goal coming two minutes into the third period and causing the Wolf Pack starting goalie, Al Montoya, to be pulled in favor of Robert Gherson.


Only seconds after the Monarchs scored their fifth goal of the game to make their lead 5-2, Hartford's David Liffiton bloodied Manchester's Tim Jackman. The fight seemed to rejuvinate the Wolf Pack, and soon afterwards they scored the first of three straight goals to tie the game at 5-5 and send it into overtime.

I'm not economically viable
Goddamnit, Al-- get up!! (Union Leader photo)

I started out watching the game on the crappy B2 Network, but the game kept freezing up, eventually dropping out entirely ("server cannot be found") in the third period. After that, I settled on merely listening to the Chicken Hawk's call over the Wolf Pack's internet audio feed. Watching the game on B2 was interesting while it lasted, because I could still hear the homer-ish Manchester announcers talking to each other whenever the regular broadcast was in a commercial break, as is typical with internet feeds. Apparently, mocking the Wolf Pack (repeatedly calling them the Hartford Whalers while pretending to ignore a scoring change that gave an assist to Colby Genoway), singing along in parody to the commercials, and making jokes about Mexicans named "Pedro" is how you entertain yourself when you work on the radio in a small town in New Hampshire.

Watching Manchester's broadcast was good for at least one thing, though, as they had "bumpers" after the commercial breaks that showed video highlights of past Monarchs games, including the brawl fest with Hartford during the 2002 playoff series, which saw the players fighting on the ice, on the benches, and even in the penalty boxes, as well as fighting in the stands.

I also happened to catch one of the Manchester announcers mis-pronouncing Norfolk as "Norfork", so apparently that's not just Bridgeport's problem.

I got my hair highlighted, because I felt some strands were more important than others Jiri Hudler

Griffins win in triple OT - After taking an 18-stitch cut in his nose on the first shift of the game, Jiri Hudler returned to score the game-winning goal 2:21 into the third overtime period, as the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Toronto Marlies last night, 6-5. Aleksander Suglobov had two goals and an assist for Toronto.

Ovechkin: "I'm pretty sure Edmonton is doomed"

I'd like to get four people who do cart wheels very good, and make a cart
Alexander Ovechkin

I'm not quite up to the task of making a detailed analysis of the Stanley Cup playoffs myself, like most hockey blogs have already done this week. However, I do have first-round predictions from two of this site's favorite Russian NHL'ers, Alexander Ovechkin and Andrei Nazarov, thanks to Sport Express:

Alexander Ovechkin's predictions

link

Ottawa vs. Tampa Bay - "Ottawa will win in 4 games. I'm no great forecaster, but I am confident in this outcome. The Senators, by my estimation, are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. Tampa Bay's goaltenders, on the other hand, are not very good. This series seems pretty clear-cut to me."

Carolina vs. Montreal - "Montreal in six. As a forward, I'd much rather play against Montreal's defensemen than Carolina's. However, (Montreal's) Alexei Kovalev is without a doubt the biggest factor in this match-up. Still, Carolina is strong enough where this series should go at least six games."

New Jersey vs. New York Rangers - "New Jersey in five. It isn't easy to choose between Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur. I believe that a lot of a team's momentum comes from their goaltending, so I predict that the Devils will win. But this is a case where anything could happen. Because of that, you might expect me to say that this will go to seven games, but I'm not going to guess seven games for any of these, because I don't like a long series."

Buffalo vs. Philadelphia - "Buffalo in five. Buffalo is a very good team, on which Maxim Afinogenov plays very well. Philadelphia is more unpredicable, which makes it difficult to say who will come out on top. How much Peter Forseberg will be able to contribute is open to question, and also their defense isn't playing very well. It will be difficult for them to keep up with the speedy Buffalo players."

Detroit vs. Edmonton - "Detroit in four. This is a very powerful team. You can't just focus on one player. I can still remember how hard it is to play against them. They are a well-oiled machine. I'm pretty sure that Edmonton is doomed."

Dallas vs. Colorado - "Dallas in five. Washington didn't play against Colorado this year, so this is just a guess on my part. Based on statistics, Dallas appears to be better."

Calgary vs. Anaheim - "Calgary in five. This is another team that I didn't see this year; the teams in the Eastern Conference very rarely meet the teams from the West. But we did win in Anaheim, and I've been told that Calgary is even better. Plus, as a forward, I have greater respect for defensive teams."

Nashville vs. San Jose - "San Jose in five. The loss of Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun will simply kill Nashville. It is difficult enough to control the duo of Thornton and Cheechoo, so without their goaltender, I assume that Nashville has no chance."

I could attract a crowd, too, if I stood in everyone's way
Andrei Nazarov with the Kansas City Blades!

Andrei Nazarov's predictions

link

Ottawa vs. Tampa Bay - "Ottawa will win in six games. The Senators are an energetic, running team, which I know from experience can be very tough to play against. Maybe they weren't up to the task in previous years, but they've added some very strong players this year."

Carolina vs. Montreal - "Carolina in six. When I think of this team, I think of Oleg Tverdovsky, who is playing in top form. I consider this team to be one of the pleasant suprises of this season. Carolina's big advantage is their balance, in that they have three sets of five players that are equal to each other, all capable of sharing ice time evenly."

New Jersey vs. New York Rangers - "New Jersey in seven. In my heart, I root for Jagr and the other players on the Rangers that I'm familiar with. However, reason tells me that New Jersey will come out on top. This is a team with enormous playoff experience, plus the best goaltender in Brodeur, plus Viktor Kozlov, plus Gionta."

Buffalo vs. Philadelphia - "Philadelphia in six. This team has many experienced veterans, which will be the deciding factor."

Detroit vs. Edmonton - "Detroit in six. They have had problems with goaltending in Edmonton. They got Roloson from Minnesota, but unfortunately he isn't always dependable."

Dallas vs. Colorado - "Colorado in seven. This series is very unpredictable. The goaltending for each team is probably the weakest of all the teams in the playoffs. I think because of that, there will be a lot of back-and-forth in this series. I pick the Denver team for one reason: I know from my own experience that it is hard to play in their arena, since there isn't enough oxygen. This little detail can become decisive."

Calgary vs. Anaheim - "Calgary in six. I have no doubt that the Canadian team will win. They have special fans in Calgary, who will not allow the team to lose. Anaheim is in over their heads."

Nashville vs. San Jose - "San Jose in seven. I have faith in my former team, or more precisely, in Thornton, Cheechoo, and Nabokov."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Alaska's Dubinsky Debuts

I don't have a microwave but I do have a clock that occasionally cooks shit
Brandon Dubinsky (Chris Rutsch photo)

The following is an article that the Anchorage Daily News ran earlier today, on the Hartford Wolf Pack's Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky, a 19-year-old Alaska native who was drafted by the Rangers in 2004, signed with the New York Rangers two days ago on Wednesday, before playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack later that night.

The article, written by Doyle Woody, does a decent job of explaining the AHL/NHL salary structure for a player such as Dubinsky.

Brandon Dubinsky, 19, of Anchorage, this week signed a three-year contract with the NHL's New York Rangers and Wednesday made his professional debut with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate.

Dubinsky's deal included a $500,000 signing bonus, according to his father, Bill Dubinsky. The contract is what is known as a two-way deal, with a maximum value of $1,925,000 and a minimum value of roughly $700,000. Under the two-way structure, Dubinsky will receive a substantial salary if he plays in the NHL during the next three seasons and a reduced salary if he remains in the AHL. Bill Dubinsky said the contract would pay his son NHL salaries of $450,000, $475,000 and $500,000, respectively, for the next three seasons, and $60-$65,000 per season at the AHL level.

Dubinsky's father, who grew up a Rangers fan on New York's Long Island, said signing with the Rangers was especially thrilling for his son. Brandon grew up wearing Rangers sweaters and hats and was a Rangers fan like his dad.

"It's been pretty amazing," said Bill Dubinsky. "He was just really excited."

The Rangers drafted Brandon Dubinsky, a center, in the second round of the 2004 draft, selecting him 60th overall.

After Dubinsky's fourth season for the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League concluded Sunday, he agreed to terms with the Rangers on Monday. He flew to Hartford on Tuesday, then signed his contract Wednesday and suited up that night.

Dubinsky debuted for Hartford in a Calder Cup playoff game and took the first shift of the game. He didn't score in Hartford's 3-2 overtime win but registered one shot on goal and took one minor penalty for goaltender interference.

Relatively slight when he joined the Winter Hawks as a 16-year-old, Dubinsky has filled out nicely. He is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and heralded as a playmaker who isn't adverse to physical play.

Dubinsky this season led the Winter Hawks in scoring with 21 goals and 46 assists for 67 points in 51 games. His average of 1.31 points per game ranked third in the WHL. Even though Dubinsky missed 17 games with a knee injury suffered in January, the numbers he put up were good enough to earn him second-team, Western Conference all-star honors.

The Rangers made him the sixth highest pick in history among Alaskans. The five Alaskans who have been picked higher than Dubinsky -- first-rounders Ty Jones, Scott Parker, Scott Gomez and Barrett Heisten, and second-rounder Matt Carle -- all played in the NHL. Gomez, Carle and Parker remain in the NHL.


Click here to see Brandon Dubinsky's prospect profile on Hockey's Future.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sudden Sonnenberg

I've got a roll of Lifesavers, and pineapple is next
Sonnenberg wins it in overtime (Heather Sperrazza/HWP photo)

Martin Sonnenberg jammed the puck under Barry Brust's pads for the game-winning goal with under 4 minutes left in the first overtime period, and the Hartford Wolf Pack defeated the Manchester Monarchs on Wednesday night, 3-2, to even their playoff series at one game apiece.

Chad Wiseman and Nigel Dawes added the other two goals for the Wolf Pack.

Sonnenberg and linemate Lee Falardeau earned the first and third stars of the game after out-hustling and out-working the other players on the ice for most of the night, as both squads showed much more energy and grit than they had in the game the night before, though the officiating on both nights was equally puzzling.

My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them
Party's gettin' rough (Chris Rutsch photo)

More than a few Pack fans in the stands noticed Manchester goalie Barry Brust's habit of rapidly tapping his stick against his pads during face-offs, like Mackey Sasser waiting to throw the ball back to the pitcher, and started calling out chants of "OCD!" or clapping in time to Brust's stick taps whenever he did it.

Half the crowd on hand were also booing Joe "Riddler" Rullier whenever he stepped onto the ice, it seems, and the whole building (save the five cowbell-and-pitchfork toting Monarchs fans in attendance) erupted into a full roar when Rullier was dumped on his pig-farming britches after a check by Colby Genoway in the third period. Rullier didn't help matters by whining and yapping throughout the entire game, including slamming his stick against the ice after earning a minor penalty on what was an obvious throat-high elbow.

If you had a friend who was a tightrope walker, and you were walking down a sidewalk and he fell, that would be completely unacceptable
Joe Rullier (Chris Rutsch photo)

Obviously crime pays, or else there'd be no crime
The Riddler

Last night wasn't the first time that the Wolf Pack and the Monarchs went into overtime in the playoffs, as the two teams went even further (into double overtime) almost 4 years ago to the day, in a game on April 20th, 2002. That game, a 3-2 Wolf Pack victory, came in Game 5 of the first round and clinched the series win for the Wolf Pack over the Monarchs, 3 games to 2.

The Wolf Pack actually played three straight home playoff games that year of double OT or longer, going to triple-overtime and then double-overtime in the first two games of the following round against the Hamilton Bulldogs. This was back when the Bulldogs were affiliated with the Edmonton Oilers and had players like Ty Conklin, Jason Chimera, Fernando Pisani, and Ales Pisa on their roster.

I was at both of the double OT games that year, and being in the building for those extra two or three hours until the game has ended is an experience in itself. The concession stands have all been closed and most of the team employees sent home by the time the third period is half over, so there's no more food or drink to be had, except for maybe finding a water fountain that works. The contrast in emotional levels as the game wears on is huge-- going from practically biting your nails during the overtime periods themselves, knowing that any little mistake at all means a sudden end to the game, to then flat-lining during the 15-minute intermissions in between periods, when there's almost nothing to do but walk around inside a nearly empty building, wishing you could buy a Coke. If it's your team that wins, though, the feeling you get when the puck finally goes into the net is worth almost anything.

Roulette is fun and all, but no, those Russians had to take it one step further
Maxim Kondratiev with Hartford in '04-'05 (Chris Rutsch photo)

Kondratiev paces Pirates: Former Wolf Pack/Rangers defenseman Maxim Kondratiev had a 5-point night with a goal and four assists, as the Portland Pirates defeated the Providence Bruins in Game One of their first round series on Thursday night, 6-0.

This Blog Is Not a Band

Danzig Needs a Hug

Ironic Sans: "Blog Name or Band Name?"

Apparently, "band of idiots" doesn't count.

(Pictured: Dr. Know*) *not a blog

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kovalchuk left off Russian National Team

If your nose runs and your feet smell, then you're upside down

From an article that appeared today in Sport Express:

Atlanta Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk will not be called to Russian National team for the upcoming World Championships in Riga, Latvia.

National team head coach Vladimir Krikunov
(who is also the head coach for Dynamo Moscow) is adamant he will not call Kovalchuk.

"I gave him a chance at the Olympics and at the World Championship last year", said Krikunov to Sport-Express.

"Who was it that got drunk in Vienna during the last World Championships? Take a guess! But for some reason, this wasn't written about in the (Russian) press. Instead, the coaches were blamed for everything.

"I can’t give him another chance. Let him travel to Hawaii and have a rest.

"He is an excellent player but when he arrives to a new city he takes the map and starts to find some restaurants. I’ll never work with him again in the National team."

Sucked Out

There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot
Chris Rutsch/HWP photo

The Hartford Wolf Pack lost the opening game of their first-round playoff series against the Manchester Monarchs on Tuesday night, 1-0, with the lone goal being tallied for Manchester by NHL castoff Alexandre Daigle.

Other than the pushing and shoving that ocurred after every other whistle as the night progressed, you'd hardly have known that this was an important post-season battle. With the listless play on the ice, the paltry crowd, and the constant borderline calls from the officials, the game felt more like a game from the last pre-season, when everyone was still feeling the new rules out, than a playoff game.

Top-ranked Rangers defensive prospect Marc Staal played in his first-ever pro game, but didn't show much at all, other than a slight resemblance to Napolean Dynamite (someone else pointed this out first, so don't blame me for it).



As you'll notice by using the handy chart here (swiped from the Wolf Pack web site), the two teams return for Game Two of the series the following night, on Wednesday, at the Hartford Civic Center.

If seeing Hartford get shut out on Tuesday night has anyone pining to see a Wolf Pack player actually put the puck in the net, then click here, go down to "Wed. Mar. 1", click on "Chad Wiseman", and you can watch a video highlight (in crappy lo-def B2 Networks technology) of Chad's game-winning goal from the 7-6 overtime victory against Norfolk, complete with Bob "Chicken Hawk" Crawford's "Wicky Wacky" call.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Where No Maple Leaf Has Ever Gone Before

Ak Bars sweeps Avangard in three games to win Russian title

These cookie crumbs are making me itch

In a game that was finished earlier today, Ak Bars Kazan defeated Avangard Omsk in Omsk, 3-1, to complete a three-game sweep of the finals and capture the 2006 Russian Super League championship. Leading the way for Ak Bars in the Game Three victory was Alexei Morozov (Pittsburgh Penguins - RFA), the top scorer in the Super League this year.

Morozov scored Ak Bars' first goal of the game and then assisted on Ak Bars' second goal, with both scores coming in the second period after Avangard took an early 1-0 lead.

If the people of New Zealand want to be part of our world, I believe they should hop off their islands and push 'em closer

AHL playoff picture finalized

On the final day of regular-season play in the AHL, the Lowell Lock Monsters defeated the Providence Bruins today in Lowell, 7-3. The loss by Providence prevented them from overtaking the Manchester Monarchs for third place in the AHL's Atlantic Division, meaning the Bruins will enter the divisional playoffs as the fourth seed and face top-seeded Portland.

Game recap from Lowell site
Game recap from Providence site

The Hartford Wolf Pack, by virtue of their second-place finish in the division, will host their first-round series against Manchester. The best-of-seven series starts with Game One in Hartford on Tuesday, April 18th, and Game Two in Hartford on Wednesday, April 19th.

The Kids Will Have Their Say

We're Gonna Sabotage Your Cookout
Lauri Korpikoski (#24) and Greg Moore (#14) (Chris Rutsch photo)

Last night's game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers could've easily have been a letdown game for the Hartford Wolf Pack, and in fact it started out like it was going to be one. Coming off a fight-scarred road victory the night before against hated rival the Providence Bruins, and with their playoff position already well in hand, facing a neutered Bridgeport Sound Tigers team that the Wolf Pack had handled fairly easily early on in the season (6-0 against the Sound Tigers at one point)-- the likelihood for the Wolf Pack to come out flat in this one was definitely there.

After a rocky start to the game, marked by three Bridgeport power plays in the first few minutes, the Wolf Pack found their skating legs and came storming back, holding a shot advantage that was something like 21-2 over one stretch between the first and second periods. Still, it only added up to a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard, on a freakish goal by defenseman David Liffiton where he Jagr'ed his way through most of the Bridgeport team and fired a shot on goal that was turned aside, only to have the puck bounce off the back of a Sound Tigers defender and into the net. When Bridgeport tied the game at 1-1 late in the second period, on a powerplay goal only a minute into a bogus 5-minute high-sticking major against Dan Girardi, it looked like the Sound Tigers were about to turn the tide against Hartford.

But moments later, a shorthanded goal by Greg Moore dropped the Sound Tigers right where they were standing. In a brute display of power, Moore bulled his way down the left wing with Cole Jarrett clinging to his skates like an ankle-biting poodle dog, Moore then chipping the puck back over Bridgeport goalie Frederic Cloutier's shoulder as Jarrett continued to slash at his shins with his stick. Lauri Korpikoski then scored a minute into the third period, and the Wolf Pack kept one boot on the Sound Tigers's throats from there on out, sending the whiny, low-rent, corpulent Bridgeport fans trudging back home licking their wounds, on the very short end of a 5-1 shellacking.

I would imagine if you could understand Morse Code, a tap dancer would drive you crazy
Dane Byers (#28, under the pile) takes on Marjamaki, with Dale Purinton (#5) helping out (Chris Rutsch photo)

Veteran enforcer Martin "What's up dere, Bahb?" Grenier scored a nice goal also, his 4th of the season, and Chad Wiseman finished off the scoring for the Pack with 4 seconds left to play, but this game was won on the play of the new kids. From the AHL rookies like Robert Gherson and Dan Girardi, both of whom joined the Pack well under the radar at the beginning of the season and then outplayed every other prospect ahead of them on the depth chart, to the new guys that just started playing North American pro hockey last week, like Greg Moore and Lauri Korpikoski, and Dane Byers, who wouldn't back down from protecting his goalie even while Masi Marjamaki was repeatedly jamming a stick into his gut.

I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long
Greg Moore: "This ain't the B2 Network, is it, guys?" (Chris Rutsch photo)

Their regular season now completed, the Wolf Pack await the results of today's game between Providence and Lowell before finding out who their first-round opponent will be. A series between Hartford and Manchester would start play on Tuesday, while a Providence - Hartford series would start on Wednesday.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Adventures in B2-ism

I Bought a Headache (dernt, dernt, dernnn)

Last night, we coughed up 6 bucks to watch a Wolf Pack road game over the internet on B2 Networks, catching the Wolf Pack's 3-1 victory over the Providence Bruins in Providence. I'm guessing now, after my first experience in watching a game over B2, that the "B" stands for "beer goggles". I can't say that the picture came through all that great, though with the butt-ugly retro jerseys that the P-Bruins have been wearing at home this year (they almost look like a bunch of bottles of French's Mustard out on the ice), maybe I was better off not being able to see the action too clearly.

Half the people you know are below average
Which one of you is Ben Guite?

Granted, the picture quality probably varies depending upon the type of hardware you're using (though I do have digital internet, at least). The still shots looked normal, but when the players were skating around at game speeds it wasn't easy to pick out their jersey numbers in order to quickly tell who was who, save recognizing some of the players by their size and their skating stride. I couldn't see the puck much at all, as the ice surface looked all watery, as if the players were playing in a swimming pool. It appeared to be a single-camera setup, too. Overall, though, it probably wasn't much worse than trying to watch an NHL game fifty years ago on an old black-and-white TV-- except this was in color, of course.

On the other hand, you have different fingers
Tin foil on the rabbit ears-- works everytime

In any case, Hartford won the game, with the final goal being scored on an empty-netter by Chad Wiseman after he literally had about 4 straight chances to put the puck in the net, only to miss or have a Providence player swipe the puck away at the last instant. Wiseman got into a fight, too, as did Nigel Dawes. There were five fights in the third period, partly because Providence recently picked up Matt Goody, a UHL-level goon who seems to be trying to make a name for himself by causing as much trouble as he can.

Manchester is now a point ahead of Providence in their battle for the third spot in the division, with Providence having 2 games left on their schedule and Manchester having one game left. The third-place team will meet the Wolf Pack in Round One of the playoffs, while the fourth-place finisher faces Portland.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Ovechkin to play in AHL with Hershey?

Anarchy Means I Litter
Alexander Ovechkin playing against Avangard Omsk in the Russian Super League

Unlikely, but...

According to a report today in Sport Express, the Washington Capitals may try to prevent superstar forward Alexander Ovechkin from representing Russia at the upcoming IIHF World Championships in Riga, Latvia.

The World Championship tournament, which was held in Austria last year and was won by the Czech Republic, doesn't start until May 5th. By that time, Ovechkin's NHL season would be long since over, since the Capitals won't be making the playoffs. Ovechkin has made it known that he would like to play for Russia in the tournament, and in fact has already booked a plane flight to Moscow for April 25th, according to the Sport Express article.

The Captials GM, George McPhee, is quoted by Sport Express as saying, "We have thought about that (keeping Ovechkin here), but first of all we have to speak to the player."

From the article:

It seems in Washington they are far from enthusiastic about their young star participating in the World Championships. They would prefer that Ovechkin rests, after an especially long season due to the Olympics.

There are several ways that the Capitals GM could keep Ovechkin in the States. One would be to send Ovechkin to the AHL, where the Capitals' farm club, the Hershey Bears, will begin their playoffs soon. This was tried six years ago, in Buffalo with Maxim Afinogenov, but Afinogenov insisted on leaving the AHL and nevertheless went to the World Championships. The possibility of an AHL demotion, to put it mildly, is unlikely in Ovechkin's case.

The other way would be for the club to put pressure on Ovechkin, and through conversations, force Ovechkin to change his plans. In McPhee's statement to Sport Express, made through the Capitals' press agent, McPhee said, "We have no desire to comment now on the situation with the World Championships. This situation is of interest to us, but we first must discuss this with Ovechkin. After the season is over, we will meet with him and have a talk regarding this matter."

Since the Russian Hockey Federation did not sign the player transfer agreement with the NHL, the Russian players who are in the NHL do not have a formal right to play for the national team. This is in contrast with the other European countries, whose participation in the World Championships is provided for in the agreement.

A similar situation to Ovechkin's was encountered recently, when the New York Islanders did not let Denis Grebeshkov go to the Russian team, instead sending him to their farm team with the explanation, "in view of the absence of an agreement between Russia and the NHL."

Most likely, this situation will cause the process between Russia and the NHL to be renewed. It has become known that the Russian Hockey Federation's Mikhail Margelov will be in America on April 26th to meet with the Commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, and the President of the IIHF, Rene Fasel. Also, when the new RHF President is selected on April 25th, there will be a general meeting among the Russian clubs to decide if they will hold their current position, or make concessions in regards to player transfers with the NHL. According to what Sport Express has learned, Commissioner Bettman is ready to sanction the admittance of Russian players to the Riga World Championships, even without an agreement with the RHF, but this is likely to involve reciprocal steps from the side of Russia.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pack hand Rats 13th straight loss

I Am Downright Amazed at What I Can Destroy With Just a Hammer Chris Rutsch photo

Having fallen hopelessly out of the playoff picture a long time ago and then seeing their only good player (Aleksander Suglobov) traded away in early March-- not to mention their parent club's seeming lack of interest in the team, marked by a switch in affiliations for next season-- the Albany River Rats are performing like a team with almost nothing to play for. Continuing the string of failures for the River Rats, the Hartford Wolf Pack went into Albany on Wednesday and secured a 3-2 victory. It was the River Rats' 13th straight defeat, dropping Albany to within 2 points of sinking below San Antonio into the AHL cellar.

Dwight Helminen scored the eventual game-winner for the Pack with 2 minutes left in the second period, his 32nd goal of the year, giving Hartford a 3-2 lead after they had trailed, 2-1, earlier in the contest. Lee Falardeau (5) and Hugh Jessiman (7) also scored for the Wolf Pack, with newcomer Lauri Korpikoski assisting on the goal by Jessiman.

Me and My Black Metal Friends

In other Wolf Pack news, it was announced earlier today that the Rangers have signed Maine Black Bears forward and captain Greg Moore (link via CSTB). Moore will be assigned to Hartford, and will suit up for the Wolf Pack in their game against Providence on Friday.

From the Bangor Daily News article:

Rangers assistant general manager and director of player personnel Don Maloney said Moore is a "powerful kid who skates well and thinks the game well. He has an NHL frame [6-foot-1, 214 pounds] and winning seems to follow him wherever he goes. We're excited to get him. He will definitely play a lot on Friday."

Former Rangers scout Bob Crocker, who is now with Los Angeles, said Moore will play in the NHL some day. "His potential is big. I can see him as a third-line guy [in the NHL] who will be able to contribute and score goals. He'll be strong along the wall and in the corners. He'll be a physical force in the tough areas of the ice. He's going to be a very good pro," said Crocker who also called him a "great kid."

Maloney said Moore will need to improve his "first couple of strides" and he has to become more consistently physical "and bump people off the puck."


Just when I was starting to feel okay, you're on the phone

Russian Super League update

In the Russian Super League finals, Ak Bars Kazan steamrolled over Avangard Omsk, 6-1, to take a 1-0 series lead. Six different players scored goals for Ak Bars. Game Two is scheduled for this Friday, the 14th.

Check out Russian Hockey Digest for a concise and useful preview of the finals. It's good to see that former AHL'er Ray Giroux has been having a good playoffs so far, with 10 points (3g, 7a) in 10 games for Ak Bars.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ak Bars, Avangard to meet in Russian finals

We're making enemies faster than we can kill them
Ak Bars, with Fred Brathwaite in goal, vs. Lokomotiv 4/5/06

The top four finishers in the Russian Super League regular season this year were also the last four teams left standing in the post-season, with Avangard Omsk and Ak Bars Kazan winning their semi-final matches to advance to the championship finals, which begin April 12th at Kazan.

Metallurg Magnitogorsk was by far the best team during the regular season, accumulating 38 wins and 127 points, well ahead of second-place Ak Bars Kazan (25 wins, 98 points). Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (96 points) and Avangard Omsk (93 points) finished third and fourth, respectively. Metallurg boasted the top goalie in Travis Scott (1.25 GAA, .947 sv pct, 13 shutouts in 50 games played) and the second-leading points scorer in Evgeni Malkin (26 goals and 33 assists in 53 games), but were beaten by fourth-seed Avangard in the semi-finals, 3 games to 1, with all four games being decided by one goal.

Avangard won Game One of the series on a freak goal in overtime, when a shot taken by Nikita Nikitin (Fred Fredburger! Yes!) missed the net, only to rebound off the end boards and onto goalie Travis Scott before trickling into the net. Metallurg won the second game, 4-3, on a controversial last-minute phantom goal in which video replays "clearly showed the puck crossing the goal line before ricocheting back out" (russianprospects.com).

In the other semi-final, Ak Bars swept Lokomotiv, 3 games to none. In Ak Bars' series-clinching 5-2 victory in Game Three, Alexei Morozov, the leading scorer in the RSL this season (30 goals and 35 assists for 65 points in 58 games), tallied a goal and two assists, while former Hartford Wolf Pack forward Vladimir Vorobiev (third on the Ak Bars team in scoring during the regular season) added 3 assists.

I'm the one who farted and ruined Christmas
"Hey, Louie Armstrong-- Shut the fuck up!"

Lokomotiv might've had the Trumpeter Swan on their side, but the Yaroslavl faithful had to deal with visiting Ak Bars fans carrying the traditional team flags and waving them in their faces, so I guess that makes things even.

What easily ranks as the biggest controversy so far in this year's Russian Super League playoffs happened during the quarterfinal series between Metallurg Mg and Lada Togliatti. In Game One of that series, Metallurg team captain Evgeni Varlamov accidentally struck Lada's Alexei Emelin with the puck. When Varlamov went over to Emelin to apologize, Emelin swung his stick and knocked Varlamov unconcious. Emelin later claimed that he only meant to shove Varlamov away from him in anger; meanwhile, despite remaining unconcious overnight, Varlamov returned to play only 10 days later. Varlamov also forgave Emelin and refused to take legal action.

The photo gallery on Mettalurg's web site has a series of photos from the incident-- when you click on the link, the main photo shows Emelin being led aside as Varlamov lays on the ice behind him. Russian Prospects also posted a 43-seconds-long video of the incident; maybe it'll work for you, but all I get is the audio from it.

As always, check out Russian Prospects and Russian Hockey Digest for the best coverage of the Russian Super League, and the remaining games from this year's playoffs.

(Editing note: The Jaromir Jagr article that was originally a part of this post has been moved to here)

Jagr: "I will begin training for next season with Avangard"



Jaromir Jagr gave an interview in Sport Express last week, in which he talks about rooting for Avangard in the playoffs and also him wanting to train in Russia with Avangard prior to the next NHL season. Jagr also mentions the possibility of Maxim Sushinsky coming to the Rangers next year (Sushinsky and Jagr both played with Avangard last season).

Said Jagr, in the interview, "I played in the NHL for many years, and it all began to seem the same-- game after game, plane flight after plane flight, season after season. This probably explains some, why the last few seasons before the lockout weren't my best. Thus, the opportunity to play in Omsk (during the lockout) came at a good time. In Omsk, I was treated very well, and the people allowed me the freedom to live how I wanted, without being forced to follow a strict set of rules. This refreshed me mentally, which I think shows by my play in the current NHL season.

"I had a great time last season in Omsk, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I have a lot of good memories from my time there, and of the friends I made. I plan to travel to Russia this summer and stay for at least a month, and in all probablility I will begin training for next season with Avangard.

"I follow the team's results almost daily, and I still maintain friendships with a number of players and coaches from last year's team. I know that Avangard won the third game of the semi-final with Metallurg, and I am confident that they will make the finals and win."

When asked about a report in Pravda (a Russian paper), saying that Jagr would like to see Maxim Sushinsky play for the Rangers, Jagr responded, "You always wish for your team to get stronger. I consider Maxim a player who is capable of making the Rangers a better team. I would be very happy if the team management gave Sushinsky a chance. I will await him in New York."

Jagr was then asked if he would return to play in Russia in four years. Said Jagr, "I doubt that I will still be playing hockey at that time. Although, when I was 18, my father told me that would still be the best in hockey at 37. I'm only 34 now... there could be a chance that I could still be playing then, and at the Olympics in Vancouver (in 2010), though in reality it would be a great miracle."

Sushinsky to leave Super League?

Maxim Sushinsky led Dynamo in scoring this season with 37 points (12g, 25a) in 42 games, good for 17th overall in the Russian Super League despite playing only about two-thirds of the schedule. Sushinsky's contract with Dynamo Moscow was up right after Dynamo's season ended with an early exit from the playoffs, and Sushinsky was quoted in Sport Express as saying that he is aiming to play in the NHL next year. Another Russian club, SKA-St. Petersburg, is interested in Sushinsky's services for next year, but Sushinsky has said he is waiting for the NHL season to end before entertaining any offers. In the Sport Express article, Sushisnky says he will not make his decision on his future club until July 1st at the earliest, with July 1st perhaps not coincidentally marking the beginning of the NHL's free agent period.

(Note: this article was originally a part of another post, until I moved it here)