Breaking in Bylsma

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tenth in the Eastern Conference.

New head coach.

Kris Letang benched.

A lot has changed for the Pittsburgh Penguins since their Stanley Cup Final run last season. General Manager, Ray Shero, felt as though the struggling Penguins weren’t getting the coaching they needed from Michel Therrien, although he was the one who led them to the Finals. Dan Bylsma, who was coaching the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, is now the new head coach.

Bylsma has been behind the bench for two games so far going 1-0-1 in that span. Not bad. Heading into Saturday’s match up against divisional rivals, Philadelphia Flyers, he had made a few changes. He wants to change the attitude and energy of his hockey club. Bylsma is looking for a more aggressive style of hockey to be played and he wants guys to show up every night to play. Now while I agree with this, I personally think he should get to know each player and their style of play, before making any drastic changes that affects the line-up. Yes, players should show up to play every night. Yes, the players do need to bring energy and have a good attitude going into each game, but is it possible for a coach to notice each individual on a twenty-man roster after only coaching two games? No. I can’t imagine his reasoning for benching the puck-moving, defenseman, Kris Letang.

Bylsma’s reasoning was quoted as, “I thought he didn’t play particularly well,” this meaning, the 3-2 shootout loss versus the New York Islanders. That would be a very good reason to bench somebody…if you were coaching the team throughout the season and had more knowledge of the players, their motivators and a better feel for what you were doing.

The Pens game against the Islanders was an okay performance from the team, and I could point out a handful of players who didn’t play “particularly well”. Take goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for example. He’s the one who let up both goals, didn’t handle all the rebounds well, and let up goals in the shootout which decided the game. Should Bylsma just bench him? No, because every goalie has a game where it’s not their best. How about twenty-one year old captain, Sidney Crosby? He’s the captain of this young Penguins team. He’s supposed to help motivate the guys and contribute on both ends of the ice himself. Why not take Crosby by the shoulders, shake him and tell him to wake up! The Pens as a whole team have been struggling, and the blame shouldn’t be put on the shoulders of one individual.

Letang is a young, energetic defenseman who can move the puck up the ice with speed. This season he has had two two-goal games, and has five goals total with nineteen points. Letang was finally finding his confidence this season. His defense partner at most times, Brooks Orpik, once said that Letang will always ask him after games if he played OK. I’d say Letang plays more than OK. He has the potential to be an All-Star defenseman in his young career, and he’s already been invited to the All-Star game twice, taking part in the Young Stars game.

I sure hope Bylsma is careful with the rest of the decisions he makes as coach, as he has already left a bad taste in my mouth.

Setoguchi is the Soul of the Sharks

Monday, February 9, 2009

The San Jose Sharks are hotter than ever partly due to right winger Devin Setoguchi’s efforts this season. He’s the type of player who always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He’s not afraid to put some shots on net, and he even holds a tie for the franchise record with 10 shots on net in a single game.

In his junior hockey season, he made his impression. Setoguchi had three thirty goal seasons, and his desire to play, led to him being drafted in the first round by San Jose, eighth overall.

Setoguchi is definitely a key player for the San Jose Sharks future. As a rookie, he proved himself in his very first game. He scored two goals in a 4-2 Sharks win, one of his goals which turned out to be the game-winner.

So far in the 2008-2009 season, he has tallied twenty-two goals, two of them being game-winners and has a total of forty-six points. Most of Setoguchi’s goals come from the face-off dots or from being a screen in front of the net. Teammates can find him anywhere on the ice and he can usually find an opening to score. In his first season with the sharks, he played in forty-four games and scored only eleven goals, which shows he has definitely improved in his sophmore year.

Setoguchi has skill, size that he is learning to use, and a passion to work hard in all aspects of his game. For whichever team he plays for he adds his scoring touch. He’s a pretty good skater too, which adds to his ability to score goals. Playing on a line with guys like Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek doesn’t hurt either.

Not only does he like to contribute offensively, he also tries to throw his body around when he can. In Saturday’s match up against the Blue Jackets, he totaled seven hits, and has eighty-two hits on the season so far. Now even though he gets physical, Setoguchi isn’t the type of player to take stupid penalties. Through the forty-nine games he’s played, he has only totaled 6 penalties, which isn’t bad for a player who logs in about seventeen minutes of ice time per game.

He was selected at this year’s All Star Game in Montreal to play in the Young Stars Game on the sophmore roster. In that game he scored one goal.

With some players in the NHL, it seems as if injury strikes some players consistently. Setoguchi doesn’t seem to be one of those guys, which is a big plus for the Sharks. He has missed one game this season, and that was only due to a death in the family. Setoguchi is a reliable player to have on your team.

At the same time, he was once known as an “inconsistent player”, as reported by a scout. What was meant by this is some games he simply just didn’t show up. Although that may have been true, when he did play, he played great. He has since seemed to transform into a more complete player who has learned to play every night, and to step up when needed.

New Jersey is Saved by Scott

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Save by Clemmensen, rebound….no score!

That’s pretty usual when dealing with New Jersey's goaltender Scott Clemmensen, the back-up for soon to be hall-of-famer, Marty Brodeur. Clemmensen has had his chance to shine this season due to an injured Brodeur.

Clemmensen started off the 2008-2009 season with the New Jersey affiliate team, Lowell Devils, and got the call up when Brodeur was put on injured reserve. Kevin Weekes was the back-up goalie at the time, but struggled in his first few games in net. Clemmensen has since taken over the number one goalie spot as he continues to lead them to victories on their current eight game winning streak.

Clemmensen tallied his twenty-second win of the season ,Friday night against the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins.

Eighth in the league for save percentage with .920%, and sixth in the league with 2.29 goals against average, one might wonder why he was just a back-up in the first place. When Brodeur returns from injury, the Devils will have two hot and solid goaltenders they can rely on.

Clemmensen has been with the Devils since the 2001-2002 season, besides last year, in which he spent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since joining the NHL, the most games he has ever seen in a season is thirteen. That’s all changed this year, as he has played in 33 going 22-9-1 in that span.

Formerly of the Boston College Eagles, Clemmensen has recently been voted Hockey East’s Unsung Hero in conjunction with the 25th anniversary celebration of the league. In his time with them, he holds the BC record for career victories, with 99.

Clemmensen’s style of goaltending doesn’t really have a label like “butterfly” or something fancy. His is simple; more of a calm approach and it’s effective. He doesn’t panic when there’s a screen of players or a bunch of guys out in front of him. Scott stays calm and handles every puck thrown at him. Rebounds don’t come too often, and when they do, most times the players are denied. He’s helped the New Jersey Devils stay at the top part of the Eastern Conference standings. He’s giving them a chance to win every night with their main goaltender out of the lineup.

New Jersey’s offense contributes a huge amount to many of their victories, but it’s the man in between the pipes that keeps the other team’s offense to a minimum.

He catches left, which is probably the best shot you’ve got at beating him. Gloveside is the way to go as I’ve found from watching, is his weakest spot. Although he has no shutouts recorded on the season yet, give him time because he’s just warming up. At 31 years old, he should have some years left in him to play, and let’s hope teams will realize his full potential. As the first half of the season has approached, I’d have to give Clemmensen an B+, and as he continues to play as well through the second, he should have no problem earning a solid A.

Despite Best Efforts, BC Gets the L

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

From the drop of the puck the Boston College Eagles seemed to dominate, but if you looked at the scoreboard, it told you differently. The Eagles kept the puck in the attacking zone most of the night, but penalties and lucky bounces for North Eastern got them into trouble.

BC let up the first goal, but it was not long before Matt Price came onto the ice for a delayed penalty call and put it behind Thiessen. Brad Thiessen however, played a strong game, and that’s the only goal he let go by him. Brock Bradford had a beautiful breakaway chance that was denied, which then led to a turnover to the Huskies, who capitalized on the opportunity. Greg Costa put them up 2-1.

The Eagles went onto the powerplay for the second time of the night, but Thiessen stayed strong and was the Huskies’ best penalty killer. Northeastern proved why they are third in penalty killing as they killed all seven of Boston College’s power play chances.

Towards the tail end of the first period, the Huskies found their legs and applied some pressure to the Eagles line of defense. This momentum didn’t last too long, because at the start of the second it seemed as if BC was on a power play, spending most of the beginning minutes in the opposing zone. But confident goaltender, Brad Thiessen, stood tall. North Eastern didn’t record their first shot on net in the second period until a little over six minutes in. Their power play unit stepped up to give them a two goal lead when BC goalie John Muse tried to play the puck. This goal gave them momentum as they went on to score only about one minute later, with a goal by McCauley.
Eagles defense seemed to be shutting the Huskies down pretty well, limiting them their time in their own zone. But North Eastern took full advantage every time they did eventually get the puck smoothly into the BC zone. And again, they got a lucky bounce when Muse tried to play the puck, with Quailer’s goal with 1:41 left in the second. With 2.9 seconds left, it took the referees a while to sort out the scrum that went on in front of Thiessen, but it ended up being even as BC Captain Brock Bradford took a 5 minute major, and a Huskie was handed a misconduct.

Donovan made it 6-1 Huskies which gave him a four point night including one goal and three assists. BC finally decided to change the man in between the pipes, when they took out Muse and put in Venti. Venti would then stop all shots for the rest of the third period. When BC took a penalty with 1:36 remaining, it was pretty much decided that North Eastern would be playing Boston University in the Beanpot next Monday.

Power plays and lucky bounces seem to go the Huskies way, as they went on to win 6-1 over the Boston College Eagles.
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