February 19, 2012

Dobber Sports

2012-02-19

 

 

Enjoy Hockey Day in America… any chance to celebrate this sport is a good one. It looks like NBC is splitting up its triple header by having back-to-back games on the main network, with the third tilt going on the NBC Sports Network.

 

Pretty effective exposure for the league, although hard-core fans who use the NHL Centre Ice package (at least in my area) seem to draw the short end of the stick today. With NBC having the broadcast rights to the three games which begin the day (staggered starts for the three games, shown on the same broadcast depending on your region, was admittedly a pretty cool way to kick things off), you’re not allowed to flip back and forth between whichever games you’d want. Viewers are stuck with their regional game and, as far as I can tell now, that’s it. Boo!

 

Ilya Kovalchuk (25-32-57 in 52 GP to lead the Devils) is having a terrific season and was asked whether he felt pressure from his 15-year, $100M contract last year, where he finished with 60 points in what was one of the more disappointing overall campaigns of his career: "Not really. My contract before that wasn't that bad either." He touches on how being used on the PK has also helped his 5-on-5 play and how he hopes Zach Parise, the leader of the team, stays in Jersey.

 

Speaking of contracts, James Neal and the Pens have agreed on a six-year extension worth an even $5M each season. It has a modified no trade clause which kicks in for the final three years, which apparently will let him nix eight teams to which he could not be traded. He would have been an RFA this summer.

 

Neal’s statistical feats were mentioned a bit last night in this Ramblings and there have certainly been no shortage of ’11-12 accolades for the man who has shown Pittsburgh fans why he was given the Real Deal nickname. What might not get referenced as often is how Neal, the Pens and Evgeni Malkin are just a great fit.

 

“I'm just so comfortable in Pittsburgh,” he said. “With the commitment the organization is going to give me, it couldn't be a better feeling. I couldn't find a better spot. Pittsburgh is where I wanted to be. I love everything about what goes on here and how we play the game. I have some great teammates. It's been a comfort feeling from Day 1. I just couldn't see myself anywhere else, and hopefully the success continues.”

 

It’s easy to say that anyone can pile up points playing next to Malkin or Sidney Crosby,  but the fact is that there’s a pretty substantial list of players who have not done what we’d consider anything near thriving despite repeated chances to skate alongside greatness. And how many guys have we seen tried with the Sedins in Vancouver over the years? Neal’s size and skill-set complement a revitalized Malkin to a “T”. All things considered, $5M per season is a pretty fair price for both sides here in the world of inflated sports salaries.

 

***

 

Michael Cammalleri was 13-7 on faceoffs tonight and he scored the only goal of the game, giving him markers in three of four with points in five of six. It took a little while for him to get going, but he’s found his comfort zone in the middle again and the points are beginning to flow with regularity. Miikka Kiprusoff and Jonathan Quick, to no one’s surprise, put on a show here.

 

So how clutch has Radim Vrbata been for Phoenix? After tonight's overtime winner against Dallas, he has 10 GWG on the season and he has decided four of the past six outings alone. With one more winner he'll match his total in that category from the prior four seasons combined. He fired in his 28th goal here too, which is a new career best. He's seven points shy of tying his best point total at 56.

 

Martin Hanzal left the game with an injury, incidentally. Mike Smith has won all seven February starts, has only given up two goals in his past four with seven goals on the month. Three of them came in the first game.

 

Not only did the Canes lose 4-3 to the Isles, but Cam Ward did not play the third period after suffering a groin injury. Kirk Muller said after the game Ward would ice the area tonight and they'd have a better idea of how serious it is tomorrow. Groin injur