25 games through the shortened season and the Ottawa Senators are sitting at a cool 13 – 8 – 4. Good enough for 6th in the Eastern Conference. After last seasons improbable year for the Senators, this may not have been that unexpected, but after the loss of the 2012 Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson and the fourth best point producer last season, Jason Spezza, I don’t think anyone would have expected the Sens to be where they are now.

A lot of this teams success can be contributed to their core of Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Neil, Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips, but the young guns should not be forgotten. Swedish Sensations Mika Zibanejad and Jakub Silfverberg have tallied for a combined 9 goals and 15 points. Maybe not the stellar scoring abilities they can get, but they’re playing on a team that has their two best players sidelined with injury.

Because of the injuries the Sens have dropped from 4th highest scoring team in the 2011/2012 campaign, to 25th, currently sitting at 2.24 goals per game tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Luckily for the Ottawa Senators, the 3 headed monster of Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner have all played extremely well. Craig Anderson has been injured since February 23rd, but is still believed to be the front runner in for the Vezina with his 1.48 GAA and .952 Sv%, topping the league in both categories by sizable margins. Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner have been fighting for the backup spot on the Senators since February of last year, with Lehner starting in the AHL and Big Ben backing the big club. Robin Lehner was drafted by the Senators, appearing to be the goalie of the future for the org and trade rumors swirling around Bishops future with the club. It is clear that without these three goalies keeping the Sens in games night in and night out, the year would be a lot more bleak looking for the Senators.

Obviously you’re not going to win games just by having a great goalie – a Jack Adams esque coach certainly helps. Paul MacLean, or as he is affectionately called “The Paulrus”, or “The Stache”, was brought over the summer before the 2011/2012 season started after Cory Clouston was fired. He had been the assistant coach for Mike Babcock with the Anaheim Ducks, and left with Babcock to the Motor City. Coach Babcock (2007/08 Jack Adams winner) obviously taught MacLean a thing or two as MacLean was, himself, a Jack Adams finalist last year and is widely considered a front runner, along with Quenville from the 21-1-3 Blackhawks, for this years Jack Adams.

This years Ottawa Senators is one of the hardest working teams the NHL has seen in a long time, and can definitely contribute most of their success to a good coach and great goal tending.

Now, the moment I know you’ve been waiting for, my picks for the 2013 Mid-season Ottawa Senators Gladiator Awards!

 

Best Gladiator Defenseman 

This award is for the best defenseman of the year, according to.. me! A poor mans Norris.

 

Marc Methot 

Marc Methot is not the point producer that Erik Karlsson is, but he’s the hardest working, and grittiest player anyone could ask for. His ability to make that well timed hip check (Click Here), or being the first man back after a Sergei Gonchar gaffe at the blueline to give the other team the puck, or going down on all fours to block a pass to the front of the net on the PK. Marc Methot always seemingly knows what to do, and that has earned him my award for top defenseman for the Senators so far this year.

 

Iron Man Gladiator

This award goes to the player who can take the biggest beating and still put his heart or soul into every shift.

 

Chris Phillips

Chris Phillips can get punched in the head, take a shot to the foot, or receive a couple slashes in front of the net; defending the goalie. He takes a beating on a nightly basis and always goes back out and does it again the next shift. In fact, he’s missed a total of 3 games in the last 6 seasons even while being one of the grittiest players on the team. This is the type of player Don Cherry loves, and for good reason.

 

Hercules Award

This award is given to the leader of the team. Daniel Alfredsson is exempt from this award because, well, he’s the obvious pick.

 

Chris Neil

Christ Neil is always the first player in the hallway before every game, and the last player out on the ice. You can find him in the hall, yelling obscenities, pounding fists with teammates and motivating. He’s the most vocal on the bench, and though it’s hard to tell who is the best leader, you can definitely get an idea of who the guys respect from watching Neiler on the bench. On the ice, he’ll stand up for his teammates after a dirty hit, and also fight to get the team going.

 

Athena Award

Athena was the goddess of intelligence and skill, warfare, battle strategy, handicrafts, and wisdom… Or hockey sense.

 

Colin Greening 

Eric Condra is where the play goes to die, Colin Greening is where it goes to flourish. This St. Johns Nerfoundland native has [arguably] the best hockey sense on the team. He always knows where to go, and where the play is headed. If his hockey sense wasn’t so damn good, we wouldn’t have the honor of seeing #14 hit the ice, but he has no touch whatsoever. This guy doesn’t have much skill, but where he lacks in skill, he makes up for in smarts. Nikita Filitov wishes he had half the sense Greening had, and Greening wishes he had half the skill Filly has.

 

 

Despite the disadvantages the Ottawa Senators have faced this season, they’re still kicking it. With Michalek having already came back last week, Anderson set to return in the next 7 days, and Jason Spezza hopefully set to come back within the next 3 weeks to a month, things are beginning to look up for the Ottawa Senators. This last half of the season will be an exciting one and whether or not the playoffs become a realization, I think that all Sens fans should be able to feel good about what their team has done so far this year.

The trade deadline is approaching and though it doesn’t look like things will be too busy for Bryan Murray and his staff, there are rumors that a certain #11 could be up for grabs. I’ll touch on that in my next post.

 

Cheers,

Mack

 

 

There are people who are put in our lives to inspire us. Who make us realize life really isn’t that bad. The kind of people who take the bad things in life and build upon them turning them into something beautiful and inspiring. Nowadays those people are a rare find  kind of like a shooting star. You search for them. You hope for them. One day you find them and they change your life. Today you can put your search on hold for I am introducing all of you to an inspiration. A young man who has taken a bad thing and molded it into something good.

I would like to introduce you to Roger Morris Ice Hockey Alum and current Bakersfield Condors player Chris Kushneriuk. While training for the current 2012-2013 season Chris began to have stomach pains that gradually worsened. What they thought were kidney stones turned out to be testicular cancer.  Most people would become depressed upon realizing their life is hanging in the balance. On top of  that the thing Chris loves the most, playing hockey, would have to be put on hold for the duration of treatments. Most people would have a hard time coming to terms with this situation. Chris Kushneriuk is not most people. His outlook on having cancer is incredible. In an October interview with Gary Heeman, writer at Uscho.com, Chris Kushneriuk stated :

When something like this happens, you really look at life in a different light and you see things differently. I really appreciate things more like family and friends — the true finer things in life, not the material things. I wake up every day excited for having another chance to fight this.

It doesn’t stop at this statement either. If you take a look at Chris’ twitter (@stonecoldkush )  you will see what kind of person he truly is. Chris leaves treatment updates. He tells people he’s never met to have a blessed day. Chris thanks all of those who send him well wishes. He tries to keep his attitude on the situation positive. This man took something so horrible, so dreadful, so ugly, and turned it into something beautiful. Chris is taking delight in his weakness and making it his strength.

Tomorrow Chris will have a round of stem cell treatments and will begin high dose chemotherapy on Wednesday. Unfortunately these life saving treatments do not come cheap. ECHL players do not make much money. If you have the money please consider donating to help the Kushneriuk’s pay for treatments.  Below are a few options.

  1. The Robert Morris University Men’s hockey team is selling blue bracelets for $5 that say  “RMU HOCKEY KRUSHES CANCER.” You can send a self addressed envelope and Check or money order to :
    RMU Men’s hockey
    6001 University Blvd
    Moon Township, PA 15108
  2. You can make a donation through chriskushneriuk.org
  3. If you live in or around the Ottawa area there will be a fundraiser at the Great Canadian Cabin restaurant on December 15th. There will be many items up for auction including a Robin Lehner goal stick signed by the Ottawa Senator’s farm team the Binghamton Senators. The restaurant is located on York Street in the ByWard Market. Please consider going.

Every dollar helps. If you can’t give money please give your support and strength. Please consider taking a moment to pass this story around. It takes a minute to retweet, post this to facebook, or tell a friend about this incredible young man. Please keep him in your prayers, thoughts, hearts, and mind. Especially this upcoming week.

If you would like to learn more about Chris Kushneriuk I’ve placed a few articles and sites below:

 

 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

As the 2011-12 NHL regular season winds down, people have begun to talk, as they always do, about the awards race and which player on their favorite team deserves this, that, or the other award.  It’s great fun.

One of those awards, as we all know, is the Norris Trophy, which is given to the “defensive player who throughout the season demonstrates the best all-around ability at the position.”  It’s one of the most interesting awards of the season, not because it almost always goes to Nicklas Lidstrom, but because there’s always an interesting case to be made for any of the three nominees for the award.

This season, almost everyone north of the border feels as though Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, who has 71 points in 71 games as of this writing, should win the award.  The Ottawa beat writers and fans are beating the smooth skating Swede’s ridiculous point totals into everyone’s head on Twitter, on their blogs, and in their columns.  While doing this, however, they conveniently leave out the fact that Karlsson only averages 30 seconds of shorthanded ice time per game, which means that his own coach doesn’t even think he’s good defensively.  But, yeah, he should win the Norris.  Oookay.

But this isn’t a piece to bash Karlsson.  Because he is a fantastic offensive player in his own right, despite his other shortcomings.  Nor is it to laud who should win the award.  Rather, it’s to ask a simple question.

Where is the love for Alex Pietrangelo?

Outside of Karlsson, there are three other defensemen who are in the conversation for the Norris according to popular conversation: Boston’s Zdeno Chara, Nashville’s Shea Weber, and Lidstrom, who has won the award seven (!) times in the last ten seasons.  It should be noted, however, that Lidstrom has missed much of the last month because of an ankle injury.  Nevertheless, almost nowhere will you find a mention of Pietrangelo’s name anywhere near the conversation for the award.

That’s ridiculous.

Consider this: among the 105 defensemen who have played 60 or more games this season, Pietrangelo is seventh among them in even strength Corsi rating with a 12.67, according to the website BehindtheNet.ca (BTN).  That means that for every 60 minutes that Pietrangelo is on the ice, the Blues direct 12.67 more shots at their opponent’s net than their opponents do at theirs.  Two of the players above him on the list, Ian White and Johnny Boychuk, have spent much of their seasons skating with Lidstrom and Chara, respectively, which certainly boosts their numbers; Chara leads NHL defensemen in Corsi at 18.74 and Lidstrom is fourth at 14.25.  Karlsson is one spot behind Pietrangelo at 11.98, while Weber is far down the list at -1.43.

In addition, Pietrangelo is fifth in the NHL among defensemen in goals against per 60 minutes, at 1.55, according to BTN.  That stat isn’t hard to figure out – for every 60 minutes that he is on the ice, the Blues only allow an average of 1.55 goals.  Karlsson’s stands at 2.43, Chara’s at 2.30, Weber’s at 2.12, and Lidstrom’s at 1.71.  Granted, the Blues have four of the top five defensemen in this category partially because of their great goaltending, but it’s not like Weber, Lidstrom, and Chara have slouches in the net.  Karlsson’s, by far the highest, can be blamed more on goaltending, but the message remains clear: Pietrangelo keeps the puck out of his own net.

Pietrangelo does both of these things while facing tougher competition at even strength than all but one of the six players in front of him in terms of Corsi rating, with that one player being Lidstrom, according to BTN.  Moreover, he faces the toughest competition among defensemen on his own team, which means that he is putting up that level of puck possession against the other team’s top line every game.  In the modern NHL, that requires speed and the ability to possess the puck, Pietrangelo is one of the best.

Even if you do not believe in advanced metrics, Pietrangelo is elite by more traditional statistics as well.  He is fifth in the NHL among blue liners with 43 points (more than Lidstrom, Weber, or Chara), and tied for third with 11 goals (more than Lidstrom or Chara).  He has 21 power play points, third among defensemen (and more than Lidstrom, Weber, or Chara), on an average Blues power play that converts only 16.7% of the time, 15th in the NHL.

Furthermore, and unlike Karlsson, Pietrangelo kills penalties.  As I mentioned before, Karlsson only sees an average of 32 seconds of shorthanded ice time per game, which is last on his team among defensemen who have played more than three games and 207th in the NHL among defensemen that have played more than three games.  Roll that around in your head for a second.  Pietrangelo, meanwhile, is second on the Blues and 20th overall in the NHL among defensemen in shorthanded ice time, skating 3:10 a night on a St. Louis penalty kill that is seventh in the league at 84.8%.  That 3:10 of PK time per night also has Chara (2.46), Lidstrom (1:54), and Weber (2:21) beaten.

Oh, and by the way: as of this writing, the Blues lead the NHL in standings points.

When you add all of this up, it is unfathomable to me that a player as well rounded as Pietrangelo has possibly managed to fly as far under the radar as he has this year.  Maybe it’s the masterful job Ken Hitchcock has done in St. Louis that has upstaged him, but other than that, I can’t understand it.  He’s been a top-five defenseman in the NHL this season, and he turned 22 in January.  It’s remarkable.

All of that being said, I am not saying he deserves the Norris this year, or even a nomination.  Things could obviously change.  But considering the well-rounded nature of his traditional and advanced statistics, especially when comparing him to what most believe to be the competition for the award and the NHL’s elite puck possessors at his position, I don’t see how you can’t give him a long, hard look.

Harry Hawkings is a college student who blogs for three NHL sites.  Follow him on Twitter here.

 

This is a broad look at the playoff picture with just under 30 games to be played by each team. There is still much hockey to be played but why not dream while we can. So here is an overview of where teams currently stand and which teams I think will be the 8 in the playoffs come April.
As it stands Wednesday night, we have the NY Rangers (whoo hoo!) at the top of the conference with 79 points, followed by the Boston Bruins(72,) who have played the same amount of games as the Rangers, and the Panthers(65), who sit in third, to round out the divisional leaders.

A quick look at the Rangers, who have not lost more than 3 games in a row, shows us that they have been the most consistent team to date this season. The Bruins were very dominant early this season and were pretty tough to beat, but have only won five games in their last ten, three via the shootout.
Last season, the Rangers squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed with 93 points. To surpass last year’s total, they need to win 8 games out of their last 28. They are all but a lock for a postseason trip. As far as for clinching the division, they are in a good position to do so but need to be on top of their game. The Rangers are only 10 points ahead of both Philly and Pittsburgh, with 2 games in hand on the Penguins. Pittsburgh will give them a run for the division title but the Rangers have just enough points to come out on top.
Boston(72) will secure the Northeast division and there is very little doubt about that. Ottawa(68) and Toronto(64) are close but Boston has played way too well this season, unless they collectively decide to take a few weeks off to not finish on top of their division.

The Southeast Divison, however, is a completely different story.
The Southeast is a Division where if a team is not on top of the division, they probably will not make the playoffs. The Florida Panthers(65) currently are in the lead and sitting third in the conference. The Washington Capitals(61) who are still struggling to find consistency this season and are 3-4-3 out of their last ten games and are currently ninth in the conference. My guess is that unless the Jets make their first season back in the league a magical one and start pulling points out of nowhere, the Panthers by default end up on top of the division and I’ll then place the Jets to fight it out to grab the 8th seed. Who knows, can they make a fairytale ending this year?

Current standings can be seen here. NHL Standings

My Playoff Picture will result in these standings:
1. NY Rangers (116)
2. Boston Bruins (109)
3. Florida Panthers (95)
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (104)
5. NJ Devils (103)
6. Philadelphia Flyers (97)
7. Ottawa Senators (96)
8. Winnipeg Jets (94)
And just missing it and losing the tiebreaker, Toronto with 94 points, but less ROW’s. Perhaps next year Phil Kessel.

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