Saturday ended up being a really good day for me. Thanks to work as well as my own obsession, I watched five hockey games: Boston's 4-0 win over Ottawa, Dallas' 7-2 pounding of LA, Toronto's 4-2 spoiler on the Habs, Boston College's energetic 5-2 victory over Minnesota and Wisconsin's 6-2 upset of Denver. That's a lot of hockey, a lot of good times, and a lot of stuff I want to ramble on about, so be warned ...
But first, I would be remiss if I didn't address the big Ranger news of the day. The Daily News reported that Sean Avery's name was on a whorehouse's list of clients. While I really don't think that he needs to rely on his bankroll to get some action, I will be honest in that I don't care. It may have been him, it may have been DP or David Clarkson using his name, whatever. What goes on in the bedroom doesn't matter as long as the game on the ice remains strong. That holds for closeted gay players too. Do whatever you want in your private life, just don't screw up while wearing that jersey.
Ok, onto the games and for those, let me start with my NCAA nightcaps, which MSG Plus smartly picked up from ESPNU:
*College hockey is so vastly underrated. The kids are passionate, hard working and have little to no clue how to play defense, leading some some really exciting hockey.
*One can only wonder how the Gophers would have been had Kyle Okposo not been a selfish, arrogant little brat and left in the middle of the season to go to the Islanders (of all teams). I can understand the move after the year ends, or if it was to a team where he would get good experience in a winning environment but to slander Minnesota coach Don Lucia and sleaze out of a scholarship to go lose some meaningless games with Bridgeport and the Islanders smacks of low character. Although, it is the blue and orange so I guess that he will fit right in.
*Minnesota's goaltender Alex Kangas actually played a strong game but the skaters seemed to be playing on reputation ("you surely can't beat us, don't you know who we are?") and didn't work as hard as the Eagles. Blake Wheeler, a Phoenix draft pick, was an exception and the Phoenix Coyotes will be really, really scary in a few years when he joins Turris, Mueller, Carcillo, et al.
*Turris, by the way, was one of several Wisconsin Badgers who looked good against Denver. Mike Eaves put together a helluva squad yet again and they will be hard to beat. Of course, they were playing at home in front of a raucous crowd so that had to help but getting two goals from the undersized and undrafted Mike Davies was far from luck. It was good positioning, passing and skating.
*Speaking of such, the atmosphere in the arenas seemed utterly fantastic. Next year the East regionals will be held at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, CT. I am looking forward to it already.
*The BC/Minnesota tv talent was all of ESPN's top hockey guys - John Buccigross doing play-by-play, Barry Melrose doing colour and EJ Hradek iceside. I have to say that Bucci was really solid, but Barry seemed unprepared and EJ clearly knows the game but needs to work on the television part.
And onto the pros, which I gotta lump together for the sake of brevity:
*Boston looked quite good as they held off Ottawa. The Sens were a mess, with Marty Gerber getting beaten badly twice on shots to his glove. You couldn't tell that Spezza/Alfredsson/Heatley were playing at all. The Bruins really could be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
*Boston's Shawn Thornton showed exactly why teams need tough guys and why Colton Orr is a joke. Ottawa took some liberties with dangerous checks (who else but Chris Neil, as well as Cody Bass) and Thornton was there to get retribution. Orr very, very rarely does that. Now if that is his fault or that of Renney is something else. If its Renney, then he should just bench the goon.
*In the Kings blowout loss, they subbed starter Erik Ersberg for the British-born Daniel Taylor. Gibson gave up a goal on the first shot that he faced but the interesting part is that he was born in Plymouth, went through juniors in Kingston (Ontario), and played for both Reading (Pennsylvania) of the ECHL and Manchester (New Hampshire) of the AHL. That's one way to avoid getting homesick ...
*And even though Dallas won big, Marty Turco still looked like crap. Stars fans will have to pray that he will repeat his amazing playoff performance of last year once the postseason begins.
*Staying in the crease, Jaroslav Halak may have given up all four goals but he played a solid game for Montreal against Toronto. I don't think he and Steve Penney, I mean Carey Price, can take the Habs to the Cup, but they have been entertaining.
*If I was a fan of the Leafs (and I am glad that I a not), I would be really mad at them after tonight. After securing themselves an early tee time, they played a spirited, exciting game to shock the Canadiens. I mean, it is a nice sign for the future that two rookies each netted a pair of goals and Vesa Toskala didn't allow any goals from other timezones, but at this point, don't they want a good draft pick? Guess not ...
*Mats Sundin didn't get a single point but went +3. He seems to carry himself with class and yet is willing to get his nose dirty digging out pucks and occasionally banging bodies. He is truly one of the elder statesmen of the NHL and should get more respect than he does.
And on that note, as someone pointed out on a bulletin board I frequent, tomorrow may be the last time that Jaromir Jagr plays in Pittsburgh. While the Pens fans are sure to boo every time he touches the puck, as per usual, it would be a really classy thing if they were to give him a final ovation at the end of the game.