Posted by: Adventures in Pucking | November 1, 2011

October wrapup

Welcome to the Adventures in Pucking Monthly Wrapup! Since so much goes on in the world of hockey, it’s nice to just take a moment at the end of the month and reflect on some things.

Our Teams

Emma: Well, obviously, the Bruins have been in a bit of a slump. They leave October with a 3-7 record and a lot of people talking about hangovers, frustration, rough patches and other unpleasant things. Here’s hoping they can turn things around in November! Perhaps when the guys begin to grow facial hair for Movember, they’ll remember the feel of facial hair from the playoffs and that can recharge their mojo.

It all started with opening night, a 2-1 loss to the Flyers, touted by Flyers fans as a huge upset (heh, okay, sure) but altogether a fairly good night thanks to the unveiling of the Bruins’ sixth Cup champions banner.

The Bruins then pulled out a very pleasing 4-1 win against Tampa Bay, perhaps exorcising any leftover demons from the Eastern Conference finals.

Columbus Day brought us a 1-0 loss to Colorado, a game in which I began noticing some signs of trouble and we learned how impressive Semyon Varlamov can be.

A 2-3 loss to Carolina followed. Though we lost, I noticed that the sophomore pair of Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin were both really trying to put points on the ledger.

Krista and I agreed to let the best team win when it was 3-2 in a shootout against Chicago. Later on, Tim Thomas admitted that he doesn’t like shootouts because of the pressure not only on him but on the fans.

Then came the infamous 4-1 loss to Carolina, so full of one-sided penalties and mayhem, creating a lot of animosity between the Bruins and the Hurricanes. I have now re-christened them the Turtlecanes for their eagerness to begin physical conflict but their inability to see it through to its conclusion.

The night before I flew into Boston, they gave me a lovely 6-2 win against Toronto. Patrice Bergeron, who was on the roster poster that night, got on the boards the first time this season and a chant of “Thank you [Phil] Kessel” engulfed TD Garden whenever Seguin scored.

I lost my voice for a few days after screaming in glee, frustration, happiness and otherwise at the 4-2 loss to San Jose, which I witnessed in person. Again with Seguin being productive, but Milan Lucic also turned in some production, though Joe Thornton took home the win in his 1000th game. Still, I had an amazing night.

The huge rival Montreal gave us two more consecutive losses, 2-1 and 2-4, one in Boston and one over there. Any game against the Habs is bound to have some drama and this home-and-home definitely delivered in that category.

Let’s hope November is kinder. Movember features games against a wide variety of opponents: Ottawa, Toronto (twice), the Islanders (twice), Edmonton, Buffalo (twice), New Jersey, Columbus, Montreal, Detroit (on Black Friday) and Failapeg (oh dear, can’t watch that one). Let’s get out of this rut, boys!

Krista: The Blackhawks have certainly shaken their Cup hangover from last year. It all started with the addition of guys like Daniel Carcillo, Steve Montador, Jamal Mayers and Sean O’Donnell. They also have a promising prospect in Brandon Saad, though he was sent back to the OHL (he’s since wowed them in Ontario). It’s an attempt to fill the gap that remained after the purge of players post-Cup win in 2010, and I think they’ve worked out very well.

Another new addition to the team is a new center – okay, so he’s not new, just moved. Patrick Kane agreed over the summer to try being in the middle, and what was called an experiment is that no longer. He finished the month with 11 points, including four goals, which was good enough to be on top of the team standings. And if you look at his position in the rankings, they’re not calling him a right winger anymore – he’s a bona fide center now. Gives me a Proud Mommy feeling.

The season began for the boys in Dallas, the first of a home-and-home series with the Stars. Even though they gave up the first game, they roared back in their home opener – complete with red carpet arrivals – and beat the Stars handily.

It was almost a week before we faced Failapeg, and Emma and I got a massive dose of schadenfreude with their win over the Jets. Then came the game against the Bruins, and it was weird to root against my best friend’s team. That sneaky Tyler Seguin got one past Corey Crawford, giving us our first shootout loss of the year *shakes fist*.

The team went west for a two-game stint, handing both the Phoenix Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche losses before returning to the Second City to unveil the new bronze statues of Blackhawks legends Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. The thrill of that event was dampered by the shootout loss we took against the Avs, and we went 0 for 6 on the shootout for the young season.

But did the boys wallow in their sadness? Oh no! When they faced the Ducks, they went to a shootout, and it was Kaner, master of a spin-o-rama assist earlier in the game, who tipped the puck in behind Jonas Hiller. I don’t think I’ve yelled so much in my life!

But then they boys were handed a heartbreaker of a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, their first shutout of the year (hopefully their only one). That embarrassing loss only fueled them to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets, no thanks to the three goals the refs waived off during the game.

Their last game of the month was a nailbiter against the Nashville Predators, and Pekka Rinne showed that he’s one of the best goalies in the league, stopping pucks left and right despite the Preds succumbing to the Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime.  The boys left the United Center rocking.

We’re sitting pretty atop the Western Conference and second in the league with a 7-2-2 record, but we can’t rest on our laurels. The boys have a month ahead that only lets them play at home four times, with the rest on the road in a mini-tour of the West. Now’s the time to buckle down and secure those spots we’ve gained. I do have five words of advice for them: PLEASE strengthen your power play.

Fantasy

As all of the members of the AiP fantasy league entered the first month of play, we started to learn things about how the game works–or sometimes doesn’t work the way we’d like. For example, the Can’t Cut List has vexed both Erin and me. Erin had an issue with her bench whereas I desperately want to drop the under-producing Eric Staal but can’t. Many of the teams have also made some personnel changes. Leads tend to change, although right now the standings have been fairly static for a few days, but let’s go look inside the record book.

For goals, Erin’s team holds the record of 41 for the season so far. (My team has a single-day record of 7 on October 8.)

For assists, Erin’s team has that record too, 66 for the season so far. (Krista’s team has the single-day record of 10 on October 22.)

In the plus-minus area, Taryn’s team has the record of 25 for the season so far. (Single-day is a tie between Krista and me with 8 on October 13 for her and 15 for me.)

Both the season (134 minutes) and single-day (47, October 18) penalty minute records belong to me.

Erin has the season powerplay points record with 43. (The single-day one is 7 points, achieved on October 22 by Krista, October 27 by Erin and October 29 by Taryn.)

Anna’s team has the season record of 4 for shorthanded points. (The single-day record is just one point, achieved by literally almost all of the league at various times in the month: Krista, Anna, Taryn, Vicky, Erin and Nicole.)

For shots on goal, Krista’s team is killer; they have the season record of 360 so far. (Taryn has the single-day record of 45 on October 15.)

Echoing the penalty minutes records, I hold both the season (171) and single-day (24, October 18) records of hits.

The Docket

The Docket summarizes all the Shanabans handed down in the month of October. Cue the intro!

Thank you.

Unlike the Shanaban-mad September, the banhammer didn’t come down as often in October. However, when it did, the decrees tended to be pretty divisive in hockey fandom. When Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang went out for two games for boarding Failapeg’s Alexander Burmistrov, many Pittsburgh fans erupted in rage! A similar reaction was provoked in Chicago fans following Dan Carcillo‘s two-game suspension for boarding Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen. The Wild’s Pierre-Marc Bouchard also got a two-game suspension for high-sticking Columbus’ Matt Calvert. Please note that all of these suspensions are for just two games each, not the eight- and ten-game suspensions seen in preseason. Two players also had to pay out $2500 fines each: Mats Zuccarello from the Rangers and Nashville’s Shea Weber, both for boarding incidents. Shanny don’t play that!

Schadenfreude Report

To add to our enjoyment of Failapeg’s misery, we’ve decided to compare the monthly standings of that team compared to the three most recently relocated franchises in their first season as newly minted teams. We’ve also included the Thrashers for comparison.

1997-1998 Carolina Hurricanes: 3-8-3 (only because they played three extra games at the beginning of the season, all of which were losses)

1995-1996 Colorado Avalanche: 7-3-1

1996-1997 Phoenix Coyotes: 4-6-1

2010-2011 Atlanta Thrashers: 5-4-2

2011-2012 Winnipeg Jets: 4-6-1

While the Canes had a bad month, the Avs were on fire. And look – the Thrashers were better last October, even without their starting goalie in net!

Etcetera

Perhaps some hockey fans feel like they woke up in Bizarro World when they look at the standings. Toronto atop the Northeast?! Florida biting at Washington’s ankles in the Southeast (Plus Failapeg)? Edmonton sitting pretty in first in the Northwest, followed by Colorado? Dallas anchoring a pretty close points race out in the Pacific? Believe it! Edmonton has made a wise choice in deciding to keep Ryan Nugent-Hopkins there instead of sending him back to Red Deer, much to our friend Nicole’s chagrin. The rookie might be helping inject some new blood into the Oilers’ stream. The 7-2-2 record speaks for itself. But Florida’s rebuild is the most intriguing to me. From player choices to uniform design, ticket deals (they have some ridiculously good ones, including a four-game deal to see the Bruins, Blackhawks, Penguins and Ducks, plus a Party City deal that pays for half of a season ticket’s cost) to quality goaltending, I tire very quickly of people automatically going “LOL the Panthers suck!” Spare me! Maybe try watching a game sometime if you have Center Ice or live in the FS Florida area. The Cats could very well prove you wrong.

Side note: Thanks, DirecTV and News Corp, for resolving your carrying debate over whether or not to drop the Fox bouquet of cable channels–including Fox Sports–at the stroke of midnight on November 1. In my five years of having DirecTV, we’ve weathered a few channel-carrying disputes, but this one would’ve been pre-tty ugly if it’d become protracted. Why? Many of the channels that carry Center Ice games are part of the FS umbrella. (Plus, demanding 40 percent more to keep carrying the same channels looks mighty selfish on News Corp’s part.)

We’ve already witnessed the wildest game so far – the 9-8 atrocity of a match between Failapeg and the Flyers. Anyone who thinks that was a great win for the Jets is delusional, because it just shows that there was a breakdown in net on both sides (both Jets goalies were used, too). When I saw the question “Don’t you wish every game was like the Jets-Flyers game?”, I had to answer “Don’t you wish every game had terrible goaltending?”. It broke my heart that Ilya Bryzgalov took the loss personally and blamed himself for it. On the other hand, there’s your $51 million dollar deal, Paul Holmgren, sleep tight.

Stay right here with AiP as we enter our first Movember as fans. (Is there a female version of Movember? Hmm.)

– Emma and Krista


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