Tag-Archive for ◊ Pictures ◊

18 Aug 2011 Caps: Airing Some Dirty Laundry

Since the brutal play-off exit of the Washington Capitals in April by the sticks of the Tampa Bay Lightning in an embarrassing 4 game sweep in the Semi-Finals, a lot of fingers have been pointed and a lot of blame has been shifted on what went wrong YET AGAIN. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here. I’m tired of talking about, tired of reading about it, and tired of people trying to tell me I’m not a true Caps fan for bashing my own team.

I think most will agree after digesting that embarrassment and hearing what the players and team personnel had to say, it is obvious this team has problems. I think the biggest problem is the stars of this team are coddled and not called out by the proper authorities when they need it. ALEXANDER SEMIN I AM LOOKING AT YOU. However, I’m not just talking about coming into practice when they feel like it, I mean, let’s face it they are still human and the grueling schedules they keep is enough to run everyone down at some point. My point is letting certain star players play when they need to be benched for their own good.

Now, I’m not on the inside exactly, I don’t know all the things that go on behind the scenes, but I can tell you that Alex Ovechkin was not suffering from one ailment this season, but three.

Yes, count them: One, Two, Three.

A wrist injury (which got one giant cortisone shot before every game for months), a groin injury, and a knee injury. Now, I’m no expert, but after a pitiful showing in the playoffs most likely due to said injuries, why would you let this guy go play for Worlds knowing he could injure himself further and potentially put him in the press box for months? Maybe it’s the old Soviet mindset clouding my judgment on this, but I’d tell him he was going to sit Worlds out.

I’ve also heard what was wrong with the lackluster Nicklas Backstrom this year… let’s just say I hope he stops hanging out with a certain defenseman who is known for his alcohol consumption and has gotten himself back together over the summer. Have I said too much by saying this? Potentially. I’m just still surprised even though I really shouldn’t be.

On that note, I might not have said this much before, but I am a HUGE Mathieu Perreault fan. I can’t get enough of Mighty Mouse and his perfect flow. I was interested to find out that the apparent reason he was suddenly sent back down to the minors back in mid-spring was that he showed up to practice still intoxicated from the night before. Do I insert a “Short French-Canadian Lightweight” joke here? Or do I once again shake my head?

All I know is, I’m happier than a hornet we have Matty P for another year, got my other hockey love in Chris Bourque back, and that we acquired Troy Brouwer so I can ask him to do the Kaner Shuffle with me, Brouwer Style!

 

 

 



08 Jan 2011 Pictures: Coyotes Howl in Denver

Check out some of Goddess Sasha’s pictures from the Phoenix Coyotes’ visit to Denver this week.

See more photos on Sasha’s flickr.com site.

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01 Dec 2010 Thrashers Shocking the Nation (and Canada)

The Thrashers tied their record for consecutive wins tonight in Denver — enough said for now. Let’s do it again Thursday against the Penguins. As we once cheered for my alma mater’s football team which was rising in the CFB polls: SHOCK THE NATION! Let that be our new battle cry.

Go Thrashers — shock the nation (and Canada too)!

The final score

The Thrashers score in OT to make it six straight wins.

Photo: Pepsi Center scoreboard by Goddess Kaatiya. Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

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19 Nov 2010 Semin + Caps = Good Sense
Alexander Semin - rookie

Semin at training camp in 2003.

As a longtime Washington Capitals fan, I’ve had the sometimes rough duty of sticking up for a certain player (Alexander Semin) who, incidentally, was the main reason I became a Caps fan back in 2003. My first Capitals game on the 12th of November 2003 gave me my first glimpse of him. I fell in love with his playing style immediately. His stick-handling skills were enchanting and, to this day, he still makes my jaw drop at some of the dekes he can pull rushing up the ice. His lone goal in the 7-1 shellacking of the Carolina Hurricanes during my inaugural game was a sneaky little deke around a veteran defenseman and a total undressing of the goalie. (Check it out for yourself.)

Semin joined the team at one of the most trying times for the Capitals organization. That year the team was dismantled at the trade deadline. Fans bid farewell to iconic winger Peter Bondra, as well as Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar, and the man fans love to hate: Jaromir Jagr. At the end of the 2003-04 season, majority owner Ted Leonsis declared the team was going to rebuild from within. He started later that summer by selecting Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

By all accounts, Semin’s rookie season was anything but pleasant. Rumored dissension inside the Caps locker room did not create a healthy atmosphere for the young Russian, who was still trying to adjust to life in North America. And, his lack of English skills created a natural barrier between him and most of the team. Semin missed the final game of the regular season, oversleeping and missing the team flight out of Washington. When the season ended, he was sent to Portland, Maine to play for the Capitals’ American Hockey League farm team, the Pirates, to help with their unsuccessful Calder Cup run. Semin ended the season with 10 goals and 22 points in 52 games, playing mostly on the third and fourth lines.

Semin plays for Lada Togliatti of the Russian Super League.

The following season, the NHL lockout forced Semin to find work elsewhere. He signed a one-year deal with Lada Togliatti of the Russian Super League, opting not to report to the Hershey Bears (the Capitals’ new AHL affiliate). The Capitals subsequently suspended his contract for failing to report to Hershey. He finished the season Togliatti.

When the NHL labor dispute ended and the 2005-06 season was on the horizon, Semin was expected to return to the Capitals for the final year of his entry-level contract. However, Semin and his agent, Mark Gandler, were sued by the Capitals for more contract violations after he signed a 1-year extension with Lada. Gandler managed to have the suit nullified by claiming Semin’s contract with Lada was satisfying his two-year military obligation to the Russian Federation.

Whether it really was Russian military obligations or something else is unclear, but Lada gave him numerous incentives to stay. He was given a car, an apartment and a $2 million (USD) contract to play for the team. At just 21 years old, $2 million was much more than the chump change the Capitals were offering, and for that reason alone, I can’t blame him for wanting to stay in Russia where he also didn’t have to deal with a struggling team and language barrier.

Semin’s decision ultimately backfired as he fell victim to the unstable system in which the RSL governed itself by before the league revamped in 2007. Semin was let go by Lada a month into the season as the team salary was cut by 50 percent. The team avoided folding altogether by letting go of multiple players and loaning some out to other RSL teams.

Semin (in gold and blue) skates with Khimik.

At that time, Semin’s was the highest contract on the Lada roster. He was the first to be let go along with his car, apartment and contract. He didn’t stay unemployed for long as he signed with Khimik Mytischi, taking a pay cut. He finished the season with Khimik only notching 3 goals and 10 points in 26 games.

At the conclusion of his two-year stint back in Russia, Semin managed to mend fences with Capitals management and returned to Washington for the 2006-07 season, signing a 2-year deal.

Semin may have returned to Washington ready to get his NHL career back on track, but much of the Capitals’ fan base and media were more than a little annoyed by his antics. Critics saw Semin’s “military obligations” as a farce and Semin faced a backlash from fans who felt they had been spurned. He was labeled as the stereotypical “Mother Russia” player from then on out. His actions prior to rejoining the team reduced his popularity among the core Caps fans and heavily tarnished his reputation.  To this day he is still seen by many fans as a ticking (two-time) Russian defector.

Semin did his best to let his play do the talking where his still limited English could not. He amassed 38 goals and 73 points in the 2006-07 season. While his efforts were a step in the right direction, his reputation among fans was still fairly dismal. He was routinely criticized for his lazy style of play and his tendency to take costly penalties.

In 2007-08, Semin only notched 26 goals and 42 points in an injury-plagued year. The 2008-09 season saw Semin struggle yet again with injuries, but he finished with a career-high 79 points and a dramatic improvement in the plus/minus column at +25.

Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin

Semin and Alexander Ovechkin seem ready to take over the NHL -- one city at a time.

In 2009-10, Semin showed he was beginning to mature as a player, scoring a career-high 40 goals. Management took notice of Semin’s improved play and signed him to a 1-year contract extension that will expire when he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2010-11 season.

Most of the ill will from his controversial return to the Capitals has dissipated, but his faults in the eyes of fans have shifted to his poor performance in the playoffs. Much of the anger stems from the playoff embarrassment the Capitals suffered against the Montreal Canadiens last April. Semin ended the series scoreless, though he pounded 40 shots on goal. His lack of desire to talk to the North American media and his insistence on not saying three words in English (at least publicly), add fuel to the arguments of those who want Semin out of D.C.

Now we find ourselves nearly a quarter of the way into the 2010-11 season, and Semin is atop leaderboard, outplaying his fellow Russian teammate, Alex Ovechkin. He has already scored two hat tricks this season and shows no sign of letting up. This is, after all, a contract year for Semin and while his out-of-this-world play is beyond entertaining for Caps fans to watch, it is bittersweet. With his elevated level of play, will come elevated salary expectations — expectations the Capitals simply cannot afford with the current roster and the possibility of a lower salary cap.

In a recent interview with Russia’s Sport Express, Semin made a simple statement on his future in Washington that might put to rest the argument among Caps fans on Semin’s agenda:

“I don’t agree that Washington can not afford me. If I want to play here, we’ll resolve it.”

Alexander Semin

Semin shows off his signature style.

Since day one, I have said this kid could be the best player in the league if he gave half the effort most forth-line grinders give game-in and game-out. His pure talent, world-class stickhandling skills, pinpoint accuracy and superb skating, would put him among the top five players in the league should he stay healthy. He is a unique combination of smooth skating and raw, unrivaled skill that transforms NHL players into legends.

The fans who cheer for him, love him for his dazzling performances on the ice, as well as his flamboyant off-ice personality. We look forward to his zany, trademark facial expressions. We love to see what sort of remarkable outfit he’ll throw together (we can assume these wild designer looks cost him thousands of dollars, yet they also make us wonder if he got dressed in the dark or in the wrong house). Whether he’s streaking across the ice or cruising down the road in one of his many ultra-expensive sports cars, we can’t help but take notice of him.

Perhaps this season will finally put an end to the disagreement about Semin among Capitals fans, as we all fall in love with the quirky Russian.

Here’s my bold prediction.

Semin is in the best shape of his life and is entering the prime of his career. He will reach the 45 goal plateau and, if he stays on his current pace, will break 50. I expect him to sign with the Capitals for $6.5-$7 million a season for at least five years. If we are lucky and Semin truly wants to stay and play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin for the remainder of their decade-long contracts, he may take a hometown discount and sign for $6 million a season for a longer contract.

Bottom line: I don’t see Semin leaving the Capitals. Period.

Photos: Alexander Semin rookie year, and Semin and Alex Ovechkin from Getty Images; Semin with Lada Togliatti from The Associated Press; Semin with Khimik from the team’s official team site; Semin portrait by Kyle Christy Photgraphy.

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17 Nov 2010 Slava Kozlov Speaks Out on the KHL
Slava Kozlov

CSKA Moscow winger Slava Kozlov.

Former NHLer and newly acquired CSKA Moscow forward Slava Kozlov says he hasn’t had any problems adapting to his Russian club.

- I had been preparing to my comeback to Russia.  When I played for Atlanta I already planned to try myself in the KHL. It turned out that in the end I got back to CSKA — to the club which I had left 18 years ago. So I don’t have any troubles with adaptation in Russia.

-I’m surprised by the new league. The KHL has a very high level of hockey. Organizational issues in the CSKA are OK, too. We have all the conditions to show our best game.

Slava Kozlov

CSKA Slava Kozlov

Photos and interview (c) official CSKA website.

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08 Nov 2010 Check Out Ex-Red Wings Star Sergei Fedorov

Sergei Fedorov in Metallurg Magnitogorsk uniformSergei Fedorov in his Metallurg Magnitogorsk uniform during the game with Dinamo Moscow on November, 7, 2010. Dinamo won 4-1.

Photo: Sergei Fedorov by Goddess Thorkhild. Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

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03 Aug 2010 Yes, It’s Over…The Thrill Is Gone
Mike ModanoMike Modano, the former face of the Dallas Stars, will reportedly suit up for the Red Wings in 2010-11.

Last night the Detroit Free Press announced that Mike Modano had texted them with the words: Big announcement Thursday.

Mike Heika got a text from Mike this morning saying he was currently on the golf course in Scotland with some friends, and would be back in the States at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

A friend of mine scooped both of these sources by posting his blog on Saturday that sources had told him that Modano would sign with the Wings this week. (Way to go, Travis!)

Either way, Mike Modano will be wearing the winged wheel this season. It’s not something any Dallas Stars fan would ever want to see, the face of their franchise wearing that uniform. And to add more fuel to the fire, who do the Stars take on for their first home game? That’s right! The Wings! This could seriously be a PR nightmare for the Dallas Stars, and I cannot wait to witness it! More on that in a later blog.

Mike Modano wearing No. 39 in an exhibition game versus Dynamo Riga in the Soviet Union.

As for what number Mike may sport, we all know that he won’t be wearing his No. 9 as that belongs to Gordie Howe. There’s a possibility of No. 27, which is what he wore in the All Star games when Paul Kariya had more votes than him. I’m also going to throw out there No. 39, which was his original number with the Minnesota North Stars.

The other Stars news yesterday was that Marty Turco would be taking over the pipes from  Antti Niemi in Chicago. I honestly feel badly for Niemi. This shows why arbitration this late in the summer is a bad thing. I’m not sure he’s going to have a starting job in the NHL this season, as most teams are set. And to think, he was the goalie for the Stanley Cup winners. That being said, I think Turco is going to do well, and show everyone he still has it. Let’s face it, he hasn’t had a real defense in front of him the last two seasons. I’m looking forward to seeing Patrick Kane grab one of Turco’s passes and scooting down to the other end. It’s gonna be a thing of beauty!

Photo: Mike Modano at Dynamo Riga, from the book, “Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne,” by Bob Showers; Modano in tie from MikeModano.com.

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03 Aug 2010 Caps’ Goalies: Head To Head
Jose Theodore

Jose Theodore will take his good looks and flowing mane elsewhere this season.

Hi everyone, hope your summer has been good! Mine’s been eventful to say the least. It’s been pretty quiet on the Caps corner of the hockey world this summer. Then again, perhaps not.

The Caps have signed DJ King and Danny Sabourin, re-signed Ovechkin’s English tutor in Brian Willsie, watched Joe Corvo and Shoane Morrisonn sign elsewhere, and have said Au Revoir to Jose Theodore in these dog days in the lives of us hockey fans.  All of our signings are expected to be on the Hershey roster come opening night for the regular NHL season. This is somewhat to the disgruntlement of that hockey fan who loves a good free agent splash or blockbuster trade in the off-season. Or perhaps that fan who wishes the GM would have addressed some glaring issues on the roster (as last year’s roster clearly didn’t get it done) by now.

*Cough*Defense*Cough*

With the departure of Jose Theodore and the signing of Sabourin, this solidifies the rumor the Capitals are planning on having the net minded by their two young goalies for the 2010-2011 season. Russian Semyon Varlamov and the Czech Michal Neuvirth can rest easy now… or should they?

Semyon Varlamov

Has Semyon Varlamov's time come?

Most Caps fans would be lying if they said they were totally comfortable with this idea. Placing the fate of the team in an unproven goalie and a another unproven goalie doesn’t sit well with fans of any team. Is it a bit harsh to call Varlamov an unproven goalie? Perhaps, but I’m going on the whole fact that in two consecutive play-off runs Varlamov has been booted from being the starting goalie by that same goalie we just let walk. One doesn’t exactly want to start planning the parade route with that in mind. Is Varlamov only coming off his first full season as an NHL goalie? Yes, and one must remember that, but two play-off runs have not treated Varlamov kindly. Then again the team in front of him didn’t show up to help some nights, so more leniency must be given with that also in mind.

I also hate to stamp Neuvirth with that same stigma as an unproven goalie with his impressive resumé in the AHL and excellent play in net for the Capitals as a call-up. But truth be told, we’ve not seen what he looks like long-term as an NHL goalie, and until we do, the jury will remain silent. All arrows point to a winner in Neuvirth and for that most fans are excited to see how he will shape up with the responsibility and duty of being our back-up. For all intents and purposes the kid has earned his shot in Washington, and we hope it turns out to win us a Cup before the apocalypse occurs.

Michal Neuvirth

Is it Neuvirth time?

This also begs the conversation of which of our two young talents will turn out to be the better goalie? Personally I’ve come to the conclusion that the Czech will beat out the Russian by the time they both hang up the skates (put down the glove?). While I think Varlamov possess the more raw talent of the two, his sometimes jittery play and scrambling in the net will ultimately be his personal evil. He can either dazzle you with the athletic highlight reel save, or make you cringe in horror and disbelief he let in such a soft goal (again) even a person who has never put on skates could have stopped. In some ways I feel his play-off benchings are a warning sign to us all not to pin our hopes and dreams on the young Russian.  While I don’t think he will be a bust by any means, I don’t think we should butter our bread just yet with him.

Neuvirth might not possess that same raw talent, but being so technically sound and such a calming presence in net will make him the better of the two if Varlamov does not learn to settle down in games.  The team feeds off that calmness and plays better, which in turn makes us fans breathe a little sigh of relief (and lets us actually sit and enjoy the games once in a while). His two consecutive AHL Calder Cup winning seasons in Hershey — while also snagging the play-off MVP trophy in 2009 I might add, Chris Bourque grabbed that honor this past season — certainly makes one pay attention. In short: Neuvirth is the more complete player of the two.

Don’t get me wrong, both goalies are going to be highly successful in their NHL careers. As a Caps fan who has been through the Jagr Debacle and ensuing team firesale,  you tend to brace for the worst. However, this is one argument or problem I’d take any day of the week: two young promising young goalies fighting for command of the #1 spot?

Priceless.

Just as they always say, hockey is 20% physical and 80% mental and this is one of those cases where that cliché applies perfectly. So who will win this battle of will?

Photos:  Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov by Annalisk19 at Flickr.com.  Copyright 2010.  All Rights Reserved.  Jose Theodore by Reuters.

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21 Jul 2010 I Said “Ha-Ha!” (Sorry Kovy)

Ilya Kovalchuk

Is Ilya Kovalchuk's future once again hazy? Looks like it.

Much like Nelson Muntz (of “The Simpsons” fame), I had to let out a tiny giggle at the NHL bringing down the banhammer on Ilya Kovalchuk’s new contract. I know that there have been a few others like this in the last few season; but I asked the same question of them that I did of this one … Does our pal Kovalchoo really need a deal that would last until his oldest child graduates college and would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of the Gross National Product of a small African nation? (For more puzzling questions, see fellow Goddess Kaatiya’s piece: Kovy’s Contact Rejected — Why?)

To be honest, I am not a Devils fan in the least. Not only am I a Pens fan and still have a bit of a grudge against Scott Stevens for laying out my boy Paulie K in Game 6 of the 2003 Finals; but the beating of my Ducks in that series make them not too friendly around these parts.

However, Ilya has always fascinated me; and after he was traded to New Jersey, I was actually kind of happy for him. Things in Atlanta have never quite gotten off the ground, so with Los Diablos, Mr. Kovalchoo was finally going to a club that had the same level of talent to match his own. And that is a problem with this contract; they might not be able to keep all of it for as long as they would like and at the price tags that talent would be asking for.

Anyway, I thought I would leave you with a few pictures from today’s press conference in New Jersey.

A greeting from one of his alternate captains (Patrik Elias)...

and one from his goalie (Martin Brodeur)...

The posse sits in support or in wait to speak to Lou Lamoriello about this huge-ass deal that THEY would like to have as well; or maybe a bit of both...

Little do these guys know what lies ahead in the next few hours?

Kovalchuk poses outside the Devils' arena this afternoon; but will he still be there if they cut down his deal?

Photos:  Ilya Kovalchuk by Getty Images and The Associated Press.



07 Jul 2010 It’s 100 Degrees in Boston

Time for development camp!

Bruins camp opened Tuesday with dry-land testing and training, featuring the dreaded shuttle run. Thirty yards, up and back, eight times. And they do it three times over. In 100-degree heat. ::clunk::

It’s like boot camp, I guess. Physical testing is secondary. I think they just want to put these guys through torture to see how close they come to cracking. Mwahahahaha. Also, by the time they hit the ice (first session is Wednesday afternoon), they’ll probably be so happy/eager to be out there they’ll do anything they’re told. (More evil laughter).

First things first, though. Wednesday morning, I got a Tweet with this picture, before I even got out of bed:

Boston Bruins prospect development camp.

Everybody into the pool!

Jump in with sweatshirts on, tread water, take sweatshirt off, hold over head, put back on, swim to side. (And I’m thinking, what if one of these kids can’t swim? Well, apparently they all can. Thank goodness.)

John Bishop of www.bostonbruins.com is live blogging the camp, and also has provided local media updates here. Day one in a nutshell, the media are swarming around Tyler Seguin (no surprise), his teammates don’t mind (no surprise) and Joe Colborne has taken up the leadership mantle in his third camp (mild surprise).

And in a (sort of) related note, Tyler Seguin has been discovered by the local gossip media. He’s sooo cute!

Sigh.

I’ll be attending camp Friday at the practice arena in Wilmington, so I’ll have a report here. Stay tuned!

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07 Jul 2010 Kovalchuk Dances and Dekes and … Bedevils Thrasher Fans

Ilya Kovalchuk

I snapped this picture of a bubble-blowing Kovalchuk in February 2006 during warmups before the Thrashers took on the Panthers. In later years, he still chewed his gum and blew the bubbles -- even with his visor on!


If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice…

So sings the great Geddy Lee. So what’s up Kovy? Nothing yet? I must confess, this Thrasher fan is waiting in suspense with the rest of the hockey world, though I am not sure why. Maybe it’s the true child that lurks in all of us — that part of you that really believes ice cream for dinner is, indeed, a fine idea. The naive child who hopes against all hope. And, shhh … I still hope for Kovalchuk to come back to the ATL. I said shhh! Stop laughing! It could happen. Hope springs eternal, after all. Now if you are here and laughing at me, just get on with it. Meanwhile, I will give you a few shots of Kovalchuk that I’ve taken over the years. I’ve practiced my hockey-shooting skills on Kovy and the Thrashers for years, so herewith are just a few of the many. By the time you get to the end maybe you’ll have stopped smirking at me. Feel free to let us know you were here (even if you came, you saw, you laughed) — holla!

Ilya Kovalchuk

Kovalchuk got one in on the goalie in warmups prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Lighting -- this is typical Kovy (a rascal!). (October 2009)

Ilya Kovalchuk - the point

I was psyched I got this shot! The incident became known in some circles as 'Point-gate.' Ilya Kovalchuk, who had just made Penguins rookie Sidney Crosby pay for taking a bad penalty, turned to him as he exited the penalty box and gave him 'the business,' earning him the wrath of Don Cherry who suggested he deserved to have limbs broken for such an audacious display of bad sportsmanship. (January 2006)

Ilya Kovalchuk

Kovalchuk was the man of the hour at the 2008 All Star Game in Atlanta, walking the red carpet in style. I shot this from the press pit, and when a reporter asked him what designer he was wearing, he grabbed his lapels and said, 'I don't know, but I look good, yes?'

Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk walks the red carpet at the NHL All Star game. Hey! Look! Fans in Atlanta. Yeah, that's right. They exist, regardless of what *they* would like you to believe.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Lean into it! Ilya Kovalchuk warms up prior to a game against the Edmonton Oilers. (October 2009)

Ilya Kovalchuk

A portrait at practice. Buddy Slava Kozlov was showing Kovalchuk something and they skated around in little circles talking about it. (October 2009)

Ilya Kovalchuk

Vintage Ilya Kovalchuk -- his face lit up with excitement as he moves up ice, deking the heck out of the Nashville Predators. (January 2006)

Ilya Kovalchuk

Kovalchuk at the Thrashers' annual Casino Night. Asked to pose with a hockey card depicting teammate Slava Kozlov, here's his humorous non-verbal commentary.

Ilya Kovalchuk

One of my favorite pictures even though it's not the best quality. Kovalchuk on his knee after a big slapshot versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Circa 2006)

Ilya Kovalchuk

Kovalchuk during a break in the action as the Atlanta Thrashers take on the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center in January 2009.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk at the 2008 All Star Game in Atlanta.

Ilya Kovalchuk

This is how you guard against Kovalchuk, just hang on as he goes for the net. (January 2006)

Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk

As of this writing, both of these UFAs are still unsigned. I snapped this photo of pals Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk at Thrashers' Casino Night in 2009.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Numerical counterparts line up for a faceoff -- Ruslan Fedotenko of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ilya Kovalchuk. (January 2006)

Though he’s just a memory…
Some memories last forever.

OK. That was cheesy. But you know what? I don’t care. We, in Blueland, loved Kovalchuk. There’s no sense denying it, as many try to do these days. Anyway …

Wow! Going through my old photos, I can’t believe how long it’s been. I see progress in my photography and also in Kovalchuk. Thinking back on all of the games I’ve watched him play — hundreds live — some of that spunky, devil-may-care attitude (pun intended) still exists, but over the years he has grown up a lot. He’s still occasionally temperamental. He’s still a cherry-picker at heart. But still … He would absolutely rip up the Kontinental Hockey League if he chose to go there. Without the bone-crunchers of the NHL to stop him, he’d dance and deke and run up the score. I can tell you from having seen KHL action live, defenders wouldn’t know which way was up. He’d be unfettered and free to dazzle. They do that in the KHL. Lots of fancy moves — and Kovalchuk has moves stored away that he hasn’t even used yet.

In my heart, I think I’ll always love Kovalchuk a little bit. It’s going to be so hard to see him in another NHL uniform. I am looking at the news with my hands over my eyes, knowing that once he signs, he’s really gone … even if, in reality, he left us a long time ago.

Photos: All photographs by Goddess Kaatiya. Copyright 2006-2010. All Rights Reserved.

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02 Jul 2010 Columbus Calling: Dan Hinote’s New Career
Dan Hinote

Hinote joined the Columbus Blue Jackets coaching staff Thursday.

Amidst the July 1st free agent signings was one that was of particular interest to me.  That’s because it involves my friend and former Avalanche player Dan Hinote. Well, he isn’t really a friend.  I mean, we don’t keep in touch or anything, but Dan has a way of making everyone he meets feel like his friend.

I met Dan a little more than three years ago.  We were both rehabbing at the same physical therapy practice: He after yet another shoulder surgery and me after surgery for a tri-malleor fracture of my ankle. By then, he was a member of the St. Louis Blues, but living in Denver in the off-season, he chose to rehab close to home.

Honestly, I hadn’t been all that star-struck.  After all, one of Denver’s “Most Eligible Bachelors” (as voted by a local magazine) wasn’t what I considered a dreamboat, nor was he someone that did much for me on the ice.  Yet after spending many hours working out, rehabbing and chatting with him, I realized what all the fuss was about.

Dan is one of the most genuine guys I have ever met.  He takes great interest in everyone he meets.  He never forgets anyone’s name.  He asked me a lot of questions about speed skating, about my competitions, my injuries.  We had a common friend on the Avalanche, and he had nothing but glowing things to say about him.  Every time I saw him, he’d come sit on the treatment table next to me and ask me how I was doing.  Elderly women would come in and Dan would remember all of their names and give them a big hug.

He was humble, and talked about how lucky he was to have broken in when he did — when it was still a trapping, clutch-and-grab league because he was just scrappy, and guys like him were no longer being drafted or given a shot in the NHL.

He was in love.  We got to hear all about Amy, his then-girlfriend (now wife).  He talked about taking her to the Sushi Den for her birthday.  He told us all about his trip to Las Vegas with the guys where he would relax and decide if he really was going to pop the big question.  When he got engaged, we all knew the next day.

It wasn’t hard to see why he was so well loved in Denver.  He was very social, being seen out and about the city, having a great time with whoever was willing.  Back then, you might see him hanging out at the famous country bar Stampede with Peter Forsberg, partying downtown or dining with John-Michael Liles in the ritzy Cherry Creek area where he lived.  He became a media darling, a fan favorite, and women and men alike just fell in love with him.

Then in 2006, he signed with St. Louis, but no one felt ill feelings towards him.  You just couldn’t.  He was cheered when he returned with his new team to play the Avs.  People still followed his social life and his lavish wedding back in Colorado was an item of great interest.  And, of course, we all cheered when he reunited with Peter Forsberg this year to play for Modo of Sweden’s Elitserien.

Today, we again applauded Dan when we heard he would become an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets. I can’t think of a better guy for the team.  He’s smart. Very smart.  After all, very few get accepted to West Point.  More importantly however, is his personality.

Much like Ted Nolan, Dan cares about people.  With a young, budding team like the Blue Jackets, he will be the perfect man to nurture these kids, to instill confidence in them and to give them advice.  He will be a shoulder to cry on, a confidante and a great role model.  He will quickly learn what makes each player tick and will know how to get the most out of them.  For now, he’s only an assistant, but I predict he is going to have more of an impact on this team than anyone is expecting.

Just ask anyone in Colorado.  Because we all know him well.

He’s our friend.

Photo: Dan Hinote by Goddess Sasha. Copyright 2008-2010. All Rights Reserved.

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28 Jun 2010 Vladdie, We Hardly Knew Ye

Lost B: Vladimir Sobotka skates away

I spent most of the day Saturday watching the second round of the draft and stressing over the Marc Savard trade rumors. Then I received this Tweet from the Bruins:

GM Peter Chiarelli just announced that the Bruins have acquired unsigned draft choice David Warsofsky in exchange for Vladimir Sobotka.

And I cried.

I cried over the Bruins losing Vladimir Sobotka, a little guy with a huge heart, a guy who hits like like a freight train.

The big man in a little man’s body. Or, as he has been dubbed on the Web, the SOB. The Little Ball of Hate. A pest, but not a punk, who plays the game the right way. I always thought of him as a minature bull, charging around, hitting anything bigger than him. Which was pretty much everything.

Used sparingly, moved from role to role (set-up center; checking center; wing), never logging enough ice time, up and down from Providence to Boston, he hung in there and finally got a chance to shine in the first round of the playoffs this year, driving the Sabres mad. Unfortunately, he aggravated a shoulder injury late in the series and was consequently robbed of his effectiveness against Philadelphia, one of myriad (but unreported) Bruins injuries. Sobotka’s ineffectiveness against Philly was ignored in the rush to scream about the Bruins’ collapse, but it was a factor.

And now he’s gone. And the worst part of it, beyond losing a player who was born to wear the Spoked B, is that next to nobody cares. “Garbage in, garbage out,” one message board poster wrote.

How sad. How wrong. How cavalier, not only to disparage a player who laid it on the line every time he stepped on the ice, but to dismiss the feelings of those of us who love him.

Take good care of him, St. Louis. Appreciate him, because he’ll give you everything he’s got. He can’t play any other way.

Photo: Courtesy of swerve/bestlaidplans.org.

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25 Jun 2010 Scenes from L.A. — Draft Day’s Here

3 … 2 … 1 .. Action!

Good day. Kaatiya here, reporting for Goddess Sasha. Looks like the prospects and team personnel are gearing up for an exciting day. Goddess Sasha has checked in with a few of her snapshots from around the hotel where she is staying. It also happens to be the place were many of the prospects and team big-wigs are staying as well. Here are a few of the pictures our roving goddess captured.

A sign directs people to shuttle busses.

Thrashers president Don Waddell

Awesome devilish looking shot of D-Wad. (Goddess Kaat acknowledges he is a nice guy, and this was confirmed by Mr. and Mrs. Goddess Sasha. However, I don't care for his work with the Thrashers over their entire existence.)


Chatting in the lobby

Various people associated with the draft chat in the lobby.

NHL entry draft banner

A banner at the hotel welcomes NHL Entry Draft participants.

NHL Entry Draft

The lobby of the hotel where many draft participants are staying.

Don Waddell

D-Wad looking just slightly uncomfortable. (Goddess Kaat pleads with his image to ensure a great draft selection is made.)

Since we've spoken so much about Russian prospects on this blog, here's a perfect (!?) drink to toast them with?! Crazy! (Spied on a market shelf near the hotel.)

So there are just a few of Goddess Sasha’s pictures. I am sure she will have more as the day progresses. As for me, your humble Goddess Kaat, I have to miss the draft this year. My sister is having a baby and I am hopping a flight tonight. The newest Thrasher fan should arrive any minute now (and despite his being born in Raleigh, he will be a Thrasher fan or else!).

Signing off for now. Goddess Sasha takes over in earnest with live Tweets and blogging from the draft. Go Sasha, Go! (Other Goddesses may join in, as well as a surprise guest blogger, who will blog in my place.)

Let us know what you think. Your comments are always welcome and appreciated!



22 Jun 2010 Vladimir Tarasenko: The Next Ovechkin?
Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Tarasenko might be the best Russian you've never heard of.

Vladimir Tarasenko isn’t a household name -– yet.  And it still might be a while.

What? You haven’t heard of him either?

With the 2010 NHL draft just around the corner, other Russian names might stick out more.  The drama surrounding the former potential number one selection in Kirill Kabanov, or Barrie Colts standout Alexander Burmistrov, have thrust other Russian names into blogs and other news sources throughout North America.

Ironically, however, the first Russian to go in this year’s draft will most likely be someone who has never played in North America, and whom many people have never heard of.    That’s because Vladimir Tarasenko has been quietly tearing up the ice half a world away in Russia.  During his second year in the Kontinental Hockey League, he scored 13 goals and 11 assists in 42 games on a struggling team — HC Sibir Novosibirsk. Not bad for a 17-year-old playing in a league filled with seasoned veterans.

A young man in the KHL, Tarasenko has chosen to stay close to home.  Very close.  In fact, his father is also his coach in Novosibirsk.  Recognizing that his son needed the support and, presumably, the supervision of his family, Tarasenko’s father advised him to stay in Russia, play with men and have the support structure he needed to develop.   I’m sure many of you parents out there can relate.  The hesitation to send your child relatively unsupervised halfway across the world to a foreign country where he has no relatives seems like a rational, and even preferable decision.

Has this hindered his chances of a high draft spot?  To both Tarasenko and his father, such talk of draft placement is irrelevant. What is most important is the young Tarasenko’s development as a player and a professional, not what number he is selected.  After all, he is still under contract with Sibir next year and won’t be looking to move to the NHL any time soon.  The irony is, despite this casual approach to the draft, it just may manifest itself in Tarasenko being the first Russian to be chosen. He’s had both a great year in Sibr and at the World Junior Cup.

Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Tarasenko impressed scouts at the WJC this year.

Ultimately, the big question in scouts’ minds will be what most of us wonder:  Will he take the big step to the NHL once his contract with Sibir is up or remain in the KHL like many kids these days?  The fact that he hasn’t exactly been beating down the door to play in North America may be a deterrent to many teams.

However, we have to remember that Vladimir’s father is a former Soviet professional hockey player who didn’t have the chance to play in the NHL.  He has coached Vladimir for a long time and knows that the best league in the world is the ultimate achievement in any hockey player’s career.  My thought is that he is right on track to produce a very successful NHL product and while it may be a year or two down the road, Vladimir Tarasenko will soon be one of those Russians that NHL teams will hate facing due to his propensity for exploding out of nowhere and finding the back of the net.  Given his talent and style of play, he is sure to be a fan favorite wherever he lands.

Take a chance on this Russian?  You bet!  The NHL will be a more exciting place the day Tarasenko joins the league.

Photos: Vladimir Tarasenko by Elena Rusko (rusko.fishup.ru), Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

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