Tag Archive | "Tampa Bay Lightning"

Tampa Player Scores in His Own Net in Loss

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Thrashers kicked off their NHL season with a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night Photo Credit: (AP) at Philips Arena in front of 18,545 fans.

Starting the scoring for the Thrashers was Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger who jumped on a rebound from an Illya Kovalchuk shot and fired it behind stunned teammate goaltender Mike Smith, turning on the red light, erupting the crowd and sparking a collection of quotes from his bench in language so colorful it cannot be put in print.

Never hurts to get spotted a goal in the low-scoring NHL and the Thrashers took advantage of it, scoring the game’s next three goals to take a 4-0 lead; a lead they never salvaged.

Thrashers forward Rich Peverley, one of last year’s bright spots, started the season where he left off netting two goals and an assist. Not to be outdone, Thrashers Captain Illya Kovalchuk matched the effort netting three points of his own (2g, 1a).

All eyes were on 18-year-old rookie Evander Kane, No. 4 overall pick by Atlanta in this year’s NHL Draft. Kane made his debut compiling 11:09 of ice time and picking up his first NHL point when he assisted on Peverley’s first goal at 12:42 of the second period.

The ice did tilt with a shift in momentum late in the second period when Lightning speedster Martin St. Louis scored two goals in the final six minutes making it 4-2 at second intermission.

Rejuvenated by St. Louis’ efforts, the Lightning came out flying in the third scoring early at 2:11 to narrow the gap to 4-3 but the Thrashers refused to send their fans home without a win and scored the final two goals for the win.

The game also featured a few fights. Thrashers enforcer Eric Boulton dropped Lightning player Todd Fedoruk with a solid right in one match and Chris Thornburn went toe-to-toe with Zenon Konopka for nearly a minute in another brawl. (see video here)

Winning goaltender, rookie 22-year-old Ondrej Pavelec had great looking stats on paper; stopping 36 of the 39 shots he faced and being named third star of the game but looked shaky during much of the contest.

Pavelec looked behind his back for a red light on several occasions and was out of position, his back completely turned to the shooters on a few others. Luckily for the Thrashers, those shots didn’t find a way behind their goalie but in the NHL, sometimes you need a little luck.

Like Captain Kovy said post-game referring to the goal he got credited for that Ranger fired in his own net, “It takes a little bit of luck sometimes. I’ll take it.”

And so will the 18,545 faithful who visited Blueland Saturday night.

Copyright © 2009 – Sports Climax

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Will a Female ever break the Gender Barrier in the NHL?

Last year, during the Western Conference Finals, I was with a group of beer-guzzling friends, watching the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars run each other through the boards in a brutal, physical game; these guys looked pissed like they hadn’t been laid in a while.

When there was a break in the action, Hailey, one of the other girls in our group, threw a question out onto the table.

“Do you think a woman will ever play in the NHL?”

Hailey’s hockey comments are usually ignored since she thinks icing is something you only find on a cake. The guys feel she makes up for her lack of knowledge with those tiny denim cutoffs and extra-small tight ‘T’s she chooses to wear to some of the sporting events and ice-cold taverns.

This question though, got the guys riled up more than one of Hailey’s see-through shirts and the timing was perfect as a close-up shot of two Red Wings sitting on the bench came up on the giant screen. Dallas Drake sporting a fresh, two-inch gash on his nose and Kris Draper slouched next to him icing a big red knot on his chin that was decorated with new stitches, compliments of a Drake shot minutes earlier that bounced off his face and into the net for a goal.

We stared at the image on the screen like the question had just been answered then the one-liners began to fly.

“The helmet might give her a bad hair day.”

“If she got run into the boards she’d be upset about breaking a nail.”

“The Islanders had a bunch . . . Bossy . . . Gillies . . . Bobby Bourne.” – Nothing like a smart-ass Ranger fan.

I even threw one in, “Do those skates come in another color?”

After we finished our bad rendition of “Last Comic Standing” I reminded the group, ‘Don’t forget about Manon Rheaume.’

For those fans that were not following pro hockey in 1992, Manon Rheaume is the hot twenty-year-old goaltender best known for becoming the first woman to appear in an NHL game.

Phil Esposito, who was running the Tampa Bay Lightning at the time, was accused of using Rheaume as a publicity stunt. Maybe, but regardless this hot little babe gained a bunch of attention and was later offered to pose in a few men’s magazines.

Marketing ploy or not, 10,000 fans packed little Expo Hall on a humid September night in Tampa to see the 5′ 6″, 125 pound Rheaume strut her stuff.

Playing against the St. Louis Blues and donning her idol, Patrick Roy’s #33, the French-Canadian Rheaume allowed 2 goals on 9 shots in one period that night. Those aren’t the greatest numbers but nobody seemed to mind. She was a chick, she looked like a model and like Hailey, people in Tampa still thought icing is something you only find on a cake.

Rheaume went on to play a few other ‘pro’ games for the Knoxville Cherokees of the ECHL and the Atlanta Knights in the IHL compiling numbers that guaranteed her a short run at the men’s level.

Other chicks who gave it a run are Kim Martin, a Swedish goalie who was born in Stockholm and Erin Whitten who was named the top goaltender at the 1994 World Championship. Whitten made pro sports history by becoming the first woman to post a goaltending win in men’s hockey. On October 30, 1993 while playing for the Toledo Storm, she stopped 15 of 19 shots and defeated the Dayton Bombers, 6-5 in an ECHL game; the same league Rheaume later posted her first pro victory.

Time will tell if these women are laying a foundation for some of us girls to make it to the pro ranks and eventually compete in the NHL. But looking back to that image of Drake and Draper nursing the wounds inflicted in that brutal game, if we ever see a female make it in the NHL, odds are it will be in the goaltender position.

The Sports Chick can be reached direct at email sportchick@sportsclimax.com.

Copyright © 2008 – Sports Climax

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NHL Thrashers have Huge Void to Fill

ATLANTA – It seems like an eternity ago when the Atlanta Thrashers’ roster was overflowing with high-profile, star-caliber players, won the Southeast Division and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Philips Arena was rocking with wall-to-wall fans in blue with dreams of their team orchestrating a long playoff run . . . a run that could possibly lead to the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.

It may feel like distant history but that was actually April 2007 and that dream ended abruptly when that star-studded roster was easily swept by the New York Rangers 4-0.

Just like that, four games and out! Barely a week into the playoffs and the high-salaried, underachievers from Blueland had an early exit onto the golf course.

GM Don Waddell carefully built that roster around proven veterans with tons of playoff experience and leaders who had been on Stanley Cup winning teams. The main acquisitions were Bobby Holik who signed for 4.25 million per year and Marian Hossa, one of the brightest NHL stars, who went on to tally a club record 100 points that season.

In addition to Holik and Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk, Slava Kozlov, Alexei Zhitnik, Keith Tkachuk and captain Scott Melanby wore Thrashers blue that year but a lot has changed in Blueland since then.

After under-achieving again last season and unable to make the playoffs, this year’s 2008-2009 roster is looking quite different. When the Thrashers take the ice at Phillips Arena this October, all the above-mentioned stars have exited through trades or free agency except for Kovalchuk and Kozlov.

Last year’s Thrashers Mark Recchi and Pascal Dupuis have also moved on. The only transactions worthy of mentioning since the ‘garage sale cleanout’ are the signings of puck-carrying defensemen Ron Hainsey and Mathieu Schneider and forward Jason Williams.

Hainsey, a former first-round pick and Schneider are expected to add much needed help on the blue line on this roster packed with young less experienced players, including No. 3 overall pick, Zach Bogosian.

Waddell made an aggressive attempt to sign premiere veteran free agents like Brian Campbell and Brian Rolston before they decided to sign in NHL cities where it snows several times a year. Working against him was the fact Atlanta is considered one of the least desirable places to play in the NHL.

A few months ago, Lightning’s Dan Boyle who loved it in Tampa finally agreed to waive his “no trade clause” when he was threatened with being placed on waivers and landing on the Thrashers. He was then traded to the San Jose Sharks.

The bottom line here is approximately 60 goals departed with Hossa, Dupuis and Holik and in today’s low-scoring NHL that’s a huge void to fill.

Kovalchuk is one of the most talented players in the league but he will be forced to carry a majority of the load, game in and game out, and with a grueling 82 game schedule, it may wear him down to the point of inefficiency.

With this current roster, an injury sidelining Kovalchuk could put an immediate end to any hopes of the Thrashers having a productive season.

With a new man behind the bench, John Anderson, who has never coached at the NHL level, it will be interesting to see how the team responds. Thus far they are 1-3 in the preseason and have some final roster moves to make.

The regular season opens against Washington on Oct. 10th at Philips Arena. With mountains to climb and the outlook bleak, the biggest challenge facing Waddell and the Thrashers organization may be trying to NOT make the arena feel like a ghost town; they need to sell some tickets.

Copyright © 2008 – Sports Climax

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Hey NHL, Hats off to Expansion Hockey!

With the constant buzz about the NHL expanding their league to places like Las Vegas, Nevada, I was reminded about Hat Tricka humorous incident that occurred in Tampa Bay during their first ever NHL hockey game.

I was living in Central Florida when the Tampa Bay Lightning was franchised under the direction of Phil Esposito with the support of Japanese investors.

Originally from Detroit and brought up an avid hockey fan, I was salivating for NHL hockey so I snagged a few tickets for the inaugural game; the Lightning against the original six Chicago Black Hawks on October 7, 1992 at Expo Hall.

Expo Hall was an arena located at the State Fairgrounds and was normally used for rodeos and tractor pulls but this was NHL expansion hockey so even this makeshift arena could not stop many of us fans from filling it up.

After driving through a muddy bumpy dirt parking area, following the painted plywood parking signs, I made my way into Expo Hall.

The referees called more penalties than I have ever seen in a game allowing the Lightning to live on the power play. The Lightning went on to win the game 7-3 with forward Chris Kontos scoring the first hat trick in Lightning history.

Hat trick!

Where are the hats?

After several seconds, a lone hat, a worn-out looking baseball cap, came floating down like a feather in the wind, gliding to a smooth landing onto the surface of the ice.

With tens of thousands of fans in the seats, we usually never know what loyal die hard sacrifices his hat . . . but this night was an exception. The hat-tosser was the fan, one section over, who was being escorted out of the arena by security personnel for littering debris on the ice.

The innocent man pleaded, trying to explain the tradition, but these dedicated security personnel would have no part of this “radical, rule-breaking” fan and continued tugging the man by the arms, leading him up the stairs.

After watching for several seconds, a few nearby fans rushed to the fan’s aid, trying to help explain the tradition to no avail. Finally, a nearby security guard rushed over and saved the fan from expulsion. The disgruntled fan was allowed back to his seat bringing laughter and a huge ovation from those of us familiar with the game.

Since this incident 16 long years ago, Tampa has evolved into a city that loves hockey. A city that proudly hangs their Stanley Cup champion flag from the rafters of their current home, the Ice Palace, the home to many hat-tossing loyalists who have gotten to know and love the game.

So viva Las Vegas . . . “Hats off” to expansion hockey!

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