Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WHL US Division well-represented in NHL playoffs... plus Seattle's "Golden Boy" TJ Oshie

Fans of WHL's US Division teams have a number of teams to cheer for in the first round of the NHL playoffs. But if you're not a diehard fan and want to know who to follow, I've done the legwork for you. Below are players from WHL US Division teams whose NHL teams are in the battle for Lord Stanley's Cup. 

In addition, one of the Seattle-area's homegrown stars, TJ Oshie, is shaking off an injury in an attempt to help lead the St. Louis Blues in the Cup chase.

Take a look at the list of players below. Let me know if I've left anyone out. And may your team win the Cup (if your team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, that is).

TJ Oshie - product of Seattle Junior Hockey Association

Brenden Dillon (2007-2011) - Dallas Stars (v. Anaheim Ducks)

Patrick Marleau (1995-1997) – San Jose Sharks (v. Los Angeles Kings)
Cory Sarich (1998) – Colorado Avalanche (v. Minnesota Wild)
 Nate Thompson (2001-2005) – Tampa Bay Lightning (v. Montreal Canadiens)

Radko Gudas  (2009-2010) – Tampa Bay Lightning (v. Montreal Canadiens)

Ryan Murray (2008-2013) – Columbus Blue Jackets (v. Pittsburgh Penguins)

Note: Former Silvertips Head Coach Craig Hartsburg is Columbus Blue Jackets’ Assistant Coach
Carey Price (2002-2007) – Montreal (v. Tampa Bay Lightning)

Clayton Stoner  (2002-2005) – Minnesota Wild (v. Colorado Avalanche)

Tyler Johnson (2007-2011) – Tampa Bay Lightning (v. Montreal Canadiens)

Darcy Kuemper (2007 - one game) –  Minnesota Wild (v. Colorado Avalanche)
Jared Spurgeon (2005-2010) – Minnesota Wild (v. Colorado Avalanche)
Ray Whitney (1988-1991) – Dallas Stars (v. Anaheim Ducks)
Note: Former Chiefs Head Coach Mike Babcock is Detroit Red Wings’ Head Coach
Note: Former Chiefs Assistant and Head Coach Bill Peters is Detroit Red Wings’ Assistant Coach
 Braydon Coburn (2000-2005) - Philadelphia Flyers (v. New York Rangers)

Brandon Dubinsky (2002-2006) – Columbus Blue Jackets (v. Pittsburgh Penguins)

Marian Hossa  (1997-1998) – Chicago Blackhawks (v. St. Louis Blues)

Ryan Johansen (2009-2011) – Columbus Blue Jackets (v. Pittsburgh Penguins )
Cody McLeod (2001-2005) – Colorado Avalanche (v. Minnesota Wild)
Brenden Morrow (1995-1999) – St. Louis Blues (v. Chicago Blackhawks)

Nino Niederreiter (2009-2011) – Minnesota Wild (v. Colorado Avalanche)

Luca Sbisa (2010) – Anaheim Ducks (v. Dallas Stars)

Colton Sceviour (2004-2008) – Dallas Stars (v. Anaheim Ducks)


Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Puckpourri: T-Birds love, 'Tips news, two ooh's + one OMG GWG

The Seattle Thunderbirds proved to be no match for the CHL-leading Kelowna Rockets, losing all four games in their WHL playoffs second round match-up. The T-Birds showed some flashes of brilliance, but unfortunately, the Rockets shined just a bit brighter, winning 3 of 4 games pretty handily: 6-2, 6-3, -5-4, 5-2. 

(Photo: Kelowna Rockets/WHL)

I'm not going to try to wrap up the season. That's definitely not my strong suit. I will say this: I thoroughly enjoyed myself this season, both as a fan and as an anthem singer. T-Birds fans are incredibly friendly, supportive and loyal. AND they sing along. I can't wait to see what next season brings.

In the meantime, here are write-ups from hockey minds I respect and admire:

Thom Beuning (The "Voice of the T-Birds"): The Last Harrumph
Andy Eide (T-Birds writer for T-Birds season ends with 5-2 loss to Rockets in Game 4

Player notes:

The team and fans said goodbye to Mitch Elliot, who wrapped up his fifth and final season. He played his entire WHL career with the T-Birds, which is a bit of a rarity in these times. He played in a total of 322 regular season games, scored 14 goals and had 20 assists. He played in 16 playoff games, scored 1 goal (against the Everett Silvertips in Game 5 of this year's playoffs), and had 2 assists. I had the chance to sit and chat with Mitch, his parents and his billet parents. That story will post very soon. I will say this about Mitch - he's a class act, and I expect this young man to succeed at whatever he puts his mind to doing.

(Mitch Elliot/Photo: Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL)

Captain Justin Hickman signed an ATO with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (the Islanders' AHL team). Here's the release. I wonder whether former T-Birds Captain Thomas Hickey (current d-man for the Isles) will be able to offer any tips.

(Justin Hickman/Photo: Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL)

D-man Shea Theodore has been called up to the Norfolk Admirals (the Ducks' AHL team). Here's the release.
(Shea Theodore/Photo: Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL)
The Everett Silvertips have got to be proud of goaltender Austin Lotz, who made the NHL Central Scouting Service's final rankings of North American goaltenders prior to the Entry Draft in June. Lotz came in at number 22 of the top 30 goalies. By all accounts, Austin had a stellar season: 57 games played, Record: 31W (including 5 shutouts), 18L, 3OTL, 2SOL. His GAA was 2.53 and SV% WAS 0.905%.
(Austin Lotz/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)
Player notes:
Captain Matt Pufahl signed an ATO with the Lake Erie Monsters (the Avs' AHL team). Here's the release. The d-man will protect former enemy opponent, former T-Birds goalie Calvin Pickard.
(Matt Pufahl/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)

Josh Winquist and Jujhar Khaira have joined the Oklahoma City Barons (the Oilers' AHL team). JJ signed a contract with Edmonton over the summer, while Josh signed an ATO. (Side note: The Silvertips Booster Club has this neat thing they do every year - they match each member up with a player in a "secret pal" program. The pals deliver good cheer to their players throughout the season, along with gift cards. At the end of the regular season, they host a party where the pals and players finally meet, and the pal gives his/her player one last gift. I was proud to be JJ's secret pal this season, although I couldn't make it to the reveal party because of a prior commitment. I'm told he thoroughly enjoyed his gift, a mounted photo of him in action against the Winterhawks, snapped by awesome photographer Chris Mast. I wish JJ the best of luck with the Barons and beyond).
(Jujhar Khaira/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)
(Josh Winquist/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)

Mirco Mueller has been called up to the Worcester Sharks (San Jose's AHL team). The Sharks drafted him 18th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Read about all three players here.
(Mirco Mueller/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)

Marc-Andre Fleury (Pens):  incredible flip to deny Red Wing Daniel Alfredsson in the shootout the other night.

Kris Letang (Pens): suffered a stroke six weeks ago. Wednesday night, he laced 'em up and hit the ice for the first time and played like he'd never left. I won't lie - seeing him back in the game makes me nervous, but as friends (and Tanger himself) pointed out, a stroke could hit at any time, no matter what he's doing. Why not at least be doing what he loves? I can't argue with that.

(Kris Letang/Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins/Getty)

Jonathan Quick (Kings): Kings fans know what a class act Jonathan Quick is - now, the entire nation knows. Watch what happened when he surprised a young fan on the Ellen Show:

Justin Holl (University of Minnesota): This kid waited until the final 6 seconds of the final 4 of the Frozen Four to score his very first goal of the season. And what a goal! Holl's shot lifted the Golden Gophers over the UND Fighting Sioux team to land in the championship game against Union College, who beat Boston College Thursday. That game takes place tomorrow (Saturday, April 12) at 7:30pm ET on ESPN.

Talk about the ultimate buzzer-beater.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Puckpourri: Ugh T-Birds, incredible comeback in Kootenay, baby "Blues" for TJ Oshie... + the King of Pop-- on ICE?!


Game 1 in the second round of the WHL playoffs is in the books and the Seattle Thunderbirds got the ugly end of the stick. The Kelowna (formerly the TACOMA) Rockets took advantage of a number of penalties and just plain outmanned the T-Birds to a final score of 6-2.

 (Photo: Kelowna Rockets/WHL)

Double Ugh.

I know Kelowna finished the regular season with a whopping 118 points, more than any team in the WHL, OHL or QMJHL. Powerhouse? You bet. Unbeatable? No team is unbeatable. Just ask the 2008-2009 San Jose Sharks, who won the President's Trophy with 117 points, only to lose 4-2 to the 8th seeded Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. Or the 2009-2010 Washington Capitals, who finished the season with a whopping 121 points only to go down in 7 games against the Montreal Canadiens, also in first round action.

I'm not a sports psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. But I'd say the T-Birds are facing more than a formidable opponent in the Kelowna Rockets this series. Of course the Rockets are formidable - they've got the best record in the CHL. But they also have something else: history - and recent history at that. In the first round of the playoffs last year, Seattle won the first 3 games and seemed poised to finish off the Rockets and advance to the second round. Instead, Kelowna pulled off an incredible upset, winning the next four games and leaving a stunned T-Birds team (and fans) in their wake. (They didn't advance past the second round after hitting a brick wall called the Kamloops Blazers). 

So... this armchair sports psychologist thinks maybe *some* of the T-Birds may be remembering their massive fall from grace last season and the memory is (consciously or subconsciously) messing with their minds. If I'm wrong, I'll be the first person to offer a loud "mea culpa" at center ice of ShoWare Center. But I heartily believe Seattle has what it takes to bring down this Goliath-like Kelowna team. In fact, the teams split their four regular season games with two wins apiece (4-3 Seattle, 4-3 Kelowna, 4-1 Seattle, 7-3 Kelowna). 

Here's hoping the T-Birds roll into Prospera Place tomorrow night and show the Rockets they don't care about 118-point regular season records or what happened last year, then ride that momentum to Kent and show the hometown crowd, and most importantly, themselves, that they've got the heart and the talent to keep the post-season going.


And I'm not talking about the playoffs, although the Ice handily defeated the Calgary Hitmen 4-2 to advance to the second round (Game 1 against Medicine Hat is tomorrow night). 

No, the incredible comeback I'm talking about happened before the March 29th game at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook, when Ice forward Tim Bozon took part in the ceremonial puck drop before his teammates skated to a 5-3 victory and knocked Calgary out of the playoffs.

(Photo: Barry Coulter)

Tim spent the better part of the month in a Saskatoon hospital, battling a form a bacterial meningitis so serious, doctors had to place him in a coma for two weeks while they treated him. He was released from the hospital on March 28 and watched his teammates win the next night. The Montreal Canadiens prospect is now back home in France with his parents, where he'll continue the healing process.

Here's the news conference with Tim and his father (warning: dad gets a little emotional)

Here's video of the ceremonial puck drop: 


Blues star (and Seattle Junior Hockey Association alum) T.J. Oshie has been tearing up the ice and helping St. Louis clinch a playoff spot and a whopping 111 points. But on the Today Show this morning, TJ and his fiancee Lauren shared the emotional challenge faced by their newborn daughter, Lyla Grace, who was born with a serious birth defect called gastroschisis (part of baby Lyla's intestines were outside her tiny body). Surgeons successfully repaired the problem and baby Lyla is expected to go home with her mom and dad next week. 


The Hubby (@StuV94) spotted this photo tweeted out by @History_Pix today. He retweeted it, then texted me to check it out.


The photo is identified as a ceremonial puck drop between the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins on November 16, 1984. According to a story posted by the Canucks in 2009, the only thing the team can confirm is that Stan Smyl is #12 for Vancouver, and we all recognize #66 in the Penguins uniform. But they couldn't confirm with complete certainty that the gentleman holding the puck aloft is actually the King of Pop himself. According to the story, Michael Jackson *was* in Vancouver at the time, performing for three nights at BC Place, so one would assume this was the real deal participating in the ceremonial puck drop. He looks real to me and it seems like the type of thing the kid in him would have enjoyed doing. 

I'd love to sit here and continue ruminating with you, but I've gotta go. I think a UFO just landed in my backyard - and I think Bigfoot's behind the wheel. #TheTruthIsOutThere