Okay, after a little Christmas break I’m back and ready to talk hockey again. Hope everyone else had a great holiday with friends and family. How about that start by Canada against the Czechs in the World Junior tourney? Tavares picked up right where he left off in the tournament warm-up, and the team looks to be firing on all cylinders. The United States team looked strong also, drubbing Germany 8-2. Looks like those two teams might be headed for another classic match-up.
Things got kicked off in the NHL last night after a two game break. The turkey break didn’t do the Flyers much good as they not only lost 5-1 to the red hot Chicago Blackhawks, but they lost both Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to injury. Neither injury is deemed serious and neither should miss more than a week or two of action. Pittsburgh finally managed to right the ship, though their recent goal-scoring woes continued as they edged out New Jersey 1-0 in a hard fought contest. And Toronto picked up right where they left off before the Christmas break, following up their embarrassing 8-2 shellacking to Dallas with an equally embarrassing 4-1 loss to an Islanders team that has been dreadful so far this year. Here are the players who were looking good in these and other games on Boxing Day:
3rd Star – Shane Doan – Shane Doan does not get the credit he deserves, his considerable talents all but ignored by the rest of the league as he labors game in and game out for the desert dogs of Phoenix. Wayne Gretzky knows what he has though, and the Great One’s eye for the game is the reason Doan has seen himself in a Team Canada jersey so many times in recent years. Doan has again been the best player in Phoenix this year, and he had another goal (17th) and assist (18th) to lead the Yotes to a 2-1 over Los Angeles, giving Phoenix a little breathing room in a tight playoff race that currently sees them sitting 7th in the Western Conference.
2nd Star – Eric Staal – Though Eric Staal has never managed to recapture the magic that saw him score 100 points in his sophomore season in 2005-06 he continues to be one of the most dangerous offensive forces in the league, and he willed his team to victory last night with 3 goals in the third period as his Carolina Hurricanes stole two points from divisional rival Atlanta Thrashers in last night’s action. The win helped pull Carolina a little further ahead of the surging Florida Panthers for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
1st Star – Marc-Andre Fleury – Fresh off embarrassing losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning the Pittsburgh Penguins needed at least one of their players to step up and try and change the team’s fortunes. Most would expect Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby to perform that duty, but they continued their average play last night, instead leaving it up to their goaltender to secure the club a win. Marc-Andre Fleury proved he was up to the challenge, stopping all 37 shots the red hot Devils fired his way en route to a 1-0 win. No rest for the weary, however. Fleury and the Pens are right back at it tonight as they face the Montreal Canadiens. Crosby always seems to shine against the team he idolized as a boy, so watch for him to make a big impact tonight in what should be the evening’s best match-up.