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Richard Kagan

Can Hawks Dent Smith? posted by Richard Kagan

The Blackhawks are storming the Coyotes net in the first period but don't have a goal to show for it.  Mike Smith has been deluged with a Blackhawks barrage as Chicago aims to even this series at 3-3 and move to a decisive Game 7.  So far, Goalie Smith has been strong in net for Phoenix.  The Hawks are skating up and down the ice trying to solve Smith.  The Hawks have 16-2 advantage in shots, yet no goals.  Phoenix is hanging in.  The Blackhawks have to keep going, no holds barred.  And, find a way to put the puck in the net, so this series can contrinue.

Continue reading "Can Hawks Dent Smith?"

Richard Kagan

'Hawks Force Game 6 on West Madison posted by Richard Kagan

Jonathan Toews' goal early in OT give the Hawks a big win in Game 5 againt the pesky Phoenix Coyotes.  Now the first round series heads to what will be a loud United Center.  The Hawks fans will be out in full force and throw in a few Hall of Famers watching in the VIP boxes.  One thing for sure is Raffi Torres won't be on the ice. He has been effectively removed from the Series when the NHL suspended him for 25 games, a stiff penalty.  Let's hope it sends the message and let's hope that Marian Hossa is on the road back to a healthy recovery from that cheap shot.  The Big stars need to continue to play big and that includes Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.  It would also help if Patrick Kane got on the scoreboard.  The Hawks also need a good game from Dave Bolland and Marcus Kruger.  If they can get contributions from them, they have a good chance to head back to Phoenix for a day in the sun and game 7.Continue reading "'Hawks Force Game 6 on West Madison"

Richard Kagan

'Hawks on Brink in Phoenix posted by Richard Kagan

As a long-time Blackhawks fan from the days of Eric Nesterenko, Pierre Pilote, and Pat Stapeton, Bobby and Dennis Hull, and Stan Mikita, I am following their playoff series closely.  They trail 1-0 going into the 3rd frame in the pivotal fifth game.  The Hawks trail 3-1 in games and if the Coyotes win, it will be the first time they will advance beyond the first round in Franchise history.  This is great news for those fans, decked out in white in the stands out there.  The Hawks have underperformed.  They are getting outplayed by a feisty, determined team.  This team does nnot have the firepower or the superstarrs that Chicago has.  They do have an outstanding goalie in Mike Smith.  Maybe, that's what you need in late April.  It doesn't matter if you win 2-0, or 2-1, as long as you win and advance.  And, it looks like Phoenix is about to do just that.  I wouldn't be suprised if the Hawks tie this game up late, and go into another OT, only to lose.  This has been a close series, only because the Coyotes don't have the big guns as Chicago does.  But coach Dave Tippet's plan is working to a near perfect scenario.  The Kane, Toews line has been silenced.  When your star players can't score a goal, that's a recipe for an early exit.  Marian Hossa is out with a concussion.  But he was not scoring when he got wharcked by Raffi Torres. He had 77 points in the regular season.   I think a loss of Hossa matched up vs. Torres' suspension is a win for Coyotes. &nContinue reading "'Hawks on Brink in Phoenix"

Richard Kagan

Hawks Fall 3-2 in OT in Game 4 posted by Richard Kagan

Since this is a blog I am not going to be journalistically correct. I don't know the name of the player who scored the winning goal, although he scored one the other night.  I do know Mike Smith, the Phoenix goalie was the difference in the series.  He outplayed Corey Crawford and if Phoenix wins this Series, up 3-1 in games, which is likely, Smith may be the most valuable player.  All I know is the Hawks came out ramped up with a lot of pent up anger over the Hossa hit, and could not score vs. Smith.  And, as the game went on, the Coyotes pecked away and gradually dictated the action.  Chicago had a late score to send it to OT, but the Hawks couldn't capitilize once it began.  Every game has gone to OT, which is a sign that teams are pretty evenly matched.  But Phoenix has won 3 of them. 

Where were the big guns for the Hawks?  Sharp, Towes and Kane didn't have many good chances.  It seemed Phoenix had a plan and executed it well.  Dave Bolland had some chances but couldn't cash in.  The name players for the Hawks did not step up.  And now, The Hawks will likely have a short playoff run.

Continue reading "Hawks Fall 3-2 in OT in Game 4"

Jeff Ponder

Phoenix Coyotes Sign Mike Smith posted by Jeff Ponder

The most generic name in sports is officially a Phoenix Coyote.

Mike Smith, who played for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, will be given a shot at being a #1 goaltender this coming season. 

Ilya Bryzgalov, former starting goalie for the Coyotes, had a high asking-price that Phoenix could not meet.  They shipped his rights to Philadelphia and re-signed back-up goalie Jason LaBarbera to a two-year, $2.5 million contract.

Rumors are that LaBarbera will be given a chance to be the top guy next season, but Mike Smith was brought in as a possible split-starter.  The contract is reportedly a two-year deal that will pay him $4 million ($2M cap-hit).

Smith posted a 13-6-1 record last season with Tampa Bay, recording a 2.90 GAA and a .899 save percentage.  Smith had his best season in 2006-07 as a member of the Dallas Stars, posting a 12-9-0 record with a 2.23 GAA and a .912 save percentage.

Smith and LaBarbera are a downgrade from Bryzgalov, but they will be serviceable goaltenders.  If the Coyotes’ offense can continue to score goals and defenseman Keith Yandle can continue to rack up a ton of minutes and stop opposing teams’ offenses, the Coyotes should still be in great shape in 2011-12.

Follow Jeff Ponder on Twitter (@jponder94) for all the latest updates on free-agent signings today.

Continue reading "Phoenix Coyotes Sign Mike Smith"

Jeff Ponder

Phoenix Signs Ray Whitney to a 2-year, $6M Deal posted by Jeff Ponder

Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski may have help on the veteran end of things in Phoenix.

Ray Whitney, the long-time member of the Carolina Hurricanes, has decided to sign a 2-year deal that will place him in a young locker room full of impressionable faces. 

The 38-year old right-winger proved last season that he can still be a big-game player; scoring 21 goals and five game-winners at his age is quite impressive. 

The Coyotes will be without forward Matthew Lombardi, who hit the free-agent market today, so bringing in another forward who knows how to get the job done could be vital to this franchise.  The Coyotes had their biggest season in 2009-10 and they look like they were not finished there.Continue reading "Phoenix Signs Ray Whitney to a 2-year, $6M Deal"

Jeff Ponder

Tippett is Clear-Cut Best Coach posted by Jeff Ponder

There are no surprises that the San Jose Sharks are the top team in the Pacific Division.  The real surprise is that the Phoenix Coyotes are just four points behind them with just five games left in the regular season.  How is this possible?  While there are many members of the Coyotes organization to give credit to, only one man has truly led the way for the brilliant performance of the Cinderella team.

When the 2009-10 season started, the only thing surrounding the Coyotes' organization was uncertainty.  Over the summer, talks had even begun that the team may move to Hamilton as early as October if Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie purchased the team.  But the NHL stepped in and bought the team, planning on moving it to another owner.  Its easy to say that the team was in turmoil.

To add to the mess, training camp started without a head coach.  Former coach Wayne Gretzky was nowhere to be found on the first few days of training camp, and the assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson was given coaching duties.  After Gretzky was out of the picture, Dave Tippett, a former head coach of the Dallas Stars with a career 271-162-59  record going into 2009-10, was brought in as the head coach.  Tippett was signed to a contract on September 24 with just one game remaining in the pre-season.  The Coyotes have only improved since that day. 

What he has accomplished has been noteworthy.  The Coyotes, who are currently still in an ownership discussion with Ice Edge, have shown immediate improvement under Tippett.  In 2008-09, the Coyotes were a dismal 36-39-7, placing them 13th in the Conference and fourth in the Pacific Division.  This season has been a huge turnaround, as they have become the team to beat in the Western Conference.  Their 12-5 shootout record is the best mark in the NHL.
Continue reading "Tippett is Clear-Cut Best Coach"

Jeff Ponder

Phoenix Trades Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter to Colorado for Wojtek Wolski posted by Jeff Ponder

Talks of Peter Mueller being the next best thing in Phoenix have come to an end.

“He's a great young man who loves to play the game,” former head coach Wayne Gretzky once said about the now-21 year old.  “He's good with the puck. We're happy with his progress and production.”

Mueller has seen quite the decline in offensive numbers this season, despite his team having a collective great year.  His 17 points in 54 games are less than impressive, especially when compared to his numbers the past two seasons (54 points in 2007-08 and 36 points in 2008-09). 

Wolski, on the other hand, is having a decent season in Colorado.  His 47 points ranked him second on the Avalanche before being traded.  His speed and puck-handling ability will add to an already strong Phoenix offense.

Most critics feel that this trade sways in the way of Phoenix, but I'm going to have to be in the minority.  I think that Mueller is still a top young player in the league.  He may have skipped over his sophomore slump and is just seeing it in his third year, which could mean Mueller will pick his game up fairly soon.  Wolski is a strong second-line player that adds skill, but can be lackadaisical when coming back to his own zone.  Mueller is a responsible player who is having an off-season but has plenty of time left in his young career to fix his mistakes.Continue reading "Phoenix Trades Peter Mueller and ..."

Jeff Ponder

Boston Trades Derek Morris to Phoenix for a Fourth-Round Pick in 2011 posted by Jeff Ponder

In 2009 Morris gets traded away from Phoenix, and in 2010 he returns to Phoenix.

Morris, who has seen time with the Flames, Avalanche, Coyotes, Rangers and Bruins, will head back to Phoenix after being dealt at the trade deadline last season to the New York Rangers for Dmitri Kalinin, Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes.  The Coyotes get him back for just a fourth-round pick in 2011.

Morris is known for his defensive prowess, which is why he was such a hot commodity last deadline.  Morris, who has just a -2 this season, was still matched against some top-line players in Boston.  He ranked third on the Bruins in average ice time per game with 22:00.

The trade looks fairly even when considering what Morris has accomplished since leaving Phoenix, but I think Phoenix comes away with the win in this one.  When considering what they got in return for Morris last season and what they give up this time around, the organization managed these two deals very well.  Even though Prucha is all that remains from the trade with the Rangers, GM Don Maloney and co. did their best in getting back Morris.Continue reading "Boston Trades Derek Morris to Phoenix ..."

Goon Squad

Coyote Ugly - Deserted Dogs posted by Goon Squad

Keith Jeffries of Huntsville Sports Ventures has been the owner of the Havoc, a member of the Southern Professional Hockey League, for all six years - the longest stint of the city's four previous franchises.

Admittedly, he didn't know that much about the sport before he became an owner, but he did love watching the game.

After selling his business several years ago, it was a search "for that second career" that led Jeffries to the front office of the minor league team.

Decorating the walls of the team's main office are framed jerseys from past years. His office, off to the side of the main office, is modestly decorated with bookshelves, pictures, a couple of hockey masks, pucks and a family picture prominently displayed.

Last week, Jeffries talked about the team and the sport with Times business editor Budd McLaughlin. The conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

Q: What is Huntsville Sports Ventures Inc.?

A: It's the parent company of the Havoc and I'm the only stockholder. We called it Huntsville Sports Ventures instead of the Havoc because we may go into other promotions in sports entertainment. We owned the (Tennessee Valley) Vipers (arena football team) for a couple of years and were involved in the Arenacross (motocross) at the VBC and were a small backer of the Big Spring Jam one year.

Q: Is there a relationship between the Havoc and the Vipers?

A: No. We're tenants in the same building. That's all. We get along extremely well, but there's no business relationship.

Q: What is your relationship with the Von Braun Center administration?

Continue reading "Coyote Ugly - Deserted Dogs"

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