Revisiting my US Olympic Hockey roster projections

Earlier in the summer I took the time to project who I felt would be donning the red, white and blue for the United States in the 2014 Olympic Games. With a quarter of the NHL season in the books there is a potential for a number of players to have cemented their spots or even opened the eyes of the USA Hockey executive team.

Considering the US doesn’t have the mountain of talent that is touted by the Canadians to pull from, there are more than a few assumed locks for the team. Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel are both enjoying strong starts to the season and will certainly be counted upon to continue their elite scoring ways in Sochi. The story remains the same for many of the forwards I assumed would be making the squad.

What it will likely come down to is who has the strongest resume as the games near. While the orientation camp and preseason rosters were based on career resumes and the assumed growth of players, others have shot out of the gates and bear watching as the season progresses. Due to that, there is likely to be some shuffling amongst the names who already were considered favorites.

Max Pacioretty has only played 15 games and has accounted for nine points (7+2) in that span. His absence from the lineup and the slower start could bump him off the roster as could be the case for James Van Riemsdyk. He has 16 points (9+7) in 22 games and has a natural chemistry with Kessel, but he could also be supplanted by a new face should the executive staff go with who is playing best.

JVR is probably more of a longshot to be left off the roster than to make it at this point and Ryan Callahan’s injury issues to start the year and Dustin Brown’s unimpressive offensive output won’t win them many favorites. However, Brown and Callahan both serve incredibly well in a checking and leadership role, which will likely cement their spot on the roster.

My original roster only accounted for 13 forwards and seven defensemen as I didn’t account for the two extra roster spots made available for this year’s games. Given that my original roster now has two gift openings, there isn’t nearly as much trouble trying to narrow down who should and shouldn’t be packing up for Russia.

The players who have motivated me to revisit my picks include; Jason Pominville (13 goals already), TJ Oshie (21 points) along with a few others who I originally considered little more than darkhorse candidates (Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Fowler).

I truly believe that most of the American roster was decided early on as players like David Backes, Kane, Kessel, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were all but decided the minute the orientation camp roster came out. Others would certainly be favorites but would need a solid first half of the year to cement their spot, this is where I see some opportunity for turnover. Here’s my new roster with new names highlighted in blue: Continue reading

Between the Pipes: Sabres drop OT decision to Bolts

For my new goalie focused recap I chose a picture with two skaters.

For this season I’m going to try and mix things up a bit for game recaps. Since the blogging community continues to be well represented at each Sabres game, I know that there will be at least one or two quality recap for each game. In addition to the stories coming from the mainstream media sources in town I’d like to try to offer something of a slightly different ilk for my game recap.

So what I’m going to work out over these first few weeks is a little different take on the typical Sabres game recap. While I’ll still provide some basic elements of what occurred, my primary focus will be on the players between the pipes for both the Sabres and their opponents with some additional thoughts added at the end. So that’s the plan for now. If it happens to be garbage I’ll regroup with something that makes sense.

As for last night, it wasn’t the most painful hockey game that I’ve ever had to sit through. Buffalo’s inability to pass and cycle the puck was rather pathetic and their overwhelming lack of puck possession resulted in yet another imbalanced shot on goal tally that saw the Lightning nearly double Buffalo’s efforts at even strength (29 shots to 16 shots).

Despite that imbalance, the Sabres managed to stake themselves to a pair of one-goal leads thanks to their previously dormant power play and were a backwards whistle away from taking a two-goal lead early in the third.

That confusing play – which wound up being nothing more than a massive screw up by the officials – really wound up serving as the true turning point in the game. Somehow the officials missed Ott playing the puck on the sideboards – how I’m not quite sure – and waited until McBain shot to call the play. All of this combined to be massively confusing not only because of the goal, but because the Bolts had managed to get a whistle on a delayed penalty of their own after the puck struck one of their skates earlier in the period. So there was already a precedent of questionably ending plays on delayed penalties prior to this play. Add in that the high stick was a pretty weak call – as Vanek and Carle had gotten tied up behind the net – and it was a very ugly turn of events.

Oh yeah, and Tampa scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game.

The loss fell on Jhonas Enroth’s shoulders and his record is now 0-1-1 on the young season as the 31 saves matched his output against the Penguins on Saturday. Enroth’s play was strong despite fighting the puck early in the contest. His stiffest tests came from Tampa’s five power play shots and he responded well.

His counterpart, Ben Bishop, wasn’t very busy and coasted through most of the game without needing to make many impressive stops. Bishop’s finest save came when he flashed his glove on Mark Pysyk in the first and he was quite busy in the third as the Sabres fired 13 of their 23 shots during that stanza. Continue reading