Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ash Wednesday Sports Chowdah Update- Goalies From 2011 Stanley Cup Finals Highlight Netminder-Heavy NHL Trade Deadline

BOSTON BRUINS- Despite a lackluster start after the Olympic break, the Boston Bruins have been on a tear lately, winning three in a row after two consecutive losses coming out of the NHL's hiatus for the Sochi games.

After downing the New York Rangers by a 6-3 final at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, the Bruins returned to the Garden on Tuesday where they faced off against former teammate Tim Thomas- possibly for the last time with the March 6th NHL trade deadline looming. Thanks to a hat trick from David Krejci, the Bruins would go on to win by a 4-1 final.

While there was some activity from the Bruins around the trade deadline, it paled in comparison to some of the other moves that day [more on that later- NANESB!]. Boston obtained young defenseman Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers for a third round pick on the 2014 draft that will automatically shifts to a second round pick should the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference Finals this year. The Bruins also acquired former Oilers defenseman Corey Potter off of waivers. Potter had 3 goals and an assist in 33 games with Edmonton during the strike-shortened NHL season and hadn't played in the NHL since then.

On Thursday night, the Bruins got a degree of revenge on Washington when Tukka Rask turned aside all 16 shots he faced and the Bruins would go on to win 3-0 thanks to goals by Gregory Campbell and Loui Eriksson in the second and some insurance from Brad Marchand with about 90 seconds to go in the 3rd as he cored an empty-netter. After beating Boston by a 4-2 final on Saturday, the Bruins get some revenge and outshoot the Caps 42-16.

The Bruins will next head on down to the Sunshine State to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 PM and the game will be televised on NESN.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- The outdoor games for the NHL- better known as the Stadium Series- have wrapped up for the season. The month of March kicked off with the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at a snow Soldier Field in Chicago for a nationally televised night game. Patrick Sharp broke the scoreless deadlock and put Chicago on the board first with a goal with 4:25 to go in the first while Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg added to the Hawks lead to make it 3-0 in the second. Pittburgh got on the board with a James Neal goal early in the 3rd, but Chicago would add two more- including another Toews goal to make it a 5-1 game.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver the following day, the Senators faced off against the Canucks [dressed as the pre-NHL Millionaires- NANESB!] for the outdoor Heritage Classic at the BC Palace. Although the host Canucks got out to a fairly quick 2-0 lead thanks to tallies by Jason Garrison and Zack Kassian, the Senators would go on to score four unanswered goals and best the struggling Canucks by a 4-2 final in what would turn out to be Roberto Luongo's final game in a Vancouver uniform.

FLORIDA PANTHERS- Which brought us to the tantalizing possibility that the two opposing goalies from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final would be teammates. On Wednesday, it was announced that the Florida Panthers had traded netminder prospect Jakob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthais to Vancouver for Roberto Luongo and forward Steven Anthony. Although Luongo made his NHL debut with the New York Islanders in 1999, the following season he was traded to the Florida Panthers after they drafted Rick DiPietro as their goalie of the future.

While in Florida, Luongo set a franchise record for save percentage and shutouts [.931 and 7, respectively- NANESB!] during the 2003-2004 season. Two years later, Luongo set a Panthers record for career and single-season wins before being traded to Vancouver in June 2006. Despite several Vezina trophy nominations, Luongo's tenure in Vancouver will most likely be remembered with his remarks about Bruins goalie Tim Thomas Tim Thomas and 'pumping his tires'. Boston would go on to win the Stanley Cup after beating Vancouver at home in a decisive Game 7 that season.

Alas- it apparently wasn't meant to be, for the irony would've been too much for the hockey gods. Instead, within hours of the Luongo deal, Thomas was traded to the Dallas Stars for their backup goaltender, Dan Ellis. Thomas reportedly waived his no-trade clause and is widely expected to back up starting Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen.

ST LOUIS BLUES- There was plenty of wheeling and dealing that didn't involve the starting goalies from the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, however. The slumping Buffalo Sabres were widely expected to unload starting goalie Ryan Miller as the season went on- a month ago it was a question of whether or not he'd be traded from Buffalo before or after the Olympic break.

As it turned out, it was after. On Saturday, the Buffalo Sabres announced that both Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott were traded to the St Louis Blues in exchange for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first round draft pick and a conditional 2016 3rd round draft pick. Miller and Ott make the dramatic transition from one of the worst teams in the NHL to a bona-fide Stanley Cup contender.

On Sunday night, Miller made his debut with the St Louis Blues in Glendale, AZ as the Blues took on the Phoenix Coyotes. Although the Coyotes jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Blue scored four unanswered goals in the 3rd period to come away with the 4-2 win. Since then, the Blues have won two more games- a 4-2 home win against the Tampa Bay Lightning and 2-1 road win over the Nashville Predators- to give them a 3-0 record with Miller between the pipes.

SPRING TRAINING- Big Papi finally got off the schnide and broke an 0-8 slump on Friday as the Red Sox hosted the Atlanta Braves at Boston's Spring Training facility in Fort Meyers.

David Ortiz had a 4th inning double and Felix Doubront threw four shutout innings, allowing two hits while striking out three. The Red Sox broke a 1-1 tie with a 3-run uprising against RHP Cody Martin in the bottom of the 7th was enough to give Boston the 4-1 win- only their second win since the start of Spring Training.

Saturday's schedule will lead to all sorts of confusion as they play the Orioles at home AND in Baltimore's Spring Training Facility in split-squad action. The game at the O's park in Sarasota, FL gets underway at 1:05 PM ET while the second split squad game between Baltimore and Boston gets underway at 7:05 PM ET from Fort Meyers.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED- In the closest thing we have to pin-ups these days, Sports Illustrated is out on the newsstands. Last year, it featured a fur and bikini-clad Kate Upton on the cover in Antarctica, but a photo shoot from this year's SI features the model defying gravity seven miles above the earth on a 727-200F meant to simulate weightlessness that astronauts would have to deal with in space [even in normal gravity, Upton's rack seems to defy the laws of physics, so a bikini-clad Kate Upton in zero-G probably goes above and beyond 'poetry in motion'- NANESB!].

According to a behind-the-scenes article, the weightlessness only lasts 30 seconds, but the company flying the plane can repeat these half-minute weightless intervals 11 times over a 90 minute timeframe. The aircraft hosting the shoot uses dedicated airspace off of Florida's west coast between 24,000 and 35,000 feet.

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