Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AS RYAN MILLER HEALS HIS HEAD, HE HEALS SOME HEARTS



Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller has been sidelined for the last two weeks with a concussion. But that hasn't stopped him from his charitable efforts.

Stop Da Puck has learned of a very touching visit the injured netminder made to kids at Buffalo's Roswell Park Cancer Institute on Nov. 18 while his teammates were away on a road trip.

His uplifting visit was part of his involvement through his Steadfast Foundation, which he founded in the memory of his cousin Matthew Schoals' battle with leukemia until he died in 2007 at age 17. (FYI: I will host the red carpet at Steadfast's annual "Catwalk for Charity" fundraiser on Sunday, Dec. 4.)

Roswell also just so happens to be where my father (and #1 fan/personal goalie coach) received chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer until he passed in 1995. So, obviously, Ryan's dedication to Roswell patients hits me close to home.

By the way, I'm told Ryan played games with the kids (they smoked him in Battleship, apparently) and offered up many goalie hugs to the kids.

Although I'm excited to see Ryan back ASAP between the pipes, I'm more excited to see that he realizes that there's more to life than just stopping da puck.

The kids sinking Ryan's battleships . . .



Ryan and Madisyn sharing a happy hug . . .



(Pictures courtesy of Joe Casio.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

PEKKA RINNE: WINNER ON & OFF ICE



Yes, Pekka Rinne is a world-class puck stopper. But during the Nashville Predators' recent swing through my part of the world, I also learned that Nashville's starting goalie (and 2011 Vezina Trophy finalist) is an equally classy guy.

Thanks to a very thoughtful introduction by my pals - Preds goalie coach Mitch Korn and head coach Barry Trotz - Pekka took some time to chat with the other two goalies in my house (yes, both my son and daughter are Mites hockey goalies!) before the team practice in El Segundo, California.

The 6-foot-5 Finn asked my son and daughter how their seasons were going ("goood" and "goood"), autographed some hats (as did the equally kind Nash backup Anders Lindback) and seemed genuinely interested in meeting two goalies who came up to his hips.

Despite days earlier inking a $7 million-a-season contract, Pekka proved he's got a big-time heart to go with that big-time paycheck.

Enjoy more pics from our very memorable family visit . . .

* "Uncle Mitch" already recruiting the kids for his summer goalie camp!:



* Barry Trotz didn't need to coach winning smiles from the lil' Baker goalies:

Friday, October 28, 2011

ILYA BRYZGALOV MELTS DOWN: "I can't stop da puck!"



"I'm a terrible goalie."

"I have zero confidence."

"I can't stop da puck."

When I first heard Ilya Bryzgalov's post-game comments after Philly's 9-8 loss to Winnipeg, I had two thoughts:

1) I would hate to be a Flyers player hoping my goalie (the most important player on the ice) will boost our team with confidence. I'd imagine that the Philly players felt the same way the passengers felt when the stewardess in the movie "Airplane" asked, "Does anyone know how to fly a plane?"

2) Ilya, please feel free to pay us here at Stop Da Puck a licensing fee for stealing our "stop da puck" phrase (which we actually stole from Evgeni Nabokov).

We will donate it all to the Confidence-Challenged Goalies Fund.

Now, Ilya, please just go and STOP DA PUCK!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

HALAK'S GIANT PADS MIGHT BE GIVING HIM THE BLUES



There's a reason why goalies wear long pads: They provide more area to stop da puck.

Likewise, there's a reason why goalies don't wear pads that are too long. That reason is the same reason why I don't borrow Yao Ming's size 18 shoes: I'm only a size 11 1/2. Meaning, when it comes to leg pads there is such a thing as too big. Yes, size matters.

How this all relates to St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak is that the 5-foot-11 netminder appears to be wearing pads that are at least 1-2 inches too long for his body. Granted, Halak has always worn stiff, long pads that made him look like a bubble hockey goalie, but when I got to see him play in person last week I was shocked that his infamous Twin Leg Towers looked bigger than ever. And his performance of late (3.47 GAA and .835 SV % in five starts) has been among the worst stretch of his career.

When pads are too big, it can limit your mobility, slow down your reaction time and make it all around more difficult to maneuver your body. You also can lose "the feel" of your pads -- notably from the knees up. Look at these recent video highlights and judge for yourself. This goal indicates he isn't "feeling" the ice with his pads properly, as does this goal that snuck under him. And, as for this one that ended up chasing him out of the net, it proved that even a giant pad isn't going to act like the Great Wall of China.

And while Halak's early-season slump certainly involves many other factors, we think wearing pads that appear to be roughly the same length as 6-foot-5 Pekka Rinne wears is hurting more than helping.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

RYAN MILLER CATCHES HIMSELF A HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS




We at Stop Da Puck consider ourselves tough, he-man shot-blockers. But not always. Because if we have one soft spot it is for weddings -- especially ones involving goalies.

Our pal, Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, and Hollywood actress Noureen DeWulf got hitched at the Sunset Tower hotel in West Hollywood over Labor Day weekend. I like to see fellow goalies happy, especially ones who are great guys like Ryan, and you can tell from the pics it was an amazing day for him. (For those of you fashionistas, Noureen scored in Carolina Herrera and Ryan saved the day in a Varvatos tux.)

Guests included NHL'ers John Michael Liles, Tim Connolly, Adam Hall, Paul Gaustad, Pat Kaleta, Derek Roy and Ryan’s agent, former NHL great Mike Liut (yes, a goalie!). Longtime Miller family friend, actor/director Tim Busfield, didn’t dress up like his character Poindexter from the ‘80s classic Revenge of the Nerds, but the fact that he set up Ryan and Noureen a few years back was enough of a contribution to the night.

I can’t wait to see the happy couple again in my hometown of Buffalo on December 4th when I help host Ryan’s annual Catwalk for Charity soiree.

We at Stop Da Puck are told by sources that marriage can sometimes feel like the equivalent of a grueling pro hockey season — only without summers off. But if anyone can make his marriage a winning one, we think it’s superstar Ryan Miller.

Monday, September 5, 2011

POLL: RON HEXTALL IS HOCKEY'S ALL-TIME TOUGHEST GOALIE



Stop Da Puck readers have voted former Philadelphia Flyers monster Ron Hextall hockey's all-time toughest goalie.

Hextall nabbed 47% of votes, followed a very distant second by hacker Billy Smith (17%), old-timer Gump Worsley (14%). Patrick Roy and Glenn Hall tied with 9% of votes each.

When I first showed my Mite son a video of Hextall - scoring goals, checking players into the side boards, slashing away at shins like they were cherry trees - he was blown away. "I didn't know goalies could check other guys!" he exclaimed, which was followed by a series of simple yet profound questions: Would he skate with the puck? ... Did other players hit him? ... When he got a fighting penalty, who played goal? ... Where is he now?

My son was fascinated to find out that Hexy now works at the ice rink a few miles down the street, at the training center for the L.A. Kings, for whom he works in the front office. Yes, Hexy works in a non-descript two-story building in an industrial neighborhood within earshot of LAX and nose-shot of a stinky oil refinery in the city of El Segundo.

But Hextall, who revolutionized the position with his ability to shoot and pass like a forward (not to mention beat the snot out of opposing teams' goons), enjoyed a playing career that was anything but ordinary.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: WATCH THE TIGER WOODS OF GOALIES



One day last summer, New Jersey Devils prospect Mike McKenna was goofing around with a puck after training with Philadelphia-area goalie guru Chris Economou.

Lucky for us, McKenna's puck-juggling was captured on video (see above) and supplied exclusively to Stop Da Puck (the coolest moves come after the 45-second mark).

McKenna is making a run at being the Tiger Woods of hockey. No, no, no. Not that kind of ball-juggling Tiger. We're talking about the Tiger from that epic Nike commercial where he bounces the golf ball on his club.

Monday, August 15, 2011

HOLY GOALIE! THE BEST OF "JESUS SAVES" POSTERS



We all have our obsessions. Mine just so happen to include The Office, those tasty Starbucks breakfast wraps, the preciousness of our short lives, funny people, celebs, hockey (obviously) and "Jesus Saves" images.

I mean, a good "Jesus Saves" image featuring a puck-stopper doing his deed for God just gives the whole stopping da puck effort a higher purpose.

But, much like the infamous "Baby Jesus" debate in "Talladega Nights," these Jesuses stir controversy: Thus thou must beseech thee: Which Jesus stops da puck best?

We break it down:

Not every holy man can pull off the color baby blue. But this Jesus does just that with His Penguins-esque trim coloring on the equipment. Plus, the way he makes His butterfly save with such Renaissance flair, leaves us bowing at His feet. Another nice touch: Note the mischievous secret message on His stick handle. Naughty Jesus, indeed!




First of all, any goalie who plays without a mask is a God. Second of all, we are big fans of any rendering that artistically resembles an old Scooby Doo cartoon. Thirdly, love this prayerful team logo. We praise this Jesus!




Sources tell us that people two-thousand years ago didn't know the benefits of stretching. For that reason alone, this Jesus doing the splits is a righteous winner!



Not the most impressive Jesus we've seen, but, man, check out that hair flow!

Monday, June 6, 2011

LUONGO + NO YANKING = LOSE-ONGO



The Boston Bruins crushed the Vancouver Canucks Monday night 8-1. It was as if the Canucks were summertime mosquitoes around Lake Simcoe and the buzzing B's were truck windshields.

Most of the bug splat could be found in the crease of Roberto Luongo, who looked mentally and physically spent near the end of the second period, a 20-minute torture session in which Luongo let in 4 goals on 14 shots. Through his five-hole, over his fish-flopping body, through his body like he was a ghost. Sure, Luongo was shaky. But his defensemen were human turnstiles and left him hanging with one after another unwanted visitors to Club Roberto.

So why didn't Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault give Luongo a mercy hook and let backup Cory Schneider take the rest of the punches? I mean, Coach V clearly had no trouble doing that in the Chicago series when he yanked Luongo in games 4 and 5. And everyone knows how that series ended up: Vancouver won in 7.

Maybe Vigneault feared it would show weakness and the B's would smell British Columbia blood. Maybe he thought it would hurt Luongo's confidence. Maybe he just didn't think Luongo deserved to be replaced.

Whatever the Canucks coach was thinking it was the wrong strategy. A shell-shocked Luongo was so rattled by the middle of the third that even the most fervent Luongo-haters had to feel for the guy. By the time the last two goals zipped by him with all the ease of bullet through a cotton vest, you could see Luongo eyeing the bench, as if he was looking for the mercy hook to save him. But it never came.

If he bounces back, all is forgiven. But if Luongo's confidence was incurably wounded in the defeat, then the Bruins will be drinking from the Cup. And coach Vigneault will have a long summer to swat mosquitoes by the lake.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"DESPERATE" LOOKS SMOKIN' HOT (WHEN IT WORKS)



In his post-game interview, Boston's Tim Thomas called his diving stick block late in the third period Monday night a "desperation save."

He was right. The shot came in from the point and he never saw it. The puck bounced off the back boards and out in front. Because he was too far out of the net, he had no choice but to be "desperate" and dive.

In volleyball, baseball sliding and, uh, the sport of diving, laying it out head first is often a first-choice tactic. But, in goaltending, it is a last resort when you just don't have time to push and get your body or pads there in time.

But, when it works, it looks pretty friggin' cool, eh?

Enjoy.