Dear Gentle Readers,
Ryan's back to his hilarious hijinks. Kristin is sorting through her options for this season's favorite. K-Mart will settle into classes and Flyers headlines, then come out swingin' with his own insight. I'm obsessing over which Tshirts and tickets to buy.
Although we're into the second week of September, hockey fans are still languishing a little bit, due to the lack of action. So while the icy faithful pray for things to cool off outside (and believe me, I can't wait for the Wednesday high of 73 this week!) and to heat up in the rink, it's time to trot out the preview of the serious passes some established guys* are going to have to make to woo me over for the 2008-09 season.
I'm breaking this into a two parter. Up for your viewing tonight: goalies and defensemen.
Timonen/Coburn 08-09: Kimmo for President, Braydon for VP. Really, if you're a hockey fan, there's no explanation required here. Always sexy on the big plays, yet always reliable on the mundane tasks. K+B are your squee pairing from last year and should hold the title again this season.
Randy Jones and Ryan Parent: Randy worked hard, he moved up to another level in his game last season, and he needs to continue the forward progession. Similarly, Ryan served us well when called up to pitch in mid-season and in the play-offs. With added work over the summer, he's scrambling for one of the spots and may shake things up.
Derian Hatcher: This time last year, I was very anti-Hatcher. I sort of reconsidered that posture during parts of the season. But let's face the facts for this year: He's 36, he's had chronic knee and ankle injuries, he's big but he's slowing down. Much as I love the size, experience and - weirdly enough - the calm he can bring to the ice, I wonder how effective Derian can be with so many young guns charging for his job.
Lasse Kukkonen: Last year's Mister Healthy Scratch. It was frustrating to watch Lasse end up there, although there were times it was warranted. Again, with off-season work, Kukkie has possibilities that I look forward to seeing.
Full disclosure: I'm completely biased when it comes to goalies. They are my favorites. They are what I know best. So if I get a little gushy, you'll just have to understand. ;p
Martin Biron: Marty worked it last year in his first season as our starting goalie. There were times his goal-tending is what kept us in the game, and some when it seemed nightmarish. Fortunately, he turned into a brick wall with a lucky streak running through it during the semifinal series against Montreal. Additionally, Marty's entertaining. Here's to more video, mic and blogging opportunities for my favorite F-C goalie.
Antero Niittymäki: In those games where Marty broke down, Niitty stepped in and took over the show. Rehab for the hip worked well, which he proved with niiiiice displays of stretching during pre-game warm-ups. It was interesting how Niitty's play was on when Marty's was off, for the most part. But, that's what you want with a 1-2 goalie situation.
Both Marty and Niitty can improve on last season's performance. However, my take is this is the strongest and most stable goalie situation we've had for awhile...Cechmanek anyone? And while Philly Marty may not be the dominant force of a Jersey Marty, we have a solid, capable and competent back-up who's been tested and done well.
Next time: Come on a journey filled with a top-heavy slew of young, talented, 20-goal scoring forwards.
*I do not speculate on the newbies until I see them for myself. It's the only reliable way for my woman's intuition to work when it comes to hockey.