What to Watch!

Welcome to the What to Watch segment! Your key NHL game to post on the radar for your weekend hockey viewing.

For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Boston Bruins Saturday night. Two Original-Six clubs that are battling it out for the Northeast Division lead in the 2011-12 campaign.

Keys to victory for the Leafs:

Leave the Past Behind: The Leafs will have to forget the results of the previous meetings with the defending champs this season! Toronto are 0-3 against Boston so far, and have been outscored by a whopping 19-4 in those contests. If they want to win on the road Saturday they will have to wipe the mental slate clean and move forward.

Phil Kessel has had plenty to smile about for the Leafs this season. Photo Courtesy - sbnation.com

-Magic Carpet Ride: Phil Kessel has been on a tear – leading the league in scoring from the word go. His 32 points (16G, 16A) are the biggest reason for the Leafs fantastic start. Considering he’s a former Bruin, the Leafs need him to be huge in Beantown and continue his magic ride.

-Road Trip: The Blue and White have been very competitive on the road this season. They are 8-5 so far and will need that strength to continue on the first Saturday of December. The Leafs will also have to be disciplined in hostile territory, as their penalty kill has been awful (77.1 %), and ranks 27th in the NHL.

Keys to victory for the Bruins:

-Lucky 13: The defending Stanley Cup champions had a fantastic November! In their 13 games in the month they went 12-0-1, registering their first month since 1969 where they didn’t have a regulation loss. If they want to hold off the hungry Leafs, they will need this momentum to carry over to December.

-Bears’ Den:The Bruins have been loving life on home ice lately. They are 9-5-1 this season at the TD Garden and have been finding ways to win at home. If they can keep their focus and forget about the hype of the home-and-home with the Leafs, they will have a good chance of winning in front of the Black and Gold faithful.

Tyler Seguin has been a huge contributor for the Bruins this season.

-Young Blood: Second year pro Tyler Seguin has really stepped up his game in 2011. The youngster leads the Bruins in scoring with 24 points (12G, 12A), and his +19 leads not only his club, but the entire league. He also has really enjoyed playing Toronto this season with 7 points (4G, 3A) in three games.

Enjoy this tilt Saturday! It should be an interesting match-up, and it’s always special when Original-Six teams collide. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ game in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce



Welcome to the 1-on-1 “Face-Off” segment here on Murph On Ice – where we bring you Murph’s conversations on a regular basis with some of the best hockey minds in the business!

Murph had the pleasure of chatting with a huge Rangers fan, a TV host and author, and American broadcasting icon recently for this feature. Enjoy his interview with Linda Cohn.

Linda Cohn is considered a pioneer for women sportscasters. She has graced television sets for over 18 years as one of the first full-time female sports anchors. Linda has been  a constant mainstay on ESPN’s SportsCenter since July of 1992. Today you can see her regularly on SportsCenter and check out her book “Cohn-Head” at: www.lindacohn.net

Murph On Ice – Great to talk to you again Linda, thanks for taking the time from Bristol to join me here on the website!

Linda Cohn – My pleasure Murph, thanks for having me on with you!

MOI– Linda, when we worked together in Sweden I found out just how much you enjoy the NHL and the Rangers! What are your top three Ranger moments of all time?

Linda Cohn and Murph discuss the Rangers and strategy for the NHL Premiere in Stockholm.

LC – Sweden was a fun collaboration Murph! Number one moment – Rangers winning the Stanley Cup in 1994! Number two: Stephane Matteau’s double overtime goal against the Devils in Game 7 of the Eastern conference final in 1994. And last but not least, number three: There are about a million tied for this spot…but I’ll go with the return of Eddie Giacomin to the Garden on the night after he was sold to Detroit for just $40,000. He was my first favourite goalie and a big reason why I became a goalie. That was the one and only time I ever saw the New York hometown fans cheer for the opposing team and every save Eddie made… Ranger fans actually booed the Rangers when they scored on Eddie! The final was 6-3 for Detroit back in 1975.

MOI – The Rangers are having a pretty good campaign thus far, how crazy would New York be if this current group could go far into the playoffs and maybe even the Stanley Cup?

LC– Crazy would just be one of the ways to describe it if this edition of the Rangers go far in the playoffs and win the Cup. While there is a long way to go, this team has shown it has pieces it did not have before. Good leadership in Ryan Callahan, experience and skill in Brad Richards and role players who can all make a name for themselves on any given night. If it happens and the Rangers go far, NYC will be ready as always to celebrate!

Linda joins the media scrum to chat with Henrik Lundqvist at the Globe Arena.

MOI – You’ve had some pretty cool moments working in television, what’s your favourite interview or guest from the past few years on SC?

LC– Favorite guest as of late…No question there – when I got to interview Henrik Lundqvist following the Ranger games in Stockholm. I didn’t want it to end and I even made him laugh with my goalie expertise! (laughs)

MOI – That was a fun moment! Do you ever get nervous or ‘star-struck’ when you meet sporting celebrities? Any individual in particular?

LC – Hey I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t get a little nervous meeting some sporting celebrities! I’d have to say the time I met Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan the very same night at the very same party! I not only got over my nerves, but it was such a wonderful experience I wrote about it in my book “Cohn-Head”. www.lindacohn.net

MOI– When you are dealing with athletes from all the different leagues (NBA, MLB, NFL), what do you think is the main difference that sets hockey players apart?

Rangers goalie Marty Biron has a chat with Linda after practice in Sweden.

LC – No question, hockey players are the nicest, most humble and most media friendly. Why? Because they haven’t been pampered since birth.  They’ve always had to carry their own bags, play the game at all hours of the night or morning…and have even lived away from home to play the game they love, and it certainly shows.

MOI – Your trip to Sweden for the NHL Premiere was your first trip to Europe I believe, can we hope to see you on this side of the pond again – maybe for the NHL Premiere next season?!

LC – Loved my first trip to Europe Murph, seeing the Rangers open their season in Stockholm was special. How many people do you know who’s primary reason to go to Europe was to see the Rangers! I think my next trip overseas will be a little more well rounded though!

MOI – You’ve attended some big events in your career, what are your three favourite sports stadiums/venues in North America and why?

LC – Top three sports venues: Madison Square Garden – I love the place, followed closely by the old Montreal Forum, and finally the Glendale Stadium in Arizona where I saw my Giants pull off the most improbable upset, beating the unbeaten Patriots in Superbowl 42. That building will always be special because of that!

MOI – And finally, tell us you’re top three athletes of all-time and why?

LC – The number one athlete all time for me is Mark Messier, because nobody willed a team to win a Stanley Cup like he did with the Rangers in 1994.  He also did it in Edmonton with and without Gretzky. Number two would be Michael Jordan for obvious reasons! Number three is a tie between all those pro athletes who were told they were too small, too weak, too slow or simply not good enough to make it to the big time. Its one of the reasons why I love sports so much…The opportunity athletes have to prove people wrong.

MOI – Well said. Thanks again Linda, this has been a pleasure! Enjoy the rest of the NHL season.

LC – No problem Murph, anytime! Stay in touch.

“Face-Off” is a regular feature here on Murph On Ice. Keep an eye out for Murph’s next 1-on-1 as he continues to bring insight from the greatest hockey minds around.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce

What to Watch!

Welcome to the What to Watch segment! Your key NHL game to post on the radar for your weekend hockey viewing.

For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night. Two Eastern Conference clubs that are on opposite sides of the spectrum thus far in the 2011-12 campaign.

Keys to victory for the Penguins:

The Kid Is Hot: Well this is a ‘no-brainer’ really! The Pens have been great without Sidney Crosby in the lineup – but with him back now they can be even better. He had 4 points (2G, 2A) in his return debut against the Islanders Monday, but was pointless Wednesday against the Blues. Despite that – he’s in great shape and back where he belongs – on the ice. If he can keep the feet moving and get to the open areas like he did against the Isles, then the Pens will win on the road.

Marc-Andre Fleury has been huge in the Pens net this season. Photo Courtesy - zimbio.com

-Special Players, Special Teams: The Pens were ticking along on the power-play with a 19.1% success rate without Sid the Kid. This ranked them 6th in the Eastern Conference. With Crosby back, this number and ranking is bound to move up the ladder…if the Habs give the Pens opportunities on the PP then it could be a long night for Montreal and their fans.

-The Flower: With so many stars in their lineup, Marc-Andre Fleury often gets overlooked in the Penguins net. But without him this season, things may not have been so rosy with Crosby out. Fleury has an 11-3-2 record with a 1.96 GAA, and a .930 Save %. He has been the team’s MVP in the early going of the campaign. If he has a good night, the Pens will be tough.

Keys to victory for the Canadiens:

-Reach for the Stars: The Habs currently sit in 10th place in the East and out of a playoff spot. The Pens are 1st overall in the conference, and this is key for Montreal. They have to get motivated to play the top team in their own barn. A ‘David vs Goliath‘ mentality needs to be present for all players wearing red Saturday night. This motivation to stop the best team and the best player could be huge if the Habs want a win at the Bell Centre.

-Answer the Bell: The Canadiens have been poor at home thus far with a 4-5-3 record on Bell Centre ice. This is a fact that doesn’t sit well with the faithful in Montreal. The Habs need to start using home ice as an advantage, and Saturday is as good a time as any to start that trend.

Carey Price needs a huge game for the Habs to beat the Pens Saturday. Photo Courtesy - zimbio.com

-The Price Needs to be Right: Montreal have relied heavily on their star goaltender so far this campaign. He’s been pretty good with a 9-7-3 record, a 2.14 GAA and a .917 Save %. That being said, he has had a few rough games with lack of goal support from his teammates. If Price can be at the top of his game he will give the home-side a fighting chance in this one.

Enjoy this tilt Saturday! It should be an interesting match-up, and it’s always special when Crosby plays in Montreal, so it’s a big night for both sides. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ game in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce


Welcome to the 1-on-1 “Face-Off” segment here on Murph On Ice! We will continue to bring you Murph’s conversations on a regular basis with some of the best hockey minds in the business!

Murph had the pleasure of chatting with a huge Leafs fan, a TV host who specializes in the beautiful game, and Canadian broadcasting icon recently for this feature. Enjoy his interview with James Sharman.

Football loving James moved to Canada from England in 1990.  He soon learned about the wonders of the NHL and his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, but while he rates Doug Gilmour as his favourite athlete ever, he was drawn back into the world of football after graduating University.  James is the creator and host of the Footy Show on The Score Television Network.  www.thescore.com

Murph On Ice– Jimmy, it’s a pleasure to catch up with you – thanks for taking the time to join me from Toronto here on the new website!

James Sharman (right) hosts the 'Footy Show' in Canada.

James Sharman – The pleasure is mine Murph, you need to get back here for a proper catch up soon!

MOI – Maybe April! As someone who was born in the UK, but moved to Canada as a teenager, can you compare the passion of Football Fans (soccer) in Europe and hockey fans in Canada?

JS – I’ve been asked this question many times over the years.  I will say this, there is no comparison between the hardcore fan.  Hardcore football fans take their support to a different level, it truly is a religion, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Many of these hardcore groups were born in the terraces, while hockey never had terraces for such support to grow.  Hockey although fervent, really is a far more civilised fan base.  However, the average fan of either hockey or football are very similar, unfortunately, both sports are doing their upmost to price fans out of attending live, so the consumerism of sport is really leaving true fans behind in both continents.

MOI – You have the best of both worlds – many affiliations with many sports and countries! What’s your favourite moment as a sports fan over the past 10 years?

JS – My problem is that I support the Maple Leafs and Liverpool.  So my test-sample over the last ten years is limited.  To be fair, the Champions League final in 2005 is probably my favourite moment.  I didn’t realize it at the time, as it was unbelievable to see Liverpool rebound to win on penalties having been 3-0 down, but the moment Dudek saved the winning attempt, all was right in the world.  That being said, Canada winning Olympic Gold was superb, although International hockey lacks the rivalries that International football has.  There were some decent Sundin/Roberts moments in the early part of the century, but let’s be honest, it’s been a wretched ten years to support the Leafs.

MOI – Now as a broadcaster and journalist –  same question – favourite moment from the past decade?

JS– Covering the 2010 World Cup with a nightly show was an amazing experience, but of course that was ruined by England’s ineptitude, so I’ll go with watching Barcelona dismantle Manchester United last year in the Champions League.  We are always reminded of how great certain players or teams were, but often it is lost on us.  I really believe we are currently watching the greatest club football team of all time with Barcelona, with arguably the greatest player of all time in Leo Messi.  Occasionally that sinks in, and I realize how much I enjoy my job and how lucky I am.

James and the 'Footy Show' crew have fun on set.

MOI – What do you think the main difference between the make-up of footballers and hockey players is in your experience – whether it be toughness, or personality etc?

JS – There are some real similarities, but unfortunately some differences.  To begin, both athletes often come from similar back grounds, working class, salt of the earth type families.  They are recognised at a young age as having talent, and are signed up with youth teams, at the expense of education.  It is not meant as an insult, that the majority of footballers and hockey players lack formal education, doesn’t mean they are not intelligent, but the prospect of a pro-career is far greater lure than 4 years at college.  Of course this is changing in hockey somewhat with the college hockey programs.  However, the culture of the two sports means from a toughness standpoint these are two different athletes.  Most hockey players live and die by the rule, ‘don’t let the other guy see you’re hurt.’ It’s a badge of honour to hit the ice with battle scars.  Unfortunately this mentality is lacking in football.  It used to be around in British football, but now even that behavior is becoming far more global.  What is misunderstood however is that most footballers are tough, and do play hurt, trouble is, they are more than willing to show their opponents how hurt they are on the field, so long as the ref is watching!  It sickens me!  Sorry for the rambling answer Murph, but this side of soccer infuriates me, it is also why as a former rugby player I love the balls hockey players have!

MOI – What do you think the London Olympics will mean to the UK and it’s sporting legacy? Will you be joining us for the big event? 

JS – No plans to be there yet, but I am hoping that will change.  Legacy is always a dangerous thing to guess.  I have spoken to politicians in UK who warn that there are many promises that will likely get broken.  They cite similar empty promises at other major events.  I don’t think you can measure legacy in bricks and mortar though.  For me, the  most important legacy will be that the UK can re-adopt its love for an active lifestyle.  If more kids begin playing sport as a result of the Olympics, if more companies and benefactors get involved, then it will be job done.  I haven’t lived in England for many years, but I remember how we embrace our sports and our athletes, it is going to be a few weeks of national pride unapologetically personified!  The Vancouver Olympics last year managed the same over here, and I had never felt so Canadian!

MOI– You’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some sporting legends. Who has been your favourite interview so far and why?

James was lucky enough to interview his boyhood hero.

JS – I’ve had some good ones, and to be honest I haven’t had a really bad one… yet!  My favourite is a little selfish, because he was my boyhood hero, but former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobellaar was brilliant.  A really nice bloke, who has done it all in the game.  Very funny as well, a massive character.  The best interviews feel like a chat, and this was just that.  I also had the chance to interview Pavel Kubina once (then of the Leafs.)  I managed to convince my boss that a piece on pro-athletes talking about football might be a good idea.  First call, the Leafs! Shameless.  I’m lucky that while football is my job, hockey is my sporting passion from purely a fan stand point, so that was a fun interview.

MOI – A tough one now Jimmy – who will win the race to get the top prize in your lifetime – the England Football team (World Cup) or the Maple Leafs (Stanley Cup)?!

JS – That’s just an unfair question Murph, and I know you had fun asking it.  Let’s be honest though, England will not win the World Cup in my lifetime, unfortunately we are technically miles behind the top few world teams.  So, dammit, I’m going with the Leafs.  Brian Burke has turned a broken down, aging, talent-limited group into a young, exciting and hungry team, all within three years.  The Leafs are certainly not contenders yet, but the future is much brighter than it was pre-Burke.  Jesus, I sound like I should call into some Leaf Talk radio! I am pragmatic though, but there is change in the air at the ACC.

MOI– And finally – your dream 3 guests on a panel from any sport or country past or present to sit down and have a sports chat with, or perhaps a few pints!?

James would love to have a hockey chat with 'Killer'. Photo Courtesy - nhlsnipers.com

JS – David Beckham.  Steve Davis (Snooker God), Doug Gilmour.  I bet no-one in the history of sport has selected that panel before!  Oh, you could be working the bar for us Murph!

MOI – It would be a pleasure to serve some beers to that group – as long as you pick up that tab! Thanks again Jimmy, was fun chatting with you!

JS – My pleasure! If you make it to Toronto in April I’ll pick up the tab! Take care of London for me!

“Face-Off” is a regular feature here on Murph On Ice. Keep an eye out for Murph’s next 1-on-1 as he talks all things hockey with Linda Cohn.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce



Well Worth The Wait

Canadian rock icons The Tragically Hip once sang “well worth the wait” – and so it has been for the hockey community – and now that rings especially true as the day is finally here. The day that Sidney Crosby returns to his team and returns to the NHL.

On Monday November 21st Sidney Crosby will make his long awaited return. Photo Courtesy - nhlsnipers.com

‘Sid the Kid’ has been out of action since January 5th. He’s missed over 60 Penguins’ games as he struggled to recover from the symptoms of the concussion he suffered way back then.

At the time of the injury, Crosby had 32 goals in 41 games and looked to be running up an incredible season for the ages. And then he was gone. Struck down by the scurge of the NHL for the past decade – the ‘C’ word – concussion.

Last January, no one predicted this lengthy lay-off. Many experts thought Crosby would be back in time for the playoffs. Crosby himself spoke about it too, hoping to get  back in uniform for the post-season. We were all disappointed that it never materialized. But we understood the complexities of head trauma, and wanted him to be properly ready and free from symptoms. We didn’t want him to rush back – we wanted him 100% healthy and back in his dominant form.

And now we are on the verge of his return to action. On Monday November 21st the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the slumping New York Islanders. Another Monday night in the long hockey season…but a night to celebrate nonetheless! #87 will be back where he belongs – back on the ice with his Pittsburgh teammates – doing what he was born to do.

Welcome back Sid – it was ‘Well Worth The wait.’

What to Watch!

Welcome to the What to Watch segment! Your key NHL match-up to post on the radar for your weekend viewing.

For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the Washington Capitals at the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night. Two Eastern Conference clubs that have been playing some good hockey thus far in the 2011-12 campaign.

Keys to victory for the Capitals:

3 Strikes: The Caps have hit a mini-slump and have lost 3 in a row heading into Toronto. They obviously aren’t happy with that considering the great start they had. They will need to get back to the the 3-zone game dominance that propelled them to the top of the Southeast Division if they want 2 points Saturday.

The Leafs won't be rolling out a red carpet for Alex Ovechkin and the Caps.

Man-Up: The Caps have been pretty darn good on the power-play thus far. Clicking along at an 18.5% success rate, ranking them 4th in the Eastern Conference. They will need to take advantage of any PP opportunities they get Saturday Night at The Air Canada Centre if they want this win on the road.

Saint Nick: The Caps have been led on the stats page by C Nicklas Backstrom thus far. His 20 points (5G, 15A) has taken some pressure off Alex Ovechkin, and helped Washington win on nights when ‘Alex the Great’ has been kept off the board. For the Caps to be on form in T.O. Backstrom will have to keep his consistency going.

Keys to victory for the Leafs:

3’s are Wild: Like the Capitals, the Leafs are on a mini-skid at the moment, also with 3 losses on the trot. The good news for the Buds is that they have been solid on home ice with a 5-3-2 mark thus far. To get out of this slump they’ll need to take advantage of their ACC success thus far.

Phil the Thrill: Be honest here! Who had Phil Kessel leading the NHL in Goals – 13, and points – 25, at this point in November?! He’s the main reason the Leafs have been a real threat in the East thus far, and the reason that coach Ron Wilson still has his job. For both of these scenarios to go on, Kessel will have to continue his magical ride.

Phil Kessel has been huge for the Leafs this season. Photo courtesy - sportsnet.ca

The Killers: Despite the nice start, the Leafs have been dreadful on the penalty-kill. They rank last overall in the entire Eastern Conference with a horrible 74.3% PK rate! It’s a wonder they have been playing so well with the PK being that bad. If they are to win at home Saturday, they will need to be better on special-teams against a Washington team that can score goals in bunches on the PP.

Enjoy this tilt Saturday! It should be an interesting match-up, and one of these clubs is going to break a losing streak, so it’s all to play for. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ game in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce

Protect your Goalie! It’s not a suggestion – it’s a rule!

I know one thing that should have happened – right or wrong Saturday night in Boston – someone, anyone in a Buffalo Sabres jersey should have dropped the gloves with the Bruins’ Milan Lucic.

I know, I know, all the bleeding hearts will say “fighting is wrong” and all that, but Milan Lucic got away without as much as a face-wash from the Sabres after barrelling over the diminutive Ryan Miller.

Milan Lucic may have answered the media's questions - but the Sabres never asked the big winger to answer for his hit.

When your keeper is also your best player and he gets run over by a charging winger like that on Saturday night, someone needs to man-up or the whole team looks soft. All the Sabres did was serve notice that they could be pushed around, and even their MVP wasn’t off limits to the Bruins.

I hope Ryan Miller’s resulting concussion doesn’t keep him out of the Buffalo net for too long, but when he does return he may want to ask his teammates why they were gutless and looked the other way in Beantown. He may want to look around that dressing room for answers there instead of calling Lucic “gutless.”

And if I’m a Buffalo Sabre, I’m embarrassed today – not for the 6-2 drubbing from the Bruins…no I’m embarrassed because I let my goalie down and showed the entire NHL that I wouldn’t do anything about such a one-sided hit against my best player.

To add insult to injury for Buffalo fans, NHL Senior VP of Player Safety – Brendan Shanahan – has ruled there will be no further discipline for Lucic. This is the right call due to lack of intent on the play, and the speed at which it happened. So Lucic and the Bruins get a win, Miller is out, and the Sabres have now raised some nagging questions within their own ranks.

Can Ryan Miller really be that unpopular amongst his teammates, or are the Sabres really that soft?

Either way you look at it…Saturday November 12th was an epic fail for the Buffalo Sabres from top to bottom.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce

What to Watch!

Welcome to the latest What to Watch segment! Every week I will bring you a key match-up to keep on the radar for your weekend hockey viewing.

For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the Dallas Stars at the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night. Two Western Conference clubs that may be going in opposite directions in the early going of the 2011-12 campaign. I was going to suggest both Penguins’ games on Friday and Saturday, but with Sid the Kid still ruled out by Penguins management, we’ll go with the surprising Stars, and the steady Wings.

Keys to victory for the Stars:

Keep Rolling: Nobody expected the Stars to be 1st overall in the entire league at this point! With only 3 losses in 14 games as I write this, they just need to continue doing the little things well, believe in each other and ‘Keep Rolling’!

Experts thought the Stars would fall apart without Brad Richards. The experts were wrong!

Pacific Heights: Again no one would have predicted that the Stars would be leading in much to start this season. But they lead the Pacific Division with 45 goals in 14 games, and have been the stingiest in the Pacific with only 33 goals against. With a Western Conference leading goal differential of +12, it’s easy to see why they have been surprising the experts and opponents alike. The Wings will have a tough time ‘running and gunning’ with the Stars if they continue this trend.

Net Gains: Who took Kari Lehtonen in goal early in their NHL fantasy draft this year?! Not many is my guess, but if you did you’d be smiling now! The Finnish goalie has an incredible record of 11-1, with a 2.13 GAA, and a .936 Save %. If Lehtonen keeps this up then the Wings will be having fits Saturday night.

Keys to victory for Red Wings:

Home Sweet Home: The Wings have had some scary moments in their own end in the early going this year – they really miss the retired Brian Raflaski on the blue-line. One place they have looked comfortable though, is on home ice at the Joe Louis Arena. With a 5-2-1 record in the Motor City, the Wings will be looking to keep that going, and the Stars will have a tough time stealing a road win.

Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom needs to get his club back into a playoff seed.

The Mule Factor: It’s long been said that one of the most talented wingers in the NHL is Sweden’s Johan Franzen. His only knock being health, and sometimes a bit of streaky play. But when this guy is going good, so are the Wings, and the Mule is going at the moment. With 8 goals and 13 points in 13 games, Franzen has been getting the job done. If he’s ‘on form’ Saturday night, the Wings chances of a win are that much higher.

Gazing at the Stars: The Red Wings find themselves in unfamiliar territory! They currently sit in 11th place in the West, looking way up at the Stars who sit in 1st. This motivation of playing the best team in the Conference could prove powerful for the veteran club. If they are to get back into the top 8 and beyond, Saturday is the time to start that ascent. If Lidstrom and company can tuck this incentive into their collective brains, they have a chance to win this one.

Enjoy this tilt Saturday! It should be an interesting match-up. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ game in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce


Welcome  to another new 1-on-1 “Face-Off” segment here on Murph On Ice! We will continue to bring you Murph’s conversations on a regular basis with some of the best hockey minds in the business!

Murph had the pleasure of chatting with a fellow Murphy, an NHL colleague, and a Boston Bruins beat writer recently for this feature. Enjoy his interview with James Murphy.

James Murphy covers the Bruins as a beat reporter for ESPNBoston.com and hosts the Hockey Primetime Show heard every Saturday 2-4 PM ET on NHL Home Ice XM 92 and Sirius 208.

Murph On Ice – Thanks for taking some time to join me from Boston here on the new website!

James Murphy – No problem, thanks for having me on!

MOI– What a ride you were on last season Jimmy! Following a team to a Stanley Cup championship must be a dream. What were the top few moments covering the Boston Bruins last year?

James Murphy shares a quick drink with Lord Stanley.

JM – My fellow Murph, it was an amazing ride last season. Many ups and downs through the regular season but the roller coaster that was the Bruins’ Cup run was simply surreal. I never imagined a team could go through so many peaks and valleys in the playoffs. I mean three Game 7 wins?! Three overtime wins in the opening round against their rivals, the Canadiens and coming back from 2-0 in that series and the finals were simply things I never thought I’d witness as a sports fan, let alone a reporter covering the game of hockey! I’d have to say the Montreal series as a whole and then the finals of course capped off by the Game 7 win were the highlights. The travel miles via car and plane in both series were insane and it was basically a whirlwind I am still recovering from!

MOI – For all the readers that haven’t had a chance to be in an NHL dressing room, what was the Bruins room like after Game 7 in the final last year?

JM– I am sad to say that thanks to the NHL — who always find ways to screw something up — I was not in the dressing room for the celebration after Game 7. Prior to Games 6 and 7, the league handed out fliers that said only media rightsholders from winning team would be allowed into winning dressing room. Then instead of sending a mass email or text, they changed their minds and spread word by mouth. I unfortunately was already fast at work typing away on my numerous post-game stories and video. I’m sure it was great in there but my colleague at ESPNBoston.com Joe McDonald made sure we had our own celebration of our hard work during the playoffs, buying a $320 (CDN) 24-pack of Molson Beer cans from the Rogers Arena suite manager! We wrote and polished that off to the last drop and then waited until the riots were cleared in downtown Vancouver to return to the hotel. The next morning we were up at 7 AM to drive to Seattle for our flight which we just made. Lots of details left out to that story but you get the picture!

James Murphy hits the ice at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

MOI – In a city like Boston that has had so many great championship moments over the past 8 years with the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics, how important was it to the Bruins as a franchise to join that winning trend in Beantown?

JM – For the Bruins to finally get on the map in the Boston landscape again with this Stanley Cup win was immense for this franchise. Boston has always been a hockey town. Kids grow up on hockey and there has always been a strong and somewhat to a fault, loyal fan base that was never rewarded and until the post-lockout years taken advantage of by ownership with high ticket and concession prices that didn’t translate into a championship product on the ice. But now with the Patriots not the dynasty they were, the Red Sox in disarray and the Celtics not playing because of a seemingly pending NBA lockout, the Bruins couldn’t have won the Cup at  better time. This city is theirs to take over and nothing short of another solid playoff run will do that.

MOI – Tim Thomas had a year for the ages! Was it fun to see his epic campaign night in and night out? Do the fans in Boston know how truly special it was?

JM – Your absolutely right about the season that Tim Thomas had and to be honest, I’m not sure it will settle in with the mainstream sports media here just how amazing he was because they don’t understand hockey. But the hockey media and fans do and after what Thomas had gone through to reach the top of the mountain, he is a cult hero here. His perseverance and dedication to his dream and team, playing almost ten years in the minors and overseas before finally getting a legit chance in the 2005-06 season is a story made for a movie and I’d be surprised if one isn’t already in the works. People still knock Thomas for his style but no one needs to “pump his tires” for him or those who paid attention to know what he accomplished.

MOI – In your travels and all the interviews over the years, what’s your favourite moment or interview behind a microphone to date?

JM– This is a very difficult one to answer here because thankfully I’ve had so many great moments on the job. Right now, I guess the one that comes to mind since we’re talking mostly about last season would be interviewing the now retired Mark Recchi on the ice in Vancouver after he won his third Stanley Cup and called it a career. Over the years, through mutual friends I had the pleasure and honor of getting to know this class act of a man and to be there with him for that magical moment was a thrill I’ll never forget. I hope one day I can look back on my career as a reporter like that and feel the pride and happiness I saw in him that night!

Murphy shares the Cup with his daughter.

MOI – Who’s the best player skill wise you’ve covered in your time in hockey? Why?

JM – This is another very difficult one to answer but in no particular order, I’d have to say Joe Thornton, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and now as we’re seeing with his breakout season so far, Tyler Seguin. All have unique skills and god-given talent and a feel for the game that is a pleasure to watch.

MOI – Who’s the nicest guy with the media that you’ve dealt with?

JM – Well, as I told you above, Mark Recchi is all class and was always accessible to the media, win or lose. He loved to just sit around after a practice and talk hockey and life. I learned a lot from him and he made my job a lot easier. Similar to Recchi, is Shawn Thornton. While he is not as skilled on the ice, he is skilled in people skills and is sincere in his answers to questions and in his general day-to-day actions and probably has one of the best sense of humors of anyone I know. I’d also have to look back to Glen Metropolit, Brian Rolston, Nick Boynton and Mike Knuble as guys who like Thornton and Recchi had class and always made you laugh.

MOI – If you take the 2011 Boston Bruins, and stack them up against the Bruins Championship teams from the past, does that 2011 team have a chance against Bobby Orr’s 1972 Bruins?!

JM – Unfortunately for the 2011 Boston Bruins, I think if we matched them up in a video game, they would get absolutely smoked by the 1972 and 1970 Bobby Orr-led Bruins. There was just too much skill on those teams and I’d even take them against the Red Wings, Oilers and many of the Canadiens dynasty teams. But one thing the 2011 Bruins could match up in against those 1970 and 1972 teams was heart and perseverance. They may even have them beat in that! They by no means should have their accomplishments diminished when comparing them. There was just too much skill on those teams and specifically in Orr!

MOI – Thanks again Murph, always a pleasure to catch-up with you and chat about the B’s!

JM – No problem Murph, anytime mate, keep in touch!

“Face-Off” is a regular feature here on Murph On Ice. Keep an eye out for Murph’s next 1-on-1 as he talks all things hockey with James Sharman.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce

What To Watch!

Welcome to the latest What to Watch segment! Every week I will bring you a key match-up to keep on the radar for your weekend hockey viewing.

For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the Montreal Canadiens at the NY Rangers Saturday night. Two Original 6 clubs that are trying to find their way in the early going of the 2011-12 campaign. Whenever they meet at Madison Square Garden you can be sure of fireworks!

Keys to victory for the Canadiens:

Winning Ways: After a horrendous start to the season, a start so bad that the faithful in Montreal were calling for the axe to fall on Coach Jacques Martin, the Habs seem to have steadied the ship. A sweep of a home-and-home series with the hated Bruins has led to 3-straight wins for the Canadiens. They play Ottawa Friday, but this match-up in New York Saturday will be crucial to keeping the winning ways going.

Road Warriors: Montreal is 2-2 on the road thus far. Being .500 on the road isn’t bad, but the Canadiens will have to be better than that if they want to move up from 11th place in a really tough Eastern Conference.

Murph knows life on the road is tough, but the Habs need to step up in NYC Saturday.

Top Guns: So far this season the Habs ‘best players’ have not necessarily been their best players! They will need to get more consistent nights from Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta to name a few. The club has been relying too heavily on Carey Price, and need some of their top forwards to get rolling on the score sheet. A Saturday night in New York is as good a time as any to start that trend.

Keys to victory for the Rangers:

1 is the Loneliest Number: The Rangers need to take advantage of historic Madison Square Garden. The team has only 1 win on home ice (1-1-1). Currently sitting in 10th place in the East, they need home wins now to get back into the top 8, and create some breathing room heading into mid-November.

The King is in the Building: Henrik Lundqvist has been the Rangers best player night-in and night-out thus far. King Henrik has a 2.35 GAA, and a .929 Save %, and if he’s in good form Saturday night, the Habs will have a tough go in NYC.

Henrik Lundqvist has been great in the Rangers net so far this season.

Finding the Twine: The Rangers haven’t exactly been lighting it up in the goal column. Ranked 18th in the NHL with 2.5 goals per game, they need to start burying some pucks to take the pressure off Lundqvist. Brad Richards (3 goals in 10 games) needs to step up and lead the way if the Broadway Blueshirts want to beat Montreal.

Enjoy this one Saturday! It should be an interesting tilt. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ match-up in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce