Zurich 3, Prague 2 – Janne Niskala’s first EURO goal came on the powerplay and was the difference for his Zurich Lions, who also got goals from Alexander Radulov and Jussi Jokinen. Friday’s loss in Zurich aside, it is easy to see that offense isn’t why Prague Sparta is squarely in the basement of the Demitra Division at this stage of the season. Last year, Prague finished sixth overall with 103 points. Through 17 games, their 7-9-1 record had them in 18th place in the EURO and 10th in the Southern Conference. But Prague can proudly state that they are the least penalized team in the EURO, averaging just 8.41 minutes per game and they came out of Friday’s game with the league lead in goals. In Ryan Getzlaf, they have the league’s top scorer. All but 4 of his 26 points were assists, mainly to talented linemates Zach Parise and Bryan Little.
Obviously the problem is in the other end of the rink, where Ryan Miller lives. The USA goalie hasn’t been good, but observers are wondering if his defense corps has been pulling its weight. Maybe it’s coach Dave Tippett’s heavy reliance on Miller that’s the problem. Maybe all of the above. Prague doesn’t have the worst goals against average in the league, but they are in the bottom 4. They allow 29 shots per game, which isn’t terrible, but Miller should have a higher save percentage than his current .869. Friday’s game was the sixth time this season that Sparta has had to play back-to-back games and backup goalie Steve Mason played in just his second game on Friday. That tells you that Miller has played tired on several occasions. Still, he has won twice while playing the back half of a back-to-back.
So what about the defense? Three members of last year’s defense corps are elsewhere this season. Out are Niklas Kronwall (now at Athens), Brett Clark and Scott Hannon (both free agents). In are Niclas Grossman (played for Minsk last season) and Mike Weaver (Geneva) and promoted to full-time status was Dmitri Kulikov. None of Prague’s defensemen this season has been downright awful and in fact each has been good either offensively or defensively, according to the statistics. Eric Brewer, for example, is fourth on the team in scoring with 5 goals and 8 assists. John-Michael Liles has 18 takeaways vs. only 9 giveaways and Kulikov’s corresponding numbers are 13 and 5. They don’t block a ton of shots, but Tom Gilbert has 25 in 17 games.
Friday’s loss in Zurich was an anomaly of sorts. Miller got a rest, the offense didn’t score and the defense did and they took more penalties than did their opponent. A different recipe with the same bad taste. But Sparta can turn around their season with some better all-around play from the defense, some sharper play by Miller, and some good old-fashioned luck.
Edinburgh 3, Gothenburg 1 – James Neal scored two goals to give him 8 this season as the Captials went to Sweden and won convincingly. They outshot the Devils 28-21 and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov looked sharp. Gothenburg’s Teemu Selanne scored his 9th of the season with 1:45 remaining in the game to keep Gburg from being shut out.
Dublin 6, Bern 3 – Bern looked to be in the driver’s seat with about 2 minutes left in the second period, but they didn’t glance at the fuel gauge. Up 3-0, they ran out of gas and allowed the Fighting Irish to score six times in the final 22 minutes of the game. Andy McDonald and Derek Dorsett each scored his first of the season for the Bears after Henrik Zetterberg scored in the first period. Zetterberg now has 10 goals and only four players in the league have more goals. One of them is Ryan Kesler. The Dublin center took 8 shots in the game, scored twice in the third period and was named the game’s first star. Five Irish players had two-point nights and defense partners Nick Schultz and Nikita Nikitin were plus 2.
Madrid 3, Stockholm 2 – Madrid’s Joe Pavelski scored a powerplay goal to break a tie in the second period and the tally held up as the game-winner. Erik Ersburg started in goal for the Royals and stopped 23 Stockholm shots to earn the win. Although he was a minus 1, Pavelski took 9 shots and was 21 of 33 in faceoffs. He also picked up an assist on Gabriel Landeskog’s powerplay goal that opened the scoring. Eric Staal scored for the Spartans and teammate Josef Vasicek scored 21 seconds later to tie the game.
Geneva 3, Munich 2 – The defending champs scored two powerplay goals and one shorthanded to come back and win from a 2-0 deficit. Torrey Mitchell and Steve Downie put the Fox in front, but the Generals game back with powerplay goals by Mike Fisher and David Desharnais before Darren Helm scored his first of the season while teammate Desharnais was in the sin bin for roughing. There were a lot of penalties in the contest, with Munich going 0 for 8 on the powerplay and Geneva going 2 for 10. Dion Phaneuf, Dan Boyle and Paul Gaustad were each credited with 4 hits for Munich.
Milan 7, Berlin 4 – Eight goals were scored in a first period that ended 6-2 in favor of the visiting Guerriero. Four of those goals were scored by 29-year-old rookie Dmitrios Kalyvas, A Greece-born center who now has 8 goals and 5 assists in 17 games. Kalyvas is a plus 8 while centering the Guerrieros’ second line with Ryan Callahan and Matt Moulson. On Friday, Callahan had 3 assists and Moulson had a goal and an assist, as did defenseman Trevor Daley. For Berlin, Nathan Horton, Kris Versteeg and Josh Holden all had 2 points. There were 17 penalties called in the game and each team scored 3 powerplay goals. In fact, Kalyvas’ first 3 goals were all powerplay goals.