Being in the right place at the right time is very often the difference between the National Hockey League and the minor leagues and nobody knows that better than Islanders Drew MacIntyre and Geoff Walker.
MacIntyre, who had brief NHL stints with Vancouver and Buffalo, has a four-year American Hockey League (AHL) 2.46 goals-against average and despite those solid numbers, he has never really gotten an honest shot as an NHL starting goaltender.
Let’s face it, with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and Ryan Miller in Buffalo, MacIntyre was not going to get much of a chance. Chalk it up to bad luck or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The 29-year-old Stratford native was outstanding in the Toronto Marlies 2-1 victory over Hershey last Saturday and just as good in a 2-1 shootout loss earlier this week. These two games may have resurrected his hopes for a NHL career after signing with Toronto Maple Leafs two weeks ago.
Walker, from Charlottetown, just returned to action after being on the shelf for 20 games with the Lake Erie Monsters, the Colorado Avalanche’s farm club in the AHL. Walker, who set up the only goal in the Monsters’ 2-1 loss to the ice Dogs last Sunday, signed with Colorado in the offseason and was assigned to Lake Erie. Last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh’s farm club, Walker was their fourth-leading scorer with 44 points, including 18 goals and 120 penalty minutes.
Unfortunately for Walker, a six-foot-three, 220-pound forward who can be nasty and has a goal scorer’s touch around the net, the Penguins with Crosby, Malkin, Staal (now with Carolina), Neal and company, the Penguins did not need scoring. His signing with Colorado seemed like a better fit, but he’s been hurt most of the season.
There are numerous stories this NHL season of guys getting a big break due to the shortened season and injuries. It would be nice to see these two guys get a chance to see what they can do.
The Ottawa Senators, for example, keep winning with a large number of players from their minor league franchise. Being in the right place at the right time has certainly helped change Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens’ fortunes. Getting a break and having someone in authority pulling for you can be the difference between the NHL and the minor pros, just ask MacIntyre or Walker.
The P.E.I. Rocket is on the road tonight in Moncton against the Wildcats and is back home Sunday at 3 p.m. against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
The Rocket has 11 games remaining in the regular season and could catch Moncton in the standings.
Looking at the remaining schedule, which is favourable including the final game at home against a weak Saint John club, the Rocket should finish no worse than eighth, which means the extra home game in the opening round of the playoffs. Let’s hope it works out that way.
Dave Snowie has been a fixture on the Prince Edward Island sports scene for more than 40 years, starring in soccer and hockey. Most recently as an soccer coach/developer with his old pals soccer czar John Diamond, Bruce Norton and Lewis Page.
On Friday, March 1 at the Rodd Charlottetown, UPEI soccer will stage its third annual roast in support of its program and Snowie has allowed his reputation to be the target of friendly verbal darts. He has been instrumental in organizing and developing various soccer teams from UPEI down to the grassroots, including the Red Oak boys under-14 team with Tom Hayward, who passed away not long ago.
Tickets are $100 and available at Soccer Stop, the P.E.I. Soccer Association or UPEI Athletics and Recreation at 566-0432. All funds go directly to UPEI soccer.
The National Hockey League has passed the first quarter of the regular season and both Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to surprise.
The Canadiens are on top of the Eastern Conference with 23 points with the Penguins and Devils one back.
The Leafs have 22 points, the same total as Ottawa Senators, who continue to win despite being without their three best players: defenceman Erik Karlsson as well as forwards Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.
The biggest disappointments would be the defending Stanley Cup champions L.A. Kings, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild. If the playoffs started Friday, neither the Kings nor the Wild would be in and the Rangers would be tied with three other clubs for the East’s last spot.
Rangers Brad Richards has been getting a lot of heat from the New York papers for his sub-par play and in his last game saw just one 57-second shift in the third period of a 2-1 loss.
The Rangers have a large list of key unrestricted free agents to sign next summer
And the word buyout has been discussed by some in the upset New York media. Rick Nash, although now injured, and Richards have a combined five goals between them, hardly the type of performances expected of these stars. The Rangers don’t appear to have much grit and in the NHL that’s not a formula for success. There’s still a long way to go, but trends are starting to appear.
Local harness racing is dark but the simulcast action continues, and the Thursday handicapping contest attracts a strong following every week at Red Shores Charlottetown.
Up-country, the harness racing scene in Ontario is chaotic. New Premier Kathleen Wynne doesn’t know what to do with the harness racing file, which by now, once the facts have been presented to her, she realizes her government has made a huge mistake. The four government-run standalone casinos lost a combined $93 million last year while the slots at racetracks generated $1.1 billion to the provincial coffers. Does the wise man keeps the slots at racetracks or the standalone casinos? One doesn’t need a PhD from Queens to figure that one out.
While the discussion is raging over whether to have a casino in downtown Toronto, it interesting to see that Atlantic City casino business is on a downward spiral while in the northern part of New Jersey, Meadowlands racetrack is flourishing.
The New York-based racetracks like Yonkers, just across the bridge from Meadowlands where the slots at racetracks are in place, are booming. Revel, the lavish Atlantic City casino, which opened 10 months ago, filed for bankruptcy protection. The question now is will Wynne do what is right or follow her predecessor Dalton McGuinty?
In action on the track, Windfall Blue Chip (Keith Oliver) was sixth in 1:52 in the $34,000 open last Saturday at Woodbine. The son of Art Major is in to go tonight and has the rail in the $24,000 class. Should drop and pop.
Also on tonight’s card Island foes Acceptable Risk, Chasin Racin and Oakmont are in a $12,500 overnight event. Iron-sided Oceanview Bindi was sixth in 1:53 against the $30,000 open mares class Feb. 15 at Woodbine.
Big card at The Meadowlands tonight, including the $47,800 singer trot for young hopefuls and the $80,000 Exit 16 claimer final. At Yonkers tonight, Eighteen (Mark MacDonald) who won last Saturday in 1:54 vs. the $21,000, moves up to the $26,000 class. A number of former Gold Cup starters are also in to go at the New York half-mile track: Silent Swing, Firethorn and Pontiac Luck.
At The Meadowlands Thursday, Warrawee Needy qualified in 1:53, including a last quarter in 26 and change for MacDonald and trainer Mark Ford. This pacer could be a beast this year in the four-year-old ranks.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears
in The Guardian each Saturday.
Contact him at email@example.com.