Friday, May 22, 2009

Focus on a Thrasher: Boris Valabik

Boris Valabik, all 6'7'' of him, has the distinctive honor (and I'm sure he's thrilled) of being my favorite non-goalie NHL player. I'd always had a soft spot for him, how do you NOT love a 6'7'' Dman with a nasty disposition?? But my love for him was cemented when I was at a road game in Philly. I wish I could say that it was some fantastic play, a goal scored, a hard check or even a fight...oh no.

What made me fall for Boris was a pure puck bunny moment. I was on the Thrashers' side in Philly (dangerous) and waiting for them to come out. Periodically I would lean over the railing and look back into ramp leading to the dressing room. I saw a few players walk by. Then Boris comes strolling the equivalent of his underwear. (How'd you get that scar on your back, Boris?) I sat down and just looked at my husband with a stunned look on my face. My husband asked "who did you see??" I told him "I just saw Bobo in his underwear." LOVE ever since.

Boris Valabik was born in Nitra, Slovakia on February 14, 1986. There is just something funny about a big tough defenseman being born on Valentine's Day. Boris cleans up well, huh? This is him at Thrashers Casino Night. 1/2 of the reason I wanted to go. He and Slater were running the roulette wheel and having a good time. He was very friendly and didn't seem to mind much when I had to retake our picture together 3 times due to camera goof ups. I know I didn't mind.

Boris' nickname is "Bobo." I don't know why, but Exelby, the clown prince of the Atlanta Thrashers, gave him the name. Some hate it, I happen to like it. A giant mean defenceman being called "Bobo" amuses me. I'm a simple person.

In 2002-03, Boris began his hockey career by playing 46 games in his hometown of Nitra. He scored 2 goals and 12 assists for a total of 14 points. More impressively though, he racked up 145 penalty minutes.

Don't let that sweet face fool ya, Boris can rumble. After the 2002-03 season, he left Slovakia and played the 2004-2005 season for the Kitchener Rangers. He played in 68 games, but his points remained about the same with 3 goals and 12 assists for 15 points. Amazingly though, he nearly doubled his penalty minutes with a career high of 278 penalty minutes.

Boris continued his junior hockey career with the Rangers for another 2 seasons. He played fewer games and his points went way down. His penalty minutes remained high though.

At the 2004 NHL Draft, Boris was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers 10th over all. I was actually at this draft in Raleigh. I was just getting into hockey seriously and barely remember anything except Alexander Ovechkin. I did get to meet Bob Hartley and I saw Wayne Gretzky. I don't remember Bobo though.

Boris continued playing for the Rangers until 2006 when he joined the Atlanta Thrashers.

Boris spent 2 seasons with the AHL's Chicago Wolves. In 2007-08 he helped the team win the Calder Cup.

Boris made his NHL debut on March 19, 2008. He played 7 games with the Thrashers in the 2007-08 season.

Boris played 50 games this season and 7 last season and has yet to score an NHL goal. The announcers and tv crew attributed a goal to him on December 12 against Boston, but Kovy must have tipped it in. According to the stats and boxscore, Kovalchuk is listed as the goal scorer. Don't worry, Bobo. You will score this season, I know it! And, when you do, I will make you the biggest best sign ever!!

Boris wasn't known for scoring goals this season. He did get his 15 minutes of fame though. Unfortunately it was for being the victim of a Sidney Crosby cheap shot to the nuts. There is a giant melee and like 20 guys are fighting. Letang is wailing on Boris...which is kind of cute, but any way it's two guys fighting. In comes Sid the Kid (hello 3rd man in) and gives Boris a few cheap shots, then punches him in the nuts. Nice. Of course nothing happened. You can see the youtube here

So, besides his dashing good lucks, what does Bobo bring to the Thrashers? He's 6'7''. There ya go. He's also mean. Hockey's Future said he could be the meanest European defenseman to have ever come to the OHL. They also say he uses his body well and is a fearsome fighter. He also makes a good first pass and has a decent shot selection, including a slapshot he rarely uses.

Boris has some weaknesses, too. His puckhandling and mobility are frequently mentioned. Hockey's Future also mentioned his discipline being a problem. Some think he might have corrected his discipline a little too much. He is frequently criticized by fans for not fighting enough.

Boris had 8 fights this year, 6 in the regular season NHL, 1 in the NHL Preseason and 1 in the AHL. Last season (2007-08) Boris had 19 total fights! 1 in the NHL preseason, 15 in the AHL regular season and 1 in the AHL post season.

So Boris isn't fighting as much as he was or at least he isn't fighting as much as people seem to want him to. I think he's still a work in progress. I think he's addressing the areas of concern that have been expressed by coaches. If discipline has been a problem in the past, maybe he's trying to mature himself for the NHL. But hell, what do I know?

So Thornton, how does it feel to get your ass beaten by a guy called Bobo? Boris beat the shit out of Thornton. Think of the ass whipping he would have put on him if he had known he didn't even get that goal in this game!!!

You can watch the fight here:

One thing that drives me nuts about Bobo is how many penalties he takes. He can't skate across the ice sometimes without taking penalties. I think his size works against him on this one. I think the refs see him and think "Damn, he's huge, he has to be doing something wrong." Hopefully the more he plays, the more the refs get used to seeing him and see his play and unnecessary penalties will lessen.

Boris is said to have a good attitude and huge work ethic. Knowing that one of his biggest issues was his skating, he worked on it last summer. He would even work on his his off days. There is an excellent article on Boris working on his skating here:

Boris is too big to keep in the NHL, he's an international super star, too! Boris has represented his home country of Slovakia several times.
* 2003 World Junior U18 Championships (silver medal)
* 2004 World Junior U18 Championships
* 2005 World Junior Championships
* 2006 World Junior Championships
* 2009 World Championships

Awards and achievements:
* 2003-04 OHL First All-Rookie Team
* 2003-04 CHL All-Rookie Team
* 2003-04 CHL Top Prospects Game
* 2007-08 AHL Calder Cup

My favorite thing about Bobo? Well, okay, ONE of my favorite things is the Slovakian Death Stare or, as Colby Armstrong calls it, the "Stank Eye." He has this glare that he give opponents. Maybe that's why he is fighting less, he is giving more of the stank eye and people are scared!
So, that's my Bobo. I can't wait for next season!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Congratulations Chris Osgood!

Yes, you read that right. This post is going to have no backhanded compliments, snarky snide remarks or jokes at his expense. Or...I'm gonna try real hard.

Tuesday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks marked Ozzy's 100th appearance in a playoff game with the Detroit Red Wings. That is might impressive! Nice job, Oz!

Ozzie has been playing out of his mind this entire series. His 2.06 goals-against average in these playoffs is the best among the four remaining goalies and his .922 save percentage tops both Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury and Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin.

This is not only my favorite picture of Ozzy I've taken, but one of my top favorite hockey pictures of all time. This is Ozzy during warm ups last season before the game where they ended the first round of play offs by sending the Nashville Predators home.

Okay, I couldn't do it. I had to at least make an Elroy joke. Come on though, this isn't a bad thing. It's freaking adorable. I mean seriously how cute is Ozzy??

BTW, my dog Igloo will love this post. Even though his name is Igloo, he is a rabid Wings fan and loves Ozzy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blueland Guest Goalie: Peter Budaj

On February 24th the Colorado Avalanche rumbled in to town to face the Atlanta Thrashers. Last year they gave us a good beating 5-2 and my beloved Moose got pulled.

This year was a little different. Joe "Snow Blower" Sakic wasn't there. In fact several players were missing. The Thrashers beat the Avs 4-3. In net that night was Peter Budaj and he is this week's "Blueland Guest Goalie."

I was front and center at the glass to take pictures of Ian LaPerriere for Candace and was only too happy to snap some shots of Boods.

Peter was born on September 18, 1982 in Banska Bystrica, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia).

Budaj was drafted by the Avalanche in the 20001 draft as the first pick for the Avalanche and 63rd overall.

Budaj played 3 seasons with the AHL Hershey Bears (2002-2005) before getting his chance with the Avs when he was resigned as a restricted free agent.

In his first NHL season (2005–06), he appeared in 34 games while backing up Aebischer and then Théodore. He recorded a combined 47 wins in the next two seasons while splitting duties with Théodore.

Boods got his first starting goalie gig in the 2008-09 season. He and his back up, Andrew Raycroft struggled a bit this season, as the entire Avalanche team did. This season, Peter appeared in 56 games (55 starts), posting a 20-29-5 record with a 2.86 goals-against average and two shutouts. He had a save percentage of .899

Many fans/critics/experts/iceholes think that Budaj shouldn't have gotten the starting job. He's been criticized as too frequently being out of position and being prone to soft goals. He has come through at crunch time in some key games previously for the Avs, so maybe they were giving him the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the case, I hope Boods has a great summer and can get himself ready for next season whether that be in a back up or starting role.

Okay enough stuff.

Bood's mask. Previously he has worn a blue mask with Altaïr from "The Assassin's Creed" video game on it. You can see it in one of my favorite pictures from last season, Kari and Budaj chatting.
This season, although he still wore his Altaïr mask, he mostly wore a mask with a red version of The Incredible Hulk on it.

But as always, on the back of the mask, one Ned Flanders from "The Simpsons." I've read several discussions of why Ned is back there. It seems the most common one is that Ned is the big Christian on the show and Boods is down with JC (Jesus Christ) too. A good guy that is committed to his faith but not pushy about it? I'm cool with that, go on with your bad self, Boods. And of course it's the buff Ned Flanders and there is also a Slovakian flag. Jesus, the homeland and The Simpsons. Hands down in my Top 5 for the back of a mask.

Poor little pumpkin, I didn't get one single picture of Budaj with his mask off or up. I was too busy stalking Laperriere for Candace. So, I had to use this picture from last season. He is sitting on the bench while then starting goalie Theodore schooled us.

Speaking of Candace....she's nutty as a fruitcake over hockey and more specifically, Ian LaPerriere. She went to Colorado last season to see them and was lucky enough to go to practice. Knowing what a goalie nut I am, she got Budaj's autograph for me and even got a picture of him giving it to her.
As well as being a hottie and driving a sweet car, Candace said he was amazingly nice. He left his car running and ran back into the practice rink to get this kid a stick to sign. Hockey guys (especially my goalies) ROCK!

Good luck next season Boods!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Focus on a Thrasher: Colin Stuart

This week's Focus on a Thrashers is #49, Colin Stuart. Stuie is probably my second favorite non-goalie Thrasher. He first caught my attention when they brought him up from Chicago this season and had a knack for scoring short handed goals. He's been an important part of our penalty kill team since he arrived. Of course then I noticed he had really nice eyes :)

Colin Stuart was born on July 8, 1982 in Rochester, Minnesota.

Stuie comes from a family of hockey playing brothers who all played for Colorado College.
Older brother Mike was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 5th round, 137th overall in 2000. Mike currently plays for the Graz 99ers of the Austrian Hockey League.
Younger brother Mark was drafted by the Boston Bruins 21st overall in the first round of the 2003. Mark had a nice little run for the cup this season with Boston.

Most people know about Stuie's brothers, but many don't know he has a hockey playing sister, too. Cristin Stuart has been quite the defensive player at Boston College. The Stuart brothers swear that their sister is the best player of all of them.

Stuart was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 5th round with the 135th pick in the 2001.

Colin scored 77 points (38 goals, 39 assists) and 154 penalty minutes in 156 games over four-year career at Colorado College from 2000-04.

Stuie joined the Atlanta Thrashers in 2004 and was assigned to the Chicago Wolves.

Stuie also played 11 games for the ECHL's Gwinette Gladiators.

Stuie made his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season, playing 18 games and scoring 3 goals.

Colin returned to Chicago in 2008 and helped the Wolves win the Calder Cup.

Stuart started the 2008-09 season with the Chicago Wolves, but was called up to Atlanta at the end of January and played for the remainder of the season.

For this season Stuie played in 33 games for the Thrashers. He had 5 goals and 3 assists for 8 points. Most impressive (to me) is that THREE of his five goals were shorthanded. Nice!

We were also super proud of our Stuie when he represented the USA in the World Championships this year. We didn't win a medal, but we finally beat the Finns! Thank you Stuie!

This is my favorite picture of Stuie from the season. It's from the "Shirts Off Of Our Backs" night at the final game. He just looks so nice and friendly.

One of my favorite memories of Stuie of the season is of him and some other Thrashers playing Goal or Roll with Moose. Everyone shot the puck and if they didn't make a certain number of goals, they had to roll. If Moose didn't make a certain amount of saves, he had to roll. Moose was quite good!


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