Some thoughts on the recently released NHL '11 demo


EA Sports recently released a demo for its upcoming game NHL ’11 on both the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3, which is set to release on September 7. I thought I’d pass along a few notes about the small sample of the company’s popular hockey title.

  • Now, I haven’t played a TON of the demo yet, but I didn’t see a broken stick just yet. That, to me, indicates that the new “feature” probably won’t occur too often in the final game. Obviously, the jury is still out on that one, though. I’m on record of saying that it’s not the greatest idea, even if it is a commendable attempt at simulating the real-life game.
  • It seems that my bread-and-butter one-timers have either been vetted or I just need to change my timing on the evil goal scoring play. If the programmers indeed made the game’s artificial intelligence strong enough to thwart that move, I’m in big digi-trouble.
  • I was worried the new faceoff system would be really clunky, but to EA’s credit, it seems like they know how to integrate changes pretty well. (They did a great job of adding “board play” last year, although I think that you could argue it was almost a bit too “magnetized.”) Instead of being clunky, it appears that the changes will simply give players more option in the circle. Again, these are early observations, but so far so good.
  • The game looks fine, although it only looks a tad bit shinier than any X-Box 360 NHL game. The series really hasn’t gotten much of a face lift since NHL ’08, really.
  • One interesting addition is “The Ultimate Hockey League.” The finer points of the new mode are a bit complex, but you basically collect “player cards” to build an online team that depends on chemistry and development to improve and grow. I’m not sure how easily troublemakers will be able to cheat its system, but if it is balanced well, it could be an addictive distraction for people who prefer playing a traditional team vs. team game rather than the “Be a Pro” setup of following a single position player. 
  • While I didn’t notice an enormous difference in the physics of the game right away, it could be a nice improvement from the predictable puck movement of previous titles.

So, my gut reaction is to say that NHL ’11 will be an improved title but whether or not it justifies a purchase – especially for people who already own NHL ’10 – remains to be seen. Stick with Pro Hockey Talk this summer as we’ll keep following all the latest hockey video game news.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.