Video game critics give 'NHL 2K11' middling reviews

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nhl2k11kesler.jpgAs excited as many people are for the opportunity to veg out today, my guess is a lot of hockey fans are eagerly awaiting midnight. That’s because game stores (might) be open for midnight sales, which means that video game enthusiasts and puckheads alike will gain their first chance to purchase NHL ’11 (and the same probably goes for EA Sports’ Wii-specific debut title, NHL Slapshot).

So if you’re EA Sports’ competition 2K Sports, today is your last day in the sun as the first hockey video game to be released in honor of the 2010-11 season. Since I lack a Nintendo Wii, I thought I’d take a look at what game critics are saying about NHL 2K11.

Metacritic.com gathers six game reviews of the title, giving it a composite score of 64 out of 100 “mixed or average reviews” using whatever formula that Web site employs.

IGN.com gives it a “passable” rating of 6.5 out of 10.

NHL 2K11 had a lot of potential, a notion that’s accentuated once you feel the one-to-one dekeing for the first time. Sadly once you spend some time with the title you’ll realize that the shooting mechanics and AI could’ve really used some fine tuning to avoid some of the needless frustrations. If you’re a diehard hockey fan I think there will be enough for you to enjoy to warrant a look, but I’d recommend picking up a Classic Controller for maximum enjoyment.

Gamespot gave it a mediocre score of 5.5 out of 10, the harshest of all reviews for the title.

It’s actually pretty odd that NHL 2K11 turned out so mediocre. 2K Sports dumped the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game to focus solely on the Wii edition this year, so you might think that the game would be better, not markedly worse and loaded down with a lot of outdated data. Regardless of the reasons behind this year’s problems, 2K is going to have to go back to the dressing room for next year’s Wii game and work on making the motion controls more responsive.

Cheat Code Central gave it a 3.7 out of 5 overall. Here’s an excerpt from their review.

Those looking for a truly realistic and user-friendly experience, one where players intuitively move their hands like they’re playing hockey and the on-screen players move along, won’t be happy. MotionPlus does not make this game any simpler or easier to learn. Hockey, when played with any degree of seriousness, simply requires too many different moves, and even a souped-up Wii controller can’t detect them all by motion alone. So, if you want to go with MotionPlus (you can still use the Classic Controller or an unmodified Wii-mote), you’re forced to learn a fairly complicated system. A decent tutorial is provided, and we highly recommend it.

So there you have it. Some called it more of a retread or a missed opportunity while others found it underwhelming overall. To give you perspective, NHL ’10 earned a metacritic score of 88 out of 100 on both Playstation 3 and X-Box 360. The 2K series was competitive during the PS2-era but hasn’t matched the innovation provided by EA Sports. Will a year off give them a chance to catch up? From the looks of the Nintendo Wii-only version’s reviews, they’ll need it.

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.

 

 

Ducks say they’ve allowed Draisaitl too much freedom, too much fun

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Given the nicknames bestowed on Leon Drasaitl recently — the German Gretzky, Certified Duck Killer — it’s safe to assume the big Oilers forward is having a pretty good time.

That’s something Anaheim wants to put to an end, starting tonight.

“He’s a power forward and we’re allowing him too much freedom. He’s having too much fun,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told the Journal, after Drasaitl went off for four points in Wednesday’s series-opening win.  “I don’t know how I can put it any simpler.”

The 21-year-old has made a habit of tormenting Anaheim this season. He has goals in five of seven career games at the Honda Center and, in his last 11 tilts versus the Ducks, has racked up an whopping 17 points.

Coming into this second round series, most of the focus was on how Carlyle and company would shut down Connor McDavid.

But now it appears they have another matchup issue on their hands.

Carlyle’s most logical choice is to put out the Ryan Kesler line against McDavid, given Kesler’s stout defensive play and ability to shut down opposing centers. But in terms of straight matching, that puts plenty of responsibility on Kesler’s wingers — especially Andrew Cogliano — to deal with Draisaitl. He has good size (6-foot-1, 216 pounds) and has been bolstered by McDavid’s playmaking ability.

As such, there’s a fascinating game-within-a-game to watch this evening. Carlyle has the benefit of last change. The forward matchups will be worth monitoring, but so will the defense — veteran blueliner Kevin Bieksa is doubtful after exiting Game 1 with a lower-body injury, but Sami Vatanen could return after sitting out since Game 1 of the Calgary series.