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NHL 12 demo impressions roundup, plus a digital goalie fight between Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo

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While I’ve only had the chance to mess around with EA Sports’ NHL 12 demo for about an hour or so, many others have been able to pour over the preview and provide painstaking accounts of their likes and dislikes with the far-from-finished product. The demo’s been available since August 23 (on both Xbox Live and Playstation Network) so I feel like people have had enough time to give it a shot and digest some of the changes.

Demos tend to leave me a little bit flat since you only get a little taste of what a full game will feel like, but others managed to pinpoint differences both big and small. Here’s a little gallery of some of the more prominent bits of feedback about the demo. Feel free to provide your own thoughts and/or links in the comments.

Doug Miller at Kukla’s Korner went in-depth with his impressions a day after the demo was released, with high praise for most of the changes made by EA. Miller seemed most impressed with the game’s artificial intelligence (or in layman’s terms, the way computer players operated).

This year, there are a combination of several key things, which combined, all go a very long way into making NHL 12 feel very new and refreshing. With the new full contact physics, full balance control, anticipation AI, combined with some new, more realistic puck physics, make NHL 12 feel like a vast improvement across the board in general gameplay when compared to NHL 11.

Andrew Dyce of Game Rant provides a more concise but well-written account of some of the changes, keying in on many of the same things Miller did. Dyce does a great job of explaining how different it feels to shoot in the game and how the puck seems to do a better job of behaving in ways that resemble the real-life game.

Where past games equated a slap shot to a gun being fired, traveling off a stick faster than the eye could see, NHL 12 goes in a very different direction. Sticks are no longer puck-cannons, as they must first cradle, then fire the projectiles more accurately. the shots themselves no longer seem like merely a game mechanism, but an exercise of the game’s physics engine. As a result, the stick seems far more active and responsive to player inputs, especially when in close to the net.

Once the puck leaves the blade though, it becomes subject to the laws of physics in a way that we have yet to see. The puck isn’t being blasted at the goalie, but simply being directed toward the net, with deflections and bounces occurring far more frequently. It’s hard to describe, but players familiar with past games will notice the difference immediately.

Dan at “All U Need” provided a lengthy breakdown of the demo that was mostly positive as well. While he thought that dekes and some of the hitting felt a bit off, he raved about the improved passing, physics, tweaked graphics and the general feeling that one-timers just felt good.

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Ultimately, it seems like the demo is generating a lot of praise, but the $60 question will be: are the changes worth it – particularly for people who already own NHL 11? I generally tend to get a lot of value out of sports games since online competition usually provides something new (and often infuriating), but in following with the tradition of year-to-year sports game updates, the tweaks are a bit on the subtle side.

There might not be a ton of updates now that the legends have been revealed and the demos have been released, but we’ll keep an eye on things and provide a review of the game once it releases. In the mean time, enjoy two more videos of the game.

First, the demo trailer via Game Rant.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Lastly, the slightly awkward looking but irresistible goalie fight between Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas (H/T to Puck Daddy).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Now that’s what I don’t call pumping someone’s tires.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
AP
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’