Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2nd Round Predictions

Who would have thought the East would take a big dump like that? Only got Pittsburgh right in that Conference but also picked the right number of games. Whoopty friggin' do. But in the West I was pretty damn good, getting all four teams right, and getting both Chicago and Vancouver in the right number of games. So 5 for 8 in picks, and 3 for 8 in games which are the toughest to pick. Not half bad, could be a hell of a lot worse. Then again I'd like to see who actually picked the 6th, 7th, and 8th seeds in the East to advance.

As for the pool, I typically picked the second highest point-getter on each team, except for Shea Weber who was a few behind leaders Legwand and Erat, Doan who was well behind Lombardi with the injury, but Drew Doughty was the top point producer for the Kings, and Stastny and Yip were tied in playoff pool points. Alfredsson was just behind Cullen, Vanek was just behind Pominville by an assist, Parise in back of Kovalchuk, and Backstrom behind Ovechkin by a goal. So all in all, not half bad, finished the first round with 111 points, thanks to both Luongo and Fleury getting through the first round (hopefully further).

Anyway, on to the Grip Picks...

Eastern Conference
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Well I was dead wrong about the Habs picking the Caps to roll over them in 5, but I knew Halak would be the key to stealing games from Washington. I just thought it would be one game and not four. But the Pens have been here as recently as last year, and they seemed to dispense Ottawa effortlessly. I expect Halak to give them trouble, but I think the Pens will solve him to head on to the Conference Finals. Grip Pick: Pens in 6.

#6 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers
Once again, I severely underestimated the Flyers, who appeared to be limping into a postseason against the #2 seeded Devils. The Devils were worthless, and the Flyers played strong, passioned playoff hockey. It took the postseason for them to turn into the team everyone thought they would be this season. The Sabres/Bruins matchup was the closest series to call I think, and it could have easily gone either way. I think Vanek's injury dented Buffalo's chances early on, but I don't know if he and Miller would have been able to beat the Bruins alone. The Bruins on the other hand, looked like the team from last year, playing good but not great. They got it done against the Sabres, but I think the Flyers have the fire lit right now. They've had the longest layoff, so it could start slow for them. Grip Pick: Flyers in 7.

Western Conference
#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
This will be the most overanalyzed series to date. San Jose, the playoff joke, against Detroit, the playoff machine. I wrote earlier about how the Sharks were sputtering like we've come to expect against the Avalanche, but there was a switch that flicked after that Game 5, or maybe even after Dan Boyle's OT winner for the Avs. The Olympic line underproduced, and it was the second line upstarts led by noted mouthbreather Joe Pavelski that got it done. Detroit is a team that knows how to get it done, but had a handful for about five of the seven games against inexperienced Phoenix. The Wings showed some age midway through the series, and then hit the gas like only they can in Game 7, I don't know if they have enough left in the tank. I'm going to once again step in the obvious pitfall and go with the Sharks. I think that Thornton and Marleau are going to turn it on, even though Heatley is injured, and Clowe/Pavelski/Setoguchi are going to continue rolling. I think Zetterberg is injured despite playing ridiculously well, Franzen is not 100%, and Holmstrom is just not cutting it, Mitchell and Blake are going to move his ass out of there. To rely on Datsyuk, Filppula, and the Detroit defense, not to mention a peppered Jimmy Howard, is going to be too much. Watch me eat my words. Grip Pick: Sharks in 6.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks
Next to falling in the trap of the Shark, this is probably the hardest series to pick. Vancouver and Chicago are very evenly matched for this second round rematch from last year. The last one was brutal, no one expects this one to be any friendlier. Chicago had some trouble handling Trotz and his pesky Preds, but they eventually put them down. The same goes for Vancouver who had to work to get past a very young, and promising Kings team. The difference in Chicago... For the good, they have Hossa, is a proven playoff performer if not a Cup curse. For the bad, they don't have Khabby, they have Niemi who's played well but has holes, and Huet, who has holes. Their lineup is virtually unchanged, with the exception of Cam Barker swapped for an injured Kim Johnsson. The difference in Vancouver... For the good, they have a much more solid forward core, with the Sedin's having career bests, and improved second line scoring from Kesler and Burrows. The bad... Luongo's been shaky, but rebounded, and the defense is severely beaten up missing key personnel like Willie Mitchell, and even Brad Lukowich. It has felt all year that the Hawks were owed this shot at the Cup, instead of putting in the work to earn it. Maybe it was too much fun, and making it look to easy winning made it appear that way. I just think Vancouver is going to be better prepared to handle Chicago, having first hand experience playing them last year, warming up with Los Angeles, a very similar team to Chicago, and I think Luongo is moving in right direction in terms of great and awful. I expect the Vancouver offence to pick apart, and probably chase Niemi. Of course, it could just be that I picked the Canucks to go all the way at the beginning of the year, and I'm sticking to my guns. Grip Pick: Nucks in 7.

So that's it, the predictions for the second round. I feel a lot less confident with this batch than the first round, but that's normal considering the competition gets stiffer. For the pool, I've still got my goalies, Patty Kane, Johan Franzen, Patty Marleau, Zdeno Chara, Andrei Markov, and Jeff Carter's out with an injury, for who knows how long.

Round Two. Fight!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Musical Chairs

Photoshop hack job, yeeeah. Do you know how hard it is to find images of players from head to toe in street clothes? Its a bitch. But I think this accurately portrays the current situation of the playoff musical chairs...

Pronger's acting like God on Earth, Crosby looks like his taking a shit with his game face on as "Gentle" Joe playfully hooks him, while Luongo looks on nervously, and those are your seated quarterfinalists. Ovie is moving as quickly as he can around the chairs to make sure he gets a seat, while Zetterberg (or Jared Leto at a movie premier) shows Bryzy the way to play the game while wearing what one can only assume was several rugs from the motherland that were sewn together to make a shirt. Crunchy, as confident as ever, strides to the next available seat, while Trotz attempts to keep Big Z from eating him. On second thought, maybe they're both trying to eat him. Big Daddy Kane makes nice with the bigger boys, while Jesus Price is getting his drink on. Trust me, he's got a drink back there. Probably a smoke in the other.

This really detracts from the real purpose of this post, of which I've now completely forgotten after screwing around with that crap.

They Did It?
The Sharks are passed the first round, and I can hear the sigh of relief from the Bay Area. There was something that happened to that team in that overtime of Game 4. Maybe it was the sight of Douglas Murray actually trying to move up ice, or maybe it was even earlier, like when Dan Boyle dumped it into his own net. Game 5 was the type of game we were expecting all series, all out dominance of the Avs. And they got their collective shit together within the 60 minutes of Game 6 to come back and win it, and get out of a series they thought would be two games shorter. Maybe it was Craig Anderson standing on his head that kept the Avalanche competitive, and running with the Sharks. But they're on to the next round, and you can wait until then to continue pulling your hair out. Grip Pick: Sharks in 5.

Philadelphia upset Jersey to everyone's surprise but in a real "eh" kind of series, maybe its because the Devils flopped in so few games. I looked around, no one picked the Flyers in this series except for the Flyer faithful. Everyone's pick at the beginning of the season to no one's pick at the end of it. Amazing. Just a question, what's worse? Losing in the closing seconds to Carolina last year, or receiving a toolshed beating by #7 seeded cross-state rival this year? Grip Pick: Devils in 5. At least I got the number of games right.

Pittsburgh defeated Ottawa to no one's surprise. At least, after Game 3. Ottawa just always seems to be a middling team, even when they went to the SC Finals, they were sent out on a rail. The Pens look strong, and on a march back to the Finals. Grip Pick: Pens in 6. That's a two-fer.

Vancouver beat out the Kings in what looked like an evenly matched series through the first four games. The Kings gave them a run for their money, but much like the Sharks, the Canuck offense didn't get going until later in the series. The Sedins' are on their usual hum, while Kesler and Burrows will hope to get it going after empty net confidence builders. Grip Pick: Canucks in 6. Bingo bango.

Forgone Conclusions?
Do you really expect Montreal to force a Game 7? I don't, but then again I didn't expect the Caps to have this much trouble putting them down either. Grip Pick: Caps in 5. Come on don't make me look like an idiot like Philadelphia did.

Boston and Buffalo is an ultimate grudge match, and I wish I had been watching more closely to fully enjoy it. I now expect it to go to seven. Grip Pick: Sabres in 6. The Eastern Conference could really make me look stupid.

Nashville, that fucking plucky underdog always seems to give grief to top seeds. They at least won a game on the road in the playoffs this season, so that's something to build off of. I expect the Hawks to end it tonight. Grip Pick: Hawks in 6.

I love the fact that it all comes down to one game for Phoenix and Detroit. Both teams should thrive in this situation making it an epic game. Like I said, I'd love to be wrong in this one, halfway there. Grip Pick: Wings in 6. Go Dogs!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Anyone With Half a Brain...

Detroit may be called Hockeytown, but its fans have to be the dumbest mutts this side of the border.

Valteri Flippula's shot about halfway through the first period squeaked past Bryzgalov and, as Pierre McGuire said, "did a dirty little dance along the goal line," but it never crossed the goal line. The referee on the scene made the washout signal right away, and the Coyotes continued with the play. Once the play was blown dead, after a chorus of 'Boos' rained down from the Joe Lou seats, the play was shown on the screen above center ice. Originally, the ref wasn't even going to look at the play, he was sticking with his decision, that was until he glanced up at the replay, and the faithful red encouraged him otherwise.

He headed over to the scorers' table to confer with the replay officials upstairs, (I don't even think he looked at it), and immediately indicated a faceoff in Detroit's zone, (after the icing to end the play). The boobirds returned until they could muster up the energy to get 'Bullshit' going.

Its one thing to try to "convince" the referees into making a call, its another to prove what kind of fucking idiots pay to wear the red and white.

(Ed. note: I'll try and find a replay of it as soon as one's available.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Seeds? What Seeds?

Even Versus refuses to accept it.

What good are seedings other than to determine playoff matchups? They become meaningless once those top eight from each conference gets their invitation. #8 Colorado Avs throwing pucks on the #1 San Jose Sharks in the final minutes, #8 Habs beating on #1 ranked Ovie and the Caps, the limping #7 Flyers beating their Delaware River foes the #2 Jersey Devils.

Only three of the seven matches already played had the higher seeded team winning, Buffalo, Vancouver, and Phoenix, but that's a whole other discussion as to whether they're the under"dogs." Sorry.

The #4 against the #5 matchups are always kind of a wash, and with Phoenix winning their home opener, and Pittsburgh losing theirs, that holds true. But its the #8 against the top seed victories that are really baffling.

The Sharks are known as the Buffalo Bills of the NHL, where Joe Thornton embodies Jim Kelly, but they've never even come close to taking a shot at that field goal, let alone getting to that game. They're solid through and through, from offensive firepower to a solid defensive core, to marquee goaltending, and good coaching, yet they can't handle the postseason pressures no matter how many times Doug Wilson remakes the lineup. They had to scratch and claw to tie the Avs at one, a team that fell flat after the O-break, in the first game of the series at the Shark tank. And now they've got the same question looming, are they the genuine article when it comes to choke artists?

Take a look at the Washington Capitals, a team that probably received the most votes to be a first round sweeper. The Habs kept them knotted up at two to force OT, where noted media-elected "shit-talker" Plekanec put in the winner just a little past halfway of the extra frame. Two goals for the offensive juggernaut that is the Washington Capitals. And now the questions come raining down on Ovechkin, does he succumb to the pressure of the big game? We all know about last year's great series between the Pens and Caps, (or Crosby vs. Ovie depending on how you look at it), that led up to the eventual Game 7 stinker that Capitals submitted that night.

Granted, all this talk is premature and we're only one game into seven of the eight series, a lot can happen. But the room for doubt now has a 'No Vacancy' sign posted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The First Night

Just a few quick hits for you from the first night of the 2010 postseason...

Crosby's behind the back pass from Gretzky's office on Goligoski's goal was all sorts of awesome. He put that shit right in his wheelhouse, the least GoGo could do was put it away.

Ottawa jumped on Pittsburgh and kept applying the pressure. I don't know if they'll have that element of surprise for the rest of the series, but it showed that it'll no doubt be a battle.

Fleury was not good. Shaky at best, he'll obviously need to be better for the Pens to go anywhere.

Philly had the most surprising win of the games last night. I expected them to be spent, but they were beating the Devils at their own game. A 2-1 affair involving the Devils is usually won they win.

You cannot deny the atmosphere in Glendale, it was playoff hockey, and the people were there, and busting out of the building. Winning that game against Detroit was just icing on the cake, and a big statement that this Coyote team is legitimate, and not smoke and mirrors from shootout victories.

Phoenix power play was 3 for 4 on the night. Detroit's penalty kill prior to that, something like 92%. Holy schnikies.

Throwing the Snake was not as successful as it could/should have been. One snake on the ice after Yandle's goal was a little weak, but the linesman delivered some bad juju to the Wings by throwing it in their bench. That was almost more of a statement. But the fact that it happened at all was great, and hopefully it will pick up steam. Maybe Coyote fans were "feeling" out the security measures so to speak, and didn't want to chance an ejection.

There was two or three minutes after the Coyotes third goal, where they just had the Wings back on their heels. The crowd was chanting, and the place was just going crazy. You tellin' me these people don't know hockey?

Sharks are off to their usual clumsy start, taking a punch to the gut from a deflection off Blake's skate. The mantra "throw pucks to the net" was never more true. But they shouldn't have been in that position in the first place, the offensive firepower of San Jose should be knocking the wheels off that Colorado team. But Andy was good too, not great, he didn't even need to be great.

A buddy of mine up in NorCal tipped me off to Sharks playoff broadcasts being shown at his local sleepy town movie theatre on the big screen. The best part, its free to get in. The even better part, they serve beer and wine, and pretty good food from the restaurant next door. If the Sharks can get past the first round, I just might have to drag my ass up there to check it out. But that's a big 'if.'

And for all you married hockey fans out there, if your better half isn't as commited as you are to the game, then you've got to check out these letters about playoff hockey etiquette between man and wife posted at On Frozen Blog. Great stuff.

1st Round Predictions

I've learned from the past not to pick past the 1st round just for the simple reason that if you do fuck it up, which you're more than likely to do, everything gets screwed up in terms of seeding. So we'll try the chicken shit method that all the media uses picking round at a time, but don't think I didn't layout the whole tree already.

In the interest of time, I've also included my playoff pool player selections. For those of you who don't know, the playoff pool works like this...
1) One player must be selected from each playoff team. Two goaltenders, four defensemen, and ten forwards.
2) Points work lika 'dis... Two points for a goal, one for an assist. Goaltenders get two points for a win, one additional point if its a shutout. As a bonus, you get one point per overtime period completed, win or lose.
3) Those who die with the most points wins. But also loses 'cause you're dead.

No fancy calculating systems, or online resources because I'm not motivated to set all that up. So score yourselves at home, I know you're just aching to do it considering the other 50 pools you're in.

Eastern Conference
#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
I don't hold out much hope for the Habs, especially when the first posts generated at the end of the regular season sound like 'can the Canadiens beat the Caps?'. They might steal a game or two, but that'll be thanks to Halak's heroics, or Capital injuries. This could be a sweep for Washington, but I'll give the Habs the benefit of the doubt, Caps in five. I'm taking Backstrom and Markov from this duo.
#2 New Jersey Devils vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers
The pundits picked the Flyers to take the East by storm with the additions of Pronger, Emery, et al. but it has been anything but the case. Pronger has supposedly caused a rift within the party atmosphere of the Flyers locker room, and Emery, who played well, went down with a career threatening injury. Leighton picked up as insurance, saved the bacon of the franchise, and with new coach Pete Laviolette behind the bench the Flyers were still nothing more than mediocre. The Devils, on the other hand, are their usual defensively suffocating selves with Lemaire back at the helm. Zach Parise has been given the green light to shoot, (#2 in shots behind Ovie), and is ninth in the League with 38 goals. There's also some guy named Kovalchuk they picked up in a trade who's supposed to be good. I see this as a fairly quick series, one that Philly probably should have stayed home for, Jersey in five. I'm taking Parise and Carter from these two.
#3 Buffalo Sabres vs. #6 Boston Bruins
Buffalo has ridden the amazing play of Ryan Miller, with a balanced attack under mastermind Lindy Ruff. They can score, but not a lot, they can play D, but there are a few holes. Well Miller fills most of the holes in the backend, and Vanek, when in the midst of a streak, can make it rain. Boston is hobbling into the postseason with a banged up squad, missing key playmaker Marc Savard, among other injuries. Their offense is anemic without Savard, but rookie/sophmore Tuukka Rask might be able to pull a few games out for them if the rest of the team helps him out. Buffalo in six, probably less. I'm taking Vanek and Chara out of these two.#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Ottawa Senators
I doubted the Senators would make it in this year, but they've proven me wrong. No one's really sure what kind of shape the Pens will be in for this year's run. It could be a severe hangover, or a relentless team on their way back to another Cup run. I have a sneaking suspicion we'll see them in some later rounds. The Senators are another hard team to get a good read on, Brian Elliot has been lights out at times this year, but he's still only Brian Elliot. Karlsson has surprised me with his strong play, and Volchenkov's healthy enough to go running over people, Pittsburgh may have more trouble than they expect. But I expect the Pens to take it in six, but it will be a hard fought series. I'm taking one of my two goaltenders in Fleury, and I'll take Alfredsson to boot.

Western Conference
#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Colorado Avalanche
This is the kind of soft first round matchup that the Sharks need to get under their belt for a better than their usual march through the postseason. I am once again going to be gullible enough to fall into that trap, but I don't think anyone is expecting the Avs to take down the Sharks. Getting to the postseason is victory enough for Colorado, as a team that no one expected to sniff the playoffs. Lets see how good Andy can be, Sharks in five. I'm going with Marleau and Stastny out of this pair.
#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Nashville Predators
No one ever gives the Predators much respect and yet year after year they find themselves in the postseason, usually overmatched. This year is no different. With suprise finish from Patrik Hornqvist, and strong play from Rinne the Preds have managed to hang in there. But with the firepower that the Hawks have from rolling lines, and good offensive support from the defense, it looks like it should be a quick series. But Nashville always guts it out, and that's why I'm going with Chicago in six. I'm taking Shea Weber and Patrick Kane here.
#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Los Angeles Kings
I am pretty surprised that so many people are picking the Kings to come out on top in this series. Maybe its the uncertainty of Luongo, or people not watching enough of the Western Conference, but this Canucks team is poised for a deep run, no matter who they face. The Kings are glad to be in the postseason, but it doesn't go much further than that. The youth on that squad will have to learn some postseason lessons in order to be battle-tested for the postseason tournament. Vancouver, on the other hand, is ready. Nucks in six. Luongo is my second goaltender, and I'll take Doughty too.
#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings
I want to believe that the Coyotes can do this, but I just don't think it'll happen. They'll give them a hell of a series, but considering the turnaround the Wings put together, not to mention all that talent, I think the Dogs are simply overmatched. I'd accept being wrong in this one, Wings in six. I'll take Doan and Franzen in this one.

As for my preseason record, I went 4 of 8 in the West, 6 of 8 in the East. You can look back here, but I foolishly took Calgary, Anaheim, St. Louis, Dallas, the New York Rangers, and... nevermind. Toronto alright, you fucking happy. I thought they might have a turnaround, I want to spice up the picks instead of them looking like everyone else. At least I was right about Columbus, right Rick?! You pig fucker! Where's my fuckin' Molson?!

So that's it, can't wait to get underway tonight!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pour Some Out Fo' Ya' Dawgs

This is all sorts of awesome.

You know, before we get a rip-roarin' into some playoff action, I just want to talk about the Coyotes here for a second or two. Maybe even three if I can keep you from yawning.

Make Sure that Slipper Fits
You have to admire what the 'Yotes have done this year, or at the very least tip your hat, to a group of guys that no one outside the organization had hope for. Sure, there was a pipeline of youth that had been gushing into it from years of high draft picks, but those years were met with middling mismanagement of assets, and downright piss poor coaching *cough*Gretzky*cough*. Don Maloney's had his share of miscues in the front office, but there was something major happening as the team's owner, Jerry Moyes, fell into bankruptcy and attempted an underhanded sale to a bald man with a big bag of cash. Maloney's first smart move was hiring Dave Tippett as soon as it was announced that the elephant in the room was leaving. Then Tippett took care of the rest, motivating a team that was mired in the unknown, forcing them to focus on the season at hand, and beating the odds to get home advantage in the playoffs. Maloney showed some moxy by going out and picking up players that would help in the postseason, while shipping others out to clear the roster. And now here they sit, a date with destiny against the demons from Detroit. It could be a quick exit to the battle-tested champions from Michigan, or it could be something else, something no one would expect. Like the Coyotes making the playoffs.

Falling Out of Escrow
As of now, the NHL owns the Phoenix Coyotes, or at least until a new owner can be found. Preferably one that will keep the team in Arizona. While the Ice Edge group seems to be a solid group of hockey fans/businessmen, it appears as if they are now out of contention, with the most recent vote from the City of Glendale rejecting their arena lease plan, 5-1. Glendale finds Jerry Reinsdorf to be much more attractive, so much so that they unanimously approved his plan, and have also made a series of business viability concessions. The most important of which is the City covering the losses of the team at a maximum of a $100million over seven years. But also a minimum bargain price of $103million for the team and arena, which he is guaranteed (by the City) to get back in five years if he decides to sell. Glendale City Council didn't seem to believe that Ice Edge actually had the capital to buy the team, now Jerry doesn't even need it.

Building Momentum, Building a Base
There's no question that the Coyotes success this year is the best situation the League could have hoped for in terms of strengthening the fan base, appearing more attractive to potential buyers, and determining the overall viability of the team in its present location. In a trip out to 'the Job' earlier this year, it was evident that there was a passionate fan base just like in any other hockey city. However it was lacking serious quantity of that fan, and with the instability and unknown future the franchise found itself in, it's no wonder why. At least that's the hope.

Every city has bandwagon fans once the team is doing well and has the opportunity to win, but what we're all waiting to find out is how many of them stay, and support the team night in, and night out. And more specifically next year, in a sleepy game on a Wednesday night against the Islanders. The team has been aided by the vacationing hockey fan to the Phoenix area, curious to see what a hockey culture in the desert looks and feels like. You wouldn't believe how many Manitobans who were pining for their Jets I met, or how many youth hockey teams were filling the arena in the area for local holiday tournaments. But what it needs is the greater Phoenix resident to fill its seats and support its team for the success and perseverance they've shown. I hope old traditions like the whiteout from Winnipeg, and new ones like 'Throwing the Snake' stoke that fire in the fans.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

And There You Have It

Is this the dance the Sedin's were doing when the Caps were heading to OT?

Winning It In Style
Henrik Sedin runs away with the Art Ross in the final game of the regular season, finishing strong with four assists for 112 points total for the League lead. Three of them came on Daniel's hat trick, who took his goal total on the year to 29, which coincidentally, matches Henrik's total. Danny's third goal was the stuff legends are made of, through the legs and over Kipper's right pad. Dirty. Hank's first assist came on defenseman Kevin Bieksa's goal in the first, which was his first goal since the first game of the season. Bieksa added another in the third to make the final score 7-3 against the Flameouts, and looked dejected that Henrik didn't get credit for that one as well.

Ante Up
The 'Rocket' Richard was up for grabs between Ovechkin, Crosby, and Stamkos who had a remarkable sophomore season lined up with St. Louis and Downie, after a crappy rookie season to start off. Ovechkin potted 49 and 50 on Friday night against the Thrashers, while Stamkos duplicated the feat on Saturday, and then went on to add the shootout winner, (which of course doesn't count in goal totals). Crosby was held off the scoresheet on Saturday in a 1-0 barn-burner loss to the Thrashers, but added his 50th and 51st early in Sunday's game against the Islanders. Ovechkin's Sunday matinee didn't help him add any markers, while Stamkos was held off the scoresheet for much of the Bolts game against the Panthers, until he added an empty netter in the closing seconds to finish at 51. Crosby supposedly "got word" on the bench, and was desperately trying to complete the hat trick, and win the Richard outright. That wouldn't be the case, and Crosby and Stamkos now have to share and kiss each other in their photo with the trophy.

Winner By Default
The eighth seed was like a U.S. Presidential election in the sense that whoever sucked less would win. Philadelphia didn't show any signs of life until Laperierre tangoed with Voros to get his team and the building into it. But even that didn't last long as the Rangers held a 1-0 lead for much of the game until Matt Carle backhanded home a juicy rebound on a power play in the third to tie it up. Poor Lunqvist didn't stand a chance, he deserves better. But of course this misery had to go to a shootout to really test the nerves of the tri-state area and Eastern Pennsyltucky. Briere showed off some dazzling stickhandling for a goal, while Christensen bricked on a shot wide in the first round. Richards looked like a goof on his attempt, maybe the biggest of his captaincy, while Parenteau mishandled and still beat Boucher. And to cap it off, Giroux completely fooled Henrik going five-hole, while Jokinen whiffed notoriously. Jokinen missing was some retribution to Flames fans, but not enough.

And They're in the Gates...
Aside from the torturous affair that was the bottom half of the Eastern Conference seedings, that allowed the Flyers to slip into seventh, the West was waiting on two games to determine all the dance partners. The Kings needed overtime to take down the Avs, who were already seeded in eighth, which gave Los Angeles 101 points and the fifth seed before the Wings vs. Hawks game was finalized. Before that game was determined, Nashville and Detroit were knotted at 100 points, with the tie breaker going to the Preds with 47 wins. But the Wings took it in OT and lurched up to fifth in the process, giving them the Coyotes in their first round matchup. The Kings shift down to sixth for a date with the Canucks, and the Preds move to seventh to battle their divisional leaders in Chicago.

Final pairings and scheduling look mighty tasty, but we'll have to wait two days to dig in. Can't wait. First round predictions to follow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Masterton Men

I usually don't give much thought to the Masterton, but we all should, considering what it represents. Given to the "player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey," as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Sadly, tragedy strikes us all unexpectedly, and we all deal with it in our own way. Sometimes it shows us the strength we have, other times it renders us helpless. Whether its dealing with death or coping with injuries, its our willingness to get through it that makes us better in the end.

Its been well documented that Patrice Bergeron's career was jeopardy after taking a hit from behind from then Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Randy Jones, back in October 2007. He was knocked unconscious, wheeled off the ice, and suffered a broken nose and grade-three concussion, which was actually very fortunate considering he could have had more severe head and neck injuries. He was sidelined for the rest of the season and returned to training camp symptom-free and raring to go. Bergeron was an unlikely pick for the Team Canada roster for the 2010 Olympics, and winner of the Gold Medal. The only knock on Bergeron's candidacy is that he's already been nominated last season, and lost out to the Predators Steve Sullivan. (Oh, and there's another knock, Mark Recchi has been nominated for the Bruins.)

One of the stories that got little press after the initial blow, was the death of Taylor Pyatt's fiancee, Carly Bragnalo, who was involved in a motor vehicle accident while on vacation in Jamaica. Pyatt, who was a member of the Vancouver Canucks at the time, was engaged to Bragnalo, and were planning to marry only a few months later. Going on indefinite leave from the team in early April 2009 at the time of the incident, Pyatt returned to the lineup about a month later to join the Canucks in a playoff run. After Vancouver was eliminated, it was revealed that Pyatt would require knee surgery in the offseason of his final contract year. Pyatt had his best years in Vancouver, but the Canucks had honestly told them that they would not seek an extension. But Don Maloney and the Coyotes still thought he had some hockey left in him, and offered him a two-year deal on the first day of free-agency. Since then, Pyatt has been part of the Major League/Cinderella story that Phoenix has come to resemble.

Just before this season started, Jose Theodore's two-month old son passed away due to respiratory complications. His three-year old daughter had the same symptoms after her birth, but was able to work through it. Just having become a Dad right around the same time, this heart-wrenching story hit me right in the gut. Losing a child has to be the most devastating feelings a human can imagine, and yet Theodore has played more than half a season's worth of games, going 30-7-7 and backstopping his team to a Presidents Trophy. I don't see how any of the other candidates listed even come close to that kind of success amidst that kind of tragedy.
Although there are a handful of other candidates worthy of the nomination, from the colitis Fernando Pisani is suffering through, to the ACL tear Brenden Morrow suffered when his team needed him the most, Jose Theodore is my Masterton winner, hands down.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Throwing Feces

Quality and content have been lacking, might as well hurl shit from my thumbless mit for my own amusement.

From the Land of 'Who Gives a Shit'
Nathan Horton shows emotion at the right time, just before the start of the playoff push. Oh what's that? The Panthers didn't make the postseason for the ninth consecutive season? And Horton got in a fight with the Assistant Coach? Broke his stick then left? Fucking baby. And he was trying to disrupt the drill the coach was running. Fucking brat.

Jamie Langenbrunner's got a bug up his ass, and no one can seem to figure out why. When asked about it by the friendly media he offered up 'no comment' like he was throwing confetti. Lemaire sat him on Saturday, saying he thought he needed the rest, and has now been demoted to duty with the "continuous effort" from Rob Niedermayer, and the aging set of bones known as Brian Rolston. Before that he got into a kerfuffle with Colin White, and then took off from the locker room before the media could interrogate him about it. Silver medals taste like shit don't they Jamie?

Have you ever heard a bigger bunch of assholes talking shit? You can smell it from here. School bus stop victim Larry Brooks, came out with two gems this week, one about his boys in blue, and the other about the crumbling Flyers. The first came from the genuine article of crap, Glen Sather, stating that he had a handshake agreement with Len Barrie for a trade Steven Stamkos for a slew of young Ranger talent. Lawton and Koules put the kibosh on that one, and it was never heard from again. He then goes on to talk about how Chris Pronger has divided the locker room in Philadelphia, and is a big problem as to why the Flyers are fighting for their playoff lives when they were expected to runaway with the Cup earlier this year. Pronger stirs shit up, and water is wet. (Asshole count on that piece = 6, you count 'em up)

Zdeno Chara broke his nose last night from an errand stick from master percussionist Alex Semin. Not that the Bruins are making a big fuss about it, but they've got bigger problems than a busted schnoz on a 6'-9" defenseman. Shut the fuck up, and start playing for the first time this season. Make it look like you actually belong in the playoffs. Speaking of which...

Talk About Limping In...
The bottom half of the Eastern Conference is an embarrassment to the League. And by bottom half I mean two-thirds. Talk about teams that don't give a shit if they make it or not... Montreal, Boston, and Philadelphia are retaining their rights to be first round doormats, and Atlanta and the New York Rangers aren't giving them much of a fight for that prize. Does anybody think these teams can challenge any of the division leaders for an upset? Shit, they're already talking about what they're planning in the offseason. Philly and Boston getting ready to remove key members of the roster, and Montreal set to move Price to... wait for it, Philadelphia? Just what that locker room needs, a chain-smoking 22-year old kid to fit in with the party atmosphere in Philadelphia. The next good idea is to bring him to Chicago for a limo ride after they receive an early exit pass for poor goaltending.

And the West isn't much better, with everyone sitting at home pissing themselves with the thought of playing Detroit. Now that's what I call gearing up for the postseason, talking about who you don't want to play. Personally I think Phoenix can give Detroit the ride of its life if the Wings can make it to the five spot. Where's the pressure for the Coyotes? They've already exceeded expectations, they've got nothing to lose, go out there and beat those old fuckers! Chicago's weak in the knees from the aforementioned shoddy goaltending, San Jose is, well, San Jose, and Vancouver has just about as much pressure as Team Canada heading into Vancouver. Who better than the underdog to see through the fall of Motor City?

At the lower half of the spectrum, Colorado has had an incredible year, but missing out on the postseason would be an incredible disappointment at this point. Not that Calgary is really challenging them all that much. On the other hand, the Flames would be in sixth if they played in the East. And you might actually be interested in a first round matchup of the Sharks and Avs or Flames, as opposed to the Caps and whoever sucks. Can we just skip the first round in the East, with the exception of the 4 vs. 5 seeds?
Either way, history will be made.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Anybody remember these things, Tid-Bits? I used to eat the shit out of those little cheese sticks as a kid. That was until the snacking world came out with Better Cheddars and of course Cheez-Its. Well aside from the stroll down memory lane, this is what I have for you today, Tid-Bits.

Enjoy, you self-indulgent pig.

Where to start...

Who the fuck is this guy?!
Lee Stempniak has 13 goals, 3 assists in 14 games with the Coyotes. Who the fuck is this guy?! In 62 games with the Leafs earlier this year, he had 14 goals and 16 assists. He's already up to half that point total in a little over a dozen games with the Coyotes, who came over in a deadline deal. And now he gets named 1st Star of the month, like I said, who the fuck is this guy?! His career bests came in his sophomore season with the Blues, playing a full 82 game season, and netting 27 goals, 25 assists for 52 points. Phoenix has locked up a playoff spot, and has looked strong, despite the stinker that Bryzgalov had against the Canucks. The additions of Stempniak, Wolski, and Morris have solidified the confidence in this team, and they could present a real challenge for a second round ballot. Even if its Detroit.

Its Never Too Late To Say Die
Get this... After getting their brains beat in by the Kings by a score of 6-0, Nash and Umberger get down on their knees in front of their teammates and plead with them to stop making them look so bad. Finish strong, and with purpose. Play for the fans, for the city, and for each other. The rest of the team stands up and gives an unenthusiastic clap, Commodore leans over to Clitsome and mutters, "Nasher needs to work on his timing, its a little late for this speech, isn't it?"

No doubt Commie. To their credit, the BJ's have gone 7-2-2 since then. The troops have rallied!

By the way, interim coach Claude Noel looks as out of place behind the Columbus bench as plaid hockey jerseys. He looks like he just borrowed Kurt Russell's outfit from his Miracle speech. Love those pants.

The Truth Comes Out
A Sports Illustrated survey has unearthed the fact that Dion Phaneuf, former child star of the Calgary Flames turned disgruntled, self-centered Leaf, is an overrated flop. The title of "player whose reputation exceeds their performance" was earned through receiving 21% of the vote of 272 current NHL players. To no one's surprise, when asked if it bothered him it all, he replied, "No, not one bit... it doesn't hurt my feelings any." Awww c'mon Dion, maybe just a little bit?

"I won two Stanley Cups here, and they still Boo'd me."
That's what Patrick Roy told Carey Price the last time he fell on hard times with the Canadiens faithful. Yeah Pat, you also demanded a trade out of town from the Team President in front of the head coach, during a game. Price could be doing the same after getting boo'd by the Bell Centre crowd when being announced as the third star of the game, after a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes. That gives new meaning to the term 'French Canadian Asshole.'

If You Ain't First, You're Last
The Colorado Avalanche have gone from Northwest darling to postseason squeaker in a matter of months. Panic has set in big time after losing 5-2 to the Ducks last night. So who's to blame? Anderson is tired seems to be the most likely excuse, and it could be Joe Sacco's rookie mistake in riding a hot goaltender too hard that spells doom for Denver. Calgary has clawed its way back into the picture, after being written off earlier this month, sitting two points back from the Avs who claim the last seat in the musical chairs game. The Flames making the postseason would be a smack in the face considering their shitty efforts against the Isles and Bruins earlier this week. But the Avs schedule is not too favorable with matchups against the Sharks, Canucks, and Blackhawks, not to mention a game against the Flames tomorrow. Oh the irony.

From the Top Rope
Hilarity ensues when the Kurtenblog gets a hold of the "truth" behind the Shane O'Brien suspension from the team.

And that's all... I'll be at the Honda Center tomorrow night for Ducks vs. Nucks, attempting not to be involved in a retaliatory strike for this incident. Hopefully I'll get video.