Wednesday, June 15, 2011

...and it All Comes Down to One Game

Once again, here we are. Here we are at the brink of the end of the season. At the brink of a group of guys feeling like Gods with an unexpressable joy, leaving another group feeling so unbelieveably pissed off and disappointed for another year or maybe even, forever. Could you imagine? Playing all the way to a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final only to lose, and never have the good fortune to return and reclaim that failure? Its as unbelievable as how you might feel if you won the damn thing.

Just a couple of thoughts to leave you with before the most important game of the season begins tonight...

This literally is the biggest game of their lives for all players involved. Honestly, the Bruins have showed up and played every game this series, even games they lost. The Canucks have obviously been exposed to show that they do take a night (or three) off, even in the most important series in franchise history.

Does home ice really carry all the advantage it appears to? The Bruins have exploded on home ice this series, the Nucks have won with a late goal in each game at Rogers Arena. If the finals were decided by score the Bruins have annihilated the Canucks. Considering they had a two game lead to start, that doesn't seem that far from the truth.

Without question, Tim Thomas wins the Conn Smythe, regardless of outcome. It could only be in doubt if the Canucks pay forward the Bruins the same schellacking they dished out in Game 3. Denying him would be completely unjust in the eyes of all 'just' hockey fans. He's been just about flawless.

On the Horton/Rome hit... I do believe the hit was late. I also believe that Horton was admiring his pass. That used to be grounds for being levelled at the blueline, a la Stevens on Lindros. Coaches in youth hockey would have been telling me to keep my head up if I got nailed like that. There's a responsibility for players to respect other players in terms of blatant maliciousness, but there's also a responsibility for players to protect themselves. The line is beginning to blur and that's not good.

Four games was a bit much in a Stanley Cup final. If Rome knows he's getting four games for cracking Horton, he pulls up on that hit guaranteed. The optics of Horton laying on the ice, eyes glassed, concussion clicking added to that punishment I'll bet.

Two awful things about Mason Raymond's injury... The first is that a stretcher wasn't brought out to take him off the ice. Just seeing that replay was enough for my unsubstantiated opinion to say 'immobilize him.' I wonder if that did any more damage by dragging him off the ice.

The second was the booing. I know it was the beginning of the game and the crowd is amped, but that shit is just awful. I bet if he gets taken off on a stretcher, there's a different reaction from the crowd before the resume of play.

Luongo has been godawful in Boston. I don't know if he shakes off his reputation even if the Canucks win tonight. Those first three in Game 6 were enough to make you vomit. Three goals on 8 shots. Get the fuck out of here. He should be downright ashamed for that, and play like a man possessed tonight.

A know-nothing-about-hockey friend was sitting with me watching Game 6, and he said, "If this goalie is so bad, and his backup is actually pretty good, then why aren't they playing him?" I didn't really have an answer other than, "because you don't want to damage his 'delicate sensibility'." That's pretty fucking awful. You are paying this guy over $5 million per for the next decade and he's probably the most fragile goaltender in the league.

Don't get me wrong, Luongo is a great goaltender, but only when he's on. He can manufacture a real stinker with saves that could've been made by a pee-wee. He's great positionally, and he works hard to improve. But you have a guy at the other end who is a Hasek-flopper, and plays on guts and instinct and you have to ask yourself which one you'd rather have in net tonight.

Its amazing how the media has really vilified Vancouver, team and city alike. NBC is definetely painting that picture assuming that all Americans are rooting for Boston. This slant is typically reserved for the visiting team by the local broadcast team. I guess that's not too far off.

Milbury is starting to gain ground in NBC's most annoying hockey personality against perpetual leader, the always creepy Pierre McGuire. Its pretty obvious that Milbury is really hamming it up to be a replacement for Don Cherry once he gives up the throne. But the most ironic part of all of it is that Jeremy Roenick mouths off about Marleau and that gets more press than anything that's come out of Mike's mouth. Not to mention the fact that it actually spurred Marleau on in the playoffs.

And he can't be ready for that Coaches Corner spotlight if even the mild mannered Sedin's can comeback with better lines. "He did a great job on Long Island. I'm sure he is happy with that." Surprising how Luongo's name didn't come into that script. "I don't know how he looks at women. I would be pretty mad if I was a woman."

Brad Marchand's face makes you want to punch it in an attempt to try and fix it. But man, does that guy work his ass off and make the most of his rookie opportunity.

Patrice Bergeron's mean streak has really come out hasn't it? I could've done with the biting to overshadow it all, but I would have loved to watch the battle between him and Burrows be highlighted. Wouldn't you love to have a microphone on those French-Canadian scrums?

Kesler's spotlight has certainly burned him out. You can see he's trying to do the little things, but he just looks like he's out of steam, or playing on a wooden leg.

These videos from Vancouver are incredible. Hope someone does it for tonight's game.

Well that's about all I got, I know there's more I just can't think of 'em. Enjoy the finale.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

2011 Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

Well here we are, the moment we've been waiting 82 games + playoffs for. Its been a great ride hasn't it? The ups, the downs, the loop-de-loops. The optics of this final series look to provide a wealth of entertainment and sappy storylines.

...Ryan Kesler, the American boy turned Canadian hero...

...Tim Thomas, rises from the ashes to become two-time Vezina nominee...

...against fellow Vezina nominee, Roberto Luongo, and usual goat for western Canadians, despite winning Gold...

...Patrice Bergeron, concussion king, and rock on the Bruins squad...

...the magical Sedin twins, playing for hockey respect...

...Milan Lucic, Vancouver Giants favorite returning to the City to play in the Stanley Cup Finals...

There's plenty to love about this matchup, but its just not even. I'm not sure its even fair.

Goaltending, the most important element of the NHL playoffs (despite what Chicago and Philadelphia will tell you), is a wash. These two are great when they're on, and miserable when they're off. Its as simple as that.

Defense, this edge has to go Vancouver by a huge margin. Boston has Zdeno Chara and his partner's Dennis Seidenberg surprising play, and that's it. If you are going to argue that Ference and Boychuk are solid defenders then you're not sure what defence is exactly. The Canucks regularly sit Keith Ballard, a guy who's for sure a top 4 d-man on most teams. And almost every defenseman the Canucks have can join the rush and bomb it from the blue.

Offense, again I've got to give it to the Canucks. Sedin's on one line, Kesler on another, Malhotra coming back eventually to the third line, for if nothing else a solid defensive set. Krecji, Lucic, Bergeron, Horton, Ryder, Seguin, its just not matching up for me. The speed and transition game on this Canucks team is going to eat the Bruins alive.

I like this Bruins team, I really do, but I don't see any way around this unstoppable force. Just like Chicago was last year, Vancouver is this year.

I'm giving Boston one game, that's it. Its the Canucks time. It may sound cliche, but it really is their time.

Canucks in 5.

Odds and Ends

First off this 8pm start time is bullshit. Granted the games probably won't actually start until 8:30pm, but this is still 5:30pm on the west coast. This is not enough time to get home from work, let alone to find a bar in California that's actually got the game on. That's not really true, its the Stanley Cup Finals, the game will be on, but it won't be a "hockey bar" that's for sure. But the whole schedule is way too drawn out. Since all the games are primetime, I don't see why we couldn't have kicked off on Monday night, and then do the every other night thing while the series is in the same city. Instead, we start tonight, then wait until Saturday, teams travel to Boston, play Monday/Wednesday, back to Vancouver for Friday, then wait until Monday/Wednesday again if it goes back that far.

I'd like to tackle the whole Atlanta to Winnipeg thing in another post. I know I've promised Phoenix game and 'Playing with Fire' reviews in the past but I hope to deliver on all of them this summer. While in the process of buying a new home, having another baby, and all the other day-to-day joys of life.

I'm not sure what's sadder, this guy losing his hockey team or losing his marriage. Losing both at the same time would be enough to kill most men. Kidding aside, the Falconer is one of the best bloggers around, and he'll be sadly missed if he decides to hang 'em up. And no one could blame him for doing so.

Guy Boucher is my new favorite head coach if only for the soundbytes in postgame interviews and gif images. The hockey world is better place with smartass coaches like Ron Wilson, and John Tortorella telling Larry Brooks to fuck off.

Tampa is really an incredible turnaround. Think about what that team was a few years ago with Barrie/Koules at the helm, and where it ended this season. Lots of respect.

Glad to see the Isles making some progress in signing Grabner and Okposo to multi-year deals, and a brighter potential for getting a new building.

Rafalski is one of the smoothest defenseman I've ever seen. He'll be missed.

Boogaard's death was pretty humbling, as death usually is, but the thing that ate at me was the fact that all the media wrote how they never really knew the guy because they didn't think he was worth talking to, and now they discover what a great guy he was.

Both teams deserve this Cup, but only one's going to win it.

Enjoy it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Conference Finals Predictions

Almost there. The quarterfinals would have been a real bummer of a round without that Detroit/San Jose Game 7, the East was sure a bore. Two sweeps with an upset, (sorry, I don't consider a #3 beating a #2 seed an upset). Nashville drained the life out of the Vancouver series, but I think the most exciting teams have pushed through.

I went 3 for 4, picking the Tampa upset, but missing the Bruins sweep. Also picked that the Sharks would need seven to get past Detroit, for whatever that's worth. So only three more series left to pick, here's my thoughts on the next two...

Western Conference Finals

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #2 San Jose Sharks

How do you pick at this stage of the game, who's bashed up the least. I think these teams are pretty even, but I think the Canucks have the edge in speed. I'll call goaltending a draw, despite the fact that the thought is that Luongo should be lightyears ahead of Niemi. Everthing else seems to be similar, defenses move the puck well, plenty of offensive weapons, special teams click. I think the Sedins' get going in this series while Kesler slows down, Pavelski and Marleau get going, while Setoguchi and Thornton stall. Kesler is going to busy shadowing Thornton leading to less offense for both.

Canucks in 6.

Eastern Conference Finals

#3 Boston Bruins vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning

Boston's hungrier this year and it shows, despite Philadelphia's injuries and sluggishness, I think the Bruins proved a point in beating the Flyers. Thomas is the sharpest he's ever been, lots of offense, decent defense, but a shitty powerplay. Tampa, as I said before, just believes and that's what they're riding on. They've got offensive firepower too, but not as much as depth as the B's. For the warrior that Rolosson is, I think Thomas will win this matchup.

Bruins in 5.

Some other thoughts...

  • Boogaard's death is crazy news. If this is due to concussions, this will definetely be the slap in the face that all contact sports will need to regulate hitting, or maybe just fighting. Already thinking Bob Probert.

  • Great news for the Isles, hope they finally get that new rink built. And they signed Grabner.

  • Crazy part about Grabner is that he was a Canuck last season. That organization is oozing talent. Hope Hodgson gets a real chance next season.

  • Disagree with Jagr to the Pens, despite the fact that it is more about getting the Penguins legend back into the organization rather than actually playing next season. But if the media's going to create it, then I don't think he mixes well in that lockerroom with that young group. But that's just me.

  • This relocation crap is hitting critical mass, but I would not be surprised to see Atlanta go out without a whimper. Imagine a hockey team being swept out of a city before the fanbase even had a chance to dispute it. But what Atlanta Spirit owner Bruce Levenson had to say in this interview was pretty depressing for Thrash fans.

Plenty more, but I'll save it for another time, enjoy the confy finals!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

2011 2nd Round Predictions

Yeah, I'm not cleaning that up. Sorry. But I will go ahead and brag about how I went six for eight in the first round, losing only the #4/#5 matchups in each conference. Even got number of games right in the Caps and B's series. Whoo! Big fuckin' deal. But if I look back to my predictions at the beginning of the season, looks like I had 6 of 8 right in the West for the postseason push, and 7 in the East. Got all three division leaders right in the West, but put Calgary and Colorado in, instead of Phoenix and Anaheim. Got two division leaders right in the East, swapping Pittsburgh for Philadelphia, and my one miss was plopping New Jersey in, instead of New York. Starting to look like I know what I'm talking about.

In any case, the 1st round was epic, only wish I got to see more of it. Four game seven's, and two on back-to-back nights, pretty sweet. Couple of things I noticed in that first round, where to start...

  • Duncan Keith is a mean son-of-a-bitch. I thought the guy was pretty even keeled, but that mf'er really wants to win. He's a competitor.

  • Speaking of competitors, Jon Toews is something else. That guy is determination.

  • The Caps disposed of the Rangers pretty easily, but not as easily as they could have. A tougher team will expose that. Meet the Tampa Bay Lightning, who I severely underestimated.

  • There is no way Ovechkin is 100%, which has been pretty obvious all season long. Here's the scenario, AO gets injured early in the season, he can play, but there's a potential for more damage if he does so. Caps brass have to weigh the options, shut him down for a healthy chunk of the season, losing their key personality for HBO and the Winter Classic, or let him gut it out. What would you do?

  • Playoff teams of nobodies... Buffalo Sabres, or should I say Ryan Miller and the Sabres, the New York Rangers, the Nashville Predators, the Phoenix Coyotes. Which of those teams is still in the dance?

  • Anaheim is another one of those teams, if you subtract their Big 3, since Hiller was already subtracted.

  • The Sharks/Kings series was great, and the wee beginnings of another inner-state rivalry was born within the fans of each.

  • The Phoenix/Detroit series was over before I had an opportunity to turn it on.
Enough of that, onto the picks...


#1 Vancouver vs. #5 Nashville

I can't tell whether its hate for the Canucks, or whether people have them labelled as the next Sharks. But I think Vancouver makes short work of the Predators, then again I said the Ducks would do that.

Canucks in 5.

#2 San Jose vs. #3 Detroit

This one is very hard to pick, and may be the best matchup of this round. On one hand you have a well-rested group of champions in the Wings who know how to win. Granted not as deep as in years past, but that lineup is solid, top to bottom. The Sharks are definetely deep, but its their delicate sensibility that makes us always question them. They always seem like they're ready to take that next step, until they get swatted out of the postseason. Its a guess...

Sharks in 7.


#1 Washington vs. #5 Tampa Bay

Here's my upset pick. I just don't think the Caps have it in them. They made some key acquisitions at the deadline, that were for sure, deep playoff pickups, but they just haven't shown that they've got what it takes to make a run. Tampa on the other hand, has two steady hands guiding the ship, Yzerman and Boucher, and they have this team believing with the pick up of Rolosson. I believe them too.

Lightning in 6.

#2 Philadelphia vs. #3 Boston

This series should be a lot closer, but it won't. Philly was slow on the draw, but now they've got the momentum, and they're going to run. Hard. Boston is out of gas, and looking miserable. The Habs were not the Cinderella they were a year ago for sure, they were just overmatched by the B's. But the Bruins are going to have to turn their game around to even have a shot at this series.

Flyers in 6.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 1st Round Playoff Picks

Hello all,
What a long strange trip its been, but more on that later. I'm here to get down my dirty picks before the puck drops tonight. I'll do my best to get in here and clean this up, but at least you know I didn't cheat by putting these down a game into the series.
Love to all.

#1 Vancouver vs. #8 Chicago

My how the tables have turned. Still there's no way of knowing what will happen in the playoffs.

Canucks in 6.

#2 San Jose vs. #7 Los Angeles

Interesting little NorCal vs. SoCal series. A lot of people had the Kings picked to do so damage. Who me?

Sharks in 5.

#3 Detroit vs. #6 Phoenix

It's like deja vu all over again. Go with heart or head?

Wings in 7.

#4 Anaheim vs. #5 Nashville

Nobody gives the Predators any credit and I can't either. Not when a team claws their way back into the playoff picture only to find themselves fourth in the West when it's all said and done.

Ducks in 5.


#1 Washington vs. #8 New York

Is this the year? Ranger fans are kidding themselves if they think they're playing spoiler this year. Then again, they usually are kidding themselves.

Caps in 5.

#2 Philadelphia vs. #7 Buffalo

Philly's on a rampage, and when they finish its going to be a bloodbath.

Flyers in 5.

#3 Boston vs. #6 Montreal

Too much masterbation on this one, but understandably so.

Bruins in 7.

#4 Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay

Not going to be as interesting as people think. Steel town rolls into Washington for a Winter Classic rematch. More masterbation ensues.

Pens in 5.

So there you go, no upsets, no sweeps, but a few sympathy wins for the unders. Chickenshit be thy name. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Still Thinking About It

Tampa Turnaround

  • For all the right moves Stevie Y made in his first GM attempt in Tampa, the goaltending band-aid was the most over looked. Mike Smith was already in the stable coming off a banged up year, Niittymaki had left for San Jose on free agency, so Yzerman picked up Dan Ellis the same way. Smith/Ellis tandem didn't exactly create fear in opposing forwards and similarly probably didn't give the Bolts confidence from the back either. As you would expect, the two goalie's play has been mediocre at best all year, despite the fact that Lightning have been playing some incredible hockey with Stamkos and St. Louis at the forefront. So the immortal Wing picks up Dwayne Roloson, shipping what was left of the disastrous Dan Boyle trade from his predecessors, to the Island. Rollie pulls a 1-0 shutout in his first start, against the Caps no less, and then gets thrown in net the next night by Boucher for an 8-1 stinker against the Pens. Now you can't judge a trade based on two games, but at the very least they've added a veteran competitor who hates to lose, and hopefully in the process pushes either Ellis or Smith to get their shit together. My guess is that they'll be playing for the backup role regardless.
  • As an aside, I think Friedman mentioned it, when Yzerman was asked why he didn't pursue Nabokov after the news that he had been released from his KHL contract, and instead pulled the trigger in Roloson, he stated that he didn't think Nabby would clear waivers.

Box Office Winter Ordinary
  • HBO's 24/7 was a huge success in that it exposed the non-hockey fan to the game in an in-depth fashion, and allowed the rapid hockey fan to eat up all the nuances and intricacies of life between the periods for the players, coaches, and GM's. The selection of teams for the Classic was a yawn for most of us, chalking it up to a contrived rivalry, but it was genius for documentary using the two posterboys of the League to ham up the drama. The location was the real bust. I don't think Heinz Field strikes anyone outside of Pittsburgh as a truly memorable location like Wrigley or Fenway. The real disappointment in the series lies in the fact that it was only four episodes long.
  • My next pick for the Winter Classic: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings in Central Park. Think about it, Bettman's always talking about how the TV ratings drive the markets, well here's the two biggest cities in the U.S. going to head to head with youthful teams showing a lot of promise. There's not a real rivalry there, but who are you going to match the Rangers up with? The sadness that is the Islanders? Or Devils for that matter? I know it'll never happen in terms of feasibility, but the League's going to have to keep coming up with new ideas, and you might as well start literally thinking outside the box (of existing sports stadiums) and go with a venue shakeup. Bangin Panger had some good ideas on the next Winter Classic.
  • Oh, and somebody else mentioned this and I wholeheartedly agree, don't show other games that day either. The only other game I was looking for was the Heritage Classic and that wasn't scheduled for another two months.

Cursing the Canucks
  • Ryan Kesler has taken a huge leap in terms of becoming a complete hockey player. Always known as a defensive centerman, his production has seen a dramatic increase at the other end of the ice. And its not like his benefitting from the telepathy of the Sedin's either, less than half of his goals have come on the powerplay where he's paired with the twins. With 41 points in 42 games, he's learned to shut his mouth and hit 'em where it hurts.
  • Vancouver is humming right now aren't they? Too early to peak? That whole roster is playing well right now. Torres is playing some of the best hockey I've ever seen him play, Malhotra is still lights out in the dot, Raymond is playing well, Bieksa has turned it into something positive. It would be scary if Samuelsson actually got the goal scoring going. Somebody needs to piss him off, maybe tell him to fuck himself.

  • I'll tell you I could not care less about the All-Star Game. I haven't even looked at the rosters, despite it being plastered everywhere in some sort of greasy combination with fans bitching about snubs, media whining about how players asked not to be included so they could rest, and the League boasting it as an important marketing event. While the idea of "Captains" picking the teams is novel, the game needs a complete overhaul to make entertaining (and remotely interesting). And who needs Captains for an All-Star Game anyway? Let the players pick the two Coaches (can't pick their own), and let the Coaches pick the two teams. I know the Coaches don't have the personality (unless we're talking Ron Wilson vs. John Tortorella), but I can't stomach another Crosby vs. Ovechkin makeout session.

Do You Smell Something?
  • How fucked is Ottawa? Completely dysfunctional. Murray wants to fire Clouston, and Melnyk tells Murray if he does that he's gone too. Frankly that's the best idea I've heard come out of that organization.
  • Wanna see parity? Check out the glut in spots 1 through 12 in the Western Conference.
  • Wanna see a distinct separation between playoff teams and non-playoff teams? Look at the Eastern Conference.
  • The lowest scoring team in the West (Edmonton) has the lowest scoring team in the East (New Jersey) beat by 25 goals. And a -55 in goal differential I might add.
  • This shit between Langenbrunner and Lemaire had to come to a head at some point after catching whiffs of it stemming from last year when Lemaire was at the helm before retiring. Again. I think it's pretty obvious that Kovalchuk's arrival rubbed Jaime the wrong way, and the $100million offseason and subsequent abysmal year following probably didn't help matters.
  • The Pacific Division has three teams in the top 8 spots, Dallas (Leader), Phoenix, and Anaheim. Los Angeles and San Jose are on the outside looking in right now, how many of you would have predicted that even at this point in the season?
  • And I don't mean to jump on the bandwagon with this, but this Guardian project is as bad as Chaka Khan at the Awards Show. Especially when they're all rip-offs.