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.