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Changing Tires, San Jose Trying To Keep The Wheels On

 

The Brooks Laich changing a tire story is great.  Our tendancy is to blow things out of proportion, so lets not do that here – it was just a really refreshing thing to hear.  As I’ve been saying, it makes me proud to be a hockey player.  Or maybe just a human.

Laich

I learned to change a tire in the summer of 2008, because I read somewhere it’s one of the basic things you need to be able to do to consider yourself a man.  That, tie a tie, and something else…. climb a frozen waterfall in bowling shoes or something.

The year I was taught (and by “taught”, I mean holy-crap-its-so-easy-Paula-Abdul-could-figure-it-out) I was staying at the Gillies and training before my AHL tryout with the Hershey Bears.  Mapquest told me it was about five hours from Long Island, and our check-in and first meeting was around 3:00PM.  I was on the road by 7:30AM to give myself lots of time.  Sadly, my GPS took me down Manhattan’s 34th Avenue, which slowed me considerably.  The second I got through the Holland Tunnel, I saw open road, and hit the gas.  Got ‘er right up to 70 before hitting a pothole deeper than a Jack Handy thought.  Immediately, my car started pulling hard to the right.  F**k.

I’m talkin’, car packed with literally everything I owned, and I had to unload the trunk to get at the spare.  Baseball glove, lamps, pillows, the works.

Anyway, because I knew what to do, I coasted into town on a bike tire just in time to check-in, and start the hellacious injury-riddled season that led to me being a writer.  Shoulda known that was “don’t go” sign.  At least I got a Hershey chocolate bar at check-in, I guess.

Wonder if the climate in SJ is better than his college days at Wisco

(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings 

This is a tough one to call, because of the mental gift the Sharks have been given; this time, hardly anyone expects them to win.

Even though they’re the one seed, they’re playing the perceived one seed.  And for Thronton, Boyle and crew, they’ve never had the luxury of even semi-underdog status before.  70% of people are picking Detroit to win, which is SO. NICE. if you’re on San Jose.  It free’s you up to just play.  Not sure why it’s different, but it is.

So then it’s obvious that I’m picking…..

DETROIT IN SEVEN

Wait, what?  Here’s how I made my pick:

Goaltending: It’s a pick ‘em, as far as I’m concerned.  Evgeni Nabakov is supposed to be better, and has lots of experience.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t exactly built a reputation as a clutch playoff performer during those experiences.  And we have no idea about Howard in playoffs yet.  We do know that in the same game he can be good, he can give up a shot off the draw to Vernon Fiddler that hasn’t gone in since pee wee hockey.  Sure, it’s a factor that could affect the series if one guy gets too hot or too cold, but I’m expecting them both to be right around par.

Defense: Slight edge to Detroit.  Studs like Lidstrom and Rafalski are getting a little older, but they can still get it done.  Niklas Kronwall is one of my new favourite players (I LOVE THIS COMMERCIAL), and Brad Stuart is above average.  San Jose has Dan Boyle, but after that all you have is the corpse of Rob Blake and Douglas Murray.

Oh right, thaaat's what scoring feels like.

Offense: Both teams have great forwards, just in different ways.  Datsyuk and Zetterberg are unlike any other two forwards in the NHL – talented, shifty, f***ing crazy smart, and defensively aware.  San Jose’s top dogs are good at… getting goals.  But, there is three of them.  Then there’s the bonus guy: Joe Pavelski.  He’s the wild card (who’s off to a great start in the series) that can put SJ over the top.  Can he keep being super-human?  Will Detroits gritty studs (Holmstrom and Franzen) prove to be too playoff-built to be stopped? WILL I STOP ASKING RHETORICAL QUESTIONS?  (I only “kinda like” this commercial in comparison, but still good)

Coach: Babcock.  BabcockBabcockBabcock.  I’d pick him vs. a super-coach that combined the know-how of Scotty Bowman, Phil Jackson and Bill Belichick.  Mclellan is apparently a good coach, but Mike B could coach the Jersey Shore cast into British accents.

So, when it came down Detroit’s experience and confidence vs. San Jose’s first crack at mental underdoggery, I gotta take the uber-beast, Zetsyuk.  Datsberg.  Whatever…. they are just way too special to pick against.

Other series predictions explained later, but I’ve picked Boston, Pittsburgh and Vancouver for my other three.  The Vancouver pick goes against everything I said about Chicago all year, but after watching a series where goaltending mattered so much (the Halak v Varladore trial), I’m taking Luongo over Niemi every time.

TGIF, kids.  Our weekend plans have been taken care of with the $26 we spent yesterday – a $13 inflatible pool float with a cup holder, and 18 Coors light for $13.  Weeee!

*****

One more thing – Just tinkering around this morning, and I discovered a lil conversation between Ovechkin and the evil genius from his home planet, who sent him to Earth to capture the elusive Stanley Cup.  It’s pretty intense.  Watch it here.

An Ovy-Centric Look At The Capitals Chernobyl

 

Finger pointing and blame. 

It rarely happens immediately or directly after monumental sports failures, instead, it slowly leaks into the tone of the dressing room dissidents as time distances them from the actual collapse.

The first player eliminated in round two to win the Conn Smythe, Jaro Halak.

To their credit, the Capitals endured the interviews following the loss and said the right things.  Really, what are you supposed to say?  You give credit to your opponent, express disbelief at your failure, and try to make some sense of what happened, just moments after it occurred.

“Mrs. Smith, You just found out your husbands leaving you for a younger woman, what went wrong in your marriage?”

But somebody’s to blame.  And we’ll find out who they chose to pin it on with their off season summer moves.  Which starts today.

Hey, maybe they’ll trade for Carey Price.

The Montreal Canadiens – they of the lowest point total in the playoffs (88, 33 less than the high-flying Caps), Kiebler elf forwards, and mid-season goalie controversies – deserve some freakin’ respect for what they just accomplished.  Congrats, fellas.

They played smothering team defense, blocked the shit out of a kabillion shots, and scored just enough goals to win (my favourite point about Marc-Andre Bergeron’s offensive role was a retweet by Bob McKenzie of a Mike Mckenna tweet: “MA Bergeron is like a field goal kicker. Waits on bench til needed (PP). Does his biz, back on bench.”  LOVE that tweet.)

Before I carry on with my look back at the series (and game seven), I’ll get it out of the way: I was wrong (last year I picked the Caps to win in “three” games too – AKA an easy sweep – and they won that one in seven. Yikes).  And further credit-giving: for an upset to happen, you need great goaltending – Halak was obviously the biggest reason this happened. 

Now, what to take from this Capitals loss….

Man down! Team down! City... down!

Washington is the first team I can ever remember watching that’s worse when they try harder. 

In regular season contests where they don’t care to put themselves out too much, they let the puck do the work.  They dish to whichever uber-talented linemate is the most open, and they seem to be entertaining themselves like a cat with string by playing keep-away from their opponent.

This was a totally different Capitals team.  When they needed offense, a huge red flag was the way they switched to “don’t worry, I got this” mode.  To not be able to identify and rectify this problem is a look at the lack of leadership coming from inside that dressing room, which is on both Boudreau and Ovechkin.  If your captain is the first guy opting out of the team’s tic-tac-toe-n-go style that got you this far when the going gets tough, you can’t expect your other young gunners to do anything different than the same thing. 

Ovy is their leader, there’s no doubt about it.  Like it or not.  So when he leads the wrong way – by switching to blinders-on one-man-mode – you’re on the path to a disaster FEMA couldn’t clean up (so, um, your standard disaster, then).

If any good came of this, it’s that the Crosby/Ovechkin debate is over, for at least the next year.  It’s early in Ovechkin’s career, and he can fix this the way Kobe Bryant realized there’s an easier way to win than taking it all on himself.  Ovy may have scored as many round one goals as Sidney (5), but Crosby made every person in a Penguin’s sweater better, tacking NINE assists on to that total. 

I’m a little nervous about how this is going to affect the Great Eight, one of the games most charismatic stars, and a guy who’s clearly getting increasingly agitated with reporters and fans.  There’s been hints of child-star-growing-up style acting out over this season.  God help us if he gets angry and decides to play more physical next year.

All I know is, the Canadiens have no captain, which in this series was better than having one lead them in the wrong direction.

Couple other non-Ovy based thoughts:

*Poor NBC and Versus today.  You know they’re totally blue-balled by the Washington/Pittsburgh series that could have been.  It seemed inevitable.  They were so close.  And then…. c***blocked by Montreal.

Boudreau: "Should I say something? I wanna say something. No, I better not say anything."

*Number 8-seeds beat number 1-seeds in the NHL so often I’m starting to wonder if this is a good thing for the NHL.  Don’t get me wrong - upsets are awesome.  But it halfway voids my interest in the regular season.  2-seed, 4-seed, 6-seed, whatever, just get in.  The best teams are still the best teams regardless where they finish, and this year they came into the playoffs as an Eastern Conference 4-seed, and a Western Conference 5-seed.

Can you imagine when the Sharks and Capitals are going at it for the Presidents Trophy next year (Sharks won’t be, but whatever) how little you’ll care?  I need a job here, so I’ll pretend it’s “an epic finish for the one seed” or whatever hyperbole I’ll write, but whatever.  JUST MAKE PLAYOFFS!

*I’ve mentioned before, the best coach I’ve ever had was Davis Payne, for his ability to make in-game adjustments.  I’ve lost a playoff series with a different coach because we “weren’t worried about them” and stuck to a “our game plan”, which was, incidentally, horrible.  Boudreau…. did you just maybe kinda possibly get (badly) out-coached?

*And last, the obligatory Semin comment:  He’s a 40-goal guy who played like a complete bag of marshmallows in playoffs.  How has that regular-season-stud-stuff panned out for San Jose?  The Capitals NEED a goalie, the way Philly has been good enough to contend for a Cup but has refused to acknowledge their goaltending deficiency for the past decade.  Bye-bye Semin, hello legitimate starting goalie.  Make that trade.  This team has more than enough offense to win.  You should be able to get a legit starter for less than what you pay Semin, so put that towards re-signing Backstrom.

*****

And just like that, on to round two, my friends of the blog.  Awesome stuff. 

I went 5-3 in round one predictions, which is a well-below-average performance.  I’ll try to get series previews up ASAP, and I’ll try not to embarrass myself this time!

CAPITALS/HABS LIVE CHAT WITH PUCK DADDY

 

I’ll post the link when I have it.  Calm down.  See you soon.  7PM EST, 4PM  BST (Bourne Standard Time).  I’ll probably be kickin’ it there til the end of the second period.  Then, ya know… a man need’s his sushi.

CHAT FEST ’98. ORRRR 2010. WHICHEVER.

Coyotes/Red Wings Analysis, Habs/Caps Preview

 

The Phoenix Coyotes are done.

They pushed the two-time defending conference champion Detroit Red Wings to the brink before petering out in game seven, effectively losing to the conference’s one seed dressed as a five.

Sadly, game seven looked like the last lap of a 1500 meter Olympic race, where the leader came out of the gate sprinting instead of pacing himself.  There was simply nothing left in the Coyotes tank.

Detroit took it to them for the majority of the game, starting from a Martin Hanzal penalty early in the first, and carrying on until Nicklas Lidstrom’s second goal, for which he immediately looked sincerely apologetic. 

Positives were few and far between for the home squad.  One, was that it might have been the best performance from a goalie who gave up six goals I’ve ever seen.  The Wings were just relentless, and as you expect from a proven team, just when they needed to get it done they got big performances from their stars.

GeeDubGee

Datsyuk looked unflappable.  Captain Nick Lidstrom sniped a pair.  Even some sasquatch named Bodd Tertuzzi or something scored.  When the core of a team who’s won the Cup once and the conference twice in the last two playoffs has the switch flipped to “on”, you expect it to look like that 6-1 win did.  (I found myself cursing the Coyotes for beating LA and Nashville down the stretch… wait for playoffs!  Dress your back-ups back-up!  LET GRETZKY COACH.)

The Coyotes were missing Shane Doan, arguably the biggest cog in their team-first machine.  With him in the lineup, who’s to say how momentum changes?  Doan played like a man possessed when he was in the lineup, which would undeniably affected Detroits older d-corp over a long series.  It could have been one more straw on the back of Detroits camel (what?).

Oh we're so totally gonna hug right now.

Between the pipes, there’s only one play I’m pinning on the Almighty Bryz – Brad Stuart’s goal, which was Detroits fourth, scored in the period’s dying seconds, HAS to be stopped.  I realize it’s a breakaway and a tough save, but great goalies come up big in big moments, and that fourth goal was a twist of the knife in Phoenix’s side.  And it was Brad Stuart half-falling, not Pavel Datsyuk opening up before pulling it cross-crease.  Phoenix needed a save there, and when they didn’t get it, I would’ve flipped to a different game had one been on.

At the other end, Jimmy Howard made 32 saves in a one (bad) goal against performance.  If you’re like me, you didn’t feel fully comfortable that he would play well in there (the same way Luongo makes me feel).  And though he did play well (great at times), he had the luxury of not facing any tough shots until his team was up about three goals.  Not taking anything away from the guy (who again, 1.00 G.A. in his first game seven, rookie year), but it’s a little easier to play when the team in front of you looks like they put in a pre-game cheat code.

So that’s where it ends for this year’s Cinderella story.  The carriage is a pumpkin again, but good will come of this, Coyotes fans.  You guys got your team “back”, a lot of attention, and plenty of hope for the future.  And Wojtek Wolski!

(I’m writing a more thorough analysis for a column I’ve pitched to the AZ Republic as a bookend to my pre-season column.  I’ll keep you posted on that)

*****

As we move closer to round two’s start, I’ve been thinking about a comment the blog received yesterday (totally random thought before I forget – blog hits have been killer for a non-team-specific site.  Almost 9,000 hits last week or something like that, so thanks so much for your support.  And that includes you crazy Maple Leaf fans sent this way via DownGoesBrown).  It’s a valid point on why predictions are interesting to read – basically, it’s fun to assess what’s fair to expect, not what will happen.  The comment is towards the bottom, by reader “Brett”.  Check it out here.

*****

Mini preview, Capitals Habs:

Here’s what’s “fair to expect” tonight.

Underdogs often succeed by outworking the superior club that’s trying to get by on talent alone.  And thus far, Washington has tried to get by on talent alone.

Now it’s like the Capitals are in the library working on a bonus credit project they need just to pass at the end of the semester, while their friends are out drinking because their semester is over.  Had the Caps just done the work in the first place, they wouldn’t be in this situation.  (*author may or may not be able to relate to this)

Halak's eyes are on Ovy.

Anyways, if work ethic is equal, which it should be in a game seven, the Capitals will smoke the Habs like salmon, the same way Detroit showed who they really were when the chips were down.

The Caps, for all the unnecessary abuse they take {and they do take abuse, it’s crazy.  I’m no Caps fan, but it’s like old school hockey people are annoyed that they have the gall to think they can win playing a tic-tac-toe style over a (*coughslightly-more-Canadian*cough) boom-bam-hit-and-jam playoff style}, the Capitals have won some playoff games with this team. 

Their style is money.  If they had half a goalie, they’d be unstoppable (I guess Theodore is small enough to qualify for half).  For all of you that want less concussions and more skill, cheer for teams like the Capitals that apparently have a team-imposed “everyone touch it before we shoot” rule.  Something about their style reminds me of ultimate frisbee.

Halak looked unbeatable in game six, but that had to be a tiring night.  Players always have trouble falling asleep after high-intensity games - more on that in the future, it’s awful.  So he gets a short sleep, hops on a plane, maybe touches the ice once in two days before tonights game, and tries to give a repeat performance.  But if (no no, when), the Caps generate another 40-50 shots (money on the higher number there), I can’t see him doing it again unless he’s in crazy good shape.  Hey, maybe Price’s start will end up helping him in this series after all. 

Montreal has one thing Phoenix didn’t – a couple guys who can make game-breaking plays.  Cammalleri (and even Gomez if he blacks out) can do it.

Montreal’s best hope is to challenge Washington’s shaky goaltending and offense-first defenseman in the first period (after weathering the initial storm), and see if they can’t get one more out of a jello-legged Halak.  Cause you never know.  You never know.

But sometimes, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

5-2 Capitals.

PUCK DADDY LIVE CHAT: GAME 7. RED WINGS. COYOTES.

 

PARTICIPATE AT PUCK DADDY’S WEBSITE, SINCE I’M LIVE-BLOG-EMBEDDING-DEFICIENT

Also, please don’t comment embedding advice unless you’re really up on this stuff.  I know how to do it.  I embed stuff with regularity.  But these crazy Cover-It-Live things disappear after I put them in HTML format and go back to visual.  I’m mailing it in.

But YAY!  LIVE BLOG HOCKEY WEE FUN CHAT TIME SPORTS!

Halak Forces Game Seven, and Hey, The Bruins Un-Sucked

 

The Washington Capitals chucked 54 shots on Jaroslav Halak, and scored once.  Which can be frustrating.

As a forward, playing a goalie who’s kinda on fire is a funny situation to be in.  And not so much “haha” funny as much as “this milk smells funny”.  What are you supposed to do?

A common problem is that as a team, you’re usually too busy patting yourself on the back for generating so many shots to realize it’s time to switch game plans (but you hope your coach isn’t).  I mean, something has to go in eventually, right?  You think you’re really taking it to your opponent.  You think you’ll break him sooner or later if you just keep it up.  Throw it on net, throw it on net, throw it on net.  But there’s something different in the mindset between trying to score and just trying to get shots, which is all dumb coaches think they want you to do (see also: “shooooooot”-yelling fans). 

In these situations, the scorer’s mindset needs to be all about “getting to the foul line”.  As in, the type of shots you need to take on a piping hot Halak aren’t three pointers or give and go’s.  Remember, if you’re Washington, giving up three pointers is YOUR goalies specialty.  You have to recognize he’s on fire and get dirty.  You need to be on the glass, getting rebounds, banging by the hoop, and putting yourself in situations where even if you don’t score, somebody has to hack you to stop you.

If the tendy can battle through that for the rest of the game and hold on, hey, sometimes you just lose to a guy who’s on top of his game.  Also, in this situation, you may want to approach your teammate Alex Semin and see if he can take a few minutes out of his day to take his head out of his own ass.  Just, y’know, as a personal favour to you.


Clearly, I underrated Montreal (overrated Washington?) when I predicted this series would be over in three.  Halak and Cammalleri are two of the playoffs top performers so far (I’ve been suuuper impressed with Cammalleri’s shot – can’t say I watched a lot of Habs games this year), but I’m still not in the “Montreal is good” camp, or the “Montreal has a chance in game seven” boat.  But hey, they’re doing their thing, so “big ups” to them.

Last thing on this series: what a great diving call on Laperriere last game.  As a perennial Lady Byng style player (yeah yeah, nothing to be proud of), that sort of thing drives me bonkers, because I can’t imagine trying to do that.  I can’t even crawl inside the guy’s head to see what that skeezy thought process must be like.  It’s just another reason to love golfers who call penalties on themselves, isn’t it?  What a rat.

*****

Okay, so I ate shit on predictions yesterday.  One for three.  Buuut, you can’t stop me from making more.  I’m like a weatherman.

*****

I was gonna bash it, but I think I like it – I’m gonna start using the phrase “after the jump” like every current writer.  More on that after the jump.

*****

Just kidding, I’m not talking about it more.

So! 

The Bruins beat the Sabres.  Here’s why the Bruins might actually not be that bad:

Boston was a top seed last year. 

And the B's go on...

Okay, they lost Phil Kessel and, um, Chuck Kobasew, but their young studs like Krejci, Bergeron, Lucic and Wheeler all have an extra year of NHL experience. Your offense isn’t that different.

Contrary to what Detroit fans would have you believe, it was Boston who “led” the NHL in man games lost to injury this year.  We didn’t see a whole lot of healthy Marc Savard this year, and the guy happens to be one of the leagues premier goal scorers.

Their goaltending actually got better.  Tuuuuukkkka Rask played over half the games in Boston this year, and led the league in GAA and save percentage (1.97 and .931%).

Maybe they’re not a top seed, but they way they played down the stretch made you forget that maybe they can be good.  It’s crazy that they made round two after how they looked at times this year.  I desperately need Montreal to get eliminated, so teams don’t think it’s possible to be THAT BAD in the last few weeks of the year and still make the second round.  Wait, Philly already did that too?  Damn.

*****

Detroit and Phoenix play game seven tonight in Glendale.  Can’t wait!

An NHL Weekend Catch-Up

 

Okay, I’m back from a nice weekend here in Phoenix, did I miss anything?

….oh boy.  Really?  Wow.  Let’s get crackin’ then.

*****

The Vancouver Canucks eliminate the LA Kings

Despite the NHL’s apparent referee rigging, goal judge hustling and sun belt favourtism, the slightly better team won by a thin margin in a predictable number of games.  Crazy times.  I assume Bettman (and cronies) are in his head-shaped Dr. Evil-like lair, doing the whole “drat, foiled again” thing, and firing up the Mr. Burns “excellent” fingers to cook up their next evil scheme.

But in the meantime - great series.  Great series, because the two teams were pretty evenly matched, and neither sustained any serious injuries, so we got to see their full lineups do full battle – a treat we’re rarely afforded in the later rounds. 

On to play the ghost of '09 playoffs past... and Kane's backhand.

In the end, the Canucks edged out the Kings in two crucial areas – one, for all the abuse he takes, Roberto Lunogo is a pretty damn good goaltender, and he outplayed Quick down the stretch.  Bobby Lu is one of those players that struggles under the weight of his own contract.  As soon as you sign for that much cash, fans expect you to not only earn it, but to be one of the elite few in the league.  And rightfully so.  I mean, otherwise, why did we pay this guy that much money again?

So when he ends up being simply “good” or “above average”, it’s easy to feel disappointed.  When really, there’s probably 25 teams in the leauge who’d love to have that greasy-haired goalie starting between the pipes for them (and I’d bet that includes New Jersey, with their Vezina candidate and all-time-great in net).

Hmm. Well that was fully crazy.

Also, the Canucks top line of Sedin, Sedin and Sameulsson are 2nd, 3rd and (t)6 in playoff scoring, while the only Kings on the front page of the 30 person leaderboard are the two defenseman, Doughty and Johnson (an impressive seven points each).  Sooo, Kopitar, Smyth, Brown, Frolov – while mostly young guys, save for Smyth - didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

I feel bad for the Canucks that they have to play the Blackhawks in round two.  That fan base is getting real tired of Flyer-esque post season runs (always good, never great), and the Hawks are probably the tougest opponent from the West.  So ‘nuck fans… get cheerin’ for Nashville tonight! (Or at least injuries.)

The Wings win game five in Phoenix, the Coyotes win game six in Detroit

For the fans that have stuck with this squad through (recently) thick and previously-really-thin times, you’re in for a real treat.  A game seven in the NHL playofs.

Howard may be vulnerable yet....

Against one of the most exciting teams in the game, no less.  It means another game of revenue for the NHL, another game of fun for all of us, and the chance to move on, and quite frankly – wouldn’t half the pundits pick Phoenix to beat San Jose? 

Even though, yes, it “should be fun”, as I almost flippantly left this, a win means a favourable matchup against the Sharks, and then what?  Maybe a conference finals berth?  One game at a time and all that stuff, but I’m a writer now, and allowed to look beyond.  Wouldn’t Phoenix love to play a lackluster playoff team with a healthy Doan running bucknasty all over the rink and scaring wittle Joey T?  Go get ‘em tomorrow ‘Yotes, and as always…

Throw.

The.

Snake.

Marian Hossa half-shove-touch-pushes Dan Hamuis’ back, who’s racing for the puck near the boards

You guys are sick of/over this hit by now, so I’ll be quick with my two cents:  one of the first major incidents this year that I thought was called perfectly.

Identical to Phil's first-Masters-win jump

What boggles my mind, is giving up a shorthanded goal with 18 seconds left in a 4-3 playoff game.  Chicago shouldn’t have even had to score in overtime.  The NHL should’ve stepped in, taken the puck and been like “sorry, Nashville, if you can’t hack it that situation, we’re just gonna give tonight’s contest to Chicago.  *bum pat* Now go rest up for game six.”

After that goal, I tweeted “Dying to know how long Keith was on the ice before Kane’s game tying shorty. He can barely muster Steven-Wright-level excitement.”

Thanks to friend of the blog JD, I got this back:  “According to nhl.com shift chart, Keith played 4:23 of the final 6:16 of regulation. Thats a decent weekend for Colton Orr.”   (Ha.)

4:23 of playoff-paced hockey in the final 6:16?  Caaaa-rap those are some serious minutes. 

Anyways, long story short, Nashville lost the series the second Kane scored.  The major penalty call was fair.  Now someone get Keith an oxygen tank to strap on for game six.

Sharks win, Penguins win

I just got frustrated looking through the individual stats part of the nhl.com, hitting “next page” trying to find the top players on San Jose.  I realize I could’ve just gone to their team stats, but I figured, “I already have this open, and their top guys can’t be TOO many pages deep….”

Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau combined for 18 games played, and one goal.  They also own ten total points – two of which came on the fifth goal in a 5-0 win.  WTF?

As a comparison, Joe Pavelski (a singluar human) has eight points, five of which are goals, two are game winners and one was a crucial game tying goal.  Douglas Murray is ahead of all three of those big guns (bums?) on the playoff stat list.  I’m done defending Thornton. 

*****

Ottawa, like Phoenix, got a tough playoff draw against a team much better than their final standing.  I’m just surprised they took it to six.  And weren’t they up 3-0 in the final game at one point?

Scary, scary good.

I watched zero minutes of game six.  Whaddya want from me, an analysis? 

*****

That’s all for today – enjoy the intense games tonight.  Spoiler alert: Washington, Chicago and Buffalo are going to win.

{Random – I follow Joel Stein on Twitter, who writes for TIME (and does it really, really well).  His first sports tweet I can recall was this morning: “If you’re not rooting for the Phoenix Coyotes, then you’re not a fan of incompetently managed businesses. #NHL“   Ouch.}

Devils Jenga Blocks Fall, The Sharks Flex Some Muscle

 

Happy Friday folks.  And believe me, it is a happy one over here!  My SOB of a brother is staying with Bri and I until Tuesday (wait… sorry mom). 

Jeff, at my neighborhood pub, Nates Third Base

You may remember Jeff from earlier blogs.  Like his coverage of the paralympics, or that time he stopped breathing a few months ago and almost died, or where I explained that sledge hockey is a well-organized car accident.  Or, you Isles fans may remember him from my Dad’s Islanders-Hall-of-Fame induction, where the team donated Jeff the money for a new, multi-thousand dollar sled for sledge hockey, which he promptly used to t-bone my uber-ghetto sled and nearly made me need my own wheelchair.  (Who needs gifts when you get to shake Alexi. Freakin’. Yashin’s hand.  *gasps, fans himself, faints.)

Either way, we’re extremely pumped to have him – wasn’t sure he was gonna make it there for a bit, now the guy’s got a new shunt and he’s brand spankin’ new.  Crazy.  I mean, overnight, the guy got a new lease on life.  Miraculous.

Anyways, we’ll be sitting at McFadden’s outside Jobing.com Arena tonight before/during the Coyotes/Red Wings game (sold out of accessible seats, boo), so feel free to come say hello if you see us.

HOCKEY!

 

As the New Jersey Devils remembered last night, the moment your season ends is surreal.

You’re sitting in your stalls, largely in silence.  Okay, complete silence, except for that one guy who has to be different, and is taking the tape off his socks.  Nobody wants to be the first guy to take his jersey off.  After an extended period of time, coach makes some statement to the team, usually the nicest stuff he’s said all year (unless you’re a two-seed that loses in five games).

And the finger pointing starts.... now.

Then, the walk-around hug-handshake starts. Honestly, I was lucky enough to never miss playoffs, so most years we really had something to be proud of. The good guys – always the good guys first – will get up and kinda go around the room to each stall for a slap-hands-pull-in-hug and kind word. It sounds messed up, but you go to battle all year with those guys, you know? And just like that, it ends.

A season is like Jenga. Your summer workouts are the bottom building blocks. In pre-season, you take some more steps and add a few blocks. The team gets finalized. Blocks. You learn the systems. Blocks. You form relationships. Blocks. And then the Philadelphia f**king Flyers run in and kick the whole thing over.

You feel like you just wasted so much time building that stupid Jenga tower.
*****

The San Jose Sharks done went and flexed some muscle like I asked them too, huh? As I tweeted yesterday, my buddy text me before game five “Joe Thornton is minus three so far – I didn’t realize the Avs even had three even strength goals.” 

That game was what I needed to see to feel like the Sharks have any hope moving forward.  The night where they pull it together, demonstrate why they’re a #1 seed, and give people a reason to take them seriously.

I mean, anytime Logan Couture and Dwight Helminen can take the game over (and your big line gets the chance to score meaningless goals again), you have to be impressed….. don’t you?  No?  Hmm.

Well, either way, they are still a one seed, which means if (sorry, when) they get by the Avs, they would draw the lowest seeded team left.  Whoooo you probably wouldn’t pick them to beat anyways.  Ah well.  At least it won’t be a total post-season write off this year.  It’ll be like a serious car accident where nobody dies – it was horrible, but at least there’s some upside.  No one died.

*****

The only team I’ve probably been harder on this year than the Coyotes has been the Senators.  I’ve yet to give the Sens an ounce of respect.  As far as I’m concerned, they have a couple good forwards, solid defense, and mediocre goaltending.  Not exactly the formula for a fear-inducing playoff team.  Plus, fifth in the Eastern Conference rarely equals “Cup contender”.

But still, good for them for not rolling over in Pittsburgh last night.  They came to play and managed to squeak it out.  But, unfortunately, just as Sens fans (MikeB) would expect, I’m chalking that one as a loss to Pittsburgh, not a win for the Sens.  I don’t care who you’re playing, if you win the Cup the year before, and have the chance to close out your round one opponent at home in game five and blow it…. yikes.  I got a dollar that says a Penguins player gets hurt tonight and misses game one of round two.  Karma for not closing.

*****

Time to walk to get bagels and coffee with Jeff.  Tough life, this blogging (as I overdraft and end up paying $38 for my bagel and coffee.  Maybe it is a tough life.)

As a tribute to my bro, here’s the type of stuff he loves.  He couldn’t wait to have me watch this.  Jeff loves “…my brain hurts…”

 

How “Too Many Men On The Ice” Happens

 

Follow jtbourne on Twitter.

G’mornin’ friends!

Some wonderful hockey last night, wasn’t there?  The Canucks and Bruins games were great…. And let’s call a spade a spade: Miro Satan went from being a borderline waste of a paycheck to worth every penny in one play. 

We did good, weeee!

But anyways.  As you may have noticed, these great playoff games have been plagued by the same thing every hockey head will be talking about this morning: Too many men on the ice penalties.

So, for those of you pulling your hair out this morning going “how. the f**k. does that happen?”, I figured I’d help.

How “too many men” happens:

Where to start, where to start….

This penalty, though almost always publicly blamed on the coach (by themselves, by the commentaters) is nearly never the coaches fault.  It’s also almost never the defensemen’s fault (actually, I can’t ever remember a time when it was).

Yep, it’s us forwards.

Coaches call the next line by the center’s last name.  So for the Canucks, Sedin-Sedin-Burrows goes by “Sedin, you’re up”, and the two wingers just know that includes them, unless otherwise specified.  But specifications come often.

“Sedin, you’re up, Kesler, play left side”

Automatically, Burrows is supposed to know that means he’s not going, since he’s the usual left winger.

But sometimes, you just shut off after you hear your center’s name called, or there’s some crowd noise after the name, whatever.  So if it doesn’t register with Burrows that he’s not going, two left wingers end up jumping the boards.  In loud buildings and tight games, some coaches get super involved to make sure the guys know who’s going next, maybe by physically grabbing the usual winger and making sure he knows he’s not going.  Some coaches switch to shoulder taps and individual “you’re going’s” when the building gets crazy.

I know that Satan move well - it's called "indecision, with a side of talent", and it looks like patience.

Sometimes players are just brain-dead and think coach called their line when he didn’t, and they jump.  (This happens often when your center’s last names are, say, Morelli, Pelley and Nelly, like my BCHL team from many years back.)

Then, when coach calls your line, it’s the player’s responsibility to clarify who you’re changing for.  Like, physically, out loud, clarify it with your line mates, even if you’ve been changing for the same guys all season, every shift, because coaches are always tinkering with lines and forward positions.

Burrows is a good example – he can play left or right side, so if Vigneault double-shifts him once, he may have him play left with the Sedins, but right-side when he’s out there with Kesler’s line.

So the next guy, who thinks Burrows is a left winger says “I got Burrows” and his right winger will end up having to say ”nono no, he’s playin’ right side dude.”

If that conversation never happens, Burrows comes to the bench, both wingers jump out thinking he’s their change, and voila, too many men.

There are times, of course, when it is the coaches fault.  There’s a certain level of responsibility that lies with him to clearly communicate his next unit.  {I’ve only played on one team where the head coach didn’t run the forward lines, and for those who do run them, think about how time consuming that is.  Armchair coaches love to say “I can’t believe coach made (blank) decision”, but half the game he’s looking down at namebars on the bench or his scratch sheet in his hand to figure out which personnel he wants out there.}

Love this pic!

He has to make it clear who’s up, or he’s to blame (still, he’ll rarely admit it was his fault once the dressing room door closes.  Players have to listen closely).  But often, he’ll assign a line to go next, and only two guys will be able to change, while the third gets stuck out there (don’t change going into the d-zone, etc.).  So the coach, seeing two of the guys out there from the line he assigned, will sometimes think the change is complete, and call out the next line.

Let’s say the right winger is still waiting to get out there with his line, and the right winger on the ice changes.  It’s the coaches responsibility to notice this, and tell the right winger who still hasn’t got out with his two liney’s to ”sit this shift out, let’s start getting the next line out as a unit”.  Often, if the coach doesn’t make that fix, both right wingers who’ve been called will jump, and again, voila.  Too many men. (This usually gets caught if your team communicates well – if either right winger calls out his change, the other will usually hear that, and turn to the coach for a decision: finish this change, or start the next unit?)

There’s a million ways it can happen, but I think in general, I’ve covered the most common.  Hope I helped get your head around it.

Still, you’d love to know who caused the meltdown in the Sabres case, leading to the Bruins double OT winner.  Good rule of thumb – if you notice that the coach has sent a good player to the box (maybe one who’d normally kill penalties) after a too many men call – where he can pick who sits from the guys on the ice - it was probably that guy’s fault.  It’s priceless how often the scatterbrain who jumped the boards when he wasn’t supposed to gets chosen (in yell form) to go sit the two minutes.

Anyways, I’ll probably do some further playoff discussions in another post.  The “Too Many Men-ifesto” went on waaaayyy too long.

Happy Thursday!

(UPDATE: Upon further review, I can’t help but notice that even though I explain how it happens, I fail to mention that it shouldn’t.  A little communication goes a long way.

Also – Darren Dreger brings up a good point in his mini-blog today.  In the playoffs, matchups could be a reason why it’s happening so often.  When you’re matching the other teams top guy, the second he hits the ice, you’re supposed to change immediately to get out there against him, so you’ll often take the next forward – assuming you’re a forward – even if it’s not your exact position.  This leads to pure madness on the bench, and why some coaches shy away from trying to match lines)

Shark Psychology, Shane Doan’s Injury, and the Shake Weight

 

 (My lastest piece for The Hockey News is here, on fans implying the league is against their team.  Though I admit, there could be refs like Tim Donaghy trying to influence things for their own gain, THERE IS NO grandiose puppet-master pulling pro-Penguin strings.  Exhale.  Exhale.)  Follow me on Twitter here.

 

Today’s blog has the potential to be a bit weird.  Or at least angry.  I’m one of those people that allergy season treats about as well as Clark Gillies treated Ed Hospodar’s face (two-word hint: reconstructive surgery).

I spend about a month every year feeling like when you have a cold, and whichever side you lay on, your bottom nostril is plugged – only last night, I was priveleged to have both sides shut down.  So I sat on the couch at 3:45, started eating watermelon and started writing this, strictly because that seemed like a better option than the only other thing I could think of, sticking my head a blender and hitting “liquify”.

Before I launch into hockey playoffs – have you seen the actual commercial for the “shake weight”?  The first few times I saw the ads, I mumbled “wtf”, and chuckled like every other male on the planet.  For those of you who don’t care to follow that link, just know that the product SNL parodied is actually real.  Here’s the good stuff:

Ahhh, priceless.  SNL was gold last week.  If you’re a fan and missed it, you gotta check out Andy Samberg in the Hip Hop Kids skit.   “What’re the odds?!”    “…That a bear would be in a bear cave?  Like 100%!”

*****

Okay, on to hockey:

Daniel Carcillo reacts to scoring goals like Keanu Reeves reacts to going on totally excellent adventures.

*****

 The Sharks knotted their series up at two, after Joe “I’m getting a bit of a reputation for doing this” Pavelski buried one top corner on Craig “really, Brodeur’s year was better than mine?” Anderson.  And for the Sharks, thank god he did.

But if I’m in that San Jose room, I’m still a little rattled at going to overtime again.

Not seeing this nearly enough.

For an underdog to pull out a playoff upset, they need to get some bounces, and they need to get some calls.  Unlike the top dog, they know that every game is going to take maximum effort for them to have any hope of winning.

Even with that formula, in a best-of-seven series the underdog can’t get the breaks every night.  Usually along the way, like in the case of Washington/Montreal, the better team will just have one of those nights where they play to their potential, and win 5-1.  Or like how the Pens looked like defending Cup champs just a few nights after losing game one.  And I suspect one of these nights we’ll see the same thing in the Nashville/Chicago series, where they’ll play the type of game where the better roster gets some luck, brings their work ethic, and wins in convincing fashion.  Not saying Chicago will win the series (wait, yes I am), but they’ll have a night where they flex their muscles.

For San Jose, holy shit fellas, strike a pose. 

There hasn’t been a single game out of the four where a Heatley/Marleau/Thornton/Pavelski/Boyle-laden team can put together a convincing win?  I don’t care how good their goalie is, pick some corners, move the puck, what the f**k!

If you want any of us to believe in your squad (and you want to believe in yourselves), we gotta see some something bodybuilder-like, and soon.  Oil yourself up, get a fake tan, and flex those offensive muscles tomorrow.

*****

When Valterri Filpula banked the puck off the back of Bryzgalov, it landed on the goal line in the only conceivable way for it to not continue moving across the line, and I immediately thought the Coyotes were just destined to win.  Turns out, Jimmy Howard and Henrik Zetterberg had something to say about that.

(Phoenix takes the best overhead pics.  Love this one from game three.)

Two seconds PDF (Pre-Doan Face).

 .

 (DoanFace photoshop gallery)

As a hockey fan, it’s frustrating having Doan miss time in this series.  One, because no one in the entire NHL deserves playoff hockey more than him (and I mean that – he’s like Steve Nash.  98% of the league would have bailed on this organization for a better title shot by now), but also because I want what everyone else wants – a clear winner.  A way to say “this is the better team” definitively.  But Shane Doan is such a crucial piece of the Coyotes puzzle, the Red Wings getting wins with him not in the lineup feels like we all go cheated. (Rumour is he’ll play in game five, so yay to that!)

Kudos to the Red Wings though, they took care of business on home ice with the other team’s captain out, just like they’re supposed to.  And all the while, Zetterberg keeps performing like a first ballot Hall-of-Famer.

*****

So, this was brought to my attention yesterday: The Ref Cam.  It’s in a USHL game, Chicago vs. Green Bay.  We need more of this.

Can you imagine how much refs would resist a product that proves the offside they just whistled down was actually the wrong call, but the guy just made a panic decision?  Horrible feeling.  Thanks for the video, Jeff:

 

(What a toolbox reaction from the goalie)

*****

Before I shut’er down for the day, I need to say a major thank you to reader Steve Croteau.  Steve noticed that a couple times I’ve bitched about not actually having a computer, which means I wreck my fiancee’s all day, with a combination of food, grease and questionable downloads.

So, since his family was moving on to a new one, he sent me their old Dell, which works wonderfully (and only weighs slightly more than Todd Bertuzzi).  Now Bri and I can be on Facebook/Twitter at the same time and never talk, awesome.  Ooo, and I can live blog more now, cause she’ll have stuff to do.  So goooo Steve!  Thanks again, man.

*****

If you didn’t get enough randomness (or shake weightery) today, here’s an entertaining display from a couple of college baseball teams during a rain delay.  It’s worth a couple chuckles.

Monday Playoff Round-Up, Plus Videos!

 

As per usual, if you’d like to read my writing in coherent, organized form, here’s my latest piece for USA Today.  It’s on “those moments” that unify a team throughout the year, and how a team needs them to be dangerous in playoffs.  Cool?  Alright then.  Lets move on.

*****

BUFFALO / BOSTON

Johnny Boychuck hit that Matt Ellis guy, and I immediately thought “there’s not way that guy is a regular NHL player”.

 

 

(No one on the Sabres could even fake anger on that one.)

Have you ever seen someone skate for so long with the puck before getting hit by someone right in front of him?  At the NHL level?  He’s not even looking back for a pass, or trying to make a move, he’s literally looking down at the puck like a rec leaguer, to make sure he has it while he gets on his horse.

So, I pulled up his career stats to learn about the guy - I’m a little befuddled, and looking for some answers.  This year he had 3 and 10 for 13, so he doesn’t score.  He played in 72 of 82 games, but only had 12 PIMS, so he doesn’t fight much.  I assume he grinds it out, but usually grinders take a few PIMS, have a few scraps, somethin’. 

Sabres fans…. defend your boy!  That play was bizarre.

And then to top it off, Mark Recchi hits Tim Kennedy, and Kennedy looks like he was upset that Recchi was trying so hard.  There wasn’t even any effort to get up and back into the play by Kennedy.  Totally disheartening if you’re on the bench, and you watch your teammate get that pwned.  And of course, kudos to the old guard – he made a smart play with the puck the second he got it too, and two was all the Bruins would need! 

Fun series.  Weee!

*****

VANCOUVER / LA

This series is making me bummed that they’re playing each other, cause I want them both to advance.  Very fun to watch.

It’s already becoming clear that there won’t be a person in the media who doesn’t pick Doughty to win the Norris next year (if they didn’t already vote for him this one).

Kid is slick.

{Quick Tangent – I couldn’t help but think last night – okay, as of tonight, current playoff teams are going with Andrew Raycroft, Carey Price, Semyon Varlamov and Brian Boucher in net.  Oh, and Antti Niemi.  And Jon Quick.  And Jimmy Howard.  And honestly, I’m not sure who Ottawa’s goalie is.  Elliot?

Having a “great” goalie has gone from being a necessity to a perk (not that guys like Jonathan Quick aren’t great, they’re just not “established” yet).  Having a Ryan Miller is a plus, not a need – in the clutch ‘n’ grab NHL days, you had to have Brodeur, Roy or Hasek to win your 1-0, 2-1 games.  I almost put Ed Belfour in that category, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.}

But back to Vancouver / LA.  It’s such a coin flip series, and LA brought the absolute FIRE on the penalty kill last night.  Vancouver looked like they expected LA to let them cruise in, set up and have some fun, y’know, like they’re supposed to.  They got straight up outworked.

As for the Kings powerplay/Canucks penalty-kill, I’m giving blame to the ‘Nucks over praise to the Kings.  LA, to their credit, is doing the right things.  But they’re not reinventing the wheel.  They’re doing what every coach wants: move the puck quickly, get shots through, have traffic in front, and hunt for rebounds.  Vancouver has to do a much better job staying in lanes if they want Canada’s collective mental breakdown to be postponed to at least round two.

*****

WASHINGTON / MONTREAL

It was only a matter of time until the team that ended the season with the most points (by a runaway) pulled a complete game together and pumped Montreal.

Classic picture

It’s just too bad it had to happen when Varlamov was in net.  Not because I don’t wish the guy success, but because now Washington is the exact same team as last year:  Good enough to beat the bottom 26 or so teams in the league just by having that much better of a team, but when they have to play one of the three that can press ‘em, uh oh, goaltending issues!

Then again, I can’t help but feel it’s only a matter of time until a somewhat-bad goalie wins a cup, and it very well could be this year. (As I’m writing this, I see Gary Greene is praising Semyon for being “absolutely brilliant”.  Herrrre we go.  Someone give Osgood the tap too!)  I just thought that when Caps fans were praising Theo’s 18-0-2 end-of-the-year finish, he must have refound his Vezina form.  Hmm.  If you can’t trust fan analysis…. who can you trust?

*****

For those of you you who didn’t get around to following Link Fest ’98 I hosted on Twitter yesterday, here’s the highlights.  Enjoy.  Oh, let’s kick it off with a beauty….

 Mreow.  I want my cat to do this.

Brian Burke’s press conference announcing the Phaneuf/Giguere trades:

Dany Heatley giving a tour of his home in my lovely hometown of Kelowna:

A quick Spezza interview:

You could waste your whole day checking out Ottawa Gh0st’s work on YouTube (it’s a zero, not an “o” in Ghost – thanks for that annoying twist, buddy).  It’s masterful.

Why Crosby Is Better Than You, Reason #8087 – Eagle Turns

 

I was watching the Pens/Sens game when this goal happened, and at the time, I was blown away by it.  Y’know, the goal where Crosby rags the puck down low, then works it up to Letang for a pretty lucky seeing-eye slapper.

Spezza’s job is to keep Crosby to the outside, to drive him up the wall if possible, and the goal-of-all-goals, to not let Crosby get inside position to the net.

I watched it again today when reading Stu Hackel’s SlapShot Blog  for the NY Times, and something else caught my eye.

An eagle turn.

An effective eagle turn, in actual game play, that actually worked.

Full disclosure: I can’t do one of these, so I’m boggled by them.  I always hated them.  My hips simply don’t allow my feet to go in opposite directions from one another.  Sid’s do.

An eagle turn (or whatever your part of the world calls it) is simply a move made by pointing your toes in opposite directions, so the skate blades are on the same plane, and turning.  It’s how he separates himself from Spezza so well on his first cut-back.  The rest of us cut-back like he chooses to do on the next two times.

To my knowledge, he’s the only guy who uses this in game play, and he does it pretty much every night.  Let me know if you see anyone else using this move.  It’s incredible that he does it with such great strength and balance.

Boyle “Scores”, Ovy’s Awake, and Red Wings/Coyotes Talk

 

Hockey!

Don’t you hate that I don’t often blog on the weekends?  So much happened.  Let discuss….

Dan Boyle shoots the puck into the net in overtime, only… it was his own.

"Let me just rim this around the...ohhhhcrapitsinournet, isn't it?"

Dan Boyle shot the puck into the net in overtime, only, it was his own.  Not sure if you heard about that.

This is one of those f**k-ups that’s so exceptionally f**ked-up that it doesn’t even affect you as a player, if that makes any sense.  If you’re playing a game, and your best isn’t as good as your opponents best, it can get to you.  You start to doubt yourself, you start trying other things, and you get worse.  But this play was so ridiculous I wouldn’t even be that rattled. 

For the record, I don’t think O’Reilly tipped it.  It’s just one of those plays where you go, crap, no way that just happened.  I’m gonna go change, go home, and prepare for the next game.

What it does mean, for a Sharks team who needs extra hurdles like Ben Roethlisberger needs another accuser, is that they’re down 2-1 to a team they’re better than.  It also means they gave life and hope to a young squad who needed exactly that.  San Jose played great last night – absolutely dominated and looked they were on the powerplay most of the night.  Only Craig Anderson was so phenomenal they should have credited him with the game winner.

Even if San Jose does win this series, it’s going to be longer and more stressful than they’d hoped.  Which is too bad, cause it’d be fun to see them advance (in full health) to a round where they got to play another top seeded team.  Maybe they just need to get away from pesky underdogs to show their true colours. (teal!)

Every series was knotted up at 1-1.

Which is pretty cool, if you’re into watching exciting hockey.  As I mentioned before, any desperate, defensive NHL squad could beat the best teams one time out of seven (even Edmonton!).  I was appalled by the amount of people that were jumping on underdog bandwagons, like we were gonna see the eight lower seeds advance.

Love Chicago, but find this series the least interesting to date.

The Sens aren’t gonna beat the Penguins.  The Habs aren’t gonna beat the Capitals.  And the Islanders aren’t playing hockey in late April.  Some things you just know to be true.

The most realistic upset scenario is Philadelphia giving the boots to New Jersey, provided Boucher avoids getting the yips for the remainder of the series (Example of the goalie yips: Detroit’s first goal of playoffs, where Bryzgalov caught a case of the yips instead of the puck on Holmstrom’s shot.  A random body twitch that prevents you from doing something easy. A bit of a Philadelphia-goaltending-epidemic).  All year I thought NJ was higher up the standings than the quality of their team, and Philly was sitting lower than their potential.  It’s a pretty even match-up, so I like the Flyers odds, being up 2-1 and all (plus, Carcillo’s goal is proof that good things happen to good people.  What a guy).

Random sidenote – I could totally see Buffalo in the Eastern conference finals.  They’re one of those teams that doesn’t get much TV love, and not a team I ever chose to watch with other options on.  After seeing them play a few times, I’m muchos impressed.  Moreso than I am with Jersey/Philly/Boston, who are the teams they’d have to beat to get there.

Alex Ovechkin had four points in game two.

LOVE that he celly's linemate's goals with the exact same enthusiasm.

His no shots in game one prompted “what’s wrong with Ovechkin” talk from folks all over. 

I feel like the hockey community is dying to chuck this guy under the next passing bus some reason, like he’s ever done anything wrong aside from some excessive celebrating (which I love).   It’s like we can’t wait to give Crosby the reins as the games best player.  I dunno if anyone else feels that, it’s just sort of a vibe I get.

Hate to break it to y’all, but barring injury, the games best goal scorer is gonna be co-holder of those reins for a long, long time.  He’ll streak and slump like everyone else.

Coyotes/Red Wings became the most exciting series in playoffs.

And plenty of 'em!

Most exciting by an absolute landslide (shout out to LA/Van, Boston/Buffalo).

Ilya Bryzgalov (by the way, I call my fiancee “Breeze” or “Breezer”, which has evolved to Ilya Breezegalov) was an absolute stud in the third period of the last game, and Jimmy Howard wasn’t.

I really felt like this would be one of those series that no one would ever score in.  Two well coached teams doing the right thing, y’know?

But it’s been thrilling.  Scads of goals, lead changes, and a fast, young Coyote team that’s giving the supposed Cup contending Wings all they can handle.  Can Detroit beat Phoenix three of the next four games and pull it out?  I dunno, man.  I just don’t know.

I was at the first two games here in Phoenix, and feel the need to say props to the Coyotes fans.  It’s been a lot of fun. 

Until you see some of these guy’s play in person, it’s tough to know why some guys score while others don’t.  Pretty easy to see once you see Datsyuk’s wizardry in person.

*****

Sorry about the late post – I was putting the finishing touches on a column that should be up today or tomorrow on USA Today’s website - I’ll put the link up when it posts.

In the meantime, I’m on the computer all day, so if you’d like to discuss any other playoff topics, fire away.  I’ll be here to respond.

Monday, wweeeee!

Game One Thoughts: Canucks/Kings, Caps ‘n’ Habs

 

Thanks to the wonders of DVR and an early night from the fiancee, I actually got to fully watch two of last nights three playoff games.  For a single TV household, too much of my weeknight TV is taken up by horrors like Dancing With The Stars, or the slightly less horrible Biggest Loser. 

I’m hoping that ups the quality of today’s expert analysis.

Canucks/Kings

ZOMG thisgamewassogreat. (see, expert stuff)

Really, it’s been a rare treat for me to get to watch the Canucks play this year, so I really soaked it in.  Alliteratively speaking, those stupid Sedins are so sick it’s scary.  There was the recent scandal revealed by Intent To Blow – follow that link for a great laugh - but aside from that, these guys played a near flawless game last night.

Doughty almost be blowed the eff up

A lot of people in the world have crazy sick hands.  But to combine those skills (and 361 degree vision …..Yep, twins have an extra degree) with size and work ethic is breathtaking.  I enjoyed watching them work their magic, easily as much as I enjoy watching Crosby or Ovechkin - just in a different way. 

When watching Sid and Ovie, you get the sense that they might make any player look silly at any moment.  Maybe two players.  With Daniel and Henrik, it’s a more reserved, make-all-six-opponents-look-stupid-at-once quality.

Then there’s Mikael Samuelsson, the under-the-radar dude that may be the best value-per-dollar in the league.  They have him for two more years after this one, at $2.5 million per, and the guy doesn’t seem to even be aware of how good he is.  Canucks fans do.

But that’s enough Canucks gushing, especially from a BC boy who never claimed to be much of a ‘nucks fan (though as far as Canadian teams go, I’ll take them first, thanks).

The Kings deserve plenty of love too.  This game could have easily gone the other way, had it not been for some fine overtime goaltending from the man everyone loves to bash, Roberto Luongo.  This guy is like Ovechkin, in that the second he underachieves, 15% of hockey fans can barely get the word “SEE!” out of their mouth fast enough.

Not many Canadians on that Canadian team, huh?

{Though Down Goes Brown put Ovy’s start in the best 140 characters yet: “Now that the Vancouver/LA game is underway, everyone but Chicago, Nashville and Ovechkin have started their playoffs.”}

The Kings moved the puck nicely on the powerplay, got solid play from their young D studs (minus some d-zone lapses), and aren’t to be taken lightly going forward.

By the way, I’m so sick of the old adage that ugly goals win overtime games.  100 pretty goals will go in over 100 overtimes, then the second an ugly one crosses the line, everyones like “yup, that’s the way it always goes.”  No.  No it’s not.

The Canucks had great pressure, lots of in-zone movement from their forwards, and simply turned the Kings around in their own end.  Great pass, great shot.  Nothin’ ugly about that.

*****

Capitals/Habs

Damn, already wrong on this prediction.

The startling thing about this game wasn’t that the Habs got it done in overtime, it was that they didn’t win in regulation.  I mean, honestly.

The second half of the second period looked like the worlds longest powerplay for Montreal.  My line that “if you have the puck on offense all the time, you never have to play defense” is no less true, but it requires the having of the puck.  When your offense isn’t present, and you rely on your offense to be your defense…. damn.  Ug.  Ly.  Stuff.

Cammalleri’s top corner shot on the first goal was ridiculous.  It would go in on any of the leagues 30 goalies, even if they had time to set to it.  Good lord was that rifled.  And actually, Plecanec’s OT winner was more than decent too – the top guys probably flag it down, but the point is, you can’t fault Theodore for the loss.  The defenseman’s gap on that play was so poor it was on welfare.  He was damn near face-off dot deep while Plecanec crossed the blueline.

Didn't see this Ovy last night. You will.

You know who you can fault on Montreal’s game tying goal though?  The ever-talented, oft-Bourne-defended Mike Green.  Damnit, son, D up.

Though I still think the Caps win the next four, last nights game didn’t feel like Montreal escaped with a road win.  They beat the Caps, straight up.

And as for Ovy’s no-show?  Settle down, world.  He’ll be juuuust fine.

*****

Didn’t catch Boston vs. Buffalo, but saw it was, as predicted, a 2-1 Buffalo win.  I got one right!

Round One, Night One. Summary: I Sucked At My Job.

 

Y’know what’s horrible?  How all the channels dedicated to one sport – the NHL Network, NBA, Golf, whatever – have those three minute infomercials instead of real ones.  Commercials suck enough to begin with, but at least play to my A.D.D. and dudeness by running some 30 second ads in which no image is on the screen for longer than two seconds, and most of the images are girls in bikinis with beer.

And each one is worse than the last.  As a commentor recently wrote: “Theahs no messin’ up yoah doah!”

Brutal.

Moving on.

Well done, Coyotes fans (um, the team too).

Soooo, I was at the Coyotes/Red Wings game, and had an absolute blast.

I was upper (upper) deck, but I continue to maintain that Jobing.com is one of the nicest arena’s in the league (not that anyone disagrees with me on that).   You can see the action from anywhere. 

Totally random thought to start the blog – I was struck by how nice the Wings uni’s are.  Turns out I’ve never seen them in person before, which is kinda sad, and that the simple red and white rocks the party that rocks the party.  Original six jersey’s rule, dude.  Toronto, Chi-town, Boston?  C’mon.  Those three are badass too. 

Like you, when Bryzgalov looked he had just put his head on a bat, spun, did a whippit, then tried to catch Holmstrom’s shot and missed – I couldn’t help but think the ‘Yotes were in deep, deep doodoo.  I mean, if your team leans on your Vezina-contending goalie to win, and said goalie lets in what might be – and I mean this – the worst goal scored in the NHL this year, you’re in a bit of a pickle.

"Deeaaaaammmmnnn, lookitthat assss!"

But let’s give the Coyotes the credit they’re more than due – as they have all year, they absolutely wouldn’t roll over and die.  They recouped from being down badly in shots (I think it was 25-8 or something at one point), slowly took over the game, and actually might have ended up ahead in scoring chances.

Their d-corps has scored a lot of goals all year, and yesterday was no different.  Every time I go to their games, I always leave thinking Keith Yandle is better than I did the time before.  He would’ve been my first star, for sure. (He reminds me of Alex Goligoski – I just wrote a piece on Alex for the next THN magazine, so peel your eyes, or whatever the expression is).

The crowd was absolutely amazing, and the game was great.  Fans were walking out of the building howling, happy and high-fiving.  After what they’ve endured here, the fans who’ve stayed true deserved last night.  It was pretty special.

And we learned one thing about my prognosticating – if I picked your team, you should be more mad at me than if I didn’t picked ‘em.  0-4 to start.  eeeeeyikes.

*****

A thought about the Pens highlights – the Sens won, but scored a bunch of goals they certainly can’t count on getting most nights.  There was the one crazy bounce, then a couple goals from Chris Neil and Jarrrkkko Ruuuttttuu.  I’d put your life savings on the next game for Pittsburgh. 

Ooo, another thought: how about Craig Adams not scoring over the entire 82 game season, then fires a backhand harder than You Reading This can take a snapshot?  How can you score so little with a shot like that?  Dude must have zero offensive sense.

{UPDATE: not only do Sens fans exist, they’re F****D.  Your 2010 Sens Cup song, to the tune of HORRIBLE Black Eyed Peas music.  I literally recommend that you do not click that link.  It’s one of those things I had to pass on though, like I listened to it, so I’m putting it out there in case you hate yourself too.}

*****

Why, Sharks?  Why do you keep doing this?  I really wanted to go to bat for you this year. 

Anyone actually watch the game and want to let me know what happened?  Did it feel like San Jose couldn’t skate with the kids, or was it something you’re not worried about seeing again? 

The Sharks need to bury about seven next game or the stick-squeezing pressure is gonna start coming down on Jumbo Joe sooner than it would anyone else in the league.

*****

We walked into my buddy’s bar to pick up some people for the Coyotes game (we had about a dozen people last night), saw the Flyers were up 1-0, and I almost immediately regretted picking the Devils.  Yes, after one goal.

I picked with my head (Devils sported the leagues lowest goals allowed total, and defense matters in playoffs) instead of my heart (I think Philly is gonna win).  What I forgot, when using my head, is that everybody plays defense in the playoffs, so that stat isn’t that important.

There’d be nothing worse than flip-flopping, having the Devils pull it out, and being wrong twice in one series.  So I’ll rode the horse I rode in on.  But this one is a coin flip for me.

*****

Now, excuse me while I go have a bowl of Aprin O’s and use Pepto Bismal for milk.

#SnakeBeThrown

*****

Your old school smile of the day:

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