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Reflections and Predictions

 

New Puck Daddy: On Luongo, and bouncing back from getting scratched

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Some reflection, before more predictions:

In the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, my predictions went—-wait.  8-0?  Can that possibly be right?

Deeeeeaaamn.  I shoulda bet on that, I guess.

I guess it’d be pretty hard to finish below .500 at this point, so I got that going for me.

And where’d we end up on the gambling?  Not where we were trying to get, team.  There’s some work to be done ahead.  (I’ll make the new bets today/tomorrow and post them.  Gamble along with me, friends!)

Bet one: Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes will play MORE than 5.5 games

This bet was so quickly lost and so incredibly wrong they should require me to deposit more money and give it to them. 

Outcome: Detroit swept Phoenix. LOSS.

Wager: $10 to profit $5.71 ($15.71)

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Bet two: Jordan Staal will tally more than 3.5 points

I thought this series would go long, which would mean he’d have a lot of games (and minutes) to score. I was right.  Staal ate the offensive big one.

Outcome: He had three points.  LOSS.

Wager: $10 to profit $8.70 ($18.70)

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Bet three: The Montreal Canadiens will lose in the first round

I escaped this one, as did the Bruins, by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin. 

Outcome: B’s pull it out in overtime.  WIN.  Here comes the comeback.

Wager: $10 to profit $4.55 ($14.55)

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Bet four: Of the eight 5 through 8 seeds, LESS than 2.5 will advance

BOOM.  I even called the teams that wouldn’t make it.  Not to toot my horn, but, BLAAAAAAAAAAT /poorly blows into a trumpet.  That’s as right as I’ll ever be.

Outcome: Nashville and Tampa made it, no one else. WIN.

Wager: $10 to profit $12 ($22.00)

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Bet five: Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will play MORE than 5.5 games

Comback complete. 

Outcome: Series went seven games. WIN.

Wager: $10 to profit $5.26 ($15.26)

Total wager: $50

Outcome: The outcome of all my efforts were hilarious – I made a profit of $1.81.  Yes, one dollar and eighty-one cents.

I guess it’s better than moving in the other direction, though.  Time to step my game up in round two!

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My predictions will post on Puck Daddy, and when they do, I’ll link to it.  That contains my explanations, which I feel some of my picks need (like the length of the Washington series).  As follows, however:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning: Washington in five (not a knock on Tampa, Washington looks gooood)

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (3) Boston Bruins: Boston in seven  (Can’t bet on Philly’s goaltending.  Just can’t.  Also, took B’s to make finals, soooo)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (5) Nashville Predators: Vancouver in six (six was generous to Nashville I think)

 (2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings: Detroit in seven (rested vets, Datsyuk is super-human)

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Who ya got?

Taking Philly And Boston – No Idea In Vancouver

 

New Puck Daddy: Shooting for the pads, and how the Kings used that tactic to pot three goals last night

Not-quite-so-new The Hockey News: Why I hated the decision to not start Luongo in game six

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Too much of this for the Canuckles.

As I write this, the Vancouver Canucks are about to take the ice for their morning skate, and according to numerous people on twitter, they are underneath a scoreboard that holds the score from the last time the ‘Nucks played Chicago in that building.

Canucks: 0  Hawks:  5

That’s either a tremendously poor job by the hockey operations folk in Van, or they asked for it to be left there to use it as motivation.  Either way, that’s an amusing little nugget right there.

I normally have a hunch on who’s going to win, as you know.  Today, however, I’m totally stumped on the Vancouver/Chicago game, which makes it the most compelling contest of the night.  There will be huge storylines are coming out of this one tonight, yet a win for either side would surprise no one.  Fun stuff.

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I’m writing the post-game wrap-up on Philadelphia/Buffalo for Puck Daddy tonight, so feel free to head over that and check it out.  I’ve also got an extra little project on the side I’ll be writing throughout the day; I’m excited to fill everyone in that a little later.  Ooo, the suspense.

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I’m calling Philadelphia and Boston to move on after tonight.  Here’s why:

Need that goaltending tonight!

When it comes to Philly, it’s pure odds:  Some NHL goaltenders are better than others, but none are outright bad, or they wouldn’t be in the league.  Leighton’s leaky goals in the last game, Bobrovsky’s floundering and Boucher’s failings have just totalled too much “bad” for someone not to pull a decent game out, at least once.  They are still NHL-level goaltenders, and they wouldn’t be if they couldn’t occasionally mix in some success.

They’re back in Philly with the home crowd energy, with a two-days healthier Pronger and that fantastic offense they’ve always had.  I think Buffalo’s a good team that’s played well, but their stop on this bus route has just arrived.

I’m calling Boston for the same reason I’ve picked Boston nine different ways to win this series.  I’m simply not impressed with Montreal, and I think Montreal fans are about to be treated to a third straight home loss.  Which should go over swimmingly.

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Bri and I welcome her parents to town tomorrow, and they’re here through Sunday, which should be fun.  Apparently I’m playing Greyhawk with Clark and Darren Veitch, a fairly strong couple of hockey players, but an even better duo of golfers at this point.  Clark’s a 1-handicap and Veitch might be better.  I will ask for strokes (I’m like a six or so at this point), get none, and they will accept my money.  AWESOME!

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As well all know, playoffs are a war of attrition, and injuries are going to really start affecting playoff series moving forward.  On the upside for the Canucks: Keith Ballard is in tonight, and Dave Bolland didn’t skate.  Maybe they’re getting better and the Hawks are getting worse.  (Or maybe he’s taking the time off to rest, whatever.  Point is, injuries are going to start wreaking havoc on ploffs!)

(UPDATE: Quenneville confirms Bolland is in, Bickell is out)

Check back later tonight for a link to the Philly piece if you’re so inclined!

“Pushing”-Style Hits, A Couple Great Playoff Goals

 

New Puck Daddy: Why I hated the decision to start Cory Schneider over Roberto Luongo in game six.  ….I really, really hated the decision. (THN, story in editing as of right now)

For another take on that situation, check out Elliotte Friedman’s always awesome 30 Thoughts column.

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Happy Easter!

Ahhh, that’s terrific.

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Hey, things are heating up, aren’t they hockey fans?  We’ve got two game sevens coming up tomorrow night, and lord knows how many more after today’s two games are played, both of which are tied 3-2, both with the team down in the series playing at home.

….Not that that’s mattered much in playoffs (home ice, I mean – road teams have owned), but it’s supposed to mean something good.

The biggest stuck-in-my-craw issue from the weekend was the one I wrote about for The Hockey News today, so check that link out. 

Beyond that, some thoughts…..

The Mike Richards hit on Tim Connolly

 During a playoff game this weekend (I can’t remember which one), a commentator was wisely yelling about the “pushing from behind” – not necessarily hitting from behind, but the act of extending your arms on a guy you can’t quite reach when he’s in a dangerous position.  I don’t like it either, obviously.

My next victim is..... over there.

In short: when you’re chasing a guy, you used to be able to hook him.  Now if you even think about hooking you get Minority Report’d and sent to the penalty box for committing a future crime.  Other than just let him go, another option is the shove in the back. (Richards hit wasn’t a great example of it because he was easily caught up to Connolly, which makes it worse, actually)

This is fine in open ice, but near the boards it’s just frightening.  Guys are leaning forward with momentum so a shove can thrust them head-first with speed from a gross distance into the boards.

Whether this hit was suspendable or not, I don’t know.  But I do know that in the court of public opinion on dirty play, Mike Richards has unfortunately earned the right to have his name uttered alongside some of the more, ahem, “questionable” players.

Which is a shame, really – I quite liked him and admired his passion and work ethic.  At one point, I considered him in the Jarome Iginla/Shane Doan “boy I hope those great captains find a way to win the cup” conversations (though I always hoped it wouldn’t be with the Flyers, if that were somehow possible). 

But I’m way over that now.  He’s become a menace.  “On the edge” is fine, but you can only cross it so many times before getting villified.  Label, stamped.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning goal that involved seven passes before the bury was like, my favourite goal ever.  I love me some passing, and this was some of the best.

Honestly, I knew they were going to keep passing that – no one was taking it away, nothing was opening up, and they were being allowed to move up on the goal while the tender was getting completely mindfucked.

Had Bobby Ryan not scored the most ridiculous goal I’ve ever seen – including the underrated fantastic-ness of the finish – I’d call it the goal of playoffs so far.

That Bobby Ryan goal was like scratching off a $20,000 prize on a scratch-and-win.  Oop! Got the first one. HEY, TWO!

OHMYGODDDDDDDDDD!!!!

Ryan looked like he didn’t have a sniff to do with his life after it went in.  Just an absurdly terrific goal.

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And last, but certainly not least, I saw this video on Sports Pickle.com and thought it was hilarious.  Classicly awkward sports reporter moment. 

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Congrats to Nashville fans – I’ve been floored at how loud and proud you’ve been, keep up the good work.

Playoff Thoughts

 

New Puck Daddy: For Phoenix, relocation rumours sucked the fun out of playoffs

New Puck Daddy: Road ice advantage in the playoffs

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I’ve been a bad blogger this week.  Sorry about that.

But alas, today is Friday, and I am back behind the lappy just in time to post before the weekend.  Wanna talk playoffs?  Let’s talk playoffs.

Since I haven’t really had the chance to weigh in yet, here’s some bold labels I’m going to assign to certain teams/series/players.

Most Exciting

The most exciting series award (after a whopping four games) goes to the Washington Capitals/New York Rangers series.

The games have been close, fast and physical, a nice recipe for producing thrilling finishes.  It was a shame the way the last game ended (Chimera from Gaborik), but still, can’t really complain when a game brings you five great periods.

Most Interesting

Montreal/Boston

As everybody knows, I picked Boston to win this series in a walk, then the Habs went into Boston and won both games there.  No team has won on home ice yet.  It’s knotted up at 2-2.  The teams have a tremendous history, there was the Pacioretty play during the season, along with a 7-0 rout…. it’s my favourite series to watch in round one by quite a margin.

(Honorable mention to Hawks/Canucks after the confusing past couple games.  Wait are the Canucks not that great?  Are the Hawks waking up?  TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR AN ALL NEW EPISODE OF NHL: WTF!)

Best Played

 This is like trying to pick which $20 bill out of the $160 you’ve just been given you like best. 

I’m going to go with Rangers/Capitals again, as much as I want to include everyone in the conversation.  No whopping blowouts means both sides are effectively executing their systems, and nobody has been particularly disappointing.  A very tight series.

Biggest Meltdown

Well here’s a no-brainer – I’m taking Sharks/Kings, if for no other reason than I watched the second period of game three, in which LA went up 4-0 then proceeded to head into the third tied 5-5.  That’s dreadful.  How their coach doesn’t call a timeout during that nightmare kills me, I was screaming at him through the TV, can’t believe he didn’t hear.  And their d-zone was right out of a Saw film.  Terrifying.

Best Goaltender

For Buffalo to beat Philadelphia, Ryan Miller has to be phenomenal.  Buffalo simply doesn’t have Philly’s roster, but they OWN them in goal (yes, I realize Boucher has great numbers in his couple starts).  And sure enough, he has – Boom: .937 save %, 2.02 GAA, 2 shutouts.  Great stats considering he’s been in net for two losses.

Worst Goaltender

Bryz Bryz Bryz Bryz a thousand times over Bryz.  I don’t care if there’s someone I’m overlooking (Bobrovsky?), the Phoenix Coyote entire gameplan according to their GM was basically to play rope-a-dope, lean on Bryz, and pop in a couple lucky ones (as it was last year).  Well, when the guy you’re leaning on snaps like a dry twig, you’re bound to get swept.  Thanks for playing, there’s the exit.

MVP

While Corey Perry has once again been on fire – leading playoffs in point, by the way – I can’t get over the good work of an elderly man on his team, Teemu Selanne.  Five big goals in four games certainly have him in the conversation.  Still, neither of them are my winner.

Who is?  Pavel muthatrucking Datsyuk. 

It’s been INSANITY.  In four games: FIRST in plus/minus, FOURTH in points (2+4=6), ZERO PIMS, defensive stud, dangly genius.  What he does cannot be described.  My favourite player in the NHL. <3

Game I’m watching tonight

Philly/Buff, baby!  If Buffalo wins, I can’t wait to see what Flyer fans have to say before the next game….

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Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeekend time!

When Clean Hits Look Dirty

 

New Hockey Primetime: how sometimes innocent intentions end in an ugly hit

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My apologies for having a second day this week with no post – playoffs have me a little behind the eight ball.  I’ll be covering the game in Phoenix again tonight – my story will be up in the early morning on Puck Daddy, possibly Yahoo.com/Yahoo.ca if it doesn’t suck, which is the goal.

Doing a little research this afternoon.  Thanks for your patience, I’ll do my best to get a column and a post up tomorrow!

Bourne’s Gambling Update: Ain’t Pretty, But There’s Hope

 

New Puck Daddy: I attempted some real reportery type stuff on the overall mood in Phoenix. I’m just not great at this type of writing yet, but practice, practice, practice.

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Bet one: Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes will play MORE than 5.5 games

Okay, bet one looks pretty bleak.

The Coyotes are a team that needs to operate as a unit to succeed – they aren’t star-studded, they aren’t going to win a run-and-gun game, they just need to play shut down defense and hope to get a big game from random players throughout the lineup to win.

That said, they have one star who has to be a star: Ilya Bryzgalov.  In short, he hasn’t been, so they’re down three nothing.

Would I make this bet again today? — Fuck no.

Wager: $10 to profit $5.71 ($15.71)

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Bet two: Jordan Staal will tally more than 3.5 points

I tweeted this earlier today because it blew my mind: the Pens are up 2-1 in this series against a good Tampa Bay Lightning team, yet only three humans have more than one point (all have three points).  Who, you ask?  I answer: Brooks Orpik (huh?), Aaron Asham (saywhatnow?) and Kris Letang (sure, but still, another d-man).

Staal has one assist with another 3 or 4 games to go.

Would I make this bet again today? — Would totally depends on the odds I got, but I think it’s a winnable bet.  Lots of ice time available to him as usual, and the series should go long.

Wager: $10 to profit $8.70 ($18.70)

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Bet three: The Montreal Canadiens will lose in the first round

The Bruins are down 2-1 to the Habs, but honestly, I’m still fine with this bet.  They didn’t make me pick in how many games, so I can use the whole series to get this one done.

Would I make this bet again today? — Yes I would.  Again, I’d need improved odds, but if my life depended on picking the winner of this series, I’d still take the Bruins.

Wager: $10 to profit $4.55 ($14.55)

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Bet four: Of the eight 5 through 8 seeds, LESS than 2.5 will advance

This was the bigger of my bets (while still being small), so I really want this one.  As of today, only two lower seeds are leading their series: Nashville, who I predicted, and Montreal, who I think is going to lose.  The only one that’s tied is Los Angeles, and I have no doubt that San Jose is going to win that series.  The rest of the favourites are winning.

So things are about as good as they could be on this one.  The bet is a long way from won, but at least no underdog blindsided me and won in a walk or anything.

Would I make this bet again today? — In a heartbeat, if they’d give me the same odds.

Wager: $10 to profit $12 ($22.00)

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Bet five: Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will play MORE than 5.5 games

Two very evenly matched teams that have played close games.  Pitt isn’t winning this series in five (are they?), so I like where it’s sitting.

Would I make this bet again today? — Is there anyone out there who wouldn’t?

Wager: $10 to profit $5.26 ($15.26)

Total wager: $50

To profit: $36.22 (and end with $86.22)

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The way I see things:  I’m probably losing the first bet (down $10).  The Staal one we’ll call a push right now, lots of time left.  We’ll do the same for the Habs/Bruins.  I’m calling the underdogs losing a win (jinx, but 22 dollars back), and the last one a win ($15.26).

According to that math, I could end up in the black $17.26, which would leave me at $67.26.  I’d take that, but I’d have to get more aggressive in the next round (and of course, the pushes aren’t a possibility, so lots to be decided there).

Only two games on the schedule tonight.  I’ll be rooting for San Jose – die, underdogs, die! (Just kidding, I like LA, I just like winning money more!)

Raffi Torres on Brent Seabrook: No Suspension

 

New USA Today: No suspension for Torres on the Seabrook hit – a call for common sense

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Off to Glendale to find a story for Puck Daddy tomorrow, enjoy the game!

Habs Win, A Joe Pavelski Story

New Puck Daddy: the formula you need to follow to pull of an upset

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Well, it appears the Habs are out to make me look like an asshole…. again.  If you remember last year (or saw the comment on yesterday’s post), last year I predicted the Habs to get beat by the Capitals in….three games.  Not even four, I was so sure the Caps would steamroll them.  And we all know how that turned out – the Habs made the Eastern Conference final.

I picked them again to get swept, and again, they come out and win.  Brutes.

Anyway, at least it’ll make for an interesting series (as long as they lose in the end so I can collect on my bet about them, y’know, losing in the first round).

As for the other gambly updates: Jordan Staal had an apple in game one, so that’s good.  Three bottom seeded teams won, which doesn’t scare me all that much.  And we’ll find out more tonight if the series I predicted to go long can get knotted up!

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I thought this was a great pic of one of the Gillies three Newfoundlands, the eldest, Hunter:

Hunty-hoo. Big boah.

Good lookin’ ol fella.

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So Joe Pavelski got it done for the San Jose Sharks last night, which is not out of the ordinary for him.  He was money in last year’s playoffs, and it reminded me of a little story from college.

My freshman year of college, we beat the Wisconsin Badgers in a best of three at the Kohl Center to go to the Final Five in St. Paul.  We were an eight-seed, and they were the three-seed.  My sophomore year, we met in playoffs again as the same seeds…..only they had Joe Pavelski now.

Great picture, no?

I can’t explain why, but we had them on the ropes again.  We lost game one after blowing a third period lead, but came out the next night and took it to them to knot the series up at three (BTW, we played this series in some other rink in Wisconsin that looked like Madison Square Garden on the inside, if Madison Square Garden was weird. Dane County something-or-other?).

Well, we actually got off to a good start, when one of our lower line guys scored a short-handed goal on a pure breakaway snipe.  By the third period, we were up 4-2. 

And then we got Pavelski’d, and never made it to overtime.

It wasn’t just that he took the game over (I’m pretty sure he had three points in the third period of their 5-4 win), it was the way he did it.  I have to describe his goal that either tied it or put them ahead (it all blends together now):

So, our d-men are doing a good job keeping him on the paint in our zone – he’s got solid possession in the corner, and somehow, through a poor switch or a good move, he ends up getting an opening to take the puck to the net.  He’s still behind the goal line though, so he could go in front or behind.

At one point, he looks like he’s going to go deeper behind the goal line and take the puck behind the net.  He’s a righty, coming from the right, so when the puck is on his forhand, it’s near the boards.

But as he’s skating towards the cage, he brings it way across to his backhand – maybe six inches above the goal line – and in a smooth stick-handle, goes backhand-crossbar-down with his skates still at least a foot behind the goal-line.  Nobody had a sniff what happened it was so slick.

It was our “well, we just don’t have talent like that on our team, good for you assholes” moment.

The guy is clutch, has been clutch, and will always be clutch.  Dude can flat-out play.

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TGIF.  Yessssssss….

Interesting Stories From Each Playoff Series Pt. 2

 

New Puck Daddy: a look inside the pre-playoff series meetings teams have

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If you missed it, yesterday I wrote about the interesting stories I’ll be keeping an eye on from the five playoff series that started yesterday.  Today, I’ll be doing the same for the other three.  Without further ado….. MORE PLAYOFFS!

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres

Two things immediately spring to mind: the phrase “upset watch” and the Philadelphia Flyers goaltending.  If you’re as sick of hearing about it as I am mentioning it, blame Philly’s GM, not me.  It’s quite possible that the two things I just mentioned go hand-in-hand.

Sabres were solid down the stretch, Flyers, nahsomuch.

Let me be clear: I don’t think the Sabres will beat the Flyers.  Philly’s forwards are as deep – okay, deeper – than any other team in the NHL (Boston is in the conversation), and their defense is just too good, even with Pronger out.  Yes, they will have a tough time getting pucks behind Ryan Miller, but you may have noticed Buffalo is a seven-seed — as in, he’s been scored on before.

I’ll be watching to see if Bobrovsky can keep enough pucks out of the Flyers net to help the team avoid getting that upset seed planted in their head.  If he let’s a few shaky ones in during the series’ first contest or Buffalo wins game one…. things will be a lot more interesting.

Underlying story: What the shit happened to the Flyers down the stretch?  You want to peak at the right time, and they seemed like they were dragging their asses through a rut down the homestretch.  I’m curious to see if it was the fact that they didn’t have a meaningful game for like, two months, or if something has seriously gone awry with that team.  More reason to keep this series on upset alert.

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(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings

You know what I’m curious about?  If there’s any plausible reason we can dig up to say LA could win more than one game.  The statement Dean Lombardi has made over the past couple years – trying to bring in a big name like Kovalchuk, Iginla, just anyone who could provide some offensive help – leads me to believe he has a pretty good idea of where they need help to win.

Their talent isn't too old to win.... yet.

Then Kopitar gets hurt, and they’re left with…. Dustin Penner.

This, for the Sharks, could be like going through one of those arrow things in Mario Cart that gives you a burst of speed heading into playoffs.  As Dave Lozo told us, you either win early in round one or you don’t win the Stanley Cup (“The last 32 teams to win their first-round series in seven games have failed to win the Stanley Cup.“).  They could polish off LA early, rest up, and make a push.

Will the Kings give their fans some breath of hope, somehow, some way?

Underlying story: For me, two little stories: one, the Sharks killed it in the second half of the NHL season, so my question is, could this team be way better than most people think?  They’re still pretty stacked.

And two, Antti Niemi.  He’s taken slow but steady steps towards being one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders.  Another solid playoff run would have him cemented there for years to come.  Without being flashy, might we be watching one of the NHL’s best emerge?

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(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens

I’m excited to see if the Canadiens have any push-back in them.  I know I’ve been very outspoken about this series, but it’s for a reason – I just can’t find a reason to believe the Habs could beat the Bruins, for one simple fucking reason: the Bruins have better players.  Phew – how’s that for in-depth analysis?

These teams? They no like each otha.

It’s not even close.  And the Bruins have the most intimidating team in the league to top it off, because their tough guys can play.  They don’t have to send a brainless thug out there to get justice, they inflict pain just with the natural way their players play, and that’s no fun in a seven game series. 

Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton combined for 206 PIMS (for context, Clark Gillies never got 100 PIMS in a season), and these two combined for 56 goals on top of that.  Cammalleri and Plecanec scored a combined 41(in 15 less games) and are more one-dimensional players.

The Habs have a couple more players with Cup experience, so basically, the story I’m most interested in (much like the San Jose/LA series) is if there’s any reason to believe the Habs have a shot.  Maybe it’s that experience (I think they have four guys with Cups versus the B’s two), but thus far, I can’t convince myself that they won’t be overwhelmed in four or five games.

Underlying story: The interesting names in this series.  Can Tim Thomas play like he did during the regular season in playoffs, or will it be Tuuka Time before it’s all said and done?  Will Tomas Kaberle have a shot at his first Cup?  How will he hold up under the pressure?  Can Carey Price stay in the good graces of Habs fans? 

There’s just a lot of fun NHL stars to track in this one.  Can’t wait to see what unfolds.

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Night one of the NHL playoffs was as fun as to be expected.  Four of my five series winner picks won (save for Tampa), so we’re off to a good start.  I’ll check in on my gambling status early next week.  Enjoy tonight!

Interesting Stories From Each Playoff Series, Pt. 1

 

New Hockey Primetime: What trainers will jam into your body to make sure you don’t miss any playoff games

Puck Daddy Predictions: JB likey Canuckleheads.

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There are a billion “preview” columns out there, so I’m just gonna touch on what I think is interesting from each series, starting with the five that kick-off tonight, and finishing up with the other three tomorrow.

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers

The most interesting story here, for my money, is whether all this talk about the Capitals changing their style of play was all a bunch of bluster because they were having trouble scoring, or if they seriously committed to a more North American style game. 

They’ve obviously excelled as a team, as evidenced by the one seed, but if we see the same struggles in round one that we saw last year, it will be like Tiger Woods performance at the Masters – okay, “everything’s changed,” “everything’s different,” but the result ended up the same as the year before, so what’s the point?  An early exit would mean bye bye Boudreau.

Underlying story: The Capitals goaltending.  The Caps will carry the bulk of the play and outshoot the Rangers, that much I promise you.  The Rangers will need Henrik Lundqvist to be huge, and if he is, they need a couple “maybe Neuvirth shoulda stopped that’s” at the other end.  I’ve been a public doubter of the Caps/Flyers tenders for years.

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(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

On paper, there’s plenty of reasons to say this should be a win for the Lightning, aside from the fact that, like DJ Khaled, all the Pens do is win win win no matter what.

Dan Bylsma is a great coach, but I kind of feel like he’s squeezed every last drop of out Penguins, and at some point, all your left with is the husk.  He’s willed a team with very little offensive potential to maintain home ice despite the loss of you know who and that other good player.  I want to see if this team is for real, or if they just overachieved beyond all belief to grab that four seed.

Underlying story: The four fantastic Tampa Bay forwards are the key to the whole series.  Pittsburgh’s job defending won’t be easy, but it’s black and white: shut them down.  Can the Lightning forwards prevail despite the extra attention?

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(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Blackhawks

The obvious story here is the history between the teams.  But the bigger one for me?

The Blackhawks are better than just about everybody outside of Illinois wants to believe.  Obviously, yes, they were better last year.  But those kids that won a Cup gained a hell of a lot of experience along the way.  To write off a team with Jonathan Toews, Marian Freaking Three Straight Cup Finals Appearances Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook etc, is foolish.  Can they regain their form?

Underlying story: goaltending on both sides.  Luongo badly needs to shed the “not a big game goalie” label, and Corey Crawford – while having a great rookie season – has never had a taste of the NHL’s post-season before.  Just because Niemi rose to the occasion doesn’t mean he can.

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(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes

Is Detroit vulnerable?

The bottom five seeds in the West are basically interchangeable – they were separated by next-to-nothing in the standings, meaning the Coyotes could just as easily be a four seed.  Don’t get it twisted – they’re a good hockey team; well-coached with solid goaltending and a team concept that’s going to make every game a battle in round one.  I picked Detroit, because they’re Detroit, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Phoenix push them to the brink, and maybe get the break or two they need.

Underlying story: At least, I hope it’s underlying: the Coyotes pending, possible move, which I badly don’t want to happen.

I feel like this is a Disney movie waiting to happen – if they could find a way to make a deep playoff run, I could see that having an effect on if they stay or go, which is crazy.  The Mighty Coyotes! 

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(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators

First, how insane is it that Ducks are a four-seed with home ice?  I feel like with a week or two to go in the regular season they were a near-lock to miss playoffs.  Insane.

The biggest story here is that this a secretely interesting series – if I had to bet my life on a team, I wouldn’t know which way to go.  We tend to simplify: Oh, Pekka Rinne.  Oh, the big line on Anaheim.  The truth is, this series is the only one that is 100% dependant on how the individuals play, how injuries unfold, how the coaches manage their bench.  We could see five OT games.

I picked Nashville, but the more I think about it, the more I like Anaheim, if only for the fact that they’ve done it before, and playoff experience may help them in the nerves department.

Underlying story: Shea Weber is getting mad Norris love, Rinne Vezina love, and Suter might be one of the best in the NHL – that triangle will absolutely need to be at their best for Nashville to win.  If they do – and I believe in those guys – it should elevate them to the next level on the NHL star scale.

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Today’s the day folks!  Goooooo NHL Playoffs!

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

 

New Puck Daddy: On playoff traditions, like bleaching the life out of your hair when you’re playing minor/junior hockey

New The Hockey News: Yesterday’s piece didn’t run until today, so here – on the mystery of the disappearing goal scorer

New USA Today: Final power rankings and predictions

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It’s playoff time, and it’s time to turn my wealth of hockey knowledge into actual cash.

As a hockey writer or whatever the hell it is you want to call me, I make bold statements and act like I’m certain about how things are going to play out.  So this, year, I’m going to prove that I know what I’m talking about.

I just put $50 into my Bodog (gambling site) account, and I’m going to turn it into $500 before the playoffs end in June (rich!).  I’m not going to make some crazy bet that’s unlikely to happen, I’m going to slowly but surely build the numbers up with bets I truly like…..then when that doesn’t work, I’ll probably take some big flyer shot-in-the-dark type bets to get to the end goal.

Here are the five bets I’ve made on the first round that are going to turn my $50 into ….wait, what? $86.22?  Hmm.  May have to get more aggressive next round.  Ah well, increments.  You can check out Bodog here.

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Bet one: Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes will play MORE than 5.5 games

If this series were to end in four or five games, I’d be shocked.  The Red Wings are the Red Wings, of course, but well-coached teams rarely get swept, and the Coyotes are as well coached as anyone.  They’ll adjust and run their smother defense enough to give themselves hope late in the series.

Wager: $10 to profit $5.71 ($15.71)

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Bet two: Jordan Staal will tally more than 3.5 points

I like this bet a lot, mostly because I believe this is going to be a long series, and if the Penguins have any hope (which if it’s a long series, they obviously will have), it’s going to be because Staal contributed offensively.  I actually wish I had bet more on this, especially with no Crosby/Malkin in the lineup, and the general success of players like Staal in the post-season (ie. Johan Franzen).

Wager: $10 to profit $8.70 ($18.70) – I badly regret not betting more on this.

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Bet three: The Montreal Canadiens will lose in the first round

I did predictions for a number of places, and I’m pretty sure I had this series ending in either four or five games in Boston’s favour in every one.  They’re deep, intimidating, and have great goaltending.  Not a knock on Montreal (okay, a small one), but I just don’t think they can hang with the big boys this year. (Apparently, Bodog agrees)

Wager: $10 to profit $4.55 ($14.55) – piddly, but it’s something.

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Bet four: Of the eight 5 through 8 seeds, LESS than 2.5 will advance

Upsets, upsets everywhere, our NHL analyst friends always say.  They’re guaranteed.  For USA Today’s final Power Rankings and predictions (go read that!), it was one of the questions they wanted us to answer: who’s your upset pick?  I had no clue who to say.

I think this will be the year when the top teams simply play like top teams and prevail – I picked both five seeds to win their series, so there’s two.  I’ll probably be wrong on one of those, and maybe there’ll be one more upset to balance it out, but I just can’t see three underdogs getting it done this year.

Part of the reason I took this bet: the over was heavily favoured, odds-wise, so I can actually make a couple bucks by being right here.

Wager: $10 to profit $12 ($22.00)

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Bet five: Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will play MORE than 5.5 games

This one is pretty self-explanatory, as I mentioned in the Staal bet before.  Two evenly matched teams with great coaches (note that both series I picked to go deep have fantastic coaching), and I can see with one being a real war.

Wager: $10 to profit $5.26 ($15.26)

Total wager: $50

To profit: $36.22 (and end with $86.22)

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The math doesn’t add up – win $36 over four rounds and you’re well short of $450 profit – but you need some chips to play with before you can start making the big bets.  House money, as they say.

If you choose to gamble along with my better strategy over the playoffs….don’t.  I will inevitably lose this money, but it’s fun having random weird things to cheer for.

Here goes nothin‘ fifty bucks!

Playoff Matchups

 

New Hockey News: The mystery of the disappearing goal-scorer in playoffs.  A few reasons why it happens.

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The one the only

Well, it’s that time of the year again – meaningless playoff prediction time.  “Meaningless,” of course, because pretty much every year a monkey out-picks most of the pundits (that would be TSN’s esteembed member of the panel “Maggie”).

It’s not that they’re (we’re?) idiots, but a seven game series is a lot to forecast – injuries play a huge factor in determining the winner, and who knows – if one goalie is having marital issues, or the wrong guy can’t sleep one night, anything….it can go in a different direction than we all expect.

My picks post on Wednesday on Puck Daddy, but hint hint: the kid didn’t pick a whole lotta underdogs.  (I believe I wrote the line in my blurb for PD “they’re called upsets for a reason.”)

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Still plenty of dislike in this series

Speaking of the playoff matchups, I absolutely love them, don’t you?

Canucks and Blackhawks is beautiful, especially if you’re a Canucks fan.  They’re going to beat the Hawks, of that I’m fairly sure.  And that’s a hump this team has been looking to get over after the past couple years.  It will be that momentous event that allows them to believe in themselves in the post season.  I just hope it’s not a long series, for their sake – as Dave Lozo wrote today, the last 32 teams to win round one in seven games have NOT won the cup.  Win early, or don’t bother.

Boston at Montreal?  Yes please.  This was the only series I predicted a sweep in.  Boston is the most intimidating team in the NHL, and in playoffs, a group of small skill guys aren’t going to want to tangle with these bullies.  I picked the B’s to go deep.

Phoenix/Detroit rematch?  Penguins/Lightning?  Capitals/Rangers?  It came down to the final day, and worked out exactly as I would’ve hand picked ‘em.

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Speaking of Lozo, loved his tweet “pretty sure this video is the reason the internet was invented.”

It just may have been.  If you enjoyed that, check out the one of him shuffling across a crosswalk.  I’ve got the exact same shoes, but dude moves ‘em a little better than I do.

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I’ll be covering all the Phoenix Coyotes home games, and trying to find a neat story from the night.  Whether that be the great fans, a thrown snake or whatever, my Puck Daddy columns will be Coyotes-Red Wings based after they play in Phoenix (so fans, get out there in full force and make my job easier, please).

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BBHL finals: we tied 4-4-4. 

Tiebreaker: our previous game

Bad news: I lost

Good news:

Fak.

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It’s a wonderful time of the year.   NHL PLAYOFFS WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Killing Spin on the Puck, Melnyk Extends Murray’s Deal

 

New Puck Daddy: Managing your star players ice time for playoff success

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Yeah good call.

Congrats to Ottawa Senators fans, who receive the gift of three more years of Bryan Murray.

Two guesses why Melnyk re-signed him:

1) He was so impressed with Murray’s ability to de-build a team, he figured he’ll be just as good at the rebuild.

2) He really loves summer, and sees no need to put someone in place that may make him work longer than necessary

Odd that it comes right after a Sens OT win – you get the feeling Melnyk was so pumped from the win (like George Costanza’s “I’m giving you a raise!”) that he just blurted out, mid-hug “I’m signing you to a new deal!”

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Honor of all honors – Bourne’s Blog has been included in the blogroll for Norm Macdonald’s “Sports Show” that premiers on Tuesday and is inevitably going to be great.

I mean, it really doesn’t mean much aside from the fact that somebody who works on Sports Show knows about my site and thinks it’s half decent, but hey…. that matters.  I’ll take any association with Norm I can get, dude is hilarious.

The website is here.

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You know what blows my mind about goals like this:

Kaboom.

Okay, well that wasn’t the greatest example of my point, but it gets me to where I’m going: when Mike Cammalleri gets a puck in a spot like that, it never, ever seems to be spinning.  He kills spin like I’ve never seen – the puck always seems to just sit where it’s at, because he takes passes so well.

It’s one of those things that people sitting at home can rarely see, but when you get a rebound kick out to you, or a pass off the boards, or just a direct pass, the puck is spinning in a certain direction – in different directions depending on if the pass is from a righty or a lefty.  You don’t always know if it’s going to hit your blade and climb your toe or heel.

It’s not really a problem on one timers – if you can get through the puck quick enough it seems to be void.  But I assure you: if I got that pass back door, I would one-time it to make sure it wasn’t gonna spin off on me, which makes it tough to shoot.  Cammalleri just has magic pass taking hands, I guess.  It’s like he’s a premier NHLer or something.

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My man Bubba.

I’m confused by the fact that they only put a few hours of the Masters on a day, even during the final rounds.  You end up missing either Phil or Tiger’s entire round – you telling me they wouldn’t get good ratings if they showed an extra couple hours? 

If that request isn’t telling enough, I’ve been (predictably) loving the Masters.  It’s on Masters.com basically from morning til the last round is done, and I haven’t been shy about having it on while I type so I can at least listen to what’s going on.  Puts me in a nice calm place to write. 

My Masters picks, however – Bubba Watson, Anthony Kim, Ernie Els and Le Tigre – are badly tanking.  When Tiger is your best hope, at this point, it ain’t a good thing (he just opened with a bogey on one, SWEET).

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Enjoy the golf and a fantastic finish to the NHL season friends.  Happy weekend.

NHL Awards: My Picks

 

New Puck Daddy: Next year’s training camp starts the second your team is eliminated from playoffs.

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I realize it’s a little pre-mature – there are still a couple games left in the NHL regular season, after all – but I feel like doing my NHL Awards picks today.

I mean, if Daniel Sedin or Corey Perry mix in an Ovechtrick in the final couple games, I reserve the right to change my opinion.  But in the meantime…..

Hart Trophy: I really, really, don’t want to give the Hart Trophy to Corey Perry.  I find him obnoxious, like most people who aren’t Ducks fans.  He wasn’t even a part of the discussion until, oh I dunno, three weeks ago.

I don't Hart him, even though I did.

I love the double-Sedin story. 

I don’t think he’s had it so rough with having Getzlaf and Ryan as linemates – even when Getzlaf was hurt for like, 15-20 games, who filled in, like, sixth-overall-in-scoring Teemu Selanne?  If you put every line out there and held a draft, his would go number one, not the Sedins.  I realize Sedin has his brother, but just so everybody knows, Alex Burrows isn’t actually all that awesome.  He’s a second-liner on most other teams, he just provides the right mix for the two of them.  They create that danger between the two of them.

But still, the issue of “value” to a team – a question I hate, and wish we were debating player of the year – leaves me with no choice.  I don’t think the Ducks make the playoffs without Corey Perry.  Without Daniel, the Canucks probably still fight for home ice.    Hence, more value.

In the end, I’ve been swayed by the Perry advocates on twitter.  I’m gonna do it…. Here goes….  …..fuck.

Corey Perry

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Norris Trophy: If we swapped namebars on Keith Yandle and Nick Lidstrom, the Phoenix player would win the Norris.  And that’s fine – Lidstrom has earned that respect.

No rrisk in picking this guy. (eff that's bad)

Still, I’ve watched too much Keith Yandle this year to think he doesn’t deserve it.  If he were on the Red Wings, he would’ve put up a lot more points.  The Coyotes have scored 30 less goals than the Red Wings this year, and the only reason the Yotes have that many is thanks to him.  With two games left in the season, he’s leading the Coyotes in overall points, one short of 60.

So, as much as I love the 41 year old Norris story, for me, it goes to Keith Yandle and his great decision-making.

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Vezina Trophy: Obviously, the first name that comes to mind is Tim Thomas, and when it comes to these awards, I have no interest in being a contrarian.  But I don’t think he’s had the best season of a goalie in the NHL.  I think Henrik Lundqvist has.

I refuse to waste any more time thinking of a Vezina pun.

Tim Thomas is playing behind one of the best defensive teams in the league – Lundqvist, not so much.  He’s been rested 10 more times than Lundqvist, appearing in only 56 of 80 games thus far.  Of course, he’s has been flat-out terrific as well.  This is no easy call.

But without Lundqvist and his .923 save percentage and 2.27 goals against average (on an eighth place team), I think the Rangers are screwed.  In my opinion, he’s done more for his team than any other goalie in the league.

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Selke Trophy: The five names that come up when I think of this award: Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, and dark horse Frans Neilsen.  All would be deserving.

Selke smooth defender. ...kay that made no sense.

For me, this is the most basic concept for an award – just best defensive player.  Forget whatever else it is they do.

And of all those names, I think that best applies to Patrice Bergeron.  He’s an extremely smart player, and you can count on him not flying the zone early when you need him most.  Gotta like your odds in the final minute of a close game when he’s out there shutting opponents down.

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And last but not least….

This race for this award? You coulda Calder in January.

Calder Trophy: I agree with those who say age should have nothing to do with this award.  If you qualify as a rookie under the NHL’s qualifications, you’re just as eligible to win it (as in, Couture vs. Skinner).  That said, I still think Skinner has had a better rookie year.

He plays on a Carolina, a team that doesn’t get nearly the attention of the Sharks, which works against him.  It’s also been harder for him because he doesn’t have as much in the way of offensive help.  He led all rookies in points, including reaching the 30 goal plateau.  It’s just too much to deny the kid the award.  Jeff Skinner has my vote.

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UPDATE: I forgot…

Jack Adams:  I’ll be short and sweet on this one – if you ask people to pick their top three nominess for this award, every single person has Dan Bylsma and two other people – the other ones change, but Bylsma’s always in there.  The Pens just had too much success despite losing what everyone assumed to be the reasons that their team won to not give it to him.

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Feel free to let me know what you think.  Hope everyone is enjoying the first day of the Masters – lord knows I am!

Puck Daddy Live Pre-Playoff Chat

 

Puck Daddy Live Chat, BOOM:

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