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GUEST POST: Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy

 

The always entertaining (and inflammatory) Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy is back, folks.  My apologies on the delay – he sent me this over a day ago.  Hope you enjoy!

Follow him on twitter.

*****

Shut Up, Ray Shero

-by Ryan Lambert

  

An actual thing an NHL general manager said about one of his own players:
 
“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game.”

I can be your Shero bayyyby. (Bourne on caption patrol)

 And with that, Ray Shero was showered with smiles and plaudits and flowers from all angles. What courage it took for Shero to come out and say that! About his own player! This really shows the Penguins care about the headshot issue!
 
What this all ignored, of course, was that Matt Cooke was his own player to begin with.
 
Boy, that’s troublesome, huh? The team that’s been so far out in front of all this reprehensible and irredeemable dirty play in the league this year just happens to have its most dangerous player on payroll for a sizeable chunk of money, and has been since 2008.
 
Since the start of that 2008-09 season, Cooke has received four suspensions from the league totaling as many as 25 games, and probably should have gotten more for the type of vicious knee-to-knee and flying elbow shots that have become his grisly trademark.
 
So to say that Shero is not being duplicitous when he praises the league for suspending Cooke is more than a little bit incorrect. We heard that Shero sat down and talked with Cooke over the summer, spelling out that the kind of play that resulted in, say, Marc Savard’s brain injury, is simply not acceptable.
 
And we heard that through backchannels. Never once did Shero come out and say that elbows like those on Savard or Artem Anisimov were unacceptable and didn’t belong in hockey in, I don’t know, some sort of press release.

I be he actually bites his *own* kids in the sandbox.

Let’s not pretend, however, that they didn’t sign Cooke to a three-year, $5.4 million extension knowing full well what they were getting. In that famous little “Matt Cooke cheapshotting history” video CBC put together last postseason, 10 of the 17 or 20 hits they highlighted came when he was wearing a Penguins jersey. Now, those were of varying brutality and he was suspended for two of them, but that’s at least an average of five borderline or outright dirty players per year that resulted in someone being hurt for at least a short while.
 
The team also stood by when at least seven more questionable plays (according to this) happened this year, offering either silent affirmation that this type of play is acceptable — by not benching him — or, in the case of that horrifying hit from behind on Fedor Tyutin, for which Cooke was suspended four games, outright supporting him and blaming the victim (right, Danny Bylsma?).
 
But now after this latest elbow, Shero chose to break his silence, when the tide of public and league sentiment safely turned against his guy, aided (only as a matter of coincidence, I’m sure) by team owner Mario Lemieux bitching out league officials over that Islanders game. And, if you watch the DiPietro/Cooke video in the above link, you’ll see that Cooke fueled some of that bad blood in no small way earlier in the year.
 
And now he puts out that statement, leans back smugly in his chair, and looks like some sort of hero to any idiot who opts to take everything at face value.
 
But really, he’s nothing more than the father who accepts no responsibility for his poorly-behaved child, getting scolded at a parent-teacher conference.
 
Matt Cooke is as much the toddler who bites kids in the sandbox as anything else. In fact, he won’t stop biting kids. Stealing their toys. Pulling their hair. And Shero sits there condoning it by letting the kid get time in the sandbox day after day, just waiting for the next kid to start wailing while Cooke stands there sheepishly with that detestable “What did I do?” face of his.

"Cooke for Avery, straight up."

 But now Shero’s been called into school, after Mario led the anti-bullying campaign, and he sits there saying, “I know it’s not acceptable and I’ve told him that but he just doesn’t listen!”
 
Now Matt’s got a couple weeks worth of detention to sit there and think about what he’s done, and daddy dearest totally agrees with it. But the kid’s not going to learn because in the end, Shero already promised to take him out for $3.6 million worth of ice cream over the next two years.

We’ve also heard the talk from Cooke, who’s saying all the right things about knowing he has to change how he plays, but we’ve also heard it before, so the only way we’ll know he’s changed is in practical application.
 
I guess the lesson we should take from this is that we have to judge people by their actions and not their words. Cooke can say he’s sorry but the next time he tries to take someone’s head off (and believe me, there will be a next time), what will that have meant? Shero and Lemieux can say they don’t condone his actions, but they’re still going to pay him a lot of money.
 
And don’t get me wrong. Cooke is a very effective hockey player when he’s playing hockey. He’s worth the $1.8 million a year in that regard. But to get that type of strong defensive play, you also have to put up with the cheapshot, injurious nonsense.
 
The Penguins had two years to figure it out. That Cooke has continued to play that way — and admittedly, he’s gotten appreciably worse this season — isn’t a light-dawns-on-Marblehead revelation to anyone in the league except, apparently, Ray Shero.
 
So Shero’s either one of two things: an idiot to have not recognized it before, or someone who is willing to tolerate the depths to which the league’s most dangerous dirty player will sink because goddamn is he ever good at killing penalties.
 
Neither one of those things is praiseworthy. And no self-congratulatory press release is going to change that.

*****

 

Matt Cooke – A history of cheapshots:

Joining A New Team, Goligoski/Neal & Niskanen Trade

 

New Puck Daddy:  Part one of my pieces on joining a new team. This part focuses on the gear, and the joy that is getting all new stuff in your new team colours.  On Thursday the piece will be about fitting in – how soon you can take a shot at a guy, how you interact with the guy you speared in the nuts last time you played them.

*****

Healthy and happy, the boys both chilling on a place we shouldn’t let them, but do (the counters are off-limits though).  They don’t look all that pumped, but whatever, they didn’t respond when I asked them to smile.

Hi there, we're cats.

*****

The Pittsburgh Penguins finally tracked down a quality winger for Sidney Crosby, trading offensive defenseman Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars for James Neal.  And if that wasn’t enough, Dallas threw in Matt Niskanen, a defenseman that still hasn’t fulfilled his potential, but could certainly develop further and be a nice asset for the Pens.

Great poise, vision.

Crosby hasn’t exactly been forced to be Lebron James in Cleveland (being that Evgeni Malkin is a Penguin as well), but for the most part he’s been saddled with mediocre wingers for his entire career.  Neal is far better than anybody he’s consistently played with before.  The best part is, Neal is still young (23), and has the potential to be a 30 or 40 goal guy.

Upon first glance, it appears that Pittsburgh won the trade in a major way.  Which they did.  But here’s my guess on why Nieuwendyk made the move:

First, the obvious stuff – the Stars are on a self-imposed budget, and I’m sure they’d like to re-sign Richards in the off-season.  Neal is due to sign a fairly hefty contract, so if Nieuwendyk figured he wasn’t going to be able to get them both, you might as well get a quality player for the guy while you can.  And, Goligoski is a major asset.

Solid addition for the Pens.

But second, and this is purely speculation – maybe they were going to get rid of Niskanen anyway.  Apparently Dallas fans are disappointed that he hasn’t lived up to their expectations, and maybe the guy wore out his welcome there.  Being that Pittsburgh has said that Goligoski wasn’t for sale, and I truly believe they meant it, this kind of feels like one of those “offer they can’t refuse” situations.

He wasn’t for sale, but everyone has their price, so why not overpay to catch the exact fish you want? (Like the Knicks just did for Carmelo Anthony.)  It’s more valuable to use the guy as a throw-in than trying to trade him straight up for another mediocre player (and not get Goligoski), or worse, putting him on waivers or something.

Can’t be certain, but you can be certain that there was more to this deal than just equating player talents and mis-judging their worths.

Then again, what do I know?

*****

I’m such a product of my own generation, that I can’t help but adore the set-up of Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” column every week.  Just nugget upon nugget of hockey information.  Too good, I recommend you check it out.

*****

On trade deadline day, I’m going to be doing many, many hours of radio with my co-host Todd Lewis.  Swing by the site that day and tune in for a bit, Todd’s a good dude and we have lots of fun.

Hope everyone is doing well – looking forward to seeing all these new players in their new sweaters!

What I Would Have Written About Montreal Pre-Playoffs

 

This is the article I WOULD have written about the Canadiens before playoffs had I thought they were worth the digital ink and a morning of my life:

The following are the reasons the Canadiens aren’t good enough to do jack-s**t in playoffs.  I mean, no way they could ever be dangerous with that team of theirs, right?

1) The Goalie Carosel

The Canadiens have been unable to pin down their starting goalie all year, rotating between Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak.  They’ve repeatedly tried to let either guy win the job, but they both refuse to play good enough to permanently take it.  Interesting to see which one gets traded in the off-season.

2) Their Forwards Are Too Small to Handle The Abuse of Physical Playoff Hockey

This team struggled enough in the regular season, so when the physical, grinding style of playoff hockey takes over, their crew of tiny, overpaid forwards are going to wilt like orchids under fast food lamps.  They simply won’t be able to create offense.

3) Their D-Corps

Hal Gill is immobile, MA Bergeron can’t play defense, Gorges is a no-name depth guy, and their skilled d-men (Markov/Spacek) can’t defend.  It’s too much of a rag-tag group to hang with the big boys, and hold up when the pressure is on.

4) Washington/Pittsburgh

Frankly, for a team that backed into playoffs and looked somewhat pathetic doing it, they have no hope of getting through the toast of the league, the respective Presidents Trophy and Stanley Cup owners.  They shouldn’t even be on the same ice with names like Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom Green, Crosby and Malkin.  Who’s gonna stop them?  HAL GILL?  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

AND HERE’S WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE COMMENTED

Commenter X:

LOL, IMHO, it’s Crosby FTW.  BRB.

Commenter Y:

Great points.  You’re so right.  Montreal is stupid and Gainey sucks and they won’t even win a game and I hope Montreal dies because they booed the US anthem before the War of 1812.

Big Fan of Slandered Team Z:

The plus/minus differential for the Canadiens in that last quadrant of the final sector was substantially better than the Capitals and the Penguins.  If the Canadiens just don’t give up any powerplay, even strength or short handed goals, we can take them.  I think Halak will get hot, Hal Gill and Gorges will shut down Ovechkin and Crosby, and Cammalleri will be a Conn Smythe favourite.  It won’t be easy, but we’ll win the first two rounds in seven games.

Everyone Else’s Thoughts Z:

OMG you think Gill can shut down Ovy, and Halak will suddenly get good, and little Cammelleri will score in playoffs?  Respectfully, you’re dumb.

Bourne:

@Everyone Else’s Thoughts Z: +1 ZOMG, totally.

******

Couple quick thoughts on game seven:

a) Sergei Gonchar was just so bad, I feel like using more adjectives: disinterested, pathetic, unfocused, lacsidasical, lolly-gagger. 

b) Fleury, I mean, ulgh, he left a Luongo-hair-gel taste in my mouth

c) Cammalleri was just so good, I feel like using more adjectives: assassin-like, dangerous, locked-in, fully-automatic, slick.

d) Halak doesn’t look like a one-hit wonder.  He looks like all the good goaltenders I’ve played with or against, or more accurately, like guys who have success in the NHL.  Tall, positional and square with sharp reflexes.  I think he’d be a great pick up for someone next year, and deserves some surious cash.

******

So Montreal wins, Philly takes it to game seven, and suddenly the NHL playoffs are sabatoged.  No offense to fans of Montreal, and I mean that sincerely – your team is doing amazing things, and deserves all the praise in the world (starting with world-beater Halak…. that toe save on Malkin yesterday was ridiculous) – but really, the “series I’m excited to watch” chart just dwindled down to one: the Western Conference Finals.

Whether it’s Montreal/Boston or Montreal/Philly (and i’m calling Boston to pull one out of their you-know-where), it’s the third round of playoffs.  So these already not-so-deep teams will be playing with injuries after grinding through a combined 27 playoff games.  Basically, we’ll be watching (or not watching) a 7 vs. 8 seed series, who are playing tired and without some of their best players.  What’s that equal, a 12 vs. 13 series on the thrill-ometer?

I bet the games will be super close (maybe some overtimes), and it’ll be a sluggish, defensive war of attrition, but because the games are close, we’ll have to claim the games were well-played.  I desperately want to be wrong about this. Playoffs have been stunning.  I really don’t want to feel like saying “fine, I’d rather watch The Biggest Loser too, Bri….”, but it’s a real possibility in the later games of the series.

And assuming the two teams in the West don’t strip each other down to near-lifelessness, we’re looking at a five or six game final at most, any way you slice the matchups.

Ahhhh well.  At least we have more rioting to look forward to from Quebec.

*****

Two pieces of big news, folks:

One, while Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski is on paternity leave (which apparently exists, lucky for me), I’ll be taking over his spot.  First post will probably be tomorrow, and will increase in frequency over the next week or so.  Basically, my blog’s for this site will just be links to my blogs on that site.  For a lil bit here.

*Feel free to email or comment suggestions on topics from playoffs you’d like to see covered!

And two, SIDNEY CROSBY IS MOVING OUT OF LEMIEUX’S HOUSE.  It’s a big step for the filthy rich 23 year old, I know, so let’s all say a prayer for him!

 

Coaching Around The Canadiens, End of The Detroit “Yankees”?

 

Once again, the purity of playoff hockey has been tainted by some Coyotes ownership clus-f**kery.  Anytime someone works the just-created ”clust-f**kery” into a blog’s first sentence, you would think it’s gonna be a rant – but no-no, my pretties.  We’re gonna talk fun stuff, ’cause eff this noise.  Just let me know what’s happening when it happens. 

*****

For starters, a quick thank you:  For reading and commenting so responsibly, and with such a great sense of humour.  Our comment section seems to work more as a conversation, with links shared, jokes, and nobody doing the whole “you don’t even know” thing.  It’s a game – we play it for fun, follow it for fun, and when it gets un-fun, it’s time to find something else to do.  (PS, the Rangers, the Oilers, and the Hurricanes suck.   Yay!  :) )

Thanks for following me on twitter (we’ve still got some room for growth on that one).  And a special thanks to those of you who’ve donated to the blog.  This thing works like one big job application for me, which thus far hasn’t made me rich, so it’s you folks that have kept the blog running.  I’ve received donations ranging from $5 to $300 dollars (and a 2005 HP!), and believe me, I ain’t playin’ the stock market with it (though I do occasionally donate some to a local bar…. but only when The Hills is on at home and I need to watch hockey.  ITS FOR THE GOOD OF THE BLOG, BRIANNA.)

We hit our first 30,000 visit month!  Let’s keep growing this thing. 

*****

Now!

*unggh* MOMMMM!

Onto the “just how seriously do we take the Canadiens?” question.  Which, I hope is a short conversation in the Penguins locker room right now.

Very.

As we’ve previously discussed, their less-than-thrilling rope-a-dope style continues to be oddly effective.  Instead of three minutes, however, they generally take beatings for three periods, only to land massive haymakers at the end of six of their last 11 fights.

At times, you get the feeling that a Pittsburgh player could just stop in the neutral zone with the puck and Montreal would leave him be ’til he tried to cross the red line.  It’s like the world’s longest game of red rover, and the Canadiens are a bunch of WWE wrestlers who’ve interlocked hands.

….We call Malkin! over…

I don’t even know what to say anymore, which, I get the vibe, is a similar feeling Bylsma and Bodreau have had.  Someone has to coach their way around this Canadiens team, and I get the hunch hard work and go-go-go isn’t the answer.  I’d like to see more patience, and a “don’t fire ’til you see the whites of his eyes” mentality on Halak (and maybe give him some of the Big Cess treatment).  When a goalie’s hot, contrary to popular opinion, I’m not of the “shoot more, shoot from everywhere” mindset.  You just end up keeping him warm and alert, not to mention you’re wasting valuable possessions.

Confident fella.

Stanley Cup champions have to find a variety of ways to win, have to be versatile.  We’re gonna find out in the next week if the Penguins are as one dimensional as a commenter recently suggested.

{PS – is it possible to not be crazy-intrigued by Subban?  He’s the bright light for Montreal right now, just a super-interesting guy/player.}

*****

Johan Franzen had a thousand goals and fourteen assists in a 7-1 Red Wings win last night.  Yesterday, I suggested Detroit would win handily (4-1, I think?) just to make all the Sharks supporters “poop just a little”.  And shat themselves, they have.

This musta felt like groundhog ....game?

I’ve never heard so much talk about a potential 3-0 comeback. 

My dad always talked about how hard it was to get that fourth win in a series to close a team out.  Which is doubly scary, since the pressure-pendulum has swung the Sharks way.  The ball is in your court now, fellas. 

My prediction:  Wings take a close game five in San Jose, but San Jose pulls their sh*t together and wins in Detroit in game six.  I also predict that if I’m right on that, the media is going to drag us to hell and back with overreactions about Thornton’s legacy, Marleau’s future, and other mind-numbing circular arguments.

*****

I heard a few “end of an era” talks about Detroit – the one I’ve linked to there is especially…. what’s a PC word for retarded?  I’ve done some research on the Wings (ooo, I’m a journalist), and here’s what I’ve discovered:

Henrik's Zetterbeard

Players under contract until 2013:

Pavel Datsyuk
Johan Franzen
Henrik Zetterberg
Dan Cleary
Valtteri Filpula
Brian Rafalski
Niklas Kronwall
Brad Stuart

Yes.  They’re going to be terrible.  Especially with Triple Gold Club Member Mike Babcock as their coach (47 years old, a Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold, World Championship Gold, World Junior Gold, and 10 wins in the Stanley Cup finals in the past six seasons)

*****

Back to Canucks-Blackhawks today, round two in Vancouver.  Will the Canucks win?  Will the reffing be atrocious?  WILL CECIL FIELDER ON SKATES SCORE ANOTHER GOALIE “MAULING” HAT-TRICK?  Also, Boston plays.  I’m calling Philly by two.

Last question of the day:  I need help spelling two things.   1) hattrick, hat trick, hat-trick    (2) commentor, commenter… or …commentisaurus rex? (Be thankful I don’t refer to friends of the blog as “puck buddies”, like my favourite hockey site Puck Daddy.)

TGIF!  Have a great weekend folks.

Cinqo de OhMyGod, He’s Not Wearing Teeth On TV

 

So, does Darren McCarty not have teeth, or does he just choose not to wear them?  And as a follow up, which of those two things would be more messed up?

Suit, check. Shaved, check. Teeth, f**k it.

On the “doesn’t have them” hand, he’s just said eff it.  I’m not doin’ the whole teeth thing.  People know I played hockey, they know I was a tough, they don’t expect me to have any chompers.  It’s a hassle, it’s expensive, I’m just not doin’ it.  I don’t care if I’m an analyst with Versus.  I’m not going through with it. (note: I actually like having him on the panel there.  A little personality never hurt anyone.)

On the ”chooses not to wear them” hand, he’s completely socially oblivious.  Because he knows enough to have the teeth, but doesn’t think TV is the right time to be wearing them.  He’s gone through the whole procedure.  Dentist appointments, fittings, root canals, who knows.  But he deems national television an unworthy tooth-sporting event.  I guess he didn’t think many people were gonna see him.  After all, he is on Versus.  BOOM!  So if not then…. WHEN?

My best guess:  He knows he looks better with them in, but they inhibit his ability to speak clearly.  You know, without having a lisp or something.  (Which probably just comes from getting your brain puchisized for free for a dozen+ years, but hey, I’m fine with blaming the teeth.)

{Random tooth tale: My college teammate got a new retainer-style front jib right before our road trip to Minneapolis.  We went out that night after our game for his 21st birthday.  Gets cross-eyed drunk (t-bombs at Brothers), goes home and pukes in the little hotel garbage can by the desk.  The next day, he wakes up at 4:45 hungover as all hell and frantic about missing our 5:00 a.m. team bus.  He throws his stuff together but can’t find his tooth.  So he has to check, y’know?  Nauseous and near-puking, he looks in the can and sees a glimmer of steel from the retainer of his front tooth.  ….And plunges his hand in.  GAG.}

*****

Sharks/Wingys

Last night the Detroit Red Wings blew a two-goal lead at home to the always clutch, unwaveringly relentless Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.  You just can’t beat consistency when it comes from team leaders.  (“…well you should, cause I’m layin’ it on pretty thick.”)

 

Great goal. 

Frankly, Jimmy Howard let them down.  I don’t care how many great saves he made over the course of the night – the Shark’s first tally in the dying seconds of the first period was a terrible, momentum-swinging moment, and the goal line sneaker is, as usual, frowned upon.

For my money, Marleau wasn't NEARLY excited enough after scoring.

I swear to god, when it was 2-0 Wings I almost tweeted “Was there anyone out there who didn’t think the Wings were going to pump San Jose tonight?”  And really, it still would’ve been a fair question.  Didn’t we all think that the first game at the Joe was going to be an “oh yeahhhh, now I remember, the RED WINGS, right…” night?

But  San Jose didn’t give up against a tough team in their home barn, and the big boys answered the bell when it was rung.  If you’re a Bill Simmons reader, you know the value of them somehow having the “no one believed in us” factor (the same way the Coyotes did), despite being a one seed.  That’s a dangerous combination, no?

Two things: 

1) Sometimes when a team is down 3-0, you can pretty much stop watching the series.  But with the reputations of these two teams (choking dogs, straight-up winners, respectively), doesn’t this kinda fit the formula for a series that could still get real scary, real quick, IF yaknowhatImean?  I say the Red Wings win the next game handily, like, 4-1 or so, just to make even the most ardent Sharks supporter poop just a little.

2) In fairness, San Jose does look like the team who’ll be moving on, which makes me uber-excited for the Western Conference finals.  Either series would be awesome (vs. Van or vs. Chi), because all three teams have fan bases and teams that can never seem to get over the hump, but deserve to.  Looking into the future: I think I’d pick the Sharks to beat Chicago, but not Vancouver.  I’ll explain when the time comes.

Pitt beats Montreal two-spit

Thus far, this series is only interesting for Penguins and Habs fans, which is probably somewhere near 50% of the total fans of the sport thanks to bandwagonners and traditionalists.  Watching the Habs is like watching a cup-winning Devils team, only without the confidence.

And really, that’s it: Montreal is playing this well because they lack confidence (umm, and they’re smart), so that know they have to play the perfect team defensive game to have any hope.  Whiiiiich they keep doing.  So when they run into a hot (decent?) goalie, the mere 18 shots they’ve generated in two of the four games is simply not going to get it done, even with shutting down the Penguins high-flyin’ offense.

Just another Mexican-Alaskan spending the lockout in the ECHL

Sorry Habs fans, but you’ve got too much skill and talent on that team to be this boring.  This isn’t who you are. 

Last thought: How badly do you think Scott Gomez’s career highlight reel was squashed by being at his peak during “The Devils Years”? (Which is a memory that makes most hockey fans shudder).  I may have said this before, but if I could pick any guy to carry the puck in on the powerplay, I’m going with him.  He’s just so light on his skates, man.

*****

That’s all for today people.  Join me at 1PM EST on Puck Daddy’s site for a playoff hockey chat.  I’ll be saying things like “oh big time”, “but that’s just not true” and maybe even “arrrriba!”  Don’t miss out.

The floor is now yours to discuss McCarty’s teeth.

Picks, Coyote Tix and Quick Hits

 

I did a bad job of explaining my predictions before the second round (less “bad job” and more “completely didn’t do it”), and now I have the advantage of having seen a game from each series.  So, my bad on that.  Thus, in the interest of keeping this entry from War and Peace-like length, I’ll cut to the chase on why I picked whom.

I picked Detroit, and explained it was because I can’t pick against The Zettersyuk.  I intend to do an old school, serious piece of prose about the poetic way Datsyuk plays later today.  Sheer artistry.

Boy, I never want this to happen again. ...wish I was on THAT team...

I picked Vancouver on the Luongo-is-better-than-Niemi tiebreaker, and because I only recently discovered that bandwagon Blackhawks fans are plutonium-level-volatile right now.  They’re entering the “holy crap, if we don’t win this year….” panic phase , where they’re studying salary cap rules at all hours of the night, and realizing that Hossa is basically becoming a one-man Buffalo Bills of the early ’90′s. WIDE RIGHT!  WIDE RIGHT!

I picked Pittsburgh because…. forget it, same reasons you did.

I picked Boston on the Rask-is-better-than-Boucher tiebreaker, and because Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne aren’t playing.  Also because Philly likes effing with it’s own fans by pretending it wants to win the cup, when really all the owners want is to get deep enough to get a few more home games for revenue. (Emery is out for the year?  It’s trade deadline time?  I have an idea…. what it we ride out this average goalie/great team thing and see where it takes us?  Haven’t tried that yet.)

I will say this about the Boston/Philly series – I would have predicted these two teams to be in the second round at the start of the year.  Surprisingly, they both struggled during the regular season, but I do actually think they’re more than capable of being competitive with the best teams.  The right eight teams made it from the East, and if you had looked at the rosters they went with for playoffs like eight months ago, you probably would’ve picked Boston to beat Buffalo, and Philly to beat Jersey.

*****

During Olympic time, I wrote a blog on Luongo the night before the gold medal game, on the topic of him making me feel slightly uneasy when he’s in net, for whatever reason.  (I took it down for fear of looking like a dissident at such a positive time.)

Guh. Aeweh.

To me, this is his career-defining series. 

Team vs. team, Chicago and Vancouver are pretty even – maybe Chicago is a little better.  Vancouver’s advantage is supposed to be in net.  When he’s won, he’s almost always had the better team.  When he’s lost, he’s almost always had the worse team.  He’s not getting any younger, and this is one of the first occasions I can remember that it’s his series to win or lose. 

If he wants to be the player Canuck fans think he is, now is his time to shine, like the bright lights hitting his greasy hair.

*****

My buddy bought a Phoenix Coyotes playoff ticket package, which for those of you that don’t know, means you buy them right through game seven of the finals.  If your team doesn’t make it that far, you get reimbursed.

If they don’t call him soon to offer him tickets for next year instead of just sending him a cheque back (which it appears they’re going to do), it’ll be disheartening as a guy rooting for the team to succeed here.  Coyote’s marketing: he’d take the tickets, I’m telling you.  Make those calls while their season is fresh in everyone’s mind.  DO THIS RIGHT!

*****

The guys from PTI asked Dwight Howard to pick who he thought should be the league MVP, and he named two players, neither of which were Lebron.  What a hater.

*****

I’ve seen the Marc Savard reaction to his overtime winner about eighty-hundred times thus far, and I’m still 100% on getting chills.  I love that shit.  Great stick-to-crowd toss.

"Back in black (hit the sack) been too long I'm glad to be back"

"Back in black (hit the sack) been too long I'm glad to be back"

*****

I just found out that Jaroslav Halak made 800K this year.  Vesa Toskala made 4SHMIL.  If you believe that there’s any justice in the universe, expect a bank error in Halak’s favour, where he collects 3.2 million, then passes GO for an extra 200 bucks.

*****

Have to mention this (sorry in advance): yesterday I heard “throwing the snake” used as the all-time-funniest euphemism EVAR.  Some guy, just off the cuff: I bet Jim Ballsillie is so depressed after losing the Coyotes he just sits around “throwing the snake” all day, if you know what I’m sayin’.

*****

And last but not least, some quick thoughts on each series for ya, while I’m on my way out the door:

San Jose/Detoit:  San Jose has had success so far in playoffs with the complete and utter absence of it’s best players.  Last night, Thornton got the GWG and Heatley had three assists.  This should scare a lot of teams in the West, like say, Detroit.

Vancouver/Chicago: Don’t expect another VanCity beat down.  That Chicago team is too talented, cocky and proud to get run-over like a dog on the highway again.  They need their young gunners to act like THIS DOG and pull them in the right direction, as I fully expect them to do.

Montreal/Pittsburgh: Hey, lookit them Canadiens go. Part of the reason Detoit is so good is because they’ve always been able to get offense from skill (Datsyuk/Zetterberg) or grit (Holmstrom/Franzen).  Jordan Staal was the second part of Pittsburghs offensive equation (and the first part of its defensive one).  Washington didn’t have a second way to score against Halak, and I think it’ll really hurt Pitt that they lost a big chunk of their second style too.  Seems like Halak can make every first save in the book, and Montreal’s D is doing a great job of clearing away second chance opportunities.

Philly/Boston:  The best news for Pittsburgh, who will eventually win that series or I’m folding my blog and becoming a monk, is that this Philly/Boston series is close, so it’s going to be a war.  The teams hate each other.  It’s a battle of attrition, and the winning side is going to limp in front of the conference-finals-firing-squad on one limb.  Pittsburgh, Merry Christmas…. you’re in the finals.

*****

In case you missed it:  On Friday I uncovered footage of Ovechkin and the evil genius boss who sent him to Earth to capture the Stanley Cup.  You can watch it here.

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…”

 

Conference & Cup Winners, Mild Schizophrenia

 

Predictions are the most ridiculous thing I have to do in my line of work.  People who write about sports for a living shouldn’t be rewarded for their ability to predict the future, but rather for their ability to cover the past.

But whatever, it’s fun to do anyways, so put on your seatbelt.  There’s some more tough calls to be made.

In reality, there are only five legitimate Stanley Cup hopefuls:

Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals
Chicago Blackhawks
Detroit Red Wings
San Jose Sharks

Quick thoughts on each club:

Penguins:  The Penguins are an all-around solid team.  Good at every position, play as a unit, and have proven they can do it.  Plus they have some Cindy kid or something I heard about somewhere.  And didn’t some guy on their team win the Conn Smythe recently?

Capitals:  A one-dimensional offensive juggernaut that is so strong at it’s one dimension, they don’t look so bad in other areas.  If the other team never has the puck, you don’t have to play defense.  A nice perk.

Blackhawks: Grossly talented, huge fans of riding shirtless in limos - you almost get the impression that it’s leaders (Toews and Kane, mainly) are so young they don’t even realize the pressure.  Naturally, this makes them twice as dangerous, like how baby scorpions are more venemous than the big daddy’s.

Red Wings:  What’s talented, gritty and experienced all over?  Datsyuk and Zetterberg are disgustingly good, and they’re up for the Selke every year since they lead the league in take-aways.  So nothing special, just good D, nice grit, good goaltending and great coaching.

Sharks:  The big line they rely on to win doesn’t play with any youthful pep.  What they do do, is put skill and smarts in front of quality goaltending and get the job done.  Assuming the job they were trying to get done is making the playoffs.

So!  To the results show:

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

CHICAGO vs. DETROIT

This series makes me nervous to even think about, there’s so much talent on the ice.  Did you see game 82, where Detroit had to win to get the fifth seed?  Teams like Edmonton and Toronto were watching that on TV going, “man, someday I’d like to play in that league.”

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

PITTSBURGH vs. NEW JERSEY

What sucks about the East is, Pittsburgh puked away the TV dream of a conference finals with Washington by placing fourth.  What they almost certainly did do, is guarantee us getting to see that series in the second round of playoffs.

The Pittsburgh/Washington series is kind of a crapshoot.  It went seven games last year, and if both teams are healthy, it very well could go that far again this year.  One of these two teams will be missing guys by then, and the healthier team will prevail.  If they’re both healthy… what’s changed from last year?  Knuble and Leopold?  Not all that much.

For the two and three seeded Buffalo and New Jersey, it means that one of them gets to prove they were the real deal this year by earning the right to lose to Pittsburgh in the conference finals.  Quite an honor.  How bout that gift of a bracket?  Buffalo, Boston, Philly and New Jersey.  Anyone’s guess.

STANLEY CUP FINALS

PITTSBURGH vs. HOLY CRAP I HAVE NO IDEA WHO WOULD WIN THE SERIES BEFORE WOULD BRIAN CAMPBELL BE BACK DOES HOWARD WITHSTAND THE PLAYOFF PRESSURE I BETTER PICK SOMEONE LET’S GO WITH….. DETROIT!

Pittsburgh/Detroit, huh Bourne?  Way to take it out on a limb this year.

You want a limb?  Fine, here goes….

….AND THE WINNER IS…

THE PENGUINS!  NO WAIT!  THE RED WINGS!  NONO, PENGUINS!

THIS IS WHY THE PLAYOFFS ARE FUN, PEOPLE.

In all seriousness.  Ahem.  I choose:

The Pittsburgh Penguins. Sorry about the boring answer.  I’d love to see the Hawks or someone win.

Hey, the Isles dynasty was built on a core group of dudes who knew how to win.  I see a formula here (ignore the fact that Detroit has it too, and now that they have solid goaltending, are a much better model of the old Islanders).  Whatever, I had to pick someone, and Detroit is the more likely to lose in round one.  I’m taking Pittsburgh.  Good luck to all!

 

2010 NHL Playoffs – The Leastern Conference

 

Washington Capitals (1)

vs.

Montreal Canadiens (8)

For whatever reason, I don’t like many teams that wear red.  For example, there’s just about nothing I want to watch less than a New Jersey/Carolina series, as attested by my coverage of said series in last year’s playoffs (blatant refusal).  To make those games worse, I feel like there’s just something grinding about watching the actual colour red play red.  Anyone feel me on that? (Mmm, aesthetically soothing Canucks colours…)

First round bye, weee!

For some reason, this red vs. red battle doesn’t bother me quite so much.  Like most hockey fans, I love to watch Washington.  And Montreal, though a puny little excuse for a Washington challenger, is kinda fun to watch this year too (fun like those tiny toy cars “Hot Wheels” were as a kid).

The only way Washington’s round one series had any hope of being interesting this year was if Philly had the eight seed.  It would’ve been awesome watching Carter and Richards going buck-crazy, being playoff performers out there, scoring goals….. and still losing by football scores, like 21-14.  Thatta been great.

Not much to say here, except the obvious: Washington just has way too much firepower to lose.  If the Canadiens give them so much as a scare, I fear for Washington when they play a better team.  I rate Montreal’s chances, as a percentage, at beat-it-dont-even-try.4%

PREDICTION: CAPITALS in THREE

*****

New Jersey Devils (2)

vs.

Philadelphia Flyers (7)

I think this was a tough card for New Jersey to pull, simply because I can’t believe how badly the Flyers have underachieved this year.  I mean, 88 points, in the East?  How is that possible, with their roster?  Before the season, I noticed that their back end had good transition/powerplay guys such as Pronger, Timmonen and Carle, and I remember thinking “crap, they’re gonna score a ton of goals this year.”

Combine that with with some of the games best forwards: Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Danny Briere and crew (Claude Giroux is no slouch. Hell, Van Riemsdyk is sick too.), and Philly has a wonderful hockey team.

So what the hell is going on there?

Dollar says he scored.

Riiiighht, goaltending, right.  I’ve seen this play before.

On the other side of the coin, I was completely surprised by New Jersey’s record this year.  Any time you have Brodeur in net, your team can’t be bad – but past him, I didn’t see a reason for them to have much success.  I knew Parise and Zajac were great, but then what? (That, and I kinda figured Elias and Langenbrunner were past their best-before dates…. guess not).  I kept waiting for this team to trip, but it never happened.

With the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils finally have that dynamic offensive punch you always felt that they lacked in the past.  It gives them two really solid lines (though they admit they can’t find a spot for Kovy that clicks), and combined with Brodeur, it’s become pretty clear that their season wasn’t a fluke.

{I have to point this out for the millionth time – can you BELIEVE that Kovalchuk is 230 pounds?  I’d have been off by 60 if you had made me guess two months ago.}

But looking at their D -  Andy Greene, Mike Mottau, Bryce Salvador, Colin White, Paul Martin, Mark Fraser, Martin Skoula and Anssi Salmela.  I dunno… it doesn’t feel very Cup contender-y.  They have, however, done a great job at keeping pucks out of their net this year (y’know, first-in-the-league-good, at 191 over 82 games – 2.32 per), but something about them makes me nervous.  ….And it probably has something to with NJ’s (okay, Marty’s) meltdown in the final minute of game seven against Carolina last year.

If you put the leagues most average goalie in the Flyers net - say, Dwayne Roloson – I think I’d pick them to win this series.  I like their roster that much more.  But Parise, Zajac and Kovalchuk shooting on Boucher makes it a dicey situation.

In the end, New Jersey has done too good of a job defensively to lose their first playoff series, where defense and goaltending are emphasized.  I think they’ll see round two, but barely.

PREDICTION: DEVILS in SEVEN

*****

Buffalo Sabres (3)

vs.

Boston Bruins (6)

If I were the Buffalo Sabres, I would be pissed at how the final playoff seeds ended up falling.  They (like New Jersey) were so close to getting to play an obviously worse team like the Rangers or Thrashers.  But noooo, Boston and Philly had to get their shit together at the last second, and squeak in.

Shot! Save. Shot! Save. Shot! F**K!

This sucks, you see, because Boston and Philly aren’t as horrible as they desperately tried to convince us all they were this year.

One of the few guys pushing Ryan Miller for the Vezina this year is Boston’s Tuuka Rask.  Combine that solid goaltending with Buffalo’s Phoenix-like offense (three lines of second line forwards = good team/not great), and we may see some low scoring games – especially when you consider that Buffalo has the league’s best goaltender, and Boston can’t score (206 goals all year, good for second-to-dead-last).

But, every time you think a series is going to be a defensive suck-fest, it ends up amazing.  Using that logic, this could be a thrilling, high-scoring series.  The only people I care to see play are the goalies.  I’m not saying Derek Roy and David Krejci aren’t exceptional hockey players, I’m saying that nobody is circling dates on their calendar to see them when they come to town.

I see Boston being the better team in this series, bringing the play to Buffalo, shooting, skating, hitting, exhausting themselves, and Ryan Miller chucking up the frustrating stone wall.  Then I see the Sabres working hard and smart, capitalizing on a few nice plays, (maybe a powerplay or two?), and winning games by scores like 3-2 and 2-1.  They probably win a couple of the - oh, let’s say three – games that go to overtime.

I really wanted to pick an upset here – and the Sabres and Devils are definitely both on my “upset watch” list.  But Ryan Miller is the best goalie in the world today, and that counts for something in playoffs.  I’m siding with him.

PREDICTION: SABRES IN SEVEN

*****

Pittsburgh Penguins (4)

vs.

Ottawa Senators (5)

Congratulations, Ottawa.  You finished ahead of the slovenly pack of droolers in the East.  You stayed out of the “who’s gonna make playoffs” fracas.  And in the process, you convinced me that you’re actually a good team.  I was wrong about you.

Strike a pose

The bad news is, you’re basically about as lucky as the Coyotes in the West.

Had Pittsburgh caught New Jersey, as they should have, you’d be playing Jersey instead.  And I like your odds there.

What I don’t like, for you, is going up against the defending Stanley Cup champs, who are healthy, and about to flip it into “game on” mode.  You’re toast.

The Penguins probably slow-played their hand a little bit too much this year.  Didn’t do enough to grab the really high seed that guarantees they get to coast through round one.  Over the long haul of playoffs, having to play a good Senators team to start things off is really going to grind on them physically.

But as far as this series goes, Pittsburgh is still Pittsburgh.  Between last years Cup champion team and this year, they cut off a couple guys that were acting as anchors, and picked up depth assets in guys like Jordan Leopold and Alexi Ponikarovsky.  You take a team that’s won the cup and make them better?  They don’t lose round one.

PREDICTION: PENGUINS in FIVE

*****

So that’s all she wrote for round one, folks!  I’ll keep a running total of how my predictions went as we go (though I won’t follow how many games it took to get it done – that’s really just there to demonstrate how confident I am in the winner I picked). 

GAME ONE OF M***********G PLAYOFFS STARTS TONIGHT!

THROW.    THE.    SNAKE.

“8th Seeds, Who Wants Some 8th Seeds?”

 
White rabbits!

Anyone else say that at the start of every month for luck?  I’m gonna say my family’s been doing it for like, 15 years – the earlier you say it on the 1st, the better the luck that month.

Also, throwing perfectly good money into a well is good luck.  Mutated clovers are too.  Totally makes sense.

*****

Speaking of luck – with a little of it, could you see Calgary or St. Louis sneaking ahead of Colorado for eighth in the Western Conference?

Yeesssssss you could.

Colorado’s remaining six games see them play the Flames head-to-head once (tomorrow!  Ooo), the Sharks, the Blackhawks, the Kings, the Canucks and a freebie against the Oilers (or is it?!).

They’re up two points on the Flamers (with a game-in-hand… at-hand?), so for conversation sake, lets say Calgary beats them tomorrow.  They’d both have 89 points, and I could see Colorado being below .500 in those last five games, since, y’know, four of the five teams are ahead of them in the standings.

Weee, winning is fun!

Calgary, admittedly, doesn’t have a much easier schedule – Blackhawks, Sharks, Wild, Canucks – but all they’d have to do down the stretch is win three to catch the Avs.  Exciting stuff.

I’ve included the Blues in the hunt too – six points out with six games to go, largely because they seem to be turning it around, and you never know.  After winning three straight, they’re schedule includes games versus the Predators, the Stars, Blue Jackets, Ducks and Blackhawks.  Five wins isn’t completely impossible, and might be enough to get it done, if the two teams ahead of them act like it’s the Eastern Conference.

So here’s to a great finish out West!

As for the East….

All I’m wondering is, “the Isles are three points up on the Maple Laffs, and play Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Pittsburgh to end the season.  Could they fall far enough to steal the increased lottery odds?”

A fair question, no?

I think they can, only cause the Laffs can’t do ANYTHING right this year.

On a more relevant note, Boston, Montreal and Philadelphia all have 82 points while the Thrashers have 80 and the Rangers have 78.  What a mess (congrats to Tampa for being 3-7 in its last ten, taking the title of “biggest blown opportunity” away from the Rangers at the last second).

Montreal has one less game left, but a joke of a schedule coming home (After the Flyers they have the Islanders, Hurricanes, Maple Leafs and an SPHL team, I think).

So wait… Boston/Montreal won’t be a 1-8 or 2-7 matchup this year?  But it’s always like that….

*****

The NHL’s biggest “I can’t believe that guy doesn’t wear a visor” has to be Ruslan Fedetenko, right?  Baby face, happy guy, plays a skill game, seems afraid, gets hurt (but not injured) a lot….  Everytime I see him I’m surprised.  Who else is on this list?

*****

The NHL’s biggest “numbers-inflating roster spot” has to be A) Alex Burrows spot with the Sedins  B) Steve Downie’s spot with St. Louis/Stamkos line  or C)  ???  Whatchu got?  (Getting to wear a Capitals jersey?)

*****

The guy pumping it out in the picture below (Nick Lowe) is here for a golf weekend, then a few days at my place.  You may remember his picture from a previous blog.  In this pic, he just tied the game up with minutes left – I score on the next shift to beat North Dakota (that years version of the Sioux had Toews, Stafford, Smaby, Zajac, Oshie, Brian Lee, and was goaltended by Lamoureux or Jordan Parise), the weekend my Dad was in Alaska.  Special times.

Solid one-knee pump.

***** 

Happy Thursday.  I wish it were Friday.

Thoughts From A Hockey-Centric Mind

 

Hockey-centric, because “boob-centric” isn’t generally considered class “a” journalism.

I’ve decided to spare you my weekend golf tale of woe, because you have zero reason to care about my double bogey on the par 5 18th to shoot a +1 (73) after making seven birdies as a six handicap.  Oops, so you got the Coles Notes version.  I’m still rattled.

Hockey’s gettin’ good, and here’s what’s on my mind….

*****

Yesterday, I had a friend of the blog send me a gambling tip – as in, he’d found an extremely fair line to bet.  I misunderstood the bet at first, but now I’m wondering….

Gamblers of the world, unite!  Have you seen any great odds for the playoffs or rest of the regular season?  Let’s track ‘em down for each other.  I haven’t bet online since last season, but I’ve followed way too closely this year to not put a couple down before playoffs.

And if you haven’t seen good odds…. confident in your team?  Care to make a bet?  I’m sure it’s illegal, so we won’t bet money (wink), but chuck it out there and see if someone else’s team wants to take the other side of the bet.  For example, I bet the Islanders don’t lose a single game in playoffs this year.  Any takers?

*****

Mouthguards, you may know, are spit-out-able.  To be sure you always have one amongst all the travelling, misplacing and chewing on them, when you go get a custom mouthguard in professional hockey, they make you up a couple.  In the NHL, I’m sure they have stacks of them on backup.  And when they do come out of your mouth, you can pick them up.

So why was Sidney Crosby jawing at Jimmy Howard after the whistle with that stupid clumsy thing in?  Afraid he was gonna get suckered?  Or just prone to really awkward looking confrontations? 

You guessed it.  Angry-Faced Sid (AFS from here forth) is awkwaaaard (but not super awkward, like it must be every time Tiger’s phone vibrates for a text, and he and Elin look at it, then at each other, then back at it…. and he grabs it).

 

*****

Is it just me, or is “hockey is for everyone” the most obscure slogan ever coming from a sport played predominantly by upper-middle class largely white kids from cold-weather climates?

I like “history will be made” a lot though, because, frankly, (hockey) history will be (Max Talbot!).  Legends are built, as demonstrated by how nobody scoffs when you imply Ruslan Fedetenko is an effective player – because of all his game winners in playoffs with the Lightning (jokes, jokes, he’s a great person and good depth guy).

*****

I still think overtime should go to three-on-three before the shootout.  In that 3 on 3, penalties are penalty shots, it’s 2-on-1 after 2-on-1, and wins come by a more hockey-like and awesome fashion.  Haters be damned, if they saw it in action, they’d pee their old wooden Montreal Forum seats they bought off eBay and sit in to watch road games on their old bunny-eared no-def TV’s.

*****

I’d like to see a stat on which team has played the most back-up goalies in the league this year.  Gotta be Toronto or Edmonton, right?

*****

 In defense for some bad looking hits: it’s really hard, if you’re forechecking a defenseman going back on the puck with intent to finish your check like your coach wants (and get the puck), to pull up or recognize he’s put himself in an unsafe spot.  It just is.  Just ask my no-longer intact sternum & clavicle, sometimes you’re just gonna. get. hit. hard. in hockey.

*****

Recently added to the list of things I never knew existed but I now co-own by the rules of common-law living:  “Sconces.”

*****

Happy Tuesday – it’s pouring here, a perfect day for writing.  Expect a flood of articles in the near future.

Hockey Snippets

 

Bottom O’ the mornin’ to lots of ya, today!

It’s time for our regular feature, the yet un-named blogs where I mind-puke random mostly-hockey-based thoughts (thoughts on the Wisniewski hit in the comment section).  Let’s do this.

*****

St. Patrick Elias

You know what’s gonna be unfortunate?  The inevitable Devils fans heartbreak when they lose a best of seven series to Pittsburgh.  It all looks so pretty right now.  SIX AND OH against the defending Stanley Cup champs this year.  I know a good chunk of you fans will disagree, and you have every logical stat backing you up. 

Which is why it’s gonna hurt so, so bad.

*****

Is it just me, or are Simeon Varlamov and Jose Theodore basically Kyle Orton?  Spent some years on a good team, nobody thinks they’re that good, only nobody can prove they aren’t, cause all they do is win.  I remember early in the NFL season watching Orton grenade the ball around the field for some wins, and people were going “hey, maybe we are better off with Orton than Cutler.”  …until they realized they were huge liars, to themselves.  Same with Huet.  I’m sure he’s going “What more do you want me to do than win?” and Chicago’s fans are thinking “BE BETTER AT PLAYING GOAL”, because he’s not Nikolai Khabibulin (…..but at least he’s sober, zzzzzzzing!)

*****

The Phoenix Coyotes are five points out of FIRST IN THE WESTERN CONFERENCE.  Thank god I wasn’t the only tool to pick them to finish 31st out of 30.    Good on ‘em.

*****

Weee, goals are fun!

I’d be interested to hear Ponikarovsky talk about the difference in mood/daily stress going from the last place Maple Leafs to the dressing room of the defending champion Penguins.  I’ve been on teams at both ends of the standings, and it’s amazing how much your start builds momentum.  The season snowballs, good or bad.  You start winning, people are in a better mood, you’re more relaxed, you play better, and you win more. 

I can’t imagine being in a negativity vortex with Brian Burke and Ron Wilson.  They’re like the car or cow that flies out of the tornado and wrecks your house.  Shit was already gonna get damaged, but you know those two are major forces of destruction just waiting to happen, flyin’ around inside that tornado (BTW, I’m a major Burke fan with mad respect for him, but that’s a firey dude that I’d hate to explain my plus/minus to after a loss).

*****

Promotions that need to be stopped:  colored ice for anything.  I think Ms. Conduct mentioned playing on (or seeing) green ice the other day.  All I know is, it’s an effing nightmare to play on pink “breast cancer awareness” ice.  Maybe for a charity or exhibition game, but if I got hit with my head down in a real game, trying to fish the puck out of the hallucinogenic colors below me, I would’ve punched the first woman I saw in the breasts.  We’ve all been affected by it, it’s a great cause, but making my job frustrating and less safe kind of defeats the purpose of being charitable.

A tad gimicky, even for the ECHL

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The elusive brandless twig.

I like that announcers are trying to carry on the “boy these one-piece sticks breaking is an epidemic!” tradition that they all loved to shout when the transition from wood happened.  You couldn’t find a single player in a single NHL dressing room that would say a wood stick lasts longer (secretly, I think it’s the cost of the sticks that blows the commentators minds – they should never break at that price!). 

The rare guy still using wood (Paul Stastny) would tell you the exact same thing.  For him, it’s a feel preference, but I’m sure he still uses a stick a game, minimum.  Guys on the mic know those are 200 pound muscular men swinging them as hard as possible at the ice and a frozen puck simultaneously right?

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That’s all today guys!  Hope you enjoyed the video blog yesterday, and go check out my latest column at USA Today when you get a chance!  It’s on the Common Sense Rule for Head Shots, which means it has very little chance of being successful in professional sports.

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Random picture I like:  C’mon Cristobal, you can this!  (I actually believe that, for what it’s worth.)

Stanley Cup Frontrunners

 

Contributing to the Power Rankings for USA Today each couple weeks really makes me think about where teams in the NHL are at.  These are the left-over thought nuggets from this weeks edition.

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Carolina - In last years playoffs, Bourne’s Blog became a forum for a quality back and forth with some of the Carolina faithful about their team (mostly because I was treating the ‘Canes like I’ve been treating Phoenix this year), and somewhere along the way I got convinced that they weren’t all that bad.  It made sense that they wouldn’t be – Eric Staal is worthy of having a team built around him, Cam Ward is one of the best goalies in the NHL, and I thought Paul Maurice was a pretty good coach.

When we did our  pre-season predictions, we got some static about the lack of Carolina love.  I had debated whether or not to include them, but we were only asked to pick division and conference winners, not playoff teams, so it made no sense to mention them.  Playoffs, yes, top team, no.

So what the f**k is going on down there?

And now the two players I mentioned before are hurt?  They’re worse than my Isles?  The Leafs?  Hit that “comment” button ‘Canes fans.  Explain yourselves.

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I can’t help but think that there’s about a 20% chance the Cup winner comes out of the Western Conference this year.

Who looks like a Cup threat right now?  I mean, you can say the Colorado Avalanche, but you don’t mean that.  You’re aware they’re still a “good young team”, right?  It’s okay to say that they’re legit.  Tons of up-and-coming talent.  But I don’t see a whole lot of “crap, I don’t want to play that team in playoffs” on their roster.  I do see a whole lot of “crap, I really don’t feel like playing this mid-season game, can someone get a leash on Wolski? Stastny? O’Reilly? Duchene?  CAN SOMEONE GET A BELL ON DUCHENE!??”

Name another threat with a straight face right now. 

The Sharks

I’d agree, if they didn’t play in the the Pacific Division, or as it’s better known, the ”try-to-gage-a-team-in-a-division-with-LA-Phoenix-and-Dallas” group. Heatley was a massive pick-up.  Fine.  He makes them the West’s best hope until Chicago inevitably wakes from it’s slumber.  But there’s still something that doesn’t feel right about calling the Sharks a Cup contender.  What does it mean that when I picture the Pacific Division, I picture a train going over some old wooden tressel bridge, only nobody knows the wood is rotten beneath?  I feel like every passing train (game?) is one closer to the utter collapse of the whole thing.  Combine that with a history of playoff failure, and it’s hard to be too sold on the Teal Trainwrecks Titans.

I know you can only beat the teams you play (the Boise State football problem), it’s just tough to tell if they’re actually good, or playing bad opponents.  But, they will be a top three seed again, so here’s to hoping that they can break the same mold they built.

How about this:  If I were to say “for a thousand dollars, will the Stanley Cup come out of the Western Conference, or the Atlantic Division?” - which one are you picking?

Atlantic Division

  GP W L OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10 Streak
17 12 5 0 24 54 44 5-3-0 7-2-0 6-4-0 Lost 2
15 11 4 0 22 39 33 3-4-0 8-0-0 8-2-0 Won 5
18 10 7 1 21 56 48 6-2-0 4-5-1 3-6-1 Lost 1
14 9 4 1 19 52 37 6-2-1 3-2-0 6-3-1 Won 4
17 6 6 5 17 44 50 5-2-2 1-4-3 5-3-2 Won 1

 

You know what I’d pick?  I’d pick to complain that it’s NO WONDER THE ISLES STRUGGLE SO BAD. 

This is what makes the NHL playoffs so great.  It’s not accurate to gage a team based strictly on their record, since head-to-head is the only undeniable measuring stick for “who’s-better-than-who”.  In the ever-popular BCS, strength of schedule is a heavy factory in determining the best teams.  Fortunately for us, the NHL has a playoff format, so we actually get to watch the “I wonder who’s actually better” questions play out.

And who’s actually better?

The Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, my friend.  That’s not just picking the obvious – at this point in the season, it’s picking correctly.

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And last, I wanted to give a shout-out to the reader who read my USA Today article, found my blog, tracked down my email, then wrote me the following email, which is printed below, unedited:

“you smoke pickle”

And so, I laughed.

Two – Spit Detroit

 

The fact of the matter is, Osgood is outplaying Fleury, and Detroit plays the best team defense I think I’ve ever seen.  They look like the Devils during the trap and smother days, but they do it without making fans feel like they ordered the Nyquil Big Gulp from the concession stand.

Random thought: Can Babcock win the Conn Smythe?

I gotta say, I loved seeing Malkin realize he was 6’4″ and give Zetterberg a little scare at the end of the game.  I can promise you, guys in the Red Wings room are dying laughing about Zetterberg engaging with Malkin, even throwing punches, but leaving one glove on.  If I may Don Cherry up this blog a bit, that really is something only a European player would do.

I’m pre-frustrated for the “Sid has been shut down” coverage that’s coming.  Sid was a flurry of skates and will, creating a couple great chances: Walking out from behind the net and hitting the inside post; feeding Guerin for a one-time in front that rattled off the inside post; slicing through the D at mach speed and throwing a quick snapper that Osgood kicksaved like only Billy Ranford could… he’s still damn near everywhere.

I made a comment to my Dad today, something to effect of “how long can they count on fourth liners for offense?” in regards to Detroit, but apparently they can do it all the way to the Cup.  Abdenflavour, or whatever that kids name is, is shooting rabbits feet with horseshoes I think.  That, or Fleury is single-handedly crushing the entire city of Pittsburgh.  Either or.

Zetterberg is making game changing, Stanley Cup earning plays, like drapping himself across the goal-line to stop Sid from making it 2-2 in the third, right before Allenskater scored to make it 3-1.  TSN turning point. 

Big game coming up in Pitt – here’s to hoping for a long series.

Friends and fam – I’m sans cell phone ’til I get to the States to buy a new one, probably on Friday.  I finally had to take Old Yeller behind the shed and thank it for the memories.

Pittsburgh. Detroit. Stanley Cup Finals.

 

Alrighta!  The finals.

(2) Detroit vs. (4) Pittsburgh

Let me start by saying great move to Commish Bettman on moving up the first game of the finals.  Great move.

Hockey is a winter sport that runs too far into the summer.  If hockey were to be removed from the consciousness of borderline fans, they’d definitely welcome summer and forget about it.  Not only are the first two games on NBC (congrats to Americans on finally getting some coverage), but they come a mere three days after Detroit’s win.  Let’s soak it alllll in.

Here are my thoughts on this series:

As other people have mentioned, there seems to be a parallel between Wings/Pens and the Islanders/Oilers back to back finals matchups, one that not many people know.

The Islanders got thumped in the finals of their Drive for Five by the Oilers, but if I may defend… they were without seven starters from the year before due to injury.  These guys were sitting in the stands, while that young and dangerous Oiler squad playing what was basically a different team, but in the same jersey.  Oh, and um, Dad was one of the injured.  Not that I’m biased.

This year, the Wings seem to be limping into the final.  I can’t help but wonder if maybe what it takes to win the cup takes such a toll on your body that it gets harder and harder to stay healthy wth short summers and longer seasons, or if it’s just coincidence.  Either way, Lidstrom is back, but obviously hurt, Datsyuk is out, Ericsson is out… It sets up well for the Pens.

In goal, I like Pittsburgh.  I know that by now, we should all respect Chris Osgood.  I think he has like, 19 Cups or something, I just find it really hard.  He obviously does what it takes to give his team a chance, but I just don’t think he has that “next level” like Fleury does.  Ossy is either a Hall-of-Famer or an AHL all-star. 

I definitely like the Red Wings on D – their transition is super dangerous with Rafalski and Lidstrom, plus, Chelios brings the average age of the D corps up eleventy-six years, so they seem super wise. 

Without Datsyuk, Detroit still has good frontmen, but I think they’re over-achieving.  How long can you rely on major contributions from guys like Cleary and Helm?  Good players, for sure, but not as threatening as that other side.  Even defending Conn Smythe Zetterberg and Franzen don’t compare to Sid the Gretzky and Markgeni the Malssier.

I know Zetterberg will shadow Sid again, but this year The Kid knows what to expect.  Hockey has evolved to hinge heavily on special teams, so now a good powerplay can win you games.  Your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and I just don’t believe in Osokay.  That powerplay is gonna win. Pittsburgh. The Cup.

Plus, I’m pullin’ for Guerin - the Red Wings have already had their turn.  Go Pens!

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