I second Huck in thanking the guys at Battle of Alberta for adding us to their Blogroll.
I also want to thank Jeff (another NBer like me) at Sisu Hockey for adding Puck This! to his Blogroll. He currently has a great post up on the quality of the officiating so far in the playoffs. It's long, but really worth the read.
Check it out.
I second Huck in thanking the guys at Battle of Alberta for adding us to their Blogroll.
Was Marty Turco trying out for the Canadian synchonized swimming team? or was he experiencing a brain fart which stunk worse than the Dallas-Fort Worth water treatment facility? Either way, the Colorado Avalanche's second goal with a few seconds left in the second period was the result of Turco flailing around like a goddamn clamped-nosed pussy wearing a tutu and water wings in the deep end of a swimming pool. Dallas lost eventually to Colorado, 3-2 in overtime, and are hitting the links as we speak.
There was a scramble in front of the goal. The puck went to the right of Turco who, while on his knees, turned left, fell on his stomach, and bent both of his legs up in the air in a pathetic attempt to deflect a lightly-flicked biscuit which could have been stopped by my 11-year-old neice. He looked like a buffoon and, despite his otherwise solid performance during the past couple of games, proved that the Dallas Stars might still be in the playoffs if it weren't for their extremely overpriced netminder.
The same could go for my playoff pools, all of which predicted the Stars would survive until at least the conference finals.
At the same time, credit must be due to Jose Theodore, who won his first playoff game as an Avs 'tender (the previous three wins to his record, of course, were merely losses by Turco). He stopped 50 belts his way and looked confident as he has ever been in his career. As such, Colorado is the first team to move on in the West, and my credibility to pick series correctly is at risk.
So yesterday was a fantastic day for Canadian hockey teams: Flames won, the Oilers won and the Sens finished off Tortellini and those pesky Lightning and are movin' on to the next round. As much as I want the Habs to win, it's potentially going to be a hellish 417 (yeah that's right, not the 40) series in the second round, and that's just between the hosers at work...How unbelievably talented is Havlat?...Good on Emery for holding his own this round. The guy is a 23-year-old back up goalie who has to back stop one of the top Stanley Cup contenders with (as Ballzov rightly observed) some of the most pessimistic fans in the league. Which gets me to thinking, how many other young goalies/backup goalies have had stellar playoff runs that have put them on the map? If my memory serves me right, (Hat tip to Iron Chef) JS Giguere with the Ducks (Flying V!), Kipprusoff with the Flames, I think Ken Dryden was a newbie with the Habs, (I'm sure there's more...) - good company for Emery and Hip-hip Huet if they can keep their teams in the hunt...the CBC has a "top ten greatest playoff moments" on their website; not sure if Steve Smith scoring on his own net and Claude Lemieux crosschecking Kris Draper face first into the boards really counts as "greatest" in my books; if they're going to list those as great, they might as well include Chris Osgoode crying after losing to the Sharks ...Glad to see Mark Messier's on that list, despite his inability to make good commercials and eat just one chip...
Oh and I know you've all been waiting for it...
Vintage Pro Set hockey card of the week:
Raymond "Borque" Bourque. Looks like Shaky had a stint copywriting ProSet Cards in the 90s.
Potter asks whether there might be a situation, however inconceivable, wherein a team could take a dive in overtime for their overall benefit later in the series. I can't see it in any situation, especially when dealing with professionals filled with pride in themselves and with the game they play, a condition becoming sickenly uncommon in today's professional sporting environs.
However, I can make a case for a team taking a penalty deliberately late in the game to their advantage. Basketball does it already: a team might be up (or even down) a few points and, by fouling the opposition, they can forfeit a point or two in exchange for possession of the ball.
For a hockey team, the advantage wouldn't be so much with a change of possession but rather with taking time off the clock. However, the result could be equally beneficial.
Take the Flames-Ducks game last night. The Flames were up by two goals with a couple minutes left to play, and they take a penalty. The Ducks have a man advantage, yes, but the Flames now have the opportunity to ice the puck and force the Ducks to go all the way to their own end and then lug it up through the neutral zone, dump it in, and regain possession. The Flames would have no concerns about getting another face-off in their own zone right away, and 20 seconds or more have come off the clock before the Ducks would be able to get into scoring position.
Further to that is the consideration of the new NHL rules, where a team which ices the puck when at equal strength cannot change its players during the ensuing stoppage of play. The Flames could get the puck out of their zone and get some fresh lungs on the ice while they're at it. A bonus condition is that, if the Ducks pull their goalie (which they did), the Flames could take a shot at the empty net which wouldn't result in a stoppage of play if they missed.
In this situation, it didn't exactly work to the Flames favour as the Ducks scored a goal to bring them to within one with less than a minute to play. However, the player in the sin bin was Robyn Regher who, aside from Stephane Yelle, is the absolute last guy they'd want off the ice while ahead a goal or two. If someone like Chuck Kobasew or Craig MacDonald, neither of whom see a bevy of ice time on the PK were to rub out Selanne in the same illegal fashion, the result might have been different.
That being said, there is no reason why a coach of a team with a stifling penalty kill unit -- the Flames -- wouldn't be afraid to challenge a team with a so-so power play -- the Ducks -- when up at least a pair of goals in the last three minutes.
(crossposted to BumfOnline)
- the top two lines start putting the puck on net
- the refs start calling full infractions - not half (why does goaltender interference, as Phoff asked, not necessarily result in a penalty? And why can you get away with it the second time, but not the first?), including the occasional high stick against Montreal
- the Habs figure out how to (a) get out of their own end without circling the net more than once, and (b) enter the Carolina zone either not in a straight line or without everyone heading to the boards
In a series in which it pays to be on the road (the sheer volume of the Bell Centre - hockey's largest capacity arena - is a joy to fans; I can only imagine it makes the home team's job that much tougher), tonight's match will be crucial. With Steve Begin back in the lineup, the Canadiens might be able to slow down Rod Brind'amour somewhat.
Most importantly, though, your Michael Ryders, Mike Ribeiros and Jan Bulises have got to involve themselves in the play from the first whistle on. Dollars to doughnuts sats that Kovalev's knee is acting up, and the defencemen shouldn't be the ones called on to pick up the slack.
And Sheldon Souray, who has proven to be slightly better than utterly useless, should dump his ass sticks. In fact, the equipment manager should ensure that every player on a penalty killing assignment should have an old-timey wood stick. Someone needs to do a proper cost/benefit analysis on the graphite sticks. Shaky, shall I put out an RFP?
It's Lubelly vs. Phoff in a winner-takes-Acadia stankoff. The good money's on Phoff, as he's the Sabres. Lubelly is, once again, Detroy-hut, as Ron Wilson would say.
Live from Buffalo? No wonder it smells like giant ass. Maybe that's the leftover pizzza.
Real men don't hit posts.
Screw the timekeeping.
Nice block by Phoff. He had a rep in Shediac for co*k blocking, true story.
Holstrom scores! We're all pissed because the goal interrupted Jim Hughson's brilliant AI play-by-play.
Lubelly forgets which team he's on, is overjoyed by the crappy penalty he just took. Celebrates by passing to no one. Lubelly is the Leafs, in spirit if not uniform.
Screw Phoff and his stupid multisyllabic players. Afinoganov will now be known as fart. Fart is really stinking up the joint
Hecht scores! Darcy Tucker shits himself a little.
Phoff gives it away. He had a rep for giving it away too in Shediac. Lubelly informs us that Chelios is a dominatrix. No doubt.
Question: if your team is called the Sabres, why is your logo a Buffalo? What the hell is a red wing anyway, and what does it have to do with my new set of Michelins?
Lubelly clues in to his team and is now pissed about his crappy holding call. Another chance for Phoff to bury one between Lubelly's pipes. And he does!
Mazel tov! Briere scores like Ed Belfour on Ste Catherine near Hotel de Ville.
Phoff seems to have a guy named Felcher on his team. Interesting. After one, Phoff has the shots but Lubelly is dominating physically, as he is prone to do.
We get an all-important stat update. There have been no empty net goals after one.
Legace lets in a Dule the Dumpster Droese special. Talk about garbabe goals. Phoff'll take it, though.
Lang puts Lubelly on the board - it's 3-2.
Phoff answers back with another score. Lubelly is earning his nickname tonight.
Phoff's team calls a mutiny and lets Lang take the ice all to himself; he promptly buries it, top shelf (contradictory, you say?). Now Shanny is going off, again, for elbowing. He's dirtier than my ass after soccer.
Phoff hits the post and Lubelly answers back with an end to end rush. He's played a hard-working, blue collar game tonight.
Afina whatever scores! Why is the after-goal music so lame? Did Phoff pick it? 5-3 Sabres or Buffalos or whatever. Oops. 5-4. Lubelly gets to a rebound and spanks it like Phoff on viagra.
Why does Phoff insist on playing while sitting in a bucket of ice? And why is Lubelly shirtless? Briere goes off for holding. This so not MY NHL. Carbo rejects a call. Hmm... Phoff scores HUGE shorthanded. The bucket is overturned. Ice is everywhere. He's running around with his hand on his stick, you know what I'm saying? 6-4.
And Lang grabs his hat trick. Doin' the Jiggy-Joo. And Lubelly's pants come off. It's a one goal game as we head to the third.
After two Lubelly leads in the all important passing percentage category. Can he pull off the queen of all come from behinds? My money is on Oh Yeah.
Schneider "gobbles up" the puck. Hughson is such a racist.
Zetterberg ties it up! Lubelly tears them down (his thong underwear)!
Huge save by Legace on Grier. Legace stops a 120 foot shot. He is on FIRE. Phoff is offside. I've been saying that for years.
Crossbar! Lubelly asks if I blogged that post. Phoff responds to that ass comment by opening up a can of tomato juice (literally) and putting in the go-ahead goal.
Lidstrom has "done dick this game" says Lubelly. In true fashion, he watches as JP Dumont adds an insurance marker. Glory comes to Buffalo. It then leaves.
Last minute of play... and Lubelly ICES THE PUCK. Worst play ever.
Phoff is taking it easy and Lubelly can't make it happen. The Sabres are gonna take this one. But first, Phoff scores with four seconds left. Jerk. Three-goal win. Hughson says it sealed the deal. Seal this, bitch!
Beeg and Phoff are picking their teams
Nashville vs Avs from Nashville. Puck is dropped and Sakic wins the faceoff. Phoff is taking it to Beeg.
Tanguay scores. Bit oif a kacker. Shots are 2-2. Wide open game. Icing. Boring.
They're talking about the widow's peak. EAP = team peak. Gamache has panache. Beeg is wondering why there is no wraparound. About to drop the puck... Carbonneau offers day old popcorn.
Tanguay scores second goal. Tanguay in a nordiques jersey. Legwarmer wants it. Bad. Check out that back pass.
The crowd doesn't understand the game. There goes the horn as the period comes to an end. Everything is close except the score.
Second period is off to a slow start. Lots of offsides and play between the blue lines. Beeg and Phoff look tired. Colorado is on the powerplay. I don't think they can do anything.
4 on 4 action. Nashville is now on the powerplay. This game is pretty boring. I imagine the blog is too.
They're bitchtalking Brisebois. Poor man's Cadillac. NASHVILLE BEATS OUT THE ICING CALL!
Colorado is on the powerplay but you would never know it.
Hold the phone. Beeg is asking Phoff to touch it. 2nd intermission.
Nashville scores! Walker breaks the gooseegg. And Colorado comes right back. Beeg looks dejected. I would be too.
Starting to wonder if this game will ever end. 4-1 Avs.
Tootoo = Denis Savard. 4-2.
Avs on the powerplay. Lots of cross-ice passes. He wants it.
With five minutes left to play Beeg's exibisionist side is coming out. TMI. TMI. Trust me.
Less then a minutes to go. It's now 5-2 Avs. Did I say that already? Oh, look at that - it's 5-3.
It's the final countdown. Put it in the books.
Games are boring tonight. Beeg and Lubelly asre playing a mean game on Xbox. Detroit (Lubelly) against Nashville (Beeg). Tentative and tight checking in the first.
The legend Stevie Yzerman just scored. The assist to none other than Manny Legace. Good pass to set Yzerman free on the breakaway.
Less than a minute later, Beeg ties it up with a gorgeous end-to-end rush by...wait for it...Jordin Tootoo. Yes, that's right. Jordin Tootoo.
That was the end of the first period.
Great save by Vokoun on Shanahan!
Two on none for Detroit and Lubelly pulls the trigger with Maltby. Top shelf. Nice goal. 2 -1 Detroit.
Steve Sullivan to Paul Kariya and the game is all tied up at two. Serious up-and-down hockey and Jim Hughson's voice is getting hoarse.
David Legwand from Zidlicky and Nashville (Beeg) takes the lead after trailing early in the game. Canonating shots all over the place.
lubelly here. Phoff has gone to move the car. Close call on the ticket front. Assistant coach Carbonneau with the game saving play.
He's in the car
He's backed up by 25 feet and has reached the corner. Phoff likes it in dirty in the corner
Phoff is back in the building. We think he might be in the elevator.
I think I hear him in the hall. He scores!
Phoff here, the game is back on and Lubelly is playing with the wrong controller.
Ex-Hab Yannic Perreault scores for Nashville and the game is getting out of hand. Lubelly is considering goon tactics.
Beeg is so dominant that he scored while I was writing the last post. I don't even know who scored. First penalty of the game. Lubelly comes through on his goon promise.
The Predators PP is quite inept, but they don't want to rub it in, I guess.
Chris Chelios is even older in the EA Sports version of NHL. Tootoo scores again! This is embarassing, says Lubelly. I agree. 7 - 2 Preds.
The Wings Score! Zetterberg comes through, but it's a little late. 7 - 3 final score. Shocking.
At left is a picture of Justin Williams. Most hockey fans may not recognize him, however, as he doesn't have his stick in an opposing player's face. Trust me, it's him.
Also, I urge any NHL officials reading this post (I'm sure there are many) to take a close look at him. For some reason, in this picture, he is not wearing his trusty invisibility cloak. During playoff games, he usually wears it because referees have no idea that he is on the ice.
Finally, to any of the officials reading (or anyone who has basic hockey knowledge), can you explain to me why some goalie interference calls result in penalties and some only result in disallowed goals. In my view, if you interfere with a goalie to the point where he can't move properly, it's no different than when a skater's progress is impeded.
Series tied at 2 games apiece. Both teams played a hard-fought match. The Ducks showed they could bang with the Flames and the Flames showed they could come from behind. Great stuff.
I especially enjoyed Kelly Hrudy's observation about Giguere's inability to do anything "athletic" while in the net other than falling to his knees and giving his shoulders a bit a shrug. Jiggy would indeed be one hell of a lacrosse goalie, yes, but the fact is, if he stops more than Kiprusoff, he's played a better game. Aestheitcs mean nothing come playoff time.
Then again, Giguere plays with a duck painted on his helmet.
Game 5's back at the 'dome tomorrow night.
Peace from Russia.
Following two shelackings in which they outscored T-Bay 13-6, the Ottawa Senators find themselves up 3-1 in the series and heading home with a chance to put the Lightning down like a rabid dog, one with terrible goaltending. Probably that dog from the Home Depot commercials this winter.
So one might think that Senators fans are feeling good and sitting pretty waiting to see if they will face montreal, Philly, or Buffalo in Round 2. HELL NO!! In true Ottawan fashion, if you're a true Sens fan, this is time you're most pessimistic and nervous. Putting away a team - the defending champs no less - is not Ottawa's forte despite the herculean effort Tampa would need to come back.
Of course, there is actually a lot reason to feel good about these two Ottawa wins. The team has shown more chemistry than they had over the last month of the season. It seems like the guys who were hurt - Chara, Redden, Phillips, Havlat - are finally mixing back into their roles and taking pressure off the guys who had to step up (and play above their heads). As a consequence, Ottawa's sometimes poor defensive zone play isn't as stark, because they can dominate Tampa and keep them hemmed in their own end more often. The secondary scoring provided by adding Havlat's one-on-one skills and scoring ability to otherwise mundane players like Schaeffer and Fisher (mundane in the sense that they do their job, but don't threaten anyone particularly) is crucial, as predicted last week. And Emery does his best Chris-Osgood-circa-1998 impression - making the routine saves and the occassional big one while not giving anything away. It's a good mix right now.
Looking forward the first mission obviously is to finish off the Lightning. It's important to do this at home on Saturday. I believe that if Tampa gets passed Game 5 you can write a ticket for Game 7. Ottawa doesn't need seven games, they need rest, more time to practice and gell, and possibly more time for Hasek to decide he wants to play again this season.
I'm hesitate to move on for fear of jinxing things. Let me say this: they lost a bunch of games to the Habs this year, but if Montreal gets through Carolina, who would Ottawa rather play, a Koivu-less Montreal team, or Forsberg's Philly or Briere's Buffalo?
Sorry all, but bring that Frenchman to town and stick him between the pipes at Corporate Arena in Kanata.
Losing in overtime is fundamentally different from losing in regulation. When you are down in regulation, as the clock ticks down possible outcomes are eliminated, the future narrows, until the possible merges with actual and the game ends. The losing team is psychologically able to prepare itself for defeat, knowing that it has been given a set amount of time in which to decide its fate. The gods of fair play have been honoured.
An OT loss is the equivalent of a healthy man dropping dead of a heart attack. One minute, as alive and energetic as you can imagine, then suddenly, instantly, it is over. The psychological effect can be devastating. The devastation increases the longer the OT lasts. Losing in the first period of OT is not as bad as losing in the second. Losing in the third or fourth is raw agony. You end up physically exhausted and emotionally shattered.
There are other factors that can compound the negative effects of an OT loss. If you let a big lead slip away, or if the other team tied it up in the last minute of regulation, or if it is in their rink and the crowd is going nuts, etc.
The point being this: Can we imagine a scenario where a team would be better off simply refusing to participate in the OT sudden-death scenario, give the team a quick and easy goal, and set about focusing on the next game? I'm thinking of a situation where the effect of losing in OT will actually make it more likely that the team will lose the next game as well.
Is there a decision matrix we can construct which would making throwing a game in OT rational? Could a coach ever have the necessary information to make that decision? Set aside questions of sportsmanship or integrity of the game or value to fans.
So I stayed up this late to watch the Flames lose? Was it worth it? Yes, because I got to see another great display of leadership and skill from Jarome Iginla. He's the toughest guy on the team and he's their best player. What a force that guy is.
The problem is, when only Iginla and Kiprusoff show some leadership, the Flames have a very slim chance of winning.
Step it up boys.
(this picture is for Moi)
Well, as I've mentioned here in previous posts, Montrealers follow the ups and downs of the Habs with a religious-like fervour. Now, since the Habs have won the first two games of the series and look like they seriously have a shot at beating the Canes (they should have won tonight too), the crazy theories about the team's destiny are multiplying.
Most of these theories are based on numbers or dates. Here are some of the more impressive ones:
Madonna and the Cup
The last years the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup were 1986 and 1993. The last years Madonna performed in Montreal: 1986 and 1993.
Madonna will return to Montreal in June 2006. Obviously, this is divine intervention.
The Last Cup
As mentioned above, the Habs last won the cup in 1993. Fans have come up with a series of significant numbers that add up or together make 93. Check this out:
- Cristobal Huet's Jersey number is 39...or 93 backwards
- Huet's save percentage for the regular season: 92.9%
- Cristobal was born on September 3rd (9th month, 3rd day = 93)
- The Habs finished the season with 93 points
- In the second game, the last players to score in game 2 of the playoffs: Richard Zednik (#20) and Michael Ryder (#73). 20 + 73 = 93
This is serious stuff here folks.
(Thanks to Martin for the info)
There will be no Tommy Morrison in this post. Oops, there already is.
2006 Playoff Random thoughts
Is it too late to start driving the Habs bandwagon?
If it is spring it must time for annual Philly collapse.
Is there a better one on one player right now than Marty Havlat?
Never bet against Sutter boys!
Is it possible to eliminate Greg Millen and get the Order of Canada?
Can somebody tell Don Cherry that the Leafs are not in the playoffs?
Kelly Hrudey gets better each year.
Go Marlies Go
Bob Clarke enjoys sticking his nose in other people's business:
In an interview Tuesday with the Toronto Sun, Clarke said he spoke to recently-fired Maple Leafs head coach Pat Quinn and did not hide his displeasure at the way the two-time Jack Adams Award winner was treated in his final days with the club.
"He got (expletive) in Toronto," Clarke told the Sun. "That was really wrong."
You know what else was wrong? The pathetic display by the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs so far. They are an embarrassment to the league and Clarke should be ashamed of commenting on another team's misfortunes when his own sucks the hind teat.
But just when you think he couldn't get stupider, Clarkie proves you wrong:
"It's like taking the dog down to the vet. (Say) goodbye," Clarke told the Sun.Really? Pat Quinn's firing after producing no appreciable playoff victories over 7 seasons while having one of the highest payrolls in the league - and yet, a crappy roster designed essentially by Quinn himself - is like putting your dog to sleep? Pat Quinn is going to die?
Way to go, Bobby boy. You are now officially a bigger idiot than Sean Avery.
The Flames outworked the mighty Mighty Ducks of Anaheim from Anaheim last night for the first time in the series, resulting in a decisive 5-2 victory. Kipper was sharp when he had to be but it was the rest of the team which did him a favour by allowing next to nil scoring chances while holding the lead in the third period. Silly-ass Huselius led the way with three beautiful points and both Chris Simon and Mr Tumnus made some sweet-ass plays of their own which resulted in twine-twitchers. More importantly, neither Dion Phaneuf nor Roman Hamrlik had to be called out for less-than-stellar play. That being said, the defense was anchored by Robyn Regher and backed up by my man Rhett Warrener, both of whom kept the Selanne-McDonald juggernaut from doing much harm.
The boys looked focussed and intense and if they keep this up there's no way Anaheim's coming back to Calgary with the series tied at 2 games apiece.
In other news, what's with the Red Wings?
(And yes, I know this post had nothing to do with Marc Crawford but I didn't want to be left out.)
Moi stole my title, so I'm stealing it back.
Well, it's not really a surprise to read that the Vancouver Canucks have fired head coach Marc Crawford.
Crawford was not able to get the Canucks and their $38.5 million payroll to make the playoffs this season. Rumour has that the players were not getting along and that cliques had formed. The one thing that they apparently did agree on, however, was their dislike of coach Crawford.
Personally, regardless of the success Crawford had with the Avalanche, I will never forgive him for keeping Gretzky nailed to the bench in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.
I wonder if this opens the door for Pat Quinn to make his return to Vancouver?
No, this is not a guest post from Jerome Bettis.
So I've got a laptop for the week and I'm writing from all over the place (hence the live blogging last night). Right now, I'm on the bus to work and I'm thinking about the first few days of the 2006 playoffs. Here are some random thoughts...
After a full year without playoff hockey and a "revamped" NHL, most fans were both excited and apprehensive at the start of the second season. Nobody knew exactly what to expect. Would the game still be called as it was during the regular season or would we get the "old school" playoff refereeing back? Would the new upstart teams, like Carolina, show themselves to be the real deal or would the old school champions like Detroit and Dallas rule the roost? Will the trap make an appearance? A lot of pundits were asking a lot of questions late last week.
So, how's it going so far?
Well, the refereeing has been more or less like the regular season. Since the big guy, Gary Bettman, essentially said that if any official put away their whistles, they would be put away, some have noticed a trend: In games where Bettman has been in attendance, the number of penalties called has been noticeably higher. Coincidence? Maybe, but we'll keep an eye out for that one.
In any case, the refereeing has been good and I have yet to hear any complaints. I have, however, completely avoided Don Cherry thus far and I hope to do so for as long as possible. If he hasn't said it already, he will surely use the utterly idiotic, but often used, "let the players decide the outcome" line.
As for the upstarts, well it seems Carolina is having a slow start. It's still early and there is still a lot of hockey to be played. Of course, I'm rooting for Montreal in this series, so I hope Carolina keeps letting in 6 goals a game. Dallas, who suffered the same fate as the Canes last night (in an eerily similar game), is down to the surprisingly energized Avalanche. Again, it's still early in the first week and Theodore has succeeded in controlling his rebounds, somewhat.
In any case, things are definitely interesting and it's great to have playoff hockey back. Here are a few things that I've noticed that I really missed last year:
- Playoff overtime or real overtime. Not the made up regular season kind of overtime.
- Potential upsets.
- The sea of Red in Calgary. How impressive is that?
- "Upper" and "lower" body injuries.
- Unsung heroes and players that step it up in the post-season.
Is what it's all about.
Sure, you give up a huge lead.
Yeah, you take some ass penalties (and some, like Rivet's tripping minor and Bouillon's delay of game, that make you want to tear your hair out).
You lose your overrated but still somewhat worthwhile movie star defenceman.
You give up a bunch of goals, being outhit, outshot and outplayed for a too-long period (by the way, watching a game on TV-on-demand is like smoking crack out of a can of Red Bull).
But you keep playing because that's, well, that's what you're paid millions of dollars to do. You walk into the belly of the red beast and you take a pair from behind, first on Saturday and then on Monday.
The kid hockey fan in all of us should tune in Wednesday night, if only to hear the roar of the crowd as Saku Koivu leads the bleu blanc rouge onto the ice. For a team that had no chance, the Canadiens serve as a vital reminder of that noble truth: in the playoffs, nobody knows anything.
So, as I'm watching the OT (Montreal - Carolina), I want to test out this live blogging thing.
Is there anything better than overtime in the playoffs? I don't think so. The Habs just blew a golden chance to win the game after getting a second powerplay oppotunity in the 1st OT period. Getting anxious.
Now they give a penalty to the Habs and I'm getting more anxious. I got home late. Anyone know where Souray is?
How many times can one team shoot in 30 seconds? A lot if you're watching the Canes on this powerplay. I wonder if Bégin is even close to coming back? Doubtful.
A third powerplay for the Habs! They can't keep letting htese chances slip by. Jesus, the Canes are getting the best chances!
End of the 1st OT. Canes pressing hard. Gainey's boys need to hold on to their jocks, because the start of the 5th period will be like...um...some sort of wind storm.
How can Koivu have no shots after 80 minutes?
Ice cream break. How weird is it to see Ribeiro play that well? Discuss.
We're back and both teams seem to be playing tentatively. Koivu 57% in the faceoff circle. Does that make up for no shots?
Montreal scores! Gotta love the Newfie.
Wow, Montreal leads the series 2 - 0. Much like Shaky, I'm not much of a prognosticator. Oh well, it's not like I wanted the Canes to win.
The Habs have scored 12 goals in the first 2 games of this series. Do they have any left for the next games? How many more levels are there to Kovalev's game? That guy dominates and makes it look like he's playing pond hockey.
Gerber or Ward? I wouldn't want to be in Peter Laviolette's shoes right now.
Beeg swears like a sailor. And that's when he's happy.
Peace from Russia.
What every Sens fan (and Leafs fan) knows, but hates to admit, is what this guy leads of his article with: the Sens choke in the playoffs. My only quibble with his assessment is that Emery should have stopped Boyle's third period goal which tied Game 2.
Still, he's right, this franchise has has a ton of talent over the years with no Cups to show for it. Whenever they lose a playoff game the entire capital cringes...in so far as anyone in Ottawa ever does much of anything that displays a heart beneath our frosty, tax-dollar wasting, badly dressed, veneer. (Did I get everyone's prejudices into one sentence there?) Yet in the past there was usually reason to argue that there was a better team out there, whether or not Ottawa was knocked out by that team was often debatable. I'm not so sure this year. This is the best Sens team yet, they played in, if not, the best division, then close to it. And they continued to win through significant injuries. This is year is supposed to be the year.
The hallmark of the Jacques Martin coached Sens teams was nearly flawless defensive play, but an inability to be bold enough to use the offensive talent at hand to score, especially in big games. They tried not to lose a lot more than they tried to win. But watching the last two weeks, any moderately keen observer will have noticed that pucks keep going in their opponent's net, but they're giving up too many to win. Most of this, in my estimation, is a result of complete break downs in their own end on a regular basis.
In Game 2, this happened at least twice, on both Richards goal and the game winner scored by St. Louis. Richards goal you might quibble with, but still Chara is a pro, tripping on your own feet when you're last man back and other guy will be on a breakaway if you don't stop him, isn't supposed to happen.
But after the St. Louis goal, Anton Volchenkov should've been taken out into the parking lot at "Kanata Corporate Arena" and had the words "take the man, not the puck" branded into his behind, for letting a former Hart Trophy swoop in and grab the rebound that won the game. The knobs commenting on the game blamed Emery for a "big rebound," but failed to notice that he practically put it on Volchenkov's stick. Had V-Train bothered to say...look over his shoulder...or block out the rebound (basketball concept, I know), there's a halfway decent chance that puck gets kicked away, iced, or that one of his teammates grabs it. Who knows what happens beyond that point?
For years observers from afar blamed the Sens lack of playoff success on a lack of grit and an over abundance of "soft skill players." Well this year's version has more Canadians than in the past. They've stayed relatively healthy. And the young core they kept together in the pre-cap era is moving into their prime.
I still have faith as Ottawa is unarguably the team who SHOULD win the conference, but if they fail this year, heart will be the only thing lacking.
(That, and also Brian Murray, who has never won a Stanley Cup, despite once coaching the best regular season team of all time. Got to have an excuse ready.)
Reset for Game 3.
So I got it wrong. The Flames played hard, at least in the second half of the game, but were undone by baaaaaad giveaways which gave the Ducks the advantage. Phaneuf's horrific pinch in the third was but one of several awful reads by the Flames throughout the evening.
Then again, Kipper didn't exactly grab a spot on the plays of the night. True, every one of them was the result of sloppy plays by the team in front of him. Still, Kipper let in 4 goals, including 2 on the first 4 shots. That simply should not happen. Except for the final blast which put the game away in the third, which Jesus Himself could not save, there wasn't a save which Kipper had not made in the past. He's got to be better.
Which brings us to Iginla. Through most of the game, he was skating as if he had an injury, or a stick up his ass (which would likely result in injury, I'm thinking). He was without drive or focus, he made bad plays and was not effective.
Until, of course, he sent a missile of a shot straight through Giguere in the second and breathed new life into his team. If there is any argument as to who is the best player on the Flames, that second-period tally provided the answer. The team rallied. Kristian Huselius made a silly ass of a Ducks' defender with some slick stickwork and even slickier finish. They looked terrific.
But then a bone-headed play by Phaneuf, who had been called out after Game 1 for poor play, allowed for the go-ahead goal from which the Flames could not recover.
There is no doubt that a trip to Anaheim for the next two games is exactly what the team requires. Not only can they go for a few rides and hang with Mickey, but they can get away from the vicious glare of high expectations from which they can not escape here in Calgary. They would have been much better off had they started the playoffs on the road, where they would be limited to a few obligatory interviews and not much else.
In an ironic way, the pressure's off. They split the opener, lost home-ice advantage, and now can play the underdog. Kipper got his mediocre game out of the way and Iginla's beginning to light his fire. If I were to be bold, I would predict the Flames will return to the Saddledome with a 3-1 series lead.
But I'm not that bold.
Got me first tickets to the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs for tonight's game 2 match-up between the Flames and Mighty Ducks. There's no word yet as to the participation of Duck's star 'minder J.S. "Jiggy" Giguere or his back-up Ilya "Bryzggy" Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov held his own in the game one and there is no reason to suggest he would do any worse than the 2003 Conn Smyth winner, but then, the Flames didn't play all too shit hot that night either. Look for Iggy to get jiggy on Bryzggy in tonight's tizzy.
Bumf's prediction: Flames 2, Ducks 1, in regulation.
Peace from Russia
A lazy Sunday with many active (?) questions.
- Did Paul Kariya save anything for Game 2?
- Will I be able to watch the Senators on TV?
- Which performance was the bigger mirage: Martin Gerber letting Raphael score on him last night (among others) or Robert Esche stopping 55 of 58 shots?
- Who is Woytek Wolski? If the Avs were going to have to pay his full contract after he played his tenth game (last night's) would it have been smart to have play game 10 in maybe January, and then keep playing, so that they weren't in the position of playing Dallas at all? Does he qualify to be the new "Polish Gretzky?"
- Which set up was more impressive: Arnott's no look to Guerin? Or, Elias' kick pass to Langenbrunner?
- When will people learn that Patrick Elias is a superstar? And, as such, how do we not know more about the way he contracted Hepatitis A?
- Which play by an established superstar was worse: Forsberg's giveaway that led directly to Buffalo's first goal? Or Jagr's forearm shiver to Scott Gomez that hurt his OWN shoulder?
- Who will win today's games? Sharks, Red Wings, Senators, Flames.
Beeg and Phoff are starting seem more and more like Abbott and Costello. I expect to see them run past my office on Monday being chased by a mummy. Moi's crush on Radek Bonk continues unabated. Perfect.
Well, I'm off to rent "The Chonic...WHAT?!...cles of Narnia!"...errrrr....turn on the Nashville-San Jose game.
If the Canadiens can stay out of the penalty box too much, the series will be there's to lose. Kovalev, that means no diving. Ribeiro, that means taking out your frustration by playing well, not tripping your opponent in the last two minutes of the game. Komisarek, that means just taking less penalties. Besides, there has to be one upset. This pundit shit is easy.
If Kovalev and Koivu bring their playoff A games (I can't wait to find out what ailment Saku's been keeping under wraps until the playoffs are done - last time it was a bunch of broken ribs), the Habs have a decent shot. More importantly, Carolina can be scored on and the fact that playoff refs are calling penalties all over the place means both teams will have more than enough opportunity to put the puck in the net.
Rule #1: Playoff series involving Montreal are won and lost on goaltending, and if there's one country even more unlikely than France to succeed between the pipes when the chips are down, it's Switzerland. Cristobal Huet has shown that he can deal with the pressure of playing in Montreal; starting on the road is actually an unqualified advantage for a Hab goalie. When all is said and done, Martin Gerber will go back to making baby food and the Canadiens will move on, where they'll probably lose to...
Jersey. I don't know who's going to stop the Devils. Not Jaromir and friends. And Moi's right, it won't be the Sens (sorry Ballface, or whatever your name is). Perhaps the Wings, if they can bring 50+ shots per night.
I don't think anything can compare to the start of the playoffs in Montreal. I'm not trying to make a case for Montreal as the ultimate hockey city or as the capital of anything, but anyone who has even lived here for two minutes can feel what is referred to here as the fever or "la fièvre" in my language.
In today's paper, the top third of the first page is dedicated to the Habs and to the new deity in town, Cristobal Huet. He is cleverly referred to as both a "Guardian Angel" and a "Saviour". Let's not put too much pressure on the guy.
Everybody in town, young or old, English or French, man or woman, straight or gay, knows that if the Habs have any chance in this series, they will need Huet to stand on his head. He could actually use the wings they gave him in that picture, but I don't think they are permitted in the new NHL.
The sportswriters here have been working overtime in the last week and, at least in French papers, they have unearthed every possible statistic to attempt to properly analyse the match up between the Habs and the Hurricanes. They've even gone as far back as stating how the Habs had never lost a series to Whalers. Like that's going to help them this year.
Finally, the editorial cartoon in today's La Presse is just brilliant. Of course, I can't find it on the Web, but I've taken the liberty of snapping a photo and posting it here. Chapleau is a genius.
Peace from Russia.
The hangover actually comes from Dimetap, but the first night of the playoffs didn't help. I watched embarrssingly little because I was in and out like Vince Chase (Season 1 version) in Entourage.
A couple of thoughts about my fellow posters to start: Phoff seems to be fixated on something (or things), anyone else notice? Moi managed to diss me and hat tip me within the same post. Wow. But still, An Ode to the Lousiana Purchase, so sweet.
As for the hockey...a couple of overtime thrillers, Calgary wins a 2-1 game (who's surprised?), the Preds show they might be able to do something with Chris Somebody in nets (and Paul Kariya apparently found Vancouver's hypobaric chamber from 1994, or Michael Jackson's, either way really), and Tampa takes 36 shots and still only score once. (See Moi, Emery can put up a decent game.)
We'll all have our attention focussed in different places geographically I'm sure, but I'm going look toward Our Nation's Capital (TM) and talk about a couple of good signs for the Sens. You know, besides Emery playing goal like he suddenly remember what those things on his arms and legs are for.
Ottawa - PP: 2/7 + 1 SHG, Tampa - PP: 1/9
Ottawa's powerplay was so deadly at the start of the year, but like most other parts of the team's game, seemed to go to sleep over the last month of the regular season. A lot of that was certainly attributable to Redden and Chara being out of the line-up, so it's good to see things clicking. Also, shorties are deadly (something many Original G's can attest to) so I'm going to make a bold prediction and say any game where Ottawa scores shorthanded is a game they win.
The Core on D
Chara 24:53, Redden 21:23, Phillips 20:42, Meszaros 19:47
Why does this matter? When those first three were out of the line-up in the latter part of the season, 20 year-old rookie Andrei Meszaros was, all of a sudden, the second coming of Nick Lidstrom in terms of ice time. He's a very good young player, but his play suffered badly down the stretch when he was leaned on so heavily. Things back in order and it's good that the veteran core seems healthy enough to go deep into the playoffs.
Martin Havlat, 16:00, 1 G
Havlat's return gives Ottawa much more offensive balance (like a real second line and even an alright third unit), another player the other team has to pay attention to lest he smoke you repeatedly, and a spark of speed.
It's a good start. Tampa of course is dangerous and the road through the East is harder than in the past, but I don't happen to think the conference final is expecting too much. In fact, perhaps too little. Recently on TSN one of the the commentators was talking about Dominic Hasek and said in no uncertain terms that he's crazy. Maybe I'm alone in the wilderness (or halluscinating from the cough meds), but I'm hoping he's crazy like a fox and we'll see him back in Round 2 doing The Swim in the blue paint.
Rather than press my luck predicting first round winners or wussing out like Ballzov and only calling those in the Conference final (As much as I hate to say it, Ottawa in the conference final, really? Emery stinks. Unless he grows 15 new arms, or Hasek grows himself a new groin or they bring back Ron Tugnutt reincarnated in his 1991 Nordiques-Bruins form, their goaltending is going to let them down) , I'm going to throw into the mix a topic near and dear to my heart: hockey hair.
Call it what you want, hockey hair is everywhere. And like Pete Doherty's drug habit it just never seems to go away.
What the hell was Jaromir Jagr/is Michal Handzus thinking? Maybe my long hair will make me more aerodynamic? This party in the back, business in the front is so sophisticated? I love Barry Melrose?
In a business where the average salary is 1.46 million dollars US, you'd think these guys would book a time with Vidal Sassoon and pretty themselves up. While they're at it Joe Sakic should throw in the extra 3 bucks and get his hair washed.
I can understand playoff beards. But hockey hair I cannot.
The world would be better if every one had hair like Mike Commodore.
OK, I know this is technically late as some of the games have started, but I swear I haven't yet seen a minute of action. I also haven't yet looked at the scores so far.
Here are my predictions for the first round (I'm not Rob "Kreskin" Huck who has the cohones to predict the eventual cup winner):
Detroit v. Edmonton
The wings had a great regular season, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they are a little too old and that their goalie is not quite strong enough to take them very far. And, let's face it, when you play most of your games against Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis, it makes winning a bit easier. Also, I love the Oilers and Ryan Smyth might be my favourite current player. Yes, folks, I have enough cohones to predict an upset in this series. Oilers in 7.
Dallas v. Colorado
I have to agree with Huck on this one. As much as I like Colorado, Dallas can "one up" them in every aspect. Also, Theodore is still full of holes. Stars in 5.
Calgary v. Anaheim
The Flames my just go all the way this year. Despite their apparent lack of scoring during the regular season, they are a solid team with very few weak spots. Plus, they have the best goalie in the world right now. Flames in 6.
Nashville v. San Jose
The Sharks have been reborn with the arrival of Joe Thornton. He makes that team so much better that I don't think the Preds can take them. It's too bad because Teemu also was reborn this season and it was fun to see him tear it up. San Jose in 6.
Ottawa v. Tampa
The Sens will win this one, but I don't think they will have it as easy as Shaky and Huck think they will. As much firepower as they have and as strong as their top four D-men are, they are weak in goal. Also, Tampa Bay have some snipers of their own who have proven that they can wake up for the playoffs. Sens in 7.
Carolina v. Montreal
Since I've moved to Montreal, I have really taken a liking to the Habs. Every day is like a soap opera with the organization and the press and I know more details about the players' lives than I know about most of my friends. I'm rooting for the old "Sainte Flanelle", but the 'Canes will take it in a walk. Canes in 5.
New Jersey v. New York
As much as the Rangers have improved this season, the Devils are incredibly hot right now. They are playing like the best team in the league and Brodeur is on fire. With all due respect to Jagr and his crew, the Devils will take this one. Devils in 6.
Buffalo v. Philadelphia
This is going to be a very close series with two teams that match up really well against each other. I like the confidence the Sabres have put into Brière and the way he has responded. I'm also impressed by the way Simon Gagné has become the star player he was meant to be. Also, I the rookies Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have really been great for Philly. This is a tough one to call because one player can change the course of the series. That player is Peter Forsberg and we don't know if he's at 100%. I'm going to gamble and say that he is. Flyers in 6.
Peace from Russia.
Well I suppose it's time for some Rocket fueled comments as the NHL playoffs get underway. Here's the first one: with due respect to the Edmonton Oilers and their storied history, it's shameful that I can't get the Ottawa-Tampa Bay match-up on ANY of the CBC channels I can access on ExpressVu. I don't know whether to blame the Corporation or Ma Bell, but someone should pay. I'm sure there's a Yakov Smirnov, "In Russia..." joke in there somewhere - Beeg I call on you to find it. Look there are really only two Canadian teams with Cup aspirations and Edmonton isn't one of them. *Frustrated*
Onto thoughts about the playoffs, starting with the teams from our beloved native land. Moscow Dynamo will not with the Stanley Cup. However, as noted, two Canadian teams have a legitimate shot.
Anyone who saw the Ottawa Senators play in the first half of the season knows this team can go both ways at a very high level. Of course, if you saw them play in the last week or ten days of the season, you know: a) they looked like a mess, especially in their own zone, b) that isn't the Dominator between the pipes, c) they weren't able to just outscore everyone. I hold out hope for my hometown heroes, but the calendar has flipped to April and we know what that means, so I'm skeptical.
The Calgary Flames are the other team that could carry the banner for Canada in this wilderness of Stars, Avalanche, and Predators. The Flames are a bit underwhelming, aren't they? But they've been playing playoff hockey for 82 games now. It's tight, defensive, fast and cautious. If Kipper is ON like he was in 2004, well this team has been playing 2-1 games since December, so what's the difference?
I think every team in the playoffs is basically flawed on some level. This guy says that goaltending will determine things (or close to it). Let's start there.
Brodeur is the only healthy, Stanley Cup champion goalie, and New Jersey is on fire - a key factor.
Carolina is actually very good, but I have my doubts. Maybe it's because I can't imagine pinning my hopes on a Swiss goalie. Or a French (from France) one, sorry Montreal.
I can't trust rookies (or pseudo-rookies) or chokers, so that bumps off Rangers, Philly, Dallas, Ottawa (sad), and Nashville. Buffalo's goalies aren't rookies, but they've never sniffed the playoffs (have they?).
Who've I got left? Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, and San Jose. Tampa's goalies might fit into this final group, except they're not very good. Also, I've written off Edmonton, this isn't 1997.
Huh...I've left myself with pretty much only Western Conference teams. Well, I think I'll go with the team with the best goalie, the two teams with the best records (and the two best teams), and the other hottest team.
Western Conference Final: Detroit v San Jose
Eastern Conference Final: Ottawa v New Jersey
(Bonues: Another good ESPN article. Where did Andy MacDonald emerge from anyway?)
I suppose I should admit that Shaky's picks are very much like my own and that neither one of us picked a true upset in the first round (San Jose over Nashville can not be be considered an upset). Then again, to make a couple of lopsided upsets would require us to undertake extensive research of all playoff-bound teams, not to mention possessing balls the size of Darren McCarty's debt.
It is much easier to simply go for the home teams because they have the better records in the regular season, and things like a strong power play, high scoring, and great defense which, obviously, look better to the informed hockey fan. "Of course I'll pick Dallas over Colorado. The Stars on paper are easily the most-balanced team in the league." "Tampa over Ottawa? Are you kidding me? The Sens scored over three hundred goals while Tampa has a card-board cut-out of Ken Dryden between the pipes!"
I'll stand by my predictions - with the caveat that the Flames are a much better team than they were in 2004 and there is no reason to suggest they couldn't go one game further in 2006 - but I am not proud of the acute case of pussitis which is evident by the lack of picking an upset in the first round.
Shame on me, and shame on us all for not knowing the future.
Here are the correct predictions for the 2005-06 post-season (crossposted on Bumf), as opposed to the hallucinogenic haze offered by my fellow commentator.
Detroit v. Edmonton
The Wings have a terrific defense led by the best blueliner in the game, Hall of Fame leadership that's the envy of the league, and a spank-freakin'-tastic young offense who seem to do what they want, when they want. The Oil, meanwhile, limped into the post season, riding on the collapse of the Canucks, and they have not given any indication they are going to give any more. Still, they split the season series with Motown and are one of the few teams who could possibly out-skate them. However, unless the puck-bobbling Dwayne Roloson outplays BOTH number one Manny Legace AND Stanley Cup winner Chris Osgood, Edmonton's hitting the links early this spring. Wings in 5.
Dallas v. Colorado
Colorado's solid, fast and competitive. They are well-coached and have a balanced attack, and an especially potent powerplay. The problem is, the Stars have everything the Avs can throw at them and more. Blake's good on the powerplay but Zobov's better. Sakic and Turgeon are a terrfic pair of pivots but Arnott and Modano are better. Budaj and Theodore are solid tenders but Turco's better. It's going to be a short series. Stars in 4.
Calgary v. Anaheim
Brian Burke has been successful in building a fast, mobile squad with a balanced attack. They have a Conn Smythe winner between the pipes and a rejuvenated Teemu Selanne leading the attack. They also have the smooth-skating Scott Niedermayer to break the puck up the middle at key moments of the game. Top that off with the dynamic rookie duo of Getzlaf and Perry, and you have a potent offense.
The Flames, in contrast, grind like a mill, and are especially adept at wearing down their opponents in along the boards. Niedermayer has a bum knee and might have difficulty in evading the forecheck, much how Selanne might have trouble with the stifling coverage by Stephane Yelle and the entire defense corps. And do I have to mention Kipper?
The difference will be with the style of play. If it's a wide-open game with long passes out of the zone and lateral movement in front of the net, go with the Ducks. If it's a disciplined, tight-checking affair, go with the Flames. Flames in 7.
Nashville v. San Jose
Yes, the coming of Thornton turned around the fortunes of the Sharks and, yes, Vokoun's departure leaves a big question mark in front of the twine. However, Nashville is an fast, explosive team with a solid d and terrific leadership. Vokoun didn't carry the team on his shoulders by any means.
Which leads to Thornton and the lack of any evidence thus far in his professional career of carrying anybody anywhere. All the excuses he has had in the past -- injuries, poor goaltending, lack of secondary scoring -- are non-factors today. I'm sure he'll find at least one more this spring. Preds in 6.
Ottawa v. Tampa
Ottawa has it all: leadership, coaching, defense, scoring, tenacity. Even if the unproven Emery has to carry the load, chances are, he will not have to win any series on his own, much like Chris Osgood did for the Wings in 1998. Tampa, meanwhile, will not have the easy road to the Cup as they did in their Stanley Cup run. Their goaltending is atrocious and the reigning Hart winner has not brought himself back to 2004 form. If it weren't for the ever-improving Vinny Lecavailier, this would be a complete romp. Sens in 5.
Carolina v. Montreal
The Hurricanes are the real deal. They are an incredibly well-balanced team that, while young and cocky, has bought into coach Peter Laviolette's system. Eric Staal's bid for the Art Ross was stymied by the injury of Eric Cole, but with the addition of Doug Weight and Mark Recchi, the total offensive output has not abated one iota. Further, there is no player in the league, aside from Rhett Warrener, who deserves a Stanley Cup more than Rod Brind'Amour, a capable leader who is more than able to rally the team to his cause.
As for the Habs, I have three words: High on Huet. These words are out on the French Flopper and he won't last long if Carolina is listening. If Aebischer comes to the rescue, put your money on his fellow countryman playing 180 feet down-ice. Canes in 5.
New Jersey v. New York
Though the 11-game winning streak means jack-all in the playoffs, it is a strong indicator that the Devils are back to old form. Patrick Elias is the most underrated superstar in the game and Brian Gionta is quickly rising to that status. For his part, Marty Brodeur seems revved up at the possibility of matching Patrick Roy's Stanley Cup total and nabbing an inexplicably-absent Conn Smythe to boot.
The Rangers do possess the best player in the game and a cocky netminder who has already won an Olympic goal medal this year. They also have a surprisingly miserly defense under the watchful eye of Tom Renney and thus are not to be sniffed at. If it were any other team in the East, I'd give it to the Rangers. But because of their loss on the last night of the regular season, this is not the case. Devils in 6.
Buffalo v. Phialdelphia
Robert Esche is getting the call over the brilliant Finn 'minder NNiittimmaakkii(sp?), which may or may not be the right decision. Meanwhile, Buffalo also has two underrated 'tenders who are more than capable of carrying the team all the way to the final. There are no advantages to either side with the coaching as both Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock, who last met in the 1999 finals, are considered to be at the top of their craft. Both teams are superb: the youthful Sabres are the fastest team in the league; the Flyers deep with experience yet bolstered with rookies already proven winners. The prime intangible is Peter Forsberg. If he's healthy, the Flyers are moving on. I'm betting he's not. Sabres in 6.
(Yes, I realize I simply picked the first four seeds in each round, but I honestly believe that the parity in each conference isn't what most observers have proclaimed.)
Detroit v. Nashville -> Preds in 6
Dallas v. Calgary -> Stars in 7
Ottawa v. Buffalo -> Sabres in 6
Carolina v. New Jersey -> Canes in 5
Dallas v. Nashville -> Stars in 4
Carolina v. Buffalo -> Canes in 7
Dallas v. Carolina -> Stars in 6
Detroit v. Edmonton
The Wings are too strong and balanced. The Oilers would have been better off with Dallas - and that is saying something.
Wings in 5.
Dallas v. Colorado
Colorado will make it interesting. The Stars are too deep and fast for the understaffed Avs. Sakic will have a strong series though.
Stars in 6.
Calgary v. Anaheim
Flip a coin. The Flames are built for the playoffs and so they have a slight edge, but this series could easily go the other way and fast. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Ducks win in a short series.
Flames in 7.
Nashville v. San Jose
The loss of one of the best goalies is not easy to overcome, especially for a young team. The Sharks are fast, big and talented. The Preds are fast, small and talented. Big wins in the playoffs.
San Jose in 6.
Ottawa v. Tampa
The Sens remind me of the early 1980 Oilers always knocking on the door and eventually going to break it down. This is their year. They are way too deep and talented to lose here. Plus, Tampa doesn't have the horses or goaltending.
Sens in 5.
Carolina v. Montreal
The Hurricanes are one of the biggest surprises in the "new" NHL. They are young and hungry. They are talented, gritty and balanced. Bob Gainey's squad will battle, but in the end they just don't matchup. If Eric Cole was going, this could have been a sweep.
Canes in 6.
New Jersey v. New York
The Devils amaze. They play possum for 3/4's of the year and then turn it on and win the division. Lou has the team firing on all cylinders. They are fast and have loads of experience. Plus, who bets against Martin Brodeur. The Rangers are happy to be here and no team with Michael Nylander goes deep in the playoffs.
Devils in 6.
Buffalo v. Phialdelphia
The Sabres are pesky and deserve to here, no question. They have a new French Connection with Briere and Dumount. Their balance is impressive and have a goaltending edge. Peter Forsberg should help keep this thing close and Philly could win if Esche gets the hook early. He is not a money goalie.
Sabres in 6.
Cross posted at Moldy Peaches.
Forgive our Acadian contributor for not seeing the forest for the trees in our inaugural post. Yes, the new NHL is exponentially better than anything we've seen, well, since the Great Montreal Canadiens took four of five from Wayne Gretzky's Princes (or whatever those guys were supposed to be) in '93. I don't know about extending the sacred Tip of the Hat to Gary Bettman, who managed to cap a decade of shitty hockey with a (second) lockout, only to have his cred restored by Brendan Shanahan & co.
Maybe it's true that no Gary means no 100 point scorers in '06, no Marek Malik awesome shootout goals and no goalie-get-back-to-your-cage penalties. It also means no insanely high ticket prices, no teams in Atlanta and Nashville (but some in Winnipeg and Quebec City, perhaps). It means no years of awaiting salvation in the form of the U.S. TV deal that's oh-so-close. Please. The OLN? Whatever, Bettman.
The NHL has never been the next NBA and it never will be (all those whiter than white hockey dads can tell themselves that, like black American teenagers, they determine what constitutes hip culture until Rosie the Cow comes home from the Regina debutantes ball). When was the last time the NBA had a work stoppage?
That Bettman finally got around to taking some concrete steps to make the game better (enforce the rules! Brilliant freaking idea) should underscore his impotence, not signal his renewal.
Well, now the game is really on. For the first time in 24 months, hockey lovers everywhere will get to experience the intensity that is NHL hockey during playoff time. This is the real deal.
Before the playoffs, (and the serious predictions and analysis) begin, I think it is important for me to tip my hat to Gary Bettman. I know, I know, he's pretty much a hated figure in hockey, but his gamble paid off. Big time.
I was very skeptical about the survival of the NHL after a full year off and most of the fans not even caring (or pretending not to care) that the game was gone. Given the fact that, before the lockout, the game was about as popular in the
The fans came back on throngs and they were rewarded with a much improved product on the ice. The addition of new rules and the way in which the old rules were called gave fans a game in which skill is rewarded. The flow of the game is much better and the fans have given it their stamp of approval.
At this point, I sincerely hope that the officials will keep calling the game as they did in the regular season and not go back to idiocy that is the "let the players decide the outcome" attitude. In the last few games of the season, I saw some pretty awful displays of officiating, mostly from veteran referees. The main culprits were Don Koharski and Dan Marouelli. How Koharski avoided any discipline after his antics in
In any case, I am an optimist and I think we're in for some great hockey this spring.
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