There's nothing like a well-rolled Cuban

As much as Mark Cuban has been a menace to NBA officials ever since he gained ownership of the Dallas Mavericks, there is no doubt he has created interest in the league as well as a stable financial backing for the franchise. Word has it that the Pittsburgh native, along with NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino, are seeking to do the same for a struggling NHL franchise:

The two have joined with a New York City financier in trying to buy the NHL's Penguins from Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux's group, which is selling the two-time Stanley Cup champion even as the team seeks a new arena deal.

The group of prospective Penguins owners is headed by Andrew Murstein, the president of Medallion Financial Corp., a company that finances New York City taxicab medallions. Adding Cuban and Marino is expected to strengthen the group's estimated $150 million US bid not only financially but perception-wise. Neither Cuban nor Marino have any interest in moving the Penguins from Pittsburgh -- Cuban has made it a condition of his participation.
True, Mark Cuban is a complete idiot and an embarrassment to all nouveau riche, but he has shown dedication to his NBA franchise that is the envy of North American pro sports. The Penguins could certainly use a guy like that.


Coyne and Huck on The Game

I've been unable to post for most of the last week and, in that span of time, a lot has gone on in the world of hockey.

There were, of course, the NHL awards (Thornton gets the Hart? Really?) and the draft. The draft was not really eventful as all the experts agreed that the crop was not a particularly strong one. That being said, some interesting trades were made and there are some big ones to come. Then, looking forward, we will have the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday.

Luckily, Rob was on the case and we were kept up to date on all of these events.

About a week ago, Rob mused about the Great Game and, as it only appeared on his personal blog, many of you may not have read it. The post to which I make reference is a response to well-known columnist and pundit, Andrew Coyne.

Coyne wrote, in a column subtly entitled "Why hockey rules ...And other sports suck", that, when compared to other major professional sports, hockey clearly was the best of the lot. Here is a passage from the column that illustrates his argument:

"There is more action in five minutes of hockey than in your average 90-minute game of soccer, whose fans live for the moment when, by some mischance, the ball strays within 50 yards of the net. Basketball suffers from the opposite affliction: As the comedian David Brenner argues, they should start both teams at 100 and make the games two minutes long, since that's what every basketball game comes down to. Only hockey combines frequency of scoring chances with difficulty of actually scoring..."

In his response, Rob didn't get into the debate of which sport was the best, but he rather adeptly pointed out how futile an exercise that really is. I, for what it's worth, agree with him wholeheartedly. Here are some gems from Rob's post:

"...if you're going to compare hockey to its alternatives, you have to take the tack of Jim Rome, the syndicated sports talk show host based out of Los Angeles (heard here in Calgary on The Fan 960 AM). Not a show goes by during the Stanley Cup playoffs when Rome doesn't receive an email or phone call from American listeners who think hockey is sucks and the like. His response is consistent and correct: hockey is one of the best spectator sports in the world, but it's a sport which doesn't work well on television and that will never change.

For me, most sports have their own fine points which can be appreciated. Football, of both English and American varieties, is a game of territory. The idea is to move the ball down field by devising strategies to move your opponents out of position, thereby opening lanes for a new assault. It is somewhat akin to the game of chess being played by the respective managers/coaches, especially if the teams involved are quite skilled. Football can be a compelling sport once the strategies to take territory can be understood."

Those two paragraphs are, however, only the setup for this great passage on why hockey is, in fact, a great sport in its own right. Without the need to bash other sports:

"Hockey is different in that it's a wonderful hybrid of grace, power, speed and skill. Coaches can play with defensive systems and offensive tactics all they want, but when it gets to crunch time, the function of the coaching staff is primarily motivational; it's up to the players to perform and adjust to the play on the go. Speaking of "on the go", it is not without significance that hockey is the only sport in which players change on the fly, meaning that this sport, more than any other, has an engaging flow and ebb to it which, in turn, means that momentum can reverse itself and back again in an instant." (My emphasis)

I don't know if I've ever read a better description of the game in so few words. Ken Dryden might be able to do something similar (again), but it would take him ten years and it would be presented to us as a Ken Burns-like documentary.

A tip of the hat to you, my friend.

The Hall stops here

Tomorrow is a big day in the lives of former NHL superstars as the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its next inductees.

The most obvious of this year's cohorts is Patrick Roy, the all-time leader in games played and victories by a goaltender, in both regular season and playoffs, and holds a record three Conn Smythe trophies as the most valuable player in the post-season. That he should be in the Hall is a no-brainer.

Somewhat less obvious, yet still likely, is the induction of Doug Gilmour, the former star centre of, most notably, St Louis, Calgary and Toronto. The former perennial 100-point man did more than any other player to bring the Leafs to the Stanley Cup finals and even scored a Cup-winning goal himself in 1989 while with the Flames. In his prime, there were few who could match either his intensity or his exceptional two-way play, and, because of this, the little man from Kingston has earned his place amongst the greats.

An outside shot is the great Pavel Bure. The Russian Rocket was small in stature but he stood shoulder-to-shoulder beside the most exciting players the game has ever seen. When he was healthy, his numbers were outstanding, including a pair of 60-goal seasons in the mid-ninties. Yet it wasn't just the number of goals, but how he scored them. Bure blazing down the right side after picking up a headman pass put the fear of God in many a poor sap who was unlucky enough to be quivering in the blue paint, and his laser-like release was almost unstoppable. He was the closest the NHL had had to re-creating the electric atmosphere of the Montreal Forum in the 1970s, where a torrent of blonde hair would act in much the same fashion in front of mesmerized crowds then.

There are plenty of pros in favour of this formidable pro. His cons, however, might hinder his nomination, strikes against him including a shortened career due to recurring knee injuries, and the lack of a Stanley Cup. The latter might be forgiven considering the woefully mediocre Vancouver teams with which he was associated, one version of which Pavel himself led to within 1 goal of a Cup in the 1994 finals. Still, along with Cam Neely and Brett Hull, both of whom had careers worthy of immortalization, he was the elite right winger in the game at the time. If I was in charge of the Hall of Fame -- a goal towards which I am desperately working -- Bure would be in on the first ballot.

Other potential inductees include the championship netminders Mike Richter and Tom Barrasso, who may get in eventually, as well as 600-goal man Dino Ciccarelli, Dale Hunter, Kevin Lowe, Steve Larmer and Rick "the Racketeer" Tocchet, all of whom would be excluded if it weren't for the "but Clark Gillies is already in there" clause.

Lest we forget, as is becoming a yearly ritual, Oiler winger Glenn Anderson. The former post-season wreaker of havoc will not get in, not because of the lack of numbers (he had netted close to 500 regular season goals and is among the top-five in post-season scoring) nor due the lack of finger jewelery (6 Stanley Cups, most of which were won within the prime of his career). No, there are two reasons why Glenn Anderson will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame any time soon: the first is because of a group of individuals with the given names Wayne, Mark, Jari, Grant and Paul; the second is because there wasn't a turned back which wasn't hit, a team crest which wasn't speared, a flagrant dive which wasn't committed while Edmonton number 9 was patrolling the left side in the 1980s.

Anderson was as disliked as any player in the league, a loathing unmatched by virtually everyone whose name didn't begin with Claude and end with Lemieux. For most of his career, and especially in the post-season, he was a classless asshole on the ice, plain and simple, and, like it or not, entry to the Hall of Fame is guarded by men who remember quite clearly the type of player Anderson had been.

Indeed, the thought of Anderson sitting patiently outside the doors of the Hall year after year allows this adoring fan of the game to believe that, yes, dear reader, there is justice in the world.


Pootie Tang


Oh man, this is sweet:
Looks like the Calgary Flames now have a lock at left wing. The franchise has struggled in recent years to find a fit for the top line opposite Jarome Iginla. Yesterday, the Flames landed one of the most promising young wingers in the NHL in Alex Tanguay.

Calgary sent defenceman Jordan Leopold, its second-round selection and a future conditional pick to division rival Colorado for Tanguay.

I had mentioned previously the value of Leopold going to a team which might be able to use his services, and Colorado could be a perfect fit for this former Hobey Baker winner. With veteran defenseman and future Hall of Famer Rob Blake set to be re-signed, the fleet-footed Leo might just get the mentorship he's needed to bring his game to the higher level. He is a potential All Star, but needs that confidence to rush the puck which will come from increased power play time, time which was becoming increasingly scarce in Cowtown. Further, Colorado does well with the addition of two draft picks, additions which would have been useful in this year's entry draft when the team selected a mere 6 picks overall.

As for Tanguay, what can I say? Here's a top-flight forward entering the prime of his career, a 26-year-old who has already played 450 games and won a Stanley Cup. He's averaged almost a point-per-game since he joined the league and is only now starting to play up to his potential. He is a wonderful young player, better than Sergei Samsonov but not quite at the level of Brad Richards, and his soon-to-be re-negotiated salary will likely reflect that. Chances are, he won't be around Calgary for long, but if the Flames could grab him for a couple of years, he may be a key addition to a successful Stanley Cup run soon enough.

Kudos to both GMs on their efforts to improve their respective teams, but extra congrats to Darryl Sutter. I like this move.

Sour Grapes?

Who saw this coming?

The Oilers' improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals may ultimately end with the trade of one of the team's biggest contributors: Chris Pronger.

According to Sportsnet sources, Pronger wants out.

The defenceman is believed to have some personal issues that may be alleviated by a move.

Neither the Oilers nor the Pronger camp will comment on the matter with respect to the hulking defenceman's privacy. However, it is believed Pronger made his position clear with Edmonton's management before departing for a vacation Friday morning.

Word of his unrest surfaced prior to the playoffs, and with it the understanding that trade discussions between Pronger and Kevin Lowe had taken place during the season.

However, the Oilers run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final overshadowed Pronger's personal battles and it was hoped Edmonton's post-season success would help soothe his geographic battles.

Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case and the topic was raised earlier this week.

"He wants out," a source close to the situation told Sportsnet.

Aw, gee, that's too bad. I mean, really, too bad.


See you in 2006-2007

This trophy has seen plenty of young men in its day. The Stanley Cup, it too has also made a few rounds.

Fire crotch meet Stanley. Stanley, fire crotch.


NHL Awards: Pick This!

The NHL hands out the silverware tomorrow night, so it's time for me to get cracking and lay my reputation on the line once again.

Rob made his feelings known on this issue shortly before the birth of this blog, so at least two of us are on record.

Here goes...

Calder Trophy

  • Alexander Ovechkin, Was
  • Sidney Crosby, Pit
  • Dion Phaneuf, Cal
I will make no bones about the fact that I am Crosby fan, but nobody can deny that Ovechkin is one amazing young man. Alexander the Great was the leading candidate for most of the season, but Sid the Kid went on a tear in the last month of the regular season and broke some records.

The shame in the fact that so much focus was put on the two young guns, although it was well-deserved, is that many didn't appreciate how incredible Dion Phaneuf is. As much as he's been talked about, he's still underrated in my view.

My Pick: Ovechkin

Selke Trophy

  • Rod Brind'Amour, Car
  • Mike Fisher, Ott
  • Jere Lehtinen, Dal
After the Carolina Stanley Cup victory, I felt that Brind'Amour was robbed of the Conn Smythe Trophy, so I hope that he gets the Selke. I know that's not the way to analyse these things, but it's why I hope he wins. Fisher, however, had a great season and may well win this award. If he does, I won't disagree.

My Pick: Brind'Amour

Lady Byng Trophy
  • Pavel Datsyuk, Det
  • Patrick Marleau, SJ
  • Brad Richards, TB
Nobody cares much for this award, which is given to "the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability", but if that's the very definition of Brad Richards. No truth to the rumour that his picture is actually next to the Lady Byng entry in the dictionary.

My Pick: Richards

Jack Adams Trophy
  • Lindy Ruff, Buf
  • Peter Laviolette, Car
  • Tom Renney, NYR
This is a tough one to pick, but in the case of Renney and Laviolette, much of their teams' success was due to some "surprise" performances from key players. If Jagr doesn't suddenly turn back the clock and play like he did, the Rangers don't do as well. As for Carolina, nobody could have predicted that Eric Staal would go from being a 30-point promising center to a 100-point franchise player in one season.

In the case of Ruff and the Sabres, he used the team's speed and skill to take full advantage of the "new NHL". It worked perfectly for the regular season.

My Pick: Ruff

Vezina Trophy
  • Miikka Kiprusoff, Cal
  • Martin Brodeur, NJ
  • Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Unlike the Jack Adams award, this one isn't a tough pick. I don't think there was a goalie in the entire league that was better than Kipper in 2005-2006. He was simply awesome.

Lunqvist was one of many great rookies this past season and will be an important part of the Rangers' plans for years to come. Brodeur may well become the best goalie ever and he seemed to find his form later in the season, but he was not himself for the bulk of 2005-2006.

My Pick: Kiprusoff

Norris Trophy
  • Nicklas Lidstrom, Det
  • Scott Niedermayer, Ana
  • Sergei Zubov, Dal
Right off the bat, I don't like Zubov and I don't get why he's there. As for the two others, it's almost a coin toss.

Lidstrom seems to be the default because he seems to epitomize what a defenceman should do. He's incredibly and not flashy, so much so that he often goes unnoticed. Niedermayer, on the other hand, is smooth, incredibly skilled and, because of his blazing speed and offensive penchant, gets noticed a bit more. Also, the fact that he, along with the young man who took over Teemu Selanne's body, made the Ducks a contending team, makes him a serious candidate.

My Pick: Niedermayer

Hart Trophy
  • Joe Thornton, Bos-SJ
  • Miikka Kiprusoff, Cal
  • Jaromir Jagr, NYR
As players, I'm really not a fan of either Jagr (too whiny) or Thornton (too soft), but Kiprusoff won't win the Hart, so...

Essentially, Big Joe only started playing to his (much-hyped) potential after he left Boston. To me, that means that, even if you'Re being paid millions of dollars, you're not really trying. This is what Jagr has been doing for years. Until this past season. In the 2005-2006 regular season, he was simply the best player in the league

My Pick: Jagr

Enjoy the show!


In with the old

Kirk Muller joins Carbo, Jarvis and Gainey in Montreal.

The penalty killing should be excellent next year for the Habs. Road trips should be interesting given Muller's track record as a "hound."

Let the off-season begin.

Sweet Carolin-A

Poof. Just like that the dream is over. The Oilers can go back to being a middle of the road team. It sure was fun watching the team make a valiant run at the Cup. Watching the past two games with true hockey fans was a blessing. The Muck Shoveller made an Oiler cake for Game 6 and Oiler cupcakes for Game 7. My highlight of tonight was at the 10 minute mark watching the Shoveller go grab a bottle of Scotch, throw it on the table and go to town. The tension was too much.

Good for Glen Wesley, Doug Weight and Rod Brind'Amour for winning the Cup. Phoff is right. The sight of the winners skating with the Cup is the best moment in sport.

My only wish was that Edmonton had won the mug. The city and team deserved it. I am sure that the few hundred die-hard fans in Carolina will savour the ice championship. The parade will be shortest in sports history. The Cup will one day soon return to Canada - where it rightfully belongs.

The smart money next year would be on Florida. Got to love the new NHL.




Wow. The greatest Stanley Cup championship in more than a decade (and perhaps the greatest best-of-5 championship of all time, if you take away those two awful shut outs) has seen the Carolina Hurricanes victorious over the Edmonton Oilers in a well-played game 7 in Raleigh.

I mean, wow.

It was a fantastic show for all involved though I'm not going through it here. A few words about the series, however:

  • Both teams showed up to play when their backs were on the line, meaning both teams were chock full of clutch performers who had passion to spare. Thanks for the memories, boys.
  • It was wonderful to see almost half of all the hockey fans in both Carolinas come out and cheer their team in the RBC Center. I'm sure hockey has a long and prosperous future extending up to - and, possibly, including - the next decade in that building.
  • I can't say enough about Rod Brind'Amour and, I'm sure, neither could their teammates, given the chance. Cam Ward was an inspired choice for the Conn Smythe, considering his keeping his team in every game, even the blowout, but Rod the Bod was the consensus leader for his team. His name should join the immortals.
  • Not only did I win $40 from my bartender and co-worker, but, with Justin Williams' empty net which finished off the Oil, I won my very first hockey pool. Farkin' 'A'!
  • Kudos to the Edmonton Oiler players, who showed plenty of heart and guts, at least since the playoffs began. I have nothing but respect for the lot of them.
  • The same can't be said for the idiot E-tards who were among the 400 arrested on Saturday night or those who allowed other E-tards to act like E-tards at a time when North American sporting audiences had their eyes focussed on their city. I suppose it only goes to show that, for those "fans", finishing second only means you're the biggest loser.
  • And, for one last time, let's hear it for Hartford!
Congrats, Canes! You deserved that Cup.

Give it up for the Whalers

Well, it's all over.

The 2006 NHL season is in the books and the Carolina Hurricanes are the champions. And they are very deserving champions. The other winners are NHL fans who, as most will say, the "new NHL" experiment was a success.

The Edmonton Oilers ended up on the losing end tonight, but they have to be given lots of credit for their improbable playoff run. This was one of the grittiest teams I have ever seen and they battled hard again in Game 7. They, unfortunately, ran into a Carolina team that had all the answers to every single Oiler challenge. No glass slipper for this Cinderella story.

I was rooting for the Oilers, but I can't say that I'm not happy to see many of the Hurricane players lift the Stanley Cup. I love players like Brind'Amour, Weight, Wesley, Recchi and the younger stars like Cole and Staal.

With all due respect to Cam Ward, however, I cannot wrap my head around the fact that he was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy. The man let in 8 goals in the last two games and wasn't really tested in Game 7. He's a great rookie and he'll have a great career, but he's no MVP. Especially not when you consider the contributions of Brind'Amour, Stillman and Staal.

Regardless of who wins, I will always love the team passing around the Cup as they skate around the ice. What I'll never get, however, is why the let so many people (who are not media) on the ice. There are guys in shorts and t-shirts raising their arms to the crowd like they actually did something. Give 'em the boot!

That's it for tonight. More analysis to come when I've had a chance to mull things over a little more.

Game 7, second intermission

Canes are playing the way they know how. That 5-on-3 was a killer for Edmonton. The Oil had better pick it up or it's all over.

Terrific game, so far.

Game 7, first intermission

NHL Rule 33, b): When the Team to be penalized gains control of the puck, the Referee will blow his whistle to stop play and impose the penalty on the offending player.


NHL Rule 55, c):
No defending player, except the goalkeeper, will be permitted to fall on the puck, hold the puck or gather the puck into the body or hands when the puck is within the goal crease.

Therefore, if a player on a team which is to be penalized "gains control" of the puck by either falling on the puck in the goal crease or holding the puck in the goal crease, then the other team should be awarded a penalty shot, no?

Pretty weak, refs.

Who gets the Conn Smythe?

So, before the big game gets under way tonight, I want to put in my 2¢ and comment on the eventual winner of the Conn Smythe trophy that goes to the most valuable player for the playoffs.

Rob may or may not have jumped the gun (much like the people at Beckett did), but he still could be right on the money should the Canes take Game 7. Make no mistake; the outcome of the game will decide the winner of the trophy. This is how close of a series it has been.

Here are my thoughts on the players for both teams:


1. Rod Brind’Amour – He’s the front-runner for the award on the Canes’ side. The captain has been the true leader of this team and has come up big throughout the playoffs. His game seems to have been somewhat stifled by Edmonton’s hard hitting team defence, but you could say that about any of the Carolina players on any given night.

2. Cory Stillman – One could make a strong case for Stillman who, along with Staal, has been leading the Canes’ offence. To think that almost nobody wanted to sign him to a multi-year deal after he left Tampa Bay must make some GM’s out there squirm. He has been strong at both ends of the ice throughout the playoffs and, had it not been for his bad pass in Game 5, we may not have had to see a Game 7. That may be why he doesn’t get this award.

3. Eric Staal – He won’t win this trophy, but he’ll get some consideration. Given the fact that he’s 21, he just may have another crack or two at this later on. This guy is no one-hit-wonder. He’ll help lead Canada back to respectability in 2010 (along with some kid named Sidney).


1. Chris Pronger – To me, he’s the only candidate who could win the trophy even if his team loses. He’s been that good. After a rough regular season, Pronger has adjusted to the “new” NHL, where the refs are just as inconsistent as in the “old” NHL, and has been one of the most effective and least penalized players on either side. Not to mention that the guy is always on the ice and there are rumours that he may play over 35 minutes in Game 7. He’s my pick, win or lose.

2. Fernando PisaniI’ve already written about Pisani before and I love the story. He’s the new John Druce. He’s the guy who almost has as many goals in the playoffs as he did in the regular season and who has come up with some seriously clutch goals. He may be playing over his head, but you have to admit that it would be hard to imagine Edmonton being here without his major contribution. He’s a dark horse for the trophy, but needs mentioning nonetheless.

So, that’s my take on things. Game 7 is on in a few hours.

See you on the other side.

Say What?

The Stanley Cup will be awarded later this evening for the first time in the new NHL. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the folks at Beckett that it takes four wins to claim the Cup.

Game 7 has the makings of a classic. I am sticking with the Monkey and calling the Oil to bring the Cup home.


Series for the ages

Do you believe in miracles?

I can tell you that the folks in Edmonton do. After the dominant performance the Oilers put together tonight, I have to say that I'm starting to believe in miracles. The question on everybody’s lips, however, will be: Do the Oilers have anything left in the tank?

As difficult as it was to win two straight games to even the series at three games apeice, it will be twice as difficult to win game 7 in Raleigh. That being said, it was the Hurricanes who seemed to be out of gas in game 6. Leaving the ice at Rexall place, they looked like they were dead tired. They looked defeated, in the larger context.

Given that he Canes were humiliated tonight, they will be completely fired up for game 7. The danger for Edmonton is that they may feel like that they have already won, although they seem to be on a pretty even keel.

My emotions may be getting the better of me, but I think Edmonton is a team firing on all cylinders and they are the ones that seem to want it more. They'll take the cup back to Edmonton.

In any case, the game will be great. As my favourite Edmontonian, a.k.a. The Murph Dog, would say, it will be great no matter what.

Game on!


See you Saturday night




Note: I just got back from Lotus Land where I was in the fine company of Beeg, Moi, Lubelly, Shaky and Ballzov. It explains the lack of posts (for me, at least). Thanks, Rob, for keeping the blog active.

What a game! I was on the edge of my seat for most of the night and the fact that it went to OT made me relish the fact that I don't have hair. What does this Oiler win mean for both teams involved?

As we'll surely read from most puck pundits tomorrow, "delaying the inevitable" will be a much-used phrase. It's hard to argue with that logic since, before tonight, the Oilers looked like they had hit the proverbial wall. They seemed tired and sluggish, like playing above their heads had finally caught up with them after thrre great playoff series.

For Oilers fans, however, there may be a glimmer of hope. Edmonton showed some flashes of offensive jump and they were very physical tonight. The Carolina defencemen took some serious hits tonight (and blocked lots of shots) and some of them look hurt. This may help the somewhat anaemic Oiler offence. Another positive is that Hemsky and Peca had a great game. A secondary scoring threat will do wonders for the Oilers.

Now, if the Oilers are to take game 6, they absolutely will have to playa much more disciplined game and work on their PK. That was their bread and butter in previous series and they have to get things in order. A better PP would also be nice, but that's just a pipe dream at this point.

Carolina will press hard on Wednesday and their forwards will be all over the net like a fat kid on a Smartie. The Canes defencemen will to be good as well, even if they're hurt.

As my old friend Murphy would say, this is gonna be good...no matter what.

So Dark the Conn of Smythe

Disclaimer: I do am not claiming that the Stanley Cup has been already awarded and the heroes associated with this championship consigned to history. After losing a wad of cash when I bet against the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, I am the last person to declare a victory before a victory is won. If Edmonton does crawl back into the series, it will be because of a Herculean effort by the likes of Pronger, Smyth and Horcoff, not to mention goaltending above that which we have witnessed thus far. This might happen, but I write this on the premise that it will not likely come to pass.

Now that that's out of the way, let's look at the potential candidates for this year's Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player to his team in these playoffs.

Cam Ward

Here we have one of the most obvious contenders. A rookie goaltender who took over from the consensus number one in the regular season, the 22-year-old Ward has been a beacon of poise and consistency for the already potent Hurricanes. He has allowed his team a chance to win in virtually every game. With a .924 save percentage and 2.01 goals-against average over 20 games, he has the numbers which certainly put him in the same breath as Conn Smythe winners past. However, he hasn't had to steal many games for his team, as Bill Ranford, Patrick Roy and J-S Giguere had done on a regular basis during their winning years. This is a strike against him, though not a big one.

Eric Staal

There is no doubt that Staal is the best and most talented hockey player who is still lacing them up this season. He has shown to be dominant when his team needs him and this is indicated by his share of the point scoring leadership in the post-season. But the best player is not necessarly the most valuable one, and this might be the case with Staal's bid for the Conn Smythe in 2006. Still, you could do far worse than having his name join up with those the legends of the game.

Cory Stillman

Sportsnet's Hockey Central have been touting this previously unheralded journeyman as the next Conn Smythe winner, but I have my reservations. Yes, he is on a 12-game points streak. Yes, he is tied for the league lead in points. Yes, he has been playing better hockey with each successive round and saved his best for the finals. But there is another player who has also elevated his game, who has had timely scoring, who has played plenty of minutes, and who is more deserving, and that player is ...

Rod Brind'Amour

If Brind'Amour doesn't win the Conn Smythe (provided that the Hurricanes win either Game 5 or 6), then an inquiry should be made. Not only does he lead the NHL in goals scored, but many of those were scored at such key moments of the game as I wonder why he hasn't been officially declared MVP already. Stillman plays 20 minutes a game; Brind'Amour plays those same 20 minutes plus every PK. He takes all important faceoffs. He hits, he blocks shots, he draws the opposition's to defensive specialists away from Carolina's other offensive powers. Most importantly, he is the heart and soul of the franchise, the one instilling levity to the team when momentum begins to sway against their favour. He is as much of a leader as this game has ever seen.

Moreover, just as Bob Gainey in 1979 and Scott Stevens in 2000, Brind'Amour would be the perfect representative for this well-balanced team who don't rely on any one person to carry the team on his shoulders.


And while I'm on Gainey, I could also mention that this might be the first time since 1979 that a Selke Trophy winner double up with a Conn Smythe as well.

On a personal note, if this comes to light, it will be the second consecutive season that alumnus from my high school take home this trophy (Brad Richards having attended Notre Dame College a year after I attended), a thought that allows me a little bit of pride.

Honourable mentions:

Could a goaltender who dominated three playoff series be considered a candidate for MVP? It's a shame to admit that, no, it isn't possible. But if Dwayne Roloson is given the Conn Smythe at the end of the playoffs, you won't hear me complaining.

I can't say the same for Chris Pronger, who enjoyed one of the most dominant playoffs by a defenseman since Scott Stevens in 2000 all the way through to the Campbell Bowl victory, but hasn't been the same since. If the Oil can pull out a couple of games and win 'er all - or even lose in seven - Pronger would be as deserving as anyone.


Game 4 : The Aftermath


Another terrific game marred by that effin' reffin' but it was probably the best performance by both teams in the same game. The Oilers played inspired hockey but Carolina seemed to find their groove in the second and never let go. I figured the Canes to be the better team overall and, when all else is equal, they would be far more likely to emerge.

I was wrong about the high-scoring affair. Shots were down, the respective PK were great, and scoring chances were kept to a minimum. However, the scoring chances which did arise were exciting as anything these playoffs have offered, and both Markkenen and Ward relied on a bit of that ol' Grant Fuhr luck rubbing on their pads. Or maybe that was some of the defective dasher boards which peeled off. Either way, fans of the Shiv Town Lardbirds cannot blame the loss of Roloson if the inevitable occurs.

I called Staal to have a multi-point game (yes, I thought incorrectly that he'd bag three) and I thought Samsonov was due for some scoring, which he provided. Yet, aside from the few scoring opportunities afforded to Whitney, neither Horcoff, Smyth or Weight seemed to garner some significant chances, and so I shouldn't boast about my predictions quite yet. Ah well, maybe next game.

But I'll try to predict the future nonetheless. Will the Oilers win one more before the series is out? Perhaps. I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled one out of their ass in Raleigh but I can't see them winning more than that one. Their spirits are looking as deflated as that shot of Whyte Ave just shown on Sportsnet, and there is no way they can rely on spirit and spirit alone.

The entire team is going to have to give all they can muster, but none moreso than Pronger, Peca and Smyth. All three of those gentlemen have been merely okay but none of them have led their team the way they can or how they're supposed to. Perhaps this is overwhelming for them. At the end of the Western conference series, they were caught up in the jubilation of donning those nifty ball caps and high-fiving each other as if they won something worth more than a bag of spit. Contrast that with the subdued Brind'Amour, Weight and Wesley, all of whom seemed to recognize the poignancy of the moment and kept their grins to themselves. In other words, the leaders of Tobacco Belt hockey appeared to have a greater sense of purpose than their counterparts in Alberta's Second City.

Or maybe that's just me.

It's been a good ride, and it's not over yet, but I don't recommend you to schedule your babysitter for Saturday night.

Greasy rebound

Tonight's Game 4 is, as it is with for most playoff series, the pivotal match-up in these terrific Stanley Cup finals. Edmonton had a game to adjust to a new goalie in Game 2, to their detriment, while Carolina had to readjust to a better 'tender in Game 3. There are no excuses any more for either team. Jussi has shown he can play if he has to, even if he is on his back while doing it, and the Oilers have shown that they can crash the net to positive results as well. Call it even.

Though I give full credit to the play of the Oilers, I do think that the problem with the Hurricanes, who boast the most potent power play in the league, was ironically because of the amount of penalties which occured against both teams, especially in the first period. Sure, they performed beautifully on the PK, but the frequent call for special teams left the more-talented Canes looking for more consistency with their line changes. The Carolina's underrated Adamses on the fourth line, for example, received scant opportunity to wear down Smith and Pronger to the benefit of their more skilled teammates, and this lack of pressure hurt them in the third.

Also, we must see more out of Eric Staal. He is the most talented player on either team but has yet to shine in the finals. This could very well be his night if Peter Laviolette has anything to do with it. If the Canes coach can adjust his game plan with the same effectiveness that MacTavish did in Game 3, I would not be surprised to see the young'un from Thunder Bay explode for a three-point night. Now's the time to shine and I think the big kid has it in him.

Moreover, both Doug Weight and Ray Whitney need to contribute more. Again with the lack of consistent line changes, neither one of these generally-terrific veterans were up to their tasks in the building both had formerly called 'home'. I see them both improving.

What I see on the Oilers' behalf tonight is a continuation of a tightly-contested defensive battle, giving nothing away in the neutral zone and sticking it to the Canes on the power play. Yet I think their job will be to keep the game close rather than shutting off the taps completely, which I don't believe they have it in them. Markannen won't be as lucky as he was the other night (have you seen so many saves by a goalie on his back?) but he'll be good enough. Pronger will be as solid as ever and Horcoff and Smyth will likely believe that they're over their scoring drought. However, their scoring stars, in my humble opinion, will be probably the likes of Pisani and Samsonov, go-to guys in the previous rounds who might be slipping under the radar during the course of this series.

It will be close: Carolina will be looking for revenge but Edmonton has renewed confidence. I think the former will take it in a high-scoring affair.


Game 3

After game two, I was, and still am, pissed-off at the poor performance of the Oil.

Not that I'm their biggest fan or that I think they can absolutely beat the Hurricanes, but simply because I'm a hockey fan and to see a team play that badly in such an important game is frustrating.

I shared much of the same frustrations as Sacamano: "Quite simply, the Oilers played like a bunch of dickheads. They tried to be too cute instead of just shooting the damn puck at a goalie who was giving out rebounds like a trampoline. They took idiotic penalties. They gave up odd-man rushes on stupid pinches. They refused to direct anything towards the net on powerplays."

Seriously, the Oilers allowed more 2-on-1's than Debbie did when she was doing Dallas. The only positive thing that came from that game was that it made the goalie contreversy irrelevant. The problem is not with the goaltending.

Now we're here and we've been here before. The Oilers are home and they're down 2 - 0. We all know the clichés. Their backs are against the wall. It's a must-win situation. They have to give 110%. Have I forgotten any?

It's simple really. The Oilers have to play like they did for most of game one and not collapse. In order to do this, some players will have to return to their 3rd round form. Peca and Horcoff especially. The "skilled" players will also have to make an appearance (that means you Samsonov!).

Game on!

News that is absurd

It's no secret to those who visit this site that Beeg is a Habs fan and that Rob is really not. I, however, fall somewhere in between. I seem to get more interested in the team every year (I'm a somewhat recent resident of Montreal).

I have taken more of a liking to the Canadiens since the arrival of Bob Gainey, a man who I think was an amazing player and is as good a GM. The addition of Guy Carbonneau is also a move that I liked.

Today, however, I read something that made me doubt the sanity of both Gainey and Carbo. Rumour has it that the two former Habs captains are seriously considering hiring Mario Tremblay as an assistant coach (French only). To me, that is one of the most perplexing things I've read in a long time.

Tremblay's tenure as a head coach in Montreal was, to say the least, a bust. The "bionic blueberry", as he is known in these parts, never succeeded in inspiring anyone, neither the players, nor the fans. He was a petulant hot-head that will be remembered only for being the man who let the best goalie of all-time stew in his own sh*t for 9 goals and then drove him out of town.

Does anyone have an idea why this makes sense? Am I missing something here?

More news that actually matters

It's great of Beeg to finally make an appearance. I guess Rob's little shout out woke him up.

I was so inspired by his "infotainement" style of writing that I figured I would follow in his footsteps.

Earlier in the week, hockey fans and insiders got some good news with the announcement that Ted Nolan was making a much-anticipated return to the NHL coaching ranks with the New York Islanders. This is great for the NHL and great for the Islanders who need some direction. It will also help that the organization also added Neil Smith as the new GM.

The only people who will be (slightly) sad are the good folks in Moncton, who were hoping that Nolan would be back to try to lead the hometown Wildcats to another Memorial Cup appearance. I know for a fact, though, that they wish him nothing but the best.

Expect to see the Islanders' fortunes change in the next two years (so long, Alexei Yashin!). Let's hope they can also change their uniforms.


News that actually matters

Yeah, yeah, we know, Edmonton is done for. Not that I can say I'm upset - never have been an Oiler fan, never will be. When your mascot's an oil rig, well, what else is there to say? Though your heart breaks a little for the Dwayne Rolosons of the world - those who exceed expectations, commit to their work and then see a unique opportunity go bust all thanks to some crappy defenceman. What can you do? The Hurricanes, far from the best team this post-season, will soon enough do away with the Oilers and we can all be happy for Glen Wesley (or not - once a Bruin always a Bruin and fuck the Bruins) and Rod Brind'amour, the ugliest guy standing.

More importantly is this item about the Vancouver Olympics. Seems nobody wanted to renovate GM place (at a cost of $10 million?!?), so the next ginormously overrated IIHF tournament will be played on NHL regulation ice. I say bring back the old tiny rinks of Chicago and Boston yore. Then again, I'm far from an NHL Governor.

Who can say (and really, who cares?) what the implications will be for the next NHL-involved Olympiad? I'll miss the larger ice surface, with its speedier play and higher proportion of weirdo passes that never get anywhere, but, hey, Canada (or an independent Quebec? Shudder) should be better off. Then again, Syd the Kid, who will be the Man by then, will probably get his face destroyed big time, not like the little business at the Worlds this year, so maybe a little more room to move would be better for the not-ass Canucks.

Anyhow, my closing thought is to Carolina: end it fast (or, to appease the Murph, who is proof that good stuff comes from Edmonton, though it often winds up in freaking Hogtown, Edmonton: come back and take it in six, OK?). The playoffs have been fun but this series is for the birds. Let's get down to some off-season jiggy-joo. Gainer, bring Zdeno to Montreal where, under a real coach, he just might shine.


Team Destiny

It is beginning to look like Carolina has lady luck smiling on them. The old adage of "you have to be good to be luck" is sure true, but this will mark the second time in the past two Stanley Cups that I could care less for a team that is on the verge of winning. First, Tampa Bay and now the hockey hotbed of Raleigh.

Carolina reminds me of the 1986 Canadiens. They can't lose. They didn’t deserve to win Game 1. They deserved Game 2. Sure, the Hurricanes have talent and a great young goalie, but they also have had a heavy dose of LUCK. First series - Saku's injury. Second series - draw an overachieving Devils team. Third Round - a depleted Sabres team. Now, a team minus arguably the best goalie in the 2006 Playoffs. The Oilers will still make this a series, but will come up short.

I was annoyed watching the Carolina-Montreal series to see all the uncalled high sticks from the 'Canes and the diving the team does. Between Matt Cullen and Justin Williams - who is a fine player - you have a great synchronized diving team.

I will never embrace Redneck Hockey. Carolina will likely go the way of Tampa - winners to barely there. Such is life in the new NHL. You have to love the parody when the Cup gets to vacation in the Sunbelt with 8 fans.
It is probably true, that like Dave Andreychuck, one should be happy for Glen Wesley, Rod Brind'Amour and Brett Hedican for the chance to get their names engraved on the mug.

Game 2


As the second game of the Stanley Cup championship series is about to become underway, and the Edmontonian re-enactments of The Deer Hunter have all come and gone, the question of the day is, Will it be Ty or the Juice?

Do I care? Sure I do. But, do any of the other half-dozen "commentators" on Puck This! give a rat's ass? I mean, I like Phoff and all, but this is becoming a two-way conversation which could probably be more suited to MSN than in blog format.

Buck up, boys. I want commentary.


Robbin' Bilker'Amour

The Oilers should worry less about playing mind games with the refs and concentrate instead on preserving 3 goal leads:

Where the Hurricanes are concerned, a big contributor to their victory on Monday wasn't just Conklin's performance but what they did at the faceoff circle. Carolina won 45 of 73 faceoffs in Game 1, due in large part to Rod Brind'Amour's work on the draw.

The Oilers, in turn, have labelled Brind'Amour - the league's top faceoff man this season - a 'cheater' on faceoffs.

Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff wasn't shy about saying that at all. Brind'Amour fared better than 80 percent on the draw, compared to about 30 percent for Horcoff. The Oilers argue this was made worse by the fact that Brind'Amour's a veteran who gets benefits from the linesmen.

Horcoff, who had a running battle all night with the linesmen and referees, said that Brind'Amour did get tossed out of the circle on a few occasions. But it was only because they complained so much that the referees started making the calls instead of the linesmen.

Horcoff had a real nasty exchange with one of the linesmen in Game 1, and some video will be put together for the NHL and its officials on what they believe to be Brind'Amour's 'cheating.'

The Oilers' argument will be that he does not line up straight at the circle and comes in on an angle. They'll also point out that he benefits from putting his stick down and lifting it up again.

Anything else? Oh yeah - he's also better than anyone else in the entire league.

Either get over it, Horcoff, or else let someone else take the draws.


Can I change my pick?

Not because they lost game 1, but because they have lost their goaltender for the remainder of the series.

According to coach MacTavish, Roloson won't be back. Now, that may be posturing on behalf of the Oilers in order to be considered the underdog (it seems to give some teams a mental edge). In any case, the injury is clearly serious and the Oilers will have to use backup goalies.

I hope that I am wrong, but a Ward/Conklin duel is not a duel. It's like showing up to a gunfight with a water pistol.

I've been wrong before, I hope that I am wrong now.

Game 1

First Period:

I hope the Oilers get their skate sharpener fixed, as it seems like quite a few of them are having trouble staying upright when a Hurricane touches them.

Second Period:

Canes played better but need improvement. Didn't like the penalty shot call as I thought Wallin was trying to fish the puck out of the crease; good shot by the whore gap, though. The Oil better watch out for these third-period specialists.

Third Period:

Just a question: When a player tales his hand of the stick, wraps his arms around a player and that other player falls down, shouldn't that be a penalty? Another question: Why doesn't that count when the player infracted is a goaltender?

Canes turned it on, as they usually do when they're behind going into the third. Too bad for Steve Jason Smith and Ty Conklin on the winning goal, but the big goat of the game is none other than Marc Andre Bergeron. Any defenseman who nails a rushing forward into his own goaltender deserves nothing but a pillow case and a bar of soap. What a dipshit.

After Hours:

Good. The Oilers might still pull one out of Raleigh before they head home but now everyone knows they can't take the Canes for granted. Like I said, These men are the real deal.

Craig MacTavish: "Goalie's not good. Won't be back in the series." Oiler fans better be hoping he's talking about Conklin.

Forward to the Past


I'm a local celebrity of sorts here in Calgary when it comes to sports prognostication. A day doesn't go by when a person doesn't say to me: "Huck, you're awfully good-looking and one hell of a sports visionary. What is the secret to your tremendous success when figuring who will be still standing at the end of the Stanley Cup final?"

Being a modest person, not to mention eerily astute and extremely handsome, I have to admit that there is a reason to my supposedly mad sense of forbearance. For one, the biggest factor in picking a series has nothing to do with current playoff performances, nor does it even have to do with regular season success. Go back even further to past post-season accomplishments by the players, or even that of the particular franchises themselves, and you won't find where I develop my keen insight to where their respective destinies lay.

No, the first question I ask myself regarding which team is going to win a particular series is, What is the record of that franchise in World Hockey Association championship play? In this case, the New England Whalers, who later became the Hartford Whalers and, ultimately, the Carolina Hurricanes, have a dominating single championship to their credit while the lowly Alberta/Edmonton Oilers have merely one final round defeat for which to boast. How pathetic.

For this reason and this reason alone, I believe that Carolina will defeat Edmonton in 6 games in the 2006 Stanley Cup championship series.

Avco Cup victories aside, there are other reasons to believe the Canes will emerge victorious.

I don't buy the theory that the Grease Spots are the overwhelming underdogs in the series. Even though Vegas is betting against them due to regular season differences and the advantages due to home ice, there are few around these parts who aren't giving the Oil the Cup already. From the Conn Smythe play of Chris Pronger to the inexplicable play of Dwayne Roloson, from the grown men waving silver pom-poms to the knives of Whyte Ave, it seems that this is the year of destiny for those raucous Shiv City fanatics.

However, by playing in a city which alters its hockey schedule with that of the NASCAR circuit, the Hurricane generators have gone unnoticed but still built themselves the best franchise in the league has seen ever since Steve Yzerman had at least one working knee ligament. Solid goaltending, both on the starting rotation and manning the door, has already taken on the world's best netminder - who had been on a 15-game winning streak, I might add - and won decisively. Rookie Cam Ward, in particular, has shown he can keep his cool in big games and give his team a chance to in every game. Hockey peoples looking for Ward to falter under the bright lights of (ahem) Edmonton will be disappointed in his confidence in the blue paint, even with Ryan Smyth's big ass and greasy mullet in his face.

Three exceptional first-lines bolster an attack more formidable than most, complimenting an effective fourth line centred by the underrated Kevyn Adams. What more can be said about the brilliant play thus far of Rod Brind'Amour, for example, which doesn't involve his talent in the face-off circle, his aggressive forecheck and timely scoring? What can I add to Eric Staal's desire to have the puck and do something wonderful with it? How does one describe the pairing of Oilers-linked has-beens - former captain Doug Weight and former stickboy Ray Whitney - and their emerging presence with rookie Andrew Ladd with every game closer to the final? Is there anything I can contribute to the stories of Justin Williams and Cory Stillman other than they are two players who will be considered as potential late-season pickups for teams contemplating a Stanley Cup run for the foreseeable future?

These men are the real deal.

True, the offense had had the luxury during the last series of dealing with a depleted Sabres blueline, and they managed to take advantage of that weakness to their full advantage. But how do you explain the success of the Canes' d-corps, known only for their success as a no-name hodge-podge of dependable defenders, who shut down the likes of Briere and Drury? I know that Wesley has flown under the radar ever since leaving the dominant Bruins teams of the late eighties and early nineties, but here you have a guy who hardly ever makes a mistake, which is precisely all 'lina needs. Ditto that for Bret Hedican and Niclas Wallin. Mike Commodore, known more for his bedroom attire and Raggedy Andy 'do, has established himself as a first-rate, second-line defensive specialist. There are no Prongers here, but you don't need a twelve-foot wingspan if you're rotating three pairs without any key injuries who can all play in all situations.

And do I have to mention the vicious special teams play by the Hurricanes?

Yep, Edmonton has had a terrific run and the players and management are to be commended, even if their fans aren't. However, it's about to end. Like I said earlier, the Lardbirds aren't the only team to go on a torrid post-season streak in these playoffs who have met the Hurricanes, and I'm betting that the results will be quite similar.

Then again, according to my Western conference predictions, I've been wrong before.

Canes in six

I await my turn on 'CSI'

Well, I'm not as good as Huck because I didn't have the Ballz-ov to make my predictions for the entire playoffs at the very beginning. I did, however, make predictions for each round before they began and, for the third round, I was perfect. Unlike Rob, I don't depend on psychic ability. I prefer to say that I analyse each matchup with forensic-like precision. Yeah, right.

Basically, my thinking was this: I wavered on the two final teams in the second round. I lost my faith in them. They proved me wrong and I, therefore, had to pick them for the next round. They, obviously, didn't disappoint. Now comes the hard part. I have to pick one to lose.

Here's how my forensic-like mind sees the cup final play out: Carolina will bring more skill and speed up front and Edmonton will block all the shooting lanes and will have the edge on defence and penalty killing. That's pretty much obvious.

The difference in the series will be Chris Pronger and the rest of the Oilers defence (both the rearguards and the entire team defence). None of the Carolina forwards have faced the likes of Pronger this season and they will be in for a very rude awakening. Staal (who may already be hindered by injury), will show his youth and won't be able to handle having Pronger in his face all night. The veterans like Brind'Amour, Stillman, Recchi and the like will adjust better, but not enough.

Oil in 6.

Monkey picks Oilers to win the Cup...

.. and Maggie picks the Oilers too. Maggie - the resident TSN Monkey - has picked the Edmonton Oilers to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in sixteen years. If she is correct, and really would you bet against a monkey spinning a roulette wheel, then the Oilers would be the first Canadian team to sip from Lord Stanley's mug since the Canadiens in 1993.


I await my guest turn on 'Medium'

I should have been laying money down in Vegas at the start of the playoffs. While my Western conference picks have been less-than-stellar, my East prognostications have been downright astounding. Sure, before last series, I thought Carolina would topple Buffalo in seven games, as, I'm sure, did many other hockey pundits. How many people, though, picked the Canes seven-game victory over the Sabres in the conference final before the playoffs even began?

Damn, I'm good. Just don't ask me my feelings on the West anytime soon.

The series came down to the final period and the game winner was decided as I figured it would be:

The intangible will be, once-again, Rod Brind'Amour. He is the heart and soul of the Hurricanes and has proved he can elevate his game when his team has needed it most.
Indeed he did.

However, I was also impressed with the elevated game of Ray Whitney and Dougie Weight. Both were cast-offs from their former teams this season and both have shown how invaluable experienced play can be when experience counts for most. That they are playing so well with uber-talented rookie Andrew Ladd shows the smarts of coach Peter Laviolette of not only getting the rookie some important playing time, but also preparing him for the future when he and Staal will be taking this fantastic Canes club to a few more exceptional playoff heights. Hats off also goes to rookie 'minder Cam Ward, who has shown he is merely as good as he has to be and has given his team a chance to win every night. The thing is, I don't believe they've played their best hockey yet, and I don't think they believe it either.

While I'm at it, I have to commend the Buffalo Sabres for showing so much grit and pride even while their top four defensemen were out of the line-up. That was a shitty piece of luck on their part, the only silver lining of which was the emergence of future all-star Brian Campbell, he of everlasting Umberger fame, who logged over 25 minutes last night and played the game of his life.

As for the Oilers, well, what can I say? I figured the wrong goalie would be the difference, and I guessed that the wrong team would be the tenacious fighters. The long wait after round two hurt the Ducks but it shouldn't have hurt them that much. They did out-play the Oil on more nights than not (or, so I was told, as I missed the first three games and only caught the results in newspaper reports) and might've had a chance had they had more finish in their offense. The one poor outing of Roloson proves that he was beatable, if only the Ducks could get to him.

But they didn't, the Oilers scored when they had to, they sacrificed the body, and now they're sitting somewhere in New York state and booking rooms at the Raleigh Super-8.

It was a hell of a series. I give Anaheim all the congrats in their post-season success, and I wish the Oilers all the best, provided they lose in 5 games or less.


Calgary blogger calls Sabres coach 'meathead'

Sabres coach calls Hurricanes 'arrogant'


[Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff] accused the Carolina Hurricanes of being "arrogant."

He said the 'Canes laughed at his players as they skated past the bench when they won 4-0 in Game 4.

And, if that wasn't enough to get the pot boiling, he also accused them of having champagne on ice to celebrate their series win in Buffalo which failed to materialize.

Honestly, "champagne on ice"? For a semi-final game? Sabres captain Daniel Briere said he used that accusation by Ruff "as motivation" for Game 6, which was won on an OT winner by Briere himself. I'm sure the rest of the hard-working Sabres team felt the same way, painting themselves as victims in this gruelling seven-game match-up.

Know that these are all high-calibre and focussed professional athletes and if they didn't use whatever motivation which was afforded to them, then they wouldn't be where they are today. If they want to believe that the Hurricanes were "laughing" at them during the 4-0 romp, so be it (though I beg to know exactly which emotions should a team express while moving one game closer to the Stanley Cup finals).

As for the "champagne comment", though, how stupid would that motivation appear for the rest of the playoffs, provided that the Sabres get by the Canes tonight? There never was any champagne in the dressing room that night, and anybody who says otherwise is a bold-face liar. And Lindy Ruff said otherwise. How will his own players believe his motiviations from here on out?

Picture yourself in the near future. You're in the Buffalo dressing room, 10 minutes before Game 5 against Edmonton, where the Sabres are down 3 games to 1 and trying to stave off elimination:

RUFF: All right team, enough's enough. These bastards are thinking they are going to win tonight. Are we going to let them?!


RUFF: These guys were laughing at us last game. Remember that? Are we going to let them laugh at us?!


RUFF: These guys are so cocky, they have champagne chilling in their dressing room as we speak. They think the series is over. Are you going to let them get away with thinking like that?


RUFF: What? Don't you guys believe me?


Lindy Ruff is an incredibly talented coach in the best hockey league in the world, but when it comes to media sparring, he shows everyone his true self, that being, a dumb meathead of a hockey player.