It's been so long since I've been here (and anybody else for that matter), that I feel like a teenager who has slept in late into the afternoon and is now wiping the crud from his eyes.

I really wish I had time to blog about hockey. I have so much to spew, but so little time.

This is just a quick hello to anyone who may accidentally find themselves here and a reminder (below) of why the Red Wings are favoured to win the Cup this season.


Tiger and His Knee

So, Mike Milbury was legitimately upset after Tiger dissed hockey and, as you see in the clip below, called him Tiger Wuss for taking so long to recover from simple arthroscopic knee surgery.


Much like in hockey, it seems Tiger was hiding some much more serious damage to his "lower body". Tiger revealed yesterday that "he has been playing for at least 10 months with a torn ligament in his left knee, and that he suffered a double stress fracture in his left leg two weeks before the U.S. Open. He said he will have season-ending surgery."

I don't care how much or how little respect someone has for the sport of Golf, but everyone has to recognize that these are serious injuries. To be able to precisely swing a club at the speed that Tiger does for 5 straight days withe pressure of playing a major championship tournament is nothing short of amazing.

We now know that this was a display of toughness and tenacity at a level that is rare in any sport.

All that needs to be done now is to tell Tiger to use his time off to learn more about hockey and its players. They are, as a whole, the toughest athletes in sports.


"Maybe there's more than one way to kiss the Cup"

Chris Osgood

I don't know why The Onion suddenly seems to have an interest in hockey, but I like it. "Chris Osgood Gets To Third Base With Stanley Cup" is hilarious.

"Okay, now, I'm not saying there isn't—it's a powerful feeling, when you win the Cup, and sometimes that leads to other feelings that are just as powerful," Osgood continued. "Things happen, but you and the Cup both want them to happen, and you go back to the hotel and ask it to watch Dirty Dancing, and eventually maybe you get into some up and over, or there's some up and down and underneath, or maybe—I'm not saying this happened, but you know—maybe there's more than one way to kiss the Cup."

Blogged with the Flock Browser


La ville est hockey

Here in Montreal, most hockey fans are confident in their claim that this is, in fact, Hockey Town. It certainly isn't Detroit.

After living here for eight years, I tend to agree. When the Habs are playing, or even better, in the hunt for La Coupe, this city is insane. I do find it odd, however, that since the Canadiens have been ousted from the second season, hockey has taken a serious back seat in the news.

Last night, many of us stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to watch one of the most exciting games in a long time. We are in the very heart of the Stanley Cup Finals. This is it, folks. It doesn't get any better than this.

It came as a surprise then, that the game story was on page 5 of today's sports section. I understand that the game finished really late, but if they had time to print a story, why put it in the middle of the section.

Maybe this city is only a Habs Hockey Town.

Blogged with the Flock Browser


Final Fantasy (or is that the other way around)

This year's Stanley Cup Final matchup is not only what the NHL dreamed of all season, but it's also what most fans wished for as well.

These are the two best teams in the league and, after watching 10 minutes of game 1, it's clear that this will be a better final than any in recent memory.

The question I've been struggling with all week is this one: How do these two team stack up against each other? Let's do this using hands:

On the one hand, Detroit, IMHO, has a slight edge in primary scoring (Datsyuk/Zetterberg vs Crosby/Malkin).

On the other hand, Pittsburgh has the edge in secondary scoring (Hossa/Sykora vs all other Detroit forwards).

On the one hand, Detroit has the edge on D.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh has a slight edge in nets.

On the one hand, Detroit has the edge behind the bench.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh has the edge on the PP.

On the one hand, Detroit has home ice advantage.

On the other hand...

I'm all out of hands.

Detroit in 7


Final Four

Given the fact that most of the people who post here are Habs fans or Flames fans, there was a lull in the action since those teams were eliminated.

Enough sulking! (I'll save that for a post on the Habs' season later on.) It's time to look at what the final four teams have to offer and to predict who will make it to the final.


Pittsburgh v. Philadelphia

Even if I still don't fully understand how the Flyers made mincemeat out of the Habs, I have to give them credit. They have a team filled with good, young, talent (Richards, Carter, Umberger, Biron) who are really coming into their own. Biron has been a puck magnet and Umberger is, along with Johan Franzen, a front runner for the John Druce award for most unlikely playoff hero. We can't forget Daniel Brière either. He was great in Round 1.

They key to their success has been their apportunistic goal scoring. In most of the games against Montreal, they were out-shot and out-chanced, sometimes badly. Yet, they kept finding the back of the net whenever they had the chance.

The Penguins, for their part, bring an explosive offense to the table. With all due respect to my beloved Habs, the Flyers D-men and Biron have yet to see an offense like this one. As the Senators and Rangers have learned, even if you can hold on long enough to keep Malkin and Sykora at bay, you then have to face Hossa and Crosby. Ryan Malone has also been great so far.

With all of the firepower that the Penguins have, I still believe that the key to their playoff success has been the stellar play of Marc-André Fleury. It seems we've been waiting a long time for Fleury to mature, but he seems to finally be the goalie that he was touted to be when he was drafted.

Unless Fleury has a total breakdown (which I doubt), I think Pittsburgh should take this series. They won't, however, come out of it without paying a significant physical price.

Penguins in 6


Detroit v. Dallas

When the Stars got Brad Richards at the traded deadline, I was convinced that they were going to be a team to reckon with in the West. Then, they had a horrible end to the season. As a result, I picked them to lose in both the first and the second round of the playoffs.

Dallas has shown great grit and their top line has been one of the best, if not THE best, in this year's playoffs. Even if it pains me to say it, Mike Ribeiro has been great. I still can't stand him. Look at him! He's got a face only a mother could love. And I don't mean his mother, but rather Mother Teresa.

Over in Detroit, it seems to be business as usual. This is a team that, when they're on fire, play such a dominant game that it's hard for other teams to even get possession of the puck. In the past few years, they seem to have had great seasons but poor playoff performance. It seems that many of their lesser-known players have benefited from a few years experience and are now better payoff performers.

The only question mark for Detroit is, as always, goaltending. Osgood has been good, but not nearly as good as his counterpart, Turco. Detroit has also faced weaker teams that had goaltending issues of their own. They have proven however, that their puck possession has been a very effective way of keeping puck away from their net.

All that being said, I'm going to bet against Dallas for the third straight time. Here's to hopeing that, much like a stopped clock, I'll eventually be right.

Red Wings in 7


Don't Forget!

The Montreal press can be so fucking racist/protectionist:

Je connais assez bien les Russes pour savoir que ce sont des êtres susceptibles, fiers et qu'ils n'aiment pas, mais pas du tout, faire rire d'eux. Ils veulent bien forcer les Russes; ils veulent bien en donner plus, les Russes, mais quand ils voient à côté d'eux des coéquipiers qui, par égoïsme, par paresse ou par simple manque de discipline, se plaisent à mettre l'équipe dans le pétrin, ils n'hésitent plus, les Russes, ils débarquent du train.

Shorter Michel Blanchard: If Lapierre stinks, it's actually Kovalev's fault.


My Thoughts on Martin Biron

Fuck you, you stupid fucking cockface.

What the fuck bring back Ryder already shit!

So, if you were not going to re-sign Michael Ryder, but wanted his veteran-y presence down the stretch, I'd say go for it (though you could make the same argument for Huet - but I won't). Why not - they guy has good hands and has evolved into a decent, if low-profile, two-way winger. As inelegant as it looks, Ryder's ability to propel himself and the puck along the right wing boards despite a lack of space between said boards and a defenceman could be useful to a team that cannot seem to enter the offensive zone with a man advantage. So, yeah, hang on to him at the deadline. Nice work!

Now to bench the guy for (a) Matthieu "I'm Old!" Dandenaut, (b) Guillaume "the Tender Marshmallow" Latendresse, (c) Maxime "Mohawkdouche" Lapierre and (d) Sergei
I May Only Pass to my Brother" Kostitsyn" in a series marked by a dearth of scoring is a waste of time, money and talent. I guess there are (apocraphyl) issues about Ryder's work ethic and his brains, but the man has a knack for clutch scoring almost despite himself. He is the anti-Higgins, and man have we needed him.

So before you hand over the Jack Adams trophy from Don Cherry's cold, dead hands to Guy "I Don't Coach I Wear Ties" Carbonneau, consider the Newfie in the press gallery.


Might as well laugh

So, after last night's Habs - Flyers tilt, I'm in no mood to reminisce, so I figure that it's better to laugh than to cry. This video is hilarious.

NHL Star Called Up To Big Leagues To Play For NFL Team

(h/t Covered in Oil)


The Zubov Factor

So, I'm watching Game 2 of the Dallas - San Jose series and I just witnesses a brilliant pass by Sergei Zubov. It was pretty sick.

The play made me think of a comment I made to my colleague, Mozzarella Slim, the day after I made my Round 2 predictions. As is documented on this site, I predicted that the Sharks would eliminate the Stars. That, however, was before I realized that Zubov was going to return to the lineup sooner than expected.

I read the news in the paper the morning after I made my picks and immediately knew that the return of Zubov would be huge. I said so to Mozza.

Now, I won't change my pick, but I'll just say this: Go Stars!

Note: In this game, I also saw Mickey Ribs score and give a few hits. That wasn't sick, but it made me sick. Burp.


Game 1: Not a Total Disaster

As a result of living overseas for four years and the Avs missing the post-season last year, until last night it had been six years since I saw a play-off game involving Colorado. That particular game was none other than the worst day in the history of the franchise—a Game Seven 7-0 pasting by the Red Wings, a miserable spectacle which neither I nor Phoff, who had joined me for the occasion, bothered to sit through to the bitter end.

For a while last night, it seemed like I had gone back in time. It was Joe Louis Arena again, it was Super Joe and Footer and Osgood and Draper and McCarthy again, and the Avs were awful again. When Franzen scored his second of the night to chase Theodore (who also seemed to have gone back in time, becoming once again the Jose Theodore of his first year and a half with the Avs), I was getting ready to find something more enjoyable to do, like prying off my fingernails with a toothpick.

But it turned out this game was different after all. Six years ago, the Avs didn’t show up at all. Last night, perhaps confused by the time difference, they simply showed up late—about an hour after the Red Wings, by which point it was too late, but at least they salvaged some dignity with their performance in the remainder of the game.

For the first period and a few minutes of the second, the Avs put on a clinic on how not to play Detroit. They were sloppy with the puck, they failed to clear the zone on numerous occasions, they let the Wings skate untouched through the neutral zone. Detroit looked like they could score on every rush up the ice.

A lot of this was due to the Avs’ defensive ineptitude, but credit goes to the Wings too—they are incredibly strong on the puck, they are great at creating space, they make smart, quick decisions, and they jumped all over every mistake the Avs made. They’re a great hockey team, no question.

But then Theodore was pulled, Osgood gave up a soft goal, and the momentum of the game gradually shifted. Smyth, Stastny, and Hejduk combined for the prettiest goal of the night to make it a one-goal game, and in the third period, despite only putting six shots on net, the Avs were all over the Wings, finishing their checks, keeping the puck in along the boards, and generating several good chances. After looking dangerous on every shift in the first period and change, the Wings barely got a look at Budaj’s goal for the remainder of the game, as the Avs got sticks and bodies in the way and stopped them from getting any kind of sustained pressure.

As one-sided as it had seemed early on, Cleary’s fluky first-period goal and Osgood’s big saves in the third, on Sakic and Liles in particular, ended up being the difference between the teams. That’s encouraging. If they put in the kind of effort they showed for the second half of yesterday’s game, and if Foppa returns and they get more from Joe Sakic and a very disappointing Andrew Brunette, there’s no question the Avs can compete with the Red Wings. The question is: Can they beat them? We’ll know more on Saturday.

T. K.O.

(Period 2) 9:44 EV MTL 46 A.KOstitsyn
(Period 2) 16:03 SH MTL 27 A.KOvalev
(Period 3) 19:31 PP MTL 27 A. KOvalev
(Period 4) 0:48 EV MTL 6 T.KOstopoulos

With so many players whose last names begin with KO (6), it’s no surprise that the Habs have KO’ed their opponents more often than not over the course of the season.

What a game! Some say the Habs stole one, but I disagree. Both teams seemed nervous and turnovers were the order of the day. Neither team really played well, but I thought the Habs had the better chances, even after being down 2 – 0 after the 1st. They seemed to have more quality chances (2 posts) in both the 1st and 2nd periods.

They can still be better, especially when it comes to defensive zone coverage. Also, Price was simply human. We know he can be better.

OT rocks...when we win. Go Greek Lightning!


Round 2 Prognosticating

Man, do I ever love the playoffs. It feels like there's hockey on TV 24/7. Tonight is the first night in 2 weeks with no hockey. That gives me time to wrap up Round 1 and make my Round 2 predictions.

The first round was exciting and what I loved the most, I think, was discovering how exciting it was to watch the Washington Capitals play. I was truly saddened when they lost last night. If they sign a good goalie for next season, they will be a team to watch.

As far as my predicting abilities go, I seem to have lost a step. Last year, I was perfect until the final, but so far, I'm at 75%. If 2 out of 3 wasn't so bad for Meatloaf, I suppose 3 out of 4 is fine for me.

In the West, I expected Anaheim to move past Dallas, but I have to say that I'm very happy to see that idiot Pronger and his lads hit the links. As for the East, I really hoped the Caps would beat the hated Flyers, but alas, it was not to be.

So, what's on tap for Round 2? Let's see...


San Jose v. Dallas

I was glad that Dallas got rid of Burkie's boys and I would have loved to see the Flames upset the Sharks. I should, then, be rooting for Dallas.

The Sharks, however, might just give Mickey Ribs and his posse all they can handle. San Jose's big forwards, (Thornton, Cheechoo, Marleau) will not have to face hard hitting D-men like Phaneuf and Regehr, so they may have more space. This could mean trouble for Dallas.

I also think that the Sharks have the edge in nets.

Sharks in 7

Detroit v. Colorado

This will be the series to watch in the West (I hope). Sure, we're not in 1996 anymore, but there is some serious bad blood between these two teams.

In theory, the Wings should be the clear winners, but I don't think it will be that easy. Detroit has goaltending issues and the Avalanche have benefited from a reborn Jose Theodore. If I were the Wings, I would start inviting Paris Hilton to the games.

While the Avs have shown that they're for real, there is a world of difference between the Wild offence and the Wings' firepower up-front.

Theo will be good, but he can't do it all.

Wings in 6


New York v. Pittsburgh

If the Wings and Avs series is the one to watch in the West, this is the one the entire NHL fan base will want to watch. Crosby, Jagr, Malkin, Drury, Hossa, Gomez...This is a series made for Broadway.

Pittsburgh seemed dominant in their sweep of the Senators, but they did face the worst team to qualify for the 2008 playoffs. I'm pretty sure that the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins could have done away with this version of the Sens.

The Rangers are, clearly, not the Sens. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that the Rangers are the team to beat in the East. They have an incredibly strong lineup and can come at anyone in waves. Needless to say, they have a rock in goal.

This will be a great series and experience will win it in the end.

Rangers in 7

Montreal v. Philadelphia

Although I wanted the Caps to beat the Flyers, I have to admit that this scenario favours the Habs.

Philly did a good job beating one of the hottest teams down the stretch and it'll help that Brière has found his touch. Biron was also surprisingly strong.

The Habs, as we all know, had their hands full with the pesky B's and, finally, showed their mettle in Game 7. Montreal's forwards are fast and pesky and can make the opposing defenders skate in circles.

Since Philly's D-men are not as strong as the B's and that, as a team, the Flyers are not as well-coached as Boston. Hopefully, the Canadiens will know how to exploit that.

Canadiens in 6

Game 7, or "Character"

Ah shoot. It was a tough one. The Flames had a run of bad luck, bad bounces, bad calls and bad legs, falling to San Jose in an exciting -- but ultimately doomed -- series finale, 5-3.

Notes about the game:

  • The Jim Vandemeer experiment was a nice idea, and it didn't hurt in game 6, but the guy is a great defenseman and a slow, slow winger, and Keenan should have put him on the blueline the first time Anders Eriksson made a bad pinch. Or the second time. Or the third time ...
  • The refs had an affect again. Why the hell they would call an interference penalty on Conroy when he was taking the man with the puck in front of the net is beyond me, but that penalty resulted in a game-tying PP goal which led to the Sharks' 4-goal second period. I've said it before, the refs don't lose games for you, but they can have an affect on the outcome, and that's unconscionable.
  • Just to show I'm not completely partisan on this, even more egregious was the high sticking call on Rissmiller, who was 15 feet away from Daymond Langkow when the Flames centre was hit in the head by Jim Vandemeer. However, by this time the result of the game was no longer in doubt.
  • Yes, I know Kiprusoff had 30 shots by the midpoint of the game, but he was letting bad rebounds out, resulting in more shots than necessary, and he let in a really bad goal at an even worse time. His head needs work, stat.
  • Roenick? Jeremy Roenick? 4 points? Jeez.
  • Where was Iginla? He played well, but his hands were tied too often.
After all is said and done, the Sharks were the better team, though not by much. They had to earn that win, and earn it they did. They played 4 solid lines, had incredible goaltending, and showed enough character to impress even this cynical old soul. A great team, no doubt, and I'm thinking that this first test might be enough to propel them to the finals.

As for coaching, I thought Ron Wilson had a brain fart when he kept Devin Setogucci out of the lineup for the first few games, but at least he came to his senses. Tonight, he earned his paycheque, however. The team was in trouble but he seemed to keep them composed throughout, and they did him proud.



Why Is This Night Different?

It seems like every hockey blog has got some Pesach content this year, so why not PuckThis!?

This post chronicles the email thread Tim and I had on Saturday. While I obssessed over my PDA in the corner of the kids' table as the Seder went on, Tim diligently emailed in his assessment of game six. As becomes apparent, following the Pesach dinner, the Jews migrated to the den to watch a miracle performance turn into a plague from a vengeful god.

Meanwhile, the over-rated Habs Inside Out blog reports that Carbonneau has come to his senses and benched Matthieu Dandenault decided to wear his lucky tie. Now all he has to do is decide to order his team to actually forecheck (two men in deep, none of this 1-4 junk) and defend their blue line and he'll be 2-0 in the decision department.

Subject: Saku! Francis! ... Mark?

Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 12:40 PM
So who do you think gets benched? O'Byrne, probably, but maybe Gorges. Up front, Dandenault finally? I don't think they bench SK, he might score, Could be Ryder again, which would be a fucking shame. Also, do you think Kovalev will be extra determined and thus a) play well and effectively or b) hog the puck until he gives up a scoring opportunity (ies). Finally, if an unfit Koivu can't play more than say, 15 min, who picks up the extra slack? Plek? Lapierre? I see them using Smolinski on the PP, so...

Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 1:47 PM
To: Tim
Dandy and O’Byrne should sit.

If Koivu is weak, I would lean to Smoke but it depends on the rhythm of the game. I fear Ryder is done for the playoffs. Koivu's presence should ease the pressure on Kovalev if Chara has to cover both of them. I think Markov is injured.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:16 PM
To: Beeg
Koivu not ready
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:17 PM
To: Tim
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:21 PM
To: Beeg
not skating, just standing around watching. Only been a couple of shifts, but not his feisty self. 73, 84, 3 out.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:22 PM
To: Tim
Dandy must have photos of Carbo with a butt plug.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:25 PM
To: Beeg
Streit creates shorthanded breakaway. Streit slow, but apparently more useful than Ryder.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:27 PM
To: Beeg
Higgins scores!
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:28 PM
To: Beeg
great fucking goal!
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:28 PM
To: Beeg
the coincidental penalty strategy works
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 7:47 PM
To: Beeg
Ok 1st period. 1-0 Mtl.
21-11-74 doing OK, but passes being picked off and creating Boston chances. If they stay focused, they'll be OK. Joyeux Pacques, btw.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 8:07 PM
To: Beeg
Kessel, awesome goal
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 8:13 PM
To: Tim
Motherfuck. What the hell?
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 8:16 PM
To: Beeg
Goal was good play. Boston playing much better since, mtl has to respond. Higgins best game that I’ve seen
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 8:17 PM
To: Beeg
Plek! out of penalty box!
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 8:30 PM
To: Tim
I love those goals. Best of the year though was Komi's breakaway in OT SH against Leafs
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 8:46 PM
To: Beeg
end of 2nd 2-1 Mtl. Boston putting on a lot of pressure end of 2nd. Price lucky a couple of times.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:07 PM
To: Beeg
Fuck. 2-2
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:07 PM
To: Tim
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:09 PM
To: Beeg
so you're watching?
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:09 PM
To: Tim
Huge PP coming up
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:12 PM
To: Beeg
foolish optimism
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:12 PM
To: Tim
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:17 PM
To: Beeg
Versus people are insisting that it was not offside, and that the linesmen are amazing because "to the naked eye, that might be offside" Seriously, they said that
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:19 PM
To: Tim
UGH Pierre and Yvon have a different perspective.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:22 PM
To: Beeg
Also, the replay THEY WERE SHOWING
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:23 PM
To: Tim
The Jews rejoice.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:23 PM
To: Beeg
explains much about totalitarianism-people are easy to deceive, depending on initial inclinations
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:26 PM
To: Tim
The Jews are saddened. Once again...
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:31 PM
To: Tim
SKost is driving me crazy.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:35 PM
To: Beeg
Excellent, now Boston will become overconfident
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:36 PM
To: Tim
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:36 PM
To: Beeg
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:36 PM
To: Beeg
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:37 PM
To: Beeg
see? apologies for computer issues
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:38 PM
To: Tim
Well done.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:40 PM
To: Beeg
I can't believe these teams had a 1-0 game
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:42 PM
To: Tim
So much for tight playoff games.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:42 PM
To: Beeg
why is Streit out there?
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:44 PM
To: Beeg
Well, it was a different game than I had expected
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:44 PM
To: Tim
Holy crap is the press gonna go nuts. Fuck.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:46 PM
To: Beeg
there or here?
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:48 PM
To: Tim
Here. What a finish.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:52 PM
To: Beeg
Right. Monday will be interesting.
Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 11:06 PM
To: Beeg
If they lose, the thing i'd hate most is that all these asinine meathead commentators down here will think they're right.
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 11:21 AM
To: Tim
I think I am gonna post this thread to PT. It's pretty amusing when you red it all in one shot. Let me know if that's cool. Only one reference to butt plugs, and it's by me.


Game 6

Great game tonight in the sixth tilt of the Flames/Sharks first-round series. There is a steady momentum being established during these past few games. Despite the end-results of games 4 and 5, the Flames were generally the better team for most of the game, with the Sharks capitalizing on mistakes more than generating chances of their own, and the boys from Cowtown rode their increasingly confident play to the end in tonight's big 2-0 victory over San Jose.

A few notes:

  • Is the officiating in all the other series just as bad as what I've been witnessing? Atrocious is not a strong enough word to describe the performance of all on-ice officials. From phantom calls, inconsistent rulings, failures to stop play on covered pucks, blown icings, sketchy off-sides --- I am no longer getting outraged by the antics of the Four Blind Mice, but rather am more shocked between those rare intervals when bad calls do not occur. In a seven game series, a team will win or lose on its own merit, despite the blown rulings; however, there have been times this series when the officiating has had an affect on the game, and that is completely unacceptable.
  • Kipper scored his first shut-out of the series, in what was perhaps his easiest performance. It isn't a revelation to know that a very good goaltender can rack up terrific numbers when he has a team playing defense in front of him. If they can keep this up, the Flames have a better-than-even chance of moving on.
  • The Juice is loose: Kristian Huselius has found his game again. Despite a poor, offensive-zone penalty in the second period, he put in far and away his best performance of the playoffs, including putting in a shift on the power-play for the first time in the post-season. To say that the Flames could really use some more production from their second-leading scorer in the regular season is an understatement. His emergence has added a second dimension to the Flames attack.
  • It is far too early to talk about the Conn Smythe Trophy yet (though Preds tender Dan Ellis deserves a mention), but Jarome Iginla, who had just finished the best season of his career, is taking charge of his team reminiscent of the 2004 run. He is the best player in the league right now, and he is a leader on par with Messier, Yzerman, and the rest.
Down to the wire.

Life in Exile

Say what you will about the senility of Bob Cole or the Habs-centered worldview of Pierre et Yvon, at least they understand the central principal of hockey: the team which (legally) puts the most pucks into its opponent’s net, wins. Down in the States, however, this point is poorly understood.

First off, is this obsession with violence. The Flyers' slogan, and entertainment theme at their home games, is "Vengeance." Vengeance for what, you might ask? The many years of Bobby Clark-imposed suckiness? The fact that they have to live in Philly? Now, I've never played organized hockey, so I'm not too sure what coaches say in dressing rooms, but I've always had the impression that they usually tell their players to avoid seeking revenge, and taking the dumb penalties that go with it, in favour of scoring goals. But, apparently, not in Philly. The TV commentators also seem to think that the most significant aspects of games are not goals, shots, scoring chances or puck possession, but hits. Apart from the fact that hits are probably the most subjective statistic in hockey, there is no acknowledgement of the fact that a player may take a hit, retain the puck, and score. Or that making a big hit may take a player out of position, thus leading to a goal. These matters are irrelevant. Particularly baffling is that this viewpoint is especially pushed by the colour commentator for the local Boston coverage, Rick Middleton. As a former Lady Byng winner, you'd think he'd have a different perspective. I guess living in Boston for twenty years does something to you.

Not, of course, that the commentators’ focus on non-goal related issues is confined to violence. Immediately following Saturday's Caps-Flyers game, in which the Caps put on a pretty strong effort to stay alive, the NBC commentators stressed not the Caps victory or defence in the last two, tense minutes, but the Flyers remarkable puck control in the game's dying seconds. Apart from the utter lack of class in not focusing on the winners, the obvious point seems to be: the Flyers, even with the extra attacker, didn't score. Thus, no matter how much the commentators liked their puck control, it failed in its most basic objective, which is to SCORE A FUCKING GOAL! Props, at least, to Pierre McGuire for trying to teach the commentators how to pronounce "Martin Biron" correctly. Needless to say, he failed and they quickly reverted to "Marty."

All this to lead up to my main source of astonishment: the Sobotka goal in last night's Montreal-Boston game. While showing a slow-motion replay that, to my eyes, clearly showed two Bruins to be offside, the Versus commentators had this contribution: "Wow, what a great call! That just shows you how sharp the linesmen are, because to the naked eye that play looks offside." (I'm trying to remember a game that on the whole I'd rather the forget, but I'm pretty sure that quote is essentially accurate. I will swear to the naked-eye part.) Now, I won't take a position on the offsideness of the goal itself. Maybe a different camera angle would demonstrate something different. But the point is, the one the broadcasters were using most definitely did not. And yet, they refused to believe the visual evidence right in front of them, perceived by their own eyes. I'm sure George Orwell had something to say about people who do that.


Well, That Sucked

No, I'm not referring to the awful intro before the first game of the Pens - Sens series in Ottawa. Rather, I'm referring to the awfulness that was the Bruins - Habs game tonight. Awful, for a Habs fan.

It wasn't so much the score that was ugly, but it was the way the Bruins played and won. They are playing "ugly" hockey. It's also very efficient hockey.

Claude Julien is a very good coach. Bob Gainey said so. After he fired him.

Julien knows that his team cannot match the Habs' firepower or speed. Their strategy, therefore, has been to play great positional hockey and a very tight checking style. The Habs players usually have a Bruin draped all over them the instant they get control of the puck. With so little time and space, Montreal's speed and creativity (the main reason they were the top scoring team in the NHL) is shut down.

The Habs had been playing patient hockey until tonight and it had served the well. Tonight, they seemed to be overwhelmed by the tight checking and lost focus. A clear sign of frustration on the part of Markov shows that the team was unraveling.


I don't think so.

There is a good amount of leadership on the team, most notably behind the bench. I have a feeling that the likes of Carbonneau and Jarvis, who know a thing or two about tight, defensive hockey, should be able to find a way to ply through it.

Then again, I'm the guy who wrote that "this may be over sooner than I thought" four days ago.


The money shot

Hockey broadcasters, much like those of other sports, are well-known for their liberal use of sports euphemisms while calling the game. However, they may be more right than they know when they refer to a slapshot from the blueline as "a bullet from the point".

With specific reference to the most famous testicle in the NHL (at least, since Phil Kessel's courageous comeback), an Oilers blogger with a hitherto unknown scrotum fetish compares taking a slapshot to taking a bullet.



Game 3, or "Character"

Due to the certain vortexes in the space-time continuum, whereby a good friend scored tickets for last night's game at the Saddledome, coupled with his pregnant wife feeling under the weather, in addition to my own being available at short notice, I was able to be in attendance at the greatest second season showing in Cowtown since the Flames knocked off Detroit in Game 6 of the second round of their 2004 run.

The performance I witnessed included an outstanding, character-driven comeback from a 3-0 deficit from less than 4 minutes into the game into a thrilling 4-3 victory, putting Calgary ahead of San Jose 2-1 in this opening round series. My larynx is swollen, my body tired, but I wouldn't trade that experience for almost anything.

Except, perhaps, my marriage.

And, I suppose, the birth of my future children.

A few notes:

  • Has there even been a more brutal yet clean hit in the playoffs since Brian Campbell coined the term "to be umbergered" in that Buffalo-Philadelphia tilt a few years back? Patrick Marleau has been terrific so far, and he's tough as they come. But after getting plastered by Phaneuf and then completely demolished by Sarich, the man was stepping a lot more lightly for the rest of the game and, perhaps, for the rest of the series.
  • Even superstars have a rough night, and kudos to Mike Keenan for getting the team composed after their dreadful start. He was right to pull Kiprusoff, and by showing confidence in his entire team.
  • The most impressive late-season acquisition in this series (so far) is not Campbell coming to California, but Curtis Joseph. He's old, he handles the puck like an off-colour joke at a church social, but he's got experience and leadership enough to calm the team in front of him. I don't think he deserved the first star last night (Sarich should have gotten it for his wrecking job on Marleau), and he didn't have to make any Hollywood moves in the crease; still, he's making Darryl Sutter look like a genius again.
  • While I don't necessarily disagree with Matt at Battle of Alberta that Thornton is not a "gutless, soft wuss", though I do disagree with him that there are qualities which prevent him from being a big-time player. It has to do with style and flair: Thornton is smooth, quiet and dangerous; yet big games call for someone who don't merely wrack up points, but do it in an inspiring fashion. A team can be lifted by a monster hit (like last night), an unbelievable save, a big fight, or a spectacular scoring rush. Think Ovechkin, Iginla, Phaneuf, Crosby, Kovalev, Pronger or even Marleau. They are exciting players with a penchant for the dramatic. Thorton has never really grasped this, and until he does, he will continue to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.
  • As I noted earlier, Nabokov doesn't win games for his team, and last night was the obvious example. He was terrific in goal, but he had a 3-0 lead for the entire game and lost it in the end. He team failed in front of him, of course, and there were a few lucky bounces, but the greatest goaltenders find a way to hang on when it matters most, and Nabokov ultimately was responsible.
  • Every line fielded by the Flames outplayed every line of the Sharks for the final 55 minutes. Case in point: with the game tied in the third period, Keenan had Eric Goddard and the 4th unit going against Thornton & co. Why? Because they were doing their job, clogging up the middle, disrupting lead passes, and supporting Regehr, Sarich and Joseph in their own zone effectively. When a team is firing on all cylinders, it shows the power of good coaching over any individual player, no matter how talented.
It's a long series and San Jose will be back with a vengeance. However, you got to think that any team which blows such a fine start must have their confidence shaken horribly.


2nd Base

"Although George Michael had only got to second base, he’d gone in head first, like Pete Rose."
Well, the Habs have quickly arrived to second base in their first round series and the second win was a lot tougher to earn than the first. Many in the MSM and in the blogosphere have referred to last night's win as an undeserved robbery.

I'm not in total agreement with that statement.

Although the Bruins did play much better and the Habs were a little off their game, I wouldn't say that Montreal was listless or even that they were lucky to get away with a win.

Boston did get a lot of shots on net, but mainly from the point on the PP and, although Price did make some great saves, the scoring chances were not overwhelmingly in Boston's favour.

What has rarely been mentioned in today's writeups is how Tiny Tim Thomas was the one who made more game saving stops. Many seem to have forgotten the two thwarted breakaways by none other than AK27 and Big Tits. And what about Breezer slapshot off the post with o.o1 seconds left in the third?

Boston did outplay Montreal, but the Habs were not completely dominated. I think this is the best Boston can give and Montreal can surely play better. Andrei Markov, for one, was not in All-Star shape last night and the top line has yet to show its teeth.

This may be over sooner than I thought.


Nut Job

I hate the Flyers. I really, really do. I almost hate them as much as I hate the Leafs. Almost.

That's why I wanted to jump into Alexander the Gr8's arms last night as he literally stole the show in Washington. He is a special player and a treat to watch.

Much of the talk, however, was not about Ovechkin, but about Patrick Thoresen's balls. That's right, his testicles (well, one of them at least).

During a Capitals PP, Thoresen was hit in the groin by a slap shot and quickly went down like Divine Brown on Hugh Grant. He was a clear pain, but the whistle never blew (no pun intended). As if it were scripted, the same guy who hit him in the groin scored a few seconds later.

The call (or non call) by the officials was, in my estimation, the right one. This wasn't a Trent McLeary shot to the throat or even, to use a more recent example, an Anton Volchenkov shot to the face. He was not in any immediate peril.

Of course, to try to make it seems as if the play deserved a call, the Flyers GM had this to say shortly after the game:

"He's going to the hospital to get an ultrasound done on his testicles. It's bad enough they may have to remove one. Right now, we're not sure how serious it is, but there's a chance he may need surgery."

This is what they said today:
"General Manager Paul Holmgren told TSN that the winger was going to be fine and may even be in the lineup Sunday for Game 2 against the Caps."
GM's in Philly have always had more balls than brains.

Come on!

What I'm Thinking Right Now...

Three things that come to mind as I watch the Habs - Bruins tilt:

  1. AK27 may be able to beat the Bruins with one hand tied behind his back
  2. My playoff beard is better than Breezer's, but I have to admit he hasn't been horrible so far
  3. I am beginning to agree with Lubelly. Carey Price is, indeed, a Jedi
More thoughts later...

Update @ 9:20:

I think that AK27 could help lose the game with two hands on his stick.

Update @ 10:05:

Now that's what I call redemption! AK27 wins it with two hands and a bullet in the top shelf. Good 'ol Don Cherry is surely already screaming.


Game 2

The Flames did a decent first period, allowing plenty of shots, which were mostly of the low-percentage variety, and nabbed a couple very decent scoring chances of their own. In short, it was a continuation of last game.

It was the second period which troubles me. 6 straight penalties, some of which were earned, others which were utter bullshit. It was typical Ron Wilson hockey -- if you can't beat 'em on the scoreboard, at least start diving and get on the powerplay. The Flames were valiant, though, keeping the Sharks to merely one PP score in ten chances.

That's right; the Flames had 10 penalties during the course of the game, which speaks to discipline, of course.

Yet it speaks to something more, that being the officiating had an effect on the game.

Hence, the 'boo!'

Game three's on Sunday at the Dome. Having relinquished my game pack for next season, this will be the first time since the 2004 drive that I won't be making my presence felt in the post-season. 'Tis a shame, because this will be a tight one. As the Flames failed to take both opening games in the Jose, they will be in tight to return to the Tank at an advantage. The series is going to at least 6, if not the distance.

A quick note, if you haven't been watching (it's a late start for those of you in the center of the universe), this is a goaltenders battle for the ages. While Kiprusoff is doing anything and everything to keep the biscuit from the basket, Nabokov is keeping his team in the game with a few key saves of his own. It is phenomenal.


Game 1

It might have surprised some people, but not this cat. The Sharks and Flames fought a close battle last night at the Tank, closer than the shot clock might indicate. In fact, while Kiprusoff turned aside 37 shots in the Flames' 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the opening round, the scoring opportunities were much closer.

The Sharks were pretty good, particularly Patrick Marleau, though they were sporadic in their attack. The Flames also played an excellent road game, keeping the normally ballistic San Jose crowd out of the match from the get-go.

A couple of notes:

1) The weaknesses of Brian Campbell were evident last night. For one, the Flames defenders were not only watching for his Savardian Spin-o-Rama, they were waiting for it. He tried it a couple of times and was met head-on. Seems as if the ice got a lot smaller one when the regular season becomes a memory. For another, he was utterly incapable of winning a one-on-one battle with Iginla, as evidenced by what turned out to be the game-winning goal. He's a great player, he can handle the puck and he is going to get his share of points, but it will take more than Campbell's slick moves to get the Sharks a championship, let alone out of the first round.

2) Kipper's better than Nabokov. There is no question. I like Nabokov, he's a great goaltender, and he will rightly take home the Vezina. He can keep his team in the game and has a stable, cool head on his shoulders. However, I cannot remember an incidence where he had to win a game on his own. Of course, this might have more to do with the quality of teammates in front of him, but Kipper wins games almost all by himself on a regular basis. There are up to six games to go, but this difference might be all the difference needed to settle this series.

3) The Flames won this game more than the Sharks lost it. I thought the Teal played solid and tough and had plenty of chances. Their powerplay looked lethal, even if they didn't get to capitalize. The Flames, on the other hand, still made a few mistakes and had to be bailed out by their goaltender. One might see this and suggest that the Sharks are the better team; I see this as the Flames won the game and still have room for improvement.

4) It was good to get Game 1 out of the way, but before this series started, I thought Game 2 was even more important. If the Flames had lost, then they would have needed to get back in the series; but if they'd won Game 1, the Sharks are almost guaranteed to take at least one game back in the Saddledome. San Jose has the best road record in the league and will be certainly looking to shut the crowd down like Calgary did last night. If the Flames want to win this series, I do believe that winning Game 2 is a must.

Other notes:

  • The Sens still suck, but the Pens were sloppy with their sticks and started playing Ottawa's chippy game. If they want to win in 4 games, they will have to smarten up. Keep in mind, next round will be considerably more difficult for that young team.
  • Marty Brodeur is mortal after all. Look for him to rebound (with few rebounds) in Game 2.
  • Congrats on Joe Sakic on his extending his OT goal-scoring record to 8. I've always liked him, and I've never liked Minnesota. So I'm happy.


Bumf's Playoff Prognosticatin'

Move over, amateurs -- if you are wanting to know the real scoop, if you feel the need for intrigue, if you are a-haverin' for a waverin' (whatever that means), you've come to the right place.

Call your bookies -- The 2007-08 NHL Playoff Results can be seen here first.

Round 1


Montreal (1) v. Boston (8)

The Habs beat the Beez like a red-headed step-child this year, and they appear to keep the tradition alive and well come post-season. Their power-play ranked number one in the league, and their offensive output was outstanding. They also have a hot-shot rookie 'tender between the pipes, harking back memories to a Liberal Member of Parliament and a certain nut-job of a head coach who sends his son off on hit missions.

Still, not all is as seems. Five-on-five, the Bruins had an identical GF/GA ratio, and they ranked a mere 23rd in total number of penalties. They've also been without Patrice Bergeron for most of the season, a problem which will be soon remedied, and leading scorer Marc Savard will also be back. They have some solid role players, including former Flame Chuck Kobasew, who has made a name for himself on the third line, and the always dependable Zdeno Chara will be playing 75 minutes a night (approx.)

The wild card here is Timmy "the Tank Engine" Thomas, who holds one of the best save percentages in the league, not to mention he is one of most unpredictable freaks behind a mask since Jason Voorhees. If he continues to stand on the head, the series will be much closer than analysts are predicting.

Key Phrase: "You give me 8-0 in the regular season and I'll show you a potentially huge first-round upset."

Habs in 6.

Pittsburgh (2) v. Ottawa (7)

... and what's the deal with the Sens? They are complaining that a team will throw a game just to meet them in the post-season, and then sit their captain and top power forward for the entire series? What's the deal with that? [use your best Seinfeld impersonation for full effect]

Seriously, though, the Sens suck. As for Pittsburgh, ever since Marc Andre-Fleury changed his pads from the snot-gold hue to a enamel white, the guy has been fantastic. Sergei Gonchar is playing the best defense in his life, and the top two lines are lighting it up like their own 4th of July celebration. And this is without Marian Hossa and whatsisname from Cole Harbour in the lineup.

Key Phrase: Time to refurbish the nettings behind Gerber.

Pens in 5.

Washington (3) v. Philadelphia (6)

Ovechkin is this year's Crosby; he's the darling of the media, he's revived a franchise, and he's going to have his ass handed to him in the post-season. True, the guy's big, he's fast, he can shoot and he's a force to be reckoned with. To imagine him being left off the scoresheet is unimaginable. Fact: he is going to score.

Big deal? Not really. The Caps are a chippy team, chippy because they aren't really that good. The problem for them is that Philly is also a chippy team, except they are better at it. They might not be able to completely shut down Ovechkin, but they are more than capable of shutting down those who get the puck to him. Namely, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom will have to keep their heads on a swivel if they don't want to etch their facial features into the Wachovia Center sideboards.

Key Phrase: "Keep Ovechkin to a goal-a-game or less, and the series is done."

Flyers in 6.

New Jersey (4) v. New York (5)

The Rangers dominated the Devils during the regular season, but they are also facing one of the greatest playoff goaltenders in history in a seven-game series. The problem for the Devils? The Rangers have a goalie who is just as good.

The Devils do have strong coaching and some offensive ability, but it seems as if the Rangers have built a team specifically to beat New Jersey. They have added toughness and a defensive attitude, and with the arrival of Gomez, Drury and super-pest Avery, they are hoping to go the distance.

Key Phrase: "As Luke Skywalker said a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, This is going to be close!"

Rangers in 6.

The CHESTS of the WEST

Detroit (1) v. Nashville (8)

Not much to say here. Nashville has been heroic in their comeback and Ellis might win a game or two, but they simply cannot match-up.

Key Phrase: "What was that?"

Wings in 5.

San Jose (2) v. Calgary (7)

Yeah, yeah, I know. 18-0-2. Big deal. When's the last time a team went 18-0-2 in the post-season? Never, that's when.

The Sharks gave themselves a big push with the addition of offensive d-whiz Brian Campbell at the trading deadline and it has certainly paid dividends. They also have the top goalie in the regular season backing them up, plus Big Joe Thornton leading the offensive charge. It seems like nothing can stop them.

Nothing, except a team which was built for the post-season, including a roster full of savvy veterans, a proven playoff goaltender, and a no-nonsense coach who has been there before. Iginla and Phaneuf both know that they have something to prove after the past two post-seasons, and believe me, they are not going to take this series lightly. Kipper has really come on the past couple of months, as has Matthew "Winged Lightning" Lombardi. Don't be surprised to see Lombo line up between Huselius and Nolan, giving the second line a turbo injection against the Marleau unit, while Craig Conroy will be able to solely concentrate on shutting down Thornton along with Stephane Yelle and Wayne Primeau.

Key Phrase: "What has Thornton ever won?"

Key Phrase II: "And what will be his excuse this time?"

Flames in 6.

Minnesota (3) v. Colorado (6)

Damn, that Gaborik looks fantastic as of late. Scoring key goals in key games, skating around like the superstar he was always meant to be. It is very likely that he will be retaining the 'C' on his heart throughout the post-season, as he has finally taken control of his enigmatic team.

Colorado, with the addition of Adam Foote and Peter Forsburg, and with the resurgence of Jose Theodore, look unstoppable. Too bad this isn't 2002. Forsburg is looking terrific and well-rested, and can only help an anemic power-play and the face of their offensive problems, Ryan Smyth. The Wild are a truly great team and have earned their seed, but it might come down between a perennial no-show in Minny versus one freakishly abnormal Swedish foot.

Key Phrase: "Hey! You're lacing them too tight!"

Lanche in 7.

Anaheim (4) v. Dallas (5)

Ooh! Scary! The big, bad Ducks are back and looking for more. The problem is, no one told the Stars. Marty Turco, despite his reputation, actually played well in last year's playoffs and there is no reason why he cannot continue his winning ways. Dallas has a very well-rounded team, albeit with limited scoring, but their style is more than capable of squeezing out a victory every night.

The primary factor for the South Stars, however, will be the lack of grit by Mike Ribeiro, who notched more than a point-per-game this season, but was surprisingly quiet in the second half. Brad Richards, meanwhile, might still break out of his three-year funk, and he is a proven clutch performer. That might not be enough, though, especially when matched up against an increasingly terrifying Ryan Getzlaf attack.

Key Phrase: "I need me one more win before I ride off to the ACC sunset" -- Brian Burke.

Ducks in 7.

Round 2

Montreal (1) v. Flyers (6)

Montreal's too damn good.

Key Phrase: "What do you mean? We have to play an actual NHL team this round?"

Habs in 5.

Pittsburgh (2) v. New York (5)

The Pens powerful offense gets blindsided by Tom Renney's defensive coverage, Lunqvist's goal acrobatics, and the Rangers' veteran leadership.

Key Phrase: "NHL Poster Boy out 4 months due to sprained playoff run."

Blueshirts in 6.

Detroit (1) v. Calgary (7)

Is it 2004 all over again? Nope. This time, it will take Calgary the full seven games to knock off the Wings. (I can dream, can't I?)

Key Phrase: "Ouch, my hip!"

Flames in 7.

Anaheim (4) v. Colorado (6)

The Ducks are too big and mean for li'l ol' Colorado, who spent too much energy ridding the Wild. They're toast.

Key Phrase: "Forsburg's foot? Meet Pronger's skate."

Ducks in 5.

Round 3

Montreal (1) v. New York (5)

The best match-up of the playoffs so far. Two well-coached, well-balanced squads facing off in front of two terrific young goalies in the two greatest cities in the NHL. Montreal's fantastic, but the Rangers' defensive play will rule in the end.

Key Phrase: "Toronto? Never heard of the place."

Blueshirts in 7.

Anaheim (4) v. Calgary (7)

The two toughest, most playoff-oriented teams meet again in a rematch of 2006. That time, the Ducks were the underdogs while the Flames choked under the pressure of game 7. It's redemption time.

Key Phrase: "Iginla continues his Conn Smythean assault."

Flames in 6.

The Stanley Cup Finals

New York (5) v. Calgary (7)

Why not?

Key Phrase: "Ovechkin can have his Hart. Iggy's got Stanley."

Flames in 5.

Yah. Baby.

(P.S. Check out my regular season wrap-up at BumfOnline)

The View from Japan

Here in Tokyo, spring is in the air, and the cherry blossoms are drifting down softly from the trees, evoking the pathos of transient things immortalized in so much Japanese art. This can only mean one thing--I'm in the wrong freaking country if I want to see some play-off hockey. (Unless, of course, I'm in the mood for a thrilling encounter between the Nikko Ice Bucks and the Seibu Prince Rabbits).

While I'll be back in hockey-viewing territory in a couple of weeks, that two weeks could be just enough time for my beloved Colorado Avalanche to get bored onto the golf course by the Minnesota Wild. If so, that would mean I'll go at least seven years without seeing a meaningful game involving my favourite team.

Ah well, on with my predictions, which I'm afraid are rehashing Phoff's picks for the most part.


Detroit vs. Nashville

Detroit has a habit of choking against unfancied opposition at this time of the year, and Nashville are certainly as unfancied as they come. But logic dictates that the Red Wings are superior to Nashville in all areas, on and off the ice, and that it's going to be a short series. I remember watching the Wings brush aside the Flames with ease last year, and last year's Flames were, I think, a better team than this year's Predators, while the Wings are much the same, except for a few more gray hairs, so...

My pick: Red Wings in 5.

San Jose vs. Calgary

The hottest team in hockey and a strong Cup contender against the enigmatic Flames, who gave up a ridiculous number of goals this season despite having an elite goalie and some top-notch defensemen and decent defensive forwards. I expected Calgary to step it up in the post-season last year, and they didn't. Mike Keenan or not, I don't see that much has changed this year, so it could be another quick exit for Jarome and the gang. Nabokov's been much better than Kiprusoff this season, the likes of Huselius and Tanguay will find it tough against the physical Sharks, and the Sharks are less dependent on Thornton for offense than the Flames are on Iginla.

My pick: Sharks in 5.

Minnesota vs. Colorado

Phoff doesn't know what kind of character the Avalanche have, having not seen much of them this year. Well, I've followed them closely all year long, and I don't really know either. This is one unpredictable team. From one period to the next, never mind one game to the next, you never know what they're going to give you. They did a great job getting into the play-offs after a slew of injuries, and the much-maligned Theodore can make a strong case for being the team MVP after carrying them in January and February, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions:

Can Theodore keep it up in the post-season?
Can Forsberg's groin/foot/appendix/whatever hold up to the rigors of play-off hockey?
Will Ryan Smyth rediscover his goalscoring touch?
Will the Avs' Hall-of-Fame roster of forwards turn around the 28th-ranked PP in the NHL?
Can they overcome their bad habit of giving up the first goal in almost every game?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, the Avs could win the Cup. If not, the Wild's superior coaching, tight defensive play, youth, and ability to protect a lead will see them off in round one.

I hate to say it, but my pick: Wild in 6.

Anaheim vs. Dallas

Underwhelming post-season play has become the Stars' specialty, now that they no longer have Oil to beat on every year in the first round. Against a Ducks team that came on strong in the second half of the season and has all its ducks in a row, so to speak (with the exception of Corey Perry), another lame first-year exit is on the cards for Marty Turco and co. Scoring could be a concern for Anaheim further down the road, but with their goaltending and defense, they shouldn't need to score too many in this series. Dallas's offensive limitations were painfully evident last year against Vancouver, and Brad Richards isn't enough to take them to the next level.

My pick: Ducks in 6.


Montreal vs. Boston

Youth, speed, offense, great special teams, a promising young goalie, and a system that the players have bought into--the Habs have a lot going for them. Meanwhile, I'm not sure how Boston even made it to the play-offs, given their negative goal-difference, injuries, lack of depth, and mediocre goaltending. Everything, including Montreal's 8-0 record in the regular season, favours le Tricolore. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the fact that Boston has nothing to lose while the overachieving Habs will be under intense pressure from the Montreal media could make this into a series. And, as other talented young teams getting their first taste of the post-season such as the 1995 Nordiques or last year's Penguins found out, the play-offs are a whole different ball game, and a painful first-round exit is often part of the learning curve for potential future champions.

So my official pick is: Habs in 4

But a little voice in the back of my head says: Bruins in 7.

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa

Everyone's saying the same thing about this series, and I don't have anything new to add. The Senators have been awful in the second half of the season, their goaltending situation is a mess, and now they have some key injuries. The Penguins got some valuable play-off experience last year and should be better prepared this time round, and having dealt with the absence of Crosby, they've demonstrated some strength in depth. The only real question mark is defense. I don't think the Penguins are good enough in goal or at the blue line to win the Cup, but they should dispose of the Senators.

My pick: Pens in 6.

Washington vs. Philadelphia

The Flyers are another team that started strong and have come apart a bit in the second half. And while Robert Esche might no longer be around, goaltending still figures to be a concern. The Caps, on the other hand, pulled off a deadline coup in getting Huet for almost nothing. He should be solid for them, and with momentum and Ovechkin on their side, they're ready for a good play-off run.

My pick: Caps in 6.

New Jersey vs. New York

It's always tough to write off the Devils, with Brodeur in goal and their history of play-off success. But when I look at their roster, I just don't see a whole lot going on--it's a workman-like bunch of players who will be tough to beat, but who pale in comparison to the likes of Jagr, Gomez, and Chris Drury, whose true worth becomes evident in the post-season. As long as Lundqvist holds his own against Brodeur, the Rangers should have enough to win this one.

My pick: Rangers in 7.


Let's Get It On



Is this thing on? Yeah? Okay.


So, the regular season is done and, tomorrow, the 2008 race to Lord Stanley's Cup begins. If that fact doesn't make you positively giddy, then the return of Puck This! will surely make you rejoice. As always, this space is dusted off and taken of the shelf during the NHL's second season.

The first order of business, apart from apologizing for the ragged look & feel (I've lost the old template), is to make predictions for the first round.

Before getting to it, however, I want to remind my fellow contributors that I had a near perfect run in my predictions last year. This year, I will only accept perfection. Here we go...


Detroit v. Nashville

I was really happy to see the Preds make it to the post-season. I think Barry Trotz, along with Guy Carbonneau, is a lock to be nominated for the Jack Adams trophy. This lineup has virtually no big names and, yet, they persevere.

That being said, the Wings have too much firepower up front for the Preds to upset them. Detroit's goaltending is shaky, but should hold up for one round. All bets are off after that, however.

Wings in 6

San Jose v. Calgary

The Sharks have been that favored team since opening day and they have had a great regular season. And, if you trust the simulation of EA Sports' NHL '08, they should make it all the way.

San Jose has a very well balanced team and seem to be firing on all cylinders at the right time. They also have a reputation for underachieving in the playoffs and a captain that usually goes MIA at this point in the year.

Calgary had a strong finish and will come at the Sharks with a lot of toughness. This will be a war in the trenches. In the end, the only thing that can save the Flames is Kipper and I don't think he's at his best.

It will be close.

Sharks in 7

Colorado v. Minnesota

I don't think there are two teams in the league that I have seen less of in the past year. Not knowing the character of a team makes predicting difficult.

The Wild have a team that is well-coached and is also tough. They play a great system and stick to it. The Avs, on the other hand, have tons of experience and a rejuvenated Theo.

I have a feeling that the likes of Sakic, Smyth and Forsberg will rise to the occasion and lead the way.

Avalanche in 6

Anaheim v. Dallas

This season, the Ducks were more like sharks. Not like their rivals to the South, but rather like pool sharks. I really get the feeling that they coasted through the regular season while waiting patiently for Selanne and Scott Niedermayer to return (and also to wait for Pronger's suspensions to be over). Then they went on a tear.

For their part, Dallas made a big move at the trade deadline in the hopes of getting to the level of the Sharks and Ducks. The payoff has yet to come. Brad Richards, however, always plays his best in the playoffs.

This is a tough one, but I think the Dirty Ducks will pound their way through this one.

Ducks in 7


Montreal v. Boston

It will be tough for the surprising Habs to take the Bruins seriously. Even if the entire organization is talking about being prudent, it's tough not be be confident when many players on the roster don't remember a time when Boston beat them.

Boston will come out hitting hard in the hopes of thwarting Montreal speed. They will also focus on Kovalev, especially in game 1.

The key to this series, however, will be officiating. If the referees call the games as they did in the regular season, then the Habs will have enough powerplay chances to nail the Bruins' coffin quickly. If they "let them play" (barf!), then the Habs will have to get creative.

I think the refs will suck, but that Les Glorieux will easily beat Boston's weak goaltending.

Canadiens in 5

Pittsburgh v. Ottawa

I don't care what anybody says, the Pens totally threw that last game in order to play the Sens in the first round. Why wouldn't you?

The Sens have been one of the worst teams in the league since the half way point of the season and they've just lost Alfredsson and Fischer. Their goaltending is bad and, apparently, there are huge issues in the dressing room.

They won't go quietly, though.

The Pens will need Fleury to stay on his hot streak in order to win. As has been the case in the final stretch, Pittsburgh has struggled when Sidney returned to the lineup. There will be an adjustment period, but nothing that will stop them from going through.

Penguins in 6

Washington v. Philadelphia

This is a series that I really want to watch.

Washington has been on fire since they acquired Huet and Fedorov. Ovechkin has been nothing short of amazing and has pretty much given himself the Hart trophy (Malkin's snub of the Calder makes him a long shot).

Philly has a great cast of characters, but can't seem to follow a script. They seem lost out there and can't generate any offence. For a team that has a weak defense, that's a problem.

Also a problem for Philly, the players let their wives hang out with Beeg. WTF is up with that?

Capitals in 6

New York v. New Jersey

This will be a goaltending battle.

The Rangers have been good of late and Jagr seems to have come out of his funk. They have a great core of verterans and some good young guys as well. Lost of scoring to go around.

The Devils, on the other hand, have had a terrible time putting the puck in the net and Brodeur has seemed human on some nights. They will need him to be in top shape in order to take this series.

I don't think that will happen. Sean Avery will crash Brodeur's net with impunity and will succeed in getting the future hall of famer to lose it.

New York in 4