Thursday, April 30, 2009
With the second round set to begin in Vancouver tonight, the stakes are rising for the remaining 8 teams. Still, expectations and future outlooks play a huge role in how a team's playoff run is evaluated. Taking that into account, which teams have the most to lose (and gain)? Are there any teams "playing with house money"? Let's take a look.
1. Boston vs. 6. Carolina 2. Detroit vs. 8. Anaheim
Both teams defied expectations this season. For the Bruins, that came early, as Boston went from being a nice little 8th seed last year to a squad good enough to make people wonder if they could go toe-to-toe with San Jose and Detroit. In Carolina, the Hurricanes went through most of the regular season looking like their typical selves (limping through stretches, remaining thoroughly mediocre ... the ultimate bubble team) and then all of a sudden became arguably the hottest team in the NHL.
Hockey fans will probably remember the Canes stunning two goals in 1:20 to shock the Devils for years to come. At this point, Carolina is the perfect foil for a number one seed: they're playing their best hockey of the year and just seem to have everything falling in place. If they lose, no sweat, really. Right?
One thing that stands out for Boston is that they have some tough salary cap decisions to make. David Krejci and Phil Kessel are RFAs this summer. Marc Savard only has one year left on his contract and will certainly command a bigger cap hit than his current $5 million.
The B's are a nice story, but the startling depth that made them such a juggernaut won't last forever.
Bruins have way, way WAY more to lose than the Hurricanes.
Anaheim will have a lot of questions to answer this off-season, particularly when it comes to Scott Niedermayer. Could this be the last year of the Norris brothers?
Still, the Ducks can't sweat it too much when they look at their young forward trifecta: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan make up quite the nice group of sub-25 threats. With Getzlaf and Perry wrapped up for a long time at a low cap hit, Anaheim isn't crazy to wonder if the sky is the limit.
And if they get bounced, it will at least make Jonas Hiller easier to re-sign.
It's difficult, however, to muster much fervor for the Red Wings. Yes, it would be a letdown if Detroit blows this series but they won the Cup last year. They have a mountain of talent wrapped up for below market value prices. If they screw up this year, they'll be a top-3 seed for the next decade anyway.
Detroit has more to lose than Anaheim, but they both have bright futures.
2. Detroit vs. 8. AnaheimThe second of two "behemoth vs. Cinderella" match-ups, although the Ducks have more to lose than the Hurricanes (and the Red Wings are probably yawning at the pressure of being heavy favorites).
2. Washington vs. 4. Pittsburgh 3. Vancouver vs. 4. Chicago
No doubt about it, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have a lot to lose in this series. They are the two faces of the league and will suffer from harsh Photoshops, mouth-breathers in comments and a predictable "I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!11" mentality. Evgeni Malkin can obviously swoop in and show that perhaps he should be the Hart trophy winner instead of Ovechkin.
Hell, even Alex Semin has plenty to prove after his "Kane over Crosby" comments from earlier this year.
If you had to choose, the slight edge in pressure might go to the Capitals. They are the higher seed with home ice advantage. After barely beating the Rangers in a 7-game series - and getting, honestly, severely out-played at times in that decisive game - the Capitals need to show that they're not just a weak willed collection of gorgeously talented Europeans.
The Penguins have "been there" before, putting up a cute little fight against the Red Wings in the SCF last year. In some ways, that means that they have quite a bit to lose, as they don't have the excuse of inexperience.
The Capitals and Penguins face extreme pressure to deliver on all the media hype, with a slight bit more on the Caps' shoulders. Either way, someone's getting flamed in a message board before this one is done.
That being said, there's the "aha!" season of Alex Burrows and the assorted flavors of hard scrabble two-way forwards this team provides. Will Kyle Wellwood make you pay for that fat joke? Shall Ryan Kesler show us why he's a Selke finalist? Lots of sneaky good guys on this team.
One story I promise to beat to the ground is that the Chicago Blackhawks shouldn't be so loosey goosey this year. Everyone seems to think that the BLACKHAWKS ARE A TEAM OF THE FUTURE. While that would be great, it might not be so easy.
Martin Havlat and Nik Bulin are all but gone, barring some crazy hypnosis-based contract signings. As I wrote before, the team might have a devil of a time re-signing its talented trio of Kane-Toews-Keith between now and the 2010 summer.
Yes, the Hawks are still in their cliched "losing to learn how to win" season, but they might want to think about skipping that process altogether. Things might get a lot tougher for this team in the future.
The Canucks are under more pressure, but the Blackhawks are under more pressure than you'd think.
3. Vancouver vs. 4. Chicago
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Amazingly, things are already started at three of the four series blogs:
Cornelius Hardenbergh of Hockey Blog Adventure is back for more Boston Bruins fun, which is greatness because his Boston-Montreal contributions were exactly what we envisioned for this idea in the first place.
Here's his post; here's the Boston-Carolina blog link.
Joe echoes a common CLS sentiment ("Fuck you Versus!") in his initial second round post for the Red Wings - Ducks series. He's another return contributor who did a great job last round considering the fact that it was a challenge to catch games in the Columbus-Detroit series.
Here's his post; here's the Detroit-Anaheim blog link.
Sha Sha of Vancity Canuck and The Hockey Bay is back as well, giving a taste of the Canucks-Hawks TV schedule as well as posting the Youtube video of a fight that was entertaining, memorable AND completely relevant to the series.
Here's the post; here's the Vancouver-Chicago blog link.
While we haven't posted anything yet for Washington-Pittsburgh, we expect there to be PLENTY to write about for Gary Bettman's ultimate wet dream.
Stay tuned, and update your bookmarks/RSS readers everyone. The second round looks like it will be a doozy.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
It seemed like Brian Rolston's crazy slap shot goal was going to allow the Eastern Conference to fall in 1-2-3-4 order until Tim Gleason's sprawling play kept the puck in the zone for the Hurricanes, which allowed Joni Pitkanen to set up Jussi Jokinen (of all fucking people) for a stunning game tying goal.
Then, out of nowhere, Eric Staal scored the series clinching goal with a little more than 30 seconds left in the game. Just a stunning series of events that ended an incredible (and odd) season for the New Jersey Devils.
With that, Gary Bettman's devil horns are probably ejaculating at the thought of a Ovechkin-Crosby clash (yes, we know Malkin exists but we know how this series will be marketed). The Capitals-Penguins series surely will bring out a trolling onslaught like we've never seen before.
Get your helmets, kids. Shit's about to get real.
Haven't sorted out what exactly I'm going to write about the BoC trip (and which blog is most appropriate) but I'm sure I'll stumble on something at some point. Maybe.
But the intention of this message is to run a little smelling salt under our collective noses. Now that the playoffs will soon dissolve into a much more digestible four series, it will make it easier for me to help the satellite blogs flourish. Current contributors and contributors of the future should keep an eye on their e-mail accounts, as the spam canister should open soon.
If you'd like to contribute, hit me up on the 'ol e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
For those of you (sad, CHEAP, PATTTTTHEEEETIC) people who aren't aware of NotF, it is basically the NHL's answer to the formerly great ESPN show "NFL Primetime." Actually, scratch that, it's even better: it's NFL Primetime if it was on an absurd 10-hour loop.
If you want to know what happened in the NHL each night and you hate the Internet (good for you), then NHL on the Fly will impregnate your heart.
ANYWAY, the most fun part might be making fun of the "broom closet" production values of the show. And what better way to do that then by hurling superficial insults at the show's hosts? I thought you'd never ask!
Blandly likable, a lot like Dan Pollard. Unfortunately the only goofy pun nickname you could give him is a Simpsons beer reference, not something sexual. Therefore I like Dan Pollard better. This is not a Democracy.
FINALLY, someone I can make fun of. Craig "cute as a" Button is "the Italian guy" on NHL on the Fly. (Note: he might not actually be Italian.)
It's fun to imagine him when an intern gets him a coffee without his patented "just sugah."
Button: "You call this coffee? You fucking call this coffee?"
C'mon you know that has to happen at least once a month.
Now we make it to the friendly old man with that could-be-creepy twinkle in his eyes. Green seems like the "cool uncle" who would take his 10-year old nephew to "Porky's" yet the kid's parents just can't seem to object to their son's too early exposure to showered breasts. Seriously, try to imagine maintaining anger at double G. Not going to happen, Ace.
There are a lot of odd associations that come with Green. For some reason he sort of reminds me of the "Jump to Conclusions Mat" guy from "Office Space."
OK I'm a bit fucked up.
When you look at Larry Murphy, it's kind of hard to believe he was a hockey player (and a really good one too). Isn't it?
I get the feeling that Larry will join Bill Clement in the "younger generations will be stunned that they were players" zone. Here's some Hall of Fame members:
- Pat Summerall
- Phil Jackson(even though he's really fucking tall)
- John Davidson
- Lenny Wilkens
- Larry Brown
There are probably a lot more guys that give you the "no shit, they played?" feeling but I'm drawing a blank.
Reid - and all the NHL on the Fly guys, really - seems to really know what he's talking about. If I met him, I would probably drop my sarcastic, difficult shtick in favor of trembling fear.
That is just how I react to a crew cut.
Berg's photo is a tough find. It's really a shame, too, because his "confused" expression is quite a treat. It's not that he's bad, either, it just that it seems like he's perma-perplexed. And that's one of the things that makes him awesome.
It's pretty stunning that Clement is the guy who got shit canned (or at least left) from the Versus studio show being that he's the only guy I'd willingly watch on TV.
I used to hate him, but couldn't put my finger on the reason. Then I realized that he looks EXACTLY like my high school Biology teacher.* As my memory of high school fades more with each season, I like Clement more.
Plus, the mustache.
OK, well, she's not on NHL on the Fly but you deserve a reward for reading this far. God bless you.
Friday, April 24, 2009
His first career playoff run has been quite two-faced, indeed.
On one hand, his stats look pretty damn nice. Jokinen has 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in four games, with a +3 and a whopping 17 shots on goal. When judging the odd-looking Finn based on those stats, he's had an amazing playoff run.
Yet, Jokinen's also had some forehead-slapping moments that call back all the talk about him being a cancer for the Phoenix Coyotes. There Olli was with that blank look in his eyes, unaware that he greatly increased his team's chances for a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty. It just seems like he has a knack for taking a backbreaking penalty or making a stomach-churning turnover when he's in his own zone.
It seems that Jokinen is a two-headed monster. One head wears goat horns; the other head is uhhh He-man's head or something.
What's your take? Is Jokinen a one-dimensional player, ultimately more of a liability than anything else? Is Olli a power forward and the center Jarome Iginla's needed all this time?
The answer may lie somewhere in between, but that's just no fun.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
- All signs point to Earl Sleek being a bad ass.
- As it turns out, a part of me hates Martin Brodeur. Or I at least generated a lot of sick joy in watching his stick slamming tantrum (see video). Perhaps I ride a train fueled by envy?
- Speaking of "Envy" I also realized after watching the astoundingly hilarious "Mr. Show" (fourteen years late) that at some point - though the exact time is unclear - a switch turned and I started to pretty much hate Jack Black. For those of you who like sliding scales, Brodeur is close to "neutral/dislike" while Black is pushing the needle to "tediously useless." You'd think I would use a numbered scale, but alas ...
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
While I was putting together plans for my trip to witness the Battle of California (plane leaves Wednesday!), the Canucks completed the first sweep in Vancouver's franchise history after beating the St. Louis Blues in overtime.
Our Blues-Canucks correspondents were all over it.
For Sha Sha from Vancity Canuck and The Hockey Bay, we'd love for you to stay aboard for the probable "Vancouver vs. ?" blog. We'd hate to say goodbye to Laura though, so how about this: drop us a line if you'd still be interested in contributing to Cycle like the Sedins' playoff coverage. (email@example.com) Even if you want to take a hockey vacation, we'd love to have you back for more Blues stuff next year!
Not sure what the plan is (in person recaps? James in Cali posts? Drunken tearful poetry?) but I'll probably post something about my California trip. It might be a cross-post or I might write weird stuff here. You're just going to have to wait (with baited breath, naturally).
Again, keep your eyes on those side bars for mini-blog activity as well. There's a lot of fun stuff going on in our satellite blogs.
Keep enjoying the playoff hockey, kids.
Monday, April 20, 2009
- So, it's official: I'll be in California for a full week (this Wednesday to next Wednesday). Questions remain: how many games can I end up going to? What should I do when I'm not watching hockey?
Just a lot of great stuff going on and we might even have the venerable Chris Kontos returning (if he hasn't decided to live in Japan, that is) in the next week(s). So stay tuned.
- Interesting story from the consistently excellent hockey history site Greatest Hockey Legends: apparently you might win the Cup, but you don't always get to raise it.
- A Philly fan guest-posted at Bangin Panger, submitting a thought provoking post asking why hockey fans consider themselves part of a team when they win ("we kicked ass") but then suddenly distance themselves when the going gets tough ("they really sucked ass").
- Both Versis games look really exciting tonight, with the Capitals trying to get back into their series with the New York Rangers and then the Blackhawks taking on the Calgary Flames in what has been a competitive 2-0 series. These two games should be very interesting, especially after news leaked of Alex Ovechkin's bizarre behavior during a Rangers practice.
- Puck Daddy took an interesting look at the Columbus Blue Jackets: will the BJs follow the Atlanta Thrashers by falling apart after making its first token playoff appearance?
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Fantastic stuff from Cornelius of the great Bruins-oriented Hockey Blog Adventure. Just a priceless group of photos from his experiences going to Game 1 and 2 of the Boston-Montreal series.
Keep your eyes peeled on all the miniblogs because we're adding contributors left and right. I'll do my best to drop links up on the main blog, especially when it's a first-time contribution, but there might some posts that go up while I'm away from the 'ol laptop.
Great stuff from Cornelius at the Boston-Montreal blog.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The latest in a murderer's row of terrible PR moves comes with NBC deciding to cockblock the Penguins' savvy and fan-friendly tradition of allowing people to watch games on a Big Screen outside of Mellon Arena. It was a bottom line-based decision, as the marginal loss in ratings would be too much for the soul-less suits at NBC to stomach.
But in such a marginal ratings grab, couldn't NBC impress advertisers by showing how much of an "event" their telecasts can be? At this point, it is pretty obvious that hockey games are a largely regional affair. Is a fraction of a decimal point really worth it for NBC, when they can show advertisers that they have an engaged audience?
Or is this just a case of "any press being good press?" Does the constant insulting of the NHL - from moving a heated OT playoff game off the network for a horse race preview show to showing no hint of consistency to slapping hockey fans in the face at every turn - not tell you everything you need to know about this "partnership?"
Hockey fans are the ground beneath the feet of out of touch executives. For every good move - putting the incomparable "Razor" Reaugh on national telecasts - there's a counter-move of imbecility.
People bash the idea of ESPN covering hockey, but the four-letter network would bring plenty more to the table than NBC. At this point, ESPN's in a ton of households and would do a much better job of raising awareness for their NHL games (as Puck Daddy and others have stated, the network is a self-promoting brand obsessed whore at this point). You have to be a hardcore hockey fan to be able to follow NBC's on-again off-again regular season schedule. Honestly, even I was surprised that the network was carrying the Washington-New York Rangers game this afternoon.
You get the feeling that Bucci cares more about hockey than everyone at NBC combined.
Yes, it's clear that hockey isn't a ratings force to be reckoned with, but it's also clear that the league is making baby steps to regain traction with American audiences. If the league isn't happy with just being a big fish in a little sea, then why not at least stick with a big unfeeling corporate entity that knows how to market the product?
I'd rather have the league give up its shitty, joke of a national TV partner in NBC for the corporate, sports culture dominating behemoth in ESPN. Even if it means going from network TV to cable.
Could ESPN be any worse than NBC?
Friday, April 17, 2009
The infamous Rudy Kelly from Battle of California fame is covering the Penguins-Flyers series.
And frequent contributor Laura from Wazzupwitchu will cover the Blues-Canucks.
The Boston - Montreal blog is still up for grabs and we might also need some help with New Jersey-Carolina. Drop me a line if interested. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1. Boston vs. 8. Montreal
Since the league is a slave to NBC, it's pretty obvious that most of the suits would like to see the Big American market Bruins make it through to the second round. We think that it's good to have Canadian teams make runs through the playoffs (American ratings be damned), but let's admit it: the Habs have been a mess.
NHL's cream dream winner: Boston
1. San Jose vs. 8. Anaheim
Both teams are familiar to hockey fans. Both play in markets that are considered somewhat small and niche. It wouldn't be a disaster for the Ducks to advance, but the lure of a Detroit/San Jose conference finals is hard to deny.
NHL's cream dream winner: San Jose
2. Washington vs. 7. New York
This isn't a cut-and-dry case because the Rangers are a big market team. But let's face it, the league hopefully learned a thing or two that Boston-San Jose was such a big ratings success for Versus. Big Stars trump Big Markets, IMO. And there isn't a bigger star than Alex Ovechkin. The league needs him to advance and draw more eyeballs.
NHL's cream dream winner: Washington
2. Detroit vs. 7. Columbus
NHL's cream dream winner: Detroit
3. New Jersey vs. 6. Carolina
Let me take you inside an NHL executive meeting:
(A bunch of old white dudes sit around a table more expensive than a full year of producing NHL On the Fly)
Random Exec: So, the Penguins made the playoffs and so did the Caps.
(Gary Bettman drinks from a cup full of blood)
Random Exec: We've got a lot of gr--
Bettman: Fuck it. At least we'll get rid of the Devils or Hurricanes early.
NHL's cream dream winner: New Jersey
3. Vancouver vs. 6. St. Louis
How powerful is the preference for American markets? That's the big question with this one since the Blues are still a relative unknown to many hockey fans. We're going to go slightly off the beaten path and say that the league would be better off with Luongo, the embattled Sundin and the Sedin twins than with the St. Louis market.
NHL's cream dream winner: Vancouver
4. Pittsburgh vs. 5. Philadelphia
This series is the complete opposite of New Jersey vs. Carolina. Two great, historic hockey markets brimming with stars and interesting elements but only one can advance. If you don't know who the league would prefer, you haven't been following ANYTHING.
NHL's cream dream winner: Pittsburgh
4. Chicago vs. 5. Calgary
Lllllllet's see. On one side, you have an original 6-franchise in one of the biggest American markets, with one of the brightest American stars in ages and an arena that can hold 20,000 insane fans. On the other side, you have the dude who's banging Elisha Cuthbert, the beloved star that Sean Avery called out for being boring and a legion of rambunctious Canadian fans.
NHL's cream dream winner: Chicago
So, oddly enough, the league's probably rooting for an upset-free first round of the playoffs. Agree? Disagree? Offended that I'd mock the act of drinking blood? Do tell.
Also, you can find all of the fantastic entries in the "Five Questions" series in the Special Sections now. We know there were a lot of posts going up at the same time, so that section can let you catch your breath, gather yourself and read all the GREAT contributions from some great bloggers.
Things are going to be a bit closer to normal on the main blog now that we have those great guest contributions under some semblance of control. I have a few ideas for running features and will know better soon. Obviously, though, there will be regular updates to point you to good stuff at our satellite blogs.
Although this is subject to change, we have Joe for Detroit-Columbus; Clare from All Hawks editing Chicago-Calgary; Abel covering Washington-NYR; perhaps Michael covering New Jersey-Carolina.
Would you like to edit Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, Vancouver-St. Louis or Boston-Montreal? Would you like to help out with the other satellite blogs? Drop me a line at email@example.com.
Let me also remind you that it's a GREAT idea to send me and the editors your blog posts (at least the ones you think are above average). This is a growing stage for the satellites so it's a great opportunity to publicize your blog.
Detroit crushing Columbus ---> Segues nicely to the second half of Chicago/Calgary --->Martin Havlat politely ends the game immediately in OT (third quickest ever)--->Finally, the night ends with the last two periods of the Battle of California.
Versus-o-meter: 1 out of 2
Thursday, April 16, 2009
What will your team need to do to beat the Ducks?
Gray: Brass knuckles. Someone needs to put Pronger and Perry in their place. Also, airbags for Nabby. When Perry tries to tackle him (and he will) the airbags will shoot out protecting Nabby in a comfy, airy bubble while Perry gets knocked back into the Stone Age. I'm also in favor of anti force field spray for whichever of the two Ducks goaltenders gets the start.
Mina: The Sharks need scoring from at least their top two lines. They need to make sure they keep their special teams playing the way they have been late in the season. But most importantly, they need to score even strength. They have not scored an even strength goal in goal in almost 3 games and that needs to change in order to secure victory.
They need to match the Ducks in physicality and make sure not to take any stupid retaliation penalties. While it’s true that the Sharks are benefited from a closely called series, they need to no panic if the refs let the Ducks play their game. The Sharks are big and powerful and they can stand up to any team in the playoffs. If they don’t let the Ducks push them around and have their scorers score, the series could be short. But it won’t.
What would need to happen for the Ducks to win?
Gray: Perry sits on Nabby and deflates him. Pronger's elbows go on a rampage and take out half the arena, including fans in attendance.
In all honesty, the Sharks need to respond to what will likely be physical play from the Ducks. No sitting back, no getting beat by a few rough hits. Hit back and keep going. Also? Score more.
Mina: The Ducks need to play their game. By physical, create space for their scorers, and hope that the refs let the players play. A free-for-all series will help the Ducks to win. Both of their goaltenders can steal a series and the Ducks need that too. Even though they look different from the Cup winning team, they aren’t a long way off from that group. If they get scoring from all lines and keep the Sharks on the ice with physical play, they and their goaltenders can steal the series from the Sharks.
Gray: Sharks fans have so many people to choose from. From the loveable brick wall that is Douglas Murray, the ever puzzled and slightly worried Captain Patrick Marleau, to the awesomeness that is Seto. Not to mention JR, who has settled in well here and has a huge fan base in SJ. Shelley and his can of beans perhaps?
Can I say everyone?
I'd love to highlight some of our rookies, but I'm not sure which of the woo-sta Sharks will be seeing playing time. (Go McGinn!)
Mina: The Sharks fans love themselves some JR big time. Since arriving with the Sharks last season, he has been an injection of pride and passion into the team. Plus having a guy who has so much fun with every game gets the fans excited. I love myself some Doug(las) Murray and owe him $1 for every big hit that he gives (a promise that I made last year). But I have made no secret I would love to see Torrey Mitchell get into the game sometime during the playoffs. He is my favorite and the favorite of many of the ahem..younger girls. (I would rather see the Sharks win than see Torrey play though.)
Your team's Goat-to-Be:
Gray: I think most people would choose Semenov, since he's been the fans favorite whipping boy all season. But I feel kinda bad for the guy so, I'm going to say Semenov's beard instead. His beard is an independent entity. It will take an important 2 minute penalty and cost the Sharks a goal.
Mina: Despite improved play from both of them, both Alexei Semenov and Christian Ehrhoff look ripe for goat hood. Semenov has had his issues: the glove of doom, being a teal traffic cone, and just all around looking like he doesn’t belong. But somewhere in the middle of the year, the Russian Bear really picked up his game has and has had some impressive moments. But the moment he takes a stupid and costly penalty, the fans will forget all that good work and remember the old Alexei.
And despite a career year (8G 34A), Christian has an amazing and terrible shot. Sometimes it hits the net, the goalie, or even goes in, but more often it goes somewhere miles from the net. If he continues to shoot wildly, he may hear some boo birds.
Gray: The brutality that will be shown in this series. If the brawl at the end of the last regular season match-up between these two teams is any indication, this is going to be an MMA style match up.
Mina: Can the Sharks show the promise that they showed during the regular season and dispatch the Ducks in a manner befitting of the President’s Trophy winner? (In all honesty, I expect this series to go at least 6 or 7 as the Ducks aren’t really a typical 8 seed.)
1. What will your team need to do to beat the San Jose Sharks?
Um, win. No, seriously. WIN. Anaheim only nabbed two wins out of the six showdowns we had with San Jose this year. In two of those four losses, San Jose successfully shut down all offensive attempts and shut us out. We're gonna need all our boys taking every possible shot and really working to get that puck past Nabokov. The series, if the year was any indication, will be a pretty physical one and since Anaheim's never been a team to take bullying all to lightly, they'll need to be aware of their tempers and reactions. By no means do I mean to say that the Ducks ought to settle back into some kind of comfy zone. No. In fact, I want them to crash and bang bodies all over the Shark Tank... I just want them to do it without elbowing someone in the head, slashing someone's face, or taking a penalty pile-up and migrating the bench to the box. They'll have to be physical without being stupid, and they'll definitely need to find a way to get past Evgeni Nabokov. Oh, and they need to keep that puck off the stick of Jonathan Cheechoo and Big Joe Thornton. I'd be wary of Michalek too.
2. What would need to happen for San Jose to win?
If San Jose shuts down Anaheim's offense, we're done-for. Or, if Anaheim's netminder (whoever gets the nod) collapses in net, we're totally screwed. San Jose doesn't seem to have a problem getting past the first round, but going deeper than that has historically proven to be very daunting for them. The last time San Jose lost in the first round was 2001 to St. Louis. For Anaheim, the first round early exit is still a fresh memory from last season when the defending Cup champions were unceremoniously given the boot by the Dallas Stars. San Jose may need to get down and dirty to dominate Anaheim before they can swim away from this first round, but like Gatorade asks, "Is it in you?" No, Sharkies, I think not.
3. Fan Favorite
The Ducks are pretty packed with fan favorites, beginning with the flashy, cheeky Fin Teemu Selanne and spanning the bench to the big-hearted brawler with a brain-behind-the-'Stache, George Parros. You can't discount the fandom power of fearless leader Scott Niedermayer, who gets the job done one way or another, or fever-pitch fan-love for all things Bobby Ryan who's just about usurped the place of Ryan Getzlaf in the hearts of teenyboppers everywhere. (Hey, it sort of helps that B-Ry's got hair and Getzy's got that glaring bald spot working against him.) Perhaps a personal playoff fan favorite would be Francois Beauchemin, who's been missing much of this season with a torn ACL, but came back to play in the home closer in front of a crowd that cheered his every stride on the ice! Beauch is a big boomer who's past playoff performance nicknames include "Boom Boom" and "Rocky" thanks to instrumental huge hits he'd punish the opposing team with, not to mention that fantastic house-rocking fight he had with Jarome Iginla that is still considered a pivotal turning point in the series -- and perhaps, even the fate -- of Anaheim's 2006 run.
4. Your team's Goat-to-Be
This is probably going to sound ridiculous, but I don't have a goat-to-be anymore. In fact, perhaps the only person I am nervous about when they touch the puck are the netminders. Why? Because there have been a number of blunders behind the net when a goalie is trying to handle the puck -- or even when a netminder makes a decision to play the puck and it ends up backfiring. The playoffs sometimes have what seems like an inordinate amount of odd bounces, strange goals, and goalie miscues or misplays. I shudder each time I think about a goaltender doing anything else except stopping the puck! How many times have I seen a goalie accidentally pass off the puck to an opposing forward who then scores on a defenseless net? How many times have I seen a goaltender get caught out of position when he was just trying to clear the puck from behind the net? No, no, no... that's the stuff of nightmares, my friend.
5. Top storyline
The San Jose-Anaheim showdown will be the first time ever that these teams have battled against one another in the post-season. Why is that a big story? Well, none of the three California teams have ever squared off with one another, and the last true Battle of California happened with a team I never knew existed. The Oakland Seals played the Los Angeles Kings in 1969, back when the Kings were, you know, kind of good. And I wasn't even born yet, so it's like it never happened -- at least in Finny-land. Nevermind that this is the #1 team in the league vs. the #8 Western seed, these teams already have an established division rivalry going for them. Playoffs will only deepen the despise each teem feels for the other, and fuel fueds between the fans. For once, California hockey might get a little raucous as each fandom wages its own private war against each other in one another's respective arena -- surely since the teams are separated by a mere 6-hour-drive, there are bound to be fans of each team present in both arenas. This one is bound to be physical and for the passionate fans residing in sunny California, it just might cross over into personal. May the better fandom and team (ahem, ANAHEIM) win!
"Detroit has a rich history, but part of that history over the last several years is walking a goalie out in front of a firing squad, when his defense may be more to blame for a playoff loss than he is. This was the case with Curtis Joseph in 2003, and with Manny Legace in 2006. Both goalies may not have played their absolute best (though CuJo did better than Legace, I think), but the problem was more to do with the Wings complete inability to score goals, combined with allowing opponents to own the front of their own net."If his posts and comments are any indication, running the mini-blog might bring Joe into the vortex of full-on hockey blogging. It's a disease, Joe, but it's one that might end up being as fun as anything you've ever done. Well, almost anything.
For the Flames, we enlisted our tenured scholar of Calgary, Kent of Five Hole Fanatics and Matchsticks and Gasoline fame. He provided us with yet another great contribution. Here's a bite:
"The organization spent a lot of money this season and expectations were elevated by the club's high budget and relatively good results in the middle of the year. If Calgary once again flames out in the first round, there's going to be a lot of hard questions asked and I'd guess at least one head is going to roll."Once again, the Blackhawks bloggers gave us not one, but TWO great contributions. The first comes from Clare from All Hawks - who, by the way - might just edit our Calgary/Chicago mini-blog. Check out this excerpt:
"The Blackhawks web crew has really out-done themselves this year, and Burish has been a main part in many of the videos on the website. Between the Prankster Parts 1, 2 and 3 and the Ladies Man video it is hard to miss Burish. He can always provide a laugh and his overall likeability is what make him so endearing to Hawks fans."Finally, our buddy CT from Hockeenight wrote his responses, too. We had an absolute ball sharing our reflections on the Hawks (but more so on man boobs) with CT and forklift during the Hockee Night podcast if you haven't heard it yet. Here's a piece of CT's post:
"For some reason, Joel Quenneville has got it into his head that journeyman defenseman Matt Walker is a top 4 guy. He's been playing big minutes this season, often while paired with Brian Campbell, and he's awful. His only tangible asset is his size, but he's too slow to catch anybody and hit them. He's pretty bad covering in his own zone, and even worse, as of late he's gotten it in his head that he's Phil Housely, making crazy cross ice passes to no one in particular."Just a great trio of posts. Read them all here.
For the Boston Bruins, we "outsourced" to our OG contributor Stanley Cup of Chowder. Here's an excerpt of his post:
"Bashing Manny Fernandez has become Boston’s new favorite pastime. It seems like years ago that I wrote “The New England Hockey scene hasn’t seen a goaltending tandem like this since Bob and Walt Tenor” in my Cycle Like the Sedins Hockey Orphan post. Chances are that Manny will not see any ice time in this series unless god forbid Thomas gets hurt (knock on wood). If Fernandez does play, he could easily be the goat.
This is Boston, so anyone is eligible to be the goat. The slightest miscue could label you as a goat for the rest of your life. Just ask Bill Buckner or Glen Wesley."
You can read the full post on our Boston-Montreal satellite site.
As for the Montreal Canadiens, we asked Four Habs Fans to offer another contribution and they didn't disappoint:
2. What would need to happen for the Bruins to win?
The sun to come up
Here's a link to the full offering from Four Habs Fans.
More series previews to come ...
- It's WAY too early to know for sure, but that Penguins - Flyers game did indeed feel a lot like last year's series. Our worrisome side kept thinking, "Surely, the Flyers will make a run at this one." (and then some asshole trots out the "My name isn't Shirley" joke from "Airplane." That asshole)
- It's only been one day and already Versus chose the wrong game, but let's be fair: there was only one game worth watching tonight (Washington - NYR, silly). Pittsburgh - Philly was over by the second period, Vancouver-St. Louis was a yawnfest and New Jersey - Carolina only needed to exist for Zach Parise's awesome goal. Still, because Versus continues to employ Brian Engblom we're forced to be mean, petty and cruel to them.
Can someone tell me why VAN-STL is getting wall-to-wall coverage while Chicago/Calgary and Boston/Montreal fight over the table scraps? It doesn't seem like you can hang your hat on "American media hates Canada" either since the Canucks - to me - are probably the least marketable Canadian team in the playoffs. Sure, CHI-CAL/BOS-MTL are on a different schedule but this still seems all wrong.
Is it just a time slot thing?
- What happens to the Alex Ovechkin love fest if his Capitals fail to make it past the first round for the second year in a row?
(Naturally, the Caps probably won't lose another game in the playoffs. I'm the kiss of death.)
- My favorite beard of the day goes to goaltender Chris Mason of the St. Louis Blues. If St. Louis makes a deep run he might be able to support herds of bison with that thing.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Thanks a bunch to Laura, who came through with the St. Louis Blues angle once again.
Let the games begin ... in about 45 minutes.
You can read both missives at our Rangers/Capitals mini-blog.
Go ahead and click won't ya? You wont be any smarter after reading it but we promise you wont be any dumber either*
*offer void if post is read off of a computer screen
While we weren't able to get/are still waiting on a Flyers contribution, Frank D from Pensburgh gave us the Pittsburgh side of the coin. Check out this selected passage:
"In all honesty the Pens need to stay strong on the PP and not allow guys like Mike Richards to pester them when THEY have the man advantage. He is dangerous on the PK and needs to be contained and/or avoided all together. Pitt also can't afford to take stupid penalties that in turn allows Philly to put their PP out there. Way too many guns in the Philly lineup."Our take on the Battle of Pennsylvania.
Ashley from The Life and Times of a Caniac supplied a nice Carolina Hurricanes preview. Here's an excerpt:
"Probably the top storyline is the master-padawan struggle between Cam Ward and Martin Brodeur. In the last playoff series, there was a lot of hype about the rookie Ward facing his childhood idol. Does this chapter end the same way? Or does Brodeur show that he's still got the skills to pay the bills?"John Fischer from In Lou We Trust came through with an in-depth look at Canes-Devils from a New Jersey perspective. Here's a sample:
"Even if Carolina does respond, the Devils will have still the confidence to regain or re-take the lead. With two lines (Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner, Elias-Zubrus-Gionta) capable of giving the opposition defense a lot to handle, along with some chipped-in efforts from a third line (usually whoever David Clarkson is with), New Jersey usually makes a lot possible. They just need to close the deal more often – be it in even strength, shorthanded, or on the power play."Click here to jump to the New Jersey vs. Carolina mini-blog.
Check out the sidebar for the posts that are up so far, but I'll put up some fancy little intro's for those who need a little taste of what's in the mini-blogs. We might have a friend of the blog cover the Chicago/Calgary series but there's still a few left if you'd like to jump on board.
In the mean time, check out Bangin Panger for our reverse guest posts in the "Onus" series. Also, Vance put up a great little post about blogging that is worth reading.
By the way, with all that's going on I haven't been able to keep the blogroll current. Please e-mail me if you'd like to be included.
Finally, it sounds like Spade in Victor Hell of Battle of California commenting fame will be joining me for Game 4 of the BoC, so that's one big relief. Hopefully he'll be kind and leave my bulbous gut out of any potential cartooning.
We were able to get a team blogger for every playoff team to contribute a Hockey Orphan! Great stuff, everyone. Clearly, it's part of my diabolical scheme to slowly fool people into thinking CLS features great writing by getting great writers to contribute! Mooouhahahaha.
ANYWAY, all cackling aside, thanks a bunch to all the Hockey Orphan contributors. Read all the entries.
We've been shooting for the stars a lot here at CLS lately, but this might be the
There will still be plenty of goings-on here at the mother ship, but for those of you who want to get really in-depth, the series specific mini-blogs will be the place to go. Right now, they're infants but they will hopefully grow far out of control.
In fact, this might be a unique opportunity for a lurker to evolve into a contributor. We're looking for "editors" for each series mini-blog, so if you think you have the chops drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the mini-blogs in need of an editor:
Calgary vs. Chicago
Detroit vs. Columbus
Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
Vancouver vs. St. Louis
Here are the mini-blogs that currently have an editor, but would be more than interested in having some extra help:
Boston vs. Montreal
Washington vs. New York Rangers
New Jersey vs. Carolina
(And again, we're not touching Anaheim - San Jose because Battle of California and Fear the Fin are all over that like Hitchock on a deep dish pizza)
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I'm going back to Cali. OK, so maybe that dated reference is only semi-true (went there when I was ten-ish) but I just couldn't resist joining in the Battle of California festivities. That's right, I'm going to leave the comfy womb of Dallas for the greatness that is the state of California.
But it gets better: I need a play date. That's right, there's an extra ticket to the (twice) in a lifetime experience of seeing two California teams battle it out in the NHL playoffs and the once in a lifetime chance to watch a hockey game alongside my bad punning self. The tickets are in Section 442 row P. Here's what you need to qualify:
A promise that you're not a serial killer. Or if you are, that you won't kill me.
If you can meet this terms and you'd like to join me, send me an e-mail and we can coordinate our plans. My e-mail address is email@example.com.
It will be first come first serve, or at least "first pay first serve." Plllllleaaaaase join me. I'll buy you a beer!
(Special thanks to Rob Yunich from Storming the Crease for his thoughts on the Caps. Make sure to follow Rob during what could be a very deep playoff run for Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. StC is one of the many great hockey blogs devoted to the Caps.)
Hockey Orphan: Washington Capitals
In October, the Hockey News dubbed the Washington Capitals “the most exciting team in the NHL” and for good reason. There’s a lot to love about the Caps: Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Coach Bruce Boudreau, the team’s Rock the Red campaign, a packed home crowd every night and even the team’s feud with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Caps are a young team that has soared under Boudreau’s leadership, even though it still shows signs of inexperience. The Caps can beat any team in the NHL any night. But, when they’re lackadaisical, the Caps can make the New York Islanders or Atlanta Thrashers look like Stanley Cup contenders. It’s a maddening trend that gives Caps’ fans many gray hairs, but there’s no doubt the good outweighs the bad.
(All stats as of April 8.)
Alex Ovechkin: The NHL’s best player and reigning MVP is a bundle of energy every night. He’s scored 218 goals in four seasons (with two games left this season) and still has managed to register 200 career assists. He’s also only the second player in league history to eclipse the 500-shot mark. Simply put, he makes everybody around him better.
Ovechkin wears his emotions on his sleeve, celebrates every Caps’ goal (whether he scored it or not) and is great for the game of hockey. He’s determined to guide the Caps to their first Stanley Cup and has nearly single-handedly turned the nation’s capital into a hockey-mad community.
Green, Backstrom and Alex Semin: Lest you think the Caps are a one-man team, the squad boasts three other players that could dominate on any given night. The trio, along with Ovechkin, gives the Caps four players who average more than a point per game for the season, something no other NHL team can claim.
Green is a strong contender for the Norris Trophy after racking up 30 goals and 40 assists in just 66 games. He’s one of three 30-goal getters on the Caps (Ovechkin and Semin are the others) and is dominant on the power play with 18 goals.
Semin isn’t just the “other Alex” as he’s come out of his shell with a career-high 76 points this season. He has moves that could qualify him for the Harlem Globetrotters and possibly the best wrist shot in the league. But there is a maddening side to Semin, too, which drives fans crazy. (More about this later.)
Backstrom doesn’t get nearly the accolades he should. As his sophomore season is winding down, Backstrom has racked up the ninth-most assists in league history for a player’s first two seasons (118) -- and might move up to eighth if he registers three more helpers in the teams’ final two games.
Boudreau: The reigning Jack Adams Award winner has the Caps within one point of tying their best point total in franchise history. But perhaps his greatest feat this season has been guiding the Caps through nearly 400-man games lost to injury and the use of 41 different players -- including 16 members of the AHL’s Hershey Bears (who are nearing the 50-win plateau themselves). “Gabby” has his finger on the pulse of the team and continues to push the right buttons as the Caps grow and mature.
Unsung heroes: Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr and David Steckel aren’t household names around the NHL but they are staples in the Caps’ lineup. They serve very important roles -- especially on the penalty kill and around the net in every situation. These four are the type of players that are vital to winning a Cup. It also doesn’t hurt that Laich (along with Backstrom) hasn’t missed a game all season.
Verizon Center: The Caps have created one of the best home-ice advantages in the league and finished their home schedule with an Eastern Conference-best 29-9-3 mark at “the phone booth.” The team’s Rock the Red campaign has led to numerous “red outs” and the arena can get mind-numbingly loud -- especially during the playing of a very clever “Unleash the Fury” series of clips.
The Future: The best is still ahead for the franchise. Of the team’s core players, Semin is the oldest at 25. Backstrom (21), Fehr (23), Fleischmann (24), Laich (25), Ovechkin (23) and Green (23) have lots of hockey left in them. Throw in stud prospects Oskar Osala (21), Karl Alzner (20), Joe Finley (21), John Carlson (19) and Simeon Varlamov (20), and this is a team that could dominate for years to come. In fact, Varlamov is making a strong case to take over as the team’s starting goaltender as early as next season.
Semin: As much skill as Semin possesses, he remains an enigma. He has stretches of brilliance followed by periods of invisibility. He regularly commits penalties that Boudreau abhors and doesn’t play much defense. As easily as Semin can take over a game, he is just as capable of giving it away. He is due to be a restricted free agent after next season and, at about $5 million per season, is sure to be the subject of a heated internal debate.
Inconsistency: Similarly, the Caps have nights when they resemble the 70-point teams from not too long ago. When they don’t crash the net, or stick to Boudreau’s perfectly-suited system, they tend to suffer. With so much skill up and down the roster, players sometimes act selfishly at the suffering of the team. The Caps easily could have won at least five more games this season -- and that is sure to be addressed this off-season.
Unbalanced Scoring: Despite the unsung heroes mentioned above, the bulk of the scoring belongs to Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green. Boudreau has been trying to increase the “secondary scoring” but it hasn’t work as much as everybody would like. This has led to some of the team’s maddening losses.
Defense: For a team that averages 3.25 goals per game (third best in the league), the Caps allow a pedestrian 2.89 tallies per contest. This is caused by the absence of a solid defensive player other than Green. Brian Pothier’s return from a 14-month absence has helped, but Tom Poti, John Erskine, Jeff Schultz and Milan Jurcina have frustrated executives and fans all season.
Many hope Alzner is the team’s defensive savior but, although he’s been solid in limited action, that plan hasn’t come to fruition yet. Schultz has improved during the season, but at 23, he’s still learning the trade. Poti’s play has declined and Jurcina might be a bigger enigma than Semin. Erskine is a tough guy who seems to be slow as a tortoise.
GM George McPhee most likely will go after Jay Bouwmeester this off-season and, along with Alzner and maybe Carlson, the team’s defensive future is bright. But that doesn’t take away from an exasperating present that sometimes forces the Caps to score five goals just to eke out a one-goal victory.
History: With all of this great news, this is a franchise that only has reached the Stanley Cup finals once (1998, when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings) and conference finals twice (1998, 1990). Part of this is due to many years in the uber-tough Patrick Division, but the Caps also have missed the playoffs five times since making the 1998 Stanley Cup finals. The team has won the Southeast Division title four of the 10 years it has existed (including this season), but that hasn’t translated into a deep playoff run.
As you can see, there’s a lot going for you if you chose to adopt the Caps. You may be driven to insanity along the way, but stick with the Caps and you’ll probably get to see history unfold before your eyes.
Ovechkin could surpass the 500-goal mark before he turns 30 and Backstrom might register 100 assists in a season before too long. Many people believe the Caps are destined to win a Stanley Cup in the not-too-distant future. And if that’s not incentive enough, on a nightly basis you’ll get to witness a group of players who love the game, play with mind-boggling skill and are as cohesive as any team in any sport.