Sunday, April 30, 2006
New York = Old News
Yoinked from stgcreative.com
The playoffs are a cruel mistress. All of the blood, sweet, tears, and bag skates are quickly all for naught for some teams, like the New York Rangers, who get swept in the first round.
I don't often feel sorry for New York sports teams, but it's hard not to feel a little something for a team that works hard to get into the playoffs for the first time in 9 seasons (as the Rangers did), and then get swept aside like old garbage.
If anyone is thinking about the MVP debate, this series is a prime example of how important Jagr and Lundqvist were to the Rangers performance this season.
Jaromir Jagr - He tried, but if your shoulder is that sore after 1 shift and 1 hit, you pretty much shouldn't have even bothered. The next time you think of Jagr as a selfish player, just remember the determination he showed in this series as he tried to come back and play some role. It looks like Jagr has done some growing up these past 9 months.
Henrik Lundqvist - Of all of the rookie playoff goalies, I expected Lundqvist to be one the best. He took evil Sweden to the gold and he's not exactly a spring chicken in the world of hockey. He pretty much blew kisses the entire series.
The supporting cast? You could see how little the Rangers really had. They do have some good young talent and a few good veteran pieces, but the Rangers need some serious upgrades, especially at defense.
The Sandis Ozolinsh Experiment will end up being one of the worst trades of the season for any team. Bozolinsh was benched for game 4 after giving John Madden and the Devils enough goals in the first three games, and he wasn't providing all that much offense. The playoffs don't tend to be kind to risky defensemen.
Patrik Elias? 5 goals and 6 assists in 4 games has him in the early lead for the Conn Smythe and scoring races.
Today's video is Edmonton's Chris Pronger rocking Dan Cleary with a hit. Pronger has been teh bomb for the Oilers in this series, which makes me wonder why he was never that good for the Blues.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Game 4s: Nobody Through Yet
I was glad to see the Avs lose last night. Though I don't care for either them or the PornStars, I don't necessarily want the Avs cruising to a first round sweep. In this series, I'd love for them to beat each other up for 7 games so that the victor can be swept in the 2nd round. When you don't have much to cheer for in a playoffs, this is what you do.
Carolina 3 - Montreal 2
Justin Williams is due for a chair shot. Not that long after seriously injuring Saku Koivu with a careless high stick, Williams had the lumber up again last night (It's 7am, don't ask me to remember who it is) and, once again, didn't get assessed a penalty. There are TWO refs!! How can you miss two dangerous high sticking penalties in 2 games?
Philly/Buffalo - Peter Forsberg...is back!!!
Do you know that Forsberg has only ONCE ever had a playoffs where he scored less than a point a game?
Back in 1999-00, Forsberg 'slumped to just 15 points in 16 games. Otherwise, he's always had a point-a-game place. This year? 8 points in 4 games and he's just warming up...
Here's a great YouTube clip from a fan who was at the Sharks/Predators Game#4 and took a home video of one of the Sharks Power Play goals. The quality sucks, but it gives you an fan's perspective and that tingle you get when you watch illegally shot material ;)
Friday, April 28, 2006
Photo of the Day: I saw the sign!
I just wonder what the other side of that sign says.
Crow gave a post-firing press conference (How would you love to have to go public after you've been canned?) and had nothing but good things to say about his ex-employer. Instead of lashing out in anger, Crawford almost broke down in tears as he seemed genuinely sad to see his tenure end.
Crawford is young and talented, and he has a bright future ahead of him as a coach or colour commentator. He was smart to take the high road and not take down people with him. Unlike Ted Nolan, Crawford knows that burning bridges would hurt his chances at future employment.
On Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison:
"I really feel Todd has been so unfairly treated here, especially lately, when it's very, very sexy for the media to try and portray that there's a problem between one side and the other side," said Crawford, who held a news conference in the same room at GM Place where he talked to reporters during the season.
"Todd wasn't the reason I'm sitting here today, neither is Brendan Morrison," said Crawford, a reference to the coach's occasional rebukes aimed at forward Morrison but never at Bertuzzi or star winger Markus Naslund.
"I think Todd Bertuzzi has shown himself to be a first all-star team right winger," said Crawford. "He's shown himself to be an all-star. There were times this year when he played like an all-star and I believe he'll return to being an NHL all-star."
On being 'tuned out':
"I believe that players are so much wanting to perform at the right level all the time," he said. "Sometimes you get confused about how to get to that optimum level and a coach's job is to clear that confusion and to try to eliminate distractions."I hope Crawford does learn something from this firing, since he does have a stubborn streak that has hurt his clubs.
1. Learn to trust your backup goaltender. Crawford rides his #1 goalies hard, and it was a major cause of Dan Cloutier's breaking down and constant injuries and Alex Auld's late-season fatigue. I know Martin Brochu was teh suck, but Crawford's other backup goaltenders weren't exactly chopped liver. Getting your backup into a few more games will keep your #1 goalie's heathier and fresher and will likely lead to better performance overall.
2. Learn not to alienate players completely. Crawford's lack of trust in certain players is very obvious (Steve McCarthy, Jiri Slegr, the backups) and very detrimental to their games. Look at how well McCarthy did after he landed in Atlanta? Crawford basically shuts out certain players in the doghouse, giving them little or no ice time. The play of these players suffers as they get rusty and lose self-esteem. Crawford does play favourites and he needs to learn how to treat his marginal players a lot better. Even if a Steve McCarthy is not a big part of your team, he still has a role to play and he won't/can't play it well if you are making a hostile environment for him.
Oh, and if you going to colour your hair, don't stop half way! You make enough money, so spring for a second box of Just for Men if you need it.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Pat Quinn's New Job
(thanks to CT)
Photo of the Day: Sweden is Gold!
Let's just remember that while this may seem very strange to us, I'm sure it's perfectly normal and acceptable behaviour in Sweden.
(Edit: The photo is of Emil Kåberg and Per Ledin of BK Färjestad)
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Ra-Ra-Rasputyin, ismered az álmaink!
Colorado 4 - Dallas 3(OT)
Dallas could have had this game if not for some very unlucky bounces. First, the puck ends right up on the stick of Andrew Brunette and he's alone in front of Turco and smacks in an easy goal. This lead to OT and then Tanguay gets the easiest goal of his career thanks to the pinball bounce.
Honestly, I don't care which team wins this series, but I kind of feel cheated that the Stars are getting dominated and could be swept. That, and my predicition is going to end up way off.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Turco's been beat up enough, so I'll go with Janne Niinimaa, he of the -2 in just 12:59 of ice time. Didn't he used to be a good defenseman? He's looked just awful in this series and the whole season.
Carolina 2 - Montreal 1(OT)
Thankfully, we've been spared The Acid Queen going Wayne Brady in the Raleigh/Durham area. Eric Staal finally broke his playoff cherry and potted the OT winner.
I honestly thought the Canes were screwed after they whiffed on the late 4-minute PP late in the 3rd period.
What is it with NHL players and getting lazy with big 4-min Power Plays? The Canes pretty much floated around, slowing the game down to a crawl and looking for the perfect pretty tic-tac-toe play. The Habs took full advantage and had a good SH chance out of it.
If I am the defensive squad, I'm thankful that the offensive team is taking it nice and slow. It means that I don't have to work hard, the offensive team is making/taking less shots, and the offensive team is likely to make careless mistakes.
On such a PP, you ought to be working even harder than normal. Tire the penalty killers last year and bombard the net with shots and bodies.
Luckily for the Canes, that lack of enegery on that PP did not translate into a momentum shift as the Canes got another chance in OT and didn't miss.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Tomas Plekanec. Sorry, my boy, but taking that penalty in OT led to the winning goal. Pleky was playing superbly tonight, but one dumb penalty erases it all...
As for Ray Whitney, he played just over 7 minutes all night and 5 of those were on the Power Play. I know Whitney is the "Wizard" of the man-advantage, but wouldn't you rather have a healthy player on the ice if you are struggling to score goals? Whitney had no shots and didn't look particularly effective from what I saw. It would be better to have a healthy and 'fresh' body in there. Get Craig Adams to just buzz around and create havoc in front of the net. It would do more than Whitney could at the present time.
New Jersey 3 - NY Rangers 0
I told you it was over!
Jaromir Jagr tried to make his 'miracle' comeback, but it was obvious that (0 shots) he has so little to give. You can't fault him for trying, so he's being paid the big bucks and he's being counted on to lead the team. Sometimes, your body just won't cooperate.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Petr Prucha. -2 and 0 shots on goal for the offensive waterbug.
Philadelphia 4 - Buffalo 2
The old Peter Forsberg showed up tonight thanks in large part to Ryan Miller's crappy goaltending performance. Forsberg's 2 goals were weaker than your alibi for showing up to work drunk, but it doesn't matter how they go in as long as they do.
The Flyers managed to play their style and control the tempo. The hit totals were 21-10 and the Flyers have to use their size and punish the Sabres, not the other way around.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Chris Drury was -3 as Forsberg pwned his piddly ass, and Ryan Miller was letting in some weak-ass goals, but the honour goes to...
Denis Gauthier, tossed out of Game 2, temporarily knocked J.P Dumont out of the game late in the second with a hard stick shot to the gut. Dumont, who scored three goals in Game 2, was down for several minutes before he was helped off the ice. The public address announcer implored the fans to "show some class out there and cheer when he gets up." Predictably, the plea was booed, though Dumont received polite applause when he did leave the ice.
Armenian Update: VICTORY!
Last year, the senior team was outscored 142-5 as they lost all 5 games rather handily at the 2005 IIHF World Championship Div III in Mexico City.
Earlier this season, the junior Armenian squad was outscored 146-6 and the future for Armenia looked anything but bright.
Well, that won't stop the Armenians from going out and giving it the ol' college try. Say what you want about their skill level, the Armenians have balls of steel.
This year's Div III WC is in Reykjavik, ICELAND, and Armenia is back to take on the world...well, more like Ireland, Turkey, Iceland, and Luxembourg.
The first game of the tournament saw the Armenians kick off the festivities with a match against Turkey. Surprisingly, Armenia handled themselves pretty well and lost only by a score of 8-3. Manuk Balyan was the big star with 2 goals and an assist.
The second Armenian match took place last night and pitted them versus Ireland, the team that Armenia had their best 'success' against last year (a 23-1 loss)
Well, folks, they did.
They...won a game!!!
and it wasn't even close!!
Armenia 6 - Ireland 0, with Armenia outshooting Ireland by a 50-19 margin.
Wow!!! That's a lot of improvement in one year. At this pace, they'll be handing Canada its own ass by 2017.
JOHN GHAZANCHYAN had 3 goals and 2 assists in the victory...
John?? Not a very Armenian name...
Are the Armenians importing North American ringers? Hmm...
Well, pretty much every other lower tier country does it. Why shouldn't Armenia?
Yes, that is an artist's rendition of what hell looks like this morning. The Oilers winning...Armenia winning...
Anyway, congratulations to the Armenian national hockey team. You've come a long way, baby!
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Canucks Fire Marc Crawford
Tom Benjamin has argued that Marc Crawford had a poor roster to work with (in terms of construction and availability of defensive forwards), and while Tom makes some valid points. I'll have to disagree with Tom, because I think it was Crawford's time to go. While I didn't want Marc's head on a lance, I'm not going to cry now that he's gone. He's brought us some success, but it's time to move on.
Reading GM Dave Nonis' comments, it's obvious why Crawford took the fall:
"Our club once again needs to become one of the hardest working teams in the League. We need to ensure that our attention to detail is second to none in the NHL."
There are two things a coach has great influence over.
1. Team morale/attitude/spirit/whatever
2. Systems/Defense cohesiveness
The Canucks? They blew leads like the mob was 'enticing' them to lose. They were defensively unorganized and were constantly outperformed in systems play.
The morale? the fire? It wasn't there, and everyone knew it. The dressing room strife is likely exaggerated a great deal, but having your two best superstars playing like they don't give a damn (especially Todd Bertuzzi), playing favourites, and just wearing our the players with constant tirades is a sign that the coach has, to use the tired cliche, 'lost the team'
The Canucks did not appear to be a well-coached team that simply lose due to a lack of talent (though we know the defensive injuries hurt a lot) like the Minnesota Mild. No, the Canucks appeared to be a disorganized and disintersted team too many nights and pretty much gifted a playoff spot to the Edmonton Oilers.
(It's funny how the Oilers are suddenly playing better...)
On another note, I didn't see the pre-game or first few minutes of the Anaheim/Calgary game. Marc Crawford is doing colour, so it must feel awkward for him to be working when his firing is front page news.
Did CBC and/or Crawford make any mention of the firing? I'm wondering if it was acknowledged in this broadcast.
Canucks Canning Crawford?
The Vancouver Canucks have called a news conference for 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt where they are expected to announce the firing of head coach Marc Crawford, according to MOJO Radio in Vancouver.
According to MOJO, no replacement has been named.
With Crawford at the helm this season, the Canucks finished with a 42-32-8 record and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Crawford holds a career record of 411 wins and 285 regulation losses in 823 regular season games.
He was hired as coach in 1999 and holds the club record for wins with 246.
Great, let's hire Pat Quinn ;)
Monday, April 24, 2006
NHL Playoffs: Speed (s)Kills
I was skeptical, but now my fears have temporarly been put to rest as the NHL playoffs have seen Speedy "New NHL" teams defeat the slower, more physical "Old NHL" teams. I'm liking it, but we don't know if it will continue this way. Flashing back to the 2004 playoffs, the speedy Tampa Bay Lightning managed to have success a hard-working and hard-hustling Calgary Flames team. One thing never changes, the cream rises to the top. You can't win it all if your team is just mediocre. Every cup champion we've had has been 'good'.
Rangers 1 /Devils 4 - The playoffs have no bearing on the awards (except the Conn Smythe), but Tom Renney ought to lose any Jack Adams promotion for his bungling of his goaltender situation.
Henrik Lundqvist carried the Rangers to the playoffs. Lundqvist is clearly better than Kevin Weekes. It's not even close between the two netminders (like, say, Anaheim). Just because Henrik had one bad game is not a sufficiently good reason to go with a far inferior goaltender. Lundqvist took you to the dance, so don't ditch him when you see a hotter blonde chick in the corner.
Yes, the series IS over. We all know it.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Sandis Ozolinsh. John Madden had 2 shorthanded goals, one of which Sandis knocked into his own net, and both while Ozolinsh was on the ice. Sandis was -2 for the night and pretty much provided as much offense as Donald Brashear would on an average night.
Philly 2 /Buffalo 8 - The "Rebound Machine", Robert Esche, was pretty much exposed as was the skating-in-slush Flyers 'defense'. Forsberg must be severly hurt since he looks far less dominant than usual. Still, it's not easy to produce offense when your team is constantly being beat to loose pucks by a speedier Sabres team. If the Flyers can't control the tempo of the game like they did for parts of Game 1, it appears the Sabres will have their way.
Now, Antero Niittymaki should have been the starting goalie all along. I'm not sure he could have prevented this slaughter, but he could have kept his team in the game.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Robert Esche: 5 goals on 10 shots.
Carolina 5/Montreal 6 - Montreal has one clear advantage in this series: Speed.
Carolina's defense is a tad slow at times, and the Canadiens have been using their speed and hustle to generate scoring chances and counterattack with some supreme effectiveness.
Carolina was forced to match the Habs speed and, from the second period onward, they were hustling and churning their legs. It's 5-5 in OT as I type this and this has been one of the best games I've seen in a long time. Both teams are skating fast and playing hard. I love how the Canes stepped up their level of play and are doing their best to negate the speed disadvantage as much as possible.
This is what truly what NHL hockey should be: a game of skill, speed, scoring chances, and flow. Gary Bettman should tape this game and promote it as the prototype for what every NHL game ought to be. Any fans in the building who are watching this game as the first NHL game of their lives are probably going to be hooked for life.
Oh, and that building is absolutely rockin'
Well, it's quiet now after Michael Ryder scores in 2OT. I don't wanna hear any of this "Carolina is choking" talk that you know you are bound to see. Carolina played their asses off and Montreal gets full credit for a well-earned victory. There is no 'choke' if you go down fighting.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Richard Zednik, who almost cost his team the victory with his stupid double-minor in the 2nd period.
Colorado/Dallas - First period...It's not just Marcy Turco's apparent suckiness that's costing the Stars, but the fact that the Avalanche are doing an amazing job at preventing scoring chances against Jose Theodore. The Avs must ph33r for their lives knowing that Theodore is not going to be able to stop anything hard, as they held the Stars to 3 shots in the first frame.
Second period...wow, now it's 4-3 Dallas.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - So far it's the goaltenders, who both suck large, rotten Easter eggs.
(Edit x 2: John-Michael Liles with the OT goal. Wow, Colorado has certainly shocked my socks.. ok so Joe Sakic with the deflection..)
NHL Playoffs: Doing the Splits!
This game must have been Gary Bettman's wet dream with 19 power plays and 38 PIMs in total (all minors). Every little tug was being called and there was absolutely no flow to the game. Credit both teams for playing their hearts out and making it an exciting game for one that was predominantly a special teams battle. If this was a regular season game, the passion would probably have been missing and most fans would have turned to American Idol or something.
How about Anaheim's unorthodox strategy? Take plenty of bad penalties and score lots of goals. Hey, it works...
Miikka Kiprusoff was unusually beatable and the Calgary defence made some glaring errors (shorthanded goals against are killah!), letting Anaheim take advantage of Calgary's mistakes and allowing them to a win a game where they were outplayed and outchanced.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Roman Hamrlik, who finished -4 and was a human pylon all game.
Ottawa/Tampa Bay -
Two games and two come-from-behind victories. What amazed me the most was the fact that Tampa Bay's suspect defence managed to hold a powerful Ottawa offence to 2(!) shots on goal in the 3rd period. That's an unacceptable number of chances for the Sens (who scored on one of them), but let's give credit where it's due.
Golbez's Goat of the Game - Daniel Alfredsson. I know you may not want to ruin your good *cough* looks, but it's OK to show up during the playoffs. 0 shots, 0 points, and 0 of much anything from Daniel.
Other random musings:
A reader from Buffalo sent in this picture from Game 1 of that series. It's quite fuzzy, but it probably represents how RJ Umberger saw the world after getting his world rocked.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Brian Campbell destroys RJ Umberger
Oh man, I could watch that over and over and over and over and over and over again ;)
Credit to Sabre Rattling for the original clip.
Round 1 Musings
WOOO!!! As I type this, RJ Umberger just got ROCKED by Brian Campbell... Brian Campbell!??!! Wow, talking about David beatin Goliath...oh man that was Scott Stevens meets Shane Willis ...and while I don't wish injury on any player, I'm shedding nary a tear for Judas Umberger.
Don't worry, you'll be seeing this hit on the highlights, YouTube, etc...
It's 2-2 in OT between the Flyers and Sabres and I'm amazed at how the Flyers have been able to control the tempo for a great portion of the game. The Sabres haven't been able to fully utilize their speed as the Flyers have effectively slowed the game down and thrown the puck into the corners, where they can win the battles. Of course, a 4-on-4 in OT could be poison for the Flyers unless it's Gagne/Forsberg.
TSN talking heads whining that it's not classy for the Sabres arena/videoboard to be showing the hit on the Jumbotron. It's the 'unwritten rule'?
Well, if it's not written, then it's not a frickin rule!! If you wanna fire up the crowd, why wouldn't you show the hit? It's their arena, so let them do whatever the hell they want with their Jumbotron, short of dropping it on Peter Forsberg.
Rangers/Devils - You might as well consider this series over if Jaromir Jagr is finished. While the Rangers are being silent about his 'upper body injury', the body language and sadness in Jagr's eyes pretty much says he's done like dinner. The Rangers are just too dependent on Jaromir Jagr to beat the Devils without him. While Nylander and Straka put up decent point totals, they were basically Jagr's caddy all season long.
(Damn, this Flyers/Sabres game is getting rough. This ought to be a great series. Oh, how much ice time has Donald Brashear had tonight? 45 seconds?)
In summary, the New NHL is just awesome, they set attendance records, and all is right in the world. It's too bad JD was too chicken to ask Gary about those successful Chicaco Blackhawks. Uh-huh
Hurricanes/Canadiens - I admit that I didn't watch too much of this game as I was focusing on the Sabres/Flyers, but from what I saw, the Hurricanes were pwned and didn't play with all that much urgency. While the Habs streaked into the playoffs (no, really, they took their clothes off), the Canes kinda waltzed and coasted on the great record they built up earlier in the season. What the hell happened to Doug Weight? Really, he looks like he aged 7 years after he was traded...
Dallas/Colorado - What a shocker! After Dallas built a 2-1 lead on 4 shots, it seemed like a rout in the making. Theodore looked his usual sucky self, and his team must have realized it. The Avs played their asses off for the rest of the night, limiting the Stars to 18 shots and scoring 5 goals on Turco.
Wojtek Wolski - This d00d is for real, in case you just realized.
After 6 points in 9 games for the Avs, Wolski was sent back to the OHL purely for contract reasons (10 games is the trigger for a contract expiring by one year) and then ripped up that league with 128 points in 56 games.
Poor Wolski has just been constantly disrepected his whole career. Plenty of pundits and scouts and armchair GMs have called him lazy, fat, and other unflattering things. He was left off of Canada's WJC roster because of his supposed weaknesses, and he slipped to the Avs at #21 overall in the 2004 draft, despite the fact that he was seen as an elite talent the whole year before the draft.
Wolski's got size, skills, smarts, and he's just damn productive. You can't argue with his production, and he just had himself a 3-point night in his first ever NHL playoff game. How many other rookies get plunked into the 2nd line center job straight out of juniors? He's no Sidney Crosby, but he's going to be a fine player.
Well, 1 OT is over and this game is not short on thrills. Although I picked the Flyers to win the series, I am cheering for the Sabres and now will light a candle in honour of Brian Campbell's monster hit, which may have just knocked Judas out for the playoffs.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Pre-Playoff Odds and Ends
Egy - Maggie the Monkey and a bunch of 'experts' who wish they were as good as her made their playoff predictions on TSN last night. (Linkage). Darren Pang picked the exact same winnahs as I did, while Maggie picked the Lightning to upset the Senators.
Still, I'd be wary of trusting Maggie this time around. IIRC, she used to stop the wheel herself on the team she wanted to pick. This time around, the wheel is like the one on The Price is Right, and it keeps spinning until it stops under its own power. Methinks the heads at TSN don't want Maggie to make them look bad, so they are screwing the process and denying us the true psychic abilities of Maggie.
Kettõ - Some good news for St. Louis Blues fans as the Blues won the NHL draft lottery and will pick 1st overall in Vancouver. Considering how the Penguins won the Crosby sweepstakes, it's only fitting that the Blues get a bit of luck as they try and rebuild from scratch.
The Top 14 picks:
1. St. Louis Blues
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Chicago Blackhawks
4. Washington Capitals
5. Boston Bruins
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
7. New York Islanders
8. Phoenix Coyotes
9. Minnesota Wild
10. Florida Panthers
11. Los Angeles Kings
12. Atlanta Thrashers
13. Toronto Maple Leafs
14. Vancouver Canucks
Három - More good news for the Blues as they exercised the option on Keith Tkachuk, who doesn't exercise all that much himself. Tkachunk will get $3.8mil next season, which is a relative bargain for the Blues. This makes it a lot easier to sign some other free agents (if they wish) and even trade the lunk.
Négy - Big Daddy Eric @ Off Wing Opinion is holding a contest for us bloggers to predict the eventual Stanley Cup winner.
It's time to consult my brain and make my pick.
"Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold for the next available representative"
Oh, for the love of Pavol!
I believe the winner will come out of the West, because we are the best. It's between Calgary, Detroit, and San Jose.
Calgary? Sucky offence
Detroit? Soft forwards and too many Swedes
San Jose? That's my choice. They'll beat the Ottawa Senators in the finals to bring the cup out to the West Coast for once.
Hat - Jeff, a reader and café manager from Vancouver, asks the following:
"Does Bertuzzi get an invite to the World Championships, and does he take
Bertuzzi does not get an invite to the World Championships if Jes Gõlbez runs the team, for obvious reasons. On the other hand, the officials running Team Canada aren't always the smoothest jars of peanut butter.
Still, I can't see Bertuzzi getting an invite after the awful season he's had and the crappiness he showed in Torino. The Canadians are often conscious of the 'team' concept, and a guy like Bertuzzi was Gretzky's pet pick more than anything.
"If he says no, does he ever get another invite from Gretzky?"
Plenty of players say NO to the WCs and get invited to future tournaments. If Bertuzzi somehow becomes the dominant player he once was, you can bet future Team Canada GMs would want to invite him. I don't think they'll even bother asking Bertuzzi, knowing what his answer would be and that Bertuzzi probably just wants a break from it all.
I believe that it's pretty much a guarantee that any player who was in Torinto will not go to Riga. Traveling quite far around the world twice in one year for an international tournament, especially the 'minor' WCs (in the eyes of most Canadians) is not something you'd expect the Canadian players to do. Even Captain Canada himself (Ryan Smyth) may decline the WCs once his Oilers are swept by the Red Wings.
I'd expect a very young team, full of players like Sidney Crosby who are enthusiastic about the process and the chance to play for Team Canada's senior team for the first or second time. Already, we have the following players confirmed:
Goaltenders Alex Auld of the Vancouver Canucks and Marc Denis of the Dinner Jackets.
Forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes of the Boston Bruins, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kyle Calder of the Chicago Blackhawks and Mike Comrie of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Also, defensemen Brad Stuart and Nick Schultz are expected to join the squad in the near future.
Hopefully Rick Nash will be able to join the club, but he might have to decline due to injury.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Predictions
Now, here's the look back and look forward.
DETROIT (1) vs. EDMONTON (8)
Sure, the Detroit Red Wings beat up on their own weak division (25-3-4), but they also beat up on everyone else (33-13-5) and left a path of destruction in their wake. As Ingmar notes, the Wings finished the season with a 17-1-3 run. They were hardly 'cruising' into the playoffs.
Talk about finding the Fountain of Youth. It appears the whole team found the damn thing as guys like Nick Lidstrom, Mathieu Schneider, Brendan Shanahan, and Chris Chelios all played like they de-aged 5 years. I haven't seen Shanahan skate as fast as he has been for many years. Even Steve Yzerman (34 points in 61 games) proved to be a pretty useful contributor despite his broken and decomposing body.
Goaltending? Why are mediots so afraid to give Manny Legace respect? Either it's "He's too fragile" or "He's too inexperienced". Legace gets a lot of crap that other goalies don't despite the fact that he's been a proven performer for quite some time.
37-8-3 with a 2.19GAA and 91.5SV% in 51 games. His stamina is a little questionable, but his ability is not. He should be rather fresh compared to other goalies so this is a non-issue. Legace is a hell of a lot better than Dwayne Roloson.
The Edmonton Oilers crawled into the playoffs despite some big off-season and mid-season acquisitions. Thanks to the 'New NHL', the Oilers finally loosened the purse strings and started acquiring big name talent rather than trading it away.
For all of those moves, the Oilers have a pretty decent looking team on paper, but they haven't played up to their potential. Michael Peca, Dwayne Roloson, Radek Dvorak, Dick Tarnstrom, and even Sergei Samsonov, seem capable of so much more. If the Oilers are ever able to get the maximum contributions from their players like the Wings have been getting, Edmonton could be a very dangerous team.
That said, Cinderella Teams almost always depend on great goaltending with a hint of great coaching. The Oilers do not have great goaltending, and don't appear to be a well-coached squad. I know the Detroit Red Wings have been pwned by weaker teams in the playoffs before, but it's not going to happen this time.
Prediction: Detroit in 4.
(Side Rant: I used to hop aboard the underdog Oilers bandwagon years ago when they were playing the evil Dallas Stars. I was younger and foolish and prone to believing the 'Small Market' whining from up North. Well, the recent childish gloating from Oilers fans and the constant whining over the years has turned me off of their cause.
Look, your club only made the playoffs because they happened to suck less than the Canucks. You've had 5 Stanley Cups in the last 25 years, so you have absolutely nothing to cry about.)
DALLAS (2) vs. COLORADO (7)
The Dallas Stars surprised a lot of people as Mike Modano proved his 2003/04 season was a miserable aberration, Sergei Zubov provided a Norris-worthy performance, and the Stars returned to the tight-checking form that brought them success in the early 00s. It helped that they absolutely rocked in shootouts, an advantage they no longer have as they face the Colorado Crapalanche.
The most impressive feature of the Dallas Stars is their depth and skill at forward, which includes FIVE forwards who broke the 50-point plateau and THREE who broke the 30-goal barrier in addition to Bill Guerin (who somehow struggled with only 40 points), and great compliment players like Stuuuuuuuuuu Barnes, Niko Kapanen, and Antti Miettinen.
The defence is also pretty good, with the aforementioned Zubov, the late-blooming Philippe Boucher, the steady Jon Klemm, and newer acquisitions like Janne Niinimaa and Willie Mitchell. Add in a dash of Stephane Robidas, and the Stars have a bit of everything on the back end.
Their downfall will be the goaltending duo of Marty Turco and Johan Hedberg. Turco was one of the poorer regular starters in the NHL with a paltry 89.8SV% in 68 games. Hedberg had the same SV% as Turco, and is shakier than the San Andreas Fault on an October Sunday. It shouldn't hurt them so much in this series, but it will prevent them from winning the cup.
Here's a question...
Goalie A: 34GP 14-11-6 2.86GAA 90.0SV%
Goalie B: 43GP 18-17-0 3.41GAA 88.2SV%
Who do you start in goal?
Well, if you have a functioning brain, you go with Goaltender A, Peter Budaj.
If you are the Colorado Avalanche, you go with Goalie B, Jose Theodore, who has been awful in his stint with the Avalanche after some serious sucktitude in Montreal.
Colorado has a pretty decent team and pretty good offence, but their defence leaves a bit to be desired (Brett Clark and Patrice Breezebois? HA HA!) and their goaltending is going to let them down.
Prediction: Dallas in 5.
CALGARY (3) vs. ANAHEIM (6)
I picked Calgary to finish higher during the regular season, but their inability to score a lot of goals held them back. Otherwise, the Flames are built Ford-tough for the playoffs with the best goalie in the NHL, Miikka Kiprusoff, an exceptional defence corps, which includes super rookie Dion Phaneuf, and plenty of experience and grit up front.
The only thing hurting the Flames is that Jerome Iginla can't do too much without a good playmaking center, and the lack of a bonafide offensive threat on the other forward lines. The Flames have some pretty decent contributors (Amonte, Langkow, Huselius, Reinprecht), but none of them match the quality of most other playoff-bound clubs. Expect a lot of low-scoring affairs when this club is playing.
Anaheim somehow went on a late-season surge after purging Keith Carney and some salary from the roster as Brian Burke made some "What the hell is he thinking, exactly?" moves. Well, the moves turned out to work just fine, and his off-season moves worked out exceptionally.
Teemu Selanne, who looked absolutely finished after his stint in Colorado, returned to fine form to lead the offence with 40 goals and 90 points! Watching Teemu this season, he was incredibly hard to knock off of the puck and he seemed to regain a bit of lost speed. While he is no longer the speedster he once was, his lower body strength and smarts have more than made up for that.
Scott Niedermayer joined up with his fat brother, Rob, and gave the Ducks a Norris-worthy performance with 63 points and exceptional defence. The goaltending tandem of JS Giguere (Who did not suffer under the new padding rules) and Ilya Bryzgalov put up a 91.0SV% and can match up well with Kiprusoff.
Let's also give credit to Andy McDonald, who broke out with 85 points and was probably the most surprising scoring sensation this season. Looking back at his past history, and the playing time he had before, there was absolute nothing to suggest that he'd achieve such a high level of success.
One of the Ducks' strengths is also going to be one of their biggest weaknesses: Youth.
The Ducks have a fine batch of young rookies such as Ryan Getzlaf, Francois Beauchemin, Corey Perry, Jonathan Hedstrom and skilled sophomores such as Chris Kunitz and Joffrey Lupul. The problem? Rookies and young players tend to underperform in the playoffs while the experienced players tend to do much better. The inexperience of the Ducks forwards and the Flames quality of depth will tilt the series in the favour of the Flamers.
Prediction: Flames in 6.
NASHVILLE (4) vs. SAN JOSE (5)
This is the 'trendy' series in the West, being that it's very trendy to pick the surging San Jose Sharks and trendy to disregard the Nashville Predators because Tomas Vokoun is out for the rest of the season.
I'll pick San Jose, but not with the same mentality as the mainstream mediots and fangirls.
The Nashville Predators made great strides as a club this season, but I look at their roster and just can't get past how small their team is. Steve Sullivan, Marek Zidlicky, Greg Johnson, Paul Kariya, Mike Sillinger, Kimmo Timonen, Martin Erat, and Dan Hamhuis are all pretty small for their positions. Given the tight checking of the playoff hockey, I'd say the Preds are at a real disadvantage.
As for their defence? Brendan Witt is a bad penalty waiting to happen, and their goaltenders often have to bail them out, since the Preds aren't all that great at clearing out the 'Red Zone'. Still, watch out for rookie Shea Weber, a mean and nasty guy with great size and great ability. He's Dion Phaneuf without the hype and goal scoring.
Poor Chris Mason isn't getting a whole lot of respect, and that's too bad because he really seems to be a good goaltender in his own right.
With Vokoun out of the lineup, Mason went on a mini tear in the last 5 games of the season (5-0, 1.38GAA, and 94.9SV%) and finished overall with a 2.54GAA (lower than Vokoun) and a 91.3SV%. Mason has the pedigree to be a successful goaltender and he's likely to surprise a few folks.
San Jose? They have some issues of their own in goal.
Vesa Toskala basically took the #1 job away and finished with a rather bland 90.1 SV%. Evgeni Nabokov's 88.5SV% is just dreadful, as he has fought with injuries and his own mental demons. It doesn't appear to me that the Sharks have any huge advantage in goal unless Mason gets injured and the Preds have to go with Pekka Rinne or Brian Finley. That would suck.
Otherwise, the Sharks have the dynamic must-see duo of Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton complimented by a speedy and gritty group of forwards such as Patrick Marleau, Nils Ekman, and Milan Michalek. I expect the Preds will have too much trouble against the likes of Kyle McLaren and Scott Hannan to win this series.
Prediction: Sharks in 6.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Sean Avery: Muzzled Again
From the Toronto Star:
Sean Avery's career at Rogers Sportsnet is over before it started.
The sports channel announced yesterday that it was trashing plans to add the truculent NHL forward to its hockey playoff studio show.
"After serious concerns were expressed directly and indirectly to Sportsnet senior management, it was decided that in the best interests of the network and Mr. Avery that he not participate on air," Sportsnet spokesperson Dave Rashford said.
However, sources say Sportsnet made the U-turn after the NHL expressed its disapproval with the choice.
John Shannon, the NHL's senior vice-president of broadcasting, confirmed last night that he had spoken with Sportsnet officials Doug Beeforth and Rick Briggs-Jude about Avery, but that the decision was the network's.
"We talked about what we thought was going to make good television," Shannon said. "In my opinion, their panel was better without Sean Avery."
As Nelson Muntz would say, "HA HA!"
NHL Playoffs: Assessing the Eastern Conference
While Eric at OffWing opines that the 'New NHL' should lead to a more wide-open playoffs, I don't have the same confidence. Some of the late-season games I've watched on TV have had a lax level of officiating, and I fear that the crackdown is no longer. Teams like the Sabres could have their speedy advantage eliminated if we're back to the 'old' style of calling nothing other than a slash that severs an artery.
On the other hand, it would be easy for Count Gary Bettman to 'reset' the officiating and ensure his striped men begin the playoffs with a tough level of enforcement. We shall see...
Here's a look back and look forward at the Eastern Conference matchups in Round One.
Ottawa (1) vs. Tampa Bay (8)
This ought to be a great series as we have two very offensively-talented teams matching firepower and having the former Cup winners take on a team that is a favourite to become the new champions.
Ottawa: The Senators pretty much rolled over the East thanks to their incredibly talented offence headed by their superstars Dany Heatley (Who blossomed after leaving behind his demons in Atlanta), Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. They suffered some injuries (notably Martin Havlat), but really didn't have a lot of trouble in their quest to take the #1 seed. The awesome play of rookie Andrej Meszaros, who I saw a lot of first-hand here in Vancouver when he was with the Giants, was a bit of an unexpected pleasure.
One aspect of their team that gets overlooked is the play of the supporting cast. Chris Neil, Chris Phillips (6 shorthanded points), Antoine Vermette (7 shorthanded points) Peter Schaefer (50 points), Patrick Eaves (20 goals), and Chris Kelly (6 shorthanded points) all contributed in a big way to the cause. The Sens are not just a one-line team.
Tampa Bay: Their fall into 8th place isn't entirely surprising to me. Their defence corps were always very shaky, and now Darryl Sydor is a year older and Jassen Cullimore wasn't there any more. The downgrade from Nik Khabibulin to Grahame/Burke in net was noticable, and their style of play was no longer quite an advantage as other teams starting playing the same style and adapted to the 'New NHL'. Another factor was the loss of Dave Andreychuk, who had been an effective defensive forward prior to this season. The lack of defensive acumen in the forward corps (Tim Taylor is also not as effective as he once was) didn't help the shaky defence and goaltending and the Bolts just had problems keeping the puck out of the net.
Speaking of goaltending, the Senators will have to rely on the inexperienced and volatile Ray Emery in goal for this series and Humpty Hasek is still out with a sore/pulled/whatever groin. While Grahame/Burke aren't any great shakes, they can be counted on to be cool and collected when the puck drops.
I expect a lot of goal scoring, but the Senators just have too much depth and the Bolts won't be able to stop the Senators attack.
Prediction: Ottawa in 5.
Carolina (2) vs. Montreal (7)
Carolina was a pleasant and unexpected surprising to finish #2 in the East after Eric Staal busted out in the biggest way with 100 points this season! Rod Brind'Amour found the fountain of youth and ended up playing more minutes than any other forward this season, as well as finishing with 70 points and likely a Selke Trophy. Carolina's free agent signings like Ray Whitney and Cory Stillman worked out perfectly, and new goaltender Martin Gerber solved a major goaltending question. With a good coach (Laviolette), the ability to throw out three good forward lines, and the stability that Gerber provides, the Canes are a legit threat. Of course, this is partially counting on Mark Recchi and Doug Weight rediscovering the offensive production they lost when they arrived in Raleigh.
Montreal somehow convinced the Avalanche to take an expensive Jose Theodore off of their hands and give them back a cheaper, better performing, goaltending in return (David Aebischer). This allowed Christobal Huet to take the reigns, and he helped carried the Habs into the playoffs and into the 7th slot where many expected they'd probably settle. If you look at the season as a whole, most players, with the exception of Richard Zednik (what the hell happened?) finished with seasons that were pretty much expected of them.
The Canes don't have a great defence corps, so Montreal matches up evenly in that regard. The Canes also have a very young Cam Ward as a backup, and his stats were/are atrocious. The Habs have Aebischer backing up Huet, so that's a clear advantage to them.
Where the series will be tilted with be the forwards and the offence. Montreal struggled to score goals most of the season, and finished with only 1 30-goal scorer (Michael Ryder). Saku Koivu has turned into more of a perimeter player than ever before and Mike Ribeiro is also quite soft. The Hurricanes can play better 'playoff-style' hockey than the Habs, in my opinion, so I see...
Prediction: Carolina in 6.
New Jersey (3) vs. New York Rangers (6)
(Edit: OK, so that's what happens when you write a preview over two days. The Devils did indeed win their division, so they are now technically the favourites.)
The 'Subway' series pits the surprising 'New' New York Rangers against the always dangerous and surging New Jersey Devils. This is a series where I'd hope both teams would beat each other into a bloody pulp so that the winner would be swept in Round Two. I won't be following this series with a whole lot of interest...*ahem*
The New York Ranger$ shed off Mark Messier and the mentality that high-priced superstars would lead them back to the playoffs. I, like many other pundits, felt that the Rangers were in for another long season and would finish somewhere in the sewer.
Thanks mostly to the resurgant Jaromir Jagr and the fine play of rookie netminder Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers defied the odds and almost won their division. Make no mistake about it, those 2 players are the prime reason why the Rangers were so good. Without their super play, the Rangers would have finished a lot lower in the standings. Jagr made his linemates (Straka and Nylander mostly) a lot better than they really are and Lundqvist saved their asses on many occassions. The Rangers defence is really quite weak. Tom Poti, Marek Malik (who is pretty solid), Darius Kasparaitis, Fedor Tyutin, Sandis Ozolinsh, Jason Strudwick, and Michal "How the hell did he finish with +35" Rozsival is nobodys idea of a dream defence. Of all the teams in the playoffs, the Rangers and the Lightning have the two worst defence corps.
For that reason, I'm picking the New Jersey Devils to defeat the Rangers in this series.
The Devils are no longer your mother's Stanley Cup winning franchise, but they are red hot at the moment (unlike the Rangers), have a much better coach, and have the much better style suited to the playoffs. While the Rangers are heavily reliant on the Power Play, the Devils play a much more balanced style, plus have guys like John Madden who can shadow Jagr. Ever since Patrik Elias returned from Hep-A, this team has meant business and has been in playoff form for the past two months.
Prediction: New Jersey in 7.
Buffalo (4) vs. Philadelphia (5)
Buffalo was the epitome of the 'New NHL': A small team using their skill and speed to draw penalties and score goals on the Power Play. Maxim Afinogenov FINALLY busted out with a 73-point campaign, Daniel Briere continued his fine work, and Ales Kotalik and Tim Connolly finally showed turned promise into production.
After about 15 years, Ryan Miller was finally given the reigns and the #1 job and performed very well, finishing with a 91.4SV%. Martin Biron, now the backup, finished with a 90.5SV% and Buffalo has a great 1-2 punch in goal versus the crap that the Flyers have.
The Flyers? They suffered through a very turbulant campaign which saw them fight off major injury after major injury. Peter Forsberg (big surprise), Pitkanen, Kapanen, Handzus, Primeau, Johnsson, Desjardins, and Gagne all missed time with various bumps, bruises, and breaks.
Thanks to the non-Canucks like ability to draft and develop well, the Flyers managed to remain competitive due to the fine play of rookies and call-ups such as Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Fredrick Meyer IV, and RJ "Judas" Umberger.
The case against the Flyers? They are still very much an injured team (Handzus has one shoulder so badly damaged that he can't practice), their defence is incredibly slow, and the goaltenders suck. Buffalo could easily take advantage of the plodding ogres like Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje and then build a 4-0 lead on the Power Play.
Robert Esche (89.7% SV%) and Antero Niiiiittyyymaaaki (89.5SV%) form one of the worst netminding duos of any playoff-bound team. The Flyers have about as much confidence in their goaltending as Tom Benjamin does in Gary Bettman's ability to run the NHL.
Still, only a fool would ever bet against Peter Forsberg. Never, ever, bet against the greatest force of evil in the universe.
Prediction: Flyers in 6.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Detroit Red Wings, part of a well-balanced diet.
Stat -- Player -- Total
Points -- P. Datsyuk -- 87
Goals -- B. Shanahan -- 40
Assists-- N. Lidstrom -- 64
PIM -- C. Chelios -- 106
+/- -- M. Schneider -- 34
PPG -- H. Zetterberg -- 17
SHG -- J. Franzen -- 2
SHA -- D. Cleary -- 2
Each stat has a different leader on the team. That's just scary good...
Sidney Crosby is one special kid!
In case you missed it, gave up on NHL hockey, or live in Whitney Houston’s Crack Den, Sidney Crosby became the youngest player ever to score 100 points in a season with his 3-assist effort against the New York Islanders last night besting the mark set by Dale Hawerchuk. Unlike Hawerchuk, Crosby plays in an era where a 5-4 game isn’t considered a low-scoring affair, making Crosby’s achievement all the more impressive.
You may be tired of the Sidney Crosby hype, one you may be of those Anti-Crosby playa haters, or just numb to just how special this feat really is. Well, give yourself a smack, foo’, and bow down and frickin’ worship!
Most 18-year old players never even make the NHL, much less come in and instantly establish themselves as one of the very best players in the game. They are too busy learning how to shave and drive and staving off the advances of 14-year old puck bunnies.
Just compare Crosby to his other peers who played in the NHL at 18.
Jaromir Jagr - 80GP 27-30-57
Ilya Kovalchuk - 65GP 29-22-51
Rick Nash - 74GP 17-22-39
Patrice Bergeron - 71GP 16-23-39
Marian Gaborik - 71GP 18-18-36
Nik Zherdev - 57GP 13-21-34
Eric Staal - 81GP 11-20-31
Vincent Lecavalier - 82GP 13-15-28
Justin Williams - 63GP 12-13-25
Joe Thornton - 55GP 3-4-7 (!!)
Gilbert Brule - 7GP 2-2-4
Oh, and how many NHL points did Alexander Ovechkin score as an 18-year old? That’s right, HE DIDN’T GET ANY!
As you can see, many of the other 18-year olds were happy getting their proverbial skates wet and trying to fit in as regular contributors. Crosby? He’s a dominant offensive player and hasn’t had any trouble adapting, apart from some on-ice hissy fits.
If Crosby can score 100 points at this young of an age, imagine the carnage and devastation that King Crosby will leave in his wake when he’s in his prime at 25?
As for the overall Calder race, my top 6 pretty much mirrors that of most sane mortals:
1. Alexander Ovechkin
2. Sidney Crosby
3. Henrik Lundqvist
4. Dion Phaneuf
5. Andrej Meszaros
6. Brad Boyes
That’s a pretty impressive All-Rookie starting lineup that you could build a good team around. There is no doubt, in my mind, that Ovechkin takes the Calder in a cakewalk. He’s put up more points and goals than Crosby, done so with a weaker supporting cast (not that Crosby has had a great cast for the last 40 games), and done so with a lot more flash and dash. As much of a Crosby fanboy as I might be, I know Sidney just doesn’t deserve the Calder as much as Alex does.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Vezina Trophy: Kiprusoff vs. Lundqvist
GMs tend to look at the ‘big’ stats like WINS and SHUTOUTS and GAA and don’t evaluate the goaltenders very well given the team and situation they play in.
Looking at the Vezina Trophy race, it’s pretty much acknowledged that it’s a two-horse race between Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames. Tomas Vokoun is the dark-horse whose chances are likely shot thanks to his season-ending injury and the fact he gets far less press than the other two.
Looking at the top SV%s in the league, we can narrow down the field drastically.
Christobal Huet has been sensation as he helped carry the Habs into the playoffs and Dominik Hasek was almost unbeatable before Humpty Dumpty fell off of the wall and all of the Ottawa surgeons tried to put him back together again.
While Huet, Hasek, and even Tim Thomas have had sensational campaigns, they have really only had great half-seasons. Hasek was a Vezina candidate after the first half and Thomas and Huet have played most of their games in the 2nd half of the season. They lower games played totals will work against them and they haven’t been nearly as valuable as a goaltender who has played as a #1 for a full season. Therefore, you can write them off easily as Vezina winners.
This leaves us with the three musketeers mentioned before and Manny Fernandez.
Fernandez has a great SV%, and has broken the 30 win barrier, but it’s hard to be a Vezina winner on a non-playoff team unless you are Dominik Hasek prime-time edition. You can also see how many fewer shots Fernandez has faced than a guy like Vokoun. The Minnesota Mild play such a choking trap-system that Fernandez is obviously partially a product of the protection he gets. Look at how exposed Dwayne Roloson was when he was traded to Edmonton. Given these factors, you can eliminate Fernandez from serious contention.
Out of the three goalies left, you can see Kiprusoff leads them all in the major categories except for SV%, and that margin is so slim that it makes no difference. Many wondered if Miikka was for real as his last campaign was essentially a half-season and he had a horrible start. Well, he’s played in almost every game for the Calgary Flames, and carried a very low scoring team into the playoffs. GM’s will definitely look at the eye-popping 10 shutouts in their voting and given the fact that Kiprusoff has the ‘black ink’ (for leading in individual categories), I would wager money that the GM’s will vote for him as the Vezina winner.
As for my choice, you could make a good case for all 3 goaltenders. Tomas Vokoun has put up very good numbers and faces more shots per minute than the other two finalists.
Lundqvist? He’s been a huge reason for the New York Rangers turnaround and he’s put up his fine numbers in a higher-scoring Eastern Conference environment (something the GM’s will never recognize but we will). He also played behind a far weaker defense corps than Kiprusoff and the Flames. Looking at the shots-per-minute, and what we know about the rosters, it’s obvious that Kiprusoff is far more protected than the other two finalists.
Still, my vote will go to Miikka by a slight margin, with Tomas Vokoun in 3rd by a slight margin. It's really quite a tight race and all three goaltenders should be commended for having great seasons.
Even with the protection he gets, Kiprusoff managed to play almost every minute of every game for the Flames and carry a low-scoring team into the playoffs. There is huge value in having a great goalie be able to play huge minutes and not show any fatigue or dip in ability. The more Kiprusoff can play at a high level, the less the Flames have to rely on an inferior backup like Brian Boucher or Philippe Sauve, who would cost the Flames in goal. Lundqvist was very good, but he couldn’t log the minutes Kipper could and the Rangers had to play Kevin "I wuz robbed!" Weekes a lot more than they should.
Oh, and because Lundqvist is Swedish. Heh heh heh heh.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Picture of the Day: Off with the King's Head!
Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris, left, cross-checks Los Angeles Kings right winger Mark Parrish in front of the Coyotes' net during the third period of hockey action Thursday, April 13, 2006, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 3-0.
The NHL, in typical fashion, did not suspend Morris for decapitation. Hpmh!
Friday, April 14, 2006
It's all over...
With another loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks are officially out of the playoff race.
Full credit to the Sharks for the win, but it was obvious to me that the Canucks didn't seem like a very desperate team.
The Sharks? This was their 4th game in 5 nights, yet they outworked the Canucks and played like it was THEY who had their playoff hopes on the line.
As for those lovely acquisitions from the Trade Deadline, they sure turned into pumpkins as soon as they crossed the border.
Eric Weinrich: 15 0-0-0 -12
Keith Carney: 17 0-2-2 -5
Sean Brown: 12 0-0-0 -3
Mike Noronen: 3GP 0-1-1 3.95GAA 89.4 SV%
As for Steve McCarthy, he suddenly finds a coach that doesn't lack total confidence in him, and now he has 5 goals and 3 assists in 13 games with the Thrashers. Jiri Slegr had a much similar boost once he left Vancouver and found a coach who wasn't a total ass.
On the bright side, it should be somewhat easier to get Canucks tickets next year.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Caption This: MacTavish and Torres
This picture is hilarious. Any caption ideas?
MVP: Joe Thornton vs. Jaromir Jagr
Why do defensemen and goaltenders get their own awards, but forwards don't? While it's forwards that most often win the HART, it's not exclusive to them.
So, when I do my HART voting, I am heavily biased against defensemen and forwards. Unless it's Dominik Hasek pwning the league in his prime, the Gs and Ds can stay the hell out! It's time for the MVF (Most Valuable Forward) award.
Oh, you can also throw out the 'Outstanding vs. Valuable' crap. To reuse my old analogy...
You have two boxes of stones. In one box, you have one 3-carat diamond and a bunch of 1-carat diamonds. In the other box, you have one 2-carat diamond and a bunch of stone pebbles.
While the 2-carat diamond may be a hell of a lot more valuable than the pebbles, the fact is the 3-carat diamond will be more valuable than EVERY OTHER stone no matter how you mix up the boxes of stones. Therefore, I don't buy the garbage argument that Ovechkin should win the MVP because he plays with a bunch of crappy players while Jagr and Thornton have actual NHL caliber teammates.
Now, It's no secret that the MVP race has come down to two men: Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr. Alexander Ovechkin, Daniel Alfredsson, and perhaps Teemu Selanne will grab a few votes, but it's a two-horse race for all intents and purposes.
The RAW numbers
Jagr: 79 53-68-121 +35
Thornton: 78 28-91-119 +28
James Mirtle makes the case for Joe Thornton:, and makes some legit points.
The craziest part of Thornton's escapades, of course, has been the Sharks' record since trading for the big guy from St. Thomas.Impressive, most impressive, but I'm throwing that number right out the window. Why?
Do you remember how awful the Rangers were last season? When is the last time they made the playoffs? Jagr has been the biggest reason for their turnaround. On the flip side, the Sharks were a very good team last season and were simply playing beneath their capabilities before Joe got there (plus the injuries to their goalies). It's not as if San Jose was a crappy team that suddenly turned uber-good just because of Joe Thornton. If you are going to give credit to Joe Thornton for the Sharks turnaround, it's nullified by the similar impact Jagr has had to the Rangers.
And the thing is, unlike Jagr, Thornton is an excellent defensive player, a physical force and great on faceoffs (51.5%). He plays the second-most time shorthanded among San Jose forwards (2:03), behind only Alyn McCauley, and wouldn't be out of place among this year's nominees for the Selke. (New York Rangers coach Tom Renny(sic), on the other hand, wouldn't be caught dead with Jagr on the penalty kill.)Ok, I'll give Thornton the defensive edge. Nobody has confused Jagr with Jere Lehtinen, even if they are both extremely f'ugly.
Still, who in the hell has ever considered Thornton an 'excellent' defensive player? Certainly not anyone I've ever talked to. Above average? Perhaps. He does play quite a bit of PK with the Sharks. I wouldn't go and give him the Selke, but it's Joe's advantage over Jagr.
Ingmar Bergman makes a good post about the fact that it is easier to score in the Eastern Conference compared to the Western Conference. The difference isn't vast, but someone with more time could probably calculate a more adjusted total...
Now, the reason why I pick Jagr over Thornton can be summed up like this:
53 versus 28
That's right, yokels, Jagr has almost twice as many goals as Joe Thornton does.
Quick Question: What's the hardest thing to do in hockey, apart from resisting the urge to tear Sean Avery's head from his body?
Answer: SCORE GOALS!!!
Preventing offence is a hellofalot more easier than creating offence. Scoring goals is the hardest part of the game, and the ultimate goal of the game. You can win a 0-0 game...and even shootout wins mean 'scoring' a goal.
Goals and assists should not carry equal weight, and the difference between Thornton's goal total and Jagr's goal total is too vast to ignore. If a goal is 1.33 times more valuable than an assist, then Jagr would have 138 adjusted points compared to Thornton's 128.
That said, if Thornton does win the MVP, it won't be any injustice to the award. You could basically flip a coin with these two, but the bitter Canucks fan in me is still pissed b/c Thornton just pwned the Canucks last night.
Please let the door hit your ass on the way out!
Sean Avery's brief and volatile career with the Kings came to an end after an argument with assistant coach Mark Hardy during practice Wednesday, a source with the team said.You know, Sean Avery can actually be a decent player when he wants to be. He's got 39 points in 75 games this year and can be an effective 'shift disturber'.
Avery met with General Manager Dave Taylor and interim Coach John Torchetti after practice and then did not travel with the team to Phoenix, where the Kings play the Coyotes tonight.
A spokesman for the Kings said that while Avery was not suspended, he will not play in the final three games of the regular season or the Stanley Cup playoffs, should the team manage to qualify.
"We're moving on without him," the spokesman said. "We have informed Sean of this."
Avery will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, but the Kings are not expected to retain him.
The incident occurred while the Kings went through a workout before flying to Phoenix. Avery was asked by Hardy to do a drill, refused and was told to leave the ice. The two exchanged words, but it did not become physical.
On the other hand, few players take more stupid penalties than Avery, and we can't forget the fact that he's an "Annoying Asshat" (as the Acid Queen would say).
He may be a UFA, but how could the GM of any team actually want Avery on their team? I'm pretty sure Pavol Demitra and the others will be happy to be rid of him. If Avery's not doing dumb things, he's saying dumb things and just be a general annoyance. From what I saw at the Kings/Canucks game, Avery was always standing on one end of the bench, yapping away nonstop to nobody in general. The rest of his team was sitting down and away from Avery.
It was like standing at the bus stop, and trying to ignore the crazy/talkative guy that is making everyone else feel uncomfortable. I'm hoping Avery has to beg an NHL team for a job.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
On a Wing and a Prayer
Thank you so very much for beating the Edmonton Oilers cleanly in a 2-0 victory and keeping Vancouver's miniscule playoff hopes alive. Since the Vancouver Canucks can't seem to win any of their own games, we have to rely on others to do the hard work for them.
Your city is still a rotting cesspool of death, disease, and depravity, but we appreciate your efforts nonetheless. (Maybe Joe Louis has great feng shui, eh?)
PS: If you don't like Jiri Hudler and don't want to give him ice time, send him over here when he can be loved and appreciated.
Searching for Answers in Lotusland
I THINK ONE REASON the Canucks haven’t done well at GM Place is bad feng shui. Since the Georgia Street viaduct splits around the stadium, encircling it with traffic streams going in opposite directions, energy will be drained out of the building and whichever team plays there the most.Yep, and there people who pay $200 an hour for this kind of crap.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Golf Canucks, Golf!
Before the season began, it was impossible to imagine a scenario where the Canucks would MISS the playoffs. Sure, the Canucks had a hole in net, but they had a very good Top 4 defence grouping (Salo, Jovo, Ohlund, Allen) and 3 strong forward lines. Cloutier was a question mark, but he was always 'good enough' for the Canucks in the regular season.
*sigh*. The Canucks didn't go down without a fight last night. They outshot the Ducks 41-18, but Auld laid an egg and JS Giguere decided to show off the form that carried the Ducks to the finals a few years back. If the Canucks had shown this much effort in the previous 20 games, they probably wouldn't be in the mess they are now. Too little, too late.
Now, the dream is over.... sure, the Canucks could 'run the table' and have the Oilers lose every game. I could also win the Super 7 Jackpot and be elected to the Canadian Parliament. It's just not gonna happen.
In all of my hockey watching years, I've always had a rooting interest in the playoffs. The St. Louis Blues were always there, every year, in the playoffs so that I could cheer for them when the Canucks weren't there (before the Blues would, inevitably, lose to the Red Wings). This will be the first season where I have exactly 0 teams to cheer for. Even Pavol's LA Kings won't be there? What the hell am I supposed to do? Pretend I care about Calgary and Ottawa? Cheer against the Red Wings? Hell, I always do that and it's just not that thrilling.
The only action the Canucks will be seeing in a few weeks is at the golf course...
This should be a very interesting off-season in Vancouver. Dave Nonis' 'status quo' management did not work out and his trade deadline deals flopped (though they seemed OK at the time and I won't chop him up for them). Expect to see a real earthquake in Vancouver as the roster goes through a drastic makeover.
Todd Bertuzzi? He's as good as gone. If he's somehow on the Canucks roster come November, I'll lick the 'pie filling' off of Alexander Ovechkin's face.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Ovechkin Likes Pie
Like any rookie, Ovechkin was the unsuspecting victim (aren't they always?) of the "pie-face". No, it wasn't Sidney Crosby viciously attacking him, although that would be been hilarious.
You can watch the incident right here.
AHHHHH!!! IT'S A GHOST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Looking at the stats, here are some thoughts that came into my foggy head (...need...coffee...)
Nicklas Lidstrom - The only defenseman in the top 30 in scoring (76GP 14-61-75)PTS, you know Lidstrom has the Norris Trophy in the proverbial bag.
I know we shouldn't be amazed that Lidstrom is so good, but I am quite surprised at just how productive he is. Before the lockout, he had a 38-point season and seemed on the road to an offensive decline. He turns 36 in 2 weeks, so it wasn't too surprising.
Thanks to the "Power Play Effect", Lidstrom has seen his PP production increase from 21 to 49 points this season. One thing I also notice is that Lidstrom is shooting the puck a lot. He's second only to Rob Blake with 229 SOG, and his shot total is 30-50 more than he was getting the past two seasons. Lidstrom was usually in the 200+ shot range, so a bit part of his returning offensive numbers is thanks to the old adage "Shoot the damn puck!"
Sergei Zubov - Another blast from the past has returned to glory. Lidstrom gets a lot of attention, but Zubov has been a huge part of the resurgent Stars club and, as he always has, gets very little notice.
Zubov is second in defensemen scoring with 13-55-68 in 74 games with a +20. He only had 38 PPP compared to Nicklas Lidstrom's 49, so much of the difference is thanks to Detroit's potent PP attack. Zubov also shoots the puck a lot less with just 133 SOG, the lowest total among the Top 10 d-men scorers.
Lubomir Visnovsky - The diminutive Slovak has had his breakout season with 67 points in 77 games. Always dangerous on the Power Play, Visnovsky had never really busted through with big totals like he did in his Slovak Extraliga days. His previous high for points was 39, which he achieved in his rookie season.
He won't really factor into the Norris voting, however, since it's obvious that he's not quite an elite defensemen. Visnovsky doesn't have quite the defensive responsibilities that the other big boys do, and he plays about 2-5 minutes less per game than the big boys. Sorry, Lubo, but it ain't happening.
Scott Niedermayer - My 3rd place vote for the Norris goes to Scotty, who has been a HUGE factor (besides Selanne) in the surprisingly good play for the Not-Mighty-Any-Longer Ducks. 77GP 12-48-60 +12. He's playing as well, if not better, than he was when he was with the Devils, but he's been surpassed for Norris voting IMO.
Bryan McCabe - He was pacing the defensemen earlier in the season with his incredible slapshot to the tune of 68GP 19-45-64, but that -3 is a telling tale. His defence sucks, and he puts himself out of position quite often looking for the BIG hit and takes a lot of dumb penalties. He missed some games and that will cost him some of the votes he likely would have received. I'm just glad he won't really have a great chance to be an undeserved Norris winner.
Sergei Gonchar - Hailed as one of the biggest busts early in the season, "Gonch-Pole" has actually had a very productive second half for a team few pay attention to (other than Sid the Kid). It was hard to fathom how Gonchar, in the era of the "New NHL" with lots of Power Play time could be so unproductive.
October-December: 34GP 5-13-18 -13 13PPP
January-onwards: 38GP 5-26-31 -1 22PPP
Gonchar credits the coaching change for him finding his game again. I wonder if that nasty (yet clean) hit by Ovechkin in the Russian Superleague last year has left some long-lasting cloudiness and that affected Gonchar's start. Is he a big bust? No. Is he overpaid? Yes. We'll leave it at that.
Dion Phaneuf - Damn, this kid is good. He hits hard, he plays wicked defence (Although he still makes a few rookie mistakes here and there), and he can score!! I expected the hitting to come though, but offence usually takes time (just ask Chris Pronger). Dion's got no probs putting up numbers as he leads the Flames dmen (yes, even over Roman Hamrlik), with 19 goals and 28 assists in 78 games. The amazing stat? 16 of his 19 goals are on the PP, and he leads all NHL defenseman in PP goals.
It's not often than a defenseman gets into position to score a shorthanded goal. I count 37 shorthanded goals scored by Dmen all season. It certainly takes some measure of luck and opportunity for a defenseman to score 2 of them in a season. Three defenseman have 2 shorthanded goals, and they probably surprise you: Adam Foote, Karlis Skrastins, and Keith Ballard(!). Their goal totals all season are 6, 3, and 7, so they aren't normally filling the opposing net a whole bunch.
Chris Phillips leads all defensemen in shorthanded scoring with 6 assists. For a guy with only 19 points, that's a large % of offence to come while shorthanded.
Bryan McCabe and Dion Phaneuf lead with 6 GWG apiece, but it's Mathieu Schneider (another blast from the past) who leads with 21 goals. Unless Phaneuf or McCabe can pot another goal, Mathieu will be the only dman to finish with 20 or more goals.
From a cursory and shallow look, it would appear that a lot of the offensive explosion we’ve seen from defensemen has been attributable mainly to assist totals. Even during the lean years, Gonchar and MacInnis could provide 20 goal seasons, but we just weren't seeing to many high assist totals. You can thank the Power Play Effect for that.
...and...I find this image quite amusing...
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Yeah, it's all Hayward's fault... (rolleyes).
Sean Avery can't seem to get enough of the spotlight.
The Los Angeles Kings player had a heated verbal exchange with Anaheim broadcaster and former NHL goalie Brian Hayward in the dressing room Friday before players and media.
Hayward, a former Montreal Canadiens goalie, criticized Avery during Tuesday's Anaheim broadcast and accused him of running away from a confrontation with the Ducks' Todd Fedoruk. Hayward was doing prep work for Saturday's Ducks-Kings game on NBC when he visited the Kings' dressing room Friday, only to be welcomed by a profanity-laced tirade from Avery, according to the Los Angeles Times. Hayward stood his ground.
"You're an embarrassment," the Times quoted Avery as saying and Hayward responded by saying, "You want to see an embarrassment? Look in the mirror, Sean."
Avery walked towards Hayward at one point but was pulled away by assistant coach Ray Bennett.
"You're the reason the league doesn't have a national television deal. You're a (terrible) announcer and you were a (terrible) player," Avery said during the exchange.
Some part of me wonders if Avery is just a big parody of himself, but you know he's not that smart.
As for Hayward, he is smart and his comeback was pretty good for a quiet laid-back kinda guy:
Hayward responded: "How would you know? When I played, you were in your third year of eighth grade."Burn!
Friday, April 07, 2006
Thems the Breaks, Kid!
The Giants rolled rather easily over the Prince George Cougars. The Winterhawks? They had a bit of a Hollywood-style victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds, complete with drama, 'the injury', and another grotesque story.
After failing to win Game 6 and clinch the series at the Rose Garden on Tuesday, the Hawks were flat to start Wednesday's game, played before 3,074 fans at KeyArena. Portland gave up three goals to Thunderbirds captain Aaron Gagnon in the first period.Ouch! How about a first-hand description from 'natural_center'
But the Hawks' emotions were stirred as priorities refocused with the tenor of the game at the start of the second period. First, Hawks defenseman Lenny Thunderchild skated slowly off the ice with an apparent injured shoulder after absorbing a hit along the boards 32 seconds into the period.
Twenty seconds later, the game came to a halt for about 20 minutes when Hawks forward Kyle Bailey went facedown behind Seattle's net after an awkward crash into the boards, his right ankle bent grotesquely akimbo, the skate facing the wrong way.
Trainers, doctors and paramedics sprinted across the ice, and Hawks coaches Williamson and Brian Pellerin also attended to Bailey, who left the ice on a gurney, his leg splinted, his face twisted in obvious pain. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center with a possible broken right ankle, team officials said. They were more vague about Thunderchild's condition, saying only that he wouldn't return during the game.
Portland center Kyle Bailey goes awkwardly into the boards and begins WRITHING on the ice behind the play. Can't tell if he's hurt or having a seizure, it was so spastic and awful. Then we notice his FOOT IS POINTING THE WRONG DIRECTION. Kyle is laying on his stomach, and the toe of his skate is pointed up towards the sky. The only person on the ice who notices is Seattle goalie Bryan Bridges, who shouts for his trainer (Portland's trainer was in the locker room tending to Lenny) and the ref.For more details, and pictures, click here.
I had never cried DURING a hockey game before. I had never seen the doctor, not just the trainers and EMTs, brought out onto the ice, except on TV. I had never heard a player scream in pain from the stands. I'd never seen a coach on the ice, holding his injured player's hand.
Kyle Bailey, 'Bails,' the player fans voted Most Popular Winter Hawk, Minnesota Wild draftee, has a severely broken ankle and his career may be over.
It could end up as one of those stories where the poor kid has his NHL dreams shattered (although he seems much more like an AHL prospect) before he finishes junior. The one positive is that the WHL has a great education program in place. Kyle has played 3 full years of WHL hockey, and will be entitled to 3 paid years of university education.