Monday, 22 April 2019

Updated Survivor Pool

As you may be aware if you tune into The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, Canada's Best Hockey Radio Contest™ is currently in the midst of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest continues to run on The Hockey Show on UMFM. While we await a few series to conclude, I have been tardy in posting the who-versus-who image as the contest participants, so I figured that might be a good idea tonight with Nashville being voted off the island.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the Survivor board current after tonight's results that saw Dallas advance and Carolina force Game 7.
If you click the image, you can make it bigger to see who is still in and who is on their way back from the island. Names in black are still alive while names in red have been, unfortunately, eliminated from winning the grand prize and all the glory that comes with it as the faded logos are representative of the faded dreams of winning this contest.

May 2 is when Beans and I will run through the first eight exit interviews for the teams dismissed in the opening round. That means that Elliot, Jason, Ethan, Tom, and Tyler will be joined by three other individuals on that day as we block off the May 2 episode of The Hockey Show for exit interviews. I'm already excited to hear what Jason and Elliot have to say after their teams were swept off the island, and I suspect that Tyler and Tom will have some thoughts on the Flames and Jets making very early exits compared to where people thought they may end their series. Nevertheless, it should be a fun show on May 2 if you want to hear some hockey fans rip into specific teams!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

The 2019 Leaderboard

As with any competition that keeps scores for people to check, the HBIC Playoff Pool also has itself a leaderboard where names and corresponding scores are posted. This is that page, so if you're in the pool you may want to bookmark this page as it will be updated at the conclusion of every round with the new scores. I have to admit that in scoring the pool entries so far, there are some impressive totals in the first round of play, and then there are some people who are at the bottom of the scoring list because they didn't follow the instructions very well. I can't fix that, so those who find themselves at the bottom of the scoring table should have paid attention a little more closely.

The leaderboard is posted alphabetically by first name with last initial for clarity, although this appears to be the first time in the pool's history that we don't have same names for any of the entrants. Next to the name is the team each person chose for the tie-breaker. Following that, the number listed is how many of the four players each person picked to help their scoring have left in the playoffs. As you can see, until the scoring is posted, everyone is still showing four scorers except those who decided that they didn't want any help. That's on those two entrants as they'll be forced to win this thing with predictions alone.

With a handful of series to be decided, there likely will still be movement in the scoring, so make sure you check back midweek for the new pool spreadsheet and the the updated scoring totals!

Scores

  1. Andy S. (TBL/4)
  2. Chris L. (TBL/4)
  3. Darin S. (WAS/4)
  4. Jared R. (CGY/4)
  5. LJ S. (PIT/4)
  6. Loralea R. (WAS/4)
  7. Matt H. (SJS/4)
  8. Michael J. (WPG/4)
  9. Neal L. (BOS/4)
  10. Peter S. (TBL/4)
  11. Richard D. (NAS/4)
  12. Teri D. (BOS/4)
  13. Tomas L. (WPG/0)
  14. Travis T.(TBL/0)
  15. Tyler D. (WAS/4)
  16. Zeke P. (NAS/4)

You're reading that correctly in that just 16 people have entered the pool. That means that this year's pool has the best odds of any of the names above winning, and it helps me immensely because I don't have to spend hours marking pool entries. My complaining aside, all entrants have a 1-in-16shot at winning the pool right now and the great prizes at the end!

What are the prizes, you ask? Those will be revealed at a later date, but I assure you that the top prize is an NHL jersey. That won't change from previous years. I'm still waiting on a couple of places to ante up for the contest, so all shall be revealed shortly.

Make sure you check back here to see your point totals once all the Round One series are done, and then head to the summary page to get the next spreadsheet for Round Two!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Another Summer Of Blues

In hypothetical terms, the question of who would win between the immovable object and the unstoppable force has never truly been answered since we have yet to discover either in our galaxy. Somewhere out there, those two things may exist and perhaps the question has already been answered, but it's not within our reach yet. However, the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues may have been those two things as they battled through six games before a winner was found, and the end result was one that fans of the Winnipeg Jets won't like after the Blues, as unstoppable as they were through the second-half of the season, will continue into the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This series was brought back to a best-of-three after the road teams won both games in the other team's rink. It wasn't a given that either team had any advantage following Game Four, but there was some belief that the Jets might have figured out the Blues following two-straight wins at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis and the Jets coming home for Game Five. Perhaps they found a hitch in Binnington or a weakness in St. Louis' system, but whatever belief fans and experts may have had evaporated in the third period of Game Five as Winnipeg coughed up a final period lead for the eleventh time this season in a loss.

Down 3-2 and heading back to St. Louis, the Jets faced elimination far earlier than they might have expected, so one had to believe they'd come out and blow the doors off the Enterprise Center like they had done in Game Three. One would think that the big guns would be firing lasers, the physicality would be ramped up, and the intensity would be at a high for this season.

And the Jets managed just six shots through the first two periods. Six total. SIX. Yikes.

This Jets team was supposed to be bigger, stronger, hungrier, and whatever other adjectives you want to pin on them following their dismissal in the Western Conference Final last season at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights. We heard all about how in that series the Jets simply ran out of steam after a tough seven-game battle against Nashville, and how next season would be their season as they learned what it takes to win in the spring.

When asked at his post-game press conference about the Jets' health in this series, head coach Paul Maurice warned, "Be careful with excuses. We got beat. I didn't think we had that sustainable gas for the whole series. I didn't feel we had it coming into it."

Um, hold on a second, Paul. If the team doesn't have the "sustainable gas for the whole series," wouldn't that be a direct answer to the question about the team's health? And, on top of that, wouldn't that be the exact same problem that this team had last season in the Western Conference Final? In fact, following the Game Five loss to Vegas last season, Maurice said, "[S]ome of it was mental, but it was the physical fatigue caused by having to spend as much as we spent to get here."

If fatigue crept into the room, it seems to have hit the team sometime in February when the Jets began their two-month stretch of .500 hockey leading into the playoffs. The Jets had players available in the press box at that time to help alleviate some of that fatigue, but Maurice chose to run his horses into the ground, it seems, by constantly playing them and asking them to carry the load. If he isn't willing to give guys rest when he knows they're tired, this six-game dismissal falls directly on his shoulders as much as it does the players. There's no excuse not to rest guys when he knows they're tired.

This team gave up leads in the third period in both Game One and Game Four when it appeared they had played the first 40 minutes in each game with some purpose. This team looked spent in the third period of Game Five when St. Louis rallied for three goals in the last 20 minutes to crush any home-ice advantage the Jets thought they had entering the period. And tonight, it seemed that exhausted team was rolled out again by Maurice as the Jets simply didn't have the legs to break through the St. Louis defence.

For all the talent the Jets had in the press box at times this season - Nic Petan, Sami Niku, Nathan Beaulieu, Bogdan Kiselevich, and Joe Morrow - none of these players saw the ice for any extended periods of time outside of injury relief. Even with the likes of Mason Appleton, Cameron Schilling, Par Lindholm, and Kristian Vesalainen at his disposal for the playoffs, injury relief was all the time that Paul Maurice was willing to give to these players. Does exhaustion count as an injury? Because I'm quite certain that seeing the likes of Wheeler, Scheifele, Little, and Ehlers sputter in the playoffs should have prompted a few nights off for these stars.

With as many as 15 players to make decisions on, Paul Maurice hasn't made the job for Kevin Cheveldayoff any easier with this playoff performance. There are major pieces that need to be addressed - Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Kevin Hayes, notably - but some of the role players who played entirely better than the role they were given in the playoffs - Brandon Tanev, Andrew Copp, Par Lindholm, and Laurent Brossoit - will need some significant thought when it comes to how important they are in this team's makeup. For those wondering at home, they were vital parts of this Jets team throughout the season, and all four likely deserve raises and more ice-time.

While the Jets' window for winning isn't fully closed, the opportunity this season seemed to escape their grasp some time in February when things began to spiral out of control. The Blues played .667 hockey down the stretch as they tied the Jets in points, and they won two-thirds of the games they played this spring against the Jets. That's consistency that the Jets simply didn't have in the final two months of the season, and it cost them dearly when they needed wins most.

Change is coming to the Winnipeg Jets. The big question as they enter the 2019-20 season will be how different will this team look compared to this year's squad? My guess is that possibly two major players listed above likely won't be back, and a handful of the role players will move on to teams that will either give them the ice-time they seek or the pay they feel they deserve. That's the reality of the new NHL, and it's a harsh reality the Jets will face following a disappointing finish to this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 April 2019

Down In Flames

If you're a Canadian hockey fan, your dreams of seeing a Stanley Cup parade north of the border just got reduced by one-third. The Colorado Avalanche used blazing speed, solid defence, timely scoring, and some key goaltending to eliminate the top seed in the Western Conference as the Calgary Flames were doused in five games. Say what you want about these playoffs being wacky or insane, but the eighth seeds in each conference have proven that they belong as both Columbus and Colorado await their opponents for the second round. With Calgary on the outs, the Western Conference just got a lot more wide-open than it was one week ago.

One could have pointed to Calgary's goaltending as possibly being a weak point as the Flames entered the playoffs, but Mike Smith was anything but awful. Yes, he got beat soundly by an Avalanche offence that looked virtually unstoppable, but Smith made 188 saves in five games - an average of 37.6 stops per game - while his save percentage was a solid .917 in those five contests. If anything, Mike Smith's goaltending might have been the only reason why Colorado was held to single-digit scores in a few of those five games.

What has to worry you is that if Smith was good in these five games, what happened to the Flames' defence? This was a team that surrendered a league-low 28.1 shots against per game, but got blown up by the Avalanche. The league's ninth-best defensive team found itself in a world of hurt when it came to the final four games, unable to move the puck quickly enough or effectively enough, and most times they found themselves fishing it out of the net behind Smith.

We saw a handful of players from the Colorado Avalanche elevate their games to heights not many have seen before. Nathan MacKinnon will haunt the nightmares of the Flames for a while, Mikko Rantanen lit the lamp like he was testing the light bulb, and Tyson Barrie led a defence who simply wasn't content in letting any of the Flames set up shop on the Colorado zone. In short, this was another dominating eighth-seed performance against a team who was thought by most experts to significantly better in all aspects of the game.

Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog put on an offensive display tonight, accounting for three goals and seven points in the Game Five elimination of the Flames. They totaled nine goals and 21 points in the series compared to Calgary's top guns of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm who recorded just a pair of goals and five points in the series. Needless to say, Colorado's best players not only showed up, but they stole the show and laid waste to the Flames as they won four-straight games against the West's best team.

"For anyone who doesn’t think MacKinnon is one of the best, if not the best, they might want to look at this series because he can really turn it on up to another level," Flames captain Mark Giordano told reporters after the game. And the 37 year-old is right regarding MacKinnon, but the Avalanche got so much more as Colin Wilson and Matt Nieto each had two goals and two assists, fresh-out-of-college Cale Makar had a game-winning goal and an assist in three games, and veteran Ian Cole had three helpers. The Avalanche got scoring out of everywhere. The Flames, unfortunately, did not.

Calgary ranked second in goal scoring in the regular season behind the Lightning and tied with San Jose, but couldn't manage more than two goals in any game following the 4-0 win in Game One. One of the guys brought in to Calgary to help with a playoff push in James Neal was scratched in Game Five, basically signalling that his time in Calgary was assuredly over. No matter what changes were made and what line combinations were rolled out, the Avalanche had an answer for it. And it's why Calgary is going home.

A large part of the Colorado success came from the unmatched speed the Avalanche showed as the Flames often lost races to pucks and were forced to chase the game as the Avalanche seemed to transition seamlessly from offence to defence with that speed. When Calgary advanced the puck, the backchecking speed of the Avalanche allowed them to get all five players back in their own zone before Calgary could set up their offence. Like the Penguins of 2015, the Avalanche dare teams to outskate them, and the Flames simply weren't up to that task.

That speed also helped the Avalanche draw an insane amount of penalties on the Flames after Colorado entered the playoffs as the most penalized team this season. Instead, it was the Flames who found themselves shorthanded 25 times in five games - even with the rule book mostly erased for the playoffs - and it hurt the Flames at inopportune times. Game Three saw MacKinnon net back-to-back power-play goals in the 3-2 win. Game Four saw Rantanen tie the game on the power-play late in that one before he scored the winner in overtime. Game Fine saw the Avalanche ice the game and series with two power-play goals that made it 4-1 and 5-1. Speed kills, and it killed the Flames.

Finally, let's not forget Philipp Grubauer in all this either. Acquired on June 22 as a salary dump for the Washington Capitals, Grubauer was instrumental in helping the Avalanche make the playoffs down the stretch. His excellent play carried into these playoffs where he's now 4-1, has stopped 153 of 163 shots for a .939 save percentage, and is sporting a minuscule 1.90 GAA through the five games. Take away the four goals he allowed in Game One, and the final four games of this series saw Grubauer go bananas in stopping 125 of 132 shots. Even when Calgary got chances to score, Philipp Grubauer wasn't having any of it.

Like what Columbus did to Tampa Bay, Colorado was better than Calgary in all facets of the game, and that will undoubtedly result in wins. As we've seen with both eight seeds thus far, it's take nine games to eliminate the top-two teams in the NHL this season - true parity in the NHL as it seems anyone can beat anyone on any given night. Or, in the case of Columbus and Colorado, on four-straight nights.

The Flames were doused by the Avalanche. Who's next?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 April 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 343

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with all sorts of guests and interviews to do thanks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs! If you liked the pizza giveaway last week, it seems we'll do another one tonight as we welcome a very special guest to the studio to talk pie, playoffs, and the Winnipeg Jets before turning the show over to two people whose lives on Playoff Island have come to an end on the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest. Beans and I will also discuss the epic failure of the Tampa Bay Lightning - previewed two weeks ago on The Hockey Show! - and get everyone set up for Game Five between the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets as the Whiteout parties continue in the Manitoba capital!

Beans and I are honoured and pleased to welcome Arneil Navarro, store owner of the Portage Avenue Pizza Pizza franchise, to the studio where we're talkiing everything that Pizza Pizza is doing in Winnipeg while the Jets and the Whiteouts have gripped the city in playoff madness! As you can see in the image, his store front has been "whited out" in support of the Jets, changing the familiar orange sign to white in support of the Jets along with whiting out the windows! We'll get the scoop on everything happening with specials and deals on Pizza Pizza pies, talk to Arneil about his love of the Jets, and more before we turn our attention to Elliot and Jason who have exit interviews to do for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively, as part of the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest. From there, we'll likely dissect the Lightning's historic collapse, the Avs on the verge of dismissing the West's best team, San Jose's inability to keep the puck out of their net against the executioners known as Stone, Stastny, and Pacioretty, and more! All of that tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM!

The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans chat with Arneil Navarro about changing Pizza Pizza's look for the playoffs and the deals they're offering Jets fans before the gents get Elliot and Jason to close out their Survivor runs, discussing the playoffs in-depth, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: April 18, 2019: Episode 343

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!