Hockey Headlines

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Leaderboard

While the Pac-Man high score screen was always a delight to add my name to, the reality is that the HBIC Playoff Pool leaderboard requires much more skill than just sending a pixelated yellow character around a screen eating pixelated while balls. There's real science and decisions to be made here, and the leaderboard will show you who has made wise choices when it comes to their prognostications thus far. As you scroll down the list to find your name, there may be some disappointment or sadness, but you still have seven series left in which to improve your standing! Let's see who charged out of the gates in this contest, who had solid first rounds, and who certainly needs to do a little studying of the season series for each series in the next round!

You'll want to refer back to this page for the point totals as we move through the playoffs. This is where all future points updates will happen. I have listed the names below in alphabetical order as per your submitted first name, so scroll through and find your name and point total.

Because of the scheduling for second round, if you want to gamble some points in the "Risk It!" option at this time, send me an email indicating that. Again, you must call the series perfectly to get the gambled points doubled. If you're wrong, you won't lose points, but you also won't receive any points for that series. In other words, don't gamble on EVERY series unless you absolutely have to do so!

Here are the current standings after Round One!

HBIC PLAYOFF POOL LEADERBOARD
Name Tie-Breaker Points Rank
Andy S.
Washington
27 n/a
Casey H.
NO TEAM!
30 n/a
Chris C.
Anaheim
20 n/a
Cole V.
Minnesota
34 3rd
Dan F.
Washington
21 n/a
Dave F.
Washington
24 n/a
Jackson N.
Edmonton
21 n/a
Jared R.
Chicago
27 n/a
Jay W.
Chicago
31 n/a
John M.
Pittsburgh
34 3rd
Justin S.
Washington
35 2nd
Katie S.
Anaheim
29 n/a
LJ S.
Pittsburgh
27 n/a
Matt H.
Washington
33 n/a
Michael J.
Washington
34 3rd
Neal L.
NO TEAM!
34 3rd
Peter S.
MONTREAL
41 1st
Ted A.
Pittsburgh
19 n/a
Tony T.
Chicago
24 n/a
Tyler D.
Edmonton
20 n/a
Westin F.
Washington
33 3rd
Zeke P.
Chicago
24 n/a

As you can see, the highlighted names occupt first-place, second-place, and third-place as it stands after one round, but don't think those spots are stationary. Those are the people you're hunting down in this quest for some free gear. As you can see, some are closer than others, but no one is truly out of this contest until the Stanley Cup has been awarded. If you want to risk a few points on a series or two, that's at your discretion, but it could get you back into the race very quickly.

Secondly, due to the number of entrants, I will be awarding three prizes to this year's contestants. As you may be aware, there are a number of people who drop out over the course of the playoffs, so your odds will likely get better as the playoffs go on AS LONG AS YOU CONTINUE TO PLAY. As you can see above, six names are in yellow, tie-breakers may factor in once the dust has settled, and the top-three spots are there for the taking to those who can predict the next seven series correctly!

Here is the next spreadsheet for the contest.

Good luck, everyone, and congratulations to our leaders!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Math Begins

With the Marcus Johansson goal in Toronto tonight, that will end the opening round of the rather surprising NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. If one was a betting person, I'm not certain that anyone would have predicted the Nashville Predators sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks or the Anaheim Ducks sweeping the Calgary Flames, but the bigger surprise to me were the 18 overtime games we saw! If Gary Bettman wanted parity, those 18 games of extra time might be a prime example of that. In any case, the HBIC Playoff Pool leaderboard will go up tomorrow and we'll see who had themselves a solid first round of predictions!

I'll have the next spreadsheet posted at the bottom of the leaderboard, and you may want to note the URL or make it a favorite to check the leaderboard after each round. With no hockey until Wednesday, you'll have lots of time to check and recheck your next round of entries, and I'll post the honorable mentions on Tuesday in giving some kudos to those who did well in each opening round series. Be prepared to see your names in lights... potentially!

With everyone's brackets busted - thanks, Chicago! - from what I've read on Twitter, I'm quite certain everyone will adjust their picks to reflect a Washington-Anaheim Stanley Cup Final since they are the best teams left. If you learned anything from the opening round, though, it might not be such a wise plan to count out Nashville who seemed to enjoy handing the Blackhawks some early tee times. I'm not saying that St. Louis will be as much of a pushover, but Nashville has had a lot of preparation time for their next opponent.

On the other side, the Ottawa-New York Rangers series will be interesting in that Mike Zibanejad and Derrick Brassard will face their old teams and try to make those respective GMs regret that trade. If New York happens to get past the Senators, there will be all-Metropolitan Division Eastern Conference Final which is appropriate considering how good that division was this season. I'm not saying one should count on this result, though, as the Senators somehow found their defibrillation machine and re-energized Bobby Ryan.

Of course, Anaheim and Edmonton will throw haymakers at one another as these two heavyweights in the Pacific Division renew acquaintances. Anaheim is faster and slightly bigger than San Jose, but certainly less skilled on paper. Edmonton is faster and more skilled than Anaheim, but there will be questions on how much punishment that their forwards can take. Personally, I see this series going six or seven games with the winner of Game Five taking the series.

Finally, the annual meeting between the two Metropolitan Division foes in the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins happens in Round Two, and this might be the series that defines Alex Ovechkin's career. It's almost certain that this Capitals team will be broken up due to salary cap concerns at the end of this season with players like TJ Oshie, Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, and Kevin Shattenkirk all facing unrestricted free agency. They will be the favorites against Pittsburgh despite everything that's happened in the past, so it will be interesting to see how they approach this series knowing that the Penguins basically have been awaiting this opportunity since the trade deadline.

If the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was exciting, this upcoming round could be very interesting with the storylines developing. If you're part of the HBIC Playoff Pool, you certainly have a lot to think about when it comes to how these series may play out and whether or not you want to risk any points in the "RISK IT" option.

Until tomorrow's leaderboard is tabulated, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Real Contempt

I really tire of those people preaching how the current format of the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs have ruined any chance of the best two teams in each conference reaching the conference finals. This isn't something new, folks. The Smythe Division had the same problem in the 1980s. The Adams and Patrick Divisions faced the same problems in the early-1990s. Just be thankful it's nothing like what the ECHL puts its teams through when it comes to the number of times the teams see one another over the season. That's where real contempt for one another is found.

When the dust settled on the ECHL season this year, the Kelly Cup Playoffs pitted the top-ranked Florida Everblades against the Orlando Solar Bears in the opening round. These two teams had already met TWELVE TIMES this season with Florida holding a 10-2 advantage in the season series, including the final game of where the Blades hung ten goals on netminder Mitch Gillam. I'm pretty certain that's an ingredient in the contempt these two teams may have for one another.

But, as they say, the postseason wipes the slate clean and everyone starts with the same record. Where there might be lingering hatred and a feeling of vengeance, those feelings are replaced by efforts on the ice where revenge is best served up on the scoreboard. Orlando certainly believes in that mantra as they claimed Games One and Two in this series to go up 2-0 in the series, equaling their total wins versus Florida in twelve attempts this season. Florida won Game Three by a 5-4 score to make it a 2-1 series in favour of the Solar Bears, but tonight's game was off the charts when it came to entertainment value.

With Ryan Massa looking to post his third win and the Solar Bears leading 3-0 late in Game Four, we took a wee break from the hockey action to bring you that hatred and contempt. Jump to the 3:30 mark to see the fun!

Wowzers. Not only did we get a full line brawl, but both Ryan Massa and Alex Nedeljkovic engaged in the all-too-rare goaltender fight! Both Massa and Nedeljkovic were given game misconducts, but it's pretty clear that the Florida Everblades weren't very happy being pushed to the brink of elimination in this series after dominating the Orlando Solar Bears all season. Needless to say, this rivalry just moved to a different level for the remainder of the Kelly Cup series.

11 misconducts. A goalie fight. And they do it all over again tomorrow at 4pm. Yeah, playoff hockey is pretty darn awesome!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 21 April 2017

No Jackets Required

This is a personal post by all means, but I am thoroughly happy that the Penguins have ousted the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games. They await the winner of the Capitals and Maple Leafs, but the Penguins showed a lot of the same traits in this series that they did last season in winning the Stanley Cup. You heard commentators mention goaltending and special teams as key factors in this series, and the only difference in this series compared to last season is the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury put in a Matt Murray-like effort in these five games. The Penguins will now await the NHL's best team or the team that may surprise everyone in the opening round.

The Penguins used team speed, getting pucks to the net, and all of their supporting cast to get past the Blue Jackets when you consider that Jake Guentzel has been one of the best players on the ice. This is a team that hasn't had Chris Kunitz or Kris Letang in the opening round, yet they adapted well and made adjustments to advance just as they did when Trevor Daley went down in the playoffs last season. You can question this team's resiliency and supporting cast all you want, but they got incredible efforts from the aforementioned Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Ron Hainsey to complement the efforts from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel.

The second-round match-up for the Penguins will probably be this year's most difficult series for the Penguins based on how the Capitals and Leafs are playing in their own series. While the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Boston Bruins are still lurking in these playoffs in the Atlantic Division, none of those teams should really scare the Penguins. It will be the Round Two series that may determine who represents the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final this season, and you probably already know who I'll be cheering for when this series begins next season.

Let's go, Pens!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 239

The Hockey Show, is back tonight with a pile of stuff to go over. We've seen wins, losses, heartbreak, and jubilation through the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that goes true for the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest! Our first elimination happened last night, so we'll bring in the exiled Survivor contestant and get his thoughts on his team's playoff performance. We also have some news about some player movement, Canada winning a gold medal, how the rosters for the World Championship are shaping up, and more! It's another busy show on The Hockey Show tonight on UMFM!

As you can see, the Survivor: NHL Playoffs board has been updated with our faded and grayed-out competitor Jared M. showing up after the Flames were summarily dismissed in a sweep at the hands of Derek A.'s Anaheim Ducks! We'll see if we can Jared to give us his thoughts on the Flames' lack of success tonight to kick off the show before we start working our way through the other seven series. There were also a few players who will have new addresses next season as two Vancouver Canucks decided to pack up and leave the west coast city for greener pastures. Canada and the US renewed their rivalry on the ice in Bonn, Germany at the World Para Ice Hockey World Championship, and we'll go over that game. The Portage Terriers and OCN Blizzard battled for the Turnbull Cup, and we have a winner in the MJHL after that series ended. Anything else comes up may get a mention as well, so tune in tonight as we send Jared off Playoff Island on The Hockey Show!

Listen, if you haven't done it already, you really should download the UMFM app. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! 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. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, there's a ton of hockey chatter on The Hockey Show and the best way to hear our thoughts on the hockey world is to tune in on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: April 20, 2017: Episode 239

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Inductees

The woman in the photo wearing #17 was, for a long time, one of the few ambassadors this province had in women's hockey. Jennifer Botterill, a four-time Olympian with three gold medals and a silver medal, was announced on Tuesday as one of the inductees to the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in October, and I cannot think of a woman who has done more for her sport on and off the ice who is more deserving. The Harvard graduate, along with Sami Jo small, were the two prominent names that young Manitoban women could look up to when it came to setting goals in hockey for years, and it's nice to see the province recognizing Jennifer's importance to the game here at home and across the world.

Botterill scored 174 points in 184 games over her 14-year career with the Canadian national team. She helped Canada win gold at three straight Olympics starting in 2002 and was part of the silver medal-winning squad at the 1998 Nagano Games. Jennifer was also part of Canadian teams that captured eight IIHF World Women's Championship medals, five of them golden in colour. She still holds the NCAA records for most consecutive games with a point and for most points in a hockey career. Her move into the broadcasting world has put her back in the spotlight as she was part of the initial season of play in the CHWL before moving into the broadcast booth to call games on national television. In short, Jennifer is still making an impact on hockey.

Jennifer isn't the only person being inducted on October 7, 2017, though. She is included in a group of players that features Murray Bannerman, Jim Benzelock, Laurie Boschman, Pat Falloon, Lew Morrison, and Ross Parke. a few of those name should jump out at you.
  • Bannerman was a long-time Chicago Blackhawk netminder where he backed up Tony Esposito before supplanting Esposito in 1982 as the Blackhakws starting goalie. He played in two NHL All-Star Games, and currently ranks fifth on the Blackhawks' all-time goalie list with 116 wins. He was named the MJHL's top goaltender in 1973.
  • Benzelock was the fifth-overall selection in 1968 by the Minnesota North Stars, but he never suited up for an NHL game in his career. Instead, Benzelock went to the WHA where he played 166 games for the Alberta Oilers, Chicago Cougars, and Quebec Nordiques. He won the Manitoba Senior Hockey League's Pattison Cup and Western Canada Senior A Hockey's Patton Cup in 1968 as a member of the St. Boniface Mohawks.
  • Boschman spent eight seasons in Winnipeg. In 1983-84 and '84-85, he led the Jets in penalty minutes before earning a team-high and career-high 241 PIMs in 1985-86, but the Jets only advanced in the tough Smythe Division once in his eight years. However, Boschman was a star with the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings where he was part of the dynamic 1978-79 team that ripped through the league. Boschman finished the season with 66 goals, 83 assists, and 215 PIMs in just 65 games before his team fell to the Peterborough Petes at the 1979 Memorial Cup in overtime. Boschman was named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team after scoring three goals and four assists in five games.
  • Falloon made history as he was selected second-overall in 1991 to become San Jose's first-ever selection in an NHL Entry Draft. After four seasons in San Jose, he bounced around the league before landing in Davos, Switzerland. After one season there, he returned home to play for the Foxwarren Falcons in the North Central Hockey League where he helped the team to six-straight championships from 2001-2006. He was a standout in junior hockey with Spokane, winning the Memorial Cup Tournament MVP in 1991.
  • Morrison was a star with the Flin Flon Bombers of the WCJHL where was a linemate of Bobby Clarke. Selected eighth-overall in 1968 by the Philadelphia Flyers, he was largely seen as a defensive forward who was one of the best penalty-killers in the WCJHL. Described as a tireless worker and great skater, Morrison is still held in high regard in the Flyers organization.
  • Parke's list of accomplishments don't include any NHL time, but he was on the Red Wings' negotiation list at one point. However, Parke made his name in amateur hockey. He won the Abbott Cup in the MJHL with the Winnipeg Monarchs before falling to the Barrie Flyers in the Memorial Cup Final in 1951. He led the NCAA's Michigan State Spartans in scoring for three consecutive seasons from 1954-55 until 1957-58. He helped the Winnipeg Maroons to the Patton Championship in both 1961 and 1963, and won the Allan Cup in 1964 while leading the series in scoring.
Along with these seven players, former Winnipeg Jets owner Michael Gobuty, current Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, River East Royal Knights President/GM/head coach Barry Bonni, and Manitoba Hockey Foundation president Gary Cribbs will be inducted as builders. The 1951-52 Dauphin Kings and the 1960-64 Assiniboine Residential School teams will be enshrined in the team category. Former CJOB program and news director Vic Grant, Rob Martell, Barney Holden and the 1920 Selkirk Fishermen will also be honoured.

While our province suffers from an inferiority complex at times, it's clear we're producing incredible hockey people. We should be proud of this Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2017 as they represent all corners of the province and the people who live there. While the NHL is always a dream for a young hockey player, it's clear from the resumés held by these men, women, and teams that not every hero has to play in the NHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Reloading The Guns

When eight senior players graduate, there will be some obvious holes in a university team's lineup. As a coach or a recruiter, it is up to that person to determine how to best fill those gaps left by the departing students, and I have to say that I like what UBC's Graham Thomas is doing in rebuilding his team to be a contender for the upcoming 2017-18 season. It isn't often that NCAA-trained players opt to leave that circuit, but Thomas has managed to recruit Syracuse's Emily Costales for the upcoming season which is a major pickup for that program. If you thought UBC might take a step back, Thomas is doing everything in his power to dispel those thoughts.

So who is Emily Costales, you're asking? Well, she had the second-most points and seventh-most in the CHA for the Orange last season on nine goals and 16 assists. She was named an alternate captain last season in her junior season, and has 23 goals and 32 assists in 100 career NCAA games. Oh, and I forgot to mention that her hometown is Vancouver, BC. The convenience of playing for the Thunderbirds while living at home rather than on the opposite side of the continent seems like a nice touch.

"I really wanted to come back home because I was homesick," Costales told UBC's Len Catling . "I spent three years at Syracuse and the coaches were amazing and the program was great, but something that was missing was having my family and friends watch all of my games."

Having grown up in the BC hockey system, it's not like UBC is getting someone who doesn't know the lay of the land. She played alongside current T-Birds Celine Tardif and Mikayla Ogrodniczuk on BC provincial teams, and Coach Thomas feels her addition to the team will not only be seamless, but well-received in the dressing room.

"She's just a great person," Thomas said. "She's been an alternate captain and she can be a leader for us. She can fit in with our group. That's always so important when we take transfers."

UBC is loading up for another run at glory this season. Having captured their second-straight CWUAA Championship and USports National Championship medal, the players they are adding could make it a three-peat if things go well. They added Ireland Perrot from the Pursuit of Excellence Academy, Karlee Mazor from St. Mary's Academy, Emily Moore from Edge Academy, Jenna Fletcher from the Thompson Okanagan Lakers, Shay-lee McConnell from the Ontario Hockey Academy, and Jessie Sanghe from the Pacific Steelers prior to adding Costales, and each of those players is coming into UBC from a highly-regarded hockey program. To say that Graham Thomas has recruited well might be selling his work done this off-season a little short.

If the purpose of recruiting the best players is to keep up with the Joneses in your respective league, there are seven other CWUAA teams that have some work to do to keep up with this outstanding class of players that Thomas is bringing in. Alberta always finds great players, and I expect Howie Draper to really bolster his club with some strong talent. Regina and Saskatchewan have added a few quality players this spring, and Manitoba's class of five players could be expanded if any of the University of North Dakota players decide to head two hours north to continue their careers. Calgary, Lethbridge, and Mount Royal always seem to find gems in their recruiting classes as well, but I'm not sure that any of these other seven schools have done the job that Thomas has to this point.

Tip your hat to the Thunderbirds because they could be the toast of the CWUAA Conference once more this season with the talent they are amassing. Winning speaks volumes to athletes when deciding on what school to attend. More recruiters and coaches should remember that success begets success when it comes to building powerhouse programs. It seems Thomas has embraced this concept wholeheartedly as his Thunderbirds are, in my view, the team to beat next season in the Canada West after the work he's put in this off-season attracting top-notch talent.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Karlsson Blog In Canada

I gushed over Karlsson's play from a couple nights ago yesterday on the ol' blog, but what he did tonight was downright ridiculous. I watched this play over and over again on Sportsnet, and I still can't figure out where Karlsson practices this, how he does this so perfectly at game speed, and the sheer strength and skill this play takes. This will be the second amazing pass he's made in two games to set up a goal, and I'm not sure the Bruins can do anything but marvel at Karlsson's skill. He's an elite defencemen, and I'm pretty sure tonight's play confirms the "elite" part.

Let's go to the highlight because words won't do this play any justice.
That pass went from goal line to opposing blue line. That pass didn't flutter, dip, or knuckle at all. That pass landed flat like Karlsson made it from five-feet away as opposed to standing 115-feet away. That pass was simply incredible, and then Mike Hoffman turned it into a goal with the Forsberg move. That, folks, is outstanding offensive hockey.

The fact that Karlsson had to elevate it some ten-feet in the air to go tape-to-tape to Hoffman at the Bruins' blue line is one thing, but when you factor in the strength and skill it takes to spin the saucer pass 115-feet down the ice without so much as a wobble in the air is another level of skill altogether. As I watched him skate into the corner, I thought he was flipping the puck out and down the ice. Instead, he pulled off one of the greatest passes in the history of the game. Yes, I just declared that.

Erik Karlsson is something else. Oh, and the Senators won tonight's game as well to give them a 2-1 series lead. I'm not saying that Karlsson has taken over this series and imposed his will, but he's made two incredible plays that have led to Ottawa wins. I'm sold: the kid is a generational talent. He might be the best defenceman playing hockey right now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

He's Got Vision

It might be because I don't get to see him play often enough, but watching Erik Karlsson in these playoffs has been nothing short of inspiring. The man can skate as well as anyone before him, he has a great shot, and he's certainly able to thread passes to teammates that seem hidden. If there is a renaissance man when it comes to generating offence from the blue line as a rover-type player in the molds of Paul Coffey or Bobby Orr, Erik Karlsson might be that man. Tonight, his playmaking abilities were on full display for all to see on a national stage.

Again, local blackouts of Senators games have prevented me from fully appreciating Karlsson's skill set, but this play last night showed off his vision on the ice and his skating ability like nothing I've seen in a long time.
Wow. Simply wow. Riley Nash chased him, but he couldn't catch him. If you watch the clip again, notice that all five Bruins players plus Tuukka Rask are focused on Karlsson while Derick Brassard is wide-open on the left side of the net. All Karlsson has to do is put the puck on his stick. Tape-to-tape pass seconds later, and the game is tied as Karlsson's creativity and vision set that play up.

I'm not saying that he should win the Norris Trophy for that one play, but is there a better offensive defenceman in the game right now who makes his whole team better when he's on the ice? You could make arguments for players like Brent Burns or Drew Doughty or Shea Weber, but Karlsson's skating ability, vision, and hands set him apart from those guys in this writer's humble opinion.

Yes, there will always be complaints about his defensive game when he's clearly thinking offence 99% of the time, but that goal was pure poetry. I haven't seen one better in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs yet, and we're only in Round One. Imagine if Karlsson and the Senators get another series to make magic!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Scoreless, Winless, Hopeless?

It's hard to understand how a team that has had as much success as the Blackhawks have had this season suddenly find themselves as major underdogs when it comes to winning their series against the Nashville Predators. This is a team that was ninth-overall in goal-scoring this season, but has yet to puck a single puck behind Pekka Rinne in two straight games. This is a team that boasts all-stars on multiple lines, yet can't seem to execute in the offensive zone. This is a team who, for two games, has looked lost, dazed, and confused at times in trying to solve the system that Nashville is playing. Suddenly, the top team in the Western Conference looks more like the Wild Card team while Nashville looks like they dominated the league.

In Game Two tonight, head coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his lines as he looked for a little more offence, putting rookie Vinnie Hinostroza and Dennis Rasmussen into the lineup while giving veteran Jordin Tootoo and John Hayden a seat in the press box. It was a bit of a surprising move, in my opinion, having lost a 1-0 game in Game One, but more offensively-gifted players should help, right?

Not really. Instead, the Nashville Predators played their game perfectly in laying a 5-0 beating on the Blackhawks tonight. It was the polar opposite of what the changes were supposed to do, and now the Blackhawks go to Nashville in a 2-0 hole where they'll be given zero slack when it comes to surviving this series. This team is in turmoil, having lost six-straight games including the final four of the regular season, and the tailspin they're currently in has them in big trouble as they were booed off the ice at the end of both the second and third periods in front of their home fans at the United Center.

"We've been in some tough spots before," captain Jonathan Toews told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times. "Didn't think after two games at home that we'd be talking about this already, that it's do-or-die, but we're going to go into that next game with that mentality."

This is the first time the Blackhawks have trailed 2-0 while having home-ice advantage, but history is against them in the Quenneville era. They have only rallied once in three attempts under Quenneville after trailing 2-0 in a series, and that happened in 2014 against St. Louis. Making this worse is that the last fifteen teams who have trailed 2-0 while holding home-ice advantage have lost those series. And it appears that Chicago could be Team #16.

Where are the stars? What happened to the vaunted scoring and amazing talent? Kane and Toews accounted for just one goal in their seven-game series against the Blues last season. In fact, Toews, known for clutch playoff performances, hasn't scored a playoff goal since Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Duncan Keith looks like a ghost of his Conn Smythe-winning self, and handles the puck like it's a live grenade. To an eye, the Blackhawks look slower than the Predators on every play, and seem unable to solve both Rinne and the Predators' defensive system as a whole.

But let's not pin this deficit entirely on the Blackhawks because Nashville has done everything it has needed to do to earn wins in the first two games. Clutch scoring from all lines, blocking a ton of shots, keeping offensive chances to the outside, playing physical, getting to the front of the net, forechecking like demons, and activating their defence are all factors in the Predators' attack. And rather than sitting back and defending a lead, the Predators continued to push the Blackhawks around in posting a 5-0 victory to demoralize the Blackhawks and win the psychological battle.

Don't believe me? Here's Patrick Kane's comments post-game: "We all thought the series would be in a different place right now. That's the way hockey goes, I guess. You put forth that effort and don't get the outcome you want. Nothing we can do about it now."

That line wasn't delivered with the passion and resolve of, say, Mark Messier when he found his Rangers down in the series against the Devils in 1994. That didn't sound like the leadership of Phil Esposito when he delivered a passionate speech after losing to the USSR in Vancouver. Kane's comments sound like a defeated foe who is out of answers when it comes to how soundly and thoroughly he was beaten. There's no "we're still alive" passion in his comments. There's no "we'll show them" resolve in his delivery. If Chicago goes on to lose this series and Kane doesn't play a big role in keeping the Blackhawks alive, I'm not sure he deserves to wear a letter on his jersey.

"That was frustration to a different level," Quenneville told reporters. "That wasn't fun to watch. We dug ourselves a tremendous hole. Across the board, not too many positives came out of this game. Everybody was responsible, from the coaches down to every single player. We need to get out of this mess and hole."

The digging to escape the proverbial hole starts on Monday night in Nashville if the Blackhawks hope to make any noise this postseason. If the Blackhawks are summarily dismissed by the Predators in this series, I'd expect that this high-priced core of players who have carried them to overwhelming success in the past will start being dismantled in this off-season. Hockey is a "what have you done for me lately" profession where teams that fail to live up to expectations are subject to changes, sometimes dramatically. Chicago stands on the precipice of that reality right now.

Like it or not, the Blackhawks have five-or-less games to prevent that dismantling from happening.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Oilers Lead The League

If you've never heard of Dylan Wells before today, you're not alone. I only knew of the 19 year-old netminder due to his NHL Entry Draft selection by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth-round in 2016. He's an average netminder if one just looks at his OHL stats with the Peterborough Petes, but he's improving year after year which is good for the Petes and, perhaps one day, the Oilers. Wells, however, made this year's OHL Playoffs a little more memorable Thursday night when he did something out of the ordinary.

The Petes, backstopped by Wells, had already advanced to the second-round of the OHL Playoffs, and they led the Kingston Frontenacs 3-0 in their series last night. Late in the game, Kingston had their goalie pulled for an extra attacker in needing a few goal while being down 5-2 to extend the game and series. I'll let the video do the rest of the talking.
The commentators are entirely right in saying that with a three-goal lead late in the game, there's little risk in having the goalie take a shot at the yawning cage at the other end of the ice. Dylan Wells was perfectly positioned in the middle of the ice when he fired the puck down the length of the rink, so all he had to do was ensure that the puck slid straight. It did, it counted, and Dylan Wells scored the first goal of his career.

What makes this remarkable in the bigger picture is that the Oilers now have two goaltenders in their system that have scored goals this season. We jump back three weeks when Jonas Gustavsson of the Bakersfield Condors was credited with an AHL goal after he was the last player to touch the puck against the San Diego Gulls. The difference, as you'll note, is that Wells actually shot the puck himself, so I'll give a little kudos to the netminding sniper.

With his goal, Wells became the first Petes netminder in franchise history to score or be credited with a goal. He's also the ninth OHL goaltender to score or be credited with a goal, and the fourth goalie to do so in the playoffs. London's Tyler Parsons was the last goalie to score or be credited with a goal on October 9, 2015 against Sudbury while Niagara's Mark Visentin was the last to do so in playoff game while playing against the Ottawa 67's on April 25, 2012.

Here is the complete list of OHL goalies who have scored:
  • April 13, 2017 – Dylan Wells (Peterborough Petes)
  • Oct. 9, 2015 – Tyler Parsons (London Knights)
  • Apr. 25, 2012 – Mark Visentin (Niagara IceDogs)
  • Mar. 30, 2004 – Justin Peters (Toronto St. Michael’s Majors)
  • Jan. 9, 1998 – Ron Vogel (Windsor Spitfires)
  • Apr. 20, 1993 – Fred Brathwaite (Detroit Jr. Red Wings)
  • Oct. 11, 1991 – Peter McGlynn (Kingston Frontenacs)
  • Sept. 25, 1988 – Jason Houle (North Bay Centennials)
  • Jan. 7, 1986 – Chris Clifford (Kingston Canadians)
The Petes closed out the game with the 6-2 victory, capped off by Wells' goal, to give them a second series sweep in these playoffs as Wells improved to 8-0. They now await the winner of the Mississauga Steelheads-Oshawa Generals series, and they'll kick off the OHL Eastern Conference Final on Thursday, April 20th in Peterborough.

When it comes to goalies, the Oilers are developing an excellent crop of snipers!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 238

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, hits the airwaves with only one purpose tonight. With the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs underway and teams vying for the hardest trophy to win in sports, we're opening up the phones tonight so you can take part in the most exclusive contest we run on The Hockey Show! 16 entrants will take part, and only one will claim the prizes as we start up our crazy contest once more!

The Hockey Show is proud to once again run the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest where we take all the workings of a Survivor pool and turn it on its side by making the sixteen NHL teams into Survivor-like competitors! There's no cost to you when it comes to entering this contest, and we're happy to offer up some great prizes for contestants. It's the greatest Survivor pool on the planet, and your chance to take part in the Survivor: NHL Playoffs Pool happens tonight!

There are a few requirements that I need to cover first. These are REQUIREMENTS, so if you can't fulfill them, please don't ruin the fun for someone else.
  1. You must call into the show on Thursday night between 5:30pm and 6:30pm until all the spots are filled.
  2. You must have an email address that you check regularlyso that we can send you info when needed. Also, we'll be using a specific hashtag through Twitter so that you can follow tweets about this Survivor contest and respond if and/or when necessary.
  3. A desire to watch your chosen team's progress in the NHL Playoffs.
So there are the requirements that you must fulfill. That last one is pretty important in that if you have no interest in watching hockey, please don't take a spot. If you're not on Twitter or don't have an email address, get on it. And if you don't want to call in, don't complain about the availability of this contest. If you're calling long-distance to reach us, spend the fifty cents for us to get your info. We'll call you back. Good? Good.

Now, if you're aware of the Survivor pools, you basically just pick a name out of a hat, and that person on Survivor is your person for the run of the show. If he or she is voted off the island, the game for you is over. We're about to do the same thing. We will have whomever calls in to select a number between one and sixteen. Those numbers will have a corresponding team assigned to them randomly. Whatever number you've chosen will select your team for the playoffs. Sounds easy, right?

For example, Beans calls in at 6pm. We put him on the air, and he chooses #7. The team associated with #7 is the Montreal Canadiens. Beans is now cheering for the Montreal Canadiens. I call in, and I chose #10. Team #10 is the Toronto Maple Leafs. I am now cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs to go far in this pool (they won't). The list with the corresponding names and teams will be posted right here on HBIC, and we'll let the games play out. If Montreal were to meet Toronto (not gonna happen), Beans and I will face-off in a Survivor-style match-up where one team will advance, and one team will be sent home/voted off the island. If Montreal beats Toronto in their series, my Survivor: NHL Playoffs is over.

Once a team is eliminated, we will call you back so that you may be ready to deliver your thoughts on your team's effort in the playoffs in a Survivor-style ending like the one below. This is where it gets fun and a little crazy because you can basically blame anyone and anything you want to in your diatribe. Broken stick? Bad coaching? Abysmal goaltending? Let it fly like Jeff Kent does below.
Since we're a little radio station and don't have a million dollars to give away, we'll arrange and coordinate prizing after we finish accumulating them. Not everyone will win a prize. Only one will win the grand prize. But you can't win if you don't enter, so get your butt over to the phone and give us a shout tonight at 204-269-8636 (204-269-UMFM)!

Listen, if you haven't done it already, you really should download the UMFM app. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! 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. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, it's all about Survivor on The Hockey Show, and you'll only find this zany and fun contest on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: April 13, 2017: Episode 238

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Overtime Magic

There is nothing like playoff overtime hockey. One goal ends the game with one team in extreme jubilation while the other hangs their heads knowing they were as close to victory as they could be without coming away with the win. Overtime goals can occasionally lift a team to a higher level while longer overtime games sometimes sap the energy of tired teams. But one thing is for sure: there is nothing like playoff overtime hockey.

It's opening night of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and we already have a pair of overtime results. We'll head into St. Paul, Minnesota where the Wild and Blues played in this season's first playoff game in this second season of hockey!
Joel Edmundson of Brandon, Manitoba with the most non-jubilated reaction to scoring a playoff overtime goal that I've ever seen. The funny thing is that Edmundson now has three career playoff goals in 18 playoff games while he only has four regular-season goals in his 136-game career. Is he a clutch playoff performer? I'm not quite ready to anoint him with that title, but it's clear the Edmundson takes his game to a new level once the NHL Playoffs roll into season.

I'm going to guess that Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau will have a discussion with veteran forward Mikko Koivu after his man, Vladimir Tarasenko, got loose from Koivu's check to setup that goal. That can't happen in overtime at any level of hockey, so I expect Koivu to be far better in his own zone in Game Two. Especially if the Wild want to even this series up after this loss.

The other overtime game that happened tonight was the late game and this one featured another unlikely scorer ending the contest, but at least there was a celebration after the goal.
Ok, first off, don't ever call him the Melk-man again. That's garbage. But Melker Karlsson is the hero on this night as his wrist shot finds the netting just inside the far post on Talbot on a beautiful shot, and the Sharks grab the 1-0 series lead after this overtime period. The 26 year-old Swede picked up his sixth career playoff goal in just his 26th career playoff game which is much better than his pace of 34 goals in 185 regular season games.

It's a weird thing that the unsung heroes during the season really come into the limelight when the playoffs roll around each season. It has been said that the guys who work hardest will be rewarded, and we saw two players who don't do much scoring during the regular season continue their torrid goal-scoring paces in the playoffs. I'm not saying that the Parises, Tarasenkos, McDavids, or Pavelskis aren't going to score, but it seems that the game-winning overtime goals are scored by the guys who do a lot of heavy-lifting for their teams.

Edmundson and Karlsson are no Stephane Matteau just yet, but they're certainly doing their part in scoring big goals for their teams when they need them the most.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Oilers Are Comedians

Despite some new rumours of some extracurricular activities that Daryl Katz allegedly may have attempted, his ownership of the Edmonton Oilers has gone relatively well. Sure, there were some unhappy fans after the team kept winning lotteries only to finish at the bottom of the standings, but they finally got things right when Connor McDavid fell into their lap, Peter Chiarelli became available for employment, and nepotism was finally retired in the front office. The Oilers are back in the playoffs, they have an Art Ross Trophy winner again, and they seem poised for a bright future. Well done, Daryl Katz.

However, it seems that the façade is slowing disappearing. First, the Oilers announced that not only will they wear their orange alternate jerseys for the playoffs, but they'll continue wearing them next season and retire the blue jerseys as their home jerseys. Despite all the history and moments achieved by this franchise in blue, the Oilers will be orange from Wednesday and onward until further notice. This isn't a joke, readers. It was actually said out loud.

"We will go orange for the playoffs with the jerseys," Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson told Terry Jones of the Edmonton Journal . "There will be a piece going out to all our season ticket holders from Daryl Katz to encourage people to wear orange. We will also have orange pom poms available."

Ugh. I guess the drug store magnate in Katz is actually an entertainer in his mind.

Regardless of my thoughts on the move to orange, it seemed the Oilers were about to become the hottest ticket in town for their stay in the playoffs. Or at least it was until an email sent to a Twitter user named Ryan Batty (@ryan_batty) hit the social media platform tonight.
A concourse pass that doesn't allow a pass holder a seat or a view inside the rink area for $80? Has Katz lost his mind? I get that some people might want to be inside the arena for the action, but essentially you're buying an $80 pass to walk around a mall. And this isn't a joke!

Look, the arena atmosphere in the playoffs is amazing. You can feel the electricity as fans prepare for the big game, and any time the home team scores it feels like the roof might blow off the top of the arena. It's amazing. But if you ask me to spend $80 to stand around the concourse while everyone else is sharing in the majesty that is the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, you're insane.

I can sit at home in the comfort of my own living room or rec room and watch the game in peace without the overpriced food, without the overpriced beer, and with the same experience that Daryl Katz is offering up at 80-bucks a head. Hell, I'll charge you $40 to come watch it at my place, and the food and beer prices will be cheaper than what you're being charged at Oilers Palace or whatever they're calling the new arena. This is a comically-stupid idea, yet I'll wager that the Oilers will sell out of these passes because people will want to say "I was there!" when McDavid scores his first playoff goal.

Except you weren't. You were watching it on TV just like I was despite being inside the arena. And that's why this is dumb.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Experienced Coaches Available

The bloodletting started early today, and a few of the cuts ran deep before it was all over. The Dallas Stars, the Florida Panthers, and the Vancouver Canucks all made coaching changes while the Los Angeles Kings decided that major changes were needed. While it should comes as no surprise that these teams made changes after missing the playoffs, there were some interesting tweets that came out about the Los Angeles house-cleaning. In any case, there are some very experienced, Cup-winning coaches out on the market right now with a number of teams needing new bench bosses.

It was announced early in the morning that the Dallas Stars and Lindy Ruff would be parting ways after Dallas went from tops in the Western Conference last season to 11th-place this season. Yes, there were some injuries, but GM Jim Nill never solved the goaltending problems that Dallas faced when it came to having a shooter tutor named Antti Niemi and a cardboard cutout of Kari Lehtonen tending to the Stars' nets all season. Yes, Dallas struggled to put the puck in the opposition's net, but I would suggest a lot of those problems came about from having his best players fish the puck out from behind the Niemi-Lehtonen conundrum.

From there, it was the Florida Panthers' turn. They decided to let Tom Rowe walk after the Panthers flamed out after he had relieved Gerard Gallant of his coaching duties. As embarrassing as that may be for Rowe, there is a silver lining on this story of failure as the Panthers decided to keep Rowe on a special consultant to the general manager, Dale Tallon. Tallon, of course, doesn't really need Rowe's help, so it should excused if Tallon simply makes Rowe get him coffee next season. It seems appropriate after all that Rowe did in undermining what appeared to be a consistent playoff team.

Jumping to the left coast, the Vancouver Canucks went ahead and did what everyone expected and let Willie Desjardins go from his head coaching position. Desjardins seemed resigned to the fact that this was coming, so GM Jim Benning and President Trevor Linden did the expected in canning Desjardins. Honestly, with the ineptitude shown by Benning in his role, they may have fired the wrong guy. I'm not sure this team could beat its AHL affiliate in the Utica Comets, but that challenge will go unfulfilled.

And then it was south down the coast where the Los Angeles Kings decided that missing the playoffs twice in five seasons was too much for them to handle, so they decided to part ways with both head coach Darryl Sutter, assistant coach Davis Payne, and general manager Dean Lombardi. Sutter, it was reported, had lost the room when it came to some of his old-school tactics while Lombardi's (mis)management of the Kings salary cap had the team looking at major changes for the worse in the coming seasons. With both men played large parts in winning two Stanley Cups for the Kings, the weight of expectations sunk them in the end.

In the end, Dallas, Florida, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas are all without coaches as it stands, so let's gaze into the HBIC Crystal Ball of Zero Guarantees and make some suggestions as to where these men may land in the future.

I'll start with Tom Rowe and say that he should end up as the coach of an AHL team at best. You could clearly see he was out of his element behind an NHL bench, so having him move back upstairs to assist Dale Tallon in some unspecified way might be the best place for him to disappear for a while. His stock is low, he has a job, and he's still with the Panthers.

I'd be happy if the Panthers took a shot in hiring University of Denver head coach Jim Montgomery. He's a two-time USHL champion as a head coach, an NCAA champion as a head coach, and he certainly knows the game well. He played 122 NHL games in his career along with numerous AHL, IHL, and international games, so he's got the experience and knowledge to be successful. With the Michigan job open, however, there's a big opportunity if Montgomery wanted to stay in the collegiate game. The lure of the NHL, though, might be enough to get Montgomery behind the Panthers bench.

Reportedly, the Dallas Stars are deciding among three potential new coaches in Gallant, Desjardins, and Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock has a legacy in Dallas, but I don't think he's the guy that they need. Desjardins would be an interesting fit after having a ton of success with the AHL's Texas Stars following two seasons of missed playoffs with the Dallas Stars, but he's not the right fit for that group as well. Honestly, I see Gallant landing in Dallas where he will push the veterans and let the younger players find their grooves. While goaltending will still be an issue, the Stars will probably see an uptick in their offensive production.

Los Angeles just got rid of an old-school coach in Sutter, so I can't see them going after Hitchcock or Ruff. Desjardins doesn't fit the mould, but they may not have to go far in finding an experienced head coach who sees the game differently than Sutter. John Stevens survived the purge in Los Angeles as the associate coach, so there might be a chance for the former NHL head coach to assume that title once more. Stevens has posted two full seasons as a head coach with Philadelphia, and he won no less than 42 games in both seasons. The talent in Los Angeles is still there for this team to take steps forward to get back to their championship status, but they'll need to generate more offence. Stevens might be the right man for that job.

As an aside to the above paragraph, Rob Blake takes over for Dean Lombardi as the general manager, so the Kings don't have to be searching for two replacements. With Stevens and Blake already familiar with one another and the roster, this might prove beneficial for the franchise.

Vancouver is, perhaps, the most curious case. They had a great coach in Desjardins who couldn't win with the roster they have, and it seemed like he was out of answers at times for how his team performed on the ice. Some may say that a more disciplined, most defensively-inclined coach would be good in Vancouver, but I think Vancouver goes internal on their new hire. Utica's Travis Green has worked with and is familar with the vast majority of the players on the Canucks' roster, and he's shown a knack for winning in the AHL with the up-and-coming Canucks. He'll have a good idea on which players should be promoted, which should be let go, and he could help Jim Benning with a lot of the personnel decisions that have to be made. In short, Green is almost a perfect fit if the Canucks go down that route.

And that leaves Vegas. Do they go with Ruff? Hitchcock? Desjardins? Sutter? Or maybe George McPhee looks at a former Capitals bench boss such as Ron Wilson or Adam Oates? In any case, there are some good coaches out in the wilderness looking for work, and Las Vegas will have many options. It could determine how quickly they enter into the playoff race in the Western Conference!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Let The Games Begin!

Let the games begin as the biggest annual contest on this site is back for yet another year! Seedings have been decided, match-ups have been set, and the battles will start both on the ice and in the pool on Wednesday as the 2017 HBIC Playoff Pool gets underway! If you've participated before, you know this pool gets intense. If you've played before, you know there are some decent prizes to be had for those who qualify. And if you've entered before, you know that the annual HBIC Playoff Pool is 100% free of charge for any and all participants! Ready to have fun? Then let's make some waves!

Every year since the founding of HBIC, I have offered an absolutely-free hockey pool for my readers. There are prizes for those who perform well, and I am happy to do this for those of you who stop by here when you can. This year will be no exception as the pool will be free again, and there will be some great prizing available for those that rise above the rest. Prizes are currently being acquired and sorted out, and I will post a prize list as we make our way deeper into the playoffs. In other words, you have a shot at prizes right now, and there will be more coming based on availability.

RULES

These are pretty straight-forward and cut-and-dry.
  • Entrants will be required to pick the winner of each game for each series. In doing so, one will also choose the number of games played by the two teams in each series.
  • Entrants will be required to pick the game-winning goal scorer for each game.
Sounds pretty easy, right? No real strategy as to which team will go further, who is playing whom, and all that jazz. Points will be based upon your predictions in each game and series.
  • For each correctly-predicted team that wins the game, one point will be awarded.
  • For correctly predicting the series length, two points will be awarded.
  • For correctly predicting the series length AND winning team, five points will be awarded. If one correctly predicts the series length and winning team, the two-point option is overridden by the higher-scoring option.
  • For predicting the player who scores the game-winning goal per game, that entrant will receive an additional two points per game per correctly-chosen player.
The following example should help you weed through the rules:
For the Pittsburgh-Columbus series, I predict that Pittsburgh will win Games 2, 3, 5, and 6. The Rangers will win Games 1 and 4. I predict Conor Sheary will score the winner in Game 2, Sidney Crosby in Game 3, Evgeni Malkin in Game 5, and Phil Kessel in Game 6. Cam Atkinson will score Columbus' game-winner in Game 1 while Seth Jones will notch the winner in Game 4.
If I correctly predicted the entire series (highly improbable with my record of prognostications) of Pittsburgh winning in six games with all my game-winner scoring choices being right, I would earn 23 points (6 for each correct game + 5 for correctly predicting length and series winner + 12 for each game-winning goal scorer).

The catch to this whole thing is that no one will be eliminated until the Stanley Cup is handed out. With each new round beginning, each entrant will be required to send in their picks just as they did in the previous round. This way, everyone has a chance at some free shwag. And everyone loves free shwag.

TIE-BREAKER

I would hazard a guess at there possibly being a tie between two or more people, so your tie-breaker, required at the start of the first round, is to name the team who will accumulate THE MOST PENALTY MINUTES THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE PLAYOFFS. Those who are tied will have their answers reviewed, and the entrant who picked the team with the closest PIM total to the team's actual total for the playoffs will be crowned as the winner.

A NEW WRINKLE

One of the complaints I hear from entrants is that if they have a bad first-round of predictions, they're basically out of the running so they stop playing. I completely understand this, and this is why this new twist is being put on the books for those that are the gambling types.

After the first round is over, everyone has points. Even if it's just ten points, you still have points. And now, those points can be risked for a big payoff if you're able to correctly predict a series of your choosing. You'll see a new column on the spreadsheet that will read "RISK IT". You will place a point total behind a series of your choosing if you wish to risk your points on calling a perfect series. You can only bet on one series. You can only bet to the maximum number of points you have currently. You will not receive any points in that series if you are wrong!

Read that last line again as this is an all-or-nothing bet. If you bet 40 points on a series and don't call every game right, you get nothing for that series. With a big risk comes a big reward, though. If you do call every game correctly (minus the goal scorers as that's bonus points), you'll double the points risked!

As an example, if I risk 20 points on the potential second-round series of Chicago and Minnesota, and I correctly predict Chicago winning in Games 1, 3, 5, and 6 while Minnesota wins Games 2 and 4, I'd double my risked points to 40. That's an immediate 20-point swing for people who may have fallen behind plus you still get the point totals from all the other series and goal scorers. However, any mistake will net me a total of zero for that series!

Predict well, win big. Predict poorly, and you'll fall further behind. Risk versus reward. If you're out of the prizes by double-digits in points, though, this could be the way to win yourself back into the prizes!

COST TO ENTER

The best part of the HBIC Playoff Pool? It's FREE! Always has been, always will be. You guys support me all year, so I feel I should give back when I can, and this pool allows me to do so.

You can enter at no cost, and the shwag is up for grabs. The only thing I ask, to be fair, is that you only enter once, please. Also, if you happen to miss a round, that's fine. Things happen, people get busy, no big deal. Just remember that you may find yourself in a very difficult spot if you miss any of the rounds because the point totals available in each round decrease with the lower total number of series being played. I won't be babysitting, so it's your job to enter as the Playoff Pool continues.

HOW DO I ENTER?

I will continue to use the email account specifically for the HBIC Playoff Pool simply because my normal email is ridiculously cluttered and I need some time to go through it. That being said, you MUST send all picks to this new email address: hbicplayoffpool-at-gmail-dot-com. Entries sent to any other email address that you have for me will be categorically deleted so that I can keep all of the HBIC Playoff Pool entries in one place. Clear? Nod your head. You don't want your Poolie Picks to go missing in my disorganized mailbox, do you?

Now to expedite the marking, I have created a pretty little Excel document that can be opened in both Microsoft Excel and OpenOffice Calc. Fill this out and send it back to me WITH YOUR NAME AS THE NAME OF THE EXCEL DOCUMENT (ie. Teebz.xls).

I want to be clear about something: I have an iPad and I use it regularly. I understand that some people want to use .numbers format from the Apple world, but it's a pain in the rear for me when scoring and updating. If you are going to use the .numbers format, please see if you can save the document in .pdf or some sort of common format between the Apple and Windows platforms. That's my only request from all participants!

Click here to download if you missed the link above.

And I think that about does it. If you have any questions, fire me an email here. DO NOT SEND YOUR PICKS TO THAT EMAIL! Follow the directions above to do so. Get your picks in by the puck drop in Game One of the first series on Wednesday to enter the pool! If you have some sort of issue with this deadline, please email ASAP so we can make arrangements!

May the best prognosticator win, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Preparation Has Begun

With the NHL's regular season coming to a close, another annual tradition kicks off here on HBIC. Just as I've done in past year, the HBIC Playoff Pool will open tomorrow as the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff picture if finalized. There won't be a Detroit for the first time in running this pool while there will be a Toronto for the first time. Columbus will make a second appearance - their only two appearances - back in the pool, so there will be some changes to which entrants will need to adjust. And on that note, there will be some changes to the HBIC Playoff Pool this year.

The HBIC Playoff Pool is something I've run each year here on the blog, but I've found myself doing a lot of work for a number of people who only play for a round or two. Once they forgot to play for a round or they realize the picks they made have them light years behind the leaders, they quit. The first round of the playoffs is, for me, the most work I do in the pool as everyone and their dogs come out of the woodwork to enter the pool. Because of this, I am making a change.

Entries this year will be limited to those who played all the way through to, and including, the Stanley Cup Final last season AND those that I know personally whose reputation of good standing precedes them AND those that read this blog. While I certainly encourage those who read this blog to enter since you've stuck with me through everything on this site, I will not be advertising it on other sites as I have done in the past. Those are from where most of these one-and-done entrants came, and I don't have the time nor the inclination to weed through entries whose owners do not read this blog regularly to get updates and future rounds' spreadsheets.

Some of you may complain about this ripple in the pool's water this year. After ten years of watching hundreds of people enter to play only to have them never fill out another spreadsheet, I want less work when it comes to this pool. If you land on the pool's page through a search engine and fill out the spreadsheet, I'll take your entry. But if you do so, make sure you check back after every round. You're on notice as of right now: you enter for one round, you enter for all rounds. If that's too much work for you to handle, don't enter. If you do and you fail at keeping your end of the bargain, I'll be taking names when it comes to future contests, giveaways, and HBIC Playoff Pools.

As of tomorrow, we'll know who plays where and when, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs will start on Wednesday. The spreadsheet for the first round of the pool and the rules of the HBIC Playoff Pool will be posted tomorrow. You have until puck drop on Wednesday of the first playoff game to get your entries in. Let the games begin!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 7 April 2017

More Than Two Teams

The Women's World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan ended tonight with the same two teams battling for the gold medal as the previous EVERY world championship, so you'll excuse me if I seem a little disinterested in the outcome tonight. The hockey was top-notch as the best women's players battled for glory, and the game once again went to overtime as the two most-accomplished women's national squads went full-tilt in the extra frame. In the end, the Americans won on a Hilary Knight goal to give them the 3-2 victory and the gold medal over the Canadians, but excuse me if I found the bronze medal game to more intriguing.

Finland had never finished lower than fourth-place while Germany had taken major steps forward after failing to qualify for the Olympics. This game featured a team whose consistency has been near-equal to that of Canada and the US while an up-and-coming nation had taken steps further than programs who were thought to be on the precipice of more in Russia and Switzerland. While the final in the bronze medal game wasn't indicative of how far Germany came, it was a display of hockey with which the Finns were very happy.

In the end, Finland brushed Germany aside with an 8-0 win in capturing the bronze medal while Noora Raty posted another shutout in her already-impressive career. After taking Canada down in the round-robin, Finland has a lot to be excited for when they arrive in South Korea for the Olympics. However, they fully admit that the work needed has only just begun.

"I think this was a big step forward," Finnish captain Jennie Hiirikoski told IIHF's Andrew Podnieks, "especally looking to next season and the Olympics. We're going to be playing and practising with boys next year, and that will help us get to the next level."

With the success that both the Finnish men's and women's teams have had, combining forces is an interesting experiment to see which team influences the other more. Finland, for the first time ever, beat Canada this year in the women's tournament while the men's program has seen World Junior Championship success to lead them into a new era of hockey. There's no doubt that Finland is in the mix when it comes to the top-three hockey nations on the planet for both the men and women, but the question needing to be asked is how much higher they can go.

"It's a good ending," Raty told Podnieks. "I think we made a good statement here that we might have separated from the rest of the Europeans and actually have a real chance of playing in the finals one day."

Raty's statement is entirely true in that Finland is the best nation in Europe as it stands. They have great scoring, solid defence, and outstanding goaltending. Teams like Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Russia weren't even on the same level as Finland when it came to the performances seen at this tournament. Raty's comments of having a chance of playing in the finals is probably closer than she says based on their performances against the Canadians and Americans in their pool. That being said, there's still work to do based on the 4-0 loss the Finns took in the semifinal against Canada.

When all is said and done, Finland looks like it should nearly be a lock for a medal in Pyeongchang during the 2018 Winter Olympiad. It will be up to them to determine what colour that medal is.

On the other side of this game, the Germans took a second-straight beating at the hands of one of the best teams on the planet. The Americans dropped an 11-0 thrashing on the Germans in the semifinal before the Finns systematically picked them apart in the 8-0 loss in the bronze-medal game. But those two losses should be considered the measuring stick in how far Germany still has to go when it comes to all the success they experienced in this tournament. That being said, they experienced a ton of success they had never seen before.

The Germans opened the tournament with a surprising 3-1 win over former European powerhouse Sweden before downing the Czech Republic by a 2-1 score the very next day. While they dropped a 4-2 game against the Swiss, they had already qualified for the quarterfinal with Sweden defeating Switzerland and the Swiss downing the Czech Republic. Considering Germany was eliminated from Olympic qualifications on February 12, the turnaround and drive they showed at the World Championship was nothing short of impressive.

"We started pretty well in the tournament, but as you can see on the ice against Canada, the United States, and Finland, the gap is big," Germany head coach Benjamin Hinterstocker admitted to Podnieks. "We don't have to talk about which team is the better one, but overall, we should be happy for the team and women's hockey in Germany. I think we represented German women's hockey well."

I think Hinterstocker should be a little more proud of his squad because they exceeded almost everyone's expectations at this tournament based on their previous results at the Olympic qualifying tournament. Jennifer Harss, the German netminder, was outstanding, and they got balanced scoring when playing teams more on their level. While they won't be in Pyeongchang, the performance at this year's World Championship should have everyone in Germany excited about their potential.

While the Americans hoisted the trophy and Canada accepted their silver medals after an outstanding final once more, the real story lines in this tournament were the emergence of Finland as a potential superpower and the resurgence of Germany after disappointment one month earlier. There will always be some who just see the North American teams as the only two teams in women's international hockey, but the Finns are proving they shouldn't be underestimated and the Germans are reminding everyone not to count them out.

Well done, ladies!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 237

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back tonight with a show jam-packed with all sorts of news, discussion points, and an announcement! Tonight would be a good night to call into the show if you want your voice heard as we'll be discussing two of the bigger stories to hit the news over the last week as well as tossing out some smaller news snippets before we lead into the announcement. If you have an opinion on the two main stories tonight, however, we want your opinions!

Tonight, we'll sit down and discuss the NHL opting not to go to the Olympics because you probably haven't heard enough opinions on that. Honestly, I'm going to take the unpopular opinion and celebrate the fact that they aren't going, so we'll see how this discussion breaks down as we move through the talking points. Also on the docket for this evening's show is the decision by UND to cut the women's hockey program and how short-sighted that move is, the ongoing Women's World Championship results as Canada plays this afternoon against Finland, the Minnesota Wild wearing North Stars jerseys in warm-ups to celebrate 50 years of pro hockey in Minnesota (except there wasn't) while the Dallas Stars looked on, and a pile of smaller news stories that bounced across the old desk this week.

At around 6:20, you'll want to have the radio tuned to 101.5 on the FM dial because the announcement will happen then. What is it, you ask? This teaser isn't going to reveal anything. Tune in tonight to find out what the news is!

If you're gonna be out and about tonight, but still want to hear the show, you really should download the UMFM app. Like now. I'll wait while you go do that because it's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so get to it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! 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. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, we talk about not going to the Olympics, not watching UND women's hockey, which team between Canada and Finland will play for gold, and wrong jerseys being worn plus much more on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: April 6, 2017: Episode 237

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Make Your Voice Heard

The lady pictured to the left is Heidi Heitkamp, Democratic Senator from the state of North Dakota. She was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, but she has spent a large amount of time serving in public office for North Dakota. She previously served as the North Dakota Attorney General for eight years before getting into the Senate race where she's been the Democratic Representative since 2013. Prior to her time as the Attorney General, Heitkamp served as the State Tax Commissioner from 1989 until 1993. Ultimately, she is in Washington to ensure that North Dakota's voice is heard. She seems to be a very reasonable woman, a caring mother, a loving wife, and a proud North Dakotan.

Regardless of her political aspirations and views, Miss Heitkamp graduated from the University of North Dakota with a Bachelor of Arts in 1977. Raised in Mantador, North Dakota, her views on the battling being waged between the UND women's hockey program and UND's administration were front-and-center on ESPN today as Outside The Lines interviewed Miss Heitkamp about the canceling of the program.
The one key line she stated in this interview was, "According to them, it's a done deal." And that's a heartbreaking statement coming from someone who represents a vast number of people in the state who may be UND supporters. Of course, many of them may not be, but she is a representative of all the people in North Dakota. And despite her insistence regarding the importance of the program, it sounds as if the administration cares not for Miss Heitkamp's opinion.

The budget shortfall that is affecting the university so deeply was, according to Tyler Axness of ND xPlains, caused by North Dakota legislature pushing ahead in 2008 with cuts to corporate and personal income taxes "over the next four legislative sessions while simultaneously increasing spending" that was "coupled with a 23% oil extraction tax cut". You can read through the vast number of cuts that the state imposed over the last decade that has led them to this financial crisis, but there was a lot of money left on the table by legislators that would certainly go to covering the $1.9 million bill for women's hockey as stated on Outside The Lines.

I have no horse in this race whatsoever outside of the fact that I enjoy watching UND women's hockey. I'm not here to discuss politics, and I don't have a vote in North Dakota when it comes to sending a message to local legislators for their past indiscretions that have led to the massive cuts happening across the state. While there's an online petition happening in an effort to get the school to reinstate the program, it seems as though all these efforts are going to be ignored by UND's administration.

While you may not be able to vote on who runs UND or makes the major decisions there, you can send a major message to those who determine the budget of the school. This is more than just the UND women's hockey program. This is about the swimming programs, the baseball program, and the golf program - all programs that have been cut in recent years. This is about the $5 million cut to Medical and Heath services department. This is about the thousands of students who will experience cuts of some kind to all faculties and services at the school.

We talk about creating a better future for our children, but it's hard to do that when we continue to cut services and opportunities for them to achieve more. This isn't a hockey issue; rather, it's about making our future better by ensuring that all kids, regardless of their chosen pursuit, can achieve more.

When the opportunity arises, send a clear message to those in the North Dakota House by making your voice heard regarding their gross mismanagement of public funds. It's your future they are destroying, not just the future of 26 innocent women.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!