Wednesday 30 April 2008

Where I Spent Wednesday Night

I'll be completely honest when I say that sometimes hockey doesn't occupy my life entirely. Tonight, I had the privilege of attending the sneak preview of the new Paramount Studios-produced Ironman, and I have to say that it is one of the best comic-book-turned-movie adaptations in recent memory. I suggest going to see it as it was entertaining. However, this blog is not turning into Rotten Tomatoes, I can assure you. I'll stick with what I know best, and that's hockey. Since I've neglected the AHL, I'll be devoting this entire article to that league and the battle for the Calder Cup. There have been some excellent games thus far, and the teams are starting to fall off as the best rise to the top.

Round One

In the first Atlantic Division Semifinal, the Providence Bruins squared off against the Manchester Monarchs. The Bruins defeated the Monarchs in four games straight, but three of their victories came in overtime. In Game One, Providence won 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Pascal Pelletier. In Game Two, the Bruins won 2-0 over Manchester, backed by a Tuukka Rask shutout. In Game Three, Providence won 3-2 in overtime again, with the winner scored by Jeff Hoggan. Game Four also was won by Providence in overtime, again by a 3-2 margin. The winner in the series-clinching game came off the stick of Martins Karsums. Providence advances to the Atlantic Division Final with a sweep of the Monarchs.

In the second Atlantic Division Semifinal, the Hartford Wolfpack took on the Portland Pirates. In Game One, Hartford used two third period goals to defeat Portland 3-1. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau had two goals for the Wolfpack. Game Two went to Portland by a 3-2 score in double overtime. Michal Birner scored the overtime winner. Game Three was won by Portland by a 3-2 score in regulation. Jason King scored the game-winning goal. Game Four was once again won by Portland. The 4-3 victory was secured by Stephen Dixon's game-winning goal. Game Five, and the series, was won by Portland after they recorded a 3-2 victory over Hartford. Brett Festerling scored the winner. Portland advances in five games, and will go to the Atlantic Division Final to face Providence.

In the first East Division Semifinal, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (WBS, from now on) faced off against the Hershey Bears. In Game One, WBS defeated Hershey in overtime by a 2-1 score, with the game-winner being scored by Chris Minard. Game Two was won by WBS by a 6-2 score. Tim Brent had a couple of goals, and blogger Ben Lovejoy had a couple of assists. Game Three saw WBS pick up another win by a score of 5-1. Alex Goligoski had three assists in the win, while Alain Nasreddine had a goal and an assist. Game Four saw Hershey pull out a 3-2 win in overtime over WBS. The game-winner was scored by Alexandre Giroux. Game Five, and the series, was won by WBS after a 7-3 victory. Tim Brent had two goals and two assists. The WBS Penguins win the series 4-1, and advance to the East Division Final.

In the second East Division Semifinal, the Philadelphia Phantoms matched up against the Albany River Rats. Game One went to Albany by a 4-0 score, backstopped by Michael Leighton's 29-save shutout. Game Two was won by Philadelphia by a 3-0 score, backed by a Scott Munroe 18-save shutout. Albany took Game Three with a 4-1 victory. Bryan Rodney picked up a couple of goals in the win. Game Four saw Philly earn a 2-1 victory. Kyle Greentree scored the game-winning goal.

And then we come to Game Five. Game Five between the Phantoms and River Rats set a new AHL record for the longest playoff game in AHL history as Phantoms won in the fifth overtime period by a 3-2 score. Philly outshot Albany 101-67 in the game. Michael Leighton made 98 saves. The game, which started at 7:01 PM EDT, ended at 12:39 AM EDT, running a total of five hours and thirty-eight minutes. Ryan Potulny finally ended it at the 2:58 mark of the eighth period. The worst part? The total attendance to see this game was only 1809. The rest of the people of Albany, New York missed a historical game.

From Game Five, we move to Game Six where the River Rats won the game 1-0 in overtime. Michael Leighton recorded 40 saves for his second shutout of the series. Game Seven went to Philly by a 2-0 score, giving them the series. Scott Munroe recorded his second shutout of the series with his 21-save performance. Philadelphia advances to the East Division Finals to face WBS after dispatching the River Rats in seven games.

In the first North Division Semifinal, the Toronto Marlies squared off against the West Division's San Antonio Rampage after they won the crossover by finishing with more points than the North Division's Hamilton Bulldogs. In Game One, Toronto won 4-3 on the strength of a Jiri Tlusty game-winning goal. Game Two went to the Rampage by a 6-3 score. Chad Kolarik recorded a hat trick in the victory. Game Three went to San Antonio as well as they defeated the Marlies 3-2. Bill Thomas scored the winner. Game Four saw the winner and loser flip-flopped as the Marlies won the game 3-2. Chris Harrington scored the game-winner in that one. Game Five saw Toronto win 2-1. John Mitchell recorded the game-winning goal. San Antonio won Game Six on the road by a 3-0 score. Josh Tordjman recorded the shutout with his 38-save performance. Game Seven, and the series, was won by Toronto after they posted a 2-1 victory in the deciding game. Veteran Bates Battaglia scored the game-and-series-winner. Toronto advances to the North Division Final by winning the series 4-3.

In the second North Division Semifinal, the Manitoba Moose faced off against the Syracuse Crunch. In Game One, Syracuse defeated Manitoba by a 2-1 score in overtime. Joakim Lindstrom scored the winner. Game Two went to the Moose as they won 3-2 in overtime. Mike Brown notched the winner in that one. Game Three saw Syracuse win 2-1 in overtime again. This time, Tom Sestito ended the game. Game Four saw Manitoba end it in regulation time with a 5-2 victory. Jason Jaffray paced the Moose with a goal and an assist. Game Five saw Syracuse win in overtime again by a 3-2 margin. Derek MacKenzie scored the overtime winner. Game Six also went to Syracuse by the same 3-2 overtime victory. Trevor Frischmon ended the game, and sent Manitoba home. Syracuse wins the series 4-2, and advances to the North Division Final against Toronto.

In the first West Division Final, the Chicago Wolves matched up against the Milwaukee Admirals. Game One saw Milwaukee pick up a 4-3 overtime victory as Cal O'Reilly scored the winner. Game Two went to Chicago by a 2-1 score where Jesse Schultz scored the game-winner. Chicago turned the tables on Milwaukee in Game Three by winning the game 4-3 in overtime. Captain Darren Haydar notched the winner for the Wolves. Game Four saw Milwaukee rebound with a 2-0 win. Pekke Rinne recorded the 37-save shutout. Game Five was a 4-1 win for Chicago. Jason Krog had two assists in the win. Game Six was also won by Chicago as they shutout the Admirals 3-0. Ondrej Pavelec picked up the 30-save shutout to help Chicago win the series. Chicago advances to the West Division Final after defeating Milwaukee 4-2.

In the second West Division Final, the Rockford IceHogs took to the ice against the Houston Aeros. Game One saw Rockford defeat Houston 3-1. Martin St. Pierre had a goal and an assist for the IceHogs. Houston won Game Two in double overtime by a 1-0 score. Barry Brust picked up the 30-save shutout while teammate Ryan Jones scored the only goal. Rockford came back in Game Three, winning 2-1 in regulation time. Derek Nesbitt scored the winner. Game Four saw Rockford duplicate their efforts in Game Three, winning this game by a 2-1 score again. Kris Versteeg had the winner in this one. Game Five also went to Rockford as they defeated Houston 5-2. Rockford had a couple of shorthanded goals in this game - Kris Versteeg with the first, and Jake Dowell with the second. Rockford advances to the West Division Final after defeating Houston 4-1.

The only series that has begun in Round Two thus far is the Providence-Portland series. Providence has a 2-0 lead after posting wins of 4-0 and 7-1.

That is what has been happening in the AHL so far. More updates will follow so be sure to head back here for your AHL Calder Cup info!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 29 April 2008

Get Out The Brooms!

With three series in this second round already sitting at 3-0, this is a janitor's dream. The brooms are out in Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Detroit, and there appears to be nothing that the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, or Colorado Avalanche can do about it. You would think that in both the Pittsburgh-New York series and the Dallas-San Jose series that these series would be a little closer, especially since both series feature interdivisional matchups which means these teams have seen each other eight times in the regular season. I'm not put the blame on coaching or the players or any one individual in the series, but you'd think that Ron Wilson, Tom Renney, Patrick Marleau, Jaromir Jagr, and the rest of the Sharks and Rangers would be aware of how dangerous their opponents are, right?

Let's start with the Penguins and Rangers.

If you're the Rangers, you know that the amount of talent in the opposing team's dressing room is considerable. You know that there are two legitimate scoring lines, a very productive checking line, and a superb grind line that will eat up minutes for the superstars as they rest. If you're the Rangers, you know your opponents have a very active, offensive blueline with a couple of defensive stalwarts to balance things out. And you have to be aware of Marc-Andre Fleury in between the pipes in terms of ability and athleticism.

The Rangers have got to stop worrying about the referees, the non-calls, the drama, and all the other stuff they have been talking to the press about, and start playing hockey. They need to start laying the body on the Penguins. Guys like Marc Staal, Ryan Hollweg, Sean Avery, and Fedor Tyutin have to punish the Penguins' forwards when they can.

Offensively, the Rangers need to get Fleury moving. When he moves, he opens up. Cross-ice passes, shots with rebounds, and going to the net hard will result in good things. It happened tonight on the first Rangers' goal when Jagr went to the net hard, and Fleury gave up a rebound. The result? Straka goal. Jagr had him moving on his wrap-around, and the result was a Jagr goal. See what I mean?

Mostly, the Rangers have to start playing like Pittsburgh has in their seven games thus far: they need to show a little swagger. Madison Square Garden is not home ice for the Penguins, but they skated like they owned it tonight. The Rangers can't play for five-minute portions of the game and expect to win.

It's desperate hockey time for the New York Rangers and their fans. There is no other option now.

Speaking of needing to play desperate hockey, San Jose can complain all they want about the goal that was called off tonight, but they lost this series in Game One and Game Two by not showing up.

Honestly, they have no edge. No bite. No grit. No determination. No doggedness. No tenacity. Nothing. Have I captured their first three games in enough words yet?

What happened to the Sharks who had an amazing run to end the season? Is Nabokov tired? Are the Sharks tired? They had a 20-game regular-season streak without a regulation defeat. Nabokov has appeared in 87 games this season, including 77 regular season appearances. Nabokov has said that he thrives on playing as he can keep his rhythm, but the human body needs rest, especially for the rigorous playoff schedule.

The biggest problem seems to be a lack of offensive firepower for the Sharks. In the three games against Dallas thus far, Joe Thornton has one assist while captain Patrick Marleau, who Ron Wilson said was the best player in the series against the Flames, has one goal.

Forget talking about secondary scoring. The Sharks can't even get primary scoring at this point. Give credit to head coach Dave Tippett, the Stars, and Marty Turco for shutting down the Sharks, and for doing their interdivisional homework.

Lastly, despite their obvious troubles with the stars of the Red Wings, I'll give credit where credit is due for the Avalanche.

Andrew Brunette is worth every penny. This guy is playing at an exceptionally high level in the playoffs, and that's huge. Joe Sakic is also having himself a very nice spring session this year, and you need your leaders to come through.

I did expect, however, bigger contributions from players like Hejduk and Forsberg. I don't want to hear about how Forsberg is playing on one leg either. Everyone plays hurt in the playoffs, and if you're taking up a roster spot, you had better contribute. Losing Wolski hurts the Avs as well as he provided some good scoring talent as well.

The Avalanche simply need to be more physical with the Wings, and they have not done that. The Anaheim Ducks bullied them into submission during the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and I would have thought that teams would try that again this season. The Wings are basically the same team, but neither Nashville nor Colorado has thrown the body against the smaller forwards of the Wings.

I expect Dallas to hammer away on the Wings in the next round, much like they've done to both the Ducks and Sharks thus far. Colorado can still make Detroit pay, mind you. It just has start now.

A Jacket Forever: Some sad news out of the NHL this week as John H. McConnell, the owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets, passed away at the age of 84 on Friday.

Mr. McConnell led a group of investors in the bid to bring an NHL franchise to the city of Columbus in 1997. The bid, of course, became the Columbus Blue Jackets, and began play in 2000.

He had been diagnosed with cancer last year, and his health began to fail him as of late. "Mr. Mac", a name he was called by coaches and players, received a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute on October 9, 2000 before the Blue Jackets' first game.

Rest in peace, Mr. McConnell. You'll always be remembered by this writer.

Trophy Names: Some more names were released by the NHL as finalists for the awards at this season's end.

Hart Trophy - Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Jerome Iginla.
Lady Byng Trophy - Pavel Datsyuk, Jason Pominville, Martin St. Louis.
Frank Selke Trophy - Pavel Datsyuk, John Madden, Henrik Zetterberg.

I'm going with Ovechkin, Datsyuk, and Madden for these three awards, respectively.

As we head towards this weekend, I'll be updating the AHL, ECHL, and junior leagues as well. Tomorrow will see Philly and Montreal tangle in the early game, while Dallas tries for the sweep in the late game against San Jose.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 28 April 2008

Diving In The Media

I've become a little jaded in recent weeks with the number of accusations thrown out by people watching hockey that diving is a commonplace tactic used by skilled players to gain an upperhand in the playoffs. While I understand that it does happen occasionally, saying it happens all the time is a little drastic. What really bothers me is when paid members of mainstream media decide to input their opinions on how the game is played on the ice. While it is frustrating to see your team fall in two games before coming home in the NHL Playoffs, there is no reason to start labeling players as "divers", especially when there is no succinct evidence to back up the claim. Journalistic standards be damned, I suppose.

Before the series started, Larry Brooks of the New York Post asked Crosby "to respond to innuendo from Tom Renney that Crosby embellishes possible penalties and takes dives".

"'I haven't changed one bit; I never dove and I don't dive now,' Crosby said to Brooks [Friday] with a flash of anger. 'That's just part of the playoffs; part of gamesmanship.

"'If I go down, it's because I've been forced down. I'll do whatever I can to stay on my feet. I think he (Renney) should be the one worried about diving.'"

Brooks then goes on to write an article containing this paragraph:

"But as great a player as Lemieux was, he was an inveterate diver. As remarkable a player as Crosby is, the same charge has been made against him. In fact, The Post has learned, a league official spoke to No. 87 last season about the issue of embellishing."

Excuse me? Lemieux was "an inveterate diver"? I'm not sure where Brooks was during the 1990s, but the guy currently in Rangers' blue-and-red who made a name for himself as a Penguin was more often called a "diver" than #66. In fact, #68 was synonymous with soft play for the longest time as a member of the Penguins, which included diving.

How many times has anyone called Mario Lemieux a "diver"? This sounds like a case of "Homer-ism" from Larry Brooks. Just because the Rangers have been outplayed in both games doesn't give Larry Brooks the right to accuse a Hall-of-Fame player of diving, especially when there is absolutely no proof. Ripping on Mario Lemieux for diving is as accurate as saying that Bob Probert was a finesse player.

I will commend Brooks for actually doing some journalism, though. In discovering that a league official had talked to Crosby about embellishment shows that he knows how to do some research, a vital component of journalism.

However, to continually float the idea that Sidney Crosby is a diver as a published journalist takes some moxie. Crosby has never been fined and reprimanded by the NHL as a diver. Larry Brooks, however, makes him to be public enemy numero uno for the way he plays the game.

Going back to his most recent article, Brooks even admits that Crosby did not dive on the Fedor Tyutin penalty yesterday. He wrote: "The first time was at 13:54 after Fedor Tyutin had been called for holding No. 87 - no dive, but a terrible call - in a one-on-one battle behind the Rangers' net".

Let me get this straight: he's a diver, but he didn't dive? Instead, it's the referee's fault for calling a "terrible call"? How is it a terrible call when you place your free hand on the player with the puck and push him down? Mr. Brooks, you need to brush up on your hockey rulebook. Or simply watch hockey. That's holding by the very definition.

But Larry Brooks isn't the only journalist committed to dragging the other team through the mud. Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review claims that the Rangers are playing a crying game. In his article, Starkey writes:

"The Whiners - sorry, Rangers - couldn't help themselves Friday after a 5-4 loss in Game 1. They were irate that Crosby had drawn an interference call on Martin Straka with 3:20 left in regulation, leading to the winning goal."

Starkey, also showing some journalistic credibility, interviewed a key witness to the game in Versus analyst Darren Eliot.

"Versus analyst Darren Eliot offered a reasonable take, in an interview Saturday on ESPN Radio. He was asked if he thought Crosby had embellished.

"'First of all, I don't see Sidney Crosby as that type of player,' Eliot said. 'What separates him from everyone else, aside from his skill level, is his determination and will to work in the high-traffic areas.

"'Straka was a quarter of a step behind. Crosby was bursting into the open ice. The way I saw it is exactly the way the league wanted things to be called when they were coming out of the lockout. And that is that the guy without the puck cannot be impeded. He has to be allowed to get into the open ice and create offense.'"

While Starkey was slightly more insulting than Brooks was towards the opposing team's claims, Newsday's Arthur Staple takes the cake for subjective "journalism". In his article, Staple doesn't just insinuate that Crosby dives. No, he flat-out says that he dives all the time. He also throws a few barbs towards Pittsburgh fans, but his verbal assault on Crosby seems to be seen through NYR-coloured glasses.

Staple, in his condemning of Crosby, writes, "Because you're the only one who goes down without much assistance and a ref's hand shoots up, immediately. Koharski did it when Crosby rounded the net and fell without a touch from Brandon Dubinsky in the second period, and Sutherland did it at a much more crucial time, with 3:20 left in the third."

In case Mr. Staple may have missed what Mr. Eliot said, let me paraphrase what he said by using this one idea - Crosby draws calls because of "his determination and will to work in the high-traffic areas".

I'm not sure if anyone has noticed this, but Alex Ovechkin does the exact same thing. He skates hard into high-traffic areas, takes a bump or a stick near the skates, and hits the ice. The referee's arm almost always goes up. Why? Darren Eliot answers this as well: "the guy without the puck cannot be impeded. He has to be allowed to get into the open ice and create offense".

I appreciate the good-natured ribbing that hockey fans do in the playoffs. It creates drama, and gives the games a "larger than life" personification that drives the passion of the sport. Mainstream media, for the most part, do their part by reporting some valuable bulletin board material that is used by both the teams and fans in the development of the rivalry between the warring squads.

However, to personally crucify someone for playing within the boundaries of the rules as they are laid out is both pathetic and anti-journalistic.

We - bloggers on the sport of hockey, and bloggers in general - routinely get flamed by the mainstream media for "infringing on the work of journalists". However, these three articles are what I would expect to find on a message board or a blog. All contain quotes from various individuals that have been spun to change the context of the speaker's message.

I try not to get into contests with other bloggers or journalists regarding content that they produce. We're all entitled to speak our minds and have our voices heard. When journalists begin to show less objectivity in their stories, it's time that their editors step in and fix the problem. After all, they aren't bloggers and we aren't journalists, according to the accredited press.

As for pissing contests between reporters, leave the trash-talk, insults, and "yo' mama" jokes to the fans and players. Journalism should be held to a higher standard if you're being published. Especially if you're being published.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 26 April 2008

Coming Soon To This Blog

Since I've been so concerned about the NHL Playoffs as of late, I've neglected some of the other news in the world of hockey. Now, I know you can go to any sports site and get your fill of "expert analysis" and "comprehensive breakdowns" of the series that are currently going on, so I've decided to only to update the series on this site with a few lines devoted to each series. Why? Because I keep missing out on some really good stories from other leagues and events. The AHL, ECHL, WHL, QMJHL, and OHL all are in their playoffs as well, and I have yet to mention any of them. Instead of being NHL-centric on this blog, I will continue to do my best to bring you other stories in the hockey universe.

I am working on a pile of stuff for upcoming stories. Of course, Teebz's Book Club will continue to grow as I am currently reading two books. One is nearly finished, and this award-winning book has been a great read thus far. The second book was recommended to me by a friend, and I have to say that it has been an eye-opening look at one player's life in the NHL. It is well-written, and the stories are worth the price I paid to get my hands on the book. Both of these will be featured soon.

I am also working on a project for the summer months after all the playoff series wind down and the championships have been awarded. This project will be similar in that it will be an examination of a hockey-related item, much like the other forms of hockey that I tackled last year, but will certainly be different. It has been very interesting thus far, and will undoubtedly bring a little light to something that rarely gets mentioned enough.

There will be another "You're Wearing That?" article coming up, and will feature another round of jerseys that have the ability to make people cringe. The more often that hockey teams dress their players in abominations, the better for me. And for all of you, especially if you like those articles. There have been some very questionable jerseys that I've found thus far, and encourage you to send in any you may find to me by emailing me at cdnuniguy-at-gmail-dot-com.

I'll also be updating the 2008 IIHF Men's World Championship as it gets underway in Quebec City and Halifax in May. All the respective countries are assembling their teams right now, and it appears that this year's World Championship could be extremely entertaining.

With the draft coming up in Ottawa this June, I might make a roadtrip down to Ottawa to take in the event. I haven't quite decided yet, but it will all depend on my work schedule. I think this event will be a blast, and Sherry from Scarlett Ice is trying to bring people together for a fabulous time, much like those in Columbus did the year before. Again, I'm working on this, and we'll see what happens.

Lastly, I was impressed with the Penguins' monster comeback against the Rangers last night, mostly due to the surgical precision in which they dismantled the Rangers' defence. Most times, when a team is up 3-0 through 30 minutes in the playoffs, you can write the game off and start regrouping for the next game.

However, when you assemble the kind of talent on one sheet of ice like the Penguins have, you never know exactly when they'll explode all over you like a beer that has just been shaken for 30 minutes straight. All it took was a Jarkko Ruutu softie past Henrik Lundqvist which opened that can of beer, and the Rangers suddenly found themselves soaked in beer and everyone laughing at them.

The Pensblog will walk you through the action with their usual award-winning commentary, and you can see why being a Pens fan is probably the best honour in the world. No, scratch that - the universe.

And that's why I love playoff hockey. It's life and death. It's dramatic and heartbreaking, yet exciting and exuberant. Game Two goes tomorrow. I expect another doozy.

Until tomorrow, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 25 April 2008

Predictions And Such

The first round is over, and I was busy last night (yet again). That means I missed predicting the second round before it started. I correctly predicted Montreal and Pittsburgh moving on from the first round in the Eastern Conference, and I correctly predicted Detroit San Jose from the Western Conference. Four out of eight. Brutal. Yes, I wanted Washington to move on so they would play Pittsburgh, but sometimes things just don't happen the way you want them to. That's what makes the playoffs dramatic, exciting, and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Let's keep rolling with Round Two Predictions!

Eastern Conference

#1 VS. #6
Montreal swept this regular season series 4-0, but, as Boston proved, anything can happen in the playoffs. Montreal has looked vulnerable at times, and Philly has more talent on paper than the Bruins do. If the Bruins can push Montreal to seven games, Philly should be able to do more. However, I think Montreal has learned from their opening series follies, and will dispatch Philadelphia in six games. Look for Carey Price to be huge in this series.

#2 VS. #5
The Penguins and Rangers are set to do battle in an Atlantic Division semi-final. The return of Jagr to Pittsburgh will undoubtedly bring out the "boo-birds" as Jagr unceremoniously left Pittsburgh for greener pastures in Washington. The Penguins will have to continue playing a solid defensive game, especially against the high-flying Gomez and Drury. Look for the Penguins to remove the Avery factor early in this series with physical play against the agitator. I'm going with Pittsburgh to advance in six games over the Rangers.

Western Conference

#1 VS. #6
Detroit dominated the Northwest Division this season, and went 4-0 versus Colorado in the regular season series. With Peter Forsberg announcing that he's nursing an injured groin, the Avalanche will be forced to have their secondary players step up and fill the scoring void. Detroit is getting balanced scoring throughout their lineup, and look to continue to play steady defence. Chris Osgood, stepping in for streaky Dominik Hasek, hopes to outduel Jose Theodore in the Avs' net. This series looks to be fast-paced, but I give the edge to Detroit for their balanced attack. Detroit should advance in five games past the Avalanche.

#2 VS. #5
The Sharks got a good scare in the opening round from a team that hit them at every turn and played gritty defence in the Flames. The Stars will also look to continue that trend. I expect Morrow and Ott to give the Thornton line headaches. Marty Turco will have to continue playing lights-out hockey between the pipes as well. San Jose, on the other hand, need to continue getting scoring out of their secondary players. Setoguchi, Roenick, Clowe, and Marleau have to be huge for San Jose again this series. I see the Sharks advancing to the Western Conference Final in six games over the Dallas Stars.

The PLAYOFF LINE POOL has been updated. Again, if you haven't been here in a couple of days, the number in parentheses is the number of players you have remaining on your line. As you can see, some players near the top are playing significantly shorthanded. Hopefully, no one is completely out before the next round.

That's all for today. Work is piling up already.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 24 April 2008

Rapid Fire Blogging

Because real-life has been nothing short of pandemonium lately, this article will be written in "rapid fire mode". Basically, there will be no long-winded explanations. There will be no breaking down of any ideas. There has been a ton of hockey stuff going on outside of the NHL, and this article will be an attempt to update as much as possible. Ready? Let's get at it.

  • Team Canada's Under-18 team brought home another gold medal after they thrashed Russia 8-0 in the final the World U18 Championships in Kazan, Russia. Jake Allen recorded the 29-save shutout for Team Canada, and was named the tournament's top goalie and the tournament MVP for his performances. The Russians had defeated Canada in the preliminary round by a score of 4-2, but the Canadians responded well. Head coach Pat Quinn credited his team's quick start as the key to the victory. Congratulations, gentlemen, on your gold medal victory!
  • Team USA, who Russia defeated to get to the final of the World U18 Championship, defeated Sweden in the bronze medal game. Congratulations to the Americans, and to all the teams!
  • Team Canada also unveils their new jersey design today in Toronto. Eric Staal and Patrick Sharp will be there as both men were named to Team Canada for the upcoming 2008 IIHF World Championship. Gillian Apps will also be there as the women's representative, and sledge hockey gold medalists Paul Rosen and Bradley Bowden will also model the new jerseys. Rumour has it that they aren't very impressive, but I'll hold my thoughts until I actually see the new threads.
  • Former player agent Mike Gillis was introduced as the new general manager for the Vancouver Canucks. I cannot comprehend this hiring. They fire Dave Nonis - a man who was trained under the tutelage of Brian Burke in the ways of being a shrewd GM - and replace him with a guy who has zero front office experience aside from sitting across from GMs during negotiations. Much like Barnett in Phoenix, I don't see Vancouver improving much from this past season as Gillis will be learning on the fly.
  • As much as I've praised the Montreal fans for their passion for the Canadiens, the rioting that went on in La Belle Province after Montreal's Game Seven victory is absolute garbage. It's the first round of the playoffs, people. Rioting? Looting? Vandalism? Grow up.
  • NBC announced that they will pick up the option in their contract with the NHL to continue televising games in the US. Ratings were up 11% from last year for Sunday games which is a positive sign for the NHL in terms of growth. Having Ovechkin and Crosby play on NBC every weekend doesn't hurt either, but with the Winter Classic game being a monsterous marketing event, it would only make sense for NBC to remain onboard. The deal also includes the option to televise some playoff games.
  • Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Nicklas Backstrom are the finalists for the Calder trophy this season. Kane led the NHL in scoring by a rookie with 72 points. Toews recorded 54 points this season, despite missing time with a knee injury. Backstrom was second in rookie scoring with 69 points, and played in every game Washington played this season. Ideally, I'd like to see Toews win, but Patrick Kane seems to be a lock for this award.
  • Niklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara, and Dion Phaneuf are the finalists for the Norris trophy this season. Lidstrom is shooting for his sixth Norris trophy as he recorded 70 points this season to lead all defencemen. Chara has recorded 51 points, including 17 goals, to garner his second nomination for the award. Phaneuf recorded 60 points, including 17 goals, for his first nomination. Personally, it appears that Lidstrom should win this one with ease.
  • Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Nabokov, and Martin Brodeur are the finalists for the Vezina trophy this season. Brodeur, a three-time winner already, posted a record of 44-27-6 with four shutouts, a GAA of 2.17, and a save percentage of .920. Nabokov posted a record of 46-21-8, a GAA of 2.14, and a save percentage of .910. Lundqvist posted a record of 37-24-10, a GAA of 2.23, and a save percentage of .917. Due to the workload he carried this season, my guess is that Nabokov will win this, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Lundqvist pull off an upset.
  • Former CHL president Ed Chynoweth passed away Tuesday morning after a courageous battle with kidney cancer. He was 66. Chynoweth has been credited as the man who is responsible for making the CHL a multi-million dollar business. He simply loved the game, though, and worked tirelessly to make it better. One son, Dean, was an NHL player, and is now the GM and head coach of the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL. His other son, Jeff, is a high-ranking junior executive. Mr. Chynoweth also leaves behind his wife, Linda. May you rest in peace, Mr. Chynoweth. The game of hockey will always hold you high.
  • Anaheim Ducks' GM Brian Burke is officially off the market. After meeting with owner Henry Samueli and chief executive officer Michael Schulman, Burke will fulfill the last year of his contract with the Ducks, and is looking forward to staying in Anaheim. The search for the next GM in Toronto will now continue after MLSE was reportedly willing to offer Burke $23 million over five years.
  • TSN's Bob McKenzie was invited to a special charity hockey game the other day, and I commend the people of St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic School in Whitby, Ontario for doing all they can to help a youngster. Grade 1 student Joshua Liscio is currently battling a disease that is both difficult for him, and costly for his family. Kudos to Mike Hamill, Janine Bowyer, and the rest of the staff and students at St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic School for doing what is right. Kudos to the community of Whitby for helping Joshua out. And kudos to Bob McKenzie and hockey itself for helping out a little Montreal Canadiens fan. A huge thumbs-up from this writer for everyone's efforts to make Joshua's life much better.
  • I feel kind of bad for the Nashville Predators considering that Alexander Radulov basically contributed to his team's demise in the series against the Red Wings. Remember that huge goal that Jason Arnott scored over the shoulder of Dominik Hasek? Arnott missed the next two games with what was described as "flu-like symptoms". However, it was post-concussion symptoms. Nausea, balance problems, blurred vision - all relevant to a minor concussion. Take a look at the video, and watch how Radulov jumps on him on the corner, and smashes his head into the boards. Follow that up with his struggle to simply step into the bench, and we have a classic concussion scenario. Here's the video:

  • Round Two Predicitions from me will come later today. I haven't had much time in the last two days to examine all the stats and comparisons, but I'll have them up later.
Ok, that's all for now! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Capital Punishment

Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you'd like them to. Whether people call it "fate" or "unlucky" or whatever term fits the bill, it happens that things don't always go according to plan. If you're the Washington Capitals or a fan of the team, you know what heartbreak feels like. After watching your team struggle through the first half of the season, and then hopping on the roller coaster car for a wild ride into the playoffs, the Flyers came along and put an end to the ride.

However, Caps fans, do not bury your chin into your chest over the early exit from the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Much like Pittsburgh last year, you have to learn to lose before you can learn how to win. And, despite me comparing Pittsburgh and Washington after all their perceived hatred for one another this season, the Capitals are in the exact same boat that Pittsburgh was in last season.

Let me explain.

The Penguins rolled into the 2007 NHL Playoffs on a high after securing a berth in the playoffs following a very exciting season. Sidney Crosby had just won his first Art Ross Trophy and was on his way to being the Hart Trophy winner as well. His supporting cast was highly-talented, but very green in terms of "big game experience". Their defence was young, fast, and highly-skilled, but were missing that one player who was a big-body presence. Goaltending was young and reliable, and carried them during the season at times.

Sound familiar?

The Capitals rolled into the 2008 NHL Playoffs on a high after securing a berth in the playoffs following a very exciting season. Alexander Ovechkin had just won his first Art Ross Trophy and was on his way to being the Hart Trophy winner as well. His supporting cast was highly-talented, but very green in terms of "big game experience". Their defence was young, fast, and highly-skilled, but were missing that one player who was a big-body presence who could clear the crease. Goaltending was young and reliable, and carried them during the season at times.

As much as I said that Washington looked like a deer in the headlights at times during this series, the Penguins looked very much the same last year against a more physical Ottawa team. The Flyers, using their usual Broad Street Bullies approach, may not have had a team as talented on paper as Washington, but they did all the little things right.

I know that the fans in Washington have to be proud of their fast, young, exciting team. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon once they overtook Carolina and qualified for the playoffs. Heck, I even called them to win their series in seven games, which almost happened.

If Washington can take anything from losing in overtime in seven games, it's that they now have that foul, bitter taste of defeat in their mouths. Using that memory, I believe the Capitals will come out hungry next year. I believe that they will rule the Southeast, and that they will be a lock for a playoff spot barring any sort of major disaster or rash of injuries.

They have a phenomenal coach in Bruce Boudreau who, in my view, should win the Jack Adams Award for coach-of-the-year. George McPhee, who has been under fire for most of the season, did an amazing job at the trade deadline, acquiring leadership, grit, and goaltending that the Capitals desperately needed. While it will be interesting to see if they can re-sign free agent goaltender Cristobal Huet in the off-season, I can't see why Huet wouldn't want to return.

Obviously, the young talent this team has drafted and developed will be the cornerstone of their future success. Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, and Eric Fehr showed that they belong in the NHL, and will most certainly be relied upon for future successes in Washington.

What free agents will they be able to attract? I'm certain that the grass looks very green in Washington, and, much like Pittsburgh last season, they should be able to sign a few key free agents that will put them over the top.

The one thing, though, that the Capitals will have that will make them better is the taste of defeat. Pittsburgh tasted it last year, and they delivered a healthy platter of defeat to the Senators this season.

The sky is the limit for Washington next season. Congratulations on your fabulous run in the last third of the season, and thanks for making the playoffs a much more exciting event to watch!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 21 April 2008

Just A Quick Update

This update is just a quick one since I have to get my rear end to bed so I can be at work early tomorrow. For all those entered in the PLAYOFF LINE POOL, you'll notice a number in parentheses beside your line's total accumulated point total. That number is the number of players you have remaining. This will give you an idea of whether or not you have a legitimate shot at winning the pool. If you feel you're out of it already, just remember that one upset could change the entire face of this pool.

In other news, Washington has forced Game Seven in their series with Philadelphia after posting a 4-2 victory tonight. Ovechkin potted a couple while Backstrom and Semin chipped in with singles. Huet looked solid in the pipes.

You know the cronies in the NHL Head Offices in New York City have to be loving the possibilities of either a Pittsburgh-New York Rangers series, or a Pittsburgh-Washington series. The latter probably would have Mr. Bettman wet himself, but Washington still has one more step to take.

Montreal moved on tonight after they showed up and put on a show. The Kostitsyn brothers showed why they may be the most talented Belarussians in the NHL today as they paced the Canadiens to a 5-0 Game Seven victory over the Bruins.

Carey Price was dazzling in net yet again, and the Canadiens weathered the storm by playing shutdown hockey all night. Depending on who wins in the Washington-Philly series, Montreal has a date with either the Flyers or the Rangers in the second round. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fabulous goal scored by defenceman Mark Streit. I'll post that tomorrow once it's online.

Seriously, it is one of the best goals of the playoffs.

Ok, I'm gone. Have a good one, and get ready for Game Seven between Calgary and San Jose tomorrow!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 20 April 2008


Looking at this series before it started, it seemed that no one - not even scribes in Boston - gave the hometown Bruins a chance to win a game against the Montreal Canadiens, let alone have a shot at winning the series. The Bruins had gone eleven straight games without a win against Les Habitants, but it appears that the last two games have shown a little bite in the Bruins game. They have solved the puzzle known as Carey Price, scoring five goals in back-to-back games. Tim Thomas has turned in dazzling performances in the Bruins' net. The Bruins are getting timely scoring from their big guns, while Montreal's top scorers appear to be rotating a schedule of nights off.

Today, we look at the seven deadly sins of this series as we lead into Game Seven.

Game One - Sloth: The Canadiens jumped out to a two-goal lead less than three minutes in, and they never looked back. Boston seemed hesitant and showed little confidence in moving the puck. All in all, a very sluggish performance by Boston led to a Montreal 4-1 victory.

Boston commits the sin of SLOTH.

Game Two - Wrath: Penalties killed Boston in this game as Alexei Kovalev scored in overtime with Shawn Thornton and Jeremy Reich sitting in the box to give Montreal a 3-2 victory. Reich was especially guilty when he tripped Andrei Markov in the Montreal zone after he was high-sticked. The retaliation was called, and Reich went to the box where he watched Kovalev fire a puck over Thomas' shoulder on the powerplay.

Boston commits the sin of WRATH.

Game Three - Envy: Having watched the Montreal Canadiens build leads in the first two games and then shut down their opponents, the Bruins decided to become Montreal. The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Milan Lucic's first career playoff goal, and then played solid defence to carry them into overtime tied at 1-1. On a delayed penalty call in the extra session, Thomas made a few big saves on the Habs. However, the game ended shortly thereafter as Marc Savard scored the biggest playoff goal of his career to date. Montreal's aggressive attack in overtime left them with nothing to show for their efforts except a loss.

Montreal commits the sin of ENVY.

Game Four - Lust: In making up for the loss in the previous game, Carey Price showed the world why general manager Bob Gainey is betting the farm on him. Price recorded his first career playoff shutout with a 27-save performance as the Canadiens went up 3-1 in the series with a 1-0 shutout of the Bruins. Boston's offence seemed out-of-sorts all night, and it didn't help that Price had one of his best games to date. Thomas also played well, but the team in front of him couldn't solve Price once as it appeared that Price had them mesmerized.

Montreal and Bob Gainey commit the sin of LUST, but Boston suffers.

Game Five - Gluttony: As good as Price was in Game Four, a couple of mistakes led to a Boston 5-1 victory. A reckless turnover allowed Glen Metropolit to score the go-ahead goal early in the third period, and the Bruins piled it on after that.

Montreal commits the sin of GLUTTONY in terms of being gluttons for punishment. Boston also commits GLUTTONY in terms of piling on the goals, but they were rewarded for their "sin".

Game Six - Greed: It can be asked "who wants it more" during a playoff series when you see teams that just won't go away. Boston simply refused to die in Game Six. They trailed 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 before jumping out to leads of 4-3 and 5-4. It appeared that Montreal simply took their foot off the throat of the Bruins and allowed them to regain momentum in this series. It's all about greed in this one - who wants it more.

Boston commits the sin of GREED, but Montreal suffers.

Game Seven - Pride: It all comes down to pride. Montreal was the "Beast of the East" this year. Boston is the plucky team that just won't die. Game Seven is all about pride. Who wants it more. Who is willing to sacrifice their bodies in order to play another day. Who wants the Stanley Cup more.

Tommorrow, we shall see how deep pride runs.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 18 April 2008

Dan Ellis: United Steelworker

As much as I have to commend the Nashville Predators for their fabulous work on home ice in tying the series, I have a feeling that a few labour unions will want to talk to ownership. Why would a union want to talk to the Predators? Goaltender Dan Ellis has seen more rubber than a Goodyear factory so far, and there will still be at least one more game. The United Steelworkers represent Goodyear employees in their union, so maybe Dan Ellis would be better served by them than the NHLPA?

All jokes aside, the Detroit Red Wings have outshot the Nashville Predators 198-123 through five games, giving Detroit an average of 40 shots per game compared to 24 shots per game for Nashville. Ellis has only allowed 14 goals on those 199 shots, and he has clearly been the difference in keeping this series closer than it looked on paper.

When the experts say that "in the playoffs, you need your goaltender to be your best player", Dan Ellis has certainly gone above and beyond in this series thus far. However, after falling 2-1 to the Red Wings tonight in overtime, the Predators will have to win on Sunday at home to keep the series going.

Ironically, in 2004, Red Wings' coach Dave Lewis pulled Manny Legace after Game Four and replaced him with Curtis Joseph. Joseph backstopped the Wings to two straight victories to eliminate the Predators in six games. Of course, Hasek was sent to the bench tonight, and Osgood picked up the win. Is this history repeating itself?

The real test, if the Predators can win in Nashville, will be Game Seven in Detroit. Nashville has never won a road game in the playoffs, going 0-10 in their franchise's history. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

New York, New York: The Rangers finished off the New Jersey Devils tonight by a score of 5-3. Continuing their domination of the Devils from the regular season, the New York Rangers advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with their win tonight. The Devils, on the other hand, head home after being eliminated in the first round for the fifth time over their 11 consecutive playoff appearances.

Not only did the Rangers absolutely dominate the Devils during this entire series, but they did something no other team has ever done to the Devils: defeated them on home ice in three games. Home-ice advantage? Not in this series.

The major difference, going back to the Goodyear theme, was the fact that Martin Brodeur simply didn't play like the Martin Brodeur we've come to know at playoff time. Routine saves were anything but routine at times, and he couldn't steal a game when his team needed it most.

However, he's not only to blame. The offence struggled mightily against the Rangers, and could not solve Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist was clearly the best player in this series, and his team rallied around him. Again, the motto holds true.

Oh, and for some added drama, Sean Avery and Martin Brodeur did not shake hands during the ceremonious handshake at the end of the series. I feel this "rivalry" is far from dead.

Duck Hunting:There is a significant problem in Anaheim, and, if you haven't been watching, it exists at both ends of the ice. Dallas has skated circles around the faster Ducks. The Stars have won more battles to loose pucks than the grittier Ducks. Dallas has dominated Anaheim on the special teams. Worst of all? The Ducks have had no answer for Dallas' defensive strategy, and haven't been able to solve Marty Turco on a regular basis. In fact, if it hadn't been for about 20 minutes in Game Three, I'd have already made a few jokes about serving duck for dinner.

"Dallas is outplaying us," Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said to "We just haven't played at the level we need to be successful."

Great soundbyte right there. Giguere might be the most overlooked quote machine in the NHL. Excuse my sarcasm.

Thursday night's game was the first time that Anaheim had outshot the Stars in the series, and they still lost 3-1. Turco was 7.6 seconds away from a shutout, but Mathieu Schneider broke the goose egg.

Let me just go ahead and say it: Anaheim has been simply brutal in their Stanley Cup defence, and I am betting that they're done after tonight. The Stars look to advance to the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2003.

However, if they respond to the hunting sign the way the Bruins did, this series could change dramatically.

Toronto's GM Woes: I have yet to see one person give a reason why Cliff Fletcher hasn't contacted newly-unemployed Dave Nonis to take over as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. If I were Fletcher, I'd be on the phone right now.

Why, you ask?

Markus Naslund is a free agent. Pairing him with Sundin and Blake gives the Maple Leafs an explosive first line. Nonis and Naslund seemingly have a good relationship, and the less-physical Eastern Conference would be a good fit for Naslund.

Secondly, the Leafs already have a pretty good goaltender in Vesa Toskala. Yes, it took some time for Toskala to round into form as a bonafide starter, but he was clutch down the stretch as the Maple Leafs pushed for a playoff spot. Nonis won't have to trade away scoring assets to acquire a quality goaltender like he did in Vancouver (although, it is debatable since he fleeced Florida in the Luongo trade).

Thirdly, he is a young GM with a pile of experience. He was trained by Brian Burke, and has shown that he can run a draft table fairly well. His record with the Canucks brought them such players as Alex Edler, Mason Raymond, Cory Schneider, and Luc Bourdon. He increased the scouting department in Vancouver, something the Leafs sorely need more than anything.

I can't understand why Fletcher has interviewed this guy yet. Perhaps he's on that short list that Fletcher has made up, but no one has even mentioned Nonis as the next guy in The Big Smoke. And that has me shocked.

Ok, I'm going back to the TV to watch Dallas dismantle the defending Stanley Cup champions. Anaheim currently leads 1-0, but it's still early.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 17 April 2008

Frenchmen On A Mission

Another team faces the brink of elimination tonight, and it appears that the fat lady may have already sung when it comes to the Bruins. The Canadiens have acquired a hunting license, and look to put the "Big Bad Bruins" out of their misery tonight. Despite all their fighting, Boston appears to be facing ridiculous odds, and the Habs want this series so bad that they can taste it. I say it's all over after tonight for the Bruins.

Carey Price has elevated his game, much like that other 20-something goalie in Pittsburgh. Their defence has turned their game up another notch, playing a solid team-first game. Offensively, the Canadiens haven't stopped scoring goals while playing a consistent defensive game.

Sorry, Beantowners. This series is over tonight.

Emery Speaks Out: After cleaning out his locker today in Ottawa, Ray Emery met with reporters to discuss where this season went wrong and what may lie ahead for the troubled netminder.

"I don't take responsibilty for the team losing in the playoffs I can tell you that much," Emery told TSN reporters.

"The worst year I've had - on and off the ice - it just wasn't enjoyable at all," he told a crowd of reporters. "I learned a lot of things but that's about it - not too many positives."

Emery never saw the ice once after Bryan Murray replace John Paddock behind the Ottawa bench. It's hard for Emery to not to shoulder some of the load regarding this disappointing season after his antics this season. I called for Emery's departure earlier this season in an article entitled For Sale: Goaltender - Real Cheap. And now, TSN's Bob McKenzie has written a column stating how Emery must go.

However, there are a pile of other issues that need to be addressed before Ray Emery packs his bags. They have a very soft defensive unit. Gary Roberts, Maxime Talbot, Georges Laraque, Jordan Stall, Tyler Kennedy, and Jarkko Ruutu embarrassed the Senators down in the trenches at times. The Ducks absolutely ran over the Senators in their own zone during the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals. This must change. The Senators looked for every excuse in the book regarding this playoff year, but the truth of the matter is that the Penguins played the majority of every game in the Senators' zone because they couldn't stop the Penguins. 'Nuff said.

Secondly, the Senators have to develop a little more grit. Mike Fisher usually brings buckets of grit, but his injury exposed a glaring void of grit on the team. Chris Neil showed an abundance of stupidity throughout the playoffs with his disregard for playing smart, gritty hockey. If Neil wants to be effective as a pest, he should look at how Sean Avery has handled himself in the Rangers-Devils series (minus the stick-waving in the face of Brodeur). Otherwise, Neil would be better served as a mascot than an agitator.

Lastly, Shean Donovan and Chris Kelly should be rewarded as the only unrestricted free agent signings that the Senators should bring back. Andrej Meszaros and Antoine Vermette should also be brought back. However, the Senators need to either develop or sign some legitimate second-line players. Nick Foligno deserves a full-time NHL gig as well.

"I signed here for seven years because I want to be here and I think they want to have me here," centerman Jason Spezza said, in regards to hearing trade rumours. "If one bad playoff spurs trade rumours, then so be it. But I'd like to think I'm here for the long haul and I want to have success here."

Regular season success is great for contracts, but everyone remembers magical playoff stories. It's how legacies are built. That's why Patrick Roy gets remembered. That's why Glenn Anderson gets remembered. That's why Mark Messier gets remembered. It's time for guys like Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel Alfredsson to step up, or step out of the limelight in the nation's Capitol when it comes to the playoffs.

Other Series: Washington and Philly square off again tonight, with the Flyers leading the series 2-1. Personally, the Capitals look a lot like Pittsburgh did last year: deer in the headlights. The Caps just look dazed against this bigger, badder Philly team. Here's hoping that they can break out of it.

Anaheim looks to even their series against Dallas tonight. Colorado and Minnesota play in a pivotal Game Five matchup in the Twin Cities. San Jose and Calgary meet in a Game Five matchup as well.

I love the playoffs.

Ok, I'm off for some beer and big-screen hockey action. Keep your eyes glued to the TVs where ever you are!

Until next time, keep your sticks to the ice!

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Anyone Up For A Rant?

Well, the first of the remaining sixteen teams has fallen, and the brooms made an appearance. No, I'm not talking about brooms like those found in Fantasia, although the Penguins look remarkably similar in their methodical dispatch of the Ottawa Senators. Does anyone feel sorry for this team? Personally, if the Penguins continue to play as well as they did against the Senators, they appear to be a lock for a deep playoff run, and maybe even a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.

But let's get back to the rant. If the Ottawa Senators have any excuses, they can say that injuries did them in, I suppose. Daniel Alfredsson looked nothing like himself. There were suggestions that Jason Spezza was hurt after he pulled an Alexei Yashin and turned invisible in April. Dany Heatley was simply brutal at both ends of the ice. Ottawa's defence made it seem that they would have had a hard time checking their bags in at the airport, let alone checking other hockey players. Chris Neil proved to be absolutely useless for the entire series. He spent more time in the penalty box for stupid penalties than most murderers spend in prison.

If there was one bright spot, Martin Gerber deserves all the praise. He did as much as he could against the high-powered offence of the Penguins. It's just too bad that the other twenty guys hung him out to dry far too often.

Congratulations go out to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the first team to advance to the second round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs!

Soul Strip?: I'm not sure how many people know what a "soul patch" is. It's a small patch of hair just below the lower lip that came to prominence with musicians in the 1950s and 1960s. It can be seen here on guitarist Steve Vai.

My question is this: what the hell is going on with Jagr's facial hair? The guy has take the soul patch and turned it into the "soul strip". And to boot, he didn't even shave before the playoffs started. Growing a playoff beard is tradition. Growing the six o'clock shadow just looks lazy.

Not only that, but the Rangers need to start clamping down on the retro facial hair. Ryan Hollweg must still be dazed from the stick to the head courtesy of Chris Simon because this moustache is absolutely hideous. George Parros should feel threatened. His 'stache is a thing of hideous beauty, but Hollweg is gaining ground.

Help Needed: I received an email from a reader who needs some help in identifying a couple of hockey players. Johnny O. sent me a picture, and I don't recognize either player immediately, so I am turning to my faithful readers.

Can any of you identify the players in this picture? If anyone knows, please email me at cdnuniguy-at-gmail-dot-com, and I'll pass on the names of the players to Johnny O. Thanks in advance to all who take a shot at identifying these mystery players.

Read All About It: Jean Labonté left a comment on my blog the other day, and I think it's pretty note-worthy to point out how proud I am to have him comment on my blog.

Monsieur Labonté was a member of the 2008 Canadian Sledge Hockey World Championship team that brought home the gold medal from Massachusetts. As you may have seen on this blog, I tried to update the progress of the Canadian team as I am a proud Canuck.

He wrote: "Kudos to you for keeping such a great blog on the great sport of hockey.

And many thanks for keeping people up-to-date on the sledge hockey results at the World Championships. Sledge hockey needs all the coverage it can get (it is a great sport) and you are helping make this sport more known, as it should be. And Sledhead will be coming out next fall, something to look for.

As the captain of the Canadian Sledge Hockey Team, I'd like to thank you on behalf of our team."

Monsieur Labonté, you are most welcome for the coverage. It is an extremely exciting sport, from what I've found, and I am happy to report on your team whenever you guys take to the ice. Congratulations on bringing home the gold medal, and for making all Canadians proud!

If you'd like to read Mr. Labonté's blog, you can find it here. It's written in French, but he does have translation buttons on the site. Please check it out for some great information on the sport of sledge hockey!

Say What?: I have a couple of requests for all those who read this blog. If you're interested in hockey in all its forms, please visit here. I appreciate every single reader, and am working on some new stuff to bring to you.

However, please do not come to this site after searching for things that have little or nothing to do with hockey. I'll give you an example.

At some point today, someone from SURREY, BRITISH COLUMBIA decided to Google search this phrase: "Markus Naslund sex tape". Let me assure you that you will never find anything like that on this site. I try to keep this as PG-friendly as possible. I didn't even post the racy photos of Jiri Tlusty that came out because it's just not what people come here to see.

If whoever searched for that information is reading this now, why are you looking for that? And what could possibly make you think that I'd be interested in blogging about it? Please don't click on this site for content like that. You won't find any from the past, and you'll never see it in the future. Thanks.

Ok, that's all for me today. I have a pile of other stuff I have to re-install onto my new hard drive. That's right - I'm back up and running! More updates coming up this week (as usual).

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 14 April 2008

Invalid Validation Code

How is it possible that the Windows "Certificate of Authenticity" code found on my computer is invalid? The amount of cursing that was undertaken by me this weekend made me sound like Ricky of the Trailer Park Boys, not some mild-mannered, hockey-obsessed guy. I'm officially thinking about swapping to Linux, but that might screw everyone else up that uses this computer. I've blocked off my entire calendar at work today with the words "Calling HP - do not disturb". I'm sure my boss will appreciate that.

Let's start with some international hockey news. The American women used a four-goal barrage in Saturday's final to upend the Canadian women at the 2008 Women's World Championship in Harbin, China.

The Americans for two goals each from Jenny Potter and Natalie Darwitz to power the Americans to the 4-3 victory, and their first gold medal since 2005. Canada got goals from Sarah Vaillancourt, Katie Weatherston, and Jennifer Botterill, and will bring home their second silver medal in the history of the World Championships.

Congratulations to the American women on their gold medal performance! Congratulations to the Canadian women for representing Canada so well! And congratulations to Harbin, China for an excellent tournament!

Series Updates: The NHL Playoffs have been exciting and dramatic thus far, and here's a quick update on where the series stand right now.

#1 Montreal Canadiens vs. #8 Boston Bruins
Canadiens lead the series 2-1
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #7 Ottawa Senators
Penguins lead the series 2-0
#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers
Series tied at 1-1
#4 New Jersey Devils vs. #5 New York Rangers
Rangers lead the series 2-1.

#1 Detroit Red Wings vs. #8 Nashville Predators
Red Wings lead the series 2-0
#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Calgary Flames
Flames lead the series 2-1
#3 Minnesota Wild vs. #6 Colorado Avalanche
Series tied at 1-1
#4 Anaheim Ducks vs. #5 Dallas Stars
Stars lead the series 2-0

Three more series continue tonight as Pittsburgh travels to Ottawa, Detroit plays in Nashville, and Minnesota heads to the mountains to take on Colorado. For both the Senators and Predators, it's do-or-die time. Going down 3-0 in a series is virtual suicide.

Ok, I have no time to waste. If you have any comments, leave them below. HP will feel my wrath in moments. Also, the PLAYOFF LINE POOL has been updated! Check out your team to the right, and talk a little trash if you feel like it in the comment section! Just keep it clean, please.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 11 April 2008

A Stiff Uppercut To The Hard Drive

In my technical battle with my hard drive, I have won the fight of recovering all my files as of last night. This is a very good step in the technological battle I am waging on my soon-to-be-retired hard drive. Blue screen of death? Not on my watch! In any case, I am going to be reloading my trusty version of Windows XP this weekend, so I hope to be back in the game by Saturday evening. If anyone mentions the word "Vista", I'll end you as fast as the Penguins are going to end Ottawa's season.

Speaking of "critical hits", I was extremely impressed with the way Dallas beat Anaheim at their own game last night. The Ducks appeared to want to resort to pre-lockout hockey, and it cost them dearly as Dallas scored four powerplay goals in their 4-0 victory.

Marty Turco, for one night, erased any playoff skeletons he had in his closet by standing on his head with an acrobatic 23-save shutout of the Ducks. Turco led the Stars to their first opening-game victory in their last six attempts. Dallas' defence was also impressive, limiting the Ducks' scoring chances. For nearly 20 minutes, the Ducks were held without a shot from the middle of the first period to the middle of the second period.

If Anaheim wants to repeat, they had better get their heads screwed on right and start playing the game. Being a team of goons is clearly a costly proposition, especially when Dallas' powerplay is clicking on all cylinders.

Controversy?: The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Nashville Predators by a 3-1 score last night. However, the game-winning goal, scored by Henrik Zetterberg, had some controversy attached to it.

"We cleared the puck and it look like it hit the linesman and came back in," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said to The Canadian Press. "I looked at it again on replay and from my judgment, it looked fairly clear."

Officials ruled the play was not offside, and the goal stood as the winner.

Overall, this game was fairly low-key. There were a few decent hits, but both teams played their systems fairly methodically. I'm looking for more from the Red Wings if they hope to progress far in the playoffs.

Flying Belarussian Frenchmen: I have been a big supporter of the Kostitsyn brothers from Montreal since watching them play for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. They always had a nose for the net, and played the game at an exceptionally high level. Last night, they showcased their talents before the game was three minutes old in "La Belle Province".

Little brother Sergei, #74 in your programs, scored just 34 seconds into the game, while older brother Andrei, #46 in your programs, tallied his own playoff goal at 2:02 of the first period. Goals from Bryan Smolinski and Tom Kostopoulos paced Montreal to their 4-1 win. Shane Hnidy had the lone goal for Boston.

What makes the Kostitsyns slightly unique, and the Montreal Canadiens for that matter, is that there is no first initial on the back of their jerseys to distinguish between the two Belarussian snipers. Personally, I like that feature better than first initials on the back, but that's just my personal preference.

Squared At One: After a shaky first game, Evgeni Nabokov responded in Game Two against the Flames by shutting them out. The Sharks evened their series up at one-game apiece by defeating the Flames 2-0 last night at the "Shark Tank".

Nabokov was stellar, making 21 saves for the victory, including a ridiculous save on former Shark Owen Nolan. We're talking "highway robbery". Here is the video evidence of the biggest "crime" thus far in the playoffs:

Un. Freaking. Believable.

Flames head coach Mike Keenan was not impressed with the officiating whatsoever in this game as the Flames were on a penalty-kill for 9:52 of the second period.

"I was very upset about the officiating," he said to The Canadian Press. "I'll share those thoughts with the league and with the supervisor of the officials. I can't comment on how it affected my players. We had a good first period, and then there was a total imbalance in the second."

Game Three goes Sunday in Calgary, and I expect the Sea of Red to be out in full force in Cow-town.

Know Your Role: Thanks to Paul Lukas of and Uni Watch Blog fame, his keen ears caught Commissioner Gary Bettman on a New York sports radio station yesterday. WFAN, "The Fan", had Mr. Bettman on with Mike and the Mad Dog talking hockey. You can listen to the clip here.

Now, if you listen closely, Mr. Bettman talks about how Ace Bailey, the man who had the benefit game played for him in 1934, died in the plane crash during the 9/11 tragedy in the US. Or, as Mr. Lukas put it, "[i]t’s one thing for a casual fan to make this mistake, but the commissioner of the freakin’ league?"

Irvin Wallace Bailey was the man who had the benefit game played in his honour after his skull was fractured on the ice. Garnet Edward Bailey died in the plane crash.

You would think that someone as important as Mr. Bettman would know the history of the game, right? Apparently not.

More games tonight, and more of me fixing my computer while glancing at the television. Have fun, and I'll try to be back by tomorrow!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 10 April 2008

Opening Night Reactions

What a night! The NHL Playoffs opened last night with four games, and none of them disappointed (unless you're a Senators fan). It was intense. There was drama. There was a penalty shot. There was overtime. There were big saves. There were flashy goals. There were winners, and there were losers. And perhaps the best news of it all is that there's still two months of playoff hockey left!

Here are some soundbytes after last night's games.

"For the last 15 games he's been the best goalie in the National Hockey League so I am not surprised," said Penguins head coach Michel Therrien of his goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury.

"Obviously we got outplayed," said Senators head coach Bryan Murray after his team lost to Pittsburgh 4-0 and was outshot 35-26.

"Our power play killed us," said Senators centreman Jason Spezza. The Senators went 0-for-7 with the man-advantage, including two 5-on-3 opportunities.

"The intensity was at its best. Players were at their best," Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire said. The Wild lost 3-2 in overtime to the Avalanche in one of the best opening games in memory.

"This guy has got nothing but dedication and heart towards winning," Colorado Avalanche winger Ryan Smyth said of Joe Sakic.

"It's the playoffs. It doesn't matter who you play," said New York Rangers centreman Scott Gomez regarding playing his former team.

"I didn't know he was around. You have to freeze that. It's not the way I play. I like to keep the play moving. I made a mistake, and I cost us," said New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur about his gaffe that allowed Ryan Callahan to score a shorthanded go-ahead goal.

"It's a long grind, and you need bounces, you need luck," said Calgary Flames forward Stephane Yelle. Yelle scored two goals against San Jose in the opening game of the series - his first goals since January 22.

"We definitely have to be more hungry, more of that dog-with-a-bone mentality," said San Jose Sharks forward Ryan Clowe. Clowe had both of San Jose's goals in the 3-2 loss to Calgary.

Perhaps what caught my eye, and ear, was the song played when the Minnesota Wild scored. I had never heard this before, and was quite impressed with their fans, aka the "Team of 18000". Listen in:

I'm sure it's louder on the ice as well.

International Updates: The American women defeated Team Canada 4-2 yesterday at the Women's Wold Championship, meaning that they'll meet each other on Saturday for world supremacy once again.

Natalie Darwitz had a pair of goals for the Americans, while Caitlin Cahow and Meghan Duggan had singles. Jayna Hefford and Kelly Bechard had the two Canadian goals in the loss.

The win by the Americans also sets up the bronze medal game between Finland and Switzerland. The Swiss are trying for their first medal ever at the Women's World Championship while Finland looks to win their first bronze medal.

Playoff Pool Updates: For those readers who have entered the Hockey Blog In Canada PLAYOFF LINE POOL, there is a leaderboard to the right. Congratulations goes out to Justin St. Louis as he picked up eight points from his line last night, thanks in large part to Marc-Andre Fleury's shutout.

With more games going tonight, I'll update everything in the morning. If I can get my hard drive back to normal before the weekend, I'll keep it updated as much as possible.

More playoffs tonight as three more series get underway. Calgary and San Jose square off in Game Two of their opening-round series.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Playoff Traditions

Clearly, there was no post yesterday if you tuned into Hockey Blog In Canada. This was due to my hard drive completely crapping out on me. Technology is wonderful when it works, but I felt seriously disconnected when I discovered that my hard drive decided that it wanted to quit the HBIC team. As the head of HBIC, I understand that Mr. Hard Drive may want to retire and ride off into the electronically-formatted sunset, but he's got a lot of my stuff with him, and I want it back. In other words, guess what I'll be doing while the NHL Playoffs are on TV in the background?

I did have some fun yesterday, though. I was interviewed by Shannon Proudfoot of the Ottawa Citizen regarding playoff rituals and traditions. There are a pile of playoff rituals that hockey fans and players get to experience - the playoff beard, the Detroit octopi, and the "Sea of Red" in Calgary, for example.

I'm curious to see what other playoff traditions may be out there. I'm aware of Vancouver's Towel Power, Winnipeg's White-Out (now Phoenix's White-Out), and Philly's Orange Crush, but there have to be others. Let me know in the comment section, and I'll check them out!

Playoff Pool: The PLAYOFF LINE POOL is shaping up to be a solid contest. If you're still interested in getting in on it, you have until 6PM CST today. The rules are as follows:

1. Select three forwards, two defencemen, and one goaltender from any of the playoff teams. They may all be from different teams, or any combination of players from one team.
2. Goals and assists are worth one point each. Goaltender wins are worth two points. Goaltender shutouts are worth five points.
3. Players will be "removed" from your line as they are eliminated from the playoffs.
4. The entrant with the highest point total at the end of the playoffs will win SCHWAG!
5. Send your picks into

Get your picks in for a chance to win free hockey-related merchandise!

International News: The Canadian women defeated Finland 4-2 on Wednesday to guarantee themselves a spot in the gold medal game on Saturday. Sarah Vaillancourt potted a couple of goals while Jayna Hefford and Katie Weatherston each had singles. Hayley Wickenheiser had three assists in the game.

With Finland having defeated the Americans 1-0 in overtime earlier this week, the Americans need to win against Canada in order to push the Finns into the bronze medal game. If the Americans lose, they will play for the bronze while the Finns will play Canada for the gold medal.

Canada brought home another gold medal on Saturday, April 5 thanks to the National Sledge Hockey team! Canada defeated Norway in the gold medal game by a 3-2 score to claim its first World Championship since 2000, and the win came in dramatic fashion as the Canadians scored with nine seconds left to secure the victory!

Billy Bridges opened the scoring in the championship game by scoring his seventh goal of the tournament at the 7:52 mark of the first period. However, Bridges was ejected from the game at the end of the first period for spearing Norway's Rolf Einar Pedersen - a huge blow to the Canadian offensive game.

Kjell Vidar Royne beat Canadian goaltender Paul Rosen just 24 seconds into the second period on the powerplay to even the game at one goal apiece. The teams battled through the second period deadlocked at a 1-1 score.

Eskil Hagen beat Rosen 41 seconds into the third period, giving the Norwegians the lead for the first time in the game. The Canadians turned the pressure up on the Norwegians, though, and were rewarded as Adam Dixon scored his fifth goal of the tournament on the powerplay at 6:38.

As time wound down, Greg Westlake rattled a shot of the post. As it appeared that overtime would be necessary, Westlake scored just seconds after ringing the puck off the bar at the 14:51 mark, sealing the win for the Canadians.

The win gave Canada ownership of sledge hockey’s trifecta of the three biggest prizes in the sport: a gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games (2006), at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge (2007), and now the IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship (2008).

Congratulations to the Canadian Sledge Hockey team! This writer is certainly proud of your achievements! And GO CANADA GO for the women!

Jersey News: Huge thanks goes out to Paul Lukas and his Uni Watch blog for this tidbit.

Advance word from an anonymous source regarding the new Team Canada hockey jerseys that will be released later this month for the World Championships: "Basically, it’s a ‘vintage’-style jersey that looks like something you’d buy a four-year-old. The white jerseys have red shoulders, which would look nice if it was done traditionally, but it comes off looking cheap. Same Canada crest as usual on the front, but cheapo little crests NOT on the shoulders but the elbow-area. Bad striping (you’ll see). Oh, and like all Nike stuff, it’s got the swoosh on the upper right chest. Overall it’s plain, in a bad way. The red jerseys are a little better, but it’s like comparing a pound of crap to a spoonful. In the end, they both stink."

I'll investigate this a little more to see what I can find. Keep your eyes here for more info on this new Canadian hockey jersey.

Ok, I have a pile of work to do, so I'm out. Remember that you need to have your pool picks in by 6PM CST if you haven't already entered!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!